The changes will be aimed at enterprises, the only customer group Microsoft recommends running IE11 in the new operating system.
“We recognize that some enterprise customers have line-of-business applications built specifically for older web technologies, which require Internet Explorer 11,” the company said in a blog post.
Previously, Microsoft included “Enterprise Mode” in Windows 10, a feature that lets an IT staff limit IE11′s operation to specific legacy websites or web apps.
Starting with the Anniversary Update — Microsoft’s name for the one major upgrade it will deliver for 10 this year — the “interstitial” page, one that pops up between running Edge and IE11 when Enterprise Mode kicks in, will vanish.
Currently, a switch from Edge to IE11 opens a page that states, “This website needs Internet Explorer 11″ before IE11 fires up. With the Anniversary Update, the interstitial will no longer appear: IE11 will simply open atop Edge when the user steers to a site or app on the Enterprise Mode whitelist.
The same no-interstitial-page behavior will take place when a worker running IE11 types in an URL that is not on the list: Edge will open without a pause.
Microsoft will also introduce a new group policy for IE11 that will limit the browser’s use to only those sites on the whitelist, barring users from running IE11 for the bulk of their browsing. “Enabling this setting automatically opens all sites that are not included in the Enterprise Mode Site List in Microsoft Edge,” Microsoft said.
IE and Edge have a rapidly-shrinking share of the browser market, but the former will remain important to businesses with older apps and customized internal sites, which unless rewritten will require the older browser. Together, IE and Edge were run by 41.3% of the world’s users in April, a new low that dropped Microsoft into second place behind Google’s Chrome browser.
It looks like that Qualcomm wants to make drones smarter and the company plans to use the Snapdragon developer board to do so. We had a chance to see the proof of concept drones that are capable of knowing and mapping environment.
Hugo Swart, Sr Director, Head IoE-consumer electronics at Qualcomm, has explained that the general direction in smart drone market at this time is the consumer electronic. Swart confirmed that the first drones powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon Flight drone platform technology should be commercially available very soon.
The company see drones as flying cameras, as most of sold drones have being used for video or aerial photography purpose. The drone we saw demonstrated at Qualcomm San Diego campus were powered by Snapdragon 410c developer board and this is one light device. The drone weights just bel 250 grams and it is made from composite materials. It packs a few cameras, four rotors and a Snapdragon 410 based developer board that makes the drone smart.
The actual weight is an important detail, as drones that are less than 250 grams do not have to be registered by the aviation authorities in the US. The demo showed a drone that used multiple camera to map the world around it, and it is aware of its surroundings.
The operator would use the tablet to fly the drone and the software had some nice features, like the use of the GPS to mark the position, and when necessary, the operator would just press the button and drone would find its way back to the marked position.
Since the drone would be using multiple cameras to map the world around it, it would be able to find a new path and avoid possible obstacles on its fly path. The demonstration we saw was done in a controlled environment with a huge rock in the middle of the environment, and the drone was avoiding the rock just as you would expect it.
The drone was able to detect a wall, and it would not let you fly in it and damage it. Drone would simply stop and would not crash and break no matter how hard you would try. The other nice feature was that the drone would be able to find its own way to the position market by GPS. It would not have to fly the path that you already flown, it would be able to find a shorter part to the mark position too.
Adding Snapdragon SoC on the drone would definitely make the flights safer and help you avoid damaging the drones or stuff around you. If you fly big drones for example with big cameras, you do not actually want to crash it and potentially destroy hundreds of dollars worth equipment.
Swart does believe that drones using Snapdragon Fly technology will first find its way in “flying camera drones” while later there might be a commercial applications with the Snapdragon Fly drones. Yes, at some point in the future, drones powered with this technology should be able to deliver packages. That is one of potential areas.
The only downside of this super lightweight drone was the fact that it had a small battery that would let it fly for six to eight minutes. Of course, if you make a larger drone with a larger battery, you would be able to fly it longer, but as we said this is a proof of concept designed to show the capabilities of this flying cameras. Qualcomm will have customers who will make the actual devices, the drone we saw in the demo room, was just to show the capabilities of the platform.
Partners will design its own drones and use the developer board (or integrated Snapdragon platform in an actual drone). The important part is the software who makes the synergy of the flying hardware and the visual compute in one Smart flying drone. If you are into drones, that this will definitely improve the overall experience.
