HTC’s next flagship appears to flaunt 20MP camera in leaked shots

As reported on Engadget.

Leak happens, and poor HTC might have just become the first victim out of the MWC lot this year. What we’re looking at here are two alleged spyshots of the company’supcoming flagship, the “Hima” aka “M9,” courtesy of, who has since removed the images. While the French blog has a mixed record of credibility when it comes to leaks, we’re struggling to find signs of tampering in these photos, but that’s not to say we’re convinced just yet.

For one, the amusingly large camera hump on the back (remember the M8 Prime?) is a total eyesore on the familiar-looking but seemingly slimmer body; and it even reminds us of the Huawei Ascend Mate 7’s own imager. If real, then HTC better have a very good justification for this. Maybe some love for a stealthy optical zoom feature? Or a larger sensor for bigger pixels? As for the pseudo-depth-sensing camera normally positioned at the top, the tipster may have cropped it out just to irritate us all.

The second spyshot gives us a good look at the front side of this mysterious device. Gone is the thin black frame around the top glass sheet, but the BoomSound stereo speakers are preserved with the same design language. That said, the proximity sensor plus the front-facing camera appear to have been upsized, which is just as well; we understand that the front imager here will use HTC’s efficient UltraPixel sensor for quicker and brighter selfies.

This tidbit is backed up by Bloomberg’s own source, who added that the M9 will also sport a 20-megapixel main camera (but hopefully with a larger sensor than what Sony uses on its Xperia Z3), along with Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 810 chipset plus Sense 7.0 UI. Other rumors indicate a screen size of somewhere between 5 inches (like the M8) and 5.2 inches (like the Desire Eye). Additionally, Bloomberg’s report says HTC’s March event will finally unveil the company’s first smartwatch.

There’s still a good chance that this is either a very good fake, or actually a real but sloppily disguised prototype based on the M8’s design. We’re leaning towards the latter, given that HTC is known to have done this in the past — like the M7 prototype that we got to play with. We’ll found out in about 40 days, or maybe even beforehand if an overly-joyous Peter Chou decides to whip out the real deal.

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Watch the first official ‘Jurassic World’ trailer

As reported on The Verge.

By Kwame Opam

It’s here! The Jurassic World trailer has dropped, two days ahead of the promised Thanksgiving debut. Here, we finally see the park open to the public. However, the scientists running the park made a gamble by creating a genetically engineered hybrid dinosaur that’s highly intelligent and, to quote Chris Pratt’s character, “will kill anything that moves.” We’ll get to see this new super dinosaur wreak havoc on June 12th, 2015.

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NASA launches $5 million contest to find CubeSats for deep space missions

Attention, scientists, hobbyists and anyone in between who can design a mean CubeSat, or a mini cube-like satellite, for space exploration: registration is now open for NASA’sCube Quest contest, and the agency’s giving out cash prizes worth a total of $5 million. NASA’s no stranger to holding competitions in an effort to tap into the brilliant minds of folks outside their roster of employees, but this one is a lot bigger than many of itsprevious events. See, contenders will compete not only for cash prizes, but also for a spot on the Orion spacecraft during its first integrated flight with the agency’s upcoming monster rocket called Space Launch System.

The SLS’ first flight isn’t scheduled to blast off until sometime before November 2018. Cube Quest contenders will need to participate in any of the four ground tournaments (the agency’s earmarking $500,000 to give out as prizes for these preliminary contests) to be held every four to six months before then. Those that excel at these ground tests are the ones that will be ferried to space by Orion and SLS, where they’ll go through even more rigorous testing.

The satellite(s) that can travel farther than 2.5 million miles (or 10 times the distance between Earth the moon) and can remain capable of communication from that distance will win $1.5 million. Meanwhile, the satellite(s) that can function while traveling along the lunar orbit will win $3 million. The agency’s hoping to find effective and affordable CubeSat designs through this competition for use in deep space missions. As NASA’s Eric Eberly says:

If we can produce capabilities usually associated with larger spacecraft in the much smaller platform of CubeSats, a dramatic improvement in the affordability of space missions will result, greatly increasing science and research possibilities.

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One of the first true computers is finally on public display

ENIAC circa 1946

Seeing ENIAC, one of the first true programmable computers, has been tricky; the giant mainframe was partly restored in 2007, but it was only visible in an office building. At last, though, you now have a (relatively) easy way to witness this piece of computing history first-hand. The US Army’s Field Artillery Museum in Fort Sill, Oklahoma recently put several of ENIAC’s revived panels on public display, giving you a chance to see a significant chunk of the very early mainframe in person.

