New Moto Razr is a foldable flip smartphone that costs $1500

The new Moto Razr is a handsome retro thing. At $1500, though, who wants a 6.2-inch foldable smartphone designed to resemble a classic flip-phone?

The hinge design of the Moto Razr is probably the most interesting thing about it. The best Samsung can currently do in the foldables space is the Galaxy Fold, which, thanks to folding the display nearly completely flat, develops a permanent crease in the display after the first fold. Motorola's display doesn't fold completely flat, though—there is a large void space around the display hinge, so when the phone folds in half, the display has room to move around. Since it's not being sandwiched between two solid plates, the display collapses into a gentle curve instead of a hard crease. Imagine bending a piece of paper in half just by pinching the top and bottom together versus pressing the fold into a crease. Since the display only ever forms a loop, rather than a crease, it never gains a distracting, light-distorting crease down the middle the way the Galaxy Fold does.

There's a fair likelihood this will establish itself as a genuine "luxury" smartphone where other efforts have failed. It's a classic, upgraded with cutting-edge display technology, but with a clever design feature (the hinge loop) that lets it avoid the visible crease (and stink of failure) associated with other expensive foldable smartphones.

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16" MacBook Pro announced, and it has a proper escape key

After years of poorly-received MacBook Pro models, Apple's new sixteen-inch model has a lot riding on it. Read the rest

Ethnicity detection camera

Here's an ad from Hikvision, the worlds' largest security camera company, boasting of its products' utility in detecting people's ethnicity. James Vincent writes that it "speaks volumes about the brutal simplicity of the techno-surveillance state." [via @CharlesRollet1, who points to an archived webpage that details the "Uyghur detection" feature] Read the rest

Microsoft's ARM laptop is slim but not so fast

The Verge's Dieter Bohn reviews Microsoft's Surface Pro X laptop. It's pretty and it's small, but it's slow.

... the core of Windows 10 runs just fine for me [but] there are still occasional, confounding slowdowns, especially when waking from sleep. In general, I just didn’t have as strong a feel for what would and would not bog down this computer — with an Intel chip, I know what to expect.

But it wasn’t fast, certainly not as fast as an equivalently priced Intel device would be. Still, the main problem with this ARM chip doesn’t come from slowness with Windows itself, but with many of the apps.

Here's a serious problem for anyone doing anything more than basic productivity: "64-bit x86 apps won’t run at all on the Surface Pro X. ... even Microsoft’s own app store doesn’t properly filter out incompatible apps when you visit it from this computer. You can (and I did!) buy apps in the Microsoft Store and only find out after the fact that they’re incompatible."

The Verge also notes that setting it up presents the user with a baker's dozen of clickwrap contracts, including Windows itself, "Activity History", OneDrive, Office 365, Cortana, and a Microsoft account that can only be skipped if you remember not to connect it to the internet. You apparently cannot get into this laptop without allowing "Microsoft to access your location, location history, contacts, voice input, speech and handwriting patterns, typing history, search history, calendar details, messages, apps, and Edge browsing history."

All that said, it's very light, has fast LTE and a solid workday's battery life. Read the rest

Report from a massive Chinese surveillance tech expo, where junk-science "emotion recognition" rules

Sue-Lin Wong is the Financial Times's South China reporter; this week, she attended the China Public Security expo, the country's largest surveillance tech show, held biannually in Shenzhen. Read the rest

Wearable pop-up personal tent

A few years back, my older brother Rick Pescovitz invented the "Under the Weather Pod," a single-person pop-up shelter to sit inside. It's designed for spectator sports, fishing, and other outdoor events where it's raining but you are either obligated to watch or having so much fun you don't want to leave. Most recently, he came up with the WalkingPod, a wearable version of the tent. Yes, it looks ridiculous, but it's actually now being used by delivery people, police officers, and various other folks who have to move around in the rain. The Washington Post has a feature about the popularity of "pod" products, from laundry detergent pods to AirPods to whisky pods to, yes, my brother's WalkingPod. From the Washington Post:

“When I think of a pod, I think of personal space,” said Rick Pescovitz, the CEO of Under the Weather, the sporting-goods company responsible for this particular pod. “With outdoor and even indoor living, younger people want to have a smaller footprint and help the environment.”

Pescovitz admits the WalkingPod is “almost a joke-type item.” But he also says it’s great for sanitation workers, street vendors, ticket-takers, sports spectators, security guards, people who work on oil tankers. . . . And his company sells other pods, too — such as the StadiumPod, which is designed for bleacher-sitters.

More at Under The Weather Pods.

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Electronic badge monitors workers' conversations, toilet usage and posture

The Economist reports that a tech startup sells a surveillance and control badge for the workforce. The device monitors workers' conversations and tracks their movements. You can even use it to make them sit straight.

The company that makes the creepy "sociometric" combadge has a creepy name — Humanyze — and its marketing is a cold wall of data jargon. The CEO and co-founder, Ben Waber, is an MIT Media Lab alumnus who boasts that he "literally wrote the book on People Analytics" and who published research on having workers take coffee breaks together to improve their productivity.

If it weren't reality, it would be too crudely dystopian to pass muster as fiction.

"I literally wrote the book on People Analytics. You're spending WAY too long on the toilet" Read the rest

Fantastic wireless thermometer for the BBQ or grill

Digital thermometers are a great tool when slow cooking meat.

