Tech round-up for May 9: Computers to read your mind and make your appointments, LG G7, Sony Xperia XZ2, Razr Phone, Broadbent Sisters on your Pixel 2

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This week, Google’s going to make your appointments for you, how you can surround your phone with art from the Broadbent Sisters, and new smartphones from LG, Razr, and Sony. But first, researchers at MIT have invented a device that appears to read your mind.

Mind reading device revealed at MIT

AlterEgo appears to be straight out of science fiction, but it’s an actual device that’s been developed at MIT’s Media Lab.

It allows users to interact with a computer system verbally, but without speaking out loud.

The device is a little strange to wear. It clips over an ear and touches the face at the jaw and chin. Electrodes in the device are able to register the activity of the facial muscles that we use when we “say” words inside our head. Software then matches those signals to to words.

The computer responds to you using a bone conduction speaker that keeps ears open to other sounds.

The idea is that you could use the AlterEgo to interact with computing systems when and where you might not otherwise be able to, such as in social situations or loud environments.

Google Assistant is going to make your appointments for you

Google’s annual developers conference is happening right now, and at yesterday’s keynote address there was lots of talk about how artificial intelligence was being used to do lots more for us. Google’s using it to help us take better pictures, to serve up “real” news that is aligned with our interests, and to write emails for us (Smart Compose).

But the thing that dropped jaws in the crowd was a demonstration of Google Assistant making a phone call to a hair salon to book an appointment for its user. The person at the salon taking the call did not appear to know that they were talking to a computer. That’s because it didn’t sound like they were talking to a computer.

It’s all delivered by Google’s advancements in AI. The company calls the work they’re doing with conversation Google Duplex.

Toronto’s Broadbent Sisters put art onto Pixel 2 smartphones

Google makes it easy to personalize your Pixel smartphone with Live Cases. With that service you can use a host of different designs, including some by notable artists.

Toronto artists, the Broadbent Sisters, have dropped a dozen designs into the Live Cases store. The duo actually used Google Pixel phones to take the photographs used to create the artwork. They talk about inspiration and the process at the Google Canada blog.

The cases are available for $50.

New smartphones from LG, Razr, Sony

When it comes to mobile handsets, so much attention is focused on the big three: Apple, Google, and Samsung.

But there are other smartphones being produced and released, each trying to diffferentiate themselves from the crowd. In the coming weeks, a couple of new ones are coming available.

The Razr Phone comes from the game computer and peripheral company and is marketing itself as the phone for gamers. It’s got a massive 4,000 mAh battery, nearly double the size found in other phones, but the big feature here is the 120 Hz screen, which is the fastest refresh of any handset. The Razr Phone costs $900 and is now being sold in Canada on Amazon and at Best Buy.

On May 29, Sony’s Xperia XZ2 arrives. What makes this device different is software that will upconvert standard video, whether downloaded or streaming, so they look closer to high definition. It also has what Sony calls “Dynamic Vibration System”, which “makes you feel what you hear”. The Xperia XZ2 will cost $1,099 and is available through Bell and Freedom Mobile.

Then there’s the G7 ThinQ from LG, which becomes available on June 1. Like other premium handsets, the G7 makes use of artificial intelligence to improve photography including the new portrait mode. LG claims the “Super Bright Display” is the best available, too, and supports the screen with different viewing modes to provide the best settings depending on what you’re doing with your phone, whether it’s watching movies or playing games. But it’s the ability of the G7 to produce rich, full sound without needing speakers that sets the G7 apart. The G7 ThinQ is coming to all major mobile carriers in Canada; pricing hasn’t been announced.

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