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30
Jan

The Lenovo Yoga Book Review – Too cool or too unconventional?


The Lenovo Yoga Book is one of the most unique and attractive devices I’ve ever seen. I put it up with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and the Apple iPhone 5 as devices that I lusted after and had to have in my hands as soon as they were announced. The slim, sleek, and well-built Yoga Book is trying to reinvent… something. I don’t know if Lenovo is trying to reinvent laptops, tablets, or make them both obsolete with the Yoga Book but what we’re left with is a great product without a real category.

Lenovo Yoga Book DisplayLet’s get the internals out of the way. The Lenovo Yoga Book is powered by a 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Atom processor. Atom processors aren’t great for tasks like RAW photo editing, video editing, or intense gaming but generally do a good job with web browsing, word processing, and media consumption and that shows in the Yoga Book. I had no stutters or slowdowns while using YouTube and browsing Reddit or Facebook using apps or in Chrome with several tabs open.

One of the reasons for that might be the 4GB of RAM. It almost seems customary at this point in 2017 to have 4GB of RAM in a device. Any less would probably cost Lenovo in sales, any more would be wasted on a device like this. In addition to the healthy amount of RAM, Lenovo put 64GB of storage into the Yoga Book. You can expand that with the microSD card slot on the left side of the device. I doubled up my storage fairly cheap with a microSD card like this one from SanDisk for $20 that I had laying around and had zero issues playing the movies I had already loaded onto it.

Lenovo Yoga Book micro sdIf you’re into taking pictures and for some reason you want to torture yourself, there is an 8MP camera on the rear device (in tablet mode) that will give you passable pictures to post on social media, but you’ll have to be seen taking pictures with a tablet, so that’s on you. The front of the device features a 2MP camera for video conferencing and selfies (I guess) that will get the job done.

Just below that front-facing camera is the 10.1″ 1920 x 1200 display that features decent color accuracy and brightness. Nothing to write home about, but nothing that should dissuade you from buying the tablet/laptop hybrid, either. It’s perfect for sitting in a Starbucks and browsing around the web, but if you decide to pick the park bench on a sunny day, you’ll have issues.

Traveling to the south of the screen brings us to the biggest selling point of the entire device. The Wacom tablet connects to the screen with a watchband-like hinge. It doubles as a drawing tablet with the included stylus or a virtual keyboard. It’s one of the most interesting designs I’ve seen in a while and even after a month of use, I’m still not sure what to make of it.

Lenovo Yoga Book FeaturedTyping on this thing is really interesting. I wouldn’t necessarily call it bad by any means. The experience sits somewhere between using a crappy third-party iPad Bluetooth keyboard and peck-typing on your phone. I find it really nice to have a full-sized keyboard but since you cannot feel the keys, you obviously need to keep your eyes trained on the virtual keyboard as you type. I thought I would type up this review on the Yoga Book and I quickly decided that was a terrible idea.

The software does learn your typing over time and offers better and better text correction as you go, but this is still not anything you’d want to type more than a moderately long email on. One of the biggest issues I have with the software is that if you backspace in the middle of a word and begin to type again the software will see this as an entirely new word and try to autocorrect for only the new part of the word. This leads to many words just being completely deleted and retyped instead of fixing a mistyped letter like on a regular keyboard.

You do, however, get some feedback when you type on the virtual keyboard. A slight vibration and clicking noise go off for every keypress. Yes, these are needed so you can keep track of when you actually hit a button and when you miss, but the execution is a bit poor. The vibration can be felt all over the device, not just in the general area of where the button is pressed. However, if you type fast enough you can cause the noise generated by the device to lag. The next iteration of the device should fix these issues to make typing a much more pleasurable experience.

When in typing mode you get a mousepad just below the keyboard. Android has decent built-in mouse support (even though not many apps take advantage of it) but the experience here isn’t great. There is some friction and drag when using the mouse and the virtual trackpad is small and squished.

