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Neato Botvac D7 memorizes rooms for robo-vac no-go zones
Of all the visions of the home of the future, the most alluring is generally handing over cleaning chores to a robot. In practice, though, it can be the most frustrating, too, as anybody who has returned home expecting vacuumed floors but instead found a robo-vac chewing through their phone charger can attest to. Neato thinks it has the answer, with a smarter, more flexible model launching at IFA 2023, the Botvac D7 Connected.
It follows Neato’s established design, a D-shaped robot with a near-full-width cleaning brush at the widest side. It’s topped with the company’s LaserSmart navigation system. A new finish, Neato tells me, should be more resilient to the sort of scratches robots incur as they occasionally collide with furniture.
The big change is in how the Botvac D7 Connected handles mapping. Previously, in the companion app, you’d get a floor plan after every clean to show you where exactly the robot had been. The new MyFloorPlan feature builds on that by saving the map and allowing you to set virtual “no-go” lines across it.
So, if your robo-vac invariably got caught on a step between two rooms, you can zone that off virtually. Should the space under your desk be a nightmare of cables, you can tell the D7 to ignore it completely. Over time, the map is updated as the robot refines its view of the home, including marking off any changes in furniture or other obstacles.
It’s a clever idea, though there are some things to consider in this first-generation implementation. Probably most restrictive is the fact that the D7 can only memorize a single floor plan. If you take it to a new area, it’ll forget the previous plan and start to create a new one from scratch.
That’s fine if you set the robot up in a single location and it only ever roams around that one area. It’s not, though, if you plan on using the D7 on, say, multiple floors in one home. Neato tells me that you can quickly perform the mapping step with a so-called Discovery Mode, faster since it’s not also cleaning, then set up your no-go zones. Still, I can’t imagine doing that each and every time.
Luckily, you still get the regular magnetic strips you can install under rugs or carpet, or around the edges of zones you don’t want the D7 to go. Neato points out to me that the new architecture of the robot and the updated app will mean that OTA updates for adding features like floor plan profiles should be easier down the line, too.
Available today, meanwhile, is both the Amazon Alexa and Google Home integration of existing Botvac Connected models, joined by IFTTT support. That opens up the possibility of linking a Neato vacuum into a broader Internet of Things automation: you could, for instance, have the robot automatically start up when an IFTTT recipe says everybody has left the house. It’s not just for the new D7, either, with IFTTT also supported on the D3 Connected, D5 Connected, and former flagship Botvac Connected models too.
As for the Botvac D7 Connected, that goes on sale in Q4 this year. It’ll be priced at $799.
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Google and iRobot team to turn your Roomba robo-vac into an IoT mapper
Your Roomba robot vacuum cleaner is turning into a mapping explorer for Google, with the two companies collaborating on better understanding the layout – and the uses – of the smart home. The project promises more efficient interactions between IoT and connected devices, though owners will have to opt-in to see the benefits.
iRobot’s latest Roomba models already have WiFi connectivity and Google Assistant integration. The company’s recent Roomba i7+, for example, not only builds up a floor plan of the home as it works, but can be instructed via the Assistant to go to a specific room and vacuum there.
Earlier this year, meanwhile, iRobot added WiFi network scanning and logging to its vacuums. The feature, an optional extra that must be manually enabled in the app, combines floor plans with WiFi signal strength. As a result, eventually the robot will be able to flag areas of poor wireless coverage. That then leaves it up to homeowners to decide how to better deploy their router, or whether to install a mesh router system.
This collaboration with Google, though, expands on that considerably. “Robots with mapping and spatial awareness capabilities will play an important role in allowing other smart devices in the home to more seamlessly work together,” Colin Angle, chairman and CEO of iRobot, said of the work.
One possibility is that, by better understanding a home’s layout, new smart home devices could be more effectively positioned. That could mean ensuring WiFi coverage is sufficient, but might also eventually mean things like choosing the best angle for a connected camera, or the most productive location for a smart thermostat. Google and iRobot say there’s also new potential for automations, as different parts of the smart home work in combination.
