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Coinbase freezes Ethereum Classic trading following attack

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 10:32 PM PST

Coinbase is preparing to list a lot of new coins this year, but its first major piece of action in 2019 is to temporarily pause one of its existing portfolio. The exchange said it has stopped all trading on Ethereum Classica cryptocurrency it added back in August — after it detected an attack on the cryptocurrency’s network.

Coinbase identified “a deep chain reorganization” of the Ethereum Classic blockchain which essentially means that someone controlling miners on the network had rewritten transaction history. Such tampering can allow what’s called ‘double spending,’ which essentially invalidates past transactions to alter the route of cryptocurrency transfers — a lot like stealing. Coinbase said it found a further eight reorganizations which, coupled with the larger one, saw around 88,500 RTC ($460,000) in double spends.

It is being suggested that the incident is a 51 percent attack — essentially, anyone who controls over half of the mining power has the ability to rewrite transaction history — but, as Coindesk notes, that is just one potential explanation. Others could be that Coinbase’s ETC nodes were ‘surrounded’ — an explanation put forward by Ethereum Classic advisor Cody Burns — while the official Ethereum Classic Twitter account suggested that powerful new miners could be to blame. It namechecked Linzhi, but the firm’s issued a strong denial to Coindesk.

For now, the Ethereum Classic community is investigating while Coinbase said it will monitor the situation. For now, any customers who keep ETC in their account with the exchange are frozen until further word. That’s not the only response. Other exchanges have moved to increase the number of confirmations required to process a transaction, which is one way to avoid falling foul of minority attacks.

Ethereum Classic was created in June 2016 following a major hack on The DAO, a fundraising vehicle for the project. The Ethereum Foundation created a new version of Ethereum — known today as Ethereum — that rescued the lost funds, but those who opposed continued on with the original chain which was known as Ethereum Classic.

Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.

Tablo’s new DVR for cord cutters skips the commercials for you

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 09:51 PM PST

Nuvyyo, the makers of the Tablo OTA DVR aimed at cord cutters who want to watch and record live TV, just gave their DVR a big upgrade. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the company launched a redesigned DVR called the Tablo Quad, a four-tuner DVR that now offers the option for an internal SATA drive instead of only external USB drives. But the more exciting news is Tablo’s new ability to automatically skip the commercials when you play back a recording. There’s not even a button to press – the software does it for you.

The commercial-skipping feature is still in beta, and the company won’t get into its secret sauce too much here. We understand, however, that Tablo is licensing the technology from a partner, as opposed to using something it built itself in-house.

According to the company, it’s not using human labor to mark where shows end and commercials begin. Instead, the tech is described as a “cloud-based hybrid of digital signal processing algorithms and machine learning.”

To work, the shows are uploaded to the cloud, where the commercials are marked on the recording.

It’s able to figure out which portions of a program are commercials because of how they’re filmed – with quick cuts, for example. That’s why it works well on a show like “Big Bang Theory” but doesn’t work too well on your local news.

Still, the feature is notable because it’s automatic – you don’t have to worry with fast-forwarding or even pressing a commercial skip button, as on TiVo. It also works across all timeslots and shows, for the most part – not only those airing during primetime.

When the commercials are detected, Tablo will skip past them in the Tablo apps for Roku, Fire TV, Android TV and Apple TV, the company says.

However, the feature is only available to Tablo customers who pay for a subscription for their Tablo OTA DVR – including the Quad as well as older devices.

The Tablo Quad, like other Tablo DVRs, offers an option guide data subscription service, which provides the episode and series synopsis, cover art, and metadata for programs airing over the next two weeks. It also includes access to advanced DVR features like one-touch recording and out-of-home streaming through Tablo Connect, as well the new commercial-skipping feature.

The subscription is $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year, depending on how you choose to pay. You can also opt for a one-time payment of $149.99 for lifetime service.

Tablo QUAD will be available in late Q1 2019 at an MSRP of $199.99.

The commercial-skipping open beta will launch in March for any subscription-enabled Tablo OTA DVR.

