How Softiron used digital twins to reduce its carbon footprint

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A few years back, Softiron, which makes data center hardware for software-defined storage, turned to digital twins to help optimize its hardware, not just for cost and performance, but also to dramatically reduce its carbon footprint. A recent assessment by ESG investment firm Earth Capital found that these efforts are paying off.  

SoftIron’s latest products generate about 20% the heat of comparable enterprise storage products and consume as little as 20% of the power of comparable offerings. In total, Earth Capital estimates every 10 petabytes of storage installed translates to savings of about 6,656 tons of carbon, compared to industry norms. 

SoftIron’s COO Jason Van der Schyff detailed how the company has used digital twins to achieve such impressive gains in an exclusive interview with VentureBeat. The exec also explains how they brought environmental considerations into their design workflow for both the products and the factories that build and ship them. This helped them recognize that a focus on I/O rather than CPU performance could help them hit enterprise requirements and sustainability goals. 

VentureBeat: How do you go about building digital twins to optimize your carbon and energy footprint?

Jason Van der Schyff: At SoftIron, we use a variety of digital twinning strategies across our physical products and our facilities and supply chain to determine and analyze our carbon and energy footprint. Our products are entirely digitally modelled, from the foundational circuit boards to mechanical components and all internal active and passive components. This allows us to not only model the thermal performance but also analyze both indigenous and foreign influences, such as vibrations induced from harmonic oscillations caused by cooling fans – an innovation we were recently awarded a patent for. This type of analysis in a digital form allows us to adapt our designs to create less heat, use less cooling and therefore less energy, allowing us to provide our customers with some of the lowest power consumption in the market and aid them in their carbon reduction goals.

With respect to our manufacturing, digital twins provide efficiency in designing and deploying new manufacturing techniques. It enables us to model digitally the impact of design changes in the production workflow across our various manufacturing sites before it ever manifests in the real world – all without wasting materials. 

SoftIron’s factory digital twin enables innovation from our manufacturing center of excellence in Berlin. There we are able to model and control our global manufacturing footprint as a single global capability. While this modeling sometimes happen thousands of miles from where actual production is taking place, it means that the physical product can be manufactured close to the point of consumption and in a way is able to utilize local supply chains, all of which has a positive impact on both supply chain resilience and sustainability. Digital twinning underpins this strategy – which we call “Edge Manufacturing.”

VentureBeat: What kind of tools do you use to store the raw data and share it among different stakeholders in the process?

Van der Schyff: As a designer and manufacturer of enterprise storage, SoftIron chooses to deploy our digital twin on our own infrastructure in our facility in Berlin, with real-time resilience provided by geo-replication across our facilities in California and Sydney. A unified internal network allows all collaborators direct access in real-time to collaborate and contribute to the iteration of the digital twin designs.

VentureBeat: What is involved in identifying some of the biggest contributions to inefficiency and then mitigating these in the final products?

Van der Schyff: The bulk of inefficiencies is introduced through waste, be it wasted power, extraneous componentry or even manufacturing wasted time. By developing a digital twin throughout the development process, we’re able to model and analyze inefficiencies in the design and functionality of our products. This improves quality and minimizes rework. Our manufacturing floor is further modeled to provide accurate time and motion studies and utilize a variety of layouts to optimize efficiency before physical construction is completed to further mitigate inefficiencies.

VentureBeat: What have been some of your discoveries around the specific improvements or changes that led to the most significant impact?

Van der Schyff: Early in the history of the company, by modeling the performance and interaction between the hardware and software layer, we were able to determine that software-defined storage is primarily an I/O problem rather than a compute problem. This discovery informed the selection of components and the adoption of a low power ARM64 architecture to provide highly performant, yet economical storage appliances. These low-power appliances provide savings such that for every 10 PB of data storage shipped by SoftIron, an estimated 6,656 tons of CO2 are saved by reduced energy consumption alone in the customer data center over its lifetime.

VentureBeat: How do digital twins fit into this process?

Van der Schyff: Digital twins provide open access to all data in one place increasing cross border and asynchronous collaboration. Through this collaboration, SoftIron can bring cross-functional expertise to each design, be it a product or a manufacturing process, to observe and mitigate inefficiencies and exploit opportunities to optimize our carbon and energy footprint. 

The significant supply chain disruptions we have seen over the last year or more have only highlighted the weaknesses in the way IT is currently produced. In this way, we believe that sustainability and resilience are inextricably linked. Manufacturing has historically placed all of its eggs in a few very large, low cost, baskets in the world – driving for every increased volume of smaller and smaller component variation in order to drive out costs.

