Posts with «author_name|cherlynn low» label

Netflix will have to face 'Queens Gambit' defamation suit, judge rules

Netflix is learning that careless dialogue in its fictional shows can have serious implications. Its bid to get a recent defamation suit dismissed has been rejected, meaning it will have to face the plaintiff — Georgian chess legend Nona Gaprindashvili — in court. 

In September, Gaprindashvili filed a suit against the streaming giant, accusing the company of defamation and "false light invasion of privacy." As the world's first female grandmaster, Gaprindashvili was mentioned in Netflix's series The Queen's Gambit — a period drama about a chess prodigy. 

In one scene during a chess match, a radio commentator says in passing "The only unusual thing about her, really, is her sex. And even that's not unique in Russia. There's Nona Gaprindashvili, but she's the female world champion and has never faced men."

According to the suit, not only is the allegation that Gaprindashvili hadn't faced men at that time "manifestly false," it's also "grossly sexist and belittling." It states that "By 1968, the year in which this episode is set, she had competed against at least 59 male chess players (28 of them simultaneously in one game), including at least ten Grandmasters of that time."

Stanley Sherman via Getty Images

The show is based on a 1983 novel by Walter Tevis that also mentions Gaprindashvili. However, the part which Netflix appears to have based this particular bit of its script on says, "The only unusual thing about her was her sex; and even that wasn't unique in Russia. There was Nona Gaprindashvili, not up to the level of this tournament, but a player who had met all these Russian Grandmasters many times before." Netflix's version is clearly different.

The streaming provider had moved to strike the case in November, saying in its filing that "the Series is a fictional work that a reasonable viewer would not construe as conveying fact." It also said that "a reasonable viewer would not draw the negative implication that Plaintiff alleges."

However, US District Judge Virginia Philips denied that motion today, writing that "the fact that the Series was a fictional work does not insulate Netflix from liability for defamation if all the elements of defamation are otherwise present."

The ruling also states that "at the very least, the line is dismissive of the accomplishments central to Plaintiff’s reputation." It also points out that, when filing its motion to dismiss, "Netflix’s own evidence demonstrates knowledge of the truth in its choice to deviate from the text of the Novel, which states that Plaintiff had faced the male Russian Grandmasters 'many times before.'"

Gaprindashvili is seeking damages of at least $5 million, as well as for Netflix to remove the statement that she never played men from the show. 

US lawmakers want to make sure pandemic telehealth coverage doesn't lapse

The pandemic pushed US lawmakers to provide provisions to expand medical coverage for telehealth in 2020, speeding up a process that would otherwise have taken years. Since then, there have been efforts to make the change permanent, through things like the Telehealth Expansion Act of 2021. But there is an interim period that could present some uncertainty over whether people can get crucial telehealth services while permanent legislation is drawn up. Today, a bipartisan group of 45 lawmakers, led by Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), said they're "calling for the extension of expanded coverage of telehealth services to be included in must-pass legislation in February."

The group published a letter addressing Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as their minority counterparts and notable signees include Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). 

The letter states "While Congress prepares to enact permanent telehealth legislation, we urge you to include an extension of the pandemic telehealth authorities in must-pass government funding legislation in February." 

Currently, pandemic telehealth decision-makers have temporary authority, and that's tied to the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration. As stated in today's letter, the emergency declaration is renewed in three-month increments. "Without more definitive knowledge about the duration of the pandemic and Medicare’s long-term coverage of telehealth, many organizations have been hesitant to fully invest in telehealth."

In addition to providing more confidence to providers that investing in telehealth will be a sound long-term investment, adding an extension to telehealth coverage while making it permanent will also "reassure patients that their care will not end abruptly."

The lawmakers called for "An extension to maintain expanded coverage of Medicare telehealth services for a set period of time," which the letter said "would provide much-needed certainty to health care providers and patients." They believe an extension would also allow additional time for studies to be conducted on the impact of telehealth, which "could help inform Congress's next steps on permanent telehealth legislation and appropriate program integrity and beneficiary protections."

Therefore, the group is also asking to ensure that "an extension not include unnecessary statutory barriers in accessing telehealth services during this data collection and analysis period," which could prevent people from getting essential care.

Podcast: What's hot at Sundance 2022 and Samsung's upcoming Unpacked

This week, Cherlynn and Devindra bring you the best and worst of Sundance 2022’s tech-related projects. What films coming out of the show will be worth watching when they’re released? Are VR projects easily viewable? What, if anything, did they say about the metaverse? Then, our hosts go over Samsung’s news on this year's first Unpacked launch event, Neil Young's fight against Spotify and what went down at the Antiwork subreddit.

