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Tag Archives: image

Review: iPhone XS, XS Max and the power of long-term thinking

The iPhone XS proves one thing definitively: that the iPhone X was probably one of the most ambitious product bets of all time. When Apple told me in 2017 that they put aside plans for the iterative upgrade that they were going to ship and went all in on the iPhone X because they thought they could jump ahead a year, they were not blustering. That the iPhone XS feels, at least on the surface, like one of Apple’s most “S” models ever is a testament to how aggressive the iPhone X timeline was. I think there will be plenty of people who will see this as a weakness of the iPhone XS, and I can understand their point of view. There are about a half-dozen definitive improvements in the XS over the iPhone X, but none of them has quite the buzzword-worthy effectiveness of a marquee upgrade like 64-bit, 3D Touch or wireless charging — all benefits delivered in previous “S” years. That weakness, however, is only really present if you view it through the eyes of the year-over-year upgrader. As an upgrade over an iPhone X, I’d say you’re going to have to love what they’ve done with the camera to want to make the jump. As a move from any other device, it’s a huge win and you’re going head-first into sculpted OLED screens, face recognition and super durable gesture-first interfaces and a bunch of other genre-defining moves that Apple made in 2017, thinking about 2030, while you were sitting back there in 2016. Since I do not have an iPhone XR, I can’t really make a call for you on that comparison, but from what I saw at the event and from what I know about the tech in the iPhone XS and XS Max from using them over the past week, I have some basic theories about how it will stack up. For those with interest in the edge of the envelope, however, there is a lot to absorb in these two new phones, separated only by size. Once you begin to unpack the technological advancements behind each of the upgrades in the XS, you begin to understand the real competitive edge and competence of Apple’s silicon team, and how well they listen to what the software side needs now and in the future. Whether that makes any difference for you day to day is another question, one that, as I mentioned above, really lands on how much you like the camera. But first, let’s walk through some other interesting new stuff. Notes on durability As is always true with my testing methodology, I treat this as anyone would who got a new iPhone and loaded an iCloud backup onto it.

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The 7 most egregious fibs Apple told about the iPhone XS camera today

Apple always drops a few whoppers at its events, and the iPhone XS announcement today was no exception. And nowhere were they more blatant than in the introduction of the devices’ “new” camera features. No one doubts that iPhones take great pictures, so why bother lying about it? My guess is they can’t help themselves. To be clear, I have no doubt they made some great updates to make a good camera better. But whatever those improvements are, they were overshadowed today by the breathless hype that was frequently questionable and occasionally just plain wrong. Now, to fill this article out I had to get a bit pedantic, but honestly, some of these are pretty egregious. “The world’s most popular camera” There are a lot of iPhones out there, to be sure. But defining the iPhone as some sort of decade-long continuous camera, which Apple seems to be doing, is sort of a disingenuous way to do it. By that standard, Samsung would almost certainly be ahead, since it would be allowed to count all its Galaxy phones going back a decade as well, and they’ve definitely outsold Apple in that time. Going further, if you were to say that a basic off-the-shelf camera stack and common Sony or Samsung sensor was a “camera,” iPhone would probably be outnumbered 10:1 by Android phones. Is the iPhone one of the world’s most popular cameras? To be sure

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Keeping artificial intelligence accountable to humans

Osonde Osoba Contributor Share on Twitter Osonde Osoba is an engineer at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and a member of the faculty of the Pardee RAND Graduate School. As a teenager in Nigeria, I tried to build an artificial intelligence system. I was inspired by the same dream that motivated the pioneers in the field: That we could create an intelligence of pure logic and objectivity that would free humanity from human error and human foibles. I was working with weak computer systems and intermittent electricity, and needless to say my AI project failed.  Eighteen years later  — as an engineer researching artificial intelligence, privacy and machine-learning algorithms — I’m seeing that so far, the premise that AI can free us from subjectivity or bias is also disappointing. We are creating  intelligence in our own image . And that’s not a compliment. Researchers have known for awhile that purportedly neutral algorithms can mirror or even accentuate racial, gender and other biases lurking in the data they are fed. Internet searches on names that are more often identified as belonging to black people were found to prompt search engines to generate ads for bail bondsmen. Algorithms used for job-searching were more likely to suggest higher-paying jobs to male searchers than female. Algorithms used in criminal justice also displayed bias. Five years later , expunging algorithmic bias is turning out to be a tough problem. It takes careful work to comb through millions of sub-decisions to figure out why the algorithm reached the conclusion it did. And even when that is possible, it is not always clear which sub-decisions are the culprits. Yet applications of these powerful technologies are advancing faster than the flaws can be addressed

