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Xiaomi takes on the MacBook Pro by adding back some ports

It’s been well over a year since Xiaomi released its first laptops (if you even remember at all), and for some reason, the smartphone maker has decided to make more. Following the Mi Notebook Air series, we now have the 15.6-inch Mi Notebook Pro clamshell which, as you can tell by the name, is geared towards performance users thanks to its 8th-gen Intel quad-core CPU, NVIDIA GeForce MX150 GPU (aka the mobile version of GT 1030) and SSD. While it’s debatable as to how similar-looking the Mi Notebook Pro and the MacBook Pro are (naming convention aside), Xiaomi wasn’t exactly helping by dedicating a keynote slide to mocking the lack of mainstream ports on Apple’s machine.

As with many non-Apple laptops, the Mi Notebook Pro comes with a greater range of ports: two full-size USB 3.0 ports, a full-size HDMI port, an SD card reader and two USB-C ports — with the one closest to the hinge doubling as the power socket as well. In other words, you’re less likely to require a USB dock for your everyday needs on the Mi Notebook Pro, so long as you don’t mind giving up the speedy Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. Xiaomi was also keen to point out the 1.5mm key travel on its backlit full-size keyboard, and admittedly, I’ve yet to get used to the shallow key travel on my new MacBook Pro since its arrival two weeks ago.

Other goodies on the Mi Notebook Pro include a fingerprint reader (Windows Hello supported) integrated into the top-right corner of the multi-touch trackpad, a 4-cell 60Wh battery with quick charge (up to 50 percent after 35 minutes), Harman Infinity speakers, Gorilla Glass 3 on the screen and a sturdy magnesium frame inside the aluminum chassis — which comes in at 15.9mm thick, by the way. The only letdown here is the 1080p display resolution and 72-percent NTSC gamut, neither of which sound very “pro.”

Xiaomi’s 1.95kg-heavy machine comes in three flavors: the 6,999 yuan (about $1,070) top model packs an i7-8550U chip with 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD; then there’s a 6,399 yuan (about $980) model with an i7-8550U chip, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD; and finally there’s a 5,599 yuan (about $860) base model packing the same RAM and SSD but with a lower-end i5-8250U processor. These aren’t exactly mind-blowing prices, but not that it matters, as the machine will only be available in China when it goes on sale on September 15th.


Google appeals $2.4 billion EU antitrust fine

Today, Google appealed the $2.4 billion antitrust fine the EU levied against it in June, a move that will likely extend the case proceedings by years. The EU, which began looking into Google’s search practices in 2010 and officially opened an investigation in 2015, brought charges against the company for allegedly prioritizing its comparative shopping feature while rival websites were pushed down the search result list.

While Google has appealed the decision, it has not requested that the court suspend it in the meantime, and it appears as though the company will continue to work towards fulfilling the changes ordered by the June ruling. At the end of last month, the company met the deadline to submit its plan on how it will change its practices to make them fall in line with EU antitrust laws. An initial review of that plan was met with approval by EU officials. Google is required to stop the offending practices by September 28th or face additional fines that could amount to five percent of Alphabet’s daily average worldwide revenue.

Last week, Intel was given a small win as its $1.4 billion EU antitrust fine was ordered to be reexamined — a development that some think is a good sign for Google’s appeal efforts. Regardless of what happens with this case though, Google has two others on the horizon. The EU is expected to issue fines against the company in the coming months in regards to additional antitrust violations that involve Android mobile software and its AdSense advertising service.

A representative for Google told Engadget that they could confirm the appeal but they had nothing further to add at this time.

Source: Reuters


Nintendo will show off more ‘Super Mario Odyssey’ on Wednesday

Apple isn’t the only company showing off new stuff this week. Nintendo has announced it’ll hold a 45-minute Direct stream this Wednesday at 6 p.m. Eastern/3 p.m. Pacific. What’s on tap? “Information mainly focused on what’s headed to Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS over the next few months,” according to an email from the gaming titan. Oh, and the announcement specifically mentions we’ll hear more about Super Mario Odyssey, which comes out next month (!!!). Unlike Apple’s event tomorrow, you can all but guarantee nothing Nintendo announces will cost $1,000.

