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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

Google Shows Off Wireless Charging Dock That Turns the Pixel Tablet Into a Smart Display
Alongside today's launch of the Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, and Pixel Watch, Google revealed more details about its upcoming Pixel Tablet that was first announced earlier this year at Google I/O. The biggest new feature is it's ability to transform into a smart display when paired with a magnetic wireless charging speaker dock. "When docked, it looks like a Nest Hub Max, responds to Google Assistant queries, and lets you control your smart home from the redesigned Home app," adds The Verge. Other features include the Google Tensor G2 processor, which is powering the new Pixel 7 smartphones, a user interface that's based on the Material You design language, and a nano-ceramic coating on top of the 100 percent recycled aluminum body. Unfortunately, there's still no concrete release date as the company would only say the tablet is coming in 2023.

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Boston Dynamics Pledges Not To Weaponize Its Robots
Several robotics companies, including Boston Dynamics, are pledging not to support the weaponization of their products and are calling for others in the industry to do the same, according to a letter shared first with Axios. From the report: The open letter highlights the erosion of consumer trust in robots as among the reasons not to allow them to be used as weapons. "We believe that adding weapons to robots that are remotely or autonomously operated, widely available to the public, and capable of navigating to previously inaccessible locations where people live and work, raises new risks of harm and serious ethical issues," the companies said in the letter. The companies pledged not to add weapons technology themselves or to support others doing so. And "when possible" they said they will review customers' plans in hopes of avoiding those who would turn the robots into weapons, in addition to exploring technical features that could prevent such use. In addition to Boston Dynamics, five other firms signed on to the commitment: Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics and Unitree Robotics.

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Amazon's Glow Goes the Way of the Fire Phone and Dodo
Amazon's Glow is no more. The tech giant has discontinued the children's device, which included an 8-inch display and a projector that could display games on a mat, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. ArsTechnica: You can't buy the Glow on Amazon's website anymore. According to Bloomberg, the device was on sale for $150 (down from $300) on Tuesday before it became listed as unavailable later that day. The publication cited slow sales as a reason for the product's demise. It also noted the device's focus on remote connectivity as pandemic-related restrictions eased. Amazon announced Glow on September 28, 2021, before launching invite-only availability, followed by general availability in March. "We... continually evaluate the progress and potential of our products to deliver customer value, and we regularly make adjustments based on those assessments," Kristy Schmidt, an Amazon spokesperson, told Bloomberg. "We will be sharing updates and guidance with Glow customers soon." The Glow allowed children to video chat, draw, and play games with family members remotely via the 8-inch display. It also projected onto a 19-inch mat that children could interact with. One obvious downside was the requirement of an Amazon Kids+ subscription for playing games and accessing other content, like books and art. The service is $5 per month. Glow came from Amazon's Grand Challenge lab, which makes experimental products.

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Big Tech, Banks, Government Departments Shred Millions of Storage Devices They Could Reuse
Companies such as Amazon and Microsoft, as well as banks, police services and government departments, shred millions of data-storing devices each year, the Financial Times has learnt through interviews with more than 30 people who work in and around the decommissioning industry and via dozens of freedom of information requests. From the report: This is despite a growing chorus of industry insiders who say there is another, better option to safely dispose of data: using computer software to securely wipe the devices before selling them on the secondary market. "From a data security perspective, you do not need to shred," says Felice Alfieri, a European Commission official who co-authored a report about how to make data centres more sustainable and is promoting "data deletion" over device destruction. Underpinning the reluctance to move away from shredding is the fear that data could leak, triggering fury from customers and huge fines from regulators. Last month, the US Securities and Exchange Commission fined Morgan Stanley $35mn for an "astonishing" failure to protect customer data, after the bank's decommissioned servers and hard drives were sold on without being properly wiped by an inexperienced company it had contracted. This was on top of a $60mn fine in 2020 and a $60mn class action settlement reached earlier this year. Some of the hardware containing bank data ended up being auctioned online. While the incident stemmed from a failure to wipe the devices before selling them on, the bank now mandates that every one of its data-storing devices is destroyed -- the vast majority on site. This approach is widespread. One employee at Amazon Web Services, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that the company shreds every single data-storing device once it is deemed obsolete, usually after three to five years of use: "If we let one [piece of data] slip through, we lose the trust of our customers." A person with knowledge of Microsoft's data disposal operations says the company shreds everything at its 200-plus Azure data centres.

