Google is boosting AR performance on Android phones with their dual cameras

Google is upgrading its augmented reality SDK so that dual-camera phones can capture more in-depth details. As reported by Android Police, the most recent Google Play Services update for the AR app, which is how Google distributes ARCore features, now states "Dual camera stereo depth on compatible devices" in its changelog.

For now, it appears that the support will be limited to Google's own Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, both launched in 2019. The list of compatible ARCore devices on Google's developer site says that support for dual cameras will roll out in the coming weeks.

Notably, this means that the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G, both of which are 2020 Pixel phones with dual cameras, will not see the benefits for now. This could be because their secondary cameras are ultra-wide rather than Pixel 4 and 4 XL telephotos, which would have consequences for how they could create more accurate depth maps.

In any case, this is another effect of Google's indecision on Pixel camera lenses. The company has long maintained that it only required a single camera because of computational features like Super Res Zoom on Pixel 3, but confusedly added a telephoto lens on Pixel 4 instead, then backtracked and substituted it for an ultra-wide Pixel 5.


100 - 300 millios dollars of Nvidia Q4 revenue came from cyrpto miners

In its Q4 and Fiscal Year 2021 earnings update, Nvidia reported a record $5 billion in quarterly earnings, up 61 percent year-over-year, and net earnings of $1,475 billion. The gaming division of the company accounted for $2.5 billion of this revenue.

Nvidia accused of attempting to discredit a former employee

Nvidia reports that crypto mining revenues amounted to between $100 million and $300 million. CFO Colette Kress says that this is the best estimate as it cannot reliably track the end-use of GPUs sold to card manufacturers, so the real number is likely to be higher. "We believe that the substantial increase in the Ethereum hash rate observed over the last few months has been powered by a combination of previously installed mining capacity that has been reactivated, as well as news sales of GPUs and ASICs," Kress said.

Nvidia has reduced the Ethereum mining capabilities of its upcoming RTX 3060 to make the card less enticing to miners. It is also hoping that the latest CMP line would help to ease Ampere's current availability issues. It expects CMP card sales to be worth $50 million in the first quarter of the year. The global chip shortage is still going to be a concern, of course, one that is expected to last until next year.

The business indicated that it doesn't plan to see another cryptocurrency crash as we saw in January 2018, when Bitcoin dropped by 65 percent in four weeks. "Cryptocurrencies have recently begun to be embraced by corporations and financial institutions and are showing increased signs of staying power," Kress added. "CMP products will allow us to gain some visibility in the contribution of crypto mining to our overall revenue."

CEO Jensen Huang says that if there's a crypto crash, we're not going to see second-hand graphics cards flood the market as we did last time, as most miners will hold on to their cards until prices rise again—at least that's what Nvidia hopes. If you buy an ex-mining card, expect it to have an impact on its gaming results. But maybe it just needs some maintenance to get the fps back.

 


It is reported that Apple might not be ditching the Touch Bar after all

Renowned Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted last month that starting with 2021 models, MacBook Pros would lose the widely criticized Touch Bar functionality. Apple is said to be using extra internal real estate to add more ports. But it seems that Cupertino might not be absolutely loving the Touch Bar.

Patently, Apple has discovered more than 70 patents recently issued to Apple by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Among these were two reconfigurations (patent #10,921,854) of the MacBook Pro Touch Bar that engineers could consider. The two redesigns place the Touch Bar closer to the screen than the keyboard. The first one (Fig. 6) shows it approximately in the same position (maybe slightly higher) as the latest Touch Bar versions. However, it incorporates a second monitor in a more prominent position right under the screen.

As well, patents are never promises of potential functionality. Apple may just want to defend itself from rivals coming up with a better understanding of its technology. As a general rule, I prefer to give more validity to Kuo's predictions of upcoming Apple devices than to Apple's patents.

