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21
Dec

App Store guidelines require developers to disclose loot box reward chances


2017 has been the year of the loot box. The digital mystery crates have made their way into everything from Middle-earth: Shadow of War to Star Wars: Battlefront II, and for mobile games, they’ve been particularly pervasive. Often, the rates of success for receiving high-quality items from these loot boxes aren’t made public, but a new guideline for the App Store is changing that.

In the updated App Store Review Guidelines, Apple has added an additional requirement under the “In-App Purchase” section, which explicitly states developers must be transparent about the success rates for their loot boxes.

“Apps offering ‘loot boxes’ or other mechanisms that provide randomized virtual items for purchase must disclose the odds of receiving each type of item to customers prior to purchase,” Apple said.

Thus far, this type of industry self-regulation has largely been the only way of determining what players will receive when they purchase or earn a loot box in their games. Back in May, regulators in China forced Blizzard to reveal the probabilities for earning certain rewards in Overwatch loot boxes. Blizzard disclosed that a “legendary” item, for instance, only had a 7 percent chance of appearing, while “epic” items had just below 20 percent chance. Though these are presumably the same rates in the North American version of the game, there isn’t any way to know for sure without Blizzard disclosing that information, as well.

Some developers have already used “no loot boxes” as a marketing tool for their games. At The Game Awards earlier this month, A Way Out director Josef Fares assured fans his game wouldn’t feature them in an expletive-filled rant, while Obsidian promised no microtransactions or loot boxes would make their way into the studio’s upcoming Take-Two-published game.

Take-Two had previously said it would be using recurrent-spending models in all of its games moving forward. This would seem to include role-playing games like what Obsidian is developing, as well as any future Borderlands games and Red Dead Redemption 2. Given the public backlash to these systems, it’s possible the publisher could walk back its promise, but the microtransactions in its NBA 2K series are already among the most egregious in the industry.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Do players really like loot boxes, or are game publishers forcing them on us?
  • Belgium’s Gaming Commission concludes that loot boxes are a form of gambling
  • Obsidian promises no microtransactions in upcoming role-playing game
  • ESRB says video game loot boxes aren’t gambling, compares to trading cards
  • Microtransactions have come to ‘Call of Duty: WWII’ after a short delay




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21
Dec

Hijacked sperm in magnetic harnesses could be the next weapon in war on cancer


As the male reproductive cell, sperm has a pretty clear-cut mission statement. But could it also be used to help deliver lifesaving cervical cancer drugs to patients? Quite possibly, claim researchers at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research in Germany. They’ve been working on an unorthodox type of cancer treatment that involves hijacking sperm with magnets, and then using them as guided drug-delivery vehicles to help release cancer-killing medicines.

“We [have] developed a sperm-hybrid micromotor by using sperm for the first time as drug carrier, and a microscale structure as magnetic guidance mechanism and flexible release trigger,” Haifeng Xu, a researcher with the Leibniz Institute’s department of micro and nanostructures, told Digital Trends.

The approach involves loading up sperm cells with a common chemo agent called doxorubicin, then fitting the sperm with miniature four-armed magnetic harnesses, and controlling their movement via magnets. When the sperm hits a tumor, the magnetic harnesses open up and the sperm swims into the tumor to deliver its contents.

“Compared to existing dose forms, the main advantages of this system are the drug protection by the sperm membrane, tissue penetration by the sperm flagella, drug uptake enhancement due to the cell-fusion ability of the sperm, and the precise guidance based on the magnetic microstructure,” Xu continued.

In a Petri dish experiment, the customized sperm was shown to be capable of killing 87 percent of mini cervical cancer tumors within a period of three days. We’re not sure exactly how this technique would be extrapolated to humans, but the hope is that it could provide an alternative to the more toxic side effects of regular chemo, which can include extreme nausea.

“So far, we have confirmed the cancer cell-killing capability of drug-loaded sperms in in vitro experiments, and successfully guided a sperm-tetrapod micromotor toward in vitro tumor target to induce cell death,” Xu said. “[The] next step will be the investigation of real-time imaging of micromotors under deep tissue, and operating a micromotor cluster.”

