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Adobe’s experimental app copies one photo’s style to another

Photo retouching and style matching (not to be confused with Prisma-like Instagram filters) is challenging work that requires a trained eye and hours of labor. At least, it was, until AI took that job, too. Researchers from Adobe and Cornell University have showed off an experimental app called “Deep Photo Style transfer” that can transform your image from drab to dramatic using someone else’s photo.

As shown above, using it is pretty simple — you just select a photo you want to change and one with the style you’re trying to emulate. The AI does the rest, applying the color, lighting and contrast of the example photo to the original. It can transform a lake photo snapped in the most boring light possible (above) into one that looks like it was taken at the golden hour on another planet. In another example it transforms a daylight city shot into a much more interesting nighttime scene.

The researchers built on the “Neural Style Transfer” work done by European researchers. They refined it so that the style transfer only happens to colors and doesn’t distort objects in the picture, like previous deep learning systems. In other words, it can pick out which part of the image is sky and which part is ground, so that the sky doesn’t “spill over” into the rest of the image, the team says.

The system works well on a wide range of photos, including a flower shot, drab house along a road and a temple scene (above). The team did a study and found that viewers judged the photos to be faithful to the example style 80 percent of the time, much better than more basic methods like Photoshop’s “match color setting.”

The next step, the team says, is to improve the way that the AI divides up the image to create even more precise color settings. Adobe hasn’t said whether it plans to implement this in Photoshop, but if you have Linux and want to try it right now, you can download the app, complete with examples, from Github.

Via: TNW

Source: Arxiv


Microsoft has its own version of the Samsung Galaxy S8 (updated)

Samsung has been bundling Microsoft apps like Skype, OneDrive, OneNote and more on its phones and tablets for a while now. However, when it comes to the Galaxy S8, the two companies are taking their partnership a step further. Microsoft is selling a Samsung Galaxy S8 Microsoft Edition and it’s accepting pre-orders starting today at its retail stores in the US ahead of the April 21st launch.

As you might expect, the customized S8 will come loaded with Microsoft’s apps and services like Office, OneDrive, Outlook and Cortana. It’s interesting that Microsoft’s virtual assistant would be included given that these two new handsets are the big debut of Samsung’s Bixby. However, if you’re going to go through the trouble of a special version, it makes sense to add that in, too.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to Engadget that the customization would be available on both the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+. When the Microsoft Edition handsets are first connected to WiFi, all of the custom software is downloaded and installed. While the regular versions of the Galaxy S8 already includes Office apps, the alternate edition tacks on Cortana, Excel, Outlook, OneDrive, One Note, Bing, Groove, Skype, MSN News and more.

“Samsung Galaxy S8 and Samsung Galaxy S8+ Microsoft Edition arranges those productivity applications on the home screen and provides additional accessibility to other Microsoft owned applications such as LinkedIn, Wunderlist and more,” a Microsoft spokesperson explained to Engadget.

Update: Microsoft confirmed details about the Galaxy S8 Microsoft Edition to Engadget This post has been updated to reflect that information which includes the statement below.

Today Microsoft and Samsung continue their partnership to help businesses harness the power of mobility by featuring the best business productivity apps and software. Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ Microsoft Edition are available to pre-order now and for purchase beginning April 21 at U.S. Microsoft Store locations.

A Microsoft customization is applied to the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ Microsoft Edition when the devices are unboxed and connected to Wi-Fi. This customization ensures customers a best-in-class productivity experience with Microsoft applications such as Office, OneDrive, Cortana, Outlook and more.

Microsoft Store is committed to empowering its customers to achieve more through Office and Microsoft applications. The new device customization is an example of bringing together Microsoft applications on more devices so customers can work, play and connect from their pockets.

Via: The Verge


Twitter removes @replies from 140-character limit

While many have embraced the short and sweet nature of Twitter’s 140-character limit, the restriction can be something of a pain. So last year, Twitter made a few changes to help you express more with less. For example, it’s now possible to quote a retweet without it affecting your character count, and you can attach images and polls without worrying about the restraint as well. Today, Twitter is introducing yet another change: you can now reply to someone or a group of people without those @usernames taking up precious space.

Essentially, this means that the username of the person you’re replying to will now appear above the tweet text rather than in it. If you’re replying to a group of people, the header will show the number of other folks in the conversation. So if you’re responding to three people, the text will be “Replying to @username and 2 others.” To see who else is in the conversation, you can tap on the “Replying to” text to see a checklist of names. If you don’t want certain people in the discussion anymore, you can simply uncheck them and continue on.

