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Topics - fahad.faisal

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1
Every model Cadillac sells will be available with semi-autonomous features starting in 2020. The luxury automaker's Super Cruise system for hands-free highway driving will be available across its entire model line in two years; currently, it's exclusive to the CT6 sedan. After 2020, the feature will make its way to other GM lines including Chevrolet, Buick and GMC, according to TechCrunch.

More than that, Cadillac is also working on a "high volume" crossover vehicle that will debut around 2023 and feature vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication, allowing the car to talk to everything from other vehicles, to infrastructure and other sources. So, for example, if there's road work up ahead or a light that's about to change, the car will know ahead of time and plan accordingly.

Much like how Super Cruise will make its way to other brands, so too will the V2X system, USA Today reports. And of course, Chevy is working on fully-autonomous vehicles, saying that those will first serve as taxis -- a byproduct of SoftBank's recent $2.25 billion investment.

The only way we'll get to a world where every car on the road can talk to each other is if more automakers get on board, and making sure that every new vehicle that rolls off the lot has a set of autonomous capabilities is the fastest way for us to get there. Now, we just need more automakers to follow the lead of GM and others to make it happen.

Source: TechCrunch, USA Today

2
Despite numerous advances in emergency medical care over the past decade, humans are still susceptible to bleeding out like Hefty bags filled with vegetable soup. This is especially problematic when people are seriously injured in remote areas or combat operations. Some 17,000 people die from hemorrhagic shock in the US annually (that's roughly 46 people per day). What's more, the American medical community could soon face significant shortages of transfusable blood stocks. Per a 2011 analysis from the National Blood Collection and Utilization Survey, the US could see a shortfall of around 4 million units of blood annually by 2030.

Combined with the need for transfusions during surgery, the dangers of transmitting infectious disease through shared blood, and the continuing lack of qualified blood donor volunteers, we could soon face a serious medical crisis. If only there were a synthetic stand-in that we could use to keep patients alive until they reached a hospital and received proper medical care.

Of course, it isn't like we haven't been trying. The medical community has been working to find a suitable oxygen-carrying blood replacement since the 17th century after William Harvey figured out the pulmonary system. Early attempts were crude, at best. Beer, milk, urine, animal blood -- even mixtures of wine and opium were considered, tested and failed.

Research continued in earnest through the 20th century, up until WWII, when interest in transfusion technology exploded. However, postwar research was almost immediately hamstrung by a number of debilitating side effects which couldn't be resolved with the technical know-how of the time. The emergence of HIV in the 1980s and the Mad Cow Disease scares in the 1990s further impeded advancements in the field.

Turns out that synthesizing a suitable replacement for blood -- even just its oxygen-carrying aspect -- is incredibly difficult. Only two precursors have proved usable to date: recombinant hemoglobin and perfluorocarbons (PFCs). Both offer unique benefits but also a host of dangerous side effects. Hemoglobin-based treatments bind to oxygen more easily than PFCs because that's what the molecule does naturally, but releasing raw hemoglobin into the bloodstream can have toxic effects. As such, Dr. Andre Palmer of the Ohio State University explains, these treatments must be "encapsulated" in larger molecules to keep them from slipping through the pores of the blood vessel and into surrounding tissues where they cause oxidative tissue injury.

PFCs, on the other hand, are inert materials that can carry up to 50 times as much oxygen as blood plasma but less than hemoglobin-based treatments. What's more, PFCs are insoluble in water and must be mixed into a fatty lipid emulsion before being transfused into the bloodstream. Not only do PF-based treatments have difficulty delivering oxygen to the tissues that most need it, Dr. Dipanjan Pan, an Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois, told Engadget the materials themselves don't have a very long shelf life.

As such, only one oxygen-carrying blood substitute has been approved by the FDA. Fluosol-DA-20, received the FDA's blessing in 1989 but because of extensive side effects was withdrawn from the market just five years later. No hemoglobin-based blood replacement has ever garnered FDA approval. But that could soon change thanks to the independent research conducted by doctors Palmer and Pan.

