AI gives Thanos a soul in 'Avengers: Infinity War'

Spoilers ahead for Avengers: Infinity War.

Thanos isn’t your usual Marvel nemesis. Then again, even after 19 films in Disney’s superhero universe, it’s not as if he’s had much strong competition. Aside from the puckish Loki and tragic Killmonger, most Marvel villains have been pretty forgettable. Now, after years of build up (we first caught a glimpse of Thanos in 2012’s The Avengers) he finally took center stage in this summer’s Avengers: Infinity War.

But what’s most intriguing about Thanos isn’t that he wants to wipe out half of life across the universe — instead, it’s that he’s a big purple alien who feels genuine emotion. He cries when he’s forced to sacrifice Gamora, his adopted daughter. He feels pain and anguish. But like many memorable bad guys, he believes it’s all for the greater good.

Sharp eyed viewers will noticed Thanos looks very different in Infinity War than he did in the Avengers post-credits scene. That’s not just due to the advanced in CG technology. “We all came to the conclusion that the performance would actually come through a little bit better if we introduced a little bit more of some of the recognizable features of Josh Brolin,” said Kelly Port from the VFX company Digital Domain, one of many effects firms working on the film.

Digital Domain also used a piece of custom machine learning software called Masquerade to make the motion capture performance seem more natural. The process starts by placing 100 to 150 tracking dots on Brolin’s face, which is captured by two vertically oriented HD cameras. It’s not meant to be a high-resolution scan, instead it’s a fairly low-quality rendering. That’s fed into a machine learning algorithm that’s using a library of high-res face scans, across a wide variety of expressions.


Marvel Studios

“[Masquerade] takes that low resolution mesh and it figures out what high resolution shape face would be the best solution for that,” Port said. “Then it gives you a solution, and then we would look at that result. If it didn’t feel quite right, we would make a little tweak in modeling to adjust … let’s say this has more lip compression or the brows need to be higher, we feed that back into the system and it would learn from that via a machine learning algorithm.”

The next time Digital Domain puts the low-res mesh through its system, it should have a better result than before. But that’s just step one. Next up is a process called direct drive, which takes the high-resolution face mask performance and places it on Thanos’s character model.

“And then we kind of go through a similar process in that we look at them side by side,” Port said. “We look at Josh’s performance and it’s like, ‘He’s more surprised,’ or ‘He’s more sad here,” and there’s something in Josh’s performance that’s not coming across in Thanos that we’d make a little adjustment. We’d feed that back through the system, and then hopefully the next time that same input gets fed into the direct drive system, the result would be more accurate or more what we desired.”

Without a machine learning system like Masquerade, VFX artists have to tweak facial performances with animation manually, a process that can be more time consuming. Still, there are other modern techniques, like WETA’s Oscar-winning FACETS, which was used for facial tracking on Avatar and the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy.

“We knew going in Thanos has to work, or the movie doesn’t work,” said Dan Deleeuw, Marvel Studio’s VFX supervisor. So from the start, his team was focused on understanding him as a character. Based on the glimpses of him we’ve seen before in Marvel films, they knew he’d be a large and angry character — a giant who’s literally railing against the universe. But Marvel also wanted to capture subtle aspects of Josh Brolin’s performance, especially his face.


Marvel Studios

The first day on set, directors Joe and Anthony Russo wasted no time getting Brolin in a motion capture helmet and suit to test out some of his lines. But they also went a step further. “Instead of cutting when they stop doing the lines, we just kept the motion capture going,” Deleeuw said. “We kept when he was just experimenting with the different lines and how he would approach Thanos.”

Using those off-the-cuff line takes, Marvel Studios was able to capture nuances that Deleeuw didn’t originally plan for. “Just being able to read almost imperceptible movements in his face… movements in his eyes and his cheeks, and then you know later on to show his frustration or sadness with Gamora, or his anger with Tony… just really bring a character like that to the screen, I think was one of the biggest challenges,” he said.

Marvel Studios' AVENGERS: INFINITY WARThanos (Josh Brolin)Photo: Film Frame©Marvel Studios 2018

“Doug Roble, the guy that’s working on that [Digital Domain] software said something along the lines of, ‘If you’re not using machine learning in your software, you’re doing it wrong,'” Deleeuw said, recounting a recent visit to the VFX company. Looking ahead, the technology will be used for more than just faces — it could help with things like water simulations. Eventually, you can expect machine learning to have a role just about everywhere when it comes to visual effects.

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How Google has stepped up its efforts to makes its tech more accessible to the disabled

Homework is a drag for any high schooler, but for the class of 2006’s Laura Palmaro Allen, even starting an assignment required a laborious, multistep process.

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She and her family had to strip her textbooks from their bindings, run the pages through a high speed scanner, and digitize them — all before she could use text-to-speech software to actually ingest her history lesson or reading exercise. Allen has limited vision because of a rare eye condition called Choroidal Osteomas: At the time, her school didn’t offer any easier ways to accommodate her.

Fast-forward a decade and a half and Allen now regularly coaches visually impaired kids on far simpler ways to get their work done using near-ubiquitous smartphones or laptops. As a program manager for accessibility for Google‘s Chrome software, she not only gives demos, but spends her days making the company’s products work better for people with all different kinds of disabilities.

Over the past several years, the tech industry generally — and Google specifically — have been more deliberate about baking accessibility into products, and beefing up overall resources for the roughly one billion people worldwide with some form of disability.

