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Dyson launches 360 Vis Nav and V15s Detect Submarine

Dyson launches 360 Vis Nav and V15s Detect Submarine

Dyson says the 26 sensors ensure obstacle avoidance, so that’s a promise it won’t get stuck up sofas or behind pot plants, then. We’ll see. Perhaps the new form factor will help, as this version is thinner than the last two, being just 99 mm tall (the Heurist was 120 mm).

The 360 Vis Nav can pinpoint its position to within 71 mm, so that certainly allows room for error. The accompanying app lets you pre-map dust hotspots, automatically increasing suction power when needed. It’s pet-friendly, too, with HEPA filtration and a quiet mode.

Dyson seems particularly pleased with the 360 Vis Nav’s edge cleaning (another feature the old models boasted), saying that now its sensors detect the sides of a room and then redirect suction through a new side-actuator instead of using sweepers to flick dirt away.

Dyson V15s Detect Submarine

Dyson V15s Detect Submarine cleaning up a mess on the floor

Photograph: Dyson

For the first time, Dyson has an all-in-one wet-and-dry cordless vacuum cleaner, the V15s Detect Submarine, which like the new robot vac will be launched later this year. It supposedly delivers just the right amount of water to remove spills, stains, as well as small dry debris like food crumbs. It does so through eight water jets that release 18 ml of water every minute to a motor-driven microfiber roller, which Dyson judges as the right amount to wash floors evenly without leaving “excessive wetness.”

The 300-ml water tank is apparently good for up to 110 square meters of flooring. A plate extracts the contaminated water from the wet roller and dumps it into a separate, larger, 360-ml waste tank so no dirt or debris is transferred back onto your floor.

An “acoustic dust sensing” feature includes an LCD screen showing the size and number of particles being sucked up, and measures microscopic particles with a piezo sensor, so the vacuum can automatically increase suction from the 125,000-rpm motor when needed.

Dyson Purifier Big+Quiet Formaldehyde

Pimping its existing HEPA Cool Formaldehyde fan that can filter pollen, skin shed by pets, tobacco smoke, household cleaning products, and outdoor air pollutants such as formaldehyde, Dyson now has a “Big+Quiet” version of this air purifier. Rather than aimed at your average bedroom, the Big+Quiet Formaldehyde has been specifically engineered to clean air in large, open-plan spaces.

The fan system can deliver purified air over 10 meters, Dyson claims, while a new carbon dioxide sensor supposedly lets you know when to ventilate. That’s the “big”—the “quiet” is covered by the fact that this HEPA fan operates at just 56 decibels.

Want to bring the outside in? A breeze mode apparently mimics air-flow patterns and characteristics of a natural outdoor airflow.

What About the Next-Gen Batteries?

Eager to flex its engineering muscle, Dyson’s jaunt around its Singapore sites brought journalists on a behind-the-scenes look at its St James Power Station, the Singapore Advanced Manufacturing facility (to see the makings of its digital motors), and the Singapore Technology Centre.

Various staff members demonstrated research products, including autonomous robots with grasping arms that can help pick up household objects, while dishing out miniature models of vacuum cleaners as mementos for the journalists, constructed using the prototyping lab’s bank of industrial 3D printers.

What wasn’t on display, however, was something potentially far more lucrative to the company than iterative updates to vacuums and purifiers: how Dyson was planning to manufacture what it promised will be radically new types of batteries.

Everything Google Announced at I/O 2023

Everything Google Announced at I/O 2023

The opening keynote address of the Google I/O developer conference today was stuffed with announcements of new devices and AI-powered features coming to familiar software tools. The company leaned hard into generative computing, loudly characterizing itself as a decades-long leader in AI tech. It also gleefully put AI at the forefront of nearly every service and device it operates, including the new Pixel phones and tablet it unveiled today.

Here are all of Google’s announcements from I/O 2023.

