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FIFA envisions a future where players wear in-game fitness trackers

Like it or not, soccer is moving into the modern era. For the past few years FIFA, the sport’s governing body, has been working with the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to bring experiments like goal line technology and Video Assistant Referee to the game. But IFAB, which is responsible for creating and approving the rules of soccer, doesn’t intend to stop there. In 2015, the organization announced plans to develop a global standard for Electronic Performance Tracking Systems (EPTS), with the goal being to let players use wearable tech in official matches. A decision on when and how EPTS will be implemented is set to happen next March, IFAB Secretary Lukas Brud confirmed to Engadget in an interview.

The devices that IFAB is looking to approve are designed to track players’ fitness in real time, including their heart rate, distance covered, speed and fatigue levels. Players already use these types of gadgets in training, but now they want to wear them during actual games. Brud said Lionel Messi, arguably the sport’s biggest star, is a major proponent of the EPTS project. And the same goes for his club, FC Barcelona, as well as others like Manchester City and Seattle Sounders, all of which are already experimenting with different EPTS devices.


FC Barcelona players, including superstar Lionel Messi, wearing fitness trackers in training.

Brud said one of the main challenges will be figuring out if the team or players own the data. In soccer, like in other sports, many professionals tend to move among teams every few years, so IFAB and FIFA need to decide what happens with someone’s data when he’s transferred to a new place. Additionally, companies that want an EPTS license will have to develop products with “preventative medical benefits” and that won’t “pose a danger to athletes.” So far, Brud said, there are about 50 firms working with teams and players on testing different devices.

Come March 2018, when members of IFAB and FIFA are expected to unveil the EPTS protocol, Brud said the next step will be to figure out the accuracy of hardware being pitched. Since the plan is to use them in a competitive stage, it’s imperative that they’re build to last and, most importantly, that players feel comfortable wearing them. That said, Brud had second thoughts about how much fitness trackers can help understand a player, because he believes it’s hard to measure an individual’s intangible attributes, like his or her raw talent or heart.

“I’m a bit worried about these things. Because if data says you’re shit but you still score more goals than anyone else, then how can you really judge a player’s performance?”

“I’m a bit worried about these things,” he said. “Because if data says you’re shit but you still score more goals than anyone else, then how can you really judge a player’s performance?” Either way, IFAB and FIFA’s decision to explore wearables is another sign that soccer is, finally, taking technology seriously. It may have taken decades, but at least the sport seems to be moving in the right direction.


Need a new password? Don’t choose one of these 306 million

Troy Hunt, the security expert behind Have I Been Pwned (HIBP), has released 306 million previously-pwned passwords in a bid to help individuals and companies ramp up their online security. The passwords have been mined from dozens of data breaches, and can be downloaded for free.

HIBP lets someone see if their email address has appeared in a breach, but doesn’t reveal the associated password for that particular compromised service. Now, Hunt — who has written extensively on password protection — has flipped the model on its head, making passwords searchable without the associated email address or username.

Companies can use the data in their back-end systems to improve password security. When someone registers a new account the provider can compare their chosen password with the list, and warn them if it’s been compromised before. They can then be encouraged or forced to choose a more secure alternative.

Individuals can also play with the data online, although Hunt advises you don’t check any passwords you currently use, for obvious security reasons. “The intention is to use that in a retrospective fashion,” he writes in a recent blog post announcing the service.

“As well as people checking passwords they themselves may have used, I’m envisaging more tech-savvy people using this service to demonstrate a point to friends, relatives and co-workers: ‘you see, this password has been breached before, don’t use it!’” he says. “If this one thing I’ve learned over the years of running this service, it’s that nothing hits home like seeing your own data pwned.”

The service has largely been prompted by revised password guidance from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, which very clearly states providers shouldn’t allow people to use a password that’s been breached before. But with 306 million passwords now blacklisted, coming up with a suitable new one could take a while.



This virtual try-on system for clothing might actually work

It can be a real pain to shop for clothes online when it’s unclear how they’ll fit. Sure, if you have favorite brands, it’s easier, but if you’re wading into the unknown territory of a completely new-to-you store or line of clothing, you’re taking a big gamble. And since none of us actually want to step foot in a store these days (ew), it can be a real headache to find clothes that fit. That’s why this new breakthrough is so interesting. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems have discovered how to digitally capture clothing on a moving person and dress a different 3D virtual person in it. It’s functionally being able to virtually try on clothes and see how they’ll fit as you move around.

