Storied Harley Readies e-Bike; Comcast Cord Cutter Stream Box; BigBox Building Online VR Games; Google to Rebrand Nest

LiveWire 2018. Spain

Every early morning it’s not pouring rain, I can hear a number of roaring Harley-Davidson bikes thunder nearby on a freeway I’m close to. That thunder may be fading as H-D will be releasing details of their new electric bike in January. Engadget.com says range, acceleration, price, and other specs will be announced then. Right now, we know all H-D dealers will have Level 2 fast chargers, and will be selling Level 1 chargers for home. The bike is called the Live Wire, and it comes with 7 different riding modes you can program, and has an adjustable color touchscreen. Oh…and as pictured….it looks awesome!

Comcast can see the writing on the wall…or at least on screen. The big cable provider is working on a streaming set top box for cord cutters. Theverge.com reports that the box would be able to offer streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube, and include a voice control remote for navigation. If you think this sounds a lot like their X-1 system without the cable, you’re right. Will it be able to compete with Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku for cord cutters? That remains to be seen…a lot may hinge on what they price it at. The cord cutter box should be out next year.

Several refugees from Valve and Disney have now raised 5 million to supercharge BigBox. The company is building online VR games. According to geekwire.com, BigBox has been around since 2016, but the new round of funding will help them build out more online VR games and the ecosystems that support them. Their first title is positioned as something of a ‘Counter-Strike meets Mario Kart.’ It’s called ‘Population: One,’ and lets gamers climb, fly, and shoot like they were doing so in real life, but without some of the discomfort from earlier VR tech. The biggest challenge with BigBox and others…getting more headsets into homes. The devices have been selling well for commercial training purposes, but need to be penetrating homes closer to the level of traditional gaming systems to really take off.

Google has been looking to expand its line of smart home devices, and now may be considering a rebrand of Nest. 9to5google.com says after moving the Nest line back under more direct Google control, they are angling for a way to tie the Nest hardware products more closely with Google’s other hardware and software products.

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Google Announces Native Android ‘Foldables’ Support; Coming-Facebook 10 Minute Grace Period to Unsend Messages; Mercedes’ AI Package Delivery Tech

With a maker in China already having released a folding smartphone, Samsung releasing more about their Galaxy F, and LG on the verge of unveiling one, Google today announced Android support for a ‘foldables’ category. 9to5google.com reports that the new category of phone that unfolds into a tablet will have native Android support, allowing for makers to give you a phone with a screen like we all have, but unfolding to reveal a larger, phablet screen on the inside that is double the size of the ‘outside’ screen. Google’s ‘screen continuity’ will allow you to start with an app on the outside screen, then unfold and seamlessly continue on the bigger inner screen without a hitch. Samsung has been working closely with Google on this Android category, and is expected to release the Actual Galaxy F model early next year. The internal screen is said to be 7.3 inches.

If you have sent a Facebook private message, and instantly regretted it, you will like this. For some time, Facebook has had an ‘unsend’ feature for their top brass. Now, according to engaeget.com, the social media giant may be getting set to release the feature to everyone. It’s not an hour to change your mind like What’sApp, but a 10 minute grace period ought to be enough for people who hit send, and have nearly instant remorse. Of course, even with this feature, if the recipient has already seen the message within the 10 minute period, the deletion won’t undo whatever damage has been done to your relationship with them!

The engineers and programmers at Mercedes have been experimenting with a number of different ways to help automate delivery vehicles, so the driver/delivery person can get packages to you more quickly and efficiently. Some have ended hilariously…like one with a Ferris wheel and baskets…that one ended when a gallon of milk basically exploded all over a van. Now, the German conglomerate is trialing its latest idea. Cams and sensors light up shelves, and show the driver which shelf and spot is best for a package…lighting up green. On arrival at a drop off, it lights up green again…and everything flashes red if the person grabs the wrong item. The built in sensors also allow for less hand scanning, which should shave additional time off deliveries. AI not only helps figure out the best spot in the truck for the packages, but plots out the delivery route based on what packages are loaded and their destination addresses. Mercedes thinks this system will help the likes of FedEx and UPS, but will be even more beneficial to smaller delivery company, like those indie operators contracted by Amazon.


