Xiaomi has announced “Mi Air Charge Technology,” a wireless charging system that the company claims is able to charge devices “within a radius of several meters.” Multiple devices can be charged at 5W at the same time, according to Xiaomi, and physical obstacles apparently don’t reduce charging efficiency.
Xiaomi says the technology will also work with smartwatches and fitness bracelets. Another goal is to make “living rooms truly wireless,” with speakers, lamps, and smart home devices all being powered by the same remote system. A Xiaomi representative confirms to The Verge, however, that no commercial products will include the technology this year, and declined to provide a timeframe for release.
Here’s how Mi Air Charge Technology works, in Xiaomi’s words:
The core technology of Xiaomi’s remote charging lies in space positioning and energy transmission. Xiaomi’s self-developed isolated charging pile has five phase interference antennas built in, which can accurately detect the location of the smartphone. A phase control array composed of 144 antennas transmits millimeter-wide waves directly to the phone through beamforming.
On the smartphone side, Xiaomi has also developed a miniaturized antenna array with built-in “beacon antenna” and “receiving antenna array”. Beacon antenna broadcasts position information with low power consumption. The receiving antenna array composed of 14 antennas converts the millimeter wave signal emitted by the charging pile into electric energy through the rectifier circuit, to turn the sci-fi charging experience into reality.
Needless to say, you should be skeptical about the prospects of this technology making it to market until evidence suggests otherwise. Companies like Energous have been making announcements about “truly wireless charging” at CES and beyond for several years, but the technology is yet to gain serious traction. Xiaomi has demonstrated wireless charging engineering breakthroughs in the past, however, and has the advantage of owning a huge hardware ecosystem that it could theoretically leverage.
Sooner than expected, Apple has announced a new 13-inch MacBook Pro with a Magic Keyboard. It features optional Intel 10th Gen processors and starts at $1,299. In one sense, it is a minor spec-bump upgrade for the existing lineup of 13-inch MacBook Pros. But it also represents the end of an era: Apple no longer sells any new laptops with the much-maligned butterfly keyboard mechanism.
Facebook is rolling out a suite of new products to expand its capabilities in video chat. The company today announced Messenger Rooms, a tool for starting virtual hangouts with up to 50 people and allowing friends to drop in on you whenever they like. It’s also doubling the capacity of video calls on WhatsApp from four people to eight, adding video calls to Facebook Dating, and adding new live-streaming features to both Facebook and Instagram.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the features in a live stream today. In an interview with The Verge, Zuckerberg said the new video features were built in line with the company’s shift toward creating more private messaging tools.
“Video presence isn’t a new area for us,” he said. “But it’s an area that we want to go deeper in, and it fits the overall theme, which is that we’re shifting more resources in the company to focus on private communication and private social platforms, rather than just the traditional broader ones. So this is a good mix: we’re building tools into Facebook and Instagram that are helping people find smaller groups of people to then go have more intimate connections with, and be able to have private sessions with.”
The moves come as the global pandemic has forced hundreds of millions of people to stay indoors and rely on digital tools for nearly all of their work, school, and play. More than 700 million people are now making calls on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp every day.
The rapid growth of alternative social products has always been cause for concern at the famously paranoid Facebook, which devotes significant resources to monitoring emerging social products and then acquiring the companies behind them or copying their features. While we are still in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s already clear that consumer behavior is changing to cope with it — and that Facebook’s existing product lineup has not met demand.
Of everything announced today, Messenger Rooms promises to be the most significant. The feature, which Facebook says will be available in the company’s products globally sometime in the next few weeks, will allow up to 50 people to join a call. The room’s creator can decide whether it’s open to all or lock it to prevent uninvited guests from joining. You’ll be able to start a room from Messenger and Facebook to start. Later, rooms will come to Instagram Direct, WhatsApp, and Portal. Guests can join a room regardless of whether they have a Facebook account.
While in a room, you can play with Facebook’s augmented reality filters or swap out your real-life background for a virtual one. Some backgrounds offer 360-degree views of exotic locales, the company said. And a new slate of AR filters will help brighten up dark rooms or touch up users’ appearances.
Room calls are not end-to-end encrypted, but Facebook says it does not view or listen to calls. The creator of a room can remove participants at any time, and rooms where illicit behavior is taking place can be reported to Facebook. (WhatsApp video calls are end-to-end encrypted, offering an extra layer of protection to users.)
Zoom saw a surge in malicious behavior as it became the world’s default meeting app, with racist, bigoted, and pornographic “Zoombombings” roiling meetings all over the world. Zuckerberg said Messenger Rooms were designed with strong privacy controls, and that the feature’s reliance on connections with your real-life friends and family make it less likely that it will be used to harass people. For groups where people don’t know each other as well, moderators will be able to kick people out of rooms.
“A lot of the time that I’ve spent on this over the last few weeks as we’ve been building this out and getting ready to ship has been on privacy, security, integrity reviews, and how do we make sure that a lot of the use cases that that have been problematic around Zoom are not going to be things that are replicated here,” he said.
