Google Adds 6-Second Video Preview to Mobile Search

In a major update, search engine giant Google has added a six second video previews to its mobile search results, the media reported on Saturday.

Google would use some of its machine learning capabilities to actually analyse the entire video and then decide what six-second portion to pick for preview.

The new update would now let searches in Android’s Google app or Chrome to show little preview of each video.

“Any video on the web is eligible for inclusion, though Google may not have a preview for some of the newest videos available yet because it takes the servers a bit of time to build the previews”, Emily Moxley, Google’s Director of Product Management for this project, was quoted as saying by TechCrunch.

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The sneak peeks will only show up on Wi-Fi by default and users can opt-out of them in the settings for both the Google app and Google Chrome for Android, in case they do not wish to consume mobile data.

Google on August 17 added the “Questions and Answers” feature to Google Maps and mobile search to help users get information about places they want to go to.

Users can ask or answer a question – or read the existing questions and answers about a place – by simply searching for the location on Google Maps or mobile Search.

Google’s New Algorithm Can Remove Watermarks From Photos, Suggests Replacement

Researchers at Google have created an algorithm that can erase watermarks from photos automatically, warning that pictures are vulnerable copyright violations even with superimposed logos used to protect them.

Visible watermarks, the most common mechanism for protecting the copyrights of photographs, are logos or patterns that are overlaid on digital images.

Researchers developed a computer algorithm that can get past this protection and remove watermarks automatically, giving users unobstructed access to the clean images the watermarks are intended to protect.

“As often done with vulnerabilities discovered in operating systems, applications or protocols, we want to disclose this vulnerability and propose solutions in order to help the photography and stock image communities adapt and better protect its copyrighted content and creations,” Google said in a blog post.

Manually, the task of removing a watermark from an image is tedious, and even with state-of-the-art editing tools it may take a Photoshop expert several minutes to remove a watermark from one image, researchers said.

However, a fact that has been overlooked so far is that watermarks are typically added in a consistent manner to many images, they said.

Google's New Algorithm Can Remove Watermarks From Photos, Suggests ReplacementResearchers noted that this consistency can be used to invert the watermarking process – that is, estimate the watermark image and its opacity, and recover the original, watermark-free image underneath.

“This can all be done automatically, without any user intervention or prior information about the watermark, and by only observing watermarked image collections publicly available online,” researchers said.

“The algorithm produces very accurate estimations of the watermark components already from hundreds of images, and can deal with most watermarks used in practice, including ones containing thin structures, shadows or colour gradients” they said.

“The vulnerability of current watermarking techniques lies in the consistency in watermarks across image collections,” they added.

Introducing random geometric perturbations to the watermark – warping it when embedding it in each image – can counter this vulnerability, researchers said.

The technique produces a watermarked image that is very similar to the original photo and will leave very visible traces if removed.

Vivo V7+ India Launch Set for September 7, Will Be a Selfie-Focused Smartphone

Vivo has sent out invites for the Vivo V7+ launch in India. The launch is set for September 7 in Mumbai where price, specifications, and availability details will be unveiled. The Vivo V7+ will be a new addition to the ‘V series’ of smartphones in Vivo’s expanding product portfolio for the Indian market.

While nothing is known about the Vivo V7+ smartphones as of yet, the invite shows the smartphone’s display panel, hinting at an almost bezel-less display. There is a thin chin at the top and bottom bezels for sensors presumably, and there’s no sign of a home button either. The fingerprint scanner will also presumably be placed at the back.

The invite also has the tagline that reads, “Redefine the selfie experience with the revolutionary selfie camera.” This hints that the Vivo V7+’s big highlight will be the selfie camera experience, just like many of its earlier smartphones.

Vivo V7+ India Launch Set for September 7, Will Be a Selfie-Focused SmartphoneVivo India recently also launched the selfie-focused Vivo V5s smartphone in the country, and priced it at Rs. 18,990. The big highlight of the Vivo V5s is the front camera – it bears a 20-megapixel front camera with a ‘Moonlight Glow’ front light and an f/2.0 aperture, apart from the Face Beauty 6.0 app. On the rear, the smartphone features a 13-megapixel camera with PDAF and dual-LED flash.

The dual-SIM (Micro+Nano) Vivo V5s runs Funtouch OS 3.0 based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It features a fingerprint sensor on its home button. It bears a 5.5-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) IPS display with 2.5D Curved Glass, Gorilla Glass protection, and a pixel density of 267ppi. It is powered by a 1.5GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6750 SoC coupled with 4GB of RAM.

