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Google Assistant Comes To Bose Premium Headphones

September 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Last month Bose accidentally leaked shots in a newsletter of what appeared to be a new version of its top noise-canceling headphone, the QuietComfort 35. The tip-off was an extra button on the headphones that tech sleuths speculated had something to do with a possible voice assistant.

Now Bose has officially announced the not-so-secret QuietComfort 35 II or QC35 II and told us that the new “Action” button on the left ear cup allows you to connect to your Google Assistant without “having to grab your phone, unlock it, and find the app.” And that wasn’t the only Bose news of the day: It also introduced the SoundSport Free, a set of totally wireless Apple AirPods competitors.

Aside from that new button on the QC35 II, nothing has changed, Bose says. The price is still $350 (£330, AU$500). The headphone sounds the same as its predecessor, has the same noise canceling and battery performance (up to 20 hours) and the same controls on the right ear cup — audio volume and the multi-function button for incoming calls and accessing Siri.

Google Assistant is available for Android and iOS devices and is similar to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Instead of talking to your phone to access Google Assistant, you just press and hold the Action button on the QC35 II and issue commands. The QC35 II’s advanced microphone system “picks up voices with remarkable accuracy, so commands are understood,” Bose says. And the headphone’s noise cancellation “dramatically reduces sound around you,” making the Google Assistant experience more personal and immersive.

Tomer Amarilio, product manager for Google Assistant, posted a blog about the first headphones that are “optimized for the Assistant” where he details some of Google Assistant’s potential uses with the QC35 II. Presumably, other Assistant-optimized headphones are in the works.

The Bose QC35 II is available now in black and silver. Bose notes that the QC35 II’s Action button will access the Google Assistant only in markets where Google Assistant is available. In other markets, the Action button will control noise settings only.

YouTube Introduces Fan Sponsorship Service

September 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

YouTube Gaming fans will now be able to directly donate money to their favorite eligible creators with sponsorships, the company announced.  A monthly $4.99 payment gives fans perks such as custom emoji and access to exclusive live chats. Fans can also purchase digital goods directly from the channels.

In order to be eligible, creators must be over 18 years old and have a Gaming channel which is monetized and enabled for live streaming. The channel must also have over 1,000 subscribers.

Early tests of YouTube Gaming sponsorships proved successful. According to the company, GameAttack, for example, makes most of its channel revenue through sponsorships and Super Chat (in which live stream participants can pay to pin their comments). And Rocket Beans got 1,500 sponsors on the first day.

YouTube on Tuesday also began testing out sponsorships with non-gaming creators on YouTube’s main app.

With the launch of sponsorships and the growth of other revenue-generating features such as YouTube Red and Super Chat, YouTube is ending paid channels, which offered monthly subscriptions for some channels but didn’t see much success. Less than 1 percent of creators use it today, according to the company.

Will The iPhone X Hurt Hurt Apple’s Partners

September 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple suppliers’ shares have taken a hammering after the launch of the iPhone X because European investors are concerned that the phone will not be a success.

While Apple’s shares were not badly affected by the launch, investors are concerned about what it cost its suppliers to stay on the supply list. Apple has been famously leaning on suppliers to reduce their prices to keep its margins wide. That would be ok for the suppliers if the iPhoneX was a success, but Wall Street is not so certain.

The Tame Apple Press claims that shareholders are punishing suppliers for making their phone late. The iPhoneX has been blighted with production problems, however most of these have been due to the yields on the screen and not the other iPhone suppliers.

In fact, it was the chipmakers supplying to Apple were among the worst performers, with AMS down 3.2 percent, while Dialog Semiconductor slipped 1.7 percent and STMicro fell 1.1 percent.

Chipmakers have been the best-performing among Europe’s tech stocks this year, accounting for a large chunk of the sector’s out-performance. AMS shares have gained 165 percent in the year to date.

Courtesy-Fud

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

Intel Drops WiGig

September 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

In  what is becoming a long list of what Intel is giving up on is its WiGig 60GHz 802.11ad  controllers and antennas.

