LinkedIn adds accessibility features with the help of Microsoft’s Immersive Reader

LinkedIn is making its platform more accessible by integrating Microsoft’s Immersive Reader. The service says that, in honor of Dyslexia Awareness Month and National Disability Employment Awareness Month, it's providing users with more ways to digest articles and newsletters. That seems particularly useful at a time when LinkedIn has been embracing longer-form content.

Every article and newsletter will feature the Immersive Reader icon, which provides access to several accessibility tools. A text-to-speech function can read articles out loud. LinkedIn says that "distinguishing between words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently makes it easier for auditory learners and those with visual impairments to consume and process content." The tool supports more than 60 languages. On a similar note, Immersive Reader powers real-time translation for more than 100 languages.

GIF showing the features of LinkedIn's Immersive Reader tool, including a text-to-speech function, isolating text from other content and translation options.

Other features include one called Content Isolation. This separates the main text of an article or newsletter from everything else that's on the screen to help people focus on reading. Immersive Reader is able to isolate a line or two at a time as well. It also supports a feature called Syllable Splitting. According to LinkedIn, this breaks more complex words down into smaller components to help users understand and pronounce them.

Immersive Reader has been making its way into several Microsoft products and services over the last few years. It's been available in Office and Minecraft: Education Edition for some time. Bringing the tool to LinkedIn should make the platform easier to use for folks with dyslexia and other conditions.

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AIAIAI unveils portable wireless studio monitors with low-latency tech

AIAIAI, which is best known for its headphones, is moving into new territory with a set of wireless speakers. The Unit-4 Wireless+ studio monitors use the same low-latency tech as the Danish brand's headphones. AIAIAI suggests that they will enable folks "to create and mix music with accurate sound representation and powerful performance" wherever they might happen to be.

That suggests the speakers will be useful for those who like to make music while they're on the road, but would rather have studio monitors than headphones despite the extra bulk. (Even though they weigh a relatively paltry 2.5kg, the speakers will be more cumbersome than carrying around a set of cans.). The speakers may also be useful for garden DJ sets or any other environment in which latency is key and wired options are impractical. They will run you $800 for a pair.

These monitors employ W+ Link wireless technology, which requires the use of an X02 transmitter (you can also use Bluetooth 5.2 or a cable to connect them to an audio source). AIAIAI says they have 16ms of latency via W+ Link and deliver uncompressed audio. The system employs dual antennas and higher bandwidth than Bluetooth can handle in an effort to maintain a robust connection. The batteries will run for up to 20 hours on a single charge, the brand claims, and it will take two hours to fully recharge them.

AIAIAI Unit-4 Wireless+ studio monitors on wither side of a laptop someone is using.

AIAIAI says these speakers offer reference monitor sound. You'll be snapping up a two-way active monitor that features a four-inch high-excursion woofer and one-inch silk-dome tweeter. Thanks to a bass vent (which can also be used as a carrying handle) and tuned boosting EQ, the monitors will deliver "a clean bass extension down to 40Hz," AIAIAI claims. Since they employ a stage monitor design, you can angle the speakers horizontally to optimize the audio for your surroundings.

Using the AIAIAI Unit-4 app, you'll be able to further align the sound field with the environment you're working in. There's a customizable five-band EQ and five presets. You can use the app to adjust the brightness of the LED ring too.

Meanwhile, AIAIAI has designed the Unit-4 speakers with sustainability in mind. The main plastic components are made with 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic. The monitors have a glue-free design, so it should be easy to replace components such as the battery or speaker drivers when necessary. You'll be able to upgrade parts as well. On top of that, the Unit-4 is designed to be completely recyclable.

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Huawei and Chery Autos claim their first production EV bests the Tesla Model S

Huawei is moving deeper into the electric vehicle business with the help of Chery Autos and now we know when the first production model from their joint venture will arrive. Luxeed is slated to debut its coupe-style S7 in China in late November, according to the South China Morning Post.

Luxeed's blend of Huawei's tech and Chery’s manufacturing know-how could help the S7 to make a splash in an increasingly crowded EV market. There's clearly some confidence in the car too. “It will be superior to Tesla’s Model S in various aspects,” Richard Yu Chengdong, head of Huawei’s car unit, said at an event.

