Parents of small kids are getting more love from music services.
Amazon noticed kids content on its Prime Music streaming plan was a big hit — no surprise, really, given the popularity of its Amazon Mom program for discounts on diapers, wipes and other items. So Amazon.com Inc. secured original children’s music from The Pop Ups and Lisa Loeb for free streaming to give Prime members another reason to keep their $99-a-year membership.
Meanwhile, a rival service, Rhapsody, is rewarding premium, $10-a-month subscribers with a feature that lets children take control of music when mommy or daddy passes over a mobile phone. Curated playlists keep content safe, and big colorful designs make navigating easy. You won’t need to remember another password to leave the kids’ zone: There’s an unlock puzzle designed to fool a 10-year-old.
Another life hack: bookmarked songs are automatically downloaded. That’s great for junior, who might be using a hand-me-down device that no longer has a cellular plan.
— Ryan Nakashima, AP Business Writer
Facebook is trying to jazz up users’ profiles.
The world’s largest social network is testing new profile videos that can be created from phones and would replace a still profile photo. The seven-second, looping videos play automatically when you look at someone’s profile page. The videos can include sound, but that will play only if you click on the video.
For now, only some iPhone users in California and the U.K. can make them. Any Facebook user can see them. Facebook Inc. doesn’t have a specific date for when it will expand the feature.
— Tali Arbel, AP Technology Writer
Samsung began selling its new smartwatch Friday in the U.S.
Retailers carrying the Gear S2 include Best Buy and Macy’s. The starting price is $300. The South Korean company announced the Gear S2 in August, but gave no details on prices then.
The S2 has a circular frame that can be rotated to scroll through notifications and apps. Past models required swiping, similar to phones, which could tire out fingers given how little fits on each screen. The watch itself is also smaller — roughly the size of the larger version of Apple Watch. For the first time, Samsung’s smartwatch will work with any Android phone, not just Samsung’s, though all features might not work.
What’s not known yet is how good the apps will be. This has been one of the weak points for Samsung’s smartwatch, given that many app developers have focused instead on the Apple Watch and the variety of models running Google’s Android Wear. The S2 runs the little-known Tizen system. Samsung has said it expects about 1,000 apps at launch, but rival watches have many times that.
Apple Watch, meanwhile, will come to Target. The retailer says some models and bands will be offered online starting Oct. 18. All stores will get them by Oct. 25.
Besides Apple’s own stores, the watch is available at Best Buy, Sprint and T-Mobile stores, along with specialty department stores and boutiques, mostly outside the U.S. Apple Watch starts at $349.
— Anick Jesdanun, AP Technology Writer
Apple CEO Tim Cook is getting an award from the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.
Last October, Cook came out as the first openly gay chief executive of a Fortune 1,000 company. In December, HRC announced that Cook had donated a “substantial” amount to help fund a gay rights initiative in his native Alabama and two other Southern states. The specific amount wasn’t disclosed.
HRC’s Visibility Award is to be presented to Cook on Saturday.
“Through his example and Apple’s commitment to equality, LGBT young people, in particular, can look to Tim Cook’s incredible career and know that there is nothing holding them back,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “They can dream as big as their minds allow them to, even if they want to be the CEO of one of the world’s largest companies.”
— Anick Jesdanun, AP Technology Writer
If you want an unlimited data plan from Sprint, sign up soon: The monthly price is going up by $10, to $70.
The new price takes effect Oct. 16. Those who sign up before then can keep the lower price.
Sprint and T-Mobile are the only two national carriers still offering unlimited plans. Verizon and AT&T discontinued them years ago, though customers who already had one could keep it.
— Anick Jesdanun, AP Technology Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The muscular young man on one side of the video link spoke of his flight from Syria and his life since 2012 at the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, where he teaches wrestling to boys.
“We escaped with almost nothing,” Mohammed Kraat, once a champion wrestler in Syria, said through a translator. Half a world away in a tent outside the United Nations, Jayashri Wyatt, who works for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, listened and nodded.
“My sport is surfing,” Wyatt said. “Here in New York I surf Rockaway Beach and Long Beach.” Kraat told Wyatt about the satisfaction he gets teaching kids the sport he loves.
The connection was enabled by a project called Portals which is intended, its creator Amar Bakshi said, as a global community center where people in different countries can strike up conversations. There are currently 14 portals around the globe at locations including Tehran, Mexico City, Havana and Nashville.
The Za’atari portal is the only one at a refugee camp; the others are at locations such as art galleries and college campuses.
