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Google previews videos to search results on phones

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Google is beginning to add what it calls “video previews” to search results. They’ll start out on Android, where they’ll appear for searches made in Chrome and the Google app. At first, they’ll only be in English and in the US, but Google plans to expand the feature globally and in all languages in the future. A spokesperson says Google also hopes to expand video previews to other platforms, so presumably iOS and perhaps the desktop are coming. You’ll now have an idea of what’s in a clip before you bother playing it. Now, if you do a Google search on your phone in either the app or Chrome, results in the video section will show not a static thumbnail image, but a snippet of the clip. The idea is to help you decide if you should click to the video or not. After all, more and more of the content we ingest online is taking the form of short film clips.

That video there on your screen, the one demanding to be watched — is it basically just gonna eat a few minutes of your life for no good reason? That’s the question Google wants to help you answer with a new search feature announced on Friday for its mobile app on Android and its Chrome browser on Android.

Google started rolling out the change on Friday and said the feature would be available more widely next week. The snippets play only if you’re on a Wi-Fi connection, so they shouldn’t affect data fees from your phone company. What’s that you say? Auto-play videos make you wanna scream? Relax; Google says you can simply turn off this feature by way of the settings menu in the Google app or in Chrome.

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IPhone 8 Facial Recognition

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Regardless of whether or not the iPhone 8 will feature Touch ID, it’s all but guaranteed that the device will feature facial recognition technology. Over the past few weeks and months, word that the iPhone 8 will incorporate facial recognition has been corroborated by a number of credible sources, not to mention an endless stream of iPhone 8 parts leaks featuring discernible cutouts for additional camera sensors on the front panel of the device. While Apple tends to keep upcoming technologies and features under lock and key, its upcoming facial recognition software will likely be based on technology it acquired when it purchased an Israeli machine learning company called Realface earlier this year. Consequently, a close examination of Realface’s cutting edge technology can provide us with a number of significant clues as to what we can expect out of the highly anticipated iPhone 8.

Now what happens when a person’s appearance changes over time? After all, individuals routinely alter their appearance in a myriad of ways. Impressively, this is where the machine learning aspect of the software comes into play. Another design consideration is the fact that face recognition in the authentication context, you only need to keep track of one individual; but you need to keep track of changes in his appearance over time. People shave, wear makeup, wear their hair differently. So, we designed a new learning method that’s called personalized recognition that enables the system to evolve over time and essentially get to know you. All that being said, Realface’s facial recognition technology is said to be so advanced that it can reliably be used for bio-metric authentication and even as a means to authorize secure financial transactions. Indeed, Littwin during the aforementioned lecture made a point of noting that the technology was designed with the intention of meeting the stringent security requirements of financial institutions.

All in all, this sounds like a great feature, but it’s still hard to envision facial recognition replacing Touch ID entirely given certain use-case scenarios where a user isn’t looking directly at the screen. Replacing Touch ID would also make using Apple Pay decidedly more awkward. The good news is that we won’t have to wait too much longer to see what the iPhone 8 has in store for us. If all goes according to plan, we can expect Apple to unveil the iPhone 8 at a special media event in just about two months.

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AIRLINES WILL SAVE BILLIONS WITH PILOTLESS PLANES

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

A move to pilot less planes would boost industry profitability. Alternatively, if the cost savings were entirely passed to consumers, tickets could cost much less (11% cheaper in the U.S.). That would be about $40 a ticket based on a average of round trips est cost of $370. A survey of 8,000 people found that 54% of respondents were unlikely to take a pilot less flight. Just 17% of respondents, who were from the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Australia, said they would buy the ticket. Air traffic laws in most of the world require “four-eye-rule” in the cockpit. Two pilots should be present at all times, and if one of them needs to take a break, another member of the crew has to take his or her spot.

