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19
Sep

Make a 3D model of your face with a selfie and AI


It’s incredibly difficult to construct a 3D face from a two-dimensional photograph. That’s because a single image makes it very hard to approximate different facial expressions across lighting conditions. But now, a team at The University of Nottingham and Kingston University have come up with a way to construct a 3D face from a single image.

It works using AI that has already been trained on how to analyze a human face. The UK-based research team inputted multiple images of human faces, along with their 3D models, into the system. Using a Convolutional Neural Network (or CNN), their software is able to map 2D pixels to three-dimensional coordinates on the face, regardless of expression or lighting condition.

They even have a nifty tool that allows you to try out your own facial reconstruction. Check out Idris Elba.

And Audrey Hepburn.

It’s not difficult to imagine the possibilities for an AI with this kind of capability. From being able to upload an image of yourself to create an online avatar to virtual makeup try-on, there are many applications for this. But, as the team points out in their paper, there’s still a long way to go before this technology is perfected.

Via: The Verge

Source: ArXiv.org, 3D Face Reconstruction from a Single Image

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19
Sep

Sprint and T-Mobile might actually be inching closer to a merger


Sprint and T-Mobile have been doing a dance of acquistion and merging for years now, and it looks like all the talk might finally be leading someplace. According to CNBC, the two companies are now actively discussing a merger.

If you’re feeling a sense of deja vu, it’s not just you — this has happened before. The discussions go all the way back to 2014, when Sprint’s parent company, Softbank, wanted to buy T-Mobile. However, the bid was withdrawn when it appeared the regulatory challenges to getting the deal approved would be too daunting. Then, earlier this year, we reported the two companies were considering merging. Now “considering” has progressed to “actively discussing.”

Those close to the situation are stressing that a deal is not in place yet, and it’s not certain whether one will even be reached. Even if something is hammered out, we’re talking about a merger of the third and fourth largest wireless carriers in the US. There will be serious antitrust and regulatory hurdles to overcome.

It makes sense for both companies to explore this option, though. Sprint’s been looking for mergers, as its growth hasn’t exactly been stellar. Earlier this year, we reported that they may have been interested in a deal with cable company Charter (though Charter wasn’t having any of it.) Meanwhile, T-Mobile has been spending quite a bit of money in order to secure new subscribers, which isn’t a viable long-term strategy. Bringing the two together could make for a powerful wireless company . . . or it could crash and burn. It’s unclear what the outcome of this will be, but we’ll be keeping an eye on these talks to see if they go anywhere.

Source: CNBC

19
Sep

Edmunds uses AR to show how a new car will fit in your garage


As tempting as it may be to buy a massive SUV, there is such a thing as too big. The last thing you want is to find out that a car won’t fit in your garage, or that you’ll have no room to open the door when you park at work. But how do you gauge that fit without busting out the tape measure? Edmunds thinks it has the answer: it just added an augmented reality “Can it Fit?” feature to its car shopping app for iOS. If you’re running iOS 11, you can use your iPhone or iPad to map your parking space and gauge whether or not your dream ride is small enough. You only get a rough outline of the car in question, but that’s enough to tell whether you can spring for a minivan or have to ‘settle’ for a sedan.

We’ve asked Edmunds about the possibility of an Android version now that ARCore exists, and there is some hope: it says it’d like to make one. There’s no roadmap for that yet, though, as the focus is on refining the iOS experience first.

The concept of using augmented reality to gauge the size of objects certainly isn’t new. We’ve seen plenty of home decor apps that do it. This is still a relatively fresh concept for vehicles, though, and it underscores an advantage of Apple’s ARKIt: it’s very, very good at scaling virtual objects. Don’t be surprised if you see sizing features like this pop up in other apps, even in categories where you wouldn’t expect them.

Source: App Store

19
Sep

Cue the CleverBot is a coding robot for older kids


Kids’ robotics company Wonder Workshop is launching two new robots designed to introduce children to coding in a fun, hands-on way. First up is Cue, the slightly older sibling of the company’s 2014 robot offering Dash (or at the very least it’s Dash with a pre-teen makeover, as the bright primary colors have been replaced with a sleeker, cooler palette, a bit more fitting for its 11+ audience). Cue comes with a new AI engine that lets code-curious kids actively engage with the robot (and its four different avatars) via a text-based chat function that includes a vocabulary of more than 170,000 words.

Via Cue’s companion app — available on iOS, Android and Kindle — kids can use a simple block program or JavaScript text mode to take the reins in a freestyle coding environment, playing with all kinds of cool features such as proximity sensors, encoders, a gyro, an accelerometer and a microphone. And in November, Cue will support Apple’s Swift programming language through a new Swift Playgrounds Playbook.

