Acer announces two 360-degree cameras

 

Acer is joining the 360-degree video craze with two new cameras, including one designed for your car. The Acer Holo360 is smartphone-sized 360-degree camera powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor. The LTE-connected camera comes with a 3-inch display and can capture 4K 360-degree videos. It also runs Android 7.1, making it easy for users to share their videos over social media.

The other camera Acer announced is the Vision360, a camera designed as a high-end dash cam. The Vision360 is designed to film every angle of your car during a collision in 4K, and then upload that footage to the cloud with GPS coordinates and your speed. If your car is stationary and is hit (say in a parking lot) the Vision360 will activate, record a clip, and send your phone a notification, a far better solution than a simple dash cam especially if your vehicle gets hit from behind.

The Vision360 also supports remote viewing and location tracking (to help you find your car in the parking lot), and users will be able to watch footage back through Acer’s VR headset.

The Holo360 will retail for $429 when it’s released in November, and the Vision360 will come in at €349 ($414) when it’s released later this year in Europe.

 

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Apple shows off new AR apps just as Google launches ARCore

Ever since Apple announced ARKit at its annual developers conference earlier this summer, the app-making community has enthusiastically shown off what it has been able to make with the new framework for augmented reality apps. ARKit hasn’t even officially launched yet, and already we’ve seen demos of AR fidget spinners, floating cats, and fancy car configurators on iPhones.

Serious, groundbreaking stuff, right?

But it’s sometimes the fun, toy-like technologies that give way to more serious use cases, which is probably why Apple seems to determined to show off other demonstrations of AR apps that will roll out with iOS 11 next month. Half a dozen app developers gathered on Apple’s campus in Cupertino, Calif. yesterday to demo their upcoming AR apps and talk about their development processes, including big brand names like Ikea, The Food Network, AMC TV, Giphy, and more.

IOS DEVELOPERS SAY THE SIZE OF APPLE’S USER BASE COULD BE THE REAL GAME-CHANGER IN AR

Some app developers, like UK-based Climax Studios and Brooklyn-based Touch Press, talked about how relatively easy it was to create an ARKit app, sometimes in just six to eight weeks. Many talked about the technical capabilities that have been unlocked with ARKit.

But almost all of the developers there said the same thing: it’s Apple’s giant audience, its many millions of iPhone and iPad users, that they think could be the real game-changer in AR. Apple’s pre-arranged gathering of AR app-makers also occurred just as Google is launching ARCore, a new platform for AR app developers that could expand Google’s AR reach in a significant way. If there was ever a moment that marked the real start of the mobile AR platform wars, it’s probably now, and all before the fall hardware season has even begun.

Ikea was on hand at Apple yesterday, and showed off a new AR app for iOS called Ikea Place. It’s a riff on other furniture try-on apps we’ve already seen in AR, whether on Google’s Tango AR platform or in 2D furniture apps. You open up the Ikea app on the iPhone, use the phone’s camera to measure the space around you, and “place” an Ikea furniture item in front of you. You can walk up to the item, get a sense of its size, see materials and texture, and in a future version of the app, you’ll even be able to tap on a virtual sofa to see how big it is when it expands to become a sofa bed.

Michael Valdsgaard, Ikea’s head of digital transformation, said that the company has been working on 2D AR features for almost five years, but that it developed a new app for ARKit because of reach. “Apple is the one who reaches many people,” he said.

Simon Gardner, the chief executive officer at Climax Studios, concurred. His new AR game for iOS, Arise, creates a virtual puzzle in real space that can only be solved by physically tilting the iPhone or iPad and steering a character through this puzzle. Climax Studios has long dabbled in AR, and created a game called Towers for Tango for Google’s Tango AR platform. Gardner says they’ve also worked on apps for Microsoft’s HoloLens before, though none have published.

The biggest difference between building for those platforms, and building for iOS, is the size of the audience, Gardner said. “You have a potential install base on day one of hundreds of millions of devices.”

