Category Archives: Technology

Facebook And Google Creating Virtual Assistants

The battle for creating the ultimate virtual AI-powered assistant is heating up. Tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have all been working hard to make the next big breakthrough in AI. This would probably come in the form of a virtual assistant that can make minute, mundane tasks easier to handle. Living in the digital world is easier if we don’t have to deal with boring tasks. Virtual assistants will help ease these growing pains.
 
The human digital experience is facing a data overload. All of us have to deal with overflowing email inboxes, long to-do lists, work schedules, and tasks that seem impossible to organize without giving yourself a migraine. Our ancestors had simple lives; their agrarian life involved a handful of people and seasons. Our social circuitry could handle these demands and we still largely possess the same brain. However, technology has outpaced evolution and brought us to the brink of our information handling capacity. We need help, so we turn to AI and virtual assistants.
 
Two press releases came out recently from technology front-runners, Google and Facebook, and they have given a glimpse into their efforts to create the perfect virtual assistant of the future. Without much fanfare, Google revealed a new Gmail inbox feature called ‘Smart Reply.’ This aims to generate an intelligent, but automated reply to common emails that Gmail subscribers receive.
 
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Google has been long pushing AI and semantic understanding to advanced levels. Their interest in this endeavor was proven when they launched the 2013 update to their search algorithm (called ‘Hummingbird’) and this change allowed Google to grasp the intended meaning behind a search query rather than the old method which simply considered queries a bunch of strings. The hiring of Ray Kurzweil, one of the foremost AI experts and speech recognition pioneers, played an important part in Google’s strategy.
 

Google’s approach to AI affects how it develops its virtual assistant, they focus on understanding human speech patterns and their meaning. This is a natural progression for the search engine giant. It must have realized that every email can be treated like a search query and can be analyzed. Communicating with someone means we are seeking information; it is basically querying. Since Google has a wealth of email data stored, it can simply generate a response to an email as well.
 
This opens up some philosophical questions and curious scenarios, but it will no doubt help ease our workload. Are we giving over too much power to machines? What happens if automated mails are replied to by automated generated replies? Will entire conversations happen without human intervention?
 
On the other hand, Facebook has opted for a different avenue when it comes to developing a virtual assistant. They are also interested in natural language processing and related aspects, but they have more visual data and their focus is on image processing.
 
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Recent developments provide indications on how Facebook might go about developing their virtual assistant. A recent publication has studied how the ability of their AI makes inferences about a visual scene based on physics. For example, trying to understand if a stack of blocks are stable – and if they fall, when will they fall? The other study focuses on scene recognition from visual signals found in photographs. They are looking to develop algorithms that will accurately tell them what the photo contains.
 
These indications show that Facebook’s virtual assistant will benefit from enhanced vision capabilities and will be able to make sense of visual stimuli. This scene recognition holds immense promise in the field of robotics as well. Robots will be able to maneuver and understand complex environments such as homes, hospitals, and rough terrain. The visual and language aspects are both important if machines are to understand the world.
 
With these major companies focusing on advancing AI research, major developments are likely to be made. The future seems to resemble a science fiction novel and AI offers powerful solutions that will prove game-changing for the tech market and life-changing for the consumer. There is hope that we might soon see a capable virtual assistant soon.
 

 

He Sent Millions Of Spam Messages On Facebook

Sanford Wallace, the infamous Facebook “SPAM KING” has recently pleaded guilty for eleven charges against him which included fraudulence and criminal contempt. Sanford Wallace admitted to have hacked approximately 500,000 Facebook accounts. He was reported for abusing those accounts by sending more than 27 million unsought messages through Facebook servers.
 
As published in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s press release in August 2011, Wallace allegedly accessed Facebook’s network account thrice. First, from November 5th, 2008 to November 6th 2008, second on December 8th, 2008, and the lastly on February 17th, 2009. During the times when he hacked into the database, he sent millions of spam messages to Facebook users through other accounts.
 
The unsolicited messages had a link attached to them which would direct Facebook users to another website. It has been said that Wallace profited by sending the traffic to the website which paid Wallace his share for directing the traffic to their website.
 
Sanford-Wallace-Confesses-1-Facebook-spam 

In 2009, Facebook filed a lawsuit against Sanford Wallace after tracking the unsolicited messages. Wallace was proscribed from using Facebook at all costs and under any circumstances. However, later on, it was found that Wallace succeeded in making another account on Facebook under the pseudonym of “David Sinful-Saturdays Fredericks.”
 
