Posts with «author_name|jon fingas» label

Google may already be making another Chromecast with Google TV

Google tends to release new Chromecast models only sparingly (you can still buy a years-old 1080p unit today), but it may be more aggressive with the Google TV model. 9to5Googlesources claim the company is already developing a new Chromecast with Google TV. Documentation and code sleuthing have reportedly revealed the codename "Boreal," while 9to5 understood the Android TV media hub would launch later in 2022.

The purported leak doesn't mention specifications, although newer processing power with broader video support might be necessary. XDA and others have heard Android TV will require AV1 video format support after March 31st, and that's conspicuously absent on the existing Chromecast with Google TV. The company might also use the opportunity to address common complaints, such as the modest storage.

Provided the leak is accurate, the question is whether or not this is a straightforward replacement for the existing Chromecast or a higher-powered separate model. Given that the existing Chromecast already supports 4K HDR, though, a replacement seems more likely. It's clear any changes would be substantial enough to warrant a new internal nickname — Google doesn't typically hand out names for minor revisions.

Federal Reserve study offers no answers on creating a digital dollar

Don't expect the US Federal Reserve to issue a digital dollar any time soon. CNBCreports the Reserve has published its long-in-the-making study of a central bank cryptocurrency, but took no stances on whether or not it should pursue the technology. The paper instead explored the potential benefits and pitfalls of digital currencies, and asked for public comments.

The Fed cautioned that existing cryptocurrencies tend to be highly volatile, consume lots of energy and frequently have significant transaction limitations. A central bank-backed format might overcome some of those problems, the Reserve said, by serving as a "bridge" between payment services, making finance more inclusive and providing "safe and trusted" money. The Reserve also believed the digital money could improve cross-border payments and protect the role of the US dollar on the world stage.

However, the government also warned that official digital cash would need to account for possible changes to the financial world, such as encouraging more runs on financial companies. It would also need to maintain privacy, protect against crimes like fraud and be resilient. The Reserve floated the possibility of offline capability to enable transactions when internet access isn't available, such as during natural disasters.

The agency stressed its report was a "first step" in discussing the possibility of a central bank cryptocurrency, and that it would give the public until May 20th, 2022 to offer feedback and answer questions. For now, though, the Reserve will remain neutral and will only work on a digital currency if longer-term research supports the concept. It's resisting the pressure to act quickly, even if other countries are already moving forward.

NASA's Swift Observatory may have suffered an attitude control failure

NASA's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory has run into difficulties after 17 years of largely smooth service. The orbiting explorer has entered safe mode after detecting a "possible failure" in one of the six reaction wheels used to change attitude. While it's not clear exactly what (if anything) went wrong, NASA has halted direction-based scientific observations until it can either give the all-clear or continue operations with five wheels.

This is the first potential reaction wheel problem since the Swift Observatory began operations in February 2005, NASA said. The rest of the vehicle is otherwise working properly.

The Swift Observatory has played an important role in astronomy over the past two decades. It was primarily built to detect gamma-ray bursts and detects roughly 70 per day. However, it has increasingly been used as a catch-all observer across multiple wavelengths, spotting solar flares and hard-to-find stars. NASA won't necessarily run into serious trouble if Swift has a lasting problem, but it would clearly benefit from keeping the spacecraft running as smoothly as possible.

The Swift Observatory’s science instruments went into safe mode after a possible reaction wheel failure. Pointed science observations are temporarily suspended while the team investigates the issue. The instruments and other 5 wheels remain in good health.

— NASA Universe (@NASAUniverse) January 20, 2022

All-in-one diabetes devices could take the hassle out of insulin injections

People with diabetes have more than a few hassles, particularly at meals. They not only have to measure their blood glucose levels and inject the right amount of insulin, but carry all the relevant equipment with them. MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital researchers might soon eliminate many of the headaches, though. They're developing all-in-one devices (not pictured) that measure glucose, calculate the necessary insulin dose and inject you accordingly.

The first device includes the blood-drawing lancet, glucose test strips and an insulin needle. Users would first take a photo of their meal using a smartphone app to estimate the food volume and carbohydrate levels. After that, they'd start the automated process of collecting blood, calculating glucose (again through the app) and delivering the appropriate amount of insulin.

The second gadget would only need one needle jab — it would build the glucose sensor into the insulin needle and inject the appropriate amount of insulin. You'd have to wait five to ten seconds, but you wouldn't have to stick yourself twice.

The technology is still some ways off. While the first device would use parts that were already FDA-approved, it hasn't been tested in humans. The second, meanwhile, uses a new sensor type that will likely require more work to be testable with humans. Scientists have filed patents for both devices and are hoping to work with companies on further development.

There's a strong motivation to bring these devices to market, at least. People with diabetes would only need to use one device at meals, and with the hybrid sensor/needle might suffer less pain. That, in turn, could encourage consistent treatment that improves your overall wellbeing.

Airbnb will offer travel insurance this spring

Airbnb knows you might be reluctant to book a stay while the COVID-19 pandemic makes trips risky, so it's planning to offer some protection of its own. The rental service has revealed it will introduce custom travel insurance for guests sometime this spring. While the terms aren't available, Airbnb will team with a "reputable" insurer to offer coverage.

The company has also launched a Guest COVID Support Program that partly compensates travellers if border closures, quarantine periods or other government policies make existing reservations impractical. If a host won't provide a full refund, Airbnb will offer a travel coupon worth 50 percent of whatever hasn't been refunded so far. The program applies to all stays with a check-in date of December 1st, 2021 or later, so you might want to talk to Airbnb if your holiday plans fell apart.

