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10
Oct

Samsung Galaxy A9 renders reveal a phone with four rear cameras


That’s a lot of cameras.

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We’re expecting Samsung to announce its Galaxy A9 mid-ranger in the next few days, and when it’s unveiled, it’ll be the first mainstream smartphone to ship with a total of four rear cameras.

On Wednesday, October 10, both Evan Blass and MySmartPrice shared renders of the upcoming phone that confirms the four sensor monstrosity on its back. Phones with three cameras like the LG V40 and Huawei P20 Pro already look pretty odd, and adding another one certainly doesn’t help the A9 from an aesthetic point of view.

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As for how all of these cameras will work, we’re expecting a 120-degree wide-angle lens, 2x optical zoom one, a 24MP main shooter, and a depth sensor that should help for portrait shots.

Having so much flexibility with those different cameras could prove to be incredibly useful, but if not handled properly, we could be looking at another Samsung experiment gone wrong.

What’s your take on these Galaxy A9 renders? Sound off in the comments below!

LG V40 ThinQ review: Five cameras aimed straight at Samsung

10
Oct

Best Nest Deals


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Nest makes some of the best smart home gadgets around, but if you start buying up a lot of them, your wallet will quickly start to feel the burn. Thankfully, if you know where to look, it’s possible to score some pretty good savings on an assortment of Nest’s tech. Without further ado, here are the best Nest deals that are currently available.

Flagship savings

Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Gen)

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The Nest Learning Thermostat is the most capable smart thermostat in the company’s lineup, and right now on Amazon you can pick it up for just $208 (over $40 off its retail price). The Learning Thermostat has a large, colorful display, is available in a variety of colors, and connects to both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

$208 at Amazon

More affordable security

Nest Security Camera

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Want to keep an eye on your home from just about anywhere? That’s where the Nest Security Camera comes into play. Normally selling for $199, Amazon’s got the Security Camera listed for just a little over $171. This model’s designed for indoor use and can be placed on a hard surface or mounted to the wall.

$171 at Amazon

Bundles are the best

Nest Protect 3-Pack

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The Nest Protect combines a smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm into one single package and adds all of the usual Nest smarts you’d expect. A three pack of Protect would normally set you back $329, but if you’re part of the My Best Buy rewards program, you’ll pay only $299.

$299 at Best Buy

Nest savings can sometimes be difficult to come by, but right now, these three are the best ones you can find. We’ll update this guide as savings come and go, so be sure to check back often!

10
Oct

Google Assistant kan straks telefoontjes voor je aannemen


Google kondigde gisteren de Pixel 3 aan maar de show werd toch gestolen door een heel ander product; Call Screen. Deze functie komt straks naar de Google Assistant en hij is in staat om telefoongesprekken voor je aan te nemen. Ideaal voor wie vermoed dat hij gebeld wordt door een callcenter of wie belvrees heeft.

De presentatie over Call Screen ging gepaard met de legendarische woorden “Je hoeft nooit meer met een callcenter medewerker te praten!”. Google probeert al langer nuttige toepassingen te vinden voor kunstmatige intelligentie. Andere fabrikanten komen momenteel niet veel verder dan het automatisch selecteren van camerainstellingen en app-suggesties. Google lijkt met Call Screen nu echt stappen te maken op het gebied van AI waar we in ons dagelijks leven profijt van kunnen hebben.

Call Screen is onderdeel van Google Assistant en eerst exclusief verkrijgbaar voor Pixel-telefoons zoals de Pixel 3 en Pixel 3 XL. Call Screen kan een binnenkomende oproep aannemen waarna hij de andere kant van de lijn uitlegt dat de persoon die gebeld wordt gebruik maakt van een screening service vervolgd door de vraag waarvoor hij of zij belt. Alles wat gezegd wordt verschijnt als tekst op je telefoon. Je kunt vervolgens altijd het gesprek aannemen of via tekstballonnen het gesprek ‘vriendelijk’ afkappen. Call Screen wordt later dit jaar uitgerold naar Pixel-telefoons.