Wallace was again found using Facebook through his other ID from January 26th, 2011, to February 16th, 2011, which was against court orders.
 
Again in July 2011, the “Spam King” of Facebook was arraigned for several federal charges which included fraud, criminal contempt, and illegally and intentionally damaging a protected computer.
 

Attorney Melinda Haag of the United States of America confirmed of the Spam King surrendering to the authorities on the 4th of August, 2011. Wallace now faces three years of imprisonment along with a $250,000 fine.
 
Wallace’s illegitimate acts date back to the 1990s when he was accused of using facsimile machines to distribute unsolicited flyers. He also founded Cyber Promotions which rapidly made to the list of the most successful distributors of marketing via email.
 
Starting from the late 1990s, Wallace’s name can found in several of the lawsuits which were filed against him by social media sites, Internet service providers, and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
 
The 2009 lawsuit which was filed by the Facebook, Wallace was charged with a $711 million dollar fine for the damages he did, however, as the defendant filed bankruptcy, there were little chances of collecting the fine from him. As confirmed by the officials, Sanford has been pleaded guilty to all of the federal charges against him.
 

 

Apps You Can’t Miss: Honest Beauty, Unroll.me, And More!

Whether you were busy saying goodbye to Twitter’s little stars or distracted by the news of Youtube’s foray into virtual reality, never fear because we’ve got you covered when it comes to rounding up the latest app offerings.
 
Today, we tell you how to keep those pesky email subscriptions from filling up your inbox and review a new SoundCloud app. Check out the selections below and see what works for you!
 

1. Action Movie FX
 
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The App Store classic app, Action Movie FX got an exciting update in anticipation of the new Star Wars movie: the app now has a Star Wars themed look available. This change adds seven amazing effects which are based on the original films and also include elements from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
 
How It Works
 
You simply choose the effect you wish to add. The one with BB-8 comes for free. If you want more than making an in-app purchase, then record a clip with your device and apply it in the frame.
 
Handy Tip: The app now allows exporting videos as GIFs, making moving pictures easily shareable.
 
Free for: iOS
 

2. Descendants
 
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This is the official app for Disney’s movie called Descendants. It puts players into the world of Auradon Prep and allows them to navigate through the halls and immerse themselves in the world.
 
How It Works
 
You begin the game as a new student and need to complete fun missions like getting new friends, exploring the school grounds, etc. This helps you earn rewards so that you can move further along in the game.
 
Handy Tip: This game has multiple locations other than the school. Continue to play and you find more locations and missions.
 
Free for: iOS and Android
 

3. Honest Beauty
 
apps-4-beauty 

This is an app created by Jessica Alba’s company, The Honest Company. Honest Beauty will help you discover and preview fresh looks created using the latest product line. You will also get access to makeup tutorials and detailed DIY videos.
 
How It Works: Browse the offered products or go to the section called “Looks” and try on products (virtually). Each beauty look is composed of a set of products. If you like any of them, then preview them on your front-facing camera.
 
Handy Tip: The app offers a makeup subscription service. If you do not want to avail this, then a few demo products are offered for free, try them out.
 
Free for: iOS
 

4. Soundcloud Pulse
 
apps-3-soundcloud 

SoundCloud has unveiled a brand new app targeted to those who love creativity. People who upload songs, podcasts, and other sound clips and share them using the service can download and see how people are reacting to and using their content.
 
How It Works
 
Pulse connects you with your followers, updates them about new content, and track usage statistics. It includes numbers such as how many people are listening to your shared clips, how many are airing the content, and much more.
 
Handy Tip: SoundCloud plans to include more advanced statistics in the future, enhance upload capabilities and to debut an iOS app.
 
Free for: Android
 

5. Unroll.Me
 
apps-2-unroll 

Is your inbox full of junk and spam? Wading through those daily promotions and annoying newsletters can be a major pain. Want peace of mind? Well, there’s an app for that! Unroll.Me can help you wade through and get rid of those pesky promotional ads.
 
How It Works
 
You have to log in using your email account. Next, the app will scan your inbox and find all the spam and promotional lists that are sending you emails. Then, it helps you sort through the list, lets you choose the ones you want to keep and unsubscribes you from the rest. The ones you do want can be condensed into a handy one-mail group that does not clutter your inbox.
 
