Tech News Weekly 335 Transcript

Please be advised this transcript is AI-generated and may not be word for word. Time codes refer to the approximate times in the ad-supported version of the show.

0:00:00 - Mikah Sargent
Coming up on Tech News Weekly. It's the first Thursday of the month. That means Abrar Al-Heeti of CNET is here and she has a great story of the week. It's all about the affordable internet program and, frankly, how the money is running out and that has a huge impact on Native Americans and others who live in places where there's just not a lot of internet without the help of this subsidy. After a little break, I come back with my story of the week. It's about how GM might regret ditching CarPlay for its own infotainment system.

We talk about the history of infotainment systems and I do a bit of shouting during that segment, so definitely listen in for that. Lisa Eadicicco of CNET joins us to talk about the Rabbit R1. I ask about the fact that a lot of what it can do is by way of an Android app, and Lisa Eadicicco says you know it's more than just an app. It's a really good conversation before we round things out with Semafor's own, Katyanna Quachh, who joins us to talk about what's called model disgorgement. If you want to know what that phrase means, you're going to have to tune in to this week's episode of Tech News Weekly. Stay tuned.

0:01:18 - VO
Podcasts you love. From people you trust. This. Is TWIT.

0:01:30 - Mikah Sargent
This is Tech News Weekly, episode 335, with Abrar Al-Heeti and me, Mikah Sargent, recorded Thursday, mMay 2nd 2024. The Rabbit R1 Is More Than Just An App. Hello and welcome back to Tech News Weekly, the show where every week, we talk to and about the people making and breaking the tech news. I am one of your hosts, Mikah Sargent, and of course, we are joined by a wonderful guest host. It is the first Thursday of the month, so that means Abrar Al-Heeti of CNET is here with me. Hello, Abrar.

0:02:07 - Abrar Al-Heeti
Hello. It's kind of a little scary how fast this last month went by. It's a little startling, but I'm happy to be here.

0:02:16 - Mikah Sargent
How is April over? I don't understand. I looked back at my calendar and there are so many things that I did in April and I'm going how did I? How Well, while we ponder that, I suppose we can get right into it. Of course, as you know, we do have our stories of the week and, Abrar, you can kick things off.

0:02:46 - Abrar Al-Heeti
I wanted to talk about the end of the Affordable Connectivity Program and the communities that it will impact the most. So this is essentially an FCC program that was designed to help more families and households get connected to the internet, because, despite the fact that it is 2024, it's still something that a lot of people don't have access to. And, basically, the ACP gives a $30 discount to households on non-tribal lands, but then households that are on tribal lands get a $75 a month discount on internet service, and this is a huge help for people who you know. This is something that came out during COVID and in 2021, this program was rolled out and it's designed to keep people connected, but also to do all the things that we do online right, which is whether it's working or studying, or connecting with people, and so a lot of these tribal communities and a lot of the 23 million households that are reliant on the ACP have you know, really have you know depended on this right and have expected it to continue for years. It's supposed to be a long-term program and now, you know, a little over two years into its launch, they are running out of funds and a lot of these households, all of these households, all 23 million households will lose this discount, which essentially makes internet unaffordable, and so I found this great article from CNN about how this will impact tribal communities in particular, because these are communities where it's expensive to build infrastructure, and a lot of these traditional ISPs don't really see the value in providing service to these smaller, more rural populations, because they say what's the ROI if we spend all this money building all this expensive infrastructure and we only have a certain number of people who subscribe?

And so these are communities that have been overlooked for so long. And, to add on top of that, okay, now a lot of these people have had the help that they need to get connected to the internet, and that help is going away, and so it's just a really great look at how this will impact not only small businesses and the things that we take for granted. Right, we just assume we'll have access to um, to all these platforms and people online, cause that's just how our lives have become, but, um, this is something that a lot of people are going to lose, and it's going to be awful, honestly, yeah.

0:05:20 - Mikah Sargent
I honestly I'll I had not considered that the subsidies here would encourage ISPs to build in areas that they wouldn't have before, and it totally makes sense. Suddenly, you have people who, up to this point, haven't been able to afford it, and so, yeah, you don't want to build in an area where you're investing a lot of money and you're not getting your return on investment, but to have suddenly a whole swath of customers available. That's an impact that I hadn't considered, because it's enough for me for the part where it's just a good thing. But I know that, despite that, you know, that's enough for me. It's not enough for companies in many cases, and so the whole time when I was thinking about these subsidies, I was thinking you know why? Why would an ISP go and build in one of these places? But, yeah, everybody benefits here. Because it means that they, from their capitalistic mindset, are able to make the money they want and see it as need to make, and also more people get more access. And you know, we continue to see I mean what we're doing right now.

None of this, of course, would be possible without internet and so much of what we do, so much of how we exist in this modern because suddenly you had access to the Internet and you could process payments and advertise and have something like Square, which is a service that a small business can kind of use to do management of their business and also take payments and everything. To suddenly have that lost. I mean people. I hate the idea of people starting to rely on something and then that's something being taken away in general, and that's the big bummer with this. I mean, what is slash can be done about any of this as it stands? Is there an opportunity for those funds that are running out to be refilled? And I just wonder why that's not happening.

