Comcast may debut a set-top box for internet-only customers in 2019

Comcast hasn’t been completely averse to cord cutters, but there are now hints that it might design hardware with those people in mind.

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Samsung will put notches on its future phones

Samsung has stood as the major holdout in a year when seemingly every other smartphone maker moved to releasing displays with a notch cutout. But at the company’s developer conference today, Samsung confirmed that it’s soon going to join in on the trend.

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China implements tech that can detect people by the way they walk

China implements tech that can detect people by the way they walk


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A chinese surveillance company, Watrix, has developed a new system for “gait recognition” that can identify people up to 165 feet away based on how they walk. This means that if a person is wearing a mask or is at an awkward angle, the software can use existing footage tol detect them. CEO of Watrix, Huang Yongzhen, told the Associated Press in an interview that the software can’t be fooled by limping or other out-of-the-ordinary stances because it analyzes a person’s entire body.

Watrix’s gait recognition technology is fed a video clip of the person walking, cuts a silhouette and creates a model of the way a person walks. While Watrix claims its technology has a 94 percent accuracy rate, analysis is not done live and in real-time. And it should be noted that these claims have not been independently verified and the effectiveness of this software is still largely unknown.

Police in Beijing and Shanghai have already started using gait recognition, and is part of a push to develop data-driven AI surveillance around the country. It’s especially scary for some groups within China, as security officials in the Muslim-majority western province, Xinjiang, have expressed interest in utilizing the software. This is on top of the already-established facial recognition technology that has been implemented in Xinjiang. People of this far-western region, known as Uighurs, have been detained, tortured and forced to do things against their beliefs in what China calls “vocational education and training.” China has rejected UN claims of mass internment — which it made public in August of this year — saying that the reports were politically motivated.

Gait recognition itself isn’t a new technology, as scientists in Japan, the UK and the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency have all been researching it. It just hadn’t been commercialized, well, until Watrix entered the space. Huang believes that this technology will actually help Chinese citizens, such as when an elderly person falls over. But the virtuousness of gait recognition will be put to the test as it continues to roll out across China.

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How Marijuana Harms a Developing Baby’s Brain

SAN DIEGO—Marijuana has been legalized in some capacity in 31 U.S. states, in large part due to a softening stance around the potential harms of the drug and recognition of its medical benefits. As a result, cannabis has become the most commonly used illicit drug during pregnancy.

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Netgear’s first WiFi 6 routers look like stealth fighters

Netgear’s first WiFi 6 routers look like stealth fighters


Netgear

Netgear is very clearly determined to maintain its reputation for outlandishly styled, high-performance WiFi routers. The company has unveiled its first routers using the WiFi 6 (aka 802.11ax) standard, and… well, just look at them. Both the Nighthawk AX8 and Nighthawk AX12 more closely resemble stealth fighters than networking equipment (to better position the antennas, Netgear said), and they appear to have the speed to match. Both can handle up to 6Gbps of wireless data traffic at any one time, tout “optimized” quad-core processors to juggle all that traffic and promise 25 percent higher data efficiency thanks to 1024 QAM. They’re ready for your eventual multi-gigabit cable or fiber connection, then, and could be helpful if you’re regularly transferring massive files between devices.

There’s more than just WiFi performance to brag about. Each has multiple gigabit Ethernet ports (five on the AX12, six on the AX8) and a 5Gbps Ethernet port for your internet link. You can also control your network through your voice using Alexa or Google Assistant, or plug in two USB 3.0 devices. The main difference boils down to the number of simultaneous data streams. The AX8 can handle eight at a time, while the AX12 unsurprisingly boosts that number to 12 for people with many active WiFi devices.

If they sound like they’ll be expensive… you’ve guessed correctly. The AX8 will cost $400 and, according to Amazon, should be released on December 21st. The AX12 doesn’t have pricing yet, but should arrive in the first quarter of 2019 and will be part of a beta “Wi-Fi as a Service” program that lets you pay for the device 90 days after you get it. Either way, this isn’t a trivial purchase. You’re buying it because you either have a serious need for bandwidth (say, multiple 4K streams) or insist on a router that will be virtually futureproof.

