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Siri gets its first major movie promotional stunt

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‘The Secret Life of Pets’ tie-in won’t actually tell you anything about your pets, though.

While Amazon has been furiously releasing updates to keep Alexa abreast of current events (and holiday shopping deals), Apple has been content to keep most of their Siri updates limited to major OS releases. That’ll change with the iTunes release of The Secret Life of Pets, which marks the first time Apple’s virtual assistant has been used to promote a movie release or partnered with a major movie studio.

As 9to5Mac notes, the promotional stunt for The Secret Life of Pets gives Siri 15 somewhat humorous canned responses to the question “What do my pets do when I’m not at home?” When Engadget tried the gimmick, Siri responded with: “I don’t know, but the dog just asked me for a walking route to the nearest park.” And: “I don’t know, but the cat just asked me about the five day forecast for the living room sunny spot.”

Those answers might be cute, but they’re also not quite as smart as say: having Siri pull up your Nest cam highlights or launching your treat cam app. Either way, Apple felt the feature was worth a brief, product-placement heavy Facebook Video commercial:

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Astro’s Luna Display will turn your iPad’s front camera into a clever button

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Astro’s Luna Display hardware dongle is a dream for anyone who wants their iPad to act as a second screen for their Mac – wirelessly. Now, the company has revealed a clever update that turns the front-facing camera of your iPad into a neat, contextual button that gives you access to a range of features without cluttering up your user interface.

In case you missed it, Luna Display is a small USB dongle that you plug into your Mac, which talks to an app on your iPad to turn it into a second screen for your computer, with no lag and terrific visual fidelity. I’ve tested a prototype, and it really does work as advertised, complete with touch input and support for Apple Pencil.

Now, they’re revealing the Camera Button, which is essentially a way to hide the extra UI features that Astro wanted to add to Luna, aimed at creative pros and power users. To access a tray of menu items that let you adjust screen brightness and alter the display arrangement quickly and easily, you can just place your finger over the front-facing camera on the iPad using the Luna app to quickly call and hide a sidebar menu.

It’s a super cool use of iPad hardware, turning something that isn’t a button into one without requiring any awkward hardware add-ons or Bluetooth accessories. To maintain user privacy, Astro also blurs the image coming in from the camera when it taps into the hardware to ensure anonymity. Also, Luna put the same function into the iPad volume buttons in case you’d rather not use the camera this way.

© 2017, Paul Umoh. All rights reserved.

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It’s just gotten a lot easier to reprint keys from photographs

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If you’re in the business of opening locked doors for business or pleasure, it just got a little easier. Using a parametric file for SCAD, you can easily recreate a Kwikset key with a few keystrokes.

Kwikset is particularly vulnerable because it has only five pins and five positions – 1 being not cut at all and 5 being cut very deeply. This means you can look at an image of a Kwikset key and estimate how deep or shallow a key cut is, then plug in those measurements into this CAD file and print a key in a few minutes. Having physical access to the key makes it even easier. The SCAD file also changes based on the entered values, following the geometry of the keying system precisely.

Dave Pedu used this technique to print a few very basic keys on his Flashforge Creator Pro in ABS. He says he snapped off a few keys while working to build the final working product but he was able to open his lock quickly and easily using the final product. He does warn that new keys might not work as well.

“So, the verdict is – Yes! You can 3D print working copies of real keys. I suspect a new, tight lock might not work as well – mine is worn and it certainly helped,” he wrote.

Remember, friends, don’t post your keys on social media but if you have a Kwikset lock it might behoove you to measure the teeth as a sort of offline, digital backup.

© 2017, Paul Umoh. All rights reserved.

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Samsung’s new connected tags monitor pets or kids for a week on a single charge

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Samsung has something worth your time if you like to keep tabs on kids, pets or other cherished items. The Korea electronics giant just announced Connect Tag, a small internet-enabled device that tracks location and lasts a week between charges.

In other words, this is a similar offering to existing electronic tagging devices from the likes of Tile, the U.S. startup that pulled in $25 million earlier this year and has picked up nearly $60 million from investors to date.

Tile offers more flexibility on form factor but Samsung has gone for the clean white look with the Connect Tag, which measures 4.21 cm x 1.19 cm. The company puts that one-week battery life down to its use of narrowband network technology — a standard that optimizes power usage through more conservative use of data — and it claims its tags are the first of their kind to utilize it.

On the tech side, Samsung is using a combination GPS, Wi-Fi-based positioning and Cell ID to triangulate a device’s location with accuracy. It also works with Samsung’s SmartThings ecosystem, which means you could set up a geofence around your house, for example, to trigger lights or switch on the TV automatically when you (and your tag) return home.

More standard notification options include a location finder Android app, which pulls up the location at the push of a button, and periodic notifications that keep you regularly informed on the location of a child or, say, a pet when you are at the office or elsewhere.

We don’t have a price yet, but the Samsung Connect Tag will go on sale in Korea first before expanding to other countries “in the coming months.”

© 2017, Paul Umoh. All rights reserved.

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