Duplex

Google kondigde eerder dit jaar tijdens I/O een andere soortgelijke dienst aan genaamd Duplex. Deze kan actief namens je telefoongesprekken maken om bijvoorbeeld afspraken bij de kapper of een restaurant te maken. Zie het als een soort personal assistant die je opdracht geeft een tafeltje bij je favoriete eetcafe te reserveren. Ook Duplex wordt later dit jaar uitgerold naar Google Asssistant maar zal alleen eerst in de steden New York, Atlanta, Phoenix en San Francisco beschikbaar zijn. Na Google’s presentatie ontstond meteen een ethische discussie omdat de ontvangende partij niet te horen kreeg dat het hier om een gesprek met een computer ging. Mogelijk past Google dat nog aan net zoals het bij Call Screen doet.

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10
Oct

DisplayMate: Google Pixel 3 XL heeft beste telefoonscherm ooit


De testers van DisplayMate hebben het scherm op de nieuwe Pixel 3 XL een beoordeling van A+ gegeven. Dat is weliswaar dezelfde score als de Samsung Galaxy Note 9 en iPhone XS Max maar het paneel van de 3 XL is wel de beste ooit in een mobiele telefoon. Opvallend want het scherm in de Pixel 2 XL kon nog op veel kritiek rekenen.

Google kondigde gisteren naast de Pixel 3 XL de kleinere Pixel 3 aan. Welke score die behaalt is nog onduidelijk al maken ze wel beiden van dezelfde schermtechniek gebruik. Google ruilde de Plastic OLED-panelen in voor een Flexible OLED-paneel van een nog onbekende fabrikant. Mogelijk gaat het trouwens gewoon om hetzelfde paneel van LG dat nu een andere naam heeft gekregen. Duidelijkheid krijgen we daar mogelijk 15 oktober over wanneer DIsplayMate haar volledige testverslag publiceert.

Scherm op de Pixel 3 XL “beste ooit”

De Google Pixel 3 XL is dus niet het eerste paneel in een smartphone dat een A+ scoort, eerder gingen de iPhone XS Max en Galaxy Note 9 hem voor. Waarom de Pixel 3 XL dit jaar zoveel beter scoort blijft nog even onduidelijk totdat het definitieve rapport binnen is. De score is wel een opsteker voor Google dat vorig jaar nog veel kritiek kreeg kreeg. Het OLED-paneel daarop kende slechte kijkhoeken en de daaropvolgende overheersende blauwe tint. Google voegde daarop enkele nieuwe kleuropties toe waaronder ‘boosted’, ‘natuurlijk’ en ‘verzadigd’. Deze problemen lijken vooralsnog bij de Pixel 3 XL verholpen te zijn.

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10
Oct

LG V40 ThinQ pakt nog voor release eerste camera-update


Hij ligt nog niet eens in de winkel maar de LG V40 ThinQ heeft z’n eerste software-update al binnen. De update zou vooral de prestaties van de camera moeten verbeteren. Daarmee rijst de vraag of LG de V40 ThinQ niet iets te vroeg heeft aangekondigd.

Iedereen die een LG V40 ThinQ moet dus eerst even de software updaten wil je de beste cameraresultaten. De software die standaard het met toestel meelevert doen de camera duidelijk te kort. Zo zou deze update de fotokwaliteit bij weinig licht moeten verbeteren, de kwaliteit van de AI-camera, een betere witbalans en belichting buitenshuis en zou de autofocus verbeterd zijn. Nu juichen we dergelijke verbeteringen altijd toe en het is goed dat de mogelijkheid inmiddels bestaat zonder producten terug te hoeven roepen.

