Sunday, February 21, 2016

Samsung has a 360-degree camera for Gear VR video


Along with the expected Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, Samsung is also taking the wraps off the a 360-degree video camera, the Gear 360. It's built around two 15-megapixel sensors, each nestled behind a fisheye lens, and also has a tiny 0.5-inch display. You can use it handheld with the included handle, or set it down on a surface with a mini-tripod. In the latter mode, it looks kind of like a Portal Turret had a baby with an old Logitech webcam. In the best way possible. Both the handle and the tripod screw into an industry-standard threaded port (the same that probably graces the underside of your camera), so you can always bring your own accessories to the party.

Although it's difficult to rate the resolution of 360-degree video, Samsung says it'll capture 3,840 x 1,920 video at 30 frames per second. That's just a few vertical pixels shy of 4K. Still images are far larger: 7,776 x 3,888, or 30-megapixels. There's no on-board storage, but it supports MicroSD cards up to 128GB in capacity.

While the Gear 360 will output plain MP4s or JPEGs, it's really designed to allow anyone to create video for the company's Gear VR headset. You can sync the camera with a Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge for remote-control features, and you'll also be able to preview footage in real-time on your phone screen. Any videos you take on the 360 will be able to be viewed, stitched, and saved directly to a smartphone.

We got to play with the Gear 360 very briefly at a meeting in New York, and while the thing may look like a video game tchotchke, its ease of use is its biggest asset. Popping in the battery and a memory card (just in case) took seconds, and so did pressing the button on top of the sphere to start it all up. After that, you're more-or-less meant to forget about it — Samsung's aiming to capture more meaningful slices of life, ones that wouldn't normally by shot by professional VR rigs, so off-the-cuff usage is encouraged. We even managed to get a short 360 video loaded onto a Galaxy S7 Edge for a bit of auto-stitching — which is faster than it sounds — and wound up with a perfectly serviceable slice of VR. We don't have a price or an exact release date for the Gear 360 yet, but it'll be available in "select countries" at some point between April 1st and June 30th.


Lenovo adds more mid- and low-end options to laptop range


Lenovo has a bunch of new Windows 10 machines to show off at MWC this year, and if you're familiar with the company's Yoga and Miix lines, they'll seem very familiar.

First up is the ultraportable Yoga 710, which comes in 11- and 14-inch sizes. Both have 1080p IPS touch screens, up to 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB SSD storage. The smaller has a choice of Intel Core m processors (up to m5) and integrated Intel graphics, while the larger utilizes 6th-generation Intel Core i processors (up to i7), and up to Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics. Like all Yogas, the 710's keyboard rotates a full 360 degrees, giving you a choice of laptop mode, stand mode, tent mode, or tablet mode. The 11-inch model starts at $499, while the 14-inch will cost $799. They'll both go on sale this May.

The Flex 4 (called the Yoga 510 internationally) will be available in 14- and 15-inch configurations. It keeps the general Yoga aesthetic, the 1080p displays, the up-to Core i7, 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD options, but its graphics cap out at an AMD Radeon R7 M460 GPU. It's scheduled for release this April at $599 for the 14-inch, or $699 for the 15-inch.

Lenovo's Miix 310 tablet.

For the super budget-conscious, Lenovo has the MIiix 310, a $229 convertible powered by an Intel Atom X5 8300 CPU with integrated graphics. It has a 10.1-inch "up to 1080p" display, "up to" 4GB of RAM, and "up to" 128GB eMMC storage. There'll also be a model with LTE support, but Lenovo's quiet on the price for that configuration. We suspect the exact pricing will become clearer closer to its release date in June.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

13 jobs that are quickly disappearing thanks to robots


Robotic armsChristopher Furlong / Getty Images

Thanks in part to automated mail sorting systems, postal workers may be all but obsolete in the not-so-distant future.

By 2024, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 28% decline in postal-service jobs, totaling around 136,000 fewer positions than 2014.

Mail carriers and processors aren't the only ones whose jobs are disappearing thanks to robots.

Automation technologies that conduct physical, intellectual, or customer service tasks are affecting a variety of fields, most notably metal and plastic machine workers.

