Earlier this year, Razer revealed an interesting RGB mask it called Project Hazel. Of course, there’s a joke about Razer sticking RGB on everything just for the sake of RGB, but beyond the lights, Project Hazel was seemed like a fairly high-tech wearable, with filters, speakers, and even a case that uses ultraviolet light to sterilize the mask when not in use. Now, it seems that Project Hazel is going to become a reality.
While Project Hazel was only a concept when it was revealed back at CES 2021, Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan has told Yahoo Finance that it will now become a real product. Initially, it sounds like Razer was hesitant to move Project Hazel from concept to production because when it was first revealed in January, vaccines were on the horizon and it wasn’t clear if we’d still be wearing masks much longer.
It’s clear now that we likely will be wearing masks as the vaccine roll out continues and even for some time afterward, so Razer made the decision to turn Project Hazel into a real product. “We were thinking, this is a concept project and is this going to be relevant when vaccinations and everything has been rolled out. I think moving forward we decided — and I can tell you now — we are going to proceed in making it a reality and ship the smart mask,” Tan told Yahoo Finance.
One potentially attractive thing about Project Hazel is that it solves the sustainability issues that come along with single-use masks. Project Hazel masks are intended to be worn over and over again, and they come with a UV light case that can sterilize it between uses. The mask is also outfitted with a clear shield to show the wearer’s mouth, battery-powered RGB lights, air vents and filters that apparently work as well as N95 masks, and it even has microphones and speakers to amplify the wearer’s voice.
If there’s such a thing as a high-end mask, Project Hazel is probably it. There’s no timeline for its release, but given that Tan thinks that we could be wearing masks for the next year or two, it might be worth investing in one when Project Hazel does eventually make its retail debut.
Tile tracker prospective buyer Life360 accused of selling location data
Many people who have caught a whiff of the many privacy issues in this digital age may presume that it all revolves around social media. The rather horrifying truth is that almost anything about a person that can be transmitted in a digital manner can be used to create a profile of that person, often for targeted marketing purposes. That especially includes the places you’ve been to, which is why location tracking has been a very thorny subject as far as privacy issues go. That’s why it’s a bit worrying that the popular Bluetooth tracker Tile might be acquired by a company that is now allegedly violating its own users’ privacy, which is ironic given the nature of Life360’s business.
Image Credit: Tile
READ: After trying Apple’s AirTag I can see why Tile is furious
Life360 might not be a familiar name to many people, but it has built a reputation around helping families keep track of one another, often with the goal of ensuring their safety. The app comes in handy in making sure kids are where they should be or that family members can send SOS messages in an emergency. These features obviously require some form of location tracking as well as some expectations of privacy.
A lengthy report from The Markup, however, casts some doubt on the latter. Former Life360 employees claim that the company basically sells the location data of its users to almost anyone for the right price. It even partnered with the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to track “mobility trends” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of Life360’s customers, however, are involved in the advertising industry, providing insights for use with targeted advertising. Company founder and CEO Chris Hulls admits that they see this data as an important part of their business model but that they have privacy policies in place that prevent personally identifiable information (PII) from leaking to its clients. Life360 also credits this business model for allowing them to offer free life-saving services like driver safety.
Complicating matters, however, is Life360’s intent to acquire Tile, one of the most popular brands of Bluetooth trackers in the market today. With Apple’s AirTag and Samsung’s SmartTag, that market has seen a renewed interest as well as more intense scrutiny from privacy advocates and regulators.
The report, while not exactly damning, could put a dent in Life360’s plans. According to The Markup, Hulls said Life360 “doesn’t have plans” to sell Tile tracker data.
Regardless of those privacy policies, the mere thought that Life360, a service aimed at families with kids, deals heavily in the data-selling business is enough to raise red flags. Without many external safeguards in place, there is almost no telling how much information its partners are able to glean from the precise location data that it sells. Security and privacy experts have argued that even anonymized data can still be used to build a profile of an individual for targeted advertising, which can then be used to harvest other information from other sources (via Nature).
