Skullcandy hasn’t offered gaming headsets for the better part of a decade, but it’s willing to give them another go — and it’s eager to catch up in some respects. The brand has introduced revamped PLYR, SLYR and SLYR Pro headsets that promise budget-friendly game audio on console, mobile and PC with a few perks. The flagship PLYR (shown above) includes Bluetooth 5.2 wireless audio, while it and the wired SLYR Pro offer Tile tracking to help you find your headset (or the device it’s connected to).
Both the PLYR and SLYR Pro (at middle) also use a hearing test to create a personalized sound profile, and offer background audio reduction whether you use the boom or integrated microphones. They can plug in through 3.5mm and USB, and an optional wireless transmitter for the PLYR promises low lag (down to 20ms) for PC- and PlayStation-based gamers. You can expect up to 24 hours of battery life in either model when you aren’t connected through USB. The base SLYR is a no-frills wired design that drops the audio processing features and USB support.
As with the old headsets, Skullcandy is counting on price as the main draw. The SLYR starts the line at $60, while the SLYR Pro and PLYR are relatively affordable at $100 and $130 respectively. The caveat, as you might guess, is that the gaming headset business hasn’t been standing still. The Astro A10 offers a more flexible (and arguably more visually appealing) design for the same $60 as the SLYR, while brands like Razer and SteelSeries offer both price-competitive headsets and premium models with extras like spatial audio and RGB lighting. Your choice might come down to sale pricing and personal preferences.
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. All prices are correct at the time of publishing.
Meta Reality Labs is making big strides in avatar rendering with the latest advances combining machine learning (ML) with sensor data from Quest VR headsets to show your full body, including arms, legs, torso, and head. The result is a very realistic and accurate representation of the poses and movements of a person wearing a Quest 2 headset.
QuestSim: Human Motion Tracking from Sparse Sensors with Simulated Avatars
This is quite amazing since only the positions and orientations of the Quest VR headset and its two controllers were used to estimate leg motion and position. There are no tracking bands placed on the legs and no external cameras used for this remarkable system. Meta Research Scientist Alexander Winkler shared several videos on Twitter along with links to the scientific paper on arXiv and a YouTube video with more detail.
In a scientific sense, this is known as motion tracking from sparse sensors and ML is particularly adept at extracting meaningful information from very little, if there are enough dependencies between what is known and unknown. Since we swing our arms for balance when walking and running, arm movement is a good indicator of what the legs are usually doing. Combined with head tilt and direction, the ML system can predict most human motion very accurately.
More traditional approaches to tracking limbs rely on extra hardware, such as reflective markers placed on your legs and torso that are identified by external cameras, or bands with wireless beacons worn at various locations on your legs to transmit position and motion data.
While these methods work, those are typically sold as accessory items that cost more and aren’t well supported in most apps and games. If Meta can achieve such good results with a Quest 2 headset, developers will be more likely to build body tracking in their games and apps.
Despite these significant advances, Meta Reality Labs admits that more work needs to be done. If you move fast enough, the ML model fails to correctly identify your pose. Unusual stances are difficult for the computer to estimate and if the virtual environment has obstacles that don’t exist in reality, the movement won’t match. The overall effect seems to be very good, however, and it would be a nice upgrade to be able to see a full body instead of floating torsos when chatting with friends in VR.
Hopefully, this technology will be ready for launch soon. With Meta’s Quest Pro headset announcement expected in just a few weeks, the timing for full-body avatars seems perfect. The Meta Quest Pro can track eye movement and facial expressions, providing an improved sense of presence to your friends, family, and coworkers might be greatly enhanced in the near future.
This content was produced in partnership with OBSBOT.
Webcams are a big deal these days. With remote work, livestreaming, and online teaching becoming more and more central to everyday life, it’s essential to have a webcam that’s not only reliable but also one that can provide a high-quality image or resolution. Most webcams offer low-quality video, poor audio, and static framing, often randomly cutting off your head or face. That’s not so with OBSBOT’s incredibly petite yet equally impressive Tiny 4K webcam. It’s equipped with AI-powered framing and autofocus features to offer next-generation, enhanced tracking — it locks onto a person and follows them no matter where they go in the frame. The movement tracking is incredibly helpful, especially if you have to get up and move during a presentation or video conference with colleagues. But that’s not all that’s unique about it. Also impressive are its gesture-based controls, powerful dual omnidirectional microphones, and 2-axis gimbal system. You can check it out for yourself below, or keep reading for a deep dive into all that it has to offer.
