Apple Watch Ultra teardown confirms it’s rugged, but not easily repaired

The Apple Watch Ultra is built to survive outdoors adventures, but you'll want to forget about repairing it yourself if you take a tumble. iFixit has completed a video teardown indicating that the Ultra isn't significantly more repairable than its regular counterparts. While there are external screws on the back, you're going to wreck a waterproofing gasket if you pry the rear open. And don't even think of getting through the front — it's difficult to avoid breaking the screen, at least without special tools.

It's also tricky to access the battery and other components. The teardown also illustrates just how much larger the speaker array is on the Apple Watch Ultra compared to the Series 8. Even if you're unlikely to ever use the siren feature those speakers are meant for, it should help with call quality and other audio-driven apps.

This isn't the advancement in fix-it-yourself friendliness you saw in the base iPhone 14, then. You'll need to take this to a pro repair shop if you land badly during a hike. Even so, iFixit is optimistic the Watch Ultra represents a path toward more repairable Apple wristwear. While it's not clear if future smartwatches will make that leap, it won't be shocking given mounting political pressure on the tech industry to create more easily maintained devices.

Aphex Twin’s free ‘sample mashing’ app feeds on your music library

Aphex Twin is finally ready to offer his mutation-driven music software to the world. Pitchforknotes Aphex Twin (aka Richard James) and engineer Dave Griffiths have released Samplebrain, a free "sample mashing" app that turns audio files from your computer into sample blocks you can use for projects. You can recreate a sample using tracks in your music library, or craft a "303 riff" from unexpected sounds.

The app is available in ready-to-use versions for Mac and Windows computers. You can build a Linux-friendly edition as well. As Pitchfork warns, you may need some technical know-how to use the app — this isn't for rookie musicians.

Samplebrain has been a long time coming, to put it mildly. James said he first envisioned the app in 2002, back when Drukqs was his latest release. He revealed that he'd hired an engineer to work on the software in 2014 (when he returned to music with Syro), but didn't say much else until now. There's a good reason for that, apparently. James and Griffiths realized the project became "slightly out of control" as they added more and more parameters, and James admitted he hasn't had much time to "explore [Samplebrain] properly." This is a bid to finally put the tool in creators' hands, even if it's in a rough form.

Xbox controllers are up to 26 percent off at Amazon

Now is a good moment to buy a second Xbox controller for your local multiplayer games — or a livelier-looking replacement for the gamepad you already have. Amazon is selling the Xbox Core Wireless Controller for up to 26 percent off. The white model is the most affordable of the bunch at $45 (normally $60), but you'll also find significant savings for the blue, red and Electric Volt (read: neon green) variants.

Buy Xbox Core Wireless Controller at Amazon - $45

If you own an Xbox Series X or Series S, you know what to expect. The Core Wireless Controller largely offers Microsoft's years-old layout, just with an Elite-style circular directional pad (better for fighting games and some other titles), a share button and better grip. It's not as clever as Sony's PS5-oriented DualSense, but it's comfortable, offers Bluetooth support and lasts up to three days on AA batteries. It's clearly the gamepad of choice if you want to use an official design and don't want to pay the premium for Elite Series 2.

As you'd guess, you won't get any frills with these gamepads like you would with the Elite or some third-party pads. You won't find swappable covers or sticks, a luxurious feel or other upgrades catering to the most dedicated gamers. At these sale prices, though, the Xbox Core Wireless lineup is an easy choice when you just need an extra controller for your child or the occasional sports game showdown.

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Netflix is building its own game studio

Netflix is no longer relying exclusively on third-party teams to bolster its game catalog. The streaming giant is forming an in-house game studio in Helsinki, Finland to create "world-class" original games without ads or in-app purchases. While it's too soon for details of the games themselves, Zynga and EA alumnus Marko Lastikka will serve as director.

Helsinki is a good fit as the home to some of the "best game talent" on the planet, according to Netflix. This includes The Walking Dead mobile developer Next Games (which Netflix bought in March). Netflix has purchased multiple developers, including Boss Fight and Oxenfree creator Night School Studio, but hasn't built a developer from scratch until now.

