Review: The tiny $149 Echo Sub is a huge audio upgrade

Want to make your music more interesting? Add a subwoofer. That’s what Amazon did and, suddenly, the entire Echo smart speaker lineup is more interesting. If you were not impressed with the sound of an Echo, consider trying again when the Echo is paired with an Echo Sub. The subwoofer changes the game.

The Echo Sub is a small, round sub covered in the same fabric as the Echo speakers. Currently it’s only available in dark gray. It’s designed to be sat on the floor or a sturdy desk and serve up the low notes the Echo speakers are unable to reproduce. The Echo Sub does its job. When paired with an Echo speaker, the audio is more full and enjoyable, well-balanced and healthy. The Echo Sub is a must-have for Echo owners.

Review

Amazon provided TechCrunch with a pair of $99 Echo speakers and the $129 Echo Sub. This
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Apple reportedly plans to give away its TV content, because that worked well with U2

Apple has answered two questions in one day, or rather a CNBC report citing someone within the company has. Why are the shows it’s planning so allegedly boring? And what does it plan to do to get a foot in the door in an increasingly competitive streaming-media market? They’re going to repeat the success they had with U2’s “Songs of Innocence” and just shunt it right onto everyone’s device.

To be clear, the report suggests that Apple will give its original content away for free to anyone with an iOS or tvOS device (Macs appear to be excluded). Users will find a shiny new app early next year called “TV,” in which will be Apple’s full lineup of PG-rated comedy and drama, free of charge.

Users will have the opportunity to subscribe to “channels,” for instance

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Nintendo’s ‘souped-up’ NES Zelda loads you with gear for an easier adventure

Nintendo has set a strange new precedent with the release of Legend of Zelda SP on the Switch: it’s essentially the original NES game but Link starts loaded up with good gear and cash. In a way it’s no different from a cheat code, but the way it’s executed feels like a missed opportunity.

The game itself (SP stands for “special”) is described by Nintendo in the menu as a “souped up version” of the original: “Living the life of luxury!” It’s a separate entry in the menu with all the other NES games you get as part of the company’s subscription service. You’re given the white sword, big shield, blue ring, and power bracelet, plus 255 rupees to replace that shield when a Like-like eats it. Basically they’ve given you all the stuff you can find on the overworld (including max bombs and keys), but no items you’d
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French designers build a 3D-printed metal watch

French watchmaker Unitam and 3D printing company Stainless teamed up to build a unique 3D printed watch, essentially the first of its kind. The team created the watch case using laser sintering to melt stainless steel 316L powder on a Renishaw AM250 printer.

The watch, which uses French-made hands and a Miyota movement, isn’t completely 3D printed. However, because 3D printing is now nearly foolproof and almost as good as injection molding, the teams will begin mass producing and selling these watches in the Unitam in Paris. The watchmaker and the metals company showed off their watch at the Micronora trade show in France’s watchmaking city, Besançon. It’s a clever and unique use case for 3D printing and I’d love to see more. Sadly, the current 3D printing systems can’t make small, complex parts for watch movements so we’re stuck with making larger, less complex parts until the technology truly
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Google’s smart home sell looks cluttered and incoherent

If any aliens or technology ingenues were trying to understand what on earth a ‘smart home’ is yesterday, via Google’s latest own-brand hardware launch event, they’d have come away with a pretty confused and incoherent picture.

The company’s presenters attempted to sketch a vision of gadget-enabled domestic bliss but the effect was rather closer to described clutter-bordering-on-chaos, with existing connected devices being blamed (by Google) for causing homeowners’ device usability and control headaches — which thus necessitated another new type of ‘hub’ device which was now being unveiled, slated and priced to fix problems of the smart home’s own making. Meet the ‘Made by Google’ Home Hub. Buy into the smart home, the smart consumer might think, and you’re going to be stuck shelling out again and again — just to keep on top of managing an ever-expanding gaggle of high maintenance devices. Which does sound quite a lot
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Accion Systems takes on $3M in Boeing-led round to advance its tiny satellite thrusters

Accion Systems, the startup aiming to reinvent satellite propulsion with an innovative and tiny new thruster, has attracted significant investment from Boeing’s HorizonX Ventures. The $3 million round should give the company a bit of breathing room while it continues to prove and improve its technology.

“Investing in startups with next-generation concepts accelerates satellite innovation, unlocking new possibilities and economics in Earth orbit and deep space,” said HorizonX Ventures managing director Brian Schettler in a press release. Accion, whose founder and CEO Natalya Bailey graced the stage of Disrupt just a few weeks ago, makes what’s called a “tiled ionic liquid electrospray” propulsion system, or TILE. This system is highly efficient and can be made the size of a postage stamp or much larger depending on the requirements of the satellite.

Example of a TILE attached to a satellite chassis.

The company has tested its tech in terrestrial facilities and
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The Salto-1P now does amazing targeted jumps

When we last met with Salto the jumping robot it was bopping around like a crazed grasshopper. Now researchers have added targeting systems to the little creature, allowing it to maintain a constant hop while controlling exactly when and where Salto lands.

