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ICYMI: Sorting crops with artificial intelligence

ICYMI: Automatically sorting crops with artificial intelligence

Today on In Case You Missed It: Google’s Tensor Flow machine learning technology helped create a device to sort through massive amounts of cucumbers at a farm in Japan, sorting the vegetables by quality grade so that humans don’t have to do it manually. Meanwhile, an Australian scientist created an ink that changes colors when exposed to sunlight, which could theoretically help people from getting a sunburn.

We also touched on the new internet-connected pet toy from Acer and rounded up the biggest headlines of the week for you in TL;DR. Be sure to check out IBM Watson’s movie trailer and read about SpaceX’s rocket explosion. As always, please share any interesting tech or science videos you find by using the #ICYMI hashtag on Twitter for @mskerryd.


Samsung’s biggest challenge at IFA is keeping up appearances

Samsung has a huge presence at IFA. Its booth takes up an entire floor in City Cube, the newest and shiniest exhibition hall at the Messe Berlin. The company’s show area is so big, it’s in its own separate building. Samsung also held not one but two press conferences here in Berlin; one just for the Gear S3 and another that centered around the company’s home appliances and television displays. In both, Samsung was like a proud parent showing off the many accomplishments of its progeny, touting the many advances it’s made in the consumer electronic space.

This is all pretty standard for a trade show, but all the pomp and ceremony is running parallel to one of the most high profile product failings in recent history. The Galaxy Note 7, one of the flagship phones it’s proudly showing off at the show is being recalled globally due to exploding batteries. Many wondered how Samsung might react to the situation, with some suggesting the attention might be diverted somehow, or that the Note 7 might mysteriously vanish from view. Instead, the company’s sticking to its guns, and putting on a brave face here in Berlin — not easy when the world’s tech media are in full attendance.

As devastating as the news must’ve been to Samsung’s corporate HQ, if you hadn’t read the news, you’d be none the wiser if you were casually visiting Samsung’s IFA booth. The company has a dedicated area on the floor just for the Note 7, with several assistants on hand to show off the phone’s various features and to tout its prowess. Instead of hiding the phone away, or over managing things (as can sometimes be the case), there were dozens of them out in the open, ready and available for curious onlookers to play around with. Some wondered whether proud Samsung might err on the side of caution, but to its credit, it’s playing it cool.

The Galaxy Note 7 recall is one of the largest in recent memory, with over a million phones that would need to be replaced. Not just that, but the timing of the recall couldn’t be worse. The device was still being rolled out globally, and Apple’s iPhone 7 event is just a few days away. The implications for the company are massive; it would cost it hundreds of millions of dollars just on the recall and refunding process alone, even without factoring in logistics and inventory fallout. Other companies have had to deal with recalls and product defects before — Apple’s iPhone 4 Antennagate and Fitbit’s Force skin irritation issue come to mind — but few have been on such a massive, public scale.

I talked to a helper at the Samsung booth, and asked if she faced any questions about the Note 7’s recall. She said that she did get a few queries, but she simply responded with a statement that the company was working on the issue. She also said that new, updated Note 7s would be on their way to store shelves eventually, which matches Samsung’s own claim that it’ll start making exchanges in the next couple of weeks.

But here at IFA at least, everything is business as usual. Samsung’s booth was buzzing with a seemingly neverending stream of crowds. The mood was upbeat and positive, and no phones exploded. Though Samsung would likely need a long time to recuperate from such a loss — not to mention mend its reputation going forward — it appears that, if IFA is any indication, the company will very likely weather this storm.

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.


iPhone 7 to Include Five Colors, IPX7 Water Resistance, Dual 12MP Cameras on Plus Model

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a very solid track record when it comes to Apple product rumors, has released his most detailed research report yet ahead of Wednesday’s iPhone 7 launch. The report recaps a number of claims previously shared by Kuo and others while also introducing several new tidbits about the device.

Kuo notes that there are many upgrades and other changes with the iPhone 7, but because the overall design is similar to the iPhone 6s, “general users may not feel the differences significantly.” Details on the iPhone 7 include:

New A10 chip from TSMC that could top out at 2.4-2.45 GHz, although Apple may clock it a bit lower due to heat and power consumption concerns.

Storage capacities of 32 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB on both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The iPhone 7 Plus will include 3 GB of DRAM to support the dual-lens camera, while the iPhone 7 will continue to include 2 GB.

Five color options including the usual silver, gold, and rose gold, along with a “dark black” replacing the usual Space Gray. A new fifth color Kuo describes as glossy “piano black” will also be offered. A photo of SIM trays in those five colors surfaced earlier this week.

