Apple Working With Hertz; Apple Buys Eye Tracking Company; An Infarm in Every Grocery Store; Oscar Meyer Weiner Drone

Apple has tapped car rental firm Hertz to assist with testing of its autonomous vehicles. Macrumors.com reports that Cupertino is leasing vehicles from Donlen, the Hertz fleet management unit. The info showed up in information filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Meanwhile, Apple seems to be ramping up further towards an AR future. A story from appleinsider.com indicates they are buying a German company called SensoMotoric Instruments. They make hardware and software for eye tracking sensors, something key to augmented reality. The present tech tracks a wearer’s gaze in real time 120 times per second, which reduces input lag…that cuts down motion sickness when viewing. This tech probably won’t get into the iPhone 8, but could be important for the smart glasses Apple is reportedly working on.

What if fresh produce wasn’t trucked in and put in bags in your store, but was grown right there? A German startup called Infarm is working on indoor vertical farming that could grow herbs, lettuce, veggies, and fruit. According to techcrunch.com, this builds on something the Japanese have been doing, but brings it right into the supermarket, and on a modular scale. It could also find its way into restaurants. Infarm is partnering with EDEKA, Germany’s largest supermarket chain, to further develop the idea.

Everyone knows, and most people love, the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile. Now, besides the iconic hot dog cars and motor scooter with sidecar, Oscar Mayer has launched a WeinerDrone. Gizmodo.com says it has enough lifting power to transport a single wrapped hot dog about a mile. No word on if it can hold a fully loaded dog with all the trimmings some people like, or on how it delivers it to you….I’m not wanting to pick up a cold dog that hits the ground, even if it IS wrapped!


GM Starts Mass Producing Self-Driving Electric Cars; Firefox Gets Multiprocess Update (Finally); Amazon Patents Delivery Drone with Winch

It’s likely that the Tesla Model S can be fully self-driving with software activation, but isn’t yet. Meanwhile, they aren’t asleep at the switch at General Motors. GM has cranked out 130 electric Bolts on a production line. according to engadget.com, the General had already built 50 self-driving Bolt EVs, but this latest batch is fully mass produced, and more advanced than the hand finished models. The future really is coming at warp speed.

Mozilla has finally released Firefox with multiprocess architecture, 8 years after starting the project. Arstechnica.com says, without getting into the weeds, the net is that it’s faster and more stable, and despite multiprocess platforms hogging more memory, they were able to build it so it is quicker and uses less RAM than Google’s Chrome. It’ probably worth giving a spin if you’re not already a Firefox user.

Amazon has patented a couple of interesting things for drones. Geekwire.com reports that one is a winch setup that can lower packages to the ground on a tether. It has a counterbalance to keep the package from swaying wildly on its way to your porch or other delivery spot. Another patent is for folding wings, that fold in half, but then extend themselves for flight. Amazon had previously experimented with dropping packages with a small parachute.


Apple Watch Rumor-Glucose Monitoring; Amazon-4K Alexa TV and Now = Walmart X2; BMW, Intel, & Mobileye Add Delphi to Self-Driving

It’s been no secret that Apple has wanted to get deep into the weeds regarding heath monitoring for the Apple Watch. The do have north of 200 folks with PhDs working on various projects. Now, macrumors.com reports that they may be close to rolling out non-invasive sensors to monitor blood glucose. This would be something of a Holy Grail for diabetics, meaning no finger sticks all day. Apparently, the sensors would be built into interchangeable smart watch bands, along with other functionality. This way, people who buy Apple Watch that don’t need those functions wouldn’t have to pay extra for them. The sensors are due in ‘an upcoming Apple Watch,’ but it’s unclear if they will make the third generation one out this fall.

Amazon has announced 4K TVs running Alexa. They will be sold under the Westinghouse brand, according to theverge.com. Preorders are open now, with prices ranging from $449 for a 43 inches to $899 for a 65 inch display. They are expected in stores next month. A lot has been made over Apple and Google valuation…Apple at 800+ billion and all…but ponder this….Amazon now has a market cap of $459 billion…that’s just about TWO Walmarts! Amazon has just been a public company for 18 years!

BMW, Intel, & Mobileye have now been joined by Delphi in their self-driving platform development. Techcrunch.com says Delphi will supply key computing components to the system. Intel and Delphi had previously worked together on autonomous tech. They are shooting for 2021 to bring their platform into production…not just for BMW vehicles but for other auto makers and system developers.


Lyft & Waymo Partner on Self-Drivers; EV Battery That Charges in 5 Min; 10.5 Inch iPad Pro at WWDC, Google Asst Coming to iOS

Lyft and Google’s Waymo will team up on self-driving cars, according to a report from the New York Times. The plan is to introduce a wide swath of people to them using fleet services. Waymo had already started a public pilot in Arizona where they will pick up people and families on demand. The Lyft deal will quickly help them to expand that, and explore not only demand modeling, but efficient routing as well. Meanwhile, a judge has banned a Uber employee, who was a former Google manager and is the subject of a lawsuit, from working with Lidar at all for the time being.

If this pans out to any degree, it will be a game changer for electric vehicles. StoreDot, and Israeli startup, has shown its new battery model for EVs at the CUBE Tech Fair in Berlin. Engadget.com reports that the battery can reach full charge in FIVE minutes, and run the car for 300 miles! Compare that to Tesla’s Supercharger, which takes two hours to fully charge a Tesla EV. StoreDot also claims their batteries are safer than litihum-ion. They use layers of nano materials and proprietary organic compounds not used in batteries before.

