Posts with «author_name|mariella moon» label

McDonald's will trial its plant-based burger in the US on November 3rd

You may soon be able to give McDonald's plant-based burgers a try. The fast-food chain will offer the McPlant at eight restaurants across the US starting on November 3rd and until supplies last. It's a limited-time trial run for the burger, and it's supposed to help the company figure out how having the item in its menu will impact its kitchen operations. 

The burger's patty is made with Beyond Meat plant-based meat. It's supposed to be different from the company's patties offered by Carl's Jr., Del Taco and other fast-food chains, though, because Beyond Meat co-developed it with McDonald's itself. Back when the McPlant was first announced, the fast-food giant said it "delivers [its] iconic taste in a sink-your-teeth-in (and wipe-your-mouth) kind of sandwich. It’s made with a juicy, plant-based patty and served on a warm, sesame seed bun with all the classic toppings."

While McDonald's didn't mention the exact locations of the stores that will sell the McPlant, it said that they can be found in Irving and Carrollton, Texas, Cedar Falls, Iowa, Jennings and Lake Charles, Louisiana and El Segundo and Manhattan Beach, California. McDonald's is also trialing the burger in other countries, including Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria and the UK. While the McPlant is simply a burger for now, McDonald's previously said that it could represent a whole line of plant-based menu items in the future, including chicken substitutes and breakfast sandwiches. 

Surprise Soyuz thruster firing tilted and turned the ISS

The astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station had to initiate emergency protocols after the spacecraft tilted and turned by 57 degrees on Friday. All is well now, but the Roscosmos and NASA ground teams had to spring to action and alert their personnel in space after noticing the change in orientation. According to The New York Times, the incident happened while cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky was testing the engines aboard the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft that's currently docked with the station. 

NASA spokesperson Leah Cheshier told the publication that "the thruster firing unexpectedly continued" when the engine testing was scheduled to end. By 5:13 AM Eastern time, the ISS lost control of its orbital positioning. Russian controllers in Moscow immediately told Novitsky that the station turned 57 degrees, while NASA's mission control in Houston told its astronauts to begin emergency procedures. Flight controllers were able to regain control of the station around 30 minutes later. The Soyuz spacecraft that caused the incident is expected to fly a Russian fillm crew — that same one that flew to the ISS to shoot the first feature film there earlier this month — back to Earth.

"During the Soyuz MS-18 engines testing, the station’s orientation was impacted. As a result, the International Space Station orientation was temporarily changed. The station’s orientation was swiftly recovered due to the actions of the ISS Russian Segment Chief Operating Control Group specialists. The station and the crew are in no danger," Roscosmos said in its announcement.

As The Times notes, this is the second such emergency on the station. Back in July, the thrusters on Russia's Nauka module fired "inadvertently and unexpectedly" causing the ISS to tilt by about 45 degrees. At the time, NASA spokesperson Rob Navias said the ISS lost "attitude control," which is also what happened in this case, and that the event was quite rare.

Moscow metro launches facial recognition payment system despite privacy concerns

More than 240 metro stations across Moscow now allow passengers to pay for a ride by looking at a camera. The Moscow metro has launched what authorities say is the first mass-scale deployment of a facial recognition payment system. According to The Guardian, passengers can access the payment option called FacePay by linking their photo, bank card and metro card to the system via the Mosmetro app. "Now all passengers will be able to pay for travel without taking out their phone, Troika or bank card," Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin tweeted.

Теперь все пассажиры #мосметро смогут платить за проезд, не доставая телефон, "Тройку" или банковскую карту. Система Face Pay завтра заработает на более чем 240 станциях.

— Сергей Собянин (@MosSobyanin) October 14, 2021

In the official Moscow website's announcement, the country's Department of Transport said all Face Pay information will be encrypted. The cameras at the designated turnstyles will read a passenger's biometric key only, and authorities said information collected for the system will be stored in data centers that can only be accessed by interior ministry staff. Moscow's Department of Information Technology has also assured users that photographs submitted to the system won't be handed over to the cops.

