Google’s Project Jacquard jacket can now light up its tag and find your phone

When it went on sale in late September, Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket was the first piece of clothing to integrate Google’s Project Jacquard touch-gesture functionality.

At $350 a pop, it’s not a surprise that the Jacquard by Google app (which is used to customize and control the jacket) shows just 100-500 installs. That means a few hundred people will be delighted to learn that the app just got its first major update, which lets wearers of the Jacquard-woven jacket use gestures that enable new light modes for the tag on the sleeve, as well as find their phone.

The new Jacquard abilities are called “Illuminate” and “Find Your Phone.” The “Illuminate” ability let wearers assign a custom gesture to enable one of three light modes:

  • Shine, which turns the tag on the jacket’s sleeve into a flashlight
  • Blink, which turns the tag into a blinking light to make you more visible to drivers and others when you’re outside in the dark
  • Strobe, which turns the tag into a “multicolored party light” (Google’s words)

When you use a gesture assigned to enable the new “Find Your Phone” ability, your phone will ring for up to 30 seconds at maximum volume, even if it’s on silent.

Other Jacquard abilities include navigation help, call and text management, and music and audio control. In addition to the two new features, Google updated the “What’s Playing on Android” music-listening feature to work with all music services supporting Jacquard.


Your jacket can now do more!

Introducing two new abilities:

  • Illuminate – Blink, shine or celebrate with the light on your Jacquard snap tag.
  • Find Your Phone – Misplaced your phone? Make your phone ring so you can locate it.

We’ve updated What’s Playing on Android to work with all Jacquard supported music services.

Cleaned house for the holidays, and swept out a few bugs.


Google starts using more secure packaging for trade-in program

Leading up to the launch of the Pixel 2, Google started a trade-in program to help drastically lower the cost of its shiny, new phone. Quotes for the trade-in program are more than reasonable, but it hasn’t been without its fair share of hiccups.

One of the main complaints we’ve heard is that the trade-in kit Google sends out is pretty flimsy, but it looks like this is now being addressed.

Rather than sending out plastic bubble wrap-lined sleeves, the Google Store is now shipping actual cardboard boxes for people to send out their phones in. Google initially stood behind the plastic sleeves, but we’d be lying if we said we weren’t glad to see this change.

The new cardboard box is relatively slim, but the inside is padded with foam on the top and bottom to keep your device safe and secure during its trip.

Most people on the Reddit thread where photos for the box were shared seem to be quite happy with the new packaging, and this should hopefully help to keep headaches during the trade-in process to a bare minimum.


Microsoft releases Azure Bot Service and Cognitive Services Language Understanding

Microsoft has announced two new development tools designed to advance conversational artificial intelligence experiences. Microsoft Azure Bot Service and Microsoft Cognitive Services Language Understanding (LUIS) are now available.

“Conversational AI, or making human and computer interactions more natural, has been a goal since technology became ubiquitous in our society. Our mission is to bring conversational AI tools and capabilities to every developer and every organization on the planet, and help businesses augment human ingenuity in unique and differentiated ways,” Lili Cheng, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s AI and research group, wrote in a post.

The Azure Bot Service is designed to help developers create conversational interfaces while LUIS is designed for developing custom natural integrations.

The Bot Service provides an environment where these conversational bots can interact with customers on multiple channels across any device. Channels include Cortana, Facebook Messenger, and Skype. “Intelligence is enabled in the Azure Bot Service through the cloud AI services forming the bot brain that understands and reasons about the user input. Based on understanding the input, the bot can help the user complete some tasks, answer questions, or even chit chat through action handlers,” the Microsoft Azure Bot Service and Language Understanding team wrote in a post.

Language Understanding is the key part of the “bot brain” that enables them to “think” and “reason” in order to make appropriate actions. The Language Understanding solution supports a number of languages in addition to English, and comes with prebuilt services for English, French, Spanish and Chinese. In addition, it provides phrase suggestions to help developers customize LUIS domain vocabulary in Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, French, Portuguese,German and Italian.

