Considering all of the strides sustainable construction has made in recent years, tiny homes have come a long way. Primarily built to cut carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases released during construction work, tiny homes generally come prefabricated without an underground foundation for an overall minimal impact on the environment. Bringing their interpretation into the mix, UOOU Studio, an eco-centric architecture studio, recently unveiled their own tiny home that boasts an energy-efficient and modular design.
Dubbed Micro Home, UOOU Studio developed the tiny home to be anything from a weekend retreat to a remote office space. Micro Home’s versatility comes through with its convertible roof that incorporates sliding awnings to open and close throughout the day as needed. This means that the space can transform throughout the day from a sunbathing bungalow to a sheltered home office. Micro Home is constructed off site with sustainable building materials like wood and OSB paneling, leaving a low carbon footprint and making it lightweight for easy shipping and handling. After it’s been positioned into place, Micro Home’s roof is tiled with solar panels to generate the home with power. While the building material and solar panels outfit each individual Micro Home, UOOU Studio made it so that owners can customize the interior and overall shape of their Micro Home.
Before the construction process begins, owners are able to choose between a more durable metal cladding and locally sourced wood cladding that gives Micro Home a timeless, more versatile look. Meanwhile, natural OSB panels line the interior walls of Micro Home, giving the inside an organic feel, while the exterior wooden panels can be painted any color the owner chooses. After being positioned into place, Micro Home’s interior is furnished with modular and foldable furniture pieces to optimize the space available. Similarly, Micro Home’s outdoor patio space is created through modular canopies and can be increased by installing additional overhead canopies, reaching 30 feet in extra space.
Plug the Hello X3 in the top left corner of any display (or any flat surface) and suddenly you have a stylus-capable screen that you can draw on, annotate against, and present with.
Up until just 5 minutes ago, I was ready to throw a little over a grand at a new, 12.9-inch M1 iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil. I’m honestly reconsidering now after stumbling across this $120 gadget that transforms any flat surface into a stylus-friendly touchscreen. Titled the YELANG Hello X3, this 3-axis-shaped device plugs onto the corner of any flat rectangular surface (although it’s much more useful when mounted on a display), practically turning it into an iPad. The Hello X3 works with displays as large as 27-inches, and comes along with a pressure-sensitive stylus too to rival the Apple Pencil.
Currently in its third generation (hence the X3 suffix), the Hello X3 expands on what its previous generations could do. It comes with a camera-sensor that can now read surface areas that are anywhere between 10-27 inches, has 2mm precision (which is alright, to be honest), a 120 fps response time, and here’s the best part, compatibility with both Macintosh and Windows-based systems. Just plug it onto your iMac or your Windows desktop monitor and you’ve got yourself a massive tablet PC that you can sketch on, make models in, edit documents, sign papers, or even use in a bunch of other productivity apps and softwares. If you’re traveling, the Hello X3 plugs right off and is portable enough to be carried right in your bag along with the stylus.
The Hello X3’s universal design is perhaps its biggest selling point, but it’s also matched by the fact that setting it up on a new device is ridiculously simple. Just pop the gadget on the top-left of the screen (it works with left-handed as well as right-handed users), plug it in via USB, and you’re ready to calibrate it. To calibrate the Hello X3 to your screen, just tap the 4 corners of the display with the stylus and you’re done. The stylus is thick and grippy like a marker or a fountain-pen, and sports a pressure-sensitive tip that can make thicker strokes if you press harder and thinner strokes if you lightly touch a surface. In just minutes, your 4K monitor turns into a graphics tablet.
The Hello X3 works with regular surfaces too. If you’re not really comfortable with drawing on vertical surfaces (which, let’s face it, can get uncomfortable), just plug the Hello X3 onto a drawing pad or a clipboard and you’ve got yourself a makeshift tablet PC (remember the Wacom Intuos?). This setup works rather well when you’re using a projector too, instead of a laptop or a desktop monitor. Each Hello X3 comes along with its own drawing-board for good measure, and a stand for your stylus when it’s not in use. The stylus has a standby time of 120 days, and a use-time of 4 hours, although it charges completely in just under 30 minutes. The YELANG Hello X3 is currently in its final hours of funding and is set to ship as early as September. Grab it at its special early-bird price of $120 on Kickstarter!
