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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

Facebook starts handing out merit badges like we’re Girl Scouts

(TECH NEWS) Facebook offers merit badges to users, and it’s pretty neat, but we’re also rolling our eyes.

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According to some Facebook Group administrators, Facebook has today rolled out merit badges. So far in the wild, we’ve spotted “Conversation Starter” which praises the admin (or user) for starting engaging posts that got the conversation going.

We have asked numerous users if they’ve seen these badges, and so far it appears that only one badge has been rolled out, potentially with more on the way. Upon logging into the group where you have earned a badge, you’ll see a notification at the top of the feed informing you of your new badge (get out your vest, it’s time to start collecting them all)!

The merit badge that you’ve earned shows up in your profile when other group members (where you’ve earned the merit badge) click on your face:

Currently, when an Admin posts in the group, it still only has their Admin badge next to their name, not the “Conversation Starter” or other badges lined up next to it, but if a regular group member has posted something engaging, the badge appears next to their name (it may be a one-badge-limit so far, maybe hold off on buying a Girl Scout vest for your badge collection):

Lastly, users apparently do have control over the display of whichever neato merit badges we eventually earn or collect:

There is no word on what the ultimate plan is or what merit badges will be awarded, and it appears to be limited to Facebook Groups at the present.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment and will update the story as we learn more. For now, if you want a badge, you can at least get a “Conversation Starter” badge in Facebook Groups, so go get ’em – we’ll soon know which other badges we can earn slash collect slash compete for slash game.

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Tech News

Slack video messaging tool for the ultra lazy (or productive) person

(TECHNOLOGY) Courtesy of a company called Standuply, Slack’s notable lack of video-messaging options is finally addressed.

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Slack — the popular chat and workflow app — is still going strong despite its numerous technical shortcomings, one of which is its notable lack of native video or audio chat. If you’re an avid Slack user, you might be interested in Standuply’s solution to this missing feature: video and audio messaging.

While it isn’t quite the Skype-esque experience for which one might hope when booting up Slack, Standuply’s video messages add-on gives you the ability to record and send a video or audio recording to any Slack channel. This makes things like multitasking a breeze; unless you’re a god among mortals, your talking speed is significantly faster than your typing, making video- or audio-messaging a viable productivity move.

The way you’ll record and send the video or audio message is a bit convoluted: using a web browser and a private Slack link, you can record up to five minutes of content, after which point the content is uploaded to YouTube as a private item. You can then use the item’s link to send the video or audio clip to your Skype channel.

While this is a fairly roundabout way of introducing video chat into Slack, the end result is still a visual conversation which is conducive to long-term use.

Sending video and audio messages may feel like an exercise in futility (why use a third-party tool when one could just type?) but the amount of time and energy you can save while simultaneously responding to feedback or beginning your next task adds up.

Similarly, having a video that your team can circle back to instead of requiring them to scroll through until they find your text post on a given topic is better for long-term productivity.

And, if all else falls short, it’s nice to see your remote team’s faces and hear their voices every once in a while—if for no other reason than to reassure yourself that they aren’t figments of your overly caffeinated imagination.

At the time of this writing, the video chat portion of the Slack bot is free; however, subsequent pricing tiers include advanced aspects such as integration with existing services, analytics, and unlimited respondents.

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Tech News

This phishing simulator tests your company’s (lack of) readiness

(TECHNOLOGY) Phishero is a tool which tests your organization’s resistance to phishing attacks. Pro tip: Most companies aren’t ready.

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In the wake of any round of cyberattacks, many organizations question whether they’re prepared to defend themselves against things like hacking or other forms of information theft. In reality, the bulk of workplace data thievery comes from a classic trick: phishing.

Phishing is a catch-all phrase for a specific type of information theft which involves emailing. Typically, a phishing email will include a request for sensitive data, such as a password, a copy of a W-4, or an account’s details (e.g., security questions); the email itself will often appear to come from someone within the organization.

Similar approaches include emailing a link which acts as a login page for a familiar site (e.g., Facebook) but actually stores your account information when you sign in.

Luckily, there’s a way for you to test your business’ phishing readiness.

Phishero, a tool designed to test employee resistance to phishing attacks, is a simple solution for any business looking to find any weak links in their cybersecurity.

The tool itself is designed to do four main things: identify potential targets, find a way to design a convincing phishing scheme, implement the phishing attack, and analyze the results.

Once Phishero has a list of your employees, it is able to create an email based on the same web design used for your company’s internal communications. This email is then sent to your selected recipient pool, from which point you’ll be able to monitor who opens the email.

Once you’ve concluded the test, you can use Phishero’s built-in analytics to give you an at-a-glance overview of your organization’s security.

The test results also include specific information such as which employees gave information, what information was given, and pain points in your current cybersecurity setup.

Phishing attacks are incredibly common, and employees – especially those who may not be as generationally skeptical of emails – are the only things standing between your company and catastrophic losses if they occur in your business. While training your employees on proper email protocol out of the gate is a must, Phishero provides an easy way to see how effective your policies actually are.

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