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19
Apr

This latest iPhone 8 schematic shows rear-mounted Touch ID sensor


It seems Apple could be designing and testing several prototypes for the upcoming iPhone 8, if the latest schematic drawing is to be believed. It comes courtesy of Sonny Dickson, who has leaked news about Apple products in the past, and the drawing itself looks pretty legitimate.

  • Apple iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus: What’s the story so far?

The drawing is of the rear casing of the iPhone 8, and shows a rear-mounted Touch ID sensor. This contradicts a schematic and render we recently reported on, which showed a Touch ID sensor embedded into the glass display.

With the renders being an artist’s impression, and Sonny Dickson’s leak looking more like the real deal, coupled with the fact most phone manufacturers are now leaning towards a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, we’re inclined to take some serious note of this latest leak. Of course, we’d love to see if Apple can in fact embed a sensor in the front of the glass display.

However, it could be a port to fit a wireless charging receiver, as wireless charging has been a feature that’s been rumoured for the new model for quite some time.

The drawing also shows a vertical camera array, which is something that matches up with the other schematic drawing leaked this week. The vertical array is said to have been chosen because there isn’t enough space in the top section of the phone to fit the components because of the camera and 3D depth sensors on the front of the iPhone.

  • Great iPhone 8 schematic shows Apple’s next iPhone with an edge-to-edge display
  • New sources confirm three iPhones for 2017, iPhone 8 with curved OLED display

The drawing shows other features that match up with previous iPhones, such as the power and volume switches, mute switch, dual speakers on the bottom and the Lightning connector. As with any leak and rumour, we have to take it with a pinch of salt for now, but this latest one makes predicting what the iPhone 8 will look like a whole lot harder.

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19
Apr

BMW is adding 100 EV charging stations to US national parks


Today BMW turned on a EV charger at Thomas Edison National Historical Park, the former home of the inventor. It’s the first of 100 stations that the German automaker plans on installing in US national parks over the next few years.

The partnership between National Park Foundation, National Park Service (NPS), Department of Energy and now BMW of North America is meant to get more EVs into national parks. While urban areas usually have a nice selection of places for an electric car to charge, once a driver gets into the great outdoors, it can be a bit more difficult to keep a battery topped off.

BMW’s head of group region Americas Ludwig Willisch said “together with our partners, I hope that we can channel a little of Edison’s spirit and, in the same way that he made electric power widely available, make electric vehicle charging more widely available for everyone.” BMW has been aggressive about getting more charging stations on the road.

The partnership will determine where to place the charges based on the proximity and strength of the local EV markets, the location of nearby chargers and how the stations will fit into the natural and cultural landscape. The build out should take approximately two years. Meanwhile the charger at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park will be free for the next six months.

19
Apr

Dyson’s updated air purifiers remove more harmful gases


It’s been a little over a year since Dyson launched its first connected air purifier, the Pure Cool Link, and to celebrate this occasion, the company is about to update its entire line of air purifiers with improvements aimed at the Chinese market. Well, what’s going to be different is really just the replaceable cylindrical glass HEPA filter: the new version’s inner layer will pack three times more specially treated graphite crystals than before, which helps remove more gaseous pollutants (and odors) in addition to the usual particulates as small as PM 0.1.

This graphite upgrade is the result of Dyson’s study of used filters collected from over 200 Chinese homes, from which it discovered that harmful gaseous pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene, naphthalene and non-burnt gases have a higher presence than other markets. Better yet, this new filter comes in the same shape and volume as before, and Dyson has confirmed that it is backwards compatible, so existing Pure users won’t feel left out.

To ensure all corners of the room are covered, each Pure machine can pump out over 200 liters of smooth air per second — so much that it can blow large bubbles over a distance of five meters, as demonstrated at the event in Beijing. As with the current Pure line, Dyson will continue to offer both connected and offline models for its heaters and fans to cover more price tiers. The connected ones will still pack a set of sensors for monitoring temperature, humidity, volatile organic compounds and dust, so that it can feed live data back to the app as well as toggling its auto mode, but these are now powered by an optimized algorithm based on data collected from around the world over the year.

China will start selling the refreshed Pure machines from May 4th, and we’ll be keeping an out for other regional launch dates later on.

