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Topics - fahad.faisal

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Latest Technology / Vivo’s new concept phone comes with a 'gimbal camera'
« on: February 28, 2020, 05:03:57 PM »
Now that we're well into 2020, it's about time Vivo gave us its annual update on the APEX concept line which, in its past two generations, had given us a taste of what was to come in the smartphone world -- namely in-display fingerprint reader, pop-up selfie camera, near-buttonless design and more. In the case of this 5G-enabled APEX 2020, it's all about the cameras, display and wireless charging.

Starting off with the 16-megapixel periscopic camera on the back, it offers a continuous optical zoom range of 5x to 7.5x. This breaks the previous 5x upper limit on the likes of the Huawei P30 Pro and the Oppo Reno 10x Zoom, and will likely produce results that are almost as good as, if not better than, the 10x hybrid zoom offered by both devices. What's more impressive is that this camera module is only 6.2mm thick, which is slimmer than the 6.76mm-thick component on the Reno 10x Zoom.The 48-megapixel "gimbal camera" below the zoom camera is rather fascinating. As the name suggests, Vivo managed to stuff some sort of "gimbal-like structure" into this camera, so that "it achieves optical stabilisation in the front-back and left-right inclined directions with enhanced performance." This design was actually inspired by the chameleon's eyeball, which steadily rotates in a way that helps the reptile lock onto its prey. Think of it as OIS (optical image stabilization) on steroids, if you want, with Vivo's lab tests claiming that compared to the traditional OIS, this implementation extends the stabilisation angle by 200 percent.

You may recall that last year's APEX lacked a selfie camera. Well, just as I predicted, Vivo has indeed been working on under-screen camera technology as well. Much like Oppo's experimental implementation, when the hidden 16-megapixel front camera is activated on the APEX 2020, the screen area right above the camera becomes transparent. This part also features much larger display pixels to allow for better light transmittance -- in this case, it's six times that of the normal parts of the screen.

The rest is then handled by algorithms to make up for any optical interference, and it can also use 4-in-1 pixel-binning to boost sensitivity. I wasn't convinced by the results I got on Oppo's prototype device back in December, but if Vivo is still betting on this technology, then maybe there's still hope.

In addition to camera hardware, this concept phone also has the ability to remove background passersby while filming in real time, meaning strangers will no longer be able to photobomb you, be it intentional or not. Vivo claims that this feature works well "no matter how complicated the background environment is," so we'll believe it when we see it.

There's also another feature called "Voice Tracking Auto-Focus," which makes use of the phone's three microphones -- two for picking up sound and one for acoustic "auto-focus" -- along with image recognition to better focus on the audio of your desired subject. This sounds very much like the "Voice Bokeh" feature on the recent LG V60 ThinQ 5G and is somewhat similar to Samsung Galaxy Note 10's "Zoom-in Mic."

Following last year's waterfall screens on Vivo's very on NEX 3 5G and Huawei's Mate 30 Pro, this year the APEX 2020 has brought us a "120-degree FullView Edgeless Display." It's rather self-explanatory: this 6.45-inch 2,330 x 1,080 AMOLED panel wraps around both edges at 120 degrees, thus beating the 88-degree bend on the waterfall screens and rendering the bezels truly invisible when viewed from the front. In fact, you can even just about see this screen's two glowing edges from the back of the phone.

As cool as this looks, there's the inevitable question of whether this would increase the chances of damaging the screen -- along with the virtual pressure-sensing buttons on the sides -- when dropped. Perhaps it won't make much of a difference compared to existing curved screens (except for Xiaomi's indefinitely-delayed Mix Alpha), but such an exaggerated bend does make it a lot more difficult to find suitable screen protectors, if any.

Another new feature hidden underneath the screen is Vivo's third-generation Screen SoundCasting technology, which eliminates the need of speaker holes and thus improving protection against liquids plus dust. Rather than casting sound through the glass body like on last year's APEX, this time it's the screen that's doing the job (remember the LG G8?), and apparently this new solution delivers better bass as well as sound directivity.

