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27
Jun

You can buy the OnePlus 5 right now for $479


Want a OnePlus 5 and couldn’t swing by one of the pop-up stores to get it early? You now have your chance. As promised, OnePlus is selling its latest flagship starting at $479 (£449) for a base version with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and $539 (£499) if you crave 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Whichever version you choose, you’re getting quite a lot of phone for the money. As we noted in our review, the OP5’s speedy Snapdragon 835 chip and dual rear cameras help it punch above its weight class — it’s not the best phone, but it’s a strong value.

It’s not a completely hitch-free launch. We’ve seen reports of a (possibly mitigated) issue with WiFi signal drops when you hold the phone in an unusual way. And don’t assume that the benchmarks are completely representative of the OP5’s performance. OnePlus chief Carl Pei has acknowledged that phone maxes out the processor whenever it detects a benchmarking app (in short, it’s cheating). While you can expect similarly quick performance in games, you won’t get that kind of raw power in most other situations. They’re not deal breakers, but they’re worth considering before you plunk down your hard-earned cash.

Source: OnePlus

27
Jun

‘Tinder for friends’ uses AI to block flirty messages


Making new friends as an adult is hard, and it’s easy to find yourself relying on old college pals and work colleagues to bolster your social life, even if the former live on the other side of the country and the latter are, well, your work colleagues.

Many an app has tried and largely failed to address this problem, but as any woman who’s been brave enough to seek friends — genuine platonic friends — online will know, it’s not long before your inbox is inundated with dire pickup lines, weak attempts at ‘cheeky banter’ and, of course, the ubiquitous dick pic. Enter Patook. Launching globally on July 7 on iPhone and Android, the app claims to make finding new friends easier and less traumatic thanks to an algorithm which detects and blocks flirty language.

Using an AI method known as natural language processing, the ‘flirt detector’ has been trained on millions of creepy messages and pick-up lines circulating the internet, including a huge number submitted to Reddit (of course). It also responds to the behavioral activity of the user: who they message, how often, whether it’s a copy/paste job or if they’ve bothered to think of something original, and so on.

All of this combines into what Patook’s founders unsettlingly call a ‘magic sauce’, which determines whether a message is sent or not. “What kind of music do you like?” is fine. “Would you like to sit on my face?” is not. Break the rules, and you’re banned. In fact, upon the app’s beta release in 2016, five percent of users were banned before their first message was even delivered.

According to Patook CEO Antoine El Daher: “Initial feedback to the app has been extraordinary. People seeking friends and not romantic relationships have been left out in the cold until now. We anticipate rapid growth among all genders, and so far have seen approximately 40% women, 40% men, and 20% joining as couples.”

Romantic advances aside, Patook (which means ‘little hug’ in Armenian) operates in much the same way as a dating app. There’s an extensive set of privacy controls, and users build a profile and search for friends based on the usual criteria: location, interests, age range. The app also uses a points system to specifically identify and rate the value of the criteria they want in a friend. So if you’re into hiking, you might give five points to people who list ‘the great outdoors’ as an interest, or if you’re into Napalm Death, you might give points to other metalheads. Whatever floats your boat, as long as you keep it clean.

27
Jun

Aston Martin’s all-electric supercar launches in 2019


Aston Martin is going it alone on its first all-electric vehicle, the all-wheel drive RapidE, following a false start that caused it to curtail its production plans, courtesy of the departure of its financial partner LeEco.

Originally unveiled as a concept in 2015, the 800 horsepower RapidE will go into production in 2019. There’s just one catch: the vehicle is being limited to a production run of just 155 cars, about a third of the initial quota, reports Reuters. As such, what was going to be an expensive motor anyway, will likely see a price hike that is enough to make even Tesla S owners blush. The RapidE will come in at just under £200,000 ($255,000) on its home turf (that’s $115,000 more than the top-of-the range Model S, which can reach upwards of 760hp), with Aston Martin starting to take orders next month.

Aston’s Chief Executive Andy Palmer spoke to Reuters after the news agency caught wind of LeEco’s withdrawal from the project, confirming that his company is independently funding the venture. The two firms announced their partnership in February of last year and also promised a launch date of 2018 for the electric version of the Rapide S. But LeEco was forced to backtrack on its electric car investments after falling on hard times — the Chinese tech giant also scaled back its planned $1.3 billion Faraday Future factory in Nevada earlier this year.

“We’ve decided to make this car rare, which will obviously tend to push the price higher.”

Aston’s other collaborator on the RapidE project is staying the course. Williams Advanced Engineering, which built the original concept for the electric vehicle, will assist with its engineering integration and batteries. Aside from the RapidE, Aston Martin is set to reach another milestone with the launch of its first full production battery car in 2019: an electric version of the DBX crossover.

