Amazon's New 'Echo Look' Camera Has Machine Learning to Help You Make Better Fashion Choices

Amazon today announced the expansion of its popular Echo line with the $200 Amazon Echo Look, a device that packs in all of the typical Echo functionalities and adds on a hands-free camera with built-in LED lighting that can give users an edge on their wardrobe choices. With Echo Look, users can take full-body photos and videos using their voice, and view the content on the connected Amazon iOS and Android apps.

Thanks to the Echo Look's depth-sensing camera, users' outfits pop in the foreground while the background is blurred, making it easier to see what they're wearing. Photos can be saved to an ongoing "look book" that will log what users wear every day so as to not duplicate outfits, and the pics can be shared easily on social networks or through texts. Taking a video allows users to quickly replay the clip on their phone so they can see their outfit from every angle in the moment, making it easier to decide on what to wear.

With Echo Look, you can take full-length photos of your daily look using just your voice. The built-in LED lighting and depth-sensing camera let you blur the background to make your outfits pop, giving you clean, shareable photos.

Get a live view in the Echo Look app or ask Alexa to take a short video so you can see yourself from every angle. View recommendations based on your daily look and use Style Check for a second opinion on what looks best. And, because Alexa is built in the cloud, she’s always getting smarter—and so will Echo Look.
Echo Look also comes equipped with a machine learning feature called Style Check, allowing users to take two pictures of two separate outfits and compare the two in order to make the best choice. Combined with advice from fashion specialists, Style Check gives users a percentage bar of what outfit works better in the moment, and what fits better on each individual user.


Otherwise, Echo Look functions like any other Echo device. Users can set alarms, listen to the news and audiobooks, get traffic alerts, control their smart home devices, check the weather, and more. With the launch of Echo Look, Amazon now sells the Echo in three iterations: the traditional Echo ($179.99), the Echo Dot ($49.99), and the new Echo Look ($199.99). An official release date for the Echo Look has not yet been announced, but users interested can sign up for an invitation on the device's Amazon page.

Uber to Make Passenger Ratings More Visible on iPhone and iPad

Uber today announced that passenger ratings will be displayed more prominently within its iPhone and iPad app.

Now, a rider's rating will be displayed right under their name in the app's menu that slides out from the left. Previously, riders had to visit an unadvertised Uber support document and sign into their account to view their score, likely resulting in some riders not even knowing the feature existed.


While most Uber users are likely familiar with rating drivers on a five-star scale after a trip, drivers can also rate passengers. If a rider eats in the car without permission, slams the door, or tries to pile in more people than seat belts, for example, a driver could give that passenger a low rating.

By making these rider ratings more visible, Uber hopes it will remind riders that "mutual respect is an important part" of its Community Guidelines.

Ratings are always reported as averages, and neither riders nor drivers will see the individual rating left for a particular trip.

Uber for iPhone and iPad [Direct Link] was updated earlier this week, but the rider rating change still appears to be in the process of rolling out.

Tag: Uber

Twitter Working on 24/7 Live Streaming Network of TV Shows to Rival Current News Outlets

Twitter is gearing up to launch an always-on, live-streaming video section of its apps and desktop site, which would run 24/7 and is ostensibly referred to as "Twitter TV" (via BuzzFeed News). The news comes from Twitter COO and CFO Anthony Noto, who said the 24/7 video update would be an expansion of Twitter's current live video efforts, which in the past have covered big events like the Presidential inauguration and pre- and post-shows for the 2017 Oscars.

Live video has become such a pillar of success and growth for the social network that it's helped Twitter gain access to advertisements in the 15-to-30 second range, for which advertisers "typically write big checks to TV networks." A beefier lineup of live videos on an always-on network could boost Twitter's profits even higher, although Noto noted that the launch of such a service will still take some time.


Specific type of content beyond news, sports, and entertainment reporting -- like scripted shows -- was not revealed, although it appears the company intends to strictly focus on current events coverage. Noto did mention that the company is "working on many, many things," however.
“We will definitely have 24/7 [video] content on Twitter,” Noto said during an extensive interview about the company’s live video strategy last week. “Our goal is to be a dependable place so that when you want to see what’s happening, you think of going to Twitter.”

Twitter will take some time to reach its 24/7 programming goal, Noto said, without offering a timetable. But he indicated much more programming in the works. “We’re working on many, many things,” Noto said. “There’s a lot in the pipeline.”
Ultimately, Noto is hoping that Twitter's 24/7 live video service could become a network that has a mix of "of ultra-premium content and not-so-ultra-premium content," meaning that viewers can tune in for shows they're interested in, and then use Twitter TV as background noise for the rest of the day.

