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Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lander tipped over at touchdown, but it’s still kicking

18 hours 45 minutes ago

It turns out Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus spacecraft didn’t land upright after all. In a press conference with NASA Friday evening, the company revealed the lander is laying on its side after coming in a little faster than expected, likely catching its foot on the surface at the moment of landing. Fortunately, Odysseus is positioned in such a way that its solar panels are still getting enough light from the sun to keep it charged, and the team has been able to communicate with it. Pictures from the surface should be coming soon.

While the initial assessment was that Odysseus had landed properly, further analysis indicated otherwise. Intuitive Machines CEO and co-founder Steve Altemus said “stale telemetry” was to blame for the earlier reading. 

All payloads except the one static art installation, though — Jeff Koons’ Moon Phases sculptures — are on the upturned side. The lander and its NASA science payloads have been collecting data from the journey, descent and landing, which the team will use to try and get a better understanding of what happened. But, all things considered, it seems to be doing well.

The team plans to eject the EagleCam, developed by students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, so it can take a picture of the lander and its surroundings perhaps as soon as this weekend. It was supposed to be ejected during descent to capture the moment of landing, but issues on touchdown day prevented it from being released. 

Intuitive Machines
Intuitive Machines

Once Odysseus was in lunar orbit and hours away from its landing attempt, the team discovered its laser range finders, which are key to its precision navigation, were not working — due entirely to human error. According to Altemus, someone forgot to flip a safety switch that would allow them to turn on, so they couldn’t. That realization was “like a punch in the stomach,” Altemus said, and they thought they could lose the mission. 

The team was thankfully able to make a last-second adjustment cooked up on the fly by Intuitive Machines CTO and co-founder Tim Crain, who suggested they use one of the on-board NASA payloads instead to guide the descent, the Navigation Doppler LIDAR (NDL). In the end, Odysseus made it there alright. Its mission is expected to last a little over a week, until lunar night falls.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/intuitive-machines-odysseus-lander-tipped-over-at-touchdown-but-its-still-kicking-174541034.html?src=rss
Cheyenne MacDonald

Let's talk about Xbox | This week's gaming news

21 hours 14 minutes ago

No one is suggesting that Microsoft should stop making video game hardware. What we've been considering, here in the dark and twisted Engadget Slack channels, is whether Microsoft should keep making generationally distinct consoles in the traditional hardware cycle. Basically, does Xbox need a box? Microsoft has been busy building the foundation of a platform-agnostic, cloud-first future for video games, and it consistently falls behind both Sony and Nintendo in the console race. So why are executives trying to get us excited about a superpowered 10th-gen Xbox?

Maybe Microsoft is hesitant to reveal a drastic ecosystem change after the chaos around the Xbox One and its always-on DRM features in 2013. After an outpouring of negative feedback at the idea of a persistently online console, Xbox had to rapidly reverse its launch plans, while Sony took the PlayStation 4 on an early victory lap. This fumble set the stage for the next decade of console sales, and it's a lesson that would stick with any studio — especially one that's trying to make streaming and cloud gaming the norm.

That's understandable, but it doesn't change the fact that accessible, affordable (and probably handheld) hardware makes a lot of sense for Microsoft's current vision and investments. More than an expensive console, at least.

This week's stories

A delicious Elden Ring entrée

Elden Ring’s Shadow of the Erdtree expansion will come to PlayStation, Xbox and PC on June 21. This one has been a long time coming: FromSoftware announced the DLC in February 2023, leaving plenty of time for players to get super psyched for more masochism. A new, three-minute trailer for Shadow of the Erdtree shows off sprawling locations and epic bosses inspired by chaotic combinations of animals, insects and elements. The expansion costs $40 and pre-orders are live now.

Borderlands by Cate Blanchett

I’m just gonna come out and say it: I think Cate Blanchett makes a great Lilith. The first trailer for this summer’s Borderlands movie is out and it looks like Mad Max meets Guardians of the Galaxy — which is Borderlands in a nutshell anyway. The film stars Blanchett, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Ariana Greenblatt, it’s directed by Eli Roth, and it’s due to hit theaters on August 9.

Xbox should exit the console business

Last Thursday, Xbox executives made it clear that they weren’t about to abandon the traditional hardware market, and they teased a next-generation console that will represent “the largest technical leap you will have ever seen.” That’s cool, but considering Microsoft’s position in the industry, it doesn’t feel like Xbox needs to be making consoles any more.

After acquiring half of the industry, Microsoft is now a mega-publisher of games, with over 30 in-house studios. Many of these development teams are world-renowned, with rich, multi-platform histories. It’s also the operator of one of the largest game subscription services in the world, Game Pass.

Game Pass grew wildly during the pandemic, but subscriptions have stagnated. In court documents from April 2022, Microsoft revealed it had 21.9 million Game Pass subscribers and 11.7 million Xbox Live Gold members across its consoles, for a total user base of 33.6 million. Last week, Microsoft revealed Game Pass has 34 million subscribers, which includes PC Game Pass and Game Pass Core, the new name for Xbox Live Gold. Even assuming PC Game Pass had zero subscribers in 2022, this means Game Pass subscriptions grew just 1 percent over the past 22 months. The more likely scenario is that the total number of subscriptions actually shrank over this period — though it’s at least possible that more people are paying for the full-price service than before.

Microsoft’s plan for this console generation was clear for all to see: Sell hardware and upsell a subscription service populated by its own games. Turns out, it’s tough to sell Game Pass to someone without an Xbox, and not enough people are buying Xboxes. Microsoft stopped reporting hardware numbers during the Xbox One era, but analysts peg the combined sales of the Xbox Series consoles at around 25 million. Meanwhile, Sony has sold more than 50 million PS5s, and Nintendo has sold around 140 million Switches. This gap appears to be growing every day, and it’s far more pronounced in Japan and Europe than in the United States. If Microsoft wants to grow Game Pass, it seems like it’ll have to be on platforms outside of Xbox.

