Tag: gadgets

Google’s First Mobile Chip Is An Image Processor Hidden In The Pixel 2

One thing that Google left unannounced during its Pixel 2 launch event on October 4th is being revealed today: it’s called the Pixel Visual Core, and it is Google’s first custom system-on-a-chip (SOC) for consumer products.

You can think of it as a very scaled-down and simplified, purpose-built version of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon, Samsung’s Exynos, or Apple’s A series chips. The purpose in this case?

Accelerating the HDR+ camera magic that makes Pixel photos so uniquely superior to everything else on the mobile market.

Google plans to use the Pixel Visual Core to make image processing on its smartphones much smoother and faster, but not only that, the Mountain View also plans to use it to open up HDR+ to third-party camera apps.




The coolest aspects of the Pixel Visual Core might be that it’s already in Google’s devices. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL both have it built in, but laying dormant until activation at some point “over the coming months.”

It’s highly likely that Google didn’t have time to finish optimizing the implementation of its brand-new hardware, so instead of yanking it out of the new Pixels, it decided to ship the phones as they are and then flip the Visual Core activation switch when the software becomes ready.

In that way, it’s a rather delightful bonus for new Pixel buyers.

The Pixel 2 devices are already much faster at processing HDR shots than the original Pixel, and when the Pixel Visual Core is live, they’ll be faster and more efficient.

Looking at the layout of Google’s chip, which is dubbed an Image Processing Unit (IPU) for obvious reasons, we see something sort of resembling a regular 8-core SOC.

Technically, there’s a ninth core, in the shape of the power-efficient ARM Cortex-A53 CPU in the top left corner.

But the important thing is that each of those eight processors that Google designed has been tailored to handle HDR+ duties, resulting in HDR+ performance that is “5x faster and [uses] less than 1/10th the energy” of the current implementation, according to Google.

This is the sort of advantage a company can gain when it shifts to purpose-specific hardware rather than general-purpose processing.

Google says that it will enable Pixel Visual Core as a developer option in its preview of Android Oreo 8.1, before updating the Android Camera API to allow access to HDR+ for third-party camera devs.

Obviously, all of this tech is limited strictly to the Pixel 2 generation, ruling out current Pixel owners and other Android users.

As much as Google likes to talk about enriching the entire Android ecosystem, the company is evidently cognizant of how much of a unique selling point its Pixel camera system is, and it’s working hard to develop and expand the lead that it has.

As a final note, Google’s announcement today says that HDR+ is only the first application to run on the programmable Pixel Visual Core, and with time we should expect to see more imaging and machine learning enhancements being added to the Pixel 2.

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Elon Musk’s Flamethrower Has Already Made Well Over $3.5 Million

Hats… and now flamethrowers. Elon Musk’s Boring Company has so far been more of a ‘lifestyle’ brand than a company that, you know, digs massive tunnels through the earth as a going concern. But it’s making bank.

The hats, which retailed for $20, were capped at 50,000, thus netting The Boring Company a cool $1 million.

The flamethrower, which went up for pre-order yesterday, is selling for $500 a pop, and Musk says the total number sold will max out at 20,000.

As of late last night, the total sold was already at 7,000, which amounts to $3.5 million in fire-breathing merch thus far.




Likely, it’s already earned more, since pre-orders have been open through the night, though it’s still available as of this writing and so presumably hasn’t sold out.

All told, 20,000 flamethrowers would bring in $10 million in total, so 10x the hat heist.

Tesla, one of Musk’s other businesses, has made a common practice of taking pre-orders for cars before they ship, including sizable up-front down payments.

The Boring Company can’t exactly pre-sell huge holes in the ground, or at least not as easily, but the merch market for the venture is hot, and clearly Musk intends to ride that Hyperloop all the way into the underground station.

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Nintendo Introduced A New Product Called ‘Labo’

Nintendo surprised the world once again this week.

The Japanese gaming powerhouse announced a new product with a strange name: “Nintendo Labo.”

Stranger than the name, however, is the product itself: a cardboard construction kit for building gaming peripherals. A what?

It’s worth explaining up front what you actually do with Labo. It’s not just a toy you buy, but a construction set for toys that are used with the Nintendo Switch console. The sets start at $70, and come with games.