On the storage front, the Vivo V5s offers 64GB of inbuilt storage that’s expandable via microSD card (up to 256GB) in a hybrid dual-SIM format. The Vivo V5s runs on 3000mAh non-removable battery, weighs 154 grams, and measures 153.8×75.5×7.55mm.

Sweat Can Power Wearable Devices, Claims New Study

Scientists, including one of Indian origin, have developed stretchable fuel cells that extract energy from sweat, and could power a range of wearable devices such as LEDs and Bluetooth radios.

The biofuel cells generate 10 times more power per surface area than any existing wearable biofuel cells, researchers said.

The epidermal biofuel cells are a major breakthrough in the field, which has been struggling with making the devices that are stretchable enough and powerful enough, they said.

Engineers from the University of California, Power Wearable Devices in the US developed a stretchable electronic foundation by using lithography and screen-printing to make 3D carbon nanotube-based cathode and anode arrays.

The biofuel cells are equipped with an enzyme that oxidises the lactic acid present in human sweat to generate current.

“We needed to figure out the best combination of materials to use and in what ratio to use them,” said Amay Bandodkar, first author of the research paper published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.

Researchers led by Professor Joseph Wang from UC San Diego connected the biofuel cells to a custom-made circuit board and demonstrated the device was able to power an LED while a person wearing it exercised on a stationary bike.

To be compatible with wearable devices, the biofuel cell needs to be flexible and stretchable. So engineers decided to use what they call a “bridge and island”.

Essentially, the cell is made up of rows of dots that are each connected by spring-shaped structures. Half of the dots make up the cell’s anode or electrode through which conventional current flows; the other half are the cathode.

Sweat Can Power Wearable Devices, Claims New StudyThe spring-like structures can stretch and bend, making the cell flexible without deforming the anode and cathode.

The basis for the islands and bridges structure was manufactured via lithography and is made of gold.

Researchers used screen printing to deposit layers of biofuel materials on top of the anode and cathode dots. To increase power density, engineers screen printed a 3D carbon nanotube structure on top the anodes and cathodes.

The structure allows engineers to load each anodic dot with more of the enzyme that reacts to lactic acid and silver oxide at the cathode dots. In addition, the tubes allow easier electron transfer, which improves biofuel cell performance.

Chhattisgarh Government to Distribute Over 55 Lakh Smartphones

In an ambitious scheme, the Chhattisgarh government is going to distribute over 55 lakh smartphones in the state.

“To bridge the digital divide, the cabinet headed by Chief Minister Raman Singh today approved a proposal to distribute free smartphones under a scheme titled ‘Sanchar Kranti Yojna’ (SKY),” Industry Minister Amar Agrawal said.

The smartphones will be distributed in rural areas and to the below poverty line (BPL) families in urban areas and college-going youths in two phases, he said.

In the first phase, smartphones will be distributed in the villages with a population of more than 1,000, to BPL families in urban areas, and college students.

Some 50.8 lakh handsets would be distributed in the first phase in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Chhattisgarh Government to Distribute Over 55 Lakh SmartphonesAnother 4.8 lakh smartphones will be distributed in villages which have a population of less than 1,000, and lack mobile network coverage.

Simultaneously, telecom service providers will be encouraged to expand their networks in these areas, the minister said.

The smartphone will be issued in the name of the female member of the family.

Phone numbers allotted with handsets will come pre-linked to Aadhaar number and bank accounts of beneficiaries, Agrawal said.

Telecom service providers will be allowed to install mobile towers atop government buildings free of cost, he added.

Microsoft Surface Devices Fail on Reliability, Finds Consumer Reports Survey

The breakage rate for Microsoft’s Surface devices is significantly worse than for other manufacturers’ laptops and tablets, Consumer Reports said, adding that it was removing its “recommended” designation for Surface products.

The non-profit publication surveyed 90,000 tablet and laptop owners and found that an estimated 25 percent of those with Microsoft Surface devices would be presented with “problems by the end of the second year of ownership,” according to a study published on Thursday.

“If you are very concerned about how long your products are going to last, it might be better for you to go with a brand that has a higher predicted reliability,” Jerry Beilinson, electronics editor at the consumer goods testing publication, said in an interview.