Dr. Pan's research, carried out in conjunction with Dr. Allan Doctor, professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, was funded by grants from both the UK's NIH and the US Department of Defense. The result is a product called Erythromer.

"This is not a blood substitute," Pan explained. "This is for an oxygen carrier that can be given as an oxygen-delivery vehicle that can kind of act as a stop-gap measure to keep the injured alive until they get to the hospital."

Erythromer is human-derived hemoglobin produced in powder form, which enables it to be stored for up to six months -- far longer than the 42 days that blood lasts on ice. The hemoglobin molecules are coated with a cross-linked synthetic polymer which automatically collects oxygen atoms from high pH areas of the body and releases them in oxygen-deprived tissues where the pH is low. Since this material is man-made, there is very little risk that doctors will unwittingly transmit bloodborne disease as HIV, H1N1 or Zika along with it.

Dr. Pan and his collaborators are initially looking to develop Erythromer for military applications. However, Dr. Pan foresees numerous civilian uses, from mass casualty incidents to emergency response in rural areas and developing nations. Even NASA has expressed interest in the technology when sending astronauts to far-flung worlds like Mars.

A polymerized hemoglobin (PolyHb) developed by Dr. Palmer and his team works in much the same way as Erythromer. It too is derived from natural hemoglobin, wrapped in a protective polymer case to prevent hemoglobin's toxic side effects and is designed "to give the patient enough time to get to a hospital to get a blood transfusion because ultimately, if you lose blood, the best thing you can be transfused with is blood," he explained. And like Erythromer, PolyHb can be powdered, reducing its mass and weight by more than half.

This could prove a boon to combat medics who will, in theory, be able to treat up to 10 wounded soldiers at a time with their on-hand supply of PolyHb, double what then can with traditional blood packs. All they'd need is some purified water with which to re-liquify the powdered platelets. As NBC News points out, nearly 90 percent of preventable in-field deaths are the result of hemorrhagic shock.

PolyHb will give you 24 hours or 48 hours -- hopefully, enough time to be transported to a medical facility to get a blood transfusion. That's not a long enough half life to make the material useful in treating chronic blood-oxygenation diseases like Sickle Cell or COPD, but it should keep you alive long enough to seek proper medical care.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that either Erythromer or PolyHb will be able to do more than transport oxygen for the time being, meaning that a full-on synthetic blood replacement remains tantalizingly out of reach for the foreseeable future.

"You'd have the oxygen carrying therapeutic, and then you'd have something that initiates clotting, for example," Dr. Palmer points out. "So it is possible to mix two different therapeutics together to achieve extra functions." However, as of yet, nobody has managed to create a material that does both.

3
Apple has added a new API to its ResearchKit framework that will allow apps to monitor Watch users for signs of Parkinson's disease, 9to5Mac reports. The API will be able to track two symptoms associated with the movement disorder -- tremors and dyskinesia -- continuously throughout the day. Apps monitoring these two activities would then be able to display the recorded data, showing instances of the symptoms per day, hour or minute.

Both Apple and outside researchers have been working on ways to use ResearchKit tools to monitor mobile device users for a range of diseases and disorders. Scientists at Cardiogram, for example, have demonstrated how the Apple Watch can be used to spot signs of a stroke through irregular heartbeats while researchers at Stanford teamed up with Apple to study how the Watch can be used to detect arrhythmias. Others have used ResearchKit tools to aid in the detection of autism, melanoma and epilepsy.

Apple will make the Movement Disorder API available to developers with the second developer release of watchOS 5, 9to5Mac reports, and it has released a sample study app on its ResearchKit GitHub page.