 

 

 


A BUILT-IN SCREEN RECORDER IS NOW ADDED TO CHROME OS

Google has announced that a built-in screen recorder is coming to Chrome OS in March. Google hopes the tool will make it easier for students and teachers to record virtual lessons. “Teachers have long recorded lessons to help students do homework and study for tests, but in the past year it’s become downright critical for virtual learning,” reads Google’s blog post.

Well, it looks pretty easy. If you click the appropriate button on your Chromebook, you'll see a timer in the middle of your device. When your Chromebook is recording, a red circle appears on the right side of the shelf.

There are also a few other tools for Chromebook learners in the works, and some have already arrived. Chrome OS's screen reader, ChromeVox, has several new features: voice changes now depending on the text language it reads, and you can now scan its menus.

Additionally, parents can now use Family Link (Google’s parental-control app) to manage their children’s school accounts in addition to their personal accounts. This means screen-time limits, bedtimes, and other restrictions parents place on their children’s personal accounts can apply to their school accounts as well.

On the hardware side, Google has announced that it is releasing more than 40 new Chromebooks this year. It claims that every model is "equipped to deliver exceptional Google Meet and Zoom experiences."

To help schools navigate the new releases, the company has put out a list of available Chromebooks, which includes configurations from Samsung, Lenovo, HP, Dell, Asus, and Acer, and tips for selecting the right one. The company recommends a number of basic models, such as Acer’s Chromebook Spin 511 and Lenovo’s 300e, as well as fancier devices like the Chromebook Spin 713 (The Verge’s top Chromebook pick) and Samsung’s $1,000 Galaxy Chromebook.

Chromebooks are big sellers in the education market, due in part to their affordability and districts’ widespread use of Google Classroom, Google’s online education portal. 2020 was the Chromebook’s best year ever, due largely to increased demand from schools providing at-home instruction for the first time. Google has been building out its services for remote school and meetings since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the early months of remote schooling, Google made Meet meetings with up to 100 participants available to anyone with a Google account. It’s added a number of features to Meet as well, in an effort to keep up with large competitors Zoom and Microsoft Teams. The company has rolled out custom backgroundsblur effects, real-time captioning, low-light mode, and hand-raising in recent months.

 


Nvidia RTX 3060 Prices are Rocketting Upwards - and the GPU is yet to be Launched

This is happening in Europe, according to a study by VideoCardz, despite Nvidia's insistence to retailers that the new graphics card should be sold at the suggested price of $329 in the US (€329 in Europe) when it comes out on February 25 (in the form of third-party cards – there will be no Founders Version made by Nvidia).

Europe-based retailers like ProShop are raising the price of the 3060, the study states, and they are now pricing the GPU at €499 rather than €329, which is more than 50 percent more expensive than the suggested price (or, in Polish currency, starting from PLN 2799 instead of PLN 1599 – a huge increase of 75 percent).

This kind of upward price movement is evident elsewhere, states VideoCardz, with the likes of the Portuguese retailer PCDiga raising the asking prices on the RTX 3060 by almost €100 per week – which means that they are around the same amount as some versions of the RTX 3060 Ti at that retailer (indeed, some Ti variants are actually cheaper – not that you can get any stock of the latter GPU).

 

 


Chrome is going to lose support for some ancient CPUs

The Chromium Development Team has announced that CPUs older than the Intel Core 2 Duo and AMD Athlon 64 will not operate with Chrome 89 and future versions as they do not meet the current minimum instruction set specifications of SSE3 (Supplemental Streaming SIMD Extensions 3) support.

So, if you're still using the Intel Atom or Celeron M CPU, you'll soon be counting Chrome as one of the many programs that are incompatible with your potato-like rig. Apps can no longer attempt to install a browser while running it will cause the app to crash.

It has been noted that the move only affects Windows, such as Chrome OS, Android, and Mac, which already need SSE3 support.

Anyone still using one of the affected devices will start seeing a warning (below) in Chrome 87 about the upcoming end of the service.

