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Google Assistant comes to gaze-powered accessible devices

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People who rely on gaze-tracking to interact with their devices on an everyday basis now have a powerful new tool in their arsenal: Google Assistant. Substituting gaze for its original voice-based interface, the Assistant’s multiple integrations and communication tools should improve the capabilities of the Tobii Dynavox devices it now works on.

Assistant will now be possible to add as a tile on Tobii’s eye-tracking tablets and mobile apps, which present a large customizable grid of commonly used items that the user can look at to activate. It acts as an intermediary with a large collection of other software and hardware interfaces that Google supports.

For instance smart home appliances — which can be incredibly useful for people with certain disabilities — may not have an easily accessible interface for the gaze-tracking device, necessitating other means or perhaps limiting what actions a user can take. Google Assistant works with tons of that stuff out of the box.

“Being able to control the things around you and ‘the world’ is central to many of our users,” said Tobii Dynavox’s CEO, Fredrik Ruben. “The Google assistant ecosystem provides almost endless possibilities – and provides a lot of normalcy to our community of users.”

Users will be able to set up Assistant tiles for commands or apps, and automate inquiries like “what’s on my calendar today?” The setup process just requires a Google account, and then the gaze-tracking device (in this case Tobii Dynavox’s mystifyingly named Snap Core First app) has to be added to the Google Home app as a smart speaker/display. Then Assistant tiles can be added to the interface and customized with whatever commands would ordinarily be spoken.

Tobii and Google interface for adding actions using pictorial icons.

Image Credits: Google / Tobii Dynavox

Ruben said the integration of Google’s software was “technically straightforward.” “Because our software itself is already built to support a wide variety of access needs and is set up to accommodate launching third-party services, there was a natural fit between our software and Google Assistant’s services,” he explained.

Tobii’s built-in library of icons (things like lights with an up arrow, a door being opened or closed, and other visual representations of actions) can also be applied easily to the Assistant shortcuts.

For Google’s part, this is just the latest in a series of interesting accessibility services the company has developed, including live transcription, detection when sign language is being used in group video calls, and speech recognition that accommodates non-standard voices and people with impediments. Much of the web is not remotely accessible but at least the major tech companies put in some good work now and then to help.

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You can now buy Vizio’s rotating Atmos soundbar

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Vizio’s Elevate soundbar has finally hit shelves. You can buy it today for $999.99. The 48-inch soundbar supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. The soundbar houses 18 speakers and comes with a wireless eight-inch subwoofer. The cool thing is that some of the speakers rotate — they face upward while you’re playing Dolby Atmos content and point forward for standard audio.

I spoke to Vizio CEO William Wang about the Elevate earlier this year. He said the soundbar is intended to hook non-enthusiast customers on Dolby Atmos by showing them, visually, the difference between the two tiers of audio. He also noted that while the Elevate is asking a steep price, he expects the rotating speakers to appear in lower-cost devices down the road. The Elevate is being positioned as a good companion purchase for Vizio’s first 4K OLED TV, which is also now available.

Currently, you can order the Elevate at Best Buy and Walmart. Vizio says it’s coming to Amazon and Sam’s Club, too, but those don’t appear to have active links yet.

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Don’t Eat Deli Meat if You’re Pregnant or Old, CDC Says

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slices of salami on bread, surrounded by pretty food things

Photo: photocrew1 (Shutterstock)

There’s an outbreak of listeriosis linked to deli meat, the CDC says. The exact source has not been tracked down, but they say if you are pregnant, over 65, or have a weakened immune system, to not eat deli meat or take extra precautions.

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Listeria bacteria can live at refrigerator temperatures, but are killed by heat. That’s why they turn up in deli meats (including Italian style processed meats like salami) and soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. If you’ve ever been told not to eat brie while you were pregnant, this is why—although most soft cheeses in U.S. supermarkets aren’t made with raw milk. In the past few years, Listeria outbreaks have also been linked to lettuce and other produce.

If you don’t fall into those risk groups, listeriosis is not a serious illness. But if you are pregnant when you get it, it could cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or death of your newborn. It can also be serious for people who are elderly or have a weakened immune system.

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The CDC says it knows of 10 recent cases in which people were hospitalized, and one died. Here’s what they say about the source:

  • Ill people have reported eating Italian-style meats, such as salami, mortadella, and prosciutto.
  • People have reported purchasing both prepackaged deli meats and meats sliced at deli counters. The investigation is ongoing to determine if there is a specific type of deli meat or common supplier linked to illness.

If you are in one of the higher risk categories (pregnant, older, or with a weakened immune system) the CDC recommends either avoiding deli meats or making sure they are heated just before serving until they are steaming hot. (That’s an internal temperature of 165 Fahrenheit, if you’re able to get a thermometer probe into your salami.)

You should also wash your hands after handling deli meats, clean any surfaces that deli meats or their juices have been in contact with (such as your refrigerator shelves) and make sure you’re not keeping deli meats in the fridge too long. Meat you buy from a deli counter is usually good in the fridge for five days; factory sealed packages are good for two weeks.

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See Who’s Mooching Off Your Netflix Account by Checking Its Recent Access

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A screenshot of the Netflix

Screenshot: Joel Cunningham

Depending on how much you pay for your plan, your Netflix account can only be used by so many people at once. Exes, old roommates, or thoughtless siblings—anyone you’ve unwisely trusted with your password—might be mooching off the account you pay good money for, but it’s not too difficult to find out if they are.

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A simple trip to your Netflix account settings will allow you to discover the IP addresses and locations of whoever has been accessing your account. Here’s how to find it:

  1. Head to the Netflix home page in your browser and sign in.
  2. In the upper right-hand corner you’ll see your account symbol. Mouse over it, then click “Account.”
  3. Scroll down and click the “Recent device streaming activity” link.
  4. Then click the “See recent account access” link.

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You’ll see the IP address, location and type of device that has been watching Netflix with your account, as well as when. You’ll probably be able to deduce who has been using your account from there. Once you know who is mooching, you can ask them to get their own account and stop filling your queue with bad movies, or you can just return to the Account page, choose “Sign out of all devices” and then change your password in your account settings and shut them out for good.

Netflix also allows you to download some content to your device(s), but how many are allowed to do so will once again vary based on the details of your monthly plan. From your Account page, you can also select “Manage download devices” to remove any that are unauthorized; this will remove content downloaded to those devices and free you up to offload content on your own phone or tablet.

This post was originally published in 2016 and updated on October 27, 2020 with more complete, up-to-date instructions and screenshots.

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