ShinyShiny tech roundup: Skip ‘Hey, Google’ with Quick phrases

“Quick phrases” is a new feature currently under development for Google Assistant that could one day let you skip having to say “Hey, Google” for common phrases like “What time is it?” or “Turn the lights on,” 9to5Google reports. The feature is yet to be officially announced, and it’s unclear when it might launch or exactly which devices might support it. The feature emerged back in April under the codename “Guacamole.” At the time it was called “Voice shortcuts,” and its capabilities seemed limited to silencing alarms and timers, or responding to incoming phone calls. But the new menu discovered by 9to5Google shows a much broader range of tasks, or “salsas” as Google is nicknaming them. These salsas include the ability to ask about the weather, skip songs, or set alarms and timers in addition to just silencing them. The Verge

Apple Watches may include a blood pressure sensor and fertility tool from as early as next year, as part of a series of new health-related features the tech giant is believed to be working on. Leaked documents also suggest the company is looking to improve how its smartwatches track sleep patterns and monitor irregular heartbeats. It is expected to release its seventh version of the Apple Watch in the coming weeks, reportedly with a larger display and a new flat-edged design, but most of the more advanced health features are not expected until 2022 at the earliest. Daily Mail

Facebook has told the BBC that it took part in an effort to help 175 citizens leave Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country. The company said some staff members were also on the flight to Mexico City. The Mexican government confirmed the flight was carrying activists and independent journalists along with their families, including 75 children. Multi-national companies and organisations have continued to pull out of Afghanistan. “In the process of assisting Facebook employees and close partners leave Afghanistan, we joined an effort to help a group of journalists and their families who were in grave danger,” a Facebook spokesperson told the BBC. BBC 

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) further loosened App Store rules on Wednesday, allowing some content companies like Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) to provide links to their websites so customers can sign up for paid accounts. The concession was part of a settlement with Japan’s anti-trust regulator, which said the change was enough for it to close a five-year investigation into Apple that focused on video and music apps but did not consider games. The U.S. tech giant, however, must still contend with a raft of other legal and regulatory challenges to rules it forces game makers to follow, including a closely watched antitrust lawsuit brought by “Fortnite” creator Epic Games. Reuters 

A Russian official has warned the International Space Station could suffer from “irreparable” failures due to outdated equipment. Cosmonauts have found new cracks in part of the ISS which could widen over time, Vladimir Solovyov, the chief engineer of rocket and space company Energia, told state media. He also said 80% of inflight systems on the Russian segment of the structure had passed their expiry date. “Superficial fissures have been found in some places on the Zarya module,” Mr Solovyov said. “This is bad and suggests that the fissures will begin to spread over time.”This means that literally a day after the systems are fully exhausted, irreparable failures may begin.” Sky News

Chris Price