There may be new, thinner MacBook Airs on the way by next June, including one with a 15 inch screen. 9to5mac.com reports that they will sport substantial internal changes, including battery, cooling modules, and more. Apple is still deciding whether to keep the 11 inch air, with the new iPad Pro now out.
Amazon has revealed a new delivery drone design with a 15 mile range. Geekwire.com says its intended to be able to deliver a small package directly through the air to your doorstep in 30 minutes. Amazon has a new video showing off the drone featuring Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson, who along with his colleagues, is starting a new car show for Amazon. The version 2.0 drone flies at under 400 feet, and weighs less than 55 lbs. Amazon says it won’t launch Prime Air until they are able to demonstrate safe operations.
It had been rumored earlier, now it’s confirmed that Apple bought Faceshift, the company that makes motion capture tech used in Star Wars. Techcrunch.com reports that the tech captures facial expressions in real time for creating animated avatars and other figures. Mainly used in games and movies, it may be used in facial recognition for security purposes, and augmented reality.
With all the bad news from Volkswagen over fudging fuel economy for their diesels using software, here’s a cool use of tech they are introducing. According to engadget.com, after a 3 month test at the Wolfsburg plant, VW will be issuing 3D smart glasses to all plant logistics workers. The glasses will give them a heads up display of pin locations and part numbers, which should speed up parts picking. To make things hands-free as possible, the camera will also function as a barcode scanner.
As subsidized 2 year contract plans are eased out by mobile carriers, the iPhone is getting a boost that may increase Apple’s market share. The most advantageous replacement plans that eliminate down payments or allow frequent upgrades are only available for the IPhone. Of course, now Apple has their Upgrade Program as well, where you are basically leasing the phone, and can get a new one every year when you trade in the old one. Businessinsider.com says Apple has had the highest conversion rate from Android users ever since these new programs kicked in. Samsung has been rumored for a couple of months to be ready to copy Apple’s upgrade plan, but so far hasn’t.
Amazon has reset an unknown number of customer passwords over security issues. Geekwire.com reports that all the giant online retailer has said so far in emails to customers is that their password may have been improperly stored on a customer device or have been transmitted to Amazon in a way that could expose the password to a third party. Amazon stressed it had no reason to believe passwords had been leaked, but sent the change notice out as a caution. Even if you didn’t get one, you may want to change your Amazon password.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are rapidly turning into a week to 10 day long orgy of deals from both online and brick and mortar retailers. Bgr.com notes that Amazon.com’s ‘Black Friday’ sale went live a full week before Black Friday. Target’s Black Friday ’10 days of deals’ is already live, with Target Redcard members getting an automatic 5% additional off on deals, and 25% off on toys through the day before Thanksgiving. Walmart will light off Cyber Monday deals the Sunday evening before…the 29th, starting at 8 P.M., with online only bargain prices on over 2000 products. Wanna buy a car? Chevrolet is saying it’s Black Friday ALL MONTH LONG! When it comes to retail, times and days have a very elastic meaning. Happy shopping!
Uber is experimenting with something bordering on mobile health care. For 4 hours last week, they offered customers a flu shot for 10 bucks across 36 cities. You summoned a nurse to show up and administer the shot, according to buzzfeed.com. This week, the company announced they’ve hired their first health advisor, who is director of the Computational Epidemiology Group at Boston Children’s Hospital. He is John Brownstein, and he says Uber’s drivers may someday shuttle patients to clinical trials or doctor’s offices…or, as with the flu shots, bring a medical professional by for a ‘house call!’
We’re about to get a real feel for how fast virtual reality will catch on. Samsung and Facebook’s Oculus VR division are dropping the Gear VR headset for $99.99. Cnet.com notes that it basically lets you strap a samsung smartphone to your head. It debuts with a Netflix app, and over 100 other apps and games, to offer what Oculus is calling ‘bottomless content.’ Apps on the special app store will go for $1.99 to $9.99.
In a more specialized…and maybe long term use of virtual realty…Volvo has partnered with Microsoft on a HoloLens based virtual car shopping experience. Geekwire.com reports they are testing out sitting in your living room, office, or wherever, strapping on the VR headset, and checking out and configuring car models. One touch in midair, and you change the color…another the interior, and so on. You can rotate the model on the table in front of you, then gesture and poof….it’s full size, and sitting on a rotating platform across the room. Volvo expects to have the HoloLens based system available to customers next year.
