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Industry & Technology

New Alexa Blueprints let users make custom skills without knowing any code

Ars Technica - 54 min 15 sec ago

Enlarge (credit: Amazon)

Amazon just released a new way for Alexa users to customize their experience with the virtual assistant. New Alexa Skill Blueprints allow users to create their own personalized Alexa skills, even if they don't know how to code. These "blueprints" act as templates for making questions, responses, trivia games, narrative stories, and other skills with customizable answers unique to each user. Amazon already has a number of resources for developers to make the new skills they want, but until now, users have had to work within the confines of pre-made Alexa skills.

Currently, more than 20 templates are available on the new Alexa Skill Blueprints website, all ready for Alexa users to personalize with their own content. Let's say you want to make a personalized trivia game for your family and friends: choosing the Trivia blueprint brings up more information about how this particular blueprint works, including audio examples and instructions on how to fill out the template. Click "Make Your Own" to then write your own trivia questions, possible answers, and choose which answer is correct for each question. You can even add sound effects like applause to make the game feel more real. After naming your trivia game, it will be accessible within minutes on all of the Alexa devices associated with your Amazon account.

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Velodyne invented modern lidar—it’s about to face real competition

Ars Technica - 58 min 59 sec ago

Enlarge / Velodyne's lidars aren't the only game in town any more. (credit: Velodyne)

David Hall invented modern three-dimensional lidar more than a decade ago for use in the DARPA Grand Challenge competitions. His company, Velodyne, has dominated the market for self-driving car lidar ever since. Last year, Velodyne opened a factory that it said had the capacity to produce a million lidar units in 2018—far more than any other maker of high-end lidars.

Now Velodyne is starting to see some serious competition. Last week, lidar startup Luminar announced that it was beginning volume production of its own lidar units. The company expects to produce 5,000 units per quarter by the end of 2018.

Meanwhile, Israeli startup Innoviz is also getting ready to manufacture its InnovizPro lidar in significant volume. The company declined to give Ars exact production numbers, only telling us it has orders for thousands of units. Innoviz believes it can scale up manufacturing quickly to satisfy that demand.

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LA councilman asks city attorney to “review possible legal action” against Waze

Ars Technica - 1 hour 23 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Prayitno)

Yet another Los Angeles city councilman has taken Waze to task for creating "dangerous conditions" in his district, and the politician is now "asking the City to review possible legal action."

"Waze has upended our City’s traffic plans, residential neighborhoods, and public safety for far too long," LA City Councilmen David Ryu said in a statement released Wednesday. "Their responses have been inadequate and their solutions, non-existent. They say the crises of congestion they cause is the price for innovation—I say that’s a false choice."

In a new letter sent to the City Attorney’s Office, Ryu formally asked Los Angeles’ top attorney to examine Waze’s behavior.

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Musk: I want to retrieve rockets with big Falcon party balloons

The Register - 1 hour 27 min ago
NASA: Been there, done that

While waiting for TESS to get off the launchpad on Monday, chief exec Elon Musk joked on Twitter about how SpaceX might set about recovering the second stage of the booster.…

Motorola Moto E5 Plus Release Date, Price and Specs - CNET - Reviews - 1 hour 33 min ago
These supercheap phones from Motorola still hold on to the headphone jack.

Motorola Moto G6 Release Date, Price and Specs - CNET - Reviews - 1 hour 33 min ago
Meanwhile, the Moto G6 Play crams in a 4,000mAh battery, and the Moto G6 Plus adds NFC.

Motorola announces the 2018 Moto G6 and E5

Ars Technica - 1 hour 34 min ago

Enlarge / The Moto G6, Moto G6 Play, Moto E5 Plus, and Moto E5 Play. (Not exactly to scale.)

NEW YORK CITY—Motorola is taking the wraps off its mid- to low-end lineup today. The company is launching four phones at once—the Moto G6, Moto G6 Play, Moto E5 Plus, and the Moto E5 Play. And no matter what Motorola does with these devices, there's almost no competition in the sub-$300 price range (especially here in the US), making all of these phones worthy of consideration just because of their price point.

Announcing four phones at once (some with multiple configurations!) can get really confusing, so let's start with a giant spec sheet comparing them all. Right off the bat, there are some notable similarities: all four phones have headphone jacks, MicroSD slots, fingerprint readers, a "water repellent" coating, Android 8.0 Oreo, and all the usual connectivity options except for NFC.