Created using Katsushika Hokusai’s iconic The Great Wave off Kanagawa woodblock print, this is a cat scratcher in a 3D form of the masterpiece. Released by the Cat Club division of Japanese lifestyle brand Felissimo, the scratcher sells for around $90. It’s certainly not the cheapest cat scratcher, but it does look like it belongs in a museum.
The scratcher measures approximately 24″ long, 16″ tall, and 8″ deep, and Felissimo insists that not only is it a great scratching post, but the concave shape of the wave makes it a good place to curl up and take a cat nap as well. I’m already yawning just thinking about it.
So, is this going to be the first in a series of fine art turned cat scratchers? Only time will tell. Well time, and people’s willingness to spend money on them. I feel like the cost of anything I buy for my cat is inversely proportional to how much she actually uses it. At $90 I doubt this will even warrant a second glance. The box it’s shipped in? She’ll sleep in it for years.
Spotify is reportedly “considering” expanding into events, according to . The outlet reports the company could sell tickets for both virtual and live concerts as it looks to diversify its business.However, making money off of ticketed events isn’t necessarily Spotify’s short-term goal. Its more immediate plan is to use them as a way to improve its relationship with artists.
The Information suggests Spotify thinks there’s an opportunity to leverage the data it has to help musicians plan successful concerts in places most promoters avoid. In this way, the company is said to believe it can better show those artists it’s invested in their careers. It would also be a way for it to differentiate its platform from Apple Music.
Spotify has already dabbled in live events. This past spring, the company featuring artists like The Black Keys and Leon Bridges. It sold tickets to those shows for $15 each. The Information reports the results of those concerts “validated” Spotify’s thinking on what events could do for it in the future, and it’s been thinking about next steps ever since. Of course, we wouldn't say that makes an expansion is a done deal. Selling tickets to concerts might make a lot of sense for a music streaming platform, but it would still represent a massive business shift for Spotify.
“Well begun is half the work done!” says Varenya Raj, the designer behind Nidra, a radio that helps people monitor their mood when they wake up.
Right off the back, Nidra looks quite unlike most bedside radios. It sports a half-log-shaped design with a plush button on one end, a soft carpet on another, and a printer in between. The idea behind the Nidra stems from starting your day off on the right note. If you wake up in a less-than-ideal mood, whack the cushion as you would at a game of whack-a-mole, and Nidra plays out positive news. If you’re in a pretty good mood when you wake up, gently stroke the velvety carpet, and Nidra plays news across different categories. At the end of the month, the radio prints out a little docket letting you know where your mood’s been over the last 30 days, helping you chart your sleep schedule as well as mental and emotional wellbeing.
The idea for Nidra stemmed from the concept of ‘time being equal to money’. Created as the ultimate productivity tool (because you’re much more productive and focused when you’re in a good mood), Nidra’s aim was to help office-goers have a better overview of their overall mental health. Needless to say, Nidra’s appeal has vastly evolved thanks to the pandemic, and it’s now more of a general mental-health tool. Strike it on your bad days for a pick-me-up, stroke it on your good days for general news, and Nidra charts how you’ve felt over the past month. It prints out a tiny slip for you to analyze and hopefully retrospect over, so your next month is better than your last.
On the inside, the Nidra contains a button, a force-sensing resistor, a thermal printer, a speaker, and an Arduino UNO computer that powers the device. The button’s designed to be pretty large and cushioned, so you could easily slam it while half-asleep, while the FSR comes with a soft, fluffy cloth similar to dog-fur. Depending on which part of Nidra you interact with, the interactions are inputted and received by the Arduino PC which processes it and appropriately chooses an RSS-based news feed to read out. A tiny button on front of the device lets you control Nidra’s volume too!
Following last year’s , Twitch users can now access the platform’s "Watch Parties" feature on Android and iOS devices. Watch Parties allow Twitch users to stream content from Amazon Prime Video much like they would a video game. Viewers can follow along with the TV show or movie as it unfolds and take part in chat.
Watch Parties are now rolling out on an Android or iOS device near you.
