Google’s Nest announces new smart thermostat with simpler design, lower price

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Google’s Nest smart home division has a new smart thermostat available to order starting today. The new Nest Thermostat is a simpler model than the Nest Learning Thermostat or Nest Thermostat E and comes with a lower price, just $129.99. That’s $40 less than the Nest E and $120 less than the top-of-the-line third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat. It is available to pre-order starting today, and Google says it will be shipping in a few weeks.



a hand holding a video game: The new Nest Thermostat ditches the traditional rotating dial for a simpler, touch strip control system


© Photo: Google
The new Nest Thermostat ditches the traditional rotating dial for a simpler, touch strip control system

Simpler is the theme with the new Nest Thermostat, and that starts with its design. Gone is the traditional rotating dial that’s been on every Nest thermostat for the past nine years. In its place is a touch sensitive strip on the right side that is used to navigate the interface and make adjustments. Instead of turning a dial to adjust the temperature, you swipe up and down and tap on this touch strip. This design eliminates all of the moving parts and allowed Google to bring the price down.

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The front of the thermostat is a completely mirrored finish with a display that shines through the mirror when the thermostat is being used. Google is using the same Soli technology that was in the Pixel 4 smartphone underneath the mirrored finish to automatically detect when you are standing in front of the thermostat and wake it up. The company says that the Soli tech allows the mirrored finish to be uninterrupted, without an obvious window or cutout for a traditional motion sensor, as used on the other models. But that is the extent of the Soli use in the Nest Thermostat — there are no gesture-based controls outside of the touch strip.



The new Nest Thermostat has a mirrored front and comes in four different colors


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Instagram Merges With Messenger for Simpler Messaging

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Instagram now offers cross-app messaging and calling with Messenger.

The plan to merge the two services was first announced by parent-company Facebook in early 2019, with today’s official announcement coming after a trial period that started in mid-August, 2020.

It means that users of Instagram and Messenger will be able to exchange direct messages, photos, and videos with friends and family without hopping in and out of different apps, or downloading new ones.

The change is currently being rolled out on Instagram and Messenger in a number of countries around the world, with a global expansion coming soon.

The social networking giant also intends to merge the messaging services of another of its acquisitions, WhatsApp, in the near future, and add secure end-to-end encryption between all three.

“People are communicating in private spaces now more than ever,” Facebook wrote in a post announcing the update. “More than a billion people already use Messenger as a place to share, hang out and express themselves with family and friends. That’s why we’re connecting the Messenger and Instagram experience to bring some of the best Messenger features to Instagram — so you have access to the best messaging experience, no matter which app you use.”

No download is needed, though for the time being at least, users have to opt in to use the new system. At some point, we can expect that everyone will be automatically moved to the new experience.

Facebook is offering a bunch of new features to encourage people to make the switch, among them access to so-called “selfie stickers” and a new way to watch videos with friends and family during a call, while a new “vanish mode” lets you set messages to automatically disappear after they’ve been seen.

Explaining why it decided to merge the services, Facebook

Simpler models may be better for determining some climate risk — ScienceDaily

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Typically, computer models of climate become more and more complex as researchers strive to capture more details of our Earth’s system, but according to a team of Penn State researchers, to assess risks, less complex models, with their ability to better sample uncertainties, may be a better choice.

“There is a downside to the very detailed, very complex models we often strive for,” said Casey Helgeson, assistant research professor, Earth and Environmental Systems Institute. “Sometimes the complexity of scientific tools constrains what we can learn through science. The choke point isn’t necessarily at the knowledge going into a model, but at the processing.”

Climate risks are important to planners, builders, government officials and businesses. The probability of a potential event combined with the severity of the event can determine things like whether it makes sense to build in a given location.

The researchers report online in Philosophy of Science that “there is a trade-off between a model’s capacity to realistically represent the system and its capacity to tell us how confident it is in its predictions.”

Complex Earth systems models need a lot of supercomputer time to run. However, when looking at risk, uncertainty is an important element and researchers can only discover uncertainty through multiple runs of a computer model. Computer time is expensive.

“We need complex models to simulate the interactions between Earth system processes,” said Vivek Srikrishnan, assistant research professor, Earth and Environmental Systems Institute. “We need simple models to quantify risks.”

According to Klaus Keller, professor of geosciences, multiple model runs are important because many events of concern such as floods are, fortunately, the exception, not what is expected. They happen in the tails of the distribution of possible outcomes. Learning about these tails requires many model runs.

Simple models, while not returning the detailed, complex