Jupiter doesn’t get whacked by asteroids and comets quite as often as scientists had thought.
Objects big enough to generate a fireball visible from Earth — such as the spectacular one that occurred on March 17 — slam into Jupiter about 6.5 times per year, according to a new study based on the pooled observations of amateur astronomers around the world.
“In three years since our program started, amateur contributors from Europe, the U.S. and Australia have analyzed the equivalent of more than 56 days of videos — around 53,000 videos — without discovering an impact,” Marc Delcroix, who coordinates a group of about 60 skywatchers worldwide, said in a statement. [Jupiter Collision! Impact Captured by Amateur Astronomer (Video)]
“This is a result in itself and, together with the reports of amateur astronomer John McKeon, has helped us come up with our preliminary estimate, which slightly reduces previous estimates of the flux of impacting objects [at] Jupiter,” Delcroix added.
McKeon captured the March 17 Jupiter fireball on video. (Another amateur astronomer, Gerrit Kernbauer, spotted the impact first; McKeon went through his observations from that night after learning of Kernbauer’s find
Researchers think that the March 17 event was caused by an object 33 to 66 feet (10 to 20 meters) wide. Skywatchers have observed three other such Jupiter strikes since June 2010; all of them likely involved impactors in the same general size range, scientists have said.
But bigger objects hammer the gas giant fairly frequently as well. A 1,650-foot-wide (500 m) asteroid barreled into Jupiter in 2009, for example, and the big chunks of broken-apart Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 pummeled the huge planet in July 1994, leaving dark scars that were visible in Jupiter’s cloud tops for months.
Jupiter is much bigger and more massive than Earth, so the giant planet gets hit by cosmic objects thousands of times more often than our planet does. (Asteroids and comets are drawn in more frequently by Jupiter’s powerful gravity.)
Nailing down Jupiter’s precise impact rate is of interest to astronomers and planetary scientists as well as skywatchers.
“Unfortunately, we are still dealing with the statistics of a very few number of impacts detected, but plans to improve our detection methods and perform systematic searches will help us to detect more of these objects,” Ricardo Hueso Alonso, of the University of the Basque Country in Spain, said in the same statement. “That will allow us to know more about the current architecture of the outer solar system and the role of Jupiter in protecting the Earth from comparable impacts.”
The study team presented its results at a workshop on Jupiter for professional and amateur astronomers at the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur in Nice, France. The workshop was organized by the Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure, a project designed to support planetary-science activities throughout Europe.
Nvidia has been talking about its Tesla M10 GPU designed to run on the latest version of the company’s GRID technology.
For those who came in late, GRID technology is supposed to give servers a kick in the graphics back-end. It powers virtual desktops and support cloud-powered gaming.
Nvidia says the Tesla M10 GPU can support up to 64 desktops per board and 128 per server with two boards. This means shedloads of virtual machines which are potentially dead and alive.
The new graphics card ccan support Citrix’s XenApp and virtual PCs running Windows, or power virtual workstations that need the performance for professional graphics work.
The M10 is a bit like the M6 and M60 as a GPU accelerator – unlike the M10 motorway which is a disappointingly short road connected the M1 to the A414 just south of St Albans.
Companies making use of virtual machines or looking to substitute hardware for more efficient virtual systems can access the GRID and Tesla tech for less than $2 per month per user for use with virtual apps and remote desktop sessions, and the firm will provide virtual PCs for less than $6 per month per user.
Finland’s biggest company has cut thousands of jobs in its home country over the past decade as its once-dominant phone business was eclipsed by the rise of smartphone rivals.
Nokia started the latest cost cutting program in April and is targeting 900 million euros ($1 billion) of operating cost synergies from the Alcatel deal by 2018.
The company has declined to give an overall figure for global job cuts, but has said it in talks with employee representatives in about 30 countries.
Nokia employs about 104,000 people worldwide, with about 6,850 in Finland, 4,800 in Germany and 4,200 in France.
The company was rumored to have been designing its own chip, based partly on job ads it posted in recent years. But until today it had kept the effort largely under wraps.
