Qualcomm’s new reference AR glasses are wireless and more comfortable

Qualcomm's smart glasses technology has come along way in two years. The company has unveiled the Wireless AR Smart Viewer Reference Design, a next-gen pair of augmented reality glasses meant to help hardware partners build their own immersive eyewear. It now tethers wirelessly to a host PC, phone or puck, and it's 40 percent thinner despite packing a newer (if slightly old) Snapdragon XR2 platform. Add better-balanced weight distribution and the device should be considerably more comfortable than its predecessor, even if it still won't win any fashion awards.

Each eye gets a 1080p, 90Hz micro-OLED display that reportedly eliminates motion blur. You'll also have full six-degrees-of-freedom movement thanks to three cameras (two monochrome, one color) as well as hand tracking with gesture recognition. WiFi 6E and Bluetooth help shuffle data quickly while keeping lag under 3ms between the glasses and host device.

A handful of manufacturers already have access to Qualcomm's new AR design, and more should have their turn within the "coming months." You won't buy this exact hardware as an everyday customer. It could, however, lead to a wave of next-generation glasses that you wouldn't mind wearing for games or work — even they might not be as ambitious as some AR projects.

‘Fortnite’ is now available to all GeForce Now users

All GeForce Now users can play Fortnite via NVIDIA's cloud gaming service, including those with iOS and Android devices. The company started testing the game on the platform in January. It says more than 500,000 people tried it out across "hundreds of mobile device types." The full launch of Fortnite on GeForce Now means that there's no longer a waitlist and anyone can drop into a match. 

Feedback from beta testers helped NVIDIA optimize the touch controls and menu system. To thank them, it's giving everyone who signed up for the beta a three-day trial for GeForce Now's Priority plan. That offers longer game sessions than those who use the free version, along with improved visuals and access to premium servers. A three-day trial isn't exactly the most generous perk, but it's better than nothing.

For the time being, the only way to access Fortnite on iOS (at least without playing a console or PC remotely) is through cloud streaming. The game is also available for free through Xbox Cloud Gaming. You won't need an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription if you go with that option.

Apple and Google pulled Fortnite from their mobile app storefronts in August 2020 amid a dispute with Epic Games. While Android users have still been able to sideload it, iOS players were effectively iced out until the cloud gaming options came into play.

Apple’s AirTag four-pack falls to $89

If you've got a bunch of items you need to protect from theft or loss, you can now pick up a four-pack of Apple's AirTags at Amazon and Best Buy for $89, or $10 (10 percent) off. We've seen them a little bit cheaper recently, but it's still a good time to act if you missed the last deal. 

Buy Apple AirTags 4-pack at Amazon - $89Buy Apple AirTags 4-pack at Best Buy - $89

For Apple users, AirTags deliver significant advantages over Tile and other trackers. The ultra-wideband feature offers precise tracking with iPhone 11 or later devices when you're reasonably close, so you can narrow your search between a bed and night table in the same bedroom. Over wider distances, the Apple device AirTag networks lets you track down an object you might have misplaced in a bar, for instance.

AirTags use a simple coin-sized design and offer a seamless experience via the Find My app. You can also force an AirTag to emit a chime to help you pinpoint an object's location, and that chime is now loader than ever thanks to a recent update.

It does lack a built-in keyring like rival trackers, so you'll need to pay extra for that. And it only works with Apple devices, so Android users will need to look elsewhere. However, if you're in Apple's ecosystem, you can pick up four at a discount — just remember that the deal ends today.

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Acer’s Chromebook Spin 714 sports an upscale design and a built-in stylus

As one of the leading makers of Chromebooks, this spring Acer is refreshing its lineup with two new offerings in the Chromebook Spin 714 and the Chromebook Tab 510.

Starting at $750 (or $1,100 for the enterprise model), the Chromebook Spin 714 is the more premium of the two, featuring up to a 12th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU and a 14-inch 2560 x 1600 display. And as an added bonus, the Gorilla Glass used on its display includes an antimicrobial coating designed to resist stains and bacteria. At the same time, the screen's 16:10 aspect ratio gives you a little extra vertical screen space for productivity. 

The Chromebook Spin 714 also sports a Gorilla Glass screen with an anti-microbial coating and MIL-STD 810H durability.
Acer

Meanwhile, because the Spin 714 is part of Intel's Evo platform, the laptop includes good connectivity thanks to support for Wi-Fi 6E, an HDMI jack and dual Thunderbolt 4 ports. As for battery life, Acer is claiming up to 10 hours on a single charge, with fast charging that can add four hours of additional runtime after being plugged in for 30 minutes. And for people who want a quick and easy way to login to their laptop, there's also an optional fingerprint reader. 

