Publishers are pissed about Amazon’s upcoming Audible Captions feature


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Illustrations by Alex Castro / The Verge

Earlier this week, Audible revealed that it was working on a new feature for its audiobook app: Audible Captions, which will use machine learning to transcribe an audio recording for listeners, allowing them to read along with the narrator. While the Amazon-owned company claims it is designed as an educational feature, a number of publishers are demanding that their books be excluded, saying these captions are “unauthorized and brazen infringements of the rights of authors and publishers.”

On its face, the idea seems useful, much in the same way that I turn on subtitles for things that I’m watching on TV, but publishers have some reason to be concerned: it’s possible that fewer people will buy distinct e-book or physical books if they…

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Hulu has released Veronica Mars season 4 a week early


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Image: Hulu

Well, this is a surprise. Hulu had previously announced that its revival of the mystery series Veronica Mars would debut on July 26th, but the service has bumped the release date up by a week. The eight-episode fourth season is streaming now.

The series, which first debuted in 2004 on UPN, followed high-school student Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) as she worked to figure out who murdered her best friend, Lily Kane (Amanda Seyfried), all while trying to navigate the ins and outs of life in high school (and by season 3, college). The series became a cult classic. A couple of years after it was canceled, creator Rob Thomas kickstarted a 2014 feature film sequel, which took place nearly a decade after the events of the series.

This new…

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All of the Apollo anniversary swag you can buy from dumb to fun


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The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission is upon us, and along with the history, remembrances, and tributes comes the inevitable cash-grab. A whole bunch of companies from around the world have been working to figure out how to inject a bit of moon nostalgia into their products, and while that has produced some really interesting and fun things to pick up, it means that there are some dumb ideas as well.

Here are some of the worst, and best that our commercial culture has to offer.

Dumb

Image: Dairy Queen

Food companies have been jumping at the bit to latch onto any bit of nostalgia over the last couple of months, releasing a whole bunch of products “inspired” by the Apollo 11 mission. Dairy Queen unveiled its…

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A war is brewing in the new trailer for HBO’s fantasy series His Dark Materials


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A polar bear with an iron helmet.

Image: HBO

The BBC and HBO unveiled a new trailer for their upcoming TV series, His Dark Materials, showing off a fantastical world where a war is brewing between an authoritarian Church and those who resist it.

Based off the book series by Philip Pullman, the series is set in an alternate world where every person has their own shapeshifting, animal-shaped companion, a manifestation of their soul. These companions are called Daemons. The story follows a young girl named Lyra Belacqua (played by Logan’s Dafne Keen) who grows up as an orphan in Oxford. When children begin vanishing, including her best friend Roger, she sets off into the Arctic to find him, and discovers a conspiracy involving her world’s domineering Church.

This latest trailer…

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The first trailer for Top Gun: Maverick is a flashback to 1986


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Image: Paramount Pictures

At San Diego Comic-Con today, Tom Cruise made a surprise appearance during Paramount Pictures’ Terminator: Dark Fate panel in Hall H to debut a trailer for his next action film, Top Gun: Maverick.

The film is a direct sequel to 1986’s Top Gun, the film that helped establish Cruise as an official Hollywood star. It’s set 34 years later, with Cruise reprising his role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, now a flight instructor at the Topgun, the Navy’s Fighter Weapons School at Naval Air Station Miramar. There, he’s teaching the son of his late partner, Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, who’s following in his father’s footsteps. There are plenty of callbacks to the original film in the trailer as well — Cruise on a motorcycle, playing volleyball, and of…

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DARPA’s Squad X project pairs Marines and robots to eliminate the fog of war


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A small, tan, wheeled robot with giant wheels in the desert.

Image: DARPA

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has been working on a project that partners dismounted soldiers with autonomous robots and drones called Squad X. It’s designed to provide soldiers in the field with more information about their surroundings.

Historically, one of the most persistent issues on the battlefield is something known as the “fog of war” — a catch-all phrase that describes the uncertainty of one’s surroundings. Technology has done wonders to help eliminate this: scouts on horseback, balloonists, airplanes, and satellites have been able to deliver more and more information to commanders, allowing them to respond to their enemies and surroundings more effectively. The introduction of drones, robots, and…

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Page through computer history with this complete scan of NeXT’s Fall 1989 catalog


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An amateur computer historian has unearthed a cool piece of technology paraphernalia: NeXT’s Fall 1989 catalog. Kevin Savetz recently scanned the entire 138-page book, and posted the files to Archive.org.

