Apple Shares Behind the Scenes Look at How the Portrait Lighting Feature Was Created

Apple this evening uploaded a new “Portrait Lighting” video to its YouTube channel, which is designed to give a behind the scenes look at how the Portrait Lighting effects on the iPhone X were created.

Take a look behind the iPhone X and discover the process we went through to create Portrait Lighting. Combining timeless lighting principles with advanced machine learning, we created an iPhone that takes studio-quality portraits without the studio.

In the video, Apple explains that it worked with global image makers and some of the world’s best photographers to combine timeless lighting principles with machine learning techniques.

The result was the Portrait Lighting feature available in Portrait Mode on the iPhone X and the iPhone 8 Plus. On iPhone X, Portrait Lighting is available for both the front and rear facing cameras thanks to the TrueDepth camera system, while on iPhone 8 Plus, it’s available for shots captured with the rear camera.

Apple’s Portrait Lighting feature is designed to use sophisticated algorithms to calculate how your facial features interact with light, creating unique lighting effects.

There are several Portrait mode lighting presets, including Natural Light, Studio Light (lights up your face), Contour Light (adds dramatic shadows), Stage Light (spotlights your face against a dark background), and Stage Light Mono (Stage Light, but in black and white).

Apple has also highlighted Portrait Lighting in several past video ads showing off iPhone X features.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
Buyer’s Guide: iPhone X (Buy Now)

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Abstract iPhone wallpapers created by Facebook’s design team

In a continued series of abstract, vivid color wallpapers for iPhone, I am excited to present a secret set of iPhone wallpapers, as designed by the Facebook UI team. Updated on December 12, 2017, Facebook created an iOS 11 GUI guide, including seven gorgeous iPhone wallpapers. We are excited to offer them to you today!… Read the rest of this post here

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Apple Orders TV Drama Created by La La Land’s Damien Chazelle

Apple has ordered a straight-to-series TV drama created by filmmaker Damien Chazelle, known for award-winning films La La Land and Whiplash.

While Chazelle will reportedly write and direct every episode of the new TV series, other details about the show — like its plot and cast — are being kept secret for now, according to a Thursday story by Variety.

Chazelle will also serve as executive producer of the show, along with Jordan Horowitz and Fred Berger — also known for their work on La La Land.

La La Land is, of course, Chazelle’s most recent and arguably his best-known work. It won six Academy Awards last year, including winning Best Director for Chazelle and Best Actress for Emma Stone, and also broke records when it received seven Golden Globe Awards. Chazelle’s previous film, Whiplash, also earned a slew of awards, including five Academy Award nominations and three wins.

The Apple TV Series is also Chazelle’s second foray into TV. He recently signed on to direct several episodes for an upcoming Netflix original musical drama called The Eddy. Other than that, Chazelle is working on a Neil Armstrong biopic titled First Man that will star Ryan Gosling.

But Chazelle is only the latest high-profile name to be added to the growing stable of Apple’s original TV content.

Earlier this month, Apple landed a 10-episode comedy series starring Saturday Night Live alumni and Bridesmaids star Kristen Wiig. Just in January, in fact, the Cupertino tech giant also ordered a true crime series starring Hidden Figures’ Octavia Spencer and a sci-fi drama from the director of The Hunger Games.

Other Apple shows on the docket include an untitled morning show drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, a reboot of Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi series Amazing Stories, and a documentary series focused on amazing houses called Home.

All of these are obvious indications of Apple’s aggressive expansionism into the original content market. But the appearance of many high-profile names and all-star talent speaks to the company’s larger ambitions to create a variety of high-quality, prestige TV content.

At this point, it’s currently unknown how Apple will distribute its original content — although it stands to reason that it could debut the shows on Apple Music or iTunes.

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Redditors are still fapping to fake celebrity porn created by AI

About six weeks ago we shared with you a Motherboard report about Redditors getting their jollies off to fake celebrity porn created by artificial intelligence. It started with a rather small community of redditors using a face swap algorithm that trained AI to match the expressions of pornstars with your favorite celebrity likeness. By attempting to match specific facial queues from training material (usually freely available images or video of celebrities) to source material (porn, mostly) the AI could create a believable representation of your favorite celebrities starring in ad hoc pornography. At the time, we saw believable but not-quite-convincing…

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The Next Web

Former Apple designer recalls how some of the more popular iPhone emojis were created

iPhone Emojis

For as often as iPhone users make use of emojis, it’s easy to forget that the standard emoji keyboard we’ve come to know and love didn’t make its official debut on the iPhone until iOS 5 debuted back in 2011. Since then, Apple has steadily increased the selection of available emojis while also taking steps to make them more diverse. And while Apple certainly isn’t the only platform to feature an impressive array of emojis, I think it’s fair to say that Apple’s emoji designs are far more creative and detailed than what one has historically seen on platforms like Google and Twitter, as illustrated by this 2014 piece in the Huffington Post.

