Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Facebook Messenger Launches Group Video Calling

Facebook Messenger has launched its own split-screen group video chat feature, allowing for multi-video chats in one session.

The group chat can be used by six different people at the same time while 50 people in total can listen to the audio and send texts, stickers, emojis, and GIFs. You can also use filters like those Snapchat-style selfie masks during your video chat.
This feature is going to make the Facebook Messenger much more resourceful as it won’t be just a text messenger anymore and would be the perfect way for a group of friends to connect with each other live. Facebook itself calls it “perfect for those spontaneous moments where text just isn’t enough”.

The group video chat feature rolled out worldwide on iOS, Android, and web, today, though Android will have to wait for the MSQRD-powered selfie masks. The filter feature might not ever come to desktop.

Messenger Gets Video Calling

Facebook Messenger got one-on-one video calling feature back in April 2015, and since then, everyone has been anticipating the addition of the group video call feature. With over 245 million people using video calling regularly, it’s safe to say the feature will be a hit.
Facebook had already beaten other messengers like FaceTime/iMessage, Google Duo, Snapchat and others when it came to video calling. WeChat added the feature an year ago.

How it Works

If you want to use the group video calling feature, you can select friends or a group text thread to invite to a video call.
Six people in total will be able to use the video calling feature at the same time. The Messenger screen will switch to a gallery format, and whoever is speaking will take up the big bulk at the top of the screen while the rest of the 5 will have little thumbnails for each one at the bottom of the screen, quite like Hangouts.

Up to 50 other people can join the call, but they won’t appear in the video gallery and will only be able to listen to the on-going call.

Monday, December 19, 2016

HP’s OMEN X - A powerful and mostly satisfying gaming cube

AMaingear and HP collaboration, the OMEN X is a good example of how far a consumer computer manufacturer will go to try and cater to a hard to please niche like PC gamers.
Recently the latter has been doing a great job of appealing to different user needs with their Spectre line, from premium ultrabooks, to the VR-ready desktop replacement OMEN 17 laptop that I reviewed earlier this winter.
To better cater to hardcore gamers, HP teamed up with Maingear, a custom PC builder that’s well-respected in the gaming community. In fact, HP and Maingear are so confident in the OMEN X’s chassis design that you can actually purchase it as an empty case for $599. The specs of your new machine would then be entirely up to you; want to include two GPUs and four separate hard drives? Not a problem at all.

Inside of HP’s $2,149 build, you’ll find a 4.0GHz Core i7-6700HK quad-core processor, 16GB DDR4 RAM and a GTX 1080 Founder’s Edition graphics card — a powerful trio that can handle any game that is based off DirectX 11 or 12 released this year — and most likely for a while longer. A 2TB traditional hard drive with 256GB SSD, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac WiFi and a 1300W Gold efficiency power supply round off the rest of the specs.
In terms of real-world performance, every title I’ve played has been pushed to a 3440 x 1440 curved LG monitor via a Displayport. For PC gaming purists who swear by 1080p HD displays, the frame rates I’ve seen of course will be higher.

Battlefield 1 runs at a cozy 75fps on max settings, DirectX 12 enabled. Arma III maxed-out at a strong 70fps, while Rainbow Six: Siege averages 60 to 80fps, also with max settings and V-sync enabled. Using a G-Sync screen with this system would most likely produce better results, but unfortunately I didn’t have one to test.
The GTX 1080 is worth the investment, while the TITAN X is not at all a requirement if you want to play today’s (or tomorrow’s) games on the highest settings on a 1080p or 1440p monitor.
If I were building a yet another micro-ATX gaming rig, I would probably splurge and get the barebones OMEN X case for $599.
An NVIDIA GTX 1080’s performance, pitted against other Pascal NVIDIA graphics processor is uncontested, unless you opt for the astronomically expensive TITAN X GPU ($1,200). Pitted against the slower GTX 1070 (both desktop and mobile versions) and you’ll see frame rates drop by 10-20fps. The GTX 1080 is worth the investment, while the TITAN X is not at all a requirement if you want to play today’s (or tomorrow’s) games on the highest settings on a 1080p or 1440p monitor.
Strangely, three weeks into using the OMEN X, a reliability issue came up: it wouldn’t get past the POST screen (power-on self test), which is the bane of any computer user’s existence. Checking the motherboard and connections for irregularities changed nothing, but powering the system off, then turning it on the next day, only to find that it suddenly booted into Windows 10.

