Much like Snapchat’s Spectacles, this theoretical Essential device would be used to capture eye-level photo and video with a built-in camera. However it would go further, more in the vein of Google’s ill-fated Glass headset, by adding digital information and images to real life scenes with some type of augmented reality tech. The filing describes the device working with prescription lenses, photo sensitive lenses, and standard sunglass lenses. There is also talk of a “dual-mode display,” which would present visual overlays and use an inward facing camera to perform eye tracking.
The patent also describes AR use cases like real-time price matching of products in a store. “Based on the environment that the user sees, and based on the direction of the user’s gaze, the processor can display an image to augment the environment around the user,” the filing reads. “For example, if the user is looking at a barcode of an item, the processor can display cheaper purchasing options of the same item.”
This is of course not a real product, at least not yet. Though from what we’ve seen from Essential, which starts shipping its new Essential Phone later this month or early July, it’s clear the company has serious hardware ambitions to take on the biggest players in the tech industry. We don’t know quite yet whether the Essential Phone can keep pace with the iPhone or its fellow top-tier Android competitors, nor do we know if the company’s Essential Home will be a viable smart speaker compared with offerings from Google and Amazon. But if Essential can arrive early to the smart glasses market, it could just gain an early edge in a sector not yet dominated by a big Silicon Valley player.
Google will introduce an ad blocker to Chrome early next year and is telling publishers to get ready.
The warning is meant to let websites assess their ads and strip any particularly disruptive ones from their pages. That’s because Chrome’s ad blocker won’t block all ads from the web. Instead, it’ll only block ads on pages that are determined to have too many annoying or intrusive advertisements, like videos that autoplay with sound or interstitials that take up the entire screen.
Sridhar Ramaswamy, the executive in charge of Google’s ads, writes in a blog post that even ads “owned or served by Google” will be blocked on pages that don’t meet Chrome’s guidelines.
Instead of an ad “blocker,” Google is referring to the feature as an ad “filter,” according to The Wall Street Journal, since it will still allow ads to be displayed on pages that meet the right requirements. The blocker will work on both desktop and mobile.
Google is providing a tool that publishers can run to find out if their sites’ ads are in violation and will be blocked in Chrome. Unacceptable ads are being determined by a group called the Coalition for Better Ads, which includes Google, Facebook, News Corp, and The Washington Post as members.
The feature is certain to be controversial. On one hand, there are huge benefits for both consumers and publishers. But on the other, it gives Google immense power over what the web looks like, partly in the name of protecting its own revenue.
First, the benefits: bad ads slow down the web, make the web hard and annoying to browse, and have ultimately driven consumers to install ad blockers that remove all advertisements no matter what. A world where that continues and most users block all ads looks almost apocalyptic for publishers, since nearly all of your favorite websites rely on ads to stay afloat. (The Verge, as you have likely noticed,included.)
By implementing a limited blocking tool, Google can limit the spread of wholesale ad blocking, which ultimately benefits everyone. Users get a better web experience. And publishers get to continue using the ad model that’s served the web well for decades — though they may lose some valuable ad units in the process.
There’s also a good argument to be made that stripping out irritating ads is no different than blocking pop ups, which web browsers have done for years, as a way to improve the experience for consumers.
But there are drawbacks to building an ad blocker into Chrome: most notably, the amount of power it gives Google. Ultimately, it means Google gets to decide what qualifies as an acceptable ad (though it’s basing this on standards set collectively by the Coalition for Better Ads). That’s a good thing if you trust Google to remain benign and act in everyone’s interests. But keep in mind that Google is, at its core, an ad company. Nearly 89 percent of its revenue comes from displaying ads.
The Chrome ad blocker doesn’t just help publishers, it also helps Google maintain its dominance. And it advantages Google’s own ad units, which, it’s safe to say, will not be in violation of the bad ad rules.
This leaves publishers with fewer options to monetize their sites. And given that Chrome represents more than half of all web browsing on desktop and mobile, publishers will be hard pressed not to comply.
Google will also include an option for visitors to pay websites that they’re blocking ads on, through a program it’s calling Funding Choices. Publishers will have to enable support for this feature individually. But Google already tested a similar feature for more than two years, and it never really caught on. So it’s hard to imagine publishers seeing what’s essentially a voluntary tipping model as a viable alternative to ads.
Ramaswamy says that the goal of Chrome’s ad blocker is to make online ads better. “We believe these changes will ensure all content creators, big and small, can continue to have a sustainable way to fund their work with online advertising,” he writes.
