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Friday, March 9, 2018

Microsoft to unveil new Surface Hub 2 displays in coming months

March 09, 2018 0

Microsoft is currently working on a second generation of its Surface Hub, the company’s giant 55- and 84-inch 4K smart displays. “Surface Hub created an entirely new device category and we’re thrilled with the strong momentum we have seen across the globe,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. “We’re working on V2 and will share more in the first half of this year.”

The software giant is planning to unveil the Surface Hub 2 in the first half of 2018, but it’s not clear when the devices will be available for businesses to purchase. Microsoft is also working on a new operating system upgrade for existing Surface Hub devices, and the company is hoping to bring many of the Surface Hub 2 software features to the current models. Microsoft Teams integration will also be available on the Surface Hub in the coming months.

So why is Microsoft pre-announcing a Surface Hub 2 today? “I think for enterprises they might want to prep budget allocations,” says Carolina Milanesi, a tech analyst at Creative Strategies. “There has been quite a bit of focus from other vendors too on digital boards which gives enterprises an alternative.”
Google launched its own $5,000 digital whiteboard last year, pricing it $4,000 below Microsoft’s 55-inch Surface Hub. Microsoft’s 84-inch model is currently priced at $21,999. While these are expensive options, Microsoft has sold Surface Hubs to more than 5,000 businesses in 25 countries with more than half of Fortunte 100 companies owning a device. That makes Surface Hub more popular than any other Surface device for Microsoft’s enterprise customers.

Microsoft is anticipating that demand for Surface Hub will outstrip supply over the course of the year, and it seems like the company is struggling to manufacture these giant displays quickly enough. Microsoft closed its US manufacturing plant for the company’s Surface Hub last year, presumably to cut costs and speed up production elsewhere. Microsoft originally announced its Surface Hub at a special Windows 10 event in January 2015. The 4K displays were supposed to ship that year, but they didn’t end up in businesses until March 2016.

Expect to hear more about the Surface Hub 2 in the coming months. It’s unlikely that Microsoft will hold a dedicated event for the device, but it could appear in a potential Surface spring event if Microsoft is ready to unveil other Surface hardware. We’re not expecting Microsoft to unveil its Surface Hub 2 at the company’s Build developer conference, though.
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This cryptocurrency mining rig can also heat your home

March 09, 2018 0

Cryptocurrency mining takes a lot of energy, and anything that uses that much energy generates a lot of heat, which is why cooling systems are so important for computers using high-end graphics cards. But what if instead of cooling down your mining rig, you found another use for all that excess heat — like, say, heating your entire home?

Qarnot’s QC-1 “crypto heater” looks to do just that, combining a cryptocurrency mining rig with a wall-mounted radiator to heat your home and earn you some of that sweet, sweet digital money at the same time (via TechCrunch). While there’s a certain air of ridiculousness to this — how much more did cryptocurrency mining need to embed itself into your home? — there is also a certain amount of sense to the idea. Heaters are already one of the most expensive electrical devices in a home, and if you’re already spending the money to heat your home, you might as well make some of that back in cryptocurrency, right? It’s not the first time we’ve seen companies try to funnel excess heat from computing tasks into home heating, either: Dutch startup Nerdalize began a pilot program that used servers as heaters last year.

At the very least, the hardware might be one of the nicest radiators I’ve ever seen. It has a wooden top and matte-black finish that puts it miles ahead of the hulking cast iron monster in the corner of my apartment. The QC-1 is also said to be totally silent; there are no fans for cooling, of course, because that would defeat the entire purpose of the “heater” part of the idea.

According to Qarnot, the QC-1 has two Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 580 graphics cards that can mine at up to 60MH/s, which TechCrunch notes should be enough to make around $120 per month (€100) based on the current price of Ethereum. (That number doesn’t take into account the power usage from the QC-1, which the company hasn’t commented on.)

