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Smart cars are disappearing from North America

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Daimler is no longer going to sell its eye-catching small Smart Fortwo electric cars in North America. The company told TechCrunch that the 2019 model will be the last to be available in the United States and Canada, just two years after deciding to stop selling the gas-powered version of the vehicles in the region. Daimler plans to instead focus on launching its Smart line in China. Existing Fortwo owners will still be able to get their cars serviced by Smart or at authorized Mercedes-Benz dealerships. Production of the Fortwo in North America is expected to come to an end in June, but the Smart brand will continue on elsewhere.


The Morning After: Samsung's Snapchat-ready TV

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Would you buy a 43-inch TV that works in vertical mode? Why didn't you buy Anki's cute toy robots? When are you going to try that meatless Burger King Whopper? Cozmo and Vector couldn't save it.Anki is closing the doors on its toy-robot business Anki, the startup responsible for adorable robotics, is closing its doors and will terminate nearly 200 employees Wednesday. Recode reported CEO Boris Sofman broke the news to staff Monday.


Xbox Adaptive Controllers will be used for veteran therapy

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The Xbox Adaptive Controller might just become an important tool for some US military veterans. Microsoft and the Department of Veterans Affairs have formed a partnership that will donate controllers, consoles, games and adaptive gear to 22 Veterans Affairs rehabilitation centers across the US. The accessible gamepads will help with rehab and therapy activities focused on hand-eye coordination and muscle activation, and should help veterans both have fun and socialize. VA staff will provide feedback to Microsoft both on the usefulness of the Adaptive Controller for therapy as well as the overall experience. Microsoft says the 22 centers represent "initial contributions," and that you can expect more.


Google staff share claims of company retaliation in town hall meeting

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As promised, Google employees who led the large-scale walkouts in November have held a town hall meeting to share more allegations of a retaliatory culture at the company. Bloomberg understands that Claire Stapleton and Meredith Whittaker provided "more than a dozen" additional stories of reprisals at the gathering, which gave participants a chance to offer input. Details of those extra stories weren't available as we wrote this, but Stapleton described the tales in company email as evidence of "systemic issues" that wouldn't be addressed without collective action. Stapleton and Whittaker started the outcry after explaining their own accusations. Stapleton said she was going to be demoted from her marketing role at YouTube and was asked to take a medical leave she didn't need, saving her position only after she retained a lawyer.


Alphabet's smart neighborhood could have shape-shifting 'superblocks'

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Too many cities are built around cars rather than people. Sidewalk Labs, an offshoot of Google's parent company Alphabet, wants its smart neighborhood in Toronto to be different. It's considering a so-called superblock concept, modeled after Barcelona's, that bundles smaller streets together and limits vehicles to the perimeter. The smaller lanes inside each superblock would then become safer, quieter spaces for pedestrians and cyclists. Sidewalk Labs wants to go a step further, though, with real-time traffic monitoring and movable street furniture.


Tobii uses eye tracking to keep people from peeking at your screen

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Tobii is putting its eye tracking technology to work in a very practical way: it's making your day-to-day computing just that much more private and, ideally, more personal. A new version of its Aware software uses your PC's Windows Hello-capable camera to, among other things, blur and lock your screen when you're not looking. You won't have to worry that someone will peep a confidential email when you step away from your computer for a few minutes. The screen can automatically dim when you walk away, too, so you won't feel quite so guilty about wasting power. Some additions are focused solely on making your life easier.


Hitting the Books: When better living through technology isn't enough

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Welcome to Engadget's newest series, Hitting the Books. With less than one in five Americans reading just for fun these days, we've done the hard work for you by scouring the internet for the most interesting, thought provoking books on science and technology we can find and delivering an easily digestible nugget of their stories. Modern tech culture has long been enamored with the mythos of the lone genius achieving superhuman status (a la The Matrix). Whether it's Jack Dorsey's self flagellating dietary restrictions, Peter Thiel's obsession with "young blood" transfusions, or Tim Ferris' outright maniacal 4-hour self improvement regimens, if you're a wealthy white guy in Silicon Valley and not trying to live forever, you're doing it wrong. But for all the Bond villain-esque grifters selling the promise of eternal youth in 12 easy steps, a dedicated cadre of technologists have spent years investigating how we might actually achieve Ray Kurtweil's predicted singularity.


Walmart's AI-based store concept is open to the public

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Walmart isn't going to let Amazon's AI-powered stores go unanswered, although it's not exactly cloning the concept. The big-box chain has unveiled a publicly accessible concept store, the Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL for short), in Levittown, New York. The location uses computer vision and a vast array of cameras not to handle purchases, like Amazon Go does, but to help employees restock empty shelves and corral shopping carts. There are still checkout lines and floor staff, Walmart notes -- this is meant to minimize drudgery for workers and free them for tasks "humans can do best," like helping customers. The retailer is aware of the potential worries about privacy, and is determined to be as open about what's going on as possible.


AI-analyzed tweets could help Europe track floods

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The European Commission's Joint Research Center is working on a tool that could use tweets and artificial intelligence to collect real-time data on floods. In a paper released on Arvix.org, EU scientists explain how their Social Media for Flood Risk (SMFR) prototype could help emergency responders better understand what's happening on the ground in flooded areas and determine what trouble spots might need immediate attention. The tool works in collaboration with Europe's Flood Awareness System (EFAS). When EFAS identifies areas with heightened flood risks, it triggers SMFR to begin collecting flood-related tweets from users in those areas.


Amazon Alexa auditors could reportedly access user locations

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It emerged earlier this month that thousands of Amazon employees are reviewing some Alexa recordings (which are captured after you've said the wake word). The auditors transcribe, annotate and analyze a selection of commands to help improve Alexa. But it seems these workers could view users' personal information too, according to Bloomberg. At least some employees are said to have had access to location data, addresses and phone numbers. There's no indication any workers have tried to look up a customer's home (say, on Google Street View) using the data from these tools.