The museum piece won’t replicate the 1945 system in its full glory (it’s missing most of the 40 original panels), but it’ll give you a sense of what you missed. Restoration gurus Dan and Jonathan Gleason linked hundreds of bulbs to a motion sensor to make it look active when you wander by. As it stands, ENIAC wasn’t designed to put on a show even when it was complete — it was mostly used for military research, like validating the design of the first hydrogen bomb. Still, it’s not often that you get to see one of the world’s most important computers without jumping through hoops.

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Adobe’s got Photoshop running in Chrome

As reported on The Verge.

Here’s how it works

By Sean O’Kane

Using Photoshop usually requires lugging a typically cumbersome, expensive computer around, and changing that experience has been the dream of many creatives for years. As we found out back in September, it’s a problem that Adobe has been actively working with Google to solve. The two companies have been working together for almost two years to bring Photoshop to the browser, and they finally have a working version called Photoshop Streaming that they’re letting educational institutions apply to test over the next six months. Yesterday, I got a look at it in action when Adobe’s director of engineering, Kirk Gould, remotely ran me through a brief demo of the program.


The way it works is pretty simple. The application is downloaded via the Chrome Web Store, and when you open it up you’re actually connecting to a server which is running the desktop version of Photoshop CC 2014. The UI of the desktop version is captured as a video and sent to your browser, where javascript relays your actions back to the server, completing the interactive loop. It’s not much different from how a virtual machine setup works, but it means that the application could be run in the browser on any computer — even on Chromebooks. Adobe essentially wants to let you stream a pound-for-pound copy of Photoshop, and Gould said the company is about 90-percent there.

Adobe Photoshop Chrome

It does, however, have its limits. Right now, Photoshop Streaming works exclusively with files hosted on Google Drive, but Gould said Adobe hopes to add the ability to work with other cloud storage services down the road. There are core functions that don’t work in the program at the moment, such as printing, or processes that require a GPU likePhotoshop’s 3D functions. Otherwise, everything from making layer masks to using the Camera Raw editor works, though it was difficult to judge the amount of lag over the screen sharing software. Gould was able to quickly open a 30mb PSD file and make some quick edits to it.

Adobe will use the trial period to build out functionality and troubleshoot the overall experience from the feedback it gets. Many educational institutions are full of people working with low-end hardware — which is what Adobe wants to optimize the program for. Gould says that once Adobe feels comfortable with the experience it will open up the trial to a broader audience and — someday — a commercial release.

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This is what happens when a drone interrupts your Christmas date

drone, mistletoe

You’re on a date at TGI Friday’s, casually sipping your discount cocktail, trying to ignore the disappointed look on your partner’s face as they attempt to cut into their overcooked steak. As if this situation wasn’t awkward enough, the smooth sounds of the Billboard 100 playlist are interrupted by a high-pitched whining. A lone quadrocopter hovers above, dangling a collection of stale mistletoe leaves. Looking to make the best of a bad situation, you lean in for a kiss. Before you know it, it’s profiteroles for one.

TGI Friday's drone kiss

Happy #Togethermas from #TGIFridays.


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Google’s internet balloons can stay aloft for 100 days thanks to fluffy socks

While some high profile Google projects (*cough Glass*) have been withering on the vine,Project Loon is a bright spot and even has a carrier partner. Mountain View says it can now autofill the internet-enabling, weather-tracking balloons in five minutes and launch up to 20 a day. They also last up to ten times longer than early versions, letting them stay in the stratosphere for over 100 days. Google chalked up the improvements to better quality control, like having workers wear fluffy socks (!) when walking on the skin to reduce wear. The search giant added that it can hit a target spot within a mile over a 6,000 mile journey to give better WiFi coverage to users. To see how much things have changed, check the recent balloon launch (above) against a 2013 launch (below).

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How to live for a month in virtual reality

As reported on The Verge.

Artist Mark Farid will spend 28 days as someone else in ‘Seeing I’

Next year, artist Mark Farid wants to give up a month of his life to virtual reality. If a crowdfunding campaign succeeds, he’ll spend 28 days in a gallery, wearing a VR headset and a pair of noise-canceling headphones. For the duration of the show, all he’ll experience will be video and audio captured by a complete stranger, going about their daily life. When they eat, he’ll eat. When they sleep, he’ll sleep. As much as modern technology permits, he will let his individual identity evaporate.

This isn’t escapism. He’s not trying to live as a famous actor, or a star athlete, or someone from a vastly different culture or time period. Spending minutes in virtual reality can be uncomfortable, let alone days. So why do it? “It’s to see if who we are is an individual identity, or if there is just a cultural identity that kind of takes us on,” says Farid. “I’ve grown up in the city my whole life. So everything that I’ve seen — the square gardens that we have, the tree that’s planted in that specific place, the way the wind travels down the road … all of that is artificially created,” he says. “Every experience that we’re having is synthetic.”