One problem I had with the APEX 2019 was the use of pogo pins on the otherwise clean glass body. Luckily, those are gone on the APEX 2020 thanks to Vivo's impressive "Wireless Super FlashCharge 60W." Until now, the fastest wireless charging available out there is Xiaomi's 30W solution, and Oppo has also shown off its very own 30W wireless VOOC demo, with Huawei's 27W solution for the Mate 30 Pro being the runner-up. 60W is obviously a huge leap from those figures, though for some reason, Vivo only used a 2,000mAh battery as an example for charging time: 20 minutes. We can't just double this figure to get an estimation for a proper phone battery, but knowing that Xiaomi's 30W solution takes 69 minutes to fully charge up a 4,000mAh cell, chances are Vivo's upcoming tech will take much less than that.

It should be no surprise that the APEX 2020 runs on Android 10 and is powered by Qualcomm's latest and greatest Snapdragon 865 chipset, which is paired with a 5G modem. Not that this matters since the device will never hit the market, but it packs 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage space -- maybe those are the bare minimum for this year's flagships, in Vivo's view. Hopefully we'll be seeing some of these next-gen features on a new smartphone some time this year.

Source: Richard Lai, Senior Editor, Chinese Gadget

When they came out last year, the Bose Frames were an interesting, albeit unfinished showcase of what a company could do by fusing together smartglasses and headphones. We didn't think Bose's experiment was a consistent success, but clearly the wearable had potential. Microsoft certainly thinks so.

The company has added the Bose Frames to the list of devices its Soundscape app supports. If you're not familiar with the software, it provides audio cues to help visually impaired people navigate around cities. Microsoft has been working on the technology for the better part of a decade.

While Microsoft doesn't offer comparisons, it appears the app is able to deliver more detailed instructions on Bose Frames than some of the other devices where the company has made it available. The wearable features a nine-axis head-motion sensor that allows the app to know the exact orientation of your face. In this way, it's able to provide detailed instructions as it tries to help you navigate the world. Microsoft claims people who had a chance to use the Bose Frames with Soundscape reporting they felt "significantly more aware of their surroundings.

Thankfully, you don't need to invest in a pair of Bose Frames to take advantage of Soundscape. In 2018, Microsoft made the tech available through a free iOS app. Still, the addition of the tech to the Bose Frames speaks to the kind of capabilities we can expect from smartglasses in the future.

Source: Microsoft

BMW plans to have a million EVs on the road by the end of 2021 and one of the key vehicles is in that plan is the iNext crossover. The automaker has teased new images of a camouflaged iNext test mule taking part in hot-weather trials in the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa. The aim is to ensure the vehicle's drivetrain and body can handle the scorching heat, along with dust, sand and rough road conditions.

BMW also recently tested the iNext in freezing conditions in remote Sweden. It looks less dramatic but more production ready than the concept, as designers have eliminated the jagged window line, cut out the body facets and boosted the size of the headlights. The center grill still looks pretty large, but it's a hard to tell as it's hidden under the camouflage body wrap.

The iNext should retain its unusual polygon-shaped steering wheel and curved touchscreen. It'll also have 5G connectivity thanks to a partnership with Samsung. So far, there's no word on the all-important range and performance figures, however.

BMW is also working on the iX3 sports activity vehicle, which will come in gas, diesel, PHEV and pure electric options. Meanwhile, Engadget will be on hand to report BMW's global debut of the Concept i4 sedan happening on March 3rd at the Geneva Motor Show. As for the iNext, BMW said that production on it will commence at its Dingolfing plant starting in 2021.