The Google Pixel 7A Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet arranged on a white background

Photograph: Julian Chokkattu

The Pixel Fold Arrives

Rick Osterloh speaking on stage with large photo of the Google Pixel Fold in the background

Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh announces the Pixel Fold on stage.

Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Google’s first folding phone, the Pixel Fold, is here and costs a startling $1,799. It’s thinner than Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold4, and there’s a wide, full front screen that offers up an almost normal smartphone experience. Open it up and you get a 7.6-inch OLED screen for watching movies, multitasking, or reading. We’ve got a hands-on report where you can read more about the Fold. Preorders are live now—if you bite, Google is tossing in a free Pixel Watch—but it ships in June. 

There’s a Pixel Tablet Too

Google Pixel Tablet

The Pixel Tablet comes with a speaker dock that it magnetically attaches to.

Photograph: Google

Announced at last year’s Google I/O, the Pixel Tablet is finally a reality. Well, almost—preorders are live today (only in 11 countries), and it goes on sale June 20, so you still have to wait a bit more. This $499 tablet isn’t really meant to be a tablet you take with you on the go. Rather, it rests on a magnetic dock (included) when you’re not using it, and the dock wirelessly recharges the slate and doubles as a speaker (the sound quality is purportedly equal to a Nest Hub). When it’s on the dock, it acts as a traditional Google smart speaker, with options to control your smart home devices, and even has a similar microphone array to pick up your “Hey Google” commands. Chromecast is built in, so you can cast to it from your phone or laptop. 

When you want to use it, just pop it off the dock and it’s a normal Android tablet—except a bit better, because Google has made some strides in improving the tablet experience on Android, with more than 50 Google apps optimized for the larger screen. It’s powered by the Tensor G2 chipset, and has many of the same software features as other Pixel devices. Sadly, there are no other accessories—no stylus and no keyboard. You can take it out and use it with Bluetooth accessories, but it’s clear Google is really envisioning this as a homebody.

Also a Low-Cost Pixel 7A

Every year, Google announces an A-series version of the flagship Pixel that came before. This year’s Pixel 7A is a little more pricey ($499) than last year’s model, but you get a few more high-end perks, like a 90-Hz screen refresh rate and wireless charging support. The cameras are also completely new, with a 64-megapixel sensor leading the pack. You can read more about it in our review (8/10, WIRED Recommends). You can also order it right now—Google is tossing a free case and $100 for another accessory (like the Pixel Buds A-Series) if you buy it today.

Chatbot-Style Answers Are Coming to Search

Video: Google

Google users in the US will be able to access an experimental version of the company’s web search that incorporates ChatGPT-style text generation. For some queries, AI-generated text will appear above the usual links and ads, summarizing information drawn from across the web. A query about the coronation of Britain’s new king might be met with a couple of paragraphs summarizing the event. If asked about ebikes, Google’s algorithms can list bullet-point takeaways of product reviews published by various websites. WIRED, of course, is one of those websites that publish many product reviews, so we’ll be watching to see how this feature changes the way readers encounter our buying advice.

Android Gets an AI Boost

Video: Google

Google’s updates to Android—normally the focus of I/O events in the past—came some 80 minutes into the event. As you might have guessed, Google is sticking even more AI features into its mobile operating system. It laid out some enhancements to privacy protection, but mostly focused on cosmetic settings. The big setting that Google execs seemed stoked about involved AI wallpapers, which let you change the art styles of photos and create interactive, moving backgrounds from pictures and emoji.

Google is also bringing the generative features of its Bard chatbot directly into Android messaging, with settings that let you ask questions right in the chat box and adjust the syntax of your messages to adapt to different tones.

Generative AI Creation Tools in Workspace

Google is sliding AI into its Workspace apps like Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Duet AI for Workspace, as it’s called, can use Google’s generative AI to create job descriptions, write creative stories, or auto-generate spreadsheets for tracking information. It can also build out whole presentations, suggesting text for slides or instantly generating custom visual elements like photos. It appears to be Google’s answer to Microsoft’s 365 Copilot, which uses some of the company’s generative tools to add productive and creative enhancements to Microsoft’s Office software. Google’s AI-powered updates to its free web-based software suite will be available to consumers soon, the company says.

