All posts by avanzar

Alleged Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s handled on video – uses iPhone X-style gestures, of course

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The Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S is the next model in the lineup that made the whole bezelless craze mainstream (because just how much reach does Sharp have as a smartphone brand?), and we have a pretty good idea how it’ll look thanks to a seemingly official render from a week ago. But it’s even better to see the actual phone, live, on video, right?

The folks over at OnPhones have gotten their hands on a Mi Mix 2S, by the looks of it, and have shared a short, yet revealing clip. The big news is that the bezelless phone will employ gestures, not unlike the ones found on the iPhone X – for accessing the task switcher, at least. One thing Xiaomi hasn’t taken straight out of the X – the home bar we’re huge fans of. Not.

Unfortunately, the video doesn’t give us a glimpse of the top right corner of the device where the front-facing camera should be according to the circulating render. Notches are the new fad now that Apple has chosen to chisel out the display of the iPhone X to fit cameras in there, but the one on the Mi Mix 2S is about as inconspicuous as any. So, when’s that review unit coming our way?

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Tesla’s next-gen Roadster looks incredible in these new colors

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When Tesla unveiled its highly anticipated Tesla Semi this past November, Elon Musk surprised everyone when he also introduced a next-gen version of the company’s iconic Roadster. And with the type of showmanship we’ve come to expect from Musk, Tesla introduced the Roadster by having it drive out of the back of a Tesla Semi.

Without exaggeration, Tesla’s Roadster is an absolute screamer. With a 0-60 MPH time of just 1.9 seconds flat, Tesla’s next-gen Roadster is faster than the Bugatti Veyron and nearly any other super car you can think of. Indeed, Musk at the event boasted that “it will be the fastest production car ever made.” And for good measure, the Roadster will sport a top speed of 250 MPH and a range of 620 miles on a single charge.

Just this week, Tesla put a Roadster prototype in its headquarters in Palo Alto, California. And as you might expect, the prototype featured the same shade of sleek red we saw when the car was first introduced a few months back. The photos below were first posted to Reddit courtesy of Casey_S.

Casey’s photos provide us with an interesting and close-up look on the next-gen Roadster. To wit, check out the futuristic steering wheel below.

And a few shots of the rear exterior for good measure.

Before long, an enterprising Redditor and Tesla enthusiast put one of Casey’s Roadster photos through Photoshop in order to see what Tesla’s next-gen Roadster might look like in an assortment of different colors. The full list can be viewed in the following album on Imgur, but a few of the best renderings can be seen below.

The one below essentially looks like a makeshift Batmobile.

Tesla is planning to release its next-gen Roadster in 2020 with a base price of $200,000.

Karan Johar leads the Indian Delegation at the Berlin Film Festival

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Karan Johar leads the Indian Delegation at the Berlin Film Festival

The 68th Annual Berlin International Film Festival that begins in Berlin – will not just have a strong South Asian presence with the screening of six films, but will also have substantial participation from India. This year, Karan Johar is leading the Indian delegation, which will be discussing the Indian film market and Indo-European film collaboration. 

Karan Johar

Along with the I&B and CII officials, other members of the delegation are actress Bhumi Pednekar, CBFC member Vani Tripathi Tikoo, and directors Jahnu Barua and Shaji Karun.

Karan Johar

The I&B Ministry is participating at the European film market in association with the CII. The officials believe that the participation of filmmakers will help them showcase Indian cinema to a global audience. 

Karan Johar

The highlights of this visit – scheduled from February 16-18 – are a discussion on the India-Europe Film Collaboration at the European Film Market (EFM) and a talk and presentation on ‘the current state of the Indian film market’ at the EFM Producers Hub. The Indian delegation will also be interacting with the audience at different sessions at the festival.

Karan Johar

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The Best Sci-Fi On Netflix Streaming

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Being able to press a button and get a movie instantly sent to your TV is sort of the stuff of science fiction anyways, so it’s not surprising that Netflix has a pretty solid selection of sci-fi to stream. Picking through all of the detritus, though, can be a slog. There are a lot of lousy low-budget disease pandemic freakouts and cyborg fight club cheapies to skip over.

If you don’t feel like scrolling forever to find the cream of the crop, we’ve got your back. What follows is a list of the 11 must-watch science fiction flicks that are streaming right now on Netflix. We’ll update it as movies are added and removed, so bookmark this page. You’ll want to come back to it when you’re setting up for a binge.