Digital twinning is one enabling technology (along with the current generations of super flexible, efficient low-volume assembly line machinery) that helps to break the cost-to-volume equation apart. This fosters small, distributed manufacturing operations, opens up the supply chain to more local, perhaps lower volume suppliers and, over time, enables a more resilient, sustainable, global IT industry to emerge. SoftIron, we believe, is at the vanguard of this, but we expect this model to become more widespread over the coming decade.

VentureBeat: What’s next?

Van der Schyff: As SoftIron expands its Edge Manufacturing strategy, further opportunities will become available to optimize our carbon and energy footprint and implement further reductions by shortening supply chains, increasing local recycling opportunities and drastically reducing the amount of energy spent in delivering SoftIron’s low-energy appliances to its customers.

We believe what we are doing will serve as both a model and catalyst for others to follow. Over the last 12 months we have seen some major announcements regarding developing chip production in the U.S. and Europe and we hope that by the time these facilities come online, there will be a U.S. and European IT manufacturing economy, of which SoftIron is a leading part.

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The ‘Alan Wake’ remaster is coming to Nintendo Switch

Fans of Alan Wake aren’t getting an update on the sequel this summer — but can look forward to a new TV series and a remastered version of the original game for the Switch. Remedy Entertainment’s creative director Sam Lake today revealed what’s in store for the franchise during the game’s 12th-anniversary celebration . Switch owners can anticipate Alan Wake Remastered to be available on Nintendo’s eShop sometime this fall. The remastered original title is already available on the PS5, Xbox and PC.

The original 2010 Alan Wake game — which features a thriller novelist who tries to solve the mystery of his wife’s disappearance — has become a cult classic in recent years. Remedy and Microsoft Studios then released Alan Wake’s American Nightmare in 2012. Since then, the franchise has mostly been dormant, but that’s about to change.

Lake revealed that AMC bought the rights to the Alan Wake franchise and will be adapting it into a TV series. “We have been collaborating on making a TV show happen. Nothing more to share at the moment, but we will certainly let you know when there is something to announce,” said Lake.

Alan Wake 2, which many expected to preview this summer, is currently deep in the development stages. Unfortunately, Lake confirmed that the studio won’t be releasing any further updates on the game. It did release a number of from the upcoming sequel. As we’ve known for a while, the game is slated to in 2023 for PS5 and other platforms.

“Everything [with Alan Wake 2] is going really well, and a great deal of the game is playable,” Lake said. “But we’ve been talking for the past couple of months and have come to a decision that we will not be showing anything big this summer,” said Lake.

Alan Wake devotees should watch the anniversary video in full, which also includes interesting behind-the-scene details about the remastered original and upcoming sequel. You can watch it below:

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Broadcom is acquiring VMware for $61 billion

Broadcom is acquiring VMware in a $61 billion cash-and-stock deal. It’s one of the biggest tech acquisitions ever, behind Dell’s $67 billion EMC deal and Microsoft’s pending acquisition of Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion. Broadcom is known for its chip business, designing and manufacturing semiconductors for modems, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth chips across multiple devices.

This giant acquisition for VMware is designed to boost Broadcom’s software business. VMware, which was owned by Dell until it was spun off last year, focuses on cloud computing and virtualization technology. If you’ve used a virtual machine at work over the past decade, the chances are it was powered by VMware or its competitor Citrix. Devices from Apple, Google, and more use Broadcom chips, and it’s likely that the devices you’ve used Wi-Fi or Bluetooth on were probably powered by Broadcom chips at some part of the networking chain.

A Broadcom networking chip.
Image: Broadcom

The combination of VMware and Broadcom could be a powerful one, focused on enterprise infrastructure and cloud computing. Broadcom previously acquired CA Technologies, makers of security and database software, for $18.9 billion in 2018, and it even acquired Symantec’s enterprise security unit for $10.7 billion in 2019. Less than 12 months later, it sold the Symantec business to Accenture for an undisclosed sum.

Broadcom is now planning to rebrand its Broadcom Software Group to VMware and incorporate its existing infrastructure and security software offerings as part of VMware. “Combining our assets and talented team with Broadcom’s existing enterprise software portfolio, all housed under the VMware brand, creates a remarkable enterprise software player,” says Raghu Raghuram, CEO of VMware.

The deal, which is expected to close in Broadcom’s fiscal year 2023, has the backing of Michael Dell who together with Silver Lake owns around 50 percent of VMware. If the deal closes, it will be one of the largest tech deals of all time. Broadcom previously failed to buy rival chipmaker Qualcomm for more than $100 billion after the Trump administration blocked the deal, citing national security concerns.

