Gadgets, Game & Mobile News

Crab-inspired artificial vision system works on land and underwater

Engadget - Thu, 2022-08-04 08:39

There had been many previous attempts to develop cameras that mimic the eyes of insects, fish and other living creatures. However, development of artificial vision systems that can see both underwater and on land has apparently been pretty limited. Further, biomimetic cameras are usually restricted by their 180-degree field-of-view. Now, a team of scientists from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) and Seoul National University in Korea have developed a new artificial vision system with a 360-degree field-of-view that can work on amphibious machines.

The team was inspired by the semi-terrestrial fiddler crab, which has a 3D omnidirectional field-of-view. They evolved to be able to look at almost everything at once on land and underwater to avoid attacks and to see communicate with fellow fiddler crabs. Scientists have apparently been having issues finding a way to sustain a camera's focusing capability when the environment changes, which is why this team has decided to take a closer look at the fiddler crab. 

The resulting artificial eye is a nondescript black ball that combines various materials and lenses. Its configuration allows light rays from multiple sources to converge at the same spot regardless of the refractive index of its surrounding — in other words, whether the device is underwater or not. The team tested the technology by conducting in-air and in-water experiments: To be specific, they projected "cutesy" objects in the shape of a dolphin, an airplane, a submarine, a fish and a ship at different distances and in various angles onto the artificial vision system. The result? They found that their camera was successfully able to see the objects whether they were or weren't submerged in water.

Young Min Song, professor of electrical engineering and computer Science at GIST, said:

"Our system could be of use in the development of unconventional applications, like panoramic motion detection and obstacle avoidance in continuously changing environments, as well as augmented and virtual reality."

Other potential applications Song didn't mention include population surveillance and environmental monitoring, which could make the technology an invaluable tool for keeping a close eye on endangered, vulnerable and threatened species. You can check out the scientists' paper with more details about the new vision system in Nature.

Microsoft Teams has finally been optimized for Apple Silicon Macs

Engadget - Thu, 2022-08-04 08:17

Microsoft has finally released a version of Teams optimized to run Apple Silicon Macs, it announced. "For Mac users, this means a significant boost in performance, ensuring efficient use of device resources and an optimized Teams experience even when using multiple high-resolution monitors during calls or meetings," wrote Microsoft's Anupam Pattnaik. 

The updated app comes nearly two years after Apple revealed its first Silicon-powered M1 devices. So far, Teams has run using Rosetta 2 translation, resulting in performance issues like slow startup times, lag and more. One workaround has been to run the progressive web app version of Teams, which requires the Microsoft Edge Mac browser. 

Other Microsoft apps including the Office suite were available not long after Silicon-powered Macs debuted. However, the company only first started beta testing a version of Teams optimized for the new chips back in April

The new versions of Team will be released as a universal binary that runs natively on both Intel and Silicon-powered Macs. However, you'll still have to wait a bit — Microsoft plans to release it "in increments over the coming months." 

SoundCloud is laying off 20 percent of its workforce

Engadget - Thu, 2022-08-04 08:00

SoundCloud is joining the depressingly long list of companies in the tech industry that are letting personnel go due to the economic downturn. According to Billboard and Variety, company CEO Michael Weissman told employees in an email that it's "making reductions" to its global team that will impact up to 20 percent of SoundCloud. Weissman said the move is necessary "given the challenging economic climate and financial market headwinds." Further, the layoffs and the prudent financial decisions the company had recently made apparently put it on the path to sustained profitability.

A spokesperson has confirmed the job cuts to Billboard, adding that SoundCloud is providing support to employees who have to exit the company. The online audio distribution platform last laid off a significant chunk of its workforce — 40 percent in all — back in 2017, when it was struggling financially. As Billboard notes, SoundCloud has secured hundreds of millions of investments and has announced its first profitable quarter in 2020 since then. 