Listen below, or subscribe on your podcast app of choice. If you've got suggestions or topics you'd like covered on the show, be sure to email us or drop a note in the comments! And be sure to check out our other podcasts, the Morning After and Engadget News!


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Topics

  • VR and AR at Sundance 2022 New Frontiers – 2:03

  • Select tech films at Sundance (After Yang, TikTok Boom, We Met in Virtual Reality) – 12:25

  • Preview of Samsung’s first Unpacked of 2022 – 37:03

  • Neil Young vs. Spotify: Young’s music pulled over Joe Rogan’s podcast – 42:30

  • Reddit’s /r/AntiWork blew up in a big way – 46:45

  • Listener Mailbag – 55:50

  • Working On – 1:01:00

  • Interview with "We Met in Virtual Reality" director Joe Hunting – 1:03:54


Video livestream

Credits
Hosts: Cherlynn Low and Devindra Hardawar
Producer: Ben Ellman
Livestream producers: Julio Barrientos, Owen Davidoff, Luke Brooks
Graphics artists: Luke Brooks, Kyle Maack
Music: Dale North and Terrence O'Brien

Apple brought in a record-breaking $123.9 billion in revenue, despite supply constraints

It's been a great quarter for Apple. The company just dropped its earnings report for the first quarter of 2022 (which for Apple ended December 25, 2021), and it's broken revenue records all across the board. Not only is its overall revenue at an all-time high of $123.9 billion, it's also made more money selling iPhones, Macs and wearables than ever before. This time last year, the company reported a revenue of $111 billion, which itself was a new record then. Just last quarter, too, it made all kinds of money selling Macs, even without the release of new Macbooks at that time.

Apple's revenue from iPhones of $71.6 billion this year, despite global supply constraints, is a notable jump from $65.6 billion last year. Driven by its transition to its own M1 silicon, Mac revenues also rose by more than $2 billion from the year before, hitting a record $10.9 billion. Chief financial officer Luca Maestri said on the company's earnings call that the last six quarters were "the best six quarters ever for Mac," and that M1-powered devices made up the vast majority of sales, thanks to a "record number of upgraders."

Sales of iPads made Apple $7.2 billion this year, while "Wearables, Home and Accessories" brought in $14.7 billion. That includes things like the Apple Watch, AirPods and HomePods. Both categories of products also broke revenue records. Apple's services also contributed to its overall revenue, with products like TV+ and Fitness+ raking in a total of $19.5 billion — an increase of 24 percent from last year. Maestri noted that paid subscriptions continue to grow, with recent developments in Fitness+, Arcade and Apple Music contributing to the growth.

Investors will be happy to know that Apple's board of directors have declared "a cash dividend of 22 cents per share of common stock, payable on February 10th 2022."

‘TikTok, Boom’ tries and fails to do the most

Near the end of TikTok, Boom, content creator and beatboxer Spencer X chokes up. “TikTok has really changed my entire life,” he says while fighting back tears. He’s one of a few influencers profiled in the 90-minute documentary, which premiered at Sundance 2022 this weekend. It also features activist Feroza Aziz, best known for her viral video that slipped criticism of China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims into what initially appeared to be a makeup tutorial. Other subjects include reproductive rights activist Deja Foxx and Douyin content creator Jason Zhang, whose experiences with the app are all fascinating and moving.

Directed by Shalini Kantayya, TikTok, Boom is meant to “[dissect] one of the most influential platforms of the contemporary social media landscape." The film’s description on the Sundance festival portal says it “examines the algorithmic, sociopolitical, economic and cultural influences and impact of the history-making app.” Unfortunately, if you were hoping to learn anything new about why the For You algorithm is so creepily intuitive, why its parent company ByteDance collects so much data or what exactly are the app's ties to the Chinese government, you'll be disappointed.

In general, the documentary tries to cover too much. It jumped from Aziz finding a community of Afghan-Americans on the app, to X defying his parent’s expectations to make a career out of beatboxing, to sexism, racism, child predators, body image issues, TikTok’s creation and ByteDance’s history, all within the first 40 minutes. There’s discussion of the impact on creators’ mental health, Facebook’s interest in buying TikTok, the reinforcement of social disparities, China’s control and censorship, Trump’s rallies in Tulsa, the subsequent ban of the app and more. In the second half, there’s even a random dramatic reenactment of “a statement made by a former ByteDance employee” during the COVID-19 outbreak.