Samsung warns of Q4 profit drop, blames unexpectedly low semiconductor demand

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 09:25 PM PST

Apple isn't the only smartphone maker steeling itself (and analysts) for disappointing results. Samsung Electronics issued earnings guidance for the final quarter of 2018 today that not only marks its first quarterly profit decline in two years, but also fell far below analysts' expectations. The company attributed the drop to lower-than-expected demand for its memory chips, which in previous quarters had helped bolster its earnings even when its smartphone business was lackluster.

Samsung Electronics said it expects consolidated operating profit of about 10.8 trillion won ($9.67 billion), a 28.7 percent drop from the 15.15 trillion won it recorded in the same period a year ago, and below the 13.2 trillion won that analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had predicted. Consolidated sales are expected to be about 59 trillion won, a 10.6 percent decrease from 65.98 trillion won a year ago ($52.9 billion). Analysts had estimated sales of 62.8 trillion won.

In a statement, the company said "we expect earnings to remain subdued in the first quarter of 2019 due to difficult conditions for the memory business," thanks to unexpectedly weak demand from some of its data center customers.

Last week Samsung rival Apple lowered its first-quarter earnings guidance, as CEO Tim Cook said that the company now expected revenue of $84 billion, down from its initial projection of $89 billion to $93 billion. The company blamed sluggish demand in emerging markets, but, in general, the smartphone market has been underwhelming over the past two years.

About a year ago, Gartner recorded the first ever decline for global smartphone sales since 2004, when it first began tracking the market. It attributed the drop to two main factors: fewer feature phone owners upgrading to smartphones because of the lack of quality "ultra-low-cost" smartphones, and current smartphone owners deciding to buy and keep quality devices for longer periods of time.

IBM was awarded the most patents in 2018, but overall grants declined by 3.5 percent

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 09:20 PM PST

We may have passed the peak of the “patent war” in the mobile industry, but the concept of patents as power is far from disappearing, since they continue to be a strong marker for how a company is breaking new ground in technology, and do sometimes help to safeguard an inventor’s or company’s original work — even if the legal enforcement around patents sometimes gets abused.

Patent research firm IFI Claims today published its annual report on how patent grants played out in the tech industry in the past year, and it’s a mixed picture as well. It found that IBM has once again, for the 26th year running, topped the list, with 9,100 patents, followed by Samsung, Canon, Intel and LG — also the same top five as a year ago. Forty-six percent of all applications came from the US, with Asia accounting for 31 percent and the US for 15 percent.

But overall, the number of patents granted in 2018 dropped 3.5 percent over 2017, with many a company in the top 50 showing declines in their grants.

Notable declines included Sony (ranking at 15) down 21 percent; Google (number 11) down 16 percent, and Qualcomm (number 8) down 12 percent. Facebook, which last year made it into the top 50 for the first time, dropped out of the shortlist altogether. On the other hand, companies out of China on average saw overall gains across their patent portfolios.

IFI’s Larry Cady said that it’s not clear why so many companies collectively saw significant declines — whether it was due to a lull in innovation — something that I’d argue might actually be happening in the wider industry — or a new approach to how a company safeguards its intellectual property, or even a more conservative process at the USPTO.

What he does note is that there is an average cycle of two years between pre-grant applications and grants, and these were down in 2016 and 2017, meaning 2020 may also see some declines. (Applications were up in 2018 to 374,763, meaning the numbers will also bounce back for grants.)

Other notable trends: Ford has really been driving up its tech cred with its turn to autonomous vehicle technology, jumping up five spots to become the only car company in the top 10.

Apple also moved back into the top 10 ranking, even as its overall patents declined by three percent.

And IFI notes that if you combined all the subsidiaries of Samsung, it would have actually surpassed IBM this year for overall patents held, or “ultimate patent ownership,” in the words of the IFI.

Samsung Electronics has 61,608 active patent families, with Canon in second position with 34,905 and IBM rounding out the top list with 34,376.

Unlike IFI's annual Top U.S. Patent Recipients, this broader ranking measures the size of a patent owner's global portfolio based on the number of active patent families. A patent family is a set of patent publications filed around the world to cover a single invention.

