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Amazon announces new 'Halo' fitness band with no screen, 3D body scans and more – MobileSyrup

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Amazon announced a new fitness band and subscription platform with some innovative new features that also bring significant privacy concerns.

The new tracker, called ‘Halo,’ is little more than a wristband with a variety of sensors attached. It doesn’t have a screen like an Apple Watch or Fitbit, which indicates Amazon has a different aim here than traditional fitness trackers. Halo offers several of the same basic tracker features seen elsewhere, such as cardio and sleep tracking. There are also ‘labs’ developed by partners that act like small challenges designed to improve health habits like meditation, sleep or starting basic exercise routines.

However, the standout additions here are 3D body fat scans and voice tone tracking. Body scans use your smartphone’s camera to take four pictures of you — one from the front, one from the back and one from each side. The Halo app uploads these scans to Amazon’s servers, where the company combines them into a 3D scan of your body. Amazon says it sends the scan back to your phone and deletes the data of its servers.

Once you have the scan, Halo uses machine learning to analyze the scan and calculate your body fat percentage. Amazon argues body fat percentage is a more reliable indicator of health than either weight or body mass index (BMI). It also claims its machine learning system measures body fat more accurately than smart scales that use bioelectrical impedance to measure body fat. Halo users can adjust a slider in the app to see what their body looks like with more or less body fat.

Halo is available for anyone 13 years of age and up, but the body scan feature is restricted to people 18 or older. The body scan feature sounds like a privacy nightmare, but Amazon promises it’s being careful with user data. The company plans to post a document detailing every type of data it collects, where it’s stored and how to delete it.

Aside from the obvious privacy alarm bells, The Verge points out that, despite the educational and motivational goal of body scans, it could be dangerous for people with body dysmorphic disorder, anorexia or other self-image issues. When asked about those issues, Amazon told The Verge that Halo recommends doing scans once every two weeks. It also prevents the slider from showing dangerously low levels of body fat and includes information about how low body fat can increase risk for certain health problems.

Tone tracking and privacy

Amazon’s Halo band includes a built-in microphone, but it’s not for voice commands. In fact, Alexa isn’t on the device at all. Instead, the microphone listens to your voice throughout the day and generates a report about your emotional state. For users who don’t opt-in, the microphone does nothing.

The system works passively and intermittently listens to your voice. When it listens, it sends audio snippets to your phone where the Halo app analyzes them, looking at pitch, intensity, rhythm and tempo. It compares this against a baseline you create by reading sample text, categorizes ‘notable moments’ and organizes them for users to review. Amazon stressed that voice snippets never get uploaded to servers and are never heard by humans.

Amazon also notes that it modelled the feature on American English, so results may be less accurate for people with an accent.

It’s worth noting that both the tone tracking and body scan features are opt-in and, at least so far, Amazon has been transparent about where the data goes. Further, Amazon made it easy to turn off the features and delete the data. Some other key points about Halo include that the profile is distinct from your Amazon account. It will need individual activation with a second factor like a text message, which prevents others who share your Prime account from getting into it.

Amazon is also limiting how Halo shares data. You can’t integrate it without fitness apps like Apple Health at launch, but data can be shared with third-parties, including some partners like WW (formerly Weight Watchers).

Typical tracking with a twist

Finally, Halo handles the typical tracking people have come to expect from fitness trackers, but handled differently. For example, it tracks cardio fitness, but on a weekly basis instead of daily like most apps. It also counts steps, but users see an abstract fitness score instead of basic step counter.

Halo also has a heart monitor, but it only uses this to distinguish between intense, moderate and light activity. It combines that data to ensure wearers meet a weekly activity target. Instead of hourly stand or step prompts seen on Apple Watch or Fitbit devices, Halo measures how long users remain sedentary and deducts from the weekly activity score if people don’t do much for more than eight hours (excluding sleep). Halo doesn’t proactively alert users to heart conditions nor does it do fall detection.

All in all, Amazon’s Halo band seems like an interesting device. It offers less intrusive hardware than competitors, but also less features. Plus, some may consider the band’s most innovative features to be disturbing. The other thing to consider will be availability. MobileSyrup reached out to Amazon Canada for details about a Canadian release. At the time of writing, Halo wasn’t available on Amazon.ca.

Halo costs $99.99 USD (about $131.45 CAD) but has limited time early access pricing of $64.99 USD ($85.44 CAD). Plus, to get some of Halo’s best features, you’ll need a monthly subscription that costs about $5.25 CAD (it’s not included in Amazon Prime). Considering you can get similar features from competitors without the monthly fee, as well as a more feature-rich tracker, it’s hard to imagine Halo taking off.

Fitbit’s new Inspire 2 tracker, for example, costs $129.95 and includes 12 months free Fitbit Premium, a display and near feature parity with Halo, excluding Amazon’s body scan and tone tracking tech. To me, that seems like a much better purchase. Still, it’s possible Halo will find a niche crowd that appreciates what it does, and Amazon’s new features could push competitors to adopt similar ideas.

Source: Amazon, (2) Via: The Verge

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Microsoft’s Xbox Series X 1TB expandable storage priced at $219.99 – The Verge

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Microsoft’s first 1TB expandable storage drive for the Xbox Series X / S will be priced at $219.99. Best Buy has started taking preorders for the accessory, revealing a final price that had leaked recently. These expandable storage cards slot into the rear of both the Xbox Series X / S to match the internal SSD speed and provide 1TB of extra storage.

