posted about 1 month ago on yahoo! technology news
‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’ invites you to strap in for another space opera. “Space is big,” beloved author and interdimensional traveler Douglas Adams noted in his seminal towel-seller, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” “You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big,” he wrote, hammering home the point that when it comes to bigness, even our new president has nothing on the universe. The team behind the blockbuster “Mass Effect” trilogy managed to capture the epic scope of the big unknown while keeping our eyes trained on the intimate interactions between characters, a space opera in its truest — and, in terms of video games, among its best — form.

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posted about 1 month ago on yahoo! technology news
Visa is testing a prototype that will let you use sunglasses to make purchases. A small NFC chip inside one of the arms will be linked to your Visa account. Instead of swiping your debit card, you would tap the payment terminal to make the transaction. Visa says the concept plays well into its tagline, “Everywhere you want to be.” Let’s just hope these shades don’t wind up where you don’t want them to be: lost. Source:  https://www.engadget.com/2017/03/14/visa-is-testing-nfc-sunglasses-that-can-pay-for-stuff/ More:

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posted about 1 month ago on yahoo! technology news
Samsung has a new voice. And it has world-changing ambitions. In the upcoming Galaxy S8, users will find an extra button on the left side of the phone, just below the volume controls. Pressing it will activate Bixby, Samsung's new voice assistant. Once activated, Bixby will help you navigate what's arguably the most sophisticated piece of technology you own — the smartphone in your hand. If Samsung gets its wish, though, Bixby will eventually do much more than just help you order Lyfts or set up complex calendar appointments. The long-term vision is for Bixby to act as a kind of uber-interface for all of Samsung's products: TVs, wearables, washing machines, even remote controls. SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S8: all the leaks in one place Samsung designed Bixby with a specific goal in mind, one that veers away from its fellow voice assistants — Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, Microsoft's Cortana and the Google Assistant. Those platforms were generally built to help users quickly perform common tasks ("Remind me to buy milk") and perform search queries ("What's the capital of Brazil?"). Bixby, on the other hand, is all about making the phone itself easier to use, replicating the functions of many apps with voice commands. Yes, Siri et al. already do that to a certain extent — you can easily set a reminder with your voice, for example — but the voice integration typically only handles the basics. The goal of Bixby is to voice-enable every single action in an app that you'd normally do via touch, starting with Samsung's apps. So, not just "set a reminder to buy pickles at 6 p.m., but "Set a reminder on my Shopping List to buy pickles at 6 p.m. and make it repeat every week, then share the list with my wife." Bixby speaks Injong Rhee, CTO of Samsung Mobile and the architect behind Bixby, says the voice assistant is nothing short of an "interface revolution," freeing users from hunting down hidden functionality within menus and hard-to-find screens. "Bixby is an intelligent user interface, emphasis... on 'interface,'" Rhee says. "A lot of agents are looking at being knowledgeable, meaning that you can ask questions like, 'Who's president of the U.S.?' A lot of these are glorified extensions of search. What we are doing with Bixby, and what Bixby is capable of doing, is developing a new interface to our devices." Bixby architect Injong Rhee, CTO of Samsung Mobile. Image: Pete Pachal/Mashable Although it makes its debut on the Galaxy S8, it will soon spread. Rhee sees the Bixby button eventually spreading to all kinds of smart-home devices, from TVs to refrigerators to air conditioners. "Anywhere there is an internet connection and a microphone, Bixby can be used," he says. "There is some technology in the device, but a lot of it lives in the cloud. That's why the range of devices goes beyond just a smartphone. It means it can be in any device we produce." Samsung began work on Bixby about 18 months ago, Rhee says. It grew out of the company's S Voice tool, which has been on Samsung phones since 2012. (The timing might explain why Samsung's smart fridge — announced right around then — failed to deliver on its planned integration with Alexa.) S Voice hadn't progressed much over the years, but then last year Samsung acquired the much-hyped Viv Labs and its sophisticated assistant, a strong indicator of the company's renewed interest in voice control. However, Rhee says Viv's technology is planned for future updates to Bixby and doesn't have a role in the initial release. The name Bixby came out of Samsung's focus groups, but it was actually their third choice overall. It was the top pick among millennials — a demographic the company is specifically targeting with the Galaxy S8 — so it won out. (Rhee declined to say what the other names were.) It's also distinctive enough, with hard consonants, for it to work well as an activation word. Bixby, which will initially speak just English and Korean, is intended to be a user's "bright sidekick," helping them navigate their devices in a more natural way. "[What came before], it's been people trying to learn how the machine interacts with the world, but... it should be the machine learns how the human interacts with the world," Rhee says. "The learning curve shouldn't be steep." All talk, all action For an app to be considered Bixby-supported, every possible touch action needs to be mapped to a voice command. Rhee explains that, for a typical app, there are about 300 different actions the user can perform. That doesn't sound too bad until you consider there are around 15,000 different ways to perform them. And the ways to verbalize those actions number in the millions. That's a lot of stuff to map out. Still, Samsung says it's up for the challenge, at least as far as its built-in apps are concerned. But what about third-party apps? Considering the amount of development work, will Snapchat or Facebook ever