Posts with «author_name|steve dent» label

Airbus is building a hydrogen fuel-cell engine for aircraft

As part of its goal to have zero-emission aircraft enter service by 2035, Airbus has announced the development of a hydrogen fuel-cell engine designed to for airplanes. Unlike Rolls-Royce's recently announced jet engine that burns hydrogen directly, it would use an electric motor just like fuel-cell cars, while emitting only H20. It could eventually be employed in commercial aircraft that could carry up to 100 passengers around 1,000 nautical miles (1,150 miles), the company said.

Airbus plans to test the engine by the middle of the decade on its A380 MSN1 aircraft, "currently being modified to carry liquid hydrogen tanks," it said. However, the technology appears to be designed for smaller, regional type aircraft that use more efficient propeller, rather than jet engines. 

"Fuel cells are a potential solution to help us achieve our zero-emission ambition and we are focused on developing and testing this technology to understand if it is feasible and viable for a 2035 entry-into-service of a zero-emission aircraft," said Airbus VP for zero-emission aircraft, Glenn Llewellyn. 

The company didn't provide any more details, but fuel-cells are a well-known technology for cars. They're far less efficient than battery electric vehicles (BEVs) if you count fuel production and conversion to electricity. However, they have more range, are faster to refuel and lighter — with the latter, of course, being essential for aircraft.  

As mentioned, Rolls-Royce just announced the successful test of a jet engine powered by burning hydrogen directly, another possible technology for future air transport. The company converted a Rolls-Royce AE 2100-A, a regional aircraft engine used in turboprop commuter planes, to work with the novel fuel source. However, the tech could theoretically be scaled up for larger planes.

There are still some major hurdles to overcome before hydrogen could ever be used to power airplanes. It takes four times as much hydrogen as regular fuel by weight for the same range, and the fuel must be kept under pressure. And of course, hydrogen is highly explosive, so aircraft systems for storage and distribution would need to be extremely reliable and durable — again adding weight. Still, it might be the only option available for aircraft in the near future, as battery technology is still much too heavy unless used for very short flights.

Corning's Gorilla Glass Victus 2 can better survive drops on sidewalks and roads

Corning's Gorilla Glass is used in a lot of high-end smartphones, and now the company is promising even tougher displays with its latest version, Victus 2. The new glass composition offers improved drop performance on rough surfaces like concrete, the company says, while offering the same scratch resistance as the original Victus.

The first Victus glass released two years ago promised that your screen could survive drops of two meters (6.5 feet), but the new version ups the ante. Corning said it aimed to create glass that was durable enough to "better survive drops from waist height onto rougher surfaces," to start with. It also noted that smartphones are 15 percent heavier and 10 percent larger than they were four years ago, which increases the stress on the display.


"In lab testing, Gorilla Glass Victus 2 survived drops of up to one meter on a surface replicating concrete," the company said, noting that competing solutions could fail at half a meter or less. At the same time, "Victus 2 continued to survive drops up to two meters on a surface replicating asphalt and maintained scratch resistance up to four times better than competitive aluminosilicate," according to Corning.

There's no word on which devices will get Victus 2 displays first, but I wouldn't go dropping one on the road to test the claims — they're based on lab tests, unlike typical random phone drop accidents. There's no doubt the screens are widely used though. Corning said that its product is "designed into more than 8 billion devices by more than 45 major brands." Apple is a major investor in the company, having poured in $250 million in investments several years ago.

Logitech's popular Litra Glow streamer light is back on sale at an all-time low price

Logitech's Litra Glow has been a big success since it launched early this year, giving streamers an easy way to create soft and flattering illumination for their faces. It's already quite affordable at $60, but now it has dropped back to an all-time low price of $50 on Amazon.

Buy Logitech Litra Glow at Amazon - $50

The Litra Glow promises to be safe on the eyes for all-day streaming, while providing a "natural, radiant look across skin tones." You also get cinematic color accuracy via Logitech's TrueSoft technology, regardless of skin tone. It's ready to use out of the box thanks to the five presets with different brightness levels and color temperatures, or you can create custom options using the G HUB software. As a bonus, any presets you create can be assigned to the G Keys on a Logitech G keyboard or mouse. 

It's now on sale for $50, matching its all-time low price. You can find other soft- and ring-style lights from Elgato and others, but most from any recognizable name brand are considerably more expensive. The Litra Glow is already a great buy with Logitech's promised color accuracy, and now Amazon's discount makes it even more affordable.

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Sony steps into the Metaverse with the 'Mocopi' motion tracking system

Sony has launched an interesting product called Mocopi, consisting of six motion-tracking bands worn on your hands, feet, back and head, with a price of 49,500 yen (about $358). The aim is to let you track your body to create videos or operate avatars in real time with metaverse apps like VRChat. It even offers an SDK that lets you import motion data into 3D animation apps. 