0:08:10 - Abrar Al-Heeti
It's a great question and I think it's something people were holding on to hope for. That's something you know, that they would, you know, be able to secure funding for this to continue. Article House Speaker Mike Johnson has kind of been the roadblock here in terms of not being willing to approve more funding for this, but there are some other efforts to introduce another funding bill that could keep this going. So maybe it's just a hiccup where for a while it disappears and then it eventually comes back. But you bring up a great point about the trust factor, and that's something that sources in this story talked about where I love this. I just wanted to read this because I feel like it really paints a picture.

The collapse of the ACP will become another stain on the US government's centuries-long track record of breaking promises to tribal communities, because there's a precedent here of being cautious about okay, do we trust that this program is here to help us?

And if it is, is it going to stay? And it's no secret that there's just a history of overlooking these communities and so to give them something and then to say, nevermind, actually we're going back to where we started and you're just going to have to figure it out. That's just not an option. It shouldn't be an option to just do that. So it will be interesting if they do introduce more funding and they're able to renew this, how will people feel about it? I mean, there probably won't be the same sense of enthusiasm as there was the first time around of okay, great, now I can use telehealth services because I live so far away and this is something I can use, and all these factors. It ties into so many things, and so I hope it gets funded again. But I also hope it's not another temporary thing where the rug gets pulled out from under these communities.

0:09:52 - Mikah Sargent
I also hadn't considered the fact that it meant access to telehealth services, which are often less expensive and, in many cases, provided in subsidized health plans in general, because the cost is it's more cost effective overall. So to suddenly not have access to that it's also telehealth. It's been my experience that that ends up being one of the first ways that people are able to gain access to mental health services for the first time and something that is more cost effective to them. All of that going away is just it's not.

I think that there is a level of unawareness, of ignorance and I don't mean that in the sort of connotative way, but specifically in the denotS who don't realize how many places in the US are still without internet or without affordable internet in their communities.

Because you know, when you talk about bubbles, those of us who are online and participating in conversations have access to the internet and are talking to other people who have access to the internet and are talking to other people who have access to the internet. The people who aren't there aren't able to be part of that conversation and remind us that they are there, and so I I think that that plays some plays a role in the kind of public's view on how important this is, and I wonder, you know, if there were more campaigns or something that talked about the loss of access or the lack of access to internet online, if that could have some impact on this. Because, yeah, in the same way that we have regulated other utilities and those are provided, and in many cases there are lots of different subsidy programs and other cost-saving measures, the internet is not a luxury.

At this point, I can understand when it used to be. It is, at this point, I can understand when it used to be. It is, at this point, a necessity, and everybody, everybody everywhere, deserves access to it. But at least here in the United States, everyone should have access to it, and that you know. That's what this plan aimed to help do. But to not make it something that was going to exist in the long run is very frustrating.

0:12:51 - Abrar Al-Heeti
Absolutely, and not to plug my own article that I did recently, but I did write. I reported on a lot of these efforts to build municipal or publicly funded broadband networks in order to fill in the gaps that are left by a lot of these large private ISPs, where they're not building in these rural communities as much as they should be, or, if they are, the prices are out of reach for a lot of communities. So what the communities end up doing is building their own fiber networks where they say, okay, well, if this is something that's publicly funded, then we can make the prices more affordable for people but also create more competition, because if we're a service and it's not just Xfinity that's available in the area, then they have to lower their prices if they want to lure more customers in, and so that has been really helpful for a lot of communities. Other actually attainable option the roadblock there is. There are about two dozen states that have banned or restricted cities from building these networks, and so there's a struggle here to make this process easier, because it does help communities and it does help get more people online and not just make service affordable, but also just more stable.

I talked to some people who said that they used to have two different. They would pay for two different services so if one went down, they'd have the other as backup, which is just ridiculous. You should not have to do that, but hopefully efforts like that will also make this something, minimize this issue and slowly fill in these gaps. I mean, we've talked about the digital divide and the broadband gaps for so long and it's about time we just figured it out, you know.

0:14:33 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, I agree, and for the record, you should always feel free to plug your stories, because that's a way you have great stories. But B, that is part of what's awesome about having you on the show is that you can share some of the stuff that you're working on, so I appreciate that that was included in this as well. I do think it's time that we take a quick break. Before we come back with my story of the week, I would like to tell you about the Eufy Video Smart Lock E330. Eufy is bringing you this episode of Tech News Weekly Now.

I had the absolute pleasure of installing the Eufy Video Smart Lock E330 recently in our studio and the process was simple. If you're watching, you'll see in the video I have a Phillips head screwdriver and the box and I said and the box, I should be clear. That's all I needed to do the installation. I didn't need to have a bunch of tools to be able to perform the installation. It was very simple to do. You unscrewed what was there, you screwed in what came in the box and you were pretty much all the way there.

