OK Google, Where’s Barb? How to set up Google Assistant shortcuts to Netflix and more

Google Home, Google’s AI-powered smart home speaker, rarely goes a few months without getting a feature. In the past year, it’s gained support for third-party integrations and added the ability to distinguish between multiple users. And in recent months, it’s rolled out the ability to call any phone number in the U.S. and Canada for free, proactively notify you about things like traffic jams and flight delays, play music from free Spotify accounts, and send directions to your smartphone.

One of its niftiest new abilities though, is shortcuts — an easy way to trigger lengthy, multistep commands with a word or phrase. Instead of having to say, “Play workout music on Google Play Music to my basement speaker” to cue up a treadmill playlist, for example, you might shorten the command to “Start workout.” Or, you might set up a “movie night” profile that ties a Chromecast device to a convenient phrase. With shortcuts, beaming a Netflix series to the living room flatscreen becomes as easy as saying, “Movie time.”

Shortcuts for Google Home are incredibly useful, but they have prerequisites — and they’re a little challenging to get the hang of. Here’s everything you need to know.

Compatible services

Despite the fact that Google Home is powered by the Google Assistant, Google’s intelligent voice assistant that ships on Android TV set-top boxes and Android Wear smartwatches, shortcuts only work on Google Home and Android smartphones running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or newer. Unless you’re able to get your hands on an Android phone or Google Home, you won’t be able to use them.

If you can live with that limitation, though, getting started is a cinch. First, you’ll need the Google Home app — download it from the iTunes App Store or Google Play store. Once you’ve launched it and signed in with your Google account, tap on More Settings > Shortcuts. You’ll see two blank text fields labeled: When I say OK Google.. and Google Assistant should do

In the first field, enter a trigger phrase or word — the command you’ll utter to trigger the action — by tapping it out, or by using text-to-speech after tapping the grey microphone icon. After you enter it, you’ll get the option to add a second, optional fallback phrase or word — a second command you can say to trigger the same action.

The second field — Google Assistant should do... — is a bit more complicated. Here, you enter the device or services that will be triggered when the Google Assistant or Google Home recognizes your verbal shortcut. And unfortunately, the Google Home app doesn’t provide much guidance — you have the freedom to enter just about anything, which is fine for simple actions that don’t require much specificity. But if you tap out a command that the Google Assistant or Google Home fail to recognize, you’ll get a basic list of web search results for the phrase you entered.

Worse, there’s no way to validate commands before pushing them live. You have to save them, enable them, test them on Google Home or the Google Assistant, and make changes accordingly.

Once you’ve cleared those hurdles, though, you’ll see your custom shortcuts at the top of Shortcuts menu, where you can toggle them on and off individually.

How to protect yourself when social media is harming your self-esteem

Social media can help us feel more connected to our friends, even when we’re far away. But, for many of us, the culture of of oversharing and #humblebragging can have a serious impact on our self-esteem.

With 10 million new photographs uploaded to Facebook every hour, experts say social media is a mine of endless potential for young people to be drawn into appearance-based comparisons. Instagram has been recently ranked worst for young people’s mental health, and causes feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. 

In the age of ubiquitous social media, how can we protect ourselves online when our use of social media is directly impacting on our self-esteem? 

Create a self-appreciation folder on your phone 

Student Issie Lakin, 17, says that constantly looking at “beautiful women with ‘perfect’ bodies, curves, expensive clothing and constant travelling” has had a definite impact on the way she views herself. This constant comparison to other people on Instagram is damaging, she says, so she tries to remind herself of the positive things in her life. “The best coping strategy for me was acceptance and looking at motivational images and daily reminders to remind myself of how much I have achieved,” says Lakin. 

“Cheesy as it sounds, a thing for me to do was to look up self-motivation and appreciation quotes, downloading them onto my phone and putting them into a folder. Whenever I have a bad day I look at the folder,” she says. 

Delete the apps from your phone

You don’t need to delete your actual accounts, but deleting the apps from your phone can help with the urge to constantly check these platforms. If you find that checking Instagram is sending you into a spiral of negative thoughts, deleting the apps — even if for a short period of time — could give you the distance you need. 

Avoid Instagram’s ‘Explore’ tab

Some people find Instagram’s “Explore” tab to be full of photographs and videos that make them feel bad about themselves. Steering clear of it can prevent you from encountering photos that you don’t need to see and that wouldn’t ordinarily appear in your timeline.

