HomePod Sounds Great, Siri Sucks; Pixel 2 Visual Core Works With Apps; France Bans Handheld Smartphone Use in Cars; Military-Self Driving Vehicles & Auto Weapons

A number of reviews are out for Apple’s HomePod. According to 9to5mac.com (as I am way too small potatoes to have actually gotten a review unit), reviewers are pretty universally impressed with the HomePod’s great sound. On the other hand, they hate the stupidity of Siri compared to Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. The semi-smart speaker also gets knocks for being a closed system (like Apple would ever make it otherwise!) It won’t work with Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, etc. If you have all your music on Apple’s system, and love great sound with tight, loud, punchy bass and crisp highs, that sounds good anywhere in the room, by all means…go for it.

Google’s Pixel 2 had gotten accolades from it’s great camera app. The pix are just great on its proprietary processor Now, techcrunch.com says Google is opening up that tech to third party apps. As of today, it will work on Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Snapchat if you update the software. That software is showing up as part of the monthly software update today…although it may take a day or two to get to you…your mileage may vary.

Love ‘em…hate ‘em, it’s often fun to pick on the French. Now, they’ve done something that may have their own citizens up in arms. 9to5google.com reports that France has banned hand held smartphone use in cars…EVEN if the car is sitting still with the engine off! Apparently, France changed their legal definition of driving to include everything except being parked off-road or in a designated parking spot! The fine is 135 Euros, and points on your license, same as if you were motoring down the road doing it. I suspect the French may invent a new hand sign to display in protest of this!

Welcome to the future and our new, robotic overlords! The military is now testing autonomous vehicles equipped with robotic weapons systems! According to zdnet.com, the Army has announced ‘Wingman,’ and they have successfully destroyed targets from a self-driving Hummer with an autonomous 7.62mm weapon system. The Army claims that, for the foreseeable future, there will always be a human soldier in the loop, making the decisions.

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Amazon Hosted Secret Robotics Meeting; GM Starts Pre-Production of All Electric Bolt

This week in Palm Springs, Amazon hosted an invitation only conference for experts on AI, robotics, and space exploration. Geekwire.com reports the people from Toyota, Rethink Robotics, MIT, UC-Berkeley and others were present. Amazon not only has a big interest in robots….they have over 30,000 of them working in their warehouses, made by Kiva…a company they acquired in 2012.

General Motors has begun pre-production on the all-electric Chevy Bolt, just ahead of the showing Tesla plans for their Model 3. Both vehicles are intended for a mass market, with price tags under 30 grand. Thenextweb.com notes that pre-Production may mean GM isn’t far from full production, so the Bolt could possibly be out in the Fall as a 2017 model…at least 6 months ahead of the smaller sized Tesla Model 3.


Toyota Pumping a Billion into AI & Robotics in Silicon Valley; One-Touch Google Play Update

Toyota is dropping an eye-popping billion dollars in a research company it’s establishing in Silicon Valley, focusing on artificial intelligence and robotics. The automotive giant is determined to lead the way with top flight self-driving cars, in addition to applying AI and robotics to other areas of life. The AP reports that the initial facility will be near Stanford, with a second one planned later on to be set up near MIT.

Google has released version 8.3 of Google Play Services, with one tap Google sign in, and better wearable sync, according to 9to5google.com. Now, you can just press ‘Sign in with Google,’ and presto…you’re done. The update also makes signing in across devices easier, with a simpler dialog. The new version is supposed to use smarter syncing for wearables, too, improving battery life.