19
Apr

Sony’s A9 is a powerhouse full-frame flagship camera


Sony has just launched its most impressive, and most expensive mirrorless camera yet, the 24.2-megapixel Alpha A9. Equipped with the first ever full-frame stacked CMOS sensor, it’s all about speed, not resolution. The pixel count isn’t that high compared to the 42.4-megapixel Alpha 7R II, but it can shoot up to 241 RAW, full-frame images at a scorching 20 fps, thanks to a processing speed 20 times faster than previous models. It also has an ultra-dense 693-point focal plane phase detection autofocus that can do 60 AF/AE tracking calculations per second.

Sony’s excitement is palpable at the A9 launch event, and for good reason. It has by far the best sensor tech on the market and supplies most other camera- and smartphone-makers, but the new model is the first to use its full-frame stacked CMOS sensor, driven by an upgraded BIONZ processor. That allows the A9 to track “complex erratic motion with higher accuracy than ever before,” Sony says. It also yields an ISO range from 100 to 51,200, expandable to 204,800 — not quite Alpha 7S II territory, but the A9 has double the megapixel count.

It’s got a Quad-VGA, 3,686K dot OLED viewfinder, the highest resolution and brightest model Sony’s ever used. It won’t blackout during shooting, even at 20fps — that’ll give you “all the benefits of an electronic viewfinder … that not even the finest optical viewfinders can match,” Sony claims. It’s also the first full-frame Sony camera with a touchscreen that, like the A6500 APS-C model, allows for touch focusing. That’ll be especially handy for videographers, letting them easily shift focus from one subject to another.

The A9 has a new, compact body with 5-axis image stabilization and a wired ethernet port for studio-based shooters. At the same time, it has over double the battery life (2.2 times) of previous full-frame A7 models and two media card slots, including support for high-speed UHS-II SD media in one of them.

For video, as you’d expect, the A9 supports 4K recording, but it reads out the entire full-frame sensor at 6K, and oversamples it to produce “high quality 4K footage with exceptional detail and depth.” That’s a step up from past Sony full-frame models, which only oversampled a smaller, Super-35mm chunk of the frame, though the A9 can do that, too. It can also shoot 1080p video at up to 120 fps with full autofocus tracking.

The A9 will start shipping in the US on May 25th for $4,500 and Europe in June for €5,300 — that’s a lot, but comparable to competitors like the Nikon D5 (pre-orders open up this Friday). Sony also unveiled the $2,500 G Master 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 telephoto lens designed specifically for the A9, set to arrive in July.

Source: Sony

19
Apr

Lenovo’s convertible Chromebook is built with Android apps in mind


Convertible Chromebooks are all the rage lately, but you wouldn’t have known it by looking at Lenovo’s offerings. It did release the Chrome-powered ThinkPad Yoga 11e, but that was aimed at schools. Now, however, Lenovo is building a 2-in-1 Chromebook aimed at the mainstream — it just launched the Flex 11 Chromebook, a budget 11.6-inch hybrid designed to run Android apps. It can’t actually use Android apps yet (Google Play support is “coming soon,” Lenovo says), but its combination of a tablet mode with a quad-core, 2.1GHz ARM processor should make it well-suited to your favorite mobile titles. Just don’t expect it to be speedy compared to Chromebooks using Celeron or Core chips.

The 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and 1,366 x 768 screen resolution won’t blow you away, but there are a few perks to this relatively no-frills design. The Flex 11 includes USB-C to support newer peripherals and charge your system (there’s also USB 3.0, HDMI and an SD card slot), and it’s built to take some abuse between the reinforced ports and water resistance on both the keyboard and trackpad. You might like the 10-hour estimated battery life, as well.

However, the real allure is likely the price. The Flex 11 Chromebook will cost just $279 when it arrives this month. That’s not exactly revolutionary (Acer has a lower-priced option for students), but that’s much better than the $439 you had to pay for the school-oriented ThinkPad when it was new. This is clearly aimed at anyone looking to get their feet wet with Chromebooks, whether they’re doing schoolwork or just watching Netflix on the couch.

Source: Lenovo (1), (2)

19
Apr

Twitch can finally sort top-ranked ‘League of Legends’ streamers


In terms of sheer minutes watched, League of Legends has been the most popular game on Twitch ever since the livestreaming platform launched in 2011. In fact, there are so many channels for the game, Twitch had to build out a special interface just so users could navigate them all. As of today, users jumping into the League of Legends directory will see a new set of discovery tools allowing them to filter and sort those channels by rank or champion.