Handy Tip: Multiple email accounts are supported. Now start cleaning up your inboxes!
 
Free for: iOS
 

 

Lithium-Air Battery: Going Beyond Performance

A team of researchers from the University of Cambridge have claimed to have made a breakthrough discovery in the battery industry. They have created a lithium-air chemistry that powers a battery and solves many of the outstanding issues when it comes to battery performance in modern technologies. The researchers claim that this development can be as significant as the introduction of the lithium-ion battery. This is a tall claim, however, if the science behind it does turn out to be sound, the impact will be major.
 
The introduction of lithium-ion or Li-ion batteries gave us a way to power laptops, electric cars, and smartphones. Much of the modern technology you see in today’s digital landscape contains li-ion batteries. However, these are not very energy-dense or efficient.
 
Zinc-air batteries may pale in terms of fossil fuels, but they are a major improvement when compared to the majority of the options out there. Theoretically, lithium-air batteries will pack more of a punch than zinc-air batteries. Lithium-air batteries have an estimated energy density of 18.75MJ/kg (oxygen included) and 43MJ/kg (oxygen excluded). Either way you see it, this new battery technology is more energy dense and lighter than Li-ion. If smartphones were powered by these, we could have devices that operate all day long at their current weight and size specifications. An analysis of the energy density levels shows that the energy density of lithium-air batteries is up to 10 times higher as compared to li-ion.
 
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via forbes (RAND)
 

Where are my Lithium-Air Batteries?
 
Take a ten thousand foot view and you will understand the problem. The goal of creating a better performing battery than lithium-ion is relatively easy and has been common knowledge since the 1970s. The multiple primary cell batteries (the ones that cannot be recharged) offer 4 times to 8 times the energy density of li-ion batteries, but are impractical since they have to be replaced instead of recharged. If Tesla used these in their Tesla Model S, then it would need $10,000 worth of batteries.
 
Creating batteries with high energy densities is a simple task, but the challenge lies in mass producing them. In mass productions, the concerns get complex: batteries have to be durable, don’t suffer thermal runaway, shouldn’t produce toxic byproducts when discharging/recharging, and the production should be low cost. These issues have held back the commercialization of lithium-air batteries, the proposed designs often end up degrading at fast speeds when recharged, they become damaged by the presence of water, and become unstable over charge cycles. It will retain 90% of its power after 5 charge cycles and then goes down to 50% after 10 charge cycles.
 

The University of Cambridge research design is comprised of a carbon electrode, made from graphene. Graphene is a nano-based material made of very thin (about the width of one atom) sheets of carbon. Other additives are also involved that enable the internal chemistry of the battery to be more stable.
 
The paper’s senior author, Professor Clare Grey, explains the results of these efforts. He stated that the team had achieved a major advance for li-air batteries and had opened up new avenues for exploration. He accepted the fact that all the inherent complexities had not been solved, but a route to a viable li-air battery had been illuminated.
 
The design created by the team uses lithium hydroxide. This substance is more water-tolerant than the ones used in previous designs. The researchers came up with a new model. They changed the battery electrode and also altered the makeup of the electrolyte used. Even with these developments, a main problem is dendrite formation and the battery prototype can only be cycled in pure oxygen. In the real world, the battery has to function in the atmosphere. This is a significant reason for the fact that many researchers caution that these cells are a decade away from viable commercial use.
 

 

Stealing Cars Getting Harder, Stolen Tesla Is Proof!

A Tesla S 85D was parked by Ms. Katya in Vancouver, Canada in a subversive parking garage. When she returned to the garage, her car was nowhere to be found. Upon making numerous calls to all listed towing companies, there was no news on where the Tesla S 85D may be.
 
Katya then was forced to make the dreaded phone call to her husband that the S 85D was missing. Quick on his toes, Cary using the smartphone app by Tesla, was able to follow the live, real time progress of the Tesla. Cary and Katya then informed the local police regarding the incident. They could also have contacted Tesla and requested for a remote deactivation of the electric car.
 
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With Katya and Cary guiding the police on the route being taken by the stolen vehicle, authorities were successfully able to apprehend the S 85D thief and returned the car to the rightful owners.
 
