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Google’s flagship Android phone Pixel 2 XL

It manages to do with a single camera what competitors can only do with two.

WITH AN overall score of 98 points, the Google Pixel 2 stands a full four points clear of the iPhone 8 Plus and Galaxy Note 8, now tied for second place. Its results are especially impressive given that it manages to do with a single camera what competitors can only do with two.
Google is seizing on opportunities to use software rather than hardware to create new features, which allows it to roll out products at a variety of prices, all of which have essentially the same features (because it costs Google nothing to add the software), but which are differentiated in the physical materials in the devices.
A clear example of this approach is in the new Google Home Mini, the little voice-controlled speaker that Google announced the day it announced the two Pixel 2 phones.
The Google Home Mini is “inspired” by Amazon’s Echo Dot (to put it mildly), but where the Echo Dot uses an array of six microphones to listen for voice commands, the Home Mini uses only two, and then uses software to do beam forming and other tricks, to make up for the smaller microphone array.
Google claims the software approach, based on machine learning, actually produces better results than Amazon’s hardware approach.  
 

Google's single-lensed Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones have shot straight to the top. What is unique about the Pixel 2 is its ability to sense depth using only one camera

The premium features in the Pixel 2 phones exist in the software rather than the hardware, meaning that with few exceptions you won’t get better features just because you buy the more expensive model.
The Pixel 2 XL has a much, much better screen than the smaller Pixel 2, for instance. It’s not just bigger (6 inches versus 5 inches on the non-XL model), it’s sharper (538 pixels per inch versus 441 ppi), it’s richer (OLED versus LCD, giving rise to the one feature that the XL has that is missing from the non-XL: an always on display), and it takes up the whole front of the phone, like an iPhone X or like a Galaxy S8.
The difference in the materials is so great that there’s no doubt in my mind that the XL will be the one to get when Pixel 2 goes on sale later this year. But even with the premium materials the Pixel 2 Plus is wanting something. Most of the premium features are in software.   

Google  Pixel 2 Camera
Google’s single-lensed Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones have shot straight to the top of DxOMark’s camera benchmark charts, beating the iPhone 8 Plus and the Galaxy Note 8, both of which feature dual cameras.
Google has been experimenting quite a bit with augmented reality recently. Project Tango still hasn’t taken off, but the company’s new ARCore library promises similar functionality without specialized hardware. The company is expanding on this with new ‘AR Stickers’ for the Google Camera.
One of the standout features of the Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus was ‘portrait mode’ which enables softly blurred backgrounds which make the subject really pop from your images similar to results from a DSLR camera. This feature was refined and improved in the iPhone 8 Plus and it matched by a similar feature in the Galaxy Note 8.
All of these smartphones rely on comparing and merging the images from two discrete cameras in order to calculate a 3D depth map of the scene. What’s unique about the Pixel 2 is its ability to sense depth using only one camera.
This is achieved by using an image sensor with ‘split’ pixels which generate slightly different ‘left’ and ‘right’ views of the scene. It’s not enough of a difference to create a traditional stereoscopic image of the kind you might view with special 3D glasses, but it is plenty enough difference for Google’s image processing techniques to be able to calculate the depth of objects within the scene and work out where to apply a software-based blurring effect to the background.

Portrait mode effect
However, the portrait mode effect is only one of many advantages which can be gained from a dual camera setup - advantages which the Google flagship will therefore miss out on.
The Pixel 2 simply loses much more detail the more you zoom in. The other key dual-camera benefit is huge: Photo quality in low light improves dramatically the more light you are able to capture and two cameras can potentially capture twice as much light as one. Google has fitted a brighter f/1.8 lens than the f/2.0 version found on the original Pixel, but this can’t compensate for the light gathering potential of two cameras working as a team.
However, using a single physical camera cuts costs on raw materials and allows more room for other internal components, such as a larger battery.
Google’s image processing is so good that the Pixel 2 still manages to dominate in the critical areas of exposure, contrast and colour, coming out well ahead of both the iPhone 8 Plus and the Galaxy Note 8 in these areas. Its autofocus performance, for both photo and video use, pulls ahead even further. This highlights a huge advantage over the competition: Google still has the option of adding a second camera in future products, potentially extending its lead even further.