Lenovo Yoga Book TrackpadThis is a Wacom tablet and as such lets you use a stylus to either take notes or draw. Pressing a little button at the top of the keyboard quickly transitions it into stylus mode for the included stylus. The stylus is pretty big and bulky but does a great job with the Yoga Book. There is hardly any if any at all, lag or accuracy issues to be noticed here. There are also a ton of apps on the Play Store that will let you take advantage of the stylus, but Lenovo included a few for good measure.

Lenovo Yoga Book paperThe stylus has replaceable tips and can function not only as a stylus, but also an ink pen. Removing the stylus tip with the cap and inserting one of the three ink pen tips turns the stylus into a regular pen in under ten seconds. You can use this pen with the included pad of paper on top of the Wacom tablet to transfer whatever writing from the paper onto the Yoga Book. This is excellent for students or business professionals that prefer to take notes by hand but also need digital versions. That is a limited audience but I believe that audience will absolutely fall in love with this feature. It works flawlessly and reliably.

The left of the device houses most of the ports on the device, the microUSB, microSD, and micro HDMI ports. I’m a bit disappointed to see a microUSB port on a device this new, especially when a USB Type-C port could expand the functionality of the Yoga Book, but maybe Lenovo held off so customers would have a reason to upgrade next year or some manufacturing issue. The microSD card reader is pretty standard as we touched on early and you’ll need to pick up your own micro HDMI to full HDMI dongle as Lenovo hasn’t included one in the box. The right side of the device houses the 3.5mm headphone jack and the clicky, but short-traveling power button and volume rocker.

Lenovo Yoga Book right thinBoth sides of the device have speaker grills, but if you’re using these you’ll be disappointed in all but the most quiet situations. YouTuber Dave2D reported that his pre-production model had issues with volume levels out of the speakers, but the retail model was better. I’m hoping that I have a pre-production model because I’m nothing but disappointed with not only how loud the speakers get but the quality of audio exiting them.

The physical package here is really wonderful. The body is small and tight with the feeling of little wasted space. You can normally feel hollow spots in a device, but the Yoga Book has zero hollow spots and the body has almost no flex to it when in use. The watchband-style hinge is one of my favorites on the market today and does an excellent job keeping the display in place even when you’re applying moderate pressure on the display. My only real gripe is just how gigantic the bezels are. I’d love to see smaller bezels on the same size device. Making the keyboard smaller would be a bad idea but ideally I’d like some more real estate on the display.

Lenovo Yoga Book hingeSo far this review has focused on the device in a standard laptop-style setup but the bottom of the device can fold all the way back too. If you’re looking for a great Android tablet, the list starts with this and probably the Nvidia Sheild K1 which is outmatched by the Yoga Book’s specs, but costs only $200 vs. the $500 price tag of the Yoga Book.

While you won’t be getting the newest version of Android 7.0 Nougat, the Yoga Book does come with Android 6.0 Marshmallow with minimal additions atop of stock Android. Lenovo added some of its own applications like Note Saver and ArtRage that play to the strengths of the Yoga Book, but didn’t fill it up with too much bloat.

You get true multitasking on the Yoga Book with the ability to have multiple windows open next to each other or on top of each other without the functionality being frozen. This was excellent when taking notes for another project and provides enough value that I would consider buying the Yoga Book just for that over using my rather large phone and switching back and forth between apps like I normally do.

Lenovo Yoga Book teepeeThe software here is going to be what you make of it. Samsung is the biggest Android tablet producer right now and it focuses on proving a software experience to match the hardware it’s selling you. This can be a blessing and a curse as it loads down the device with a lot of apps you can’t delete even if you don’t want them, but also puts a lot of functionality at your fingertips right out of the box. Lenovo, on the other hand, adds a few apps for you to use, but is relying on you to go into the Play Store to find more and make the most out of the Yoga Book.

The Lenovo Yoga Book feels like a first generation product, but a really good one. I’ve had my fair share of issues with it like lag in initial typing when you start your note taking, but nothing game-breaking. I love how slim (less than an inch thick) and light (1.5 lbs) it is, too. I feel comfortable carrying it around in my hands unmolested by a case or tucked away in my bag. This thing is so small it makes my Dell XPS feel gigantic by comparison.

