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2
Jun

Toshiba X97 Series OLED TV preview: High-end TV tech, but at what price?


Toshiba recently announced its re-entry into the European TV market with a series of televisions, the pinnacle of which is the 65-inch X97 OLED.

Toshiba is pitching the new series of models as being “mid-market” – aimed at price-conscious but ambitious shoppers, so we’re expecting to see a number televisions at affordable prices. That’s pretty much how Toshiba positioned the Regza family before, but now there’s UHD and OLED to contend with.

The X97 is promising to bring a sensational viewing experience with a depth, colour and realism that matches that of the high-end TV brands.

Toshiba X97 TV preview: Display

  • 65 inch, 3840 x 2160 pixels, OLED
  • No HDR

Using OLED technology, the X97 promises deeper and darker blacks than conventional LED TVs by switching off each pixel’s light. This gives better light control than a normal arrangement where you need a backlight system.

OLED also means a wider colour gamut, the display manages 1024 shades per colour and shows 99% of the DCI-P3 colour space. All this means that the TV can display a wider range of colours including otherwise unseen reds and greens and a variety of natural hues, which should deliver on the OLED promise that many are looking for.

As well as the Ultra HD or 4K resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels), the Toshiba X97 uses motion estimation and motion compensation technologies to offer a smooth transition between scenes. For gaming, this model also boasts a response time of under 1ms, similar to that you’d expect from a dedicated gaming monitor, which sees Toshiba hitting a couple of key specs.

The elephant in the room, however, is the lack of HDR support. HDR is the latest standard in television, bringing even more brightness and contrast to your content and has very much been the buzzword in 2016 and 2017. The lack of HDR support makes the X97 something of an oddity: it’s all about offering an OLED panel, albeit without meeting the latest standards.

That could be a barrier to Toshiba when faced with the falling prices of older TVs that do support those standards – such as the 2016 LG OLED B6, which can be picked up for around £2300 on Amazon, at 65 inches. 

We had some time viewing the X97 at the Toshiba launch event and it’s hard at this stage to give a definitive opinion on whether the TV lives up to the quality standards you might expect. Having said that, the colour range and contrast we saw was impressive and the difference between the dark blacks and the bright whites was very noticeable. 

Toshiba X97 TV preview: Design

  • Brushed aluminium stand
  • Bezel-free design

As a flagship model, the X97 is an impressively thin and bezel-free TV designed to offer edge-to-edge viewing and an immersive watching experience. 

However, being placed in the mid-market means you’re not going to get a wallpaper-thin display you can mount flat against the wall. The depth of the X97 accommodates the weight of the screen and the various inputs, but it still results in a sleek and stylish design which will fit nicely into any modern home, from the front at least.

The back panel gives a slightly dated feel to this television, with a slightly cheap-looking plastic housing and the presence of a SCART input. The remote control design is also a tad underwhelming and alludes to a cheapness that doesn’t fit this model. 

From the front though, it’s a different story as the big and bold design gives the impression of quality. Toshiba also opted for a sleek, urban chic look that includes a brushed aluminium stand with a minimalist finish – just the green power ring on one side and the Toshiba logo on the other. The result is a certain style which rests easy at the right price point.

The thin panel and sleek design does mean that audio is a separate issue as there is no room for speakers on the front and they have to be housed around the back instead. This model, like every TV in the new range, features DTS TruSurround HD audio as standard, meaning you can be sure of a viewing quality that includes a great clarity of sound to match the impressive picture. We didn’t get a chance to test the audio properly at the event, but with DTS support onboard there’s bound to be plenty of punch to the sound to match the picture quality. 

Toshiba X97 TV preview: Connectivity and features

  • 4x HDMI, 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, SCART
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
  • Video on demand services

The X97 has a range of inputs that includes four HDMI connections, three USB (including one USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0) and a single SCART input. This opens the TV up to a wide range of compatible devices, even if the SCART connection feels a little dated by current standards.

Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections also give access to Toshiba’s smart portal allowing viewers to connect to catch-up TV and on-demand services that include 4K Netflix, Youtube, BBC iPlayer and more. There’s also the promise of Amazon Video capability in the near future, though no timeline on when that will happen just yet.

A built-in Freeview Play tuner for the UK means there is plenty of viewable content right out of the box. Screencasting and mirroring from your mobile phone or tablet is also supported, as is playback of video files via a connected USB device. 

Another feature of the X97 is the ability to play, pause and record live television straight onto a USB stick plugged into the back of the TV. 

We weren’t able to play with these features at the event, but if they live up to the promise then there should be plenty to see and do with this television, even straight out of the box. 

