Sonos is at a crossroads, but it’s about to offer a clue as to where it’s headed next. The smart speaker firm is holding a virtual “special event” on March 9th at 4PM Eastern. The company’s invitation (below) doesn’t say much, but the photo of someone wandering through nature suggests the company might introduce another outdoor-friendly portable speaker akin to the Sonos Move.
There’s evidence to support this. As The Vergespotted earlier this month, a Sonos portable speaker passed through the FCC with lower power consumption than the Move (a hint at a smaller, more affordable design) and a label suggesting a cylindrical shape. This wouldn’t so much be a Move-style luggable device as a competitor to the UE Boom and other Bluetooth portable speakers. It appears to be the first Sonos speaker with WiFi 5 (802.11ac), too, which could improve the reliability of your connection in some scenarios.
This could be one of Sonos’ more important products in recent memory. It already has a robust in-home speaker ecosystem — if it’s going to keep growing, it may need to expand to other categories where connected speakers prove useful. The company is also shifting more of its attention to streaming music offerings like Sonos Radio, and a new portable speaker might bring those broadcasts to a considerably wider audience.
Google is adding payments features to Maps to help users who need to move around town during the pandemic. The app now lets you handle your parking fees in more than 400 US cities and transport fares at upwards of 80 transit agencies around the world. With more people turning to their smartphones amid lockdowns for everyday essentials including shopping and food delivery, Google claims this is another way to stay safe by avoiding direct contact with public surfaces. Of course, the updates will also come in handy when restrictions begin to lift.
Both features are powered by Google Pay and are as straightforward as you’d expect. Starting today, you can pay your parking meter from driving navigation in Maps thanks to an integration with on-demand mobile parking providers Parkmobile and Passport. Just tap the “Pay for Parking” button that appears as you approach your destination, enter your meter number and the amount of time you need to park and select “Pay.”
If you’re worried about running over time, you can extend your parking session through some extra taps. The feature is available on Android, with iOS support in the works, in a host of major cities including Boston, Cincinnati, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington DC.
On the transport end, you can use Google Pay to pay for your fare when you get transit directions from Maps. You can also purchase a Clipper card for travel in the San Francisco Bay Area. The transit update is rolling out in more cities globally on Android in the coming weeks.
Google Maps’ latest upgrades follow a slew of features borne in the COVID-19 era, including alerts of coronavirus-related travel restrictions and advisories and seven-day averages for new virus cases.
Apple is adding a raft of new emoji with a focus on inclusivity, plus a few notable extras and timely updates. Of the 217 new icons included in the iOS 14.5 beta, 200 include couples with a mix of skin tones, including same-sex partners, according to Emojipedia. There are also new gender options for the bearded person emoji, meaning you can choose between a woman or man with facial hair.
Other notable changes include a vaccine-friendly syringe with the blood removed. This isn’t the first time Apple has tweaked an emoji: It previously swapped out the handgun with a water pistol in the wake of a series of shootings in the US back in 2016.
Elsewhere, Apple’s branding remains on point as the generic over-ear headphone emoji in black has been replaced with its latest AirPod Max in all-white. The revision is in keeping with the other device emoji that match Apple’s lineup including a Mac desktop and Macbook, an iPhone and Apple Watch.
For those holding out for some new smileys, there are three new variants on offer including an exhaling face, a face with spiral eyes and a hazy face in the clouds — all of which seem apt for our present malady. There are also a pair of new hearts available from opposite ends of the romance spectrum, including a heart on fire and a bandaged heart on the mend.
These updates are currently limited to developers but will be accessible to everyone else on iOS in the Spring. The new emoji (release 13.1) were approved by the Unicode Consortium in September following a change to its schedule and have been available to vendors ever since, with Apple now choosing to integrate them.
Trello today rolled out a “once-in-a-decade refresh” of its project management software, adding new visualization options and smarter cards to the platform. There are four new viewing modes for Trello boards: timeline, calendar, table and dashboard. These are accessible by clicking the “Board” tab, which now opens a dropdown of the different options.
Timeline makes it easier to visualize projects that span multiple days or phases, displaying more than two weeks at a time.