For younger or newer coders, there’s the Dot Creativity Kit. The kit comes with a single sensor-laden robot (bright green) and a bunch of DIY projects that range from active play and construction to crafting and codebreaking. It’s complemented by three downloadable apps — Wonder, Blockly and Go (on iOS, Android and Kindle) — which strip coding back to basics, making it accessible while keeping it fun.

“By the next decade, there will be one million more tech jobs in the US than qualified graduates to fill them, and by 2050 economists forecast that over 40 percent of jobs will require skills to develop, code, and manage robotic and AI systems,” said Wonder Workshop CEO and Co-founder, Vikas Gupta. “Wonder Workshop’s mission is to give kids of all ages the tools and confidence to take on the jobs of the future.”

Both Cue ($200) and the Dot Creativity Kit ($80) are available to pre-order now.

19
Sep

Apple iOS 11 review: A big deal for iPads, but not iPhones


Last year’s iOS 10 was all about refining Apple’s mobile experience — it was “like polishing a pearl,” I noted at the time. Now, with iOS 11, Apple is focusing even more on its big-screen iPad experience, but at the same time, it’s leaving the iPhone a bit behind. Even though we didn’t get any dramatic changes last year in iOS 10, it brought along a slew of useful features to the iPhone. That included bringing apps and Snapchat-like elements into Messages, as well as opening up 3D Touch more to developers. This time, though, iPhone users might have a hard time noticing that they’ve upgraded. On the flip side, iOS 11 is great news for iPad fans who want to do more with their tablets.

Getting started

As usual, we recommend backing up your device before going through any OS installation. Even though Apple has made the iOS upgrade process more seamless than it used to be, there’s still a chance things can go wrong. In this case, it’s worth making a local iTunes backup, since it’s much easier to restore from that instead of using iCloud.

When it’s available, you’ll get a prompt to install iOS 11. If you’re in a hurry, though, you can also head to the “General” section of the Settings app to check for the update. You’ll want to be connected to power and WiFi throughout the installation process. The iOS 11 download weighs in over 2GB, and the setup process took around five minutes longer than iOS 10 on my iPhone 6S.

Once the installation is complete, you’ll find that the iOS 11 lock screen looks ever so slightly different. Instead of having clear backgrounds, the pin number pad has shaded buttons. And if you swipe up from the initial lock screen, you’ll quickly see all of your notifications. After you get past that, though, it’s pretty much the same iOS design as last year on the iPhone: Swipe right to get to the today page, and swipe down from the top for notifications. You know the drill.

I chided Apple for not changing its iOS design much a year ago, so it’s even more disappointing to see that things haven’t improved much. It’s not that iOS 11 looks bad on the iPhone; it’s just a bit stale. And the changes that we do get aren’t exactly improvements.

A new Control Center

When you swipe up from the bottom of an iPhone running the new OS, you’ll find a dramatically revamped Control Center. Gone is the two-screen format from last year; this time around, Apple crammed all of the Control Center’s shortcuts into one screen. Honestly, it feels like a jumbled mess at first. That was my initial impression when Apple first announced iOS 11, and it hasn’t changed much during my time with it.

The icons aren’t exactly hard to figure out, but they’re so close together on my iPhone 6S that it always takes me a second to figure out what I need to hit. They could be a bit more comfortable on a Plus model, but that screen size is too big for my taste. In addition to buttons, the new Control Center has sliders for quickly adjusting your brightness and volume. And, as before, you can use 3D Touch to unlock additional options.

Media controls now have their own dedicated spot in the Control Center, but you can also jump deeper into them with a 3D Touch tap, or a long press on earlier iPhones. Doing so opens up the ability to move around a track, as well as switch between different media devices. That’s useful if you need to choose between multiple wireless headsets or AirPlay devices.

Thankfully, you can customize the crowded Control Center to your liking by removing and adding shortcuts. Never use the flashlight? Just drop it and replace it with a shortcut to Notes or Voice Memos. You can also change the placement of Control Center icons, so you can easily put your most used buttons on top. Don’t be surprised, though, if the Control Center starts to fill up the majority of your screen as you add more icons.

While it won’t be useful for everyone, I appreciated being able to quickly record my iPhone’s screen from the control center. And for anyone who needs accessibility features, including quickly accessing the magnifier or tweaking your phone’s text size, you’ll likely find something unique to enjoy as well. While it’s nowhere near the extreme customization you’d find on Android phones, the revamped Control Center offers iOS users a small bit of customization in a normally restricted OS.