The technologies in development today will enable the aircraft to assist and back up the pilot in all the flight phases, removing the pilot from manual control and systems operations in all types of situations. Commercial flights already land with the assistance of on-board computers, and pilots manually fly the aircraft for only a few minutes on average. However, contrary to popular belief, airliners do not fly themselves, even when they’re on autopilot. Pilots are continually monitoring and adjusting aircraft navigation and systems, communicating with air traffic control and preparing for the next phase of the flight. Analysts said the transition to pilot less planes is likely to happen over many years. Cargo planes would likely be first to incorporate the new technology, with commercial flights being the last to go pilot less. The number of pilots needed for each flight could be reduced along the way.

The shift has the potential to save the aviation industry huge amounts of money. Airlines typically employ 10 pilots per aircraft, and reducing their number would result in less spending on training, salaries and other staffing costs. It could also help alleviate an expected pilot shortage over the coming decades. An annual forecast released by Boeing last month said passenger and cargo airlines around the world are expected to buy 41,000 new airliners between 2017 and 2036.

The aviation industry could save $35 billion a year by moving to pilot less planes, according to a new report. Just one problem: The same report warns that only 17% of travelers are willing to fly without a pilot. The technology required to operate remote-controlled planes could appear by 2025. Further advances beyond 2030 might result in automated business jets and helicopters, and finally commercial aircraft without pilots.

 

 

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Walmart Futuristic Delivery Truck

Monday, August 7th, 2017

Walmart and Peterbilt have collaborated on aerodynamic, hybrid, electrification and alternative fuel projects in the past, each with incremental gains in fuel efficiency and emission reductions. The Walmart Advanced Vehicle Experience tractor combines many of these projects in a single vehicle. “Peterbilt’s goals of producing the most fuel-efficient, aerodynamic, and lightweight trucks in the industry mirror those of Walmart,” said Landon Sproull, chief engineer at Peterbilt. “Our combined efforts help build a business case for these technologies in the future, as well as support one of our best customers.”

Designers used extensive computational fluid dynamics analysis to optimize the truck’s styling. The truck’s shape represents a 20 percent reduction in aerodynamic drag over Walmart’s current Peterbilt Model 386. By placing the cab over the engine, the truck’s wheelbase is greatly shortened, resulting in reduced weight and better maneuverability. Walmart relied on product development supplier to carry out the vehicle’s construction with these detailed design specifications.

 

The truck features a micro turbine Range Extender generator developed by Capstone Turbine Corporation. The company also engineered the truck’s integrated hybrid drivetrain solution. The use of a hybrid powertrain allows the turbine to remain at optimum operating revolutions per minute (RPM), while the electric motor/energy storage handles acceleration and deceleration. A longer-range version of this powertrain would feature a larger turbine and smaller energy storage system.

 

When keyed on, the truck automatically detects the state of charge of the batteries and starts charging them, if needed, using the turbine engine. Charge mode can be manually selected if an operator wishes to “top off” the batteries prior to shutting down. For use in urban areas, the truck will run on electric power alone until the battery state of charge hits 50 percent. At that time the turbine will automatically start and begin charging the batteries.

Innovation is key to improvement, and the project aims to demonstrate a wide range of cutting edge technologies and designs Walmart is considering in an effort to improve the overall fuel efficiency of its fleet and lower the company’s carbon footprint. Although the prototype currently runs on diesel, its turbine is fuel neutral and can run on compressed or liquid natural gas, biofuels or other fuels. The prototype is the result of collaboration between Walmart and many vendors, including Peterbilt, Roush Engineering, Great Dane Trailers and Capstone Turbine. Almost every component on this vehicle is cutting edge and showcases innovations of the future that will drive increased efficiency.

 

 

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Rolls-Royce Phantom opens doors for an electric future

Monday, July 31st, 2017

Rolls-Royce is in a peculiar position when it comes to imagining the future of luxury transportation. The 112-year-old motor company is the very definition of a luxury car, but much of its auspicious reputation is based on its embodiment of classical luxury, in the tradition of Beethoven, and delectable suicide doors. Rolls-Royce customers expect the best, and as the brand focuses on wooing a younger customer base, tasteful, top-of-the-line technology is becoming paramount to those expectations. The look, tactile feel, and the user experience of that technology fall on its design department to imagine. Giles Taylor is charged with striking that careful balance as design director of Rolls-Royce. His most contemporary response is the brand’s flagship model, the Rolls-Royce Phantom, officially unveiled today in the UK. It is the eighth Phantom model to be produced in the history of the company.