The EV's range, price and tech features weren't disclosed at the event, the South China Morning Post noted. However, it emerged in August that the S7 will be based on state-owned Chery’s E0X platform, which is designed for two-motor, all-wheel-drive EVs.

This isn't exactly Huawei's first foray into EVs. The company collaborated with automaker Seres to create the Aito brand (which Huawei now fully owns) in 2021. Aito's first all-electric model, the M5, arrived last year. Aito will start deliveries of its M9, a luxury electric SUV, in China in December. Huawei has also been supplying other automakers with its Huawei HI intelligent automotive solution that includes a 4D imaging radar and an autonomous driving platform.

Don't expect to see Luxeed's S7 make its way over to the US anytime soon, if ever, though. Huawei is still subject to sanctions in the country.

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Amazon will start charging for formerly free Alexa Guard smoke and security alerts

Amazon is paywalling more formerly free features on its smart home devices. Several months after it moved some basic Ring alarm system features behind a subscription plan, Amazon is doing something similar for several Alexa Guard functions.

Alexa Guard is a free security feature that came as standard on Echo devices. It listens out for things like alarms and intruders when you aren't at home. However, the company is shutting down Alexa Guard, as The Verge reports.

Some Alexa Guard features will remain available to everyone at no extra cost as part of the core Alexa experience. These include the Home and Away modes (for arming and disarming a Ring Alarm system) and Away Lighting, which turns on smart lights to make it seem like you're en casa.

However, you'll need to pay for the new Emergency Assist service to keep using several features. Amazon is paywalling Alexa Guard's smoke and CO alarm detection functions. You'll also soon have to pony up for a subscription if you want Alexa to keep an ear out for the sound of breaking glass, signifying a possible intruder.

There's at least some good news for Ring Protect Pro members who linked their Ring and Alexa accounts as of September 20. Those folks will get an Alexa Emergency Assist membership at no extra cost until October 31 next year. Guard Plus, which added some extra features to Alexa Guard for a monthly or annual fee, is no longer available for purchase. It was included with a Ring Protect Pro plan.

Alexa Emergency Assist currently costs $6 per month or $59 per year. However, that's listed as an introductory price that will only remain valid for everyone until January 8. After that time, non-Prime subscribers will have to pay extra for Emergency Assist. Much like Guard Plus, Alexa Emergency Assist enables users to call emergency services via the voice assistant on an Echo device.

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California governor vetoes bill for obligatory human operators in autonomous trucks

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has blocked a bill that would have required autonomous trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds (4,536kg) to have human safety drivers on board while operating on public roads. The governor said in a statement that the legislation, which California Senate members passed in a 36-2 vote, was unnecessary. Newsom believes existing laws are sufficient to ensure there's an "appropriate regulatory framework."

The governor noted that, under a 2012 law, the state's Department of Motor Vehicles collaborates with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, California Highway Patrol and other relevant bodies "to determine the regulations necessary for the safe operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads.” Newsom added that the DMV is committed to making sure rules keep up with the pace of evolving autonomous vehicle tech. "DMV continuously monitors the testing and operations of autonomous vehicles on California roads and has the authority to suspend or revoke permits as necessary to protect the public's safety," his veto message reads.

Newsom, who has a reputation for being friendly to the tech industry, reportedly faced pressure within his administration not to sign the bill. The state's Office of Business and Economic Development warned that the proposed law would lead to companies that are working on self-driving tech to move out of California.

On the other hand, as The Associated Press notes, California Labor Federation head Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher estimates that not requiring human drivers in trucks would cost around 250,000 jobs. “We will not sit by as bureaucrats side with tech companies, trading our safety and jobs for increased corporate profits," Fletcher, who called autonomous trucks dangerous, said in a statement. "We will continue to fight to make sure that robots do not replace human drivers and that technology is not used to destroy good jobs.”

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ChatGPT now supports voice chats and image-based queries

ChatGPT is getting some significant updates that will enable the chatbot to deal with voice commands and image-based queries. Users will be able to have a voice conversation with ChatGPT on Android and iOS and to feed images into it on all platforms. OpenAI is rolling out the features now. They'll be available to Plus and Enterprise users at first, with other folks gaining access to the image-based features later.

You'll need to opt in to voice conversations in the ChatGPT app (go to Settings then New Features) if you'd like to try them out. By tapping the microphone button, you'll be able to choose from five different voices.