Intel has sent end-of-life notifications for the high-speed wireless parts, and it will stop making and selling them in just a few months.

802.11ad boasts higher performance—up to 4.8 gigabits per second—than 802.11ac, but its use of the 60GHz frequency, rather than the 5GHz or 2.4GHz of mainstream Wi-Fi, means that it’s limited to a very short range. It also requires line of sight between the device and the base station. Penetration through walls is essentially non-existent, so using 802.11ad as a Wi-Fi alternative would require a base station in every room.

This limits 802.11ad’s use as a networking interface, but it does have an alternative use as a cable replacement. A handful of 802.11ad docking stations have come to market, enabling a laptop to connect to a monitor and other peripherals without using wires.

Intel is not abandoning the 60GHz space. There is some interest in using it for VR headsets, and in May the company announced a partnership with HTC to produce an 802.11ad-enabled Vive headset.

This would offer a useful halfway house between fully untethered systems and wired systems. Intel isn’t the only company that’s investigating this use of 60GHz communications. A 60GHz wireless adapter for the HTC Vive is available from TPCast, and the device adds a lot of freedom at the expense of weight and price

Courtesy-Fud

Will The iPhone 8 Have A Smooth Launch

September 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The iPhone 8 is supposed to be released on September 12, but according to the Wall Street Journal there are signs that all is not well behind the reality distortion field.

Production glitches in the manufacturing of the iPhone 8 earlier this summer could mean supply shortages and shipping delays when customers start putting in orders for the new device later this month.

The Journal said that if shortfalls last beyond the initial sales period expected to kick off September 22, it could lead analysts to lower estimates for the key holiday period, the paper said.

The glitches led to a setback to the manufacturing timetable of about a month. Foxconn, the contractor that assembles iPhones at factories in China, has been ramping up production and is offering bonuses to employees who help bring in new hires.

Apple is saying nothing of course. But there have been rumours of production delays connected to the screens and a higher number of phones being rejected for quality reasons.

We suspect that Apple will use the shortage to drive up hype for the new iPhone which is expected to be rather expensive as Apple boosts its margins to try and prolong the life of its cash cow. It could all backfire, of course, if a large number of phones arrive and develop faults, er unique features.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Virtual Reality Poised To Take Off

September 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Virtual reality may be growing at a slower pace than many would like, but its enthusiastic supporters remain staunch in their belief that VR is still going to take off. Jesse Schell, CEO of Schell Games and a Carnegie Mellon professor, is one such person. His studio’s VR puzzle title I Expect You To Die (IEYTD), which launched last December, just recently passed the $1 million revenue mark. GamesIndustry.biz caught up with Schell following the news to learn more about his VR development experiences and to gain some perspective on where he sees the VR/AR business headed.

“We’ve learned so much. The experience has confirmed our theories that making games specifically designed for the strengths of the medium is absolutely the right thing to do,” he says.

“IEYTD works because we focused on protecting player immersion as much as possible: making sure in-game and out of game player body poses are proprioceptively aligned, ensuring there is a depth of interactive sound effects, and playtesting much more than for a normal game, so that you can respond to everything that players try to do in the game. The best part is that our experience confirmed for us that VR is amazing, and that people want great experiences in it.”

IEYTD is one of a handful of VR success stories, but even “success” at this stage in VR’s infancy when installed bases are so low, doesn’t mean profitability is guaranteed. Schell is not deterred, however.

“We don’t generally share specifics of internal budgets, but it was more than a million — so, not quite profitable yet on a pure cash basis, but when it comes to lessons learned, and some of the other projects this has brought our way, this has been a very profitable project indeed,” he explains.

