Artificial intelligence inside our smartphones has so far mainly been exploited by the camera, due to its prowess with scene recognition, and the latest to smarten up its camera tech this way is Vivo. It has launched Super HDR, a supercharged version of regular HDR where the A.I. works to set the correct exposure across more frames than usual, then intelligently merges the best ones together, creating a single, more natural and beautiful, final image.
When you take a photo with a Super HDR-equipped Vivo phone, a total of 12 images are taken in burst-style ultra-fast sequence — more than are taken with regular HDR modes — and using a greater exposure (up to 14 EV, says Vivo) value. The A.I. steps in to assess each aspect of a scene, setting the exposure for different areas after recognizing shape, texture, and lighting conditions. Vivo demonstrates this in several example images, showing how Super HDR reveals detail throughout a scene, despite being backlit by a bright light source.
It’s not just for wide scenes shot agains the sun, or in other environments where the lighting is very challenging. Super HDR is also designed for portrait photography, and because the A.I. knows it’s looking at a person, it will focus on lighting the subject properly, before adjusting background lighting to complement the scene. Vivo says Super HDR is about taking more detailed, clearer photos, with better colors and a more natural look.
Vivo’s A.I.-enhanced Super HDR mode means it now joins Huawei and LG in adding artificial intelligence to the camera app. Huawei has been most successful in its efforts, and uses scene recognition to great effect on the Mate 10 Pro, while LG is only experimenting with a similar system onboard the LG V30S ThinQ. Google hasn’t embraced A.I. for the camera yet, but has its own impressive HDR+ technology inside the Pixel 2 phones, which increases dynamic range and improves colors, but also reduces noise.
Vivo hasn’t announced when we may see Super HDR technology on a phone, if it will require special camera hardware to operate, or if it will be made available as a stand-alone camera app. The company is known for introducing cutting-edge technology ahead of many of its competitors, so this may also be a look at where the industry as a whole may be headed. We’ve contacted the company to find out more details, and will update here when we know more.
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PhotoAlto/Ale Ventura/Getty Images
When it comes to getting affordable airfares, price comparison websites are all well and good, but they don’t really address the fact that prices are constantly changing. That means that, while you may have gotten the cheapest flight from Los Angeles to New York at 10 o’clock on the Wednesday when you booked it, there’s no guarantee that it’s still going to be the cheapest flight closer to the time of departure.
That’s where an amazing new A.I. comes into play. The latest service offered by robot lawyer website DoNotPay (best known for getting thousands of people out of parking tickets), it claims to be the first-ever service to reduce the price of your flight after you have booked. Compatible with all U.S. airlines and travel booking services, it forces companies to pay their customers whenever the price of their ticket drops. It does this by observing the legal small print that requires airlines to give customers the option to amend their bookings — but which few people actually do.
Instead of making you spend hours of your life on customer service lines, DoNotPay finds all the travel confirmations in your email and then checks for a cheaper price for the same type of ticket 17,000 times per day until your flight departs.
When the price drops — which can happen as often as every six seconds — the A.I. will scan the exact terms of your ticket to find a clause which allows you to rebook at a cheaper price. It will then switch you to the cheaper ticket, and make the airline refund you the difference straight back to your account. For instance, if you paid $380 for a United Airlines flight from New York to San Francisco and this price then drops to $120, you’ll automatically receive $260 from the airline. Best of all? The product is completely free to use.
“Imagine sitting down for your flight and knowing that the person sitting to your left paid half as much as you,” Joshua Browder, the brains behind DoNotPay, told Digital Trends. “Unfortunately, airlines have been exploiting people by charging different prices to different people. My product allows you to get money back automatically when the price of your ticket drops, making sure you to get the cheapest seat on the plane for your fare class.”
Did we mention recently how much we love A.I.?
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During his speech at SXSW, Elon Musk once again issued a warning of the need for a colony on Mars, The Guardian reported. The SpaceX and Tesla CEO said that humanity could one day enter a new dark age.
“There’s likely to be another dark ages … particularly if there’s a third world war,” Musk declared, according to The Verge.
Fear of this hypothetical dark age is one of the key factors behind Musk’s drive to colonize Mars. The moon is an option, but he believes that Mars is far enough away to be unaffected by any war that ravages Earth.
“It’s important to get a self-sustaining base on Mars because it’s far enough away from Earth that [in the event of a war] it’s more likely to survive than a moon base,” Musk warned. “If there’s a third world war we want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of human civilization somewhere else to bring it back and shorten the length of the dark ages,” he said in response to a question from West World showrunner Jonah Nolan.