ARKIT WILL WORK ON ANY EXISTING IDEVICE THAT HAS AN A9 PROCESSOR AND RUNS IOS 11 SOFTWARE

The biggest advantage Apple has with ARKit is that AR apps will run on any existing device that’s both equipped with an A9 processor and running iOS 11 software, which is currently still in beta. This means any iPhone 6S or later, or any iPad Pro, will run these AR apps.

Apple also has the advantage of owning the “full stack” in the iPhone and iPad: it controls everything from the iOS software right down to every component in every piece of hardware, which means the experience of how apps run on said devices is tightly controlled as well.

This means Google’s approach to AR has had to be a very different one, since Android shows up on devices of all sizes and specifications. The company has been working on its AR solution, called Tango, since 2013, and developed specific hardware and software requirements that phone manufacturers would have to adopt in order to support advanced AR. As a result, only two phone models to date, the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and Asus ZenFone AR, have shipped with Tango.

GOOGLE’S HAS LAUNCHED ARCORE ON GOOGLE PIXEL AND SAMSUNG GALAXY 8 PHONES, AND IS TARGETING 100 MILLION DEVICES BY THE END OF THE YEAR

But just this morning, Google announced something called ARCore, its equivalent to Apple’s ARKit. It’s a built-in AR platform for app makers, and is available now on Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy 8 phones, with the hopes that it will run on 100 million phones by this winter. This could expand the community for Google AR apps significantly, and The Verge’s Adi Robertson says that the controlled ARCore demo she had at Google’s offices was “one of the best experiences I’ve had with phone-based AR.” Google is also working on two experimental AR web browsers, one that will use ARCore and one that will run on iOS and support ARKit.

Certainly there are some technical advancements happening with Apple’s ARKit that are notable. ARKit enables something called “world tracking,” which, as The Verge’s Robertson has reported before, relies on a technique called visual-inertial odometry. Most AR on phones so far has involved 2D, flat overlays — think Pokémon Go — whereas the kind of AR we’re talking about now is advanced, 3D AR.

AMC’s The Walking Dead AR app, which is called Our World and was developed by Next Games, using an ARKit feature called ARPointCloud that lets developers hide objects in an AR environment and reveal them at a certain point in the experience. This is especially useful in a game like Our World, where walkers (zombies) appear to crawl out of the corners around you, at intervals, as you continue to play the game.

Some ARKit apps will incorporate multi-player or collaborative features as well. AMC and Next Games showed off how you’ll be able to invite friends to slay zombies with you in Our World; and the new Giphy AR app, called Giphy World, lets you create an AR environment filled with 3D confetti or cartoon hamburgers or 2D gifs floating around the room, and share a URL with another user who can add more Giphy content to your AR world.

Other ARKit apps might be simpler, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar AR app. A caterpillar inches around the room you’re in; you feed it when you feel like it; and eventually it turns into a butterfly. When you look up through the lens of an iPhone or iPad, it joins the dozens of other butterflies that have been created through previous game plays.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that iPhone and iPad users will be immune to the same problems that plague other advanced AR platforms — the gimmicky apps, the drain on device battery life, and the overall feeling that you’re sometimes using an AR app not because it makes sense but just because it’s a new AR app. These have all been very real barriers to AR becoming more mainstream.

But what will set ARKit apart, according to Barry O’Neill, chief executive officer of Caterpillar app-maker Touch Press, is the “ease of use from a developer perspective and the scale of the audience.”

“Consumers are going to work with AR in a very natural way now,” he said.

 

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The iPhone 8’s dock might work more like the new iPad’s

All the rumors about the upcoming iPhone 8 point to Apple making some fairly big changes to the device’s user interface, with tweaks needed to accommodate the removal of the home button and the addition of a “notch” housing the phone’s camera and sensors at the top of the display.

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has a new report on how exactly these changes could be implemented, with Gurman’s sources suggesting that Apple is looking for ways to replace the functionality usually assigned to the home button. (E.g. returning to the home screen, opening up the multitasking interface, and accessing Siri.)

In the dodgy supply chain of Apple leaks, it’s often better to repeat then paraphrase, so here’s what Gurman is predicting for the iPhone 8 UI:

Dock: The dock housing commonly-used apps will be “redesigned with a new interface similar to the one on the iPad version of iOS 11.” Underneath the dock will be a “thin, software bar in lieu of the home button.” Users can drag up from here to the middle of the display to open the phone, or use the same gesture to start multitasking when inside an app.