4
Sonos just announced the Beam, a smaller, smarter Playbar. It's all good and well to see it on stage, but what does it sound like? Luckily I just got to spend some time with it to find out -- and on first pass it feels like a winner. Not just for the rich, cinematic sound (which it appears to have) though. The Beam is also an all-around tantalizing prospect: a compact soundbar, Alexa replacement, that could also replace your regular music system. This all-in-one configuration won't be for everyone, but for those without a lot of living space that want to avoid the clutter of multiple speakers, it's definitely appealing.

When Sonos CEO, Patrick Spence, took to the stage this morning, he said the company wanted to "help people listen better." This might be grade-A marketing speak, but it does hint at a problem facing the modern living space: too many gadgets. With TVs, AV systems, smart speakers and more perched around our most-used room, it's easy to see that we're risking overload. A situation that only gets more complex as each of these devices slowly adopts Alexa or Google Assistant.

The Beam aims to slice through some of that noise, while at the same time performing the whole other job of multi-room audio that Sonos is famous for.

In my demo, the company set up a faux front room, with a couch, TV and Beam. The first task was simply to play some music, which was kicked off not by the app (which Sonos users have come to know and... tolerate), but by Alexa. This functionality isn't new for Sonos, but it shows that the company is making it a core feature of all its new hardware.

The pop ditty we heard sounded great, just as you'd hope from a premium speaker with vocals pushing through the center. This isn't a given as soundbars (which the Beam is at its core) because they're often configured for wider, cinematic sound stages. A representative explained that it was important that music sound just as good as movies, and it looks like they got that right, with more focus on the center speakers (of the four full-range woofers and one tweeter in Beam).

We made a quick hop to a movie, again via Alexa (after a clearly pre-prepared skit where one of our hosts pretended to hunt for the remote) and the transition to a wider soundstage was seamless. A tense clip of Westworld and a moody scene from Arrival sounded just as wide and immersive as you'd hope. And, I will say, for a speaker this size (it's 60 percent smaller than the Playbar), surprisingly impactful. As if to drive the point home, a clip from Wall-E showed off the Beam's spatial abilities, as our robot friends zipped from left to right of the screen.

With the Playbase ($699) and the Playbar (also $699) still in the Sonos lineup, you might be wondering where Beam ($399) fits. The answer is simple: in smaller rooms, for the most part. As the lower price might indicate, the Beam comes with fewer speakers (five, to the Playbase's 10), meaning there are some audio compromises here (no sub-woofer for one). That said, there's enough new stuff here -- Airplay 2, HDMI and Alexa support for starters) that for those looking to spruce up their front room, or even make that first step into the world of Sonos, this is a great way to do it.

5
Samsung's C-Lab has nurtured a few dozen creative ideas into fully fledged startups over the last couple of years, and a trio of new companies have just joined the incubator's alumni. Their products include a mini smart greenhouse, a portable directional speaker and an artificial intelligence-based user research platform.

Plantbox, which was created by new company Agwart, is probably the most interesting of the three. It's a greenhouse about the size of a small refrigerator which houses seed capsules. Plantbox can identify the type of seed based on the capsule and tweaks the temperature, humidity, lighting, air quality and nutrients to foster the plant's health and growth. Since this is 2018, there is of course an app through which you can monitor and control Plantbox's environment.

S-Ray is another product that's taking flight under the startup Catch Flow. It's a speaker which pushes sound in one direction to limit who can hear the audio. That could prove useful if you're on a conference call and can't wear headphones, which might reduce feedback. Samsung says S-Ray is around a tenth of the size of a typical directional speaker, and it can maintain good volume levels and sound quality while running on lower power than previous speakers. There are a few different models, including a neckband -- though at that point, you might as well sport earphones.
Lastly, For Makers created AppBee, which uses AI to predict users' characteristics based on how they use their phone, as long as users opt in. The aim is to match clients with users, though it's not completely clear what that entails. Samsung says For Makers "hopes to produce more reliable research results at a lower cost compared to conventional, untargeted surveys to enable creators (startups and large corporations alike) to refine products based on user feedback."