 

Neofect’s powered glove for people with paralysis is shipping this summer

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 08:59 PM PST

Neofect's come a ways since we first saw them at CES this time last year.  Late last month, the San Francisco-based team completed an Indiegogo round, picking up north of $28,000 — around 130 percent of its initial goal for the NeoMano.

The leather hand-worn device is designed to give users mobility in a paralyzed hand, due to conditions like stroke, MS and ALS. It wraps around the thumb, index and middle finger, letting users perform otherwise simple daily tasks like brushing teeth, opening doors and drinking from a cup.

The glove is attached to a pulley, which, in turn, is connected to a detachable motor powered by AAA batteries. A bluetooth controller is held in the other hand to control to open and close the device.

The device certainly looks far closer to production than the prototype we saw at last year's show — in fact, the company says it's currently on track to actually deliver the product to market this June. Of course, picking one up post-Indiegogo will likely cost you a pretty penny. The product is currently listed at $1,999.

Blue launches a $100 XLR mic

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 08:02 PM PST

Blue has done a find job carving a niche for itself in the burgeoning world of amateur podcasters. The company's USB microphones like the Yeti and Snowball have become a stable among those launching shows with limited experise and budget.

This week at CES, the company (now a part of Logitech) offered an interesting take on its existing line with the Ember, a stick mic that swaps USB for the more ubiquitous (in the world of audio, at least) XLR.

The device retains the company's familiar retro design and price point, coming in a penny under $100. It's an interesting take on the category, and perhaps a growing niche as many users look to take a step toward a more serious audio setup.

Of course, the company's got a lot more competition on the XLR microphone, from mainstays like Shure, whose popular SM-57 costs right around the same and Rode, which has also been making some compelling podcasting mics. The Ember features a cardiod pickup designed to pick up the speaker's audio and not ambient room noise.

Blue's offering is available for pre-order and should start shipping in April.

Toyota is developing fighter jet-inspired safety features for cars and wants to share it

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 07:43 PM PST

Toyota Research Institute had a breakthrough last year in its pursuit to make driving safer. It was so profound that Toyota wants to open up to other automakers.

The inspiration was modern-day fighter jets, which use a low-level flight control system to translate the intent of the pilot and keep the aircraft stable and tucked neatly inside a specific safety envelope. TRI calls it blended envelope control, an approach that lets its “Guardian” driver assist system combine and coordinate the skills of the human driver and the vehicle they’re driving.

TRI CEO Gill Pratt revealed Monday during CES 2019 the research arm’s progress, an explanation of its approach, and most importantly, its intent to share its Guardian driver assist with other automakers. TRI is calling it “Guardian for all.”

To be clear, Toyota Guardian or the “Guardian for all,” system isn’t in production cars, nor will it be for some time. Pratt isn’t even entirely sure how this would be delivered to the rest of the industry. In a roundtable discussion with reporters, Pratt said he wasn’t sure if they would license the software, or a combination of hardware and software to automakers. He only noted that Toyota has the desire and intent to open it up to the rest of the automotive industry.

TRI, and Toyota as a result, have taken a dual approach to autonomy that it calls "Guardian" and "Chauffeur.” The automaker intends to eventually develop and deploy fully autonomous cars to serve an aging population, the disabled, or whomever might need a robotaxi. But as Pratt noted Monday, there is still much to be done before these types of vehicles will be on the road in any meaningful way.

In the meantime, Pratt says “we have a moral obligation to apply automated vehicle technology to save as many lives as possible as soon as possible.”

That’s where the other part of that dual approach called Guardian comes in. Guardian is technology that operates in the background and steps in when needed. The driver is always driving, but Guardian is watching, sensing and anticipating problems. 

Toyota Guardian is designed to amplify human control of the vehicle, not replace it, the company said. TRI showed a video during its CES presentation that of a three-car accident that included one of its self-driving research vehicles being driven in manual mode. The vehicle’s sensors were all on capturing data, however.

