The backpack of the future has magnetic straps to catch your AirPods

The backpack of the future has magnetic straps to catch your AirPods:

Backpacks are great at carrying stuff around, but even the nicest bags are still just canvas and leather sacks that we wear on our backs.

But there’s no product that crowdfunding won’t try to make “smart,” which brings us to Visvo. It’s a new company that’s looking to get funding on Kickstarter for a line of smart backpacks, and it has some interesting ideas of what a technology-focused bag should look like.

For example, there’s the usual integrated USB battery pack, which lets you recharge your gear on the go, but it also powers both external lights for biking, internal LEDs for lighting up the inside of the bag, and even an optional GPS tracker in case your bag gets stolen. One of the models even includes a wireless Qi charging pad integrated into one of the pockets, which is either the most ridiculous or most brilliant thing I’ve ever heard.

The best addition might be the shoulder straps: each one has powerful magnets to hold your headphones — or maybe even catch your AirPods if they fall out of your ears.

There is also a plethora of USB ports hidden around the backpack in addition to the three built into the battery pack (one on the inside of the bag, and one built into a zip pocket on right shoulder strap for charging your phone or wireless headphones). All the internal wiring can be accessed through a handy back zipper, so you don’t have to dig through all your stuff to recharge the internal battery, too.

The rest of the Novel line is pretty standard for a backpack: the outside is a treated canvas that claims to be water and stain resistant, there’s a laptop pocket, and some shock-absorbing rubber on the bottom to protect your gear.

All those extra smarts don’t come cheap, though. The base model Novel 1.0 starts at €249 for early-bird pricing (around $293), with the larger Novel 2.0 at €269 (roughly $316), and the most feature-laden Novel 3.0 at €299 (around $352). The bags aren’t expected to ship until July 2018, either, which is something to take into account, especially seeing as this is a crowdfunded project with all the usual risks that can entail.

(Via The Verge – All Posts)

Think twice before buying a connected toy this Christmas…

Think twice before buying a connected toy:

Lots of kids will be gifted connected toys this holiday season, and while I’m all for spoiling children, I also suggest thinking about the risks that come with an internet-connected plaything. Many of these devices connect to the web or rely on companion apps, and most of them collect data about your child. Beyond security vulnerabilities, the way these companies treat data is worth considering.

Mattel’s Hello Barbie, for example, lets kids talk to their doll. The doll can carry a simple conversation and will remember its owner’s likes and dislikes. A company called ToyTalk provides the voice recognition software and processes all the voice data it receives. The company explains in its privacy policy that it uses that voice data to improve its own product. It says:

We may also use, store, process, convert, transcribe, analyze or review voice recordings (along with text and transcriptions derived from the voice recordings) in order to provide, maintain, analyze and improve the functioning of the speech processing services, to develop, test or improve speech recognition technology and artificial intelligence algorithms, to develop acoustic and language models, and for other research and development and data analysis purposes.

Basically, the data your child gives to Hello Barbie, whether it’s intentional or not, lives on ToyTalk’s servers and the company can access it whenever it wants. It shares information with other third parties, too, including vendors that help maintain the technology.

Now, it might not bother you that your kid’s voice data improves ToyTalk’s software. You’re technically improving their own toy, too. But at the same time, once that data is out there, it’s difficult to recall. Data often spreads far and wide, and it’s transferred from company to company during acquisitions. Who knows where those files could ultimately end up.

None of this might matter to you, and that’s fine. Just please, read the privacy policy for your kid’s toy before handing over parental permissions.

(Via The Verge – All Posts)

Apple’s AI director on advances in machine learning for its self-driving car project

Apple’s AI director on advances in machine learning for its self-driving car project:

Apple’s secretive autonomous car project has shifted focus over the years, but this year, it seems to be picking up speed. In April, the company received a permit to test self-driving cars in California, while in June, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed that they were working on software that could allow cars — and maybe other things — to drive themselves. During a talk on Friday, Apple’s director of artificial intelligence research, Ruslan Salakhutdinov, spoke about some of the company’s recent advances in machine learning that would be useful for such a project.

