Categories
Tech News

AI resurrects legendary Spanish singer to hawk beer

The celebrated Spanish singer Lola Flores died in 1995, but a brewery is using AI to bring her back to life.

Sevillan beer company Cruzcampo made a deepfake of the iconic Andalusian the star of a new ad campaign.

The company pitches the commercial as a celebration of the diversity of Spanish accents.

“Do you know why I was understood all over the world? “Because of my accent,” says Flores’ AI reincarnation. “And I’m not just referring to the way I talk…”

The company recreated her voice, face, and features using hours of audiovisual material, more than 5,000 photos, and a painstaking composition and post-production process, according to El País.

The video below (in Spanish) gives more details on how it was made:

Flores’ daughters Rosario and Lolita were personally involved in the project of the project, and my Andalusian colleague Pablo said he could imagine Lola supporting the message.

But others were quick to condemn the campaign for putting words in her mouth that she didn’t say — just to market beer.

One thing they all agreed on was that the deepfake Flores is an impressively realistic recreation of the singer.

[Read: How this company leveraged AI to become the Netflix of Finland]

The ad was released shortly after a report named deepfakes the most concerning use of AI for crime and terrorism. But the campaign shows the tech can also turn the dead into effective booze peddlers.

¡Salud!

Published January 22, 2021 — 15:06 UTC



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Categories
Game

How to Catch the Legendary Pokemon in Pokemon: Let’s Go

The plot to Pokémon: Let’s Go is familiar: You work to beat the Elite Four and become a Pokémon Champion. But capturing legendary Pokémon gives you something a little more exciting. Just like Pokémon Yellow, four legendary Pokémon can be caught in their hideouts: Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, and Mewtwo. But the encounters in Let’s Go are a little bit different.

To catch the legendary birds and Mewtwo, you’ll need to battle and defeat them before having an opportunity to catch them. To successfully defeat these powerful foes, you’ll need to have a Pokémon in your party that is around level 50 to even have a chance to catch the legendary birds. For Mewtwo, your party will need to be closer to level 70.

In a lot of ways, these legendary battles are similar to raid battles in Pokémon GO. Players will need to weaken the Pokémon in order to have a shot at catching them. Be ready to make use of berries and get ready for a struggle; these Pokémon are strong!

In this guide, we’ll detail where to find and how to catch each of the four legendary Pokémon.

For more on Pokémon: Let’s Go, check out our beginner’s guide for all the tips and tricks you need to become a Pokémon League Champion.

Zapdos

This awesome flying, electric-type Pokémon can be found in the Power Plant. The Power Plant is located east of Route 10. Just north of the entrance to the Rock Tunnel, you’ll see a stream. You can use the Sea Skim secret technique to get to the Power Plant. You can also fly to the Power Plant on a flying Pokémon. The Power Plant itself isn’t all that different from other large buildings and caves in Kanto. Simply make your way through its labyrinth of connected rooms until you encounter Zapdos in a large open area surrounded by sparking generators.

Zapdos is level 50. As a flying and electric Pokémon, Zapdos doesn’t fare well against rock and ice Pokémon, so if you have a strong Graveler, Golem, or Jynx, those would be preferable. Starter Eevee also works well, but if you started with Pikachu, you’re best using a different Pokémon. Generally, if you have six Pokémon around level 50, you should be able to take it out with a solid team effort. You only have five minutes to defeat Zapdos, though.

After you defeat Zapdos, the normal catch sequence commences. We suggest lobbing a berry or two at it before trying to use an Ultra Ball. It only took us two Ultra Balls to secure Zapdos.

Moltres

Pokémon Let's Go Moltres

Chances are, you’ll run across Moltres in the main adventure. The fire bird is located in Victory Road, which takes you to the Elite Four. In Victory Road, look for Officer Jenny, the same nice woman who gave you Squirtle early on. Near her is a large stone that must be pushed out of the way to get to a ladder. Go down the ladder, and on the right side of the room is the platform where you’ll find Moltres.

Like Zapdos, Moltres is level 50. If you have a rock-type Pokémon, you can take down Moltres in a hurry. Or, you could make use of the Squirtle Officer Jenny gave you earlier (hopefully, it’s a Blastoise now). Again, you have five minutes to defeat Moltres. After you knock it out, you’ll want to feed it a berry or two, then start flinging Ultra Balls at it.