Still, the two companies are being cautious in how all this is deployed, and making it clear that this will absolutely be an opt-in system. If owners of Roomba robot vacuums only want the basics of cleaning, they won’t be expected to also agree to having their floor plans logged or shared with anybody else. That’s a lesson iRobot learned the hard way last year.
Back in July 2023, iRobot speculated on the possibilities if it made its increasingly detailed maps of users’ homes available to third parties. A “rich map” of the home could have wide-reaching potential, Angle said in an interview, name-checking Apple, Google-owner Alphabet, and Amazon as possible partners. Unsurprisingly, the suggestion met with a privacy backlash, and iRobot was forced to make clear that it had no plans to sell floor plan data without customer permission.
Exactly when the fruits of this new collaboration will become visible remains to be seen. However, with Google Wifi offering mesh networking, and recent products like the Google Home Hub focusing on smart home control, it’s clear that Google wants to get a better grip on not only how you interact with the internet of things, but where you are when you do it.
For apps that you have downloaded via the Google Play store, you will always be notified when there is an update to the app. However, if you have installed apps from outside the Play store, you will have to manually check if there is an updated version for the app. This can be a cumbersome task, especially when you have a number of these apps installed on your device and all of them are from different sources. If you are facing this problem, here’s a way for you to check for updates for the non-play store apps.Checking for Updates for Non-Play Store Apps on an Android Device
There is an app called ApkTrack that lets you check for updates for the apps that you have downloaded from outside the Google Play store.
To get started, download the ApkTrack app from its developer’s website, as it is not available on Google Play.
Make sure that “Install from unknown sources” is enabled on your Android device. If you’re unsure, head to Menu followed by Settings. Tap on Security and ensure that the Unknown sources option is tick-marked.
Launch File Manager and tap on ApkTrack to install the app on your device. Once installed, launch it from your app drawer.
Once you see all of your apps listed in there, tap on the Sync icon given next to the Search icon to find updates for these listed apps.
When the app has finished searching for updates, you will get notifications of which apps need to be updated.
You can have ApkTrack search for updates in the background by enabling an option in the Settings menu.
Press the Menu button on your device and select “Settings” to go to the settings panel.
Tick-mark the option that says “Enable background checks” to allow the app to automatically check for updates for the apps installed on your device.Conclusion
While it is very easy to be notified about an update for the Google Play store apps, it is quite difficult to know if there is an update for an app that was downloaded from outside the Google Play store. ApkTrack helps you find updates for such apps so you can have them all updated on your device.
Mahesh Makvana is a freelance tech writer who’s written thousands of posts about various tech topics on various sites. He specializes in writing about Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android tech posts. He’s been into the field for last eight years and hasn’t spent a single day without tinkering around his devices.
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Overdiagnosis: Bad for You, Good for Business SPH Bicknell lecturer says too much treatment makes people sick
“The biggest problem is that overdiagnosis triggers overtreatment, and all of our treatments carry some harm,” says H. Gilbert Welch, this year’s William J. Bicknell Lecturer in Public Health. Photo courtesy of Dartmouth College
After the criteria used to define osteoporosis were expanded in 2003, seven million American women were turned into patients virtually overnight. Diagnoses of high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer also have skyrocketed over the past few decades—yet the number of deaths from those diseases has been largely unaffected.
While conventional wisdom holds that early diagnosis is good, H. Gilbert Welch, a professor of medicine and director of the Center for Medicine and the Media at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, views it as a major problem for modern medicine, with myriad social, medical, and economic implications. In his new book, Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health (Beacon Press, 2011), Welch and coauthors Lisa Schwartz and Steven Woloshin write about the hazards of looking too hard for illnesses in healthy people, including additional procedures that carry no benefit, but may cause harm, higher health care costs, and psychological detriments.
Welch will elaborate on the downside of the growing penchant for early diagnosis this Friday, October 28, when he delivers the 2011 William J. Bicknell Lectureship in Public Health at the BU School of Public Health. He has been a practicing physician for 25 years, during which time he has posed some hard questions about his own profession.
