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Apple’s iPhone 13 Makes Pricing Headlines With Multiple Trade-In Offers

Apple announced the next generation of iPhone at their recent keynote event. Beyond the new tech specs, experts are mainly talking about the amazing trade-in offers that Apple is giving its customers.

Chromebooks Dominating PC Market With 75% Annual Growth Internationally 

According to reports from Canalys, Chromebooks have been outperforming the rest of the industry product categories thanks to a 75% annual growth and shipment of over 11 million units last quarter. 

Overall the worldwide PC market has seen a 10% rise in shipments this past quarter with over 121 million units sold, according to data from Canalys. Growth in the tablet market has decreased slightly in Q2, with a total increase of just 4% with 39.1 million units sold. 

After its success in Q2, vendors of Chromebook continued to invest in the brand. HP came in second with a 116% increase in shipments for Q2. Lenovo came right after with an 82% increase in shipments and Acer was right next to them with a growth of 83%. 

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Brian Lynch is a research analyst at Canalys who claims the success of Chromebooks is showing that the PC market is remarkably resilient, and its growth will likely continue after the pandemic as well. He explained that “the company has cemented a healthy position across all end-user segments in the industry.” 

“Even as key markets like North America and Western Europe have seen schools begin to open up, shipments remain elevated as governments and education ecosystems plan for the long-term integration of Chromebooks within digital learning processes.”

“With Chrome’s hold over the education space relatively secure, Google is set to bet big on the commercial segment this year. We expect to see a strong focus on attracting small businesses with updated services, such as the new ‘Individual’ subscription tier for Google Workspace and promotions on CloudReady licenses to repurpose old PCs for deployment alongside existing Chromebook fleets,” Lynch explained. 

Lynch also noted that Apple is looking to expand its M1 success into the commercial space that companies like Microsoft have successfully been running. Microsoft is also gearing up to release Windows 11 this year, which will likely lead to another massive spike in sales. Lynch claims the race between Apple’s OS devices and PC devices has never been tighter thanks to overall advancements in personal device technology. 

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Tablets have been dominating the personal device market within the past few years, as more consumers are attracted to the lower price point, and touch capabilities that allow them to do even more than what they could on a traditional laptop. 

Apple has been leading the tablet market for quite some time, last quarter they sold 14.2 million iPads, and vendors in general saw a massive increase in buying once the pandemic started. 

Canalys research analyst Himani Mukka says this past quarter was the fifth consecutive one in which the tablet market has seen an exponential increase within the personal device market. 

“Even as consumer demand for tablets undergoes an inevitable slowdown in the coming quarters, there are exciting developments to be seen in commercial deployments. Canalys expects to see stronger integration between the tablet and PC, allowing for smoother workflow transitions between multiple devices, which is especially attractive to those operating under hybrid and on-the-go work styles.” Mukka said. 

“This will certainly be the case for iPads and Macs, but the introduction of Windows 11 on cloud, and its usage on devices that can run Android bodes well for tablet vendors, users, and developers beyond the Apple ecosystem.”

Europe’s Proposed Artificial Intelligence Law Could Cost Its Economy $36 Billion 

A new law proposed for the European Union designed to regulate artificial intelligence could cost the nation up to 32 billion euros; about $36 billion. The payments would be spread out over five years according to a report from the Center for Data Innovation, a Washington-based think tank. 

The Artificial Intelligence Act is a proposed law put forward by the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU. The act is said to be the :world’s most restrictive regulation of AI” according to the center. 

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“It will not only limit AI development and use in Europe but impose significant costs on EU businesses and consumers.”

The Center for Data Innovation argued that a small or midsize enterprise with a turnover of 10 million euros will face compliance costs of up to 400,000 euros if it was to deploy an AI system deemed “high risk.” These systems are ones that the commission defines as “affecting people’s fundamental rights or safety.” 

“That designation sweeps in a broad swath of potential applications — from critical infrastructure to educational and vocational training — subjecting them to a battery of requirements before companies can bring them to market,” the center said.

