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21 Best Bluetooth Speakers (2024): Portable, Waterproof, and More

21 Best Bluetooth Speakers (2024): Portable, Waterproof, and More

The best Bluetooth speakers still have a place near and dear to our hearts, even as we’ve seen better (and more portable) smart speakers creeping into the universe. It’s fun and easy to ask an Amazon Echo or Google Nest speaker to play your favorite track or tell you the weather, but smart speakers require stable Wi-Fi and updates to work. By (mostly) forgoing voice assistants and Wi-Fi radios, Bluetooth speakers are more portable, with the ability to venture outside of your house and withstand rugged conditions like the sandy beach or the steamy Airbnb jacuzzi. They’ll also work with any smartphone, and they sound as good as their smart-speaker equivalents.

We’ve tested hundreds of Bluetooth speakers since 2017 (and many before that), and we can happily say they are still some of the best small devices for listening on the go. Here are our favorites right now. Be sure to check out all our buying guides, including the Best Soundbars, Best Wirefree Earbuds, and Best Smart Speakers.

Updated February 2024: We’ve added the JBL Charge 5 and Tribit Stormbox Flow, as well as honorable mentions for the Tivoli Model Two and Dali Katch G2.

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Air Canada Has to Honor a Refund Policy Its Chatbot Made Up

Air Canada Has to Honor a Refund Policy Its Chatbot Made Up

After months of resisting, Air Canada was forced to give a partial refund to a grieving passenger who was misled by an airline chatbot inaccurately explaining the airline’s bereavement travel policy.

On the day Jake Moffatt’s grandmother died, Moffat immediately visited Air Canada’s website to book a flight from Vancouver to Toronto. Unsure of how Air Canada’s bereavement rates worked, Moffatt asked Air Canada’s chatbot to explain.

The chatbot provided inaccurate information, encouraging Moffatt to book a flight immediately and then request a refund within 90 days. In reality, Air Canada’s policy explicitly stated that the airline will not provide refunds for bereavement travel after the flight is booked. Moffatt dutifully attempted to follow the chatbot’s advice and request a refund but was shocked that the request was rejected.

Moffatt tried for months to convince Air Canada that a refund was owed, sharing a screenshot from the chatbot that clearly claimed:

If you need to travel immediately or have already travelled and would like to submit your ticket for a reduced bereavement rate, kindly do so within 90 days of the date your ticket was issued by completing our Ticket Refund Application form.

Air Canada argued that because the chatbot response elsewhere linked to a page with the actual bereavement travel policy, Moffatt should have known bereavement rates could not be requested retroactively. Instead of a refund, the best Air Canada would do was to promise to update the chatbot and offer Moffatt a $200 coupon to use on a future flight.

Unhappy with this resolution, Moffatt refused the coupon and filed a small claims complaint in Canada’s Civil Resolution Tribunal.

According to Air Canada, Moffatt never should have trusted the chatbot and the airline should not be liable for the chatbot’s misleading information because, Air Canada essentially argued, “the chatbot is a separate legal entity that is responsible for its own actions,” a court order said.

Experts told the Vancouver Sun that Moffatt’s case appeared to be the first time a Canadian company tried to argue that it wasn’t liable for information provided by its chatbot.

Tribunal member Christopher Rivers, who decided the case in favor of Moffatt, called Air Canada’s defense “remarkable.”

“Air Canada argues it cannot be held liable for information provided by one of its agents, servants, or representatives—including a chatbot,” Rivers wrote. “It does not explain why it believes that is the case” or “why the webpage titled ‘Bereavement travel’ was inherently more trustworthy than its chatbot.”

Further, Rivers found that Moffatt had “no reason” to believe that one part of Air Canada’s website would be accurate and another would not.

Air Canada “does not explain why customers should have to double-check information found in one part of its website on another part of its website,” Rivers wrote.

In the end, Rivers ruled that Moffatt was entitled to a partial refund of $650.88 in Canadian dollars off the original fare (about $482 USD), which was $1,640.36 CAD (about $1,216 USD), as well as additional damages to cover interest on the airfare and Moffatt’s tribunal fees.

Air Canada told Ars it will comply with the ruling and considers the matter closed.

Air Canada’s Chatbot Appears to Be Disabled

When Ars visited Air Canada’s website on Friday, there appeared to be no chatbot support available, suggesting that Air Canada has disabled the chatbot.

Air Canada did not respond to Ars’ request to confirm whether the chatbot is still part of the airline’s online support offerings.

The Apple Vision Pro Is Heavy. There Are Ways to Fix It

The Apple Vision Pro Is Heavy. There Are Ways to Fix It

In the two weeks it has spent on the faces of eager buyers, the Apple Vision Pro has been subjected to its share of criticism. As reported by The Verge and elsewhere, some customers are making a show of returning their Vision Pro headsets before Apple’s standard 14-day return window on new purchases closes. Some headset owners have lodged complaints across social media about the device’s weight, saying wearing the Vision Pro for extended periods of time causes great discomfort, and the odd allegedly-related burst blood vessel.

