Technology Samsung's C-Lab adds character to AI at SXSW
For Samsung and Apple, cobalt is an increasingly precious metal
According to a new report from Bloomberg, Samsung has joined Apple in taking an unprecedented step to secure cobalt supplies for its next-generation smartphones. Samsung C&T, one of the many arms of the Samsung conglomerate, is reportedly negotiating directly with a mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo to secure cobalt.The element is an important component in the rechargeable batteries used in smartphones, but increasing competition — particularly from electric car manufacturers — has made an already-scarce element even more valuable.
Samsung's C-Lab has made a name for itself over recent years with a bunch of offbeat concepts . The in-house startup accelerator takes Samsung engineers' free-time projects and turns them into products. In the past we've seen speakers, wellness tech and AR experiments, but at SXSW the incubator's focus is on artificial intelligence.
The first concept on show was Toonsquare, which uses AI to convert sentences into cartoons. Like Samsung's AR Emoji, the process starts with a selfie but instead of creating a creepy 3D version of you, it generates a cutesy chibi. A few of us tried this out, and each time the character was a convincing (if unflattering) representation.
Sushi robots, AI pianos and jump jetpacks on SXSW's show floor
The SXSW show floor hosts a treasure trove of strange, innovative and ridiculous experiences from around the world. A vast array of industries are represented in the heart of the Austin Convention Center, including virtual reality, 3D audio, medical technology, sustainability, interplanetary rockets and rovers, and even bespoke, branded socks. This year, some of the most eye-catching installations are all about robotics and artificial intelligence.Japanese companies showed up at SXSW with a handful of concepts for the future, including Lunavity, a jetpack designed to help the wearer jump higher and farther.
Once you have your character, you type words into speech bubbles, and the AI will work to discern the emotions in each sentence. It'll then customize the pose and expression of the character, and the formatting of the speech bubble, to match the words. We tried it with basic sentences, and it seemed to be fairly robust.
The idea is that you can string together panels into comic strips, picture diaries, or just create single shareable images. The team is also considering whether the app may have health or educational benefits -- it would be easy to turn the app into a visual tool to help young children with autism to express emotions.
The other project is Aurora, which is both a wireless charging dock and a virtual assistant app. You slide your (Samsung) phone into the Aurora dock, where a bunch of mirrors "project" the phone's screen onto a tilted piece of glass below. A secondary mirror setup above adjusts the phone camera's viewpoint to be facing in front of the dock.
Samsung Note 9 in-screen fingerprint reader could be held back for Galaxy S10
If you were looking forward to a Samsung Note 9 with an in-screen fingerprint reader, the latest news may leave you disappointed. Twitter user 'Ice Universe' tweeted on 3 March 2018, that the cutting-edge unlock technology was being tested on the Note 9, but now a respected industry analyst says that the feature will not be ready in time for the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 release date later this year.
Once the phone is docked, it launches the Aurora app, which is a virtual assistant (also called Aurora) in the form of a cutesy 3D robot. You communicate with Aurora verbally, and can also make gestures to scroll through information Aurora brings up. (Ask "What's the weather today," for example, and you'll see today's forecast, but then you can swipe to the left in the air to see tomorrow's.)
I'm personally a big fan of bringing character to AI -- I would much rather interact with a little robot than an inert Alexa. With that said, Aurora was very limited, really only responding to questions that the original Siri would've handled. Perhaps, if the public reaction is strong enough, Samsung will let the developers tap into Bixby, which, while imperfect, would improve Aurora's capabilities a lot.
There's no word on if and when that might happen yet -- Aurora is firmly in the "concept" phase for now. Toonsquare, however, is already available in, with an iOS release tentatively penciled for later this year.
Catch up on the latest news from SXSW 2018.
Apple is engaged in a global effort to safeguard its next game-changing technology .
Apple is working on a secret display technology that will soon be used in its products, including the iPhone. But Apple appears to be very aggressive about defending its innovations in a field that’s dominated by its rivals.
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