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3
Jun

Automate your life with Apple Workflow, the most powerful app you’re not using


Few things in life are as convenient as automation — IFTTT, anyone? — which allows us to blaze through life’s more monotonous tasks with the utmost ease. Apple knows this, which is why the Cupertino-based company has developed Workflow, a powerful automation tool that’s designed to expedite your everyday tasks.

The concept is clever: The app has a bunch of triggers and actions you can set from within the app, which you can then execute from top to bottom with the mere press of a button. Moreover, because the app was made by Apple, it can access a host of system-related utilities that third-party apps wouldn’t be able to access. Using Workflow, you can quickly grab the top stories from Apple News, for instance, or create a collage using some of your most recent photos.

Apple’s suggested uses for the app, however, are only the tip of the iceberg. To make the most of the app, you should use it to automate the tasks you perform on a daily basis. If you save a little bit of time here or there on things you do all the time, it’s going to have a far greater impact than if you were to set it up to automate something you do once a month. The app is really only limited to your own imagination.

To begin automating a task, download the Workflow app from the App Store. Then, launch the app and tap the My Workflows tab — or the Gallery tab, if you want to use a pre-made action — in the upper-right corner. Once there, select Create Workflow and choose one of the four workflows outlined below.

Type of workflow
Accessible from:

Normal
The Workflow app (iOS)

Today Widget
The Today View (iOS)

Apple Watch
Your Apple Watch (WatchOS)

Action Extension
The Share Menu (iOS)

Once you’ve chosen a workflow, swipe right, which will bring up the Actions menu. From here, you can search for your desired action or select an action from the list of available suggestions. Once you’ve settled on an action, drag it to the right to add it to your current workflow. If you want to include an additional action, one that will take place after the first, swipe right and repeat the process.

To edit your workflow, tap the gear icon in the upper-right corner. The resulting menu will contain a slew of different settings, allowing you change the workflow type and name it, among other things. When satisfied, tap Done in the upper-right corner to leave your workflow within the app, or select Add to Home Screen to launch the workflow within Safari. From there, you’ll want to tap Share and Add to Home Screen.

That’s it! Again, the app is only limited by your imagination, so experiment with different workflows. Makng your life easier has never been, well, easier.

David Cogen — a regular contributor here at Digital Trends — runs TheUnlockr, a popular tech blog that focuses on tech news, tips and tricks, and the latest tech. You can also find him on Twitter discussing the latest tech trends.

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3
Jun

Death Stranding: Everything You Need To Know


Kojima’s first independent game is just as weird and mysterious as you thought it’d be.

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If you don’t know who Hideo Kojima is, it’s time to pay attention. He’s the creator of the world-renowned Metal Gear franchise, known best for his works with the mainline series Metal Gear Solid.

Well, he left Konami, the company that controls the Metal Gear IP, and is now doing his own thing under independent label Kojima Productions. Their first work is Death Stranding, a forthcoming PlayStation 4 exclusive that not even Kojima himself can easily explain. Here’s everything we know about it so far.

What is Death Stranding?

That’s a good question. The truth is we don’t know a whole lot about the type of game Death Stranding will be right now. Kojima has mentioned that there will be elements of action, adventure, RPG, stealth, and open world gameplay involved. That’s a pretty long list, but he contends it’s not right to try and fit the game into any of these categories as he instead opts to treat the game as its own genre.

While that sounds exciting on the surface, we won’t know what, exactly, he means until we see and learn more. Thanks to a few announcement and teaser trailers, however, the picture is starting to take shape, albeit ever-so-vaguely.

The story so far

It’s unclear what to expect from the story right now. In typical Kojima fashion, we’re left with nonsensical trailers which challenge the player to piece together their own conclusions about Sam (the main character) and what’s going on in the world around him. As attention-grabbing as these trailers are, they just don’t tell us much of anything. Hell, some scenes show naked babies trapped in capsules which are attached to characters via mechanical arms (or, worse yet, down Sam’s throat), and those babies are eventually sent floating up a river. It’s just plain weird and creepy.

Then there’s the Timefall rain mechanic, which seemingly both wears on the world and gives it accelerated growth, and it’ll also affect Sam one way or another. We don’t know how. We don’t know why. We just don’t know.

And it’s not because we aren’t trying to know, either. Even Kojima’s own team has mentioned that they are sometimes confused when he is explaining his vision for the game and the story. We reckon it’ll be one of those things we’ll just have to play through before we know what the hell is actually going on, but we’re still holding out hope that they’ll be a little less tight-lipped before the game’s launch.

The human connection

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Interestingly enough, Kojima took a lot of inspiration from a Japanese novella called Rope for the premise of Death Stranding. In that written work, the concept of mankind’s earliest tools was boiled down to two simple things: sticks and ropes.

The thinking here is that the stick is the object you would use to keep unpleasant or violent things away from you. Think of it as your weapon, even if all you ever do with it is keep someone at arm’s length. That’s not to say you’ll be tasked with trying to cut through the apparent skeletal armies present in this game using nothing but a tree branch, but we know that the main character will heavily rely on one.

Then there’s the rope, which is the item you use when you want to keep things close to you like your beloved pet dog on a leash. This is the part where we get a tad confused, though early murmurings from Kojima suggest that the “rope” will shape the concept of “strands” in this game.

So what are strands? Good question – we’re not quite sure yet. (Getting tired of that theme yet?) We do know that it’ll be the basis of a core gameplay mechanic that keeps people in this mystery world connected. And considering co-op play has been confirmed for the title, we’re sure it’ll have a lot to do with the connections you make with both digital and real companions.