It calls the chip a Tensor Processing Unit, or TPU, named after the TensorFlow software it uses for its machine learning programs. In a blog post, Google engineer Norm Jouppi refers to it as an accelerator chip, which means it speeds up a specific task.
At its I/O conference Wednesday, CEO Sundar Pichai said the TPU provides an order of magnitude better performance per watt than existing chips for machine learning tasks. It’s not going to replace CPUs and GPUs but it can speed up machine learning processes without consuming a lot more more energy.
As machine learning becomes more widely used in all types of applications, from voice recognition to language translation and and data analytics, having a chip that speeds those workloads is essential to maintaining the pace of advancements.
The TPU is in production use across Google’s cloud, including powering the RankBrain search result sorting system and Google’s voice recognition services. When developers pay to use the Google Voice Recognition Service, they’re using its TPUs.
Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president for technical infrastructure, said during a press conference at I/O that the TPU can augment machine learning processes but that there are still functions that require CPUs and GPUs.
Google started developing the TPU about two years ago, he said.
Right now, Google has thousands of the chips in use. They’re able to fit in the same slots used for hard drives in Google’s data center racks, which means the company can easily deploy more of them if it needs to.
3D printed goods will also be available through UPS’ Fast Radius on-demand production platform and its 3D printing factory in Louisville, KY.
“The integration into one additive manufacturing and logistics solution this summer will make 3D printing accessible to more potential users, enabling them to realize the convenience and cost-savings this technology offers,” UPS said in a statement.
Users can visit the Fast Radius website (formerly CloudDDM) to place 3D printing orders, which will be transferred to the closest 3D manufacturing or UPS Store location based on speed, geography and the product quality the customer requires.
Some orders can be completed and shipped the same day, UPS said. The service is not limited to U.S.-based customers; UPS will take orders globally.
The new service integrates SAP’s extended supply chain software with UPS’s 3D printing machines and logistics network, enabling “on-demand industrial manufacturing for companies of all sizes,” UPS said.
“SAP customers will be able to digitize and simplify the production part approval process through SAP and their orders can be seamlessly routed to UPS for production and delivery,” the company said.
Stan Deans, president, UPS Global Distribution & Logistics, said “additive manufacturing technology is still developing rapidly so manufacturing as a service is a smart approach for many companies.”
Orcs Must Die! Studio Robot Entertainment is a rare breed nowadays – in an age where you’re either indie or AAA, the Plano, Texas-based company (one of several Texas developers that rose from the ashes of Age of Empires studio Ensemble) has managed to succeed as a mid-sized outfit. When Robot was formed in 2009, the company operated on a small scale, but things really changed when it landed a major investment from Chinese media giant Tencent in 2014. That enabled Robot to scale up and to benefit from Tencent’s knowledge at the same time.
“We made the first Orcs Must Die! as a semi-indie studio. We were about 40-45 people. We’re about twice that size now. And we were able to do Orcs Must Die! and Orcs Must Die! 2 with that. We kind of kept following the franchise and following what the fans were asking for in that game and we knew the next version was going to be bigger. We had to make a strategic decision – were we going to stay small and try to do another small version of that game or did we want to be ambitious and try to do something a little bit bigger? And that was going to necessitate a different type of arrangement for us to find financing. Because, you know, just selling a $15 or $20 game on Steam over and over is tough to support a studio to make a bigger game,” Robot CEO Patrick Hudson told GamesIndustry.biz.
“We also did some licensing deals for this game. As an online game, we didn’t necessarily have an ambition of setting up a European publishing office or an Asian publishing office. So we went to Europe and we partnered up with GameForge and licensed the rights for them to publish the game for us. And that comes with some advances and license fees, which help us make the game. We did the same thing with Tencent in China and that led to an investment. So we are in that mid-space. I think you’re right that there are fewer people in that space right now. It would probably be harder for us to stay in that space if we didn’t have really strong partnerships with folks like GameForge and Tencent.”
Investments and partnerships can clearly make a difference to any game company, but it’s also easy to mismanage a studio’s growth. Before you know it, one department doesn’t know what the other is doing, and things spiral out of control.