And what Ramaswamy says is probably true: Chrome’s ad blocker likely will clean up the web and result in a better browsing experience. It just does that by giving a single advertising juggernaut a whole lot of say over what’s good and bad.
The ZTE Nubia Z17 may be the most powerful phone to come out of China yet. The phone — which is being touted by human statue and face of ZTE, Cristiano Ronaldo, in press images — is packed with high-end parts, including a ridiculous 8GB of RAM:
It’s also water resistant, supports Dolby Atmos, comes with an IR blaster, and will be available in five colors: blue, black, gold, red, and black and gold. The Z17, which is currently only available in China, will start at CNY2,799 ($411) for a 6GB +64GB or storage version, and top out at CNY3,999 ($583) for the 8GB +128GB of storage option.
Update June 1st, 5:35PM ET: Due to lightning in the Cape Canaveral area, the launch was scrubbed on Thursday and rescheduled for Saturday at 5:07PM ET. Check back then to see if this rocket gets off the ground.
This weekend, SpaceX is set to launch another one of its Falcon 9 rockets from Florida, sending cargo and supplies to the International Space Station for NASA. It’s an otherwise routine launch that will include one of SpaceX’s signature rocket landing attempts afterward. But it wouldn’t be a SpaceX mission if the company didn’t try something completely new: this launch will be the first time that SpaceX reuses one of its Dragon cargo capsules — one that’s already flown to the station and then landed back on Earth.
The Dragon that’s going up on this flight was the same one used for SpaceX’s fourth cargo resupply mission to the station in September 2014. After a nearly month-long stay at the ISS, the Dragon landed with the help of parachutes in the Pacific Ocean. SpaceX then inspected the vehicle and refurbished it to make sure it was ready to fly again. A few components have been swapped out, but the overall structure and the thrusters from the original vehicle are the same, according to Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of flight reliability at SpaceX. One notable upgrade, however, was the addition of a new heat shield, plus the replacement of few outside components that came in contact with sea water when the Dragon splashed down in the ocean.
If all goes well, Dragon will join a small group of vehicles that have orbited the Earth multiple times — the most notable of which was NASA’s Space Shuttle. And it will be the first time a private company has sent a vehicle into orbit a second time. Eventually, SpaceX expects to re-fly most, if not all, of its Dragon cargo capsules. Such a move could likely result in substantial cost savings. The company hopes that by reusing the cargo vehicles, it can focus on making the next version of the Dragon, according to a Space News report from last year. That upgraded spacecraft will soon carry people to the International Space Station.
SpaceX seems to be making the shift into reusing its flight hardware more frequently now. The company has successfully landed 10 of its Falcon 9 rockets since 2015, and one of these used boosters flew again for the first time in March — an important proof-of-concept in SpaceX’s pursuit of reusability. Now the company plans to use another previously flown booster during its next satellite mission in a couple of weeks, and CEO Elon Musk said that up to six used Falcon 9s could fly by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the company is also making moves to save the rocket fairings (the nose cones) that surround the payloads at the top of the rocket, which easily cost millions of dollars. On that same historic March flight, SpaceX successfully landed parts of the nose cone via parachutes, the first step toward reusing them in the future.
On Saturday, SpaceX will also try to land the Falcon 9 after launch, the company’s 15th landing attempt. This time the target is the company’s landing pad, called Landing Zone 1, at Cape Canaveral, Florida. So far, SpaceX has attempted most of its landings on one of the company’s two autonomous drone ships in the ocean, but whenever the company has tried to land on land, it’s only seen success. All four of SpaceX’s previous landings at Landing Zone 1 have been perfect touchdowns.
But of course, the primary mission is not to land the rocket but to get nearly 6,000 pounds of supplies and science experiments to the ISS. Ironically, some of the most interesting experiments are riding up inside the Dragon’s unpressurized trunk, the expendable part of the spacecraft that provides support during launch and contains the vehicle’s solar panels. One such experiment is the NICER, an instrument that will eventually be mounted to the outside of the ISS to search for neutron stars. Another part of the trunk’s manifest includes the Roll Out Solar Array, or ROSA, a new type of solar panel technology that launches wound-up, and then rolls open in space. Meanwhile, fruit flies are headed up inside the Dragon to study how the heart responds to microgravity.
Whenever this flight does get off the ground, it’ll mark the 100th launch from NASA’s historic pad at LC-39A, which was used to launch the first astronauts to the Moon. The pad is now being leased by SpaceX to support flights of the Falcon 9 and the company’s future Falcon Heavy rocket. Saturday’s launch is currently slated for 5:07PM ET, and SpaceX has an instantaneous launch window this time — so it either has to launch right on schedule or move to another date. Originally, the launch was supposed to happen on Thursday at 5:55PM ET, but bad weather forced SpaceX to postpone the mission until Saturday. Hopefully, the weather gets a bit better over the weekend.
