US government lays out strategy to speed up rural broadband deployment

US government lays out strategy to speed up rural broadband deployment


cienpies via Getty Images

The US government has unveiled a strategy called the American Broadband Initiative (ABI), which aims to speed up broadband deployment and bring faster, reliable internet access to tens of millions of Americans who don’t yet have it. More than federal 20 agencies are involved with the project, which follows President Donald Trump signing an order last month to promote rural broadband.

A White House report outlines a three-pronged plan of attack for the ABI:

  1. Streamline Federal permitting processes to make it easier for network builders and service providers to access Federal assets and rights-of-way, reducing the regulatory burden and expediting the deployment of broadband networks.
  2. Leverage Federal assets such as towers, buildings, and land to lower the cost of broadband buildouts and encourage private entities to expand telecommunications infrastructure, especially in rural America.
  3. Maximize the impact of Federal funding to better target areas of need, improve consistency, and provide incentives for State/local policies that efficiently and effectively leverage Federal dollars.

“[W]hile the government serves an important role, we strongly believe that nothing creates innovation more effectively than unleashing the free market economy from burdensome government regulations,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue wrote in the report’s opening letter to Trump. “Toward that end, the reforms outlined in this report are dedicated to removing regulatory barriers and expanding opportunities for successful private-sector capital investments.”

Several efforts that should move the needle towards the ABI’s goal are underway or about to start rolling out. In December, for instance, the Agriculture Department earmarked $600 million in loans and grants to improve infrastructure. On Wednesday, the Interior Department announced some measures “to increase broadband internet access on federally-managed lands.” This includes allowing telecoms to deploy wired and wireless broadband infrastructure on communication towers.

“Interior manages nearly one-fifth of the surface acreage in the United States, much of which encompasses rural areas, and therefore has an important role to play in permitting broadband infrastructure,” Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhard said. The department has released a Joint Overview-Established Locations map tool that pinpoints existing infrastructure on land managed by several agencies, along with relevant contact information.

Meanwhile, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will set up a hub for information on obtaining federal permits for broadband infrastructure. It will include details on General Services Administration-managed properties, land managed by the Forest Service and the aforementioned towers.

The ABI builds on previous efforts, including the Broadband Interagency Working Group, which was set up a little over two years ago, and the Federal Communication Commission’s Connect America Fund. Some telecoms have been reticent to build out infrastructure in rural parts of the country, and it’s not a certainty that the ABI will convince them to do so. However, streaming approval processes and more efficient federal programs could persuade them to step up their rural broadband efforts.

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NBC Sports and Rory McIlroy launch a streaming service for golf nuts

NBC Sports and Rory McIlroy launch a streaming service for golf nuts


ASSOCIATED PRESS

NBC Sports and four-time major champ Rory McIlroy have unveiled GolfPass, a streaming service for golfers. It will include 4,000 instruction videos, archived tournaments and even a free round of golf, all for $10 per month or $99 per year. The network related it to Amazon Prime, saying the aim is to encourage hobbyists to play more golf and give them additional viewing options. “It’s sort of like, for me, Golf Channel 2.0,” said McIlroy. “[It] was driven by my desire to enrich the golf experience for fans all around the world.”

NBC Sports calls it a “first-of-its-kind” direct to consumer initiative that has been in development for the last two years. Tiger Woods and Discovery recently unveiled another golf streaming service called GolfTV, but it’s not available in the US. GolfPass’ free round of golf per month seems like a pretty good deal, as the average price in the US is around $40. It’s also offering a $199 premium membership with waived booking fees and extra discounts.

McIlroy said he’ll provide instructional and autobiographical videos for GolfPass and will co-host a monthly podcast with Carson Daly. The service launches later today in the US, but will come to the UK at a later date.

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US will map and disrupt North Korean botnet

US will map and disrupt North Korean botnet


Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji

The US government plans to turn the tables on North Korea-linked hackers trying to compromise key infrastructure. The Justice Department has unveiled an initiative to map the Joanap botnet and “further disrupt” it by alerting victims. The FBI and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations are running servers imitating peers on the botnet, giving them a peek at both technical and “limited” identifying info for other infected PCs. From there, they can map the botnet and send notifications through internet providers and foreign governments — they’ll even send personal notifications to people who don’t have a router or firewall protecting their systems.