A paper describing the work, titled “Sperm-Hybrid Micromotor for Targeted Drug Delivery,” was recently published in the journal ACS Nano.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Award-winning device catches skin cancer early by monitoring temperature of moles
  • A doctor used this iPhone ultrasound machine to diagnose his own cancer
  • The Smile Mirror for cancer patients is getting a ton of blowback online
  • Mantis shrimp are the inspiration for this new polarized light camera
  • New medical superglue seals large wounds almost instantly, prevents scars




21
Dec

Your gate is closing: Here are the 22 best gifts for travelers on your wish list


If you’re the type of traveler who cuts it close by arriving at the airport 30 minutes before the gate closes, then you’re probably also the kind of gift-giver who waits until the last minute. Luckily for you, we have a gift guide just for you. Whether you’re still drafting your wish list, or you have a travel junkie on your list who you still need a gift for, there’s an item here that’s sure to please.

And the best part? Nearly every gift costs $100 or less, except one (sorry, we couldn’t resist, but it’s worth it). Even if you miss the holiday deadline, these gift ideas are also perfect for birthdays or any special occasion where the recipient is a frequent flyer. Presenting our 22 best gifts for travelers in 2017.

Roku Streaming Stick ($40)

Today, we expect our entertainment to be on-demand, which is why the in-room TVs in hotels just don’t cut it. Nobody wants to sift through channels of infomercials and awful old movies. But don’t let the big screen go to waste. Plug a Roku Streaming Stick ($40) into the TV’s HDMI port (shown in the photo) and binge on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO, YouTube, and more. The device is small and easy to pack, and setup is simple (you will need internet access, however). You can bring along the included remote, or use the Roku app on your iOS or Android device. Compared with other streaming devices, we found the Roku Streaming Stick’s interface to be awesome, and it ticks off all the boxes. For enhanced wireless performance and support for 4K and HDR TVs, you can opt for the Roku Streaming Stick+ ($70).

Read our full review

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LoungeBuddy Gift Card ($25-$250)

Lufthansa’s Business Lounge at Munich Airport is one you can access for a fee via the LoungeBuddy app.

It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, airports aren’t exactly fun places to hang out. For some travel respite, check into an airport lounge. Many lounges offer day passes, and some have entrance fees for as little as $20, so you can grab coffee, snacks, and Wi-Fi. LoungeBuddy continues to be one of our favorite apps for locating accessible lounges (not all are open to the general public), and you can purchase access through the app. Give a LoungeBuddy gift card (starting at $25) for the traveler in your life who could benefit from some semi-private space.

Zolo Liberty Wireless Earphones ($100)

We’ve been floored by the Liberty Wireless Earphones ($100) from Zolo (part of the Anker family) because of their comfort, sound quality, and ease of use. They are less than Apple’s AirPod and Google’s Pixel Buds, yet we are still impressed with the graphene drivers that deliver great audio quality. They’re also easy to pair, and a sweatproof construction allows for long-duration usage. They aren’t officially noise-canceling, but we found them to quiet even the noisiest New York City subway commutes. Push a button, and you’re connected with Siri or Google Assistant. The included case, when fully charged, provides the buds with up to 24 hours of power. Note: Zolo is introducing the Liberty+ model ($150) in 2018, which offers sound isolation, acompanion app, Bluetooth 5.0, and a charging case with longer battery life. If your gift recipient will appreciate these extras, give them a raincheck.

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Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Tech Compression Cube Set ($40)

Admittedly, we aren’t great at packing (FYI, our brother site, The Manual, has a proper guide on how to pack), which is why we rely on packing cubes to keep organized (or to create the semblance of organization). Eagle Creek has many to choose from, but we like these new compression cubes ($40) that push extra air out, allowing you to make a bit more room in your suitcase or duffel bag. They have strong zippers and are water-repellent.

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Anker PowerCore 26800 ($62)

If you have to carry one external battery, make it the PowerCore 26800 ($62). Yes, it’s big and it’s heavy, but once fully juiced up, this 26,800mAh battery can recharge six phones, or a combination of phone, tablet, GoPro, or whatever USB-powered device you travel with. There are two Micro USB and three USB ports that let you charge three devices simultaneously. Just remember: External batteries aren’t allowed in checked-in luggage, so make sure it’s in your carry-on.

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Samsonite Spinner Underseater ($100)

Traveling light? The highly rated Samsonite Spinner Underseater ($100) is ideal for weekend jaunts or anyone looking to avoid baggage fees, and it fits underneath an airplane seat. A telescopic handle and spinning wheels make it easy to haul, and strong materials give it a durable construction. The Underseater is also great as a tech bag for travel. It has a sleeve for a laptop, and exterior USB ports you can connect to your power bank (like the Anker PowerCore 26800 mentioned above) for accessible charging.

