Snapchat’s iPhone X-exclusive Lenses look more realistic than usual

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Snapchat has discovered a way to leverage the power of iPhone X's TrueDepth camera — and that means you'll have access to exclusive Lenses if you use Apple's all-screen mobile device. Starting today, you'll see TrueDepth-enabled Lenses appear period…
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What’s More Dangerous Than a Human Driving a Car? A Bored Human Not Driving an AV.

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Here’s a catch-22 for the 21st century: Autonomous vehicles (AVs) will make roads safer by getting fallible human drivers out of the equation. But until AVs are safe enough, we need to rely on fallible human drivers to develop AVs.

In the interim, we might have introduced the most dangerous situation of all: bored humans who are supposed to be paying attention.

In the wake of the first AV-caused pedestrian death, we’re seeing just how big of a problem this can be. Last month, one of Uber’s self-driving cars struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. In video footage, the AV clearly doesn’t slow down before hitting the victim, Elaine Herzberg, which experts say could point to problems with Uber’s technology.

Not everyone is just blaming the tech, however. Uber’s AV had a human driver, Rafael Vasquez, behind the wheel at the time of the crash, and both AV experts and the victim’s family have criticized Vasquez for not doing enough to prevent it.

“The driver was eyes down most of the time, indicating complacency and not maintaining proper monitoring,” Missy Cummings, a professor of mechanical engineering and material science at Duke University, told the Wall Street Journal.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” Tina Marie Herzberg White, the victim’s stepdaughter, told the Guardian. “I can’t believe that the [driver] that was in the car did not see her.”

The Technologies That Power Self-Driving Cars [INFOGRAPHIC]
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But are they expecting too much from AV operators? Or are manufacturers not expecting enough?

One former Uber test driver pointed out the pressures of the position to the WSJ: “The computer is fallible, so it’s the human who is supposed to be perfect. It’s kind of the reverse of what you think about computers.”

Manufacturers expect AV operators to keep constant watch on the road and intervene if the vehicle is about to cause an accident or violate a traffic law. But if the human intervenes too soon, the system’s capabilities aren’t really tested, which draws the ire of engineers. There’s another catch-22 for you, and it’s one that could literally put human lives in harm’s way.

Adding to the general aura of stress around the whole thing: How the public responds to AVs.

AV operators told the WSJ pedestrians would purposely jump out in front of their vehicles to see if they’d stop. Some AV operators have even had people physically assault the cars. Your job might be stressful, but is it “people banging on your office window” stressful?

Oh, and when it’s not stressful, the job is boring. It’s hard enough for regular drivers to resist the urge to daydream. Now imagine resisting that urge when you have nothing to do but stare straight ahead at mile after mile of unspooling road.

So: the job of AV operator is both stressful and boring. But is it actually hard?

Not according to one former Waymo test driver. “It’s about being alert. If you can’t be alert for a few straight hours, then you’re not a very good driver,” they told the WSJ.

AV operators can earn between $ 20 and $ 25 per hour, too, well above the minimum wage in the U.S. With a pretty short list of requirements, the candidate pool should be fairly large then, right? So why was Vasquez, who has multiple traffic citations on his record, operating Uber’s AV?

Apparently, a flawless driving record wasn’t one of Uber’s requirements for employment.

Maybe that’ll change in the wake of fatal incident. But still, it won’t solve the catch-22 we’re currently stuck in. The only way out seems to be that AVs get a lot better, real quick.

The post What’s More Dangerous Than a Human Driving a Car? A Bored Human Not Driving an AV. appeared first on Futurism.

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Spotify claims it actually had a better Weeknd than Apple Music

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Yesterday, The Verge reported that The Weeknd’s latest album, My Dear Melancholy, had a very strong debut on Apple Music, pulling in 26 million streams in the first 24 hours. The lead single, “Call Out My Name” pulled in an additional 6 million streams, surpassing the 3.5 million streams the single pulled in on Spotify during the same period, according to The Weeknd’s label, Republic Records.

Obviously that would be a huge win for Apple Music given that it has around 120 million less users than Spotify, didn’t have two exclusive music videos from the project, and didn’t have The Weeknd promoting its service.

But there’s a twist! Spotify says the numbers it initially gave Republic Records were in fact wrong. “Call Out My Name” was…

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Google now purchases more renewable energy than it consumes as a company

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Google announced in a blog post that it now purchases more renewable energy than it consumes as a company. Google began these efforts in 2017, with the goal of purchasing as much renewable energy as it uses across its 13 data centers and all of its office complexes.