Articuno

Pokémon Let's Go Articuno

Articuno is located on Seafoam Islands in the southeast. You can get there by using Sea Skim from either below Fushsia City or on the right edge of Cinnabar Island. Or, you can fly there on the back of a flying Pokémon. The cave on Seafoam Islands has multiple entrances, but it doesn’t matter which one you go in first. To reach Articuno, you have to first slow the water current that flows through the cavern. To do this, go up ladders and push each of the large stones into the holes. Follow the stones down the holes and push them yet again until they land in the water below. Once you’ve sealed off the high current, you’re free to use Sea Skim to reach Articuno’s platform.

Like its legendary bird cousins, Articuno is level 50. As a flying ice Pokémon, Articuno has a few weaknesses that you can exploit. Your best bet is to use a fire, steel, or rock Pokémon. Once again, you have five minutes to defeat Articuno and kick off the catch sequence. You should be able to catch Articuno by giving it a couple of berries and tossing an Ultra Ball or two its way.

Mewtwo

Unlike the other legendary Pokémon, you have to beat the Elite Four before you can nab Mewtwo. Once you beat the game, your rival will tell you about a cave near Cerulean City. To get to Cerulean Cave, go up the bridge on the north side of the city and then Sea Skim in the water to the left. A Coach trainer is standing outside of it who you can battle if you’d like.

Cerulean Cave is fairly straightforward. Go up the ladder in the northeastern corner of the room. You’ll arrive in a room filled with ladders going down. Go down the one in the northwestern corner of the room. Follow the path in the next area down to the little stream of water. Use Sea Skim to reach the platform with Mewtwo. You can’t miss the creepy-looking Pokémon.

Beware, though: Mewtwo is level 70. We first tried to fight him with Pokémon who were in the high 50s and were quickly destroyed. Since Mewtwo is a psychic type, it’s weak to ghost, bug, and dark-type Pokémon. If you have a starter Eevee with a dark-type move, that will work great. Otherwise, you may want to use a Scyther or Pinsir (if you’ve been lucky enough to find one) or a ghost-type like Haunter or Gengar. You should have plenty of those thanks to your time spent in the Pokémon Tower. Since you only have five minutes to battle Mewtwo, you have to make sure you choose Pokémon who dole out solid damage.

If you want, you can use your lone Master Ball to catch Mewtwo since it’s the hardest Pokémon to catch in the game. Or, you can try your luck with several Ultra Balls. It’s not too hard to catch Mewtwo with Ultra Balls if you use a few high-powered berries first.

Catching legendary birds in the wild

While your first and perhaps only encounter with each of the four legendary Pokémon has to happen in their set locations, it is possible to see the legendary birds in the wild and score two or more of the same legendary bird. This is a major change from Pokémon Yellow.

As Kotaku UK news editor Laura Kate Dale noted out on Twitter, it’s very rare to see legendaries in the wild.

Here is my proof, 100 hours in a wild Zapdos. I already caught that one you know where to find. I guess that means more than one Zapdos in the world? pic.twitter.com/QIifWSmZlU

— Laura Kate Dale (@LaurakBuzz) November 19, 2018

For a chance to see one of the legendary birds in the wild, you need to be riding on a flying Pokémon like Charizard. You also have to have a high catch chain going, so you must catch a lot of Pokémon in a row. A lure, which attracts rare Pokémon, must be active. Even then, the chances of you seeing a legendary bird are very low. We have yet to come across a legendary bird in our time with Let’s Go, but if you play long enough, perhaps you will get lucky.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
AI

Why Microsoft’s self-driving car strategy will work

Self-driving car startup Cruise has just gotten a $2 billion infusion from Microsoft, according to a joint statement Tuesday from Cruise, its owner General Motors, and Microsoft. The investment will bring Cruise’s valuation to $30 billion and make Microsoft an official partner.

Per Tuesday’s announcement: “To unlock the potential of cloud computing for self-driving vehicles, Cruise will leverage Azure, Microsoft’s cloud and edge computing platform, to commercialize its unique autonomous vehicle solutions at scale. Microsoft, as Cruise’s preferred cloud provider, will also tap into Cruise’s deep industry expertise to enhance its customer-driven product innovation and serve transportation companies across the globe through continued investment in Azure.”

So Cruise will get the much-needed funds to conduct research and (possibly discounted) access to Microsoft’s cloud computing resources and move closer to its goal of launching a purpose-built self-driving car.

But in the long run, Microsoft stands to gain more from the deal. Not only will it get two very lucrative customers for its cloud business (Azure will also become GM’s preferred cloud provider, per the announcement), but when seen in the broader context of Microsoft’s self-driving car strategy, “Cruise’s deep industry expertise” will possibly give Microsoft a solid foothold in the future of the still-volatile self-driving car industry.

