iPhone 8 might swap Touch ID for 3D facial recognition

Fans of Apple’s Touch ID feature may have to adapt, as the next iPhone could replace the biometric security measure with something a little more in-your-face.

JPMorgan analyst Rod Hall says in a research note that Apple’s iPhone 8 will forgo Touch ID sensors for a 3D laser face scanner, as reported by MacRumors .

While speculative, Hall’s statement matches up previous reports that Apple is considering a new facial recognition feature for its phones that will either replace or work alongside the fingerprint-guided Touch ID.

From a design perspective, a face scanner would potentially fall in line with other rumors that Apple is doing away with the home button (which doubles as the Touch ID sensor on applicable iOS devices) for the upcoming phone, going instead with a screen that could take up the entire front of the handset .

Of course, rumors commenting on rumors (while other rumors run counter to them) are all something to take individually with a grain of salt.

However, as Apple confirms June 5 will be the opening day for this year’s annual WWDC showing , we may just learn for sure what the iPhone maker has in store sooner than later.

Google’s latest project lets you play piano alongside an AI

Whether its testing social scenarios or operating a billionaire’s abode , it seems we’ve only just scratched the surface of what artificial intelligence can do.

With that in mind, Google’s latest trick in machine learning is not quite yet out of a science fiction novel, but certainly something intriguing: an AI that adds accompaniment to your piano playing.

Built on artificial neural networks more than old-fashioned programming, Google coder/musician Yotam Mann unveiled his open-source “AI Duet” late last year, according to VentureBeat .

Now, the piano-inclined bot is playable on both desktop and mobile browsers , allowing just about anyone to try their hand at tickling the digital ivories with AI backup using only a keyboard or touchscreen.

 

Whenever a user plays a little ditty on the AI Duet’s piano, the program plays back a response with its own spin on it.

This ability is bolstered by an open-source library of audio created by Mann andMagenta – a Google-powered machine learning infrastructure designed with art and music in mind.

While interpreting and embellishing musical notes is humanizing to say the least, AI Duet isn’t the only Google-backed neural network project that loves the arts. The Big G has reportedly used romance novels to teach its AI more natural conversation skills.

China plugs its ‘Great Firewall,’ going after unauthorized VPN access from local ISPs

China is going after unauthorized internet connections, including tools known as VPNs (virtual private networks) that can bypass China’s efforts to control the web.Internet Cafe China (4)

The crackdown is part of 14-month campaign from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology that’s meant to clean up the country’s internet service provider market

Unless authorized, internet service providers are forbidden from operating any “cross-border” channel business, including VPNs, the ministry said in a Sunday notice.

The announcement is a bit of rarity. The country has usually withheld from openly campaigning against VPN use, even as government censors have intermittently tried to squelch access to them in the past.

However, China has been steadily tightening control over the internet. Earlier this month, the country essentially extended its reach to local app stores operating in the country by forcing them to register with the government.

The action against VPNs will probably be alarming to businesses and local users in China who rely on them to access the internet unfiltered. Sites popular in the West such as Facebook, Google and Twitter have all been blocked in the country due to China’s strict censorship that targets anti-government views.

Sunday’s notice from China’s IT ministry essentially asks that internet backbone providers and ISPs “self-check” to weed out any unauthorized VPN use. But it’s unclear what affect this will have on third-party VPN providers, many of which operate in foreign countries, but also sell to customers in China.

For instance, sites such as SaferVPN, ExpressVPN and VyprVPN sell subscription-based services for around $10 a month or less. Despite China’s censorship, these businesses are continually coming up with ways so that customers can access the unfiltered internet.

GreatFire.org, an activist group against China’s censorship, said Sunday’s announcement probably has less to do with foreign VPN providers than local ones.

“I think actually that everyone is kind of misreading this info at the moment,” the group said over email. “I do not think that consumers are the ones who will get hit. Businesses who need unfettered access to the internet will suffer if their local provider decides not to provide this.”

Sunday’s notice said that local internet backbone providers in China can still offer private access lines for businesses to link with overseas offices.