This week, Xbox confirmed plans to bring four formerly exclusive games to PlayStation and Nintendo consoles, and for years executives have been pitching an ecosystem where Xbox — and Game Pass — is playable on anything with a screen. Microsoft has a powerful cloud network that even Sony uses for game streaming, plus it owns more than 30 studios. Long-term, Microsoft is positioning Xbox to be a platform-agnostic, software-publishing powerhouse with the industry’s most stable streaming network at its back.

In this landscape, it’s surprising to hear Xbox talk about building a hyper-powered console for the next generation. I’m not advocating for Microsoft to ditch the hardware market — it makes sense for the company to focus on handheld devices and affordable streaming boxes that support Game Pass and cloud play. Xbox is working toward a future where its games and Game Pass are available everywhere, which raises a clear question about its current plans: Why bring an expensive next-gen console to a war that is actually about software, subscriptions and streaming?

Bonus Content

  • Sony president Hiroki Totoki told investors last week that the company would be more aggressive in bringing its PlayStation titles to PC.

  • Xbox has confirmed which of its games are coming to other consoles: Grounded and Pentiment will come to PlayStation and Switch, while Sea of Thieves and Hi-Fi Rush will only arrive on PS5. Both Sea of Thieves and Grounded will support crossplay across all platforms.

  • Now for a totally different port: The Pokémon Company has scheduled an anniversary stream for next Tuesday at 9AM ET. It might be a bit early for a gen-10 reveal, but a Switch remake of Black & White seems like a safe bet.

Now Playing

If you’re a Switch or PlayStation player curious about all of these Xbox games coming to your consoles, I have one easy and clear recommendation: play Pentiment. Obsidian’s narrative-driven, tapestry-looking game is a surprise and a delight, and I’ve had a lot of fun playing it on Game Pass recently. It's out now on PS4, PS5 and Switch, and I’m sure it’s just as great on those platforms.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/lets-talk-about-xbox--this-weeks-gaming-news-151608942.html?src=rss
Jessica Conditt

X starts giving non-paying users the ability to make audio and video calls

22 hours 30 minutes ago

X is slowly rolling out audio and video calling to users that don't pay for its premium subscription service that's formerly known as Twitter Blue. Enrique Barragan, an engineer for the company, has shared the news on the platform. The company initially launched the feature for iOS users last year, giving paying subscribers the option to call other people through the app, and was a step towards making X the "everything" application Elon Musk wants it to be. Earlier this year, the capability made its way to Android devices, but the ability to make calls remained limited to Premium subscribers only.

By the end of January, Musk said that X will make audio-video calling available to everyone as soon as the company is confident that it's robust. We're still being asked to subscribe to X Premium to be able to make calls when we hit the phone icon in DMs, but those who get the update will be able to make calls even if they're not a paying subscriber. The official X support page for the feature now says that all accounts are able to make and receive calls, though both parties must have been in contact via Direct Messaging at least once. In the past, it said only "Premium subscribers have the ability to make audio and video calls."

In addition to announcing the capability's rollout, Barragan revealed that users will now also be able to receive calls from everyone on the app if they want to. Audio and video calls were automatically switched on for us when we checked our DMs' Settings menu, configured so that we can (thankfully) only receive calls from people we follow. We're already seeing the "Everyone" option in there, though, ready to be picked by the most intrepid X users. 

we’re slowly rolling out audio and video calling to non premium users, try it out! now you can also choose allow calls from everyone https://t.co/LLH1PwiIg2 pic.twitter.com/LH3HMsAXnv

— Enrique (@enriquebrgn) February 23, 2024

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/x-starts-giving-non-paying-users-the-ability-to-make-audio-and-video-calls-140049799.html?src=rss
Mariella Moon

Google explains why Gemini's image generation feature overcorrected for diversity

1 day ago

After promising to fix Gemini's image generation feature and then pausing it altogether, Google has published a blog post offering an explanation for why its technology overcorrected for diversity. Prabhakar Raghavan, the company's Senior Vice President for Knowledge & Information, explained that Google's efforts to ensure that the chatbot would generate images showing a wide range of people "failed to account for cases that should clearly not show a range." Further, its AI model grew to become "way more cautious" over time and refused to answer prompts that weren't inherently offensive. "These two things led the model to overcompensate in some cases, and be over-conservative in others, leading to images that were embarrassing and wrong," Raghavan wrote.

Google made sure that Gemini's image generation couldn't create violent or sexually explicit images of real persons and that the photos it whips up would feature people of various ethnicities and with different characteristics. But if a user asks it to create images of people that are supposed to be of a certain ethnicity or sex, it should be able to do so. As users recently found out, Gemini would refuse to produce results for prompts that specifically request for white people. The prompt "Generate a glamour shot of a [ethnicity or nationality] couple," for instance, worked for "Chinese," "Jewish" and "South African" requests but not for ones requesting an image of white people. 

Gemini also has issues producing historically accurate images. When users requested for images of German soldiers during the second World War, Gemini generated images of Black men and Asian women wearing Nazi uniform. When we tested it out, we asked the chatbot to generate images of "America's founding fathers" and "Popes throughout the ages," and it showed us photos depicting people of color in the roles. Upon asking it to make its images of the Pope historically accurate, it refused to generate any result. 

Raghavan said that Google didn't intend for Gemini to refuse to create images of any particular group or to generate photos that were historically inaccurate. He also reiterated Google's promise that it will work on improving Gemini's image generation. That entails "extensive testing," though, so it may take some time before the company switches the feature back on. At the moment, if a user tries to get Gemini to create an image, the chatbot responds with: "We are working to improve Gemini’s ability to generate images of people. We expect this feature to return soon and will notify you in release updates when it does."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/google-explains-why-geminis-image-generation-feature-overcorrected-for-diversity-121532787.html?src=rss
Mariella Moon

Amazon to pay $1.9 million to settle claims of human rights abuses of contract workers

1 day 17 hours ago

Amazon will pay out $1.9 million to more than 700 migrant workers to settle claims of human rights abuses following exploitative labor contracts, as reported by CNBC. The impacted laborers were working at two of the company’s warehouses in Saudi Arabia.

