TechSummit Rewind #067

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewmind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Developers can get hands on Project Ara later this year

According to Google, a test version of the Project Ara modular smartphone will be released to developers in the fourth quarter of the year.

A thinner consumer version is due to launch next year.

The revamped Project Ara has the core phone technology in the phone’s frame, with room for six interchangeable module slots. According to Google, these modules can be inserted and ejected while the phone is running.

Onstage Friday at Google I/O, a camera module was demonstrated, taking a picture of the session on Ara, while talking about modules including one to show diabetics to monitor their blood glucose.

Google has also made enough progress with Ara to spin it out of its advanced projects team into its own business unit.

A market test of the smartphone will be held in the U.S. this year.

Google, Levi’s team up on “connected” jacket to answer calls, use maps, more

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The unit also offered an update on Project Jacquard, the interactive textiles project unveiled at last year’s I/O in collaboration with Levi’s to launch a “connected” jacket aimed at urban cyclists, allowing wearers to do things like control their music, answer phone calls, and access navigation by tapping and swiping on the jacket’s sleeve.

This jacket aims to be something that’s both fashionable and practical.

A Jacquard tag is embedded in the jacket’s sleeve, driving its increased functionality, and can be pulled out and charged via USB. This tag connects with the LED, haptics, battery, and garment’s woven sensor. In addition, the platform includes a mobile app that connects the smart clothes to the cloud. Consumers will also be able to control apps that’re compatible with the garment from there.

“There’s a unique challenge in creating a smart clothes platform – fashion and technology have to work as one but there’s inherent tension between the two. Technology is fragile, garments are not.”

-Ivan Poupyrev, Google Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) technical program lead

In addition to controlling native phone functions, Google Play Music, and Google Maps, the jackets will interoperate with third-party services like Spotify or Strava.

Running fingers up and down the cuff controlled music volume, with the Compass feature being accessed with a swipe that initiated a voice assistant prompting Levi’s VP of Innovation Paul Dillinger on his next meeting time and how long it would take to arrive there.

Google plans to work with other apparel makers in the future to expand Jacquard’s reach.

According to Google, this jacket will launch in beta this fall before launching publicly in spring 2017.

Google builds radar system into smartwatch for gesture controls

Lastly, Google ATAP showed off Project Soli, which is designed to embed tiny radar chips into gadgets for the use of minute hand gestures to control the digital world.

The chip was redesigned to be smaller and draw less power time and time again, until it became a sliver that can be balanced on your pinky toenail, containing four antennas that provide duplex communication for sending and receiving radar pings. Soli’s power reduction has dropped 22x from the first iteration, drawing 0.054 watts of power.

Soli is able to light up and show your information as you move your hand closer to the watch, with more specific gestures borrowing from physical controls like the dial, button, and slider.

“On a really simple level, it means you get to use your entire screen for what screens are meant for: showing you stuff.”

-Ivan Poupyrev

ATAP hopes that this can become part of commercial products manufactured by partners like LG, Qualcomm, and JBL.

Apple pulls iOS 9.3.2 for 9.7-inch iPad Pro after ‘Error 56’

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Following the release of iOS 9.3.2, Apple has pulled the update after ‘Error 56,’ a bug that’s affecting a ‘small number’ of iPad customers.

“We’re working on a fix for an issue impacting a small number of iPad units that are receiving an error when trying to update the software. We’ll issue an update as quickly as possible.”

-Apple, in a statement

Palantir buying up to $225 million of stock from employees

Palantir Technologies

Palantir Technologies plans to purchase up to $225 million of its own common stock that’s owned by current and former employees.

The event will be held at a price of $7.40/share, according to a company memo to stock obtained by BuzzFeed News. Employees were invited to sell up to 12.5 percent ($500,000) of their equity, whichever is lower.

Avant cuts jobs amid industry struggles

According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Avant has laid off about 60 people (seven percent of the company’s workforce).

The Chicago-based online lender also delayed plans to expand into credit cards, refinanced car loans, and open operations in Australia, according to the paper.

“We made this move to align our resources with a narrowed focus on our core personal loan product. Streamlined focus sets us up for strong near term profitability given the challenges the market has faced. We’re at an inflection point as an industry, and we believe Avant will emerge the leader of Credit 2.0: a more refined, adaptable, and sustainable business model that aligns consumer, investor, and regulatory interests for good.”

-Avant, in a statement

Rhapsody’s VR app is a hub for live music videos

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Music streaming service Rhapsody has unveiled Rhapsody VR, an iOS and Android app for 360-degree music concert videos. The content is free for everyone to watch (preferably through a headset).

Right now, nine videos are available on the app, but new ones will be added monthly, according to a Rhapsody spokesperson.

FAA testing FBI drone-detection system at JFK airport

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The Federal Aviation Authority has been conducting trials of a new FBI-built drone-detection system at New York’s JFK Airport.

According to the FAA, the system was tested using “five different rotorcraft and fixed wing” aircraft from May 2. Forty separate tests took place, with the trial building on earlier research conducted at Atlantic City International Airport.

Apple reveals retail store future with new San Francisco store

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Apple has revealed its newest vision for its retail future at its newest store, in downtown San Francisco across the street from Union Square Park. The store features 42-foot sliding glass doors that double as two-story windows, a 6K video screen on the second floor, and a tree-lined customer support section. It also sports a backyard forum that’ll be open 24-7 with a 50-foot green wall, free WiFi, and 47-year-old restored fountain from sculptor Ruth Asawa.

That 6K video screen will be used for creative sessions with local experts in art, music, photography, gaming, and other Mac/iOS-centric topics, as well as to debut Apple Music exclusives.

“The overarching vision for the future of Apple retail is what do we want Apple’s role in the community to be. The store becomes one with the community.”

-Angela Ahrendts, Apple VP of retail

A suite of changes will also be making its way to future flagship stores. Gone is the Genius Bar, instead replaced by the Genius Grove with trees and open spaces. The company is also introducing “windows” in “the avenue,” which are displays designed to change with the seasons and cycle around interactive themes like iPhone photography, Apple Music, and iOS apps. Apple is hiring creative pros to work at these stations and offer advice and tips.

The board room is a faux conference room setup designed with small businesses and startups in mind for advice from app developers and other entrepreneurs.

“We have a deep commitment to the cities we work in, and are aware of the importance that architecture plays in the community. It all starts with the storefront, where the building blends the inside and the outside, breaking down barriers and making it more egalitarian and accessible.”

-Jony Ive, Apple chief design officer

 

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