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HTC Teases Its Next Flagship Smartphone. Too Bad, the Photo Shows Parts of an iPhone 6. (anandtech.com) 58

HTC has begun to ramp up marketing campaign for its next major smartphone release, teasing that they will be making a proper announcement on May 23rd. From a report: In an email sent to the press this morning and posted on their website, HTC posted a photo of neatly laid out phone components, with the text "Coming Soon... A phone that is more than the sum of its specs." The photo and the announcement give a May 23rd date for more details. AnandTech has added an update to the story, (Via DaringFireball ): As pointed out by a reader, these aren't new components. Or even components of an HTC phone. Rather they're a disassembled iPhone 6...
Sci-Fi

Christopher Nolan Returns Kubrick Sci-Fi Masterpiece '2001: A Space Odyssey' To Its Original Glory (latimes.com) 135

LA Times' Kenneth Turan traces Christopher Nolan's meticulous restoration of Kubrick's masterpiece to its 70-mm glory: Christopher Nolan wants to show me something interesting. Something beautiful and exceptional, something that changed his life when he was a boy. It's also something that Nolan, one of the most accomplished and successful of contemporary filmmakers, has persuaded Warner Bros. to share with the world both at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival and then in theaters nationwide, but in a way that boldly deviates from standard practice.

For what is being cued up in a small, hidden-away screening room in an unmarked building in Burbank is a brand new 70-mm reel of film of one of the most significant and influential motion pictures ever made, Stanley Kubrick's 1968 science-fiction epic "2001: A Space Odyssey." Yes, you read that right. Not a digital anything, an actual reel of film that was for all intents and purposes identical to the one Nolan saw as a child and Kubrick himself would have looked at when the film was new half a century ago.

AI

Westworld's Scientific Adviser Talks About Free Will, AI, and Vibrating Vests (sciencemag.org) 138

Science magazine has interviewed David Eagleman, the scientific adviser for HBO's Westworld. Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, spoke with the publication about how much we should fear such an AI uprising. From the story, also spoiler alert for those who have not watched the show: Q: Has anything on the show made you think differently about intelligence?
A: The show forces me to consider what level of intelligence would be required to make us believe that an android is conscious. As humans we're very ready to anthropomorphize anything. Consider the latest episode, in which the androids at the party so easily fool the person into thinking they are humans, simply because they play the piano a certain way, or take off their glasses to wipe them, or give a funny facial expression. Once robots pass the Turing test, we'll probably recognize that we're just not that hard to fool.

Q: Can we make androids behave like humans, but without the selfishness and violence that appears in Westworld and other works of science fiction?
A: I certainly think so. I would hate to be wrong about this, but so much of human behavior has to do with evolutionary constraints. Things like competition for survival and for mating and for eating. This shapes every bit of our psychology. And so androids, not possessing that history, would certainly show up with a very different psychology. It would be more of an acting job -- they wouldn't necessarily have the same kind of emotions as us, if they had them period. And this is tied into the question of whether they would even have any consciousness -- any internal experience -- at all.

China

Mobile Gaming Cements Its Dominance, Takes Majority of Worldwide Sales (arstechnica.com) 94

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Newzoo's 2018 Global Games Market Forecast now predicts that mobile games will make up a slim majority (51 percent) of all worldwide gaming revenue this year (including smartphones and tablets, but not dedicated gaming handhelds). That's up from 34 percent in 2015 and just 18 percent in 2012. Console and PC games will split the remainder of the pie relatively evenly in 2018, at 25 percent and 24 percent of worldwide spending, respectively. The growth of the mobile market doesn't show any signs of stopping, either: by 2021, Newzoo estimates that 59 percent of all gaming spending will go to mobile platforms, with console and PC games dividing up the scraps. The report finds that China is responsible for 28 percent of all gaming spending in the world, up from 24 percent in 2015. "Mobile gaming is overrepresented in the world's biggest gaming market, responsible for 61 percent of all Chinese gaming revenue and poised to grow to 70 percent by 2021," reports Ars. Japan's overall spending on mobile games is nearly on par with the United States, despite the country having one-third as many gamers overall.
Nintendo