OpenAI says the back-and-forth voice conversations are powered by a new text-to-speech model that can generate "human-like audio from just text and a few seconds of sample speech." It created the five voices with the help of professional actors. Going the other way, the company's Whisper speech recognition system converts a user's spoken words into text.

The image-based functions are intriguing too. OpenAI says you can, for instance, show the chatbot a photo of your grill and ask why it won't start, get it to help plan a meal based on a snap of what's in your fridge or prompt it to solve a math problem you take a picture of. As it happens, Microsoft highlighted the Copilot AI's ability to solve math problems in Windows during its Surface event last week.

OpenAI is using GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 to power the image recognition features. To use ChatGPT's image-based functions, tap the photo button (you'll need to tap the plus button first on iOS or Android) to take a snap or choose an existing image on your device. You can ask ChatGPT about multiple photos and use a drawing tool to focus on a specific part of the image.

In a blog post announcing the updates, OpenAI noted the potential for harm. It's possible for bad actors to mimic the voices of public figures (and everyday folks) and perhaps commit fraud. That's why OpenAI is focusing on ChatGPT voice conversations with this technology and working with select partners on other limited use cases (more on that in a moment).

As for images, OpenAI worked with Be My Eyes, a free app that blind and low-vision people can use to help them better understand their surroundings thanks to volunteers who hop into video calls with them. "Users have told us they find it valuable to have general conversations about images that happen to contain people in the background, like if someone appears on TV while you’re trying to figure out your remote control settings," OpenAI said. The company noted that it has also limited how ChatGPT can analyze and make direct statements about people that appear in images, "since ChatGPT is not always accurate and these systems should respect individuals’ privacy." It has published a paper on the safety properties of the image-based functionality, which it calls GPT-4 with vision.

ChatGPT is more effective at understanding English text in images than other languages. OpenAI says the chatbot "performs poorly" in other languages for the time being, particularly when it comes to those that use non-Roman scripts. As such, it suggests that non-English users avoid using ChatGPT to deal with text in images for now.

Meanwhile, Spotify has teamed up with OpenAI to use the voice-based technology for an interesting purpose. The former has announced a pilot of a tool called Voice Translation for podcasters. This can translate podcasts into different languages using the voices of the folks who appear on the show. Spotify says the tool can retain the speech characteristics of the original speaker after converting their voice into other languages.

To start with, Spotify is converting select English-based shows into a few languages. Spanish versions of some Armchair Expert and The Diary of a CEO with Steven Bartlett episodes are available now, with French and German variants to follow.

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The FTC may file an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon as soon as next week

The Federal Trade Commission looks set to drag Amazon into another legal battle between the two sides. The agency is preparing to file an antitrust suit against Amazon as soon as next week, according to Bloomberg. Reuters reports that the FTC has sent a draft complaint to attorneys general in an attempt to get as many states as possible on board with its case.

The details of the long-awaited legal challenge are not known as yet. It's anticipated that the FTC will take aim at Amazon Prime, as well as claims that Amazon pushes third-party sellers to use its logistics and advertising services. The FTC is also said to believe that Amazon has rules to prevent products from being sold for less on rival platforms, which could be a factor in the suit (California has sued Amazon over that alleged practice).

The FTC has been scrutinizing Amazon for several years. If it files suit next week, that will mark the fourth action it has taken against the company this year. In May, the agency sued Amazon over children's privacy concerns related to Alexa and claims that it was snooping on Ring users. Amazon paid a total of $30.8 million to quickly settle charges in both cases.

The following month, the FTC filed another complaint against Amazon, this time claiming that the company coerced people into signing up for a Prime subscription then making it difficult for them to cancel. That case is still ongoing. This week, the agency added three Amazon executives as defendants. It claims those individuals rebuffed pleas from Amazon employees to stop using deceptive tactics to trick people into signing up for a recurring payment through Prime.

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Samsung leaks its upcoming Fan Edition devices, including a phone, tablet and earbuds

Eagle-eyed visitors to Samsung's Argentinian website have spotted something a little unexpected — a product page for new Galaxy Buds FE earbuds, along with images of a Galaxy S23 FE smartphone and Galaxy Tab S9 FE tablet. That's because the company leaked its latest Fan Edition devices, as noted by SamMobile. One of the smartphone images includes the date October 4 on the device, which could be a nod toward the announcement or a release date.

