Tablets

This happy robot helps kids with autism

A little bot named QTrobot from LuxAI could be the link between therapists, parents, and autistic children. The robot, which features an LCD face and robotic arms, allows kids who are overwhelmed by human contact to become more comfortable in a therapeutic setting. The project comes from LuxAI, a spin-off of the University of Luxembourg. They will present their findings at the RO-MAN 2018 conference at the end of this month. “The robot has the ability to create a triangular interaction between the human therapist, the robot, and the child,” co-founder Aida Nazarikhorram told IEEE. “Immediately the child starts interacting with the educator or therapist to ask questions about the robot or give feedback about its behavior.” The robot reduces anxiety in autistic children and the researchers saw many behaviors – hand flapping, for example – slow down with the robot in the mix. Interestingly the robot is a better choice for children than an app or tablet. Because the robot is “embodied,” the researchers found that it that draws attention and improves learning, especially when compared to a standard iPad/educational app pairing. In other words children play with tablets and work with robots. The robot is entirely self-contained and easily programmable. It can run for hours at a time and includes a 3D camera and full processor. The researchers found that the robot doesn’t become the focus of the therapy but instead helps the therapist connect with the patient. This, obviously, is an excellent outcome for an excellent (and cute) little piece of technology.

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Apple releases new iPad, FaceID ads

Apple has released a handful of new ads promoting the iPad’s portability and convenience over both laptops and traditional paper solutions. The 15-second ads focus on how the iPad can make even the most tedious things — travel, notes, paperwork, and ‘stuff’ — just a bit easier. Three out of the four spots show the sixth-generation iPad, which was revealed at Apple’s education event in March, and which offers a lower-cost ($329 in the U.S.) option with Pencil support. The ads were released on Apple’s international YouTube channels (UAE, Singapore, and United Kingdom). This follows another 90-second ad released yesterday, focusing on FaceID. The commercial shows a man in a gameshow-type setting asked to remember the banking password he created earlier that morning. He struggles for an excruciating amount of time before realizing he can access the banking app via FaceID. There has been some speculation that FaceID may be incorporated into some upcoming models of the iPad, though we’ll have to wait until Apple’s next event (likely in September) to find out for sure.

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Bannersnack makes it easy to punch the monkey (and more)

An app like Bannersnack is something you never think you need until you do. Designed by a digital marketer from Romania, Gabriel Ciordas, the app was originally called FlashEff and was used to create Flash banners for online marketers. Over time, however, HTML5 and graphics overtook Flash and the company pivoted to offering easy-to-use design tools for marketers and business owners. The service is free to try and costs $7 a month 30 thirty static images and $18 a month gets you embedded banners with full analytics. The company is completely bootstrapped and has been working in the space since 2008. “Bannersnack has always been self-funded. We built our resources step by step, as our business grew together with our efforts. We think it’s fair to say that we worked for every penny we’ve ever gotten and further invested it back into growing our business,” said Ciordas. The service has 100,000 monthly users who create 180,000 visuals a month. They offer standalone graphics as well as responsive HTML5 images. The most interesting tool, the Banner Generator, creates banners in multiple sizes instantly, freeing business owners up to do what they do do best: sell stuff. Again, it is rare to see a product so focused on a single, important niche and Bannersnack fits the bill. While you could fire up Pixelmator and try to make your own banners, this tool is surprisingly pleasant to use and works quite well. “Our main objective is to empower marketers, designers, and business owners, while reshaping the way agencies and businesses create visuals for their marketing purposes,” said Ciordas. After all, not everyone has the skills or talent to create flashing banners featuring exciting mortgage reduction opportunities and free iPad sweepstakes.

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Bag Week 2018: WP Standard’s Rucksack goes the distance

WP Standard – formerly called Whipping Post Leather – makes rugged leather bags, totes, and briefcases and their Rucksack is one of my favorites. Designed to look like something a Pony Express rider would slip on for a visit to town, this $275 is sturdy, handsome, and ages surprisingly well. There are some trade-offs, however. Except for two small front pouches there are no hidden nooks and crannies in this spare 15×15 inch sack. The main compartment can fit a laptop and a few notebooks and the front pouches can hold accessories like mice or a little collection of plugs. There is no fancy nylon mesh or gear organizers here, just a brown expanse of full grain leather. I wore this backpack for a few months before writing this and found it surprisingly comfortable and great for travel. Because it is so simple I forced myself to pare down my gear slightly and I was able to consolidate my cables and other accessories into separate pouches. I could fit a laptop, iPad Pro, and a paperback along side multiple notebooks and planners and I could even overstuff the thing on long flights. As long as I was able to buckle the front strap nothing fell out or was lost. This bag assumes that you’re OK with thick, heavy leather and that you’re willing to forgo a lot of the bells and whistles you get with more modern styles. That said, it has a great classic look and it’s very usable. I suspect this bag would last decades longer than anything you could buy at Office Depot and it would look good doing it. At $275 it’s a bit steep but you’re paying for years – if not decades – of regular use and abuse. It’s worth the investment.

