Now that every adult in the US is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, Amazon wants to make it as simple as possible to get your shots. Alexa now helps you find vaccination sites just by saying "where can I get a COVID vaccine?" to your smart speaker or other supporting device. You can specify a city if you want more than nearby results, and you can call a given site if you have questions about appointments. Alexa is also useful for learning about vaccine availability and eligibility in over 85 countries, and you can find COVID-19 testing locations much like you would vaccinations. There's a good chance you'll use a mapping app first, but there's no doubt this is convenient -- you can ask about those potentially life-saving vaccine doses while you're busy making breakfast.
Tuesday is not only 420, but Apple's big spring event where new iPads, AirPods, and maybe even AirTags could be unveiled along with other new products. The "Spring Loaded" event starts at 10 a.m. PT on Tuesday, and will be completely livestreamed from Apple Park thanks to the pandemic. Usually Apple holds an IRL event at company headquarters in Cupertino, California. Like all Apple events, you'll be able to tune in a few different ways.
Have you ever wondered how apps like Netflix or Spotify decide which movie or songs you're likely to prefer watching or listening to? Seems like magic, doesn't it? For instance, a lot of data is being mined and multiple complicated algorithms are developed by data science professionals in an attempt to make predictions more accurate. It is not magic but "machine learning." Machine learning is what allows the system to determine the movies and songs most relevant to your liking.
While we continue to wait for news about the Mars copter's first test flight, Elon Musk and SpaceX closed out the week with a big win, scoring a contract from NASA to use Starship as a lander for the Artemis lunar program. The company beat out Blue Origin (which teamed up with key aerospace players like Lockheed Martin) and defense contractor Dynetics to secure the $2.9 billion contract. There are still funding hurdles for NASA to clear if it plans to fly as scheduled, but those missions are still years away at best. In the nearer future, Apple's Spring Loaded event is scheduled to take place on Tuesday and Chris Velazco has reminders of the rumors you should know about before it starts. New iPads and iMacs seem like safe bets, but we'll see if there are any big surprises in a few days.
This week brought a bunch of deals on new gadgets, including Amazon's rotating Echo Show 10 and Google's Nest Hub. The former dropped to a new all-time low while the latter remains 20 percent off at various retailers. AirPods Pro are more than $50 off right now, and Amazon Prime members can snag the Fire TV Stick Lite for only $20. Here are the best tech deals from this week that you can still get today. The Nest Audio smart speaker is still $20 off across the web, bringing to down to $80.
When Amazon first introduced Alexa and the Echo speaker six years ago, the idea of talking to a digital assistant wasn't totally novel. Both the iPhone and Android phones had semi-intelligent voice controls -- but with the Echo, Amazon took its first step toward making something like Alexa a constant presence in your home. Since then, Apple and Google have followed suit, and now there's a huge variety of smart speakers available at various price points. As the market exploded, the downsides of having a device that's always listening for a wake word have become increasingly apparent. They can get activated unintentionally, sending private recordings back to monolithic companies to analyze. And even at the best of times, giving more personal information to Amazon, Apple and Google can be a questionable decision. That said, all these companies have made it easier to manage how your data is used -- you can opt out of humans reviewing some of your voice queries, and it's also less complicated to manage and erase your history with various digital assistants, too. The good news is that there's never been a better time to get a smart speaker, particularly if you're a music fan.
Voice control, using either Alexa or Google Assistant, is the U by Moen smart faucet's star attraction, but after testing this kitchen tool for several months, I've concluded that its gesture control feature is far more useful. Voice control is no gimmick, as you'll see when I dig all the things you can do with voice commands. But the tasks for which I use a faucet most often--washing my hands, rinsing dishes, filling a watering can for my houseplants, and the like--waving my hand over the faucet to start the flow of water, and again to stop it is all the technology I need. I love my handmade farmhouse sink, but it seriously complicates changing out the faucet. But that could be because I live in a rural area and draw my water from a well.
If you have ever used Google Maps on your phone without fiddling with the location settings, it goes without saying that the tech giant knows everywhere you've been. The really bad news is that even if you have previously tried to stop Google tracking your every movement, the company may have done so anyway. On Friday the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) won a legal action in the federal court, which ruled that, thanks to a peculiar set-up that required a user to check "No" or "Do Not Collect" to both "Location History" and "Web & App Activity" on some Android and Pixel phones, someone who ticked "No" to just one would still end up being tracked. We asked Dr Katharine Kemp, a legal academic from the University of New South Wales whose focus is consumer law, and the Australian cryptographer Vanessa Teague for their thoughts on the significance of the decision and how a person might go about securing their devices. Kemp, an Apple user herself, says that for many consumers, today's decision may not actually mean much, as the decision only related to Android users and Google has since updated the settings that formed the basis of the ACCC's complaint.
With the proliferation of female robots such as Sophia and the popularity of female virtual assistants such as Siri (Apple), Alexa (Amazon), and Cortana (Microsoft), artificial intelligence seems to have a gender issue. This gender imbalance in AI is a pervasive trend that has drawn sharp criticism in the media (even Unesco warned against the dangers of this practice) because it could reinforce stereotypes about women being objects. But why is femininity injected in artificial intelligent objects? If we want to curb the massive use of female gendering in AI, we need to better understand the deep roots of this phenomenon. In an article published in the journal Psychology & Marketing, we argue that research on what makes people human can provide a new perspective into why feminization is systematically used in AI.