The project may seem strange, but it’s actually a perfect marriage of Nintendo’s history as a toy maker and its recent history as a video game powerhouse.

The word “Nintendo” is synonymous with “video games,” and has been for nearly 40 years.

But the company’s actually far older than you may know — over 128 years old! — and much of its history had nothing to do with Italian plumbers fighting evil turtles.

The bulk of Nintendo’s history was spent as a playing-card manufacturer, up until the mid ’60s when it began creating toys.

That toy division eventually morphed into one that focused on a burgeoning format — video games — in the late ’70s.

All of which is to say one thing: Nintendo Labo makes a lot of sense given Nintendo’s history.

It’s a toy. It’s a game. It’s something you build  — that you create — and then play with. It can be drawn on, or covered in stickers, or accidentally stepped on.

Maybe you’ll have to repair it with duct tape and, uh, an old soda carton. Maybe you use the box Labo came in!

Isn’t that kind of rad, actually?

On paper, Labo is a kind-of DIY, adaptable gaming peripheral, with custom games made specifically for the various permutations of that peripheral. In reality, it’s a custom game controller that kids get to build, fix, and own.

Here, Nintendo uses cardboard as a feature, not a flaw. Cardboard can be repaired easily! It also lends itself to modifications, which will assuredly result in some delightful, unexpected ways to play Labo games.

Nintendo is selling a box full of cardboard for $70 with some basic software!” one might argue.

What Nintendo is actually offering with Labo is a relatively inexpensive, Lego-like experience on its wildly popular Nintendo Switch console.

Better yet: The entry-level set, the “Variety Kit,” offers five different builds of varying complexities. Considering the cost of a Lego set nowadays, you’re probably not doing too bad by comparison!

Nintendo Labo is set to launch on April 20 2018.

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Why Is Power Consumption For Gadgets Dropping At Home?

A new report from the Consumer Electronics Association and Fraunhofer USA asserts that the power consumed by home electronics declined from 12% between 2013 and 2010 in the U.S.

It’s a positive result, especially when you add in that the number of devices climbed from 2.9 billion to 3.8 billion over that same period.

But what’s really interesting about the report is why power consumption is declining.




In a word, it’s tablets. The number of plugged in TVs has declined from 353 million in 2010 to 301 in 2013, a 14% drop.

The number of plugged-in desktops has dropped from 101 million to 88 million while the number of active laptops has declined from 132 million to 93 million.

Tablets, meanwhile, have gone from being a relative asterisk to being present in 100 million households.

While part of the decline in consumed by TVs can be attributed to new accounting methods and the final disposal of those remaining CRT tubes, the bigger impact seems to be coming from the shift to smaller screens.

The active power consumption of a 34-inch TV is 90 watts: a TV this size will consume 166 kilowatt hours a year under normal use scenarios. Desktops will consume 186 kilowatt hours.

Notebook power draw can range from 6 to 36 watts and account for 53 kilowatt hours of power consumption. A tablet might use 6.1 kilowatt hours a year in regular use.

In short, power consumption is dropping at home, but more importantly we are seeing a tectonic shift in what we use.

Tablet sales might be below some analyst’s expectations, but they are having an impact on the categories around them.

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The World’s First Temperature Control Ceramic Mug

Two years ago, Ember launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to build a mug that keeps hot drinks hot and iced drinks cool. Contributors gave the company nearly $362,000.

Fast-forward and the five-year-old startup has now raised just north of $24 million altogether, including a $13 million Series C round that it quietly closed last week.

The individual investors supporting the company are undoubtedly encouraged by the progress it has been making since showing off its early product to the public.




For one thing, Starbucks began selling the mugs in its stores across most of the U.S. and online for $149.95 back in November.

The Westlake Village, Ca.-startup also sells its mugs on Amazon, where 186 customers have now assigned them a collective 3.5 stars out of five.

Altogether, the company, whose mugs also can be purchased at its site, says it has sold more than 20,000 mugs so far.

It has also inspired at least one new player, a company in Salt Lake City that recently turned to Kickstarter to raise funds for its own heated smart mug, called The Jül.

