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Qualcom makes visual leap

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Qualcomm Technologies has introduced two new mobile platforms it says are designed to support a leap in performance to enable advanced photography and enhanced gaming, in addition to long battery life and fast LTE speeds. 

The Snapdragon 660 and 630 Mobile Platforms include the Snapdragon 660 and 630 SoCs (systems on chip), which encompass the baseband functionalities, as well as software and hardware components, including RF front end, integrated Wi-Fi, power management, audio codec and speaker amplifier, all to support a comprehensive mobile solution.

“With the introduction of the Snapdragon 660 and 630 Mobile Platforms, we are thrilled that features such as improved image quality and fast LTE speeds will now be available in a wide array of devices without sacrificing performance or quality,” said Kedar Kondap, vice president, product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “This ensures that a greater number of consumers will be able to take advantage of higher quality user experiences in camera, audio and visual processing, connectivity, improved CPU and GPU performance, fast charging, security and machine learning.”

The Snapdragon 660 and 630 Mobile Platforms focus on seven categories of features:

  • Camera: The Qualcomm Spectra 160 premium camera ISP supports improved photographic image quality for more natural skin tones, superior low light photography, as well as better power efficiency and higher throughput for dual camera smartphones.  Also supported are features like smooth optical zoom, bokeh effects, dual pixel autofocus, and improved camcorder video stabilization;
  • Audio/Visual Processing: The Qualcomm Hexagon 680 DSP featuring vector extensions (HVX) on the Snapdragon 660 Mobile Platform enables high performance, power efficient processing of imaging, computer vision, and machine intelligence workloads, another first in the 600 tier. Optimized software libraries include support for TensorFlow and Halide. Both platforms also support Qualcomm All-Ways Aware technology with support for the Google Awareness API. This technology provides Qualcomm Technologies’ next generation of always-on contextual experiences and uses very low power running on the Hexagon DSP;
  • Connectivity: The Snapdragon 660 and 630 both feature a Snapdragon X12 LTE Modem, paired with the new SDR660 RF transceiver, which support peak downlink data rates of 600Mbps to the 600-tier lineup of SOCs for the first time. The Snapdragon 660 supports 2×2 MU-MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi for twice as much data throughput and 60 percent lower download power consumption as the Snapdragon 652. It also offers improved coverage, especially in homes, and offices with hard to penetrate brick and concrete walls as well as advanced features such as LTE/Wi-Fi antenna sharing, and Dual Band Simultaneous (DBS) operation. Both platforms also come with advanced RF front-end support including Qualcomm TruSignal adaptive antenna tuning with carrier aggregation, designed to dynamically optimize signal quality in varying user conditions for wide network coverage and more consistent data and voice experience. The Snapdragon 660 and 630 are the first 600-tier chipsets with envelope tracking technology, including high-power user equipment (HPUE) support, for superior power efficiency and thermal performance. Both platforms also integrate powerful location engines with better sensitivity and support for new constellations (Galileo and QZSS) for faster location fix, enhancements to support mandatory emergency service requirements, as well as smoother pedestrian navigation with up to 50 – 75 percent lower power consumption (compared to previous generation). Both platforms also feature Bluetooth 5 support, which doubles the amount of data that devices can transfer compared to the previous iteration;
  • Improved CPU and GPU: The Snapdragon 660 Mobile Platform is the successor to the Snapdragon 653 and features a 20 percent improvement in the Qualcomm Kryo 260 CPU and 30 percent improvement in the Qualcomm Adreno 512 GPU performance, ensuring a better gaming and multimedia experience for end users. The Snapdragon 630, which succeeds the Snapdragon 625, offers a 30 percent increase in the Adreno 508 GPU performance over its predecessor, as well as a 10 percent increase in CPU performance over its predecessor. Both platforms are designed to offer excellent battery life;
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge 4: The Snapdragon 660 and 630 Mobile Platforms feature the latest innovations in Quick Charge technology, which supports up to 5 hours of talk time in just 5 minutes of charging and up to 50 percent battery life in just 15 minutes of charging;
  • Security: Both platforms support Qualcomm Mobile Security, which provides security focused hardware-based protection, user authentication and device attestation on the mobile device;
  • Machine Learning: OEMs and developers can also power immersive and engaging user experiences with machine learning on the Snapdragon 660 and 630 Mobile Platforms using the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine SDK. This heterogeneous software framework offers support for Caffe/Caffe2 and TensorFlow, making it easy to target and run neural networks on the Snapdragon core that matches the power and performance profile of the desired feature – CPU, GPU or DSP/HVX.

The Snapdragon 660 and 630 Mobile Platforms share the same modem and camera architecture, and are pin and software compatible, making it simpler and easier for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to build, test and calibrate their devices. Both platforms use a 14nm FinFET process and provide 4K video capture and playback capabilities, along with 8GB maximum memory and Vulkan API support. Additionally, the Snapdragon 660 Mobile Platform supports displays up to QHD (2K) resolution, whereas the 630 supports FHD/QXGA (1080p).

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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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