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Wyze launches version 3 of its $20 security camera

Wyze first made a name for itself when it launched its $20 indoor security camera a few years ago. Since then, the company branched out into other smart home products, ranging from doorbells to scales. Today, it’s going back to its origins with the launch of the Wyze Cam V3, the third generation of its flagship camera.

The new version is still $20 (though that’s without shipping unless there’s a free shipping promotion in the Wyze store), but the company redesigned both the outside and a lot of the hardware inside the camera, which is now also IP65 rated, so you can now use it outdoors, too.

Image Credits: Wyze

The Cam V3 now also features new sensors that enable color night vision, thanks to an F1.6 aperture lens that captures 40 percent more light than the previous version. That lens now also covers a 130-degree field of view (up from 110 degrees in V2) and the company pushed up the frames per second from 15 during the day and 10 at night to 20 and 15 respectively.

The company also enhanced the classic black and white night vision mode — which you’ll still need when it’s really dark outside or in the room you are monitoring — by adding a second set of infrared lights to the camera.

Other new features are an 80dB siren to deter unwanted visitors. This feature is triggered by Wyze’s AI-powered person-detection capability, but that’s a feature the company recently moved behind its $2/month CamPlus paywall, after originally offering it for free. That’s not going to break the bank (and you get a generous free trial period), but it’d be nice if the company could’ve kept this relatively standard feature free and instead only charged for extra cloud storage or more advanced features (though you do get free 14-day rolling cloud storage for 12-second clips).

Wyze Cam V2 (left) and V3 (right).

Wyze provided me with a review unit ahead of today’s launch (and a Cam V2 to compare them). The image quality of the new camera is clearly better and the larger field of view makes a difference, even though the distortion at the edges is a bit more noticeable now (but given the use case, that’s not an issue). The new night color vision mode works as promised and I like that you can set the camera to automatically switch between them based on the lighting conditions.

The person detection has been close to 100% accurate — and unlike some competing cameras that don’t feature this capability, I didn’t get any false alarms during rain or when the wind started blowing leaves across the ground.

If you already have a Wyze Cam V2, you don’t need to upgrade to this new one — the core features haven’t changed all that much, after all. But if you’re in the market for this kind of camera and aren’t locked into a particular security system, it’s hard to beat the new Wyze Cam.

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Hands-on: Sony’s DualSense PS5 controller could be a game changer

After spending a few hours with the PlayStation 5 and its completely redesigned DualSense controller, I can say with confidence that the new haptics and audio features certainly work — and could become integral to the gaming experience. But only if — and it’s a big if — developers truly embrace the tech.

The DualSense controller replaces the extremely familiar and beloved design of the DualShock, which has remained largely the same shape since the first one shipped for the original PlayStation 25 years ago.

While the general layout is the same, the feel of the new controller is significantly different and the appearance is aligned with the PS5’s distinctive but questionable hyper-futuristic look. I’m not entirely sold on the new shape but I’ve also had a long time to get used to the old one, so I’m withholding judgment while I work on the full review.

I can tell you right now though that there indeed are tiny PlayStation symbols all over this thing:

I worry these will be grease magnets.

Shipping with every PS5 is Astro’s Playroom, which like Nintendoland and Wii Sports is intended to provide a reference experience for all the controller’s new features. It may not be quite as original or persistently enjoyable as Nintendo’s pack-ins (which still number among the best games for their platforms), but it’s a fun little playroom that does a good job showing off the DualSense.

The first and perhaps most immediately compelling feature is the haptic feedback on the trigger buttons, L2 and R2. It’s one of those things that when you feel it working, you immediately start thinking about how it could be used.

Image Credits: Sony

What it does is allow not just precision vibration but actual resistance to be added to the triggers, something that sounds vague in theory but is very easy to grasp, so to speak, in practice.

For instance, in the setup process for Astro’s Playroom the feature is introduced by simply asking you to pull the triggers and feel it. You’ll certainly have pulled them before that, so you know that they’re nearly frictionless normally. But suddenly they’re pushing back against your finger — then a click, and the resistance is gone.

“What is this sorcery?” I recall saying out loud at the time, or something like it but more profane. It really is that immediately compelling.