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Amazon Fire HD 8 ($95)

A tablet is a handy companion for in-flight entertainment or as a temporary distraction for the kids. But since it’s easy to lose things when traveling, we recommend leaving the pricey iPad at home and bringing an affordable and useful Fire HD 8 (2017) from Amazon instead. The Fire HD 8 ($95, or $80 if you don’t mind sponsored ads popping up on screen) is a decent performer and has good battery life. While the Amazon Appstore isn’t as abundant as its iOS and Android counterparts, you’ll find popular apps like Hulu, HBO, Netflix, Facebook, and Spotify, as well as Amazon’s Kindle, Prime Video, and Prime Music apps. And with a sub-$100 price, you won’t shed any tears if it gets lost.

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Read our full review

Osprey Trillium 65 ($80)

For most of our trips, we prefer a duffel bag over cumbersome luggage. The wide mouth of Osprey’s new Trillium 65 makes it easy to pack, and there’s plenty of room for clothes and an extra pair of shoes. We like the versatile padded strap that lets you swing the bag over your shoulder, or wear it on your back. If you’re checking the bag, you can lock the zippers. When you’re not traveling, the Trillium is great as a sports or gym bag. Besides the 65-liter version ($80), the Trillium comes in 45-liter ($70) and 30-liter ($60) versions.

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Otterbox Universe Case ($50)

Our phones play a central role in our travels these days. It’s our camera, map, wallet, boarding pass, and translator. Otterbox Universe drop-proof cases (around $50) keep phones protected, but their modular system also make them flexible, allowing you to attach optional accessories like an external battery, credit card wallet, tripod, and external storage — all without needing to remove your phone from the case.

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Moment Wide-Angle Lens ($100)

If photography is an important part of your travels, but you don’t want to always carry a camera with you, then a Moment lens for iPhones should be in your pocket. We’re partial to the wide-angle ($100) model made from quality glass optics that provide provide high-quality images with little distortion — better than what your camera’s lens can do on its own. You can also get a telephoto lens, macro lens, or fisheye lens, and they are all interchangeable (Moment phone case required, $24-$30). For other great iPhone lens options, check out our list.

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Bose QuietComfort 35 II ($350)

There’s a reason why you see many people wearing Bose headphones when flying. The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is the best active noise-canceling set of headphones you can buy, and it not only does a great job in blocking out engine noise and crying kids, it is very comfortable and can be worn for hours. Bose has been making noise-canceling headphones for a long time, for both consumers and pilots, so it knows a thing or two about making a pair of cans. Yes, it’s the priciest item on this list, so consider this for the special traveler in your life. For other great noise-canceling headphone options, check out our list.

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21
Dec

Cryptocurrency mining bot spreading via Facebook Messenger in Chrome for desktop


Security firm Trend Micro reports that a cryptocurrency mining bot is now spreading through Facebook Messenger in Google’s Chrome browser for desktop. Called Digmine, it was first spotted in South Korea, and has since spread into Azerbaijan, the Philippines, Thailand, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Vietnam. The bot will likely show up in other regions soon given how fast it’s spreading.

The report doesn’t say how Digmine began spreading through Facebook Messenger, but it appears in the chat client as a non-embedded video file. When the recipient clicks on the file, the so-called video — which is actually an executable script — downloads components from a remote server to install a Chrome extension. This extension will either continue to stream a bogus video from a “decoy” website, or log onto Facebook to spread the malicious love to friends.

Typically, Chrome extensions can only be installed through the Chrome Web Store. But the Digmine setup bypasses this requirement by installing the extension through a command-line interface. During the installation process, the script will receive its configuration through the remote server, and instructions to either load the site hosting the bogus video — which contains additional configurations — or access Facebook if users have Chrome set to automatically log onto the social network.

“A known modus operandi of cryptocurrency-mining botnets, and particularly for Digmine (which mines Monero), is to stay in the victim’s system for as long as possible,” Trend Micro states. “It also wants to infect as many machines as possible, as this translates to an increased hashrate and potentially more cybercriminal income.”

While running, Digmine will silently mine for digital currency in the background as infected users surf the internet. The mining component, listed as codec.exe on the PC, is a modified version of an open-source Monero miner called XMRig. It remains in contact with a remote server as it silently generates the Monero coins.

