In brief: Apple is said to have its eyes set on the skies with a new project to build satellite technology that could provide wireless connectivity with iPhones, as well as better maps and location tracking. The company has already put together a small team to direct the new effort, which appears to be high on the priority list.
When it’s not pouring $250 million into making better glass for iPhone, Apple is busy exploring more daring ideas in its labs. According to a report from Bloomberg, the company is reportedly working on satellite tech to beam down internet service to its mobile devices, possibly as a way to reduce its reliance on wireless carriers and improve mapping and geolocation.
To that end, Apple has been secretly building a dedicated team to work on the new project, which is said to be in the very early stages of planning. The staffing effort has already brought in a dozen aerospace, satellite, and antenna design engineers, and Apple CEO Tim Cook is said to have shown a keen interest in the new development, coinciding with a noticeable 14 percent increase in R&D spending this year.
Michael Trela and John Fenwick will lead the team, both former heads of Google’s satellite and spacecraft engineering operations, until 2017. Apple also added Matt Ettus, who directed a National Instruments-owned company that specializes in wireless networking hardware into the mix.
The project isn’t a sure deal at this point and could be scrapped at any time in the future. However, there are reasons to believe Apple isn’t entering a crowded satellite market to try and battle the leading contenders. SpaceX is close to rolling out its Starlink broadband satellites, and Amazon is also scrambling to get approvals for its Kuiper System alternative.
Both companies plan a staggered rollout for swarms of thousands of satellites in orbit, which has astronomers a bit concerned about the implications for space visibility. This means that Apple may as well chose to tap into these systems and develop just the missing links to make it work well with its mobile devices.
TechCrunch notes Apple’s idea has been done before by Lynk (formerly Ubiquitilink), who developed something it describes as “the first cell tower in space.” Specifically, it made components for a prototype satellite and assembled them on the International Space Station. The first successful test was performed by attaching it to the nose of the Cygnus resupply spacecraft earlier this year.
The technology is perfect. It has many limitations that will make it much more effective as a fallback solution or as a way to ensure coverage in areas not well-covered by ground cellular infrastructure. Think of it as more of a global roaming network that wireless carriers will tap into and offer it as an option in their mobile plans.
One such limitation is that geosynchronous satellites can’t be used. Low-orbit (under 310 miles) satellites are required, meaning there has to be thousands of them to have “no signal for 55 minutes, then signal for five.” Lower-frequency signals are used since they travel longer distances with lower distortion – but that also means lower bandwidth.
For example, Lynk was only able to demonstrate 2G communication, and the most that can be achieved on 4G right now is 180 kbps. In any case, NASA engineers were surprised to see it work at all, but this proves Apple’s dream to establish satellite connections on standard phones is indeed possible.
The space industry is currently valued at $350 billion. It is expected to grow to $1.1 trillion by 2040, mostly driven by companies like SpaceX, Amazon, and even Facebook, who wants to provide internet in rural areas using a swarm of low-orbit satellites that will operate as close as 100 miles off the ground.
Amazon Luna, new Echo speakers, Fire TV, a flying Ring drone-cam and more: Every new product announced this fall – CNET
Amazon surprised us at its Fall Devices and Services event with its new Amazon has been developing for years have become more relevant than ever., along with the expected updates to its line of Echo, Fire TV and Ring products. The event helps Amazon generate buzz as we roll into the holiday shopping season, and for the first time, . (The annual sale is usually held in July, but this year it is slated to start on Oct. 13.) That means putting Alexa everywhere — inside homes and out — and addressing concerns, which were a big storyline in 2019 for both Ring and Alexa. In a life-at-home existence, with millions of us hunkered down for the long haul, the connected house concepts that
The company’s Echo and Fire TV products will be its first to earn sustainability badges, and it’s working on reducing power consumption across devices with a new low-power mode and an energy dashboard integrated with Alexa. Amazon also pledged to build solar and wind farms to generate energy to match the consumption of all its devices.
The company launched a cloud-gaming service on top of Amazon Web Services that runs on PCs, Fire TVs and even iOS. There’s a Luna Plus game channel with a curated set of games, and Amazon is partnering with publisher Ubisoft for Day 1 availability of some of them.
It has a custom $50 controller that connects directly to the cloud rather than the local device.
Read more: Amazon gets into game streaming with Luna
This is the custom controller that connects directly to the cloud, which Amazon says reduces roundtrip latency by 17 milliseconds to 30 ms, compared to a controller connected via Bluetooth to a PC, Mac or Fire TV.
Amazon/Screenshot by CNET
Redesigned with a new spherical shape and able to adapt to the acoustics of the room, the fourth-gen Echo incorporates features formerly in the Echo Plus. It’s also a bridge to Amazon’s Sidewalk network and includes neural network technology to accelerate Alexa.
