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MWC: Seat Minimó – AI meets urban mobility

Picture: Arthur Goldstuck

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, Seat unveiled the Minimó – a concept car that it says will transform urban mobility. With this concept, the company confirms it is going to spearhead the Volkswagen Group’s micromobility strategy by coming up with ideas and creating products specifically designed for short trips within cities.

Click through to read about Seat’s latest concept car and how it implements AI.

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Seat claims its latest concept car combines the safety and comfort of a car with the agility and parking ease of a motorcycle. It has been especially developed for shared use, is 100% electric and thanks to an innovative battery swap system, it enables carsharing providers to reduce their operating costs by up to 50%.

Over the course of the congress, Seat had the chance to meet with and listen to representatives of several public institutions to learn about their views and specific needs regarding urban mobility. As a result of these joint efforts, SEAT will analyse the possibilities of integrating the proposals made by authorities and the public in the development of the SEAT Minimó concept car to find solutions with a common goal – enhance urban mobility.

Seat and IBM also reported the development of a new solution designed to transform driving in cities. Mobility Advisor uses IBM Watson AI to help urban citizens make informed decisions about their daily transportation options: from cars to scooters, bikes and public transport.

Currently under development and designed to run as a mobile app on 4G/5G networks, Mobility Advisor uses IBM Watson Assistant to provide users with a conversational interface to plan and optimise routes and suggest the most suitable transportation options.

“Traffic congestion and environmental challenges are putting huge pressure on cities to transform,” said Jordi Caus, head of new urban mobility concepts at Seat. “At Seat, we are leading the way by working with innovative cities and technology companies to come up with solutions to make mobility easier and more efficient. With its advanced cloud and AI technologies, IBM is helping us to innovate new approaches to mobility that will transform our business strategy while improving the lives of people living in urban areas.”

With IBM Watson Machine Learning, Mobility Advisor can learn a user’s preferences and make personalised recommendations for how best to complete a journey. Connected to the IBM Cloud, it dynamically adapts to changing conditions by taking into account weather forecasts, traffic reports and things happening in the city that day. It incorporates the user’s appointments and historical data about previous choices in order to suggest the best modes of transportation each time – even if that means leaving the car behind, walking, or using one of Seat’s e-KickScooters for the part of the journey.

“With the roll-out of 5G networks in cities in the coming years, the possibilities for transforming the driver experience are limitless,” said Juan Ramon Gutierrez Villar, industry solutions leader at IBM Global Markets. “At IBM, we are working with telecommunications companies and innovative manufacturers like Seat to provide the open technologies which they need to deliver on this vision and create highly contextualized and personalized user experiences that work at lightning speed across multiple clouds and IT platforms.”

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Acer’s Nitro 5 – The best bang for a gamer’s buck

Acer’s latest Nitro 5 surprised us: a sub-R20k laptop with insane graphics and processing abilities. BRYAN TURNER reviewed it.

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Nitro, otherwise known as the “budget” gaming range from Acer, has added another strong contender to its line-up: the Nitro 5. We put budget in quotation marks because, while it is less expensive than other gaming laptops, it feels and acts like the opposite of budget – the build is sturdy and premium, while the internals are really decently spec’d for gaming.

The Nitro 5 is an all-polycarbonate plastic laptop with sharp edges, making it sturdy enough for taking around. While we didn’t drop it, it looks like it could take a few knocks and still be fine. It comes in at 25mm thick and weighing 2.3kg, so pretty thick at first glance. It features a red grill on the back that’s reminiscent of the Predator series, but remains distinctly its own brand. The red theme follows on to the rest of the laptop, and it features a red-backlit keyboard. While many would scoff at an all-plastic design, it does help in taking the laptop apart for future upgrades, something to consider in an ever-improving gaming market.

The thickness is to account for all the cooling goodness within the laptop. Gaming, video editing and other process-intensive work require a whole lot of cooling, and the Nitro 5 can comfortably sit on one’s lap at max capacity and not overheat.