But Digmine could be used for more than just mining Monero. Based on its design, hackers could eventually upgrade Digmine to completely hijack Facebook accounts. Since it is basically controlled by a remote “command” server, hackers could simply update the code to seize Facebook accounts accessed by infected PCs. Trend Micro provided its findings to Facebook, which immediately removed a large portion of the fake video links.

One sign of infection stems from the installation process. If you clicked on a Messenger video within Chrome, the browser will restart as the extension installs and loads. Moreover, browser-based cryptocurrency mining consumes large amounts of processing power, so your PC may feel sluggish, with your fans spinning at an unusually loud level.

In both cases, navigate to Chrome’s Customize and control button, and select More tools > Extensions in the drop-down menu. On the resulting page, trash every enabled extension that looks suspicious. Of course, the best way to avoid infection of any kind is to not click on files and links sent through Facebook Messenger. But given that friends you trust toss links back and forth every day, avoiding malware in that manner can be difficult.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • The best Google Chrome extensions to revolutionize your workday
  • Confused by Chrome? This is how to uninstall unused Chrome extensions
  • Chrome is fighting back against browser redirects and ‘trick to click’ links
  • The best ad blockers for Chrome
  • How to install Android apps on a Chromebook




21
Dec

Getting your PlayStation Move controllers to work with a Christmas Tree


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Christmas lights might be confusing your Move Controllers and we’re gonna help you figure out how to make that stop

Chances are there’s a whole lot of interference when it comes to Christmas lights and it’s time to get ingenious. Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree. Oh how I … am a little disappointed in you for interfering with my PlayStation Move Controllers!

Read more at VRHeads!

21
Dec

Stream all your favorite shows in 4K with the $86 Roku Ultra media player


The Roku Ultra HD and 4K streaming media player is down to $86 on Amazon. This device has sold for $105 since July. That street price was a previous low, and it has never gone below $100 like this before.

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This model is from last year, but with this deal it’s actually a few bucks cheaper than the 2017 version. Of course, it’s going to have a slightly slower processor and other internals, but you’re still getting full access to the Roku library with 4K and HD streaming content.

Features include:

  • Perfect for HD and 4K Ultra HD TVs, features fast quad-core processor and 802.11ac dual-band wireless.
  • Exceptionally brilliant picture quality. 4K Ultra HD at 60fps with four times the resolution of 1080p HD.
  • Vibrant HDR displaying an incredible range of colors, brighter whites, and deeper blacks.
  • Fully loaded with digital audio output, convenient point anywhere remote with voice search and remote finder, headphones for private listening, and gaming controls.
  • Dolby Audio over HDMI and optical

See on Amazon

21
Dec

Can you use an AT&T phone on Cricket Wireless?


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Have an AT&T phone that you want to use on Cricket Wireless? Here’s what you need to know.

If you live in an area that’s covered by AT&T’s network (which is most places these days), Cricket Wireless is one of your best bets for an MVNO that’s powered by the network but features considerably lower rates compared to going through AT&T directly.

Cricket’s selection of phones has gotten rather good lately, but you still won’t find nearly as many devices compared to what’s offered to AT&T customers. Whether you already own an AT&T phone or want to purchase one to use on Cricket, doing so is actually pretty simple.

Confirm that you have an eligible device

Since both AT&T and Cricket use GSM bands, bringing phones from the former over to the latter is a piece of cake. Any AT&T phone that’s not currently active on the carrier and has been unlocked for use outside of it should work on Cricket without a hitch, but just to confirm that everything is hunky-dory, you can use Cricket’s online tool that lets you punch in your phone’s IMEI number to see whether or not it’s compatible.

Buy a Cricket SIM card

After confirming that you have an eligible device, your next step for using an AT&T phone on Cricket will be to purchase a SIM card. You can buy a SIM card either from Cricket’s website or Best Buy, and it’ll typically set you back $10 when it’s not being discounted or given away for free.

Cricket’s Universal SIM Card Kit is the only one that’s sold, and what’s great about it is that it can be adjusted to fit phones that use Standard, Micro, and Nano SIM slots.

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Activate the SIM card and add service to it

Once you’ve got your Cricket SIM, you’ll need to activate it. If you purchased the SIM on Cricket’s website, you’ll fill out your order and phone number on the site and then click the activate button. Put the SIM card into your AT&T phone, power it on, and you’ll be good to go!