The startups went through three months of business training before they were spun out on May 31st. Samsung started C-Lab in 2012 as a way to help employees develop their creative ideas. The startup spin-off policy started in 2015, and the latest companies bring the total number of startups to make it through the program to 34. It's not an entirely altruistic program, though. Incubators typically take a stake in their companies, and Samsung has invested in previous C-Lab graduates.

Source: Samsung

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Amarjot Singh, YouTube
Drone-based surveillance still makes many people uncomfortable, but that isn't stopping research into more effective airborne watchdogs. Scientists have developed an experimental drone system that uses AI to detect violent actions in crowds. The team trained their machine learning algorithm to recognize a handful of typical violent motions (punching, kicking, shooting and stabbing) and flag them when they appear in a drone's camera view. The technology could theoretically detect a brawl that on-the-ground officers might miss, or pinpoint the source of a gunshot.

As The Verge warned, the technology definitely isn't ready for real-world use. The researchers used volunteers in relatively ideal conditions (open ground, generous spacing and dramatic movements). The AI is 94 percent effective at its best, but that drops down to an unacceptable 79 percent when there are ten people in the scene. As-is, this system might struggle to find an assailant on a jam-packed street -- what if it mistakes an innocent gesture for an attack? The creators expect to fly their drone system over two festivals in India as a test, but it's not something you'd want to rely on just yet.

There's a larger problem surrounding the ethical implications. There are questions about abuses of power and reliability for facial recognition systems. Governments may be tempted to use this as an excuse to record aerial footage of people in public spaces, and could track the gestures of political dissidents (say, people holding protest signs or flashing peace symbols). It could easily combine with other surveillance methods to create a complete picture of a person's movements. This might only find acceptance in limited scenarios where organizations both make it clear that people are on camera and with reassurances that a handshake won't lead to police at their door.

Source: ArXiv.org

7
Good news, space fans: NASA has given the Juno spacecraft the time (and money) it needs to be able to accomplish its missions. The probe, which left our planet in 2011 and reached Jupiter in 2016, was supposed to wrap things up in February this year. Now, NASA has agreed to fund the project until fiscal year 2022 and to extend its science operations for 41 more months. That means Juno will be orbiting the gas giant until July 2021 and will spend the months after that analyzing data.

Juno originally had a short lifespan, since it was supposed to orbit Jupiter every 14 days. Unfortunately, something went wrong with the valves in its fuel system (and those are necessary for main engine burns), so it got stuck doing 53-day orbits instead of 14-day ones like its ground team planned. Longer orbits mean it needs more time to collect the amount of data NASA wanted to get -- this extension will give the agency the chance to learn everything it can about the biggest planet in our solar system.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement:

"With these funds, not only can the Juno team continue to answer long-standing questions about Jupiter that first fueled this exciting mission, but they'll also investigate new scientific puzzles motivated by their discoveries thus far. With every additional orbit, both scientists and citizen scientists will help unveil new surprises about this distant world."

In the past two years that it's been orbiting Jupiter, Juno already beamed back a lot of crazy interesting information about the planet. We learned that its poles are packed with storms the size of Earth, for instance, and that the belts we see in many Jupiter photos vary in depth and nature. The spacecraft also took some of the closest images of the planet we've ever seen, including snapshots of the Great Red Spot that show the storm's finer details.

Source: NASA

8
Bloomberg recently reported that Andy Rubin's Essential is in a big enough trouble that the Android founder is considering giving it up for sale. The company didn't confirm if there's truth to that, but it doesn't look like it's letting any issue it's dealing with affect its software updates: Essential has announced on Twitter that it has released Android P Beta 1 for its bezel-less ceramic phone. While the phonemaker referred to the software update as "Beta 1," it confirmed to Android Police that it's identical to the second Android P Beta Google just released.

