Google is putting a bunch of iconic Japanese characters in Search as augmented reality objects you can interact with. The tech giant is giving you the chance to bring 14 familiar characters from anime, video games and TV shows into your environment, including Pac-Man and Hello Kitty. Apparently, Pac-Man remains the most-searched animated icon on Google, especially (for some reason) in Peru. Its worldwide search interest more than doubles the second-most searched character, Hello Kitty. Aside from those two, you'll also be able to summon Ultraman, Evangelion and Gundam robots, as well as Little Twin Stars characters into your space.
More than 70 advocacy groups have called on the Department of Homeland Security to stop using Clearview AI's facial recognition software. In a letter addressed to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Susan Rice, the director of the White House's Domestic Policy Council, the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, OpenMedia and other organizations argue "the use of Clearview AI by federal immigration authorities has not been subject to sufficient oversight or transparency." The letter points to a recent BuzzFeed News report that found employees from 1,803 government bodies, including police departments and public schools, have been using the software without many of their bosses knowing about it. The company has given out free trials to individual employees at those organizations hoping that they'll advocate for their agency to sign up for it. Besides the lack of oversight, the letter points to issues like racial bias in facial recognition software and the fact Clearview built its database by scraping websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Amazon told Bloomberg that it has canned its Lord of the Rings, developed with the help of China's Leyou, after being "unable to secure terms" to continue its development. However, sources claim that Tencent's recent acquisition of Leyou led to a contract dispute that ultimately killed the project. Amazon Game Studios is struggling to get games out there and keep them on sale. It canceled Breakaway in 2018 after lack of progress, and it dropped Crucible after poor feedback during testing. Another MMO, New World, has faced multiple delays and isn't expected to launch until the end of August. While Amazon remains committed to its Game Studios efforts -- its incoming CEO has stated his support -- they clearly haven't delivered results quickly.
With smart cleaning devices, tasks that once took time and effort can now be automated while still producing the same results. The Kyvol Cybovac S31 is one such device -- it's a 2-in-1 robot vacuum that assumes your vacuuming and mopping duties for you. Currently, the Kyvol Cybovac S31 is available for $430 when you use the coupon code CYBOVAC40. The Kyvol Cybovac S31 can navigate your home, clean when and where you want it to, and automatically recharge itself when its battery runs low. This robovac uses laser distance sensors to identify a variety of floor types and follows a cleaning routine that you can fully customize. With Kyvol's intuitive programming features, you can assign targeted cleaning areas or no-go zones for the Cybovac to patrol.
If you're on the hunt for a robot vacuum that can do a bit more than the bare minimum, iRobot's Roomba i7 and i9 devices might fit the bill. But being semi-autonomous dirt suckers with clean bases, they're understandably on the expensive side. But Wellbots is having a sale right now that knocks the i7 down to $599 and the i9 down to $899 when you use the code 200ENGADGET at checkout. Yes, those are still high prices for robot vacuums, but they are the same discounts we saw during Black Friday last year -- and we haven't seen them that low since then. We reviewed the Roomba i7 when it first came out and gave it a score of 87.
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.
Video game sales are still smashing records roughly a year after the COVID-19 pandemic led many people to stay indoors. The NPD Group has determined that video game spending in the US surged 18 percent in March 2021 compared to a year earlier, hitting a new record of $5.6 billion. Hardware sales in particular jumped 47 percent to $680 million, breaking a March record that hasn't been touched since 2008 -- yes, the heyday of the Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360. It won't surprise you to hear that new consoles helped fuel the hardware surge, but it wasn't all up to the new models. The PlayStation 5 is the fastest-selling console in US history both in dollars and units, NPD said. However, it wasn't the strongest seller in March -- that honor went to the four-year-old Nintendo Switch, which outperformed the PS5 in sheer volume.
Sound location technology has often been patterned around the human ear, but why do that when bats are clearly better at it? Virginia Tech researchers have certainly asked that question. They've developed a sound location system that mates a bat-like ear design with a deep neural network to pinpoint sounds within half a degree -- a pair of human ears is only accurate within nine degrees, and even the latest technology stops at 7.5 degrees. The system flutters the outer ear to create Doppler shift signatures related to the sound's source. As the patterns are too complex to easily decipher, the team trained the neural network to provide the source direction for every received echo.
Tesla has settled with a former employee that it sued for downloading data related to its Autopilot feature, Reuters has reported. Tesla filed the lawsuit against Cao Guangzhi back in 2019, accusing its former engineer of copying data to an iCloud account and taking it to his new employer, China's XMotors (owned by Xpeng). Cao reportedly made a monetary payment to Tesla as part of the terms of settlement, but the amount and other details were not disclosed. Cao's legal representative confirmed the settlement, saying he never provided Tesla information to XMotors or any other company. XMotors was not a party in the case, and said it developed its own self-driving technology in-house and respected intellectual property rights.