Get up and move: 4K Ultra-HD, AI Autofocus, and AI Auto Tracking
Thanks to the OBSBOT Tiny 4K webcam, your students, colleagues, or family will receive a crystal clear picture of you at all times. That’s because it’s equipped with a 2.8-inch Sony image sensor and 4K lens, capable of producing an ultra-HD image or stream — at 30 frames per second (fps) in 4K resolution, and 60 fps in 1080P. That’s important whether you’re livestreaming for viewers during a gaming session, or joing a live work conference from your home office. Low-light correction keeps the picture bright and vivid even in a dark room or environment. It also provides a better picture overall for everyone, reducing some of the contrast and darkness issues you normally see with webcams.
While it mounts to the top of a monitor like any other webcam, the Tiny 4K has a two-axis gimbal and AI-powered functionality. The AI autofocus and tracking means the camera will follow you, keeping you in the frame, while you move about the room. This is excellent for teachers or presenters who aren’t sitting and like to give a genuine in-person-like experience to their viewers. If you are sitting still, it works just as well to keep you in the center of the frame. There are tracking modes available to configure the camera for different situations, too. Motion mode, for example, moves at a faster rate to capture you moving around without sacrificing image quality. Headroom mode is another option, giving you extra space above your head that prevents you from being cut off in frame, which happens often with static webcams. This ensures there’s a more formal and professional feel to the whole experience.
Stay hands-free: Gesture controls, and more
As a teacher or presenter, it can be frustrating trying to adjust the camera and viewing angles on a livestream. Tiny 4K’s gesture controls mean you don’t have to fiddle with the keyboard, mouse, or camera to change basic settings. There are two controls available, each with its own gesture, to lock or unlock targets and to zoom in or out. Teachers will love this option especially, because they can keep their hands free during a lesson, using gestures to adjust the visual presentation.
After a call or presentation has wrapped up, you can tilt the camera down to activate a privacy mode, and there’s also an integrated switch to power it down easily without unplugging it. That’s a lot better than makeshift covers you’d have to use with alternate webcams, and you never have to worry about someone seeing something they shouldn’t — the camera is aimed down. After your conference call, tilt it down and then you’re free to loosen your tie, and maybe even your belt. If you don’t tilt it down, or forget, the device will automatically enter Sleep Mode after 30 seconds. If you want to change that detection time, you can set it manually in the device settings too.
All of these features combine to provide a robust and versatile option for game-streamers, as well. Your viewers will benefit from the UHD video, you’ll always stay in focus thanks to the AI, and you can interact with the camera with a quick gesture — to do something like getting a closer look at your zany facial expression.
Let your voice carry: Excellent audio quality
So many webcams lack decent audio support, but the OBSBOT Tiny 4K has dual-omnidirectional microphones with noise reduction technology. It can pick up your voice, nice and clear, within a range of 3 meters, almost 10 feet away. There’s no need to plug in third-party microphones or headsets just to get a good recording of your voice, or to properly communicate with your viewers. If you’re giving a presentation, and you’re some distance away from the webcam and its microphones, your commentary will still be picked up. Even if you’re not doing anything on video or stream, you can still use the microphone as you would any other. You won’t have any more awkward conversations with your co-workers because they can’t hear you either.
Having the OBSBOT Tiny 4K installed and connected already gets you excellent quality video and sound. There’s nothing more to it. TinyCam is the application you’ll use, on Windows and macOS, to change the settings, which also offers a few extra configuration options.
You’ll look great, sound great, and it’s easy to use, especially thanks to its plug-and-play support. Just connect it to your computer of choice and you’re good to go, no special applications required. It’s ideal for nearly any use or occasion from livestreaming your favorite games with an audience to conference calls with your colleagues.
If all of this sounds great to you, then you can grab the Tiny 4K for $269 at it’s normal price. But from 7 to 17 July, receive up to 35% off the entire Obsbot product line, including the tiny4k, on Amazon and the official Obsbot store.
Mozilla Firefox has just expanded its range of features made to protect user privacy, this time attempting to tackle the issue of websites tracking you around the web. Whether we like it or not, the sad reality is that many web giants add trackers to URLs, which then allow them to monitor your online activity.
Added in Firefox 102, the new Query Parameter Stripping should address that problem in a substantial way — although we’re still far away from a complete fix.
The new privacy feature will not be enabled by default, but once you do enable it, it will begin stripping tracking parameters from URLs. Many companies add their own query parameters to outbound links listed on their websites. Adding the query parameter enables the company, be it Facebook (Meta), HubSpot, Marketo, or Olytics, to track clicks and subsequently, your web activity.
As an example, Facebook adds its own tracking to outbound links with a “fbclid” query, while Vero uses “vero_id=.” This often results in a long link, made much longer only for the purpose of tracking your web activity. Firefox will strip the links of all the nonsense and leave you with the raw URL that you actually want to visit. This will certainly remove a whole lot of trackers, but Brave still has the upper hand here, blocking even more than Firefox does.