Apple isn’t one to skimp on the look and feel of its products, and the Vision Pro has a characteristically slick aesthetic. Unfortunately, the premium materials that make up the headset—primarily the aluminum chassis and glass optics—are much heavier than the plastic and other lightweight components found in competing mixed-reality headsets. There’s also an external battery pack that reduces the headset’s portability. The bulk, weight, and awkwardness of wearing a computer on your face make for a clunky experience which hardly seems to lend itself to the types of activities Apple is suggesting Vision Pro owners use it for: kicking back and watching a feature-length movie in VR, doing office work, or dancing around your kitchen while building a surfboard.

Eduardo Umaña, a hardware designer, says the fact that it’s uncomfortable is less about the materials and more about the size and dimensions of the device. “When you have weight (the aluminum frame) acting a distance from an anchor point (the user’s face), it creates almost a lever effect that, although minimal, will disturb the user’s experience,” Umaña writes in an email to WIRED.

Compare that to a normal pair of glasses, which rest directly on the nose and sit very close to the face, reducing that leverage. Normal glasses obviously require far fewer materials than the Vision Pro, but Umaña says their design can offer a lesson in how to better hug a face. “If Apple wants to make the device more comfortable and wearable, this distance needs to be reduced significantly. Or at least, the heavier materials should be closer to the user’s face, like in a ski mask.”

Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg weighed in on the Vision Pro by comparing the headset unfavorably to his company’s Meta Quest headset in a video posted on Instagram. “Quest is better for the vast majority of things that people use mixed reality for,” he says.

Biased though he clearly is, Zuck may be right. Because the Apple Vision Pro is not meant to actually appeal to everyone. Jitesh Ubrani, a research manager at the tech analyst firm IDC, says the Vision Pro is bound to cause friction because it is a product intended as a developer kit, rather than something truly meant for the average consumer.

“I think Apple realizes there would be this sort of backlash, but it’s the kind of backlash they’d be willing to accept as collateral damage,” Ubrani says. “Really they’re trying to make inroads with the developers right now.”

OpenAI’s Sora Turns AI Prompts Into Photorealistic Videos

OpenAI’s Sora Turns AI Prompts Into Photorealistic Videos

We already know that OpenAI’s chatbots can pass the bar exam without going to law school. Now, just in time for the Oscars, a new OpenAI app called Sora hopes to master cinema without going to film school. For now a research product, Sora is going out to a few select creators and a number of security experts who will red-team it for safety vulnerabilities. OpenAI plans to make it available to all wannabe auteurs at some unspecified date, but it decided to preview it in advance.

Other companies, from giants like Google to startups like Runway, have already revealed text-to-video AI projects. But OpenAI says that Sora is distinguished by its striking photorealism—something I haven’t seen in its competitors—and its ability to produce longer clips than the brief snippets other models typically do, up to one minute. The researchers I spoke to won’t say how long it takes to render all that video, but when pressed, they described it as more in the “going out for a burrito” ballpark than “taking a few days off.” If the hand-picked examples I saw are to be believed, the effort is worth it.

OpenAI didn’t let me enter my own prompts, but it shared four instances of Sora’s power. (None approached the purported one-minute limit; the longest was 17 seconds.) The first came from a detailed prompt that sounded like an obsessive screenwriter’s setup: “Beautiful, snowy Tokyo city is bustling. The camera moves through the bustling city street, following several people enjoying the beautiful snowy weather and shopping at nearby stalls. Gorgeous sakura petals are flying through the wind along with snowflakes.”

AI-generated video made with OpenAI’s Sora.

Courtesy of OpenAI

The result is a convincing view of what is unmistakably Tokyo, in that magic moment when snowflakes and cherry blossoms coexist. The virtual camera, as if affixed to a drone, follows a couple as they slowly stroll through a streetscape. One of the passersby is wearing a mask. Cars rumble by on a riverside roadway to their left, and to the right shoppers flit in and out of a row of tiny shops.

It’s not perfect. Only when you watch the clip a few times do you realize that the main characters—a couple strolling down the snow-covered sidewalk—would have faced a dilemma had the virtual camera kept running. The sidewalk they occupy seems to dead-end; they would have had to step over a small guardrail to a weird parallel walkway on their right. Despite this mild glitch, the Tokyo example is a mind-blowing exercise in world-building. Down the road, production designers will debate whether it’s a powerful collaborator or a job killer. Also, the people in this video—who are entirely generated by a digital neural network—aren’t shown in close-up, and they don’t do any emoting. But the Sora team says that in other instances they’ve had fake actors showing real emotions.