TRI contends that this blended envelope approach of Guardian would have anticipated or identified the pending incident and employed a corrective responsive in coordination with driver input. In this specific case, TRI’s modeling and testing determined that the system would have prompted the vehicle to accelerate out of the way to avoid the accident altogether.

Anker’s new phone sized charger can power a laptop and costs just $30

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 07:36 PM PST

This charger needs to be in my life. It’s tiny. The new Anker PowerPort Atom PD 1 offers 30w charging in a package the size of a phone charger. It’s basically a 1.5-inch cube — if the plugs are ignored, of course. And it’s only $30.

Even with the small size, the Atom PD1 offers the same power delivery found in Apple’s much larger 30w USB-C charger: 5V @ 3A, 9V @ 3A, 15V @ 2A, 20V @ 1.5A. That’s good enough to recharge any phone, tablets including the new iPad Pro and small laptops including the new 13-inch MacBook Air.

Anker employed Gallium Nitride instead of Silicon, which allowed the company to drastically reduce the size of the components. Apparently, GaN offers increased performance with lower resistance and more efficient conductivity.

"I think that within the next 5 years, electronics companies will leave Silicon behind and will shift to GaN components," said Steven Yang, CEO of Anker Innovations, said in a released statement. "We've had a great run with Silicon, but it's time to move onto something better."

This product has been in the works for sometime. Anker teased it in a 27w version in 2018 but I’m stoked to see the company upped the power output for its release.

The Anker PowerPort Atom PD 1 will be released in January for $30.

This wireless charging alarm clock from Anker looks pretty nice

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 07:00 PM PST

I have an Echo Spot by my bed right now, and I feel kind of weird about it. Have a camera and microphone that close to where I sleep is probably not a great idea. This alarm clock from Anker, on the other hand, is something I can get behind.

The Soundcore Wakey is actually pretty nice look looking, so far as these things go. And better yet, it's got an inductive charging pad on top, so you can just plop your phone on when it's time to catch a few Zs.

As someone who falls asleep with his phone in his bed more often than he cares to admit, perhaps this could help shake that terrible habit. I mean, probably not, but it's worth a shot, certainly.

The Wakey has two five-watt speakers, 10 preset alarms and does FM (but not AM) radio, if rousing to the sounds of a Morning Zoo crew is more your thing. There are also six white noise sounds to help lull you to sleep in the first place.

The alarm clock is due out in the Spring for $100.

Motiv is bringing NFC-based payments to its fitness ring

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 07:00 PM PST

Announced way back at CES 2016, Motiv's fitness ring was surprisingly capable and accurate for its tiny form factor. Earlier this year, the startup promised to bring even more functionality to the finger, starting with biometric authentication that uses a wearer's gait to unlock devices.

This year at the show, the company's got a handful of additional new features to showoff. Most interesting among them is upcoming addition of mobile payments, via NFC. How, precisely the platform works remains to be soon, though the company promises security through the biometrics.

Interesting, the company also claims to be adding ECG (electrocardiogram) readings. Again, details are pretty scant on the feature, which is due out next year. Of course, Apple recently brought the feature to its smartwatch,  and others are no doubt following suit soon.

It will be interesting to see how the company manages to fit that into the ring's form factor —surely it must be running out of unused space by now. Ditto for how all of this ultimately impacts the life of the ring’s tiny built-in battery. No word on whether Motiv is actively pursuing FDA approval for the new medical feature.

Meural shows off a newer, smaller version of its smart art display

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 06:31 PM PST

When Electric Objects was bought by Giphy, the company soon shutdown the hardware team and got rid of the subscription fees for existing content. While Meural actually bumped up its annual subscription after getting acquired by Netgear, the company is also continuing to release new hardware.

The company just took the wraps off its Meural 3.0 art display.

Its latest offering doesn’t shake things up too much. There’s no Netgear router embedded beneath the display. The new release is all about a sleeker more modern design for the smart art screen, alongside a new smaller 21.5″ size designed to bring a cheaper entry price (though pricing has oddly not been finalized yet) and some nice size contrast with the 27″ model so people can get all crazy with Instagram-friendly gallery layouts.