Image: vicky leta / mashable 

Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad 

Jenny Rae, a 25-year-old blogger who’s currently “flashpacking” in southeast Asia, says social media has harmed her self-esteem in the past and she often feels insecure when comparing herself to others. “I protect myself online by attempting to consume social media mindfully. Someone once advised me to unfollow any accounts that made you feel negative in any way, and only follow ones that inspire you or make you feel good,” says Rae. 

Impose a limit on your social media usage

Integrative psychotherapist Hilda Burke says the main challenge for many people is that social media triggers the tendency to compare oneself to others. Burke says that “a certain amount” of comparing oneself to others is “part of human nature.” She recommends imposing limits on how much time you spend on social media per day. She says that limit often affords people the space to focus on building their own confidence. Some people only check Facebook during their working day, and keep their free time strictly Facebook-free. Others limit their Instagram activity to when they’re on holiday. 

Woman using touchscreen smartphone

Woman using touchscreen smartphone

Image: Getty Images

Turn off your push notifications

Social media is invasive, and a constant stream of push notifications can draw us into apps that are toxic for our self-esteem. Some people turn off their push notifications so that their phone isn’t constantly tempting them to enter those apps. 

Talk to someone

If social media is getting to be too much, try talking to someone about how you’re feeling. 7cups.com is a free anonymous and confidential online text chat and you can talk to trained listeners and online therapists who will listen to you. 

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These smart sprinkler systems will change your lawn (and maybe your life)

There are many frontiers in the quest to add intelligence to our homes — even on the outside.

You may be blessed with a small yard, as I am. Lawns require a lot of attention, much of which I am not willing to give. I hate yard work and hate every-other-day watering most of all.   

So, I got a sprinkler system. The system was automated in that I set a schedule via bunch of physical sliders and there was even a rain sensor outside that would shut off the system if it started to rain. But most of the time I found myself running down to my basement to set off extra watering cycles, wondering if the system ran as I wanted, or growing frustrated because it would water the morning before a day’s worth of storms were predicted or the day after soaking rains.

My system was dumb. I want smart.

Over the last few months, I’ve been testing out a pair of smart sprinkler systems: RainMachine and Rachio. They both easily hook into an existing sprinkler system with anything from 8 to 16 zones (my tiny lawn has two), connect to your home Wi-Fi network, and can be managed and tracked from anywhere in the world via an app (iOS or Android).

RainMachine plugs into existing sprinkler systems and makes setup pretty easy.

RainMachine plugs into existing sprinkler systems and makes setup pretty easy.

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

Rachio is easy to install and takes the complexity out of wiring in the power supply.

Rachio is easy to install and takes the complexity out of wiring in the power supply.

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

More importantly, these systems are connected to national and local weather services so they know when it’s raining and will or won’t water accordingly. Rachio uses something called Aeris Weather Service, which aggregates weather sources, while RainMachine uses the National Weather Service.

I started with the $159 RainMachine, which had a relatively simply installation procedure. The tiny, mostly plastic box attaches to the wall with a few screws. Under the cover you have all the connection points. My system only has three wires: one for each zone and a common line. The app guided me through the setup. I also had to attach power. As with my analog system, RainMachine has you plug the two stripped wires from the AC-adapter directly into the system’s connectors. 

The $249, 16-zone Rachio (there’s a $199, 8-zone model as well) has a nearly identical setup, except that it terminates the power adapter in an actual plug, which makes connecting the power a tiny bit easier.

The only difficulty with wiring either system is in how to handle the rain sensor. Rachio offers a stand-alone port for the sensor wire. Unfortunately, my rain sensor doesn’t have its own line. It’s part of the common line. As a result, there’s no clear way for Rachio to collect information from the rain sensor. The RainMachine recommends wiring the sensor in series to make it work with their system. That may be the way my wiring is set up. 

Rachio asks a lot of questions about your yard.

Rachio asks a lot of questions about your yard.

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

I like Rachio's main screen. I just wish the Water Now button had a label.

I like Rachio’s main screen. I just wish the Water Now button had a label.

Image: Lance Ulanoff/Mashable

To remedy this, I could set up a wireless rain sensor and connect the receiver to my Rachio device, but I’m not ready to do that. Rachio tech support warned me, though, that since the current sensor can literally shut off the whole watering system on its own, the accuracy of its water-measurement system could end up being a bit faulty. It can use the weather services to know when it’s raining, but not a physical measurement of water hitting my area.