First Impressions

The result is a nicely rounded and capable television, but with a suggested retail price tag of £4,000 we’re not sure how it will compete in a market with HDR-capable TVs, including some OLED, available at lower price points. Toshiba’s omission of that key spec could turn buyers off in this competitive market, especially if that current price turns out to be true.

Nonetheless, we’re looking forward to seeing how Toshiba’s new device stacks up against a growing list of rivals.

The X97 will be available in September.

2
Jun

Scientists now know how your brain differentiates faces


Researchers at Caltech have taken a huge step in figuring out how the brain processes faces. In a study published this week in Cell, the team found that the brain only needs around 200 neurons to differentiate faces from each other.

To figure this out, scientists first showed monkeys a set of pictures and recorded which face cells — neurons that specifically respond to faces — fired and which didn’t. What they found was that single cells weren’t responding to single faces. Instead, each cell was encoding a vector, or one direction in facial space, which means that a single neuron may respond only to a certain distance between a person’s eyes or a dimple on the left side of the mouth.

So, while there are tens of thousands of neurons tuned to facial features, you only need around 200 to uniquely encode any given face. The signals from just that small number of cells can encode enough information to be able to differentiate a new face from all of the others the brain has encountered.

Once they knew what facial characteristic each cell was responding to, the researchers were then able to show a monkey a new face, record the cellular activity in response to it and reconstruct the face based on what the neurons were doing. And they were able to do those reconstructions with remarkable accuracy.

They were also able to create faces that looked completely different from each other but as long as those faces shared one specific feature, the researchers could get the same neuron to fire in response to all of them. So, if entirely different faces had the same crooked hairline, for example, the same neuron would fire in response to every face.

While these findings still need to be replicated, this work could help inform facial recognition technologies and AI. Le Chang, one of the researchers on the project said in a press release, “One can also imagine applications in forensics where one could reconstruct the face of a criminal by analyzing a witness’s brain activity.”

Check out this video, to hear how a single neuron responds to a set of images.

Via: New York Times

Source: Cell

2
Jun

Researchers use rideshare vehicles to uncover stingray use


It’s a badly kept secret that law enforcement uses fake cell phone towers, called stingrays, that can track phones and eavesdrop on communications. But one research team has taken it upon themselves to sniff them out — and at a reasonable cost, reports Wired.

A group of Seattle-based researchers paid fifteen different rideshare service drivers $25 a week each for two months to drive around with a custom-made device in the back of their car. Called SeaGlass, it had a Raspberry Pi computer, a hotspot, an Android phone, a GPS module and a GSM modem. All totaled, each suitcase-sized box had about $500 worth of equipment inside. The team’s mission was to map every cell tower that connected to both the modem and Android phone while the cars were driving through the city.

This experiment was conducted in both Seattle and Milwaukee, but it was Seattle’s data that proved of interest. The team was specifically looking for towers that didn’t behave normally, such as appearing and disappearing or changing location. Of 1,400 mapped cell towers in Seattle, three specific ones were of interest: one at SeaTac airport, one at the Seattle office of the US Customs and Immigration Service and one in a West Seattle neighborhood. While the third may have been a false positive, the researchers believe their data strongly hints at stingray usage at the first two locations.

There’s no proof of whether stingrays are actually operating in these locations or not — after all, they wouldn’t be secret surveillance devices if they were easy to detect. And the Seattle team acknowledges that they probably missed quite few stingray uses, as detecting them depended on one of their cars driving by right as a stingray was activated. But this is an encouraging first step for those who are concerned about the law enforcement’s use of these devices to collect data and eavesdrop on conversations. These researchers may have made it easier to track stingray use in the future, and in a relatively cost-effective way.

Source: Wired, SeaGlass

2
Jun

The best Z-Wave in-wall dimmer


By Rachel Cericola

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After spending more than 25 hours swapping out receptacles, flipping switches, programming timers, and talking to home-automation experts, we’ve determined that the HomeSeer HS-WD100+ is the best Z-Wave in-wall dimmer for smart-home systems. Like the other six units we tested, it features straightforward remote operation, as well as easy dimming and scheduling. It’s the only model we tested that supports multi-tap features, so you can sync a single switch with multiple lights and appliances around your house, and it works with all Z-Wave–certified smart-home hubs.

Who should get this

The advantages of smart lighting are pretty easy to grasp. We’ve all left lights on when we haven’t meant to, or forgotten to do the same when we’d wanted to, leaving us returning home at the end of the day to a completely dark house. Smart lighting lets you schedule it all automatically or control everything remotely.

