iRobot i7+ initial impressions

After its go around my apartment, the i7+ is “still learning.” It’s fitting sentiment for the new Roomba, which iRobot is positioning as much as a platform as a robotic vacuum. Like a smartphone, it’s designed to learn new tricks over the life of the product, through over the air updates.

In this particular case, however, it’s learning the layout of my place. The i7+ builds on the moderately useful dirt mapping rolled out on the 900 series early last year. With a couple of cleans, the new Roomba gets to know the layout of your apartment, building a “Smart Map” in the process.

iRobot claims such features will have added usefulness as time goes by, including the long-promised ability to serve as a sort of connective tissue for a user’s smart home. For now, however, they serve one key role: teaching the robot to distinguish one room from

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Behold Ubisoft’s gloriously ridiculous Assassin’s Creed Amazon Echo

The Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Echo Plus is a limited edition, which will no doubt make fans want the thing that much more. It’s a standard Amazon device that Ubisoft dressed up in a Spartan helmet, to be given away in small quantities through the company’s site.

The ridiculous thing is the game maker’s way of promoting a new Alexa skill, designed to provide useful tips for the upcoming action role-playing title. The download will be available for all Echo devices (Greek battle helmet or no) starting October 2 — three days before Assassin’s Creed Odyssey officially hits consoles.

There are 1,500 responses available through the skill, which describe points of interest, offer up contextual information and just generally help you through the game. There also are some fittingly goofy ones designed to echo common Alexa questions like,

“What’s the temperature today?”

“It’s colder than the heart of Hades after

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Captain Marvel is here to save the 90s in first trailer

Brie Larson’s cosmic superhero couldn’t have asked for a better setup than Avengers: Infinity War (Caution — minor spoilers ahead, naturally). Revealed via Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) period-inappropriate pager in the end credits, the scene showed off very little in the way of detail, save for the fact that superhuman is apparently the last and best hope for (half) of the universe, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Entertainment Weekly gave us our first real images of Larson as the good Cap’n a few weeks back, and now here we are with the first trailer. The film’s creators have noted the movie won’t be an origin story proper, though we do seem to have some lost memory to grapple with as we travel back in time a couple of decades prior to Infinity Wars’ events.

There’s a perfect scene setting opening shot, as the trailer opens with a ship crash

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UBTECH launches a STEM robotics building kit

Here in the States, UBTECH is probably best know for the crazy-walking Star Wars Stormtrooper it released late last year. But the company’s been producing robotics toys for long enough to get a vote of confidence in the form of a $820 million Series C late last year.

The Chinese company’s latest project takes a decidedly more educational bent, with a plan to teach kids STEM skills with the 410-piece JIMU Robot BuilderBots Series: Overdrive Kit. There are two primary robots — a bulldozer and a dump truck — built with a pair of motors and sensors that react to their environment.

A connected app walks you through the building steps with a 360-degree view and also doubles as a remote control, once they’re built. There’s a coding element on board, as well, designed to teach kids a bit of programming using Google’s Blockly language.

At $120, the kit is

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Withings returns from the dead with Steel HR Sport watch

Any time a smaller company is gobbled up by a larger one, you assume the worse. In the case of Nokia buying Withings, that’s more or less what happened. First Nokia launched a handful of products under its own name and ultimately dropped the French health hardware company altogether.

Four months ago, one of Withings’ co-founders bought the brand back from Nokia. And today, the innovative French hardware company returns with a new take on an old product. The Steel HR Sport. It’s a welcome return for what had become one of my favorite fitness trackers, prior to the brand’s untimely demise, back in May.

The Steel line’s simplicity has always been among its most appealing features. The original, launched in 2014, was one of the early hybrid smartwatches — a fairly standard analog timepiece that hides some smart features below the surface. The devices feature a small monochrome display

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Amazon reportedly has an Alexa microwave and more on the way

Roughly this time last year, Amazon unleashed a ton of Alexa devices on the world, including the Spot and new Echos. It follows, then, that the company’s got something up its sleeve for this year, just in time to prime the pump ahead of the holidays.

According to a report from CNBC, the retail giant is planning to release “at least” eight Alexa hardware devices at an event later this month. The list is certainly diverse, including an automotive gadget, amplifier, a receiver and a subwoofer. Those last three likely work in tandem and would put the company in direct competition with the likes of Sonos.

Ditto for the automotive. Companies like Garmin already offer in-car Alexa products, while carmakers have begun incorporating the assistant into their infotainment systems. It’s an interesting tact, given that the company has appeared more inclined to let third parties do much of the

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Apple Watch and other hardware reportedly spared by new Trump tariffs

The latest round of Trump administration tariffs is set to affect a number of different industries. At least one category previously expected to be impacted, however, is likely to be spared, according to a new report from Bloomberg.

