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Twitter Chief Executive, Jack Dorsey, Raises Concerns Among Employees After Month Of Crisis

Jack Dorsey is the part-time chief executive of Twitter, a position he’s held for many years now. After years of acquiring what’s referred to as “technical debt,” Twitter has been left extremely vulnerable on the back-end.

Industrial Factory

What To Expect From CES 2020

CES stands for “Computer Electronics Show,” and every year technology lovers and business owners alike get together to hear from some of the world’s biggest tech names about what’s to come in the next year. Smart TVs took the spotlight at last year’s CES event, giving high definition entertainment a whole new look with the implementation of 8K quality and curved screen technology. So what does CES 2020 have in store for the world’s digital future? 

CES: Unveiled” was an event that took place the night before the actual show, in which reporters were able to come and get a first glimpse at all the new technology being introduced. This way they could gauge what gadgets, software, and trends would be the most talked about before the massive crowds flood the Las Vegas arena the following day. Remember, not all gadgets or concepts are released to the general public after CES, as some of the exhibits are meant to show technology lovers what some companies are striving to perfect in the future. 

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First up, Samsung wanted to keep riding the TV high that came from last year’s CES event, so they announced their new Sero TV. Sero TV was made with the mobile user in mind, as it literally turns to be vertical from traditional landscape mode when you hit a button. The orientation-changing television is meant to make mirroring from your phone much easier, and in this new age where a lot of online video content is modified to adjust to vertical mobile screens, this television wants to take that to the next level. 

Kohler, an appliance company, partnered with Amazon to bring the fantasy of a “smart home” even more to life with Alexa-powered showers. The two companies plan on releasing a shower head with Alexa enabled speaker technology for all of us who love to listen to music in the shower. Additionally, Kohler intends on releasing a lot more bathroom tech throughout 2020, including a new “intelligent” toilet system. 

CES tends to always have a robotic energy about it, quite literally. Every year new types of robo-friends are brought to the CES floor and this year will be no different. This year, CES will be introducing a bread-making robot, Sony’s Aibo Dog, and Buddy, the cute companion robot. Companion robots, and those that are meant to perform just one human task, such as bread making, are fairly common for this event. A cat robot, however, is new. 

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Startup company Elephant Robotics is developing a new robotic feline friend that they’re calling MarsCat. According to reports from CES: Unveiled, the “bionic feline can walk, stretch, play with toys, avoid obstacles and bite its nails. It can also recognize human faces and knows 20 commands and phrases, including ‘sit’ and ‘come here.’”

Segway has developed a new line of single-person transport systems called “Segway S-Pods.” The S-Pod is an electric pod meant for indoor travelling and can accelerate up to 24 miles per hour. Users control the speed and direction with a single knob on the arm rest of the pod. 

Colgate and Oral-B, two of the country’s top dental product providers, wanted to get a piece of the CES action this year, so they both announced their versions of “dental tech innovation.” The Oral-B iO electric toothbrush is meant to work with an app on your phone to tell you when you’re brushing your teeth too hard or too softly. The app also ensures that you’re brushing for a full two minutes, and are covering as much of your mouth’s surface area as possible. 

Colgate, on the other hand, is developing their own electric toothbrush that can detect any sort of “biofilm” build up in the gums. Additionally, it “notifies users when they need to brush longer in one area of their mouth. A light ring around the toothbrush will turn blue when buildup has been found. A white light displays when teeth are clean,” according to reports.

For the rest of what was announced during the CES: Unveiled event, click here. Media outlets will be posting all week about what new and exciting innovations come out of CES this year.   

Samsung Phone

One UI 2.0 Coming to Samsung Phones in January

One of the benefits of owning an iPhone is that iPhone users can expect regular software updates, even for aging phones, and a similar, polished user experience across Apple devices. The same cannot be said for phones running Android, as each manufacturer offers its own take on Google’s mobile operating system, including unique skins, features, and apps for different devices. While this distinction has the benefit of affording Android users greater customizability and choice when selecting a device, the drawback is that the custom software experiences offered by different manufacturers can vary greatly in quality. Samsung, the South Korean company which for years has dominated the Android smartphone market, has long been plagued by complaints about bloatware and the presence of redundant features that are difficult or impossible to disable. The first version of One UI, which came bundled with the ninth version of Android as a software update in 2018, sought to address these criticisms by streamlining the user experience across the board, introducing easy-to-read UI elements and other user-oriented features. Now, for 2020, Samsung is introducing One UI 2, which will be pushed to compatible devices in the coming weeks and months.

