Posts with «author_name|billy steele» label

Recommended Reading: Restaurants vs. food delivery apps

The fight to rein in delivery apps

Helen Rosner, The New Yorker

The pandemic has intensified the fight between food delivery apps and restaurants. High commissions and courier compensation are key issues, but now that these services have become an essential part of most restaurants' business these days, regulation or a massive update to the delivery app model is well overdue.

Facebook banned me for life because I help people use it less

Louis Barclay, Slate

A developer built a browser extension called "Unfollow Everything" that allowed Facebook users to essentially disable the News Feed by unfollowing friends, groups and pages while retaining other "positive features." The company threatened legal action and demanded Barclay never create tools that interact with its services again.

The Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, says she wants to fix the company, not harm it

Jeff Horwitz, The Wall Street Journal

Ahead of her congressional testimony this week, Frances Haugen explained to WSJ why she came forward and why, despite the appearances, she's actually trying to help the company reform itself. 

Anker's Liberty 3 Pro earbuds offer customized ANC for $170

Anker's Soundcore line is a great place to look if you're hoping to save some money on your next pair of earbuds. The company offers a range of designs at affordable prices that undercut much of the competition. What's more, Anker doesn't make many sacrifices when it comes to sound, performance and features to keep those prices low. Today, the company debuts the Liberty 3 Pro: a $170 follow-up to 2019's Liberty 2 Pro that adds active noise cancellation (ANC), improved audio and a refined design. 

The Liberty 3 Pro has a similar look to the Liberty 2 Pro with silicone fit wings and a shape that's built to relieve pressure and discomfort. Anker says the new earbuds are 30 percent smaller than the previous model and they're IPX4 rated for moisture protection. On-board controls return to give you easy access to music and calls. Inside, the company explains that "an upgraded dual driver configuration" developed alongside nearly two dozen Grammy winning producers powers its "best sounding model to date." Anker's Astria Coaxial Acoustic Architecture (ACAA) has been updated to version 2.0, enabling more detail without distortion. The Liberty 3 Pro also supports Sony's LDAC codec for wireless audio, a standard that transmits more data over Bluetooth for high-res listening. 

Anker/Soundcore

The biggest addition here is ANC. The noise-cancelling setup employs Anker's HearID tech that can tailor the sound profile of the earbuds to your hearing. After a quick hearing test, HearID can increase certain frequencies that may be more difficult for you to hear in each ear. HearID also powers the active noise cancelling tech here, automatically customizing the level of noise reduction based on the clamor around you. Anker says the system creates an individual sound profile that accounts for in-ear pressure as well. The Liberty 3 Pro is also outfitted with AI-powered background noise reduction for calls and three ambient sound modes for a variety of scenarios.

Anker says the Liberty 3 Pro will last up to six hours on a charge with ANC on or up to eight hours with noise cancellation disabled. The included case supports wireless charging and holds up to three additional charges. A quick-charge feature will give you three hours of use in just 15 minutes. 

The Liberty 3 Pro is available today for $169.99 (£139.99/€159.99/$199.99 CAD) in black, white, gray and purple color options. 

Spotify brings polls and Q&A to all Anchor-hosted podcasts

Spotify's quest to make podcasts more interactive is expanding. Today, the streaming service announced the polls and Q&A features that it has been testing will be available to all creators through Anchor, the podcast production service it also owns. Though the tools are open to everyone, Spotify explains podcast producers and listeners will see them in 160 countries. 

On the listener side, questions will appear at the bottom of episode pages in the Spotify app on both Android and iOS. From there, you'll be able to respond directly in the app to any prompts related to the show. As you might expect, you'll see on-going results of polls, but Q&A responses will only be seen by the show's creator. Producers and hosts will have the option of pinning certain responses below the question alongside the corresponding username in a stories-like format. 

Spotify has been testing polls for a year and it added a Q&A option to the trial in January. At the time, the company said 90 percent of users would see polls even though the number of shows on which they appeared was very limited. 

Sony's latest true wireless earbuds are only $100

Sony's flagship noise-cancelling headphones and tech-filled true wireless earbuds were refreshed with new 1000XM4 models in recent months. However, the company's more affordable options are still due for a refresh, and Sony begins that process today. With the WF-C500, the company offers a solid set of true wireless earbuds capable of handling immersive 360 Reality Audio for $100. And if over-ear noise-cancelling headphones are more your vibe, the WF-XB910N pairs ANC (active noise cancellation) with 30-hour battery life for $250. 