Apple will probably show a new 10.5 inch iPad Pro at WWDC next month. Theverge.com says KGI Securities, generally one of the most reliable sources, is reporting this. Ming-Chi Kuo, of KGI also says it’s 50-50 that Apple will launch their Siri powered speaker at WWDC.

Siri could be in for some ‘Siri-ous’ competition soon. Google may be rolling out Google Assistant on iOS, and could show it at I/O this week! It will debut first in the US, and apparently will be slightly different than the Android version. The voice controls will be the same, but it will used the chat style fro Allo. This is probably necessary since it will be a free standing app, and not a baked in extension that’s part of the Google platform.


More Cortana Driven Smart Speakers; Waymo Logs Millions of Miles; Apple Buys Sleep Tracker; iPhone 8 Leaked CAD Drawings

Earlier this week, Harman Kardon unveiled Invoke, their Cortana powered Amazon Echo competitor. Now, techcrunch.com says HP is also jumping into the smart speaker market. Instead of following their rather successful Surface marketing effort of rolling their own, Microsoft seems to be using the formerly wildly successful PC model of licensing to numerous makers. The speakers will reportedly use Skype for calling. The Amazon Alexa device can take and make calls, and Apple’s is expected to as well.

Waymo, the self-driving car people from Alphabet/Google, says they have now logged 3 million miles on public roads. According to 9to5google.com, a million of those self-driven miles have been in the last 7 months! In March, Waymo greatly expanded their fleet with 500 Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

Apple has bought Beddit, a company that tracks sleep. According to business insider.com, they make a $150 sleep monitoring pad that goes between the sheets. The monitor tracks a person’s heart rate, awake time, and snoring, then the companion app calculates a ‘sleep score’ and can wake users at an ‘optimal’ time with a smart alarm. The page linked to the Watch App Store is gone from their website, but the app is still live there as of today.

Some CAD drawings have leaked out from a manufacturer of the upcoming iPhone 8. 9to5mac.com says that these show no fingerprint sensor on the back, but do depict the all glass front and back with stainless steel edges and the vertical dual cams on the back. The phone appears to be thicker than the current iPhone 7 and Plus. It’s still possible the 8 will have an ugly and clumsy fingerprint sensor on the back like the Samsung Galaxy S8, but we probably won’t know that until Fall.


Waymo Offers Free Rides in Self-Driving Vans; Galaxy S8 Grabs Big Preorders; Google Tweaks Search to Tamp Down Fake News

If you live in the Phoenix area, and intrigued by self-driving cars, has Waymo got a deal for you. According to theverge.com, you can sign up for a free ride in a Waymo minivan…in fact, you can sign up as often as you like on their website. They will select riders based on the types of trips they want to take and agreeableness to using the self-driving service as their primary mode of transportation. All the test cars will have a safety driver along to grab the controls if needed. Besides Phoenix, the service will be available in Gilbert, Tempe, and Chandler. Waymo says the service area there is about twice the area of San Francisco, to give you an idea of the covered territory. They have 100 minivans there, and will add 500 more for this free project, which they are calling “Easy Rider.”

Despite the disastrous Galaxy Note 7 with the fires and recall, Samsung says the Galaxy S8 preorders are their best ever, with 30% year over year growth compared to the S7. Macrumors.com reports that this is despite launching without one of the signature features, the personal assistant Bixby in English language countries. Samsung says that should be available by the end of May…maybe they hooked up the software with a Berlitz course.

Google has announced that it has altered its search engine to ‘surface more high quality content from the web,’ or in English, tamp down fake news, offensive, or clearly misleading content. Cnet.com says Google is also allowing users to flag results that are offensive or unhelpful.


Spotify Grabs Mighty TV; Wells Getting Cardless Apple Pay ATMs; Ikea Dives Into Smart Home Automation; Uber Grounds Self-Drivers in Az After Crash

Spotify has picked up MightyTV, which will shut down. Techcrunch.com reports that CEO Brian Adams will become Spotify’s VP of Technology. MIghtyTV had specialized in content recommendations, but used a Tinder style swipe left and right system. Spotify was also interested in adding MightyTV’s tech to improve its recommendations and beef up its programmatic advertising.

Wells Fargo customers will be able to withdraw from ATMs by later this year using Apple Pay without needing an ATM card. According to 9to5mac.com, it may be convoluted enough that most people will stick with the card for a while. You have to log into the Wells mobile app, select card-free, ask for a single use 8 digit code AND ATM card PIN, then withdraw. Towards year end, though, Wells Fargo says, you will be able to just use Apple’s Tap and Pay. They also will add Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and their own Wells Fargo Wallet to the Tap and Pay setup.

The smart home hub gets a boost from a big player known for low prices. Ikea is diving into the smart home with a system based on the ZigBee Light Link standard…same as Philips Hue uses. Theverge.com says the system has been in a few European countries since fall, but will be widely available the end of this month. Ikea will sell a base set of an internet gateway, remote, and two light bulbs for $85.40. An Ikea extra is a motion-controlled dimmer switch, which is an extra $20.41, but can be used independently of the connected system.

Uber has sidelined its self-driving cars in Arizona after a crash involving one left it on its side. Recode.net reports that there were no injuries, and only the back up driver was aboard. Some reports say that the other driver failed to yield, but Uber is pulling all of them until the investigation is complete. So far, Uber safety drivers have had to intervene every .8 miles, so their tech is far from solid at this point.