Tag: Mobile

Bixby 2.0 and Project Ambience push Samsung’s vision of connected devices

To compete with the likes of Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa, Samsung has to get its own version of a smart voice-powered assistant, Bixby, to as many devices as possible. It also needs to make Bixby work as well as its competitors, something Samsung has had trouble with since launch. At the Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, the tech company announced two initiatives that will do just that: Bixby 2.0 and Project Ambience.

The Bixby update brings Samsung's digital assistant to more devices like smart TVs and refrigerators and adds "deep linking capabilities and enhanced natural language abilities," along with a way to recognize multiple users —a feature that already exists on Assistant and Alexa. Along the same lines, Project Ambience, a hardware dongle or chip, will let users add the Samsung vision of the Internet of Things — with Bixby ascendant — to any connectable device.

"We see a world where digital assistant play a bigger role, an intelligent role, where one day everything from our phones, to our fridge, to our sprinkler system will have some sort of intelligence to help us seamlessly interact with all the technology we use each day," said Samsung's Eui-Suk Chung in a statement. Bixby 2.0 is powered by Viv technologies, the company of former Siri engineers Samsung acquired last year. Developers will also get a Bixby SDK, which could lead to more devices with the smart assistant built in.

Source: Samsung


Samsung leapfrogs Intel again with 8-nanometer chips

Samsung has qualified its 8-nanometer chip-making process for production three months ahead of schedule. It's the same "low power plus" (LPP) process used for its current 10-nanometer silicon, not the next-gen extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography for its future 7-nanometer tech. That'll yield chips that are ten percent more energy efficient and ten percent smaller than the 10-nanometer ones it's making right now. At the same time, since the 8-nanometer chips use the same process, Samsung will be able to "rapidly ramp up," it said.

Samsung said that the new process will be ideal for "mobile, cryptocurrency and network/server" applications. It notably worked again with Qualcomm, its 10-nanometer chip launch customer, to perfect the new tech. Rumors in Korea had it that Qualcomm would switch its 7-nanometer production to TMSC, which is reportedly slightly ahead of Samsung in developing that tech.

However, Samsung confirmed with ZDNet that Qualcomm will be using its 8-nanometer process, without providing any specific details. Given that information, it seems likely that Qualcomm will build its next-gen Snapdragon chips with Samsung, using the tried-and-true LPP process instead of bleeding-edge 7-nanometer tech, which necessitates a switch to extreme ultraviolet lithography.

By that time, Samsung should have its own 7-nanometer EUV process up to speed, with 6-nanometer chips set to follow after that. Anyway, Samsung Mobile is probably Qualcomm's biggest customer with its Galaxy S8 and Note 8 phones, so it would have been pretty awkward to split off to another foundry.

Though they don't compete much in the same markets, the news puts Intel even further behind Samsung, at least in terms of chip trace sizes. Intel has yet to release any 10-nanometer chips, though it has said that when it does (in 2018 or 2019), it will be "generations ahead" of Samsung thanks to better feature density. By then, however, Samsung might have closed that gap by being two or three actual generations ahead of Intel in terms of lithography. Samsung is expected to reveal its roadmap for 8- and 7-nanometer chips later today.

Source: Samsung


‘Small number’ of Russian Facebook election ad accounts used Messenger

According to David Marcus, Facebook's VP of Messaging Products, a "small number" of the 470 Russia-linked accounts that attempted to influence last year's US elections also used Messenger. He said so in an interview at Wall Street Journal's D.Live conference, and though he wouldn't reveal the exact number (because it's an "active investigation"), he said that he and others at Facebook are working with authorities to figure out what happened.

"The way that the platform was used is still being investigated," he said. But he did clarify that while users can interact with each other on Messenger, Facebook Pages can't just start messaging users -- you have to initiate the conversation first. "We're trying to figure out how it was leveraged [...] We're working with Congress to learn from it and build systems to prevent it."

A recent investigation uncovered that approximately 10 million people saw Russian-bought political ads during last year's US elections. Over 3,000 advertisements has since been handed over to Congress, and most of them focused on "divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum."

