Today’s cache | Facial recognition technology, and more

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Today's cache is your daily download of the top 5 updates from the world of technology.

The COVID-19 crisis is making it difficult for facial recognition tech firms as governments around the world are asking citizens wear masks when they leave their homes. So, companies are gathering selfies of users wearing masks to train and improve face detection algorithms.

The video streaming world had a big shake last week as the top boss of Disney+ jumped ship to lead TikTok and build new businesses for Bytedance.

HTC is making earbuds that look very similar to AirPods. And Samsung has unveiled its sensor for 50-megapixel camera, which can help enhance picture quality in low-lighting environment.

Finally, Google’s mobile app is getting the dark theme. The search giant will be rolling out the update this week for its users globally.

Disney’s streaming head to become TikTok’s top boss

Kevin Mayer, head of Disney’s direct-to-consumer business, has resigned, and will be taking the top role at TikTok from June 1.

As chairman of Disney’s direct-to-consumer business, Mayer heads Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+. He was considered the in-house favourite for Disney’s top job before the entertainment giant made Bob Chapek as its chief executive.

Mayer has spent more than two decades at Disney, and last year he led the launch of the company’s streaming service Disney+. Apart from this, he has also been instrumental in brining technology-related acquisitions to the company that has been in the theme park business.

As head of Disney’s streaming strategy, Mayer’s team of engineers build technical infrastructure to handle millions of Hulu and ESPN subscribers.

Mayer’s move to ByteDance could give a lift to the company’s efforts to distance itself from its Chinese roots.

Since the COVID-19 crisis began, users have been increasingly using video streaming apps. TikTok app has been downloaded over 2 billion times on App Store and Play Store in the last three years, according to Sensor Tower. Just in the first three months of 2020, the short video making app had over 315 million downloads.

Samsung unveils 50MP camera sensor

Samsung on Tuesday unveiled its new 50 megapixel camera sensor. The ISOCELL GN1 is Samsung’s first image sensor to offer both dual pixel and tetracell technologies, the company said.

This combined technology offers ‘snappy’ autofocus and light information, and enables light-sensitive pixels for better low-light photography.

“With innovative pixel technologies, Samsung has been at the forefront of offering high-performance image sensors that closely cater to increasingly diversifying market needs,” Yongin Park, VP of sensor business at Samsung Electronics said in a statement.

“The ISOCELL GN1 is part of that commitment to deliver stunning images to consumers in any environment.”

The latest sensor technology from Samsung provides both ultra-high resolutions for extremely detailed images and bigger pixels for brighter output in low-light environments.

The GN1 offers auto-focusing with 100 million phase detection auto-focus (PDAF) agents. The dual pixel technology places two photodiodes next to each other within a single pixel that cen receive light from different angles for phase detections.

In addition to dual pixel and tetracell technologies, the GN1 comes with smart-ISO to select an optimal ISO, real-time HDR to capture the scene in different exposures simultaneously.

HTC is building earbuds

HTC is reportedly making earbuds called U Ear. Leaked images of earbuds submitted to Taiwan’s National Communication Commission were reported by Android Police.

The earbuds in the images look similar to Apple’s AirPods, with glossy plastic, rounded bud tips and a stem extending down.

The two key differences are the charging pins and the colour. U Ear’s charging pins are in front of the earbuds, and unlike AirPods, U Ear is all black.

The charging case is cube-shaped and looks compact. Its opens like a small ring box, unlike the hatch-type opening in AirPod cases. The case has a USB-C port to charge the earbuds.

Face masks and facial recognition tools

As usage of face masks have become the norm due to COVID-19, facial recognition tech firms are finding it difficult read facial features.

Many countries around the world are asking their citizens to wear a mask when leaving homes.

When large parts of the face is covered by the mask, facial recognition tech is not equipped to identify people. This could be an existential threat to the multi-million dollar industry unless it trains its algorithm to read faces wearing masks.

So, researchers are turning to selfies of users wearing face masks to help improve their algorithms, Cnet reported.

Selfies of masked users are available in public data sets, some of them are taken directly from Instagram by researchers working on facial recognition technologies.

Last month, a masked image dataset was published on GitHub. It contains over 1,200 photos taken from Instagram.

In March, researchers in China put together a database of over 5,000 masked user photos.

The builders of the dataset on GitHub used Workaround, an AI start-up, to help filter through photos and label them with masks on or off.

"We were inspired by all the companies that were launching free tools and everything they can do to help," Wafaa Arbash, CEO of Workaround said.

"We have these public images from Instagram, so these are not private images. We were just searching and getting the right data."

Some other facial recognition tech firms have asked their own employees to send selfies with masks on to add picture data to train or improve their algorithms.

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology plans to test facial identify algorithms by digitally masking pictures.

It is still unclear how these researches will play out in terms of improving the tech behind facial recognition. But, that hasn’t stopped tech developers from gathering more data and training the algorithm.

Google launches dark mode for its app

Google announced on Wednesday it will roll out dark mode for its app on Android 10 and iOS 12/13.

The update will be rolled out this week, and the Google app will pick up the device’s system settings to make changes to the colour mode.

If the users have set it up to have a dark theme, the app will change to that mode after the update.

To change the light or dark setting, users will need to update settings in the mobile app.

Gmail, Maps, Calendar and Google Fit have all added dark mode for Android, and some versions of iOS.

Apart from Google, Facebook and WhatsApp too have launched their version of dark themes this year. And at the operating system level, Android and iOS started supporting dark theme from last year.

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 9:31:28 AM |

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