If TikTok, Boom was trying to catalog every time TikTok made the news, it did an admirable job. But in its effort to recap history, the film fails to deliver any insight. I could have easily Googled “TikTok timeline” and gotten all the same information without having to sit in front of my TV for 90 minutes. Had the documentary narrowed its focus, I suspect I would have learned more.

But in its effort to recap history, the film fails to deliver any insight.

I also have a small, but important gripe. The film needs more careful editors. It features B-roll and expert interviews correctly pronouncing and spelling the app Douyin that predated TikTok. Mere seconds later, the narrator and an onscreen graphic both mispronounce and misspell Douyin as “Duoyin.” Another spelling error: a list of so-called “Sensored words” in a graphic as opposed to “censored.”

Maybe I’m nit-picking, but mistakes like this affect the credibility of any documentary, which should be a well-researched piece of video journalism.

That leads me to my biggest problem with TikTok, Boom: It makes some dangerous assumptions. At one point in the film, an animated rendering insinuates that TikTok scans a user’s face while they’re watching videos and determines if they’re smiling or not. The film posits that this information is then fed into the algorithm that lets ByteDance recommend more content on your For You page.

There is no evidence that TikTok does this. In fact, unless Apple and Google’s privacy indicators (which show when your phone’s cameras are being used) are malfunctioning, people would know if an app was watching them. It’s more likely that the TikTok, Boom team misinterpreted terms in the app’s privacy policy that states it’s collecting “faceprints and voiceprints.”

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

That’s not to say ByteDance is completely in the clear here; it’s never explicitly explained why it’s gathering that data. Other parts of its privacy policy are even more alarming, like the fact that ByteDance collects information about users’ "keystroke patterns or rhythms." In 2020, the company had to publicly admit wrongdoing and agree to stop accessing users’ clipboard data every few keystrokes. Back then, it claimed this was part of an anti-spam feature. Now, the latest versions of iOS and Android will alert you if an app has accessed or pasted content from your clipboard, so you can be aware of unnecessary data collection.

Look, I get it. The For You algorithm can be so uncanny that people scramble to find nefarious reasons for its effectiveness. It’s just like when we all wondered if Instagram and Facebook were listening to our conversations to serve us eerily timely ads. But it’s one thing for individuals to wonder if your phone is spying on you and a whole other problem if a documentary recklessly claims it’s happening. The filmmakers don’t seem to realize the responsibility it has to its viewers.

In fact, had TikTok, Boom just focused on breaking down the For You algorithm or studying exactly what data the app is collecting (and in that context its ties to China), the film might have unearthed something illuminating. Instead, it ends up being a mostly redundant recap with a catchy title.

Samsung's first Unpacked of 2022 will take place February 9th

After its president TM Roh teased "the most noteworthy S series device we've ever created", Samsung is announcing today when we can learn more. The next Galaxy Unpacked event, which is the company's first this year, will happen virtually on Wednesday, February 9th at 10am ET (7am PT). You'll be able to watch the event on Samsung's website, though Engadget will also have our own livestream with a pre- and post-show Q&A to discuss the news. 

Samsung is expected to unveil the next S-series flagship then, and if it doesn't drastically change the naming standard it's been using for the last few years, we should be seeing the Galaxy S22. Based on the rumor mill, there might not be many huge upgrades in the next-gen product. The most significant improvement could be an onboard slot for the S Pen and a blockier design, which would spell the death of the Note line. 

Other reports suggest the new Ultra variant might start out with less RAM than last year's model, offering 8GB at the base level compared to the S21 Ultra's 12GB. There could also be a 50-megapixel camera on the regular S22s, up from the S21's 12-megapixel sensors. 

We won't know the full details until Samsung officially confirms them come February 9th. You can tune in to the company's stream directly, but if you want to chat and react live with us before and after the show, come join us on the Engadget YouTube channel instead. It should be an illuminating time. 

Google is testing a new replacement for third-party cookies

With the demise of third-party cookies on the horizon, advertisers and the internet's gatekeepers are scrambling to come up with better ways to serve users relevant ads. Google launched its Privacy Sandbox in 2019 to look into suitable alternatives, announcing FLoC (or Federated Learning of Cohorts) last year. The plan to roll out FLoC was delayed, and Privacy Sandbox faced regulatory scrutiny in the UK and the US. Today, the company announced it's testing out a new approach called Topics API, which will replace FLoC. 

