iRobot adds an automatic mop to its flagship Roomba

There are plenty of robots that say they can vacuum and mop your floors, but never to anyone’s satisfaction. With some, you have to futz with the system to add the mop halfway through, others it’ll drag the dirty pad across your clean carpets and rugs. It’s a problem that iRobot has spent plenty of engineering resources trying to solve, saying that the new Combo j7+ is the solution. Co-founder and CEO Colin Angle describes it as the “first legitimate 2-in-1 vacuuming and mopping robot ever created.”

Instead of requiring a user to make changes partway through a mission, the j7+ has a standard vacuum body up top. When it’s finished, however, a pair of recessed arms pull down a mop pad that’s housed in the top of the chassis down to the floor. From there, it’ll drag the pad along your hard floors, before pushing it back away if and when it has to cross carpet. All a user has to do is change the bag and refill the water, which could take up to 60 days at a time.

Image of the Roomba Combo j7+
iRobot

Angle and iRobot’s product manager Praj Shyamkant said that the plan was to ensure that the mop would never, ever, come into contact with your soft surfaces. And that users could expect the device to do what you should expect from its description without any micromanagement. Given that the unit sits on the same footprint as the standard (poop-detecting) j7, it required a lot of engineering nous to shrink all of the fancy new gear into its body, too.

At the same time, iRobot wanted to show off the power of its new iRobot OS 5.0, its latest and greatest operating system. This is includes better integration with home and phone assistants like Siri and Alexa, the ability to denote more clean zones for extra attention and better hazard avoidance. You can also amend mission plans on the fly, banishing your Roomba from a room where you’re about to take a Zoom call, for instance. iRobot also wanted to affirm its pledge to protect user data, never to sell it on to third parties, and that it’s secured a TÜV SÜD Cyber Security certification for its data hygiene.

The Roomba Combo j7+ is available for pre-order today, and will cost $1,099 in the US, with shipments due to begin October 4th. It’ll be available in the UK for £999, but you can also pick up a version without the Clean Base for £799, while other countries can expect it to appear through the rest of Q4, 2022.

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iPhone 15 ‘Ultra’ could replace next year’s Pro Max model

Next year’s iPhone could introduce a change to Apple’s naming convention. According to Bloombergreporter Mark Gurman, the company could call its largest and most expensive device in 2023 the iPhone 15 Ultra instead of the iPhone 15 Pro Max as you would expect given its recent track record. The shift would reportedly coincide with the most significant redesign of the iPhone since Apple released the iPhone 12 in 2020. Gurman expects the iPhone 15 to feature USB-C, among other “bigger changes.”

Apple’s smartphone line has seen a couple of branding tweaks over the years. In the early days of the iPhone, when the company released a substantial update every two years, iterative models carried an “S” designation. Since 2019 and the diversification of the line to include separate mainstream and premium variants, the company has employed “Pro” and “Pro Max” designations to market its most advanced phones. Moreover, earlier this year saw the return of the Plus branding, which Apple had not used since 2017. Dropping Pro Max in favor of Ultra would make a lot of sense since the Apple Watch line now includes an Ultra model.

The iPhone 15 rumor mill has already produced a few interesting predictions. Gurman previously reported that Apple was testing USB-C iPhones ahead of the European Union implementing a law requiring all new smartphones made after 2024 to feature the port. More recently, display analyst Ross Young said the entire iPhone 15 line would feature the iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island display cutout.

Looking to the more immediate future, Gurman also wrote today that Apple might not hold another event this fall. He says the company plans to announce new Mac mini, MacBook Pro and iPad Pro models before the end of the year. However, as those will be primarily iterative updates to existing devices, Gurman suggests Apple is “more likely” to share the existence of those products with the world through a series of press releases.

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Netflix’s adaptation of ‘The Three-Body Problem’ will arrive in 2023

At its Tudum event today, Netflix shared an update on its highly-anticipated adaptation of Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem. First announced in 2020, the upcoming live-action series from Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will arrive sometime next year. Netflix shared a behind-the-scenes teaser showing off a few character moments.

Some of the actors set to star in the project include Benedict Wong (The Martian, Doctor Strange), Eiza González (Baby Driver), as well as John Bradley and Liam Cunningham of Game of Thrones fame. Considered a modern sci-fi masterpiece, The Three-Body Problem was first published in China in 2008. It took another six years before the novel arrived in the west, and it subsequently became the first Asian novel to win a Hugo Award. Cixin and Ken Liu, who translated two of the novels in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy into English, are consulting on the live-action adaptation.

Netflix signed Benioff and Weiss to a lucrative $200 million deal in 2019. The 3-Body Problem is the first project the duo is writing for the company – though they also produced a series with Sandra Oh. Netflix is likely to share more information about the 3-Body Problem in the coming months. 

