Widgets on Galaxy S21 vs. iPhone 12: Samsung One UI 3 beats iOS 14 – CNET

This story is part of CES, where our editors will bring you the latest news and the hottest gadgets of the entirely virtual CES 2021.

At Samsung Unpacked on Thursday, we finally saw the new Galaxy S21 phone line, complete with new camera features and a major price drop. Samsung also showed off a change on the software side: Widgets on many Samsung phones are getting an upgrade with the latest version of Samsung One UI 3 -- just as iOS 14 widgets finally arrived last year for iPhones and other Apple devices giving you the ability to customize your iPhone home screen with the app information you need.

While Android has had widgets for years, the December launch of Samsung One UI 3 for certain Galaxy devices with Android 11 OS brought redesigned widgets to keep your home screen more organized and aesthetically pleasing, and let you access more features from your lock screen. At Samsung Unpacked, the company unveiled new changes to One UI 3 to make widgets even more useful. 

So what's the difference between widgets for Samsung's One UI 3 and Apple's iOS 14? We break down what you need to know. 

Juan Garzon/CNET

Widgets have been a mainstay feature on Google's Android since its inception in 2008. But Samsung's One UI 3 for Android 11 revamps some of the things you can do with these helpful tools. 

At Samsung Unpacked, the company revealed new widgets for the lock screen that let you see more information without unlocking your phone, including screen time, Bixby Routines, along with weather, music and your calendar. You can also set these lock screen widgets to dark mode. 

On your home screen, you can personalize your widgets down to size and level of transparency. Message notifications are grouped at the top for faster access, and you can flip between music apps. 

One UI 3 is currently available on Samsung phones including the new Galaxy S21 line, the Galaxy S20 line, the Galaxy Note 20 line, the Z Fold2, the Z Flip, and the Note10, Fold and S10 series (though there are some differences in availability depending on market). It will reach Galaxy A devices in the first half of the year.

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Apple finally added widgets for iPhones with the release of iOS 14 last June (Apple also introduced widgets for iPad in iPadOS 14, and for Mac in MacOS Big Sur at that time). 

iOS 14 lets you place widgets for apps like weather, music and fitness on your home screen. You can also customize your own Smart Stack widget on your home screen, which combines several app widgets that you can scroll through (you can also let Apple curate this for you, based on how you use your phone). 

You can download iOS 14 on supported iPhones (generally the iPhone 6s through the iPhone 11).

The bottom line

While Apple's widgets are a welcome, very useful (and aesthetically pleasing) feature, Samsung's One UI 3 widgets offer more by way of customization. However, that could change whenever we get a glimpse of iOS 15, likely later this year. 

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After Twitter banned Trump, misinformation plummeted, says report – CNET

Donald Trump and social media
James Martin/CNET

The week after Twitter banned President Donald Trump from its platform, online misinformation about election fraud fell by a whopping 73 percent, according to a Saturday report by The Washington Post. Talk around election fraud dropped from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 mentions across a selection of social media sites, the Post reported, citing data from researcher Zignal Labs.

Twitter banned Trump on Jan.8, two days after a mob of his supporters stormed the US Capitol building in a riot that left several people dead, including a Capitol Police officer. A number of people have said bogus election-fraud claims by Trump and others led to the violence at the Capitol, and critics of social media have said the platforms amplified such claims by failing to effectively police disinformation on their sites.

Zignal's data covers the period from Jan. 9 through the 15th, the Post said. The researcher also determined that during that time, hashtags and slogans related to the Capitol attack appeared far less often on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social platforms. #FightforTrump fell by 95 percent, and #HoldTheLine and "March for Trump" dropped more than 95 percent, the Post reported.

The Post also cited a study by misinformation researchers the Election Integrity Partnership which determined that a small number of conservative, pro-Trump Twitter accounts had a large impact on the site. Just 20 such accounts were the source of one-fifth of the retweets involving voting misinformation, that study said.

Twitter isn't alone in muzzling Trump. Facebook banned Trump, on Jan. 7, and Snapchat silenced Trump on the 13th. A number of social media sites have also cracked down on content that's raised concern about incitement to violence. Google-owned YouTube, for instance, banned Steve Bannon's War Room podcast channel on the 8th, the same day Reddit banned the subreddit r/Donaldtrump.

