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Google working on “X Phone” to directly compete with Samsung, Apple

The writing has been on the wall for some time, and now, it has been uncovered that Google is working on “X Phone,” a “stand apart” device which would feature next-generation technology.

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Google to use Motorola acquisition to launch next-generation “X Phone”

After acquiring Motorola for $12.5 billion, Google is said to be working on what is known internally as the “X Phone,” their “stand apart” phone to compete directly with the iPhone, according to the Wall Street Journal. Google has declined to comment. The sophisticated device could be released in 2013, and while reports note that the device should compete directly with the iPhone, and less with Samsung’s Galaxy line or Motorola’s current offering, some question the impact of the “X Phone” release.

The “X phone” project could feature flexible screens that have been grabbing headlines this year, and possibly image and gesture-recognition software. Led by former Google product manager, Lior Ron, the Journal reports that the company is already experiencing development issues, particularly with their supply chain and worries over battery life with all of the next-generation features. The irony here is that with the passing of Steve Jobs, Apple’s new CEO, Tim Cook has expertise in the supply chain, so the timing of the change of leadership couldn’t be better for Apple and worse for Google.

Google is famous for being able to complete projects in record speeds, but that is all based on web projects – hardware and manufacturing are a totally different story, and there are reports that the original plans for the “X Phone” are being reconsidered. Some would take that to mean that the plans are being scrapped, we would speculate that the supply chain is being reexamined as they are likely extremely ambitious with how cutting edge the device is, given that they obviously want to take the iPhone market share.

“Meanwhile, Google must manage complex relationships with smartphone makers that use its Android mobile-device software—particularly with Samsung Electronics Co., a Motorola rival that has become the No. 1 smartphone maker with Google’s help,” the Journal reports.

Future of the “X Phone,” and why develop it anyway?

After the “X Phone” launch, Google will likely develop a tablet based on the same platform, and Motorola will continue to create devices for carrier partner, Verizon.

So why even develop a device? Is it a hatred of their rival, Apple? No, it is more likely just as MacRumors opines, “Google’s acquisition of Motorola was controversial as it puts Google in direct competition with their Android licensees. Apple and Samsung, however, have captured the lion’s share of smartphone profits, and Google is reportedly concerned that Samsung could “fork” Android and preventing Google’s applications from being installed by default. This could have a large impact on Google’s mobile reach if it doesn’t develop its own handset.”

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. MattWilkins

    December 23, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    And here we all thought that the Nexus line was Google going after Apple. As a Nexus 4 owner I can say that it is very much going after the iPhone with its materials and specs but at almost half the price.

  2. Roland Estrada

    December 24, 2012 at 11:44 am

    It’s only a big deal if they make a truly stunning device. Otherwise it’s a snooze. Google has always made some kind of reference. Their main reason for the Motorola purchase was for patents.

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Tech Gadgets

Has Samsung learned from their Galaxy Fold bendy mistakes?

(TECH GADGETS) Samsung’s back with round two of the folding glass phone, but is it worth it? Has Samsung fixed the kinks from the Galaxy Fold with the new Z Flip?

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Talk to any woman and you’ll know that most pants pockets are too small to fit the average cell-phone. Seriously, I can’t even fit my phone into my back pockets. This is a problem that has persisted since the dawn of time (or at least the dawn of smart phones) and an unlikely company is stepping up to present a solution: Samsung.

Sure, Samsung can’t make pockets bigger – though that would be the obvious solution to this problem – but it can make phones smaller. And if that makes you worried you’ll have to sacrifice screen space, never fear! Samsung’s newest model, the Galaxy Z Flip combines the smartphone of the future with the flip phone of the past. In other words: a smart phone with foldable glass.

After all those jokes we made about the inferiority of flip phones, companies are racing back to the general design. In fact, Apple just patented some foldable tech a few days ago.

This isn’t the first time Samsung has tried to release a flip-phone/smartphone hybrid. Last year, they released the Galaxy Fold, which was the size of a normal phone but could unfold to become a tablet. Unfortunately, problems manifested immediately. People reported the phone breaking in under 48 hours, many mistook an integral part of the phone for a screen protector, and others soon had a crease down the middle of the screen.

The release was…underwhelming, to put it nicely.

Now Samsung argues things are different. The Galaxy Z Flip will be about the size of your average smartphone when it’s unfolded, for one, and Samsung assures potential customers that the folding problems from the last device have been fixed. The phone also boasts 5G compatibility and improved cameras that are only made better by the unique angles the flip phone can provide.

Galaxy Z Flip 2

Will this release usher in a new era of flip phones? We’ll have to wait and see, though if it’s anything like their last release…probably not. Even if the device works without a hitch, it still comes with a high price tag – $1,380 to be exact. That’s no small sum to lay down on a phone that is still not guaranteed to last, but hey, that’s what it takes to be a trendsetter.

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New device stops your smart speaker from listening without a safe word

(TECH GADGETS) Don’t like your smart devices spying on you? There might just be a solution. Paranoid is a device that stands between you and companies listening to you.

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Okay, I’m the first to admit I do not trust smart home devices. Between the threat of corporations, hackers and the government all potentially tapping into private information, there’s a lot to be worried about. There’s something disquieting about random Amazon employees listening to my conversations, y’know?

That said…I still sometimes wish for voice activated devices. What can I say, they’re convenient. It would be nice to command my speaker to change the song when my hands are covered in flour or something.