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The center argues that “compliance borders” will cost European businesses 10.9 billion euros per year by 2025, or 31 billion euros over the next five years. Ben Mueller, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation and author of the report suggested that this would be more harmful than helpful to many sectors of the economy. 

“The Commission has repeatedly asserted that the draft AI legislation will support growth and innovation in Europe’s digital economy, but a realistic economic analysis suggests that argument is disingenuous at best.”

“The rosy outlook is largely based on opinions and shibboleths rather than logic and market data,” he added, explaining that AI is already being used by major companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook, but lawmakers in Europe aren’t even aware of the impact this new law could have. 

Mueller explained that the technology has the potential to improve healthcare and climate modeling for the nation, however, it can also be used to give every citizen a “social score.” The law is still in the works and the debates over its actual benefits are ongoing.

US and Iran Conflict

Facebook Claims Hackers In Iran Used Platform To Target US Military Personnel 

Facebook announced last week that it had removed 200 accounts that they discovered were run by a group of hackers based in Iran as a part of a larger cyber-spying operation mainly targeting US military personnel and people working at defense and aerospace companies. 

The group is known as “Tortoiseshell” to security experts, and they all used fake online profiles to connect with individuals in the military, build personal connections and drive them to other sites where they would be tricked into clicking links that would infect their systems with spying malware. Some of the conversations between the hackers and personnel would go on for months to really establish that trust.

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“This activity had the hallmarks of a well-resourced and persistent operation, while relying on relatively strong operational security measures to hide who’s behind it,” Facebook’s investigations team said in a blogpost.

“The group made fictitious profiles across multiple social media platforms to appear more credible, often posing as recruiters or employees of aerospace and defense companies”

Facebook’s team claimed that the group used email, messaging, and collaboration services to distribute the malware. A spokesperson for Microsoft, which was also involved in the cyberattack, claimed that they have been made aware of the hacking and would be taking extra measures to prevent something like this from happening in the future. 

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“The hackers also used tailored domains to attract its targets, including fake recruiting websites for defense companies, and it set up online infrastructure that spoofed a legitimate job search website for the US Department of Labor.”

Facebook claimed the hackers mainly were targeting individuals in the US, and a few others in the UK and Europe in general. The campaign has been running since 2020, and has supposedly impacted around 200 individuals.

“The campaign appeared to show an expansion of the group’s activity, which had previously been reported to concentrate mostly on the IT and other industries in the Middle East. Our investigation found that a portion of the malware used by the group was developed by Mahak Rayan Afraz, an IT company based in Tehran with ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Facebook said. 

Facebook claimed that it has now blocked the malicious domains that it knows of from being shared, and Google is also taking steps to make sure all domains are blocked.

Sealed Super Mario 64 Game Sells For Record-Breaking $1.5 Million 

Even though Super Mario 64 is not one of the rarest or oldest video games on the market, it does hold a certain level of icon status. So much so that a factory-sealed copy of the 1996 Super Mario 64 game recently sold for $1.5 million at an auction over the weekend. While vintage video game collecting has certainly been on the rise in recent years, this marks the highest amount of money paid for a single video game in auction history. 

The factory-sealed copy received a condition grading of 9.8 out of 10, which means the game was practically undamaged. In total, it sold for $1,560,000 at the Heritage Auctions House, breaking the record for highest-selling video game at an auction. 

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Again, Super Mario 64 is not that rare when compared to other vintage video games that have sold for high prices in the past, however, experts claim that collectors are more focused on getting their hands on collectables, rather than the rarest game or piece of memorabilia. 

Editorial director at Digital Eclipse, Chris Hohler, recently discussed this auction and the overall rise in vintage video game/science fiction collection.

“Well, I figured the first million dollar game was imminent, but I didn’t think it was gonna be today…or Super Mario 64.”

Video game rarity has many different forms in the eyes of a collector. Super Mario 64, for example, sold close to 12 million copies when it first dropped, however, the packaging was extremely prone to damage. So a pristine copy of the game in its original packaging is almost unheard of, hence its rarity and high price. 