“It’s all in how you manage it. You’re either afraid of that growth or you embrace it, put a process and structure in place to allow for that. There’s no question we have to run our studio differently at 90 people than we did at 45. There’s more structure in place, there are more layers of leadership to help the project along. We’ve done a decent job of managing the growth… We went through the same kind of growth curve at Ensemble and we actually spent a lot of time talking about what went well, what didn’t go well, ‘What did we learn from that experience that we could have managed the growth better, how do we apply that to Robot?’ So we try to be a little bit smarter about that. Talking to other friendly studios [helps also] – ‘Hey, what did you guys do through this kind of growth? What pains did you experience? What did you learn?’ So we’ll grow as much as it takes to support Orcs Must Die! or as little to support it,” Hudson continued.
While everyone was devastated when Microsoft seemingly shut down a successful Ensemble Studios for no good reason, Hudson takes it as a learning experience.
In Ensemble’s case, Hudson discovered that scale ultimately held back some of its better talent. “Age of Empires attracted a lot of really good game talent to the studio, either people who were starting fresh in the games industry and learned how to make great games inside of Ensemble or we recruited really talented people to Dallas to work on the Empires franchise and, ultimately, Halo Wars. So we had just a tremendous amount of pent up talent in what was not a huge studio. At its peak it was 120 people. So it was very densely populated with talent. When you’re a studio that size, you have a lead structure within each department, but not everybody gets a chance to take those leadership positions and do their own games. Once Ensemble went away, you saw all these talented people go off in different places and show what they were capable of,” he remarked.
Working at Ensemble instilled a certain level of dedication to quality in all the developers who worked there too. “We held ourselves to a really high standard of making games that everyone took with them to their next places. I would say, in addition to that… all of us worked for another six years for Microsoft post-acquisition, so we got to learn the industry as both indie developers and inside a publisher. We got to learn the entire space, how the whole ecosystem is close to the publishing side. So that was a very valuable experience that maybe a lot of other devs don’t get,” Hudson said.
There’s no animosity or regret about Ensemble either, as far as Hudson is concerned: “Six years is a long time to be with a company post-acquisition. It was actually, for the most part, six good years. Microsoft treated us well. I think we worked well with the people we worked with at Microsoft. You do see some [studios] that get acquired and they’re gone within a year or two. We didn’t have that experience. I kind of view six years as a nice success.”
Perhaps the greatest lesson that Hudson and Robot have learned, even before the rise of Kickstarter and Steam Early Access, is that listening and responding to a vibrant community is critical. Discoverability has become a nuisance to deal with, and you need the fans behind you in order to succeed. If you have expectations that a platform holder will feature you, your marketing strategy needs an overhaul.
“As some of those previous PC developers that came into mobile are now migrating back to PC, discoverability on PC has become not quite as bad as mobile, but it’s not easy. There’s a lot of content on Steam now. There’s no easy space. Games is more competitive and a harder business than it’s probably ever been. There’s just a lot of great developers out there making a lot of great content and there’s just no barriers to putting your content out there to players, and players move quickly from game to game. They’re going to seek the best content,” Hudson noted.
He continued, “When I talk to the Valve or Apple or Google folks, they know the problem. They see it. But it’s an almost impossible problem to solve… Everyone wants to be featured, right? It’s funny, when you talk to a new mobile developer and be like, ‘Hey, we’re gonna make this great game. We’re gonna be featured.’ Probably not. You’re probably not going to be featured. Unless you’re doing something really cool and innovative and very different that really shows off the platform.
“They all have different programs to try and help you get noticed but you can’t make that the core of your strategy. It’s really up to you to make a great game. If you don’t have a marketing budget to cultivate a community, start with a small community, really cultivate it and listen to them and speak to them and let them organically grow. It’s not the platform holder’s job to make it successful.”
Beyond building a robust community, selecting the right business model for your game is crucial. While free-to-play is almost the default option in today’s market, Hudson said that premium games are coming back too.
“We really do think of it as a case-by-case. There are interesting trends in the market where you’re seeing paid games come back in certain areas – even in China where we’re seeing an uptick in paid games, customers in China buying paid games. [That's] never happened before. So it’s really going to depend on the game, the needs of the game,” he commented.
For Orcs Must Die! Unchained, which just entered an open beta about a month ago, free-to-play just made sense for Robot, as it’s a big multiplayer MOBA-style tower defense game; Robot wants as many people online for matchmaking as possible. Hudson and Robot have tried free-to-play before with Hero Academy in 2012, but he fully admitted, “We made a ton of mistakes, we didn’t really know what we were doing. It was a very successful game critically. It probably should’ve been a little more successful for us commercially, but we learned those lessons and hopefully we’re applying some of those.
