>

Original Content podcast: We can’t resist the thoughtful glamour of ‘The Crown’

Original Content podcast: We can’t resist the thoughtful glamour of ‘The Crown’

We weren’t expecting to like “The Crown.”

Yes, there are talented actors and fancy costumes on-screen, and yes, there’s an acclaimed writer at the helm who specializes in dramatizing real history. But did we really need to watch another 20 hours of serious, scripted drama about England’s royal family?

Well, we were convinced to give the show a shot after it took home multiple awards at this year’s Emmys, and we were absolutely won over. It turns out that some of the questions that made us uncertain about the concept (such as: What’s the point of a monarchy in modern society?) are exactly what the show is trying to explore.

And it would be hard to overpraise those actors — not just Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II, but also Matt Smith as her husband Prince Philip, Vanessa Kirby as Pricness Margaret, John Lithgow as Winston Churchill and Jared Harris as Elizabeth’s father, King George VI.

On the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we’re joined by Catherine Shu to discuss the first two seasons of “The Crown,” and what we’re hoping to see in season three (with Foy and Smith replaced by older actors to play Elizabeth and Philip in middle age). We also discuss recently-revealed details about the upcoming Star Wars streaming series “The Mandalorian” and plans for an interactive episode of “Black Mirror.”

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You also can send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

Original Content podcast: We can’t resist the thoughtful glamour of ‘The Crown’
Source: TechCrunch

Make your own phone with MakerPhone (some soldering required)

Make your own phone with MakerPhone (some soldering required)

Make your own phone with MakerPhone (some soldering required)

There’s no shortage of interesting electronics kits out there to occupy an idle Sunday, but with this one you get a phone out of the bargain. The MakerPhone is a kit looking for funds on Kickstarter that lets you assemble a working mobile phone from a number of boards and pieces, and the end result looks about as wild as you’d expect.

For about a hundred bucks, you get a mainboard, casing, LCD, wireless module, processor, and all the other pieces you need to make a basic smartphone. You’re not going to be browsing Instagram on this thing, but you can make calls, send texts, and play Snake. Remember when that was enough?

This is purpose-built hardware, of course — you won’t be putting it together cap by cap — but it’s not exactly plug and play, either. You’ll need a soldering iron, snippers, and some Python chops. (Not delicious python meat — Python the programming language.)

The MakerPhone microcontroller is Arduino-compatible, so you can tweak and extend it, too. But the creators (who previously shipped a similarly DIY handheld gaming machine) say you don’t need any experience to do this. It takes you through the absolute basics and there are pledge tiers that get you all the tools you’ll need, too.

I love the chunky UI, too. I like big pixels and I cannot lie.

Sure, this probably won’t be your everyday device (it’s huge) but it’s a fun project and maybe you could make it your weird home messaging machine. I don’t know. Be creative.

The MakerPhone is already well past its $15,000 goal, most of which was people snapping up the early bird $89 deal. But there are plenty available at $94, and it comes with a toolkit at $119.

Make your own phone with MakerPhone (some soldering required)
Source: TechCrunch

SF judge denies Lime’s request to block electric scooter deployment

SF judge denies Lime’s request to block electric scooter deployment

A judge today denied Lime’s request for a temporary restraining order that would block Skip and Scoot from deploying their electric scooters in San Francisco on Monday. This means San Franciscans will be able to use electric scooter services again first thing next week.

Following the SFMTA’s decision to grant Skip and Scoot electric scooter permits, Lime sent an appeal requesting the agency reevaluate its application. At the time, the SFMTA said it was “confident” it picked the right companies. Just yesterday, Lime said it believed “that it has no choice but to seek emergency relief in the court” and take legal action.

“We’re pleased the court denied Lime’s request for a temporary restraining order,” John Cote, communications director for City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement to TechCrunch. “The bottom line is the judge said he would not stop the permits from being issued on Monday. The SFMTA’s permit program has been both fair and transparent. Lime just didn’t like the outcome. The reality is that Lime’s application fell notably short of its competitors. That’s why it didn’t get a permit. San Franciscans deserve scooter services that are safe, equitable and accountable, which is exactly what this pilot program was designed to do.”

While Lime didn’t quite get what it wanted, Lime says it still sees this as a victory. In a statement to TechCrunch, Lime Head of Communications Jack S. Song said:

The Honorable Harold E. Kahn voiced serious concerns about the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency’s (SFMTA) permit process and ordered expedited discovery into the SFMTA’s selection process.  In a rare move, the Judge ordered five key SFMTA officials and staff — including Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin himself — to testify next week. There will be another public hearing on this issue before Judge Kahn in mid-November, where the SFMTA will be required to answer to the people of San Francisco, and explain exactly what happened in the SFMTA’s biased selection process.  

We look forward to having our preliminary injunction request heard in the coming days — to ensure that the people of San Francisco receive a transparent, fair and equitable process that best serves the entire City and County.

Our decision to file this lawsuit was not about preventing other operators from going forward; it was about exposing the biased and flawed process of the SFMTA, standing up for the rule of law, and serving Lime’s hometown.

SF judge denies Lime’s request to block electric scooter deployment
Source: TechCrunch

Tesla vehicles ordered after October 15 lose out on full tax credit eligibility

Tesla vehicles ordered after October 15 lose out on full tax credit eligibility

Tesla vehicles ordered after October 15 lose out on full tax credit eligibility

Tesla customers who want the full $7,500 federal tax credit have until October 15 to order a Model S, Model X or Model 3 electric vehicle, a new deadline posted on the company’s website that could spark a flurry of sales.