SpaceX is currently working on a ship to take humans to Mars, but Musk suggested that not many people would want to go. When asked whether or not he felt a Mars mission was simply a vehicle for the rich to escape, he suggested that it would be akin to exploring Antarctica; namely very dangerous, but exciting for those who did survive. The ship, code named BFR, is expected to go on a test flight in 2019, though Musk admitted that this timeline might be a bit optimistic.
In addition to the looming threat of nuclear war, Musk once again spoke out against the dangers of artificial intelligence. In his speech, he called for stricter oversight of A.I. and warned that it was more dangerous than nuclear weapons. This is certainly not the first time Musk has made such comments. The Tesla CEO appears to be very wary of the risks posed by the rise of advanced A.I.
“Mark my words,” Musk warned. “A.I. is far more dangerous than nukes. So why do we have no regulatory oversight?”
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Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
With just days until its official release, some lucky folks are already finding the new Samsung Galaxy S9 on their doorsteps. While the new features alone are sure to delight Galaxy S9 owners, Samsung is making it easier to repair your new device should it become damaged. The smartphone giant is partnering with uBreakiFix to offer same-day, in-person authorized service for Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus owners as well as older Galaxy devices including Galaxy S6, S7, S8 models, the Note8, and the Note5.
Samsung’s partnership with uBreakiFix is just the latest in a series of new services meant to improve overall user experience Last year the company introduced the Samsung Premium Care program, offering in-home support and repair options. Now with the addition of uBreakiFix in-store repair options, users have even more flexibility when choosing a repair option. Michael Lawder, Samsung’s senior vice president of customer experience, called the partnership a “huge investment in customer experience” for Galaxy owners.
The partnership with uBreakiFix doesn’t just benefit Samsung Premium Care customers, however — all Galaxy owners now have a convenient repair option with more than 300 authorized locations across the country for both in-warranty and out-of-warranty service. While the current number of authorized repair locations is impressive alone, Samsung hopes to add nearly 200 more locations to the mix by early 2019.
Service appointments can be made online, or you can simply walk into any authorized uBreakiFix location. While in-warranty repairs will be covered for free, pricing for any out-of-warranty repair is readily available on the uBreakiFix website, so there are no surprises. All on-site repairs are done by Samsung certified pros using genuine parts, meaning you won’t have to worry any issues down the road from aftermarket hardware. And the best part is that Samsung promises most repairs will be done in two hours.
Samsung isn’t the first smartphone manufacturer to partner with uBreakiFix to provide authorized service. Google uses uBreakiFix as an authorized repair site for its Pixel devices as well. The company also offers out-of-warranty service for a number of smartphone manufacturers. Lawder told Digital Trends that Samsung chose to partner with uBreakiFix for authorized repairs because the company offers excellent customer service as well as convenient locations across the U.S.
Of course, it is better to avoid repairs at all, if possible. The easiest ways to protect your Galaxy S9 or S9 Plus is with a good case and screen protector. Should you need a repair, extended warranty plans can save you a lot of money. While most carriers offer some form of extended warranty for their devices, the Samsung Premium Care plan offers excellent coverage with lots of additional perks for $12 a month.
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- We put the Samsung Galaxy S9’s camera to the ultimate low-light test
Traveling can be a joy or a pain, and the luggage you use to tote your stuff affects that outcome. While manufacturers have made advancements in materials and design, suitcases really haven’t changed much. But luggage is finally getting smarter, and the options for connected suitcases and related gadgets – from startups like Bluesmart, Raden, and Away, to market leaders like Samsonite, Rimowa, and Delsey – are beginning to take hold.
From built-in scales to GPS tracking and mobile apps, these innovations won’t make luggage any lighter, but they could make the traveling experience less harrowing. Below are some of our current and forthcoming favorites.
Bluesmart Smart Carry-On Luggage
We first looked at Bluesmart when it was still an Indiegogo campaign back in 2014. Bluesmart is the first of the smart suitcases to actually make it from crowdfunding to delivery. The suitcase’s features set the standard for the next generation of travel gear: The companion iOS or Android app lets you control the Transportation Security Administration-approved lock and its proximity option, which can automatically unlock when you and your phone move into range. The app also displays the bag’s weight thanks to a built-in scale, and it will even tell you if it’s overweight for the specific airline you’re flying — a helpful feature ta take advantage of before you head to the airport. One potential drawback is that you can’t easily loan the luggage to someone, since it’s tied to your account (you will have to contact customer service to re-register it).
