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Software

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Why Apple And Adobe Should Fear The New Microsoft

Microsoft has certainly been gaining momentum in the last couple of months. First, the tech giant released the first Creators update of its Windows 10 OS, followed by an announcement of another bulky update, coming this fall. Then, it has been making some real noise in mixed-reality and computing-related hardware. Don’t forget the new Surface laptop too. It seems that Microsoft is aggressively pushing its operating system as the primary platform for creative and productive activities. Of course, it doesn’t mean that Apple and Adobe will vanish into oblivion. Apple’s positions on the markets are strong, and the company will probably introduce something new to counter Microsoft’s products at WWDC on June 5. Adobe produces some of the best editing tools out there, in addition to various instruments like Marketing Cloud and the Creative cloud application – Photoshop. Microsoft wins mixed reality However, Microsoft is taking the creative process to…

Things Are Far From Clear With Windows 10 S

Yesterday Microsoft held an event to reintroduce itself to teachers and students as a company providing innovative and compelling education products. The event promised to be narrowly focused on a large-scale market where price and ease of use trumped more frivolous considerations like design elegance, but Microsoft couldn’t help itself and also introduced the gorgeous new Surface Laptop. The connecting link between Microsoft’s suite of educational tools and the premium Surface Laptop? Windows 10 S, the operating system at the heart of both. The dual role played by Windows 10 S at today’s event might pose problems for Microsoft down the line as prospective users struggle to figure out what exactly the S stands for. For the first half of Microsoft’s presentation, the message was crisp, clear, and concise. Windows 10 S is Windows 10 with its wings slightly clipped: it can only run apps from the Windows Store, disabling…

Amazon Just Gave You A Way To Monitor What Your Kids Are Doing Online

Amazon launched its Fire Kids Edition tablet with the intention of giving peace of mind to parents who give their kids access to the latest technology. To make sure content available on kids’ Kindles is appropriate, Amazon content editors whitelist sites and YouTube videos as safe for kids. The tablets are aimed at kids between the ages of three and 12 and have 10 million users worldwide, according to Amazon, though it won’t say how many users have bought a subscription for access to premium content. Kids also can’t make in-app purchases in FreeTime. (The FTC recently fined the company over unauthorized in-app game purchases made by users’ children as they played on Amazon devices.) The Amazon parent dashboard will have moderators approving everything kids can access on the device, including more than 8,000 books and 40,000 white-listed webpages. The dashboard lives at parents.amazon.com and can be accessed from any web…

Can Facebook Fix Its Own Worst Bug?

In early January, I went to see Mark Zuckerberg at MPK20, a concrete-and-steel building on the campus of Facebook’s headquarters, which sits across a desolate highway from the marshy salt flats of Menlo Park, Calif. The Frank Gehry-designed building has a pristine nine-acre rooftop garden, yet much of the interior — a meandering open-plan hallway — appears unfinished. There are exposed air ducts and I-beams scribbled with contractors’ marks. Many of the internal walls are unpainted plywood. The space looks less like the headquarters of one of the world’s wealthiest companies and more like a Chipotle with standing desks. It’s an aesthetic meant to reflect — and perhaps also inspire employee allegiance to — one of Facebook’s founding ideologies: that things are never quite finished, that nothing is permanent, that you should always look for a chance to take an ax to your surroundings. The mood in overwhelmingly liberal Silicon…

Self-Driving Cars Can Learn a Lot by Playing Grand Theft Auto

Spending thousands of hours playing Grand Theft Auto might have questionable benefits for humans, but it could help make computers significantly more intelligent. Several research groups are now using the hugely popular game, which features fast cars and various nefarious activities, to train algorithms that might enable a self-driving car to navigate a real road. There’s little chance of a computer learning bad behavior by playing violent computer games. But the stunningly realistic scenery found in Grand Theft Auto and other virtual worlds could help a machine perceive elements of the real world correctly. A technique known as machine learning is enabling computers to do impressive new things, like identifying faces and recognizing speech as well as a person can. But the approach requires huge quantities of curated data, and it can be challenging and time-consuming to gather enough. The scenery in many games is so fantastically realistic that it…