Calendar mode is precisely what it sounds like — a traditional monthlong calendar with cards on the appropriate dates. Moving a card to a new day on the calendar automatically updates its due date.
Table view allows users to organize more than one board on a single page, laid out in a simple list with information including icons, labels, members and due dates.
Finally, dashboard provides bird’s-eye metrics breaking down your Trello situation in pie and bar graphs.
“In the near future you will be able to pull cards together from across all of your team’s boards like you can with Table, but with Calendar, Timeline, and Dashboard as well,” a Trello blog post reads. “Saved filters will let you instantly pull up the information you need in the view you want whether that is a Calendar of your work, a Timeline of company projects, or a Dashboard of current company workloads.”
Trello has made its cards smarter, too. There are three fresh card types: link, board and mirror. Link cards allow users to drop a URL into a card’s title and have it populate relevant information, including previews from YouTube, Google Drive, Instagram, Dropbox and other applications. Board cards let users drop a link to another Trello board in the title space, creating a direct link to that space. Mirror cards are coming in the next few months, allowing users to clone a card to multiple boards.
The Trello logo, illustrations and the standard sidebar have also received a spit-shine. The sidebar is now organized by workspace. So, get to work, folks.
This week Apple TV+ debuts season two of its space race series For All Mankind, while AMC+ premieres a new episode of The Walking Dead well ahead of its debut on the linear channel. There's also a Steven Universe game ported from mobile to conso…
Hyundai has unveiled the 2022 Kona Electric with a cleaner design, but no significant changes to range and performance. Where the previous model had crisscross indents on the grill (to hide the charging port), the new model has a clean front end, other than said port. On the back end, Hyundai has gotten rid of the cladding found around the rear wheels, giving the Kona Electric a simpler, smoother design. It also gets new alloy wheels optimized for airflow, plus newly designed headlights and LED taillights.
The interior gets a slightly more dramatic makeover, with the former 7-inch center touchscreen and dash replaced by a pair of 10.25 screens offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also has a cleaner finish around the dash, along with wireless charging in the center storage compartment. Buyers will have the option to get Hyundai’s BlueLink system that lets you control your car with a smartphone, and get key info about range, charge times and charging station locations.
The Kona Electric also gets new acoustic windshield glass, along with extra insulation around the instrument panel and in the cargo hold — something that should make an already-quiet interior even quieter.
Inside, the Kona Electric still packs a single 201 horsepower electric motor that kicks out 291 pound-feet of torque, and the same 64 kWh battery. As such, it should offer the same 258-mile range as before, and similar charging times (10-80 percent charge on a Level 3 DC fast charger, and nine hours to a full charge with 240-volt level 2 charging. Performance should also be roughly the same, with a zero to 60 MPH time of around 6.4 seconds.
The Kona Electric will hit Korea first, but should arrive in the US sometime this spring. Prices will start at just under $40,000 before rebates, making it slightly more expensive than last year’s model.
Amazon dominates online retail. It dominates web services. It’s also a force to be reckoned with on streaming video. It seems to be terrible, though, at making games.
The latest proof is another delay to the lukewarmly, if not hotly anticipated New World MMO game. It was originally set to launch in May 2020. Then August 2020. Then May 2021. Now, it’s August 2021. But who knows? Maybe there’s another delay around the corner.
For now, Amazon Game Studios laid out its plans to continue alpha testing the game, with an open beta set to start on July 20th. New World’s previous delay came one week after Amazon scaled back the availability of its first major game, Crucible — an Overwatch-styled game that lacked the charm (and player base) of its inspiration. Three months later, the team halted altogether.
Fortunately, the studio is part of one of the biggest, most profitable companies on the planet, and its incoming CEO, Andy Jassy, seems to have its back for now. He wrote in an internal email: “Some businesses take off in the first year, and others take many years. I believe we will if we hang in there.”
Amazon is learning what many big tech companies already know: Making it in the games industry takes time. Just ask Google. Or better, ask Microsoft — the last big tech company to make it in gaming.
Elsewhere, the Whitehouse is leaning on tech companies for insight on rolling out the COVID-19 vaccines, and Marvel’s docuseries kicks off with a behind-the-scenes look at WandaVision.
