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6
Jul

You could have your next curry delivered by a robot


If you’re walking around London during the rest of the summer you might see a small, autonomous robot whizz past, laden with food stuff as it goes about its deliveries. You might even have a take-away delivered to your door by one.

Starship Technologies is starting a testing programme this month to see if it is feasible for its proprietary self-driving robots to work in London and other European cities, with the ultimate aim of launching them as an everyday service.

British partners include Just Eat and Pronto.co.uk. They will help test the robots run actual deliveries. The ‘bots have been soft tested over the last nine months, in 12 different countries, but this will be the first time they will carry food, groceries or packages to actual locations.

They can deliver produce within a three-mile radius, so better even than many bike couriers associated with restaurants.

Starship Technologies claims that during its previous testing, its robots have travelled close to 5,000 miles, meeting over 400,000 people along the way without a single incident.

Other European partners during the trials include Hermes and German retailer Metro Group.

The test programmes will run in London, Dusseldorf, Bern and another, currently unannounced, German city.

“As soon as we saw the Starship delivery robot we knew this was the solution we’d been looking for in our mission to make it even easier for people to access quality, affordable food at the touch of a button,” said the CEO and co-founder of Pronto.

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6
Jul

Google buys startup that helps your phone identify objects


Google has purchased Moodstocks, a French startup that specializes in speedy object recognition from a smartphone, showing (again) the search giant’s intense interest in AI. Unlike other products (including Google’s own Goggles object recognition app) Moodstocks does most of the crunching on your smartphone, rather than on a server. While Google seemingly has some pretty good image-spotting tech already, like the canny visual categorization in Photos, it says it’s just getting started.

“There is still a long way to go [with machine learning], and that’s where Moodstocks comes in,” the company said in a blog post (translated). The deal seems to fall in to the “aqui-hire” category, as Moodstocks will cease its own recognition services, and its team of engineers will join Google at its R&D center in Paris. Google is rumored to be working on a feature that allows Android users to search directly from their photos (below), though the company didn’t say if the acquisition is related.

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Google isn’t the only company pursuing deep learning and image recognition. Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Amazon and basically most of Silicon Valley are enamored of the tech. It’s already being used in voice recognition apps like Alexa, Cortana and Siri, and image recognition products like Google’s Photos and Microsoft’s Translator app. Other deep learning applications include driverless cars, robotic concierges, cooking, weather forecasting, writing criticism and infinitely more.

Most of those apps rely on powerful servers like IBM’s Watson, but the latest trend is to speed things up by processing data on your device. Apple’s iOS 10, for instance, will rely less on cloud computing and more on the iPhone’s built in horsepower for image recognition. Google’s purchase of Moodstocks appears to be along the same lines, as the startup has expertise in “thick client” computing, which uses a combination of cloud and “on-device” computing.

Via: The Daily Mail

Source: Google France, Moodstocks

6
Jul

Nintendo hints at smartphone controller plans


Nintendo executives have dropped an unsubtle hint that it is working on a peripheral to enable people to play its action games on smartphones. At the firm’s annual shareholders meeting, Shinya Takahashi said that his team have looked at third-party controllers on the market and “may develop something new by ourselves.” Takahashi was responding to the question that playing Nintendo’s more famous titles (i.e. Mario) is difficult using the virtual controls that are available with touchscreen devices. After all, it’s clear that more than a few people would be happy to lay down money to play a classic Mario title on their smartphone.

The advent of a Nintendo-branded peripheral, unlike other devices like Hyperkin’s Smart Boy, is likely to be a big seller. Unfortunately, this was just a single off-hand comment at a shareholder meeting, so we can’t take anything as read. But this is Nintendo, and whenever one of its executives mentions anything, even in passing, people’s ears begin to prick up. Takahashi also said that his division would make “applications and not just action games,” a subtle hint that we’ll see more innovative titles like Miitomo as well as, or instead of, a new iteration of Super Mario. After all, the company is hoping that mobile games will help turn around its flagging business after a few years of slow hardware sales.

Via: Polygon

Source: Nintendo

6
Jul

Dyson opens first UK store as £800 robot vacuum goes on sale


If there’s one thing Dyson knows best, it’s hoovers. And while the company may’ve been late to making a little robot that does the cleaning for you, Dyson’s 360 Eye is easily one of the best you can buy. Now, after debuting in Japan late last year, the vacuuming automaton is available in the UK from today. Features such as a 360-degree camera, obsessive cleaning methodology and activity reports don’t come cheap, though. The 360 Eye can be found on Dyson’s site for £800, and that price also includes a nice company rep that’ll pop over and set the thing up for you.