Google claims that only a small number of users will be adversely affected by the change; very few people outside niche retro groups are still using pre-2005 PC hardware. And if you're in love with your old machine, Mozilla and Firefox remain viable browser alternatives that don't need SSE3.

 

 


A Multitasker's Dream Device: Aurora 7

A company called Expanscape has created the most Inspector Gadget-like device I've ever seen. It's a laptop prototype called the Aurora 7 (a working title) and attached to its humongous black chassis box are six additional displays that extend in every direction away from the main screen, each showing its own windows and applications.

https://youtu.be/kW1uJXSSoYQ?t=1

Many laptop hinges don't gracefully manage one computer, let alone seven. Piggybacking on the main 17.3-inch 4K display are three other screens of the same size and resolution. There is a single, seven-inch 1200p monitor above the left and right displays. You'll also find another 7-inch 1200p touchscreen display mounted on the rest of the wrist. The prototype weighs about 26 pounds and is 4.3 inches thick. It has an imposing, intimidating presence, and I haven't seen it in person.

Even though it's designed primarily to be a mobile security operation station (and stay plugged pretty much all the time), it may be able to run some games, too. In his writing of this gadget, Gizmodo found that his current prototype could last only one hour before the battery cries for more juice, which is frankly longer than I expected. It uses a secondary 148Wh battery only to power its additional screens, and that's beyond the FAA's legal limit to fly in a plane. Expanscape says it works to fix this in upcoming prototypes. In other terms, the company is committed to allowing you to take a seven-screen laptop to the plane. You'd probably have to buy a whole row of seats for the space you need to use it, though. (If you read this in the future, please take a photo of one of these if you see it on your plane.)

Image result for aurora 7 laptop

 

Sure, the Aurora 7 looks more rough around the edges than Razer’s triple-screened Project Valerie laptop from a few years ago. But nevertheless, Expanscape claims it’s willing to actually sell this thing, which is more than Razer can say about its Valerie concept. If you want to buy one, Expanscape says it can help interested parties in reserving a prototype of its upcoming revision. As for the price, the company will ask you to sign a nondisclosure agreement, prohibiting you from publicly sharing the cost. That doesn’t bode well for the bank account.

I'm looking forward to hearing more about potential Aurora 7 revisions, particularly if it gets a button that makes all the displays pop up in a comical fashion. It seems like an incredibly manual operation at the moment.


Jeff Bezos to step down as Amazon CEO later this year

Bezos will hand the company's reins over to his friend and colleague, Andrew Jassy, after 27 years of service. Maybe Jassy is best known for founding the immensely popular Web Services (AWS) division of Amazon.

AWS is a platform for cloud computing that serves well over a million users; indeed, it is the reason why today many of your favorite websites and services are live. The popularity of AWS, combined with the long career of Jassy at Amazon — he joined in 1997 — made it clear to Bezos that he was the right man for the job.

Image result for andrew jassy

Within the company, Andy is well-known and has been at Amazon for almost as long as I have, "Andy is well known inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as I have," "He will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence." The query now on all our minds is... Oh, why? Why is Bezos, of all times, leaving now? Amazon is in better financial condition than ever, and one of the richest individuals on the planet is the soon-to-be-ex CEO.

The response, apparently, is simple: time. Right now, Bezos is responsible for many companies and projects, including the Day 1 Fund, the Bezos Planet Fund, and, to name a few, Blue Roots. According to him, his position as Amazon's leader just doesn't leave him enough time and energy to give anything to these other ventures.

Bezos would be in a much stronger place to help those organizations succeed when he eventually steps down from the leadership position.

As mentioned before, the decision of Bezos here does not reflect a total detachment from Amazon as a company. Bezos will still be able to exert some power and influence over the overall course of Amazon since becoming Chairman of the Board, without needing him to be as present for the daily operations. The multi-billionaire sounds like a balanced balance.


