Virtual House Hunting Gets a Pandemic Boost

Padraig Belton from the BBC writes about how house hunters are using virtual-reality headsets to tour homes in the age of coronavirus. From the report: It's not for everyone as, at the moment, house hunters have to use their own headsets. But Giles Milner, marketing director at estate agent Chestertons, says he will sometimes send buyers headsets for new-build properties, if a development has multiple near-identical apartments with some still being built. "Developers are often selling off-plan, and it's hard to sell a product just on a 2D floor plan," he says. "So developers these days have virtual tours budgeted in from the start." Once you have a headset, it's a fairly simple process to find a virtual property on the estate agent's website, using a hand controller to work a virtual keyboard. It's still a fairly limited option, at the moment just 8% of Zoopla's listings have an option for a virtual tour. But Zoopla says there was a surge of activity during the first month of lockdown, when virtual reality (VR) viewings of new-build properties tripled. [...] Virtual reality offers greater detail than the traditional photos on a website. It also saves time for estate agents and is safer for everyone: "The last thing you want is for your staff members to get struck down with Covid-19," Mr Shipside says. Growing adoption of VR viewing also makes life easier for clients moving internationally, when travel back and forth is hard. Buyers from mainland China looking at homes in Singapore have to observe the country's strict fortnight quarantine on nearly all arrivals. So it makes sense to treat buying a house "just like online shopping," says Christopher Wang, founder of Imme VR, a Singaporean virtual-reality property company. A coming use of all this technology is letting prospective sellers find their property's value without estate agents visiting. Another will be letting possible buyers see a property as if it had their furniture already installed in the home. Having this record of your property's contents and their condition is especially beneficial if you ever have to submit an insurance claim -- for something stolen, or fire or flood damage. Another use will be in getting quotes from builders. Instead of contractors measuring and taking photos, going away and coming back with bids, a digital twin could instead let more contractors bid on the work -- giving power to the homeowner. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2020-08-04 21:30:01 preview's
It's Official: EU Launches Antitrust Probe Into Google's Fitbit Takeover

It was rumored last week and now it's official: the European Commission announced it is launching an in-depth antitrust investigation into Google's $2.1 billion bid for Fitbit. CNN reports: The European Union's top antitrust regulator said it is concerned that the takeover would further strengthen Google's market position in online advertising by "increasing the already vast amount of data that Google could use for personalization of the ads it serves and displays." Google announced it was buying Fitbit, the world's leading maker of wearable fitness activity trackers, in November. The deal, worth about $2.1 billion, is one of Google's largest acquisitions and represents an important step for the company into smartwatches and other wearable devices. The Commission had already launched a preliminary investigation into the transaction. It said a commitment by Google not to use Fitbit data for advertising purposes was insufficient to address the concerns identified in the initial probe. The Commission's top antitrust official, Margrethe Vestager, said in a statement that the use of wearable devices by European consumers, as well as the data generated by them, is expected to grow significantly. "Our investigation aims to ensure that control by Google over data collected through wearable devices as a result of the transaction does not distort competition," Vestager said. In a blog post, Google Senior Vice President for Devices and Services Rick Osterloh said the deal "is about devices, not data," a market he said is full of competition. "We've been clear from the beginning that we will not use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads," Osterloh said. "We recently offered to make a legally binding commitment to the European Commission regarding our use of Fitbit data. As we do with all our products, we will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move or delete their data." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2020-08-04 21:00:02 preview's
Tesla's Touchscreen Wiper Controls Ruled Illegal In Germany

New submitter Rei_is_a_dumbass shares a report from Electrek: Tesla's wiper controls through its touchscreen have been ruled illegal in Germany after someone crashed their Model 3 while using them and fought a fine and driving ban through the court system. A Tesla Model 3 driver got into an accident while using the touchscreen to adjust the speed of the automatic windshield wipers. In Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, Tesla didn't install normal windshield wiper settings through a steering wheel stalk. Instead, the automaker is detecting the rain through its Autopilot cameras and automatically adjusting the speed based on the strength of the rainfall. If the driver wants to adjust the speed, they need to do it through the center touchscreen. The driver in Germany was adjusting those settings when he lost control of the vehicle and crashed. A local district court gave him a fine and a one-month driving ban and that's where the problem started for Tesla. He decided to fight the punishment -- bringing the case to the Higher Regional Court (OLG). "It comes as no surprise that enlightened Germans would be the first to rule Tesla's poly engineered cars a road hazard," adds Slashdot reader Rei_is_a_dumbass. "Touch screen interfaces have no place in cars." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2020-08-04 19:30:04 preview's
Mulan skips US theaters, will debut on Disney+ Sept 4—for an extra $30

Described as a "one-off," but is Black Widow next?
2020-08-04 18:45:03 preview's
'Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout' Is a Freewheeling Breath of Fresh Air

Surviving three or four rounds of this multiplayer knock-out game makes you feel like a total athlete, even as a pirate-costumed bean
2020-08-04 18:45:03 preview's
Disney+ Passes 60.5 Million Subs, Reaches 5-Year Streaming Goal In First Eight Months