While there’s still considerable work to do on existing products, Google sees its next big challenge as exploring how it can use its technology to help make the the wider world — not just the bits and bytes of digital screens — more accessible.

Here’s how the company’s trying to make that happen.

Allen first joined Google in a sales role in 2010. She quickly noticed ways that products she used every day, like Docs and Gmail, could be improved for blind or low-vision users like herself.

Back then, there were some Google employees focused on accessibility, but the group was small and scattered. It spurred Allen to take on a “20 percent project,” consulting with different product teams across the company.

By 2013, Google realized that it needed to do better and do more. It then launched a centralized Accessibility team to oversee all its products, as well as user research and employee education focused on disabilities.

The crux of that change is that while accessibility-related product changes used to too-often rely on grassroots advocacy from people like Allen, there’s now a standardized process in place.

“Any new product or piece of a user interface needs to go through a set of accessibility checks and tests,” she said. “In the same way that privacy and security is checked for every product, accessibility is now checked as well.”

Allen now works full-time on making sure Google’s browser, operating system, and laptops work well for people with hearing, vision, dexterity, or cognition impairments. For example, the ChromeVox screen reader and adjustable magnification and contrast settings aid visually impaired users, and there’s a keyboard guide for people who can’t use a mouse.

Eve Andersson, who heads up Google’s centralized Accessibility team as the director of engineering, says the goal is to codify accessibility into every stage of a product’s life-cycle.

That kind of focus pays off widely, according to Dmitri Belser, executive director at the Center for Accessible Technology.

“Designing products with disabilities in mind creates products that are better for everybody,” he said. For example, captions aren’t just helpful for deaf people and even if you’re not visually impaired, high-contrast fonts are just easier to read, period. Plus, disability shouldn’t be a matter of us versus them.

“It’s is the one group we all join,” he added. “We all age, and so we’ll all get to be there at some point.”

Google is quick to admit that it still has a ways to go to improve its existing products, but the company is eying another kind of tech potential, too.

“Disability is still so stigmatized that disabled people often face the ‘tyranny of low expectations,‘ where less is expected of them,” says Carol Glazer, president of the National Organization on Disability (NOD). “But you can’t just assume that people with disabilities are sitting at home in front of their computers — they’re out and about in the community.”

While most of Google’s accessibility efforts center on making all its digital products work better for people with disabilities, Andersson believes that the big opportunity lies in finding ways to use Google technology to make the physical world more accessible.

In March, Google Maps introduced “wheelchair accessible” routes in transit navigation. In May, it previewed a forthcoming app called Lookout that uses a smartphone camera, computer vision, and natural language processing to give users real-time descriptions of the world around them.

Andersson sees voice-controlled smart assistants as being one of the clearest ways to make many more products accessible. As connected-devices become more popular, blind or mobility-impaired people can suddenly control a much wider range of products simply by speaking.

For example, Google’s smart home division has approached senior living facilities to try to figure out how it could tweak its products to work better for older people, several people familiar with the discussions previously told CNBC.

“The possibilities are just wide open,” Andersson says. “With the advances that are happening now in AI and computer vision and internet of things, there is so much opportunity.”

While Google works to improve its own products and processes and launch into new domains, the Accessibility team has also ramped up its external focus.

Google reps sit on various web accessibility standards boards and committees, and the company publishes accessibility guides for third-party developers. It launched a free online accessibility development class, which includes training that all new Google employees complete during orientation, and Allen just helped put on an event with Teach Access, an organization that aims to make accessibility training mainstream in higher education.

Larry Goldberg, one of the founders of Teach Access and a director of accessible media at Oath, says that he’s seen an acceleration in interest, resources, and awareness from all major tech companies over the past half decade, in both product development and representation.

“The idea of ‘diversity in tech’ has traditionally looked at women, people of color, and LGBT representation— and now disability is becoming a bigger part of that conversation too,” Goldberg said. “The best way to make sure that products work for their stakeholders is to have people with disabilities on staff: It’s not just what we create, but the way we create it and who creates it.”

NOD’s Glazer says that the tech industry still ranks lower than others when it comes to disabled representation, according to its disability employment tracker.

Part of attracting disabled candidates is making sure the work environment accommodates them seamlessly. Andersson said that the Accessibility organization has steadily helped steer all Google’s campuses to being better equipped for people with disabilities. That includes small tweaks, like putting braille labels on the food in its micro-kitchens, or wider initiatives, like guiding managers on how to make every presentation accessible.

“We’re working really hard to make things better,” Allen stated. “I can’t say that everything is perfect or that our technology works for everyone, but we’re learning and changing so much all the time and that’s exciting.”

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As a longtime Spotify devotee, I'm always shocked people don't know about one of its best features — here's how to use it

SpotifySpotify

With nearly 200 million monthly users — of which a staggering 83 million are paid subscribers — Spotify is one of the most popular music services in the world. 

It’s easy to understand why Spotify is so big. As a longtime paid subscriber, I have universally positive things to say about the streaming service. It has a huge music library, it’s easy to use, and it works with every device I operate daily — a Pixel 2 smartphone, a MacBook Air, and Sonos speakers. It even integrates into my PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

But there’s one function of Spotify that truly sold me on the service: The ability to upload music into my library on one device, and for that music to become available on most devices I own.