NeXT was the company that Steve Jobs founded in 1985 after he was fired by Apple. The company designed computer workstations and lasted through 1997, when Jobs was rehired at Apple.

Image: Kevin Savetz

Describing himself as an amateur computer historian, Savetz says that he’s scanned “tens of thousands of pages of computer magazines, newsletters, and catalogs” over the years, and also co-hosts ANTIC: The Atari 8-Bit Podcast, conducting hundreds of interviews with the people involved in the company.

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Check out this incredible archive of Apple’s promotional photos and ads


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Graphic designer and marketer Sam Henri Gold has assembled an incredible archive of Apple’s promotional materials that stretches back to the 1970s, which he’s uploaded into a Google Drive folder for people to look through. The folder contains hundreds of videos and pictures of the company’s products, and it’s well worth the time to take a trip down memory lane.

Gold has painstakingly organized this miniature online museum by decade and year, allowing visitors to scroll through and see how Apple marketed itself over the years. The archive mainly features the company’s TV ads, but there are also promotional features, product photos, and print advertisements as well. Gold notes that he began archiving the videos a couple of years ago after…

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Huawei will reportedly lay off hundreds of US workers


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Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei is reportedly preparing to lay off hundreds of workers in the United States, reports The Wall Street Journal. The company has struggled in recent months after the Trump administration placed a de facto ban on US sales to the company, citing potential security threats and amidst the ongoing US-Chinese trade war.

According to the WSJ, Huawei is planning to lay off workers at a research subsidiary called Futurewei Technologies, which operates a number of research labs. Huawei will reportedly allow some Chinese employees the option of relocating back to China to remain within the company. Some employees have apparently already been notified that they will be let go, with other layoffs planned in the…

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I have questions about this disturbing Jeff Bezos action figure


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Last year, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tweeted a picture of himself at his Mars 2018 conference, walking alongside one of Boston Dynamic’s Spot robots. Now, a toy company has provided a super-detailed, posable action figure of the world’s richest man, which you can conceivably find, purchase, and keep in your home for reasons we have yet to discern.

A company called Ntwrk, a “mobile-first shopping” app, apparently sent the toy to a bunch of tech journalists, although I can’t seem to find any more information on this particular toy, which is perhaps a good thing considering it is disturbingly creepy.

In the meantime, I have questions. Twenty-seven of them, to be exact.

Photo by Andrew Liptak / The Verge

  • Why does a…

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American Airlines cancels Boeing 737 Max flights through November


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Just a couple of days after United Airlines announced that it was canceling more than 5,000 Boeing 737 Max flights through October, American Airlines has announced that it would suspend flights on the beleaguered passenger jet through November 2nd.

The airliner had canceled flights through September 3rd, but after the FAA discovered a new problem with the aircraft’s flight computer, it opted to push the aircraft’s return to service until later in the fall.

American Airlines says that the removal of the aircraft means that it will have to cancel around 115 flights each day, and has said that it will cost the company upwards of $185 million during its second quarter this year.

In its release, the company says that it “confident that…

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Microsoft Word for Android has been installed more than 1 billion times


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Microsoft recently hit a particularly notable milestone: its Android edition of Microsoft Word has passed the 1 billion mark for installs, according to the Google Play Store (via Android Police).

The company’s other Office apps are also doing pretty well. Spreadsheet app Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and OneDrive each have more than 500 million installs, while email client Outlook for Android has more than 100 million installs. Android Police points out that these figures aren’t necessarily downloads from Google’s Play Store, noting that Microsoft has some agreements with some manufacturers to preinstall its apps on various devices.

The milestone is also a bit ironic. Last month, Bill Gates noted in an interview that his “greatest…

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The US Army will test armored robotic vehicles in 2020


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The US Army says that it will conduct live-fire tests of a new Robotic Combat Vehicle next year. While the tests won’t involve vehicles ultimately slated to go into combat, they will be used to show off various technologies that may later be incorporated into platforms in the future, and how soldiers might eventually utilize them on the battlefield.

