A pregnant worker and labor activist says Amazon made her pick up trash alone

Two Amazon employees have accused the company of retaliating against them for their efforts to organize workers at a warehouse in Liverpool, New York. Ashley Mercer and Jason Main filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on May 17th.

According to Vice News, Amazon tasked Mercer last week with picking up cigarette butts, broken glass and other discarded trash in the parking lot of its SYR1 warehouse in Liverpool. Mercer told the outlet her manager sent her out alone and without water or sunscreen on a day when the temperature went above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Making the optics of the situation worse, Mercer is about six months pregnant, putting her at the end of her second trimester. “Approved for 10 hours parking lot clean-up,” an accommodation report obtained by Vice states. 

On the same day, the company suspended Mercer's partner, Jason Main, who is also named in the NLRB complaint. Amazon later fired him for reportedly not using a step stool for moving merchandise. Mercer and Main have both been involved in agitating on behalf of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) at a variety of warehouses in New York. Additionally, the two have come to work at the Liverpool facility wearing ALU-branded shirts and masks, while Mercer has also done the same at two warehouses in nearby Syracuse, and passed out leaflets at JFK8, the Staten Island facility that became the first unionized Amazon warehouse in the US last month.

“It wasn't until I started mentioning that I am part of Amazon Labor Union that they pulled me out of my position and put me outside the building,” Mercer told Vice. “I think it’s retaliation because I’m a big part of [the ALU] and it feels like as soon as you bring up the union, they treat you differently.”

We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment.

Amazon has yet to recognize the ALU. In April, the company challenged the result of the JFK8 vote, accusing the organization of threatening employees unless they voted to unionize. It also recently fired two employees who were involved in organizing that facility, and ALU itself was born out of the company’s termination of founder Christian Smalls, a former worker at the JFK8 facility.

Ubisoft’s free-to-play ‘Roller Champions’ heads to PC and consoles on May 25th

After it first unveiled the game at E3 2019, Ubisoft will finally release Roller Champions on May 25th, the publisher announced today. The free-to-play title will be available on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – as well as Xbox Series X/S and PS5 through backward compatibility – to start, with availability on Nintendo Switch, Stadia and Amazon Luna to follow later. Roller Champions supports both cross-platform play and progression, so you can not only group up with your friends no matter where they download the game, but your progress will also carry over between systems.

Roller Champions pits you and two other players against a competing team of three in a variation on classic roller derby. Going into each match, your goal is to be the first team to score five points. You earn a single point or more by skating around an oval track and maintaining control of a ball before taking a shot at the goal. Complicating things is the fact that the players on the opposing team can tackle you to take possession of the ball. Each match lasts about seven minutes, and there’s an external progression system where you can earn gear for your in-game avatar. Ubisoft will sell premium passes players can complete to earn cosmetics that aren’t available through the game’s item shop.

Democratic lawmakers want FTC to investigate controversial identity firm ID.me

A group of Democratic lawmakers led by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate ID.me, the controversial identification company best known for its work with the Internal Revenue Service. In a letter addressed to FTC Chair Lina Khan, the group suggests the firm misled the American public about the capabilities of its facial recognition technology.

Specifically, lawmakers point to a statement ID.me made at the start of the year. After CEO Blake Hall said the company did not use one-to-many facial recognition, an approach that involves matching images against those in a database, ID.me backtracked on those claims. It clarified it uses a “specific” one-to-many check during user enrollment to prevent identity theft.

Following that statement, the IRS began to distance itself from ID.me, announcing it would reconsider its use of the platform in late January. It subsequently began allowing taxpayers to authenticate their identity without the use of facial recognition. But as the letter points out, many state and federal agencies continue to require Americans to submit photos and documents to ID.me before they can access vital services, including unemployment insurance.

“Americans have particular reason to be concerned about the difference between these two types of facial recognition,” the senators write of ID.me’s turnaround, noting a one-to-many approach inevitably means millions of people will have their photographs “endlessly” accessed. “Not only does this violate individuals’ privacy, but the inevitable false matches associated with one-to-many recognition can result in applicants being wrongly denied desperately-needed services for weeks or even months as they try to get their case reviewed.”

In making the statements it did, the group is asking the FTC to determine whether ID.me committed “deceptive and unfair business practices.” The company already faces an investigation from the House Oversight and Reform Committee. In a statement it shared with Bloomberg, ID.me declined to comment on the specific concerns mentioned in the letter from Senator Wyden. Instead, the company pointed to its track record of preventing unemployment fraud.

“ID.me played a critical role in stopping that attack in more than 20 states where the service was rapidly adopted for its equally important ability to increase equity and verify individuals left behind by traditional options,” the company said. “We look forward to cooperating with all relevant government bodies to clear up any misunderstandings.”