DOJ officials stress that they received approval for the campaign through both a court order and a search warrant.

Joanap and the worm that helps detect vulnerable systems, Brambul, have been around since 2009. However, it wasn’t until recently that American officials directly blamed the North Korean government for the attacks, which have targeted the aerospace industry, finance and critical infrastructure. As the DOJ explained, the botnet a threat to national security — there’s a strong incentive to take it down.

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Google cleans up Gmail app with an all-white redesign

Google cleans up Gmail app with an all-white redesign

Google first unveiled its Material Design language back in 2014 (now called Material Theme), and last year saw an update to those design rules that removed the bold colors in favor of an almost entirely white look. A number of Google’s most prominent apps and services have been redesigned over the last year, including Tasks, Photos, Calendar and Gmail — the latter only on the web, though. That changes today: a redesigned Gmail for mobile starts rolling out today and will be available to all Android and iOS users in the coming weeks.

Functionally, the new Gmail mobile app isn’t wildly different than what came before. There’s a button in the lower-right corner to compose a new email, just like before — it’s just white with a multi-colored “plus” sign, the same glyph that shows up in Gmail and Drive on the web. The iconic top red bar is now white, and the whole top area is a search bar; the old app required tapping a smaller target to get into search. Finally, there’s a shortcut right to the account switcher on the main page. Previously, switching accounts required opening the sidebar, but now that option is front and center.


Google

A few features that came to the web version of Gmail make their way to mobile today. Probably most recognizable is that attachment previews will show up below the messages, making it easier to both find messages with attachments and get a sense of the content. For those that prefer to see more messages, Google also has “comfortable” and “compact” density options that remove attachment previews and avatars, respectively. The large red phishing warnings that Gmail on the web shows also now show up in the app

Visually, it looks just like you’d expect if you’ve tried any of Google’s recent mobile apps — it’s basically all white, with the new Google font throughout. The change is somewhat ironic given that Google itself recently encouraged developers to use dark modes in their apps as a way to save battery life. As most redesigns are, we figure that plenty of people will complain a bit about this and then move on with their lives — while the all-white appearance might be a little off-putting at first, the more accessible search and account switcher are both handy additions. And if the rumors are true about Android Q having a system-wide dark mode, there might soon be an official way to tone this redesign down a bit.

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Olympus’s flagship mirrorless camera doubles down on speed

Olympus’s flagship mirrorless camera doubles down on speed

Olympus has unveiled the OM-D E-M1X, a pro-level mirrorless camera with very rapid shooting speeds and an all-new image stabilizer that will help both video shooters and photographers. Teased earlier this month, it’s essentially a larger version of OM-D E-M1 Mark II with some extra professional features, but not a lot of new technology (and a similarly awkward name). It packs the same 20.4-megapixel sensor and 18 fps shooting speeds (with AF and AE) as the OM-D E-M1 II, or an exceptional 60 fps with those settings locked.

Canon, Nikon and particularly Panasonic recently jumped onto the full-frame mirrorless train, but Olympus told Engadget it’s not interested. “That’s not the direction we want to go, that’s not our core competency,” said Olympus marketing director Nathan Lloyd. “Full frame doesn’t answer everything. High speed, autofocus and performance is better on Micro Four Thirds. We also have a compact and lightweight solution.”

Gallery: Olympus OM-D E-M1X mirrorless camera | 34 Photos

The OM-D EM-1X’s standout feature is a new 5-axis gyro sensor with the “world’s highest image stabilization,” offering up to 7.5 shutter speed steps of compensation. When married with a new electronic stabilization system, it also delivers much smoother video capture “without the need for stabilizing gear,” Olympus said.

In another clear nod to pros, the OM-D E-M1X is heavily weather-proofed, thanks to “in-house splashproof tests that are far more rigorous than IPX1 water ingress testing,” the company wrote. It’s dust-, splash- and freeze-proof down to 14 degrees F (-10 C) even with the remote cable, microphone and headphone jacks attached. Dust removal via the “super sonic wave filter” is 10 percent more effective than before.