However, if you want to add or tag other people to the conversation, you will still have to type in their @usernames manually just as before and that will take up your character restriction. Still, once they’re added, you won’t have to @ them again. As for how many people you can add to a Twitter convo, we hear that the feature can accommodate up to 50 people.

The company has experimented with this feature for a few months now, with varying success. A recent test used real names instead of usernames, which annoyed some users, while another one made it impossible to see who else was in the conversation. This update, however, resolves those issues, and seems to be a reasonable solution for those who don’t want usernames cluttering up their tweets.

“Our work isn’t finished,” said Twitter in a statement. “We’ll continue to think about how we can improve conversations and make Twitter easier to use.” You’ll see this update roll out starting today on the web and on both iOS and Android.


GoPro launches its Karma drone in the UK

GoPro’s foray into drone development has been troubled, to say the least. The highly anticipated Karma launched in the US last October, only to be recalled a few weeks later. The reason? Some of them were falling out of the sky (eesh). As a result, GoPro never released the product in the UK. Until now, that is. Karma has finally arrived in Britain, as well as Spain, Italy and Germany.

A full drone bundle, which comes with a Hero5 Black camera, will run you 1,400 euros, or £1,200 in the UK. Otherwise you can buy the quadcopter on its own for 1,000 euros, or £870. Notably, the Karma is more expensive than we thought. Originally, the complete bundle was given a £999 price tag in the UK, but it appears that’s now risen by as much as £200. We’ve asked GoPro for the reason behind the price hike, but suspect it’s Brexit-related.

As my colleague James Trew noted, it’s a decent drone with stiff competition. It’s hard not to compare the Karma with DJI’s Mavic Pro, a smaller and lighter drone (which is important, given both are designed to be portable) which runs for £1,099 in the UK, camera included. It’s also faster, and has a longer flight time, giving it the edge in most situations. If you’re a filmmaker, however, you might prefer GoPro’s cameras to the one in the Mavic Pro. That decision will always be subjective, so it’s worth looking at example footage online before making a purchase.

Via: GoPro (Press Release)

Source: GoPro


Book a fitness class anywhere in the US with a Google search

When Reserve with Google starting helping users book fitness classes last year, the scheduling tool was only available in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City. Today, the company announced that the handy feature is now available all over the US. That means that you’ll be able to book and pay for a yoga or exercise session in Google Maps, Google Search or directly through the Reserve with Google website.

The Reserve with Google website allows you to use specific filters to narrow down the fitness studios nearby so you can find exactly what you’re looking for. It also serves up recommendations and lets you book a spot in the classes you already enjoy. If the location you choose has any special offers. you’ll be able to take advantage of those when you’re paying for classes, packages and memberships.

Right now, booking inside Google Maps is only available on the desktop, but you can schedule your sessions via Google Search on both desktop and mobile. When you find the studio you want to visit, simply click “Reserve with Google” to see what’s available and nab your spot. The company says it’s working with MINDBODY, MyTime, Genbook, Full Slate, Front Desk and Appointy to ensure that schedules and availability are updated in real time.

Source: Google


Telegram’s voice calls are secured by emojis

Questions about security have plagued messaging app Telegram recently, since the platform was supposedly cracked by Russia’s state security agency during the election. Telegram uses its own security protocols instead of more tried-and-true options, which has been a point of criticism. Now, Telegram is adding voice calls to its offerings, and those calls will be secured by emojis.

The service is available in Western Europe starting today, and Telegram says users worldwide will get the feature soon. When a call connects, the participants are shown a set of four emojis. If both users find that they’re seeing the same group of emojis, the call is completely secure. To make the system easy to use, Telegram picks its emojis from a pool of 333 characters “that all look quite different from one another and can be easily described in simple words in any language.” This means that there are nearly 12.3 billion possible four-emoji combinations.

This encryption system is based on the Diffie-Hellman key exchange, which was patented in 1977. If Diffie-Hellman sounds familiar, that could be because it was partially what caused the Logjam browser and website encryption vulnerability in 2015. However, those issues have long been resolved and it’s possible for a secure key exchange to work on this system.

As for the rest of the voice call features, there shouldn’t be much of a learning curve. The call screen looks like that of most modern phones, meaning it appears simple and easy to use. Going back under the hood, Telegram also features a neural network that studies users’ calling habits and learns how to best optimize audio and connection quality. For example, calls will sound best on WiFi, while weaker connections will use less data. Regardless of your reception, Telegram calls will always adapt to your connection speed to use as little data as possible. There’s also the “Use Less Data” option, which sacrifices sound quality but promises to “reduce your data spending by another 25-30%.”