Life and death

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Kojima’s theme for Death Stranding thus far seems to surround the cycle of life and death. In most games, death typically means either game over or you’re zipped back to a checkpoint to try again.

But death will take on a whole new meaning in Death Stranding, with the player instead being taken to some sort of purgatory realm whenever they die. It’s not yet clear what you can do in this realm, but we do know you’ll be free to explore it and return to your living form anytime you wish.

Kojima says their desire for changing the role of death in video games stems from the industry’s long misuse of the mechanic. He noted that death checkpoints were designed for arcade machines to keep people popping quarters into the slot, but the gaming industry has largely failed to move on from the mechanic even as arcade machines have become a dying breed. While it’s just as vague and cryptic as Kojima wants it, it still leaves us wondering what, exactly, death will mean in this title.

Top-notch visuals

Though we don’t know a whole lot about the game, story, and characters at large, Kojima has been particularly chatty when it comes to the technology behind it. He revealed that his team met with over 30 studios to find the perfect engine for Death Stranding.

They eventually landed with the engine Guerilla Games created for Horizon Zero Dawn. Their choice was based on a number of factors, including an engine with great graphical capabilities and one that supports open-world development. Many engines fit that bill by default, but Guerilla’s won the ticket due to their willingness to collaborate with Kojima on further developing the engine. In fact, the two have even gone so far as to co-brand the engine with the name ‘Decima.’ The specifics of what and how they’ve changed it aren’t really important, just as long as you know it’ll look good (there’s PS4 Pro 4K + HDR support) and play great.

An all-star cast

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Not one to shy away from cinematics, Kojima is pulling top talent to help drive the narrative in Death Stranding. The main character, Sam, seems to be portrayed by Norman Reedus. You may know him as the actor for the character Daryl on AMC’s The Walking Dead. We also know Mads Mikkelson and Guillermo del Toro will be along for the ride.

When can you play it?

If there’s one thing you should know about Kojima, it’s that he’s not going to rush his art (so long as he has no pesky publishers forcing him to, which he doesn’t). To that end, the only expectation we have for Death Stranding’s release date is by the year 2020. That seems like light years away from now, but knowing the ambition Kojima has we’re sure it’ll be well worth the wait.

The company skipped E3 in 2017 as they opted to continue working on the game before showing anything, but it’s possible we may see more at E3 2018 which kicks off June 12th. As for platform availability, the PlayStation 4 is the only safe bet right now, though eventual releases on other platforms such as PC and Xbox have not yet been ruled out.

PlayStation 4

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3
Jun

These are all the phones Sony is launching in 2018


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Here’s a look at Sony’s smartphone lineup for 2018.

Sony has an…interesting…position in the Android smartphone space. Sony produced some darn good phones in 2017, such as the Xperia XZ Premium and XZ1, but when compared to handsets like the Galaxy S8, Pixel 2, and even the OnePlus 5T, Sony’s offerings fell flat in one area or another.

We’ve seen Sony’s hand for 2018, and while this year’s phones still won’t keep everyone from jumping on the Samsung and Google bandwagons, they are compelling handsets that are at least worth checking out.

The phones that are still coming

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium

xz2p.jpg?itok=WmDvOhQl The upcoming Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium.

In mid-April, Sony announced the Xperia XZ2 Premium. This is a bigger, badder, more expensive version of the regular XZ2 that’s already been released, and it looks like it’s going to pack a serious punch.

One of the main draws to the XZ2 Premium is its 5.8-inch 4K HDR display. That’s the same resolution found on most premium TVs these days, and Sony says it’s 30% brighter than the previous Xperia XZ Premium.

You’ll also find dual rear cameras, 3,540 mAh battery, and a price tag that’ll likely cost around $900 USD. The phone’s scheduled to come out this summer, so we should know more very soon.

Sony announces Xperia XZ2 Premium with 5.8-inch 4K HDR display, dual cameras, spec bumps

Sony Xperia R2/R2 Plus

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Sony Xperia R1 and R1 Plus.

Last October saw the release of the Xperia R1 and R1 Plus — two budget phones that offered rock-solid specs at seriously affordable price points.

The rumor mill on successors to these two phones is pretty quiet at the moment, but there’s no reason to believe Sony won’t kick out an R2 and R2 Plus before 2018 is over.

India was the target market for the R1 series, and assuming the we get an R2, that’ll likely remain the same.

Mid-range Sony Xperia R1 and R1 Plus now available in India

The phones that have already been released

Sony Xperia XZ2

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Sony’s big flagship this year is the Xperia XZ2. The XZ2 is a successor to last year’s XZ1 and features a completely new design language compared to other Xperia phones of the last few years. The glass back is super reflective with elegant curves, the fingerprint sensor is smack dab in the middle below the rear camera, and there’s an 18:9 screen with slim bezels.

Under the hood, the XZ2 is packing all of the latest specs — including the Snapdragon 845, 4GB RAM, 19MP/5MP rear/front cameras, IP68 dust/water resistance, and Android 8.0 Oreo. The phone costs $800 and is on sale now.

Sony Xperia XZ2 preview: Slimmer bezels, wider appeal

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

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There’s no denying that the XZ2 is a powerful phone, but what if you want all that horsepower in a phone that’s considerably smaller and a bit cheaper? For you, Sony’s got the Xperia XZ2 Compact.

