Google’s quest to fight fake news isn’t stopping with identifying bogus stories and an emphasis on fact-checking. The internet giant is rolling out changes to its search results in hopes of curbing both fake news and offensive material. To begin with, it’s tweaking its “signals” (such as freshness and the frequency of a site’s appearance) to promote more authoritative sources while downplaying the junk. Also, Google’s human Search Quality Raters now have new guidelines to help them spot false stories and ultimately influence search algorithms.
You’ll have more opportunities to influence the results, too. It’s now much easier to flag sketchy material when it pops up in either the search box’s autocomplete results or Featured Snippets (the prominent text box that sometimes appears at the top of results). If you get a conspiracy theory snippet or a racist autocomplete suggestion, you can let Google know by tapping a simple feedback link.
Google is quick to emphasize that these dodgy results are relatively rare — just 0.25 percent are either “clearly misleading” or “offensive.” However, it’s not so much the frequency of these results as the image they convey and their potential for impact. The company was publicly embarrassed in December when search results for the Holocaust were topped by a white supremacist site, and there are concerns that letting fake news thrive could jeopardize real news or even skew elections. If Google can do something to thwart these fraudsters, it both looks good and helps avert disasters.
Via: The Verge
MTV’s Catfish: The TV Show, a documentary series that brings together online couples who have never met in real life with sometimes disastrous results, is branching out. Instead of pursuing potential romances, the broadcaster is seeking people who would love to square up to their online rivals in the hope that it’ll make engaging TV.
The Verge reports that for the remainder of its sixth season, MTV wants to bring together people who answer yes to questions like: “Do you have an online rival?”, “Do you find yourself arguing with them all the time?”, “Does this person drive you up the wall?” and “Think it’s time to finally meet in person?” That’s exactly what it’s put a call out for on its official Facebook page.
Make no mistake, MTV is actively looking for people that most internet users refer to as an online troll. “Have you been drawn into online debates over topics like veganism, feminism, LGBTQ rights, body shaming, politics, race, religion and other hot button social issues?,” another notice reads.
Believe it or not, Catfish: The TV Show does have its share of happy couples. However, the idea of combining two opposing online personalities — you could even say enemies — isn’t always going to end in a joyous reconciliation. Especially when the beef may continue after the show airs and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people have watched it all unfold.
Via: The Verge
Source: MTV Catfish (Facebook)
At the Tribeca VR arcade this year, there were displays ranging from the harrowing to the distracting, but few were as eye-catching as Treehugger:Wawona. It’s an interactive art installation that had headset-wearing participants hugging and caressing a giant foam sculpture with cutouts (oblivious to how silly they looked). Naturally, I had to check it out, and came away intrigued by its implications for art and museums.
As with other works of art, Treehugger’s meaning lies beneath its surface, requiring a prodding mind to uncover. At its heart, the installation asks if we can use technology to reconnect with nature. “Can we make the invisible visible,” the project’s creative director Ersin Han told Engadget. Some messages are immediately obvious, though, such as the need to preserve our environment and the interconnection between plants and humanity. As you approach the tree, enter it and witness its life force swirling around you and spreading through its branches to the rest of the forest, you (hopefully) realize that those colored specks eventually reach you, too.
But before we get into that, here’s how it’s set up: I was directed to a tree stump-esque seat, where I strapped on a SubPac vibrating backpack, an HTC Vive and a pair of noise cancelling headphones. I was also given two handheld controllers that were mounted on fingerless gloves, so I didn’t actually have to hold on to anything. Once I had run through the simulation’s setup and calibration, I saw a large tree in front of me and walked towards it. As I very carefully made my way to the foam sculpture, I realized that a stream of lightly scented air was wafting up my nose. The woody fragrance was pleasant, but at times I felt like I might choke on the air blowing up my nostril.
Upon arriving at the tree’s base, I stuck my head inside the trunk’s hollow, and watched as swirling blue and orange lights circulated around the tree. After a few seconds, the environment started moving, and I was led on a journey up to the treetop. Throughout the virtual ride, I reached out and swept aside the light particles, looking around wildly as I grabbed onto the real-world sculpture for dear life. But there was nothing to worry about; the entire simulation is drawn-out and somewhat anti-climactic since there really isn’t a goal or objective.
