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Alexa Guard Keeps U.S. Homes Safe From Fire, Intruders

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Alexa, is someone breaking into my house?

Amazon this week introduced Alexa Guard, a new smart home security function that notifies Echo owners when it detects nefarious sounds.

U.S. users can set up the free feature from a mobile device: Open the latest version of the Alexa app, navigate to the settings menu, and select “Guard.”

Then, the next time you exit the house, simply say, “Alexa, I’m leaving,” to set Guard to Away mode.

The digital assistant listens for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms or the sound of breaking glass—which wake the system in the same way as calling its name.

“Alexa is always getting smarter, and her ability to accurately detect specific sounds will improve the more you use Guard,” Amazon explained in a product FAQ.

If an Echo device detects an acoustic pattern matching the selected sound, it automatically sends the homeowner a Smart Alert with a 10-second audio clip of the event.

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Those folks with professional monitoring from ADT or Ring Protect Plus can choose to forward the recording so the company can take action. The truly brave can even drop in on your Echo to remotely investigate.

“When you receive a Smart Alert from Alexa, it is up to you to decide what action, if any, to take,” according to Amazon.

And while programmable timers make it easy to turn on and off lights to simulate activity inside the house, Alexa Guard takes the idea further with connected smart lights, plugs, and switches—for the ultimate Home Alone experience. (Micro Machines, Michael Jordan cardboard cutout, and tar-covered stairs not included.)

“Alexa uses machine learning to determine the right lighting activity for your home based on lighting usage across customers,” according to Amazon. “Just set Guard to Away mode and Alexa will do the rest.”

The new defense system is compatible with the entire family of Echo devices. Amazon recommends placing at least one speaker in each space you want to monitor—as close as possible to the smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, or window.

Created with the best of intentions, I’m sure, Alexa Guard seems ripe for false alarms. Like when your cat accidentally knocks that beautiful antique vase off the counter. Or you forget to disable the system and set off the smoke alarm with a smoldering batch of fajitas.

God help the user whose affair is exposed over a broken wine glass…

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Next-Gen Google Glass Wearable Ready For Business

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Google Glass may never become the ubiquitous computer it was originally designed to be.

But by rebranding the wearable as a business tool for factory workers and doctors in 2017, parent company Alphabet breathed new life into the smart specs.

Now, the firm is launching an improved model—Glass Enterprise Edition 2—built on the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 platform, which features a more powerful central processing unit and new artificial intelligence engine.

“This enables significant power savings, enhanced performance, and support for computer vision and advanced machine learning capabilities,” according to project lead Jay Kothari.

In 2014, the team at X, Google’s moonshot factory, began rebuilding its wearable technology from zero to corporate hero.

Using GE Aviation as guinea pigs, the company introduced new functions like a heads-up display with instructional videos, animations, and images. That simple change reportedly helped reduce errors and improve efficiency by up to 12 percent.

Following General Electric’s lead, more than 50 companies adopted Glass in the workplace.

The lightweight, clip-on headset also made its way into the healthcare field: Doctors in California used Glass-plus-Augmedix to interact with patients while remotely taking notes.

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Broadening Glass’s existing first-person video streaming and collaboration features, the Enterprise Edition 2 boasts improved camera performance and quality.

Plus, it comes with a USB-C port for faster charging, as well as the promise of increased overall battery life.

The next-gen model was built on Android, making it easier to integrate the services and programming interfaces customers already use, Kothari said.

“Over the past two years at X … we’ve collaborated with our partners to provide solutions that improve workplace productivity for a growing number of customers,” he wrote in a blog post. “We’ve been inspired by the ways businesses … have been using Glass Enterprise Edition.

“We’re excited to see how our partners and customers will continue to use Glass to shape the future of work,” Kothari added.

Like many great inventions, Google Glass has hit a few bumps along the road: Key team members departed, popular apps dropped support, early editions were dubious, and a full product launch never transpired. Not to mention the arrival of Oculus Rift and other, more accessible virtual and augmented reality devices.

The headset’s sordid history seemingly came to an end in January 2015, when Google announced it would stop selling the $1,500 portable computer.