The Post quoted Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, on the effects of such "de-platforming." The council tracks misinformation.

"Bottom line is that de-platforming, especially at the scale that occurred last week, rapidly curbs momentum and ability to reach new audiences," Brookie told the Post. But he added that "it also has the tendency to harden the views of those already engaged in the spread of that type of false information."

Zignal Labs didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Facebook bans ads for gun accessories in run-up to inauguration – CNET

Two National Guard troops in the foreground frame a view of the Capitol dome in the distance.

National Guard troops assemble outside the US Capitol on Jan. 16.

Eric Thayer/Getty Images

Facebook is temporarily prohibiting ads for military gear and gun accessories in the United States until after the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration, the company said Saturday.

"We are banning ads that promote weapon accessories and protective equipment in the US at least through January 22, out of an abundance of caution," the company said in an update to a Monday blog post about the social network's preparations leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

"We already prohibit ads for weapons, ammunition and weapon enhancements like silencers," the company said. "But we will now also prohibit ads for accessories such as gun safes, vests and gun holsters in the US."

Facebook had shown ads for "holsters, body armor, and other military-related paraphernalia in the News Feeds of people who had engaged with content about the attempted coup at the US Capitol building earlier this month," said Buzzfeed News, which reported on the ban earlier Saturday and had reported on the gun-related ads earlier in the week. Lawmakers and Facebook employees have complained to the social network about the ads, the news outlet said.

Following the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol by followers of President Donald Trump, social networks including Facebook have faced criticism that they've failed to effectively police disinformation and violent content on their sites. And along with law enforcement and civil rights groups, the platforms are bracing for the possibility of more violence in the days leading up to the inauguration.

On Friday, Facebook said that through Inauguration Day it's blocking the creation of new events on its platform that take place close to locations including the White house, the Capitol and state capitol buildings.

And on Monday, Facebook said it would remove content from the main social network and Instagram that includes the phrase "stop the steal," which has been used by Trump and his supporters to push baseless claims about voter fraud. A number of people have said such claims led to the violence at the Capitol, which left several people dead, including a Capitol Police officer.

CNET's Abrar Al-Heeti and Queenie Wong contributed to this report.

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Nissan’s NV350 Office Pod lets you work anywhere — seriously – Roadshow

Discuss: Nissan's NV350 Office Pod lets you work anywhere -- seriously

Be respectful, keep it civil and stay on topic. We delete comments that violate our policy, which we encourage you to read. Discussion threads can be closed at any time at our discretion.

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Game of Thrones dire wolves were real. We now know why they went extinct – CNET

canis-dirus-size-jfif

In this illustration, a pack of dire wolves feed on a bison, while a pair of gray wolves approach in the hopes of scavenging.

Mauricio Antón

Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin didn't invent dire wolves, the animals famously given to Stark family children (even Jon Snow) as pets in the book and TV series. They're a real, but now extinct, canine species that lived from 125,000 years ago until around 9,500 years ago. A new study reveals more on why the creatures aren't around anymore: Dire wolves couldn't make little dire wolf litters with today's gray wolves, even if they wanted to.

"Despite anatomical similarities between gray wolves and dire wolves -- suggesting that they could perhaps be related in the same way as modern humans and Neanderthals -- our genetic results show these two species of wolf are much more like distant cousins, like humans and chimpanzees," said the University of Adelaide's Kieren Mitchell, co-author of the study published Wednesday in the journal Nature

Gray wolves can and do interbreed with other similar animals, including African wolves, dogs, coyotes and jackals, but dire wolves were too genetically different to mate with the other groups. According to the study, dire wolves split off from these wolves lineages nearly 6 million years ago and were only a distant relative of today's wolves.

game-of-thrones-season-8-episode-4-tormund-ghost

In a scene from HBO's Game of Thrones, Tormund Giantsbane and Jon Snow's dire wolf, Ghost, watch Jon ride away.

Helen Sloan/HBO

"While ancient humans and Neanderthals appear to have interbred, as do modern gray wolves and coyotes, our genetic data provided no evidence that dire wolves interbred with any living canine species," Mitchell said. "All our data point to the dire wolf being the last surviving member of an ancient lineage distinct from all living canines."