But the feature that sets the Spin 714 apart from a lot of other Chromebooks is its stylus, which features 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and has a built-in garage for easy storage. And despite having a flexible 360-degree hinge, the laptop has MIL-STD 810H durability designed to guard against drops and splashes. 

Alternatively, for people looking for a more affordable convertible Chromebook, there's the $400 Chromebook Tab 510. Instead of sporting a 360-degree hinge, the Tab 510 features a detachable 2-in-1 design powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 chip. That said, for those wanting to use the Tab 510 as a laptop-like hybrid, just remember its Keyboard Folio Case is an optional accessory. 

The Chromebook 510 features a portable 10.1-inch screen along with a built-in stylus and MIL-STD 810H durability. However, its detachable keyboard is an optional accessory.
Acer

Sporting a 10.1-inch 1920 x 1200 screen, the Tab 510 is a lot more portable than the Spin 714, and it gets slightly better battery life too, with Acer promising 11 hours on a single charge. And in addition to its front-facing 5-MP webcam, there's 8-MP camera in back. However, even with its lower price, the tablet also supports MIL-STD 810H durability, along with bumpers on each corner and a reinforced chassis for even more rugged credibility. And similar to the Spin 714, the Tab 510 also comes with a built-in stylus.

In North America, the Chromebook Tab 510 is slated to go on sale sometime in July starting at $400, with the Chromebook Spin 714 arriving slightly later in August starting at $750. 

Acer brings glasses-free 3D to its gaming laptops

3D TVs may be dead, but Acer isn't giving up on the dream of going beyond 2D just yet. It's spent years hyping up its SpatialLabs technology, which lets you view stereoscopic 3D content without any clunky glasses. Now that innovation is headed to the company's gaming laptops, starting with the new Predator Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition. The company says you'll be able to play more than 50 modern and classic games in 3D, including Forza Horizon 5, No Man's Sky and God of War (no Halo Infinite yet, sadly).

Naturally, though, you'll have to pay a huge premium to be an early glasses-free 3D adopter. The Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition will start at $3,400 when it arrives in the fourth quarter. You'll get some killer hardware under the hood, like Intel's latest 12th-gen CPUs, 32GB of DDR5 RAM and up to NVIDIA's RTX 3080, but it's clearly not meant for the typical gamer. It weighs a hefty 6.6 pounds, and the small amount of supported 3D titles makes this laptop seem even more like a niche product.

Acer Helios 300 SpatialLabs Edition
Acer

Still, the display nerd in me is eager to see how Acer actually implements this technology. I was impressed by some early SpatialLabs demos years ago, but it's another thing to transform a game into a fully 3D experience. The technology relies on a combination of eye tracking (which helps the image stay in focus without additional glasses), real-time rendering and a stereoscopic 15.6-inch screen. Acer is also bringing SpatialLabs' 3D hardware to its ConceptD7 laptop this year. 

If you're just looking for a thin gaming laptop, without any fancy 3D screens, Acer is also updating the Predator Triton 300 SE with 12th-gen Intel chips, RTX 3000-series GPUs and 16:10 OLED panels. A 16-inch model with a 240Hz 1,440p display is joining the existing 14-inch version, giving the company options for gamers who want the lightest possible machine or something with a bit more breathing room. The smaller model tops out with an RTX 3060, but the larger one can squeeze in a beefier 3070 Ti.

We've generally liked Acer's gaming hardware over the years (except when they introduce useless concepts like swiveling screens). Based on my brief hands-on time with the Triton 300 SE, it seems like yet another solid option for a stylish-yet-portable gaming rig. The new OLED screen is clearly the star of the show, delivering deep black levels and glorious colors in a few Halo Infinite matches, but its 90Hz refresh rate may disappoint gamers used to faster LCDs. Those folks can just opt for the 165Hz 1080p and 1,440p LCDs, instead. The 14-inch Triton 300 SE is lighter than the Razer Blade 14, clocking in at 3.7 pounds instead of 3.9, and its overall build quality feels just as premium.

You'll find the 14-inch Triton 300 SE in July starting at $1,600, while the 16-inch version will arrive in August for $1,750.