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Codebreaker Turing’s theory explains how shark scales are patterned

Codebreaker Turing’s theory explains how shark scales are patterned

A system proposed by world war two codebreaker Alan Turing more than 60 years ago can explain the patterning of tooth-like scales possessed by sharks, according to new research.

Scientists from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences found that Turing’s reaction-diffusion theory — widely accepted as the patterning method in mouse hair and chicken feathers — also applies to shark scales.

The findings can explain how the pattern of shark scales has evolved to reduce drag whilst swimming, thereby saving energy during movement. Scientists believe studying the patterning could help to design new shark-inspired materials to improve energy and transport efficiency.

Turing, forefather of the computer, came up with the reaction-diffusion system which was published in 1952, two years before his death. His equations describe how molecular signals can interact to form complex patterns.

In the paper, published today (7 November 2018) in the journal Science Advances, researchers compared the patterning of shark scales to that of chicken feathers.

They found that the same core genes underlying feather patterning also underlie the development of shark scales and suggest these genes may be involved in the patterning of other diverse vertebrate skin structures, such as spines and teeth.

Dr Gareth Fraser, formerly of the University of Sheffield and now at the University of Florida, said: “We started looking at chicks and how they develop their feathers. We found these very nice lines of gene expression that pattern where these spots appear that eventually grow into feathers. We thought maybe the shark does a similar thing, and we found two rows on the dorsal surface, which start the whole process.

“We teamed up with a mathematician to figure out what the pattern is and whether we can model it. We found that shark skin denticles are precisely patterned through a set of equations that Alan Turing — the mathematician, computer scientist and the code breaker — came up with.

“These equations describe how certain chemicals interact during animal development and we found that these equations explain the patterning of these units.”

Researchers also demonstrated how tweaking the inputs of Turing’s system can result in diverse scale patterns comparable to those seen in shark and ray species alive today.

They suggest that natural variations to Turing’s system may have enabled the evolution of different traits within these animals, including the provision of drag reduction and defensive armour.

Rory Cooper, PhD student at the University of Sheffield, said: “Sharks belong to an ancient vertebrate group, long separated from most other jawed vertebrates. Studying their development gives us an idea of what skin structures may have looked like early in vertebrate evolution.

“We wanted to learn about the developmental processes that control how these diverse structures are patterned, and therefore the processes which facilitate their various functions.”

Scientists used a combination of techniques including reaction-diffusion modelling to create a simulation based on Turing’s equations, to demonstrate that his system can explain shark scale patterning, when the parameters are tuned appropriately.

Mr Cooper added: “Scientists and engineers have been trying to create shark-skin inspired materials to reduce drag and increase efficiency during locomotion, of both people and vehicles, for many years.

“Our findings help us to understand how shark scales are patterned, which is essential for enabling their function in drag reduction.

Therefore, this research helps us to understand how these drag reductive properties first arose in sharks, and how they change between different species.”

Patterning is one important aspect that contributes to achieving drag reduction in certain shark species. Another is the shape of individual scales. Researchers now want to examine the developmental processes which underlie the variation of shape both within and between different shark species.

“Understanding how both these factors contribute towards drag reduction will hopefully lead towards the production of improved, widely applicable shark-inspired materials capable of reducing drag and saving energy,” added Mr Cooper.

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‘Destiny 2’ Is Still Expanding Forsaken’s Story Every Single Week Since Launch

I am currently struggling through Destiny 2’s Malfeasance quest, having finally gotten my first meatball kill, but in doing so I have missed out on what is a pretty remarkable development in the game.

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Comcast may debut a set-top box for internet-only customers in 2019

Comcast may debut a set-top box for internet-only customers in 2019


Jeff Fusco/Comcast via AP Images

Comcast hasn’t been completely averse to cord cutters, but there are now hints that it might design hardware with those people in mind. CNBC contacts say Comcast is planning a streaming set-top box for internet-only subscribers that would unify Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, YouTube and other services. It wouldn’t quite be a direct rival to devices like the Apple TV or Roku players, since you wouldn’t have an app ecosystem — Comcast wouldn’t want to risk you leaving for DirecTV Now or Sling TV, you see. It would come with a voice-controlled remote, however, and would double as a smart home hub.

