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AI takes smartphone pics to new pro levels

AI has been making its presence felt in almost every area of our lives and is now also taking the lead role in our smartphone cameras, writes AKHRAM MOHAMED, Marketing Director of Huawei in South Africa.

While our previous demands of our mobile cameras focused mainly on the number of megapixels and variety of filters, AI is now starting a true revolution in smartphone camera technology.

Thanks to AI, it is no longer necessary to have to enhance our photos after the fact. AI is now taking the role of photographer, making adjustments and predictions as the photos are taken in real time. This means that anyone with an advanced AI smartphone camera can become a pro photographer – no training, skills, or expensive equipment required.

The intuition of AI

AI-powered cameras like the Huawei P20 series intelligently assist users to take great photos by automatically optimising the camera settings on the backend. By learning about users’ behaviours and giving them what they want before they ask for it, the AI powering the devices is becoming increasingly sophisticated. With its enhanced object recognition capabilities, the AI smartphone can automatically determine the shooting modes and parameter settings for different scenes, and learn users’ photo-taking habits in order to deliver a more professional imaging effect. The more photos that are taken, the better the camera can interpret complicated environments.

The Huawei P20 and Huawei P20 Pro’s AI-powered real-time scene and object recognition technology can recognise more than 500 scenarios in 19 18 categories for users to choose the right skills at the right moment, such as the beach, food, or people. Once an object or a scene is identified, the smartphone automatically makes adjustments – from focus to contrast, to brightness, to colour – to produce the best possible results, regardless of the actual conditions you are presented with. The camera changes settings as it takes photos based on the information it is given; you do not have to browse through menus and select the settings you want.

For example, if a user is shooting at the beach, the AI-powered camera can identify objects and intelligently adjust for the best lighting, so the output looks good regardless of lighting conditions. Also, when the AI camera registers an attempt to take a group photo or a picture of the skyline, the AI Assisted Composition feature automatically draws a grid for the convenience of the user.

This AI-powered camera is capable of suggesting optimal parameters based on data gathered in the scene. Using machine learning, the devices also understand the photography habits of users over time, making suggestions based on various actions. AI also brings intelligent behaviour prediction, including intelligent context awareness and intelligent resource allocation.

4D Predictive Focus, breathtaking night shots and selfie evolution

One of the situations that has been the bane of photographers’ careers for decades now is night shots or low-light conditions. Because these scenarios usually require long exposure, these photos often come our out blurry, especially if they are taken with cellphones. AI image stabilisation technology, which is featured in the P20 devices, can eliminate these shaky shots and enable steady handheld night shots for incredible long exposure images. No tripod required!

4D predictive focus is another useful AI smartphone feature. In this mode, the camera predicts moving objects and focuses on them with extreme efficiency in order to capture minute details of objects in motion and eliminate blurred action shots. For the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro, the laser sensor provides instant focus with an effective range of three meters.

AI can also take the good old selfie to a whole new level with AI beautification. AI beautification provides 3D portrait lighting, making adjustments to better match the users’ facial features, resulting in luminous skin-tone enhancements and radiant selfies, even when backlit. These features are enhanced by the Huawei P20’s 24MP front camera,  which captures the smallest details, even in low-light settings, bringing to life selfies with natural skin tone enhancements, delicately outlined face shapes, and 3D facial feature adjustments.

Other notable features of the Huawei P20 Pro include:

·         The world’s first Leica triple camera, comprised of a 40MP RGB sensor, a 20MP monochrome sensor, and an 8MP sensor with telephoto lens. This results in images with more light, intricate detail, and greater zoom

·         f/1.8, f/1.6 and f/2.4 wide aperture Leica lenses. The size of the aperture regulates how much light goes into the image sensor. The wider the aperture, the more light strikes the sensor, and therefore, the brighter and clearer the image – even in low-light environments.

·         A brand new Leica 3x telephoto (VARIO-SUMMILUX-H 1:1.6-2.4/27-80ASPH) lens for long-range photography of up to 5x Hybrid Zoom.

·         A revolutionary and highly-sensitive image sensor of 1/1.7 inches, 170 percent larger than the iPhone X, with a pixel size of 2 μm micrometers – 2.68 times higher than the iPhone X’s 1.22 μm

·         Ultra Snapshot – devices can capture an image in as little as 0.3 seconds, even from a locked screen.

·         Six-axis stabilisation and 960fps super slow motion, which is 4x higher than the standard 240fps and captures details that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

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Veeam passes $1bn, prepares for cloud’s ‘Act II’

Leader in cloud-data management reveals how it will harness the next growth phase of the data revolution, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Veeam Software, the quiet leader in backup solutions for cloud data management,has announced that it has passed $1-billion in revenues, and is preparing for the next phase of sustained growth in the sector.