If you bought the SIM card somewhere else, you’ll first go to Cricket’s website and enter in your ICCID and IMEI numbers. From here you’ll select which plans and features you’d like to use, checkout, put the SIM card in your phone, power it on, and you’re done.

Carriers

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  • Which unlimited plan should you buy?
  • Verizon’s Unlimited plans: Everything you need to know
  • Everything you need to know about the T-Mobile ONE unlimited plan
  • Everything you need to know about the AT&T Unlimited plan
  • Everything you need to know about Sprint’s Unlimited Freedom plan
  • Join the Discussion

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21
Dec

Tested: the best smartphone cameras compared


I’ve been lugging around a DSLR ever since I conned my parents into buying me a Minolta Maxxum 5D in 2006, and let me tell you, that didn’t win me any popularity points back in high school — even if all my friends ended up with amazing MySpace profile pics.

Things are different now. In the strange days between film and digital, nobody was expected to produce quality photography. Now a staggering number of kids want to become YouTubers, and the line between professional and amateur photographers has blurred beyond the point of recognition. But what I know is that for many, a high-end smartphone is a much more sensible purchase than a dedicated camera, no matter what kind of art you’re trying to create.

These things are tools, so this comparison is designed to help you pick the right tool for the job. I’m going to compare the iPhone X, the Pixel 2, the Galaxy Note 8 and the Huawei Mate 10 Pro. I’ve tested these devices in scenarios that are particularly tricky for smartphone cameras and their small sensors: scenes with high contrast, backlighting or substantial vibration.

But before we get into the tests, let’s look at what we’re working with.

iPhone X 12MP+12MP Yes Yes Yes
Pixel 2 12MP Yes No Yes
Note 8 12MP+12MP Yes No Yes
Mate 10 Pro 12MP+20MP Yes No Yes

Scene one: Williamsburg Ferry

This scene tests: dynamic range, color, sharpness

Full-size images

  • iPhone X
  • Mate 10 Pro
  • Note 8
  • Pixel 2

Verdict

The iPhone X and the Pixel 2 did the best in this scene. The iPhone provided a true-to-life rendition of the scene, whereas the Pixel 2 photo looks somewhat artificial. The Pixel 2, though, provided great detail and exposure without noise or sharpening artifacts. Both the Mate 10 Pro and the Galaxy Note 8 crunched the blacks, leaving little detail in the shadows, and the Mate 10 Pro’s aggressive sharpening left artifacts in the water.

Scene two: backlit architecture

This scene tests: detail, dynamic range

Full-size images

  • iPhone X
  • Mate 10 Pro
  • Note 8
  • Pixel 2

Verdict

The Pixel 2 and the iPhone X captured nice colors and kept noise to a minimum in all but the most extreme areas. The Pixel 2, however, rendered so much more detail in the architecture — but once again the results look noticeably artificial. The Note 8 did not fare well here; it’s by far the worst in what should have been plenty of light. It’s underexposed, there are artifacts in the shadows and I would even say there’s some noticeable lens distortion. The Mate 10 is fine, but its 20-megapixel sensor didn’t seem to provide any more detail than the Note 8’s 12MP module.

Scene three: low-light bar scene

This scene tests: noise, low-light color, detail

Full-size images

  • iPhone X
  • Mate 10 Pro
  • Note 8
  • Pixel 2

Verdict

It’s difficult to pick a winner here, and it may come down to taste. The Mate 10 Pro looks the most detailed and the Pixel 2 has a pleasant look overall, but the iPhone X didn’t render details or color well and the Note 8 looks bad. I would go with the Pixel 2, because unlike the Mate 10 Pro, it achieves its look without artifacting. That being said, it’s great to see an example of the Mate 10 Pro’s dual-camera system providing real-world benefits.

Scene four: selfies

This scene tests: skin tones, detail

Full-size images

  • iPhone X
  • Mate 10 Pro
  • Note 8
  • Pixel 2

Verdict

The Pixel 2 blows everything else out of the water in terms of selfies. The iPhone X comes in a close second and has the added benefit of not making me look 10 years older than I am. There is one important caveat here: The Note 8 (and the Galaxy S8 / S8+) have real focusing mechanisms, whereas most selfie cameras are fixed focus. It’s subtle, but because the Note 8 can actually focus on my face, the background is every so slightly blurred. Please, smartphone makers, use a focusing mechanism on the front-facing camera!