The company hasn’t decided how much it would charge for the box, although it’s implied that you’d pay a monthly rate like you would for a modem or cable box. The sources said the hardware would be available sometime in 2019.

There’s a big gamble involved. When your TV, game console and other dedicated devices already have access to many of these services (including Comcast’s own), why would you pay for a Comcast device that does the same things but won’t let you install the apps you like? If this device does ship as planned, though, it would represent Comcast further acknowledging the changing nature of its business. It’s still bleeding conventional TV customers even as it adds broadband subscribers. This would give it a device to sell or rent to those internet-only viewers and soften the blow of people abandoning traditional TV service.

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Goffin’s cockatoos can create and manipulate novel tools: Cockatoos adjust length, but not width, when making their cardboard tools

Goffin’s cockatoos can create and manipulate novel tools: Cockatoos adjust length, but not width, when making their cardboard tools

Goffin’s cockatoos can tear cardboard into long strips as tools to reach food — but fail to adjust strip width to fit through narrow openings, according to a study published November 7, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by A.M.I. Auersperg from the Medical University of Vienna, Austria, and colleagues.

The Goffin’s cockatoo (Cacatua goffiniana) is a type of parrot. Captive Goffins are capable of inventing and manipulating tools, even though they aren’t known to use tools habitually. The authors of the present study investigated two questions: do Goffins adjust tool properties to save effort, and if so, how accurately can they adjust tool dimensions for the task? The authors supplied six adult cockatoos with large cardboard sheets to tear into strips as tools for the testing apparatus: a food platform with a food reward set at varying distances (4-16cm) behind a small opening which also varied in width (1-2cm).

They found that the Goffins were capable of adjusting the length of their cardboard strip tools to account for variations in food distance, making shorter tools when the reward was closer than when it was set farther away. In every case, if a first-attempt tool was too short, the second-attempt tool would be significantly longer. On average, all six birds made significantly longer tools than were required to reach the reward in all test conditions, with the birds tending to make increasingly long tools as the study progressed — perhaps as a risk-avoidance strategy.

However, only one bird was able to make a sufficiently-narrow tool to successfully reach the food reward when the opening was at its narrowest. The authors hypothesize that the shearing technique the birds use to tear the cardboard limits the narrowness of the resulting strips. The authors suggest that future studies provide less restrictive materials to assess whether Goffins are cognitively capable of adjusting tool width in this situation.

Alice Auersperg adds: “The way they inserted and discarded manufactured pieces of specific lengths differently depending on condition suggests that the cockatoos could indeed adjust their tool making behavior in the predicted direction but with some limits in accuracy. “

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Android apps will update while you’re using them

Android apps will update while you’re using them


Chris Velazco/Engadget

Getting locked out of an app while it updates is probably the very definition of a first world problem, but Google is addressing it anyway. The company is introducing a new API for Android that will allow users to continue using apps while an update downloads in the background — or boot them out of the app when it’s a critical update.

Google announced the In-app Updates API at its annual Android Dev Summit — alongside support for foldable displays — while celebrating 10 years of the OS. The API will give developers a couple options when it comes to updates. The first is a full-screen experience, which blocks use of the app until the update downloads and installs. That option is recommended to be used for important updates that need to be installed immediately — critical security patches, bug fixes and the like.

The other option is what Google is calling a flexible update. When enabled, users will be able to continue using an app while an update is downloaded. Developers will also be able to customize the update flow so it feels like it is part of the app.

For now, the new In-app Updates API will only be available to Android developers who are early access partners. Google hasn’t announced an official date that it will get wide release but said the API will be available to all developers soon.