Better camera performance

You can expect to do a lot more with photos in iOS 11. Apple revamped Portrait mode in the camera to support flash and image stabilization, both of which should make it much more useful in dimly lit areas. Developers will also be able to take advantage of the Depth API to create new filters using data from Portrait mode. And good news for storage hounds: Apple is moving toward more efficient file formats (HEIF and HEVC) on the iPhone 7 and later to reduce the size of your gallery.

When it comes to the actual Photos app, you’ll be able to transform Live Photos with three new effects: loop, bounce and long exposure. The first two are pretty self-explanatory — they’ll repeat the Live Photo, and move it back and forth — while the latter mimics the dreamy effect you’d get from a lengthy exposure on a DSLR. They’re fun effects, but not particularly revolutionary at this point.

Sticking with the trend of spreading intelligence throughout iOS, Apple says its Memories feature — automatically generated photo and video albums — will be significantly smarter in iOS 11. They’ll recognize new types of events, including weddings, anniversaries and “over the years” compilations. And they’ll be wiser about the type of media they include (especially when it comes to detecting blinks and smiles), as well as the accompanying music. Memories will even be able to straighten out slightly crooked photos on its own, using machine intelligence.

The Memories I came across during my testing were definitely more polished than before, with smarter editing and a more appropriate image selection throughout. Another plus? You can seamlessly swap between portrait and landscape modes while you’re playing a Memory. Since I take most photos in landscape, though, that ended up being the best option.

Other iPhone improvements

Aside from the new Control Center, most of the iPhone-specific changes in iOS 11 are relatively minor. The app-switching view is more card-like, harking back to the likes of WebOS in the Palm Pre. The App Store and Messages have also been redesigned to resemble Apple Music; there’s a big emphasis on large text and bold images. It’s an attractive look, even if it’s very reminiscent of Microsoft’s old Zune style. The redesign of Messages also brings a big improvement in that it lets you easily scroll through your apps on the bottom of the screen. That’s a big improvement over the messy interface of last year.

There’s also a bit more of an editorial spin in the App Store now: There are curated lists, as well as small articles for featured apps. Apple also separated games and apps into different sections, which should help people who never really play games to avoid clutter. Altogether, it should be much easier to find useful new apps in iOS 11. That’s especially important because consumers use an average of only around 26 apps a month, according to a 2015 Nielsen survey.

As usual, Siri is just a bit smarter this year. She sounds more natural, and can translate sentences into Spanish, French, German and Mandarin. Of course, there are apps that already do this, but I appreciated Siri’s seamless translations. Developers will also be able to take advantage of Siri’s Machine intelligence in their apps. As a first-party example, she can play music personalized for you in Apple Music. And Siri also works as a bit of a DJ now — you can ask her to play “something sad” and she’ll compile a list of tearjerkers.

Apple Music is also more social in iOS 11. Now you can follow other users and share your playlists. Yes, those are all things Spotify has offered for a while, but it’s nice to see Apple finally joining in on the fun. Unfortunately, there weren’t many people to share with during my testing.

My favorite iOS 11 upgrade might be one of the smallest: When you hold down the emoticon or globe icon in the keyboard, you can choose from one-handed orientations that push all the keys to the left or right. I ended up using that feature quite a bit while riding on the subway; it’s how I wrote a big chunk of this review. If you’ve ever missed the iPhone 5’s tiny screen and keyboard, you’ll appreciate this.

You’ll also be able to send and receive money using Apple Pay in the Messages app later this fall. Apple’s ARKit platform also means we’ll be seeing a whole new batch of augmented reality apps that are light-years beyond Pokémon Go. Ikea, for example, has already announced an app that will let you accurately view how furniture fits in your home. It did a great job of rendering furniture in physical spaces using both the iPhone 8, and, even more impressively, it ran smoothly on my iPhone 6S.

On the navigation front, Apple also added indoor maps to the Maps app, as well as lane assistance during driving navigation. Of course, those are both features that Google Maps has offered for years on the iPhone.

iPad, reborn

iOS+11+iPad+gallery+1.jpg

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

When it comes to the iPad, iOS 11 delivers some dramatic changes. The most obvious one? Apple has now brought the dock, which first debuted in OS X, over to iOS. It replaces the bottom row of shortcuts that you’re used to on the home screen. The big difference now is that you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen in any app to make the dock reappear. That lets you easily jump between your shortcuts and running apps.

A longer swipe brings up windows showing off all of your apps, along with the Control Center on the right side of the screen. The new Control Center look doesn’t seem nearly as confusing on a big display as it does on the iPhone.