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Google Unveils Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro Smartphones
Alphabet's Google on Thursday said its new Pixel phones will deliver improved voice and camera features while bringing back facial recognition for unlocking the device as it seeks to better compete with Apple and Samsung Electronics. From a report: The company's Pixel 7 and 7 Pro devices offer more affordable prices than the dominant duo of the mobile market, coming in at $599 and $899, respectively, and introduce the second generation of Google's in-house Tensor chip. The 6.7-inch Pro version has an additional zoom camera, better display and more memory than the 6.3-inch Pixel 7. Google's Pixel phones every year serve as the showcase for the company's latest Android software and artificial intelligence-based services, such as the Google Assistant. They demonstrate how Google hopes device-making partners will best use its operating system. Google continues developing its own hardware, which has only ever sold in small numbers, in part as insurance against missteps by Samsung, the only credible Apple rival in the US. Google AI shows up in the upgraded language-processing capabilities of its latest software. The Recorder app for voice memos can now automatically label different speakers in transcriptions, and transcriptions are also being added to audio messages in the new Pixels' messaging app.

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Apple Asks Suppliers To Shift AirPods, Beats Production To India
Apple is asking suppliers to move some AirPods and Beats headphone production to India for the first time, in a win for the South Asia nation as it attempts to rise in the global supply chain. Nikkei Asia Review reports: The move is part of Apple's gradual diversification from China, as it looks to lower the risk of supply chain disruptions stemming from the country's strict zero-COVID policy and tensions with the U.S. Apple has been talking with a number of its suppliers about increasing production in India, including of key acoustics devices, as early as next year, three people familiar with the matter told Nikkei Asia. In response, iPhone assembler Foxconn is preparing to make Beats headphones in the country, and hopes to eventually produce AirPods there as well, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said. Luxshare Precision Industry and its affiliates, which already produce AirPods in Vietnam and China, also plan to help Apple make the popular wireless earphones in India, sources said. However, Luxshare is focusing more on its Vietnamese AirPods operations for now and could be slower than its competitors in starting meaningful production of Apple products in India, one of the people said. Bringing AirPods and Beats production to India would enlarge Apple's production footprint in the country, following a recent announcement that the latest iPhone is already being made there. Apple started having some older iPhone models made in India in 2017 by a smaller supplier, Wistron, but only accelerated such production last year.

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Robots Are Making French Fries Faster, Better Than Humans
Fast-food French fries and onion rings are going high-tech, thanks to a company in Southern California. From a report: Miso Robotics in Pasadena has started rolling out its Flippy 2 robot, which automates the process of deep frying potatoes, onions and other foods. A big robotic arm like those in auto plants -- directed by cameras and artificial intelligence -- takes frozen French fries and other foods out of a freezer, dips them into hot oil, then deposits the ready-to-serve product into a tray. Flippy 2 can cook several meals with different recipes simultaneously, reducing the need for catering staff and, says Miso, speed up order delivery at drive-through windows. "When an order comes in through the restaurant system, it automatically spits out the instructions to Flippy," Miso Chief Executive Mike Bell said in an interview. " ... It does it faster or more accurately, more reliably and happier than most humans do it," Bell added.

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The Pixel 4 Hits End of Life After Three Years of Service
The Pixel 4 is officially hitting its end of life this month after three short years of service. We sometimes see these dead Google phones get one more wrap-up update before Google cuts the cord, but the Android October 2022 update is the end of the line here. From a report: The Pixel 4 was a big batch of Google experiments passed off as a consumer product, and we did not take kindly to it. It was the first (and only) Google phone to attempt to copy Apple's FaceID by using a grid of IR dots and extra hardware to scan the user's face. The system was much slower than the fingerprint reader on the Pixel 3, and it oddly worked on sleeping people for several months after launch. The Pixel 4 was the first and only Google phone to integrate "Project Soli," a tiny Google radar chip that can detect motion. The laboratory versions of Soli promised that the technology could capture "sub millimeter motions of your fingers," but the commercial implementation in the Pixel 4 could only (sometimes) capture giant arm movements. Soli lives on in Google smart displays for sleep tracking, but the phone version is dead. Combine that with very high prices for the two device sizes ($800 and $900) and very small batteries (2800 mAh and 3700 mAh), and you have the makings of a very bad device.

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Nuclear Fusion Plant To Be Built On Site of Britain's Last Coal-Fired Power Plants
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: A power station has been chosen to be the site of the UK's, and potentially the world's, first prototype commercial nuclear fusion reactor. Fusion is a potential source of almost limitless clean energy but is currently only carried out in experiments. The government had shortlisted five sites but has picked the West Burton A plant in Nottinghamshire. The plant should be operational by the early 2040s, a UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) spokesman has said. The government had pledged more than 220 million pounds for the STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) program, led by the UKAEA. The Local Democracy Reporting Service said the project would replace the coal-fired power station site -- owned by French energy giant EDF -- which is set to be closed this year. Matt Sykes, managing director of EDF's Generation business, said: "We are absolutely delighted that the UKAEA has selected the West Burton site in Nottinghamshire to host the UK's first fusion reactor. "The area has been associated with energy generation for over 60 years. Developing such an exciting new project continues this tradition and has the potential to transform both the region and the UK's long-term energy supply." Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg announced the government's choice in a speech at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham. "Over the decades we have established ourselves as pioneers in fusion science and as a country our capabilities to surmount these obstacles is unparalleled, and I am delighted to make an announcement of a vital step in that mission," he said. "The plant will be the first of its kind, built by 2040 and capable of putting energy on the grid, and in doing so will prove the commercial viability of fusion energy to the world."

