Google & LG-Highest Res AR&VR OLED Display; Amazon Sells Face Recognition Tech to Police; Drink a Day Purveyor Hooch Expands

Google has taken the wraps off a high resolution OLED display that more than triples the pixels per inch of the Oculus and the HTC Vive. 9to5google.com says the mobile display was developed in partnership with LG, and has 1443 PPI, a wide field of view, and is optimized for both AR and VR. No word yet on when you might be able to wrap one of these around your face or how much it will cost, but it will essentially take mobile VR and AR headsets from 2-3 megapixels to 18!

Amazon has begun selling facial recognition technology called Rekognition to police. The tech, which Amazon boasts can track and analyze hundreds of people in a photo using a database with tens of millions of faces, has been used in Orlando, Florida, and by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon. According to cnet.com, Rekognition isn’t used for active surveillance… but in a video clip posted online, it was noted that Rekognition could follow Orlando’s mayor using cameras throughout the city. Amazon says the tech matches photos and videos uploaded by the customer — not by Amazon. They note on the positive side that it has been used to help find lost children at amusement parks, and was used for public safety at the Royal Wedding on Saturday to identify attendees. Both the EFF and ACLU have expressed grave concerns about this kind of tech in the hands of law enforcement and government…particularly since tests in London show that facial recognition tech can be wrong up to 98% of the time!

Drink-a-day startup Hooch has announced that it has raised almost 3 million in seed money. Techcrunch.com reports that they are also adding to their base plan…which
offers a basic subscription of $9.99 that gets you one free drink per day from a variety of partner bars and restaurants. Hooch Black (which you have to apply for, and which costs $295 per year) adds hotel deals, concierge service and other perks on top.
On top of that, Hooch is planning to launch its blockchain initiative this summer. They believe that by having their own cryptocurrency token, Hooch could work with partners to create a “decentralized model for consumer rewards.” After reading about the Amazon facial recognition for law enforcement, you might want to subscribe to Hooch!

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Two Wild TVs From CES; iOT-Everything Including the Kitchen Sink; Alexa Baked into Some New Windows 10 PCs; Sony Bows 3 New Phones

It’s CES week, the BIG Show for consumer electronics, and you can always count on some off the wall, ‘wow’ items. Theverge.com reports there are a couple of TVs that won’t disappoint in that department. Samsung has rolled out a 146 inch TV called The Wall. It uses Micro LED, which has a lot of the same benefits of OLED, and is ‘module based.’ The modules can be assembled to make a TV just the size to fit your needs…although 146 inch would probably be perfect for a man cave. You have to think the price will exceed that of many houses, though! The Wall launches this spring.

If a wall sized TV isn’t to your liking, how about a 65 inch screen that rolls up like a piece of paper? LG is showing their updated roll-up TV. It’s a 4K model that rolls down into a base when not in use. No word from LG when this marvel might be available.

The old joke is something has ‘everything but the kitchen sink.’ Well now, the Internet of Things can even control that! According to mashable.com, Delta is showing a sink that can be controlled by Alexa. They plan to have these in model homes to show the tech off by later this year, with the sinks hitting the market sometime in 2018.

Speaking of Alexa…and I realize you know what I did there, last year Amazon and Microsoft announced plans to let Cortana and Alexa talk to each other on Windows 10 PCs. Now, arstechnica.com says Acer, Asus, and HP have all announced that Alexa will be baked into some of their notebooks that will be coming out this year. All will apparently use the Alexa Windows 10 app that will be released later this year. It should be just about like using an Echo.

Sony has unveiled 3 new smartphones at CES. According to bgr.com, they are mid-range phones, not flagship type devices. Nothing spectacular about them, with one exception….the Xperia XA2 Ultra has two FRONT facing cams, and a 23 megapixel rear cam! The phones should be out late this month, giving people a chance to see if the buzz over the cam setup is worth it, or just a cool gimmick.