Enabling the feature will allow Mozilla Firefox to remove the following tracking parameters from your links:
Facebook: fbclid=, mc_eid=
Olytics: oly_enc_id=, oly_anon_id=
How to enable Query Parameter Stripping in Firefox
Browsing in private mode, the feature will be disabled even if you enabled it otherwise. In order to activate it in private mode, type about:config in the Firefox address bar, then search for strip, and then toggle the privacy.query_stripping.enabled.pbmode setting to true.
If you’ve activated the feature and want to give it a spin, BleepingComputer prepared a test page that contains links to various websites with the query parameters added at the end. Once you’ve enabled Query Parameter Stripping, Firefox should automatically remove the trackers, sending you off to example.com with no extra additions. BleepingComputer also notes that browsing with this feature enabled might cause some issues, so if you’re running into problems, you’ll have to disable it until Firefox finds a fix.
Firefox seems to be trying to niche down and maximize browser security and user privacy, which is something similar to the Brave browser. After once being one of the browsers responsible for dethroning Internet Explorer in the early 2000s, Firefox has slowly slipped into near-obscurity as Google Chrome started to dominate. According to Statcounter, Google Chrome holds the largest market share with 64.95% as of May 2022, followed by Safari with 19.01%, and Microsoft Edge with 3.99%. Firefox trails behind in fourth place with just 3.26%.
While Firefox’s glory days might be long gone, the browser still stands strong and presents an agreeable alternative for users who value browsing privacy. It might not top the charts, but it’s still among the best browsers available right now.
HTC has rolled out a firmware update for the latest standalone Vive Focus that greatly improves its hand-tracking capabilities. The company says firmware version 3.0.999.284 significantly improves the feature’s performance, stability and accuracy. HTC’s Vive Focus 3 launched with hand tracking back in July, allowing users to use their hands as controllers. With this software engine upgrade, HTC says the headset will be able to track fast hand movements more easily and recognize pinch-to-zoom gestures more accurately.
Since the company opened the feature to developers, these improvements would translate to better hand tracking within applications. Developers can integrate the headset’s six current predefined hand gestures into their VR apps, and HTC previously said that additional gestures will be added in the future.
HTC said in its announcement:
“Being able to navigate virtual environments naturally and intuitively will go a long way towards making VR more accessible to everyone, no matter their familiarity with technology. As we step into the metaverse era, we couldn’t be more excited to bring these quality-of-life improvements to all VIVE Focus 3 customers around the world.”
When the manufacturer launched the Vive Focus 3 back in July, we found it to be the best standalone VR headset yet. It’s not a direct competitor to the Quest 2, however, seeing as it costs $1,300. Unlike the Oculus (now Meta) headset, it targets business users and not ordinary consumers who want to enjoy VR experiences in their own home.
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Location tracking can be very handy — it’s convenient when an app can tell you, say, where the nearby restaurants or gas stations are — but it’s also a privacy issue. Do you want all your wanderings registered by Google? Are you comfortable knowing that Mark Zuckerberg’s minions know where you are at all times? (Well, not that Mark Zuckerberg has minions, but you know what I mean.)
In this article, we’ll take a look at how to stop location tracking on your Android phone (and your Google account) and how to delete your location history from your OS and from some of the more popular apps. As always, note that versions of Android can differ, and many manufacturers use overlays as well, which can change the locations of various commands — but they should be similar enough for you to be able to find your way. For these instructions, I’ve used a Pixel 6 phone running Android 12, but I’ve included some directions for those with earlier versions of Android.
Stop Google from tracking you, period.
You probably know that Google can track your location and movements through its Google Maps app. But you may not realize that your Android phone is also tracking your movements and activities through several other built-in apps.
If you really don’t want your phone to be tracking any of your movements and activities, there is a way to turn tracking off for all (well, most) of them. You just need to be aware that you’re probably going to render many of your apps (such as ride-share apps, weather apps, and, of course, mapping apps) less usable — or in some cases, completely unusable.
Stop Google tracking using a browser
First, we’re going to stop Google from saving your data.
Under “My Google Activity” you’ll see the buttons for three types of activity: Web & App Activity, Location History, and YouTube History. You can visit each individually by selecting the appropriate button.
A more efficient way, though, may be to go to Activity Controls, found in the left-hand menu. This page will show you all three controls on the same page; in addition, you can control ad personalization.
“Web & App Activity” covers anything you’ve done on Google apps and services. You can turn tracking off completely, or choose to keep it on but stop it from saving your history or activity when you use your Chrome browser. You can also turn off “Include audio recordings,” which determines if all your audio interactions with Google and / or Google Assistant are saved.