Now, it is unveiling what it calls Act II, following five years of rapid growth through modernisation of the data centre. At the VeeamON 2019conferencein Miami this week, company co-founder Ratmir Timashev declared that the opportunities in this new era, focused on managing data for the hybrid cloud, would drive the next phase of growth.

“Veeam created the VMware backup market and has dominated it as the leader for the last decade,” said Timashev, who is also executive vice president for sales and marketing at the organisation. “This was Veeam’s Act I and I am delighted that we have surpassed the $1 billion mark; in 2013 I predicted we’d achieve this in less than six years. 

“However, the market is now changing. Backup is still critical, but customers are now building hybrid clouds with AWS, Azure, IBM and Google, and they need more than just backup. To succeed in this changing environment, Veeam has had to adapt. Veeam, with its 60,000-plus channel and service provider partners and the broadest ecosystem of technology partners, including Cisco, HPE, NetApp, Nutanix and Pure Storage, is best positioned to dominate the new cloud data management in our Act II.”

In South Africa, Veeam expects similar growth. Speaking at the Cisco Connect conference in Sun City this week, country manager Kate Mollett told Gadget’s BRYAN TURNER that the company was doing exceptionally well in this market.

“In financial year 2018, we saw double-digit growth, which was really very encouraging if you consider the state of the economy, and not so much customer sentiment, but customers have been more cautious with how they spend their money. We’ve seen a fluctuation in the currency, so we see customers pausing with big decisions and hoping for a recovery in the Rand-Dollar. But despite all of the negatives, we have double digit growth which is really good. We continue to grow our team and hire.

“From a Veeam perspective, last year we were responsible for Veeam Africa South, which consisted of South Africa, SADC countries, and the Indian Ocean Islands. We’ve now been given the responsibility for the whole of Africa. This is really fantastic because we are now able to drive a single strategy for Africa from South Africa.”

Veeam has been the leading provider of backup, recovery and replication solutions for more than a decade, and is growing rapidly at a time when other players in the backup market are struggling to innovate on demand.

“Backup is not sexy and they made a pretty successful company out of something that others seem to be screwing up,” said Roy Illsley, Distinguished Analyst at Ovum, speaking in Miami after the VeeamOn conference. “Others have not invested much in new products and they don’t solve key challenges that most organisations want solved. Theyre resting on their laurels and are stuck in the physical world of backup instead of embracing the cloud.”

Illsley readily buys into the Veeam tagline. “It just works”. 

“They are very good at marketing but are also a good engineering comany that does produce the goods. Their big strength, that it just works, is a reliable feature they have built into their product portfolio.”

Veeam said in statement from the event that, while it had initially focused on server virtualisation for VMware environments, in recent years it had expanded this core offering. It was now delivering integration with multiple hypervisors, physical servers and endpoints, along with public and software-as-a-service workloads, while partnering with leading cloud, storage, server, hyperconverged (HCI) and application vendors.

This week, it  announced a new “with Veeam”program, which brings in enterprise storage and hyperconverged (HCI) vendors to provide customers with comprehensive secondary storage solutions that combine Veeam software with industry-leading infrastructure systems. Companies like ExaGrid and Nutanix have already announced partnerships.

Timashev said: “From day one, we have focused on partnerships to deliver customer value. Working with our storage and cloud partners, we are delivering choice, flexibility and value to customers of all sizes.”

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‘Energy scavenging’ funded

As the drive towards a 5G future gathers momentum, the University of Surrey’s research into technology that could power countless internet enabled devices – including those needed for autonomous cars – has won over £1M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry partners.

Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) has been working on triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG), an energy harvesting technology capable of ‘scavenging’ energy from movements such as human motion, machine vibration, wind and vehicle movements to power small electronic components. 

TENG energy harvesting is based on a combination of electrostatic charging and electrostatic induction, providing high output, peak efficiency and low-cost solutions for small scale electronic devices. It’s thought such devices will be vital for the smart sensors needed to enable driverless cars to work safely, wearable electronics, health sensors in ‘smart hospitals’ and robotics in ‘smart factories.’ 

The ATI will be partnered on this development project with the Georgia Institute of Technology, QinetiQ, MAS Holdings, National Physical Laboratory, Soochow University and Jaguar Land Rover. 

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and the principal investigator of the TENG project, said: “TENG technology is ideal to power the next generation of electronic devices due to its small footprint and capacity to integrate into systems we use every day. Here at the ATI, we are constantly looking to develop such advanced technologies leading towards our quest to realise worldwide “free energy”.

“TENGs are an ideal candidate to power the autonomous electronic systems for Internet of Things applications and wearable electronic devices. We believe this research grant will allow us to further the design of optimized energy harvesters.”

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