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Algorithms that detect cancer can be fooled by hacked images

Artificial intelligence programs that check medical images for evidence of cancer can be duped by hacks and cyberattacks, according to a new study. Researchers demonstrated that a computer program could add or remove evidence of cancer from mammograms, and those changes fooled both an AI tool and human radiologists.

That could lead to an incorrect diagnosis. An AI program helping to screen mammograms might say a scan is healthy when there are actually signs of cancer or incorrectly say that a patient does have cancer when they’re actually cancer free. Such hacks are not known to have happened in the real world yet, but the new study adds to a growing body of research suggesting healthcare organizations need to be prepared for them.

Hackers are increasingly targeting hospitals and healthcare institutions with cyberattacks. Most of the time, those attacks siphon off patient data (which is valuable on the black market) or lock up an organization’s computer systems until that organizations pays a ransom. Both of those types of attacks can harm patients by gumming up the operations at a hospital and making it harder for healthcare workers to deliver good care.

But experts are also growing more worried about the potential for more direct attacks on people’s health. Security researchers have shown that hackers can remotely break into internet-connected insulin pumps and deliver dangerous doses of the medication, for example.

Hacks that can change medical images and impact a diagnosis also fall into that category. In the new study on mammograms, published in Nature Communications, a research team from the University of Pittsburgh designed a computer program that would make the X-ray scans of breasts that originally appeared to have no signs of cancer look like they were cancerous, and that would make mammograms that look cancerous appear to have no signs of cancer. They then fed the tampered images to an artificial intelligence program trained to spot signs of breast cancer and asked five human radiologists to decide if the images were real or fake.

Around 70 percent of the manipulated images fooled that program — that is, the AI wrongly said that images manipulated to look cancer-free were cancer-free, and that the images manipulated to look like they had cancer did have evidence of cancer. As for the radiologists, some were better at spotting manipulated images than others. Their accuracy at picking out the fake images ranged widely, from 29 percent to 71 percent.

Other studies have also demonstrated the possibility that a cyberattack on medical images could lead to incorrect diagnoses. In 2019, a team of cybersecurity researchers showed that hackers could add or remove evidence of lung cancer from CT scans. Those changes also fooled both human radiologists and artificial intelligence programs.

There haven’t been public or high-profile cases where a hack like this has happened. But there are a few reasons a hacker might want to manipulate things like mammograms or lung cancer scans. A hacker might be interested in targeting a specific patient, like a political figure, or they might want to alter their own scans to get money from their insurance company or sign up for disability payments. Hackers might also manipulate images randomly and refuse to stop tampering with them until a hospital pays a ransom.

Whatever the reason, demonstrations like this one show that healthcare organizations and people designing AI models should be aware that hacks that alter medical scans are a possibility. Models should be shown manipulated images during their training to teach them to spot fake ones, study author Shandong Wu, associate professor of radiology, biomedical informatics, and bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, said in a statement. Radiologists might also need to be trained to identify fake images.

“We hope that this research gets people thinking about medical AI model safety and what we can do to defend against potential attacks,” Wu said.

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Best Memorial Day Laptop Sales: Deals from $98

Memorial Day is here and that means tons of Memorial Day sales to check out. With plenty of steep discounts on laptops, we’ve rounded up the best Memorial Day laptop deals from top brands, including HP, Dell, and Lenovo, and many others. Read on and we’ll take you through everything you need to know and why you may wish to consider certain laptop deals. After all, with so many options to choose from, it’d be overwhelming without a little guidance, right?

Memorial Day laptop sales: Today’s best deals

  • HP Chromebook 11$98, was $225
  • Dell Inspiron 15 3000$230, was $300
  • HP Laptop 14$480, was $580
  • HP Envy x360 15 2-in-1$900, was $1,160
  • Lenovo Legion 5i Gaming Laptop$1,270, was $1,590
  • Dell XPS 13 OLED Touch$1,420, was $1,920
  • Dell XPS 15 OLED Touch$1,862, was $2,300

HP Chromebook 11 — $98, was $225

Why Buy

  • Incredible value
  • Compact and easy to carry
  • Cloud-based Chrome OS software is slick and responsive
  • Wide compatibility with many Android apps

Anybody who’s in the market for a super-cheap laptop should seriously consider a Chrome OS machine like the HP Chromebook 11. This 11.6-inch Chrome-powered laptop won’t set the world on fire in terms of hardware specs, but for around a Benjamin, it really doesn’t get any better. Its 11.6-inch HD display is a great size for a compact laptop that’s about as wide as a tablet, meaning you can throw this thing in your bag and take it anywhere. It’s great for students who just need a basic machine for taking notes, typing documents, or taking classes online, and it’d also be a good pick for a kid’s first laptop.