Apple’s third-generation AirPods fall back to $150

Apple's third-generation AirPods are a big improvement over the previous model and only came out late last year. But you can now grab a pair at Amazon for just $150, a significant 16 percent ($29) off the regular price and only $10 higher than the cheapest deal we've seen to date. 

Buy Apple 3rd-gen AirPods at Amazon - $150

Apple's latest earbuds garnered an Engadget review score of 88, and we noted that they were "better in nearly every way" than the 2nd-gen models. That's due in part to a new, more comfortable design that's a better fit for more people. Sound quality is equally improved thanks to the rich bass and overall clarity and you get an excellent 30 hours of battery life with the included charging case. And on top of improving performance, the H1 chip enables hands-free Siri, spatial audio support with head tracking and pairing with multiple Apple devices. 

If you really have trouble with earphones fitting, the one-size-fits-all AirPods might not be right for you — for a more custom fit and noise cancellation, the AirPods Pro might be a better choice. Those are also on sale as well, luckily, for $197 or 21 percent off the regular price. Just remember that both models are really designed for Apple's ecosystem of devices, so Android users had best look elsewhere.

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Apple’s former machine learning director reportedly joins Google’s DeepMind team

An Apple executive who oversaw Apple's machine learning and artificial intelligence efforts has left the company in recent weeks, citing its stringent return-to-office policy, according to Bloomberg. Ian Goodfellow is now reportedly joining Google's DeepMind team as an individual contributor, a few years after he left the tech giant for Apple. Based on his LinkedIn profile, Goodfellow worked in different capacities for Google since 2013, including as a research scientist and as a software engineering intern. 

Bloomberg says the former Apple exec referenced the policy in a note about his departure addressed to staff members. In April, Apple announced that it was going to start implementing its return-to-office policy on May 23rd and will be requiring employees to work in its offices at least three times a week. 

The New York Times has just reported, though, that the company has softened its stance on remote work and will now launch a pilot that will see some employees come in to office only twice a week. Google has also started implementing a "hybrid work" plan that requires employees to physically work in its offices some days of the week, but Goodfellow may have taken a role that allows him more freedom.

Goodfellow supervised the engineers working on autonomous technology at Apple and developed a system that gave Google Maps the ability to automatically transcribe addresses from Street View car photos. However, he's probably mostly known for inventing generative adversarial networks or GANs, which can be used to create deepfakes. 

Apple Music will livestream concerts, starting with Harry Styles

Apple Music will start livestreaming some concerts from major artists this week as part of a new series. Apple Music Live kicks off with a Harry Styles show that subscribers in 167 countries will able to watch live and at no extra cost on May 20th. The company says Apple Music Live is a way to "give the biggest stars in music the biggest possible platform to flaunt how they connect with audiences and how their songs translate to live performance." 

The concert takes place at UBS Arena in Long Island, New York. It's effectively a record release party for Styles, whose third album, Harry's House, comes out on the same day. Apple Music's landing page for the event includes an interview with Styles about the making of the album, a link for users to pre-add Harry's House to their library and a bunch of playlists focused on the performer.

This seems like a smart way for artists to both promote new releases and give people a sense of what their live shows are like to perhaps sell some more tickets. It could also help Apple Music persuade fans of artists whose shows it streams to sign up for the service.

Styles' gig, titled "One Night Only in New York," will be available to stream at 9PM ET on Friday. So that folks in other parts of the world can catch the show at a more reasonable time, there will be encore streams on May 22nd at noon ET and May 26th at 5AM. That suggests the concert won't be available on demand afterward. When asked by Engadget for clarification on that, an Apple spokesperson said the company had "nothing to announce at this time."

Several other platforms have streamed live shows to viewers. YouTube has broadcast performances from Coachella over the last several years. As it happens, Styles was one of the festival's headliners this year. Hulu just inked a deal to stream the Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits music festivals this year and next. Amazon Music has baked in artists' Twitch streams, while Amazon has streamed live shows on a ticketed basis and offered them to Prime Video subscribers afterward.

Apple has some experience in livestreaming concerts too. In 2007, it started running the iTunes Festival (later known as the Apple Music Festival) in the UK before expanding it to the US in 2014. Apple announced in 2017 that the festival had come to an end.

Update 5/17 11:10AM ET: Added Apple's response.

Apple adds systemwide Live Captions as part of larger accessibility update

Global Accessibility Awareness Day is this Thursday (May 19th) and Apple, like many other companies, is announcing assistive updates in honor of the occasion. The company is bringing new features across iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch, and the most intriguing of the lot is systemwide Live Captions.