Spotify (Jay Z, 4:44)Jay-Z’s album “4:44” isn’t available on Spotify, but I was able to buy it and add it to my local library. It’s available on my phone, or on my computer, or wherever else I want — seamlessly — through my Spotify account.Spotify/Ben Gilbert/Business Insider

It’s a little known convenience of Spotify that made the service far more useful to me — here’s how it works:

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The 27 greatest movie franchises of all time, according to critics

lord of the rings“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.”New Line Cinema

Over the past decade, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has built an expansive set of films while raising the critical and commercial expectations for ongoing movie series.

But extensive film franchises have been around for awhile, and several older series, like the film adaptations from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth books, have received more positive critical acclaim on average than Marvel’s. And some are only getting better as time goes on, like “Mission: Impossible,” which reached its critical zenith with “Fallout.”

Stretching from the first James Bond film, 1962’s “Dr. No;” to the latest MCU and “Star Wars” entries; this list we compiled from Metacritic data ranks prominent film franchises by their average critical reception (derived from the critical scores for each movie in a franchise).

Note: Metacritic only included franchises that had more than four films with scores on its site, and it excluded horror films and animated series.

Here are the 27 greatest movie franchises of all time, according to critics:

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Discounted MacBook Pros, Amazon devices, and a GTX 1080 Ti bundle are this week’s best deals

This upcoming week feels like the last big back to school push from retailers. We’re seeing Amazon devices drop down to near-Prime Day 2018 prices. Bose noise-canceling headphones, which are excellent study buddies, have had enjoyed a week-long $50 discount. There’s a whole lot more to see, whether you’re looking for portable tech or gear to fill out your entertainment center.

Starting with a big deal on a high-end graphics card, B&H is offering a discount on the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti by way of a $999 bundle that packs in a computer case, modular PSU, motherboard, liquid cooling system, and more. This card’s dominance in the GPU pack will likely be toppled by Nvidia’s own Turing cards that are expected to be unveiled next week, but it’s still a decent deal if you’re looking to build a new PC.

Amazon’s devices are discounted yet again, if you missed out on Prime Day:

Best Buy is celebrating its own anniversary with a batch of new sales. While there aren’t many noteworthy discounts on expensive items, the company’s opt-in student deals continue to be worth checking out. We’ve also noted a few markdowns below on items that don’t usually see any price variance. Keep in mind that this sale ends Saturday night.

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A Wakandan Princess, the Dude, a Big Satisfying Pooh, and More of the Most Wallet-Draining Toys of the Week

Welcome back to Toy Aisle, io9’s regular round up of all the lovely toys and merchandise we’ve spotted on the internet recently. This week, Shuri gets the incredible action figure she deserves, Christopher Robin’s take on Winnie the Pooh gets an adorable toy, and the Dude almost certainly abides. Check it out!


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Hot Toys Sixth-Scale Black Panther Shuri Figure

Admit it, your love affair with Tony Stark ended as soon as Black Panther’s Shuri, the Princess of Wakanda, hit the screen. She not only outsmarts Stark, but the nano-tech Black Panther suit she designed could run circles around Iron Man’s armor. Hot Toys’ new 11-inch version of the character features a fantastic sculpt of actress Letitia Wright, 28 points of articulation, seven interchangeable hands with unique poses, and a pair of glowing, vibranium gauntlets.


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Ototo Design Pan Man Superhero Spatula

Every kitchen needs at least one novelty item that prioritizes fun over function, be it a Millennium Falcon waffle maker, gaping mouth Star Wars snack bowls, or this delightful spatula that looks like a caped superhero whooshing off into the sky. Available next month for $16 in three different colors, Ototo Design’s Pan Man should work just fine for all your food-flipping needs. And with a magnet hidden in the hero’s chest, it’s easy to mount or hang on any metal shelving in your kitchen.


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Hot Toys Sixth-Scale Christopher Robin Pooh and Piglet

Oh bother. It seems like if you want a perfect replica of Winnie the Pooh and his pal Piglet as they appeared in Christopher Robin, you’re going to have to dig deep in your wallet, as this magnificent 10-inch replica from Hot Toys will undoubtedly cost a small fortune when it’s available next year. Instead of individual articulation points, Pooh and Piglet appear to use a flexible structure under all that fur allowing for an impressive range of pose potential. And while the included accessories are light, does Pooh really need anything more than a honey pot and a pair of sunglasses?


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MacGyver: The Escape Room Game

MacGyver, the classic ‘80s TV series where Richard Dean Anderson played an impossibly resourceful secret agent, unfortunately doesn’t hold up as well as you remember it. But, the spirit of MacGyver—using everything at your disposal to get out of a situation—is alive and well in the escape room trend. Thanks to Pressman Toys, however, you can now trap yourself in whatever room you happen to be in with this $30 MacGyver-themed escape kit. Five individual hour-long missions, all based on actual episodes of the original TV show, have players using various clues, tools, and a website to solve puzzles, neutralize bombs, and make their escape. Don’t forget to bring a paperclip.


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Over on Etsy, DappledLightStudio has created a tribute to one of film’s most beloved and easygoing protagonists: the Dude from The Big Lebowski. Instead of an articulated action figure, this version of Jeff Bridges’ best-dressed character comes as a urethane resin model kit you’ll need to assemble and paint yourself. For $135, The Dude Abiding Kit, featuring said Dude in a Zen-like pose, also comes with a custom-printed rug that will really tie your room together. But each one is made to order, and it will be about a week before yours heads out the door, testing your own patience.