“The biggest problem is that overdiagnosis triggers overtreatment, and all of our treatments carry some harm,” says Welch.
In a study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Welch and Dartmouth researcher Brittney A. Frankel concluded that most women with mammogram-detected breast cancer had not “had their lives saved” by screening. While Welch noted that some women clearly are helped by mammography screening, their analysis found that the lifesaving value of the test was questionable. Among the 60 percent of women with breast cancer whose disease was detected by screening, only about 3 percent to 13 percent were actually helped by the test, according to the study.
The Bicknell lecture is followed by a panel discussion with Deborah Bowen, an SPH professor and chair of the department of community health sciences; John Fallon, senior vice president and chief physician executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts; and Kenneth W. Lin, a Georgetown University School of Medicine assistant professor of clinical family medicine.
BU Today recently spoke with Welch about the medical practices that give him pause.BU Today: What is overdiagnosis?
Welch: Let me start by saying I’m a conventionally trained physician. I teach, do research, and see patients. I believe American medicine can be very beneficial for sick patients. My concern is about what we are doing to people who are well.
Overdiagnosis occurs when we doctors make diagnoses in individuals who are not destined to ever develop symptoms—or die—from the condition diagnosed. It’s a side effect of our relentless desire to find disease early through annual checkups and screening.What’s the problem with wanting to know if there’s a cancer or disease lurking in our bodies?
The problem is, we all harbor abnormalities, and our tests are increasingly able to find them, yet most of these abnormalities will not go on to cause disease. But because clinicians don’t know which will and which will not, we tend to treat everybody. That means we are treating those who cannot benefit because there’s nothing to fix, and these people can be harmed.What’s the harm?
But the biggest problem is that overdiagnosis triggers overtreatment, and all of our treatments carry some harm. These range from the headaches of renewing prescriptions and scheduling appointments and keeping them to the physical harms of drug side effects, surgical complications, and even death.
The poster child for the problem is prostate cancer screening: 20 years ago, a “simple blood test” was introduced; 20 years later, over one million Americans had been treated for a cancer that was never going to bother them. The test was the PSA. It’s able to detect minute quantities of prostate-specific antigen—minute as in one-billionth of a gram. Turned out a lot of men had “abnormal” PSAs. Many were found to have microscopic cancers—far more than would ever suffer from prostate cancer. So they were overdiagnosed.
Does it matter? Absolutely. Most were treated with either radical surgery or radiation. Roughly a third suffered side effects of treatment—generally related to bowel, bladder, or sexual function. And a few have died from it.You’ve talked about health conditions defined by numbers, or benchmarks—like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and osteoporosis—numbers that distinguish between who’s healthy and who’s sick. Aren’t those numbers based on sound science?
Yes—and no. Yes, in that we know these conditions can be important and that treatment can help—i.e., treating really high blood pressure is one of the most important things we doctors do. But no, in that the “rule” by which health conditions are gauged—the number which, if you are on one side of it, you are well, but if you are on the other side of it, you are sick—has been regularly changing. For example, a fasting blood sugar of 130 was not considered to be diabetes before 1997, but now it is. And these numbers are always changing in one direction: the direction of labeling more and more people as abnormal.
The problem is that these newly created patients stand to benefit the least from intervention. Yet they face roughly the same amount of harm from intervention. In other words, the net effect of intervention may be harm. For example, as we recently learned in diabetes, while trying to move people with mildly elevated blood sugars towards “normal,” the death rate increased.
The generic problem is one of balance. Doctors tend to focus on those we might conceivably help, even if it’s only one out of 100 (the benefit of lowering cholesterol in those with normal cholesterol but elevated C-reactive protein) or one out of 1,000 (the benefit of breast and prostate cancer screening).
We believe this is what our patients, and the public, care about. But it’s time for everyone to start caring about what happens to the other 999.Who benefits from overdiagnosis?