Seeing I

Farid during his 24-hour test run, Alone Together. (Arebyte Gallery)

His project, called Seeing I, isn’t just meant to test the limits of artificiality; it’s also meant to bring him as close as possible to looking through someone else’s eyes. An “Input,” as Farid calls the person whose life he’ll see, will spend a month wearing a pair of glasses that can capture 180-degree video and 3D audio. The data for each day will be looked over for glitches or gaps, then sent to Farid six days later, giving assistants time to prepare the right meals and gather other materials they’ll need to make the experience as realistic as possible. Visitors might see him at the gallery, but he won’t know they’re there.

When he comes out, it will be with someone else’s recent memories and, he hopes, a little of their perspective on life. The four-week timeframe was chosen in part because “it’s not proven, but well-documented, that we lose habits and develop new habits after three weeks.” This rule has been debunked multiple times, but its origins fit the project quite well: it’s based on a factoid from ‘60s self-help writer and plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz, who believed it took his patients 21 days to adjust to a new face. Farid has all that, plus an extra week, to start seeing this stranger as himself.

In early 2014, after a year of work on the project, Farid tried a 24-hour test run called Alone Together at the Arebyte gallery in London. Organizers picked a surrogate that he’d never met, and he watched the recording through an Oculus Rift in a nearly bare gallery space, staff on hand to spoon cereal into his mouth or hand him squares of chocolate. People can apply for the spot in his longer show, with only a few basic conditions. The Input must be a heterosexual man — despite the goal of living as someone else, Farid wants some basic level of familiarity — and he has to be living with a wife or girlfriend. “That’s more so he narrates his own life,” he says. “If you’re living alone, you’ll just go to the shop and buy some milk, but I won’t know what you’re doing. If you live with somebody, you go ‘I’m going to the shop to buy some milk, do you want anything?’”


The test run’s title references a book by academic Sherry Turkle, who argued that technology has made meaningful interactions harder even as it creates new ways to communicate. Farid effectively inverted the book’s thesis: ideally, technology would help him feel closer to his surrogate than he ever could in real life. But that sense of immersion proved elusive. “He was reading or on the computer a lot,” says Farid. “He went to the pub at one point… it was supposed to be a blind date, but she stood him up.”

In a strangely recursive turn, the most engaging moment was watching the man play video games — “I started going pow pow pow pow without knowing,” he says, mimicking gunfire. If he gets to do a 28-day version, Farid is going to give whoever’s selected a few exciting tasks to work into his daily life, like bungee jumping or going to a soccer match. “[I want] to see if I can genuinely believe in this — like, my heart’s going crazy and my hands are sweating,” he says. “I can’t fake that.”

Seeing I

Machines to be another

Farid says that his project is inspired by readings in philosophy and by the work of Josh Harris, an internet entrepreneur and artist who was (often disturbingly) fascinated with total, 24-hour surveillance. Harris’ best-known project was a 1999 social experiment held in a Manhattan bunker wired with cameras — the increasingly chaotic month-long party,described as “Orwellian” and cultlike, was finally shut down by police at the turn of the millennium. Harris later tried broadcasting his own apartment while living with a girlfriend;the relationship fragmented and Harris suffered a nervous breakdown.

But it also has roots in existing VR art and academia. The premise is similar to The Machine to be Another, an art project that lets participants “swap bodies” with each other via the Oculus Rift. And there’s at least some precedent for VR marathons. In October, two University of Hamburg researchers published a paper documenting the effect of prolonged stints in VR. Similar to Farid’s early test, they asked a subject to wear a head-mounted display and “live” in a virtual environment for 24 hours, with periodic 10-minute breaks. The experience was uncomfortable — moving in VR induced serious nausea — but it was reportedly effective. After four hours, despite the fact that he was staring at a close-up screen, the subject “reported the illusion of staying in a virtual sphere” with a 15-foot radius. At several points during the test, he “was confused about being in the [virtual environment] or in the real world,” mixing up events between the two.


An even more surreal case is Becoming Dragon, a 15-day performance art project held at the University of California, San Diego in 2008. A team led by artist Micha Cárdenas created a “mixed reality” environment with position-tracking cameras and a head-mounted display, running a patched version of Second Life. Drawing parallels with her life as a transgender woman, Cárdenas used the headset to “transition” into living full-time as a dragon avatar in Second Life, performing poetry and giving talks in virtual reality. While Cárdenas removed the headset for bathroom breaks and sleep, something Farid won’t be doing, she still spent months working up to using it in nearly continuous 15- or 16-hour sessions.

During Becoming Dragon, she says, she began thinking of Second Life as her real location, excitedly welcoming friends when they entered and becoming entranced by its “natural” forests and oceans. But she also forgot to eat or drink for long stretches, and her long-distance vision deteriorated — trying to look at anything far away left her dizzy and nauseous. Her mental condition suffered as well. “As the performance proceeded, I felt slower, it became harder to concentrate and harder to remember facts from real life,” she wrote afterwards.