Source: Aston Martin

27
Jun

Facebook has 2 billion monthly users


Every month, 2 billion users post messages, share photos, disseminate links and argue with estranged family members on Facebook. Founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the milestone today in a quick post (on Facebook, of course) saying, “We’re making progress connecting the world, and now let’s bring the world closer together.” That sounds a lot like he wants to do more of the same — but you know what they say about things that ain’t broke.

Facebook was creeping up on 2 billion in March, when the social network revealed it had 1.94 billion monthly active users, up 300 million from the previous year.

The site is celebrating its growth with a personalized video for every user — it’ll show up over the next few days in your News Feed or at facebook.com/goodaddsup. That link will also host stories of people contributing to their communities. Plus, whenever you leave love for someone on Facebook over the coming days, you’ll see a message of thanks from the site itself.

Source: Facebook newsroom

27
Jun

Gene Munster Predicts Apple Will Eventually Earn More From AirPods Than Apple Watch


Despite selling for $159, considerably less than the Apple Watch at between $269 and $1,499, longtime Apple analyst turned venture capitalist Gene Munster believes AirPods will be “bigger than the Apple Watch” over the next decade.

Munster predicts that AirPods will contribute “about the same amount of revenue” to Apple’s pocket as the Apple Watch by the company’s 2022 fiscal year. He also predicts that AirPods will have an average price of $200 by then, as the product shifts towards what he calls “augmented audio.”

AirPods: Bigger Than Apple Watch. Over the next 10 years, we anticipate that AirPods will be bigger than the Apple Watch as the product evolves from simple wireless headphones to a wearable, augmented audio device. While both AirPods and Apple Watch should continue to grow, we see AirPods contributing about the same amount of revenue as Apple Watch by FY22. We expect the AirPods ASP to increase from $159 today to $200 in FY22 as the product shifts to augmented audio.

Apple doesn’t disclose AirPods or Apple Watch sales in its quarterly earnings results. Both products are instead grouped into its “Other Products” category, alongside sales of iPods, Apple TVs, Beats products, and accessories. Any revenue or sales numbers that circulate around are purely estimates.

Apple reported $2.87 billion revenue from “Other Products” last quarter, a 31 percent increase from $2.18 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Early last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the response to AirPods has been “great,” with the wireless earphones remaining hard to come by.

“Demand for AirPods significantly exceeds supply, and growth in Beats products has also been very strong,” said Cook. “In fact, when we combine Apple Watch, AirPods, and Beats headphones, our revenues from wearable products in the last four quarters was the size of a Fortune 500 company.”

Despite launching over six months ago, AirPods continue to have a 6-week shipping estimate for orders placed on Apple’s website. Some third-party resellers have occasionally had them in stock with earlier delivery.

Apple analyst Neil Cybart recently said Apple is “underpricing” the Apple Watch and AirPods in an effort to bring new users into its ecosystem. He said this pricing strategy was “unimaginable” ten years ago, when Apple was often accused of pricing products artificially high—aka the so-called “Apple Tax.”

Cybart said a strong case could have been made for Apple to price AirPods at $249, or even $299. By selling them for $159, he thinks Apple has “removed all available oxygen from the wireless headphone space,” and forced other wireless headphone makers to cut their own prices in order to remain competitive.

AirPods have been well received by early adopters, achieving a 98 percent customer satisfaction rate in a recent survey conducted by Experian and market research firm Creative Strategies.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch Series 2, watchOS 3, watchOS 4
Tags: Gene Munster, AirPods
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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27
Jun

Apple Music’s New Curated Playlist ‘My Chill Mix’ Begins Appearing for Some Subscribers


Over the past few days, some Apple Music subscribers have noticed the appearance of a new playlist in the “For You” tab of the music streaming app, called “My Chill Mix.” Redditor Elliotblyth posted about the playlist recently, noting that their iPad remains on iOS 10 and that they have not yet installed the iOS 11 public beta that released yesterday. Still, a few commenters on the Reddit post have noted the appearance of My Chill Mix while on the iOS 11 beta.

In screenshots, the playlist doesn’t have a description like My Favorites Mix and My New Music Mix, but a few users who have been listening to the playlist have given a decent description of what kind of music it includes. As a point of comparison, currently My Favorites Mix (refreshed every Wednesday) gives subscribers a list of the songs they most listen to, while My New Music Mix (refreshed every Friday) recommends newly released music that aligns with the taste of a user’s previous listening history.