Microsoft’s expandable storage solution is proprietary, and only Seagate has been announced as a manufacturer so far. Microsoft tells me more suppliers and additional sizes will be available in the future, but the $219.99 price will still surprise many potential next-gen Xbox owners.

The Xbox Series X ships with 1TB of SSD storage, and the Xbox Series S just 512GB of storage. Microsoft’s pricing means the $299 Xbox Series S jumps to nearly $520 if you want to add the additional storage and bring it up to 1.5TB overall. That may make the larger Series X more appealing to those who need the storage, particularly as games will start to require it once they’re enhanced for the Xbox Series X / S. Games for the Xbox Series S can be 30 percent smaller than the Series X, which will certainly help with storage options.

An alternative to this expandable storage is simply using any USB drive to store games when you don’t need to play them. If they’re not enhanced for Xbox Series X / S then you’ll even be able to run them direct from USB storage, or you can simply copy them and use drives as cheaper cold storage.

It’s difficult to judge the price of these expandable storage cards, simply because there aren’t enough comparable PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSDs out there. Sony has chosen to allow players to slot their own drives into the PS5, but these drives will need to meet the speed requirements of the internal SSD. Those speed requirements mean that PS5 owners will need the very best PCIe 4.0 NVMe drives that are starting to make their way into PCs. Samsung announced its 980 Pro earlier this week, which looks like it might be an ideal candidate for the PS5 due to its fast read and write speeds. Samsung’s 1TB option for the 980 Pro is priced at $229.99, but Sony has not yet revealed which drives will be compatible with the PS5.

The benefits of Sony’s more open approach is that pricing on compatible PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSDs will inevitably drop over time due to competition and lower manufacturing costs. Assuming Sony certifies most high-end drives, there should be a lot of options. Microsoft will need more manufacturers producing its expandable Xbox Series X / S storage cards for competition to take place and prices to be lowered over time. It’s going to be a waiting game to see exactly how Sony and Microsoft handle expandable storage options in the coming months, but it’s clear from Microsoft’s pricing that it’s not going to be cheap for early adopters.

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Xbox Joins TikTok, And Their First Video Is A Good One – GameSpot

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Xbox has become the latest big brand to join the viral app TikTok. The Xbox TikTok account posted its first video today, and it’s a treat.

The video features a narrator talking to themself and wondering aloud what they should post as their first video on TikTok. As the narration unfolds, the video cuts to the camera roll that shows a number of silly Xbox memes making fun of the Series S and Series X console designs. It’s a very self-aware joke, and it works. You can check it out below.

In other news about the next-generation Xbox consoles, here at GameSpot we now have the Xbox Series X in our hands and we’ll bring you lots of reporting on the console soon.

We have preview coverage lined up such as impressions, technical breakdowns, and discussions of the overall gaming experience, but that’ll be coming in the near future.

For more on Microsoft’s next-gen consoles, be sure to read our comparison of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, and if you want to get a closer look at how the two systems stack against other console, check out our size comparison with the official Xbox Series mockups.

Microsoft also made a big splash this week by acquiring Bethesda and all the game studios under the prominent publisher. And if you’re still looking to get one yourself, consult our Xbox Series X pre-order guide for help. You can also catch up w

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Xbox Series X and S’s 1TB storage cards could cost as much as $260 – Video Games Chronicle

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The first retail listings for Xbox” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/platforms/xbox/”>Xbox Series X and S’s SSD storage expansions have priced a 1TB card at around $260 USD (£203), when converted from AUD.

The cards, which are manufactured by storage giant Seagate, have appeared for pre-order at multiple Australian retailers including EB Games, JB Hi-Fi and Mighty Ape, with prices ranging from $360 – $388 AUD.

The price points represent almost half the cost of an Xbox Series X in Australia ($750 AUD) and 70% the price of an Xbox Series X | S” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/platforms/xbox/scarlett/”>Xbox Series S ($500 AUD).

The expansion cards are yet to be priced by any US or European retailers, despite Xbox Series X and S pre-orders opening earlier this week.

However, the spread of retailers and similar pricing suggests that the prices listed in Australia could be indicative of where the cards will eventually land elsewhere. It should be noted that the AU prices include tax.

Australian pricing for Xbox accessories is usually closely in line with other territories, and the suggested $260 expansion card price is also not significantly different from the current cost of similar 1TB NVMe SSD drives for PC” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/platforms/pc/”>PC.

The Xbox Series X ($500 USD / £450) includes 1TB of internal storage, but the smaller Series S ($300 / £250) only ships with 512GB.

Xbox Series X includes 1TB of internal storage, while Series S has 512GB.

Xbox’s 1TB expansion cards slot into the back of the console and allow users to store next-gen games. Standard HDDs can be used for backwards compatible titles.

According to Xbox Game Studios (Microsoft)” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/companies/microsoft/”>Microsoft, game install sizes will be approximately 30% smaller on Xbox Series S than on Series X.

Xbox director of program management Jason Ronald told IGN that because of the smaller resolution texture packages required for games on Series S, which will run software natively at 1440p as opposed to at 4K on Series X, install sizes will be significantly reduced.

“With a performance target of 1440p at 60 fps, our expectation is that developers will not ship their highest level mipmaps to Xbox Series S, which will reduce the size of the games,” he said.

“Ultimately the controls in the developer’s hands. We’ve had this technology for a while that allows developers to intelligently choose which assets to install on which device they’re playing on. So the flexibility is in the developers’ hands to make sure the right assets are there.”

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