Inside, the Bluesmart case hides a 10,000mAh battery with two USB charging ports — one behind the top handle and one in a pocket. That’s enough to charge most new phones more than five times. The pockets also hide a series of dividers designed for conveniently stowing a laptop or tablet. It’s also the perfect size for a weekend trip: 22 inches tall and 14 inches wide. And with the GPS, you’ll know where to find your bag even if the airline manages to lose it.
Before you purchase, you should know that Bluesmart is essentially phasing out this model for a new version, called the Cabin 22. With a new design, it improves upon the original. It has a GPS/cellular tracker that lets you keep tabs of it from anywhere, not just within the 30 feet of Bluetooth — making it more useful. It has an enhanced TSA-approved lock, and we found it to be extremely well-made. The new series of Bluesmart bags aren’t available for purchase yet, but you can read about them in our hands-on.
Read more here.
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You’ve probably seen ads for Away’s hard-shell smart luggage in your Instagram feed or subway ads, but you’ll also see quite a few of the bags on the streets. They have become a hit with consumers, thanks in part to an array of color options and celebrity fans. But popularity aside, the Away luggage is well-made, and it all comes with a lifetime warranty. We also like that you can try it out for 100 days before committing — a great way to experience whether you truly need a smart bag. Available in five options, including one just for kids and two carry-on options, the bags are stylish yet simple, regardless of which size you opt for. And, to comply with regulations, Away has created an ingenious method for easily ejecting and removing the battery.
Read more here.
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Digital Trends gave a nod to Raden when the company first shared its bags with the public in March 2016. Raden’s carry-on and checked hard case bags look like sleek — but dumb — travel gear. Raden founder Josh Udakin told DT, “Everything about the bag is supposed to be stealth.” The bags hide a 7,800mAh battery, and two 2.1A USB ports make charging devices easy. Raden also included location sensors that link to the phone app, so you’ll know when your bag comes around on the carousel or if someone tries to grab it. The bag’s flexible but tough polycarbonate shell comes in seven colors instead of just the ubiquitous black. At 22 by 9 by 14 inches, the A22 carry-on should comply with restrictions for all major airlines, and it comes with a built-in scale to ensure you don’t exceed an airline’s weight requirements.
Read more here.
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Digital Trends called TraxPack the “smart tank of luggage.” On one side it has a track system that makes it easy to drag up and down stairs. Of course, it comes with some built-in tech, like a GPS tracker, a scale in the handle, and a combination lock with TSA access. Another Kickstarter success story, the carry-ons with the GPS system are now available through the TraxPack website. And the bags come in interesting color combinations to stand out from the black luggage making its way around the carousel.
Read more here.
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Néit Collapsible Suitcase
Not every case has to have a bunch of built-in electronic tech to be smart – or rather, clever. People aren’t in a perpetual state of travel, and the suitcase has to go somewhere when not stuffed with necessities. Néit’s suitcase folds flat for easy storage when it’s empty. The polycarbonate/aircraft-grade aluminum shell folds down to three inches, and even has a carabiner clip so it can hang in a closet. The 360-degree removable wheels are yet another easy-stash feature, so the Néit can fit where other suitcases are a “no-go.” There are both checked and carry-on options, though the most dramatic change in size is the checked bag – it shrinks by 70 percent to three inches flat. And of course, it has a GPS tracker to keep track of it using the Néit travel app.
Read more here.
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Want to add some security to a bag you already love? That question inspired Airbolt, a Bluetooth-enabled lock that works with almost any bag. Controlled from a smartphone, AirBolt offers a slew of security features, like a proximity alarm that can ring when your luggage gets too far away. Like some other location devices, AirBolt relies on a crowdsourced GPS network, pinging bags based on the last location within range. However, the success of such systems depends on how many people are using it – the more users, the more effective the system. The Airbolt is available now.
Read more here.
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Why carry your luggage when your luggage can carry you? It can when the luggage is Modobag, a suitcase that doubles as a motor scooter and has a sweet set of features that makes it fit right in at Digital Trends. It has a built-in seat and footrests for travelers who would rather sit as they make their way through a giant airport complex or the long lines at the Panda Express. The scooter maxes out at a speed of eight miles per hour, and can go about six miles on a charge. Steer with the handle, or pull it up and pull the suitcase on its wheels like a normal bag. Whether ridden or not, it has two USB ports to keep devices charged, and an optional GPS system to keep track of the Modobag itself. The only problem with the Modobag is its weight: 10 pounds empty. At least it has brakes to avoid ramming fellow commuters. It’s set to ship to backers of its Indiegogo campaign in the first quarter of 2018.