The frames come in black, white, light wood and dark wood designs. While you were totally stuck with whatever frame you initially purchased in previous gen designs, the new look also brings modularity so if you have a change of heart or need to adapt your art display to a new look you’ll be able to swap frames easily.

The company’s working to bring more art collections to its subscription product, and will be adding collections from National Geographic, Norman Rockwell & Saturday Evening Post, and The Little Prince.

Specs obviously only matter so much on a device like this, which is still very much exclusively designed for showcasing artwork. That being said, it’s rocking 8GB of onboard memory, 2GB of RAM and a quad-core 1.8 Ghz CPU. It being a Netgear company now, the company has updated the WiFi chipset as well with the goal of “mor stable, higher performance.” The display has been updated to be more power efficient as well, using about 20 percent less energy than previous generations.

Still waiting on a price and release date for the new displays though the previous-gen 27″ screen started at $595.

Nvidia dives into a new business segment with Drive AutoPilot

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 06:11 PM PST

Nvidia’s automotive ambitions seemed targeted solely on creating a platform to enable fully autonomous vehicles, notably the robotaxis that so many companies hope to deploy in the coming decade.

It turns out that Nvidia has also been working a more near-term product that opens it up to a different segment in the automotive industry. The company announced Monday at CES 2019 that it has launched Nvidia Drive AutoPilot, a reference platform that automakers can use to bring more sophisticated automated driving features into their production vehicles. This is not a self-driving car product, although it will likely be misinterpreted as such.

The Drive AutoPilot system is meant to make those advanced driver assistance system in today’s cars even better. It enables highway merging, lane changes, lane splits, pedestrian and cyclist detection, parking assist, and personal mapping as well as in-cabin features like driver monitoring, AI copilot capabilities, and advanced in-cabin visualization of the vehicle's computer vision system. It also allows for over-the-air software updates, a capability that automakers, with the exception of Tesla, have been slow to adopt.

Nvidia already has two customers for Nvidia Drive AutoPilot — a name not to be confused with Tesla’s consumer-facing semi-autonomous system Autopilot. (It should be noted that a Tesla uses a derivative of Nvidia’s Drive platform, although that could change. Tesla has been developing its own chip, otherwise known as "Hardware 3."

On Monday, Tier 1 suppliers Continental and ZF announced that by 2020 they will have partially automated driving systems ready for production that are based on the Drive AutoPilot platform.

Nvidia argues that there’s a market for this improved automation, noting a recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study that found existing Level 2 ADAS systems “offer inconsistent vehicle detections and poor ability to stay within lanes on curvy or hilly roads, resulting in a high occurrence of system disengagements where the driver abruptly had to take control.” Level 2 is a designation from SAE that means the vehicle’s automated system can handle accelerating, braking and steering, but must still be monitored by the driver, who should be prepared to take control at any time.

nvidia-drive-software

Nvidia doesn’t make plug-and-play type systems. Instead, Continental, ZF or other suppliers can take this reference platformand use it to deliver any combination of more advanced automation. For example, Continental will use it to produce an automated driving and parking solution that will be available to customers by 2020.

The foundation of the Drive AutoPilot is Nvidia’s Xavier system-on-a-chip processor, which can handle some 30 trillion operations per second. Then it adds Nvidia’s Drive software to process deep neural networks for perception as well as data pouring in from surround camera sensors.

The Drive AutoPilot system is part of Nvidia’s broader Drive platform. It’s also designed to complement the company’s Nvidia Drive AGX Pegasus system that provides Level 5 capabilities for robotaxis.

 

"A full-featured, Level 2+ system requires significantly more computational horsepower and sophisticated software than what is on the road today," Rob Csongor, vice president of Autonomous Machines at Nvidia said, adding that the company’s system makes it possible for carmakers to quickly deploy advanced autonomous solutions by 2020 and to scale this solution to higher levels of autonomy faster.