[h/t The Awesomer]


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LED Space Fleece Blanket

How many times have you fallen asleep while watching Netflix, only to find your dreams eerily reminiscent of the show you were just watching? It stands to reason that the same thing would happen if you fell asleep cozied up under ThinkGeek’s new Space Fleece Blanket, inspiring dreams of space travel and other astronaut adventures. The $40 battery-powered blanket features a set of 18 LEDs that randomly flash like the twinkling night sky, potentially making it the perfect nightlight if thinking about the mysteries of the cosmos leaves you too spooked to slumber.


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Harry Potter Ultimate Trivial Pursuit

As the Potterverse continues to expand, fans of Harry Potter and all the witches and wizards that have passed through Hogwarts need an outlet for all the random trivia amassing in their brains. This “ultimate” version of Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit challenges players with 1,800 questions about the movies covering topics from potions and spells, to locations around the Potterverse, to magical creatures. Available from ThinkGeek for $50, the game also features four creature-themed tokens based on the houses of Hogwarts, and a custom board.

[h/t Geek Alerts]

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Saturday's Best Deals: Color Laser Printer, Portable Projectors, 4K Fire TV, and More

Best Deals of the DayThe best deals from around the web, updated daily.   

$30 off Amazon’s 4K Fire TV, a Brother color laser printer, and Anker’s best portable projectors lead off Saturday’s best deals from around the web.

Bookmark Kinja Deals and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to never miss a deal.

Best Tech Deals

Anker’s Nebula Capsule mini projector gets all the hype, but if its standard definition resolution and 100 lumen brightness won’t cut it for your portable cinema needs, the sharper and brighter (and larger) Nebula Mars line is deeply discounted in today’s Amazon Gold Box.

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The Mars, the Mars II, and the Mars Lite are all included in the sale, and this chart can help you pick the best one for you:

The original Mars is actually the brightest of the three, but the Mars II has the best battery life, software, and automatic focusing. The Lite should have the same picture quality as the Mars II, but includes no built-in software, so you’ll have to plug in a streaming dongle of some kind to watch content.

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Whichever one you buy though, you’ll get to watch movies outdoors, which makes every movie about four times more enjoyable. These prices are way lower than any other deals we’ve seen on these, so pick one out before the prices go back up tomorrow, and go enjoy the rest of the summer.


For one day only, Amazon’s matching its Black Friday discount on the 4K/HDR/Dolby Atmos-packing Fire TV.

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While they last, you can snag the streaming box stick dongle for $40, a $30 discount, and a match for an all-time low. This is one of the best streaming devices you can buy at any price, so if it’s been on your wish list, don’t miss this deal.


If you do a lot of work on your laptop in bed—hey, I’ve been there—this lap desk can make the experience much more ergonomic for just $19 with promo code 76VMX9OY. One side tilts to bring your keyboard to a better angle for typing, while the rest can stay flat to hold documents and snacks.


You all have bought a ton of Brother monochrome laser printers, and with good reason! But if you really need to be able to print in color, today’s your lucky day.

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The Brother HL-3170CDW has all the features you’d expect from a Brother printer, including wireless networking (including AirPrint and Google Cloud Print), and the ability to spit out roughly 20 pages per minute, but with the added bonus of printing in color.

$175 is a little more than you’d spend on a monochrome printer, but that’s the best price Amazon’s listed since February, so it’s time to kiss that inkjet goodbye.


If you’re ready to make the leap to 4K (and if your computer can handle it), Amazon’s blowing out 28″ Samsung monitors for just $250 today. It’s not an IPS panel, unfortunately, but that’s still one of the best prices we’ve ever seen on a 60Hz 4K display.


Amazon aficionados know that the company sells lightly used products at significant discounts under its Amazon Warehouse brand, and to celebrate back to school season, you can save an extra 20% at checkout.

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Several categories are included in the sale, including computers, furniture, and Amazon devices, but it seems that a lot more items are eligible than you’d expect from advertised categories. For example, I got it to work on a DSLR, though it didn’t on a SONOS speaker. The search bar tool at the top of the page seems to return all Amazon Warehouse items, not just eligible ones, but it’s worth a shot if you have an out or production or rarely-discounted item you’ve had on your wishlist.

Have any suggestions? Let us know what you got in the comments!


They aren’t Sony’s best noise canceling Bluetooth headphones—that honor goes to the $300 WH1000XM2s—but these wireless over-ears are still a fantastic deal for $98, or $50-$100 less than usual, and the same price we saw on Prime Day. The WH-CH700Ns run for up to 30 hours in wireless noise canceling mode, or you can plug them in with a 3.5mm cord to extend that to 50 hours. If you travel a lot, or just work in a noisy office environment, this is a sound investment.


Sennheiser’s HD 650 open back headphones are widely considered some of the best-sounding cans you can buy for under $1000, and the best chance to get them is when MassDrop drops a new shipment of the legendary HD 6XX.

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The 6XX is basically exactly the same as the standard 650, but with a 6′ cable rather than the original’s 10′, which is actually a better length, in my opinion. The 650s are currently listed for $367 on Amazon, and have never been cheaper than $287, but MassDrop has a limited number units of the 6XX available for $200, while supplies last.


Best Buy just kicked off its Anniversary sale event, with deals available on things you’d expect like Apple products, 4K TVs, and Windows computers, plus some more interesting stuff like home appliances and Prime Day-like pricing on Amazon products.

