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Apple’s HomePod will soon support Dolby Atmos with the Apple TV 4K

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Apple’s HomePod is getting a lot more useful as a home cinema speaker for Apple TV 4K owners. Apple has confirmed to The Verge that an upcoming software update will let the speaker output Dolby Atmos audio as well as 5.1 and 7.1 channel audio from Apple’s streaming box. The feature will work best when you have two HomePod speakers paired up, but also works with just one. The new $99 HomePod mini, though, will not support the new home cinema functionality.

Dolby Atmos support arrives as Apple is overhauling how the HomePod works with its streaming box. For starters, tvOS 14.2 beta 3 Apple now allows Apple TV 4K owners to set the HomePod as their streaming box’s default speaker output, according to 9to5Mac, meaning it shouldn’t constantly force users to re-select it as their audio output as it previously did when connected over AirPlay 2.

Apple’s site confirms the home cinema features are exclusive to the HomePod.
Screenshot: Apple.com

The HomePod is also getting new surround sound functionality, using its spatial awareness features to offer virtual surround sound audio. As noted on Apple’s website, the “home cinema with Apple TV 4K” feature is only supported by the more expensive HomePod since the $99 HomePod mini lacks its spatial awareness or beam-forming technologies. The HomePod mini can still be used with the Apple TV 4K using AirPlay 2, however.

Apple’s forthcoming update means the HomePod will catch up to the Amazon Studio, which has been able to provide Dolby Atmos audio for Fire TV streaming devices since its release last year. If Amazon’s implementation of the feature is anything to go by, however, then HomePod and Apple TV 4K owners could be in for a treat. When my colleague Dan Seifert tried out the feature last year he found that Amazon’s speaker offered sound quality that was comparable to a larger and more expensive Dolby Atmos soundbar.

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Upgrade Your PC Gaming Setup Today With a New Respawn Desk ($63 Off) And Gigabyte G27F Monitor ($40 Off)

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Respawn 1010 Gaming Desk in Red | $150 | Newegg

Gigabyte G27F 27-in. Gaming Monitor | $210 | Newegg | Promo code 93XPW42

This Gigabyte G27F 27-inch gaming monitor has a 144Hz refresh rate and a 1 millisecond response time, as well as a 1920 x 1080 IPS display. You can get it for $40 off, bringing it down to $210, when you apply promo code 93XPW42 at checkout.

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Why not grab a new Respawn 1010 gaming desk to put your spanking new monitor on? It’s $63 off and can also be found on Newegg. Both of these deals are good for today only, and they also both ship for free.

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The US now seems to be pinning all of its hopes on COVID-19 therapies and vaccines

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Almost eight months after the White House first announced it would move from containment to mitigation efforts to stop the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Administration is now pinning its hopes on vaccines to inoculate the population and therapies to treat the disease.

Months after announcing it would be working with technology giants Apple and Google on a contact tracing app (and nearly two months after Google and Apple rolled out their exposure notification features) and initiating wide spread testing efforts nationwide with the largest national pharmacies (which never received the coordinated support it needed),  the Administration appears to be giving up on a national effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic.

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that the US is “not going to control the pandemic… We are gonna control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation.”

The admission is a final nail in the coffin for a federal response that could have involved a return to lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus, or national testing and contact tracing and other mitigation measures. Meadows statement comes as the US experiences a second peak in infection rates. There are now over 8.1 million cases and over 220,000 deaths since the first confirmed infection on US soil on January 20. 

Now, the focus is all on the vaccines, therapies and treatments being developed by large pharma companies and startups alike that are making their way through the approval processes of regulatory agencies around the world.

The vaccines in phase three clinical trials

There are currently 12 vaccines in large scale, late-stage clinical trials around the world, including ones from American companies Novavax, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna Therapeutics, and Pfizer who are recruiting tens of thousands of people in the US and UK to volunteer for testing.

In China, the state run pharmaceutical company Sinopharm has filed its application to China’s regulatory commission for the approval of a vaccine and hundreds of thousands of civilians have already been vaccinated under emergency use approvals from the Chinese government, according to a report in the New Yorker. Meanwhile the privately held Chinese pharmaceutical company, Sinovac, is moving forward with phase three trials for its own vaccine in Brazil, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Another private Chinese company, CanSino Biologics developed a vaccine that was already being distributed to members of the Chinese military in late July,

A collaboration in the U.K. between the University of Oxford and European pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is also recruiting volunteers in Brazil, India, the United Kingdom, the US and South Africa. And, in Australia, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute is trying to see whether a vaccine used to prevent tuberculosis could be used to vaccinate against the coronavirus.

Finally in Russia, the Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in partnership with the state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund have claimed to have developed a vaccine that the country has registered as the first one on the market cleared for widespread use. Russia has not published any data from the clinical trials it claims to have conducted to prove the efficacy of the vaccine and the World Health Organization still considers the treatment to be in the first phase of development.

Therapies in phase three clinical trials

If vaccines can prevent against infection, a slew of companies are also working on ways to limit the severity of the disease should someone become infected with Sars-Cov-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The Milken Institute lists 41 different therapies that have made it through to phase three of their clinical trials (the last phase before approval for widespread delivery).

These therapies come in one of five primary categories: antibody therapies, antivirals, cell-based therapies, RNA-based treatments, and repurposing existing treatments that may be in pharmaceutical purgatory.