Multitasking: This interface will be “redesigned to appear like a series of standalone cards that can be swiped through, versus the stack of cards on current iPhones.”

Status bar: This will be split into two “ears” on either side of the notch. “[T]he left side shows the time while the area on the right side of the notch displays cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity and remaining battery life,” writes Gurman. Whether or not Apple will choose to hide the notch by making the status bar black has been the subject of some speculation, but Gurman reports the company will embrace it, with leaked images “showing a definitive cutout at the top of apps with non-black backgrounds.” The status bar will also reportedly “change based on the task at hand,” although exactly how is unclear.

Of course, this is just rumor at this point, and the final UI for the iPhone 8 may differ from what’s stated above in any number of ways. However, there is some evidence for this redesigned interface. As developer Steve Troughton-Smith points out on Twitter, the UI described by Gurman’s sources matches leaked iOS 11 gestures uncovered back in May. Troughton-Smith also tweeted this image showing how the redesigned status bar and dock might look:

And what the 'iPhone 8' homescreen could look like — iPad-style Dock and edge-gesture indicator (via @charavel)

— Steve T-S (@stroughtonsmith) August 30, 2017

If true, these changes will only apply to the iPhone 8, with Apple expected to unveil two new, more pedestrian iterations on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus as well. The iPhone 8 is also expected to start at $999, have a front-facing camera that will use facial recognition for unlocking the phone and payments, and be available in a new color my colleague Jake Kastrenakes described as “ugly, pinkish bronze.”

Apple will reportedly be unveiling the new iPhones on September 12th. Stay tuned for more.

 

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Apple’s updated Android ‘Switch’ campaign explains why people move to iPhone

A new website and series of videos highlight several reasons to give up your Android phone and switch to iPhone.

Apple and Android may forever be locked in a fight for mobile domination, but they take very different approaches to their quest for market share. On the one hand, there are more than 2 billion active Android devices in use around the world. On the other, Apple makes gobs of money from selling just a handful of handsets.

But like the PC wars of the 90s, Apple isn’t content with such a slim slice of the market. While it has had a Move to iOS app in the Play Store for a while now, Apple is now taking the fight directly to Android users with a new campaign devoted to switching.

Head over to the iPhone tab on Apple.com and you’ll see a new box in the middle of the page. Called “Why Switch,” it declares that “Life is easier on the iPhone,” and offers 10 questions potential switchers might be asking:

  1. Will it be easy to switch?
  2. Is the camera as good as they say?
  3. Why is the iPhone so fast?
  4. Will iPhone be easy to use?
  5. How does iPhone help protect my personal information?
  6. What makes Messages so great?
  7. Can I get help from a real person?
  8. Can I switch at an Apple Store?
  9. What about the environment?
  10. Will I love my iPhone?

And finally, it asks, “Are you ready to switch?” while offering links to purchase all five of the phone models. The site also promotes Apple’s trade-in policy, boasting up to $260 in credits.

There is also a series of videos on Apple’s YouTube channel to highlight many of the points, including speed, ease of switching, and privacy. It’s unclear whether Apple plans on taking the campaign beyond the web, but it’s not too hard to see a TV or print campaign accompanying the site.

Earlier this year, Google unveiled its own switching site, coinciding with a new transfer tool that synced your contacts, calendar entries, and photos through Google Drive. It’s similar in practice to Apple’s Move to iOS app, but doesn’t require the installation of app you won’t need after the transfer is finished.

Apple ran a highly successful switcher campaign in the early 2000s, which used real people to tell stories about why they moved to a Mac. While Tim Cook has said upwards of 30 percent of new iPhone buyers are making the switch from an Android phone, Apple hasn’t previously launched an ad campaign targeted at Android.

Flip the switch: It’s no secret that Apple is looking for signs of growth. While the upcoming iPhone 8 will surely boost sales in the holiday quarter, Apple still needs to generate excitement during the rest of the year, which has proven difficult due to a steady stream of rumors and flagship competitors from the likes of LG and Samsung. But a new switcher campaign could be just what the doctor ordered.

