Reddit expands chat rooms to more subreddits

If you’d rather spend time chatting with strangers who share a hyper-specific interest instead of keeping up with your co-workers’ stale memes on Slack, Reddit is ready for you. The platform has quietly been working on a chat room feature for months now, and today it expands beyond its early days as a very limited closed beta.

Plenty of subreddits already make use of a chat room feature, but these live outside of Reddit, usually on Slack or Discord. Given that, it makes sense for Reddit to lure those users back into the engaging on Reddit itself by offering its own chat feature.

I spent a little time hanging out in the /r/bjj (brazilian jiu jitsu) chat as well as the psychedelics chat affiliated with r/weed to see how things went across the spectrum, and it was pretty chill — mostly people asking for general advice or seeking answers to specific questions. In a Reddit chat linked to the r/community_chat subreddit — the hub for the new chat feature — redditors discussed if the rooms would lead to more or less harassment and if the team should add upvotes, downvotes and karma to chat to make it more like Reddit’s normal threads. Of course, what I saw is probably a far cry from what chat will look like if and when some of its more inflammatory subreddits get their hands on the new feature. We’ve reached out to Reddit with questions about if all subreddits, even the ones hidden behind content warnings, will be offered the new chat functionality.

Chat rooms are meant as a supplement to already active subreddits, not a standalone community, so it’s basically like watching a Reddit thread unfold in real time. On the Reddit blog, u/thunderemoji writes about why Reddit is optimistic that chat rooms won’t just be another trolling tool:

I was initially afraid that most people would bring out the pitchforks and… unkind words. I was pleasantly surprised to find that most people are actually quite nice. The nature of real-time, direct chat seems to be especially disarming. Even when people initially lash out in frustration or to troll, I found that if you talk to them and show them you’re a regular human like them, they almost always chill out.

Beyond just chilling out, people who are initially harsh or skeptical of new things will actually often change their minds. Sometimes they get so excited that they start to show up in unexpected places defending the thing they once strongly opposed in a way that feels more authentic than anything I could say.

While a few qualitative experiences can only go so far to allay fears, Reddit’s chat does have a few things going for it. For one, moderators add chat rooms. If a subreddit’s mods don’t think they can handle the additional moderation, they don’t have to activate the feature. (A Wired piece on the thinking behind chat explores some of these issues in more depth.)

In the same post, u/thunderemoji adds that Reddit “made moderation features a major priority for our roadmap early in the process” so that mods would have plenty of tools at their disposal. Those tools include an opt-in process, auto-banning users from chat who are banned from a subreddit, “kick” tools that suspend a user for 1 minutes 1 hour, 1 day or 3 days, the ability to lock a room and freeze all activity, rate limits and more.

To sign up for chat rooms (mods can add as many as they’d like once approved), a subreddit’s moderators can add their name to a list that lives here. To find chat rooms to explore, you can check for a link on subreddits you already visit, poke around the sidebar in this post by Reddit’s product team or check out /r/SubChats, a dedicated new subreddit collecting active chat rooms that accompany interest and community-specific subreddits.

Gorilla Glass 6 is here to withstand your clumsy hands

A bit of good news for the perpetually clumsy. Corning unveiled the latest version of its ubiquitous smartphone-encasing material today at an event in California. Gorilla Glass 6 is, naturally, designed to be more durable than its predecessor, introduced roughly this time two years ago.

The big takeaways here are the ability to withstand drops from higher heights and, perhaps even more importantly to most users, multiple drops per device.

“On average, in lab tests, Gorilla Glass 6 survived 15 drops from 1 meter onto rough surfaces, and is up to two times better than Gorilla Glass 5,” according to a release from Corning. “Under the same test conditions, competitive glass compositions, such as soda lime and aluminosilicate, did not survive the first drop.

