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Apple Wallet’s hotel keycard support is now live, starting at Hyatt hotels


Back at WWDC 2021, Apple said that iOS 15 and watchOS 8 would allow iPhone and Apple Watch owners to on their devices. While that feature didn’t quite make the release of those two updates, it’s now available at six Hyatt locations across the US. As you might expect, it allows you to store a digital version of your hotel keycard in Apple Wallet.

You can add the keycard at any point after you reserve a room. However, you’ll still need to check in at the front desk before you can use your iPhone or Apple Watch to enter your guestroom or any other restricted area within the hotel. The digital keycards support Apple Wallet’s Express Mode feature, which means you don’t need to authenticate your identity with Face ID or Touch ID every time you want to use the feature.

If at any point you decide to extend your stay or change rooms, the hotel can update your keycard without the need for you to visit the front desk. What’s more, if your device starts running low on battery life and enters Power Reserve mode, you can still use your iPhone or Apple Watch as a keycard for up to five hours.

The six locations where you can use your iPhone or Apple Watch to store a keycard are as follows: Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, Hyatt Centric Key West Resort and Spa, Hyatt House Chicago/West Loop-Fulton Market, Hyatt House Dallas/Richardson, Hyatt Place Fremont/Silicon Valley and Hyatt Regency Long Beach.

Hyatt says it expects to roll out the technology to all of its locations globally. , Apple also plans to allow iOS 15 and watchOS 8 to store government issued IDs from select states as well.

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iOS 15.2 will help you spot third-party iPhone parts


Apple’s seeming about-face on repairability will soon help you spot less-than-honest iPhone repair shops and part sellers. As Gizmodo notes, Apple has revealed iOS 15.2’s settings will include a “parts and service history” section (under General > About) that indicates not only whether the battery, camera and display have been replaced, but will indicate whether or not they’re officially sanctioned Apple parts. If a component is listed as an “unknown part,” it’s either unofficial, an already-used part from another iPhone or malfunctioning.

Just how much you’ll learn depends on your iPhone model. Anyone using an iPhone XR, XS or second-generation iPhone SE can only tell if the battery has been replaced. You’ll need an iPhone 11 or newer to also find out if there’s a display swap, and an iPhone 12 or later to know if the camera has been replaced. Apple stressed that these alerts won’t prevent you from using your device — you’re fine if you’re comfortable using unofficial parts and losing warranty coverage.

iOS 15.2 currently exists as a release candidate for developers, suggesting the finished version will be available relatively soon. It’s not yet clear if iPad owners will see a corresponding part history feature at some point.

The “unknown part” label might not thrill advocates for third-party component options. Apple clearly wants you to use official parts, and that means either taking it in for authorized service or (in 2022) buying parts from Apple. This might help you catch shops lying about the quality of their parts, though, and could be useful if you repair an iPhone yourself and want to be sure your fixes went smoothly.

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Meta’s prototype moderation AI only needs a few examples of bad behavior to take action


Moderating content on today’s internet is akin to a round of Whack-A-Mole with human moderators continually forced to react in realtime to changing trends, such as vaccine mis- and disinformation or intentional bad actors probing for ways around established personal conduct policies. Machine learning systems can help alleviate some of this burden by automating the policy enforcement process, however modern AI systems often require months of lead time to properly train and deploy (time mostly spent collecting and annotating the thousands, if not millions of, necessary examples). To shorten that response time, at least to a matter of weeks rather than months, Meta’s AI research group (formerly FAIR) has developed a more generalized technology that requires just a handful of specific examples in order to respond to new and emerging forms of malicious content, called Few-Shot Learner (FSL).

Few-shot learning is a relatively recent development in AI, essentially teaching the system to make accurate predictions based on a limited number of training examples — quite the opposite of conventional supervised learning methods. For example, if you wanted to train a standard SL model to recognize pictures of rabbits, you feed it a couple hundred thousands of rabbit pictures and then you can present it with two images and ask if they both show the same animal. Thing is, the model doesn’t know if the two pictures are of rabbits because it doesn’t actually know what a rabbit is. That’s because the model’s purpose isn’t to spot rabbits, the model’s purpose is to look for similarities and differences between the presented images and predict whether or not the things displayed are the same. There is no larger context for the model to work within, which makes it only good for telling “rabbits” apart — it can’t tell you if it’s looking at an image of a rabbit, or of a lion, or of a John Cougar Mellencamp, just that those three entities are not the same thing.

