You can buy the Galaxy S8 in 24-karat gold, platinum, and 18-karat rose gold

Why it matters to you

Most people probably won’t see value in this but if you truly want the best of the best and happen to be rich, this is one way to flaunt your spending habits.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a pretty luxurious phone, but U.K.-based company Truly Exquisite is taking things to the next level by building the device with 24-karat gold, 24-karat platinum, or 18-karat rose gold colors.

The phones are exactly like any other Samsung Galaxy S8, only instead of a standard metal being used for the frame, you will find a decidedly more expensive metal. Of course, it won’t come cheap — to get it for yourself, you will need 2,250 pounds if you buy it from the U.K. or $2,800 if you live state-side.

Thankfully, you will get a few perks with the phone that you might not otherwise get. Each phone will ship with a collector’s box, a wireless charging stand, Samsung Gear VR, a plated portable charging pack, and a leather card holder. When it comes to the device itself, you get the 64GB model, and it is unlocked — so you can use it on any networks you choose.

It will take a while for your shiny device to arrive. The company says the phone will ship in late May, but you will get free worldwide shipping and a six-month warranty — which you will want considering how pricey the phone is in the first place.

Have an extra $3,000 to spare? You can buy the device from the Truly Exquisite website. While you are there, you might find it interesting to poke around and look at the other phones the company has on sale — like the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, which are both available in the same luxurious color options. You can also get the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus and the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge — although if you are spending that much in the first place, why not go for the latest version?

If you prefer buying a decidedly less expensive Galaxy S8 (although it’s still pricey), check out our hands-on review of the device.

Ricoh not bowing out of the camera industry, but will focus on high-end shooters

Why it matters to you

As camera sales decline, Ricoh is the next company to begin focusing on high-end models.

Focusing on high-end cameras is quickly becoming a trend — earlier today, April 12, Ricoh was the latest camera company to announce that it will be focusing on more advanced cameras as sales trends decline.

The official statement was in response to a rumor published in the Japanese tech publication Nikkei that said the company was considering pulling out of the consumer camera industry altogether. Ricoh said that the statement is not based on any announcements from the company.

“Ricoh is focusing its resource on the high added value products such as Pentax and GR that are appreciated by the existing users and photo hobbyists,” the statement reads. “Ricoh is also a market leader of input devices in the VR or AR market with its ‘Ricoh Theta’ where we can see rapid growth, and will keep on expanding the business even more in this field. In addition, Ricoh will develop and expand the imaging business in the solution business field for corporate, by creating new market utilizing its own camera technology.”

The company’s brief statement does not discuss other claims in the Nikkei article, including the claim that the company is laying off 1,000 U.S.-based employees and offering early retirement to employees in Japan. The report also suggests the company is expanding the production of camera sensors used in cars.

Point-and-shoot camera announcements from all major manufacturers have all but stopped as the smartphone makes small-sensored cameras almost redundant. Ricoh is instead focusing on its high-end compact, the GR, as well as the Pentax DSLR line, known for weather-sealing and competitive prices. The Theta series, a 360-degree camera, will also be a focus for the company.

The number of cameras manufactured in 2016 declined by 35 percent overall, while interchangeable lens cameras continued to have much smaller declines, with DSLRs dropping by 17 percent and mirrorless by only four percent. Those trends have companies putting more effort into interchangeable lens cameras and advanced compacts while drawing back production on basic cameras.

Nikon announced a restructuring plan with a new focus on high-end cameras back in November. Panasonic released a statement after a similar article from Nikkei suggested the company was dismantling camera production, saying that the company is only moving camera production under a larger umbrella of consumer products to strengthen it, not tear it apart.

Baidu is acquiring xPerception, a U.S. startup focused on computer vision

Baidu is acquiring xPerception, a US startup specialized in computer vision, according to Reuters. Details are sparse, but we know the startup has its own module for object recognition and depth perception that can be deployed on robots and drones.