As many recent flagships (the iPhone included) embrace wireless charging, glass backs are becoming a fairly common occurence in the smartphone world. As such, many manufacturers are embracing Gorilla Glass on both sides of the handsets — effectively covering ~85-percent of the devices’ surfaces in glass. That naturally makes the whole thing more vulnerable.

On many of these handsets, we’re seeing manufacturers embrace different generations of Gorilla Glass on opposite sides. Sometimes it’s over price concerns, but in many cases, different numbers have different strengths — some manage drops better, others are more scratch resistant. The scratch resistant apparently is about the same as its predecessor.

Compromises, it seems, have to be made. It will be interesting to see how ubiquitous Gorilla Glass 6 becomes — and how quickly.

Corning is making the material available to manufacturers now. It should take a few months to start arriving in handsets.

Fortnite maker Epic Games beefs up its Unreal game engine in new update

After a wildly successful last few months thanks to Fortnite, Epic Games is delivering some substantial new updates to its Unreal game engine, which supports a variety of cross-platform titles and experiences. Some features like smoother compatibility on mobile and better support for Switch come directly from the fact that they’ve had to iterate so quickly on building such a massively successful cross-platform title.

“Our engine is as good as it is because we ship games,” Epic Games CTO Kim Libreri told TechCrunch. “How many clicks an artist has to do to be able to change the color of something or adjust the look of something is all highly optimized because the artists scream at us day-in and day-out on the engine team if it’s not efficient.”

The engine enables indie developers to gain access to a system for environment building and rendering that is on-par with the major studios. A lot of the new features come from tools that Epic Games built because it needed them for its own titles. The latest 4.20 update is fairly notable for the engine, bringing some performance bumps but also a new visual effects engine and some other new stuff.

One of the bigger highlights of this update is a system for rendering objects at reduced polygonal complexity when need be. The engine’s Proxy Levels of Detail tech competes directly with some of the technology built by Simplygon, which Microsoft acquired last year. The tech basically allows objects to render in low-poly mesh versions rather than a soft or all-or-nothing scenario, whereas you traverse an environment, objects will just appear out of nowhere on the horizon as they render.

The company says that this tech was essential for ensuring that Fortnite players are on an even footing even when on lower-power devices. The feature has been available in an experimental build since the most recent update, but it has been honed to be more reliable in this new release.

Another heavy hitter of the release is the early access release of Niagara, a long-awaited visual effects editor that the company talked about a lot at GDC. The tool allows developers a lot of control over particle physics for something like an explosion or fire and will eventually be replacing the engine’s existing Cascade system.

In addition to visual effects looking more realistic, Epic is looking to give cutscenes a shot in the arm with tech that allows developers to deliver some pretty top-notch movie-quality shots via depth-of-focus bokeh-like enhancements that draw attention to what matters in a scene. On a similar note, Epic is releasing the tools they have been using in their work to create more realistic digital human characters.

There’s a lot of other new functionality in this release, including updated AR support for Magic Leap One and ARKit 2, as well as some mixed reality capture functionality in early access.

All of these features are available to devs now in the 4.20 update.

Funko is getting into Fortnite toys because it’d be dumb not to

Funko . Even if you don’t know the name, you’ve probably seen their toys. They’re the ones that make those figurines with the big ol’ heads that line the walls of half the stores at the mall — the ones that seem to exist for just about every pop culture-related license on the planet, from random 80’s horror movies to mega properties like Star Wars or Marvel.

So of course they’re getting into Fortnite toys.

The company announced today that it’ll ship Fortnite-themed toys across 10 different product lines, from clothing, to keychains, to the aforementioned big-headed Pop! figurines. While there don’t seem to be any images of the toys in progress out there just yet, the company says the new stuff should start hitting the shelves by the holidays of this year.

Funko Pop! figures from the company’s Gears of War line — photo by Marco Verch

Fortnite is a pretty obvious fit — and as long as the game’s absolutely ridiculous popularity doesn’t dive off a cliff before Christmas for some reason, it’s a pretty big win.