Source: BMW

Citroën has launched a new electric vehicle that's a tiny car and an enclosed scooter at the same time. It's called the "Ami," a two-seater vehicle made for city transportation that's so small, it doesn't even require a license. That is, so long as you're at least 14 years old in France or 16 in other European countries. The automaker seems to have based it on the Ami One Concept it unveiled in 2019 with a few changes to its final design.

It has a 5.5kWh battery under the floor that can run for 44 miles on a single charge -- you can simply plug the EV into any standard 220v outlet and wait three hours to fill its battery. You can also only drive up to 28 mph. Yes, you can't replicate Fast and Furious stunts with it, and it doesn't have a lot of range, but the Ami was designed for city driving and narrow streets anyway.

Citroën has various purchasing options to choose from if you're interested. You can pay €20 (US$22) per month for a long-term rental of two years if you make an initial payment of €2,644 ($2,900), though you can also buy one outright for €6,000 ($6,600). In case you want to try it out first before buying, you'd also be able to rent one from the Free2Move car-sharing service in Europe for €0.26 (29 cents) per minute. Citroën will start accepting orders for the Ami on March 30th in France, followed by Spain, Italy, Belgium, Portugal and Germany a few months later. The first deliveries are expected to arrive to French buyers in June.

Source: Citroen

Self-driving technology has come a long way, but it can still be tripped up by bad weather. A team from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) may have a solution. They've developed a way to help autonomous vehicles "see" by mapping what's beneath the road using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR).

Most autonomous vehicles use LIDAR sensors and/or cameras to figure out where they are on the road, but cameras can be thrown off by lighting conditions or snow-covered signs and lane markings, and LIDAR often becomes less accurate in inclement weather. GPR, on the other hand, sends electromagnetic pulses into the ground to measure the specific combination of soil, rocks and roots. That data is turned into a map for self-driving vehicles.

The system, which uses a type of GPR called Localizing Ground Penetrating Radar developed at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, offers a few benefits. For starters, it doesn't matter if the road is snow-covered or if visibility is blocked by fog. And conditions under the road tend to change less often than features like lane striping and signage.

"If you or I grabbed a shovel and dug it into the ground, all we're going to see is a bunch of dirt," says CSAIL PhD student Teddy Ort. "But LGPR can quantify the specific elements there and compare that to the map it's already created, so that it knows exactly where it is, without needing cameras or lasers."

So far, the CSAIL team has only tested the system at low speeds on a closed country road, but the researchers believe it could be easily extended to highways and other high-speed areas. They admit that the system doesn't work as well in rainy conditions, when water has seeped into the ground below the road, and that it is far from road-ready. It would also have to be used in combination with other technology, as it wouldn't detect hazards on the road.

A paper on the project will be published in the IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters journal later this month. The team plans to continue refining the hardware, so that it is less bulky -- it's currently six feet wide -- and improving LGPR mapping techniques.

Source: Christine Fisher, Yahoo News

US vehicle safety regulators have suspended operations for autonomous shuttle company EasyMile after a passenger in Ohio was injured in a braking incident last week. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the battery-powered bus service will be halted in 10 US states while it investigates "safety issues related to both vehicle technology and operations."

The incident -- which took place in Columbus, Ohio -- saw a passenger fall from their seat after the shuttle made an emergency stop. The vehicle has been traveling at seven miles per hour (11 kilometers per hour). EasyMile, which has pods operating in various locations, says that the vehicles are still permitted on US roads, but won't be able to carry passengers while the NHTSA conducts its review.

It's not the first time EasyMile has faced safety criticism. As Reuters reports, an elderly passenger was injured in a similar braking incident in Utah last year. Despite EasyMile's comments that its vehicles are simply performing as they are programmed to, it's clear that the NHTSA is not prepared to take any chances over safety issues, especially since it so recently came under fire from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for its role in 2018's fatal Tesla crash.