At a time when most major tech companies are interested in acquiring self-driving car startups or launching their own initiatives, Microsoft’s hands-off approach could eventually turn it into an industry leader.

Self-driving cars from the AI business perspective

Self-driving cars can be viewed as a specialized case within AI-driven businesses. Every company running on AI algorithms — namely machine learning — must bring together a few key pieces to have a viable business model:

  • Algorithms: The company must either use existing machine learning algorithms or research new architectures that suit the problem.
  • Data: The company must have a sound infrastructure that consolidates disparate data sources. It must also have ways to collect and store fresh data from customers to continue to maintain and tune its models and keep an edge over competitors.
  • Compute resources: The company will need access to large compute clusters and specialized hardware to train and update its machine learning models and provide cloud-based inference at scale.
  • Talent: The company needs data scientists, data engineers, and machine learning engineers to develop and maintain AI models and research new techniques.

Microsoft already has a solid AI stack and a full range of products that fit into this category. For instance, the company’s computer vision service runs on machine learning models developed by the company’s engineers. The models were trained using the company’s vast store of image data. As customers use the AI service, they generate more data and labels to further enhance the machine learning models. Finally, Microsoft’s Azure cloud has specialized hardware to both train the models and deliver them at scale and in a cost-efficient manner.

Many companies use Microsoft’s Cognitive Services APIs to integrate AI capabilities into their applications.

Microsoft can also engage in any kind of venture that builds on this AI stack, such as launching its own end-to-end computer vision applications or hosting advanced natural language processing platforms such as OpenAI’s GPT-3.

When it comes to self-driving cars, however, a few new components are added to the mix:

  • Autonomous driving hardware: The company must develop lidars, sensors, cameras, and other hardware that enable self-driving features.
  • Vehicle: The company must either manufacture its own vehicle or find a manufacturing partner to integrate the self-driving car gear.

Self-driving cars introduce manufacturing and legal issues that are challenging for companies focused on their software business. There are a few ways companies can overcome these challenges.

How Microsoft’s self-driving car strategy stacks up

The traditional ways to enter an emerging market are to build the technology or buy it from someone else.

In the late 2000s, Google developed its own self-driving car lab, which it later renamed Waymo, to develop AI software and hardware for autonomous driving. Google does not manufacture its own cars and instead relies on the vehicles of other carmakers, such as Toyota, Audi, Fiat Chrysler, and Lexus to test and deploy its technology.

But Google had a head start, which allowed it to create its own self-driving car unit from scratch. Companies that entered the field later made up for their tardiness by acquiring self-driving car startups. Examples include Amazon’s Zoox acquisition and Intel’s acquisition of MobileEye.

Tesla is among the few to have a complete self-driving car stack. The carmaker has autonomous driving technology integrated into its electric vehicles. It also has millions of sold cars that are constantly collecting fresh data to further enhance its algorithms. Apple also has plans to manufacture its own self-driving car, though the full details have yet to emerge.

Microsoft’s approach to the self-driving car industry is different.

“We partner across the industry. We are not in the business of making vehicles or delivering end mobility-as-a-service offerings,” Sanjay Ravi, GM of Automotive Industry at Microsoft, wrote in a 2019 blog post that laid out Microsoft’s automotive strategy.

Instead of acquiring startups and test-driving cars in cities, Microsoft has a program to support self-driving car startups by providing them with engineering support and discounted access to cloud services. These startups can become potential Microsoft partners in the future. In October, Microsoft entered a partnership agreement with Wayve, a London-based developer of self-driving car software that was part of Microsoft’s startup program. Cruise is the second self-driving car company Microsoft is partnering with. Microsoft also has partnerships with several carmakers to provide them with cloud services.

Why Microsoft’s strategy can succeed

The problem with the self-driving car industry is that we still don’t know when we will get there. Every year, we’re missing new deadlines on having fully autonomous cars on roads. But like the quest for artificial general intelligence, we know that we have a bumpy and potentially long road ahead.

We also don’t know what the final technology will look like. Tesla CEO Elon Musk believes computer vision alone will be enough to reach full autonomy. Other companies are banking on lidar technology becoming more affordable and stable in the future. Car design will also undergo changes as the industry matures.

Another issue is the regulation of self-driving cars. Will self-driving cars be allowed to share the road with human drivers? Will they only be allowed in specific, geofenced areas? How will culpability be determined in the case of accidents?

Every one of these areas can undergo fundamental changes, and those changes will be decisive in determining which startups flourish and which collapse in the coming years. Interestingly, the one thing that will likely remain constant is data, cloud, and software, the three areas where Microsoft already excels.