That was all odd, and by all accounts meant that I had to swap systems. I would hope that wouldn’t be a trend for consumers who purchase their own systems.
If I were building a yet another micro-ATX gaming rig, I would probably splurge and get the barebones OMEN X case for $599. Afterwards, I’d fill it with similar specs and a better motherboard, while sacrificing storage space for a faster, but smaller SSD.
On the other hand, if you’re satisfied with the pre-configured builds and pricing that HP is offering, then make that your choice. After all, nothing is more fun than having more than enough processing power for everyday tasks, but also knowing you’re future-proofed to an extent with games, USB-C ports and the like.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Facebook Launches Live 360 Video Streaming

Just yesterday it was announced that Facebook is going to launch its support for 360-degree Live streams, called Live 360.

Today on 13th December 2016, National Geographic’s Facebook page will publish the first 360 Live video at noon as scientists emerge from 80 days in isolation pods at Utah’s Mars Desert Research Station.
The Live stream will feature footage from the landscape of Mars and interviews with the researchers.

About the Mars Isolation Pods

These seven space scientists from around the world have spent their past 80 days in isolation pods, simulating every aspect of life on Mars.
National Geographic will be live in Facebook as these scientists emerge from their pods. The scientists will let us have a look on some behind the scenes action, allowing us to see how they suit up in their space suits, explore the living quarters, take a rover out for a drive across the surface of Mars, and much more.

Facebook Live 360 Videos

Facebook will even take questions from the Facebook audience in their Q&A session with the experts, writers and thinkers.
Live 360 videos is going to be made available to more pages via the Live API in the coming months, and it will roll out for all the pages and profiles next year.

An example of Facebook VR in action

Friday, December 9, 2016

Save Webpages Offline On Chrome Mobile Devices

After adding support for offline videos in YouTube, similar additions in Chrome are Google’s next steps for its mobile platforms. The latest update will bring the ability to download webpages for later access, as well as a built-in Download Manager, lower memory usage and web-sharing features.
The download feature was first made available in the Chrome S5 Beta program, before arriving for everyone. The S5 update has already been released for the desktop version.
To download a webpage, you only must press a new download option, which is present at the top when you press the three dots on the side. Not only webpages, but also HTML5 videos and audios can be downloaded unless the site uses custom controls or the content is part of a stream. The content remains available offline for as long as you want, until you delete it yourself.

These changes come as a part of the new Download Manager built into Chrome for the first time, which is a move away from the conventional Android download manager.
There are new performance enhancements, as well. JavaScript is handled more efficiently, resulting in a 50-percent drop in RAM usage, followed by a feature which frees up unused zones in script after the page has loaded.
Lastly, there’s a new Web Share API, which allows webpages to instantly share content with the apps installed on your phone. There are improvements in Search and spell-checking software, as well.
Expect to see the update in an action through a rollout in the near future.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Amazon Introduces Revolutionary way in E-commerce

Would it not be amazing to simply walk into a store, pick up the things you need and just leave? No, we are not talking about stealing!

We are talking about a new service called Amazon Go, that allows you to do exactly that.

Amazon Go

The online ecommerce giant has launched Amazon Go, which is a brick-and-mortar store. It allows the customers to walk out of the stores without wasting times in queues and instead have the items automatically billed to their Amazon accounts.
Using the Amazon Go application, the customers can enter the store to initiate their shopping session. Anything the customer picks up during the time period is added to the cart.
The application itself assesses what products have been picked up by the customer, rather than the customer manually entering the product ID or scanning it.
Amazon have named this technology as “Just Walk Out” technology. It is a combination of sensor fusion, computer vision, and deep learning algorithm to allow the store to track the items you pick up and walk out with.
Here’s how it all works:
The company’s promotional video states:
“It automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When you’re done shopping, you can just leave the store. Shortly after, we’ll charge your Amazon account and send you a receipt.”

Is It Open For Everyone Now?

According to an Amazon staff member, the store at 2131 Seventh Avenue, on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Blanchard Street in downtown Seattle is currently only available to Amazon employees while it’s being tested, but will open to the public in early 2017.
No further information regarding expansion in other countries or continents has been made available either.

Freakishly Scary Technology

Dr. Pedro Domingos, a University of Washington professor of computer science and engineering, assessed the Amazon Go technology and his remarks may leave you looking over your shoulder.
According to Pedro, the system deployed inside the Amazon Go is constantly learning what the people are buying. It does this by watching them through cameras and following them round the store.
He said that machine learning has crossed all boundaries and the hardware on these stores can learn very rapidly now.
“They can learn all sorts of things,” Domingos said. “Her facial expressions as she’s looking at the shelves, right?  There’s computer vision, machine-learning algorithms that can understand what emotions you’re feeling from your facial expressions. They’ll actually be able to look at her and like, what she’s thinking when she’s looking at one of the cupcakes. You know, does she scrunch up her face?”
He also added that through this system, shoplifting is impossible as the customers have to be identified via the application upon their arrival in the store.