The company claims that the whole thing can be set up in under 10 minutes. You just plug in the QC-1 to power and Ethernet, add your Ethereum wallet address in a companion smartphone app, and you’re off to the races. You can also set up the QC-1 to mine other cryptocurrencies instead if you’re not an Ethereum fan. Users will be able to monitor mining progress through the app, as well as activate a “heating booster mode” that kicks the heat up beyond the usual level of heat generated from the mining for when temperatures drop.

The QC-1 costs €2,900 (roughly $3,570), and the company is taking preorders now. The first batch of devices set to ship out before June 20th.
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March 09, 2018 0

There are few self-styled “flying cars” that you can actually buy today: Terrafugia’s Transition and AeroMobil are two that immediately leap to mind. The Dutch-made PAL-V Liberty is another that purports to be the first commercially available flying car. A production-version was on-hand at the Geneva Motor Show this week for anyone looking for a break from the onslaught of supercars on display.

Using the term “flying car” to describe whatever this is seems fairly inaccurate. If anything, the PAL-V Liberty seems like a reasonably well-executed cross between a gyrocopter and a three-wheeled, Elio Motors-style vehicle. In other words, more Road Warrior than Blade Runner.
When it’s in road-going mode, it’s around the size of a small car. The vehicle has two separate engines, one for flight and one for the street; at 99 horsepower, which the company claims is enough to push the Liberty to a top road speed of 100 mph. With a tilting suspension and a maximum suggested weight of just one ton, however, it should still be entertaining on a winding road.

The PAL-V Liberty claims to be certified to fly under both the European Aviation Safety Agency and the US Federal Aviation Administration, and complies with road safety regulations, too. Naturally, you’ll still need a pilot’s license to fly it (and a driver’s license to drive it), and it needs a small airfield or airstrip to take off and land. It takes between five and 10 minutes to convert from flying to driving mode and vice versa.
Flying cars are having a moment right now, with major companies like Uber, Airbus, and Intel all throwing cash in the hopes of creating an aerial taxi service. But the Liberty doesn’t appear to be designed for any modern “mobility solution.” Rather it’s more of a throwback to what we thought flying cars should look like a decade ago, when we couldn’t conceive of electric motors being powerful enough for flight.
The prototypes that have garnered the most attention, from startups like Lilium, Volocopter, Ehang, and Vahana, have more in common with drones than cars, with autonomous features and multiple rotors powered by electric batteries. If anything, using “flying car” as a designator is passé — most experts in this space hate the phrase — while eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) is the preferred buzzword.

There are two versions of this flying car available for purchase today: the Pioneer version for $599,000, with a “unique” interior and exterior, and the sport edition for $399,000. PAL-V’s executives say that all the remaining certifications will be granted on the basis of the production model they are showing off in Geneva. “Once full certification is granted in 2019,” PAL-V CEO Robert Dingemanse said in a statement, “we will hand over the keys of the PAL-V Liberty to our first customers.”
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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Enhance Capabilities of Artificial Intelligence

March 08, 2018 0
Enhance Capabilities of Artificial Intelligence

A team of Researchers from the University of Leicester’s Department of arithmetic have revealed a paper within the journal Neural Networks outlining mathematical foundations for brand new algorithms capable of permitting AI to collect error reports and rectify them instantly while not worrisome existing skills - at constant time assembling corrections that can be used for updates or future versions.