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Grabb-It wants to turn your car’s window into a trippy video billboard

It reminds me of something out of Blade Runner. Maybe it’s because it looks a bit futuristic — a bit unreal. Maybe it’s because I’m looking at an ad somewhere I never expected to see one, like the skyscraper-height ads of Ridley Scott’s future. Grabb-It turns a car’s side rear window into a full-color display, playing location-aware ads to anyone who might be standing curbside. They’re currently aiming to work with rideshare/delivery drivers, enabling them to make a bit of extra coin while doing the driving they’re already doing. As the driver crosses town, the ads can automatically switch to focus on businesses nearby. Near the ball park? It might pitch you on tickets for tonight’s game. Over in The Mission? It could play an ad about happy hour at the bar behind you. So how’s it work? I couldn’t figure it out at first glance — but once they opened the car door, it all clicked. The key: projection. It turns your window into a rear projection TV on wheels, of sorts. Grabb-It applies a material to the inside of a car’s right rear window to act as a projection surface

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StarVR’s One headset flaunts eye-tracking and a double-wide field of view

While the field of VR headsets used to be more or less limited to Oculus and Vive, numerous competitors have sprung up as the technology has matured — and some are out to beat the market leaders at their own game. StarVR’s latest headset brings eye-tracking and a seriously expanded field of view to the game, and the latter especially is a treat to experience. The company announced the new hardware at SIGGRAPH in Vancouver, where I got to go hands-on and eyes-in with the headset. Before you get too excited, though, keep in mind this set is meant for commercial applications — car showrooms, aircraft simulators and so on. What that means is it’s going to be expensive and not as polished a user experience as consumer-focused sets. That said, the improvements present in the StarVR One are significant and immediately obvious. Most important is probably the expanded FOV — 210 degrees horizontal and 130 vertical. That’s nearly twice as wide as the 110 degrees wide that the most popular headsets have, and believe me, it makes a difference. (I haven’t tried the Pimax 8K, which has a similarly wide FOV.) On Vive and Oculus sets I always had the feeling that I was looking through a hole into the VR world — a large hole, to be sure, but having your peripheral vision be essentially blank made it a bit claustrophobic. In the StarVR headset, I felt like the virtual environment was actually around me, not just in front of me. I moved my eyes around much more rather than turning my head, with no worries about accidentally gazing at the fuzzy edge of the display. A 90 Hz refresh rate meant things were nice and smooth. To throw shade at competitors, the demo I played (I was a giant cyber-ape defending a tower) could switch between the full FOV and a simulation of the 110-degree one found in other headsets

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RIP EmuParadise, a haven for retro gamers for almost two decades

If you’re a fan of retro games, chances are you have a few emulators installed to let you play Mega Drive or Atari 800 titles. And if you have a few emulators installed, you probably have some ROMs. And if you have some ROMs, it’s likely that sometime since the year 2000 you visited EmuParadise, a stalwart provider of these ambiguously legal files. Well, EmuParadise is no more — at least the site we knew and loved. The site explained the bad news in a post today , acknowledging the reality that the world of retro gaming has changed irrevocably and a site like EmuParadise simply can’t continue to exist even semi-legally. So they’re removing all ROM downloads. For those not familiar with this scene, emulators let you play games from classic consoles that might otherwise be difficult, expensive or even impossible to find in the wild. ROMs, which contain the actual game data (and are often remarkably small — NES games are smaller than the image above), are questionably legal and have existed in a sort of grey area for years. But there’s no question that this software has been invaluable to gamers. “I started EmuParadise 18 years ago because I never got to play many of these amazing retro games while growing up in India and I wanted other people to be able to experience them,” wrote the site’s founder, MasJ. “Through the years I’ve worked tirelessly with the rest of the EmuParadise team to ensure that everyone could get their fix of retro gaming