Source: Nintendo


Amazon’s next Fire TV may double as an Echo speaker

It’s been a long time since Amazon updated its Fire TV hardware, but it looks like an upgrade could be right around the corner… and to no one’s surprise, Amazon may be capitalizing on the popularity of the Echo. AFTVNews claims to have leaked info for two upcoming Fire TV devices, one of which (on the right) is reportedly a cross between a Fire TV and an Echo Dot. The cube-shaped device would have the audio controls, activity light, far-field microphones and speaker you’d need for hands-free Alexa support, letting you shout commands across the room even when the TV is off. No more reaching for the remote, folks. It would also handle 4K HDR video at a smooth 60 frames per second, and would have control over your home theater gear as you do with existing high-end Fire TV models.

The other model, on the left, is billed as a “mid-tier” Fire TV that would gun after Google’s Chromecast Ultra. The dongle-based design wouldn’t have the Echo-like tricks of its higher-end counterpart, but it could still handle the same 4K HDR video at 60FPS and would be decidedly stealthier.

If the leak is accurate, you may have to wait a while to get your hands on either gadget. The mid-tier model is supposed to be announced in September, but it wouldn’t ship until October. And the Echo-like model? It might only be unveiled “at a later date,” and there’s a chance that the release might slip from this year into early 2018. At least the Fire TV Stick isn’t going away — according to the leak, it’ll continue to serve as the budget model for people who don’t care about 4K or hands-off voice input.

Source: AFTVNews


Google really wants you to see what ARCore can do

We’ve covered how ARCore is Google’s answer to Apple’s ARKit, designed to bring augmented reality to Android phones in a relatively simple way. Now, Google’s Daydream Labs is making a case for the product by showcasing what exactly ARCore can do (and, likely not coincidentally, just one day before Apple is set to unveil its new iPhones.)

You can use AR with street view to put yourself in the middle of the action at the front of the British Museum in London. People undergoing renovations of a home, office, or another building can use AR to see what the finished product will look like. You can even use it to figure out how to work an espresso machine to get a perfect drink every time.

Google’s been tweaking their AR tech quite a bit to provide as many different features and experiences for users. For example, users can desaturate and decolorize what is actually in front of you in order to draw focus to the AR parts of the experience. They’ve also been playing around with Google’s VPS (Virtual Positioning Service) that allows you to take AR one step further, into the wider world.

If you’re interested in seeing more of what people can do with ARCore, you can visit Google’s website This Is ARCore, where they’ve highlight some of the most interesting and fun uses. My personal favorite? The guy who sends a virtual fire-breathing dragon to run after his poor sister.

Source: Google


Teaming humans with robotic AI will remake modern manufacturing

Your public school education exists, in large part, thanks to the Second Industrial Revolution. When the revolution took hold of America in the 1870s, 30 years after the end of the first, half of the US population still spent their days toiling in fields. Education was typically voluntary, assuming the family was wealthy enough to afford tutors or school fees, and usually reserved for boys. With the development of commercial fertilizer and the internal combustion engine, productivity exploded while the number of farmers dropped to less than two percent of the population. It lessened the demand for child labor which in turn led to increased support for compulsory education for both sexes.

“The government at the time recognized [the need for public education],” TIm Weber, Global Head of 3D Printing and Advanced Applications at HP, told Engadget. “Basically to uplift the skills of people in the United States to adapt to an industrial revolution.”

The world is currently in the midst of its 4th Industrial Revolution — one driven by information and automation. As with previous revolutions, today’s technological advancements are threatening to upend established industry and labor practices through overwhelming productivity increases. Artificial Intelligence and machine-learning systems are not just fundamentally shifting the ways we interact with computers and data, they’re also changing how we’ll manufacture the modern world.

We’ve been using robots to augment (and to a degree, replace) human efforts on the assembly line since the days of Henry Ford. Automation and AI are simply the next logical step in that advancement. Robots can serve in a variety of roles, from the design and prototyping stages through production and shipping.

The days of “dumb” production line robots that repetitively weld or rivet in a preprogrammed sequence without fail are coming to an end. Tomorrow’s factories will run themselves and coordinate along the entire supply chain, with human oversight of course, but they won’t look — or operate — like any manufacturing facility you’ve seen before.

“I believe that we are going to see localized manufacturing,” Weber said. Rather than monolithic industrial centers, he figures that with automation and additive manufacturing, we’ll be able to tuck more, but smaller, production facilities closer to the populations that they serve.

“I think about it like the Amazon Marketplace,” Weber said. Companies from all over the world gather there to do business under the Amazon banner. Weber envisions a day in which, while the designer of that toaster oven you’re about to buy may live in Lithuania, when you hit the order button, the toaster would simply print out at a local production facility for you to pick up.