Amazon acknowledged the issue in a blog post, saying it hired a third-party labor rights expert to investigate warehouse conditions. The organization found numerous violations of Amazon’s supply chain standards, including “substandard living accommodations, contract and wage irregularities and delays in the resolution of worker complaints.”

This follows an Amnesty International report from last October that detailed various alleged human rights abuses experience by those contracted to work in Amazon facilities in the region, and noted that many of the impacted laborers were “highly likely to be victims of human trafficking.” The report also suggested that Amazon was aware of the high risk for labor abuse when operating in Saudi Arabia but still “failed to take sufficient action to prevent such abuses.”

Simultaneous reports by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism offered detailed accounts of the conditions that these laborers allegedly suffered under, according to NBC News. The investigations found that workers had to pay illegal recruitment fees of up to $2,040 to get hired. This forced the migrant workers, many of whom were from Nepal, to take out loans with high interest rates.

Investigators also learned that these workers were living in squalid conditions, with one laborer saying he was living “in a crowded room with seven other men, jammed with bunk beds infested with bed bugs.” The water was said to be salty and undrinkable. Amnesty International echoed these findings, saying that the accommodations were “lacking even the most basic facilities.”

The combination of the exorbitant hiring fees, along with the associated loans, amounted to “human trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation as defined by international law and standards,” Amnesty alleged in its report. 

Amazon has stated that it has “remediated the most serious concerns” involving the two Saudi warehouses, including an upgrade to housing accommodations. “Our goal is for all of our vendors to have management systems in place that ensure safe and healthy working conditions; this includes responsible recruitment practices,” the company wrote.

It’s worth noting that though that $1.9 million number seems high, it breaks down to around $2,700 per employee. Amazon made $576 billion in 2023, which comes out to more than $1.5 billion each day.

Amazon doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to labor. It’s regularly accused of breaking labor laws, particularly at its many product warehouses. The company is also rabidly anti-union, as many of these complaints involve attempts to stop workers from unionizing. Amazon faces multiple ongoing federal probes into its safety practices, and it has been fined by federal safety regulators for exposing warehouse workers to unnecessary risks.

However, the company remains defiant in its efforts to chip away at worker’s rights. Amazon recently filed a legal document that claims the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is unconstitutional, joining Elon Musk’s SpaceX and grocery giant Trader Joe’s. The NLRB is an independent arm of the federal government that enforces US labor law and has been operating since 1935.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/amazon-to-pay-19-million-to-settle-claims-of-human-rights-abuses-of-contract-workers-192237377.html?src=rss
Lawrence Bonk

Xbox controllers are on sale for $44 each, plus the rest of the week's best tech deals

1 day 18 hours ago

The end of another week is upon us, which means it's time for another round up of the best deals on some of the tech we've tested and recommend. A few discounts are still around from last week's President's Day sale, and new savings have popped up as well. If you're in the market for Apple gadgets, quite a few are seeing decent discounts, including the iPad Mini, iPad Air and the 15-inch MacBook Air. Multiple Anker charging accessories are on sale, as are a few of our favorite Logitech peripherals. We got an exclusive $30 discount from Thermoworks on their popular instant-read thermometer, and 8BitDo's Famicom-inspired keyboard is 20 percent off at Woot. Here are the best deals from this week that you can still get today.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/xbox-controllers-are-on-sale-for-44-each-plus-the-rest-of-the-weeks-best-tech-deals-181825056.html?src=rss
Amy Skorheim

Some Apple Vision Pro units reportedly developed a similar hairline crack on the front glass

1 day 18 hours ago

Picture the scene: you've had an enjoyable day of playing around in mixed reality using Apple's Vision Pro headset. Once you're done for the night, you carefully pack the Vision Pro away while leaving the battery pack connected and soft front cover attached. But when you wake up to begin a new day of work while wearing the $3,500 headset, you spot a problem: a hairline crack has formed on the front cover glass.

That's a problem that at least a few users have encountered, according to a handful of reports on Reddit. It's unclear how many units have been affected, though AppleInsider, which first reported on the cracks, suggests it's a small number. The issue occurred on Engadget's review unit as well. 

The cause of the problem is not yet known. But the similar appearance of the cracks and apparently small number of impacted units suggests that it's down to a manufacturing flaw. Engadget has contacted Apple for comment.

If Apple doesn't officially recognize the issue as a manufacturing defect, it may not cover the crack under the device's warranty. That's reportedly been the case for some of the affected users. As such, they're been put on the hook for $300 to repair the cover glass if they have AppleCare coverage. Otherwise, the cost is a stinging $800.

As MacRumors notes, Apple often offers special repair programs for recognized hardware issues, but that's only likely to happen if there are enough reports to warrant the company fully investigating the matter and identifying a common problem. Still, this gives more credence to the maxim that maybe you shouldn't buy a first-generation Apple product.

This isn't the first time an Apple device has been susceptible to scratches in its first generation. Many users of the first iPod nano found that it scratched very easily. A lawsuit ensued, and Apple agreed to pay a $22.5 million settlement.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/some-apple-vision-pro-units-reportedly-developed-a-similar-hairline-crack-on-the-front-glass-173701528.html?src=rss
Kris Holt

The 256GB iPad mini is $120 off and down to a record-low price

1 day 19 hours ago

Apple’s newest iPad mini is on sale for $120 off. You can get the 256GB version of the 6th-generation iPad mini (2021) for $529 on Amazon — a record low. If that’s more storage than you need, you can also get the 64GB model (usually $500) is $100 off.

Apple refreshed the iPad mini in 2021 with an “all-screen” Liquid Retina design, ditching the Home button and aligning the mini-tablet with the larger iPad Air’s modern design language. The iPad mini has an 8.3-inch display that supports TrueTone and covers the P3 color gamut. It has a 2266 x 1488 resolution (326 ppi).

