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.

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Uber to Buy Volvos for Self-Driving Fleet; Apple Looks to Micro-LED for Displays; Galaxy S9 Camera Rumors

Uber is preparing to gear up for self-driving, with plans to buy up to 24,000 SUVs, then equip them with Uber’s own self-driving technology. Reuters.com says the SUVs would come equipped with Volvo’s autonomous tech, and Uber would install theirs in addition. The loaded XC90s have a starting retail price of about $50,000. Earlier this year, Lyft inked a research deal with Google’s Waymo and another with Ford, looking to moving to self-driving cars in their own fleet.

The OLED screens it has to buy from Samsung have been rumored all year to be a stopgap measure for Apple. Now, macrumors.com reports they are working with TSMC to scale up production of micro-LED panels. The advantage to the micro-LED panels is that they are both thinner and brighter, have better color accuracy, faster response times, and are more energy efficient than OLED screens.

The upcoming Samsung Galaxy S9 apparently won’t have an under screen fingerprint reader, as had been rumored for some time. It WILL use facial recognition, but according to bgr.com will just use 2D sensors. Some other Samsung devices will get 3D sensors…probably the Note series. The S9 will have 5.8 and 6.2 inch sized screens, and a single cam on the front, with dual cams on the back like the Note 8 has. The form factor is rumored to stay virtually the same as the S8 models out now.


Galaxy Note 9 May Get Under Display Print Reader; Other Android Makers Looking To Face ID Clones; GM Buys Lidar Maker For Self-Driving; Food Delivered to Your Mouth-We Will Become Like In Wall-E

Apple had to ditch the effort for the iPhone X, but Samsung is working on putting under screen fingerprint sensors in the Galaxy Note 9 for next year. Businessinsider.com reports that they are planning to let you unlock your screen simply by touching a finger on part of it.

Meanwhile, other Android makers are turning to developing 3D sensing for Face ID clones like Apple has in the soon to be released iPhone X. Appleinsider.com says the number of makers looking at 3D sensing has tripled since Apple showed off the tech in September. It’s not all about unlocking phones…the 3D tech also opens the door to AR…augmented reality.

General Motors has bought Strobe, a 3 year old startup that makes lidar tech for self driving vehicles. According to the New York Times, the company will be folded into Cruise Automation, the GM self-driving subsidiary. The General says it will help accelerate its efforts to develop and build electric cars with self-driving capabilities. They are saying the tech will help bring such cars to the market sooner than you think!

Researchers at University of Sussex have developed TastyFloats…a food delivery system that levitates food morsels right into your mouth…no hands or utensils! Thenextweb.com says it’s not really ro make us like the denizens of Wall-E, but to test if food tastes differently without touch or manipulation. It uses two phased arrays of ultrasonic transducers to transport the morsels of food. OTOH, someone may ‘monitize’ the idea, and then we really could all become porky couch potatoes.


Beats Gets Adaptive Noise Canceling; Huawei Building AI into Mobile Chips; Jaguar Land Rover Shows ‘Tron’ Steering Wheel; iPhone Name Claims

Beats has added adaptive noise canceling to Studio 3 Headphones. Techcrunch.com reports it’s a direct shot at Bose, with the new Beats models claiming to screen out sounds better and more comprehensively…not just jet plane roar. The now Apple division has also toned down its colors, and offers a bit less pumped up bass. They claim 22 ours of battery life, and the price? That’s still pumped up at $350…available now.

All the tech product companies are betting big on AI…AI has even made it into the realm of politics, with Russia’s Vlad Putin claiming that whomever nails AI first and best will rule the world. Now Huawei says they are going to bake AI processing into their next chip, with the first ever Neural Processing Unit for smartphones. Thenextweb.com explains that what that means to you is no need to phone home to the cloud for the handset to offer AI assistance. Huawei also says it will get 50% longer batter life. If you are a little skeptical…we’ll all find out how much of this is real and what’s vaporware in October when the successor to the Mate 9 drops.

For decades auto makers have shown cars of the future, and now Jaguar Land Rover has given a peek at their steering wheel of the future. Cnet.com notes that it’s right out of Tron…the ‘wheel’ is more of a flattened octagon, with no visible buttons or switches. Jag says it will be totally AI operated, and will detach and dock in your home when you’re not driving…so it can be used there as a personal assistant, too. The so-called ‘Sayer’ will be attachable to any car you like, based on what tasks you have for the day. Maybe just a sedan for your commute….or a pickup if you are helping a pal move. Jag presumes by the time something like this bows, almost all vehicles will be self-driving…at least primarily. They will show a prototype in London September 8-10, and then the week after at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

A week before the new iPhone bows, and it’s the silly season with rumors. Now, one report picked up by bgr.com says it will be iPhone X for sure. Another that relies on what major case makers are planning…9to5mac.com says that the name will be iPhone Edition, and there won’t be any 7S models…those will jump right to iPhone 8. Of course, we’ll know for sure next week!