In addition, the company announced new capabilities for Azure Bot Service and Language Understanding. These features include: an updated user interface, an expansion of up to 500 intents and 100 entities for more conversational experiences, ability to customize cognitive services, and intelligent APIs that enable systems to see, hear, speak, understand and interpret.

“Think about the possibilities: all developers regardless of expertise in data science able to build conversational AI that can enrich and expand the reach of applications to audiences across a myriad of conversational channels. The app will be able to understand natural language, reason about content and take intelligent actions,” the Azure team wrote. “Bringing intelligent agents to developers and organizations that do not have expertise in data science is disruptive to the way humans interact with computers in their daily life and the way enterprises run their businesses with their customers and employees.”

Microsoft Edge for Android recently reached the 1 million download mark and now the browser is in the list of top 20 Free Apps chart on the Google Play Store, meaning that the company’s browser is actually popular among the Android users. Since Microsoft Edge has ditched the preview tag, the browser is actually gaining huge popularity.

This is also a living proof that Microsoft is very keen on becoming a top developer on rival mobile platforms, with more focus on Google’s Android. Since Microsoft Edge is now expanding to rival mobile platforms, this would also help the browser gain some more market share.

Microsoft Edge is the 17th popular app after Facebook and Netflix on the Play Store, according to the top 20 apps chart. Microsoft Edge debuted in 2015 and the browser has barely improved its market share on the PCs since then, on the other hand, Microsoft Edge is growing at least on the rival mobile platform, while Google Chrome is the top choice for any user.

Since the Microsoft Edge adoption rate is going strong on Android and iOS, we can assume that the Microsoft is pretty satisfied with the performance of its browser. At the time of writing this story, Microsoft Edge has between 1 million and 5 million hits on the Google Play Store.

Microsoft Edge on Android comes with important feature like ‘Continue on PC’ and Password Sync, it could also boost adoption of the browser on desktops as many users are looking for applications that support cross-platform syncing, however, the feature requires a Microsoft account to function. You can get the Microsoft Edge browser from the Google Play Store by clicking on the below link.

Download Microsoft Edge for Android.

Microsoft previews Quantum Development Kit

Microsoft is helping to democratize quantum computing with the announcement of the Quantum Development Kit. The company first announced plans to develop a Quantum Development Kit in September at its Ignite conference.

“Quantum computing takes a giant leap forward from today’s technology—one that will forever alter our economic, industrial, academic, and societal landscape. With the preview release of the Microsoft Quantum Development Kit, we are one step closer to realizing this vision,” the Microsoft Quantum Team, wrote in a post.

The kit is designed to get developers up to speed with programming on quantum computers. According to the company, developers do not need to be experts in quantum physics. The kit is deeply integrated with Visual Studio, so aspects will be familiar to developes who already use VS to develop apps.

“What you’re going to see as a developer is the opportunity to tie into tools that you already know well, services you already know well,” Todd Holmdahl, corporate vice president in charge of the company’s quantum effort, said in an announcement. “There will be a twist with quantum computing, but it’s our job to make it as easy as possible for the developers who know and love us to be able to use these new tools that could potentially do some things exponentially faster – which means going from a billion years on a classical computer to a couple hours on a quantum computer.”

The Quantum Development Kit includes the Q# programming language, a quantum computing simulator, and resources for building quantum computer apps.

The Q# programming language was designed specifically for quantum. It is a high-level programming language that includes a native type system for qubits, operators and abstractions, according to the company. The quantum simulators will enable debugging support and support for simulations that requires more than 40 qubits. The kit will also provide a trace simulator for optimizing code to run on quantum computers.

In addition, the company is providing a suite of documentation, libraries and sample programs to get people familiar with aspects of quantum computing such as quantum teleportation.

This is just one piece in Microsoft’s plan to build a “full-fledge quantum computing system, “which includes everything from the quantum computing hardware to the full software stack,” according to the company.

Apple reportedly to buy Shazam for $400m

Apple is said to buy the music recognition app Shazam for about $400m (£300m), rumour reports say.

Shazam, a UK company founded in 1999, allows people to use their smartphone or computer to identify and buy music through a snippet of sound.

Shazam, which says it has more than 100 million monthly users, makes most of its revenue from commissions paid on referrals to Apple’s iTunes Store.