You can find many smart-lighting devices, including bulbs, switches, and dimmers. Some work alone using Wi-Fi, others connect to a smart-home hub using wireless technologies such as Z-Wave or ZigBee. A Wi-Fi–enabled smart bulb is easy to get up and running, but if you want to automate a lot of lights in the home—and especially if you’ve already invested in other smart-home gear and you’re using a smart-home hub—you’ll want to get a smart switch.

We specifically picked Z-Wave in-wall dimmers, versus regular on-off switches, because they offer dimming, which can add ambiance and save electricity. We went with Z-Wave over ZigBee because there are currently more in-wall dimmer and smart-home hub options for the DIY crowd with this technology.

It’s important to note that swapping out light switches isn’t for everyone—in fact, doing so is dangerous. If you aren’t comfortable with turning off the power and poking around inside the wall, please hire a licensed electrician to do the job.

How we picked and tested

Photo: Rachel Cericola

In order to find out what makes a good Z-Wave in-wall dimmer, we talked to Mitch Klein, executive director of the Z-Wave Alliance. He said to look for products that are Z-Wave certified, which ensures they will be compatible with other Z-Wave devices, as well as UL compliant. A good in-wall dimmer should allow you to customize the dimming levels, as well as to create scenes, which enable you to bring up a group of lights at set dimming levels at a single touch of a button. Also, you should look for dimmers that are “all-load” compatible, which means they’ll work with a variety of bulbs, including CFL, LED, incandescent, fluorescent, and halogen.

Next, we compiled a list of available dimmers by searching Google, the Z-Wave Alliance website, and Amazon. To be considered, a device needed to be a dimmer, Z-Wave compatible, and designed for installation inside the wall. It also needed to be Z-Wave certified. We avoided those that were proprietary to one specific platform.

My licensed-electrician husband installed the dimmers to be tested, and we connected each dimmer to hubs from SmartThings and Wink, currently two of the most popular options available. All of the dimmers worked, allowing us to turn lights on and off with the hubs’ apps, to dim the lighting on a scale from 1 to 99 percent, and to set timers that would trigger the applicable light to go on and off (and even dim) at a certain time of day. For each of our tests, we used apps on an iPhone 5, an iPad, and a Samsung Galaxy S6. To learn more about the installation and testing process, please see our full guide.

Our Pick

We especially liked the customizable LED indicator lights on the HomeSeer dimmer. Photo: Rachel Cericola

The HomeSeer HS-WD100+ is a reliable Z-Wave in-wall dimmer that provides remote on-off, dimming, and scheduling, similar to its competition. However, it also adds multi-tap features that allow you to set up certain rules, triggers, and dimming levels, based on how you tap the actual switch. This is a really cool feature that no other Z-Wave in-wall dimmer currently offers, which allows you to assign specific tasks to tapping or holding the on or off position on the rocker: For instance, we had the HomeSeer dimmer installed in our living room, but we set it so that tapping the on position twice would trigger a different Z-Wave dimmer in the dining room to turn on.

Although the HS-WD100+ was designed to work with one of HomeSeer’s controllers, it is Z-Wave certified, so it will work with any Z-Wave–certified hub. In fact, it is Z-Wave Plus certified (the only switch we’ve found with this certification), which promises better compatibility and an easier setup.

This is also the only switch in our test group that supports the Z-Wave scene and central scene classes (the latter only when you use it with the HomeSeer hub). This may not be a big deal if you’re controlling only one light switch; however, if you plan to install Z-Wave switches throughout the house, this feature might be important because the scene modes can make for faster transition times with large setups.

Without a HomeSeer-branded hub, you won’t have instant access to the extra features of the HS-WD100+. If you use a SmartThings Hub, you will need to enable the tap features yourself. For anyone with a fear of code, this may be a turnoff, but adding these functions is as easy as a quick copy-and-paste into a browser tool. Once you do that, you will have access to all of this dimmer’s perks. If you have the Wink Hub, the HS-WD100+ is just another dimmer, which could make our runner-up pick a better choice.

Runner-up

The GE dimmer doesn’t look any different from a conventional dimmer, which might make it appealing to some people. Photo: Rachel Cericola

The GE Z-Wave In-Wall Smart Dimmer (model number 12724) is a great choice for anyone who doesn’t have a need for bells and whistles. It works with all sorts of Z-Wave smart-home hubs to provide remote control and dimming from anywhere, as well as all of the standard Z-Wave in-wall dimmer features, such as scenes and customized scheduling so you can turn the lights on and off at specific times of day. The drawbacks? It doesn’t doesn’t allow upgrades (the company plans to release another model down the line that will).

