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Germany’s Bosch to offer lower-cost sensors for self-driving cars



By Ben Klayman

(Reuters) – German automotive supplier Robert Bosch said Thursday it has developed a sensor that lets cars “see” a three-dimensional view of the road, aiming to lower the cost of technology that could speed the development of self-driving vehicles.

Privately-held Bosch said the internally-developed lidar sensor, which it will show at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week, will cover both long and close ranges on highways and in the city and will work in conjunction with the company’s camera and radar technologies.

Lidar technology, which uses light-based sensors to generate a three-dimensional view of the road, remains a relatively young technology that is still in flux. In its current form, it is too expensive for mass market use, but if a cheaper lidar sensor were widely adopted, it could provide more depth data that would allow self-driving cars to detect the distance to other road users like pedestrians.

While numerous start-ups are working on lidar, the involvement of large and trusted suppliers like Bosch could help speed adoption of the technology.

“Bosch is making automated driving a viable possibility in the first place,” Bosch management board member Harald Kroeger said in a statement.

Initially using bulky spinning devices placed on the roof of cars, lidar developers have transitioned to more compact solid-state devices that can be mounted on other parts of a car, such as near the headlights. These now sell for less than $10,000 in limited quantities, but analysts say they must sell for as little as $200 in mass production to become commercially viable.

Bosch did not provide a timeline, pricing or technology details for its lidar, but a spokesman said the company is working on making the sensors “production ready” and the focus will be on “affordable mass market” technology.

The spokesman declined to say whether Bosch already had auto customers for the sensor.

The development of self-driving cars has hit a speed bump as costs and regulatory concerns cause automakers and tech companies to rethink their plans.

Lidar is currently used by companies including General Motors Co , Ford Motor Co and Alphabet Inc’s Waymo. Apple Inc also is evaluating the technology.

Others are less enthusiastic about adopting lidar, citing a high cost and limited capabilities – including Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc and Nissan Motor Co Ltd 7201.T>.

Last April, Musk called lidar “a fool’s errand” that was too costly and said anyone relying on the technology was “doomed.” Tesla vehicles rely on cameras and radars as their vision system for self-driving.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in lidar start-ups over the last few years.

Other major suppliers developing the technology include Valeo , Aptiv , and Continental . Last July, Valeo said it had won 500 million euros ($560 million)worth of orders for its lidar sensor products.

($1 = 0.8927 euros)

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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Apple search engine efforts ‘stepping up’ as Google deal under threat – FT – 9to5Mac



Speculation about plans for an Apple search engine to compete with Google has been around for many years now, ever since the company was first seen to be using its own web crawler back in 2014. Apple confirmed the existence of the Applebot crawler in 2015.

A report in the Financial Times claims that Apple is now ‘stepping up’ efforts to create its own search engine as its lucrative deal with Google comes under threat …

Google currently pays Apple an estimated $8-12 billion per year to be the default search engine on iOS devices. In 2018, for example, the sum was estimated at a little under $10 billion – around 20% of the company’s Services income for the year. However, antitrust regulators are now putting this deal in the spotlight, and arguing that it may be anticompetitive.

This raises the question of what Apple would do if it was banned from renewing the deal, and lost that income. One suggestion that has been that the iPhone maker could create an Apple search engine.

The FT report cites circumstantial evidence and industry commentary, rather than inside sources, and not much of it is new. It opens, for example, with a change seen in iOS 14 to the swipe-down search box.

Apple is stepping up efforts to develop its own search technology as US antitrust authorities threaten multibillion-dollar payments that Google makes to secure prime placement of its engine on the iPhone.

In a little-noticed change to the latest version of the iPhone operating system, iOS 14, Apple has begun to show its own search results and link directly to websites when users type queries from its home screen.

That web search capability marks an important advance in Apple’s in-house development and could form the foundation of a fuller attack on Google, according to several people in the industry.

It also points to the two-and-a-half year old news of Apple poaching Google’s John Giannandrea, putting its own spin on the hire.

Apple poached Google’s head of search, John Giannandrea. The hire was ostensibly to boost its artificial intelligence capabilities and its Siri virtual assistant, but also brought eight years of experience running the world’s most popular search engine.

It includes commentary from former senior Google execs, but this too is purely speculative.

“They [Apple] have a credible team that I think has the experience and the depth, if they wanted to, to build a more general search engine,” said Bill Coughran, Google’s former engineering chief, who is now a partner at Silicon Valley investor Sequoia Capital […]

“Apple’s position is very unique because it has the iPhone and iOS. It controls the default browser,” said Sridhar Ramaswamy, Neeva’s co-founder and Google’s former head of advertising. Expanding in search “feels natural” for Apple, he said, as it has the ability to gather data and learn from user behaviour at large scale. 

Applebot’s crawl rate – the number of times it visits websites in order to update its database – is said to have increased substantially. Others note that Apple is one of the few companies in the world with the resources to create a search engine to compete with Google.

But all of the known facts would be consistent with Apple simply working on making Siri smarter.

The single biggest argument against Apple creating a search engine is the company’s strong privacy stance, and its less-than-flattering commentary on ad-funded services like Google.

A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product. But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy.

Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you.

Walking that back would be problematic to say the least.