Based on the BLS's occupational outlook data, here are 13 jobs that could be on their way out of the US thanks to robots:

US Department of Agriculture

13. Forging Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic

According to the BLS, they set up, operate, or tend forging machines to taper, shape, or form metal or plastic parts.

Median annual pay: $35,480

Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 21,600 

Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 17,000

Projected decline: 21.5%

Why it's declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of manual machine setters, operators, and tenders is the high adoption of labor-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs. 

12. Grinding, lapping, polishing, and buffing machine tool setters, operators, and tenders (metal and plastic)

According to the BLS, they set up, operate, or tend grinding and related tools that remove excess material or burrs from surfaces, sharpen edges or corners, or buff, hone, or polish metal or plastic work pieces.

Median annual pay: $34,150

Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 71,400

Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 55,800

Projected decline: 21.9%

Why it's declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of manual machine setters, operators, and tenders is the high adoption of labor-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs. 

11. Patternmakers (metal and plastic)

According to the BLS, they lay out, machine, fit, and assemble castings and parts to metal or plastic foundry patterns, core boxes, or match plates.

Median annual pay: $41,670

Number of people who held this job in the US in 2014: 3,800

Predicted number of people who will hold this job in 2024: 2,900

Projected decline: 23.4%

Why it's declining: According to the BLS, one of the most important factors influencing employment of manual machine setters, operators, and tenders is the high adoption of labor-saving machinery like computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools and robots to improve quality and lower production costs. 

See the rest of the story at Business Insider


Friday, February 12, 2016

This New App Turns Your Phone Into a Portable Seismic Station


Whoa, did you feel that earthquake? Even if you didn’t, your phone did, and a new app from seismologists aims to capture those vibrations in your very own pocket seismology lab.



UCLA open sources image detector that can see what we can't


UCLA has released the source code to powerful image detection software that can see an object's every detail at high speed -- key for applications like fingerprint and iris scanning, or self-driving cars. It starts by identifying an object's edges and then looking for and extracting its other, fainter features. For instance, if there are items with textured surfaces in the image, the algorithm can recognize and enhance them, as you can see in the example below the fold. It can even see through bright lights to detect their sources' structures, such as lamps, LED lights and even the moon.

The Phase Stretch Transform algorithm was developed by UCLA professor Bahram Jalali, senior researcher Mohammad Asghari and their team. Their project is a spin-off of the university's research on photonic time stretch that can be used to detect cancer cells. It's also the secret behind what UCLA once called the "world's fastest camera" that can capture events that happen very, very fast. The algorithm is now up and available to the public on GitHub and Matlab Central.

Source: UCLA


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Qualcomm's X16 modem could help gigabit LTE work in more places


While our wireless carriers bicker over who offers the fastest service, Qualcomm went and pulled back the curtain on the Snapdragon X16 modem, a dry sounding bit of networking tech with huge implications. With it comes the promise of insanely fast gigabit LTE download speeds... but shouldn't hold your breath waiting see your Ookla Speedtest results shoot through the roof.

The X16's secret sauce has two ingredients. First, it uses its four antennas and some clever signal management know-how to connect to 10 LTE data streams from only three carrier-aggregated 20MHz carriers. Long story short, each of those streams can carry data at up to 100Mbps, giving us the magical 1Gbps figure. Second, the X16 supports LTE Advanced Pro, which (among other things) means the modem can play nice when carriers tap into swathes of unlicensed spectrum to increase the number of connections they can have going at one time. Too bad this tech won't wind up in the new Snapdragon 820, though; the first X16-friendly devices should show up in the second half of the year.

Here's the thing, though — as awesome as all of this sounds, the chances of actually full gigabit LTE speeds are slim even if a network operator uses unlicensed spectrum to amplify the number of connections it can hang onto at one time. Given our growing demand for data, though, you can bet that we'll get very close before long. Samsung and Korean wireless carrier KT cooked up a kind of hybrid network tech called GiGA LTE that has a theoretical max speed of 1.17Gbps, though it's not clear how many Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge owners are getting speeds even close to that.