Images via Redditor Elliotblyth
My Chill Mix is said to be similar to My New Music Mix, but without the rule that only newly released tracks can be in the playlist. This means that Apple Music will pull from music selections that are both old and new, all based on each user’s personal listening history and likes/dislikes, to propagate My Chill Mix every Sunday. For subscribers who don’t see the new playlist, asking Siri to “play My Chill Mix” sometimes works.

Apple describes My Chill Mix as follows: “Tailored to your music tastes, My Chill Mix is a selection of songs to help you relax and unwind.” The playlist originally appeared in the watchOS 4 preview page after WWDC, with Apple including My Chill Mix among the playlists that will automatically sync to Apple Watch. Since then, any mention of the playlist has been removed from that page on Apple.com.


My New Music Mix and My Favorites Mix originally appeared on the iOS 10 public beta last September, a few months after WWDC 2016 when Apple originally announced that personally curated playlists would be coming to Apple Music. A few tweaks are coming to Apple Music in iOS 11 as well, including a new social feature where subscribers can make profiles, share playlists, see their friends’ playlists, and browse their friends’ listening history.

Related Roundups: iOS 10, iOS 11
Tag: Apple Music
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27
Jun

Facebook Messenger Gets Reactions and Filters in Video Chat, New Assistant Suggestions


Facebook this week announced it has added several new features to video chatting in its Messenger app for iPhone and iPad.

In both one-on-one and group video chats, Messenger users can now add or use animated reactions, filters, effects, and new masks, while Facebook has added a conveniently placed camera icon to take a screenshot of your video chat.

For animated reactions, Messenger users can choose one of five emoji icons: love, laughter, surprise, sadness, or anger. Tapping an emoji generates a related reaction that animates on the screen for a short period of time.


On the artificial intelligence side, Facebook has expanded the capabilities of Messenger’s built-in “M” personal assistant, adding a “save it for later” function, birthday wishes, and call initiations, according to Engadget.

The personal assistant, which is currently available in the United States only, is designed to provide proactive suggestions in Messenger [Direct Link].

Tags: Facebook, Facebook Messenger
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27
Jun

‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Trailer Recreated on Vintage Apple IIc Computer


Animator and illustrator Wahyu Ichwandardi has shared one of his newest projects on Twitter this week, where he recreated the entire two-minute trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi on a vintage Apple IIc from 1984, using the bitmap paint program Dazzle Draw and a KoalaPad+, both from the same year (via TechCrunch).

Image via @pinot on Instagram
The project required 48 floppy discs and 288 image files, totaling 6MB of storage space. For post processing, Ichwandardi used Apple Disk Transfer ProDOS software and a floppy disc emulator device to copy all 288 image files onto a modern MacBook Pro. The result is a full recreation of the first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which debuted online in April.

Cita-cita waktu masih kecil di th 80an: bikin trailer Star Wars pakai komputer Apple bermonitor monochrome, baru kesampaian sekarang. pic.twitter.com/kUV28VB5pq

— Pinot (@pinotski) June 26, 2017

It took Ichwandardi about three weeks to finish the project due to working with the limitations of the vintage hardware and software. Specifically, because Dazzle Draw doesn’t have a layers feature, the illustrator had to physically lay an acetate sheet over the Apple IIc’s monitor in order to create a guide for the animation in every frame of the trailer.

Complex animations required him to actually trace the characters and motion from the real trailer and redraw it back into Dazzle Draw. More information about his design process can be found in the video below.

Proses bikinnya pic.twitter.com/zPTJmMpMhJ

— Pinot (@pinotski) June 26, 2017

Ichwandardi has posted a few updates regarding the Star Wars project on his Instagram page, where users can also check out some other art made on an Apple IIc. These include posters for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, as well as an image of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Tag: Star Wars
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27
Jun

Sony Xperia XZ Premium review


It’s been a while since I’ve used an Xperia phone. While Lanh has done a great job reviewing them in the last year or so, I have had the pleasure of using the Xperia XZ Premium for the last couple of weeks. Though we have seen a number of iterations in a short amount of time because of the company’s tight release schedule, it still feels like returning to an old friend. This year, Sony has returned with a 4K capable display and all of the power that you would expect from the company you don’t hear from enough in the States. But does the latest and greatest from Sony stack up against the bevy of phones that we already have in 2017? Let’s find out in this review of the Sony Xperia XZ Premium.

See also:

OnePlus 5 vs Galaxy S8, HTC U11, XZ Premium, Pixel XL, LG G6: What’s the best Android camera?

7 days ago

Design

There is no shortage of Xperia devices, especially considering their release schedule over the past couple of years. It is almost as if the company is running out of different combinations of the alphabet’s last few letters. In this case, however, they have decided to add the term “Premium” into the mix. Unfortunately, it might not be the absolute best word to use for this phone’s design.