Called “deadbeat foot placement hopping control” the Salto can now watch a surface for a target and essentially fly over to where it needs to land using built-in propellers. Researchers Duncan Haldane, Justin Yim and Ronald Fearing created the Salto as part of the Army Research Office and they will be exhibiting the little guy at the 2018 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems. The team upgraded Salto’s controller to make it far more precise on landing, a feat that was almost impossible using the previous controller system, SLIP. “The robot behaves more or less like a spring-loaded inverted pendulum, a simplified dynamic model that shows
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Google’s latest hardware innovation: Price

With its latest consumer hardware products, Google’s prices are undercutting Apple, Samsung, and Amazon. The search giant just unveiled its latest flagship smartphone, tablet, and smart home device and all available at prices well below their direct competitors. Where Apple and Samsung are pushing prices of its latest products even higher, Google is seemingly happy to keep prices low and this is creating a distinct advantage for the company’s products.

Google, like Amazon and nearly Apple, is a services company that happens to sell hardware. It needs to acquire users through multiple verticals including hardware. Somewhere, deep in the Googleplex, a team of number crunchers decided it made more sense to make its hardware prices dramatically lower than competitors. If Google is taking a loss on the hardware, it is likely making it back through services. Amazon does this with Kindle devices. Microsoft and Sony do it with game consoles.
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Comparing Google Home Hub vs Amazon Echo Show 2 vs Facebook Portal

The war for the countertop has begun. Google, Amazon, and Facebook all revealed their new smart displays this month. Each hopes to become the center of your internet of things-equipped home and a window to your loved ones. The $149 Google Home Hub is  cheap and privacy-safe smart home controller. The $229 Amazon Echo Show 2 gives Alexa a visual complement. And the $199 Facebook Portal and $349 Portal+ offer a Smart Lens that automatically zooms in and out to keep you in frame while you video chat.

For consumers, the biggest questions to consider are how much you care about privacy, whether you really video chat, which smart home ecosystem you’re building around, and how much you want to spend.

Here are all the details on the new Pixel 3, Pixel Slate, Pixel Stand, and Home Hub

At a special event in New York City, Google announced some of its latest, flagship hardware devices. During the hour-long press conference Google executives and product managers took the wraps off the company’s latest products and explained their features. Chief among the lot is the Pixel 3, Google’s latest flagship Android device. Like the Pixel 2 before it, the Pixel 3’s main feature is its stellar camera but there’s a lot more magic packed inside the svelte frame.

Pixel 3

Contrary to some earlier renders, the third version of Google’s Android flagship (spotted by 9 to 5 Google) does boast a sizable notch up top, in keeping with earlier images of the larger XL. Makes sense, after all, Google went out of its way to boast about notch functionality when it introduced Pie, the latest version of its mobile OS. The device is available for preorder today and will start
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Review: The Marshall Worburn II packs modern sound, retro look

Marshall speakers stand out. That’s why I dig them. From the company’s headphones to its speakers, the audio is warm and full just like the classic design suggests.

The company today is announcing revisions across its lines. The new versions of the Action ($249), Stanmore ($349) and Woburn Bluetooth ($499) speakers now feature Bluetooth 5.0, an upgraded digital signal processor and a slightly re-worked look. Marshall also announced a new version of the Minor wireless in-ear headphones. The wireless headphones were among the company’s first products and the updated version now features Bluetooth 5.0 aptX connectivity, new 14.2 mm drivers and 12 hours of battery life. Marshall also says the redesigned model will stay in place better than the original model. It’s important to note that the company behind these Marshall speakers and headphones is different from the company that makes the iconic guitar amp though there
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Devialet unveils an ambitious new speaker

French speaker maker Devialet is arguably manufacturing some of the best sounding all-in-one speakers on the market, but they’ve always been too expensive for the average customer. With the Phantom Reactor, the company is releasing a cheaper speaker that still sounds great.

At $999 (or €990/£990), Devialet is going for a wider audience of music fans who have enough disposable income to look beyond your average Bluetooth speaker. But pricing is just part of the story. The Phantom Reactor is also much more compact than the original Phantom. It is four times smaller and weighs 10 pounds. It’s still quite heavy, so you won’t be able to pack it in your suitcase when you’re flying for vacation. But you can now put it on a shelf, unplug it and move it to the kitchen, etc. In other words, you no longer have to dedicate an entire table to your Devialet
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The Casio Rangeman GPR-B1000 is a big watch for big adventures

The Casio Rangeman GPR-B1000 is comically large. That’s the first thing you notice about it. Based on the G-Shock design, this massive watch is 20.2mm thick and about 60mm in diameter, a true dinner plate of a watch. Inside the heavy case is a dense collection of features that will make your next outdoor adventure great. GPR-B1000, which I took for an extended trip through Utah and Nevada, is an outdoor marvel. It has all of the standard hiking watch features including compass, barometer, altimeter, and solar charging, but the watch also has built-in GPS mapping, logging, and backtracking. This means you can set a destination and the watch will lead you and you can later use your GPS data to recreate your trek or even backtrack out of a sticky situation. This is not a sports watch. It won’t track your runs or remind you to go to
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D-Wave offers the first public access to a quantum computer