Turbo Kid

Turbo Kid

Created by an idiosyncratic Canadian filmmaking collective, Turbo Kid is a gore-soaked post-apocalyptic homage to classic 80s sci-fi flicks with a personality all its own. When the Kid discovers the armor and wrist blaster of his favorite superhero Turbo Rider, it brings him into conflict with a warlord who grinds up his enemies to extract their precious water. Along with a beautiful female robot named Apple and a one-handed arm wrestling champion, the Kid finds his inner strength and helps change the world for the better. It’s charming, beautifully shot and acted, and a ton of fun.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

The Disney deal continues to pay off for Netflix, as they add the excellent Guardians Of The Galaxy sequel to the streaming library. Featuring one of the all-time oddest Marvel villains in Ego the Living Planet plus plenty of the banter, classic 70s rock and sexual tension we’ve come to love, this is a great push into the cosmic storytelling that is coming to a climax in the forthcoming Infinity War. Lots of fun Easter eggs and secrets to spot on multiple watchings too.

The Road

The Road

John Hillcoat’s adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel is one of the grimmest and most uncompromising movies on this list, a stark illustration of post-apocalypse reality. Viggo Mortensen is astounding as a scavenger who will do anything to keep his son alive, and the cinematography is nothing short of brilliant. This isn’t a feel-good film by any means, and everybody involved commits unflinchingly to the atmosphere of the movie. It’s one of the least commercial sci-fi films to ever come out of Hollywood and definitely deserves your time and attention.

Barbarella

Barbarella

Based on the French comics of Jean-Claude Forest, this 1968 Jane Fonda vehicle is a slice of swinging 60s sexploitation that’s visually exhausting. Fonda plays the titular heroine with a heaping dollop of camp, mugging her way through increasingly ridiculous situations like battling off carnivorous dolls and overloading an “orgasm machine” with her furious libido. It’s about as politically incorrect as you can get, but the costumes by Paco Rabanne are insanely good, the production design is great and the Maurice Jarre soundtrack slays.

Advantageous

Advantageous

This 2015 flick sort of slipped under the radar in theaters, but thankfully Netflix is giving it a second chance at finding an audience. Jennifer Phang’s debut feature is set in the near future, where the technology to transfer your consciousness into a new body has just reached the human trial stage. The protagonist, Gwen, signs up for the procedure because she’s not capable of providing for her daughter, but needless to say science isn’t perfect and “Gwen 2.0” has some pieces missing. Advantageous is a clear-headed and chilly look at a future where the body is as disposable as anything else, and it’s well worth your time.

Hard To Be A God

Hard To Be A God

One of the coolest things about Netflix’s sometimes schizophrenic selection is the offbeat foreign films that sneak through. Aleksei German’s 2013 Hard To Be A God is a great example. When a group of scientists travel to an Earth-like planet that is technologically centuries behind our own, one is chosen to infiltrate their society and help them progress forward. You can probably guess how well that turns out. Hard To Be A God is dark, deranged and uniquely Russian, well worth a look for a different view of the universe.

Embers

Claire Carré’s debut feature takes place in a world that’s been ravaged by a neurological virus that left survivors with retrograde amnesia. The few humans still left behind try to contend with their new status as people unable to reach back into the past or create new memories. It’s a pretty unconventional take that manages to pull a lot of emotion out of its five overlapping stories. This isn’t one you can halfway watch, though, so put the phone down and give it your full attention.

Galaxy Quest

Galaxy Quest

It took a while, but in 2016 Galaxy Quest is finally getting the recognition it deserves. When the cast members of a cancelled sci-fi TV show are mistaken for actual space explorers by a desperate alien race, things spin wildly out of control. What could be just a Spaceballs-esque farce brings an unexpected amount of emotional depth to the table? Great performances, including the late Alan Rickman, put it on the list. Apparently, there’s a darker, R-rated cut out there somewhere that nobody’s ever seen, but until that surfaces this version is more than fine.

The Iron Giant

The Iron Giant

Before Brad Bird was one of Pixar’s greatest weapons, he helmed this animated feature for Warner Brothers about a boy and his robot. The Iron Giant was a tremendous critical success but failed to make its money back at the box office, partly due to the studio not knowing how to promote it. It became a cult classic on cable and home video, and it’s still a really compelling watch today. The titular Giant’s animation was done with cel-shaded CGI and the animators had tons of creative control, resulting in a very personal-feeling film.

Men In Black

Men In Black

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones anchored this tremendous 1997 hit as a pair of suit-wearing agents tasked with keeping rowdy aliens on Earth in line. The duo has to track down a skin-wearing extraterrestrial who is on the planet illegally hunting for a stellar energy source that could shatter worlds. The plot’s a trifle, the effects are dated, but the manic energy of the flick is still solid two decades later and the chemistry between the two leads is great. The sequels haven’t managed to measure up, but they’re not streaming so don’t worry about it.