The October 15 deadline was added Thursday to the Tesla website.

Earlier this year, Tesla hit a bittersweet milestone when it delivered its 200,000th electric vehicle. The achievement — a noteworthy occasion for an automaker that didn’t exist 15 years ago — activated a countdown for the $7,500 federal tax credit offered to consumers who buy new electric vehicles.

The tax credit begins to phase out once a manufacturer has sold 200,000 qualifying vehicles in the U.S. Under these rules, Tesla customers have to take delivery of their new Model S, Model X or Model 3 by December 31. Tesla explained how the tax credit would phase out and the Dec. 31 delivery deadline two months ago.

Until Thursday, it wasn’t clear if or when Tesla would impose a deadline for customers to order their electric vehicle.

Tesla estimates that customers who order a Model X and Model S right now would take delivery of their vehicles in November. The Model 3, depending on the variant a customer chooses, could take up to eight weeks, according to the company’s website.

The newly imposed deadline may spur sales, giving Tesla an added boost to close out 2018. However, these delivery-sensitive sales come with added responsibility — and the potential of angering new customers if Tesla fails to meet that deadline.Tesla federal tax credit deadline

 

Tesla vehicles ordered after October 15 lose out on full tax credit eligibility
Source: TechCrunch

Apple has acquired Spektral, a Danish computer vision startup, for augmented reality technology

Apple has acquired Spektral, a Danish computer vision startup, for augmented reality technology

On the heels of Apple this morning inking a $600 million deal to acquire IP, talent and licenses from Dialog Semiconductor in Europe, it has also confirmed another acquisition of a smaller startup in the region.

Apple has purchased Spektral, a computer vision company based out of Denmark that has worked segmentation technology, a more efficient way to “cut out” figures from their backgrounds in digital images and videos, reportedly for about $30 million.

This type of technology can be used, for example, to make quicker and more accurate/realistic cut-out images in augmented reality environments, but also for more standard applications like school photos (which was actually the first market the startup targeted, in 2015, although it appeared to shift strategy after that to build up IP and make deeper inroads into video).

Rumors of the deal started to surface yesterday, first in Danish financial newspaper Børsen, without confirmation from Apple. We reached out, and Apple has today finally confirmed the deal with its standard statement: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

From what we understand, the acquisition happened a while back — which lines up with a LinkedIn profile for Toke Jansen, who had been a co-founder of Spektral but now notes that as of December 2017 he has been a manager of computational imaging at Apple.

Others associated with the company — including the other co-founder, Henrik Paltoft — have not updated their profiles, so it’s unclear how many others have joined. Børsen reports that the deal includes the company’s engineers and was in the region of 200 million Danish kroner, which is equivalent to around $31 million.

Spektral started life as CloudCutout, built on algorithms from Jansen’s PhD. The startup initially pitched its product as a cheaper and more efficient “green screen” technology, to remove primary images from their plain (typically green) or standard-pattern backgrounds, with the early iteration of the product built by training the system on over 100,000 professional cutouts.

Spectral’s first application may have been the fairly retro world of school pictures, but what’s most notable here is what Spektral might contribute to Apple’s imaging business. That goes not just in applications that Apple has yet to launch, but to improve the quality of those that are already in the market, from legacy products like PhotoBooth through to ARKit, the company’s platform for mobile development.

Segmentation could help add live filters to human figures in a photo but can also be effective in occluding AR environments behind figures to make digital AR content appear interact with the position of humans.

Spektral’s segmentation technology is also able to run on mobile phones, making it potentially a quicker and more efficient way of processing AR images directly on devices.

“To provide high quality cutouts, the core of our engine exploits recent advances in spectral graph theory and neural networks. The computation of pixel transparencies (the alpha channel) for a single image involves solving multiple large-scale equation systems, as well as carrying out multiple feed-forward passes in our neural networks,” we reported the founders saying when the startup raised its seed round. (It raised more funding in 2017, $2.8 million from Litecap and Amp Ventures, to diver deeper into video.)

“We pose the problem of determining an alpha channel of an image as a machine learning task. Compared to usual chroma keying, this allows us to consider a much broader range of backgrounds since the model will learn, i.e., texture representations from existing training data.”

Computer vision has been a key focus (sorry!) for Apple for a while now. The iPhone and Mac giant has made more than 40 acquisitions in Europe in the last 10 years — I guess we may still have some hunting to do — and a number of its acquisitions both in Europe and elsewhere have been in the area of computer vision. They have included Akonia Holographics, InVisage Technologies, Regaind, Vrvana, SensoMotoric Instruments, Indoor.io, Flyby Media, Emotient, Faceshift, Metaio, Polar Rose and more.

Additional reporting Natasha Lomas.

Apple has acquired Spektral, a Danish computer vision startup, for augmented reality technology
Source: TechCrunch

How to recover unsaved or lost Word documents Mac

How to recover unsaved or lost Word documents Mac

Losing important documents is never a good thing. Whether it’s an urgent report, project notes, your disertation, or your unfinished novel, you’ll want to try everything to get them back. We’ve put together some helpful tips on how to find unsaved Word documents, how to recover a lost Word document, where autosaved documents can be found, and more ways to restore your written creations and lower your stress levels.
How to recover unsaved or lost Word documents Mac
Source: Mac World How To