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IFA 2016: Sony unveils ‘utimate’ Xperia X, VR

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At the IFA 2016 expo in Berlin this week, Sony Mobile announced a new flagship smartphone that it described as the “ultimate” X series phone, namely the 5.2″ XZ. It was unveiled along with the 4.6″ X Compact. 

Sony said the phones were a continuation the vision set out at Mobile World Congress in February, and that the flagship Xperia XZ and premium Xperia X Compact offer an even more intelligent, personalised experience.

“With Xperia we want to assist you when and where it matters most, making your everyday lives more convenient, more effortless, more spontaneous,” said Hideyuki Furumi, Executive Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing, Sony Mobile Communications, “With Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact you can capture every moment as you see it, with blur-free images day or night, and with true to life colours thanks to our new triple image sensing technology.”

Sony’s new flagship smartphone, Xperia XZ, and premium Xperia X Compact bring new and improved camera technology to offer the best pictures from Xperia yet. Using Sony’s heritage in camera technology and in collaboration with its digital imaging engineers, the new models feature one of the most advanced cameras in a smartphone.

Sony provided the following information:

Maximising Sony’s acclaimed image sensor, two additional assisting sensors have been added to become Sony’s triple image sensing technology. This allows you to capture beautiful images in motion with true to life colours in virtually any conditions.  The technology is comprised of Sony’s original Exmor RS for mobile image sensor which provides a powerful blend of high quality image and autofocus (AF) speed combined with Predictive Hybrid AF to intelligently predict and track subjects in motion for blur-free results.

Added to this is the Laser AF sensor with distance sensing technology, which captures beautiful blur-free photos in challenging low light conditions. And what’s more, you will enjoy superb true to life colours thanks to the RGBC-IR sensor with colour sensing technology which accurately adjusts the white balance based on the light source in the environment.

The 23MP main camera not only gives you clear shots, but also super-fast start-up going from standby to capture in 0.6seconds at the touch of a dedicated shutter release button, ensuring you are ready to take the perfect shot whenever it might strike.

Advanced features have been added for those who want more flexibility with manual settings to further enhance the shooting experience and creative possibilities, such as shutter speed and focus controls.

Videos are ever more popular for capturing and sharing unique moments on social media, both models bring significant advancements in the evolution of image stabilization, cultivated in Sony’s Handycam® camcorders, with Sony’s SteadyShot™ with Intelligent Active Mode to enable superb video. Now with 5-axis stabilization you can shoot smoother videos even when walking or capturing extreme close-ups. Xperia XZ also offers the highest quality recording in 4k so you get sharp, crisp footage that is full of detail.

Xperia XZ provides a 13MP front camera for the selfie perfectionist, with its super high sensitivity as high as ISO6400 and 22mm/90-degree wide angle lens it will make the best of your pose even in low-light and group selfies.

With its stunning loop surface design, the 5.2” glass display and metal back of the Xperia XZ become one, to provide a perfect fit and beautiful feel in the hand. The loop surface is inspired by a monolithic form, whilst ALKALEIDO metal with high brightness and high purity provides shine and a feeling of depth which both enhance its premium design.  Xperia XZ is available in a brand new blue colour inspired by the beauty of nature – Forest Blue – along with stylish classics Mineral Black and Platinum.

Adding a popular Sony form factor to the X series, the Xperia X Compact packs mighty technology into its small frame. Its 4.6” screen and loop surface design make it extra comfortable to hold and is ideal for an operation with just one hand.  Xperia X Compact’s premium design can be clearly seen via its high-gloss finish and solid feel. It also follows our new signature blue colour expression with a Mist Blue colour hue together with timeless Universe Black and stylish White.

Sony’s expertise in functional design is carried through to the Xperia XZ with a water resistant[v] design to take the worry out of a little splash of water, so you can relax about sudden spills or unexpected showers. Knowing who you are by just holding the phone, the fingerprint sensor power button[vi] on Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact is intuitively placed on the side of the phone, so you’re able to pick up and securely unlock in a single movement and adds to the comfortable fit in the hand.

We’ve incorporated intelligent features into our smartphones so that they can assist you to make your daily life more convenient, more efficient, and more enjoyable. Both models feature new Battery Care[vii] complemented by Qnovo adaptive charging which work in harmony to keep your battery healthy and make the lifespan last up to twice as long.

Qnovo adaptive charging monitors and adjusts the charging current to avoid damage for battery longevity whilst Battery Care controls the charging based on learned habits and avoids excess charging by pausing charge at 90% and only completes the charging just before it’s needed. Xperia Tips also recognises user habits to provide personalised tips and recommendations, helping you optimise your own personal user experience while Smart Cleaner automatically maximises performance by cleaning the cache from certain apps based on learning their usage so optimal performance is achieved at all times.

