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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, LG really wants you to get a G7 smartphone, Ubisoft travels to Montana with Far Cry 5, Facebook’s first transparency report, and a website lets you mix music.

LG giving away a free TV with every preorder of a G7 smartphone

In an effort to spark sales of its new G7 ThinQ handset, LG is giving away TVs.

The limited time offer is available between May 18 and 31. The smartphone is being released on June 1.

After completing the online claim form, you’ll be able to take your proof of preorder purchase to a participating retailer to get your smart TV. You’ll have until July 31 to claim the bonus.

The screen that LG is offering up is a 43-inch, 4K television that supports high dynamic range. It’s got a retail value of $600.

Far Cry 5’s fits and starts in Big Sky Country

Ubisoft’s latest instalment in the Far Cry series is set in Montana and hinges on a religious cult. While the mechanics of the game are fun, the narrative leaves something to be desired. In trying to tease out the complexity around point of view and perspective, Far Cry 5 ends up being a bit silly.

I’d contrast what I think the developers were trying to do with the six-episode documentary, Wild Wild Country, airing on Netflix, which details the true-life story of the Rajneeshees and their attempt to create a community in Oregon.

Facebook reports on how bad the conversations really are

Facebook is trying to regain some credibility with the first Facebook Transparency Report, something the company says will become standard operating procedure.

The first report is another eye opener. More than 800 million posts were deleted in the first three months of this year, 2.5 million of which were related to hate speech, 1.9 million were considered to be terrorist propaganda, and 3.4 million contained graphic violence.

Most of the content removed from Facebook was considered to be spam.

The report also shows that Facebook deleted 583 million fake accounts in the first quarter of 2018.

Facebook is mostly using computers to do the screening, and the company says part of the problem is that the AI being used are not able to comprehend nuanced language.

None of this has anything to do with protecting the personal information of Facebook users, though, which is what the recent scandals have been about. That remains your responsibility, it seems.

Website demonstrates creative experiment with sound and music

The website In B Flat has been around for nearly ten years, but I’ve just discovered it. The Internet can be an amazing place.

It was created by musician and composer Darren Solomon, and the conceit was simple. He asked people to submit videos of them playing music in the key of B flat.

He chose 20 submissions, then he assembled them in a grid of embedded YouTube videos.

Each video is a performance on a different instrument with its own tempo. There’s a Nintendo DS, guitars, a clarinet, keyboards, a muted trumpet, a violin, and even a toy horn.

When played together they create a soundscape that is absolutely unique.

Because of the curating that Solomon performed, visitors to the site can click on the links in any order and at anytime, even adjusting the volume of the different videos, to create a unique mix of music.

You’ll lose hours playing around at the site, but here’s one person’s arrangement so you can get the idea.

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Categories Consumer technology |

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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Categories Corus Radio Network | Consumer technology

Last Wednesday, on The Shift with Drex, Drex and I talked about Amazon’s growing presence in Vancouver and the Collision conference heading to Toronto. We also talked about the new dating features Facebook plans to roll out to users soon. And I review the new Apple iPad, which I took for a test drive with my seven-year-old son.

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Categories Consumer technology |

This week, Facebook unveils dating features at its developers conference, Apple’s new iPad gets kids using a stylus, and Health Canada recalls dangerous USB chargers. But first, Amazon builds its presence in Vancouver while Collision plans a visit to Toronto.

Evidence of Canada’s role as a technology centre comes to Toronto, Vancouver

Amazon on Monday announced it was going to add 3,000 high-tech workers to its Vancouver operation, adding to the 1,000 that are already here.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson were at the press event announcing the plan, which will be Amazon’s third location in downtown Vancouver. The additional staff, which will be employed in “in fields including e-commerce technology, cloud computing, and machine learning” according to a statement, will be moving into a new tech hub being built inside the old Canada Post building.

Meanwhile, the Collision technology conference, which attracted some 25,000 attendees to New Orleans this week and had Al Gore as a speaker, has named Toronto’s Exhibition Place as the venue for its next three events starting in 2019, when it will take place from May 20 through May 23.

Facebook introducing dating features

Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8, is happening this week, and like all such events, things kicked off with a keynote presentation by CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

With all that’s been going on, you’d expect him to address what his company is going to do to combat fake news, which he did. You’d expect new features to help people control their own data, and he talked about that, too, with a new “clear history” feature that’s upcoming.

Another new feature is “Watch Party” which allows groups of people to communally watch and comment on video. He joked about his friends could have held one of those while he was testifying at the U.S. Congress. “Let’s not do that again anytime soon,” he said.

And then Zuckerberg introduced a number of new features focused on dating. There are 200 million people listed as “single” on Facebook, he said. “So clearly there’s something to do here.”

So Facebook is taking on Tinder and MyCupid. Because nothing could possibly go wrong with that.

New Apple iPad with stylus support is great for kids

A few weeks ago, Apple announced a new iPad that the company hopes has the price and the features to entice schools to bring them into the classroom.

A couple of weeks ago, Apple Canada let my 7-year-old son take one for a test drive.

Health Canada issues recall notice for uncertified USB chargers

Canada’s health agency is warning consumers to beware of uncertified USB chargers that are being sold.

The organization has published a list of more than 25 different wall chargers that “pose an unacceptable risk of electric shock and fire”.

If you’ve got one of the recalled products, you should stop using it and return it to where you purchased it.

The dangerous devices were purchased at a number of different online and bricks-and-mortar retailers.

Health Canada recommends only using products that carry a Canadian certification mark. The problem is that many of the examples listed have been branded with certification marks that are either fake or are so similar to actual certification marks that the average person isn’t going to be able to tell the difference at a glance.

The lesson? Beware electronics that are too cheap.

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