 

The new Phantom is anything but unemotional. Sweeping curves disguise a myriad of sensors, including a touch-sensitive one on the door for valets to use at great affect. A new feature the brand calls “The Gallery” toys with the screen art of the car, featuring the work of commissioned artists as a backdrop option that spans across the dash. The instrument panel is digitized against a 12.3-inch display. Rolls-Royce markets it as “the most technologically advanced Rolls-Royce ever.” The clock, however, is analogue. While the Phantom was revealed publicly today, It was first seen in its aluminum space frame flesh at a private viewing for select customers and media in New York City in June. Both Taylor and Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös were there to present the car and describe its nuances. Pageantry is essential to the presentation of a new Rolls-Royce. The brand, owned by parent company BMW, makes every effort to distinguish itself as a distinctly unforgettable British, super luxury car-maker.

 

How this translates into the modern-day eighth generation Phantom is alluded to in design elements such as the shape of the grille, which is presented flush to the car. “We wanted to start to get the grille as an expression of the car rather than a standalone piece, Taylor said. “Does it really need to be there to hide a combustion engine? Finally, the aesthetics can start to grapple with that new sense of freedom.” In a company that grapples with maintaining its classic identity, these structural changes are not made lightly. In a Rolls-Royce, each part of the hand-built interior feels like a jewel.

 

 

 

 

 

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SHOPPING ON eBAY JUST GOT EASIER

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

eBay is introducing two new features for its mobile apps that use image matching to help customers search for products they might not be able to describe. The Image Search feature lets users shop by uploading a photo onto the app’s search bar. The Find It On eBay feature allows shoppers on any social media platform or website to share an image they like with eBay, which will then spit out listings matching the product. Both features are due this fall. eBay says at the time of launch, Image Search will be supported on both Android and iOS, while Find It On eBay will only be for Android devices in the initial stages.

eBay is at a technological advantage due to the rich set of user-generated images and item data we’ve accumulated through the years. By applying machine learning technology, eBay can deliver a fast and reliable shopping experience backed by one of the world’s largest commerce data sets. eBay says it has a catalog of around 1.1 billion items listed at any given time, and will leverage the latest advances in AI, including computer vision and deep learning, to enable the new features. eBay uses a deep learning model to process the images, the output of the model gives eBay a representation of the image that they can use to compare to the images of the live listings on eBay. Then eBay ranks the items based on visual similarity and use a open-source platform to quickly bring these results to you.

The move makes a lot of sense for eBay as image-based searching becomes more and more prevalent in today’s world. Will eBay live up to expectations?

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Fidget Spinner Craze

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

Whether it’s biting your nails, touching your hair, playing with your clothing or spinning pens, you probably fidget many, many times a day. Herein lies the reason why the fidget spinner has become the latest toy craze among children and even adults. It’s called a fidget spinner because it can spin and allows you to do what you normally try not to do which is fidget. The toy looks like a cross between a ceiling fan and the head of a triple headed electric shaver. As you can see, the fidget spinner is not exactly the most complex of inventions, although it gives a whirring sound while it spins. And fidgeting certainly is not a new human behavior. Find someone who doesn’t fidget at all and you’ve probably found someone who’s gotten full-body Botox.

 

Reviewing the science behind the potential benefits of fidgeting may make you fidget, because there are theories but limited concrete scientific evidence. One thought is that fidgeting may occupy parts of your brain that otherwise would distract the rest of your brain with random thoughts. Imagine that your brain is a family that needs to make an important decision. If the young children in the family aren’t occupied by toys, they may demand too much attention, interfering with decision making. Another possibility is that body movements are actually part of the thinking and expression process. Try writing long email, giving a TED Talk, talking on a date or singing a song while remaining perfectly still. Besides appearing creepy, such motionlessness may feel “unnatural.”