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Just note that these prices are only available through Saturday. Some or our favorites are included at the bottom of this post, but there’s a lot to sort through, so let us know what you got in the comments!


Its two-tone design might not be for everyone, but $65 is a very nice price for a racing-style desk chair with height and recline control. Just use promo code WOW5 at checkout to get the deal.


The best part of the Apple Watch might just be its ingenious, easy-to-change band system. While Apple’s own straps are hilariously expensive, third party ones are plentiful, varied, and very affordable. Today, you can get a handsome stainless steel strap (42 mm model only) in the color of your choice for just $19 with promo code 78UO5H8Y.


Apple hasn’t updated the iPad Mini 4 in a few years, but if you don’t need the latest and greatest processor, and you prefer the smaller footprint, Walmart’s taking $100 off the 128GB model today, the best price we’ve ever seen.

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Or, for $50 more, you can opt for the 9.7″ iPad fifth generation with the same amount of storage, and a processor that’s one year newer. It’s priced at $80 below its original MSRP, though unlike the iPad Mini, there is a newer model available.


Turns out, having a laptop with only USB-C ports means you need to carry a dongle with you from time to time. Who knew? Luckily, these $34 hubs from VAVA are designed to perfectly match your space grey (promo code KINJA8888) or silver (promo code KINJA7777) MacBook, and turn one USB-C port into an ethernet port, an SD card reader, an HDMI output, and three USB 3.0 ports. There’s even pass-through USB-C charging, so you’re not even really using up one of your precious ports.


Want to get started with Philips Hue? This two bulb kit is marked back down to $100 today, matching an all-time low. Those full-color bulbs usually sell for $50 each, and even on sale rarely dip below $40, so if you need a hub, this is a great deal.


Amazon’s Echo Dot is a great voice assistant, and a truly terrible speaker. But for just $20 (with promo code INV2YNO5), you can drop it into this speaker base, which replaces its puny 3W driver with a stereo pair of booming 10W drivers. Plus, the built-in 5,000mAh battery pack lets you move it all around your house, and even doubles as a smartphone charger.


We’ve seen power cubes with more ports and outlets from other manufacturers, but Anker’s take on the category has a few nice touches. While it leaves one side of the cube empty, it does come with adhesive pads that let you mount it on a wall or underneath a desk. It normally sells for $25, but you can get it for just $20 today ($1 less than our previous mention), no promo code required.


$60 for a Logitech Harmony remote is a great deal on its face, but the real reason to buy this model is the included Harmony Home Hub.

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The Hub allows you to use your iPhone, Android device, or even an Amazon Echo to control everything a Harmony remote can (which is basically any piece of home theater gear you can think of). So even when you inevitably lose the included remote behind the couch cushions, you’ll still have multiple ways to take control of all of your home theater gear.

Considering the hub alone sells for $77 right now, getting the hub plus a remote for $60 is an unbelievable deal.


Bose’s wireless QuietComfort 35 noise-cancelling over-ears are basically a mute button for the rest of the world, and you can get them for $299 today, down from the usual $329. In addition to amazing sound quality and noise cancelation, they even work with Google Assistant, and as of a firmware update last week, Alexa too.

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If you prefer in-ear headphones, the Bose QuietControl 30 Bluetooth earbuds are also on sale for $249, or $50 less than usual.

Those are the best deals we’ve ever seen on these!


VPNs have been in the news, and whether you want to get around video geoblocks, circumvent proxy filters, or just keep prying eyes out of your browsing data while using sketchy public Wi-Fi, reader-favorite Private Internet Access has a deal to fit your needs.

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Private Internet Access doesn’t do much in the way of discounting, but they offer exclusive pricing and packages just for our readers that you won’t find anywhere else. Here are your options, and what you’d pay if you bought the same plan elsewhere:

These deals are only for our readers, but we aren’t sure how long they’ll be available, so go ahead and sign up while you can.

Best Home Deals

Amazon’s Gold Box is giving you the ultimate DIY bundle that would make any amateur hobbyist excited. The Silhouette Cameo 3 is a super powerful cutting machine and this bundle comes with everything you need to get your craft on, like Silhouette’s software, a sketch pen starter pack, a vinyl sampler pack, plus cutting blades.


It may be time for a new reader poll, because Cabeau just improved our readers’ favorite travel pillow, and the new model just got its first discount ever.

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The Cabeau Evolution S3 is the same shape, and made of the same memory foam material, as the standard Evolution. The only significant difference is the inclusion of two adjustable straps on the back that can hook into airplane seat headrests to keep the pillow (and thus, your noggin) in place as you drift off to sleep. You can even choose to position the pillow below the headrest (as pictured) to support your neck, or directly in front of it to surround your head.

The S3 is regularly priced at $40, the same as the standard Evolution, so there’s really no reason not to choose it, as far as I can see. Today’s $30 deal is also about as cheap as the old model ever gets, so I wouldn’t wait around for a better deal. Safe travels!


Little Giant ladders have some of the best reviews out there, and when it comes to ladders, you don’t want to be too stingy.

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These multi-use ladders can folded into a few different configurations to suit your needs, like A-frame, full-extension, or 90-degree, and then they’ll lay flat for storage. Plus, the two on sale today have strategically-placed wheels, so you can easily roll these around and save your back.

