Bringing a shipwreck back to life with photogrammetry
A little over 76 years ago, the British merchant steam ship SS Thistlegorm was sunk by a WW II German bomber off the coast of Egypt, taking nine souls down with it. It has only been seen in detail by divers, but a new website from the University of Nottingham and Egypt’s Alexandria Universities lets you experience the shipwreck via immersive 3D models and 360-degree VR videos.
The underwater photogrammetry study is one of the first to use 360-degree, 3D video. Divers carried 360-degree Kolor GoPro Abyss rigs, each with six individual cameras shooting 4K Ultra HD footage. To create a 360-degree virtual “guided tour” of the ship (below), the team mounted the Abyss system on the front of an underwater scooter. Each dive captured 50GB of data, for a total of 1.5TB of footage.
“For me, 360 video is a big step forward as it recreates the diving experience,” said University of Nottingham project director Dr. Jon Henderson. “You can get the impression of swimming over it and through the internal parts of the wreck.”
To build the 3D model shown at top, the team took over 15,668 images to capture the external model of the ship and seabed, along with 11,164 interior images for the deck, holds, captain’s cabin and other areas. It took 65 days of continuous computer processing to build the five survey models.
The wreck is one of the world’s most popular scuba sites, which has created a somewhat urgent need to preserve it digitally. “Aside from looting the main issue we have is a lot of the dive boats that go out there are actually mooring on to the wreck itself because there is nowhere else to go,” Henderson said. “We have seen some boats tying on to more fragile areas, including the guns, the bridge and the railings — which can cause damage.”
The Thistlegorm survey is part of Presence in the Past, a wider archaeological study financed by the UK’s £735 million ($970 million) Newton Fund. It was also created in cooperation with UNESCO’s “Rising from the Depths” underwater preservation effort.
“Nine men died on the SS Thistlegorm, five Royal Navy gunners and four merchant sailors, just a small part of the 35,000 out of 135,000 Merchant Navy sailors that gave their lives during the war,” Dr. Henderson said. “In the Merchant Navy one in four men did not come back – that’s the highest proportion of all the fighting forces.”
Amazon’s ‘Pilot Season’ returns November 10th
It’s that time of year again: Amazon is premiering its fall batch of series pilots on November 10th. And this season, the focus is definitely on the star power involved. The highlight is likely Sea Oak, the undead comedy starring Glenn Close — she plays an aunt who comes back as a zombie out of “sheer force of dissatisfaction” with the rest of her family. It touts author George Saunders as its creator and Atlanta’s Hiro Murai as director, so it could be in good hands.
Not that the other shows will be slouches. Love You More stars cabaret’s Bridget Everett (as a “big personality” with a “big heart”) and has legendary comedian Bobcat Goldthwait in the director’s chair. The Climb, meanwhile, has The Last OG’s Diarra Kilpatrick both creating and starring in a comedy about pursuing the American Dream in a “rapidly changing” Detroit with Star’s Chris Robinson as the director.
As you might expect, you’ll have to watch the pilots on Prime Video. There’s no mention of access on Twitch or other services. However, it’s telling that Amazon can name-drop major stars like Glenn Close during pilot seasons — it’s influential enough that it doesn’t always need to sign special deals to attract A-list talent.
Microsoft’s Learning Tools for students heads to Word on iPad
With its Learning Tools, Microsoft has developed a few ways to make it easier for students to get a better handle on reading and writing. One tool, for example, can read your words aloud and help you identify common grammatical issues. Another, called Immersive Reading, can also read text aloud while highlighting it in “focused” view (where words are spaced out in a distraction-free environment). The Learning Tools started out as a OneNote plug-in, but Microsoft has steadily expanded it to Office apps on desktops, mobile and the web. Today, the company announced they’re headed to Word for iPad.
To begin with, the iPad Word app will get some basic capabilities from the Immersive Reading tool. It’ll recite text out loud while highlighting individual words, and you can also change the word, character and line spacing to make it easier to comprehend. They’re the sort of features that could help anyone focus. But, in particular, they could be essential for students with ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia or those just learning how to read. The feature will also work for every language supported by Word for iPad.