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Magic Leap details what its mixed reality OS will look like

Magic Leap just updated its developer documentation and a host of new details and imagery are being spread around on Reddit and Twitter, sharing more specifics on how the company’s Lumin OS will look like on their upcoming Magic Leap One device. It’s mostly a large heaping of nitty-gritty details, but we also get a more prescient view into how Magic Leap sees interactions with their product looking and the directions that developers are being encouraged to move in. Worth noting off the bat that these gifs/images appear to be mock-ups or screenshots rather than images shot directly through Magic Leap tech. Alright, first, this is what the Magic Leap One home screen will apparently look like, it’s worth noting that it appears that Magic Leap will have some of its own stock apps on the device, which was completely expected but they haven’t discussed much about. Also worth noting is that Magic Leap’s operating system by and large looks like most other operating systems, they seem to be well aware that flat interfaces are way easier to navigate so you’re not going to be engaging with 3D assets just for the sake of doing so. Here’s a look at a media gallery app on Magic Leap One. Here’s a look at an avatar system. The company seems to be distinguishing between two basic app types for developers: immersive apps and landscape apps. Landscape apps like what you see in the image above, appear to be Magic Leap’s version of 2D where interfaces are mostly flat but have some depth and live inside a box called a prism that fits spatially into your environment. It seems that you’ll be able to have several of these running simultaneously. Immersive apps, on the other hand, like this game title,  Dr .  Grordbort — which Magic Leap has been teasing for years — respond to the geometry of the space that you are in and is thus called an immersive app.

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Netflix experiments with promoting its shows on the login screen

Netflix is testing a new way to promote its original shows – right on the login screen. A company spokesperson confirmed the streaming service is currently experimenting with a different login screen experience which replaces the black background behind users’ names and profile thumbnails with full-screen photos promoting a Netflix Original series or special, like “BoJack Horseman,” “Orange is the New Black,” “Dark,” “My Next Guest…”, “13 Reasons Why,” and several others. We first noticed the change on a TV connected to a Roku media player and on a Fire TV, but Netflix says the test is running “for TV,” which means those on other TV platforms may see the promoted shows as well. (Our Roku TV, however, had the same black background on the login screen, we should note.) The promoted shows aren’t necessarily those Netflix thinks you’d like – it’s just a rotating selection of popular originals. Every time you return to the Netflix login screen, it will have refreshed the photo that’s displayed. After cycling in and out of the Netflix app several times on our TV, we found the image selection to be fairly random – sometimes the promoted show would repeat a couple of times before a new show hopped in to take its place. Netflix will likely decide whether or not to move forward with the change to the login screen based on how well this new promotional effort works to actually increases viewership of its originals. While it makes sense to better utilize this space, I’m not sold on having ads for adult-oriented shows appearing on the same login screen that’s used by a child. The ads themselves (so far) have not been inappropriate, but it doesn’t seem like a good fit for multi-person households and families. For example, I now have to explain to a school-ager why they can’t watch that funny-looking cartoon, “BoJack Horseman.” Meanwhile, when I was logging in to watch more grown-up fare, I saw an ad for the new “Trolls” kids’ show. Uh, okay.  That said, this is still a much less intrusive way to advertise Netflix shows, compared with putting promos at the beginning of a show, like HBO does.

