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Weekly Tech Recap - № 361 - 75 years of the transistor, Android security, RealityScan app, a milestone for 5G, and more

75th anniversary of the transistor

75th anniversary of the transistor.

© iStock/Spiria.

Back in December of 1947, a group of scientists at Bell Labs invented the first functional transistor. Without it, IT as we know it would probably not exist. Today, the transistor is the building block of all electronic devices, and microprocessors contain them in ever greater numbers. In 1971, the Intel 4004 processor featured 2,300 transistors. Twenty years later, the Pentium 4 had 42 million transistors etched into its silicon. Today, the number of transistors on each processor is in the billions. Apple’s SoC M1 Ultra, for example, features 114 billion. But a physical limit will be reached with “etchings” approaching 2 nanometers (process planned for 2024 by TSMC and Intel). So unless the surface of the silicon gets larger, there’s a limit as to how much etching it can hold. Researchers, therefore, are exploring new ways to cram even more transistors in a limited space, by piling them in multi-layer processors, for example. Happy birthday, dear transistor!

Transistors per processor.

Transistors per processor © IEEE Spectrum.

IEEE Spectrum, Samuel K. Moore, “The transistor at 75.”

IEEE Spectrum, Samuel K. Moore, David Schneider, “The state of the transistor in 3 charts.”

2022-11-29

Android security: Google vs Google

Pixel 7, 7 Pro, 6A.

Pixel 7, 7 Pro, 6A. © Google.

In a blog post, security analysts on Google’s Project Zero team stress that their company should make more of an effort to promptly issue security patches for zero-day vulnerabilities. Worrisome bugs in the ARM GPU driver, which Google has known about for months, still haven’t been fixed and are being actively exploited, even after ARM quickly moved to publish some fixed source code as soon as it was aware of the problem. The bug involves a long list of the past three generations of ARM GPU architectures, including Midgard, Bifrost and Valhall. We’re talking about millions of vulnerable devices produced by nearly all Android OEMs, ranging from current releases to phones dating back to 2016.

Project Zero analysts conclude their blog with this advice to their colleagues: “Just as users are recommended to patch as quickly as they can once a release containing security updates is available, so the same applies to vendors and companies. […] Companies need to remain vigilant, follow upstream sources closely, and do their best to provide complete patches to users as soon as possible.”

Ars Technica, Ron Amadeo, “Google says Google should do a better job of patching Android phones.”

2022-11-28

RealityScan app available now on iOS

RealityScan.

RealityScan. © Epic Games.

Now that the limited beta launch is over, Epic Games’ RealityScan app is officially available free-of-charge on iOS for everyone who wants to digitize real-life objects and turn them into 3D models. To model an object, you first take several photos from every angle. The app guides you through it by indicating where the object might need more photo coverage. You can manipulate the 3D model in the application, before exporting it to Sketchfab, a 3D model sharing platform. Then from that platform, you can carry your model over to apps such as Unreal Engine. Epic Games is readying an Android version to be released in 2023.

YouTube, “RealityScan Available Now | Capture the World and Create Your Own.”

YouTube, “How To Use RealityScan.”

The Verge, Jay Peters, “Epic’s free app that turns real-life items into 3D models is available now on iOS.”

2022-12-01

Age gracefully with AI

FRAN (face re-aging network).

FRAN (face re-aging network). © Disney Research Studios.

Between less-than-convincing makeup and labor-intensive and expensive post-prod, making an actor look older – or younger – in the movies hasn’t been easy. Disney researchers have been looking into how to solve the problem. The Disney Research Studios team came up with a new neuron network that can easily alter the apparent age of actors on TV or in the movies. Using thousands of photos of faces between 18 and 85 years old, the network was trained to predict how a person’s face changes over time. The researchers went a step further by developing a user-friendly interface so that artists can easily apply the tool in a production environment. The results in this demo video are pretty amazing:

YouTube, “Production Ready Face Re Aging for Visual Effects.”

The Verge, Jess Weatherbed, “Disney’s latest AI tool de-ages actors in seconds.”

2022-12-01

5G turns a corner

5G.

© iStock.

Telecom equipment maker Ericsson says in its last mobility report that between now and the end of the year, 5G will have a billion wireless subscribers worldwide. That’s far less than the five billion subscribers to 4G in 2022, but it still marks a milestone. Ericsson sees another, global emerging trend as 5G rallies: some carriers charge extra for faster speeds, which is not a win for users. The company says that “there are 25 percent [of operators] who charge a premium for 5G, over their 4G service, with an average price premium of around 40 percent.” So expect to see more 5G bars in more places in 2023 - and to be billed for it too.

The Verge, Allison Johnson, “1 billion people will be connected to 5G by the end of the year .”

2022-11-30

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