How to get fit with your smartphone in less than 10 minutes a day

Planning to exercise is easy. Actually doing it can be trickier, as your good intentions collide with real life. But 10 minutes is more than enough time to cram in some cardio, whether you go for a run, try some yoga or just loosen up with some stretches.

Planning to exercise is easy. Actually doing it can be trickier, as your good intentions collide with real life. But 10 minutes is more than enough time to cram in some cardio, whether you go for a run, try some yoga or just loosen up with some stretches.

And your phone can help you max out your use of time rather than just wasting it. Have 10 minutes to spare? Here are some ways to use that sliver of your day to slide in a workout that’ll make you fitter – and maybe even happier.

All these apps are free to download, but some have ‘premium’ unlocks, and we’ll tell you how much they cost.

Seven – 7 Minute Workout

There are many 7-minute workout apps, but Perigee’s Seven is perhaps the most polished. The concept of the 7-minute workout is simple: it only uses basic equipment that you’ll have around the house like (drum roll)… a chair.

And, you guessed it, the workouts only take seven minutes.

The obvious question: why seven minutes? This number was cemented as the most effective duration, for maximum results with the least effort. After all, seven minutes may not sound like a lot, but it feels like a lot longer when your heart rate is at 80% of its maximum rate.

Exercises you’ll find in a 7-minute workout include crunches, squats and the side plank.

Download Seven for iOSDownload Seven for AndroidDown Dog

Yoga can be intimidating. You often won’t know how ‘spiritual’ a particular class will be, while if you’re completely new to yoga exercises then you may feel out of your depth – and yoga memberships can be pricey.

Down Dog is a good way to easy yourself into yoga. It offers lessons in video form, complete with a soundtrack – and yes, you can mute the music if you just want to hear the instructions.

The app lets you choose the length of your session, to the minute if you only have a short stretch to spare – seven minutes is the shortest session on offer. You can try Down Dog for free, and after that the best-value approach is to buy a year’s access.

At the time of writing this costs $29.99 / £29.49 / AU$45.99. The trial version isn’t packed with ads either, unlike many exercise apps.

Download Down Dog for AndroidDownload Down Dog for iOSNike Training Club

Nike’s training app covers a wide range of disciplines, from yoga and no-equipment core strength workouts to ones that require a near-full gym setup. Go to the Workouts section, scroll down to the bottom of the screen and you’ll find the ‘Short Workouts’ section.

Many are still around the 15-20 mark, but there are a handful of sub-10 minute exercises too, including Run Ready Yoga, led by singer Ellie Goulding no less – several videos feature celebs, which you won’t find in many exercise apps.

Nike Training is completely free – as ever, you pay with your data if you’re not using it over Wi-fi, and Nike wants to keep its brand in the forefront of your mind when you’re in the market for some sports equipment.

However, this is a brilliant freebie, particularly if you can squeeze in a 15-minute workout rather than a 10-minute one, which will enable you to choose from lots more options.

Download Nike+ Training Club for AndroidDownload Nike+ Training Club for iOSGoogle Fit – 10-minute run

A 10-minute daily run is one of the best ways to up your cardio game – and it’s a kind of exercise that won’t disturb the neighbors below if you live in a flat.

Use Google Fit to GPS-track your run and you’ll get an accurate read on how far you make it – you should be able to reach a mile at a moderate pace if you’re not a running novice.

Just bear in mind that you may want to tack on a few minutes of walking to warm-up, and stretching after you’re done is also a good idea, to avoid injury. If you want to try a non-Google tracker app, consider Strava, Runkeeper, Nike+ Run Club or Map My Run.

Download Google Fit for AndroidStretching Exercises

Leap Fitness has made many health and fitness apps, from ovulation trackers and blue light filters to the ‘six-pack in 30 days’ challenge. However, its Stretching Exercises app is the one for quick everyday tone-ups.

It’s easy to dismiss stretches as a sort of pre-exercise tool, but the ones you’re taken through here incorporate yoga poses and crunches. They’re real mini-workouts, and all but the longer Back Stretching plan take less than 10 minutes.

Try the morning and ‘sleepy time stretching’ plans and you should be able to work out some of those shoulder kinks – those exercises combined only take up 10 minutes.

Download Stretching Exercises for AndroidKettlebell

A kettlebell is the ultimate one-piece workout tool. They’re the trendy alternative to dumbbells, with kettlebell exercises working a wider array of muscle groups than traditional weight maneuvers.

The Kettlebell app lets you choose the length of your workout to the minute, and which muscle groups to include. An on-screen guide then shows you what to do at each step.

This is a solid app to help improve your functional strength, for benefits you’re more likely to notice in your day-to-day life, rather than ones that are only apparent when you’re striking a pose in front the mirror in your swimming costume.