To be clear, the graphics here are not photo-realistic. You’ll be looking at a render of the tree, and the swirling lights look a lot like data-visualization animations, except they flow in an artistic, not algorithmic way. Still, the uniquely named team Marshmallow Laser Feast’s most impressive feat here is putting together such a (pseudo) realistic and immersive scale model of the giant sequoia. The team used architectural scans of the tree to reproduce both the virtual plant and the real-world sculpture. It also recorded the plant’s biosignals to turn into the sounds I heard within the experience, resulting in a calming and somewhat otherworldly soundtrack.
Treehugger’s important messages unfortunately get lost in the simulation’s many moving pieces. I was too caught up in wondering what came next and too distracted by the air shooting up my nose to ponder the team’s agenda. Plus, given the chaotic environment at the arcade, it was difficult to fully appreciate what I was experiencing. In a different place, like a museum, for example, Treehugger stands a better chance of impressing its viewer.
The good news is, after Tribeca, the installation will be heading to other festivals and galleries around the world. Marshmallow Laser Feast (I still can’t get over that name) is also planning on making more episodes based on other regions, including Kyoto’s Bamboo forest and the Amazonian rainforest. Regardless of the success of subsequent chapters, Treehugger is already a telling look at art and museums of the future, and a mostly fruitful marriage of tech and nature.
Follow along with all of our Tribeca 2017 coverage here.
After a year of silence, Capcom has announced eight new characters for its crossover fighter — Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. Doubling down on Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, Ultron and Rocket Racoon join the playable roster. On the Capcom side of the fence, the publisher has revealed that players will be able to duke it out as Street Fighter’s Chun Li, Resident Evil’s Chris Redfield, and Strider’s Strider Hiryu. The trailer also announced that the game will be launching on PS4, Xbox One and PC on September 19th for $59.99.
As expected, gamers can also preorder a ‘Deluxe Edition’ which grants them access to future character DLC and two exclusive costumes. Die-hard fans can also opt to splash out on the eye-wateringly expensive $199.99 Collector’s Edition, which includes: plastic character dioramas of Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Mega Man X and Chun-Li, a case filled with six Infinity Stone replicas and a Steelbook game box. Fans who pre-order any edition of the game will get access to two special character skins – Warrior Thor and Evil Ryu.
Featuring a cinematic story mode and two-on-two battles for the first time in the franchise’s history, Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite looks to be a fairly radical departure for the series. With Marvel villain Ultron and Megaman X’s Sigma merging into the imaginatively named Ultron Sigma, both universes find themselves teaming up to defeat him. Thankfully, it looks like Capcom has acknowledged how silly it all is, with the trailer showing Rocket Racoon annoying a bemused looking Megaman.
Abandoning the previous game’s cel-shaded aesthetic for a more ‘realistic’ art style, Capcom looks to be following Marvel’s cinematic look. With the comic giant’s movies continuing to dominate our screens, the franchise’s current gen revival could see the series gain a bigger audience than ever. Yet, with Marvel still bitter that Fox hold the movie rights to franchises like X-Men and Fantastic Four, it’s still unclear whether fan favorite characters like Wolverine will return.
Today in Dallas, Uber is taking the wraps off its flying car plans. The company’s three-day “Elevate” summit is meant to discuss all things relating to vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) craft and how Uber sees them as a major part of its future strategy. Probably the biggest news coming out of the opening keynote, which just wrapped a few minutes ago, is Uber’s ambition to demonstrate its Elevate Network in 2020 — an aggressive goal, to be sure.
Most of the other announcements this morning focused on the partnerships needed to make the Elevate Network a reality. Uber is working with the cities of Dallas-Fort Worth and Dubai to get pilot programs launched. Dallas mayor Mike Price and Fort Worth mayor Betsy Price both had expressed support in making the metropolitan area the first to experiment with VTOL and Uber’s Elevate pilot program. Uber also entered into a partnership with Dubai’s road and transportation authority to study demand in the region to work on pricing and network optimization. Dubai is also where Uber will attempt at unveiling the first public demonstration as part of the 2020 World Expo.