Picture perfect
The rear camera on both phones uses dual pixels (which as an aside suggests the Google cameras might have the same incredible low-light performance as Samsung’s dual-pixel Galaxy phones) and then with machine learning it uses software to turn data the infinitesimally small parallax difference between those two pixels to create a depth map.
The portrait mode on the Pixel 2 XL that I tested is really, really good. It’s not without errors (in one shot of me, someone appears to be growing out of my head like a homunculus), but all the portrait modes in all the phones we’ve tested here in the Digital Life Labs have errors. The portrait mode has yet to be invented that won’t be defeated by my curly hair. The Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL have the same feature set, even though one of them, the Pixel 2 XL, is a good deal more premium.
More remarkable yet, the front-facing camera on the PIxel 2 and Pixel 2 XL also has portrait mode that works very well, despite it being a single camera that doesn’t even have dual pixels. That mode operates entirely in software, based on Google’s extensive machine learning assets, and on what Google itself admits are a couple of “cheats”. Since it’s a selfie camera, the software presumes the camera is held at arm’s length, and uses that as the starting point for its depth map.
— Internet

Comment

It manages to do with a single camera what competitors can only do with two.

WITH AN overall score of 98 points, the Google Pixel 2 stands a full four points clear of the iPhone 8 Plus and Galaxy Note 8, now tied for second place. Its results are especially impressive given that it manages to do with a single camera what competitors can only do with two.
Google is seizing on opportunities to use software rather than hardware to create new features, which allows it to roll out products at a variety of prices, all of which have essentially the same features (because it costs Google nothing to add the software), but which are differentiated in the physical materials in the devices.
A clear example of this approach is in the new Google Home Mini, the little voice-controlled speaker that Google announced the day it announced the two Pixel 2 phones.
The Google Home Mini is “inspired” by Amazon’s Echo Dot (to put it mildly), but where the Echo Dot uses an array of six microphones to listen for voice commands, the Home Mini uses only two, and then uses software to do beam forming and other tricks, to make up for the smaller microphone array.
Google claims the software approach, based on machine learning, actually produces better results than Amazon’s hardware approach.  
 

Google's single-lensed Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones have shot straight to the top. What is unique about the Pixel 2 is its ability to sense depth using only one camera

The premium features in the Pixel 2 phones exist in the software rather than the hardware, meaning that with few exceptions you won’t get better features just because you buy the more expensive model.
The Pixel 2 XL has a much, much better screen than the smaller Pixel 2, for instance. It’s not just bigger (6 inches versus 5 inches on the non-XL model), it’s sharper (538 pixels per inch versus 441 ppi), it’s richer (OLED versus LCD, giving rise to the one feature that the XL has that is missing from the non-XL: an always on display), and it takes up the whole front of the phone, like an iPhone X or like a Galaxy S8.
The difference in the materials is so great that there’s no doubt in my mind that the XL will be the one to get when Pixel 2 goes on sale later this year. But even with the premium materials the Pixel 2 Plus is wanting something. Most of the premium features are in software.   

