Facebook Hires Digital Forensics Firm to Audit Cambridge Analytica; Apple Developing Own MicroLED Screens; IBM working on World’s Smallest Computer; Woman Killed by Self-Driving Uber

Facebook…after failing to stop the publication of the news that Cambridge Analytica had harvested personal info from 50 million + users….has hired Stroz Friedberg to audit Cambridge. The firm, which played a big digital role in the Trump campaign, and Aleksander Kogan, the psycology professor involved in obtaining Facebook’s (and your) data, have both agreed to comply with the audit. Engadget.com says Facebook has also called on Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who disclosed Cambridge’s use of the data, to submit to the audit. Stay tuned.

Apple is working on developing its own MicroLED displays, and has actually already built some units for testing, according to reuters.com. The next-gen screens are being made at a plant in California, and Apple has allegedly made a giant investment in this. First to get the MicroLED screens will probably be wearables like the Apple watch, with the tech then moving to iPhones and iPads.

IBM, which pioneered the personal computer, is now downsizing…ultimately to the size of a grain of sand. TechCrunch.com reports that they already are working on one in the lab that is about one millimeter square. The little computers are intended to attach to all kinds of things…and can be used to authenticate products, track medications, and more. They only have the computing power of a chip from 1990, but will also include a solar cell for self power.

Not a first anyone wants to hear about…the first fatality involving a self-driving car. Reuters.com says an Uber self-driving SUV struck and killed a woman pedestrian in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, one of the cities where they are testing the automated cars. There was a safety driver along, who failed to react quickly enough when the woman jaywalked in the wee hours of the morning Monday. Uber has suspended all US testing until an investigation can be completed.


Galaxy S10 3D Face Recognition; Galaxy S9 Easter Egg Health Feature; Nest Temp Sensor & Video Doorbell; Apple Patents ‘Keyless Keyboard’

The Galaxy S8 and the new S9’s have face unlock, but it’s 2D, not 3D. Now, according to 9to5google.com, Samsung is working on a true 3D system like Apple’s iPhone X on the S10. If the trials pan out, you may not need to combine the face unlock with either a fingerprint or iris reader to access things like your bank and credit accounts when the S10 comes out next year.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ are out tomorrow, and have a heart rate sensor on the back. That’s nothing new for Samsung, but this one has an added trick that never got covered in all the leaks or even the rollout. Bgr.com says Samsung has managed to fly a feature of it under the radar. In February, at the rollout, Samsung also announced an app called My BP Lab. The app transforms the Galaxy S9’s heart rate monitor into a blood pressure monitor. Preliminary tests by journalists that have tried it out indicate that the readings are extremely accurate! Right now, the feature is a bit of a beta, and isn’t incorporated into the main Samsung Health app, but it likely will be before long.

Nest has rolled out a temperature sensor that works with its smart thermostats to keep rooms in your home closer to the ideal temperature. Theverge.com reports that the #39 sensor will be shipping in April, and there’s a preorder now for a 3 pack for $99. It does require the latest-generation Nest Learning Thermostat or the Thermostat E, and won’t work with first or second generation Nests…so I’m out of luck for now.

Nest has also released the Hello video doorbell for $229, and the long time coming Nest x Yale door lock…which is $249 or $279 if you get Nest Connect. The video doorbell does require a wired connection with power, but it is a direct shot at the Amazon Ring from Google.

Apple has applied for a patent on a ‘keyless keyboard,’ one that would basically use another touchscreen with haptic feedback to allow for a more versatile (and liquid and crumb-proof) keyboard. Appleinsider says it would allow for moving the trackpad into the middle, or changing the layout of the keyboard to an ergonomic one, and even specialty keyboard layouts using just software. As will all patents, and especially Apple’s, there’s no telling when or if this might hit the market.

Apple Buys Texture; Fitbit Releases 2 New Models; Tesla Model 3 Production Pains

Apple has picked up Texture, the digital newsstand, focusing in on content ‘from trusted sources.’ Techcrunch.com says the so-called Netflix of Magazine Publishing will continue to operate as it has, offering some 200 magazines online for the monthly $9.99 fee. The service will continue to run on apps for iOS, Android, Amazon Kindle Fire, and Windows 8 and 10. Texture has been owned by Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith, Rogers Media, and investment firm KKR.