There's a great battery pack that this comes with. It charges via USB-C and you pop that in and you start the process of setting up your video. Smart lock you get with this keyless entry. It's got a fingerprint recognition that's just 0.3 seconds with one second unlocking, and because it's got an embedded AI self-learning chip, it becomes more accurate with every use. One of the things I really like about this is that it also features a key so that if all else fails, if the battery dies, if you forget the pin, if your finger is covered with gloves, if you've got the key you can get in. I think that's so important that that backup is there. So if everything else isn't working, you're still able to gain access. And it's so nice too, because it's very easy from a distance.

If you're watching the video, you'll see me letting Burke into the kind of server room, and that was because he rang the doorbell. I got a notification on my phone and I was able to hold down on the unlock button and let him in. And you don't really have to worry about battery anxiety with this because it's got a 10,000 milliamp hour rechargeable battery so it can last up to four months Plus. You'll get a low battery notification before it runs out, so you don't need to worry about that either. You can control your front door remotely, as I was doing, through the Eufy VideoLock app. It's got passcode unlocking remote control with 2K clear sight, two-way audio and enhanced night vision. And again, there's something so delightful about the fact that you can unlock it with a key. You'd think that that's just should be a given, but, frankly, some of those smart locks out there are, like you know what, too bad. No, this makes it very easy to do. There's also, as if that wasn't enough, something that sets this apart no monthly fees. You will have your Eufy video lock recordings locally and never have to pay for storage. So enjoy a worry-free experience with an 18-month warranty, all backed by Eufy's 24-7 professional customer service team. Get yours today by searching Eufy Video Lock on Amazon or visit That's, and we thank Eufy for sponsoring this week's episode of Tech News Weekly.

All right back from the break, and this time I wanted to talk about an interesting story over on Bloomberg from Austin Carr and David Welch. It is kind of funny that Austin's last name is Carr, given that this is a story about cars, that Austin's last name is car, given that this is a story about cars. Anyway, that's something I just realized. The headline of the piece is Will GM Regret Kicking Apple CarPlay Off the Dashboard? And this is a conversation, a piece about kind of the history of CarPlay and Android Auto and the way that GM specifically has decided to introduce its own technology and forego CarPlay and kind of what's at stake there.

The piece starts with a nice story about a guy named Michael Waldron who purchased a Chevy Blazer EV a 2024 Chevy Blazer EV who absolutely loved it, but it used the GM Ultify platform that does not let you use CarPlay. Despite that, when Waldron was using it very much, had no problem. It was okay, you know, it had navigation, it had media. But over time problems started to pop up, like the fact that if he got messages on you know text messages that came in you had to do this special thing where you would grant permissions and then it would kind of send the message over Bluetooth. Sometimes it would cut out and then it would kind of send the message over Bluetooth. Sometimes it would cut out when you wanted to go to a place. Waldron was used to talking to Siri to get directions and also use Apple Maps to get directions. Can't do that, got to use Google Maps and then also it didn't have Apple Music or the Apple Podcasts app built in, and that was the app that the two of them were using. So they were not able to do any of that with the built-in experience from GM, and so Ultify just kind of wasn't living up to what they had hoped.

And then this is I'm going to kind of read directly, to read directly from the piece, because this is rather troubling. After a warning light randomly popped up on the main screen, apps kept crashing before the display blacked out altogether. With the system bricked, no settings could be changed for the 600-mile drive back to Des Moines, not even the Sirius XM channel, which was stuck on 1990s radio. So an error in the system caused the entire thing to crash, which caused them not to be able to make any changes. And this is where I become an old sorry for shouting. This is where nope, still shouting I become an old man for a moment, because this is the part like, okay, obviously I do a tech show. I talk about tech all the time. I love technology, but I am absolutely the old man who says we don't need all these computers in our cars, right there with you. Yeah, thank you, I can go in, and maybe it's a Midwest thing I don't know because I know a few things about going in and tinkering with.

I'm not you know. I know where the carburetor is and mostly what it does, and if I absolutely had to, I could do a tire change, that kind of thing. But I, even with what little you know knowledge that I have, my ability also to go out and kind of learn about it, I can make something happen. But as these cars get more futuristic, it becomes impossible for us to fix our own machines, and that's frustrating, and the idea that all of your dashboard is tech, and so what if this isn't the case in this case? But what if your instrument cluster was also a part of the screen and then suddenly you weren't able to see how fast you were driving anymore and you weren't able to see if the engine started to overheat, and so you didn't know until it started to smell Like no. And a warning light coming on in a car should not crash the entire system and force you to listen to 1990s music. I can't remember what it was, but there's some story about a hostage situation where they blasted. I don't think it was a hostage situation, I think the person was maybe alone inside of the building, but in order to get them to come out. They blasted music like for for hours and hours at top volume to finally get them to come out. It is psychological warfare at that point.