In 2021, the company introduced a listener-based royalties model that could lead to better pay for indie artists, since subscribers' payments go straight to the artists they listen to. Warner Music Group recently adopted the model, becoming the first major label to do so. SoundCloud also purchased an AI music curation company called Musiio in May to help users find hidden gems before they make it big. Musiio's technology listens to songs, tags them and then inserts them into appropriate playlists. 

Based on SoundCloud's LinkedIn profile, it has 1,707 employees at the moment. If that figure is correct, around 340 people will lose their jobs. Weissman said in his email to staff members that the layoffs will affect employees in the US and the UK, who will be notified in the coming days.

Switching Cellphone Carriers in 2022: What to Know Before You Switch Providers - CNET

CNET News - Thu, 2022-08-04 08:00
Before you change your wireless service, you'll want to make sure you have answers to these questions.

Porsche 911 Turbo S Proves Internal Combustion Isn't Dead at Pikes Peak - CNET

CNET News - Thu, 2022-08-04 08:00
Here's how David Donner drove a road-legal car to a second-place finish.

Ecobee Smart Thermostat Enhanced vs. Nest Thermostat: Is Ecobee or Nest the Best? - CNET

CNET News - Thu, 2022-08-04 08:00
Which smart thermostat makes the most sense for your home?

The Morning After: Winamp, your old MP3 software of choice, is back

Engadget - Thu, 2022-08-04 07:15

Winamp is the music software that just won't die. In the first update in four years, the producers described it as the "culmination" of years of hard work, including two teams and a pandemic-dictated hiatus. The result is a lot of under-the-hood upgrades and improvements, but it’s still the music player a lot of us remember.

Once upon a time, Winamp was the MP3 software of choice, where many of us kept our music files from fledgling digital stores and peer-to-peer apps. Parent company AOL (which was also once Engadget's owner) shut down work in 2013, years after the likes of Spotify took hold. But, following an acquisition by Radionomy, Winamp lives on. Still.

— Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missedOnePlus 10T reviewSpeed above all.TMAEngadget

OnePlus’ mid-year phone refresh is unusual. The 10T has the fastest Snapdragon chip, but a lot of compromises. According to Engadget’s Sam Rutherford, it’s a solid device at an affordable $649, but say farewell to the Alert Slider, wireless charging and a dedicated US carrier launch partner — for now.

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Apple might delay iPadOS 16 release until OctoberThe company is struggling with the Stage Manager multitasking feature.

Bloomberg reports Apple might delay iPadOS 16 by a month or so. The main issue is said to be with the Stage Manager multitasking tool, which will only be available on M1-powered iPads. It allows users to resize windows and have them overlap. However, those who tried the beta by and large found the feature buggy — something we noted in our iPadOS 16 preview. Previous reports indicated Apple has new iPads lined up for later this year, and delaying iPadOS 16 could mean it emerges closer to the new tablets as well.

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Nintendo’s Switch sales drop as it contends with chip shortageGame sales also fell, but first-party sales improved.

Nintendo's Switch sales fell significantly last quarter, dropping to 3.43 million units compared to 4.45 million during the same period last year, according to its earnings report. The company chalked up the Switch sales issue to a parts shortage, the same thing Sony struggled with. "Hardware production was impacted by factors such as the global shortage of semiconductor components, resulting in a decrease of hardware shipments," the company said.

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NASA says retired astronauts must act as space sherpas on private flights to the ISSThe new policy aims to increase passenger safety on commercial space flights.

NASA will soon require a retired astronaut to serve as mission commander on all private flights to the International Space Station, according to an agency notice posted today. The policy — which has yet to be finalized — is intended to both increase passenger safety and reduce any strain on existing ISS operations. According to the notice, the new changes came after “lessons learned” on last April’s Axiom Space flight, where passengers paid $55 million each to fly on the first private astronaut mission to the ISS. The hectic two-week trip took a toll on both the ISS and Axiom crews.