Rogue One

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Disney’s new deal with Netflix means all sorts of good movies are winding up there for the first time, and July of 2017 brings Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The first big-screen installment that’s outside of the main nine-movie timeline, this follows a ragtag group of Rebels as they steal the plans for the Death Star. The tone of this one is much more WWII war movie, as it introduces a new group of characters that aren’t necessarily going to make it through OK. Expanding the Star Wars universe is a no-brainer, but we’re happy that the end result is this ambitious and interesting.

Removed From Netflix

Sadly, movies don’t stay streaming forever, and every month the selection on Netflix changes. When a movie gets taken off of the service, we’ll put it down here and let you know where else you can get it.

Robocop

RoboCop

Paul Verhoeven’s dystopian 1987 classic is one of the most unflinchingly steel-eyed looks at the future of militarized policing, and it’s even more relevant in our modern age of drones blowing up snipers. RoboCop, if you’ve been living under a rock, is the story of Alex Murphy, a devoted Detroit cop who gets the majority of his body blown away in a shootout. He’s transformed into a seemingly emotionless cyborg and put back on the streets to set things right. Let’s not talk about the 2014 remake.

Buy on DVD or Blu-Ray

Stream on Amazon Video

Terminator 2

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

James Cameron broke all the rules making the sequel to his time-traveling robot murder movie, and in doing so, he created one of the most iconic sci-fi films of the 90s. T2 brings Arnold Schwarzenegger back, but as the hero this time, tasked with protecting John Connor from a morphing liquid metal killing machine. Great performances, unforgettable action scenes and the best nuclear apocalypse ever captured on camera make this one an all-time classic.

Buy on DVD or Blu-Ray

Stream on Amazon Video

The Fifth Element

The Fifth Element

Luc Besson’s sci-fi fantasia is pretty much absurd from beginning to end, but it’s also visually delicious and a hell of a lot of fun. Bruce Willis stars in this 1997 flick as a taxi driver who meets a mysterious woman who just happens to be the key to preventing the extinction of all life in the universe. An incredible performance by Gary Oldman as Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg, one of the best screen-chewing villains of all time, is more than enough reason to watch.

Buy on DVD or Blu-Ray

Stream on Amazon Video

Back To The Future

Back To The Future

One of the most beloved sci-fi franchises of the 80s, all three Back to the Future movies were on Netflix until October of 2016. It’s absurd that we’d have to recount the plot of these to you, a human being with the Internet, but here we go: ordinary teen Marty McFly gets zapped into the past courtesy an electrified DeLorean and must absolutely not bone down with his mother to save the timestream as we know it. Fast-paced and funny with a career-making Crispin Glover performance, the first flick is the best but the sequel’s pretty solid too. The third one (set in the Wild West)? You can skip it.

Buy on DVD or Blu-Ray

Stream on Amazon Video

The Running Man

The Running Man

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s late-80s, early-90s run of movies is pretty unimpeachable, and one of our personal favorites is 87’s The Running Man, an alternately grisly and ridiculous spoof where he gets dropped into a murderous game show and has to fend for his life. Jesse “The Body” Ventura is awesome as “Captain Freedom,” and the other “stalkers” are fun as hell. Long-time game show host Richard Dawson shines in the role of the villainous Killian. In the era of increasingly lurid reality TV, this movie seems more accurate than ever.

Buy on DVD or Blu-Ray

Stream on Amazon Video

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Steven Spielberg’s 1982 megahit is one of the most iconic sci-fi movies of all time. When a short, weird-looking alien is stranded on Earth, a group of kids help him find his way home. That’s a grotesque oversimplification, of course, but the plot isn’t what makes E.T. a classic. It’s the great performances, subtle and effective effects work, and attention to exactly what makes kids different from adults – something so many 80s movies mastered and seems to be nearly lost today. This is a prime feel-good movie that will fill you with nostalgia for an era of sci-fi gone by.

Buy on DVD or Blu-Ray

Stream on Amazon Video

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Kerry Conran’s 2004 adventure was unusual when it premiered – live actors over CGI backgrounds, with no real sets? Obviously Hollywood caught up with him in the last decade or so, but Sky Captain is still worth a watch. The plot is an overheated mess, but that’s part of the charm, and the setting – an alternate-universe 1939 where mad scientists run amok and flying robots attack New York – is brilliant. This movie is just good clean fun of a kind that we don’t get enough of anymore. Oh, and it has Angelina Jolie in an eyepatch and a skin-tight leather outfit.

Buy on DVD or Blu-Ray

Stream on Amazon Video

Equilibrium

Equilibrium

Kurt Wimmer’s 2002 flick was pretty much overshadowed by the much more successful Matrix movies, but a decade and a half later it holds up really well. Christian Bale plays a law enforcement officer in a society where emotions are forbidden and all citizens take a daily mood stabilizer. When he accidentally goes a day without his dose, his inner humanity awakens and leads him into conflict with the totalitarian state that rules everything. The special martial art invented for the movie – “gun kata,” where you master different stances for shooting and avoiding bullets – is both silly and sort of cool at the same time.