Microsoft disputed the study, saying the company’s return and support rates differ significantly from the Consumer Reports study.

“We don’t believe these findings accurately reflect Surface owners’ true experiences or capture the performance and reliability improvements made with every Surface generation,” the company said in a statement.

According to the Consumer Reports survey responses, the Microsoft devices were found to freeze, unexpectedly shut down or have issues with their touchscreens, Beilinson said.

Altogether, the reliability issues made Microsoft a statistical outlier compared with other brands. Apple Inc had the most reliable devices, Beilinson said.

Microsoft entered the hardware market with its first Surface tablet in 2012. Since then, the company has released a series of new Surface tablets and laptops, including the well-reviewed Surface Pro, which launched in May.

Microsoft Surface Devices Fail on Reliability, Finds Consumer Reports SurveyThe Surface devices serve as a face for the company and exemplify how Microsoft’s manufacturing partners can build hardware around the Windows 10 operating system. However, Surface is a small part of Microsoft’s overall revenue, and Surface revenue has declined year-over-year for the past two quarters.

“The reality is that Microsoft has very little experience in some of the newer categories it’s entering very rapidly, which may expose it to more risk of problems in manufacturing,” said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.

Consumer Reports has conducted its annual reliability study since 1952, starting with cars. The study is also used to determine the reliability of products like refrigerators, lawn mowers, televisions and more. In more recent years, the organization has added laptops and tablets.

Microsoft Memo Shows High Return Rates for Surface Book: Report

Microsoft’s Surface products came under the scanner when Consumer Reports released a survey report claiming that the laptops and tablets in this series were not reliable. The non-profit publication surveyed 90,000 tablet and laptop owners and found that an estimated 25 percent of those with Microsoft Surface devices would be presented with “problems by the end of the second year of ownership.” While Microsoft dismissed these claims at first, it didn’t provide any clarity or detail to counter the findings. Now, an internal company memo has been leaked, and it seems to dive deep into the study and the possible reasons why these incorrect conclusions were derived by Consumer Reports.

According to the leaked internal memo, obtained by Paul Thurrott, high Surface Pro 4 and Surface Bookreturn rates could have influenced the findings of the Consumer Reports study heavily. The memo shared a chart that showed return rates for the Surface Book, Surface Pro 4, and Surface Pro 3.

The Surface Book, notably, has suffered the most, with return rates reaching to 17 percent at launch. It remained above 10 percent for six months, and is reported to have the highest return rates than any other Surface product in two years of its life cycle. Surface Pro 4 had 16 percent return rates at launch, but dropped below 10 percent in one month. Lastly, Surface Pro 3 also saw 11 percent return rates, but that also dropped to 10 percent soon after.

Microsoft Memo Shows High Return Rates for Surface Book: ReportIn the memo, Surface products lead Panos Panay writes, “It’s important for us to always learn more from our customers and how they view their ownership journey with our products. Feedback like this [from Consumer Reports] stings, but pushes us to obsess more about our customers.”

Panay also writes that Microsoft has worked tirelessly to fix all the issues, and the return rates have reduced a lot over the past 12 months; however that does not reflect Consumer Reports’ findings, and the study is heavily reliant of Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book users only. He claims that subsequent devices have been launched in far more reliable states, and that Microsoft is adamant on letting its users know that.

“[We] have put together a comprehensive set of data that reflects the strength of our quality and our customer sentiment, and will be working with partner organizations, including marketing, retail, and sales, to share that information broadly,” Panay writes in the memo.

However, this memo proves that the Consumer Reports findings’ has put a dent in the Surface series’ armour, and Microsoft is doing everything it can to retain popularity and do damage control.

Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop Launched in India Starting Rs. 1,29,999

After first unveiling it at an event in New York earlier this year, Acer has now launched the Predator Helios 300 gaming laptop in India. The laptop is priced starting at Rs. 1,29,999 and is now available to buy exclusively on Flipkart.

Announced first during the Next@Acer global press conference in New York, the laptop features the company’s new AeroBlade 3D metal blade fans which is said to increase airflow by 35 percent without taking too much space. In the US, it is priced at $1,299 (approximately Rs. 88,300).