This is why Microsoft’s strategy of not acquiring startups will protect the company against the industry’s volatility.

For one thing, a partnership is a flexible format that is well-suited to the quickly evolving self-driving car space. Entering a partnership is faster and more affordable than a full acquisition (compare the $2 billion partnership with a full $30 billion acquisition of Cruise, if it was possible at all). At the same time, leaving a partnership is much easier than having to scrap and sell an entire self-driving unit.

Meanwhile, small investments allow Microsoft to cast a wider net and become engaged in a diverse range of solutions through its self-driving startup accelerator program and its partnership agreements. The startups included in Microsoft’s self-driving startup program already represent a diverse set of research areas and directions. Any of them could become a breakthrough solution in the future. While Microsoft supports these startups, it will also tap into their industry expertise and develop its own in-house talent and tools. This will be crucial if and when Microsoft considers making a more serious move to develop self-driving cars.

As the field matures and potential winners become more evident, Microsoft will be in a better position to upgrade its relationship with startups to full partnership and eventual acquisition.

And if Microsoft’s partnership with OpenAI is any indication, a lot of the investment Microsoft makes in startups is in Azure credits, which ensures those startups become locked into Microsoft’s cloud service instead of going with other cloud providers.

On a broader scale, Microsoft’s wide range of partnerships will enable it to become a growing hub to attract self-driving car startups. It will use the expertise and experience of these startups to enhance its cloud and AI services for autonomous driving, and in turn attract more customers.

Many analysts think Microsoft is lagging in the self-driving car space by not having an active program to test cars in cities. I think the company has made a smart move to solidify its position in areas that will remain constant (cloud, data, and algorithms) while developing a strategy that will allow it to adapt to the inevitable changes to the industry in the coming years.

Ben Dickson is a software engineer and the founder of TechTalks. He writes about technology, business, and politics. 

This story originally appeared on Bdtechtalks.com. Copyright 2021

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Categories
Tech News

Samsung Galaxy S21 preview: New look, small changes, and a price cut

If you took my advice last month and returned your new Galaxy S20, the day you’ve been waiting for has nearly arrived. On Thursday, Samsung will hold its first Unpacked event of 2021, and the star of the show will be the first Android flagship of the year, the Galaxy S21. Here’s everything we think we know about the new phones:

Design and display

Just when you thought Samsung had run out of ways to make rectangular slabs of glass unique, it finds a new way to spice things up. Based on leaked renders published by Voice, the S21 has a very unique look this year, with a camera module that appears to be cut out from the top corner of the phone. It’s a major visual change from both its own phones and its competitors and is likely to be the start of a new design language for Samsung’s handsets.

Otherwise, the design is basically the same as the S20, with skinny bezels and a centered hole-punch camera. There will reportedly once again be three models this year, with very similar screen sizes: 6.2 inches, 6.7 inches, and 6.8 inches. If those sizes are accurate, that means the S21 Ultra would be slightly smaller than the 6.9-inch S20 Ultra. The Ultra model might also be the only one with a curved “Edge” screen, as renders provided by Evan Blass suggest the S20 and S21 have “flat” displays like the S20 FE. Specs from WinFuture also suggest that the smaller phones’ max resolution will top out at 1080p.

Specs and features

While there has been much speculation about the processor inside the S21, WinFuture reports that Samsung will once again be turning to Qualcomm and the Snapdragon 888 chip for the United States. International models will be powered by the new Exynos 2100 chip that just launched on Tuesday.

galaxy s21 teaser Samsung

Samsung is clearly referencing the camera array in this S21 teaser.

As far as batteries go, the S21 and S21 Ultra will reportedly have the same 4,000mAh and 5,000mAh batteries as their S20 counterparts, with the S21+ getting a slight bump to 4,800mAh, according to WinFuture. The S21 and S21+ will also reportedly have less RAM than their predecessors (8GB, vs. 12GB on the S20), while the S21 Ultra will stick with 12GB. All of the phones will have 128GB of base storage, according to WinFuture.

All three phones will ship with One UI 3/Android 11, with a guaranteed upgrade to Android 14 when it arrives in 2024.

Samsung is also reportedly going to bring S Pen support to the Galaxy S line. Rumored for months and teased by Samsung itself, WinFuture confirms speculation that the S Pen will be an optional accessory for the S21 Ultra either on its own or as part of a case bundle. Samsung currently sells the S Pen for the Galaxy Tab S7 for $60, but it’s often on sale for $30.

