HTC’s Blockchain Phone; Magic Leap Signs With AT&T; Britain Fines Facebook over Cambridge Data

HTC may have a reduced presence, but they are still kicking, and plan to release the fabled first major blockchain phone in third quarter. Techcrunch.com says HTC has partnered with CryptoKitties, and the popular blockchain game will be available on a few of the company’s handsets, leading off with the U12+. HTC says that ‘the partnership with Cryptokitties is the beginning of a non fungible, collectible marketplace and crypto gaming app store.” Although a blockchain phone may not be mainstream, it may be enough of a hook for HTC to revive its flagging smartphone line.

Magic Leap, the company with the unusual and secretive AR glasses, has signed a deal for mobile data service with AT&T. Theverge.com reports that, in addition to selling the device, AT&T will let customers demo the glasses at stores in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, LA, and San Francisco. Magic Leap is supposed to be putting out a ‘Creator Edition’ later this year. In this deal, AT&T will only start distributing the glasses once the consumer version becomes available. So far, Magic Leap hasn’t released a timeline for that. AT&T seems to feel that the Magic Leap AR glasses will be a game changer. They previously had cut an exclusive deal with Apple for the iPhone…and we know how that turned out!

Britain’s data watchdog has fined Facebook $664,000 over the Cambridge Analytica mess. It will take the social media giant a screaming 18 minutes to pay the fine! According to businessinsider.com, if they had been fined under the new EU law that went into effect in May, the maximum penalty would have been $1.6 billion. Facebook made $4.8 billion in profit just in the first 3 months this year. The EU fine can be up to 4% of a company’s global turnover. Zuckerberg can eat a sandwich at his desk, and the British fine will be paid.

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Next iPhones-Smaller Then No Notches; Amazon Expands Discounted Prime; Cam Makers Partner for Easier Smartcams; Brits Refine Laws for Self-Driving Cars

The latest word, which comes from Korea’s ET News by way of macrumors.com, is that the next iPhones will have a notably smaller notch for the TrueDepth camera system. This will apparently be true for all 3 models expected in the fall. In addition to that, a sketchier rumor says Apple will be able to ditch the notch entirely in 2019!

Amazon already discounts Prime for people with an EBT card to $5.99 a month, instead of $12.99. Now, according to geekwire.com, they will expand this program to people on Medicaid, too. Users will still get free 2 day shipping, Prime Video, etc. Amazon says they plan to add other ways for people on assistance to qualify for the discount moving forward. The 2 day delivery for people on Medicaid is especially interesting since Amazon is looking to get into the prescription business.

Smartcams can bee cool to have for checking on kids, pets, or just for home security, but some can be a pain to set up, and even more so to get to work with other kinds, and with various systems. Now, Sony, Nikon, iPhone maker Foxconn, as well as others, are working together to make it possible for you to monitor video streams from different cams through a unified interface. Thenextweb.com reports that the makers are devising a specification called NICE so the footage from various cams can be split into scenes, indexed, made searchable and scannable in thumbnails, and more easily stashed in cloud storage. If all works out, there should be NICE cams and related products on the market by 2019.

Self-driving cars are gearing up to hit the roads, and like in the US, the Brits are trying to get things ready. Techcrunch.com says regulators in the United Kingdom are shooting for 2021 as the year driverless cars without a safety operator can be rolling on the roads there. A number of issues have to be worked out, including who is the responsible party if there’s no driver, and how to allocate civil and criminal responsibility where there is shared control through some human-machine interface. If things go as planned, car makers may not have to worry one day about building right hand drive cars for the UK and a number of former British colonies that still drive on the left side of the road.


Magic Leap Unveals AR Headset; Apple Allowing Universal Apps-Mac and iOS; UK Deems High Speed Internet a Legal Right

We’ve been hearing whispers for years, and now Google-backed Magic Leap has taken the wraps off their augmented reality headset’s Creator Edition. 9to5google.com says they will be shipping in 2018, too! The setup consists of a ‘Lightwear’ headset connected to a circular ‘Lightpack’ via a couple cords…the Lightpack contains the processing and graphics, in a mid-sized disk that hangs off a belt or pocket…and a Control’ remote (smaller than most TV remotes) that provides for 6 degrees of freedom and movement. The headset has tech that detects and stores the exact location of walls, surfaces, and physical objects, and also what they are calling ‘360 degree sound field audio.’ The interface accepts inputs from voice, gestures, head poses, and eye tracking. No word on pricing for the Creator Edition yet, but their SDK should be released along with it, in addition to other tools for web and game developers.