It is almost as if the company is running out of different combinations of the alphabet’s last few letters

The XZ Premium is definitely a looker, with a glass on glass design that sports a dark blue sheen in our review unit. This translucent color shines beautifully and makes for a very sleek device. However, the glass-all-over design is something that has been tried and true in the Xperia line, making this phone all too familiar especially to Sony fans. It doesn’t help that the glass back is a fiend for fingerprints, which smudge up the sheen all too easily after even just a short time of usage.

Though the fingerprints are a regular occurrence with these glass phones, they are going to be even more common as users perform hand gymnastics all around the large device. Sony still doesn’t shy away from the large bezels found primarily at the top and bottom of the screen, making the phone taller than it should be – in a year of 18:9 aspect ratios and tall yet narrow displays, it is a bit flabbergasting to see that Sony just doesn’t know how to compact their handsets anymore. It makes us opine for the Xperia Compact phones, really.



Despite all this, handling could be a whole lot worse. The flat top and bottom help rest the phone squarely on a balancing pinky (especially since the glossy back doesn’t take well to a PopSocket, but that’s my personal issue) and the rounded sides are good for a nice vice grip to keep the phone from slipping about.

If it did slip, the phone could take a dip in the water without any problems – the Xperia XZ Premium comes with an IP68 rating so that it can keeps water and dust at bay. Sony has opted for an easily removable SIM and SD card tray that doesn’t require a tool – however, the SIM tray is a separate piece to this cover and is simply too fiddly for comfort. Below that is the power button that might not be like the large silver power buttons of old, but it is still a defining feature of the latest Xperia – the large and concave button cradles the thumb nicely, but alas does not include the fingerprint reader that other regions will be able to enjoy.

My favorite part of the Xperia XZ Premium design is the dedicated camera button

By far, my favorite part of the Xperia XZ Premium design (and, indeed, Xperias since the beginning of the line itself) is the dedicated camera button that is nestled in the bottom right corner of the phone. Not only does it give an extra way of opening up the camera (just hold down) it functions completely like a proper shutter button complete with a halfway press for triggering focus. It is a small but significant addition that comes in handy for more picture taking situations that you may initially expect. Anyone that has followed my reviews shouldn’t be surprised – I am always a fan of extra inputs on smartphones and this is one big point for the XZ Premium.

Display

So the phone might be a bit unwieldy, but that large body compliments what is one of the most powerful display we have so far in a mobile phone. In the previous 4K toting Xperia device, the high resolution was only used when 4K content was detected – in this case, it is all 4K all the time. That comes with one huge caveats, however – and it might not surprise you to know it’s a content issue.

Some of the sharpest rendering that we’ve ever seen on a phone display

Before we get to that, let’s get the specifications out of the way. This 5.5 inch display is 3840×2160 in total resolution, making for some of the sharpest rendering that we’ve ever seen on a phone display, covered in Gorilla Glass 5. Sony has injected much of its BRAVIA TV technology into this Triluminous display, as well. Those are a few different buzzwords to basically say that the display is pumping out some crazy colors which can be customized rather extensively in the display settings. You can change not only the color gamut mode but also the white balance of the display. The main issue in the display settings is the lack of any always-on or ambient display – this is a feature that has become commonplace for plenty of flagship phones and the lack of this level of screen convenience is noticeable.

But let’s get back to the 4K resolution. For all intents and purposes, having the resolution turned up to 11 at all times makes this screen very enjoyable. There is upscaling that occurs when viewing anything below that high resolution, but that is where the BRAVIA capabilities come into play. Nothing looked overtly pixelated or blown up to the point of distraction. On the flip side, 4K native content looked absolutely wonderful on the Xperia XZ Premium. The issue is that there is so little 4K enabled content out there that the promises of such of a display turn out to be a concept rather than an ultimately essential feature. It takes quite a bit of sleuthing all throughout YouTube and then in Amazon Prime Video to get 4K native content to take advantage of the high powered screen.

Performance

That said, one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had on the Xperia XZ Premium has been playing Final Fantasy IX for extended periods of time. Sharpness and color in the game have been top notch but there is plenty else powering the experience. The XZ Premium is another Snapdragon 835 enabled phone that comes with 4GB of RAM that is used to good effect mainly because of a slimmer Android skin.

The Android iteration on this phone is one of the smoothest and snappiest that I have used in recent memory

And I mean it – the Android iteration on this phone is one of the smoothest and snappiest that I have used in recent memory. While there are fewer bells and whistles in this version of the operating system, I never had any problems with having a lot of apps open and I already mentioned the great gaming experience. It is also clear that Sony took some liberties with the OS animations, making them very quick so as to give off the feeling of a really speedy user experience.