During GDC 2016, Schell gave a talk outlining his 40 predictions for VR/AR, and one of those was that by 2017 we’d see 8 million high-end VR headsets sold, with Oculus Rift at 3 million, PSVR at 4 million and Vive at 1 million. Clearly, the actual numbers are going to fall way short of these predictions, and a big part of that is a result of price. Even with the price cuts we’ve seen this year so far on the respective headsets, the devices are too expensive for many. It’s only a matter of time before that changes, though, and then Schell sees the market really picking up. He likens it to the early computer era.

“The numbers are slower than I anticipated, and this is partly because prices are higher than I anticipated. But the growth is absolutely happening,” he says. “What will create a tipping point will be a combination of price drops with a hit title, probably a social multiplayer title.

“We are in a time like when home computers first arrived in 1978. At that time, we had the Atari 800 and the Apple II, and they each cost over $1,000, and people said, ‘Yeah, pretty cool, but too expensive — these home computers will never take off.’ A few years later, and we had the Commodore 64 at $299, and it sold ten times the number of units as the Apple II. Price will really be the driving factor. There are already hundreds of great studios making interesting content. When the prices get low enough, we’ll see the growth curve take off.” While a number of Schell’s other predictions will undoubtedly not hold up, there are some that the designer is not afraid to double down on. The social ramifications of VR is one of those.

“My confidence in the power of social VR continues to grow,” he notes. “Games like Rec Room are proving that out, and social VR is now the prime focus for our next wave of VR titles. The sense of physical proximity to a real person while you hear their voice and see their body language is powerful in a way that no other medium can touch.”

Schell is also still a believer in Nintendo doing something in the space. Thus far, publicly at least, the house of Mario has avoided committing to VR/AR, but Schell thinks that Nintendo is working on a standalone device behind closed doors. And if a company with Nintendo’s weight gets behind VR, that can only help make the technology more mainstream and more accessible. That said, it’s not vital for Nintendo to get in the game for VR to succeed.

“With Nintendo’s passion for invention, they must be working on a VR device with a unique Nintendo spin,” Schell muses. “Certainly they can help make VR more mainstream, but they don’t need to. There are already dozens of headset manufacturers, and more on the way, and exciting tech and price breakthroughs are being announced every few weeks.”

While many people have predicted a far larger and more impactful market for augmented reality, especially as companies like Apple and Google get involved, the differences between the related technologies are beginning to blur. Additionally, when it comes to pure gaming use cases, Schell stresses that VR will remain the better tech for hardcore gamers.

“One prediction I am definitely rethinking is my prediction that VR and AR headsets would remain very separate entities. I am coming to believe that as VR headsets start to sport stereo cameras, that having video pass-thru AR experiences on VR headsets will actually become the dominant form of AR, because it will be cheaper and have a wider field of view,” he says.

“When it comes to games, I more and more think that VR is to AR as console is to mobile… That is to say, VR will be more for the hardcore gamers who want deep, immersive experiences, and AR will be more for casual gamers who want lighter, less immersive experiences. AR may have more users in the long run (provided it can find some killer apps), but VR will be where the best gaming experiences are.”

The unfortunate state of actual reality, when you consider global politics, terrorism, climate change and more, could also be a factor in virtual reality’s favor. As Schell says, “In troubled times, people are always looking for places to escape to. The Great Depression was the best thing that ever happened to Hollywood. When people are frustrated with how the news cycle makes them feel, their appetite for fantasy experiences vastly increases.”

As VR does become more popular in the mainstream, Schell thinks the media may start drumming up stories to point fingers at the tech in much the way that news outlets blamed video game violence for real-world crimes. “The media likes to scare us about anything that is new, because we always want to know about the dangers of new things, so it is good business to feed our fears. I can’t say I’m worried about it, but it is certainly inevitable. Horror movies about VR gone wrong will be a hot ticket in the summer of 2019,” he says.

One area of the VR industry that is hard to predict is the arcade or location-based segment. Vive has made a big push with its Viveport Arcade, particularly in China, but VR arcades may not necessarily be a more natural fit than VR in the home, as some have said.