The Police, and Fire Departments has partnered up with Amazon's Ring

The Financial Times estimates that more than double the 703 new additions from a year earlier was added to the Ring's Neighbors Portal service in 2020 by the number of local police and fire departments. A mere 40 signed up in 2018. There are currently only two states where there are no agencies involved: Wyoming and Montana.

Amazon Ring: Phantom smart doorbell chimes alarm owners - BBC News

Images of more than 22,235 incidents last year were requested by the police and fire services involved in the initiative. Amazon states that clients can opt-out of accepting police requests, but it is also possible to use subpoenas, search warrants, and court orders to access videos of customers who want to reject requests. The police made 1,900 demands for information that customers had refused them, and 57 percent of those agreed with Amazon, which has the final say over whether to hand over something. Although that is lower than the 67% it complied with during 2019, in 2020 the number of such requests increased by 150%.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) cautioned that while certain owners may be all right to share their video, it is likely that neighbors and passers-by might be captured on tape, creating a "massive and unchallenged" surveillance network in essence.

Many unconcerned about the privacy implications of the software may feel better knowing that police have another tool in their arsenal, but a February 2019 NBC News study found it was not helpful when investigating serious crimes-most of the arrests used for low-level, non-violent property crimes were Ring video.


Apple's App Tracking Transparency feature to be enabled by default and will arrive in 'early spring' on ios

In iOS 14, Apple shared a few more details about its much-discussed improvements to privacy. At WWDC in June, the company first revealed that software developers would have to ask users for permission for cross-property ad targeting purposes to track and share their IDFA identifier. Apple postponed the monitoring restrictions until 2021, saying it wanted to give developers more time to make the required improvements, while iOS 14 was released in the fall.

We have a slightly-more-specific timeline now. In early spring, the intention is to introduce these updates, with a version of the feature arriving in the next iOS 14 beta update.

"This is how the new system is described by Apple: "Users will be able to see under Settings which apps have requested permission to monitor and make changes as they see fit. With the forthcoming release of iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14, this requirement will roll out widely in early spring and has already gained support from privacy advocates around the world.

And here are the basics of what you need to know:

  • The App Tracking Transparency feature moves from the old method where you had to opt-out of sharing your Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) to an opt-in model. This means that every app will have to ask you upfront whether it is ok for them to share your IDFA with third parties including networks or data brokers.
  • The feature’s most prominent evidence is a notification on the launch of a new app that will explain what the tracker will be used for and ask you to opt-in to it.
  • You can now toggle IDFA sharing on a by-app basis at any time, where previously it was a single toggle. If you turn off the “Allow apps to request to track” setting altogether no apps can even ask you to use tracking.
  • Apple will enforce this for all third-party data sources including data sharing agreements, but of course, platforms can still use first-party data for advertising as per their terms of service.
  • Apple expects developers to understand whether APIs or SDKs that they use in their apps are serving user data up to brokers or other networks and to enable the notification if so.
  • Apple will abide by the rules for its own apps as well and will present the dialog and follow the ‘allow apps to request’ toggle if its apps use tracking (most do not at this point).
  • One important note here is that the Personalized Ads toggle is a separate setting that specifically allows or does not allow Apple itself to use its own first-party data to serve you ads. So that is an additional layer of opt-out that affects Apple data only.

Apple is now growing its Ad attribution API capabilities, enabling better click measurement, video conversion measurement, and also, for some instances, app-to-web conversions, and this is a major one.

This news comes on Data Privacy Day, with CEO Tim Cook speaking at the Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection conference in Brussels this morning about the problem. A recent study showing that the average app has six third-party trackers is also being shared by the company.

Although this seems like a welcome move from a privacy perspective, some criticism has been drawn from the advertising industry, with Facebook launching a PR campaign highlighting the effect on small businesses, while also referring to the shift as "one of the most important headwinds of advertising" it might face this year. The position of Apple is that it has a user-centric approach to data protection, rather than an advertiser-centric one.