Weekly Tech Recap - № 144 - Aibo is back! Emojigate, Razer Phone, robot motorcycle rider, etc.
Aibo is back!
ERS-1000. © Sony Corporation.
Rumours about the resurrection of Aibo the dogbot proved true. Eleven years after his demise, Sony announced the imminent arrival of a new puppy. Called “aibo” (all in lower case), model ERS-1000 is cuter, smarter and more interactive than its predecessors. With a plumper silhouette, floppy ears, a cute button-nose and padded paws, aibo indeed looks more like a toy dog than model ERS-7 (2001-2006), whose design was more abstract and “futuristic”. In fact, aibo is closer in design to model ERS-300 (released in 2001), which had been drawn by illustrator Katsura Moshino. Loaded with sensors, the ERS-1000 can scan its visual and sound environment, recognize faces and perform simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM). With its artificial intelligence, aibo can analyze commands, interpret smiles, respond to petting, and learn and adapt its behaviour accordingly. aibo’s eyes are in fact OLED screens, giving it a particularly expressive, lively gaze. Controlled by a 64-bit processor, aibo’s power consumption is 14 watts, its battery lasts about two hours, it weighs 2.2kg and measures 180x293x305mm. Owners must subscribe to a plan (CA$30 per month) to save aibo’s data and lessons learned in the cloud. Should aibo sustain fatal injuries, its personality can be downloaded to a replacement aibo (the stuff of science-fiction, right?). aibo will be available on January 11, 2018 (the Year of the Dog), only in Japan to start, for JPY198,000 (CA$2,200) before taxes.
⇨ IEEE Spectrum, “Sony unleashes new Aibo robot dog.”
Android emoji still a laughingstock
Hamburger emoji. © Emojipedia.
Google may have axed its atrocious yellow blobs, but there’s still plenty to laugh at. A new Android emojigate is rocking the Web: a burger emoji. Specifically, a cheeseburger emoji. Google designers actually placed the cheese slice beneath the patty, when everyone knows it’s supposed to sit atop the patty. The placement of the lettuce and tomato slices is debatable, but the cheese ALWAYS covers the meat! Google designers also need a refresher course on beer, to observe how the refreshing drink works: there is no air gap between the liquid and the foam. Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, has at least committed to fixing the burger issue.
⇨ Ars Technica, “Google, others showcase emoji cheeseburger construction faux pas.”
Razer Phone. © Razer.
Razer, the well-known gaming company, unveiled its first smartphone, simply called Razer Phone. The introduction of an Android phone by a company known for its gaming-oriented PCs, keyboards and mice is the result of Razer’s January purchase of Nextbit, a start-up founded by former Google and HTC employees in 2015. Not surprisingly, the Razer Phone looks just like the Robin, the angular phone Nextbit launched in August 2015. But its components are in a league of their own: Snapdragon 835 processor, 8GB RAM, 4,000 mAh battery. Battery life is said to be 7.5 hours of gaming (tested with Blizzard’s Hearthstone), which isn’t bad. While phone displays have always topped out at 60Hz, even on the latest iPhones, the 2K LCD 5.7-inch Razer display is unique: with a refresh rate of 120 images per second, it makes for smoother transitions, enhancing the gaming experience. In fact, Apple only recently adopted this standard, and even then, only for its iPad Pros. The Razer Phone will be available as of November 17 for US$700 (€750, or CA$885).
⇨ Ars Technica, “Razer made a smartphone, and it’s an all-black version of the Nextbit Robin.”
Yamaha’s motorcyle-riding robot
Motobot, the robot motorcycle rider. © Yamaha.
Yamaha has developed a professional robot motorcycle rider. The robot hunches over an unmodified bike, sensing the environment, calculating what to do, keeping the bike stable, managing acceleration and deceleration—all the while factoring in road conditions, air resistance, and engine braking. The project is part of an industry-wide drive to incorporate autonomous features into commercial motorcycles to make them easier and safer to ride, for example the ability to free-stand even when stopped, or to respond to voice commands.
⇨ IEEE Spectrum, “Watch Yamaha’s humanoid robot ride a motorcycle around a racetrack.”
Holiday shopping on the go
Holiday shopping season. © iStock.
Every year, Adobe Analytics publishes a list of online holiday shopping predictions. Among this year’s nuggets: This year, just over half of all visits to shopping sites will come from smartphones and tablets, surpassing desktop computers for the first time. Customers are increasingly likely to browse and complete a purchase on mobile, with mobile shopping accounting for 34 percent of online purchase revenue (30 percent last year). Retailers with the best mobile websites and easiest mobile payment integration stand to benefit the most from the new mobile shopping trend. Cyber Monday, or the Monday after American Thanksgiving, is predicted to be the largest online shopping day in history, with $6.6 billion in online sales predicted, up 16.5 percent from 2016.