The HP Chromebook 11 runs on an AMD A4 mobile CPU paired with 4GB of RAM. Those are basic specs, but since Chrome OS is mostly cloud-based, you don’t need that much horsepower — many if not most of your work will be handled on the cloud, so your processor doesn’t really do much heavy lifting. For storage, you’ve got a 32GB eMMC. That might not sound like much, but again, you’ll be relying on the cloud for anything but basic storage. All of the apps and software you need are built right into Chrome OS, and better still, this operating system is now compatible with many Android apps from the Google Play Store. That app compatibility is sure to come in handy if you use an Android smartphone.

Right above the 11-inch display sits a webcam with a built-in mic, so you can use this compact Chromebook for things like video calls, conferences, and taking online classes as we already mentioned. It also features both Bluetooth and wireless connectivity for easy networking and use with wireless peripherals such as headphones. Despite its small size, the HP Chromebook 11 is built with active users in mind and is drop-tested to withstand short falls and inevitable bumps thanks to its metal-reinforced corners. If you need a cheap laptop and are willing to give Chrome OS a spin, this is one of the best Memorial Day laptop deals on tap today.

Dell Inspiron 15 3000 — $230, was $300

Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Laptop on a white background displaying a colourful scene.

Why Buy

  • Nice overall design
  • Hinge-lift keyboard
  • Spacious keys and numpad for productivity
  • Cheap

If Chrome isn’t your thing and you’re in the market for a cheap Windows laptop, on the other hand, then you can’t do much better than Dell laptop deals like this. The Dell Inspiron 15 3000 is admittedly a rather basic work machine, but it has all the things we want to see in a super-affordable sub-$300 laptop: its 15-inch HD display is the perfect size for work, but slim bezels and a nice overall design mean that it’s not too bulky to move around with. It has an anti-glare coating so you can see it clearly in bright environments as well, which is another boon if you’re the type who’s frequently moving from room to room with your laptop in tow.

Another design feature we like about the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 is its hinge-lift keyboard. When you pop open the display, the screen panel props up the keyboard for a more natural and comfortable typing angle. Adding to that comfort are the nice large keycaps. You even get a numeric keypad, which is something that’s often absent on laptops nowadays. Under the hood, this Inspiron 15 3000 runs on an Intel Celeron CPU and 4GB of RAM. While that won’t win any awards or run the latest AAA games, it’s enough for basic stuff like browsing the web, typing up emails, editing documents, and other straightforward tasks. A built-in HD webcam is also there for you to make video calls and take classes online.

For storage, you’ve got a 128GB SSD, which is nice to see as many cheap laptops feature only 64GB (or even worse, 32GB) of flash storage. The Dell Inspiron 15 also comes loaded with Windows 11 right out of the box, so you’re good to go with the latest software. If you need a basic computer on the cheap, then the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 is the best brand-name laptop you’re going to find for this price right now.

HP Laptop 14 — $480, was $580

The HP Laptop 14 on a light grey background.

Why Buy

  • Utilitarian 14-inch size
  • Hits the price-to-performance sweet spot
  • 1080p display
  • Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity

HP is another brand known for its no-nonsense work PCs, and if you need a machine with a little more juice than the Dell Inspiron (but something that’s still pretty affordable), look no further than this HP Laptop 14. With a 14-inch display, this number strikes a perfect balance between utility and portability, being a bit smaller than your run-of-the-mill 15-inch laptops but more comfortable to work on than most 13-inch ultrabooks — to say nothing of the even smaller 11- and 12-inch computers, which are probably not ideal for a long day’s work. That 14-inch display also features a Full HD 1080p resolution, which is a clear upgrade over the 720p panels seen on many sub-$500 laptops.

The HP Laptop 14 has the hardware where it counts. It comes loaded with an AMD Ryzen 5 5625U processor, which sports six cores, 12 threads, and a max clock speed of 4.3 GHz. That’s a very capable processor for an everyday workstation, and it’s paired with a full 8GB of 3,200 MHz DDR4 RAM so you won’t get bogged down while multi-tasking. The 256GB solid-state drive is sufficient for your programs and work files as well, and although the keyboard lacks a numpad, the large keycaps ensure you’ll be typing comfortably all day.

Another nice modern touch that HP added to this laptop is Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 wireless connectivity, so you can take advantage of the latest network standards for a smoother internet connection and more reliable syncing with connected Bluetooth devices such as headphones. It even comes with Windows 11 pre-installed. All of this adds up to make the HP Laptop 14 a fantastic (and budget-friendly) workhorse that has everything you need and nothing you don’t, as well as one of the best HP laptop deals going right now.