Eerste update voor LG V40 ThinQ

LG kondigde de V40 met z’n in totaal 5 camera’s in oktober aan en het lijkt er niet op dat hij nog 2018 in Nederland verkrijgbaar zal zijn. LG richt zich met het toestel met name op fotografie getuige de overdaad aan camera’s. Achterop zitten drie stuks; één met telezoomlens, met standaardlens en één met een extra brede groothoeklens. Iedere lens past bij een specifieke situatie en dat moet overall betere foto’s opleveren is de gedachte. Uiteraard geholpen door de nodige AI oftewel kunstmatige intelligentie. Meestal komt dat neer op een automatische stand maar LG brengt gelukkig meer mee. Denk bijvoorbeeld aan Cine Show waarbij je onderdelen van je foto kunt laten bewegen. Onduidelijk is nog wanneer de LG V40 ThinQ hier precies verkocht zal worden en voor hoeveel. In de VS moet hij 900 dollar kosten.

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10
Oct

Huawei Mate 20 Pro duikt wederom op in Twilight-uitvoering


Over een kleine week kondigt Huawei de Mate 20-serie aan waaronder de Mate 20 Pro met achterop drie camera’s. Vandaag krijgen hem weer eens te zien en wel in de Twilight-uitvoering bestaande uit twee kleuren die in elkaar over lopen. Allemaal dankzij de betrouwbare Evan Blass van @evleaks.

De Mate 20 Pro belooft een aardige telefoon te worden. Het 6,3 inch grote toestel krijgt een OLED-paneel met licht gebogen randen en bovenin een notch. Tot zover dezelfde specs dus als de Pixel 3 XL behalve dan dat de notch bij de Huawei flinke malen kleiner is. Ook anders is dat bij de Huawei Mate 20 Pro de vingerafdrukscanner in het scherm verwerkt is.

De vermeende Huawei Mate 20 Pro in de Twilight-uitvoering

Huawei schijnt verder gewerkt te hebben aan een eigen betrouwbare vorm van gezichtsontgrendeling vergelijkbaar als Face ID van Apple. De ster van het toestel zit echter achterop. Daar vinden we een vierkant blok waarin drie verschillende camera’s verwerkt zitten; een 40 megapixel hoofdcamera, secundaire lens voor scherpte/diepte en een groothoeklens. Definitieve specificaties daarvan zijn nog niet binnen. Huawei kondigde de krachtbon van het toestel eerder al aan. Dat wordt de Kirin 980-processor die uit eigen fabriek komt. De chip is gebakken op 7 nanometer en moet volgens Huawei krachtiger zijn dan Apple’s A12 Bionic. Beiden hebben 6,9 miljard transistors en beschikken over een aparte NPU voor kunstmatige intelligentie. Of de claim van Huawei stand houdt moet blijken in praktijktesten. Huawei kondigt de Mate 20 Pro mogelijk samen met de Mate 20 op 16 oktober tijdens een evenement in Londen aan.

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10
Oct

Review: The Newly Launched Insta360 ONE X Captures 5.7K 360-Degree Video With Impressive Stabilization and Fun Photographic Effects


Insta360, the company that makes the Insta360 ONE 360-degree camera attachment sold at Apple retail stores, is today debuting its next-generation product, the upgraded and refined Insta360 ONE X.

Compared to the previous-generation Insta360 ONE, the new Insta360 ONE X has a redesigned body, an upgraded camera that can record in 360 degrees at up to 5.7K resolution with impressive stabilization, and new photo and video capabilities.

I was able to spend some time with the Insta360 ONE X ahead of its launch, and found it to be great little action camera capable of some fun photo and video effects perfect for sharing on social media.

Design

The Insta360 ONE X is rectangular in shape and about the size of a candy bar, making it portable and easy to carry in a bag or in a pocket. It measures in at 4.5 inches by 1.8 inches, and a little under a half an inch thick.

There are cameras on both the front and the back of the Insta360 ONE X, allowing it to capture 360 degree photos and videos all the time. As with the previous version, you can’t capture non 360-degree photos, but standard photos and videos are available through post processing and cropping within the Insta360 app.


