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AppDate: 20 of the greatest Google Easter Eggs

In his latest AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights 20 of the greatest Easter Eggs hidden in Google, Facebook Watch, BBM Scratch2Win, the camera update to the latest Nokia phones, and Opera News for Africa.

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20 of the best Easter Eggs hidden in Google

Bored at work? Or looking for something fun  to take you mind off the mundane? The programmers over at Google have built a range of Easter Eggs or hidden programs into their search engine, accessible through the Google home page.

Here are the top 20:

– Typing “Google in 1998” into the search bar will take you on a trip down memory lane — the results page is formatted exactly the way Google appeared in 1998.  

 – Search “Build with chrome” and click “I’m feeling luckily” for a game of LEGO.

 – Type “play snake” into your search bar to play a round of your favourite Nokia 5110 game, albeit with sleeker interface and sound-effects.

 – Type “pacman” into your search bar to fire up a round of catch with your favourite gameboy critters.

 – Heads or Tails – making tough decisions remains just as easy as it was back in the day: Type “flip a coin” into your search bar and Google will do just that – flip a coin!

 – If the decision you need to make is a little bit more complicated you can always search “roll a die.”

 – Naughts & Crosses – search for “tic-tac-toe” to challenge your computer to a game.

 – Searching for “sonic the hedgehog” will call up an interactive Sonic logo complete with sound effect and iconic spin.

 – Search for “solitaire” to play a round against the computer.

 – Launch an image search of “Atari breakout” to play the game. 

 – Search for “zerg rush” to play a game and improve your mouse-eye coordination while you’re at it.

 – Search “I’m feeling curious” for a Chappies-esque fun fact.

 – Disable your internet connection, then go to your Chrome browser and hit the spacebar to call up a game of T-Rex Runner where you help the pixelated dinosaur navigate a cactus obstacle course.

 – Search “spinner” and you can toggle between a number spinning wheel and a fidget spinner.

 – Search “internet speed test” to check how fast your connection is running.

 – Search “breathing exercise” if you are feeling a bit stressed and just follow the instructions to calm yourself down.

 – Type “Google gravity” into search bar and click “I’m feeling lucky” and watch your browser succumb to the force.

 – Type “epic google” into the search bar and click “I’m feeling lucky” to see just how big Google can get.

 – Search “blink html” to see a canny demonstration of basic coding. 

 – Type “Google sphere” into the search bar and click “I’m feeling lucky” to orbital results.

 

Facebook Watch

A while ago Facebook unveiled its Watch application, and has recently made it available to users world-wide. And no, it’s not a wristwatch.

Facebook Watch allows users to find shows and video creators they like and start conversations with friends, other fans, and even the creators themselves. Since its launch Facebook has made the experience more social — such as making it easier to see which videos friends have liked or shared, creating shows that have audience participation at their core, and the ability to open Watch videos from Facebook pages.

Facebook Watch offers the following features:

 – A place to discover new videos: Find the latest videos spanning entertainment, sports, news, in a personalised Watch feed.

 – A way to catch up with creators and publishers: At the top of the Watch, a Watchlist shows a collection of recent videos from Pages being followed. Users can customise this section by following more Pages or removing Pages from their list.

 – An option to save for later viewing.

Platform: Any smartphone with or desktop with the latest version of Facebook.

Stockists: Visit www.facebook.com

Cost: Free to use.

 

BBM Scratch2Win

Available in the BBM Discover menu via the Scratch2Win icon, Scratch2Win requires users to register their profile the first time they access the service. They are then presented with a list of active mobile scratch card campaigns. Each campaign requires the user to answer a short survey or poll, which then generates a unique mobile scratch card, revealing instant rewards and prizes. Airtime and data prizes are topped up instantly to users’ mobile accounts, while digital coupons and vouchers are stored in prize wallets for redemption at participating brands and retailers. In addition to instant prizes, users can also win entries into grand prize draws.

Platform: A BlackBerry smartphone running the latest version of BBM.

Stockists: Visit the Scratch2Win option via BBM.

Cost: Free to use.

 

Camera update for the lates Nokia smartphones

HMD Global has added an update for Nokia 8 Sirocco, Nokia 7 Plus and Nokia 6.1 devices, focused on the imaging offering of the phones. It is now easier to switch between aspect ratios and shooting functions, as well as adjusting parameters within different camera modes, such as the intensity of effects like Bokeh and Beautify.

Google Lens has also been integrated directly into the viewfinder, using augmented reality to add additional information to each image as it is taken.

The update supports Google Motion, enabling short videos to be shared directly to messaging services and social media as GIFs. 

Platform: The Nokia 8 Sirocco, Nokia 7 Plus and Nokia 6.1 range of smartphones.

Stockists: Check for the updates under the setting menu of the phone.

Cost: A free download.

 

Opera News for Africa

Opera News for Africa is an  AI-powered app which allows people to access news articles and trending videos without high data use. It follows Opera’s recent announcement that its AI-powered news service inside Opera Mini grew to more than 100 million active users in less than a year.

The app runs off a “recommendation engine” designed to keep readers on top of their selected news, entertainment and video categories. The engine gets smarter the more it is used, as it is able to drill down and deliver even more personalised content based on a user’s likes and dislikes. Opera News is able to save up to 80% of mobile data use, thanks to its data-saving capabilities. 

Platform: Android and iOS

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

Cost: A free service.

Cars

Motor Racing meets Machine Learning

The futuristic car technology of tomorrow is being built today in both racing cars and
toys, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The car of tomorrow, most of us imagine, is being built by the great automobile manufacturers of the world. More and more, however, we are seeing information technology companies joining the race to power the autonomous vehicle future.