FSL relies far less on labelled data (i.e. pictures of rabbits) in favor of a generalized system, more akin to how humans learn than conventional AIs. “It’s first trained on billions of generic and open-source language examples,” per a Wednesday Meta blog post. “Then, the AI system is trained with integrity-specific data we’ve labeled over the years. Finally, it’s trained on condensed text explaining a new policy.” And unlike the rabbit-matching model above, FSL “is pretrained on both general language and integrity-specific language so it can learn the policy text implicitly.”

Recent tests of the FSL system have proven encouraging. Meta researchers looked at the change in prevalence of harmful content shown to Facebook and Instagram users before and after FSL’s activation on the sites. The system both found harmful content that conventional SL models had missed and reduced the prevalence of that content in general. The FSL system reportedly outperformed other few-shot models by as much as 55 percent (though only 12 percent on average).

FSL Prevalence Graph the numbers are going down

Meta

FSL’s improved performance is thanks in part to entailment, defined as “the act or fact of entailing, or involving by necessity or as a consequence.” It’s essentially a logical consequence between two sentences — if sentence A is true, then sentence B must also be true. For example, if sentence A is “The President was assassinated,” then it entails that sentence B, “the President is dead,” is also true, accurate and correct. By leveraging entailment in the FSL system, the team is able to “convert the class label into a natural language sentence which can be used to describe the label, and determine if the example entails the label description,” Meta AI researchers explained. So instead of trying to generalize what a conventional SL model knows from its training set (hundreds of thousands of rabbit pics) to the test set (“are these two images of rabbits?”), the FSL model can more broadly recognize harmful content when it sees it, because it understands the policy that the content violates.

The added flexibility of having a “single, shared knowledge base and backbone” could one day enable AI moderation systems to recognize and react to new forms of harmful content far more quickly, catch more content that just barely skirts around current policies and even help Meta develop and better define future policies.

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Native Instruments unveils subscription package


Recording studios aren’t a thing of the past per se, but whole swaths of the production chain are now cheap and accessible enough for a talented amateur producer to achieve enviable results from the comfort of their bedroom. Still though, many of the top plugins—which can simulate anything from mixing consoles to effects units and vintage analog synths—remain outside the budget for most hobbyists. 

Cleverly, Native Instruments have gone the subscription route to deliver those tools in easier-to-swallow monthly payments as low as $9.99 per month. Dubbed Komplete Now, it’s essentially the Adobe Creative Cloud model, only for access to sound creation tools instead of industry standard image software. 

A Komplete Now will grant customers access to some of the most recognizable tools in NI’s arsenal, among them Massive X (a wavetable synth), Retro Machines MK2 (samples from over a dozen analog synth), a slightly tweaked version of Battery (drum sampler), as well as delay and reverb tools Raum and Replika. 

Full licenses for each product in the Komplete Now package would retail for over $700 combined—though that route still makes sense for professionals who plan to use these tools for years on end. Granted, Native Instruments also offers its more limited Komplete Start bundle for free.

Komplete Now is available now at the aforementioned monthly price, or via a $99 yearly plan.

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Meta will let workers return to the office as late as June


Meta now has a more firm timeframe for a full return to the office, but it’s also giving workers a chance to stay at home for a while longer. In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, the Facebook parent company said US offices would fully reopen at the end of January 2022, but that an “office deferral program” will let staff in the US and Canada delay that return for three to five months. They can return as late as June if they aren’t yet comfortable with in-person work, but don’t want to commit to a long-term remote position.

Human resources VP Janelle Gale said Meta would still “prioritize health and safety” at offices for the employees who come back in January. However, the social media firm also accepted that others “aren’t quite ready” to appear.

