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  1. Yes, we saw the usual spate of Echo speakers, but there's also a brand-new stylus-powered Kindle you can doodle on. Amazon announced a Prime Early Access Sale earlier this week (aka Prime Day 2.0), but today, the company took the wraps off of some new hardware it's been cooking up over the past year. That includes new Echo speakers, as usual, but there are some surprises too, such as the Kindle Scribe—the first Kindle you can scribble on—and a bedside sleep tracker called the Halo Rise. Here's everything Amazon announced today. The majority of these new devices will ship in 100 percent recyclable packaging in the US. A Kindle You Can Doodle On Kindle Scribe Photograph: Amazon One of the features we like best about the Kindle is that as an ebook reader, it is a relatively affordable, single-use device. However, as Amazon adds new models, the price has crept up. Today, Amazon debuted the first Kindle you can write on. The Kindle Scribe has a 10.2-inch screen, which is decidedly larger than any existing Kindle. The front-lit display is otherwise similar to the Paperwhite, with 300 pixels-per-inch (PPI) and adjustable warm light, but it also comes with a battery-free pen. Now you can annotate books, write in your journal, and mark up PDFs right from your Kindle. Next year, you’ll be able to send marked-up documents directly from Microsoft Word. It will be available before the holidays and costs $340 with the pen included, a step up from the pricey Kindle Oasis but similar to other E Ink note-taking tablets like the ReMarkable 2. You get four months of Kindle Unlimited and free cloud storage too. —Adrienne So New Echo Speakers New Echo Dot With Clock Photograph: Amazon You’re in luck if you prefer Alexa over Google Assistant—Amazon has updated five of its Echo devices. The Echo Dot ($50) and Echo Dot With Clock ($60) each get a new custom full-range driver for better-sounding music (with double the bass!). There’s also a neat new sensor that gives Alexa the ability to perform a task based on the room’s temperature, so your smart fan can automatically kick on when it gets too warm. These two models add gesture controls too, so you can tap the top of the Dot to dismiss a timer or control music. The Echo Dot Kids ($60) gets new owl and dragon designs, but its internals is the same as the last fourth-gen version. Echo Studio Photograph: Amazon We already thought the previous Echo Studio had the best sound quality of the bunch, and the upgrade ($200) adds spatial audio processing and “frequency range extension” that should better fill your space with sound. Already own the older Studio? A software update will add those audio upgrades for free automatically. Then there's the new Echo Auto ($55), which puts Alexa in your car in a much smaller body than the last version. The new model includes five microphones, so you don't need to belt “Alexa” when the heater is blasting. It also comes with a new adhesive mount. —Medea Giordano A Bedside Sleep Tracker Halo Rise Photograph: Amazon Want to track your sleep but hate wearing a smartwatch or fitness tracker to bed? Say hello to the Halo Rise—Amazon's contactless sleep tracker. It's hardly a new idea—Google’s second-gen Nest Hub has a Sleep Sensing feature to track your sleep via low-energy radar, and Withings has a pad that goes under your mattress. The Halo Rise uses ambient radar technology and machine learning—sans microphones or cameras. Instead, it uses a sleep algorithm that’s been trained to track breathing patterns based on a clinical data set. The Halo Rise sits on your nightstand and has the ability to detect your presence and when you’ve fallen asleep. It'll automatically track your sleep stages throughout the night (including time spent in light, REM, and deep sleep) while also measuring the light levels, humidity, and temperature in your room. You can also use it as a wake-up light and smart alarm. In the morning, you can access your sleep summary— including sleep metrics and a sleep score—along with other insights via the Halo app, along with additional sleep content. The Halo Rise costs $139 and comes with a six-month trial of a Halo membership. It will be available later this year. You can read our broader story about the Halo Rise here, which includes more details about Amazon's ambient computing strategy. —Brenda Stolyar A QLED Fire TV Fire TV Omni QLED Photograph: Amazon Companies like TCL and Vizio have dominated the mid-tier of TV sales for years now, and Amazon wants a piece of that action. The new Fire TV Omni QLED features a quantum dot display (the “Q” in QLED) for better colors (naturally, Alexa is also built in). You get 96 zones of local dimming for better black levels. Amazon’s TV also has a new “ambient experience” with hundreds of famous images from art galleries, and your own personal images (via Amazon Photos), for when you’re not watching TV. The new model also uses sensors to optimize the TV’s look in your room. I’ve yet to see a Fire TV I’m prepared to tell people to run out and buy, but this one, at least on paper, might give the competition a run for its money. It will be available starting at $800 for the 65-inch model, but there's also a 75-inch variant, which may be the one to buy, depending on the sticker price. —Parker Hall A More Powerful Fire TV Cube New Fire TV Cube Photograph: Amazon Amazon is adding a third-generation Cube to its streaming devices lineup. We’ve preferred its Fire TV Sticks over the Cubes in the past, but this newest iteration is 20 times more powerful than the last one from 2019, with an octa-core processor at the helm. It has multiple ports to hook up all your devices to the TV (and you can usually control them all with one remote), but Amazon says the new Fire TV Cube can also upscale HD content into 4K using “Super Resolution Upscaling”—be it movies shot in HD or your own photos displayed on the screen. It costs $140 and ships on October 25. A new Alexa Voice Remote Pro ($35) is also available and works with the Cube and other streaming devices including Fire TVs. Now you can say “Alexa, find my remote” when it’s missing and the remote will ring. (Roku remotes have this capability, too.) The remote has motion-activated backlights and two customizable buttons you can program for apps, Alexa commands, or routines, like dimming the lights. —Medea Giordano Astro Gets a Little Smarter Astro Photograph: Amazon Amazon Astro, the cute little robot the company unveiled last year that doesn't seem to serve much of a purpose, will be getting an update that makes it able to recognize cats and dogs, and the robot will keep an eye on them when you're away (a certain Love, Death & Robots episode comes to mind). Astro can send you a clip of what your pet is doing when it detects them, and you can talk to them using Live View. Astro can now also recognize when a door or window has been left open, but you'll need to run it through the house and teach it names for your windows and doors so it can accurately alert you when you're away. There's a software development kit (SDK) in the works for Astro as well—this will allow third-party developers to create more experiences for Astro. This SDK is currently in internal testing, and access will initially open up exclusively for students at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Maryland, and the University of Michigan later this year. You can read more about Astro in our broader story here. —Julian Chokkattu New Ring Security Devices Ring Spotlight Cam Pro Photograph: Amazon It’s worth noting here, as always, that Amazon’s Ring cameras have a unique relationship with law enforcement—Ring cameras use the Neighbors app, which incorporates the Neighbors Public Safety Service and allows law enforcement to request information directly from Ring users. Nevertheless, Ring is continuing full speed ahead with updated security cameras. There's the new Spotlight Cam Pro ($230) which you can preorder today. It features 3D motion detection, a birds-eye view so you can monitor your delivery person as they approach, as well as a loud siren to ward off potential thieves. Spotlight Cam Plus ($200) introduces a new design and has new ways to keep it powered, including solar, battery, and tethered. Ring also has a second-gen version of its Panic Button ($30), which can be mounted to your wall and you can select Panic, Medical, or Fire assistance in the Ring app. Finally, there's an update to its Virtual Security Guard service that integrates it with Astro, your handy-dandy personal mobile robot. And no, there is absolutely no way this could ever go sideways. —Adrienne So New Blink Cameras Blink Wired Floodlight Camera Photograph: Amazon Ring isn't the only home security sub-brand Amazon owns. There's Blink too, and it has two new products. The Blink Wired Floodlight Camera ($100) is the brand's first tethered camera, which will make installation trickier but banishes any worries you might have about battery life. It’s a 1080p camera with two-way audio, and the floodlight can provide up to 2,600 lumens. You will need a Sync Module 2 ($35) and USB flash drive to store video locally, but the latest chip allows for local video processing, so you can enjoy features like person detection without uploading anything. Blink also has a new mount for the Blink Mini camera that adds pan and tilt functionality for a 360-degree view of any room. You can buy it bundled with the camera for $60, or you can buy the mount separately for $30 if you already own the Mini. –Simon Hill Eero Integrations Eero Photograph: Amazon Amazon is beefing up its Eero mesh routers for businesses (or power users) with the eero PoE 6 ($230) and eero PoE Gateway ($650). Power-over-Ethernet devices allow a single cable to carry an internet connection and power. Tethered mesh systems also ensure you get the maximum internet connection speed at every access point, but you do have to run cable throughout your home or office. The eero PoE 6 is a dual-band Wi-Fi 6 access point covering up to 2,000 square feet and 100 devices with Wi-Fi speeds up to 1.5 Gbps. Eero PoE 6 Photograph: Amazon Eero introduced a new Internet Backup feature too, which lets you configure your Eero network to temporarily fall back on a mobile hotspot if your main internet connection goes down (you can configure up to eight hotspots or alternative Wi-Fi networks as backups). On top of this, Eero is also integrating its mesh technology into other Amazon products. First up are the latest generation Echo Dot and Echo Dot with Clock (see above), which means both devices can act as Wi-Fi extenders as a part of an Eero mesh network (they’ll add up to 1,000 square feet of range and handle speeds up to 100 Mbps). This "Eero Built-In" functionality is also set to roll out to the current 4th-gen devices as a software update in the coming months. In addition, Amazon will be bringing Matter support to over 100 million Eero and Echo devices starting later this year. This includes the new Echo Dot and Echo Studio, along with the Eero WiFi 6 portfolio. It’s also introducing a new Alexa Connect Kit to connect Matter devices to the cloud for new software updates. Hopefully, Alexa will be compatible with almost every smart home device. —Simon Hill Everything Amazon Announced at Its Annual Hardware Event (May require free registration to view)