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The best PlayStation 5 games for 2022Load up your new console with these excellent titles.TMASony

It’s Sony’s turn. As always, we looked for games that generally offer meaningful improvements over their last-gen counterparts when played on PS5 or are exclusive to the system. Our 2022 update sees two third-party titles — Deathloop and Final Fantasy VII Remake — join the overwhelmingly in-house fray.

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College textbook maker Pearson eyes NFTs to claim a cut of second-hand salesApparently, a $300 required textbook isn't enough of a grift.

NFT advocates often tout the technology's ability to grant the creator a cut of second-hand sales as one of its major attributes. That’s what intrigued Pearson, a major textbook publisher. “In the analogue world, a Pearson textbook was resold up to seven times, and we would only participate in the first sale,” CEO Andy Bird told Bloomberg this week. “The move to digital helps diminish the secondary market.” Do you know why students resell textbooks? Because they're darn expensive.

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You can now buy Ticketmaster tickets on TikTokA tongue-twisting way to see tours.

TikTok has teamed up with Ticketmaster to help users discover events and buy tickets directly through the app. Music artists, comedians, sports teams and venues can search for relevant Ticketmaster events and link to them on their videos. The feature is only open to select creators at the outset. TikTok is increasingly focusing on music: Earlier this week, it emerged the company may be working on its own music streaming service.

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More People Need to Watch This Free TV Show on Tubi - CNET

CNET News - Thu, 2022-08-04 07:00
The charming Australian version of Lego Masters improves on the US show in every conceivable way (and it's Will Arnett-free).

The Best Kamado Grill for 2022 - CNET

CNET News - Thu, 2022-08-04 07:00
We thoroughly tested a group of popular kamado grills from Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, Char-Griller and others. These are our picks.

Report: Apple retaliated against women who complained about misconduct

Engadget - Thu, 2022-08-04 05:45

The Financial Times has published a lengthy report saying that Apple has fostered a culture of apathy toward reports of employee misconduct, and has actively retaliated against staff members who complained about colleagues, including those who reported incidents of sexual assault. If accurate, the allegations are at odds with the image of inclusiveness that Apple projects, and cast a pall on the real progress it has made in boosting its workforce diversity. 

Multiple women described filing complaints with Apple's human resources department over sexual abuse, bullying and other incidents. Former employee Megan Mohr complained that a colleague removed her bra and clothes while she was asleep and took photos of her after a platonic night out. However, the HR representative called the experience "a minor traffic accident."

"Although what he did was reprehensible as a person and potentially criminal, as an Apple employee he hasn't violated any policy in the context of his Apple work," Apple's HR department said in an email seen by FT. "And because he hasn't violated any policy we will not prevent him seeking employment opportunities that are aligned with his goals and interests." 

An Apple Store Genius employee complained about two instances of serious sexual assault including being raped, and said HR treated her not as a victim, but as the problem. "I was told [the alleged rapist] went on a ‘career experience’ for six months and they said: ‘maybe you’ll be better by the time he’s back?" She requested a transfer but it was declined, and she still works at the same store. 

IP attorney Margaret Anderson complained of a "toxic work environment" and "gaslighting," and said a male vice-president wanted to fire her, citing false allegations that predated her arrival at Apple. HR reportedly ignored a document she created refuting the allegations.

Employees have also complained about Apple suppressing worker organizing and blocking Slack channels used by employees to complain about bad managers and pay inequity. Software engineer Cher Scarlett said Apple retaliated after she filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The company offered her a $213,000 severance package, but she refused to sign it because Apple demanded she hand over a letter sent to the NLRB that included the names of other employees. 

That's their playbook. Offer me enough money to pay off my lawyers and debt, and they wanted a list of people to retaliate against. How do I talk about how egregious that truly is?