“There are discussions of how many first-print sealed Mario 64’s may exist, but no matter what the number is, there are certainly only a tiny fraction with a 9.8 rating,” Deniz Kahn, the CEO of Wata Games, which rated this particular copy of Mario 64, said in a statement

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“We often receive factory ‘case-packs’ of N64 games where all six copies included have not been circulated. Even in these undistributed ‘case-fresh’ copies, most often the results end up with two or fewer 9.8s, and oftentimes none.”

Experts still think the $1.5 million price point is almost unheard of. Heritage Auctions recently sold a multitude of other vintage video games, all with a quality rating of 9 or above, and the highest that someone paid for them was $38,000.  Preservationist and director of the Video Game History Foundation, Frank Cifaldi, explained in a statement that the game sold barely hit five figures outside of Heritage: “I 100% agree it being a 9.8 puts it at a completely different level but a sudden jump from $30k to $1.5M feels wrong.”

“In other spaces such as Comics, Coins, or sports cards, the difference between the second highest grade and the highest grade can be a 2x+ multiple in value and sometimes much more,” Kahn explained. 

“Attaining the finest known example from a condition standpoint drives a certain type of collector’s behavior, specifically the collector who wants the absolute best.”

“All that being said, this price is still shocking but shows the level of emotion involved in how prices are realized in an auction scenario,” he said. “This was a case of several collectors, at least two, who fit the profile of wanting the absolute best of an iconic relic of pop culture that exists. This is the economics of a collectible market at play, and we get to see some incredible things happen,” Kahn said.

Scientists Develop The World’s Thinnest Electronic Device

Scientists have developed the world’s thinnest piece of technology in a tiny device that’s as thick as two atoms stacked on top of each other. The device is meant to be used to store electronic information. 

The device itself consists of two different layers, one made of boron and the other nitrogen. The two layers are arranged in a repeating hexagonal structure, and scientists explained that because the device uses a process called quantum tunneling, electrons from both layers are able to zip through the gaps that are created and thus encode digital information. 

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According to Livescience magazine, “this is similar to the way current state-of-the-art computing devices work. The hearts of computers contain many tiny crystals, each consisting of roughly a million atoms stacked in multiple, 100-atom layers.” 

“By shuttling electrons across gaps between the layers, computers are able to switch between the two binary states (0 and 1) that form the basis of the basic unit of digital information, the bit.”

“In its natural three-dimensional state, this material (the crystal) is made up of a large number of layers placed on top of each other, with each layer rotated 180 degrees relative to its neighbors. In the lab, we were able to artificially stack the layers in a parallel configuration with no rotation, which hypothetically places atoms of the same kind in perfect overlap despite the strong repulsive force between them (resulting from their identical charges),” Moshe Ben Shalom, a physicist at Tel Aviv University and a co-author of the study that developed the new technology, said in a statement.

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The process of quantum tunneling, according to Shalom, allows electrons to pass through seemingly impassable barriers. In this case with this device, the electrons passing in between the boron and nitrogen layers create a charge that allows information to be stored on the device itself. 

The team said that “the two layers do not perfectly align, instead preferring to slide slightly off center from one another so that the opposite charges of each layer overlap. This causes the free electrons (negatively charged) to move toward one layer and the positively charged atomic nuclei to the other, creating a small amount of electronic polarization — one side being positively charged and the other negatively charged — inside the device. 

“By adjusting how one layer relates to the other, the polarization can be reversed — changing the device from one binary state to the other, and with it the stored information.”

So what exactly is the purpose of a device that’s so thin? The scientists behind the technology claim that the faster electrons are able to move in a given plane, the faster a device will likely go. So a device with minimal density would allow electrons to move at a quicker rate, and thus create a more energy efficient device. 

“We hope that miniaturization and flipping (the polarization of the device) through sliding will improve today’s electronic devices, and moreover, allow other original ways of controlling information in future devices,” lead author Maayan Vizner Stern, a doctoral candidate at Tel Aviv University, said in the statement.