This could primarily supply robots with the flexibility to correct errors promptly, effectively ‘learn’ from their errors while not injury to the data already noninheritable , and eventually share new data amongst themselves.Along with Industrial partners from ARM, the algorithms square measure integrated into a system, associate degree AI corrector, capable of enhancing performance of gift AIs on-the-fly (the technical report is may be obtained online).ARM is that the largest supplier of semiconductor science within the world and is that the design of alternative for over ninetieth of the good electronic product being engineered presently.Gorban conjointly explicit , “It appears to be terribly natural that humans will learn from their mistakes like a shot and don't repeat them (at least, the simplest of us). it's a giant downside a way to equip AI with this ability... it's tough to correct an oversized AI system on the fly, harder on shoe a horse at full gallop no end."“We have recently found that an answer to the present issue is feasible. during this work, we tend to demonstrate that in high dimensions and even for exponentially massive samples, linear classifiers in their classical Fisher's type square measure powerful enough to separate errors from correct responses with high chance and to produce economical resolution to the non-destructive corrector downside.” aforementioned Gorban.There is a frantic would like in a cheap, quick and native correction method that doesn't injury vital skills of the AI systems throughout the course of correction.Iterative techniques of machine learning for large information and big AI systems square measure ne'er economical and so the Researchers propose that the corrector ought to be non-iterative with the reversible correctors necessary to reconfigure and mix native corrections.The Researchers have discovered and incontestible random separation theorems which give tools for rectification of the massive intelligent information analytic systems.With this methodology, immediate learning in AI can be conceivable, providing AI with the flexibility to re-learn following miscalculation once miscalculation has transpired.The study has been partially supported by pioneer kingdom through data Transfer Partnership grants: KTP010522 between Visual Management Systems restricted and therefore the University of Leicester and KTP009890 between ARM/Apical Ltd and therefore the University of Leicester.The data Transfer Partnership (KTP) theme assists businesses to modernize and grow. It will this by connecting them with a University and a Graduate to undertake a particular project.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Airbus will test its Vahana electric ‘flying car’ by the end of 2017

November 13, 2017 0

Airbus is making progress on its new electric-powered vertical take-off and landing aircraft — colloquially (and incorrectly) known as a “flying car.” The European aerospace giant posted a series of photos today from its Vahana project, showing its team working on a pair of single-seat, tilt-rotor vehicles with a paint job that would make a Stormtrooper envious.

Airbus has said it wants to build a fleet of electric, autonomous, multirotor VTOL aircraft that can be used to fly from rooftop to rooftop in dense cities where traffic is often at a standstill. The project launched in early 2016 as one of the first pursuits of A³ (pronounced A-cubed), its Silicon Valley subsidiary. (Vahana is a Sanskrit word that refers to the vehicle or mount of a god.) Since then, the company has reported regular updates, including a concept video of the user experience.

In its post, the company says that a full-scale demonstrator is currently under production, with the goal of taking flight by the end of the year. The prototype was recently moved from California to a new flight test center in Pendleton, Oregon, where it will conduct its first demonstration. A³ has said it plans to have a production-ready version by 2020.

Airbus, which competes with the US-based Boeing, is best known for large jetliners like the double-decker A380. However, the flying car project shows that the Toulouse, France-based company is not above dabbling in some high-concept, and perhaps unrealistic, aviation ideas.
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Disney’s streaming service has won, and it hasn’t even launched yet

November 13, 2017 0

During The Walt Disney Company’s quarterly earnings call on November 9th, CEO Bob Iger casually dropped some news. The tidbit that made the biggest headlines was that the company had just closed a deal with writer-director Rian Johnson to create a new trilogy of movies in the Star Wars universe, giving Lucasfilm the kind of long-term pact with a single director that it’s arguably been missing since George Lucas handed over the keys in 2012.

But another comment may end up having a more significant impact — not just for Disney, but for the entertainment world at large. Iger announced that Disney is developing a series of original television shows for its upcoming video streaming service. They include a live-action Star Wars television series, a new Marvel show, and programs based on High School Musical and Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. franchise.

For those not paying attention, the news could have just been background noise — a few more TV shows in development somewhere in the bowels of Hollywood. But the comments really sounded like something else: Disney winning the online streaming service wars without firing a single shot.

That sounds like hyperbole, but to get a real sense of the gravity of this news, we need to take a step back and look at the larger dynamics of the streaming market. Once upon a time — way back in 2011, when Netflix first divorced its online streaming service from its legacy DVD business — the company’s focus was on library titles. Licensing deals with multiple studios and cable channels like Starz gave Netflix a wide selection of films and TV shows that made it seem like an unparalleled bargain for consumers, particularly as broadband speeds increased across the United States, and the quality of streaming caught up to the visual potential of high-definition TVs.