Jeremy Liew of venture capital firm Lightspeed Venture Partners referred to this type of content as "ambient digital video," and said Twitter could very well fill a gap left over by premium services like Netflix and HBO, which are always seeking full viewer attention.
From Twitter’s perspective, becoming a source of always-on-in-the-background video in the way that CNBC is in airports would be a great outcome. “We think that is a great way to have the programming carried along with you during your day,” Noto said. “Focus in on it when you hear something that’s of interest, but then maybe not be 100% focused on it when it’s not of interest. I did that myself during the debates.”
Closer to debut is said to be a handful of new shows that Twitter will introduce as a means to boost advertising revenue in the near-term. The company is said to be pitching advertisers to spend money on its video content as soon as next week, but Noto didn't mention what kind of shows and videos are incoming. Likely candidates will be sports-related shows compared to SportsCenter on ESPN, with Twitter still reeling from the loss of the chance to stream NFL games over the course of the 2017-2018 season to streaming video rival Amazon.

The Twitter TV news comes alongside Twitter's better-than-expected first quarter earnings report, in which it generated $548 million in revenue with earnings of 11 cents per share, besting predictions that the company would net around $511 million in revenue with earnings of one cent per share. The number is still a noticeable decline from the $595 million earnings in the year-ago quarter. Twitter also introduced 9 million new users in the quarter, raising its monthly active users to 328 million.

Tag: Twitter

China to Get Netflix Originals in Content Deal With Local Streaming Service

Netflix has signed a licensing deal with a Beijing-based video platform in order to avoid regulatory restrictions and get its content into China's huge entertainment market (via The Hollywood Reporter).

The streaming giant announced the news of its content agreement with iQiyi on Tuesday at the APOS industry conference in Bali, Indonesia.

"China is an important market for obvious reasons; it's also a challenging market for obvious reasons," said Robert Roy, Netflix's vice president of content acquisition. "Right now what we will do is look to license content into China. We closed a deal with iQiyi, which is exciting." 

"For us, it does a couple of things," Roy added. "It gets our content distribution into the territory and builds awareness of the Netflix brand and Netflix content."
A subsidiary of Chinese giant Baidu, iQiyi is currently switching from an advertising-supported streaming service to a subscription model in the same vein as Netflix. The subsidiary reportedly commands the largest customer base and content portfolio in China, however it has been looking to broaden its appeal as rivals like Tencent Video and Youku Tudou compete for viewers in the country's market.

It is understood that Netflix will make some of its upcoming original content available on iQiyi at the same time as it appears in other Netflix-serving countries, but further details on which shows would be included in the deal were not forthcoming.

Both Amazon and Netflix have been unable to enter China's market because of regulatory hurdles, although Netflix's House of Cards briefly achieved viral status in China thanks to a deal with local service Sohu. The show was apparently even known to Chinese president Xi Jinping, but it was later withdrawn from local streaming services by regulators.

Last year, Apple faced its own issues with Chinese state regulators regarding a controversial independent movie which led to the shut down of iTunes and iBooks in the country.

Tags: China, Netflix

Day One Journal App Now Offers to Print Journals as Bound Books, Starting at $14.99

The company behind Mac and iOS journaling app Day One this week began offering U.S. users the chance to create printed, bound books using the content of their digital journals.

Day One Books can be designed from within the Day One iPad and iPhone app, with options to customize the cover, and include maps, stats, and full-color photos in the content.


The journals can have a flexible amount of pages (up to 400 max) and are printed on "high-quality paper" with a "coating material", according to Day One, although no other details on the specific stock are given.


The journals can be purchased through the iOS apps using Apple Pay, and prices for the journals start at $14.99 for 50 pages, rising to $49.99 for 400 pages, with the option of a hard cover for an extra $5.


The company says all digital files are "securely transferred" to the printing facility and printing is automated without any manual handling of the files, after which the digital files used are automatically deleted.


Day One Books ship to their destination within 7-12 business days after ordering within the app, and tracking codes are not provided. Day One is also promising support for international orders in the future.

A full pricing breakdown for Day One Book options can be found here.

Day One is a $4.99 app on the iOS App Store and costs $39.99 on the Mac App Store.

Tag: Day One

Google Maps Now Remembers Where You Parked Your Car

Google yesterday announced a feature to help Google Maps users remember where they're leaving their car once they've arrived at their destination.

The feature is simple enough to activate once you've parked up, and like Apple Maps, if you have your iPhone connected to your car via USB audio or Bluetooth, Google Maps will automatically tag your vehicle's location on the map when you disconnect it.


If your iPhone isn't connected to your car, you'll have to do this manually: Open up the app, tap the blue location dot and then select "Set as parking location" to add it to the map.

Tapping on the parking icon that remains on the map also opens the parking card, which includes options to share the location with friends and view pictures of the parking area.

Google Maps can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Verizon Launches New Prepaid Unlimited Data Plan

Verizon today announced the launch of a new unlimited data plan for its prepaid customers, which offers unlimited data, talk, and text across the United States for $80.