 

 

 

A third possibility is that fidgeting serves as a ritual. Rituals can offer comforting predictability, familiarity and structure that may be relatively absent in real life. Some of the benefits of rituals, including calming and focusing you. Repetitive motions such as squeezing a ball or tapping your pen can be comforting mini-rituals.

 

 

 

 

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FINGERPRINTS THE NEW BOARDING PASS..

Friday, July 21st, 2017

Delta is expanding its biometric check-in feature that allows some customers to use their fingerprints instead of a boarding pass. The service was first launched at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in May and let Delta SkyMiles members enter the Delta Sky Club with their fingerprints rather than a physical ID. Now, those members can use their fingerprints to board their plane.

The airline is partnering with Clear for this service and SkyMiles members just have to enroll with Clear in order to take advantage of the feature at DCA. “It’s a win-win program. Biometric verification has a higher level of accuracy than paper boarding passes and gives agents more time to assist customers with seat changes and other skilled tasks instead of having to scan individual tickets – and customers have less to keep track of as they travel through the airport,” said Delta COO Gil West in a statement.

Earlier this year, Delta began testing a facial recognition system for checking luggage at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. And it’s not the only group looking to use biometrics for airport identification. The US is looking at a widespread facial recognition-based security planand Australia is working on equipping all of its international airports with facial, iris and fingerprint recognition to remove the need for passport checks.

Delta says the next step for its DCA fingerprint rollout is to allow passengers to use their prints for baggage check. “Once we complete testing, customers throughout our domestic network could start seeing this capability in a matter of months – not years. Delta really is delivering the future now,”.

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Spotify vs Apple Music

Monday, July 17th, 2017

When it comes to subscribers, the undisputed king of on-demand streaming music is Spotify. The Swedish-born service helped pioneer the current market, and has tens of millions more paid users than the competition, not to mention millions more free users. But Apple Music, known for its high-level exclusive releases and full integration into Apple’s popular iOS system, is the hottest service on Spotify’s heels. Apple’s streaming service has shown impressive growth in listener-ship since its inception, garnering about half the number of Spotify’s paying users since it went live in June of 2015 — nine years behind Spotify. It’s hardly surprising that Apple Music is so successful. Not only is it backed by one of the biggest brands in the world, it also gives users access to the entire iTunes library, a swath of curated playlists, and a 24-hour radio station helmed by BBC-alum Zane Lowe. Even the required subscription fee of $10 per month is no great barrier for entry, as Apple Music offers a three-month free trial and a discounted family plan.

MUSIC LIBRARY

Spotify first gained its dominant position on the strength of its impressive 30 million-plus song catalog. Couple this with the fact that it adds over 20,000 new songs each day, and the service offers more music than your ears even know what to do with. Moreover, the Swedish streaming service brings all the latest record releases, exclusive live sessions, and various new singles right to its New Releases tab each Friday, providing a great way to hear the latest from established artists, and rising stars alike.

However, Apple’s service touts around 40 million songs, which is superior to Spotify’s “more than 30 million” figure (though we’re not sure by how much), and also outdoes newer contenders like Amazon’s paid streaming service and Jay Z’s Tidal. Moreover, Apple has taken steps to secure more exclusives than the competition. Spotify isn’t too happy with artists signing exclusivity deals with Apple, either. Reportedly, Spotify has a history of altering search rankings for artists who release their music through Apple first.

MUSIC DISCOVERY

With so many songs at the ready, Spotify’s library can seem daunting for those who want to find new music, but the company provides a lot of useful tools for finding new songs to suit your individual taste. Spotify even has a featured series called Secret Genius, which allows fans of pop music to listen to the songwriters behind some of their favorite hits. Furthermore, Spotify gives you the chance to create, share, and follow playlists of any kind — including those shared by friends — with a simple click, along with expertly curated playlists for any mood or genre you’re into to keep things fresh.