The XZ2 Compact is mostly the same phone as the regular XZ2, save for a smaller battery, 5-inch screen, and a plastic back. Everything else, such as processor and cameras, are exactly the same.

It’s not necessarily cheap at $649, but it’s one of the few truly small phones that offers a no-compromises flagship experience.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review: The new standard for small

Sony Xperia XA2/XA2 Ultra

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During this past CES, Sony officially took the wraps off of the Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra. Both phones are mid-rangers in Sony’s lineup for the year, and while there’s nothing particularly exciting about them, they do the basics really, really well while keeping costs low.

The XA2 offers a refreshingly small 5.2-inch display, and for those of you that prefer big phones, the XA2 Ultra should serve you just fne with a 6-inch screen size. Both come equipped with an LCD panel and resolution of 1920 x 1080, and for the first time ever, these two Sony phones have working fingerprint sensors in the United States 👏.

Each phone also shares NFC, Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box, USB-C for charging, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Aside from the screen size, the only other big difference lies with the XA2’s 3,300 mAh battery and the XA2 Ultra’s 3,580 mAh unit.

The XA2 sells for a fair $349, and stepping up to the XA2 Ultra will cost you $449.

See at Best Buy

Sony Xperia L2

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If you like what the XA2 and XA2 Ultra bring to the table but want to spend even less, Sony’s Xperia L2 is for you.

The Xperia L2 has a 5.5-inch display with a resolution of 1280 x 720, MediaTek processor, 3GB of RAM, and a 3,300 mAh battery. As for the cameras, you’ll find a 13MP sensor on the back and an 8MP one up front.

There’s a working fingerprint sensor on the L2 and support for NFC just like on the XA2 and XA2 Ultra, but unlike those phones, the L2 ships with the older Android 7.1.1 Nougat.

You can buy the Xperia L2 in black, gold, and pink, and its price of $250 is more than manageable.

See at Best Buy

Updated June 2018 – Refreshed this entire list with info on Sony’s current 2018 phones and what we’re still expecting this year.

3
Jun

U.S. carriers charge you exorbitantly every month, and still sell your information — should we expect something different?


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At some point we should expect a reduction in the cost of service in exchange for this data.

With pressure from T-Mobile and some prepaid offerings, U.S. carriers have consistently upped their data offerings in the past few years to provide a pretty good value for your money — that is, compared to the vastly expensive per-gigabyte pricing we had before. Now, despite having lots of unlimited plan options, people spend more per month on cell service in the U.S. than most countries in the world. If you go to one of the big four (soon to be three) carriers, you can easily spend $70 per month on a basic plan — but you’re more likely spending upwards of $100.

That’s just insane on the face of it, and it’s enough to make people consider using a prepaid carrier or cutting back on extra plan features. But the cost is even more absurd when you think about how much value the carrier derives from you simply using your phone every month. You see, the carrier isn’t just in the business of profiting off of data services and phone sales — it’s selling your personal data, too.

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Being interviewed at Recode’s Code Conference, AT&T CEO Randal Stephenson was surprisingly candid about the reasoning behind AT&T’s $85 billion merger with Time Warner: it’s not about the content, it’s all about the advertising potential.

We all know how Google and Facebook coordinate massive troves of data to pinpoint advertising to specific groups and, more importantly, specific people. It’s the holy grail of advertising — knowing that you’re spending money to target someone who has a dramatically higher chance of being converted into a customer. AT&T wants to do the same thing, but for broadcast TV advertising — an area where ads are by comparison not particularly targeted or expensive.

AT&T wants to charge you $100 per month for cell service, and still sell your personal data to advertisers.

You see, AT&T feels it’s uniquely poised to charge advertisers more and deliver networks better-targeted ads because it simply has one of the most comprehensive and direct streams of customer data: your phone and your home internet connection. AT&T knows how you spend your time on your phone, and in many cases your home computer and TV. Stephenson said that AT&T has “great customer insight,” and posited that the big question is, “Can you pair a very formidable ad inventory with a very formidable amount of data, information on the customer, viewership data and all other kinds of information, and can you create something unique?” By merging with Time Warner, AT&T can take all of that customer information and deliver ads through its cable provider (and don’t forget AT&T also owns DirecTV) that are targeted to specific people — just like Google and Facebook do online.

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Stephenson continued, “Where we use the data that I’m talking about, we monetize the advertising at three to five times what is done on just a traditional TNT, TBS, and so forth.” To say he’s bullish on the idea would be an understatement. And when you see how much data these carriers have on their customers, and how they plan to (and currently do) use it to make even more money on the backend, it becomes reasonable to start asking for some reduction in monthly costs on the customer side.

This transaction makes a lot more sense when it’s something like Google’s services, where you get all of these great things for free and in return the company collects usage data to bundle up and sell ads against. But in the case of the U.S. carriers, it just feels … dirtier. Not only are you paying for the service, sometimes to the tune of $100 per month or more, but the carriers are also taking all of your usage and location information and selling ads against it. At some point, this model has to break down, right?

I think it’s foolish to expect that the carriers will stop aggregating and selling usage data — we’re probably past the point of return on that one. But we can at least start to expect the economics to work out where consumers aren’t paying such a large amount to a company that also profits further off of their personal data.