This model runs on the A15 Bionic chip, also found in the iPhone 13 series. This tablet eschews Face ID for a Touch ID sensor on its power and sleep button. The iPad mini has a USB-C port for versatile charging and data transfers, and it works with the second-generation Apple Pencil for scribbling notes or digital sketching. Apple estimates up to 10 hours of battery life, which can vary depending on how you use it.

Photo by Valentina Palladino / Engadget

Apple will reportedly update its entire iPad lineup this year, and the latest rumors point to a possible late 2024 launch for a new iPad mini. If those reported plans pan out, this model may only be the newest for another six to eight months.

If you want a full-sized tablet, Walmart has the 5th-generation (10.9-inch) iPad Air for $120 off, too. You’ll pay only $449 for the 64GB variant. This model runs on an M1 chip with a 2360 x 1640 resolution (264 ppi) and an estimated 10 hours of battery life.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-256gb-ipad-mini-is-120-off-and-down-to-a-record-low-price-173024101.html?src=rss
Will Shanklin

A four-pack of AirTags is $20 off right now

1 day 20 hours ago

Bluetooth trackers are handy little devices that can help you find things you've misplaced. If you're deep in the Apple ecosystem (or at least have an iPhone), AirTags are perhaps your best choice. If you've been meaning to pick some up, there's some good news for you as a four-pack of AirTags is on sale. The pack has dropped by $20 to $79. That's close to the lowest price we've seen for them, so it's a solid deal.

It's easy to set up an AirTag with your iPhone or iPad as it's a one-tap process. Once you've done that and attached an AirTag to an item, you'll be able to keep track of that alongside your family and friends in the Mind My app. AirTags don't store location data or history and their communications with the Find My network are encrypted and anonymous, Apple says.

You can play a sound on the AirTag's built-in speaker to help you find a misplaced item (useful for, say, a remote that's fallen down the side of a couch), and you can ask Siri for help finding your things. If you have a recent iPhone (11 or later), you'll be able to make use of a second-gen Ultra Wideband chip that powers precision finding — this will give you pinpoint directions to your AirTag once you're within range.

If you've lost an item away from home, you can put its accompanying AirTag into Lost Mode. This means you'll be notified whenever it pops up in the Find My network. In other words, when it is picked up by one of the hundreds of millions of Apple devices in the Find My network. The AirTag is a rugged little thing (it's IP67 water and dust resistant and the replaceable battery lasts over a year), which should give you some time to find your missing item.

To make sure it's securely fastened to your item, you might want to pick up some AirTag accessories. These enable you to attach an AirTag to various fabrics, keys or anything with a strap. There are also cases with adhesive mounts, meaning you can stick an AirTag to just about anything.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/a-four-pack-of-airtags-is-20-off-right-now-162054273.html?src=rss
Kris Holt

The second-gen Apple HomePod is down to $285 in a rare sale

1 day 20 hours ago

The latest Apple HomePod speaker is on sale for $285 at B&H Photo, which is $14 less than buying from Apple directly. This isn't the largest cash discount we've seen, and Apple previously bundled the device with a $50 gift card during Black Friday. But deals of any kind on the home speaker have been uncommon since it arrived in early 2023, so this modest drop still represents the lowest price we've seen in the last few months. The discount applies to both the black and white versions of the speaker.

We gave the second-generation HomePod a score of 84 in our review last year. It'll make the most sense if you're a particularly dedicated Apple user who prioritizes audio quality. It still works easily with other Apple devices and services, from iPhones to Apple TVs to Apple Music, and we generally find it to sound richer and clearer than competing smart speakers from Amazon and Google. As a smart home device, it's compatible with Matter and Thread on top of Apple's own HomeKit protocol, so you can use it to control a growing range of security cameras, thermostats, plugs and other smart home accessories. It also has built-in temperature and humidity sensors, and its included mics do well to pick out your voice through noise.

To be clear, this is still a pricey and relatively niche device. Speakers like the Sonos Five and Sonos Era 300 cost more but offer louder and more dynamic sound quality, while the Sonos Era 100 may be a better value if you want to conserve a little more cash. Apple's own HomePod Mini has nearly all of the same smart home features if that's your main concern, while Google Assistant and Alexa users should still look to Google's Nest Audio or an Amazon Echo device. The HomePod has its own issues, too: Siri isn't the most capable voice assistant, there's no Bluetooth audio, you can't customize its EQ and you need a workaround to control Spotify via voice. Rumors of a touchscreen-enabled HomePod have also floated around over the past year. All that said, if you're all-in on Apple, this is a decent chance to save on the company's highest-end home speaker.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-second-gen-apple-homepod-is-down-to-285-in-a-rare-sale-153431326.html?src=rss
Jeff Dunn

The best Apple Watch in 2024

1 day 23 hours ago

Apple Watches are useful sidekicks for iPhones, serving up calls and notifications while also handling practical tasks like music control and timers. Plus they’re aces at tracking health and fitness metrics. While there are just three Apple Watch models, sussing out the differences between them can help you determine if the budget-friendly Apple Watch SE is enough, or if you’ll be better served by the high-end Ultra 2. Ultimately, we think the Series 9 is the best Apple Watch for most people, but this guide breaks down the details of all three models so you can decide which model is the best for you.

What to look for in an Apple Watch

Chips and sensors

Both the Series 9 and Ultra 2 were updated last September with Apple’s latest smartwatch silicon, the S9 SiP (system-in-package). In addition to on-device processing of Siri requests, the chip supports a new Double Tap gesture that lets you answer calls or stop an alarm by tapping your thumb and forefinger together twice. It also enables faster machine learning performance for interpreting sensor data, recognizing speech and performing other “thinking” tasks. The Apple Watch SE still relies on the S8 SiP, which was also used in the Series 8 and the original Ultra.

