Google Assistant Now Controls Smart Appliances; App to Download Streamed Netflix & HBO Shows to Watch Offline; BMW Charging Pad..for Cars; Microsoft Dives Into Quantum Computing

Google Assistant can now control more smart devices, including appliances from LG. 9to5google.com reports that included are fridges, AC, ovens, washers & dryers…almost 90 different appliances. There are also some new headphone models that utilize Google Assistant. LG is even offering a deal…get an LG smart Wi-Fi appliance between October 8th and October 25th, and you’re eligible for a free Google Home unit.

When you’re binge watching a show from Netflix. Amazon, Hulu, or HBO, sometimes things get glitchy. Now, there’s an app on Android and iOS that lets you download the shows for later viewing OFFLINE! According to thenextweb.com the app, PlayOn Cloud, also supports YouTube, Yahoo Views, CBS, PBS CW, ABC, NBC, & Fox. There is an extra charge, though. It’s $0.99 per recording, or there are bundles for $0.20 each. Netflix has offered offline downloads as has Amazon, but they expire. With PlayOn, the videos are deleted from the cloud after 30 days, but anything you have downloaded stays on your device.

We’ve all been in places like Starbucks and seen the wireless charging pads, and of course Apple has made a big deal about joining the wireless charging smartphone club now with Qi charging…pads are already available from Mophie and Kensington. Theverge.com says BMW is getting ready to roll out one for their 530e iPerformance plug in hybrid. They claim 3.5 hour charging without a cable. The pad requires a 22o volt outlet, and is still awaiting final testing and UL approval, so it may be a year or more away, but faster, hassle free charging for cars will only accelerate the move to electric vehicles.

On Monday, Microsoft announced that it is going to be moving into the next big thing in computing….quantum computing. According to arstechnica.com, this should allow computers to do absolutely amazing things in the future. Redmond plans to release a new quantum computing programming language late this year, with full Visual Studio integration. If quantum computing sounds like Greek to you, don’t feel bad. In a Wall St. Journal interview, Bill Gates noted that while he was good at math and physics…probably an understatement….when the quantum computing slides came up in a presentation, it looked like hieroglyphics to HIM!

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iPhone Day September 12th; Galaxy Note 8- Record Bright Screen; New From Fitbit; Expedia CEO to Helm Uber

Multiple sources, notably the Wall St. Journal, say Apple will roll out its updated handsets, included the widely anticipated iPhone 8 on September 12th. A lot of details are already known, including wireless charging. Now, it appears Apple’s iPhone 8 and the upgraded 7’s will only support the slower wireless charging standard from Qi. If rumors are true, pre-orders will start September 15th, and phones will be out the 22nd. Apple will also drop new Apple Watch models and a 4K capable Apple TV.

Some reports in the last week have snorted that the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 isn’t much of an improvement over the 7, or the S8 models. After some testing, 9to5google.com reports that the screen brightness is 22% better than on the Galaxy S8. Tests were run by DisplayMate. The phablet is not only that much brighter than the S8, it is nearly TWICE as bright as Apple’s iPhone 7!

Fitbit has released 3 new products. According to businessinsider.com, they are a new smartwatch called the Ionic, the Fitbit Flyer, their first ever wireless headphones, and the Aria 2, a redesigned of their Wi-Fi scale. The ionic smartwatch features 4 day battery life, GPS, water resistance to 50 meters, better heart rate tracking, in-device music storage, and contactless payments. Three colors are available: Silver Gray, Smoke Gray, and Burnt Orange. All are available with interchangeable leather and sport bands. The watches start at $299.95.
The Flyer wireless headphones are of the type with interconnecting wire between, reside in-ear, and are sweat proof. They connect with the Ionic watch, so you can listen to up to 300 songs without having a smartphone along. Fitbit claims 6 hours of play time, and the tariff will be $129.95. Preorders open Monday, they’ll be in stores and online by October. They come in Lunar Gray and Nightfall Blue.

Nope. Not Jeff Immelt. Not Meg Whitman, either. Uber will be helmed by Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Recode.net says the board has voted on what Recode calls the ‘truce’ choice for the board, which has been squabbling about ousted CEO Travis Kalanick and investor Benchmark. Benchmark had backed Meg, while Kalanick pulled for Immelt.


Supplier Appears to Confirm iPhone 8 Wireless Charging & Waterproof; Twitter Freshenes Design; Flight Prescreening By Fingerprint Being Tested

the CEO of Apple’s prime partner in India, Wistron, let it slip that the iPhone 8 will indeed be waterproof and have wireless charging! 9to5mac.com reports that he was speaking to shareholders about different testing for the new handset, and mentioned that those features would alter the assembly and after-testing process a bit. iPhone 7 already got a good level of water resistance.

Twitter is trying to bulk up on new users, and has put a new coat of paint on the app across all platforms….mobile desktop, and web. According to techcrunch.com, its’ not a major makeover…mainly a move in settings, different typography, change in icon shape, and round profile pictures. A lot of these features were already in use on the Android app, but now have made the jump to all Twitter’s other platforms.

The TSA Precheck is nice for people who fly frequently, but now they are testing out making it even quicker and less painful. Cnet.com says TSA is testing out a fingerprint scanner….you won’t even need to show your boarding pass and Driver License or passport. The biometric screening is being tested out in Atlanta and Denver right now. As long as bad guys don’t get hold of James Bond type peel off fake fingerprints, it should be golden.