In our tests, once connected to each smart-home hub, the GE 12724 performed similarly to every other switch on our list. It reacted quickly and reliably, and was smooth and sturdy in operation, delivering a nice “click” when pushed. It’s very plain looking and doesn’t have an LED indicator, though it does include a tiny light at its base that you can customize to go on or off depending on the status of the dimmer switch.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from The Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

2
Jun

Andy Rubin’s Essential is toying with the idea of smart glasses


Now that Andy Rubin’s technology startup Essential has emerged from stealth, there’s a healthy amount of interest around what the company plans to do to stand out. We’ve already had our first look at the Essential Phone and smart Home assistant, but a recent patent filing also hints that the Android co-founder and his team could launch smart glasses that look a lot like Snapchat’s Spectacles.

The filing, surfaced by Patently Apple, shows what looks like a perfectly normal pair of glasses. However, Essential appears to be toying with the idea of incorporating a dual-mode display and camera module, which may allow the user to take photos and record video, but also track the movement of their eye.

Essential Glasses

This could give rise to technologies like augmented reality. The company notes: “Based on the environment that the user sees, and based on the direction of the user’s gaze, the processor can display an image to augment the environment around the user. For example, if the user is looking at a barcode of an item, the processor can display cheaper purchasing options of the same item.”

Technology companies often protect their ideas with patents, meaning that a third product could be a long way from release. Especially given that the Phone is the only product currently available to order (the Home assistant has only been previewed on the company’s website up to now) and that Snapchat, which is the only provider of smart glasses getting any buzz, hasn’t exactly gone big with its take on smart eyewear (units are limited to connected kiosks in a small number of towns and cities).

Virtual reality has grown in popularity, however, and augmented reality looks set to build on the platform. It should come as no surprise that a company staffed by former Google and Apple employees is keeping on top of the space, even if they don’t have immediate plans to launch anything.

Via: The Verge

Source: Patently Apple

2
Jun

Create a masterpiece on the Switch’s touchscreen in ‘Qbics Paint’


A new game coming to the Nintendo Switch promises to make good use of its touchscreen. Qbics Paint, developed by Abylight Studios, lets you sculpt and paint works of art from the comfort of your living room — or wherever else you’ve toted your Switch.

The game starts you off with a big cube made up of smaller blocks; with your fingers, you “sculpt” the blocks away to create your masterpiece. You can then paint your sculpture with a 24-color palette and set a background image from the provided stock photos. All told, there are 50 different models for players to unlock.

Abylight receiving funding for the game’s development from the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports in Spain where the company is based. And this is hardly their first foray into creative gaming. Their Music On guided series helps users play a variety of instruments like piano, guitar, and drums.

Touchscreen-exclusive games have so far been limited for Switch players. So, this might be a welcome addition for those looking to utilize the feature more and provide a different gameplay experience than you’ll find on the Xbox One or PlayStation 4. There’s no set release date yet, but Abylight expects the game to be available later this year.

Via: VentureBeat

Source: Abylight

2
Jun

Inside Grado Labs: A legacy of hand-built headphones


Grado Labs is a special place.

That sounds hyperbolic, but allow me to explain. Behind a graffiti-covered Brooklyn facade, there’s a small factory where the family’s namesake headphones and turntable cartridges are assembled. When you step inside the door off of Seventh Avenue into what used to be the family’s fruit market and home, a history lesson awaits. And it’s not just about this particular company, but of the audio industry as a whole. It just happens to be told through the lens of one New York City family.

Unless you’re really into headphones, it can be easy to overlook Grado Labs. The likes of Bang & Olufsen, Bose and Sony crank out new models every year — sometimes multiple new headphone options in a 12-month span. As I would discover, Grado’s smaller stature has its advantages when it comes to working with new materials and dialing in a new product. Things aren’t released until they’re ready, and sometimes that can mean years between products. The company’s last flagship headphone was introduced around 10 years ago.

Of course, a small workshop-like outfit in Brooklyn doesn’t pop up on your radar unless you’re paying close attention — the company hasn’t advertised since 1964. After spending a day with the Grado family, I now understand why they don’t need to.

Joseph Grado

The company began in 1950 when Joseph Grado, a watchmaker at Tiffany, started making phono cartridges for turntables in his kitchen. Within three years, production exceeded what Grado could reasonably make at home, so the business expanded into the building that housed the family’s fruit store around the corner. In 1965, Joseph’s nephew, John, began working there. His first job? Sweeping the floors, of course.