Additionally, Microsoft unveiled a new study today, produced by RTI International’s Center for Evaluation & Study of Educational Equity, that shows its Learning Tools get results in real classrooms. One key takeaway: Students using Learning Tools gained 10 percentile points on average in reading comprehension, while those who weren’t using them dropped by 0.62 points.
“Teachers observed that having text read aloud to their students, regardless of grade level or reading ability, helped readers to focus on the ideas in the text,” wrote the study’s author, Katherine McKnight, PhD. “For struggling readers, features such as highlighted words and word spacing, the pacing of the voice, the gender of the voice, background color, font size, and parts of speech helped to improve reading mechanics.”
Dr. McKnight also notes that the high comprehension gains could be partially due to the lower reading levels in the testing group. Typically, there’s more room for growth when you’re starting low. And since the study didn’t control for differences in how students learned to read in the test cohort, compared to historical data, she can’t claim that Learning Tools led to the improved comprehension specifically.
Learning Tools is also available for free across OneNote’s apps, Word on the web and desktop, Outlook on the web, and in the Office Lens app on iOS. Microsoft’s Edge browser also recently gained the ability to read any webpage aloud with the Windows 10 Fall Creator’s Update.
Nintendo’s next Direct is all about ‘Animal Crossing’ on your phone
Nintendo is ready to spill the beans about its upcoming Animal Crossing mobile game. On Wednesday at 11 PM Eastern / 8 PM Pacific, the company will hold one of its trademark Direct events where it’ll spend 15 minutes talking about the upcoming life-sim and nothing else. Last time Nintendo mentioned the game, it was to announce a delay. In January, Nintendo said that the planned mobile incarnation would arrive sometime between this April and next March. Now we have two days to speculate exactly when Tom Nook will start negging us about our house’s feng shui.
What is the future of Puerto Rico’s energy grid?
Delivering power to the inhabitants of a small island is a very different challenge to the sort found in other places. Resource poverty can mean that vital supplies need to be brought in, either by air or sea, purchased at a premium. The environment often offers its own bundle of problems, including the fact that the prevalence of salt water often corrodes mechanical equipment. Fast-growing vegetation and rocky terrain can compound the issue, making power networks hard to build and maintain.
All of these factors combine to ensure that you’re spending a small fortune just to keep the lights on. It also ensured that, when Hurricane Maria struck, Puerto Rico was incapable of properly dealing with the resulting fallout. CNN reports that 3 million people are still without electricity and a million have no access to clean running water a month after the natural disaster. There are very reasonable fears that a far larger public-health crisis is looming.
Puerto Rico will need billions to rebuild its crushed infrastructure, and it’s reasonable to ask what that is going to look like. Time describes the crisis as a “big opportunity” for renewables, as the island could build a brand new grid to 21st-century standards and embrace green energy. That would harden its infrastructure against future crises, improve quality of life and, hopefully, cut costs to the consumer.
As we explained in our extensive piece on Puerto Rico’s energy crisis, the island was already in a pretty bad state. The territory is not connected to the mainland, making it entirely reliant on others for its power needs. It generates power with a series of diesel generators, the fuel for which is shipped in on a regular basis. The costs of fuel are high and the equipment that burns it is, on average, 44 years old. PREPA, which runs the island’s power, is $9 billion in debt, and has said that its hardware is “degraded and unsafe.”
The aged grid has another problem, which is that upward of 80 percent of its overhead power-transmission lines have been damaged. As FiveThirtyEight explains, these lines often run through high mountain regions where access by road is either poor or nonexistent. Rapidly growing plant matter, which routinely disrupts cabling and other parts of the grid, hasn’t helped. As a consequence, it would be an enormous folly to rebuild Puerto Rico’s grid in the image of the existing one, not that the island can afford to do so.
PREPA, which runs the island’s power, is $9 billion in debt, and has said that its hardware is “degraded and unsafe.”