Neither Apple nor Shazam have commented on the reports on the TechCrunch site. If the deal is confirmed, Shazam will become the latest in a string of UK technology firms to be bought up by larger businesses.

The influential Music Business Worldwide site points out that the reported price is significantly lower than the $1bn valuation placed on Shazam during its last funding round in 2015.

By acquiring Shazam, Apple would basically cut out the middleman and save money on commissions.

It would also hurt the competition, since Shazam would no longer be referring people to rivals Spotify and Google Play Music.

The deal would also help the Apple Music service gain ground on Spotify, by making it easier for users to find songs and add them to playlists.

At present, Spotify has 60 million users worldwide, while Apple Music has just 27 million.



Microsoft confirms download issues with latest Windows 10 preview builds

Microsoft yesterday confirmed that some Windows 10 Insiders may have trouble in downloading the latest Insider builds for both Fast and Slow Rings. The Redmond Giant informs Insiders that users trying to install Insider Build with version 17046 or 17025 on fast and slow ring will be seeing an error “80096004”.

This error is due to internal issues being found at Microsoft and Insiders have been advised to wait for a new Insider Build to be released for being able to download. The company also confirms that Insiders would also face issues with downloading additional language packs or other features.

Microsoft Insider Team member Brandon LeBlanc in a Tweet confirmed that if users have been able to download the latest build then they should face no issues, but if you are seeing error in downloading the latest builds, then you would need to wait for a new Insider build for Windows 10 users on both Fast and Slow

See the post below:

FYI: Build 17046 (Fast) & Build 17025 (Slow) will fail with error code 80096004. Also: attempted downloads of language packs or additional Windows features (FODs) will also encounter an install failure. Details here:

We are currently not sure as to what is causing the issue, but Microsoft is currently working on a fix and should be able to roll out a new Insider Build as early as Friday. If any of our users have been able to install the latest build do let us know if you are facing any issues, in the comments below.


Microsoft is not bringing Android app emulation to Windows Phone again

Back in 2015, when Windows 10 Mobile mattered for Microsoft, the company planned to bring Android and iOS apps on its Windows Phone, which obviously was a pretty big deal, given the fact Windows Phone is dead as critics had claimed that the apps available on Windows Phones pale in comparison to their Android and iOS counterparts.

In case you were hoping/expecting Microsoft to bring back the Android app emulation on Windows 10 Mobile device again, Microsoft’s Senior Program Manager on the Windows Insider Program yesterday confirmed that the company is not bringing Android app emulation to Windows Phone again. “No, we’re not bringing Android app emulation to Windows 10 Mobile,” Brandon LeBlanc tweeted.

Not so long ago, a Windows Phone user posted on the Feedback Hub requesting the Redmond giant to bring back the Project Astoria, as it would give unsupported Windows Phones a new life. Microsoft engineer later faced criticism when he responded to the feedback without even reading it.

Don’t get your hopes down as the developer is testing a new version of Windows Phone Internals tool, it will basically allow you to install custom ROMs. Technically you will be able to install Android operating system and its app on your Windows Phone.

Windows Phone Internals Tool will bypass SecureBoot on modern Lumia Windows Phone, this allows “custom ROMs, Mass Storage Mode, Root access and many more hacks to all Windows Phone 8 and Windows 10.”


Google Assistant is able to troubleshoot problems on your phone (Pixel 2 only, for now)

The Google Assistant on the Pixel 2 and 2 XL is more powerful than ever before, and it can help you do a bunch of things with your phone like change settings or initiate a conversation with support. Thanks to a whimsical request from a reader, we now know about one more ability the Assistant has.

On a Pixel 2 XL running the Android Oreo 8.1 dev preview, our tipster asked the Google Assistant why his phone wasn’t charging fully, and to his/our surprise, a troubleshooting process was initiated. Artem was able to recreate this conversation, which you can see below.

This Assistant was able to run a battery health check and also look for any apps that might be causing drainage issues. When it has exhausted all of its options, it then offers to connect you to Google Support, either by phone or chat.

