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Enlarge At Google I/O today, the company announced it's expanding its Daydream VR program from the existing phone holster to a new platform based on standalone headsets, complete with positional tracking. Qualcomm is working on a "reference design" for the generalized platform, while HTC and Lenovo will have the first consumer units ready for later in 2017. On stage, Google VP for VR Clay Bavor said, "We asked, how can we take the best parts of smartphone VR and create a kind of device with an even better experience." Unlike the existing Daydream holster, which is just a felt-covered, head-mounted container for smartphones, the standalone Daydream headsets have "everything built right in: no cables, no phone, certainly no big PC," said Bavor. This lets Google and hardware makers customize the displays, optics, and sensors to be perfect for virtual reality, he said. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Google) MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Google I/O is just getting started, and Google has announced the second Android O device preview. This version is officially a "beta," which means it will automatically go out to anyone enrolled in the Android Beta Program. Like the first preview, the beta runs on recent Nexus and Pixel devices: the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel C, Pixel, and Pixel XL. The first preview of Android O launched all the way back in March, bringing a new settings page, snoozeable notifications, a background processing lockdown, and a bunch of other features. Google also finally separated the OS from the hardware and wrapped the Android OS in a modular base called "Project Treble." And while the company didn't highlight many new features onstage at I/O, it did mention Android Go, a new configuration for Android O phones with 1GB or less of RAM. The roadmap from the initial Android O preview still holds true: Android O will have a Q3 2017 release, with two more preview releases between now and then. We'll be installing the beta and digging deeper later this week. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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Google MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA—Starting with Android 4.4, Google began to support a "low RAM" flag for devices with 512MB of memory that changes the way that the OS and supported apps work with the goal of reducing resource usage. That initiative was called "Project Svelte," and it was aimed at low-end phones for emerging markets. Today at Google I/O, the company announced a new initiative to continue and extend these efforts. "Android Go" will be a part of Android O, and it will also include optimized versions of apps and the Google Play Store to reduce resource and data usage. Think of Android Go as a modified version of Android O. Controls to keep an eye on and control data usage have been added to the quick settings, while the existing Data Saver feature in Chrome will be enabled by default. Some apps have also been rethought for connections with low bandwidth or low data caps. YouTube Go, for instance, will let you see a preview of a video before you download the whole thing, and will also allow you to save videos for offline use and peer-to-peer sharing so you can save your friends and family some data too. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge Google Photos has blown up since it launched a few years ago. Google claims now the service has 500 million monthly active users worldwide, and about 1.2 billion photos and videos are uploaded to Google Photos every day. At Google I/O, the company announced a couple new features that make it easier for you to share photos with the people that matter most: suggested sharing and shared libraries. Suggested sharing is that little nudge most of us need to actually share those photos we promised to share with our friends. Now you'll receive notifications after you've taken a bunch of photo that remind you to share those images with both the people in the photos and your loved ones. In the Google Photos app, you'll receive suggestions of people to share photos with, including anyone the app has identified in the photos themselves. Once you choose the photos you want to share via Google Photos and the recipients, those people will get a notification that photos have been shared with them. If one of them doesn't have Google Photos installed on their device (the app is available for Android and iOS), they'll be sent a message prompting them to download the app and see the photos you've shared with them. Google Photos will also suggest photos to share to those recipients as well, in case they have images similar to those in your shared albums and want to send them out to the group as well. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Ron Amadeo MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—So far, this year's Google I/O has been more about incremental updates than big new products and projects. Google's photo apps and services have gotten a range of updates, and the Google Assistant is getting new capabilities and coming to iOS. Google Home, the company's Amazon Echo competitor, is also getting a short list of new features, including expanded multimedia capabilities. The "hands-free calling" feature is pretty much what it sounds like—yell at Google Home, and you can call people in your contact list. Home will use its own private phone number by default, but you can also link it with your personal number so the people you're calling will know who it is. The feature will be free in the US and Canada, and it will be enabled "over the next few months." Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / The 180 TFLOPS Cloud TPU card. (credit: Google) Google has developed its second-generation tensor processor unit (TPU), a 45-teraflops chip for machine learning and artificial intelligence, and the company is bringing it to the cloud. The custom chips are 15-30 times faster and 30-80 times more power efficient than CPUs and GPUs for these workloads, and the company has been using them already for its AlphaGo Go-playing computer, as well as its search results. Starting today, Google will be offering the TPUs to users of Google Compute Cloud. The chips are arranged into modules of 4, for 180 TFLOPS per card. Sixty-four of the cards can be linked into what Google calls a pod, with 11.5 petaflops total; one petaflops is 1015 floating point operations per second. Typically in machine-learning workloads, initial training and model building are divided from the subsequent pattern matching against the model. The former workload is the one that is most heavily dependent on massive compute power, and it's this that has generally been done on GPUs. Google’s first-generation TPUs were used for the second part—making inferences based on the model, to recognize images, language, or whatever. The new TPUs are optimized for both workloads, allowing the same chips to be used for both training and making inferences. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Getty | Media for Medical ) The age of your doctor may impact the quality of the care you receive—and even cut your chances of survival—researchers report in the British Medical Journal. Harvard researchers looked over data on more than 700,000 hospital admissions of elderly patients cared for by nearly 19,000 physicians between 2011 and 2014. They found that mortality rates crept up in step with physician age. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA—Google is committed to bringing its voice command system, the Google Assistant, to every possible computing interface. Today it exists on Android phones and tablets, Android Wear smartwatches, Google Home, and is soon coming to Android TV and Android Auto. There's also an SDK for hardware device makers, allowing anyone to build a Google Assistant box. The next great frontier for the Google Assistant? The iPhone. Today, Google announced the Assistant is coming to iOS devices. Users will be able to open up the Google App, press the voice button, and speak to the Assistant. This announcement comes with a lot of hype attached to it, but as we've been saying since the Assistant's launch, there isn't a huge difference in functionality between the old Google voice command system and the Google Assistant. What you mainly get is a new presentation with a more "humanized" response system that tells jokes and plays games. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge At Google I/O today, the company announced a new feature for Assistant and Photos called Google Lens. Lens will come in updates to the Google Assistant and Google Photos and will tell you more about what's in front of your device's camera, giving you contextual information and actionable options depending on what you're looking at. Google CEO Sundar Pichai revealed Google Lens early in the conference's keynote, and it sounds much like the technology in the original Google Glass. You can point your Android device's camera at something, be it a flower, a restaurant, or a Wi-Fi network name, and Google Lens will give you more information about what you're looking at. In the demo, Google showed an image of a flower that Google Lens was able to immediately identify. Later on in the keynote, another demo showed Google Assistant using Lens' technology to translate Japanese writing to English as a camera was pointed at a Japanese sign. Google Assistant will also provide contextual information; point your device's camera at the marquee of a movie theater, and Assistant will use Lens to identify movies and provide you with different options, including buying tickets, adding movie times to your calendar, and more. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaks during the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas on April 25, 2017. (credit: Getty Images | Ethan Miller ) Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is a big fan of former President Bill Clinton's approach to regulating Internet service. Pai has repeatedly said that the FCC should return to Clinton-era regulatory policy, and he claims that tomorrow's preliminary vote to reverse the classification of ISPs as "Title II" common carriers will achieve that goal. Pai mentioned Clinton's regulatory policies five times in the speech in which he outlined his plan to deregulate broadband providers and eliminate the current net neutrality rules. Today's FCC should "embrace the light-touch approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress in [the Telecommunications Act of] 1996," he said. The policy set in place under Clinton "enabled the Internet to grow and evolve beyond almost anyone’s expectations," Pai said. But returning to 1990s-era Internet regulation would require more of the Title II utility-style regulation that Pai abhors, not less. If we had 1990s and early 2000s regulatory policy, Internet providers would be forced to open their networks to companies that want to resell Internet access, potentially unleashing a wave of competition in a market where today's consumers often have no choice of high-speed broadband providers. Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / A Minecraft player approaches a parrot with a cookie that could be deadly in real life. (credit: Mojang) Usually, when outside groups worry about video games having a negative effect on children, they're focused on those games' potential normalization of violence or how games allegedly encourage a sedentary and emotionally unbalanced lifestyle. This week, though, Minecraft maker Mojang is responding to a public outcry by making changes to the way it portrays parrot feeding. In Minecraft, to breed new in-game parrots, you feed the birds chocolate chip cookies. In the real world, though, even a small amount of chocolate can be toxic to a parrot's digestive system. In a post on the Minecraft subreddit this weekend, user 1jl expressed concern that some of the millions of children who play Minecraft would try to imitate the game in a way that poses a danger to pet parrots. "You can't tell me some 6-year-old is going to play Minecraft and then try to feed their Mom's 45-year-old Macaw chocolate chips or a chocolate chip cookies,"[sic] he writes. The post quickly became the most popular post ever on the subreddit, attracting more than 37,000 voting points as of this writing. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Netflix announced today that it is working with Polish production and visual effects company Platige Image to create an English-language TV series based on the world of The Witcher. The series is technically based directly on the Witcher novels and story collections by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, according to the announcement, But those stories (and the world in which they're set) have become internationally famous primarily through a series of video game adaptations by developer CD Projekt Red. Earlier this year, the developer announced that the game series had sold over 25 million copies since its launch in 2010. "I'm thrilled that Netflix will be doing an adaptation of my stories, staying true to the source material and the themes that I have spent over 30 years writing," Sapkowski, who will serve as creative consultant on the series, said in a statement. "I'm excited about our efforts together, as well as the team assembled to shepherd these characters to life." Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Baby in an intensive care unit of a California hospital. (credit: Getty | Irfan Khan ) Between August and March, a deadly superbug spread to 10 infants in the intensive care unit of UC-Irvine Medical Center—the hospital where researchers developed a leading strategy to prevent the spread of that very superbug, the Los Angeles Times reports. The hospital’s strategy, referred to as "universal decolonization," is thought to prevent the superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), from leaping from patient to patient. It involves washing every ICU patient—colonized or not—with a potent disinfectant, chlorhexidine, and rubbing the topical antibiotic mupirocin inside their noses, where Staph aureus can sometimes lurk. It was developed years ago, in part by Dr. Susan Huang, the hospital’s infection-control expert, and the practice has swept through the country since. According to Huang, 65 to 80 percent of hospitals in the US are now using the strategy. But as soon as Huang and colleagues’ published their data on the method in 2013, experts challenged the results and raised concern about hidden side-effects—notably that germs of all kinds can develop resistance to chlorhexidine and mupirocin with routine exposure. And since its widespread use, MRSA infection rates in the US have not budged. The new outbreak at UC-Irvine is dredging up old questions about the practice and how best to prevent deadly germs from running rampant amid vulnerable patients. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / IBM's new 17-qubit quantum computer. (credit: IBM quantum experience) The race to build the first useful quantum computer continues apace. And, like all races, there are decisions to be made, including the technology each competitor must choose. But, in science, no one knows the race course, where the finish line is, or even if the race has any sort of prize (financial or intellectual) along the way. On the other hand, the competitors can take a hand in the outcome by choosing the criteria by which success is judged. And, in this rather cynical spirit, we come to IBM's introduction (PDF) of "quantum volume" as a single numerical benchmark for quantum computers. In the world of quantum computing, it seems that everyone is choosing their own benchmark. But, on closer inspection, the idea of quantum volume has merit. Many researchers benchmark using gate speed—how fast a quantum gate can perform an operation—or gate fidelity, which is how reliable a gate operation is. But these single-dimensional characteristics do not really capture the full performance of a quantum processor. For analogy, it would be like comparing CPUs by clock speed or cache size, but ignoring any of the other bazillion features that impact computational performance. