Gadgets, Game & Mobile News

Facebook and Sphero team up to offer coding robots to schools

Engadget - Tue, 2018-09-25 18:03
Facebook has announced a new initiative that aims to teach coding skills to more school kids. Targeting primarily underrepresented student groups — such as Black, Latino/Hispanic, Native American and female demographics — CodeFWD will all...

See the new iPhone’s ‘focus pixels’ up close

TechCrunch - Tue, 2018-09-25 17:44

The new iPhones have excellent cameras, to be sure. But it’s always good to verify Apple’s breathless onstage claims with first-hand reports. We have our own review of the phones and their photography systems, but teardowns provide the invaluable service of letting you see the biggest changes with your own eyes — augmented, of course, by a high-powered microscope.

We’ve already seen iFixit’s solid-as-always disassembly of the phone, but TechInsights gets a lot closer to the device’s components — including the improved camera of the iPhone XS and XS Max.

Although the optics of the new camera are as far as we can tell unchanged since the X, the sensor is a new one and is worth looking closely at.

Microphotography of the sensor die show that Apple’s claims are borne out and then some. The sensor size has increased from 32.8mm2 to 40.6mm2 — a huge difference despite the small units. Every tiny bit counts at this scale. (For comparison, the Galaxy S9 is 45mm2, and the soon-to-be-replaced Pixel 2 is 25mm2.)

The pixels themselves also, as advertised, grew from 1.22 microns (micrometers) across to 1.4 microns — which should help with image quality across the board. But there’s an interesting, subtler development that has continually but quietly changed ever since its introduction: the “focus pixels.”

That’s Apple’s brand name for phase detection autofocus (PDAF) points, found in plenty of other devices. The basic idea is that you mask off half a sub-pixel every once in a while (which I guess makes it a sub-sub-pixel), and by observing how light enters these half-covered detectors you can tell whether something is in focus or not.

Of course, you need a bunch of them to sense the image patterns with high fidelity, but you have to strike a balance: losing half a pixel may not sound like much, but if you do it a million times, that’s half a megapixel effectively down the drain. Wondering why all the PDAF points are green? Many camera sensors use an “RGBG” sub-pixel pattern, meaning there are two green sub-pixels for each red and blue one — it’s complicated why. But there are twice as many green sub-pixels and therefore the green channel is more robust to losing a bit of information.Apple introduced PDAF in the iPhone 6, but as you can see in TechInsights’ great diagram, the points are pretty scarce. There’s one for maybe every 64 sub-pixels, and not only that, they’re all masked off in the same orientation: either the left or right half gone.

The 6S and 7 Pluses saw the number double to one PDAF point per 32 sub-pixels. And in the 8 Plus, the number is improved to one per 20 — but there’s another addition: now the phase detection masks are on the tops and bottoms of the sub-pixels as well. As you can imagine, doing phase detection in multiple directions is a more sophisticated proposal, but it could also significantly improve the accuracy of the process. Autofocus systems all have their weaknesses, and this may have addressed one Apple regretted in earlier iterations.

Which brings us to the XS (and Max, of course), in which the PDAF points are now one per 16 sub-pixels, having increased the frequency of the vertical phase detection points so that they’re equal in number to the horizontal one. Clearly the experiment paid off and any consequent light loss has been mitigated or accounted for.

I’m curious how the sub-pixel patterns of Samsung, Huawei and Google phones compare, and I’m looking into it. But I wanted to highlight this interesting little evolution. It’s an interesting example of the kind of changes that are hard to understand when explained in simple number form — we’ve doubled this, or there are a million more of that — but which make sense when you see them in physical form.

Trump administration suggests firmer controls on data privacy

Engadget - Tue, 2018-09-25 17:44
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has laid out the Trump administration's approach to bolstering data privacy. The agency is seeking to strike a balance between increased consumer protection and affording companies...

Former Telltale Games employee sues company after mass layoffs - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2018-09-25 17:21
The plaintiff alleges the video game studio violated labor laws.

Switch Online cloud saves last six months after your subscription ends

Engadget - Tue, 2018-09-25 17:21
When Nintendo launched Switch Online, it raised more than a few alarm bells over its attitude toward cloud saves. Based on the FAQ, your saved games would vanish from the internet the moment your membership expired. Not much of a safety net, is it? T...

Uber wins legal victory against drivers who want employee benefits - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2018-09-25 17:16
Drivers have to settle with the ride-hailing giant individually.

Face scanning in US airports is rife with technical problems

Engadget - Tue, 2018-09-25 17:02
If you've had misgivings about the effectiveness of Homeland Security's airport face scanning (let alone the privacy implications), you're not alone. The department's Inspector General has issued a report warning that the scanning system is struggli...

Watch Will Smith's Grand Canyon helicopter bungee jump at 6 PM ET

Engadget - Tue, 2018-09-25 16:38
Of all the things you could possibly be doing on a Tuesday afternoon, watching a live stream of Will Smith bungee jumping out of a helicopter is probably not among the worst. Oh, and he's doing the stunt over the Grand Canyon on his 50th birthday. No...