To be clear, Google is not powering all of its energy consumption with renewable energy. It’s matching what it consumes with equal amounts of purchased renewable energy. For every kilowatt-hour of electricity consumed, it buys a kilowatt-hour from a wind or solar farm built specifically for Google. The company says that its total purchase of energy from sources like wind and solar now exceeds the amount of electricity used by its operations.

Google says it currently has…

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IoT Adoption Is Weaker Than It Should Be

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Never underestimate the fickleness of a tech enthusiast. Drop $ 100 on an Amazon Echo? No problem. Pay about half that for a smart lightbulb like LIFX Color? Not a chance.

Frankly, price isn’t the reason only one in 10 households is connected via the Internet of Things. Rather, Gartner’s 2016 survey found that 75 percent of consumers are content to leave their recliners to manually adjust the thermostat or blinds. Give up Alexa? No way — Americans love their smart speakers, with 42 percent calling them “essential” for daily life. Yet they’re indifferent to the many IoT innovations that make smart speakers worthwhile.

So what’s going on? Are Americans no longer dreaming of the Jetsons-esque future they once were? Or are tech firms simply struggling to get the word out about their IoT offerings?

Well, considering that tech companies sink more of their revenues into marketing than those in any other sector, the issue isn’t consumer unawareness. In fact, it’s a trio of issues — clumsy integrations with the user’s life, lacking data security and privacy protections, and dubious value propositions — that can’t be solved simply by boosting budgets or buying ads. To up the adoption ante, IoT firms need to learn some important lessons in product design and consumer protection.

Making IoT Adoption a No-Brainer, Not a Migraine

Part of the reason Americans aren’t adopting IoT devices en masse is that IoT integrations take work. A “Star Trek”-worthy home simply isn’t a priority for a young mother chasing down sleep, no matter how much she loves technology.

Instead of removing barriers for that mother — “eliminating the jump,” so to speak — most IoT companies expect her to wade through jargon, create new accounts, and fumble with supposedly cooperative interfaces. Part of this is inherent to IoT products, which must coordinate with other software or hardware, but the bottom line is that consumers crave simplicity.

Unsurprisingly, the tech companies that make adoption easiest tend to be the ones with the most adopted products. Everyone uses Google products, for example, because they play so well together. When I ask Google Home to add events to my calendar, I love that it also pushes reminders to my phone or smartwatch. It’s seamless, smart, and hype-worthy.

Expect IoT companies to become better at fueling the hype engine. Not only will they learn to master the “efficient handshake,” bringing easier-to-use products to market more efficiently, but they’ll tap tools like Kickstarter to secure buy-in from fans, creating trust through transparency and a sense of shared investment.

Putting Consumers in the Data Driver’s Seat

Even IoT companies that make adoption easy, however, face a trust barrier. Consumers have seen connected Jeeps hacked on the highway, cardiac implants compromised, baby monitors broken into, and more.

Although stronger device security is paramount to greater adoption, IoT companies must go a step further: They need to put consumers in control of their own data. People who’ve put their trust in an IoT company shouldn’t have to jump through hoops or pay to “request” their own data. And they certainly shouldn’t have to parse legal documents just to discover how the IoT company will share that data.

Right now, when an IoT user shares their information, they’re essentially surrendering it for sake of marketing. Customers avoid doing so because not only do they not benefit, but they also put their data at risk of being stolen or used against them later by an insurer, employer, or financier. The IoT world needs something akin to the restaurant and ride-sharing industries’ online rating systems. Both users and businesses in those sectors derive value from customers sharing their experiences.

Even IoT health and wellness companies, which have an even greater responsibility to be good data hosts than their peers, can’t claim to put users in control of their own data. Fitness tracking companies, including Fitbit, were caught flat-footed when InformationWeek reported that their accompanying apps leaked customer information and left the door open to data forgery. For Fitbit or any other IoT company, better data stewardship could be a real differentiator.

Distinguishing Between Distractions and Enhancements

Data protections, however, can’t solve the problem of gimmicky IoT products. Voice apps that work with Amazon Echo or Google Home may be cool, for example, but do consumers really need them? Evidently, consumers don’t think so, with just 3 percent of first-time users continuing to use the apps two weeks later.

That’s the ugly truth about many IoT devices: They just don’t solve a real consumer pain point. If more than one in 10 homes is to be connected to the IoT, then costly “smart home” products must do more than just dim the lights.

Take robot vacuums, which operate — and provide fodder for amusing cat videos — in 20 percent of homes. Even that isn’t a great adoption rate, considering how long they’ve been available, but there’s a reason they’re twice as common as connected homes. Everyone sees value in a machine that can autonomously pick up dust from his floors.

