Google accidentally pushed Bluetooth update for Home speaker early

Google announced that it would be updating its Google Home virtual assistant / speaker with Bluetooth audio support at I/O earlier this year, and now that update has accidentally begun to roll out to some Home owners, as noted by Android Police. At this time, Google hasn’t announced when it will actually be releasing Bluetooth support for the Google Home.

When the update does roll out for real, you’ll be able to use it as a Bluetooth speaker — something that Amazon’s Echo has already been capable of for a while, although Google’s own home speaker has supported the company’s Chromecast Audio standard since launch. The new addition of Bluetooth, however, should greatly widen the number of compatible devices that will work with Home for music streaming, as well as allow it to be used as a speaker even without Wi-Fi.

Update June 30th, 6:30PM: Google appears to have accidentally pushed out the update to some users early by accident, this post has been updated to reflect that.

Casino ATMs are using facial recognition to spot money launderers in Macau

Casino destination Macau is requiring facial recognition and identification card checks for withdrawals made by Chinese UnionPay cardholders at all ATMs, as reported by Bloomberg. Customers who make a withdrawal from the updated cash machines will be asked to stare into a camera for six seconds so the facial-recognition software can verify them against their identity card.

The move is a three-fold effort to reinforce Macau’s existing anti-money laundering rules, increase banking security, and enable China to try and dampen the outflows pushing down the value of its currency (which, last year, topped $816 billion). Casinos are a classic way to launder money, as individuals can withdraw significant amounts for chips, gamble very little, and then cash out to move the remainder.

This follows Macau’s ban on proxy betting by telephone, which aimed to restrict bets from Chinese gamblers, and a limit on ATM withdrawals from 10,000 patacas to 5,000 patacas per transaction.

The Macau Monetary Authority says the facial recognition software will initially be installed in China UnionPay’s existing 1,200 ATMs in Macau. Other payment providers, including Visa and Mastercard, will be required to adopt the technology at a later date.

Facial recognition software is already used in a number of countries with various applications. In the US, the Biometric Exit project plans to use facial recognition to verify travelers as they leave the country, eventually bringing the technology to every international airport in America. In the UK, British police will use a facial recognition system to scan the Cardiff train station and surrounding areas when the Champion’s League Final happens on July 3rd.

Bloomberg saysthis is the “first widespread consumer application of facial-recognition security programs in Greater China,” a country with very different expectations of what is acceptable for privacy. The Chinese government regularly removes online content that “propagate[s] negative speech,” and censors messages on group chat platforms like WeChat without letting users know.

Enforcement of a one-to-one match against ID cards at ATMs won’t stop money laundering entirely, but locking down identity is the first step toward any enforcement. As Bloomberg notes, it’s not uncommon in Macau for people to use multiple bank cards for withdrawals, or for friends and family of an account member to make a withdrawal without them being present.

US denies visas to Afghanistan’s all-girl robotics team

Six teenage girls from Afghanistan planned to come to the US to compete in the First Global Challenge robotics competition this month, but those plans were canceled after they were denied visas to enter the country. Forbesreports that the girls traveled 500 miles to Kabul for their visa interviews, and that their robot’s supplies were held in customs for months.

This kit, which the competition organizers issued to every participating team, included different components, like brackets, extrusions, fastening hardware, hardware adaptors, bearings, wheels of different sizes, gears, pulleys, motors, servos, and sprockets. The State Department feared ISIS might try to use these parts on the battlefield, which is why they delayed sending them to the girls.

Still, the team built a ball-sorting robot on a shortened timeline; their kit only arrived three weeks ago. More than 100 other teams have entered the competition, including participants from Iraq, Iran, and Sudan. The girls’ robot will still compete, but the team will only be able to watch over a video call from their homes in Herat, Afghanistan.

How Uber can emerge from its scandals as a more ethical company

To put it lightly, Uber has had a rough couple months. After the departure of its CEO Travis Kalanick and many of his top deputies following several months of nonstop scandals and controversies, the company finds itself in the unique position to hit the reset button. Naturally, a lot of experts and pundits have been weighing in with a variety recommendations for how Uber can rebuild its tattered image.