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Spotify users push back at the over-the-top Drake promotion

Some Spotify users were so annoyed by the recent Drake promotion that they asked for and were granted refunds, according to a report from Billboard . The streaming service had heavily promoted the artist’s latest album, “Scorpion,” even using his image on playlists that didn’t even contain his music, like “Massive Dance Hits,” “Best of British” and “Happy Pop Hits,” for example. The promotion, dubbed “Scorpion SZN,” was first-ever global artist takeover of Spotify’s service and the first time an artist took over multiple Spotify playlists on the same day. While it’s not uncommon for artists to receive promotion on Spotify, some felt that the Drake promotion had gone too far – the album and Drake’s image were everywhere in sections like Browse and Playlists. One Reddit user shared how they were able to obtain a refund from customer service, and that post soon went viral. The screenshot of their chat with the support rep has, to date, been viewed nearly 12,000 times. That transcript doesn’t indicate any official policy on Spotify’s part here, but was instead the efforts of a customer service rep helping retaining an individual’s business. However, a few other people then tried similar tactics, and were also able to get refunds, they said. Spotify isn’t officially commenting on the pushback from users, but Billboard claims the number of refunds were minimal. It’s clear that the streaming service noticed the complaints, however, as it was responding to users on Twitter to clarify that things would soon be back to normal. Hey there! We're celebrating Drake's new album and his spot as most streamed artist in the world right now. The Browse section and Playlists will be back to normal soon /JX — SpotifyCares (@SpotifyCares) July 1, 2018 While Spotify has never refunded customers unhappy over a promotion – the larger news here is not the financial loss of those refunds, or even that they happened at all, but rather the damage this has done to Spotify’s reputation. For those who complained, the problem wasn’t just that they weren’t Drake fans (though that’s obviously a part of it), but rather that they felt they were viewing advertisements when they were paying for a Premium, ad-free version of Spotify’s service.

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Facebook’s new AI research is a real eye-opener

There are plenty of ways to manipulate photos to make you look better, remove red eye or lens flare, and so on. But so far the blink has proven a tenacious opponent of good snapshots. That may change with research from Facebook that replaces closed eyes with open ones in a remarkably convincing manner. It’s far from the only example of intelligent “in-painting,” as the technique is called when a program fills in a space with what it thinks belongs there. Adobe in particular has made good use of it with its “context-aware fill,” allowing users to seamlessly replace undesired features, for example a protruding branch or a cloud, with a pretty good guess at what would be there if it weren’t. But some features are beyond the tools’ capacity to replace, one of which is eyes. Their detailed and highly variable nature make it particularly difficult for a system to change or create them realistically. Facebook, which probably has more pictures of people blinking than any other entity in history, decided to take a crack at this problem. It does so with a Generative Adversarial Network, essentially a machine learning system that tries to fool itself into thinking its creations are real. In a GAN, one part of the system learns to recognize, say, faces, and another part of the system repeatedly creates images that, based on feedback from the recognition part, gradually grow in realism. From left to right: “Exemplar” images, source images, Photoshop’s eye-opening algorithm, and Facebook’s method. In this case the network is trained to both recognize and replicate convincing open eyes. This could be done already, but as you can see in the examples at right, existing methods left something to be desired. They seem to paste in the eyes of the people without much consideration for consistency with the rest of the image

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Lenovo teases a slick, all-screen smartphone that doesn’t have a notch

Lenovo has teased a new arrival that might top Apple’s iPhone X in a bid to deliver a true all-screen smartphone. Apple’s iPhone X goes very close but for a tiny bezel and its distinctive notch, but Lenovo’s Z5 seems like it might go a step further, according to a teaser sketch (above) shared by Lenovo VP Chang Cheng on Weibo that was first noted by CNET . The device is due in June and Cheng claimed it is the result of “four technological breakthroughs” and “18 patented technologies,” but he didn’t provide further details. The executive previously shared a slice of the design — see right — on Weibo, with a claim that it boasts a 95 percent screen-to-body ratio. Indeed, the image appears to show a device without a top screen notch à la the iPhone X. Where Lenovo will put the front-facing camera, mic, sensors and other components isn’t clear right now. A number of Android phone-makers have copied Apple’s design fairly shamelessly. That’s ironic given that Apple was widely-derided when it first unveiled the phone. Nonetheless, the device has sold well and that’s captured the attention of Huawei , Andy Rubin’s Essential , Asus and others who have embraced the notch. The design is so common now that Google even moved the clock in Android P to make space for the notch. Time will tell what Lenovo adds to the conversation. The company is in dire need of a hit phone — it trails the likes of Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo and Huawei on home soil in China — and the hype on the Z5 is certainly enough to raise hope.

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