Even though League of Legends has inspired everything from college rivalries to documentaries, Twitch thinks that regular streamers are still they best resource for most players who want to compare gameplay styles and see how other players handle the lineup of champions. So, it makes sense that the new UI is arriving just in time for the reveal of two new characters: Rakan and Xayah. According to Twitch, this is the first time any company has leveraged Riot Games’ metadata in this way, but what that means for you, the Twitch-streaming LoL fanatic, is that you’ll need to link your Twitch account to your Legends account on the connections page here in order to show up properly in the directory.

19
Apr

South Korea tests prepaid cards to replace pocket change


Coins are a pain in more ways than one. You probably don’t like fishing for change, of course, but they’re also expensive to make (the US loses money on every penny) and require mining that hurts the environment. Wouldn’t it be good to get rid of coins altogether? South Korea is trying just that. The country is starting a trial that could lead to a coinless society. As of April 20th, shoppers at several stores (Seven Eleven, CU, E-Mart, Lotte Mart and Lotte Department Store) can deposit their change into mobile and prepaid cards. If you need to pay with cash, you can stick with paper notes instead of lugging around coins that you’re unlikely to use all that often.

Officials don’t necessarily see this leading to a cashless society. They’re open to the idea, but the short-term concerns revolve around convenience as well as the government’s own costs. South Korea spent about $47 million making coins in 2016 alone. At the least, though, this is a half-step that acknowledges that physical money doesn’t matter quite so much in the era of debit cards and mobile payments. And a trial is arguably a wiser move than a wholesale leap — just ask India what happened when it demonetized commonly used bills with very little warning.

Via: BBC

Source: Yonhap News (Korea Times)

19
Apr

V-Moda’s wireless earbuds pack fitness features in a familiar design


If what’s been holding you back from a neck-worn set of earbuds is the bulky plastic horseshoe you need to wear with them, the folks at V-Moda would like a word with you. The thing is, the company claims the Forza Metallo are the “world’s first ergonomic neckband headphones” but the form factor has been around for awhile. More than that, they look awfully similar to Jaybird’s Freedom line of sport-minded earbuds with removable fins.

If you’re a fan of the brand and don’t mind Bluetooth earbuds that carry a fairly common design, though, you might find a lot to like about the Metallos. V-Moda says that the neckband should conceal easily under a collared shirt and the earbuds themselves are supposedly sweat-and-water resistant, for instance.

Should you feel like dropping some serious coin on custom caps (like the shields you’d find on its XS and Crossfade cans, and Remix speaker), know that platinum and 14k gold are available starting at $7,500 and $2,500 respectively. Too rich for your blood? Acrylic caps will run you $20 when purchased with the now-available $170 Metallos.

19
Apr

Facebook’s new cameras bring live-action video closer to VR


Last year, Facebook announced the Surround 360, a 360-degree camera that can capture footage in 3D and then render it online via specially designed software. But it wasn’t for sale. Instead, the company used it as a reference design for others to create 3D 360 content, even going so far as to open source it on Github later that summer. As good as the camera was, though, it still didn’t deliver the full VR experience. That’s why Facebook is introducing two more 360-degree cameras at this year’s F8: the x24 and x6. The difference: These cameras can shoot in six degrees of freedom, which promises to make the 360 footage more immersive than before.

The x24 is so named because it has 24 cameras; the x6, meanwhile, has — you guessed it — six cameras. While the x24 looks like a giant beach ball with many eyes, the x6 is shaped more like a tennis ball, which makes for a less intimidating look. Both are designed for professional content creators, but the x6 is obviously meant to be a smaller, lighter and cheaper version.

Both the x24 and the x6 are part of the Surround 360 family. And, as with version one (which is now called the Surround 360 Open Edition), Facebook doesn’t plan on selling the cameras themselves. Instead, Facebook plans to license the x24 and x6 designs to a “select group of commercial partners.” Still, the versions you see in the images here were prototyped in Facebook’s on-site hardware lab (cunningly called Area 404) using off-the-shelf components. The x24 was made in partnership with FLIR, a company mostly known for its thermal imaging cameras, while the x6 prototype was made entirely in-house.

But before we get into all of that, let’s talk a little bit about what sets these cameras apart from normal 360 ones. With a traditional fixed camera, you see the world through its fixed lens. So if you’re viewing this content (also known as stereoscopic 360) in a VR headset and you decide to move around, the world stays still as you move, which is not what it would look like in the real world. This makes the experience pretty uncomfortable and takes you out of the scene. It becomes less immersive.