  2. Lawsuit mirrors DC's case dismissed in April. Now, DOJ backs DC's appeal. Amazon is again under fire for its policies allegedly forbidding its online retailers from selling their products for lower prices on other websites and retail platforms. Critics say this has led to years of higher prices for consumers instead of allowing markets to determine fair prices. Last year, the District of Columbia sued Amazon for the same reason and lost in court in March 2022. But then in April, the Department of Justice issued a statement in support of DC's case, and shortly after, DC filed to appeal this August. Now, California Attorney General Rob Bonta has piled on more pressure, announcing a lawsuit against Amazon for allegedly blocking price competition in California, too. Previously, an Amazon spokesperson told Politico regarding the DC lawsuit that "sellers set their own prices for the products they offer in our store." The spokesperson suggested that without Amazon's commitment to highlighting competitively priced items above others, prices in the market would go up, not decrease as critics suggest. Today, an Amazon spokesperson provided Ars with a similar statement about the new case. "Similar to the DC Attorney General—whose complaint was dismissed by the courts—the California Attorney General has it exactly backwards," Amazon's spokesperson said. "Sellers set their own prices for the products they offer in our store. Amazon takes pride in the fact that we offer low prices across the broadest selection, and like any store we reserve the right not to highlight offers to customers that are not priced competitively. The relief the AG seeks would force Amazon to feature higher prices to customers, oddly going against core objectives of antitrust law." Bonta disagrees with Amazon. He said in his press release that Amazon's "agreements thwart the ability of other online retailers to compete, contributing to Amazon's dominance in the online retail marketplace and harming merchants and consumers through inflated fees and higher prices." "The reality is: Many of the products we buy online would be cheaper if market forces were left unconstrained," Bonta said. "With today's lawsuit, we're fighting back." His lawsuit filed today asks the San Francisco Superior Court to issue an order that "stops Amazon's anticompetitive behavior and recovers the damages to California consumers and the California economy." Beyond just prohibiting Amazon from anticompetitive practices, Bonta wants Amazon to "compensate for the harms to consumers through increased prices"—an amount that has yet to be determined. A California Department of Justice spokesperson told Ars that the amount "will be determined by the court, but the harm we're alleging is significant. To think about the size, you may want to consider what it means if every Californian has paid even just a little more for every product they purchased online over the span of a decade." How is California's case different from DC’s? Bonta posted the new complaint lobbed against Amazon, which suggests that because nearly 75 percent of consumers go directly to Amazon for all online purchases, merchants have no choice but to sell on Amazon. But because retailers alleged that the cost of selling items on Amazon is higher than on other platforms, including their own websites, Bonta said the terms of retailer agreements with Amazon limit their ability to sell items at a lower cost on platforms with lower seller fees. Bonta cited an e-commerce consultant who confirmed retailers could sell items for lower fees on sites like Walmart or eBay. The result is a scenario where consumers are denied opportunities to access products at cheaper rates. At the furthest extreme, Bonta said that if Amazon catches retailers breaking the agreement, retailers can face sanctions, like decreased visibility of their items in product search results "and even the possibility of termination or suspension." The DOJ is apparently on Bonta's side. In its statement of support to reopen DC's case against Amazon, the DOJ said that the DC Superior Court erred in its judgment dismissing the case, partly because DOJ said it relied on inapplicable case law. "If left uncorrected, the Court's ruling could jeopardize the enforcement of antitrust law," DOJ warned. Not inserting its own judgment, DOJ recommended the DC court reconsider whether DC met its burden to prove that Amazon's retailer agreements are unreasonable. Six months ago, Amazon seemingly cleared this hurdle, but this next round of legal battles could prove more challenging, especially with the DOJ and another state's legal team involved. As DC kicks off its appeal process, Bonta, in today's filing, asked the San Francisco Superior Court for a jury trial. "We hope that the California court will reach the same conclusion as the DC court and dismiss this lawsuit promptly," Amazon's spokesperson told Ars. California says Amazon ruined online shopping, sues it for driving up prices
  3. Amazon experienced 47 solar panel-related fires between April 2020 and June 2021, according to internal documents obtained by CNBC. It’s believed that the fires were caused as a result of electrical explosions, known as arc flashes. According to an Amazon spokesperson, the systems that caught fire were run by partners, but it has voluntarily taken offline the panels that it controls too, at least temporarily. Responding to the news, Amazon spokesperson Erika Howard said: “Out of an abundance of caution, following a small number of isolated incidents with onsite solar systems owned and operated by third parties, Amazon proactively powered off our onsite solar installations in North America, and took immediate steps to re-inspect each installation by a leading solar technical expert firm.” While having teething problems with new technologies is fine, Amazon decided to exclude what had happened from its 2021 sustainability report that was published last month. Instead, it said that solar rooftops would be powering 115 fulfilment centres around the world by the end of 2021, up from 90 in mid-2021. The spokesperson confirmed to CNBC that Amazon has completed its inspections of the solar rooftops and that they were being powered back on. She also said that Amazon now has a team of experts that construct, operate, and maintain solar panels to ensure a higher level of safety. Previously, the company was using third-party vendors. Amazon has said that it’s trying to become a net-zero company by 2040. That’s ten years earlier than the Paris Climate Agreement. Through The Climate Pledge, it’s also trying to help other businesses achieve net-zero status too. Source: CNBC Amazon's solar panels have been going up in flames and the company forgot to mention it
  4. The acquisition season of video game giants may be about to continue, this time with another player entering the game. A report from USA Today's Kirk Mckeand states that Amazon is in the process of acquiring Electronic Arts, the publisher responsible for massive franchises such as FIFA, Apex Legends, Mass Effect, Battlefield, and others. An official announcement regarding the deal will happen later today according to the report. No mention of how much is Amazon paying for EA has been made yet, we will probably get to know it if an announcement comes through. Amazon does have its own gaming division, which is responsible for recent titles such as the MMOs New World and Lost Ark. Adding EA's powerhouse studios such as Respawn, DICE, BioWare, Codemasters, Motive, and others into the mix can increase Amazon's genre diversity by quite a bit. Upcoming confirmed publishing projects of EA include a Dead Space remake, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, a free-to-play Skate entry, new BioWare RPGs, quite a few EA Sports titles, and more. The report arrives as Microsoft's own acquisition plans for Activision-Blizzard, worth almost $70 billion, carry on. Sony also made Bungie a part of its gaming studios, which cost it a cool $3.6 billion. EA also has partnerships with Microsoft, namely offering its EA Play games subscription as a part of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and PC Game Pass offerings. It will be interesting to see how these older partnerships fare if EA comes under a new company. As always, take this report with a grain of salt until some official announcements arrive from Amazon or EA. Source: USA Today UPDATE: Everybody can rest easy as the report seems to have been inaccurate. CNBC's own sources have revealed a deal involving Amazon and EA is not happening. Regarding the report, CNBC's David Farber said, "I have talked to some people who would actually know if there was something going on, and they say there's nothing going on." Amazon may be about to acquire Electronic Arts [Update]
  5. With Roomba’s maps, Amazon’s vision of ambient intelligence in the smart home is suddenly attainable Its purchase of iRobot brings Amazon much-needed context for its ambient smart home ambitions. Image: iRobot When I spoke to iRobot’s Colin Angle earlier this summer, he said iRobot OS — the latest software operating system for its robot vacuums and mops — would provide its household bots with a deeper understanding of your home and your habits. This takes on a whole new meaning with the news today that Amazon has bought iRobot for $1.7 billion. From a smart home perspective, it seems clear Amazon wants iRobot for the maps it generates to give it that deep understanding of our homes. The vacuum company has detailed knowledge of our floor plans and, crucially, how they change. It knows where your kitchen is, which your kids’ rooms are, where your sofa is (and how new it is), and if you recently turned the guest room into a nursery. This type of data is digital gold to a company whose primary purpose is to sell you more stuff. While I’m interested to see how Amazon can leverage iRobot’s tech to improve its smart home ambitions, many are right to be concerned with the privacy implications. People want home automation to work better, but they don’t want to give up the intimate details of their lives for more convenience. This is a conundrum throughout the tech world, but in our homes, it’s far more personal. Amazon’s history of sharing data with police departments through its subsidiary Ring, combined with its “always listening (for the wake word)” Echo smart speakers and now its thorough knowledge of your floor plan, give it a pretty complete picture of your daily life. The Roomba j7 has a front-facing, AI-powered camera that can identify objects in your home. Each of iRobot’s connected Roomba vacuums and mops trundles around homes multiple times a week, mapping and remapping the spaces. On its latest model, the j7, iRobot added a front-facing, AI-powered camera that, according to Angle, has detected more than 