Nintendo Faces Switch Patent Infringement Investigation In the US (engadget.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Nintendo is under investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission, and the fate of the Switch hangs in the balance. Gamevice, the company behind the Wikipad and a line of snap-on controllers for mobile devices, says the Nintendo Switch violates its patents on attachable handheld gamepads and their related accessories. Alleging violations of the Tariff Act of 1930, Gamevice is requesting a cease and desist order against Nintendo, a move that would halt imports of the Switch into the U.S. The USITC notes that while its investigation has begun, it hasn't ruled on the validity of the complaint. The commission will hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Nintendo is in violation of the Tariff Act, with a final decision "at the earliest practicable time." The USITC will announce a target date for the end of the investigation within 45 days.
Cellphones

Facebook's Phone-Free, Wireless 'Oculus Go' VR Headset Is Released Today 34

UnknownSoldier writes: The Oculus Go is finally available for purchase. Amazon is selling the 32GB model for $199, while the 64GB model is selling for $249. As a standalone virtual reality unit, it doesn't require a computer or phone to use. Ironically, you must use a phone for the initial setup. Reviews are out on The Verge and Ars Technica. The TL;DR -- Pros: Inexpensive; Cons: LCD, fixed 72 Hz rate, limited motion tracking. Will 2018 finally will be the year of cheap VR?
AI

Could Algorithms Be Better at Picking the Next Big Blockbuster Than Studio Execs? (wired.com) 74

In a world where artificial intelligence is no longer just a Spielberg-Kubrick collaboration, could algorithms be better at picking the next big blockbuster than studio execs? From a report: "Filmmakers are getting closer to understanding what moviegoers go to theaters to see thanks to neural networks fed off of data from previous box office hits," says Landon Starr, the head of data science at Clearlink, which uses machine learning to help companies understand consumer behavior. "Although this technology isn't spot-on quite yet, AI-powered predictions are likely stronger than the human calculations used in the past." And they're advancing quickly.

Vault, an Israeli startup founded in 2015, is developing a neural-network algorithm based on 30 years of box office data, nearly 400,000 story features found in scripts, and data like film budgets and audience demographics to estimate a movie's opening weekend. The company is only a couple years in, but founder David Stiff recently said that roughly 75 percent of Vault's predictions "come 'pretty close'" to films' actual opening grosses.

Scriptbook takes a similar approach, using its own AI platform to predict a movie's success based on the screenplay only. The Antwerp startup's AI analyzed 62 movies from 2015 and 2016, and claims it was able to successfully predict the box office failure or success of 52 of them, judging 30 movies correctly as profitable and 22 movies correctly as not profitable.

AI

AI Is Being Used To Predict Gambling Behavior (theguardian.com) 54

"The gambling industry is increasingly using artificial intelligence to predict consumer habits and personalize promotions to keep gamblers hooked," reports The Guardian, citing industry insiders. "Current and former gambling industry employees have described how people's betting habits are scrutinized and modeled to manipulate their future behavior." From the report: Publicly, gambling executives boast of increasingly sophisticated advertising keeping people betting, while privately conceding that some are more susceptible to gambling addiction when bombarded with these type of bespoke ads and incentives. Gamblers' every click, page view and transaction is scientifically examined so that ads statistically more likely to work can be pushed through Google, Facebook and other platforms. Users unwittingly consent to the use of their data in ways they aren't aware of due to lengthy terms and conditions, enabling their information to legally be used in this way. Last August, the Guardian revealed the gambling industry uses third-party companies to harvest people's data, helping bookmakers and online casinos target people on low incomes and those who have stopped gambling. Despite condemnation from MPs, experts and campaigners, such practices remain an industry norm.
Television

Comcast Won't Give New Speed Boost To Internet Users Who Don't Buy TV Service (arstechnica.com) 264

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Last week, Comcast announced speed increases for customers in Houston and the Oregon/SW Washington areas. The announcement headlines were "Comcast increases Internet speeds for some video customers." Customers with 60Mbps Internet download speeds are being upped to 150Mbps; 150Mbps subscribers are going to 250Mbps; and 250Mbps subscribers are getting a raise to 400Mbps or 1Gbps. Comcast says speed increases will kick in automatically without raising the customers' monthly bills -- but only if they subscribe to certain bundles that include both Internet and TV service.