The Chinese tech giant has been active in machine intelligence M&A this year. Back in February it acquired Raven Tech, a Chinese startup developing its own voice assistant. This new acquisition is notable because it involves a US startup. It could also hold the key to Baidu’s future autonomous driving and augmented reality efforts.

xPerception was founded by Dr. Bao Yingze and Dr. Chen Mingyu, two early Magic Leap engineers. The team is expected to continue its work under the wings of Baidu.

In March, Andrew Ng, Baidu’s chief scientist, left the company to the detriment of its internal machine intelligence efforts. Baidu faces additional barriers that its contemporaries like Google don’t have to face for research and development.

While the AI talent race plays out on a global scale for all companies, its epicenter rests in the United States. xPerception is another US anchor for the company that has been pouring resources into its Silicon Valley AI Lab.

We reached out to the team over at xPerception and will let you know if we hear any additional context.

Featured Image: Bloomberg / Contributor/Getty Images

Burger King Ad Creates Whopper of a Mess for Google Home

Burger King on Wednesday in essence hijacked the voice-activated Google Home speakers in some consumers’ homes.

In a 15-second television ad, the camera zooms in on a young man wearing the company uniform who says, “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?”

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The “OK Google” trigger phrase for Google’s artificial intelligence Assistant activated Google Home speakers situated nearby, prompting them to read Wikipedia’s description of the Whopper.

Burger King apparently intended to prompt the Assistant to deliver the glowing description posted on the page. However, the Internet quickly caught on to the gimmick, and Wikipedia’s Whopper page was deluged with newly edited versions, many of them decidedly uncomplimentary. Wikipedia soon blocked the editing functionality.

Within three hours or so, Google reportedly issued a server-side update to Google Home to stop it from responding to the ad. The ad would still wake up a Google Home device, which would wait for its query to hit Google’s servers, but Home no longer would respond to it. However, Google Home would respond to a real person making the same query.

The ad apparently was created by David The Agency.

Wikipedia’s Whopper Page Gone Wild

Someone with the username “Fermachado123” last week changed the Wikipedia entry for the Whopper to list its ingredients, according to reports. The owner of the handle may be Fernando Machado, Burger King’s senior vice president for global brand management, although Burger King apparently hasn’t confirmed or denied his involvement.

“Editing an article on behalf of one’s employer or company can create a conflict of interest and violate Wikipedia policies,” Wikimedia spokesperson Samantha Lien told the E-Commerce Times.

Wikipedia content and entries are determined by a community of volunteer editors.

Internet trolls struck minutes after the ad debuted at 12:00 p.m. ET, editing the Wikipedia entry to describe the burger variously as “cancer-causing” or “a chocolate candy”, and altering the ingredients list to include such items as “toenail clippings,” “medium-sized child,” and “rat.”

Google “could, and likely should, require people to customize the command phrase,” suggested Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“The idea that a TV ad could generate a mass purchase should scare them more than it does,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Following in Alexa’s Footsteps

“I’m kind of surprised they used Google Home rather than the far more prevalent Amazon Echo,” Enderle said.

A 6-year-old Dallas girl earlier this year asked the Amazon Echo Dot, which is powered by Alexa, if it could get her a dollhouse. Alexa was happy to oblige, and the child confirmed the order. She apparently also ordered cookies. A US$160 dollhouse and four pounds of cookies showed up at her home days later. Her mom laughed off the mishap and treated it as a reminder to set up parental controls.

However, Jim Patton, a news anchor at San Diego TV station CW6, several days later said, “I love the little girl saying ‘Alexa order me a dollhouse,'” during a newscast. His remark reportedly triggered numerous Echo devices in viewers’ homes to attempt to order dollhouses.

“We need more variance and better vocal security and recognition, particularly when we begin looping in security systems and locks, or they’ll unintentionally allow bad folks into our homes,” Enderle warned. “That could lead to a massive potential liability exposure for the related products, services, or companies that supply them.”

Consumers should “be careful what applications they use and what’s active when they use them,” cautioned Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

Smart Technology Risks

Technologies like Google Home and Alexa “have no innate judgment,” Jude told the E-Commerce Times. “You shouldn’t trust them to use judgment on which commands to respond to or what activities to launch.”