Alternatively, you can get the measure of one at Dyson’s new “Demo” store in London, which not-so-coincidentally opens its doors today. The first of these interactive spaces debuted in Paris way back in 1999. Over the past couple of years, though, they’ve come to Tokyo, Jakarta, and now London’s shopping-mad Oxford Street. The best way I can describe it is like walking into a fancy infomercial. Products sit on white plinths, illuminated by swish LED spotlights developed by Jake Dyson, son of company frontman James. His lamps are showcased alongside hoovers and fanless fans, with wall-sized screens playing 30-second loops of Dyson adverts.

Under one of those screens is a little demo area with various types of flooring. Dyson doesn’t want to call its shop a shop because it imagines it as a place where people come to understand the company’s technology better. In this case, it means visiting a debris bar serving up no less than 64 different types of crud you can chuck on the floor and then hoover up. We’re sure the staff also have an endless supply of factoids for you, including such Dyson favourites as ‘X thing took decades to develop’ and ‘those motors though.’

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Self-congratulations continue upstairs on a floor dedicated to Dyson’s reinvention of the hair dryer, the Supersonic. There are a bunch of museum-style exhibits explaining how it works, how it was tested, and just how many prototypes the company built. Here, you’ll also find beautification stations that let you test the thing out, with staff on hand to give style tips, or talk about the Supersonic’s superior weighting. And if you’re not interested in testing or buying a product, you can also simply stop in for your daily dose of “free purified air,” courtesy of Dyson’s Pure Cool Link purifier-slash-fans.

Source: Dyson

6
Jul

Music Streaming Services Like Spotify Now More Popular Than Video Sites


The popularity of music streaming services has overtaken video sites for the first time in the U.S., according to market monitor BuzzAngle.

Services like Apple Music and Spotify delivered 114 billion streams in the first six months of 2016, compared to 95 billion video streams on sites like YouTube and Vevo. Overall, the market for streaming services increased by 58% year-on-year.

The surge in popularity was largely driven by the availability of albums by Beyonce, Rihanna and Drake. Rihanna’s ‘Work’ is the most-streamed song of 2016 in the U.S, for example, while Drake’s Views is the most requested album, being streamed 1.5 billion times since its release in April.

Adele’s album 25 was not available to stream for seven months after it was released, yet figures show that it was streamed 168 million times in the first six days following its streaming debut on June 24.

The rise in streaming enabled music consumption in the U.S. to grow by 6.5%, despite CD sales being down 11% and digital sales falling 17%. Vinyl sales meanwhile enjoyed continuing growth, going up 17% to 3.1 million.

Spotify remains the world’s most popular streaming music service with 30 million subscribers, boasting roughly twice as many paying subscribers as Apple Music, but the Swedish rival has been available in Europe for nearly eight years and in the U.S. since 2011, while Apple Music only just celebrated its first year of service.

Despite rising users and revenues, Spotify continues to operate at a loss due to expensive royalties and revenue sharing with music label partners. The service’s losses rose by 10 percent to $195.7 million (173 million euros) last year, prompting some investors to question the viability of its business model.

For Apple Music’s part, assuming that it maintains its current pace of growth, it is reasonable to assume that it will eventually eclipse Spotify as the top streaming service worldwide, benefiting from its prominence as a default app on iOS and offering a lengthy three-month free trial to get users hooked on the service.

Tag: streaming music
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6
Jul

OnePlus 3 OxygenOS 3.2.0 update pulled after causing upgrade issues


OnePlus has announced that it is pulling the latest software update for OnePlus 3 as some users reported issues while upgrading.

OnePlus OxygenOS 3.2.0 was being rolled out to all OnePlus 3 phones over a 48 hour period, which started on Monday, 4 July. However, the update has stopped and there is no date set for when it might be available again.

“Due to some reports of issues while upgrading, we are temporarily stopping the rollout to investigate,” said OnePlus on its forums. “We will start back up as soon as possible.”

The update itself has a fairly long list of improvements and tweaks, so owners will be chomping at the bit to get it.

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Highlights include improved RAM management and GPS performance, enhanced audio playback quality and fixes for notifications issues.

There are updated custom icon packs, improved camera quality and functionality, and some issues found in Gallery are fixed. As are bugs in the Clock and Music apps.

OnePlus has not revealed exactly what issues users faced when downloading and installing the update, but it was clearly problematic enough to take the software down.

We’ll let you know when the OxygenOS 3.2.0 over-the-air update starts to roll out again. Hopefully it won’t be too long.

