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Sony announces Xperia XZ1

Sony Mobile Communications has announced that the Xperia XZ1 and the Xperia XA1 are set to enter South Africa in October.

The product unveiling follows Sony Mobile’s recent Q1 2017 financial results, which saw operating income reach 3.6 Billion Yen (US$ 32.9 Million) for the first quarter of this year.

Sony provided the following information:

Harnessing the latest Sony innovation and audio technologies to offer immersive entertainment all wrapped up in a timeless premium design, Xperia XZ1 incorporates the latest Motion Eye camera for capturing detail beyond human eye capability, new ground-breaking technology for mobile with 3D scanning, class-leading display technologies for beautiful on-screen images including HDR display, and a premium listening experience with Hi-Res Audio.

Combining advanced processing power with super-fast download speeds, Xperia XZ1’s memory-stacked Exmor RS image sensor pushes motion capture to the next level and produces exceptional image quality. You can create sensational videos from your everyday moments by recording in 960 frames per second, providing stunning Super slow motion video playback. Plus, the 19 MP rear camera new Predictive Capture stays one step ahead and automatically starts buffering images when it detects action or even a smile, before you press the shutter button. So you can find a moment you have missed from a selection of up to four shots. Its new Autofocus burst intelligently follows your subject, adjusting the focus to make sure your action shots stay sharp. Rounding off the premium camera experience is the first-class 13-megapixel front camera with a 1/3” sensor and a display flash so you’ll get outstanding selfies in any light.

Showing a breakthrough in mobile creativity, 3D Creator is Sony’s unique, innovative in-house algorithm for fast and easy scanning of 3D objects, offering a new world of creative possibilities. For the first time ever in a smartphone, you can capture high quality 3D scans of objects in just one minute using the four scan modes; head scan, face scan, food scan and freeform scan. Each mode has its own custom guides for ease of use and after finishing your object scan there are various playful options.

Either share with your friends on messenger apps using 3D stickers or upload to the 3D community such as Sketchfab, make the scan come alive by using it to create an avatar for use in the camera AR effects options, third party apps or as a live wallpaper, or even send your scan to a 3D printer to make it into a memorable keepsake. Within the 3D Creator app you can also choose the ‘Find More’ button which takes you to even more possibilities available through Google Play, to explore a wider and ever growing 3D ecosystem.

Xperia XZ1 takes full advantage of Sony’s BRAVIA TV technology and it brings more colour and contrast to immerse yourself in your favourite shows and movies in stunning realism, by incorporating HDR (High Dynamic Range) in its 5.2” Full HD display. Further technologies, including TRILUMINOS Display for mobile, X-Reality for mobile and Dynamic Contrast Enhancer work together to give razor-sharp, detailed and brighter images on screen.

Sony audio expertise also lets you immerse yourself in the truly authentic sound of Hi-Resolution Audio with Xperia XZ1, enabling you to enjoy every nuance and detail in a track as if you’re right there with the artist. Thanks to Sony’s DSEE HX you can also enjoy more of your music in near Hi-Resolution with its upscaling capability. Enjoy your music and movies with or without headphones using the evolved stereo speakers with S-Force Front Surround, bringing you 50% more sound pressure than previous Xperia models. Plus the built in Digital Noise Cancelling (DNC) technology reduces exterior noise by up to 98% when paired with DNC headphones for undisturbed listening.

Xperia XZ1 is water resistant, dust-proof and reinforced with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on the display so it’s tough enough to take on your day. For a personalised touch, the integrated fingerprint sensor recognises you intuitively, giving it that unique and secure assurance.  Wrapping up the premium design, each inspired by natural light and the beautiful arrival of the changing tones as morning arrives; Midnight Blue and Deep Sea Black. To enhance your lifestyle choice, Sony’s new h.ear (pronounced ‘hear’) headphones (h.ear on 2 Mini Wireless, h.ear on 2 Wireless NC and h.ear in 2 Wireless) will also be available in harmonised colours to complement your Xperia, which will be available in South Africa in 2018.