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Husqvarna’s first electric motorcycle is the EE 5 mini dirt bike

Husqvarna’s first electric motorcycle is the EE 5 mini dirt bike


Husqvarna Motorcycles

Husqvarna may be a familiar name in the motorcycle world, but it hasn’t done much to embrace electric motorcycles. It will soon, though — it’s launching its first e-motorbike in the form of the EE 5. The machine is ultimately a classic mini dirt bike with knobbed tires, durable forks and an exposed motor. The difference, of course, is the choice of powerplant — it’s using a 5kW (6.7HP) electric motor paired with a 907Wh battery. Husqvarna pitchis it as an “easy-to-use” machine that lets newcomers try offroading “with confidence.”

The company hasn’t said much about the finer details, but noted that the EE5 supported would support quick charging and six different ride modes. You’ll have to wait a while to get one, that’s for sure — the EE 5 won’t reach dealerships until summer 2019. For many, the big unknown is when Husqvarna will offer electric motorcycles meant for the street.

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iHeartRadio now offers an on-demand family plan for $15 per month

iHeartRadio now offers an on-demand family plan for $15 per month


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Last year, iHeartRadio rolled out its on-demand streaming plan to everyone, and now it’s adding a family tier. With the All Access Family Plan, six family members can get their own on-demand profiles and have access to personalized playlists, unlimited skips on customized stations, live radio, podcasts, offline listening, custom playlists and, of course, on-demand listening.

The Family Plan costs $15 per month, which is in line with similar offerings from other streaming services. Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and Google Play Music all have family plans for up to six members at that same price. And while iHeartRadio might be playing a little catch-up here, the new tier is certainly a useful addition. You can find out more here.

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Ford is reportedly buying e-scooter startup Spin

Ford is reportedly buying e-scooter startup Spin


David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ford might not sit idly by while other transportation companies expand beyond cars. Axios sources say the Blue Oval has agreed to buy e-scooter service Spin for roughly $40 million. It’s not certain what Ford would do with the company or what would happen to its staff. We’ve asked Ford if it can comment on the report and will let you know if it has more to share.

If accurate, it would be consistent with Ford’s strategy. The company has spent years talking about moving beyond car ownership, and has even toyed with e-bikes of its own. This could be a logical extension that gives Ford a significant footing in car-free transportation, even if it’s locked out of San Francisco for now. It’s also a hedge against transportation rivals entering the space. In addition to GM’s e-bikes, it has to worry about Uber and Lyft offering their own two-wheeled travel options. If Ford sits by the wayside, it risks ceding ground if bike and scooter continues to grow.

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Samsung’s Galaxy Home smart speaker promises to play catch-up

Samsung’s Galaxy Home smart speaker promises to play catch-up

Samsung had a lot to say about its artificially intelligent voice assistant Bixby at the company’s annual developer conference — and that included an update on the odd-looking Galaxy Home smart speaker, which seeks to give Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant some new competition by bringing Bixby straight into your living room.

The problem? We still have no idea when the Galaxy Home will arrive, or what it will cost.

That’s a little surprising given that Samsung initially pitched the Galaxy Home as a late 2018 release. Now, with the holiday buying season already underway, it seems unlikely that we’ll see it this year at all. The Korean conglomerate need look no further than Apple in order to understand the potential pitfalls of such a delay — that company’s Siri-powered smart speaker, the Apple HomePod, saw its release pushed back from late 2017 to early 2018, and has since struggled to capture a significant share of the smart speaker market.

The Galaxy Home will face even harder headwinds when it arrives given that the category continues to mature at a rapid pace, but Samsung remains bullish on its odds of catching up, and touts Bixby’s smart speaker as “a gateway to your connected life.” For now, here’s everything we know about it thus far:

samsung-galaxy-home

CNET

It’ll “steer” sound towards you

The Galaxy Home features Harman speaker and subwoofer hardware on the inside, but it’s Samsung’s software that might really help set the thing apart from the competition. Namely, a feature called “sound steering” will aim to figure out where you are relative to the speaker whenever you ask it to play something. From there, Samsung will aim the audio at your exact position.

Samsung says that this makes for better clarity, and that it lets users hear audio the way it was intended to be heard — but how will that work if multiple people are listening?

It can make and receive phone calls*

*Provided you’re using a Samsung phone, of course. Samsung also says that you can ask the speaker to make your phone ring if you’ve misplaced it.