The other relevant category is, of course, “Location History,” which saves information about where you’ve gone with your device. Also, look for “Devices on this account” and click the down icon to the right; you’ll get a list of all the devices that you have that are currently following your location — since that may include old phones that you are no longer using, this is a good thing to check.
We might as well mention that you can also disable your “YouTube History,” which includes both your search and watch history, and “Ad personalization,” which uses your history to choose which ads you’ll see.
Okay — you’ve now prevented any more data from being gathered. But you may want to delete all or some of the information that’s already been collected.
Go back to the My Activity page and click on “Delete activity by” in the left-hand menu.
You’ll get a pop-up window that lets you delete your activity based on time period: the last hour, last day, “All time” (in other words, all dates), or “Custom range” for a specific date range.
If you choose “Custom range,” you’ll be able to choose a date range. If you choose “All time,” you can then filter that info depending on services (such as ads, Chrome, Google Play Store, etc.). When you’re ready, click on “Next.”
You’ll then get a preview of some of the activities that will be deleted. If you’re okay with that, select “Delete.”
Incidentally, if you want to make sure that nobody but you can delete your histories, then select the “Manage activity” link under each category in Activity Controls, and look for “Manage My Activity verification.” If you enable that feature, Google will ask for a password any time you want to look at or delete any history in your account.
And if you don’t want to worry about manually deleting your stuff, you can enable auto-delete in each category (you’ll see the option within each category on the Activity Controls page). You’ll have the option to automatically delete your activity after either three, 18, or 36 months.
Stop Google tracking on an Android device
Go to Settings. In the search box on top, type in “Activity controls” and tap it when it comes up.
If you have more than one Google account, select the one you want to manage.
Here, as with the browser version, you can turn off or pause the monitoring of various activities, including setting auto-delete and managing a timeline of your activity.
Turn location tracking on and off from the Quick Settings tray
If you want to be able to turn location tracking on or off as you need it, you can do that, too. One way to arrange this is to use the Quick Settings tray (which is what you see when you swipe down from the top of your screen). The tray holds a variety of icons for the most often-used Android features; there is a “Location” icon that lets you toggle the location feature on and off.
Swipe down from the top of the screen. If you’re using Android 12, you’ll see a series of bubbles for things like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, flashlight, etc. If you’re using Android 11 or earlier, it will be a line of icons. Either way, that’s your Quick Settings tray. Look for the Location icon (usually, it looks like an upside-down drop of water).
Not there? With Android 12, swipe across to see more bubbles; otherwise, swipe down.
Still missing? Look for a pencil icon; on a Pixel, it will be on the bottom of the tray, but some Android interfaces will have it on top. Tap on the pencil, and the menu will open further. You can now see all the icons that are available. What you want to do is make sure the Location icon is in the easily visible part of the tray.
If your Location icon is in the bottom section, hold and drag it up to the visible group.
You’ll now be able to quickly swipe down from the top of your screen and toggle Location on and off — for example, if you want to use Google Maps for directions, you can toggle Location on, and then turn it back off when you’re finished.
Stop location tracking on Android devices
If you don’t feel the need to block Google from recording all your activities, and simply want to stop the phone from recording your location, it’s easy to do — as long as you pay attention to the details:
Swipe down from the top of the screen so that you see your Quick Settings menu, and long-press on the Location icon — or swipe down, tap the Settings icon, and choose “Location.”
You’re now on the Location page. Find the “Use location” feature at the top and toggle it off.
You’d think that would be it, wouldn’t you? But you’d be wrong. What is meant by “Use location” in Android depends on which sensors are following the location of the device: besides GPS, it could be Wi-Fi, mobile networks, or other sensors. So before you leave this page, look a little further down. If you’re using Android 12, look for the “Location services” button, otherwise, look for the “Advanced” button and tap on that.
Either way, you’ll have several categories that you can toggle on or off. These can be (depending on your Android version and your phone’s manufacturer):
Google Emergency Location Service. This tells emergency services where you are if there’s a problem; for example, if your car goes off the road and the ambulance needs to find you. You can turn this off if you want, but read the fine print: “If ELS is off, your mobile carrier may still send device location during an emergency call.”
Google Location Accuracy. This uses Wi-Fi and other services to help pinpoint your location. If you want to turn off “Use location,” you need to make sure this is turned off as well. Any app that requires “precise location” (which I’ll explain in a bit) needs this to be turned on.
Google Location History. This leads you to a page where you can pause your device’s collection of your location history. That doesn’t get rid of what’s already been saved; there are instructions for that a little later in this article.
Google Location Sharing. If you’re sharing your location with family members or friends, you can manage it here.
Wi-Fi scanning. This lets apps and services scan for local Wi-Fi networks, even if you have Wi-Fi turned off.