43 million objects in people’s homes. Other models have a low-resolution camera that points at the ceiling for navigation. All this makes it likely this purchase isn’t about robotics; if that’s what Amazon wanted, it would have bought iRobot years ago. Instead, it probably picked up the company (for a relative bargain — iRobot just reported a 30 percent revenue decline in the face of increasing competition) to get a detailed look inside our homes. Why? Because knowing your floor plan provides context. And in the smart home that Amazon is making a major play for, context is king. “We really believe in ambient intelligence — an environment where your devices are woven together by AI so they can offer far more than any device could do on its own,” Marja Koopmans, director of Alexa smart home, told me in an interview last month. Ambient intelligence requires multiple data points to work. With detailed maps of our homes and the ability to communicate directly with more smart home devices once Matter arrives, Amazon’s vision of ambient intelligence in the smart home suddenly becomes a lot more attainable. Astro — Amazon’s “lovable” home bot — was likely an attempt at getting that data. The robot has good mapping capabilities, powered by sensors and cameras that allow it to know everything from where the fridge is to which room you are currently in. Clearly, Amazon already had the capability to do what iRobot does. But for a thousand dollars and with limited capabilities (it couldn’t vacuum your home) and no general release date, Astro isn’t getting that info for Amazon anytime soon. Amazon’s Astro robot is capable of mapping your home. Ring’s Always Home Cam has similar mapping capabilities, allowing the flying camera to safely navigate your home. That product has further reach than Astro, as it only costs $250 and has a very clear security focus. But it’s still not available to buy. So, what iRobot brings to Amazon is context at scale. As Angle told me in May, “The barrier to the next level of AI in robotics isn’t better AI. It’s context,” says Angle. “We’ve been able to understand the utterance ‘go to the kitchen and get me a beer’ for a decade. But if I don’t know where the kitchen is, and I don’t know where the refrigerator is, and I don’t know what a beer looks like, it really doesn’t matter that I understand your words.” iRobot OS provides some of that context and, as it’s cloud-based, can easily share the information with other devices. (Currently, users can opt out of Roomba’s Smart Maps feature, which stores mapping data and shares it between iRobot devices.) A view of a Roomba j7’s map and AI-powered camera capabilities. With context, the smart home becomes smarter; devices can work better and work together without the homeowner having to program them or prompt them to do so. Angle used the example of a connected air purifier (iRobot, so now Amazon, owns Aeris air purifiers). The air purifier could automatically know which room it was in using the iRobot OS cloud. “It would [know] ‘I’m in the kitchen. It’s okay to make more noise. And there are a lot of sources of pollutants here.’ Compared to its role in a bedroom, which would be different,” says Angle. Amazon now owns four smart home brands (in addition to its Alexa platform, anchored by its Echo smart speakers and smart displays): home security company Ring, budget camera company Blink, and mesh Wi-Fi pioneers Eero. Add in iRobot and Amazon has many of the elements needed to create an almost sentient smart home, one that can anticipate what you want it to do and do it without you asking. This is something Amazon has already started to do with its Hunches feature. But consumer trust is a major roadblock. Amazon will need to do a lot more to prove it’s worthy of this type of unfettered access to your home. Today, for many people, more convenience just doesn’t feel worth the tradeoff. Photography by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge Amazon bought iRobot to see inside your home
  6. Amazon has announced that it’s buying iRobot, the firm behind the Roomba vacuum. Under the deal, Amazon will pay $61 per share in an all-cash transaction, totalling $1.7 billion, including iRobot’s net debt. For the deal to complete, iRobot’s shareholders will need to agree to the deal and regulators will need to approve it. iRobot’s CEO, Colin Angle, will stay on in his position following the completion of the deal. As he already knows the company, it allows Amazon to continue running iRobot without major headaches. The acquisition will further cement Amazon’s position in the smart home market too as its product range expands. Commenting on the deal, Colin Angle, CEO at iRobot, said: “Since we started iRobot, our team has been on a mission to create innovative, practical products that make customers’ lives easier, leading to inventions like the Roomba and iRobot OS. Amazon shares our passion for building thoughtful innovations that empower people to do more at home, and I cannot think of a better place for our team to continue our mission. I’m hugely excited to be a part of Amazon and to see what we can build together for customers in the years ahead.” For its part, Amazon seems to be quite excited by the deal too. The e-commerce giant said it was eager to work with iRobot and find new ways to help make people’s lives easier. It said that iRobot has already tackled a lot of difficult problems including avoid obstacles, automatically emptying the collection bin, and more. Amazon does a good job at offering its Kindles at an affordable price, so it’ll be interesting if it can lower the cost of Roomba vacuums too, which can still be fairly pricey. Amazon picks up Roomba vacuum maker iRobot for $1.7 billion
  7. The show debuts on July 29th If a new season of Stranger Things wasn’t enough ‘80s-themed sci-fi for you, Amazon has decided to release the first trailer for its upcoming Paper Girls series. The teaser is incredibly short, but it shows off some of the time-traveling shenanigans that viewers can expect, along with a very pink color palette. Paper Girls started life as a 30-issue comic from Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang that followed four newspaper delivery girls who get sucked into a long-running war between various time-traveling groups. It has lots of classic ‘80s adventure movie elements — like kids riding all over town on bikes — before getting going in its own direction to become extremely weird and interesting. The series, meanwhile, stars Sofia Rosinsky, Camryn Jones, Riley Lai Nelet, and Fina Strazza as the four main girls, while Ali Wong has been cast as the older version of Erin Tieng. Here’s the premise for the show, via Amazon: It’s the day after Halloween in 1988 when four young friends accidentally stumble into an intense time war and find themselves inexplicably transported to the year 2019. When they come face-to-face with their adult selves, each girl discovers her own strengths as together they try to find a way back to the past while saving the world of the future. While things have been relatively quiet since Amazon picked up the rights to the show in 2019, the studio provided a very brief tease of the main cast ahead of the trailer’s release. Paper Girls starts streaming on July 29th, which gives you plenty of time to catch up on the books beforehand, which you should definitely do. Amazon’s Paper Girls series messes with the timeline in first trailer
  8. Call this weird but Amazon has decided that it wants Alexa to mimic the voice of your deceased relative. This strange revelation was made at the company's annual re:Mars conference where Amazon's Senior Vice President and Head Scientist for Alexa, Rohit Prasad, detailed a range of new features coming to the smart assistant soon. The on-stage demo showcased a use-case where Alexa read a bedtime story to a child in the voice of his dead grandmother. Prasad stated that: This required inventions where we had to learn to produce a high-quality voice with less than a minute of recording versus hours of recording in the studio. The way we made it happen is by framing the problem as a voice conversion task and not a speech generation path. We are unquestionably living in the golden era of AI, where our dreams and science fictions are becoming a reality. Amazon claims that voice can be synthesized using just one minute of audio as an input. Although Amazon didn't describe other use-cases, the one that it demonstrated does have fairly odd vibes to it. Maybe Amazon meant it to be wholesome moment but hearing the synthesized audio of a dearly departed relative through a smart speaker just isn't my cup of tea. Details about availability and other potential use-cases are scarce at the moment. It remains to be seen how Amazon will market this "feature" to a wider audience. Who knows, maybe Amazon will market it as the digital Ouija board for this generation. Source: TechCrunch Amazon wants Alexa to speak to you in the voice of your deceased relative
  9. It can pick things up, put them down, and move them around It’s called Proteus Image: Amazon Amazon has announced its “first fully autonomous mobile robot,” meant to move large carts throughout its warehouses. The robot is called Proteus, and Amazon says it can safely navigate around human employees, unlike some of its past robots that it kept separated in a caged area. Amazon says Proteus robots have “advanced safety, perception, and navigation technology,” and a (strangely silent) video shows the robots shining a green light in front of themselves as they move around. When a human steps into the beam, the robot stops moving, then resumes after the person moves away. The company has also announced several other robotic systems. One, called Cardinal, is a robotic arm that can lift and move packages weighing up to 50 pounds, which Amazon hopes to deploy in warehouses next year. The company says that its computer vision systems let it pick out and lift individual packages, even if they’re in a pile. Amazon’s post also shows off tech that could let employees ditch the hand scanners they use to log barcodes. Instead, workers stand in front of a camera system that recognizes the packages without pausing to scan the label. There isn’t a lot of detail on how it works other than some combination of machine learning and a 120 fps camera system, but the effect is similar to what we’ve seen from the company’s Just Walk Out tech that lets it build cashierless stores. We’ve reached out to Amazon to ask exactly what the system is looking at and will let you know if we hear back. As is often the case with new robot technology, there are potential labor concerns. Despite recent reports that Amazon could soon struggle to find workers, the company says it’s not looking to build robots instead of hiring people. A lead at Amazon’s robotics division explicitly told Forbes that “replacing people with machines is just a fallacy” that could lead to a company going out of business. However, robots could play a role in setting a pace of work that humans struggle to safely keep up with, something we’ve already seen happen at the company with automated management systems. The new scanning system especially seems like it could create unrealistic expectations about how fast workers should be moving. For its part, Amazon claims all its new robots could actually help improve safety. Cardinal operates in places where workers would otherwise lift and twist heavy packages, a movement that can lead to injuries, and Proteus could “reduce the need for people to manually move heavy objects.” The company’s also working on a robot that would deliver containers to workers rather than having them bend or climb to reach items. Amazon’s CEO recently promised to systemically address the injury rates at the company’s warehouses, though he has minimized reports that its workers are hurt at double the industry rate by calling the company’s rates “misunderstood.” Amazon announces its first fully autonomous mobile warehouse robot