We expect the iPhone 7 to come in piano black, dark black, rose gold, gold and silver. Only the piano black model will have a glossy finish. Given high production barriers, large-storage models may have first priority in adopting piano black casing in the initial stage.

Improved IPX7 water resistance matching that of the original Apple Watch and making the device suitable for splashes, showering, and even brief dips in water up to one meter deep.

No headphone jack, with Apple providing both Lightning EarPods and a Lightning to 3.5 mm jack adapter in the box. Removal of the headphone jack will allow for an upgraded speaker and a new sensor for improved Force Touch.

Earpiece receiver to become a speaker with the addition of a new audio amplifier. Rather than putting a second speaker at the bottom in place of the headphone jack, Apple is said to be upgrading the earpiece receiver at the top of the device to become a full speaker. The change would provide enough separation to allow for stereo sound when the device is held in landscape orientation.

Pressure-sensitive click-less home button to benefit water resistance. New haptics to mimic a clicking sensation when the button is pressed will be included.

Wide color displays in the same sizes and resolutions as the current iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. The wide color technology adopted from the 9.7-inch iPad Pro will offer better color quality.

Dual-lens rear camera on the iPhone 7 Plus, which will increase Apple’s costs by about $40 and could make the iPhone 7 Plus more expensive than the iPhone 6s Plus. Both lenses will be 12-megapixel, but one will be a wide-angle camera with larger pixel sizes, a 6P lens, and optical image stabilization, while the second will be a telephoto lens with smaller pixel sizes and a 5P lens.

Upgraded rear camera flash with four LEDs (two cool and two warm) and a new ambient light sensor for better image quality.

Possible upgraded proximity sensor shifting from LED to laser for faster response and greater recognition distance, as well as potential gesture recognition.

FeliCa NFC support in models sold in Japan, as had been previously rumored for either the iPhone 7 or the 2017 iPhone.

Overall, Kuo believes iPhone 7 shipments will be below that of the iPhone 6s through the end of the year, coming in at 60-65 million compared to 82 million last year. Kuo reports that Apple’s water resistance requirements resulted in low assembly yields that pushed back the start of mass production until the second half of August.

Make sure to check out our “What to Expect” post for a recap on other announcements expected at Wednesday’s event and stay tuned to MacRumors for other last-minute news and rumors. On the event day, we’ll have full live coverage here on and through our MacRumorsLive Twitter account, starting at 10:00 AM Pacific Time.

Related Roundup: iPhone 7
Tags: KGI Securities, Ming-Chi Kuo
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F1 2016 review: Licence to thrill

Making Formula One games is a famously thankless task, but in recent years, Leamington Spa-based Codemasters has picked up that particular F1 baton and run with it in an increasingly impressive manner.

Once upon a time, thanks to the niceties of satisfying the official licence (such as getting every advertising hoarding spot-on), the annual Formula One game would arrive when the real-life season was all but done and dusted. But Codemasters’ relationship with the powers that be is now good enough to allow F1 2016 to reach the shops at a more propitious time: the end of the mid-season summer break.

F1 2016 review: Career and acclimatisation

Last year’s effort, F1 2015, was Codemasters’ first game for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and, while, in technical terms, it was sufficiently impressive to satisfy the hardcore F1 fans, it felt a bit disjointed in pure gaming terms.

So F1 2016 works hard, with a large amount of success, to rectify that. This time around, in Career mode, the pre-season shoot-out has been dispensed with, so you merely choose what team you want to drive for (and can fiddle around to a small extent with how you look in the game).

Cleverly, though, much more emphasis has been placed on the free practice sessions, each of which gives you three mini-games to leaven what would otherwise be the tedium of pounding aimlessly around the track.

The first is a track-acclimatisation test, which gives you four laps to drive through strategically placed markers: you’re penalised for ones you miss, or for driving through them too slowly.

The most fascinating mini-game is a tyre-wear assessment: very topical for those who follow F1 and are appalled by the fragility of Pirelli’s tyres. Again, you’re given four laps, and the battering you put your tyres through is captured at the end of each lap: there’s a meter which goes from purple to green to red (the latter being bad), and in order to remain in the purple, you basically have to drive like the proverbial granny, while maintaining a certain speed-level. But on the other hand, being easy on your tyres can play to your advantage if, say, you want to switch mid-race from a three-stop to a two-stop strategy.

The third mini-game is a qualifying-lap simulation, which puts you on the grippiest tyres; between the three, they give you a great feel for the vagaries of the different tyre compounds, which is a central plank (like it or not) of today’s Formula One.