Bluetooth scanning. This lets apps and services search for Bluetooth devices even if Bluetooth is off. Both this and the Wi-Fi scanning are meant to improve location features.
If you can’t see these last two, go back to the Location page and look for a “Wi-Fi and Bluetooth scanning” link.
Disable location tracking for any specific app
You can find out which apps actually use location tracking and just disable it for those that you feel don’t need it.
Go to the Location page (by long-pressing the Location icon in your Quick Settings tray).
Tap on “App permission” (or, if you’re using Android 12, look for “App location permissions”).
You’ll find here a list of all your current apps that have permission to access your location either all of the time or only while in use. Tap on any to change the permission to either allow all of the time, allow only while in use, ask every time, or deny. You can also decide whether the app will be allowed to use “precise location” — in other words, use more than GPS to determine where you are. For that, “Google Location Accuracy,” also found on the Location page.
Sometimes when you turn off permissions in the Android Settings, the app itself will continually try to get you to restore that permission. It’s irritating, but unless the app lets you say, “No, leave me alone,” you will either have to live with it or get a different app.
Delete your location history
While you can turn off location tracking from your Android phone’s settings, once a service has collected your location info, getting rid of that history takes a little work. If you want to delete your location history, the first place you need to go is Google; after that, apps that collect this information include Facebook and Twitter.
Delete your Google location history on Android
While you can delete location history collected for your Google timeline in the My Activity area (see above), you can also get rid of it easily in Google Maps.
Go to your Google Maps app.
Tap on your profile icon in the upper left corner.
Tap on “Your Timeline.”
Select the three dots in the upper right corner. Tap on “Settings and Privacy.”
Scroll down to “Delete all Location History.” You’ll get a pop-up window that asks you to check a box saying that you understand that some of your apps may not work properly. Check the box and select “Delete.”
You also have the option of deleting your location history within a date range or setting the app to automatically delete your location history after three, 18, or 36 months.
Tap on the three parallel lines in the upper left corner of the side panel. (If you don’t see the panel, look for the small arrow in the upper left corner and click on it.) Select “Your timeline.”
Look for the gear icon on the lower right side of the screen. Click on it, and then on “Delete all Location History.” You can also set the automatic deletion feature here.
As with the mobile app, you’ll get a pop-up window that asks you to check a box saying that you understand that some of your apps may not work properly. Check the box and select “Delete Location History.”
Delete your location history on Facebook
Facebook does keep a separate history of your locations, and if you want to delete that history, you can do it through the mobile app or the browser.
Using the Android app
In the Facebook app, tap the hamburger (three parallel lines) in the top right corner.
Scroll down and tap on “Settings & Privacy.”
Tap on “Settings.”
Scroll down and tap on “Location” (which is under the “Permissions” subhead). This will take you to the “Location Services” page.
You can now choose to let Facebook access your phone’s location all the time, while using the app, or never.
If you want to allow Facebook to save a history of your locations (or stop it from doing so), tap on “Location History” to toggle it on or off. It’s here that you can also delete your existing location history.
Using a browser
In Facebook, click on the small arrow next to the Notifications icon in the upper right corner. Click on “Settings & Privacy” > “Privacy Shortcuts.”
Click on “Manage your location settings.”
On the “Location Settings” page, click on the “View your Location History” button.
Then click on the gear in the upper left corner. As with the mobile app, you can now either delete that specific day or delete your entire location history.
On the “Location Settings” page, you can also turn your location history on or off for your mobile devices.
Delete your location history on Twitter
Twitter makes it relatively simple to turn off its location tracking within the Android app.
Tap on your personal icon in the upper left of the homescreen.
Tap on “Settings and privacy.”
Tap on “Privacy and safety.”
Scroll down until you see “Location information” and tap on it. You can then toggle off the boxes that give Twitter permission to collect your GPS and other location information. And don’t forget to tap on “Explore settings,” which gives Twitter the option to show nearby content.
You can delete your Twitter location history as well, but only from your browser.
Go to your Twitter account, click on “More” in the left column and on “Settings and privacy.”
In the left-hand menu, click on “Privacy and safety.” Scroll down and select “Location information.”
Uncheck “Personalize based on places you’ve been.” Then click on “Add location information to your Tweets.”
Uncheck “Add location information to your Tweets.” Then click on “Delete all location information.” And if it asks: yes, you are sure.
Update August 25th, 2020, 2:37PM ET: This article was originally published on April 12th, 2019; it has been updated to include the update from Android 9 to Android 10, along with changes to various web-based applications.
Update November 30th, 2021, 3:55PM ET: Updated to reflect changes in the Android operating system and in Google, Facebook, and Twitter apps.