“There is room for VR in arcades; I am sure of this because I helped developed the Aladdin’s Magic Carpet VR experience that ran continuously at DisneyQuest in Walt Disney World for nineteen years! However, VR in arcades has many challenges,” Schell says. “The systems are hard to keep clean, and are often too fragile for that environment. These are solvable problems, but not trival ones. Ultimately, people expect a VR arcade experience that is a radical step up from the home experience, and that is expensive to create, especially because there is an expectation of multiplayer gameplay at VR arcades, because people go to arcades to be in social groups. So, developing VR arcade content is very expensive. Arcades are a great intro to the experience while the tech is new, but as the tech matures, it will be much more at home, uh, at home.”

Getting into VR development is not for the faint of heart. Game makers may have to endure some hard times, but the pay off will ultimately be worth it, Schell believes.

“If you are looking for a short-term win, or to just port the same games you’ve been playing for 20 years to VR, go do something else. But if you are ready to invent the most important medium of this century, and you can afford to be a little patient as the rest of the world catches up with your futuristic visions, this is your time,” Schell says.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Microsoft, Adobe Strengthen Partnership

September 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft and Adobe have beefed up their strategic partnership with new product integrations aimed at boosting workplace productivity.

As part of the effort, Adobe Sign is now the “preferred” e-signature platform for Microsoft’s product portfolio, the two companies recently announced in a joint statement. For Adobe, this means potential access to 100 million users of Microsoft Office365 suite as well as the Dynamics CRM platform.

Other Sign integrations include Microsoft Flow, a workflow management tool launched last year; OneDrive cloud document storage; and Microsoft’s Slack-competitor, Teams.

Integrating Sign with Teams is designed to help simplify electronic signature processes for groups of employees, the companies said. An Adobe Sign app available in Teams will enable users to send documents for signing, while a Teams bot will support management and tracking of documents.

Microsoft’s team messaging platform will also be integrated into the Adobe Creative Cloud software suite, and stock image service, Adobe Stock, with the aim of providing faster feedback on creative projects.

The partnership is likely to provide a boost for Microsoft as it pushes Teams to customers, said 451 Research analyst, Raúl Castañón-Martínez.

Microsoft’s recently launched service faces stiff competition from rivals such as Slack and Atlassian – which unveiled its Stride collaboration software.

“Adobe Sign is a leading best of breed e-signature service; the partnership will make Teams’ value proposition more compelling,” said 451 Research senior analyst Raúl Castañón-Martínez.

While the alliance may not impact product adoption “it will definitely be a plus for its existing customer base because they will be able to do more with Teams,” he said. “More than anything, this will help with customer retention. This is a smart move for Microsoft, but not something it could afford not to do.”

While the partnership with Adobe is a plus for Microsoft, it does not necessarily give the company an advantage, he said, as it is “still catching up with Slack when it comes to third-party integrations.”

Craig LeClair, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, also called the partnership a “good match.”

“Microsoft has limited document generation and forms capacity, two areas that are important to prepare information for signing. Adobe brings this along with Adobe Design,” he said.

Can The Nintendo Switch Handle The Final Fantasy Game Engine

September 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Developers have been exploring the limitations of Nintendo Switch in order to judge whether to bring their games to the popular new platform.

Most notably, the Square Enix team behind last year’s Final Fantasy XV has been investigating whether it can bring the epic RPG to Switch – but has found that the console is unable to “bring the most out of” its proprietary Luminous Engine, DualShockers reports.

The game’s director Hajime Tabata clarified that he was not saying anything negative about Nintendo’s device, merely that it was unable to support the optimised version of the high-end engine that powers the title on Xbox One and PS4. Instead, his team has been trying out Unity and Unreal Engine 4 on Switch and notes that these perform well.

Square Enix recently announced Final Fantasy XV will be heading to PC in early 2018 in full Luminous Engine-powered glory, with a simplified and cartoony Pocket Edition heading to iOS, Android and Windows 10 devices by the end of the year.