“I started working here as a 12-year-old,” John remembers. “I came on full-time after college in 1975. I was kind of thrown in — my uncle moved out in 1978 and he threw me into running the place.” He must like it — he’s been there for over 50 years.

John Grado bought the company from his uncle in 1990; since then, he has been the president and CEO. John explains that after the introduction of the compact disc in the 1980s, the hype around turntables started to decline. The company wasn’t selling as many phono cartridges, its sole focus since 1964.

“We knew that if we wanted to continue to exist, we had to get into something else,” he explains. “We decided on headphones.” In 1990, John built and released the company’s first line of headphones. By 2014, Grado had more than 60 models, and today, the headphone line is still growing.

“Those first three or four years, we were just barely getting by,” John says about starting in the headphone business. “No money was being made.”

John and his wife, Loretta, lived on the top floor of the same building where the company still makes headphones, phono cartridges and headphone amps today. When Grado Labs began making headphones, the couple would sit at a workbench and make new pairs every day. Some of the same equipment Joseph operated in the early days of the company is still used for very specific tasks in both cartridge and headphone production. Walking through that basement feels like you’re walking through a time capsule. And I mean that in the very best way possible.

John Grado at the company’s booth in 1995.

John admits he had bigger plans than headphones when he took over in the early ’90s, but the success of the $69 SR60 model in persuaded him to shelve ideas for a line of speakers and other audio gear. In fact, the new speakers were almost ready for production when the focus shifted primarily to headphones. A pair of the massive wooden towers sit in the listening room at Grado Labs today, prototypes of what the final versions may have looked like.

“That headphone really put us on the map — it took off like a rocket,” he says. “I also wanted to do speaker systems and electronics. I had just about finished the speaker designs when the SR60 headphone came out. When it took off, I made an executive decision, and we just stuck to the headphones.”

The company is known for making its products out of wood. In 1994, John created what would eventually become the first wooden Grado headphones: the RS1. It wouldn’t limit the use of wood to its headphones, though. In 1996, the company introduced its first wooden phono cartridge and its first headphone amp built from a single block.

Grado-Labs-RS1e-at-Summer-Cafe.jpg

When it took off, I made an executive decision, and we just stuck to the headphones.

John Grado

“We do most of the work here,” John explains. In the beginning, the company made about 25 pairs of wooden at a time there. Several models are made out of wood or feature it in some way, so it would require a massive investment to keep everything right there in Brooklyn now that Grado has increased production. John turned to a friend to do the woodwork and manufacture some metal parts at a facility in upstate New York. He enlisted another friend on Long Island to produce the headphone speakers.

What exactly is still done in Brooklyn? All of the injection molding of plastic parts for both headphones and phono cartridges takes place in the basement. There are also machines that punch metal covers for cartridges and make parts of the headphone assembly. A number of the machines have been there for decades doing the same specific jobs.

One floor up, the phono cartridges are assembled in a room next to the company’s office. All of the coils for those components are wound in-house, and that area of Grado is not unlike the back of a jewelry shop. A dozen or so employees do the very detailed work of assembling turntable cartridges with tiny tools and parts; the areas where these pieces are assembled are very similar to a jeweler’s or watchmaker’s bench. Headphone production, where all the parts are put together, is on another floor. One employee who walked me through the assembly of a pair of SR60e headphones has been there since 1994. If you own a pair of Grados, there’s a good chance she constructed them.

A tray of phono cartridges during production

John Grado runs down the list of what makes his company special. In addition to being a family-owned world-class audio-gear business, the company is able to do one-off versions of its headphones for special occasions — something most bigger mass-produced brands can’t accommodate. We’re talking a single pair for Billy Joel; a small run made of wood from a General Mills yogurt mill; two pairs of white-oak cans for E&J brandy; and limited-edition headphones from a tree just down the street in Brooklyn.

“There have been a number of things that like over the years,” John explains. “It makes it fun for us.”

Grado prides itself on building headphones for every price point without sacrificing sound quality. The entry-level SR60e retails for $79 (an even-more-affordable $49 eGrado wraparound style on-ear set uses the same drivers as the SR60). Higher-end units sell for well over $1,000. The company just announced its latest flagship model, the PS2000e, this week; at a retail price of $2,695, those will sit at the very high-end of the Grado line. When asked which model would be the best introduction for someone unfamiliar with Grado’s products, John doesn’t hesitate.

“I always start with the SR60,” he says. “A lot of people shy away from it because of the price, when some of the competition starts at $200 to $400. They listen, and they’re amazed at what you can get for $79.” He’s right. having only been exposed to some of the higher-end Grado gear, I admit wasn’t expecting much from a pair of sub-$80 headphones. I was blown away by the clarity and natural tuning.