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One UI 2.0 comes with Android 10, Google’s latest iteration of its mobile operating system, and additionally includes a number of features and improvements in an attempt to enhance the smartphone experience beyond what Google offers with stock Android. While the debut of One UI radically transformed the look and feel of Samsung phones, One UI 2 is more of an iterative update, building upon the new experience the company revealed just a few years ago. One UI 2.0 has been available in beta form for some users for months, but the update only recently began rolling out to regular users. While Samsung does not provide exact release dates for its software updates, the company has said that the update will be rolled out in phases throughout the year, with the most popular phones, including the S9 and S10, receiving One UI 2 in January and the rest of Samsung’s lineup of compatible devices receiving it as late as September. As software updates grow increasingly complicated and remain prone to bugs and security vulnerabilities, Samsung has opted to take its time distributing the update to its many devices, trying to ensure that ordinary users enjoy a smooth and polished software experience.

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One UI 2 contains new features designed to improve both the aesthetics and functionality of Samsung devices. For instance, the Dark Mode feature has been improved in One UI 2, which enables a black background with white text throughout nearly all of the software design. The update also enables Navigation Gestures, a method of using swipes to switch between apps that would look familiar to users of the newest iPhones. Also familiar to Apple fans is the introduction of Digital Wellbeing features, which aim to help users understand how frequently they use their devices and offer tools for limiting the duration of users’ engagement with their smartphones. Many of the other improvements built into One UI 2 take place behind the scenes, as Samsung has integrated enhancements to WiFi, audio and video codecs, and graphics processing software, which likely will benefit speed, stability, and battery life. And the company has also improved its software’s accessibility options, making their phones more useful to disabled users with options like high-contrast UI elements and even amplification of ambient noises when using the Galaxy Buds.

Android phones have long been criticized for being slow to receive updates, and Samsung’s phones are no different, as the months-old Android 10 is currently only available on a handful of the company’s products. Nonetheless, the upcoming release of One UI 2, with its impressive suite of bespoke features, shows that Samsung is committed to maintaining a quality user experience for its customers, even if it takes some time for the company to polish its software to meet the standards of the general public.

Apple Store

Tim Cook: Building on an Almost-Superhuman Legacy

Though he was a relatively unknown figure before Steve Jobs’ death, Cook, who considered Jobs a close friend and mentor, was nevertheless integral in the company’s success since he joined Apple in 1998.

WhatsApp

Hackers Target Government Officials Using WhatsApp

Facebook is embroiled in controversy in the aftermath of the company’s decision not to remove political advertisements that contain falsehoods, drawing criticism from politicians and the general public alike for being complicit in spreading misinformation. The social media platform is no stranger to controversy of this sort, as many critics have called out the company for failing to mitigate the impact of foreign interference in elections and for failing to adequately safeguard its users’ privacy, among other concerns. Most recently, the news organization Reuters reported that hackers have been using WhatsApp, a messaging application owned by Facebook, to attack government officials. 

According to Reuters, an internal investigation conducted by WhatsApp revealed that a “significant” portion of the victims were high-profile government and military officials, many of which were allies of the U.S. As government officials from the United States and around the world have been known to use WhatsApp to communicate sensitive information, the WhatsApp hacks pose a significant risk to domestic and international security. In response to the attacks, WhatsApp sued the Israeli hacking tool developer NSO Group, alleging that they created and sold a hacking platform that allowed their clients to hack the cellphones of at least 1,400 users between April and May of this year. The total number of affected users is unknown, but is likely to be much higher than the 1,400 users mentioned in the lawsuit.

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It’s not clear as of yet who was directly responsible for initiating the hacks, but NSO sells spyware exclusively to government customers, suggesting adversaries of the U.S. may be responsible. Known victims include officials in the United States, Bahrain, Mexico, Pakistan, and India. While most of the victims have not disclosed the fact that their security may have been compromised, some Indian nationals have publicly alleged they were among the targets of the attacks, including journalists, academics, and lawyers.

NSO has denied any wrongdoing, and has said that it is “not able to disclose who is or is not a client or discuss specific uses of its technology.” Instead, NSO claims that its products are intended only for catching terrorists and other criminals. However, experts doubt this claim, as they suspect products developed by NSO have been widely used for more nefarious purposes.