“[Unchained] will be our first big free-to-play PC title. And we get a lot out of our partners too. GameForge has been operating free-to-play titles forever. Tencent has been operating free-to-play titles forever and we really lean on their expertise and we ask them to be involved with us as we design the game. The nice thing about both of those partners is… monetization follows. They start with making a great game, get the players around, keep the players around, [and then] hopefully they’ll pay you down the road. But don’t solve for money up front. So we’ll see. This will be our first foray into it. We’ll make a few more mistakes I’m sure but hopefully we learn quickly.”
Right now Robot remains 100 percent committed to Orcs Must Die! and the studio is bringing the game to PS4 later this year, but that doesn’t mean it expects to be pigeonholed with that one franchise. Hudson said that Robot continues to brainstorm new IP ideas, but nothing has made it too far along in development to warrant a release. “We’ll definitely do a new IP again. We started a couple of prototypes in the past few years that haven’t panned out. It happens all the time, right?” he said, adding that the company also remains interested in mobile but is “very cautious.”
“I think what’s interesting about mobile over the last couple of years is how non-dynamic the market is as far as the top games. The games that have lived in the top charts have been there now for 2 or 3 years. They get there and they stay there and they’re really good at staying there and it’s hard to break in and become the new thing. There are some good case studies for that. Certainly not nearly as many as there are on PC,” he said.
Hudson on VR
Likewise, virtual reality, although enticing, is just too risky for a studio like Robot, Hudson noted.
“It comes back to a company our size and where we sit. For us to overinvest in a market where it’s hard to know what the growth curve is going to be would be pretty risky at our size. We can’t afford to be wrong on something this new and this different… We love the options it provides for new and compelling experiences in games. We’ve brainstormed plenty of ideas for Orcs Must Die! in VR and we’ve got some pretty good ones, but it’ll be a while before we seriously invest in it,” he said.
Hudson joked that Robot is “living vicariously” though a couple of ex-Ensemble studios in Dallas that are working on VR now.
A conservative and cautious approach is probably one of the reasons Robot has managed to survive in an increasingly challenging environment. Even for eSports – an area of the industry that Orcs Must Die! clearly could excel in – Hudson isn’t jumping in headfirst.
That being said, Hudson is definitely optimistic about eSports as a sector. “I think it’s going to become an increasingly large aspect of the industry. And there will be the games that work and the games that don’t work for it. There will be a lot of companies chasing it and probably crash on the rocks trying to get there, but it’s going to continue to grow. I think you’ll see it across platforms too. I think you’ll continue to see eSports be popular in mobile. It’ll continue to grow there. You think of it as a PC thing now but it’s not. I think it’s going to encompass all aspects of games,” he said.
British chip maker ARM has acquired Apical which is an imaging and embedded computer Vision Company in a $350 million cash deal.
Apical’s products are used in more than 1.5 billion smartphones and 300 million other devices, all over the world, including IP cameras, digital stills cameras and tablets.
Its products will be used in ARM’s ‘next generation vehicles’, security systems, robotics, mobile and other consumer, smart building, industrial or retail application. These devices will be able to ‘understand and act intelligently on information from their environment,’ the press release claims.
It also said Apical’s technology will complement the ARM Mali graphics, display and video processor roadmap.
ARM CEO Simon Segars said that the computer vision is in the early stages of development:
“The world of devices powered by this exciting technology can only grow from here. Apical is at the forefront of embedded computer vision technology, building on its leadership in imaging products that already enable intelligent devices to deliver amazing new user experiences. The ARM partnership is solving the technical challenges of next generation products such as driverless cars and sophisticated security systems. These solutions rely on the creation of dedicated image computing solutions and Apical’s technologies will play a crucial role in their delivery.”
There are three products being looked at: Spirit (computer-vision technology), Assertive Display (screens which adapt to changes in light) and Assertive Camera (new performance advances, including dynamic range, noise reduction and colour management).
Figures from Mercury Research show that AMD appears to be clawing back some market share.