Camera

If the Unpacked teaser image is any indication, the S21 lineup’s cameras are in for a shakeup. While the phones will reportedly keep the same number of cameras—three on the S21 and S21+ and four on the S21 Ultra—WinFuture has outlined some big changes.

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Categories
Computing

AMD mobile Ryzen 5000: specs and features

If the latest crop of rumors have any basis, AMD’s hotly anticipated Ryzen 5000 mobile CPU family could mix chips from old and new architectures, making shopping for a Ryzen-based laptop even more confusing.

According to a collection of leaks and reports, the mobile Ryzen 5000U series of APUs (CPUs with integrated graphics cores inside) are expected to include both “Lucienne” and “Cezanne” cores. Lucienne chips will reportedly be designed around AMD’s older Zen 2 architecture, and Cezanne around the more powerful Zen 3 architecture. 

AMD declined to comment on what it called rumors and speculation. Nevertheless, the possibilities add some interest to what’s expected to be a busy round of announcements from AMD at the upcoming virtual CES in January. All the rumors we’ve heard are detailed below, from product names to clandestine (and possibly falsified) benchmarks.

When could AMD announce mobile Ryzen 5000?

CES has already confirmed that AMD chief executive Lisa Su will give a keynote address at 8:00 a.m. Pacific Time on January 12, roughly a year after AMD released the mobile Ryzen 4000 family at the same event. An announcement of the next-gen mobile Ryzen 5000 family seems more than likely. Ryzen 5000 H-series chips are reportedly on tap, along with the lower-power Ryzen 5000 U-series chips.

AMD’s mobile Ryzen 4000 crushed Intel’s Core processors, and the desktop version of the Ryzen 5000 appeared as strong or stronger than its Intel rivals. Expectations for Ryzen 5000 mobile CPUs are therefore very high, which makes the prospect of mixing older and newer architectures all the more intriguing. 

What CPUs will be in the mobile Ryzen 5000 family?

Based on leaks and other reports, there are six Ryzen 5xxxU chips and four Ryzen 5000 H-series chips forthcoming, versus last year’s five Ryzen 4000 U-series chips and just two H-series chips. 

The sources for these rumors include a benchmark for Ashes of the Singularity, via WCCFtech; specs published to Twitter, and a series of retailer configurations published by leaker momomo_us, again to Twitter and compiled by VideoCardz.

  • Ryzen 7 5800U (Zen 3): 8 cores/16 threads; 1.8GHz base/4.40GHz boost; 8 CUs
  • Ryzen 7 5700U (Zen 2): 8 cores/16 threads; 1.8GHz base/4.3GHz boost; 8 CUs
  • Ryzen 5 5600U (Zen 3): 6 cores/12 threads; 2.3GHz base/4.3GHz boost; 7 CUs
  • Ryzen 5 5500U (Zen 2): 6 cores/12 threads; 2.1GHz base/4.0GHz boost; 7 CUs
  • Ryzen 3 5400U(Zen 3): 4 cores/8 threads; 2.6GHz base/4.0GHz boost; 6 CUs
  • Ryzen 3 5200U (Zen 2): 4 cores/8 threads; 2.6GHz base/3.85GHz boost; 6 CUs

The most powerful gaming laptops will, of course, be based on the H-series parts, with 35W to 45W power envelopes. AMD’s mobile Ryzen 4000 series offered just two H-series. If the Ryzen 5000 rumors are accurate, AMD will offer two H-series parts as well as more powerful -HS and -HX options. They will all be part of the Cezanne/Zen 3 family.



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Categories
Security

How to Change Your Outlook Password

If you’re like most computer users, you probably created your email account years ago and haven’t updated your login info since. Most email services like Outlook don’t require you to update it, so most people don’t bother to make changes unless there’s a security concern. 

It’s important to know that changing your Outlook password on a semi-regular basis can protect your information more effectively. Even if you don’t want to change your info frequently, knowing how to do it is essential. Here are the steps you need to follow.

Change your Outlook.com password

Changing your password in the Outlook desktop client doesn’t change your email provider password. If you’re using an Apple, Yahoo, or Gmail email in Outlook, follow our guides on how to change your password with those services, then skip to the section directly below to learn how to alter your credentials in the Outlook app itself. Other email providers will require you to visit their respective websites to change your credentials there.

If you’re using an Outlook email address, follow the steps below.