You can use an ad-supported version of Kettlebell for free, while the premium version is just $2.99 / £2.89 / AU$4.49.

Download Kettlebell for AndroidDownload Kettlebell for iOSHIIT & Cardio Workout by Fitify

This app is a simplified version of what’s on offer in the full Fitify, an expansive workout app that’s worth a try if you can find more than 10 minutes a day to spare. It’s also a sister app to Kettlebell, with roughly the same interface, and exercises designed for those without any equipment to hand.

It’s great if you want to get your heart rate up in the 70-80% of max range quickly, and there’s also a category for joint-friendly exercises if your knees are a little dodgy.

Like Kettlebell, you can use this app for free, or pay a small one-off fee for ad-free access.

Download HIIT & Cardio Workout for AndroidDownload HIIT & Cardio Workout for iOSBrought to you in association with Nokia and Android One, helping you make more of your smartphone. You can learn more about thenew Nokia 7.1 here, and you’ll find more great advice on getting the most from your phonehere.

Project Stream: Everything we know about Google’s game streaming service

Imagine your friend invests in a new GPU to upgrade their already expensive gaming PC so they can play the latest blockbuster video game. Now imagine you open the Chrome browser, and then open a new tab to play the very same video game.

Imagine your friend invests in a new GPU to upgrade their already expensive gaming PC so they can play the latest blockbuster video game. Now imagine you open the Chrome browser, and then open a new tab to play the very same video game. While your friends computer kicks into high gear, fans blistering, your computer (perhaps even a Chromebook) stays cool and quiet, because all you’re doing is streaming.

That’s the idea of Google’s Project Stream cloud gaming service.

Rather than needing high-end hardware, Project Stream allows you to use whatever computer you have around to play video games. Google handles all the heavy lifting on its own servers, which can process the game at high resolutions and frame rates, encode it into a stream, and deliver the stream to you over the internet.

It may sound almost too good to be true, and only time will tell if it is. Right now, the Project Stream service is in Beta. And, while it’s not perfect, it gets the job done, and serves as an impressive showcase of what the future of cloud gaming could look like.

How Project Stream works

It’s not clear how the final product will work, whether Google will maintain the Project Stream name, or even whether Google will continue the project after this beta. But, for the moment, as long as you’re connected to the internet with a fast and stable connection and you’re using a recent desktop version of the Chrome browser, you’ve got the setup needed to use Project Stream.

Playing a video game on Project Stream is as simple as opening a new tab in Chrome and going to the Projectstream.google.com page.

Google will prompt you to run a connection test that checks your internet bandwidth, the latency between your computer and the servers, and any data loss. Google requires a streaming rate of 15Mbps, latency below 40ms, and data loss below 5%. With these requirements met, you’ll be ready to dive into a game.

The beta of Project Stream is offering Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which is nothing short of a demanding title. When you launch the game in your Chrome tab, it will go fullscreen, and run exactly as if it has been launched on a proper gaming computer (except without a deep graphics settings menu). You can play with a keyboard and mouse or connect a game controller and play that way.

All of your inputs on the computer get sent over to Google’s servers, processed in the game, and everything happening gets streamed right back to you. This is why that latency is so important, because you can’t have a good game experience if everything you do in the game shows up a second later.

The limits of Project Stream haven’t been detailed, but Google has shown off the service running at 1080p and 60fps, pretty much the bar for quality PC gaming.

All of your inputs on the computer get sent over to Google’s servers, processed in the game, and everything happening gets streamed right back to you.

So, in effect, you’re opening a new tab that pipes all your inputs to a high-end gaming PC that streams back the visuals and audio to your computer screen. This system is simpler than some others, which set you up with a virtual desktop that then remotely runs Steam, Origin, Battle.net, or what have you.

In the case of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on Project Stream, you are still required to log into a Ubisoft account to play, but beta testers aren’t required to own the game.

It’s unclear at this point whether Google will require players to buy games and pay for the streaming service in separate transactions, or whether access to select games will be bundled into the service.

What games will be available on Project Stream?

Through the Project Stream beta, the only available game is Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. While this doesn’t give us much idea of what games Google will offer in the future, it does give us a good idea of what games Google could be capable of offering.

For a 1080p 30fps game experience at High settings in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Ubisoft recommends a system with the following specs:

OS: Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit versions only)Processor: AMD FX-8350 @ 4.0 GHz, Ryzen 5 – 1400, Intel Core i7-3770 @ 3.5 GHzVideo: AMD Radeon R9 290 or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 (4GB VRAM or more with Shader Model 5.0) or betterMemory: 8GB RAMVideo Preset: HighStorage: 46GB available hard drive spaceDirectX: DirectX June 2010 RedistributableSound: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card with latest drivers

For 4K at 30fps and high settings, the recommended specs bump up to include 16GB of RAM, a more powerful AMD Ryzen 1700X or Intel Core i7 7700 processor, and a beefier AMD Vega 64 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card. With Project Stream shooting for 1080p at 60fps, the type of system it’s offering would fall somewhere between Ubisoft’s recommended specs.