Buy on DVD or Blu-Ray

Stream on Amazon Video

Star Trek: First Contact

Star Trek: First Contact

None of the Original Series Trek movies are on Netflix, but the Next Generation ones are. The best of them is easily First Contact, which hearkens back to Star Trek IV with a tale of the Enterprise’s crew traveling back in time. It’s not to save whales, though – the mission now is to prevent the Borg collective from changing the timeline themselves. Most of the action takes place on the day of Earth’s first contact with the Vulcans, the moment that created the Federation. Great performances, stirring action set pieces, and the introduction of Alice Krige as the Borg Queen make this one well worth your time.

Buy on DVD or Blu-Ray

Stream on Amazon Video

Primer

Primer

Shane Carruth’s brilliant $7,000 debut is the best kind of science fiction: one that warps your brain as you watch it. When a pair of engineers accidentally invent a device that loops time in their garage, it sets off a mentally taxing series of journeys that will have you making diagrams on graph paper to keep up. The guys do what any smart person would do – get rich on the stock market – but when one thinks things have gone too far and tries to go back in time to prevent himself from inventing the device, all Hell breaks loose.

Buy on DVD or Blu-Ray

Stream on Amazon Video

Upstream Color

Upstream Color

Here’s Shane Carruth’s brilliant follow-up to Primer. Where that movie twisted brains, Upstream Color does the same for hearts, telling the tale of a couple who are, without their knowledge, infected with a fictional parasite that passes from humans, to pigs, and finally to flowers. It’s a deeply affecting meditation on how much of us is “us” and how much is the horde of bacteria, viruses and other stuff that we carry around. One of the most ambitious and invigorating sci-fi films of the last decade.

Buy on DVD or Blu-Ray

Stream on Amazon Video

The Etch Clock Makes the Time Appear Out of Nowhere

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If you’re already spending the entire 9-to-5 workday gazing at the clock, you may as well invest in a timepiece worthy of prolonged ogling. Every 30 seconds, the current time slowly materializes on the Etch’s thermoelastic membrane. Seven-segment numerals, reminiscent of a classic LCD clock, sit beneath the slate-­colored face. To display the time, the smooth, stretchy skin is pulled into the crevices needed to form the correct digits. The result looks like the numbers are carved into stone, an effect compounded by the concrete-like hue of the membrane. Moments later, the figures disappear—time, of course, is fleeting. So go ahead, stare all you want. Someday soon you may want to evaluate your career choices. But for now, with a timepiece this engaging, those hours won’t seem like a waste.

$1,950


This article appears in the February issue. Subscribe now.

STYLING BY grace suh; Etch Clock courtesy of MoMA Design Store

Experts agree: There’s no real threat of a robot uprising anytime soon

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The Twitterati have been freaked out for several days now over a video showcasing the creepy door-opening ability of the SpotMini, a dog-like robot from Boston Dynamics. The robot is so creepily life-like, it quickly became the top trending video on Tuesday and prompted a flurry of only slightly humorous tweets warning that the beginning of the end of the Age of Man had arrived.

Take heart, though, ye who fear the Singularity and the Rise of the Machines are at hand. David Held, an assistant professor in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science, is an expert in robots and robotic manipulation. He’s also a modulating voice of reassurance that, at least for now, the field of robotics is only just beginning to grapple with how to help robots master even the simplest, most basic-level human motor skills and cognition. That there’s still a long, long way to go, in other words, before they get anywhere close to mastering perception and manipulation — sight and sound.

The tldr version of all that is as follows: Don’t lose your mind over the SpotMini yet, never mind how much that video calls to mind the scene in Jurassic Park where the raptors show they’re able to open doors.

“A set of tasks so general you can easily transfer that knowledge to new tasks — people have not really been able to figure out what those tasks are” yet for robots, said Held, whose work includes a focus on developing methods for robotic perception and control. Specifically, perception and control that allows robots to operate in the messy, cluttered environments and scenes of daily life, where things don’t always unfold according to a pattern or to a previously realized state.

To that end, he’s designing new deep learning and machine learning algorithms to understand things like how dynamic objects in the environment can move and affect the environment to achieve a desired task. That can improve a robot’s capabilities on two fronts — in object manipulation and autonomous driving.

That work is complicated in part, though, because a robot’s base of knowledge doesn’t expand upwards the way ours does. They have to be taught/programmed everything, whereas, for example, humans can use what they’ve learned and previously experienced to make assumptions and successfully navigate challenges and obstacles that are being experienced for the first time.

So, the ominous robot knows how to open the door — now what?