The RCVs are built on an M113 armored personnel carrier, and will be controlled by soldiers in a vehicle called the Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrators (MET-Ds), an upgraded Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The MET-Ds will be equipped with cameras and a remote turret, which crew members will control with touchscreen panels.

The first phase of testing will begin next March at Fort Carson in…

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France’s Air Force is getting a space command


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french flag (flickr)

Ahead of this weekend’s Bastille Day celebration on Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the creation of a space command that would be part of the country’s Air Force, according to Reuters.

President Macron made the remarks to military personnel, saying that the space command would be responsible for defending the country’s satellites, and that it would officially be created in September. The Air Force, he says, will eventually be renamed as Space and Air Force. It appears as though this new command will replace France’s existing Joint Space Command, which is already responsible for France’s existing space assets, and coordinating with the militaries of other European nations.

While it has the third-oldest space agency,…

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As US counties update their voting machines, many run on outdated software


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Following the 2016 presidential election, states like Pennsylvania indicated that they would be working to upgrade their voting machines to allay security concerns. A new report from the Associate Press reveals that while counties across the United States have purchased new equipment, many of machines are running outdated software that could still be vulnerable to hackers.

At the heart of the issue is the operating system that the machines run on — Windows 7. Microsoft released the operating system between 2009 and 2014, and it’s since been overtaken by Windows 10. The company has scaled back its support for the OS, and will officially end support for it next January.

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Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron is a thrilling examination of the cost of war


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When I was in high school, I read through the entire back catalog of Star Wars novels, one after the other, and finished with Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston’s X-Wing series. I loved that nine-book sub-series. It presented a different angle on the Star Wars universe, following a new crop of non-film characters as they worked to take the galaxy back from the Empire.

Fast-forward a quarter of a century, and the finale of a new Star Wars trilogy is about to hit theaters. There’s a standalone film that lines up perfectly with the spirit of the X-Wing series. And now, there’s a new novel about another squadron of Rebel pilots taking the galaxy back — Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed. Star Wars has grown up in the last two decades,…

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Nielsen confirms that Stranger Things 3 was a big hit for Netflix


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Nielsen Media Research has released its ratings for the latest season of Netflix’s Stranger Things, showing that ratings for the third season over the first four days of release were significantly higher than for the second season. Those numbers back up Netflix’s assertion that the show broke records, although they highlight the differences in how both companies measure their audiences.

On Monday, Netflix announced that at least 40.7 million accounts watched the series since its premiere on July 4th, “more than any other [Netflix] film or series in its first four days.” The company said 18.2 million of those accounts had already finished the entire season. The company counts a “view” as an account finishing at least 70 percent of an…

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The first trailer for Netflix’s Another Life looks like Arrival meets Stargate SG-1


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Netflix has released a trailer for its upcoming science fiction series Another Life, starring Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff. The 10-episode series premieres on July 25th, and it looks like a fun cross between the first-contact film Arrival and the Syfy Channel’s Dark Matter.

The series follows Commander Niko Breckinridge (Sackhoff), who’s selected to lead a mission to a distant planet after an alien ship touches down on Earth. All the tropes of a “reluctant leader setting off on a dangerous mission”-type of show are present: there are promises to loved ones that she’ll be back, forlorn staring out into space, and members of the crew musing about their place in history. Meanwhile, her husband (played by Justin Chatwin) is tasked…

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Disney’s Star Wars theme park is getting its next big attraction this December


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Disney’s ambitious Star Wars land, Galaxy’s Edge, opened to visitors at its California Disneyland park in May. But when it did so, it opened with only one big ride: Smugglers Run, in which you get to pilot the iconic Millennium Falcon. Now, the company has announced when the next big attraction, Rise of the Resistance, will open: December 5th in Florida’s Disney World Resort, and January 17th, 2020 in Disneyland.

This time around, the Florida park will get the flagship ride first. Disney World’s version of Galaxy’s Edge doesn’t open until August 29th, and when it does it will feature Smugglers Run. Four months later, it will be the first park to get Rise of the Resistance. When it was first announced, Galaxy’s Edge promised the two big…

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