AfterShokz launches bone conduction sunglasses

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 06:00 PM PST

Where does one go after launching a fairly successful bone conduction headphone line? Sunglasses. Seems as good an option as any. This week at CES, AfterShokz announced the launch of sub-brand OptiShokz, which leverages the company's technology for a line of active sunglasses.

OptiShokz's first product is the unfortunately named Revvez, which will launch via Indiegogo campaign mid-February. No price yet (likely that will depend on whether you opt-in to the pre-sale), but the glasses are IP55 water resistant and should get around six hours of playback on a charge. The lenses, meanwhile, are available in a bunch of different color options, including Polarized Grey, REVO Blue, Gradient Grey, Transparent, and Bright Yellow.

I tried an early version of AfterShokz and was a bit underwhelmed by the quality of of the bone conduction, but things seem to have improved a fit bit since then. Also, there's something to be said for an audio technology that doesn't obstruct your ears when you're out, say, mountain biking. Of course, attaching this to a pair of sunglasses ultimately makes them less versatile than a standard pair of headphones.

Says AfterShokz, "In a six-year study, experts found that 116 people in the US died or seriously injured themselves due to a lack of environmental awareness that stemmed from wearing headphones. Most often, these injuries occurred in urban environments as headphone users were struck by oncoming trains or traffic."

Not a big number granted, but better safe than sorry, certainly.

Ubtech shows off pair of humanoid robots at CES

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 05:45 PM PST

You'd be forgiven for not knowing the name Ubtech, Honestly, I wasn't really familiar with the Chinese company until late 2017, when they brought a biopedal stormtrooper robot by our offices. The company's about to get a pick up some traction, however. Last year, it announced that it had scored an $820 million Series C, led by Tencent.

With that little bit of wind it its sails, the company took to CES this week in full force, showing off a small army of robots. At the center of the announcements are updates to the company's humanoid bots, Walker and Cruzr.

The bipedal Walker stands nearly five feet tall and weighs a beefy 170 pounds. The robot's newly redesigned hands are capable of grasping and manipulating objects, while the self-balancing torso makes for smooth bipedal movement The robot interacts with its environment in a number of ways, including voice, touch and vision. Ubtech says Walker will be launching "in the very near future."

Cruzr, meanwhile, is designed to help provide customer service, making it something akin to Softbank's Pepper. The wheeled robot is already in use in a number of locations. A revamped version of the robot with an amped up processor, LTE connectivity and improved servos will be arriving soon, marking the first time Cruzr has been on sale in North America.

Specific timing and price are still TBD.

Plex plans to offer ad-supported movies and more premium subscriptions

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 05:40 PM PST

Media software maker Plex is preparing to take on The Roku Channel and Amazon Prime Video Channels, possibly as soon as this year. The company is in discussions with rights holders and content providers, with a focus on bringing free, ad-supported movies to the Plex platform – similar to how The Roku Channel got its start. It’s also talking to premium networks and content providers about offering their programming and subscriptions through Plex.

The talks follow the company’s recent partnership with music service TIDAL.

By working with TIDAL to sell bundled subscriptions to its streaming music service along with the Plex Pass subscription, Plex had to build certain transactional capabilities into its platform that it didn’t have before. That has paved the way for Plex to expand its subscription offerings to include new partners in the future.

“Now we have the ability to sell other services and bundles,” noted Plex co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Scott Olechowski, in a discussion this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “We’re bundling a Plex Pass with TIDAL. That took a little bit of backend work,” he continued. “You can imagine a bunch of different premium [content] that comes together in a single or multiple bundles, potentially.”

In Plex, content is organized not by source but by type – like music, movies, TV, etc. So when Plex rolls out premium content and subscriptions, it would show its users what sort of movies they have access to based on their subscriptions within the app’s movies tab. The same goes for TV and so on.

Premium content is only one area of interest for Plex going forward. It’s also looking to offer ad-supported content – like ad-supported movies.

As Plex expanded beyond organizing personal media collections to offer access other media – like podcasts, news, and web series, for example – it built out its ad tech platform, too. Today, Plex serves ads in its streaming news and web series, and is now capable of doing so for ad-supported movies.

