All posts in “Microsoft”

Photosynth returns as a feature in Microsoft’s Pix camera app

Earlier this year, Microsoft shut down Photosynth, its service for stitching multiple images into panoramas and semi-3D models. When it launched in 2008, the service was extremely impressive, but it never quite caught on. Still, it had its fans and now Microsoft is bringing it back in the form of a new feature in its Pix camera app for iOS.

In addition, the Pix app is also getting a comics feature (the result of an internal hackathon) that uses a machine learning model to find the best frames from your Pix Moment captures to create a basic comic strip. All you need to do is add your speech bubbles.

Microsoft notes that the new Photosynth feature uses some of the technology behind the original platform, but it also notes that Photosynth in Pix is now faster and allows for smoother capture. It also makes use of the built-in Pix features like auto-enhancements for white balance, tone and sharpness.

“The idea came after some frustrations I had when trying to take a picture of Snoqualmie Falls,” said Josh Weisberg, principal program manager within Microsoft’s AI & Research organization in Redmond, Washington, in today’s announcement. “I didn’t want to have to choose which part of the scene to capture, and I wanted it all with detail. Photosynth means you no longer have to choose. I can now capture the whole scene in a way that feels natural. As with all Pix features, we have also worked to give the best image quality by introducing more intelligent ways to compute exposure and stitching.”

Sadly, if you’re an Android user, Microsoft didn’t have any news to share about when (or if) it plans to bring Pix to your mobile platform of choice.

This mysterious patent may mean Microsoft is making a sick smartphone

Image: world intellectual property association/microsoft

The last time Microsoft tried releasing a phone, it didn’t go so well. Even so, rumors have been circulating for months about the possibility of a new phone from the company, the Surface Phone, which could actually be awesome. 

Thursday, the World Intellectual Property Organization granted Microsoft a mysterious patent. The patent, filed in June, contains sketches and descriptions of what such a phone might look like. 

The patent is for a “self-regulating hinge,” a hinge that could grant additional flexibility to a dual-screened device, similar to Lenovo Yoga, but with screens on both parts.

The hinge would allow the two screens, when lined up, to make up a single display with no bezel in between. It could also allow a device to fold backwards and forwards into multiple positions: sometimes a laptop, sometimes a tablet, sometimes a tent. 

While the patent doesn’t say this hinge is intended for a phone rather than a tablet or laptop, the text mentions that the hinge can be made very compactly, allowing devices to fit in a user’s pocket. 

Image: World intellectual property organization/microsoft

Back to reality: This phone might not actually be a thing. There’s little evidence that anything called a Surface Phone actually exists, and Microsoft has certainly never indicated it’s making one. 

But even if such a phone is released, it might face some stiff competition, even after the novelty is filled. Samsung recently submitted sketches of a foldable smartphone (the rumored Galaxy X) to the Korean Intellectual Property Office that would, if produced, probably blow dual-display competitors like ZTE’s Axon M out of the water. Samsung’s smartphone doesn’t appear to fold both ways, which might give it an advantage over a Surface Phone where pragmatics are concerned. 

Image: world intellectual property organization/microsoft

So keep an eye out for this sick-looking phone, but don’t hold your breath yet. 0cea 2fd7%2fthumb%2f00001

A new version of Mixer, Microsoft’s Twitch rival, hits iOS and Android

Microsoft today is officially launching a new version of its Mixer mobile gameplay streaming app, its Twitch rival. The app, which is initially available on Android with iOS arriving soon, was first introduced into beta testing this fall, with a focus on improvements to its overall user experience, content discovery, performance and personalization features.

For example, the beta build introduced a redesigned “Trending” section that cycles through the featured broadcasts at the top, a better filtering tool to help you find interactive and co-streaming broadcasts, and a new “Following” section for tracking favorite broadcasters. This tab will feature broadcasters who are live along with other recommended streams.

Meanwhile, users profile pages have been updated with links to their channel, level and “sparks.”