Xperia XZ is driven by its Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor to provide a seamless experience on your phone. As one of the most cutting-edge mobile processors ever created, the Snapdragon 820 processor with LTE supports the ultimate in connectivity, graphics, photography, power and battery efficiency.

Accessories

Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact each have a range of matching optional Style Covers in corresponding colours including Style Cover Touch (SCTF10/20) which lets you access your favourite smartphone widgets through a smart window without needing to open the case. For easy video viewing, Style Cover Stand (SCSF10/20) has an auto on/off function with adjustable viewing angle. Each model will be supplied with the new USB Type-C™ charger for easy charging.

Xperia Smart Products

Sony continues to explore the unlimited possibilities for product innovation in the area of communications and we are advancing Smart Products to enable you to interact and connect in closer, more human ways.  Xperia Ear, Sony’s in-ear and hands-free Smart Product that brings a new way of communicating, will be available to buy from November starting in select markets.

Xperia Ear responds to verbal commands with intuitive operations, and through a wireless connection to your smartphone, it gives you information and assistance in a natural, authentic voice interaction. Equipped with Sony Agent Technology and a proximity sensor, it provides you with useful information such as your schedule and other personalized updates when you just place it in your ear, enabling you to face forward and get things done. Sony will also display Xperia Projector and Xperia Agent as concepts at IFA, combined with services from Yahoo Japan and Nestlé Japan, to give a glimpse of the user experiences offered by Smart Products.

Availability and specifications

Xperia XZ will be available locally from October 2016 at a recommended retail price of R12, 999 at select operators nationwide. The Xperia X compact will be available locally from October 2016 at a recommended retail price of R10, 999 at select operators nationwide. The Xperia XZ will come in Forest Blue as well Mineral Black, and Platinum. The Xperia X compact comes in Mist Blue, Universe Black and White.

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Prepare your cam to capture the Blood Moon

On 27 July 2018, South Africans can witness a total lunar eclipse, as the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon.

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Also known as a blood or red moon, a total lunar eclipse is the most dramatic of all lunar eclipses and presents an exciting photographic opportunity for any aspiring photographer or would-be astronomers.

“A lunar eclipse is a rare cosmic sight. For centuries these events have inspired wonder, interest and sometimes fear amongst observers. Of course, if you are lucky to be around when one occurs, you would want to capture it all on camera,” says Dana Eitzen, Corporate and Marketing Communications Executive at Canon South Africa.

Canon ambassador and acclaimed landscape photographer David Noton has provided his top tips to keep in mind when photographing this occasion.   In South Africa, the eclipse will be visible from about 19h14 on Friday, 27 July until 01h28 on the Saturday morning. The lunar eclipse will see the light from the sun blocked by the earth as it passes in front of the moon. The moon will turn red because of an effect known as Rayleigh Scattering, where bands of green and violet light become filtered through the atmosphere.

A partial eclipse will begin at 20h24 when the moon will start to turn red. The total eclipse begins at about 21h30 when the moon is completely red. The eclipse reaches its maximum at 22h21 when the moon is closest to the centre of the shadow.

David Noton advises:

  1. Download the right apps to be in-the-know

The sun’s position in the sky at any given time of day varies massively with latitude and season. That is not the case with the moon as its passage through the heavens is governed by its complex elliptical orbit of the earth. That orbit results in monthly, rather than seasonal variations, as the moon moves through its lunar cycle. The result is big differences in the timing of its appearance and its trajectory through the sky. Luckily, we no longer need to rely on weight tables to consult the behaviour of the moon, we can simply download an app on to our phone. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is useful for giving moonrise and moonset times, bearings and phases; while the Photopills app gives comprehensive information on the position of the moon in our sky.  Armed with these two apps, I’m planning to shoot the Blood Moon rising in Dorset, England. I’m aiming to capture the moon within the first fifteen minutes of moonrise so I can catch it low in the sky and juxtapose it against an object on the horizon line for scale – this could be as simple as a tree on a hill.

 

  1. Invest in a lens with optimal zoom  

On the 27th July, one of the key challenges we’ll face is shooting the moon large in the frame so we can see every crater on the asteroid pockmarked surface. It’s a task normally reserved for astronomers with super powerful telescopes, but if you’ve got a long telephoto lens on a full frame DSLR with around 600 mm of focal length, it can be done, depending on the composition. I will be using the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Ext. 1.4 x lens.

  1. Use a tripod to capture the intimate details

As you frame up your shot, one thing will become immediately apparent; lunar tracking is incredibly challenging as the moon moves through the sky surprisingly quickly. As you’ll be using a long lens for this shoot, it’s important to invest in a sturdy tripod to help capture the best possible image. Although it will be tempting to take the shot by hand, it’s important to remember that your subject is over 384,000km away from you and even with a high shutter speed, the slightest of movements will become exaggerated.