 

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6 ways to lock down your iPhone’s lock screen

From text message alerts to wireless settings, your iPhone’s lock screen is brimming with sensitive data and controls. Here’s how to lock it all down.

Just because your iPhone is locked with a passcode or Touch ID doesn’t mean it’s safe from prying eyes and fingers. From text message notifications to Siri, your phone’s lock screen is brimming with alerts, features, and settings that anyone can tamper with, even after you’ve locked your handset.

Luckily, iOS has plenty of settings that can help lock down your phone’s lock screen. For example, you can keep sensitive notifications hidden, disable controls that could put your lost phone in airplane mode, turn off lock-screen access to Siri, and more.

Turn off lock screen notifications

You’d probably never dream of letting a stranger rifle through your text messages and email inbox, but that’s what could happen if you allow apps like Messages and Mail to put alerts on your iPhone’s lock screen. It’s even possible to reply to a text message or trash a mail message directly from the notification, even if your iPhone is locked.

If you’re worried about the wrong people seeing notifications from Messages, Mail, and other applications on your iPhone’s lock screen, consider turning off lock screen notifications for your most sensitive apps.

Tap Settings > Notifications to see a (probably massive) list of app the apps installed on your iOS device. Tap an app, then switch off the Show on Lock Screen setting to keep the app’s notifications from appearing on your lock screen. Unfortunately, there’s no way to turn off all lock screen notifications at once.

Block access to Today widgets and Notifications

Swipe from left to right on your locked iPhone screen, and you—or anyone else who’s got your device—can see your Today widgets. That means, depending on the widgets you’ve installed, they could check your calendar, peek at your Mail inbox, speed dial your favorite contacts, and more. Some apps are sensitive about what they show when your iPhone is locked—Activity, for example, and Find My Friends, won’t show anything in their widgets until you unlock the phone.

Also, if you swipe down from the top of the Today view, you’ll see a running tally of all your lock screen notifications, neatly organized by date. Essentially, it’s a history of your important app activity for the past week, all there for anyone to see.

If you don’t want just anyone to be able to view your agenda in the Today view or past app alerts in Notifications, you can tap Settings > Touch ID & Passcode, scroll down to the Allow Access When Locked section, then uncheck the Today View and Notifications View settings.

Keep in mind that even with the Notifications View setting unchecked in the Allow Access When Locked section, individual lock-screen notifications for your apps will still appear on the lock screen, unless you disable them in the Notifications settings screen. You just won’t be able to pull down the list of all your notifications.

Turn off access to Control Center

Flick up from the bottom of your iPhone’s lock screen and you’ll reveal Control Center, a panel of settings and controls that do everything from toggling your airplane and Do Not Disturb modes to setting timers and turning your iPhone’s LED flash into a flashlight.

It’s handy, but leaving Control Center enabled on your lock screen could allow an iPhone thief to put your stolen device into airplane mode, rendering your lost handset untraceable via Find My iPhone. If you don’t want anyone messing with Control Center settings on your locked iPhone, tap Settings > Control Center, then turn off the Access on Lock Screen setting.

Block access to Siri

Siri can perform a surprising number of duties even when your iPhone is locked. For example, she can rattle off your agenda, schedule new meetings, create reminders, and even send text messages to contacts.

While Siri won’t perform sensitive tasks (such as reading your email) without a passcode, you can, if you wish, block access to Siri completely from the lock screen.

Tap Settings > Siri, then uncheck the Access When Locked setting.

Turn off Wallet access

If you’re an Apple Pay user, iOS will let you quickly access your stored credit cards from your iPhone lock screen by double-tapping the Home button.

While you can’t actually make a purchase without authenticating with Touch ID or a passcode, you may not want your Apple Pay cards so visible from the lock screen—or perhaps you’re just tired of your credit cards popping up whenever you double-press the Home button by accident.

To block lock screen access to your iOS Wallet, tap Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay, then uncheck the Double-Click Home Button setting. Your Wallet will still come up when you hover your phone over an Apple Pay terminal, or you can launch Wallet from its app or with Siri.