While this is an amazing way of returning stolen vehicles and apprehending thieves, this app was the reason the car was so easily swiped in the first place. The thief used a wireless FOB key planted in the car when Katya was parking and then simply touched the door handles to get the car doors to open.
 

Hyundai and GM along with Tesla offer the facility to users to wirelessly track their vehicles’ real time movements while other luxury car manufacturers offer remote tracking to its clients (this helped the Boston Police Department apprehend the Boston Marathon bombers who had hijacked a Mercedes Benz M-class).
 
These cases, when made public, will definitely deter the cases of stolen cars. As more cars are now gearing up to come “online” using cloud computing, a simple smartphone swipe/click can locate the car and its thief. Do not fear if your car is an older model – third party services such as LoJack has now moved into the market and offered tracking solutions. With this tracking device, not only is finding the location a breeze, you can also remotely disable the car stranding the thief!
 
For Katya and Cary, the tracking application has been a God send. Buying a car is a huge investment, one that generally requires years of saving or repaying loans to bank. The comfort provided by tracking applications will ensure that car thefts are reduced significantly, allowing you to be worry-free about your vehicle.
 

 

Will Samsung Abandon Smartphones Within 5 Years?

Whenever there is a call for a new smartphone, the first two choices that come to our mind are Apple or Samsung. They have dominated the smartphone market and are the top competitors. However, domination is not always permanent. Once you launch an innovative idea, the other manufacturers manage to launch a much cheaper version which attracts the more budget-conscious masses. Apple has a strong foothold in the smartphone market, and they are able to maintain it due to many factors. However, Samsung has been predicted in taking its exit pretty soon in a couple of years, as it will soon be facing The Innovator’s Dilemma. This dilemma proposed by Clayton Christensen suggests that early innovators, or pioneers, are easily disrupted by emerging competitors who manage to bring out more affordable products yet providing the same features as seen in the premium products.
 
There are many reasons to justify this bold prediction by Ben Bajarin, a principal analyst in Creative Strategies, a renowned market research firm. Ben has predicted that, “once the market embraces good enough products, the innovator can no longer push premium innovations as their value is diminished once a good enough mentality sets in. Android devices in the $200-$400 range are good enough for the masses leaving the $600 Samsung devices and above stranded on an island.”
 
The prime most reason is that Samsung does not own any operating systems. This allows other manufacturers to produce the same innovative ideas that Samsung launches, but with a much more budget-friendly version of their own. This impacts the sales of Samsung devices by a huge margin. Low-end upstart Chinese manufacturers like Huawei and Xiaomi are gradually making their presence felt in the international Android smartphone market, posing a grave threat to Samsung.
 
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Apple comes with its own iOS. It is the only smartphone making use of iOS. This is the biggest advantage of Apple and this is the prime reason it doesn’t face low-end rivals in the market. If Apple allowed iOS licensing in the coming years to other manufacturers, it will be in the same boat as Samsung. Samsung did make attempts in creating an OS, Tizen OS, but it has yet to gain momentum in the market and mark its presence. A couple of Tizen OS handsets have been launched in Indian markets which are emerging as strong markets, but the sales are not so convincing and hence Tizen OS seems not to be a priority for Samsung.
 
Looking at the stats, Samsung has announced to cut some expenses by slashing 30% of its company’s employees within the divisions of finance, marketing, and human resources. This cites concerns for Samsung’s noticeable growth hindrance in the smartphone market.
 
Another reason cited out by Bajarin states that the smartphone market is facing the same loophole as the PC market faced. Laptop costs now fall in the range between 300$-700$, and this is less than half of the figure for which they were sold previously. In fact, Samsung had recently announced the 8% growth in year-over-year increase in sales during the third quarter, but out of the total 84 million units sold, a mere 40% of the sales were from the premium flagship devices priced above $300.
 
Samsung has a hard time convincing consumers to buy their premium flagship models, unlike Apple, which has a strong smartphone market share. iPhone has peaked in many regions hence providing an increase in the Average Selling Prices (ASPs) of that region and persuading more and more consumers to switch from the Android platform to iOS. This poses another threat in acquiring regions by Samsung.
 