Read more here.
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Rimowa E-ink Case
Following the development of E-ink luggage tags a few years ago, Rimowa added an E Ink Mobius display to a standard hard shell suitcase. Users send info from their phone to the bag via Bluetooth, and the tag shows everything the airline needs: Departure and arrival points, a scannable bar code, and even the green European Union stripe (for travel in the EU, naturally). The advantage to E-ink is its hardiness and longevity. It doesn’t require a lot of power, so users won’t be stuck with yet another power-hungry device while traveling. The displays use a coin cell battery that’s easy to replace, but the screen only uses power when it changes the display and should last for thousands of changes. The display is also shock, moisture, and temperature resistant. Paper tags just aren’t as tough. The Rimowa Electronic tag doubles as a digital boarding pass, letting some passengers check in on the road or from home, via a partnership with Lufthansa. United, EVA Air, Condor, and Thomas Cook are in the process of testing the tags.
Read more here.
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There is something kind of steampunk about tech that brings together old and new worlds. Clearly, we’re not the only ones who are suckers for this type of thing, either, since Florida-based “maker” Bard Fleistad recently debuted a popular new retro-styled Amazon Echo accessory on Thingiverse. And it can be yours provided you have access to a 3D printer.
Called the Gramazon (you know, like a combination of “gramophone” and “Amazon”), it’s an acoustic amplifier designed for Amazon’s Echo Dot. It works on the same principle as old gramophones, with a horn attachment which amplifies the sound of your miniature smart Alexa speaker.
“The speaker is based on the old radio horn speakers from the early 20th century,” Fleistad told Digital Trends. “I’ve always been fascinated by the sleek and elegant design of these speakers, and regarded them as pieces of functional art. Over the years, it became a goal for me to obtain one of these, and if needed, restore it to working order. However, like so many other items from this bygone era, they have become fairly hard to come by these days, and the ones you do find usually fetch fairly high prices. Justifying spending hundreds of dollars on obtaining one was not something I was able to do, so I eventually gave up on the idea.”
Or, at least, it was something he gave up on until he got into 3D printing in 2017. Sitting on YouTube one evening this winter, Fleistad said that a video of a radio horn speaker popped up in his “suggested videos” feed. “I had one of those ‘Hey, I have a 3D printer, I can make that now!’ moments, and began sketching out some ideas for a homemade Bluetooth speaker,” he said. “During the process of modeling the horn itself, I happened to glance over at my Echo Dot sitting at the corner of my desk, and had another one of those lightbulb moments. Rather than sourcing a Bluetooth receiver and other hardware, I figured I could simply attach the horn to the Echo.”
Fleistad printed his finished piece using a Monoprice Maker Select 3D printer, and quickly decided to share the instructions with the wider “maker” community to let others build their own versions.
“Taking on a printing project like this can scary if you haven’t printed anything this large before,” he said. “But when you break the project into its individual parts, it’s not that scary. It just takes time. I’d say that if you have the patience to start it, anyone can make one.”
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Boost Mobile is offering a new unlimited plan, the Unlimited Plus plan, for just $60 a month. The plan includes unlimited talk, text, and data, as well as HD streaming and 20GB of mobile hotspot data — the most generous allotment of hotspots in the market. Act fast, because this offer is only available until April 16, 2018!
Boost Mobile: Unlimited Plus plan
This plan includes:
- Unlimited Data, Talk & Text, after you reach 23GB speeds may slow temporarily during times of high network traffic
- Coverage on Sprint’s nationwide network
- 20GB of mobile hotspots
- HD video streaming, up to 1080p
- All taxes and fees included
See at Boost
France is also seeking to close tax loopholes that the companies are using.
On Wednesday, March 14, France announced that it was filing a lawsuit against Google and Apple as a result of unfair treatment for app/software developers in the country.
The lawsuit is seeking fines of $2.5 million USD (or 2 million euros in the country), and it cites that the two tech giants have created “abusive” contractual agreements for startups and developers in France.
Speaking to local news publication RTL, France’s Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire, said:
When developers want to sell apps with Google or Apple, they must pay a fee. But Google and Apple also gather data, and can unilaterally alter the contract terms. All of that is unacceptable.
Maire also went on record saying, “As powerful as they are, Google and Apple should not be able to treat our startups and our developers the way they currently do.”
Along with tackling the treatment of developers, France also wants to close loopholes that allow companies like Google, Apple, and others to skip out on taxes that they’d otherwise have to pay to the country’s government.