It seems that virtual reality may be about to become even more real than ever before — all thanks to a new VR headset. Pimax, a company that manufactures VR equipment, announced the upcoming release of a new 12K QLED VR headset that will feature technologies such as eye tracking, full-body tracking, and refresh rates of up to 200Hz. The headset, dubbed Pimax Reality 12K QLED, is part of the company’s venture into the metaverse and a step toward bringing true realism to using VR.
During today’s Pimax Frontier event, the company’s representatives talked at length about the goals behind the product — naturalness, self-awareness, and freedom. Pimax wants to bring these qualities into virtual reality and the metaverse, allowing people from all over the world to interact and explore virtual worlds together. While VR technology already allows for some of that to happen, Pimax wants to take it to the next level with its new invention — the Reality 12K QLED VR headset.
The new headset is going to feature a technology that Pimax dubbed Gemini. Combining the quality of PC VR headsets that stay connected at all times with the freedom of stand-alone headsets, this device is going to run on two different engines. Pimax also worked with Nvidia to optimize the graphics quality in these headsets. The new release is said to utilize Nvidia’s DLSS, VRSS, DSC, and Cloud XR technologies.
The first engine is Pimax’s customized PC VR engine, and the second is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon VR engine. The combination is supposed to improve graphics when in stand-alone mode, offering extra freedom to users at little cost to quality.
In PC VR mode, the headset is said to offer resolutions of up to 12K, with refresh rates between 90Hz and 200Hz, a first for Pimax. It will also have a 200-degree horizontal field of view (HFOV). When used in stand-alone mode, the quality drops, but not to a level that users could complain about. Wireless performance includes resolutions of up to 8K, with a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz and a 150-degree HFOV.
In order to achieve true realism, Pimax opted not to use LCD or OLED technology and instead went with mini LED and QLED. This is something that Apple has also utilized in its latest MacBook Pros. The 5.5-inch display used in Pimax Reality will feature 5,000 mini LEDs, offering a wide color gamut, deep blacks, and bright contrasts.
Pimax made other potentially industry-revolutionizing announcements regarding the new headset. The new VR headpiece is said to feature a total of 11 cameras that will track eye movement, facial expressions, hand movement, and even the movement of the whole body. It is also said to feature Wi-Fi 6E technology for quick and lag-free streaming.
As running such a powerful VR headset would require one monster of a gaming PC, Pimax also teased the upcoming release of a so-called mini PC/gaming console. Dedicated to run only with Pimax equipment, this device is meant to act as a VR station of sorts. Powerful and decked out with the latest components, it will be a portable solution for VR enthusiasts. No further details have been shared as of yet.
Jumping into high-level VR isn’t cheap. The headsets will cost $2,399, but owners of current Pimax gear may be entitled to a price reduction. The company announced that the new Pimax Reality line will be released in late 2022, shipping just in time for the holiday season. Considering that Pimax’s previous 8K X VR headset was nothing short of awesome, it seems that VR enthusiasts may have something to start saving up for.
According to Motherboard, Google told developers in June that they had to remove SafeGraph’s software development kit within seven days. Motherboard says it’s not clear whether SafeGraph is still collecting any data from Android apps, and The Verge has reached out to Google and SafeGraph to confirm.
SafeGraph’s ban follows an earlier crackdown on location-collecting apps. In December 2020, Google and Apple banned a similar service called X-Mode Social, which reportedly worked with the US military among other customers. Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on its policy around SafeGraph.
SafeGraph data is supposed to be anonymized, but as Motherboard discusses, location datasets can often reveal details about individuals despite these safeguards. And although users must approve location-gathering by individual apps, many aren’t aware of how their information is being used.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a frequent critic of location-gathering apps (and sponsor of a bill that would restrict their use by law enforcement) offered both praise and criticism of the move to ban the service. “This is the right move by Google, but they and Apple need to do more than play whack-a-mole with apps that sell Americans’ location information. These companies need a real plan to protect users’ privacy and safety from these malicious apps,” he said in a statement to The Verge.
All the sessions from Transform 2021 are available on-demand now. Watch now.
Nvidia is tracking more than 8,500 AI startups through its Inception AI startup program. Those companies have raised more than $60 billion in funding and come from 90 countires, Nvidia said.
Based on estimates from market researcher Pitchbook, the Nvidia numbers represent roughly two thirds of all AI startups. Overall, Nvidia believes there are about 12,000 AI startups in the world.
“It’s a good picture of the landscape,” said Serge Lemonde, global head of Nvidia Inception, in an interview with VentureBeat.
Across the startups, the definition of an AI company is changing, as many companies across all industries are adopting AI. There are new uses of AI emerging as companies adopt deep learning neural networks. The Inception companies now include more than high-performance computing, graphics, and other common startups.