In Disney's earnings call today, CEO Bob Chapek said there are now 60.5 million global subscribers to Disney+, reaching the 60 million-90 million range it told investors it would get to by 2024. Deadline reports: He also said today that Mulan, long in limbo amid the COVID-19 pandemic, will debut September 24 on Disney+ for $24.99, a new wrinkle for the streamer. Disney also announced it will launch a new streaming service internationally under its Star brand and using Disney's own content, starting in September. After rising from 54.5 million subscribers as of the beginning of May, Disney+ reached 57.5 million subscribers by the end of June before surpassing the 60M mark in the last couple of days. The overall results came up short of Wall Street analysts' expectations of a loss of 64 cents per share and total revenue of $12.4 billion. Disney has already reached its five-year target for Disney+ global subscribers less than nine months after launching the $7-a-month service. While it is a far more targeted offering than Amazon Prime Video or Hulu, it has quickly vaulted into the No. 2 spot in the subscription streaming game after Netflix, which has nearly 193 million global subscribers. When the company reported its last batch of quarterly results in May, Disney said it had 54.5 million Disney+ subscribers, up from 33.5 million as of March 28. Hulu, which Disney has controlled since the spring of 2019, had 32.1 million total subscribers at the end of the March quarter. Hulu, the company said in its fiscal third-quarter earnings report, now has 35.5 million subscribers to its on-demand service and live TV bundle combined, while ESPN+ is now at 8.5 million, more than triple its level a year ago. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2020-08-04 18:45:01 preview's
Microsoft Goes Big in Security Bug Bounties: Its $13.7m is Double Google's 2019 Payouts

Microsoft has revealed it has awarded security researchers $13.7m for reporting bugs in Microsoft software since July last year. From a report: Microsoft's bug bounties are one of the largest source of financial awards for researchers probing software for flaws and, importantly, reporting them to the relevant vendor rather than selling them to cybercriminals via underground markets or exploit brokers who distribute them to government agencies. The Redmond company has 15 bug-bounty programs through which researchers netted $13.7m between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. That figure is triple the $4.4m it awarded in the same period the previous year. [...] Microsoft's total annual bug-bounty payouts are now much larger than Google's awards for security flaws in its software, which totaled $6.5m in calendar year 2019. That figure was double the previous year's payouts from the ad and search giant, which called it a "record-breaking year." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2020-08-04 17:30:01 preview's
Decades-Old Email Flaws Could Let Attackers Mask Their Identities

At the Black Hat security conference on Thursday, researchers will present "darn subtle" flaws in industry-wide protections used to ensure that emails come from the address they claim to. From a report: The study looked at the big three protocols used in email sender authentication -- Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) -- and found 18 instances of what the researchers call "evasion exploits." The vulnerabilities don't stem from the protocols themselves, but from how different email services and client applications implement them. Attackers could use these loopholes to make spearphishing attacks even harder to detect. "I think I'm a savvy, educated user and the reality is, no, that's actually not enough," says Vern Paxson, cofounder of the network traffic analysis firm Corelight and a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who worked on the study along with Jianjun Chen, a postdoctoral researcher at the International Computer Science Institute, and Jian Jiang, senior director of engineering at Shape Security. "Even users who are pretty savvy are going to look at the indicators that Gmail or Hotmail or others provide and be fooled," Paxson says. Think about when you hand a friend a birthday card at their party. You probably only write their first name on the outside of the envelope, and maybe underline it or draw a heart. If you mail that letter instead, though, you need the recipient's full name and detailed address, a stamp, and ultimately a postmark with a date on it. Sending email across the internet works similarly. Though email services only require you to fill out the "To" and "Subject" fields, there's a whole list of more detailed information getting filled out behind the scenes. Those industry-standard "headers," as they're known, include date and time sent and received, language, a unique identifier called a Message-ID, and routing information. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2020-08-04 17:00:03 preview's
Android's Nearby Share' File Sharing Feature is Finally Launching

It will finally be slightly easier to share files, images, links, and other content between Android devices. Google is launching a new Android feature called "Nearby Share" that enables direct sharing between any device running Android 6 and up. Nearby Share is already available on some Pixel and Samsung phones, and Google says it'll arrive on other devices "over the next few weeks." From a report: Nearby Share works very much like Apple's AirDrop feature for the iPhone: you simply select the Nearby Share button on the share menu and then wait for a nearby phone to appear. Then whatever thing you're sharing is sent directly over your transfer method of choice to the other phone. As with AirDrop, you can set your preferred visibility for Nearby Share to different levels of contacts: all, some, or stay hidden. Google says it's even possible to "send and receive files anonymously." (Welcome to AirSlothing, Android users.) Nearby Share also shares files directly via whatever method your two phones deem is fastest: "Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy, WebRTC or peer-to-peer Wi-Fi," which Google says should allow it to work offline. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2020-08-04 15:45:01 preview's
Apple Marketing Chief Phil Schiller Steps Down From Role

Apple announced on Tuesday that longtime marketing boss Phil Schiller will step down from his role and be replaced by one of his deputies, Greg Joswiak, who now has Schiller's former title of vice president of worldwide marketing. From a report: Schiller will continue to work at Apple as an "Apple Fellow," the company said, and will continue his role as the boss of Apple's App Store and company events. Schiller will also continue to report to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Schiller has worked at Apple since 1987. "I'll keep working here as long as they will have me, I bleed six colors, but I also want to make some time in the years ahead for my family, friends, and a few personal projects I care deeply about," Schiller said in a statement. Schiller's departure from his formal role on Apple's leadership team comes following several other notable departures over the last couple years, including head of design Jony Ive, PR boss Steve Dowling and retail boss Angela Ahrendts. But Apple also made an addition to its exec team in that time period with John Giannandrea, the head of artificial intelligence. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2020-08-04 15:00:02