Other partnerships include one with ChargePoint, which will develop the Uber Elevate battery charger so the VTOL vehicles can be quickly topped up after every landing. Uber is also working on partnerships with local real estate companies to figure out suitable sites to build vehicleports. Naturally, the company is also making deals with a number of “experienced aircraft manufacturers” who are already developing electric VTOL vehicles. The five companies include Aurora Flight Sciences, Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer, Mooney and Bell Helicopter. They were chosen for their expertise that’ll enable Uber to get its Elevate network up and running as quick as possible.
During its opening keynote, chief product officer Jeff Holden outlined his vision for the VTOL program, painting a picture of customers landing at an airport and taking a VTOL to their ultimate destination. He imagined it taking just a few minutes to get from the airport to a hotel instead of a half-hour or more, and the company wants to target pricing that’s competitive with Uber X right now for a trip of the same distance. That seems wildly ambitious given that Uber X relies on a decades-old transportation model and not new technology that has numerous technical, safety and regulation challenges to meet.
Uber’s Elevate event will be continuing for the next few days, and we’ll be keeping an eye on all the news to see what else the company has to announce regarding its VTOL ambitions.
Apple’s retail stores have long had a social side. You might not visit just to hang out, but the combination of free workshops and an abundance of connected devices gives you a reason to stay besides gawking at the latest products… if just to check up on Facebook. And now, Apple is banking on that social aspect as a selling point. The company is both redesigning its 100 largest stores and launching new “Today at Apple” workshops to turn its stores into community spaces of sorts. The shops are still very much geared toward sales, but you’ll have more reasons to swing by on a frequent basis.
The bigger stores are now changing their Genius Bars into “Genius Groves,” complete with lines of trees. We doubt the flora will help you feel better when your iPhone is broken, but they’re at least more inviting. You’ll also see new conference and meeting spaces alongside new video screens.
The workshops, meanwhile, revolve around new in-store Creative Pros who host free sessions based around Apple tools and Apple-friendly devices. There are 90-minute Studio Hours that let you bring in your own project for advice (or simply work outside of your usual space), music and photography labs, a Kids’ Hour with programmable Sphero robots and pro-specific sessions. You’ll even see photo and sketch walks that take you outside of the store. All stores are getting new mobile screens to help present “Today at Apple” sessions, as well as the seating and sound systems to match.
The new workshops will be available by the end of May. As for the larger stores’ upgrades? That’s likely to vary by location, but it’ll likely be impossible to miss.
Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts tells CBS that this isn’t so much a reinvention as a logical extension of what the tech giant has already been doing in its stores. And yes, she imagines that people might soon decide to meet at Apple instead of the nearby coffee shop. That may be a tad optimistic when the workshops are clearly tailored to rookies and niche pros. However, the shift is still important — it suggests that Apple will fight retail competition from Microsoft and even Amazon by turning stores into regular destinations rather than strictly functional shopping hubs. If you keep coming back, after all, it increases the odds that you’ll buy an iPhone or Mac for your next tech upgrade.
Via: The Verge
Source: Apple, CBS
Pepsi’s drone show at the Super Bowl this year was impressive, sure, but imagine what those UAVs would’ve been capable of with more than one pixel. To wit, Japan’s Docomo has designed a 144 x 136-pixel spherical LED screen that can display images while in flight. And to give the illusion that the image onscreen is holding still while the drone zips about, “the LED frame spins on its axis in a rapid horizontal motion, forming an afterimage effect to create the illusion of a solid sphere of motionless LEDs,” according to a press release.
The company says that because the display uses a hollow frame, there shouldn’t be any issues with it obstructing a drone’s propellors or weighing the contraption down.