The truth is a computer that can handle Assassin’s Creed Odyssey at 1080p 60fps is going to be capable of playing a whole lot of games at these settings. Other major titles could easily see support on the service.

Games with a major online focus may have dicier prospects on Project Stream. Since competitive online games are often fast-paced and require split-second reaction times, the extra latency introduced by streaming will likely be an issue for serious competitors. That said, we don’t see these games being unplayable on the service.

What’s Project Stream like to use?

At its best, Project Stream is good. At its worst, well, Google won’t let you play below a certain threshold of quality, and you wouldn’t want to anyway.

We tested Project Stream on varying setups. We played on an unstable 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connection, a fast and nearby 5GHz Wi-Fi connection, and on an ethernet connection held steady and offered high bandwidth.

The highly dated Chromebook hardware didn’t hold it back from playing.

We also played on a 5-year-old Chromebook, a 2-year-old Razer Blade, and a modern desktop gaming rig that would be happy to run Assassin’s Creed Odyssey at 1080p/60FPS on its own hardware. We even started one computer up while another was running the stream, and Google simply transferred control over to the second computer, with no stop in the stream.

Across the board, we’d describe the experience as at least playable. The highly dated Chromebook hardware didn’t hold it back from playing. The biggest issues come from a bad connection: if the connection speed drops, so does the game quality, with lower resolutions, latency, and far more noticeable compression.

That said, in our experience, the visual degradation came before the latency, so we were able to continue battling enemies smoothly even if they started to look like ghostly swarms of pixels.

Overall, the graphics are fairly good throughout, especially when playing on a high-bandwidth connection using ethernet cables. Colors, shadows, and anti-aliasing look fine, and the frame-rate seems to vary between 30 and 60fps.

The low frame-rate was one of the two issues we noticed. The other was compression. Most of the time, it’s not super jarring, but when there’s a lot of detail in a scene and a lot of movement, the compression turns it all into a bit of slop. Character faces become a blur and hard edges (noticeably the character’s hair) go soft.

It would seem to be a sign of the lower bitrate enabling this type of streaming, but the truth is that most of the time it’s unnoticeable, and would be even harder to spot if you weren’t looking for it (we were looking for it). Panning the camera and running through dense wooded areas in the game (and combining the two) were the only times we were turned off by the dips in visual quality.

The experience isn’t mind-blowing, at least until you remember that it’s using so little of your computers processing power that you’ve literally got a full-system virus scan going in the background and nothing changed. The visuals are comparable to what you’d get on a console, except with compression artifacts here and there. And, with a stable connection, it compares rather favorably to in-home streaming on a Steam Link.

While the price and service model Google adopts will go a long way in determining whether Project Stream is worthwhile, we can say right now that it works, and it looks good doing it. But, will Microsoft’s xCloud do it better?

Looking for a fully baked game streaming service? PlayStation Now is available now

Instant Pot Smart WiFi review: Wi-Fi comes to the popular multicooker, but adds little extra – CNET

Instant Pot’s line of multicookers is as popular as ever, and the new $150 (£117, AU$206) Instant Pot Smart WiFi is the most high-tech model yet. While Instant Pot stayed true to its popular 6-quart, 1,000-watt design, it added Wi-Fi connectivity for remote control and integration with the Instant Pot app.

Instant Pot’s line of multicookers is as popular as ever, and the new $150 (£117, AU$206) Instant Pot Smart WiFi is the most high-tech model yet. While Instant Pot stayed true to its popular 6-quart, 1,000-watt design, it added Wi-Fi connectivity for remote control and integration with the Instant Pot app. Most similar to the Instant Pot Duo Plus series, the Instant Pot Smart WiFi is little pricier and a little smarter. Wi-Fi might bring peace of mind to anyone hesitant to leave their multicooker unmonitored, but overall the smarts don’t revolutionize the way you’ll use your Instant Pot. If you don’t have your heart set on viewing your Instant Pot’s status remotely, you’ll be just fine with a more affordable model.

The Instant Pot Smart WiFi keeps all the popular modes and functions customers have come to know and love. Buttons for beans, chili, meat, rice, yogurt and cake programs are all there. You’ll also get saute, pressure cook, steam and slow cook functions. There isn’t a program button for eggs or a button for sterilizing, but otherwise this model looks a whole lot like the Duo Plus series. Instant Pot’s comparison chart gives you a good idea of what the trade-offs are between each model. The Instant Pot Smart WiFi also comes with a soup spoon, rice paddle and measuring cup.

