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Animojis, FaceID and facemapping, oh my: hello iPhone X

(TECH NEWS) The iPhone X boasts a plethora of new features but will any of them be worthy of Jobs’ level praise?

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SAY HI TO IPHONE X

Apples’s new iPhone X–pronounced iPhone Ten, but you can call it iPhone X if you’re nasty– boasts some new-to-iPhone features like edge-to-edge OLED display, no home button, facial recognition, and cutesy animojis.

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No home button means no more TouchID to unlock your phone. Instead, iPhone X utilizes FaceID, a facemap embedded as a passcode. Users will use facial recognition to unlock their device and approve ApplePay purchases prior to touching the pay pad.

CAN I SEE YOUR ID?

A small area on the top of the screen was reserved for new hardware, including the front camera, an infrared camera, flood illuminator, and dot projector.

In sufficient light, the hardware will project 30,000 dots across your face, creating a high-resolution 3D map.

Apple claims FaceID will work even with the addition of accessories like hats and glasses, and still recognize users if they get a haircut or change up their facial hair. The algorithm used to recognize facial features will auto-update with minor changes, and even adapt to low lighting so you’re not locked out of your phone while checking texts before bed.

FEEL LIKE A SPY

One version of the facemap with textures in the algorithm will be held for identification and approval in a secure enclave. Mostly I’m imaging the Cameron Diaz/Lucy Liu/Drew Barrymore version of Charlie’s Angels where they steal someone’s biometric info to break into a building. With the new iPhone, the Angels would have to replicate someone’s entire face, not just their retina.

While the possibility of false recognition for TouchID was 50K-to-one, Apple says that shoots up to a fairly improbable one million-to-one with FaceID. What about identical twins? They didn’t say. Currently, iPhone X is limited to one face per device, so hopefully that will keep sneaky kids, siblings, and friends from snooping on your phone.

ANIMOJI MANIA

The facemap features offer more than just practical security measures. Aside from unlocking your phone, iPhone X has “animojis.” Users can record and send ten second videos of themselves as one of twelve emojis. So far you can choose from either the monkey, robot, cat, dog, alien, fox, pig, panda, bunny, chicken, unicorn or the inexplicably prolific poop emoji.

The hardware maps 50 muscle tracking points and mimics in real-time how the users moves and speaks onto the chose emoji.

Sound familiar? That’s because it’s basically the same thing as Snapchat’s facial filters and masks. In fact, the animojis will integrate with Snapchat, and Apple plans to open up their resources so other developers can use the facemapping in their own apps.

FACEMAPPING FUTURE

Apple’s Senior VP of software Craig Federighi joked, “if you were by chance wondering what humanity would do when given access to the most advanced facial tracking technology available, you now have your answer.” However silly it may seems, animoji’s abilities don’t end at cutesy and self-indulgent.

As Wired points out, while animoji currently mimics your emotion, someday it may be capable of predicting emotion as well.

This isn’t just scifi panic speculation, either.

Last year Apple acquired Emotient, a facial tracking software company that predicts human emotion by watching how faces move.

Utilizing machine learning, the software associates frowns, smiles, raised eyebrows, and glances with various emotions. Facebook, Google, and Amazon have already invested heavily in research around affective computing. It’s only a matter of time before Apple reveals it’s doing the same.

I GET SO ANIMOJITIONAL

For now, animoji remains a fun addition to an otherwise predictable array of not-so-new features. Other brands like Samsung and Android have offered edge-to-edge OLED displays for a while now, and face unlock is nothing new. It’s the animoji bonus features that might set Apple apart from the crowd for now.

Will it be worth $999 to animate myself as an expressive, moving fox head? Probably not. But I’m sure looking forward to all the horrifying, fascinating ways people will animojis, and crossing my fingers for some hilarious glitches.

#iPhoneX

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Tech News

How to opt out of Google’s robots calling your business phone

(TECH) Google’s robots now call businesses to set appointments, but not all companies are okay with talking to an artificial intelligence tool like a person. Here’s how to opt out.

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You know what’s not hard? Calling a restaurant and making a reservation. You know what’s even easier? Making that reservation though OpenTable. You know what we really don’t need, but it’s here so we have to deal with it? Google Duplex.

Falling under “just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should do it,” Duplex, Google’s eerily human-sounding AI chat agent that can arrange appointments for Pixel users via Google Assistant has rolled out in several cities including New York, Atlanta, Phoenix, and San Francisco which now means you can have a robot do menial tasks for you.

There’s even a demo video of someone using Google Duplex to find an area restaurant and make a reservation and in the time it took him to tell the robot what to do, he could’ve called and booked a reservation himself.

