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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Dyson unveils a new version of its LED lamp and opens a new store in Vancouver. Plus, an online service aims to help you plan for the invevitable, and some video games about viral outbreaks.

Dyson’s new LED lights will adapt to your environment

Dyson has released a new version of its LED light fixture. The Lightcycle Morph is an adaptable light that can be used as a task light or a feature light, or can be used as an indirect or ambient source of light.

Fully configurable, the Morph can also automatically adjust the colour and intensity of the light it emits to complement the sunlight that you may – or may not – be experiencing in your environment.

You can also use the Dyson Link app to engage presets for studying, to keep the light bright, for relaxing, and even to act as a wake-up light.

The light creates an ambient effect by shining through the stand, which diffuses the light through its mesh surface. The stand has a USB charing port built in.

The Morph comes in a floor and desk model and retails for $1200 and $850, respectively.

Dyson opens new “Demo” store in Vancouver

Dyson, the technology company that was built on vacuums and fans, has opened a new retail location in Vancouver’s Pacific Center Mall. It’s the second in Canada, after Toronto’s Yorkdale Mall store which opened at the end of 2017.

Located on the lower level of Vancouver’s downtown mall, the first thing you’ll notice walking in is how fresh the air is. That’s because among the products on display – and on sale – are fans and air purifiers.

Dyson calls it a “Demo” store and that’s one of the reasons you’ll want to visit: to try everything out.

While the Dyson business started in Canada in 2006 with two models of vacuum, the product line now includes multiple ways you can clean your floors and improve the quality of the air in your home. Not to mention the personal care products, the hair dryer and the curler that use fluid dynamics and air flow to accomplish what once could only be accomplished with heat.

The Airwrap curler in particular needs to be seen – and played with – to be appreciated. It’s difficult to explain how the Coanda effect can use air to curl hair so simply. At the new Dyson Demo Store, you can see first hand how it works. And you can book a free, 45-minute appointment in the salon area at the back of the store so you can learn how to make styling magic with it or the hair dryer. They’ve even got a sink so you can start with a wet head.

There’s an embossing machine on site, too, so you can personalize the case that comes with some of the personal care products with gold foil.

The new LED Lightcycle Morph is on display, and you can test drive the latest Dyson handheld, cordless vacuum. Employees at the store will dump dirt and debris onto hardwood and carpet areas so you can see for yourself how the V11 can adjust its suction level depending on what surface you’re cleaning.

The V11 includes a host of improvements over the last Dyson model, inlcuding an LCD screen with information on battery life, an improved method of emptying the dust bin, and an optional charging stand. These are examples, I was told by one of the store managers, of how Dyson, “solves problems that others ignore”.

Web service helps you get ready for your final departure

Everybody dies, right? Check Out Plan wants to give you the tools to make sure that when it’s your time, you’ve got everything organized and ready.

End-of-life planning is more important than ever before, especially with the number of connection points we all have with the world.

Check Out Plan is a web-based service established in Kelowna, B.C., that guides you through the development of a plan that is right for you. This includes collecting things like memories and photos, information about possessions and family histories, and even logins and passwords for accounts.

Subscriptions to Check Out Plan are $10 monthly or $70 annually.

Video games that explore viral outbreaks

Resident Evil was one of the first games that explored what happened after a virus was unleashed on the world. There’s been a run of games in that franchise of shooters, all of them fraught and intense and awesome.

More recently, Ubisoft’s The Division and its sequel, The Division 2, explore the chaos that occurs in post-pandemic environments in New York and Washington, D.C. respectively. By pitting players against each other, you never really know ally from enemy.

The Last of Us doesn’t deal with a viral outbreak but a fungal epidemic. The impact on humanity is equally as devastating. The Last of Us Part II, which will be released on May 29, continues the story of Ellie, five years after the events of the first game.

Plague, Inc. gives you the chance to experience things from the perspective of the virus itself. In that mobile game, available on Android and iOS, you only win if you kill everyone on Earth.

Similarly, Killer Flu was a game that put you in the role of the virus. But the intent of the game, designer Ian Bogost told me in 2009, was “to inject a greater amount of accuracy into the depiction of the spread of a mutated virus”.

Despite what you might be hearing, and what you might believe, it’s nearly impossible for a pandemic virus to actually kill everyone.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Apple Music’s new Base:Line playlist for indie musicians, Microsoft’s new version of its Edge browser, and Tokyo Dark’s arrival on the PS4. But first, global companies are unwittingly advertising on videos spreading climate misinformation.

Major corporations are advertising on climate misinformation videos

A new report online activist site Avaaz claims that major global corporations are unwittingly advertising on YouTube videos promoting misinformation about climate change.

Avaaz suggests that YouTube’s algorithms are to blame, and that if someone happens to see a video with misinformation, they are more likely to have similar videos recommended to them, something referred to as a “bubble of misinformation”.

The Avaaz team conducted searches on YouTube using the terms “global warming”, “climate change”, and “climate manipulation” and analyzed the results that were provided.

The report includes a number of recommendations to YouTube, including fixing the recommendation algorithm by removing any video with climate misinformation from the list of videos that can be recommended, by ensuring that misinformation content cannot be monetized, and by flagging videos that contain misinformation.

In a statement to the Guardian, YouTube said that advertisers had control over where ads could run and that the company was working to bolster the list of “borderline content” that would not be included in recommendations.