Of course market share does not mean profits, but it is the sort of news that AMD needs. Particularly, it does not appear that AMD is doing that much.
Mercury Research’s latest GPU market report, show that in the first quarter overall graphics unit volumes declined by 10.2 per cent in comparison to last year. However AMD gained discrete GPU market share.
This surge was on the back of AMD’s Radeon R9 Series GPUs as well as AMD’s revitalised driver development strategy. It clawed back 1.8 share points in desktop discrete graphics (that is 22.7 per cent) and 7.3 share point jump in notebook discrete, moving to 38.7 per cent share. Better than a poke in the eye with a short stick and could provide a bit of momentum when AMD’s next generation Polaris Architecture-based 14nm discrete graphics products are released this quarter.
The findings confirm what Wells Fargo analyst David Wong said earlier this week. He added that AMD has modeled for sequential growth, but Nvidia has guided for a 10 per cent sequential decline in sales for the quarter ended April 2016.
This suggests that what Nvidia has lost has been gained by AMD. If AMD manages to build momentum, it could pose a serious threat to Nvidia and expose the green goblin’s lack of GPU variety in the mid-tier. In order to retain its market share, Nvidia needs to come up with tactics to re-establish its dominance via product differentiation and feature incorporation.
The announcement was posted on a dark market website called TheRealDeal by a user who wants 5 bitcoins, or around $2,200, for the data set that supposedly contains user IDs, email addresses and SHA1 password hashes for 167,370,940 users.
According to the sale ad, the dump does not cover LinkedIn’s complete database. Indeed, LinkedIn claims on its website to have more than 433 million registered members.
Troy Hunt, the creator of Have I been pwned?, a website that lets users check if they were affected by known data breaches, said it’s highly likely for the leak to be legitimate. He had access to around 1 million records from the data set.
“I’ve seen a subset of the data and verified that it’s legit,” Hunt said.
LinkedIn suffered a data breach back in 2012, which resulted in 6.5 million user records and password hashes being posted online. It’s highly possible that the 2012 breach was actually larger than previously thought and that the rest of the stolen data is surfacing now.
LinkedIn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Attempts to contact the seller failed, but the administrators of LeakedSource, a data leak indexing website, claim to also have a copy of the data set and they believe that the records originate from the 2012 LinkedIn breach.
When the 6.5 million LinkedIn password hashes were leaked in 2012, hackers managed to crack over 60 percent of them. The same thing is likely true for the new 117 million hashes, so they cannot be considered safe.
Worse still, it’s very likely that many LinkedIn users that were affected by this leak haven’t changed their passwords since 2012. Hunt was able to verify that for at least one HIBP subscriber whose email address and password hash was in the new data set that is now up for sale.
Many people affected by this breach are also likely to have reused their passwords in multiple places on the Web, Hunt said via email.
Moving forward with his attempt to attract Indian customers and developers, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook announced that the company was setting up a new development center for its Maps product in Hyderabad in south India.
Apple earlier on Wednesday announced it would set up by early next year a facility in Bangalore to focus on helping developers on best practices and to improve the design, quality and performance of their apps on the iOS platform.
Cook is on his first visit to India, where the company saw a 56 percent year-on-year growth in iPhone sales in the first quarter even as its global iPhone sales and overall revenue dropped.
Apple’s new center will focus on the development of Maps for Apple products such as the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch. The investment will accelerate Maps development and create up to 4,000 jobs, the company said.
The Cupertino, California, company did not disclose the size of its investment in the center though some reports have placed the figure at $25 million.
A large number of U.S. companies, including Texas Instruments, Oracle, Microsoft and IBM, have set up software, chip design and product development centers in India, to tap the country’s large pool of engineers.
“The talent here in the local area is incredible and we are looking forward to expanding our relationships and introducing more universities and partners to our platforms as we scale our operations,” Cook said in a statement.
India is the third-largest smartphone market in the world, after China and the U.S., according to Gartner research director Anshul Gupta.
Alphabet’s Google Inc introduced us to its answer to Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant along with new messaging and virtual reality products at its annual I/O developer conference on Wednesday, doubling down on artificial intelligence and machine learning as the keys to its future.
Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai introduced Google Assistant, a virtual personal assistant, along with the tabletop speaker appliance Google Home.
