Start up: Apple gets prismatic, the tricorder cometh, smart home dilemmas, oceans in trouble, and more


Coming to a future iPhone camera? Photo by refeia on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The HTC One M9 review: part 1 » AnandTech

Why part 1? Because, Joshua Ho explains, there was a big ol’ software update last Friday which changed lots of stuff. Which is a good thing:

Friday’s software update introduced significant changes to the phone’s power and temperature management capabilities, which in turn has introduced a significant changes in the phone’s performance. HTC’s notes on the matter are very brief – updates to the camera, the UI, and thermal throttling – in practice it appears that HTC has greatly altered how the phone behaves under sustained loads. Our best guess at this point is that HTC appears to have reduced the maximum skin temperature allowed on the phone, which means that for short, bursty workloads that don’t approach the maximum skin temperature the changes are minimal, but for sustained loads performance has gone down due to the reduction in the amount of heat allowed to be generated.

Case in point, our GFXBench 3.0 battery life results were significantly altered by the update. With the initial version of the phone’s software we hit 1.73 hours – the phone ran fast but almost unbearably hot – and after the software update the One M9 is over 3 hours on the same test with a maximum temperature of 45C, a still-warm but certainly much cooler temperature, as seen in the photo above. And none of this takes into account the camera changes, which so far we are finding to be similarly significant. It has made the One M9 a very different phone from when we started.

Part 2 will look at the camera.


Apple invents 3-sensor iPhone camera with light splitting cube for accurate colors, low-light performance » Apple Insider

Mikey Campbell on a Apple patent filed in 2011 that has just been published:

Older three-CCD cameras relied on the tech to more accurately capture light and negate the “wobble” effect seen with a single energy-efficient CMOS chip. Modern equipment employs global shutter CMOS modules that offer better low-light performance and comparable color accuracy, opening the door to entirely new shooting possibilities.

Apple’s design uses light splitting techniques similar to those applied in current optics packages marketed by Canon, Panasonic, Philips and other big-name players in the camera space. For its splitter assembly, Apple uses a cube arrangement constructed using four identical polyhedrons that meet at dichroic interfaces.

By coating each interface with an optical coating, particular wavelengths of incident light can be reflected or allowed to transmit through to an adjoining tetrahedron. Adjusting dichroic filters allows Apple to parse out red, green and blue wavelengths and send them off to three sensors positioned around the cube. Aside from RGB, the patent also allows for other color sets like cyan, yellow, green and magenta (CYGM) and red, green, blue and emerald (RGBE), among others.

Light splitters also enable other desirable effects like sum and difference polarization, which achieves the same results as polarization imaging without filtering out incident light. The process can be taken a step further to enhance image data for feature extraction, useful in computer vision applications.

Basically, it’s about Apple wanting to have the smartphone with the best and fastest camera on the planet. Nothing more or less.


MAGZET: the audio jack reinvented with the power of magnets » Kickstarter

Basically, it’s Apple’s MagSafe idea applied to headphone jacks. A neat idea, though with a gigantic target of over a quarter of a million dollars. But I like it, so I backed it. (Then again, think how often your headphone lead has saved your phone from plunging to the floor. On the other hand, it may have yanked your phone out of your pocket.. oh anyway.)


The tricorder, an all-in-one diagnostic device, draws nigh » ReadWrite

After pushing back deadlines by a few months, the 10 remaining teams in the Tricorder X Prize are nearing the day they will deliver a device that can diagnose 15 diseases and other basic health information through at-home tests. The teams are scheduled to deliver working prototypes in June to a UC-San Diego study that will test the devices on patients with known medical disorders to measure their accuracy.

“We’re pretty confident that the majority of the 10 finalist teams will actually be able to deliver,” senior director Grant Company said. “Some may merge, and some may fall out, just because they can’t pull it together. And that just reinforces how big of a challenge this really is. It’s because the goals are very high.”

Another thing posited in Star Trek (the original series) being made reality.


Improbable: enabling the development of large-scale simulated worlds » cdixon blog

Chris Dixon of a16z, which is putting $20m into London-based Improbable, a spin-out from the University of Cambridge:

The Improbable team had to solve multiple hard problems to make this work. Think of their tech as a “spatial operating system”: for every object in the world — a person, a car, a microbe —the system assigns “ownership” of different parts of that entity to various worker programs. As entities move around (according to whatever controls them  — code, humans, real-world sensors) they interact with other entities. Often these interactions happen across machines, so Improbable needs to handle inter-machine messaging. Sometimes entities need to be reassigned to new hardware to load balance. When hardware fails or network conditions degrade, Improbable automatically reassigns the workload and adjusts the network flow. Getting the system to work at scale under real-world conditions is a very hard problem that took the Improbable team years of R&D.