Twitter is now testing its Spaces tab on Android too

Last fall, Twitter began testing a dedicated Spaces tab within the iOS version of its mobile app. The tab, as you can probably guess even if you don’t have access to an iPhone, allows users to see a curated list of active live audio rooms, with the option to filter them based on your interests.

On Wednesday, Twitter announced it was expanding the test to include Android users. If you have access to the trial, you can open the Spaces tab by tapping the newly added microphone icon at the bottom of the interface. As before, the tab is only available in English for the time being.

Since Twitter began testing live audio in late 2020, the company has gone on to iterate on the format at a fast clip. What started as a relatively sparse offering has in recent months gained features like audio recording. This past, Twitter also added the option for users to share co-hosting duties. Those all came as the company worked to give all users the option to host a Space.

Hacktivists are spam calling Russian officials and they want your help

The invasion of Ukraine has seen hacktivists from around the world come to the aid of the country in its war against Russia, with groups like Anonymous carrying out DDoS attacks against Kremlin-affiliated websites. But as far as we know, Russian government officials haven’t had to contend with a flood of spam calls. That changed on Wednesday with the launch of a website called WasteRussianTime.today.

Created by a hacktivist collective known as Obfuscated Dreams of Scheherazade (a reference to Arabic folklore), the website connects two random Russian officials in a three-way call so you can listen to the confusion (and annoyance) that ensues. The group claims its database contains more than 5,000 Russian government phone numbers, including ones linked to the country’s FSB intelligence agency. The group describes its actions as a “civil intervention,” noting “if you are hanging on the phone, you canʼt drop bombs, you canʼt coordinate soldiers, you canʼt make invasion plans.”

Outside of listening, you can’t participate in the call. That’s a deliberate decision the group told Wired it made to protect the identity of anyone who ends up using the website. If you can’t speak to the people on the other end, you won’t have the opportunity to give up identifying information.

How Russia might respond to the robocalls is unclear. When Engadget tried to place a call, an error message came up. “Sorry, we’re currently experiencing some issues with our phones,” it said. “Give us a few moments.” Gizmodo had better luck than us. For them, the system successfully connected a dozen Russian officials with one another, though those calls ended in static.

At the onset of the war, it was expected the Kremlin would go on a digital offensive, using its hacking expertise to weaken western infrastructure. But outside of a few incidents, it’s mostly been Russia on the defensive. In recent weeks, hackers have targeted everything from smart TVs to the country’s largest video platform in protest of the war in Ukraine.

Sony’s latest PlayStation 5 console covers arrive next month

The wait is over. Next month, Sony will release three new PlayStation 5 console covers. As you may recall, the company announced at the end of last year it would begin producing PS5 plates in five additional colors. At the time, Sony said the Midnight Black and Cosmic Red plates would go on sale at the start of 2022, with the three remaining colors – Nova Pink, Starlight Blue and Galactic Purple – to follow during the first half of the year.

Sony left the release to the last moment, but starting today customers in US, UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg can pre-order the new plates through the PlayStation Direct website – with general availability to follow on June 17th. The console covers are easy to install. All you have to do is pop off the white ones that came with your PS5 and install the new ones. You can also mix and match two different sets of plates to make your console stand out even more – though that will cost you extra to do so.

Eve’s HomeKit-only Outdoor Cam is now available for $250

After missing its originally planned April 3rd release date, Eve's Outdoor Cam is available to buy starting today. Announced at CES 2022, the company claims its latest product is the only HomeKit-exclusive floodlight camera on the market. The device works with Apple’s Secure Video framework to safely store any footage it captures on iCloud. End-to-end encryption ensures only the owner of the camera can see live video and recordings. However, that does mean you need an iPhone, iPad or Mac to use the Outdoor Cam in your home.

Outside of HomeKit exclusivity and a minimalist design, Eve’s latest camera includes all the usual features you might expect in a modern security camera. Its 157-degree field of view lens and sensor can record 1080p footage at 24 frames per second. Additionally, the Outdoor Cam includes support for two-way voice communication, and it can detect motion from up to 30 feet away with the help of infrared night vision.

You can purchase the Outdoor Cam from Eve's website for $249.95.

Ford’s Argo AI begins driverless vehicle operations in Austin and Miami

Ford’s self-driving Argo AI unit has hit a major milestone. On Tuesday, it began driverless operations in Austin and Miami. The company’s cars aren’t carrying paying customers just yet, but they’re now allowed to ferry Argo AI employees without a safety driver at the wheel. Argo called the announcement an “important step” in its plan to commercialize autonomous driving technology by providing a suite of APIs designed to allow ridesharing, delivery and logistics companies to incorporate its vehicles into their own services.