However, use of those lines must be restricted for business purposes, and never linked with a data center or used to operate a telecommunication service. The Chinese backbone providers must also collect and establish user profiles for their customers.

In addition to the VPN issue, China’s IT ministry said on Sunday it will be investigating ISPs, internet data centers and content delivery networks for failing to receive the right business permits and operating in areas that exceed the intended scope.

Google wants to bring smart tools to Raspberry Pi-like boards

Google has hinted that it is interested in bringing “smart tools” to users of board computers like Raspberry Pi 3 and Intel’s Edison.Raspberry Pi 3 and Android Things

The company has launched a market research survey of the maker community, and the front page of the site states: “We at Google are interested in creating smart tools for makers, and want to hear from you about what would be most helpful.”

The survey includes queries on preferred maker boards, proficiency in hardware and software, and projects users may want to pursue.

Google did not respond to request for comment.

But in a blog entry, Raspberry Pi noted that the smart tools will be available sometime this year.

Devices strapped together via maker boards will become more capable with Google’s smart tools, Raspberry Pi said.

The smart tools could help Google grow in IoT market, which is expected to touch 30.7 billion by 2020, and 75.4 billion by 2025, according to research released by IHS in March last year.

Google is also trying to get into more smart devices via Android Things, which is the company’s IoT OS. The OS is a lightweight version of Android for use with sensors and cameras.

Only three boards — Raspberry Pi 3, Intel Edison and NXP’s Pico i.MX6UL — support Android Things.

The first Android Things developer preview of the OS was released in December, but many issues have yet to be resolved. The preview doesn’t support hardware-based graphics acceleration on Raspberry Pi, and there are audio issues with the Edison board.

Google has released code to make a doorbell and a weather station with the OS. Only two Android Things projects are listed on Hackster.io, a resource website listing maker projects.

Bringing more tools to smart devices is also one way for Google to combat Amazon, whose Alexa virtual assistant was in cars, home appliances and numerous gizmos at this month’s CES.

Microsoft’s first Creators Update features for Xbox One Insiders focus on Home, Guide, Copilot

It’s official: The first wave of Windows 10 Creators Update features is arriving on Microsoft’s Xbox One via its Xbox Insider program, complete with an updated Home screen, a faster Guide, and a rather awesome little Copilot Mode feature for playing with your kids.Creators Update updated home xbox one

After the PC and the phone, Microsoft’s Xbox One console is probably the most significant consumer platform in the company’s ecosystem. So it stands to reason that, after weeks to months of massive Creators Update changes for Insiders on the PC and the phone, that they would finally arrive on the Xbox One.

Today’s update focuses more on the basic functionality of the Xbox One, with improvements to the interface. But that’s not all! As Microsoft has said before, other feature enhancements including Game Mode, Beam streaming integration, Arena, and more are all on their way. All of this serves to reinforce that the Xbox One is a thriving platform, ahead of the launch of its next-gen Project Scorpio console this holiday season.

Let’s take a look at what the new updates offer:

The Home screen used by the current, stable Xbox One build as well as the new Creators Update UI both highlight the game you last played at the top of your Home screen. The latest update pushes you to explore related content, with more prominent references to the Game Hub, and encouragement to interact with your Club or go Looking for Groups.

Creators Update updated home xbox one

Microsoft

The new Home screen for the Xbox One.

The UI’s speed has improved. Oh, and if you haven’t selected a custom background, the new Home screen will change your background with hero art of the current game.

With one touch of the Xbox button, you’ll bring up the new Guide screen, shown here. The idea, according to Microsoft, is to access your recently played games and pins quickly, as well as the media controls for any music you might be playing.

Creators Update updated guide xbox one

Microsoft

Microsoft promises its new Xbox One Guide will be both faster and more intuitive.

One of the problems that Microsoft has had to wrestle with is allowing users to go as deep as they can into the Xbox One user interface, without taking them too far away from watching entertainment apps or playing games.

Creators Update achievement xbox one

Microsoft

Microsoft’s Achievements, shown within its Guide.

