Sunday, February 2, 2014

Boot up: Fukushima reality, a chip for photo recognition, dual-boot tablets, and more

A damaged reactor building at the Fukushima power plant A damaged reactor building at the Fukushima power plant where an electricity failure left spent nuclear fuel rods without fresh cooling water. Photograph: Tepco/EPA

A burst of 8 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Deep Sea News, a blog written largely by professional ocean scientists, has been doing a really good job of debunking bogus stories about Fukushima radiation affecting ocean wildlife near North America. And there are a lot to choose from. It's damn near a genre, at this point — a genre that's full of misleading information and flat-out fabrications. For instance, the latest story to circulate on social media is all about how Fukushima radiation is causing massive die-offs of sea life off the coast of California.

But this claim falls apart pretty quickly.

Comes with three colours. Looks astonishingly ugly, principally because of the steel.

Being able to implement deep learning in more compact and power-efficient ways could lead to smartphones and other mobile devices that can understand the content of images and video, says Eugenio Culurciello, a professor at Purdue working on the project. In December, at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference in Nevada, the group demonstrated that a co-processor connected to a conventional smartphone processor could help it run deep learning software. The software was able to detect faces or label parts of a street scene. The co-processor's design was tested on an FPGA, a reconfigurable chip that can be programmed to test a new hardware design without the considerable expense of fabricating a completely new chip.

The prototype is much less powerful than systems like Google's cat detector, but it shows how new forms of hardware could make it possible to use the power of deep learning more widely. "There's a need for this," says Culurciello. "You probably have a collection of several thousand images that you never look at again, and we don't have a good technology to analyze all this content."

James Kendrick:

So when are we going to see speech recognition good enough to become ubiquitous? Entering text by speech is easier than typing for some folks. It's not that they are avoiding it, it's that it's not very good.

I've been trying to use speech recognition for over a decade, and what I see today is only a little better than what I saw back then. The hardware is much better than it was in the early days of speech recognition, but that just gets you to the incorrectly interpreted text faster.

Talking into the phone or other device is OK for short entries like text messages, but longer than that and all bets are off. The pipe dream of years ago is still a pipe dream, and that's a shame.

So some OEMs, and seemingly Intel, have collaborated on this effort to glue together Windows 8.1 and Android on a single device, with the hopes that the two OSs combined in some way equate to "consumer value". However, there's really no clear sign that the consumer benefits from this approach, and in fact they really lose, as they've now got a Windows device with precious storage space consumed by an Android install of dubious value. If the consumer really wanted an Android device, they're in the opposite conundrum.

Really, the OEMs and Intel have to be going into this strategy without any concern for consumers. It's just about moving devices, and trying to ensure an ecosystem is there when they can't (or don't want to) bet on one platform exclusively. The end result is a device that instead of doing task A well, or task B well, does a really middling job with both of them, and results in a device that the user regrets buying (or worse, regrets being given).

"I bought this device that can boot into Windows or Android because it's the only way that I can ____."

With iBeacons at the entrance to these stores, the location is nailed down to a few feet. This increases surety and decreases misfires. And the nice thing about iBeacons is that they're part of a mated system. The user has to have an app installed and be in the presence of an iBeacon. You're not tracking or annoying customers who have not at least obliquely opted in with a supported app.

There are a lot of buzzwords involved in this store marketing stuff by necessity, because brands will use it in a variety of ways. But there are some very concrete and simple applications that will show up in inMarket's apps as of today. If a shopper is using its List Bliss app (a shopping list), a notification could pop up on their phone when they walk in the door of a store, telling them that an item is on sale. Or the CheckPoints app could tell them which items will earn them the most rewards points. All of this will be opt-in.

Chris Nerney:

I've been using SnoopWall for Android on two devices (an HTC One smartphone and a Nexus 7 tablet) for a few days now, and it's quite impressive, though there are some tricks to it. And it does a lot more than allow granular control of apps permissions. It also allows users to control access to their devices' hardware ports, which can be vulnerable to intrusion.

Giving back what anything that isn't Android 4.3 took away. Remember, the phrase "app permissions" can be replaced with "your privacy".

T-Mobile's "un-carrier" marketing strategy, launched earlier in 2013, has succeeded by attracting featurephone owners looking to upgrade to their first smartphone. Among T-Mobile smartphone buyers in November, 55% of those who purchased LG and Nokia smartphones were first-time smartphone buyers, compared to just 39% of Apple customers.

Don't misread this as saying that 94% of first-time smartphone buyers on T-Mobile bought an LG, Nokia or Apple phone. T-Mobile may have been key in Windows Phone's sales share rising to 4.7% in the US in the three months to the end of November.

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