F1 2016 review: Damage limitation

It’s worth playing those mini-games, as they earn you Resource Points, which can be cashed in to upgrade different areas of your car.

And you earn Resource Points for exceeding expectations in races, too. Codemasters has hit upon what is essentially an XP system that brings tangible benefits and makes F1 2016 feel like a proper game, rather than a mere facsimile of what we watch on our TV screens.

Codemasters / Formula One

There’s also a rivalry system, which pits you against other drivers (initially your team-mate), and at the end of each race weekend, you’re awarded reputation points, weighted according to how many driver aids you use, for example, which essentially give you a head-start when you pluck up the courage to play F1 2016 online (an experience which is every bit as hardcore as you would expect).

The usual plethora of driver aids are available, although there’s one aspect which those whose enthusiasm for Formula One is greater than their natural driving talent might find challenging: damage is turned on by default, and F1 2016’s damage system is rigorous (although you can select a dumbed-down level or turn it off). The tiniest nudge of a barrier or a rival will cripple your car and often result in a puncture, which will in turn leave you short of tyres in the free practice sessions.

F1 2016 review: Career and acclimatisation

You can select various levels of traction control, which is not available to real Formula One drivers these days, and feels a bit of a cheat as it gives you a massive advantage. Turn it off, though, and the car-feel that you get is absolutely sublime. You must be very careful on the throttle, as in the real cars. The difference in grip levels between the tyre compounds is an eye-opener, as is the effect of tyre degradation (you even feel the latter with traction control cranked up).

The AI in F1 2016 is spot-on, too. Computer-controlled drivers are aggressive and always keen to pass, but seem less eager to drive into the back of your car than they did in previous iterations of the game.

Codemasters / Formula One

The realistic feel that F1 2016 delivers is amazing: if you ever wanted to know what nursing a car around a track on disintegrating tyres, while keeping an eye on fuel consumption, feels like for Formula One drivers, this game will let you share their frustration and appreciate the unseen skill that goes into driving a longer-than-average stint. And without sweating quite as much.

F1 2016 isn’t free of flaws, though: the virtual renderings of drivers are pretty dodgy, although at least the game makes a stab at podium celebrations this time around.

And the commentary, as ever, deals in generalisations rather than specifics, and often strays into downright cliché.


F1 2016 is a triumph which will thrill console-owning Formula One fans.

It’s the first officially licensed title that feels like a proper game, thanks to that meticulously structured Career mode, and it recreates the feel of participating in Formula One far more rigorously and realistically than any of its predecessors.

Given that the game is free of the politics and vested interests that currently mar the sport (Bernie Ecclestone is nowhere to be seen in the game), you could even argue that F1 2016 better than the real thing.


The best ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ toy gets even better

Sphero’s BB-8 quickly became the most sought-after Star Wars toy when it was revealed last year. Now, the company is introducing a “Battle-worn” edition of the droid at IFA 2016, featuring a murky appearance that makes it further resemble the character from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But that’s not it. Along with this new rolling ball, Sphero introduced the final version of its Force Band, which lets you control BB-8 by simply waving your hand. The wearable device is also compatible with two other members of Sphero’s robot family, the SPRK+ and Ollie.

Battle-Worn BB-8 & Force Band Hands-on

In the case of the Battle-worn BB-8, it’s even more adorable than the original. That’s namely because it looks like it’s been through some rough times, as the character actually does in the film. Meanwhile, the Force Band has its own app, where you can get an interactive training demo and play different game modes. One of these games, for example, lets you use the Force Band to collect Holocrons, a set of digital cards with images and information about different Star Wars characters. The Force Band can make sounds too, like that of the Millennium Falcon or Han Solo’s DL-44 blaster pistol.

Right now, Sphero doesn’t have any plans to sell the Battle-worn BB-8 on its own, so your only option is to get a special edition bundle with the Force Band for $199. That said, if you already own the original BB-8 (or the other Sphero robots we mentioned), you can get the wearable for $79. Everything will be available on September 30th; pre-orders are already open on the company’s site.

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.


A tiny space pebble just put a huge dent in an ESA satellite

The European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-1A satellite has new 40cm dent on one of its solar wings — and it was caused by a tiny millimetre-size piece of space debris. The impact was discovered with the Sentinal-1A reported a slight power reduction last month. Onboard cameras quickly found the micrometeoroid impact, pictured above. Don’t worry, the ESA says the satellite is fine, but the impact serves as a reminder: at orbital velocity, tiny objects can cause major damage.

