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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.

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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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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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