Google disables touch function on Home Mini

Home MiniImage copyright Google Image caption Google said the Home Mini can control more than 1,000 other smart home products

Google has stopped its Home Mini speakers responding when users touch them.

It permanently turned off[1] the touch activation feature after it found that sensors primed to spot a finger tap were too sensitive.

Early users found that the touch sensors were registering "phantom" touches that turned them on.

This meant the speakers were recording everything around them thousands of times a day.

Google said it disabled the feature to give users "peace of mind".

Google's Home Mini gadgets were unveiled on 4 October as part of a revamp of its line of smart speakers.The intelligent assistant feature on it could be activated two ways - by either saying "OK, Google" or by tapping the surface.

The problem with the gadgets was uncovered by early reviewers[2] and those who obtained devices from Google launch events.About 4,000 Home Mini speakers are believed to have been distributed this way.

The reviewers said the units seem to activate without anyone touching them or speaking the "wake" phrase.All the information recorded was sent to Google.

Google said it took "user privacy very seriously" in a statement explaining the decision to disable the touch-to-activate function.It is not clear if the feature will be reinstated at a later date.

The search giant said it would apply the update across all Home Mini speakers by the end of 15 October.The gadgets will still respond to voice and volume can be adjusted by tapping the side of the device.

The Mini is due to be available to buy from 19 October....

References

  1. ^ permanently turned off (support.google.com)
  2. ^ early reviewers (www.androidpolice.com)

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Apple's Tim Cook prefers augmented reality to VR

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Media captionWATCH:Tim Cook explains why he thinks augmented reality is "profound"

Apple's chief executive has suggested he is not very enthusiastic about virtual reality.

Tim Cook said that he felt that the technology could isolate users and voiced a preference for augmented reality instead.

AR involves mixing graphics and real-world views together rather than solely filling a person's view with computer-generated images.

One expert suggested Mr Cook's view was becoming more popular in tech circles.

Mr Cook expressed his opinion at an event hosted by the University of Oxford, in response to a student's question about what technologies would prove transformative.

"I'm incredibly excited by AR because I can see uses for it everywhere," Mr Cook replied.

"I can see uses for it in education, in consumers, in entertainment, in sports.I can see it in every business that I know anything about

"I also like the fact that it doesn't isolate.

"I don't like our products being used a lot.I like our products amplifying thoughts and I think AR can help amplify the human connection.

"I've never been a fan of VR like that because I think it does the opposite.

"There are clearly some cool niche things for VR but it's not profound in my view.AR is profound."

Apple's latest mobile system - iOS 11 - has made it easier for augmented reality features to be added to apps via a set of tools it shared with developers in June called ARKit.

But for now the experiences on offer are restricted to being seen via a smartphone or tablet screen.

Apple has filed several patents[1] relating to augmented reality glasses, which have the potential to provide more immersive views.But Mr Cook acknowledged in an earlier interview[2] that today's display technologies were not adequate to deliver an experience the public would be satisfied with.

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Media captionWATCH:Rory Cellan-Jones tests some AR apps on the iPhone in September

However, there is a growing number of virtual reality headsets on sale.

And Apple spent part of its recent WWDC developers conference showcasing the fact its latest Mac operating system had introduced support for one of the most popular models - HTC's Vive.

It is also marketing its current range of iMac computers as being well-suited to " create cutting-edge 3D VR content".

"It's fashionable to knock VR in favour of AR at present," commented Kevin Joyce, editor-in-chief of VRFocus, a news site that covers both technologies.

"Augmented reality is attracting more hype at present, but I think things will come back around and VR will be celebrated again once we get more standalone headsets [that don't need to be powered by a PC or smartphone].

"But ultimately there will be a time when they merge and we'll end up with one headset that does both."

He added that he doubted in the short-term that many developers would be discouraged from using Apple's products to create VR experiences as a result of the comments.

Mr Cook's appearance coincided with Mark Zuckerberg's launch of a new Oculus virtual reality headset.

Image copyright Facebook Image caption Mark Zuckerberg introduced his company's Oculus Connect event shortly after Mr Cook's apperance

At the event in San Jose, California, Facebook's chief[3] said:"Some people say that VR is isolating and anti-social.I actually think it's the opposite....opening up more of those experiences to more of us - that's not isolating, that's freeing."

Microsoft also partnered[4] with six hardware manufacturers to launch a range of Windows-powered VR headsets last week....

References

  1. ^ filed several patents (www.patentlyapple.com)
  2. ^ acknowledged in an earlier interview (www.independent.co.uk)
  3. ^ San Jose, California, Facebook's chief (www.bbc.co.uk)
  4. ^ Microsoft also partnered (www.bbc.co.uk)

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