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Samsung has lost its glorious days of reaping in huge margins of profits as an Android smartphone manufacturer. Android hardware has become commoditized. There are bleak chances that Samsung will ever return to those high margins of sales again that once made it the market leaders as Android vendors. It may or may not fade away in the smartphone market, but Samsung will not diminish. It doesn’t thrive solely on its smartphone market. It has a huge name in the display panel and semi-conductor businesses.
 
While some people agree to the predictions stated by Ben Bajarin, there are some who are a bit skeptical of this ‘heap of logic’ put forward by the renowned market researcher. Those who oppose this prediction strongly believe Samsung is quite capable enough of competing with its rival OEMs who produce budget-friendly handsets with the same features. They believe that Samsung choose not to lower their prices of their flagship models, as they are rigorously competitive in terms of their ideas and innovative products. They believe that they can charge a fortune for their premium handsets, the same way Apple charges for its products. They won’t accept defeat and cut their prices, sending their investors’ confidence wading into ambiguous zones.
 

Apple is a clear proof of the fact that consumers are ready to pay a hefty price to obtain premium flagship handsets. Though it is a fact that Apple doesn’t have much competition, owing to their iOS, it is also true that there is a large consumer base that is actually ‘interested’ in owning premium flagship models. It may seem like fashion statement, a trend, or basically a dire interest in owning them. There may not be a ‘need’ to buy an expensive smartphone, just an ‘interest’. The same principle applies to high-end perfumes, handbags or clothes that provide the same features as you would see in an economical brand, but they still sell, and that too at a high margin because such a consumer niche does exist which do not see just the features, but they actually go ‘by-the-brand’. If Blackberry, HTC, and Nokia are still not giving up and are continuing to bring handsets into the market, despite their poor market share, then why should Samsung take a ‘golden handshake’?
 
Let’s see if Samsung is plunged into The Innovator’s Dilemma. Being an early innovator had once cost Nokia a heavy price, as it could not maintain its market presence and is now almost fading away in the world of cellular phones. Will Samsung face this issue or will it pull itself out of this? Only time will tell.
 

 

Google’s Project Loon Coming To Indonesia

An ambitious project that sounds like it came straight out of a science fiction novel, Google’s project called Project Loon, is being deployed in Indonesia. The effort involves floating hundreds of balloons that will provide access to high-speed internet to the citizens of Indonesia. The signals broadcast from these balloons will travel from the atmosphere and will use the Indonesian LTE-speed connections to reach some 100 million people in the area. Indonesian network operators are working in collaboration with Google to make this project successful.
 
There are three major telecom companies operating in Indonesia: Indosat, XL Axiata and Telkomsel which have signed a memorandum of understanding with Google to that end. The testing phase of Project Loon’s airborne base station will be held in early 2016.
 
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Indonesia is comparatively ahead of African countries in terms of Internet speed and connectivity, but it still ranks low when compared to other countries in Southeast Asia.
 
Indonesia has an estimated population of 256 million people. These people are distributed over an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands. Research reveals that two-thirds of the population does not have access to the Internet. Moreover, Internet penetration in Indonesia is around 15.8%. This number ranks it at the 135th spot globally.
 
Though Project Loon was initiated two years ago, its target is to enable transmission of high-speed Internet through a set of balloons which hover some 18,000 meters above the surface of the planet. Previously, Google conducted trials in Australia, Brazil and New Zealand.
 
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Google opted to ally with local operators instead of obtaining a private spectrum. The balloons are being used to transmit the service due to the fact that frequency bands are able to deliver better coverage from the sky. The height has to be in the range of 18-20 kilometers above the ground. The data signals from the balloon network are transmitted to the base station of each local operator.
 
Indonesia has a unique geography which makes using traditional networks difficult to deploy. Keeping this fact in mind, Google considered Indonesia a perfect fit for Project Loon’s expansion.
 
Mike Cassidy, the Vice President of Project Loon expressed hope that Loon will enable telecommunication companies to grow their networks.
 

How Project Loon Will Be Functioning
 

Areas with good connectivity will transmit signals to the solar-powered balloons. These balloons have the ability to beam these signals to other balloons in the airborne network. These signals will then be beamed down to areas with poor connectivity. The fact that the network is built in the sky helps avoid the obvious difficulties of spreading equipment over a collection of islands that have jungles and mountains covering them. These balloons will even provide connectivity to the most remote islands.
 