It is pretty easy to under or overcook meat on the grill. Monitoring the internal temperature of your food, as you cook it, is a really good way to be sure that food is as done as you want it and no more. This affordable ThermoPen set-up does the trick for me.

I like to use one probe at the grate and one inside the item I am cooking. That way I know what is going on!

ThermoPro TP-08S Wireless Remote Digital Cooking Meat Thermometer Dual Probe for Grilling Smoker BBQ Food Thermometer - Monitors Food from 300 Feet Away via Amazon Read the rest

New Apple AirPods Pro with noise-cancelling functionality

MacRumors, which is usually correct, reports on China Economic Daily's news of the imminent launch of Apple AirPods Pro with noise-cancelling functionality and a $260 price. The new AirPods Pro won't look anything like the image above, although it'd be cool if they did. From MacRumors:

According to China Economic Daily, Apple's third-generation ‌AirPods‌ will adopt a new in-ear design to support the new noise-canceling feature and enhance the listening experience. The paper claims the "Pro" suffix, which Apple recently adopted for its most expensive iPhone 11 models, will help to differentiate the new wireless earbuds from Apple's existing ‌AirPods‌ and underscores the marketing rationale justifying the higher $260 price tag.

According to a separate report on Friday from the same Chinese-language financial media outlet, the ‌AirPods‌ Pro will also feature a new metal design that increases heat dissipation. Apple ‌AirPods‌ supplier Inventec is said to be cooperating with Chinese manufacturer Lixun to undertake the new orders...

According to industry sources previously cited by DigiTimes, Apple's suppliers are gearing up to assemble the next-generation ‌AirPods‌ as early as October, suggesting an updated version of the earphones could arrive in time for the holiday shopping season.

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The Vatican's new electronic rosary is activated by activated by making the sign of the cross

The Vatican launched an official "eRosary":

It pairs with an app, and is activated when the user makes the sign of the cross:

When activated, the user has the possibility to choose either to pray the standard rosary, a contemplative Rosary and different kinds of thematic rosaries that will be updated every year. Once the prayer begins, the smart rosary shows the user’s progress throughout the different mysteries and keeps track of each rosary completed.

When I hear electronic cross, I think of Dan Simmons's Hyperion series, and am not enthused to hear the eRosary "records and provides your health data, so you are encouraged to have a better lifestyle."

Available for preorder in Italy for around $110. Read the rest

Analogue Pocket

Analogue Pocket is a forthcoming handheld game console that runs old Nintendo carts and offers a built-in synthesizer and sequencer.

A multi-video-game-system portable handheld. A digital audio workstation with a built-in synthesizer and sequencer. A tribute to portable gaming. Out of the box, Pocket is compatible with the 2,780+ Game Boy, Game Boy Color & Game Boy Advance game cartridge library. Pocket works with cartridge adapters for other handheld systems, too. Like Game Gear. Neo Geo Pocket Color. Atari Lynx & more. Completely engineered in *two FPGAs. ... Pocket has a digital audio workstation built in called Nanoloop. It’s a synthesizer and a sequencer. Designed for music creation and live performance. Shape, stretch and morph sounds. Capture music or play and sculpt live.

From the spec sheet, the 3.5” 1600x1440 display—615 ppi!—and a dock with USB and HDMI connections stand out. It ships "in 2020 for $199". Read the rest

PlayStation 5 announced and detailed

PlayStation 5 is coming for winterval 2020, and will have ... drum roll ... USB-C. Read the rest

Le Creuset announces a line of high-end Star Wars cookwear

French company Le Creuset has announced a line of its signature enameled cast-iron cookwear themed after the Star Wars franchise; it's expensive even by Le Creuset standards, and a few of the pieces are uninspired messes, but the Han Solo in Carbonite roaster ($450), the R2-D2 Mini Cocotte ($30) and the Porg Pie Bird ($25) are positively brilliant. I'm also fond of the Tattoine Dutch oven, but that one isn't even priced and the company is offering an "opportunity to purchase." (via Geekologie) Read the rest

Subtle problem with bayonet design

The bayonet on the MAS-36 rifle seems a straightforward, no-nonsense design. But there's a problem with it: bored soldiers. Read the rest

Aeropress has made a travel version that fits inside of its own mug

I travel a lot and wherever I go, I bring an Aeropress, because life is too short for shitty coffee. Read the rest

Apple files patent on even-thinner keyboards

After the roaring success of its butterfly keyboard design, Apple has an idea to make its laptops even thinnner: attach keys directly to a membrane on the printed circuit board.

Apple Insider:

In Apple's filing, the company suggests the use of a single membrane sheet adhered directly to the printed circuit board (PCB). A switch housing can optionally be affixed directly to the membrane layer or to the PCB, sandwiched between the two, and a dome switch coupled directly on top to the membrane layer.

Generally the membrane is not typically attached to the PCB, but is used to help facilitate the closing of a connection, to trigger the key press. By attaching the membrane completely across the PCB, this eliminates any wasted space and brings the components closer together.

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Nerf unveils "DRM for darts"

Hasbro's got a new foam dart gun, the $50 Nerf Ultra One blaster, and to make sure that owners of this toy arrange their affairs to the benefit of Hasbro's shareholders, the company has engineered a digital rights management system that detects and refuses to fire third-party darts, which sell by the hundreds for just a few bucks (the official darts are $10 for 20), which means that party organizers running Nerf wars will have to scale back their ambitions or shell out like crazy. Read the rest

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