Recently, Angela Guzman — one of the designers responsible for many of the iPhone’s original emojis — published an interesting piece on Medium detailing the work that went into creating iconic emjois that have undoubtedly been used innumerable times over the past few years.

Currently a designer at Google, Guzman back in 2008 was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design (RSID) when she landed a summer internship at Apple. While there, her first project was to create the iPhone’s first set of emoji designs.

Guzman was subsequently assigned a mentor who taught her the ins and outs of sophisticated and elegant icon design. With the proper foundation in place, Guzman got to work and began cranking out nearly 500 emojis. And as is typical for Apple, Guzman sweated every single detail when crafting the emojis.

My first emoji was the engagement ring, and I chose it because it had challenging textures like metal and a faceted gem, tricky to render for a beginner. The metal ring alone took me an entire day. Pretty soon, however, I could do two a day, then three, and so forth. Regardless of how fast I could crank one out, I constantly checked the details: the direction of the woodgrain, how freckles appeared on apples and eggplants, how leaf veins ran on a hibiscus, how leather was stitched on a football, the details were neverending. I tried really hard to capture all this in every pixel, zooming in and zooming out, because every detail mattered. And for three months I stared at hundreds of emoji on my screen. Somewhere in there we also had our first Steve Jobs review, which had created a shared experience of suspense and success when they were approved for launch. And if Steve said it was good to go, I’d say lesson in craftsmanship, check.

There are a number of quirky and entertaining details in Guzman’s post that are worth mentioning. For instance, the shape of the happy poop swirl doubles as the top of the ice cream cone emoji. As another example, Guzman relays that she saved some of the more difficult emojis for last, with the iconic dancing woman with the red dress being one such example.

Guzman’s recap of her time crafting emojis at Apple is a great read, with the full story available here.

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Physicists Have Created a Set of Conditions in Which Time Seems to Run in Reverse

While we all take for granted the fact that time’s arrow forever points towards the future, physicists have always had trouble showing why this is necessarily the case.

A mix of chloroform and acetone might seem like an odd place to hunt for clues, but researchers have used just such a combination to create conditions where for some purposes time actually appears to move backwards.

This research won’t take us on a journey to see dinosaurs, but it just might tell us why our Universe is stuck on a one way street.

The recent experiment conducted by an international team of physicists focused on a principal feature we often use to define time — the movement of energy.

Intuitively, time is pretty simple. We can remember the past and not the future, for example.

But when breaking things down into simple rules, we discover there’s no clear reason why a cause has to come before its effect. On the smallest levels, we can flip the formula describing the movements and interactions of particles and still get a useful picture.

So why doesn’t time wobble back and forth?

A clue lies in something called entropy. In a system cut off from gaining energy — such as our Universe — things tend to go from ordered to disordered, giving large scale systems a bias in how energy is distributed.

In terms of the laws of thermodynamics, that means you can’t put a hot object in a cold room and expect the room to get colder and the object to get hotter. Hot things tend to cool down.

Even if this doesn’t tell us exactly why time exists, thermodynamics gives us a sloping direction to investigate.

Various experiments have shown that, even on a quantum level, particles will generally behave in a way that’s dependent on initial starting conditions. In other words, they’re moving forward.

Are there limits to this generalization? Apparently so, at least according to the results of this experiment.

The team looked at chloroform, a molecule made up of a carbon atom connected to one hydrogen and three chlorine atoms.

The researchers used a strong magnetic field to line up the nuclei of the carbon and hydrogen atoms when the molecules were suspended in acetone, and manipulated a property of their particles called spin.

This allowed them to ‘listen in’ on their behavior as they slowly heated the nuclei using nuclear magnetic resonance.

Playing by the rulebook of time, as one nucleus warms up it should transfer its random movements to colder particles until they’re both the same temperature, a change that would be recognisable in their respective energy states.

In normal conditions, that’s exactly what happened. But the researchers found a rather intriguing exception when the particles were correlated.