Google has made a goal to provide high-speed internet to over 100 million people who have no access to the web. They plan to hit this target in the next 5 years. In a separate, but similar initiative, Google has announced that they will be activating public WiFi access at 400 railway stations in India.
 
The Project Loon team plans to launch over 300 balloons during the next year. When the balloons cover the Southern hemisphere, the project will enter the beta phase and interested users can sign up. Since the start of the project, the quality of balloons has improved. The latest ones take only 15 minutes to set up and achieve broadcast speeds of 10Mbps.
 

 

Did Japanese Scientists Invent Unbreakable Glass?

The Internet was lit ablaze with news that the Japanese had done it! They had created something deemed unimaginable: unbreakable glass! However, the Japanese themselves have denied any such discovery, but the find is not all disappointing. Scientists have been experimenting with the mixing of alumina with glass to create material that is exceptionally hard. The result is termed Aion (also known as transparent aluminum; marketed under the name: Alon) and serves as a bulletproof glass while weighing a fraction of what traditional materials would. Aion is 85% equally hard as the gem sapphire and visually transparent.
 
Traditional Aion glass has a drawback – it becomes even more difficult to produce as you increase the weight age of aluminum. The use of aluminum in the glass industry has been limited due to its high melting point. The Japanese, by using a technique termed as containerless manufacturing, combined alumina with tantalum (used in production of computer electronics). The process involved mixing the two materials at high heat and pressure, then levitated by means of oxygen gas; finally getting melted using lasers.
 

What was produced is minute glass spheres termed 54Al2O3-46Ta2O5. Testing has found that these spheres are elastic in nature, hard, as well as scratch resistant and showed signs of thermal shock resistance. When compared to other glasses made with oxides, this glass was on par with those ones and the addition of aluminum gave it an edge in many categories.
 
How big is this breakthrough? No one knows just yet. There are so many types of glass with numerous qualities – for example, the smartphone glass screens are comparable to the glass we drink from! The glass as per its requirements needs to fulfill the required assortment of characteristics while being low on opaqueness and reflectivity. When there were rumors abuzz about Apple’s innovation towards sapphire screens, it was deduced that the screen would be excessively scratch proof, but had the same chances of breaking as the currently used gorilla glass.
 
Rigidity, firmness, potency, and robustness are the defining traits of any material. What the Japanese have discovered is a glass that is strong along with being highly elastic and great thermal shock resistance. There is no proof that the glass is unbreakable though. The data has supported the finding of a glass that has amazing qualities which could change the way we use glass screens in the future.
 
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However, we must keep in mind the previous tendencies of smartphone companies to make phones thinner and slimmer instead of making the screen shatter proof. As the millimeters were shaved off of screens, the durability was compromised or retained at previous levels. There are numerous instances where retaining the original screen thickness would have helped increase durability to levels unimaginable and may be even creating an unbreakable screen, but the war for the greatest hardware sales has moved towards slimmer and prettier instead of durable and sturdier. Fingers crossed, however, the new material will come into mass production for smartphone screens and save us from the hassle of replacing shattered phone screens.
 

 

The New York Times Gets Immersive With VR App!

The world was taken by storm when The New York Times introduced its Virtual Reality app. This came about after the announcement in October of The New York Times partnering with Google in order to produce virtual reality films. The app made its debut with two feature films: The Displaced, which is about three children and how they are caught up in the refugee crisis of the world, and the other one is about the processing of The New York Times Magazine cover.
 
You’ll be surprised to hear that the VR app is not a disappointment, but is in fact a very good attempt at VR. There is strong, captivating journalistic content in both films, especially The Displaced which adds a feather to the Times’ already incredible reporting.
 
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via nytimes (Lynsey Addario)
 

There is vast difference in the way you read the news or social media about the refugee crisis and an entirely different scenario when you actually see it in virtual reality. In VR, you’re able to feel as if you’re part of that environment and that changes your perspective dramatically. In the same way, it’s easier to appreciate the cover of the Times magazine and an entirely different affair to see the artist himself taking a photograph, thousands of meters above the ground in a helicopter of the sprawling Manhattan below.
 
The Times has effortlessly taken on the gimmicky nature of VR.
 

The only thing that could be criticized is the content matter of The Displaced. The film has subtitles since the children don’t speak English and they appear in varying places and can be easily missed if you’re watching too closely. Some people might have a difficult time trying to keep up with the subtitles and the film. However, it may be that some of us do not find it problematic and perfectly enjoy the show. So, there are equal chances for you to like or dislike it.
 
