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Amazon shows off a new $180 Ring ‘Stick Up Cam’

Among the slew of devices Amazon announced this morning at its event in Seattle is a new Ring Stick Up Cam – stick up, because it’s designed to go anywhere. (And is not, apparently, a reference to being robbed at gunpoint?) The camera comes in two versions – one that’s battery-powered and could be more easily used outdoors, as well as one that’s wired, which may make more sense indoors. The device also supports power over internet, so if your house is wired for that specifically, you’ll have another option to power the device, Amazon says. The company didn’t detail many specs for this device – we’ll add those later, as they become available. These devices, which come in both black and white, will be available later this year. They’ll cost $179.99 and be available in the UK, US, France, Germany, Australia and a number of other countries around the world. Check out our full coverage from the event here .

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Amazon launches an Echo Wall Clock, because Alexa is gonna be everywhere

Amazon keeps rolling out new Alexa devices this morning, with the launch of a new Alexa device – in a clock. Yes, there’s now an Echo Wall Clock available that has Alexa voice capabilities built in. That means you can ask Alexa to do things like set alarms and timers – and the lines on the clock will illuminate as the time progresses. Alarms and timers, of course, are two of the most used Echo features – and a wall clock makes sense as a place where people might like to use them, or so Amazon thinks. The Wall Clock is designed to have an easy-to-understand interface so anyone who walks into the room could use it, without a long learning curve, the company claims. The company demonstrated using the clock for setting a pasta timer, where a little LED shows up to tell you where the timer is, and then it begins to count down. Amazon also pointed out that an Alexa-connected wall clock would mean you’d no longer have to update your clock for daylight savings time. The device sort of feels like Amazon is throwing out a bunch of stuff just to see what sticks. Do people want an Alexa microwave or wall clock? The holiday shopping season will give us that answer. The Wall Clock will ship later this year for $30.

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Amazon updates the Echo Plus so it can control the smart home when the internet goes down

Amazon today is giving its premium smart home-ready Echo Plus device a notable update. The device, which includes a smart home hub built into the Echo, is now getting a new fabric design, and a temperature sensor. However, what’s more interesting is the addition of something Amazon calls “local voice control.” What this means is that if the internet goes down, you’ll still be able to use Alexa to control your smart home devices. As the company explained this morning at its hardware event in Seattle , a hub that works with a cloud-based system can often run into trouble when internet access becomes spotty or unavailable. So what the company did to address this is build in local voice control, a new capability that takes the best of its natural language understanding and its automatic speech recognition and runs it all locally on the device. So when the internet goes down (and Amazon says it’s starting with the smart home capabilities here, when it comes to local voice control) you can still say “Alexa, turn on the lights” or “Alexa, turn on the plug,” and it’ll work. This feature will get better over time as the devices add more local control and more capabilities, the company noted. Meanwhile, the temperature sensor feature will allow Alexa owners to add temperatures into their routines. For example, if the room gets too chilly, Alexa can tell you. The updated version of the Echo Plus will still remain $149 and it will be shipping in every country that Alexa is in today. Check out our full coverage from the event  here .

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Amazon introduces the Echo Input, its first Echo without a speaker

Amazon today introduced a new product it’s calling the Echo Input. This is a very thin, tiny version of the Echo Dot – and the first Alexa device without a speaker. The idea here is to offer a device that allows you to connect to the speaker you already own. On the back of the device is a line in and Bluetooth connection, and it sports a far field microphone array like other Echo devices. The small form factor, however, allows the device to fit in almost anywhere – you can drop them throughout the house, for example. Amazon says the product is designed also to be shipped in bundles with other speakers that people like – such as Bose, which is a first partner for this device. The Echo Input will be available later this year for $34.99 in the U.S., U.K. and Germany. more to come…

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Amazon FreeTime for Alexa adds routines, kids’ podcasts and audiobooks

Amazon today announced it’s rolling out new features for its FreeTime service for parents and children, which recently started working with Alexa,  allowing parents to control children’s experience with the personal assistant. Now, the FreeTime service for Alexa will also support routines – the combination of voice commands that can be kicked off with a single phrase. For example, parents could say, “Alexa, it’s bedtime” to have Alexa turn off the lights, lower the shades and play lullabies. The company said it’s also adding other features for kids, as well, including podcasts and over 1,000 audiobooks for kids. See our full coverage from the event  here .