Tabata’s comments followed a tease during Gamescom that FFXV might be released for Switch in future. If so, Square Enix is more likely to port the Pocket Edition than create a brand new Nintendo-specific version.

Final Fantasy XV has been a hit for Square Enix, selling 5m units in a single day at launch. The publisher has previously said it needs 10m sales to recoup investment, so it’s understandable why the publisher might consider bringing it to more platforms.

Meanwhile, Montpellier-based developer The Game Bakers has also been speaking out about the Switch’s power.

Also talking to DualShockers about the possibility of bringing its retro shooter Furi to the console, the studio has said it “would love to make that happen” but they “would need to secure a good enough framerate first.” Furi runs at 60fps on PS4, Xbox One and PC, but the team was unclear whether this was possible on Nintendo Switch.

Nintendo’s hardware has been less powerful than that of its rivals since the launch of the Wii, which limits the ability to directly port titles from other consoles to Nintendo devices. Instead, developers have to judge whether the audience available warrants the creation of a separate version of their game or something new entirely.

With 1.5m units already sold in Japan and a strong line-up for Christmas, it may be that Nintendo Switch makes this easier for studios to justify going forward.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Atlassian Launches New Enterprise Product Stride

September 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Collaboration software maker Atlassian has unveiled a new enterprise product that provides text, voice, video, file sharing and other workplace collaboration tools that allow portions of group text threads to be set aside as sidebar tasks to be completed later.

Atlassian, which already offers a collaboration platforms such as Confluence and HipChat, referred to its new Stride offering as a product built “from the ground up” exclusively for corporate use.

As with HipChat, which the company bought in 2012, Stride will be offered in a freemium model, with additional features that require companies to pay $3 per user per month.

The Stride software was built to scale from startups with 10 employees to enterprises of more than 10,000, and includes security features such as secure file sharing and two-factor authentication.

 The free version of Stride will provide messaging between unlimited users, chat rooms, group video and audio. The paid tier introduces dial-in features, screen sharing and remote desktop control.

Group text or voice chat meetings can also migrate to video chats, with team members able to be instantly notified of the change so they can get the full context of the conversation that was in progress.

Like HipChat, Stride will offer file sharing, video and voice calling, the ability to search previous messages and the ability to view images, which can also be annotated. Stride will also offer screen sharing, and remote-control access across multi-platform devices, including iOS, Android and Chrome.

While both HipChat and Stride are enterprise communication products, Stride brings together video/audio conferencing and collaboration tools “to offer the most complete communications tool on the market,” said Steve Goldsmith, general manager at Atlassian.

 

Social Media Is The News Source For Two Thirds Of Adults

September 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Nearly two-thirds of American adults are getting “at least some of their news on social media” with two-in-ten doing so often, according to a Pew Research Center survey this week.

About 67 percent of American adults somewhat rely on social media platforms such as Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Snapchat for news, the survey showed, compared with 62 percent in 2016.

For the first time in the Center’s surveys, the research also found that 55 percent of Americans adults over 50 were consuming news on social media sites, up from 45 percent in 2016.

 “While a small increase overall, this growth is driven by more substantial increases among Americans who are older, less educated, and non-white,” the research said.

Those under 50 years of age remained more likely than their elders to get news from these sites – 78 percent said they consume news on social media platforms, unchanged from 2016.

Facebook remained as the dominant platform for news with 45 percent of American adults saying they get news from the social media site. Alphabet Inc’s YouTube was next with 18 percent while only about 11 percent of U.S. adults said they get their news on Twitter.

The research also showed about three-quarters of non-whites or 74 percent, get news on social media sites, up from 64 percent in 2016.

Social media news use also increased among those with less than a bachelor’s degree, up 9 percentage points to 69 percent in 2017 from the previous year. Alternatively, among those with at least a college degree, social media news use declined slightly this year.

While Twitter lags far behind Facebook and YouTube in total news consumers, the site still seems to be benefiting from U.S. President Donald Trump who is one of the most active politicians on the social media platform.

