Tech News

Warhol NFT auction opens Pandora’s Box on “original art”

Christies is set to auction several Andy Warhol digital works of art on the NFT blockchain. This would at first seem like the perfect opportunity to demonstrate how an NFT could be used to buy and sell art that would otherwise seem ephemeral. There’s just one problem: The files described by the auction are not the originals they profess to be – they couldn’t be.

The “five original drawings” by Andy Warhol shown in the Christies NFT auction listing are listed as having dimensions of 6000 x 4500 pixels. The original artworks were created on an Amiga computer with 320 x 200 pixel resolution, per the limits of the graphics framebuffers on said machine. As described by researcher Golan Levin, “it should be clear that a 6000×4500 image in Amiga’s uncompressed .PIC format could not possibly fit on a 1.4MB floppy, nor in the Amiga 1000’s 512kb RAM.”

It’s shown by Golan that the works being auctioned by Christies must be at least 2nd-generation creations. They are at least (if they are the original files at the described size) upscaled versions as created by “a CMU grad student” at the direction of The Warhol Foundation after their rediscovery, decades after Warhol’s death.

Not only could these files not possibly be the original files created by Warhol – they’re made with different sorts of pixels. The original files were created on a computer that did not work with “square” pixels.

The sale from Christies is for what Christies suggests are the original digital artworks as made by Warhol. This begs the question: What is an original Warhol? Does it need to have been looked upon by Warhol’s eyes? There are certainly Warhol artworks considered legitimate Warhol artworks that were not painted or printed by Warhol – he worked with crews of printers and painters that often did the entirety of the work at Warhol’s direction.

Further, a whole bunch of Warhol’s most famous works are based on other works – they’re images of designs of products he did not design, like the Campbell’s Soup can, or photographs of famous people.

WAIT A MINUTE: What is an NFT in the first place?

Do these pieces of work count as original Warhol works if the original files – and the original display on which they were created – are no longer available for displaying the work? Are these works so far away from the original that they’d be best dedicated to the public domain instead of owned by any one person or organization?

Or does the NTF set up this situation so that the only part that matters is the transaction between the people who “own” the artworks now and whoever will own them before, via Christies? Is the only issue the idea that there is an actual “original” file out there to be had in the first place?

Care to take a guess at what Andy Warhol would say about this situation?

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Tech News

This Android TV box streams movies and shows to your TV in up to 6K glory

TLDR: The Q Plu Android TV Box can turn any TV into a streaming TV, capable of playing back all your favorite streaming media or video files right out of the box.

While it probably feels like every TV today is now a smart TV, that’s not actually the case. In fact, there are plenty of TVs who need some real help if you want them to stream anything from popular streaming services to movies to games to even pictures.

Thankfully, with the help of an Android box, it’s become incredibly easy to stream your favorite media right to the biggest screen in your home and really enjoy TV or a movie the way it was intended.

With the Q Plus Android TV Box from Mesay, users get a surprisingly powerful, surprisingly swift little media box that can centralize your entire home viewing experience, including a host of versatility that should have your TV playing virtually any media file option you can throw at it.

Equipped with the latest Android 9.0 OS, this slim tabletop box has a real beast under the hood in the form of a formidable H6 quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor, the most professional quad-core CPU performance available in a networking Android box. 

In addition to that processor, the Q Plus is also packing a specialized Mali-T720MP2 GPU for improved processing speed and better video playback experience. Coupled up with the 4GB RAM and 64GB ROM, the application runs smoother, accelerates HD faster, plays graphic-heavy games faster, and makes sure users don’t get stuck in one of those endless buffering cycles that absolutely takes you right out of your film or TV show.

With specs like that, it’s no wonder the Q Plus can handle it all, supporting up to 6K resolution and even 3D functions for an ultra-clear, ultra-crisp video display that up to four times better than other streamers.

The unit also comes with both WiFi and Ethernet LAN support, you can connect easily via cable at home or wirelessly anywhere. It even includes a whole mess of other connection ports, including USB 2.0 and 3.0, HDMI, and even an SD card slot to playback virtually everything.

The Q Plus Android TV Box usually retails for $99, but with the current deal, you can save 15 percent off your purchase and get the Q Plus for only $84.95.

Prices are subject to change.