  10. Amazon’s drone program has yet to gain momentum A report from Bloomberg details the obstacles hampering Amazon’s efforts to get its delivery drone program off the ground, citing a high employee turnover rate and potential safety risks. According to Bloomberg, there were five crashes over the course of a four-month period at the company’s testing site in Pendleton, Oregon. A crash in May took place after a drone lost its propeller, but Bloomberg says Amazon cleaned up the wreckage before the Federal Aviation Administration could investigate. Amazon spokesperson Av Zammit disputed this, saying that Amazon followed orders it received from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to document the event and move the drone. The following month, a drone’s motor shut off as it switched from an upward flight path to flying straight ahead. Two safety features — one that’s supposed to land the drone in this type of situation and another that stabilizes the drone — both failed. As a result, the drone flipped upside down and dropped from 160 feet in the air, leading to a brush fire that stretched across 25 acres. It was later put out by the local fire department. “Instead of a controlled descent to a safe landing, [the drone] dropped about 160 feet in an uncontrolled vertical fall and was consumed by fire,” the FAA said in a report of the incident obtained by Bloomberg. Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos first announced 30-minute drone deliveries in 2013, and almost 10 years later, we still don’t have drones delivering Amazon packages to our doorsteps. In 2019, the company previewed a redesign of its Prime Air delivery drone that has the ability to fly vertically and hinted at launching drone deliveries later that year — a promise that went unfulfilled. One year later, Amazon announced FAA approval for the company to operate as a drone airline in 2020, which Amazon’s vice president of Prime Air said was “an important step forward for Prime Air.” Last year, a Wired report revealed that Amazon’s drone delivery operation is struggling just as much in the UK, despite making its first-ever drone delivery near Cambridge in 2016. Wired’s report suggests that the UK outfit is marred by some of the same issues described by Bloomberg, including a high turnover rate and potential safety issues. At a UK-based facility for analyzing drone footage for people and animals, one worker reportedly drank beer on the job, while Wired said another held down the “approve” button on their computer regardless of whether there were hazards in the footage or not. In a statement to The Verge, Zammit said the NTSB never classified any of Amazon’s flight tests as an accident, as they didn’t result in any injuries or put structures at risk. “Safety is our top priority,” Zammit said. “We use a closed, private facility to test our systems up to their limits and beyond. With rigorous testing like this, we expect these types of events to occur, and we apply the learnings from each flight towards improving safety. No one has ever been injured or harmed as a result of these flights, and each test is done in compliance with all applicable regulations.” Former and current employees at Amazon also told Bloomberg that the company is prioritizing the rushed rollout of its drone program over safety. Cheddi Skeete, a former drone project manager at Amazon, said he was fired last month for speaking with his manager about his safety concerns. Skeete told Bloomberg that he was reluctant to continue testing a drone that had crashed five days previously but was told the team had inspected 180 engines on 30 different drones — Skeete doubted this assertion, as checking the motors is a cumbersome process, Bloomberg reports. “We take safety reporting seriously — we have a safety reporting system that’s well-known by all our team members, and we encourage them to raise any safety suggestions and concerns,” Zammit told The Verge. “In addition to using this system, we encourage employees to provide any other feedback they may have through their manager, HR, or our leadership team.” David Johnson, a former drone flight assistant for Amazon, told Bloomberg that Amazon would sometimes perform tests “without a full flight team” and with “inadequate equipment.” Johnson also said the company often assigned multiple roles to one person, a claim Bloomberg says is corroborated by two other former Amazon employees. “They give people multiple things to do in a very narrow window of time to try to boost their numbers, and people cut corners,” Johnson told Bloomberg. “They were more concerned about pumping flights out and didn’t want to slow down.” Zammit denied Johnson’s claims, stating: “Crew members are assigned to only one role per flight. Before each flight test, crew members are briefed on their individual role,” Zammit explained. We do not set time limits for completion of any aspect of our flight tests, and our team can take their time to complete their roles safely.” Correction April 11th 7:28PM ET: A previous version of the article described a drone’s descent as “fiery” when it caught fire when it landed. We regret the error. Update April 11th 7:28PM ET: Added additional context surrounding Amazon’s response to a drone crash and added an additional statement from Av Zammit. Amazon is still struggling to make drone deliveries work
  11. Over the next five years, three new heavy-lift rockets will put thousands of satellites into low earth orbit as part of Amazon's Project Kuiper. The project aims to provide broadband connections using a constellation of 3,236 satellites. Rival Starlink is said to have more than 2,300 satellites in orbit already. The rockets will be made by Arianespace, Blue Origin - which was founded by Amazon owner Jeff Bezos - and United Launch Alliance. Amazon says Project Kuiper aims to provide high-speed, low-latency broadband to customers including households, businesses, government agencies, disaster relief operations, mobile operators, and other organisations "working in places without reliable internet connectivity". Like Elon Musk's Starlink, users will connect to the internet via a terminal that communicates with the satellites. Amazon says its experience in shipping and making products like Echo and Kindle will be useful in producing and distributing these. "Project Kuiper will provide fast, affordable broadband to tens of millions of customers in unserved and underserved communities around the world," said Dave Limp, senior vice-president for Amazon Devices & Services, in a statement announcing the deal. New rockets Amazon plans 83 launches over the next five years, saying it constitutes "the largest commercial procurement of launch vehicles in history". The firm plans two "prototype" missions later this year - but using a rocket made by ABL Space Systems, and not the three that will launch the bulk of the satellites. An illustration of the Vulcan Centaur, one of the new rockets used for the launches Unlike Elon Musk's Falcon 9 rockets, the three new rockets used for Project Kuiper's launches are still in development. Another satellite internet firm OneWeb, which is part-owned by the British government, recently decided to use SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets after losing access to the Russian-built Soyuz rockets it had been using, following the invasion of Ukraine. In total Mr Musk hopes to launch as many as 30,000 Starlink satellites into space. The value of this type of low-earth orbit satellite internet has already been demonstrated in Ukraine, where the United States Agency for International Development said, in conjunction with SpaceX, it had helped ship a total of 5,000 Starlink terminals to the country's government. But, as low-earth orbit becomes increasingly congested, astronomers have complained that the light reflected from these satellites as they pass overhead increasingly disrupts the view of the night's sky. Astro-photographer Mary McIntyre, said on Twitter: "The satellites are literally destroying our beautiful night sky." Source
  12. Users are showing off what the $1,450 Amazon smart home robot can really do Amazon’s new home robot Astro has been spotted in the wild. Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge Photos and videos of Amazon’s home robot Astro in the real world have begun to emerge as early adopters of the invite-only smart home gadget start to play around with their new bot. Surprisingly, despite the device starting to ship last November, only a couple of videos have emerged so far. Bob Rekieta uploaded this video of his Astro trundling off after being commanded to go to the den with a beer onboard (presumably that someone put there, as this thing does not have hands). Astro brings Celeste a beer. Screenshot from YouTube video by Bob Rekieta Then Astro is told to “find Celeste,” and the robot tilts its screen disarmingly while looking around with its circular “eyes.” It executes the command, finding the beer-seeking resident of the home and displaying “Hi Celeste” on its screen as it looks at her. Matthew Nereim, a fifth-grade teacher in Florida, spoke to Bloomberg about his experiences with his Astro which he received a couple of months ago. Nereim told Bloomberg he likes to control the robot from his phone and tease his dog with it. He also has Astro follow him around when he’s home, acting as a portable Alexa smart display that can also carry drinks in its onboard cargo holder. “It’s like your little own R2-D2,” Nereim told Bloomberg. “My friends and family think it’s hilarious. They say: ‘This thing follows you?!’” The Astro docked and showing its Echo Show-like home screen. Photo by Matthew Nereim / Bloomberg Matthew Nereim’s dog with his new buddy Astro. Photo by Matthew Nereim / Bloomberg There are some issues, however, including the robot getting confused when looking for its charging base and any time it’s near stairs, Nereim said. Thankfully, it doesn’t appear to have ever thrown itself down the stairs — as reports that emerged when the robot was first announced indicated it might do. Nereim also told Bloomberg that he thinks the retail price of $1,449.99 is a bit steep for what you get (he paid $999 as an early backer), adding he thinks $700 would be more reasonable. Announced in September 2021, Astro is Amazon’s first home robot and is currently available to purchase through an invitation program for $999. This is Amazon’s Day 1 beta program where users have the option of submitting feedback to help improve the device before it goes on general sale. Amazon doesn't release sales data, but company spokesperson Patrick Santucci told The Verge that “[they’re] seeing positive feedback and learning a lot about how customers want to use a consumer robot.” He also said it’s still too early to say when the device will be more widely available. Astro is a camera-equipped robot on wheels. You can access a live view of its video feed from the Astro app, remotely control its movements, and talk and listen through its speakers and microphones. It can act as a home security robot and send an alert when it sees an unrecognized person. With a Ring Protect Pro plan subscription ($20 a month), you can access video history for up to 60 days and schedule the robot to patrol autonomously and investigate events it detects. The Verge got a sneak peek of Astro in action last year. Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge As is shown in the video, Astro can learn your home layout and obey commands to go to a specific room. It can also recognize faces and deliver items to a specific person. As a smart display, it can play music, show you the weather, and answer questions. Video calling is also available with a 5-megapixel camera, and Amazon said there are plans for it to work with third-party accessories to record data like blood pressure. Amazon is advertising the product as potentially helpful for remotely caring for aging loved ones when paired with its new Alexa Together service. Amazon’s Astro robot has been spotted in the wild... bringing people beer
  13. The show will reportedly be set 50 years after Blade Runner 2049 Photo: Alcon Entertainment Blade Runner’s next act will apparently be a live-action TV series from Amazon, with original director Ridley Scott set to return as an executive producer on the project, Blade Runner 2099, Variety reports. Blade Runner 2099 will pick up 50 years in the future from the Denis Villeneuve-helmed sequel Blade Runner 2049 from 2017 and will see Silka Luisa (the showrunner on Apple TV Plus’ Shining Girls) writing and executive producing the series. Deadline adds that Scott may also direct the show himself, too. Scott had previously teased the project in a BBC interview back in November — the first public mention of the series — mentioning that the live-action show was being developed as a 10-episode series to start, with a pilot and a show bible already written. Blader Runner: 2099 won’t be the first spin-off show for the iconic sci-fi franchise, either; Adult Swim debuted an anime series, Blade Runner: Black Lotus, late last year that further expanded the Blade Runner universe. The original Blade Runner was released in 1982 and has since risen to prominence as one of the most beloved science fiction movies ever made (along with one of the most controversial, given the plethora of different cuts whose relative merits have been fodder for internet arguments for decades). The 35-years-in-the-making sequel, Blade Runner 2049, was released in 2017 to critical — if not commercial — success. That Amazon is the reported home of the live-action Blade Runner show speaks to the mega-corporation’s streaming ambitions as it continues to try and build out its library of must-see content. Amazon Studios has invested heavily in genre television in recent years, with the company picking up The Expanse after its original cancellation, along with big-budget projects like The Wheel of Time and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (the latter of which, with a reported budget of $465 million looks to be the single most expensive TV series ever made). Amazon is working on a live-action Blade Runner 2099 TV show from Ridley Scott
  14. Amazon’s electric Rivian vans will start making deliveries in 16 cities this year 100,000 vehicles by 2022 Amazon’s new electric delivery vans will hit the road in more than a dozen cities starting this year, the company announced Wednesday. The vans, which are being designed and built by buzzy EV startup Rivian, are already making deliveries to customers in Los Angeles. Amazon plans to expand its testing to 15 more cities this year, as it continues to build toward a fleet of 100,000 vehicles by 2022. The companies did not name which cities they would choose. In a short video published today, Amazon touts the fact that the vans were designed, built, and are now being tested within a year. “We’re loving the enthusiasm from customers so far—from the photos we see online to the car fans who stop our drivers for a first-hand look at the vehicle,” said Ross Rachey, director of Amazon’s Global Fleet and Products, said in a statement. “From what we’ve seen, this is one of the fastest modern commercial electrification programs, and we’re incredibly proud of that.” Rivian is a relatively new name in the electric vehicle industry, having only debuted its pickup truck and SUV at the end of November 2018 — despite operating in stealth since 2009. Originally founded to make something that competed with Tesla’s first car, the Roadster, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe eventually pivoted the company toward a more action-adventure customer segment of SUVs and pickup trucks. Since coming out of stealth, Rivian has hauled in a series of enormous investments from several major players. Amazon led a $700 million round in February 2019, followed by $500 million from Ford in April 2019. Most recently, Rivian landed $2.65 billion from T. Rowe Price and Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund. (Jeff Bezos recently announced he would be stepping down as CEO to devote more attention to the initiative.) Rivian has shown off two vehicles so far: the R1T pickup and the R1S SUV. Built on the same architecture as the delivery van, Rivian claims its vehicles — which will start at around $70,000 — will be able to travel up to around 400 miles on a single charge, hit 60 miles per hour in under three seconds, and eventually be able to drive themselves in some capacity. Amazon originally announced the new delivery van as part of its climate pledge to become a carbon-neutral company by 2040. It’s funny that Amazon’s Rachey mentions the photos of the delivery van posted online. Curious passers-by have also captured the shall-we-say unique external sound that emanates from the van while parked or traveling at low speeds. Electric vehicles can be notably silent when compared to their internal combustion engine-having counterparts, so regulators require them to produce an artificial sound when traveling at low speeds to alert pedestrians and other road users that may not otherwise hear the approaching vehicle. Based on the spacey, sci-fi-ish sound that has been selected, it would seem that Rivian was going for something that could best be described as “chill/lo-fi beats to relax/study to playlist.” According to The Drive citing a post from Drive Tesla Canada, the Rivian vans’ artificial sound is so loud, it can be heard from inside someone’s house. It’s not clear whether this will be the final sound used for all of Amazon’s delivery fleet. In other words, there’s still time to change it. Please change it. Source: Amazon’s electric Rivian vans will start making deliveries in 16 cities this year
  15. The Pentagon may cancel JEDI contract to make Amazon go away Despite winning the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI contract all the way back in October 2019, Microsoft has still not been able to start working on delivering a revamp of the US military’s IT infrastructure due to repeat litigation from loser Amazon. Now Business Insider reports that to make the issue go away the Pentagon may simply cancel the contract and start over, possibly with multiple cloud providers. The hope is that by re-running the contract the years of litigation by Amazon may be avoided, but we suspect Microsoft will not be too happy. Microsoft has accused Amazon of improperly accessing the details of their bid to undercut them, and re-running the bidding process will only compound this. Microsoft has previously said, “Now that Amazon has this retained knowledge of Microsoft’s proprietary information, a complete re-do can only hurt Microsoft and benefit Amazon.” Of course, Amazon may hope that the absence of a certain Donald Trump from the White House would improve their chances of winning immensely, though Microsoft has always maintained “… the facts will show they (DoD) ran a detailed, thorough and fair process in determining the needs of the warfighter were best met by Microsoft.” via WebProNews Source: The Pentagon may cancel JEDI contract to make Amazon go away
  16. Why Amazon Prime Day 2020 postponed until August makes sense for everyone If Prime Day deals start in August, everyone will benefit (Image credit: Amazon) The Amazon Prime Day 2020 date is reportedly happening in August 2020, not July, offering a one-month reprieve on what's normally an epic deals marathon. That's the right move for everyone. People still need to save money – now more than ever – but this year's Prime Day has to be timed right: for consumers, for Amazon employees, for delivery workers, and for all of the manufacturers. Officially, Amazon hasn't said much. There's just one line on its website: "Prime Day 2020 has not been announced." But Reuters threw up an exclusive in April, noting that it will be delayed until "at least August", citing internal meeting notes. Amazon hasn't come to a decision, or publicized one at least. That said, everything points to August making the most sense – if Prime Day 2020 happens at all. (Image credit: Amazon) (Image credit: Amazon) Everyone needs time to stay safe and recover First and foremost, Amazon needs to make sure its employees aren't vulnerable to further Covid-19 infections before even considering a Prime Day 2020 date. There are a lot of unknowns that prevent that decision from happening right now. So far, seven Amazon employees have died of Covid-19, reports the Daily Mail. The company needs to make sure its warehouse and contractors are safe, and so far we don't have all of the facts. Amazon has an ongoing Covid-19 blog, which begins with a statement: "Our top concern is ensuring the health and safety of our employees, and we expect to invest approximately $4 billion from April to June on COVID-related initiatives getting products to customers and keeping employees safe." Prime Day puts incredible strain on warehouse and delivery workers. We've talked to delivery people in the past who note that the actual deals dates aren't bad for them – it's the two days following sales that stress them out. Now imagine feeling that way during the tail end of a pandemic. Likewise, consumers need to have a better understanding of how the economy will bounce back and ensure their jobs are safe before