"Cord cutters are not invited to the [speed increase] party," the Houston Chronicle wrote. "Only those who bundle Internet with cable television and other services... will see their speeds go up at no extra charge." Presumably, Internet-only customers can get the new speeds by paying more or by bundling their Internet subscriptions with video.

Businesses

Digital and Analog Audio's Curious Coexistence (cnet.com) 345

Steve Guttenberg, writing for CNET: It's a funny thing, the ongoing turntable sales surge shows no signs of slowing down, but nearly all new music is recorded digitally. It seems like a contradiction, turntables and LPs are purely analog in nature, but nearly all new (not remastered LPs) made over the last 30+ years were recorded, mixed, and mastered from digital sources. Older, pre 1980 LPs were made in an all-analog world. Today's LPs are hybrids of a sort, the grooves are still analog, but the music was probably made in the digital domain.

Be that as it may, LPs, regardless of vintage, can sound great. While pre-1980s records may be richer in tone and warmth, there are lots of more recent albums that sound just as good or better. In other words vinyl's sound quality or lack thereof has mostly to do with the quality of the original recording, and the choices made by the recording, mixing, and mastering engineers.

Despite the overwhelming number of digital recordings, there is still a tiny percentage of all-analog recordings being made. To cite one mostly analog studio, the legendary Electrical Audio, which owner Steve Albini told me records and mixes around 70 percent of all of its sessions on tape.

Sci-Fi

Sci-Fi Is Still Working on Its 'Stale, Male, and Pale' Problem, Says James Cameron (indiewire.com) 796

An anonymous reader shares a report: As science fiction finally earns mainstream acceptance in Hollywood, James Cameron believes the genre's awards drought will soon be over. "I predict that sometime in the next five to 10 years you will have a science-fiction film win Best Picture," he told reporters while promoting "AMC Visionaries: James Cameron's Story of Science Fiction," which premieres Monday. Films like "Arrival" and "Ex-Machina" have earned nominations, but as the older guard ages out of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cameron believes that the membership's "prejudice" against sci-fi -- which he says "definitely exists" -- will fade. "They're definitely a red-headed stepchild when it comes to the acting, producing, directing categories," he said.

"Science fiction is kind of a commercial genre, it's not really an elevated dramatic genre. I would argue that until I'm blue in the face that science fiction is the quintessence of being human in a sense. We are technological beings. We are the only truly conscious species that we know of. We are struggling with ourselves over the issue of our own question for understanding, our own ability to manipulate the fabric of our reality. Our own technology is blowing back on us and changing how we behave amongst ourselves and as a civilization," he added. "I would argue that there's nothing more quintessentially human than dealing with these themes. But Hollywood tends to pull short from that."

But as Hollywood changes its perception of science fiction, Cameron stressed that the genre itself needs to continue to evolve from its origins of being too "stale, male and pale." "It was white guys talking about rockets," Cameron said of early sci-fi. "The female authors didn't come into it until the '50s and '60s and a lot of them had to operate under pseudonyms." But even now, "women are still unrepresented in science fiction as they are in Hollywood in general," he said. "When 14 percent of all film directors in the industry are female, and they represent 50 percent of the population, that's a big delta there that needs to get rectified."

Books

A Mass of Copyrighted Works Will Soon Enter the Public Domain (theatlantic.com) 113

For the first time in two decades, a huge number of books, films, and other works will escape U.S. copyright law. From a report: The Great American Novel enters the public domain on January 1, 2019 -- quite literally. Not the concept, but the book by William Carlos Williams. It will be joined by hundreds of thousands of other books, musical scores, and films first published in the United States during 1923. It's the first time since 1998 for a mass shift to the public domain of material protected under copyright. It's also the beginning of a new annual tradition: For several decades from 2019 onward, each New Year's Day will unleash a full year's worth of works published 95 years earlier.