Hardware

Unfortunately, there a couple caveats regarding this version of Android on the XZ Premium – it is not only a skin of Android, but enough of a custom build that it has caused a few holes. NFC is included in the hardware stack but when I tried to pay for a few items using Android Pay, it complained that this version of Android is a custom ROM – this is enough to trigger its security features, making Pay inoperable. Quite the bummer when I did all that work just to have to take my wallet out anyway.

I mentioned before the issue with the fingerprint reader – the sad part here is that I got to use it on an Asian unit back during Computex in Taipei, where I found it to work really well. It made perfect sense to wake the phone using the power button, at which point the phone would unlock because it recognized my thumb during the press. There have been a number of reports regarding why the fingerprint reader is again not a part of the western batch of devices, but basically its absence is sorely felt.

See also:related image

How to activate the Xperia fingerprint scanners in the US

October 6, 2016

As for the rest of the inclusions, the microSD card slot can be used as an extra SIM tray in most markets, bolstering the already included 64GB of onboard storage. In those large bezels that we’ve already lamented over lie stereo speakers for a good sound experience that is neither bad nor exceptional – though front facing speakers are always a plus, they don’t get very loud and the small grills keep the stereo sound from being stellar.

Listening to anything from game audio to songs to podcasts is a treat

Things change when headphones are plugged in, though – there are so many options for catering the audio experience that listening to anything from game audio to songs to podcasts is a treat. ClearAudio+ returns from previous Xperia editions and adds an easy way of boosting the sound if customizing it little by little is not preferred. There is even optional enhancement to make compressed audio sound more like lossless, called DSEE HX. And to round it all out, noise cancellation is built into the headphone jack when using a compatible headset. There is little to complain about with the audio experience in the Xperia XZ Premium.

My review unit was used on the T-Mobile network without any problems whatsoever. All parties involved with calls were happy with the quality, and no dropped calls were observed. Data was especially great, as well, with LTE+ working to great effect during my time in New York and back home in Los Angeles.

Battery life

And finally, battery life is about as good as it could be with a 4K capable display. You would think that the XZ Premium would falter in the longevity department because it has to power so many pixels, but in my heavy usage it managed to be just about as good as current flagships touting Quad HD displays. 3.5 hours of SoT on this 3230mAh unit throughout an entire day of high usage is nothing to sneeze at given these circumstances, but it is still just average for the typical user’s workday. Stamina mode is available to dial back some of the high performance in order to keep the battery from conking out too soon, but in those dire moments Quick Charge 3.0 is still on hand to make sure that there is no problem getting the phone topped up whenever required.






Camera


The dedicated camera button is not all that I enjoyed about the camera. On the contrary, there has been a lot to like about the high powered optic package. True to form (especially in the most recent Xperia phones), Sony packs in a 19MP sensor that can capture 4K video and super slow motion video at a whopping 960fps.

Everyone is really drooling over the 960fps slow motion video

Let’s talk about what everyone is really drooling over – the 960fps. Before building up to that highest setting, there are a few other modes available, such as recording at 120fps and adding in the slow motion in post, and one-shot super slow motion that takes a 5 second clip straight from the shutter press. The marquee feature is the 720p video recorded at normal speed, at which point the user has to tap the capture button at ‘the right moment’ in order to initiate the high frame rate. It’s not easy to find the perfect moment, but when you do, the results can be incredible. Just remember to use it in basically just broad daylight, as this mode is terrible in even mediocre lighting.

On the topic of video, I used the Xperia XZ Premium as basically a vlogging camera during a couple days in Taipei and for plenty of other clips since then. Recording at 1080p yielded videos with good detail and enjoyable colors, but recording at 4K would yield even better results especially when they are finally rendered out in 1080.

Which brings me to one of my main issues regarding the Xperia camera software – switching modes. There is a Manual mode that allows for a lot of finite control over the shot, and it is easy to get to that mode and video by swiping on the viewfinder. My main gripe is that the 4K video recording isn’t a setting in Video Mode, but rather a mode itself in the extra selection area. Having to move over to the extra modes just for a 4K video adds too much time to what should be a quicker process for a vlogger-type like myself.

But overall the video experience has been quite good, and the same can be said for picture taking. Superior Auto is a great go-to place to get the best possible shot given the scene, and tapping on any portion of the viewfinder to focus the camera track that portion of the subject to mostly proper effect. While it is possible to customize the settings and shot using the Manual Mode (for forcing certain toggles like HDR), the Superior Auto is very reliable and yields the right photo most of the time.