A Google representative issued a statement to Reuters, saying “We believe our terms comply with French laws and are looking forward to making our case in court.” Apple, on the other hand, hasn’t said anything yet.
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We’re starting to see more phones with the dreaded notch, but what’s the big deal?
In the wake of newly announced phones like the ASUS Zenfone 5 and the rumored Huawei P20, there’s been a lot of talk about the dreaded notch coming to more Android phones. A lot of people have pointed the blame at the iPhone X for starting this hardware trend, but while it’s true that Apple has been the most high-profile notched phone as of yet, Essential was the first to cut out a portion of the display.
But what’s the point of the notch in the first place? And doesn’t it get in the way of certain apps and the phone’s general interface?
Why the notch is there
As bezels are shrinking further and further down, manufacturers are starting to run out of room for the various sensors on a phone, like infrared, proximity, and the front-facing camera. While some OEMs have come to other solutions like retractable selfie cams, it seems that the easiest way to slim down the top bezel is with a notch; ideally one just big enough to house the phone’s sensors while still leaving plenty of room to the sides for as much screen as possible.
The notch takes the place of a bezel above the display and helps reduce the overall height of a phone.
It cuts into the display, sure, but you’re still getting far more real estate to work with than if the screen just stopped before the notch. This means more room for information — you don’t have to scroll through a web page as often because there’s more vertical space for the content to fill. You can suddenly see more of the app you’re in while you’re typing.
This is a benefit originally brought on by the elongated aspect ratio craze (18:9 and beyond), but that introduced a new issue: with a longer display comes a taller phone that’s harder to hold or fit into a pocket. The notch brings slimmer vertical bezels, which helps cut down on that added height.
The notch isn’t perfect, though
As many are quick to point out, though, the notch comes with its own set of problems. While it cuts down on bezels, that added screen real estate is sort of canceled out by the reduced space for the status bar up top. On the Essential Phone, whose notch simply houses the front-facing camera and takes up minimal space, that’s not such a big deal; the status bar simply occupies more vertical space to match the notch, and the status bar works as usual.
On the iPhone X, however, there’s significantly less room for icons up top, so the status bar has been rearranged and houses less information — you can’t even see your battery percentage without accessing Control Center. Android phones have an even bigger risk of running out of room, since notifications each get their own individual icon in the status bar.
On the bright side, it’s already confirmed that Android P will bring universal notch support to Android. While we don’t know exactly what that’ll look like just yet, it’s good to see optimized software quickly following the hardware.
Not(ch) the end of the world
Like most new hardware trends, the notch comes with a set of pros and cons, and it likely isn’t the perfect option for everyone — after all, some people still prefer bezels. Still, I personally don’t mind the notch, even if it does get in the way of fullscreen videos.
What are your thoughts? Would you rock a phone with a notch — and do you already? Let us know in the comments below!
In other words, developers can now harness the Pixel 2’s portrait prowess.
The Pixel 2’s camera package is excellent for a lot of different reasons, and one of my favorite features is easily its portrait mode. The Pixel 2 continues to create the best-looking portrait-style shots even with phones like the Galaxy S9 and iPhone X out in the wild, and now Google’s doing the unexpected by making it open source.
Portrait mode on the Pixel 2 is achieved using Google’s DeepLab-v3+ system, and this essentially gives each pixel its own label to identify objects in the foreground and background. DeepLab-v3+ is being added to Google’s TensorFlow development platform, and as such, developers will be able to integrate this same framework into their apps.
Per Google’s announcement post on its Research Blog:
Since the first incarnation of our DeepLab model three years ago, improved CNN feature extractors, better object scale modeling, careful assimilation of contextual information, improved training procedures, and increasingly powerful hardware and software have led to improvements with DeepLab-v2 and DeepLab-v3. With DeepLab-v3+, we extend DeepLab-v3 by adding a simple yet effective decoder module to refine the segmentation results especially along object boundaries.
How DeepLab-v3+ picks out subjects from the foreground and background.
This is a huge move on Google’s part, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll instantly start seeing phones from Samsung, LG, and others simply copying and pasting the Pixel 2’s portrait mode into their own hardware. All OEMs currently offering a portrait mode have their own system built for doing so, and it’s unlikely they’ll drop everything they’ve worked on to rely more heavily on what Google is doing.
Then again, now that the tech is out there for others to use, it’ll be interesting to see how this gets implemented into new gadgets and apps going forward. Also, if Google’s comfortable making this open-source, it probably has something even more impressive cooked up for the Pixel 3.
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL
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- Join our Pixel 2 forums