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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Zuckerberg Will Respond to Cambridge Scandal; Latest On Upcoming iPhones; Google Buying Lytro

So far, there has been no response at Facebook from CEO Mark Zuckerberg or COO Cheryl Sandburg. The head of internet security is leaving. Now, it’s being reported by cnet.com and others that Zuckerberg will respond publicly about ‘rebuilding trust’ within 24 hours. There is also an all-hands meeting scheduled for Friday at 10am Pacific, and both Zuck and Sandburg are supposed to talk then. The hashtag #wheresZuck has been appearing on Twitter.

Most rumors point to 3 new iPhone models this fall, and most have also said that there will be 5.8, 6.1, and a 6.5 inch model. A fresh report from 9to5mac.com says Digitimes is now hearing that Apple has been able to slash materials costs by 10%. Now, it looks like the cheapest of the 3 will be the 5.8 inch OLED screen model, not the 6.1 inch LCD screen one. This is apparently because they have cut a better deal on the OLED screens with Samsung and will have cheaper memory costs. It’s unclear if that means less RAM or crummier RAM. At any rate, it’s possible the bottom end phone will start at around $800, which might reel in more customers than the $999 price point, which has apparently put off a significant number of prospective buyers.

Google is buying the assets of Lytro, the makers of the light field camera. You may recall the odd, rectangular cams that allowed you to take a picture, then adjust the focus after the fact. 9to5google.com reports that Google could incorporate the tech in their Pixel phones, already arguably the best cameras in smartphones, but more interestingly, Google is wanting to use the tech in virtual and augmented reality. The asset sale means not all Lytro employees will be picked up by google, but Lytro’s 59 patents for light fields and digital imaging will be.


More Next-Gen iPhone Rumors; Amazon & Google vs HomePod; Intel Security Issue

A number of sources point to 3 new iPhones this fall…a refreshed iPhone X, a bigger iPhone X Plus with a 6.5 inch screen…also with an OLED screen, and an in-between model with a 6.1 inch LCD screen. LG will make the 6.5 inch screens, with Samsung continuing to supply the 5.8 inch OLED screen Improvements to Face ID are also touted. Now, according to macrumors.com, there may be a 2nd generation iPhone SE out this spring. It will likely keep the same form factor with a 4 inch screen as the present SE.

Amazon and Google both had sizable discounts on their smart speakers heading into the holidays. 9to5mac.com reports that analysts think they both probably lost money on the units or just broke even, in order to grab market share before Apple releases its HomePod speaker. Not only that…and you probably figured this was coming…Alexa may be soon making suggestions when you are getting ready to shop or are shopping. Yep, product placement. You may suddenly find that Alexa is suggesting specific brands…Proctor & Gamble is one such ‘advertising partner’ being discussed. The thought is, people may just order the suggested brand instead of letting Alexa blather on.

There is apparently a serious security problem with all recent Intel chips…so big a problem, that they won’t really discuss how it works, or what it is, but patches are coming. This will affect virtually all late model Windows and Mac machines. Bgr.com says it will be a crucial patch…but there’s a hitch. The patch may slow down the computers by some 30%, but at least by 5%! Pretty much every computer made in the last 10 years is affected. (90% of servers and laptops.) The fix involves moving the chip’s kernel to a completely separate address space, so every system call will require switching between 2 address spaces to keep the kernel secure…that’s where the speed bump occurs. A later update may restore the speed, but for now…patch those things when the security update comes…otherwise, your machines can be hacked and give the hackers god like power over them…including ability to read all personal info and passwords.


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!


3 New iPhones Next Year; HomePod With Face ID; Sweat ID to Unlock Phones; Self-Driving Trucks Proliferation

Apple is due to roll out 3 new iPhones next year…two with OLED screens. Businessinsider.com reports that there will be a model like the present iPhone X, a king-sized OLED screen version with a 6.5 inch screen, and a 6.1 inch LCD screen version which will sell for substantially less money. All 3 will have the full screen design and TrueDepth Camera for 3D sensing and Face ID. This is all according to Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI securities, who has one of the best track records on future Apple devices. The LCD screen model will sell for between $649 and $749, with the two OLED screen models aimed at ‘the high end market.’

With Apple pressing ahead on Face ID, the iPad and MacBooks are a no-brainer, but here’s one you may not have thought of…apparently, Apple is looking at adding the feature to it’s 2nd generation HomePods. Appleinsider.com notes that obviously the feature won’t make it into the model that comes out in a few weeks, but we may see it by 2019. If so, they will have to develop a system that allows more than one user…the iPhone is one to one right now.

With fingerprint readers on many phones, and Apple adding Face ID across their line, here’s a new biometric that sounds weird but may be hard to crack…’Sweat ID.’ Thenextweb.com says scientists at University if Albany think the unique amino acid profile in our sweat could accurately and securely authenticate us to unlock devices. Unlike your fingerprints, which can be copied, and same (albeit with greater difficulty) with Face ID, it would be harder for someone to take a reading of your perspiration profile. Researchers claim that no two people can have the same profile…and no, you don’t have to have sweaty palms to use it…the sensors detect a very small amount of sweat from the eccrine glands on your fingertips!

Otto made a beer run across Colorado on autopilot in one, Tesla will show off their electric big rig this week with at least some self-driving ability…but meanwhile, a startup called Embark has been making runs since early October. According to Wired, Embark has been hauling loads of new Frigidaires from El Paso, TX to Palm Springs, Ca under the radar. A driver picks the trailer load up at the warehouse, gets them to a rest stop on the highway, and then hands off to another driver with a self-driving cab that makes the run to CA. The human driver rides along, but the truck basically plods along in the slow lane at the limit all the way to CA. Daimler, Volvo, and Tesla are working on this, and Uber’s Otto made one trip, but Embark is out there doing it!


Tesla May Build Convenience Stores At Superchargers; Apple May Keep Some LCD Screen iPhones; Now YOU Can Have a $350 Smart Jacket

Tesla is adding still more Superchanger charging stations this year, and now it appears they may add small convenience stores so you can refill yourself (or empty your tank!) while you wait on the car to charge. According to engadget.com, Tesla’s CTO JB Straubel showed mockups at the FSTEC food tech conference last week. The company is already working with some restaurants on installing some charging stations along the roadways.

A report out of Korea says Apple is thinking of ditching the smaller 5.28 inch iPhone next year in favor of a bigger LCD screen phone with over 6 inches of screen real estate. Up to now, most analysts have thought Apple would switch all iPhones to OLED screens eventually. 9to5mac.com reports that orders for the bigger LCD panels have already been placed with Japan Display. The same report indicates that there will be 2 iPhones with the OLED screens like the iPhone X, however. It’s early, and just one report, so a little skepticism is in order on this one!

Ever wanted to control your smart devices from your jacket? That time has arrived. The Google powered Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket is finally out. Thenextweb.com says it uses Bluetooth and touch sensitive controls that allow you to play and pass music, get directions over your phone audio, and read incoming messages. It all works with touch sensitive fabric around the cuff, and is powered by a snap tag on one of the cuffs. (Watch someone wash it without removing the tag and ruin it right after they get it.) The real questions are: 1) would you wear a denim trucker jacket if you want to play with touch sensitive controls on your sleeve, and 2) would you drop $350 bucks on it? If so, it’s on sale Wednesday at select shops, and online next week at levis.com.


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.