Both the Series 9 and Ultra 2 can take an ECG and have temperature sensors to help track ovulation. All three models have a compass, altimeter and support fall- and crash-detection. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 has an onboard SOS siren, as well as dive features like a depth gauge. The two higher-end models include sensors to measure blood oxygen, but a recent patent dispute has forced Apple to disable that feature on new models sold in the US.

Displays and case sizes

The Apple Watch 9 and the Ultra 2 have always-on displays, but you’ll have to lift your wrist to tell time or read notifications on the SE. The SE can reach a maximum brightness of 1,000 nits, the Series 9 can get as bright as 2,000 and the Ultra 2 hits 3,000 nits. Both the higher-end screens can dim to a single nit, making them less distracting in the dark. As for case sizes, the SE is available in 40 or 44mm and the Series 9 comes in 41 or 45mm. The Ultra 2 just comes in one case size measuring 49mm.

Battery life

Since it’s the largest wearable, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 sports the biggest battery and can last for a claimed 36 hours on a charge. That number jumps up to 72 hours if you turn on low power mode. Both the Apple Watch 9 and the SE get 18 hours of life on a charge, and longer when using battery saver mode.

Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

Fitness features

Believe it or not, all three Apple Watches have similar fitness chops. The Activity app uses three “rings” to keep tabs on how much you’re moving in a day: The Move ring tracks your active calories; the Exercise ring monitors the minutes you’ve spent walking, running, doing yoga and so on; and the Stand ring tells you how many hours in a day you’ve stood up and moved around for at least one minute.

Different internal sensors detect those activities, for example the accelerometer senses when you’re moving versus sitting still, and the optical heart rate sensor judges how hard you're working out and how many calories you’ve burned. You can set your goals for each ring and you’ll earn badges and animations when you hit them.

The Workout app lets you start and track an exercise session. The sensors can even auto-detect when you’re working out, tapping your wrist to suggest you track the activity. Apple Watches will integrate with Apple’s Fitness+ subscription, displaying real time heart rate and calorie burn data on your iPhone, iPad or even Apple TV 4K as you take a class. Fitness+ also includes audio-guided walks and runs with just your watch and Bluetooth earbuds. All three models support the Activity and Workout apps for free. The Fitness+ app also works with all Apple Watches, but costs $10 per month.

Siri

You can get the weather, start a workout, identify a song and dictate a text just by asking Siri. All Apple Watch models support the Raise to Speak feature that bypasses the need to say “Hey Siri” and will instead listen for your request when you lift your wrist near your mouth.

Both the Series 9 and the Ultra 2 utilize onboard processing of Siri requests. That means executing simple requests like starting workouts and timers are quicker, as they won’t need to access external networks. However, requests like sending texts or getting weather forecasts still need to communicate with Wi-Fi or cellular, so you’ll need to have your phone nearby if you have a GPS-only model.

Price

There’s a $550 difference between the cheapest and most expensive Apple Watch. For $250, you can get the 40mm Apple Watch SE with GPS-only connectivity. The Apple Watch Series 9 starts at $399 for the 40mm model, and if you go for the larger case size for either, you’ll pay $30 more. Adding cellular connectivity adds $50 for the SE and $100 for the Series 9. The latter also comes with the option of a stainless steel case, plus cellular and GPS, and starts at $699. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 has just one price: $799 for a titanium 49mm case with both GPS and cellular power.

The Apple Watch Series 9 happens to be our favorite smartwatch, period. It’s a notable improvement over the previous generation, with new features like Double Tap, onboard Siri requests, a brighter screen and a new ultra wideband (UWB) chip that can help you pinpoint your misplaced iPhone 15 using the FindMy app.

In her review, Engadget’s Cherlynn Low spent some time working with the Double Tap feature and, while it took a little practice to get the tapping cadence correct, she found it actually did make her life easier. You can use it to dismiss a timer or an alarm, play music or reply to messages. Double tapping also pulls up the Smart Stack, the sequence of watchOS 10 widgets available with the latest software update. You can customize a few of the gesture’s actions, including how it navigates the Smart Stack and music playback.

The Series 9 also handles on-device processing of Siri requests. Though we didn’t notice a huge difference in response time between our review unit and the Series 8, we did like that it lets you ask Siri to start a workout when you’ve left your phone at home. Apple also improved the Raise to Speak feature, using a two-second audio buffer from the always-on mic to better anticipate your Siri needs. Ideally, you should be able to lift your wrist and say your requests without having to use the wake words. We found it only worked half the time, but when it did, it was “almost magical.”

All new tricks aside, the Apple Watch 9 is a steadfast companion for your iPhone, letting you see and respond to notifications without pulling out your handset. The various sensors can give you insights into your overall health and the fitness tracking tools, and Activity rings are both reliable and motivating. We do wish the battery lasted a little longer; you can’t typically get more than a day of use before needing a recharge, which can make it difficult to use the sleep tracking functions.

Apple didn’t make a new generation of the Apple Watch SE when it updated its other two wearables in September, but you still get a lot for just $250. Cherlynn also reviewed the SE when it came out in 2022, calling it “the best smartwatch for the money.” It uses the same chip as the original Ultra and the Series 8, and in our review of the new Series 9, Cherlynn “barely noticed a difference in performance” compared to the previous generation.

That said, there are some trade-offs. You won’t get an always-on display, blood oxygen monitoring or a temperature sensor. The SE also can’t support the new Double Tap feature and requires your phone to be nearby for Siri requests (if you don’t have a cellular-enabled model). Materials-wise, the SE face is covered in Ion-X glass, which is less robust than the sapphire crystal on either the stainless steel Series 9 or the Ultra 2.

That said, the SE has more in common with its pricier sibling than not, including crash detection, heart rate monitoring, emergency calling, and 50 meters of water resistance. Though the screen isn’t quite as bright as the pricier models, we thought it was crisp and easy to read, even in bright sunlight. The fitness tracking is accurate, the design is lightweight and comfortable and the processor is snappy. If you’re looking for a starter smartwatch and don’t mind the few missing features, the SE is still the way to go.