Pew found that 74 percent of U.S. adults who use Twitter say they get news there, up from 59 percent of the site’s users in 2016.

Is Mixed-Reality A Big Move For Microsoft

September 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

2017 is shaping up to be perhaps the most important year ever for Microsoft’s ambitions as a consumer technology company.

The firm, which in recent years has struggled to balance its commitment to business solutions and cloud services against the often conflicting demands of being a consumer tech firm, is set to launch two major product lines this year – an update to the Xbox One console that is, in essence, an entirely new home console device, and a range of “Mixed Reality” headsets, controllers and certified PCs, which are being manufactured to Microsoft’s specs by some of the industry’s leading hardware firms.

Both of these are big launches, and each of them deserving of attention. On the surface, you might expect that Xbox One X – the new console – would be a far more mainstream prospect than a range of VR headsets, especially given how niche VR remains in spite of the buzz that’s been built up around it. Yet all of the signs point to Mixed Reality being Microsoft’s really big launch for 2017, and the one that may have the most impact on the company – and the whole technology industry – down the line, while Xbox One X is being positioned both by commentators and by the company itself as something of a niche device for a specific and limited audience.

In a sense, the direction being taken with these two devices is entirely different. Xbox One X takes an established platform (albeit one running a distant second behind Sony’s dominant PS4) and essentially creates a high-end “premium” version, with price tag to match. It doesn’t so much represent a turning point in Xbox strategy (there’s no surge in first-party software or major service launch to accompany it) as an appeal to the slim but high-value slice of the market for whom constant talk of 4K HDR screens and Dolby Atmos sound systems says “this is the best you can get,” as distinct from “this isn’t for the likes of you.”

On the other hand, Mixed Reality is all about the democratisation of a technology that’s often seemed inaccessible to average consumers. Its hardware specification calls for headsets with inside-out tracking (so no external cameras or sensors) which mount cameras on the front of the headset to track motion controllers – again, removing external sensors from the setup – while its business model aims to create a range of low-cost headsets by leveraging competition between manufacturers like Dell and Asus. The PC specs being certified for use with the headsets also promise relatively low cost of entry to consumers interested in VR.

In essence, Mixed Reality (which is a bit of a misnomer, as these first-generation headsets are not the bridging of VR and AR promised by the “Hololens” concept; they are VR headsets, pure and simple) is an extremely well-designed and technologically impressive mixture of the best parts of many VR approaches we’ve seen so far. It’s about as affordable as Sony’s PSVR and just as easy to set up (in fact, slightly more so, since PSVR still requires a single camera); yet it offers a technological fidelity that’s surprisingly close to that of Oculus and HTC’s pioneering headsets.

Working with firms like Dell ensures ubiquity, while Microsoft’s control of the Windows ecosystem ensures compatibility and ease of use, and the firm’s highly open approach with the standards it’s promoting – including supporting content from Steam from day one – is an enormous bonus. As the only console VR platform out there, and with Sony’s content support behind it, PSVR will continue to have a market, but anyone picking winners in the VR space right now is likely favouring Microsoft’s play in the long run, especially given its potential for non-gaming applications (which may yet turn out to be VR’s “killer app”). It’s notable that Sony’s small PSVR price-drop came this week just as Mixed Reality gear was being lauded at IFA in Berlin, though also notable that the company’s promised restocking of PSVR hardware into retail channels has still not come to pass.

The elephant in the room here needs addressing; why, given two hardware launches that seem so complementary, isn’t Xbox One X supporting Mixed Reality headsets out the gate? The door seemingly remains open to that possibility down the line, but thus far Microsoft’s two big consumer tech efforts of 2017 remain frustratingly separate. On paper, you’d imagine that launching the most powerful console ever with the ability to drive high-quality VR experiences through a range of new headsets would be a far more exciting prospect than simply updating the Xbox One to take advantage of some very, very expensive televisions; even if VR is more niche than console gaming right now, the prospects for growth in VR are huge and the chance for a firm like Microsoft to establish and own the standards that define an entire sector for years to come is surely too important to pass up.