There are still some creases to iron out though, as when given a phone number to call a the end, it didn’t quite understand. Even so, it’s impressive that it can do any kind of troubleshooting at all. It could prove really useful.

Since we can’t find any official documentation, it’s likely Google is still testing this feature out. Here’s where you come in. Let us know in the comments if any of you can reproduce this behavior. If you could also tell us which phone/Android version you’re using and which region you’re in, that would be most helpful. Cheers.


Tesla is set to unveil something big tonight. Here’s everything we know about it

Tesla is a hype machine. What other company can make a live crowd ooh and ahh over at-home battery storage, or line up hundreds of thousands of pre-orders for a sedan? But even for Elon Musk, making a big rig sexy and desirable is a stretch. However, with his usual hyperbole, that’s exactly what he’s promising to do, and while he’s at it, he’s going to “blow your mind clear out of your skull.”

Elon Musk’s vision has always been for Tesla to be more than a car company. He wants to shift the world to sustainable energy, using electricity generated by the sun to power a range of vehicles, from cars, to SUVs, to busses, and yes, Class 8 trucks—the massive 18 wheelers that loom over all other freeway traffic. So before the 8 pm reveal in Los Angeles, here’s what we know.

Elon has been thinking about trucks for a while. In his Master Plan, Part Deux, a mission statement for Tesla he published in July 2016, Musk said he wanted to “expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments.”

In order to be skull-shattering, though, Musk is going to have to unveil something very special. Because while Tesla can take credit for igniting the electric car market, that was a sparse space before the company jumped in. The electric truck market, on the other hand, is already plenty competitive: Startups and established constructors alike all recognize that an electric drivetrain can be greener, cheaper, and easier to drive.

On Instagram he joked his truck will transform into a giant robot, fight aliens, and make one hell of a latte. (Well, he was probably joking.) Tesla has released teaser images of the truck, and we know it’s going to be sleek, probably black and silver, and have LED headlights. Beyond that, all we can do is make some informed inferences.

Bet on Batteries

Elon Musk is perhaps the world’s largest battery fan, so his semi-truck isn’t going to be a hybrid, with a diesel engine tucked away somewhere for emergencies. It’s not going to have a hydrogen fuel cell on board.

Expect the truck to be 100 percent battery powered, probably with lithium ion cells laid flat along the floor, as with Tesla’s cars. That keeps the center of gravity low, and helps with handling, which is especially important in a high sided vehicle that drives through strong cross winds.

Tesla builds its batteries in modules, and then uses as many modules as it takes for each application, whether that’s stationary storage for Powerwalls in homes, large scale grid storage like it deployed in Puerto Rico, or movable storage in cars. Multiplying that up to truck scale shouldn’t be too challenging, technologically, but the logistics are another matter.

Tesla’s big Model 3 bottleneck has so far been the battery pack, after all. The company has struggled to get the automated production line at its Gigafactory in Nevada running, so investors will be looking for Musk to explain how, and where, he plans to build his trucks, and how he’ll avoid the same problem.

Spoiler Alert

Tesla is big on aerodynamics, and Musk cites the physics of air resistance often—it increases with the square of speed. Just punching through the air is a huge power drain, even on a sleek car with retracting door handles to make it as slippery as possible. A Tesla truck will employ the latest aerodynamic science, likely with active spoilers and deflectors that adjust their angle to give the best performance.

Charge It

Electric trucks will still need charging, even if Tesla manages to stuff in enough batteries to give a range of a few hundred miles. Tesla’s current network of Superchargers can rejuice a Model S car in 40 minutes, but a truck is going to need a commensurately larger charger.

Musk may suggest that the vehicles are best for fixed routes between two points where chargers can be installed, or where the truck can sit overnight. Hauling goods from a port to an inland distribution center would be an ideal use case. Lugging lumber out of an isolated forest and across the country, less so.

The Case for the Cost

Finally, there’s the price. Cost-sensitive fleet operators are much less prone to buying on a whim than car purchasers, no matter how flashy the tech. But Musk will likely make the case that even if his truck is more expensive upfront, over five years it will repay the investment with lower fuel and maintenance costs.