Levi’s Google-powered smart jacket goes on sale next week

The question is whether this jacket is really worth the cost — after all, that’s a lot for denim. The key for the Levi’s Commuter jacket lies in a snap tag on the left sleeve cuff that allows you to interact with your phone right on the jacket using gestures, LEDs and haptic feedback. It’s not fully unobtrusive — from the pictures, it appears to protrude from the sleeve quite a bit — but it’s pretty small. But if you want a low key and simple way to interact with your phone (and you love denim jackets), you may want to check it out. You can see our early review here.

The jacket is primarily aimed at bike commuters, and it would work well for this group. You can use the Jacquard app, available for iOS and Android, to customize what exactly your jacket can do. You can receive messages, send calls to voicemail, hear your next direction while biking, control your music and more. The tag charges via USB and the battery lasts for about two weeks. It’s removable, so the jacket is, presumably, washable.

You can visit jacquard.com/levi/specs on your mobile device to see if it’s compatible; generally, phones running Android 6.01 or newer will work. iOS users must have an iPhone 6 or later running iOS 10 or iOS 11. It’s likely this jacket will appeal to a very narrow set of people, especially considering its hefty price tag. But if it’s as thoughtfully made as it appears to be, it will probably attract some fans.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/25/levis-smart-jacket-project-jaquard-on-sale/

Jared Kushner uses private email for White House business

Some of those involved messaged him first, including from their own private accounts.

An attorney for Kushner, Abbe Lowell, has been quick to acknowledge the ongoing use but is also downplaying its scope. Kushner has sent or received “fewer than 100 emails” between his personal account and White House officials, Lowell says. These “usually” included forwarded news stories and opinion pieces, and were typically started by someone sending a message to Kushner rather than the other way around. The lawyer says that Kushner is honoring the Presidential Records Act, which requires archiving all presidential correspondence (and related material), by forwarding messages to his government account.

The problem that it’s difficult to verify that this forwarding is taking place. It also reflects a tendency of current White House staff to rely much more on private messaging instead of government supplied accounts. Unlike past administrations, it could be much harder to keep a historical record if staff are regularly using private accounts. And while analogies between this and Clinton’s private email don’t fit all that well (Clinton was using a private email server for potentially sensitive correspondence), it’s hard to escape the irony of attacking a politician for using private email only to do that yourself.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/24/jared-kushner-uses-private-email-for-white-house-business/

‘Marvel’s The Defenders’ and ‘The Night of’

‘Marvel’s The Defenders’


Mat Smith
Bureau Chief, UK

If you’ve seen all the other shows that have fed into Defenders, this Marvel team-up isn’t going to change how you feel about each of the protagonists. Jessica Jones gets nearly all the good quips, aside from Madame Gao (an imperious old woman that scared the crap out of heroes and villains alike in those other Netflix shows), and even uses a car to ram a resurrected ninja/love interest. Danny Rand, the Iron Fist, is still petulant, myopic and just ugh — if anything, it’s good to have human punchbag for everyone else to riff off. Other heroes “forget” his mystical title, despite the fact that Rand says it to anyone and everyone who’ll listen. I hoped they’d at least offer some highlights to the Fist, but he’s still the weakest part.

The story mostly centers around Daredevil and the Iron Fist, and there are several surprises in the last half of the eight episodes to keep things interesting. Luke Cage seems to take a backseat: He’s all voice of reason and stoic calm most of the time. (This is funny to me because in the old comics, it was usually the other way around, as Fist would tell Cage to not take it all so seriously. Then again, Cage also wore a golden tiara thing, so, you know, maybe things are better this way.)

Once I’d finished it all, and believe me, I binged like a lot of viewers, I felt a little underwhelmed. It’s not that it was bad, it’s just that perhaps my expectations were too high. Despite being like an Indie Avengers supergroup, I didn’t feel like any of the heroes evolved much during this team-up run, and the threat didn’t ramp up as much as I’d hoped it would, barring a four-on-four match-up in the final few episodes. The group thing works fine; it’s just that some of the solo artists do better work on their own.

‘The Night of’


Billy Steele

Billy Steele
Senior News Editor

If you’re looking for something to fill the void left by True Detective and remedy the disappointment of the second season, HBO’s latest crime thriller will do the trick. The Night Of is set in NYC and chronicles one really bad night out for Nazir Khan. What starts out as relatively innocent sneaking out and taking his father’s cab to go to a party, ends up with him being accused of a murder he doesn’t remember committing. Well, mostly because of the cocktail of drugs and alcohol he consumed.