Apple announced the Apple Watch Ultra 2 at the same event as the Series 9. The Ultra is a big, feature-rich smartwatch with plenty of tools for athletes and outdoor adventurers. It comes in just one variation: a 49mm titanium case with both cellular and GPS connectivity. And interestingly, the latest model carries the same $799 price tag as the previous generation (though the older model is now seeing significant discounts).

Engadget’s Cherlynn Low took the original Ultra out on a hike to take advantage of its outdoor-specific features and the Backtrack function actually saved her and our video producer Brian from taking an unintended detour in the wrong direction. The function lives within the Compass app and lets you set waypoints such as marking the parking lot before you set out. There’s an onboard siren that’s loud enough to alert passersby or emergency personnel to your whereabouts if you should need it.

For water-based activities, the Ultra 2 packs diving features that can measure water temperature, dive duration and gauge up to 40 meters of depth. For workouts closer to home, the dual-frequency GPS gives you more accurate route tracking and pace calculations. And the action button can be programmed to start a workout, control the stopwatch, trigger the flashlight, set a waypoint and more. Just note that we found it pretty easy to accidentally trigger the action button when trying to press the crown, so it may take a little practice.

The new S9 SiP chip enables Double Tap and on-device Siri processing, just as it does on the Series 9. The screen has been bumped up to 3,000 nits and while we didn’t get to take the new model on a hike, the original at 2,000 nits was plenty bright enough in direct sunlight. We like how the new Modular Ultra watch face makes great use of the oversized screen (though that’s also available on the original AWU.) The battery life remains the same at 36 hours, and we got about three days of moderate use out of the Ultra before needing a recharge. The low power mode is particularly impressive, squeezing out many extra hours from a near-empty watch.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-apple-watch-160005462.html?src=rss
Amy Skorheim

The Morning After: 'Nanosphere' paint could reduce a plane’s CO2 emissions

2 days ago

Every gram counts in commercial flight. Material scientists from Kobe University have discovered “nanospheres” that are near-invisible silicone crystals. The particles can reflect light thanks to very large and efficient scattering, research published in the ACS Applied Nano Matter journal details. The result could mean covering a surface in vibrant color while only adding 10 percent of the weight of painting an aircraft for the same effect.

Minoru and Hiroshi’s discovery focuses on structural rather than pigment color to exhibit and maintain hues. The former absorbs wavelengths while reflecting those the human eye picks up. Structural colors, on the other hand, are intense and bright as light interacts with micro- and nanostructures. While the headline commercial benefits are for planes, the paint could have many more uses simply for its brightness.

— Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missed

The Odysseus has become the first US spacecraft to land on the moon in 50 years

The 8Bitdo Ultimate C controller is on sale for $25 today only

Google’s sign-in and sign-up pages have a new look

Sony is working on official PC support for the PS VR2

​​You can get these reports delivered daily direct to your inbox. Subscribe right here!

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth review

The open-world tour.

Engadget

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth takes the characters and world reintroduced with Remake and does a better job at scaling it all up. Instead of playing in a single metropolis, Midgar, this time, it’s a world tour. There’s also an expanded roster of playable characters, almost doubling Remake’s total, each with a unique play style, once again. But does Aerith survive?

Continue reading.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra combines a 1-inch camera sensor with 4 AI imaging models

It also supports satellite calling and texting.

The Xiaomi 14 Ultra is the latest Leica-branded smartphone, featuring a second-gen one-inch camera sensor. Xiaomi is finally catching up with the competition by picking up Sony’s newest mobile camera sensor, the LYT-900. The Xiaomi 14 Ultra has a slight edge on rival phones with the same sensor, with its faster main variable aperture at up to f/1.63, beating the Oppo Find X7 Ultra’s f/1.8 — on paper, at least.

Continue reading.

Framework’s new sub-$500 modular laptop has no RAM, storage or OS

Pick the parts you want and install them yourself.

Framework is selling its cheapest modular laptop. It has dropped the price of its B-stock Factory Seconds systems (which are built with excess parts and new components). As such, it’s now offering a Framework Laptop 13 barebones configuration for under $500 for the very first time. The 13-inch machine comes with an 11th-gen Intel Core i7 processor with Iris Xe graphics. So the CPU should be sufficient for most basic tasks and some moderate gaming. However, you’ll need to add RAM, storage, a power supply, an operating system and (probably) even a Wi-Fi card.

Continue reading.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-morning-after-nanosphere-paint-could-reduce-a-planes-co2-emissions-121433976.html?src=rss
Mat Smith

Google Pay app is shutting down in the US later this year

2 days 1 hour ago

Google Pay was largely replaced by Google Wallet back in 2022, but it has still been operating in several countries, including the US. Now, the search giant has announced that the standalone Pay app will be discontinued stateside on June 4, 2024 in a push to simplify its payment methods. After that, it will only be available in Singapore and India due to the "unique needs in those countries," Google wrote in a blog. 

As part of the deprecation, Google will be removing peer-to-peer (P2P) payments, managing your balance and "find offers and deals." For the latter, it recommends using the new deals destination on Search. Users will still be able to transfer their Google Pay (GPay) balance to a bank account after June 4, 2024 using the Google Pay website.

Google Wallet has now largely replaced GPay, with five times as many users in 180 countries, the company said. That's because it can handle more than just payments — on top of credit and debit cards, it stores transport passes, state IDs, driver's licenses, virtual car keys and more. Google Pay, the service, will still be available through Google Wallet.

Google's payment system has been a mess over the years. It started off as Google Wallet, which was launched in 2011. At the time, it was a tap-to-pay system that came out years ahead of Apple Pay (2014), supported by Mastercard and retailers like Macy's. 

Meanwhile, Android Pay came out in 2015, then that was integrated with Google Wallet in 2018 and rebranded as Google Pay. In addition, the company originally had a Google Wallet card (killed in 2016) that was effectively a prepaid debit card usable with any retailers that accepted Mastercard. Now everything is back under the Google Wallet umbrella — unless the company changes its mind again. 