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Google Home can now use Nest speakers to detect your presence

Google Home no longer needs to lean solely on smart home devices like thermostats to know whether or not you're around. Home's optional presence sensing feature can now use interactions with Nest speakers and smart displays to help detect activity in your abode, letting it perform automated actions. If you talk to your Nest Audio or tap your Nest Hub, for instance, Google may know to turn the lights on. Second-gen Nest Hubs can also use their Soli radar sensor to tell when you're close.

You can enable presence sensing in the Google Home app for Android and iOS by visiting the Features section in the settings. Detection is strictly opt-in, and Google stresses that ambient noise won't trigger presence cues. Cameras, doorbells and the Nest Hub Max won't switch devices between "home" and "away" modes.

Google Home presence sensing settings on Android
Google

The expansion makes presence detection considerably more useful. Until now, you needed a Nest Guard, Nest Protect, Nest Thermostat or Nest x Yale smart lock in tandem with your phone's location. While those are frequently good indicators, they don't always tell the full story — you might lock the door when someone is still at home. The use of speakers and displays could make Google's smart home automation more reliable, particularly in unusual scenarios.

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The FDA may have unintentionally made ‘Nyquil Chicken’ go viral on TikTok

If you’ve been anywhere near social media, local news, or late-night talk shows in the last few days, you’ve probably heard something about “Nyquil Chicken,” a supposedly viral TikTok “challenge” that’s exactly what it sounds like: cooking chicken in a marinade of cold medicine.

News about the supposed trend is usually accompanied by vomit-inducing photos of raw chicken simmering in dark green syrup. It’s both disgusting and, as the FDA recently reminded the public, just as toxic as it looks. But it turns out Nyquil Chicken was neither new, nor particularly viral, and the FDA’s bizarrely-timed warning may have backfired, making the meme more popular than ever.

First, a bit of history: As reporter Ryan Borderick points out in his newsletter Garbage Day, Nyquil Chicken originated as a joke on 4Chan in 2017. The meme briefly resurfaced in January where it got some traction on TikTok before once again fading away.

Then, last week, the FDA — inexplicably — issued a press release warning about the dangers of cooking chicken in Nyquil. In a notice titled “A Recipe for Danger: Social Media Challenges Involving Medicines,” the FDA refers to it as a “recent” trend. But they cite no recent examples, and it’s unclear why they opted to push out a warning more than eight months after the meme had first appeared on TikTok.

TikTok is blocking searches for the
Screenshot / TikTok

Now, in what we can only hope will be a valuable lesson on unintended consequences, we know that it was likely the FDA’s warning about Nyquil chicken that pushed this “challenge” to new levels of virality, at least on TikTok. TikTok has now confirmed that on September 14th, the day before the FDA notice, there were only five searches for “Nyquil chicken” in the app. But by September 21st, that number skyrocketed “by more than 1,400 times,” according to BuzzFeed News, which first reported the TikTok search data.

TikTok, which has recently taken steps to limit the spread of both dangerous “challenges” and “alarmist warnings” about hoaxes, is now blocking searches for “Nyquil Chicken.” Searches now direct users to resources encouraging users to “stop and take a moment to think” before pursuing a potentially dangerous “challenge.”

As both BuzzFeed and Gizmodo note, there’s little evidence that people are actually cooking chicken in Nyquil, much less actually ingesting it. That’s a good thing because, as the FDA makes very clear, doing so is not only extremely gross, but highly toxic. But the whole thing is yet another example of why we should all be more skeptical of panic-inducing viral “challenges.”

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NASA successfully completes vital Artemis 1 rocket fuel test

The next Artemis 1 launch attempt might take place as soon as next week, seeing as NASA has met all the objectives it set out to do to consider its rocket's fuel test a success. NASA had to test adding super-cooled fuel to the Space Launch System's tanks to confirm the repairs it made after it scrubbed the mission's second launch attempt in late August. The ground team at Kennedy Space Center spotted a persistent hydrogen leak affecting one of the fuel lines on the SLS at the time and tried to fix it the day of three times. In the end, the team was unsuccessful and decided to postpone the mission.

The team determined a few days later that the leak was triggered when the SLS rocket's core booster tank went through a brief overpressurization. To prevent the same incident from happening, the team adjusted procedures for filling the rocket's tank with propellants, and it involves transitioning temperatures and pressures more slowly to prevent rapid changes that could cause leakage. The team's engineers also replaced the rocket's liquid hydrogen seals after discovering a small indentation in one of them that may have contributed to the leak. 

While the engineers encountered another hydrogen leak during the fuel test, their troubleshooting efforts worked this time around and got the leak to "within allowable rates." That allowed them to conduct the pre-pressurization test, which brought up the liquid hydrogen tank's pressure level to match what it would experience just before an actual launch. 

Artemis 1 launch director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson said the test went "really well" and that the team was able to accomplish all the objectives it set out to do. NASA will now evaluate data from the test before deciding if it can schedule another launch for the mission on its target date of September 27th.

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Twitch is banning major gambling websites in October

Twitch has announced a significant change to its policy amidst rising concerns about the presence of gambling streams on the platform. On Twitter, Twitch said it will prohibit the streaming of gambling websites that feature slots, roulette and dice games unlicensed in the US and other regions that "provide sufficient consumer protection." The policy change will take effect on October 18th, and Twitch promises to release the full policy language and more details before that date.