Right now, virtually trying on clothing is pretty useless, as anyone who’s actually used such features can attest to. That’s because it relies on a 2D clothing pattern from a manufacturer and then has to simulate how it might fit on your body. This tech works differently because it doesn’t have to simulate how clothes fit on you. “Our approach is to scan a person wearing the garment, separate the clothing from the person, and then rendering it on top of a new person,” says Dr. Gerard Pons-Moll, the project’s principal investigator. “This process captures all the detail present in real clothing, including how it moves, which is hard to replicate with simulation.”

The product, called ClothCap, uses 4D movies recorded using a scanner with 66 cameras and projectors to take full stock of the person being scanned. This allows the scanner to fully see how clothing drapes on a person’s body and where it wrinkles. It also records how a body moves under the clothes and how the garment shifts accordingly. Once this data is analyzed, it’s easy to separate the piece of clothing from the original body and use it in virtual try-ons. You can find the full paper on how the tech works in the journal ACM Transactions on Graphics.

It will probably be awhile before we see this technology on our favorite store websites; after all, it requires scanning models in many different poses, and that complicated camera system can’t be cheap. Still, as retailers move from brick-and-mortar stores to selling clothing online exclusively, this would be a great way to help customers decide what exactly to buy.

Source: Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems


PayPal made digital money cards to send to your friends

Remember those birthday and Christmas cards you used to get from family as a kid? They were no Game Boys or PlayStations, but they were still pretty sweet because there was almost always a few bucks tucked inside. Now, PayPal has launched a virtual counterpart to the “money card” meant to be sent to friends along with, say, your share of the dinner bill or something to help them during a difficult time.

PayPal has created “friendship cards” to celebrate Friendship day on August 6th, but the feature will be available all month through the P2P payment’s app. PayPal says 84 percent of Americans have paid or sent money to a family member or a friend to the tune of around $4,200 a year. A third of that total usually goes through payment apps. Further, 40 percent of Americans have sent money to loved ones for no reason other than to cheer them up or to say thank you.

PayPal created these cards for those situations. You don’t exactly need to use them to send money, but if you decide to, just go to Send & Request. Once there, choose the card design you like, whether it’s a snarky one for your snarkiest friend or a sincere one for a person who needs to be reminded they’re special.


Xiaomi now sells more wearables than Apple or Fitbit

It hasn’t been a great time for Fitbit lately, and reports that rival Xiaomi has now taken the lead in worldwide wearable device sales can’t be welcome news for the company. Findings from research firm Strategy Analytics show that second quarter earnings reports reveal a shuffled ranking of the major wearables producers, with Xiaomi now on top for the first time.

This time last year, Fitbit claimed the top spot with nearly 29 percent of global marketshare. Xiaomi and Apple trailed with 15 and nine percent, respectively. But over the course of just a year, Fitbit’s marketshare has plummeted down to less than 16 percent, while Xiaomi now controls over 17 percent. Along with declining marketshare, Fitbit is also dealing with lawsuits and it laid off 110 employees earlier this year in order to cut costs. Its smartwatch project has also been struggling.

While Fitbit flounders, however, Xiaomi with its competitively priced range of fitness-focused wearables is on the up. And while Apple has gone another route, producing one main wearable with more features, it did really well last quarter, outselling both Fitbit and Xiaomi. It may even reclaim the lead once the Apple Watch Series 3 is released. “Apple has for now lost its wearables leadership to Xiaomi, due to a lack of presence in the sizeable fitnessband subcategory. However, the rumored upcoming Watch Series 3 launch with enhanced health tracking could prove to be a popular smartwatch model and enable Apple to reclaim the top wearables spot later this year,” said Strategy Analytics Director Cliff Raskind in a statement.

The wearables field is a tough space and we’re sure to see more than a few producers fall to the wayside in the not too distant future. It’s unclear whether Fitbit will be one of them — maybe its smartwatch will help turn things around — but surely it can’t afford to continue in the direction it has been going.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Strategy Analytics


Facebook is testing Stories beside your desktop News Feed

Facebook’s Snapchat-like Stories feature launched on its mobile app earlier this year and now it looks like the company is testing it out on its desktop site. As TechCrunch reports, for some users, Stories are now showing up in the top right corner of the page.

Since Snapchat got the ball rolling with stitched-together video clips that disappear after 24 hours, very similar features have appeared nearly everywhere including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Bumble, Facebook Messenger and Medium. However, while the feature is super popular on apps like Instagram, it hasn’t really stuck with Facebook users. It’s likely Facebook is trying to see if launching it on its website can get Stories a little more traction. Whether that will actually be the case, only time will tell.

