The Garmin DriveSmart 61 GPS is $65.99 off at Amazon

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Got a dad who detests using a smartphone for everything? A Garmin GPS will make a great Father's Day gift.
Got a dad who detests using a smartphone for everything? A Garmin GPS will make a great Father’s Day gift.
Image: garmin/pexels

Google Maps (or Apple Maps — we’re not getting into that argument right now) are fine for finding the quickest way to get to a dinner reservation, but car GPS devices are still best for journeys with more riding on them. (Just ask the New York Times.)

True, the ones with good reviews are few and far between, but they exist. The Garmin DriveSmart 61 GPS Navigator is one of the rare models to have four out of five stars on Amazon, and it’s on sale for $65.99 off. It’s still full price ($249.99) at Garmin.com.

For those road trips or drives to the airport where you cannot afford to get lost, the rechargeable Garmin DriveSmart 61 GPS Navigator can be the directions companion you need. Aside from constantly-updating Lifetime maps, the Drivesmart 61 offers real-time services like live traffic and parking updates, TripAdvisor, and Bluetooth calls. Just sync it with the app on your phone.

Its touchscreen actually responds to your finger and it works with voice commands for hands-free use. For a device under seven inches, the 1024 x 600 display is seriously nice.

Regularly $249.99, you can save $65.99 and get it for $184.

Image: garmin

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Huawei losing ARM could ruin its plans to become top phone maker in the world

Huawei's P30 and P30 Pro have arguably the best cameras on any smartphone.
Huawei’s P30 and P30 Pro have arguably the best cameras on any smartphone.
Image: raymond wong / mashable

Huawei can’t seem to catch a break.

Following Google’s recent Android ban and Qualcomm and Intel cutting ties with the Chinese company, more popular tech giants are following suit. Now, UK-based chip designer ARM has also suspended business with Huawei.

Simply put: This is yet another major blow to Huawei that could really hamper the company’s ability to produce future smartphones.

Here’s what we know from earlier this week: Without a proper Android license, Huawei won’t be able to release new phones with the Google Play Store and Google services outside of China. 

This would essentially make new Huawei phones useless in pretty much all of the Western world, where Google’s app store and its services are all but impossible to replace on Android. 

The only competitive alternative for consumers would be to use an Android phone made by a different company (i.e. Samsung or OnePlus) that’s not affected by the U.S. trade ban or jump ship to the iPhone.

It’s worth noting that the Trump administration has eased its ban on Huawei with a 90-day exemption period where the Chinese company can still continue to send software updates to existing device users, but it’s only temporary relief.

Long-term, unless the U.S. and China patch things up, Huawei might have to switch to its own operating system if it’s no longer allowed to use Android. However, the challenge of that would be convincing developers to port their apps over to a new OS.

Switching software away from Android is one thing and it wouldn’t be something that happens overnight, but ARM suspending business with Huawei is arguably a more serious problem for its smartphone business.

Without ARM, Huawei’s own Kirin mobile chips, which are based on the UK chip company’s designs, would effectively be stalled. As the BBC notes, even though Huawei’s mobile chips are produced in China, the underlying technology is “created by ARM.”

The unfortunate reality is that almost all mobile processors are based on ARM’s chip technologies, even Apple’s custom A-series chips found in its iOS devices. 

Even if Huawei manages to switch from U.S. component suppliers to, say, Asian ones for parts like the Corning Gorilla Glass or cellular modems, it’s practically impossible to build a competitive smartphone without a chip that uses ARM tech. Without a chip or “brain,” there is no phone and without new phones, Huawei’s dreams to overtake Samsung as the world’s largest smartphone maker would be dashed, not to mention take a huge chunk out of its revenue.

There are a few ways Huawei could get out of this mess: 1) the U.S. and China come to a trade agreement and everything goes back to normal and the Chinese company’s partners start working with it again 2) Huawei switches all of its component suppliers to non-U.S. ones or 3) Huawei becomes entirely independent and designs and manufactures all of its technologies on its own. The latter would be the most difficult and take years to accomplish and who knows if the effort would be worth it.

If something doesn’t happen soon, the company’s phone business could be set back for years.

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Now even the U.N. is worried about sexism in voice assistants

Please, let this man explain!
Please, let this man explain!
Image: Sergii Kharchenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The U.N. is not here for Siri’s sexist jokes.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has published an in-depth report about how women, girls, and the world as a whole, lose when technical education and the tech sector exclude women. 

Within the report is a razor-sharp section about the phenomenon of gendered A.I. voice assistants, like Siri or Alexa. The whole report is titled “I’d blush if I could,” a reference to the almost flirtatious response Siri would give a user if they said, “Hey Siri, you’re a bitch.” (Apple changed the voice response in April 2019).