Xperia XZ1 is powered by the cutting-edge Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform with X16 LTE, designed to provide blazing fast Gigabit LTE downloads speeds (up to 1Gbps) and performance to enjoy a modern lifestyle whilst working or having fun. The Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform is engineered to support stunning graphics, smooth performance and enhanced battery efficiency. Perfect for smooth, responsive gameplay of your favourite PlayStation 4 games using PS4 Remote Play. File transfers are also super-charged thanks to the USB 3.1 connection which is 10 times quicker than USB 2.0 with a transfer speed of up to 5Gbps.

Moving onto the battery life and its charging technologies, Battery Care and Qnovo Adaptive Charging, help the battery stay healthy to give you a longer battery lifespan. On days when you’re using extra energy, Smart Stamina works ahead of time to keep you powered up by estimating how long your current battery will last based on how you normally use your phone. And if it thinks you’re going to run out, it will prompt you to activate Stamina mode which cuts energy consumption so your battery lasts longer.

Xperia XA1 ‘Perfect Pictures with 23MP’

Offering best in class entertainment in the palm of your hand, it features a 23MP camera, 5” Full HD display. Bringing a vibrant choice of two colours to express your individual style – Black Single Sim and Gold Dual Sim – Xperia XA1 features a beautiful borderless design to create the illusion of a seamlessly never-ending surface whose curvature aids the perfect fit for your hand. The edge-to-edge HD (720p) 5” screen on the XA1 is supported by display technologies to deliver a crisp, sharp viewing experience.

Camera expertise are taken from Sony’s digital camera division to deliver a leading rear camera that offers 23MP high resolution with a large 1/2.3” Exmoor RS for mobile sensor.  It features a bright F2.0 lens to offer stunning high resolution images even in low-light, accurate Hybrid Autofocus so even the most spontaneous moments are always in focus, and you’re guaranteed a superfast journey from launch to capture in 0.6s. Xperia XA1 also features a 8MP, 23mm front camera wide-angle lens that will let you capture all the action even in a group selfie without missing anyone out.

With their power-efficient Mediatek octa-core processors you get a quick and smooth experience, whether you browse the web, watch a video or play your favourite game.

The Xperia XA1 is designed to ensure a longer lasting performance over the smartphone’s lifetime. Qnovo Adpative Charging monitors the battery’s health and adjusts charging current accordingly to avoid damage and maximise lifespan whilst Stamina Mode keeps your battery going for longer when you really need it the most by disabling some of the functions and extending the lifetime. Sony’s Smart Cleaner cleverly manages the performance and memory of your device by clearing the cache and unused apps automatically in order to attain the best speed and performance without degradation over time. Additionally, both models support quick charging to give you hours of power in just a few minutes charging.

Availability

Xperia XZ1 will be available locally from October 1st 2017 at a recommended retail price of R10,999 at selected operators nationwide, with complimentary Made for Xperia cover. It will ship with Android 8.0, Oreo.

Xperia XA1 will be available locally from October 1st 2017 at a recommended retail price of R3,999.00.

The Xperia XZ1 will come in Midnight Blue and Deep Sea Black. The Xperia XA1 comes in Black Single Sim and Gold Dual Sim.

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What’s left after the machines take over?

KIERAN FROST, research manager for software in sub-Saharan Africa for International Data Corporation, discusses the AI’s impact on the workforce.

One of the questions that we at the International Data Corporation are asked is what impact technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) will have on jobs. Where are there likely to be job opportunities in the future? Which jobs (or job functions) are most ripe for automation? What sectors are likely to be impacted first? The problem with these questions is that they misunderstand the size of the barriers in the way of system-wide automation: the question isn’t only about what’s technically feasible. It’s just as much a question of what’s legally, ethically, financially and politically possible.

That said, there are some guidelines that can be put in place. An obvious career path exists in being on the ‘other side of the code’, as it were – being the one who writes the code, who trains the machine, who cleans the data. But no serious commentator can leave the discussion there – too many people are simply not able to or have the desire to code. Put another way: where do the legal, financial, ethical, political and technical constraints on AI leave the most opportunity?