NASA’s coverage of the launch is set to begin at 4:30PM ET on Saturday, so check back then to watch the mission live.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella all said today that they remain committed to the environment and clean energy initiatives in the face of Trump’s decision to withdrawn the US from the Paris climate coalition.
Though many voices around the world, including politicians and representatives from numerous corporations and countries, have expressed extreme concern over Trump’s decision, Pichai, Nadella, and Zuckerberg are three of the most powerful figures in the tech. Their opinions on political matters carry immense weight in the industry, suggesting many other members in Silicon Valley and beyond will speak up on behalf of the tech sector. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also confirmed today on Twitter that he would be stepping down from Trump’s economic advisory councils over the decision.
“Withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement is bad for the environment, bad for the economy, and it puts our children’s future at risk,” Zuckerberg wrote on his personal Facebook page. “For our part, we’ve committed that every new data center we build will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy. Stopping climate change is something we can only do as a global community, and we have to act together before it’s too late.”
Shortly after 5PM ET, Pichai tweeted, “Disappointed with today’s decision. Google will keep working hard for a cleaner, more prosperous future for all.” Slightly early in the afternoon, Nadella and Brad Smith, the company’s chief legal officer, both tweeted messages reiterating Microsoft’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions and preventing the devastating effects of climate change. “We believe climate change is an urgent issue that demands global action. We remain committed to doing our part,” Nadella wrote.
Disappointed with today’s decision. Google will keep working hard for a cleaner, more prosperous future for all.
Smith, who is known for penning lengthy and thorough blog posts on controversial political topics on behalf of Microsoft, also directed readers to a LinkedIn post that better explained the company’s reasoning for denouncing the withdrawal.
“We are disappointed with today’s decision by the White House to withdraw the United States from the landmark, globally supported Paris Agreement on climate change,” Smith writes. “We believe that continued U.S. participation benefits U.S. businesses and the economy in important and multiple ways. A global framework strengthens competitiveness for American businesses. It creates new markets for innovative clean technologies, from green power to smart grids to cloud-enabled solutions. And by strengthening global action over time, the Agreement reduces future climate damage to people and organizations around the world.”
Though Musk and the others remain the most prominent tech industry leaders to have personally voiced concern on the subject, other tech companies have been issuing statements denouncing Trump’s decision as well. Both Amazon and HP issued statements saying they will continue to support the agreement and to take actions to reduce emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. “Climate change is one of the most significant and urgent issues facing business and society today,” wrote HP in its statement. “The science is clear, the impacts are serious and the need to act is essential.”
Prior to Trump’s press conference today, tech leaders across the industry attempted to sway the president from following through on the withdrawal. Among those were Apple CEO Tim Cook, who called the White House on Tuesday to reportedly ask Trump to reconsider. A number of other companies signed a letter that was published today as a full-page ad in both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times expressing the same concern.
Many corporate leaders tried, and apparently failed, to appeal to Trump’s nationalistic tendencies by trying to reiterate the damage the withdrawal could do to America’s business interests, as well as its ability to compete on the global stage with the nearly 200 other members of the Paris climate deal.
Update 5:50PM ET, 6/1: Added statement from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo, California governor Edmund Brown Jr., and Washington state governor Jay Inslee said they’re forming a coalition of states committed to fighting climate change. The move basically formally shifts the responsibility of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the federal government to the local level.
“I am proud to stand with other governors as we make sure that the inaction in D.C. is met by an equal force of action from the states,” Inslee said in a statement. “Today’s announcement by the president leaves the full responsibility of climate action on states and cities throughout our nation. While the president’s actions are a shameful rebuke to the work needed to protect our planet for our children and grandchildren, states have been and will continue to step up.”
Throughout the US, cities and states have already been at the forefront in the fight against climate change. Last year, California extended an ambitious law aimed at slashing emissions 40 percent below the 1990 levels by 2030. New York pledged to the same goals, according to Newsweek; it is also one of nine Northeastern states that’s part of a joint cap-and-trade program.
New York, California, and Washington represent 68 million Americans and over one-fifth of US GDP, accounting for at least 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, the press release said. The coalition, called the United States Climate Alliance, will convene states that want to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement. Under the deal, former President Barack Obama had pledged to reduce US emissions by 26–28 percent of 2005 levels by 2025.
These states have been taking charge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for years now. With the White House unwilling to take climate change seriously, they will have to continue to lead the way.
