Earlier in December, Apple announced that it would begin allowing its artificial intelligence and machine learning researchers to publish and share their work in papers, slightly pulling back the curtain on the company’s famously secretive creation processes. Now, just a few weeks later, the first of those papers has been published, focusing on Apple’s work in the intelligent image recognition field.
Titled “Learning from Simulated and Unsupervised Images through Adversarial Training,” the paper describes a program that can intelligently decipher and understand digital images in a setting similar to the “Siri Intelligence” and facial recognition features introduced in Photos in iOS 10, but more advanced.
In the research, Apple notes the downsides and upsides of using real images compared with that of “synthetic,” or computer images. Annotations must be added to real images, an “expensive and time-consuming task” that requires a human workforce to individually label objects in a picture. On the other hand, computer-generated images help to catalyze this process “because the annotations are automatically available.”
Still, fully switching to synthetic images could lead to a dip in the quality of the program in question. This is because “synthetic data is often not realistic enough” and would lead to an end-user experience that only responded well to details present in the computer-generated images, while being unable to generalize well on any real-world objects and pictures it faced.
This leads to the paper’s central proposition — the combination of using both simulated and real images to work together in “adversarial training,” creating an advanced AI image program:
In this paper, we propose Simulated+Unsupervised (S+U) learning, where the goal is to improve the realism of synthetic images from a simulator using unlabeled real data. The improved realism enables the training of better machine learning models on large datasets without any data collection or human annotation effort.
We show that this enables generation of highly realistic images, which we demonstrate both qualitatively and with a user study.
The rest of the paper goes into the details of Apple’s research on the topic, including experiments that have been run and the math proposed to back up its findings. The paper’s research focused solely on single images, but the team at Apple notes towards the end that it hopes to sometime soon “investigate refining videos” as well.
The credits on the paper go to Apple researchers Ashish Shrivastava, Tomas Pfister, Oncel Tuzel, Josh Susskind, Wenda Wang, and Russ Webb. The team’s research was first submitted on November 15, but it didn’t get published until December 22.
At the AI conference in Barcelona a few weeks ago, Apple head of machine learning Russ Salakhutdinov — and a few other employees — discussed topics including health and vital signs, volumetric detection of LiDAR, prediction with structured outputs, image processing and colorization, intelligent assistant and language modeling, and activity recognition. We’ll likely see papers on a variety of these topics and more in the near future.
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2016 was a year in which the fates seemingly asked, “Oh, you think that’s bad? Here, hold my beer.” We lost a Prince but gained a nacho-cheese-flavored, would-be king. We saw drones that couldn’t stop falling out of the sky, Snapchat filters that only a racist uncle could love and more poorly executed gadget gimmicks than you can shake a selfie stick at. Here are some of the cringe-worthiest consumer products we had the misfortune of covering this year.
Check out all of Engadget’s year-in-review coverage right here.
Last week we broke down the biggest winners of 2016. This week, we’re taking a look at the biggest losers.
Yahoo has clearly had one of the worst years in history for a company. And, unless something changes soon, this whole mess with the NSA and 1.5 billion hacked accounts could become the problem of Engadget’s parent company Verizon. So, there’s that. Of course there was Samsung’s parade of exploding gadgets and Twitter… well, Twitter just couldn’t seem to get its act together. It’s now known as the platform of choice for trolls and white supremacists as much as it is for forcing you to distill complex thoughts into 140-character fragments.
Of course, between the explosion of fake news and the continued hostility towards the science of climate change, the biggest loser of 2016, might just be the American public.
Check out all of Engadget’s year-in-review coverage right here.
iTunes gift cards are a common gift for the tech enthusiast during the holidays. The cards can be used to purchase apps, games, music, movies, TV shows, books, and more, making it difficult to decide what to buy with your freshly unwrapped gift. We’re here to help with some hand-picked recommendations.
Didn’t get an iTunes gift card under the tree? PayPal is offering 10% off iTunes e-gift cards through December 30 in the United States for use on U.S. storefronts only. Available denominations include $25, $50, and $100 for $22.50, $45, and $90 respectively. PayPal is also offering a $50 iTunes e-gift card for $42.50 via eBay in the United States for a limited time. While iTunes gift cards can occasionally be found for 15% off, these are a few of the best deals currently available.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the script for a two-part play based on a new original story J.K. Rowling helped to write. The book was released in July as the eighth story in the Harry Potter series, nearly a decade after the final Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows book was released.