Google and others will need to focus on the applications behind the voice recognition systems, he suggested.

Natural language processing “doesn’t imply any real intelligence behind the interface,” Jude explained. “As the applications’ NLP system front ends become more intelligent, the opportunities for compromise decrease.”

In the Internet of Things environment, where you can have “an ecosystem or ecosystems of ecosystems interconnected, the attack vector universe is potentially limitless,” noted Laura DiDio, research director for IoT at 451 Research.

The risks are “everywhere, and what you can do is mitigate risk to an acceptable level,” she told the E-Commerce Times — but that requires vendors to make secure products.

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

T-Mobile just spent a massive $8 billion as part of the FCC’s latest auction

Why it matters to you

Your wireless coverage may soon get a lot better thanks to the FCC’s latest spectrum auction.

The Federal Communications Commission’s Broadcast Incentive Auction has come to a close, with a hefty 175 TV stations getting payouts for giving up spectrum — spectrum that was in turn sold to the likes of T-Mobile, Comcast, NBCU, and Dish. The result? One of the highest grossing auctions ever conducted by the FCC, with a total gross revenue coming in at a whopping $19.8 billion.

Following the auction, there will be some big changes to many TV stations. The FCC will now enter into a 39-month transition period in moving broadcast stations to newly assigned channels. A total of 957 stations will now change channels during the period, with the first group scheduled to move starting on November 30, 2018.

“The conclusion of the world’s first incentive auction is a major milestone in the FCC’s long history as steward of the nation’s airwaves,” said FCC chairman Ajit Pai in a statement. “Consumers are the real beneficiaries, as broadcasters invest new resources in programming and service, and additional wireless spectrum opens the way to greater competition and innovation in the mobile broadband marketplace.”

There were a number of big winners in the auction — namely T-Mobile. The “un-carrier” spent a massive $8 billion in the auction, and as a result it won the biggest number of licenses. Dish came in second, spending $6.2 billion, while Comcast came in third with $1.7 billion.

The new spectrum (which refers to the range of frequencies used to wirelessly transmit data) will be very helpful to those companies, as they will use them to build out their wireless networks. Having access to a broader spectrum means faster and wider coverage. The 600MHz band is largely what was up for grabs in this particular auction, and traditionally it has been used for TV signals. It works particularly well across large distances, which will help companies keep up with expanding coverage.

You can see a list of all 175 TV stations that got payouts and the winning wireless bidders here.

Purple, a Utah mattress startup you’ve probably never heard of, is on track to unicorndom

You’ve likely never heard of this company if you live inside the Bay Area bubble, but Purple, a totally bootstrapped mattress startup is using toxin-free, patented technology for a pressureless night’s sleep and could become the first of the mattress unicorns.

Nearly a thousand miles away from Silicon Valley and just west of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, in practically the middle of nowhere, is the tranquil cow town of Grantsville, population 9,617. It is there, in a warehouse the size of a combined eight Walmarts, you’ll find Purple, a direct-to-consumer mattress startup, hard at work prepping hundreds of thousands of pillows, powerbases and of course, mattresses, for shipment.

The company started out a decade ago in the wheelchair business. It was making a patented cushioning technology to prevent bedsores for those sitting all day. But founders, brothers Tony and Terry Pearce noted a shift in the mattress space. It was headed online and a bunch of startups like Casper, Tuft and Needle, Leesa and others were starting to pop up. So the pair decided three years ago to capitalize on the trend by using the same technology in the wheelchair cushioning to make their own bedding.

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That proved to be a smart move and the company has grown quite a bit because of it. In just the last year Purple went from a team of 30 to 600 people, built out the aforementioned 574,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Grantsville and from what I’ve been told, sales are through the roof.

Purple is currently working to fulfill orders for 27,000 of its newly launched pillows and, though the startup was hesitant to give out numbers, a source tells me it’s set to hit $150 to $200 million in revenue this year. Compare that to it’s possibly biggest competitor Casper, which hit $100 million in cumulative sales in 2016 and reportedly has been on track to hit $200 million by the end of this year.

