Weekly Tech Recap - № 197 - Google game, AI-generated faces, rollable OLED display, etc.
Google game of the year
Game of the Year. © Google.
To mark the end of the year, Google is offering a little game in the form of a multiple-choice quiz that lets you test your knowledge (or your hunches) about the most popular Internet searches in 2018. Did users google Justin Trudeau or Justin Bieber? Laurel or Yanny? You have 10 seconds to answer each of the 20 questions for the Game of the Year, but three strikes, you’re out. And since the questions get increasingly difficult, we doubt you will get to the twentieth level. But the really interesting thing is the fact that the voice that comes with the game was created using WaveNet technology, a neural network developed by DeepMind and trained with a large volume of voice samples. You can adjust the speed and tone of voice at the beginning of the game.
Nvidia researchers have created an artificial intelligence capable of generating realistic portraits of imaginary individuals through a generative antagonist network (GAN). Such systems have been generating human faces for a while now, but never with this kind of result. The researchers tested the same model on a slew of cat photos, but strangely, kitties seem more resistant to random generation. The researchers note in their paper: “Cats continue to be a difficult dataset due to the high intrinsic variation in poses, zoom levels, and backgrounds.” In short, it takes a certain spatial uniformity for the GAN to shine.
⇨ PetaPixel, “These portraits were made by AI: none of these people exist.”
LG rollable OLED display. © LG Electronics.
According to Bloomberg, next year, LG Electronics plans to start selling a 65-inch TV screen that can, at the touch of a button, roll up and disappear into a box. The device uses OLED technology, which makes for screens that are much more flexible than LCDs. LG showed a functional prototype at CES 2018 last January. The South Korean conglomerate LG is banking on these so-called “rollable” televisions and OLED screens to revive its consumer electronics business, which is struggling in the face of increased Chinese competition that is pulling prices down. OLED screens accounted for only 1.1% of the market this year. No prices announced to date.
⇨ Bloomberg, “LG plans to sell TVs that roll up like posters in 2019.”
The curvature of the iPad Pro
An 11-inch iPad Pro with a slight bend right out of the box. © The Verge.
Apple confirmed for the editors of The Verge that some of its iPad Pros, 2018 vintage, come with a slight curvature to the aluminum chassis. But nothing to worry about, according to the company: this is a “side effect of the manufacturing process” and should not worsen over time or negatively affect the performance of the iPad in any way. In other words, Apple does not consider this curvature a defect. However, customers whose iPad does not sit stable on a flat surface find that it is indeed a very real manufacturing defect, and an unacceptable one for a product of this price. Because this curvature does not affect all devices, we cannot really agree on standards ... Chris Welch aptly notes: “Even if only cosmetic, the issue is out of character for Apple, which has rooted its reputation in manufacturing devices with best-in-industry fit and finish.”
Drone with variable geometry
Quadrirotor. © Université de Zurich, EPFL.
Did you read that article in National Geographic about how birds are expert at narrowing their wing span to get through tight spots, mid-flight? This may have been the only competitive advantage that birds still had over drones. A team of scientists at the University of Zurich and EPFL just put them out of a job. This project wants to find a way to use drones to get people out of tight and unsafe spots. For that, the drone has to be able to get into the tight spot in question. With their usual wide arm- or wingspan, most drones can’t do it. Based on a fairly conventional quadrotor model but with added custom, 3-D printed parts, this drone can retract its arms and even wrap them around itself. While its rotors are spinning, in flight! With its ability to hover and fly at slow speeds, it can at least perform the first few functions of search and rescue where a human or a dog would have a hard time squeezing in.
⇨ Techcrunch, “This drone shrinks to fit.”