The story begins 19 years after the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Harry Potter is now an overworked Ministry of Magic employee, a husband, and father of three school-aged children, including his youngest son Albus, who struggles with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is available in a digital format for $14.99 on the iBooks Store [Direct Link] for iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
Texture — Unlimited Access to 200+ Magazines
Texture is an iPhone and iPad app that provides unlimited access to over 200 of the world’s most popular magazines for $9.99 per month. New users who purchase a subscription as an in-app purchase get a 7-day full trial.
Some of the magazines available include People, Vogue, Rolling Stone, National Geographic, GQ, Sports Illustrated, Wired, Maxim, Men’s Health, GQ, Bloomberg Businessweek, ESPN, Entertainment Weekly, and many others.
Magazines can be read on up to five devices per subscription, including offline by tapping download on a specific issue. Both new issues and a searchable archive of over 5000 past issues are available. A full catalog of available magazines, additional details, and sign-up promotions can be found on the Texture website.
Texture is a free download on the App Store [Direct Link] for iPhone and iPad. The app won a Best of 2016 award on the App Store.
Super Mario Run
Super Mario Run launched on the App Store for iPhone and iPad ten days ago, becoming the first official smartphone and tablet game featuring the iconic Nintendo character. The game is free to try for the first three courses, while unlocking all 24 courses in the World Tour requires a one-time $10 in-app purchase.
The game is a timed runner designed for one-handed gameplay. Mario runs forward automatically as players tap to jump, collect coins, pounce on Goombas, avoid obstacles, and reach the flagpole at the end of each course before the timer runs out. In the end, Mario must rescue Princess Peach from Bowser.
A challenge mode called Toad Rally allows players to compete with friends or strangers to see who can obtain the highest score while performing stylish moves. Toad Rally requires Rally Tickets, which can be acquired in a variety of ways, such as clearing worlds or through bonus games in your own kingdom.
Meanwhile, a Kingdom Builder mode enables players to create their own kingdom and customize it using coins and toads gathered in Toad Rally. Super Mario Run has since gained a new Friendly Run mode similar to Toad Rally, but items, coins, or new toads collected do count toward a player’s public totals in this mode.
Super Mario Run has been downloaded over 40 million times, but some players have criticized the $10 cost to unlock the full game due to limited gameplay. But, in the game’s defense, there are technically 72 courses given players have to collect pink, purple, and black challenge coins on each of the 24 courses.
Super Mario Run is available on the App Store [Direct Link] for iPhone and iPad. An always-on Wi-Fi or cellular connection is required.
Apps on Sale
A number of popular iPhone and iPad apps are on sale through the holidays, including Day One, Tweetbot, Alto’s Adventure, Byword, djay Pro, Duet Display, NBA 2K17, Limbo, SteamWorld Heist, Severed, Battleheart Legacy, PCalc, Pennies, Drafts, Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition, Broken Age, and many others.
More deals, including discounts on Mac apps, can be found on AppShopper or in the App Santa promotion, which runs through December 26. TouchArcade has also finalized its list of the 100 best games available this year. As a reminder, no new or updated apps will appear on the App Store until after December 27.
Apple Music Subscription
iTunes gift cards can be used to pay for an Apple Music subscription, which costs $9.99 per month for individuals, $14.99 per month for families with up to six people, and $4.99 per month for students in the United States and Canada. Prices and student plan availability vary in other countries.
Those looking for a slightly better deal on an annual Apple Music subscription should consider a 12-month Apple Music gift card, which Apple sells for $99. A 12-month subscription to Apple Music normally costs $120 when paying for the service directly with iTunes credit or another form of payment, so you can save $20.
Minecraft for Apple TV
Minecraft for Apple TV launched last week, giving players the familiar task of venturing into a randomly generated world and customizing it to their liking.
Minecraft: Apple TV Edition is $19.99 and can be purchased directly from the tvOS App Store on the fourth-generation Apple TV.
With the holidays and winter weather upon us in the northern half of the world, now is a better time than ever to snug up on the couch and relax. Apple is offering a wide range of holiday movies in HD for $10 or less in the United States for a limited time, so this may be a good way to spend some iTunes credit.