The move came just days after Google further delayed its return-to-office plans, and at the same time as Lyft said it would no longer require a return in February. An increase in COVID-19 cases and uncertainty about the Omicron variant has cast doubt on the safety of requiring every in-office worker to return, even if there are strict mask and vaccination requirements. Simply put, it might be a long while before companies can demand office work without facing significant resistance.

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YouTube TV is finally coming back to Roku after after a prolonged dispute


YouTube TV is finally back on Roku streaming devices following a dispute between the two parties that has dragged on since April of this year. Both parties agreed to a deal for YouTube TV and the main YouTube app, which could have also disappeared if the feud wasn’t settled. 

“Roku and Google have agreed to a multi-year extension for both YouTube and YouTube TV,” a Roku spokesperson said in a statement. “This agreement represents a positive development for our shared customers, making both YouTube and YouTube TV available for all streamers on the Roku platform.”

Roku originally pulled YouTube TV because it said that Google made anti-competitive demands, like more prominent placements for the apps and requiring Roku to use certain chips. Google retorted that Roku’s claims were “baseless” and that it was focused on “ensuring a high quality and consistent experience for viewers.” 

Both Roku and Google said recently that the main YouTube app could also disappear from Roku devices if a deal wasn’t reached by December 9th — a loss that would have been felt far more acutely by Roku owners. That generated some negative press that may have brought extra clarity to the negotiations. There are no details on how the contract was resolved, but the YouTube app is now safe and you should see the YouTube TV app back on your Roku device soon. 

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The Morning After: The Hubble telescope wakes up from ‘hibernation’


NASA’s Hubble telescope has been in a month-long nap since going into system failure in late October. However, early yesterday, the agency announced it is waking Hubble up. NASA says the telescope is now functioning as normal, with all four active instruments collecting data.

On October 23rd, NASA first noticed Hubble’s instruments weren’t receiving messages from the telescope’s control unit. NASA ended up putting the telescope into a sort of safe mode while it tried to figure out what happened. That safe mode takes a long time to come out of because of the sensitivity of Hubble’s hardware. Rapid power or temperature changes aren’t good for its lifespan. The telescope is now 31 years old — Hubble may be nearing the end of its useful life in space. NASA will use the telescope till the end, though, planning to use it in tandem with the Webb telescope, which is expected to finally launch on December 22nd.

— Mat Smith

The company is testing Premium Memberships with a small group of users.

Discord has started testing a feature called Premium Memberships. The tool allows community owners to gate access to part or all of their server behind a monthly subscription fee.

Before today, individuals looking to offer membership fees or paid access had to turn to third-party services like Patreon to monetize access to their servers.

The Premium Memberships tool creates a streamlined interface for that same purpose. A new tab under the Community heading in the app’s setting’s menu allows server owners to do things like set price tiers and view related analytics. The feature similarly streamlines the process of signing up for paid channels for users. If you want to financially support a community, you now don’t need to leave Discord to do so.

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More than 3,100 people died in crashes involving distracted drivers in the US in 2019.

Many Tesla vehicles allow drivers to play a selection of games on the infotainment system while the car is in motion, according to a report by The New York Times. The company rolled out an update in the summer that reportedly lets drivers play Solitaire, jet-fighter game Sky Force Reloaded and strategy title The Battle of Polytopia while on the road.

The touchscreen is said to display a warning before a game of Solitaire starts. “Solitaire is a game for everyone, but playing while the car is in motion is only for passengers” the message reads, according to the Times. That indicates Tesla knows the game is playable while the car’s moving. In August, the NHTSA said it was investigating Autopilot following a number of crashes with parked first responder vehicles. Those resulted in one death and 17 injuries.

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You can watch the first remote-controlled match on December 12th.

TMA

BMW

BMW and esports brand LVL are trying something almost like Rocket League. They’re teaming on Das Race Goal, a Rocket League-style esports platform that has remote-controlled cars play soccer for charity. Players worldwide will steer the vehicles in a real arena while grabbing virtual powerups and activating “special effects.”

The first event takes place December 12th at 1 PM ET and will stream live on LVL’s Twitch channel. This inaugural competition will have six three-player teams compete in Munich’s BMW Welt stadium to raise awareness and funds for the United Nations Population Fund’s Skills for Life programs.