Step 1: Log in to the Microsoft security page

Visit Microsoft’s dedicated security page and sign in. Select Password Security from the dashboard, and follow the on-screen security instructions.

changing outlook password

Step 2: Choose a new password

The next page will ask you to confirm your current password again and input your new password. Choose something unique, secure, and long — mixing numbers, special characters, and both lowercase and uppercase letters — and input it twice as requested. Then hit the blue Save button.

And that’s it! You’ve changed your Outlook.com password. If you’re using the Outlook email client, read the next section to learn how to alter your password there.

Change your Outlook client password

If you’ve changed your password with your email provider and you want to make sure that your Outlook email client knows it, follow these steps below to change it.

Note: If you are using an email account other than Outlook, you will need your app password. You can get help finding or generating those at the respective pages for Yahoo, Gmail, and Apple.

Step 1: Open Outlook’s account settings

Launch the Outlook application. When it’s loaded, select File in the top menu, followed by Account Settings, and then Account Settings again in the drop-down menu.

Step 2: Change your password

If you have an Office 365 subscription that gives you semiannual updates or a stand-alone version of the Outlook client, select the email address you want to change, click Change, and type in your new password in the respective fields. Then click Finish.

According to Microsoft, if you have a monthly update subscription for Office 365, you should instead choose File > Account Settings > Update Password. Change your password and click OK.

Step 3: Make sure it works

The last and most important duty of this whole process is testing out your new password to ensure that you’ve successfully changed it. You’ll have to close out any open window and then launch Outlook once more to verify the change. Click on the Send/Receive button to see if all your emails showed up. If they’re all there, then your password change was successful.

In many cases, the cause of barred access to your email account is simply an incorrect password entry.

Gmail, Yahoo, and Apple may require you to enter via an app password service instead of a conventional password login page. Click these links for Yahoo, Gmail, and Apple for more information.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Tech News

Lylux cordless and bladeless hair dryer review

We’re seeing a steady stream of new products for personal and home use that all use the “smart” qualifier to indicate how intelligent they are because they connect to the Internet. Things don’t have to be connected, however, to be useful. Sometimes, all it takes is the intelligent and creative combination of modern technologies to provide a more convenient and safer experience. That’s the simple joy that the Lylux Hair Dryer is promising by putting together bladeless fans, cordless operation, and smart sensors to make drying hair even less of a hassle.

Design and Safety

A lot of things are going wireless these days but that doesn’t mean you need to connect to some wireless network to be useful. Even the simple case of removing a power cord from the equation already has a massive implication in terms of convenience and safety.

Ditching the cord frees users not only to move around but also bring the Lylus hair dryer where it’s needed. More than that, however, it also removes the dangers of kids and animals tripping over cords, potentially injuring themselves or damaging the dryer.

It doesn’t without costs, though. Since the power that drives the Lylux comes from the built-in rechargeable battery, that also means that the hair dryer is heavier than conventional dryers. And while the dyer itself is cordless, its charging base isn’t and you’ll need to bring that along with you on long journeys away from home.

The Lylux’s safety doesn’t just come from having no cords, though. By also throwing out blades, Lylux also completely removes the risk of hair getting caught inside. It also uses some other smart (not connected) design elements, like a smoothing nozzle that magnetically attaches to the dryer with a satisfying click.

Performance and Battery

All of that design savvy and modern tech features would be for naught if the Lylux couldn’t perform just as well or even better than conventional hair dryers. The good news is that it definitely delivers on most of its promises. That said, it might also take some adjusting to the way it does things compared to your run of the mill equipment.

Boasting of a motor that runs at 100,000 rpm, the Lylux is definitely very strong. It can pump out air efficiently and, thanks to three speed settings and two temperature options (hot or cold), you can choose the strength that you want. The magnetic nozzle also lets you direct that airflow towards a more concentrated area if needed.

Air strength, however, is only part of what speeds up drying. Heat also plays an important role and this is where things can get a bit debatable. The Lylux doesn’t get as hot as other hair dryers and that’s actually by design. It boasts of an “intelligent sensor” for temperature control that caps the heat to 104° F (40° C) that may just be a bit below what some might be used to.

Lylux’s designers argue, however, that drying hair at higher temperatures ends up actually damaging it in the process. With heat and at max speed, it takes 40 minutes to dry long hair. Of course, it takes longer, around 50 minutes, to do the same without heat and at that same speed.

There’s also the probability that Lylux opted for a more moderate temperature cap to squeeze out as much use that it can from the 54Wh battery. Eventually, however, you will need to recharge it on its stand for about an hour to get it to full. It’s another lifestyle change that owners will need to get used to, lest they realize during the morning rush that their trusty dryer is dry out of power.