6
Jul

NASA’s ‘power’ glove will help workers get a better grip


The same remote manipulation controller that allows NASA scientists to remotely control Robonaut 2 aboard the International Space Station is coming back to Earth thanks to a recent agreement between General Motors (who helped NASA develop the glove) and Bioservo Technologies AB (a Swedish medical technology company). But rather than use it to remotely pilot a robot in low Earth orbit, the new glove will help augment its wearer’s grip strength.

The companies plan to integrate proprietary technology from Bioservo’s own SEM Glove into NASA’s RoboGlove. The SEM Glove is a battery-powered wearable that force-multiplies the wearer’s grip. Combining that with the Roboglove’s cutting-edge sensors and actuators should produce a glove that rivals the one Ash built in Evil Dead 3. Groovy.

With it, users will be able to wield tools for longer than they would otherwise, without sacrificing dexterity. What’s more, neither the tools to be used nor the wearer’s workflow will need to be redesigned. Basically, it’s an exosuit for your hand.

GM plans to test the new wearable in its manufacturing plants once prototypes become available. It could also be employed for physical rehab but don’t expect to be crushing goblets with it any time soon. The companies still have some work to do standardizing the mechanisms and adapting them to different hand sizes.

6
Jul

Motorola Moto G4 Plus review: Plus and minus


When you think “Plus” in the phone world you tend to think extra large handset. It’s all Apple’s fault. But that’s not precisely the case with the Moto G4 Plus: sure, it’s pretty large with its 5.5-inch screen, but it’s the same size as its Moto G4 brother. The difference is all down to the feature enhancements it embodies.

In summary: the Plus has a better camera, adds a fingerprint scanner, has 32GB minimum on-board storage, can be RAM-upgraded at point of purchase (£38 additional), and includes a TurboPower charger in the box for fast-charging. All notable points compared to the standard Moto G4. But the Plus is a minimum of £60 more, starting at £229.

Which puts the typically budget Moto G into lesser known waters. The original Moto G from 2013 was all about being compact, cute and budget, whereas the Plus version of the fourth-gen model is sailing dangerously close to the likes of the OnePlus 3 in terms of price – but without the flagship features to match. Is it all plus, then, or are there some minuses to consider?

Motorola Moto G4 Plus review: Design

In terms of design the G4 Plus is virtually identical to the G4, except for that very obvious rounded-edge square-shape fingerprint scanner to the front. Which looks and feels far too much like a button that we can’t stop trying to press – which isn’t great in terms of design.

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On the whole, then, our thoughts about the G4 Plus are much the same as the G4 regular. It’s pretty big in the hand for a regular phone, its 153 x 76.6mm dimensions necessary to contain that 5.5-inch display. At 9.8mm it’s a little slimmer compared to earlier Moto G models, but it’s hardly a slender phone.

READ: Moto G4 review: Budget phone goes large, remains in charge

The look and feel of the Plus, like the standard G4, is more sophisticated than earlier Moto G models too. It’s done away with the not-so-pretty silver “bars” around the speaker grilles that dragged the third-gen Moto G down.

It’s also coated with a protective coating, called P2i, meaning its innards are water-repellent. Very handy should you accidentally drop it into a puddle/sink/bathtub.

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We rather like the look of the textured removable polycarbonate back, as it avoids looking too budget. It can be tailored using Moto Maker (the company’s personalisation ordering tool) at purchase to be all manner of colour options too, without affecting the price.

However, at the £229 price point it’s only £80 shy of the OnePlus 3, which has a much better all-metal build. In that sense, the G4 Plus has lost its sense of being a truly budget phone: it’s a little too expensive to be considered in the same frame of reference as the original Moto G.

Moto G 2016 Plus review: Screen

The new Moto G sports a 5.5-inch display with a Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels, resulting in a pixel density of 401ppi). Not super-high resolution, but it does the job just fine. We’ve not felt like our eyes are staring at giant square pixels anyway.

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As we said of the standard G4, however, it’s not the very brightest display out there, keeping with its budget positioning. It can’t hammer out the same level of luminance as our LG G5, for example, but it’s still got more than enough welly to survive both indoor and outdoor lighting conditions from all manner of viewing angles.

We’ve also spotted that the G4 Plus’s screen has a yellowish, muddier cast compared to the standard G4. This may differ per device, as each won’t be specifically balanced to match, but it’s a point to note nonetheless. Ultimately, in our review devices, it’s the standard G4 that’s preferable (despite both having identical screens).

Moto G4 Plus review: Performance

Now the performance of the G4 Plus is the one major part where the phone could be better than the G4 standard. But in the case of our review unit that’s not the case: it comes with the very same 2GB RAM and Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor at its core.