A lot of projects have been launched on Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Now, it appears that Facebook is dipping its toe into the crowdfunding pool. According to techcrunch.com, they’ve just released something called Fundraiser, which lets non-profits set up a campaign page where they can roll a video, collect cash, and let people share on their newsfeed. As it stands, Fundraiser competes with Crowdrise, but it wouldn’t take much for Facebook to drop the ‘non’ from nonprofit. With people able to donate and never leave Facebook, it will be easier than ever to fund nonprofit projects…and perhaps in the near future, FOR profit ones.
The race is really on…figuratively, at least…to autonomous cars. Recode.net reports that Ford’s CEO Mark Fields said this week that he sees completely self-driving cars on the streets within 4 years. That’s even quicker than Google’s prediction of 5 years. Ford has started testing autonomous cars at Mcity, the 30 plus acre test layout operated by the University of Michigan. Mcity has a full scale urban streets test layout. The Ford CEO also said they have plans to include Apple Car Play and Google’s Android Auto in some of the Ford line, but he didn’t specify what models or the timetable.
Samsung has rolled out it’s new Britecell camera sensor, and it promises much sharper brighter images from upcoming smartphone cameras. 9to5google.com says it has more but smaller pixels in a smaller sensor, but using some ingenious tech, produces brighter, more colorful images, even in low light conditions. Expect it to show up in smartphones in 2016.
In the maybe sweet, maybe creepy department, Hasbro now has a toy line for seniors, and it launches with a $99 Companion Pet Cat. According to gizmodo.com, the robocat has motion and light sensors, so it can realistically respond to being petted, held and hugged. It features a vibration tech that lets it generate ‘incredibly realistic’ purrs. Never buy cat food or change a litter box again, but you’d better stock up on C cell batteries!
There is a new wireless tech that promises to be a lot more wireless than what is currently offered. Right now, you have to lay your device on a special pad to charge, and often you have to use a bulky case, as well…nice if you’re too lazy to plug it in, but not that helpful. Si Ware Systems has developed a new chip that allows wireless charging from 30 feet away. According to geekwire.com, the tech is based on the Cota technology from Ossia…which was founded by a former Microsoft engineer. It allows for wireless charging that works a lot like wi-fi…one chip in the charging station, and others in the devices you are charging. It can deliver 10 watts of power…your smartphone plug in charger generally puts out one or two watts. The tech is small enough to fit into a AA battery, so some older items like TV remotes wouldn’t even have to be replaced. Did I mention it charges from 30 feet away?
A couple of quick notes…theverge.com reports that Nvidia’s Shield Tablet is back on sale for $199 after the fire hazard recall of every single one. That’s $100 less than originally…this time with a hopefully less fire prone battery. The question, as posed by Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry, is ‘do you feel lucky?’
RIP Zune services. Yes, you read correctly. The hapless Microsoft Zune mp3 player, which actually wasn’t a bad, was killed off in 2011, but the music streaming and download service continued on with the Zune brand until now. Mashable.com says people with Zune Music Pass subscriptions will be converted over to the Groove Music Pass, which is basically the same thing…or can apply for a prorated refund.
As some users are still pining for the star that Twitter killed in favor of the new heart, a user has uncovered the fact that Twitter is testing out a variety of emoji you will be able to use to express your reaction to Tweets. According to thenextweb.com, the user found the emoji through a hack that opens up developer test features. Right now, clicking on one makes the floating emoji go ‘poof,’ and revert to the heart. No word from Twitter as to when the feature might be rolled out.
Uber drivers wanting a few extra bucks on their commutes to and from home — especially those who drive part-time — will be able to with the ride-hailing app’s new “destinations” feature. Theverge.com says drivers rolling in a particular direction can plug their destination into the app, and Uber’s algorithm will send them ride requests that appear along the way. Requests that would force them to deviate from their route would be filtered out. Uber says it will heighten driver flexibility, but it could have much more far-reaching consequences. 61 percent of drivers in the US have full- or part-time jobs outside Uber. If you never have to deviate from your route, suddenly anyone has the potential to be an Uber driver, regardless of employment status. It will launch in San Francisco first.
Huge improvements may turbocharge people connecting more of their homes to the internet of things. Engadget.com reports that the firm that oversees Bluetooth is making big updates in 2016…meaning Bluetooth connections should see a 100% speed boost and quadruple the range. This will be for all Bluetooth, not just connected internet of things gadgets. They’re also working on mesh networking- so a whole area, home, or building can be connected.
As more stores embrace Apple Pay…I just used it for the first time at Trader Joe’s this week…Apple is expanding in a new way. Geek.com says they’re working with banks on setting up peer to peer payments between friends and family over Apple Pay. This will hit PayPal’s Venmo right in the pocketbook, as Apple doesn’t play to charge the banks processing fees. It looks like they will just use it to attract and keep Apple Pay users and financial institutions. Of course, it also gives them more data to better target ads towards you!