At the side of the Insta360 ONE X, there’s a battery compartment that houses a removable 1200 mAh battery, which lets you swap in another battery for longer on-the-go battery life.

At the bottom, there’s a microSD card slot (with a microSD card required for recording photos and videos), and at the other side, there’s a microUSB port used for charging purposes.


Below the camera on the front, there’s a small display and a set of buttons that let you access settings and swap between photo and video modes.


Pressing on the small button lets you choose to snap photos or record videos, while pressing on the main button takes a photo or starts/stops a video recording. It’s an intuitive system that’s also supplemented by further controls within the app.

Camera Specs and Image Quality

The Insta360 ONE X has an impressive 18-megapixel f/2.0 aperture camera built in and the image quality for both photos and videos was excellent during my testing, even in conditions where the lighting was not optimal.


My photos and videos turned out crisp, bright, and detailed, and the stabilization produced smooth videos even in situations where I was moving the camera around quite a lot. I didn’t use the original Insta360 ONE, so I’m not sure how the image stabilization or photo quality compares, but the ONE X is great.


The ONE X is a 360 degree camera, so it captures you and everything around you in specialized 360 degree photos and videos that you can swipe through to see the entire scene around you. It goes way beyond the wide-angle view of some other action-oriented cameras, offering up a look at a complete moment in time.

I had a lot of fun testing the ONE X in a few parks around the Bay Area, and while I don’t do any action sports, it seems like it would be a useful way to capture skiing, surfing (with an included waterproof accessory), biking, and other such activities in fun-to-watch videos.

Click to drag the image around to see the full 360 degree view
The camera in the Insta360 ONE X can record 5K video at 30fps, 4K at 30 or 50 fps, and 3k at 100fps. 5K video and the 50 fps 4K video mode are both upgrades over the previous-generation camera.

It can capture RAW images if set to do so, and there’s also HDR support for photos, with HDR 360 video in the works.

According to Insta360, the ONE X features gimbal-level stabilization using a “FlowState” stabilization algorithm, and all of the video I took, even spinning the camera around, had little jitter.

Insta360 says the stabilization works well with the Insta360 ONE X mounted to a selfie stick, attached to a helmet, mounted to handle bars, and more, with the algorithm smoothing the video out no matter how the camera is positioned.

A demo video from Insta360 comparing the camera to a GoPro
Given that the Insta360 ONE X is taking 360 degree photos and videos, there is a degree of distortion to be expected with photos and images, even those that are constrained to more standard display sizes and formats.

Accessories

The Insta360 ONE X doesn’t come bundled with accessories, but it has a standard tripod mount that works with various selfie sticks and tripod accessories. I tested the One X with an extendable selfie stick that Insta360 sells separately for $16.

The Insta360 selfie stick is fully adjustable and can be set to multiple lengths for different looks and effects for your photos and videos, which I found to be useful.


When you use the selfie stick, the Insta360 ONE X app has been designed to edit it out of every shot, so it’s never visible. No visible selfie stick means the resulting photos and videos can look like they were shot from up in the air drone style, but you do need to make sure you position your hand in a way that makes it look like you’re not holding a stick or some of the photos and videos can look awkward.

I’m holding the selfie stick here, but the Insta360 ONE X edits it out
You basically need to use a selfie stick or another mounted solution with the Insta360 ONE X at all times, because it doesn’t work well as a handheld device. Since it’s recording in 360 degrees, it records whatever’s holding it, so if it’s in your hand and you want to use the forward-facing footage, you’ll have a giant distorted hand in the photo or video.

If you hold the Insta360 ONE X, you get a distorted arm in every image/video
Selfie sticks are banned in a lot of places and I also felt silly whipping out a camera on a giant stick when I was testing the Insta360 ONE X, so if this is a concern, the Insta360 ONE X may not be for you. You can put it on a tripod, set it on a flat surface or mount it in some other way (like on a helmet), but this isn’t an accessory that can be used as a traditional handheld camera.