Wrap-up

Some things don’t need to be too complicated or too advanced to become convenient and useful. Sometimes, all it takes is the ingenious combination of already established and well-tested technologies to turn an old idea into a modern convenience. The Lylux hair dryer is testament to that line of thinking, stringing together small innovations to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The Lylux cordless hair dryer is currently on Kickstarter where it just blasted through its modest funding goal in less than a day.

Early birds can try to grab one for a Kickstarter special of $169 if they’re fast enough. The product is expected to go on retail with a $298 price tag after the crowdfunding campaign.

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Categories
Computing

Microsoft Edge gets big Update with History and Tab Sync

Microsoft’s new Chromium-based Edge browser is getting one of its biggest updates since it was introduced out of beta last year. Version 88 of the browser now finally supports history and tab sync across devices and also sports some new themes and a password generator.

A feature long available on Google Chrome, the new support for tab and history sync should make it easier to move web browsing in Edge between different Windows PCs, Macs, and phones. It will be available by going to the Edge settings, choosing Profile, selecting Sync, and turning on the appropriate toggles. You also can view your history and open tabs by selecting the “history” option from the menu.

Elsewhere, the latest Edge version brings a new password generator. As a great way to secure your accounts from different retailers when shopping, Edge will now suggest a secure password when you’re changing an existing password or signing up for a new account. To try the feature, you’ll have to be signed in with a Microsoft account and set up sync.

But Edge 88 goes beyond just syncing and helping to secure passwords. For those times when you have a lot of tabs open, you will be happy to know that Edge now has your back. Microsoft says a new Edge feature called “sleeping tabs” will boost your browser performance. When you have several tabs open, Edge will release system resources for inactive tabs, to help power new tabs and other applications.

Visually, you also might notice that the latest Edge Version has a new coat of paint in some areas. To better line up the browser with Windows 10’s Fluent Design language, several icons have been changed to be rounder and softer in appearance. The new icons have a more visually consistent look, for when you view menu items at a quick glance.

The new icons pair up nicely with several new themes, which can be downloaded online. From Halo and Forza to Microsoft Flight Simulator, the browser themes match up with Microsoft’s products.

Other features coming in Edge include Sidebar Search, which lets you run web searches without leaving the page. Also introduced is the ability to see incoming emails directly from the new tab page in Edge, which saves you the click of having to visit your inbox. You’ll have to be signed in to the same account you use with Outlook and Edge to see the feature, however.

You can download the latest version of Edge by clicking the three dots at the top right corner of the screen, then scrolling down to Settings. From there, you can click About Microsoft Edge and check to download the update. When it finishes, just restart the browser.

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AI

TripActions raises $155 million to help enterprises analyze travel and expense data

TripActions, a booking and management platform that offers enterprises real-time data, automated reporting, and insights into business travel and expenses, has raised $155 million in a series E round of funding co-led by existing investor Andreessen Horowitz. The Palo Alto, California-based company is now valued at $5 billion, up from the $4 billion valuation at its series D round 18 months ago.

The raise and valuation come as small businesses and enterprises across the spectrum embrace new ways of functioning, with remote work taking center stage. Moreover, corporate travel has been decimated by the pandemic, raising questions about the viability of platforms like TripActions.

Founded in 2015, TripActions is an AI-enabled platform that gives companies of all sizes access to inventory spanning flights, accommodation, and car rentals, alongside 24/7 access to a global network of travel agents. But one of the big selling points for businesses is the growing amount of data it offers, with TripActions now serving as an end-to-end tool encompassing both travel and expense management.

Through the TripActions spend management dashboard, companies can filter and view travel and expense data by date range, geography, category, and more.

“Having all of this data in one place makes it easier to run a report,” Michael Sindicich, GM of TripActions’ payments and expense product Liquid, told VentureBeat. “A good example of this is the spend management dashboard that launched a few months back. Since we have data from Liquid, we’re able to actively surface and monitor real-time spend to help program managers properly budget and monitor for outlying activity.”

Above: TripActions can now feed expenses data directly into ERP systems

AI and machine learning underpin much of the TripActions platform. On the travel side, the tech is used to optimize flights and hotels based on a company or individual’s preferences, historical travel behavior, and more. And on the Liquid (payments and expense) side, TripActions leverages AI to automatically classify each expense to a category, detect items that aren’t permitted under a company’s policy, and align spending with corporate events in the calendar.

Enterprising

Over the past year, TripActions has introduced dozens of products and updates as it adapts to a new corporate climate. These include a new enterprise-focused offering and integrations with enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools such as NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, SAP, Xero, and more. These updates are designed to help finance teams dig deep into payment and expense data in real time, rather than waiting for employees to manually submit expenses, as would be the case with traditional systems.