Lenovo Yoga Book smallI feel like Lenovo is attacking the segment of iPad customers that buy iPads because there are no other alternatives on the market. The Android version of the Yoga Book comes in at the same base $500 price that the iPad does and much cheaper than the iPad Pro, but offers far more functionality out of the box than both. The software experience is more polished on the iPad, but the Lenovo Yoga Book has that cool factor that makes me want to take it everywhere I go.

You can pick up a Lenovo Yoga Book from Amazon or Lenovo’s website

30
Jan

The Abandoned Review


It’s rare to find a full-fledged 3D action adventure game on the Google Play store that’s worth any investment. Gaijin Distribution hopes to change that with The Abandoned–a game where you need to survive in a land full of danger and mystery. The player must survive by finding supplies, crafting tools, clothes and equipment and by building storage and living spaces.

Upon starting the game you’ll be introduced to the world by a rudimentary story that starts you off in a desolate world, gone awry. The basic premise sets the player with very little direction–walk forward to begin your discoveries of the post-apocalyptic world that harbors a plethora of collectible tools and items. Your main objective isn’t always clear, but in the process you will come across a variety of secondary objectives that allow you build up skills and tools that will complement your survival.

the abandoned introANOMALIES, ARTIFACTS, MONSTERS, OH MY!

Start by finding a stick. Easy enough. Once found you’ll be able to create a simple axe that will allow you access to new, unfound areas. The ease of objectives early on will allow you to advance at a rate that should hold your interest from the get-go. Any items that lie on the ground before you are automatically picked up when you walk near them. This is generally a good thing, but can become tricky later as you reach your maximum carry weight and are forced to manage your inventory.

So you found a stick? Congratulations. Now you need a sharp rock to craft a real useful tool. Recipes are used to combine different materials which create the tools needed for survival. This has become all too common in the post-Minecraft gaming world that we live in. It’s not a knock against the game outside of the fact that we’re so used to this idea that it has become slightly stale. Other games have drilled this same idea to the point of complacency. It’s like the first time you started to see the multitude of action games on NES that followed Super Mario Bros.

The Abandoned has a solid game engine with semi-realistic graphics that should run fine on most mobile devices. As you traverse the 3D world, you’ll notice many little details that help portray this post-apocalyptic world. Enemies and objects are sharp enough to discern from the rest of the environment. The graphics in general aren’t super memorable, but do a good job of immersing the player into the strange, desolate world.

As you progress through the game, more crafting options will become available. Each new ability and item is usually described by on-screen text that will help the player understand how to craft and why each item needs to be crafted. Descriptions are well-written and provide the player with just enough information that still allows some self-discovery. The amount of recipes within the game is plentiful. You’ll quickly learn that fire is essential to surviving as well as finding some forms of food.

While traversing the landscape, you will find “anomalies”, which are strange area effects that should generally be avoided, but occasionally provide positive boosts to the player. This is unique take on the survival genre that hasn’t been seen in a lot of other games. Fortunately, it’s easy to see where anomalies lie, as there is a graphical effect to go along with the affected area.

Screen-Shot-2017-01-23-at-12.31.11-PM.pnLuckily the game tells you about certain unique features of the game as you encounter them

 

Fighting is simple and straight forward. If a weapon is equipped, simply press the on-screen action button to attack an enemy that is within range. Your player will slash and swipe ahead to vanquish any threats. You can also attack animals that scurry about the land for additional resources. Upgrading your weapons will provide for more damage to any creeps that may be thirsting for your blood.

the abandoned fightingA knife will do the job, but an axe is much more effective

The on screen interface shows a lot of detail. As you play through the game it’s easy to understand which icons represent crucial information and how it’s easy enough to access crafting and equipment. The amount of items that can be picked up is overwhelming at first but as you learn to manage your inventory, you can quickly discard unwanted or unneeded items.

The Abandoned is quirky. The opening comic-book styled cinematic is poorly written but gives a good basis from where you’ll start. Survival is key and it doesn’t take long to understand your objectives. As you build up through crafting, the rewards amplify and you become more of a efficient, killing machine. It’s easy to recommend this game to anyone looking for a survival experience similar to Rust, The Forest or even Minecraft. Although basic in design, there’s a lot of fun to be had playing The Abandoned.

abandoned information page

30
Jan

Fitbit slashes 110 jobs, but new wearables are on the way


Why it matters to you

Fitbit’s slowing sales could motivate the company to innovate with new products like smartwatches.