HP Envy x360 15 2-in-1 — $900, was $1,160

The HP Envy x360 2-in-1 touchscreen laptop makes a great option for just about anyone.

Why Buy

  • Versatile 2-in-1 form factor
  • Excellent specs for demanding software and multi-tasking
  • Edge-to-edge 1080p touch display
  • Audio by Bang & Olufsen

Is the standard clamshell laptop design not cutting it for your digital lifestyle anymore? It might be time to upgrade to a 2-in-1. These convertible laptop/tablet hybrids have exploded in popularity recently, and it’s easy to see why: their fold-flat touch displays add a completely new dimension to the traditional laptop, unlocking layers of functionality that you didn’t know you needed until now. The Envy x360 15 laptop combines everything we love about the hybrid 2-in-1 design with HP’s pedigree for sleek design, reliable hardware, and sturdy build quality (which is something you want from a convertible, naturally).

The HP Envy x360 sports a 15-inch 1080p touchscreen with IPS panel technology, offering a crisp, clear, and color-accurate picture with generous viewing angles. This display can fold backward on a 360-degree hinge, giving you four modes in which to use the machine. You can enjoy it in traditional laptop mode, fold the screen all the way flat for tablet mode, prop it up in tent mode for watching videos or doing some light gaming, or use the keyboard as a flat stand for sharing the screen presentation mode.

Built-in speakers tuned by Bang & Olufsen allow the HP Envy x360 to serve as a true multimedia machine, but this thing is also built for serious work thanks to its 11th-gen Intel Core i7-1195G7 quad-core CPU and 16GB of 3,200MHz RAM. Those are excellent specs for running more demanding software and for chronic multi-taskers. The 512GB SSD also provides ample space for all of your programs, project files, and other digital goodies. Of all the Memorial Day laptop sales that have started, this is one of the best 2-in-1 laptop deals you can find for less than a grand at the moment.

Lenovo Legion 5i Gaming Laptop — $1,270, was $1,590

The Lenovo Legion 5i Pro sitting at an angle.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Why Buy

  • Great specs for running the latest titles
  • Full-sized keyboard with numpad
  • One of Nvidia’s best mobile GPUs
  • Nvidia G-Sync technology

Gaming laptops have come a long, long way in recent years, and few machines exemplify this better than the Lenovo Legion 5i. This impressive laptop battle station packs one of Intel’s newer 11th-gen Core i5 CPUs, the i5-11400H, which features six cores and a max Turbo Boost clock speed of 4.50 GHz. That works with 16GB of DDR4-3200 memory to deliver great overall performance for work and play. A gaming system is only as good as its graphics card, however, and the Legion 5i does not disappoint with its Nvidia RTX 3060 — one of the best mobile GPUs on the market today. This laptop is more than capable of handling the latest AAA titles at good settings and will be for years to come.

Of course, any gamer knows that having a good display is just as vital as having a good GPU, as a sub-par screen can bottleneck that beefy hardware and prevent you from getting the most out of your PC’s muscle. Two things to look for with gaming laptops and monitors are refresh rate and vertical sync technologies, and the Legion 5i gaming laptop has both. Its 15.6-inch 1080p IPS display has a refresh rate of 165Hz. This allows you to crank up the framerate for smoother play without suffering from lag and stuttering. The Legion 5i also features Nvidia G-Sync, which better syncs the RTX GPU with the laptop’s screen. This mitigates annoyances such as screen-tearing during fast-paced action scenes for a more immersive viewing experience.

Some other nice gamer-friendly design features include a nice large keyboard (complete with numpad), a great dual-fan cooling design using Lenovo’s Coldfront 3.0 technology, and the Lenovo Legion AI Engine that automatically optimizes the laptop’s performance on the fly to deliver maximum performance for whatever you’re playing. If you’re looking for a serious gaming laptop that can go toe-to-toe with most gaming desktop PCs, then Lenovo laptop deals are a great place to start, and the Legion 5i is the one.

Dell XPS 13 OLED Touch — $1,420, was $1,920

XPS 13 running Age of Empires IV.

Why Buy

  • The best Windows laptop on the market
  • Gorgeous 3.5K OLED touch display
  • Great keyboard for its size
  • Excellent battery life

If you’ve been reading us for any length of time, then it’s probably not a surprise that the Dell XPS 13 has been our favorite Windows laptop for years running now. In fact, this latest model with an OLED display sits at the top of our roundup of the best laptops owing to its sleek featherweight design, super-thin bezels, great hardware performance, and shockingly good keyboard and touchpad for such a compact laptop. None of those things are new to the XPS 13, of course, but what this one brings to the table is a gorgeous new display (which was a much-needed upgrade to keep up with the competition).