It gets the same redesign as the spherical Echo, but now sports a stylish fabric cover and a better speaker.
Also spherical, with some kid-friendly features, the Kids Edition includes voice profiles for the children and Sidekick, which lets Alexa read to them.
It now has Zigbee and Sidewalk hubs, and is quiet when it pivots in your direction. For privacy, there’s a built-in camera shutter, and all Echo devices will have a command to review privacy settings and “delete everything I’ve ever said.” It will also support Hulu, Netflix and Prime Video.
Read more: Amazon announces the Echo Show 10
The Pro 6 is basically the same as the Eero 6, but designed to handle higher bandwidth — up to gigabit, as opposed to 500Mbps — connections.
Ring Car products: $60-$200
Three new car-centric Ring products
Amazon/Screenshot by Juan Garzon/CNET
Ring’s $200 Ring Car Cam will help users document traffic stops, collisions and other road events.
Debuting with Tesla, the $200 Connect uses a vehicle’s built-in external cameras to capture video in the event that something happens to the car while driving or parked.
Lastly, Ring’s $60 Car Alarm plugs into your car’s onboard diagnostic port and uses sound and accelerometer sensors to monitor the vehicle for bumps, break-ins, tows or other events.
There are no product pages on Amazon yet but we’ll add them here when they arrive.
It’s similar to the all-new Fire TV Stick, but lacks the integrated TV controls on the remote.
Correction, Sep. 24: The Fire TV Stick’s maximum resolution is 1080p, not 4K as a previous version of this story said.
Always Home Cam: Amazon's robot drone flying inside our homes seems like a bad idea – ZDNet
I actually had to double-check my calendar to make sure today wasn’t April Fool’s. Because watching the intro video of an indoor surveillance drone operated by Amazon seemed like just the sort of geeky joke you’d expect on April 1.
But it isn’t April Fools, and besides, Google has always been the one with the twisted sense of humor. Amazon has always been the one with the twisted sense of world domination.
This was a serious press briefing. None of the Amazon execs presenting even went so far as to crack a pun. Other than Bezos’ maniacal laugh, you rarely ever see an Amazon exec even chuckle.
So the $249 autonomous Always Home Cam announcement wasn’t a joke. It’s an upcoming product expected in 2021. And, as much as it scares me and is likely to scare my wife (and it’s probably going to scare the dog), I think I have to have one.
So let’s take a moment to recap the absurdity of what we’re talking about.
Let’s welcome Skynet into our homes
We don’t have a lot of details, but the video below will give you a quick view of its basic capabilities.
This is similar in some ways to the highly autonomous Skydio, but designed for indoor flying. The device is roughly the size of a 9-inch square baking pan (but a little thinner, perhaps). It lives in its charging dock (which also blocks the camera’s view when docked). Once you launch the device from your Ring app (and, presumably, via Alexa), the little device goes airborne.
And it flies. Through your house.
Amazon says you can specify a flight path, map your house, locate points of interest, and generally instruct the eye of Skynet where to fly. Cyberdyne, uh, Amazon also says the device has built in obstacle avoidance.
Let’s think about that for a minute. Will the device be able to avoid hanging lamps or plants? What about objects high up on shelves? Will it be able to stand back when a sleep-addled adult gets up in the middle of the night to do middle of the night business? Why would it be out and about at that time anyway?
And what about the downdraft? How close can it fly to bookshelves and knickknacks without air-blasting them to the ground?
How much will it freak out your pets? My spouse? Your spouse? Just how creepy would it be for it to hover over the kids beds because you’re too lazy to get off the couch to see if they’re asleep?
Every rational fiber of my being tells me this is wrong on every level. But as you all know, I don’t have that many rational fibers left. I’m the guy with an Alexa in every room, now including the bathrooms.
What could you do with this thing?
If we weren’t living in a pandemic, I’d definitely use this to freak out my friends. Invite them over and then, suddenly, have a drone follow them. I know two or three buddies who that, alone, would push over the edge. But we can’t have friends over now, and besides, they read my column. So now they know and the surprise factor is gone. Bummer.
The Always Home Cam is primarily meant as a remote security cam. If you’re out and you get an alert from a Ring doorbell or other security device (I wonder if this will work with other trigger devices), you can virtually fly around your house and see what’s happening.
Back in the day, when I worked 12-16 hour days in an office, I would have loved to have this routinely check on my cat (I had a sweet longhair named Samantha back then). After about five or six hours at work, I always started to worry about whether she’d climbed up a drapery and gotten stuck there. This drone would have let me check.