Microsoft also said that the app’s code base had been improved to boost performance and stability.

Since the beta test, a few things have been added ahead of today’s public launch, Microsoft tells us For example, the app can send out push notifications that alert you to when favorite streamers are on, and you can now tap and hold on the homepage to see video previews.

The search algorithms have been enhanced, too, to boost content discovery, says Microsoft.

Viewers can also customize Mixer by making adjustments to Settings like stream video quality, chat and audio toggles, and sharing options.

Chat has gotten an upgrade as well, as it includes a viewer list, whispers, and basic mod features.

The launch comes at a time when Microsoft is trying to gain ground in mobile gameplay streaming, in a market where Amazon-owned Twitch has been dominating.

Though Mixer offers similar features to Twitch and YouTube Gaming – like emotes, subscriptions and live broadcasts – Twitch has more concurrent streamers and viewers, according to third-party reports, with YouTube in second place. Mixer is still trying to make a dent, so refreshing its mobile experience is key to staying competitive.

Mixer is live on Android today, and expects the iOS version to be available in the next few days.

The best tech of 2017

Of all the tech products that came out this year, no single product was more talked about than the iPhone X.

Rumors about Apple’s new phone started well before 2017 even began. The pressure was on for Apple to deliver a redesigned iPhone that would revolutionize the smartphone once again.

What would an iPhone with a screen that stretched corner-to-corner look like? How would it work without a home button? Would Face ID really be a better replacement for Touch ID? Is $1,000 too expensive for a smartphone?

Everyone seemed to have questions and concerns. But Apple put all those fears to bed when it unveiled the iPhone X in all of its glass and stainless steel glory at the tranquil Steve Jobs Theater located at its new Apple Park campus.

As often is the case, Apple under-promised and over-delivered. All of the reports about the iPhone X’s ugly notch, huge dual camera lens bump, and death of the home button were largely misguided. 

Minor iOS 11 bugs aside, the iPhone X is a showcase of why Apple products feel so magical to use. The iPhone X effortlessly melds beautiful hardware with intuitive software into an experience that’s incredibly delightful at every corner.

You need only use Face ID or play around with Animoji to understand why the iPhone X is such a game-changer.

It took a decade of iterations to get to the iPhone X. Android phones may have caught up and even surpassed the iPhone in certain areas such as screen technology, battery life, and photography, but the iPhone X puts Apple back on top, lightyears ahead of everybody else.

Apple’s relentless focus on pushing technology forward, even when decisions like removing the headphone jack anger fans, that has made the iPhone a forward-facing innovation for which the whole world now revolves around. The iPhone X isn’t just another shiny new phone, it’s the bedrock for mobile for the next 10 years and beyond.

Microsoft’s Edge browser is now available for Android and iOS

Last month, Microsoft announced its intentions to bring its Edge Browser to iOS and Android, as it works to broaden its reach on third-party mobile devices. After being made available in preview form for roughly a month, the app officially hits iOS and Android’s respective app stores starting today.

The followup to the once ubiquitous Internet Explorer has been blossoming on Windows 10 devices (most notably the Surface line, where it’s learned some neat tricks) for a while now. The new mobile version of the app offers many of its familiar desktop/tablet features, including Favorites, Reading Lists and New Tab Pages.

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The company’s also added a couple of pieces since making the browser available in preview form. Roaming Passwords are now on-board, giving users the ability to sync passwords cross platform on mobile and desktop. There’s also dark theme. That’s basically what it sounds like, offering a black desktop instead of the default white/gray one, which should be easier on some eyes.

The addition of Edge is an important piece of Microsoft’s new mobile strategy. The company essentially admitted defeat on the smartphone front for the time being, leaving its Nokia acquisition in the smoldering embers. At the very least additions like Edge and Cortana to iOS and Android will make it easier for Windows 10 users to have their existing smartphones play nice with their PCs.