“People have come up with a few benchmark tasks, where everyone is working to at least create some degree of standardization to compare algorithms — like, can you teach a humanoid robot to walk?” Held said. “How do you learn one thing and transfer it to someone else in a robotics context is still a big challenge.

“Take object manipulation, most of which is done today by robots in a factory setting where it knows exactly what objects are going to come down the pipeline, what their orientation is, exactly where they’re going to be. And the robots are basically programmed to perform precise motion that they repeat over and over. But if you want to have robot caretakers for the elderly or robots that help in disaster zones, things like that — there’s so many different types of variations that the robot will have to be able to handle. And that’s a big challenge for developing new robotic methods.”

We’re getting closer to a world where that’s more prevalent, however.

One indication of why that’s the case comes via researchers from Brown University and MIT who’ve developed a means of helping robots plan tasks that take multiple steps to complete by building abstract representations of what they see around them.

Why projects like this are one are so critical to development in the field of robots is that, according to Brown assistant professor of computer science George Konidaris, a robot’s “low-level interface with the world makes it really hard to decide what to do.”

“Imagine how hard it would be,” he said, “to plan something as simple as a trip to the grocery store if you had to think about each and every muscle you’d flex to get there, and imagine in advance and in detail the terabytes of visual data that would pass through your retinas along the way.”

The researchers in the study introduced a robot to a room with a few objects: a cupboard, cooler, a light switch for inside the cupboard and a bottle that could go in the cooler or the cupboard. The researchers gave that robot a few high-level motor skills for interacting with the objects in the room. And then they watched the robot use the skills to interact with everything in the room.

One thing the researchers noticed the robot “learned” is that it needed to be standing in front of the cooler in order to open it — and to not be holding anything, since opening the cooler required both hands.

In general, Konidaris went on, problems are often simpler than they first appear “if you think about them in the right way.” And so it is with robots. Researchers are teaching them how to learn, how to think in the abstract — the better to learn, develop, become more sophisticated.

Just hopefully not opening the door, of course, to something that proves Elon Musk right.

Huawei P20 Plus to come with 4,000mAh battery, always on display

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Huawei’s P20 family of smartphones is scheduled for a March 27 announcement in Paris and we’re expecting three phones to go official then and there – a ‘regular’ P20, a Lite and a Plus (or maybe Pro?). It’s this latter version that we have some new bits on, courtesy of @funkyhuawei.

The flashing/unbricking/assorted-software-tinkering service that specializes in Huawei phones has allegedly dug up P20 Plus firmware files and inside those – a mention of a 4,000mAh battery. On top of that, a reference to an always on display feature has also been found in the files.

Huawei P10 Plus – the current model

So far, only the Mate 10 Pro in the Huawei lineup has an always on display and, whaddayaknow, it’s got a 4,000mAh battery too. That coincidence makes the skeptics around here think that the firmware in question has some remnants of a Mate 10 Pro build and is not necessarily indicative of the P20 Plus’ final form – it’s still somewhat early, after all.

On the other hand, the P10 Plus has a 3,750mAh battery and a 4,000mAh power pack for the upcoming model doesn’t sound the least bit outlandish. We’re just wondering if the always on display means an OLED panel for the P20 Plus – it’s not a requirement for the feature, but the two go quite well together. Plus, with all this talk of notches, things are starting to add up in favor of OLED.

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Amazon’s deal of the day is a $42 HD camera drone that returns to you with the push of a button

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Amazon has some great deals going today for President’s Day weekend, like these luxurious pillow toppers that fit any mattress and feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud. In our humble opinion, though, the star of the show has to be the DROCON Drone X708W FPV Training Quadcopter With HD Camera. For just $41.99, you get an awesome drone that streams live HD video to your smartphone while you pilot it. It also has headless mode, which people love, and it can do flips with the push of a button. But the best part has to be the special feature that lets you press one button and have the drone fly itself back to your location, wherever that might be. You’ve got to check it out!

Here are some highlights from the product page:

  • HIGH-QUALITY DRONE GREAT FOR BEGINNERS: Equipped with REAL-TIME WI-FI transmission and HD camera. Wonderful choice for starting their journey with drone flying. It’s made of premium materials and comes at a fantastic value.
  • ONE-KEY RETURN FOR EASY CONTROL: Never lose your drone! When the drone is flying in headless mode, press one key return button, the drone will fly towards to player. Press the one key return button again or operate the forward/backward control stick, the drone will exit the one key return function.
  • REAL-TIME WI-FI TRANSMISSION WITH HD Camera: Take things to new highs and enjoy a live video feed in high-definition straight to your mobile device with the all new FPV Wi-Fi feature.
  • NO NEED TO WORRY ABOUT NO IMAGES: WIFI connected, APP Opened, but no images solution:When installed the APP, or first open it, there should be a question asking whether allow the APP to get access to the phone camera, please select Allow, then connect WIFI and open the DROCON APP to watch the real-time video.
  • TWIN-SPEED MODES: Whether you’re already skilled or a first time flier, there is a speed that will suit you. Plus, the unique streamlined-shaped body structure improves aerodynamics, thus reducing air resistance and makes landing operation more stable.