You won't see the first fruits of this internal studio for "years," Netflix says. Still, this and recent acquisitions show how the company's gaming strategy is evolving. Where Netflix initially depended on outsiders' games, including slightly tweaked versions of existing titles, it's increasingly focused on truly unique projects you won't find elsewhere. In theory, more people will subscribe to Netflix with the game library in mind.

Watch NASA crash DART into an asteroid at 6PM ET

NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft is about to crash into the asteroid Dimorphos, and you'll have plenty of options to follow along as it happens. The space agency is livestreaming coverage of the DART collision starting at 6PM Eastern, and you can tune into either a full presentation or a dedicated stream from the craft's DRACO (Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical Navigation) instrument. That last feed will show one image per second up to the moment of impact. The vehicle is expected to smash into Dimorphos at about 7:14PM, although its distance from Earth will delay the footage you see.

You aren't tied to official sources, either. The Virtual Telescope Project will host its own stream starting at 6:30PM ET. It's teaming up with two South African observatories to provide an Earth-bound view of the collision. The Didymos asteroid system (where Dimorphos is a moonlet) will just be a dot, but you should see it flare up after DART makes contact.

DART will gauge the viability of using spacecraft to deflect asteroids, comets and other objects that might otherwise strike Earth. If all goes well, it will show that NASA can use autonomous vehicles as defensive systems and confirm the results using ground telescopes. Dimorphos is an ideal candidate due to both its relative proximity and the lack of threats — NASA won't inadvertently create the very calamity it's trying to avoid.

This won't be the only mission headed to the Didymos system, either. The European Space Agency expects its Hera mission to reach Didymos by 2026, when it will study DART's effects on Dimorphos. If there are any questions left after tonight's one-way flight, they should be answered within a few years.

UK warns TikTok of £27 million fine over child privacy violations

TikTok isn't just facing financial penalties in the US over claimed child privacy breaches. The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has warned TikTok that it might face a £27 million (about $29.2 million) fine after the watchdog determined that the social network may have broken data protection law by "failing to protect" kids' privacy between May 2018 and July 2020. The company may have handled the data of children under 13 without parental consent, processed "special category" data (such as ethnicity, sexual orientation or health) without a legal foundation and didn't offer necessary information to users in a "concise, transparent and easily understood" fashion.

ICO began investigating TikTok in February 2019, soon after the US' Federal Trade Commission fined the social media heavyweight $5.7 million over reported child privacy infringements. At the time, the UK overseer was concerned about both TikTok's "completely open" direct messaging as well as its transparency tools. Sexual predators were found messaging users as young as eight years old, and it was relatively easy for kids to bypass the app's age gate.

The office stressed that these were preliminary findings, and that there was no definitive conclusion that TikTok broke the law or will pay a fine. ICO added it would "carefully consider" TikTok's stance before making a final decision. We've asked the company for comment, and will let you know if we hear back.

There's mounting pressure on TikTok to protect kids. In the US, members of Congress and state attorneys general are grilling TikTok over possible harms to child users, including attempts to keep them riveted to using the app. A UK fine might not be the end of the company's troubles, at least until politicians and regulators are satisfied it's keeping young people safe.

Google Home can now use Nest speakers to detect your presence

Google Home no longer needs to lean solely on smart home devices like thermostats to know whether or not you're around. Home's optional presence sensing feature can now use interactions with Nest speakers and smart displays to help detect activity in your abode, letting it perform automated actions. If you talk to your Nest Audio or tap your Nest Hub, for instance, Google may know to turn the lights on. Second-gen Nest Hubs can also use their Soli radar sensor to tell when you're close.

You can enable presence sensing in the Google Home app for Android and iOS by visiting the Features section in the settings. Detection is strictly opt-in, and Google stresses that ambient noise won't trigger presence cues. Cameras, doorbells and the Nest Hub Max won't switch devices between "home" and "away" modes.

Google Home presence sensing settings on Android
Google

The expansion makes presence detection considerably more useful. Until now, you needed a Nest Guard, Nest Protect, Nest Thermostat or Nest x Yale smart lock in tandem with your phone's location. While those are frequently good indicators, they don't always tell the full story — you might lock the door when someone is still at home. The use of speakers and displays could make Google's smart home automation more reliable, particularly in unusual scenarios.