Source: Reuters

The use of AI to discover medicine appears to be paying off. MIT scientists have revealed that their AI discovered an antibiotic compound, halicin (named after 2001's HAL 9000), that can not only kill many forms of resistant bacteria but do so in a novel way. Where many antibiotics are slight spins on existing medicine, halicin wipes out bacteria by wrecking their ability to maintain the electrochemical gradient necessary to produce energy-storing molecules. That's difficult for bacteria to withstand -- E. coli didn't develop any resistance in 30 days where it fought off the more conventional antibiotic cipofloxacin within three days.

The team succeeded by developing a system that can find molecular structures with desired traits (say, killing bacteria) more effectively than past systems. Unlike previous methods, the neural networks learn representations of molecules automatically, mapping them into continuous vectors that help predict their behavior. Once ready, the researchers trained their AI on 2,500 molecules that included both 1,700 established drugs and 800 natural products. When tasked with looking at a library of 6,000 compounds, the AI found that halicin would be highly effective.

Don't expect a prescription for halicin any time soon. MIT successfully used the medicine to eradicate A. baumanii (a common infection for US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq) in mice, but hasn't used it in human trials. This could be just the start of a much larger trend, mind you. The scientists have already used their model to screen over 100 million molecules in another database, finding 23 candidates. They also hope to design antibiotics from scratch and modify existing drugs to increase their effectiveness or reduce their unintended side effects. This is far from guaranteed to finish off "superbugs." If it takes out even some of them, though, it could save many lives.

Source: MIT News

SpaceX has been given the final go ahead to build its Starship manufacturing plant in the Port of Los Angeles. Authorities granted the company a permit for the facility by a unanimous 12-0 vote, allowing Elon Musk and his team to push on with the development of technology designed to take humans to the moon and Mars.

SpaceX has pursued the permit for some time after first identifying and subsequently leasing the site back in 2018. As Reuters notes, the company has the option to terminate the permit within 180 days, and indeed, it canceled a similar permit two years ago when it moved the initial phase of the Starship project to Texas. However, the Los Angeles Port site brings Starship development closer to SpaceX's headquarters in LA, and written into the permit contract is the option to expand the site from 12.5 acres to 19 acres, so it seems SpaceX is committed to the location.

Councilman Joe Buscaino, whose district includes the port, said, "It's crazy that here we are in 2020 preparing ourselves to send people to Mars, and it's going to happen in our backyard. We are becoming a spaceport." There won't be any launches taking place at the site, however -- the facility will be used only for research, design and the creation of components. According to Musk, the Starship will be ready for its first test flight later on this year.

Source: Reuters

Latest Technology / Eero's mesh WiFi routers now support Apple HomeKit
« on: February 27, 2020, 12:57:18 AM »
Eero has acted on its promise of supporting HomeKit for Routers. You can now add any Eero, Eero Pro or Eero Beacon device running eeroOS 3.18.0 (or later) to Apple's Home app, letting the mesh WiFi routers firewall your smart home devices so that a vulnerability in one doesn't compromise your entire local network. You can allow gadgets to communicate automatically with the devices their manufacturers approve, limit them to HomeKit or remove all restrictions if necessary.

It's not surprising that Eero would be one of the earliest router makers to support HomeKit. Apple has a few key tie-ins with Eero's parent Amazon, including support for Apple Music on Alexa devices and Apple TV+ on Fire TV hardware. Even so, this is a big move. If you live in an Apple-centric household, this might be as close as you get to an official HomeKit-friendly solution with AirPort still out of the picture.

Source: Amazon

Latest Technology / Porsche opens Europe's most powerful EV charging park
« on: February 25, 2020, 11:10:57 PM »
Porsche just unveiled what might be your dream EV charging park -- if you happen to be swinging through eastern Germany, anyway. The automaker has opened Europe's most powerful fast-charging park in Leipzig, giving visitors a dozen 350kW stations to rapidly charge your Taycan (or any compatible EV, thankfully) and another four delivering 22kW to those who just need a small top-up. There's 7MW of total power, and all of it comes from renewable energy.

