microsoft
Your Xbox is Listening to You, and So Are Microsoft’s Contractors

Microsoft Xbox owners will bummed to learn that humans have been listening to some of their voice commands. Motherboard recently spoke to a number of Microsoft contractors who said they’d been hired by the company to review Xbox and Cortana voice commands to improve the technology. This is the same sort of thing that’s been happening with all kinds of voice assistants lately, but that doesn’t make it any less unsettling. Read More >>

disney
So What Did Amazon Do to Piss Off Disney This Time?

Disney has announced plans to roll out its new streaming service in November. Executives announced that Disney+ will be available on platforms and devices made by Apple, Google, Microsoft, Sony, and Roku. Missing from that list is Amazon, with whom Disney has had an on-again-off-again slap fight for the past few years. This ongoing feud means that viewers who love Mickey Mouse and own a Fire TV are sort of screwed. Read More >>

amazon
The Bright Side of Humans Eavesdropping on Your Alexa Recordings

Over the past few months, a waterfall of details about how companies handle voice recordings has poured into the news. First, there was news that Amazon hired thousands of contractors to review Alexa commands. Apple and Google were doing the same thing with their voice assistants. Then, more recently, we learned that Facebook and Microsoft had humans transcribing their users’ messages and phone calls. All of this has been a real nightmare for people who care about their privacy. Read More >>

privacy
Google Does Good Privacy Thing, Users Revolt

If you own a Google Nest cam, you recently got an email from corporate explaining that you’ll no longer be able to turn off the status light on your camera. The status light is that little green glow that lets you as well as strangers know that a camera (and possibly a human) is watching (and possibly recording). Nest says that it’s preventing people from turning off this light in order to protect people’s privacy, and boy do Nest users hate this. Read More >>

audio
Finally, A Proper AirPods Competitor

The first time I picked up the Jaybird Vista truly wireless earbuds, a thought started looping through my head: These things are impossibly tiny and light. Even the case is pocket-sized. The sheer portability reminded me of AirPods, but there’s an essential distinction. The new Jaybird earbuds are practically bombproof. You can get them wet or bury them in dirt, and they’ll keep working. Functionally, the Vistas are probably the best fitness-focused earbuds I’ve tested. And did I mention—they’re so light! Read More >>

facebook
Facebook Did the Sneaky Listening Thing Too

Facebook has paid hundreds of contractors around the world to transcribe some of its users Messenger messages, according to a new Bloomberg report. The social network stopped doing the transcriptions a week ago, following public outrage after journalists revealed that Amazon, Google, and Apple employed similar teams to review voice commands for Alexa, Assistant, and Siri. But this Facebook news is somehow more foreboding than anything we’ve heard before. Read More >>

sonos
How Ikea’s New Wireless Speaker Compares to the Sonos One

It felt confusing and excited when Ikea released two new speakers built by Sonos. They’re a little weird-looking, first of all. (One speaker is also a lamp!) But what’s really extraordinary is that Ikea is now selling a full-fledged Sonos speaker for £100. (It doubles as a shelf!) We tested this new Sonos speaker—the cheapest Sonos you can buy—against the £200 Sonos One to see if it can keep up. The answer is basically, surprisingly, yes. Read More >>

soundbars
Sennheiser’s £2,200 Soundbar Makes Me Want to Cry

Sennheiser has spent years teasing its first-ever home audio product: the Ambeo soundbar. This hulking all-in-one home audio system is designed to deliver surround sound without the need for satellite speakers or extra wires. Well, we’ve spent the past few weeks testing out the £2,200 device, and it certainly is an exciting piece of hardware. But it’s also exasperating. Read More >>

privacy
Amazon Really Doesn’t Care, Huh?

Apple and Google recently revealed that they have temporarily stopped letting contractors listen to recordings from their voice assistants. The announcements come after reports that some of these hired hands heard Siri users doing things like having sex or discussing private medical information. Amazon has not announced a pause in its process of letting humans listen to Alexa recordings, and that’s not a big surprise. Humans are bound to be a part of this process. Read More >>

speakers
Ikea’s £100 Sonos Speaker Breaks the Mold

Very soon, millions of people will be able to walk into an Ikea store and buy a Sonos speaker for £100. There’s a more expensive speaker-lamp combo, too, but the idea is simple: Ikea wants to sell you affordable smart home goods that fit into Ikea furniture and work impressively well right out of the box. For a lot of people, this must be an alluring proposition. And I have to admit, the new speakers aren’t bad. Read More >>

audio
Sony’s New Wireless Earbuds Put Surprisingly Good Noise Cancelling in your Pocket

Sony has been trying to crack a tough nut for the past couple of years. The company wants to translate the tremendous success it’s had making over-ear noise-cancelling headphones and shrink the technology down to something you can put in your pocket. The new £220 WF-1000XM3 represent its latest attempt at miniaturising its excellent noise-cancelling technology. They also represent some impressive progress, and the result is a terrific set of earbuds unlike anything else on the market. Read More >>

robots
Here’s Some More Uncanny Cats Creepiness for You

Madame Tussauds New York recently revealed its latest creation: Grizabella the Glamour Cat from the popular musical Cats. Grizabella is no ordinary, blank-eyed wax figure, though. Thanks to cutting edge projection mapping and 8K camera technology, the singing cat’s face moves, smiles, and contorts. I recently visited the museum and was surprised at how much it looks like a real living person from a few feet away. The figure is also the latest example of technology invading another realm of intrigue and blurring our lines of reality. Read More >>

transport
The Boosted Scooter Is a Blast

Electric scooters are dangerous. It seems like you can’t go a day without seeing a scary story in the news reminding the world of this fact. People die riding these things. So it wasn’t surprising when Boosted emphasised safety in announcing its new e-scooter. The £1,600 Boosted Rev has three brakes, wide handlebars, fat tyres, and a bombproof frame. It also has a top speed of 24 miles per hour, which as I learned after two weeks riding the Rev, is as thrilling as it is terrifying. Read More >>

emoji
Ford Secretly Created the New Pickup Emoji Because Nothing Is Sacred

Yesterday, 17 July, was World Emoji Day, a fake but harmless holiday created by the founder of Emojipedia. To celebrate this year, Ford slyly revealed that it has succeeded in surreptitiously creating the pickup emoji. The company hired a marketing firm and a technology company to pitch the Unicode Consortium of the pickup truck emoji concept. Unicode apparently did not know that Ford was behind the campaign. And next year, the pickup emoji (sponsored by Ford) should be coming to smartphones and computers around the world. Read More >>

headphones
Bose Is Back

Bose just released an important update to its popular line of wireless noise-cancelling headphones. They are different. They’re weirdly stylish. Most importantly, they’re good. Also expensive. Read More >>