Image Credits: Sony

Later, in the first stage I tried of the game, your little robot jumps into a sort of spring suit (a metal spring, not a linen two-piece) and you have to pull the trigger to make it jump. The haptics in this case truly give a feel of compressing something (though, having played with springs before, I know they don’t feel like this), and importantly give you a non-visual, intuitive indicator of how far you’ve depressed the trigger. My brain was quicker to register how far I’d pulled it with the combination of sound, haptics and graphics than graphics alone. And because the feeling is localized to the trigger you’re using, there’s no confusion with the greater vibrations of the all-purpose rumble system.

The Switch’s Joy-Cons have a sort of precision haptics in them, and while the demo of that feature was interesting — feeling little objects rattle around “inside” the controller — it’s actually quite hard to think of ways it could be used in gameplay. And indeed few games have done so, though to be fair rumble in general is probably better because of it.

In the DualSense’s case, I was immediately thinking, “this would be great for…” and wishing I’d had it in this or that game in the past. It opens up possibilities I’ve never liked the idea of, like “pull the trigger halfway to do one thing, all the way to do another. It’s also potentially a great accessibility feature.

Having a speaker and microphone in the controller is nothing new, though they appear to have been upgraded for the DualSense. Few games have been able to use these features properly, and Astro’s Playroom resorts to the old “blow on the controller to make a propeller go” thing. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do that in any real game — but why can’t I yell “Go, cyberdog! Attack the monster on the right” to direct my (sadly fictitious) companion, or something like that?

Unfortunately that gets to the heart of what makes even the excellent haptic feature a potentially lost cause. Developers need to design for them in a big way, and that’s difficult when you can’t guarantee that people will want or be able to use them. Not only that, but if you want to release on Xbox and PC too, you have to remove them. So they become optional features… and since they’re optional, they can’t be integrated into the game as deeply to begin with, making them less compelling overall. It’s happened over and over with various innovations gaming companies have come up with over the years, and it may happen with this generation’s gimmicks as well.

Sony’s best bet is to make integration painless and highly incentivized, though it’s hard to imagine how multi-platform developers like Ubisoft can do much more than the minimum. Serious use will likely be limited to a handful of top-shelf Sony-funded PS5 exclusives that players will marvel at.

It’s an interesting new gameplay feature, but hardly one that screams “next-generation.” Indeed little about the next consoles from Sony or Microsoft screams that except the specs. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth buying — but don’t expect anything transformative.

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Analogue takes on the TurboGrafx-16 with its Duo retro console

Analogue’s beautiful, functional retro gaming consoles provide a sort of “archival quality” alternative to the cheap mini-consoles proliferating these days. The latest system to be resurrected by the company is the ill-fated, but still well-thought-of TurboGrafx-16 or PC Engine.

The Duo, as Analogue’s device is called, is named after a later version of the TurboGrafx-16 that included its expensive CD-ROM add-on — and indeed the new Duo supports both game cards and CDs, provided they have survived all this time without getting scratched.

Like the rest of Analogue’s consoles, and unlike the popular SNES and NES Classic Editions from Nintendo (and indeed the new TurboGrafx-16 Mini), the Duo does not use emulation in any way. Instead, it’s a painstaking recreation of the original hardware, with tweaks to introduce modern conveniences like high-definition video, wireless controllers, and improvements to reliability and so on.

Image Credits: Analogue

As a bonus, it’s all done in FPGA, which implies that this hardware is truly one of a kind in service of remaking the console accurately. Games should play exactly as they would have on the original hardware down to the annoying glitches and slowdowns of that era of consoles.

And what games! Well, actually, few of them ever reached the status of their competitors on Nintendo and Sega consoles here in the U.S., where the TurboGrafx-16 sold poorly. But titles like Bonk’s Adventure, Bomberman ’93, Ninja Spirit, Splatterhouse, and Devil’s Crush should be played more widely. Shmup fans like myself were spoiled with originals and arcade ports like R-Type and Blazing Lazers. The Ys series ( also got its start on the PC Engine (if you could afford the CD attachment). Here’s a good retrospective.

I wouldn’t mind having an HDMI port on the back of my SNES. Oh, Analogue makes one…

Analogue’s consoles are made for collectors who would prefer not to have to baby their original hardware, or want to upscale the signal and play wirelessly without too much fuss. I still have my original SNES, but 240p just doesn’t look as crisp as it did on a 15-inch CRT in the ’90s.