Aside from booking the reservation for you, Duplex can also offer you updates on your reservation or even cancel it. Big whoop. What’s difficult to understand is the need or even demand for Duplex. If you’re already asking Google Assistant to make the reservation, what’s stopping you from making it yourself? And the most unsettling thing about Duplex? It’s too human.

It’s unethical to imply human interaction. We should feel squeamish about a robo-middleman making our calls and setting our appointments when we’re perfectly capable of doing these things.

However, there is hope. Google Duplex is here, but you don’t have to get used to it.

Your company can opt out of accepting calls by changing the setting in your Google My Business accounts. If robots are already calling restaurants and businesses in your city, give your staff a heads-up. While they may receive reservations via Duplex, at least they’ll be prepared to talk to a robot.

And if you plan on not opting out, at least train your staff on what to do when the Google robots call.

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Tech News

Bose launches headphone-less headphones for your face

(TECHNOLOGY) Bose is using augmented reality in a fascinating new way (even if we’re poking fun at it).

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Just in time for the holidays, Bose releases Frames, their new breakthrough sunglasses that combine the protection and style of premium sunglasses, the functionality and performance of wireless headphones, and the world’s first audio augmented reality platform.

At $199 per pair, they’re the perfect gift for the person who has everything and who will eventually lose them in a lake, leave them in a fitting room, or crush them in a car seat.

Frames have the ability to stream music and information, take and make calls, and access virtual assistants. Bose promises that your playlists, entertainment, and conversations will stay private, although how your conversations will remain private is unclear. Expect confusion from every stranger within earshot.

Bose is calling Frames a revolutionary wearable, but aren’t these just headphones for your face? Very cool headphones for your face?

Bose is pushing the AR functionality hard.

Although they can’t change what you see, they know what you’re seeing using a 9-axis head motion sensor and the GPS from your iOS or Android. Once they know what you see, the AR automatically tunes you into audio commentary for that place, opening users to endless possibilities for travel, learning, entertainment, and gaming.

They claim Frames are hands-free and clear-eyed, but even if that’s the case, do we really need more people walking around under the influence of distraction? As if it weren’t enough to have people’s eyes glued to their phones, now we can have people in matching sunglasses wandering around talking to themselves. Now who looks bonkers?

Frames are available for preorder now and are expected to ship in January 2019. Look for Bose to release updates to their AR at SXSW in March.

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Tech News

What’s TikTok, why’s it so huge, and why is Facebook scared of it?

(TECH) TikTok has taken the internet by storm – you’ve probably seen the videos floating around, so here’s the context your business needs to know.

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Jimmy Fallon recently challenged his viewers to his version of a #sharpiechallenge. That’s where you toss a sharpie into the air, catch it, take the cap off and draw a mustache on yourself with it. He requested that viewers use TikTok to record it and upload it.

As of this writing, the hashtag boasts 8.2 million views in TikTok alone – if it wasn’t big before it gained Fallon as a fan, it is now.

What Is TikTok?

The TikTok app is the brainchild of Bytedance, a Chinese company that once owned Muscal.ly, and it launched in September 2016 as Douyin (it’s Chinese moniker). When it launched internationally, a year later, they branded the social media app TikTok. When Musical.ly shut down, users had to switch.

The app lets users view, create and share 15-second videos (kind of like Vine, RIP). It’s estimated that there are over 500 million users worldwide. The app has been highly ranked in the charts for number of downloads over the past few months, with a spike when Fallon had his first challenge, #tumbleweedchallenge. (For the record, Fallon and The Tonight Show do not have a business relationship with Bytedance.)

Users can lip-sync, do duets, record a reactions video and has some excellent tech in the app for video editing. Users can comment on videos and create video memes. It’s pretty fascinating. And wildly appealing to the masses.

One of the best things about TikTok is that the app doesn’t have advertising or monetization capabilities, even though it has a broad audience. With an estimated 500 million users, it’s just a matter of time.

Facebook launches a TikTok-clone.

Facebook doesn’t want to be late to the game. In classic follower fashion, they have launched their own short-video app, Lasso.

I played with both apps, and Lasso just doesn’t have comparable content.

What Facebook does have is its user base. By integrating with Facebook itself, Lasso may outdo TikTok eventually, but it will need to increase its capabilities.

Why should your business take notice?

Small businesses should be aware of these apps. Online videos are driving social media engagement. Content is king, and you’ve been reading here for years that video is a powerful component of any social media strategy.

TikTok and Lasso give you video-making and video-sharing tools that could increase your online presence.

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