Fitbit has rolled out a couple of new models. The Versa is positioned as an Apple Watch competitor, while the Ace is touted as being kid friendly. Macrumors.com reports that the Versa, which is more rounded at the corners than previous models, is the lightest metal smartwatch in the US…made of ultra-thin, anodized aluminum. It has a brighter touchscreen and battery that lasts over 4 days on a charge. The Ace looks like a slimmer Fitbit and band, and is for kids 8 and up. It will track steps, active minutes, and sleep on a 5 day battery charge. It works with a Fitbit family account, so parents can monitor and control what the kids connect with. It launches in Q2, but can be pre-ordered today for $99.95 from fitbit.com. The Versa ls also open for preorders at $199.95 at the website, and other online retailers by tomorrow.

Production of the Tesla Model 3 continues to sputter. The company shut down production February 20th to the 24th to ‘improve automation and systemically address bottlenecks,’ according to engadget.com. So much for 5,000 units per week in March. The new goal is 5,000 per week in June.

Cheaper Retina MacBook Coming; Ford Self-Driving Car Rescue Drone; Free Alexa Calling Moves to Tablets; 3D Printed MicroHomes in 24 Hours

There may be a new lower cost 13 inch Retina MacBook in June, around World Wide Developers Conference, according to 9to5mac.com. Word is, it will be priced lower than the present 12 inch MacBook. It will have the same pixel density as the present 13 inch MacBook Pro. If sources are correct, Apple will roll it out for just a little more than the $999 price of the present MacBook Air. This rumor doesn’t say it is an air, but since KGI Securities was already predicting a cheaper 13 inch MacBook Air, this could be the same device. The Retina display would be a first for this price level.

Long ago, Ford ran ads that crowed, ‘Ford has a better idea.’ Now, techcrunch.com reports on a patent that really is a great idea. Ford envisions a drone that could fly i and dock with a fully self-driving car in case of sensor and camera failure (which would render the vehicle helpless.) The docked drone would be equipped with its own sensors and cams, and could safely guide the vehicle home, or to a shop for service help. Getting such a drone out into the world will take time…but widely used self-driving cars are probably still 10 years away, too, so Ford has time to flesh out this idea!

Free calls and messages over an Echo speaker using Alexa is cool, and now that service has been expanded. Engadget.com says you can now use Alexa to place calls, video calls, and send messages from Android tablets, iPads, and Amazon’s Fire tablets. It’s a snap on the Fire HD 10, where you you just have to ask Alexa to get in touch. For other Fire tablets, you hit the home button first. On Android and iOS, you will need to open the Alexa app. You can also communicate with other devices in your house, basically making it a tablet to Echo or tablet to tablet intercom. This will reduce yelling by Moms when dinner is ready!

An Austin based startup is showing off 3D printable homes today at SXSW. According to theverge.com, they can print a house out of concrete (one report says cement, which is incorrect) in less than 24 hours…and have already printed a permitted micro house in Austin! The 1st one was about $10,000 for a single story, 650 square foot house with one bedroom, a bathroom, and a wrap around porch. (Note: no mention of a kitchen.) Icon believes they can get the cost down to $4000 each, and plan to start building in El Salvador. The idea is to ease the global housing crisis, but Icon says eventually they could produce micro houses in the US, too…up to 800 square feet with the present tech. (The average New York apartment is 866 sq. ft.)

Cheaper MacBook Air; YouTube Trials Green Screen Tech; Google Sells Zagat; Amazon Looking at Branded Checking Accounts

One of the biggest knocks on Apple gear is that it is pricey. Now, 9to5mac.com reports that a KGI Securities analysis points to a lower priced, 13-inch MacBook Air rolling out sometime in the 2nd quarter of this year. Usually reliable Ming-Chi Kuo says a cheaper MB Air would bump MacBook shipments anywhere from 10 to 15% this year. The present entry level MacBook Air starts at $999, so maybe we can expect a cheaper entry level one for $700 or $800. A cheaper iPad certainly jump started sales of that device for Apple!

The wizards at Google have developed a new tool that uses AI and machine learning to filter out and replace the background in videos in the manner of a green screen. According to mashable.com, it’s being trialed in limited beta Stories. If all goes well, Google will port the tech to their broader Augmented Reality services. No idea on when this may be released into the wild, but it could be a game changer in many ways!

Google is also spinning off Zagat to The Infatuation. No price given, but they bought the restaurant guide in 2011 for $151 million. Theverge.com says that although the ratings and such were integrated into Google Maps, Google let things slide, and Yelp has come to dominate. The Infatuation will keep Zagat as a separate brand from its own curated guides.