With content that’s shot with six degrees of freedom, however, this is no longer an issue. You can move your head to a position where the camera never was, and still view the world as if you were actually there. Move your head from side to side, forwards and backwards, and the camera is smart enough to reconstruct what the view looks like from different angles. All of this is due to some special software that Facebook has created, along with the carefully designed pattern of the cameras. According to Brian Cabral, Facebook’s Engineering Director, it’s an “optimal pattern” to get as much information as possible.

I had the opportunity to have a look at a couple of different videos shot with the x24 at Facebook’s headquarters (Using the Oculus Rift, of course). One was of a scene shot in the California Academy of Sciences, specifically at the underwater tunnel in the Steinhart Aquarium. I was surprised to see that the view of the camera would follow my own as I tilted my head from left to right and even when I crouched down on the floor. I could even step to the side and look “through” where the camera was, as if it wasn’t there at all. If the video was shot through a traditional 360 camera, it’s likely that I would see the camera tripod if I looked down. But with the x24, I just saw the floor, as if I was a disembodied ghost floating around.

Another wonderful thing about videos shot with six degrees of freedom is that each pixel has depth. Each pixel is literally in 3D. This a breakthrough for VR content creators, and opens up a world of possibilities in visual effects editing. This means that you can add 3D effects to live action footage, a feat that usually would have required a green screen.

I saw this demonstrated in the other video, which was of a scene shot on the roof of one of Facebook’s buildings. Facebook along with Otoy, a Los Angeles-based cloud rendering company, were able to actually add effects to the scene. Examples include floating butterflies, which wafted around when I swiped at them with a Touch controller. They also did a visual trick where I could step “outside” of the scene and encapsulate the entire video in a snow globe. All of this is possible because of the layers of depth that the footage provides.

That’s not to say there weren’t bugs. The video footage I saw had shimmering around the edges, which Cabral said is basically a flaw in the software that they’re working to fix. Plus, the camera is unable to see what’s behind people, so there’s a tiny bit of streaking along the edges.

Still, there’s lots of potential with this kind of content. “This is a new kind of media in video and immersive experiences,” said Eric Cheng, Facebook’s head of Immersive Media, who was previously the Director of Photography at Lytro. “Six degrees of freedom has traditionally been done in gaming and VR, but not in live action.” Cheng says that many content creators have told him that they’ve been waiting for a way to bridge live action into these “volumetric editing experiences.”

Indeed, that’s partly why Facebook is partnering with a lot of post-production companies like Adobe, Foundry and Otoy in order to develop an editing workflow with these cameras. “Think of these cameras as content acquisition tools for content creators,” said Cheng.

But what about other cameras, like Lytro’s Immerge for example? “There’s a large continuum of these things,” said Cabral. “Lytro sits at the very very high-end.” It’s also not nearly as portable as both the x24 and x6, which are both designed for a much more flexible and nimble approach to VR capture.

As for when cameras like these will make their way down to the consumer level, well, Facebook says that will come in future generations. “That’s the long arc of where we’re going with this,” said CTO Mike Schroepfer.

“Our goal is simple: We want more people producing awesome, immersive 360 and 3D content,” said Schroepfer. “We want to bring people up the immersion curve. We want to be developing the gold standard and say this is where we’re shooting for.”

Click here to catch up on the latest news from F8 2017!

19
Apr

Some iCloud Storage Plans Unavailable to Purchase Today, Likely Due to Server Issues


A number of MacRumors readers received an email from Apple today stating that their 50GB iCloud storage plan subscription has been “discontinued” and will no longer automatically renew. Several users on Reddit and Twitter have also reported receiving the email, which may have been sent mistakenly.

Relatedly, some iCloud storage plans were unavailable for purchase on iOS and macOS Sierra. When we checked the “Upgrade iCloud Storage” menu on an iPhone, both the 50GB and 200GB tiers were no longer listed. Later, the 1TB tier disappeared as well. On another iPhone, the menu wouldn’t load at all.

Apple has not announced any changes to its iCloud storage plans, and it has not recently updated its iCloud storage plans and pricing support document, so this was likely simply a server-related issue on Apple’s backend. Apple’s System Status page does not reflect any ongoing iCloud-related issues.

Apple has not indicated why the “discontinued” emails were sent, but all four of the 50GB, 200GB, 1TB, and 2TB tiers appear to be available for purchase again for most users. We’ll update this article if we hear anything else, particularly if Apple does have surprise changes to its iCloud storage plans in the works.
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