If you’re getting giddy thinking about what this could do for your next concert or maybe a massively-watched sporting event, you’ll have to wait a bit. Docomo says that it plans to start selling the displays sometime after next March. At least that should give you some time to figure out what you’ll put on yours for its maiden voyage.
Apple today announced that it will be expanding its “Today at Apple” educational sessions to all of its 495 retail stores around the world in May.
“Today at Apple” will offer programs with more than 60 different hands-on sessions in creative skills. The free sessions, which have been offered at Apple’s flagship Union Square store in San Francisco since last year, will cover topics such as photography, videography, music, coding, art, and design.
“At the heart of every Apple Store is the desire to educate and inspire the communities we serve,” said Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president, Retail. “‘Today at Apple’ is one of the ways we’re evolving our experience to better serve local customers and entrepreneurs. We’re creating a modern-day town square, where everyone is welcome in a space where the best of Apple comes together to connect with one another, discover a new passion, or take their skill to the next level. We think it will be a fun and enlightening experience for everyone who joins.”
Many sessions will be taught by highly-trained Creative Pros, which Apple describes as the “liberal arts equivalent” to its technical Geniuses. In select cities, Apple says world-class artists, photographers, and musicians will also teach sessions from “basics and how-to lessons” to “professional-level programs.”
“Today at Apple” will cater to all skill levels and ages, with special programs such as Teacher Tuesday and Kids Hour targeted towards families and educators respectively. Other sessions will focus on professional software such as Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X, or coding with the Swift Playgrounds app for iPad.
Teachers can come together for Teacher Tuesday to learn new ways to incorporate technology into their classrooms, or aspiring coders of all ages can learn how to code in Swift, Apple’s programming language for iOS and Mac apps. Families can join weekend Kids Hour sessions ranging from music making to coding with robots.
Apple said each of its stores will receive large displays created specifically for “Today at Apple” sessions. Each store will also have updated seating and sound. Apple has already renovated dozens of its existing retail stores with these next-generation features since 2015, with dozens more locations to follow this year.
Apple has been redesigning its stores under the leadership of retail chief Angela Ahrendts, the former CEO of luxury fashion brand Burberry. Ahrendts wants to position Apple Stores as not only shopping destinations, but also as gathering places for the community. “Meet me at Apple,” she envisions someone as saying.
Video is available in the United States only
Ahrendts, in a new interview with CBS This Morning:
“A lot of the big online guys have said they’re opening stores. Amazon’s investing in stores. Google’s investing in stores. … Starbucks figured it out, you know? Being a gathering place for – right? ‘Meet me at Starbucks,”’ Ahrendts said. “And you know, I’ve told the teams, ‘I’ll know we’ve done a really, really great job if the next generation, if Gen Z says, “Meet me at Apple. Did you see what’s going on at Apple today?”’”
Apple’s latest next-generation store will open at Dubai Mall on April 27, the company recently announced.
Related Roundup: Apple Stores
Tags: Angela Ahrendts, Today at Apple
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Facebook product manager Sara Su today shared a blog post that highlights a test launching on the company’s iOS and Android apps, consisting of an update to the “Related Articles” feature found beneath posts shared by your friends and family.
For users included in the update, Related Articles will now highlight differing perspectives from separate publications on the same subject mentioned in the parent article, namely “including articles by third-party fact-checkers.”
This marks Facebook’s newest leg in its anti-“Fake News” quest, which it began earlier in April by educating its users on the subject with a “tips for spotting false news” gateway that sat atop the Facebook app for a few days. With today’s launch of the Related Articles test, Su mentioned that Facebook users will now have more tools at their disposal to see a “complete picture of a story or topic” before they even click on the original story.
One of our main goals is to support an informed community on Facebook. This includes helping people have conversations about the news and giving people more ways to see a more complete picture of a story or topic.
Today, we’re beginning to test Related Articles that might appear before you read an article shared in News Feed. These additional articles, which appear for topics many people are talking about on Facebook, will appear in a unit below the link. That should provide people easier access to additional perspectives and information, including articles by third-party fact-checkers.