Riz Ahmed is spectacular in the lead role as Khan. He adapts from being a sheltered college student to becoming a murder suspect whose new home is Rikers Island. In fact, Ahmed just won a well-deserved Emmy for the character. Along the way, fellow inmate Freddy Knight, played by Michael K Williams of The Wire fame, takes Naz under his wing. In exchange for protection in prison, Naz has to do some illicit activities to repay the debt. And of course, that creates a whole other set of issues.

John Turturro is also outstanding in the role of John Stone, a lawyer that hangs out around police stations looking for clients. Stone thinks this is another open-and-shut case where he can get paid to convince his client to take a plea deal. And because it’s a high-profile murder case, he’ll earn much more than his usual fee. During the course of the show, it’s amazing to watch Stone’s change of heart towards Naz while dealing with his own personal struggles — all of which culminates in the attorney’s epic closing argument.

The best part? It’s only eight episodes, which means it’s easily bingeable in a weekend — if you’re as determined as I was. The shorter season also kept the pace moving along at a good clip, and the show never felt like it was dragging or filling time like some 13-episode series tend to do. What’s more, The Night Of works so well as a one-season show. While there have been rumblings about a second installment, I’d be perfectly fine with HBO keeping this to one season. Unless of course, Turturro comes back as John Stone — then I might be convinced to change my tune.

‘The Man from Nowhere’


Richard Lawler

Richard Lawler
Senior News Editor

If you, like me, have a leaning towards classic action flicks from a few decades ago, then Korean movies can fill the hole left by current Hollywood movies that rely too heavily on quick camera cuts and CGI. A few you should check out include I Saw the Devil, No Tears for the Dead and, my favorite, The Man from Nowhere.

This 2010 release lived up to its title, suddenly appearing and instantly becoming one of my favorite movies. It fills its two-hour runtime with a visceral, close-up brand of violence all paced to match the way we learn about its main character’s backstory. A mysterious pawnshop loner turns out to be a former special-forces operative, who deliberately chews through a crime syndicate that has kidnapped a little girl he befriended. It’s not the most original plotline, but the mix of story and action is perfect, and star Won Bin — who I hope will return to action movies someday as he is sorely missed — pulls off every bit of subtle emoting necessary to carry the role.

It closes with an action scene that I won’t spoil but can honestly say is a favorite along with anything seen in either The Raid movie. Emotional stakes combined with excellent choreography and cinematography take it to another level and should earn this flick a spot on your shelf.

“IRL” is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they’re buying, using, playing and streaming.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/23/video-irl-august-2017/

DHS finally reveals the states Russia hacked during the elections

Senator Mark R. Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said: “Its unacceptable that it took almost a year after the election to notify states that their elections systems were targeted, but I’m relieved that DHS has acted upon our numerous requests and is finally informing the top elections officials in all 21 affected states that Russian hackers tried to breach their systems in the run up to the 2016 election.” The states affected by the hacking attempts include Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington.

According to Homeland Security, the attackers only got into the systems of a handful of states despite targeting almost two dozen. In some cases, like in Illinois, the attackers altered voters’ records and got away with their sensitive details, but investigators didn’t find any evidence that they tampered with actual voting machines. Office of Intelligence and Analysis Cyber Division acting director Samuel Liles once said, however, that the attackers might not have altered vote counts, because their real purpose was to look for vulnerabilities to exploit.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/23/homeland-security-russia-hacking-elections/

Moleskine’s smart planner requires too much effort to use

Before you can even set up the pen, the app asks that you agree to Moleskine’s privacy policy and terms and conditions. You have to check several boxes on each page before you can proceed to the next one, and there’s no way to skip any of this. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue; we agree to terms and conditions all the time. What bothered me was that on the last page, you must check the box that says you agree to Moleskine sending you promotional or informational material if you want to move forward. This is usually optional; making it mandatory is an oppressive move on Moleskine’s part.

A company spokesperson told Engadget that its privacy policy states that you may be asked in the future to provide an email address and password to access the app. “This is completely optional, so you’re not required to enter an email or password to use the app or product,” the company said. If you do provide an email, Moleskine said, it would send promotional emails from respective channels, and it won’t if you don’t supply your contact info. For the purpose of this hands-on, I checked the box, crossed my fingers and moved on.

I was intrigued by the premise of the connected planner at first. Using the smart pen, you write down your appointments on the physical planner and the system will send them to the digital calendar of your choice (iCal, Google or Outlook). The planner also has plain lined pages on the right, where you can jot down ideas or to-do lists, which then sync to the app.

Linking the pen to the Moleskine app was relatively easy: I held down a button until a light on the device turned blue, then placed the pen next to my iPhone. The app found my pen after a few seconds. Once I started writing in the planner, the app detected the new book, it jumped to the page where my pen was, and my scribbles appeared on my phone in real time. Just as with the existing smart writing set, you can use the pen to tap on the envelope icon on the top right of each page to send a PDF copy to yourself or your friends.