Walmart’s 200 “Walmart Academy” training centers are all planning to incorporate virtual reality by the end of 2017, after an earlier pilot program. The limited curriculum is being produced by Strivr, a company previously known for helping NFL players train through VR. New Walmart employees will put on an Oculus Rift headset and enter different real-world scenarios, during which they’ll be asked to make simple choices based on what they see. Eventually, Strivr and Walmart hope to expand the program to all stores, not just the academies.
Training simulators have been part of VR since the very beginning, but they’re more frequently associated with industrial labor or military training than with service work. The goal here, says Strivr CEO Derek Belch, is to put employees in scenarios that would be inconvenient to physically re-create — like dealing with spills, or preparing for a Black Friday shopping spree.
“We’re using computer vision to map scenes, so we literally know exactly where someone’s looking,” says Belch. “If they don’t look at [the right place] and press the button indicating that they have seen the stimuli that we’re looking for, we know.” Wearers might look around an environment and find the spill, for example, then answer a multiple-choice question about what effect it could have on the store.
One of the biggest problems for Strivr and Walmart is that high-end VR headsets like the Oculus Rift are expensive and space-consuming. That’s why, for now, only one person will go through the training at a time, while other people watch on a flat screen. Everybody will eventually get to spend time in VR, but only over the course of their two-week training period, with each session lasting between 5 and 20 minutes. “In a perfect world, everybody has a VR headset,” says Belch. “VR is not there yet. Even the mobile devices, there’s a lot of challenges in getting that much hardware out into people’s hands at scale.” So for now, VR is a small, supplemental part of Walmart training.
But Belch thinks that we’ll see it expand rapidly. “This is something that we have talked openly with [Walmart] about, that very well could be at every Walmart store in a couple years,” he says. “You could imagine this area where there’s a room in the back and there are three mobile headsets hanging on the wall, and employees have to go through continuing education every month, going through VR modules.” That’s right: if you work for Walmart, maybe soon you can enjoy Black Friday every month.
The race to be the first to deploy autonomous vehicles is on among carmakers, emerging startups, and tech giants. Amid this constant news cycle of deals and drama, the purpose of all of it can get lost — or at least a bit muddied. What exactly are these companies racing for?
A $7 trillion annual revenue stream, according to a study released Thursday by Intel. The companies that don’t prepare for self-driving risk failure or extinction, Intel says. The report also finds that over half a million lives could be saved by self-driving over just one decade.
The study, prepared by Strategy Analytics, predicts autonomous vehicles will create a massive economic opportunity that will scale from $800 billion in 2035 (the base year of the study) to $7 trillion by 2050. An estimated 585,000 lives could be saved due to autonomous vehicles between 2035 and 2045, the study predicts.
This “passenger economy,” as Intel is calling it, includes the value of the products and services derived from fully autonomous vehicles as well as indirect savings such as time.
This is hardly the first attempt to place value on autonomous vehicles, nor will it be the last. However, Intel’s study offers a few interesting predictions for autonomous vehicles and how a combination of mobile connectivity, population density in cities, traffic congestion and subsequent regulation, and the rise of on-demand ride-hailing and car-sharing services will be the catalysts in this new economic era.
Autonomous technology will drive change across a range of industries, the study predicts, the first green shoots of which will appear in the business-to-business sector. These autonomous vehicles will first appear in developed markets and will reinvent the package delivery and long-haul transportation sectors, says Strategy Analytics president Harvey Cohen, who co-authored the study. This will relieve driver shortages, a chronic problem in the industry, and account for two-thirds of initial projected revenues.
One of the bolder predictions is that public transportation as we know it today — trains, subways, light rails, and buses — will be supplanted, or at least radically changed, by the rise of on-demand autonomous vehicle fleets.
The study argues that people will flock to suburbs as population density rises in city centers, pushing commute times higher and “outstripping the ability of public transport infrastructure to fully meet consumer mobility needs.”
The pressures of mounting traffic congestion and the correlated emissions will drive regulators to include autonomous vehicles as a part of their larger public transportation plans. Some cities may choose to own the vehicle networks not unlike existing public transportation, the study says.
The bulk of the revenue generated in the new economy will be driven by this “mobility-as-a-service.”
By 2050, business use of mobility as a service will generate about $3 trillion in revenues, or 43 percent of the total passenger economy. Consumer use will account for $3.7 trillion, or 53 percent, the study predicts.
The remaining $200 billion in revenue (of the $7 trillion total) will be generated by new applications and services as driverless vehicle services expand. A key opportunity will be how to capitalize on all of this saved time people will have once they no longer have to drive a car.