Put your missing iPhone in “lost mode”

Let’s say you never got around to securing your iPhone’s various lock screen features, and whoosh!—your iPhone vanishes from your pocket. If you act quickly, there’s still a way to remotely lock down your iPhone.

The trick is engaging Find My iPhone’s Lost Mode, which instantly silences all notifications, alarms, and rings from incoming phone calls. Control Center will also be disabled, and even the Camera shortcut—which can’t be turned off by any other means—will shut down.

To put your missing iPhone into Lost Mode, visit iCloud.com, click Find My iPhone, select your iPhone, then click the Lost Mode button. You can also turn on Lost Mode using the Find My iPhone app on another of your iOS devices.

Note that Lost Mode will only work if your missing iPhone still has wireless access. If the thief who snatched your handset puts it into airplane mode, you’ll be out of luck.

 

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6 great Android features missing from iOS 11

Sure, iOS 11 looks cool, but Android’s still cooler in some key ways.

Call me a flip-flopper, but the new features in iOS 11 have me thinking of jumping back to iOS after switching to Android barely a year ago.

Indeed, the new version of iOS brings such enticing features as a revamped App Store, a customizable Control Center, and drag-and-drop for iPad users, plus such catch-up features as one-handed typing and easy person-to-person payments.

But returning to iOS would mean leaving behind many Android features I’ve grown to love, from the ability to set up multiple user profiles to one-touch Google searches on whatever’s onscreen at a given moment.

Read on for six awesome Android features that iOS 11 has yet to match, starting with…

Multiple user profiles

Given all the innovations coming to the iPad courtesy of iOS 11, from the ability to drag-and-drop elements from one side of the split screen to the other and the new, persistent app dock, you’d think Apple would toss in a feature that’s been standard on Android for years: user profiles, perfect for letting family members in a one-iPad household create their own personal iPad spaces.

For whatever reason, though (privacy concerns, perhaps?), Apple has yet again passed on adding user profiles to the iPhone or iPad. That means if you share your iPad with your toddler or teenager, you’re sharing all your iPad data, too, including your e-mail, your open browser tabs, your Facebook app, everything.

Multiple Do Not Disturb schedules

Android has really spoiled me with its “automatic rules” for Do Not Disturb mode. With automatic rules, you can set up multiple Do Not Disturb schedules for weeknights, weekends, meetings, and any other scenarios you dream up. For example, I have Do Not Disturb set to turn itself off early (as in 6 a.m.) on weekday mornings, while on weekends, Do Not Disturb keeps things quiet until about 8.

In iOS 11, though, Do Not Disturb mode still lets you set only a single schedule, meaning you can’t set Do Not Disturb to give you more quiet time on weekends or during meetings.

Yes, the new “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature (which automatically silences notifications whenever your iPhone senses you’re driving) is a nice innovation, but it’s too bad iOS 11 didn’t catch up to Android’s Do Not Disturb features.

Search the entire screen

As with previous versions of Apple’s mobile software, iOS 11 lets you perform quick web searches on selected text via Spotlight, iOS’s universal search feature. That’s helpful if you want a deep search on a narrow selection of text, but sometimes I’m looking for a broader search of everything on my screen.

Here’s where Android‘s Screen Search feature comes in handy. With a single tap of the What’s on my screen button in Google Assistant, Android will scan the entire screen and return any relevant search results, handy if you want a quick, 360-degree cheat sheet on a news article or web page. Pretty neat, and there’s no real equivalent on iOS, not even once iOS 11 arrives.

Clear all app windows

Here’s an Android feature I’d sorely miss even though I know it’s more cosmetic than anything else. The “Clear All” button on Android’s Overview screen instantly closes all your open app windows, leaving you with a soothing “No recent items” message when you tap the Overview button again. For a neat-freak like me, tapping the Clear All button never gets old.

On iOS, though—and yes, this includes iOS 11—there’s no easy way to clear out the massive stack of app windows on the multitasking screen, forcing you to flick up on dozens of individual windows until the coast is clear.