making big ticket purchases. Anyone recently laid off is undoubtedly less than eager to splurge in July. (Image credit: Amazon) But people still need to save... and sell If consumers are really putting off big purchases and Amazon is prioritizing essential goods right now, there's going to be pent-up demand to both buy and sell by August. Or that's the hope for Amazon Prime Day 2020, at least. What's selling today? Our data shows that people are adjusting to the sudden work-from-home lifestyle by buying webcams and monitors. They're by and large sold out. It's not just face masks and cleaning supplies flying off store shelves. Consumers have been putting off big ticket purchases until they know more about the economy's recovery and how safe their jobs are long-term. That confidence is more likely to start to return in August than July. Manufacturers, meanwhile, have inventory sitting in warehouses, and many rely on the annual Prime Day sales push to counteract a sleepy July. Companies have also delayed product announcements. There's pent-up demand on both ends. (Image credit: Amazon) Anything beyond August runs close to Black Friday Pushing Amazon Prime Day until "at least August", as Reuter reported, doesn't mean it'll actually happen in August. It could happen later or be scrapped entirely. But here's our thinking: delaying the Prime Day date beyond August runs the risk of happening in a crowded season. In September, we expect Apple to announce the iPhone 12 (which it won't be on sale through Amazon) and control the media narrative (not to mention the the budget of consumers). How about October or beyond? Well, that runs into an even bigger risk: Black Friday 2020 and Cyber Monday happen in November. Sure, they're at the end of November, but retailers begin their sales push on November 1 or sooner. (Image credit: Shutterstock) August is the Goldilocks month for Prime Day July may be too soon for the safety of Amazon workers and for consumer confidence to return. People will need haircuts in June more than they need a new 4K TV or a laptop at a discount. But anything from September onward seems too late to have the impact that Amazon and manufacturers need. That leaves August as the best option for Prime Day 2020. When will Amazon finally announce the official Prime Day date? We don't typically find out about the date until two weeks before it happens, so even if it was July, we wouldn't know today. In fact, Jeff Bezos and company may not know when to launch Prime Day internally. Amazon is likely waiting on the same data regarding new Covid-19 infection rates and consumer confidence that we're all waiting on. Source: Why Amazon Prime Day 2020 postponed until August makes sense for everyone (TechRadar)
  17. In July, Amazon Publishing teamed up with Penguin Random House and authors including Lee Child and John Grisham to sue 'pirate' sites operating under the Kiss Library brand. A court has now handed down orders which, among other things, require a broad range of Internet and financial companies to hand over everything they know about the defendants. In July, Amazon Content Services, publisher Penguin Random House and several authors including John Grisham and Lee Child, targeted a range of eBook download sites operating under the ‘Kiss Library’ brand. Listing several domains including kisslibrary.net, kissly.net, wtffastspring.bid, libly.net, and cheaplibrary.com, among others, the lawsuit alleges that the sites offer a wide selection of books at “unbeatable prices”. The plaintiffs allege that this deep discounting is possible for only one reason – the content is pirated. Alleging willful direct copyright infringement, among other things, the plaintiffs demanded statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringed work. They further demanded injunctive relief, including an order impounding all copies of the infringing materials. Temporary Restraining Orders Quickly Handed Down Noting that the defendants had gone to “great lengths” to conceal their identities, within days of the filing of the lawsuit a Washington court handed down a comprehensive temporary restraining order in an effort to shut down the allegedly-infringing activities of the sites. The orders included evidence preservation instructions and restrained many entities, including payment processors, domain registrars, Internet service companies, advertisers and search engines, from doing business with the sites. In addition, the order required financial companies such as banks, payment processors and credit card companies to locate the defendants’ accounts and temporarily freeze them. Domain companies were instructed to do the same, rendering the sites inaccessible. The restraining order was valid for just 48 days, meaning that the defendants’ had until August 25, 2020, to appear and put up a fight. Despite being notified of the action via a KissLibrary.com email address, that did not happen. Kiss Library Defendants Did Not Appear After failing to respond to the plaintiffs correspondence or the court’s order, the Kiss Library defendants also failed to attend a show cause hearing this week. As a result, the court went about its business in a predictably one-sided manner, declaring that on the basis of the plaintiffs’ allegations, their case against the defendants is likely to succeed. “Defendants have engaged in direct copyright infringement of those Works by reproducing, displaying, and distributing the Works for profit through the Websites identified in the Complaint,” the court’s order reads. “Defendants have induced, caused, and materially contributed to others’ infringement of those Works, through the intentional solicitation, facilitation, and ability to control and supervise others’ upload of the infringed Works on the Websites for profit,” and as a result, “third-party purchasers have also impermissibly copied Plaintiffs’ protected works, further infringing Plaintiffs’ rights in those Works.” Declaring that the defendants intentionally contributed to the infringing activity and at a minimum acted with “willful blindness” or in “reckless disregard” of the plaintiffs’ copyrights, Senior District Judge Marsha J. Pechman handed down a broad preliminary injunction Thursday against the Kiss Library defendants and those doing business with them. Preliminary Injunction While the Kiss Library sites appear to have gone offline following the filing of the lawsuit in July, the preliminary injunction handed down yesterday should make it extremely difficult for them to reappear in any recognizable form. Targeting the defendants and any third-party entities connected to them, the injunction prevents banks, payment and cryptocurrency processors, email providers, domain registrars, hosts, ISPs and a wide range ancillary web companies, including search engines, ad companies and even web designers, from doing any business that might contribute to the infringement of the plaintiffs’ copyrights. Furthermore, if any of these entities have documents, business records, computer files or other evidence relating to the defendants’ websites, assets and operations, these must not be moved, destroyed or otherwise disposed of. This instruction will stay in place until the court rules otherwise. Ex Parte Asset Restraint In an effort to ensure that the Kiss Library defendants don’t disappear with the profits of their activities while leaving nothing for the plaintiffs in the event of a damages award, a wide range of financial institutions are ordered to immediately locate all accounts connected to the defendants and/or the websites and prevent them from transferring or disposing of any funds. These include named entities FastSpring, PayPal, BitPay, and MasterCard but extends to any company or organization served with the order, such as “banks, savings and loan associations, payment processors or other financial institutions.” On the technical front, the court requires companies including Cloudflare, Tucows, Whois Privacy Corp., NameCheap, 1337 Services LLC (Njalla), NameSilo, Web.com, White & Case, and Pork Bun LLC to disable the Kiss Library domains within three days and prevent them from being transferred. Expedited Discovery After concluding the plaintiffs had “engaged in reasonable but fruitless efforts” to uncover the identities of the people behind the Kiss Library operation, the court has now stepped in to assist. All entities covered by the instructions in the preliminary injunction must hand over all information and records they hold on the defendants and/or their websites within five days. This includes names, addresses, financial accounts, details of assets and any other information, without limitation, that could allow the plaintiffs to positively identify the defendants. The preliminary injunction and expedited discover order can be obtained here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  18. Anyone can access portions of a web portal, used by law enforcement to request customer data from Amazon, even though the portal is supposed to require a verified email address and password. Amazon’s law enforcement request portal allows police and federal agents to submit formal requests for customer data along with a legal order, like a subpoena, a search warrant, or a court order. The portal is publicly accessible from the internet, but law enforcement must register an account with the site in order to allow Amazon to “authenticate” the requesting officer’s credentials before they can make requests. Only time sensitive emergency requests can be submitted without an account, but this requires the user to “declare and acknowledge” that they are an authorized law enforcement officer before they can submit a request. The portal does not display customer data or allow access to existing law enforcement requests. But parts of the website still load without needing to log in, including its dashboard and the “standard” request form used by law enforcement to request customer data. The portal provides a rare glimpse into how Amazon handles law enforcement requests. This form allows law enforcement to request customer data using a wide variety of data points, including Amazon order numbers, serial numbers of Amazon Echo and Fire devices, credit cards details and bank account numbers, gift cards, delivery and shipping numbers, and even the Social Security number of delivery drivers. It also allows law enforcement to obtain records related to Amazon Web Services accounts by submitting domain names or IP addresses related to the request. Assuming this was a bug, we sent Amazon several emails prior to publication but did not hear back. Amazon is not the only tech company with a portal for law enforcement requests. Many of the bigger tech companies with millions or even billions of users around the world, like Google and Twitter, have built portals to allow law enforcement to request customer and user data. Motherboard reported a similar issue earlier this month that allowed anyone with an email address to access law enforcement portals set up by Facebook and WhatsApp. Source