The software comes with improved adaptive brightness range, stability fixes, security patches, as well as over a hundred new emoji. Like any other beta update, though, users will have to be prepared to deal with bugs and crashes. Since it's not intended for public release, only people who signed up for Essential's Android P Developer Preview will see an over-the-air update on their phones.

Source: Essential

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Nearly six months after IKEA and Sonos announced their plans to "democratize" music together, the partnership has revealed a teaser of the forthcoming SYMFONISK speaker range. However, the above image -- which doesn't look unlike a stage projection light -- is said to be a non-functional prototype, so the final product may look nothing like this (fingers crossed).

Whatever form the speakers eventually take, they'll be fully compatible with Sonos' existing range of wireless speakers, and with IKEA's Home Smart range of lights and switches. As the image shows, there's a distinct lack of Sonos branding on the device, no doubt a measure designed to set them apart from the company's usual wares, which start at $150. No word yet on pricing for these ones, though. It's also not clear when the SYMFONISK series will be available to buy, but given IKEA's increasing interest in the sound space (it recently launched its ENEBY line) we probably won't have to wait very long to find out what's next.

Update: This post originally had an incorrect lead photo which did not represent the Sonos / IKEA collaboration; it has since been updated with a different image showing the IKEA / Sonos speaker mounted to the wall, above the Sonos Play:5.

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Playing the Nintendo Switch in portable mode is incredibly convenient, but the short battery life can leave users wanting. Today, Anker announced two new battery packs that are optimized for fast charging the Nintendo Switch. One is a $70, 13400mAh pack that provides up to 10 hours of additional play time. The other allows for 15 additional hours of play time with a 20100mAh battery, retailing for $90. Both devices look quite sleek, like all of Anker's products, and are branded with the Nintendo Switch logo.

It's important to note that the Nintendo Switch doesn't have a proprietary charging port. It's USB-C, which means you can use any high-powered USB-C charger with it. However, Anker claims its chargers can fast-charge the Nintendo Switch in 3 to 3.5 hours, depending on which charger you select. And this is while you're using the device, which is quite the feat.

You can currently pre-order both these battery packs at Anker's website. The ship date shows as sometimes after July 10th. While I've found that the Anker PowerCore+ 20100 mAh USB-C charger works wonderfully for charging my Nintendo Switch (and my MacBook Pro), if you don't have a portable charging solution, you'll definitely want to take a look at these devices.

Source: Anker

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Latest Technology / MSI’s 25-inch gaming display is absurdly fast
« on: June 09, 2018, 11:07:23 AM »
MSI has unveiled a 25-inch, 1080p NVIDIA G-Sync-compatible display with a scorching 240 Hz refresh rate and 0.5 millisecond response time. As you'd expect with those specs, the Oculux NXG251 (yes, that's the name) is aimed at eSports professionals and wannabes, so the $599 price tag reflects its high-end purpose. For that sum, however, gamers can expect a near-instant, lag-free response time and ghost-free images, even at 200 fps gaming speeds.

There are a number of TVs that can do 240 Hz, but not many displays. MSI's biggest competition here is the Alienware 25 display, the AOC AGON AG251FZ, the Viewsonic XG2530 and a few others. All of those monitors, include MSI's, rock 25-inch, 1080p, 240 Hz TN panels. The Oculux NXG251, however, seems to edge them all with a 0.5 millisecond response time.

MSI also unveiled the Optix MAG491C, a 144Hz, 3-millisecond gaming monitor with 3,840 x 1,080 resolution, essentially two full HD monitors welded together. While the ultrawide resolution might seem a bit weird, it's perfect for wide screen gaming, or to simulate dual or triple monitors without the bezels in between. It matches most of the specs of Samsung's 49-inch CHG90 monitor (other than its 1-millisecond response time), but is significantly cheaper at $999 compared to $1,499 -- assuming you have the desk space.