Last year, chip-maker Intel paid $15.3-billion to acquire Israeli company Mobileye, a leader in computer vision for autonomous driving technology. Google’s autonomous taxi division, Waymo, has been valued at $45-billion.

Now there’s a new name to add to the roster of technology giants driving the future.

DeepRacer on the inside

Amazon Web Services, the world’s biggest cloud computing service and a subsidiary of Amazon.com,  last month unveiled a scale model autonomous racing car for developers to build new artificial intelligence applications. Almost in the same breath, at its annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, it showcased the work being done with machine learning in Formula 1 racing.

AWS DeepRacer is a 1/18th scale fully autonomous race car, designed to incorporate the features and behaviour of a full-sized vehicle. It boasts all-wheel drive, monster truck tires, an HD video camera, and on-board computing power. In short, everything a kid would want of a self-driving toy car.

But then, it also adds everything a developer would need to make the car autonomous in ways that, for now, can only be imagined. It uses a new form of machine learning (ML), the technology that allows computer systems to improve their functions progressively as they receive feedback from their activities. ML is at the heart of artificial intelligence (AI), and will be core to autonomous, self-driving vehicles.

AWS has taken ML a step further, with an approach called reinforcement learning. This allows for quicker development of ML models and applications, and DeepRacer is designed to allow developers to experiment with and hone their skill in this area. It is built on top of another AWS platform, called Amazon SageMaker, which enables developers and data scientists to build, train, and deploy machine learning quickly and easily.

Along with DeepRacer, AWS also announced the DeepRacer League, the world’s first global autonomous racing league, open to anyone who orders the scale model from AWS.

DeepRacer on the outside

As if to prove that DeepRacer is not just a quirky entry into the world of motor racing, AWS also showcased the work it is doing with the Formula One Group. Ross Brawn, Formula 1’s managing director of Motor Sports, joined AWS CEO Andy Jassy during the keynote address at the re:Invent conference, to demonstrate how motor racing meets machine learning.

“More than a million data points a second are transmitted between car and team during a Formula 1 race,” he said. “From this data, we can make predictions about what we expect to happen in a wheel-to-wheel situation, overtaking advantage, and pit stop advantage. ML can help us apply a proper analysis of a situation, and also bring it to fans.

“Formula 1 is a complete team contest. If you look at a video of tyre-changing in a pit stop – it takes 1.6 seconds to change four wheels and tyres – blink and you will miss it. Imagine the training that goes into it? It’s also a contest of innovative minds.”

AWS CEO Andy Jassy unveils DeepRacer

Formula 1 racing has more than 500 million global fans and generated $1.8 billion in revenue in 2017. As a result, there are massive demands on performance, analysis and information. 

During a race, up to 120 sensors on each car generate up to 3GB of data and 1 500 data points – every second. It is impossible to analyse this data on the fly without an ML platform like Amazon SageMaker. It has a further advantage: the data scientists are able to incorporate 65 years of historical race data to compare performance, make predictions, and provide insights into the teams’ and drivers’ split-second decisions and strategies.

This means Formula 1 can pinpoint how a driver is performing and whether or not drivers have pushed themselves over the limit.

“By leveraging Amazon SageMaker and AWS’s machine-learning services, we are able to deliver these powerful insights and predictions to fans in real time,” said Pete Samara, director of innovation and digital technology at Formula 1.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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LG rethinks portable speakers

LG adds three sizes to its XBoom Go portable speaker line in a portable revision, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Portable Bluetooth speakers are fairly commonplace at a pool party because they’re battery-powered. The only issue is that louder speakers usually distort the music or break the bank. The LG XBoom aims to change this.

LG has partnered with Meridian Audio to produce great sounding speakers that can go loud without distorting the audio. Meridian Audio is an expert in high-performance, high-fidelity audio experiences. The company is best known for producing the industry’s first audiophile-quality compact disc player and provide audio equipment to McLaren and Jaguar Land Rover.

The Bluetooth software in the XBoom Go is Qualcomm aptX HD compatible, meaning that 24bit vinyl-quality audio can be played through this speaker over Bluetooth instead of standard-fidelity audio.

The major phone assistants feature on these speakers, with tethered Google Assistant or Apple Siri functionality from one’s smartphone. This makes it very convenient to use the voice assistant button to skip tracks and change music when one’s hands are wet.

Three models of the XBoom Go series – the PK3, PK5 and PK7 – offer different audio functions depending on the audio needs of the user. Best fits for these speakers are:

  • PK3 – The Pool Friendly Speaker: The PK3 is IPX7 water resistant, up to 1 metre for 30 minutes, making this speaker accident proof at pool parties. Boasting up to 12 hours of playback from its built-in battery, this speaker will last as long as the party.

  • PK5 – The Party Friendly Speaker: Even if the lunch braai turns into a midnight feast, this speaker will play throughout as its battery lasts up to 18 hours. Clear Vocal technology is added to the PK5, which reduces audio imperfections from the music for a sharper sound. It is also water and splash resistant and has a handle, allowing for it to be easily carried. Built-in LED lights which pulse with the beat of the music on this speaker provide a light show for any song.

  • PK7 –  The Audiophile’s Speaker: With a battery life that lasts for up to 22 hours, the PK7 also contains an LED light to the rhythm of the sound. The speaker integrates a convenient handle grip that allows for it to be transported securely. The powerful PK7 Bluetooth speaker also distributes its high frequencies across two separate tweeters for more precise sonic detail.

Overall, LG’s XBoom PK portable speakers are a phenomenal set of high-quality wireless speakers.

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