Similar to Google's implementation on Android, Apple's Live Captions will transcribe audio playing on your iPhone, iPad or Mac in real time, displaying subtitles onscreen. It will also caption sound around you, so you can use it to follow along conversations in the real world. You'll be able to adjust the size and position of the caption box, and also choose different font sizes for the words. The transcription is generated on-device, too. But unlike on Android, Live Captions on FaceTime calls will also clearly distinguish between speakers, using icons and names for attribution of what's being said. Plus, those using Macs will be able to type a response and have it spoken aloud in real time for others in the conversation. Live Captions will be available as a beta in English for those in the US and Canada. 

Apple is also updating its existing sound recognition tool, which lets iPhones continuously listen out for noises like alarms, sirens, doorbells or crying babies. With a coming update, users will be able to train their iPhones or iPads to listen for custom sounds, like your washing machine's "I'm done" song or your pet duck quacking, perhaps. A new feature called Siri Pause Time will also let you extend the assistant's wait time when you're responding or asking for something, so you can take your time to finish saying what you need. 

Two screenshots showing Apple's new accessibility features. The first shows
Apple

The company is updating its Magnifier app that helps people who are visually impaired better interact with people and objects around them. Expanding on a previous People Detection tool that told users how far away others around them were, Apple is adding a new Door Detection feature. This will use the iPhone's LiDAR and camera to not only locate and identify doors, but will also read out text or symbols on display, like hours of operation and signs depicting restrooms or accessible entrances. In addition, it will describe the handles, whether it requires a push, pull or turn of a knob, as well as the door's color, shape, material and whether it's closed or open. Together, People and Door Detection will be part of the new Detection mode in Magnifier. 

Updates are also coming to Apple Watch. Last year, the company introduced Assistive Touch, which allowed people to interact with the wearable without touching the screen. The Watch would sense if the hand that it's on was making a fist or if the wearer was touching their index finger and thumb together for a "pinch" action. With an upcoming software update, it should be faster and easier to enable Quick Actions in assistive touch, which would then let you use gestures like double pinching to answer or end calls, take photos, start a workout or pause media playback.

But Assistive Touch isn't a method that everyone can use. For those with physical or motor disabilities that preclude them from using hand gestures altogether, the company is bringing a form of voice and switch control to its smartwatch. The feature is called Apple Watch Mirroring, and uses hardware and software including AirPlay to carry over a user's preset voice or switch control preferences from their iPhones, for example, to the wearable. This would allow them to use their head-tracking, sound actions and Made For iPhone switches to interact with their Apple Watch. 

Apple is adding more customization options to the Books app, letting users apply new themes and tweak line heights, word and character spacings and more. Its screen reader VoiceOver will also soon be available in more than 20 new languages and locales, including Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Ukrainian and Vietnamese. Dozens of new voices will be added, too, as is a spelling mode for voice control that allows you to dictate custom spellings using letter-by-letter input

Finally, the company is launching a new feature called Buddy Controller that will let people use two controllers to drive a single player, which would be helpful for users with disabilities who want to partner up with their care providers. Buddy Controller will work with supported game controllers for iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV. There are plenty more updates coming throughout the Apple ecosystem, including on-demand American Sign Language interpreters expanding to Apple Store and Support in Canada as well as a new guide in Maps, curated playlists in Apple TV and Music and the addition of the Accessibility Assistant to the Shortcuts app on Mac and Watch. The features previewed today will be available later this year.

Apple rolls out iOS 15.5 with upgrades to Apple Cash and Podcasts

Apple is quickly acting on its promise to deliver some useful upgrades before WWDC. The company has released iOS 15.5 and its iPadOS 15.5 counterpart with improvements to both Apple Cash and (as mentioned earlier) Podcasts. Cash users can now send and receive money from their card, while Podcasts users can have the app automatically limit episode storage based on criteria like the number of shows or time since release.

A corresponding macOS 12.4 update adds the relevant Podcasts features. You can also grab a previously teased firmware fix for the Studio Display's mediocre webcam quality. Apple has also released watchOS 8.6, tvOS 15.5 and HomePod 15.5 updates, although those focus on bug fixes and performance rather than any significant features.

The iOS, iPadOS and macOS updates aren't huge, but that's not surprising. Apple has historically wound down significant upgrades to its current operating systems around this time of year. The focus now is likely on iOS 16 and other big revisions likely to arrive in the fall.