Firstly, AI (driven by machine learning techniques) is getting better at accomplishing a whole range of things – from recognising (and even creating) images, to processing and communicating natural language, completing forms and automating processes, fighting parking tickets, being better than the best Dota 2 players in the world and aiding in diagnosing diseases. Machines are exceptionally good at completing tasks in a repeatable manner, given enough data and/or enough training. Adding more tasks to the process, or attempting system-wide automation, requires more data and more training. This creates two constraints on the ability of machines to perform work:

  1. machine learning requires large amounts of (quality) data and;
  2. training machines requires a lot of time and effort (and therefore cost).

Let’s look at each of these in turn – and we’ll discuss how other considerations come into play along the way.

Speaking in the broadest possible terms, machines require large amounts of data to be trained to a level to meet or exceed human performance in a given task. This data enables the bot to learn how best to perform that task. Essentially, the data pool determines the output.

However, there are certain job categories which require knowledge of, and then subversion of, the data set – jobs where producing the same ‘best’ outcome would not be optimal. Particularly, these are jobs that are typically referred to as creative pursuits – design, brand, look and feel. To use a simple example: if pre-Apple, we trained a machine to design a computer, we would not have arrived at the iMac, and the look and feel of iOS would not become the predominant mobile interface. 

This is not to say that machines cannot create things. We’ve recently seen several ML-trained machines on the internet that produce pictures of people (that don’t exist) – that is undoubtedly creation (of a particularly unnerving variety). The same is true of the AI that can produce music. But those models are trained to produce more of what we recognise as good. Because art is no science, a machine would likely have no better chance of producing a masterpiece than a human. And true innovation, in many instances, requires subverting the data set, not conforming to it.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, training AI requires time and money. Some actions are simply too expensive to automate. These tasks are either incredibly specialised, and therefore do not have enough data to support the development of a model, or very broad, which would require so much data that it will render the training of the machine economically unviable. There are also other challenges which may arise. At the IDC, we refer to the Scope of AI-Based Automation. In this scope:

  • A task is the smallest possible unit of work performed on behalf of an activity.
  • An activity is a collection of related tasks to be completed to achieve the objective.
  • A process is a series of related activities that produce a specific output.
  • A system (or an ecosystem) is a set of connected processes.

As we move up the stack from task to system, we find different obstacles. Let’s use the medical industry as an example to show how these constraints interact. Medical image interpretation bots, powered by neural networks, exhibit exceptionally high levels of accuracy in interpreting medical images. This is used to inform decisions which are ultimately made by a human – an outcome that is dictated by regulation. Here, even if we removed the regulation, those machines cannot automate the entire process of treating the patient. Activity reminders (such as when a patient should return for a check-up, or reminders to follow a drug schedule) can in part be automated, with ML applications checking patient past adherence patterns, but with ultimate decision-making by a doctor. Diagnosis and treatment are a process that is ultimately still the purview of humans. Doctors are expected to synthesize information from a variety of sources – from image interpretation machines to the patient’s adherence to the drug schedule – in order to deliver a diagnosis. This relationship is not only a result of a technicality – there are ethical, legal and trust reasons that dictate this outcome.

There is also an economic reason that dictates this outcome. The investment required to train a bot to synthesize all the required data for proper diagnosis and treatment is considerable. On the other end of the spectrum, when a patient’s circumstance requires a largely new, highly specialised or experimental surgery, a bot will unlikely have the data required to be sufficiently trained to perform the operation and even then, it would certainly require human oversight.

The economic point is a particularly important one. To automate the activity in a mine, for example, would require massive investment into what would conceivably be an army of robots. While this may be technically feasible, the costs of such automation likely outweigh the benefits, with replacement costs of robots running into the billions. As such, these jobs are unlikely to disappear in the medium term. 
Thus, based on technical feasibility alone our medium-term jobs market seems to hold opportunity in the following areas: the hyper-specialised (for whom not enough data exists to automate), the jack-of-all-trades (for whom the data set is too large to economically automate), the true creative (who exists to subvert the data set) and finally, those whose job it is to use the data. However, it is not only technical feasibility that we should consider. Too often, the rhetoric would have you believe that the only thing stopping large scale automation is the sophistication of the models we have at our disposal, when in fact financial, regulatory, ethical, legal and political barriers are of equal if not greater importance. Understanding the interplay of each of these for a role in a company is the only way to divine the future of that role.