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Apple Watch fire face was made with actual fire

With the Apple Watch Series 4 , Apple introduced a new, larger display. It now has rounded edges and thinner bezels. And the company took advantage of that display to introduce new fire, water, liquid metal and vapor faces. Apple didn’t use CGI to create those faces — they shot those faces in a studio. Many companies would have rendered those effects on a computer given the size of the display. But those are actual videos shot with a camera. Cool Hunting shared a video of the actual process, and it’s insane: As you can see, Apple used a flamethrower against a transparent surface, exploded a balloon at the top of a basin of water, made a color powder explosion in a cylinder and rotated a small puddle of metallic liquid. It says a lot about Apple’s design culture — they don’t take shortcuts and they have a lot of money. Here’s the introduction video for the new Apple Watch:

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Bird hits 10 million scooter rides

Bird just announced 10 million scooter rides since launching about one year ago. If this story sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because Bird competitor Lime earlier today announced it surpassed 11.5 million rides across its shared bikes and scooters . Bird, which launched last September in Santa Monica, Calif., currently operates in 100 cities and has over two million unique riders, Bird founder and CEO Travis VanderZanden told TechCrunch. But Bird’s first year of operations has been full of ups and downs. Many of the downs have been around regulatory issues. Bird faced, and overcame them, in Santa Monica but failed in San Francisco. “I think anytime you’re doing something new that the cities haven’t contemplated before, there always seems to be gray area on where you fit in in the regulatory environment,” VanderZanden said. “Cities hadn’t thought about electric scooters and electric scooter sharing. We collaborated very closely with the cities we’re in now.” Although San Francisco did not grant an operating permit to Bird — the city gave them to Scoot and Skip — VanderZanden stressed that “San Francisco is one city. We’re in 100 cities.” He also said Bird is not looking to appeal the decision in San Francisco. Lime, however, is in engaging in the appeals process. As Bird enters its second year of operations, the name of the game is to double down on its efforts with cities and building out its government tech platform. Bird is also looking into manufacturing its own scooters to provide more durability to its customers and differentiate itself from other scooters on the market. “We’ve been investing heavily in that area,” VanderZanden said. “You’ll start to see new vehicles coming from us soon.” He added, “we want to keep building vehicles that are more ruggedized but also vehicles that have new features for the riders as well.” And Bird definitely has the funds to do that

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Walmart is putting 17,000 Oculus Go headsets in its stores to help train employees in VR

Workplace training has long been considered one of the key early areas where virtual reality can make a dent in the enterprise. Walmart already made some noise when it announced it would be bringing VR hardware into its training centers , now the company is planning to send Oculus Go headsets to each of its 5,000 stores so that more of Walmart’s employees can get instruction more often. The big box giant will begin sending four headsets to each Walmart supercenter and two headsets to each Neighborhood Market in the country. That may not necessarily seem like a ton to train a store full of employees, but at Walmart’s scale that amounts to about 17,000 headsets being shipped by year’s end. The move is the evolution of an announcement that the company made last year that it was working with STRIVR Labs to bring virtual reality training to its 200 “Walmart Academy” training centers. Those training sessions were done on PC-tethered Oculus Rifts, the move to Oculus Go headsets really showcases how much more simple standalone headset hardware is to setup and operate. Just being able to send a few of these to each store and expect that people will be able to navigate them easily is a win for Oculus and Facebook as most early VR hardware has taken a healthy bit of troubleshooting in order to engage with anything. “Walmart was one of the first companies to benefit from VR’s ability to enrich employee education, and its applications will only grow from here,” Oculus business partnerships head Andy Mathis said in a press release. “What makes it so compelling is that costly, difficult, or otherwise impossible scenarios and simulations become not only possible, but immediately within reach.” Walmart is bringing VR instruction to all of its U.S. training centers Virtual reality offers a unique opportunity to gain exposure to processes and products before it’s actually go-time. For employees, the experience can be more engaging than existing options and I would imagine people are less prone to distractions or mindlessly clicking through screens. STRIVR’s instruction videos are largely 360 video-based with interactive onscreen prompts and can offer employees an opportunity to see and feel like they’re interacting with new initiatives before the infrastructure is even in place