The true wireless WF-C500 replaces the WF-XB700 at the bottom of Sony's price range. What's more, they're $30 cheaper than the XB700 was initially at $99.99. This substitution is a good thing because despite handling the basics well, the tiered design wasn't as ergonomic or comfy as the company suggested. With the WF-C500, Sony takes design cues from its high-end WF-1000XM4 earbuds. The result is smaller size and a more secure fit that should be more comfortable during hours of continuous use. And an IPX4 rating means you can use these during workouts without worrying about moisture damage. 

Inside, the C500 is equipped with Sony's DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) that restores some of the detail lost when music is compressed for streaming over Bluetooth. The company also allows you employ sound presets and adjust the EQ with its Headphones app. Plus, you have the option of listening in Sony's 360 Reality Audio if you're willing to splurge for the priciest streaming plan on select services (Amazon Music HD, Tidal HiFi, etc.). On-board controls give you the ability to manage music, adjust volume, take calls and activate a voice assistant without reaching for your phone. Lastly, the C500 will give you up to 10 hours of listening time with one additional charge in the included case. A quick-charge feature offers an hour of tunes in 10 minutes. 

The WF-C500 is available for pre-order today, but colors vary by retailer. Sony will offer them in black, as will Amazon, Best Buy and Target. Exclusive colors include white (Amazon), green (Best Buy) and orange (Target). The earbuds are set to ship in October. 

Sony XB-910N
Sony

For the over-ear noise-cancelling crowd, the WH-XB910N replaces the WH-XB900N in the middle of Sony's headphone lineup. The price stays the same at $249.99, but the company offers a new design and improved ANC thanks to a Dual Noise Sensor. As the "XB" signifies, this model is equipped with the company's Extra Bass feature that amps up the low-end tone when activated. DSEE tech makes streaming over Bluetooth a bit more enjoyable by restoring detail lost to compression. The XB910N can also manage Sony's 360 Reality Audio content and employs Adaptive Sound Control, a staple of the company's pricier headphones, that can automatically adjust settings based on activity or location. 

Sony is also angling at the remote working crowd here. The company explains that Precise Voice Pickup tech uses a combination of microphones and signal processing to amplify your voice on calls. There's also "a more natural listening experience" in ambient sound mode as Sony says the XB910N can pick up more of what's going on around you. That's handy whether you need to stay tuned in to what's going on either at home or in the office. On-board controls include Sony's quick attention feature which lets outside noise in when you place your hand over an earcup and there's a dedicated button to quickly change from ANC to ambient sound. 

Sony says the XB910N will last up to 30 hours with the option of 4.5 hours of listening time after a 10-minute quick charge. To further cater to travelers, the company opted for soft, oval-shaped earpads for extra cushion and a design that folds flat for easy storage. If you prefer to save even more on your noise-cancelling headphones, the excellent WH-CH710N will stick around and are currently $98. Although they lack a lot of the handy features from Sony's other models, the noise-cancelling CH710N are light and comfy, handling the basics very well for that price.

The WF-C500 is available for pre-order today, and once again, the colors vary by retailer. Sony will offer them in black, as will Amazon and Best Buy. Exclusive colors include blue (Amazon) and gray (Best Buy). The headphones are scheduled to ship in October.

Technics debuts two new sets of wireless earbuds, including an ANC option

Following 2020's flagship noise-cancelling EAH-AZ70W earbuds, Technics returns in 2021 with two new models. Today, the Panasonic-owned brand is debuting the EAH-AZ60 and EAH-AZ40 with similar designs and spec sheets. The key difference being the pricier AZ60 offers active noise cancellation (ANC) while the AZ40 doesn't. 

In addition to ANC, the AZ60 also supports LDAC: Sony's wireless audio standard that offers higher quality sound over regular Bluetooth (AAC). Inside, the AZ60 has slightly larger drivers — 8mm vs. 6mm — which is likely part of the reason they're two grams heavier. Besides those items, Technics' new models share a lot of similarities. The overall aesthetic is nearly identical, right down to the IPX4 construction. However, it's not the premium look the AZ70W offers. Both options employ JustMyVoice tech, which Technics says provides "crystal clear" calls by detecting your voice and reducing background noise. The company explains the AZ60 has four mics on each earbud to help with this, but it didn't specify how many the AZ40 uses. 

Technics EAH-AZ40
Technics

The AZ60 and AZ40 are equipped with additional sound modes to suit different listening environments. The Natural Ambient mode allows you to listen to "all surrounding noise" while the Attention mode is configured to capture the frequency range of voices. In theory, this should primarily pick up a chatty co-worker or airport announcements, but without testing we can't say for certain how well this works. 