This new Dell XPS 13 features an improved OLED screen with a sharp 3.5K resolution of 3,456 x 2,160. The display now measures 13.4 inches across diagonally (in contrast to the original 13.3-inch panel) thanks to its new 16:10 aspect ratio, which gives you a little more screen real estate than standard 16:9 screens do. That InfinityEdge display also features incredibly slim bezels and 400 nits of brightness that makes the Dell XPS 13 easy to use in various lighting environments, and this one also offers multi-touch functionality. It’s not a 2-in-1, but a touchscreen is always nice to have and adds a little versatility to the mix.

For hardware, this Dell XPS 13 utilizes an Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor and 8GB of RAM, which are very capable specs for such a portable work machine. You’ve also got 512GB of solid-state storage. That should be more than enough for the needs of most users without forcing you to over-rely on cloud storage. The battery life is solid, too, even if the OLED display upgrade knocks it down a little bit — but we’ll take that gorgeous new touchscreen over the last-gen model any day. If you’re looking for the best Windows laptop money can buy, the Dell XPS 13 should be at the top of your list, and Memorial Day laptop deals are your chance to grab one at a discount.

Dell XPS 15 OLED Touch — $1,862, was $2,300

The front view of the Dell XPS 15 laptop.

Why Buy

  • Great do-it-all size
  • Feels smaller than it is, thanks to slim bezels
  • 3.5K OLED touch display
  • Discrete Nvidia GPU for playing games

As you probably surmised from the name, the Dell XPS 15 is the larger sibling of the XPS 13 and presents a great option for those who like the utility of standard 15-inch laptop displays. Like the above Dell XPS 13, this XPS 15 sports a new 3.5K OLED touch panel, and at 15.6 inches with a 16:10 aspect ratio, you get plenty of screen real estate for productivity and entertainment. And since it’s an XPS laptop, you can be assured that the Dell XPS 15 OLED features the same world-class build quality and gorgeous aesthetic we’ve come to expect from Dell’s premier ultrabook line.

This Dell XPS 15 is also the most powerful laptop on our roundup of Memorial Day laptop deals. It runs on an 11th-gen Intel Core i7-11800H octa-core processor, which combines with 16GB of DDR4-3200 RAM to deliver fantastic performance. This 15-inch machine can easily slice through heavy workloads and gaming sessions. Yes, gaming: The laptop packs an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU with 4GB of dedicated VRAM. That’s not quite as powerful as the RTX 3060 found in the Lenovo Legion 5i, but it’s more than capable of running newer titles at decent settings and older ones maxed out.

That discrete Nvidia GPU is also why you’ll sometimes see the Dell XPS 15 featured among the best gaming laptop deals, which is not usually what you expect from the more work-oriented Dell XPS stable. Nonetheless, this Dell XPS 15 OLED laptop has everything you need for work and play. It’s a true multimedia machine with a superb 3.5K OLED touchscreen to boot. It’s expensive, though, being one of the best laptops out there, but Memorial Day laptop deals are here to take some of the strain off of your wallet. It’s not like you’ll need to replace this thing any time soon, after all.

Editors’ Choice

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How AI is improving the digital ad experience for consumers

We are excited to bring Transform 2022 back in-person July 19 and virtually July 20 – 28. Join AI and data leaders for insightful talks and exciting networking opportunities. Register today!

We’ve all experienced it: the ad that runs half a dozen times during our favorite TV show, or the online ad that follows us everywhere. We search for something once, and suddenly there are ads for it all over our social media feeds.

As digital audiences have grown, fueled largely by growth in channels like CTV/OTT and streaming audio, advertisers have been pouring buckets of money into delivering their brand messaging to these captive audiences.

While targeting technology has evolved dramatically to provide more relevancy and better personalization, it’s not without flaws. Oversaturation is still a problem. And automation can sometimes over-optimize for a specific, perhaps unintended, trend.

The need for a human touch in advertising

Part of the reason ad delivery sometimes misses the mark is that technology doesn’t understand the nuances of human behavior. In fact, AI should be, by design, devoid of biases and influence. But when it comes to advertising, there’s a lot of intuitive information that must be considered, especially as it relates to human behavior. 

That’s why, despite AI technologies making a big impact to improve the ad experience, it still takes human touch to interpret and inform the model. Here’s how marketers can leverage AI to deliver a better consumer experience. 

