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How Tesla, Google and Others Are Making Robots More Like Us

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It wasn’t that long ago that putting a robot in your home meant plugging in a Roomba and letting it roam around your floors like a little dust-busting sentry.

But now, thanks to lightning-fast developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning, robots are becoming smarter and far more human. And if the futurists of the world have their way, your next robot helper could be a humanoid that wanders your home on two legs.

In 2022, we saw huge leaps forward in the world of robotics. At Tesla’s 2022 AI Day, the company revealed the first two working prototypes of its so-called Tesla Bot: a walking humanoid called Optimus, built with off-the-shelf parts, and a second, more-advanced version of Optimus that the company wants to put into production.

Optimus is built around Tesla’s self-driving AI, but instead of being designed to navigate roads and understand traffic lights, the AI has been altered to negotiate the rest of the world and detect everyday objects and humans. Speaking at AI Day, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the robot was designed to be the kind of in-home helper you might one day buy as a gift for your parents.

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“Optimus is designed to be an extremely capable robot made in very high volume — probably, ultimately, millions of units,” Musk said. “And it’s expected to cost much less than a car.”

It isn’t just Tesla putting its AI into a physical form. Google is also reshaping the world of robotics by giving its advanced machine learning brain a robot body. In 2022, Google put its AI technology, called Palm Say-Can, into robots built by Everyday Robots (a company formed out of Google’s X initiative). Instead of being programmed with commands like, “If this, then that,” the robot brain uses machine learning to understand vague instructions like, “I’m hungry,” and then it works out the steps to solve the problem.

Google and Tesla might not be the companies that come to mind when you think of helper robots. But these tech giants are the face of a new frontier in robot design: ultra-intelligent droids designed to seamlessly navigate our world and interact with the humans in it.

In this week’s episode of What the Future, we take a close look at the way robotics is shifting, and the companies that are trying to push robots further into our lives, blurring the lines between human and machine. From Optimus to “self-healing” slime robots, and all the weird and wonderful robots in between, check out the video above to see the robots to watch in the year ahead.

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New HomePod Reviews Offer Hands-On Look at Sound Quality, Siri, and More – MacRumors

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Apple’s second-generation HomePod will start arriving to customers and launch in stores this Friday. Ahead of time, the first reviews of the smart speaker have been shared by select media publications and YouTube channels.


Priced at $299, the new HomePod features a virtually identical design as the full-size HomePod that Apple discontinued in March 2021, but with two fewer tweeters and microphones. The Siri-powered speaker is also equipped with a four-inch high-excursion woofer, an S7 chip for computational audio, and a U1 chip for handing off music from an iPhone. The speaker supports Matter for smart home accessories and Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos.

A new sensor in the HomePod can measure temperature and humidity in indoor environments, and this feature was also enabled on the existing HomePod mini with a recent software update. Sound Recognition will also be coming to the new HomePod with a software update this spring, allowing the speaker to listen for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and send a notification to the user’s iPhone if a sound is identified.

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The new HomePod can be pre-ordered on Apple’s online store, with white and midnight color options available. In-store availability and deliveries to customers will begin Friday, February 3 in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK, and 11 other countries and regions.

Written Reviews

The Verge‘s Chris Welch said sound quality is very similar to the original HomePod:

After several days of listening to the new HomePod (both solo and in a stereo pair), I still think its sound signature remains true to the original HomePod. If you were a fan of that speaker, you’ll be satisfied with the second-gen version. Sure, you can hear subtle differences in how music is rendered when comparing both generations side by side with the same track. The newer HomePod might bring out a guitar solo with slightly more emphasis than the original. But the central traits are the same.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Nicole Nguyen also said the new HomePod sounds the same as the original:

The updated HomePod looks a lot like its discontinued predecessor—and sounds similar, too. I tested the new HomePod, as a single unit and grouped as a stereo pair, in a room that’s roughly 370 square feet. For most tracks, keeping the volume at 30% was enough to fill the space.

If you look at spec sheets comparing the old and new HomePods, you might scratch your head. The new one has a fast processor but fewer built-in microphones and speakers, and supports an older Wi-Fi standard. But in person, the new HomePod sounds and performs the same as the original.