The large size of the OM-D E-M1X might be a turnoff for some, but not pro shooters who will appreciate the extra gripping area. The camera is also nearly identical to use whether you’re holding it horizontally or vertically — yes, there are duplicates of the joystick and other controls to give you the same experience either way. On top of that, it can handle two batteries, allowing you to take 870 shots and shoot around 170 minutes of video, easily besting most mirrorless cameras.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X

As with the O-MD E-M1 Mark II, the new model has 121 cross autofocus points, though Olympus has added group and custom targets for more shooting versatility. Speeds — along with the 20.4-megapixel processor and dual TruePic VII processors — are the same as before. The M1X can shoot up to cinema 4K (4,096 x 2,160) at 30 fps (1080p at 120 fps), but Olympus has brought in a log shooting mode (OM-Log400) for improved dynamic range.

There’s no doubt that the OM-D EM-1 Mark III was well ahead of its time when it first arrived. The latest model has some nice upgrades, particularly the new image stabilizer, but it’s largely leaning on the same tech as its predecessor, which came out in 2016. It’s now competing in a tougher space that includes Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds rival GH5 and, particularly, Fujifilm’s new X-T3, which can also handle C4K video, but do so at 60 fps and with a larger sensor.

However, if you’re a Micro Four Thirds shooter that wants blazing speeds and a truly professional body, the OM-D EM-1X is one of the few cameras that measures up. It’s still faster than just about any model, period, and can now handle even the ugliest shooting conditions. It’ll start shipping in late February 2019 at a price of $3,000 for the body only.

In this article:

4K, Camera, cameras, gear, Mirrorless, Olympus, OM-DE-M1X

Steve should have known that civil engineering was not for him when he spent most of his time at university monkeying with his 8086 clone PC. Although he graduated, a lifelong obsession of wanting the Solitaire win animation to go faster had begun. Always seeking a gadget fix, he dabbles in photography, video, 3D animation and is a licensed private pilot. He followed l’amour de sa vie from Vancouver, BC, to France and now lives in Paris.

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GMC’s next Sierra HD pickup can see through trailers

GMC’s next Sierra HD pickup can see through trailers


GMC

GMC has unveiled its 2020 Sierra Heavy Duty pickup truck, which packs in 445 horsepower and a 10-speed transmission — along with plenty of tech, of course. It offers 15 camera views, including a transparent trailer view that lets you see what’s behind your trailer. The feature blends what a tailgate-mounted camera sees with the view from an accessory camera you can affix to the back of the trailer. You can also install and connect to a camera inside your trailer to make sure no loose items are causing chaos.

The truck includes a smart trailer system which allows you, with compatible trailers, to turn on the air conditioning and water heater, and keep an eye on generator fuel levels using a mobile app. You may also control the trailer through the infotainment system, which offers road incline grades and navigation information on a 15-inch monitor, and can also display details on your trailer’s tire pressure and temperature. Pricing and full specifications will be revealed later, though the truck should be available in late summer.

GMC 2020 Sierra Heavy Duty pickup truck

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Microsoft expands its programming language for visually impaired kids

Microsoft expands its programming language for visually impaired kids

Back in 2017, Microsoft unveiled Project Torino, a unique physical programming language that taught visually impaired kids the basics of coding. It was a huge step forward for accessibility, but it was also just an experimental program limited to the UK. Now, that project is becoming a bit more real: Microsoft announced today that it’s handing over the research and technology behind Torino, now called Code Jumper, to the American Printing House for the Blind, a non-profit dedicated to helping the visually impaired. They’ll do the heavy lifting of bringing Code Jumper to more territories — including the US, Canada, Australia and India — by the end of the year, with plans to deliver it across the world over the next five years.

Torino and Code Jumper give visually impaired students an experience similar to block coding, a drag and drop interface for introducing young children to coding. Instead of manipulating things on a screen, Microsoft’s physical language involves connecting large plastic pods together to create programs. Similar to the XBOX Adaptive Controller, Code Jumper is a way to bridge the technology gap for visually impaired and blind children.

Code Jumper

“It is very specifically about building up concepts that will enable them to become computer scientists, programmers, software engineers, computational thinkers,” said Cecily Morrison, one of the Microsoft Researchers behind Project Torino, when it launched in 2017. “It gives them that computational base to whatever direction they go, and a shared vocabulary about what computing is.”