Apparently a play on the term "mocap," (motion capture) Mocopi's six color-coded, lightweight motion sensors use "proprietary technology and a smartphone" with a dedicated app, according to Sony. "Normally, video production using motion capture requires dedicated equipment and operators," Sony wrote. "By utilizing our proprietary algorithm, 'Mocopi' realizes highly accurate motion measurement with a small number of sensors, freeing VTubers [virtual YouTubers] and creators involved in movie and animation production from time and place constraints."

On December 15th, Sony will provide a software development kit (SDK) that links the motion capture data with metaverse services, along with the real-time development platform Unity and Autodesk's animation/mocap app MotionBuilder. "This SDK expands the use of motion data for activities such as full-body tracking, thereby facilitating the development of new services in areas such as the metaverse and fitness."

In a how-to video (below), Sony shows how you can pair the sensors with the app, strap them to your body and calibrate them. From there, you can start dancing or do other movements and see the in-app avatars ape your actions. A second video showcasing some avatar animations (above) looks good, but does reveal typical motion capture issues like jitter and foot sliding. 

It's an ambitious product aimed at not only people interested in the metaverse, but animation professionals and filmmakers as well. Sony notes that you can use existing VRM avatars and export recorded videos in the MP4 format, provided you have a device with iOS 15.7.1 or Android 11. Reservations are set to start in mid-December 2022 and it will go on sale in late January 2023, but there's no word yet on North American availability. 

Meta fined €265 million over Facebook data scraping in the EU

Meta has been hit with a €265 million ($277 million) fine for failing to prevent millions of Facebook users' mobile phone numbers and other data from being scraped and dumped online, has reported. It's the second fine levied by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) in just the past few months, following a €405 million ($402 million at the time) penalty issued in September. In just the last 18 months, Meta has tallied nearly €1 billion in fines. 

The penalty was issued in response to the leak of 533 million Facebook users' data reported in April last year. That included phone numbers, birth dates, email addresses and locations, information that could be exploited in phishing and other attacks. The private information of sitting judges, prison officers, social workers, journalists and others were posted online, the DPC said.

At the time, Meta blamed the attack on "bad actors," but Ireland's regulator said the company failed to comply with GDPR obligations of "data protection by design and default." It wrote in a news release that other data protection authorities in the EU "agreed with the decision of the DPC." 

Meta confirmed to the The Wall Street Journal that the flaw had been patched back in 2019. The company said that it will review DPC Ireland's decision, but has not yet decided whether to appeal. "Unauthorized data scraping is unacceptable and against our rules," the spokesperson added. 

Last year, the DPC fined Meta's WhatsApp €225 million ($267 million) for not providing details of how it shares European Union users' data with Facebook. It was also hit with a €17 million ($18.6 million) fine over 12 separate data breaches, and penalized €405 million ($402 million) for its handling of children’s privacy settings on Instagram. 

WhatsApp's latest feature makes it easier to send messages to yourself

WhatsApp has introduced a new feature that lets you send messages to yourself like reminders and shopping lists, parent Meta has confirmed with TechCrunch. Called "Message Yourself," the feature was first spotted by WaBetaInfo several weeks ago as part of a beta test, but is now being rolled out globally to iOS and Android users in the coming weeks.

Once you get the update, you'll be able to see yourself at the top of the contacts list when creating new messages. Once you click on that, you'll be able to send yourself notes, reminders, shopping lists and anything else you might need to remember. The resulting notification, if enabled, could help make sure your self-note doesn't go unheeded. Users can also pin their Message Yourself chats to the top of a conversation list for easier access.

Until now, you could only message yourself by creating a group with just you as a member or by using the apps "click to chat" feature, both inelegant solutions at best. Rival platform Signal already offers a feature called "Note to Self" that does much the same thing, though it's buried in your contacts list rather than being available at the top. As mentioned, you should see the feature in the next couple of weeks whether on Android or iOS. 

Buy an Xbox Series S and Amazon will give you $40 credit on Cyber Monday

If you've been waiting for the best possible deal on an Xbox Series S console, today is the day. For Cyber Monday, Amazon is offering a $60 discount (20 percent) plus a $40 coupon that can be applied to future purchases. That effectively gives you a $100 discount (33 percent) off the regular $300 price for today only — a great deal on a very good console. 

Buy Xbox Series S at Amazon - $240 (with $40 credit)

When the Series S came out, we called it the "next-gen starter pack" and gave it a solid 85 score. Even though it doesn't support gameplay in 4K, it plays incredibly smoothly and has a svelte look that will fit into any decor. Thanks to the FPS boost technology added to the Series S and X, older games, including many made for Xbox One, will look and perform better with faster frame rates.

Unlike the Series X, the Series S only plays digital titles, with no slot to insert physical game media. It's a great option if you have an Xbox Game Pass membership, though, which costs $10 per month for the Console tier, and $15 per month for the Ultimate tier. Either level unlocks a library with hundreds of game to download and play, while also granting discounts to many titles you might want to buy outright.

Another caveat is that the Series S has less SSD storage, with 512GB on-board compared to the 1TB for the Series X. If you like to keep plenty of titles on hand, you'll either need to shuffle them between the main disk and USB-C storage, or purchase Seagate's $200 expansion card. All told, though, it's a great option for casual console gamers, particularly considering all the backward-compatible Game Pass games — just keep in mind that the sale ends today. 