Both systems guide you through installation and setting up a watering schedule. Rachio goes into some minutiae about the kinds of trees, grass, and shrubbery you have as well as how much sunlight each zone gets. Honestly, I have no idea what kind of grass or shrubs I have, but I do know that my lawn gets a ton of sunlight.

While Rachio and RainMachine geolocate me perfectly, only Rachio could find a forecast for my town. RainMachine’s NWS-based forecast system was much more generalized, and, as a result, didn’t do as good a job at watering when I needed it and avoiding it when I didn’t.

In addition, I was never quite sure when RainMachine did and didn’t water and had to dig down into the somewhat inscrutable app to find my watering reports. Rachio, on the other hand, sent me alerts. I knew when it watered and when it skipped due to inclement weather.

Each system could benefit from a clearer, top-menu based control to simply “Water Now.” RainMachine always opens with an off-putting “Devices” screen where your RainMachine system is listed with an IP address. Rachio goes right to a comprehensive status page. I can immediately see that my device is online, that there’s no watering delay, and what the current weather and forecast is for my town. 

RainMachine has a good app, but it has a bad habit of nesting crucial features a level or two too deep.

RainMachine has a good app, but it has a bad habit of nesting crucial features a level or two too deep.

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

The RainMachine report screen is good. I wish the notifications were a little better.

The RainMachine report screen is good. I wish the notifications were a little better.

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

Rachio does have a Water Now option on that page, but it’s hidden under a circular icon that doesn’t really imply “Water Now.” Selecting it did reveal a very simple instant watering interface that I liked. I just want the words “Water Now” somewhere on that top screen.

There’s no contest between RainMachine and Rachio for reports. Rachio keeps me up to date on when it plans to skip watering based on upcoming or current weather conditions. Its hyper-local weather forecasts mean it’s never wrong, either. 

One area where RainMachine outdoes Rachio is in the device-based controls. There’s a simple touchscreen on the RainMachine I can use to turn on the sprinkler system for either zone. Rachio has no touch interface.

In general, I like both systems, and it’s clear both could save me on my water bill. But if I had to choose the one I’d rely to keep my lawn green and my frustration at a minimum, it would be Rachio.

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Apple clashes with Chinese social network giants over in-app money transfers

Why it matters to you

WeChat is an indispensable service for hundreds of millions of users, and Apple is taking a risk by threatening to remove apps like it from the App Store.

Apple is reportedly clashing with several developers of social networking apps that are prominent in China, according to The Wall Street Journal. The issue concerns the “tipping” feature common in many of these apps, which allows users to pay content creators directly.

One of those developers is Tencent, the company responsible for producing WeChat, China’s most prominent messaging and payment platform. According to the report, Apple’s stance is that the money exchanged by users — specifically tips — are in fact a form of in-app payment. That would allow the company to take a 30-percent cut of each transaction, per App Store rules.

In April, it was reported that Tencent scrubbed the tipping feature from the iPhone version of its app, and it appears other developers may be compelled to follow suit.

This all comes at a time when Apple has hit a roadblock in its Chinese expansion. Domestic manufacturers, like Huawei, Oppo, and Vivo, are outperforming the iPhone maker. In 2016, Apple fell from first place among smartphone vendors in the country for the first time in five years.

As a result, the company could be looking to eke out even more revenue from its install base — though in this particular instance, it runs the risk of alienating its most vital partners in the region. Developers told The Wall Street Journal that Apple has threatened to remove their software from the App Store if they fail to comply.

Losing WeChat in particular would be a serious blow to any smartphone manufacturer selling its wares in China, as the app boasts nearly one billion active users. Even if WeChat remains on the iPhone in its current state, however, consumers may spring for Android devices instead if the ability to tip doesn’t return to Apple’s hardware.

Apple has reportedly been in talks with Tencent to negotiate a solution, but the Cupertino, California company runs the risk of triggering a regulatory ruling by the Chinese government, which may be inclined to side with developers.

An executive from one such developer said that his platform doesn’t take a cut of what users spend on tips, so Apple would effectively be receiving 30 percent “for doing nothing.”

Apple has begun manufacturing and marketing the iPhone SE in India

Why it matters to you

Apple’s move may be part of a trend toward local production by major global tech firms that are seeking to establish a presence in emerging economies.

