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Will A.I. Replace Teachers

September 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

There are probably schools where any machines, including PCs and laptops, are regularly stolen because the kids have gone all Lord of the Flies. Things are probably not like that at Wellington College, which is where the prediction has come from.

In a report in The Independent, Sir Anthony Sheldon waxed lyrical about the potential and possibilities of artificial intelligence (AI) and automated teachers.

“School teachers will lose their traditional role and effectively become little more than classroom assistants” reports the paper.

“They will remain on hand to set up equipment, help children when necessary and maintain discipline.”

This sounds a bit like current teaching, where a television, overhead projector or computer can be wheeled into a classroom and turned on and left to teach.

Sheldon is convinced about this and is excited about the possibility of every kid getting the kind of education that money pays for.

“It certainly will change human life as we know it. It will open up the possibility of an Eton or Wellington education for all. Everyone can have the very best teacher and it’s completely personalised; the software you’re working with will be with you throughout your education journey. It can move at the speed of the learner,” he said.

“This is beyond anything that we’ve seen in the industrial revolution or since with any other new technology. These are adaptive machines that adapt to individuals. They will listen to the voices of the learners, read their faces and study them in the way gifted teachers study their students.

“We’re looking at screens which are listening to the voice of the student and reading the face of the student. Reading and comprehending.”

Courtesy-TheInq

YuMi Robot Conducts Italian Symphony

September 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

YuMi the humanoid robot showed that it was indeed up to the task on Tuesday night as it raised its baton to conduct the Lucca Philharmonic orchestra alongside Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.

The two-armed robot, designed by Swiss firm ABB, made its debut at Pisa’s Verdi Theatre to mark the First International Festival of Robotics in the Tuscan city.

“We basically had to find time to understand his movements. When we found the way, everything was pretty easy,” said the orchestra’s resident conductor, Andrea Colombini.

“It is absolutely fantastic. And the technicians were fantastic just to make everything perfect, especially in the length and in the speed of the gesture, which is very important,” he said.

YuMi, whose name is derived from the phrase ‘you and me’, was taught all the movements by Colombini, who held its arms in rehearsals so the computer could memorize the correct gestures. The robot is not able to improvise and any unexpected change in tempo from the musicians would have been ruinous.

The robot conducted three of the 18 pieces performed on Tuesday night, including the famous aria La Donna e’ Mobile, from Verdi’s opera Rigoletto.

Deezer Takes On Giants Of Music Streaming

September 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

From Brazilian gospel to Puerto Rican reggaeton and Dutch hip-hop, music streaming company Deezer is making waves all over the globe looking for markets where it can survive and thrive against Spotify and Apple.

The French firm has little hope of success going toe-to-toe with its far bigger rivals in the mass-market realms inhabited by the likes of Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran.

Instead, it is focusing on local music genres in fast-growing, often non-English language markets, areas where it believes it can steal a march. It is targeting local listeners while also looking to position itself for a global audience as a “cool”, non-mainstream alternative.

As part of this strategy, launched this year and called Deezer Next, it is dispatching local teams of “editors” to identify talent in niche genres and create original content, Netflix-style.

The aim is not only to differentiate its catalog but also to reduce its reliance on the record labels that take the lion’s share of streaming services’ revenue. It has 40 editors globally and is looking to recruit more.

Deezer Chief Executive Hans-Holger Albrecht said he would target selected markets in Latin America, Asia, and Africa where Spotify was not already predominant. They include Guatemala, Bolivia, Paraguay, Colombia, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa.

“I strongly believe in the localization of content,” he told Reuters. “While Spotify is mainly playlist-focused, we are betting on local differentiation, and this has helped us become number one in gospel in Brazil.”

But finding a path to profit represents a formidable task for the loss-making company.

It has a similar “freemium” to market leader Spotify, whereby it attracts users by offering advert-supported free access and charges a monthly fee of about $10 for the full service. However, it has only 12 million active users – about 9 million paying – compared with Spotify’s 60 million paying subscribers, and brings in just a tenth of the Swedish firm’s $3 billion annual revenue.

Deezer, controlled by billionaire investor Len Blavatnik, is nonetheless sinking tens of millions of euros into this local music drive. Its strategy is based on a bet that music streaming will continue to grow rapidly to eventually eclipse all other forms of music listening.

The paid streaming market is expected to grow 16 percent to $28 billion by 2030 in terms of annual revenue, according to Goldman Sachs

“Streaming is a very young market, with just about 10 percent penetration globally, so there is a lot of potential still,” said Albrecht.