Apart from that, the target audience of NYT VR is difficult to determine. Even though the experience is entirely different from reading a book or watching on TV, there are some quibbles.
 
The aim of the Times is to bring the reader and the story together in one shot and not just report it distantly. With VR, the Times is all set to make this powerful journey.
 

 

Your Smartphone Can Tell If You’re Bored

Whether you’re just scrolling down news feeds that interest you or flipping down info from the tech world, you know how it is when you are simply bored and to curb the feeling of boredom, you basically tap blatantly on the phone and swipe aimlessly. Basically you’re killing time with your smartphone. Boffins from Telefonica Research in Barcelona and University of Stuttgart in Germany have actually researched and proposed a boredom detection algorithm for it!
 
The boredom algorithm elucidates the clarity between boredom and interest while using your smartphone. This is basically decided by the smartphone data generated at different times of the day. Texts and check-ins are taken into account to pass judgement whether you are occupied with using apps, participating in some conversation via texting or chats, or are simply in an idle state.
 
Boredom-Detection-Your-1-Borapp 

The researchers had launched a “Borapp” app for Android users to gather the ennui indicators for a specific set of users at different time slots throughout the day. The survey had been conducted over a period of two weeks and around 54 participants were chosen to use the app. They had to identify when they got bored at what time of the day using the “Borapp” application. The responses received were compared with the overall data generated from the smartphone usage. The data included the frequency of accessing the phone as well as the number of apps explored. Researchers discovered that people tend to browse more apps when their level of boredom increases.
 
To consolidate the accuracy of their research, another app “Borapp 2” required 16 candidates. Every time the app identified an indication of boredom from the participant, a recommended Buzzfeed article link was sent to them. The catch was that those who are bored tend to click on the recommended link. Buzzfeed was chosen for the research as the app usually caches its articles, so the Internet connectivity issue could be ruled out from the research. Another reason for opting for Buzzfeed was the vast range of categories of the articles which garnered a large audience from various points of interest.
 

This algorithm could prove to be useful as smartphone users usually end up in a repetitive cycle of constantly Facebook-ing, Tweeting, texting, Instagram-ing etc. It could be a breakthrough into much more useful scoops to feed the inquisitive mind. On the other hand, it’s dubious whether a smartphone is really able to detect true human emotions. You may “seem” to be bored, while actually the reason could be otherwise. It may just be the weather pulling you down and you might need some rest or any other stress occupying your mind. Boredom indicator is a difficult benchmark. You might not even want to use your smartphone, thus being in an idle state. You may be on a long drive or perhaps taking a siesta after a heavy meal in the afternoon! Many possibilities could be ruled out against boredom. Just because you’re not using your smartphone does not necessarily indicate that you are in a state of ennui! An accurate prediction by your smartphone is not always possible.
 
The research and the survey that followed, however, had some interesting success rate of 84%! The research also professes that it can curb depression signals as well. There is a strong connection between boredom and depression and research suggests that this algorithm could help people with their depression too.
 
Though the research taps into a relatively new aspect of the smartphone world, where a phone has an sense of how its user feels, a lot is yet to be defined.
 

 

Is Apple Prepping A New A9-Powered iPhone?

Rumors about future iPhones are nothing new as every day we hear some new-fangled piece of technology is connected with the future releases of the Apple devices. However, there is one piece of news out there that seems to make some sense and it sounds more believable than the rest.
 
Ming-Chi Kuo, who is a famous analyst working for KGI Securities, has said that Apple is preparing to replace the existing iPhone 5S with a 4-inch iPhone in 2016. The 4-inch devices will join the Apple lineup of iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.
 
The iPhone 5S will be three years old in October of 2016 and according to Apple’s past product cycles, this device is due for discontinuation. The current iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus are second-generation devices based on the first large screen iPhones created by Apple. People are looking for smaller handsets that they can easily carry in one hand; this niche will welcome the new, smaller screen iPhone. The newer model will hopefully have higher-end specs that consumers will obviously demand.
 