How to stream tonight’s historic Yankees-Red Sox game on Apple TV+ for free

Don't panic that you might miss out on tonight's potentially legendary match-up between the Yankees and Red Sox just because it's on Apple TV+ — there's a good chance you can tune in for free. Apple is streaming the game at no charge as part of its weekly Friday Night Baseball feature, with coverage starting at 6:25PM Eastern and the action starting in earnest at 7PM. It'll require a little bit of work and a compatible device, but you too can see if Aaron Judge will break Roger Maris' American League home run record. Here's how to watch.

You'll need to either sign into or create a free Apple ID account at the Apple TV+ website or a supporting app. You may be prompted to add a credit card, but Apple won't charge you for this or any Friday Night Baseball game. The service is available on the web for Android- and computer-based viewers. iPhone, iPad and Mac users can also try the native app.

You also have many choices for watching in the living room. On top of Apple TV boxes, you can also tune into the Yankees-Red Sox game using the app for recent smart TVs from Samsung, LG, Sony, HiSense, Panasonic and Vizio. PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S owners can also watch, as can people with Fire TV, Google TV and Roku media players. Receivers for Comcast's Xfinity and T-Mobile's Magenta TV similarly offer Apple TV+ apps.

The free viewing might just head off some controversy. New York State Attorney General Letitia James has been worried enough about the TV+ exclusive to issue a statement asking Apple and the MLB to make the game available on the Yankees-oriented YES Network, calling the deal "wrong and unfair." However, James incorrectly claimed people need to "pay extra" to watch — if you're reading her press release or tweet (i.e. you have internet access), you can stream the potentially history-making showdown at no charge. The exclusive is only really a problem if all your devices are too old to use either the app or the web client.

VW’s latest concept is a self-driving travel pod that can replace short flights

Many automakers dream of self-driving cars that are effectively lounges on wheels, but VW is taking things one step further. The brand has unveiled a Gen.Travel "design study" EV that it hopes could replace short flights. The four-person travel pod would be completely autonomous (that is, SAE Level 5) and revolve around a modular interior that can be customized for each trip. Businesspeople could work at a conference table during a ride, while red-eye travellers could use two seats that convert into beds.

The Gen.Travel could also be more comfortable than even some nicer airline seats. Dynamic lighting would not only help maintain natural sleep cycles, but reduce motion sickness. A configuration with front seats could keep children (and let's be honest, adults) entertained with augmented reality. While the bubble-like cabin is built to maximize your view of the outdoors, it promises both safety and isolation for sleeping passengers.

VW Gen.Travel interior for business
Volkswagen

VW didn't outline performance. However, it said that a combination of AI and platooning (automated driving in convoys) could extend the range.

This is a research project meant to test driverless pods as "mobility-as-a-service" options. You probably won't ever sit in the Gen.Travel. It's a real prototype, though, and VW says features might find their way into production cars. We wouldn't count on all of them reaching the self-driving machines VW expects to make from 2025 onward, but don't be surprised if future robotaxis seem very familiar.

Robotic sleeves can provide arm control to kids with cerebral palsy

Children with cerebral palsy might soon use technology to gain some independence. UC Riverside researchers are developing robotic sleeves that provide arm control to kids with cerebral palsy-related mobility issues. Rather than augment the arm like an exoskeleton, the technology will use voltage sensors to detect muscle contractions and predict what the wearer wants to do, like bend the elbow. Inflatable bladders will then push the arm toward the intended destination.

Soft robotics will play an important role. Scientists are building the sleeves using elastic, nylon and other material that will not only be more comfortable, but promises to lower the costs. The creators also hope to minimize the use of electronics.

The project is still in the early stages and is expected to run for four years, with the research team holding yearly feedback meetings with patients, families and therapists. If all goes well, though, kids with cerebral palsy will perform everyday tasks like brushing their teeth without needing help from their parents or a special caretaker. Project head Jonathan Realmuto adds that the technology is "universal" — future iterations could assist anyone with mobility issues, including adults.