The company is using the charging downtime as an opportunity to hawk its wares. You can visit a customer center (including a car museum and shop) and book track time at the Leipzig circuit.

This is partly about bragging rights, and underscores part of the problem with EV ownership in 2020. While it's great that there's a powerful EV charging park, this is just one -- Porsche would need many more if it wanted a comprehensive network that could keep cars going on long trips. All the same, this could be considered a peek at a future where Porsche and other companies give Tesla a run for its money when building sprawling, high-powered charging parks.

Source: Porsche Newsroom

Amazon's checkout-free Go concept has officially morphed into a supermarket. Amazon Go Grocery opens in Seattle today, with 5,000 items for sale across the 10,400-square-foot premises. Using a range of cameras, shelf sensors and software, shoppers can pick up the items they want and simply walk out the door -- their accounts are charged via a smartphone app as they leave.

While this isn't a brand new concept – Amazon has been running a number of Go convenience stores since 2018 -- this is the first time the technology has been implemented on such a large scale. Shoppers can choose from a much wider range of goods, such as organic produce and wine, making the concept a much more viable alternative to the usual weekly shop involving scanners and checkouts. Indeed, the store has been positioned closer to residential areas -- as opposed to business districts -- to encourage this.

And it could get even bigger. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Amazon Go vice president Dilip Kumar said, "There's no real upper bound. It could be five times as big, it could be 10 times as big." Kumar hasn't clarified exactly how many Go Grocery stores the company has planned, although it has previously said it hopes to open as many 3,000 Go convenience stores by 2021.

Leveraging Amazon's Go technology on this larger scale, however, has not been without challenges. As GeekWire reports, implementing accurate weighing and pricing for goods such as loose produce has been a major focus for the larger stores, especially ensuring it's done in a way that shoppers can intuitively engage with. Other obstacles have been circumnavigated entirely --– there's no meat or seafood counter, for example, and no on-site food preparation. Fresh meat products are instead brought in throughout the week, individually wrapped. When it comes to alcohol, there's a human on hand to check IDs.

While the new store is certainly indicative of Amazon's own plans for cashless grocery shopping in the future, it's also designed to act as a showpiece for the technology overall. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the company has been discussing licensing its cashless platform to a number of potential partners, including other convenience stores and shops in airports and sports arenas. And as this kind of technology is implemented in more and more spaces, it might not be long until the concept of carrying a wallet is almost completely redundant.

Source: GeekWire

Over the past several years, Apple has made efforts to expand the health-related features of the iPhone and Apple Watch. Apps and features like fall detection and high heart rate monitoring provide helpful insights, especially for senior citizens. Last year, Johnson & Johnson announced a study that would explore how these capabilities could reduce the risk of stroke through early detection of irregular heart rhythms. Enrollment in the clinical trial -- called Heartline -- is now open for US residents who are 65 or older, have Original Medicare, own an iPhone 6s or newer and allow access to their Medicare claims data.

The study hinges on the early detection of atrial fibrillation (AFib), which is an irregular heart rhythm that causes poor blood flow and is a leading cause of stroke. While the link between atrial fibrillation and stroke is thoroughly understood, AFib has very few warning signs, making it difficult to diagnose until a stroke occurs. Johnson & Johnson and Apple are hoping that apps and the Apple Watch's electrocardiogram (ECG) features will help detect AFib before a stroke occurs. This trial follows a Stanford study that found that the Apple Watch's irregular heart rate monitoring features are accurate enough to use in a medical setting.