But a new coalition of labor unions, accessibility advocates, and consumer rights groups has emerged with its own list of suggestions. This group is urging Uber to look beyond the insular world of its employees, board members, and investors to a much broader one that includes hundreds of thousands of drivers and millions of customers.

The coalition, which includes groups representing over a million members, sent an open letter to Uber’s board members and top executives. In it, they praise the “Moving Uber Forward” letter, in which the company’s top investors called for Kalanick’s resignation, and the board’s adoption of the recommendations from the investigation into its corporate culture. “Those are good steps,” the open letter states, “but Uber’s stakeholders include a much larger group than private equity, venture capitalists, and other large investors.

The open letter continues, “Making changes only at the corporate leadership level creates a dangerous likelihood that Uber’s sustained ethics challenges will resurface.”

The letter’s signatories include a number of groups that have been at loggerheads with Uber over the years, such as the Amalgamated Transit Union, Teamsters Local 117, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, and the Center for Disability Rights. It also features worker rights advocates like the National Employment Law Project, several Pittsburgh-based groups (Uber’s autonomous driving research division is located there), and The Rideshare Guys Harry Campbell.

They urge Uber to make several fundamental changes to the way it conducts its business. To be sure, Uber is already engaged in some of these changes, like data-sharing with local communities and pivoting from “adversarial to collaborative relationships with local governments.” The company recently discontinued its use of the regulator-thwarting software program Greyball after TheNew York Times outed its existence.

Other recommendations, such as paying drivers a living wage and making payroll tax contributions to workers compensation, social security, and unemployment insurance, will be a tougher hill to climb to those advocating for a more ethical Uber. The company classifies its drivers as independent contractors, arguing they are in business for themselves and thus ineligible for traditional benefits like overtime and health insurance. Still, it’s noticeable that the advocates don’t call for Uber to reclassify its drivers outright, but simply comply with some core labor standards.

Uber recently launched an effort entitled “180 Days of Change” aimed at improving outreach to drivers. This effort includes adding a tipping option to the app and helping drivers obtain injury insurance protection. Critics note, however, that the insurance policies promoted by Uber could leave drivers on the hook for thousands of dollars.

They are also urging Uber to commit to a more transparent pricing structure, especially in light of recent reports that it routinely overcharges riders for trips. They also want Uber to commit “safe, equal service for all, especially communities of color and people with disabilities.” Wheelchair accessibility advocates recently sued Uber for not providing enough accessible vehicles.

“The best way for Uber to move forward is for the company to make real, transparent, and enforceable commitments to its drivers, its riders, and the communities in which it operates,” the letter states. “A partnership with these constituencies has the potential to transform the company, and to hold Uber accountable to the higher standards to which it aspires.”

Whether Uber will adopt any of these (admittedly unsolicited) recommendations is anyone’s guess. In response to the letter, a spokesperson for the company said, “We’re focused on building a company that we can be proud of. That means improving our internal culture, repairing our relationship with drivers, and being better citizens to the communities we serve.”

Uber likes to tout the fact that it listens to, and makes changes based on, the feedback it gets from riders and drivers. But on huge corporate changes that would affect its advantage over its competitors, as well as its bottom line, Uber typically turns to one group: the wealthy investors whose financing has helped secure its status as the valuable startup in the world.

Syfy’s space opera Killjoys returns tonight — here’s why you should watch

A couple of years ago, Syfy went back to its roots when it greenlit three new television shows: The Expanse, Dark Matter, and Killjoys. All three shows follow the crew of a spaceship in some sector of space, and they all harken back to the days when episodes of Andromeda, BattlestarGalactica, Farscape, or Stargate were easily accessible in broadcast or syndication.

The Expansewrapped its second season in April; Dark Matter returned in June; and on Friday, June 30th, Killjoys is beginning its third season. Its trailer promised plenty more bounty-hunter-in-space action, as well as cyborgs, green goo, and more one-liners. Here’s why the show’s worth checking out.

Some minor spoilers for seasons 1 and 2 ahead.

What’s this show about?

Killjoys was created by Michelle Lovretta, the mind behind Syfy’s series Lost Girl. Killjoys is about three agents who work for the Reclamation Apprehension Coalition (RAC), a loose union of bounty hunters who will pick up any contract, from delivering cargo to tracking down criminals. They operate in the Quad, a four-planet, inhabited system.