The company hasn't let slip any specs for the phone and tablet as yet. However, the Galaxy S23 FE and Galaxy Tab S9 FE were reportedly mentioned by name on the page. This is about as close as Samsung can get to a formal announcement without a press release or an Unpacked.

The product page (which Samsung has taken down) did mention some details about the Galaxy Buds FE, Samsung's first Fan Edition earbuds. They're slated to have a single 12mm driver, three microphones in each earbud to bolster the active noise cancellation function and a three-way speaker.

Samsung's Fan Edition devices have proven popular over the years. They tend to pack in solid features for a more reasonable price than the company's flagship models. It's safe to imagine that quite a few people will be looking forward to snapping up this year's FE devices.

While the leak appears to have been an error, we can't count out the possibility that Samsung deliberately showed off the latest FE devices before an official announcement. Major hardware companies are all jostling for your attention around this time of year. Just before Apple revealed the iPhone 15 lineup last week, Google dropped some teasers for its Pixel 8 and Pixel Watch 2 devices — Google's Pixel event isn't until October. So, Samsung may have been looking for headlines with a purposeful leak here (in which case, it evidently worked).

The more likely scenario is that it's another unintentional slip up for the company. It's probably not quite as bad or as damaging as this week's massive Xbox leak, but you'd think Samsung would know better by now in any case.

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Tales of the Shire is a cozy Lord of the Rings game from Weta Workshop

Samwise Gamgee may be pleased to learn that we're going back to the Shire. Another Lord of the Rings game has been announced, but it's one that should be vastly different from the likes of Lord of the Rings: Gollum. Tales of the Shire is described as a "cozy" game that's coming to PC and consoles in 2024.

Details about the upcoming title are thin on the ground, but a lovely little live-action trailer hints at the tone. It shows an illustrator drawing images of a hobbit and a Hobbit-hole (the semi-underground domicile of such a being). The artist moves away and the pages of the sketchbook blow over to show other hobbit residences and signs for various locations around the Shire.

Here's hoping it's a chill Lord of the Rings-style farming sim in the vein of Stardew Valley. I have my fingers crossed that there will be multiple options for cooking potatoes. Namely boiling, mashing and sticking 'em in a stew. Maybe even turning them into big golden fries with a nice piece of fried fish.

There are some notable names involved in the project: Private Division and Weta Workshop. It was revealed last year that the two sides were working on an LOTR game.

Private Division is one of Take-Two Interactive's publishing arms. In recent years, it has released games such as The Outer Worlds, OlliOlli World and the fantastic Rollerdrome. As for Weta Workshop, that's the company that handled special effects for all six of Peter Jackson's Middle-earth films, as well as movies such as Avatar: The Way of Water. (Weta FX, a separate company, worked on the digital effects for those projects.)

This is far from the only Lord of the Rings game in the pipeline. For one thing, Amazon is making a Lord of the Rings MMO with the team behind New World. Meanwhile, survival crafting title The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria is slated to arrive on October 24.

Last year, Embracer Group secured the rights to make games and other projects based on The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit. Fast forward a year, and the company is in a difficult financial position, leading it to carry out layoffs and close studios. So it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that Embracer believes it needs to be "exploiting Lord of the Rings in a very significant fashion and turning that into one of the biggest gaming franchises in the world."

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Solo Stove’s sitewide coupons give you up to an extra $100 off

Solo Stove makes some of the best pizza ovens and other outdoor gear around, and thanks to some sitewide coupons, you can pick up the company's products for less than usual. Use SAVE20 to get $20 off purchases over $125, SAVE40 to get $40 off anything over $350 and SAVE100 to lower the price by $100 if you're buying something over $550. The codes should work with any fit pits, bundles, pizza ovens or other products on the Solo Stove storefront.

Best of all, the coupons stack on top of other discounts. Case in point: the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 has dropped by $150 down to $250, and you can save an extra $20 by using the SAVE20 discount code.

The Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 is a smokeless fire pit you can use to help you stay warm, toast marshmallows and enjoy the outdoors more. Now that we're officially into fall, it's the kind of product that could help you make the most of the cooler evenings. In fact, the Bonfire 2.0 is among our favorite outdoor tech items for the fall. It's Solo Stove's medium-sized fire pit and the removable base plate and ash pan make it much easier to clean than the previous model.

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