So now that I've gone on that rant, before I open this up for us to actually have a conversation really quick, we'll kind of continue on, which is that it is kind of a fascinating observation that both the appropriately named Austin Carr and David Welch, less appropriately named, had about this the case that in the beginning, the reason why CarPlay and Android Auto came about is because the built-in infotainment systems for cars were terrible, and so the devices that we started to take with us everywhere, having them offer some sort of option was nice, and it was an alternative to the systems that were built in that stunk. And it was an alternative to the systems that were built in that stunk. And so to have now car manufacturers trying to reclaim that territory, but reclaim it with, once again, subpar experiences, it's not great. And when Waldron took the car to the GM plant to be serviced, of course they were like tell us, what can we do to make this right?

And Waldron said, well, you could put carplay in it. And they were like well, we have a feeling we're going to be hearing that a lot. So I know you don't currently drive a car, but you have driven, if I remember correctly, currently drive a car but you have driven, if I remember correctly, and I'm curious just like tell me about your experiences with any infotainment systems, how you feel about them in general, et cetera, et cetera.

0:24:46 - Abrar Al-Heeti
Yeah, so the car that I did own up until a few years ago was my 2012 Toyota Corolla S, which did not have a touchscreen display, and I like that because as you're driving, you can not have to look at your display and push buttons. You're still kind of looking at the road. You can feel where all the knobs are and the buttons. I think this is just so interesting because there has been so. At WWDC a couple of years ago, apple talked about essentially what you were just describing, where CarPlay would expand to the entire dashboard, which includes having access to heating and the speedometer, and I remember watching that and thinking that is a lot of access. I know I haven't had a car for a few years, but is this the point that we're at, where that's just all touchscreen, all digital? So that was unsettling to hear about, and I think what's interesting reading this is this idea of give them an inch, they'll run a mile, right, so it's okay, we'll let you integrate CarPlay into our cars. Oh my God, you want to take over the entire thing. This is a lot of access, and so I think obviously Apple does what it does so well in its ecosystem and its walled garden, or what people, what keep people coming and what keep people in, right?

But then I it's interesting to see these car makers say wait, no, no, no, we, we should be in charge of something if there's, you know, all this interest and this is where things are headed. And so maybe this is the time before it gets too far. It clearly has gotten too far, because people are upset there isn't CarPlay. But maybe this is like, if they don't do it now, if they don't jump in now and say wait, no, we need to develop something on our own. It's never going to happen, because once Apple's there, it's there, right? No one's going to back out of that. So it's just interesting to see where we're at with all of this and I'm like how did all this happen in the last few years? I mean, I like you know, within a decade or so, everything's changed. All the displays are digital. It's amazing.

0:26:41 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, it is kind of wild how that's changed and you have different vehicles who've made different choices when it comes to how you interact with the vehicle. I tend to be of the mindset that you want as many physical controls as possible, because it means you don't have to look to know what you're doing, and I think that's incredibly important. I should be able to feel for a knob without taking my eyes off the road, and be able to make those adjustments or communicate with my voice. It's been my experience that all of those built-in infotainment systems have terrible voice controls and are laughable, and the GPS is like three years out of date. It just. I understand the desire to have a piece of the pie, but if you want to have a piece of the pie and you're approaching with a penny while the other person is approaching with a platinum bar, I'm going to give the piece of the pie to the platinum bar, obviously, unless you just really like copper, I don't know. But my point is I don't really care, gm, that you want to be in control of this system. You're not doing as good of a job and, frankly, you're not ever going to be a smartphone. A person is not going to have that deeper integration that they have with a smartphone, I guess, until we reach like Transformers technology, where I plop my phone down and it turns into a car itself. Otherwise, yeah, those are two wholly different systems. Now I get the kind of middle ground where GM and maybe others saw Apple going from I'm just going to be this little rectangle in your car to I'm reaching across the dashboard and suddenly this is your iOS car. Right, I get that. There's some concern there.

And then also, if you plan to offer in your car the ability to, I don't know, make the, uh, the inner ceiling of your car look like the sky or something, and, uh, you know you've got all these speakers that are extra speakers that can only be controlled, I get that as well. You know you want to be able to market that as part of what sets the car apart, and the only way to access it is using the infotainment system that's built in. They don't have integrations with CarPlay or whatever. That's fine, but to completely say no, no, no, carplay isn't going to work with this, that's like to me. It is somewhat equivalent and the people will.

Now I'm realizing it's not that great of a comparison, but you know what I'm going to go with it anyway. It's like me buying a house and then being told that I have I can only use a certain kind of appliance in it, or that I can only watch a certain set of shows in it. It's like I bought the thing. It's mine. I should be able to do with it what I please. This idea that I can't use CarPlay or whatever infotainment system I want to use is wild. And it's all because they want to make more money off of the people by charging them extra for I. This really grinds my gears. They want to charge extra for what they call premium safety features. Can we talk about how safety should not come at an extra cost, please?

0:30:31 - Abrar Al-Heeti
How much do you want to stay alive? How much are you willing? Exactly that's what it feels like.

0:30:35 - Mikah Sargent
It's like oh, you got a, you got a great spine. There be a shame if something had happened to it. You better pay this extra ten dollars a month so that you, you know, don't so that the, the spinal airbags will actually activate what? I know, it's not that intense, but don't put safety features behind a paywall. What are you saying?