A representative for Facebook told Engadget that the web version of Stories is being tested on a small percentage of people worldwide and that the company hopes for a wider rollout soon. But there’s no date for a wider launch just yet.

Via: TechCrunch


Vector successfully launches prototype rocket for small satellites

Today, Vector, a company that aims to deliver small and nano-satellites into orbit, successfully launched a full-scale prototype of its Vector-R rocket. It was a suborbital flight; the rocket took off from a spaceport in Camden, GA. It’s the first for Vector (and for the small-satellite launching industry) that is fully funded by customers and has their payloads on board.

Small satellites are increasing in popularity, and have countless uses, but launching them can be tough. They’re tiny (a CubeSat, for example, weighs around 3 lbs), which means unless you have a lot of them, you’re not exactly the first priority on most launches. The Falcon 9, SpaceX’s launch vehicle, can deliver about 50,000 pounds to low Earth orbit, just as a comparison. Small satellites often take a backseat to larger payloads and are forced to work around existing launch schedules and destinations. If a satellite needs to launch to an unusual orbit, it can be tough. That’s where the Vector-R comes in; it’s a teeny rocket, just 12-m (39 feet) tall and can carry a maximum of 66 kg (145 lbs) to orbit. It’s specifically built to cater to these smaller satellites.

This isn’t the first flight for Vector; the company has previously tested different components of its 3D-printed injector. Rather than using a machine to create individual parts and assemble them after the fact, Vector, in collaboration with NASA, has used additive manufacturing tech to build the entire thing in one piece. It cuts down on a lot of points of friction and potential error.

Vector was the first company specifically aiming at small satellites to successfully launch, back on May 3; competitor Rocket Lab followed suit a few weeks later. Over the next few months, Vector hopes to conduct more test flights on an accelerated schedule, thanks to the $21 million in funding it recently raised.


Photography algorithm alters perspective after images are captured

Combining multiple photographs to create a new image isn’t uncommon, but researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) in partnership with NVIDIA have come up with a a pretty wild new technique to create entirely new compositions. It’s called “computational zoom,” and it promises to let photographers adjust the focal length (which basically amounts to the magnification of an image when you shoot) after the fact. The UCSB researchers have basically come up with a way to combine images that merge both telephoto and wide-angle shots to come up with entirely new compositions.

The quick video below gives an example of the kinds of results you can get with this technique:

As the research paper notes, the woman in the images didn’t move at all throughout the photo shoot, but the background was able to be manipulated from a wide-angle shot into a close-up with software after the fact.

Of course, those images have to come from somewhere. To get computational zoom to work, you’ll need a “stack” of images captured a fixed focal length at different distances. In layman’s terms, that means you’ll need to use your feet and move through the scene; you can’t cheat by using a zoom lens. So no, computational zoom can’t magically create scenes without having the image data to start with — but once it does have those images, it can do some pretty creative things.

Once those photos are shot, they’re fed into the computational zoom system and run through its algorithm, which can figure out the camera’s orientation based on the rest of the images — ultimately it can build out the entire scene in 3D from a variety of viewpoints, which lets the photographer create a final image combining multiple perspectives. There’s no word on when this technology might be available to photographers to try themselves, but it’s easy to imagine professionals using this to give themselves a lot more flexibility in adjusting image composition after the fact.

Via: DPReview

Source: University of California, Santa Barbara


Apple’s Sizable Jump in Tablet Sales Wasn’t Entirely Driven by New Lower-Priced 9.7-Inch iPad

Apple recently reported sales of 11.4 million iPads in the June quarter, an increase of 15 percent compared to the year-ago quarter. iPad revenue was also up, but only 2 percent year over year, suggesting Apple was selling a lot of new lower-priced 9.7-inch iPads, which start at just $329 in the United States.

A new report by research firm Strategy Analytics, however, argues that isn’t entirely the case. Apple’s average selling price for iPads remained steady at $435 in the June quarter, down only one dollar from the March quarter.

That doesn’t mean the new 9.7-inch iPad, introduced in late March, isn’t popular. With a faster A9 chip and brighter Retina display than the iPad Air 2 it replaced, and for less money than even an iPad mini 4, the tablet provides good value with few compromises for customers at the low end.

What it does mean is that more expensive iPad Pro models likely sold well enough to offset the addition of a lower-priced iPad in Apple’s tablet lineup. Apple launched new 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models at its Worldwide Developers Conference, a few weeks before the end of its June quarter.

“It’s undeniable that lower pricing on the new iPad helped drive sales throughout the June quarter, but the ASPs tell a slightly different story,” said Eric Smith, Senior Analyst at Strategy Analytics, speaking with MacRumors.