Fitbit is cutting 110 jobs — roughly 6 percent of its workforce — after a fourth quarter which fell short of expectations, according to a news release from the company. In 2017, Fitbit will update its current lineup and introduce new products in hopes of regaining position in the wearable market.

The wearables leader reported Monday that preliminary data suggests it sold 6.5 million devices between October and the end of 2016, earning somewhere between $572 million and $580 million in revenue. This is well below the target of $725 million to $750 million, which Fitbit attributes to “softer-than-expected holiday demand” in the company’s most mature markets.

More: Fitbit upgrades its software with new social features and personalized workouts

The shortfall translates to 17 percent in annual growth, compared to the 25 percent estimated last year. James Park, Fitbit co-founder and CEO, says that despite the stagnation over the holidays, the wearables industry continues to evolve, and new product segments provide venues for expansion.

“We believe the evolving wearables market continues to present growth opportunities for us that we will capitalize on by investing in our core product offerings,” Park said in a statement, “while expanding into the smartwatch category to diversify revenue and capture share of the over $10 billion global smartwatch market.”

Fitbit hopes leveraging its recent acquisitions will help claw back some ground. Since December, the company has snapped up Kickstarter smartwatch darling Pebble and smartwatch startup Vector. In the spring, it purchased universal credit card maker Coin to assist in its plans to add mobile payment support to new devices later this year.

News of the sales slump and downsizing caused Fitbit’s shares to plunge as the stock market opened Monday morning. At the time of this writing, the company’s shares are down roughly 11 percent to $6.41, after closing at $7.21 on Friday.

Still, there is at least one positive takeaway. In spite of Fitbit’s struggles to make headway globally, the company reported it has “continued to grow rapidly in select markets” such as Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, where revenue rose 58 percent in the fourth quarter.

30
Jan

Never say die: Online petition seeks new version of long-dormant Microsoft Money


Why it matters to you

Left without a proper finance management app, some Windows users are calling for the return of Microsoft Money.

From its debut in 1991 to its discontinuation in 2009, Microsoft Money gave Windows users the tools to manage their finances in a straightforward, easy-to-use package. Unfortunately, Microsoft deemed the software surplus almost a decade ago and hasn’t looked back — but a new petition hopes to convince the company to reassess the situation.

One loyal Microsoft Money user has published a petition to Change.org with the intention of resurrecting the line of personal finance software, according to a report from MS Power User. In two weeks, more than 300 supporters have signed the petition, which is addressed directly to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

“A lot of people use Intuit’s Mint for personal and small business finance,” writes the author of the petition. “However, Intuit pulled its popular personal finance app from the Microsoft store last year, leaving Windows users without a proper finance management app. Since Intuit refuses to support the Windows platform, Microsoft should step up to the plate and do it themselves. They certainly know how!”

More: Easily settle your debts with these 10 money-sending applications

The last full release of the software was Microsoft Money Plus, which launched in 2007. However, Microsoft did make an attempt to appease users with the release of Microsoft Money Plus Sunset, a revised edition that allows for data files to be opened and edited, but removes all online functionality.

The petition states that a new version of Microsoft Money should play to the same strengths possessed by previous versions. However, its author also suggests that the software should be made available across the full gamut of Windows 10 devices.

A mobile app, a web portal, and a full desktop version included as part of the Office 365 suite have all been requested. Given that Microsoft has put a major focus on its Windows 10 ecosystem in recent years, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see all three come to fruition if Microsoft Money is to make a return.

Despite its popularity among a passionate user base, it remains to be seen whether Microsoft Money has the broader popularity necessary for a revival. A personal finance tool would perhaps be a welcome addition to Microsoft Office, but there are questions to be asked about whether adding more software to the suite is a priority for Microsoft at this time.

30
Jan

Study: Uber may have lowered wages, but taxi driver jobs have not been displaced


Why it matters to you

If you’re a taxi driver where Uber exists, this study shows you should be more concerned about your hourly wage than losing your job.