Turns out, I’m not the only one who wishes for a smart speaker that wasn’t always listening in.

Paranoid, which hails from major security company Pleasant Solutions, will serve as a way for you to have your cake and eat it too. Or, in this case, have your smart device and cut down on its ability to spy.

How does it work? Essentially, Paranoid keeps a device from listening in until you say the safe word – “paranoid” – in which case it allows your smart device to listen to your command. For most devices, Paranoid will provide you with a device that easily attaches to your speaker and either jams the speaker or engages the mute button until you want to use the device. More complicated devices can be sent to Paranoid for internal alterations that will provide something similar.

For the moment, Paranoid only services specific models of Amazon and Google speakers, though they hope to expand to tackle any smart speaker on the market.

Of course, if you’re as wary as me, you’re probably aware that this just means Paranoid will be spying on you instead. (My first thought was seriously “out of the frying pan into the fire” when I learned about Paranoid’s technology.) I was relieved to learn, though, that unlike the smart devices, Paranoid doesn’t connect to the cloud. It doesn’t even connect to the internet, which means you don’t have to worry about anyone hacking into the system.

The initial devices will cost $49 USD each. Sure, this could double the price of a cheap smart home speaker, but when the alternative is potentially allowing almost anyone to listen in to your private conversations? I’d say it’s worth it.

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Why Google’s Deep Dream project is more than just a trippy tricky

A programmer discovered that even while asleep, your computers dream, and the imagery is amazingly bizarre and sometimes creepy. What are the implications of this? Is it more than just a cool trick?

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Dreaming deep, sound asleep

As machines become increasingly intelligent, they are also becoming more artistic.

Google’s Deep Dream is making a huge splash on the web. It was originally coded by Alexander Mordvintsev, a programmer working in security systems who liked to play around with artificial intelligence as a side project. In the middle of the night last May, he discovered the lines of code that would cause Google’s neural net to generate original images that look like a psychedelic combination of Salvador Dalí and Lisa Frank. He posted his images on Google’s internal Google + account, and was soon paired with young programmer Chris Olah and software engineer/sculptor Mike Tyka to develop Deep Dream.

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REM for your RAM

The Deep Dream team has created an entire gallery of surrealistic art. Animal parts of different species combine to form fantastical beasts, backgrounds fill with swirling patterns, and spiders emerge from cloudless skies.

In July, the Deep Dream team released the software on GitHub so that the general public could turn their family portraits and vacation photos into bizarre art pieces. New apps are popping up, several grotesque portraits of presidential candidates have been produced, and the band Wilco used a Deep Dream image on the cover of its latest album. Samim Winiger, who created software that makes animations from Deep Dream images, says that “in five years we won’t recognize Photoshop,” alluding to the possibility for Deep Dream technology to become a major feature in our visual world.

But is there more to it?

Winiger refers to Deep Dream as “creative AI [artificial intelligence].” But can a computer be said to have creativity? The dreamlike (or, at times, nightmarish) quality of Deep Dream images has certainly caused some observers to posit that Deep Dream is pulling images from the “subconscious” of Google’s mind. But a computer, no matter how smart, is not a brain. So is Deep Dream just the robot equivalent of a cool party trick?

Deep learning in the neural net

But Deep Dream wasn’t created just to blow our minds with freakish four-eyed kittens and giant tarantulas crawling from the sky. It’s also a useful way for programmers to study artificial intelligence. Computers can now achieve what programmers call “deep learning” by processing information through a neural net (NN). Neural nets are meshes of artificial neurons layered one over the other, like spider webs. Information is passed through several layers of the NN, and each layer analyzes it from a different angle. The topmost layer is responsible for the output of information that has been “learned” by deeper layers of the net.

Google has made great strides towards teaching its neural net to visually recognize objects by having it produce an image of whatever it’s viewing, which is then graded for accuracy and fed back into the computer, giving the NN an opportunity to learn from its mistakes and eventually come to automatically correct itself.

Layered learning, and pattern detecting

So far, it has been hard for researchers to really know for sure what is happening at each layer of the neural net. But a researcher can have a computer produce a Deep Dream image from a specific layer of its neural net, thus revealing exactly what that layer is learning. In this way, researchers are discovering more about what happens inside an artificial mind.

What researchers have found is that computers may have higher perception and better pattern-recognition than humans. It’s like having a highly imaginative child watch clouds. If a cloud looks a little bit like a ship, the neural net will run the image through a feedback loop until a highly detailed ship emerges. This is why Deep Dream is able to create images even out of random noise – it can detect patterns that a human wouldn’t even notice.

This has far-reaching implications for how artificial intelligence may eventually replace humans. For example, researchers are using neural nets to read ultrasounds, detecting tumors invisible to the human eye.

Final thoughts

So, is artificial intelligence becoming creative? Is a computer an artist? That depends on how you define creativity, and where you draw the line between the “real” and the “artificial.” But Deep Dream engineer Mike Tyka is impressed: “If you think about human creativity, some small component of that is the ability to take impressions and recombine them in interesting, unexpected ways,” – the same ability Deep Dream displays.

Regardless of whether or not this is true “creativity,” the world seems to agree with Tyka that when you let a computer come up with original art, “it’s cool.”

Steven Levy was granted the first interview with the Deep Dream team. You can read his report at Medium.com.

#DeepDream

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