According to anonymous sources, the tariffs impacting a slew of consumer electronics, running the gamut from the Apple Watch to Fitbit trackers to Sonos speakers, has not made it into the final language. That means, for this round at least, those products should be spared the tax that would drive up the cost of such imports.

Trump administration tariffs have been the centerpiece of a looming trade war between the U.S. and China. Earlier today, China was reportedly set to cancel further trade talks, should the U.S. announce additional tariffs. They’ve been a domestic issue as well, as companies like Harley-Davidson have announced plans to move some production overseas to

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MoviePass competitor Sinemia launches unlimited plan

It’s been a rough few months for MoviePass. But every time the movie subscription service has faltered, one company has been there to pick up the pieces. Sinemia has done a solid job benefiting from MoviePass’s woes, even seeming to taunt its chief competitor with a handful of promotions.

Now that Sinemia is launching an unlimited plan in the U.S., U.K, Canada and Australia, the service is getting a few more digs in. In a press release tied to today’s announcement, Sinemia called the $30 a month plan “a sustainable, reasonable model for seeing movies on an unlimited basis.”

“While most of our plans are focused on the modern moviegoer who sees one, two, or three movies each month, we want to serve every type of movie lover and that includes frequent moviegoers looking for an unlimited tickets option,” CEO and founder Rifat Oguz notes in

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Amazon’s cashier-free Go store opens in Chicago

Now that Amazon’s proven the efficacy of Go with a trio of Seattle locations, the retail giant is starting to open up its cashier-free Go stores at a steady clip. New York and San Francisco are already on the horizon, and the company just sneakily launched a new store in Chicago

An Amazon ChicaGo, as it were.

Opening this week at 113 S Franklin St, the fourth Go store is the first to open outside of Amazon’s hometown. It’s also one of six expected to launch this year. Venture Beat notes that the store is keeping the fairly conventional weekday hours of 7AM to 8PM, though unlike other two of the other locations, it will be closed over the weekend.

As for what’s being offered up, it’s fairly standard convenience store fare, including breakfast, lunch and dinner meal kits and hot food.

For now, the locations largely thrive on

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The new iPhone’s here, so Google wants to talk Pixel 3

In the off-chance you haven’t already had your fill of phone news for the week, Google just offered up a few friendly reminders that it’s got its own handset coming out in the not so distant future.

The company’s event isn’t happening until early next month, but Google’s started with the teasers. Here’s a site with a big number 3, while over here a “coming soon” placeholder shows off the rough outline of what one assumes is the new phone.

It’s pretty bare bones at the moment, but a click of the “G” logo unleashes a slow, steady stream of confetti. As Android Police handily notes, the phone’s silhouette is shown in three colors — black, white and a kind of mint green.

The former have already been leaked like crazy all over the internet. The pale green, on the other hand, could be a surprise — well,

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DC Comics’ streaming service launches tomorrow

Tomorrow is apparently Batman Day. That mostly means promotions from the folks at DC Entertainment and the long awaited launch of the company’s DC Universe streaming service. If nothing else, the site is an interesting mix of multimedia content in a world of video-only sites, including original series, older content and digital comics.

Users who signed up in advance will get early access to the site today, while everyone else is going to have to wait until tomorrow to sample the service for $8 a month or $75 for a full year. DC Universe will be available on a slew of platforms in the U.S., including iOS, Android, Apple TV, Android TV and Roku — or you can just watch it from a desktop or mobile browser a la Netflix.

If Netflix and Hulu have taught us anything, it’s that original content takes a while to get right,

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Amazon’s HQ2 location will be announced this year

Things have been pretty quiet on the Amazon HQ2 front. Earlier this year, the online retail giant announced that it had whittled the list of potential host cities for a second headquarters down to 20, but beyond that, the company hasn’t shared much. Looks like we’ll be getting an answer before end of year, however.

During a speech at the Economic Club of Washington this week, CEO Jeff Bezos said a decision will be made in 2018, though didn’t provide any insight into which way the company was leaning.

Cities around North America have been following all over themselves to win the bid, which Amazon says will bring 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment. The move comes as Seattle, the home of HQ1 has put the company under increased scrutiny. In July, Amazon helped kill a business tax designed to help fund low-income housing and homeless shelters.

Local tax breaks

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The iPhone XR is the one to get

The iPhone XR arrived like an afterthought. No surprise, really. Apple’s always been one to lead with its best foot forward — the latest, greatest and, quite literally, the largest. Projecting the life on the bleeding edge is a cornerstone of the company’s image, market share and stock price.

The iPhone XR isn’t that. In the context of yesterday’s event, the handset is an also ran. It’s lower-powered, with a single camera and lower-resolution screen that stirred up criticism amongst display enthusiasts online. It’s also precisely the phone the company needed to make — and Apple’s going to sell a crapload of them as a result. In fact, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see this entry-level device outsell both of its premium brethren.