One of the taxi industry’s biggest complaints against ridesharing platforms like Uber is their negative economic impact, particularly when it comes to the number of taxi driver jobs. According to a study of data from the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics, however, that impact is not as negative as it might seem.

Published by the University of Oxford, “Drivers of Disruption? Estimating the Uber Effect” looks at Uber’s effects in large cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco between 2009 and 2015. According to Dr. Carl Benedikt Frey, one of the paper’s authors, this is the first time anyone has taken a close look at Uber’s impact on jobs.

More: Your Uber driver might be sleeping in his car at night, report reveals

“Uber is the flagship of the sharing economy,” said Frey. “But what our study shows is that even in one of the sharing economy’s most exposed industries, traditional jobs have not been displaced.”

To that point, the study finds that, even though the number of self-employed drivers increased by 50 percent once Uber showed up, the number of regularly employed taxi drivers also increased, albeit slightly. As for how much money was earned, self-employed drivers saw a 10-percent wage increase while taxi drivers saw a 10-percent decrease with Uber’s arrival.

The study surmises the wage bump for self-employed drivers is due to their more efficient use of time and services, which allows the per-ride rate to result in an increase in the hourly wage.

“The higher hourly earnings among self-employed drivers suggest that capacity utilization, in terms of the time spent in the car with a passenger, has increased with Uber, as its platform allows for better matching between drivers and passengers,” said Frey. “But for traditional taxi drivers the effect has been the opposite, with a decline in the amount of time they have a passenger in their vehicle.”

The study does not look at the number of rides self-employed and regular taxi drivers undertook, though it concludes we should take a hard look at data before any restrictions are issued.

“The effects are complex,” said Frey. “While some have seen a loss in income, Uber has also created more jobs than it has destroyed, demonstrated by the staggering expansion of self-employment following its introduction.”

The study comes after a recent report unveiled that full-time Uber drivers will trek to areas with higher fares, even if it means they sleep in their cars.

30
Jan

Viber app offers free calling for those affected by immigration ban


Why it matters to you

Free two-way calling between the United States and the seven Middle Eastern’s countries affected by the immigration is a small consolation for the families affected.

If you have a friend or family member in one of the seven countries affected by the recently implemented immigration ban, Viber has a slight silver lining to offer you. Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of Viber’s parent company, Rakuten, has announced that the messaging service will allow for free calls between the United States and Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. And it’s a two-way street. Not only will Americans not have to pay to dial out, but those in affected countries will not have to pay to communicate with folks in the U.S.

I am very sad to see what is happening now in the US. I came to US when I was seven and I really respect big American big heart.

— 三木谷浩史 H. Mikitani (@hmikitani) January 30, 2017

“Viber has always been committed to enabling people to connect freely and securely whenever and wherever they are,” said Viber CEO Michael Shmilov. “Under the current circumstances, we feel obligated to enable our users to remain close even when apart.”

Viber set up its free calling service in a speedy manner, making things available within 24 hours to affected parties. And just because the calls are free doesn’t mean they’ll be any different in quality.

More: Viber has just made it even easier to send video messages to your buddies

Viber, which has been around since 2010, already claims more than 800 million users across the world. And while messaging services seem to be a dime a dozen these days, Viber is different in that it lets you make calls to normal telephone numbers, including both mobile and landlines. That makes it particularly useful for those in countries where Wi-Fi and mobile service provisions aren’t as ubiquitous as they are in the U.S.

30
Jan

Ransomware reportedly crippled D.C. camera network a week before inauguration


Why it matters to you

Ransomware is increasingly targeting Internet of Things networks, where it can spread aggressively.

Ransomware is a major threat to consumers and businesses alike, but it’s rare to hear of it going after surveillance systems. That is what happened in the run-up to President Donald Trump’s recent inauguration, though, where it was discovered that between January 12 and 15, just shy of two-thirds of the police’s closed-circuit television networks across city-wide public spaces were locked up, The Washington Post reported.