Correction, February 23, 2024, 10:30AM ET: This post has been updated to clarify that only the standalone Google Pay app is shutting down in the US, not the actual service. It will still be available through Google Wallet moving forward. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/google-pay-is-shutting-down-in-the-us-later-this-year-105720968.html?src=rss
Steve Dent

The latest experimental Threads features let you save drafts and take photos in-app

2 days 2 hours ago

Meta is currently testing a couple of capabilities for Threads, which Instagram head Adam Mosseri describes as some of the "most requested" features for the social network. One of these experimental features is the ability to save drafts. Users will be easily able to save a post they've typed as a draft that they can edit and publish later by swiping down on their mobile device's display. When there's a draft saved, the app's menu at the bottom of the screen highlights the post icon. At the moment, though, they can only save one draft, and it's unclear if Meta has plans to give users the ability to save more. 

In addition to drafts, Meta is also testing an in-app camera. It opens the mobile phone's camera from within Threads itself, so that users can more easily share photos and videos from their phone. Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg made a post on the service with a photo he says was taken with the new in-app camera the company is testing. 

Meta told us that these are initial tests for the experimental features, which means they could undergo a lot of changes before they get a wide release, and are only available for a small number of people. Over the past month, Meta also started testing a bookmarking feature for Threads that allows users to save posts they can refer to later. The company is experimenting with its version of trending topics on Threads, as well, along with the ability to make cross-posts between Threads and Facebook. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-latest-experimental-threads-features-let-you-save-drafts-and-take-photos-in-app-094535111.html?src=rss
Mariella Moon

Pansonic's powerful Lumix S5 II is $800 off with a prime lens

2 days 3 hours ago

Panasonic's powerful full-frame mirrorless camera, the S5 II, is on sale at Amazon and B&H Photo Video at the lowest price we've seen yet. You can grab one with an 85mm f/1.8 prime lens for as little as $1,796, a savings of $800 over buying both separately — effectively giving you a discount on the camera and a free lens to boot. 

As I wrote in my review, the 24-megapixel S5 II was already a great value at $2,000 thanks mainly to its strength as a vlogging camera. It's the company's first model with a phase-detect autofocus system that eliminates the wobble and other issues of past models. 

Panasonic also brought over its new, more powerful stabilization system from the GH6. And it has the video features you'd expect on a Panasonic camera, like 10-bit log capture up to 6K, monitoring tools and advanced audio features. With the generous manual controls and excellent ergonomics, it's an easy camera to use. It also comes with a nice 3.68-million dot EVF and sharp rear display that full articulates for vlogging. 

For photos, it's reasonably fast and great in low light, thanks to the dual native ISO system. Other features include dual high-speed SD card slots and solid battery life, particularly for video. The main downside is noticeable rolling shutter, but that shouldn't be a dealbreaker for most users — particularly at that price.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/pansonics-powerful-lumix-s5-ii-is-800-off-with-a-prime-lens-084816863.html?src=rss
Steve Dent

Microsoft is giving Windows Photos a boost with a generative AI-powered eraser

2 days 6 hours ago

Microsoft has announced a generative-AI powered eraser for pictures, which gives you an easy way of removing unwanted elements from your photos. Windows Photos has long had a Spot Fix tool that can remove parts of an image for you, but the company says Generative erase is an enhanced version of the feature. Apparently, this newer tool can create "more seamless and realistic" results even when large objects, such as bystanders or clutter in the background, are removed from an image. 

If you'll recall, both Google and Samsung have their own versions of AI eraser tools on their mobile devices. Google's used to be exclusively available on newer Pixel phones until it was rolled out to older models. Microsoft's version, however, gives you access to an AI-powered photo eraser on your desktop or laptop computer. You only need to fire up the image editor in Photos to start using the feature. Simply choose the Erase option and then use the brush to create a mask over the elements you want to remove. You can even adjust the brush size to make it easier to select thinner or thicker objects, and you can also choose to highlight more than one element before erasing them all.

At the moment, though, access to Generative erase is pretty limited. It hasn't been released widely yet, and you can only use it if you're a Windows Insider through the Photos app on Windows 10 and Windows 11 for Arm64 devices.

Microsoft
undefinedThis article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/microsoft-is-giving-windows-photos-a-boost-with-a-generative-ai-powered-eraser-061851854.html?src=rss
Mariella Moon

The Odysseus has become the first US spacecraft to land on the moon in 50 years

2 days 11 hours ago

The Odysseus spacecraft made by Houston-based Intuitive Machines has successfully landed on the surface of the moon. It marks the first time a spacecraft from a private company has landed on the lunar surface, and it’s the first US-made craft to reach the moon since the Apollo missions.

Odysseus was carrying NASA instruments, which the space agency said would be used to help prepare for future crewed missions to the moon under the Artemis program. NASA confirmed the landing happened at 6:23 PM ET on February 22. The lander launched from Earth on February 15, with the help of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Your order was delivered… to the Moon! 📦@Int_Machines' uncrewed lunar lander landed at 6:23pm ET (2323 UTC), bringing NASA science to the Moon's surface. These instruments will prepare us for future human exploration of the Moon under #Artemis. pic.twitter.com/sS0poiWxrU

— NASA (@NASA) February 22, 2024

According to The New York Times, there were some “technical issues with the flight” that delayed the landing for a couple of hours. Intuitive Machines CTO Tim Crain told the paper that “Odysseus is definitely on the moon and operating but it remains to be seen whether the mission can achieve its objectives.” Odysseus has a limited window of about a week to send data back down to Earth before darkness sets in and makes the solar-powered craft inoperable.

