Weekly Rewind: A spying Google Home Mini, the Nobel winner, 'Star Wars' spoilers

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A lot can happen in a week when it comes to tech. The constant onslaught of news makes it nigh impossible for mere mortals with real lives to keep track of everything. That’s why we’ve compiled a quick and dirty list of this week’s top tech stories, from the Oculus Connect 4 keynote to a spying Google Home Mini  — it’s all here.

$199 Oculus Go delivers stand-alone VR with no phone or PC needed

top tech stories oculus go

During the recent  Oculus Connect 4 keynote, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed that the company is currently working on a stand-alone VR headset called Oculus Go. Similar to the upcoming stand-alone “Daydream” headset initiative from Google and Qualcomm, you won’t need a smartphone to experience virtual reality. You also won’t need to tether the headset to a parent PC like Facebook’s premium VR headset, the Oculus Rift.

According to Zuckerberg, Oculus Go will ship in early 2018 for $199. He didn’t reveal anything else outside the brief tease, but Facebook head of VR Hugo Barro came out on stage to provide a few more details about the upcoming stand-alone VR product. Barro said it targets that sweet spot between high-end and mobile, so you can get a tether-free, device-free full-motion VR experience without breaking the bank.

Read: $199 Oculus Go delivers stand-alone VR with no phone or PC needed

Porsche’s subscription plan lets you check out a new car every day

top tech stories porsche

Not long ago, getting behind the wheel of a new car was an arduous process. You had to go to a dealer, sift through the countless models and packages, negotiate pricing, and slog your way through a mountain of paperwork. In the past few years, though, automakers have modernized the process by placing their vehicles in easy-to-use and flexible subscription services. Porsche is the latest carmaker to jump on the bandwagon with the Porsche Passport program. In short, it’s sports cars on demand.

Porsche Passport allows drivers to enjoy up to 22 different Porsche products on a month-to-month basis. Accessed through a mobile app, the program offers frequent vehicle exchanges and unlimited mileage for a fixed fee; one that covers vehicle tax, registration, insurance, maintenance, and even detailing.

Read: Porsche’s subscription plan lets you check out a new car every day

Here are the names and achievements behind this year’s Nobel Prizes in Science

top tech stories nobel prize
Rainer Weiss/AFP/Getty Images
Rainer Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

The winners of this year’s Nobel Prizes in Science have been announced and, despite science writer Ed Yong’s thoughtful dismissal of this “absurd anachronistic way of recognizing scientific achievement,” they’re still highly regarded as a pinnacle of achievement.

Awarded annually by the Nobel Foundation and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Nobel Prizes in physics, chemistry, and medicine have been given to some of science’s most accomplished individuals. Winning the award puts honorees in the company of giants like Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, and Niels Bohr.

Here’s a brief breakdown of the tremendous achievements of this year’s winners.

Read: Here are the names and achievements behind this year’s Nobel Prizes in Science

Sony Xperia XZ1 review

top tech stories sony xperia xz1

The Xperia XZ1 is similar to Sony’s earlier 2017 flagship, the Xperia XZ Premium. It has the same excellent camera that can shoot super slow motion videos at an impressive 960 frames per second. The XZ1 has almost everything you’d want in a smartphone, and in our review, we see if it’s worth your money among the intense competition.

Read: Sony Xperia XZ1 review

Broaden your traveling horizons with websites like Airbnb

top tech stories airbnb

For better or worse, Airbnb has redefined the travel industry. Millions of people use the site’s listings to land great deals on rooms throughout the world, but it’s not all roses for the online service. Along with complaints regarding the service’s lack of safety protocols and criticism centered around its use tax havens, the company has also been scrutinized for doing too little to deal with the countless complaints it has received about racism, from guests and hosts alike.

Airbnb is trying to win back users with some new features, but for some travelers, supporting the company has become somewhat of an be an ethical conundrum. Thankfully, there are plenty of websites similar to Airbnb, each of which provides something slightly different from the infamous hospitality service. Whether you’re looking to book a family-friendly staycation or a patch of land in rural Montana, check out the Airbnb alternatives below.

Read: Broaden your traveling horizons with websites like Airbnb

California calls on the world’s only 747 SuperTanker to take on wildfires

top tech stories supertanker
CBS

You know it’s serious when you see the world’s only 747 SuperTanker fly overhead.

Dubbed “the world’s biggest fire extinguisher,” this awesome aerial firefighting machine has been called in to help with ongoing efforts to deal with wildfires devastating parts of Northern California.

The modified Boeing 747 is capable of dropping nearly 20,000 gallons of fire retardant in one go, and earlier this week, it made six flights in the space of a single day from Sacramento to affected areas in Napa and Sonoma counties around 40 miles north of San Francisco. Each flight lasted between 31 and 47 minutes.

Read: California calls on the world’s only 747 SuperTanker to take on wildfires

Who will be the last Jedi? Everything we know about ‘Star Wars: Episode VIII’

top tech stories star wars

We don’t think Luke would ever go over to the dark side; after all, he was strong enough to single-handedly rebuff Vader’s attempt to sway him at the end of Empire Strikes Back, and he didn’t even consider joining Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi.

A new theater display from IMAX seems to hint at the unthinkable, however. The walk-through display features two alternate versions of the film’s poster — one with the “light side” protagonists, and one with the “dark side” antagonists.

Read: Who will be the last Jedi? Everything we know about ‘Star Wars: Episode VIII’

A Google Home Mini inadvertently recorded everything a reporter said in his home

top tech stories google home mini
Dan Baker/Digital Trends.com
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

We place an awful lot of trust in our smart home hubs and speakers, allowing them to live in our living rooms, our bedrooms, and even our bathrooms. But we may want to think twice about this blind acceptance. A rather bizarre incident took place involving one of the new Google Home Mini devices debuted at the tech giant’s October 4 event, and Android Police writer Artem Russakovskii. Per Russakovskii’s report, a rogue Mini “spied on everything [he] said,” and transmitted much of this information to Google, as well. Talk about an invasion of privacy.

Read: A Google Home Mini inadvertently recorded everything a reporter said in his home

The cryptocurrency from this wind-powered mining rig helps fund climate research

top tech stories cryptocurrency

Given the fact that, for now, Earth’s the only home we’ve got, climate change is a subject well worth researching. But how do you fund this research? If you’re anything like artist-engineer Julian Oliver, the answer is simple: use wind energy to mine for cryptocurrency to pay for it, of course. It’s a nifty idea — not least because it means that the more pronounced the meteorological effects of climate change turn out to be, the more money gets pumped into researching the topic.

Read: The cryptocurrency from this wind-powered mining rig helps fund climate research

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