The big standout and the entire point of this new Instant Pot model is the addition of Wi-Fi. Adding connectivity means you can connect the Instant Pot Smart WiFi to your home’s 2.4GHz wireless network and the Instant Pot app. But what does that mean?

For starters, you can use the “Instant Start” tab to select the program you’d like to run, make custom adjustments to settings like pressure level and time and start your cooker with a tap. There are also options to cancel cooking remotely, monitor your food’s progress and receive notifications on your phone when cooking is complete. Other app features include a recipes section with hundreds of ideas and inspirations for dishes ranging from cheesecake to Indian curries. Browsing those categories was my favorite part of the app experience.

The app does have a few issues. For one, the temperature monitoring Instant Pot touts with this model is hardly temperature monitoring at all. It’s a cute, little thermometer icon with some seemingly arbitrary markers. You won’t get actual temperature readings here. You will see the mode of the cooker including whether it is preheating, cooking or keeping warm. The only change you can make to your cooker once you’ve begun a program is to cancel it. It would be nice to be able to add or subtract time.

Let’s get cookin’

Like any good appliance tester, I put the Instant Pot through its paces with several basic dishes. We cooked brisket, rice, beans, chili and even seared two steaks in the Instant Pot Smart WiFi. On the whole, all of the dishes cooked well and yielded tasty results. Some weren’t quite as good as others, but functionality, everything performed to my satisfaction. Here’s the rundown:

Beans

We cooked 1 pound of dry, unsoaked black beans in the Instant Pot using the beans program. That defaulted to a 30-minute cooking time. I filled the water just enough to cover the beans, a recommendation in the Instant Pot cooking time table. After the half hour of cook time, I waited 15 minutes before venting any remaining pressure. Beans came out tasty, but slightly on the mushy side. However, they held their shape and had just the right amount of liquid. I wouldn’t have hesitated to serve these as a side. So far, so good.

Rice

Rice is one of Instant Pot’s main attractions, and for good reason. Cooking long-grain rice on a stove top takes a lot of time. Rice in the Instant Pot is faster and just feels easier. No bringing water to a boil or taking up space on your stove top with steaming rice. I used a 1:1 ratio of water to rice, and after rinsing the rice four times under cold water, I poured everything into the pot. The rice setting defaulted to 12 minutes, and after 10 minutes of natural release, I vented the remaining pressure.

Instant Pot dishes up Wi-Fi for remote cooking control – CNET

Familiar looks

The Instant Pot Smart WiFi includes the programs and functions of the popular Duo series multicookers. Buttons for beans, chili, meat, rice, yogurt and cake are all there.

Familiar looks

The Instant Pot Smart WiFi includes the programs and functions of the popular Duo series multicookers. Buttons for beans, chili, meat, rice, yogurt and cake are all there. You’ll also get saute, pressure cook, steam and slow cook options.

Published:November 30, 2018Caption:Photo:Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Arlo Ultra security camera brings 4K streaming outside – CNET

Arlo, the smart home company and former Netgear sub-brand, is back with a new outdoor security camera — the Ultra. Arlo says the Ultra is its most powerful model to date with a bunch of promising specs and features we haven’t seen on any other Arlo camera:

  • 4K resolution

Arlo, the smart home company and former Netgear sub-brand, is back with a new outdoor security camera — the Ultra. Arlo says the Ultra is its most powerful model to date with a bunch of promising specs and features we haven’t seen on any other Arlo camera:

4K resolution
180-degree field of view
Automatic zooming and tracking
Built-in 100-lumen LED spotlight
Color night vision via the LED spotlightBuilt-in sirenTwo microphonesUpdated magnetic mount design
New magnetic charging cableRedesigned base station

Related linksThis battery-powered outdoor security camera duo goes where extension cords won’tNetgear spins its Arlo smart home security brand off as a public companyNetgear’s Arlo Go LTE security camera doesn’t need Wi-Fi

I’m intrigued by the Arlo Ultra because it’s technically the first DIY home security camera to playback video at 4K resolution. Nest’s IQ Indoor and Outdoor cameras have 4K image sensors, but not 4K playback.

1080p HD resolution has long been considered the gold standard for security camera livestreaming (that’s what Nest’s IQ cameras have), but as with TVs, 4K resolution has around four times as many pixels as a 1080p image, which translates to a crisper live feed with richer detail (assuming you have the bandwidth to handle the higher resolution).