Apple Music and the NBA want you to discover new hip hop artists

Apple Music is supporting emerging hip hop musicians with a new iniative. Base:Line is the result of a partnership with the NBA.

Ebro Darden, Beats 1 DJ and one of Apple Music’s music directors, will be curating the music that appears on the Base:Line playlist, which is available to Apple Music subscribers as well as on NBA digital platforms, where music from the playlist will be streaming.

“NBA players come from the same communities that the music does, that is why the artists and the players feel connected. Many artists wanted to make it to the NBA before their life took a turn,” said Darden in a statement from Apple. “Base:Line is a playlist that gets closer to the community where the artist and the music is beginning.”

One of the significant aspects of the playlist is that music being selected is coming from independent artists. “When you are an indie artist, having your music on the right playlist at the right time is key,” Darden notes on the playlist page. “Base:Line is designed to be that key.”

Microsoft’s new version of Edge browser built on Chromium

In another move that signifies its willingness to play nicely with others, Microsoft’s new browser, Edge, has been redesigned using Google’s Chromium software.

First released in 2015 to replace Internet Explorer, Microsoft has rebuilt Edge with Chromium because the company wants to be everywhere, and the Chromium source code means that you can download and use Edge on virtually all computers, including Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS systems.

As with Chrome and Firebox, favourites, settings, and passwords will sync across your devices; they are tied to your Microsoft login.

Where Edge has the edge – sorry – is that it’s got anti-tracking built in, to prevent website from following you around the internet and knowing where you’ve been. This functionality will be coming to Google’s Chrome, but not for a couple of years.

Tokyo Dark blends anime and horror with murder mystery RPG

A new role-playing game has launched on the PS4. Tokyo Dark, which is also available on the Nintendo Switch, is a murder mystery set in Tokyo. You become Detective Ito Ayami, who is investigating the disappearance of her partner.

The game has a distinct anime style, and the mystery that’s been crafted here has shades of sophistication.

This is a low-key RPG, so you don’t need any twitch response or FPS control skill. Instead, in playing the game you’ll be searching environments and choosing dialogue when having conversations with characters. There are a moments where your time to make a decision is limited, which provides just the right amount of quickening.

But the controls on the PS4 version are strange, to say the least. When presented with a number of options to look at something or initiate a conversation, you select the thing you want to do using the right bumper, but then you need to use the left stick to activate your choice before using the X button to finally trigger the action.

If you can be patient until the controls are second nature, there are some interesting things going on in Tokyo Dark. The decisions you make as Detective Ayami impact her sanity, professionalism, investigation, and neurosis, and change the the story you play through, ultimately leading to one of many possible endings.

The supernatural threads that string through the game won’t scare you outright, but they will have your skin crawling.

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Categories Consumer technology |

This week, the big tech companies have agreed to cooperate on a standard for smart home devices, the New York Times investigation into smartphone tracking, and InspiroBot’s attempts to make us feel better in these strange times. But first, a look at the predictions made by Deloitte tech analysts about what’s to come.

Deloitte’s annual tech predictions for 2020

It’s a new year, so time for Deloitte’s annual list of things that may be happening in the worlds of tech and media. The report that details the Canadian impact was co-authored by Duncan Stewart, who head’s up the research for Deloitte Canada’s technology and media department.

Among the ideas:

  • More low-Earth orbit satellites by companies looking to provide broadband connections.
  • Computer chips that can enable our devices to do the same kind of AI processing that is currently done on remote servers.
  • More testing of 5G networks.
  • Opportunity for ad-supported video networks as tolerance for advertising shifts.
  • More people riding bikes, in part because of safer routes and the advent of electric bikes.
  • Sales of smartphone apps and accessories will continue to soar, and by 2023 will be bigger than the market for smartphones themselves.
  • Service robots become more popular.
  • Podcasting market will increase globally by 30 percent.

Tech companies cooperate on connection standard for smart homes

Project Connected Home over IP is an initiative that wants to make smart homes easier to configure by getting all of the tech players together to talk about compatibility.

Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance (which includes IKEA, Samsung, and others) are all part of the working group, and have agreed that IP, or internet protocol, will be the language to be spoken by devices in the future.

All existing smart home products will be supported, but this approach means that future products will work with whatever you may have in your home.

Your location is available and being shared without you even realizing

An article published in the New York Times in mid December revealed that companies are using the location data of smartphones with little to no oversight.

There are three things that compose the rationale for collecting location data:

  • People have agreed to share the information
  • Data is anonymous
  • Data is secure

“None of those claims hold up,” write reporters Stuart Thompson and Charlie Warzel, “based on the file we’ve obtained and our review of company practices.”

The implications are profound. Read the full article to learn how Thompson and Warzel were able to identify specific people and learn incredible things about them just from the way their dots appear on a map.

The piece was part of the Times’ Privacy Project, a “project to explore technology and where it’s taking us.”

Feel better about yourself and the world with these meaningful quotes

“If you are not constantly talking about the irony you might just be a liar.”

These words of wisdom came to me courtesy of InspiroBot. The online project has a bot generating quotes that are designed to mimic those you find splattered all over Facebook and Twitter.

Complete with images that are often entirely incongruous. The quote above, for example, was presented in a faux handwriting script superimposed over an image of a night sky showing the Milky Way.

Here’s another one InspiroBot made for me:

Inspiring, right? The bloody hands are very fitting, I think.

You can get your favourite InspiroBot inspirational meme printed on a t-shirt, poster, or mug!

See some of the best, archived at Reddit.

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