It’s easy to imagine Funko-fied versions of the game’s most recognizable bits, like a vinyl keychain Battle Bus or a Pop! version of the supply llama. But even beyond that, it could be a pretty consistent source of new, limited run releases — something that Funko loves to do. Fortnite shifts to a new “season” every few months, with each iteration introducing dramatically new character skins and retiring those that came before it. Fortnite’s creators at Epic undoubtedly have the data to prove exactly which skins are most popular, which should help them figure out which ones to turn into merch.

As of April, Fortnite was reportedly already pulling in around $10 million per day on in-game items alone, and adding a bunch of real-world merch to the mix is probably just going to make that money machine crank even harder.

InkHunter heads to YC to build a try-and-buy tattoo marketplace

InkHunter, an augmented reality tattoo try-on app that was born out of a 48-hour hackathon back in the altogether gentler days of 2014, has bagged a place in Y Combinator’s summer 2018 batch, scoring itself the seed accelerator’s standard $120,000 deal in exchange for 7 percent equity.

We first covered InkHunter in April 2016 when it had just launched an MVP on iOS and was toying with building a marketplace for tattoo artists. Several months and 2.5 million downloads later, InkHunter launched its Android app, having spent summer 2016 going through the ERA accelerator program in New York.

At that time the team was considering a B2B business model pivot, based on licensing their core AR tech to e-commerce apps and other developers. Though they wanted to keep the tattoo try-on app ticking over as a showcase.

Fast-forward two years and it’s the SDK idea on ice after InkHunter’s app gained enough traction in the tattoo community for the team to revive their marketplace idea — having passed eight million users — so they’ve relocated to Mountain View and swung back around to the original concept of a try-before-you buy tattoo app, using AR to drive bookings for local tattoo artists.

“We are focusing on iterating from ‘try’ to ‘try and buy’ experience, based on feedback we got from our users. And this is our goal for the YC program, which places a lot of focus on growth and user interactions,” CTO Pavlo Razumovskyi tells us.

“Last time we have talked, we did not expect such adoption on the tattoo market. But when we saw really strong usage and feedback from the tattoo community, we decided to double down on that audience.”

The newly added booking option is very much an MVP at this stage — with InkHunter using a Typeform interface to ask users who tap through with a booking request to input their details to be contacted later, via text message, with information about relevant local tattoo artists (starting with the U.S. market).

But the team’s hope for the YC program is help to hone their approach.

Razumovskyi confirms they’ve started with a booking request concierge service in the U.S. without onboarding any tattoo artists into the planned marketplace as yet, and are merely hand-picking local tattoo artists to help users with bookings.

“While this approach doesn’t scale, it helps us to figure out problems and quickly iterate solutions,” he adds. “We are almost done with this stage, and close to launch an in-app search for tattoo artist into selected locations, listing only licensed artists with the large portfolio.”

InkHunter says close to half (45 percent) its users have expressed a desire to get a tattoo within the next few months, while it got more than 500 booking requests in the first week of the concierge feature.

Though you do have to wonder whether users’ desire to experiment with ink on their skin will also extend to a desire to experiment with different tattoo artists too — or whether many regular inkers might not prefer to stick with a tattooist they already know and trust, and whose style they like. (A scenario which may not require an app to sit in the middle to take repeat bookings.)

“We want to help them do this with as little regret as possible,” says CEO Oleksandra Rohachova of InkHunter’s tattoo-hungry users — so presumably the team will also be carefully vetting the tattoo artists they list on their marketplace.

The main function of the app lets users browse thousands of tattoo designs and virtually try them on using its core AR feature — which requires people spill a little real-world ink to anchor the virtual design by making a few pen marks on their skin where they want the tattoo to live. As use-cases for AR go it’s a pretty pleasing one.

InkHunter also supports taking and sharing photos — to loop friends’ opinions into your skin-augmenting decision, and help the app’s fame spread.