It’ll play nice with Spotify

Something else Samsung touted at its developer conference — a partnership with Spotify that seeks to deliver “the most fully-featured Spotify experience” from a smart speaker. We didn’t hear much about what, exactly, that means, but given Spotify’s popularity, that might wind up as one of the speaker’s stronger selling points if there ends up being anything to it.

It’s open to developers

New “Bixby Developer Studio” software will allow third-party developers outside of Samsung to craft new uses for Bixby, including ones that work on the Galaxy Home.

Samsung is also opening Bixby’s software for controlling media playback, so don’t be surprised if some of that ends up translating to coordination between the Galaxy Home and Samsung’s lineup of smart TVs, similar to the way you can use Amazon’s Echo devices to control Fire TV ($70 at Amazon) streamers.

It does look weird, yes

There’s been no shortage of cauldron jokes since Samsung first showed us what the Galaxy Home looks like — and yes, it is a little weird-looking with that trio of metal feet propping the device up.

I’m holding judgment until I get a chance to hear the thing, though — elevating the bottom of the device off of your countertop might actually help with the clarity of sound, since you’ve got more of an unobstructed speaker surface to work with. If that’s the case, audiophiles and casual listeners alike might be willing to forgive the Galaxy Home’s appearance (and for the record, I wouldn’t go as far as to say the thing is ugly… at least I think not? Again, I want to see it for myself before passing judgment.)

001-samsung-galaxy-home

Sarah Tew/CNET

So what will it cost?

That, along with “when will it get here,” are the big, current questions. Right now, we don’t know, and Samsung isn’t saying. Our pros on the CNET audio team suspect that it’ll retail for at least $200, but we’re still forced to speculate at this point.

At any rate, we’ll keep an ear out for updates and let you know as soon as we hear anything. And, of course, expect a full review as soon as we get our hands on one. Stay tuned.

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The teeth of Changchunsaurus: Rare insight into ornithopod dinosaur tooth evolution: Unexpected features in this dinosaur’s teeth appear to represent early adaptations for herbivory

The teeth of Changchunsaurus: Rare insight into ornithopod dinosaur tooth evolution: Unexpected features in this dinosaur’s teeth appear to represent early adaptations for herbivory

The teeth of Changchunsaurus parvus, a small herbivorous dinosaur from the Cretaceous of China, represent an important and poorly-known stage in the evolution of ornithopod dentition, according to a study released November 7, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Jun Chen of Jilin University in China and colleagues.

Ornithischian (“bird-hipped”) dinosaurs developed an incredible diversity of teeth, including the famously complex dental batteries of derived ornithopods, but little is known about how these intricate arrangements arose from the simple tooth arrangements of early dinosaurs. Changchunsaurus parvus belongs to an early branch at or near the origins of the ornithopods, and thus may provideinsight into the ancestral state of ornithopod tooth development. In this study, Chen and colleagues took thin sections from five jaw bones of Changchunsaurus to investigate tooth composition as well as how the teeth are maintained throughout the life of the animal using histological techniques.

Among the notable features of Changchunsaurus dentition is a unique method of tooth replacement that allowed it to recycle teeth without disrupting the continuous shearing surface formed by its tooth rows. The authors also found that the teeth feature wavy enamel, a tissue type formerly thought to have evolved only in more derived ornithopods. The authors suspect these features may have arisen early on as this group of dinosaurs became specialized for herbivory.

Features of the jaws and teeth are often used to assess dinosaur phylogeny. In addition to investigating the evolution of ornithopod dentition, this study also identifies new dental traits that might help sort out ornithischian relationships in future analyses. But the authors note that this is only the first in-depth study at a dinosaur near the base of the ornithopod family tree, and that more studies on more dinosaurs will be needed to fill in the full picture of this group’s evolution.

Professor Chen Jun summarizes: “These tissue-level details of the teeth of Changchunsaurus tell us that their teeth were well-adapted to their abrasive, plant-based diets. Most surprisingly, the wavy enamel described here, presumably to make it more resistant to wear, was previously thought to be exclusive to their giant descendants, the duckbilled dinosaurs.”

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