The listening room at Grado Labs

In 2002, what once was the family living room became the place where the sound for all Grado products would be designed. Rows of vinyl are stacked neatly on the floor, ranging from blues and jazz like Clapton and Duke Ellington to newer artists like J Dilla and Jack White. John points out that the newer stuff belongs to his son, Jonathan.

“I grew up in this room,” Jonathan tells me as he and his father explain what happens in the listening room.

A number of companies have heard about this room and the system to dial-in new products; they all want to send him their gear to install. “If I do, I lose my reference point,” he explains. “This is a higher-end system, but it’s closer to what a lot of people would have at home. That’s who we’re building for.”

Grado Labs won’t be leaving the family any time soon. Jonathan returned home after a post-college stint with Sonos, and he’s now Grado’s vice president of marketing.

John and Jonathan Grado

It’s 2017, so you can’t talk about headphones without mentioning wireless. We consume most of our music digitally via streaming services and on our phones. Heck, some companies have ditched the headphone jack entirely. So, I had to ask.

John makes the comparison to closed-back headphones. “Wireless technology has never been very good, so just like closed-back, we could make them, but people would expect them to sound like our wired headphones,” he says. “And they won’t.”

It’s not all bad news if you’re a huge fan of wireless headphones, though. “We’re going to get into wireless,” he says. “We’re working on it, so it’s not out of the question. We were waiting on the technology to catch up.”

But he’s still a wired purist. “I still don’t think it will sound as good as the wired stuff,” he says. “But we feel the technology has gotten to the point where we feel it would be worth it for use to start getting our feet wet.”

The resurgence of vinyl has been documented in detail. As you might expect, that means great things for a company that once relied solely on phono cartridges to drive its business. He never imagined turntables would make such a comeback. “We never expected to still be making them in 2017,” John says.

Image credits: Grado Labs (Joseph Grado, John Grado and RS1); James Chororos (John and Jonathan Grado)

2
Jun

Facial recognition software can sense when a sheep is in pain


Animals can’t tell us when they’re in pain, so owners and veterinarians have to rely on other cues to help treat animals in discomfort. But determining that amount of pain might have just gotten easier: Researchers at the University of Cambridge used facial recognition software to figure out the amount of pain a sheep is in simply by looking at it.

When a sheep is hurting, it makes certain predictable facial expressions. It’s so reliable, in fact, that scientists recently introduced the Sheep Pain Facial Expression Scale (SPFES) to easily determine the amount of pain a sheep feels. However, training humans to read these facial expressions and tics is time consuming; that’s where the computer comes in.

Scientists programmed a computer to recognize sheep facial expressions, based on techniques for human face recognition. “Our multi-level approach starts with detection of sheep faces, localisation of facial landmarks, normalisation and then extraction of facial features,” says the study. Each of these items is associated with a different level of sheep pain, according to SPFES.

The computer system was able to classify 9 different sheep faces and consequently estimate their pain levels. The overall accuracy was 67 percent, which was calculated by dividing the number of detections the computer got right (double checked by a human) by the total sample size.

It’s not a breathtaking result, but it certainly is an encouraging one. The team believes they can increase accuracy with more data, and that this technique could be extended to apply to other animals such as mice, rabbits and horses. It’s a preliminary result, to be sure, but eventually this could make it much easier for veterinarians to diagnose and treat animals.

Via: Fast Company

Source: University of Cambridge

2
Jun

iTunes Launches Sale on ‘Iconic’ and ‘Essential’ Decade-Based Movie Collections


Apple recently opened up a limited-time sale within iTunes for a selection of movies dating back to the 1950s, which the company has grouped into “Iconic” and “Essential” collections (via Variety). The bundles include movies like Dr. Strangelove, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and many more.

The sale starts with a group of $19.99 “Iconic” movie bundles for each decade, beginning with the 1950s, each including ten movies.

All of the movies included in every collection are listed below:

  • 1950s: The Country Girl, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Sabrina, Sunset Boulevard, To Catch a Thief, War and Peace, Houseboat, A Place in the Sun, The Greatest Show on Earth, Funny Face
  • 1960s: The Odd Couple, Alfie, Barbarella, Hud, Barefoot in the Park, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, In Harm’s Way, True Grit, The Italian Job, The Nutty Professor
  • 1970s: Paper Moon, The Great Gatsby, Love Story, Grease, The Out-of-Towners, Harold and Maude, Heaven Can Wait, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, The Bad News Bears, Plaza Suite
  • 1980s: The Naked Gun, Airplane!, Footloose, Urban Cowboy, Clue, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, Terms of Endearment, Crocodile Dundee, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • 1990s: Wayne’s World, Clueless, The Truman Show, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Galaxy Quest, Ghost, Kingpin, Superstar, Runaway Bride, Tommy Boy
  • 2000s: Zoolander, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Tropic Thunder, Almost Famous, School of Rock, I Love You, Man, She’s the Man, Mean Girls, Old School

The “Essential” films aren’t bundled under one price point, and instead iTunes has accumulated popular films from each decade and marked them down to $4.99 each. The amount of movies included in each decade’s Essential sale ranges from 26 to nearly 100, although the 1950s are not included.