Now, I’m sure iOS comes with marvelous under-the-hood tools that manage the resources used by your apps and automatically suspends those that have been sitting untouched in the background for too long.

Still, though, I know it’ll kill me the first time my thumb reaches for the non-existent Clear All button on my new iPhone 8 (assuming I actually make the big leap).

Delete all local photos & videos from the Photos app

You’ve probably heard about the new storage-saving features in iOS 11, particularly when it comes to the storage-hogging Photos app.

For example, Apple announced support for a new image format (HEIF, for “High Efficiency Image Format”) that can halve the amount of storage gobbled up by your snapshots.

Also coming in iOS 11: shortcuts that do a better job of recommending storage-saving features like iCloud Photo Library, which uploads all your pictures and videos to the cloud and then automatically pares down the number of images sitting on your iPhone or iPad.

Those are worthwhile improvements, but here’s something I’d sorely miss if I went back to iOS: the “free up space” feature in Android’s Photos app, which instantly zaps each and every local snapshot and video stored on your handset.

Thanks to the “free up space” feature, photos take up less than 100MB of space on my 16GB Nexus 5X. On the other hand, the Photos app on my old iPhone 6 consumes a ridiculous 17GB of storage, even with iCloud Photo Library turned on (and yes, with the Optimize iPhone Storage option enabled).

Bonus tip: The iOS version of Google Photos has a “free up space” feature just like its Android counterpart, meaning you could clear up tons of storage space on your iPhone or iPad by uploading your photos to Google and then using the “free up space” option to delete your local copies. Keep in mind, though, that if you’re using Google Photos and iCloud Photo Library at the same time, wiping your local images and videos with Google Photo’s “free up space” feature will also delete those photos from iCloud, so make sure all your local image files are safely backed up first.

Symbol shortcuts on iPhone letter keys

As with the latest version of Google Keyboard for Android, iOS 11 will bring symbol shortcuts to letter keys on the iPad keyboard, handy for saving a few keystrokes when you need to type a number key, an ampersand, or another common symbol.

That’s a welcome change, but unfortunately, iOS 11’s so-called “QuickType” keyboard is only coming to iPad, not iPhone. Now, you could argue that the iPhone keypad is too small for symbol shortcuts, but the shortcuts on Google Keyboard work just fine on my five-inch Nexus 5X.

 

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How Intel Core chips could take over two-factor authentication from your phone

Just make sure that your first line of defense—a Windows password or PIN—is secure, too.

Password manager Dashlane is one of the first consumer-facing companies to take advantage of a little-known feature within Intel’s 8th-generation Core chips that could become much more popular: enabling two-factor authentication with just your PC, and not your phone.

What’s known as Universal Second Factor (U2F) authentication lives within the 8th-generation Core architecture. Typically, two-factor authentication (2FA)—recommended for years as an additional security measure for email, online storage, and other data—requires that a code be sent to your phone either via an app or SMS. Intel’s 8th-gen Core architecture and its associated software cut out the need for a phone, simply requiring you to click a software “button” to authenticate the 2FA transaction.

Technically, U2F support isn’t new. Intel’s 7th-generation Core chips, known as Kaby Lake, were introduced with a technology known as Software Guard Extensions, or SGX. SGX is essentially a protected area within the chip for storing encryption keys. But only two services announced support for SGX: Dropbox and Duo Security, which announced proofs-of-concept earlier this year.

Once the 8th-generation Core chips ship, Dashlane will immediately be able to take advantage of the built-in technology and use U2F as an additional form of authentication, Allison Baker, the strategic partnerships manager for Dashlane, said. She confirmed that U2F will work with 8th-gen Core chips for consumers, and don’t require Intel’s vPro technology for businesses.

“You don’t need a phone or anything else,” besides a compatible Intel-based PC, Baker said.

Why this matters: Breaking into your PC is bad enough—that’s why there’s Windows Hello, user PINs, and Windows passwords. With web services accessible from just about anywhere, however, there’s a need for a second layer of security to differentiate you from the bad guys. Two-factor authentication helps secure those online transactions; U2F promises to make them less of a hassle.