Wired reports that Salakhutdinov spoke before a group of AI experts at the end of this year’s Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) conference in Long Beach, California. There, he spoke about how Apple is using machine learning to analyze data to from a vehicle’s cameras. He talked about techniques used in a recently published study on the advances that the company has made in using AI to detect pedestrians and cyclists using LiDAR. But he also revealed efforts on some other projects: software that uses a car’s cameras to identify objects such as cars and pedestrians, as well as the drivable lanes on the road. He also showed off images that demonstrated how the system performed even when camera lenses were obscured by raindrops, and how their software could infer where pedestrians were, even when they were obscured by parked cars.

Salakhutdinov also discussed how their software was interpreting the data that it was being fed. One uses a technique called SLAM to allow the software to have a sense of direction, something that’s used in map building and augmented reality, while another project takes the data from the cars and uses it to help build maps with more detail. According to Wired, he didn’t speak specifically about how these projects fit into Apple’s project, but it seems as though Apple’s focus will be on developing the brains that will eventually steer the cars safely.

(Via The Verge – All Posts)

Apple announces App of the Year, Game of the Year and Best of 2017 top charts

Apple announces App of the Year, Game of the Year and Best of 2017 top charts:

Apple has announced its Best of 2017 apps and games, this year utilizing the Today cards in the iOS 11 App Store to feature the winners. Apple says its app of the year for iPhone is Calm, a meditation and sleep app, and Splitter Critters is 2017’s iPhone game of the year. Apple says the title ‘radiates imagination and originality’.

For iPad, Apple has chosen Affinity Photo, the desktop-class photo editor, and the game Hidden Folks. It has also announced most popular apps, music, movies and more …


(Via 9to5Mac)

The Best Gear for Holiday Hosting

The Best Gear for Entertaining this Christmas:

The Best Gear for Holiday Hosting

When family and friends arrive for longer stays, you’ll need a few extra supplies—especially if the spares you keep in the back of the linen closet are worn, or not sturdy enough for pint-sized guests. Keeping a few key comforts on hand will give your guests the independence to make themselves at home. We’ve collected some of our favorite bed, bath, and kitchen gear to help you anticipate common houseguest needs and make your home feel more inviting. Our picks reflect hundreds of hours of research and testing, and we’ve focused primarily on budget-friendly options. You probably don’t need everything on this list, but covering the basics will allow you and your guests to focus on what matters: spending time together.

(Via Wirecutter: Reviews for the Real World)

The Best Thunderbolt 3 and 2 Docks

The Best Thunderbolt 3 and 2 Docks:

The Best Thunderbolt 3 and 2 Docks
Photo: Michael Hession

After doing more than 40 hours of research and hands-on testing of 10 Thunderbolt 3 docks with more than $7,000 worth of high-end gear, we’ve determined that the best Thunderbolt 3 dock for Mac or PC owners who are looking to expand their Thunderbolt-equipped computer’s array of inputs and outputs—or just to make plugging in and unplugging more convenient—is Plugable’s Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station (officially named the TBT3-UDV). Most docks have a similar array of ports that perform identically, but our pick has five USB-A ports, more than any other dock except for our runner-up (which also has five), and a small footprint if you stand it vertically; it can charge a 13-inch MacBook Pro at full speed and is the most affordable full-featured dock you can buy.

(Via Wirecutter: Reviews for the Real World)

First look: Amazon Prime Video for Apple TV launches on tvOS App Store

First look: Amazon Prime Video for Apple TV launches on tvOS App Store:

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Six months after being announced, Amazon Prime Video for Apple TV has debuted on the tvOS App Store, meaning subscribers will be able to view hits like "The Man in the High Castle," "The Big Sick," "Catastrophe," and "The Grand Tour" on Apple’s latest set-top boxes.

(Via AppleInsider – Frontpage News)