Identify and respond to trends at scale

Certainly, analysts could look at ad performance data to figure out what’s resonating and use that insight to optimize campaigns. But doing it at the speed and scale necessary is impossible. Effective performance measurement requires multiplatform, real-time analysis — how ads are performing across multiple channels examined together — and real-time optimization to be effective. By using AI to analyze and optimize, marketers can eliminate repetitive, annoying or misplaced ads.

Leverage multi-touch attribution

Digital marketing has traditionally relied on first- or last-touch attribution, meaning the “credit” for the buy, web visit or download is attributed to the first or last impression the consumer was exposed to. But in reality, it’s more likely that a waterfall effect drove the action — multiple touchpoints in a specific placement, strung together in a series — and that experience is infinitely different across every consumer’s journey. AI can analyze this dynamic journey, learning the specific touchpoints and cascade across multiple channels that drive efficacy and delivering that just-right experience to influence buyer behavior.

Manage volume across platforms

AI-based ad platforms are optimized for performance. But to a machine, high performance means getting the most ads in front of the largest, most valuable audience. That can have a decidedly negative firehose effect, not to mention blow through the budget in no time at all. It’s akin to turning on the sink spigot full blast without adjusting flow or temperature. That is why it is important to adjust variables to manage the volume of ad delivery, including setting frequency caps that span multiple platforms, so consumers aren’t bombarded at first and then ghosted. 

Deploy smarter contextual targeting

Beyond just making ads relevant to the viewer based on known interests or intent, AI can also make them relevant based on the context in which they appear. For example, if an advertiser has set up a weather trigger to sell their latest winter coat, they may not want to have that ad run during a climate change discussion. But what if it’s a weather segment about a change in the climate this week — a drop in temperatures, for example? AI can tell the difference and deliver the ad appropriately. 

Include attention metrics

Marketers have traditionally used length of play to measure ad effectiveness — the longer a viewer lets it play, the more interested they must be. But this only tells part of the story. How many times have you gotten up and walked away from the TV or put down the device to grab a snack during an ad? With AI, we can optimize for attention metrics, which typically means getting our message out within the context of higher-quality, more compelling content — content audiences are less likely to turn away from. AI helps brands to do that in real time, but again, it requires human insight to know what’s gripping and will keep people’s attention. 

AI also needs a human touch

Of course, AI is certainly not without risk. In fact, without proper input and tuning, it can start to make poor decisions. For example, if we see that performance of a specific creative is starting to dip, AI may want to pull out of that buy and shift spending elsewhere, especially if CPM is going up as the audience shrinks. But it could be that the campaign is just reaching further down the funnel to the more engaged, high-value customers. The cost may be higher, but so is the return on ad spend because it’s a more valuable audience. Human guidance is key to preventing AI from optimizing incorrectly. 

In a world where privacy is an ongoing concern, it’s important for adtech vendors to understand how to reach people in a way that’s meaningful and addressable without being annoying or interrupting their experience. Using AI, backed with human intuition, to optimize targeting and delivery provides a much more curated experience that adds value for the consumer. 

TJ Sullivan is EVP of sales at Digital Remedy.


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‘Dead Space’ remake arrives on January 27th, 2023

EA is releasing the remake of Dead Space on January 27th, 2023. Motive, the EA studio behind the game, made the announcement at the company’s Crafting the Tension Art Developer Livestream. The classic sci-fi horror survival game is being rebuilt from the ground up using EA’s Frostbite game engine and will be available for the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC.

The original Dead Space was released back in 2008 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC. Motive is upgrading its visuals and made its audio crisper for a more immersive experience on modern consoles. The studio remade all the in-game props, tools and environments for more modern hardware and platforms, and it used “dynamic, volumetric lighting with atmospheric and environmental VFX rendered in full-HDR” to capture the creepy atmosphere of the game.

In Dead Space, you play as engineer Isaac Clarke who’s on a routine mission to fix the mining starship USG Ishimura. What he didn’t know was the the ship’s crew had been slaughtered and infected, transforming them into creatures known as Necromorphs. To find his girlfriend who worked as a medical officer onboard, he has to fight these monsters while also grappling with his growing psychosis. 

In addition to announcing the remake’s release date, the Motive team has also given us a look at the development of the game in the livestream. You can see how they incorporated lighting changes and new elements in the video below:

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A Verizon employee database was stolen by a hacker, now held for ransom

Verizon is dealing with an incident where a hacker captured a database containing company employee data, including the full names of workers as well as their ID numbers, email addresses, and phone numbers. Motherboard reported that the database is legitimate, as the anonymous hacker contacted them last week, and they were able to verify the data by calling some of the numbers.