The plan includes unlimited text messages to more than 200 countries, along with unlimited talk in Mexico and Canada. Video streaming, is, however, limited to 480p, and no tethering is included. Verizon also says it "may prioritize your data behind other customers during times/places of network congestion."

"In just months, Verizon has transformed its prepaid offerings to make it easier and more affordable for customers to get access to the best network at a great value, no matter how much data they need," said Tami Erwin, executive vice president of operations for Verizon. "This plan is all about giving our prepaid customers more choice. With data plans from as little as 2 GB to unlimited data, we've got a plan that fits your needs."
Verizon's prepaid plans include no long-term contract and no credit check. Verizon also offers 2GB, 5GB, and 10GB data plans for unlimited customers, along with a $30 basic phone plan with unlimited talk and text.

The introduction of the new unlimited prepaid data plan comes just over two months after Verizon unveiled its postpaid unlimited data plan to compete with unlimited data offerings from AT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon's unlimited plan offers unlimited talk, text, LTE data, and 10GB of tethering data for $80 per month.

Tag: Verizon

Facebook Tests Related Articles Fact-Checking Update in Ongoing Quest to Combat Fake News

Facebook product manager Sara Su today shared a blog post that highlights a test launching on the company's iOS and Android apps, consisting of an update to the "Related Articles" feature found beneath posts shared by your friends and family.

For users included in the update, Related Articles will now highlight differing perspectives from separate publications on the same subject mentioned in the parent article, namely "including articles by third-party fact-checkers."

This marks Facebook's newest leg in its anti-"Fake News" quest, which it began earlier in April by educating its users on the subject with a "tips for spotting false news" gateway that sat atop the Facebook app for a few days. With today's launch of the Related Articles test, Su mentioned that Facebook users will now have more tools at their disposal to see a "complete picture of a story or topic" before they even click on the original story.

One of our main goals is to support an informed community on Facebook. This includes helping people have conversations about the news and giving people more ways to see a more complete picture of a story or topic.

Today, we’re beginning to test Related Articles that might appear before you read an article shared in News Feed. These additional articles, which appear for topics many people are talking about on Facebook, will appear in a unit below the link. That should provide people easier access to additional perspectives and information, including articles by third-party fact-checkers.
The Related Articles test is "one of many tests" that Facebook is working on to improve the service's reputation with rampant fake news sharing, an issue that has been on the rise since before the U.S. presidential election last year. When Facebook launched the educational tool for spotting false news, Google also debuted a "Fact Check" label in search results for all countries.

The problem reached such heights earlier this year that Apple CEO Tim Cook called it "one of today's chief problems," while Eddy Cue said that Apple itself is "trying to do some things in Apple News" that would address fake news directly.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tag: Facebook

Dutch Court Rules Apple May Not Use 'Remanufactured' iPads for Warranty Replacements

A new ruling by a judge in the Subdistrict Court of Amsterdam has mandated that Apple can not replace a broken iPad unit with a "remanufactured" device, and must supply the plaintiff with an entirely new iPad instead. The case stems from a woman who purchased an iPad Air 2 with AppleCare back in 2015, and subsequently faced problems with the device's Wi-Fi around four months later.

Apple then supplied the woman with a remanufactured version of the iPad, which Apple said is a process by which the company reconstitutes damaged products by using "the same production and inspection procedures" as it does for brand new devices. The woman disagreed with Apple's methods of replacing her iPad and took the company to court, with Tweakers [Google Translate] reporting that she "was not satisfied" with the remanufactured device she was given under AppleCare.


The Dutch judge has now ruled in agreement with the plaintiff, stating that a remanufactured version of the iPad is not enough. The judge said that the purchase state of the original iPad is what should be looked at when considering replacement devices, meaning an iPad purchased as remanufactured could be replaced with a remanufactured iPad, although it's unclear how -- or if -- purchasing a remanufactured iPad is even possible.

But an iPad purchased brand new -- as is the case here -- should be replaced with a new iPad. The Amsterdam court goes into more detail in a briefing posted online recently, translated from Dutch:
If a plaintiff had purchased a refurbished or replacement iPad, Apple may replace it with a refurbished or replacement copy, but if the consumer, as in this case, purchased a new iPad, she is entitled to a new iPad as a replacement."
A similar case passed through the Dutch courts last summer, wherein another Dutch woman sued Apple for refusing to replace her broken iPhone 6 Plus with a brand new model. The victory nullified the purchase agreement that the woman made with Apple, and ordered the company to refund the woman the full €799 that she paid for the iPhone. In short order, that case set a precedent for the future of similar cases in the country, placing a stain on "refurbished" devices sold by Apple, leading the company to use "remanufactured" ones instead.

Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, refurbished refers to the redistribution of used products to consumers at a slightly reduced cost, after they first go through a process that ensures their quality is ready for the market. Remanufacturing is generally a more rigorous and expensive process for companies to go through -- which is one of Apple's arguments in the Dutch case -- as it requires a level of specifications to be met that are as high-standard as they were for the original product.

The argument hasn't worked for Apple, and the judge has now ruled that Apple has to pay the woman in question €100 for every day that she was left without the new replacement iPad.

Waymo Opens Up Self-Driving Car Program to the Public in Phoenix Following Initial Success

For the last month, Waymo has been testing out a small fleet of self-driving vehicles with a handful of participating residents in Phoenix, Arizona, and this week the company has noted the success of that test by opening up applications to join its autonomous car program to all Phoenix citizens. Dubbed the "early rider program" and stocked by 600 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans, Waymo said it will be accepting "hundreds of people with diverse backgrounds and transportation needs" into the program.

The Waymo trial is extensive, offering those participating full-time, on-demand access to one of the self-driving minivans, which can drive the participants anywhere within the targeted area, equivalent to "about twice the size of San Francisco." Waymo said that its intention in the test is to really delve into the reasons why people would prefer using an autonomous vehicle over a traditional car.

In a new video posted today to highlight Waymo's self-driving van, one of the first families in the program mention small but meaningful advantages like taking stress from traffic out of the equation, and not having to ask a parent for a ride every day.

Our early riders will play an important role in shaping the way we bring self-driving technology into the world — through personal cars, public transportation, ride-hailing, logistics and more. Self-driving cars have the potential to reshape each and every one of these areas, transforming our lives and our cities by making them safer, more convenient and more accessible.
Now, the early rider program is open up to the Phoenix public at large. During the application process, Waymo asks potential participants to answer questions including why a self-driving car is most needed in the household and how it would improve the lives of those who use Waymo's van. Although the test is expanding this week, the company still says that it is accepting only a "limited number of early riders at this time."

Waymo originally began as a self-driving initiative within Google in 2009, and then spun off into a subsidiary of Alphabet late last year. Besides Waymo, a growing number of companies have shown interest in self-driving vehicle technology, but none have yet to launch a program as practical as Waymo's current public test in Phoenix. Uber has tested a fleet of self-driving cars in places like San Francisco, but the car-hailing company subsequently faced restrictions from the California DMV and pulled the cars from the road.


Even Waymo itself sued Uber earlier this year, with Waymo claiming that Uber stole its self-driving intellectual property. The lawsuit was specifically tied to Waymo's LiDAR system, which works by bouncing millions of laser beams off of surrounding objects to create a 3D picture of the world for detecting and avoiding objects. Waymo alleged that a former Google employee had stolen the LiDAR data after he had moved over to Otto, a self-driving trucking company that was then acquired by Uber.

In the midst of the self-driving car boom, Apple is now rumored to be working on an autonomous car software of its own that could be placed within existing vehicles. Early rumors of an "Apple Car" have since been dashed "for now" as the company focuses on building the self-driving system. The team behind that initiative is said to have until the end of 2017 to "prove the feasibility" of its autonomous technology, at which time Apple will officially decide a final direction for the platform.

Tags: Alphabet, Waymo

Google Photos App Update Brings Long-Awaited Apple TV Streaming Feature

Google continued its steady improvement of the Google Photos app this week by adding the ability to wirelessly transmit photos and videos to an Apple TV on the same network.

Coming almost two years since the app's debut on iOS, the feature addition in the version 2.14 update has been a long time coming, but it does mean users can now stream their Google Photo libraries to big-screen televisions regardless of whether they have a Chromecast or an Apple TV.


The update marks a trend for Google quietly improving the Photos app, which has recently seen feature additions like automatic white balance, video stabilization, Live Photos support, and more.

Signaling its lingering intent to rival Apple in the media sharing space, Google introduced an app last year called Motion Stills that lets users edit Live Photos and turn them into GIFs and short movies for easy sharing.

Google Photos is a free download for iPhone and iPad available on the App Store. [Direct Link]

'Super Mario Run' 2.1 Update Adds New Buildings and Game Center Achievements

Super Mario Run received a point one update late on Monday, bringing some additional enticements for newcomers and offering long-time fans new reasons to continue playing the game.

Probably the biggest upgrade to the runner is the addition of several new buildings up for collection. These include the 8-bit Bowser Statue, Bullet Bill Statue, Bob-omb, and many more.


Elsewhere, players can now use their Miitomo character as their player icon, Game Center achievements have been implemented, and it's now possible to find friends from a linked Nintendo account.

In addition, the maximum number of Toads that can live in a player's kingdom has been increased to 99,999, providing plenty of reasons for gamers to keeping on running.

Super Mario Run is a free download, with a $9.99 in-app purchas to unlock the full content, available for iPhone and iPad on the App Store. [Direct Link]