TripActions also launched a COVID-19 dashboard that includes “business travel continuity tools” to deliver insights into metrics such as countries with the most active COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people or areas with quarantine restrictions for travelers.

Above: TripActions: Covid dashboard

Future of work

As with many businesses operating in the travel realm, 2020 was a tumultuous year for TripActions. As the world entered lockdown last March, the company laid off hundreds of staff before receiving a $125 million debt round of financing to weather the COVID-19 storm and expand deeper into the enterprise market. But however positive one’s outlook, it’s difficult to imagine corporate travel returning to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon, if ever.

However, TripActions’ $155 million raise, which takes its total equity financing to $665 million, and its lofty $5 billion valuation suggest investors are bullish about the company’s prospects.

“Corporate travel won’t ever be the same, but that doesn’t really affect the long-term plans of our company or our investors,” TripActions cofounder and CEO Ariel Cohen told VentureBeat. “Even if travel is different in the future — say, more teams travel for remote team meetings or a wider spectrum of employees travel fewer times per year — TripActions will still be winning that business.”

Moreover, TripActions’ shift last February into the broader corporate expense sphere is now looking more prescient than ever, as it gives the company inroads into corporate finance departments. Indeed, the company said it has seen growing demand from businesses looking for tools to help manage their expenditures.

“The spend management technologies that TripActions has launched in the last year really help expand our business into new markets that are parallel to corporate travel,” Cohen said. “The funding round is a long-term bet on expanding the Liquid portfolio and the long-term prospect of capturing outsized market share in the corporate travel segment.”

Looking further to the future, there is every chance corporate travel will resume some semblance of “business as usual” once the vaccines roll out more widely — Zoom fatigue is a growing phenomenon, after all. Zoom is in fact a TripActions client, alongside other notable names from the business world, including Okta, Box, Lyft, Pinterest, and Silicon Valley Bank.

“We strongly believe business travel will return — maybe not at 100%, but we believe 75% within the next year — and may even exceed pre-COVID levels as a function of a more distributed workforce,” Cohen said. “We know the desire is there. Our customers have told us that their travelers are eager to return once they feel safe doing so. Digital meeting fatigue is real, and we believe strongly in the in-person connection.”

In addition to Andreessen Horowitz, TripActions’ series E round was co-led by Addition and Elad Gil, with participation from Zeev Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Greenoaks Capital.

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Tech News

Qualcomm buys CPU startup Nuvia to beef up PC, smartphone performance

Qualcomm said Wednesday that it plans to buy startup Nuvia for $1.4 billion, potentially as a way to beef up its own CPU efforts and challenge Apple more directly in the Arm computing space.

Nuvia was founded by an ex-Apple chip architect, Gerard Williams III, who was reportedly pushed into designing server chips because of a non-compete clause that he had signed with his former employer. Nuvia’s mission is, in its words, to “reimagine silicon design to create a new class of processor that delivers the step-function performance and energy efficiency improvements needed to power the next era of computing.” Nuvia has never announced a product, though it was suspected to be developing its own Arm CPU for data centers.

Nuvia CPUs are expected to be integrated across Qualcomm Technologies’ broad portfolio of products, including PCs. Qualcomm said Nuvia’s technology would be involved in “powering flagship smartphones, next-generation laptops, and digital cockpits, as well as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, extended reality and infrastructure networking solutions.”

Qualcomm lined up support from well over a dozen partners, including Microsoft, Google, OnePlus, Sharp, Sony, Xiaomi, and others to support the move. The deal still has to be approved by regulatory agencies. 

“Together, we are very well positioned to redefine computing and enable our ecosystem of partners to drive innovation and deliver a new class of products and experiences for the 5G era,” said Cristiano Amon, the newly appointed “chief executive-elect” of Qualcomm, in a statement. 

For about the past two years, Qualcomm has released versions of its Snapdragon processors for the PC space, including the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 5G last September. But the company’s promises of performance that would compete with traditional X86 chips like the Intel Core lineup didn’t pan out. Meanwhile, Apple overturned the traditional CPU market with its release of the M1 chip, powering its MacBook and Mac mini computers and competing very well against Intel’s 11th-gen Core chips. 

All of those efforts raised questions about how Qualcomm would continue to compete against an Apple M1 chip that significantly outperformed what Qualcomm had to offer. With its purchase of Nuvia, Qualcomm appears to be working on an answer. 

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