Some of the $4.99 films in each decade’s sale are listed below:

  • 1960s: Dr. Strangelove, Lawrence of Arabia, The Graduate, Psycho, West Side Story
  • 1970s: Rocky, Carrie, Apocalypse Now, The French Connection, Serpico, Marathon Man
  • 1980s: Back to the Future, Die Hard, The Breakfast Club, Dirty Dancing, WarGames, The Thing
  • 1990s: The Big Lebowski, Fight Club, American Beauty, Jerry Maguire, Reservoir Dogs, The Silence of the Lambs
  • 2000s: Shaun of the Dead, Juno, (500) Days of Summer, Cloverfield, Ghost World, Legally Blonde, Bring It On

iTunes has also marked down specific categories of Essential films, including “Summer Blockbuster Essentials,” “Based on a True Story Essentials,” “Essential Actors + Directors,” and more.

Apple regularly runs sales within the movies section of iTunes, most recently giving the storefront a LEGO-themed makeover and placing some DC movies on sale to coincide with the digital release of The LEGO Batman Movie. Last year, the movies section of iTunes turned ten years old and in celebration Apple debuted bundles of ten films for $10 each.

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2
Jun

Review: Elgato’s New HomeKit-Connected Eve Degree is a Sleek, Palm-Sized Temperature Monitor


Elgato recently updated its Eve lineup of HomeKit-connected products with the Eve Degree, a temperature and humidity sensor that joins the existing Eve Weather and the Eve Room.

Priced at $69.99, the Eve Degree feels like an iteration of the cheaper Eve Weather. It monitors temperature, humidity, and air pressure like the Eve Weather, but it’s smaller, better designed, and it includes an LCD display.

Design

Eve Degree is palm-sized and the tiniest of Elgato’s temperature sensors, measuring in at 2.1 x 2.1 x 0.6 inches. For comparison’s sake, the Eve Weather is a good deal larger at 3.1 x 3.1 x 1.3 inches.


The Eve Degree features a square-shaped anodized aluminum body with a temperature readout that makes it easy to see the room’s temperature without needing to check an app. Compared to the white plastic Eve Weather and the Eve Room, it’s more stylish and better able to blend in with a range of decors, plus it’s lighter so it’s easier to mount on a wall if desired.

Eve Degree compared to Eve Weather
Compared to the Eve Degree, the Eve Room and the Eve Weather look bulky, clunky, and cheap. The Eve Degree is sleeker, feels sturdier, and looks like a higher-quality product, but there is a visible logo on the front.


At the back, there’s a cutout so it can be hung with a nail, but it’s light enough that it would also stay up with an adhesive strip. Aside from the front display, there are no markings on the device. At the back, there’s a battery slot that can be opened with a coin to accommodate a CR2450 battery, and a button for turning it on, switching between temperature/humidity readings, and resetting it should the need arise.


Because it uses a replaceable CR2450 battery, the Eve Degree does not need to be charged. According to Elgato, the battery should last for a year and it costs around $5 to replace.


Eve Degree has an IPX3 water resistance rating, which means it can withstand spraying water for up to five minutes. That means it can hold up to a little light rain, but in a downpour, it needs to go indoors.

Sensors

Eve Degree can measure temperatures between 0°F and 130°F with a +/- 0.54°F accuracy range, and between 0 to 100 percent humidity with a +/- three percent accuracy range. That’s identical to the older Eve Weather and superior to the Eve Room, which can only measure 32°F to 130°F and 5 to 95 percent humidity.

Its air pressure operating range is 260 – 1260 mbar/7.7 – 37.2 inHg with an accuracy rating of +/- 1 mbar/0.03 inHg, slightly more accurate than the Eve Weather.


Temperature readings matched what I saw on the Eve Room, Eve Weather, an independent temperature/humidity monitor, and on my thermostat, so the measurements seem accurate. According to Elgato, the Eve Degree has been built to track temperature and humidity with “unrivaled precision.”