The 22′ ladder is $30 off, and the 17′ is $20 off. Head over to Amazon and grab these while they’re within reach.


Made by the company that started the viral “Will it Blend?” videos, this Blendtec blender has 1,560 watts and 3 horsepower of ice-crushing, fruit-pulverizing power.

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It has six programmed blending cycles for batters, ice creams, hot soups, and more. Today’s $180 price is down from the typical $300, making this new blender even cheaper than some refurbished models.


You know those “Magic Erasers” that can wipe stains off seemingly any surface? They’re really just melamine sponges with a marketing budget, and you can get 20 off-brand (but well-reviewed) equivalents for just $8 on Amazon (after clipping the $1 coupon), an all-time low. I used these after moving into a new apartment last year, and they made quick work of all of the scuffs I made on the walls.

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We’ve seen packs with more sponges for about the same price, but they usually ship from China, whereas these have Prime shipping, and are even eligible for Subscribe & Save. They’re also twice as thick as most of the inexpensive competitors on Amazon, so they should last longer and be easier to use.


Sheets & Giggles new bed sheets are made from eucalyptus trees instead of cotton, which is way better for the environment, and just as importantly, makes for really comfortable sheets. They’re already 10% off this month as a preorder special, but for a limited time, promo code GIZMODO will save you an extra 10% on top of that.

Want to know more? Check out our impressions over on The Inventory.


If you’ve ever been to a fancy cocktail bar, you’ve probably noticed drinks served with giant spheres of ice. If you want to recreate that experience at home, it’s surprisingly cheap and easy.

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This Vogek sphere mold is just $9 today with promo code 5GEAEK2L, and if you take pride in your drinks, it’s worth every penny.


The area under your bed is valuable storage space, and this soft-sided containerorganizes your linens to slide under your mattress. Obviously, there are plastic containers out there designed to do the same thing, but the zipper closure on this model is better at compressing linens if you stuff a lot in there, and its striped sides won’t look too utilitarian if you can see it from certain angles in your bedroom. Use promo code LRZLE6DC to get it for $13.


This Masterbuilt electric smoker makes cooking jerky, brisket, or (insert meat of your choice) as easy as dropping in some wood chips and hitting a few buttons to set your temperature. And at just $114, you’ll have a lot of money left over to buy meats.


If you do your own oil changes, or would like to start learning, Walmart has several five quart bottles of Penzoil synthetic on sale today, and you can stack those savings with a $10 rebate from Penzoil. The best part? You can do the rebate entirely online, no stamps or licking required. Just double check that the bottle you’re buying is included in the promotion, and that it’s eligible for the full $10; some oil varieties have smaller rebates than others.


The conventional wisdom about visiting southeast Asia is that it’s expensive to get there, but cheap once you arrive. But what if it was also cheap to get there?

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TripMasters (in partnership with Travelzoo) is offering nine night trips to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket starting at just $1,059, including airfare, hotels, and a flight between the cities. Prices vary by departure airport and date, but you do have a lot of flexibility here to choose your hotels and itinerary, including adding extra nights if you wish.


I have to say, I don’t think pressure washers ever crossed my mind as a market Anker might compete in, but here we are. Its 2100 PSI and 1.78 gallons per minute specs should be more than enough power to clean your car or driveway, and its 35′ power cable and 26′ hose mean you probably won’t even need an extension cord to go with it.


Anker’s home goods brand, Eufy, put its uber-popular copper string lights back on sale today for $10, one of the best prices we’ve seen on the version that includes a remote. If you don’t need the remote, you can get the same product without it for $5 with promo code EUFY0816. Personally, I’d spend the extra $5 for the remote, but you do you. Go make your patio pretty!


Reusable silicone bags are great for packing lunches, freezing foods, and yes, even for sous-vide, all while being way greener than disposable sandwich and freezer bags. Today on Amazon, get a four pack of microwavable, dishwasher safe bags for just $18 with promo code 20KINJADEALS.

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Its regular $200 price tag is about what you’d expect with those specs, the current $150 list price is a really good deal, and promo code ANKERXLF makes it even more enticing at $120.

Best Lifestyle Deals

Update: Last day!

Why buy off the rack when custom tailored suits are so affordable, not to mention so fun to design? From now until Saturday at midnight, you can look your best with a custom suit from Indochino, our readers’ favorite custom clothing company by a wide margin. For a limited time, grab any suit from this page for just $299 with promo code KINJA18. That deal is exclusive to our readers, and it’s a match for the best price we’ve ever seen on Indochino suits.

For more info on this deal, click here.


A first aid kit is one of those things you should probably keep in your glove box, and you should definitely have at home, and at $13 for 299 pieces, there’s no excuse not to be prepared for minor accidents.

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It includes bandages, gauze, medicines, an instant cold pack, and more, all tucked away in a refillable soft pack. You can thank us later.


David Archy might not be a household name yet, but they sell some of the most popular underwear and clothing basics on Amazon, and a whole bunch of it is on sale today.

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You’ll find several different cuts here to fit your style, many in your choice of either soft and warm bamboo fiber, or light and airy micro modal. I own a few of both, and they’re absolutely terrific, especially at these prices. At this time of year, my pick of the bunch would be the micro modal boxer briefs, which are a steal at under $8 per pair.


Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost water gel sunscreen is a pretty good facsimile of Biore’s cult favorite (and personally life changing) Watery Essence sunscreen, with one notable difference: It’s actually sold in the U.S.