Photo: Netflix
But with competitors like Amazon joining the game, it soon became clear that content was going to be the great differentiator. Audiences primarily care about shows and convenience, not network or service names. Faced with multiple streaming options, they’ll naturally gravitate toward whatever service has the most programming they want to watch. That led to exclusivity deals, with companies paying to be the only streaming service carrying Orphan Black, or any upcoming Marvel movies. We’ve frequently seen this strategy with subscription music services, but licensed exclusivity isn’t a stable platform upon which to build a business. It’s just a business transaction, and any deal can be altered or broken. Which is why original programming has become such an incredible focus for streaming services. A company that makes a show can guarantee nobody else gets that show. Hits like Stranger Things (Netflix), The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu), and Transparent (Amazon) have made original content the coin of the realm, with each service vying to become the next HBO.

And then there’s Disney. Since Iger took over in 2005, the company has built its movie-business dominance on the power of multi-billion-dollar acquisitions: first with Pixar in 2006, then Marvel in 2009, and then, after another three-year breather, Lucasfilm. The returns have been astronomical. On this week’s earnings call, Iger touted that the average global box office for Disney’s animated movies is now more than $665 million. Marvel films have averaged $840 million each at the global box office, and The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story alone have brought in over $3 billion. It’s the power of incredibly prominent intellectual property, combined with established creative teams that know how to execute. Disney doesn’t try to copy somebody else’s strategy, or build an expanded universe from scratch. It just buys up the people who are already making the things it wants to sell.

That’s why Netflix’s stock dropped in August when Disney announced it would be ending a 2012 deal that brought all of the studio’s films exclusively to Netflix. Losing Star Wars, Marvel, Disney’s live-action output, and Pixar’s many franchises would be a huge blow unto itself. But even more ominous was the revelation that Disney was building its own streaming service, on which its many blockbusters would be exclusives.

Photo: Disney / Marvel Studios
Just the titles Disney is pulling from Netflix would make the new service formidable, especially to families with young children. But Netflix has maintained its upward trajectory without a consistent movie selection for years now. Like Amazon and Hulu, it’s focused on specifically targeted library programming, with an ever-increasing investment in original content making up the balance. Netflix is upping its ambitions with moves like buying Mark Millar’s comics publishing company — enabling the service to both get into the comics game and develop its own comics-inspired properties in-house — but Disney’s streaming television goals point to a checkmate scenario, where the success of its streaming service isn’t just likely; it’s a given.

We’re talking about a 360-degree view of intellectual-property exploitation that hasn’t really been seen before. A world in which a new Star Wars movie hits theaters, and then is available for streaming only on Disney’s service. The same service that is the exclusive home for new Star Wars television shows. And then that same company will offer fans the opportunity to actually visit the lands they’re watching through Disney’s theme parks, and then read about them in books and comics put out by Disney publishers. It’s a holistic ecosystem of entertainment, all under one corporate umbrella, with each division pushing audiences to engage with every other division. Without outside deals or restrictions, it is all just Disney.

I wrote earlier this year that the Millarworld deal indicated Netflix had far grander ambitions than just being the best streaming service out there, and I think that continues to be the company’s strategic vision. But Disney’s aggressive pivot toward streaming makes it clear that its leadership plans to leverage its impressive library of properties to full effect, essentially making its still-unnamed streaming service a no-brainer subscription for anyone even remotely fluent in modern pop culture. Along with the new TV shows and traditional film titles, Iger also stated during the call that Disney plans to make four to five films a year specifically for the streaming service. Disney hasn’t historically been known for the high quality of its direct-to-video titles, but if some of those films are part of the Star Wars or Marvel universes, and are just part of a service people are already paying for, that kind of distinction may cease to matter.