Source: MSI

12
Job-hunting can be a tedious process. Polishing your resume, collecting the right referees and attending interviews all take time. Aside from GIFs and Snapchatesque filters, LinkedIn has been enhancing its business-centric service with more practical things like smart replies and the ability to ask connections for referrals. Its newest feature, 'Your Commute', aims to hit another serious target: streamlining your employment search.

Essentially, Your Commute calculates travel times attached to your job of choice. LinkedIn says its appeal lies in the fact job-seekers will no longer have to exit a job posting to determine whether it's located too far away.

Your Commute covers travel times for cars, public transport and walking distances. It shows the address (either inferred or verified) of a job site based on data from Bing or the company itself, and lets you enter your home address to establish a travel route and compute how long the trip will take.

It's also possible to record location information locally for future job searches -- particularly useful if you have a temperamental internet provider -- and Your Commute also allows users to filter out jobs outside their desired commuting parameters. Your Commute will roll out to all LinkedIn users on June 7th.


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It's been almost four years since Amazon first introduced the Echo smart speaker and its virtual assistant Alexa. It's also been just over four years since the the company first released its Fire TV set-top video box. Now, the two products are converging in a way they haven't before, in the form of the Amazon Fire TV Cube.

As you might expect, it's a cube-shaped box you plug in to your TV; it runs the expected suite of apps like Netflix, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, HBO Go, Sling and Amazon's Prime Video service. And like the current Fire TV Stick and Fire TV box, you can talk to Alexa to search for movies and shows as well as access thousands of third-party "skills."

But the Fire TV Cube is essentially a full-featured Echo, as well. It's always listening for the Alexa wake word, and you can talk to it even when your TV is off. The new box has eight microphones built in, similar to existing Echo hardware, which means you can speak to Alexa whenever you want as well as navigate the Fire TV Cube's interface with your voice.

The other major differentiator for the Fire TV Cube is how it works with other home theater devices you may have in your living room. The slick glass sides of device hide a multidirectional IR blaster (they also pick up dust very easily, unfortunately). The Cube also supports the more modern CDC (via HDMI) technology, so the Cube can power up your TV, sound system and even cable box, if you want it to. In a demo, Amazon showed off a routine where you can just say "Alexa, I'm home" — the home theater gear all came to life, along with the lights in the room. You can customize the routine to match the smart home gadgets you have that Alexa can control, or just use a simple "Alexa, watch TV" to start everything up.

The Fire TV Cube's voice search is more capable than past versions, as well. A good example is control over the aforementioned cable box. Once the set-top box recognizes it, it basically acts like a remote. You can say "Alexa, tune to NBC" and it'll know to switch over to the cable feed and the requested channel; you can also say "tune to channel 11" if you're the sort that remembers your cable guide.

Amazon says that the Cube supports boxes from Comcast, Dish and DirecTV and that 90 percent of households with cable or satellite TV should be covered. And if you want to hide your ugly cable box away from your otherwise-pristine living room setup, Amazon is even including an IR extension cable that you can place next to your cable box. That lets the Cube turn it on and off when the two devices aren't in line-of-sight.

If you're more inclined to use an over-the-top TV service like PlayStation Vue or Hulu's live TV, Alexa will work with that too. If you request a specific network, channel or show, the Fire TV Cube will search through whatever services you've hooked up, including ones that provide live TV.

The Fire TV Cube can do basically everything else you would do with your voice, with the added bonus of not having to hold down a button on your remote. (The Cube comes with the standard Amazon remote for when you don't want to talk, or if you do want to use the voice button.) The UI has been slightly modified, taking some cues from the Echo Show. There are small overlays near the top and bottom of the TV with suggestions like "Try saying 'Alexa, show me dramas.'" Those prompts are pulled directly from the Echo Show and can definitely be helpful giving you ideas of just what you can ask the device.