Still, privacy advocates are concerned over the growing use of facial recognition in the city. Back in 2017, officials added facial recognition tech to the city's 170,000 security cameras as part of its efforts to ID criminals on the street. Activists filed a case against Moscow's Department of Technology a few years later in hopes of convincing the courts to ban the use of the technology. However, a court in Moscow sided with the city, deciding that its use of facial recognition does not violate the privacy of citizens. Reuters reported earlier this year, though, that those cameras were also used to identify protesters who attended rallies.

Stanislav Shakirov, the founder of Roskomsvoboda, a group that aims to protect Russians' digital rights, said in a statement:

"We are moving closer to authoritarian countries like China that have mastered facial technology. The Moscow metro is a government institution and all the data can end up in the hands of the security services."

Meanwhile, the European Parliament called on lawmakers in the EU earlier this month to ban automated facial recognition in public spaces. It cited evidence that facial recognition AI can still misidentify PoCs, members of the LGBTI+ community, seniors and women at higher rates. In the US, local governments are banning the use of the technology inpublic spaces, including statewide bans by Massachusetts and Maine. Four Democratic lawmakers also proposed a bill to ban the federal government from using facial recognition. 

Amazon slashes up to 26 percent off monitors from Dell and LG

Amazon's deal of the day includes a bunch of monitors and Chromebooks on sale for up to 26 percent lower than their usual price. Dell's 27-inch QHD curved gaming monitor, for instance, will set you back $270, which is an all-time low for the product on the website. That's a $60 discount from its usual price of $330. The 27-inch monitor has a 2560 x 1440 resolution and a 165Hz refresh rate that enables fast-moving visuals and faster reaction times. 

Buy 27-inch Dell Curved Monitor at Amazon - $270

LG's 27-inch QHD (2560 x 1440) 27GL83A-B IPS display is also on sale for $300, down $80 from its usual price and only $3 more than its all-time low. It's NVIDIA G-SYNC compatible and has an adjustable stand. Likewise, the 27-inch Acer Predator XB273U IPS gaming monitor is now available for $398, or $152 less than its usual price of $550. It's a widescreen 2560 x 1440-pixel resolution display that's also NVIDIA G-SYNC compatible and has a refresh rate of 170Hz. IPS displays have wide viewing angles, exhibiting minimal image distortion when viewed from different positions. They also have great color reproduction and visibility in sunlight. 

Buy 27-inch LG QHD Gaming Monitor at Amazon - $300Buy 27-inch Acer Predator Gaming Monitor at Amazon - $398

If you play competitive video games and need a monitor that can respond rapidly and make sure you don't miss anything onscreen, you can get Dell's 24.5-inch S2522HG full HD monitor instead. It has a refresh rate of 240Hz and can make fast-moving visuals more visible — it also uses IPS display tech for better viewing angles. This option will set you back $225, or $97.50 lower than its full price of $322, which is also an all-time low for the product on Amazon.

Buy 24.5-inch Dell Gaming Monitor at Amazon - $225

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

Tesla debuts new car insurance that uses Texans' real-time driving behavior

Tesla now offers car insurance in Texas, its new home state, a couple of years after launching the product in California. According to Electrek, though, the insurance available to Texans is quite different than the one owners can get in The Golden State: It calculates for a customer's insurance premium using their real-time driving behavior. Their credit, age and gender that are typically used by other insurance providers apparently don't matter to Tesla. The automaker says it won't even look at customers' claim history and driving records.

Instead, Tesla will look at their "safety scores," which is a feature it introduced with the Full Self-Driving Beta version released in September. That could make things quite tricky, since the premium that needs to be paid can change every month based on the conditions the driver encounters on the road. Every forced collision warning and forced Autopilot disengagement will affect their score. Following other vehicles from an unsafe distance, braking too hard and turning corners aggressively could lower their score, as well. Safety score is still a beta feature at this point, and Tesla said it should improve over time.

Owners can now apply for a quote, wherein which the automaker will assume a 90 safety score to start their policy. The price will depend on the client's performance after that, and it could be higher or lower than what a traditional provider charges. During Tesla's shareholder meeting, where its new home state was also revealed, Elon Musk said the company plans to upgrade its offering in California to be based on real-time driving behavior, as well. It's not allowed to implement the change just yet, but it's currently trying to ask permission from regulators.