The Related Articles test is “one of many tests” that Facebook is working on to improve the service’s reputation with rampant fake news sharing, an issue that has been on the rise since before the U.S. presidential election last year. When Facebook launched the educational tool for spotting false news, Google also debuted a “Fact Check” label in search results for all countries.
The problem reached such heights earlier this year that Apple CEO Tim Cook called it “one of today’s chief problems,” while Eddy Cue said that Apple itself is “trying to do some things in Apple News” that would address fake news directly.
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.
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Sony took the wraps off of two new high-end smartphones at this year’s MWC. While the Xperia XZ Premium deservedly garnered most of the attention, the company also unveiled the successor of the Xperia XZ, which was their 2016 flagship.
The new flagship, dubbed the Xperia XZs, features only mild upgrades when compared to its predecessor, but are these changes enough to make this device more noteworthy? Find out in our Sony Xperia XZs review!
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As mentioned, there are only a couple of changes with the Xperia XZs when compared to its predecessor, but none as far as the design or build quality are concerned. Like the Xperia XZ before it, this device features what Sony calls a loop design, complete with sides that are rounded and taper towards the front and back, allowing for an in-hand feel that’s comfortable in the hand. The Xperia XZs’ loop design also features a flat top and bottom on which the phone can stand.
The XZs also comes with a metal plate on the back, plastic along the sides, and glass up front. The headphone jack and USB Type-C port are at the top and bottom respectively, and the power button, volume rocker, and a dedicated shutter camera shutter button are all found on the right side.
Sony, it may be time for a change
Sony has always been known to create impressively-designed smartphones, but it has to be mentioned that in a world where we are increasingly moving towards near bezel-less designs, the top and bottom chin on the Xperia XZs may be especially glaring to some. Granted, the design is reminiscent of previous Sony flagships going back a few years and isn’t bad by any means, but as some other OEMs have done, it may be time for a change.
The Xperia XZs also retains the 5.2-inch IPS LCD display, with a Full HD resolution resulting in a pixel density of 424 ppi. As expected, the screen is sharp and vibrant, provides excellent viewing angles, color reproduction is good and doesn’t look too oversaturated, and the brightness is good enough for comfortable viewing outdoors. The 1080p resolution more than gets the job done here, and unless you are planning to use this device for VR, you aren’t going to miss Quad HD.
The first difference between the original Xperia XZ and the Xperia XZs comes in the performance section, but even this isn’t particularly significant. The Xperia XZs comes with the same processing package as its predecessor, including the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor backed by the Adreno 530 GPU, but the RAM has been bumped up from 3 GB to 4 GB.
The Snapdragon 820 processor may not be the latest and greatest anymore, but is more than capable of handling even processor-intensive tasks. There have certainly been no issues with lag or dropped frames when opening apps, browsing the web, or playing games, and multi-tasking and having more apps running in the background has only improved with the availability of an additional gigabyte of RAM.
32 GB and 64 GB are the built-in storage options available, but if that isn’t enough for you, expandable storage via microSD card is possible for up to an additional 256 GB. Depending on the market, a dual-SIM version of the device is also available.
A couple of signature flagship Sony features are retained with the Xperia XZs, the first of which is the dual front-facing speaker setup. While they do sound pretty good, they unfortunately don’t get as loud as what you’d expect from stereo speakers. The second feature is an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance, which means that the device will be safe even if submerged under a meter of water.
US buyers: no fingerprint sensor for you
There is a fingerprint scanner embedded into the power button of the phone, but this feature is once again not available for the US version of the device. Unfortunately, Sony has made it clear that this is something that isn’t going to change anytime soon.
One area where Sony could have, and should have, made an improvement is with regards to the battery. You get the same 2,900 mAh unit as is found with the Xperia XZ, and this means that you also get the same mediocre battery life.
Light usage that involves texting, reading emails, and browsing social media will get you a full day of use, but anything heavier like watching videos on YouTube or playing games for even a small amount of time will require you to reach for the charger at some point before your day ends.
It would have been great if Sony had followed in the footsteps of OnePlus and squeezed in a larger battery in the same space as the latter did with the OnePlus 3T, and it certainly feels like a missed opportunity.