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Tech News

Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition puts amp and streaming apps in one lavish box

If the idea of your own little bubble of perfect audio sounds appealing, Naim Audio’s new Uniti Atom Headphone Edition may be the trick to bringing out your inner-audiophile. A headphone-optimized version of the British music equipment specialist’s Unity Atom system, it combines a streaming box for platforms like TIDAL and Spotify with a high-quality headphone amp and more.

Rather than playing music back through a set of speakers, then, Naim’s newest box is focused on a single listener. It comes equipped with a new transformer design which, Naim says, has been reworked to deliver the best power for a headphone amp. There’s a choice of both balanced 4-pin XLR and Pentaconn outputs, plus a standard 6.3mm output.

The amp itself is a class-A that can switch into class-AB. Normally, at regular volumes, it sticks with class-A, but as you crank the power up – and the impedance of your headphones drops – then it can add in class-AB power for the top dB. There’s 1.5W per channel into 16 Ω, regardless of which output you’re using, and the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition connects to all outputs simultaneously.

There’s also support for using the box with a pre-amp, for those times you do want full speaker support. However, you can choose which to use depending on which headphones you feel like listening to. If you’re using the front 6.3mm and Pentaconn outputs, for example, the pre-amp outputs automatically mute and a headphone button illuminates. Or, you can press it manually if you want to use the XLR connection on the back.

On the streaming side, meanwhile, there’s the same tech that Naim already used on its Mu-so 2nd Gen, Uniti, and ND 555 players. There’s native support for TIDAL, Spotify Connect, and Qobuz, along with Chromecast and AirPlay 2 streaming to access other services, and Roon Ready status. TIDAL Connect, meanwhile, will be added in a few months time, Naim says.

There’s support for up to 24-bit/384kHz WAV, FLAC, and AIFF audio, plus ALAC. For MP3 and AAC, there’s up to 48kHz/320kbit (16-bit) support, plus up to 48kHz (16-bit) OGG and WMA. There’s DSD 64 and 128Fs, and finally SBC and AAC support over Bluetooth.

For connectivity, there’s an ethernet port, and WiFi 802.11ac, plus a USB port that can play music from external drives. Up to five Naim Streaming products can be connected and have their playback synchronized, all controlled via the Naim app. If you’re just operating the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition, there’s a front panel with buttons and a traditional rotary volume knob, or you can use the included Zigbee remote.

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is available now, priced at $3,290.

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Tech News

Nokia X20 will also ditch the charger in the box

Apple definitely set a trend when it decided to ditch the wall charger in the iPhone 12 box. Samsung and Xiaomi have already followed in their footsteps and Huawei is expected to do so soon as well. It isn’t just the big companies, though, as HMD Global seems to be following the trend. The Nokia X20, one of its new affordable phones, won’t be coming with one and it could affect how consumers will see the overall cost of the phone.

HMD Global definitely didn’t mention that detail when it announced the six new phones in its X, G, C series earlier this month. The Nokia X20 was presented as the higher-end model of the bunch, delivering 5G capability via a Snapdragon 480 5G chipset while carrying a roughly $420 price tag. For a 5G phone, that sounds like a bargain but there was a fine print that wasn’t noticed until now.

TechDroider on Twitter called attention to the Nokia X20 product page‘s boast about the phone’s sustainability. The three-year warranty means you won’t feel compelled to switch to a better-supported phone in less than two years but new to our ears is that there is no plastic wall charger in the box. That, in addition to the box being 100% compostable, is HMD’s way of reducing the company’s ecological impact.

That echoes Apple’s own reasons for ditching the iPhone 12 charger, a justification that some have actually called into question. Apple and Samsung both argue that many people already have compatible chargers lying around so they don’t need to pay for one more. It might not be the same story for HMD Global’s customers who might be in the market for their first smartphone.

In other words, that $420 price tag for an entry-level 5G phone might end up being a bit higher because of the need for a charger. Then again, the latter are a dime a dozen, especially in markets that these Nokia phones cater to.

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When AI flags the ruler, not the tumor — and other arguments for abolishing the black box (VB Live)

AI helps health care experts do their jobs efficiently and effectively, but it needs to be used responsibly, ethically, and equitably. In this VB Live event, get an in-depth perspective on the strengths and limitations of data, AI methodology and more.

Hear more from Brian Christian during our VB Live event on March 31.

Register here for free.