The team’s hope for the next stage of building an app business is once an InkHunter user has settled on the design and placement of their next tat, they’ll get comfortable about relying on the app to find and book an artist. And the next time, for their next tattoo too.

The best Amazon Prime Day deals you can still grab

Makula Dunbar
Contributor

Makula Dunbar is a writer with Wirecutter.

Editor’s note: This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and TechCrunch may earn affiliate commissions. Read Wirecutter’s continuously updated list of deals here.

Amazon Prime Day this year, despite its slow start, broke records and boosted the fortunes of its competitors. And now that it’s over, we found some deals you can still take advantage of.

Asus ROG Swift PG279Q 27 Inch

Street Price: $740; Deal Price: $690

A new low price on our gaming monitor pick for Nvidia graphics card users. While it only beats our previous low by a few bucks, this monitor has been stubborn about sticking to $740.

The Asus ROG Swift PG279Q 27 Inch is our G-Sync pick in our guide to the best gaming monitors. David Murphy wrote, “Our pick had the best contrast ratio and lowest measured black levels among our finalists, which helps bring out detail in movies and games; it has all the input connections you need, as well as a built-in USB 3.0 hub; and it’s incredibly adjustable.”

AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable (15 foot)

Street Price: $11; Deal Price: $7

At $7 for a 15 foot cable, this is a new low price. We haven’t seen any discount for this particular size since 2017 and the street price typically sticks to $11.

The AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable is the top pick in our guide to cheap, great HDMI cables. “The AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable is a no-frills HDMI cable, but with HDMI, frills aren’t necessary,” Geoffrey Morrison wrote. “The cable is sturdily built and works with any video signal of today (and probably ones into the near future). Both the 3- and 15-foot lengths passed all our tests, including HDR tests.”

DJI Spark Fly More Combo

Street Price: $550; Deal Price: $500

Down to $500 in all available colors, this is a solid drop from a typical price of $550 for the DJI Spark Fly More Combo, a bundle that includes the Spark, controller, extra battery and other accessories.

The DJI Spark is our entry-level pick for drone photography in our guide to the best drones. “If all you want is something to capture aerial footage on occasion for personal use and social-media sharing, you can save several hundred dollars by getting the DJI Spark,” Mike Perlman wrote. “Despite weighing half as much as the Mavic and folding up to about the size of your hand, it has all the important features you need from a video drone: 1080p video recording, image and flight stabilization, collision-avoidance technology and an included controller, and smart-flight modes like ActiveTrack (tracks and follows a subject) and gesture controls all come standard.”

Lutron Caséta (2 of our top in-wall wireless light switch and dimmer pick + control hub + 2 remotes)

Street Price: $160; Deal Price: $120

If you’re looking for a Lutron Caséta starter kit this is a good deal on one that includes two switches, one bridge and two remotes. Usually priced at $160, the price drops to $120 at checkout, this matches the lowest price we’ve seen.

The Lutron Caséta Wireless In-Wall Dimmer and the Lutron Caséta Smart Bridge are the top picks in our guide to the best in-wall wireless light switch and dimmer. Rachel Cericola wrote, “After spending more than 30 hours swapping out switches, flipping switches, programming timers, and talking to experts, we’ve decided that the Lutron Caséta Wireless In-Wall Dimmer is the best wireless in-wall dimmer switch for most people. It’s phase-adaptive, so it can work with any lighting load; it’s the easiest to physically install; and like the other eight units we tested, it features straightforward remote control and scheduling.”

Philips Hue White A19 4-Pack 60W

Street Price: $50; Deal Price: $40

For those of you who want a set of smart LED light bulbs but don’t want or need the added price for color, a 4-pack of 60W Philips Hue bulbs is an excellent deal matching the previous lowest price on the white variant of our top pick for best smart LED light bulbs.