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WhatsApp has notified victims that they had been hacked, and checked their list of known victims against law enforcement requests for information relating to criminal investigations, but found no overlap between the two sets of data. Instead of relying on spyware like that developed by NSO Group, WhatsApp encourages governments to submit requests for information to the company through an online portal they maintain. Though WhatsApp provides its users with end-to-end encryption, ensuring that only the sender and recipient are able to read the contents of messages, the company nevertheless cooperates with governments for legitimate law enforcement purposes.

As of 2015, WhatsApp is the world’s most popular messaging application, as it allows users to send text messages, media, voice messages, and make Voice over IP calls, among other features. The app is available around the world, and is particularly popular in countries other than the U.S. Facebook purchased WhatsApp in February of 2014 for $19 billion, representing the social network’s largest acquisition to date. Due to the app’s ability to enable secure, private communication between individuals, the app is banned in China, a country with strict restrictions on speech. WhatsApp has been the subject of criticism for multiple reasons, including its use by terrorist organizations like the Islamic State, as well as the prevalence of scams and malware throughout the app.

Google Search

Google Announces New Line of Products at Made by Google 2019 Event

Today, Google held a press event during which they discussed their new line of products, as well as their advancements in engineering and design, with a particular focus on how progress in artificial intelligence and machine learning has affected their business.

Google began the event by discussing the company’s mission, which is to help people in their lives without intruding on their daily lives. Google calls this concept “ambient computing,” by which they mean interactions with computers that exist in the background, rather than ones that occupy the user’s attention by being obvious and intrusive. Google claims that this concept informs the development of all of their products, and stated that all of the products announced at the event would demonstrate the value of this approach to computing.

The first product Google described was the Pixel Buds, a pair of wireless earbuds with advanced software functionality. The Pixel Buds include integration with the Google Assistant, and use bone conduction technology to recognize the user’s voice even in loud environments. They also work several rooms away from the device to which they are wirelessly connected, allowing for greater freedom and flexibility, and include audio pass-through features to enable users to remain present in their environment even while listening to music. The Pixel Buds will cost $179, and will launch in Spring 2020.

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Next, Google talked about the importance of sustainability and environmental consciousness in their company’s philosophy. The company stated that they would commit to investing $150 million into renewable energy sources, and spoke about their commitment to incorporate recycled plastic in their products. Google also spoke of its new video game streaming platform, which requires only a controller and a compatible device, cutting back on hardware costs and waste. They introduced the controller they designed for this specific purpose, which was inspired by the versatile design of kitchen knives for professional chefs.

Google then introduced the Pixelbook Go, an affordable laptop, which is available for pre-order and will cost $649. The company quickly moved on to talk about its updates to Google Nest, a smart home system designed to seamlessly incorporate technology into home life. Google stressed its commitment to security and privacy, describing how third-party developers would have to meet certain requirements in order to enable compatibility with Google Nest products. The Google Nest Hub Next acts as a standalone tablet to be placed on top of the kitchen counter, for instance, and allows users to dynamic move content from one display to another within the home. Google described an update to its Google Home Mini, including advanced artificial intelligence processors and the option to mount the device on the wall. They also described Nest Aware, a camera-based surveillance system for the home, and talked about how smoke alarm features would be integrated into their products. The last Google Home product the company discussed was Nest WiFi, a router system for creating mesh networks within the home.

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Google then discussed the Google Pixel 4, the company’s flagship smartphone which has been completely redesigned. The first feature of the phone the company discussed was its built-in radar sensor, which is used for facial recognition and gesture recognition. The company described their efforts in radar technology as a way to introduce natural human body language as a way of interacting with computers, and described how the Google Assistant is more deeply integrated into the phone’s operating system, again emphasizing the company’s commitment to privacy and ensuring users have control over their data. One example of this is the company’s new Recorder app, which automatically records and transcribes audio on the device, even when it’s not connected to the Internet.

Google described the display of the Pixel 4 as “visually indistinguishable from perfect,” and it is the first phone to feature a display with a 90 Hz refresh rate. Additionally, the company claimed the phone’s camera was at the top of its class, and discussed how the company invested into “computational photography,” which is software that improves the visual fidelity of data captured by the image sensor. Computational photography generally involves combining several images into one, reducing noise and expanding the dynamic range of photographs. Computational photography also enables high-resolution digital zoom, and real-time previews of HDR images. Additionally, computational photography allows for more accurate automatic white balancing and approximation of the depth-of-field effect, including bokeh simulation, and improving the detail of night shots, including the ability to capture stars in the night sky. The phone will start shipping on October 24, and will cost $799.