But, unlike Casper, which has taken in $70 million in funding so far, Purple hasn’t tapped into venture capital yet. It also owns the manufacturing process from beginning to end. Utah land and labor are both cheap and the mattress startup can make its products at a much lower cost than Bay Area competitors.

It’s a big job creator for the little town of Grantsville, too, where there aren’t a lot of opportunities for work. Purple will soon be the biggest employer there, with plans to hire another couple thousand people and is partnering with the local high schools and training facilities to provide locals the skills they’ll need to help out in the warehouse in the near future.

Thousands of Purple’s mattresses stacked up inside the new 574,000 square-foot warehouse.

Company headquarters are an hour’s drive to the South, in the town of Alpine, situated just beneath Utah’s Wasatch Front, a mountain range from Ogden to Provo that sidles up to what has been dubbed the “Silicon Slopes” due to the state’s vigorous tech growth over the last few years.

Several unicorns dot the area, including Pluralsight, Domo and Accel Capital’s largest investment to date, Qualtrics, which just this week was crowned with a whopping $2.5 billion valuation.

Purple’s CEO Sam Bernards believes his company is well on its way to becoming the next billion-dollar startup in the region and if those sales are any indication he’s probably right. Though Purple has so far taken zero cash from investors Bernards tells me he’s had some inbound inquiries from Silicon Valley and that it’s something he’d consider in the near future to help the company scale.

Workers rolling up mattresses at Purple’s new mattress factory in Grantsville, Utah.

The mattresses are priced closely to Casper’s. A king bed, for instance, costs $1300. A Casper king sits just below that at $1150. However, that’s at the high end for others in the space. Tuft and Needle, another mattress startup based in Phoenix, comes in at $750 for that size.

But Purple is in another league, argues Bernards. For one, it’s designed to prevent bedsores so it’s a good bet for those who spend a lot of time under the covers. Purple uses a total of 16 patents to make its mattresses soft enough to hug your body, yet firm enough to hold you up through the night. And, should there be an apocalyptic event, you can eat them. The hyperelastic mattress material is made from a food grade polymer. No latex or other toxic ingredients.

I tested the product myself on a recent visit out to Utah. The best way I can describe it is laying on a super soft batch of Jello but without the seismic wave activity. It compares in comfort to Casper (which I’ve also tried) and my Brooklyn Bedding mattress at home. Each pressure point of my body was cradled in this jelly-like webbed material underneath me, which allows longer hours of comfort and breathability so you’re not likely to get sweaty under the covers, either.

Purple also gives a 100-day money back guarantee for those who want to try it out themselves and says each mattress should last about ten years, or the average time most people start looking for a new mattress.

Purple’s power bed bases, which allow customers to move their mattresses to the sitting or sleeping position.

But it’s not without plenty of competition. Casper is the online mattress startup most people I asked were familiar with in San Francisco and, according to Inc., there are more than 600 mattress companies in the U.S., several with brick-and-mortar locations where you can try the mattress out and chat with a salesperson.

However, Purple seems to be full steam ahead. It’ll have to speed up to fulfill those back orders, of course, but mix the current growth and interest, ownership of the manufacturing process, the cheaper labor market, unique branding and great sales with future plans to move into global sales, add in some VC funding to help it scale and Purple could be set to rocket past all the others.

Check out the video above for an inside look at what Purple is doing for the town of Grantsville and a chat with its CEO about the mattress business.

*This article is part of a larger series focusing on the Utah tech scene. We’re going to be sprinkling several of these articles and videos throughout the TechCrunch newsfeed for the next couple of weeks, so strap on your ski boots and stay tuned as we guide you through the “Silicon Slopes!”

Featured Image: Felicia Williams

Facebook blasted again for not removing child porn

Image: Jose Sanchez/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Here we go again.

For the second time in a little more than a month, Facebook is being criticized for not quickly removing images that may be illegal. 