  19. A spin-off from The Boys is already in development Part college show, part Hunger Games (Image credit: Amazon) Amazon is developing a spinoff from its superhero show, The Boys. According to THR the project "has been in the works for a while", but following the success of the second season of The Boys, which is currently broadcast weekly on Prime, it's thought production has been fast-tracked. The spinoff – which has been described as part college show, part Hunger Games – reportedly focuses on a college created for young superheros by by the shadowy corporation Vought International. The series will track the "physical, sexual, and moral boundaries" of its 'supes'. The show is in development by Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Television, in association with Point Grey Pictures, Kripke Enterprises, and Original Film. The Boys executive producer Craig Rosenberg will act as both writer and showrunner on the new venture, while The Boys creator Eric Kripke will also serve as exec producer along with Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and James Weaver. Original Film's Neal H. Moritz and Pavun Shetty are also on board as executive producers, along with The Boys comic book creators Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. The Boys are back in town ICYMI, The Boys season 3 will likely follow in 2021. As we've reported Amazon Prime Video likely renewed the show sooner rather than later due to both the success of season 1 and the length of time it takes to actually make the effects-heavy episodes. The Boys season 2 kicked off on September 4, but unlike last year's episodes, new installments have rolled out weekly thereafter. The season is expected to wrap up in October. A spin-off from The Boys is already in development
  20. Amazon’s fall hardware event: the 13 biggest announcements We saw new Echo devices, Ring updates, and even Amazon’s cloud gaming service Amazon just wrapped up its fall hardware event, and it was packed with a number of big announcements. There were a number of new Echo devices, such as a spherical redesign of the tried-and-true Echo. Amazon also showed off improvements for Alexa, including new security features. We saw a bunch of new Ring devices — one of which was a drone that can autonomously fly around your home. And Amazon finally took the wraps off its long-rumored cloud gaming service, Luna. If you want the play-by-play, check out our live blog with commentary from Dieter Bohn and Nilay Patel. And if you want the rundown of the biggest news from the show, check it out right here: Amazon showed off a new, spherical Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Dot with Clock Amazon showed off a totally redesigned Echo with a new spherical look. It has Zigbee support, functions as an Amazon Sidewalk bridge, and has “premium, adaptive sound” from Dolby. It will cost $99, and will release on October 22nd. Amazon has also brought the new look to the smaller Echo Dot ($49.99) and Echo Dot with Clock ($59.99). They’re available for pre-order today. And new Echo Dot Kids Edition designs have cute panda and tiger designs, and they’ll cost $59.99, also available for pre-order today (the regular Echo Dot ships October 22nd, while the clock model ships November 5th.) Alexa can also now recognize and respond to children’s voices with new Voice Profiles for Kids. The new Echo Show 10 can move its screen to look at you Amazon’s new Echo Show 10 smart display is attached to a motorized base that automatically moves around to face you as you move around a room and interact with the device. The smart display will cost $249.99 and pre-orders begin today, although there’s no exact release date yet. The Echo Show 10 is also getting Netflix The Echo Show 10 already lets you watch Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, but now it’s getting support for Netflix. Amazon announces Luna, its cloud gaming service, and a controller to go with it Amazon has finally revealed its AWS-powered cloud gaming service to compete with the likes of Google’s Stadia and Microsoft’s xCloud. It’s called Luna, it’s coming to Fire TV, PC, Mac, and iPhone (via web app) at launch, with support for Android “coming soon.” You can request early access to it today. Amazon also revealed the Luna Controller, which the company promises will have lower latency when you use it with its “Cloud Direct” technology. You can buy the controller for an introductory price of $49.99 during Luna’s early access period. Ring launched a home security drone Ring is launching the Always Home Cam, an autonomous security drone for your house. It can patrol your home on its own and return to a special dock to charge up its battery. It’s set to cost $249.99 and will ship next year. Amazon revealed a new Fire TV Stick and Fire TV UI Amazon showed off a new Fire TV Stick, which has HD Streaming, Dolby Atmos, and comes with the Alexa Voice Remote. It costs $39.99. There’s also a new Fire TV Stick Lite, which has a simplified Alexa remote, and costs a bit less at $29.99. Both will be available on September 30th. Amazon also took the wraps off a new Fire TV UI, which has a new look and starts from the profile page. The new UI launches later this year. Amazon Amazon announces a new Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6 Amazon announced a new set of Wi-Fi routers, the Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6. They support Wi-Fi 6, have a built-in Zigbee Smart Home Hub, and work with Alexa. The Eero 6 will cost $129.99, while the Eero Pro 6 will cost $229.99. They’re available to pre-order today, and ship November 2nd. Ring has a new line of security cameras for cars Ring announced a set of security cameras for cars, the Car Alarm and Car Cam. They’ll be available next year. The company is also announcing Ring Car Connect, an API that other car manufacturers can use to integrate their car cameras into Ring’s platform. Ring plans to offer end-to-end encryption by the end of this year Ring will offer end-to-end encryption for video footage for free to all users by the end of this year. Amazon revealed its own processor to make Alexa voice commands faster Amazon announced the AZ1 Neural Edge, a chip developed alongside MediaTek that will help Alexa respond to voice queries more quickly by processing them on-device. It’s built into the new Echo Show 10 and will be included in other Echo products in the future. Alexa can better listen to multiple people and ask clarifying questions Amazon showed off a number of machine-learning powered technologies to help Alexa better understand multiple people at once and ask clarifying questions if needed. In one demo, Alexa helped two people ordered a pizza, and it understood when they were talking directly to her and when the two people were just talking to each other. Amazon says all new wall-powered Echo devices will have “low power mode” As part of its efforts to make more sustainable products, Amazon said all new wall-powered Echo devices will have a new “low power mode.” The company said it will come it to older Echo devices via a software update. In addition, the company will be rolling out an energy dashboard to help customers understand how much energy their Echo and Alexa devices are using. Amazon announces Alexa Guard Plus, which adds more security features to your Echo device The company also announced Alexa Guard Plus, which offers some new features on top of the company’s free Alexa Guard security monitoring system. It costs $4.99 per month. Amazon’s fall hardware event: the 13 biggest announcements
  21. The first trailer for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's Amazon Original Series is here Truth Seekers launches in October (Image credit: Amazon) Amazon has released the first trailer for Truth Seekers, its upcoming comedy-horror series starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as part-time paranormal investigators. Launching on Amazon Prime Video on October 30 - just in time for Halloween viewing that’s a little more funny than frightening - the series follows Pegg and Frost’s characters, Gus and Dave, as they travel across the UK, filming ghost sightings and sharing them online. The trailer, which you can watch below, shows the tongue-in-cheek tone of the show which is to be expected given it’s co-written by Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Nat Saunders and James Serafinowicz. The action of Truth Seekers ramps up when the team’s supernatural encounters begin to happen more often, putting them in increasing amounts of danger as a deadly conspiracy comes to light. With Amazon’s adaption of Utopia coming up, this feels like it has the potential to be a good companion watch, with similar conspiracy thriller themes but maybe just a touch more levity. With only eight episodes Truth Seekers isn’t a long series but it does have a solid comedy cast alongside Pegg and Frost, including Samson Kayo, Malcolm McDowell, Emma D’Arcy and Susan Wokoma. Given Pegg and Frost’s track record with balancing horror and comedy in films like Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead this one is probably going to be worth a watch, especially since trick or treating is definitely off the cards this year. The first trailer for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's Amazon Original Series is here
  22. How Four Brothers Allegedly Fleeced $19 Million From Amazon The scheme involved 7,000 $94 toothbrushes, according to law enforcement. Federal prosecutors say the defendants engaged in a scam called overshipping.Photograph: Glowimages/Getty Images Over the course of two years, four brothers in New York allegedly swindled Amazon out of at least $19 million using thousands of $94 toothbrushes and other expensive goods, according to a Department of Justice indictment unsealed Wednesday. Federal prosecutors accused Yoel Abraham, Heshl Abraham, Zishe Abraham, and Shmuel Abraham of invoicing Amazon for a large number of products the company never ordered. The defendants allegedly discussed their gimmick openly in a family WhatsApp group. In one message from May 2018, the indictment says, Yoel wrote that he was “so in the mood to fuck Amazon.” All four brothers, who were arrested Wednesday, are accused of using wholesale businesses they opened to engage in a scam called “overshipping.” It works by intentionally sending a company more goods than it ordered and billing for it. On Amazon, every product is given a unique identifier, a string of numbers called an Amazon Standard Identification Number. They are part of an item’s listing in Amazon’s catalog. Vendors have the ability to change listings, to make sure things like product descriptions are accurate. According to the indictment, the brothers swapped ASINs for items Amazon ordered to send large quantities of different goods instead. In one instance, Amazon ordered 12 canisters of disinfectant spray costing $94.03. The defendants allegedly shipped 7,000 toothbrushes costing $94.03 each, using the code for the disinfectant spray, and later billed Amazon for over $650,000. In another instance, Amazon ordered a single bottle