The most obvious solution, and the one that is favored by Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Roselló, is to build a series of microgrids. He told Time: “We can start dividing Puerto Rico into different regions, and then start developing microgrids.” The official added that while it wouldn’t solve the island’s power crisis entirely, it would help to get things moving far faster.
And that’s essentially what a microgrid is: A way of decentralizing energy generation and localizing it to avoid the issues surrounding transmission over long distances. Rather than an island-wide power grid, each area would have its own generation and storage capacity. Such a system would be ideal for Puerto Rico, because it would negate having to reconstruct transmission lines across dangerous terrain. It would also massively reduce the island’s reliance on imported fossil fuels for energy, with the financial and logistical savings therein. In addition, there would be an improved resilience, because there would be fewer obvious points of failure when the next climate-induced disaster strikes.
We’ve already seen microgrids in action, especially on Ta’ū Island in American Samoa, which Tesla switched to solar power last year. Much like Puerto Rico, the island was previously powered by diesel engines that consumed 300 gallons of fuel per day, costing a small fortune for residents. Tesla replaced the existing infrastructure in favor of a 1.4MW solar array, comprising 5,328 solar panels and 60 Powerpacks. The batteries hold 6MWh of power, enough to run the island for three totally sunless days at a time. In addition, the system can recharge from dry to full in a little under seven hours of sunlight.
Ta’ū is a small test case, with just 600 inhabitants and (relatively) good geography that enabled the solar farm to be installed close by. But Tesla has also built larger solar and battery plants, like its facility on the Hawaiian island of Kauai that handles the island’s power needs at night. Kauai has a population of just under 68,000 and so its energy needs are commensurately higher than on Ta’ū. The Kauai facility has a 13MW solar farm connected to a 53MWh Powerpack power storage setup and the early indications are that these systems work.
Tesla has already shipped hundreds of its Powerwall battery systems to the island nation in an attempt to aid the recovery effort. Elon Musk has also been negotiating with Ricardo Roselló in the hope of building a future partnership. The South African billionaire has said that the company can do a similar job as on Kauai and Ta’ū because its systems have no “scalability limit.”
The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 5, 2017
In theory, the system would involve Tesla supplying solar panels and battery-storage panels to parts of the island, broken down by geographic region. Looking at the island, it seems feasible that the company could equip coastal cities like Ponce and San Juan in a similar fashion to its earlier projects. But doing so would theoretically reduce the island’s dependency on fossil fuels and cut costs to consumers.
But there are those who believe that Tesla’s reach may extend far beyond its grasp when it comes to a national network of microgrids. MIT Technology Review’s Jamie Condliffe believes that the company’s claims may not stand up to scrutiny and could potentially fail when put into practice. Specifically, he takes issue with the notion that lithium-ion batteries could be used to store and distribute baseload power. Baseload is, essentially, the constant stream of energy required by an electric grid that needs to operate continuously.
Lithium-ion batteries have a limit to the number of times their cells can be charged and discharged before they start to degrade. There’s no fixed rule, but Tesla guarantees its (smaller) Powerpack battery for 10 years, and a rule of thumb is that a battery can stand around 5,000 cycles before degrading. In a domestic setting, a battery would likely last around 13 years before becoming unusable. But would such a system work to provide the backbone of a system supplying an island of 3.4 million people?
Then there are the up-front costs, which would be prohibitive for Puerto Rico even if it is likely to recoup the cash over time. A 2015 report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory believes that in 2014, Puerto Rico’s peak demand was 3,685MW. Our back-of-the-envelope math figures that, if each Powerpack has an output of 50kWh, you’d need around 15,000MWh to serve that peak demand.
Ricardo Arduengo / AFP / Getty
Tesla is building a battery project in South Australia that will have a total capacity of 129MWh and is priced at around $32 million. It’s reasonable to estimate that a comparable facility in Puerto Rico would need to be over 100 times as big, so it’s likely to cost upward of $3.2 billion for the batteries alone, not factoring in the hardware to actually generate electricity. Unfortunately, we wanted to put these figures directly to Tesla, which declined to speak to Engadget for this article.