“We have the ad integration that we didn’t have before. That wasn’t there a year and a half ago,” Olechowski pointed out.

“I think, from a commerce perspective, we’ll have ad-supported, we’ll have free obviously, and we’ll have subscriptions. And I think we would like this year to launch transaction [capabilities] as well, just as an option for certain types of content,” he said.

Plex isn’t ready to launch these new offerings yet, to be clear. It needs to work on the DRM portion and the transactional components for one-off purchases before it’s able to finalize deals with content providers or launch features for the Plex user base.

However, that could be coming as soon as this year, Plex believes.

“We have a bunch of conversations that make it potentially possible in 2019,” Olechowski said.

Beyond the technical considerations, there are also larger issues Plex needs to figure out before these products would launch to users – like which deals make sense for Plex, how will the offerings be bundled together, how the economics will work, and more.

“Now, it’s really a question of what’s the right order of battle, given the conversations we’re having with content providers who are all super excited about getting content into Plex,” added Plex CEO Keith Valory. “We can’t do it all at once,” he said.

While Plex doesn’t have deals to announce at this time, it’s confident it will get them done.

“The market is heading in this direction,” said Valory. “People realize there are too many services, too many silos. There’s just too much. It’s just madness. So if there’s a way to get in front of these users – and do it in a way that they love it – they want to be part of that,” he said.

Sony adds Alexa to its noise-canceling headphones

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 05:15 PM PST

Just imagine, a pair of noise-canceling headphones without a smart assistant on-board. What is this, 2017? Thankfully, Sony used its CES press conference today to announce that it's finally addressing its well-received WH-1000XM3's lack of Alexa.

The headphones will be getting Amazon's smart assistant via a firmware update at some point during the first quarter of this year. Tapping a button will trigger Alexa, who can perform a variety of different media playback tasks, like playing music, changing tracks, along with more standard smart assistant fare, including connected home device control.

Along with the WH-1000XM3, the firmware update will also work with their predecessor, the WH-1000XM2, as well as the WH-1000X in-ear model. It seems our long national nightmare of not having Alexa on every single gadget is finally drawing to a close. 

Toyota turns to AT&T and KDDI for in-vehicle 4G connectivity

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 05:04 PM PST

In a new deal Toyota, AT&T and KDDI are bringing 4g connectivity to Toyota and Lexus vehicles. This will start with the 2020 model year vehicles that are slated to hit dealers in late 2019.

Previously, Toyota worked with Verizon to offer a similar connectivity package to vehicle owners. The deal today, however, seems to be focused on bringing even more connectivity services to Toyotas and Lexus vehicles.

The AT&T and KDDI deal will lean towards Toyota's Global Communications Platform initiative the auto maker and Japanese communication giant KDDI formed in 2016. Under this banner, the companies are developing a future where vehicles are connected throughout the world. This deal puts AT&T as the carrier to connect vehicles in the U.S.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"This is just the beginning. With this type of connected technology, we'll be delivering new, convenient and predictive experiences to our customers," said Steve Basra, Vice President, Toyota Motor North America. "This Global Communications Platform, together with Toyota's Mobility Services Platform, will also help us drive and achieve our vision of Mobility for All."

For drivers, feature will include remote car start through a smartphone app, remote diagnostics, and the ability to send navigation information from a smartphone to a vehicle's navigation unit.

Disclosure: TechCrunch is a Verizon Media company.

Lenovo’s new bluetooth travel speaker is ������

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 05:00 PM PST

It's hard to get excited about bluetooth speakers. Believe me, I've tried. But damn if this isn't a nice one. As someone who spent a good part of the last year traveling, I've been using the Harman/Kardon Traveler a bit, to make hotel rooms slightly more bearable.

The Lenovo 700 Ultraportable Bluetooth Speaker might end up finding its way into my bag, though. This thing is slick — and super thin at 11 millimeters. It's got five buttons on the front for manual control and can take calls, which makes it a solid addition for business travelers.

It's splash-proof, so you can stick it near the sink while you brush your teeth in the morning, and the battery should get up to eight hours on a charge. Unlike the Harman, though, it doesn't double as a phone charger.