At $199, it’s more expensive than finding one at a garage sale, but good luck with that. The original and its CD add-on cost a fortune, so if you think about it from that perspective, this is a real bargain. Analogue says limited quantities are available, and will be shipping in 2021.

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Sony’s $5,000 3D display (probably) isn’t for you

Sony just announced a $5,000 3D display, but odds are it’s probably not for you. Primarily known for its consumer goods, the company is targeting creative professionals with the Spatial Reality Display — more specifically, those working in fields like computer graphics and visual effects for films. Basically it’s a way for artists to view their 3D creations without having to wear a VR headset.

The company’s not the first to offer up this kind of technology for a fairly niche audience. The Looking Glass display is probably the best-known offering in the space up to this point. But unlike that massive 8K screen, Sony’s product is actually designed for a single user — specifically as a screen for their desktop PC. Also, it kind of looks like an Amazon Echo Show.

Image Credits: Sony

The big differentiator between the product and existing devices is the inclusion of a sensor that determines the user’s viewing position, including vertical and horizontal access, along with distance, and tailors the image to that specific angle, adjusting within the millisecond.

Sony says it’s a “highly-realistic, virtual environment.” It showed off an earlier version of the technology at CES this year, using a rendering of the Ecto-1 from the upcoming Ghostbusters sequel, and planned to give the press a demo of the final version of the screen, but we all had to settle for conference calls instead, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For that reason, I can’t really speak to the efficacy of the 3D imaging as of this writing.

The company consulted with its Sony Pictures wing, which used the technology for the development of CG effects for the aforementioned Ghostbusters film. Volkswagen has also been involved since the project’s early stages, looking toward the technology’s potential use in the ideation and design processes.

For everyone else, the display goes up for sale through Sony next month.

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B&O’s BeoPlay H4 headphones offer great looks and comfort, but no noise canceling

It’s easy to be smitten with the H4 at first sight. They’re a great-looking pair of headphones — one of the best I’ve seen. They sport a simple, streamlined design that feels both like an homage to older models, but modern enough to avoid the nostalgia trap.

They’re comfortable, too. Like crazy comfortable. I say this as someone who is prone to dull earaches after wearing most models of over-ear headphones for an extended period. Since Bang & Olufsen sent me a pair to test a while pack, I’ve been wearing them for hours on end, prepping for a write-up during Work From Home Week.

The headphones sport an abundance of padding on the rim of their perfectly round cups. My ears sit snuggly inside, with none of the padding pressing on the ear — something that’s often a source of pressure after extended wears. They’re fairly lightweight — that helps. At 8.3 ounces they fall in between the Bose QuietComfort 35 II (8.2 ounces) and Sony WH-1000XM4 (8.96 ounces).

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The cups are covered in leather — either matte black or limestone (kind of a cream) — coupled with a large brushed metal plate sporting the B&O logo. It complements the concentric circles. The right cup sports a volume rocker, power/pairing switch and a port for an auxiliary cable. The ear cups sport a nice, smooth swivel that should work well with a variety of different head sizes.

The sound is good. It’s nice and full — though B&O leans a bit too heavily on the bass for some tests. They’re not quite as egregious as other units, but it’s very noticeable, particularly with traditionally bass-heavy genres like hip-hop. If you’re looking for fuller, more true-to-life music replication, you’re going to want to look elsewhere.

The absence of active noise canceling is a pretty big blind spot for a pair of $300 headphones in 2020. Even if you think you don’t need the feature, trust me, there are plenty of times you’ll be glad you have it. Take my working from home adventures over the past six months: They just started construction directly outside of my window, and it’s the worst. The Bluetooth, too, is decent, but walking around my apartment, I found them quicker to cut out than, say, the Sonys.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

There are units with longer battery life, too. Given that the H4’s are collapsible and don’t have ANC, though, I’m guessing the company isn’t really targeting frequent fliers here. With a rated battery life of up to 19 hours, though, they’ll get you through a day of home use, no problem.

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Daily Crunch: Apple introduces the iPhone 12

Apple embraces 5G, Facebook Messenger gets better integrated with Instagram and Kahoot raises $215 million. This is your Daily Crunch for October 13, 2020.

The big story: Apple introduces the iPhone 12

Apple’s big event today kicked off with the announcement of the HomePod Mini, but the real focus was on the iPhone — specifically, the iPhone 12.

