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 April 08 2016

Weekly Recap: Huawei P9, Campus 2, Hydraulic Robots, Fake Rembrandt, Panasonic Weather Model, etc.

Huawei P9 and P9 Plus

Huawei P9

Following on from the success of last year’s P8, Chinese manufacturer Huawei has unveiled the P9 and P9 Plus, two devices that are half-phone, half-camera. The P9 sports a 5.2-inch 1080p edge-to-edge display, while the P9 Plus has a 5.5-inch display. Both smartphones have not one but two cameras co-engineered with iconic camera company Leica. Above Huawei’s now-standard fingerprint sensor on the rear of the phone is a pair of 12-megapixel Sony 12MP IMX286 sensors, which are mated to a pair of Leica Summarit H 1:2.2/27 lenses (f/2.2 aperture, 27mm focal length). One sensor records in full RGB, while the other is monochrome. The monochrome sensor lets in 300 percent more light, making for far better low-light photography. The dual camera sensors allow users to adjust the focal point after they’ve taken a photo.

Ars Technica UK, “Huawei unveils P9 and P9 Plus phones with Leica-engineered dual cameras.”

Petapixel, “Huawei’s P9 Smartphone Packs Dual Cameras ‘Co-Engineered’ with Leica.”

End of the Apple/FBI Saga?

Apple vs FBI

Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey has confirmed that the law enforcement agency’s hack on the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone 5C will not work on newer iPhones. He said: “We have a tool that works on a narrow slice of iPhones. The world has moved onto 6s and this doesn’t work on 6s or on iPhone 5Ss.” The FBI director confirmed that the hack works on the iPhone 5C and older Apple smartphones, but not newer models with a fingerprint sensor. This is probably because older phones lack the so-called secure enclave, which protects passcodes, security keys and handles the security of the phone’s encryption system. Comey confirmed that the FBI bought a tool from a third party, negating the need to continue its legal action against Apple. But the FBI has yet to disclose publicly how the hack that unlocked the iPhone 5C work. Comey said: “We’re having discussions within government about it … if we tell Apple they’re going to fix it and we’re back to where we started.”

The Guardian, “San Bernardino iPhone hack won’t work on newer models, says FBI.”

Panasonic has developed the world’s best weather model

Panasonic PWS Model

Weather buffs are familiar with numerical weather models like the American GFS, Canadian GEM or European ECMWF. However, their cost of development made them accessible only to a precious few superpowers. The European ECMWF, having invested heavily in research and supercomputers, had outstripped its North American competition over the last few years, especially with regards to 5-to-7-day forecasts and cyclone trajectory prediction. However, a new private player, none other than Panasonic, announced that it had developed a system more accurate than the GFS and even the ECMWF. This model was developed in 2008 on a 11,000-core supercomputer by a relatively small engineering team: 5 atmospheric modelling specialists, 5 computer engineers and 20 meteorologists and computer modelling experts seconded from various universities. The ECMWF team, in comparison, has over 300 people. Scientists remain skeptical of Panasonic’s claim, demanding a demonstration.

Ars Technica, “TV maker Panasonic says it has developed the world’s best weather model.”

Randomly Expensive Apps

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the US national agency responsible for transportation safety, paid IBM US$336,414 for “mobile application development”, including US$47,400 for a tablet application that you can see in action, above. The application randomly assigns passengers to one of two waiting lines at airport security, like tossing a coin. The result is indicated visually as a right- or left-pointing arrow. Developers can’t make heads nor tails of the price… some are even saying that the app and tablet could have been replaced by a single Quarter.

Mashable, “TSA paid IBM $47,400 for an app that only pointed right or left.”

Apple’s largest project ever

The massive spaceship-like Campus 2 is scheduled to finish construction later this year. New drone footage has revealed details showing the campus’ progress. Uploaded to YouTube by Duncan Sinfiel, the 4K video shows the Campus 2’s nearly completed outer ring of floors. We can also see solar panels installed on the roof. Campus 2 is designed to house 13,000 employees and will include a smaller 120,000-square-foot glass-enclosed "Theatre" with seating for 1,000. The Theatre will be the stage for Apple’s future product unveilings. The new campus, which has an estimated cost of about $5 billion, is being designed by Norman Foster.

Mashable, “Drone flyover reveals Apple’s ’spaceship’ is coming together nicely.”

Printable Hydraulic Robots

You know what’s cooler than printing robot parts on a 3D printer? Printing the whole freaking robot. Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory figured out how to hack a Stratasys 3D printer so that it not only prints the hard and flexible materials necessary for mobile robots, but also simultaneously adds in fluid to create working hydraulics, giving them the ability to print an entire, working hydraulic-actuated robot in one 3D print pass.

Mashable, “Scientists 3D print a robot that walks away when complete.”

Fake Rembrandt created by an algorithm


Teams from Dutch museums Mauritshuis and Rembranthuis, alongside Microsoft, ING and the Delft University of Technology have produced a 3D-printed painting in the style of Dutch master Rembrandt. The portrait was created after existing works by the artist were analysed by a computer. A new work was then designed to look as much like a Rembrandt as possible - while remaining an original portrait. It was then 3D-printed to give it the same texture as an oil painting.

BBC News, “Computer paints ‘new Rembrandt’ after old works analysis.”

Wired UK, “This fake Rembrandt was created by an algorithm.”


Tomomi Ota mustered 15 Pepper robots, those humanoid robots developed by Aldebaran Robotics to recognize the most common human emotions, in order to massacre sing the Ode to Joy, the finale of the fourth and last movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.

YouTube, “Symphony No.9 (Ludwig van Beethoven).”


Other links of the week

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