The research was led by Durham University in the UK, with help from scientists at the University of Oxford, Ludwig Maximilian University in Germany, the University of Adelaide and UCLA. The team sequenced the ancient DNA of five dire wolf sub-fossils from Wyoming, Idaho, Ohio, and Tennessee, dating back to over 50,000 years ago. 

The study was the first time ancient DNA has been taken from dire wolves and it suggested that the species evolved solely in North America for millions of years, not migrating as other species do between North America and Eurasia. Because the wolves could not interbreed with other species, the researchers postulate some of the genetic traits that kept those species alive were not handed over to the ancient canines.

More than 4,000 dire wolves have been excavated from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, the study notes, but scientists don't know much about the reasons why they disappeared. Gray wolves, also found in the pits, still exist today.

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If Covid-19 Did Start With a Lab Leak, Would We Ever Know?

“We find ourselves ten months into one of the most catastrophic global health events of our lifetime,” wrote Stanford University immunologist and bio-threat expert David Relman in November, “and, disturbingly, we still do not know how it began.” That lingering uncertainty is of the utmost importance: The precise origins of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, once resolved, will allow us to better prepare for future pandemic threats. But to find out what really happened will require careful and coordinated scientific investigations that are only just now getting underway.

In the meantime, we’re left to speculate. A long essay by Nicholson Baker, published several weeks ago in New York Magazine, made the case that the pandemic began with a laboratory accident; and while the article has been tarred as an irresponsible, ill-informed and one-sided presentation, even its most ardent critics could concede that the possibility of a lab leak cannot be ruled out with certainty.

There are now two major efforts to investigate where Covid-19 came from: one set up by the World Health Organization, and the other organized by a leading medical journal, The Lancet. The investigations are expected to take months or even years to complete, and, given the many challenges involved, they may never deliver conclusive answers. It’s already clear, however, that both are compromised by a lack of clear procedures to manage conflicts of interest and questionable independence. Now it is imperative that governments and the scientific community act quickly to improve them.

The problem starts with the nature of the inquiries, which must determine, for starters, whether the SARS-CoV-2 virus went straight from wild animals to the population (the likeliest scenario, per most experts) or perhaps escaped from a laboratory setting. But many of the people who are most qualified to look into this question—the ones with the most relevant technical knowledge—also happen to be the ones who work in those very laboratory settings, or have close professional ties with the people who do.

In other words, they’re exactly the people who might themselves be blamed (either directly or as part of a research community) if the virus were ever traced back to a lab.

This fundamental tension is not at all uncommon in the convening of expert committees, by governments or otherwise. Decades ago, the scientists who had relationships with tobacco companies were among those with the best understanding of the effects of smoking on public health, but their inclusion on health advisory committees was problematic, and helped to motivate more rigorous approaches to managing conflicts of interest. Fortunately, governments around the world have a long track record of implementing these approaches; and it’s certainly possible to tap relevant expertise via formal questioning or testimony without including those with conflicts as investigators themselves. Unfortunately, it’s not clear that either of the leading investigations into the pandemic’s origins is following the relevant best practices.

For instance, both investigations include Peter Daszak, disease ecologist and president of the EcoHealth Alliance, a research nonprofit with a history of conducting research into SARS-related coronaviruses and their effects on humans, including collaborative work done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The Wuhan Institute happens to be the only laboratory in China that is allowed to work with the world’s most dangerous pathogens, and it’s located at the apparent ground zero of the current outbreak.

If there were a lab leak—and, again, most experts do not believe that the available evidence points in this direction—then both the Wuhan Institute and its US partner would be on a short list of candidates to investigate. It should be obvious that no one with any connection to either organization can play a formal role in any truly independent investigation into the pandemic’s origins. (Of course their expert input could and should be solicited through other means.)

It’s also worth noting that Daszak expressed certainty, very early in the crisis, that the disease originated in the wild. Last winter, just after the WHO first named the virus, he drafted a formal statement to “strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin,” and to “stand with” colleagues in Wuhan and across China. More than two dozen other scientists would sign that letter, which was published by The Lancet on Feb. 19, 2020. Emails obtained via Freedom of Information Act suggest that Daszak organized the effort from the start.