Ember isn’t breaking out who joined its most recent financing, though it has said in the past that its investors include StubHub CEO Scott Cutler, eBay chief product officer RJ Pitman, singers Demi Lovato and Drew Taggart of The Chainsmokers, and Robert Brunner, chief designer of Beats by Dre and the former head of design at Apple.

According to L.A. Biz, the company plans to use some of that fresh capital to expand its product set, including building a temperature-controlled baby bottle, chilled water bottles and dinner plates that can be made to stay warm.

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Apple Releases iOS 11.1.1 To Fix Annoying “I” Autocorrect Bug

iOS 11.1.1 is here, and it comes with a small but important update: a fix for the strange autocorrect bug in iOS 11.1 that has been automatically changing the letter “I” to “A [?]” for some users.




Apple had previously recommended using Text Replacement as a manual workaround so that users could type the letter “I” again, but it seems things are finally back to normal again with the new update.

Along with the autocorrect fix, the update also fixes an issue where “Hey Siri” voice recognition stopped working.

iOS 11.1.1 is available to download now.

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Razer’s First Smartphone Won’t Have A Headphone Jack

Razer has unveiled its first smartphone, the Razer Phone, designed to handle high performance games and stream high resolution movies.

The company revealed the phone during an event in London, which it had previously teased last Oct. 11.




The Razer Phone boasts a few remarkable specs, including:

  • 120 Hz UltraMotion screen, Dolby ATMOS
  • THX certified audio
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • 12MP dual cameras
  • 4,000 mAh battery for all-day power.

The one thing Razer’s Phone doesn’t have, however, is a 3.5mm headphone jack.

CNET reports that a USB-C to 3.5mm headphone adapter dongle will be come with the phone. The phone will also only be available through a GSM network, like AT&T or T-Mobile.

Razer’s foray into the smartphone business shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering that in January, the company purchased Nextbit, maker of the storage-focused, cloud-based phone, the Nextbit Robin.

Production on the Robin came to a halt following the acquisition.

The Razer Phone will be released on Nov. 17 for $700. The Phone can be purchased directly from Razer or Amazon.

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Google’s Getting Serious About Building Its Own iPhone

Google unveiled its first custom-designed smartphone chip on Tuesday, the Pixel Visual Core, which is used in its new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones.

The Pixel Visual Core enables smartphones to take better pictures using HDR+, a technology that can take clear pictures even if there’s a lot of brightness and darkness in the same shot.




One example might be taking a picture of a shadowy skyscraper against a bright blue sky.

With HDR+, you’ll be able to capture both the skyscraper and the blue sky, without bits of either washing out because of parts of the image being too bright or too dark.

While the chip exists in current phones, it isn’t yet activated, but will be in a future software release.

The Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2 aren’t the first smartphones to offer HDR support, but Google is trying to make its photos the best using the new processor.

Google said that the Pixel Visual Core will be accessible by camera applications created by other developers, not just the built-in camera app, and that it plans to activate access to the core through software updates “in the coming months.

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Inside The Shop Of The Last Great American Watchmaker

On the corner of a nondescript block in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is a bank, or what used to be a bank. Now it is the home of Roland G. Murphy Watch Company, the country’s only truly independent elite watchmaker.

Inside, Murphy’s son-in-law, Adam Robertson, is bent over an old watchmaker’s drill press that looks like it was made during the Korean War.

He uses an abrasive bit to create burnished, circular perlage on the underside of the main plate of the watch movement.

He is focused and unmoving, his attention riveted to the plate, whose decoration no one will ever see.

Later he’ll hand-polish the bevels of screw holes on the tiny bridge that holds the wheel-train gears in place.

High-end watchmaking has not, for the most part, always been something you find in Amish country. Or, for that matter, in the United States.

Typically, if you go looking for horological greatness, the kind of virtuosic craftsmanship associated with the greatest watchmakers, you go to Switzerland.




If you are looking for scrapple, you go to Pennsylvania. But Murphy, the 53-year-old owner and sole proprietor of the watchmaking company that bears his name, is the exception.

Like some of the small European companies directed by a single watchmaker, RGM makes fewer than 300 watches a year.

In contrast, the brands worshipped by most enthusiasts—Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin—produce tens of thousands a year. Rolex produces 2,000 a day.