Self-driving vehicles are expected to free more than 250 million hours of consumers’ commuting time per year in the most congested cities in the world, the study says. That’s a lot of time that could be filled with streaming video, news, and other content delivered to a captured audience.
It could also change the way cars are used. Vehicles could become “experience pods,” places where people can have their hair styled and cut, conduct a meeting, or receive a health screening.
Keep in mind, that this reimagined future doesn’t mean people will necessarily spend less time in cars. One of the great promises of self-driving cars is a reduction in congestion because these vehicles will be able share real-time traffic data and optimize tasks like finding parking.
However, in a more densely populated world, where cities rely on shared autonomous vehicles for public transit, there will be more traffic than ever before. The question is: how do people want to spend their time?
“[I] Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world,” Musk wrote. He had previously been a member of Trump’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative and the Strategic and Policy Forum.
As early as last week Musk had stated that he was “cautiously optimistic of a positive decision.” But yesterday, as rumors swirled that Trump would begin the process of withdrawing the US from the agreement, Musk threatened to sever his connection to the president. “[I] don’t know which way Paris will go, but I’ve done all I can to advise directly to POTUS, through others in WH & via councils, that we remain,” he tweeted.
This prompted another Twitter user to ask him what he’d do if Trump pulled the US out of the accord. Musk responded that he’d “have no choice but to depart councils in that case.”
Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.
Musk had spent months swatting criticism for keeping his connection with Trump, especially because his companies — Tesla and SpaceX — benefit from government tax credits and contracts. He first explained the decision in February at the height of the controversy surrounding Trump’s proposed travel ban.
“My goals are to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy and to help make humanity a multi-planet civilization, a consequence of which will be the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs and a more inspiring future for all,” he wrote at the time. Musk then claimed that maintaining a relationship with the president would allow him to engage Trump on issues like climate change, which would “on balance serve the greater good.”
Later that week, he wrote that he had used one of the council meetings to raise climate change as an important issue. “I believe this is doing good, so will remain on council & keep at it. Doing otherwise would be wrong,” he added.
President Donald Trump just announced the United States will pull out of the Paris climate agreements, though it will try to negotiate for a new climate deal. Withdrawing from the agreement — a landmark deal that commits almost every country in the world to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to fight global warming — was one of Trump’s signature campaign promises. In recent months, however, it seemed less clear whether he would go through with it.
“We’re getting out, but we’re starting to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair,” Trump said from a press conference in the White House Rose Garden. “If we can, that’s great. If we can’t, that’s fine.” After the conference, France, Germany, and Italy issued a joint statement saying that the agreement can’t be negotiated, according to the Associated Press.
Reached at the end of 2015, the Paris deal was one of the most comprehensive climate change agreements ever passed; it is notable because it included countries like China, which pollute heavily but have not signed on to climate deals before. Under the agreement, former President Barack Obama had pledged to reduce US emissions by 26–28 percent of 2005 levels by 2025. But since his inauguration, Trump has initiated the roll back of several regulations, like the Clean Power Plan, meant to achieve those goals.
Still, a group of 22 Republican senators recently sent a letter to the president urging him to keep his promise. And signs weren’t looking good at the end of the foreign trip, when he refused to publicly support the agreement. (The six other nations then reemphasized their own commitment in a joint statement.)
By pulling out, the US will join two other nations in the UN climate group — Nicaragua and Syria — that don’t take part in the agreement. (Nicaragua didn’t sign the agreement because its leaders thought it’s not strict enough; Syria has been embroiled in a civil war for six years.) China, the world’s top polluter, has vowed to go ahead with the deal regardless of the US’s inclusion, but there’s little doubt that the US pulling out will have big consequences. The United States is the world’s second largest greenhouse gas polluter and also the world’s largest economy. By dropping the deal, it could encourage other countries to leave as well, or perhaps simply not regard the guidelines.
In a statement, Obama said that he believes the United States should “be at the front of the pack” of nations working on curbing climate change. Still, he said he remains confident that despite the withdrawal of the US, “states, cities, and businesses will step up.”
Reactions from business leaders were largely negative. Amazon stated that it continues to support the Paris agreement. HP also affirmed its support for the agreement, adding that “the science [of climate change] is clear, the impacts are serious and the need to act is essential.” Similarly, Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft, tweeted that he was disappointed with Trump’s decision.
Even if fully implemented, the Paris agreement was never going to be a magical solution. The plan would still only reduce emissions by half as much as necessary to prevent a global temperature increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, scientists say. (It is considered crucial to avoid the 3.6 degree temperature increase in order to protect the planet.) But without the cooperation of the US, it now looks weaker than ever.