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You can read more about the water-based sunscreens in my recent review, but spoiler alert: They completely changed my perceptions about what sunscreen can be. Amazon’s currently offering a $3 coupon on three-packs of Neutrogena’s version today, in both SPF 50 and SPF 30. It’s still fairly expensive as sunscreen goes, but once you try it, you’ll never buy anything else.


You don’t need any accessories to do push-ups, that’s sort of the point. But nevertheless! The freely-rotating Perfect Pushup system reduces stress on joints and works out some extra muscle groups, so you’ll get the most out of your workout. At $20, they’ve never been cheaper.


Stio makes some of the best technical apparel in the game, and as it should since it’s based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Right now, you can get 20% off all their spring/summer collection with the code KINJA20, or if you’re eyeing something in the sale section, use the code KINJASALE10 and pick up an extra 10% off.


There’s no better time to give Urban Outfitters a second look than when they make all of their Out from Under bras and bralettes $16. Just add your favorites to your cart and watch the extra discounts at checkout.


The Timbuk2 Copilot is already one of your favorite roller carry-on bags, so why not pick one up for just $135, one of the best prices we’ve seen. You’ll be set with how to stuff as many clothes into a carry-on as possible.


Best Media Deals

You could download The Zodiac Killer on your Kindle for free today, but why would you when you already know that the killer was Ted Cruz all along?


If you’re going to buy your textbooks on Amazon anyway this year, be sure to use promo code TEXT10 at checkout to save 10% on any $100 textbook order (shipped and sold by Amazon.com), up to a maximum $50 discount. That might not seem like much, but for a semester’s worth of books, 10% savings could buy a whole lot of ramen and Natty Ice.

Terms and conditions here.

Best Gaming Deals

Everything you need to host a great poker night (except for snacks, drinks, and suckers) is only $37 today. That gets you 500 casino-quality clay chips, two decks of cards, and dealer and blind buttons, all in a heavy-duty case.


If you’ve got the space for it, this foosball table is only $111 at Walmart today, about $25 less than it costs at Amazon. It’s coming home!


This LEGO Darth Vader is very much not a traditional minifig. In fact, he’s over a foot tall, and made up of 168 pieces. $22 is an all-time low and $10 less than usual, so grab yours before Amazon alters the deal.


While most well-made USB-C chargers can charge a Nintendo Switch in portable mode, AmazonBasics made an AC charger that can run the dock as well, and it’s just $17 right now, or $12 less than Nintendo’s.

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It has the exact same 39W output as Nintendo’s first party charger, plus “short-circuit protection, over-temperature protection, and over-voltage protection to protect your device.” Perhaps most notably, its cord is about a foot longer than Nintendo’s, so it should give you a little extra flexibility when setting up your dock or playing in bed.


If you like Monument Valley, and you like Nintendo, you should grab Captain Toad Treasure Tracker for the Switch. Unlike most first party Nintendo games, this one’s only priced at $40 MSRP, which is a steal on its own, but it’s down to just $35 today on Amazon.


If not just any old desk will do for your gaming battle station, this sleek, steel frame gaming desk from AKRacing is on sale for $200 today on MassDrop, in four different colors. In terms of features, there’s not much to speak of here other than cut outs on the front (so you can scoot closer) and the back (for cable management), but there’s no denying that it looks cool.


With Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft basically created the Netflix of video games, and it’s a great deal at its usual $10 per month. But for a limited time, you can get a three bonus months when you buy a six month membership for $60. Xbox Game Pass grants you access to new releases like State of Decay 2 and Sea of Thieves, as well as classics like KOTOR and all of the Gear of War games. Even Fallout 4 is included now!

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Just make sure you see the bonus months in the “special offers and product promotions” section of the product page.


If you have any notable holes in your Nintendo Switch game library, you can fill them today with rare discounts on first party Nintendo games. Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Mario Tennis Aces are all marked down to $45.


$8 is cheaper than a lot of standard sized mouse pads, but today, that gets you a massive 2.5′ x 1′ model that can accommodate your keyboard as well. So luxurious! Just be sure to use promo code 8Q7ZVFQZ at checkout to save a couple bucks.


With few exceptions, Nintendo Switch console discounts aren’t really a thing. Today, though, you can save up to $40 by bundling Nintendo’s latest and greatest console with the Nintendo Labo kit of your choice.

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You can choose either the $70 Labo variety kit or the $80 robot kit to bundle with your Switch, but you’ll pay the same $339 either way. If you need help deciding, check out Kotaku’s review.


The Commodore 64 Mini finally comes out this October, and while shortages aren’t guaranteed like they would be for, say, a new Nintendo Classic mini console, it never hurts to preorder.

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The half-sized scale model C64 Mini includes 64 games onboard, with the ability to add your own as well. Lock in your order now for $80, then drop your favorite C64 game suggestions in the comments below.


When these 3/4-sized Arcade1Up arcade cabinets first went on preorder for $299, we thought it was a mistake, since they were supposed to cost $399. At this point though, it seems clear that $299 is in fact what they now cost, but inventory is still limited, since they were out of stock for awhile.

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Anyway, they’re all back now, and they’re still $299, so if you want one, now’s your chance.


