Thursday, September 29, 2022

Google is working on ‘clear calling’ for Android phone calls

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/ Improving the “phone” in smartphone

Sep 9, 2022, 10:37 AM UTC|

Android call quality is progressing. Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The first beta for the Android 13 quarterly release includes a new “clear calling” feature that “reduces background noises during calls.” It was first spotted by Mishaal Rahman on Twitter who also tweeted directions to enable it for yourself without root, if you’re feeling bold.

The images shared by Rahman note that Clear Calling works “on most mobile networks,” is “not available for Wi-Fi calling,” and “content from your call is not sent to Google.” 

Google has been flexing its noise-canceling muscles (and custom six-core audio chips) for awhile. First, and most impressively, by using AI to suppress background noises like the crackling of snack bags, keyboard clicks, and dogs barking in Google Meet. More recently with the $199 Pixel Buds Pro — the company’s first earbuds with active noise cancellation.

My colleague Chris Welch, who knows more about noise-cancelation tech (and unannounced Sonos speakers) than anyone I know, called the ANC on the Pixel Buds Pro, “more than competent — even if it won’t be bumping Sony or Bose from the top of the mountain.” Not bad for a first effort, now let’s see how Google does with regular old phone calls. 

Installing solar panels at schools is paying off for districts across the US.

Nearly one in ten schools in the country now has solar power, according to a new report.

The result is millions of dollars of savings, and some really cool benefits for communities, including raises for teachers in Arkansas, lower energy bills for residents in Montana, and solar apprenticeships for students in Virginia.

Kevin Nguyen27 minutes ago

Can surgery turn short kings into… regular kings?

For $75,000—and one agonizing operation and recovery later—you can add about three inches to your height via leg lengthening.

Among the many details in this remarkably written GQ story, one surgeon notes that this procedure is getting more popular among men who work in tech: “I got, like, 20 software engineers doing this procedure right now who are here in Vegas … I’ve got patients from Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft. I’ve had multiple patients from Microsoft.”

Welcome to the new VergeRevolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13

Technosignatures may be the way we’ll find extraterrestrial life.

A group of scientists have joined together (with help from NASA) to search for chemical and electromagnetic markers that do not occur naturally and so could indicate the presence of intelligent life on other planets. Called CATS (Categorizing Atmospheric Technosignatures), the group is planning a number of projects using current and next-gen telescopes.

David PierceTwo hours ago

Are you ready for some (Amazon) football?

It’s Chiefs/Chargers tonight, on Amazon, in the first streaming-exclusive football game ever. It’s a big deal — I even bought a Fire TV to see how it works! — and there’s a lot for Amazon to get right. Axios has a good roundup of all the new stuff Amazon’s trying for the game, and the big question: can Amazon actually manage to not crash all game?

Thomas RickerTwo hours ago

Starlink auroras, harbinger of doom or super cool?

How you respond to this cluster of 49 Starlink satellites captured above Alaska by the Aurora Chasers says a lot about the future of stargazing. “Oh no!” is the astronomer fretting about a sky filled with low-flying reflections. “Hells yeah,” is the vanlifer with a T-Mobile subscription tired of dealing with dead zones.

Adobe is buying Figma for about $20 billion.

Adobe just announced that it’s buying Figma, a collaborative graphics editing tool used in digital design and prototyping. Figma has become a growing competitor to Adobe XD in recent years, providing similar UI and UX services. Adobe seems to be settling the rivalry once and for all with its wallet.

Microsoft’s $75 billion Activision acquisition is getting the stink eye from regulators.

The Financial Times reports that EU and UK regulators are gearing up for an in-depth investigation of the deal, which some fear will harm competition in the gaming world. The worries can be summed up with a simple question: will Microsoft ever make CoD an Xbox-exclusive? (Microsoft says “no” but Sony is suspicious.)

World’s first solar car is also the most aerodynamic.

The Lightyear 0 solar car achieved a record-breaking drag coefficient of 0.175 (Cd) in official tests. That kind of energy efficiency is important for the Dutch startup to make good on its claim that the EV can be driven for months without needing to plug in. It will, however, have a $263,000 drag on your wallet when the first Lightyear 0 ships this fall. 

China’s latest text-to-image AI can’t generate pictures of Tiananmen Square.

MIT Technology Review has a great report on the capabilities of Baidu’s ERNIE-ViLG, an AI art generator like DALL-E. The system is much better than Western models at generating Chinese historical figures and pop culture. But it’s also been censored and can’t generate pictures of Tiananmen Square or political leaders like Xi Jinping and Mao Zedong.

I didn’t know I needed a set of Buster Sword rulers until I saw them.

Video game deals extraordinaire Wario64 tweeted these incredible rulers shaped like Cloud Strife’s iconic weapon from Final Fantasy VII, and I want them very badly. I think they’d go great with the Buster Sword clock, which is also missing from my life.

I can’t believe there are two of them! Image: Square Enix

California’s antitrust lawsuit claims customers have “nowhere else to go and Amazon knows it.”

California AG Rob Bonta filed an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon, claiming customers pay more because the “everything store” forces merchants into deals that keep prices artificially high.

Amazon’s spokesperson told the New York Times that Bonta “has it exactly backwards… Sellers set their own prices for the products they offer in our store.”

You can read the complaint yourself here (PDF).

You don’t have to be a billionaire.

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard is giving ownership of his company away to “a specially designed set of trusts and nonprofit organizations,” ensuring its roughly $100 million a year in profits go to fighting climate change.

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