Source: Qualcomm


Here's what publishers are doing to keep up with increasing mobile media consumption


BII AlternativeDistrChannel 2BI Intelligence

Mobile devices have become the go-to platform for consuming digital media. In June, mobile accounted for two out of every three minutes spent consuming digital media in the US, according to comScore data. As readers spend more time consuming media on mobile devices and less time reading on newspapers, magazines, and desktop computers, publishers must adapt their distribution strategies to align with the mobile shift. 

In a new report from BI Intelligence, we examine how both traditional and digital-native publishers are adjusting their strategies in the face of rapidly increasing mobile media consumption. We will also discuss the role of social platforms in driving a growing share of publishers' referral traffic, focusing on the leading platforms and mobile apps that offer publishers a direct avenue to reach mobile audiences: Facebook Instant Articles, Snapchat Discover, Twitter Moments, and the Apple News App. Finally, we address how the continued mobile shift has the potential to alter the direction of the publishing industry. 

Here are some key takeaways from the report: 

  • Mobile users are choosing mobile apps to consumer digital media. This June, total time spent consuming digital media via mobile apps reached close to 779 billion minutes, vs. nearly 551 billion minutes on PCs, according to ComScore data.
  • Facebook's Instant Articles and Snapchat's Discover allow partnering publishers to directly reach growing audience bases with native content, while Twitter's Moments is less of a purpose-built distribution channel. These social platforms are increasingly popular because of their built-in audience bases, and mobile first nature. 
  • Alternative distribution channels are essential for publishers trying to reach growing mobile audiences, but are not without drawbacks. By relying on other channels to push content to viewers, publishers are giving up control over content and in many instances are handing over a portion of the ad revenue generated. 

In full, the report:

  • Illustrates the rise of digital media consumption on mobile devices and mobile apps in particular. 
  • Maps out the global decline of direct desktop traffic for top news publishers in the US.
  • Examines how leading social platforms including Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter, and various mobile news apps are offering publishers a way to distribute content. 
  • Lays out what the benefits and drawbacks for publishers for each distribution channel. 
  • Considers what the future will look like for traditional and digital-native publishers as the shift to mobile continues.

Interested in getting the full report? Here are two ways to access it:

  1. Purchase & download the full report from our research store.» Purchase & Download
  2. Subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally.» Learn More Now



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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

LG teases G5's 'Always On' display


While the G5 teaser GIF LG's mobile division posted on Twitter doesn't say much, it has enough info to tell us that the device will have an "Always On" display. According to Android Authority's sources, the flagship phone will have a screen that is literally always on. Other phones with ambient screens like the Moto X and the Nexus 6P only show pertinent info on screen (only the pixels needed to show, say, a notification lights up) when you perform specific gestures.

The publication says the G5 won't have an AMOLED display and will instead have a full screen version of the LG V10's second, smaller screen. If you recall, the V10 has a small strip of display on top with app shortcuts. It's unclear what elements the Always On screen will have, but as you can see above, it has the time, date and can show if you have calls, emails or texts.

Another thing we'd love to know is the device's battery life, since the screen would obviously consume energy all the time. We'll know more about the phone when it launches on February 21st, though the manufacturer might be calling the "Always On" function something else by then. Samsung has trademarked the term "Always on Display" for the Galaxy S7, which will presumably sport an ambient screen, as well.

잠들지 않는 Play

Always ON
#LG #LGG5 #G5 #AlwaysON

— LG Mobile (@LG_Mobile_) February 10, 2016

Source: LG Mobile


Thursday, February 04, 2016

Android Wear update adds new gestures and voice-to-text


Since Android Wear's debut, Google has regularly added new features for the wearable software. Today, those gadgets are getting three more tools -- the stuff we first heard about back in November. First, Android Wear is adding new gestures for navigation through what's on your smartwatch. You can push, lift or shake your wrist to peruse cards, pull up a list of apps or return to the home screen. If you're not exactly sure how the movements work, you can get a tutorial on your Android Wear device from the Settings menu.

Android Wear already allows you to search or control music with your voice. Now, you can use those voice controls to send messages. Apps like Google Hangouts, Nextplus, Telegram, Viber, WeChat, and WhatsApp will all accept your spoken cues, so you won't have to pull out your phone to text someone. For example, saying "OK Google, Send a Hangouts message to Edgar: Does 5PM work?" will employ the voice feature to complete the task.