work as well with Bixby as Samsung's apps? Rhee says Samsung has a plan to get third-party apps talking to Bixby, and an SDK to be released at a later date will introduce tools that make the mapping much easier. He also suggests Viv's technology can help here, too. "Viv Labs is coming in by way expanding our vision into third-party ecosystems. It doesn't necessarily have to be all of the touch commands that they can perform. At a minimum, [Bixby will perform] the basic functionalities: like the settings, or changing the language from English to French." On the Galaxy S8, a total of 10 apps will be Bixby-supported, Rhee says, with a second "wave" coming a few weeks later. Out of the gate, users will be able to use Bixby with Contacts, Gallery, Settings, Camera, Reminders and a few others. Another way Bixby is different from its peers: it will be aware of what you're doing on the phone and suggest different actions depending on what's on screen. So if you press the button while, say, looking at a single photo in the Gallery, editing and sharing controls are probably more relevant to you than searching. And if Bixby doesn't understand every aspect of a complex command, it will take you as far as it can rather than just hitting you with a "Sorry, I didn't catch that." All this "awareness" brings up an important question: How much data is Samsung collecting about you? Rhee says most user-specific data is kept on the device, but, as a cloud service, Bixby needs to store some information in the cloud. It's not yet clear what the exact breakdown is. The button Having a dedicated button for Bixby brings a number of advantages. For starters, it means Samsung won't have any need for Clippy-style pop-ups directing users to the assistant — people will inevitably find it on their own. It also ensures there will be far fewer accidental activations than if Bixby were mixed into a home button — something users of Siri are all too familiar with. "We actually have done a lot of research to have the Bixby button as part of the home button like our friends in Cupertino," Rhee says. "A lot of people find it a little awkward to use it in public. The home button is a very overloaded place — there's a lot of functionality into it. Having a dedicated button really removes a lot of friction." And since the idea is to press and hold, lifting your finger when you're done, Bixby will know definitively when you're done speaking. Still, there will also be a wake-up phrase — you can just say "Hi Bixby," to activate the assistant at any time. It's the dedicated button that really epitomizes Samsung's approach, and if it indeed ends up on all Samsung products, Bixby will become much more than just a smartphone assistant — it'll become the gateway for Samsung to finally, truly become a major player in the internet of things. Sure, Samsung has had its "Smart" devices for a long time, and its low-power Tizen OS is ideal for powering the many products with connections to the internet. It also acquired SmartThings in 2014 to strengthen its IoT brand. But until now, Samsung has lacked a gateway for its customers to really take advantage of that interconnectivity. For most, it's hard work hunting down the right settings on your phone to connect a smart TV to an air conditioner, but what if you could just tell Bixby to do it? And if you can talk to it from all those devices — asking any question or even making phone calls — then you're really onto something. "It's actually omnipresent in a sense," Rhee says. "Even if I speak to Bixby in, say, a washing machine, you can still do a lot of things that you do on your phone. For instance, you can say, 'Bixby, send a text to my friend Michael,' or 'Make a phone call.' That's the vision." The more capable assistant Amazon and Google already know this, and the success of Alexa and buzz around Home are a testament to the unquestionable efficiency of adding voice control to devices. But Samsung, with its high standard of controlling all functions of a device via Bixby, might end up with the advantage. Alexa, for all of its "skills," often falls short of full control (you can turn on or dim LED lights, for example, but might not be able to select specific colors), so the market has room for a more capable competitor. Of course, how and when Bixby will mix with third-party products and services remains an open question. "Philosophically, what we are looking at is revolutionizing phone interfaces," Rhee says. "We understand our applications better than anybody else out there — that's why we started with our own technology, but going forward we have plans to work with our partners." Eventually, Rhee says a Bixby app might come to non-Samsung Android phones and even iOS, possibly partnering with Google Assistant for search-related queries (though he cautions Google and Samsung haven't "gotten to the specifics" on how that would work). At the same time, Bixby control could extend to all kinds of smart products, not just Samsung ones. That would probably take a level of cooperation with competitors that Samsung hasn't really shown before, but if Bixby becomes ubiquitous in the long term, whatever OS this or that device is running will become less relevant. That's a future Samsung is clearly hoping for, since software has traditionally been its weakness. Samsung may be a chief Android partner, but it's struggled to differentiate its many services from Google's, and the company lacks an OS of its own (Tizen notwithstanding). Samsung's browser, Samsung Pay, S Health — they're all duplicates of Google products, and are widely regarded as inferior. That's why Bixby may be the best thing to happen to Samsung software in a long time. If customers respond, Bixby could, in the long term, finally get Samsung users to think of its phones as Samsung phones rather than just the best-performing Android phones on the market. All Android vendors try to differentiate to some extent, but Bixby's app-simplifying skills and potential IoT capabilities are a compelling sell. Bixby represents an important step for Samsung when it comes to services: finally a good answer to "Why should I use your software?" Effortless voice control of everything — not just your phone — is a tantalizing promise, and if Samsung can pull it off in the long term, its "bright sidekick" might end up being the only assistant we actually want to talk to. WATCH: Samsung's wireless earbuds double as a fitness-tracker