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Universities Adapt To Google's New Storage Fees, Or Migrate Away Entirely
united_notions writes: Back in February, Slashdot reported that Google would be phasing out free unlimited storage within Google Apps for Education. Google had a related blog post dressing it up in the exciting language of "empowering institutions" and so forth. Well, now universities all over are waking up to the consequences. Universities in Korea are scrambling to reduce storage use, or migrating to competitors like Naver, while also collectively petitioning Google on the matter. California State University, Chico has a plan to shoe-horn its storage (and restrict its users) to limbo under Google's new limits. UC San Diego is coughing up for fees but apparently under a "favorable" deal, and still with some limits. The University of Cambridge will impose a 20GB per user limit in December 2022. And so on. If you're at a university, what is your IT crowd telling you? Have they said anything? If not, you may want to ask.

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Walgreens Turns To Prescription-Filling Robots To Free Up Pharmacists
Walgreens is turning to robots to ease workloads at drugstores as it grapples with a nationwide shortage of pharmacists and pharmacist technicians. From a report: The nation's second-largest pharmacy chain is setting up a network of automated, centralized drug-filling centers that could fill a city block. Rows of yellow robotic arms bend and rotate as they sort and bottle multicolored pills, sending them down conveyor belts. The company says the setup cuts pharmacist workloads by at least 25% and will save Walgreens more than $1 billion a year. The ultimate goal: give pharmacists more time to provide medical services such as vaccinations, patient outreach and prescribing of some medications. Those services are a relatively new and growing revenue stream for drugstores, which are increasingly able to bill insurers for some clinical services. "This frees up the capacity of our most skilled professionals," said Rina Shah, a group vice president overseeing pharmacy strategy at Walgreens. "We looked at our system and said, 'Why are we filling prescriptions the way we did in 1995?'" Covid-19 increased the demands on pharmacies as they expanded into testing and vaccinations, putting pressure on staff and creating a shortfall of pharmacists that many chains have struggled to fill. Walgreens has reduced pharmacy hours at a third of its nearly 9,000 U.S. stores, and in some markets is offering signing bonuses of up to $75,000 to fill pharmacist jobs.

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Netherlands Researchers Break the 30 Percent Barrier In Solar Cells
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Interesting Engineering: A collaboration of researchers from various institutes in the Netherlands broke the 30 percent barrier associated with solar cells. The achievement will help uptakeworldwide solar energy and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, an organizational press release said. [...] To do so, researchers in the Netherlands came together to create a four-terminal perovskite/silicon tandem device. A tandem device can better use solar spectrum since it uses a mix of silicon-based solar cells with perovskite-based solar cells. While the former works well with light in the visible and infrared spectrum, perovskites can use wavelength in the ultraviolet and visible light while being transparent to infrared light. In a four-terminal tandem device, the top and bottom cells can operate independently, allowing bifacial tandems to be used, further boosting the power output of the architecture. The press release said that the researchers improved the efficiency of a semi-transparent perovskite cell with an area of 3x3 sq. mm up to 19.7 percent. Below this, a silicon solar cell, which was 20X 20 sq. mm wide, was placed. The tandem device also had a highly transparent back contact that allowed 93 percent of the near-infrared light to reach the bottom of the device. The silicon device was optimized using a host of features, and its efficiency improved to 10.4 percent. Together with the perovskite solar cell, the device delivered a combined energy conversion efficiency of 30.1 percent, making it the best efficiency achieved so far.