Google  Pixel 2 Camera
Google’s single-lensed Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones have shot straight to the top of DxOMark’s camera benchmark charts, beating the iPhone 8 Plus and the Galaxy Note 8, both of which feature dual cameras.
Google has been experimenting quite a bit with augmented reality recently. Project Tango still hasn’t taken off, but the company’s new ARCore library promises similar functionality without specialized hardware. The company is expanding on this with new ‘AR Stickers’ for the Google Camera.
One of the standout features of the Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus was ‘portrait mode’ which enables softly blurred backgrounds which make the subject really pop from your images similar to results from a DSLR camera. This feature was refined and improved in the iPhone 8 Plus and it matched by a similar feature in the Galaxy Note 8.
All of these smartphones rely on comparing and merging the images from two discrete cameras in order to calculate a 3D depth map of the scene. What’s unique about the Pixel 2 is its ability to sense depth using only one camera.
This is achieved by using an image sensor with ‘split’ pixels which generate slightly different ‘left’ and ‘right’ views of the scene. It’s not enough of a difference to create a traditional stereoscopic image of the kind you might view with special 3D glasses, but it is plenty enough difference for Google’s image processing techniques to be able to calculate the depth of objects within the scene and work out where to apply a software-based blurring effect to the background.

Portrait mode effect
However, the portrait mode effect is only one of many advantages which can be gained from a dual camera setup - advantages which the Google flagship will therefore miss out on.
The Pixel 2 simply loses much more detail the more you zoom in. The other key dual-camera benefit is huge: Photo quality in low light improves dramatically the more light you are able to capture and two cameras can potentially capture twice as much light as one. Google has fitted a brighter f/1.8 lens than the f/2.0 version found on the original Pixel, but this can’t compensate for the light gathering potential of two cameras working as a team.
However, using a single physical camera cuts costs on raw materials and allows more room for other internal components, such as a larger battery.
Google’s image processing is so good that the Pixel 2 still manages to dominate in the critical areas of exposure, contrast and colour, coming out well ahead of both the iPhone 8 Plus and the Galaxy Note 8 in these areas. Its autofocus performance, for both photo and video use, pulls ahead even further. This highlights a huge advantage over the competition: Google still has the option of adding a second camera in future products, potentially extending its lead even further.

Picture perfect
The rear camera on both phones uses dual pixels (which as an aside suggests the Google cameras might have the same incredible low-light performance as Samsung’s dual-pixel Galaxy phones) and then with machine learning it uses software to turn data the infinitesimally small parallax difference between those two pixels to create a depth map.
The portrait mode on the Pixel 2 XL that I tested is really, really good. It’s not without errors (in one shot of me, someone appears to be growing out of my head like a homunculus), but all the portrait modes in all the phones we’ve tested here in the Digital Life Labs have errors. The portrait mode has yet to be invented that won’t be defeated by my curly hair. The Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL have the same feature set, even though one of them, the Pixel 2 XL, is a good deal more premium.
More remarkable yet, the front-facing camera on the PIxel 2 and Pixel 2 XL also has portrait mode that works very well, despite it being a single camera that doesn’t even have dual pixels. That mode operates entirely in software, based on Google’s extensive machine learning assets, and on what Google itself admits are a couple of “cheats”. Since it’s a selfie camera, the software presumes the camera is held at arm’s length, and uses that as the starting point for its depth map.
— Internet


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Surgical glue seals wounds in 60 seconds

A HIGHLY ELASTIC and adhesive surgical glue that quickly seals wounds without the need for common staples or sutures could transform how surgeries are performed.
Biomedical engineers from the University of Sydney and the United States collaborated on the development of the potentially life-saving surgical glue, called MeTro. MeTro’s high elasticity makes it ideal for sealing wounds in body tissues that continually expand and relax —- such as lungs, hearts and arteries —- that are otherwise at risk of re-opening.
The material also works on internal wounds that are often in hard-to-reach areas and have typically required staples or sutures due to surrounding body fluid hampering the effectiveness of other sealants.

Sets in just 60 seconds
MeTro sets in just 60 seconds once treated with UV light, and the technology has a built-in degrading enzyme which can be modified to determine how long the sealant lasts —- from hours to months, in order to allow adequate time for the wound to heal.
The liquid or gel-like material has quickly and successfully sealed incisions in the arteries and lungs of rodents and the lungs of pigs, without the need for sutures and staples.
The results were published in Science Translational Medicine, in a paper by the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Science; Boston’s Northeastern University, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston.