Although officials claim that the safety of the public was never put in jeopardy, there was a three-day period where much of the city’s recording capabilities were several reduced. Out of 187 recording servers, 123 were infected by the attack, effectively making them unusable for those few days. Although the city didn’t pay any ransom, it did have to take the system down for a few days and clean the infection out.

Traditionally, ransomware has attacked corporate and personal systems, encrypting important files and demanding payment to return them to normal. Ransomware is very tricky to deal with, though mostly because it has affected key files. In the case of recording systems, it may be that little of worth was encrypted — and likely lost due to non-payment — but it seems that the police were able to get them back online in short order.

More: Beware of new image files you didn’t download: They may launch ‘Locky’ ransomware

No word has been released on who may have been responsible for the attack and an investigation is still ongoing. It is perfectly possible that it was merely some exploitative hackers who found a backdoor into a lot of Internet of Things devices, not knowing or necessarily caring that they were official police cameras. Other than being a week prior, there are no solid links with the inauguration ceremony.

Still, this has raised concerns about the security of police cameras. If it was possible to hack into them and effectively break the network of recorders and their connected cameras, it could well be possible to use them for nefarious purposes.

As always, we recommend to keep yourself safe from ransomware that you are very careful with links and attachments, especially from unsolicited sources.

30
Jan

No mini-bar for you: Luxury hotel pays up after virus locks guests out of rooms


Why it matters to you

Ransomware isn’t going away, and this attack on a hotel’s key card network shows cybercriminals are getting more creative.

The targets for ransomware attacks continue to get stranger. Over the weekend it was reported that a luxury hotel in Austria paid about $1,600 in bitcoin to retrieve its systems. The attack had even compromised the hotel’s electronic key card network, locking guests out of their rooms.

The Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt hotel in Turracher Höhe, Austria, said it has been targeted numerous times by ransomware attacks, but is only going public with this information now as a warning to others.

In this particular attack, the culprits managed to freeze the hotel’s system for managing key cards. The incident meant once a guest had left the room, they couldn’t re-enter, and new cards couldn’t be programmed. As a result, hotel staff had to resort to a separate internal system for locking and unlocking doors. The hotel’s reservation management system and cash desk was also affected. The disruption lasted for about 24 hours.

More: Ransomware locked over 700 of its computers, but St. Louis library system refused to pay

It appears the hackers timed the attack quite well as it was the opening of skiing season, the 111 year old hotel’s busiest period. “The house was totally booked with 180 guests, we had no other choice. Neither police nor insurance help you in this case,” said Christoph Brandstaetter, managing director of the hotel, on the decision to cough up the money.

According to Brandstaetter, his hotel was attacked by more conventional ransomware last summer as well, which cost the business thousands of euros in IT costs. The most recent hack, meanwhile, forced the business to pay a Bitcoin ransom worth about $1,600.

“Every euro that is paid to blackmailers hurts us. We know that other colleagues have been attacked, who have done similarly,” said Brandstaetter.

Once paid, the hackers restored all the systems, which was good news for The Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt, but paying off a ransom is never a guarantee that you’ll get your systems back running. The hotel almost learned this the hard way, as the cybercriminals attempted yet another attack after the ransom was paid. That attempt was only thwarted by the installation of new hardware.

Now, to prevent a similar fate in the future, the hotel’s managers are going a little old school: “We are planning at the next room refurbishment for old-fashioned door locks with real keys. Just like 111 years ago at the time of our great-grandfathers.” In this case, it seems old technology is the best way to prevent a high-tech attack.

30
Jan

Science could soon make tomatoes taste great again


Why it matters to you

Researchers have isolated the chemicals which make the best tomatoes taste so good. Next step? Making supermarket-bought ones even tastier.

Modern science has a new problem in its sights: restoring the flavor of bland supermarket tomatoes.

In a new paper, published in the journal Science, researchers in the United States and China break down the first steps in what they hope could soon bring us more flavorsome shop-bought tomatoes.

“In terms of value, tomato is the largest fruit or vegetable crop in the entire world,” University of Florida Professor Harry Klee, one of the study’s authors, told Digital Trends. “It’s been adopted into virtually every cuisine in the world. But if you ask anyone in the developed world, they’ll tell you that the quality of supermarket tomatoes is not good. Most everyone has at some point tried one of the older, delicious varieties of tomato and know what it is capable of delivering — and store-bought tomatoes just don’t live up to it.”