Amazon May Have 2 HQ-2’s; Samsung Folder and OS Tomorrow? Google May Help Avoiding Food Poisoning; Bill Gates in the Toilet

After months and months of suspense, lots of wooing by cities to get Amazon to open their HQ2 second headquarters in their town, it now appears that Amazon may split the HQ2…so HQ2a and HQ2b?? According to bloomberg.com, the most likely candidates appear to be Crystal City, part of Arlington, VA, and Long Island City, in the New York borough of Queens. Amazon has had no comment. One of the reasons given for the split is that Amazon hasn’t been able to find sufficient tech talent in a single location. Amazon already has more employees in the two areas than anywhere in the country, except for their main HQ in Seattle, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Yesterday, we reported that Samsung is expected to roll out their folding smartphone tomorrow at their developer conference. Now, 9to5google.com says we will also get some information on how Samsung thinks the user experience will change with the foldable phablet with an outside screen for normal smartphone use. For example, how will it handle running an app on the outside screen, when you open it up? Will it deactivate the outside screen so random touches won’t cause actions you hadn’t planned on? One thing we probably won’t see…an actual working model of the phone. That isn’t expected until next year.

If you think lower letter ratings or Yelp reviews got restaurant owners riled up, wait until they get word of this! Google has built a model that identifies restaurants that could give you food poisoning. Engadget.com reports that they worked with researchers from Harvard, and have tested a machine learned model in Chicago and Las Vegas to identify search queries like ‘stomach cramps’ or ‘diarrhea’, then cross-referenced them with saved location history data on smartphones relating to recently visited restaurants. Health inspectors visited restaurants…not being told if due to traditional consumer complaints or the AI model. Unsafe restaurants detected by the model ran 52.3%, while those found with traditional methods were spotted 22.7% of the time. Good news for people who don’t want to eat bad food…and just wait for the outrage from restaurants over this!

Ok, so Gates isn’t really in the toilet…and he could ACTUALLY afford all solid gold ones, better than a certain president who seems to adore gold…and orange. The former CEO of Microsoft opened the ‘Reinvented Toilet Expo’ in China…touting the biggest sanitation advances in 200 years. According to geekwire.com, Mr Gates has been thinking about crappers for the past 10 years…and the poor sanitation in a number of poor countries he traveled too. The Gates Foundation is leading the way in commercialization and adaption of off-grid toilet tech and sanitation systems for 3rd world countries. Discretion being the better part of valor, I will leave it to you to google a pic of Bill Gates holding up a jar of poop at the podium at the Toilet Expo! The latest tech in off-grid toilets can break down waste to the point that clean water and solids left behind can be used as fertilizer or be disposed of safely without any further treatment.


Driverless Waymo’s Hitting Cali Roads; Ford & VW May Share e-Platform; Apple Pulls watchOS Update; Solar Cell-Electricity & Hydrogen Simultaneously

The application went in last spring, but yesterday, Google’s Waymo got permission from California to start testing driverless cars on public roads. 9too5google.com notes that Waymo was already operating in 25 US cities, but always with a safety driver on board. Waymo will start initial testing in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Palo Alto…all near the Google and Alphabet campuses. The DMV permit allows for day/night testing on city streets, rural roads, and highways with posted speed limits of 65 mph…so pretty well anywhere in the above communities and their surroundings. Perhaps Waymo should strap in a realistic dummy to make other motorists feel more comfortable!

With the move to electric vehicles, a number of auto makers are partnering with others. Toyota has hooked up with Subaru and BMW, for example, and now Ford and Volkswagen may be teaming up. Cnet.com reports that Ford and VW may share a platform for EVs. VW had previously said it might open up its MEB platform to others. Ford and VW had announced a ‘memorandum of understanding’ about possible collaboration last summer. Ford had previously announced that it would be bringing 40 EV models to market, and that it was investing some 11 billion in electrics by 2022. As long as we don’t have a Musta-Beetle or the like, all will probably be well with the EV world!

After their big show yesterday on iPads and Macs, Apple dropped iOS 12.1 and watchOS 5.1. Now, according to zdnet.com, they have pulled the Watch update. It was apparently bricking the newest, greatest Watch Series 4 models. The Watches just stopped booting at the apple logo, and couldn’t be force quit or rebooted, even if unpaired from an iPhone. Many users attempted to take the devices into Apple Stores, but most were out of Series 4 models, and they are being shipped from overseas by 3 day air. Apple says it is a very small number that were affected.

Researchers at Berkeley Lab have developed a process that can turn sunlight and water into electricity AND hydrogen! Engadget.com says its an ‘artificial photosynthesis’ process, but a big step up from previous attempts…going from 6.8% to 20.2% efficient. The team is moving into experimenting with real-world applications of the tech, but both electricity and hydrogen (for fuel cells) from one source could be a giant step towards more clean energy.