On Thursday, The Times reported that Facebook didn’t take down child pornography images and content promoting the Islamic State despite being notified that the content existed. According to The Times, Facebook algorithmically promoted some of the content. In the United Kingdom, distributing extremist content with reckless intent is illegal.

Reporters for The Times discovered the images and let Facebook know about them through the social network’s reporting channels, but company officials didn’t do anything about the content until the journalists said they were about to publish a story.

Mashable reached out to Facebook and will update the story if the company responds. 

When the BBC notified Facebook, Facebook reported the journalists to the police.

In March, Facebook found itself amid a stream of bad press after the BBC found child pornography images on the social network. When the BBC notified Facebook, Facebook reported the journalists to the police.

The reporters did wrangle an apology out of Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s vice president of global operations, but the story calls into question the effectiveness of Facebook’s takedown technology. 

The company and others use a technique called “hashing” to tag content that violates Facebook’s terms, and prevents identical images from being re-uploaded. Introduced in 2015, it was going to take some time for the hashing system to evolve to where it can catalogue images that appear on parts of the dark web where child pornography lurks. 

That may explain why such images still appear on Facebook, though it doesn’t explain why Facebook didn’t take them down after they were notified.

WATCH: Google takes on fake news with ‘Fact Check’ tags in Search and News

Slack finally catches up to AOL Instant Messenger

Slack just got a new feature and it’s one old-school instant messaging fans will appreciate.

The workplace chat app added a new feature that lets you set a “status” so you can tell everyone at your organization what you’re up to. In other words: It’s pretty much Slack’s version of away messages from AOL Instant Messenger.

Particularly useful for alerting coworkers that you’re out sick, traveling or otherwise unable to get back to them, the status feature shows up when anyone sees your name in Slack. 

Here’s what it looks like in action.

Of course, being Slack, the feature makes liberal use of emoji and GIFs, which opens up some pretty cool possibilities (and some prime trolling opportunities.) Honestly, the real question here is why Slack didn’t roll out such a feature sooner.

The feature will also have developer tie-ins, so app makers can integrate their service with a particular status. 

“For instance, a travel assistant app could read someone’s flight itinerary and update their status when they’re in the air. Or an incident monitoring tool could add “On Call” to the status of a developer on rotation,” the company writes in its developer blog

But really, none of that can compare to using your status as yet another way to subtly troll your coworkers.

WATCH: This paper can fold itself into a beautiful crane

Nintendo doesn’t want your money — it wants your soul

Nintendo’s announcement today that it’s discontinuing its wildly popular NES Classic Edition console has fans in an uproar. Why would Nintendo do this, when the device has been sold out for months and it’s clear consumers will buy it as soon as it hits store shelves? Does the company hate money? How, after so many product mishaps and sleeper successes, does Nintendo not realize when it has a genuine, certifiable hit on its hands? The company gave no concrete reason for why it made the decision.

We can make all kinds of assumptions about why Nintendo might have done this. Perhaps it was related to licensing those classic games or profit margins or how the NES Classic fits into the company’s product landscape alongside the Switch. Perhaps there’s going to be an SNES Classic coming this holiday season. But all this postulating is missing the point. The real debate is whether Nintendo’s long-term, overarching vision is to sell a lot of products. The answer to that question is probably a no.

Nintendo is not Apple. Nintendo does not want your money. The company does not care about you as a consumer or as a fan, insomuch that it’s interested in satisfying your consumer needs. Rather, it wants to be the company you spend the most time thinking about. Nintendo wants you to want its products, desperately and always. This isn’t just an artificial scarcity strategy, in which Nintendo keeps supply low so demand is always high. Though that argument seems to apply quite well to Nintendo’s strategy here with the NES Classic, its Amiibo toys, and its 3DS handhelds, it doesn’t paint the full picture.

