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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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ConceptD: Creatives get a tech brand of their own

The unveiling of a new brand by Acer recognises the massive computing power needed in creative professions, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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It’s a crisp Spring morning in Brooklyn. The regular water taxi from Manhattan pulls up at Duggal Greenhouse on the edge of the East River. It’s a building that symbolises the rejuvenation of Brooklyn as a hub of artistic and creative expression.

Inside the vast structure, global computer brand Acer is about to unveil its own tribute to creativity. Company CEO Jason Chen takes to the stage in faded blue jeans and brown t-shirt, underlining the connection of the event to the informality of the area.

“Brooklyn is become more and more diverse,” he tells a gathering of press from around the world, attending the Next@Acer media event. “It’s an area that is up and coming. It represents new lifestyles. And our theme today is turning a new chapter for creativity.”

Every year, Next@Acer is a parade of the cutting edge in gaming and educational laptops and computers. New devices from sub-brands like Predator, Helios and Nitro have gamers salivating. This year is no different, but there is a surprise in store, hinted in Chen’s introduction.

As a grand finale, he calls on stage Angelica Davila, whose day job is senior marketing manager for Acer Latin America. But she also happens to have a Masters degree in computer and electric engineering. A stint at Intel, where she joined a sales and marketing programme for engineers, set her on a new path.

Angelica Davila, marketing manager for Acer Latin America

For the last few months, she has been helping write Acer’s next chapter. She has shepherded into being nothing less than a new brand: ConceptD.

Click here to read more about ConceptD.

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Which voice assistant wins battle of translators?

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Take the most famous phrase from the Godfather – “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse” – or “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” from the inaugural address of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and see just how the virtual assistants do in translating them using their newly introduced Neural Machine Translation (NMT) capabilities. One Hour Translation (OHT), the world’s largest online translation service, conducted a study to find out just how accurate these new services are.

OHT used 60 sentences from movies and famous people ranging from the Godfather and Wizard of Oz to Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, US presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Fitzgerald Kennedy and historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci and Aesop. The sentences were translated by Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri from English to French, Spanish, Chinese and German and then given to five professional translators for their assessment on a scale of 1-6. 

Google Assistant scored highest in three of the four languages surveyed – English to French, English to German and English to Spanish and second in English to Chinese.  Amazon’s Alexa, whose translation engine is powered by Microsoft Translator, was tops in the English to Chinese category. Apple’s Siri was second place in English to French and English to Spanish and third place in English to German and English to Chinese.  (See chart). All three virtual assistants are compatible with mobile phones.

“The automated assistants’ translation quality was relatively high, which means that assistants are useful for handling simple translations automatically,” says Yaron Kaufman, chief marketing officer and co-founder of OHT. He predicts that “there is no doubt that the use of assistants is growing rapidly, is becoming a part of our lives and will make a huge contribution to the business world.” 

A lot will depend on further improvements in NMT technology, which has revolutionized the field of translation over the past two years.  All the companies active in the field are investing large sums as part of this effort. “OHT is working with several of the leading NMT providers to improve their engines through the use of its hybrid online translation service that combines NMT and human post-editing,” notes Kaufman. He adds that this will no doubt have a huge impact on the use of assistants for translation purposes.

OHT has made a name for itself in assessing the level of translations by NMT engines.  Its ONEs Evaluation Score is a unique human-based assessment of the leading NMT engines conducted on a quarterly basis and used as an industry standard. 

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