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Daily News Roundup: Intel Wants Laptops to Know You’re Near

Intel doesn’t make laptops. But in the past, it has occasionally used its power to guide laptop trajectory. If you remember Ultrabooks, that was an Intel drive to steer the future of premium laptops.

Now Intel is introducing Project Athena, only this time the focus isn’t premium laptops so much as long-lasting laptops. A Project Athena laptop (a branding name is coming later) should have nine hours of battery life. And if you’re thinking plenty of laptops reach that benchmark now, those are tested under ideal conditions. Typically a video playing with the screen brightness turned very low. Intel wants to test laptops with something closer to real-world conditions.

The company knows just saying, “make it last longer” isn’t all that helpful, so Intel is also introducing a proposed feature to help reach that goal: presence detection. On prototype laptops, Intel showed a proximity sensor embedded next to the webcam. When you step away, the proximity sensor notices you aren’t near anymore and puts the device to sleep. When you come back, the laptop sees you and wakes up to the login screen. It’s pretty close to the method many smartphones use now.

As an alternative, Intel is also testing using a camera and facial recognition. The idea isn’t to save specific faces, at least not yet, but to recognize that some face is present and use that information to wake up the device or put it asleep. Unfortunately, in demonstrations, the tech was far too sensitive, and the Intel rep had to point the camera at the ceiling for the laptop to go to sleep. Plenty of fine-tuning is needed. And naturally, privacy implications with facial recognition technology will need to be addressed.

But I think we can all agree that laptop battery life that lasts longer would be a good thing. [Engadget]

In Other News:

  • Google sticks to its guns on ad blocking: We previously detailed out Google’s plans to make changes in how ad blocking works, and there was naturally some negative feedback. Google says it’s going to push forward with its plans, while allowing enterprise users to access the old scheme, for in-house purposes. [9to5Google]
  • The Latest Windows Insider Build includes new Your Phone app features: We like the Your Phone app, and it’s encouraging to see Microsoft add more features. In the latest Insider Update, Your Phone grabs MMS capabilities and better accessibility support. Very nice. [Microsoft]
  • You can have an official Pokemon themed wedding if that’s your thing: Because of course you can, official Pokemon themed weddings are now a thing in Japan. If the sight of a Pikachu in a cute top hat or bridal veil doesn’t horrify you, you should really check this out. No word if Ryan Reynolds will officiate. Or if it’s OK to capture any of the Pokemon present. [Kotaku]
  • Checker’s payment system got hacked, leading to credit card theft: Checker’s (or Rally’s depending on your location) is one of the larger fast-food restaurant chains in the U.S. Unfortunately, over 100 of the company’s restaurants had malware installed on its POS systems between 2017 and 2019. The malware stole credit card numbers, cardholder names, pin data, and more. If you’ve eaten at a Checker’s or Rally’s you should check if your local restaurant is in the list, and then call your bank. [ZDNet]
  • 70% of Hulu subscribers are on the ad-supported tier: Unlike Netflix, Hulu comes in both an ad-free and an ad-supported tier. You might think going without ads would be the more popular choice, but the ad-supported tier is nearly half the cost. According to the company, 70% of its subscribers choose the cheaper option. That’s just fine with the company, it’s making so much from ads it recently lowered the price of that tier. [Variety]
  • Google Play Store now requires app developers to disclose loot box odds: Loot boxes are controversial, and done wrong can ruin a game. The biggest issue stemming from the practice is the promise of a fantastic item and not having any idea how likely it is to win. If you can only get cool red shaded thingamajig .01% of the time, it’s practically a rip-off and lie. Now Google requires game makers to disclose those odds so you can make an informed decision before parting with your hard-earned dollars. That’s a good thing. [The Verge]
  • Microsoft announces Game Pass for PCs: Speaking of games, Microsoft is bringing its Xbox Game Pass to PCs. Details are scarce (like pricing, what games, etc.) but the company promises over 100 games from 75 developers to start. That means it won’t be limited to Microsoft backed games like Forza. If the pricing is right, could be worth looking at. [The Verge]
  • Wyze Cameras now work with Google Assitant: Wyze Cams are exceptional, especially for the price. One feature they lacked was Google integration, but that’s no longer an issue. Starting now, you can use voice commands to start a recording or turn your camera on (but not off). And if you have a Google Home hub, you can watch a video feed. Right now, the feed has high latency, though, so it’s not perfect. Call it a good start. [Wyze]

Astronomers discovered a Neptune-like planet (designated NGTS-4b) about 920 light-years from Earth. Neptune-like planets aren’t necessarily unusual themselves, but this one is special. You see, it’s incredibly close to its star.

How close? Well, a single orbit around its star (what we call a year) takes less than two days. For comparison, Mercury, the closest planet to our Sun, takes just over 89 days to complete an orbit.

Usually, only small rocky planets (like Mercury) or massive and hot planets (like Jupiter) exist so close to a star. This is the first time astronomers have spotted a Neptune-planet so close to its star, and the discovery led to a new designation: a Neptune-desert.

The best guess for how this happened is, of course, gravity. Astronomers don’t think the planet formed so close to its star, but instead started much farther away and is drifting closer. Scientists are now looking for other similar examples, which could change some of our understanding of planet physics. [Gizmodo]