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Apple acquires AI tech that seeks to understand your photos

At WWDC this year, Apple announced that iOS11 would have a new and improved Photos app, thanks in part to machine learning and AI. Apparently some of the advancements in this technology could be due to the acquisition of Regaind, a French startup that’s known for its computer vision tech. According to TechCrunch, Apple may have purchased Regaind earlier this year.

Regaind’s computer vision API is said to have the ability to analyze the content of photos, so it’ll know to surface photos of dogs if you search for “dog”, for example. Apple’s Photos app has had this feature for a couple of years already, but the acquisition of Regaind could be key to boosting this capability even further and keeping up with Google’s machine learning-powered Photos app.

As claimed on Regaind’s website, the tech can not only figure out the content of your photos, but also their technical and aesthetic values. This is helpful for hiding duplicates, for finding the best shot in a series of burst shot photos, or for grouping images by color and events. It might make it a lot easier to find and create albums too.

Regaind facial analysis

What’s particularly interesting is that Regaind can also apparently analyze your face for gender, age and emotion, which sounds very similar to what FaceApp does. Apple could use the face analysis tech not just for doing cool selfie filter tricks like Snapchat and Instagram, but perhaps to also power its animoji feature in the upcoming iPhone X.

Source: TechCrunch,


Uber’s ex-CEO surprisingly appoints two new board members

When Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down in June, he retained his ownership stake in the company and seat on its board of directors. That made things awkward throughout the company’s search for a new CEO, and has initiated a lawsuit from Uber’s largest shareholder, Benchmark Capital. Now, the ex-CEO has suddenly appointed two new board members, apparently without notifying the rest of the company. The 10th and 11th board members are former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, and former Merrill Lynch head John Thain.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a $3.5 billion investment from a Saudi fund in 2016 gave Kalanick control of three board seats, which he has now executed. Those two seats are at issue in Benchmark’s lawsuit, presumably for this exact reason. Bloomberg reports that new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi called the appointments a “complete surprise.” The move is apparently occurring in order to head off a planned Tuesday vote that would rework the company’s corporate governance, giving Kalanick two votes on his side.

In response, Uber provided the following statement:

The appointments of Ms. Burns and Mr. Thain to Uber’s Board of Directors came as a complete surprise to Uber and its Board. That is precisely why we are working to put in place world-class governance to ensure that we are building a company every employee and shareholder can be proud of.

Ursula & John bring 50+ years of combined executive experience to @Uber’s board – helping the company become stronger now & for the future

— travis kalanick (@travisk) September 30, 2017

Source: Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, Recode, Axios


Super-thin edible sensors can monitor food temperature

Biomaterials that are rigid in form but able to degrade safely are everywhere. You can find tech like this in medical implants, environmental sensors and wearable, disposable devices. What’s harder to do, though, is to make sensors that you can digest. That’s exactly what Swiss researchers in Zurich have created, though: a thin, edible sensor that can attach to food and wirelessly report on its temperature. Now our fruits and vegetables can be part of the Internet of Things.

The research team, led by post-doc Giovanni Salvatore, reported its findings in the Advanced Functional Materials journal. These super-thin microsensors are made with a polymer created with corn and potato starch, magnesium (which humans can digest) and water-soluble silicon dioxide and nitride. At 16 micrometers thin this sensor is much thinner than a human hair, which comes in at 100 micrometers. “In preparation for transport to Europe, fish from Japan could be fitted with tiny temperature sensors,” said Salvatore in a statement, “allowing them to be continuously monitored to ensure they are kept at a cool enough temperature.” Not only do these sensors need to be edible, but they need to be pretty sturdy as they will have to stay viable even with rough food handling.