Pocket-lint‘s Britta O’Boyle was impressed with the new HomePod’s sound quality too:

In terms of hardware, there are five tweeters, a “high-excursion woofer” capable of moving an impressive 20mm, and a four-microphone array. It’s a slightly different setup to the original HomePod – that had seven tweeters for starters – but the performance is equally excellent. Make no mistake, the HomePod (2nd generation) sounds fantastic.

In the midrange, you get vocals that are detailed, crisp and crystal clear, while at the lower end, the HomePod packs in plenty of bass. It’s lovely and deep for its size, while still offering expression and punch. It’s not as bassy as the Sonos Five – which is a bigger and more expensive speaker – and HomePod is arguably a little more muddled in the mid-range when playing tracks like Skrillex’s Rumble compared to the Five, but it is still very impressive overall – and that is a pretty tricky track to keep up with anyway. You can reduce the bass in the Home app, though we didn’t find this necessary.

Engadget‘s Billy Steele said that while Siri had several shortcomings when the original HomePod was released in 2018, the voice assistant has improved over the years. He also said the new HomePod’s two fewer microphones compared to the original did not impact Siri’s ability to detect his voice — even in a noisy room:

When we reviewed the original HomePod in 2018, one of our biggest gripes was with Siri’s limited abilities. Sure the speaker sounded good, but the lack of polish with the voice assistant made it seem like a work in progress. Apple has done a lot to improve Siri over the last five years, so a lot of those issues with the original have been fixed.

First, the HomePod, like Siri on your iPhone, is capable of recognizing multiple users. Personal Requests can allow it to peek at your Calendar, Notes, Reminders, Messages, Find My and more when you ask. Plus, HomePod can give each member of your family (up to six people) their unique responses from certain iPhone apps. What’s more, Siri can create recurring home automations without you having to pick up your phone and swipe over to the appropriate app.

Even with fewer microphones to pick up your voice, the new HomePod doesn’t suffer any performance setbacks. It’s just as capable as ever at picking out your voice even in a noisy room.

MobileSyrup‘s Dean Daley was impressed with Spatial Audio on the new HomePod:

A fantastic song to test out spatial audio is also one of my favourite tracks for karaoke, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. It sounds decent at first, but after the “I see a little silhouette of a man” section of the song, the 2nd-Gen HomePod takes it to a whole other level, perfectly utilizing Dolby Atmos’ surround sound and spatial audio with harmonies and melodies to create an epic concert in the entertainment space. This was definitely my favourite song I tested out, and one I showed to several friends.

TheStreet‘s Jacob Krol touched on the new HomePod’s larger backlit touch surface:

The most significant design change lives up top and involves the screen. While there isn’t really new information being shown and the dream of a HomePod with a true display contains to be just that a dream, the top surface is larger. It gives one more control with tapping to play or pause among other controls and it can glow brighter, and larger in different colors.

Rather than having the volume controls appear after a touch like on the original HomePod, the “+” and “-” are now etched into this backlit touch surface which makes it easier to adjust the volume at a moment’s notice. When playing back music, the HomePod’s top will glow in colors that resemble the album artwork of what you’re listening to and when communicating with Siri it will glow with all of the colors you’d expect.

TechCrunch‘s Brian Heater tested audio handoff on the new HomePod:

Start a song with Apple Music on your iPhone, hold it near the HomePod and it will start playing there, accompanied by a satisfying haptic fist bump. Move the phone near the speaker again and you can transfer it back. I really like this feature. It’s a good example of how nicely hardware can play together if you make your own devices, software and chips. It’s also surprisingly receptive. In fact, I found myself having to disable it while the HomePods are on my desk, otherwise it will accidentally trigger when I’m using the iPhone two feet from the speakers.

Video Reviews and Unboxings

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Carbon Hunters Episode 4: How GHGSat tracks methane from space – Corporate Knights Magazine

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Early last year, a microwave-oven-sized satellite hurtling along at more than seven kilometres per second detected a massive methane leak from a coal mine in southwest Siberia. The owner of that satellite was GHGSat, a Montreal-based company that works at the intersection of space and climate change. While carbon dioxide gets most of the attention when it comes to greenhouse gases, GHGSat focuses on methane – an extremely potent gas that has been responsible for an estimated 30% of the world’s warming to date. 

