Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Friday, 28 August 2020.
1. Amazon’s Halo maybe shouldn’t exist
Halo is Amazon’s new health and wellness platform
There’s something interesting and quite tone-deaf about Amazon’s new wellness wearable, called the Halo.
It’s a $100 wearable band, with an app, that tracks your emotional tone and creates 3D scans for body fat.Amazon is adding on an optional subscription too, a $4/month service. If you don’t pay, it goes back to being a basic sleep time, heart rate, and step tracking device.Interestingly it doesn’t have a face, so you can’t really use it on your wrist to get the time or smart wearable style notifications, and so on.
For six months, all the features are unlocked for free. And what exactly are those features?
First, body fat percentage. Amazon says that it can measure your body fat percentage by analyzing your body from photos.A video explainer shows that you take full-body selfies (wearing underwear, not nude!) and submit them to the app. It then creates what Amazon says is a 3D body map, and you’re meant to do it every two weeks to keep track.The measurement tries to go beyond just weight, and looks at body fat percentage to other people of your sex and age.And you can use a slider to show yourself what you would look like with more or less body fat, which sounds horrible.This idea is probably a good one since it’s taking data much further than just weights, but the idea of a full body pic might not be comfortable for everyone.The second interesting idea is the devices measuring your tone of voice. First, you create a voice profile so the device understands what you sound like.Then, by listening to you through the day and by taking short samples of speech, you get feedback on how energetic and positive you sound.Amazon’s explainer here is that you might think you sound like you’re affectionately complimenting someone, but maybe you sound bored, so “with Halo, you can make sure what people hear with their ears matches what comes from your heart”.And, yes, there’s privacy and security promises from Amazon: encrypted data transmission between the device and the app on your smartphone, and Amazon says your voice recordings — probably the most sensitive data — don’t leave the device, and are deleted straight after processing.
Amazon says this is to help people find new ways to improve. It’s kinda cool in a computers-can-do-this-now way, but it also seems to be creating new ways to feel anxious.
Yes, I admit I’d like to know what a robot thinks of my normal voice tone.But planting the seed of an idea to make you believe you need to sound happier and more energetic, always, is …kinda awful? Do you really improve your relationship, as Amazon suggests, by pitching your voice up to sound fake happy?No, you shouldn’t always be growling at your kids or whatever, but do you need a listening device on your arm to tell you that?How accurately Amazon can do this matters too, with AI promises all-too-often not meeting real-world expectations.And finally, Amazon’s Echo Loop, Echo Frames and Echo Look all bombed, if you even remember them.Amazon tries a lot of things and hopes to learn from them all and progress. I don’t know if this is progress, or just problematic.
All that said, it’s on pre-sale at a discounted $65.
More: Amazon Halo will charge a subscription fee to monitor the tone of your voice.
2. Here’s another leaked video of the LG Wing, which shows it might tackle gaming in pretty cool ways (Android Authority).
A racing game, with the secondary screen showing a track map? Yes please.That gives some insight into how developers might use the secondary screen.…but LG has to convince them it’s a platform worth developing for.
3. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 price leaks on Samsung’s own UK site. The good news? It’s cheaper than the original Fold (Android Authority).
4. Leak: OnePlus Clover looks like it’ll be a new $200 phone with a huge battery (Android Authority).
5. Sony Xperia 5 II specs leak: At 6.1-inch it’s a smaller flagship with a Snapdragon 865, but still a tall, narrow device (Android Authority).
6. Xiaomi shows off third-generation under-screen camera tech coming to its 2021 phones (Android Authority).
7. The reMarkable 2 is the latest attempt to turn your paper notepad digital: writing is good, but limited features, missing backlight, and at $399 it’s not cheap (The Verge).
8. Apple blocked Facebook’s attempt to tell users about 30% App Store tax (CNET).
9. There’s a very good reason why HBO Max and Peacock aren’t on Roku — it’s expensive (Gizmodo).
10. Russian tourist offered Tesla employee $1 million to cripple Tesla with malware (Ars Technica).
11. The 11 biggest trailers and announcements from Gamescom Opening Night Live (The Verge).
12. Elon Musk’s Neuralink says it will demonstrate its brain-computer interface today, event live at 3pm ET (neuralink.com)
13. “What is the theoretical maximum depth of the ocean?” (r/askscience).
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