Is Sony Facing Another Class Action Lawsuit

August 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

A US Federal Court has approved a class action lawsuit against Sony for ‘deceptively advertising’ its Xperia smartphones and tablets as “waterproof”. 

The lawsuit, first reported on by The Verge, alleges that Sony’s Xperia devices have been misrepresented as “waterproof” as they are not designed for or capable of ordinary underwater use and are more on the “water-resistant” level of protection.

“Sony exploited certain international water resistance ratings in order to launch a deceptive marketing campaign promoting the devices,” the lawsuit claims. 

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Sony’s dodgy “waterproof claims”. Back in 2015, the Japanese firm warned buyers of its Xperia Z5 that, despite having advertised the smartphone as ‘waterproof’, getting it wet could void the warranty.

The class action seeks a 12-month warranty extension for recently purchased devices or a reimbursement of up to 50 per cent off the affected device’s suggested retail price, which means owners of an Xperia Z4 Tablet, for example, could receive a $300 reimbursement.

However, The Verge notes that “this may not be the final value the company is liable to refund”, as Sony will still need to settle with the court again on 1 December and agree on final terms.

The lawsuit is also calling for Sony to make changes to its packing, labelling and advertising. 

Devices included in the class action include the Xperia Z2 Tablet, Xperia Z3 Tablet, Compact Xperia Z4 Tablet, Xperia M2 Aqua, Xperia M4 Aqua, Xperia ZR Xperia Z Ultra Xperia Z1, Z1s, Z1 Compact Xperia Z2 Xperia Z3, Z3 Compact, Xperia Z3v, Xperia Z3+, Xperia Z3+ Dual, Xperia Z5, and the Xperia Z5 Compact.

The class action only applies to customers in the US. Those eligible and interested in taking part of the claim can sign up here by 30 January 2018. Affected customers will need to have a record of their interactions with Sony or they will not be eligible.

Courtesy-TheInq

New Mazda, Toyota Vehicles To Share Infotainment System

August 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Future Mazda and Toyota vehicles will share the same infotainment underpinnings as part of a joint development effort between the two automakers, Nikkei reports. Toyota first developed the Linux-based guts of its new Entune 3.0 infotainment system, but it brought in Mazda for additional streamlining because of a lack of software developers in Japan’s auto industry.

The system will first reach the public by way of the 2018 Toyota Camry, which is already on sale in the US. It should land in Mazda’s stable when the redesigned Mazda3 debuts in the near future, although that has not been officially confirmed. Nikkei claims other vehicles from these manufacturers will receive the updated platform in stages.

Now, bear in mind this doesn’t refer to the whole infotainment system, this only covers the platform off which it’s built. Mazda’s version will undoubtedly look different, and each company will be responsible for developing the features and applications that will live in each system.

Both systems, though, will be able to make use of Toyota’s new Wi-Fi hotspot, which utilizes a cellular network connection to deliver over-the-air updates and new apps without requiring the owner to provide the connection. Toyota’s hotspot can accommodate up to five devices simultaneously on the 2018 Camry.

While this new infotainment system will be rather flexible thanks to a library of available third-party apps like Slacker or Pandora, it should be noted that the system still does not support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto — or, at least it doesn’t on the 2018 Toyota Camry. Hopefully that will change with other models, but Toyota has a historical aversion to this sort of phone mirroring.

 

Fitbit Commits To Smartwatch Market With Ionic Launch

August 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Wearable device maker Fitbit Inc has launched its newest device, the Ionic smartwatch, with features ranging from fitness tracking to contactless payment, as it gears up to compete with rivals such as Apple Inc.

Once the market leader in wearables, Fitbit has recently struggled due to fierce competition and had earlier blamed a shift among consumers toward feature-rich devices and smartwatches for its revenue decline.

Ionic smartwatches will feature GPS, heart rate tracking, water resistance up to 50 meters, Fitbit Pay, onboard music, multiple clock faces and a battery that will last more than 4 days, the company said in a statement.

 “Over the coming months you will be able to add eligible American Express cards, as well as Mastercard and Visa credit and debit cards from top issuing banks in over 10 markets across the globe,” Fitbit said.

The watch also has a new sensor technology — relative SpO2 sensor — for estimating oxygen levels in the blood that have the potential to track sleep apnea among others.

With a price tag of $299.95, Ionic is priced above Apple Watch’s starting price of $269.

“Fitbit can take some market share from Apple by appealing to those who are more focused on fitness, however, we do not expect this to be a significant share of Apple’s overall smartwatch sales,” Wedbush Securities analyst Alicia Reese said.

Ionic will be available for pre-sale from Monday on Fitbit’s website and at some online retailers from Tuesday, the company said in a statement.