Now, a few more random thoughts:

  • I’m seriously impressed with how much the OnePlus 6 camera improved over the OnePlus 5 — low light shots in particular took a huge leap.
  • I’ll be posting my full OnePlus 6 vs. Galaxy S9+ camera comparison this week, but for as far as the OnePlus 6 has come it’s not quite on par with the GS9+’s great camera — particularly in low light.
  • This coming week we’ll see the BlackBerry KEY2, which is launching in New York on June 7. I’m excited to see it — the KEYone was cool for its keyboard, but the rest of the phone experience needs to step up a notch (or two) to not feel so compromised.
  • You may have noticed we didn’t release a podcast this week — apologies, hectic schedules kept us from being able to put one out. We’ll be (sort of) back on schedule soon.

-Andrew

3
Jun

Meet the Australian ‘techno-artist’ growing a web-connected ear on his arm


There’s a body in Perth, Australia, one of the most remote cities on Earth, transmitting signals about how other bodies will behave in the future. It’s an unremarkable body, bald-headed and fit, complete with organs and limbs in all their preordained places. Plus one.

On the fleshy side of the left forearm there’s an impression of an ear, emerging from the skin as if punching through from the netherworld. It’s bulbous, life-sized, firm to the touch. Pockets of biomaterial and porous Polyethylene form divots and contours around its edges. Living cells, blood vessels, and tissue have moved in, permeated the pores of the surgical implant, and made the extra ear an inarguable part of this man’s body. Today it’s a relief, a replica, rather than a functioning organ. But if all goes as planned, by year’s end it will be connected to the internet, equipped with electronic circuits and a microphone so anyone, anywhere can tune in to the sounds around it.

Ear on Arm is an ongoing endeavor by the artist known as Stelarc, whose eccentric performances put his mortal form in the indifferent grip of technology. Stelarc sees the modern body as a “chimera of meat, metal, and code,” and uses it as the map, the vessel, and the uncharted territory to be explored. Each ensuing experiment, pushes the boundaries of his physicality and gives us a glimpse at the ways we’ll engage with the hyperconnected world.

“I’ve always been interested in comparative anatomies,” Stelarc told Digital Trends at the BodyHacking Conference in Austin earlier this year. “Not only the human body but also insects and other animals. All living things interact very differently with the world. We all have different capabilities. We all manipulate and operate in more or less subtle ways. That always fascinated me, and so the body became a convenient location of experimentation.”

“The body is a convenient location of experimentation.”

Over more than forty years, Stelarc’s art has put his body into precarious positions — both physically and conceptually — with visceral performances that probe the many tensions between man and machine.

In 1985, he was tethered to a construction crane by steel wires and body hooks, 100 feet above Copenhagen, Denmark. The crowd below seemed silent. Hanging in suspension, Stelarc heard only the whistle of the wind and the creaking of his stretched skin.

Thirty years later, in a piece called Propel, Stelarc was strapped onto an industrial robot arm in a factory in a suburb of Perth, then flipped and twirled like a human pinwheel for over half-an-hour. An anxious engineer stood near a control box, poised to smash the “kill switch” lest a glitch caused the robot to revert to its nesting position with artist still in tow.

Polixeni Papapetrou

More recently, during a marathon performance in 2015, the artist donned a video headset, noise-canceling headphones, and a partial exoskeleton in an act of abandoning his “eyes,” “ears,” and “arm” to the Other. The artist toured London through a video feed sent to his headset, as impromptu videographers carried a camera are town. Audio from New York City filled his headphones with sounds of traffic, chatter, and shuffle of footsteps. His right arm contorted involuntarily, controlled over the internet by digital puppeteers. The performance, Re-wired/Re-mixed spanned five consecutive days, six hours a day. Stelarc took one break to urinate.

The artist is often hooked up to contact mics that amplify the sound of his movement — but noisy as his art may be, he isn’t necessarily trying to say anything through his performances. Instead he says he’s making “gestures” towards strange possibilities of the human body, dragging technology down an unpaved path to an augmented, alternative anatomy.

Which highlights the least two most common threads that run through his work: exploitations of the body and apparent apathy towards technology. To the average viewer, his performances are fraught with uncertainty. They’re the sort of thing you’d spend weeks preparing for. And yet Stelarc says he rarely prepares. His performative face is almost always that of a man at a bus stop with nowhere to go — neither content nor concerned that his ride will arrive. The rare wince you might catch is more often the result of an electrode zapping his body into motion than some existential distress. When sic-fi author William Gibson met Stelarc, he called the artist “one of the calmest people I’ve ever met.”

“I approach these performances with a posture of indifference,” Stelarc said. “Indifference as in being open to possibilities…of minimizing expectations and allowing the performance to unfold in its own time, with its own rhythm.”

Apathy is arguably the most reliable mindset in which to moderate the meeting of man and machine. Today’s consumers are groomed to purchase the latest device, but little within our DNA prepares us to take on each next technological leap and we aren’t especially discrete about how we adopt tech into our lives. Negligent indifference could be the tag line of this digital age.

Ad agencies roll out algorithmic targeting, apparently unconcerned about its potential impact on the psyche. Consumers adopt new products without caution or conceit, like infants given a grenades to play with. Apple has been accused of failing to protect the Chinese workers who manufacture their products, and yet consumers continue to buy them. Plenty of Facebook users are aware of the company’s shoddy privacy policies, and yet stay logged in. Even in the wake of the recent Cambridge Analytical scandal, most social media users seem utterly unconcerned by its complicity.

Stelarc’s performances are caricatures of our relationship with technology.

Stelarc’s performances are like caricatures of our relationship with technology, carnival mirrors that reflect distorted forms of human-machine intimacy.