Twitter data leak exposes over 5.4 million accounts

Earlier this year, Twitter confirmed that the private user data for 5.4 million users was stolen due to an API vulnerability, but the company said it had "no evidence" that it was exploited. Now, all of those accounts have been exposed on a hacker form, BleepingComputer has reported. On top of that, an additional 1.4 million Twitter profiles for suspended users was reportedly shared privately, and an even larger data dump with the data of "tens of millions" of other users may have come from the same vulnerability.

The owner of hacking forum called Breached told BleepingComputer that it was responsible for exploiting the weakness (originally obtained from another hacker called "Devil") and dumping the user records. It said that it also obtained 1.4 million Twitter profiles for suspended accounts, obtained via another API, but only shared those privately among a few individuals.

On top of all that, security expert Chad Loder has revealed that tens of millions more Twitter records may have been collected using the same API. Once again, data collected may include private phone numbers along with public information. Loder posted a redacted sample on Mastodon, as he was banned on Twitter several days ago for unknown reasons. It could contain over 17 million records, BleepingComputer was told.

The breaches leaked users' private phone numbers and email addresses, which could be used for phishing and other scams. That information could also be exploited to uncover identities from private Twitter accounts. As usual, be very wary of any suspicious emails or texts claiming to come from Twitter — and if you're thinking about using two-factor authentication, now would be a good time.  

Stable Diffusion update removes ability to copy artist styles or make NSFW works

Stable Diffusion, the AI that can generate images from text in an astonishingly realistic way, has been updated with a bunch of new features. However, many users aren't happy, complaining that the new software can no longer generate pictures in the styles of specific artists or generate NSFW artworks, The Verge has reported. 

Version 2 does introduce a number of new features. Key among those is a new text encoder called OpenCLIP that "greatly improves the quality of the generated images compared to earlier V1 releases," according to Stability AI, the company behind Stable Diffusion. It also includes a new NSFW filter from LAION designed to remove adult content.

Other features include a depth-to-image diffusion model that allows one to create transformations "that look radically different from the original but still preserve the coherence and depth from an image," according to Stability AI. In other words, if you create a new version of an image, objects will still correctly appear in front of or behind other objects. Finally, a text-guided inpainting model makes it easy to switch out parts of an image, keeping a cat's face while changing out its body, for example.  

Stability AI

However, the update now makes it harder to create certain types of images like photorealistic images of celebrities, nude and pornographic output, and images that match the style of certain artists. Users have said that asking Stable Diffusion Version 2 to generate images in the style of Greg Rutkowski — an artist often copied for AI images — no longer works as it used to. "They have nerfed the model," said one Reddit user.

Stable Diffusion has been particularly popular for generating AI art because it's open source and can be built upon, while rivals like DALL-E are closed models. For example, the YouTube VFX site Corridor Crew showed off an add-on called Dreambooth that allowed them to generate images based on their own personal photos.

Stable Diffusion can copy artists like Rutkowski by training on their work, examining images and looking for patterns. Doing this is probably legal (though in a grey area), as we detailed in our explainer earlier this year. However, Stable Diffusion's license agreement bans people from using the model in a way that breaks any laws.

Despite that, Rutkowski and other artists have objected to the use. "I probably won’t be able to find my work out there because [the internet] will be flooded with AI art," Rutkowski told MIT Technology Review. "That’s concerning." 

Twitter's new Verified service will include gold checks for companies, Elon Musk confirms

Twitter plans to launch its updated Verified program next Friday with manual authentication and different colored check marks for different types of users, Elon Musk has tweeted. "Gold check for companies, grey check for government, blue for individuals (celebrity or not) and all verified accounts will be manually authenticated before check activates," he said. 

Musk previously stated that Twitter would "probably use [a] different color check for organizations than individuals." However, this is the first time he's revealed what those colors will likely be. It's not clear if all verified users including government and industry will have to pay Twitter Blue fee of $8 per month. 

Sorry for the delay, we’re tentatively launching Verified on Friday next week.

Gold check for companies, grey check for government, blue for individuals (celebrity or not) and all verified accounts will be manually authenticated before check activates.

Painful, but necessary.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 25, 2022

In a subsequent tweet, Musk added that "individuals can have secondary tiny logo showing they belong to an org if verified as such by that org." However, all individual users will have the same blue check mark "as [the] boundary of what constitutes 'notable' is otherwise too subjective," he said.

Musk originally launched his new verification program with the idea that anyone who joins Twitter Blue for $8 a month would get a blue checkmark. As many predicted, though, the system quickly became a goat rodeo due to account impersonation and was shut down after just 48 hours. In one instance, an Eli Lilly impersonator tweeted that "insulin is free now," forcing the company to apologize for the tweet. Another Eli Lilly impersonator then apologized for the apology.

Musk originally said that the revised Verified program would launch on November 29th, but his latest tweet puts the date at December 2nd.