Microsoft’s own position seems to express that sentiment; while Xbox One X is rolling out with very few major software releases to support it (essentially copying the low-key rollout of PS4 Pro), the upcoming slate of software supporting Mixed Reality is being talked up significantly and includes a Halo title from 343 Industries. For an Xbox console to launch without a Halo title in support, or even officially on the slate (though one will inevitably be forthcoming), while a different Microsoft product has a Halo title being talked up, is actually rather eye-opening.

The reason for Xbox One X not supporting Mixed Reality at the outset may be quite prosaic; Microsoft’s strategy for its headsets involves cooperation with hardware manufacturers who want to use Mixed Reality as a way to sell PCs. Those partners might be far cooler on being involved with this initiative if they felt that their PCs were going to have to compete with a partially-subsidised console being sold by Microsoft itself, and the exclusion of Xbox from the Mixed Reality ecosystem may (this is all speculation) have been a condition of the likes of Asus throwing full-throated support behind the new headsets.

If so, it may be a timed exclusion, with headset support coming to Xbox One X down the line; or it may be that this helps to explain why so much of Microsoft’s software approach for Xbox One appears to have shifted to being about well-optimised One and One X versions of Windows 10 software rather than console exclusives. This would potentially allow people with high-end home theatre setups to enjoy the best possible version on Xbox One X, while VR fans can enjoy the same software as optimised for Mixed Reality, and those with Xbox Ones or gaming PCs would enjoy their own tailored version. That fits well with Microsoft’s vision both for a contiguous ecosystem and for how cross-platform development should work, the inability to plug a headset into an Xbox being only a small wrinkle in this cloth.

While in the long run not a big deal, in terms of this year alone, the separation of headsets from console creates an odd tension in Microsoft’s line-up; Xbox One X may even find itself competing for Christmas dollars from the same set of consumers who are considering a Mixed Reality setup. With Switch also riding high in customer’s mindshare and PS4 continuing to steamroller ahead of the competition – not to mention major consumer electronics launches outside the gaming space, like Apple’s iPhone Pro or whatever they’re going to call it – this winter is going to be one of the most competitive ever in consumer technology, and Microsoft is entering the game with a hell of a strong hand.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Intel Announces VPU For A.I.

September 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel has released its new Movidius Myriad X vision processing unit (VPU) which is Intel’s end-to-end portfolio for an artificial intelligence (AI) solution.

Intel is hoping the VPU will deliver more autonomous capabilities across a wide range of product categories including drones, robotics, smart cameras and virtual reality (VR).

Intel claimed that the Myriad X is the world’s first system-on-chip (SOC) shipping with a dedicated Neural Compute Engine for accelerating deep learning inferences at the edge.

It said that the neural compute engine is an on-chip hardware block specifically designed to run deep neural networks at high speed and low power without compromising accuracy, enabling devices to see, understand and respond to their environments in real time.

The Myriad X’s architecture has a neural compute engine which can manage a trillion operations per second (TOPS) of compute performance on deep neural network inferences.

Capable of delivering more than 4TOPS of total performance, Intel claims its tiny form factor and on-board processing are ideal for autonomous devices. In addition to its neural compute engine, the Myriad X combines imaging, visual processing and deep learning inference in real time.

It has programmable 128-bit VLIW vector processors run multiple imaging and vision application pipelines simultaneously with 16 vector processors optimised for computer vision workloads.

Also under the bonnet are more configurable MIPI lanes connect up to 8 HD resolution RGB cameras directly to the Myriad X with its 16 MIPI lanes included in its rich set of interfaces, to support up to 700 million pixels per second of image signal processing throughput.

Enhanced vision accelerators use over 20 hardware accelerators to perform tasks such as optical flow and stereo depth without introducing additional compute overhead. The centralised 2.5MB of homogenous on-chip memory allows for up to 450GB per second of internal bandwidth, minimizing latency and reducing power consumption by minimizing off-chip data transfer.