Behold the Magic Editor

An update to Google’s photo-editing feature Magic Eraser is coming later this year. The tool will now be called Magic Editor, and Google says it’s basically a quick mobile version of Photoshop. Users can change nearly every element of a photo, including adjusting lighting, removing unwanted foreground elements like backpack straps, and even moving the subject of the photo into other parts of the frame.

Google’s pitching the service as a way to enhance photos, but the potential is there to make really any edit to a photo at all. It’s not hard to imagine this going wildly off the rails, as any photo can be easily adjusted to move people around, reposition arms so it appears the person was touching something they weren’t, or even add elements to the frame that weren’t there in real life. Google hasn’t said whether the manipulated photographs will be labeled as such, though it did mention it would be watermarking images that were entirely generated by computers.

Matter and Smart Home

We always seem to be on the cusp of the real and helpful—and not annoying—smart home. But what will it take to tip that expectation over the edge into reality? Google bets that small, incremental improvements will slowly tempt you to incorporate more connected devices into your home, like the fabric-covered Pixel tablet that functions as a portable Nest hub with one-tap access to a newly redesigned Google Home app. Other sweeteners include easier access to Google Home from your Wear OS smartwatch and a new control panel for your home that runs on Android tablets. Google is even—gulp—building tools to provide Matter support for iOS users.

Google didn’t spend a lot of time touting the relatively new Matter smart home standard during the I/O keynote. But it did let us know in briefings that in just a few weeks, you’ll be able to control Matter devices in the Google Home app from iOS devices. Any family member can access the panel, or switch profiles. As they say, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em … in putting a Matter sticker on every home appliance.

Android Auto

In something of a plodding reply to Apple’s startling plans for CarPlay 2 announced in June last year, Google’s Android Auto team finally has news to share. It didn’t come during the I/O keynote, but it came in side-briefings before the show.

Cottoning on to the fact that people are sitting in their vehicles with little to do while at charging stations, Android Auto will now support video, gaming, and browsing in cars. Apparently, YouTube will be available in Polestars, which already run on a Google OS, in the coming weeks. Games mentioned include Beach Buggy Racing 2 (will you be able to play using the steering wheel?), and Solitaire FRVR (yawn). Apple’s version, rather than working alongside the existing car software, will supposedly replace it entirely—so this Android Auto update feels “lite” in comparison. Still, car companies will likely be happier with Google’s less aggressive approach here. Android Auto is also working with Cisco, Microsoft, and Zoom to enable conference calls, so you can join meetings by audio directly from the car display. Gaming, browsing the web, and conference calls … this is hardly bleeding-edge tech. It’s also worth noting that if you’re sitting and charging your EV, you can do all this from your phone anyway. But any improvement to Android Auto is welcome.

Spotify’s AI DJ Has No Soul

Spotify’s AI DJ Has No Soul

Even the very best radio DJ can be annoying. It’s the nature of the role. No matter how smooth their voice is, they still break in between songs—or worse, talk over them. Their little interruptions, popping into your life at unexpected and often inopportune times, remind you they’re there. They can be annoying, sure, but they’re also comforting, because they’re friendly and familiar humans.

Of course, nobody listens to the radio anymore. We all have Spotify accounts, or mooch off someone else’s. (Thanks Dad!) The radio DJ is a dinosaur, buried and compressed and repurposed to fuel endless algorithmically generated streaming playlists. In a way, it is a blessing. Choose a genre or mood and groove without interruption until the end of time. In the background, an artificial intelligence decides what should come next.

The recent rise of generative AI has made some companies no longer content to just let their algorithms simmer in the background. They want to bring them to the forefront. Partly to show off and try to cash in on the current AI gold rush, but also, I think, in an effort to humanize their algorithms. They shove them into the spotlight to convince people the AIs are super chill, actually, and can hang with us meatsacks.