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posted about 1 month ago on yahoo! technology news
Fashion brand Guess has announced the Guess Connect smartwatch range, new models powered by Android Wear 2.0 and Qualcomm's Snapdragon Wear platform. The watches will come in styles suitable for men and women.

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A top secret division within Facebook called Building 8 is working on at least four unannounced...

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Tag Heuer is well-known for making a solid Swiss timepiece at an accessible price point. What is...

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posted about 1 month ago on yahoo! technology news
Last week, a child in Dallas died after his babysitter's repeated calls to 911 went unanswered. Local authorities have not confirmed that the tragedy was related to an ongoing 911 ghost call problem.

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posted about 1 month ago on yahoo! technology news
A report from the Wall Street Journal claimed that high early sales have led Nintendo to double production of the Switch. The console passed 1.5 million units sold in just over a week.

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posted about 1 month ago on yahoo! technology news
The Amazon Echo is getting to be crazy popular. It’s like Siri for your home.

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Apple’s next iPhone needs to be more than your average update. Apple’s (AAPL) next iPhone is always an absurdly important product for the tech giant. No matter how well the company’s services arms — Apple Music, iCloud, etc. — perform, the iPhone is Apple’s make-or-break product.

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posted about 1 month ago on yahoo! technology news
For one big week in March every year, Austin, Texas is overrun by culture and tech. Yes, I’m talking about the South by Southwest Conference & Festivals. It's not cheap to attend, so Yahoo Finance's David Pogue has a two-minute tour for you.

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And how to make sure it doesn't happen to you.

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Facebook’s innovations are often reactions to Snapchat. For all its ingenuity, Facebook (FB) still has one serious achilles heel: Snap (SNAP). Ever since Snap reportedly spurned a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook back in 2013, the social network has unleashed a slew of features and services that appear to be inspired by Snapchat’s core mission of ephemeral messaging or based upon a particular Snapchat feature.

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posted about 1 month ago on yahoo! technology news
Netflix wants to recut some of its original shows and movies so that they'll be better to watch...

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posted about 1 month ago on yahoo! technology news
Microsoft Research is working on Project Torino, an educational initiative to teach coding to the visually impaired via a physical programming language intended for children age seven to 11.

