Communications


Apple is making it easier to recycle iPhones in the US

Engadget

With Earth Day just around the corner, Apple announced it's quadrupling the number of locations US customers can send their iPhones for recycling. The company's recycling robot, Daisy, will now disassemble select iPhones returned to Best Buy stores in the US, KPN retailers in the Netherlands, as well as those recycled at any Apple Store or online through the Apple Trade In program. According to Apple, each of the Daisy robots can disassemble 1.2 million devices per year, or 15 different iPhone models at a rate of 200 per hour. Recovered materials are recycled back into the manufacturing process, and Apple sends the iPhone batteries Daisy removes to select manufacturing sites. There, for the first time, the cobalt is recovered, combined with scrap and used to make new batteries.


YouTube Music is free on Google Home, if you don't mind ads

Engadget

Starting today, YouTube Music is offering a free, ad-supported experience on Google Home speakers and other Google Assistant-powered speakers. Just navigate to account settings, tap services and select music, then set YouTube Music as the default music service. Then it's just a case of saying "Hey Google, play [whatever]" and you're away. However, the ad-supported YouTube Music experience won't let you request specific songs, albums or playlist. Instead, you can tell it a genre or style or mood of music you're looking for and your Google Home will play a station based on that request.


Samsung updates Galaxy Buds with Bixby voice controls

Engadget

In addition to having hands-free control of music and audio, users can now use voice controls to request a battery status update, change to a different equalizer setting and lock the earbud touchpads. Unfortunately, the new firmware only supports English and Korean commands, and you'll still have to use the earbuds with a Galaxy phone or Android device. The update also improves touchpad controls for double and triple taps, and you can now activate Ambient Sound by holding the touchpad of each earbud. Or, you can press just one earbud to temporarily initiate the feature. These controls, in particular, are a welcome change, given that they were a big gripe in our Galaxy Buds review.


Facebook is making an Alexa rival for its Portal and Oculus hardware

ZDNet

Facebook this week slashed the price of its Portal video chat screen and now the company has revealed it is working on a voice assistant that could be used in the devices. Today the tablet-like devices ship with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant built-in, but the devices could soon have a Facebook-made assistant. "We are working to develop voice and AI assistant technologies that may work across our family of AR/VR products including Portal, Oculus and future products," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to CNET on Wednesday. According to CNBC, a Facebook team is based in Redmond and headed up Ira Snyder, a former Microsoft employee whose current Facebook title is "director of VR/AR and Facebook Assistant". The company reportedly kicked off the voice assistant project in early 2018, around the time it pulled its Messenger bot M. Facebook this week discounted its two Portal models by $100 hoping to capture extra sales on Mother's Day.


Pete and Chasten Buttigieg's em Other /em Potential First: a White House App Marriage

Slate

It's common knowledge that Barack Obama met the woman who eventually became his wife, Michelle Robinson, when he came to work at her law firm as a summer associate. George W. Bush met the future Mrs. Bush, who was Laura Welch back then, at a barbecue and took her mini-golfing the next day. And we all remember that Bill and Hillary Clinton were law school sweethearts. The historical record is full of these president-and-first-lady origin stories: Harry Truman was just 6 when he met the woman he would go on to marry, in church. So it's only natural to ask how the current crop of presidential candidates' how-they-met stories stack up.


Anker's Roav Bolt brings Google Assistant to your car's 12V socket, even with an iPhone

PCWorld

If you want to summon Google Assistant in your car, you basically have two options: Enable "Hey Google" and Smart Lock on your Android phone or launch Android Auto (should you be lucky enough to have a car with it built in). But with the new Roav Bolt, Anker gives us a third option, and even iPhone users can get in on it. Like the Alexa-powered Roav Viva, the Bolt plugs into your car's 12V socket and connects via Bluetooth or an auxiliary jack. A pair of USB ports lets you keep your phone charged while driving, and a single button on the front lets you manually summon Google Assistant. Otherwise, the Bolt is all about its noise-canceling microphones, which should provide better voice pick-up than the mic on your phone.


Facebook is working on a voice AI rival to Siri and Alexa

Engadget

Facebook might introduce its own voice assistant à la Siri and Alexa in the future. According to CNBC, the social network's augmented and virtual reality team led by Ira Snyder has been developing a voice AI since 2018. The team has even started contacting smart speaker vendors, presumably to forge partnerships that would lead to devices powered by the new assistant. Based on what a spokesperson told Reuters, though, Facebook is mainly developing the assistant for its Oculus headsets, its Portal smart display and future AR/VR devices. "We are working to develop voice and AI assistant technologies that may work across our family of AR/VR products including Portal, Oculus and future products."


Facebook is reportedly working on an Alexa rival

Mashable

But the company is now working on its own digital assistant, according to a new report from CNBC. It's not clear exactly how the assistant will work or what it will be called, though CNBC reports it could be integrated with Facebook's Oculus virtual reality headsets or with the company's Portal speakers. Right now, Portal relies on Alexa for assistant functionality, though you can control speaker functions like volume by saying "hey Portal." Facebook doesn't have an AI assistant of its own, however, despite longstanding rumors about its ambitions in the space. The latest project is reportedly being led by Ira Snyder, who works in Facebook's Reality Labs.


Would life be happier without Google? I spent a week finding out

The Guardian

Halfway through my week without Google, my wife mentions that she would like to go out to see a film that evening, and I agree to deal with the logistics. In what I initially think is an inspired move, I drop by the local cinema on the way home and scribble down all the film times in my notebook. Then my wife insists on going to a different cinema. "Can I do this by phone?" "Is 118 still a thing?" Turns out it is, and an expensive one: £2.50 a call, plus 75p a minute, plus a 55p access charge from my mobile provider. But more than a million people a year still use the service, and it even offers a text facility that answers questions – although you're essentially just asking someone to Google something for you and text you back, for £3.50 a go. Before I started this experiment, when I tried to imagine what it would be like to take a break from Google, what I was really trying to remember was how my life worked all those years before it started.


Microsoft may be developing 'Surface Buds' to take on Apple's AirPods

Daily Mail

Microsoft could be entering the wireless headphone market. The tech giant is reportedly developing'Surface Buds' in an effort to take on Apple's wildly successful AirPods, Thurrott reported, citing sources close to the situation. The device is being developed as part of a secret project, codenamed'Morrison,' and could be coming as soon as later this year. Microsoft could be entering the wireless headphone market. The tech giant is reportedly developing'Surface Buds' in an effort to take on Apple's wildly successful AirPods It's not year clear how Microsoft intends to differentiate its earbuds from others that are currently available from competitors.