While the U.N. portal is in what looks like a big photo booth, most of the others operate out of 20-foot-long shipping crates spray-painted gold. Inside, the person on the other end of the link appears on a large screen.
The first portal was set up between New York and Tehran in December. Each portal has one paid staffer who is responsible for providing interpreters as needed, said Bakshi, a 31-year-old with degrees from Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Yale Law School who has worked as a journalist and as a special assistant to Power’s predecessor at the U.N., Susan Rice.
The portals, organized by a collective called Shared Studios with Bakshi as founder, have received $75,000 from crowdfunding sites Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
The U.N. is partnering with Shared Studios on its portal, and other venues such as galleries also pay to house the portals, Bakshi said.
Shared Studios is soliciting additional donations on its website to place portals in locations that can’t afford to pay for them.
“Wherever there’s a community that wants to join, we want to have them,” Bakshi said.
The portals are intended for one-one-one talks, but typically can fit several people. They have been used for artistic encounters like a Washington, D.C. audience watching dancers in Havana or a San Francisco-Mexico City rock concert.
The U.N. portal will operate just through the end of the General Assembly on Saturday. After that, the Za’atari portal will connect to a portal in San Francisco starting Monday.
Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, stopped by the portal there this week and spoke with Sidra, a 13-year-old girl who has spent two years at the refugee camp.
“I want to send a message to the world that we should end the crisis in Syria so that we can all go back,” Sidra told the ambassador.
She said Sidra misses her school at home though the Za’atari camp at least has a school and Sidra is determined to keep learning “for when she can go back to Syria and try to rebuild her community.”
Power said the illusion of being in the same room was strong enough that she walked over as if to touch the girl, only to find that her own shadow obscured Sidra’s image. “I forgot the technology so my shadow crowded out my ability to see her,” she said.
Power spoke as Russian airstrikes added a new dimension to a Syrian civil war that has killed more than 250,000 and forced millions to flee since 2011. She said she wanted to tell Sidra and other Syrian refugees that “we are going to be working this problem until the problem has been addressed.”
NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon will stop allowing the sale of Google and Apple video-streaming devices on its site as it focuses on its own Prime Instant Video streaming service.
Prime Video has become an important part of Amazon’s $99 annual Prime loyalty membership program. The video-streaming devices sold on the site should be able to work with Prime Video, the company said Thursday.
“It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion,” the Amazon said.
Along with Amazon’s Fire TV, the site will still sell other companies’ video-streaming devices that are compatible with Prime Video, including Roku, Xbox and PlayStation. But Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast will be not be sold.
Google Inc. and Apple Inc. did not immediately respond to requests for comment
Seattle-based Amazon has been rapidly expanding its Prime Video Service, including recently inked deals to stream NBCUniversal’s critically acclaimed drama “Mr. Robot” and a multiyear licensing agreement with CBS.
Amazon.com Inc. shares closed up $8.83, or 1.7 percent, to $520.72 Thursday.
BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore County police on Friday released a surveillance video that shows a drug suspect aggressively moving toward an officer with his gun drawn moments before the officer fired, killing the man.
Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson showed the video, which is less than a minute long and was taken from a business’ surveillance camera, to reporters Friday afternoon.
The video shows part of Wednesday’s incident that took place in Reisterstown, about 25 miles northwest of Baltimore. The officer, whom police identified only as Officer Earomirski, is seen pointing his gun at 19-year-old Keith Harrison McLeod. McLeod is seen moving quickly toward the officer then reaching behind his back before swinging his arm forward and pointing toward the officer, who then fires his gun.
McLeod falls to the ground, and Earomirski can be seen approaching him, his weapon still drawn. McLeod can be seen on the video writhing and kicking on the ground and resisting McLeod, who is seen patting down the man’s waist area as if searching for a weapon. No weapon was recovered at the scene, police said, but Johnson said Friday it was clear the officer feared for his life when he made the “one-second decision.”
“He whips his right arm around, directly points his hand at the officer and brings his left hand up as to support the right in a ready gun position,” Johnson said of McLeod. “That movement was less than one second. That officer had less than one second to determine what to do to save his own life.”
Johnson said that McLeod was trying to purchase narcotic cough medicine at a pharmacy just before 5 p.m. Wednesday when the pharmacist recognized that the prescription he was using was forged. The pharmacist called the police, and Officer Earomirski responded, Johnson said. When the officer approached McLeod, the man began to run and Earomirski chased him, ultimately cornering him in a nearby alley. Johnson said Earomirski drew his weapon and said repeatedly, “you don’t want to do this.” In response, Johnson said McLeod cursed at the officer and told him, “I’m going to kill you, I’m going to kill you.”