In Re-wired/Re-mixed, the 2015 performance that saw Stelarc decked out like a Gibsonian cyborg, the artist offered himself to strangers, allowing them to command his senses. Throughout the 1990’s Stelarc engaged in similar internet acts, such as 1995’s Ping Body, during which his muscles were stimulated in accordance with ping response times from 40 global locations, effectively turning his body into a “barometer of internet activity.”

In 2000, Stelarc wore an upper-body exoskeleton controlled by a genetic algorithm in a performance called Movatar. Through random mutations, the genetic code forced the artist and the metal apparatus into an involuntary choreography. A panel of control pedals on the floor gave Stelarc some degree of control over his movements, enabling him to modulate but not fully neutralize the system when things got too hectic. In a more recent performance, 2017’s StickMan, the artist wore a full-body, algorithmically controlled exoskeleton, fitted with microphones that amplified the sound of the moving limbs.

Today, algorithms pull the strings on our everyday lives, curating what we buy on Amazon, watch on Youtube, and read on Facebook. Evan Selinger, a philosopher at the Rochester Institute of Technology and co-author of the book Re-Engineering Humanity,  thinks these technologies have the power to corrupt our very identities.

“Technology affects our humanity because it impacts of senses…our thoughts…and how we think,” he said. “It impacts our decisions, including our judgement, attention, and desires. It impacts our ability to be citizens, what were informed about and how we stay informed. It impacts our relationships… It even impacts our fundamental understanding of what it means to be human, who we are, and what we should strive to become.”

Where many people see our dystopian future play out as a robotic revolt, Selinger said his concern “is that we are going to be programmed to want be placed in environments that are so diminishing of our agency and deliberation that we outsource our emotions and capacities for connection.”

In an inversion of a gamer in command of a virtual character, Stelarc has made himself a real-life avatar commanded by an algorithm. These compounded feedback loops break down classical conceptions of the self, raising questions about agency and control that are ever more poignant in today’s hyperconnected society.

“With all of these performances [I was] blurring the distinction between the biological, technical, and virtual,” Stelarc said. “And increasingly now we’re expected to perform in these mixed realities. So how do we seamlessly slide between these operational modes? I mean, we’re all doing it in some way or another.”


Stelarc ReWired ReMixed RWRM @ STRP 2017

Exoskeletons haven’t quite caught on, but algorithms and machines control us all. Facebook’s infamous social experiment highlighted the interplay between our news feed and our emotions. Every time our phone rings, our minds and bodies are drawn towards the device.

In Stelarc’s view, we’re building up a certain “thickness,” a melding between the physical and virtual worlds. Our embrace of technology is “not merely happening at a thin screen level,” he said. “The experience is deeper and much more profound.

“Our faces have become flattened onto screens, and so in one sense our experience is at screen level. But because these experiences are becoming more high-fidelity, immediate, and haptic, this flat-screen interface becomes a much more optically ‘thick’ and haptically ‘thick’ experience. We’re blending our biological bodies with technological and virtual systems. It’s not that the screen is interfacing this body and that body. We’re kind of blending into one thickened system of experience.”

Stelarc’s performances embrace a fairly unsafe relationship with technology that in many ways mirrors our own dependence on it. His posture may be indifferent but Stelarc is almost worryingly committed to his art. The devotion runs deep enough to put his life at risk.

In one such event, called Stomach Sculpture, the artist swallowed a small robot — two inches long and half an inch wide — tethered to an external control box, which, when activated, caused the capsule to unfurl like a tulip, flash a light, and emit a beeping sound from within his stomach cavity. An endoscope followed closely behind, filming the gastric performance.

Anthony Figallo

“Obviously if it malfunctioned and it couldn’t close again, there would have been a problem extracting it,” Stelarc said. “I mean, a serious problem. In fact, [the performance] was done within five minutes of a major hospital,” just in case.

The capsule used in Stomach Sculpture was coated in biocompatible materials like silver, gold, and stainless steel, but at the time, Stelarc had an idea to use copper, which would react with his stomach acid and potentially create a sort of crude battery, powering the robot and freeing it from its tether to the outside world. That proved unfeasible in 1993, but in 2017 engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed it wasn’t such a ridiculous idea.

Stelarc has a tendency to preface technological progress in unexpected ways. Case in point, the announcement earlier this year that surgeons successfully transplanted an ear that they’d “grown” through cartilage cultured in a soldier’s forearm.

“People are becoming portals of internet experience.”

The artist’s own ear is still a work in progress — his longest performance to date. When he first conceived of the idea in 1996, Stelarc wanted to clone an additional ear on the side of his head. When that proved too dangerous and technically challenging, he settled on a medical scaffold that would be implanted into his forearm. It’s took another decade to find a doctors willing to perform the operation, but he finally located a plastic surgeon and his protege who coordinated the surgery in Los Angeles.

The fact that Stelarc convinced certified surgeons to slice open his arm and slip in a prosthesis for no medical purpose, is a provocative performance in its own right. For Chris Hables Gray, author of the Cyborg Handbook and lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, it’s a vital act of dominion over one’s own body.

“Stelarc got doctors to overcome their own medical guidelines to do this surgery,” he said. “They violated the Hippocratic Oath. Doctors have had a big debate about this. Some say this is a violation of the Oath and others say that fundamentally patients should have a right to control their own bodies, especially if they’re an artist exploring what it means to have control of your body with technology.”

Stelarc is now coordinating with members of the biohacking community to fit his extra ear with electrical components that would connect the organ to the internet, allowing anyone with web service to tune in to the artist’s surroundings.