“Setting up Hue lights requires a few simple steps, much like any other smart-home device. The gateway connects to your home router or network switch via a wired Ethernet port,” Grant Clauser wrote. “This connects the system to your network and allows you to control the lights with a smartphone or tablet connected wirelessly to the same network.”

Q Acoustics 3020

Street Price: $270; Deal Price: $243

At $243 from a street price of $270, this is the lowest price we’ve seen for a pair of Q Acoustics 3020 in either the American Walnut finish or graphite color. These colors are typically priced lower than the black and white colors, but if you absolutely must have either of those, they are also down to the lowest price we’ve seen at $289 from $320.

The Q Acoustics 3020 is the top pick in our guide to the best bookshelf speakers for most stereos. “The Q Acoustics 3020 pair reproduces music of all genres with great detail and clarity on a wide soundstage. Despite each speaker’s compact size, the set delivers both strong bass and accurate vocals,” Chris Heinonen wrote. “These speakers are efficient, too, which means they can play louder with less-powerful receivers and amplifiers. The compact, rounded-corner design comes in four finishes to help this set fit in with a wider variety of decors.”

Roku Streaming Stick

Street Price: $45; Deal Price: $35

Recently we’ve been seeing a lot of price fluctuations between $40 and $50, so it’s nice to see this media streaming device down to a new low price of $35. Prior to this deal the best price we’ve seen is $39.

The Roku Streaming Stick is the runner-up pick (if you don’t need 4K) in our guide to the best media streaming devices. Chris Heinonen wrote, “If you don’t need to stream UltraHD 4K content, the Roku Streaming Stick is the best option available today. It is almost identical to the Streaming Stick+, but supports only 1080p resolution and doesn’t have the external Wi-Fi antenna. If you know you aren’t going to get a 4K TV in the future, or are just looking to upgrade an existing 1080p TV or projector, it offers the same content selection, search, and performance of our main pick.”

Fujifilm X-T2

Street Price: $1500; Deal Price: $1,100

The high-end Fujifilm camera we recommend is down to a new low price of $1,100 from a street price of $1,500. The deal is for the black color and only the body without a lens. Prior to this sale the lowest price we’ve seen is $1,400, although there were some deals around Black Friday for the camera with a lens.

The Fujifilm X-T2 is the top pick for experienced shooters and pros in our guide to the best Fujifilm cameras. Amadou Diallo wrote, “The Fujifilm X-T2 represents a significant investment into your photography, and that’s before you even consider adding any of Fujifilm’s well-regarded lenses. But its sensor outperforms what you get in many DSLRs, providing impressively detailed images in even very dark lighting conditions.”

ChargeTech Portable Power Outlet

Street Price: $190; Deal Price: $130 w/ code AMUZISNW

Use the code AMUZISNW to get this price. It’s the lowest price we’ve seen so far, and only $8 more than our top pick, but with 30 percent more mAh/charge.

The ChargeTech Portable Power Outlet is our runner-up pick for laptop charging in our guide to the best portable AC battery pack. “If our top pick is unavailable or you need a little more power to keep a larger laptop going, get the ChargeTech Portable Power Outlet,” Mark Smirniotis wrote. “It has the same 85 W output as the Jackery PowerBar, so it can power the same types of laptops and electronics, but with an extra 25 percent capacity, this ChargeTech model will last a bit longer—handy if you’re frequently on long-haul flights or working in the field.”

littleBits Rule Your Room Kit

Street Price: $80; Deal Price: $40

Down to $40 when typically it’s priced around $85, this is an all-time low price for this electronics kit. Prior to this deal the lowest price we’ve seen is $56. We doubt this deal will last more than a few days, at most, so don’t wait — grab it at this low price if you know a would-be inventor.