He also unveiled Allo, a new messaging service that will compete with Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger products and feature a chatbot powered by the Google Assistant. Allo, like WhatsApp, will also have end-to-end encryption when it is rolled out this summer.
Amazon’s Echo, a surprise hit that has other tech giants racing to match it, uses a virtual assistant called Alexa, a cloud-based system that controls the Echo speaker and responds to voice-controlled commands by users.
Like Alexa, Google Assistant can search the internet and adjust your schedule. However, Pichai said Google Assistant can use images and other information to provide more intuitive results.
“You can be in front of this structure in Chicago and ask Google who designed this and it will understand in this context that the name of that designer is Anish Kapoor,” said Pichai, pointing toward a photo of Chicago’s Cloud Gate sculpture.
For Google Home, the Google Assistant merges with Chromecast and smart home devices to control televisions, thermostats and other products. Google did not offer a specific release date or pricing for Google Home, saying only that it will be available later this year.
What are the odds that alien life exists elsewhere in the universe? At a major physics meeting, experts talked about updates to historic predictions about whether humans are alone in the cosmos.
In 1961, astronomer Frank Drake wrote an equation to quantify the likelihood of finding a technologically advanced civilization elsewhere in the universe. The so-called Drake equation took into account factors such as the fraction of stars with planets around them and the fraction of those planets that would be hospitable to life.
In the years since 1961, scientists have updated the values in the Drake equation to incorporate newly acquired scientific information. For example, when Drake wrote his equation, scientists didn’t know for sure if stars other than the sun had planets around them; now, researchers have evidence that most stars host planets. But science wasn’t the only thing that influenced Drake — even current events factor into his calculation
At the heart of the search for life elsewhere in the universe is the question “Is Earth unique?” said Matthew Stanley, a science historian at New York University. Stanley discussed the history of humanity’s evolving view of its place in the cosmos at the American Physical Society April Meeting on Saturday (April 16), in a session focused on recent discoveries in planetary science.
Humans once thought that the Earth was not only unique, but at the center of the entire universe, Stanley said. Scientific investigations eventually showed that our planet is not even at the center of its own solar system — it is one of seven other planets and many smaller bodies orbiting the sun.
On the other hand, in the last 20 years, scientists have discovered thousands of planets around other stars, and most of those planets are not like Earth (they’re big and gaseous, like Jupiter). And most solar systems are not like Earth’s solar system (big planets orbit close to their parent star, whereas in Earth’s solar system, the large planets orbit further out).
Does this suggest that Earth is unique? Stanley said that currently, this question is difficult to answer, because telescopes that search for exoplanets have a selection bias toward large, gas giant planets that orbit very close to their parent stars. With current technologies, these types of planets are easier to detect. With that in mind, scientists are still trying to estimate how many rocky and Earth-like planets are out there.
By one estimation, for every grain of sand on Earth, there could be as many as 10 Earth-like planets in the universe. That’s according to Peter Behroozi, a Hubble fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, who presented during the same session as Stanley. (Of course, it is important to remember that the universe is a very big place, and at the moment scientists can search for life only on planets within the Milky Way galaxy.)
Behroozi is working to link galaxy formation with planet formation. In a paper published in 2015 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Socity, he and his co-author showed that larger galaxies produce a greater number of Earth-like planets than do smaller galaxies such as, for example, the Milky Way. But because there are many more Milky Way-size galaxies in the universe, that’s where most Earth-like planets in the universe should be found. Thus, Earth’s location in a Milky Way-size galaxy is not unique.
This work not only helps scientists make estimations about how many planets are currently in the universe, but how many will form, assuming the universe continues to grow and evolve in the same way it has in the recent past. In the 2015 paper, Behroozi and his colleague look far ahead into the future and estimate that “the universe will form over 10 times more planets than currently exist.” The paper summary goes on to say that there is “at least a 92 percent chance that we are not the only civilization the universe will ever have.”
A historical perspective
During his talk, Stanley re-traced the history of humanity’s search for life beyond Earth, and showed how people are influenced by their own times and experiences when trying to predict what lies beyond this planet.
William Herschel, an extremely influential 18th century astronomer, believed that intelligent beings lived on the sun. In the 19th century, mainstream astronomers thought they saw artificial canals built by intelligent creatures on Mars and Venus. Observations of those two planets and the sun by space-based probes have disproved those ideas, but new research has also given rise to updated ideas about how and where life could exist elsewhere in the universe.