• National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
• Home Alone
• Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
• Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
• The Polar Express
• A Christmas Story
• It’s a Wonderful Life
• Love Actually
• The Night Before
• Mickey’s Christmas Carol
• The Muppet Christmas Carol
• A Christmas Carol (2009)
• A Christmas Carol (1984)
• Tyler Perry’s a Madea Christmas: The Movie
• Miracle on 34th Street (1947)• Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
• The Santa Clause
• Bad Santa
• The Holiday
• This Christmas
• The Family Stone
• Last Holiday
• Jingle All the Way
• A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas
• The Best Man Holiday
• The Family Man
• Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights
• Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas
• Black Nativity
• Fred Claus
• The Perfect Holiday
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It’s been a festive week and, for once, not a complete socio-political trainwreck. I know, I’m just as surprised as you are, but some good things really did happen. Like, we found an effective vaccine against Ebola, Super Mario Run broke iOS download records, both the UK and France have come to embrace renewables and Canada set some impressive broadband speed rules. Numbers, because how else are we going to count down the million years until Sweet Meteor O’Death finally comes calling?
PayPal is offering 10% off iTunes e-gift cards until December 30 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time. Available denominations include a $25 iTunes e-gift card for $22.50, $50 iTunes e-gift card for $45, and a $100 iTunes e-gift card for $90. The gift cards are not physical but instead delivered electronically via email.
iTunes gift cards can be used to purchase apps, games, music, movies, TV shows, books, and more on the App Store, iTunes Store, the iBooks Store, and the Mac App Store. The credit can also be used towards an Apple Music subscription. The gift cards can be used on iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple TV, Mac, or PC.
Here’s the fine print summarized: Valid U.S. PayPal and iTunes accounts are required. The deal is valid only on purchases made in the United States from the U.S. iTunes Store. The offer is valid while supplies last. Limited quantity is available. Electronic delivery only. No returns or refunds are accepted.
While iTunes gift cards can occasionally be found for 15% off, this is one of the best deals currently available.
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For those lucky enough to find a new iPhone, iPad, or AirPods under the tree today, now is the perfect time to outfit your home, car, work desk, bedside table, or elsewhere with extra Lightning charging cables.
Apple charges $19 for its 1-meter Lightning to USB charging cable, but you can save yourself $13 by purchasing an Apple-certified 0.9-meter Anker Lightning to USB charging cable for just $5.99 on Amazon.
The cable qualifies for free two-day shipping in the United States for Amazon Prime members. Without a Prime membership, free standard 6-8 days shipping in the U.S. is available on orders over $49 in total.
While counterfeit Apple cables and chargers on Amazon are common, and potentially dangerous, Anker claims its cable is certified by Apple under its MFi Program. MFi-certified products have been certified by the developer to meet Apple performance standards. The Wirecutter, owned by The New York Times, said Anker has the best Lightning cable.
This article is not affiliated with Anker, but MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon and may sometimes get paid if you click one of the above links.
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In addition to everything else that happened in tech this year, something small, cute and unassuming wormed its way into your smartphone, your social network and even your MacBook keyboard. While emoji have been around a while, this was the year these pictographs firmly lodged themselves into our lives. It’s become less like immature shorthand and more like another language.
Apple and Google both showed they were both taking the tiny icons seriously. The iPhone’s iOS 10 added search and predictive features for emoji to its keyboard, making it even easier to inject winks and explosions into everything you type. (Apple also added emoji functions to the OLED Touch Bar on its new MacBook Pro.)
Google took it even further, with its latest Android keyboard and gBoard on iOS both including predictive emoji. The company even baked them into its new AI assistant, Allo. The assistant can play emoji-based movie guessing games. In fact, the internet juggernaut has a real emoji crush: In early December, its main Twitter account even started offering local search results if you tweeted an emoji at it.
Granted, the results are … mixed. It won’t be replacing Yelp anytime soon, but it demonstrates how emoji are moving beyond their quick-and-dirty text-message roots.
Quicker access to emoji on your phone also comes at a time when most of our digital interactions (or at least mine) happen through smartphones. It’s become easier to use emoji, and new uses are introduced all the time. GoDaddy launched a service that allows you to create and register website addresses written purely in emoji. It could open a new wave of easily memorable sites — and there’s no shortage of emoji combinations available.
Perhaps the biggest challenge in use of emoji is how open to interpretation many of the pictograms are. More than the written or spoken word, emoji can be easily misunderstood — a fact compounded by the subtle visual differences between identical symbols in different emoji fonts. Send an iPhone emoji to someone using Google hangouts on a PC, and they might not pick up the exact same meaning.
They can also deliver entirely new uses, beyond the simple word was once meant to represent. There’s a reason for the popularity of the eggplant emoji and it has nothing to do with moussaka.