Three top investment pros open up about what it takes to get your video game funded.
“The fastest growing segments or verticals in the healthcare itself are around pharma and AI biology,” Lemonde said. “We launched the program in 2016. And every year, it’s been growing faster. In 2020, we had a plus 26% growth in the number of members joining Inception, and just this first half of this year is already plus 17%. So AI adoption is impacting every industry.”
The Inception program provides assistance and software for AI startups, and it’s Nvidia’s way of introducing AI companies to its hardware products such as its AI chips. The data from the ecosystem gives the companies a lot of insights into the AI economy.
Above: Nvidia’s Inception program tracks AI startups.
Image Credit: Nvidia
The U.S. leads the world with nearly 27% of the Inception AI startups. Those U.S. companies have raised more than $27 billion. And of the U.S. startups, 42% are based in California. That means more than one in 10 AI startups are based in California, with 29% in the San Francisco Bay Area. This underscores the draw of Silicon Valley for startup founders and VC funding, Lemonde said.
Following the U.S. is China, in terms of both funding and company stage, with 12% of Nvidia Inception members based there. India comes in third at 7%, with the United Kingdom right behind at 6%.
Taken together, AI startups based in the U.S., China, India and the U.K. account for just over half of all startups in Nvidia Inception. Following in order after these are Germany, Russia, France, Sweden, Netherlands, Korea and Japan.
In terms of industries, healthcare, information technology services (IT), intelligent video analytics (IVA), media and entertainment (M&E) and robotics are the top five in Nvidia Inception. AI startups in healthcare account for 16% of Inception members, followed by those in IT services at 15%.
AI startups in IVA make up 8%, with M&E and robotics AI startups tied at 7%.
Above: Nvidia’s Inception AI startups are from the green countries.
Image Credit: Nvidia
More than 3,000 AI startups have joined Nvidia Inception since 2020. Similar to data across Inception as a whole, AI startups from the U.S. account for the largest segment (27 percent), followed by China (12 percent), and India and the U.K. (tied at 6 percent).
“Some countries are accelerating their ecosystem of AI startups by investing money and encouraging the local players to create more companies,” Lemonde said. “We saw India growing these last couple of months, and so India is definitely now the third country with 7% of the AI startups in the world.”
Additionally, startups that have joined since 2020 are concentrated in the same top five industries, though in slightly different order. IT services leads the way at 17%, followed by healthcare at 16%, M&E at 9%, IVA at 8% and robotics at 5%.
Within the top two industries — healthcare and IT services — there’s more detail among AI startups who have joined since 2020. The dominant segment within IT services is computer vision at 27%, with predictive analytics in second place at 9%. The top two segments in healthcare are medical analytics at 38% and medical imaging at 36%, though the fastest growth is among AI startups in the pharma and AI biology industries at 15%.
Virtual and augmented reality startup companies are far outpacing any other segment within M&E, mostly due to the pandemic. These startups are coming to Nvidia Inception with a shared vision of building an ecosystem for the metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One.
Healthcare AI startups skyrocketed during the pandemic as well, with growth in medical imaging and more.
“Now it’s about biology, pharma, DNA, and more,” Lemonde said. “I think there is a lot of growth there as well. We saw during COVID new verticals grow fast like virtual reality and augmented reality. We saw the usage of AI go up but this metaverse shared vision in many countries grow up.”
Growing regional hubs
Above: Regional Advantage by Annalee Saxenian studied the rise of Silicon Valley over Boston.
Image Credit: Annalee Saxenian
Since Inception’s launch in 2016, it has grown more than tenfold. This growth has accelerated year over year, with membership increasing to 26% in 2020, and already reaching 17% in the first half of 2021.
To grow a big AI hub in a region, Lemonde believes it’s most important to have good universities and educational infrastructure in a region.
“If you look at the top countries, the governments push technology, invest in science and AI, invest computing infrastructures in their countries, and push for investments,” he said.
Nvidia Inception is a program built to accommodate and nurture every startup that is accelerating computing, at every stage in their journey. All program benefits are free of charge. And unlike other accelerators or incubators, startups never have to give up equity to join. After the startups graduate from Inception, Nvidia hands them off to its developer relations and sales departments.
“In our program, what we are looking at is to help them all,” Lemonde said. “The lesson here is really having this window on the landscape and helping the startups all around the world is helping us understand at the new trends. We can help more startups by developing our software and platforms for the upcoming trends.”
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Wiliot, a startup creating a low-cost, self-powered chip that attaches to products to sense physical and environment data, has raised $200 million. The company’s latest tranche, a series C, was led by Softbank Vision Fund 2, and brings the company’s total raised to date to $270 million.