The Myriad 2 will not be replaced by the Myriad X. Last January, the Myriad 2 was described as costing under $10; based on the higher cost FinFET process and additional hardware features. The Myriad X will likely command a higher price for the higher performance.

Courtesy-Fud

Huawei Challenges Samsung, Apple With Mate 10 Phone

September 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Huawei plans to utilize artificial intelligence-powered features such as instant image recognition to take on rivals Samsung and Apple when it launches its new flagship phone next month, according to one of its top executives.

Richard Yu, chief executive of Huawei’s consumer business, on Saturday revealed a powerful new mobile phone chip Huawei is betting on for its upcoming flagship Mate 10 and other high-end phones to deliver faster processing and lower power consumption.

Huawei will launch the Mate 10 and its sister phone, the Mate 10 Pro, in Munich on Oct. 16, Yu confirmed. He declined to detail new features, but the phones are expected to boast large, 6-inch-plus full-screen displays, tech blogs predict.

Artificial intelligence (AI) built into its new chips can help make phones more personalized, or anticipate the actions and interests of their users, Yu said.

 As examples, he said AI can enable real-time language translation, heed voice commands, or take advantage of augmented reality, which overlays text, sounds, graphics and video on real-world images phone users see in front of them.

Yu believes the new Kirin 970 chip’s speed and low power can translate into features that will give its phones an edge over the Apple iPhone 8 series, set to be unveiled on Sept. 12, and Samsung’s range of top-line phones announced this year. Huawei is the world’s No. 3 smartphone maker behind Samsung and Apple.

“Compared with Samsung and Apple, we have advantages,” Yu said in an interview during the annual IFA consumer electronics fair in Berlin. “Users are in for much faster (feature) performance, longer battery life and more compact design.”

The company asserts its newly announced Kirin 970 chip will preserve battery life on phones by up to 50 percent.

Huawei describes the new chip as the first Neural Processing Unit (NPU) for smartphones. It brings together classic computing, graphics, image and digital signal processing power that have typically required separate chips, taking up more space and slowing interaction between features within phones.

Most importantly, Huawei aims to use the Kirin chips to differentiate its phones from a vast sea of competitors, including Samsung, who overwhelming rely on rival Snapdragon chips from Qualcomm, the market leader in mobile chip design. Among major phone makers, only Apple and Huawei now rely on their own core processors.

The 970 is designed by Huawei’s HiSilicon chip design business and built using the most advanced 10 nanometer production lines of contract manufacturer TSMC.

Alexa Comes To Toshiba TVs

September 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

“Alexa, rewind.”

That’s just one of the commands that you’ll be able give to a new range of Toshiba TVs announced at IFA in Berlin on Thursday. Amazon’s voice assistant will enable hands-free control of the televisions, provided you have an Echo or Echo Dot smart home hub within hollering distance.

Ranging in size from 43 to 75 inches, the TVs can be commanded to turn on and off, change channel or input, fast forward and rewind or adjust the volume. The hope is that it will simplify controlling your TV, but don’t throw your remote away just yet.

Toshiba is not the first TV manufacturer to integrate Alexa voice control. Element, Westinghouse and Sony currently offer Alexa-compatible televisions in the US. Meanwhile, adding a Fire TV Stick or box to any TV will also enable some Alexa control, as will the Wi-Fi versions of the Logitech Harmony universal remote. And Amazon’s open API (application program interface) effectively means that any other manufacturer can add similar features going forward.

With voice control increasingly prevalent in TVs, manufacturers must also make sure they are fighting hard across all fronts to earn that highly prized spot in your lounge. Toshiba’s Alexa-equipped TVs also come with 4K screen technology to allow viewers to enjoy the very best viewing experience, as well as upscaling tech to make the best of lower resolution content.

Toshiba’s Alexa TV range will be available toward the end of 2017 with prices starting at 399 euros ($474).

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