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Why Toyota Isn't All-In On EVs
During Toyota's annual dealer meeting in Las Vegas last week, which was called "Playing to Win," CEO Akio Toyoda explained why the company isn't all-in on electric vehicles. CNBC reports: Toyoda last week simply stated what he would like his legacy to be: "I love cars." Despite criticism from some investors and environmental groups, Toyoda this past week doubled down on his strategy to continue investing in a range of electrified vehicles as opposed to competitors such as Volkswagen and General Motors, which have said they are going all-in on all-electric vehicles. The plans could arguably cement Toyoda's "I love cars" legacy or tarnish it, depending on how quickly drivers adopt electric vehicles. "For me, playing to win also means doing things differently. Doing things that others may question, but that we believe will put us in the winner's circle the longest," he said [...]. Toyoda, who described Toyota as a large department store, said the company's goal "remains the same, pleasing the widest possible range of customers with the widest possible range of powertrains." Those powertrains will include hybrids and plug-in hybrids like the Prius, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles like the Mirai and 15 all-electric battery models by 2025. Toyoda reiterated that he does not believe all-electric vehicles will be adopted as quickly as policy regulators and competitors think, due to a variety of reasons. He cited lack of infrastructure, pricing and how customers' choices vary region to region as examples of possible roadblocks. He believes it will be "difficult" to fulfill recent regulations that call for banning traditional vehicles with internal combustion engines by 2035, like California and New York have said they will adopt. "Just like the free autonomous cars that we are all supposed to be driving by now, EVs are just going to take longer to become mainstream than media would like us to believe," Toyoda said in a recording of the remarks to dealers shown to reporters. "In the meantime, you have many options for customers." Toyoda also believes there will be "tremendous shortages" of lithium and battery grade nickel in the next five to 10 years, leading to production and supply chain problems. Toyota's goal is carbon neutrality by 2050, and not just through all-electric vehicles. Some have questioned the environmental impact of EVs when factoring in raw material mining and overall vehicle production. Since the Prius launched in 1997, Toyota says it has sold more than 20 million electrified vehicles worldwide. The company says those sales have avoided 160 million tons of CO2 emissions, which is the equivalent to the impact of 5.5 million all-electric battery vehicles. "Toyota can produce eight 40-mile plug-in hybrids for every one 320-mile battery electric vehicle and save up to eight times the carbon emitted into the atmosphere," according to prepared remarks for Toyoda provided to media. Toyoda also said the company has no plans to overhaul its franchised dealership network as it invests in electrified vehicles, like some competitors have announced. "I know you are anxious about the future. I know you are worried about how this business will change. While I can't predict the future, I can promise you this: You, me, us, this business, this franchised model is not going anywhere. It's staying just as it is," he told dealers to resounding applause.

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Tesla Unveils New Dojo Supercomputer So Powerful It Tripped the Power Grid
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: Tesla has unveiled its latest version of its Dojo supercomputer and it's apparently so powerful that it tripped the power grid in Palo Alto. Dojo is Tesla's own custom supercomputer platform built from the ground up for AI machine learning and more specifically for video training using the video data coming from its fleet of vehicles. [...] Last year, at Tesla's AI Day, the company unveiled its Dojo supercomputer, but the company was still ramping up its effort at the time. It only had its first chip and training tiles, and it was still working on building a full Dojo cabinet and cluster or "Exapod." Now Tesla has unveiled the progress made with the Dojo program over the last year during its AI Day 2022 last night. The company confirmed that it managed to go from a chip and tile to now a system tray and a full cabinet. Tesla claims it can replace 6 GPU boxes with a single Dojo tile, which the company claims costs less than one GPU box. There are 6 of those tiles per tray. Tesla says that a single tray is the equivalent of "3 to 4 fully-loaded supercomputer racks." The company is integrating its host interface directly on the system tray to create a big full host assembly. Tesla can fit two of these system trays with host assembly into a single Dojo cabinet. That's pretty much where Tesla is right now as the automaker is still developing and testing the infrastructure needed to put a few cabinets together to create the first "Dojo Exapod." Bill Chang, Tesla's Principal System Engineer for Dojo, said: "We knew that we had to reexamine every aspect of the data center infrastructure in order to support our unprecedented cooling and power density." They had to develop their own high-powered cooling and power system to power the Dojo cabinets. Chang said that Tesla tripped their local electric grid's substation when testing the infrastructure earlier this year: "Earlier this year, we started load testing our power and cooling infrastructure and we were able to push it over 2 MW before we tripped our substation and got a call from the city." Tesla released the main specs of a Dojo Exapod: 1.1 EFLOP, 1.3 TB SRAM, and 13 TB high-bandwidth DRAM.

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Blackout After Drone Food Delivery Crashes Into Powerlines
AmiMoJo shares a report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC): Thousands of people were left without power after a food delivery drone crashed into powerlines yesterday in what has been described as a "first" by Energex. Energex spokesman Danny Donald told ABC Radio Brisbane people in Browns Plains, south of Brisbane, and the immediate surrounds lost power yesterday after a drone carrying food hit the network about 2pm. Energex restored power for about 2,000 customers within 45 minutes, while 300 customers in the immediate vicinity of that drone were without power for three hours. "The meal was still hot inside the drone's delivery box when the crew got there," Mr Donald said. "While this is a different circumstance, it's no different to the previous generation flying kites," Mr Donald added. "Fifteen years ago, we asked people to be careful if they were giving their children kites for Christmas and where they were flying them. Now we're asking parents to be very careful with where their kids fly their drones."

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