Inside Out promotional images (DISNEY/PIXAR)
Photo: Disney / Pixar
There is also the simple matter of price. Netflix, hoping to make original content half of its catalog by the end of next year, recently revealed that it will spend $8 billion to hit that goal. Perhaps not coincidentally, it raised its prices just last month. Disney, on the other hand, is already a successful box-office machine, breaking records year after year. Those big-screen properties are already being used to generate revenue across the company’s other divisions. Which is why Disney will be able to undercut Netflix on price. “I can say that our plan on the Disney side is to price this substantially below where Netflix is,” Iger said on the call.


The biggest properties in the world, all on one service, with original offshoots and expansions ready for streaming whenever somebody’s interested, at a lower cost than what people already pay for Stranger Things and Mindhunter. At that point, it’s not just a question of whether Disney’s service will attract customers. It’s a question of whether its service will so radically reset consumer expectations in the streaming market that a $9.99 Netflix subscription just won’t seem like a value any longer.

At that point, Disney would be able to just lean back and starve everyone else out, knowing that its movie-franchise head start will be impossible to match, no matter how many billions its streaming competitors throw at the problem. And if Disney has to pick up a 20th Century Fox along the way to keep building that intellectual property portfolio, Iger seems to be just fine with that idea, too.

Of course, this also points to a possible future where almost all of our blockbuster entertainment comes from a single course. That would seem to be dystopian and horrific, something that audiences would neither want, nor stand for. But if it means an infinite stream of Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars stories until the end of time... well, maybe it will be a little easier to swallow.

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Listen to music made to the rhythm of global warming

November 13, 2017 0

One night in 2013, artist Stephan Crawford was sitting in his studio in San Francisco, thinking of a way of expressing Earth’s carbon cycle through a moving sculpture. He had a metal rod in his hand, and he started tapping it against his workbench. And that’s when the eureka moment struck. “That tapping made me think of a rhythm,” Crawford says. “And then it went straight to the idea of music.”

Four years later, Crawford runs The ClimateMusic Project, a group of scientists, musicians, and composers who create music based on climate data — and then throw concerts to communicate the urgency of climate change to the public. The current piece they’re performing, by composer Erik Ian Walker, runs about 30 minutes long, and spans 500 years of data — from 1800 to 2300. It includes projections for two possible future scenarios: one where humans continue to carelessly pump heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere; the other where we come to our senses and reduce emissions to try to keep global warming below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the goal of the Paris climate deal, and the threshold beyond which the climate change will be irreversible and apocalyptic.

The piece starts with calming strings that slowly build over the gentle sounds of birds chirping. As carbon dioxide concentrations steadily go up, starting in the mid 1800s during the Industrial Revolution, the tempo increases. The music grows more and more discordant in the early 2000s; by the 2030s, it’s so fast and distorted it’s anxiety inducing. And at the end of the century, when temperatures have increased by almost 9 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s more noise than music, like the static of a TV. The performance is accompanied by animated charts showing changes in CO2 levels, global temperature, and Earth’s energy balance. And at the end, there’s an engagement session where people can share their thoughts and talk with climate action organizations.

Crawford’s first experimental performance took place in September 2014. That’s when he organized a “hack day,” inviting musicians and scientists to his art studio. For eight hours, everyone worked together to create climate-inspired music, and at 5 PM they performed the piece in front of a test audience. “The audience’s response at the end day was strong enough to convince us that we really needed to take the idea much further,” Crawford says.

Since then, The ClimateMusic Project has grown substantially. The group, which includes two composers and four climate scientists, has thrown more than a dozen concerts in the Bay Area, and is looking to expand its reach worldwide. Crawford says the group is working to develop a VR performance. Next year, it will also partner with a music school in San Francisco to create an online tool that will allow composers all over the world to access the data needed to make climate-inspired compositions. That way, The ClimateMusic Project can diversify its music — and its audience.