“The ear is not for me,” he said. “I’ve got two good ears to hear with.”

Ear on Arm Stelarc wants to engineer a kind of “internet organ” to literally, physically integrate with the digital world. It’s more than just a remote listening device. It’s the artist’s most earnest attempt to explore the human body of tomorrow — an alternative anatomy that can jack in and even be hacked.

“People are becoming portals of internet experience,” Stelarc said. “In my Re-wired/Re-mixed performance I effectively outsourced my senses to people in other places … It was a gesture towards future bodies, where you would be able to incorporate vision, hearing, and haptic experiences of people in other places. Your body is not this locally operating, locally perceiving body, but rather a body that’s distributed and can form beyond the boundaries of its skin, beyond the local space that it inhabits.

“That’s what’s sort of significant about what’s happening today [with Ear on Arm]. On the one hand it’s hacking a body to locally insert some chip circuitry, but the implications of that are once we’ve got chip circuitry, it can wirelessly connect online. Then it’s performing globally, not only locally. Of course, the other implication is that the body can be literally hacked, all the technology in the body can be hacked. This will generate some other interesting possibilities of interaction.”

Steven Aaron Hughes

If that sounds like Stelarc is inviting people to hack his artificial organ, that’s because he is. Or, at least, he’s not taking steps to prevent it. The artist has been letting people remotely control his limbs for years. Why stop now?

“I don’t really think in either dystopian or utopian terms into it in the sense of what technology is or does,” Stelarc said. “Having said that, yes, there are there are ethical concerns. There are physical dangers. There are going to be increasingly complex accidental situations, or situations that generate accidents. And on the one hand, you have a kind of a gung-ho cowboy approach to new technologies. Every new gadget seemingly enables the human body. You become part of this sort of capitalist consumer society of new technologies.

“I can only evaluate through my own actions,” he added. “And I typically see the possibilities rather than the negative connotations.”

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3
Jun

How to activate Night Mode on the OnePlus 6


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How do I enable Night Mode on my OnePlus device?

Have you ever used the popular app f.lux on your computer to automatically adjust colors throughout the day, or Samsung’s blue light filter on the Galaxy S9? The idea behind these features is to put less strain on your eyes as you spend your whole day staring at screens.

Similarly, OnePlus includes a setting on the OnePlus 6 and older models simply called Night Mode, and it’s just as easy to toggle as it is on your eyes.

Note: This feature is available in OxygenOS version 4.0 and newer, for OnePlus devices going back to the OnePlus 3.

  • How to enable Night Mode
  • How to set a custom time range for Night Mode

Why would you want to use Night Mode?

Remember that time you checked your phone just after waking up, before your eyes had time to adjust, and you were blinded by your brighter-than-the-sun display? On a more serious note, blue light can have various negative effects on you, from disrupting your sleep cycle to suppressing melatonin, so it’s worthwhile to enable Night Mode and reduce your blue light intake — especially when it requires so few steps.

OxygenOS: Top 10 features you need to know

How to enable Night Mode

Enabling Night Mode just takes a few taps in the device’s settings.

Open the Settings app.
Scroll down to the Device category.

Tap the Display submenu.

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Tap Night Mode.

Under Manual, slide the Turn on Night Mode toggle.

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That’s it! You should notice your screen gradually shift to a noticeably warmer hue, and the Effect Strength section underneath the Night Mode toggle becomes available to fine-tune the display temperature. You can also access Night Mode directly from the notification shade toggles.

How to set a custom time range for Night Mode

While you’re in the settings, you can set Night Mode to automatically kick in from sunset to sunrise, or even set a specific time range manually.

In the Night Mode settings under Scheduled Night Mode, tap Turn on automatically.
In the pop-up menu, tap Custom time range.
Select From, and set the desired starting time for Night Mode using the pop-up clock.

Tap To and set when you’d like Night Mode to end.

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You’re done! Now Night Mode should turn on automatically between your custom set times, giving your eyes some time to rest throughout your day.

Questions? Comments?

Got any questions about Night Mode? Want to share how Night Mode has improved your life, or maybe why you don’t use it? Let us know in the comments below!

Updated June 2018: This article was rewritten to reflect changes to OxygenOS on the OnePlus 6.

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  • The OnePlus 6 doesn’t work on Verizon or Sprint
  • Join the discussion in the forums

3
Jun

Best Chromebox in 2018


Why trust us? We don’t just write about Chromebooks and Chromeboxes; we use them every day. Whether you want to watch a video, play a game, or get some work done, these are the best Chromeboxes you can buy.

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The HP Chromebox G2 is the best Chromebox you can buy. It’s actually two of the best Chromeboxes you can buy thanks to HP’s numerous configuration options. The high-end G2 with an Intel Core i7 CPU processor, 16GB of memory and 64GB of storage will more than handle any task you throw at it now and in the future, and the entry level G2 with more modest specs and a $199 price tag is the best Chromebox for anyone on a budget.

Our Pick

HP Chromebox G2

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HP — $689

  • $689 from HP

A powerful and secure desktop computer

This is HP’s top-configured G2 Chromebox. It’s pricey, but it’s also a very powerful computer that can handle every task you need it to today as well as any future tasks as Google rolls out Linux program support to Chrome OS devices.

This Chromebox simply can do everything. It’s loaded with exterior ports (USB Type-C, USB 3.0 and 2.0 legacy, HDMI, SD card) and the components are current generation as you would expect in any powerful computer. If you want a Chromebox for the whole family that’s future-proof, secure, and dependable, you can’t go wrong with the HP Chromebox G2.