Argo is one of a handful of companies competing in the already crowded space, and a clear winner has yet to emerge. At the start of the year, GM’s Cruise began offering public driverless taxi rides in San Francisco, but when they’re not being pulled over by confused cops, the company’s cars are limited to off-peak hours. Waymo, meanwhile, recently began testing fully driverless cars in San Francisco, but its Arizona service is only partly open to those outside of its Trusted Tester program

Plant-based ‘whole’ eggs could be served in US restaurants this year

If you’re a vegan or eco-conscious consumer, there are plenty of options when you want a burger or chicken nuggets. But there aren’t many plant-based eggs. Sure, you can find powdered substitutes, but a “whole” egg with a runny yolk is a different matter. A startup wants to change that.

Yo! Egg claims to have developed the first plant-based poached and sunny-side-up eggs. Following a limited rollout in its native Israel, the company is bringing its products to the US, starting with a debut at the National Restaurant Association Show later this month. Yo! told TechCrunch it expects to have its eggs in restaurants across the Los Angeles area by the end of the year.

The company’s pitch is similar to that of other plant-based substitutes for animal products. Since its eggs are made from soy, sunflower oil, water and flour, they’re more sustainable to make. With 1 gram of protein, they’re not a one-for-one replacement for chicken eggs in terms of nutritional value, but they also don't have any cholesterol. We'll also note Yo!’s fried and poached eggs are separate products.

The company told TechCrunch it recently secured $5 million in seed funding and that it plans to use that money to scale production and start working on hard-boiled and scrambled egg products. “Our vision is to create the world’s largest egg company, not egg alternative company, and not the largest plant-based egg company, but the largest egg company without using chickens,” Yo! Egg CEO Eran Groner told the outlet.

ASUS’ Flow X16 2-in-1 gaming laptop features a 165Hz mini-LED display

ASUS has refreshed its gaming laptop lineup to add the latest components from AMD, Intel and NVIDIA. Of the two computers it announced today, the more intriguing one is the ROG Flow X16. It builds on the company’s previous gaming 2-in-1s by adding an enviable display to the mix.

The X16 will come with a mini-LED panel. According to the company, the QHD screen features a 165Hz refresh rate and a 3-millisecond pixel response time, in addition to 100 percent DCI-P3 coverage and 1,100 nits of peak brightness. With 512 local dimming zones, the X16’s display secured VESA’s DisplayHDR 1000 certification. When it comes to gaming monitors, you’ve typically have had to choose between speed and HDR performance. With the Flow X16, ASUS is promising a no-compromise display, and that’s exciting if you play a mix of competitive titles and immersive single-player games.

The ASUS Flow X16 in its
ASUS

Internally, you’ll have the option to configure the X16 with the latest Ryzen 6000 series CPUs from AMD, including the eight-core 6900HS. Also on offer are NVIDIA’s recently announced RTX Ti GPUs for laptops. ASUS hasn’t forgotten about DDR5 either. It’s possible to configure the X16 with up to 64GB of fast 4,800MHz DDR5 RAM, and as much as 2TB of PCIe storage.

To cool all those components, ASUS has equipped the Flow X16 with its “Pulsar” heatsink and an additional fan. The company says those components will help keep the computer cooler for longer. Powering everything is a 90Wh battery with fast charging support built-in, and the entire laptop weighs just under four-and-a-half pounds.

On the I/O front, you can look forward to HDMI 2.1 connectivity, allowing you to plug the Flow X16 into the latest 120Hz TVs to play games at 120 frames per second just like you would with a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. The X16 also comes with a single USB 4.0 port that can act as a DisplayPort 1.4 connection. For good measure, the laptop will also ship with stylus support and a Windows Hello-compatible Full HD web camera. Pricing on the Flow X16 will start at $1,950, increasing to $2,700 for the top-spec model.

On Tuesday, ASUS also announced an updated version of its ROG Strix Scar 17 laptop. The company claims the new "Special Edition" model features among the “most powerful” components you’ll find on a portable PC. You can configure the computer to feature Intel’s 16-core i9-12900HX CPU in combination with a GeForce RTX 3080Ti. What’s more, the SE includes a Turbo Mode, allowing both components to draw more power than they normally would, in turn boosting their performance. For cooling, the CPU and GPU feature a thermal metal interface, which ASUS claims keeps the components up to 15 degrees Celsius cooler than traditional thermal paste. Additionally, the company says the SE won’t produce more than 40 decibels of noise when in its Performance mode.

ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17 SE
ASUS

Unfortunately, the laptop won’t come with a mini-LED display like the Flow X16, but it will feature an IPS panel with a QHD resolution, 240Hz refresh rate and a 3-millisecond pixel response time. Just like the X16, it also comes with up to 64GB of 4800MHz DDR5 RAM, HDMI 2.1 connectivity and a 90Wh battery. Unique to the SE is an invisible ink finish ASUS says it spent six months developing. The finish produces a blue and green glow when under UV light. 

Pricing for the Strix Scar 17 SE starts at an eye-watering $3500. ASUS expects both models to go on sale before the end of the first half of the year.