Details Out on Google Pixel 3 & 3 XL; Netflix Buys Studio;LinkedIn Picks Up Glint; Princeton Identity-Walkthrough Biometric Scanner

With the non-stop leaks the last month or so, there wasn’t a ton we didn’t know about the Google Pixel 3 and 3XL, but now that they have been actually unveiled…yes, there are a few things to report. First of all, the prices are out now…Pixel 3 will start at $799 for 64 Gigs, the 3 XL will bow at $899. For 128 Gigs, add $100 more to either. Both phones run a Snapdragon 845, and have 4 Gigs of RAM. Screen size is bigger on both, thanks to thinner bezels. The 3 has a 5.5 inch display, and the 3 XL is 6.3 inches. Interestingly, both just have a single 12.2 MP camera on the rear…but TWO front facing cams. One gives a wider field of view for getting more people into a selfie, or taking in more of your surroundings.

Even with the single lens rear cam, Google has further beefed up software to carry on as one of the best…if not the best shooters on the market. New AI enhancements include a Top Shot option that picks the best image from a burst. Super Res Zoom uses multiple frames to deliver a sharper final photo, even without optical zoom.

Both Pixels now support wireless charging with a glass back, and there’s a Pixel Stand you can buy for charging. Phone-wise, the Pixels can use Google Assistant to screen spam calls, and let you decide to block or get a reminder to call back later. The phones answer themselves, and show you a transcription. Both phones will be exclusively on Verizon in the US, as has been the case with previous Pixel phones….although you can buy them unlocked directly from Google.

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Netflix is buying ABQ Studios in Albuquerque, and is indicating they will be investing a billion dollars in new TV and film projects. Bgr.com says the studio has already produced The Avengers, The Lone Ranger, and Sicario. The Netflix buy is expected to bring up to 1,000 production jobs to Ne w Mexico as they ramp up to produce original material at ABQ. A fun piece of trivia came out of the deal…the GPS coordinates of the location where Walter White of “Breaking Bad’ buried his barrels of cash are actually those of ABQ Studios!

LinkedIn is buying employee survey software company Glint for $400 million. According to businessinsider.com, Glint specializes in employee surveys measuring satisfaction with management, compensation, and other internal issues. LinkedIn expects to offer better insights than ever combining Glint’s data with their info about the broader workforce. Glint was already used by Alphabet’s Waymo, Dish Network, United Airlines, and other major companies.

Princeton Identity has showed off it’s new walk through biometric scanner. Techcrunch.com says it’s basically built into a shipping container. You walk through, pause to get your fingerprints scanned, and it also scans your face and irises as you walk through. The Biometric Conex can process 20 people a minute at normal walking pace, and Princeton claims near perfect accuracy, what with the fingerprints, face, and iris scans. The self-contained, air conditioned unit is actually smaller than a shipping container, and can be moved nearly anywhere on a heavy duty truck. It can integrate with almost any government database. The rig runs $280,000.


Facebook Launches Portal Video Chat Screens; Google’s Pixel 3 Event; Microsoft Game Streaming Service; Oct Windows 10 Update Pulled

Facebook has dropped its first hardware product in the Portal line. TechCrunch.com says they are auto-zooming video chat screens ranging in price from $199 to $349. The Portal units will run Alexa and eventually Google Assistant in a countertop video chat screen that zooms to always keep you in frame. The big question will be whether people will want a Facebook cam and microphone in their house, even with a physical clip-on privacy shield. At any rate, the presale starts now. For $199, you get the 10 inch screen Portal, and for $349 you will be the proud owner of a 15.6 inch swiveling screen with a hi-fi audio Portal+. Save $100 if you buy any two Portal devices. The screens come with ‘Hey Portal’ voice navigation, bluetooth and voice activated music, Facebook Messenger for video calls, Spotify and Pandora. More video provers to come. Facebook claims there is built in privacy…no facial recognition but something called 2D pose that runs locally on the device to keep you in picture. They claim the unit only turns on with the wake word, and that it doesn’t save recordings…also they have data encryption. With a tap you can automatically disable the cam and mic, and it does have a plastic privacy shield you can slide over the cam if you still want to chat…without video. They ship in November. You can preorder at Portal.Facebook.com, Amazon, and Best Buy.