Scene five: synthetic bokeh

All four of these devices include some kind of synthetic bokeh mode that blurs the background around the subject, reminiscent of a DSLR with a wide aperture lens. Sometimes these work well, and in some scenarios they fail pretty bad. The scenes shown here are essentially torture tests: I picked objects with challenging geometry that would show how well these synthetic bokeh modes perform in a worst-case scenario.

Before I go on, there’s one piece of essential vocabulary we need to define: the mask. A mask in this context is essentially the outline of the subject, where everything outside the line is blurred. Each device uses different techniques to create the mask: The iPhone X and the Note 8 use dual cameras to size up the subject, the Pixel 2 uses dual sub-pixels and the Mate 10 Pro’s technique lives somewhere in software.

iPhone X

As you can see in the astronaut-image set, the iPhone X has two errors in its mask: the one on the helmet and the one under the astronaut’s right arm. The rest of the mask is pretty good. In the polygonal-sculpture image set the iPhone X almost makes it, but there are several parts of the mask with issues. As for the hardest test, the plant, the iPhone completely falls down.

Mate 10 Pro

The Mate 10 Pro surprised me with its Wide Aperture Mode; it’s not flawless by any means, but overall the effect looks pretty good. In the astronaut-image set, for example, the mask is well defined except for the area underneath the arm, and at smaller viewing sizes you might not notice this. In the polygonal-sculpture test there are, again, small errors in the mask, but they don’t ruin the image. However, when we get to the plant, the Mate 10 Pro can’t track all the tendrils.

Note 8

Both the Note 8 and the iPhone X zoom in quite a bit to achieve their synthetic bokeh effect, and that makes any issues with the mask all the more pronounced. With the astronaut, however, we see much better results than with the iPhone X — even the area under the arm is properly blurred! Unfortunately things go downhill with the polygonal sculpture, though the issue isn’t with the blurring mask — it’s with the exposure. I think this is because I was throwing off the exposure by tapping on a black object, but the algorithm should be able to handle that.

Now, at first glance it looks like the Note 8 completely blew it with the plant, but that’s not entirely the case. If you look closely, you can see that the Note 8 is able to isolate the tendrils in the mask, but in the places where the tendrils overlap with the edges of the tables or light furniture in the background, it loses track. Ultimately, the Note 8 failed this test, but it did better than the iPhone X or the Mate 10 Pro.

Pixel 2

The Pixel 2 handles the astronaut scene better than the competition. The area under the arm is blurred, though I will say that there are small errors in the mask around the edges. At smaller viewing sizes, however, the Pixel 2 wins here. The polygonal sculpture is also the best out of the four with proper exposure and a good mask around the edges. With the plant we see the same problems as the Note 8, where the mask algorithm loses track of the tendrils as they overlap with a visually similar background. That being said, I think the areas around the tendrils (the ones that aren’t glitched out) look better than the same areas on the Note 8.

Verdict

As long as you stick with simple images of people in good light, the iPhone X will do alright, but I was surprised by how well the Mate 10 Pro and the Galaxy Note 8 performed. The Pixel 2 particularly stood out though; its ability to both capture a pleasing image in its synthetic bokeh mode and its ability to isolate complicated subjects make it the clear winner.

Video

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to video on smartphones. Should you shoot in 4K? Is electronic image stabilization, or EIS, more important than optical image stabilization, or OIS? What is HEVC or H265? For the sake of this piece, however, we’re going to focus on the basics: Which phones have the best noise control, and which have the best stabilization?

Noise in 4K

In this test I cycle a set of lights on and off so that we can see how much noise each device renders at varying light levels. There’s a light meter at the bottom of the scene, and this allows us to compare noise levels at approximately the same light level. What is a lux, you ask? It’s a measure of light in a given area, so one lux is one lumen per square meter. And what is a lumen? It’s the amount of light given off by a candle. Listen, I don’t make the rules — I’m just measuring light.

Verdict

At extremely low light levels (six lux and 40 lux) I am sort of baffled by how well the Mate 10 Pro performs. Sure, it has all kinds of artifacts, but it looks pretty darn good, especially when you compare it to the Note 8, which also has artifacts but looks terrible at these light levels. One thing I am noticing is that at six and 40 lux, the iPhone X is willing to let the scene be dark (which it is) whereas the Pixel 2 is sort of desperately trying to elevate the exposure of the black backdrop, which makes the noise noticeable.