Apple is moving to a different part of Asia for its iPhone assembly needs. On Wednesday, the tech giant confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that it had completed a trial of its first-ever iPhones to be assembled in India. And as the industry at large continues to explore new ways to break into the fast-growing South Asian market, Apple’s latest move could be a crucial step forward.

In a statement, Apple noted that initial production of a “small number of iPhone SE handset,” the company’s cheapest smartphone offering, has begun in Bangalore. These Indian-made units are expected to begin shipping to domestic customers later in May. In fact, initial shipments could arrive in stores as early as this week.

As it stands, even the least expensive iPhone (the SE), is considerably more expensive at $250 than the average smartphone price in India, which research firm IDC estimates to be around $150. But if Apple can compete in or at least near that ballpark, it may have a shot at winning customers over.

“Apple is likely to sell a good number of iPhones if it prices them so aggressively,” said Faisal Kawoosa, principal analyst at research firm CMR. “In three to five years, these users will be able to graduate to a standard-priced iPhone.”

But pricing aside, the Indian government is certainly pleased to have Apple in the country.

“Apple coming to India is a [matter of] pride for us,” said R.V. Deshpande, Karnataka’s commerce and industries minister, referring to the SE production. “We are trying to get them in Karnataka as it’s the right place with all the required ecosystem.”

Facebook to offer live-streamed MLB games, starting Friday night

Why it matters to you

It’s another way to enjoy live sports if your alternative providers don’t cut it.

Just a couple of months ago rumors swirled that Facebook was in talks with Major League Baseball (MLB) with a view toward streaming a bunch of games during this season.

Well, the social networking giant got what it wanted, inking a deal to stream 20 games on a weekly basis, starting tonight.

The deal marks Facebook’s determination to further expand its live-stream offerings in competition with the likes of Twitter and Amazon, both of whom have been chasing similar sports-focused partnerships.

U.S. based sports fans can enjoy Facebook’s baseball coverage by hitting its MLB page. First game? The Colorado Rockies at the Cincinnati Reds, starting at 7:10 p.m. ET. Incidentally, Twitter’s MLB offerings, which since the start of this season have been showing each Friday, will soon switch to Tuesdays.

Facebook’s Dan Reed, who heads the company’s global sports unit, said in a statement that the nation’s baseball clashes are “uniquely engaging community experiences, as the chatter and rituals in the stands are often as meaningful to fans as the action on the diamond,” adding, “By distributing a live game per week on Facebook, Major League Baseball can reimagine this social experience on a national scale.”

Efforts by Facebook and others to increase their live programming are part of a drive to boost user engagement and, ultimately, ad revenue. Twitter scored a touchdown last season with a deal to show a number of Thursday Night Football games, a partnership that’s thought to  have cost the social media company around $10 million. But, in a recent move highlighting just how competitive the space is becoming, Amazon batted Twitter out of the ground and snagged the same coverage for next season in a new deal worth $50 million.

The sports themselves are hoping the deals lead to bigger audiences, as the social media sites weave viewing and fan analysis into one experience that has the potential to drive engagement.

While the social media services are still up against the likes of broadcasting giants NBC and CBS, which continue to pull in much larger audiences with their live TV coverage, these recent deals show how the landscape is changing when it comes to audience viewing habits.

Here are the winners of this year’s Nebula Awards

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is currently holding its annual conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this weekend. This evening, the organization announced the winners of this year’s Nebula Awards, recognizing some of the best science fiction and fantasy works from last year.

io9 co-founder Charlie Jane Anders walked away with the award for Best Novel. In her acceptance speech, she said that she constantly wrestled with the idea that she wasn’t good enough to write All the Birds in the Sky, and that she hoped that her award means that the next person arguing with themselves will be able to “tell the voices to shut up and go and write their frickin’ book”. Other winners include Seanan McGuire for Best Novella, William Ledbetter for Best Novelette, and Amal El-Mohtar for Best Short Story. Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival won the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and David D. Levine earned the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. SFWA also awarded Jane Yolan the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.

The event’s toastmaster was Astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who spent 141 days on the International Space Station as part of the Expedition 44 and Expedition 45 missions, where he served as a flight engineer and mission specialist. You might remember him as one of the astronauts who sampled the first station-grown lettuce and took part in an EVA to upgrade the station. He spoke about how NASA was turning science fiction into science fact, and that as a science fiction fan, it was a pleasure to meet some of his heroes who wrote the stories he grew up with. “I am here today because of science fiction,” he said, “my path to space was paved with books.”