Pricing for the new iPhone starts at $799. New features include 5G, a magnetic adapter for various accessories (including wireless chargers) and a more durable Corning glass display.

There are four models, so if you’re trying to decide which one you want, we’ve even created a handy chart to keep them all straight.

The tech giants

Alphabet’s latest moonshot is a field-roving, plant-inspecting robo-buggy — Announced with little fanfare in a blog post and site, the Mineral project is still very much in the experimental phase.

Messenger’s latest update brings new features, cross-app communication with Instagram – The changes are a part of Facebook’s overhauled messaging platform, announced in late September, which introduced the ability for Instagram users to communicate with people on Facebook.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Kahoot picks up $215M from SoftBank for its user-generated, gamified e-learning platform — After announcing a modest $28 million raise earlier this year, the user-generated gamified e-learning platform revealed a much bigger round today.

Astroscale raises $51M in Series E funding to fuel its orbital sustainability ambitions — The Japan-based company has been focused on delivering new solutions for orbital end-of-life.

Caliber, with $2.2M in seed funding, launches a fitness coaching platform — The company says it brings on about five of every 100 applications for coaches on the platform, accepting only the very best trainers.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Is the Twilio-Segment deal expensive? — A quick look at the deal’s historical analogs and what we can tell from the numbers.

Should you replace your developer portal with a hybrid integration platform? — Changing your integration approach can reduce time to market and boost revenue.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Walt Disney announces reorganization to focus on streaming — Disney’s media businesses, ads and distribution and Disney+ will now operate under the same business unit.

Original Content podcast: Netflix’s ‘Enola Holmes’ is thoroughly mediocre — I did not enjoy this movie.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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Apple’s iPhone 12 starts at $799, sporting 5G and a magnetic adapter

It took a bit longer than usual (thank COVID-19 for some insurmountable manufacturing delays), but the iPhone 12 is here. And as expected, it comes bearing 5G. The latest version of Apple’s smartphone also arrives in a variety of different sizes, as the company continues to adjust to changing consumer purchasing patterns around mobile devices.

The inclusion of next-gen wireless is, of course, the flagship feature here. Apple is far from the first company to offer 5G on a handset, but given a bit of a bottleneck in adoption given the extremely odd year we’ve been experiencing. According to recent numbers from Canalys, only 13% of handsets shipping in the first half of the year were 5G capable. That means there’s a long way to go, and Apple finally adopting the tech will certainly move the needle.

CEO Tim Cook kicked off the announcement by inviting Verizon (TC’s parent co.) on stage to sell the carrier’s UWB take on the tech and announce that it’s gone “nationwide.” 5G will be available on all of the new models announced today. The specifics of the 5G will vary based on location — here in the States, for example, mmwave will also be available.

As expected, the line gets a full redesign, borrowing cues from the iPad Pro, including a flat edge more in line with older devices than the newer curved models. The device is also 11% thinner and lighter than its predecessor. The redesign also makes it possible for the company to pack more antennas into the edge of the device.

There’s a Corning glass display. Apple says it worked directly with with the Gorilla Glass maker to develop ceramic shield, which it states is around six-times more reliable in drop tests. The smartphone sports an OLED display (which appears to be consistent across the new devices, as well), with double the number of pixels as the iPhone 11.

The handset sports the already-announced A14 bionic chip. Apple’s silicon sports six-cores on its CPU and four on its GPU. The latter will go a ways toward extending its position in mobile gaming. The company used that opportunity to announce that it will be bringing Riot Games’ League of Legends: Wild Rift to the handset. As anticipated, the base model 12 sports a dual-camera rear — with 12-megapixel wide and ultra-wide lenses. Night Mode has been improved across the devices and added to the front camera.

Speaking of charging, the Lightning port is still very much on-board, in-spite of dropping it on some iPad models. Speaking of dropping things, Apple is getting rid of a bunch of the inbox accessories, including Earpods and the adapter, ostensibly for environmental purposes.

The new iPhone starts at $799 — $100 more than the also-announced iPhone 12 mini. The model will also be joined by the higher-end Pro and Pro Max, priced up to $1,099.

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Live from Apple’s virtual 2020 iPhone event

Apple’s big iPhone event is finally here – virtually, which is to be expected these days. This is already the second virtual event Apple has hosted this fall, following one in September at which it revealed the Apple Watch Series 6 and a new iPad Air. This time around, we’re going to see what the iPhone 12 looks like, as well as how many colors and sizes it comes in.