Tomorrow, October 9th, Google will be showing their latest at an event scheduled for 11am Eastern, 8 Pacific. Theverge.com reports that the flood of leaks has given us a good idea of what to expect. The Pixel 3 and 3 XL phones top the list…in fact, someone got hold of a working Pixel 3 in Asia a couple days ago from a source…talk about a leak! The phones sport target screens, wireless charging, and a second selfie cam. Also expected is a wireless charging stand for the handsets. There MAY be a Google Home speaker with a smart display to compete with the Amazon Echo Show. An expected item is the Pixel Slate, A Google branded Chrome OS tablet. Rumors have it with a detachable keyboard, and expect it to be fairly high end like the iPad Pro and Surface Pro.There will probably be a Pixelbook update, but probably not a major overhaul there. We’ll have details after the actual event tomorrow.

Look for a beta in 2019 of Microsoft’s game streaming service, Project xCloud. According to engadget.com, the idea behind the cloud system is to allow users to play any video game where they feel the most comfortable or where it’s convenient….on a console, a computer, or mobile device. Of course, Microsoft is most interested in making it as frictionless as possible for users to play their own Xbox One games. Even with the beta out next year, Redmond cautions that this is a complicated project, and may take a while longer to perfect.

Microsoft has pulled the October update to Windows 10 (version 1809) after complaints that it deleted user’s files. ZDnet.com says some users said they couldn’t even recover all files using a recovery product like Recuva. There was a similar issue with the April, 2018 update. In that case, Microsoft delayed the update until the end of the month to squash the bugs.


HP’s Leather Laptop; Google Pixel Slate Rumors; Google Maps Gets Commute Tab; US Internet & Social Media Flattens; California Presses for Electric & Hydrogen Vehicles

HP has rolled out the Spectre Folio, and is claiming they are ‘reinventing the PC.’ While some would love it if they’d reinvent their printers to not take expensive ink cartridges so often, the Spectre Folio does have a cool and interesting set of features. Theverge.com reports that it has a skeletal magnesium frame that attaches to a leather skin, and that HP has shrunk down to tiny size the convertible laptop’s motherboard to maximize battery size. HP claims 18 hours of battery life. It runs on an 8th gen. Intel Core i7, with 8 gigs of RAM and a 256 Gig solid state drive. The display is 13.3 inches, and a 4 K display is coming by year’s end. With the mag frame and leather skin, it folds down almost like a magazine or thin book. You can use it in laptop mode, or slide the display forward to slot it in media mode when the keyboard is covered by the display. A Core i5 version is $1299, the Core i7 starts at $1399, and one with LTE connectivity and i7 runs $1499….all available at Best Buy or HP.com.

Meanwhile, over at Google, the Pixel Slate is rumored to be able to run Windows 10 as well as the Chrome OS. 9to5google.com says that other Chromebooks may be getting dual boot capability later, but we’ll probably see it exclusively on the Pixel Slate first. The Slate should roll out at Google’s October 9th event.

Here’s a Google update that’s rolling out right now…a new version of Google Maps will have a ‘Commute’ tab. Google is claiming it will give you one tap access to live traffic and transit info, and introduces support for mixed mode commutes…like driving to a park and ride lot then taking mass transit. According to engadget.com, you can also listen to streaming over Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play music within the app! The Maps update should be available everywhere by week’s end.

After years of growth, US internet, social media, and device use has flattened out. It’s stayed basically the same since 2016, according to Pew Research Center. 65% say they have broadband internet, down a couple ticks from the 67% in 2015. Similarly, laptop ownership is off slightly…from 78% in 2016 to 73% today…possibly due to the increased capability of tablets. Pew points out the obvious that growth has slowed because a lot of the population has reached near saturation level. 9 out of 10 adults under 50 report that they go online or use a smartphone. The use and confidence level in electronics is notably lower among the elderly. One growth area….digital voice assistants. Right now, about 46% of adults use them.

California is often in the vanguard of progress, and the Golden State is increasing its push towards electric and hydrogen vehicles. Arstechnica.com says the California Air Resourses Board has announced tighter restrictions on transportation fuels, calling for a 10% reduction in ‘carbon intensity’ for all fuels sold by 2020. This buzzy expression basically means lower lifetime carbon emissions…including from processing oil into gas, or feedstock into ethanol, or transporting fuel from a refinery to a point of sale (gas station.) The CARB mandates that carbon intensity drop by 20% by 2030. They are allowing the state to issue credits to utilities for installing electric vehicle charging stations. the utilities can then sell those credits to fuel producers who can’t hit the 20% reduction number.