How U2F works within Intel’s Core chips

The FIDO Alliance developed U2F as an open authentication standard, designed to help simplify two-factor authentication. For the purposes of registering with an online service like Dashlane, two “keys” are created: a public one, which is registered with the service itself, as well as a private one, which is stored within the Core chip on the client PC.

According to Dashlane’s Baker, the client’s private key signs an assertion that the service can verify as coming from the client PC. But the signature is only released after the user verifies his presence by clicking a button on the screen, displayed by Intel’s Online Connect middleware. Intel’s been busy working on PC security solutions for years; last year, Intel showed off its Authenticate technology, combining fingerprints, PIN, paired phones, and more.

According to a GIF Dashlane prepared to demonstrate the process, authenticating with Dashlane requires entering your password. Intel’s Online Connect will then find the security key. Sending it on its way requires clicking on a button that appears randomly within a separate window, within 15 seconds. That window uses what’s called Intel Protected Transaction Display technology, which actually generates the screen from within the Intel chip itself. The user sees the button; according to Intel, any man-in-the-middle attacker would merely see a blank, black box with no indication on where to click.

It appears, though, that U2F places more of an emphasis on the first line of security used to defend your PC: Windows Hello, a PIN, or a password. If an attacker were able to guess your PIN while you left your eighth-generation PC alone to buy a cup of coffee, they’d still need to know your Dashlane master password to log in. But with traditional two-factor, phone-based authentication, a service like Dashlane would also buzz your phone—which you might have in your pocket, alerting you that an attack was in progress.

In any event, though, services like Dashlane appear to be preparing to take advantage of the U2F capabilities built into Intel’s Core chips. Passwords used to be sufficient, but complex, hard-to-guess passwords can be a pain to use repeatedly. The challenge is to offer security without imposing too much of a burden on the user, and Intel and its partners appear to be zeroing in on quick, convenient security methods.

 

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MP3 audio quietly fades into history

You can still play your old MP3 files, but the format that owned the early days of digital audio is done.

Neil Young and opinionated sound engineers everywhere have a reason to smile: The organization responsible for the MP3 audio format is closing the doors on its licensing program.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits recently announced that it and Technicolor would no longer license “patents and software” for the MP3 format. The licensing program officially ended on April 23.

“We thank all of our licensees for their great support in making mp3 the defacto audio codec in the world, during the past two decades,” the Fraunhofer Institute said. “Most state-of-the-art media services such as streaming or TV and radio broadcasting use modern ISO-MPEG codecs such as AAC and MPEG-H…those can deliver more features and a higher audio quality at much lower bitrates compared to mp3.”

Although Fraunhofer and Technicolor are giving up on MP3 licensing, they will still be involved with audio codecs. Both organizations have an interest in MPEG-H 3D Audio, a new audio codec, and Fraunhofer helped develop the aforementioned AAC.

While a trailblazer in digital audio, the MP3 was always controversial. Many critics derided the format for overly compressing recorded sound, reducing the quality of the recording. Neil Young even helped launch the Pono Player in 2015 as a revolt against low-quality digital music, including MP3s.

The impact on you at home: While MP3 licensing may be going away, the everyday use of MP3s isn’t going anywhere. MP3 files will continue to play as they always have, but like any technology, it will slowly fade away as more advanced options (such as AAC) become more widespread.

In many ways MP3 is already well and truly gone. As the Fraunhofer Institute noted in its announcement, AAC and other formats are commonly used on streaming services and in broadcasting, while MP3 is becoming less common. But you’ll be able to listen to your collection of ripped CDs and MP3 downloads for years to come.