The dock opens up entirely new methods of multitasking in iOS. Now you can drag an app up and have it appear in a tiny window on the side of the screen. Even better, you can drag and drop text and images between those. It’s particularly useful with the new Files app, since you can easily save images and other files from the web. If you prefer the old split-screen multitasking code from iOS 9, you just have to swipe down on the smaller window.

Speaking of the Files app, it’s a particularly notable addition on Apple’s part. Previously, the company was dead set against introducing any sort of file management in iOS. But with Files (which also works on the iPhone), you’ll have an experience similar to what you’d find on Windows or MacOS. It also helpfully hooks into third-party storage services like Google Drive, Box and Dropbox. Finally, you’ll have an easy way to store documents downloaded from the web, as well as share files through email and Messages.

Apple has also reworked the iPad’s keyboard to be a tad more convenient. Instead of hitting the shift key to type out numbers and symbols, you can just flick down on existing keys to make them appear. If you have an Apple Pencil, you’ll also be able to start notes immediately just by tapping it on the lock screen. And on top of that, it’s easier than ever to mark up web pages and documents using the Pencil — there’s no need to jump into a special editing mode.

Clearly, iOS 11 is Apple’s biggest attempt yet to transform its mobile OS into more of a desktop platform. The dock enables seamless multitasking, and it finally adds decent data management with the Files app. It’s hard not to think you’re looking at a Mac when you’ve got an iPad running iOS 11 with a decent keyboard case. The iOS 11 improvements alone made using an iPad Pro much more bearable, though it’s still a far cry from what you’re able to do with a full-fledged PC. Still, the new OS shows Apple is slowly edging closer.

Wrap-up

While it’s great to see Apple making huge strides on the iPad, it’s a shame that iOS 11 doesn’t bring more to the table on the iPhone. I’m looking forward to the rise of ARKit apps and a wider user of machine intelligence, but I’m also eager to see a truly fresh redesign from Apple. It’s also a shame that we won’t see some new features, like Apple Pay peer-to-peer payments, until later in the fall.

But with the iPhone X coming soon — a device that fundamentally reinvents what an iPhone can look like — there’s a good chance we’ll finally see some big iOS changes next year.

19
Sep

Lady Gaga’s struggles come to light in Netflix documentary trailer


“Paranoia, fear, body pain, anxiety.” Lady Gaga’s voice is trembling as she describes what she’s been dealing with in an interview with Beats 1’s Zane Lowe, unintentionally setting the stage for what Netflix subscribers will see when watching the streaming service’s latest documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two. Her halftime show from the Super Bowl this year may was pure spectacle, with a fleet of Intel-powered drones doing double duty as stage sky lights. But, the demons Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta battled in secret before (and after) taking to the sky this February might be more impressive than a raft of synchronized drones. For an intimate peek inside Gaga’s life ahead of the movie’s September 22nd debut, check out the two-minute trailer below.

Source: Netflix (YouTube)

19
Sep

iOS 11 is here with improved multitasking and AR


With multitasking, ARKit and more AI smarts, iOS 11 is one of Apple’s biggest iOS updates yet. It just started rolling out around the world, so don’t be surprised to see a message on your iPhone or iPad soon. If you’ve been procrastinating, now would be a good time to backup your photos, videos and other precious data — in the past, iOS updates have been buggy, gone less than smoothly and eaten up precious storage.

Warnings aside, you’re probably going to like it, especially if you have an iPad Pro and use it to do work. iOS 11’s marquee feature is better multitasking, with a macOS-style dock on the bottom of your screen that lets you seamlessly switch between apps or run two side-by-side. That will particularly handy for, say, programmers or graphics professionals.

Apple is also keying in on AI with iOS 11, with a better, more natural-sounding version of Siri and Core ML machine learning for developers. It will also usher in the age of augmented reality on iPhones with ARKit. Though that app is mostly just useful for developers, you’ll soon get games and apps that use the tech, and what we’ve seen so far looks promising.

Another feature that takes advantage of the new smarts and sensors is animated emojis — it basically maps your face in real time and transfers your expressions to the characters. That only works on the iPhone X, however, since it requires the dedicated front-facing depth sensor.

There’s a lot more, including things like screenshots during Facetime calls, a “do not disturb” setting for driving and a blue banner that shows when apps track your location (for more see our preview). Now, back to the nagging. Remember that the install could take a while, so be sure you’re not expecting a job interview callback when doing it. And things do go wrong — Apple has released many a buggy iOS update in the past — so make sure everything you value is saved. If Apple stays true to past form, it should arrive around 1PM ET (10 AM PT) today.