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Apple slapped with $6.6M fine in Australia over bricked devices

Apple has been fined AUS$9M (~$6.6M) by a court in Australia following a legal challenge by a consumer rights group related to the company’s response after iOS updates bricked devices that had been repaired by third parties. The Australian Competitor and Consumer Commission (ACCC) invested a series of complaints relating to an error (‘error 53’) which disabled some iPhones and iPads after owners downloaded an update to Apple’s iOS operating system. The ACCC says Apple admitted that, between February 2015 and February 2016 — via the Apple US’ website, Apple Australia’s staff in-store and customer service phone calls — it had informed at least 275 Australian customers affected by error 53 that they were no longer eligible for a remedy if their device had been repaired by a third party. Image credit: 70023venus2009 via Flickr under license CC BY-ND 2.0 The court judged Apple’s action to have breached the Australian consumer law. “If a product is faulty, customers are legally entitled to a repair or a replacement under the Australian Consumer Law, and sometimes even a refund. Apple’s representations led customers to believe they’d be denied a remedy for their faulty device because they used a third party repairer,” said ACCC commissioner Sarah Court in a statement. “The Court declared the mere fact that an iPhone or iPad had been repaired by someone other than Apple did not, and could not, result in the consumer guarantees ceasing to apply, or the consumer’s right to a remedy being extinguished.” The ACCC notes that after it notified Apple about its investigation, the company implemented an outreach program to compensate individual consumers whose devices were made inoperable by error 53. It says this outreach program was extended to approximately 5,000 consumers. It also says Apple Australia offered a court enforceable undertaking to improve staff training, audit information about warranties and Australian Consumer Law on its website, and improve its systems and procedures to ensure future compliance with the law. The ACCC further notes that a concern addressed by the undertaking is that Apple was allegedly providing refurbished goods as replacements, after supplying a good which suffered a major failure — saying Apple has committed to provide new replacements in those circumstances if the consumer requests one. “If people buy an iPhone or iPad from Apple and it suffers a major failure, they are entitled to a refund. If customers would prefer a replacement, they are entitled to a new device as opposed to refurbished, if one is available,” said Court. The court also held the Apple parent company, Apple US, responsible for the conduct of its Australian subsidiary. “Global companies must ensure their returns policies are compliant with the Australian Consumer Law, or they will face ACCC action,” added Court. We’ve reached out to Apple for comment on the court decision and will update this post with any response. A company spokeswoman told Reuters it had had “very productive conversations with the ACCC about this” but declined to comment further on the court finding. More recently, Apple found itself in hot water with consumer groups around the world over its use of a power management feature that throttled performance on older iPhones to avoid unexpected battery shutdowns. The company apologized in December for not being more transparent about the feature, and later said it would add a control allowing consumers to turn it off if they did not want their device’s performance to be impacted.

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With iOS 12, Apple focuses on performance

Apple’s Craig Federighi announced that Apple was doubling down on performance with the upcoming release of iOS 12 at the WWDC event in San Jose, CA today. What’s more, he said, the company would be making these changes to the full range of iOS devices going back to 2013. “And so for iOS 12, we are doubling down on performance from top to bottom making improvements to make.your device faster and more responsive. And because we want these changes to be available the full range of our customers, iOS 12 will be available on all the same devices as iOS 11,” Federighi told the WWDC audience. Perhaps because customers were unhappy to learn about the battery issues with older iOS devices Federighi stressed that Apple has focussed these performance increases on older devices, giving people with older iPhones, the maximum lift. Using the iPhone 6 as an example, he gave some figures about performance increase, stressing that it was still early days. (As an iPhone 6 user, I was listening carefully.) “Now on that device, iOS delivers a number of improvements. Across common operations you’ll see that apps launch up to 40% faster, the keyboard can come up to 50% faster and you can slide to take a photo at up to 70% faster,” he said. But he said, the biggest focus, and one all iPhone users can appreciate, is that they are working to optimize performance when it’s under load. As Federighi said that’s when you need performance the most and where iOS 12 really shines. “We put iOS 12 through our stress tests and we saw in those conditions share sheet coming up twice as fast, and apps launching twice as fast. These are big, big improvements,” he stressed. Lastly, Apple also optimized iOS 12 at the chip level working with the chip team to optimize performance, while taking battery life into account. If you keep the power pedal to the medal for too long, you suck battery, but Apple is trying to find that perfect balance of power and battery life in iOS 12. “CPUs traditionally respond to an increased demand for performance by slowly ramping up their clock speed. Well, now in iOS 12, we’re much smarter. When we detect that you need a performance lift when you’re scrolling and launching an app, we ramped up processor performance instantly to its highest state delivering high performance and a ramp it down just as fast to preserve battery life,” he said. All of this will be available when iOS 12 is released later this year.

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How to watch the live stream for today’s Apple WWDC keynote

Apple is holding a keynote today at the San Jose Convention Center, and the company is expected to unveil new updates for iOS, macOS, tvOS, watchOS and maybe also some new hardware. At 10 AM PT (1 PM in New York, 6 PM in London, 7 PM in Paris), you’ll be able to watch the event as the company is streaming it live. Apple is likely to talk about some new features for all its software platforms — WWDC is a developer conference after all. Rumor has it that Apple could also unveil some MacBook Pro update with new Intel processors. If you have the most recent Apple TV, you can download the Apple Events app in the App Store. It lets you stream today’s event and rewatch old events. Users with old Apple TVs can simply turn on their devices. Apple is pushing out the “Apple Events” channel so that you can watch the event. And if you don’t have an Apple TV, the company also lets you live-stream the event from the Apple Events section on its website. This video feed works in Safari and Microsoft Edge. And for the first time, Apple says that the video should also work in Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. So to recap, here’s how you can watch today’s Apple event: Safari on the Mac or iOS. Microsoft Edge on Windows 10. Maybe Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. An Apple TV gen 4 with the Apple Events app in the App Store. An Apple TV gen 2 or 3, with the Apple Events channel that arrives automatically right before the event. Of course, you also can read TechCrunch’s live blog if you’re stuck at work and really need our entertaining commentary track to help you get through your day. We have a big team in the room this year.

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Huawei MediaPad M3 Lite 10

The Huawei MediaPad M3 Lite 10 is a sleek 10-inch tablet with a nice display and solid speakers, but it offers little to justify the premium over less expensive tablets from Amazon.

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