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The beauty and wellness products you’ll want from CES 2021 – CNET

perso-lifestyle
L'Oréal
This story is part of CES, where our editors will bring you the latest news and the hottest gadgets of the entirely virtual CES 2021.

Every year, CES dazzles us with new technology for our health and wellbeing, from how we look, to how we feel mentally and physically. While new health tech pushes to save lives and fitness tech wants to keep us in shape, the products that always have me saying "so when can I buy that?" are those in the beauty and personal care categories.

In keeping with that theme, I've rounded up the most interesting personal care products from the show, and the ones I actually want to own this year.

Yves Saint Laurent Rogue Sur Mesure Powered by Perso

Custom-mixed lipstick colors at home

L'Oréal

Look, I know that a $300 gadget that mixes lipstick together isn't everyone's cup of tea, but for those who love makeup, it's going to be one of the "it" beauty products of the year. The Yves Saint Laurent Rogue Sur Mesure Powered by Perso (I'm calling it Perso for short) is a gadget about the size of a venti coffee that custom mixes nearly any lipstick color you could want. 

You can match colors to your clothing, bag, shoes, nails or pretty much anything else. Inside is space for three lipstick cartridges, available from four color families -- reds, oranges, fushicias, and nudes. Perso connects to an app where you can choose the color you want and the device deposits the exact amount of each color to get the finished shade. Just swirl them together with the included brush, apply to your lips with the included brush and you're done. The stylish compact on the top of Perso lifts off so you can take your custom lip color with you.

You'll be able to buy one starting this spring for $300. A three-pack of cartridges will run you $100. Read more about Perso.

Panasonic Nanoe hair dryer

Oscillating hair dryer that adds moisture

Panasonic

Panasonic's new Nanoe hair dryer makes use of your steamy bathroom by drawing in moisture from the air, to create "tiny, moisture-rich particles that are small enough to penetrate hair shafts." Those particles are supposed to hydrate your hair, protecting it from the damaging effects of heat styling. 

But wait, there's more. The Nanoe also has an oscillating nozzle that helps dry your hair faster with way less effort on your part. That's not something you see on most hair dryers, and it keeps the air moving around your head rather than be concentrated in one spot -- again, to reduce damage. 

You can buy one in late January for $150 on Amazon. Read more about the Nanoe hair dryer.

L'Oréal Water Saver

Water-saving tech for salons and at home

L'Oréal

I've never thought about how much water it takes to wash my hair at a salon, but L'Oreal has. The French beauty and personal care brand partnered with Swiss environmental innovation company Gjosa to develop Water Saver, a system that reduces the amount of water used to wash clients hair by up to 80%.

A standard shower head at a salon wash station uses about eight to 10 liters of water per minute, while the Water Saver uses just two. It does this by micronizing the water -- breaking each drop into smaller droplets that are then accelerated so they flow more quickly through the shower head. The whole system can plug into any existing wash station plumbing and sit right next to the hair-washing bowl.

Here's the cool part -- Water Saver also infuses the water with shampoo and optional hair treatments so that it creates a foam on your hair right out of the faucet. Once the stylist is done washing your hair, they can switch to a water-only mode to rinse.

Water Saver is already in select salons in New York City and Paris right now, with a plan for widespread distribution throughout 2021. By 2022, you'll be able to buy a Water Saver shower nozzle to use at home so you can save water too, but it won't be able to infuse shampoo or hair treatments.

Pricing and availability is to be announced for the at-home version, but keep your eye out for a Water Saver at your favorite salon this year.

Philips Sonicare Prestige 9900

A toothbrush that (almost) does all of the work for you

Philips

Just because you use an electric toothbrush doesn't mean you're getting a thorough cleaning every time you brush. Philip's new Sonicare toothbrush, the Prestige 9900, will actually tell you if you're hitting the mark or not.

The Prestige 9900 has sensors that detect the movements you make with the brush and how well you actually clean each part of your mouth. You can see all of that info in real time in the Sonicare app, so you can improve your brushing habits.

