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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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.


Tesla Working on Own Self-Driving aI Chip; Google Acquires People and IP Rights from HTC; Nest Bows Smart Doorbell and Security System

Tesla is teaming up with AMD to make its own AI processor for their self-driving systems. Techcrunch.com notes that the e-car maker already has a relationship with Nvidia, whose GPUs run its Autopilot system. The new in-house designed chip could reduce or eliminate relying on third party AI software. Tesla reportedly already has pre-production samples in hand. The autopilot program at Tesla is run by Jim Keller, who spent much of his career at AMD and then Apple…he helped design the Apple A4 and A5 chips.

Google has struck a deal with HTC to acquire intellectual property rights (non-exclusively) and certain employees for 1.1 billion. The employees were ones already working with Google to develop Pixel smartphones. Google will continue to partner with HTC on smartphones and other hardware, including virtual reality.

Nest showed off new product lines in San Francisco yesterday. Cnet.com reports they include the Nest Hello…a connected doorbell with cam, speaker and microphone. The entryway gadget wasn’t priced, but will be out 1st quarter of next year. Also debuting was the Nest Secure security system. It has a keypad and motion sensor, and a key fob they call the Nest Tag. Systems start at $500, and roll out in November. A new iteration of cam was also revealed, the Nest Cam IQ…which comes in outdoor and indoor versions. The indoor model will have Google Assistant built in. The cam is $255.


New Nest Leaves the Nest; Alexa & Cortana Buddying Up; 2018 iPhone ‘Phablet’

Nest has dropped a new baby bird into the air to let it fly. The Nest E is the first really new Nest since 2011. Theverge.com reports a main feature is its plainness…it’s a white ring with a frosted screen. The really big selling point is the price…it’s way down from earlier nests, starting at $169. The traditional nest will still be sold at $249. The rub is, the new E model is compatible with less systems…about 85%, while the old school one will work in 95% of homes. It also lacks ‘farsight,’ which senses if you’re across the room and turns the screen on. Since mine is in a hall, like most people’s, I am never more than 2 feet away from it when I walk past, so this won’t be a feature you will miss. It works with the Nest app like the older Nests, and they claim it will save 12-15% on your heating and cooling bills.

Amazon and Microsoft have made a remarkable announcement: they are working on getting Alexa and Cortana to work together. According to businessinsider.com, the two AI voice assistants will be able to hand off to each other. There are no plans for them to completely merge, as both companies want to hold on to your data. Switching from Alexa to Cortana will help you use voice assist for Office 365, as well as connect with more IoT stuff in your home. Switching back to Alexa will be great for listening to streaming music and of course, buying stuff from Amazon.

There was a hint earlier this year, but now 9to5mac.com says the Korea Herald has added to it….the ‘it’ is a 6.46 inch iPhone for 2018. The new iPhone 8 is due to bow on the 12th of September, and will sport a 5.85 inch screen, but apparently there will be the new bigger Plus model a year from now. Samsung is reputedly building the world’s largest OLED factory in prep for these phones and their own. The bigger 2018 iPhone would have its own production line.


Patent Reveals Striking Future Google Pixel Feature; Survey Shows Way More Switching PC to Mac Than Vice Versa; Best Buy’s Interactive Alexa and Google Home Displays

Google will continue the unusual glass/metal back with the Pixel 2, and now we may know where they’re going with it. Bgr.com reports on a Discovery by Patently Mobile -a patent that highlights a touch sensitive surface on the back that would let the user control the device without touching with any elements on the screen-instead, touching the back of the handset. This allows commands and selection without obstructing anything you would be viewing on the screen.

A survey of US computer owners indicates that 21% of Windows laptop users will switch to Mac next time, but only 2% of Mac owners will change to Windows. The number switching Windows to Mac is even higher for Windows desktop users. According to 9to5mac.com, the survey is from Verto Analytics. The biggest no shock in the survey— most of the PC to Mac flippers are in higher income brackets, reflecting Apple’s pricey offerings!

Best Buy is rolling out Amazon Alexa and Google Home products in 700 stores, to be highlighted in separate, free standing display areas. Geekwire.com says the setup will allow customers to use Alexa devices and Google Home devices to interact with nearby products like Nest thermostats, Philips Hue lighting, and Insignia Smart Plugs…a way to try before you buy. 80 million smart home devices were delivered worldwide last year according to IHS Markit, up 64% from 2015. They expect 130 million to be sold this year.


iPhone 8 Possible Pricing; 4K Zoom Nest Cam; Twitter Has Considered Premium Subscription

In a report picked up by 9to5mac.com an analyst from UBS says the iPhone 8 won’t start at a grand, as has been speculated. He claims the new Apple hero phone will debut this fall for $870, and go up to $1070. The thought is, Cupertino won’t want to break that important thousand dollar psychological barrier with the base model of their new hero phone. He also predicts it will take up 45% of iPhone sales next year.

Alphabet owned Nest is working on a 4K indoor security camera. According to Android Police, it’s not that anyone needs 4K for that, it’s for a smart zoom feature. If you zoom in on an area with this cam, it won’t become all distorted, but give you a nice 1080p section of the view…like we’ve seen in movies for years! The new Nest Cam may be out shortly, and will reportedly cost over $300…yes, for ONE camera!

Twitter, the social network so many love and rely on, but which can’t seem to find a way to make any real money, is considering offering a premium subscription service. Recode.net reports that the short form firehose of information hasn’t decided to do it for sure, but if they do, it would include access to special features and services. CEO Jack Dorsey did stress that it was very important to them that Twitter be free and open to everyone around the world, however.


iPhone 8 Will Not Go to USB-C; Chevy to Offer Cheap, Unlimited In-Car Data; Lyric Thermostat Talks to Alexa and Siri

After reports that Apple would ditch the Lightening port on iPhone 8, now comes a new report from KGI Securities disputing that. 9to5mac.com says the new iPhone will have internal upgrades that will support fast charging over lightening. Apparently, Apple didn’t want to go to the larger form factor if the USB-C connector…at least not yet.

Chevrolet has announced that it will offer unlimited in-car data for just $20 per month. According to thenextweb.com, it will be available on any vehicle with OnStar, and will be LTE. The system will support up to 7 devices. It will apply to cars sold in the US starting tomorrow. Ford is working on something similar which will include Europe, as more people clamor for fast connectivity in vehicles.

The Nest Learning thermostat got the ball rolling for smart thermostats and in-home smart devices, but is still pricey at $200 to $250. Now, bgr.com reports that Honeywell has rolled out the Lyric T5, a smart thermostat that can talk to Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri via HomeKit for half the price of a Nest. It’s $114.95, and great if you’re too lazy to pick up your phone to adjust the thermostat upstairs…now, you can just ask your virtual assistant to do it!