 

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The Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 520 is a Surface clone with quad-core power

Lenovo’s IdeaPad Miix 520 is a 2-in-1 Surface clone that’s taking a big step forward with its support of Intel’s latest 8th-generation CPUs. Announced Thursday at Lenovo‘s event at IFA in Berlin, the Miix 520 will be among the first products to offer Intel’s quad-core CPUs for laptops. These new chips, which promise up to a 40-percent performance hike, are melting away the compromises we used to assume with thinner, lighter PCs.

lenovo miix 520 12inch tour birdseye c cover iron grey

When it ships in October with a starting price of $1,000, the IdeaPad Miix 520 will offer these key features and options:

  • CPU: Up to an 8th-generation Intel Core i7 (quad-core)
  • RAM: Up to 16GB of DDR4
  • Storage: Up to 1TB PCIe SSD
  • Graphics: Up to Intel HD Graphics 620
  • Display: 12.2-inch FHD (1920×1200) IPS touchscreen
  • Weight: 2.8 pounds with keyboard
  • Battery: 39Wh, lasting (per Lenovo) up to 7.5 hours

The Miix 520 also offers several new input options compared to the Miix 510. A fingerprint reader enables one-touch Windows 10 login, while Lenovo’s Active Pen 2 (with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity) lets you inking and draw onscreen. A new feature for most users will be the Far Field microphone array, which enables voice activation for Windows 10’s Cortana from as far as 13 feet away.

The most unique feature on the Miix 520 is its WorldView camera, which can take 3D images. Lenovo bundles a MagicWindow app that lets you insert 3D images into regular images.

There’s even a touch of luxury: The hinge for the tablet’s kickstand uses a watchband-like mechanism, emulating the company’s high-end Yoga 920 convertible laptop.

But the real news is the quad-core CPU. Microsoft’s Surface and its 2-in-1 followers like the Miix 520 always delivered on portability and versatility, but performance often took a backseat. Now that Intel’s promising significantly more performance for thin-and-light laptops, it could remove a major barrier for this class of PC. We’ll let you know how it goes if we review the Miix 520.

 

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Logitech’s HERO sensor makes the G603 wireless mouse both powerful and wildly long-lasting

Logitech G603

“Do you even make wired mice anymore?”

I posed that question to Logitech during a briefing this week for its new G603 mouse, yet another wireless addition to Logitech’s lineup. Just two months ago the company introduced  Powerplay—a mousepad that charges your wireless mouse while you play—plus a G900 refresh  to go along with it. So another wireless mouse? Already?

Indeed. Even weirder: The Logitech G603 wireless mouse is not Powerplay compatible—a fact Logitech ascribes to it being developed in parallel.

Don’t write it off yet, though. Powerplay is expensive tech, requiring a brand-new $150 G903 mouse and the proprietary $100 mousepad. The G603 is aimed at people who want a more traditional wireless experience, maximizing the power and performance you can get from just two AA batteries.

And Logitech’s claiming it’s really maximized that ratio. Abandoning the PWM3366 sensor introduced with the G502 and used as its flagship for the past few years, Logitech’s moved away from venerable Pixart entirely. Instead, it’s contracted a different company to make the new HERO sensor—an acronym that stands for High Efficiency Rating Optical.

As you can probably guess, HERO is meant to maximize battery life on wireless mice without compromising on performance. I’ve yet to test it, but Logitech claims that you’ll see the same performance out of HERO that you’d get from the much-loved PWM3366 sensor, but with much greater efficiency—like, 500 hours (around six months for most people) of intensive gaming on just two AAs. The company also revealed a G613 wireless keyboard similarly built around HERO technology.

The G603 features a switch on the bottom so you can also run it in low-intensity mode, which boosts that number up to 1500 hours, or 1.5 years of battery on two AAs, as well as Bluetooth functionality. High-intensity mode is most interesting though. Six months on two AA batteries with the performance of the Logitech G502 or G900? That’s pretty stunning. It’s already twice the capability of the previous generation G602, which lasted 250 hours and had the less impressive M010 sensor.

I’d still personally prefer Powerplay for its fire-and-forget simplicity, but at $70 the G603 is way more affordable and an interesting proposition indeed.

As for whether Logitech even makes wired mice still? Nothing to announce yet, but expect to see HERO crop up in more Logitech mice. Logitech assured me the PWM3366 isn’t going away anytime soon, but did note that HERO’s simplified internals offer benefits even to hypothetical wired mice—lowered weight, more design flexibility, and so on. It probably helps too that Logitech has indefinite rights to the HERO sensor—no ever-so-slightly-tweaked PWM3360 knockoffs here. We’ll keep you updated.

 

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