This week, Diana Fox Carney speaks to Stephane Germain, the CEO of GHGSat, about his childhood dreams of space and the challenges of scaling up as a Canadian cleantech company. “It was a wonderful place to start our business. Where it becomes a challenge is for growth capital [and] for really scaling to a global basis, Canada frankly is a bit of a backwater,” he says. Fox Carney also talked with Clea Kolster, the head of science and a partner at Lowercarbon Capital, about how GHGSat fits into the larger cleantech picture 

Listen and subscribe at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. Find earlier episodes here, here and here

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New Bold Unplugged features repositioned internal shock and remotely adjustable spring curve – BikeRadar

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Unplugged enduro bikes see changes to internal shock and new Syncros components

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The new Bold Cycles Unplugged features 160mm of rear travel controlled by a redesign of the Swiss brand’s signature internal suspension technology, moving the shock to a horizontal position.

The new enduro bike will be available in two build options featuring a 170mm front fork, with the frameset available separately.

The Unplugged Ultimate sits at the top of the tree and is priced at €10,999, with the Unplugged Pro positioned below it at €8,999, while the frameset will cost €5,999.

Both bikes feature an array of Syncros components, including the one-piece Hixon iC carbon handlebars, adding to the bike’s integrated styling.

The Hixon iC features an integrated stem and internal cable routing.
Bold Cycles

Bold says now the internal rear shock sits horizontally in the front triangle as opposed to vertically, it makes the centre of gravity even lower than the previous model.

The bike is compatible with both mullet and 29er configurations.

Hidden shocks

The internal shock now lies horizontally, whereas it had previously sat upright near the seat tube.
Bold Cycles

In keeping with Bold’s existing bikes, the new Unplugged frame features an internally mounted shock.

The brand says this stiffens the frame and lowers the centre of gravity, all while protecting the shock from the elements.

The lower centre of gravity gives the bike superior handling, according to Bold.

Bold says protecting the shock, which is a Fox Float X Nude, from water and dirt keeps its seals safe, improving performance while also extending its service intervals.

Positioning the shock so low is said to make the Unplugged compatible with dropper posts with up to 200mm of drop in sizes M to XL.

The down tube protector removes easily to access the shock and the storage compartment.
Bold Cycles

The shock is accessed through the removable down tube protector, which also houses a multi-tool. It also accommodates what Bold calls a ‘Save The Day Kit’, which features a mini pump, tyre levers and a spare tube.

Bold also includes its TracLoc technology. This enables you to change the compression damping and the spring curve from a remote switch on the handlebar.

The TracLoc system is operated by three levers on the handlebar, enabling you to alter the damping and spring curve.
Bold Cycles

A Traction mode reduces the suspension travel and stiffens the shock, and a full lockout should mean the Unplugged is efficient on the way back up the hill.

The technology is similar to that on Scott’s Genius trail bikes, also featuring an external indicator for setting sag levels and for seeing how much travel is being used.

The shock attaches directly to the linkage, making it compact. Bold says using a virtual pivot linkage improves the suspension feel and braking response.

Like many other enduro bikes on the market, the new Unplugged features a flip chip. This enables you to change the bottom bracket height by +/-5mm.

Rotating the headset cups gives you 1 degree of variability to the head tube angle.
Bold Cycles

Bold says in the bike’s slackest setting, the head angle is 64.5 degrees, although this can be made 1 degree steeper by rotating the headset cups 180 degrees.

Bold Unplugged spec and price

Bold Unplugged Ultimate

The Bold Unplugged can run as either a 29er or a Mullet.
  • Fork: Ohlins M.2 Air 170mm
  • Shock: Fox Float X Nude
  • Drivetrain: SRAM X01 Eagle AXS
  • Brakes: ​​Shimano XTR M9120
  • Wheels: Syncros Revelstoke 1.5
  • Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF EXO (f), Maxxis Minion DHF (r)
  • Price: €10,999

Bold Unplugged Pro

Lower bottle mounts aid in getting the centre of gravity as low as possible.
Bold Cycles
  • Fork: Fox 38 Float Performance 170mm
  • Shock: Fox Float X Nude
  • Drivetrain: SRAM GX Eagle AXS
  • Brakes: ​​Shimano SLX M7120
  • Wheels: Syncros Revelstoke 2
  • Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF EXO (f), Maxxis Minion DHF (r)
  • Price: €8,999

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