When Nintendo whips up a frenzy around a limited run product, when it knows supply will never meet demand, it’s setting the stage for the future. Now, every time Nintendo packages nostalgia and puts a reasonable price on it, it can expect it to sell well. In fact, it knows exactly how and to what extent it will sell — the company has for months released small NES Classic batches and observed how fast they sell out. The company can continue to do this in any number of verticals and for any number of franchises. From what we can gather without seeing inside the minds of its executives, Nintendo would very much rather sell out of a half-dozen different products than sell enough of one to ever meet demand. Through these methods, it’s amassed a legion of fans ready and willing to line up, cash in hand, to buy whatever it’s selling because they know it will soon be gone.

One could argue that Nintendo’s strategy here is more manipulative than what most other game companies do. Of course, this industry is full of executives eyeing quarterly targets, revenue goals, and margin milestones. Estimated to see sales of more than $100 billion this year, the video game industry deserves no illusions about what its mightiest and most powerful players are after.

But Nintendo does not seem intent on maximizing profit like some of its competitors. Sure, it does tend to charge quite a lot of money for digital versions of classic games. Yet it doesn’t seem to partake in the same type of microtransaction and downloadable content strategies that other companies have relished in over the past few years. It’s these types of revenue tricks that have turned mobile games into multi-billion dollar properties, and the goal there is to get as much money from consumers as possible, spread out over the longest amount of time.

Nintendo doesn’t appear all that interested in that on the surface. (You could argue that it’s changing its mind when convenient, like with the in-app purchases in Fire Emblem Heroes and the DLC packs in Mario Kart.) What it is interested in is controlling how and to what extent its products sell, as a means of gauging consumer interest and keeping people hungry for the next must-have item. The best way to do that, it seems, is by drastically restricting those products’ availability and never letting a single unit go unsold.

Think of that what you will, but understand that the idea of Nintendo as an out-of-touch company who doesn’t understand its fanbase is likely an inaccurate reading. The company understands its fans better than anyone. It knows what drives them, what gets them to spend money. That’s Nintendo’s revenue: the wants and needs of its players. So long as it knows that, collects it, and keeps it flowing in, the company doesn’t need to listen to you or me or any fan. It just needs to keep doing what’s it’s been doing.

But there is a point at which consumers may grow tired, of the lines and the flash sales on Amazon and craving a way to give a corporation money for a product they want and not being able to. Nintendo has a rich fountain of goodwill, to be sure. It hasn’t run out yet. But it’s worth asking where the line is, and how many more disappointing holiday seasons or disheartening calls to GameStop it takes for consumers to take their money elsewhere. Nintendo may find out soon. It could very well result in the company’s worst nightmare: a product, on a store shelf, that nobody cares enough to buy.

A look at the Nintendo NES Classic

Eyes on the road! Samsung’s latest app replies to messages when you’re driving

Why it matters to you

Remaining undistracted while driving won’t just save your life — it could save other lives, too.

Samsung wants to help keep drivers safe, and as such the company has created a new app called In-Traffic Reply, which is aimed at helping drivers reply to messages without taking their attention off the road.

The app was developed by Samsung Netherlands, and it automatically knows when the user is in a car or riding a bike, and will reply to incoming messages with a standard response that reads “I’m sitting in traffic, so I can not answer at this time.” The reply can be customized, too, so you don’t have to use such a boring response.

The app itself is currently in beta, and if you’re interested in using it, you can get it from the Google Play Store. The app will officially launch next month, according to Samsung, and while it will only launch in the Netherlands, if successful we can expect to see it get a much wider release.

It makes sense that a tool like this would be useful. In its press release, Samsung Netherlands said that one third of drivers in the country admitted to using their phone while driving, according to statistics from PanelWizard. According to the survey, the reason for that is social pressure. Specifically, users indicated that they felt like they needed to reply to calls or messages as soon as they appeared.

Samsung isn’t the only company trying to help users continue to use its services while keeping drivers safe. Google has launched a number of different products aimed specifically at in-car use, the most obvious of which is Android Auto, a simplified and basic version of Android that focuses on maps, as well as in-car entertainment like music playback. Android Auto makes buttons larger and easier to press, ensuring that drivers keep their eyes on the road as much as possible.