One of the big issues that exists within AI generally, but is particularly acute in health care settings, is the issue of transparency. AI models — for example, deep neural networks — have a reputation for being black boxes. That’s particularly concerning in a medical setting, where caregivers and patients alike need to understand why recommendations are being made.

“That’s both because it’s integral to the trust in the doctor-patient relationship, but also as a sanity check, to make sure these models are, in fact, learning things they’re supposed to be learning and functioning the way we would expect,” says Brian Christian, author of The Alignment Problem, Algorithms to Live By and The Most Human Human.

He points to the example of the neural network that famously had reached a level of accuracy comparable to human dermatologists at diagnosing malignant skin lesions. However, a closer examination of the model’s saliency methods revealed that the single most influential thing this model was looking for in a picture of someone’s skin was the presence of a ruler. Because medical images of cancerous lesions include a ruler for scale, the model learned to identify the presence of a ruler as a marker of malignancy, because that’s much easier than telling the difference between different kinds of lesions.

“It’s precisely this kind of thing which explains remarkable accuracy in a test setting, but is completely useless in the real world, because patients don’t come with rulers helpfully pre-attached when [a tumor] is malignant,” Christian says. “That’s a perfect example, and it’s one of many for why transparency is essential in this setting in particular.”

At a conceptual level, one of the biggest issues in all machine learning is that there’s almost always a gap between the thing that you can readily measure and the thing you actually care about.

He points to the model developed in the 1990s by a group of researchers in Pittsburgh to estimate the severity of patients with pneumonia to triage inpatient vs outpatient treatment. One thing this model learned was that, on average, people with asthma who come in with pneumonia have better health outcomes as a group than non-asthmatics. However, this wasn’t because having asthma is the great health bonus it was flagged as, but because patients with asthma get higher priority care, and also asthma patients are on high alert to go to their doctor as soon as they start to have pulmonary symptoms.

“If all you measure is patient mortality, the asthmatics look like they come out ahead,” he says. “But if you measure things like cost, or days in hospital, or comorbidities, you would notice that maybe they have better mortality, but there’s a lot more going on. They’re survivors, but they’re high-risk survivors, and that becomes clear when you start expanding the scope of what your model is predicting.”

The Pittsburgh team was using a rule-based model, which enabled them to see this asthma connection and immediately flag it. They were able to share that the model had learned a possibly bogus correlation with the doctors participating in the project. But if it had simply been a giant neural network, they might not have known that this problematic association had been learned.

One of the researchers on that project in the 1990s, Rich Caruana from Microsoft, went back 20 years later with a modern set of tools and examined the neural network he helped developed and found a number of equally terrifying associations, such as thinking that being over 100 was good for you, or having high blood pressure was a benefit. All for the same reason — that those people were given higher-priority care.

“Looking back, Caruana says thank God we didn’t use this neural net on patients,” Christian says. “That was the fear he had at the time, and it turns out, 20 years later, to have been fully justified. That all speaks to the importance of having transparent models.”

Algorithms that aren’t transparent, or that are biased, have resulted in a variety of horror stories, which have led to some saying these systems have no place in health care, but that’s a bridge too far, Christian says. There’s an enormous body of evidence that shows that when done properly, these models are an enormous asset, and often better than individual expert judgments, as well as providing a host of other advantages.

“On the other hand,” explains Christian, “some are overly enthusiastic about the embrace of technology, who say, let’s take our hands off the wheel, let the algorithms do it, let our computer overlords tell us what to do and let the system run on autopilot. And I think that is also going too far, because of the many examples we’ve discussed. As I say, we want to thread that needle.”

In other words, AI can’t be used blindly. It requires a data-driven process of building provably optimal, transparent models, from data, in an iterative process that pulls together an interdisciplinary team of computer scientists, clinicians, patient advocates, as well as social scientists that are committed to an iterative and inclusive process.

That also includes audits once these systems go into production, since certain correlations may break over time, certain assumptions may no longer hold, and we may learn more — the last thing you want to do is just flip the switch and come back 10 years later.

“For me, a diverse group of stakeholders with different expertise, representing different interests, coming together at the table to do this in a thoughtful, careful way, is the way forward,” he says. “That’s what I feel the most optimistic about in health care.”

Hear more from Brian Christian during our VB Live event, “In Pursuit of Parity: A guide to the responsible use of AI in health care” on March 31.

Register here for free.