Beyond knowing how well you brush, the Prestige 9900 also has sensors that tell you when you're using too much pressure, which can irritate your gums and make your teeth sensitive. If you press too hard on your gums or teeth, the brush automatically adjusts the intensity of the vibrations to compensate.

The Prestige 9900 will be available in April 2021; pricing is to be announced.

Flō

Drug-free relief for hay fever

Fluo Labs

If you suffer from allergies and hay fever, you're used to popping allergy pills and dealing with the side effects. As an alternative, the medical community has been trying to find drug-free alternatives for years. First there was ClearUp, a device that alleviates sinus pressure and pain, and now we have Flō.

Flō uses red and NIR (near infrared) light to stop the release of histamines your body produces when pollen, dust and other allergens invade your nasal passages. You just insert the device, which looks like a nasal spray, into your nose, let it run for 10 seconds and repeat in the other nostril.

The product is currently undergoing the FDA approval process to be sold over the counter and is slated to be available in late 2021 for $100.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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The FBI Has Made Over 100 Arrests Related to the Capitol Riot

In yet another week that felt like a month, the world continues to feel the reverberations of the seditious assault on the US Capitol building on January 6. After platforms like Twitter and Facebook booted Donald Trump last week, Amazon pulled support from far-right “free speech” platform Parler, knocking it offline for the foreseeable future. Before it disappeared, though, hackers were able to archive every public post, image, and video on Parler, thanks to an incredibly basic bug.

We talked to former CISA director Chris Krebs about Trump’s disinformation blitz, and how the US can get out of this mess—starting with impeachment. We explained how law enforcement gets around your smartphone’s encryption. And we looked into the first public technical evidence that the SolarWinds hackers really are Russian state actors, as some of the code they use shares distinct characteristics with a notorious Kremlin-run group known as Turla.

It’s ambitious and potentially convenient, but think twice about using Amazon Sidewalk if you value privacy. Google researchers found a campaign that used multiple zero-day vulnerabilities to infect Android and Windows devices. And in a timely feature, Rachel Monroe immersed herself in America’s tactical training culture—some of which was on shameful display in Washington, DC last week.

And there’s more! Each week we round up all the news we didn’t cover in depth. Click on the headlines to read the full stories. And stay safe out there.

Investigations relating to the Capitol building riots—including into how officials were caught so off-guard by an incident that had been planned in the open online—will last for months, at least. But thanks in part to over 140,000 tips and a remarkable number of alleged participants filming and photographing themselves and others during the events of January 6, and then posting those videos and photos to social media, the Justice Department has already made over 100 arrests. FBI director Christopher Wray said this week that the agency had over 200 subject case files open, so expect this work to continue for some time.

DarkMarket had a brief run as the biggest illegal dark web marketplace, after predecessors like AlphaBay, Hansa, and Wall Street Market were all taken down. This week, though, authorities caught up with DarkMarket, seizing more than 20 servers in Moldova and Ukraine in the process. Before its demise, DarkMarket had 500,000 users, more than 2,400 vendors, and had hosted around $170 million in cryptocurrency transactions. Grabbing the servers could make it easier for officials to track down DarkMarket participants—or follow them to wherever they next set up shop.

The period and menstruation-tracking app Flo reached a proposed settlement with the FTC this week over its deceptive data-handling practices. While Flo told users it would keep sensitive health data private, it actually passed it along to Facebook and Google analytics, among others. Flo didn’t admit to any wrongdoing, but privacy advocates hope the case indicates the FTC is interested in cracking down on similar data use issues elsewhere in the health care software industry.

Death, taxes, and people using Elon Musk’s name to scam bitcoin from people on Twitter; at least life has its certainties. This time hackers have broken into verified accounts to promote an age-old scam that claims the Tesla billionaire is giving away cryptocurrency. The catch? You have to send some in first. The scammers had raked in nearly $600,000 as of Thursday. When in doubt, please remember that nothing is free, especially when it’s bitcoin on Twitter.


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Accessibility devices at CES 2021 reflect growing focus on inclusive tech – CNET

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The Mantis Q40 is a hybrid QWERTY and braille keyboard.

American Printing House
This story is part of CES, where our editors will bring you the latest news and the hottest gadgets of the entirely virtual CES 2021.