Facebook Live will add back a feature called Live With that enables users to invite another person to stream with them. The donate button will become available on live streams, allowing users to raise money directly from their broadcasts in the countries where fundraisers are available.
Instagram will begin allowing users to post live streams to IGTV as well as to Instagram stories after they finish a stream, and Instagram Live broadcasts will become available on the desktop for the first time.
Users with Facebook’s Portal display will also get the ability to go live to pages and groups, the company said. Portal users can already go live from their own profiles.
Rooms will be available in Messenger today in nearly all countries where Facebook is available, the company said. It will become available inside the Facebook app in a handful of unspecified countries today and roll out globally within coming weeks.
Facebook says today, it’s going to display the location of “high-reach” Facebook pages and Instagram accounts on every post the owners share in order to give people “more information to help them gauge the reliability and authenticity of the content they see in their feeds.” The company didn’t say what it considers a high-reach page or account.
The change is first coming to accounts based outside of the US that reach large audiences primarily in the US. The company says the feature is aimed at keeping election messaging honest.
“These changes are part of our broader efforts to protect elections and increase transparency on Facebook and Instagram so people can make more informed decisions about the posts they read, trust and share,” the company says.
Facebook has taken a number of steps to try to ensure election security and prevent misinformation on its platform since the 2016 US presidential election. Last year, it introduced new tools, such as Facebook Protect, a set of enhanced security measures for the accounts of candidates and their campaign workers. It also started labeling false posts and it removed four networks of accounts based in Iran and Russia that Facebook said misled users about their identities and posted inflammatory political news.
While this most recent change might not actually impact content that’s already been posted, it’ll likely give people more insight into how someone’s location might affect what they share.
Microsoft is getting ready to unveil its Surface Book 3 and Surface Go 2 hardware. Recent retailer leaks have hinted that Microsoft is planning to use Intel’s latest 10th Gen processors on the Surface Book 3, alongside potentially up to 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. Rumors also suggest that Microsoft is switching to Nvidia’s Quadro graphics chips in some Surface Book 3 models. The switch will mean the Surface Book 3 will better cater to 3D animators, designers, and engineers who rely on the power of Quadro graphics cards that are optimized for a number of pro apps instead of gaming.
Microsoft is also preparing a Surface Go 2, a successor to its popular smaller tablet. Retailer leaks have also hinted that Microsoft will be offering a model with an Intel Core m3, alongside the typical Intel Pentium Gold processor option. Windows Central reports that the Surface Go 2 will also include a larger display at 10.5 inches, with slightly smaller bezels that are more similar to those found on the Surface Laptop 3.
The exterior size is said to be the same as the original Surface Go, though, so existing accessories and the Type Cover from the Surface Go will work on the Surface Go 2. The Intel Core m3 model will also reportedly include 8GB of RAM, 128GB storage, and an optional LTE connectivity.
Microsoft is planning to unveil its new Surface hardware next month, according to sources familiar with the company’s plans. Those plans could change due to the pandemic, but Microsoft has been working toward these new devices for quite some time.
On Friday, Apple and Google announced a system for tracking the spread of the new coronavirus, allowing users to share data through Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmissions and approved apps from health organizations.
The new system, which is laid out in a series of documents and whitepapers, would use short-range Bluetooth communications to establish a voluntary contact-tracing network, keeping extensive data on phones that have been in close proximity with each other. Official apps from public health authorities will get access to this data, and users who download them can report if they’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19. The system will also alert people who download them to whether they were in close contact with an infected person.
Apple and Google will introduce a pair of iOS and Android APIs in mid-May and make sure these health authorities’ apps can implement them. During this phase, users will still have to download an app to participate in contact-tracing, which could limit adoption. But in the months after the API is complete, the companies will work on building tracing functionality into the underlying operating system, as an option immediately available to everyone with an iOS or Android phone.
Contact tracing — which involves figuring out who an infected person has been in contact with and trying to prevent them from infecting others — is one of the most promising solutions for containing COVID-19, but using digital surveillance technology to do it raises massive privacy concerns and questions about effectiveness. Earlier this week, the American Civil Liberties Union raised concerns about tracking users with phone data, arguing that any system would need to be limited in scope and avoid compromising user privacy.
Unlike some other methods — like, say, using GPS data — this Bluetooth plan wouldn’t track people’s physical location. It would basically pick up the signals of nearby phones at 5-minute intervals and store the connections between them in a database. If one person tests positive for the novel coronavirus, they could tell the app they’ve been infected, and it could notify other people whose phones passed within close range in the preceding days.Sundar Pichai✔@sundarpichai
The system also takes a number of steps to prevent people from being identified, even after they’ve shared their data. While the app regularly sends information out over Bluetooth, it broadcasts an anonymous key rather than a static identity, and those keys cycle every 15 minutes to preserve privacy. Even once a person shares that they’ve been infected, the app will only share keys from the specific period in which they were contagious.
Crucially, there is no centrally accessible master list of which phones have matched, contagious or otherwise. That’s because the phones themselves are performing the cryptographic calculations required to protect privacy. The central servers only maintain the database of shared keys, rather than the interactions between those keys.