There’s also supposed to be plenty of other news, including a new smaller HomePod mini, maybe an updated Apple TV, possibly a number of different headphone products and more. Will we get our first glance at the first shipping ARM-based Mac to use Apple’s in-house processors? Probably not, but maybe!

We’re going to be following along live and offering commentary below, and you can also tune in live to the video stream right here. Everything gets underway at 10 AM PT/ 1 PM ET.

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OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei leaves the company to start a new venture

Carl Pei, who co-founded the smartphone giant OnePlus in his 20s, has left the company, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

Pei played an instrumental role in designing the OnePlus smartphone lineup over the years, including the recently launched OnePlus Nord, which has been the company’s biggest hit to date. Outside Shenzhen, China, where OnePlus is headquartered, Pei has also been the face of the Chinese firm, appearing at trade conferences, interacting with loyal customers and giving interviews to the media.

In the early years of OnePlus, Pei devised various marketing strategies for best positioning the company’s products and creating hype about them. In 2014 and 2015, when OnePlus struggled with scaling its inventories, the company sold its phones through invites and several other clever marketing techniques, including one in which people were required to destroy their current phones to buy a new OnePlus smartphone.

Also in the early years of the company, Pei lived almost exclusively in low-cost hotels in China and India to better understand the market and easily travel to new cities. OnePlus is now one of the most successful premium smartphone makers in India and several other markets.

“We didn’t have proper product management. What we lacked in experience, we made up in hours,” he said in an earlier interview. He talked more about the company’s early days and the state of the smartphone market at Disrupt 2019.

Once he publicly asked Samsung to hire him so that he could learn more about overseeing operations and logistics. “So, Samsung, today I have a proposal for you: let me be your intern. Seriously. I would be honored to learn from your team about how you’ve been able to scale, run, and manage your business so successfully,” he wrote on his personal blog.

Pei reached out to Pete Lau in 2012 through social media. The two started OnePlus a year later. “He said, ‘I want to change the world.’ I thought this kid has ambitious thoughts and dreams. I think it comes from the heart and it’s very important. I think he has tenacity,” Lau recalled in an interview in 2015.

Years before they started OnePlus, Pei collaborated with a friend and sold white-labeled MP3 players in China.

Pei, 31, is not joining Samsung, but has clarity on what he wishes to do next. He is starting his own venture, according to a person familiar with the matter. Pei did not respond to a request for comment early Monday.

OnePlus did not respond to a request for comment.

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Alphabet’s latest moonshot is a field-roving, plant-inspecting robo-buggy

Alphabet (you know… Google) has taken the wraps off the latest “moonshot” from its X labs: A robotic buggy that cruises over crops, inspecting each plant individually and, perhaps, generating the kind of “big data” that agriculture needs to keep up with the demands of a hungry world.

Mineral is the name of the project, and there’s no hidden meaning there. The team just thinks minerals are really important to agriculture.

Announced with little fanfare in a blog post and site, Mineral is still very much in the experimental phase. It was born when the team saw that efforts to digitize agriculture had not found as much success as expected at a time when sustainable food production is growing in importance every year.

“These new streams of data are either overwhelming or don’t measure up to the complexity of agriculture, so they defer back to things like tradition, instinct or habit,” writes Mineral head Elliott Grant. What’s needed is something both more comprehensive and more accessible.

Much as Google originally began with the idea of indexing the entire web and organizing that information, Grant and the team imagined what might be possible if every plant in a field were to be measured and adjusted for individually.

Image Credits: Mineral

The way to do this, they decided, was the “Plant buggy,” a machine that can intelligently and indefatigably navigate fields and do those tedious and repetitive inspections without pause. With reliable data at a plant-to-plant scale, growers can initiate solutions at that scale as well — a dollop of fertilizer here, a spritz of a very specific insecticide there.

They’re not the first to think so. FarmWise raised quite a bit of money last year to expand from autonomous weed-pulling to a full-featured plant intelligence platform.

As with previous X projects at the outset, there’s a lot of talk about what could happen in the future, and how they got where they are, but rather little when it comes to “our robo-buggy lowered waste on a hundred acres of soy by 10 percent” and such like concrete information. No doubt we’ll hear more as the project digs in.

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