  1. Integrate the moon into your landscape

Whilst images of the moon large in the frame can be beautifully detailed, they are essentially astronomical in their appeal. Personally, I’m far more drawn to using the lunar allure as an element in my landscapes, or using the moonlight as a light source. The latter is difficult, as the amount of light the moon reflects is tiny, whilst the lunar surface is so bright by comparison. Up to now, night photography meant long, long exposures but with cameras such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV now capable of astonishing low light performance, a whole new nocturnal world of opportunities has been opened to photographers.

  1. Master the shutter speed for your subject 

The most evocative and genuine use of the moon in landscape portraits results from situations when the light on the moon balances with the twilight in the surrounding sky. Such images have a subtle appeal, mood and believability.  By definition, any scene incorporating a medium or wide-angle view is going to render the moon as a tiny pin prick of light, but its presence will still be felt. Our eyes naturally gravitate to it, however insignificant it may seem. Of course, the issue of shutter speed is always there; too slow an exposure and all we’ll see is an unsightly lunar streak, even with a wide-angle lens.

 

On a clear night, mastering the shutter speed of your camera is integral to capturing the moon – exposing at 1/250 sec @ f8 ISO 100 (depending on focal length) is what you’ll need to stop the motion from blurring and if you are to get the technique right, with the high quality of cameras such as the Canon EOS 5DS R, you might even be able to see the twelve cameras that were left up there by NASA in the 60’s!

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How Africa can embrace AI

Currently, no African country is among the top 10 countries expected to benefit most from AI and automation. But, the continent has the potential to catch up with the rest of world if we act fast, says ZOAIB HOOSEN, Microsoft Managing Director.

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To play catch up, we must take advantage of our best and most powerful resource – our human capital. According to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 25.

These are the people who are poised to create a future where humans and AI can work together for the good of society. In fact, the most recent WEF Global Shapers survey found that almost 80 percent of youth believe technology like AI is creating jobs rather than destroying them.

Staying ahead of the trends to stay employed

AI developments are expected to impact existing jobs, as AI can replicate certain activities at greater speed and scale. In some areas, AI could learn faster than humans, if not yet as deeply.

According to Gartner, while AI will improve the productivity of many jobs and create millions more new positions, it could impact many others. The simpler and less creative the job, the earlier, a bot for example, could replace it.

It’s important to stay ahead of the trends and find opportunities to expand our knowledge and skills while learning how to work more closely and symbiotically with technology.

Another global study by Accenture, found that the adoption of AI will create several new job categories requiring important and yet surprising skills. These include trainers, who are tasked with teaching AI systems how to perform; explainers, who bridge the gap between technologist and business leader; and sustainers, who ensure that AI systems are operating as designed.

It’s clear that successfully integrating human intelligence with AI, so they co-exist in a two-way learning relationship, will become more critical than ever.

Combining STEM with the arts

Young people have a leg up on those already in the working world because they can easily develop the necessary skills for these new roles. It’s therefore essential that our education system constantly evolves to equip youth with the right skills and way of thinking to be successful in jobs that may not even exist yet.

As the division of tasks between man and machine changes, we must re-evaluate the type of knowledge and skills imparted to future generations.

For example, technical skills will be required to design and implement AI systems, but interpersonal skills, creativity and emotional intelligence will also become crucial in giving humans an advantage over machines.

“At one level, AI will require that even more people specialise in digital skills and data science. But skilling-up for an AI-powered world involves more than science, technology, engineering and math. As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions.” This is according to Microsoft president, Brad Smith, and EVP of AI and research, Harry Shum, who recently authored the book “The Future Computed”, which primarily deals with AI and its role in society.

Interestingly, institutions like Stanford University are already implementing this forward-thinking approach. The university offers a programme called CS+X, which integrates its computer science degree with humanities degrees, resulting in a Bachelor of Arts and Science qualification.

Revisiting laws and regulation

For this type of evolution to happen, the onus is on policy makers to revisit current laws and even bring in new regulations. Policy makers need to identify the groups most at risk of losing their jobs and create strategies to reintegrate them into the economy.

Simultaneously, though AI could be hugely beneficial in areas such as curbing poor access to healthcare and improving diagnoses for example, physicians may avoid using this technology for fear of malpractice. To avoid this, we need regulation that closes the gap between the pace of technological change and that of regulatory response. It will also become essential to develop a code of ethics for this new ecosystem.

Preparing for the future

With the recent convergence of a transformative set of technologies, economies are entering a period in which AI has the potential overcome physical limitations and open up new sources of value and growth.

To avoid missing out on this opportunity, policy makers and business leaders must prepare for, and work toward, a future with AI. We must do so not with the idea that AI is simply another productivity enhancer. Rather, we must see AI as the tool that can transform our thinking about how growth is created.

It comes down to a choice of our people and economies being part of the technological disruption, or being left behind.

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