Fujifilm's rotating lens projector adjusts to your viewing space

Engadget - Tue, 2018-09-25 16:13
If you need to adjust your projector to get a better picture or beam to a different part of the room, you don't have many choices -- you might only have slight adjustments to the lens itself, and might have to move the entire projector in some cases....

Big cameras and big rivalries take center stage at Photokina

TechCrunch - Tue, 2018-09-25 16:05

Photokina is underway in London and the theme of the show is “large.” Unusually for an industry that is trending towards the compact, the cameras on stage at this show sport big sensors, big lenses, and big price tags. But though they may not be for the average shooter, these cameras are impressive pieces of hardware that hint at things to come for the industry as a whole.

The most exciting announcement is perhaps that from Panasonic, which surprised everyone with the S1 and S1R, a pair of not-quite-final full frame cameras that aim to steal a bit of the thunder from Canon and Nikon’s entries into the mirrorless full frame world.

Panasonic’s cameras have generally had impressive video performance, and these are no exception. They’ll shoot 4K at 60 FPS, which in a compact body like that shown is going to be extremely valuable to videographers. Meanwhile the S1R, with 47 megapixels to the S1’s 24, will be optimized for stills. Both will have dual card slots (which Canon and Nikon declined to add to their newest gear), weather sealing, and in-body image stabilization.

Nikon embraces a mirrorless future with Z series cameras and lenses

The timing and inclusion of so many desired features indicates either that Panasonic was clued in to what photographers wanted all along, or they waited for the other guys to move and then promised the things their competitors wouldn’t or couldn’t. Whatever the case, the S1 and S1R are sure to make a splash, whatever their prices.

Panasonic was also part of an announcement that may have larger long-term implications: a lens mount collaboration with Leica and Sigma aimed at maximum flexibility for the emerging mirrorless full-frame and medium format market. L-mount lenses will work on any of the group’s devices (including the S1 and S1R) and should help promote usage across the board.

Leica, for its part, announced the S3, a new version of its medium format S series that switches over to the L-mount system as well as bumping a few specs. No price yet but if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.

Sigma had no camera to show, but announced it would be taking its Foveon sensor tech to full frame and that upcoming bodies would be using the L mount as well.

This Fuji looks small here, but it’s no lightweight. It’s only small in comparison to previous medium format cameras.

Fujifilm made its own push on the medium format front with the new GFX 50R, which sticks a larger than full frame (but smaller than “traditional” medium format) sensor inside an impressively small body. That’s not to say it’s insubstantial: Fuji’s cameras are generally quite hefty, and the 50R is no exception, but it’s much smaller and lighter than its predecessor and, surprisingly, costs $2,000 less at $4,499 for the body.

The theme, as you can see, is big and expensive. But the subtext is that these cameras are not only capable of extraordinary imagery, but they don’t have to be enormous to do it. This combination of versatility with portability is one of the strengths of the latest generation of cameras, and clearly Fuji, Panasonic and Leica are eager to show that it extends to the pro-level, multi-thousand dollar bodies as well as the consumer and enthusiast lineup.

Uber pledges to cap trip pricing during major emergencies

Engadget - Tue, 2018-09-25 15:54
Today, Uber outlined a new set of guidelines regarding how the company will respond in the event of a crisis, such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack. The company's Global Security Center (GSC) monitors conditions in every area that Uber opera...

Hennessey's 700-hp Goliath 6X6 is a rolling Lee Greenwood song - Roadshow

CNET News - Tue, 2018-09-25 15:37
'Cause there ain't no doubt, I love (driving over) this land (at speed).

Facebook pulls over a dozen political pages tied to fake accounts

Engadget - Tue, 2018-09-25 15:33
Facebook isn't just removing fake political pages to thwart election meddling -- sometimes, it's just about culling spam. The social site has removed more than a dozen "hyperpartisan" pages across the political spectrum after learning that fake accou...

Facebook teams with Sphero to bring computer science to more schools - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2018-09-25 15:26
CodeFWD aims to increase the number of underrepresented and female students learning to code.

Verizon outage knocks out service across the US - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2018-09-25 15:20
States in the Northeast, Midwest and South are reportedly affected.

Would you spend 30 hours in a coffin to win $300? - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2018-09-25 15:19
You might think a coffin is the last thing you need, but if you can hang out in one for just 30 hours, you can win big.

NASA spots still-silent Opportunity rover on Mars - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2018-09-25 15:12
NASA's eye-in-the-sky orbiter snaps a distant look at the dusty rover.

Google discusses privacy regulation ahead of Senate hearing

Engadget - Tue, 2018-09-25 15:12
On Wednesday, a number of tech companies, including Apple, AT&T, Amazon, Twitter and Charter, will discuss data privacy before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Google will be there as well, represented by its new chie...

Solo: A Star Wars Story now on Blu-ray, Digital HD: Every way to watch - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2018-09-25 15:09
Han Solo's origin movie is ready for home viewing.

Court rules Uber can force drivers into arbitration over pay, benefits

Engadget - Tue, 2018-09-25 14:47
Uber drivers hoping to be treated as employees may have to go it alone. A federal appeals court in San Francisco has overturned a ruling that would have allowed drivers to pursue their case as a class action lawsuit instead of going through individu...