“These employees are idiots,” the hacker told Motherboard via chat. The hacker is seeking $250,000 in exchange for not leaking the database and said they are in contact with Verizon.

A Verizon spokesperson contacted Motherboard confirming the incident, saying, “A fraudster recently contacted us threatening to release readily available employee directory information in exchange for payment from Verizon. We do not believe the fraudster has any sensitive information and we do not plan to engage with the individual further. As always, we take the security of Verizon data very seriously and we have strong measures in place to protect our people and systems.”

The hacker claims they nabbed the database by social engineering their way into remotely connecting to a Verizon employee’s computer. The hacker’s account, in an email sent to Vice, is that they posed as internal support, coerced the Verizon employee to allow remote access, and then launched a script that copied data from the computer.

The information that was stolen could still be harmful. If you’ve ever had to get support from a carrier over the phone, you might have had to deal with the different departments that handle activating your SIM card. If a purported hacker poses as an employee and spoofed their number as one from the database, they could continue to use social engineering for SIM swapping fraud. The technique has been used frequently over the years as attackers manipulated accounts through carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T to steal cryptocurrency or access to social media accounts, including one belonging to former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

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Dell’s Concept Stanza converts your chicken scratch to digital text

Dell has shown off a new concept device that (let’s be honest) may never actually come out — but it’s a lot of fun to play with. The Concept Stanza is an 11-inch tablet that’s meant to simplify the process of taking notes at work. The idea is that if you write on the Stanza and then double tap your notes, they’ll be instantly converted to digital text. Connect it to a computer, and your notes will show up on the big screen.

Now, this is obviously not a revolutionary use case — devices like Samsung Galaxy Notes can convert handwritten notes to digital ones already. But the big difference with the Stanza is that it’s just for writing — there are no cameras, speakers, or ports on the device, in an effort to create what Dell describes as a “distraction-free experience.”

Dell’s tablet can also recognize more than letters. You can draw a line through text to delete it and can theoretically digitize shapes (such as Venn diagrams) as well. Separately, the Stanza can serve as an external monitor to extend your screen.

The Dell Concept Stanza mounted horizontally on a stand with the stylus magnetically attached to the top, on a desk with a cup of pens and a row of notebooks in the background. The screen displays BioFrame 2.0 software.

There’s the stylus, magnetically attached.
Image: Dell

I got to try the Stanza out for a few brief minutes. It was a comfortable writing experience — the stylus is compact and the tablet’s screen is smooth. The device correctly interpreted all of my (fairly messy) writing. In English, that is — though we were told that the device is supposed to support a whole bunch of languages, I tried writing some things in Chinese and Korean characters that it did not recognize.

So, work in progress. Since the Stanza is still in the concept stage, there’s no pricing and availability yet, and no guarantee that it’s going to become a real thing you can buy. But it could certainly be a nifty tool for boardroom and classroom use. It’s the rare concept device that I think seems pretty ready to go — though I hope it figures out how to do multiple languages at once.

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This powerful Dell gaming laptop is $700 in the Memorial Day sales

While Memorial Day sales don’t often see the best electronics and laptops deals, Dell has a surprisingly good sale on its G15 Gaming Laptop, bringing it down to $700 from $1,069, a big $369 discount. If you’re not familiar with the G15, it’s the workhorse of the gaming laptop world, being one of the most-suggested laptops for those who want a good gaming laptop without breaking the bank.

The first thing most people look at when it comes to gaming laptops is the GPU, and in this case, the G15 comes with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050, a mobile-specific GPU, and a nice mid-level GPU if you don’t need to run the newest AAA games at the highest settings. The 15.6-inch Full HD display with a 120Hz refresh rate isn’t likely to push the RTX 3050 to its limits anyway, so you should be able to get away with relatively high settings. The only real downside is that the peak brightness on the screen is 250 nits, which might make it harder to see the screen in daylight, but it does have a narrow border, making it one of the more aesthetically pleasing gaming laptop deals.

The CPU on the G15 is an 11th-gen Intel i5-11260H, which is more than enough to handle most productivity software, and while it might chug a little, it shouldn’t have any issue running editing software or simulation games that like to munch on CPU power. Internal storage is on the lower side with a 256GB solid-state drive, so you might want to grab one of our external hard drive deals to help supplement that. The 8GB of RAM is about what you’d expect for a gaming laptop in this price range and should be enough for most uses.

Overall, the Dell G15 is a great gaming laptop, and the deal from Dell bringing it down to just $700 makes it one of the better deals in Dell’s Memorial Day sale. Of course, there are quite a few other great deals floating out there today, so check out our collection of some of the best Memorial Day laptop sales.

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