LG May Supply OLED Screens for iPhone X; Instagram Tests Standalone Messaging App; PS4 Sales Pass Big Milestone

LG had already been rumored to be working on a deal to supply OLED screens to Apple for the iPhone X. Its been expected that something would work out for the next generation by September 2018, but now it could happen before that. 9to5mac.com reports that while Samsung has been the exclusive supplier to Apple for OLED screens, both LG and Chinese maker BOE have been trying to get in as suppliers. Apple earlier invested almost 14 billion in LG’s OLED production, with 2/3’s of it earmarked for iPhone screens.

Facebook is going full speed ahead in standalone messaging apps. Earlier this week, they announced Messenger Kids, and now it’s out that they are testing a standalone Instagram app for direct messaging. TechCrunch.com says right now the app is only available in Uruguay, Chile, Turkey, Italy, Portugal, and Israel. Besides sharing messages and stories (and of course pictures), there are exclusive filters. It may be out to everyone next year.

Sony has announced the Playstation 4 sales have crossed the 70 million mark, a notable milestone, because the PS3 sold just over 80 million over its lifespan, and the PS4 has gotten to this point in 4 years. According to theverge.com, best estimates for the Xbox One sales are 20 million. Another notable mark…Playstation VR, the virtual reality version has passed 2 million sold!


New Samsung & LG Hero Phones Out in January; Amazon Jumps into VR & AR, Lyft Gets Self-Driving Permit

We were expecting Samsung to show off the new Galaxy S9 in January. Now, it looks like it will be launched at CES 2018, and according to bgr.com, LG will also show its latest and greatest, the G7. Last year, the LG G6 was overshadowed by Apple and Samsung, and with the runaway success of the iPhone X and a strong Samsung Galaxy S9, they will need the new G7 to have some ‘wow’ factor. The G7 is rumored to have and OLED display, like the iPhone X and Galaxy S9, but does add its own wrinkle…the fingerprint sensor will be under the screen, not on the back like the S9’s. For those leery of the iPhone X’s facial recognition scheme, this might be a real draw.

Google, Apple, and Microsoft are busily working on VR and AR products, so it was only a matter of time. Geekwire.com reports that Amazon is jumping in with its new ‘Sumerian’ service for Amazon Web Services. Sumerian will allow creation of VR, AR, and 3D scenes for Oculus, Vive, iOS, and Android. Sumerian has a web based editor for creating interactive 3D scenes, and a library of objects and templates. It launches in preview today on all but Android, which Amazon says is coming soon.

Another company has a permit to test self-driving cars in California, and this one is a biggie. Cnet.com says Lyft was granted a permit, and now brings to 45 the number of companies testing or getting ready to roll driverless cars on public roads. They join VW, General Motors, Tesla, Google’s Waymo, Uber, and Apple. You’ll be able to spot them by the apparatus on top, but don’t expect to see no one in the driver’s seat…all the permits require a driver on board, just in case.


Apple Working With LG on Foldable iPhone; Echo Dot Loses Its Touch; Toyota Hydrogen Trucks Go To Work in LA

We have heard rumors for a year that Samsung is working on a foldable phone. Now, it turns out Apple is, as well. Apple’s has some ‘one more thing’ type big trick, apparently…they are working with LG’s display unit on the OLED screens, for fear Samsung will steal their idea…which has happened wholesale in the past. According to 9to5mac.com, LG Innotek is also working on the rigid flexible circuit board that would power the phone. It’s expected in 2020. Samsung may have one out by next year.

Yesterday, we reported that Amazon’s preproduction Echo Dots were staying on all the time and eavesdropping on tech reporters that were supposed to be reviewing them. Google sent a patch, and said they were working on a more permanent fix. Now, 9to5google says it apparently wasn’t feasible…Google has killed the tap to wake feature…which was apparently causing the problem. Sorry, you’ll have to go to all the trouble of saying ‘OK, Google’ to wake your Echo Dot…but that beats the hell out of it recording everything in your bedroom 24/7!

All the attention is on electric cars, and even on a couple electric semi-trucks, with Tesla teasing showing their version soon. Another alternative fuel is hydrogen. While Mercedes and a couple of Japanese makers have done quite a bit with hydrogen fuel cell cars, not much has happened on the truck front…until now. According to techcrunch.com, Toyota is starting a pilot with fuel cell big rigs at the Port of LA. The rigs have 670 horsepower, and dan haul and 80,000 lb. load. They can run about 200 miles a day. If the fuel cells stand up to the frequent refueling, Toyota plans to test longer haul semi trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells.