Cárdenas’ long-distance vision recovered within two days, although it took five before her eyes stopped periodically forgetting to move when her head did. All the after-effects — including her forgetfulness and nausea — were gone within a week. Granted, the headset she used was primitive compared to the Oculus Rift or other present-day VR options, and it’s not clear what problems Farid might experience. Frank Steinicke, one of the researchers behind the 24-hour experiment, said he saw no long-term effects on the subject then; his primary concern for Farid was motion sickness. Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, told me he’d been contacted about the project. “I had one piece of advice for them: ‘Talk to an optometrist,’” he said.

Seeing I

Farid says he’s spoken to numerous psychiatrists, psychologists, and neuroscientists about the risks and possibilities. Among them is Professor Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge University, who suggested a few possibilities: the project might make him more empathetic by focusing his attention on others, cause delusions, or prove that the brain is surprisingly capable of accommodating new kinds of input.

Because Farid might adapt. He connects his project with experiments by University of Innsbruck psychologist Theodor Erismann, who asked research subjects to wear mirrored goggles that made the world appear upside down. Over a period of weeks, his reports noted, wearers slowly began to compensate, eventually seeing their reversed vision as nearly normal — his assistant went from turning cups upside down to catch water to competently riding a bicycle.


Farid’s gotten a number of conflicting opinions about the effects of his project, and he’s attempting to err on the side of caution. “This is not an endurance test,” he says. “If it’s going too far and going too bad, and are going to be detrimental things to my health, or eyesight, or mental health … I’ll be told to take the virtual reality glasses off, and the project ends there. I’m not going to harm my long-term life for this project.” He’ll be observed by a psychologist, and whatever the results, they’ll later become part of a Seeing Idocumentary.

Outside his experiment, Farid says his best experience with virtual reality was watching the Sandra Bullock space thriller Gravity, and he’s optimistic about the technology after Oculus’ buyout by Facebook — “Zuckerberg obviously has a plan, and he knows what he’s going to do with it.” For all that VR is described as the medium of wish fulfillment, though,Seeing I seems like a grueling excursion, not a pleasure trip. It’s the flip side of complete empowerment in a virtual world — Farid will give up any sense of agency or self-determination, choosing to hover, ghostlike, in someone else’s life.

If he succeeds, is something longer on the horizon?

“No. Definitely not,” he says. “Maybe it will turn out that there is no mental health risk in the end, but I still wouldn’t want to do it. Being isolated for 28 days, without anything to validate anything or human companionship… 28 days is actually more than enough.”

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This e-ink watch can change its design at the touch of a button

FES e-ink watch

It’s not like we haven’t seen e-ink watches before, but we’ve never seen one quite like this. FES Watch uses e-paper not only for its face, but its entire strap, allowing the wearer to change its design with a simple button press. By combining different upper- and lower-strap choices with a variety of face designs, you’ll have a total of 24 designs to choose from. This isn’t a smartwatch (it won’t do anything other than tell you the time and date), but thanks to that fact, it’ll last around two months on a single charge.

FES Watch is currently being funded on Makuake, a Japanese crowdfunding site for startups. It’s actually the second such campaign: its makers successfully raised 2.7 million Yen (about $23,000) back in September, but are back again by popular demand asking for a further 1 million Yen ($8,400). So far they’ve reached about 40 percent of that goal, and with 98 days left to run on the campaign it seems likely to be another success. Unfortunately, only local residents can pledge, so unless you have a friend in Japan willing to ship you one (and $167 to spare), you’ll have to admire FES Watch from afar.


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Gorilla Glass 4 shouldn’t shatter when you drop your phone

As reported by Engadget.

by Jon Fingas

Corning Gorilla Glass 4

Corning Gorilla Glass 4
Plenty of mobile device screens can easily resist minor cracks and scratches, but let’s be honest — those aren’t the biggest problems. No, the real crisis comes when you drop your phone and the display shatters into many pieces. Thankfully, Corning is tackling that accident-related damage in earnest with Gorilla Glass 4. The newly formulated cover material is designed to survive collisions with rough surfaces, like the sidewalk. It’s reportedly very effective, if imperfect. While conventional soda-lime glass will always break if you drop it from a meter (3.3 feet) above the ground, Gorilla Glass 4 will remain intact 80 percent of the time. You shouldn’t be careless, in other words, but the added resistance could mean the difference between a costly out-of-warranty repair and carrying on with your day.

Corning says it’s already sending out test samples and shipments for the new glass, so you should expect to see it soon. It’s not naming customers, but many of the largest phone, PC and tablet builders already use Gorilla Glass, even if they don’t always mention it by name. There’s a good chance your next mobile gadget will be considerably better at surviving a faceplant — hopefully, you’ll never have to learn this the hard way.

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