Marcus said that Facebook has since hired thousands of people to review ads and activities in elections around the world to make sure the Russian meddling doesn't happen again. "Now that we know [about this], we need to think about ways the platform is used in ways it wasn't designed for," he said.

He also defended Facebook, saying that the company's positive effects on the world has been overshadowed by negative press. He cited examples like people finding others who have the same disease that they do on the platform, or that users have raised over 70 million dollars for victims of Hurricane Harvey. "The impact that Facebook has on the world is overshadowed by all this narrative," said Marcus.

"Clearly when you design a platform that reaches 2 billion people every month, sometimes bad things happen," he said. "We shouldn't tolerate those things and they shouldn't happen."


Motorola’s newest mod puts an Alexa speaker on your phone

Ever wanted to have an Amazon Echo speaker with you wherever you are, rather than relying on your phone's built-in voice assistant? Motorola is betting you do. As promised, it's releasing an Alexa-powered Moto Mod (the Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa, to be exact) that slaps an Echo-like device on the back of compatible phones like the Moto Z2 Force or Z Play. The key, as you might guess, is that it delivers that across-the-room voice control in a way your phone can't by itself.

The large dedicated speaker is clearly one advantage, but there are also four mics to make sure it picks up your voice in relatively noisy environments. And with a 15-hour built-in battery, you won't kill your phone if you're constantly asking questions. The mod also has a clever dock design that's intended for use on your nightstand.

If there's an obstacle, it's the cost. The Alexa speaker will be available for $150 US (£99 in the UK) when it ships in November to those countries where Alexa has official support. At that price, you'll have to really like the idea of a truly portable Echo speaker that fits in your pocket; this might be excessive if you just want another Echo for the office.

Source: Motorola Blog


Google’s Pixel 2 is hiding an old-school menu button

Google has a bit of a throwback tucked away in the Pixel 2. Depending on the app, you can access the old-school Android menu button by tapping in the lower righthand corner of the screen, as spotted by Android Police. As you'll see in the video embedded below, it doesn't seem to do much, but hey, it exists. Android Police says that to access it, you need a Pixel 2 running the stock software and an app that targets Android Honeycomb or an earlier version of the OS. As of now, it'll appear in the settings menu, along with Google Maps and Inbox.

We've confirmed it exists, using Engadget's Pixel 2 review unit. It seems unlikely that Google will power it on via a firmware update a la the handset's custom imaging processor, and there's also potential for it to get killed off with a future patch. If you're unboxing your Pixel 2 today or tomorrow, now you've got one more thing to try out.

Via: 9to5 Google

Source: Android Police


The creators of Vine built a trivia show app called HQ

The Vine guys are back, but this time it's with a gameshow app called HQ. However, this app isn't like you're typical trivia game where you can play whenever you want. With HQ, gameplay is live and takes place twice a day. "It's a way to give people a chance to have fun, maybe win, maybe learn something new," Vine cofounder Rus Yusupov told TechCrunch.

HQ's trivia is only available at 3PM and 9PM Eastern, which is when HQ's host, Scott Rogowsky, asks a handful of multiple choice questions live. If you answer a question correctly within 10 seconds, you can advance to the next one and everyone who successfully answers them all splits a cash prize that's doled out via PayPal. The jackpot isn't always the same and HQ's creators are toying with different ways to fund it. Yusupov told TechCrunch, "We've been playing around with options. This Sunday we did a sponsored game that let us give away the biggest prize."

While this sadly isn't the return of Vine, it's nonetheless an interesting take on game apps. "We just wanted to make something that people play with their friends and family," Yusupov said.

Via: TechCrunch


Snapchat will offer European users exclusive Olympics content

Snap is clearly hungry for original and exclusive web content for Snapchat's Discover platform. Yesterday, the company announced it was forming a studio in partnership with NBCUniversal. Then, this morning, Snap revealed that it's partnering with Eurosport, which is owned by Discovery Communications, to bring exclusive behind-the-scenes content from the Olympics Winter Games, which will be held in PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018. This content appears to be limited to Snapchat's European users.