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This week's new PC hardware: Nvidia Turing GPU, AMD Threadripper 2990WX, and big power in tiny laptops

Fresh gear comes fast and furious in the wide-open world of PC hardware—so quickly that even computing faithful like us can’t possibly cover it all. But nobody wants to miss out on an interesting launch! So welcome to “This week’s new PC hardware,” our weekly roundup dedicated to keeping you informed of the most intriguing, important PCs, PC components, and peripherals announced over the past seven days.

This week was a doozy. We finally got our hands on the first-ever 32-core consumer processor, Nvidia revealed its next-gen GPU with some radical changes inside, and even Intel’s diminutive NUC mini-PCs unveiled some notable firsts. All sorts of new laptops and PC components were announced, too. Let’s go!

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How to make sure you're getting the internet speeds you pay for

Now that you know why you want fast internet, it’s time to make sure you’re actually getting the sort of speeds that your provider promises.

If you’re paying $70 a month for a plan that promises up to 250 Mbps, but you’re actually only getting 60 Mbps (a plan that might normally cost $40 a month), then you should call your cable company and ask for a discount or to fix your connection speed. Often, they can resync with your cable modem to make sure the speeds are faster.

Here’s how to check your home internet speed:

  • Connect to your home Wi-Fi network on a computer.
  • Open your web browser.
  • Navigate to www.speedtest.net.
  • Tap “Go.”

Speedtest.net will show you your download and upload speeds. Sometimes you might be a little below or a little above what you pay for. That’s fine, but you don’t want the results to be drastically below the speed you’re supposed to be paying for. Internet speeds can fluctuate throughout the day, so do multiple tests to see what your connection speed averages out to.

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Google needs to apologize for violating the trust of its users once again (GOOG, GOOGL)

  • An Associated Press investigation recently discovered that Google still collects its users’ location data even if they have their Location History turned off.
  • After the report was published, Google quietly updated its help page to describe how location settings work.
  • Previously, the page said “with Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”
  • Now, the page says, “This setting does not affect other location services on your device,” adding that “some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps.”
  • The quiet changing of false information is a major violation of users’ trust.
  • Google needs to do better.

Google this week acknowledged that it quietly tracks its users’ locations, even if those people turn off their Location History — a clarification that came in the wake of an Associated Press investigation.

It’s a major violation of users’ trust.

And yet, nothing is going to happen as a result of this episode. 

It’s happened before

Google has a history of bending the rules:

  • In 2010, Google’s Street View cars were caught eavesdropping on people’s Wi-Fi connections.
  • In 2011, Google agreed to forfeit $500 million after a criminal investigation by the Justice Department found that Google illegally allowed advertisements from online Canadian pharmacies to sell their products in the US.
  • In 2012, Google circumvented the no-cookies policy on Apple’s Safari web browser and paid a $22.5 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission as a result.

Ultimately, Google came out of all of these incidents just fine. It paid some money here and there, and sat in a few courtrooms, but nothing really happened to the company’s bottom line. People continued using Google’s services.

Other companies have done it too

Remember Cambridge Analytica?

Five months ago in March, a 28-year-old named Christopher Wylie blew the whistle on his employer, the data-analytics company, Cambridge Analytica, at which he served as a director of research. 

It was later revealed that Cambridge Analytica had collected the data of over 87 million Facebook users in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election in favor of the Republican candidate, Donald Trump. 

One month later, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was summoned in front of Congress to answer questions related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal over a two-day span.

mark zuckerberg congress facebook awkwardFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, takes a drink of water while testifying before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 10, 2018, about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election.AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Many users felt like their trust was violated. A hashtag movement called “#DeleteFacebook” was born. 

And yet, nothing has really changed at Facebook since that scandal, which similarly involved the improper collection of user data, and the violation of users’ trust.

Facebook seems to be doing just fine. During its Q2 earnings report in late July, Facebook reported over $13 billion in revenue — a 42% jump year-over-year — and an 11% increase in both daily and monthly active users.

In short, Facebook is not going anywhere. And neither is Google.

Too big — and too good — to fail

Just like Facebook has no equal among the hundreds of other social networks out there, the same goes for Google and competing search engines.

According to StatCounter, Google has a whopping 90% share of the global search engine market.

The next biggest search engine in the world is Microsoft’s Bing, which has a paltry 3% market share.

In other words, a cataclysmic event would have to occur for people to switch search engines. Or, another search engine would have to come along and completely unseat Google.

But that’s probably not going to happen.

GoogleUladzik Kryhin/Shutterstock

For almost 20 years now, Google dominated the search engine game. Its other services have become similarly prevalent: Gmail, and Google Docs, have all become integral parts of people’s personal and work lives. Of course, there are similar mail and productivity services out there, but using Google is far more convenient, since most people use more than one Google product, and having all of your applications talk to each other and share information is mighty convenient.

This isn’t meant to cry foul: Google is one of the top software makers in the world, but it has earned that status by constantly improving and iterating on its products, and even itself, over the past two decades. But one does wonder what event, if any, could possibly make people quit a service as big and convenient and powerful as Google once and for all.

The fact is: That probably won’t happen. People likely won’t quit Google’s services, unless there’s some major degradation of quality. But Google, as a leader in Silicon Valley, should strive to do better for its customers. Intentional or not, misleading customers about location data is a bad thing. Google failed its customers: It let users think they had more control when they did, and they only corrected their language about location data after a third-party investigation. But there was no public acknowledgement of an error, and no mea culpa.

Google owes its users a true apology. Quietly updating an online help page isn’t good enough.

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