The HP Jet Fusion 3D printer in action – image: HP

No fuss, no muss, no international tariffs or shipping fees. “Through 3D printing, fast automation, artificial intelligence, advanced IT systems,” Weber said. “All that’s going to eventually have manufacturing go local again.” But it’s really not as simple as installing a 3D printer in a storefront and calling it a day.

“You need to have smart machines before even thinking about having a smart manufacturing system. These machines collect and produce data that are needed for AI,” Vibhu Bhutani, Chief Strategy Officer, Softweb Solutions, said during a recent panel discussion hosted by the Industrial Design & Engineering Show. “The next building block is to have a platform that these smart machines can connect with and that enables data collecting into cloud services.”

That data then needs to be ingested by a data analytics platform and worked into actionable instructions that the smart machines can understand, Bhutani continued. “These building blocks create a connected manufacturing floor and once that is in place you can use smart manufacturing,” he concluded.

Those smart machines will likely be of the additive variety if Weber has any say. “HP has actually been working on 3D printing for years,” Weber said. “But we never took it to market for a couple of different reasons,” citing the lack of a truly disruptive product and the relative smallness of the market.

But that changed when the company developed its jet fusion printing system which, according to the company, is capable of making production-quality parts up to ten times faster than other 3D printing systems. Suddenly HP could shift from that $6 billion prototyping market, Weber explained, into the production market which is worth an estimated trillion dollars annually.

But before HP — or any other company — can take that chance, Weber says six factors must first be met. First, production capability: As Bhutani pointed out you first need the physical machines that will do the producing in the scale that you need. “You have to have machines that are manufacturing capable,” Weber said. “People are going to be running these machines, not as a small $500 consumer thing in your garage, but a machine that can basically run as part of a factory.”

Second, the industry needs to drastically expand the kinds of materials that it works with, Weber explained. Current Injection molding technology is compatible with upwards of 50,000 different kinds of materials, many of which are specialized for very specific applications. 3D prototyping systems work with around a half dozen materials on average. Expanding that material palate will allow the industry to create items for increasingly diverse applications.

3D Printing

The third factor is price. While HP’s 3D printer is fast, it’s still far more cost effective to use traditional production methods — around two orders of magnitude. Design quality is the fourth factor. As 3D printing technology becomes more prevalent, we’ll begin to see the ways in which products are laid out change as well. As parts that used to require welding and rivets to be fit together are now printed fully formed.

The supply chain and regulatory reform are the fifth and sixth factors, respectively. HP is facing many of the same challenges as the United States Marine Corps in terms of additive manufacturing’s effects on its supply lines. No longer having to ship, inventory and store replacement parts is the antithesis of the modern supply line and a proportionally disruptive proposition. What’s more, HP has to worry about some issues that the USMC doesn’t, like tax. Shipping, warehousing and inventory, “those economics are going to change as part of this industrial revolution,” Weber said.

“I think the mechanical engineers and the designers of the world — the people who figure out how to make things and how to make them look pretty and functional — you’re going to see more of that,” he said. “More opportunities to customize and figure out new ways of doing things so the demand for engineers and designers is only going to increase.”

Economics won’t be the only thing to change. The roles of human workers are sure to as well. No, we’re not all going to be put out of work by robots (probably to start). A 2015 study from London’s Center for Economic Research found quite the opposite, in fact — that automation is actually helping boost productivity rather than cost jobs. “I think it will have a positive effect, which will increase the number of human innovations,” Ngai Zhang, Technology and Patent Law Attorney, told the IDE Show panel audience. “There is an opportunity for collaboration between AI systems and humans, not necessarily replacing humans.”

Sure, the dullest, most repetitive (and most often lowest paying) jobs will be outsourced to robots, but it’s not like any of us really wanted to do them anyway. Plus, it’s also opening opportunities for new roles for people. “You’re going to need many more trained technicians to basically operate the factory, to maintain it, and to kind of keep things running,” Weber said.

Thomas Howard, Director of the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Rochester, is inclined to agree. His lab recently trained a Baxter assembly robot to understand and respond to natural language commands. When given the instruction “pick up the middle gear in the row of five gears on the right,” the robot first converts the audio instructions into into text then uses that to determine where within its working environment it needs to move.

Cameras mounted in the Baxter’s arms help it quickly and accurately identify the correct gear before the grasper clamps down around it. Such a system could see factory workers of the future partnered with AI-driven assistants.

“There’s a clear role to be played by a repeatable precise robotic system and a human,” Howard said. “That assembly process or logistics process is made more effective” by allowing a human to “more directly dialog with a robotic system.”

Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and AI Lab (CSAIL) recently revealed their similar efforts, which they’ve dubbed ComText — as in “commands in context”. Rather than have the robot waste CPU cycles transcribing and interpreting commands itself, MIT’s ComText leverages an Alexa API to interpret the user’s commands. It’s basically a Skill like any other on the virtual assistant platform. You tell it, “Alexa, tell robot to pick up the box of crackers I just set down” and boom, the Baxter does so.

The ComText system is able to understand and react to new scenarios as they occur because it’s machine-learning mechanism doesn’t just study up on semantic data (ie “the sky is blue” or “cats are jerks”) but also episodic data, specific things it’s learned from previous experience. So if you hold up a hammer and tell it “This hammer is my tool” the system will add that data connection between the hammer it sees and the idea that it is “my tool” to its knowledge database. But, if you put that hammer in a toolbox and then tell the system to “pick up my tool that I just put down,” the system will understand both that the tool in question is your hammer (semantic) and know to look for it in the toolbox, since it just watched you put it in there (episodic).

Though robots have made impressive gains in mobility and autonomy over the past few years, CSAIL researcher and co-lead author of the ComText study, Rohan Paul, said. “What is lacking is robots’ inability to understand high level concepts. And this is very important if robots have to operate in human-centric environments — where the human isn’t just supervising in-the-loop but actively working in-the-loop.”

The current problem is that robots generally see the world at a relatively low level — in pixels and sensor readings — but humans see it as related concepts, connected to form reasoning and higher order thinking, Paul explained. The goal of the CSAIL team’s experiment was to bridge that dissonance.

“We imagine untrained users would be able to able talk to it and, with a human plus a robot, efficiency should increase,” he continued. “We’re entering an era where humans and robots will be working together.” The question is “How do we execute tasks efficiently with both a human and robot working together,” not just an autonomous machine.

“You want to leverage both the human capabilities and the robot’s capabilities together and communication is an important part,” Paul concluded. Taken together, these advancements in AI, autonomy, 3D printing and robo-communications are poised to fundamentally change the face of modern manufacturing. Rather than monolithic centers of industry, we may soon see a smaller, localized production base with specialized shops coordinating with each other along the supply chain to maximize efficiency while minimizing waste and cost. It’s an exciting vision of the future but one that remains tantalizingly beyond our grasp for now.


Netflix and Hulu already won 21 Emmys ahead of the main event

The Creative Arts Emmy Awards took place this weekend and both Netflix and Hulu put on a good showing. Netflix raked in 16 awards while Hulu programming took in five — a positive preview for how each streaming service will fare during the primetime Emmy Awards, which will take place on September 17th. Overall, Netflix was at the top of the winner’s list, coming in second to HBO.

Among the big winners was Netflix’s Stranger Things, which took home five awards including those for outstanding casting for a drama, its main title as well as sound and picture editing. Ava DuVernay’s Netflix documentary 13th took in four awards including those for outstanding writing and outstanding documentary. Netflix’s The Crown, The Ranch, House of Cards, Luke Cage, Master of None and Five Came Back rounded out its wins.

Three of Hulu’s five awards went to The Handmaid’s Tale, which won for production design, cinematography and outstanding guest actress — the latter of which went to Alexis Bledel. Hulu also won two awards for The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years.

Amazon won two awards — one for Mozart in the Jungle and another for its short form series Dropping the Soap. Vimeo also won an award for its short form series Dicks while Samsung and Oculus took home the Outstanding Original Interactive Program award for its 360 degree VR video “The People’s House – Inside the White House with Barack and Michelle Obama.” Squarespace also had a win for its commercial “Calling”

Netflix’s and Hulu’s good showing this weekend bodes well for them on Sunday. Netflix has 18 major category nominations including those for Master of None, House of Cards, The Crown and Stranger Things, among others. Hulu also has multiple nominations for The Handmaid’s Tale as does Amazon for Transparent*.

The Emmy Awards air this Sunday at 8 PM Eastern/5 PM Pacific on CBS.

Via: Variety

Source: Emmy Awards (1), (2)


Apple’s September 2017 Media Event: Spoiler-Free Video Stream

Apple’s “Let’s meet at our place” media event will be kicking off at 10:00 AM Pacific tomorrow, and as is tradition some MacRumors readers who can’t follow the event live are interested in avoiding all of the announcements and waiting until Apple posts the recorded video of the event so as to experience it without already knowing the outcome.

For those individuals, we’ve posted this news story, which will be updated with a direct link to the presentation once it becomes available from Apple. No other news stories or announcements will be displayed alongside this story.