Since this is a virtual trial, participants don't have to travel to a clinical trial site -- they can partake remotely via a proprietary app. The Heartline study could help prevent strokes and deaths -- AFib leads to 158,000 deaths per year -- and could lead the way toward a new approach to clinical trials that leverage greater sample sizes and more consistent reporting. Those interested in participating can sign up at

Source: Johnson & Johnson

Marsquakes are more common but less intense than NASA thought. That's one of the things the agency has revealed in the six papers it recently published on InSight's findings since it landed on the red planet. Apparently, InSight's Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure instrument (SEIS) recorded over 450 seismic signals or "trembling" events since last year. Now, the agency has announced that "the vast majority" of them were probably marsquakes and not merely noise created by environmental factors like the wind.

NASA has also revealed that the largest quake SEIS found was around magnitude 4.0 in size, which is milder than scientists expected. That's not quite strong enough to get readings from the planet's lower mantle and core, though, which scientists are hoping to get. InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt described those layers as the "the juiciest parts of the apple" when it comes to learning about the planet's inner structure, which can help shed light on how rocky planets form.

Marsquakes, however, aren't quite like earthquakes. The planet doesn't have tectonic plates, and scientists believe its rumblings come from volcanically active regions and an internal cooling process that causes the core to contract and build stress. In fact, when InSight detected the first potential quake, NASA's Planetary Science Division director Lori Glaze compared the event to a moonquake, which is typically weaker and much longer than earthquakes.

Source: NASA

Polestar has yet to deliver its first EV, but that isn't stopping it from outlining the vision for its future cars. The automaker has unveiled a concept sedan, the Precept, that showcases both the company's evolving design language and its technological goals. To start, gone is the Volvo-esque grille held over from gas-powered cars -- the front is now devoted to driver assistance and safety features with a camera and two radar sensors. There's also a conspicuous LiDAR pod above the windshield for "increased driving assistance."

Accordingly, Polestar has ditched traditional rear-view mirrors and even the usual rear window, instead opting for Audi E-Tron-style cameras and a glass roof that extends partly down the back. That last decision allows for a larger tailgate with higher-mounted hinges that make it easier to access.

The Precept also focuses heavily on eco-friendly design. The seat surfaces, bolsters, headrests and carpets are made out of recycled materials like 3D-knitted plastic bottles, cork vinyl and even recovered fishing nets. The interior panels and seatbacks, meanwhile, are made from flax-based composites that are not only kinder to the planet (80 percent less plastic waste), but lighter -- they weigh half as much as conventional panels.

And yes, there's plenty of technology on the inside. The Precept has a 12.5-inch driver display as well as a vertical 15-inch center touchscreen, and it uses a "next-generation" Android interface with improved Google Assistant voice control and the ability to watch videos while you're charging. More importantly, it knows where your attention is. The interface uses eye tracking to adjust the interface based on where you're looking, and proximity sensors both show more info and enlarge controls when you bring your hand close to the touchscreen.

The Precept will be on display at the Geneva International Motor Show starting on March 5th. You probably won't see this exact car on the road, at least not in every country. US regulators aren't keen on rear-view cameras, for example, while the rear view might also raise some concerns. And like most concepts, Polestar might have to tone down the design or features to make it road-ready. This is a fairly practical concept, though, and we wouldn't be shocked if something similar hits the streets.

Source: Polestar

Mike Bloomberg's presidential campaign has been much shorter than his competitors and, so far, much louder. With a huge budget, it's paid for posts by social media influencers as well as standard advertisements. However, the LA Times reports that on Friday, Twitter suspended some 70-odd accounts for breaking its rules against "against platform manipulation and spam."

According to Twitter, this wasn't just a ban impacting some full-on bots, but it wiped out accounts sending out identical pro-Bloomberg messages. One shown in the tweet read, "A President Is Born: Barbra Streisand sings Mike's praises. Check out her tweet." While some bans could be permanent, other accounts could be restored if the account holder verifies they still have control. According to the LAT, many of the accounts they looked at had only been created in the last few months,

A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal reported the campaign was hiring "deputy digital organizers" that might do everything from phone banking to social media posts, but if they want to keep their accounts, then they'll probably want to vary slightly from the recommended messaging.

Source: LA Times

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