The Predator Helios 300 is made available in a 15.6-inch full-HD form factor. Specifications include a choice of a seventh generation Intel Core i5 (7300HQ) or Core i7 (7700HQ), an overclockable Nvidia GTX 1050Ti GPU with 4GB GDDR5, 8GB DDR4 RAM upgradeable to 32GB, a 128GB SSD, and a regular 1TB hard drive for storage. Acer has also fitted a compartment underneath the chassis to make it easy for the user to upgrade memory and storage components. The laptop also has Dolby Audio Premium for better quality audio.

Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop Launched in India Starting Rs. 1,29,999Ports on the Acer Predator Helios 300 include a Gigabit Ethernet port, USB 3.1 Type-C port, a USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, a 2-in-1 card reader, and an HDMI 2.0 port as well. There’s also the wireless 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO technology to give you up to two times faster wireless speeds than 1×1 solutions and up to five times faster than traditional 802.11n 1×1 solution.

Commenting on the launch, Chandrahas Panigrahi, CMO and Consumer Business Head, Acer India said in a statement, “We are thrilled to bring in the new generation of Predator series to India. Predator Helios 300 combines innovative design and unbeatable features that are sure to delight the gaming enthusiasts. Predator will be a brand to beat in the Indian gaming market.”

The Core i7 processor variant is priced at Rs. 1,49,999 on Flipkart. Both the laptop variants are listedwith an exchange offer of up to Rs. 15,000, and an extra 5 percent off on Axis Bank Buzz credit cards as well.

Xiaomi’s Manu Jain Explains Why the Company Hasn’t Launched Any Tablet in India Lately

Xiaomi has no immediate plans to launch a refreshed Mi Pad tablet in India, Manu Kumar Jain said on Thursday. The reason? Not enough people in India seem to care for a tablet.

Every market is different, and at least in India, people didn’t respond very well to the first tablet Xiaomi launched in the country three years ago, Jain said, adding that in general, the craze for tablets is very low in India. This is why, he said, Xiaomi didn’t refresh the tablet lineup in India.

But at the same time, Xiaomi is exploring whether the Mi Notebook Air, is the right fit for the nation, he said. Jain added, however, that even the PC market has been slow in India for sometime.

Xiaomi's Manu Jain Explains Why the Company Hasn't Launched Any Tablet in India LatelyWhen asked about the Mi TV series, the thin, low-priced television lineup from the company, Jain told Gadgets 360 that the company is looking at it, but there are several challenges that it needs to work out first before it could bring it to India.

Among those challenges are Xiaomi’s warehouses, which are at present not best suited to store the inventory, Jain said. The company would also need to figure out the right content catalogue to bundle along with the TV, he added.

Some of the content will come from Hungama Digital Media Entertainment, in which Xiaomi invested last year. But much of the strategy is yet to be worked out, he said. There is no firm timeline he could share how soon the company could launch the Xiaomi Mi TV series in India.

Google Tipped to Unveil New Chromebook Pixel, Mini Home Speaker Alongside the Pixel 2 Launch

After finally revealing the name of the next Android mobile operating system, v8.0 Oreo, we can now look forward to Google’s next Pixel smartphones. We’ve seen some rumours in the past about the upcoming Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2 smartphones, but it now looks like Google has a few more products in the pipeline – namely, a new Chromebook Pixel and a mini Google Home smart speaker.

Google could be unveiling a bunch of new products at its next hardware event this fall. According to Android Police, we could see a new Pixel-branded Chromebook. This is interesting considering reports back in March that Google was ending Chromebook Pixel devices. Google has responded to the reports back then that the company hadn’t ruled out making laptops.

While the latest report mentions a new Chromebook Pixel in the works, Android Police could not confirm if the upcoming laptop will be based on Google’s old project code-named Bison. Reports last year mentioned Project Bison to be a highly-modified version of Android termed Andromeda. However, the new report says the upcoming laptop will be a Pixel Chromebook running on Chrome OS.

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Google Home

Separately, the report also claims that a new miniature version of the Google Home smart speaker, details of which are scarce at the moment, would be launched at the event. A smaller version of the Google Home could be a direct response to the Amazon’s Echo Dot, a hockey puck-shaped speaker that’s leading smart speaker sales, according to a report by Adobe. Echo Dot’s success may reach new heights as Amazon plans to bring the mini speaker to India along with Prime Music, Gadgets360 reported last week.

Speaking of Google Home, the smart speaker is finally getting support for Bluetooth audio playback, a feature the search giant announced back in May during Google I/O. Bluetooth support means the Google Home will now be able to play audio from any Android or iOS device, and will no longer be restricted to apps that support Google Cast.