If you know exactly what you're looking for (or what specific app you want to open), you can of course tell that to Alexa and go straight to what you want to watch. That even works when the TV is off — so if you always go straight to Netflix first, you can say "Alexa, launch Netflix" and the Fire TV Cube will power everything up and tune in to Netflix.

 
Amazon
Finally, the Fire TV Cube can do almost everything the Echo can do, including adjust smart home devices and run the many skills that are available; when possible, it'll do so with visuals. Asking for your weather forecast shows a nice graphic on the TV, and daily briefings can be accompanied by video (just as they are on the Echo Show). Messaging and voice calls aren't supported, as the company wanted to focus on entertainment first; that's similar to the Alexa implementation in the Sonos One. But for most people, the Cube will do just about everything that an Echo can do.

We'll have to try the Fire TV Cube out in person before we can pass judgement on how useful an always-listening set-top box is, but at $119.99, the price is low enough that it should provide a worthwhile upgrade over the existing $69.99 Fire TV, especially if you don't have an Echo already. Amazon has proven that Alexa is capable enough to drive plenty of Echo sales, and there's little reason to think it won't do the same with the Cube. It'll ship on June 21st, and Prime customers can pre-order today and tomorrow and get the Cube for $89.99.

14
Last year's BlackBerry KEYone was a love letter to fans as much as it was a capable smartphone, but I think we can all agree it wasn't perfect. It was chunky. Performance was purely adequate. The keyboard some getting used to, even for long-time BlackBerry fans. It's little surprise that TCL — the Chinese company in charge of building BlackBerrys now — would try to address all those issues. What is surprising is just how elegant the end result wound up being. We recently spent a little time with the just-announced BlackBerry KEY2, and while it's still clearly not for everyone, this is the most capable, polished attempted at an Android-powered BlackBerry yet.

Oh, and did we mention it looks fantastic? The KEYone had sort of a rounded, chubby, friendly vibe to it, but the KEY series design grew up in a big way. With a body made of glass and Series 7 aluminum, the KEY2 looks and feels dramatically more modern than the model that came before it. (For those already mulling a purchase, the KEY2 comes in silver and a black finishes.) As with last year's model, there's a volume rocker and sleep/wake on the phone's left side, mounted directly above the mappable convenience key. TCL thankfully hasn't ditched the headphone jack (found on top of the phone), but it did away with the speckled rear finish from the KEYone in favor of a soft, knurled plastic. It's really quite nice.

The KEY2's 4.5-inch display hasn't changed much since last year — it still runs at the oddball, 3:2 resolution of 1620x1080 and feels a little cramped compared to the competition. Compounding the issue is the fact that we've seen smartphone screens get even longer and more spacious lately. Suffice to say, if you're looking for a stunning media machine for watching movies and playing games, the KEY2 probably isn't right for you. That said, it does pack some extra, much-needed horsepower in the form of a Snapdragon 660 chipset with 6GB of RAM inside. While we're still not looking at full, flagship-grade power here, launching and jumping between multiple running apps was much, much smoother than it ever was on the KEYone.

Even better, the base model KEY2 comes with 64GB of internal storage, up from the 32GB available on the entry-level KEYone. (There's a 128GB option available, too, but you could always just beef up the 64GB model with a microSD card.) Beyond that, the 3,500mAh battery inside should get you about two full days of use from a single charge — an included Power Center app tries to help boost the phone's longevity by offering options to improve your battery life.

And of course, we need to talk about the keyboard. TCL maintains that there's a considerable chunk of people out there who never wanted to give up physical keyboards in the first place, and after a bit of hands-on time, I can comfortably say this keyboard is a huge improvement over last year's. Just look at these keys: they're a touch bigger and much flatter than the KEYone's, and they're much more pleasant to type on as a result. I used to do a lot of starting and stopping while using the KEYone's keyboard because the raised keycaps made touch-typing more difficult than I expected. After a few minutes of playtime, though, the KEY2's layout felt instantly familiar, not to mention more conducive to pure speed. It certainly doesn't hurt that the keyboard's flatter profile makes it easier to swipe up on the keys when the phone offers the correct word suggestion. The redesign doesn't end there, either.