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Help Wanted: British Royal Family Seeks Social Media Pro

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Better brush up on your received pronunciation: The UK royal family is searching for a new digital communications officer.

As the monarchy continues to grow, so, too, does its need for public interplay.

But ain’t nobody got time to tweet between hosting heads of state, opening new sessions of Parliament, knighting celebrities, and throwing lavish parties.

Enter the digital communications officer—a permanent job in the private secretary’s office at Buckingham Palace, Her Majesty’s London residence and administrative headquarters.

For £30,000 ($38,000) a year, the glorified intern media manager is expected to engage the already watchful world with the public role and work of the royals.

“Joining this fast-paced and dynamic team, your challenge will be to manage and oversee the daily news flow on digital and social networking platforms, as well as play a key part in some of the digital projects,” according to the job description.

Expected to work 37.5 hours a week, Monday to Friday, ideal applicants have experience managing websites, delivering digital projects, and creating and publishing social media content. A grasp of modern digital communication developments and a creative flair are also a plus.

You’ll also need some photography and video production skills, the ability to multitask, and organizational prowess.

“Whether you’re covering a state visit, award ceremony, or royal engagement, you’ll make sure our digital channels consistently spark interest and reach a range of audiences,” the description said.

The chosen candidate can look forward to 33 days of annual leave, access to training and development, and, perhaps most importantly, free lunch.

But hurry: The vacancy closes on Wednesday, May 22.

The British Monarchy in 2010 launched its own Facebook fan page to provide news and information about the royal family. Four years later, the Queen sent her first tweet, introducing a major new exhibition at London’s Science Museum.

Other vacancies within the royal household include sous chef, kitchen porter, and systems analyst (Buckingham Palace), retail admissions assistant (Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh), and paintings conservator (Shaw Farm Gate, Windsor).

You can also apply to be the head gardener at Prince Charles and Camilla’s private Scottish home Birkhall, or office manager to the Equerry’s Office in St. James’s Palace—the London residence of several minor members of the royal family.

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Facebook Changes Algorithm, Promises More Personalized News Feed

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Facebook’s News Feed is finally getting more personal.

The social network on Thursday announced two ranking updates based on user surveys.

One prioritizes the friends someone might want to hear from most, while the other prioritizes the links a person might consider most worthwhile.

“It’s not about the amount of time someone spends on Facebook, but rather the quality of time spent,” a company blog post said. “That means making sure people see what they want to see—whether that’s posts from family and friends or news articles and videos from Pages they follow.”

The platform has long taken its cues from signals like how often someone interacts with a given friend, how many mutual friends they share, and whether they mark someone as a “close friend.”

In a modern twist, Facebook has begun actually asking people whom they’d most like to hear from. Some folks may remember taking an online survey and listing the friends you are closest to.

“We look at the patterns that emerge from the results, some of which include being tagged in the same photos, continuously reacting and commenting on the same posts, and checking-in at the same places—and then use these patterns to inform our algorithm,” the blog said.

That doesn’t mean your News Feed will be clogged with the same seven mates’ posts. Nor does it guarantee you’ll see more friend content. According to Facebook, it simply increases the chances of viewing posts from those you have a close relationship with higher on the page.

“We also know that whomever you want to hear from right now may not be who you want to hear from in a year, or even a few months,” the firm said.

After all, human emotions are a fickle thing.

With that in mind, Facebook’s prediction models are “continuously updated” based on user interactions. You can also expect some more surveys.

Last month, the social media giant lifted the curtain on its News Feed algorithm with the new “Why am I seeing this post?” tool, which provides more details about and control over users’ experience.

Just tap the three dots in the top right corner of a post to find the feature; a drop-down menu explains how past interactions impact the ranking of content in your feed.

That includes why you’re seeing a certain post (if it’s from a friend you made, Group you joined, or Page you followed) and what has the largest influence over order of material (how often you interact with people/Groups/Pages and their videos, photos, or links; the popularity of posts shared by those you follow).

You’ll also find access to controls like See First, Unfollow, News Feed Preferences, and Privacy Shortcuts to help personalize your site.

Facebook is also using survey responses to identify rewarding links.

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