The products at CES that generate the most buzz are typically TVs, computers and phones, but there's also plenty of important and groundbreaking tech geared toward improving the everyday lives of users that doesn't receive as much attention. This includes a range of products primarily focused on accessibility, from hearing aids to braille keyboards to apps that guide visually impaired users. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how critical many of these products are. Tech has played a crucial role in keeping people connected for tasks like remote learning, work and hangouts, but the needs of people with disabilities, who make up 15% of the global population, are often overlooked

Thankfully, it's an issue that's slowly getting more attention as companies not only realize the importance of inclusivity, but also see the financial value of making their products accessible to more people. A 2016 report by Nielsen found that consumers with disabilities, along with their families, friends and associates, make up a trillion-dollar market segment. Additionally, a 2018 Accenture report found that if companies engaged in greater disability inclusion, they'd gain access to a talent pool of more than 10.7 million people. More-diverse hiring would let companies do a better job of making their products accessible.

"Inclusive design is now a topic that's talked about in the mainstream," said Greg Stilson, senior director of global innovation at American Printing House (APH), which makes a hybrid QWERTY and braille keyboard. "Even five years ago, inclusive design was not top of mind for UX designers," he added, referring to user experience design.

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Here are some of the accessibility and assistive-technology offerings showcased at this year's all-digital CES that aim to level the playing field.

Mantis Q40

APH's Mantis Q40 is a Bluetooth QWERTY keyboard that includes a refreshable braille display. This frees users who are blind or visually impaired from having to choose between a traditional keyboard or braille device. Instead, as they type, the braille display at the bottom presents written information to complement a screen reader, which speaks descriptions aloud to users.

The device can connect to up to five different gadgets at once via Bluetooth, and includes one USB connection. It works with Mac, PC and iOS devices, with Android and Chromebook support coming soon. It sells for a hefty $2,495. 

The company also sells a smaller, lower-cost Chameleon 20 device, at $1,595, which features a traditional braille keyboard entry rather than QWERTY. It includes the same functionality with external devices and same connectivity capabilities as the Mantis Q40.

A key component of these tools is that they build on the accessibility initiatives that more big tech companies are increasingly adopting, Stilson said. He noted that though it's exciting to see companies like Samsung, Apple, Google and Microsoft place a stronger emphasis on inclusive design, "accessibility doesn't always equal efficiency. You can make a computer talk, but are there interaction tools that make it an efficient experience?"

Products like the Mantis Q40 and Chameleon 20, he says, add that layer of efficiency, while letting users keep braille at their fingertips. 

The high price tag on the keyboards is due to the cost of producing specialized devices with refreshable braille technology, Stilson said. But APH is developing a Dynamic Tactile Device that would create multiple lines of braille, so a blind student, for instance, could have immediate access to an image, diagram or shape that's being discussed in class. APH hopes to be able to create lower-cost refreshable braille tech with the device. 

Oticon More

Hearing devices have started commanding more attention at CES in recent years, especially as they've been getting a boost from artificial intelligence. There's a serious need for these tools, given nearly 500 million people globally have disabling hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization.

Hearing aid manufacturer Oticon launched Oticon More on Tuesday, which is designed to help users with hearing loss better understand speech and pick up on more sounds they need to hear. 

oticon-more-in-hand-jbs-1081

Oticon More processes speech more like a human brain, the company says.

Oticon

Embedded on the hearing aid's chip is a deep neural network, something that uses mathematical modeling to process data in a complex way. The DNN is trained on 12 million real-life sounds, the company says. When a sound goes through the hearing aid, it's compared to results from the DNN's learning phase. This lets the device offer a more natural and balanced representation of sounds, according to Oticon, and it's able to process speech in a noisy environment more like a human brain does. 

Oticon More supports streaming from the iPhone and from some Android devices. It comes in eight colors, and costs are set by individual hearing care professionals. 

Other smart hearing devices on the virtual CES floor this year include the Kite personal sound amplifier, which features noise reduction technology and resembles a pair of earbuds attached to a neckband. It has three listening modes: focus mode, which hones in on the person in front of you and is designed for one-on-one conversations; environment mode, which provides more overall awareness while also scaling back unwanted noise; and group mode for social settings, which enhances speech 180 degrees in front of the wearer and reduces background noise.