The speaker arrives in April priced at $150. Which is, admittedly, pricey as far as portable bluetooth speakers go.

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga get thin and light refreshes

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 05:00 PM PST

Lenovo is announcing a ton of stuff this week at CES. Because, well, that's what Lenovo does. Along with new gaming laptops and a ton of accesories, the company also refreshed its flagship notebook lines, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga.

Both models are thinner and lighter than their already thin and light predecessors — making them a pretty strong contender for the top premium Windows notebooks out there. And, as ever, they're priced to match, starting at $1,710 and $1,930, respectively.

The X1 Carbon now weighs 2.5 pounds, with a 15 mm thin design and a woven carbon finish. There's an 8th gen Intel Core processor inside, coupled with 8 or 16GB of RAM and up to 2TB of storage.

The Carbon's display is 14 inches with optional touch, and the speakers are Dolby Atmos-tuned, along with four far field mics built-in for voice. There's also a healthy number of ports on board, including two USB, two thunderbolt 3s and a headphone jack.

Per the Yoga, the fourth generation of the convertible laptop is now 11 percent thinner than its predecessor, with thinner bezels and an overall smaller footprint. Like the Carbon, it sports 8th gen Intel Core processor, a 14 inch display and Dolby Atmos speakers. The laptop weighs a hair over three pounds and features an improved RGB and IR camera.

Both are shipping in June and, naturally, feature Lenovo's familiar orange pointing stick.

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Impossible launches its second-gen burger at CES

Posted: 07 Jan 2019 05:00 PM PST

CES is, at best, a mixed bag on the food front. It's certainly true that Las Vegas has a number of world class restaurants, but on most days, you're either standing in impossibly long lines for terrible convention center fast food or fighting it out for some press center box lunch.

The folks at Impossible Burgers, however, were kind enough to hire Border Grill's Mary Sue Milliken to help grill up its latest offering at Mandalay Bay in Vegas. The definition of technology is, admittedly, pretty broad at a show like this — so why not launch the latest upgrade to its meat-free burger at the show?

The latest version of the burger contains no meat (naturally), gluten, antibiotics or hormones. It has no cholesterol and about half the fat content of a beef burger, while offering equivalent iron and protein content, according to the company.

As for taste — well, this non-beef eater will believe it when he tries it. Impossible calls it "unprecedented." I'm honestly not sure what that means in the context of a vegetarian hamburger, but thankfully our video producer Gregory will be on-hand to eat the thing and report back.

The burger will also be available in a number of high profile restaurants across the US starting tomorrow. Here's the list:

·       Chef David Chang's Momofuku Nishi (New York City)

·       Chef Traci Des Jardins' Jardinière and School Night (San Francisco)

·       Chef Brad Farmerie's Saxon + Parole (New York City)

·       Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger's Border Grill (California and Nevada)

·       Chef Danny Bowien's Mission Chinese Food (New York City)

·       Chef Chris Cosentino's Cockscomb (San Francisco) and Jackrabbit (Portland, Ore.)

·       Chef Tal Ronnen's Crossroads Kitchen (Los Angeles)

·       Chef Michael Symon’s B Spot burger restaurants (Ohio)

·       Chef Sarah Schafer's Irving Street Kitchen (Portland, Ore.)

·       Chef Jeremy Kittelson's Linger (Denver)

·       Chef Tony Priolo's Maillard Tavern (Chicago)

·       Chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette's Little Donkey (Boston)

·       Hospitality entrepreneur Kyle Brechtel's Copper Vine (New Orleans)

·       Chef Jennifer Carroll's Spice Finch (Philadelphia)

·       Chef Pete Blohme's Sunset Pointe (Fairhope, Alabama)

And here's famous restaurant guy David Chang on the new burger, "Using animals to make protein is an ancient technology — it hasn't changed in 10,000 years. It's ripe for disruption, Impossible Foods' new recipe represents a quantum leap forward for food tech. This new recipe is a game changer."

The current version of the Impossible burger is available at 5,000 locations across the U.S.