Last week a lot of people got their first taste of an in-the-wild encounter between organic human life and one of Boston Dynamics' advanced robots. In Northern Ontario, Canada @bloodtear noticed the Spot robot walking down the street and had an encounter that wouldn't have been odd if it had been with a real dog instead of a robot copy. After their brief interaction flashed across social media and made a few headlines, Boston Dynamics issued a statement about the interaction. According to the company, the robot was on an "evening stroll" with a handler who was "conducting routine mobility tests," and Nathan explained in other tweets that the operator was following behind with a remote control We're still waiting to see more real-world applications for the company's various robotic ventures, but now that they're on sale, you can expect to see more people bumping into these devices going forward.
Amazon announced that it's annual Prime Day shopping event would be on October 13 and 14 this year, but we're already starting to see Prime-exclusive deals available. One of them knocks the 3rd-generation Echo Dot to its lowest price ever -- only $20 -- when you buy two of them and use the code DOTPRIME2PK at checkout. That means you'll spend a total of $40 for two Echo Dots, which is $10 less than the normal price and $2 less than their 2019 Black Friday sale price. Remember -- this is an early Prime Day deal, so you must be an Amazon Prime member to get the savings. The company continues to offer 30-day free trials to new Prime subscribers, so you can sign up and take advantage of this deal as well as be all set for Prime Day when it rolls around in about two weeks. It's also worth calling out that the Echo Dots in this deal are the previous models.
A soundbar can be a good addition to your living room if you want to up the audio game of your movie nights. But in addition to being quite expensive, soundbars can be hard to buy if you don't already know exactly what you're looking for. Roku hopes to make the decision easier for most people with its newest audio device, the Roku Streambar. It's a soundbar that's only slightly larger than a carton of eggs and priced competitively at $129 -- oh, and it also has Roku's 4K streaming technology inside of it. The company launched a couple of smart speakers, a subwoofer and a full-sized soundbar last year.
Microsoft Flight Simulator is a triumph, one that fully captures the meditative experience of soaring through the clouds. But to bring the game to life, Microsoft and developer Asobo Studio needed more than an upgraded graphics engine to make its planes look more realistic. They needed a way to let you believably fly anywhere on the planet, with true-to-life topography and 3D models for almost everything you see, something that's especially difficult in dense cities. A task like that would be practically impossible to accomplish by hand. But it's the sort of large-scale data processing that Microsoft's Azure AI was built for.
As some of you might know, I'm a runner. On occasion I review sports watches, and outside of work I'm a certified marathon coach. So when it became clear Engadget wanted to round up the best wireless workout headphones, I raised my hand. And the timing feels particularly appropriate. Until now I was still using wired buds (old habits die hard), and it happened that every pair I owned was on the fritz.
For the fourth year running, Amazon has a new smart display. The $250 Echo Show 10 has a rotating base that can turn the screen silently to face you whereever you are in a room. Amazon suggests that could be useful for hands-free video calls as you're moving around. The device will support Zoom calls, Skype and Amazon Chime, while Amazon is adding a group calling feature with up to eight people in a video chat. During video calls, the 13 MP camera can automatically pan and zoom to keep you centered in the frame.
Ring knows that there are only so many places in your home that you want to put a camera, and sometimes that isn't enough. That's why the company is building the Ring Always Home Cam, a small drone that can patrol your home to keep watch over your stuff. As well as offering an extra layer of security, you can use the device to check specific worries, like if you left a window open or the burners on. Naturally, the Always Home Cam integrates with the wider Ring ecosystem, and will fly a patrol whenever its sensors are triggered in Away mode. You won't be able to manually control the craft, but can watch it go about its business on a live feed via the Ring app.
Last year's Echo was a complete home run for Amazon -- it delivered excellent sound quality and responsive microphones for a relatively inexpensive $100. So how can it make the flagship Alexa speaker any better? It's still $100, but now it looks even more like something ripped from a sci-fi film. The flagship Echo is also being joined by a new Echo Dot that also looks like a sphere, and keeps the low $50 price. There's also an Echo Dot with a clock display for $60, which could make a great bedside companion.
Benchmarking is a crucial step in developing ever more sophisticated artificial intelligence. It provides a helpful abstraction of the AI's capabilities and allows researchers a firm sense of how well the system is performing on specific tasks. But they are not without their drawbacks. Once an algorithm masters the static dataset from a given benchmark, researchers have to undertake the time-consuming process of developing a new one to further improve the AI. As AIs have improved over time, researchers have had to build new benchmarks with increasing frequency.
Microsoft is looking beyond flash storage and hard drives to handle the seemingly unstoppable demand for cloud storage. Yesterday at its Ignite conference, the company announced Project HSD (via ZDNet), a new research initiative that's exploring how holographic storage could eventually be used for the cloud. And while it may sound far-fetched, the notion of holographic storage has been around since the 1960's. But now, Microsoft thinks it may be possible to use the medium effectively thanks to the rise of smartphone cameras. As the video above explains, holographic storage works by writing and reading data from an optical crystal.