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APPLE’S AIRPOWER WIRELESS CHARGING MAT REPORTEDLY PLAGUED BY OVERHEATING ISSUES

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Overheating, communication, and interference issues are still plaguing the development of Apple’s AirPower wireless charging pad, according to a pair of reports citing multiple sources close to the matter. The issues contributed to the AirPower’s absence at last week’s iPhone announcement.

AirPower was first teased over a year ago at the same event that Apple used to announce the iPhone X, the company’s first handset to support wireless charging. AirPower was to be the firm’s debut wireless charger, capable of charging your AirPods (with compatible case), Apple Watch, and iPhone simultaneously. The consensus seems to be that Apple has bitten off much more than it can chew with the ambitious device.

Writing on Daring Fireball, John Gruber points the blame squarely at the AirPower mat’s multi-coil design, which is allegedly causing the device to overheat. These overheating rumors have been around since June, and it seems Apple is still struggling to find a solution.

Sonny Dickson corroborates these rumors and offers further details on the scale of the issues. As well as getting too hot to effectively charge the devices, the AirPower mat is also allegedly struggling to communicate with them, meaning it doesn’t know the charge levels of the devices that it’s filling with power.

Finally, attempting to charge multiple devices simultaneously has also lead to interference issues cropping up between them, according to Dickson.

Neither Gruber nor Dickson commit to saying whether the device has been delayed or cancelled entirely, but both agree that the situation isn’t great for Apple. “Well and truly fucked,” is how Gruber puts it, while “doomed to failure” is how Dickson describes the broad feeling at the company.

What’s certain is that with all mention of the ill-fated device now scrubbed from Apple’s website we probably shouldn’t expect AirPower to return any time soon (at least not in this form, Dickson suggests we might see the name re-applied to an all-new product at a later date).

AirPower has always been an ambitious piece of engineering. While normal wireless chargers contain just a single coil designed to charge a single device at a time, Apple’s first foray into the area reportedly contains between 16 and 24 overlapping coils of different sizes designed to charge multiple devices simultaneously. All of which adds up to a very ‘Apple’ device, wherein the company takes a pre-existing technology and gives it enough usability improvements to leapfrog the competition.

At least it would have been, had a working AirPower mat shipped on time.

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Hardwares

THE NEW PIXEL 3’S CAMERA WILL LET AI PICK OUT THE BEST PHOTOS FOR YOU

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Google’s Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones were just unveiled this morning at an event in New York City. As expected, both phones are coming with a near-identical set of front-facing and rear-facing cameras that are powered by artificial intelligence. That allows them to do all sorts of algorithmic work behind the scenes, all powered by what Google calls its new Pixel Visual Core chip.

Among the new AI features built into the Pixel 3 camera are two new shooting modes called Top Shot and Photobooth. Top Shot uses Google’s work in image and object recognition and computer vision to analyze photos and pick the best shots in a given batch. With Top Shot, you’ll be able to capture a number of photos before and after the moment you press the virtual shutter button, while the software will pick out the best shot.

Image: Google

It’s similar to Google’s Motion Photos feature that creates GIFs from short snippets of video. You can still browse through the alternates to pick out others, Google says. Photobooth, on the other hand, takes a bunch of photos of you or your friends using the front-facing camera, but only when it recognizes that the subjects of the photo are making a funny face or smiling. You don’t need to even press the shutter.

Google also announced a feature called Super Res Zoom, which uses a burst of photos to amp resolution when you zoom into a subject, and Night Sight, which uses machine learning to artificially brighten dark spots in photos. For Pixel 3 XL owners, you’ll be able to access a wide-angle lens for a feature Google is calling Group Selfie Cam.

Some of the AI-powered software here, specifically a feature like Photobooth, was built initially for Google Clips, the company’s square-shaped photo and video capturing device that automatically operates on its own to let parents capture moments of their kids. Now, it appears that Google has taken a lot of the knowledge there and integrated it into its Pixel devices to help ease the pain of picking a photo or tinkering with all the settings to capture the perfect shot.

Since the original Pixel, the defining feature of the device line has not been its design or the relatively spartan stock Android it runs, but the camera. Using its advancements in artificial intelligence, Google was able to achieve a staggeringly capable camera that has only improved with last year’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. So it makes sense that Google has put more resources toward improving the Pixel 3 camera and positioning it as one of, if not the most important, reason why you’d pick its device over an iPhone XS or a Samsung Galaxy S9 / Note 9.