0:31:02 - Abrar Al-Heeti
Yeah, absolutely. Well then, cause they? They mentioned, how, you know, gm wants to be a platform innovator, so it's like they want to really tap into the software too. But it, but this it's very explicit of we want to make more money off of these software advancements in these cars, and so to see it extend to things like safety. I think, okay, well, I don't, that's where we're at right. That's just a startling reality.

0:31:24 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, absolutely. And if you're going to, okay, you want to be a platform innovator, do it and make something that is genuinely better than like. That's all they have to do. That is truly all that has to happen. If you make a system that is better so much better than what someone already has, then they will switch to it. They will so make it actually better. Don't make it so that I'm stuck listening to I mean, in nineties, music is great, don't get me wrong but to be stuck listening to a 600 mile thing and not be able to make a change, that's just wild. I'm realizing we're out of time, so I want to thank you, abraar Alhiti, for joining me this week to talk about two, I think, important stories, and I appreciate you spending some time with us today. If folks want to follow you online and check out all the great work you're doing, where should they go to do that?

0:32:19 - Abrar Al-Heeti
You can follow me on Instagram and TikTok, both my first name, last name, Abrar El-Hiti. I'm on X every now and then, but, yeah, those are the places you can find me. I'm also on cnetcom and thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

0:32:40 - Mikah Sargent
Thanks so much, Abrar. We will see you again soon. Bye-bye, thank you. Alrighty folks, it is time for our next ad break, and it is Wix Studio who is bringing you this episode of Tech News Weekly, which you know what that means. It's time for me to get to do literally anything I want with this ad spot, because I'm getting creative freedom from Wix Studio. That's exactly what the Wix Studio platform gives to web designers creative freedom.

So with that, my moment of creative freedom this week is going to involve a bit of crochet. So I am currently working on some. It's kind of a granny square, but it's not, it's a granny hexagon, and I have to make a ton of these granny hexagon motifs that then get turned into a hexagon. So I'm currently working on some puff stitches and I thought I would just do a few of these while this ad is going on because I have this moment of creative freedom, so we can at least get, let's say, two puff stitches done right. And if you don't know what a puff stitch is, that is where you yarn over and then you basically pass through the stitch three times Although a puff stitch can come in different sizes through the stitch three times, although puff stitch can come in different sizes. Mine are three stitch puff stitches.

And then we go through, and now you all are able if you're watching the video, you are watching me crochet and for you right-hand crocheters, you're going. What in the world is he doing? Left-hand crochet? And yeah, we got two nice puff stitches done. So we're well on our way. The puff stitches will go all the way around this circle and then from there we do clusters of five DC, five double crochet, and then out from there clusters of six double crochet and at the end it will form this beautiful circle with different textures.

So thank you very much, Wix Studio, for my moment of creative freedom. If you want full creative freedom too, you should build your next product on Wix Studio, the platform for agencies and enterprises, and honestly, I'm kind of blown away by what Wix Studio can do and what you can do with Wix Studio. Super fun, creative freedom is a great uh moment. So go to or click on the link on the show page to find out more. Thank you, Wix Studio, for helping me continue on with my current crochet project and for empowering us all with creative freedom. Alrighty, we are back from the break and I know you've all been wondering are we going to talk about a new product that has reached the masses? Well, yes, we are. I am pleased to say that CNET's Lisa Edechiko is back this time to talk about the Rabbit R1. Welcome back to the show, lisa.

0:35:43 - Lisa Eadicicco
Of course. Thank you so much for having me.

0:35:46 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, so there are, I know, going to be a couple of folks out there who haven't heard about the Rabbit R1. So I was hoping you could start by telling our listeners what in the world the Rabbit R1 is. Yeah, absolutely so, the Rabbit R1. So I was hoping you could start by telling our listeners what in the world.

0:35:58 - Lisa Eadicicco
The Rabbit R1 is? Yeah, absolutely so. The Rabbit R1 is this tiny little orange box that it's essentially a virtual assistant in a box, so you can press this button on the side and speak into it and ask it a question like what's the weather tomorrow? What's the tallest building in the world? You can really ask it or try to ask it almost anything. And it also has a few other features as well, Like there's a camera on here so you can point the camera at something and ask it a question about what it's seeing. But I do think the simplest way to think about it is like a virtual assistant that lives in this tiny little box.

0:36:31 - Mikah Sargent
Nice and, as you're showing it for folks who are listening, it's sort of a. It's kind of rectangular and it is. I guess it's more squarish than rectangular. It is a bright orangey red and has a little screen. It's got a unique look. I was hoping you could talk a bit about that design and what it's like using those hardware controls, because we're also used to just touch, touch, touch. This kind of really involves the hardware controls. Yeah.

0:37:00 - Lisa Eadicicco
Yeah, absolutely. So. It has kind of like a retro look to it, like this really reminded me of something that you know. It's kind of hard to tell what time period it's from because it looks a little bit retro. It's got a scroll wheel on it and there's a button on the side that you press when you want to speak into the RabidR1 and ask it a question.