Topics API relies on the Chrome browser to determine a list of top five topics a user is interested in, based on their surfing history. It'll determine what the topics are by comparing known websites (that you visit) against a list of about 350 topics drawn from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Google's own data. Then, when partner publishers need to know what topics a viewer is into, they can use Topics API to ping the browser for that data and serve relevant ads based on that. 

Say, for example, you've visited a lot of sites for hiking or working out. Chrome will count those towards your top interests for that particular week and share them with participating publishers who can then show you ads for, say, athleisure or camping gear. Topics will select one area of interest from each of the past three weeks to share with each site and its advertising partners. Google says topics are "kept for only three weeks and old topics are deleted." The data and processing happens on your device "without involving any external servers, including Google servers." 

There will also be options in Chrome for users to see the topics assigned to you, remove those you don't like or disable the feature altogether. At the moment, since Google has only just announced Topics and hasn't started user tests, it hasn't shared whether Topics will be opt-in or opt-out for users.  

The list of topics is pre-set, and Google says it "will not include potentially sensitive categories, such as gender or race." This should theoretically prevent unwanted browsing history from counting towards and showing up in your interests. 

Google is targeting the end of the first quarter this year to launch its trial, and after publishing the explainer on how it expects to use Topics API today, it'll be accepting feedback from partners, interest groups and regulatory authorities. Based on that, the company may adjust Topics API before its first trial, and if all goes well it could launch the feature by the third quarter of the year. 

Samsung will unveil its next Galaxy S flagship in February

After introducing S Pen support to the Galaxy S21 Ultra and not launching a new version of the Note series last year, Samsung's next Unpacked event would be a timely opportunity to address concerned fans. Though the company has yet to confirm an exact date beyond the month of February (rumors suggest it might take place Feb. 8th), president TM Roh has written a blog post on what we can expect at the launch. Samsung has also shared a teaser trailer.

"We know many of you were surprised when Samsung didn’t release a new Galaxy Note last year," he wrote. "At Unpacked in February 2022, we'll introduce to you the most noteworthy S series device we've ever created." The company is expected to unveil the Galaxy S22 series this year.

Roh also said "the next generation of Galaxy S... [brings] together the greatest experiences of our Samsung Galaxy into one ultimate device." He teased nighttime photography, power and performance as some areas to look out for, ending his post with "Get ready for the ultimate Ultra experience." That could mean the best upgrades could be limited to the Ultra model again, as in previous years.

The rest of Roh's post is mostly recap of its S and Note series, as well as vague allusions like "we haven't about these [Galaxy Note] experiences you love." There aren't any details on what exact Note-esque features we might see in the next S flagship, and our biggest clue is the use of the word "noteworthy" to describe the upcoming product.  

Finally, Samsung also announced today that tomorrow (Jan. 21st) at 10am ET, it'll open its Reserve Now offers ahead of time like it's done for previous launches. If you want to guarantee you can get whatever Samsung announces in February, you can reserve early and get perks like a $50 Samsung credit towards other Galaxy products during pre-order, as well as more deals when it's time to pre-order.

New Android game uses a smart vibrator as a controller

In October, roboticist and software engineer Allison Liemhetcharat announced that she had been working on a game that would use a smart vibrator as a controller. Specifically, the Lioness smart vibrator, which gathers bio-data like body temperature and pelvic pressure. Liemhetcharat said she was partly inspired by the Perifit kegel exerciser, which also uses games and a device to help people strengthen their pelvic floor. The game, an endless runner called You Are What You Eat, has been in beta since then. Today, Liemhetcharat has released the Android version, which you can now download from the Google Play Store

Liemhetcharat told Engadget that You Are What You Eat is based on her family's favorite activity. "Our running joke is that we eat everything," she said. By itself, the game is an endless runner, with the objective of eating as many creatures as possible before dying. You begin as a blob, then grow and morph depending on what you ingest. That will also affect what you can continue to consume, as some creatures will subsequently become "inedible" based on what you've become. A WebGL version of the game is available. 

But for those who own the Lioness smart vibrator, you can use it to control your slimeball. Squeeze the dildo's head (where the pressure sensors are) to jump, and do that twice to fly or jump twice. The device will also vibrate in response when you do those things or eat something.