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GoPro shakes up its entire camera line

GoPro delivered a big refresh of its cameras today with a lot of new product names but not quite as many hardware updates as we’ve seen in past updates. The new lineup from GoPro is definitely less confusing from a branding perspective. The Hero7 White, Silver and Black will cost $199, $299 and $399 respectively. Unlike past years, the company will be discontinuing the previous generations rather than just dropping the price. The company did not offer any updates on its Fusion 360-degree camera. The new cameras ship September 27. In terms of the new product line, here’s what you’re looking at when it comes to specs. Hero7 White Specs $199 Max video: 1440p @ 60 frames Waterproof up to 10m 10MP photos Hero7 Silver Specs $299 Max video: 4K @ 30 frames Waterproof up to 10m 10MP photos GPS Hero7 Black Specs $399 Max video: 4K @ 60 frames Slow-mo: 2.7K @ 120 frames, 1080p @ 240 frames Waterproof up to 10m 12MP HDR photos Live-streaming GPS While the White and Silver models both have a new color palette, they both have lost the small front LCD status screen that could help you determine what mode you were in. It’s an interesting move that probably offered a drop in bill of materials cost for the cameras and offered a broader range of differences between low and high-end models but they do ultimately kind of feel like downgrades to the Hero5 Black and Hero they are replacing in the lineup. The flagship Hero7 Black is again the star of the group, but the differences between the newcomer and its preceding model are far less pronounced than in past releases. You can check out our Hero7 Black review for some more details on how the hardware and software stack up.

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Lime hits 11.5 million bike and scooter rides

Bike and scooter company Lime recently hit 11.5 million rides,  a couple of months after it surpassed six million rides . This milestone comes just 14 months after Lime deployed its first bikes. Today, Lime is in more than 100 markets throughout the U.S. and Europe. Last December , Lime brought its bikes to a number of European cities and in June,  Lime brought its scooters to Paris . By the end of this year, Lime plans to launch in an additional 50 cities. The rise of shared personal electric vehicles has also led to a new type of side hustle for some people. Through Lime’s Juicer program, which enables anyone to make money from charging scooters overnight, the company has paid out millions of dollars to those workers. Lime has raised $467 million in funding, with its most recent round coming in at  $335 million. The round, led by GV, included participation from Uber .

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Meituan-Dianping’s IPO off to a good start as shares climb 7% on debut

Meituan-Dianping (3690.HK) enjoyed a strong debut today in Hong Kong, a sign that investors are confident in the Tencent-backed company’s prospects despite its cash-burning growth strategy, heavy competition and a sluggish Hong Kong stock market . During morning trading, Meituan’s shares reached a high of HKD$73.85 (about $9.41) , a 7% increase over its initial public offering price of HKD$69. When Meituan reportedly set a target valuation of $55 billion for its debut, it triggered concerns that the company, which bills itself a “one-stop super app” for everything from food delivery to ticket bookings, as overconfident. While Meituan, the owner of Mobile, is the leading online marketplace for services in China, it faces formidable competition from Alibaba’s Ele.me and operating on tight margins and heavy losses as it spends money on marketing and user acquisition costs. As it prepared for its IPO, Meituan was also under the shadow of underwhelming Hong Kong debuts by Xiaomi and China Tower . Like Xiaomi, Meituan is listed under a new dual-class share structure designed to attract tech companies by allowing them to give weighted voting rights to founders. The sponsors of Meituan’s IPO are Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

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GitLab raises $100M

GitLab , the developer service that aims to offer a full lifecycle DevOps platform , today announced that it has raised a $100 million Series D funding round at a valuation of $1.1 billion. The round was led by Iconiq . As GitLab CEO  Sid Sijbrandij told me, this round, which brings the company’s total funding to $145.5 million , will help it enable its goal of reaching an IPO by November 2020. According to Sijbrandij, GitLab’s original plan was to raise a new funding round at a valuation over $1 billion early next year. But since Iconiq came along with an offer that pretty much matched what the company set out to achieve in a few months anyway, the team decided to go ahead and raise the round now. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub earlier this year helped to accelerate those plans, too. “We weren’t planning on fundraising actually. I did block off some time in my calendar next year, starting from February 25th to do the next fundraise,” Sijbrandij said. “Our plan is to IPO in November of 2020 and we anticipated one more fundraise. I think in the current climate, where the macroeconomics are really good and GitHub got acquired, people are seeing that there’s one independent company, one startup left basically in this space.