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Adam McKay and Jennifer Lawrence are teaming up again on ‘Bad Blood.’

Apple will fund and distribute the long-in-the-works movie about embattled Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. Bad Blood will star Jennifer Lawrence as Holmes, while Adam McKay will write and direct. Both are producers on the project, which is a co-production between Apple Studios and Legendary.

The movie, which is based on the book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Start Up by former Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou, has been in development since at least 2016.

Bad Blood won’t be the only film and TV project about Theranos and Holmes. Hulu greenlit a mini-series in 2019 with Saturday Night Live star Kate McKinnon penciled in to play Holmes. She dropped out earlier this year and was replaced by Amanda Seyfried. An HBO documentary about the Theranos saga also premiered in 2019.

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The biggest news stories you might have missed


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You can now buy a Switch OLED dock without a Switch OLED


Nintendo has started selling docks for Switch OLED units separately in North America. According to Nintendo Life, the gaming giant revealed the dock would be sold as a standalone item when the OLED Switch was launched. And it has been available in European stores since the beginning of December, but now you can also get one in the US and Canada. While you can use the OLED model with the dock for the standard Switch, the one designed for it comes with a very important addition: An ethernet/LAN port.

In case your home internet isn’t as fast as you’d like it to be, and you’d benefit greatly from a wired connection, the new dock may work better for your needs. You’d have to have or buy your own LAN/ethernet cable, though, since the dock doesn’t come with one. It also doesn’t include an AC Adapter and an HDMI cable, but it can receive software updates. 

You can snap up a dock from Nintendo’s store in the US or in Canada for $70. The unit will ship with a standard white panel, which we found flimsy and prone to being lost in our review. But you can get a back cover in black or get another white one as a replacement part from Nintendo’s website for $6.

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eBay launches an interactive 3D sneaker viewer to compete with StockX


If you’re interested in sneakers listed on eBay and want a better look, the platform has launched a new feature called eBay 3D True View. The new app, created in partnership with game engine developer Unity, lets you rotate around the image at all angles and zoom in. It looks like an improvement over rival StockX‘s 3D viewer, which lets you rotate shoes in 3D, but only on one plane. 

Sellers can scan in sneakers with a mobile device by taking video from multiple angles. That data is then processed “using AI methodology” to create “photorealistic” 3D image of the item, eBay explains. Viewers can view the items from any angle, but only using eBay’s mobile app on iOS and Android devices.

StockX has become a formidable eBay rival in the sneaker arena, thanks to its simplified, stock market-like buying and selling system, along with an authentication service. However, eBay has fought back with its own authentication system. StockX and eBay aren’t the only resellers with 3D sneaker views, as GOAT offers AR sneaker previews, available before models even launch.

Only select sneaker sellers will get access to the new feature starting this month, but eBay plans to roll it out more widely in 2022 — if you’re an interested seller, you can sign up to get on a waiting list

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Washington DC votes to allow digital driver’s licenses and ID cards


Washington DC’s city council has approved the use of digital driver’s licenses and IDs, joining Arizona, Georgia and other states, The Washington Post has reported. That gives the district’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) the authority to issue digital credentials that can be stored on a smartphone or other mobile device. They could then be presented for entering government buildings, to purchase liquor or in case of police stops, for example. 

Digital IDs and driver’s licenses strongly entered the public conversation in September, when Apple announced that Wallet would hold driver’s licenses and other IDs in iOS 15. The TSA was slated to be the first place iPhone owners could use their digital identity cards, and Apple subsequently announced that Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky and Oklahoma would be early adopters of the program. Last month, however, Apple said it would delay the release of digital ID cards until 2022, rather than the end of 2021 as scheduled.

Washington DC residents will have the option of using physical or digital credentials and will not be required to show a digital ID on a mobile device. The bill passage brings the city “a step closer to the reality of digital credentials,” DC DMV director Gabriel Robinson told The Post. The DMV must now create a plan to to develop the credentials once the legislation is signed into law. 

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