Who should buy this Chromebox

It’s tough to say anyone should buy a $690 Chromebox. Our budget pick, also the G2 in a more modest configuration, will handle the needs of most users and provide a great experience on the web or in the home office. The difference, and what makes this configuration of the Chromebox G2 our top pick is its raw power.

Linux and Android applications will change how many of us use a Chromebox. When updated, the G2 will be able to install almost any program written for a full desktop computer and plenty of programs like Steam for gaming or Blender for 3D modelling and rendering will make good use of the higher specs. And since all Chrome products are fully supported by Google for over six years, the G2 will also age very well and should be considered future-proofed. Content creators will especially appreciate the Chromebox G2 and it’s user-upgradable internal M.2 SSD storage.

Is it a good time to buy this Chromebox?

Yes. Last year’s Chromeboxes weren’t designed to be ready for full desktop programs or Android apps, and manufacturers have rushed to the gate with new models featuring powerful hardware. With the cost of computer components rising, buying a high-end pre-built small form-factor desktop is a wise decision for anyone who wants or needs said power under the hood.

We don’t see component prices lowering anytime soon, so an investment today means you’ll enjoy the benefit of a secure workstation or entertainment PC without needing to worry about upgrading in 2019 or beyond.

7 reasons to buy

  • Desktop Intel Core i7 8650 Kaby Lake CPU
  • 16 GB of high-speed DDR4 RAM
  • User-upgradable internal SSD storage
  • HDMI connection
  • Five USB Type-A legacy ports; one USB Type-C 3.1 port
  • Three-in-one SD card reader
  • Desktop class Realtek Networking and audio onboard

2 reasons not to buy

  • Expensive if you won’t need the extra power
  • No internal speakers

When all Chromeboxes are similar, the little things count

It’s tough to say one brand of Chromebox is better than the rest. Google has strict guidelines manufacturers need to follow and almost every company that makes computers offers a Chromebox that is very similar to all the rest. What makes the HP Chromebox G2 the top pick when compared to Chromeboxes from manufacturers like ASUS or Lenovo is higher spec offerings for a very similar price.

Instead of offering one high-end model with 8GB of memory and 32GB of storage, the Chromebox G2 can come from the factory with 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a 64GB SATA SSD with very little difference in pricing.

Not everyone can change SODIMM memory modules or swap an M.2 SSD and many folks who have the know-how just don’t want to tear down a small form factor computer case to do so. When you’re in the market for a high-end Chromebox to act as your personal or work-from-home computer, you won’t mind if you can go higher when it comes to memory and storage — especially if that means you don’t have to break out a screwdriver and do it yourself.

Alternatives to the HP Chromebox G2

The ASUS Chromebox 3 is also an excellent buy. You’ll find the same sort of current generation components available to make sure you’re ready to take full advantage of Linux applications, and a very similar configuration when it comes to ports. Minor differences aside, it’s tough to tell one top-shelf Chromebox from another. If you prefer the ASUS brand or won’t need more memory or storage options, the ASUS Chromebox 3 will give you years of use.

Runner-up

ASUS Chromebox 3

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ASUS’ Chromebox 3 gives you all the power you need for all of your applications in one small package and has ASUS’ long history of building excellent Chrome products as its legacy. The only drawback is less memory and storage options.

See at ASUS

Some of us want a powerful Chromebox and aren’t worried about the particulars — as long as there’s enough under the hood to do all the cool things Google is telling us we can do, we’re good. While there isn’t a lot of price difference between similarly spec’d Chromebox models from all manufacturers, there are plenty of reasons to prefer the ASUS brand — especially when it comes to Chrome products. Once again, ASUS offers one of the best Chromeboxes you can buy.

Budget pick

HP Chromebox G2

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Had Google not announced a future where powerful Chrome products would have access to the vast library of Linux programs, the base model HP Chromebox G2 would have been our top pick. $199 nets you a 64-bit Intel Celeron 3865 processor, 4GB of DDR4 RAM and a 32GB SSD — and every other feature that makes the higher spec’d G2 the overall best.

See at HP

Bottom line

For someone who wants the best possible Chromebox experience, the HP Chromebox G2 configured with all the trimmings is the best choice. It’s chock full of powerful components and many are user-serviceable, but you’ll pay quite a bit for it, roughly $690.

For those who prefer the ASUS brand and aren’t concerned with more memory and storage options, the ASUS Chromebox 3 offers a great experience and the peace of mind that comes with the ASUS branding — though it’s similarly high-priced. If you aren’t concerned about Linux containers or any of the voodoo Google has in store for Chrome products, the base model HP Chromebox G2 is an incredible value at just $199.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

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Jerry Hildenbrand is Mobile Nation’s Senior Editor and works from a Chromebook full time. Currently he is using Google’s Pixelbook but is always looking at new products and may have any Chromebook in his hands at any time. You’ll find him across the Mobile Nations network and you can hit him up on Twitter if you want to say hey.

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Andrew Martonik is the Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central. He has been a mobile enthusiast since the Windows Mobile days, and covering all things Android-related with a unique perspective at AC since 2012. For suggestions and updates, you can reach him at andrew.martonik@androidcentral.com or on Twitter at @andrewmartonik.

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Daniel Bader is the Managing Editor of Android Central. As he’s writing this, a mountain of old Android phones is about to fall on his head, but his Great Dane will protect him. He drinks way too much coffee and sleeps too little. He wonders if there’s a correlation.