Renewable-based microgrids are not the only way that Puerto Rico could rebuild and refashion its power infrastructure. The Department of Energy has eyes on using the island as a testing ground for a number of innovations proposed by the department’s in-house laboratories. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee was told that the DoE has plans for both upgraded generation and transmission systems. Assistant Secretary of Energy Bruce Walker told the committee about plans for a “collapsible” electric grid that could be taken down when high winds were threatened.
Secretary Rick Perry, meanwhile, told a Clean Energy panel that the government can build very small nuclear reactors that can be deployed in emergencies. These reactors, as explained by Bloomberg BNA, would generate only between 50 and 600MW of energy. Their relative size is also used by proponents to show how much safer they are than large-scale nuclear plants. The only problem with the small nuclear strategy is timing, because it’s believed that the first workable models aren’t expected to be ready until the mid-2020s.
Thankfully, we already have a template outlining what a 21st-century electric grid should be, thanks to the Obama-era White House. In June 2011, a paper explaining the future of the electricity grid was published outlining how government and companies could work together. The paper believes that smarter grids with better demand management are a key to both improving resilience and reducing wastage.
The only problem with the small nuclear strategy is timing, since it’s believed that the first workable models aren’t expected to be ready until the mid-2020s.
For instance, it is commonplace to overbuild energy-generation capacity (and overgenerate power) to satisfy peak demand. On a hot day in Texas, for instance, additional power plants are activated to cope with the extra demand from everyone turning on their air conditioners to full. Similarly, the harsher the winter in Alaska, the more capacity is required to make sure everyone’s heating is working.
But smarter grids that reroute generated energy to where it is needed, with battery storage to fill in when demand peaks, help reduce the need for more power stations. The report posits that, if implemented, a more-efficient transmission network could negate the construction of up to 90 large power plants in the US. The paper also outlines methods for providers to manage demand better by encouraging folks to reschedule their activities to off-peak times. That may be an issue in Puerto Rico, however, where the locals are used to depressed charges for power — simply because very few have the ability to pay more.
That really becomes the killer issue, which is that, for all of the techno-utopian hope that Puerto Rico can emerge from this crisis better equipped, reality often gets in the way. The indebted island simply does not have the ability to invest this amount of cash in new infrastructure.
There’s also the issue that money intended for the rebuilding effort may not be directed to the best places or toward the right people. Whitefish Energy Holdings has announced that it has signed a deal with the island, worth $300 million, to restore power to the island. In a statement, the company said that it has sent 300 employees and subcontractors to Puerto Rico to help restore power to the island. In addition, a further 700 people will be sent to the island in the near future to provide additional support.
Here’s our latest update on our efforts in #PuertoRico pic.twitter.com/jOICYIuMv6
— Whitefish Energy (@WhitefishEnergy) October 19, 2017
But an investigation by The Weather Channel has raised questions over why Whitefish was handed the contract. The business is described as a “2-year-old consultancy” that was “hired outside the usual channels for the job.” Apparently. Puerto Rico refused mutual aid from the American Public Power Association and made the deal without the involvement of the US Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA.
It is too early, and there is too much work to be done, to believe that people aren’t working full pelt to save Puerto Rico and its power grid. But it remains to be seen if the island can, somehow, emerge from this crisis as a shining beacon for renewable energy in the 21st century.
Image: Ricardo Arduengo / AFP / Getty (Solar panels)
FBI tried and failed to unlock 7,000 encrypted devices
In an 11-month period, the FBI failed to gain access to around 7,000 encrypted mobile devices, BBC News reports, which is about half of those targeted by the agency according to FBI Director Christopher Wray. In a speech given at the Association of Chiefs of Police conference yesterday, he said that device encryption was “a huge, huge problem,” for the agency.