Lastly, if you happen to have an Android Wear device with a built-in speaker, like the Huawei Watch and ASUS ZenWatch 2, you can take calls and listen to messages on your wrist. Of course, you'll be doing so in a speakerphone-like scenario, so you'll want to be sure you have some privacy. All of these features are rolling out "over the next few weeks," which means you'll be able to take advantage soon enough.

Source: Google


Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Samsung reportedly launches its VR camera February 21st


Tired of waiting for Samsung's virtual reality-oriented Project Beyond camera to be more than just a well-meaning idea? You might just get your hands on it (or rather, something like it) soon. SamMobile sources hear that Samsung is preparing to launch a finished VR camera, the Gear 360, alongside the Galaxy S7 on February 21st. From the sounds of it, this device won't be as elaborate as Project Beyond -- it'll have two 180-degree fisheye cameras (à la devices like Nikon's KeyMission 360) rather than the abundance of cams on the concept. It'll record a 4K wrap-around picture if you use both lenses, though, and will have trick modes like split image views, panoramas and timelapses. There's no word on whether or not you can stream live footage online.

This remains a rumor, so you might not want to set aside some cash for the Gear 360 just yet. With that said, a launch simultaneous with the Galaxy S7 would make sense. Tech enthusiasts everywhere will already be watching, and Samsung itself makes a big deal out of VR in its Unpacked event teaser. The big questions are the price and compatibility. Will this be affordable enough that you can pick one up out of sheer curiosity? And will it work with phones that aren't made by Samsung? If the claims are accurate, you may get your answers in a few weeks.

Via: The Verge

Source: SamMobile


Microsoft just dropped $250 million on one of the most popular iPhone and Android keyboard apps (MSFT)


SwiftKey Flow 2SwiftKey

Microsoft has purchased SwiftKey, one of the first and best predictive-typing keyboard apps out there, for around $250 million, the Financial Times reports.

SwiftKey's keyboard relies on trendy machine-learning technology, where it learns from you as you type to better suggest the next word or phrase.

It's on over 300 million smartphones today, according to the Financial Times report. Samsung and BlackBerry have preinstalled the SwiftKey keyboard on some Android phones, and it once topped download charts on the Apple App and Google Play stores.

For Microsoft, keyboards are a big deal right now, as it works to bring its home-built Word Flow smart keyboard from the Windows 10 Mobile platform over to the iPhone at some point in the near future. Word Flow for iPhone will reportedly feature a one-handed typing mode, too.

Microsoft also is a big fan of that same machine-learning technology, using it to make tools like the Cortana virtual personal assistant better, faster, and more personal.

For SwiftKey, this is a solid exit. Despite its popularity, the London-based company had trouble finding a reliable business model, going from a $4 download to a free-to-use model where you had to pay for certain extras, but never settled into a groove, said the FT report.

Microsoft had no comment on the report.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Google's Nexus 5X now starts at $349


If you've been looking for an excuse to buy Google's latest entry-level smartphone, the Nexus 5X, here's your chance. Today, the search company announced a permanent price cut for the LG-made device, bringing down the cost of its 16GB and 32GB models to $349 and $399, respectively. This, of course, will make the Nexus 5X even more appealing to people, as it has received nothing but great reviews from the press -- including us, where it tallied a total of 88 in the Engadget Score.

Up until now, Google had offered the Nexus 5X starting at $379, but the recent $30 drop almost pushes it into impulse-buy territory, especially since it is unlocked and free from any carrier contracts. In comparison to rival smartphones, the OnePlus2 is $329, while the Moto X Pure Edition sells for $400 -- both also highly rated and off contract. You can get the cheaper Nexus 5X now from Google's online store.

Via: Android Central

Source: Google Store


Monday, January 11, 2016

New material can store solar energy to warm you up later


Solar projects are usually focused on generating electricity, but we could arguably save more power by storing heat. Scientists from MIT have created a new type of solid material that does exactly that. When exposed to sunlight, it assumes a "charged" state that can be maintained for long periods of time. However, when triggered with a small burst of heat, the material reverts to its original chemical composition, releasing a much larger amount of heat energy. Since the film is thin and transparent, scientists think it could be useful in the near future for defrosting your car's windshield and could one day heat your home or even your clothes.