A 4K image sensor makes it possible to zoom in closer on a person’s face to see fine details that might otherwise be missed. Nest cameras have the ability to automatically zoom to follow activity as it’s happening via its Supersight feature, but it doesn’t stream the un-zoomed image in 4K. Arlo claims that the Ultra will. Facebook’s Portal and Portal Plus displays have similar tracking capabilities.

Like other weatherproof Arlo cams, the Ultra is battery-powered, but you can also keep it tethered with the newly-designed magnetic cable. The only Arlo feature that requires the cable is 24/7 continuous recording, which is an additional add-on available via the Arlo Smart cloud video recording service. It costs $10 for 14 days of 24/7 recording and $20 for 30 days of 24/7 recording. Learn more about Arlo Smart here.

We’ve reviewed a variety of Arlo security cameras, from the original Arlo to the Arlo Pro, the Pro 2, the Arlo Q and the Arlo Go LTE camera. But the Ultra is the first device for Arlo since it spun off from Netgear into a separate company that now trades publicly on the New York Stock Exchange.

Arlo also introduced a smart doorbell earlier this year, the Arlo Audio Doorbell with an optional chime accessory.

I got a chance to look at the Arlo Ultra during a demo. While it has a lot of similarities to previous outdoor Arlo cams, the Ultra feels heftier. I like the new magnetic cable, too, and the redesigned magnetic mount seems to offer more opportunities to rotate your camera to reach the optimal angle. They’ve also changed how you remove the battery. Instead of pressing a button on the top of the camera to release the battery, there’s a button on the bottom that releases the entire back of the camera for a more seamless design.

The Ultra’s redesigned base station ditched the built-in siren and added local storage. Now the Ultra outdoor cameras themselves have built-in sirens rather than the base stations sitting in your home. Importantly, existing Arlo customers do not have to buy the new base station to use the Ultra. It will be sold in standalone packs and can work alongside older Arlo cams and base stations. Similarly, older Arlo cams are supposed to work with the new Ultra base station, too.

Arlo claims the base station helps with the Ultra’s battery life, which is expected to last for roughly six months on a single charge. Of course, that estimate can vary depending on your usage. Larger batteries designed to last for up to a year are sold separately, along with a battery charging station, a solar panel accessory and more.


32 outdoor cameras that take home security seriously
33 Photos

In addition to all of the new features, every Arlo Ultra will include a free year of access to the Arlo Smart cloud service plans. Here’s an overview of Arlo Smart:

Arlo Smart Add-on: $3 per month (per camera) for person detection, motion zones and rich notifications. Rich notifications let you view an event on your phone’s lock screen without having to navigate to the app. You get seven days of motion-activated video clip storage.

Arlo Smart Premier: $10 per month for person detection, motion zones, rich notifications and e911. e911 is a service that connects you to local emergency services. The Premier service also extends the video storage period from one week to 30 days of motion-activated video clip storage. It works with up to 10 Arlo cameras.

Arlo Smart Elite: $15 per month for person detection, motion zones, rich notifications and e911. The Elite service extends the video storage period from 30 days to 60 days of motion-activated video clip storage and it works with up to 20 Arlo cameras.

Arlo Smart also supports vehicle, animal and package detection, features I’m very interested in testing out.

Arlo has not yet released pricing information for the Ultra. That makes me a touch nervous, since the 1080p HD Arlo Pro 2 ($170 at Amazon) two-camera kit with base station costs $480. The Arlo Ultra is scheduled to hit stores in the first quarter of 2019.

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China Eastern receives first of 20 A350-900 jetliners

The cabin of China Eastern’s first A350-900 is divided into three parts — a business class section with 40 seats, including four premium business seats, a super economy class area with 32 seats, and 216 economy class seats.

The cabin of China Eastern’s first A350-900 is divided into three parts — a business class section with 40 seats, including four premium business seats, a super economy class area with 32 seats, and 216 economy class seats.

In response to passengers’ diversified expectations for travel, the new plane also comes with an “Air Living Room”, its premium business class option which features new seats, the largest in-flight touchscreen in the airline, a next generation in-flight entertainment system, a full function bar, optimized cabin scene lightening, NFC (near field communication) reader for in-flight shopping, world premiere bluetooth earphone module, and high-throughput open spaces intersect.

The balcony-styled business class, the first of its kind, is equipped with a host of amenities, including Thompson Vantage’s first “super business” products, 32-inch high definition touchscreens that are far larger than regular first-class allocations, mini-bars, convenient storage lockers, AC power outlets, and more comfortable three-point seatbelts.

The two premium business class seats in the middle row are also foldable, allowing flight crew to reshape the space into a community area that up to four people can comfortably use for a business meeting or family gathering.