The FBI publicly went after Apple following the 2015 San Bernardino terror attack as it sought access to the shooter’s locked iPhone 5c — a request that Apple staunchly refused. It eventually got around the issue by paying an undisclosed vendor reportedly $900,000 for software that gave the agency access to the phone. While that incident garnered a lot of attention, it certainly wasn’t the first time the FBI made it clear that encrypted smartphones were a headache for the agency. In 2014, then Director James Comey said that secure communications could lead to “a very dark place” and called on Congress to change the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act accordingly. Further, while the FBI presented the San Bernardino attacker’s phone as a special case of national security, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Justice was pursuing nine similar requests around the same time.
Wray said at the conference, “I get it, there’s a balance that needs to be struck between encryption and the importance of giving us the tools we need to keep the public safe.” But as cybersecurity expert Alan Woodward told BBC News, encryption is here to stay. “Encryption that frustrates forensic investigations will be a fact of life from now on for law enforcement agencies,” he said. “Even if the equipment manufacturers didn’t build in such encryption it would be possible to obtain software that encrypted data in the same way.”
Source: BBC News
‘Stranger Things 2’ basically gives everyone a cellphone
The second season of Stranger Things takes place in 1984, in a carefully curated world of mullets, muscle cars and arcades. Pick any scene, study it closely, and the obsessive attention to detail becomes clear: Yard signs proudly read, “Reagan/Bush ’84;” Family Feud plays on a bulbous TV screen beneath rabbit-ear antennae; soda cans are scrawled with the era-appropriate logos. The clothes are right, the hair is right (yet so, so wrong), and Stranger Things 2’s universe works perfectly as a 1980s nostalgia bomb. It all makes sense.
However, some of these details serve a purpose beyond world-building. The communication gadgets in Stranger Things 2 — walkie-talkies, a police radio and a video camera, specifically — aren’t simply clever nods to a bygone 8-bit time. These pieces of technology drive the story and shape the main characters on a fundamental level. They’re not just nostalgia. They’re necessary.
And, taken together, the walkie-talkies, radio and camcorder serve as a handy stand-in for a contemporary mode of communication: the cellphone.
While we’ve tried to avoid any spoilers in this story, the following article does refer to scenes and themes throughout the season.
Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer were born in 1984, meaning their formative years were spent on the cusp of the cellphone boom. They were 16 when the Nokia 3310 hit the market and 20 when the Motorola Razr came out. For the past decade or so, they’ve lived with the rest of us in a post-cellphone world, with instant, constant access to reliable voice, text and visual communication tools.
It’s possible that the ubiquity of cellphones in our lives has altered the way we — and the Duffer brothers — think about the past. Cellphones are so ingrained in our daily routines (often the first thing we look at in the morning and the last thing we see at night) that it’s easy to think it’s always been like this. Modern cellphone technology didn’t exist in 1984, but subconsciously, we still want the people of that time period to behave as if they had supercomputers in their pockets. New habits die hard.
Cellphones are also brilliant for storytelling purposes, at least when it comes to connecting characters and pushing the plot forward. The Duffer brothers aren’t the only directors to use walkie-talkies and other ’80s gadgets as rudimentary mobile phones, but Stranger Things 2 leans heavily on these tools. The main characters essentially end up using cellphones in every episode.
Take the first time we see the kids, for example: Dustin is running around his house, collecting quarters for the arcade and scheming with the gang on their walkie-talkies. In a modern-day version of Stranger Things 2, those bulky bricks would be Windows Phones (and at one point, the camera would linger just a second too long on one of the screens, Microsoft’s logo in clear view).
Dustin even connects his walkie-talkie to a headset, running around the city of Hawkins and talking to his friends hands-free. This is in a time when pagers were just catching on — and here’s this 13-year-old dweeb standing at the edge of the forest, having a crystal-clear, hands-free conversation with one of his best friends who’s miles away.
Walkie-talkies are pivotal to the season’s pacing, allowing the kids to easily communicate with one another and giving them the power to drive the story. It’d be easy to simply hand the kids this technology without addressing the apparent magic at work, but the Duffer brothers fold the gadgets into the characters themselves. Will, Mike, Lucas and Dustin are all noted nerds, but Dustin is especially curious — and he makes the walkie-talkies fit in this world.