IoT is still a young market, but it needs to flush out the offerings destined to go nowhere. A simple safeguard is a “shoe first” strategy that allows stakeholders to try out prototypes. Tech firms tend to be great at prototyping for the stakeholders, but they all too often forget about consumers. Consumers tend to think about “cool” when testing a product, while stakeholders often consider things like adoption, data security, and iterative potential.

So is the world ready for the IoT? More so, I think, than today’s adoption numbers imply. The truth is that many IoT companies aren’t creating secure products with real value and customer data protections. The products that tick those boxes best are being adopted, but they’re in the minority. Until that changes, don’t expect IoT adoption rates to, either.

The post IoT Adoption Is Weaker Than It Should Be appeared first on ReadWrite.

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4 iPhone Apps That Make Retouching Photos Easier Than Ever

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Retouching has long been a standard practice in professional photography, but you don’t need to learn how to use Photoshop to make your selfies look better.

All you need is the right mobile photo retouching app and a bit of practice. The hardest part of retouching your headshot is knowing when to stop making adjustments.

In an endless sea of iPhone photo retouching apps, only these four are worth your time.

Advice on Using These Apps

You should feel free to edit and share your photos in any way you see fit. At the same time, you shouldn’t feel compelled to use photo retouching apps unless you really want to. Don’t let anyone tell you that your pictures don’t look good enough, or that using an app to edit a photo is inherently bad. It’s not.

With that in mind, some of these apps require a little more restraint to avoid results that can seem overdone. In particular, warping certain features will also affect background objects like straight lines. From a photo editing standpoint, the more natural and true to life your edits appear, the better.

Remember: how you choose to present yourself on social media is up to you, and only you. There’s a huge amount of pressure associated with the image we project on networks like Facebook and Instagram. This pressure has always existed in some form or another.

Though retouching apps emerged alongside this trend, that doesn’t mean they are inherently bad.

1. Best Premium Retouching App: Facetune

Facetune iPhone photo retouching app

It might not have been the first iPhone photo retouching app, but it’s arguably the best. Facetune includes a whole range of tools in one purpose-built package. It’s designed from the ground up to augment your facial features, and it’s yours for a one-off fee.

You won’t find a better assembly of tools for the job. You can whiten your teeth, smooth over your skin, highlight details like eyes, and correct blemishes with patch healing. There’s a liquify effect that allows you to reshape your features, plus skin tone adjustment, selective defocusing, and some built-in filters.

Facetune includes a tutorial for each tool, complete with video showing the effect in action. There are a ton of included pictures to try out, and not a single in-app purchase or subscription in sight. You can undo changes and preview the original image while you work.

Best of all, since Facetune holds your hand while performing edits, you don’t need to show quite as much restraint as you do with the other apps on the list. It’s harder to create a monster, but it’s still fun.

Download: Facetune ($ 4)

2. Best Free Retouching App: Photoshop Fix

Photoshop Fix iPhone photo retouching app

If you like the look of Facetune but aren’t into paying $ 4 for the privilege, Photoshop Fix is the app for you. This version of Photoshop isn’t quite as straightforward as Facetune is. You’ll need to learn how to use a few of the included tools before you put them to best use.

Adobe includes a good range of retouching tools, and you don’t need a Creative Cloud subscription to use any of them. The Lighten tool is great for teeth whitening, the Smooth tool makes light work of uneven skin, and correcting spots and blemishes is easy with the Healing brush.

The real standout feature is Adobe’s Liquify tool, which allows you to make subtle (and not-so-subtle) adjustments to your features. Use it to widen a smile or tuck your chin, but don’t go too far and keep an eye on any straight lines or objects in the background.

You’ll also get some handy basic photo editing tools, a saturation brush, selective defocusing, vignetting, and a standard paint brush. You’ll need a (free) Adobe account to use this one.

Download: Photshop Fix (Free)

3. Worth Consideration: Pixlr

Pixlr iPhone photo editor

Pixlr is a web-based photo editor, and this is the iOS version of that web app. It’s completely free, with no in-app purchases or restrictions. Like Photoshop Fix, this isn’t purpose-built face tuning software. You’ll be left to your own devices when applying edits.

There’s a brighten tool for whitening teeth and a darken tool to add contrast or deepen shadows. You can retouch skin with the smoothing tool and fix blemishes with the healing tool. There’s also a blur brush for selective defocusing, and red eye removal if ever you need it.

Since Pixlr is more of a general photo editor, you’ll also get some more standard tools that are great for all kinds of editing. You can add filters, overlays, or stylize your image with the included presets. There’s also a good number of frames and text effects, which might come in handy sometime.