So far, the new sensors have to be connected with biodegradable cables to a micro-battery, microprocessor and transmitter, but the team is looking at ways of powering and transmitting the sensor data wirelessly, using a “biocompatible energy source.” Creating these types of biocompatible microsensors is time-intensive and expensive, too. Salvatore thinks that with more time and production, the price and labor required to produce them will decrease significantly. He notes that they would then be useful “virtually anywhere” for a variety of purposes including monitoring for gas build-up, UV exposure, or pressure.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Abstract, ETH


Google rumored to replace 2-factor with ‘Advanced Protection’ keys

According to Bloomberg, Google is close to rolling out a hardware replacement for current 2-factor authentication setups. Right now, adding the need for a constantly changing code is one of the best ways to protect your account beyond just a password, which can be guessed, stolen from another service you reused it on or obtained via phishing. The report describes an “Advanced Protection Program” that replaces two-factor codes with a pair of physical keys, presumably similar to items like a Yubikey. According to the report, users will need both keys, which includes one that plugs in via USB.

It doesn’t sound like two-factor systems with codes or push notifications are going away for everyone, however, since this is intended for “corporate executives, politicians and others with heightened security concerns.” As many organizations shift to G Suite for their services, it could be an important add-on for someone who needs security but might not be able to deal with other forms of security.

Last year’s DNC hack that took over via the Gmail account of campaign chairman John Podesta provided a clear example of how important added protections are, but many people don’t take advantage because they can seem complicated to setup. Just a few months many users were bombarded with a Google Drive-hosted phishing attack, and that won’t be the last one.

Source: Bloomberg


ZTE may unveil a dual-screen folding phone in October

Weeks ago, sources told Venturebeat’s Evan Blass that ZTE and AT&T had teamed up to release a dual-screen, unfoldable smartphone codenamed the Axon Multy. Today, Android Authority followed up with leaked screenshots of a similarly-designed phone, which sources claimed might be called the Axon M. Regardless, both sets of details imply that this is the device ZTE will announce at an anticipated press conference in NYC on October 17th.

Both reports agreed that the Axon Multy/M has dual HD screens that unfold into a 6.8-inch, 1,920 x 2,160 display. Closed, it’s less than 10mm thick, according to Venturebeat; Blass’ source noted that the smartphone will have a Snapdragon 820 chip with 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 3,120mAh battery and a single 20MP camera. Lastly, it will reportedly be available for $650 as an AT&T exclusive.

As Blass noted, the Axon Multy/M appears to have a design similar to ‘Project Valley,’ the unfolding smartphone design that Samsung aimed to release in 2017 but which has yet to materialize. Given that phone designs have settled into the flat single-touchscreen form factor for about a decade, even these reports of a new design promise something fresh. Even if, as Blass pointed out, the Axon Multy/M’s fully-unfolded 6.8-inch screen would only be half an inch larger than that on the recently-announced Galaxy Note8.

Source: Android Authority


Sphero Launches Tiny $50 ‘Sphero Mini’ Robotic Ball

Sphero, known for its line of robotic balls and droids, today launched the $50 Sphero Mini, the company’s most affordable toy yet.

Sphero Mini measures in at about 1.25 inches, making it similar in size to a ping pong ball. It’s essentially a tiny version of the original Sphero robotic ball, and it’s controlled the same way — through an app on your iPhone.

The Sphero Mini connects to an iPhone using Bluetooth and can be used for playing games, learning to code, playing with pets, and more, thanks to a built-in gyroscope, accelerometer, and LED light.

Sphero has designed a series of games that use the Mini as a controller mechanism, and with a future update, it will be programmable using the Sphero Edu app. Unique to the Mini is a Face Drive app feature that lets it be controlled via head movements and facial expressions.

Sphero Mini can glow in millions of colors with the LED lights, and it has a range of 10 meters. The battery in the Sphero Mini lasts for 45 minutes before needing to be recharged, and charging takes an hour. There are also interchangeable shells in a range of colors that can be purchased for the Mini, as well as a pins and cones accessory pack.

Sphero Mini can be purchased from the Sphero website for $49.99.

Tag: Sphero
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Finally, AR can help photographers and videographers plan that shoot

Why it matters to you

Planning a shoot becomes both simpler and more accurate when AR gets involved.