This app update (version 3.18) also adds an interesting option for sharing video. Users sending videos can adjust the compression and see the quality of video the recipient will be watching, which Telegram says is a first.

Source: Telegram


A week with Fujifilm’s GFX 50S medium-format mirrorless camera

Fujifilm surprised the camera world last year with the introduction of the GFX 50S, its first medium-format mirrorless. The shooter, which is now available for $6,500 body only, packs a large 51.4-megapixel CMOS sensor (43.8 x 32.9mm) in a DSLR-like frame that only weighs 1.6lbs (740g). If you’ve ever used a Fuji before, its ergonomics should be familiar, thanks in large part to the company’s trademark physical dials and generally premium build. What powers the GFX 50S is the latest X-Processor Pro, the same imaging chip found on Fujifilm’s flagship X-Pro2 and X-T2 cameras.

But how do these specs translate into real-world use? To put the GFX 50S through its paces, I took it with me to SXSW 2017 and on a trip to the nation’s capital, Washington, DC. Most of the photos I captured looked great straight out of the camera: sharp and rich in color, with almost no signs of noise in low-light shots. And you shouldn’t expect anything less from a $6,500 camera, which I paired with a $1,500 GF63mm f/2.8 lens.

I wish the GFX 50S supported 4K video though, especially since that’s a feature we’re now seeing even on lower-end cameras. Instead, recording here is limited to 720p and 1080p at 24, 25 and 30 frames per second. While the 51.4-megapixel sensor helps create a crisper image then, it still feels like Fujifilm could have done buyers a favor by future-proofing it. Still, video has never been the company’s strongest suit, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that even this medium-format mirrorless beast falls short in that regard.

Thankfully for Fuji, the GFX 50S makes up for its video shortcomings with some terrific stills. And given that the camera is geared toward professional photographers after all, I have a feeling the GFX 50S won’t have any shortage of suitors.

To view our sample images in full resolution, click here.


‘Rock Band VR’ is the dorkiest game ever and I love it

Rock Band VR will make you feel like a rock star. But from the outside, you’ll look like a crazy person with an Oculus Rift on your head and a plastic guitar in your hands, strumming along in silence. Basically, you’ll look like a huge dork while playing it. But the embarrassment is worth it: Rock Band VR successfully captures the feeling of actually playing music in front of a crowd. Even though it’s Harmonix’s first stab at virtual reality, the end result is immersive and ,most importantly, fun.

While music games are still around — Rock Band 4 was released in 2015 — it’s clear that their heyday is over. Guitar Hero brought plastic guitars into living rooms around the world, and the Rock Band series did the same with more instruments (a drum kit, keyboard and microphone). But given that it’s been more than a decade since the first Guitar Hero debuted, it was about time we saw a new spin on music games.

The biggest issue with Rock Band VR is getting started. To play it, you’ll need an Oculus Rift and Touch Controllers ($600 bundled together), a gaming PC rig and a Rock Band 4 guitar. Harmonix is selling bundles of the game along with an Xbox One or PS4 guitar for $70, which is useful if, like me, you’ve already dumped all your plastic gaming instruments. You’ll also need to slot an Oculus Touch controller on top of the guitar for motion tracking.

Oculus includes a small dock for Rock Band guitars with every Touch controller, but hopefully it will also be sold separately. Since I wasn’t planning to review Rock Band VR when I first set up the Touch Controllers last year, I completely lost track of that dock. You can, however, still play the game by letting the Touch controller sit at the base of the guitar neck. Unfortunately, despite being called Rock Band VR, the game only supports guitar play right now. There’s also no multiplayer support yet, though there’s room for that to be added down the line.

On top of being a virtual reality experience, which lets see your bandmates and a crowd in front of you, Rock Band VR completely reinvents how you play Rock Band. Instead of trying to hit different notes during a song, it’s focused entirely on playing different chords. That involves holding down chord keys and strumming on a guitar, rather than just trying to hit colored buttons. It’s a far less punishing experience than previous games. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to fail a song. Even if you do badly, you just earn fewer points.

But while it might seem like a cakewalk at first, there’s a learning curve if you want to play the game properly. It takes time to learn different chord combos, which helps you score higher. And there are higher difficulty settings that introduce things like chord progression. Ultimately, it’s much more fulfilling than just hitting notes in sync with a song. (If you miss the old gameplay format, you can get your fix in “classic mode.”)