Connection

Unlike most HomeKit devices, the entire Elgato Eve lineup, Eve Degree included, works over Bluetooth. No WiFi network or hub is required, but to use it away from home, an Apple TV or iPad is necessary.

When HomeKit was new, Bluetooth HomeKit devices were unreliable and were prone to spotty connections, but thanks to improvements introduced over the last two years, that’s no longer the case. Eve Degree is reliable and works regardless of where I’m at in my apartment. It also connected fine outside on my patio from inside the house. Be aware, though, that this doesn’t have quite the same range as WiFi and could be unreachable at times in some setups depending on house layout.

Setup, App, and HomeKit Integration

Setting up the Eve Degree took less than a minute, which is the case with most HomeKit devices. I opened the Elgato app, chose to add a new device, turned on the Eve Degree, scanned the HomeKit code, and it connected to my HomeKit setup immediately.

The Elgato Eve app is one of the better HomeKit apps on the market. Elgato was one of the first companies to come out with HomeKit connected devices and has had a lot of time to refine its app and figure out what works and what doesn’t. The app is simple, straightforward, and easy to use. It’s great for Elgato devices, and it plays well with other HomeKit products. When using the app, it takes just a couple of seconds to connect and get a temperature reading.


For the Eve Degree, the main “At a Glance” view displays temperature and humidity, and a 3D Touch on the Eve Degree icon offers more detail, including temperature, humidity, and air pressure readings over time.


The Eve app lets you drill further down into the readings, offering up hour, day, week, and month views for each of the metrics measured by the Eve Degree. You can even see specific measurements at a certain time and make comparisons to previous days.


There’s also a “Rooms” section in the app that offers up a look at all of the HomeKit accessories in a specific room, while “Types” groups devices by what they do, lumping together temperature monitors, lights, motion, power, and more. Through the “Scenes” section of the app, the Eve Degree gains some of its most useful functionality.


A Rule can be created that uses the Eve Degree as a trigger to activate a Scene when a certain condition is met. As an example, a trigger can be set to turn on a HomeKit-connected fan when the temperature hits 75 degrees (as detected by Eve Degree), or it can turn on a humidifier when the humidity in a room dips below a specific threshold. It can activate any kind of scene and combination of HomeKit products, so you can create a range of useful temperature-based automations.


People who use multiple HomeKit devices will may prefer to use Apple’s Home app. When set as a favorite device, Eve Degree will display temperature and humidity readings that can be seen on the main Home screen. You can’t create the same kind of rules in the Home app, which is somewhat confusing, and hopefully a problem Apple will solve with future iOS updates.


As far as Siri integration goes, the voice assistant can be asked questions like “What’s the temperature in the office?” or “What’s the humidity in the office?” Air pressure isn’t a response Siri can give, though, so the app will need to be used for that measurement.

Bottom Line

The Eve Degree is far from cheap at $69.99, especially when a standalone temperature/humidity monitor can be purchased for less than $10, but it has the potential to add valuable functionality to a HomeKit setup.

If you already have a HomeKit-enabled thermostat, you likely won’t need a device like the Eve Degree, but if you don’t have a HomeKit thermostat, it offers a handy way to keep an eye on the temperature in a room both at the moment and over time, plus it can be used as a trigger for connected devices like humidifiers or fans.

The Eve Degree is also potentially useful if you have an area that needs separate temperature monitoring, like a wine cellar, or if there’s an area in the house out of range of the thermostat. Eve Degree can go outside, but since it only offers an IPX3 water resistance rating, it’ll need to be kept out of direct rain and moisture.


Elgato’s Eve Degree is functionally identical to the cheaper Eve Weather with the exception of the display, the new design, and better air pressure accuracy, so if a display isn’t needed, the Eve Weather is $20 less expensive at $49.99 and perhaps the better buy for outdoor use, where most monitoring will be done from inside the house.

Indoors, the Eve Degree doesn’t have the air quality sensor in the $79.99 Eve Room, but it features a sleeker, simpler design, it doesn’t require an app to get a quick glance at the temperature, and it works in a wider range of temperatures, which makes it arguably more useful.

As someone who has been using the Eve Weather and the Eve Room continuously for almost two years, I am impressed with the new design and prefer the Eve Degree to either of the older sensor solutions. Those who already own an Eve Weather or an Eve Room probably shouldn’t upgrade due to the similarities between the devices, but for those new to HomeKit-connected temperature monitors, this is the one to get.

How to Buy

Eve Degree can be purchased from the Elgato website for $69.99.

Note: Elgato provided MacRumors with an Eve Degree for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received.

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