Outside the crop of construction cranes that now dot Vancouver’s bright, downtown greenways, in a suburban business park that reminds you more of dentists and tax preparers, is a small office building belonging to D-Wave. This office, squat, angular, and sun-dappled one recent cool Autumn morning, is unique in that it contains an infinite collection of parallel universes. Founded in 1999 by Geordie Rose, D-Wave company worked in relatively obscurity on esoteric problems associated with quantum computing. When Rose was PhD student at the University of British Columbia he turned in an assignment that outlined a quantum computing company. His entrepreneurship teacher at the time, Haig Farris, found the young physicists ideas compelling enough to give him $1,000 to buy a computer and a printer to type up a business plan. The company consulted with academics until 2005 when Rose and his team decided to focus on building usable quantum
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Mars Rover Curiosity is switching brains so it can fix itself

When you send something to space, it’s good to have redundancy. Sometimes you want to send two whole duplicate spacecraft just in case — as was the case with Voyager — but sometimes it’s good enough to have two of critical components. Mars Rover Curiosity is no exception, and it is now in the process of switching from one main “brain” to the other so it can do digital surgery on the first. Curiosity landed on Mars with two central computing systems, Side-A and Side-B (not left brain and right brain — that would invite too much silliness). They’re perfect duplicates of each other, or were — it was something of a bumpy ride, after all, and cosmic radiation may flip a bit here and there. The team was thankful to have made these preparations when, on sol 200 in February of 2013 (we’re almost to sol 2,200 now), the
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This autonomous spray-painting drone is a 21st-century tagger’s dream

Whenever I see an overpass or billboard that’s been tagged, I worry about the tagger and the danger they exposed themselves to in order to get that cherry spot. Perhaps this spray paint-toting drone developed by ETH Zurich and Disney Research will take some of the danger out of the hobby. It also could be used for murals and stuff, I guess. Although it seems an obvious application in retrospect, there just isn’t a lot of drone-based painting being done out there. Consider: A company could shorten or skip the whole scaffolding phase of painting a building or advertisement, leaving the bulk of painting to a drone. Why not? There just isn’t a lot of research into it yet, and like so many domain-specific applications, the problem is deceptively complex. This paper only establishes the rudiments of a system, but the potential is clearly there. The drone used by the
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Chinese chip spying report shows the supply chain remains the ultimate weakness

Thursday’s explosive story by Bloomberg reveals detailed allegations that the Chinese military embedded tiny chips into servers, which made their way into datacenters operated by dozens of major U.S. companies. We covered the story earlier, including denials by Apple, Amazon and Supermicro — the server maker that was reportedly targeted by the Chinese government. Amazon said in a blog post that it “employs stringent security standards across our supply chain.” The FBI and the Office for the Director of National Intelligence did not comment, but denied comment to Bloomberg. Much of the story can be summed up with this one line from a former U.S. official: “Attacking Supermicro motherboards is like attacking Windows. It’s like attacking the whole world.” It’s a fair point. Supermicro is one of the biggest tech companies you’ve probably never heard of. It’s a computing supergiant based in San Jose, Calif.
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Despite objection, Congress passes bill that lets U.S. authorities shoot down private drones

U.S. authorities will soon have the authority to shoot down private drones if they are considered a threat — a move decried by civil liberties and rights groups. The Senate passed the FAA Reauthorization Act on Wednesday, months after an earlier House vote in April. The bill renews funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) until 2023, and includes several provisions designed to modernize U.S aviation rule — from making commercial flights more comfortable for passengers to including new provisions to act against privately owned drones. But critics say the new authority that gives the government the right to “disrupt,” “exercise control,” or “seize or otherwise confiscate” drones that’s deemed a “credible threat” is dangerous and doesn’t include enough safeguards. Federal authorities would not need to first obtain a warrant, which rights groups say that authority could be easily abused, making it possible for Homeland Security and the
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Juul files lawsuit against other e-cig makers for patent infringement

Juul Labs today filed a complaint with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) claiming that several organizations are infringing on Juul Labs’ patents. Juul has asked the ITC to halt the importation, distribution and sale of these products in the U.S. In all, eighteen entities are listed within the complaint as having infringed Juul patents. They predominantly hail from within the U.S. and China, with one based in France, according to the complaint. Earlier this year, Juul Labs filed for trademark infringement against 30 different companies which were allegedly using the Juul design or name brand. Obviously, competition is one reason to take legal action, but Juul has other priorities. The company is under an immense amount of scrutiny by the FDA and lawmakers with regards to underage usage of the product. Counterfeit products are often sold without any age verification, putting electronic nicotine delivery systems in
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