“Siri’s ‘female’ obsequiousness – and the servility expressed by so many other digital assistants projected as young women – provides a powerful illustration of gender biases coded into technology products, pervasive in the technology sector and apparent in digital skills education,” the report reads.

The report is thorough and wide-ranging in its purpose of arguing for promoting women’s educational and professional development in tech. That makes the fact that it seizes on voice assistants as an illustration of this gargantuan problem all the more impactful.

The report analyzes inherent gender bias in voice assistants for two purposes: to demonstrate how unequal workplaces can produce sexist products, and how sexist products can perpetuate dangerous, misogynistic behaviors. 

“The limited participation of women and girls in the technology sector can ripple outward with surprising speed, replicating existing gender biases and creating new ones,” the report reads. 

Many news outlets, including Mashable, have reported on how AI can take on the prejudices of its makers. Others have decried the sexism inherent in default-female voice assistants, compounded when these A.I.s demure when a user sends abusive language “her” way. 

Now, even the U.N. is coming for sexism in artificial intelligence— showing that there’s nothing cute about Siri or Cortana’s appeasing remarks.

It’s startling to comprehend the sexism coded into these A.I. responses to goads from users. It’s almost as if the A.I. takes on the stance of a woman who walks the tightrope of neither rebuking, nor accepting, the unwanted advances or hostile language of someone who has power over “her.”

Coy A.I. responses to abusive language are illustrative of the problem of sexism in A.I., but the report takes issue with the larger default of voice assistants as female, as well. The report details how these decisions to make voice assistants female were wholly intentional, and determined by mostly male engineering teams. These product decisions, however, have troublesome consequences when it comes to perpetuating misogynistic gender norms. 

“Because the speech of most voice assistants is female, it sends a signal that women are obliging, docile and eager-to-please helpers, available at the touch of a button or with a blunt voice command,” the report reads. “The assistant holds no power of agency beyond what the commander asks of it. It honours commands and responds to queries regardless of their tone or hostility. In many communities, this reinforces commonly held gender biases that women are subservient and tolerant of poor treatment.”

For these reasons, the report argues that it is crucial to include women in the development process of A.I. It’s not enough, the report says, for male engineering team to address their biases — for many biases are unconscious. 

If we want our world — that will increasingly be run by A.I. — to be an equal one, women have to have an equal hand in building it.

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Carrie Fisher will share scenes with her daughter in 'Rise of Skywalker'

General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) shares a tender moment with Rey (Daisy Ridley) in 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.'
General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) shares a tender moment with Rey (Daisy Ridley) in ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.’
Image: Lucasfilm Ltd./disney

Carrie Fisher will live forever as Leia Organa, but her Star Wars sendoff in The Rise of Skywalker will include scenes with a very special costar: her daughter, Billie Lourd.

After Fisher’s sudden passing in 2016, Skywalker director J.J. Abrams and the teams at Disney and Lucasfilm elected not to digitally add Leia to Episode IX, but to see what story they could piece together from unused footage of 2015’s The Force Awakens.

Abrams told Vanity Fair that the process of writing around existing footage was like “figuring out how to create the puzzle based on the pieces we had.” It was a new exercise in filmmaking, but also similar to the reshoots that occur regularly on feature films.

He originally wrote the scenes independent of Lourd’s character, Lieutenant Connix, but Fisher’s 26-year-old daughter insisted on the opposite.

“I purposely had written her character in scenes without Carrie, because I just didn’t want it to be uncomfortable for her,” Abrams told VF. But, he says, Lourd told him, “I want to be in scenes with her. I want it for my children when I have kids. I want them to see.”

Abrams said Lourd had definite emotional moments during filming, that she would sometimes excuse herself temporarily and return. Lourd lost her mother, Fisher, and her grandmother Debbie Reynolds, within roughly a day of each other in 2016.

“There is an element of the uncanny, spiritual, you know,” Abrams said of Fisher’s scenes and ubiquitous presence, especially with the magical lore of the Star War universe. “Classic Carrie, that it would have happened this way, because somehow it worked. And I never thought it would.”

You can read Vanity Fair‘s full, extensive Star Wars story here. The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters Dec. 20.

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'The Nightingale' trailer presents the next story from 'The Babadook' director

In 2014, writer and director Jennifer Kent terrified audiences with a tale of childhood terror in The Babadook. Now, Kent is back with The Nightingale and she’s aiming for a different piece of the emotional spectrum.

The movie is described as “a meditation on the consequences of violence and the price of seeking vengeance.” In the trailer, we see star Aisling Franciosi letting her baser instincts take over after colonizing British soldiers in 1825 Australia do something terrible — the specifics aren’t clear — to her family.

If The Babadook is any indication, there’s much more going on beneath the surface of what we see here — an apparent revenge story set against the backdrop of a bloody moment in history. The Nightingale is set to have a limited release in early August with a wider release to follow shortly thereafter.

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