Pictures get a great amount of detail given the 19MP packed in, but color and exposure are also where they should be. Colors can use a little extra punch from time to time, but there were hardly any pictures that I was unhappy with. In some broad daylight shots, the entire photo seemed to be a little overexposed, though – this more than likely due to my tapping a darker area for focus, which the exposure compensation had to account for. But in lower light, the XZ Premium camera is only really hindered by the slower shutter speed that needs to compensate for the f/2.0 aperture. A slower shutter speed makes most small movements blur the photo just enough to have to redo the shot – this might be the only situation where the dedicated camera button is a bit of a hindrance, as well as the move to keep stabilization electronic and not optical.

Portraits also get a little less love due to that slightly high aperture. There will be less of a depth-of-field bokeh effect compared other phones like the Samsung Galaxy S8, as a result. But when the detail is as high as it is, this is a small trade off. The same goes for the front facing camera, which is also plenty powerful at 13MP – it is a good performer without too many bells and whistles compared to its rear facing counterpart.

As the top manufacturer of the world’s most common smartphone camera sensors, it is good to see that Sony is using their own hardware to good effect. It has taken a little while for them to get the software right, but in the XZ Premium there is very little to gripe about – Superior Auto is solid, settings are abundant, and video is fun to use.

That camera button, though.

Software

And finally for the software, a lighter edition of Android comes in the XZ Premium, especially when compared to LG and Samsung counterparts. There are few extras that are in one’s face off the bat, as the homescreens are simple, even use an app drawer button still, and use Google Now as the companion homescreen on the left. The main addition is a quick device-wide search function that is easily found when swiping down anywhere but the notification dropdown. Speaking of, the dropdown is also super familiar, with no significant additions even in the quick toggles.

Sony’s own applications, however, fall into a rather common trap of redundancy against Google’s own ecosystem. The Xperia lounge brings users to a portal where Sony will push a lot of content your way, whether it be 4K video or applications that are supposedly “Xperia exclusives,” but many of this content is available in other ways and the exclusives are more like add-ons for some of the already Play Store ready equivalents. There is a Movie Creator which can come in handy if you wish to edit videos while mobile. But where there are a few issues are with apps like the Photos and Videos duo – these two separate the different pieces of content on the phone, captured on the camera or not, and feel a little unnecessary when Google Photos is already built in. And a News app by Sony isn’t a bad idea, but Google Now is an intrinsic part of the already complete user interface.

We give Sony credit for not taking too many liberties with the Android software on the Xperia XZ Premium, though the rather common head scratching that accompanies a lot of software experiences is present here, as well. As I mentioned before, the software has been properly tweaked to be really fast, quickly animated, and it is lightweight enough to provide a breezy experience. Though this custom ROM for the West sacrifices the fingerprint reader and even Android Pay support, these are annoyances that we understand are not deal-breakers.

Specifications

Display 5.5-inch Triluminos Display
4K resolution
5.2-inch Triluminos Display
1080p resolution
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
Adreno 540 GPU
Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
Adreno 530 GPU
RAM 4 GB 4 GB
Storage 64 GB
expandable via microSD up to 256 GB
32/64 GB
expandable via microSD up to 256 GB
Camera 19 MP rear camera
13 MP front-facing camera
Motion Eye system
19 MP rear camera
13 MP front-facing camera
Motion Eye system
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.2
GPS + GLONASS
NFC
USB Type-C (USB 3.1)
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.2
GPS + GLONASS
NFC
USB Type-C (USB 3.1)
Battery 3,230 mAh 2,900 mAh
Software Android 7.0 Nougat Android 7.0 Nougat
Dimensions 156 x 77 x 7.9 mm
195 grams
146 x 72 x 8.1 mm
161 grams

Gallery










Price and Final Thoughts

The Sony Xperia XZ Premium will not be widely distributed on US carriers, which has been a thorn in the side of Sony’s presence in the States for a long time now. However, it is available for $799 on e-commerce channels for unlocked editions, and this includes places like Amazon and even Best Buy. For a 4K display, water resistance, a good camera, and even a dual-SIM slot, it’s a tad impressive that Sony keeps the XZ Premium competitively priced against the likes of current Samsung and LG flagships.

Sony has done a good job of keeping up with the competition

And so, there you have it – the Sony Xperia XZ Premium. I have to say, it is really refreshing to come back to the Sony Xperia line after having such fond memories of the many that I reviewed in my earlier days here at Android Authority. And Sony has done a good job of keeping up with the competition – when you look purely at the phone in a vacuum. In the States, the lack of a fingerprint reader is a sore point that many will point out, but there are a lot else to love. A solid, even if all-too-familiar design quite literally makes it shine and a 4K display on a phone is a wonderful addition despite its lack of overall usefulness.