For the first time in years, there's a new key on the BlackBerry keyboard. Tucked away in the bottom right corner of the keyboard is a button with a 3x3 arrangement of dots — BlackBerry calls that the Speed key, and the name fits because of how fast it makes multitasking. One of the best things about the KEYone and KEY2 was that every key letter on the keyboard can act as a shortcut to either an app or an action — say, composing a new email or toggling WiFi on and off. The problem with the KEYone was, you couldn't use those keyboard shortcuts while you were inside another app. The Speed key fixes that — just hold it down and hit your keyboard shortcut of choice. It lets you very quickly jump from app to app without having to open the launcher or the recent apps view, and using it is the sort of revelatory experience you could only get from a phone with a physical keyboard. It's that helpful.

On some level, it feels as though the BlackBerry KEY2 might be the right device at the right time. You might not have been personally affected by all-too-regular data breaches, but the events surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have forced a lot of us to think more pointedly about how safe our data is. BlackBerry's approach to software reflects a larger trend of thoughtfulness around how we want our information to be collected and stored. Just look at DTEK, that app that tells you how secure your phone is (or isn't). It now has a more straightforward design, but — more importantly — it's also more proactive about letting you know when apps try to access specific sensors on your phone. It'd be weird if, say, a calculator app tried to quietly access your camera or your microphone, right? The new DTEK offers notifications alerting to you those kinds of potentially shady moves, and you can define what sensors you want to get notifications for. And BlackBerry's Locker, a secure space where you could store your files, now lets you hide apps too — you'll need to use either your PIN or the fingerprint sensor in the space bar to access the goods.

Now, our hands-on time also left us with a few unanswered questions. Consider the dual camera around back: it's the first time this kind of camera system has ever appeared on a BlackBerry, and it pairs two 12-megapixel sensors mounted side by side for features like portrait mode and enhanced zoom. The results of my impromptu shooting sessions were purely fine — not amazing, not awful, just fine. I had higher hopes for the cameras after being mildly disappointed by the KEYone, but the units we tested were still running non-final software so there's hope the retail-ready models will perform better. We're also really curious to see if the improved design, enhanced keyboard and more fine-grained control over data privacy strikes more of a chord with people now than it did before. Thankfully, we won't need to wait too long: the phone officially drops this month with prices starting at $649.

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Latest Technology / Alexa unofficially works on your Apple Watch
« on: June 09, 2018, 11:04:33 AM »
Even though Siri's getting a massive update in iOS 12 later this year that makes it far more versatile, it's not quite the most powerful voice assistant around at the minute. Until now, it was the only one available on Apple Watch. If you've wanted to use Alexa on Apple Watch, though, third-party app Voice In A Can brings Amazon's tool to the device.

This is a standalone app, so you don't need your phone around for it to work, only a data or WiFi connection. Developer Damian Mehers recommends adding the app as a Watch complication for easier use. Once you've installed Voice In A Can and linked it to your Amazon account, Alexa can do Alexa things on your Watch.

There are some limitations: it can't play music, audiobooks or podcasts. Some daily flash briefings don't work either. You can, however, control smart home items you've linked to Alexa and take advantage of its other features. Annoyingly, your Watch will disconnect from Alexa when the screen goes black, so you might want to increase the timeout limits. Since you'll need to have the screen awake and to tap a button to activate Alexa, that shouldn't pose too much of a problem.

It's not unfeasible that Amazon will add official Apple Watch for Alexa down the line, with more integrated functionality, but at least this works for the time being. Just note that Voice In A Can ($1.99 in the App Store) could vanish if Apple or Amazon decide they don't like it.

Source: Voice In A Can (App Store)

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