This is a problem for the Breakthrough Starshot project, which aims to launch a laser powered nanocraft that travels at 1/5th the speed of light. That project hopes to reach the next solar system over in about 20 years. “Erosion of solid surfaces will be a severe problem at these speeds,” says Ian Crawford of Birkbeck, University of London. “It’s possible that the wafersats won’t even be able to complete the journey.”

For engineers, this isn’t news — NASA and other space agencies have been combating space derbies for decades — but it does mean that teams need to think of new ways to protect fast moving crafts. The faster a craft goes, the more dangerous tiny objects can be. At the speed Breakthrough Starshot is designed to reach, even microscopic space dust could be dangerous.

Source: New Scientist, ESA


‘Firewatch’ comes to Xbox One on September 21st with bonus modes

Campo Santo’s wilderness mystery Firewatch became an instant indie classic when it was released back in February, but only on PC and PS4. The San Francisco-based studio is fixing that gap in its game’s playerbase with an Xbox One launch on September 21st and throwing in a few extras to boot.

For their wait, Xbox devotees will get a complete Audio Tour included with the game, which the studio describes as a Director Commentary-cum-Game Dev Workshop-cum scavenger hunt. Sometime down the line they will also get a free-range mode for gamers to explore the full wilderness without any pesky story getting in the way, which the developers say hides a few secrets. While both of those bonuses will eventually be available on all platforms, they’ll be released for players on the Microsoft console first.

Via: Xbox Wire

Source: Campo Santo blog


Apple and Others File Support for Microsoft in Fight for Government Data Access Disclosures

Apple and other companies today filed friend-of-the-court briefs to support Microsoft in its legal fight with the U.S. Department of Justice. Microsoft’s lawsuit is aimed at striking down a law that prevents companies from telling customers about government data requests, reports Reuters.

Apple joined a wide array of companies to support Microsoft, including Fox News, The Washington Post, BP, Delta Airlines, Google, Snapchat, Amazon, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla and more.

Microsoft filed its lawsuit against the Justice Department in April, saying that the government is using the authority of the 30-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act to prevent companies from informing customers when they hand over private data stored in the cloud. Microsoft argues that the government is violating the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees the right for people and businesses to know if the government is searching or seizing their property, and the company’s First Amendment right to free speech, which it would use to inform customers.

The Department of Justice, which filed a motion to dismiss the suit in July, argues that the public has a “compelling interest in keeping criminal investigations confidential” and that Microsoft has no standing to bring on the case. It also contends that there are procedural safeguards to protect constitutional rights.

Apple has also been embroiled in a legal fight with the DoJ, asserting that the FBI’s use of the All Writs Act to force Apple to unlock the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farouk is both unprecedented and dangerous. Microsoft was one of the many companies filing amicus briefs in support of Apple.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tag: privacy
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Pokémon Go is getting a buddy system

Despite its initial success, Pokémon Go has been struggling to maintain its popularity. The game’s active users have shrunk by more than 10 million from its mid-July peak, which makes keeping the remaining players engaged that much more important for developer Niantic Labs. The studio is introducing a new feature in the form of a buddy system that might add an interesting dynamic to the game.

You will be able pick your favorite Pokémon from your collection and become best friends with them, allowing you to earn in-game rewards. The Buddy Pokémon will appear next to your Trainer avatar on the profile screen, and can be switched any time. Details, like whether or not a Buddy Pokémon might help you catch other Pokémon, are scarce at the moment. But, Niantic has promised the buddy system will go live soon.

Beyond that, the studio has more features in the works, and they’re all slated to come out this fall. With Pokémon Go’s downward spiral, a consistent dose of updates might help keep the game relevant in the coming months and years.

Source: Pokemon Go Live


This mummy’s skull was recreated via 3D printer

Using a mummified head found in the collections of the University of Melbourne, scientists were able to reconstruct the skull of a deceased 25-year-old woman from via 3D printer.

The head and face, which were brought back to life with forensic science and 3D printing, were determined to have belonged to a woman. The specimen’s been named Meritamun, and the woman likely wasn’t older than 25 years old when she passed away. The fact that she was mummified meant she was someone of high enough stature to warrant such treatment after death.

A museum curator originally happened upon the head while performing an audit and sent it in for a CT scan, and that’s where the magic began. Varsha Pilbrow, biological anthropologist at the University of Melbourne, states that the skull looks “well” on the inside and is “actually quite intact.”

Still, despite its great condition and the fact that the skull was easily replicated via the results of the CT, its actual origins remain unknown. There’s some speculation, however, over what kind of diseases she could have had as well as dental issues.

It’s not explicitly clear how she could have died, but Pilbrow and the rest of the researchers involved in the project may well figure out a glut of additional details about the woman’s death as time goes on.

Via: CBS News

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