The partnership will cover both Our Stories, which are curated stories that highlight Snaps from the general user database, and Publisher Stories, which are produced and submitted by media partners. Snapchat will have a dedicated team working on Eurosport's Publisher Story, which will complement the Olympics footage aired on the streaming platform Eurosport Player. The partnership also includes a "strategic advertising agreement."

This isn't the first time the two organizations have worked together. Previously, Eurosport's parent organization Discovery produced shows for Shark Week that aired first on Snapchat. Shark Week on Snapchat ran for a week; over 17 million users tuned in to watch the show.

Source: Discovery Communications


WhatsApp lets users share their real-time locations

This week, messaging app WhatsApp announced a new feature that allows users to share their real-time location with family and friends. The feature is encrypted end to end to ensure users' privacy and security, and it allows you to control who can see your location and when they can see it. Live Location will be rolling out in the next few weeks on both iOS and Android.

To use Live Location, start a chat with the person or group you'd like to share your location with. You'll find the new option "Share Live Location" under "Location" when you hit the "Attach" button. You can decide how long you want to share your location, and then hit "Send." If you want to stop sharing your location before the timer expires, you can choose to do so at any time. And if multiple people in your group share their locations with one another, it will all be visible on the same map.

WhatsApp has been steadily increasing in importance. It recently become a top news source in some countries and has a billion daily users. It's nice to see that the company is focusing on that impressive user base and continuing to add new features.

Source: Whatsapp


Adobe remakes Lightroom CC as a hybrid app and 1TB cloud service

Adobe has unveiled a raft of new apps and updates for Max 2017, most notably a big revamp of Lightroom CC to make it more cloud-friendly for mobile users. The centerpiece is an all-new Lightroom CC with a 1TB cloud service -- the "Project Nimbus" app that leaked last year. It features a streamlined version of Lightroom CC that keeps images, edits and metadata synced in Creative cloud across PC and Mac, Android and iOS. For desktop users who prefer the current, non-cloud app, Adobe has re-branded it as Lightroom Classic CC.

Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic CC

To be clear, because Adobe's new naming system is pretty darn confusing, Lightroom CC is a series of apps app and a service. As Adobe describes it, Lightroom CC "is designed to be a cloud-based ecosystem of apps that are deeply integrated and work together seamlessly across desktop, mobile and web." Lightroom Classic CC, on the other hand, "is designed for desktop-based (file/folder) digital photography workflows."

Despite the fact that it's cloud-based, Adobe says Lightroom CC is "built on the same imaging technology that powers Photoshop and Lightroom." The desktop app has changed considerably, however. The new version for PC and Mac has an all-new, simplified interface with streamlined sliders, presets and quick-adjustment tools, and some of the features in the old version of Lightroom CC are missing.

The prime feature of Lightroom CC is the cloud sync, which works automatically to save all of your RAW images, edits and metadata, letting you pick up where you left off regardless of your location or device. Another key new feature is Adobe Sensei, an AI algorithm that figures out what's in your images and automatically tags them, much as Google Photos does. Adobe is also highlighting its built-in sharing tools that let you build cutom galleries and share them on social media or through the new Lightroom CC Portfolio integration.

The mobile apps on iOS and Android have also been significantly updated, though they'll still work as they did before with Lightroom CC Classic. The iOS version gets Adobe Sensei search and tagging, an enhanced app layout and iOS 11 file support. Meanwhile on Android, Adobe has finally added tablet support and a local adjustment brush, along with the same Sensei searching as on iOS.

Using a preview copy, I tried out the new desktop version on Windows 10, and the new user interface is completely different and more like the tablet version. Gone are the top "Library," "Develop," "Map," "Slideshow" and other menus, replaced simply by "My Photos," and "Edit." Photo organization has also been simplified, reduced to two grid sizes and a single image, eliminating the "Select/Candidate" and "Survey View."

All of the tools from "Develop" are now in "Edit," but some popular tools like "Tone Curve," "Panorama," and "HDR Merge" are no longer available. There's now an "Edit in Photoshop" button that will presumably let you do more fine-tuned work. However, if you've got an established workflow and rely on those missing tools, you'll obviously want to stick to the Lightroom CC Classic version.