Who are the main characters?

Dutch (aka Yalena Yardeen, played by Hannah John-Kamen) is the highest-ranking RAC agent. She has a secret past: she was trained from a young age to be an assassin, and she’s still grappling with her history. Her partner is Johnny Jaqobis (Aaron Ashmore), who met Dutch by trying to steal her ship. He’s a smartass, but sort of the heart of the group. Finally, there’s D’avin Jaqobis, Johnny’s brother, a former soldier with a traumatic past. He’s also been on the receiving end of some experimentation, something that’s been playing out in the show.

There are a bunch of side characters as well: Pree is the owner of the Royale bar, a frequent location for the show. Alvis Akari is a resistance fighter and monk. Turin is a high-ranking RAC agent. Khlyen is Dutch’s former mentor, a high-ranking RAC agent. Dr. Pawter Simms is a disgraced royal and medical doctor. And then there’s Lucy, the artificial intelligence in Dutch’s ship.

What’s the setting like?

The show is set in The Quad, comprised of a planet and four moons, all in a star cluster known as The J. The planet is Qresh. Earth-like, and home to the people who can afford to live there, it’s pretty good at keeping undesirables out. The largest moon is Westerly, which was heavily mined by The Company. It’s home to a huge population of miners and workers. Many of them don’t really want to be there, though, because of the extensive pollution. The moon is Leith is cleaner, but has tight restrictions on who can travel and live there. Finally, there’s Arkyn, the smallest moon, which was home to the first colonization efforts, until something went horribly wrong. It’s uninhabited, but there’s a mysterious facility there.

What’s also great about this particular world (or worlds) is that each feels completely unique and lived in, like there’s a bit more than meets the eye with everything. So far, the show’s creators have done a good job using this to bring forward some of the background characters, like Pree or Turin.

What are the big plot arcs?

In the first season, the protagonists make their way through the universe: D’avin joins the crew, and they begin taking warrants in the Quad together. A mysterious figure from Dutch’s past begins stalking her (Khlyen), while a war brews between a major company that controls the Quad, and some of its residents. The RAC agents are supposed to be neutral in all this, but Dutch and company are sucked into the middle of everything. At the end of the season, D’avin is captured by a mysterious program, Red 17.

In the second season, the team works to get D’avin back, and begins to unravel the mysteries behind Red 17, the failed experiments that occurred on Arkyn, and how Khlyen fits into everything.

Where is season 3 picking up?

The team suffered a series of devastating losses in the second season, so they’re going to be picking up and dealing with the fallout from that, with Dutch essentially calling for war to avenge them. From the trailer, it looks like Dutch will also be dealing with a dopplegänger, among other things.

What makes Killjoys worth watching?

As with Dark Matter, I’ve really loved Syfy’s return to form when it comes to shows about spaceships. I grew up with shows like Babylon 5, Farscape, Firefly, and Stargate, and I’ve missed the stories about the crew of a spaceship going out on random adventures. Killjoys in particular hits a sweet spot for me: it has a fantastic diverse cast, a vibrant location, and a badass leading lady. While the show doesn’t hesitate to take its characters to some darker places when it needs to, its writers and actors inject quite a bit of humor into each episode, which makes it quite a bit of fun to watch. If The Expanse is a serious guard dog, Killjoys is a carefree Golden Retriever. It’s full of quippy one-liners and action, and it crams in plenty of story and lots of world-building.

Okay, where can I catch up on this?

Unfortunately, the show isn’t on Netflix. If you have a cable subscription, you can stream it on Syfy’s website, and it’s available for purchase in all the usual places. Season 3 starts on June 30th on Syfy.

Sprint is getting sued for sabotaging RadioShack’s comeback

RadioShack is going down swinging. With nearly all of its stores now out of business, the retailer’s creditors have sued Sprint and are accusing the wireless carrier of backstabbing RadioShack and destroying any hope of a great American comeback story. The creditors are seeking $500 million in damages, according to Reuters, and are alleging that Sprint used a co-branding partnership formed between the two companies in 2015 to its own selfish benefit — and to RadioShack’s eventual doom.

That was back when RadioShack had freshly emerged from bankruptcy and was oddly hopeful that adding Sprint (by then the fourth largest US carrier) to its stores could somehow help turn things around and hold off the hand of fate. In this case, that’s the hand of Jeff Bezos and internet shopping.