Apple iOS 11’s ARKit is bringing an parade of new augmented reality apps — including a new tool to help videographers and photographers plan their shots. Blocker is a new app developed by AfterNow that allows creatives to pre-visualize how the scene will look with the help of AR.

Like other AR apps, Blocker allows users to drag virtual objects onto real-world scenes using an iPhone camera. But Blocker aims to do more than just create a fun mixed reality world by pairing the virtual objects with tools for planning several aspects of a video or photo shoot.

Users drag a number of different characters and objects onto the scene, arranging them and then resizing to simulate a real shoot. By dragging a virtual sun around the scene, creatives can visualize how the shoot will look at a certain time of day, watching how the shadows fall on those AR objects placed in the scene.

Along with previewing how people and objects will look in the scene and imitating the scene’s lighting, Blocker also has a virtual camera that can head in the scene, too. Selecting from the list of actual real cameras and lenses, the app shows users what the shot will look like from that specific gear. Saved photos from the app are embedded with data that makes it easier to re-create the scene. While the app doesn’t preview aspects like depth of field, Blocker gives creatives an idea of what the focal length will look like.

This allows videographers and photographers both to take virtual shots to serve as inspiration during the actual shoot, and to explore camera angles ahead of time. For example, during an indoor shoot, sampling different lenses could help shooters plan to bring a wider lens to accommodate the entire scene. Those app snapshots can also be saved to share with a larger team or a client.

The mix of tools allows Blocker to work for both planning out or “blocking” the shot, as well as for storyboarding, or saving those ideas to use during the actual shoot.

“Our goal is to pull storyboarding and shot blocking into the real world, so that it’s intuitive and expressive,” said Jesse Vander Does, AfterNow director of technology.

Blocker is available for devices with iOS 11 (iPhone 6s and iPad fifth generation and later) from the App Store. The initial download is free, while the full version with a “complete camera” is a $50 in-app purchase.


Ultimate stress test? Simple Habit mindfulness app gets pitched on ‘Shark Tank’

Why it matters to you

Mindfulness is one of the hottest trends at the moment, but you need to choose the right app to really understand and feel the benefits. Simple Habit claims to be that app.

“I simply don’t have time.” How often do you reach that conclusion? If you’re like us, then the answer is pretty often. So if it was suggested that you take a few moments to meditate each day, you might laugh it off as an impossibility. Simple Habit is an app that understands the problem, but also knows the benefits of meditation, and therefore makes it easy to squeeze the practice into your daily routine.

Simple Habit features 5-minute mindfulness meditation plans, which can be listened to over headphones anytime and anywhere. The guided sessions are run by experienced meditation teachers, and although 5 minutes may sound like a short time for meditation — we often consider such a practice to involve siting cross-legged on the floor for hours — the benefits from short sessions are many.

What are these benefits? The app promises better sleep, more focus, improved memory, and — crucially — less stress. It’s that final benefit that led Yunha Kim, CEO and founder of Simple Habit, to create the app in the first place. She discovered meditation when her stress level was at its highest while running her previous startup, Locket. She says learning to meditate “changed the way I dealt with stress.”

Now, she wants others with busy lives to reap the same rewards. It’s claimed that just one Simple Habit session can help focus attention, but to really get the best from the app, it requires some dedication. Simple Habit says 5 minutes a day for two to four weeks will really supercharge the initial effect.

Simple Habit vs. The Sharks

Appearing on television would be considered relatively stressful by most people, with making a 5-minute presentation on Shark Tank ranking as one of the most nerve-wracking situations of that type — but that’s exactly what Simple Habit’s founder is doing on Sunday, October 1. However, when you’re pitching a mindfulness app, you may be in a better position than many.

Founder Yunha Kim told Digital Trends: “I felt nervous during the countdown before the door opened and I walked out on to the stage in front of the Sharks. Thankfully, I did use Simple Habit’s Public Speaking meditation and Calm Nerves meditation beforehand. They helped me feel more focused, calm, and clear-headed amidst all that happened next.”