Battery life varies a bit between the two models due to ANC and LDAC support on the AZ60. That set of earbuds will last up to four and half hours with noise cancelling and LDAC. Opt for lower-res streaming and you can increase battery life by 2.5 hours. Technics says disabling ANC in either scenario will give you an additional 30 minutes of listening time. When you factor in the case, the AZ60 can go for up to 25 hours with ANC and LDAC both disabled when you really need to stretch things. The AZ40, on the other hand, will last up to seven and a half hours with 25 total hours when you factor in the case. Those are the same figures as the AZ60 with noise cancellation and LDAC off. Both models have a quick-charge feature that will give you between 45 and 90 minutes of use in 15 minutes, depending on your sound settings.

The EAH-AZ60 and EAH-AZ40 will be available in October for $199.99 and $129.99 respectively. The AZ60 will only be available in black and silver, but the AZ40 will come in a rose gold option in addition to those two hues. Both models clock in less than the AZ70W, which was $250 when it debuted last year. 

Yamaha's latest true wireless earbuds are its smallest yet

Yamaha may not be one of the first names that comes to mind when discussing earbuds or headphones. But the company has a number of models under its belt, ranging from affordable to premium and pricey. Following its TW-E3A true wireless earbuds, Yamaha has announced the TW-E3B: a set that it describes as its smallest and lightest option yet. 

While that may be true, based on the product images, the TW-E3B still has considerable size compared to the truly tiny options like Jabra's Elite 3 and Samsung's Galaxy Buds 2. Nevertheless, they're 25 percent smaller than the TW-E3A, which is an improvement. Besides the size, debossed logos and charging indicator lights on the case, the overall look of the new model is quite similar to that of it's predecessor. There are more color options available on the E3B, but overall, Yamaha didn't opt for a complete redesign here. 

Yamaha

Battery life is the same: six hours on the buds with three additional charges in the case for 24 hours total. The new version is still IPX5 rated for water and sweat resistance while on-board controls return to assist with audio playback, calls and activating your chose voice assistant. Yamaha brought back Listening Care, a feature that the company says will still give you "full-range sound" at lower volumes to help preserve your hearing. Like the TW-E3A, the TW-E3B works with Yamaha's app for Android and iOS that gives you a degree of customization for certain settings. 

The TW-E3B will be available in late October for $99.95 — $30 less than the TW-E3A's debut price. When it arrives, you'll be able to choose from black, grey, green, blue, pink and purple color options. The TW-E3A is still available at a discount, going for $49.95. That's less than half of the original asking price of $129.95.

Skullcandy debuts its own voice platform on its latest earbuds

When it comes to affordable wireless earbuds and headphones, Skullcandy cranks out new models at a rapid pace. The company is well-known for its collection of true wireless and noise-cancelling gear that offers solid performance for much less than a lot of the competition. Today, Skullcandy is announcing two more sets of true wireless earbuds — the Grind Fuel and the Push Active — both of which offer a compelling set of features starting at $80. The company is also debuting its own voice platform, Skull-IQ, that allows you to do much of what your phone's voice assistant can handle, but with more of an audio focus. Get ready to say "Hey Skullcandy" a lot. 

With Skull-IQ, Skullcandy has built a voice platform specifically catered to controlling music and its earbuds — and presumably its future headphones. In addition to a new command, you'll have the ability to play/pause, skip tracks, adjust volume, answer/reject calls, activate Stay Aware mode (ambient sound) and summon your device's built-in assistant. The company says it has also cooked up something novel. Skullcandy explains that it's the first to offer access to Spotify via voice command. Plenty of other companies give you one-tap ability to launch the service (these do that as well), but Skullcandy says it's the first to allow you to do it by speaking. Lastly, the company promises more features are coming in the future via over-the-air updates through the Skullcandy app.

Skullcandy Push Active
Skullcandy

In terms of the new earbuds, some specs are the same for both models. Obviously, there are design differences as the Grind Fuel is a more "traditional" true wireless earbud while the Push Active is an over-the-ear hook option for a more secure fit. However, both feature the new Skull-IQ voice setup as well as "supreme sound," that Stay Aware mode and what Skullcandy describes as noise-reducing mics for calls. The two new models are both IP55 rated sweat and water resistant with Tile tracking tech built-in. They are also both equipped with on-board controls and a quick-charge feature that will give you two hours of listening time after 10 minutes in the case. 