It didn’t work. RadioShack couldn’t escape the fall back into bankruptcy and eventually threw in the towel. Throughout May, the company held everything must go liquidation sales to get rid of all that was left — shelving included — in nearly all of its remaining stores.

Now, the company’s creditors are saying that Sprint took advantage of the partnership by using confidential data to pinpoint the best locations for Sprint’s own retail stores. Wherever RadioShack-Sprint was performing well, Sprint would open a separate location. The carrier also failed to hold up its end of the bargain when it came to providing staffing and inventory, according to the complaint. “Sprint’s action destroyed nearly 6,000 RadioShack jobs,” said the lawsuit, which was filed in Delaware Superior Court on Wednesday.

Sprint has said it will fight the lawsuit and is disappointed with the creditors’ decision to start a legal battle.

Palmer Luckey backs VR project to make exclusive Oculus games run on the HTC Vive

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey confirmed yesterday that he’s donating money to a virtual reality project focused on letting the HTC Vive headset play games exclusive to the Oculus Rift. The project, called Revive, is currently live on crowdfunding site Patreon with a note thanking Luckey for his contribution.

Although the note now confirms the $2,000 pledge (it apparently did not originally contain the exact figure), Waypoint confirmed the donation with Luckey himself. There appeared at first to be a slight discrepancy in the numbers: the project has only $2,005 per month from 64 backers. That suggested Luckey’s donation could have been a one-time pledge and not a recurring one. But Luckey confirmed on Twitter today that he is in fact donating $2,000 per month to the project, but Patreon takes a 5 percent cut.

Regardless, the donation is a strange move for a number of reasons. Luckey is no longer part of Oculus. He departed the Facebook-owned VR company in March. This was after months of silence from Oculus leadership, and Luckey himself, regarding the founder’s financial support of pro-Trump trolling groups during the US election. However, Luckey was likely involved in helping Oculus hammer out exclusivity deals with VR game makers, which has been a large point of contention in the VR community.

Luckey has commented on VR exclusivity in the past. In a Reddit thread last year, he insinuated that HTC and Valve were unwilling to work with the company to implement the Oculus software development kit. “We can only extend our SDK to work with other headsets if the manufacturer allows us to do so,” Luckey wrote. “It does not take very much imagination to come up with reasons why they might not be able or interested.”

There are other reasons why Oculus may rely on exclusivity deals. Facebook helped fund many early VR projects directly, using its deep pockets to ensure developers could create high-quality games to build out the Rift’s library and push the medium beyond its hodgepodge of tech demos and half-finished titles.

For instance, the creative first-person shooter Superhot was only remade in VR because Facebook and Oculus help fund the project. It remained an Oculus exclusive for months, until the exclusivity contract ended earlier this year and Sony announced the game would make its way to PSVR. It makes sense that Oculus wouldn’t be interested in funding development for games that could be bought from a competing digital game store and used on a competitor’s VR headset. (It should be noted that exclusivity is also a cornerstone of the gaming platform wars, and it’s still a prevalent business strategy for Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo.)

Revive has in fact been around for a while. Last year, the developers attempted to bridge the gap between the Vive and the Rift and successfully launched a tool to do so, yet Oculus then implemented a copy protection check that disabled the software. Though Oculus rightly framed it as an anti-piracy move — Revive’s developers responded initially by issuing a workaround that opened the door to pirate Rift games — the VR community was still up in arms. Oculus later backed down.

“We continually revise our entitlement and anti-piracy systems, and in the June update we’ve removed the check for Rift hardware from the entitlement check,” Oculus said in a statement back in June 2016. “We won’t use hardware checks as part of [digital rights management] on PC in the future.”

All of this controversy makes Luckey’s donation to Revive that much more interesting. Though the Oculus founder may be restricted through legal means to speak openly about his time at the company, it appears he doesn’t favor Rift exclusivity all that much and perhaps never did. So while Luckey might not be able to speak his mind in words, he can certainly achieve the same effect by writing a check.

Update 2:45PM ET, 6/30: Clarified that Luckey is donating $2,000 per month, and the discrepancy in funding is due to Patreon’s 5 percent cut.