Roblox will offer layered clothing and facial gestures for more realistic avatars

Roblox wants to make its avatars look less blocky and more realistic, and it has announced a couple of visual updates meant to achieve that goal during its annual developers conference. One of those changes is layered clothing, which it's been working on since at least 2020. It allows any type of character model to be outfitted with layered clothing items. TechCrunch explains that the feature ensures clothing items will fit avatars and will drape around them naturally, whether they're human- or dinosaur-shaped. At the moment, players can only access the feature in the beta version of Roblox Studio's avatar editor, and it's unclear when it'll be more widely available.

Here's a preview of what 3D Layered Clothing will look like within the Roblox Avatar Editor.

— Bloxy News | #RDC2021 (@Bloxy_News) October 14, 2021

Roblox CEO David Baszucki said during the keynote:

"Self-identity is a crucial pillar of the metaverse, and the ability to precisely customize your clothing to your unique avatar is paramount in personal expression"

Roblox has also announced a feature called Dynamic Heads that can provide facial animations for avatars. The animations could link with facial tracking, so the character's mouth can move in time with its words. TechCrunch says the feature was made possible by the company's acquisition of digital avatar startup last year. 

It'll be a long time before facial animations become an official part of the game, though — Roblox has only given developers access to it right now, so they can play around with it and test it out. "These releases represent important stepping stones in a long line of innovations to improve the expressiveness and combinatorics in the metaverse," Daniel Sturman, Chief Technology Officer for Roblox, wrote in his recap for the event.

Roblox has thousands of ways to express yourself. Dynamic Heads is a first step towards reactive facial expressions that make conversations feel as real inside the #metaverse as they do outside it.

— Roblox (@Roblox) October 14, 2021

In addition to the experimental avatar features, Roblox has announced that it's giving creators a new way to earn money, as well. Creators will be able to put up items they designed for sale for a limited time, turning them into collectibles with higher value than the other goods they're selling in-game.

Former Boeing chief technical pilot involved in 737 Max testing charged with fraud

Mark A. Forkner, Boeing's former chief technical pilot involved in the company's 737 Max testing, was indicted for fraud by a grand jury in Texas. Due to his position with the company, he was in charge of coordinating with the Federal Aviation Administration to determine the kind of training a pilot needs to fly a particular plane. The indictment accuses him of deceiving the agency's Aircraft Evaluation Group (FAA AEG) when it evaluated and certified the 737 Max model. If you'll recall, two 737 Max planes crashed within months of each other in 2018 and 2019, killing 346 people.

Forkner allegedly provided the FAA with "materially false, inaccurate, and incomplete information about a new part of the flight controls for the Boeing 737 MAX called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS)." In both crashes, the AEG determined after an investigation that MCAS, a system designed to push the plane's nose down in certain situations, activated during the flight. The planes that crashed — Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 — nosedived almost as soon as they took off.

According to the Department of Justice, Forkner discovered an important change to MCAS in November 2016, but he allegedly withheld that information from the AEG. As a result, the FAA removed all reference to MCAS in the pilot training materials for the 737 Max. Acting US Attorney Chad E. Meacham for the Northern District of Texas said in a statement that the former chief pilot's actions were financially motivated:

“In an attempt to save Boeing money, Forkner allegedly withheld critical information from regulators. His callous choice to mislead the FAA hampered the agency’s ability to protect the flying public and left pilots in the lurch, lacking information about certain 737 MAX flight controls. The Department of Justice will not tolerate fraud — especially in industries where the stakes are so high."

Earlier this year, Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion to settle the criminal charge that it had conspired to defraud the FAA. It also agreed to work with the FAA's fraud section for any ongoing and future investigations. As for Forkner, he was charged with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts and four counts of wire fraud. He's now facing a sentence of up to 100 years in prison. 

Amazon’s second-gen Echo Show 8 falls back to $100

If you missed the chance to grab the new Echo Show 8 during Amazon's Prime Day event in July, you may want to check the smart display's listing on Amazon. It's currently on sale for $100, $30 less than its original retail price of $130. That's only $5 more than what it was listed for during Prime Day, and it's certainly not a bad deal for a relatively new device that was only released in June. 

