NASA Selects Blue Origin as Second HLS Contractor, Google’s Inactive Account Policies Update, Apple Introduces New Accessibility Features: Weekly Tech Roundup

Welcome to this week’s news roundup, where we bring you the latest updates on the Activision acquisition, Amazon’s hardware event, advancements in space exploration, changes in Google’s inactive account policies, and Apple’s new accessibility features. These stories highlight the dynamic landscape of technology and its impact on various industries. Don’t forget to check out our “Interesting Thing of the Week” and other noteworthy news in our “Other News” section. ^587913

Activision Acquisition Update

This week marked a significant milestone for Microsoft as it received approval from two more key authorities for its acquisition of Activision. The first among them was China, a crucial market for the gaming industry, emphasizing the global impact of this deal. The second authority to greenlight the acquisition was the European Union (EU), further solidifying Microsoft’s position in the European gaming market. These approvals signify an important step forward in the completion of the acquisition and highlight Microsoft’s commitment to expanding its presence in the gaming industry on a global scale.

Amazon Hardware Event

Amazon made a significant announcement on Monday, unveiling an update to its Echo lineup. The company introduced four new Echo devices that offer improved accessibility to Alexa at home and on the go, all at affordable price points. The devices include the Echo Pop, a compact smart speaker priced at $39.99, featuring a front-facing directional speaker and a built-in stand. Notably, the Echo Pop also supports Eero Built-in, extending Wi-Fi coverage by up to 1,000 square feet. Amazon also introduced the next-generation Echo Show 5, which comes with a rearchitected speaker system for enhanced audio quality. Additionally, the Echo Show 5 Kids was revealed, featuring a space-themed design and kid-friendly Alexa responses. Lastly, the all-new Echo Buds were announced, offering wireless earbuds with high-quality audio and hands-free access to Alexa. These latest additions provide customers with a wider range of options to enjoy Alexa’s capabilities.

Space News

Kathy Lueders joins SpaceX

On Monday, it was reported by CNBC’s Michael Sheetz that Kathy Lueders, who had a long tenure at NASA, has joined SpaceX. Lueders had left her position as the Associate Administrator of the Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA at the beginning of May. Now, she has taken on the role of General Manager operating in Starbase within SpaceX. This move highlights Lueders’ extensive experience in the space industry and demonstrates SpaceX’s commitment to assembling a highly skilled team.

NASA selects 2nd HLS contractor

In a significant announcement made on Friday, NASA revealed its selection of Blue Origin as the second Human Landing System (HLS) contractor. Blue Origin will play a crucial role in the upcoming Artemis III and IV lunar landing missions. The contract awarded to Blue Origin is worth a substantial $3.4 billion. This decision showcases NASA’s dedication to fostering competition and collaboration within the space industry as it pursues its ambitious goals of lunar exploration. The selection of Blue Origin as an HLS contractor reflects their technical capabilities and their alignment with NASA’s mission to return humans to the Moon.

Google’s new inactive account policies

On Tuesday, Google announced an update to its inactivity policy for Google Accounts, focusing on user safety and security. If a Google Account remains unused or unaccessed for 2 years, the account and its contents, including Google Workspace and Google Photos, may be deleted. The policy applies to personal accounts and aims to align with industry standards on retention and account deletion. Account deletion will begin in December 2023 for accounts created but never used. Google advises users to sign in at least once every 2 years to keep their accounts active. Notifications will be sent before deletion, and accounts with YouTube videos or subscriptions will not be impacted. Google offers tools like Takeout and Inactive Account Manager for data backup and management. The policy reinforces Google’s commitment to account security and privacy.

Apple’s new accessibility features

Apple announced on Monday a range of new accessibility features aimed at enhancing user experiences. These include Live Speech, enabling users on iPhone, iPad, and Mac to type their messages and have them spoken aloud during phone and FaceTime calls as well as in-person conversations. Another notable addition is Personal Voice, which uses voice samples to synthesize a user’s own voice after recording 15 minutes of audio. On-device machine learning ensures privacy and security, seamlessly integrating with Live Speech. Additionally, Point and Speak in Magnifier facilitates interaction for individuals with vision disabilities, combining camera input, LiDAR Scanner, and on-device machine learning to announce text on physical objects. The Assistive Access feature simplifies apps and experiences, offering tailored interfaces, high contrast buttons, large text labels, and tools for customization. These new accessibility features underline Apple’s commitment to inclusivity and improving accessibility for all users.

Other News

In other news, Tesla is buying ads for the first time, marking a significant shift in their marketing strategy. Zoom is set to add Anthropic Chatbot functionality to its platform, enhancing user interactions and communication. 1Password is gearing up to launch Passkey support in June, providing users with a convenient and secure password management solution. The departure of the founder of Ring from Amazon has caught attention, as the individual is poised to become Latch’s CEO after selling a stealth startup to the company. Samsung has decided to stick with Google as its default mobile search engine, reinforcing their existing partnership. Google Pixel phone users will soon enjoy a new dashcam feature, further expanding the capabilities of their devices.

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