Wonder Woman reigns supreme as the DCEU’s highest-earning US film

By any metric, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman has been a success. The film enjoyed the largest-ever opening weekend for a film directed by a woman. It’s now the highest-grossing live-action film directed by a woman in the world. It got an “A” from Cinemascore viewers, and overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. The profound wave of positivity is particularly striking when compared to other DC Comics Extended Universe sibling films, including Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad.

And now, less than a month after its theatrical release, Wonder Woman has overtaken the full-release box-office take of Warner Bros.’ other DCEU films in the United States, The Wrapreports.So far, Wonder Woman has earned $330.5 million in domestic release, to Batman v Superman’s previous DCEU record of $330.3 million. Notably, Wonder Woman’s earnings have hit that mark after less than a month in theaters, while it took Batman v Superman 84 days.

In worldwide release numbers, though, it’s worth noting that Batman v Superman still holds the overall earnings record for DCEU movies, and that so far, a considerably higher percentage of the film’s box office take came from international ticket sales than Wonder Woman’s — according to Box Office Mojo (which currently has different domestic totals than The Wrap’s report) Batman v Superman made 62 percent of its money in international release, compared to Wonder Woman’s 50 percent. It’s not clear yet whether that’s due to Wonder Woman getting a much smaller promotional push than Batman v Superman, or getting a smaller international release push, or whether it takes longer for international numbers to come in. But it’ll be interesting to watch the box office race over the long term, and see how the numbers match up after Wonder Woman’s been in release as long as the other DCEU films.

The iPhone turns 10 and Petya is on the loose

Did you know it was the iPhone’s 10th anniversary on Thursday? The Vergecast knows. Nilay, Dieter, and Paul talk about what the iPhone means to them, to the industry, and to the entire universe. With just a slight tangent to talk about Orbs for Kings.

Better yet, Nilay interviewed Verge reporter Russell Brandom about the Petya ransomware. It’s a segment Russell calls “CyberTalk,” but Nilay wants to call it “Brandom Security with Russell Brandom.” Please vote in the comments.

1:00 – The iPhone turns 10

21:56 – iPhone or smartphones: which had the bigger impact?

31:50 – Petya ransomware in “Brandom Security with Russell Brandom” / “CyberTalk”

47:15 – Amazon Echo Show Review

55:31 – iOS 11 preview

66:00 – ARKit

72:30 – Paul’s weekly segment “Spin Safety”

74:50 – Galaxy Note 7 (Fandom Edition)

If you enjoyed this podcast and the many topics discussed on the show, there’s kinda more you can listen to! Check out Ctrl-Walt-Delete’s final episode, and our Anchor channel, which experiments with audio and podcasting in new and interesting ways. You might also want to check out Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, and Too Embarrassed to Ask hosted by Lauren Goode! You can find them all in iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and anywhere you get your podcasts nowadays.

In this harrowing exclusive clip from 2:22, precognition and air travel don’t mix well

It’s pretty well known that airlines prefer not to show in-flight movies featuring air disasters or near-disasters, so they’re certainly going to want to avoid Paul Currie’s 2:22, a supernatural thriller about an air-traffic controller whose ability to visualize strange patterns in the world pulls him into a mystery based in time, numbers, and eerie coincidence. But first, it distracts him at a crucial moment, leading to a near-disaster that no one’s going to want to watch on a plane. Here’s an exclusive clip from the movie:

2:22 clip courtesy of Magnet Releasing

Michiel Huisman, (Game Of Thrones’ second, better Daario Naharis) stars as Dylan Branson, a savant with a Beautiful Mind-esque talent for seeing how things converge and unite in the world around him. When he starts experiencing repetitive events at 2:22 every day — repeated words and behavior from people around him, malfunctions and explosions in public places — he tries to unravel a mystery built around Sarah (Hacksaw Ridge co-star Teresa Palmer) who appears in this clip as a passenger on a plane that nearly crashes under Dylan’s watch. It’s a psychological drama in the vein of the 2008 Anne Hathaway movie Passengers or the 2004 Christian Bale feature The Machinist, where eerie occurrences in the world point toward a larger pattern the protagonists need to understand.

2:22 is out in limited theatrical release June 30th, and is simultaneously premiering on VOD services, including iTunes and VUDU.