A SpaceX delivery full of Christmas goodies arrived at the International Space Station on Saturday, following a slight delay caused by a communication drop-out. The Dragon capsule pulled up at the orbiting lab three days after launching from Cape Canaveral. Commander Alexander Gerst used the space station's big robotic arm to grab the cargo carrier, as the two craft soared 250 miles above the Pacific. It took two tries to get the Dragon close enough for capture. NASA called off the Dragon's first approach because of trouble with the communication network that serves the space station.
If you're hunting for options in the $50-250 range, these are some of our favorite gadgets, games, and services (doggy DNA tests, anyone?) to gift someone this year. Many animal lovers prefer to rescue dogs from shelters rather than shell out for a purebred. Now, adopted dogs can trade in their "mutt" moniker for something far more precise. Through Embark, a doggy DNA test kit, a simple cheek swab revealed that our toast-colored rescue dog Fawn was not a mini Golden Retriever, as we had suspected. Embark also tests for certain health conditions and offers to connect pups who are genetically related, arming pet lovers with more knowledge about their companions.
Microsoft announced the launch of scrolling, live call captions and a subtitles feature for Skype users in a blog post Monday. The AI-powered feature is designed to facilitate communication for all users, in particular people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and create "a more inclusive experience" where users can get real-time transcription of what's being said in a Skype call, Microsoft said in the post. The announcement coincided with the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The new feature can be used for audio and video calls and is turned on by pressing the "more," or plus sign () button during a call and turning subtitles on. This can also be set as a default.
Whether you need a smartphone, smart TV, smart home assistant, or smart charger that turns your smartphone into a smart home assistant that can control your suddenly smart TV, Google's Black Friday specials might have what you're looking for. Google's entire Home line of smart home assistants is getting some serious discounts. The new $150 Google Home Hub is now $99, the original and customizable $130 Google Home is now $79, and the tiny $49 Google Home Mini is just $25. Even the bass-blasting $400 Google Home Max is $50 cheaper, making the $350 purchase a bit easier to stomach. Adding a Chromecast device to your existing home theater setup makes streaming from mobile apps and even your PC incredibly simple, and extends the world of Google Assistant past the realm of audio-only interaction.
Facebook's had a rough year. So it's not exactly ideal timing for Facebook to launch the Portal and Portal, a line of smart home hubs with displays and cameras for making video calls to other Facebook users. Facebook's issues with cybersecurity and transparency are likely to kill both devices in their cradles, especially when considering the superior rival products already on the market. Both the Portal and larger Portal are interesting smart home gadgets, and boast a surprising level of refinement on the hardware end. The smaller Portal is similar to smart home devices from Amazon and Google.
A judge in New Hampshire has requested that Amazon hand over audio recordings from an Echo device present in a house where two women were found dead. Timothy Verrill is accused of murdering 48-year-old Christine Sullivan and 32-year-old Jenna Pellegrini at a Farmington home in January 2017. Their bodies were found underneath a porch on the property with multiple stab wounds. Mr. Verrill pleaded not guilty the following month. But prosecutors believe that there could be corroborating evidence recorded by an Amazon Echo device which was inside the house.
The "smart display" wars are taking off, which means it's time for consumers to ask themselves that modern existential question: Do I need another screen? That's what I was wondering while sitting in the bedroom of a Google employee, whose chic San Francisco home was being used as the backdrop for demos of the company's new Home Hub device. Major tech companies, one after the other, have launched voice-controlled touchscreen gadgets that are meant to live on your kitchen counter, nightstand or living room table. And Google Homes product manager Ashton Udall was showcasing what this particular one does when you wake up and say, "Okay, Google. At this prompt, Google's virtual assistant voiced a greeting, announced the time and weather, then provided an assessment of how bad the commute would be that day. Meanwhile, the bedroom shade -- one of the 10,000 or so smart devices that can sync with the Home Hub -- automatically rolled up. When the assistant is done going through reminders or previewing events on the Google Calendar, it might launch a news reel. This one had been programmed to segue into classical music instead. "In the morning, you're stumbling out of bed, you're getting the cobwebs out of your head," Udall said. "I don't have to go into my phone … You can start just listening." Smart displays, though their capabilities vary, are not replacements for handheld devices. They're meant to be shared. The Home Hub is in many ways a smart speaker with a 7-in. Yet supplanting those handheld devices is a value proposition that Google employees emphasized when I asked why people need this, as if the smart display would function as a Plexiglass partition between me and my smartphone -- servicing many of my basic needs and desires without exposing me to distracting, endless notifications. "The way we designed this is it's there.
A dancing robot gave a whole new meaning to "doing the robot" when it executed a flawless performance of the running man to the dulcet tones of "Uptown Funk". On Tuesday, Boston Dynamics debuted a YouTube video of their SpotMini, a four-legged robot that they'll be selling next year as their first commercial product, dancing the Running Man to a peppy cover of "Uptown Funk." While there's no one specific job that the robot is made for, according to The Verge, Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert has said that its skills are versatile and it can be relied on for tasks like inspection duties, research, and security. And while the bot seems like it'll be able to work hard, as this clip shows that the SpotMini will have no problem being able to play hard too.
Donald Daters, a new dating app for Trump supporters, has leaked users' personal information on the day of its launch. The app, which markets itself as an "American-based singles community connecting lovers, friends, and Trump supporters alike," had more than 1,600 users when it launched on Monday, according to security researcher Elliot Alderson, who was reportedly able to download the entire user database. Alderson shared his findings in a tweet, stating that the data he managed to gain access to included users' names, profile pictures, device types, private messages and access tokens that can be used to log into their accounts. You should not use this app. The Donald Daters app was founded by Emily Moreno--a former aide to Sen. Marco Rubio--who confirmed the leak on Tuesday.
Personal computers, conservation, pro football, rock n' roll and rocket ships: Paul G. Allen couldn't have asked for a better way to spend, invest and donate the billions he reaped from co-founding Microsoft with childhood friend Bill Gates. Allen used the fortune he made from Microsoft -- whose Windows operating system is found on most of the world's desktop computers -- to invest in other ambitions, from tackling climate change and advancing brain research to finding innovative solutions to solve some of the world's biggest challenges. "If it has the potential to do good, then we should do it," Gates quoted his friend as saying. Allen died Monday in Seattle from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to his company Vulcan Inc. Just two weeks ago, Allen, who owned the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, had announced that the same cancer he had in 2009 had returned.