Appearing in the premiere episode of the new season, Kim has the incredibly difficult job of pitching Simple Habit not just to Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, and Daymond John; but also to guest Shark Richard Branson. In a tweet from the official Shark Tank Twitter account, we get a glimpse of what to expect during the Simple Habit segment.

Emotions run high in our special two-hour season premiere, Sunday at 8|7c on ABC! #SharkTank

— Shark Tank (@ABCSharkTank) September 29, 2017

It’s great to see an app make it to the show, especially when it’s one we already enjoy. The episode will air on ABC at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Sunday, October 1.

Availability and price

Initially exclusive to Apple’s iOS operating system, Simple Habit is now available for Android, and as a web app. The mobile apps are free to download, but to really enjoy the app, you’ll need to pay a subscription. For both iOS and Android, it’s $12 per month, or $100 per year. If you’re really keen, a $300 one-off payment gets you a lifetime subscription. Sessions can also be purchased individually for less.

The app is packed with content. Meditations address everything from getting better sleep to getting over a breakup, and the available sessions total two years worth of content, with more added each week. Sessions can last for 5, 10, or 20 minutes, and there are many different guides, so you’re not always listening to the same person. Beyond the meditation aspect, the app includes podcasts, a calendar to track progress, monthly challenges, and reminders to get meditating.


Don’t worry if all this sounds like hokum. There are several studies that show mindfulness mediation can not only reduce stress and anxiety levels, but also to train the brain to get better at multitasking, and to free it creatively.

Simple Habit predates Apple’s Breathe feature inside WatchOS 3, which uses similar principles. The Apple Watch app presents breathing exercises, designed to help improve focus and reduce stress. It’s a standard feature on the new Apple Watch Series 3, and Watch OS 4 prompts you via notifications to try out the app. Breathe is basic though, and Simple Habit provides a far greater introduction to mindfulness.

Created with the help of a Harvard psychologist and several mediation teachers, Simple Habit has sessions designed for everyone. Kim told Digital Trends that a surgeon used the app with success during the early beta test, “to focus better before performing surgery.” If that’s not a glowing recommendation, we don’t know what is.

In the first six months after Simple Habit’s release, people in 115 countries have used it to meditate for a total of 20,000 hours.

Download for iOS

Update: Simple Habit visits the Shark Tank in the premiere episode of its latest season on October 1.


YouTubers test iPhone 8 durability by brutally destroying it in clever ways

Earlier this month, Apple finally unveiled the much anticipated iPhone 8. The latest iteration looks similar to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, however, the iPhone 8 boasts an aluminum band along the edge, a glass back panel, and allegedly “the most durable glass ever in a smartphone,” according to Apple. That’s certainly quite the claim, but just how sturdy is the new iPhone?

Well, don’t worry, folks, the humans of the internet are on the case. In true conspicuous consumption fashion, people around the globe are intentionally destroying the $700 phone to perform an iPhone 8 durability test in the name of science (and perhaps that ever elusive next “like”). Be it death by sledgehammer, Louisville Slugger, or hydraulic press, these are our favorite iPhone 8 destruction videos so far.

If watching people destroy iPhones in a litany of clever ways is your thing, you’re in luck because we’ve also curated a similar roundup of humans systematically pummeling the iPhone 7. And just in case you destroy your phone unintentionally and not as part of a rather ornate and expensive YouTube campaign, here’s how to backup an iPhone without iTunes in advance.

iPhone liquid nitrogen test

Liquid nitrogen has a temperature of about negative 320 degrees Fahrenheit. For the sake of perspective, that’s just a smidgen warmer than the surface of Pluto. After the phone steeps in the liquid nitrogen for a few seconds, the back panel pops off and the screen goes blank. The host removes the phone from the bowl and gives it a little thaw with a heat gun and the phone actually turns on after a short delay and the display still responds to touch.

