Big Tech &
Amazon announces 11 new and refreshed Echo-branded gadgets—like a wall clock (3 minute read)
Amazon announced 11 Echo branded products. There is a new Echo Dot speaker for $50 that is 70% louder than the previous Echo Dot. Echo Input is a Chromecast Audio competitor, it doesn't have a speaker itself, but it plugs into other speakers and gives them Alexa capabilities (it does come with built in microphones). Echo Sub is a $130 subwoofer. Echo Plus is a $150 all in one speaker hub with a built-in temperature sensor. Amazon Smart Plug is a $25 dongle that helps you set up other Echo devices. Echo Auto is a $25 dongle that can connect to your car's audio either via Bluetooth or an auxiliary jack. Fire TV Recast is a $230 DVR. AmazonBasics Microwave is a $60 microwave. Echo Wall Clock is a $30 wall clock that has Alexa integration for no apparent reason. A new Echo Show is available, it's basically an iPad attached to a speaker for $230.
Twitch is reportedly blocked in China (1 minute read)
Last month Twitch was the third most popular free app in China's App Store as users downloaded the app to watch the Asian Games (a video game tournament). Now residents in China are finding that Twitch is no longer accessible and that the Twitch app has been removed from the country's App Store. It appears that the app has been banned.
Uber Eats couriers shut down major London roads in protest demanding £5 minimum per delivery (3 minute read)
Between 100 and 300 Uber Eats drivers abandoned deliveries and brought traffic to a standstill in London to protest over wages. They are demanding a minimum fee of £5 per delivery plus £1 per mile travelled. It wasn't organized, it was a spontaneous show of anger, but many protesters plan on continuing the protests on Friday. An Uber spokesman said that they are introducing a new system that gives drivers a minimum of £9-11 an hour.
Spotify will now let artists directly upload their music to the platform (2 minute read)
Spotify has launched an invite-only beta program allowing indie artists to upload their music directly to the platform. Spotify will give 50% of Spotify's net revenue for songs uploaded this way to artists, in line with their existing deals (they give Universal Music 52-55% of revenue). Spotify has already been testing the feature for the past few months with artists like VIAA and Michael Brun.
Early Decision (1 minute read)
Tech Incubator YCombinator has announced that it will be accepting Early Decision applicants (like colleges) where you can apply early in the fall for entrance into next summer's batch of startups. This is designed with undergrads, grad students and postdocs in mind as they commonly decide what to do next year early in the fall, but the application is open to anyone.
Renault Rethinks Last Mile Delivery with Fleet of Autonomous Pods (2 minute read)
Renault unveiled an autonomous delivery vehicle called EZ-PRO. EZ-PRO is an autonomous, electric robo-pod concept that Renaults says is the "the future of agile, last-mile delivery solutions for every type of professional." The EZ-PRO leader pods have a human conductor on board, responsible for the delivery of goods and of maintaining the pod fleet. Basically it's like a train, where there's a human conductor, but any of the individual train cars (pods in this case) can break off and make their own delivery. There are pictures inside they look pretty robocoppy.
Former Google CEO predicts the internet will split in two by 2028 — and one part will be led by China (3 minute read)
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt predicted at a private event that within 20 years there will be a Chinese internet and a non-Chinese internet led by the US. China also has an economic strategy called the Belt and Road Initiative, in which China wants to build infrastructure to create a "new Silk Road" to facilitate trade with Africa and Europe. Schmidt believes it is possible that if this initiative is successful, some of these trade partners will join the Chinese internet instead of the US internet.
What Ecstasy Does to Octopuses (8 minute read)
Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Gül Dölen studies how the cells and chemicals in animal brains influence animals' social lives. Octopus brains have completely different architectures, "more similar to a snail" than ours says Dölen. They created an experiment to test the effect of MDMA (ecstasy) on octopuses. They had a tank with three chambers, put a toy in the far left chamber, put an octopus in the far right chamber, and put the test subject octopus in the middle chamber. They were testing how much time the subject spent with its fellow octopus as opposed to the toy. All five octopuses doused with MDMA spent much more time with their fellow octopus than they did when not on ecstasy. Dölen says they also behaved abnormally, "When they had MDMA, they had this very relaxed posture. They floated around, they wrapped their arms around the chamber, and they interacted with the other octopus in a much more fluid and generous way. They even exposed their [underside], where their mouth is, which is not something octopuses usually do." We last shared a common ancestor with them around 800 million years ago, and their brains have evolved independently from ours since then, but evidently we still share a few extreme similarities!