Of course, Rolex doesn’t operate in a space that looks more like an Elks Lodge than a watch manufacturer, with a collection of vintage cameras filling shelf after shelf, along with various other mementos.

But then Murphy himself doesn’t fit the bill of a classic watchmaker. Burly, and with a thick head of salt-and-pepper hair and a bushy moustache to match, he looks more like a Pop Warner football coach.

Like most watchmakers, he started out doing repairs, and found himself drawn to the silent, obsessive work of creating tiny universes of absolute order.

After a few years of working on clocks, he found his way to Switzerland, where he made the horological equivalent of the leap into the big leagues: training at the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program, the Swiss watch industry’s official certification program in Neuchâtel.

Not long afterward Murphy landed at Hamilton Watch Company, where he eventually rose to an executive development position.

Hamilton, it ought to be noted, is a famous American watch brand.

But the dirty secret of nearly all American watch brands, Murphy’s excepted, is that they are either owned by the Swatch Group outright or utilize movements built and exported by one of its subsidiaries.

Most of the American watch companies you’ve heard about are using Swiss movements and Chinese casings.

And none even tries to produce the kind of arcane complications—a whirling tourbillon that compensates for gravity, say, or a precision moon-phase subdial—associated with the Patek Philippes and Jaeger-LeCoultres of the world.

RGM makes what are by far the most intricate and ambitious timepieces produced in the United States. But they aren’t just clones of Swiss watches either. They’re inspired by the tough, durable railroad watches of industrial America.

The paradox, of course, is that this rugged practicality is actually pure poetry. A $40 Casio G-Shock keeps more accurate time than a Breguet; a hot-pink Swatch a fourth-grader wears in the pool is more reliable than a watch that costs more than her home.

When you think about it, there’s no reason for anyone to create in-house movements for an American watch. Murphy’s quixotic commitment to craftsmanship has no value to anyone but an equally idealistic buyer.

Nowhere is this clearer than in Murphy’s masterpiece, the Pennsylvania Tourbillon. A mechanical watch, no matter how perfectly made, is affected slightly by gravity.

The rhythm of its escapement, the part of the movement that regulates timekeeping, varies slightly based on how the watch is positioned.

Not that anybody other than watchmakers would care or even notice. But the gravity problem stymied them, and so in 1801, Abraham-Louis Breguet patented a rotating cage to suspend the escapement, freeing it from the effects of gravity.

Two bridges hold the tourbillon cage in place. Murphy and his master watchmaker, Benoît Barbé, bore tiny holes in the bridges to mount the escape wheel, pallet, and balance.

They friction-fit a gold ring inside each hole and a jewel into each ring.

The 90-degree angle of the drilling, the depth of the holes, and the ring-and-jewel fittings must be precise to ensure the perfect relative positioning of the parts.

The slightest variation would ruin the mechanism.

The completed tourbillon turns 360 degrees once per minute, driven by a tiny spring coiled around the central axis. All of this work, by the way, can only be done by hand.

A few of the parts can be machined, but even those parts are usually made by equipment the two men created themselves.

Murphy doesn’t build watches for himself or his buyer. He builds for an ideal: that things should always be better than what’s necessary.

We don’t design on the limit,” Murphy says.

Think about the Brooklyn Bridge. How much weight do you think it had to bear when they built it? Some horse carriages? Some pedestrians?

Today there are giant semi trucks going over it all day, and it supports that weight because it wasn’t designed to the limit.

That’s something we take pride in.” And it’s something you won’t find anywhere else in America.

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This Solar Inflatable Lantern And Phone Charger Is Perfect For Outdoor Adventures

LuminAid

The PackLite Max Phone Charger is solar inflatable lantern & phone charger. It packs flat and inflates into a lightweight, waterproof, 150 lumen lantern.




Perfect for emergency use when the power goes out, camping, task light, as a night light, or phone charger – the LuminAID PackLite Max Phone Charger will replace all those bulky lanterns and flashlights you have around the house.

LuminAID invented solar inflatable technology based on a simple idea: inflating diffuses the light, similar to a lantern, and protects your eyes from harsh glare.

LuminAid

It twists flat to less than 1″ thick and inflates into a 6″ cube. Lightweight, portable, waterproof, and super bright– what else do you need?

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