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LG unveils NanoCell TV range

At the recent LG Electronics annual Innofest innovation celebration in Seoul, Korea, the company unveiled its new NanoCell range: 14 TVs featuring ThinQ AI technology. It also showcased a new range of OLED units.

The new TV models deliver upgraded AI picture and sound quality, underpinned by the company’s second-generation α (Alpha) 9 Gen 2 intelligent processor and deep learning algorithm. As a result, the TVs promise optimised picture and sound by analysing source content and recognising ambient conditions.

LG’s premium range for the MEA market is headlined by the flagship OLED TV line-up, which offers a variety of screen sizes: W9 (model 77/65W9), E9 (model 65E9), C9 (model 77/65/55C9) and B9 (model 65/55B9).

NanoCell is LG’s new premier LED brand, the name intended to highlight outstanding picture quality enabled by NanoCell technology. Ensuring a wider colour gamut and enhanced contrast, says LG, “NanoColor employs a Full Array Local Dimming (FALD) backlight unit. NanoAccuracy guarantees precise colours and contrast over a wide viewing angle while NanoBezel helps to create the ultimate immersive experiences via ultra-thin bezels and the sleek, minimalist design of the TV.”

The NanoCell series comprises fourteen AI-enabled models, available in sizes varying from 49 to 77 inches (model 65SM95, 7565/55SM90, 65/55/49SM86 and 65/55/49SM81).

The LG C9 OLED TV and the company’s 86-inch 4K NanoCell TV model (model 86SM90) were recently honoured with CES 2019 Innovation Awards. The 65-inch E9 and C9 OLED TVs also picked up accolades from Dealerscope, Reviewed.com, and Engadget.

The α9 Gen 2 intelligent processor used in LG’s W9, E9 and C9 series OLED TVs elevates picture and sound quality via a deep learning algorithm (which leverages an extensive database of visual information), recognising content source quality and optimising visual output.

The α9 Gen 2 intelligent processor is able to understand how the human eye perceives images in different lighting and finely adjusts the tone mapping curve in accordance with ambient conditions to achieve the optimal level of screen brightness. The processor uses the TV’s ambient light sensor to measure external light, automatically changing brightness to compensate as required. With its advanced AI, the α9 Gen 2 intelligent processor can refine High Dynamic Range (HDR) content through altering brightness levels. In brightly lit settings, it can transform dark, shadow-filled scenes into easily discernible images, without sacrificing depth or making colours seem unnatural or oversaturated. LG’s 2019 TVs also leverage Dolby’s latest innovation, which intelligently adjusts Dolby Vision content to ensure an outstanding HDR experience, even in brightly lit conditions.

LG’s audio algorithm can up-mix two-channel stereo to replicate 5.1 surround sound. The α9 Gen 2 intelligent processor fine-tunes output according to content type, making voices easier to hear in movies and TV shows, and delivering crisp, clear vocals in songs. LG TVs intelligently set levels based on their positioning within a room, while users can also adjust sound settings manually if they choose. LG’s flagship TVs offer the realistic sound of Dolby Atmos for an immersive entertainment experience.

LG’s 2019 premium TV range comes with a new conversational voice recognition feature that makes it easier to take control and ask a range of questions. The TVs can understand context, which allows for more complex requests, meaning users won’t have to make a series of repetitive commands to get the desired results. Conversational voice recognition will be available on LG TVs with ThinQ AI in over a hundred countries.

LG’s 2019 AI TVs support HDMI 2.1 specifications, allowing the new 4K OLED and NanoCell TV models to display 4K content at a remarkable 120 frames per second. Select 2019 models offer 4K high frame rate (4K HFR), automatic low latency mode (ALLM), variable refresh rate (VRR) and enhanced audio return channel (eARC).

To find out more about LG’s latest TVs and home entertainment systems, visit https://www.lg.com/ae.

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