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APPLE IS RETHINKING THE HEARING AID — AND NOW ANDROID IS, TOO

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Google is making life a bit easier for people affected by hearing loss — with official hearing aid support in Android.

On Thursday, the company announced that it’s working with GN Hearing to bring low-power hearing aid streaming support to future versions of Android. This means people will be able to connect, pair and monitor their hearing aids from their Android device.

This follows Apple’s Made for iPhone hearing aid program, which allows people to connect and control their hearing aids from iOS devices. You can read more in CNET’s feature on the Apple program here.

Although Apple was first, Google’s move has potentially bigger impact since 85 percent of the world’s smartphones run Android (compared to 14.7 percent for iOS).

A World Health Organization statistic from March says that around 466 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss, meaning a lot of people could potentially benefit from Android’s support.

Apple and Android aren’t alone in bringing cutting-edge tech to hearing aids. Manufacturers like Bose, Oticon and Harman are also working to make hearing aids smarter with app support, built-in sensors and communication between connected smart devices.

Android’s hearing aid support is designed to have a low impact on battery life while keeping audio quality high. The nitty-gritty details about the hearing aid support can be read on Android’s spec page here.

 

 

 

Source: https://www.cnet.com/news/apple-is-rethinking-the-hearing-aid-and-now-android-is-too/

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MICROSOFT’S SURFACE CHIEF HINTS AT A MODULAR SURFACE PC AND USB-C WEBCAM

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Microsoft unveiled a bunch of different Surface products this week. There’s a new matte black Surface Pro 6 and Surface Laptop 2, an updated Surface Studio 2, and all new Surface Headphones. While most of the hardware was typical Surface, the Headphones were a surprising shift for Microsoft. In an interview with The Verge, Surface chief Panos Panay reveals that Microsoft moving into headphones is all about a new idea of “completing the Surface experience.”

“Now that the company is designing these products as one company, the tech is evolving where we want it to be… there was an opportunity to complete this thing in a way that I’m passionate about and that the team is passionate about,” explains Panay. That “completion” on the headphones side is designed to meet Surface users that engross themselves in music, as many creators do, or even gamers who use headsets for hours. “Just like a Surface, there are a few little elements that we can bring to the table that are transformative for your experience in getting things done,” explains Panay. Those elements include the clever noise canceling dial, integrated Cortana and Skype functions, and the automatic mute features.

While Microsoft has taken this step into headphones and beyond its regular mouse and keyboard accessories, there are signs Surface will continue to push into new areas. During our interview, Panay hints that we might see a USB-C webcam from Microsoft. “Look at the camera on Surface Hub 2, note it’s a USB-C-based camera, and the idea that we can bring a high fidelity camera to an experience, you can probably guess that’s going to happen,” explains Panay. “Is it completing an experience or bringing the next level of an experience to something that you wanted, even if it’s not Surface? I’ve been looking at all of that. While I won’t announce a new product, I think that’s important. I really think the completing of experience is our design from Microsoft that’s hardware and software.”

Microsoft is increasingly looking at a tighter blend of hardware and software that’s typically the playbook of Apple. While the software giant has tried to mash these together by demonstrating things like OneNote with a Surface Pen, the Surface Hub 2 feels like the first real demonstration of Microsoft’s new approach to hardware and software. It also has a modular design so you can upgrade its components, and that same design feels like it should be on the 28-inch Surface Studio.

Surface Hub 2’s modular design

I asked Panos if we could see the same modular design of the Surface Hub 2, that lets you replace the processor cartridge, coming to Surface Studio. “Probably, you look at it and you see what’s the evolution and how do we make it better for our customers,” says Panay. “Yeah, there’s still so much more to do, and while I won’t tell you what it is you can put stories together.” It’s easy to connect the Surface dots, especially when Microsoft filed patents for a modular Surface Studio years ago.

Either way, it’s clear the future of Surface will be very similar to the Surface Hub 2 and Surface Headphones. Both these products marry hardware and software together in meaningful ways that are designed to make them truly fit into the unique gap in the market that Microsoft is trying to fill with Surface.

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