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Francis Mariani) Chelsea Manning was released from the Military Corrections Complex at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas on Wednesday—nearly three decades before the Army private's sentence was up for leaking classified military documents to WikiLeaks. The intelligence analyst, who left the barracks at 2am (CDT), was court-martialed and convicted of leaking more than 700,000 documents and video about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. She came out as a transgender woman shortly after being handed an unprecedented 35-year prison sentence in 2013. Then-President Barack Obama commuted Manning's term in January and set a May 17 release date. Manning, whom President Trump has called a "TRAITOR" on Twitter, had been in prison longer than any other US leaker convicted under the Espionage Act. She was eligible for parole in six years. Because Manning's conviction is under appeal, she is to remain in the military on "excess leave in an active-duty status" entitling her to healthcare, the military said. If she loses her appeal, she might be dishonorably discharged and could lose her healthcare and other benefits. Neither the military nor Manning's supporters said where she would be living. But Manning tweeted in January she would return to Maryland, where she previously resided. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The first graphics card based on AMD's upcoming 14nm FinFET Vega architecture is the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition, AMD revealed at its Financial Analyst Day yesterday. Unlike AMD's previous GPU launches, Vega FE isn't targeted at consumers, but rather at the booming artificial intelligence, machine learning, and creative markets where GPUs are currently in extremely high demand. Nvidia has employed a similar strategy with the launch of its Pascal and Volta architectures, which debuted in the P100 and V100 server graphics cards. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge 16-core, 32-thread versions of AMD Ryzen CPUs codenamed Threadripper will launch this summer, the company revealed at its Financial Analyst Day yesterday. With one of the gnarliest CPU codenames we've ever seen, the Threadripper multicore monsters will go head-to-head with Intel's Broadwell-E and upcoming Skylake-E High-End Desktop (HEDT) CPUs alongside a new motherboard platform that promises expanded memory support and I/O bandwidth. That's likely to take the form of quad-channel RAM and more PCIe lanes, similar to Intel's X99 platform, but AMD is saving further details for its press conference at Computex at the end of May. In addition to Threadripper, AMD also teased Ryzen APUs that pair four cores and eight threads with a Vega-based GPU. AMD claims a "50 percent increase in CPU performance and over 40 percent better graphics performance, at half the power of its previous generation." Once again AMD is saving further details for Computex, but noted that Ryzen APUs will appear in ultraportables and premium 2-in-1s in the second half of 2017. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Audi MMI on the Q7 was one of our favorites. If I asked you "how many computing devices do you own?" your mind will probably first jump to your PCs and laptops at home, and then to your smartphones and tablets. The more tech savvy might include smartwatches, TVs, and video game systems. But there's one computing device that not many people think about as a computing device: the car infotainment system. Like everything else, infotainment systems are computers with processors, operating systems, and applications, but you won't find much material out there that treats them as such. Microsoft, Apple, Google, Samsung, and others hold big press conferences about their new hardware and software, touting ever-larger spec sheets, new features, and universally known sub-brands like iPhone, Surface, and Galaxy. But you'll almost never see car companies announce how much RAM is in their new car infotainment systems, though; most won't speak a word about specs or even say what software they're running. Sure, the main purpose of a car is to drive it, so horsepower, safety, and comfort are top-of-mind. But after the steering wheel, pedals, and (for some drivers) the turn signal, the infotainment system is one of the most-used interfaces of a car. If it sucks, you're probably going to be unhappy. Read 107 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: David Kravets/Arstechnica) What do a teleprompter, thermos, aspirin, and videotape have in common? They were once trademarked but lost their legally protected status because their names became too generic. Google won't be joining that list any time soon. Google defeated a "genericide" lawsuit Tuesday that claimed Google should no longer be trademarked because the word "google" is synonymous to the public with the term "search the Internet." A federal appeals court sided with Google in a case brought by a man who bought 763 domains with the term "google" in them. The court ruled that Google still retains its trademark even if the term "google" has become known for searching the Internet. One reason is because Google is a search engine and a whole lot more. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A few of the Trading Card-enabled games that likely won't be affected by Steam's new update. (credit: Valve) Following its recently announced updates to Steam store curation and game discovery, Valve announced today that it would be taking steps against "bad actors exploiting the store algorithm for financial gain." Specifically, Valve says it will start targeting game makers that use phony accounts and the addictive collectability of Steam Trading Cards to try to cash in on content-free titles. After Steam Trading Cards launched in 2013, Valve says "demand for cards became significant enough that there was an economic opportunity worth taking advantage of." Once that happened, developers started creating "fake" games with little to no content and forcing them onto Steam by exploiting the Steam Greenlight process. At that point, the "bad actors" could generate and give away thousands of free codes for their fake game to bot accounts. Those bots would then earn Trading Cards in the fake games and sell them on the Steam Marketplace for an easy profit. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Starz Ars Technica's TV podcast Decrypted explores the action-packed third episode of American Gods, where we meet a jinn from the ancient city of Uran (located today in Oman), a disgruntled traveling salesman, and an ancient Egyptian death god. And that's just the part where Mr. Wednesday isn't up to one of his more intricate cons. Yes, this podcast contains spoilers. My guest this week is award-winning fantasy author and critic Amal El-Mohtar, whose story "Seasons of Glass and Iron" is up for a Nebula Award and a Locus Award this year. Amal gives us some linguistic context for the scene in the cab (yeah, the Arabic isn't exactly right), and she sheds light on some of the tropes about Middle Eastern characters in this episode. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / The 2016 MacBook. (credit: Andrew Cunningham) A new report from Bloomberg indicates that we may get more than just software updates at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference next month. Most notably, both the MacBook Pro and the 12-inch MacBook are supposedly being refreshed with Intel's latest "Kaby Lake" CPUs, which boost clock speeds and include slightly better GPUs that can accelerate the encoding and decoding of some 4K video streams. The 12-inch MacBook was last updated a little over a year ago, while the MacBook Pros were only introduced in October. Apple could also update the MacBook Air design with new processors, since, despite the design's age and non-Retina display, its position as Apple's cheapest laptop is still helping it sell well. The current Air dates to mid-2015. The update would be a bit of a burn for anyone who rushed out to buy a new MacBook Pro in October and November after a year and a half without an update. But an update would at least be a sign that Apple is serious about adopting new Intel architectures as they're available. The MacBook Pro's October refresh was awkwardly timed, coming very late in the Skylake architecture's life but a handful of months before new Kaby Lake CPUs suitable for MacBook Pros would be released. A summer release would get Apple back in sync with Intel's calendar for future refreshes. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: fdecomite) WCry, the National Security Agency exploit-powered ransomware worm that began spreading worldwide on Friday, had reportedly affected hundreds of thousands of computers before the weekend, but the malware had only brought in about $20,000 in ransom payments. However, as the world returned to the office on Monday, those payments have been rapidly mounting, based on tracking data for the three Bitcoin wallets tied by researchers to the malware. As of noon Eastern Time on Monday, payments had reached an estimated $71,000 since May 12. So far, 263 payments have been made to the three wallets linked to the code in the malware. The payment history for each wallet shows individual transactions ranging mostly between 0.16 and 0.34 Bitcoin (approximately $300 and $600, respectively), with the number of larger payments increasing over time. Different ransom amounts have been presented to victims, and the price of Bitcoin has climbed dramatically over the past week, causing some variation in the payment sizes. According to researchers at Symantec Security Response, tracking ransom transactions would have been much more difficult if not for a bug in code that was supposed to create an individual bitcoin wallet for each victim: Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Jonathan Kitchen) The Federal Communications Commission's primary justification for eliminating Title II net neutrality rules is that broadband network investment has tanked since the rules were implemented two years ago. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has cited a few research reports describing declines in capital expenditures, and industry lobbyists have repeatedly argued that investment was harmed by the FCC classifying ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. But when ISPs talk to their investors, the story is completely different. "We found that not a single publicly traded US ISP ever told its investors (or the SEC) that Title II negatively impacted its own investments specifically," pro-net neutrality advocacy group Free Press said in a report issued yesterday. Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Ron Amadeo) Grab your sunscreen and sunglasses, because Google's biggest show is almost here! Google I/O 2017 kicks off May 17th at 1PM ET (10AM PT, 6PM UK) and we'll bring you all the coverage live from the show. We will once again be forced to go outside, as the event is again being held at the Shoreline Amphitheater and in tents set up in the surrounding parking lot. The event will no doubt see the launch of the second version of the Android O Developer Preview, but other than that, we really have no idea what to expect. We just updated the Google Tracker with a huge list of possibilities, but narrowing down what will and won't launch at the show is the tricky part. The convention runs May 17-19, and we'll cover all the news from there, including hands-on impressions of devices and maybe even an interview or two. Join us for all the surprises starting at 1pm EDT/10am PDT Wednesday! Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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