Apple has become quicker about making event videos available for replay over the past several years, and videos are now frequently available within an hour of an event’s conclusion.

Users waiting for the video to be posted are welcome to gather in the thread associated with this news story, and we ask that those who follow the events refrain from making any posts in the thread about Apple’s announcements.

Tag: September 2017 event
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Tim Cook Says Apple Products ‘Change the World’ and Aren’t Priced Just ‘For the Rich’

Apple has ranked third on Fortune’s annual list of companies that “change the world” based on the social impact of their core businesses, and CEO Tim Cook sat down for a related interview with executive editor Adam Lashinsky.

Cook agreed that Apple has changed the world, primarily through its products, which simply enable people to accomplish more.

I think the No. 1 way Apple changes the world is through our products. We make products for people that are tools to enable them to do things that they couldn’t otherwise do—to enable them to create or learn or teach or play. Or do something really wonderful.

He added that Apple has also changed the world through environmentalism, education, and advocacy for human rights, privacy, and philanthropy.

When asked why Apple doesn’t run a charitable foundation, Cook said having a “separate thing” with a separate board of directors “wouldn’t be Apple.”

My view, we do a lot more good with a 120,000 people behind it than we would putting 12 people over in a corner to make decisions. I’m not criticizing people that do that. I think maybe they found a way and maybe it’s great. But it wouldn’t be Apple.

Cook mentioned Apple’s free Swift Playgrounds curriculum as an example of how its products enable people to learn and create.

… And the whole concept of Swift is you make a coding language that has the ease of use of our products. And so everybody can learn it. Yet, it’s powerful enough to write the most complex apps that you’d ever want to dream up. And then we thought, well, what else can we do, and so we came out with Swift Playgrounds, a curriculum for say K4, K5, sort of in that age range. And that began to take off. And so then we took a step back and we made a bigger program for all of K–12 called “Everyone Can Code.”

Those people who learn to code may eventually become developers. Cook reiterated that the App Store economy supports millions of jobs.

Cook later disagreed with Lashinsky’s opinion that Apple’s business strategy is to “make premium-priced, high-margin, high-end products.”

Well it’s not high margin. I wouldn’t use that word. There’s a lot of companies that have much higher margins. We price for the value of our products. And we try to make the very best products. And that means we don’t make commodity kind of products. And we don’t disparage people that do; it’s a fine business model. But it’s not the business that we’re in.

But if you look across our product lines, you can buy an iPad today for under $300. You can buy an iPhone, depending upon which one you select, for in that same kind of ballpark. And so these are not for the rich. We obviously wouldn’t have over a billion products that are in our active installed base if we were making them for the rich because that’s a sizable number no matter who’s looking at the numbers.

Cook also hinted that Apple has “much more” to accomplish in the health-related area, and hinted at future products or services to come.

There’s much more in the health area. There’s a lot of stuff that I can’t tell you about that we’re working on, some of which it’s clear there’s a commercial business there. And some of it it’s clear there’s not. And some of it it’s not clear. I do think it’s a big area for Apple’s future.

Full Interview: Tim Cook on How Apple Champions the Environment, Education, and Health Care via Fortune

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Apple Received Approval Just Last Week to Host First-Ever Event at Steve Jobs Theater

Following several months of construction, Apple tomorrow will host its first-ever event at Steve Jobs Theater at its new Apple Park headquarters. Apple invited members of the press to the event on August 31.

Records uncovered by VentureBeat, however, show Apple didn’t receive approval to host the event until the next day.

Cupertino, California city officials granted Apple a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy for Steve Jobs Theater on September 1, indicating that the theater has passed various fire and safety checks. The final signature was September 4.

Despite needing additional work of some kind, per the records, Steve Jobs Theater is now deemed to be a safe venue for the hundreds of journalists and other invitees that will sit down for tomorrow’s iPhone X reveal.

Apple filed for the certificate on August 8, so it’s likely that Tim Cook or another senior executive told Cupertino to hold off on signing the paperwork, which would have hinted at the location of Apple’s September event.

Apple is among few companies that would go to such lengths to obscure or delay such information, but unfortunately for it, a leak of the iOS 11 golden master version has revealed many details expected to be announced tomorrow.

In addition to the iPhone X, Apple is widely rumored to unveil the less expensive iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, a new Apple TV with 4K video playback, and Apple Watch Series 3 models, including some with LTE connectivity. will provide full coverage of the keynote, which begins tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.

Tag: Steve Jobs Theater
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