Natural elastic protein
MeTro combines the natural elastic protein technologies developed in collaboration with author and University of Sydney McCaughey Chair in Biochemistry Professor Anthony Weiss, with light sensitive molecules developed in collaboration with author and Director of the Biomaterials Innovation Research Center at Harvard Medical School Professor Ali Khademhosseini.
Lead author of the study, Assistant Professor Nasim Annabi from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University, oversaw the application of MeTro in a variety of clinical settings and conditions.
“The beauty of the MeTro formulation is that, as soon as it comes in contact with tissue surfaces, it solidifies into a gel-like phase without running away,” she said.

Crosslinking treatment
“We then further stabilise it by curing it on-site with a short light-mediated crosslinking treatment. This allows the sealant to be very accurately placed and to tightly bond and interlock with structures on the tissue surface.”
The University of Sydney’s Professor Anthony Weiss described the process as resembling that of silicone sealants used around kitchen tiles.
“When you watch MeTro, you can see it act like a liquid, filling the gaps and conforming to the shape of the wound,” he said. “It responds well biologically, and interfaces closely with human tissue to promote healing. The gel is easily stored and can be squirted directly onto a wound or cavity.

Applications are powerful
“The potential applications are powerful —- from treating serious internal wounds at emergency sites such as following car accidents and in war zones, as well as improving hospital surgeries.” Professor Khadem Hosseini from Harvard Medical School was optimistic about the study’s findings.
“MeTro seems to remain stable over the period that wounds need to heal in demanding mechanical conditions and later it degrades without any signs of toxicity; it checks off all the boxes of a highly versatile and efficient surgical sealant with potential also beyond pulmonary and vascular suture and staple-less applications,” he said.
The next stage for the technology is clinical testing, Professor Weiss said. “We have shown MeTro works in a range of different settings and solves problems other available sealants can’t. We’re now ready to transfer our research into testing on people. I hope MeTro will soon be used in the clinic, saving human lives.”
— Internet

Comment

A HIGHLY ELASTIC and adhesive surgical glue that quickly seals wounds without the need for common staples or sutures could transform how surgeries are performed.
Biomedical engineers from the University of Sydney and the United States collaborated on the development of the potentially life-saving surgical glue, called MeTro. MeTro’s high elasticity makes it ideal for sealing wounds in body tissues that continually expand and relax —- such as lungs, hearts and arteries —- that are otherwise at risk of re-opening.
The material also works on internal wounds that are often in hard-to-reach areas and have typically required staples or sutures due to surrounding body fluid hampering the effectiveness of other sealants.

Sets in just 60 seconds
MeTro sets in just 60 seconds once treated with UV light, and the technology has a built-in degrading enzyme which can be modified to determine how long the sealant lasts —- from hours to months, in order to allow adequate time for the wound to heal.
The liquid or gel-like material has quickly and successfully sealed incisions in the arteries and lungs of rodents and the lungs of pigs, without the need for sutures and staples.
The results were published in Science Translational Medicine, in a paper by the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Science; Boston’s Northeastern University, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston.

Natural elastic protein
MeTro combines the natural elastic protein technologies developed in collaboration with author and University of Sydney McCaughey Chair in Biochemistry Professor Anthony Weiss, with light sensitive molecules developed in collaboration with author and Director of the Biomaterials Innovation Research Center at Harvard Medical School Professor Ali Khademhosseini.
Lead author of the study, Assistant Professor Nasim Annabi from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University, oversaw the application of MeTro in a variety of clinical settings and conditions.
“The beauty of the MeTro formulation is that, as soon as it comes in contact with tissue surfaces, it solidifies into a gel-like phase without running away,” she said.