It houses a dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 that can be spec’d with up to 4GB of graphics memory. When I discovered this, I started to ask myself: “Wait, the cooling system plus a GTX 1650? How is it so thin?” On top of this, Acer didn’t cut corners with the built-in display, which is a full HD IPS LED panel. It reads well from many different angles, which was perfect for showing a group of people some content.

We tested Rise of the Tomb Raider at 1080p, with the GTX 1650, and set the game to its “very high” preset graphics settings. The game’s frame counter was used. It hovered between 65 and 70 frames per second (fps) with 10 minutes of gameplay, which is really good compared to other laptops that are a few thousand Rand more expensive and perform the same.

The processor is a 6-Core 9th Generation Intel Core i7 CPU (i7-9750H), which provides snappy performance. We noted a start-up time from shutdown to desktop of 10 seconds. This was made possible by a combination of the fast processor and solid-state drive in the computer. It also makes opening programmes lightning fast.

The keyboard is one of my favourite aspects of this computer. Acer is known for a deep key travel that feels stable, which is ultimately what every gamer wants from their machine, short of the keyboard being mechanical. The WASD arrow keys have been done proper justice – they are big and let out a bit more backlight than the others. This is a huge ergonomic win for gamers.

Now for the trackpad. The off-centre trackpad placement feels a bit weird, even though it’s in line with the space bar. It lends itself to having one’s left palm lean on it, which makes it feel like it’s in the way. That said, the trackpad’s quality is fine but, obviously, not for gaming.

The laptop’s battery is 58.75 Wh, which may seem like it’s on the low side, but it powered through an 8 hour workday on a single charge. If the brightness is turned all the way up, that changes it to more of a 5 hour workday. We played Doom Eternal for about 2 and a half hours before we needed to charge it.

The computer’s sound was pretty good across various scenarios.

It will be available from under R20 000 in its 512GB SSD + 8GB RAM configuration, putting it way below other gaming brands with similar specs.

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Motorola unveils foldable Razr

Motorola has relaunched a new Razr flip phone, dubbed the Moto Razr 2019, that flips out into a full 6.2 inch smartphone – without a display crease on its fold.

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The iconic Moto Razr flip phone has returned, but instead of a tiny LCD with a T9 keyboard, users get a 6.2 inch OLED foldable Android phone. Having a foldable OLED display puts the new Moto Razr in the same league as the Huawei Mate X and Samsung Galaxy Fold. This also, naturally, means it’s extremely expensive, starting at $1500 in the US, and is locked to Verizon for now.

Two major aspects make this device stand out: the hinge design, and the unfolding design. The new hinge uses an interesting unfolding technique, that features a large air gap to allow the hinge to move out the way of the display. This is vital for reducing the crease to the point where it’s no longer noticeable.

Credit: Yanko Design

The way it unfolds seems a bit more practical than the other phone-to-tablet designs we’ve seen so far. Instead, we now see a smartphone-in-hand, which means when closed, the device is really small, but normal-sized (by 2019 standards) when unfolded. It also allows the Razr to dethone the Galaxy Note 10+ for the crown of the tallest phone on the market. It’s great to see a different kind of foldable.

The design remains strikingly similar to its older sibling, with some improvements like a fingerprint sensor on the chin, and a much larger camera lens.

The biggest drawback is the spec-to-price ratio, for a Snapdragon 710, which is not a flagship processor. At half the price, one could get a Snapdragon flagship or another equivalent flagship processor device from Samsung, Huawei, LG, or even an iPhone 11. 

Fortunately, it comes packed with 6GB of RAM, so performance will likely be smooth for those who aren’t playing graphics-intensive games. Another huge plus for nostalgic users is retro mode, which skins the phone with a small screen and T9 keyboard, like its 2004 sibling.

Motorola says the device will be available in Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Australia. The new Razr will launch in the US first, and only on Verizon, on 9 January 2020, with preorders starting 26 December.

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