— Mat Smith
Future episodes will focus on ‘The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’ and ‘Loki’.
Marvel Studios’ Assembled is a new documentary series heading to Disney+ that will take a behind-the-scenes look at the shows and films of the MCU. The first installment of Assembled will focus on WandaVision, featuring actors Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Teyonah Parris and Kathryn Hahn, plus the show’s creative team. It will hit Disney+ on March 12th, one week after the WandaVision season one finale and just a bit too late to explain what the heck is going on. Continue reading.
If you want both, you’ll have to start paying next month.
, you may have to start paying for LastPass if you intend to use it across all your devices. Starting March 16th, the company is LastPass Free to one device type — weirdly that means you can still use your account with multiple devices. You can use it across all your computers or all your mobile devices, just not both. Your first login on or after that date will determine your choice of platform — although you’ll have three chances to switch device types after that. The company is discounting Premium subscriptions to $2.25 per month ($27 per year) versus the normal $3 to encourage upgrades. Or temper switching to Continue reading.
Another anime based on a hit game.
Dota: Dragon’s Blood is scheduled to become available for streaming worldwide on March 25th. It tells the story of a Dragon Knight — durable melee strength heroes equipped with swords and shields in the game — named Davion, who’s “devoted to wiping the scourge from the face of the world.” Continue reading.
A White House spokesperson said officials were talking to several big companies.
The Biden administration is in talks with Amazon and several other Silicon Valley tech companies to help roll out COVID-19 vaccines across the country. White House spokesperson Kevin Munoz told Politico that officials are “consulting with many companies, including Amazon,” to help distribute medical supplies.
An NPR story from January reported that Amazon was able to administer 2,000 vaccines out of a pop-up clinic in Seattle in just a single day. Continue reading.
Andrson finds songs that sound similar to your favorites.
Andrson is trying to make it easier for music labels to find would-be stars, but that’s not the only thing it’s useful for. Today, the company is launching ReWrapped, which analyzes your Spotify favorites to find soundalike tracks from its roster of unsigned artists. It analyzes your own Spotify Wrapped playlist and plucks a handful of songs from up-and-coming artists that (algorithmically) match your top songs.
Dan Cooper tested it out and makes the valid point that just because something sounds similar, it doesn’t mean you’ll like it. Still, it offers a new way to escape the same playlists and artists we all gravitate to.Continue reading.
Episode six of Disney+ original WandaVision certainly kicked things up a notch. That should silence complaints that the show was moving at a crawl, but one reason it felt slow is that we get so little of it every week — the longest episode, number five, clocked in with a 42-minute runtime. The shortest was the premiere, at a tight 30 minutes. And that’s including the interminable credits sequence at the end of each episode.
Streaming has really changed how productions think about episode length. Traditional broadcast TV programs are designed around the need to insert commercials in them periodically. So an hour-long episode isn’t really the full 60 minutes — older TV dramas might have 52 minutes of content, while 42 seems to be the standard allotment these days. Sitcoms run in half-hour blocks, which equate to 20-22 minutes of actual show.
Online, there’s no hard rule that dramas have to be an hour and comedies have to be half that. But it’s what viewers have come to expect, so producers stick with the formats — especially when there are so many former broadcast programs streaming alongside all that original content. But that doesn’t mean shows haven’t taken advantage, drawing out their programming for the full hour because they can. Scenes no longer need to be cut, and they can linger on things like establishing shots and character-building.
This use of extra time is more evident in dramas than comedies. The latter still adhere to a 22 minute runtime, in the hopes they might get picked up by a network anyway — One Day at a Time aired on CBS, while BoJack Horseman and Schitt’s Creek both run on Comedy Central. (Streaming dramas don’t usually show up on regular TV, partly because it’s easier to fill an empty half hour slot, but mostly because many dramas are decidedly R-rated and not suitable for prime time.)