As for Apple Music, upon creating an account users will be prompted to select some of their favorite artists so the service can get a sense of their tastes. The interface for this is a digital ball pit, in which each ball represents an artist, with users tapping particular balls to indicate artists they like or love. You can also always head back via the Account tab — accessible by tapping the icon in the top right corner of “For You” — to re-select your favorite genres and artists. While it is a visually striking way to dictate music preferences (the pink on a white background is pure Apple-chic), the style stomps on the utility a bit. On mobile devices in particular, the balls quickly clog up the screen, sluggishly bouncing off each other and making it a pain to select more artists.

RADIO

Arguably the biggest area where Spotify finds itself behind its competitors is radio. In our own personal tests, choosing a particular artist to build a station around on Spotify doesn’t offer the same creative discovery you’ll get from services like Pandora.

In an age that prioritizes automation, Apple Music’s preference for the human touch really helps with radio-style programming. This philosophy is embodied in Beats 1, Apple Music’s premier radio station that runs 24/7, playing music on live radio shows, selected by DJs.

SUBSCRIPTION FEES

Apple Music costs the industry-standard $10 per month, as does Spotify Premium, Tidal Premium, Pandora’s new on-demand service, and just about every other on-demand subscription service on the block (Amazon Music Unlimited costs $10 per month, or $8 with an Amazon Prime subscription). Apple originally hoped to undercut its competitors by offering its service for $8, or even $5 per month, but that plan was derailed by the major labels that own the rights to the vast majority of the company’s catalog. To make an Apple Music or Spotify subscription a bit more appealing, both companies offer special family packs that allow customers to add up to six individual accounts for a grand total of just $15 per month.

If you’re considering Apple Music, there’s another way to save some cash. Current users can get a year’s worth of service for $99, as long as you know where to look. Considering Apple grants every prospective subscriber three months of Apple Music for free, the service may be sweeping away more of Spotify’s user base than CEO Daniel Ek would like to acknowledge. However Apple does not have a free, ad-based tier like Spotify, which is a big reason the Swedish company was able to corral so many users in the first place. The majority of Spotify’s users listen for free, and that’s better than any three month trial Apple could offer.

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Scanning Personal Gmail NO MORE says Google

Monday, July 10th, 2017

Google recently announced the end of its policy of scanning user emails for targeted advertising purposes, a controversial practice that riled privacy advocates and spurred legal challenges. Gmail is the world’s most widely used email provider, with more than 1.2 billion users. Google attributed its decision to gains it has made in the enterprise. Its G Suite business over the past year has more than doubled in size to 3 million paying corporate customers, who are not subject to the scanning process.

“G Suite’s Gmail is already not used as input for ads personalization, and Google has decided to follow suit later this year in our free consumer email service,” said Diane Greene, senior vice president at Google Cloud. “This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalize ads for other Google products.”

As Google makes further inroads into the cloud business, it recognizes that customers are going to be very wary of anything that threatens their privacy and security when compared against incumbent cloud services providers, noted Jeff Kaplan, managing director of ThinkStrategies. “Google has always assumed that its users accept the implicit cost of using its free app,” he told TechNewsWorld, which is “that they will be targets of its ads and other search engine marketing mechanisms.

“However, as it tries to build its enterprise business, Google has recognized it must abandon this tactic to remain competitive with other enterprise and collaboration alternatives, such as Microsoft Office 365”. It’s not likely that the new privacy objective will harming Google’s ability to generate revenue, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

“EPIC opposed Google scanning email from the start and won several significant battles, including the 2014 decision to end scanning of student emails,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Keep in mind also that Google was scanning the email of non-Gmail users, which raised problems under federal wiretap law and was the frequent target of lawsuits.” A settlement was reached late last year in a California class action brought by Daniel Matera and Susan Rashkis, who accused Google of violating federal wiretapping and state privacy laws by scanning non-Gmail accounts for advertising purposes. As part of that settlement, Google agreed to pay US$2.2 million in legal fees, but a federal judge earlier this year rejected the agreement.

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