The company on Monday also launched Aria 2 smart scale and Flyer wireless headphones.

Has The Playstation Network Suffered Another Breach

August 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The hacker group known as OurMine has reportedly cracked into Sony and made off with a collection of PlayStation Network (PSN) logins.

Legitimately, OurMine offers to protect your online accounts and presence and keep it secure on a monthly paid for basis. It also busts its way into systems, picks them apart and exposes their weaknesses all while wearing a lovely white hat.

We have already seen it at work this month when it took on HBO and Game of Thrones and managed to come out of it with Twitter control and a couple of script treatments. 

The benevolent group is not planning on leaking any of the information that it took from PSN and got quite indignant at the suggestion in one of its own tweets, suggesting that Sony just needed to get in touch and avail itself of the OurMine services and this would all be over.

“No, we aren’t going to share it, we are a security group, if you works at PlayStation then please go to our website ourmine . org,” it said on Twitter.

Reports claim that the hack of Sony’s social media accounts was achieved using its Sprout Social management account, which also gave OurMine access to user registration information such as names and email addresses.

It is tough to imagine that Sony’s PlayStation people would welcome this third-party intervention. The firm has had to deal with hackers before in 2001 when it went after the cracker known as Geohot. Then, the firm was taken offline for almost three weeks and had tens of millions of PSN user details pinched.

Sony’s Facebook account also got taken over for a short while this weekend putting users off the service and sparing other people from cat pictures and happy couples. Unfortunately, though, this only had a brief impact.

Courtesy-TheInq

Walmart’s Vudu Comes To Apple TV

August 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The Apple TV streaming box might not be as popular as Roku, Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV, but it still has a loyal following, especially among people committed to Apple’s ecosystem of iPhones, iPads, Mac computers, and software.

Since its streaming box launched, Apple has maintained a jealous hold on purchases of TV shows and movies made through the device: you can only use iTunes to buy or rent individual episodes, seasons and films. Now for the first time, a big iTunes competitor has an app available on the box.

Vudu, the movie and TV streaming service owned by Walmart, launches on Apple TV Monday. The app allows you to watch stuff from your Vudu library, including UltraViolet movies redeemed from Blu-ray discs and DVDs, and you can browse Vudu’s collection of free movies and shows.

What you can’t do is rent or buy anything directly from the on-screen app. The only way to do that on an Apple TV is via iTunes. The same restriction applies to Apple’s iOS devices like the iPad and iPhone. But you can still buy videos through your browser — or on other devices, like Roku — and they’ll be accessible from your Vudu collection on the Apple TV almost instantly.

Apple has also announced that Amazon Video is coming to Apple TV later this year. We don’t have any additional details at the moment but don’t be surprised if, like Vudu, the Amazon app doesn’t allow purchases. The reason? Doing so would require Vudu and Amazon to give Apple a percentage of each sale.

 

Non-Premium Spotify Users Can Now Stream On Google Home

August 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Spotify unveiled a nice suprise for those who use the music-streaming service for free.

Starting now, free users will be able to enjoy and control music through a Google Home device, just as premium subscribers have been able to do since the launch of the home hub, Spotify said Friday.

The news could nudge some free Spotify users toward investing in one of Google’s home hubs if they haven’t already. Especially if they’re trying to decide between Google Home and the rival Amazon Echo, which can still be used only by Spotify Premium subscribers.

Access through Home will be available to free Spotify users in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, and Germany.

“We are incredibly excited that, from today, millions of Spotify’s free users will be able to enjoy Spotify in their homes through voice-activated speakers for the very first time, thanks to the Assistant on Google Home,” Mikael Ericsson, Spotify’s product director for platform and partner experience, said in a statement.

Using a voice-activated smart home hub with a speaker lets you simply tell the device what you want to hear, freeing you from having to search for tunes on your phone.

With a properly configured Spotify-Home setup, you can get your music going by using commands like “OK, Google, play Spotify,” “OK, Google, play Discover Weekly” and “OK, Google, play my Taylor Swift playlist.”

After that, you just have to hope no one in the room objects to your choice and gives Home different orders (the only downside we’ve discovered to voice-controlled music playback).

Qualcomm Goes Deep Learning

August 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Mobile chip maker Qualcomm wants to enable deep learning-based software development on all kinds of devices, and has created the Neural Processing Engine (NPE) for its Snapdragon-series mobile processors.

 The NPE software development kit is now available to all via the Qualcomm Developer Network, which marks the first public release of the SDK, and opens up a lot of potential for AI computing on a range of devices, including mobile phones, in-car platforms and more.