Microsoft’s Creators Update compromise, shown here, involves one-button controls (press X or Y to record your gameplay). You get a new Achievements tracker to keep tabs on what you’ve accomplished or need to complete to receive your next Achievement. The left-hand nav bar will also provide quick access to music and screenshots.

Microsoft’s said previously that it will begin adapting Cortana on the Xbox One to become more of a gaming concierge. In the current update, you can set reminders and alarms to make sure you’re around to participate in the next Destiny raid, for example. More Cortana improvements are en route, as well as performance updates, the company said.

Creators Update cortana xbox one

Microsoft

Microsoft has promised its Cortana digital assistant will become more useful for reminding you of upcoming gaming sessions, or just finding some new buddies online.

Unless you have your Xbox One configured to “Instant On” mode, the low-power Energy Saving Mode updates your console and games when you turn it on, turning a gaming session into a “let’s wait until your console downloads a gigabyte or two of updates” snoozefest. Those days appear to be over.

Creators Update system update xbox one

Microsoft

Expect more detail within the Update screens on the Xbox One, too.

“Our goal with system updates is that you never have to worry about them again, and to make it clearer when a system update is available,” Microsoft said in a blog post. “To enable this we are updating the interface so the steps are easy to understand. We’re also going to enable every Xbox One owner to keep their console, games, and apps up to date independent of which power mode they have chosen.”

Anyone who has played video games with a young child knows that sometimes they simply want to watch Mommy or Daddy play, rather than jump in themselves. With Copilot mode, you can ease your kids into playing the same way you’ll teach them to drive: by taking the wheel. Copilot Mode allows two controllers to act as one, presumably allowing you to let your child roam around Goat Simulator, for example, while manually steering them to the next challenge.

Creators Update ease of access settings xbox one

Microsoft

Copilot mode isn’t just for playing with your kids, either—it’s part of better accessibility settings for those who may not be otherwise able to hold a controller.

Microsoft’s hinted before that audio enhancements like Dolby Atmos will be supported, and now they are: the new settings will allow you to add Dolby Atmos for Home Theater, Dolby Atmos for Headphones, and Windows HRTF support to your streaming media application or game.

If there’s any drawback to the new Creators Update additions, it’s that not everyone will see them right away. Only a subset of Insiders will begin receiving the update today, Microsoft said. The remainder will receive the updates over the next few weeks. Microsoft hasn’t said when the Creators Update will be made available to the Xbox One community at large, but it seems reasonable to expect it sometime later this spring, about the time when PCs and phones receive it, too.

Correction/clarification: An earlier version of this story didn’t specifically state that these features were rolling out as part of the Insider program until the final paragraph. That has been clarified in both the headline and in the story.

Yahoo pushes back timing of Verizon deal after breaches

Verizon’s planned acquisition of Yahoo will take longer than expected and won’t close until this year’s second quarter, the internet company said on Monday.Yahoo reported two major data breaches last year

The $4.8 billion deal was originally slated to close in the first quarter, but that was before Yahoo reported two massive data breaches that analysts say may scrap the entire deal.

Although Yahoo continues to work to close the acquisition, there’s still work required to meet closing the deal’s closing conditions, the company said in an earnings statement, without elaborating.

Verizon has suggested that the data breaches, and the resulting blow to Yahoo’s reputation, might cause it to halt or renegotiate the deal.

In September, Yahoo said a “state-sponsored actor” had stolen details from at least 500 million user accounts in late 2014. As if that wasn’t enough, the company reported another breach in December, this one dating back to August 2013 and involving 1 billion user accounts.

Both breaches were detected months after Verizon announced last July that it would buy the ailing internet company. Reportedly, Yahoo is facing an investigation from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over whether the breaches should have been reported to investors earlier.

The breaches may have shaken confidence in Yahoo’s internet business. But the company has since taken measures, such as password resets, to secure user accounts.

Nevertheless, some user accounts are still vulnerable.  On Monday, Yahoo said 90 percent of its daily active users were protected from the breach. That leaves another 10 percent potentially exposed.