The littleBits Rule Your Room Kit is the upgrade pick in our guide to the best electronics kits for kids and beginners. “Kids can create a piggy-bank alarm, a catapult, or an invention of their own using modular pieces that snap together magnetically. Each project takes more time and produces a more satisfying, practical device than those in the other kits we tested,” Signe Brewster wrote. “The Rule Your Room Kit comes with the fewest pieces and sample projects among our field of competitors, but because littleBits encourages the incorporation of everyday items into the projects, the kit feels like it offers more possibilities than other kits of similar size.”

Acton Blink Lite

Street Price: $225; Deal Price: $200

Back down to $200, this is a nice deal on this recommended electric skateboard. The Acton Blink Lite is our budget pick for lighter riders in our guide to the best electric skateboard. If you’re a sub-180-pound rider who isn’t looking to spend a ton, this is a good opportunity to save some cash. While the street price has dropped in recent months, it’s still a solid discount.

“The Acton Blink Lite may not be the most powerful board around, but it’s a phenomenal value considering its price, and it would be a good gift for the young skater in your life,” Jack Smith wrote. “But despite the lack in power, we found riding the Blink Lite to be a blast, largely due to its nimble mini-cruiser design and small size. It’s also significantly cheaper than most other boards available.”

Because great deals don’t just happen on Prime Day, sign up for our daily deals email and we’ll send you the best deals we find every weekday. Also, deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go here.

Russian indictments show that the US needs federal oversight of election security

Adam Eichen
Contributor

Adam Eichen is the author of Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want. He is also an Advisor to EqualCitizens.US

Phoebe Wong
Contributor

Phoebe Wong is executive director of EqualCitizens.US, a democracy reform non profit based in Washington DC. She was formerly a senior economist at the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress and consultant at the World Bank.

President Trump’s Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin, on the heels of 12 Russian intelligence officials indicted for hacking the 2016 election, made it clear that this administration has zero commitment to protect our elections from future Russian attacks.

These events should remind us of an alarming fact we can no longer afford to ignore: our elections are not secure.

As a nation, we underfund and neglect election security. So, much like our aging infrastructure, our election infrastructure is severely outdated and crumbling before our eyes.

Unfortunately, in today’s hyper-partisan environment, even concerns over election security are divided along party lines. Case in point: After his trip to Russia last week, Republican Senator Ron Johnson declared, “It’s very difficult to really meddle in our elections. It just is.”

To effectively safeguard our elections, we need to consider yet another conservative taboo: The federal government should have more power in setting election security standards. Our current decentralized, disjointed state-based system is no longer adequate for protecting our elections against foreign interference in the 21st century.

TechCrunch/Bryce Durbin

Right now, the federal government plays a very limited role in the oversight of election security. The Election Assistance Commission and Department of Homeland Security offer optional resources and issue non-binding guidelines for best practices, and states are free to come up with their own standards as they please. The results, unsurprisingly, are abysmal.

In 2016, for example, more than two-thirds of all counties in the U.S. used voting machines that were older than a decade. Many machines used outdated software and ran in absurdly old operating systems, such as Windows 2000. Thirteen states still use machines that are completely electronic, which makes them prone to glitches, and with no paper trails, the results cannot be audited.

Many experts have pointed out that our current machines could be hacked in a matter of minutes. Recently, a 14-year-old participant at DefCon breached a voting machine in 90 minutes, and was able to change the vote tally in the machine remotely, from anywhere.

Besides the machines, there are other major vulnerabilities in many states’ election security standards that would make hacking our elections a breeze for the Russians. Our voter registration databases are outdated and prone to infiltration. Many states have no post-election auditing requirements at all, and those that do are often insufficient, severely undermining our ability to identify and correct an attack.

While federalizing election security has long been castigated as an infringement of state rights, politicians are beginning to acknowledge its necessity. Senator Ron Wyden, for instance, recently introduced The Protecting American Votes and Elections Act of 2018, which would require every state to use election machines with paper ballots and mandate risk-limiting post-election audits (the “gold standard” of election auditing).