The purpose of the framework is to make possible UX implementations like style transfers and filters (basically what Snapchat and Facebook do with their mobile app cameras) with more accurate applications on user photos, as well as other functions better handled by deep learning algorithms, like scene detection, facial recognition, object tracking and avoidance, as well as natural language processing.

This will mean that anything you’d normally route to powerful cloud servers for advanced processing is done locally on device instead.

Courtesy-Fud

Spotify Inks Licensing Deal With Sony Music

July 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Spotify has pulled together a licensing deal with a second major label, Sony Music Entertainment, according to media reports, setting the stage for a U.S. stock market listing by the music streaming leader.

Recently valued at $13 billion, Sweden’s Spotify is planning a direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange later this year or in early 2018, sources told Reuters in May.

Sony agreed to reduce royalties that Spotify must pay in return for the streaming service restricting new albums to paying subscribers for two weeks before offering access to free users, the Financial Times reported, citing a single source.

Sony’s top artists include Adele, Beyonce and Shakira.

Spotify is also in talks with Warner Music Group , Billboard reported.

Favorable royalty terms are crucial for Spotify to attain profitability and to make it a viable long-term holding for investors.

The company reported a 349 million euro ($400 million) operating loss, a 47 percent increase on a year earlier, even as revenue grew 50 percent to 2.93 billion euros.

In April, it signed a multi-year licensing deal with Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, with a similar two-week release window for new albums and a break on the royalties Spotify pays Universal.

It also signed up digital agency Merlin, on behalf of more than 20,000 independent labels.

Last year, Universal held a 28.9 percent share of global music label revenue, Sony Music generated 22.4 percent and Warner 17.4 percent. Independent labels made up the remaining 31.3 percent, MIDiA Research data showed.

Spotify has fended off competition from rival Apple Music, with nearly double the number of paying subscribers.

In March, Spotify said it had more than 50 million paying subscribers and 140 million active users, including free listeners. Apple reported 27 million music subscribers last month, up from 20 million in December.

The company has faced boycotts from some top music artists who have complained its free services undercut the value of their work but the major label licensing deals have gone some way toward easing these tensions, according to analysts.

Spotify declined to comment. Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group did not respond to requests for immediate comment.

Toshiba Launches 4-bit NAND Flash Memory

July 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Toshiba has announced the latest generation of 3D flash memory, the 4-bit-per-cell, quadruple-level cell (QLC) technology NAND flash memory.

Thanks to the QLC technology, which features a 64-layer stacked cell structure, Toshiba managed to hit the world’s largest die capacity of 768Gb/96GB. This also enables a 1.5TB (terabyte) device with a 16-die stacked architecture in a single package, which is also a 50 percent increase in capacity per package compared to the earlier generation.

Since QLC NAND flash suffers from the same, if not worse issues as the MLC NAND, which is how to push data into a single cell without affecting the reliability and performance, it remains to be seen if SSDs based on QLC NAND flash memory will actually hit the cost/performance sweet spot.

We suspect that these drives will mostly be focused on data centers, where lower power consumption and footprint are a premium, but eventually we will see it in other markets.

According to Toshiba, samples of the QLC device started shipping earlier in June to SSD and SSD controller vendors for evaluation and development purposes while further samples will be showcased at the upcoming Flash Memory Summit 2017 in August.

Courtesy-Fud

Amazon Announces Return Of ‘Prime Day’ Sales Bonanza

June 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

If you missed last year’s sales extravaganza, Amazon has good news for you.

The e-commerce titan has officially announced its third annual Prime Day will be July 11. The sales day will include hundreds of thousands of deals worldwide and run for 30 hours, starting at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on July 10. As usual, these deals will be available only to Amazon Prime members, who pay $99 a year in the US and can sign up for £59 in the UK until July 3, for unlimited two-day shipping and other perks.

The sale will also expand to more countries to include Mexico, China and India, where Amazon launched its Prime membership program over the past year. The US, UK, Spain, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, Belgium and Austria are also included.

Amazon has found huge success creating the sales holiday in 2015 to mark its 20th anniversary. The company even broke its single-day sales record during Prime Day last year. But, as Amazon’s dominance continues to grow, Prime Day serves as another example of the online seller gobbling up more market share as traditional retailers file for bankruptcy or close stores. The company last year accounted for 43 percent of all online sales in the US, according to researcher Slice Intelligence.

Perhaps aware of its increased influence, Amazon mentioned in its announcement Wednesday that 40 percent of its “Lightning Deals” promotions on Prime Day will come from small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Since its first year, Prime Day has also gotten knocked for offering undesirable deals along with low inventories of the most popular items. Responding to that criticism, the company increased its stocks of big-name items last year and decided to embrace the sometimes oddball or unexpected nature of the deals offered. These changed seemed to work, with Adobe Digital Insights reporting that customer sentiments on social media was more positive last year than during the first Prime Day.