Antibody therapies use the body’s natural defense systems either taken from the blood of people who have recovered from an infection or manufactured in a lab to neutralize the spread of a virus or bacteria. Antivirals, by contrast, stop a virus from spreading by attacking the viruses’ ability to replicate. Cell-based therapies are designed to boost the immune system’s ability to fight pathogens like viruses or bacteria. Meanwhile RNA-based treatments are another method to stop the virus from replicating by blocking the construction of viral proteins. Finally, several companies are mining their libraries of old drug compounds to see if any might be candidates for COVID-19 treatments.

So far, only three therapeutics have been approved to treat COVID-19. In the U.K. and Japan dexamethasone has received approvals, while favilavir is being used in China, Italy and Russia; and — famously thanks to its use by the President — remdesivir has been approved in the United States, Japan and Australia.

The US is also using convalescent plasma to treat hospitalized patients under emergency use authorizations. And special cases, like the President’s, have had access to other experimental treatments like Regeneron’s cell therapy under emergency use authorizations.

And there are several US-based startups developing potential COVID-19 therapies in each of these areas.

Adaptive Biotechnologies, Cytovia Therapeutics, and SAB Biotherapeutics are all developing antibody treatments. Applied Therapeutics is using an understanding of existing compounds to develop treatments for specific conditions associated with COVID-19. Cellularity has a cell-therapy that could reduce a patient’s viral load by stimulating so-called natural killer cells to attack infected cells. Humanigen has developed a new drug that could reduce fatalities in high-risk COVID-19 patients with severe pneumonia. Meanwhile Partner Therapeutics is working on a drug that could improve lung function in COVID-19 patients — and potentially boost antibody production against the virus and restore damaged lung cells. Finally, Sarepta Therapeutics has been working with the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases to find ways for its RNA-based treatment to stop the spread of coronaviruses by attacking the ability for the virus to replicate.

Beyond therapies, startups are finding other ways to play a role in helping the nation address the COVID-19 epidemic.

“At this point the U.S. doesn’t have the best public health system, but at the same time we have best-in-class private companies who can sometimes operate a lot more efficiently than governments can,” Carbon Health chief executive Eran Bali told the audience at TechCrunch’s Disrupt 2020 conference. “We also just recently launched a program to help COVID-positive patients get back to health quickly, a rehabilitation program. Because as you know even if you survive it doesn’t mean your body was not affected, there are permanent effects.”

Indeed the drive for more effective at-home tests and remote treatments for consumers are arguably more important when the federal government refuses to make the prevention of viral spread a priority, because consumers may voluntarily lock down if the government won’t.

“This is an opportunity to take a technology that naturally is all about detecting viruses — that’s what CRISPR does in [its native environment] bacteria — and repurposing it to use it as a rapid diagnostic for coronavirus,” said the Nobel Prize-winning co-inventor of some foundational CRISPR gene-editing technology, Jennifer Doudna. “We’re finding in the laboratory that that means that you can get a signal faster, and you can also get a signal that is more directly correlated to the level of the virus.”

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New Trailers: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Prom, News of the World, and more

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So in between catching up with episodes of Grace and Frankie and watching the presidential debate, I tried to watch the new Netflix version of Rebecca, which is exactly the kind of flick I am usually 100 percent here for. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t able to really get into it, but I think Josh Rivera’s review really nails it: it’s kind of a boring take on the story.

It’s a beautiful-looking movie, but idk, none of the characters — except maybe Kristen Scott Thomas’s Mrs. Danvers— has much depth. I’m about three-quarters of the way through it and still waiting to feel the sense of dread I did reading the novel. Maybe the final act will bring it home?

In any event, there are a lot of great new trailers to check out this week, so I’ll have something new to watch soon.

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Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Viola Davis stars in this adaptation of August Wilson’s 1984 play, which tells the story of real-life blues singer Ma Rainey. Davis won Best Supporting Actress for her role in Fences, also based on an August Wilson play, and the buzz is strong that she may bring home an Oscar for this role as well. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom also stars the late Chadwick Boseman as Levee, another performance generating a lot of Oscar talk. It hits theaters and Netflix December 18th.

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The Prom

Based on the Broadway play of the same name, The Prom has an absolutely ridiculous all-star cast that includes Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, and Keegan Michael Key. A teenager in Indiana is banned from attending the prom with her girlfriend, then a group of Broadway stars takes up her cause, partly to help their sluggish careers. It has feel-good musical written all over it (and that’s OK! We could use a little feel-good right about now). Directed by Ryan Murphy, The Prom hits Netflix December 11th.

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Wander Darkly

After a harrowing car accident, a woman is stuck in a dream-like limbo trying to figure out how to move forward with her life by confronting the problems in her marriage. Siena Miller and Diego Luna star in Wander Darkly, which debuts on demand December 11th.

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News of the World

Five years after the Civil War, a widower and war veteran goes from town to town telling people the news. He meets a young girl on the run and tries to help her reach her family safely. Think Aliens (but Ripley is a guy and it’s not in space), or True Grit but with a more kindly father figure. Tom Hanks stars as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd in News of the World, directed by Paul Greengrass. It’s slated to hit theaters on Christmas.

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Dash & Lily

Brace yourselves: Since it’s nearly the end of October the movies coming up include less horror/scary and are edging toward… the h o l i d a y s! I have a dear friend who loves Hallmark Christmas movies and this time of year I sometimes have to mute his Twitter feed because he’s so fricking JOYFUL. But, Dash & Lily looks cute enough to be worth enduring the Christmas music on the soundtrack. Based on the young adult series Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, it’s the story of two young people who exchange notes with each other in a shared diary— an epistolary romance, if you want to really nail down the genre. Dash & Lily arrives on Netflix November 10th.

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