Wiliot says that the new money will be invested into hiring engineering, sales, and marketing staff; building out and scaling Wiliot’s software-as-a-service platform; and productizing new sensors and capabilities. The company also plans to integrate with a larger set of partners and invest in silicon production capacity to ensure supply during the worldwide shortage.
Trillions of products travel billions of miles from factories to customers’ doorsteps, but for the majority, it’s difficult — if not impossible — to track their real-time status or whereabouts. Lacking this information, global supply chains have been in the dark, with products remaining “off the grid” during their manufacturing, shipping, and consumption journeys. A 2018 Statista survey found that the biggest challenge for global supply chain executives was visibility.
Wiliot was founded by the leadership of millimeter-wave company Wilocity, a group of wireless engineers now headquartered in Israel, with a business development team located in California and Germany. In 2017, the team launched a platform consisting of Wiliot’s IoT Pixel sensors and the Wiliot Cloud, which manages privacy and access controls while providing data visualizations.
“Wiliot is transforming the way products are made, distributed, sold, used, reused and ultimately recycled by enabling a new level of visibility of products in the wholesale channel. By providing these real-time insights into products wherever they are used, Wiliot cuts the capital tied up in inventories and establishes more transparency surrounding the environmental footprint — all while driving up sales,” Wiliot senior VP of marketing Stephen Statler told VentureBeat via email.
Internet of things
Wiliot’s IoT Pixel tags, which are about the size of a postage stamp, continuously collect data about the world around them. They’re Bluetooth-enabled, encrypted, and designed to be manufactured into clothing, food packaging, and more. And because they harvest radio frequency energy from their surroundings, they don’t require a battery.
The self-charging nature of Wiliot’s tags make them a potentially more attractive solution than technologies like Ossia‘s. They don’t need a dedicated power source, receiver module, or home base, meaning they can draw energy as long as radio waves are within range.
At the platform level, Wiliot says it taps AI algorithms to make sense of inputs from its tags. Frequency shifts detected by components on the chips are used to infer events like the dilution of vaccines in vials, for example, and changes in freshness of vegetables in plastic crates. Calibration algorithms running in the cloud have even enabled Wiliot to perform fill level, motion, humidity, temperature, and proximity sensing at a lower cost compared with on-device processing.
Above: A close-up of Wiliot’s IoT Pixel tags.
Image Credit: Wiliot
The lofty goal is to foster an ecosystem of IoT Pixel-embedded goods that can reveal how they’re used and transported, from warehouses to homes. Wiliot even anticipates subscription-based products that will be able to self-reorder based on usage data.
“Competing low-power Bluetooth chip providers are focused on printed circuit board designs for devices such as battery-free wireless keyboards,” Statler said. “[Meanwhile,] RFID is limited by the cost of the infrastructure, an inability to integrate directly with consumer devices, lack of security, lack of sensing, and … features to enable privacy, security, data ownership, and true unique ID. [As for] QR codes, they’re very low-cost, but don’t scale, don’t facilitate data ownership by the brand, don’t have sensing, require manual scanning, and often are not visible.”
Wiliot sees retail, health care, and food and beverage as its core markets. Indeed, the company claims it already works with dozens of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods and pharmaceutical companies, as well as “many leaders” in furniture and apparel.
“In the retail market, Wiliot’s IoT Pixels imbue products with intelligence to transform a supply chain into a demand chain. A demand chain provides retail brands with a continuous view of what’s happening with their product inventory as it is distributed, sold, and used,” Statler continued. “In pharma and health care, Wiliot provides value by connecting everything from equipment and supplies to vials of medicine. It can measure temperature over time, sensing adherence and dilution … [And] in food and beverage, the Wiliot platform can monitor the location and condition of perishable items, improving distribution processes and inventory availability in the store. Wiliot helps brands increase shelf life and reduce food waste while serving up product movement, traceability, and freshness information.”
Wiliot, which expects its staff of 75 employees to grow to 100 by 2022, believes the pandemic will spur further demand for its products as clients reengineer supply chains and retail experiences. Pandemic and post-pandemic retail is moving from fulfillment to experience-based shopping, Statler argued, where having real-time up to the minute inventory becomes essential.
“When competing with shopping from the couch, a smaller number of retail staff have to be able to find the right product instantly, [so location tracking] is table stakes, requiring real-time inventory accuracy,” Statler said. “Enabling item-level visibility to retailers allows them to maintain less inventory and sell more products.”
Beyond Softbank, 83North, Amazon Web Services, Avery Dennison, Grove Ventures, M Ventures, Maersk Growth, Norwest Venture Partners, NTT Docomo Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Samsung Venture, Vintage Investment Partners, and Verizon Ventures participated in Wiliot’s latest round of financing.
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