So far, the list of banned sites include some of the most well-known ones out there, including Stake.com, Rollbit.com, Duelbits.com and Roobet.com. Not a surprise, since you could already find plenty of streams on Twitch with gambling content from those domains. Twitch says that it "may identify others" going forward, so the list of banned websites will likely grow longer. The website will continue allowing websites that focus on certain types of gambling content, though, including sports betting, fantasy sports and poker. 

Twitch issued the statement after some of the platform's most popular streamers, including Pokimane and DevinNash, threatened to boycott it on Christmas week if it doesn't ban gambling streams and sponsorships. They banded together in response to one streamer's admission that he had scammed followers and fellow streamers out of around $200,000 to feed his addiction to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. As Kotaku explains, CS:GO features weapon skins that have real-world monetary value, and gambling websites use them as casino chips. The revelation reopened the discussion of gambling streams on Twitch in a big way, with people pointing out that they could lead to deceitful behavior by streamers and could be damaging to the website's young users.

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Diablo IV’s public beta will start in early 2023

Blizzard plans to invite some of its most dedicated fans to play Diablo IV in the coming weeks. The studio shared details about its upcoming end game closed beta test on Monday. Using “specific gameplay data,” Blizzard will select players who have recently spent “significant” time with the post-story experiences found in Diablo II: Resurrected and Diablo III. If you feel that describes you, you can let the studio know you’re interested in participating in the beta by ensuring the “News and Special Offers from Battle.net” option is enabled on your account by October 11th. Once that’s done, look for an email from Blizzard in your inbox for an invite. 

Once the beta arrives, it will be available on PC, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5 and PS4, with support for crossplay and cross-progression between platforms supported. If you don’t get into this round of testing, Blizzard notes public testing will begin early next year.

The upcoming beta will focus on Diablo IV’s endgame experience for a couple of reasons. Blizzard says it doesn’t want to spoil the game’s story before release. The decision is also a reflection of the way a lot of players enjoy Diablo games. “For many, the end game is their favorite aspect of Diablo — we want to ensure it feels satisfying, and with no shortage of challenging variety to experience across many, many demon-slaying gaming sessions,” the studio said, adding feedback from participants will play a critical part in polishing the experience. One thing you should not expect is to hear from those playing the closed beta. Blizzard said the event would be “confidential,” a not-so-subtle allusion to the fact footage from Diablo IVleaked over the weekend.

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Apollo update transforms the iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island into a home for ‘Pixel Pals’

The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max may have only arrived yesterday but developers are already dreaming up fun and interesting use cases for Apple’s new Dynamic Island interface. Take Apollo creator Christian Selig, for instance. On Friday, he updated his Reddit client to implement support for “Pixel Pals.” The feature adds a Tamagotchi-like critter that does cute things on top of your phone’s Dynamic Island while you have Apollo open. You can even choose between multiple creatures, including a cat, dog, hedgehog, fox or axolotl.

If you don’t have an iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max, don’t worry. You can also add the creatures to your phone as lock screen widgets – provided you have iOS 16 installed. On the subject of iPhone widgets, Google teased one that will function as a shortcut to Chrome’s Dino game.

Selig isn’t the only person doing something creative with the iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island. In a tweet spotted by The Verge, WaterMinder creator Kriss Smolka showed off Hit the Island, a game that uses the UI element for a Pong-style game. You can download it from the App Store. I can only speak for myself, but these apps make me a bit jealous I'm still rocking an iPhone 12.  

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LastPass was hacked, but it says no user data was compromised

In August, LastPass had admitted that an "unauthorized party" gained entry into its system. Any news about a password manager getting hacked can be alarming, but the company is now reassuring its users that their logins and other information weren't compromised in the event.

In his latest update about the incident, LastPass CEO Karim Toubba said that the company's investigation with cybersecurity firm Mandiant has revealed that the bad actor had internal access to its systems for four days. They were able to steal some of the password manager's source code and technical information, but their access was limited to the service's development environment that isn't connected to customers' data and encrypted vaults. Further, Toubba pointed out that LastPass has no access to users' master passwords, which are needed to decrypt their vaults.

The CEO said there's no evidence that this incident "involved any access to customer data or encrypted password vaults." They also found no evidence of unauthorized access beyond those four days and of any traces that the hacker injected the systems with malicious code. Toubba explained that the bad actor was able to infiltrate the service's systems by compromising a developer's endpoint. The hacker then impersonated the developer "once the developer had successfully authenticated using multi-factor authentication." 

Back in 2015, LastPass suffered a security breach that compromised users' email addresses, authentication hashes, password reminders and other information. A similar breach would be more devastating today, now that the service supposedly has over 33 million registered customers. While, LastPass isn't asking users to do anything to keep their data safe this time, it's always good practice not to reuse passwords and to switch on multi-factor authentication.

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