Apple Echo-Type Smart Speaker Coming; Galaxy S8 Random Reboots; Samsung Approved for Testing Self-Driving Cars in Korea

There are now two sources saying Apple will make a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or Google’s speaker. Bgr.com reports that now KGI Securities says they will launch a ‘Siri Speaker’ at WWDC in June. No word on the cost (don’t think cheap), but it’s expected to hit stores and the web in the second half of the year. It will reportedly have 7 tweeters and a subwoofer, which should give it great sound. It will use some type of Beats tech and run a version of iOS.

Samsung’s Galaxy S8 had record preorders, but as it gets to peoples’ hands, there’s word that some are having random reboots. 9to5google.com reports there’s quite a thread about this on Samsung’s forums. It can happen when in use, or just sitting around. The phone does fully reboot, and it appears it may be related to an SD card issue, as removing the SD card seems to fix the problem until Samsung rolls out a software patch.

Speaking of Samsung…for those of you who thought they only made phones and TVs, etc, the Korean giant is now approved to test self-driving cars on roads in Korea. According to techcrunch.com, Hyundai has been at it for about a year now, so Samsung will be playing catch up to an extent. Samsung started as a trading company, and has interests in shipping, insurance, and more. The Korean approval allows for operating without steering wheels or pedals, which is also part of proposed new regulations in California and which Michigan already allows.


Apple Gets CA Permit for Self-Driving Car Tests; Gadget Pulls Water Out of Thin Air

In a rather stealthy web update Friday before the Easter weekend, California’s DMV revealed that Apple has joined 29 other companies in getting a permit to test self-driving vehicles. According to businessinsider.com, this is the first hint that Cupertino was still working on self-driving tech since a letter to the NHTSA in December. Apple will be running its tech in 3 Lexus SUVs and the permit covers 6 drivers…other than the cars themselves. It appears that Apple is working on autonomous software, and not a full car, but stay tuned.

Scientists at MIT and Cal Berkeley have developed a solar powered water harvester that can extract humidity out of thin air to produce drinking water. Thenextweb.com reports that it’s solar powered, and can produce 3 liters of water in 12 hours, in a place with only 20-30% humidity….so will even work in a desert. (The Mojave desert daytime humidity runs 10-30%.) The scientists say a person could survive in the desert on a soda can’s worth of water a day, and the gadget can produce that much water in an hour. It uses a new type of metal-organic framework, or MOF.


Galaxy S8 Pay Surpass iPhone $$; Apple Acquired Facial Recognition Startup; Chevy to Test Thousands of Self-Driving Bolts; Bill Gates & the Robot Tax

Usually, smartphone rumors are pretty exciting…especially about the handsets from Samsung and Apple. Here’s one that has a bit of a chill to it…bgr.com says that the upcoming Galaxy S8 may pass up the iPhone 8 in price! The iPhone 8 is rumored to be around $1000, but SamMobile spotted a leaked database in Ukraine (since taken down), and it shows the Galaxy S8 models at $950 and $1050. Whatever the price, they will launch next month in black, gold, and Orchid Gray. Get your wallet ready!

According to a report from and Israeli finance website called Calcalist picked up by 9to5mac.com, Apple has acquired facial recognition startup RealFace. This lends credence to the rumor that the next generation of iPhones may have facial recognition either in addition to or in place of the fingerprint reader. The tech may first be rolled out on the iPhone 8 this fall.

Chevrolet is aiming to field a test fleet of thousands of self-driving electric Bolts in 2018. Techcrunch.com reports that the fleets will mainly be operated with partner Lyft for on-demand ride-hailing. This is a couple years ahead of competitor Ford and others who have been shooting at 2020 for deployment of test fleets. Self driving cars may be here sooner than you think.

Yes, it sounds like the title of a Tom Swift book….Bill Gates and the Robot Tax…but actually, the tech magnate is calling on governments to look a bit further into the future. Engadget.com says in an interview with Quartz, Gates advocates taxing worker robots to offset job losses. the funds would be used for training of the people who lost jobs to robots…training in areas where humans will still be needed…he specifically points to child and senior care. The European Parliament has rejected a robot tax for now, but that is to develop guidelines for deploying