Similar to the premium business cabin, the standard business cabin is equipped with Thompson Vantage XL all-flat seats, 18-inch high definition displays, and sliding doors that allow for more privacy.

Super economy and economy class travelers will find their trip in the China Eastern A350-900 jets to be more comfortable thanks to the new stylish seats from Rockwell Collins. The 12-inch high definition display installed on each seat in economy class — it is the largest across all airlines in the world — provides passengers with a top quality viewing experience.

Over in super economy class, each cradle-shaped seat is equipped with a 13-inch high definition display, independent AC and USB power outlets, leather seat covers, and a larger than normal table plate, all of which help accentuate the level of comfort.

Passengers can also look forward to more diversified media and entertainment content with China Eastern’s latest generation in-flight entertainment system, the Panasonic EX3/GCS, which is an all-round upgrade of the previous generation.

Like all wide-body aircraft in China Eastern’s fleet, the new A350-900 is also equipped with the new generation in-flight Wi-Fi which has a maximum speed of 200Mbps.

China Eastern’s “Kitchen in Air”, which comprises new microwaves, coffee machines and multi-functional fridges will also ensure that the cabin crew are always ready to meet the requests of each and every guest.

China Eastern currently operates the world’s second largest and Asia’s largest Airbus fleet which comprises nearly 700 aircraft, including more than 360 Airbus jets. The company will receive two more A350-900 aircraft this year, with the last of the 20 aircrafts ordered scheduled to be delivered in 2022. All these new planes will be equipped with the next generation cabin service system.

The first A350-900 will launch its maiden flight from Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport to Beijing Capital International Airport on December 4. The plane will gradually be used to fly routes to other major destinations including Guangzhou of Guangdong province and Chengdu of Sichuan province. Its international long-haul routes from Shanghai to Europe, Australia and North America will begin in January, 2019.

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SOURCE China Eastern Airlines

How Google’s ‘Frankenphone’ taught the Pixel 3 AI to take portrait photos – CNET

A background-blurring portrait mode arrived last year in Google’sPixel 2 smartphone, but researchers used a hacked-together clump of five phones to improve how the feature worked in this year’s Pixel 3.

A background-blurring portrait mode arrived last year in Google’sPixel 2 smartphone, but researchers used a hacked-together clump of five phones to improve how the feature worked in this year’s Pixel 3.

The portrait mode simulates the shallow depth of field of higher-end cameras and lenses that concentrate your attention on the subject while turning the background into an undistracting blur. It’s tricky to do that simulation well, though, and mistakes can stick out. For the Pixel 3, Google used artificial intelligence technology to fix the glitches.

To get it to work, though, Google needed some photos to train its AI. Enter the quintet of phones sandwiched together to all take the same photo from slightly different perspectives. Those slight differences in perspective let computers judge how far away each part of a scene is from the cameras and generate a “depth map” used to figure out the background material to blurred.

“We built our own custom ‘Frankenphone’ rig that contains five Pixel 3 phones, along with a Wi-Fi-based solution that allowed us to simultaneously capture pictures from all of the phones,” researcher Rahul Garg and programmer Neal Wadhwa said in a Google blog post Thursday.

The technique shows how profoundly new image-processing software and hardware are changing photography. Smartphones have small image sensors that can’t compete with traditional cameras for image quality, but Google is ahead of the pack with computational photography methods that can do things like blur backgrounds, increase resolution, tweak exposure, improve shadow details and shoot photos in the dark.

So where does the Frankenphone come into it all? As a way to give a view of the world more like what we see with our own eyes.

Humans can judge depth because we have two eyes separated by a short distance. That means they see slightly different scenes — a difference called parallax. With its iPhone 7 two years ago, Apple took advantage of parallax between its two rear-facing cameras for its first crack at portrait mode.

Google’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 3 only have single rear-facing cameras, but each pixel in a photo from the phones is actually created by two light detectors, one on the left of a pixel site on one on the right half. The left-side view is slightly different from the right-side view, and that parallax is enough to judge some depth information.

But not without problems, Google said. For example, it can judge only left-right parallax in a scene, not up-down parallax. So Google gives the Pixel 3 a leg up with AI.

The AI is good at adding other information into the mix — for example, slight differences in focus, or an awareness that a cat in the distance is smaller than one that’s close up. The way AI works today, though, a model must be trained on real-world data. In this case, that meant taking quintets of photos from the Frankenphones with the left-right and up-down parallax information.

The trained AI, combined with data from another AI system that detects humans in photos, produces the Pixel’s better portrait-mode abilities.

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Starbucks to block porn on free wi-fi in US

Starbucks has announced it will block access to pornography on its free wi-fi in all its US outlets from 2019.

While watching explicit content in store was always banned, the coffee giant will now actively block such content.