A lot of people: pharma, device manufacturers, imaging centers, and even your local hospital. The easiest way to make money isn’t to build a better drug or device—it’s to expand the market for existing drugs and devices by expanding the indication to include more patients. Similarly, for hospitals, the easiest way to make money isn’t to deliver better care; it’s to recruit new patients—and screening is a great way to do this.Why has there been so much emphasis on screening? Do you think it’s been driven by what the public wants—early warnings—or what the medical profession has imposed?
The simplest explanation is that the medical and public health communities have systematically exaggerated the benefits of early detection and downplayed (or ignored entirely) its harms.
There is a complex web of root causes. Some of it is about money; some of it is about true belief. And my colleagues would want me to point out the legal asymmetry doctors face: while we are punished for underdiagnosis, we are never punished for overdiagnosis.
Finally, there is the particularly misleading influence of survivor stories. I hate to say this, but the truth is that most screen-detected breast and prostate cancer “survivors” are, in fact, more likely to have been overdiagnosed than truly helped by early detection. Ironically, the more overdiagnosis a screening test causes, the more people who feel they “owe their life to the test,” the more likely the rest of us are to have heard their stories—and the more popular screening becomes.
No. Instead, I want them to understand that there are real choices here. The decision about whether or not to look for something to be wrong is not a “no-brainer.” They should understand the two sides to early detection: while it may help you, it may also hurt you.
The 2011 William J. Bicknell Lectureship in Public Health is this Friday, October 28, from 9 a.m. to noon, on the BU Medical Campus, at 670 Albany St., first floor auditorium. The event is free and open to the public and is preceded by a continental breakfast at 8:30 a.m. The William J. Bicknell Lectureship in Public Health at the School of Public Health is named in honor of William J. Bicknell, SPH chair emeritus and a professor of international health and a School of Medicine professor of sociomedical sciences and community medicine.
Lisa Chedekel can be reached at [email protected].
Research In Motion’s BlackBerry not that long ago was the dominant smartphone platform. Due to its incompetent management all too easily waving off the iPhone threat, which along with Android went on to slaughter the BlackBerry in the consumer space, RIM has now sought a retreat in big corporations and government agencies – its only remaining strongholds.
The problem is, the enterprise market is now dropping BlackBerries in droves and governments around the world are following suit. The latest example: both the U.S. Immigration and Customer Enforcement agency and government consultant Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. are dropping a total of nearly 50,000 BlackBerry handsets in favor of iPhones and devices powered by Google’s Android software…
Reuters reports that the U.S. Immigration and Customer Enforcement agency will not re-new its contract with RIM. Instead, its 17,600 employees are all getting iPhones and Androids in a deal worth an estimated $2.1 million:
The agency said it has relied on RIM for eight years but that RIM’s technology “can no longer meet the mobile technology needs of the agency”.
It also said that it had analyzed Apple’s iOS-based devices and Google’s Android operating system and concluded that for the near term Apple’s iPhone services offer the best technology for the agency because of Apple’s tight controls of the hardware platform and operating system.
The iPhones will be used by, among other agencies, Homeland Security Investigations, Enforcement and Removal Operations and Office of the Principal Legal Advisor. It’s an important win for Apple, whose iPhone is already deployed by more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies and increasingly by governments the world over.
Government consultant Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. has dealt another fresh blow to RIM, per Bloomberg.
Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., whose 25,000 staff provide consulting services to the U.S. government, has dropped BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. as a smartphone supplier.
Booz Allen has started decommissioning the firm’s dedicated BlackBerry server that runs those devices and plans to move those staff onto iPhones made by Apple Inc. and handsets that run Google Inc. Android software in the coming months, James Fisher, a Booz Allen spokesman, said by telephone.
And what of employees who now bring their own BlackBerry to work and won’t be issued an iPhone or an Android phone? Easy, those people “won’t be able to access work e-mail on the device once the switch is complete”.
It’s the BlackBerry stigma on the corporate level.
Headquartered in McLean Virginia, the company has consultancy contracts with the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Department of Homeland Security. Its parent company Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp. reported sales of $5.86 billion in 2011, most of which came from government consulting.
