Wicked Audio Endo review: The boring kind of cheap headphones

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Bluetooth audio products take many forms at several price points, offering us the consumers multiple options to meet our respective needs. While some can go for the top-dollar, high-end items from Bose, others may need something under $ 100 or even $ 50. Affordable audio is potentially lucrative, especially when a customer can go find them at his or her nearest Walmart. Growing up, the only name of true note I knew in this particular market was Skullcandy, an edgy company set on providing decent-ish headphones and earphones that looked nice/cool, but didn’t cost a whole ton.

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Snapchat is building the same kind of data-sharing API that just got Facebook into trouble 

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Snap CEO Evan Spiegel

What timing!

Snapchat is building a way for people to use their Snapchat account to connect with third-party apps. The idea, in theory, would let Snapchat users grant outside companies access to their Snapchat data to help personalize other services.

If that’s the case — and it looks like it is, based on these screenshots Mashable published on Tuesday — it would mean that Snap is building out the same kind of API that just got Facebook into a whole mess of trouble.

You can’t make these things up.

Mashable saw a beta version of Snapchat with a new section called “Connected Apps,” with text that reads, “These apps are connected to your Snapchat account. Choose an app to control what it has access to.”

Snapchat currently has an advertising API so people can buy ads through third-party dashboards, but it doesn’t let people use their Snapchat account on other apps, or help people connect with their Snapchat friends on other platforms.

Facebook does, and has for years. An old version of that API, which allowed outside developers to collect data from users without their consent, is at the center of the company’s entire Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The fact that Snapchat is considering sharing some data with outsiders is interesting in general, but particularly interesting given the recent news about Facebook.

There are a lot more questions than answers about the potential product. For example, what would connecting your Snapchat account to another app actually grant that developer? Would they have access to your contact list or private Snap messages? Would Snapchat let you post back to your account from other services?

A Snap spokesperson declined to comment, and the company is likely thinking a lot about those very questions, given the current climate around privacy sharing.

Hopefully, Snapchat will learn from Facebook‘s mistakes whenever it decides to roll this out.

Until now, Snap has stayed pretty far out of the spotlight when it comes to data collection and user privacy, probably because so many of the interactions on Snap are in private messages. (And many of its users are smartphone natives who may better understand what they’re handing over — or simply not care.) Snapchat doesn’t use private messaging info for ad targeting, and the company claims it does other things to protect user privacy. Its ads API doesn’t give personally identifiable information out to marketers, for example, and ad measurment results are only shared in aggregate, according to a spokesperson.

But Snap is also an advertising company — like Facebook — and it collects a lot of data about its users so it can show them relevant ads. You can read about some of that here.

The fact that it’s considering an API is also a reminder of why Facebook continues to collect this kind of stuff about its own user base, despite the issues it’s facing — if Facebook isn’t going to do it, somebody else will.

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There’s A New Kind of Aurora on Earth, And its Name is Steve

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Steve is a narrow, east-west running ribbon of purple light, sometimes slivered with green.

And it looks nothing like the wispier, wider curtains of other auroras.

Aurora-chasers in southern Canada who first spotted it started calling the mysterious streaks “Steve” after a joke in a 2006 animated film. Between 2015 and 2016, these citizen scientists sent some of their photos to Elizabeth MacDonald, a NASA space physicist, through her playfully-named citizen science platform Aurorasaurus. After looking at over 30 reports, she knew that something different was going on.

Normally, auroras occur when energized particles from the sun interact with the Earth’s magnetic field. But at didn’t explain Steve’s purple streaks. Different physics must be at play, MacDonald concluded.

But scientists didn’t know what made Steve special until July 2017, when, just by chance, one of the European Space Agency’s Swarm satellite set up to study the Earth’s magnetic field, happened to pass right over an area where the mysterious purple streaks were showing up.

Using Swarm data, MacDonald and her colleagues found that Steve appears when solar particles are moved rapidly from east to west by the interaction of both electrical and magnetic fields. This interaction only happens at points around 60 degrees north of the equator. Researchers have known about this flow of hot, fast-moving particles since the 1970s. They’re usually given the (way less fun) name of sub auroral ion drift, or SAID — but scientists never knew that there was any visual phenomena associated them. Luckily, MacDonald’s team decided to keep the more fun name by way of an acronym: Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement (STEVE).

It was only thanks to smartphones and high-quality digital cameras in the hands of passionate citizen scientists that physicists were able to realize what’s been under our noses — or, rather, over our heads — all along.

The post There’s A New Kind of Aurora on Earth, And its Name is Steve appeared first on Futurism.

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Samsung’s Galaxy S9 AR Emoji are kind of horrifying

One of Samsung’s messages with the new Galaxy S9 is that it’s “Built for the Way We Communicate Today.” And while that’s a laudable goal, one of the key features behind that message — AR Emoji — doesn’t feel like it connects with the way anyone communicates now, or will want to in the future. At least I hope not.

AR Emoji will widely be seen as a response to Animoji, the new iPhone X emoji that use face-scanning technology to convert facial movement into animated animals that you can send as messages. But the idea and implementation is actually very different. The Galaxy S9 relies entirely on conventional photos from the selfie camera rather than Apple’s complex 3D sensor array, yet attempts to produce something more ambitious and…

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Apple’s Phil Schiller on HomePod: We Want to Create a New Kind of Music Experience in the Home That Sounds Incredible

Over the weekend, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller did a quick fifteen minute interview with Sound & Vision, where he once again explained some of the technology behind the HomePod, shed some light on why Apple ultimately decided to create an in-home speaker, and explained how the HomePod will stand out among other smart speakers on the market.