The method still has potential weaknesses. In crowded areas, it could flag people in adjacent rooms who aren’t actually sharing space with the user, making people worry unnecessarily. It may also not capture the nuance of how long someone was exposed — working next to an infected person all day, for example, will expose you to a much greater viral load than walking by them on the street. And it depends on people having apps in the short term and up-to-date smartphones in the long term, which could mean it’s less effective in areas with lower connectivity.
It’s also a relatively new program, and Apple and Google are still talking to public health authorities and other stakeholders about how to run it. This system probably can’t replace old-fashioned methods of contact tracing — which involve interviewing infected people about where they’ve been and who they’ve spent time with — but it could offer a high-tech supplement using a device that billions of people already own.
Today is a rather eventful date for laptop hardware. Intel has officially dropped its 10th Gen Core Comet Lake-H CPUs and Nvidia gave us RTX Super cards for mobile. Naturally, neither of these announcements comes as a surprise to major laptop vendors, who have been hard at work, refreshing models and integrating the new silicon. Now that the floodgates are open, so to speak, there is an avalanche of new laptop announcements to dig through as well.
Kicking off with the 2020 Razer Blade 15. The new revision of the popular gaming notebook will be available in May in what are actually two separate, very similar, yet a bit different versions. Among other design tweaks, both are getting a new keyboard layout, which now has a smaller, but arguably better-positioned arrow key arrangement – the older layout was subject to quite a bit of criticism.
Starting with the base Blade 15 variant, for $1,599 you get a new 10th Gen i7-10750H processor, which packs six cores and eight threads and a base clock of 2.6GHz, with a boost of 5GHz. It comes with a GTX1660 Ti in its base configuration and can be configured with the older Nvidia RTX 2070 Max-Q.
It starts with a matte 144Hz FHD LCD and can be upgraded to an OLED. It also gets an Ethernet port, which is not the case on the “Advanced model”.
Speaking of, the Razer Blade 15 “Advanced” gets a UHS-III SD card reader and the ability to charge via any of its Type-C ports. There are other external and internal differences in the “Advanced” as well, including, but not limited to a more complicated Vapor Chamber cooling design, per-key RGB Razer Chroma illumination and, of course, higher-tier silicon.
It packs the new eight-core, sixteen-thread 10th Gen i7-10875H beast, which might not be the highest-tier i9, but still goes up to a 5.1GHz turbo. It starts with one of the new Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super cards and can be specked-up to the RTX 2080 Super. Both of these are of the Max-Q variety, which Nvidia claims has seen a generational improvement in power efficiency up to 50%. In the monitor department, you get a 300Hz LCD in the base model, or, you can upgrade to an OLED. The OLED panel even comes complete with touchscreen and Corning Gorilla Glass for protection.
Both the base and “Advanced” Blade 15 models ship with 16GB of DDR4 RAM, employ a glass-covered trackpad with Windows Precision drivers and use an expandable M.2 2280 SSD – 256GB and 512GB, respectively.
Moving on to another “flashy” gaming offer, we have then Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15. The big party trick here being that besides the main 15.6-inch display, you also get a secondary 14.1-inch 3840 x 1100 pixel display, propped-up at a convenient 13 degree angle, by a hinge that also makes room for some extra air intakes. Obviously, it takes after the dual-screen design of other company offers, like the Zenbook Pro Duo and the Zenbook Duo. While those are decently competent for gaming in their own right, the Zephyrus Duo 15 is officially part of the ROG line and has the aesthetics to match the horsepower.
And boy does it have horse power. Currently, Asus has detailed a few configuration. The top-of-the-line one will set you back $3,699.99 and should be available on June 1. It features the beastly new flagship Core i9-10980HK (8 cores and 16 threads, with a ludicrous max single core Turbo of 5.3 GHz), 32GB of RAM, 2TB of storage and a full-fat RTX 2080 Super (no Max-Q here). Top that off with a 4K 60Hz panel.
Asus has another option in the display department, though – a FullHD panel, that can do 300Hz. Apparently, it will be available on two configurations, starting June 29. The first $3,499 one is identical to the top-tier, but drops the RAM down to 16GB and the storage to 1TB. The most “affordable” $2,999 will also get the 300Hz panel, but drops the CPU down to a Core i7-10875H and the GPU to an RTX 2070 Super (again not Max-Q). Interestingly enough, it does pack the full 2TB of storage and 32GB of RAM.
All of the configurations get a 90Wh battery and USB Type-C charging support. The 4K panel option covers 100% of the Adobe RGB color space and is more geared towards creative work. As for utilizing the secondary display, beyond things like multi-tasking in Windows, with UI for streaming and chatting, Asus has also partnered with Adobe to develop special interfaces. Same goes for Techland, who are working on optimizing Dying Light 2 and there area already companion apps for League of Legends, Fortnite, and CS:GO.
Asus is also in the process of refreshing some other parts of its laptop lineup with Intel and Nvidia’s new chips. This includes a new Zephyrus S17, Zephyrus S15, and Zephyrus M15. Also Strix Scar 15, Strix Scar 17, as well as ROG Strix G15 and G17. Those will be coming to North America in Q2 and Q3.