The study carried out by Professor Klee and others has been ongoing for the past 12 years. It involved carrying out taste tests, as well as chemical and genetic analysis, on hundreds of varieties of tomatoes.

More: New sun-absorbing nanoparticle spray boosts tomato plant yields by over 80 percent

“What we’ve shown is that tomatoes available in stores are significantly deficient in about half of the important flavor volatile chemicals, the aroma compounds which give tomatoes their unique flavor,” he continued. “With our collaborators, we also sequenced the genomes of 400 different varieties and carried out a genetic association study, mapping out on the genome the areas that areas that influence the synthesis of those important flavor chemicals.”

One of the big challenges with tomatoes, Klee said, is that they have particularly complex flavors. The researchers have identified 30 different compounds, all of which contribute in some way to how a tomato tastes.

“There is no single compound which is a ‘tomato flavor,’” he said. “That’s not true for things like banana, blueberry, or strawberry. For all of those I could give you one volatile chemical you could smell and instantly recognize. It’s the complexity of tomato which makes this project difficult. It’s really a large mixture of chemicals which, when combined, registers in your brain as a tomato flavor.”

Still, the researchers are making progress. While they’ve decided not to pursue a GMO approach to creating more flavorsome tomatoes, Klee said that the plan is to use “traditional breeding approaches involving older varieties to rescue the genetics that have been lost.”

The ultimate plan is to get tastier tomatoes into the hands (and, well, the stomachs) of the general public within the next three years.

Can science next work out why Snickers seem to have gotten so much smaller since we were kids?

30
Jan

Yes, Microsoft does have plans to release a Hololens headset for consumers


Why it matters to you

If you’re dreaming of a day when Microsoft’s Hololens AR headset will be affordable for consumers, it’s coming — just not anytime soon.

Microsoft’s Hololens augmented reality headset has served at least one purpose — showing off what is possible with a self-contained device and AR development platform. Hololens has a price to match, running $3,000 for the Development Edition and while large organizations and AR developers have bought “thousands” of units, HoloLens has not made its way to consumers.

While a few companies have worked on some real Hololens projects, Microsoft’s AR platform has mostly been experimental so far. In order for it to become a viable consumer product, hardware pricing will have to fall considerably. According to Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman, the man responsible for Hololens’ development, that will happen but likely not relatively soon, CNET reports.

More: Microsoft explains why it’s happy selling only ‘thousands’ of Hololens headsets

In an interview, Kipman was upbeat about the promise of the AR, virtual reality, and the combination of the two represented by mixed reality solutions, saying, “Mixed reality is a new medium for how we interact with technology. But when you talk about mixed reality with AI as the intelligence that powers it, [we’re talking] the future of computing. And the goal, to get philosophical, is to essentially allow new types of conversations to happen — where we are spending time together as humans, but with technology transparently around us. Essentially empowering us to do more, to achieve more, to be more creative.”

Kipman also justifies the high price of the Hololens system, pointing out that it is a self-contained PC rather than a mere headset that connects to a PC and projects what that PC creates. Hololens includes custom-developed processors like the holographic processing unit, or HPU, along with a number of sensors, cameras, lenses and passive cooling components, and that explains its high price.

At some point, however, economies of scale and continued development will drive the price point close to something the average person will be able to afford. Responding to a question about plans for a consumer version, Kipman said:

“The better question and the better way to answer it is, at what point is this thing going to be under $1,000? Because I can say it’s a consumer product tomorrow because I can remove the dev kit thing, [but] the $3,000 thing is going to get in the way of it becoming a mass market consumer product. You have to reduce the price point until it’s affordable to the majority of the populous of Earth, which will be under a $1,000 and then some to get there. Roadmaps for both of those things exist today, but I’m not going to announce or talk about it today.”

In short, Microsoft does have plans for consumer AR and MR solutions and the company is already working with its OEM partners to develop consumer-level VR and MR headsets that connect to lower-end PCs.