Dates for Galaxy S8 Release; Apple- 5 Groups Working on Wireless Charging; Tesla Formulating All-in-One Pricing & More Gigafactories

Samsung had originally wanted to show the Galaxy S8 at Mobile World Congress, but the Note 7 mess threw a wrench into that plan. Now, bgr.com says they will show the latest handset on March 29th, and likely preorders in the US will begin on April 13th. Competitor LG WILL show their new G6 model at MWC, and it will go on sale March 10th.

Apple reportedly has 5 groups working on wireless charging. There has been speculation for months about the iPhone 8 getting that feature, but disagreement about whether it would be inductive charging…which other phones have…or a longer range system. According to macrumors.com, they have also been testing 10 different versions of the iPhone 8. It’s likely things are pretty well finalized, and Apple did join the Wireless Power Consortium, which pushes the Qi inductive system. They may be looking to the across the room charging systems for future iPhones.

Tesla is working on formulating all-in-one pricing for their cars, which would include lifetime insurance and maintenance. Thenextweb.com reports that the insurance would come from traditional insurers. Tesla feels that with their autopilot and future self-driving, the accident rate would be low enough to make this work financially. Their electric cars have far less mechanical systems to maintain already. Also, Elon Musk wrote to shareholders that they may be looking at adding 3 more Gigafactories. The first one is in Reno, and they call the solar plant in New York Gigafactory 2.


New iPhones May All Have Wireless Charging; Chevy Self-Driving Car…It’s Among Us

A lot has been made about the iPhone 8…OLED screen, possible all-glass form, and wireless charging. Now, businessinsider.com says wireless charging is not only a ‘go,’ but that the 7S and 7S Plus will also get it AND will all be all-glass. KGI Securities also predicts that the wireless charging is one reason the 8 will break the $1000 barrier. Extra layers have to be added to prevent overheating of the 3D Touch sensor from the wireless system. The two phones with the LED screens won’t have this issue. The new 3D touch sensor is expected to provide a better user experience.

General Motors has been testing out its self-driving car, code named Albatross, on the streets of San Francisco. SFGate.com reports that the Cruise Automation division of GM released a video of the vehicle rolling through the Potrero and then Mission neighborhoods. The dash cam video shows that the driver has hands near the wheel, but the car appears to be fully automatic. From the looks of the dash, it’s a Chevy Bolt electric vehicle. Last year, according to theverge.com, General Motors self-driving cars drove nearly 10,000 miles around California. During those test-drives, the cars had to be taken out of autonomous mode 181 times at a rate of 18.5 times per 1,000 miles.


Samsung & Google Partner on New Chromebooks; Batteries Now Rolling off Lines at Tesla Gigafactory; Energous Wireless Charging Debuts This Year; Nvidia Co-Pilot Driving Computer

The Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro have finally bowed from Samsung, in collaboration with Google. Theverge.com says they will be worthy competition for Apple’s iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface Pro. The Plus is out in February for $449, and sports baked in Android app support, a self-contained stylus, and on-screen inking. It has a 360 degree hinge to allow for both tablet and laptop modes. The Pro will be out later this year, and is basically the same except for a more powerful processor.

It took almost 3 years from the groundbreaking, but batteries are now rolling off the lines at Tesla’s Gigafactory. The first of the custom cells will go into Tesla’s storage products…the Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2, but are designed to fit into all Tesla cars according to theverge.com. They will start installing them in the new Model 3s when they start production this year. Tesla says the Gigafactory will eventually crank out enough batteries for 1.5 million cars.

Energous will begin shipping its truly wireless systems by later this year, but is holding off due to a partner. Macrumors.com notes that most believe that partner to be Apple, and that the Watts Up system will debut in the iPhone 8 in September. The difference between Energous and other wireless systems is that theirs is truly over the air, and can charge a device from up to 15 feet away…no need to lay the phone on a charging pad. Energous did show off several devices that use contact charging at CES this week.

Nvidia had teased a powerful AI system earlier, and now has announced Co-Pilot. They are baking the tech into their Xavier drive computers they are making to assist drivers when they are doing the driving. Techcrunch.com reports that the system will utilize data from sensors inside and outside a car, and alert a driver when they need to take action. The system can either operate in self-driving mode, or as the Co-Pilot, continuing to monitor and warn drivers to react…say, should you not spot a pedestrian. They are already partnering with ZF in Europe, and may with Bosch as well.


Ford Will Build Electric SUV; Amazon’s Fire TV Baked in to Some 4K TVs; Intel Inside-Your Car

Ford will produce and all electric SUV in 2020. Theverge.com reports it will be built in Flat Rock, Michigan, and will sport a range of 300 miles on a charge. They are also cooking up hybrid versions of the Mustang and F-150 pickup. Present electric vehicles are mostly stuck in the low 200’s for range, with the Chevy Bolt claiming 238 miles and the upcoming Tesla Model 3 at 215. Ford is also testing wireless charging for their models.

Amazon’s Fire TV will now come in several lower cost 4K TV models. According to Variety.com, Seiki, Westinghouse and Element Electronics will all roll out Fire powered TVs this year ranging from 43 to 65 inch screen models. An integrated mic will double as a direct line to Amazon’s Alexa assistant.

Intel has announced the ‘Go’ brand, and will build chips aimed at the self-driving car market. Cnet.com says Intel’s driving group has a $250 million R&D budget, and they will go head to head with Nvidia and Qualcomm in trying to get car makers to integrate their processors in upcoming self-drivers.