Believe it or not, the house drone is not Amazon’s most interesting new feature
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I don’t care if Monday’s blue
Tuesday’s grey and Wednesday too
Thursday, I don’t care about you
It’s Friday, I’m in love
The news of late has ranged from dreary and depressing to downright alarming. But let’s finish the week on a positive: Our consumer technology is bursting with innovation.
Folding phones, cloud gaming, health sensors, mirrorless cameras, streaming video, lightning-fast wireless, electric cars—all have made great strides of late. And we can finally rearrange the home screen on the iPhone!
Thinking back, Data Sheet could have crafted a great Bingo card with those themes for Amazon’s new product event on Thursday. Gaming, streaming, health, wireless, and cameras all came up, and they even checked another box I almost overlooked: drones.
Did you catch the video of that one? The new Ring Always Home Cam is a $250 flying drone for your house that shoots live video and sends it to your phone. It can work with the Ring home security system to investigate the scene of a possible break-in, as it does in the promo video, or you could use it just to spy on your pets (or teenagers left home alone for the weekend…hmm). It flies along a preset path and makes a loud buzzing noise while filming to avoid catching anyone unawares. Some found it rather Orwellian, but it’s also clearly the future, combining machine smarts, sensors, and cloud connectivity. It’s the first IoB device—the Internet of Buzzing.
There were also new Echo smart speakers (spherical this year), new eero Wi-Fi routers (up to Wi-Fi 6 now), and new features for Alexa (Zoom compatibility!). My colleague Jonathan Vanian has a couple of his highlights and CNET has an even more detailed exploration of what was announced, if you are an Amazon maximalist.
But buried beneath all the headlines was one important development worth pondering further. Amazon’s new cloud gaming service, Luna, will work on Macs, PCs, the Fire TV box, and iOS, with Android “coming soon.”
Amazon found another way onto iPhones and iPads. Instead of developing an app, which would have to be approved by Apple, Amazon’s game service will run inside the phone’s web browser. If you remember all the way back to the introduction of the iPhone, this was Steve Jobs’ original vision for how outside companies could make apps for the otherwise locked-down device (“a very sweet solution,” he called it).
Could this loophole open the floodgates to all the other cloud gaming services and more? We’ll have to wait and see how well Amazon’s service actually performs via the browser. At least to start, it looks like Amazon’s offerings include fewer cutting-edge games than some of its rivals, perhaps due to performance concerns. And most developers rejected Jobs’ “sweet solution” because web apps miss out on many features of the iPhone that native apps can use, leading Apple to develop the now-controversial app store in the first place.
But if the Amazon team has cracked the code, even more innovations could come to our phones. And that’s pretty sweet. Have a good weekend.
Didn't inhale. In testimony that won't help Facebook, former director of monetization Tim Kendall says the company followed the strategy of the smoking industry in trying to get users hooked. "We took a page from Big Tobacco's playbook, working to make our offering addictive at the outset," Kendall told the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee on Thursday. Senate Republicans are also after Big Tech. They plan to vote next week on subpoenaing the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Meanwhile, Facebook held a press conference to announce it had uncovered Russian disinformation networks and booted them off the platform.
Melting under pressure. Social media firm Hootsuite is cancelling a contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency after employees and users criticized the move earlier this week.
Retrofitting. It's becoming more and more clear to me as I continue testing the Apple Watch Series 6 that the best new feature in this year's lineup is the Solo Loop band, which is kind of sad. But Apple's sizing guidelines have been a little off. Now the company is issuing new instructions on how to measure your wrist before ordering and accepting band returns without requiring customers to also return their just-purchased watch too. In other Apple news, leading app developers including Epic Games, Spotify, and Match Group created a new group to pressure the iPhone maker to improve its terms. The Coalition for App Fairness says platform owners like Apple and Google must "provide consumers with equitable choice."
The little one stops to tie his shoe. Jack Ma's mobile payments titan, Ant Group, debuted a blockchain-based sales platform that generates smart contracts between buyers and sellers. The move comes just ahead of Ant's initial public offering in Hong Kong and Shanghai, which is expected to raise $35 billion, the most in IPO history.
Paper chase. Some legal updates: The European Union is appealing the ruling that let Apple and Ireland off the hook for $15 billion of taxes. And a federal judge said the Trump administration must defend its order to ban TikTok today or he would likely set it aside temporarily.
Silence of the Glambs. Maybe the universe was trying to tell us something. Most Google services went offline last night for a short while.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The passage of time has seemed more than a little uneven in this crazy year. Why is that? Quanta Magazine staff writer Jordana Cepelewicz reviews some of the latest science about our changing perceptions of time.
Last month in Nature Neuroscience, a trio of researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel presented some important new insights into what stretches and compresses our experience of time. They found evidence for a long-suspected connection between time perception and the mechanism that helps us learn through rewards and punishments. They also demonstrated that the perception of time is wedded to our brain’s constantly updated expectations about what will happen next.
“Everyone knows the saying that ‘time flies when you’re having fun,’” said Sam Gershman, a cognitive neuroscientist at Harvard University who was not involved in the study. “But the full story might be more nuanced: Time flies when you’re having more fun than you expected.”
FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE
A few great long reads I came across this week:
The Cheating Scandal That Ripped the Poker World Apart (Wired)
Mike Postle was on an epic winning streak at a California casino. Veronica Brill thought he had to be playing dirty. Let the chips fall where they may.
My stolen credit card details were used 4,500 miles away. I tried to find out how it happened (TechRepublic)
When cybersecurity reporter Danny Palmer found his card was apparently used on another continent, he set out to discover more.
Magic Leap Tried to Create an Alternate Reality. Its Founder Was Already in One (Bloomberg Businessweek)
The augmented reality startup was undone by profligate spending and its own hype. Investors finally lost patience when the pandemic struck.
Sharon Stone's Done with Monkey Business—Mostly (Town & Country)
The leading lady has never bought into the idea that a movie star can't speak her mind.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Can Disney+ dethrone Netflix? By Lance Lambert
Corporate leaders strive to make allyship a real thing at work By Rey Mashayekhi
(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)
BEFORE YOU GO
About 30 years ago, Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr took a walk with his mom around her house and recorded their conversation on a cassette tape. Burr's mom, Marjorie Tice, died in 2005, but recently Burr pulled out the cassette and listened to the chat. He's written a moving story about the experience and he has some advice for all of us that I will definitely follow with my parents soon.
Also, did I mention that you should watch the Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher yet? I did? Well, have you watched it yet?