The Nebula Awards are awarded annually by SFWA, whose members nominate their favorite works from the past year. This year’s nominees are an acclaimed and diverse body of work from 2016, and all of the novels made their way onto our best of 2016 book list back in December.

Here’s the full list of winners (listed in bold) and nominees:

Best Novel

  • All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor; Titan)
  • Borderline, Mishell Baker (Saga)
  • The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris US; Solaris UK)
  • Everfair, Nisi Shawl (Tor)

Best Novella

  • Runtime, S.B. Divya (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • “The Liar,” John P. Murphy (F&SF)
  • A Taste of Honey, Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com Publishing)

Best Novelette

Best Short Story

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

  • Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve, screenplay by Eric Heisserer, 21 Laps Entertainment / FilmNation Entertainment / Lava Bear Films / Xenolinguistics
  • Doctor Strange, directed by Scott Derrickson, screenplay by Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill, Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures
  • Kubo and the Two Strings, directed by Travis Knight, screenplay by Mark Haimes & Chris Butler; Laika Entertainment
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, directed by Gareth Edwards, written by Chris Weitz & Tony Gilroy; Lucasfilm / Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures
  • Westworld: ‘‘The Bicameral Mind’,’ directed by Jonathan Nolan, written by Lisa Joy & Jonathan Nolan; HBO
  • Zootopia, directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore, & Jared Bush, screenplay by Jared Bush & Phil Johnston; Walt Disney Pictures / Walt Disney Animation Studios

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin Young Readers)
  • The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi (St. Martin’s)
  • The Lie Tree, Frances Hardinge (Macmillan UK; Abrams)
  • Arabella of Mars, David D. Levine (Tor)
  • Railhead, Philip Reeve (Oxford University Press; Switch)
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, Lindsay Ribar (Kathy Dawson Books)
  • The Evil Wizard Smallbone, Delia Sherman (Candlewick)

Microsoft Research shows off its augmented reality glasses

Because we’re spoiled and don’t appreciate amazing technology unless it’s immediately convenient, some tech pundits are dismissing VR in favor of AR, but the fact is that we’re still years away from easy to use AR glasses. For now, mainstream AR is limited to your smartphone, like most other apps. 

However, a team at Microsoft Research is looking to speed up the progress on wearable AR devices and have introduced a prototype as proof. 

Before Snap can turn its Spectacles wearable camera into a vehicle for its augmented reality app filters, Microsoft’s team presented a pair of glasses on Friday that use near-eye displays to produce holograms to the wearer. 

[embedded content]

The glasses have an 80-degree field of view and the ability to correct for a person’s astigmatism, allowing virtual objects to be viewed through the AR glasses without additional corrective lenses.

And while the rough prototype is exciting as something to look forward to, the fact that the glasses are monoscopic and the electronics driving the AR experience are external means this is just a step forward for the technology and not a hint at any forthcoming product. 

“In future work, we plan to integrate all these capabilities into a single hardware device while expanding the exit pupil to create a practical stereo display,” the team writes in the research paper detailing the work around the prototype. “In this way, we hope to become one step closer to truly mobile near-eye displays that match the range of capabilities of human vision.

Image: microsoft research

Microsoft is already dedicated to AR with the HoloLens, but with talk of AR eyeglasses being fielded by the likes of Facebook and even Apple (via rumors) the pressure is mounting for someone to be the first to present wearable AR that doesn’t look as off-putting as Google Glass. 

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Nvidia Is Off to the Autonomous Car Races

Nvidia recently announced that Toyota will use its Drive PX AI car computer platform for advanced autonomous vehicles slated for introduction over the next few years.

Nvidia Is Off to the Autonomous Car Races

Nvidia is combining breakthroughs in AI and high-performance computing to build Nvidia Drive PX, the brain of the autonomous car, said CEO Jensen Huang at Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference earlier this month.

“It’s also noteworthy that the [partnership] announcement states that it is to deliver artificial intelligence hardware and software technologies,” noted Ian Riches, Strategy Analytics‘ global automotive practice director.

“The software is ultimately as important or valuable [as the hardware],” he told TechNewsWorld.

[embedded content]

The Drive PX platform, equipped with the next-generation Xavier System on a Chip — a palm-sized artificial intelligence-based supercomputer designed for use in autonomous vehicles — delivers 30 trillion deep learning operations per second.