Signia also offers a range of smart hearing aids, as well as a Face Mask Mode in its app that helps wearers better understand speech through face masks. Users can tap a button in the app, which then tells hearing aids to focus on a person's speech signals, making words sound cleaner and reducing background noise. After Face Mask Mode is deactivated, the hearing aids go back to relaying surrounding noises in a natural-sounding balance. The app is available on iOS and Android. 

HeardThat

Hearing aid wearers looking to better separate speech from surrounding noise may find HeardThat useful. The smartphone app, which launched late last year and is available on iOS and Android, uses machine learning to accomplish that goal.

HeardThat app

The HeardThat app includes a slider so users can decide how much environmental noise they want to filter out.

Singular Hearing

To create the app, neural networks were trained using thousands of hours of recorded speech to distinguish useful speech from other noise. Whereas other speech-assistive devices tend to either amplify or reduce all sounds, including what's useful, HeardThat separates and discards noise, the company says. This makes it easier for users to understand speech. 

The app isn't designed to replace hearing aids or serve as an alternative to them, says Bruce Sharpe, CEO of Singular Hearing, which makes HeardThat. Rather, it's meant to be an accessory to hearing aids. 

To use the app, connect your hearing device or headphones to your phone and place in front of you, pointed toward the person you're talking with. 

HeardThat is free, but the company plans to eventually roll out a subscription service. 

Aware app

Smartphones also have the capacity to help users who are blind or visually impaired navigate their environment. The Aware app, from Sensible Innovations, offers turn-by-turn descriptive navigation for users, who can place their phone in their pocket and listen as the app announces places they pass.

Users can tell the app where they want to go, and it'll tell them when they've arrived at their destination. Aware also provides an audio description of locations, such as a store's layout. 

Aware is available on iOS and will launch soon for Android.

Sravi

Liopa, a company that's developed AI-based lip-reading technology, created an app called Sravi that's designed to recognize specific phrases by analyzing lip movements. That can be helpful for people with speech difficulties, or patients in critical care with ailments that render them incapable of speaking. 

The app is in trials within the UK's National Health Service, and is slated to launch commercially around early spring.

sravi

Medical staff use Sravi with a tracheostomy patient. 

Liopa

Sravi has been helpful in intensive care units within the NHS, given the flood of COVID-19 patients who are on ventilators, says Liopa CEO Liam McQuillan. ICU clinicians tend to use tracheostomies to wean patients off of ventilators, which prevents the patients from talking. Those patients can benefit from an app like Sravi, McQuillan says, and the company has seen a spike in demand for its technology. 

Clients use the app by downloading it to their phone or tablet and then holding the device up toward a patient. Sravi captures video of the patient speaking, and a deep neural network maps lip movements to figure out what someone is attempting to say. That information can be sent back to the health care provider's phone or tablet in textual form or as a synthetic voice.

The range of accessible products showcased at CES highlights a growing awareness of the need for inclusive tech design and product offerings, which Stilson doesn't expect to see slow down in the coming years. 

"In fact," he says, "I see that amping up more and more."

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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Cadillac eVTOL air taxi revealed, CES 2021 and more: Roadshow’s week in review – Roadshow

GM is the latest automaker to investigate the nascent electric air-taxi business.

General Motors

Hello again, Roadshow readers. It's time for the week in review so you can catch up on everything that happened over the past seven days. Notably, we just lived through our first totally digital CES, and we got some big news from General Motors at the event.

Stick around as we go through the best of the week now behind us.

Top reviews

Managing Editor Steven Ewing took a spin in Honda's Accord Sport with the 2.0-liter turbo-four engine. Is it good? Yep, probably the best it's ever been.

Click here to read our 2021 Honda Accord review.

Reviews Editor Antuan Goodwin slid behind the wheel of Kia's new sedan, the Optima-replacing K5. Goodwin thinks this car is the one to beat in the midsize sedan class these days.

Click here to read our 2021 Kia K5 review.

Reviews Editor Craig Cole spent some time with the 2021 Cadillac XT5, specifically in its Sport trim. Comfy, agreeable and still luxurious, Cole believes. But there may be better options out there.

Click here to read our 2021 Cadillac XT5 review.

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