Instagram

Head Of Instagram Says App Is ‘No Longer For Sharing Photos’

Adam Mosseri, head of popular social media app Instagram, claimed recently that the platform is shifting its focus to compete more directly with TikTok. This means Instagram will begin prioritizing putting entertainment, videos, and shopping at the center of the apps experience. 

“We are no longer a photo-sharing app. The number one reason people say they use Instagram, based on research, is to be entertained.” 

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He went on to explain how he recently “told the company that because of this data, Instagram will lean into the entertainment trend and video. TikTok and YouTube are huge competitors to Instagram, so in order to stay relevant, the app must evolve.”

“People are looking to Instagram to be entertained, and there’s stiff competition, and there is more to do and we have to embrace that, and that means change.”

Mosseri discussed how the app is currently experimenting with a change that involves showing users more recommended posts in their feeds that directly relate to the accounts that they already follow. 

Media reports on this shift stated that the changes would “make Instagram theoretically function similarly to how YouTube manages its home page.” TikTok has a similar function that shows users recommended videos and users based on the other posts that they’ve liked. 

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Mosseri claims beyond just posts and users, however, Instagram will be working to make the recommendations more topical, so users can tell the app what kind of content they want to see more or less of. 

Mosseri says that “Instagram’s goals moving forward are to embrace video more broadly beyond its IGTV, Reels, and Stories integrations. Instagram wants to focus on more full-screen, immersive, mobile-first video experiences over the square photo-sharing app that it has been.”

The rise of recommended content has been growing exponentially among all social media platforms. Some users love it, and some hate it, which is why Apple recently implemented an update that lets users decide which apps can track what the user is doing. 

It’ll be interesting to see how much Instagram shifts to be more like TikTok or YouTube, and if that shift will help it gain more popularity, or cause a decrease in user engagement due to the fact that many people complain about missing when Instagram was just for uploading one photo at a time. 

Online Shopping

How 3D Technology Will Help Increase Online Home Goods Sales

Wayfair, a popular online retailer for home goods, recently had their co-founder discuss how they believe the implementation of 3D technology will help improve the customer experience when it comes to buying new pieces of furniture for their homes. 

Steven Conine, co-founder and co-chairman of Wayfair, discussed how the company has been experimenting and investing in 3D and AR (augmented reality) technology to make it easier for customers to see how a certain product would look inside their space without having to leave. 

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“AR/VR is certainly a space we’ve been playing with for quite a while now, and we do believe that over time it can have a meaningful impact in terms of making it easier to shop for your home from your home.”

The company also believes eventually that this technology can be used at actual retail locations around the country. While Wayfair doesn’t currently have any physical locations, they’ve already begun experimenting with brick-and-mortar pop-up shops which feature design service teams that can help customers furnish their spaces. 

“Ideally, I think at some point in the future every home in the U.S. will have a 3D model associated with it,” Conine said. 

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“We could have a design services team in our store who could give you a very personalized experience and actually help you visualize products in your space, help guarantee that it will fit, it will flow well and it’s the look and style you want.”

Throughout the pandemic, Wayfair saw a major surge in sales, as many other online retailers selling home goods saw because more people are investing in their spaces. Conine claimed that office furniture and home accessories were among the most popular purchases, so the idea to invest in this new advanced technology seemed like a no brainer.  

VR and AR technology would allow customers to see how a certain chair would look with their desk, or painting above their fireplace, basically they can literally see what their space would look like without the commitment of buying a product and having to wait to see how it looks when it arrives.

“I’m not worried about seeing a decline in sales because of the nature of home improvement. There’s a never-ending list of projects or products you want for your home. There is always something you are in the market for,” Wayfair CEO Niraj Shah said, in response to the decline in sales with the nation reopening.

Facebook Scientists Can Now Tell Where Deepfakes Come From 

Artificial intelligence workers at Facebook have developed a new software that can reveal when a picture or video post is a deepfake as well as where it came from. 