MOTO G6 MOTO G6 PLAY MOTO E5 PLUS MOTO E5 PLAY STARTING PRICE $249 $199 unknown unknown SCREEN 5.7" 2160×1080 LCD 5.7" 1440×720 LCD 6" 1440×720 LCD 5.2" 1080×720 LCD CPU Snapdragon 450

(Eight 1.8Ghz Cortex A53 Cores, 14nm)

Snapdragon 427

(Four 1.4GHz Cortex A53 Cores, 28nm)

Snapdragon 435

(Eight 1.4GHz Cortex A53 Cores, 28nm)

Snapdragon 425 or 427

(Four 1.4GHz Cortex A53 Cores, 28nm)

GPU Adreno 506 Adreno 308 Adreno 505 Adreno 308 RAM 3GB or 4GB 2GB or 3GB 3GB 2GB STORAGE 32GB or 64GB 16GB or 32GB 32GB 16GB PORTS USB-C, headphone jack Micro USB, headphone jack Micro USB, headphone jack Micro USB, headphone jack BATTERY 3000Ah 4000Ah 5000Ah 2800Ah BACK MATERIAL Gorilla Glass 3 Clear plastic Clear plastic Opaque plastic The Moto G6


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Qualcomm's bid to expand beyond mobile chips hits a roadblock - CNET - News - 2 hours 3 min ago
Is the company the latest to get caught up in in the escalating tensions between China and the US?

Amazon's new tool lets anyone make an Alexa skill in minutes - CNET - News - 2 hours 9 min ago
Available now, Alexa Skills Blueprints are free online templates that'll let anybody create custom Alexa responses or personalized skills within minutes.

Pixel 2 vs. iPhone: Why Google's phone is the best upgrade - CNET - News - 2 hours 9 min ago
If you're a "lifelong" iPhone user, you might be tempted to skip the iPhone X and get a Pixel 2. And that's OK.

Facebook reportedly looking to design its own chips - CNET - News - 2 hours 11 min ago
The social network may join other tech giants that're reducing dependence on chipmakers, Bloomberg reports. Its processors could help with AI and Oculus VR headsets.

The Force is crushing it: 2 Star Wars drones for $99.99 - CNET - News - 2 hours 13 min ago
Propel's excellent replica quadcopters originally sold for $180 apiece. Now $100 buys you two of them.

Polestar 1 does the electric slide in snowy Sweden - Roadshow - News - 2 hours 19 min ago
The 600-horsepower Polestar 1 coupe is coming next year. Here's a dynamic look at the plug-in hybrid undergoing cold weather testing in Sweden.

Mad Leo tried to sack me over Autonomy, says chief HP Inc beancounter

The Register - 2 hours 27 min ago
Court hears Catherine Lesjak recall vicious infighting over doomed $11bn buyout

Hewlett Packard's one-time chief beancounter, Catherine Lesjak was at "war" with former CEO Leo Apotheker – with Apotheker trying to fire her immediately before he himself was defenestrated, a US court has heard.…

Avengers: Infinity War has too many Avengers. Just admit it - CNET - News - 2 hours 33 min ago
Commentary: There are over 20 heroes on the film's poster. And that's not even all of them!

Monica Lewinsky wants cybersecurity pros to aid the vulnerable - CNET - News - 2 hours 50 min ago
At the annual RSA Conference, Lewinsky asks cybersecurity professionals to help vulnerable people stay safe online and spoke out against cyberbullying.

Scientists built a bot that builds IKEA chairs - CNET - News - 3 hours 17 min ago
It takes away the pain -- and satisfaction -- of assembling an IKEA furniture on your own.

BT pushes ahead with plans to switch off telephone network

The Register - 3 hours 20 min ago
Consultation next month following plan to shift all punters to VoIP

BT is forging ahead with plans to shut its traditional telephone network, with the intention of shifting all customers over to IP telephony services by 2025.…

Your phone could become a tool for detecting lies - CNET - News - 3 hours 33 min ago
A new machine learning algorithm wants to tap into digital interactions that reveal when you're bluffing.

Facebook to exclude billions from European privacy laws

BBC Technology News - 3 hours 51 min ago
A total of 1.5 billion international Facebook users will not be protected under GDPR.

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