Spotify, king of the algorithmic playlist, is eager to do just that. The music streaming service is rolling out a new AI DJ service starting this week. It is available as a beta option on the Spotify mobile app, though only for people who pay for Spotify Premium. The feature is the result of Spotify’s acquisition last year of the AI voice service Sonantic. The robot DJ breaks into the stream between songs to tell you what you’re listening to. The voice is modeled on the melodious rumble of Xavier “X” Jernigan, Spotify’s head of cultural partnerships. The generated audio sounds fantastic, especially for a digital simulacrum. AI voices have a tendency to divebomb straight into the uncanny valley, with their strange intonations and halting, robotic cadences. X, in contrast, sounds realistic. Occasionally it stumbles or sounds slightly stilted when saying the name of an artist or song. But otherwise it comes across as a cool, calm voice guiding you through your music. “Take a journey through a little bit of jazz today,” X may invite you. “Tommy Lehman up first.”

However, it does not sound quite natural enough. Though the voice makes quips or shares tidbits about bands you’re listening to, the interruptions never feel warm or personable. You may hate when a dipshit human shock jock word-vomits over the outro of your favorite song to tee up an ad break, but at least there is indeed a dipshit human behind that action. Cast your mind’s eye behind Spotify’s X voice and you will find only the void—a vast jumble of machine-learning metrics and carefully calculated curation that tells you what it thinks you want to hear. Listening to the AI DJ feels eerily lonely, in that it is a constant reminder of what it is not.

What’s even more unnerving is how cavalier it is about how much it knows about you. Like Spotify Wrapped, the AI DJ’s access to your personal data goes deeper than you may think a music service is capable of. X knows enough to play music from your past and guess the emotions that specific songs evoke from you. You can tell the AI to change the mood with the tap of a button, though the changes feel random, and it can take several taps before landing on something you vibe with. Even then, it’s learning still more about you, like where your headspace is at certain times of the day or based on your location. It is saying the quiet part about Spotify’s data collection out loud, and packaging it as a friendly robo-pal. Say what you will about the annoying human DJ, but at least they’re more than a funhouse-mirror reflection of yourself.

Instagram Notifications Get Less Annoying With a ‘Quiet Mode’

Instagram Notifications Get Less Annoying With a ‘Quiet Mode’

Let’s face it, we’re probably all spending too much time on Instagram. Even Meta, the platform’s parent company, knows the app can be unhealthy for its users. In recent months, it has rolled out features intended to make Instagram safer for teens—or at least safe enough to keep regulators from cracking down.

Now, Instagram has announced some features that may make the site less of a time suck. The first is a feature that WIRED has advocated for: The away message. The new setting, called Quiet Mode, lets you turn off all notifications and even sends an auto reply to anyone who DMs you, telling them you’re unavailable. It’s not quite as resolute as just turning off all your notifications, but it’s a start. You can also set Quiet Mode to last a specific length of time. Upon returning to normal mode, Instagram will show a summary of what you missed. (They need to make sure you get back to scrolling at some point.) If Instagram knows the user is a teen, it will send them regular suggestions to use Quiet Mode, which will probably only annoy them.

Instagram is also getting another feature to make perusing it less irritating. You can now hide recommended posts in your Explore page, which will also help teach Instagram’s algorithm to show you less of the stuff you don’t want to see. You can also ask it not to show you posts that contain or reference certain words or topics. Any posts containing your deselected terms or topics will show up less often in search, Explore, and Reels. (Unfortunately, you still can’t just turn off Reels entirely.)

Here’s some other news from the world of consumer tech.

Google Wants to Find Your Stuff Too

Apple’s AirTags are perfectly boring stuff-finders. They’re also easily exploitable tools for stalkers. The simple location-tracking device is both effective and controversial, and Apple has sold millions of them. Obviously, Google is eager to get into that game too.