Police said the officer fired three rounds, and that McLeod was struck in the upper torso and the leg.
“Any reasonable officer or citizen encountering this situation would feel that they were facing imminent harm and/or death,” Johnson said Friday, adding that Earomirski, whom he described as “one of his finest officers,” has been placed on administrative duty.
Earomirski could not be reached for comment on Friday. Johnson said McLeod’s family has reached out to an attorney, but did not say whether they have filed a lawsuit against the department.
Johnson said each police shooting undergoes a thorough review.
“We don’t just look at every shooting,” he said, “we look at every shot fired.”
Baltimore County recently announced a program to equip all 1,435 officers in its department with body cameras, a decision Johnson said utilizes “the right tool at the right time.”
“This footage stresses the importance of capturing images on film,” he said.
NEW YORK (AP) — Domestic digital spying on ordinary citizens is an international threat that will only be slowed with measures like a proposed international treaty declaring privacy a basic human right, Edward Snowden said Thursday in a video appearance at a Manhattan forum.
“This is not a problem exclusive to the United States. … This is a global problem that affects all of us,” Snowden, the one-time National Security Agency systems analyst, said in his brief remarks from Moscow via video link. “What’s happening here happens in France, it happens in the U.K., it happens in every country, every place, to every person.”
The key question, Snowden added, is: “How do we assert what our rights are, traditionally and digitally?”
Snowden gained notoriety in 2013 for leaking details of the once-secret U.S. surveillance programs. He fled to Russia, where he was granted asylum despite demands by the United States that he return to face espionage and other charges.
The global advocacy group Avaaz organized the gathering to promote the so-called “Snowden Treaty.” Countries who signed would be required to curtail surveillance of phone calls and online activity, and also agree to provide sanctuary for people who expose illegal domestic spying.
The forum was timed to coincide with the United Nations General Assembly. Organizers have said diplomats have shown interest in a draft of the treaty, but have declined to name what nations they represent.
The NSA’s collection of American phone metadata has been deeply controversial ever since Snowden disclosed it to journalists. President Barack Obama sought, and Congress passed, a law ending the collection and instead allowing the NSA to request the records of U.S. domestic phone customers as needed in terrorism investigations.
A succession of decisions in federal courts in Washington and New York have at various times threatened the constitutionality of the NSA’s surveillance program, but have so far upheld the NSA’s amassing of records from phone companies.
A website promoting the proposed treaty calls the NSA surveillance programs “a direct contravention of international human right law.” It adds: “Protecting the right to privacy is vital not just in itself but because it is an essential requirement for the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression, the most fundamental pillars of democracy.”
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Virtual reality is taking a few steps closer to the mainstream with Samsung unveiling a headset that brings the technology to its latest smartphones at half the price of its previous model, Facebook launching support for 360-degree video, and online video services like Netflix and Hulu jumping into the format.
The announcements at a developers conference in Los Angeles for virtual reality technology company Oculus represent attempts to push the platform beyond a video-gamer-focused niche.
Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who cut a deal to buy Oculus for $2 billion last year, told some 1,500 conference attendees Thursday that virtual reality is “the next logical step” in online sharing after text, photos and video.
“In just a few years, VR has gone from being this science fiction dream to an awesome reality,” he said. “And now we all here have a chance to change the way we play, communicate and collaborate.”
Zuckerberg showed off a promo for the upcoming “Star Wars” movie showing a speeding vehicle zooming over the desert landscape of fictional planet Jakku. Users can look around in any direction using their mouse as the video is playing.
Samsung said its new virtual reality headset will be 22 percent lighter and cost $99, half the price of its previous model. The Gear VR, which requires users to insert the latest version of a Samsung smartphone into the headset, will ship in November.
Netflix content is available to be viewed in Oculus or Samsung headsets starting Thursday, while Hulu said it would also bring its app to the Oculus platform where users can stream 2-D content as well as an original virtual reality short film called “The Big One,” from YouTube star Freddie Wong’s RocketJump production company. A Hulu launch date wasn’t announced.
Meanwhile, Oculus said it would begin a certification program so consumers can look for a sticker that will identify which computers support its Oculus Rift headset, which is due to come out early next year. Asus, Dell and Alienware will have certified models that cost less than $1,000.
Facebook’s 360 video announcement: http://bit.ly/1KC86mf