Among the information stolen in the breaches were names, email addresses, telephone numbers, hashed passwords and security questions and answers meant to protect the accounts.

Microsoft expands FastTrack migration service

Microsoft is expanding the free services it offers to help enterprise customers adopt its products.microsoft stock campus building

The company announced Monday that its FastTrack services now encompass Dynamics 365, Windows 10 and Microsoft Teams. Those come in addition to Office 365 and the Enterprise Mobility Suite, which were already covered under FastTrack.

Each service is designed to help companies get the most out of products they’ve already subscribed to and adopt products that the company has recently released. FastTrack includes adoption guides, tools to find a Microsoft partner company to help with migration, and consulting help from Microsoft employees on particular issues.

FastTrack began life a year and a half ago as a one-time service to help companies migrate to Office 365. Since then, the service has evolved to support continued use of Microsoft products and adoption of new features.

Organizations evaluating a Windows 10 deployment will be able to use FastTrack in planning a rollout and upgrading users. For Dynamics 365, FastTrack will offer expert guidance on how to get the most out of Microsoft’s suite of business apps, which include CRM and operations management tools.

Getting customers to use the subscription services they pay for is important to the long-term success of products like Office 365 and Dynamics 365. If companies aren’t using the subscriptions, they won’t renew them.

It’s a common issue for most enterprise software companies, including Oracle, IBM, Salesforce, SAP, and smaller players like identity and access management vendor Okta.

“In our world, if the product doesn’t get deployed, [customers] don’t renew. They’re not successful, we’re not successful,” Okta CEO Todd McKinnon said at a press event last week.

Including Windows 10 in the FastTrack service should help Microsoft get customers to upgrade to the new OS. It will provide a centralized set of resources for IT administrators dealing with difficult aspects of migrating their users, like ensuring apps are compatible with the new OS.

On the Dynamics 365 side of things , Microsoft is offering technical talks, workshops and ongoing calls from its engineers to help with adoption of its products, which launched last year. It’s a suite of different products that compete with the likes of Salesforce, Zendesk and ServiceNow.

The Microsoft Teams support for FastTrack includes guides that help walk users through scenarios that might be helped by the live collaboration service.

Cyril Belikoff, a senior director of Office marketing at Microsoft, said in a blog post that the company is making those resources available ahead of the launch of Teams so it’s easier for administrators to get people to use it.

Google revamps Voice with long overdue makeover, new features

Google told 9to5Google that it is working to add VoIP calling to Google Voice. This article has been updated to reflect this news. google voice

Google Voice hasn’t seen a lot of love or attention since it launched with some fanfare in 2009, but surprisingly Google is letting us know that it still cares about the communication service. In a new sprawling release—the first of its kind in years—Google has revamped all versions of its Voice app and site with a clean, modern look, new features, and, perhaps the best news of all, the promise of regular updates.

The most striking thing about the new version is its design, which actually looks like it was made for the latest phones. The new interface is a major improvement, with clean navigation and organization, and big message windows that makes it feel like a modern messaging service.

In addition to the look of the app, Google has also added a few new features that bring it up to speed. Most notably, messaging has been updated to include support for group messages and photo MMS, as well as quick replies on devices running Android Nougat.

Google says it will provide regular new features and updates going forward, and notes that for users who use Hangouts, “there’s no need to change to the new apps, but you might want to try them out as we continue to bring new improvements.”

And there seems to be one in the works already. In a comment to 9to5Google, Google explains that while the current incarnation of Google Voice doesn’t add any new features for making calls, it is working incorporating VoIP integration to eliminate the need to link your number with the Hangouts app. The site also claims that its sources say WiFi calling will be coming to all devices.

The new version of Google Voice should have rolled out to your phone by now, but if you’re not seeing it yet, you can side load the Google-signed APK from APKMirror.

Google’s messaging strategy has been hard to figure out, and a renewed focus on Google Voice probably won’t bring much clarity to it. After Google initially began integrating Voice and Hangouts, the launch of Allo and Duo muddied those plans a bit, as Google began to shift Hangouts to enterprise clients. With the new update it seems that Google might be trying to position Voice as the standalone voice and messaging service it was meant to be.