This race amongst smartphone vendors to outdo each other with bigger and badder screens and higher camera resolutions baffles most reviewers and customers. Motorola, HTC, Samsung, LG, and other Android vendors have been obsessed with increasing screen sizes – this has led to impractically sized devices that cannot be used with one hand. High-end phones with smaller screens are hard to find, the screen size increases along with the power, battery, and memory specs. Smaller handsets can be used easily while holding onto a subway pole or handling shopping bags. People in the industry seem to ignore this need. This is a mistake that has not been remedied so far.
 
People have been disappointed in Android handsets which promise best-in-class specs only to deliver mediocre benchmarks. Android vendors seem to cripple smaller sets with midrange SoC and camera sensors. They need to look towards Apple, who is not just selling millions of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Pluses with a 4.7 inch screens, but is also willing to make smaller screen devices. Both these devices, the iPhone 6 and iPhone6 Plus, also contain A9 processors. Android vendors promise powerful specs, but end up disappointing when they are finally released; the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and the HTC One A9 both serve as examples in this scenario. The iOS side is faring better when it comes to responding to customer preferences.
 
The report which can be found on the KGI website, says that a new 4-inch device may join Apple’s product lineup as soon as October 2016, maybe even earlier. It might be debuted in the first half of 2016. The exciting news is that it will possess the super-fast A9 processor, the same one which graces the iPhone 6. From the report we can conclude that the new smaller iPhone will probably not have 3D Touch capability, but like the higher end models, it will have a metal enclosure. Kuo also goes on to say that Apple would probably end up selling 20 to 30 million of these smaller models by the end of next year, an amazingly high number. The report included an additional bit of news: a newer iPhone, called the iPhone 7, hits the market during the third quarter of 2016. This had been predicted before and will contain an up scaled version of the A9 processor called the A10.
 

 

Google Docs: Don’t Type, Dictate!

Where Google Docs was already a blessing for most of us, working with it has become even more easy and simple.
 
Recently, Google has revealed an entirely revolutionizing set of features for its major applications – Docs, Slides, and Sheets. This update has some very innovative new tools and also the most magnificent feature – voice typing. According to Google, this feature of voice typing has been specifically designed for students to save their time and allow them to multitask while dictating documents to Docs. Nevertheless, anyone using Docs can benefit from the feature of voice typing.
 
Voice typing on Google Docs is supported on Chrome, iOS, and Android equally. You will have to enable the feature from the Tools menu. Once activated, you can read out the documents to be typed to Chrome or your smartphone Docs app.
 
Google-Docs-Lets-1-Voice-recognition 

A demonstration of this new feature was held in early September at the Google offices in San Francisco. The functionality was efficient. The system was capable of recognizing text, spaces, punctuation, change of paragraphs, and more. Voice dictation on Google Docs is now available in 40 different languages.
 
Another chief advancement, again for students to save their time and multitask, is the Research tool. This new tool enables you to carry out Google search from within the document you are working on. You can extract text, links, and images from the Google search engine without even leaving your Google Docs app. Currently, the Research tool has only been enabled on the Android Doc app.
 
While in discussion with the product manager for the Google Docs Editor, it was said that a large population of students have migrated from laptops/PC to their smartphones for their presentations and college assignments. In this regard, Google has made things much easier for the students.
 

The product manager Ritcha Ranjan stated, “The most agonizing state for a student while working on his smartphone’s Doc app was to extract information from Google search into his document.” In the conference held in San Francisco, it was pointed out that the process of copying an image from Google search to a document in a phone app consisted of 14 steps. He further added, “The Research tool has not only made things easier for the students but has also helped Android evolve as a supreme medium for creating content.”
 
The “See New Changes” tool allows you to view the edits made by other contributors to your document. Once you click this tool, those changes will come as highlighted for specification.
 
Google Sheets is being introduced with a new “Explore Sheets” feature. It will solve a major and a common issue faced previously. Now with this tool, your data will be analyzed for your ease automatically.
 
Google-Docs-Lets-2-Google-chrome 

A new set of templates is being setup in Docs, Sheets, and Slides. It will simplify creating and editing formatted documents, presentations, and spreadsheets.
 
Along with all these helpful tools and templates, Google has also announced a Chrome extension. Google Classroom is an extension for teachers. It will help teachers handle assignments, notes, and test papers among others through a Google App. “Share to Classroom” is an extension that will enable a teacher to forward any link to every student of the class in one go, no matter whichever laptop they may be using.