This means certain probabilities became locked together over a distance thanks to previous interactions, a little like a softer version of quantum entanglement.

The particle correlation made a significant difference to how energy was shared between the bodies — the heated hydrogen particles got even hotter, while their colder entangled carbon partner got colder.

In other words, the study revealed the thermodynamic equivalent of reversing time in a very tiny pocket of the Universe.

“We observe a spontaneous heat flow from the cold to the hot system,” the team writes in the study.

The research was published on the pre-review website, which means we do need to be cautious in how we interpret the results.

And, to be clear, the work is limited to a very small scale — it won’t give us a flux capacitor we can use to swing back to the ’60s. But it does show the arrow of time isn’t absolute.

The demonstration also provides promising details on where quantum mechanics and thermodynamics overlap, which is itself an exciting brave new world physicists are still teasing apart.

On a practical level it shows how heat can be channeled in strange ways using the rules of quantum physics, which could have some interesting technical applications.

Exactly how these observations scale up from tiny to macroscopic systems the size of a Universe is something for future experiments to investigate.

In any case, it could help fill in some of the gaps in understanding why the dimension of time leans so heavily in one direction.

You can read the study on the pre-print server

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Synthetic Rhino Horns Are Being Created to Flood Markets and Eradicate Poaching

Cheating the Black Market

Since 2007, instances of rhino poaching in South Africa have increased by 9,000 percent, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The non-profit conservation group Save the Rhino estimates that 1,054 of the animals were illegally killed in 2016. To battle this horrifying trend, biotech startup Pembient hopes to undermine black market sales by creating synthetic rhino horns that are practically indistinguishable from real horns, down to the molecular level.

Image credit: Eric Kilby/Flickr
Image credit: Eric Kilby/Flickr

Pembient CEO and co-founder Matthew Markus thinks flooding the market with these synthetic rhino horns will be more effective than simply trying to stop rhino poaching.

“If you cordon rhino horn off, you create this prohibition mindset,” he told Business Insider. “And that engenders crime, corruption, and everything else that comes with a black market.” He hopes that by increasing the overall supply of horns, his company’s synthetic horns will lower the incentive for poachers to kill rhinos for real ones.

Unintended Effect

In part, rhino horns are popular thanks to their perceived medical benefits. Practitioners of traditional Asian medicine use powdered rhino horn for everything from hangover cures to cancer treatments. However, rhino horns are composed primarily of keratin, the same substance that makes up the hair on your head. A tea made from the clippings found on the floor of your local barbershop likely has the same healing properties as one of these horns.

Despite the lack of evidence that rhino horns live up to the medicinal hype, however, they are still in demand, and while conservation groups acknowledge Pembient’s good intentions, some fear the startup’s plans to produce synthetic rhino horns may inadvertently drive up the price of genuine rhino horns, making them even more desirable as a luxury item.

“On paper, the idea of flooding the market with ‘easy access’ horns in order to reduce demand is a good one,” Sophie Stafford, Communications Manager for Rhino Conservation Botswana (RCB), told Futurism. Unfortunately, it may not work so well in practice.

“While it may well have a short-term impact on a proportion of the consuming public, we know that discerning buyers in China and Vietnam are having rhino horn DNA tested,” said Stafford. “There will always be some people who will buy untested products, but demand for the ‘genuine article’ will drive up the price of authentic rhino horn.”

Furthermore, Stafford said the market is just too large: “Even if just one percent of the human population of east Asia wants real rhino horn and can afford it, that’s still more than 10 million people consuming rhino horn. That’s enough to drive rhinos to extinction.”

The dire circumstances of rhino conservation have led to solutions with serious ethical complications — some conservationists have even taken to poisoning rhino horns to make any humans who ingest the horns sick.

Even if such a drastic solution was effective, it would only deter the portion of the illegal market using the horns in medicine. It would do nothing to quell the continued sale of rhino horns for use as status symbols, either displayed whole or made into ornate artifacts and jewelry.

Conservationists are embracing the advent of new technologies to help them more effectively preserve these at-risk animals. Some are embedding rhino horns with cameras and GPS implants to deter or catch poachers. A more lofty venture will place robotic rhinos within herds to protect the population.

Any potentially helpful technologies that make it easier to protect rhinos from poachers should be considered. Still, conservationists will also want to make sure that any proposed changes do not have unintended consequences that will embolden these deplorable markets.

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