Overall, the range of products announced at this year’s event was somewhat limited, as the updates to the Google Home products seemed fairly minor, with limited appeal. While the Pixel Buds seem impressive, there is strong competition in the wireless earbud market from Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Samsung, and the Pixel Buds don’t feature any truly unique capabilities. Google didn’t go into too much detail about its upcoming Pixel 4, but the smartphone was by far the most interesting product described today, as the company promises their new phone will integrate hardware and software features to provide the best Android experience on the market.

Microsoft

Microsoft Hopes to Revolutionize Computing with Surface Neo and Duo

Though its Windows line of products has represented by far the most popular choice of operating system for decades, Microsoft is relatively new to the hardware space, as the cornerstone of its business has long been its software offerings. Barring their Xbox series of video game consoles, the company has only been manufacturing mobile computing devices for a few years, starting with its innovative Surface 2-in-1 laptop/tablet hybrid in 2012. With the original Surface tablet, Microsoft intended to directly compete with Apple’s iPad line, but also aimed to innovate on the form factor by offering a keyboard accessory and a kick stand as well as compatibility with the Surface Pen, for precise touch input. While the Surface line of products has been a moderate financial success for Microsoft, the products have received acclaim from critics and consumers alike, and the Surface products have a very high favorability rating among customers.

Building on the success of its Surface tablets, and iterating on the philosophy of enabling different types of functionality that inspired the design of these tablets, Microsoft recently announced an entirely new suite of Surface products, many of which will not launch until Holiday 2020. The most notable of Microsoft’s announcements are the Surface Neo and the Surface Duo, which are a folding tablet and a folding smartphone, respectively. These two products have  a form factor which is fundamentally unlike any product that has since been announced, marking a bold new direction for the company. The two products, the latter of which resembles a smaller version of the former, feature two displays placed almost directly next to one another, separated by a hinge that allows the device to fold 360 degrees.

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When closed, the devices resemble notebooks or journals, but constructed with a sleek and sturdy-looking metallic finish. When opened, the devices can be used in the form factor of a traditional laptop, with the lower screen acting as a software keyboard, or held sideways like a book. They can be opened further at 180 degrees to allow the two screens to work as one for a widescreen viewing experience. If the devices are opened further, they can sit on a table, with one screen allowing for a viewing experience from a distance. Finally, if the devices are folded all the way, they can be held in the hand like a traditional tablet or smartphone, with displays present on both sides.

Microsoft intends for these devices to enable a level of creativity and productivity not possible on other devices by allowing them to assume what they call different “postures.” As the devices can be unfolded and positioned in a variety of ways, each of these postures also enables different software opportunities, as the operating systems of the devices are able to detect how they are being held and offer options to the user accordingly. For instance, the Surface Neo can be used with a magnetically-attached keyboard peripheral, which can be placed on top of half of the lower screen, allowing the remainder of the display to be used as a trackpad. Additionally, both devices are compatible with styluses, allowing for precision input for a variety of applications, but perhaps most notably for digital artists.

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During the keynote in which these devices were announced, representatives from Microsoft envision the current decade as being one in which devices are used for consuming content, and see the following decade as being one characterized by using technology to create things, hoping to lead the industry in that direction. By announcing these devices so far ahead of their release dates, Microsoft intends not only to give developers time to work on software applications that take advantage of their unique form factor, but also to give consumers an opportunity to invest in the Microsoft digital ecosystem in advance of the release of these groundbreaking products. 

Perhaps the most surprising feature of Microsoft’s announcement is the fact that the Surface Duo runs the Android operating system, leveraging software from Google, a direct competitor to the software giant. After the failure of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system, which failed to gain traction in large part because of the absence of support from third-party developers, Microsoft has seemingly given up on creating mobile operating systems. However, the company’s decision to go with Android, currently the most popular mobile operating system around the world, is a clear advantage to consumers, who will have access to a wide range of already-existing apps. The extent to which third-party developers take advantage of the unique form factor of the Neo and Duo, however, remains to be seen, and this factor likely will predict the long-term success of the products overall.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence: Friend or Foe?

The relationship we currently have with artificial intelligence is highly complex. But as technology inevitably improves, and artificial intelligence becomes even more deeply ingrained into our lives, the number of problems it creates will only expand.