You can now sign up for early access to Google’s wacky Area 120 app experiments

See the original posting on The Verge

Area 120 is the name for Google’s in-house startup incubator that has developed a variety of odd apps. These include Uptime, a social YouTube app that recently opened to the public; the voice-based Supersonic Fun Voice Messenger; and the just announced Advr, which is experimenting with VR advertisements.

Google is officially putting Area 120 (which derives its name as a place that spends 100 percent of its time working on 20 percent projects) in a more public-facing place today: a new central website where users can sign up for early access to future Area 120 experiments.

There isn’t much else beyond an option to sign up for now, but if the new page is anything to go by, there should be more to come from Area 120 soon.

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Intel’s new budget SSDs offer more performance for the same price

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If you typically buy your computers pre-built, it might surprise you to learn that a 512GB SSD isn’t 4 million dollars. You can get a good 500-ish GB SSD from Samsung or Crucial for around $150. But Intel just showed up with some new first-to-the-market tech that might shake things up a bit. Its new SSD 545s is based on 64-layer TLC 3D NAND technology, which means it can squeeze more data onto fewer chips. That makes fast SSDs with big capacities and pro-level performance presumably more affordable.

Intel’s intro 545s model is a 512GB drive with a $179 price tag. The drive’s main win over Intel’s similarly priced 540s model is sustained write speeds. Since this is a SATA drive, the drive is mostly capped by SATA speeds in the real world….

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Pornhub now supports interactive toys, proving porn paves the way

See the original posting on TechCrunch

 Pornhub, an adult content site, has announced compatibility with interactive sex toys like the Kiiroo Onyx – essentially an articulated sex jar – and the Fleshlight Launch – also essentially an articulated sex jar. Certain pre-coded videos played on Pornhub will send signals to these wireless devices, recreating the action on screen with motors and actuators. The company… Read More

9 promising at-home lab test startups for everything from fertility to STDs

See the original posting on TechCrunch

 It’s easier than ever to skip the doctor and go straight for the at-home test these days, thanks to updated regulations and the technology to match — and for many, it’s the answer to invasive and expensive hospital visits. A new army of startups has popped up in the last couple of years to offer you low-cost options for everything from breast cancer inheritance to HIV.… Read More

The engineer behind the Not Hotdog app from ‘Silicon Valley’ put a lot of thought into AI

See the original posting on TechCrunch

 It would have been easy for a show like HBO’s Silicon Valley to show off a machine learning app that classifies hotdogs with some clever post processing — drop in some fake static screenshots and call it a day. But to their credit, Tim Anglade, the engineer behind the viral spoof app Not Hotdog, probably put more thought into his AI than at least one “AI” startup to… Read More

Sign up for a free Featured Pavilion exhibit at Disrupt SF

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 Startup Alley is at the center of TechCrunch’s Disrupt events, and this year at Disrupt SF (September 18-20) we are taking it to the next level! We are looking for 30 outstanding startups to participate in one of our Featured Pavilions, exhibit your startup and attend Disrupt SF for free. Read More

How one Lego reseller built an artificial intelligence to sort bricks

See the original posting on Boing Boing

Jacques Mattheij hoped to make some cash buying cheap boxes of used, unsorted Lego that he’d organize into more valuable assortments for resale. After acquiring two metric tons of bricks, he was motivated to build a technological solution for sorting. He outfitted a conveyor belt with a cheap magnifying USB camera and employed air nozzles to blow the bricks into various bins. The bigger challenge though was how to get the PC to identify the bricks. From IEEE Spectrum:

After a few other failed approaches, and six months in, I decided to try out a neural network. I settled on using TensorFlow, an immense library produced by the Google Brain Team. TensorFlow can run on a CPU, but for a huge speed increase I tapped the parallel computing power of the graphics processing unit in my US $700 GTX1080 Ti Nvidia video card….

…I managed to label a starter set of about 500 assorted scanned pieces. Using those parts to train the net, the next day the machine sorted 2,000 more parts. About half of those were wrongly labeled, which I corrected. The resulting 2,500 parts were the basis for the next round of training. Another 4,000 parts went through the machine, 90 percent of which were labeled correctly! So, I had to correct only some 400 parts. By the end of two weeks I had a training data set of 20,000 correctly labeled images…

Once the software is able to reliably classify across the entire range of parts in my garage, I’ll be pushing through the remainder of those two tons of bricks. And then I can finally start selling off the results!

How I Built an AI to Sort 2 Tons of Lego Pieces(IEEE Spectrum)

Kickstarting a new Girl Genius collection

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Phil Foglio (previously) writes, “Studio Foglio is kickstarting a new Girl Genius Collection! The Incorruptible Library covers the adventures of Agatha Heterodyne and her friends as they journey beneath the streets of Paris. There they encounter hidden subterranean civilizations, forgotten labyrinths filled with secrets, and a healthy dollop of Adventure, Romance, and Mad Science!”