3
Jun

Toshiba Completes Sale of Flash Memory Unit to Investment Group That Includes Apple


Toshiba has completed the $18 billion sale of its memory chip unit to a global consortium that includes Apple, almost nine months since it announced that the deal had been agreed (via Reuters).

The Japanese firm had originally planned to wrap up the sale by mid-March, however a lengthy review by Chinese antitrust authorities didn’t finish until last month. Toshiba confirmed this week that ownership of the NAND flash memory unit had finally changed hands.

“Toshiba hereby gives notice that the closing of the sale has been completed today as scheduled,” the group said in a statement on Friday.

The investment consortium led by Bain Capital includes Apple, Dell, SK Hynix, Kingston, and Seagate Technology. Toshiba retains a 40 percent ownership of the unit as part of the agreement.

Toshiba first announced plans to sell its NAND flash memory unit in January of 2017 in order to raise funds to cover several billion dollars of losses associated with its U.S. nuclear subsidiary, Westinghouse. Bidding for the chip unit first kicked off in March of that year, with the manufacturer fielding bids from multiple interested parties.

Three bidding groups originally competed to take over the lucrative chip unit, with Bain eventually winning out. Apple actually participated in all three bids, demonstrating its keenness to protect its supply of Toshiba flash memory, which it already uses in iPhones and iPads. Apple is thought to have contributed around $3 billion to the Bain deal, giving it around a 16 percent stake.

Tag: Toshiba
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3
Jun

Ontario Judge Finds Woman Guilty of Distracted Driving for Looking at Apple Watch


A Canadian woman has been found guilty of distracted driving for looking at her Apple Watch, despite claims that she was just checking the time while waiting for a red light to change (via The National Post).

A judge in the Ontario Court of Justice ordered University of Guelph student Victoria Ambrose to pay a $400 fine, after determining that she had spent too much time staring at her smartwatch while being in control of a vehicle.

According to court documents, the woman was ticketed after a police officer noticed the glow from an electronic gadget coming from the woman’s car, which was stationary beside his cruiser at a red light.

The officer reported that he saw the woman look up and down at the device four times in 20 seconds, and then fail to move forward when the light turned green. The officer then shone a light into her car and she began to drive. When he pulled her over, he realized that she had been looking at an Apple Watch.

In Ontario, it is illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or email using hand-held cell phones and other hand-held communications and entertainment devices, such as smartphones, portable media players, GPS systems and laptops.

Previously, the province had not designated the Apple Watch or other smartwatches as being illegal to use while operating a motor vehicle. However, in judging Ambrose’s case, Justice of the Peace Lloyd Phillipps rejected her argument that the Apple Watch being on her wrist satisfies an exemption for devices securely mounted inside the vehicle.

“Checking one’s timepiece is normally done in a moment, even if it had to be touched to be activated,” said Phillipps.

“Despite the Apple Watch being smaller than a cellular phone, on the evidence, it is a communication device capable of receiving and transmitting electronic data. While attached to the defendant’s wrist, it is no less a source of distraction than a cellphone taped to someone’s wrist.

“The key to determining this matter is distraction. It is abundantly clear from the evidence that Ms. Ambrose was distracted when the officer made his observations.”

Safety tests carried out in the U.K. in 2015 concluded that using a smartwatch while driving is more dangerous than using a smartphone.

According to the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), a driver reading a message on an Apple Watch would take 2.52 seconds to react to an emergency maneuver, whereas a driver talking to another passenger reacts in 0.9 seconds.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4Tags: distracted driving, lawsBuyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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3
Jun

Apple has finally allowed a Telegram update to go through, CEO says


It’s been a couple months since Russia banned popular encrypted communication app Telegram across the country. And while you may think that such a ban would only affect Telegram users in the Kremlin-run nation, that hasn’t been the case. Rather, ever since the Russia-wide ban, Apple has allegedly blocked Telegram from making updates to its services. That is, until now. Apparently, Apple has finally given in and allowed the app to push through updates that make it compliant with the new  GDPR privacy laws.

On Friday, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov tweeted  to both Apple and its CEO Tim Cook, thanking both Twitter handles “for letting us deliver the latest version of @telegram to millions of users, despite the recent setbacks.”

Thank you @Apple and @tim_cook for letting us deliver the latest version of @telegram to millions of users, despite the recent setbacks.

— Pavel Durov (@durov) June 1, 2018

These setbacks first began in mid-April with the Russian ban on the app. The government noted that the app continually refused to give the Kremlin access to encryption keys that would grant the nation’s Federal Security Service (FSB) access to Telegram’s user data. Once this ban was implemented, it meant that American tech companies (including Apple) had to pull the app from their app stores. In fact, Russia apparently sent a letter to Apple just a few days ago ordering that the company remove Telegram from its offerings within the month, or face legal consequences.

But apparently, Apple has been giving Telegram grief since before the ban was put into place.

“Apple has been preventing Telegram from updating its iOS apps globally ever since the Russian authorities ordered Apple to remove Telegram from the App Store,” Durov noted in a public Telegram message yesterday. “While Russia makes up only 7 percent of Telegram’s user base, Apple is restricting updates for all Telegram users around the world since mid-April.”

Luckily, it seems that this message had its desired effect, as Apple has now apparently allowed the first iOS Telegram update in months.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Telegram’s woes are over. They’re still embroiled in a legal battle with the Russian authorities, and there’s no telling when Russian users will be able to access the app again. We’ll be sure to keep you updated as this story develops.

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