The Mate 10 Pro starts to look decent at 40 lux, which, again, is incredible. The iPhone X, Note 8, and Pixel 2 need more than 540 lux to quell obvious noise.

Video stabilization

Here we test the video stabilization of all four devices at the maximum common resolution: 4K at 30 frames per second. I was walking naturally without trying to stabilize with my feet.

Verdict

The Pixel 2 is the most stable, but the iPhone X does well too. Despite the Mate 10 Pro’s great low-light video performance, it doesn’t produce stable video. The Note 8 is a curious case, because it does stabilize well, but the video has an aggressive jelly effect that’s disconcerting to look at. This goes away at 1080p (as you can see in the video below), but the iPhone X and the Pixel 2 are able to stabilize 4K video without this effect. You can see a similar stabilization test in 1080p below.

Selfie stabilization

You don’t have to the use the front-facing camera to vlog with your phone, but you’ll probably want to. Here we test the stabilization of the front-facing cameras. Why does my face look like that? I’m holding the camera rig as far away from my body as possible.

Verdict

One thing you’ll probably notice right away is that the Mate 10 Pro and the Note 8 are very zoomed in, and that’s because they’re using electronic image stabilization, which crops the image in and moves it around to compensate for motion. That being said, the Pixel 2 and the iPhone X are doing this too but without an uncomfortably close mustache inspection, making them the winners.

Wrap-up

The Mate 10 Pro managed to surprise me. I think Huawei should ease up on the punchyness of the camera tuning, but the low-light photography, low-light video and portrait mode are awfully good in the right conditions. The Note 8 also surprised me, but with noisy low-light images and video as well as that jellylike video stabilization.

So which smartphone has the best camera? I feel confident giving that honor to the Pixel 2, but as we’ve seen, each device has pros and cons. The iPhone X, for example, is the only device that offers a native 24fps 4K video option, which is important if you want to mix it with footage from other cameras. But the Pixel 2’s HDR still images, unmatched selfie camera, stable video and surprisingly good portrait mode put it ahead of the competition.

21
Dec

CaliBurger’s new kiosk uses facial recognition to take orders


Cashier-less ordering kiosks are becoming more and more commonplace at fast food restaurants like Wendy’s and McDonald’s. But Golden State burger chain CaliBurger is taking that one step further: its new self-ordering kiosks use AI and facial-recognition technology to order, pay and log into the chain’s loyalty/rewards program. It’ll even remember your crazy custom order to boot.

“Our goal is to replace credit card swipes with face-based payments,” parent company CEO John Miller said in a press release (PDF). Security and the underlying recognition tech are being handled by NEC Corporation. While this sounds incredibly convenient, it’s basically just a high-tech way of pulling up a favorite order the way you would via a mobile-ordering app.

For now, the pilot program is only available at the chain’s Pasadena test store, and CaliBurger says that if it proves a success there will be a global rollout next year. If you’ll remember, that’s the same location where CaliBurger tried out robotic burger-flipping. Unlike that test, though, this one seems expressly designed to eliminate human employees.

Via: Business Insider (UK)

Source: The Cali Group (PDF)

21
Dec

Instagram adds commenting directly from the photo feed


We wouldn’t say that commenting on an Instagram post is a hassle, but it is slower than it could be. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could simply share your thoughts while you’re still in your main photo feed? You might have that option right now. Instagram has been rolling out a feature that lets you comment on a photo directly from your feed. All you have to do is look at a photo for a few seconds — if you’re included, an “add a comment” text box will pop up.

We’ve asked Instagram about the nature of the test (or indeed, whether or not it’s a test at all). If it’s an experiment, though, it’s a fairly broad one — at least a few Engadget editors have it. This also appears to be a server-side addition, since people using regular Instagram releases have seen this show up.

That Instagram would try this isn’t at all surprising. If you’ve stopped scrolling for long enough to stare at a photo, you probably want to do more than like it. Also, a feature like this could help Instagram continue its runaway growth. The easier it is to comment, the more likely it is that you’ll get compliments and other interactions that could encourage you to stick around.

Update: Instagram says it started rolling out the feature on iOS a month ago, and that it’s just reaching Android this week.

Via: Android Police

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