See also:related image

OnePlus 5 vs HTC U11: quick look

3 days ago

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27
Jun

From predicting quakes to supercharging farming, how AI could save the world


Picture this — It’s the year 2100 and our worst dystopian fears have come true. The Earth is in shambles. Society is rife with poverty and inequality. You can hop across the Pacific on floating patches of plastic.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, machines have gained consciousness and superintelligence, and — against our will — they’ve taken over the world. With cold calculation, our AI overlords decide humans had their chance and that it’s about time to get rid of us before we do more damage.

Now rewind to June 2017, when delegates from around the world met in Geneva for a United Nations-hosted summit to design AI for global good. The goal wasn’t just to develop friendly AI but to devise ways to use the technology to make the world better for everyone. Naturally, there were plenty of cautionary tales about technology run rampant and how AI could make the world worse if we aren’t careful. But the overall message was one of hope.

It’s true: Humanity is facing more problems than it we can probably fix on our own. Without some drastic and immediate changes, we’re sure to usher in a dystopian future. But we may also be able to solve these problems — or at least minimize their negative impacts — with the help of AI. Here are some of the ways how.

Protecting our ocean by policing ourselves

It’s easy for us land-dwellers to forget just how vital the oceans are. They cover about 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and account for 91 percent of its living space. The oceans are where life began and our species has been linked to it ever since.

And yet, we’re doing a pretty poor job protecting this resource. The Great Barrier Reef isn’t yet dead but it’s dying off at a dangerous pace. Once vibrant and thriving communities of coral are turning into bleached graveyards. Despite regulations on the capture and sale of certain marine species, illegal fishing operations is still widespread.

Organizations like The Nature Conservancy (TNC) are now leveraging facial recognition software to fight overfishing in a bid to save the ocean. In November of last year it launched a contest that challenged software developers to create a system to monitor footage from fishing boats. The goal was to identify protected species so that inspectors can review the tape and make sure the fish are handled correctly and returned to the ocean.

This system is expected to drastically reduce the time spent policing fisheries. Inspectors usually spend some six hours analyzing every ten hours of tape, according to The Guardian. With an AI system tagging the minute mark where the suspected fish is on the film, that time could be cut by 40 percent.

“The end result is an incredible first step in moving us beyond what was currently thought to be impossible.”

“The winning team used computer vision and machine learning technology similar to what’s used for facial recognition,” Matt Merrifield, TNC’s chief technology officer, told Digital Trends. “The first layer of the models identify the region in the video that is most likely to have a fish present. The next layer actually identifies the species of the fish which requires training and deep learning with a more generic model. The end result is an incredible first step in moving us beyond what was currently thought to be impossible to an era of inevitable for using AI in fisheries monitoring.”

Other initiatives are already under way using AI to monitor illegal fishing activity. The website Global Fishing Watch tracks the fishing vessels around the world using data from nonprofit environmental watchdog SkyTruth, which mines satellite data to monitor the movements of big ships. An AI platform developed by Global Fishing Watch has identified over 86,000 cases in which fishing vessels performed potentially illegal actions at sea.

Predicting natural disasters

One of the best steps toward minimizing the impact of a natural disaster is predicting the event in the first place. It turns out that’s easier said than done.

For decades, scientists from a range of fields have tried and failed to reliably predict earthquakes with enough notice for the public to prepare. In the eighties and nineties, some even used machine learning, but couldn’t establish a reliable enough system, according to Scientific American. But AI has come a long way in the past few decades and today’s supercomputers allow scientists to crunch more data faster than ever before.

Scientists are now going back to machine learning to better understand earthquakes and predict when they’ll occur. If successful, the method could save hundreds of thousands of lives.

Researchers like Paul Johnson and Chris Marone, geophysicists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Pennsylvania State University respectively, have renewed interest in the potential for AI to predict earthquakes and they’re hoping it can help save lives.

“If we had tried this ten years ago, we would not have been able to do it,” Johnson told Scientific American. He is not only applying AI but is also approaching the problem of quake prediction differently.

“Hopefully decision makers of the future would be using these tools since they were children.”

Rather than using standard “earthquake catalogues,” which contain data only about magnitudes, locations, and times, Johnson and his team use huge datasets of measurements collected from artificial earthquakes that are constantly being simulated in a Penn State lab. The algorithms are tasked with analyzing this raw data — much of which seems superfluous — searching for patterns that might help predict a simulated quake.

The algorithms have already revealed that certain acoustic signals coincide with upcoming quakes. Within the simulator, tectonic plates creak like wooden floors as they slide over each other, and the system identified a particular change in that sound before the temblors occur. Although these sounds haven’t yet been observed in the natural world, Johnson and his team are listening closely.