Buy All-new Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen, 2021) at Amazon - $100

We gave the Echo Show 8 a score of 87 in our review. Between this device and its smaller 5-inch sibling, it received more upgrades from the previous generation, including a faster octa-core processor. It also has a 13-megapixel wide-angle camera that's a huge improvement over the previous version's one-megapixel sensor. The smart display uses digital panning and zooming to follow you around during calls, and it worked well enough when we tested it out. It even works with every video calling platform the device supports, including Skype and Zoom.

Aside from its faster processor and better camera, we praised the Echo Show 8 for its minimalist design and its 1,280 x 800-pixel resolution display. It lacks the 3.5 mm jack of its predecessor that will let you connect it to a speaker, but it already has a powerful bass and impressive volume. The device's overall sound quality is also better than its smaller sibling's, since it has two speakers instead of one. 

We found the Echo Show 8 a great digital photo frame that's capable of displaying current time and weather conditions during our tests. In addition, we found it helpful in the kitchen, thanks to its large library of recipes with step-by-step instructions from sources that include the Food Network and Allrecipes. And in case you want to use the smart display to watch videos, you can do so, as well, since it supports video streaming from Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

Apple extends repair program for crackling AirPods Pro buds for one more year

Last year, Apple launched a repair/replacement program for AirPods Pro units experiencing sound issues, such as crackling or static. It was only supposed to last for two years after the buds were first sold in October 30th, 2019, which means the program was going to come to a close in a couple of weeks. As first noticed by someone on Reddit, though, the tech giant has quietly updated its program's information page to extend its availability. "The program covers affected AirPods Pro for 3 years after the first retail sale of the unit," the updated page reads, giving people the chance to exchange their faulty buds within the next year.

Apple previously said that a "small percentage" of units manufactured before October 2020 may be affected by the issue. The program covers buds exhibiting cracking or static sounds in loud environments, or while the user is exercising or talking on the phone. It also covers units with faulty Active Noise Cancellation that show irregularities, such as the loss of bass or an increase in background sounds. According to a few commenters on the Reddit post, however, even their buds that were manufactured later than October 2020 were exhibiting sound issues. While those models are technically not covered by the program anymore, the users were still able to get them replaced by getting in touch with Apple.

Volvo reveals its first vehicle made of fossil-free steel

A few months ago, Volvo teamed up with Swedish steel producer SSAB to develop a type of steel it can use for its vehicles that doesn't use fossil fuels. Now, the automaker has revealed what it says is the world's first vehicle made of fossil-free steel: A four wheeled fully electric load carrier made for quarrying and mining. In addition to having no greenhouse gas emission, it's also autonomous and can follow a pre-programmed route to transport materials at a job site.

SSAB produces fossil-free steel by replacing the coal used during the manufacturing process with hydrogen from electrolysis. As Forbes notes, though, the whole vehicle isn't exactly fossil-free, since the steel used for its components provided by third-party suppliers, such as its electric motor, were made using traditional means. Still, Volvo Group CTO Lars Stenqvist told the publication that "majority of the steel" in the vehicle is fossil free. He said three tons of the carrier's 8.2-ton weight is made of green steel from SSAB, and those eight tons include other heavy components like the vehicle's tires.

Volvo plans to start a small-scale production for the vehicle next year and to scale up production, depending on the availability of steel from SSAB. The Swedish manufacturer is hoping to start mass-producing its fossil-free steel in 2026, so we may see more Volvo vehicles made using the material by that time.

Martin Lundstedt, President and CEO Volvo Group, said in a statement:

"This initiative with SSAB sets the benchmark for a fossil-free future. Just as the nations of the world come together at COP26 to address climate change, so too must organizations and industries work in collaboration to develop innovative new solutions for a greenhouse gas emission free future. Volvo Group is committed to pioneering partnerships such as this with SSAB to develop attractive, safe and efficient new vehicles and machines that pave the way for a more sustainable transport and infrastructure system adopted for the future."