Now, using Moto Maker, there is a 4GB RAM option – simply buy the 64GB on-board storage version of the phone. It’s a bit more expensive again, though, at £264. And because we’ve not received this model for review we can’t tell how much genuine difference it makes in practice. No 6GB RAM as per the OnePlus 3 to be seen here.

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If you opt for the 32GB G4 Plus then, well, its performance is identical to the standard G4. We’ve performed the same tasks with both phones and its results are the same: when playing Farm Heroes Saga, for example, all the animations are lovely and fluid with no stuttering to be seen, but there’s a 15-second delay to load the app. It’s very much a mid-range experience.

Moto G Plus review: Fingerprint scanner

One obvious performance difference in the Plus is the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner. Ok, so it looks far too much like a button, but as scanners go it works fairly well.

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Multiple finger/thumb presses to register a print take little time, with the phone guiding you through the process. It’s then a case of slipping the registered digit over the scanner for quick fire sign-in, which is preferable to PIN or pattern entry.

There are issues though. One, it’s not the quickest scanner on the market; two, we much prefer recessed scanners on phones’ rears for practicality’s sake; and three, there’s no NFC.

Let that last point sink in for a moment: it’s 2016, it’s all about Android Pay, but without that feature the G4 Plus forgoes a very obvious benefit. Therefore the inclusion of the scanner feels self-impaired. Ultimately the G4 Plus feels like the OnePlus 2, but just after the OnePlus 3 has launched – i.e. it’s a year late – that doesn’t quite cut it.

Moto G4 Plus review: Battery life

The Moto G4 Plus sports a 3,000mAh battery, which is a fairly generous capacity for a phone running a relatively low-spec chipset. That’s good news, though, as it means decent battery performance that will easily get you through the course of a day. We’ve not felt it be any different to the standard G4, but heavy camera use and fingerprint scanning may cost it slightly more power-drain.

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As before, Motorola claims a full 24-hours of use. We found that optimistic, but have been seeing 30 per cent battery left in the tank before bedtime. Not bad at all.

Best of all is the G4 Plus’s inclusion of the TurboPower charger in the box – which is roughly speaking the company’s rebranding of Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 – meaning super-fast charging times. From zero to full takes around 90-minutes, but the battery can fill in quicker time anywhere up to the 80 per cent mark. The standard G4 supports this battery tech, but doesn’t include the charger in the box (it’s a £25 accessory).

Moto G 2016 review: Software

Other than programming the fingerprint sensor and any app interactions possible with this feature, there are otherwise no differences between the G4 Plus’s software and the standard G4’s. Which is a good thing, because this phone is all about base level Android without too much messing about.

There are some Moto additions, as ever, such as gesture controls, which are ultimately similar to previous Moto G, E and X handsets. However, as Android has got more sophisticated over time, Motorola has filtered the amount it offers to avoid duplication. The result is a fuss-free experience.

Those gesture controls will let you do things like flip the phone to silence it, or make a chopping action with the phone in hand to turn the torch on. There’s a display option to give you ambient notifications, and dark screen time settings to avoid disturbances at night. And that’s about it. Good job.

Moto G4 2016 review: Cameras

Here’s the last big difference the Plus adds over the G4 standard: its rear camera is not only more resolute, at 16-megapixels (not 13MP), but offers a laser autofocus system for enhanced low-light focusing too. The aperture, at f/2.0, is one and the same, as is the front 5-megapixel selfie cam.

Otherwise the camera implementation is one and the same between two devices. The dedicated camera app is fast to load, and in its default auto mode offers one-touch HDR (high dynamic range – used to balance shadows and highlights), flash and self-timer options to the left. There is also a pro mode, found in among the other video and panorama options (via the icon to the top right).

Focusing is a case of tapping onto the screen, where a surrounding exposure meter can be adjusted to compensate as required. It’s not particularly good at close-up focusing, though, and when it mis-focuses the focus point defaults back to the centre for its second try – which is annoying.

Low-light focus is pretty good thanks to the laser autofocus, but it’s still not the very quickest you’ll find in a smartphone. Again, though, this is budget – the G4 is not going to match the Samsung galaxy S7 edge, for example.

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Beyond auto you can amp things up and take full manual control in pro mode. That means full control over white balance, ISO sensitivity, manual focus, exposure compensation and – unusually for a smartphone – shutter speed (this will be electronically controlled, and means you can opt for 1/8000th sec to freeze faster moving subjects, or manually set the camera to 1/2-second longer exposure for night shots, assuming the phone is stationary and supported).