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Astro’s Playroom is the perfect showcase for the PS5’s wild DualSense controller – The Verge



As far as pack-in games go, Astro’s Playroom may not seem all that exciting at first. It’s not an instant classic like a bundled Super Mario., nor something with the obvious appeal of Wii Sports. But Sony made a smart decision in giving Astro away to every PS5 owner: it might just be the ideal showcase for the console’s new DualSense controller.

The game itself is a fairly simple 3D platformer, but one that exudes charm. Everything is bright and colorful, and there are lots of fun little animations. If you leave Astro alone for too long, he’ll pull out a PSVR and start playing games on his own. (If the adorable robotic character looks familiar, it’s because it also starred in the PSVR title Astro Bot: Rescue Mission, another game designed to showcase new hardware.)

Everything takes place in a retrofuturistic world divided into several levels, though for this preview I’ll only be discussing the first, called “Cooling Springs.”

Cute as everything is, initially it seems generic. You start out at a beach collecting coins, jumping around, and smacking enemies with your little robot fists. It’s all very peaceful and charming; mechanical dolphins swim through the water, and you can knock around beach balls. Later, you’ll move on to other themed areas like a robot hotel and a frozen arctic region. It’s not particularly hard, but there’s a really playful tone. You’ll spend time sliding down icy ramps, jumping off of diving boards, and figure skating around enemies. Littered around the level are all kinds of classic PlayStation Easter eggs (which I won’t spoil for you right now).

But the most interesting thing about Astro’s Playroom isn’t how it plays — it’s how it feels. Sony’s new DualSense controller is its biggest gamepad redesign since it introduced twin sticks midway through the original PlayStation’s life. And two of the showcase features are all about feel: there are triggers on the back with haptic feedback and variable tension, and the controller has much more subtle vibrations. Both are on display in Astro’s first stage.

The vibrations are noticeable almost immediately, and the variety is pretty incredible. You can feel bits of sand crunching when Astro is walking on a beach, there’s a heavy plop when you jump into the water, and a satisfying tension when you pull on an elastic band. I especially loved the colder region where you can actually feel Astro shiver. What’s remarkable is how distinct they all feel. Each sensation is accompanied by a sound effect from the DualSense’s built-in speaker, and when you combine the physical and audio sensations, the experience becomes that much more immersive.

Astro’s Playroom

The same goes for the new haptic triggers. Normally, the R2 and L2 buttons perform like regular buttons, but during certain sequences, they offer feedback in the form of tension. Essentially, there are two states to the button press; you can easily press down halfway, but a full press requires a bit more force. As an example, in the opening level of Astro, there are side-scrolling sequences where the bot jumps around in a spring-powered mech suit. (Don’t ask.) In order to do a short jump, you pull the trigger halfway, but to launch across the screen, you need to pull it all the way down. It makes big leaps that much more satisfying since you have to add the extra force.

The level also makes use of other controller features. You can blow into the mic to spin a fan, use the touchpad to move a zipper, and there are the prerequisite motion controls. None of these are new like the vibration and haptic triggers, but it’s actually pretty impressive how many things Sony crammed into this gamepad.

Of course, it’s impossible to know how things will play out for the DualSense. Astro’s Playroom is an adorable little game made all the more charming thanks to these new features. But it was also designed explicitly to take advantage of them. Wii Sports was amazing, but only a few Wii games made motion controls anywhere near as compelling.

Right now, it’s not clear whether other games and developers will take advantage of the DualSense in the same way. Like HD Rumble on the Nintendo Switch, they could end up being a forgotten gimmick. But in the case of Astro’s Playroom, it’s at least an incredibly fun gimmick — and one that should make new PS5 owners plenty happy when the console launches on November 12th.

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iPhone 12 Pro has killer hidden performance — what you need to know – Tom's Guide



Thanks to its new A14 Bionic chip, the iPhone 12 is much faster than any Android phone based on the iPhone 12 benchmarks we’ve run, but in real-world use it’s a multitasking powerhouse and wipes the floor with older iPhones. 

In a video by EverythingApplePro, the Apple-centric YouTuber compared the iPhone 12 Pro against the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone Xs, carrying out a variety of tasks. The 12 Pro blew the older models away — and it’s not just because of the A14.

EverythingApplePro showed how the iPhone 12 Pro could bounce between a whole load of apps open at the same time. And even after carrying out a video rendering tasks, the YouTuber was able to open up a load of apps in mere seconds. 

That’s thanks to the extra 2GB of RAM the iPhone 12 Pro has over its predecessor, allowing for a lot of apps to be stored ‘in-memory.” That means the apps are loaded from the iPhone 12’s RAM rather than its pool of storage. 

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This allows for much faster multitasking, something iPhones have struggled with in the past, unlike some Android phones with large amounts of RAM. 

Apple never revealed how much RAM its iPhones have, but it’s believed the iPhone 12 Pro has 6GB. Comparatively, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has 12GB. But EverythingApplePro noted that the IPhone 12 Pro shows how a well-optimized chip means there’s no need to have vast amounts of RAM in a smartphone. Given Apple designs its chips in-house, it has greater control over how the silicon plays with iOS and the rest of the IPhone. 

In short, the iPhone 12 Pro is not only a powerhouse on the benchmark sheets, but also a multitasking machine in the streets. That alone arguably makes it a compelling upgrade over the iPhone 11 Pro, before you even consider the new design and upgraded cameras. 

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