After a second dunking, the phone again turns on. The display still responds to touch albeit with a significant delay. Nonetheless, it looks like your iPhone 8 can withstand not one but two liquid nitrogen pool party mishaps and perhaps a quick jaunt around a space rock within the Kuiper Belt.

iPhone 8 ultimate destruction test

As the old adage goes, you never leave a job half done and YouTuber Jhasio YT certainly follows through on this credo until the iPhone 8 is pulverized into itty bitty pieces. The host chisels the iPhone 8 with a glass knife, crushes it with a hydraulic press, axes it, slugs the thing with a baseball bat, douses it in gasoline, sets it on fire, and even drowns it in Coca-Cola for good measure. And all of this is set to the cartoonish score of Giuseppe Verdi’s three-act opera La Traviata. This YouTuber even went through the motions of cooking an egg on the back of the iPhone 8 using only the heat produced by the internal battery because apparently that can be done. Go crazy, folks. Can your Android do that? Probably.

iPhone 8 scratch test

If there’s one person out there who knows how to strategically obliterate a gadget in a myriad of ways, it’s YouTube sensation TechRax, and now that there’s a new iPhone to be murdered, our boy is back to doing what he does best. TechRax performs a series of test to see just how rugged the latest iPhone iteration really is. He stabs it, beats it to death with a hammer, and even slices and dices the phone like julienne fries until the thing is annihilated. We can only hope the judge takes it easy on him, this is obviously a crime of passion.

iPhone 8 bend test

In this destruction video, EverythingApplePro attempts to bend both an iPhone 7 and an iPhone 8 to juxtapose the durability of each. In just a matter of seconds, the host breaks the iPhone 7 in half — even bending the lithium ion battery — and then humblebrags that he underestimated his own strength. However, he is eventually humbled by the iPhone 8. After many uncomfortable grunts and heaves, the iPhone 8 is left unbent and unscathed despite his most valiant efforts. Get your reps up, EverythingApplePro.

iPhone 8 water test

In this video, Mrwhosetheboss runs the iPhone 8 through a number of tests to gauge its alleged IP67 water-resistant rating. He dunks the device in water at various depths for different increments of time and, in the end, it appears as though Apple’s IP67 rating is actually a little conservative. Do with that information as you please.

Now that the dust has settled it would be only fitting that we know tell you about our picks for the best cases to protect your iPhone 7, iPhone 8, and iPhone X.


Apple rolls out iOS 11.1 developer and public beta, makes subtle changes

Why it matters to you

If you’re part of the developer or public beta testing group, you can now download iOS 11.1. While it doesn’t come with any major features, you’ll find updated icons and new animations.

Last week, Apple launched its latest mobile operating system — iOS 11 — complete with a variety of new features. Since then, the company has rolled out its beta of iOS 11.1 to both developers and its public testing group.

While it doesn’t come with any major changes, some discrete adjustments have been added. One of them includes three emoji options under the predictive text options within your built-in keyboard, rather than one. For example, if you type the word “love,” you will have more than one heart emoji to choose from to send in a message.

Under Accessibility, there is also more custom actions to choose from in order to allow you to interact with the AssistiveTouch icon, 9to5Mac notes. Aside from the already existent 3D touch, you now assign different gestures to the Single-Tap, Double-Tap, and Long-Press options. When you tap on one of them, it will bring you to a list of different features to tap over to such as Apple Pay, screenshot, or volume control.

You will notice the AssistiveTouch button received updated icons too, which does not look completely different other than Siri and gestures. When opening the button, it will open wherever you move it to on the screen rather than automatically in the middle. Other changes include a tweaked camera icon — under the Restrictions section through Settings –along with an updated animation when unlocking the phone.

It’s clear the iOS 11.1 beta focuses a lot on animation. After tapping on a notification at the top of your screen, the app window now sinks a little deeper before switching to another app. Content also moves more fluidly when scrolling up to the top of the screen on a web page after tapping the status bar.

Not on the list for the latest public beta is Apple Pay Cash, which is reportedly due to come out by late October. Another feature missing from the list is iCloud support for Messages, which could be available in future betas instead.

Even though iOS 11.1 doesn’t include many changes, there is still tons to learn on iOS 11. From a redesigned control center to an entirely new App Store, the mobile operating system still has plenty of new features.

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