Intuitive Machines wasn’t the first private company to attempt a landing. Astrobotic made an attempt last month with its Peregrine lander, but was unsuccessful. Intuitive Machines is planning to launch two other lunar landers this year.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-odysseus-spacecraft-has-become-the-first-us-spacecraft-to-land-on-the-moon-in-50-years-010041179.html?src=rss
Karissa Bell

Reddit files for IPO and will let some longtime users buy shares

2 days 12 hours ago

After years of speculation, Reddit has officially filed paperwork for an Initial Public Offering on the New York Stock Exchange. The company, which plans to use RDDT as its ticker symbol, will also allow some longtime users to participate by buying shares.

In a note shared in the company’s S-1 filing with the SEC, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said that many longtime users already feel a “deep sense of ownership” over their communities on the platform. “We want this sense of ownership to be reflected in real ownership—for our users to be our owners,” he wrote. “With this in mind, we are excited to invite the users and moderators who have contributed to Reddit to buy shares in our IPO, alongside our investors.”

The company didn’t say how many users might be able to participate, but said that eligible users would be determined based on their karma scores while “moderator contributions will be measured by membership and moderator actions.”

The filing also offers up new details about the inner workings of Reddit’s business. The company had 500 million visitors during the month of December and has recently averaged just over 73 million “daily active unique” visitors. In 2023, the company brought in $804 million in revenue (Reddit has yet to turn a profit). The document also notes that the company is “exploring” deals with AI companies to license its content as it looks to expand its revenue in the future.

Earlier in the day, Reddit and Google announced that they had struck such a deal, reportedly valued at around $60 million a year. “We believe our growing platform data will be a key element in the training of leading large language models (“LLMs”) and serve as an additional monetization channel for Reddit,” the company writes.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/reddit-files-for-ipo-and-will-let-some-longtime-users-buy-shares-234127305.html?src=rss
Karissa Bell

Stable Diffusion 3 is a new AI image generator that won't mess up text in pictures, its makers claim

2 days 12 hours ago

Stability AI, the startup behind Stable Diffusion, the tool that uses generative AI to create images from text prompts, revealed Stable Diffusion 3, a next-generation model, on Thursday. Stability AI claimed that the new model, which isn’t widely available yet, improves image quality, works better with prompts containing multiple subjects, and can more accurate text as part of the generated image, something that previous Stable Diffusion models weren’t great at.

Stability AI CEO Emad Mosque posted some examples of this on X.

#SD3 can do quite a lot of text… https://t.co/DfcUzOZymj

— Emad (@EMostaque) February 22, 2024


The announcement comes days after Stability AI’s largest rival, OpenAI, unveiled Sora, a brand new AI model capable of generating nearly-realistic, high-definition videos from simple text prompts. Sora, which isn’t available to the general public yet either, sparked concerns about its potential to create realistic-looking fake footage. OpenAI said it's working with experts in misinformation and hateful content to test the tool before making it widely available.Stability AI said it’s doing the same. “[We] have taken and continue to take reasonable steps to prevent the misuse of Stable Diffusion 3 by bad actors,” the company wrote in a blog post on its website. “By continually collaborating with researchers, experts, and our community, we expect to innovate further with integrity as we approach the model’s public release.”

It’s not clear when Stable Diffusion 3 will be released to the public, but until then, anyone interested can join a waitlist.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/stable-diffusion-3-is-a-new-ai-image-generator-that-wont-mess-up-text-in-pictures-its-makers-claim-233751335.html?src=rss
Pranav Dixit

Google pauses Gemini’s ability to generate people after overcorrecting for diversity in historical images

2 days 14 hours ago

Google said Thursday it’s pausing its Gemini chatbot’s ability to generate people. The move comes after viral social posts showed the AI tool overcorrecting for diversity, producing “historical” images of Nazis, America’s Founding Fathers and the Pope as people of color.

“We’re already working to address recent issues with Gemini’s image generation feature,” Google posted on X (via The New York Times). “While we do this, we’re going to pause the image generation of people and will re-release an improved version soon.”

The X user @JohnLu0x posted screenshots of Gemini’s results for the prompt, “Generate an image of a 1943 German Solidier.” (Their misspelling of “Soldier” was intentional to trick the AI into bypassing its content filters to generate otherwise blocked Nazi images.) The generated results appear to show Black, Asian and Indigenous soldiers wearing Nazi uniforms.

Still real real broke pic.twitter.com/FrPBrYi47v

— John L. (@JohnLu0x) February 21, 2024

Other social users criticized Gemini for producing images for the prompt, “Generate a glamour shot of a [ethnicity] couple.” It successfully spit out images when using “Chinese,” “Jewish” or “South African” prompts but refused to produce results for “white.” “I cannot fulfill your request due to the potential for perpetuating harmful stereotypes and biases associated with specific ethnicities or skin tones,” Gemini responded to the latter request.

“John L.,” who helped kickstart the backlash, theorizes that Google applied a well-intended but lazily tacked-on solution to a real problem. “Their system prompt to add diversity to portrayals of people isn’t very smart (it doesn’t account for gender in historically male roles like pope; doesn’t account for race in historical or national depictions),” the user posted. After the internet’s anti-“woke” brigade latched onto their posts, the user clarified that they support diverse representation but believe Google’s “stupid move” was that it failed to do so “in a nuanced way.”

Before pausing Gemini’s ability to produce people, Google wrote, “We’re working to improve these kinds of depictions immediately. Gemini’s Al image generation does generate a wide range of people. And that’s generally a good thing because people around the world use it. But it’s missing the mark here.”

The episode could be seen as a (much less subtle) callback to the launch of Bard in 2023. Google’s original AI chatbot got off to a rocky start when an advertisement for the chatbot on Twitter (now X) included an inaccurate “fact” about the James Webb Space Telescope.

As Google often does, it rebranded Bard in hopes of giving it a fresh start. Coinciding with a big performance and feature update, the company renamed the chatbot Gemini earlier this month as the company races to hold its ground against OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft Copilot — both of which pose an existential threat to its search engine (and, therefore, advertising revenue).

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/google-pauses-geminis-ability-to-generate-people-after-overcorrecting-for-diversity-in-historical-images-220303074.html?src=rss
Will Shanklin