This vagueness and playfulness is part of their charm; some things are just funnier or easier to say in emojis. Occasionally, they can be haunting:
It’s not all frivolity and euphemisms. Updates to the emoji series attempt to better represent modern culture and society. Unicode’s latest character set for 2016 had a strong focus on gender and jobs, offering dancing bunny-boys and female police officers in an effort strike a better balance between the sexes. It even added the option of a third, gender-neutral option — although that’s apparently proved more difficult to visually express.
This year, Sony Pictures announced that it’s making a CGI feature film based entirely around emoji. It sounds like a terrible idea, but the studio believes it can make money from it. (There might even be more than one movie.)
The effect of emoji has even been noted by one of the world’s most prestigious design museums, with the Museum of Modern Art inducting emoji earlier this year. The debut set of symbols, designed for Japanese phone carrier Docomo back in 1999, is now filed under the same roof as the works of van Gogh and Dali. Used at the time to convey the weather and other messages (in a character-frugal way), the symbols were soon copied by other Japanese carriers, but it took another 12 years before they were translated into unicode in 2010, which Apple then expanded when it launched the original iPhone the following year.
So have we reached peak emoji? The initial set of low-pixel characters totaled 176. Now, at the end of 2016, there’s over 1,300 of them — and no shortage of new suggestions.
Check out all of Engadget’s year-in-review coverage right here
Imagine a routine traffic stop where the officer has the legal right to search not just your car, but your phone too.
That’s where we’re likely headed after a Florida court recently denied Fifth Amendment protections for iPhone passcodes, saying that suspects must now reveal them to police. The decision came after a previous court had ruled that a suspect couldn’t be compelled to give up the key to unlock his phone based on laws against self-incrimination.
A trial judge had denied the state’s motion to compel the suspect to give up his passcode, finding that it would be tantamount to forcing him to testify against himself in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
But the Florida Court of Appeal’s Second District just reversed that decision. Judge Anthony Black said, “Unquestionably, the State established, with reasonable particularity, its knowledge of the existence of the passcode, Stahl’s control or possession of the passcode, and the self-authenticating nature of the passcode. This is a case of surrender and not testimony.”
“More importantly,” he added, indicating future cases about passcodes and Fifth Amendment protections, “we question the continuing viability of any distinction as technology advances.”
The case tipping the scales in favor of the police comes by way of a total creep getting caught shoving his phone under a woman’s skirt and taking photos. It’s pretty hard to feel bad for the guy. Many people know that so-called “upskirts” are illegal, and most know it’s also a really shitty thing to do to someone. But Aaron Stahl didn’t care. He followed a woman around a store, and when he thought she wasn’t looking, he crouched down, shoved his phone under her skirt to take photos, and got caught doing it.
When she asked him what the hell he was doing, he claimed he’d dropped his phone. She yelled for help and tried to stop him from leaving. He ran. But the store had him doing everything on surveillance cameras, and got a clear shot of his car’s license plates. When police caught up to Stahl and arrested him for third-degree voyeurism, he’d conveniently had left his phone at home.
In a police interview, Stahl consented to a search of his phone, an Apple iPhone 5. But when police actually went to his house with a warrant and got the phone, he withdrew his consent before giving them his passcode. Basically, Stahl attempted to show he’s innocent by not being accountable for his phone.
And as we all know, without the passcode even Apple can’t pop open someone’s iPhone and hand the contents over to police.
That’s meant authorities have had to get a little creative about looking through people’s phones.
After much wrangling and embarrassment earlier this year, the FBI forked over $1.3 million to have the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone hacked into. Just a few weeks ago, Scotland Yard actually “mugged” a suspect. In that instance, British cops waited until their target was on a call before physically snatching the phone and continually swiping it to keep the screen unlocked while they apprehended their guy.
The Florida case shows a flip in the opposite direction from 2015’s ruling by a Pennsylvania federal trial court, which decided the authorities can’t force someone to surrender their phone’s passcode. Just as he opposed the Pennsylvania court decision, I’m sure law professor and SCOTUS blogger Orin Kerr would agree with Florida’s judges that a code isn’t in itself incriminating.
“For example, imagine the government orders you to turn over any and all crystal meth in your possession,” Kerr opined about Pennsylvania’s passcode ruling. “In response to the order, you hand over a plastic bag filled with some substance. Your response effectively testified that you think the item in the bag is crystal meth and that it is in your possession. That’s admitting to a crime — possession of crystal meth — so you have a Fifth Amendment right not to have to produce the item in response to the order.”