The layout of individual manual control sliders makes them easy to use, even if they are a little busy in terms of dominating the screen when all displayed. But we suspect most will simply use auto mode and toggle HDR on and off depending on whether a scene requires shadow and highlight balancing.

In terms of results, despite the extra resolution, there’s not a giant difference between G4 and G4 Plus: shots in good light are fine, while low-light causes some issues with image noise, as you’ll find from almost any phone camera.

So while the differences between the two devices aren’t dramatic, perhaps, as budget handsets go the camera in the Moto G4 Plus is among the best you’ll find at this price. Even if that price has crept up over various iterations over the years.

Verdict

When we first saw the Motorola Moto G4 and G4 Plus, we though the Plus was hands-down the one to choose. Having used both handsets for weeks and days at a time, however, we’ve taken an about-turn on that initial feeling: the Plus does have plenty of positives, in that it can handle the day-to-day with no troubles and lasts out for a decent period of time per charge, but in the wider context of the smartphone market it has its minuses too.

In a sense the G4 Plus feels like a OnePlus 2. Which would have been fine, say, a year ago. Problem is the OnePlus 3 has just launched, and if you want the 4GB RAM and 64GB on-board storage version of the G4 then the potential £264 price point means Motorola doesn’t quite cut the mustard. It finds itself floating between two market positions: it’s not the budget purchase that the G-series has always been known for, while knocking on the door of superior middle-range models. Even some of the Plus’s features don’t quite make sense: the lack of NFC means no Android Pay is possible from the included fingerprint scanner.

But we can’t bad-mouth it as a phone in general. Motorola, now under Lenovo’s command, has smoothed out design issues with earlier G-series models. But it’s also changed what Moto G is about. In this new inflated 5.5-inch form and with a bunch of features squeezed into the body, it no longer serves its ultra budget role.

We still very much like the G4 Plus, but if you’re after a truly budget purchase then, as it turns out, the standard Moto G4 does the majority of what you’ll need just fine.

6
Jul

Yee-haw! Red Dead Redemption comes to Xbox One backwards compatibility at last


After many months of requests Microsoft has finally announced that Red Dead Redemption is coming to the Xbox One, as part of the Xbox 360 backwards compatibility service.

As of Friday 8 July you will be able to play your existing digital or disc version of Red Dead Redemption on the Xbox One through Microsoft’s emulation. It will also be available to buy and will include the Undead Nightmare add-on, which brings zombies to the wild west.

It is not known yet whether the Game of the Year Edition, which came with two discs, will work, but considering the Xbox team recently announced support for other multi-disc games we don’t see why not. Indeed, that might explain the delay in including one of Rockstar’s finest.

  • How Xbox One backwards compatibility works: The Xbox 360 games list and more
  • Xbox boss Phil Spencer explains why your fave Xbox 360 game is not backwards compatible… yet
  • Red Dead Redemption review

Another reason will be because of its sheer size. As Xbox boss Phil Spencer explained to Pocket-lint in February, large, open-world games are the hardest to approve for backwards compatibility as they have to be thoroughly bug checked to ensure they work throughout.

“Some of these games are big. You can imagine going through some of these games and making sure they run. It’s the publisher’s right to be sure the game plays as well if not better,” he said.

Maybe this now heralds the addition of other major Rockstar games, such as Grand Theft Auto IV and LA Noire. We can but hope.

6
Jul

Change the romantic pairings in Cassius’ latest music video


The French musical duo Cassius has released a new music video that, for the first time, lets you change actors in the middle of a scene. Created for the group’s single “The Missing” from the upcoming album Ibifornia, it features an interactive video from the director collective We Are From LA. During scenes with couples making out, you can switch between 20 actors just by clicking on the person you want to change, making for more than 100 possible versions of the video. The technique is not unlike YouTube’s multi-angle videos, but you choose the actor, rather than the camera.

Cassius is behind the “French Touch” movement and has collaborated with The Beastie Boys, Pharrell, Fatboy Slim and others. “It’s 2016 and there are so many crazy things happening in the world today … listening to ‘The Missing’ and watching the video makes us think about one thing that Pharoah Sanders understood and translated in a song better than anyone: ‘Love is Everywhere,’ ‘Love Is In Us All.’ We have to believe in this… For real,” they say.

They team hasn’t said how they made the video, but it looks like they did a large number of identical passes with a motion control camera rig, filming different actors each time. The technique has been used frequently by music video directors, perhaps most notably Michel Gondry for “Come Into My World” by Kylie Minogue. This time, however, the filmmakers let you “edit” the different takes to choose the actors for your own version of the video. You can watch it here.

Source: Northern Transmissions, Cassius

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