Previously, Watch Parties were only available through Twitch’s web client. As you might imagine, there are some to prevent people from watching Prime Video content for free. To start, both the person streaming the video and watching it need an active Prime Video subscription to take part. Regional restrictions also apply, so someone can’t stream a TV show or movie that’s not available in their local Prime Video library. But even when you take those restrictions into consideration, there aren’t a lot of features out there that match what Twitch has with Watch Parties. After all, it’s something the company can only offer because it’s .
Maine has passed the strongest statewide law regulating government use of facial recognition to date. The state’s House and Senate voted unanimously in favor of rules that prohibit law enforcement from using the technology unless they have probable cause that an unidentified person in an image committed a serious crime. Once the law goes into effect later this year, it will also limit how police conduct facial ID searches. They won’t have direct access to the tech. Instead, they’ll need to go through the FBI and Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) in the few instances where they’re sanctioned to use it.
Additionally, the law affords citizens the right to sue the state if they believe a government agency has used the technology unlawfully. It also prohibits Maine from deploying facial recognition systems in schools, and mandates that both Maine State Police and the BMV will need to maintain public records of search requests from law enforcement.
has requested the recusal of Federal Trade Commission Chair from the agency's antitrust investigations into the company. "Amazon.com, Inc. respectfully petitions the commission for recusal of Chair Lina Khan from any antitrust investigation, adjudication, litigation, or other proceeding in which Amazon is a subject, target or defendant for which Chair Khan's prior public statements create the appearance of her having prejudged facts and/or legal issues relevant to the proceeding," the company said in a 25-page filing.
President Joe Biden appointed Khan as FTC chair this month on the same day . She came to prominence as a critic of major tech companies, including Amazon. Khan published a Yale Law Journal article in 2017 titled "Amazon's Antitrust Paradox," in which she argued that US policies and laws weren't enough to keep giants like Amazon accountable.
"Given her long track record of detailed pronouncements about Amazon, and her repeated proclamations that Amazon has violated the antitrust laws, a reasonable observer would conclude that she no longer can consider the company’s antitrust defenses with an open mind,” Amazon said in the filing, as notes.
The FTC is as part of a series of investigations against major tech companies. The agency is also reviewing Amazon's plan to for $8.45 billion.
Khan previously worked with the House Judiciary's antitrust subcommittee on a 16-month probe into Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Last year, Democrats on the panel called on Congress to consider . During her confirmation hearing, Khan said she would speak with FTC ethics officials regarding a possible recusal if needed.
If you’re thinking of checking out the public beta for yourself, make sure you’ve considered the risk of running preview software. Those who simply can't wait for a stable public version of the upcoming platform can sign up for Apple's beta program and install the builds now, provided you have an Apple Watch Series 3 or newer, along with an iPhone running the iOS 15 beta.
Mindfulness, health and fitness
Apple's new health-centric features could interest those looking for a more holistic approach to wellbeing. The company has renamed its Breathe app to Mindfulness, adding "Reflect" to the existing breathing exercises. You can set each Reflect session's duration from one to five minutes. A prompt appears before each session to help you focus your thoughts, along with a button to begin.
So far, I've seen prompts similar to other meditation guides that tell you to be aware of your thoughts and let them pass without judgment. Some other examples include "Think of someone you care about. Imagine you can feel your connection with them" and "Consider the values that matter to you in something you’re focused on."
Then, a colorful swirling animation takes up the screen. I usually just lean back and close my eyes at this point, but if you continue to stare at your watch, the animation is a nice distraction that's almost hypnotizing. When your time is up, the watch vibrates and shows a closing thought tied to the opening prompt, like "Bring this sense of open awareness with you." You'll also see your heart rate and your total Mindful minutes for the day (which includes time spent doing Breathe exercises). After two Mindfulness sessions, my Apple Watch SE said my pulse plummeted from 64 to 47bpm, which is great, I guess.
It does at times feel like a glorified timer, meets fortune cookie, meets Magic 8 Ball, all set to Windows Media Player visualizations. But combined with reminders throughout the day that you can customize, Mindfulness can be a valuable tool for checking in with yourself and your state of mind.
A few other health-centric additions to watchOS include two new Workout categories: Tai Chi and Pilates. I've yet to do a session of either exercise so I can't say how accurately Apple tracks these yet. There are also a couple more features I need more time to get a better sense for, like respiratory rate tracking overnight and walking steadiness. To be clear, the latter isn't specifically a watchOS feature — it uses your iPhone stashed somewhere on your body, but I thought to include it as part of Apple's health updates here. Walking steadiness requires at least two weeks of testing before delivering an assessment, so it'll take some time before I get results.