This coming January, Charlie Chaplin's film The Pilgrim and Cecil B. DeMille's The 10 Commandments will slip the shackles of ownership, allowing any individual or company to release them freely, mash them up with other work, or sell them with no restriction. This will be true also for some compositions by Bela Bartok, Aldous Huxley's Antic Hay, Winston Churchill's The World Crisis, Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Pigeons, E.E. Cummings's Tulips and Chimneys, Noel Coward's London Calling! musical, Edith Wharton's A Son at the Front, many stories by P.G. Wodehouse, and hosts upon hosts of forgotten works, according to research by the Duke University School of Law's Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

Throughout the 20th century, changes in copyright law led to longer periods of protection for works that had been created decades earlier, which altered a pattern of relatively brief copyright protection that dates back to the founding of the nation. This came from two separate impetuses. First, the United States had long stood alone in defining copyright as a fixed period of time instead of using an author's life plus a certain number of years following it, which most of the world had agreed to in 1886. Second, the ever-increasing value of intellectual property could be exploited with a longer term. But extending American copyright law and bringing it into international harmony meant applying "patches" retroactively to work already created and published. And that led, in turn, to lengthy delays in copyright expiring on works that now date back almost a century.

Television

While More People Switch To Streaming TV, Cable Stocks are Plummetting (investors.com) 120

An anonymous reader quotes Investor's Business Daily: Shares in Charter Communications plunged after the cable TV firm reported first quarter earnings and lost more video subscribers than expected, also sparking a sell-off in Comcast and Altice USA... Charter said it lost 122,000 video subscribers, nearly triple analyst predictions for a fall of 43,000. Comcast on Wednesday said it lost 96,000 video subscribers, exceeding estimates for a drop of 75,000.... With Friday's sell-off, Comcast stock is down 20% in 2018, with Charter falling more than 24%...

Cable TV firms aren't the only losers. AT&T this week said it lost 187,000 pay-TV customers, including satellite TV subscribers and its U-verse landline business. AT&T's DirecTV Now internet streaming service added 312,000 customers. But AT&T garners much lower profit margins from video streaming.

Cable companies are now raising prices on broadband services to compensate, according to the article.

MarketWatch notes that Charter also lost 100,000 customers in the same three-month period in 2017, calling the ongoing trend "a fundamental shift in consumer behavior."
Movies

MoviePass Changes TOS To Prevent You From Seeing the Same Movie More Than Once (engadget.com) 69

MoviePass has changed its terms of service to prevent subscribers from seeing the same movie more than once. First spotted by iMore, the new limitation will apply to all subscribers, new and existing. MoviePass' website says, "We recently updated our Terms of Service to reflect that MoviePass subscribers are only permitted to see a select movie in theaters once with your MoviePass. We hope this will encourage you to see new movies and enjoy something different!" Engadget reports: This isn't the first time the company has done this, however. It limited users to seeing titles just once in its earlier days as well and CEO Mitch Lowe said the rule's reinstatement is to cut down on fraud. "When we took that policy down, we saw some people turning MoviePass into a cottage industry, standing in front of a theater selling their tickets to Star Wars, or whatever," he told The Hollywood Reporter. Lowe also said that new features are in the works including couples plans and options that include 3D and IMAX movies.
Television

Cord Cutting Caused By 74 Percent TV Price Hikes Since 2000, Says Report (dslreports.com) 173

A new study by Kagan, S&P Global Market Intelligence finds that cord cutting is being caused primarily by a 74% increase in customer cable bills since 2000. From a report: That increase is even adjusted for inflation, and it should be noted that individual earnings have seen a modest decline during that same period, making soaring cable rates untenable for many. This affordability gap is "squeezing penetration rates, particularly among the more economically vulnerable households," the research company added. As their chart illustrates, prices for multichannel packages have steadily risen from just below $60 a month in 2000 to close to $100 in 2016. All while incomes remained largely stagnant. As customers grow increasingly angry at cable TV rate hikes and defect to streaming alternatives, most cable operators are simply raising the price of broadband (often via usage caps and overage fees) to try and make up for lost revenue. And because most parts of America still don't really see healthy broadband competition, they can consistently get away with it.

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