She accepted the deal when Apple withdrew the demand, but was forced to pull the NLRB complaint. However, she intentionally broke the agreement when Apple sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) saying it "supports the rights of its employees and contractors to speak freely." Scarlett then showed her exit arrangement to the media, which led to eight US state treasurers asking the SEC to investigate "whether or not Apple misled the Commission and investors." 

The highest profile complaint was from Jayne Whitt, a director in Apple's legal department. She told HR that a colleague hacked her devices and threatened her life, with the expectation that the complaint would be handled seriously. Instead, the employee investigative division said Whitt "failed to act in a professional and work appropriate manner" during their meeting, at a time when Whitt "said she was begging for help and reliving trauma," the FT wrote. 

She subsequently posted a 2,800 word essay on the whistleblower platform The Lioness describing the situation, prompting an outpouring of support from Apple employees. However, Apple proceeded to fire her based on what she called an "irrelevant" six-year-old indiscretion. 

Whitt is now challenging Apple legally, and said the Slack channels on gender-pay disparity helped open her eyes. "I was disadvantaged — this is how women struggle," she said. "Had these stories [on Slack] not been coming out, I would not have been compelled to do the right thing, to blow up my career."

Apple told The Financial Times in a statement that it works hard to thoroughly investigate misconduct allegations and strives to create "an environment where employees feel comfortable reporting any issues." However, it acknowledged not having always met those ideals. "There are some accounts raised that do not reflect our intentions or our policies and we should have handled them differently, including certain exchanges reported in this story. As a result, we will make changes to our training and processes." It wouldn't comment on specific cases "out of respect for the privacy of the individuals involved." 

2022 Nissan Rogue Is More Powerful, More Efficient - CNET

CNET News - Thu, 2022-08-04 05:00
Nissan's compact Rogue is a well-rounded SUV.

US Attorneys General will take legal action against telecom providers enabling robocalls

Engadget - Thu, 2022-08-04 01:56

The Attorneys General of all 50 states have joined forces in hopes of giving teeth to the seemingly never-ending fight against robocalls. North Carolina AG Josh Stein, Indiana AG Todd Rokita and Ohio AG Dave Yost are leading the formation of the new Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force. In Stein's announcement, he said the group will focus on taking legal action against telecoms, particularly gateway providers, allowing or turning a blind eye to foreign robocalls made to US numbers.

He explained that gateway providers routing foreign phone calls into the US telephone network have the responsibility under the law to ensure the traffic they're bringing in is legal. Stein said that they mostly aren't taking any action to keep robocalls out of the US phone network, though, and they're even intentionally allowing robocall traffic through in return for steady revenue in many cases. 

Stein said in a statement:

"We're... going to take action against phone companies that violate state and federal laws. I’m proud to create this nationwide task force to hold companies accountable when they turn a blind eye to the robocallers they’re letting on to their networks so they can make more money. I’ve already brought one pathbreaking lawsuit against an out-of-state gateway provider, and I won’t hesitate to take legal action against others who break our laws and bombard North Carolinians with these harmful, unlawful calls."

The Attorney General referenced data from the National Consumer Law Center, which previously reported that American phone numbers get more than 33 million scam robocalls a day. Those include Social Security scams targeting seniors and gift card scams, wherein bad actors pretend they're from the IRS. In that report, the center warned that consumers will keep on getting robocalls as long as phone providers are earning from them. 

Stein already has experience sparring with shady gateway providers. Back in January, he sued Articul8 for routing more than 65 million calls to phone numbers in North Carolina and inundating residents with up to 200 fraudulent telemarketing calls every single day. He previously urged the FCC to implement measures designed to put a stop to illegal foreign calls made through providers like Articul8, as well. And in 2019, Stein became instrumental in the development of an agreement between the US Attorneys General and 12 carriers in the country to use the STIR/SHAKEN call-blocking technology.

Marvel and the MCU Phase 5 and Phase 6: All Your Questions Answered - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-08-03 22:41
Confused? Here's a handy explainer for all things Marvel in the coming years.