Dustin is in AV club with the rest of the kid crew, but he’s also the DM of their Dungeons & Dragons game with an encyclopedic knowledge of that universe’s lore. He’s a bookworm and holds the top score on Centipede at the local arcade. His mom isn’t surprised when he says he added a motor to the ghost trap he built for his Ghostbusters costume — to make it look like there’s a ghost rattling around inside, of course.
Dustin isn’t technologically savvy simply to round out his character bio — his know-how explains away the gadgets that propel Stranger Things 2 into a rapid-fire thriller. With Dustin on the squad, long-range, reliable walkie-talkies aren’t a total stretch.
Walkie-talkies are just one piece of the cellphone puzzle in Stranger Things 2. Police chief Jim Hopper communicates with the kids via his radio, using Morse code to tap out messages in starts and stops. It sounds a bit like texting, when you put it that way — but Morse code is an old, established form of communication. It’s inelegant yet reliable, a lot like Hopper himself. And, just like the good detective, Morse code plays a critical role in the second season’s story.
Modern cellphones wouldn’t be complete without a video camera, and neither is Stranger Things 2. One of the series’ newcomers, Bob (played by Sean Astin), introduces a JVC camcorder to the Byers family, allowing Will to accidentally capture a significant encounter on film. If Stranger Things 2 were set in 2017, Will would’ve simply recorded this scene on his cellphone. But in 1984, the Duffer brothers needed to give Will a reason to have a camcorder in the first place — and so they gave him Bob, another nerd whose mere existence explains away some of Stranger Things 2’s cellphone-style tech.
The JVC plays into Bob’s personality perfectly. He’s a small-town genius with a map of Hawkins in his head, working a cushy job at RadioShack. He had to be, in order for the camcorder to make sense.
Once it’s in the Byers’ house, the JVC allows Will’s mom, Joyce, to express her newfound happiness with Bob. Through the camera’s lens, Bob and Joyce laugh and flirt; their budding romance is captured in grainy VHS footage that’s instantly relatable to viewers who grew up without professional-grade cameras in their pockets. The JVC grounds Stranger Things 2 in the ’80s while believably growing Bob and Joyce as rich characters with the potential to lead happy lives, if monsters from another dimension weren’t trying to destroy everything they love.
Stranger Things 2’s nostalgia works because it makes sense. The walkie-talkies, police radio and camcorder aren’t there to simply fill space or jog the audience’s memory — they all serve specific, crucial purposes in the overall story. More than that, these tools belong in these people’s hands. The characters of Stranger Things 2 were crafted to create a robust, nerd-infused universe filled with throwback technology. They were crafted to support a cellphone-style ecosystem — in 1984.
Play the first set of original Xbox games on the Xbox One tomorrow
In terms of new software, Microsoft doesn’t have much to offer Xbox One owners this holiday unless you want to play the fourth Forza in as many years. What it does have though, are a baker’s dozen of games from the original Xbox. Some we already knew about like Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge and Xbox launch title Fuzion Frenzy, but there are a few surprises as well.
Like Black, Burnout developer Criterion’s first (and excellent) stab at first-person shooters and Grabbed by the Ghoulies, the quirky game Rare released after being bought by Microsoft back in 2002 for $375 million. Here’s the full list:
- BloodRayne 2
- Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge
- Dead to Rights
- Fuzion Frenzy
- Grabbed by the Ghoulies
- The King of Fighters Neowave
- Ninja Gaiden Black
- Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
- Red Faction II
- Sid Meier’s Pirates!
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
As IGN notes, playing the Bush-era games on your Xbox One boosts the resolution to 1080p, and offers widescreen support for certain games in addition to system link multiplayer. If you have your old discs laying around, simply pop them in your console to gain access starting tomorrow. And, if you’ve lost them in past 15 years, fret not because they’ll be available to download for $10 each.