And it's interesting that you mentioned the hardware, because I do really feel like a lot of this experience is kind of powered by your voice more than anything else, because even though there is a screen on this, you don't really use the screen to interact with it at all.

There are a few instances when you will use the screen, for example, if you're scrolling through the settings menu or maybe your queue on Spotify or something like that. You're going to want to use the scroll wheel to scroll up and down, but for the most part, you're not really using the screen that often. So I thought this was really interesting. In my opinion, I feel like I would rather just have a touch interface for a lot of those interactions than using the scroll wheel. I mean, it is a nice touch if you're into like that kind of retro vibe. But I do think touch would be a bit more intuitive in some of these situations. But there are a couple of nice little flourishes like to turn up the brightness or the volume. You hold the side button from the settings menu and use the scroll wheel to toggle it up or down. So I thought that was kind of interesting.

0:38:14 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, that is kind of nice. So let's talk about the promised feature set. What are some of the main things that I've noted it's supposed to be able to do?

0:38:32 - Lisa Eadicicco
And then from that which of the features actually did work. Yeah, so you know the Rabbit R1 is supposed to be able to call you an Uber, create images on MidJourney, order lunch or dinner or whatever from DoorDash for you, answer questions, play Spotify, translate languages, take voice memos, things like that. It does do a lot of those things, but it doesn't necessarily do them better than your smartphone can. I found myself really reaching for my phone a lot of the time when I was trying to use this thing, and also some of the functionality didn't really work the way I expected.

As you mentioned, I haven't been able to get Uber to work yet, which for me was kind of a little bit of an issue. Every time I would try to call an Uber, it either couldn't pinpoint my location the right way or it would say that there's an error, but I didn't really know what the error was. So I would say that the experience right now isn't smooth at all for some of these things. And even when it does answer correctly, it's hard to know what to do with that information because it doesn't really save those answers anywhere for later reference. So it just definitely feels like it's not really living up to that vision of being able to do things more efficiently than your phone, not even close vision of being able to do things more efficiently than your phone, not even close.

0:39:52 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, I mean, it seemed like it was, as you said, kind of supposed to be this replacement and have this major feature set. Have the developers I don't even know if the developers, specifically, are the ones talking about what it can do or not the leadership of the company? Have they talked about, kind of, is there any roadmap, are there rollout plans? Is there promises of more in the future? And is that available to the public? Like, do people know what's going to be coming versus what's here right now, and kind of to go along with that. How much I hate to use this, it's kind of a loaded phrase but how much of a half-baked product does this feel like to you? Do you feel like it's fully cooked in terms of in comparison to maybe other consumer tech that people can buy, or does it have a lot of work to do?

0:40:49 - Lisa Eadicicco
Yeah, I would say it definitely feels half-baked, it feels a little unfinished. To be honest, there's only a very small handful of things that this product can do on day one, and a lot of those things don't even really work the way that I expected them to. There is a big roadmap of future features that will be coming out, some of them over the summer, some of them at an unspecified time. Things like support for more apps like Yelp, uber, eats, airbnb, things like that 1Password is another one and then additional features as well, like support for calendar syncing and reminders and things like that.

But for me, I think that that's really the big issue here is that I feel like this launched before a lot of the services and apps and integrations and features were really ready for it. So it's hard to know exactly how you should be using this thing. And, like I said, even when it does work, it doesn't really make that case that this is a more efficient way to do things than your phone. But I do think the two kind of go hand in hand because there aren't that many services. It doesn't make that case yet.

0:41:52 - Mikah Sargent
Now the R1,. It does seem to center around the premise that using a bunch of different apps for a bunch of different tasks is so last year and there's a part of me that understands that it would be kind of nice to have an Omni app. But do you think that that AI controlled Omni app idea has legs, even though in practice right now it has a lot of work to do? In your mind, having kind of paid attention to AI in general, but also in different, in all of your tech reporting, is that a promising idea? This one app to control them all?

0:42:33 - Lisa Eadicicco
I do think it's a really interesting idea and I do think it solves a problem that a lot of us do face every day, which is that there are so many apps.

Switching between them takes a lot of time.

Sometimes tapping on your screen isn't the most efficient way to do something, but I don't think the Rabbit R1 is necessarily the answer, especially not in the state that it's in now.

My opinion, what I think is more likely and a more, I guess, elegant and useful way to solve that problem, would be to integrate some of that functionality into a smartphone operating system. Instead of having a standalone device, why not take the device that already has all of your information and all of the services that you use and have this kind of like ambient assistant that lives over it that can help you connect the dots between you know all of these services, and I do think that is something that we're going to see in the future. I also don't think all of it will be voice based, and again, this is just my personal opinion. I don't have any like insider knowledge on what the big tech companies are doing or anything like that, but I do think when you look at some new phone features like circle to search and things like that. You're starting to see smartphone companies kind of get at that idea of making the smartphone operating system a bit more intelligent and able to communicate between apps, versus having a voice enabled assistant that does that for you.