Here, the judge hasn’t asked Florida’s creeper of the year Aaron Stahl to turn over any and all upskirt photos. Just the passcode.
The decision will likely lead to further challenges, but different courts around the United States are currently tackling the iPhone-evidence conundrum. Judge Black’s opinion will no doubt influence how others rule.
“Providing the passcode does not ‘betray any knowledge [Stahl] may have about the circumstances of the offenses’ for which he is charged,” Black said, writing for the Florida court’s three-judge panel. “Thus,” he said, “compelling a suspect to make a nonfactual statement that facilitates the production of evidence for which the state has otherwise obtained a warrant … does not offend the privilege.”
This is a compelling argument for handing over Stahl’s passcode. But then again, it’s also compelling because he’s such a blatant scumbag about all of this. Maybe it’s a false equivalency, though I’m inclined to believe it’s the rest of us who’ll pay for this guy’s troll-like behavior. He brazenly violated a woman’s privacy and expects his privacy protections to be upheld, so he can get away with it. He’s not all that different from the guy on Twitter claiming death and rape threats are protected free speech.
This ruling is supposed to be about the greater good, but there’s nothing that feels great or good about it.
We’ll probably wade through a hodge-podge of law enforcement rules across the nation until this gets ironed out, while precedents get set that aren’t thought through. In the meantime, we can be sure bad cops will collect passcodes and see what else they can get into with them. Because, thanks to security fatigue, people reuse the same passwords and pins wherever possible.
It doesn’t take the mind of a hacker to figure that someone’s four-digit cellphone pin is probably the same as their ATM and voicemail pincode.
So look: It’s not that cops and border guards and probably stormtroopers can’t demand access to people’s phones and computers nearly everywhere else in the world, because they can. It’s just that here, we’ve been living in an arrogant fantasy that we were somehow immune to that type of control. Rest assured that countries on every other continent circling our shaky blue orb don’t live in this fantasy.
We might be inclined to think that the world has gotten more fascist. No. It’s just we’re losing our virginity, and effectual consent is bad for authoritarianism. Welcome to the rest of the world. It’s time to quit whining about Android vs. Apple security, or how broken the password model is, and realize your cutesy privacy island never existed in the first place.
Laws like these might be what we deserve, after years of remaining relatively ignorant to the realities of how tech tools like cellphones and Facebook are used by authoritarian leaders and surveillance-happy police. We’re about to enter a future where our president embraces letting government off the leash when it comes to surveilling citizens.
I remember when Google’s Eric Schmidt said, “If you have something you don’t want anyone to know, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” And when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said that if you’re not doing anything “wrong” then you don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to losing your privacy. It’s starting to look like these weren’t just harmless words from eccentric tech billionaires.
All I’m saying is that this is all connected, and the road that led to cops being able to search your entire life during a traffic stop is one paved with greed, perverse ideals, and nightmarish lapses of empathy. Of course, some of us tried to raise the alarm back then, but we were written off as bad people with something to hide because we wanted boundaries.
But this story, the one about the Fifth Amendment and passcodes, is supposed to be about fairness and justice. Except with bad guys like Aaron Stahl, it’s a fairness that feels so cynical we barely understand how we got here.
Images: Getty Images/iStockphoto
The team over at our sister site TouchArcade plays, reviews, and highlights thousands of mobile games every year, making them experts on the best iOS titles out there.
Now that the App Store freeze is in place and no additional apps will be coming out in 2016, TouchArcade has compiled its list of the top 100 mobile games of the year.
TouchArcade’s list, which is alphabetical, spans multiple genres and covers both mobile exclusives and games that are available on multiple platforms. It was compiled by all of the TA staff and includes commentary from each of the TA writers. From TouchArcade Editor-in-Chief Eli Hodapp:
We tried to provide a good list that represents all of the best things the App Store had to offer in 2016, covering as many genres as possible and aiming for an even mix of exclusive games and great multi-platform ports.
Instead of just sorting our reviews by the highest rated, which anyone can do just by looking at our top reviews, we aimed to build a list of games that would have something for everyone regardless of whether you love simple one-button games or in-depth point and click adventure games.
TouchArcade’s list includes a huge range of titles, from in-depth RPGs like Crashlands to independent platformers like Mikey Jumps to free games like Rodeo Stampede. Check out TouchArcade’s top 100 games over at the TouchArcade website.
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