Instagram parental controls about to change the way you browse
Although Meta itself is no stranger to controversy and legal inquiries, it was Instagram that was put on the hot seat a few months back for the way it treated its younger users. From accusations of trying to profit at the expense of teens’ mental health to criticisms for lack of parental control, Instagram has been painted recently as an unsafe place for young people to be, despite its popularity with that demographic. The social network has tried to recover from that bad PR and is now announcing features to reassure parents, but some of those won’t be rolling out until next year.
Image Credit: Instagram
Instagram isn’t new to the social networking game, and the bulk of its users come from younger generations. You’d think that, at this point, it would already have safety measures in place to let parents safeguard kids, but that was definitely not the case. To be fair, it wasn’t until recently that Instagram officially allowed minors in, but it should have had provisions ready for that situation.
Better late than never, as some might say, and parental controls are finally coming to Instagram. The catch is that it won’t be until March next year before these parental controls become available. When it does, parents will finally have a say on how much time they want their kids to spend on Instagram. The company is also building an educational hub for parents that will probably try to ease their worries about the network’s impact on their children’s mental health.
Parents won’t have to wait long for one promised feature, though. Starting today, teenage users from the US, the UK, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia will be nudged to take a break every now and then when they’ve been scrolling through their feeds for too long. Although it’s too easy to dismiss these notifications, Instagram hints it will be a little persistent and almost nagging in reminding young users to leave that setting enabled.
Instagram is also improving on limitations specific to teens’ accounts. For example, other people won’t be able to tag them in posts if the teens don’t follow those accounts. The network’s “Limit Even More” option for controlling sensitive content might also filter out potentially harmful search results, though this feature is still in its early testing stage.
There are also features being tested that will benefit not just teens but all users of all ages. Instagram is testing a new tool that will let users manage their activity better, like bulk deleting content, including previous likes and comments. If all goes well, this will be available in January.
The social network is also preparing a “nudge” to remind users to look at other topics if they’ve been staring or searching for a single one for far too long. It’s almost like the “Take a Break” feature but focused on certain topics that can become an unhealthy obsession, especially if the subject matter can be deemed to be potentially harmful.
Pixel Buds A feature drop includes a manual update option
Unlike their simpler wired predecessors, wireless earbuds aren’t static accessories that you buy with a fixed set of features. At times, they aren’t even “perfect” when they launch, instead leaving plenty of room for improvements or new features. Like many smart devices today, Bluetooth earbuds can be updated to add those missing experiences, and Google is rolling out one such feature drop for its mid-range Pixel Buds A series, as well as a somewhat hidden feature that could make the update process a bit easier.
Google announced an update to its Pixel Buds A-series earbuds on the same day as its big Feature Drop for Pixel phones. Whether this is going to be a new thing or a one-off coincidence still isn’t known. At least for the time being, however, Pixel Buds A owners can rest easy knowing they haven’t been forgotten.
The changelog for firmware 282 highlights three specific changes coming to the earbuds. Users will now have finer control over the bass levels they hear, presuming they’ve paired the buds with a phone running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or higher. There’s also a new loudness compensation toggle that will try to improve bass and treble when the volume is too low.
Last but not least, the Pixel Buds A will be smarter when trying to connect to paired devices, falling back to the second to last connected device if the last one isn’t reachable.
New update process leaks
Updating Bluetooth earbuds’ firmware hasn’t exactly been the easiest, mind. The process often requires waiting for the update to hit, as well as making sure the earbuds are connected and ready for it. Google may be working on simplifying a part of this process, however, though the leak isn’t official just yet.
According to Android Police, some users have seen a new option in the Pixel Buds A’s settings page for manually triggering the update process. However, the actual availability of this update varies from market to market, plus it is a server-side change that users can’t control. The manual option still beats having to wait for the stars to align, though.
Users who don’t have the manual option yet will have to make sure their settings are in proper order, including granting the Pixel Buds app permission to find nearby devices. Google notes that Android 12 users specifically have to grant this permission since it’s a new one for that version of the mobile OS.
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