As Wyden argues: “Americans don’t expect states, much less county officials, to fight America’s wars. The Russians have attacked our election infrastructure and leaving our defenses to states and local entities, in my view, is not an adequate response. Our country needs baseline, mandatory, federal election security standards.”

TechCrunch/Bryce Durbin

Rather than providing concrete solutions, this Republican Congress continues to pretend that all of our election security problems can be solved by tiny, poorly designed federal grant programs alone. In this year’s omnibus spending bill, a bipartisan compromise provided a meager, but much-needed $380 million federal grant to states for strengthening election security ahead of the 2018 election. However, the effectiveness of this grant is questionable, given it was earmarked for broad purposes and allocated by a formula that is not competitive or need-based.

Worse still, because states are not required to spend the federal grant allocated to them, some states have not even applied to collect their shares. Several state governments are impeding the use of this grant through a combination of delayed action and inaction. For example, Florida’s Republican-led state legislature has refused to authorize their election officials to use the grant before the 2018 election, even when the state is in desperate need for more election security funding.

While inadequate funding is a serious concern that needs to be addressed — House Democrats estimated that we will need $1.4 billion over the next decade to bring our entire election system in line with best practices — increasing federal grants alone would not be enough to secure elections in every state. The Secure Elections Act, a bill currently with the most broad-based, bipartisan support, will provide much-needed federal funding to make up for the current shortfall, but as with this year’s federal grant, there is no guarantee states would use the funding in a timely and effective fashion — or at all — given state participation will remain voluntary under this bill.

Our representative democracy cannot survive if we fail to preserve the fairness and integrity of our elections. While it’s too late to implement binding federal guidelines to secure the 2018 midterm, we should accept nothing less for the 2020 presidential election, as we can be certain the Russians will hack that election in order to help their preferred candidate, yet again.

Too many states have proven they are unwilling to take election security seriously. It’s time for the federal government to step in.

Apple releases third iOS 12 beta to everyone

Apple just released the third version of the iOS 12 beta as part of the public beta program. It means that everyone can now install a development build of iOS 12, the next major version of the operating system for iPhone and iPad.

Don’t forget this is still a beta version. Things will crash, things won’t work. Don’t be surprised if you lose data in your Photos, Notes or Messages apps for instance.

But if you have an iPhone or iPad that you don’t use every day, you can get a glimpse of the future of iOS right now. While the final version of iOS 12 should be released near the end of September, Apple is going to release beta versions every few weeks over the summer.

Before installing the beta, don’t forget to back up your device to iCloud and/or your computer using iTunes. You can then head over to Apple’s beta website, sign up with your Apple ID and download the beta profile.

The profile is just a tiny file that tells your iPhone to check for public betas. After restarting your device, you can open the Settings app and install the iOS update just like any normal software update. If you already installed a previous beta, it’s time to update.

In September, your device should automatically update to the final version of iOS 12 and you’ll be able to delete the configuration profile.

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s new in iOS 12. The main feature of iOS 12 is a performance improvement, especially for older devices. If you have an iPhone 6 or an iPad Air for instance, you should see a big improvement when it comes to launching apps, triggering the camera and entering text.

The other big theme of the year is new features to help you spend less time using your phone. There’s a new Screen Time feature to see and control how much time you spend using each app. Notifications are now grouped and you can silence them from the lock screen. You also can turn on Do Not Disturb when you’re in a meeting, for a few hours or for longer.

Apple didn’t stop there, and added new power features as well. Developers will be able to take advantage of a new file format for augmented reality and new features in ARKit 2.0. Apple is releasing the Workflow app as a new Siri Shortcuts app. Developers will be able to add information to Siri, as well, so that you can add a boarding pass or a music playlist to Siri.

The Photos, News and Stocks apps have been improved, as well as Apple Books (the app formerly known as iBooks). Apple is introducing Memoji on the iPhone X. It’s a customized avatar that you can use in iMessage and FaceTime to represent you.

If you want to learn more, read my iOS 12 preview to get my thoughts on this update.