As for the Lightroom CC Classic desktop app, Adobe has made a few small changes including a faster boot time, image previews, file imports, and a new color range and luminance masking functionality. It emphasized that Lighroom CC "continues to focus on a more traditional desktop-first workflow with local storage and file and folder control," compared to the "cloud-centric" operation of Lightroom CC.

I personally liked the new version of Lightroom CC, as I always found the "classic" version to be a bit confusing and cluttered. I generally prefer to use photoshop, but I can now see myself using Lightroom CC for most of my photo editing chores instead. The fact that you can pick up a photo edit where you left off, whether you're on the train, at home or at work, is also a life-changing feature for me.

However, there are a lot of users who depend on the app to make a living, and have often automated the use of it to a large degree. Many of those folks will have no interest in the new app, but Adobe is slowly but surely shifting everything to the cloud, so one day, you may have no choice. For now, Lightroom Classic CC users don't have to worry about it, as it's still available for the same price.

Photoshop CC and new apps

Adobe made some significant changes to Photoshop CC (above), most significantly updates that will make it easier for cloud users to connect. It also added what it calls "major improvements to learning and getting started," thanks to interactive, step-by-step tutorials and rich tip tools. Other highlights include Lightroom photo access from the start screen (above), 360 spherical panoramic image editing, symmetry painting (tech preview), numerous brush tweaks, new font tools and much more.

The company unveiled three new apps that do three very different things. The first, Adobe XD CC, is aimed at users who want to design and prototype mobile apps and services, developed "in open partnership with the design community through a public beta," the company said.

For animation creators, Adobe also unveiled Character Animator CC. It lets you take graphics and characters from Photoshop or Illustrator, and add "visual puppet controls," pose-to-pose blending, physics behaviors and other 2D character animation tools. Finally, there's Adobe Dimension CC, basically a package that lets designers do quick-and-dirty 3D work for branding, packaging design, etc. "with the ease and simplicity of working with 2D."

Plans and Pricing

With the introduction of Lightroom CC, Adobe has introduced several new plans that, it has to be said again, are bound to create some confusion because of its naming system. First off, know that all of its image editing products, including Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic CC, Illustrator and others fall under the "Lightroom CC Photography Service" moniker.

With that in mine, there are three new photography plans, all available starting today. The first is the "Creative Cloud Photography plan with 1TB," which includes Lightroom CC (both the desktop and mobile versions) and Lightroom CC Classic, along with Photoshop CC, Adobe Spark with premium features, Adobe Portfolio and 1TB of cloud storage. That costs $19.99, but Adobe's discounting it to $14.99 for the first year.

The $9.99 "Creative Cloud Photography Plan" gives you the same features, but just 20GB of storage, while the all-new $9.99 "Lightroom CC" plan subtracts Lightroom Classic CC and Photoshop CC, while giving you back the 1TB of storage. Adobe will continue to offer Lightroom 6 as "the last stand-alone version of Lightroom that can be be purchased outside of a Creative Cloud membership." However, it "will no longer be updated with camera support or bug fixes after the end of 2017," it adds.


Gmail on iOS trials third-party email accounts

One of the worst things about Gmail for iOS is that unlike its Android counterpart, it doesn't support third-party accounts. If you also use Outlook or other providers for any reason, you'll still have to depend on one of its rival apps. Now, it looks like Google is at least thinking of letting you use the app for all your email needs -- it's now accepting applications for beta testers willing to brave crashes and bugs for the chance to add their non-Gmail accounts to their Gmail app.

To be able to join, you'll have to already be using the Gmail app, have a non-Gmail address to add and have iOS 10 or later installed on your phone. Take note that Google has to share whatever info you give it with Apple, since this is a TestFlight program. You can sign up through the beta testing page Google set up for the feature: if you get accepted, you'll receive instructions from Apple on how to proceed. There's no telling when and whether the feature will ever be widely available, so this could be your only chance to take it for a spin.

Source: Google