19
Sep

YouTube’s Twitch-like subscriptions are available to any channel


YouTube just stepped up its efforts to compete with the likes of Twitch and Mixer. As of today, YouTube Gaming’s sponsorships (read: paid subscriptions) are open to any eligible creator. So long as you run a gaming channel that’s enabled for livestreaming, can earn money and has at least 1,000 free subscribers, you too can ask viewers to pay a monthly fee (now $5) that unlocks custom emotes, immunity to chat slow mode and participation in sponsor-only chats. Naturally, this also means hooking into the third-party tools that game streamers take for granted, such as StreamLabs (for notifying you when there’s a new sponsor) or a sponsors-only Discord chat.

The video service is also testing sponsorships with a “handful” of non-gaming channels, such as DIY video blogger Lauren Fairweather.

It’s no secret as to why YouTube is making this move — it knows that it risks being left by the wayside as gamers flock to Twitch and Mixer, especially as they expand beyond gaming. However, this is also an admission that YouTube’s years-long experiment with paid channels didn’t, well, pay off. Less than 1 percent of YouTube creators are using it now, and it “never achieved popularity” with either channels or their viewers. Simply speaking, YouTube had to switch things up if it wanted to remain relevant in an era where viewers are as likely to tune into a live PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds match as they are a pre-recorded clip.

Source: YouTube

19
Sep

Twitter suspended over 935,000 terror-related accounts since 2015


In a blog post today about its twice yearly Transparency Report, Twitter outlined some numbers regarding its actions against accounts linked to terrorism. Those include accounts that “actively incite or promote violence associated with internationally recognized terrorist organizations, promote internationally recognized terrorist organizations, and accounts attempting to evade prior enforcement.”

In the first half of this year, Twitter removed nearly 300,000 accounts that fell under this category and it notes that 75 percent of them were taken down before they tweeted. This year’s account suspensions are down slightly from the second half of 2016, which saw 376,000 accounts suspended. In its report, the company highlighted its own efforts in combatting terrorism-linked accounts citing that 95 percent of account suspensions were a result of their own tools and algorithms and that government requests for removals only accounted for less than one percent of resulting suspensions. The role of government requests in rooting out these accounts is lessening, down 80 percent compared to the last half of 2016.

Twitter has come under fire in recent years for inadequate responses to terrorism, which some think has helped violent extremism grow. The company has even been sued for inaction by relatives of those killed in the San Bernardino attack — who also sued Facebook and Google — and taken to court by the wife of a US contractor killed in Jordan for allowing ISIS supporters on the site. The UK parliament also called out Twitter — as well as Facebook and YouTube — for not doing enough to purge terrorists from its website.

From the beginning of August, 2015 through June of this year, Twitter says it has suspended 935,897 accounts for promoting terrorism.

Via: Business Insider

Source: Twitter

19
Sep

Get Ready for Upcoming ARKit Apps With Deals on Compatible iPhone SE and iPad Models


Later today Apple will debut iOS 11, the newest software update for iPhones and iPads that will bring changes like a new control center, improvements to Siri, an upgraded user interface on iPad, and the ability to interact with certain apps using advanced augmented reality capabilities. The only way to take advantage of these ARKit-powered apps is with an iPhone or iPad that has an A9, A10, or A11 processor.

Thankfully, a few A9-enabled iOS devices are marked down this week, allowing anyone on older iPhones and iPads the chance to upgrade and get a peek inside Apple’s augmented reality future. The first deal is at Walmart, where you can get the 32GB iPhone SE (with an A9 chip) for $129.00 on the retailer’s prepaid Straight Talk cellular service. There are only a few Space Gray in stock of the 4-inch iPhone as of writing.

At Staples, there are a variety of ARKit-compatible models of the new 2017 iPads to choose from, including the 9.7-inch iPad with 32GB of storage for $299.00, down from $329.00. The iPad is available in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold. If you’re looking for more storage, there’s also the 128GB version of the same iPad on sale for $399.00, down from $429.00. The Staples discounts will continue until Saturday, September 23, while supplies last. Each of these iPads include Apple’s A9 chip with 64-bit architecture necessary to run ARKit apps.

In other deals, Walmart has a slight discount on the Apple Pencil at $89.00, down from Apple’s retail price of $99.99. Note that Apple Pencil is only compatible on iPad Pro devices, and won’t work on the 2017 9.7-inch iPad. Check out our Deals Roundup for even more sales going on this week, which includes Bluetooth speakers from Anker and Jawbone, 12 percent off Apple Watch accessories from Twelve South, and $10 off orders of $50 or more at Pad & Quill.

Related Roundups: iPhone SE, Apple Deals, iPad (2017)
Buyer’s Guide: iPhone SE (Caution), iPad (Neutral)
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