Google Launches New Android-Based Mobile App Payment Solution ‘Pay With Google’
Google today announced the launch of its new mobile app payment platform “Pay with Google,” following a sneak peek of the feature during its I/O conference this past May. Using Pay with Google, Android smartphone owners can access any of the credit or debit cards they’ve added to their Google Account — sourcing products like Google Play, YouTube, Chrome, and Android Pay — and quickly choose these cards to purchase items in apps.
When the Pay with Google button is available, Google sends the merchant each user’s payment info and shipping address based on the information from their Google Account, so users don’t have to type in any additional information. Then, according to Google, the merchant will handle the rest of the checkout process “just like any other purchase.”
If you’ve ever paid for something on your phone or tablet, you know just how frustrating checkout can be. Maybe you had to fill in a bunch of forms. Maybe your session timed out. Maybe you encountered an error and had to start all over again. Back in May, we shared a sneak peek of how paying with Google would help you skip all that. And starting today you can now speed through online checkout on many of your favorite apps and websites with a few quick clicks.
Paying with Google makes checkout so fast and easy, you can make the most of every moment—whether you’re grabbing a dinner spot or a parking spot.
There are a few app launch partners, including DoorDash, Dice, Yelp Eat24, Fancy, Gametime, Hotel Urbano, Instacart, Kayak, Postmates, Wish, and more. Pay with Google uses the Google Payment API, which has launched globally — making it available in Brazil with partners like iFood — but still requires merchants to support the API in their apps.
Google said that its partnership with various payment providers will make integration with the new platform “even simpler.” At launch these include Adyen, Braintree, Vantiv, and Stripe. Like merchant support, Google will be adding more payment providers in the future.
Besides Pay with Google, which focuses on online shopping within mobile apps, Android smartphone owners have had the contactless payments solution Android Pay over the past few years. Similar to Apple Pay, Android Pay fuels checkouts both in stores and online, stores multiple cards, and is exclusive to its platform. The next major addition to Apple Pay will be peer-to-peer payments with Apple Pay Cash, coming in a future update to iOS 11.
Tags: Google, Android
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Apple’s Jeff Williams Speaks About Artificial Intelligence and More at TSMC’s 30th Anniversary Ceremony
Apple’s operating chief Jeff Williams was in Taiwan today to attend the 30th anniversary ceremony of Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation, more commonly abbreviated as TSMC. There, he spoke about artificial intelligence, the future of the semiconductor industry, and more.
Williams first reflected on how Apple and TSMC began working together seven years ago. Today, TSMC is the exclusive supplier of the A10X Fusion and A11 Bionic processors in the latest iPhones and iPads.
First off, thank you. It’s a real honor to be here with this distinguished group, and we’re here of course to celebrate TSMC’s 30 years. And it’s amazing as you’ve seen in the slides, how far technology has been driven over that time. TSMC got its start shortly after the introduction of the legendary Cray II supercomputer, and 25 years later we put this same processing power in people’s pockets with an iPhone 4 in 2010. It really is remarkable, and it was actually 2010 that the first seeds of our partnership between Apple and TSMC were planted.
I had flown to Taiwan and had dinner with Dr. Chang and Sophie at their house. It was a wonderful dinner. We were not doing business with TSMC at the time, but we had a great conversation. We talked about the possibilities of doing stuff together, and we knew the possibilities would be great if we could take leading edge technology and marry it with our ambitions. And what seems obvious now, wasn’t then, because the risk was very substantial.
The nature of the way Apple does business is we put all of our energy into our new products, and we launch them, and if we were to bet heavily on TSMC, there would be no backup plan. You can not double plan the kind volumes that we do. We want leading edge technology, but we want it at established technology kind of volumes, and so that may be want Dr. Chang is referring to when he says “intense.”
Williams said Apple and TSMC have gone on to ship over half a billion chips as part of a “wonderful partnership” between the two companies, in which billions of dollars has been invested to fulfill Apple’s significant production demands.