Ethical Dilemma: Can Saving Lives Be a Profitable Business? Technology to the Rescue

Healthcare has its permanent place on every list of most lucrative human activities. Rest assured that at least a third of that list is an enumeration of branches of medicine, medical professions and certain aspects of healthcare that are generating steady and seemingly inexhaustible revenue for private practitioners, hospitals, insurance companies and other businesses. Here lays the problem (actually, problems – plural). The most important of them being the ‘redirection of responsibility’. Since maximizing shareholder value is the end-goal of any corporation (and MDs, at least in the US, prefer to be incorporated), today’s medical profession as a business is being questioned very harshly: cost of coverage and accessibility vs. profitability, state vs. private, cold calculations vs. warmth and compassion, selective vs. universal care, bad vs. good and so on. Not having Karl Marx or Nietzsche nearby to explain stuff is not making things any easier. Not to worry. Humanity…

Introducing Wingman, the App That Lets Your Friends Pick Your Dates

We all have a friend or several who just continuously pick the wrong guy or gal to date. Wingman is a new dating app that gives friends control of your love life. Just think about it — if your friend constantly has a thing for underachievers, you can help him or her meet someone who’s worthy of their time. Most apps start by asking users to set up a profile and swipe their way to romance, Wingman lets friends weigh in on your best qualities. Think of it as a digital matchmaker where other people get to talk you up, then send you potential mates they approve. The app was created by Tina Wilson, a creative mind who’s based in London. During an interview with Mashable, she confessed that the idea came to her after friends were eager to set her up after a breakup. The app pulls basic, editable…

Facebook Struggles With Being Responsible

The technology industry is fond of its anodyne language: Customers are “users.” Videos and stories are “content.” Putting other people out of business is “disruption.” But word choices meant to cause the least offense fail to prevent the visceral reaction that occurs after someone posts a video of a killing to Facebook. That is not content. That is a snuff film. On Easter, a man in Cleveland shot and killed another man and posted a video of it to Facebook. The video — and the two hours Facebook took to remove it — provoked intense criticism of the social media giant. Authorities say the man shot himself while fleeing police in Pennsylvania on Tuesday. Facebook is hardly the only social media company struggling to deal with lurid material posted by its users. Twitter and YouTube have struggled to block violent videos and other postings by terrorists. And YouTube has lost…

Google Combating Fake News with New Feature

Following in the steps of Facebook the search engine giant is trying to battle the spreading of fake news. In a bid to help stop the spread of misinformation, Google is to start displaying fact-checking labels in its search results to highlight news and information that has been vetted and show whether it is considered to be true or false. The new fact-checking tool, which was first introduced to Google News in the UK and US in October, will now be displayed as an information box in general search results as well as news search results globally. Now, when a search query returns a result that has been reviewed, Google will display who made the claim and if a third party organization has found it to be true, false or somewhere in between. The search giant isn’t doing its own fact checking, but rather relying on nonpartisan websites like Politifact…

Adobe Thinks It Can Make Your Selfies a Lot Less Ugly With This Mystery App

A well-photographed headshot can help make or break an actor or model’s career, which is why performers will often spends thousands of dollars to hire a talented photographer. Your selfies, on the other hand, look like they were snapped in the back of a taxi at two in the morning. Luckily, Adobe says it can help you make them look a lot less terrible. Adobe Sensei is the company’s artificial intelligence and machine learning framework that’s already powering part of its online photo-matching services, but it wants it to help simplify image processing, too. Similar technologies, like Google’s Deep Dream, have already melted our brains with over-processed imagery reminiscent of a bad drug trip, but as a new teaser video demonstrates, Adobe seems to think the same tech could make apps as powerful as Photoshop. Last July, we got a glimpse of a new image processing algorithm developed by researchers…