This week, the rumor mill is a-churning about Google’s potential AirTags competitor. There hasn’t been an official product announcement, but Kuba Wojciechowski, a developer and regular disher of Google secrets, has dug up some code that indicates Google could be working on such a device.

Of course, the existence of a Google tracker is just an educated guess. There are no details about when the device might be coming out, how much it will cost, or even what Google is going to call it. For now, it’s just known by the code name Grogu. (Yes, that’s Baby Yoda’s name.)

Amazon Frown

Amazon has announced that it is shuttering its charity donations program, Amazon Smile. In a press release, the company wrote that its program, which partnered with more than a million charities, was “spread too thin.”

While Amazon claims its decision to end Smile is a practical one, it might not be the only reason. Amazon has certainly felt the financial strain of the impending economic slowdown. In recent weeks, Amazon has laid off thousands of workers and cut down spending on departments like its Alexa platform and drone delivery program.

Apple Is Reportedly Testing MacBooks With Touchscreens

Apple Is Reportedly Testing MacBooks With Touchscreens

After years of saying it wouldn’t ever slap a touchscreen on a laptop, Apple may now be planning to do just that. A report by Mark Gurman at Bloomberg asserts that Apple is testing touchscreen tech on some of its MacBooks. The info is based on leaks from the company, so touchsreen Macs are not a sure thing, and even if they were, these computers wouldn’t emerge until at least 2025. Apple might also cancel those plans entirely, as it frequently tests and abandons ideas for changes to its products.

The company has long rejected the notion of putting a touchscreen on MacBooks, citing ergonomic concerns, like the fact that your arm wears out after a while of tapping on a vertical touchscreen. It also has been hesitant to bring touch to MacBooks because it has a whole product line for finger gestures—the iPad. So the fact that Apple is considering touchscreens for MacBooks is noteworthy. Apple has been steadily fusing the functionalities of MacBooks and iPads, with lots of crossover in both software and hardware components between the platforms. Having touchscreens on both devices could blur those lines even more.

Read on for some other stuff going on in the world of consumer technology.

Samsung Sets a Date for Unpacked

Samsung announced the date of its next Galaxy Unpacked hardware event, and it’s less than a month away. Unpacked will be February 1 at 10am Pacific. For the first time since the pandemic era began, the event will be in person in San Francisco, California.

Samsung hasn’t indicated what it will announce, though this event is where the company typically debuts its new Galaxy phones. The Galaxy S23 is expected this year. There may also be news of other accessories or wearables. We might see a foldable device too, though Samsung could just announce a foldable later in the year.

XBox Power Play

Shhh, it is time for your Xbox to go to sleep. Microsoft is rolling out an update to its Xbox Series X and Series S consoles that will automatically switch power settings to default to shutting down completely, rather than staying on in rest mode. The company says the move is aimed at reducing energy usage of the console, as they still draw power while in rest mode.

Microsoft released an update last year that aimed to make Windows computers more energy efficient, and now some of those changes are coming to XBox too. Like the PC setting, XBox will download game files based on how much energy is being used on the power grid. The goal is to use energy to download games when the grid isn’t being stressed at peak times of the day.

Microsoft says this is a one time update, and you can change any of these features in the console’s settings.

Deere John

Used to be that once you bought something you could do what you wanted with it. You buy a tractor for your farm, let’s say, and you can slap new parts into it or fix it yourself if something goes wrong. Unfortunately, sometimes the companies that make your tech want to keep control over their devices even after you’ve purchased them.

John Deere, the farm equipment company, has gotten a lot of heat for this in recent years. The company makes its hardware and software proprietary and often requires customers to go through official John Deere channels to get equipment upgraded and repaired. That has frustrated farmers, and they’ve tried going after the company with everything from hacking to lawsuits. A new memo issued by John Deere has eased some of the tension, but the issue of repairability remains unsettled.