For me, the selfie stick aspect of the Insta360 ONE X was the biggest negative that kept me from using it several times when I didn’t want to be seen in a crowded place with a camera on a stick.


The most affordable selfie stick option does not come with a built-in Bluetooth button on the stick, so I did need to use the iPhone or a timed mode to capture a photo. Insta360 does sell a stick with an add-on Bluetooth button, but it’s more expensive at $22.

The Insta360 ONE X review unit I tested also came with a Bullet Time handle for me to try. The Bullet handle is for making videos where you spin the Insta360 ONE X around in a circle in slo-mo. I really wasn’t able to master this effect in the time that I was testing the Insta360 ONE X, but it’s nice to have options. As a side note, the Bullet Time mode in the Insta360 ONE X features a wider angle and an improved 3K resolution compared to the previous-generation Insta360 ONE.

Bullet Time in action via Insta360
Insta360 has designed a few other accessories to go with the Insta360 ONE X that I wasn’t able to test out. There’s a Drifter accessory shaped like a little rocket. You stick the Insta360 ONE X inside the accessory and then throw it for unique video.

The Insta360 ONE X Drifter Case
There are also two rugged case options designed to be water and impact resistant. The Venture Case is a protective shell with waterproofing to five meters and splash protection, while the Dive Case lets you shoot underwater down to 30 meters.

The Insta360 ONE X Dive Case
For the original Insta360 ONE, Insta360 designed a number of different mounting solutions and cases for different use cases like using it surfing, running, with a drone, on a pet, and more, and the company should have similar bundles for the new model.

App and Effects

While the Insta360 ONE X captures 360-degree photos and videos, using the Insta360 app, you can export them in a standardized format viewable on any device.

Because everything is captured from any angle, you can select different angles when editing a video in the app, catching the best parts of the action. In any given video, you can use features like pivot point, SmartTrack, and ViewFinder to adjust what’s visible in the video at any given point.

A quick demo video I made using the built-in app tools, with aspect ratio set at 16:9
The app features an extensive set of editing tools that can create montages, multi-clip videos, and a range of other customization tools for stabilization, adding music, and more, but it could do with better instructions.

I was using a beta version of the app that was still under development for this review, but I did think some of the editing tools available were somewhat confusing.

Before you can edit, you need to trim a video and save it to your device, and then there are a number of different buttons to work with, but there aren’t in-app guides for walking you through the tools and none of it is intuitive enough to use without some trial and error.

The same video as above, but on Insta360’s website with full controls for viewing in 360 degrees
There are built-in tools for adding filters, adjusting metrics like exposure, color temperature, contrast, saturation, and more, along with blur and video speed. You can set speed from 1/8X to 64X. and with a new TimeShift feature, you can set each part of a video to a different speed. It’s a fun effect that lets you slow down video at key spots while speeding up the rest.


As mentioned above, there are tools for adjusting the width of the view (all the way to a full planet-style view with everything in frame) and the angle of the view using pivot points so the most interesting aspect of what was framed is always front and center. There’s also a tracking option that will keep a subject in the frame.


There are a ton of other effects you can create using the tutorial videos in the app, but it will take some practice to master them. You can, for example, create a video that looks like a drone is flying towards you and then away with the selfie stick or use the bullet time handle paired with a slo-mo bullet time mode for circular slow motion effects.


I don’t think all of the capturing modes nor the editing process are simple enough to be figured out quickly, so if you buy the ONE X, plan to spend some time getting to know it before you can create impressive photo and video effects.

The Insta360 ONE X connects to your iPhone and the Insta360 app over Bluetooth and WiFi. On the iPhone, you can preview photos and videos as you take them and if desired, you can even set up a live streaming feature. There are tools for manually adjusting image settings like ISO, exposure, white balance and shutter speed prior to capturing a photo or video for the ideal shot.

You can also connect the ONE X to your iPhone using an included microUSB to Lightning cable. There are also microUSB to USB-C and microUSB cables for connecting to other smartphones.