I found myself jamming out for hours at a time, whereas earlier Rock Band and Guitar Hero games have left me frustrated after failing songs. More than any other title from Harmonix, Rock Band VR lets you live out the fantasy of actually being a rocker — especially during the crazy guitar shredding solos. It even gives you extra points for head banging!

The game is an ideal VR experience: The creepy virtual audience actually makes eye contact with you and gets revved up as you play better, and the chord chart appears right above the crowd. There’s also just something very cool about being on stage alongside virtual bandmates. You can also lean into any mic on stage to speak to the audience or follow along with a song.

Still, Rock Band VR shares most of the downsides of virtual reality too. It’s a lot harder to enjoy with an audience since you’re experiencing it in a headset with headphones. You can always configure the sound to come out of your speakers and show off the game window on a TV or monitor, but that works best if you somehow have the Oculus Rift set up in your living room.

The game ships with 60 songs from the likes of Aerosmith, David Bowie and DragonForce, and as usual, you’ll eventually be able to snag more through DLC. There are plenty of solid bundled tracks for rock fans, though depending on your tastes, there are likely a few you’ll never play. And no, you can’t bring over your existing Rock Band song library.

For all of its faults, Rock Band VR succeeds by getting the big things right. It completely revitalizes the aging music game genre, and it’s one of the first titles I’d recommend to anyone with an Oculus Rift. It lets you live out all of your teenage musical fantasies — as long as you don’t mind looking like a huge geek.


New 9.7-Inch iPad Now Available for Personal Pickup at Apple Stores

The new 9.7-inch iPad is now available for purchase at select Apple Retail Stores in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan, according to the company’s in-store pickup tool enabled today. A handful of stores may have had limited stock already, but supplies now appear ample for Apple to accept reservations.

Apple has yet to activate Personal Pickup in other countries where it operates Apple Retail Stores, including Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Macao, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

Nevertheless, in-store stock may be available as early as today in some of those countries as well. Apple said the new 9.7-inch iPad would be available to purchase at select Apple Retail Stores, authorized resellers, and carrier stores by the end of this week in more than 20 countries. Call ahead to check.

Availability of new 9.7-inch iPad in Los Angeles area Apple Stores today
Apple began accepting online orders for the new 9.7-inch iPad on its website last week, with initial orders estimated for delivery between March 31 and April 5 in the United States. Orders placed today are estimated to ship between April 6 and April 14 depending on the shipping method selected.

Apple accepts iPad returns within 14 calendar days of receiving an online order, so some customers that still have a far out delivery date may elect to try their luck in stores, but your mileage may vary. Online orders can also be canceled on Apple’s website if they have yet to be processed for shipment.

Apple unveiled the new 9.7-inch iPad last week as a low-cost successor to the iPad Air 2, which has been discontinued. The tablet features a faster A9 chip and brighter Retina display than the iPad Air 2, but it is somewhat thicker and heavier than the iPad Air 2 since it lacks a fully laminated display.

The tablet essentially packs an iPhone 6s chip with other iPad Air 2 components into an original iPad Air design. Read our new 9.7-inch iPad vs. iPad Air 2 article for a side-by-side comparison of complete tech specs.

The new 9.7-inch iPad starts at $329 for a 32GB model with Wi-Fi, making it the cheapest new tablet that Apple has ever sold. Apple also offers a 128GB model with Wi-Fi for $429, while cellular-capable 32GB and 128GB models are available for $459 and $559 respectively in Silver, Gold, and Space Gray.

Related Roundup: iPad
Tags: Personal Pickup, Apple retail
Buyer’s Guide: 9.7″ iPad Pro (Caution)
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Twitter Will No Longer Count Usernames Towards 140-Character Limit

Twitter today announced that usernames such as @MacRumors will no longer count towards the 140-character limit for tweets.

Now, the usernames of anyone who a user is replying to will appear above the tweet rather than within the tweet itself, so that users have more characters to have conversations. Twitter said users will be able to tap on “Replying to…” to see and change which users are part of the conversation.

Twitter already stopped counting photos, videos, GIFs, polls, and Quote Tweets towards the 140-character limit for tweets last September, and it removed the 140-character limit from Direct Messages in August 2015.

Twitter said this update is rolling out now on the web as well as in the Twitter app for iOS [Direct Link] and Android.

Tag: Twitter
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