“Not only could the algorithm tell us when an event might take place within very fine time bounds—it actually told us about physics of the system that we were not paying attention to,” he said. “In retrospect it was obvious, but we had managed to overlook it for years because we were focused on the processed data.”

There is still plenty of work to be done before scientists can reliably predict quakes but Johnson is now using real-world data with his algorithms. If the method works, he thinks experts could use it to make earthquake predictions months or years in advance.

Feeding the future

When it comes to feeding the globe, we’re facing a daunting task. The UN hopes to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030, which is optimistic considering that the world’s population is nearing the eight billion mark, and it’s expected to keep growing at least until 2050.

Even today we struggle feed everyone — one in nine people go to bed with an empty stomach each night, according to the World Food Programme.

But scientists at Carnegie Mellon University are developing a system called FarmView, which incorporates robotics and artificial intelligence to predict crop yield and hopefully make our food system more efficient.

FarmView works by mobilizing an autonomous ground robot that can take visual surveys of crops at different times of the season, including using computer vision and machine learning to predict crop yields. An algorithm then analyzes a particular plant and instructs the robot to clip away leaves or thin out fruit in order to facilitate a ratio for more optimal growth. Going one step further, the CMU researchers think AI could help geneticists identify and select for beneficial traits. In this way, AI would work together with breeders to produce more productive crops.

“If we had tried this ten years ago, we would not have been able to do it.”

“We’re not doing this to replace people,” said CMU system scientist George Kantor. “What we’re doing is to introduce new technologies that can make farmers more efficient at what they do, and allow them to use fewer resources to do it. The scenario we envision doesn’t involve using fewer people; it involves using robotics and other technologies to carry out tasks that humans aren’t currently doing.”

The main goal here is not just to produce more food but to use existing resources as efficiently as possible.

“The way we produce food right now is very resource intensive, and the resources that are available are being used up,” Kantor said. “We have to increase the amount of food we produce, as well as the quality, but do so in a way that doesn’t assume we have unlimited resources.”

An end to conflict?

One of the most ambitious plan for AI to save humanity comes from the mind of Timo Honkela, a professor at the University of Helsinki in Finland, who thinks technologies like machine learning and natural language processing could actually help eliminate conflict. He calls his concept the “Peace Machine” and it’s less farfetched than it sounds.

From Honkela’s point of view, there are three things we humans should really work on: our own emotions, our communication with others, and equality in society as a whole.

“We live in a complex world and we live complex lives that are culturally oriented and individually grounded in our experience,” he told Digital Trends. “So far, machines have been developed in a very rigid way. What’s not becoming possible is to make these systems to be more humanlike. My statement for a long time has been, ‘It’s better that we make machines to be humanlike because the other option is that we humans need to be machine-like in order to use these powerful tools.’”

Rather than claiming that AI can suddenly bring about world peace, Honkela thinks the technology can help in small ways that would have an emergent effect. For example, advances in machine translation can facilitate better communication between individuals from different backgrounds, minimizing misunderstanding and their subsequent conflicts, no matter how trite. From the bigger picture, all these resolved small conflicts would have an overall effect of creating a more agreeable society.

“The hypothesis is, if we have this situation in which we can understand each other better, that kind of naturally leaps in an emergent way to more peaceful relations overall,” Honkela said.

One of Honkela’s main points is that words are bound by meaning and context, which are not always clear. The phrases “My shirt is blue,” “I’m feeling blue”, and “I’m blue in the face,” each mean very different things that are difficult for a non-native English speaker to distinguish.

Of course, no wars have been fought over the word blue, but Honkela thinks this same system could be applied to every facet of communication.

“The further away people are in their experience of life, education, or cultural background, the more risk there is for miscommunication,” he said. “Even the words we use can mean different things to two different people.”

In the end, Honkela thinks everyone from school children to world leaders could have some sort of AI agent that could make sure they’re understanding correctly and speaking clearly.

“The basic idea is to use a device like a smartphone, whatever we have at hand, and it could say, ‘Christian what you just said would be understand quite differently than what you intend to mean,’” he said.

These devices may also be used to help people make more rational decisions calling out bias and emotional whim – a feature that would be ideal in today’s political climate. “Hopefully decision makers of the future would be using these tools since they were children,” Honkela said, so they will be better suited to address important issues without digressing into an emotional rant.

An end to war is still a distant dream. Indeed, some would argue that conflict is inherent – or even essential – to human nature. But perhaps AI can make these altercations more constructive by helping humans better understand each other. Maybe rather than wiping out humanity in some dystopian purge, AI will usher us into a new future in which we live together in harmony. That’s a future we’ll have to create ourselves.




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