This is an Amazon deal of the day, so the price is only good on Saturday. Grab one while you can!

Follow @BGRDeals on Twitter to keep up with the latest and greatest deals we find around the web.

BGR Deals content is independent of Editorial and Advertising, and BGR may receive a commission on purchases made through our posts.

How Augmented Reality Is Shaping the Future of Play

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If you ask 13-year-old Keanu Snyder what he wants for his birthday, he won’t tell you about Nerf blasters or Playstation games. He’ll tell you all about augmented reality. Maybe a new shooter game that lets you zap digital targets around the house, or an experience that makes you feel like you’re traveling the solar system like a galactic explorer.

A few years ago, Snyder was more into playing Xbox games, like NHL, which let you skate around a virtual hockey rink like an all-star athlete. Then he heard about augmented reality, where instead of watching your avatar move on the screen, you could become the avatar and recreate the world around you. “It looked so cool,” he says. “I wanted to be the first one to try it out.”

Now, Snyder acts as an AR ambassador to his friend group. Sometimes, when friends come over, they see Snyder’s Merge AR/VR goggles, which he leaves on the dresser in his bedroom. He’ll slide in his phone, show them how it works, and let them take it for a spin. “Their eyes pop,” he says. “They always ask me, ‘Where can you buy this?’”

Merge

Many companies see that reaction—the immediate “wow” factor—as proof that augmented reality is the future of play. It’s what legacy toymakers like Disney and Lego are banking on to keep their brands relevant; it’s what Toys R Us hopes will keep its stores open. At Toy Fair, which kicks off Saturday in New York City, it’s what many toymakers hope will make their products relevant in 2018 and beyond. Whether layered on top of teddy bears, board games, coloring books, or action fictions, augmented reality promises to make last year’s toys feel new again. And all it takes is a phone.

Time to Play

For a glimpse of that future, look to the world’s largest toymaker, Hasbro. The company is showing off its new Iron Man mask this weekend at Toy Fair, which uses augmented reality to stage a battle against Thanos. Slip on Iron Man’s red helmet and gauntlet, set up the three AR markers around the room, and watch Thanos and his armies surround you. The suit is Hasbro’s first foray into augmented reality, but follows the work of companies like Disney, which introduced its Star Wars Jedi Challenges AR experience last year. The consumer appeal of this stuff is obvious: In AR, you’re not playing as Iron Man. You are Iron Man.

Hasbro’s Iron Man set-up relies on a phone, placed inside of the mask, which captures the real world through the camera and overlays the digital objects from Iron Man’s world. As phone-based AR improves—especially with recent pushes from Apple, Google, and seemingly everyone else in Silicon Valley—those experiences will feel ever-more lifelike. That makes augmented reality something of a golden goose for toymakers. Take a well-designed app, pair it with a simple costume or a plastic toy, and you can create an immersive, interactive experience that kids love.

Other companies have taken note. Bring an animated fire-breathing dragon into your Lego city with the company’s AR app, built using Apple’s AR Kit. Watch (virtual) Sebastian the crab bang on some (real-life) bongos with Disney’s Dream Play. Transform a physical object like the Merge Cube into a musical instrument or a galaxy-conquering spaceship; turn a simple, plastic toy gun into a laser tag machine with Merge’s 6DoF Blaster, which uses a smartphone to create digital targets that you can blast.

“We’re big fans of VR,” says Andrew Trickett, co-founder and CFO of Merge, which makes a suite of AR and VR products for kids. “But we think AR is going to be bigger, for a lot of reasons.”

For one thing, Trickett says, augmented reality demands a lot less hardware. All of Merge’s products combine simple toys with the AR machine that’s always inside your pocket—your phone. That makes it easier to update and expand gameplay over time, and it drives down the price point significantly. Hasbro’s Iron Man toy costs $50, and the Merge Blaster, expected to go on sale this summer, will cost about $30.

Plus, unlike virtual reality or even videogames, augmented reality toys bring kids back into the real world. Kids can run around the house playing AR laser tag, or pretending to be a character from their favorite movie, rather than sitting slack-jawed in front of a screen all day. “There’s a certain satisfaction with touching something and physically manipulating it. I don’t think that’s going to go away,” says Trickett. “But those physical objects are going to become a lot more interesting.”