To get the planner to sync with your digital calendar, though, you have to make sure to follow these steps. Go into the Moleskine app’s settings, then select “Authentication Center.” Pick the calendar you prefer and give the app permission to sync. Each time you want to write anything in the planner or notebook, you have to make sure the pen is switched on, or nothing will sync. So if your pen is out of power, too bad; nothing you write will be saved to the app. Moleskine says the pen will last through up to 13 hours of “average use” and about seven hours of nonstop writing (hope they don’t mean that literally).

After I finally got the planner to link to my iCal, I activated the pen and wrote down a few dummy meetings. There are three ways to create an appointment: start your entry with the time of your meeting, and the app will save a one-hour block to your calendar; specify a start and end time, and the app will set aside a slot for that duration; or, if you don’t use any times at all, the app will save your entry as an all-day event. That all sounds nifty in theory, but because the system is so bad at recognizing my handwriting, it kept reading my 2s and 1s as Zs and Ls. This made it save 2pm and 1pm appointments as all-day events. It also failed to recognize my cursive or block writing, and labelled several of my meetings with gibberish. I had to be extremely careful when writing my entries before it would work.

When it did recognize what I wrote, though, the Moleskine app accurately set up appointments in my calendar. But for now, the software still feels too unreliable to justify buying the planner (a $30 add-on) specifically for the digital benefits. I also find the purchasing option unnecessarily complicated. To use the smart planner, you need the smart pen, which is available only with the $199 writing set for now. That means you’ll have to get the regular notebook no matter what, which I find unnecessary, since you have lined notebook pages in the planner anyway. But Moleskine says customers of its paper products tend to buy both notebooks and planners, and the company believes they’ll want to get both of the connected versions as well.

I happen to not be a Moleskine customer, so I don’t know if that’s true. There also aren’t very many alternatives available — Livescribe’s and Evernote’s options are either partnerships with Moleskine to begin with or, in the case of the latter, discontinued. The reusable Rocketbook appears to be a cheaper option with features similar to those of the smart notebook, but it doesn’t have the premium quality of a Moleskine and doesn’t offer scheduling tools. All told, Moleskine’s smart planner is a compelling concept that I’d embrace — if only it were more reliable and didn’t require so much effort.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/23/moleskine-smart-planner-hands-on/

Uber’s new chief says the company is paying for its bad rep

He admitted that it really matters what people think of the company. So, going forward, he said it’s critical “to act with integrity in everything” the company does and to learn how to be better partner to every city where it’s active. By doing so, he hopes to show that Uber isn’t just a “really great product, but a really great company that is meaningfully contributing to society.”

In its announcement, Transport for London said it didn’t reissue Uber’s license because its policies for reporting criminal offenses, as well as the way it obtains medical records and does driver checks didn’t meet its standards. The agency was also wary of Greyball, which the company used to evade known authorities by showing them fake rides or none at all. Uber denies ever using Greyball in London, but it doesn’t matter: as Khosrowshahi said, the company will have to deal with the reputation it built for itself.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/22/uber-bad-rep-london/

The iPhone 8 is technically a gigabit LTE phone

First up, Apple itself didn’t mention the feature in its technical spec sheet. The latest iPhones offer support for more LTE bands and networks (depending on your model) than ever before, but the company certainly doesn’t list that the device supports gigabit LTE.

Samsung’s Galaxy S8, Note 8 phones and even the Essential phone all pack gigabit LTE modems, ready to go. It’ll be a mainstay of nearly all new phones going forward, and Apple’s new phone, available today, starts behind its biggest competitor. Phone carriers haven’t initiated the roll-out of this next-generation LTE. However, all the major US phone networks are all promising to launch gigabit LTE services by the end of 2017.

So what gives? Sources suggest that Apple tapped both Qualcomm and Intel for modems for this year’s iPhones. Because of this, Bloomberg sources, back in June, suggested that any gigabit LTE functionality would be disabled, as some phones would be compatible, those with Qualcomm modems, while others (with Intel modems) wouldn’t. Intel does have a gigabit LTE modem in the works — it apparently wasn’t ready for this round of iPhones.

There’s also some corporate politics here. In the middle of several of legal scuffles, Qualcomm has alleged that Apple would prevent Qualcomm-equipped iPhones from performing at full capacity so they would work just like Intel versions.

There’s still plenty of caveats: iFixit’s teardown is just one phone. We still don’t know if Intel modems do exist in some iPhone 8 models. And even if the iPhone 8 does have gigabit LTE, Apple hasn’t said whether this is enabled in iOS, or if it would do so in future updates. (We have contacted Apple for comment. We’ll update if we hear anything more.)