The company is also doing more this year to better organize deals and make it easier for customers to track and shop for sales.

Amazon will be continuing its “countdown deals” in the run-up to Prime Day, offering sales starting today. Those include discounts on memberships for Amazon Music Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited and Audible.

Will Tesla Be Next To Join The Already Crowded Music Streaming Business?

June 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Move over, Spotify. Eat it, Apple. Later, Tidal. Tesla wants to join the club.

That’s at least the latest from Recode, which cites music industry sources saying Tesla has held talks with all the major labels about licensing for a proprietary music streaming service.

What isn’t clear is when and if Tesla will rev this effort up, so to speak, or how broad it will be. Will this be just for its cars or for anyone with a phone?

Tesla, in a statement, didn’t address the rumor directly, but instead said its goal is, “to simply achieve maximum happiness for our customers.”

“We believe it’s important to have an exceptional in-car experience so our customers can listen to the music they want from whatever source they choose,” the company said.

Sony Music Entertainment, one of the industry’s major record labels, declined to comment. Meanwhile Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Of course, Tesla has a long history of going it alone. The all-electric car company created special software and chargers, despite already existing options. The company even created its own software to manage its manufacturing centers.

Can Apple’s HomePod Compete With Amazon’s Alexa

June 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Back in May, we wrote that Apple was preparing to release a Siri-based smart home speaker that would take on competition from Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo series, Google Home, and Harmon Kardon’s recently announced Cortana-based smart speaker.

On Monday during the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, VP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller took the stage and introduced the device as the Apple HomePod. On the surface, the name sounds almost nothing like a high-fidelity music device, but under the hood the unit features a number of multitasking commands all natively powered by Siri’s voice control algorithms.

Based on reports from the WWDC show floor, the HomePod’s audio output has been described as “full, wide, and heavily sculpted” and “amazingly loud for such a small speaker”. The company has tuned its speaker profile to provide deep thumping bass, bright vocals, and absent of any flats or distortions. We are guessing that Apple has tuned into the expertise it gained from its acquisition of Beats back in May 2014, which was intended to raise its competitive outlook in the music streaming business. This time around, it has developed a smart hub speaker that will not only raise the stakes in the voice assistant category, but seems to perform in the upper tier category for an audio product.

“It’ll sound right to lots of people,” says Wired’s David Pierce.

As it stands, Microsoft is the only company in the voice assistant market that has placed an emphasis on balanced, richer sound with the Invoke, manufactured by Harmon Kardon. That device is likely to include a propriatory DSP audio technology that delivers a similar 360 degrees of room filling sound, complete with echo and noise cancellation features.

Spatial awareness, Apple Music integration, daisy-chaining support

The HomePod measures under seven inches tall and features a large, Apple-designed woofer, a custom array of seven beamforming tweeters. Just as Amazon supports daisy-chaining multiple Echo devices together in multiple rooms, Apple will let users wirelessly connect multiple HomePods together to create a whole home surround system, only using Siri instead of Alexa. Each HomePod uses spatial awareness to sense its location in a room and automatically adjust the audio levels, providing more directional control that doesn’t require repositioning several times to hear every tonal pitch from an originally mastered audio track.

The speaker, it’s claimed,  is  compatible with the entire Apple Music library and will be able to answer advanced Siri questions, including the ability to look up drummers and pianists. Of course, the device’s Echo-like features will allow users to send text messages, access sports and weather, and close the curtains without any music interruptions.

HomeKit compatibility

The HomePod is compatible with Apple’s smart home platform HomeKit, which lets users operate their thermostats, dim the lights, set sprinkler timers, and perform routine appliance switching functions. To make this possible, however, all connected HomeKit devices will need to have a special MFi (Made for iDevices) chip installed for machine-to-machine security. This is Apple’s way of not only getting partners to stump up royalty fees, but ensuring that any home automation products can’t be tampered with from the neighbor’s smart hub device a few blocks down the street.

Apple’s HomePod will not come cheap, with a price of $349 (£270 / AU$465) when it releases it later in December in the US, UK and Australia. By contrast, Amazon’s Echo has been selling at $180 since its introduction in 2014, while Google’ Home sells for $130 and the Harmon Kardon Invoke will likely debut at or below $200 to stay competitive with Google and Amazon. Now that Apple has made its announcement, however, Microsoft may change its price structure, depending on how it views the HomePod in relation to its own premium audio offering.

Courtesy-Fud

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