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Deezer’s new app serves up 30,000 radio stations for free

Deezer’s new app serves up 30,000 radio stations for free


ASSOCIATED PRESS

Deezer has unveiled a new app that will give users access to 30,000 radio stations around the world. “Radio by Deezer,” out in beta and only available in the UK for now, offers up music, live sports, news and talk, including stations like BBC Radio, Classic FM and talkSport. All of that is served up without any ads, apart from those on the radio stations themselves.

Deezer is hoping you’ll use the radio app with its main streaming app. You can “like” any song that hear on the radio, and it’ll be added to your “favorite tracks” library within the app. The app will then transfer the liked songs to the “My Music” section of the Deezer streaming app.

Deezer is far from the first app to offer radio stations, as the now defunct Rdio, along with iHeartRadio, Pandora, Apple and others have done so before. However, Radio by Deezer seems to have one of the widest station selections, and it’s a smart idea to integrate it with its paid or ad-served streaming app. Radio by Deezer is subscription-free, but as mentioned, it’s only available in the UK on beta and only on Android for now.

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Mercedes’ connected A-Class sedan will start at $32,500

Mercedes’ connected A-Class sedan will start at $32,500


Chris Velazco/Engadget

Ever since Mercedes-Benz unveiled the first A-Class destined for the US, there’s been one question on would-be drivers’ lips: just how accessible is this tech-savvy Merc, really? Now you know. The brand has revealed that the ‘entry’ 2019 sedan will start at $32,500 for the base A220, while the AWD-equipped A220 4MATIC variant will begin at $34,500. That’s not as inexpensive as it could be (Canadians pay the equivalent of $27,000 for a hatchback), but it’s still relatively accessible for the first US-bound car to run Mercedes’ smarter MBUX platform.

The centerpiece feature is, as you might be aware, standard voice control. Say “hey Mercedes” and you can tweak the temperature or adjust the radio without taking your hands off the wheel. If you don’t care to talk to your car, MBUX still provides a highly digital interface between the 7-inch screen-based instruments and a similarly-sized touchscreen for the infotainment system. We found it surprisingly intuitive in our hands-on last summer, and its behavior evolves with your habits.

You’ll also get an unusually wide repertoire of safety features. The core A-Class touts assists for braking, crosswinds and hill starts, while you can spring for more luxurious technologies like distance keeping cruise control (aka Distronic) and steering assistance. Yes, t he price is likely to climb quickly if you tick all the option checkboxes, but this beats having to buy a costlier Mercedes just to relax when you’re behind the wheel.

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Michael Kors’ Sofie 2.0 smartwatch is about more than just fashion

Michael Kors’ Sofie 2.0 smartwatch is about more than just fashion


Michael Kors

When Fossil’s Michael Kors label unveiled the first Sofie smartwatch, it had eye-catching looks… and not much else. You can’t say the same for the just-unveiled Sofie 2.0, at least. Michael Kors has updated the wristwear with the same posh-looking exterior, but much more functionality under the hood. It now has heart rate monitoring, NFC payments, GPS tracking and the latest version of Wear OS. Much like a few other Fossil upgrades in recent months, the Sofie 2.0 is now far more functional.

The company hasn’t detailed pricing, but it does plan to deliver Sofie 2.0 in the summer in silver, gold, pink and pink/silver hybrid shades. You might want to think carefully about getting one, though. Michael Kors’ new wearable will ship with the old Snapdragon Wear 2100 inside rather than the 3100. You’ll miss out on the enhanced ambient mode and potential battery life gains of the newer technology. And while the activity additions will be useful, this probably isn’t a smartwatch you want to wear to the gym — not if you’re still expecting it to look good at a social function.

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Dell on the upgradable Alienware Area 51m laptop, OLED and what’s next

Dell on the upgradable Alienware Area 51m laptop, OLED and what’s next

It’s been a busy CES for Dell’s Alienware gaming brand. They unveiled the most customizable laptop we’ve ever seen — the Area 51m — as well as a slim new 17-inch notebook, both of which feature NVIDIA’s powerful mobile RTX graphics. And then there’s OLED, which is coming to Dell’s 15-inch XPS, m17 and G series machines, and it’s also the star component of the huge Alienware 55 Monitor. To break down all of the news, I chatted with Matt McGowan, director of Dell’s PC gaming division, on the Engadget stage at CES. The big takeaway? Dell is ready to make a big gaming splash this year.