Reality Check

It’s not just games either: Already, there are augmented reality puzzles and picture books, AR apps for playing with dolls and stuffed animals. One product on the market, a $60 teddy bear called Parker, pairs with an AR app to reimagine doctor play with the bear.

The explosion of AR in kids’ products brings with it some uncomfortable questions. How will those products, which make digital objects a regular part of kids’ lives, change the way children see the world? Do augmented reality experiences that bring coloring books and action figures to life rob children of their imagination? And as AR toys and games reach increasingly younger kids, should we be worried about a generation growing up with phones strapped to their heads?

Jackie Marsh, a researcher at the University of Sheffield who studies digital literacy in children, says AR experiences can be beneficial for kids, especially when the apps help kids learn something or indulge in their own fantasy play. But research also warns that these types of games, toys, and apps can fail to engage kids meaningfully, or worse, mess with a child’s sense of “reality testing”—understanding what’s real, and what’s not. It all depends on how the AR experience is designed.

Marsh and a group of researchers in the UK spent a year studying how very young children interact with augmented reality apps. They found that some apps—like an AR app that paired with a Furby, letting kids “feed” it digital food and practice caretaking—promoted more creative play among kids. Those experiences included more “flights of fantasy” as kids switched between playing with the physical toy, the digital experience, and their own imagination. On the other hand, apps that lacked an interactive element did not promote more creative play. “Simply bringing characters or objects to life as 3D images, whilst novel, did not lead to extended play,” says Marsh. “The apps need to be designed in such a way that they enable children to create objects and scenarios themselves, or foster play, open-ended inquiry, problem solving, and critical thinking.”

With all products designed for kids—whether toys, videogames, or augmented reality experiences—Marsh says good design comes from understanding kids’ development and working to promote their engagement with the world, rather than neuter it.

In that sense, putting on an Iron Man helmet that brings to life Thanos’s armies isn’t so different from putting on an Iron Man helmet without the AR. The technology isn’t really the point. It’s about dressing up in a costume, running around the house, and pretending to save the world.

Dual-curved Meizu 15 Plus pictured with some screen protectors

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The Meizu 15 Plus has been a regular at the rumor mill since December last year, and even posed for some live shots a couple of weeks ago. In today’s installment of the saga of pre-announcement leaks, we’re treated to a few renders of the phone with some glass screen protectors meant to cover its dual-curved screen.

Meizu 15 Plus screen protector renders Meizu 15 Plus screen protector renders Meizu 15 Plus screen protector renders
Meizu 15 Plus screen protector renders

Screen protector manufacturers aren’t ones to care for specs as long as they have the cutouts right, so no additional info on hardware comes from these images. That said, the renders do confirm a design that features minimal bezels.

It remains unclear how Meizu will go about fingerprint recognition as there’s no room on the front for a sensor, and those live images we mentioned didn’t show a sensor on the back either. If vivo is doing under-display fingerprint sensors, maybe Meizu can too. The 10-LED flash seems safe to remain a Meizu-exclusive, though.

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Unknown Huawei phone gets leaked, looks like the Honor 7X [Update: Mate SE]

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Update: As our reader Hafiz Ng pointed out, the phone in question appears to be a Huawei Mate SE, which has a US support page, but not an actual product page just yet.

The original article follows.

Renders of a yet-to-be-announced Huawei phone have surfaced online – in high resolution and two color schemes. Now, not to be ungrateful to Evan Blass for digging up the images, but we’re inclined to disagree with the leaker calling the phone a ‘Huawei-branded Honor 8 Pro‘ – it’s more of a Huawei-branded Honor 7X in our book.

Unnamed Huawei phone, model number BND-L34 Unnamed Huawei phone, model number BND-L34
Unnamed Huawei phone, model number BND-L34

Of course, to be fair, Huawei’s entire naming scheme is a complete mess with seemingly identical phones called entirely different names across the world. We won’t pretend we know marketing better than the marketing teams at a huge corporation though, and we’ll move on.

The renders @evleaks has stumbled upon show a modern tall-screened phone with not much in the line of bezels. If our suspicion of a close relationship with the Honor 7X turns out to be correct, this Huawei phone would come with a 5.93″ 1080p display and a midrange Kirin 659 chip.

Honor 7X for comparison

A dual camera setup on the back would likely be of the 16MP+2MP variety for some depth effects without moody black and whites, though that’s just us extrapolating from the 7X’s specs. The thing is, that particular Honor phone is the only one in Huawei’s lineup with a dual camera and the flash on the outside, so we feel pretty confident in our speculation of a close relationship between the two.

In any case, an end will be put to all speculation in about a week at MWC, when this unnamed Huawei phone will likely become official.