Amazon is apparently looking to have its own branded checking accounts. A report from engadget.com has them in talks with J.P. Morgan Chase and other big banks about the accounts. Amazon would be targeting younger shoppers and people who don’t have checking accounts.

Samsung Galaxy S9 is Here; Sony Xperia XZ2 Gets 3D Scanning; Nokia Bows Retro Matrix Banana Phone; Apple Working on High End Over Ear Headphones

With all the leaks, there was precious little unknown about the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, but they were finally shown over the weekend at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. 9to5google.com notes that we did get the pricing, which isn’t as bad as predicted. The S9 will be $719 unlocked, and the S9+ weighs in at $839. They can be preordered March 2nd, and will be out March 16th. As predicted, it has a dual aperture camera, with the settings f/1.5 and f/2.4. The larger S9+ has the dual rear cams, too. Both phones have Face Unlock as well as IrisScanning. Samsung’s ‘Intellegent Scan’ turns out to actually just be a way to fallback to IrisScan if Face Unlock can’t be used. IrisScan and your fingerprint are still used for secure authentication, like Samsung Pay.

Sony has really never been able to gain traction in smartphones like they have in other electronics, so with the Xperia XZ2, they tout features ported over from their other devices. Zdnet.com reports that the phones have added 3D scanning to the front cam. This isn’t a huge feature now, but can create 3D selfies that can be uploaded to Facebook and be for avatar creation…which could be used in gaming features later. Sony has added a vibration system that they say adds to the ‘feel’ of bass heavy music, and they claim the screen tech comes from their Bravia TVs.

Once dominant, Nokia has been an also-ran in the era of smartphones. Now owned by HMD, the Nokia brand is re-introducing the Nokia 8110 from the 1999 movie ‘The Matrix.’ It comes in black like the movie, and banana yellow. Theverge.com says t’s still just a feature phone, not s smartphone, so you can’t run all your Android apps on it, but on the plus side…25 days of standby battery and it will be on sale in May for only $97. Use it and throw it in the trash when you’re zapped back to the Nebuchadnezzar.

A world away from smartphones….Apple is working on some high end over hear headphones to be released later this year. They will be Apple branded, not Beats, according to macrumors.com. The rumor is that they will have the ease of use of AirPods only with better sound. The leak indicates that the ‘cans’ will be more expensive than AirPods, but not as pricey as some super premium headphones, so may be in the price range of Apple’s Home Pod…under $400.

iPad Refresh Imminent; New Air Pods; Whole Foods Break for Amazon Prime Shoppers; 5G Coming to Intel Laptops

A reliable tip-off that Apple is about to release new devices has popped up. Macrumors.com says Cupertino has registered new tablets with the Eurasian Economic Commission. This points to new iPads in just weeks. Most prognosticators are looking for a refresh of the current lower cost 9.7 inch iPad, and then either a cheaper yet version of it, or possibly an iPad Mini, which hasn’t gotten updated in a while. It’s thought that the updated iPad Pro with FaceID will bow at WWDC in June. Apple has dropped either an iPad or other new piece of hardware in March every year for the last 4 years.

While we’re in the Apple orchard, plucking rumors from the trees, there’s also one from Bloomberg that Apple is working on new models of AirPods. Apple is apparently developing a new wireless chip that helps better manage Bluetooth connections. An expected feature is a touch less Siri model…the present ones require a press in order to activate the Apple assistant, but a new model may allow for a voice only command of ‘Hey Siri’ to give total hands free use to people wanting to access the feature. A water resistant design is also thought to be in the works for at least one model of new Air Pods.

Amazon has added another perk for Amazon Prime. According to bgr.com, Prime members with an Amazon Rewards Visa card will now get 5% back on Whole Foods purchases, in addition to the 5% back on amazon.com purchases. Most such programs don’t offer as high as 5%, and almost all others restrict purchases, so having it available on all of Amazon and Whole Foods could really add up fast.

We just covered the 1st 3 cities that AT&T will wire for 5G service later this year. Now, word comes from reuters.com that Intel’s upcoming XMM 8000 modem chips will power laptops with 5G connectivity starting in the 2nd half of 2019. Blazing fast, always-connected internet could be a killer feature to push a lot more people into trading for a new laptop!