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Marvel superheroes like Loki and Scarlet Witch may get their own streaming shows

It looks like we’re getting more details about the superhero side of Disney’s planned ( and apparently still-unnamed ) streaming service, thanks to a story in Variety . We already knew that the Disney service would include original Marvel and Star Wars shows. On the Star Wars side, there’s a revival of “The Clone Wars” and a live action series produced by Jon Favreau , for which Disney might pay $100 million for the first 10 episodes . Now Variety is reporting that Disney has plans for limited series that will star Marvel superheroes like Loki and Scarlet Witch (yes, they’re actually reformed supervillains, but let’s not get technical here). Basically, these are characters who are popular but maybe not popular enough to carry a big-budget film on their own. That also means you shouldn’t expect an Iron Man or Captain America series. Disney and Marvel haven’t confirmed any of these plans, but this does sound like a plausible approach. Apparently, the goal is to create limit series of six to eight episodes. And The shows be much more closely linked to the Marvel Cinematic Universe than previous Marvel TV. The characters will be played by the same actors who portrayed them on the big screen, and where previously, and the shows will be produced by the previously movie-focused Marvel Studios . ( Disney separated Kevin Feige’s Studios unit from Marvel Entertainment in 2015. )

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iOS 12.1 beta hints at new iPad Pro

iOS 12 is still brand new , but Apple is already testing iOS 12.1 with a developer beta version. Steve Troughton-Smith and Guilherme Rambo found references to a brand new iPad that would support Face ID. First, there are changes to Face ID. You can find references to landscape orientation in the iOS 12.1 beta. Face ID on the iPhone is limited to portrait orientation. Chances are you didn’t even notice this limitation because there’s only one orientation for the lock screen and home screen. But the iPad is a different story as people tend to use it in landscape. And even when you hold it in landscape, some people will have the home button on the left while others will have the home button on the right. In other words, in order to bring Face ID to the iPad, it needs to support multiple orientations. This beta indicates that iOS 12.1 could be the version of iOS that ships with the next iPad. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a new device codename in the setup reference files. This device is called iPad2018Fall, which clearly means that a new iPad is right around the corner. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo previously indicated that the iPad Pro could switch from Lightning to USB-C

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Telegram to replace iOS messaging app with Telegram X Swift rebuild

Telegram has announced it will be migrating iOS users of its messaging app to a rebuilt-from-scratch Swift version. It’s been running two versions of its app in parallel on iOS and Android during 2018 — officially announcing Telegram X in January , when it billed it as an experiment and said the alternative app “may or may not eventually replace the existing official apps”. Well, that maybe has now become a certainty — at least on iOS. In a post on his Telegram channel, founder Pavel Durov says the company will be replacing the iOS app with the Swift rebuild “within the next week or two”. “As a result, Telegram will become faster, slicker and more efficient,” he writes. “Since it will rely on an entirely new codebase, some minor bugs and glitches might occur, but we’ll make sure they are quickly — or should I say “swiftly” — fixed.” “This change will make Telegram the most popular messaging app written fully in Swift. Some would say it’s a big risk, but I think somebody has to take such risks and be the first to implement new technologies, such as e2e end-to-end encryption — or Swift,” adds Durov. At the time of writing, the original Telegram iOS app and the Telegram X rebuild are both currently still available for download in the App Store. It’s not clear whether Telegram will also be entirely replacing the Android app with the Telegram X Android version (or not). Nor what the iOS switch will mean for Telegram users running the app on a version of Apple’s mobile OS that doesn’t support Swift apps (iOS 6 or earlier). Telegram may well be calculating that only a very small few number of its iOS users are likely that far behind on iOS updates.

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