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Lexar will sell the first ever 1TB SDXC card

Lexar will sell the first ever 1TB SDXC card


Lexar

Lexar has unveiled the first ever 1TB SDXC flash memory card for cameras that will actually go on sale to the public, the Professional 633x. It’s a UHS-I rather than a much faster UHS-II model, but runs at the top limit for a UHS-I card at 95 MB/s (class 10). That should be fast enough for most cameras to capture 4K video (class V30) and a long burst of RAW photos.

SanDisk was actually the first company to introduce a 1TB SDXC card way back at Photokina 2016. However, that card was never commercialized, paving the way for Lexar to be first to market. That’s not bad for a company that was discontinued by its parent company Micron, before being sold to Chinese firm Longsys, which revived the brand late last year.

The progress in flash memory storage has been pretty rapid. “Almost fifteen years ago, Lexar announced a 1GB SD card,” noted Lexar’s Joey Lopez. “Today, we are excited to announce 1TB of storage capacity in the same convenient form factor.” If we keep going at the same rate, we’ll have 1-petabyte cards by 2034.

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Dell’s XPS 13 is its first laptop with Dolby Vision

Dell’s XPS 13 is its first laptop with Dolby Vision

As it does nearly every CES, Dell has unveiled its latest, revamped XPS 13 laptops. Last year’s models were already solid, but there are a few welcome changes. The webcam has been redesigned and is now on the top again, so you’ll no longer look like Boris Karloff on Skype calls. Dell managed to shrink the bezels to 4mm and fit it into the size of an 11-inch laptop, despite the 13.3-inch display. And one of the screen options is a full HDR 4K Ultra HD version (3,840 x 2,160) that supports Dolby Vision — the first for a Dell laptop — which pumps out 400 nits of brightness.

Gallery: Dell XPS 13 (2019) | 8 Photos

Though it won’t be mistaken for a gaming PC, the XPS 13 has an 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8565U with UHD Graphics 620, so it should handle movies and light gaming pretty well. On top of the Dolby Vision option, a “CinemaStream” feature boosts the bandwidth of videos and music, while the Waves Maxx CinemaSound will kick out better audio. It weighs just 2.7 pounds (the same as last year’s model) and the 4K model can run for up to 12 hours on a charge, or 21 hours for the 1080p version.

Dell XPS 13 Dolby Vision

One other cute feature is the variable torque hinge that makes the laptop easy to open, but stiffens as you lift more to keep it stable. It also comes with up to 16GB of RAM, two PCIe m.4 SSDs and a pair of Thunderbolt ports. You can get it in a new “Frost” color, or silver and rose gold, starting today for $900. Some versions, however, won’t be available until near the end of January.

Along with the XPS 13, Dell unveiled an all-new G-series gaming lineup for both beginners and serious gamers. The 15- and 17-inch G7 models are both available with NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q GPUs and up to an 8th-gen Intel Core i9-8950HK 6-core processors, so they’ll easily power through any current game.

Gallery: Dell G7 15- and 17-inch gaming laptops | 36 Photos

You can get the 17-inch version with a Full HD 144 Hz, while the 15-inch version has an optional 4K (3,840 x 2,160) 60 Hz OLED touch display. Both models come with up to 32GB of RAM. While they’re not the lightest laptops out there at 5.77 and 7.2 pounds for the 15- and 17-inch models, respectively, they’re still decently portable. You can get them with two PCIe M.2 storage slots, and with up to 90 Wh batteries, they should run for quite awhile, too.

If you don’t need all that power and want to pay less, Dell is also offering the G5 15 and G5 15 SE (special edition in Alpine White). They include an 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8750 6-core CPU, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics and a Full HD 144 Hz screen. Other specs, including the RAM, battery and storage options are roughly the same as the G7 models.

The G7 15- and 17-inch models start at $1,099 and $1,380, respectively, but a model with an RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU and OLED screen will no doubt cost you way more. The G5 15 will start at $999, with an update price for the G5 15 SE version that Dell has yet to reveal. All models will arrive on January 19th.

Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 laptop

Finally, we need to mention the 14-inch Latitude 7400 2-in1. Dell said it’s the first laptop to come with Intel’s proximity sensor that can detect when you approach it. Together with the IR camera and windows Hello, you can instantly log in by just pulling up. For a 14-inch laptop, it’s pretty tiny, weighting just 3 pounds, thanks to the very tiny bezels and machined aluminum body. Dell designed it to be power-efficient too, claiming a full day (24 hours) of battery life under preliminary testing.

Other specs include a 1080p touch display, Intel 8th-gen quad-core chip, 16GB max of RAM, and up to 1TB of PCIe/NVMe storage. Dell calls the the 7400 2-in-1 its “flagship” Latitude, and you’ll pay accordingly: It’ll start at $1,599 when it arrives in March, 2019.

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Audio-Technica unveils its best noise-canceling headphones yet

Audio-Technica unveils its best noise-canceling headphones yet


Audio-Technica

Audio-Technica has unveiled a huge range of new products at this year’s CES, chief among them some new addition to its QuietPoint wireless noise-canceling headphones range. The line up features over-ear and in-ear models, and is, according to the company, its most effective yet in blocking out ambient noise.

Leading the charge are the ATH-ANC900BT over-ear headphones ($300/£235). These use Audio-Technica’s new digital hybrid noise cancelation technology, which involves multiple microphones and noise-isolation techniques that eliminate a wider range of sounds from a broader frequency range. They come with a touch and swipe control system, and a switchable quick hear-through feature, so you can choose total noise cancelation or opt to hear environmental sounds (for safer use if you’re using them outdoors) at the touch of a button. They are, of course, Bluetooth 5.0-compatible, and will last for up to 35 hours on a single charge.

Next up is the over-ear ATH-ANC500BT. The specs here aren’t quite as impressive — outside noises aren’t eliminated as completely, and battery life hovers around 20 hours — but at $100/£78 they represent pretty exceptional value. The model comes with advanced ANC circuitry to offset ambient sound, and all of its controls and mic are built directly into the earcup for easy use. Like its big brother, this model also folds flat, so it’s handy for traveling.

Finally, the ATH-ANC100BT ($100/£78) is a wireless, in-ear model. With 12mm drivers instead of the 40mm seen in the over-ear models, these headphones don’t pack as much of a punch but they’re still surprisingly powerful, and with 10 hours of continuous Bluetooth and noise-canceling use on a single charge, they’ll comfortably see you through a day’s work. They come with standard XS, S, M and L eartips, so you’ll be sure to get a good fit with them, too. All three models will be available in Spring this year.

Elsewhere at CES, Audio-Technica is showing off its recently-launched true wireless earbuds and ATH-M50xBT, plus a new range of premium audiophile headphones: the over-ear ATH-AP2000Ti, the new flagship in-ear ATH-CK2000Ti and the in-ear ATH-CM2000Ti. All are Hi-Res Audio compatible, and all use driver diaphragms with a DLC coating and a Permendur magnetic circuit, which essentially means they offer eye-wateringly clear sound and accuracy — which you’d hope for, given the premium ATH-AP2000Ti’s price tag of $1,250/£980.

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Razer integrates Alexa with its color-changing PC hardware

Razer integrates Alexa with its color-changing PC hardware


Razer

Razer is about to make it considerably easier to control your RGB-lit gaming rig. The company has unveiled plans to introduce Amazon Alexa control through its Synapse 3 software, letting you voice control devices that support its Chroma Connected Devices Program through Razer headsets and microphones. That includes legions of Razer’s own mice, keyboards and audio devices, but it also includes PC cases, cooling fans, motherboards and other peripherals. Want to turn your setup blood red for a round of Doom? You’d just have to ask Alexa to change your lighting profile.

It’s not limited to just lighting. You can ask it to change your mouse sensitivity, tweak your audio settings or launch games. Synapse 3 is more of a gateway for devices that otherwise wouldn’t have support for AI helpers.

Razer expects support to reach the US and Canada sometime in the second quarter of the year, with other countries receiving support before 2019 is over. While it’s not the most vital Alexa integration we’ve seen (even Kohler’s faucet is arguably more important), it’s certainly one of the more convenient — it turns elaborate software features into simple spoken commands.

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