One of the many effects possible with the Insta360 ONE X
When exporting a finished photo or video, the app has sharing tools for sending your creations to social networks like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube, or to the Insta360 community in the app where you can also view other people’s creations for inspiration. You can also create web links where content will be visible on the web, with the option to rotate through 360 degree videos.

Bottom Line

As someone who’s just an average consumer that doesn’t partake in sports suitable for action cams, I had a lot of fun with the Insta360 ONE X thanks to all of the effects you can create with 360 degree photos and videos.


That said, since I’m not someone who does something that’s worth capturing in 360 degrees on a regular basis, I think I might get bored with the Insta360 ONE X because when it comes down to it, it’s a camera designed for a specific use case — action.

The Insta360 ONE X definitely an intriguing alternative to a GoPro that’s arguably more versatile, and I think it has the potential to work amazingly well for sports like surfing, snowboarding, skydiving, and skateboarding, where there’s beautiful scenery and action to capture all at once.

An Insta360 ONE surfing demo video
For active people who do sports that would benefit from these kind of 360 degree videos, families with kids, or people who want to capture photos and videos in a new way, the Insta360 ONE X is worth checking out as long as you don’t mind the giant stick.

How to Buy

The Insta360 ONE X can be purchased from the Insta360 website for $400. While the Insta360 ONE is available in Apple Stores, the ONE X will not be in Apple retail locations at launch. Insta360 says the new product will eventually be available from Apple, however.

Note: Insta360 provided MacRumors with an Insta360 ONE X for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received.
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10
Oct

How to Secure Your Instagram Account With Two-Factor Authentication


With social media account hacking becoming increasingly more widespread, users would do well to make sure they’re taking every security measure available to them. That goes doubly for frequenters of Facebook-owned Instagram, where account hijacking in particular is a recurring problem.

One of the best ways to protect any online account is by using two-factor authentication (2FA). 2FA offers hardened security during login attempts by requesting that the user provides an extra piece of information only they would know, such as a randomly generated code from a third-party.

Instagram has supported two-factor authentication for some time, but it was tied to a phone number and required users to receive text messages, which has proven to be insecure and left some Instagram users vulnerable to SIM hacking. Last week however, Instagram added non SMS-based two-factor authentication to the app with support for third-party authenticator apps.

With 2FA enabled, you’ll be the only person who can access your Instagram account from another device, regardless of whether someone learns your password as the result of a hack or a phishing scam, so it’s well worth taking the time to enable the feature. This article shows you how. Note that you’ll need to download an authenticator app to follow the steps below – we’ll be using Google Authenticator, but Authy is another tried and tested option that works equally well.

How to Protect Your Instagram Account With 2FA

Launch the Instagram app on your iPhone and log in to your account if you aren’t already.

Tap your profile picture in the bottom right of the Instagram feed.
On your profile page, tap the three-lined button at the top-right of the screen.
Tap Settings at the bottom of the pop-out side menu.

Tap Two-factor authentication, listed under privacy and security settings.
Tap Get Started.
Tap the Authenticator toggle.
Tap Next.
Tap Open in the prompt that says Instagram wants to open Google Authenticator.

A prompt will appear in Authenticator asking if you want to add a token for your Instagram account. Tap Yes to confirm.
Tap and hold on the Instagram token to copy the code to the clipboard.
Return to Instagram and long press on the code entry field, then tap the Paste pop-up to enter the authenticator code.And that’s it – 2FA is now enabled for your Instagram account. Note that once you’ve authenticated a trusted device in this way, you won’t have to do it every time you launch the app, but your account will remain protected.

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10
Oct

Apple Has Acquired Danish Startup Spektral, Focused on Real-Time ‘Green Screen’ Technology


Apple has acquired Danish computer vision startup Spektral, according to a paywalled report from Danish newspaper Børsen.