Starbucks has announced it will block access to pornography on its free wi-fi in all its US outlets from 2019.

While watching explicit content in store was always banned, the coffee giant will now actively block such content.

The company has been under pressure from a Virginia-based non-profit, Enough is Enough, to filter pornography in its stores.

McDonald’s changed its wi-fi policies in 2016 after pressure from the group.

“While it rarely occurs, the use of Starbucks public Wi-Fi to view illegal or egregious content is not, nor has it ever been permitted,” Starbucks said in a statement reported by BuzzFeed News.

The coffee company said it had “identified a solution” to stop access to pornography in all in US locations by 2019, but did not specify what this solution was.

People reacted with confusion and humour on social media after the company made its announcement.

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Why would someone watch porn in Starbucks?

— The Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom (@tressiemcphd) November 29, 2018
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Ok which one of y’all was watching so much porn in Starbucks they had to block no it on their wifi? 🤣🤣🤣

— Habitual Wine Sipper 🥃 (@DukeOfDrinkswel) November 29, 2018
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Handcuffing yourself to a Starbucks until they give us back our porn 😔

— kabumped (@kabumped) November 29, 2018
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Enough is Enough issued a statement earlier in the week condemning the company for breaking a promise to block such content in 2016.

“Starbucks continues to serve up free, unrestricted WiFi to its customers, opening the door for patrons to view graphic or obscene pornography, view or distribute child pornography (an illegal crime) or engage in sexual predation activity,” the statement read.

The group encouraged people to sign a petition demanding Starbucks introduce such a filter.

Almost 27,000 people had signed it by Thursday.

In response, entertainment news site TMZ reports that pornography website YouPorn has banned Starbucks coffee from its offices.

A letter on the TMZ website, allegedly from YouPorn vice-president Charles Hughes, says the new policy will come into effect on 1 January 2019.

You may also be interested in:South Korea’s spy cam porn epidemic‘Erratic driver’ watching pornographyDoes sex addiction really exist?

Starbucks to ban access to porn from free wi-fi in US

Starbucks has announced it will block access to pornography on its free wi-fi in all its US outlets from 2019.

While watching explicit content in store was always banned, the coffee giant will now actively block such content.

Starbucks has announced it will block access to pornography on its free wi-fi in all its US outlets from 2019.

While watching explicit content in store was always banned, the coffee giant will now actively block such content.

The company has been under pressure from a Virginia-based non-profit, Enough is Enough, to filter pornography in its stores.

McDonald’s changed its wi-fi policies in 2016 after pressure from the group.

“While it rarely occurs, the use of Starbucks public Wi-Fi to view illegal or egregious content is not, nor has it ever been permitted,” Starbucks said in a statement reported by BuzzFeed News.

The coffee company said it had “identified a solution” to stop access to pornography in all in US locations by 2019, but did not specify what this solution was.

People reacted with confusion and humour on social media after the company made its announcement.

Skip Twitter post by @tressiemcphd

Why would someone watch porn in Starbucks?

— The Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom (@tressiemcphd) November 29, 2018
Report

End of Twitter post by @tressiemcphd

Skip Twitter post by @DukeOfDrinkswel

Ok which one of y’all was watching so much porn in Starbucks they had to block no it on their wifi? 🤣🤣🤣

— Habitual Wine Sipper 🥃 (@DukeOfDrinkswel) November 29, 2018
Report

End of Twitter post by @DukeOfDrinkswel

Skip Twitter post by @kabumped

Handcuffing yourself to a Starbucks until they give us back our porn 😔

— kabumped (@kabumped) November 29, 2018
Report

End of Twitter post by @kabumped

Enough is Enough issued a statement earlier in the week condemning the company for breaking a promise to block such content in 2016.

“Starbucks continues to serve up free, unrestricted WiFi to its customers, opening the door for patrons to view graphic or obscene pornography, view or distribute child pornography (an illegal crime) or engage in sexual predation activity,” the statement read.

The group encouraged people to sign a petition demanding Starbucks introduce such a filter.

Almost 27,000 people had signed it by Thursday.

In response, entertainment news site TMZ reports that pornography website YouPorn has banned Starbucks coffee from its offices.

A letter on the TMZ website, allegedly from YouPorn vice-president Charles Hughes, says the new policy will come into effect on 1 January 2019.

You may also be interested in:South Korea’s spy cam porn epidemic‘Erratic driver’ watching pornographyDoes sex addiction really exist?

Carmichael project: Visiting Australia’s controversial Adani mine

Indian energy giant Adani has announced that it will begin work on a controversial coal mine project in Australia. Earlier this year, BBC Hindi’s Vineet Khare visited the area and details what he witnessed there.