Crosslinking treatment
“We then further stabilise it by curing it on-site with a short light-mediated crosslinking treatment. This allows the sealant to be very accurately placed and to tightly bond and interlock with structures on the tissue surface.”
The University of Sydney’s Professor Anthony Weiss described the process as resembling that of silicone sealants used around kitchen tiles.
“When you watch MeTro, you can see it act like a liquid, filling the gaps and conforming to the shape of the wound,” he said. “It responds well biologically, and interfaces closely with human tissue to promote healing. The gel is easily stored and can be squirted directly onto a wound or cavity.

Applications are powerful
“The potential applications are powerful —- from treating serious internal wounds at emergency sites such as following car accidents and in war zones, as well as improving hospital surgeries.” Professor Khadem Hosseini from Harvard Medical School was optimistic about the study’s findings.
“MeTro seems to remain stable over the period that wounds need to heal in demanding mechanical conditions and later it degrades without any signs of toxicity; it checks off all the boxes of a highly versatile and efficient surgical sealant with potential also beyond pulmonary and vascular suture and staple-less applications,” he said.
The next stage for the technology is clinical testing, Professor Weiss said. “We have shown MeTro works in a range of different settings and solves problems other available sealants can’t. We’re now ready to transfer our research into testing on people. I hope MeTro will soon be used in the clinic, saving human lives.”
— Internet


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End of Windows Phone

MICROSOFT has killed off Windows Phone 8.1 support on 10 October, more than three years after the company first introduced the update. The end of support marks an end to the Windows Phone era, and the millions of devices still running the operating system. While most have accepted that the death of Windows Phone occurred more than a year ago, AdDuplex estimates that nearly 80 percent of all Windows-powered phones are still running Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8, or Windows Phone 8.1. All of these handsets are now officially unsupported and only 20 percent of all Windows phones are running the latest Windows 10 Mobile OS.
Windows Phone 8.1 was a big update to Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 operating system, and included the company’s Cortana digital assistant, a new notification center, UI changes, and updates to the core mobile OS. It marked one of Microsoft’s biggest efforts with its Windows Phone work, but it wasn’t successful at competing with Android and iOS. 99.6 percent of all new smartphones now run Android or iOS, and Microsoft has given up producing its own Lumia-branded hardware as a result.
While Microsoft still supports Windows 10 Mobile, it’s not clear what that support will include in the future. Microsoft pushed updates to Windows Phone 8 devices, but the software giant barely included any feature updates in the recent Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update. Microsoft is adding a number of features to the upcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update for PCs, but the company has not extended these to the mobile version in testing. Some rumors suggest that Microsoft has forked its Windows Mobile development into a “feature2” branch that will simply maintain the operating system until support ends in 2018.
— Internet

Comment

MICROSOFT has killed off Windows Phone 8.1 support on 10 October, more than three years after the company first introduced the update. The end of support marks an end to the Windows Phone era, and the millions of devices still running the operating system. While most have accepted that the death of Windows Phone occurred more than a year ago, AdDuplex estimates that nearly 80 percent of all Windows-powered phones are still running Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8, or Windows Phone 8.1. All of these handsets are now officially unsupported and only 20 percent of all Windows phones are running the latest Windows 10 Mobile OS.
Windows Phone 8.1 was a big update to Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 operating system, and included the company’s Cortana digital assistant, a new notification center, UI changes, and updates to the core mobile OS. It marked one of Microsoft’s biggest efforts with its Windows Phone work, but it wasn’t successful at competing with Android and iOS. 99.6 percent of all new smartphones now run Android or iOS, and Microsoft has given up producing its own Lumia-branded hardware as a result.
While Microsoft still supports Windows 10 Mobile, it’s not clear what that support will include in the future. Microsoft pushed updates to Windows Phone 8 devices, but the software giant barely included any feature updates in the recent Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update. Microsoft is adding a number of features to the upcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update for PCs, but the company has not extended these to the mobile version in testing. Some rumors suggest that Microsoft has forked its Windows Mobile development into a “feature2” branch that will simply maintain the operating system until support ends in 2018.
— Internet


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