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Month: June 2018

Amazon’s Echo Dot Kids Edition adds support for Spotify

Amazon is addressing one of the larger issues with its Echo Dot Kids Edition — support for Spotify’s streaming music service, with the option to filter out explicit lyrics. The news was announced on Friday alongside new content from Disney for the Kids Edition device. However, Amazon says the Spotify support would not be available until next week. Lack of access to one of the most popular streaming services was one of my personal critiques with the Kids Edition. As a Spotify household, it was hard to use the device here because of its limited support for music services outside Amazon and iHeartRadio Family. Our favorite playlists and music was not available, because we don’t pay for Amazon’s on-demand music service. This will be a welcome change. When Spotify is enabled, Amazon says the explicit filter will also be turned on by default — but parents can turn it off on their FreeTime dashboard. Along with the support on the Kids Edition device, the update will also now allow Spotify customers who don’t subscribe to FreeTime the option to turn off explicit lyrics, as they already can do with Amazon Music and Pandora. In addition, Amazon says the Echo Dot Kids Edition is gaining a host of new content from Disney this week and next. It has already added a new kids skill called Disney Dailies that includes jokes and...

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Hands on with the Echo Dots Kids Edition

Earlier this year, Amazon introduced an Echo Dot for kids, with its $80 Echo Dot Kids Edition device, which comes in your choice of a red, blue, or green protective case. The idea is to market a version of Amazon’s existing Dot hardware to families by bundling it with an existing subscription service, and by throwing in a few extra features – like having Alexa encourage kids to say “please” when making their demands, for example. The device makes sense in a couple of scenarios – for helicopter parents who want to fully lock down an Echo device before putting it in a kid’s room, and for those who were in the market for a FreeTime Unlimited subscription anyway. I’ve been testing out an Echo Dot Kids Edition, and ran into some challenges which I thought I’d share. This is not a hardware review – I’m sure you can find those elsewhere.  Music Filtering As a parent of an 8-year old myself, I’ve realized it’s too difficult to keep her from ever hearing bad words – especially in music, TV and movies – so I’ve just explained to her that while she will sometimes hear those words, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to say them. (We have a similar rule about art – sometimes people will be nude in paintings, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to walk around naked...

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Researchers train bipedal robots to step lightly over rough terrain

Researchers at the Hybrid Robotics Group at UC Berkeley and CMU are hard at work making sure their robots don’t fall over when tiptoeing through rough terrain. Using machine learning and ATRIAS robots, the teams are able to “teach” robots to traverse stepping stones they’ve never seen before. Their robots, described here, are unique in that they are bipedal and use a mixture of balance and jumping to ensure they don’t tip off the blocks. “What’s different about our methods is that they allow for dynamic walking as opposed to the slower quasi-static motions that robots tend to use,” write the researchers. “By reasoning about the nonlinearities in the dynamics of the system and by taking advantage of recent advances in optimal and nonlinear control technology, we can specify control objectives and desired robot behaviors in a simple and compact form while providing formal stability and safety guarantees. This means our robots can walk over discrete terrain without slipping or falling over, backed by some neat math and some cool experimental videos.” The robots are currently “blind” and can’t use visual input to plan their next move. However, with a robot called CASSIE, they will be able to see and feel the stones as they hop along, ensuring that they don’t tip over in the heat of fun… or battle. Source:...

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Bird has officially raised a whopping $300M as the scooter wars heat up

And there we have it: Bird, one of the emerging massively hyped Scooter startups, has roped in its next pile of funding by picking up another $300 million in a round led by Sequoia Capital. The company announced the long-anticipated round this morning, with Sequoia’s Roelof Botha joining the company’s board of directors. This is the second round of funding that Bird has raised over the span of a few months, sending it from a reported $1 billion valuation in May to a $2 billion valuation by the end of June. In March, the company had a $300 million valuation, but the Scooter hype train has officially hit a pretty impressive inflection point as investors pile on to get money into what many consider to be the next iteration of resolving transportation at an even more granular level than cars or bikes. New investors in the round include Accel, B Capital, CRV, Sound Ventures, Greycroft and e.ventures; previous investors Craft Ventures, Index Ventures, Valor, Goldcrest, Tusk Ventures and Upfront Ventures are also in the round. (So, basically everyone else who isn’t in competitor Lime.) Scooter mania has captured the hearts of Silicon Valley and investors in general — including Paige Craig, who actually jumped from VC to join Bird as its VP of business — with a large amount of capital flowing into the area about as quickly as it possibly can....

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Apple buries the hatchet with Samsung but could tap LG displays

After years of legal procedures, Apple and Samsung have reached an agreement in the infamous patent case. Terms of the settlement were undisclosed. So is everything clear between Samsung and Apple? Not so fast, as Bloomberg reports that Apple wants to use OLED displays from LG to reduce its dependence on Samsung. You might remember that Apple first sued Samsung for copying the design of the iPhone with early Samsung Galaxy phones. The first trial led to an Apple victory. Samsung had to pay $1 billion. But the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office later invalidated one of Apple’s patents. It led to multiple retrials and appeals, and the Supreme Court even had to rule at some point. After many years, Samsung ended up owing $539 million to Apple. According to Reuters, Samsung has already paid $399 million. If you look closely at the original case, it feels like it happened many decades ago. At some point, the Samsung Galaxy S 4G, the Nexus S and a few other devices looked a lot like the iPhone 3G. But now, it’s hard to say that Samsung is copying Apple. For instance, Samsung is one of the only phone manufacturers that hasn’t switched to a notch design. The Samsung Galaxy S9 and the rest of the product lineup still features a rectangular display. Huawei, LG, OnePlus, Asus and countless of others sell...

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