This story, “Google revamps Voice with long overdue makeover, new features” was originally published by Greenbot.

China plugs its ‘Great Firewall,’ going after unauthorized VPN access from local ISPs

China is going after unauthorized internet connections, including tools known as VPNs (virtual private networks) that can bypass China’s efforts to control the web.Internet Cafe China (4)

The crackdown is part of 14-month campaign from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology that’s meant to clean up the country’s internet service provider market

Unless authorized, internet service providers are forbidden from operating any “cross-border” channel business, including VPNs, the ministry said in a Sunday notice.

The announcement is a bit of rarity. The country has usually withheld from openly campaigning against VPN use, even as government censors have intermittently tried to squelch access to them in the past.

However, China has been steadily tightening control over the internet. Earlier this month, the country essentially extended its reach to local app stores operating in the country by forcing them to register with the government.

The action against VPNs will probably be alarming to businesses and local users in China who rely on them to access the internet unfiltered. Sites popular in the West such as Facebook, Google and Twitter have all been blocked in the country due to China’s strict censorship that targets anti-government views.

Sunday’s notice from China’s IT ministry essentially asks that internet backbone providers and ISPs “self-check” to weed out any unauthorized VPN use. But it’s unclear what affect this will have on third-party VPN providers, many of which operate in foreign countries, but also sell to customers in China.

For instance, sites such as SaferVPN, ExpressVPN and VyprVPN sell subscription-based services for around $10 a month or less. Despite China’s censorship, these businesses are continually coming up with ways so that customers can access the unfiltered internet.

GreatFire.org, an activist group against China’s censorship, said Sunday’s announcement probably has less to do with foreign VPN providers than local ones.

“I think actually that everyone is kind of misreading this info at the moment,” the group said over email. “I do not think that consumers are the ones who will get hit. Businesses who need unfettered access to the internet will suffer if their local provider decides not to provide this.”

Sunday’s notice said that local internet backbone providers in China can still offer private access lines for businesses to link with overseas offices.

However, use of those lines must be restricted for business purposes, and never linked with a data center or used to operate a telecommunication service. The Chinese backbone providers must also collect and establish user profiles for their customers.

In addition to the VPN issue, China’s IT ministry said on Sunday it will be investigating ISPs, internet data centers and content delivery networks for failing to receive the right business permits and operating in areas that exceed the intended scope.

Instant Tethering lets you easily share your connection with nearby Android devices

The Wi-Fi tethering feature built into your Android phone is a great feature that shares your connection with devices that might not have cellular capabilities. Now Google is looking to make a little easier to get it up and running.instant tethering

A new feature called Instant Tethering is currently rolling out as part of the 10.2.91 update to Google Play Services. According to Android Police, the feature is currently limited to Nexus and Pixel phones running Nougat 7.1.1, and the only clients supported are the Nexus 9 and Pixel C tablets (though two phones can share their connections as well). However, as the service begins to make its way to other devices, it could be an excellent feature for people who regularly use their phone’s tethering feature.

Where previous connection needed pairing codes and several steps to set up, the new method works similarly to the way Wi-Fi connections work now. The two devices need to be within Bluetooth range and linked to the same Google account to start the connection, but other than that, there aren’t any toggles to flip or passwords to enter. Basically, your tablet will automatically connect to your phone’s hotspot whenever it needs a connection.

Both the Play services update and the feature are still being rolled out to users, so even if you use one of the supported phones, you might not see the While the requirements are pretty specific at the moment, Instant Tethering could be a killer feature down the road. It also could mean that Google is finally serious about Android tablets. Apple introduced a similar feature in iOS 8 called Instant Hotspot designed to tighten the integration between its phones, tablets, and laptops, and here’s hoping Instant Tethering is a step toward creating something similar with Android.

This story, “Instant Tethering lets you easily share your connection with nearby Android devices” was originally published by Greenbot.