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A Chinese city's police department is arming itself with more than 20 drone-jamming rifles to crack down on illegal drone flights. SEE ALSO: Use Jedi mind tricks to command this drone Police in Wuhan, central China , are going to be equipped with 20 of these rifles, which work by emitting radio signals that force the drones to land purportedly without damaging them. Image: Weibo The drone-killing rifles will be used during the upcoming 2017 Wuhan Marathon, to raise security. Image: WEIBO Wuhan police demonstrated the drone-killing rifles last week, where they shot down six drones, according to the Chutian Metropolitan Daily.  The rifles don't come cheap, at 250,000 yuan ($36,265) each, and they will have a range of roughly 1 km (0.6 miles). Image: Weibo Unauthorised drone flights have disrupted airport safety in China, as well as large-scale events, according to the Wuhan police. Earlier this year, a drone pilot in Hangzhou was arrested for flying a DJI Mavic Pro dangerously near civilian airliners. And in Hong Kong, three operators were arrested for flying a drone over a Formula E event. Operators of drones that are more than 7kg have to be licensed, according to draft law issued by the Civil Aviation Administration of China in 2015. Rules are generally more relaxed in rural China than in urban, built-up areas, but drones must keep out of restricted airspace and follow rules set by the military and the government.  The new rules also forbid deliveries made by drone in built-up, urban areas, and require all drones to register to their place of manufacture, weight and maximum altitude before they are allowed to take off. WATCH: Flame-throwing drones make for badass trash removers

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posted about 1 month ago on yahoo! technology news
If humans do ever get to colonize Mars, it's likely some of them will want to enjoy the occasional beer. Well, Budweiser says it'd like to set up a brewery on the red planet to "officially be the first beer on Mars."

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posted about 1 month ago on yahoo! technology news
Allbirds’s Wool Runner sneakers are a hit among tech workers. Walk the streets, halls and open offices of Silicon Valley, and you’ll notice many tech workers wearing them: Allbirds’s Wool Runner sneakers. “Wearing Allbirds is like wearing slippers everywhere,” said one startup founder, who likes the comfort they offer because of the materials used and relative lack of structure.

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posted about 1 month ago on yahoo! technology news
Fake news writers Jestin Coler (center) and Jeffrey Marty (left) speak at SXSW. AUSTIN — A keynote offering a sometimes-uncomfortable perspective on fake news at the South by Southwest Conference here started with a pitch suggesting a different story. The description below a generic title on the conference’s website for Tuesday’s talk by Yasmin Green, director of research at Google’s Jigsaw project, implied she’d speak about countering the radicalization of at-risk audiences.

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posted about 1 month ago on yahoo! technology news
This gym bag does more than carry your smelly workout clothes. With the push of a button, Paqsule will deodorize, sanitize and kill bacteria to keep everything inside clean and smelling fresh. The company that makes it says its PaqTech system is chemical free, and uses UV and O3 (activated oxygen) to zap bacteria. The device has a rechargeable battery with 72 hours of cleaning life, and can be used to charge your cellphone or tablet. If you want to get your hands on Paqsule, check out its Kickstarter project at Kickstarter.com. More:

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posted about 1 month ago on yahoo! technology news
Early one Sunday morning my editor, Yahoo Finance’s Erin Fuchs, checked her personal email and was surprised to have a message from PayPal (PYPL). It doesn’t matter who you are, or what email service you use. If you have an email account, you’ve absolutely received some kind of scam, or phishing email just like my editor.

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By Eric Auchard FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A diplomatic spat between Turkey, the Netherlands and Germany spread online on Wednesday when a large number of Twitter accounts were hijacked and replaced with anti-Nazi messages in Turkish. The attacks, using the hashtags #Nazialmanya (NaziGermany) or #Nazihollanda (NaziHolland), took over accounts of high-profile CEOs, publishers, government agencies, politicians and also some ordinary Twitter users. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has accused the German and Dutch governments of Nazi-style tactics, drawing protests from both countries, after Turkish government ministers were barred from addressing political rallies there to boost his support among expatriate Turks.

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Carvana is betting convenience will make used-automobile lots a thing of the past.

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Everyone's favorite self-driving vacuum cleaner, the Roomba, just added an Amazon Alexa integration, allowing you to communicate with your cleaning assistant with naught but your voice.

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We spoke to Facebook's AI team about "video understanding," which will one day help identify the contents of the videos you watch on the social network.

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