For example, Stanley said, in the last 40 years, scientists have adopted a broader view of the conditions under which life can exist. So-called extremophiles are organisms that live in environments that were previously thought inhospitable, like at the bottom of the ocean, under the ice in Antarctica and in areas that receive high doses of radiation.
Stanley said many aspects of the Drake equation need updating not only with new scientific evidence, but also with new perspectives. (It should be noted that there are scientists and writers who have dedicated entire books to updating Drake’s predictions.)
Drake’s equation, for example includes the variable L, which stands for “the length of time such [technologically advanced] civilizations release detectable signals into space,” according to the SETI Institute.
When Drake wrote his equation in the 1960s, the value for L was thought of as the time between when a civilization discovered atomic energy and when that society managed to destroy itself through nuclear annihilation, Stanley said.
“That’s a totally reasonable way to think about the length of time of a civilization at the height of the Cold War,” he said. “But there’s been recent work … arguing that we shouldn’t think about ‘L’ in terms of nuclear war. We should think about it in terms of environmental destruction. … That is, it’s the time between the discovery of a steam engine and catastrophic climate change.”
The equation also includes the variable fc, which represents the fraction of alien civilizations that “develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence” (such as radio communications or television broadcast signals sprayed out into space), the SETI Institute said.
Today, however, many of Earth’s communications no longer leak out into space, but are instead passed neatly between ground sources and satellites. There are still projects searching for leaky alien communications, and some scientists have proposed that humans should look for focused, laser-based systems used by alien civilizations to communicate between multiple planets or even multiple star systems. But Stanley’s larger point is that to some extent, humanity can only look for alien civilizations that bear some resemblance to our own.
Today, the search for life on other planets is largely focused on telescopes that can study the atmospheres of distant planets and look for signs of biological processes. For example, high levels of methane (produced by many living organisms on Earth) or oxygen in a planet’s atmosphere could be due to biological activity. And one day, researchers may be able to search for artificially created atmospheric elements.
“So even if we bomb ourselves back to the Renaissance or the Stone Age, the evidence that a civilization once existed on our planet [would not be] erased,” Behroozi told Space.com.
The composition of a planet’s atmosphere could even reveal how an intelligent civilization that once lived managed to kill itself, Stanley said.
It may be impossible for humans to be purely objective in their speculation about life the universe, Stanley said. He added that he thinks personal bias and human experiences will always infuse science, but that those things can also help lead to successes in science. Having different perspectives helps people look at things in new ways, which can lead to breakthroughs, he said. That’s why, he said, it’s actually a good idea for scientists to “talk to people outside your field … listen to marginal people. Get a diversity of people, people from different backgrounds, different genders [and] different kinds of cultures.
“I think it’s actually helpful to embrace the fact that this is always how science is done,” he said. “And to accept that everybody’s different, everybody has weird ideas, and that’s actually a source of strength rather than weakness.”
The move will open up new opportunities for designers of autonomous vehicles and security systems, among other connected things, according to ARM CEO Simon Segars. Computer vision is in its early stages, and Apical is at the forefront of embedding such technology, he said.
Apical’s technologies is already used in 1.5 billion smartphones, according to ARM, although many of those phones may be using nothing more sophisticated than a display brightness control Apical calls Assertive Display. That technology also turned up in Samsung Electronics’ new laptop, the ATIV Book 9.
Assertive Camera is another of Apical’s developments: It’s a range of software packages and silicon-based image signal processors for reducing image noise, managing color and shooting high dynamic range images.
ARM makes its money by designing chips that others manufacture, or licensing its chip modules for others to incorporate in their own designs.
In that context, Apical’s Spirit silicon building blocks are perhaps where ARM sees the most opportunity for growth. The Spirit silicon blocks process raw sensor data or video into a machine-readable representation of an image in an energy-efficient way, so ARM and its partners can use them to add computer vision capabilities to future low-power devices.
Putting image analysis and interpretation capabilities in hardware could accelerate and simplify the design of a whole host of products, including self-driving cars and security systems.
ARM paid US$350 million for Apical, closing the deal Tuesday, it said.