This has got to be RIM’s worst nightmare come true. When your most prized clients talk crap about your platform, you can tell the end is near. Of course, RIM has only itself to blame. Its BlackBerry 10 OS is way overdue and first devices running it have been pushed back until Q1 2013.
Consider this: RIM shares are down 95 percent from their mid-2008 high. Just this year, the shares have tumbled 45 percent.
Right now, RIM could be sold off in parts and likely below book value. I can see them licensing the BlackBerry business to a select few companies whilst selling off their BBM and server products to the highest bidder (Oracle or Microsoft).
And as much as I hate to say this, everything else RIM has is pretty much worthless.
What do you think, is RIM already done for?
However, this is still a pale imitation of the original GameCube controller. Additionally, it’s missing so many features as compared to the Nintendo Switch Pro controller that we would never recommend as your “all-around” input device.
If you’re of a certain age, you probably have fond memories of playing Super Smash Bros. Melee on your Nintendo GameCube. While die-hards likely still play it regularly, most folks have moved on to the more modern Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. If you want to enjoy that new-school game in an old school way, the PowerA GameCube Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch is what you’re looking for.
In this PowerA GameCube Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch review, I’m going to tell you the very good reasons why you should grab one — as well as the good reasons to avoid it.
PowerA GameCube Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch: What is it?
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority
As you can see from the photos, the PowerA GameCube Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch is a modern console controller designed to look like a GameCube controller. It features all the buttons and lights you would find on something like the Nintendo Switch Pro controller but in a reconfigured shape and layout.
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority
You’ve gotta hand it to PowerA for its attention to detail. The PowerA GameCube Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch has the same ergonomic feel as the original. The purple-blue colorway is even intact here. PowerA went the full mile and made the Y button’s over-sized height match the original GameCube design. Nice!
What’s not so good?
C. Scott Brown / Android Authority
Unlike a lot of high-end modern controllers, the PowerA GameCube Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch uses replaceable AA batteries for power. This is a cost-cutting measure that instantly makes the device less premium than something like the Switch Pro controller. Because there’s no built-in battery, there’s no need for a USB-C port (or even a MicroUSB port). This prevents you from being able to use the controller in a wired state with the Switch or anything else.
Similarly, the weight and overall feel of the PowerA controller screams “cheap.” It feels very toy-like in the hand. The buttons especially lack the weight and tactile feel of first-party controllers from Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, etc.
This controller feels cheap. PowerA cuts a lot of corners that prevent the device from having any true value.
Although the controller features full motion support, it lacks HD rumble, IR, and Amiibo NFC support. The lack of rumble in itself is a crime, especially when you consider most people are buying this to play Smash. The controller also lacks support for remappable buttons, which first-party Switch controllers do have.
Finally, the PowerA GameCube Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch does not play well with Android or Windows systems. Although it connects to the Switch via Bluetooth, my tests with other systems resulted in incredibly laggy performance. If you’re looking for versatility, this isn’t the device for you.
PowerA GameCube Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch: Should I buy it?
Related: The best Nintendo Switch accessories you can get
Speaking of which, the list price for the PowerA GameCube Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch is $49.99. However, we’ve seen it drop down to half that price quite often. If you do want this, don’t spend $50 on it. You’d be better off buying the 8bitdo Gbros. Wireless Adapter and a real GameCube controller. That will give you the genuine experience you’re looking for and even save you some cash, though obviously a real Gamecube controller doesn’t have all the Switch Pro controller buttons, so it might not work so well with every game out there.
The bottom line is that you should only buy this if you want it for specific purposes — and only if you can find it at a discount. If you just want a great standalone controller for your Switch, get a Nintendo Switch Pro controller as that will be the do-it-all device you need.
PowerA GameCube Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch
An old-school way to playt new-school Smash
The PowerA GameCube Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch looks and feels quite similar to the original. It’s a great way to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in the way you used to play Melee. However, that’s where this controller’s usefulness ends as it is missing a ton of features that would make it a worthwhile “all-around” input device.
See price at Amazon
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