0:43:52 - Mikah Sargent
Definitely Now. Lastly, and you kind of touching on it there at the end, frankly, android authorities, michelle Roman, was able to get the Rabbit R1 software slash firmware, sort of running on an Android device completely separate from the Rabbit hardware, which would suggest that the entirety of the system was essentially an Android app. Did learning about that have any impact? Or does learning about it have any impact on how you see the Rabbit R1, its features and, most importantly I think, its price? Or do you think that you know, just looking at this sort of in a vacuum, as this one package that is making this promise, do you think that the hardware is an important part of what makes the R1 a useful tool?

0:44:44 - Lisa Eadicicco
I do, actually surprisingly. So no learning. You know, reading that story from Android Authority didn't really change my opinion on it, because so what if this thing is powered by Android? If it's a great product, then it's a great product. Who cares if it's, you know, based on something that we're already using, right?

But that said, I do think the hardware is a big part of what makes the R1 the R1, because it kind of forces you into this like method of interacting with a tech device that you probably wouldn't do on your phone, like, yes, you can use Google Gemini or Google Lens right now to take a picture of something and ask what it is, but the truth is most people probably aren't doing that. When they're using their phone, they're probably looking at something and typing it into Google or something like that. So I do think the hardware here is really key, because the screen is so small and it's not useful in the same way that a phone screen is, so it's really forcing you into thinking about prompts rather than what you would type, I guess. So I do think the hardware is important but, like I said earlier, the experience just isn't there yet, I do think the hardware is important but, like I said earlier, the experience just isn't there yet.

0:45:47 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, it would be interesting to see if any of these AI products have legs in the long run. I know a lot of them are trying, but we shall see if that is the case. I do appreciate you for taking some time to join us today to talk about the Rabbit R1 and your time with the device. If folks want to follow you online and check out all the great work you're doing, where should they go to do that?

0:46:11 - Lisa Eadicicco
Yeah, absolutely. So you can find me on X at Lisa Etichico. You can also find me on threads at Lisa Etichico and, of course, you can check out my work on cnetcom.

0:46:22 - Mikah Sargent
Thanks so much, and we will see you again soon.

0:46:25 - Lisa Eadicicco

0:46:31 - Mikah Sargent
Sounds good. Thanks again. Bye, all righty folks, let's take another quick break. Before we come back with the second interview, I want to tell you a little bit about Yahoo Finance. We're bringing you this episode of Tech News Weekly.

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Thank you so much to Yahoo Finance for sponsoring this week's episode of Tech News Weekly. Back from the break, and that means it's time for our next interview, and I am fascinated by the topic that's coming up, because this is about saving time and money and research for those who are working in the AI space. There is a story about Amazon researchers who may have figured out a way to rid these models of bad data. Joining us to talk about this is Semafor's own, Katyanna Quach. Welcome to the show.

0:49:15 - Katyanna Quach
Hi, hello. Thank you for having me.

0:49:17 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, it's a pleasure to have you here. So, as we kind of talk about this, there's a big phrase that I think our listeners are going to need to understand before we can get into things, and that is the phrase model disgorgement, which is even kind of difficult to say. I was hoping that you can explain the concept of model disgorgement and why it's seen as a potential solution for handling that problematic data in AI models.

0:49:48 - Katyanna Quach
Yeah, model disgorgement is this idea that you can remove or disgorge data from a model that's already been trained. So right now, you know these models. They learn really complicated patterns in data and once they've been trained, their behaviors are kind of set in stone, and the idea behind model disgorgement is that you can go back and remove some of the data it was trained on to change its behavior. So maybe it was trained on data that's biased or toxic or data that violates, you know, privacy or copyright infringement, and with model disgorgement.

0:50:41 - Mikah Sargent
If you could remove the problematic data, then you know the behaviors of your model would be fixed. Yeah, so that is a pretty cool thing because it's something that we have seen a number of companies sort of struggle with after the fact and from the sounds of it, we heard about Microsoft going through and kind of making these corrections and, from the sounds of it, a lot of that required kind of manual work. So to have something that's kind of more built in is pretty cool. So let me ask you this what are some of the kind of specific challenges that these Amazon researchers faced in removing biased, toxic or other what they deem harmful data from AI models? What's been challenging about it?

0:51:21 - Katyanna Quach
Yeah, so these models are really huge and the data sets are really big as well, and it's really difficult to go figure out what bit of data is contributing to a particular behavior or a particular output. And if you don't know where to look and trying to find it is also really hard then how do you remove it? And I think this is probably the biggest challenge for people working on model discouragement right now let me ask you this.

0:52:00 - Mikah Sargent
In article, you mentioned a new approach involving splitting training data into shards. So how does this technique help in managing or removing unwanted data from AI models?

0:52:13 - Katyanna Quach
Yeah, there's this idea that you can split your data into chunks or shards and train each chunk on a submodel and run all these these sub models in parallel, so it effectively behaves like one big model. And if you know the data that you want to remove isn't a particular shard, you can just get rid of it and it doesn't affect the whole model. So you don't have to retrain it all again from scratch. You can just get rid of the shard that you want.