Indian energy giant Adani has announced that it will begin work on a controversial coal mine project in Australia. Earlier this year, BBC Hindi’s Vineet Khare visited the area and details what he witnessed there.

The route to the Carmichael mine is a long lonely ride in the wilderness – a paved road transforms into a wide dirt track before you eventually reach the remote piece of land which has so divided Australia.

The $12.5bn (£9.8bn) Carmichael project coal site in Queensland state is nearly 400km (248 miles) inland from the eastern coast. It’s in the Mackay region, which is home to other mining projects.

The project has been delayed for six years because of a series of legal challenges and reports evaluating its environmental impact. It’s owned by the Adani group, whose chairman, Gautam Adani, is considered to be close to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The fierce debate over a monster coal mineAdani gives ‘green light’ for project

The controversy over the project has seen Australian banks rule out funding and earlier this month, the firm said it had scaled down production, cutting its targets by three quarters. On Thursday, CEO Lucas Dow said that the firm itself would finance the project.

But, according to media reports, there are regulatory approvals pending, without which construction cannot begin.

As we travel to the mine, everyone along the way – from taxi drivers to restaurant owners and pedestrians – seems to have an opinion about the project.

Those who oppose it, including climate scientists, say that if the mines are opened up, the world “better bid goodbye to the Paris Agreement commitment to hold temperature rise to 2C”.

But supporters say it’s good for the economy and accuse protesters of being “deep-pocketed left-wing activists hell-bent on feeding lies.”

A ‘secret’ camp

We decide to first visit a “secret anti-Adani camp”, located an hour’s drive and a narrow path off the main route.

The wooden gate is electronically locked “to keep away pro-Adani elements”. The two sides have clashed in the past.

We enter a large open space dotted with trees. A couple of large sheds stand in the middle – one of them houses banners and posters that carry anti-Adani messages. Another has food laid out for nearly two dozen “campers”.

Two women sporting black T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Adani – No means No” scrawled in red and yellow are hunched over a large white cloth banner on which they are painting the words “Stop Adani!”

A makeshift residential accommodation stands a few metres away. Chargers, plug points and documents are all dumped on a table surrounded by men and women typing away on laptops. A WiFi connection links them to the world.

“This camp is a frontline to stop Adani. It’s a place to organise and plan direct action,” says one of the protesters, Scott Daynes.

“Science tells us that coal needs to stay in the ground, that’s why we are here,” he adds.

There is excitement that a journalist from India has come to cover the story. “How much are these protests against Adani in Australia being covered by Indian media?” one man asks.

“We hear Mr Adani is very influential and close to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Is it true?” another asks.

Both Mr Adani and Mr Modi come from the western state of Gujarat and their relationship goes back to when Mr Modi was the state’s chief minister.

The fact that Mr Modi used a plane chartered by the Adani group to fly to Delhi after he was elected prime minister is still cited as an example of their closeness.

Adani: The Indian group buying coal mines in Australia

As far back as 2003, Mr Adani broke ranks with fellow industrialists to form a separate business lobby group. This was after they had criticised Mr Modi for the poor law and order situation in Gujarat following the 2002 riots that killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims.

And when Mr Modi was dropped as the keynote speaker at Wharton Business School after protests by sections of students and the faculty, the Adani group withdrew its sponsorship.

The rise in the firm’s fortunes ever since Mr Modi became prime minister has been the subject of constant media and opposition scrutiny in India.

And the fate of the Australian project is being closely watched in India, especially with the federal elections just a few months away and the possibility of another five-year term for Mr Modi.

A mysterious vehicle

Next, we decide to visit the proposed site of the mine.

As we approach, we spot a vehicle following us, its headlights flashing through the dust kicked up by our pick-up jeep.

It waits as we stop to speak to some farmers who have given up their land for a nearly 400km rail line that will be used to transport the coal once the mines are operational.

Activists fear that, once constructed, the rail line will revive adjoining coal projects that are currently dormant due to a lack of transport options.

But the farmers refuse to speak to us citing a confidentiality agreement.

The vehicle continues to trail us for nearly an hour.

After we reach the site, the driver, a well-built man, films us as we walk around it. He walks away when asked to disclose his identity.

The site itself is barren land but those who oppose the mine say that activating it would spell doom for the environment and ruin Australia’s beaches.

Critics have warned that the vast quantities of coal expected to be extracted from the mine will threaten the fragile ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef, which is nearby.

Environmentalist Lance Payne shows me boxes filled with “dirty horrible” coal pebbles he said he had found on the beaches.

Mr Payne fears that the dredging required to build the port will damage the reef, which acts like a lagoon.

“What you throw in the ocean lagoon stays there,” he says. “If a coal port spills coal, it stays there.”