Megapixels aren’t everything when it comes to image quality
What is easily the biggest change between the Xperia XZs and its predecessor comes in the camera department. This time around, you get a 19 MP Motion Eye camera on the rear, which may seem like a downgrade from the 23 MP unit found with the Xperia XZ, but as we all know, megapixels aren’t everything when it comes to image quality. In this case, there may be a reduction in megapixels, but the pixel size has been increased for better performance in low-light conditions.
I’ve been very impressed with the camera experience overall. The camera is quick to launch, focus, and take a shot, and the predictive hybrid autofocus system is a fantastic feature for capturing moving objects. Of course, the inclusion of a hardware shutter and quick launch button is just as handy and useful as it has always been. Photos offer plenty of sharpness and detail, great color reproduction that looks very natural and lifelike, and excellent dynamic range, with this camera very rarely underexposing or overexposing a shot.
It also performs surprisingly well in low-light conditions, and it is safe to say that this camera is one of the better low-light performers that you will currently find on a smartphone. There is still a fair amount of detail, noise is kept to a minimum, and it doesn’t have any issues with blowing out highlights or maintaining a proper white balance, as can be seen with a lot of other smartphone cameras out there.
This camera is one of the better low-light performers that you will currently find on a smartphone
The front-facing camera is also exceptionally good. A 13 MP front-facing shooter lets you capture plenty of detail and really nice looking colors, and the high megapixel count provides a lot more flexibility with zooming and cropping without a huge loss in quality. If you are into taking selfies, you are certainly going to have a great experience with this camera.
Sony Xperia XZs camera samples
As good as this camera is with photos, the big story here is actually what you can do in video, with the camera having the ability to record slow motion video at a ridiculous 960 frames per second. It can look incredible when you capture the right moment and it is a lot of fun to use, but it isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
You can only record at 960 fps in short bursts, and it is capped at a 720p resolution. The biggest problem with it being 720p is that you are dealing with a huge crop factor, which deteriorates the quality and sometimes makes it hard to get exactly what you want into the frame unless you’re shooting outside or in an open area where you can take a few steps back. This frame rate also means that the shutter speed is extremely short, and as a result, doesn’t work very well in low light situations.
On the software side of things, the Xperia XZs is running Android 7.1.1 Nougat out of the box, with the latest version of Sony’s UI on top. Sony’s user interface has always kept things light and simple, and that remains the case this time around, making for a very smooth software experience. It isn’t a stock experience though, with Sony features like a built-in theme engine, custom launcher, wallpapers, and Settings menu setting it apart.
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Unfortunately, Sony still continues to ship their phones with a slew of Sony apps and other third-party bloatware like Amazon Shopping and AVG. Other than that, the overall software package is pretty clean, and because the device is running Android Nougat, you are also able to take advantage of Google Assistant right out of the box.
|Display||5.2-inch Triluminos Display IPS LCD
1920 x 1080 resolution
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor|
|MicroSD||Yes, up to 256 GB|
|Camera||Rear: 19 MP sensor, f/2.0 aperture, EIS
Front: 13 MP sensor, f/2.0 aperture
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
GPS + GLONASS
USB Type-C (USB 3.1)
|Software||Android 7.0 Nougat|
|Dimensions and weight||146 x 72 x 8.1 mm
Pricing and final thoughts
So there you have it for this in-depth look at the Sony Xperia XZs! The Xperia XZs and the Xperia XZ that came before it are certainly not bad devices by any stretch of the imagination, but the $700 price point of the former is unfortunately going to be a deal breaker for some.
If you want a real upgrade from the Xperia XZ, you’re better off waiting for the XZ Premium
The Xperia XZs is definitely not worth an upgrade from its predecessor, and if you are in the market for a new phone, there are quite a few options out there that undercut the Xperia XZs by several hundred dollars, such as the Moto G5 Plus and the OnePlus 3T. If you want a real upgrade from the Xperia XZ, you are better off waiting for the more powerful Xperia XZ Premium, which will be more worth your money.