Download: Pixlr (Free)

4. Worth Consideration: Photo Editor by Aviary

Photo Editor by Aviary iPhone photo editor

Aviary is an ordinary photo editor, but it includes a few tools which make it a perfect selfie-retouching app. The standout feature is a foolproof teeth whitener, but there’s also red eye correction, blemish removal, and selective defocusing too.

You can use the blur tool on skin with decent results, or sharpen eyes and other features to draw attention to them. Additionally, auto-enhance scene modes designed for night and portrait shots might help somewhat.

Unfortunately Aviary lacks a liquify tool, so you can’t make warp adjustments to your image. Combined with the full set of standard photo editing tools, though, Aviary is a great app to keep around.

Download: Aviary (Free)

Other iPhone Retouching Apps We Tried

There are a lot of photo retouching apps available on the App Store, but the vast majority aren’t worth your time. Most are free with in-app purchases, others use a credit system to limit free usage, and some even have a subscription model.

You’ll want to skip the freemium Facetune 2 since paying $ 4 for the standard version is a better deal. Microsoft’s two “enhanced” iOS cameras, Pix and Selfie, are lacking in features. ModiFace Photo Editor has not been optimized for larger iOS devices, so the interface is ugly.

That developer’s other app, Modiface Live, is better but ultimately more of a toy for trying out cosmetics than a serious photo tool. Facetune and Photoshop Fix remain the best options.

And don’t forget these tips for taking a great selfie!

iPhone and iPad – MakeUseOf

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Apple says male UK staff earn average of 5 percent more than women

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On average, men at Apple’s U.K. operations earn 5 percent more than women, the company revealed on Tuesday, a day ahead of a deadline for British companies over 250 people to disclose their gender gaps.
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iPhone X Lasts Longer Than Galaxy S9, Note 8 But Charges Slower, Reveals New Battery Test

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Here’s iPhone X Vs Galaxy S9 battery life test comparison. This report explores a battery test that reveals the iPhone X lasts longer than Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and S9+ whereas the latter charge faster than Apple’s offering.

[ Continue reading this over at RedmondPie.com ]

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Apple talks gender pay gap in the U.K., says men are paid more than women in the country

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Apple is pretty vocal about its stance on equality, often noting that everyone that works for Apple deserves equal pay, regardless of race or gender.

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Report: There will be more than 125m connected vehicles by 2022

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According to a new report, shipments of connected vehicles are expected to increase considerably over the next four years.

Counterpoint Research’s report forecasts a growth of 270 percent by 2022 to represent more than 125 million connected vehicles to be shipped from this year. As of 2017, the reporters found General Motors, BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz are currently leading the market.

All vehicles sold in Europe from April 2018 must be fitted with ‘eCall’ technology which automatically dials the 112 emergency number in the case of a serious accident. This will force all new cars sold in Europe to have at least a connected feature.

Hanish Bhatia, Senior Analyst for IoT & Mobility at Counterpoint, said:

“In terms of overall penetration, Germany, UK and US are leading the market at present with the highest percentage of total shipments with embedded connectivity sold in 2017.

Europe’s eCall mandate is expected to change the market dynamics with higher penetration across European countries. The adoption of eCall in Europe is expected to create ripples across other geographies thereby catalyzing the overall car connectivity ecosystem.”

Current implementations of connected vehicle services primarily use 2G/3G networks, but the market is moving quickly towards 4G.

Neil Shah, Research Director at Counterpoint Research, comments:

“We expect 4G LTE network to account for nearly 90% of connected passenger cars with embedded connectivity by 2022. Further, we expect 5G connectivity in cars to kick-in from 2020 onwards, however, the overall penetration is likely to remain low till 2022.

The progress on the levels of autonomous technology in a car will also dictate the usage of 4G or 5G technology embedded in the cars beyond 2022 when 5G coverage rollout becomes ubiquitous. Further, 5G NR (Standalone or SA) mode rollout which promises lower latencies will be critical for driving an inflection point in the commercialisation of autonomous cars later in the next decade.”

The uphill battle for automotive manufacturers will be convincing potential customers of the benefits of connected technologies. A recent study by Kantar TNS found that nearly half of connected car owners just don’tget’ the features at their disposal.

When asked what they want from their new car, most consumers will tell you ‘safety’ and ‘fuel economy’. Automotive manufacturers would do well to place a great emphasis on how connected features can help to improve these aspects of a new vehicle.

What are your thoughts on the connected car market? Let us know in the comments.

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