(more…)

Public road built on top of 5-story building in China

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What to do in a highly populated city when you’ve got too many cars and not enough streets? Build a two-lane public road on top of a 5-story building, of course. And don’t forget to garnish the area with lush trees and lots of shops. This creative urban planning can be found in Chongqing, China.

Here are a couple of videos to see it in action:


How to “fix” a Canon printer with a giant hand-made hammer

See the original posting on Boing Boing

I like John Heisz’ way of getting things done:

The U052 Canon printer error can be fixed in the following way:

“To try and resolve the U052 error, please remove and then reseat all of the ink tanks and print head in the unit. Next, please turn off the printer, unplug the power cord from the back and leave it out for at least 10 minutes, then plug it back in and turn it back on.”

Or, when that doesn’t work, there’s always the stake maul fix.

[via Core 77]

Mechanical Image Acquisition With A Nipkow Disc

See the original posting on Hackaday

If you mis-spent your teenage years fishing broken televisions from dumpsters and either robbing them for parts or fixing them for the ability to watch The A Team upstairs rather than in the living room as I did, then it’s possible that you too will have developed a keen interest in analogue television technology. You’ll know your front porch from your blanking interval and your colour burst, you might say.

There was one piece of television technology that evaded a 1980s dumpster-diver, no 625-line PAL set from the 1970s was ever going to come close to the fascination of the …read more

Final Fantasy XV’s mobile strategy spinoff launches today

See the original posting on The Verge

The newest addition to the Final Fantasy XV universe goes in a very different direction. Today sees the launch of Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire on iOS and Android, a game developed by the same studio behind lucrative (and heavily advertised) mobile games Game of War and Mobile Strike. Much like those games, the new FFXV spinoff is an online-focused strategy game, where players build up a base and army, while forming allegiances with and battling against other players. Like the main version of the game — which debuted in November — A New Empire will take place in the futuristic world of Eos, and will star the same cast of familiar characters.

A New Empire is just the latest in an ever-growing lineup of spinoffs based on FFXV. Most…

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Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 450 chip will power the next wave of budget Android phones

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Qualcomm has formally announced the successor to its current low-end processor, the Snapdragon 435, in the form of the upcoming Snapdragon 450. While the top-of-the-line Snapdragon 835 may get all the attention, the budget Android phone — like the LG X Venture or ZTE Blade V8 — runs off Qualcomm’s cheaper chips. That makes this a significant upgrade, especially with companies like Google pushing cheaper Android phones for a wider range of customers.

With that in mind, Qualcomm is highlighting four major improvements in the 450 over the previous generation. First up are the somewhat obvious improvements in CPU and GPU speed, which the company notes is up to 25 percent faster than the 435. That increase…

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Netflix is bringing Dolby Atmos surround sound to its original content starting with Okja

See the original posting on The Verge

Video streaming services have become the site for mini-platform wars unto themselves, with different services rolling out 4K, high-dynamic range video, and other improvements as they jockey for position. Today Netflix announced that it is adding the immersive Dolby Atmos sound format to its repertoire, and the first film to receive the treatment is Bong Joon-ho’s Okja. The film is also being presented in Dolby Vision, the company’s high-dynamic range video format.

Surround sound has been around in movie theaters and at homes for decades, but Atmos — which launched back in 2012 — gives filmmakers increased flexibility in their creative choices. Ceiling-mounted speakers offer the ability to place sound above the audience, but more…

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Google unveils Advr, an experimental Area 120 project for advertising in VR

See the original posting on TechCrunch

 Google today is more formally taking the wraps off its internal incubator, Area 120, with the launch of a dedicated website, alongside the launch of one of the program’s more interesting projects to date: a way to advertise within VR. The new experiment, which is simply called Advr, involves a cube-like ad format which allows video ads to run in a 3D/VR environment. Area 120 was launched… Read More

LendUp gets strategic investment from PayPal and adds to its executive team

See the original posting on TechCrunch

 LendUp has built business providing personal loans to customers that traditional financial institutions wouldn’t touch. As it looks to expand into credit cards and other services, the company has raised some strategic funding from PayPal and also has expanded its executive ranks. Read More

A look back at Amazon’s 1997 IPO

See the original posting on TechCrunch

 Amid tech’s current rally, Seattle is enjoying the updraft. Amazon, one of the area’s two critical tech companies, is busy setting records.
Shares of Amazon, the e-commerce and cloud computing leader, have busily risen, recently cresting the $1,000 per-share mark. That per-share price is up from Amazon’s 52-week low of $682 and change.
Driving that valuation is continued… Read More

Google Photos adds smarter sharing, suggestions and shared libraries

See the original posting on TechCrunch

 Google today will begin rolling out new sharing functionality in Google Photos, first unveiled at the company’s I/O developer conference in May. Specifically, it’s launching the AI-powered Suggested Sharing feature along with Shared Libraries, both of which are designed to make the Google Photos app a more social experience, rather than just a personal collection of photo… Read More

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