The other clips are also impressive, notably one asking for “an animated scene of a short fluffy monster kneeling beside a red candle,” along with some detailed stage directions (“wide eyes and open mouth”) and a description of the desired vibe of the clip. Sora produces a Pixar-esque creature that seems to have DNA from a Furby, a Gremlin, and Sully in Monsters, Inc. I remember when that latter film came out, Pixar made a huge deal of how difficult it was to create the ultra-complex texture of a monster’s fur as the creature moved around. It took all of Pixar’s wizards months to get it right. OpenAI’s new text-to-video machine … just did it.

“It learns about 3D geometry and consistency,” says Tim Brooks, a research scientist on the project, of that accomplishment. “We didn’t bake that in—it just entirely emerged from seeing a lot of data.”

AI-generated video made with the prompt, “animated scene features a close-up of a short fluffy monster kneeling beside a melting red candle. the art style is 3d and realistic, with a focus on lighting and texture. the mood of the painting is one of wonder and curiosity, as the monster gazes at the flame with wide eyes and open mouth. its pose and expression convey a sense of innocence and playfulness, as if it is exploring the world around it for the first time. the use of warm colors and dramatic lighting further enhances the cozy atmosphere of the image.”

Courtesy of OpenAI

While the scenes are certainly impressive, the most startling of Sora’s capabilities are those that it has not been trained for. Powered by a version of the diffusion model used by OpenAI’s Dalle-3 image generator as well as the transformer-based engine of GPT-4, Sora does not merely churn out videos that fulfill the demands of the prompts, but does so in a way that shows an emergent grasp of cinematic grammar.

That translates into a flair for storytelling. In another video that was created off of a prompt for “a gorgeously rendered papercraft world of a coral reef, rife with colorful fish and sea creatures.” Bill Peebles, another researcher on the project, notes that Sora created a narrative thrust by its camera angles and timing. “There’s actually multiple shot changes—these are not stitched together, but generated by the model in one go,” he says. “We didn’t tell it to do that, it just automatically did it.”

AI-generated video made with the prompt “a gorgeously rendered papercraft world of a coral reef, rife with colorful fish and sea creatures.”Courtesy of OpenAI

In another example I didn’t view, Sora was prompted to give a tour of a zoo. “It started off with the name of the zoo on a big sign, gradually panned down, and then had a number of shot changes to show the different animals that live at the zoo,” says Peebles, “It did it in a nice and cinematic way that it hadn’t been explicitly instructed to do.”

One feature in Sora that the OpenAI team didn’t show, and may not release for quite a while, is the ability to generate videos from a single image or a sequence of frames. “This is going to be another really cool way to improve storytelling capabilities,” says Brooks. “You can draw exactly what you have on your mind and then animate it to life.” OpenAI is aware that this feature also has the potential to produce deepfakes and misinformation. “We’re going to be very careful about all the safety implications for this,” Peebles adds.

Apple MacBook Air Deals: The 13- and 15-Inch M2 Models Are on Sale

Apple MacBook Air Deals: The 13- and 15-Inch M2 Models Are on Sale

In 2023, Apple announced its current flagship M3 chipsets, which are more power-efficient and speedier than its predecessor, but these processors are still available in only the MacBook Pro (14-inch and 16-inch) and 24-inch iMac models. It’s only a matter of time before Apple injects ’em into its MacBook Air lineup—and that could be quite soon. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman suggests Apple is on track to have new MacBook Air models by the end of March.

That might explain these discounts on the M2-powered MacBook Air models. They might not have the latest processor, but the 15-inch MacBook Air isn’t even a year old, and the 13-inch model is still a part of the current generation. These machines are plenty capable and good buys at these slashed prices.

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MacBook Air Deals

2022 MacBook Air

MacBook Air 13-Inch Laptop

Photograph: Apple

This is our go-to MacBook recommendation (7/10, WIRED Recommends) for most people in our Best MacBooks guide. It packs a 13.6-inch display, thinner borders, and a more modern design (MagSafe port included). With an M2 chip under the hood, it offers plenty of power for everyday tasks, a 1080p webcam for crisp video calls, and good battery life. It has dipped as low as $899 during major sale events, and dips to $949 often, but we still think this is a solid deal. This discount applies to the 8-GB version, but if you’d prefer more RAM, the 16-GB version is on sale (in Space Gray) for $1,149 ($150 off) at B&H.

2023 15inch Apple MacBook Air

MacBook Air 15-Inch Laptop

Photograph: Apple

The 15-inch MacBook Air (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is the first large-screen option within the Air lineup. It’s a great choice for those who spend all day working off a laptop and don’t want to squint at a cramped display throughout the day (and prefer not to plug into an external monitor). Apple incorporated the same features as the 13-inch MacBook Air, including an M2 chip and 1080p webcam, all packed into a redesigned chassis that maintains a thin and lightweight design. If you need more RAM and storage, the 16-GB RAM and 512-GB storage configuration is also on sale for $1,399 ($300 off).