So where then does WandaVision fall? It’s a show that mimics and parodies traditional sitcom structure and style, changing every episode to fit the aesthetic of different decades, from The Dick Van Dyke Show in the ‘50s to Malcolm in the Middle in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s. To try and draw that out into a full hour would ruin the sitcom feel, stretching the stories and tropes the show indulges in past their “natural” length. But that’s merely its surface; at its core WandaVision is very much a drama about a grieving woman and a mysterious magical threat. If they really wanted to, the producers could easily pad out episodes with more action and drama, with looks at what’s going on outside the town of Westview with even more backstory and references to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But they don’t. Instead the show has stayed within its roughly 30-40 minute run time, using its main plot to advance the sitcom story with larger and larger bits of b-plot advancement. It’s very economical; aside from the authentically-styled opening sequences (evoking sitcoms like Family Ties, Growing Pains and Full House) there’s very little that isn’t giving the viewer more info and pushing the plot forward.
The tight runtime is nothing but a boon to WandaVision’s plot. Viewers are forced to focus on the relevant bits of story when they speculate about the show, which cuts down on the number of fan theories that spread. Most of these theories would have been false, and in some cases (we’re looking at you, Game of Thrones and Lost) has led to fan backlash when a show didn’t meet expectations.
The willingness to let things be brief is a lesson learned from the Netflix Marvel shows, which were often criticized for being a few episodes too long. With the exception of The Defenders, every season was 13 episodes. Why that number? Because traditional broadcast shows usually run for 13 episodes (a quarter of a 52-week year) or 26 episodes (half a year). But with Netflix dropping the episodes all at once so people could consume them whenever, the exact number of episodes became irrelevant.
People don’t need 13 episodes the way a network needs that number to maintain its schedule. Viewers will watch a show until they get tired of watching TV, and pick it up again when they’re back in the mood. This lesson is most evident in the fact that WandaVision will ultimately have nine episodes in its first season. Yes, Disney+ is releasing these weekly, but even then the number of episodes doesn’t matter. The service will just drop another show, Falcon and Winter Soldier, the week after WandaVision wraps up. There’s no such thing as a “hole” in the schedule to fill, and Disney has plenty of other new content dropping on the service to satisfy viewer needs.
And those needs just aren’t what they used to be, thanks to the advent of social media. The shorter run time makes the show easier to watch sooner rather than later, whether you’re one of those crazy people who stays up until 3am ET, or just want to get it in before work in the morning so you don’t get spoiled on Twitter and Facebook. Binge culture may have turned streaming programs into “consume at your own pace,” but spoiler culture threatens to push them back toward appointment viewing so you don’t have surprises ruined for you. At least WandaVision’s runtime makes those appointments a little easier to fit into a busy schedule.
We still don’t have all the details about these cheaper sets, but every TV in its 2021 lineup including the A1 includes eARC and ALLM features, even if they don’t have HDMI 2.1. We also have a picture of the A1 that we didn’t get before (shown above), so if you’re planning to buy one, make sure you have room for the wide spacing on its stand.
The first 2021 LG OLED and LCD TVs are rolling out this quarter, although where and when is still unannouned. The question of how much any of them will cost is still unanswered for US buyers, although LG has announced pricing on some models in Germany.
FlatpanelsHD points out that C1 and G1 models are set to roll out in April, with the A1 lineup shipping later. Pricing in Europe for a 55-inch C1 and G1 is set at €2000 and €2400, respectively. Those convert to $2,420 and $2,914, however US pricing will certainly be lower. What may be more notable is that the prices are €200 and €100 higher than where similar 2020 models started, although we will have to wait for an official MSRP to know what carries over when these models arrive in the US.
When the Ioniq 5 crossover is fully revealed next week, it will be Hyundai’s first electric vehicle built on the Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP). Th platform has a flat battery that Hyundai is taking advantage of to optimize the interior, which it’s showing off in this quick teaser. The center console is a bit different than you may be used to, redesigned as an island that can move around, while both front seats include leg rests for you to kick back while the vehicle recharges.
The movable console apparently allows for entry from either side so you can easily move across the vehicle without issue and Hyundai is also highlighting the materials used, like an “eco-processed leather that is dyed and treated with plant oil extractions from flaxseed.” Like other manufacturers, Hyundai has big plans for EVs, and the Ioniq 5 is just the first in this lineup, with a 6 and 7 scheduled to launch in 2022 and 2024.