Spektral has developed a technology that can intelligently separate people and objects from their original backgrounds in photos and videos, and overlay a new background, resulting in what is called a “cutout.” The solution is driven by deep neural networks and spectral graph theory.

The technology can be thought of as real-time “green screen” processing powered by machine learning algorithms:

Our pioneering and unique technology is based on state-of-the-art machine learning and computer vision techniques. Combining deep neural networks and spectral graph theory with the computing power of modern GPUs, our engine can process images and video from the camera in real-time (60 FPS) directly on the device.

The report says Apple acquired Spektral, formerly known as CloudCutout, in late 2017. Spektral co-founders Henrik Paltoft and Toke Jansen, who now lists himself as a manager of computational imaging at Apple, are said to have received 200 million Danish krone, or roughly $30 million as of today’s exchange rate.

Spektral’s website notes that its solution makes it possible to create unique and immersive mixed reality content. Apple could incorporate the technology into the default Camera app on iPhone, or Messages, or Clips, or use the technology in bigger ways as it continues to push into augmented reality.

Spektral was founded in 2014 and raised $3.3 million in venture capital prior to its acquisition by Apple, according to Crunchbase.

Tag: Apple acquisition
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10
Oct

Space tourism: Virgin Galactic ‘weeks’ away from first test flights in space


Virgin Galactic has its sights set on launching the first-ever commercial space tourism service, with chairman Richard Branson insisting his effort could be up and running in a matter of months.

Branson said in a CNBC interview on Tuesday, October 9 that “within weeks” a test flight will take Virgin Galactic crew members into space for the first time, with himself and others joining the debut commercial mission “in months and not years.” He added that his team has a “very, very exciting couple of months ahead.”

Virgin Galactic has so far this year completed three successful rocket-powered test flights of its latest SpaceShipTwo plane, VSS Unity, but the vehicle has yet to be tested at the target altitude of 62 miles. According to Branson, that should all change later this month.

When the space tourism service goes into operation, VSS Unity will take two crew members and six paying passengers on thrilling trips to a point widely regarded as the edge of space and where those on board will be able to experience several minutes of weightlessness.

Some 700 people have already paid $250,000 each for a seat on the spacecraft, and Virgin Galactic has said that the clamor for places means that anybody purchasing a ticket today will probably have to wait until at least 2021 before they can get to experience the ride of a lifetime.

Acknowledging that the huge fee puts the ride out of reach of most people on the planet, Branson told CNBC he’d like to see the price fall to around $40,000 or $50,000 over the next decade.

But Virgin Galactic has serious competition in the form of Blue Origin, a space company owned by another billionaire entrepreneur, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos. Branson said earlier this year that Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin were neck and neck in their respective quests to launch commercial space tourism services.

Like VSS Unity, Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle can also carry up to six passengers, though each service will offer a very different travel experience. Blue Origin’s setup uses a rocket launch, while Virgin Galactic uses a runway launch with a carrier aircraft that helps VSS Unity to begin its journey, with the spacecraft’s rocket engines firing up later once it reaches a certain altitude. The return journey is also different, with New Shepard’s capsule deploying parachutes for a gentle touchdown and Unity gliding back to terra firma for a smooth runway landing.

And don’t forget SpaceX, which recently announced a plan to send a paying passenger — and eight others — on a trip around the moon in 2023.

The road has so far been a tricky one for Virgin Galactic. Founded in 2004, the company originally aimed for a 2009 launch of its space service, but various setbacks along the way, the most serious involving the death of a pilot in a failed test flight in 2014, have slowed progress. A string of successful test flights this year with new vehicle designs have helped to put it back on track, with Branson clearly confident that Virgin Galactic can take some major steps forward in the coming months.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Watch Virgin Galactic’s tourist spacecraft reach its highest altitude to date
  • Boeing suffers setback in space taxi testing
  • Kepler space telescope’s last gasp is next week
  • TESS, NASA’s planet-hunting space satellite, begins science operations
  • Blue Origin eyes a date for the sale of tourist spaceflight tickets



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