With Prime Big Deal Days being a little more than one week away, Amazon has kicked things off early by discounting most of its Echo smart speakers. You can get up to 69 percent off Echo devices and bundles right now, and that goes for any Amazon shopping -- not just Prime members. Of note is the Echo Dot for $23, a record low that matches its July Prime Day price, and the Echo Dot bundled with a Kasa Smart Plug Mini for just about $1 more. Considering the Echo Dot is one of our favorite smart speakers and the Kasa accessory earned a spot on our list of best smart plugs, that bundle is an affordable way to get your smart home started. As part of a big Echo speaker sale, this bundle that includes the Echo Dot and a Kasa smart plug is 67 percent off. The Echo Dot was not one of the many Amazon devices to receive an upgrade last month during Amazon's hardware event, which means you're getting the latest model of the speaker in this sale.
Robot vacuums can save you a lot of time when it comes to maintaining your home, even more so when they include a mopping function. Several Roomba models that can both vacuum and mop your floors are on sale right now, including the new j5 devices. The iRobot Roomba j5 Combo is currently available for $649 with free shipping at Wellbots. Be sure to use the code ROOMBAENG150 at checkout. The Roomba j5 Combo has a few advantages over the standard j5 Combo, which is also on sale (we'll get to that in a second).
The National Security Agency (NSA) is starting a dedicated artificial intelligence security center, as reported by AP. This move comes after the government has begun to increasingly rely on AI, integrating multiple algorithms into defense and intelligence systems. The security center will work to protect these systems from theft and sabotage, in addition to safeguarding the country from external AI-based threats. The NSA's recent move toward AI security was announced Thursday by outgoing director General Paul Nakasone. He says that the division will operate underneath the umbrella of the pre-existing Cybersecurity Collaboration Center.
Equal parts Terminator, The Golden Child and The Matrix prequel, The Creator is yet another sci-fi epic about a war between humans and AI, one told by someone who just can't shut up about their time backpacking across Asia. Director Gareth Edwards clearly understands the power of scale and spectacle, something he demonstrated with his indie knockout Monsters, as well as his big-budget efforts, Godzilla and Rogue One. But The Creator, like those films, also suffers from a disjointed narrative, weak characters and a surprisingly shallow exploration of its (potentially interesting!) themes. It's a shame -- at times, the film also proves he can be a genuine visual poet. The Creator stars John David Washington, fresh off of Christopher Nolan's Tenet, as Joshua, an American soldier embedded among a group of AI rebels as a double-agent. When an operation goes wrong early on, he loses his rebel wife Maya (Gemma Chan) and the will to keep fighting the war between the anti-AI West and the AI-loving country of New Asia.
This week, it's Meta's turn to highlight AI during its device event. In this episode, Devindra and Cherlynn dive into all of the news from Meta's Connect 2023 event, where it unveiled Meta AI and accompanying celebrity-powered chatbots. Oh yah, and it introduced the Meta Quest 3 and new Ray-Ban smart glasses, too. More so than the metaverse and VR, it's really AI that Zuckerberg wants to push across all of Meta's apps and devices. And in other news, we discuss why the end of the WGA strike is a big deal for AI in Hollywood; ex-Microsoft exec Panos Panay officially heading to Amazon; and why the FTC is targeting Amazon over its potential ecommerce monopoly.
Just when Microsoft's buyout of Activision finally seemed to be near complete -- and we could focus on Google's legal tussles with the Department of Justice -- the Federal Trade Commission said it will revive its attempt to block the $69 billion deal in an adjudicative process. Microsoft received EU approval over the summer when the European Commission endorsed the deal as long as the tech giant could ensure "full compliance with commitments." Normally, the FTC drops its challenges to deals when efforts are lost in federal court. This move will not delay the deal, though in the worst-case scenario, Microsoft might have to sell off parts of the gaming company. Microsoft told Bloomberg it's not concerned about the move preventing its purchase.
Bethesda appears to have shadow-dropped (intentionally or not) a new mobile game set in a familiar universe. The Elder Scrolls: Castles is a building management game reminiscent of Fallout Shelter. The title, first spotted by Reddit user u/tracteurman (via GamesRadar), is available for Android but not iOS. "Oversee your subjects as the years come and go, families grow, and new rulers take the throne," the game's Play Store description reads. It describes a real-life day in the game covering a year within the virtual world.
Google has announced a new control in its robots.txt The control is a crawler called Google-Extended, and publishers can add it to the file in their site's documentation to tell Google not to use it for those two APIs. In its announcement, the company's vice president of "Trust" Danielle Romain said it's "heard from web publishers that they want greater choice and control over how their content is used for emerging generative AI use cases." Romain added that Google-Extended "is an important step in providing transparency and control that we believe all providers of AI models should make available." As generative AI chatbots grow in prevalence and become more deeply integrated into search results, the way content is digested by things like Bard and Bing AI has been of concern to publishers.
Google is opening its AI-powered search experience to teens. In addition, the company's Search Generative Experience (SGE) is adding new context pages to shed light on generated responses and individual web links within answers. The company is opening its search-based AI tool to US teenagers between 13 and 17. Google says it received "particularly positive feedback" from 18- to 24-year-olds who tested SGE, which influenced its decision. SGE has been available as part of Google Search Labs since late May. Google says it has added safeguards to prevent inappropriate or harmful content based on its research with experts in teen development.
Meta's Connect keynote felt different this year, and not just because it marked the return of an in-person event. It's been nearly two years since Mark Zuckerberg used Connect to announce that Facebook was changing its name to Meta and reorienting the entire company around the metaverse. But at this year's event, it felt almost as if Zuckerberg was trying to avoid saying the word "metaverse." While he did utter the word a couple of times, he spent much more time talking up Meta's new AI features, many of which will be available on Instagram and Facebook and other non-metaverse apps. Horizon Worlds, the company's signature metaverse experience that was highlighted at last year's Connect, was barely mentioned. That may not be particularly surprising if you've been following the company's metaverse journey lately.