Over the last 24 hours, a number of folks have asked me which phone they should buy. The answer varies from person to person, of

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OnePlus will ditch the headphone jack on its next phone

Welp. After making a show of keeping the headphone jack around for a few extra generations, OnePlus is finally succumbing to the inevitable. The company tweeted an image of USB-C headphones and confirmed that the port will bite the dust on the upcoming 6T.

“You’ve got to make decisions that optimize the user experience, and understand that at times things that provide user value can also add friction,” co-founder Carl Pei told TechRadar. “We found 59 percent of our community already owned wireless headphones earlier this year – and that was before we launched our Bullets Wireless headphones.”

< p class="p1">OnePlus made a bit of a show keeping the feature around, with Pei polling users on Twitter. The results were overwhelmingly pro-jack. That OnePlus maintained the

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Beats did announce something today, after all

Turns out those rumors that Beats wouldn’t have anything to show off during today’s big Apple event weren’t 100-percent true. Granted, there was no mention of the headphone maker during the event itself. Instead, the company sent out a bit of an also-ran press release as things were still unfolding here in Cupertino.

The big reason the brand got no love during today’s event: these aren’t new products, really. Rather, they’re color updates to two of Beats’ existing lines. In fact, the new shades were designed to match Apple’s new hardware. Fittingly, the headphones are priced to match their corresponding handsets.

The $300 over ear Beats Solo 3 Wireless now come in Satin Gold and Satin Silver to match the new colors for the iPhone XS/XS Max, while the $60 urBeats3 earphones are available in Yellow, Blue, and Coral to match the cheaper iPhone XR.

The latter also sport a

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Apple Watch Series 4 up close and hands-on

I’m sure somewhere out there, there’s someone who wants nothing more in this world than a circular Apple Watch. That person, I’m sad to report, was once again disappointed with the outcome of yet another Apple event. Circle-sporting invites and office buildings aside, the squircle works well for Apple, so it’s sticking around for the time being.

In fact, that was a bit of a broader theme with today’s announcements — most of the updated Apple brand magic is happening under the hood here. That said, there is one key distinction from an aesthetic standpoint this time around: the logical extension of Apple’s ongoing war against bezels.

The display is 30 percent larger than the one on the Series 3, by Apple’s count. The new watch isn’t “edge to edge” as some early leaks put it, but the bezel size has shrunk considerably. Here’s a side by side image, courtesy

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iPhone XR up close and hands-on

Apple would have you believe that it’s not beholden to such trivial things as the market — roadmaps are long and the company’s always done its own thing. But the XR feels like as much a response to the first iPhone X than anything.

Last year’s flagship iPhone broke the $1,000 seal for the company. It was bound to happen, and certainly premium competitors like Samsung were racing in that direction with equal or greater speed. And while the $1,000 flagship is just a fact of life for early adopters, total sales numbers appear to have not hit the same heights as some predecessors.

The fact that the phone costs more on a per unit basis offset that, but moving to an all-premium product portfolio for a broad swath of the company’s user base. That’s where the XR comes in. Flashed onstage above in big, bright colors, I couldn’t help

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iPhone XS Max up close and hands-on

The most remarkable thing about the iPhone XS Max is that it doesn’t feel huge. It’s all relative, of course. And surely Apple’s old guard would have scoffed at the notion of a 6.5-inch display. But time marches on. Seasons change and so do minds. Temperatures increase, superhero movies pile up and screen sizes increase, unabated.

Much of the perception no doubt comes from the rest of the industry pushing the limits of human hands and pants pockets. I’ve been carrying around the Note 9 of late — and before that, the iPhone 8 Plus. The XS Max feels roughly the size of the latter, which is pretty remarkable given that the Plus sported a 5.5 inch display.

The dimensions break down thusly:

iPhone 8 Plus: 158.4 x 78.1 x 7.5 mm

iPhone Xs Max: 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7 mm

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LittleBits intros three kits to explore music, space and more

LittleBits has been keeping busy. The New York based educational hardware startup recently announced a new Avengers-themed kit and its first acquisition. This morning, it’s back with three new kits, just in time for the back to school season. As its name implies, the Base Inventor Kit is a sort of entry level set here, for those looking to sample LittleBits’ modular wares. At $100, it’s one of the cheaper complete kits from the company, containing 10 bits, all told. There are a bunch of pre-designed creations that can be created with the kit, including a voice-controlled robotic hand. This being LittleBits and all, builders are also encouraged to create their own vision using the bits and bobs. Other possibilities include a smart lamp and intruder alarm. The Electronic Music Inventor Kit joins the company’s Korg licensed Synth Kit in the company’s focus on music making. This time out, the
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