0:52:44 - Mikah Sargent
Ah, that's clever. So one of the things that kind of comes up are regulations like GDPR and the right to be forgotten. So could you talk about how this research impacts the compliance with regulations like the GDPR?

0:53:02 - Katyanna Quach
Yeah, with the right to be forgotten. People can request their personal data be deleted, and right now you can't do that with models that have already been trained, because you can't go back and find the bit of data you want to delete. And the idea with model disgorgement is if you can selectively go and delete that small bit of data that somebody wants deleted maybe it's, I don't know their address or their phone number you could do that, you could remove it.

0:53:55 - Mikah Sargent
So it's easy to see in a lab environment how this technology can be used and be used effectively and positively for the sake of making the model and changing and updating the model. But it's the phrase no plan survives contact with the enemy. The phrase no plan survives contact with the enemy. It's a whole different ballgame to take this idea and apply it to real world applications. So I'm curious from the researcher's perspective, what are those technical and ethical obstacles in using model disgorgement techniques in real world applications, in using model disgorgement techniques in real-world applications.

0:54:26 - Katyanna Quach
Yeah, it's really tricky to first figure out what data you want to delete, where to find that data you want to remove, and if you keep going around just deleting stuff, the performance of your model is probably going to get worse. So you know, you might not want to remove too much data. In terms of ethical considerations it's not really clear, but imagine the data is particularly sensitive. You might be okay with your doctors knowing your medical records, but maybe you don't want developers from companies snooping around in that information.

0:55:19 - Mikah Sargent
Definitely this article, and researching this piece you obviously had to kind of look at what the Amazon researchers had to say about this, but oftentimes you know new means of doing. This results in some criticisms or some alternative views. I was curious if you did come across any kind of opposing views or criticisms of model disgorgement specifically that were worth discussing, or if overall, it's just been a positive kind of reaction to this technique to kind of clean up AI models this technique to kind of clean up AI models.

0:56:09 - Katyanna Quach
Yeah, I think it's positive because you can see how it benefits users or companies and regulators. So I didn't really see, you know, much pushback. The only thing that might be difficult is actually applying this in practice.

0:56:21 - Mikah Sargent
Applying this in practice? Absolutely. And then, if this is able to be applied in practice, what do you see as the potential impacts on the AI industry if these techniques are actually adopted?

0:56:48 - Katyanna Quach
Yeah, I think this is an interesting question because it might be a way for companies to help to comply with laws. But you know, as I said before, if you keep just deleting stuff, the performance of a model is probably going to get worse and less competitive with other models out there, so there might not be an incentive for companies to use it. On the flip side, it's interesting because, if it's widely accepted, you can imagine that regulators, like maybe the FTC, could ask companies to use model disgorgement to get rid of data that maybe they've obtained unlawfully. Like in the case of Amazon, the FTC had ordered them to delete loads of videos that they had recorded using their Ring cameras that they hadn't gotten permission to record from their users, so this could be a tool for them to help them enforce the law.

0:57:44 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, absolutely. And then last thing I'll ask you is if you can share any insights from your conversations with the researchers. How feasible does it seem to be to actually implement these techniques on a large scale, because we've talked about you know the troubles with doing so, but does it seem like it's something that can be done, that disgorgement techniques do make sense to be used and they can be?

0:58:16 - Katyanna Quach
Yeah, I think you, you know, had a really good point about how AI was like a black box and they work in really mysterious ways where you can't quite figure out what bit of data is contributing to a particular output. And I think the hard part is trying to figure that out, and then the next step would be also trying to find the bit of data you're trying to delete. And these companies are scraping so much content from the internet that they can't manually go and inspect every web page and look at every image to see what was collected where. So how do you delete something that you don't know what to find and where to look for? I think is hard, but you know there's a lot of progress being made. A lot of researchers seem really interested in this problem, so I don't know, maybe it might work in the future.

0:59:18 - Mikah Sargent
Absolutely. Yeah, it's a problem I do not envy having to solve. I'm glad that I'm not involved in that, particularly as we continue to see these researchers that are working on large models be they large language models or other to actually find new data that they can grab to continue to train the system. I mean, the more you have to grab, the more that possibly needs to be removed because it's bad data, so to speak. It's just a huge problem. So knowing that there are some researchers working on this is super cool and I appreciate that you've taken the time to kind of dig into model disgorgement. Of course folks can head over to semaphorecom to check out the work that you're doing, but if they want to follow along with what you're doing, is there anywhere else they can go to keep up?

1:00:09 - Katyanna Quach
Yeah, I'm also on X at Katiana underscore key. Thank you for having me.

1:00:16 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate it and hope to have you on again soon.

1:00:21 - Katyanna Quach
Thank you, bye, bye-bye.

1:00:23 - Mikah Sargent
Alrighty folks, believe it or not. That brings us to the end of this episode of Tech News Weekly. Our show publishes every Thursday at That's where you can go to subscribe to the show in audio and video formats. If you would like to get all of our shows ad-free, well, we've got a way for you to do that. You can check out Club TWiT. For $7 per month you get every single TWiT show with no ads.

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