Schiller believes that Apple is in a position to create a “new kind of music experience” that not only “sounds incredible,” but is also “fun to interact with.” He says that’s the driving force behind Apple’s work on the smart speaker. Apple’s focus, though, isn’t on a single product — the company wants to design a unified experience that’s the same throughout the day.

We don’t think it’s just about HomePod though, or any one product, it’s about creating an experience that moves with you throughout the day — so the experience you have at home, is replicated in the car with CarPlay, at work with iPad and Mac, and when you’re out for a run with Watch and iPhone. You can listen to the same music, control your home accessories or ask Siri to do something for you, wherever you are.

Schiller says that Apple Music, Siri advancements in personal music discovery, and Apple’s innovative audio work “come together” in the HomePod to deliver an “amazing music experience” to customers.

He went on to explain many of the technological advancements that improve sound quality in the HomePod, including machine learning to allow the HomePod to sense and adapt to its environment, the A8 chip for real-time acoustic modeling, audio beam-forming, and echo cancellation, and a more advanced thinking of speaker arrays to “create a wide soundstage.”

Schiller also explained in detail how the HomePod’s spatial awareness features work. From the moment it’s plugged in, the HomePod senses its location. The built-in microphone array listens to how sound reflects from neighboring surfaces to determine where it’s located in a room and what’s nearby, adjusting audio accordingly. The A8 chip beams center vocals and direct energy away from walls that are detected, while also reflecting ambient reverb and back-up vocals against the wall for better dispersion into the room.

The end result is a wide soundstage with a feeling of spaciousness and depth. This entire process takes just seconds and it doesn’t stop with the initial setup. Every time you move HomePod, it uses the built-in accelerometer to detect a change in its location and continues to make sure the music sounds great and is consistent, wherever it’s placed. We’ve also done some great things to help minimize the audible side effects of compression artifacts by developing studio level dynamic processing to optimize for rich, clean bass even at loud volumes.

Thus far, it appears Apple’s efforts to focus on sound quality have been successful. While full HomePod reviews have not yet been shared, initial first impressions from reviewers who were able to spend a short amount of time with the HomePod have been positive. Many reviewers were highly impressed with the sound quality of the device, which has been described as “warm,” “astonishing,” “precise,” and an “aural triumph.”

Apple will, however, need to convince its customers that sound improvements are worth the premium price the company is charging for the device. HomePod is more expensive than competing products from Google and Amazon, but some reviewers have questioned whether the average consumer will value sound quality more than affordability.

Phil Schiller’s full interview, which goes into more detail about Apple’s aim with the HomePod, how voice recognition works, HomeKit integration, and more can be read over at Sound & Vision.

The HomePod, which is priced at $349 in the United States, can be pre-ordered from the online Apple Store. The first HomePod orders will be delivered to customers starting on Friday, February 9, the official launch date of the device.

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Two ex-Google engineers built an entirely different kind of self-driving car

A new startup that proposes a different spin on autonomous transportation came out of stealth today. The company, called Nuro.ai, was founded by two former lead Google engineers who worked on the famed self-driving car project. Unlike the plethora of self-driving startups out there, Nuro.ai isn’t focused on reconfiguring robot taxis or autonomous trucks, but on designing a new type of vehicle altogether.

Nuro is focused on deliveries, specifically the kind that are low-speed, local, and last-mile: groceries, laundry, or your take-out order from Seamless. The startup thinks that automating these services could help shoulder the sharp increase in last-mile deliveries, while also reducing traffic accidents and boosting local businesses…

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Twitter is selling a new kind of ad: Sponsored Moments

New ads mean new revenue.

More ads are coming to Twitter.

The company is selling a new type of ad: Sponsored Moments, which are collections of tweets packaged around a specific event or theme, like the Oscars.

Paying to “sponsor” a moment means advertisers can add promoted tweets to the collection, and even add their branding on a title page for the Moment. Here’s an example, in which Bank of America sponsored Bloomberg’s collection of tweets about Davos.

 Twitter

The new ads matter for a couple of reasons. More ads means more money for Twitter, of course. In this case, more ads could also mean more money for Twitter partners, like Bloomberg. These deals involve some kind of revenue split, though a Twitter spokesperson declined to share details. Regardless, that means Bloomberg made money by creating tweets about its Davos coverage, which should incentivize them (and other partners) to use Moments more often.

A few other points worth noting.

  • We don’t know how many people actually use Moments, so it’s tough to know what the total business opportunity is here.
  • Not all Moments will include ads. The sponsorships are only available for a list of “premium publishers” that work with Twitter, a group of around 200 organizations that include TV networks and sports leagues. Right now, each deal is negotiated separately among publishers, advertisers and Twitter.

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Acer Chrome OS tablet, the first of its kind, shown off at Bett education expo in London

There it is, folks: the first-ever Chrome OS tablet. This Acer-branded tablet was unveiled at the Bett 2018 education show in London, where all sorts of technology used to better education is showcased for all to see. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about it as there hasn’t been an official announcement of any kind, but at least we know that it exists.

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Acer Chrome OS tablet, the first of its kind, shown off at Bett education expo in London was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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Acer Chrome OS tablet, the first of its kind, revealed at Bett education expo in London

There it is, folks: the first-ever ChromeOS tablet. This Acer-branded tablet was unveiled at the Bett 2018 education show in London, where all sorts of technology used to better education is showcased for all to see. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about it as there hasn’t been an official announcement of any kind, but at least we know that it exists.

We learned of this tablet thanks to a show attendee, Alister Payne.

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Acer Chrome OS tablet, the first of its kind, revealed at Bett education expo in London was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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