Apple is readying to let developers release universal apps that will work across iPhones, iPads, and Macs early next year. In a Bloomberg News writeup picked up by macrumors.com, the official announcement and details could come in June at WWDC 2018. So far, it’s not known if Apple will merge the Mac App Store with the vastly more popular App Store for iOS, but that seems logical. The move would mean better apps for the Mac, since developers put a lot more time and energy into making apps for the more widely used iPhones and iPads.

In the wake of the FCC killing net neutrality here in the US, Britain has taken the opposite position. According to rawstory.com, the UK has deemed high speed internet a legal right for all citizens, and will require that never household is wired for it by 2020.. Communications company BT has pledged to drop around $788 million to connect about a million and a half rural homes to the net. Right now, about 95% of homes in the UK have broadband connections with 24 Mbps or higher speed.


Samsung Teases Foldable Smartphone in ’18; Facebook Testing Group Video App & Messenger Feature; British Warships Going Voice Controlled

Ahead of the launch of the Galaxy Note 8 on Friday, Samsung’s CEO of Mobile said that it aims for the next version of the Galaxy Note to be bendable in some way, and they are shooting for launching it next year. Mashable.com says there are “several hurdles” Samsung has to overcome to implement a smartphone with a bendable screen. Analysts note that mass production on a premium smartphone with a bendable display and a thin body “will take time.” As for the Note 8…in spite of its eye-watering price tag (about $930 in the United States), Samsung said that pre-orders were the highest ever for the Note smartphone line, “beating its predecessor Note 7 over five days by about 2.5 times.”

Facebook has stealthily been testing out a new stand alone group video chat dubbed Bonfire. According to techcrunch.com, up to 8 friends can video chat, and use effects like are found in Instagram and Snapchat. Apparently, you can join the chats via the Messenger app without downloading the Bonfire app. Right now, it’s being tested in Denmark, but users can invite friends to join in worldwide.

Britain is apparently working to integrate Siri like voice systems into their warship controls. Engadget.com reports that the voice controls will join touchscreen displays, and possibly even AR in the Navy’s quest to allow officers to think and act decisively. They are shooting (pun intended) for deployment by 2023.


Amazon’s British Drone Tests; New (Old) Apple Car Boss; Future iPhones—Iris Scanning and Glasses-Free 3D

Amazon has gotten permission to test drone deliveries in the United Kingdom, according to venturebeat.com. They will test beyond line of sight operations, obstacle avoidance, and single-person supervision of multiple, highly-automated drones. FedEx and UPS have also shown interest in drone delivery.

Former Apple exec under Steve Jobs Bob Mansfield has come out of retirement to run Project Titan, the Apple car project. Businessinsider.com reports that he originally intended to retire in 2012, but moved to a special projects team that built the Apple Watch. Since then, not much has been heard from him. Apple allegedly intends to start selling vehicles in 2021.

A couple of interesting features may be coming to iPhones, one in 2018. Appleinsider.com says we might see ‘Iris ID’ replace Touch ID, as Apple brings iris scanners to the iPhone family. Meanwhile, Samsung may introduce iris recognition tech in its flagship Galaxy S series this year. More exciting than Iris ID, Apple has patented a method of ‘autostereoscopic’ displays. This would allow for 3D without the special glasses. It uses a pixel array featuring a second array of subpixels and lens structures, the latter emitting light at a number of different angles. The key component though would be the “beam steerer,” pointing the correct light at the viewer. No word on when we might have this in our hands yet.


Degrees from Facebook or Google University? Amazon Expanding Private Label Offerings for Prime Members

Britain is looking at changes to their university system that would allow companies like Google and Facebook to set up their own academic institutions in the country that could award degrees. Thenextweb.com reports that neither of those companies has indicated that they would be interested in doing so, but government ministers in the UK think ‘challenger institutions’ set up by companies including Facebook, Google and others would ensure that they have ‘suitably skilled workers’ moving into the future.

Amazon will soon expand its lineup of private-label goods to include perishable food items — offering nuts, spices, vitamins, tea, coffee, baby food and other products under new Amazon brands such as Happy Belly, Wickedly Prime and Mama Bear, according to geekwire.com. The products will only be available for purchase by Amazon Prime members. It’s another perk for prime members, and another profit center for Amazon…private label brands frequently bring in higher profits to companies than name brands.