Deepfakes are defined as videos that have been digitally altered in some way using AI technology. Typically, these videos show very hyper-realistic celebrity faces, saying whatever the user making the post wants them to say. These videos have become increasingly realistic, and popular, making it extremely hard for humans to tell what’s real, and what’s not. 

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The Facebook researchers claim their new AI software can establish if a piece of media is a deepfake or not based on a single image taken from said video. The software will also be able to identify the AI that was used to create the video, no matter how advanced the technique. 

Tal Hassner, an applied research lead at Facebook, said that it’s “possible to train AI software to look at the photo and tell you with a reasonable degree of accuracy what is the design of the AI model that generated that photo.”

Deepfakes in general are a major threat to internet safety, in fact, Facebook banned them back in January 2020 due to the amount of misinformation they were spreading. Individuals can easily create doctored videos of powerful politicians making wild claims about the US that other world leaders could potentially see and take seriously before it’s determined that the video is indeed fake. 

Hassner said that detecting deepfakes is a “cat and mouse game, they’re becoming easier to produce and harder to detect. One of the main applications of deepfakes so far has been in pornography where a person’s face is swapped onto someone else’s body, but they’ve also been used to make celebrities appear as though they’re doing or saying something they’re not.”

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Nina Schick is a deepfake expert who’s worked closely with the White House and President Biden on this issue. She emphasized that while it’s amazing that we now have the technology to detect when these videos are fake, it’s just as important to find out how well they actually work in the real world and how well they’re able to track and stop individuals from continuing to make them. 

“It’s all well and good testing it on a set of training data in a controlled environment. But one of the big challenges seems to be that there are easy ways to fool detection models, like by compressing an image or a video.”

It’s still unclear how or even if Facebook will be using this technology to combat the amount of misinformation deepfakes work to spread on the platform, but Tassner explained that ideally the technology will be used among all in the future. 

“If someone wanted to abuse them (generative models) and conduct a coordinated attack by uploading things from different sources, we can actually spot that just by saying all of these came from the same mold we’ve never seen before but it has these specific properties, specific attributes,” he said.

New iPhone Health App Feature Lets Users Easily Share Their Information With Doctors 

In the modern world of technology and medicine, many medical facilities have taken a digital approach to saving their patients information and medical history. Not only does this save paper, but it also makes it easy for doctors to see everything they need to know when you come to visit. 

Now, Apple has announced that with the new iOs 15 update this fall, some iPhone users will be able to send medical data directly from their Health app to their doctors electronic medical records systems. 

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The point of this update is to make it easier for patients who maybe have multiple doctors, are seeing a new physician, or just need to easily access and share their data. Libo Wang is a cardiology fellow who studies wearable technology and its potential health benefits. 

“The current workflow is mildly laborious, and requires the patient to email the pdf, and a clinician manually uploading that file to create a permanent record in the official electronic medical record.”

The new update will be collaborating directly with six electronic medical record companies in the US, including Cerner, which controls about a quarter of the market in the US. Apple says as the year progresses it will continue to add more companies to make sure as many iPhone users as possible have access to the feature if they want it. 

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The Health app data isn’t directly transferred into the electronic health records either, and instead doctors are able to see a window with the information, but the information won’t be permanently added to the record unless the patient gives their full consent. Additionally, if a user wants to stop sharing their information with a particular office, they can simply stop sharing and the information will immediately be removed from the health record. 

“Having secure ways to view and share this information in a clinical context has been helpful,” said Sam Lambson, vice president of interoperability at Cerner.

“It’s more and more common for patients to bring health data from their personal devices to health visits. Cerner is especially focused on efforts to incorporate that into its systems even outside of the new Apple program. One advantage of the Apple system is that it’s easy for doctors to use,” said Jessica Oveys, director of product management at Cerner.

“I think the key to it is certainly empowering and making the patient feel at the center and secure, and making it easy for them to share. But also, it’s really presenting the data in a way that’s actionable and relevant to the clinician,” she said.