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Google Pixel 2 users reporting device heating and battery life issues after February update

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Looks like the Pixel 2 February update has brought along some major issues. A lot of users, both at Reddit as well as Google’s own forums, are complaining about their units getting warm (even with normal usage) and battery draining comparatively faster.

If you take a detailed look at these online communities, there are some users who say they aren’t facing any such issues, but their number is pretty small compared to those who are complaining.

And many have confirmed these issues while the device is in safe mode, so the possibility of third-party apps being culprit is clearly ruled out. Google is yet to officially offer a word on the matter.

If you have also been facing similar issues after the latest patch, do let us know in comments below.

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Deals: 50% off on both Samsung Galaxy S8 and Google Pixel 2 XL

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If you are a Samsung or Google fan in the US, and are planning to purchase a new high-end smartphone, you might want to check the deals being offered on the Galaxy S8 and Pixel 2 XL.

Starting with the Pixel 2 XL, retailer Best Buy is offering the deal that’ll save you a total of $400 on your purchase of the device.

So as clear from the screenshot above, the $400 discount comes in the form of “$300 in bill credits and $100 instant savings when you buy and activate with a monthly installment plan for Verizon.”

Oh, and yes, the deal ends today. So act fast.

Moving on to the Galaxy S8 promo, it’s being offered by Cricket. If you are willing to make a switch, you can grab the flagship handset for $349 (you need to add a matching data plan starting at $30/mo).

This deal runs through March 29.

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Google wants to make it easier for 911 operators to locate mobile callers

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While emergency services are able to immediately see the address when an individual calls from a landline, the same doesn’t apply for mobile phones. The good news is that the gap might begin to close, as Google is reportedly running tests on new technology that would make it easier for 911 operators to locate mobile callers.

According to The Wall Street Journal, 911 centers said the results of the test were promising. Google’s test covered tens of thousands of calls throughout the country in December and January, as random samples of calls from Android smartphones had their addresses sent directly to the operator who answered the phone.

“There was a big difference,” said Jennifer Estes, 911 Director in Loudon County, Tennessee. In one specific case, when a caller who didn’t speak English called, Estes said that without the data, “we would have had to keep working with her to figure out where she was. In an emergency, obviously, seconds save lives.”

Bob Finney III, director of communications for the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, provided another example of how the data solves problems. When someone calls 911, they are often panicked and have trouble providing information. On occasion, they might even say the wrong address, which could be disastrous when every second counts. With the data, Finney’s team is able to verify an address before they head out.

The test wasn’t flawless, as Google says that around 50,000 calls failed to include carrier data as AT&T was not made aware of the test prior to it taking place. Google has since resolved this issue. Although Google doesn’t have a date for when this technology will go wide, it should begin to appear in call centers this year.

Google System being tested to locate 911 callers more accurately

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We live in a world where Uber and Facebook are able to get much more accurate location information than where it is realty needed, in the event of an emergency. Apple and Google have both faced pressure in the past few years to make Android and iOS’ comprehensive location information available to 911 dispatchers.

Google is the first to address this by tackling a very pressing issue that faces emergency responders in the United States. When you call 911 during an emergency, the call center receives carrier information of the location of the caller. However, the problem is that the information from carriers is not very accurate and sometimes takes a while before it actually reaches the call centers.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google has been quietly testing a new protocol for providing location information of 911 callers to call centers more quickly and accurately than carriers, which offer cell tower triangulation, a less accurate method to estimate location. Federal regulators estimate that reducing the response time by 1 minute could save up to 10,000 lives every year.

In December and January, 911 calls were covered under Google’s testing trial, where a sample totaling tens of thousands of 911 calls had location data sent directly to the call center. These centers were able to get more accurate information about callers’ location from Google than from carriers for 80% of the calls.

The trail tests covered about two and a half million people in Texas, Tennessee, and Florida. According to RapidOS, one of the two companies Google worked with to transport location info from Google, the search engine’s technology has an average accuracy of 121 feet while carrier data averaged a 522 feet accuracy. 911 directors cited a “big difference”. There was even a case where responders were able to locate a woman in distress who didn’t speak English. This is quite a milestone.

Bob Finney III, Director of Communications for Collier Counter in South Florida explains that the trial solved another problem that dispatchers face. Callers sometimes unintentionally give the wrong location to the dispatchers.

We can validate what the caller is saying. We’ve never been able to do that because [location]’s never been good enough. – Bob Finney

The Wall Street Journal also reports that there were some snags along the way. 911 calls during the trail are supposed to include location data from Google and the carrier, however, 50,000 calls didn’t include carrier data, and the glitch was later identified by AT&T, who had no idea that such a trial was going on.

Google’s location system is in place for 14 countries, primarily in Europe and Google hopes to deploy the technology on a broad scale later this year.

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