There's no mystery behind the strategy. Airbnb's business has been hit hard by the pandemic as a whole, and COVID-19's Omicron variant is only increasing the worry for hosts and guests who were hoping the worst was behind them. First-party insurance and coupons might persuade some would-be adventurers to book stays when they would have otherwise stayed home.

AR and VR hardware sales more than doubled in the US this holiday

Virtual (and augmented) reality appear poised to take off after years of modest demand. The NPD Group reports unit sales for AR and VR hardware more than doubled in the US during the 2021 holiday season (between Thanksgiving week and Christmas), jumping 180 percent compared to 2020. The growth wasn't quite so brisk for the full year at 'just' 163 percent, but there was clearly a lot of demand for immersive worlds.

Raw revenue also climbed 153 percent during the holidays and 137 percent for the year. That suggests people were buying lower-cost or discounted AR and VR devices.

NPD executive director Ben Arnold was quick to caution that AR and VR "likely benefitted" from console shortages — if you couldn't gift a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, a Meta Quest 2 might have served as a stand-in. He noted that people were still looking for "unique" entertainment, however. We'd add that the lingering pandemic may have encouraged people to stay inside and try virtual experiences at a time when in-person equivalents like gyms and nightclubs might be seen as too risky.

This doesn't mean buyers are embracing the metaverse or similar high-minded concepts. It does hint at a brighter future for AR and VR, though. NPD already expects a 32 percent jump in revenue in the first half of 2022, and upcoming headsets like Meta's Project Cambria could further fuel demand. Don't be surprised if headsets are in vogue next holiday season.

Google reportedly plans to release an AR headset in 2024

Google might have ditched its Daydream VR headset years ago, but that doesn't mean it gave up on headsets altogether. The Vergesources claim Google is developing an augmented reality headset, nicknamed Project Iris, that it wants to release in 2024. The standalone wearable would use a custom Google processor, outward-facing tracking cameras and run Android, although a custom OS is a possibility given job listings. It might also rely on cloud-based rendering to overcome the processing power limitations of a headset.

Clay Bavor, the manager for the Project Starline 3D telepresence booth (also said due for 2024), is understood to be overseeing the highly secretive project. The tipsters also said the AR headset team included Google Assistant creator Scott Huffman, ARCore manager Shahram Izadi and Mark Lucovsky, the former leader of Meta's in-house OS development. The Pixel division is also believed to be involved in some hardware work.

We've asked Google for comment, although CEO Sundar Pichai hinted in October that AR was a "major area of investment" for the company. The headset is supposedly very early in development without a clear market strategy, suggesting that the 2024 target isn't firm.

The headset might seem unexpected from a company burned by its initial take on an AR wearable. It's not a shock given the evolving landscape, however. Apple is widely rumored to be creating a mixed reality headset, while Meta hasn't been shy about wanting to both develop AR hardware and jumpstart the metaverse. Google risks ceding the field to competitors if it doesn't offer AR hardware or the platform to match, even if finished technology is still years away.

Peacock adds live local news channels to its streaming lineup

NBCUniversal's Peacock isn't going to let the live news from rivals like CBS go unanswered. The streaming service has added free, around-the-clock local news from NBC stations for all users. The broadcasts are initially available from stations in Boston (including the New England Cable Network), Chicago, Miami and Philadelphia. New York City and Los Angeles channels will be available in the "months ahead."

The platform already has live and on-demand news from NBC's self-branded services as well as Sky and Telemundo. You can also watch live entertainment TV from 11 local NBC stations, including those from cities in the news rollout.

The decision may have been an easy one to make. Airing existing news channels won't cost much more, and could help Peacock serve cord-cutters who may still want local events in between The Office marathons. There's also increasing competition. Live news is quickly becoming a selling point, including through Amazon's free app on Fire TV devices. The NBC stations could reduce the temptation to switch to other channels and services.

Instagram now lets you create TikTok-like remixes using any video

You no longer need to dive into Reels to create TikTok-style collaborative videos on Instagram. The social network has expanded its remix feature to let you make collaborations and similar reworks from any video on Instagram. So long as the video was released after the update, you can choose "remix this video" from the three-dot menu to create your response to the clip. You'll still need to share the result through Reels, but you'll also have the same editing tools to create collaborations, voiceovers and effects.

Instagram is also doing more to court livestreamers. You now have the option of highlighting your next Instagram Live broadcast on your profile, giving viewers an easy way to set a reminder. You won't need to attach a regular feed post to the scheduled stream, either. While you can't yet tease later streams, this could help you build hype for an interview or ask-me-anything session.

The expanded remix feature could be important. Instagram hasn't been shy about wanting to counter TikTok, and the Duet feature is a significant factor in that rival's success. The option to remix any video potentially gives Instagram users a wider pool of videos to choose from than TikTok, including footage that wasn't originally meant for that short-but-sweet format.

Facebook and Instagram may help you create and sell NFTs

Meta might be the next to hop on the NFT bandwagon. The Financial Timessources claim Meta is developing ways to create, display and sell NFTs on Facebook and Instagram. The company's Novi wallet technology would power much of the "supporting functionality," one tipster said. Instagram is reportedly testing a way to showcase NFTs, while Meta is also said to be discussing a marketplace that would help you buy or sell these digital collectibles.

The company has already declined to comment, and the sources cautioned the effort was still early and could change.However, Instagram leader Adam Mosseri said in December that his social network was "actively exploring" NFTs. The technology is on the company's mind, at least.

A dip into NFTs would make sense. While companies sometimes abuse the link between NFTs and the metaverse (merely offering NFTs doesn't mean you're creating a metaverse, folks), Meta might want a framework for them so that residents of its virtual worlds can sell unique digital goods. This could also help Meta prevent third-party platforms like OpenSea's market from gaining too strong a hold if NFTs prove to be more than a short-lived trend.