Apple doesn’t label which phones get which parts, as it draws different components from different companies. If you remember the fuss over which iPhone 6 Plus got the “good” processor a few years ago, there’s a similar story here.

For now, your new iPhone 8 can handle all the current LTE services you’re using. It may not, however, be ready for the next wave of upgraded networks at a time when rivals are primed and ready.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/22/iphone-8-gigabit-lte-iphone/

Researchers create a robot that can cling to shark skin underwater

The remora is a fish that that has a large sucker-like fin that it uses to hang onto sharks and dolphins while it picks up food scraps from its host and seeks protection from predators. It can remain attached to the marine animals even at top swimming speeds and with dolphins, can hang on even when they jump out of the water and spin around.

The research team designed their robot in the functional image of the remora’s fin. It has a softer, large suction pad as well as hundreds of small, rigid spines arranged in rows that mimic those found in the remora. The remora can change the position of those tiny spines in order to maintain adequate friction, a design that the research team incorporated into its model.

When tested, the suction disc was able to hang on to a variety of smooth and rough surfaces under water, including real shark skin. You can watch it in action here. Outside of the water (check out the video here) it also attached to glass, wood, a box of apple juice and a smartphone and was able to withstand twists and turns without detaching. The next step is to test in on real sharks or dolphins.

Overall, it stands to become a very useful tool in the study of underwater creatures. You can check out New Scientist’s video about the research below.

Image: Wang et al., Sci. Robot. 2, eaan8072 (2017)

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/21/robot-cling-shark-skin-underwater/

‘Doom’ for the Nintendo Switch feels exactly like it’s supposed to

To start, Doom on the Nintendo Switch feels identical to Doom on other platforms. The same fast-paced, demonic shooter action that embodied the spirit of the classic game is there, and it still feels great. Sprinting through corridors of the UAC facility or performing stylistic “execution” glory kills on the spawn of hell is as satisfying as ever. The controls feel right. The complete experience translates. Still, the question that hung in everyone’s mind during the game’s announcement is the same one that lingered as I played through Bethesda’s portable Doom demo: Can the Nintendo Switch really handle this game?

At first blush, the answer seems to be yes. But the details of that answer were harder to make out. Bethesda only let us try the game in Switch’s handheld and tabletop modes, limiting our view of the port to the console’s 6.2-inch 720p display. Scaled down to that screen, the game looked pretty sharp — but behind the glare of the glossy display, it was hard to see what compromises might have been made. I spent half of my demo time staring at rocks on the surface of mars, trying to determine how that texture might look if it were scaled up on my 40-inch TV at home.

To the game’s credit, it looked good during the limited demo. I played through the first level of Doom without noticing any hiccups or slowdowns. At worst, the game seemed to have notably long load times and a little bit less anti-aliasing than its full-console counterparts — but without the advantage of seeing the Switch docked in console mode, it was hard to say for sure. Either way, it was a pretty early demo of the game. The full game is playable, but when I noticed a dip in framerate during some of arcade-mode’s later levels, staff on hand told me that most of the game hasn’t been optimized for Switch just yet.

Doom on Nintendo Switch is promising. It shows that with enough work from a dedicated developer, current-gen games can make their way to the hybrid portable. It’s also a strong show of support for the console from Bethesda — one of the biggest third-party developers in the industry. It’s still too early to say how good the port will be, but what we’ve seen so far is a good start. Hopefully, Bethesda can stick the landing and offer Switch owners a Doom experience that looks good from every angle — handheld mode, tabletop mode and of course, console mode.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/21/doom-for-the-nintendo-switch-feels-exactly-like-it-s-supposed/

‘Overwatch’ fights toxic players by muting them on Xbox Live

It’s a small consequence — those bad apples won’t have their play affected — but it spares everyone else from a player’s crappy or abusive attitude. Expanding the team’s toxicity-fighting toolset to include softer methods is just as important as introducing harsher punishments, especially if players are just having an uncharacteristically bad day.

This is the first new tool the Overwatch team is deploying to fight player toxicity, which it vowed to get tougher on earlier in the summer. Developer and face of the game’s team Jeff Kaplan uploaded a video last week urging the player community to behave better, pointing out that dealing with reported users took up time and delayed upcoming features.

So far, the team has disciplined over 480,000 players, Kaplan said, and they’ll continue to refine its reporting and consequence system. But when push comes to shove, the team would prefer to simply ban the worst-acting players from the game entirely rather than filter them into games reserved for bullies and malcontents.

Time will tell how the reputation-based muting works to curb bad attitudes on Xbox Live; As of yet, the team hasn’t announced whether this disciplinary action will be ported over to PSN or PC.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/20/overwatch-fights-toxic-players-by-muting-them-on-xbox-live/