Those on iOS won't be left out — Liemhetcharat told Engadget that a version for the iPhone is coming soon, too. So far, the game itself is simple, but the most intriguing aspect is its use of the bio-sensing vibrator as a controller. As a proof of concept, YAWYE is fairly straightforward, though we'll have to wait for medical professionals to weigh in before we can say with any certainty if it can be helpful in strengthening pelvic floor muscles. 

Google is working to improve Windows and Android integration

Google wants to do for Android and Chrome users what Apple does for people in its ecosystem. It's announcing a set of news today at CES 2022 that are designed to help those using non-Apple devices easily set up, connect and share seamlessly across platforms. That involves expanding its existing Fast Pair and Chromecast capabilities to more products, as well as improving the sharing of data between Android phones and laptops. In fact, Google said that "for the first time with Android, we're also focused on building for other platforms, like Windows."

First, Fast Pair. Google is working with Acer, HP and Intel to bring Fast Pair to Windows PCs so you can quickly connect your Android phone to your laptop. You can then set up Bluetooth accessories, sync your text messages and easily share files via Nearby Share. This feature will arrive on select Windows PCs later this year. 

Meanwhile, Google is also bringing Fast Pair to devices beyond wearables, cars and Bluetooth audio accessories, to include things like TVs and smart devices. It already works with the Pixel Buds and some Fitbit watches, enabling easier setup on those devices. In a few weeks, your Chromebook can automatically detect your Fast Pair-enabled headphones when you turn them on, allowing you to connect to them in a single click. New Chromebooks arriving later this year will be easier to set up, too. You can connect your Android phone and port over saved data like your Google account and Wi-Fi password.

Google

The company said it'll let you connect headphones to Google TV or Android TV in the coming months, and that Fast Pair will work with new Matter-enabled smart home devices as well. That should make adding connected appliances to your home network easier than before. It doesn't sound as simple as Apple's HomePod setup where you can just hold your iPhone near your speaker to trigger the installation process, but we'll have to wait to see Google's solution in action to know for sure.

After your gadgets are all set up and synced with each other, Google also wants to enable convenient connections a la Apple's AirPlay or AirDrop. It's bringing Cast support to more brands, starting with all Bose smart speakers and soundbars, so you can stream music and audio from your Android phone to compatible speakers. 

The company is also "building a technology for Bluetooth-enabled headphones" that will let them automatically switch audio output depending on what device you're using. Say you're wearing earbuds while watching a show on your Android tablet and a call comes in on your phone. The system will pause your movie and the headphones will switch over to your phone, then go right back to your tablet when your conversation is over. This will work for all audio playing through your devices at a system level, rather than on a supported-app-only basis. For Apple users, this is similar to how AirPods can automatically switch between iPads, iPhones and Macs. 

Google

Google says compatible headphones will also get spatial audio support so you can hear directional sound based on your head's movements for more immersive experiences. These features are coming in the next few months.

Later this year, Phone Hub on Chromebooks is also getting new features to make it more useful. For example, you won't have to install separate apps like Signal or WhatsApp on your laptop to message your friends via your phone anymore. Messages from chat apps will show up on your Chromebook and you can reply to them from there. Google is also adding Camera Roll to the Phone Hub so you can view your media without opening photos.google.com. 

Locking and unlocking devices and vehicles is also getting easier. Just like you can with Apple Watch (and some Samsung devices), in the coming months you'll be able to use your paired Wear OS 3 watch to keep your Chromebook and Android devices unlocked when you're close by.

Google

Cars are also getting an Android update. Compatible Samsung or Pixel phones will now be able to lock, unlock and start supported BMW vehicles. Later this year, too, phones with ultra wideband support can open car doors without leaving your pocket or purse. Google is also adding support for key sharing, in compliance with the Connected Car Consortium interoperable standard, so you can remotely share access to your vehicle right from your phone. The company said it's "working to bring digital car keys to more Android phones and vehicles later this year."

Finally, you'll also be able to tell the Google Assistant to warm up, cool down, lock and unlock your car and ask it for the amount of battery left in your EV. This is coming first to Volvo Cars vehicles in the coming months, "with more to follow," according to Google. 

Everything Google announced today fits in with the vision of ambient computing the company has talked about for years. "This is sort of a foundational element for us to achieve the vision of ambient computing," vice president of multi-device experiences Erik Kay told Engadget. It does seem like when these updates do roll out, non-Apple users may have less reason to envy the seamless ecosystem that iPhone or Mac users enjoy.

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