The Grind Fuel offers a few things the Push Active doesn't. Wireless charging and personalized sound via an in-app audio test are the two main ones. The Grind Fuel also has 9 hours of battery life on the buds with another 31 hours in the case. The Push Active will last 10 hours on a charge, while the case packs 34 more hours. Battery life isn't quite the same for both, but it's pretty close. 

The Push Active will cost $79.99 while the Grind Fuel is $99.99. Both are available now from the Skullcandy website and other retailers. 

Recommended Reading: Inside Amazon's high-tech shipping facility

In Amazon’s flagship fulfillment center, the machines run the show

Matt Day, Bloomberg

Amazon's Kent, Washington facility has long been home to many of the company's high-tech innovations. Bloomberg takes us inside "BFI4" for another look at the shipping location that's run my algorithms and robots. 

How Google spies on its employees

Sarah Krouse, The Information

In a report on various instances of surveillance at Google, The Information discusses how things like researching COBRA health insurance info and screenshotting and using encrypted messaging apps can draw the ire of the company's security team.

How Facebook’s ‘metaverse’ became a political strategy in Washington

Elizabeth Dwoskin, Cat Zakrzewski and Nick Miroff, The Washington Post

Between misinformation, privacy and antitrust debates, there's no shortage of challenges for Facebook at any given time. With scrutiny piling on from the US government, and the possibility of regulation looming, the social network is hoping to prove it's more than a problem-plagued platform. 

 

Recommended Reading: 'The Facebook files'

The Facebook files

The Wall Street Journal

If you've been following tech news at all this week, you've likely read some of WSJ's reporting already. However, the entire series of articles is worth a look as it shows how much Facebook knows about unequal policy enforcement, how toxic Instagram can be for teen girls, the power of its algorithm, illegal activity and, perhaps most stunningly, how activists drowned out Mark Zuckerberg's own push for COVID-19 vaccines.

This FDA-approved necklace is designed to prevent brain injuries in athletes

Mark Wilson, Fast Company

Concussions will never be prevented by simply wearing a helmet for contact sports, so doctors and researchers must explore other methods for minimizing lasting effects. With the Q-Collar, a $200 band that is worn around the back of the neck, Q30 hopes to limit brain trauma in athletes by slowing blood flow to the internal jugular vein.

Video games’ sensory revolution: How haptics reinvented the controller

Justin Charity, The Ringer

We've come a long way since the Rumble Pack for Nintendo 64. The Ringer explores the role of haptic feedback in gaming through the lens of Sony's DualSense for PS5, pondering what the future of gaming may hold. 

Moog's three-synth bundle teaches patching techniques with a card game

When Moog debuted its Sound Studio bundles earlier this year, the company paired two analog synths with a mixer, cables and everything else you need for a starter kit. Of course, these are for slightly more advanced users given the investment. The only problem is you have to make a decision. The bundles include the three Mother synthesizers, but you have to decide between the Mother-32 and DFAM or DFAM and Subharmonicon. Those are the two combinations available starting $1,399. However, Moog is going a step further with its latest offer: all three Mother synths with the extra gear for $1,999

Like the previous bundles, this three-synth option comes with everything you need to get started. That includes a dust cover, audio mixer/power distribution hub, rack kit, cables, cable organizer, learning materials and even those adorable cardboard cutouts. As a refresher, the Mother-32 is a production synthesizer with a step sequencer and 64 slots of memory. It offers a classic Moog voice for raw analog tone combined with the company's deep bass. The DFAM is a drum synth for all of your rhythm and percussion needs while the Subharmonicon is designed for experimentation. 

Moog

For this three-synth bundle, Moog created a card game to foster collaboration and experimentation. Inspired by the gaming community in the company's home city of Asheville, North Carolina, Circuitous Connections allows you to explore analog synthesis at your own pace. The game helps you discover new sounds and learn patching techniques along the way. The company says this "happy accident generator" will allow you to play repeatedly without patching the same thing twice. Moog also explains that you can have just as much fun playing solo as you can with others. 

Like it did with the initial Sound Studio packages, Moog is releasing another EP alongside this new offering. Explorations in Analog Synthesis, Volume II includes work from Boy Harsher, Hannah Peel, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Galcher Lustwerk, Ya Tseen, Tygapaw and Paula Temple. And like the first edition, this collection is also available to stream for free on SoundCloud

The Moog Sound Studio: Mother-32 & DFAM & Subharmonicon bundle is now shipping from authorized Moog dealers.