I do see this as a laziness enabler. Let’s say you’re not sure if you locked the back door or turned off the stove. From the comfort of the couch, you could send the Always Home Cam (can we agree right now that this thing needs an anthropomorphized name?) to check for you.
I’m actually intrigued about using this to check on my 3D printers. I do have cams on many of the printers, but it would be great to be able to send it to each and see whether or not there are problems or jams.
Of course, I usually operate the printers behind closed doors to reduce the sound, so either I’d have to leave the doors open or teach Flying Alexa how to open the door.
I’d love to be able to use this as cam for filming YouTube videos, especially if it can run a specific path and station keep. It’s not clear how much flight time a battery charge holds, but if it’s anything like the drones I fly now, we’re looking at about 10-20 minutes, which would be enough to film any one process for a video.
My guess is that the capabilities (and especially the extended use options) will be very limited on launch. But as we’ve seen with Alexa, it’s quite likely that new features will be added over time.
David’s final thoughts
I don’t know. The more I think about this, the more I want one…bad. But the more I think about it, the more I think it has to be a bad idea. The potential hacking threat is disturbing. The idea that someone could decide to launch a drone inside my house and watch me remotely is unsettling.
Personally, I’m not too concerned because my home life is already almost fully documented online, the aspects of my life you don’t see are boring, and no one wants to watch a middle-aged man walk around the house.
But the implications of abuse by law enforcement and possible stalkers is troubling. If someone has one of these Always Home Cams, can a court order compel Amazon to allow law enforcement to conduct an airborne search of a suspect’s home? Can a hacker or a stalker gain access to the video feed (remember, all it takes is a user name, password, and possibly an authentication code) and watch a victim from the comfort of his or her evil lair?
Amazon does say the device emits an obvious and clearly identifiable sound while flying, so you can hear the machine coming. But what about those who are hard of hearing?
On the other hand, the possibilities for elder care are interesting. If an aging or infirm parent doesn’t answer a call, it might be possible to launch a drone to make sure the elder hasn’t fallen on the floor away from any way to call for help. On the other hand, how much would something like this freak out an elder, especially one that might be cognitively impaired?
Again, I have to say “I don’t know.” If this thing works, it’ll be a game changer and we’ll have to do a lot of thinking about implications and appropriate use.
One thing’s for sure. Amazon doesn’t just want to hear you at home. It wants to be a full-fledged housemate. Whether that’s good or bad, only time will tell.
What about you? Is this something you desperately want or something you’re desperate to avoid? Let us know in the comments below.
You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.
Xbox explains why Series X and S storage expansion cards cost $220/£220 – Video Games Chronicle
Xbox Game Studios (Microsoft)” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/companies/microsoft/”>Microsoft has detailed the custom storage options that will be available to Xbox Series X | S” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/platforms/xbox/scarlett/”>Xbox Series X and S owners when the next-gen consoles launch this November.
Xbox” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/platforms/xbox/”>Xbox Series X comes with 1TB of internal storage, while Series S has 512GB. 1TB storage expansion cards, which are manufactured by Seagate, will cost $220/€270/£220.
In a blog post, Xbox director of program management Jason Ronald said players will be able to unplug their existing external USB 3.1 HDD or SSD from their Xbox One” href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/platforms/xbox/xb1/”>Xbox One and connect it to Xbox Series X/S and play of all of their current-gen games.
Players will also be able to use USB 3.1 storage to house next-gen games for transfer and play on Series X/S.
But existing USB 3.1 storage options can’t be used to play games optimised for Xbox Series X/S and won’t replicate the speed and performance of the next-gen internal SSD. These features will require a Seagate expansion card.
“You can play directly from the Storage Expansion Card and you will have the exact same experience and performance as if the game was running from the internal SSD,” Ronald said.
“Not only does this apply to games optimized for Xbox Series X|S, but also your favorite backwards compatible Xbox One, Xbox 360″ href=”https://www.videogameschronicle.com/platforms/xbox/x360/”>Xbox 360 and original Xbox games. When backwards compatible games are played directly from either the internal SSD or the Storage Expansion Card you will see significant improvements in load times due to the next generation performance of Xbox Series X|S.”
Ronald was also asked to explain why 1TB storage expansion cards cost $220.
“The Xbox Velocity Architecture is a key innovation of our next generation consoles, delivering unprecedented speed and performance enabling transformative gaming experiences never before possible on console,” he responded. “This level of consistent, sustained performance requires advanced components which comes at a higher cost than traditional hard drives or SSDs often found in PCs.
“By partnering with an industry leader in Seagate, we worked together to deliver an expandable storage solution which delivers identical performance at the lowest cost possible and available this holiday.”
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