Google Assistant Now Controls Smart Appliances; App to Download Streamed Netflix & HBO Shows to Watch Offline; BMW Charging Pad..for Cars; Microsoft Dives Into Quantum Computing

Google Assistant can now control more smart devices, including appliances from LG. 9to5google.com reports that included are fridges, AC, ovens, washers & dryers…almost 90 different appliances. There are also some new headphone models that utilize Google Assistant. LG is even offering a deal…get an LG smart Wi-Fi appliance between October 8th and October 25th, and you’re eligible for a free Google Home unit.

When you’re binge watching a show from Netflix. Amazon, Hulu, or HBO, sometimes things get glitchy. Now, there’s an app on Android and iOS that lets you download the shows for later viewing OFFLINE! According to thenextweb.com the app, PlayOn Cloud, also supports YouTube, Yahoo Views, CBS, PBS CW, ABC, NBC, & Fox. There is an extra charge, though. It’s $0.99 per recording, or there are bundles for $0.20 each. Netflix has offered offline downloads as has Amazon, but they expire. With PlayOn, the videos are deleted from the cloud after 30 days, but anything you have downloaded stays on your device.

We’ve all been in places like Starbucks and seen the wireless charging pads, and of course Apple has made a big deal about joining the wireless charging smartphone club now with Qi charging…pads are already available from Mophie and Kensington. Theverge.com says BMW is getting ready to roll out one for their 530e iPerformance plug in hybrid. They claim 3.5 hour charging without a cable. The pad requires a 22o volt outlet, and is still awaiting final testing and UL approval, so it may be a year or more away, but faster, hassle free charging for cars will only accelerate the move to electric vehicles.

On Monday, Microsoft announced that it is going to be moving into the next big thing in computing….quantum computing. According to arstechnica.com, this should allow computers to do absolutely amazing things in the future. Redmond plans to release a new quantum computing programming language late this year, with full Visual Studio integration. If quantum computing sounds like Greek to you, don’t feel bad. In a Wall St. Journal interview, Bill Gates noted that while he was good at math and physics…probably an understatement….when the quantum computing slides came up in a presentation, it looked like hieroglyphics to HIM!


Tipoff That iPhone 8 Has ‘Face ID;’ Web Viewing Means Less TV Sets; Android Getting Bluetooth Battery Indictors

Some code spotted in the firmware for the Apple HomePod seems to confirm that the new iPhone 8 will unlock with your face…which Apple may call ‘Face ID,’ considering they have already used Touch ID. The firmware also points to the cutout in the front that will eat into the top of the screen, but house the front cameras and infrared sensors making Face ID possible. 9to5mac.com reports that while Samsung will be the sole supplier of OLED displays, Apple is well along in setting things up with LG to also produce OLED screens, and they could show up as an additional supplier in 2018. The OLED screen has been the biggest challenge for Apple, along with incorporating Touch ID under the screen. When LG production comes online, it could also mean all iPhones will get OLED screens, probably starting in the fall of 2018.

Before you lament the demise of the TV industry, the numbers aren’t collapsing, but due to more people watching video over the web….and on laptops, tablets, smartphones, and even desktop computers, the number of TVs per household is dropping. According to recode.net, they have gone from 2.6 TVs per household in 2009 to 2.3 in 2015, the last year we have data for. With other things to look at besides live TV and DVR, the viewing of those has dropped, too….but only from about 60 hours a week to 57!

As more phones drop the venerable phone jack and go to wireless headphones and earbuds, something that is often on your mind is ‘How much longer have I got before the phones die?’ Apple has had an indicator for years showing approximate battery level, and later a percentage of battery level for Bluetooth phones, just like for the handset. Samsung and LG also make use of the feature. Now, 9to5google.com says the feature may be coming to Android, so all Android phones will give you a heads up on when your Bluetooth device may poop out, so you can recharge it! Like with later Apple phones, Android will show you the %-age of battery left. This is probably not going to drop until Android 8.1 or 9.