James Gunn Says 'Peacemaker' Is Safe, Amid HBO Max Cancelations - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-08-03 22:03
Creator James Gunn assures fans season 2 of the superhero show is still happening.

Beauty Sleep: The Toll Poor Sleep Takes on Your Appearance and Health - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-08-03 21:00
Beauty sleep is real. Here's how sleep can make you look youthful.

Lucid Motors has drastically reduced its production target, again

Engadget - Wed, 2022-08-03 20:46

Luxury EV startup Lucid Motors changed its yearly production target again, lowering it to an expected output of between 6,000 and 7,000 vehicles, the company announced today. That’s only a fraction of the 20,000 cars that Lucid initially promised to deliver in 2022. The Tesla competitor has only produced 1,405 vehicles so far this year, giving it a mere four months to build thousands of new cars.

Supply chain woes and a shortage of parts and raw materials are to blame for the slow output, the company claims. In a call with investors, the California-based company’s CEO Peter Rawlinson said it is planning a number of structural changes to amp up production. "Our revised production guidance reflects the extraordinary supply chain and logistics challenges we encountered," said Rawlinson. "We've identified the primary bottlenecks, and we are taking appropriate measures – bringing our logistics operations in-house, adding key hires to the executive team, and restructuring our logistics and manufacturing organization."

On top of ongoing production struggles, this May the company was forced to recall all of its 2022 Air EVs due to wiring issues — a total of over 1,000 cars. Such challenges haven't appeared to impact demand for the luxury vehicles. So far, there have been 37,000 reservations for Lucid Motor’s all-electric sedan, the Lucid Air, the company disclosed in the call. On top of that, Lucid plans to sell over 100,000 cars to the government of Saudi Arabia — which poured over $1 billion into the company and owns a 62 percent stake.

Boyd Holbrook Discusses His Film 'Vengeance' and New Series 'The Sandman' - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-08-03 19:52
The Narcos actor also dishes on his obsession with meditation and the search for life elsewhere in the universe.

World of Warcraft Mobile Game Shelved, Report Says - CNET

CNET News - Wed, 2022-08-03 19:12
Activision Blizzard reportedly cans the rumored smartphone version of WoW.

NASA says retired astronauts must act as sherpas on private flights to the ISS

Engadget - Wed, 2022-08-03 19:07

NASA will soon require a retired astronaut to serve as mission commander on all private flights to the International Space Station, according to an agency notice posted today. The policy — which has yet to be finalized — is intended to both increase passenger safety and reduce any strain on existing ISS operations. The former astronaut would provide “experienced guidance for the private astronauts during pre-flight preparation through mission execution." A number of changes also impact space tourists themselves, including new medical standards for private astronauts, more lead time for private research projects, changes to the policy for return cargo and additional time for private astronauts to adjust to microgravity.

According to the notice, the new changes were a result of “lessons learned” on last April’s Axiom Space flight, where passengers paid $55 million each to fly on the first private astronaut mission to the ISS. The hectic, two-week trip — where passengers also worked on their own research — took a toll on both the ISS crew and the Axiom crew themselves, according to interviews with astronauts following the mission’s return.

The Ax-1 mission actually had a former NASA astronaut at its helm — Michael López-Alegría, who currently is the Chief Astronaut at Axiom. The company was considering crewing future missions without a professional astronaut on board as that would free up space for an extra (paying) passenger on board, Axiom president Michael Suffredini said at a press conference earlier this year. The new policy by NASA is likely an effort to prevent such unsupervised missions.

Capable astronauts aren’t exactly a dime a dozen. Currently, there are well over 200 living retired NASA astronauts, according to the agency’s website — though it’s unclear how many would be willing to command future missions or meet the medical requirements. NASA itself is in the middle of an astronaut shortage — its current corps of 44 astronauts is the smallest since the 1970s. An agency report from January said a lack of working NASA astronauts could complicate future missions to the ISS and the moon.

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