Wow! What will it be used for? Mars missions? Lunar missions? Climate calculations?

One initial application for the Improbable technology is in gaming.

Gnnnh..

Beyond gaming, Improbable is useful in any field that models complex systems — biology, economics, defense, urban planning, transportation, disease prevention, etc. Think of simulations as the flip side to “big data.” Data science is useful when you already have large data sets. Simulations are useful when you know how parts of the system work and want to generate data about the system as a whole. Simulations are especially well suited for asking hypothetical questions: what would happen to the world if we changed X and Y? How could we change X and Y to get the outcome we want?

Better.


Connected car lawsuits begin » LinkedIn

Peggy Smedley:

It was only a matter a time before this was going to happen. And now it has. A lawsuit has been filed against three leading automakers seeking damages in the millions. But as I talked about on my radio show http://www.peggysmedleyshow.com a little more than a week ago, this lawsuit just might surprise you.

From court documents filed in Dallas, Texas, it appears this class action has been issued against Toyota, Ford Motor Co., and General Motors, for selling connected vehicles for allegedly knowing these in-vehicle systems could be hacked.

But, more importantly, the court documents go on to assert the automakers attempted to mislead consumers by not revealing the dangers associated with connected cars and not addressing the safety concerns.


The smart home decade dilemma » Tech.pinions

Bob O’Donnell thought he might be in line for some new (and smart?) appliances:

The new GE connected refrigerator won’t be available until later this spring but we needed to replace our fridge now. Plus, frankly, all the smart fridge seems to offer is a warning the water filter needs to be replaced and an optional alarm when someone leaves the door open. Nice to have, sure, but really essential? Hardly. Same thing with the new smart dishwasher. Getting an alert the dishes are done isn’t my idea of something I need to have.

In the case of the smart oven, the ability to remotely start preheating your oven, get a timer notice when something has finished cooking, or change the temperature or turn off the oven from the comfort of your sofa, did actually sound modestly interesting. But then the paranoid side of me kicked in and I realized that, though highly unlikely, a device sitting on my home WiFi network could theoretically get hacked (despite both mine and GE’s best efforts.) Now, if there was one appliance in my home I really didn’t want to be taken over and remotely controlled by someone other than my family, it would be the oven because, in theory, it could actually end up burning your house down. So, my previous disappointment with not getting at least one smart appliance in the overhaul actually morphed into a modest sense of relief.

The “decade” reference in the title is to the fact that appliances have typical lifespans of at least 10 years, and often 20. That’s longer than some tech companies.


Global warming is now slowing down the circulation of the oceans — with potentially dire consequences » The Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posttv/c/embed/c1f126ae-d192-11e4-8b1e-274d670aa9c9

Chris Mooney:

Welcome to this week’s installment of “Don’t Mess with Geophysics.”

Last week, we learned about the possible destabilization of the Totten Glacier of East Antarctica, which could unleash over 11 feet of sea level rise in coming centuries.

And now this week brings news of another potential mega-scale perturbation. According to a new study just out in Nature Climate Change by Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a group of co-authors, we’re now seeing a slowdown of the great ocean circulation that, among other planetary roles, helps to partly drive the Gulf Stream off the U.S. east coast. The consequences could be dire – including significant extra sea level rise for coastal cities like New York and Boston.

Somehow just linking to this feels insufficient. Equally, we’re talking about the world’s oceans here, and it’s hard to know quite what to do.


Gartner recommends Samsung, LG partner with watchmakers » Korea Times

Yoon Sung-won:

Gartner said Tuesday that Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics may need to adjust strategies in the wearable device business to strengthen their brand’s position.

The global market research agency said in a briefing session in Seoul that many fashion brands are launching smartwatches as jewellery or luxury items in the second phase of the wearable devices market. Gartner stressed that electronics makers are recommended to partner with traditional watch brands on quality features.

“Customers believe that fashion brands can set a new trend in the smartwatch industry tapping into their strong brand power and consumer channels, which many electronics makers do not have,” Gartner’s research director Angela McIntyre said.

Yeah, might help.


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