It combines data from cameras, lidar, radar and other sensors. It then uses AI to understand the 360-degree environment around the vehicle, localize itself on a high-definition map, and anticipate potential hazards while driving.

The system software receives updates over the air.

“Toyota’s on a path to try to save the car as we know it,” remarked Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“Most everyone else is looking to turn the car into a rolling elevator,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Toyota’s effort to favor its guardian angel concept, which fully enhances a human but doesn’t replace them by default, does a better job of ensuring that car companies like it survive [the shift to autonomous vehicles] than the more popular option, which removes the human driver.”

How the Partners Will Benefit

“Nvidia’s partnership with Toyota is huge,” noted Jim McGregor, a principal analyst at Tirias Research.

Nvidia has automotive certification for infotainment systems but not for control systems, and the partnership will help it get that certification, he told TechNewsWorld.

Toyota also will benefit, said Roger Lanctot, automotive connected mobility director at Strategy Analytics.

“Toyota has a need to make up some lost ground fast, so this [partnership] appears to be the most expedient [move],” he told TechNewsWorld.

That might explain why Toyota opted for Nvidia instead of Renesas Electronics, one of the world’s largest auto semiconductor makers — and one in which Toyota has shares.

“Renesas has been on the low end,” McGregor pointed out. “Toyota was looking for something on the high end, and that company is Nvidia. This will put everyone on notice.”

Getting Into the Autonomous Driving Act

The race is on to get autonomous vehicles into the market, Strategy Analytics’ Lanctot said.

There are no fewer than 263 top movers and shakers, according to Wired, for example.

Still, the Toyota partnership “is confirmation of an early lead that Nvidia seems to be taking in this space,” Strategy Analytics’ Riches observed.

“The Toyota announcement is not research or a test bed,” argued Kevin Krewell, a principal analyst at Tirias Research.

“It’s for real cars that will ship one day,” he told TechNewsWorld. “This means we’re off to the races to autonomous driving vehicles.”

Revving Up Nvidia’s Chances

Nvidia’s processors already are used in Tesla vehicles, Riches pointed out, and they are a core component of Audi’s “zFAS” unit, which is going into production. Further, two major automotive Tier One suppliers — Bosch and ZF — also are going into production with Nvidia-powered modules.

Nvidia “was first to market with a packaged solution, which means they have the greatest potential for a mature cross-OEM offering that has economies of scale,” Enderle said.

Car makers “are coming around to the idea that they’ll need tight standards that cross vendors,” he pointed out, “and that the more commonality that exists, the better their performance/cost ratios, and the lower their potential liability will be.”

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.

Uber is charging some riders more for high demand routes

Uber has been charging some passengers differently based on the routes that they’re taking, according to a pair of reports in Bloomberg and Business Insider. The goal of the pricing scheme is to help entice drivers in those areas to help reduce wait times for passengers.

Traditionally, Uber has charged riders based on the mileage, time on the road, and surrounding demand. Last year, the company has been testing a route-based pricing with its UberX service in 14 cities that also use UberPool, in which it charged customers more for high-demand routes. Bloomberg spoke with Uber executives, who said that the company is using machine learning to figure out when riders are willing to pay more for their ride in certain areas.

However, drivers for those high-demand routes won’t see an increase in pay. The difference between those increased fares and the driver’s pay goes to Uber, which in turn uses it to pay for promotions, “such as dropping the price of an UberPool route from $10 to $8,” according to Business Insider. “Instead of drivers making less on the $8 fare cut, Uber will still pay them based on the $10 fare.” The company stressed in a statement to Android Headlines that riders will still know how much they’re being charged.

Last year, Uber introduced an upfront pricing model designed to remove some of the uncertainty around surge pricing during periods of high demand, while at the same time, Uber drivers have noticed and complained about the gap between their pay and what their passengers are paying in fares. Speaking to Business Insider, Daniel Graf, Uber’s head of product, noted that one of the goals is to provide drivers with “consistent earnings,” saying that without them, drivers will go elsewhere. Essentially: some riders will pay more, but the excess will be used to try and reduce fares in the area.

The pricing change comes at a precarious time for the ride-share company. While the company continued to grew in 2016, it lost nearly $3 billion. It also faced numerous problems, such as allegations of sexual harassment and toxic working conditions, that it stole trade secrets from Waymo, and that it tried to hide its activities from regulators and other tech companies.