Messaging, new apps and integration with iPhone
A big part of the watchOS 8 update is improved communications tools and integration with your iPhone. Notably, the Messages app now allows you to compose via Scribble, Dictate and Emojis all within the same screen. I scrawled out part of a message, dictated longer parts of it, and added emoji from one page easily. Editing is also less of a hassle than before, thanks in large part to the ability to use the Digital Crown to control the cursor. Hallelujah! Scrolling back to insert a space or fix a stray "v" got so much easier.
Additionally, there's a new option now to send GIFs in Messages, from the same place you'd send a Digital Touch (just hit the search glass button and type in your keyword).
Communicating with people is also easier now thanks to the new Contacts app, which lets you find specific friends more quickly. If you've set one of iOS 15's new Focus modes on your iPhone, the same settings will apply to your watch. People and apps that have been blocked will remain muted on your wrist, and a symbol at the top of the screen indicates which Focus mode is active.
Contacts isn't the only new app for watchOS 8. Apple is also redesigning Home to make interacting with your connected appliances easier, and bringing Find Items, Find Devices, and Tips to your wrist. The new OS will also add support for ultra-wideband to enable more precise car key functions like spatial awareness. Plus, the update lets you use your Watch as a key for hotels and offices in addition to your home and car, though naturally it only works with compatible buildings and locks. I haven't had a chance to test those features yet.
Like its counterpart on iOS, the watchOS Wallet app will also support adding your driver's License, which you can use in participating states and agencies in the US when that's more broadly rolled out. In addition to privacy and security concerns around Apple storing your ID on your device, there are also questions here about how likely law enforcers or various authorities are to welcome these digital cards. But that's not something I was able to test with this preview build, given this feature is not accepted in most places at the moment.
Portrait watch faces, multiple timers and Fitness+
In addition, I tried out a few other new features on the watchOS 8 beta: portrait watch faces and multiple timers. Similar to how you could create a Photos face for Apple Watch before, hit Share on a picture on your iPhone, then tap Create Watch Face. If you want the faux depth-of-field effect on your wrist, you'll need to pick an image shot using your phone's Portrait mode. The effect will animate when you rotate the watch dial. Currently, there are only three clock styles available for these, and I found "Modern" the least offensive. You can also add a single complication to Portrait faces.
As for multiple timers: It works. I set a countdown for three minutes, then hit back and set another for a minute. They both went off without a hitch. It's funny that something as simple as this took eight whole updates to get, but at least it's here. Those who use their Apple Watch for cooking timers will appreciate this one.
Finally, this isn't quite a watchOS update but since you need an Apple Watch to use Fitness+, the two are intertwined. When you use Fitness+ on your iPhone or iPad, you'll now be able to watch the exercise videos in Picture-in-Picture mode. I was also able to resize the panel that was overlaid atop my other apps simply by pinching to zoom.
This isn't the biggest update to watchOS, but Apple has made some subtle improvements to its communication apps and it's also tightened its iPhone integration. I also appreciate the attention paid to different takes on health and wellbeing. There are still more features to test, like walking steadiness and ID support, but for now the watchOS 8 beta feels like a thoughtful, if small, update.
Update (at 7:45pm ET): This article was edited to clarify that Walking Steadiness is an iOS 15 feature, not a watchOS 8 feature.
AT&T is the latest carrier to make Messages by Google the default messaging service for all customers on Android devices. The move will replace the default messaging system, SMS, with Rich Communication Services technology, an open standard that prioritizes media, eliminates character limits, and generally upgrades the traditional texting experience.
RCS unlocks the ability to share full-resolution photos and send larger media files than SMS can handle, it streamlines group chats, enables end-to-end encryption for one-on-one conversations, and it works over Wi-Fi or data. The transition for AT&T customers will take place soon, according to Google.
Google has been nudging the mobile industry toward RCS for years, and it's finally catching on. T-Mobile is making the switch to Messages by Google, and therefore RCS messaging, by the end of the year, and now AT&T is doing the same.
However, Verizon hasn't announced plans to adopt RCS — and neither has Apple, for that matter.