The film can be made using a two-step process that's "very simple and very scalable," according to grad student Eugene Cho. The scientists start with materials called azobenzenes that change their chemistry when exposed to sunlight. They then modify them so that they can change states with a burst of heat, which in turn releases much more energy. The current prototype can increase the ambient temperature by 10 degrees Celsius (about 18 degrees Fahrenheit), which is enough to break ice off of a windshield, for instance. Since the material is transparent, it could be used on the front windshields of cars, saving a lot of energy over the normal defrosting process.

The team needs to change the tint of the film so that it's less yellow, and is also aiming to double the heat yield to a 20 degree Celcius boost (36 degrees Fahrenheit). However, the existing material is already good enough for defrosting and other heating applications, and could be manufactured relatively easy as-is. "The research is a major advance towards the practical application of solid-state energy-storage/heat-release materials from both a scientific and engineering point of view," says Ted Sargent, a University of Toronto professor not involved in the research.

Source: MIT


Sunday, January 10, 2016

John McAfee on his new startup and why he should be president


Perhaps the only way John McAfee could surprise us again is by doing something as pedestrian as joining another tech company. These days, he's more known for his love of guns and drugs, not to mention fleeing Belize after getting involved in a murder case. McAfee has since settled in Lexington, Tennessee, and he's diving back into the tech world with his incubator Future Tense Central.

He's also serving as the chief evangelist for the security startup Everykey, which has created a tiny dongle that can unlock just about anything in your home. We had the opportunity to chat with McAfee at the Everykey booth during CES about the startup, as well as his presidential run. The result was one of the strangest conversations I've had at a tech show.

McAfee claims Everykey is more secure than passwords, since you don't have to remember anything. You just need to have the Everykey dongle near your computer, car, or house door to unlock them with "military grade" AES 128-bit encryption. When you walk away, the devices lock back down. It's not the first authentication dongle I've seen, but it's one of the first to work wirelessly and with things outside of computers.

Still, even McAfee admits Everykey has an obvious security flaw: If someone steals your key, they'll immediately have access to everything you've integrated with it. While he says Everykey is working on that issue, fixing it will likely involve some sort of biometric authentication, which means the company needs to completely rethink its hardware. You can still remotely disable the dongle if you notice it's stolen, but that's not helpful if someone manages to swipe it secretly. Until Everykey gets this issue fixed, it's actually less secure than just relying on typical passwords and keys.

McAfee also announced yesterday that he's shifting his presidential run over to the Libertarian party, while still maintaining his focus on cybersecurity from his initial campaign. "We're facing a cyberwar," he said. "Our power grid in America is 50 years old, it's aging. The technology, the computers that are running and rationing electricity across the country are completely open and vulnerable to a 13-year-old who wants to hack from anywhere int he world. Technology I think is the biggest problem in the American government. We lack decades behind the Chinese and Russians in weaponized software."

And to be sure, McAfee was quick to point out that having offensive cyber capabilities is an important deterrent against would-be cyberattacker. "We have to have weaponized software," he said. "We have to have the capability to say, 'Look, if you press a button, we'll press a button.'"


Say hello to Panasonic's invisible TV


Often one of the biggest eyesores in an otherwise impeccable living room is the large black expanse of a TV. Panasonic could have a solution for that, however, in the form of transparent displays. The company showed off the tech at CES 2016 in a mock living room, where the screen could shift between "transparent mode," where you could see the shelving behind it, and "screen mode," where you can see the screen. And because the display is on a railing, you can move it up and down the shelf for even greater customizability.

What's even cooler though, is how you can control it. You can use a remote control of course, but Panasonic wants these displays to operate via motion gestures (think waving your hands in front of it a la Minority Report) or voice commands. Right now, the transparent displays tend to be a little dark so it needs under-shelf lighting in order to really work, but this is still in the prototype stage. Check out our video above to see all the other things the transparent display can do.