of designer perfume for $289.78. In response, according to the indictment, the defendants sent 927 plastic beard trimmers costing $289.79 each, using the ASIN for the perfume. Prosecutors say the brothers frequently shipped and charged Amazon for more than 10,000 units of an item when it had requested fewer than 100. Once Amazon detected the fraud and shut down their accounts, the brothers allegedly tried to open new ones using fake names, different email addresses, and VPNs to obscure their identity. “Open account under dummy names and they can go look for no one,” Yoel allegedly wrote on WhatsApp in the fall of 2018. “The use of complex technology did not hide the simple fact that the defendants were bilking Amazon for goods they never provided. The more our economic life moves online, the more we must ensure the integrity of our digital markets, which my office is committed to doing,” Audrey Strauss, the acting US attorney for Manhattan, said in a press release. The defendants are each charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. Lawyers representing Yoel Abraham and Zishe Abraham did not immediately respond to requests for comment. There are two ways that independent merchants can sell products on Amazon. The first is through Seller Central, a platform that allows suppliers to sell directly to Amazon customers. On Vendor Central, which is what the Abraham brothers allegedly used, merchants act as wholesalers: Amazon buys their products and then resells them to customers at a markup. The setup is similar to most traditional retailers, except that Amazon isn’t a normal store. It offers a nearly endless array of products from millions of sellers and vendors—a gigantic marketplace that can be difficult to manage. Amazon has battled for years to rid its site of counterfeiters, scammers, and merchants peddling dangerous products. The ecommerce giant relies on a mix of human moderation and automated safeguards, but some things still fall through the cracks. “So much of Vendor Central is automated, I’m sure there are ways to trick the system,” says Juozas Kaziukėnas, founder of the ecommerce intelligence firm Marketplace Pulse. “Amazon’s vendor managers are not managing every vendor account. Small ones are on autopilot.” Kaziukėnas says accounts on Vendor Central are also sometimes bought and sold, a violation of Amazon’s policies. After an account has been approved to sell products, it becomes extremely valuable. Amazon declined to answer questions about whether it made any changes to its platform as a result of the allegations behind Wednesday’s arrests. Cristina Posa, a lawyer at Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit, said in a statement that the company was grateful to have worked with law enforcement on the case. “While our proactive controls ensure the vast majority of sellers in our store are honest entrepreneurs, fraudsters attempt to violate our policies, victimize our customers, and damage our store, and we look forward to working with law enforcement agencies to hold these bad actors accountable for their illegal activities,” Posa said. Amazon launched the Counterfeit Crimes Unit earlier this year. The group includes former investigators and federal prosecutors, who work to identify and root out bad actors on Amazon's platform. In April, the Trump administration put five of Amazon’s foreign websites on a list of “notorious markets” believed to facilitate the sale of counterfeits. Amazon disagreed with the decision and argued it was politically motivated. How Four Brothers Allegedly Fleeced $19 Million From Amazon
  23. Incoming: Amazon Prime Air drones are one step closer to takeoff Fly, my pretties! Fly! (Image credit: Amazon) Just in time for Amazon Prime Day 2020 (whenever that is going to be), Amazon Prime Air won approval on Monday from the US Federal Aviation Administration to begin drone delivery operations, bringing the company one step closer to its goal of 30-minute drone deliveries to Amazon Prime members in the US. According to CNBC, the FAA's decision came after the company spent years testing and training its drones, while also collecting data that showed drone deliveries could be carried out safely. They also demonstrated the drone delivery system for FAA inspectors to help get the aviation regulator on board. The FAA's approval comes under Part 135 of FAA Regulations, which allows Amazon to carry goods on small drones beyond the visual sight of the drone operator. "This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air and indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world," David Carbon, vice president of Prime Air, said in a statement. Now that it's gotten its approval, Amazon Prime Air plans to start testing actual deliveries in limited markets within the US as it moves the technology forward. Amazon first started testing drones as a means of delivery back in 2013, and in 2019, they submitted a petition to the FAA for approval to use drones to carry goods weighing five pounds or less to customers in low population areas in less than 30 minutes. "We will continue to develop and refine our technology to fully integrate delivery drones into the airspace, and work closely with the FAA and other regulators around the world to realize our vision of 30 minute delivery," Carbon said. Drone delivery dystopia? Amazon isn't the only company keen on getting delivery drones in the sky. Google's parent company Alphabet has been testing drone delivery systems (Project Wing) for essential items like food and medication in Australia for a while. But there are some obstacles that need to be overcome before small packages can be delivered by drones. The flying objects will need to be programmed to follow a certain path in all kinds of weather, not get tangled in overhead wires, avoid trees and birds, and abide by each country's local aviation laws. So, while this is exciting news, we'll have to wait a while before Amazon is able to roll this service out to all the markets it operates in. Incoming: Amazon Prime Air drones are one step closer to takeoff
  24. Amazon introduces new Blink security cameras for indoors and outdoors Blink, one of the home security camera companies owned by Amazon (the e-commerce giant also owns Ring), today announced a pair of new cameras, the Blink Indoor and Blink Outdoor. The security cameras feature a new, small square design and are capable of recording video in 1080p, and they also have IR night vision, motion detection, and two-way audio. Using the Blink Home Monitor app, users can view video feeds from their cameras, as well as talk to people at home through them. One of the big features touted by the new cameras is the battery life, which Amazon says can last up to two years on two AA batteries with regular use. Amazon will also sell a battery expansion pack that doubles that battery life, but that will arrive later in the year. The other big feature is flexible storage. The cameras come with a free trial of the cloud storage service through the end of the year, after which you can pay $3 per month if you only have one camera, or $10 per month for unlimited cameras in the same location. If you want to, though, you can store the recordings locally at no additional cost. A Sync Module is included with the cameras, and users can plug in a USB drive to store data from to 10 connected cameras. The new cameras are available for preorder today. The Blink Indoor costs $79.99, and the Blink Outdoor, meant to resist weather conditions, costs $99.99, and each is available packs of two, three, or five units for discounted prices. You can't combine Indoor and Outdoor cameras for the discounts, however. Amazon introduces new Blink security cameras for indoors and outdoors
  25. SEATTLE - Pandemic-fueled online shopping, coupled with the expected crush of holiday sales, has led Amazon to add 400,000 jobs this year, pushing its total employment over 1 million for the first time. Those new jobs - primarily in its warehouses and delivery operations - come as the company continues to deal with a crush of orders from shoppers reluctant to buy goods in stores over concerns about the novel coronavirus. Amazon added 250,000 jobs in the three months through the end of September alone, Amazon finance chief Brian Olsavsky said in a call with journalists after the company reported its financial results Thursday. It added another 100,000 workers in October, and now has nearly 1.13 million employees worldwide, compared with 750,000 workers a year ago. "We are adding people at a rapid clip," Olsavsky said. That's still about half the 2.2 million workers that rival Walmart employs. Home Depot employs about 400,000 workers. At the same time, layoffs continue to mount at other major employers in the United States. ExxonMobil announced plans Thursday to slash 1,900 jobs from its U.S. workforce. Previously, Disney said it would lay off 28,000 workers and American Airlines cut 19,000 jobs. Amazon's latest wave of hiring comes after it already announced plans to hire 100,000 workers in March, the company's first move to add staff to handle the initial surge of pandemic-driven shopping. The company has also grown its fulfillment capacity - the collection of warehouses, delivery stations and drivers it uses to get packages to customers - by 50% this year, Olsavsky said. What's more, the company this year has doled out $30 billion in capital spending - the amount it spends for property, equipment and other fixed assets - "a large part" of which has been directed at operations, Olsavsky said. And still, Amazon faces challenges to getting packages to customers on time. "We're not totally insulated because we still have third-party delivery partners and certainly our own (shipping) capacity has its limitations," Olsavsky said. "We do think it will be tight on capacity industry-wide, and we're no exception to that." And while the pandemic has fueled a surge in online shopping, the virus has also hit Amazon warehouse workers. The company announced earlier this month that nearly 20,000 of its U.S. employees had tested positive, or had been presumed positive, for the coronavirus since the pandemic started. The company faced fierce criticism from employees and some lawmakers that it wasn't doing enough to protect workers. In April, the company said it would spend $4 billion on pandemic-related costs, including testing warehouse workers and providing them with personal protective gear. It said it expects coronavirus-related costs, including productivity losses in warehouses where workers no longer can work closely together, to hit $4 billion. In the quarter, Amazon beat analyst expectations, earning $6.3 billion, or $12.37 a share. Sales jumped 37% to $96.1 billion. Analysts expected Amazon to earn $7.36 a share on sales of $92.6 billion, as measured by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Side Note: Greed will cause them to be replaced with AI soon as the can figure out how to get the bugs out it and stop breaking everything when it malfunctions . Source
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