Presented by Optum

 You’ll learn:

  • What it means to use advanced analytics “responsibly”
  • Why responsible use is so important in health care as compared to other fields
  • The steps that researchers and organizations are taking today to ensure AI is used responsibly
  • What the AI-enabled health system of the future looks like and its advantages for consumers, organizations, and clinicians


  • Brian Christian, Author, The Alignment Problem, Algorithms to Live By and The Most Human Human
  • Sanji Fernando, SVP of Artificial Intelligence & Analytics Platforms, Optum
  • Kyle Wiggers, AI Staff Writer, VentureBeat (moderator)

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Gatik raises $9 million to winterize self-driving box trucks

Join Transform 2021 for the most important themes in enterprise AI & Data. Learn more.

Gatik, a startup developing an autonomous vehicle stack for B2B short-haul logistics, today announced it has raised $9 million, with $1 million coming from a partnership with Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN). Gatik says the AVIN collaboration — part of an Ontario government program providing R&D, business, technical, and talent support, as well as vehicle test tracks — will help it understand how inclement weather affects its vehicles’ movements

Some experts predict the pandemic will hasten adoption of autonomous vehicles for delivery. Self-driving cars, vans, and trucks promise to minimize the risk of spreading disease by limiting driver contact. This is particularly true with regard to short-haul freight, an estimated 30% of which takes place in snowy and icy conditions. The producer price index for local truckload carriage jumped 20.4% from July to August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most likely propelled by demand for short-haul distribution from warehouses and distribution centers to ecommerce fulfillment centers and stores.

Palo Alto, California-based Gatik, which has offices in Toronto, is the brainchild of Carnegie Mellon graduate and CEO Gautam Narang. He cofounded the company in 2017 with CTO Arjun Narang and chief engineer and former Ford computer vision lead Apeksha Kumavat.

Gatik’s platform taps level 4 autonomous vehicles (capable of operating with limited human input and oversight in specific conditions and locations, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers) to fulfill on-demand and scheduled deliveries up to a distance of 200 miles. Its retrofitted trucks and Ford Transit 350 vans and orchestration software, which the company has been testing on public roads in California since Q1 2018, promise to transport goods around cities more affordably.


In November, Gatik announced a deal with Loblaw, Canada’s largest retailer with over 200,000 employees. For Loblaw, Gatik has been transporting “multi-temperature” goods and products from the retailer’s microfulfillment centers for inventory pooling across multiple locations, multiple times a day, to retail outposts across the Greater Toronto Area since January 2021. The program covers five routes operating 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

In July, Walmart revealed it had launched a pilot with Gatik to ferry customer orders between select store locations in Bentonville, Arkansas. Gatik’s vans transport items from a warehouse to neighborhood market stores along a two-mile route (or five-mile one-way route) in Bentonville. Each van makes up to 10 runs a day during daylight, with human backup operators behind the wheel.

More recently, Gatik received a $100,000 grant from PlanetM, a Michigan Economic Development Corporation program that seeks to fund solutions to pandemic-driven challenges in the state. In collaboration with an unnamed partner, referred to as “one of the state’s largest retailers,” Gatik says its autonomous trucks will operate on predetermined, fixed routes throughout Grand Rapids and Rochester.

Gatik says it will continue to target customers, such as third-party logistics providers (like FedEx, UPS, and USPS), consumer goods distributors, food and beverage distributors, medical and pharmaceutical distributors, and auto parts distributors, for the foreseeable future. The company has raised a total of over $38 million in venture capital.


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Tech News

They’re not in the box but Samsung is still offering free earbuds with the Galaxy Note 20

If you’re planning to buy a Galaxy Note 20 when it ships next week, you might be in for a surprise when you unbox it. Samsung has opted to ditch the wired AKG earbuds from the box, but there’s some good news: It isn’t leaving customers high and dry. If you prefer to get a pair of wired USB-C earbuds, Samsung will send you a pair free of charge.

According to Samsung, “consumers that prefer the USB-C wired headphones, our customer care team can offer them on request” and will receive a pair free of charge. It’s not clear how long it will take, but likely several weeks. The offer is only for Notes that don’t include the USB-C buds in the box, which applies to all North America phones.

You can contact Samsung customer care online or by calling 1-800-SAMSUNG. You’ll need proof of purchase, of course, but otherwise, Samsung will ship out the earbuds straight to your home. Presumably, they will be the same AKG-tuned earbuds that are included with the Galaxy S20 phones, which are quite good and retail for $30.

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