With climate change making headlines almost every day, The Verge spoke with Crawford about how to make music from climate data, his motivations behind the project, and his plans for the future.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Why did you want to create the ClimateMusic Project?

It’s really that at the time, I’d just finished a degree in environmental sciences and was looking for ways to combine my new knowledge with my artistic endeavors. [Climate change is] a big issue and for a lot of people it feels like something that’s very abstract, and something we’ll live in the future, not necessarily today. And I wanted to find a way to convey that it is a very urgent issue and that we can still solve the problem, in a way that would resonate broadly across many different communities. And music seemed to be a natural vehicle for doing so.

How do you express climate change into musical compositions?

There are different ways you can do it. There are software programs that you can use to essentially transfer data straight into some kind of sound. The problem with data sonification is that it’s noise, generally speaking. Because it just follows the data. We made a very conscious decision not to use that approach, but to work with a real science team to really tease out where the important signals are in the data, and then to work with the composer to find creative ways to express those signals in a musical way that would resonate with people.

The current piece that we’re performing is done by a process called the deconstructive approach, which is where a composer comes up with a musical idea that’s independent of any data whatsoever. After that idea is germinated, the composer works with our science team to essentially explore the consequences of bringing that idea into contact with the data over time, to see what happens. And that’s done by assigning musical analogs to variables in the climate system. For example in the piece we’re currently performing, we’re modeling four variables: CO2, Earth’s energy balance, atmospheric temperature of the Earth, and ocean Ph. And each one of those has an analog in the music.

The website says the performance is most appropriate for adults and children 12 years and older. Why?

My initial sense was that [the current piece] might sound a little bit too loud or something for those small kids. I was proved wrong, and we might actually end up somewhat modifying that FAQ. In one of our concerts, we were at the conservatory in Oakland, I was watching the audience [and] a whole group of fourth graders came in and I was thinking, “Oh no, this is not going to be so great.” But the fourth graders loved it actually. In fact, one of them even stood up in front of 220 people or so in the audience and asked about the data at the end of the concert, because the class is doing a unit on climate change. I think it really depends on the maturity of the individual child and what the parents do, because the music gets sort of loud and a little bit experimental.

How do you engage people to care about climate change?

When we did our premiere in 2015 at the Planetarium in Oakland, during the audience engagement section, a woman in the audience stood up and said, “You know, I was listening to the music and I was watching the years count up and I was watching the data animation and I said to myself, that’s how the music sounded when I was born. And that’s how the music sounded when my daughter was born. And that’s how the music could sound when my granddaughter might be born.” For the first time in her life, what had been a very abstract issue became suddenly very personal to her and shifted within the context of her family’s own historical arc. And for her that was very powerful. We do see that that is one of the effects of the music.

Because [you] can feel it, because you can sense the rhythm, because you sort of incorporate it even in your own body, and you’re looking at historical references and where we are, where we might be going, it’s a much more visceral, much more sensory experience. And that conveys a whole different sense of understanding. So what we want to do is we want to take that new understanding and we want to facilitate the process of helping people in our audiences connect and channel that energy in very positive ways. The way we do that, we’re building out a network of both climate literacy and action organizations that we can then link our audiences directly to.

What’s in the future of the ClimateMusic Project?

For the project to really reach a lot of people and to have an impact, we need to have more content, because any one piece of music is only going to appeal to so many people. Our goal is to create lots of content in different genres of music. Starting in 2018, we’ll be developing a tool that will allow us to essentially work with composers pretty much anywhere, to create shorter work that would have a local resonance, whether it’s in Africa, whether it’s in Asia, whether it’s in South America.

Ultimately, the holy grail that we’re aiming for — we’re not there yet and we probably won’t be there for about year — would be interactive performances, where the audience could also in some way take part in the performance. We’d like to integrate ways for people to interact with the music, dance pieces for example. The more people can interact with the music and feel the music, the more meaningful it will be to them.

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