“ASPs were steady from last quarter, showing that higher priced iPad Pro models also sold well, even though the new 12.9-inch and 10.5-inch models were out for less than a month in the June quarter,” he added.

For historical perspective, the average selling price of iPads has typically been between roughly $415 and $450 since 2015, although it briefly rose to $490 in the year-ago quarter following the launch of the original 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

Wall Street Beat

Apple’s sales of 11.4 million iPads far exceeded analyst expectations. The average Wall Street prediction was approximately 9 million iPads sold, according to Wells Fargo, with some analysts predicting as low as 7 million.

Strategy Analytics estimates that Apple took a 26 percent share of the global tablet market in the June quarter, up from 21 percent in the year-ago quarter. iPad remained the world’s best selling tablet, ahead of Samsung tablets, which maintained an estimated 13 percent market share in the quarter.

Chinese company Huawei also saw explosive 42 percent growth in the quarter, with an estimated 3.2 million tablet shipments, according to Strategy Analytics. Apple, Huawei, and Amazon were the only tablet makers to experience growth in the quarter, with Samsung, Lenovo, and all other vendors facing declines.

It’s worth noting that Apple doesn’t disclose iPad sales on a model-by-model basis in its quarterly earnings results.

Given the new 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models were released towards the end of the June quarter, the tablets should have even more of an impact on Apple’s tablet sales in the fourth quarter. Apple’s 15 percent increase in iPad sales marked the product category’s first unit growth in nearly four years.

Also See
: IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker for June Quarter

Related Roundup: iPad (2017)
Tag: Strategy Analytics
Buyer’s Guide: iPad (Neutral)
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iPhone 8 Concepts Explore How Apple Could Hide or ‘Embrace’ the Display’s Sensor Notch

We’re a little over one month out from the expected September unveiling of the ten year anniversary iPhone, which has come to be known as the “iPhone 8” ahead of release. While recent HomePod firmware discoveries have essentially confirmed the iPhone 8’s edge-to-edge design and front-facing sensor bar notch, it’s still unclear how iOS 11 will be incorporated into all of these drastically redesigned hardware upgrades.

New mockups shared by Allen Pike and Max Rudberg this week have taken a look at how these changes might be realized in an iPhone 8 running iOS 11. Particularly, the mockups address one of the more curious additions in the iOS 11 beta: large, banner pieces of text that sit atop apps like Messages, Mail, and the App Store. Pike pointed out that these “Large Title” banners sit below navigation buttons in many of the apps, with plenty of “weirdly empty” white space on current model iPhones.

Image via Allen Pike
Pike’s theory, further polished in enhanced mockups by Rudberg, is that iOS 11 will shift the topmost navigation buttons within these apps to a bottom bar — perhaps a “function area” — where users will easily be able to tap UI inputs to jump around within the apps.

In total, Rudberg realized three possible outcomes that Apple could create with regards to the sensor bar notch and bottom navigation inputs. In the first mockup, the entirety of the iPhone 8’s 5.8-inch display is used by the status bar and navigation buttons at the bottom near the virtual home button.

Image via Max Rudberg
The next two designs include a variety of combinations: the sensor bar using an all-black UI to hide the hardware notch, and the same effect “blending” the bottom navigation bar. As for Rudberg himself, at first he was more favorable of the UI blending the notch into the software of the iPhone, but due to what would result in a visually smaller display, he’s now hoping that Apple will “embrace the notch.”

Beforehand I was fond of the idea of blending the statusbar with the hardware, but seeing the mockups like this, I’m not so sure. Blending the statusbar with the hardware makes the screen seem smaller than it is and the result is less striking. I’m now leaning towards that Apple will embrace the notch.

This week, HomePod firmware data also revealed that the notch will sit between a “split” status bar, where iOS 11 will showcase data like connection, battery, Bluetooth, and more on each side of the notch. One question mark that remains in Rudberg’s mockups is where the time will be located in iOS 11 on an iPhone 8, although there appears to be some room on the left or right side of the front-facing hardware for it to be located.

The front-facing sensor bar on the iPhone 8 has been a point of contention for device concept and mockups over the past few months. It’s expected that this bar will hold the earpiece, front-facing camera, and new 3D sensors for advanced facial recognition. Recent rumors have suggested that the iPhone 8 will do away with Touch ID completely, and rely on facial recognition abilities to authenticate purchases and other iOS elements that the fingerprint sensor previously guarded.

To see all of the iPhone 8 mockups shared this week, check out Pike’s blog post here and Rudberg’s here.

Related Roundups: iPhone 8, iOS 11
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