…Together we decided to take the bet, take the leap, and Apple decided to have 100 percent of our new iPhone and new iPad chips, application processors, sourced at TSMC. And TSMC invested $9 billion and had 6,000 people working ’round the clock to bring up a Tainan fab in a record 11 months. And, in the end, the execution was flawless. And we’ve gone on together to ship over half a billion chips together in that short window. And I think TSMC has invested $25 billion. $9 billion on that first venture — there are very few companies in the world that $9 billion in capital across everything, not a single bet. So for that, we thank you, Dr. Chang, and everybody at TSMC. It’s been a wonderful partnership.
Williams was asked to describe his vision of the next ten years in silicon, but he chose to reframe the question as “do we have enough processing power in our silicon to match our ambitions?” and answered accordingly.
It’s interesting, when we look back a decade ago, the question we had was “do we have enough processing power in our silicon to match our ambitions?” The big challenge we had as we moved into the mobile revolution was this tradeoff between performance and power, and the view at the time is you had to choose — you’ve got one or the other.
Largely as a result of what the fabless model has done, what TSMC has done, what many people in this room have done, Simon and his organization from ARM — we have reached a point where those tradeoffs are not necessary. We have performance in thermally constrained environments. And so this opens up for the next decade a whole new world. So for the next decade, the question is not so much “Do we have enough processing power to meet our ambitions?” Though we need to keep working, of course we need to drive better lithography — don’t slow down! — but I think the question for us is “Do we have the right ambitions to go utilize this technology in front of us?”
Williams went on to say that Apple thinks artificial intelligence and on-device processing will be key to the future of the semiconductor industry. He believes these advances will help to “revolutionize healthcare” for one example.
We at Apple are not concerned about the talk of a slowing semiconductor industry. Not the case at all. We think the potential is huge. We believe strongly in both the cloud side, but the future will be a lot of on-device processing. We believe this is the best way to deliver great features without sacrificing the responsiveness and the privacy and the security. We see in our brand-new A11 Bionic chip, which is made right here at TSMC, every time somebody takes a photo, there’s over 100 billion operations. That’s just mind-boggling. In a single photo, over 100 billion operations. The potential is limitless.
We put a neural engine on the chip, and I won’t repeat some of the things that Jensen shared, but we have the same view and vision of the potential of AI to deliver a much safer and efficient autonomous system. The neural engine on our chip has already enabled Face ID, processed locally. And so we view that the next ten years is about the ambition to do what Simon’s daughter is asking for, to make life better. And probably one of the most significant examples of this is our opportunity to use transistor technology advances and power scaling to revolutionize healthcare. We think the industry is ripe for change. We think there is tremendous potential to do on-device computing, to do cloud computing as well, and to take that learning, and through machine learning, deep learning, and ultimately artificial intelligence, change the way healthcare is delivered. And we can’t think of anything more significant than this.
So I think the question in front of us is “Do we have the right ambitions, and can we go do this?” And there is no such thing as autonomous innovation. Human beings dream it. Human beings drive it. And sure, we’ll have deep learning, but there’s not autonomous innovation, so it’s up to us, this generation over the next ten years, to take advantage of what is in front of us in the silicon world. We at Apple are really inspired, for those of us who started many years ago on a green monochrome computer screen, we’re super inspired with the state we’re in, and I’ll just say this: If in the next ten years, from a society standpoint, we just do a few “gee-whiz” things like flying car kind of dreams, and then the rest of the time we’re using the faster chips to do the same things we’re doing faster, we will have squandered one of the biggest opportunities in front of us. I think we’re at an inflection point, much like my colleagues, with on-device computing, coupled with the potential of AI, to really, really change the world. And we couldn’t be more excited about it at Apple, and thank you for your time.
China’s Economic Daily News reported that Williams also met with iPhone assembler Foxconn’s chairman Terry Gou, but no further details were shared. An earlier report speculated that iPhone X production issues could be one focus.
TSMC provided a live stream of the event that remains available to watch for those who prefer to listen to Williams’ comments.
Tags: TSMC, Jeff Williams
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