Can you outwit Google’s new photo-identifying neural network?

google, artificial intelligence, ai, maps, photos, planet, deep learning, neural network, geotags, geotagging

Google has unveiled a new neural network called PlaNet that’s capable of determining the location an image was captured.

To measure PlaNet’s accuracy, the team collected roughly 2.3 million geotagged images from Flickr and fed them through the network. The system was able to correctly identify images at street-level accuracy 3.6 percent of the time and city-level accuracy 10.1 percent of the time. Zooming out further, PlaNet nailed country-level accuracy 28.4 percent of the time and correctly guess the continent an image was taken on 48 percent of the time.

Google also pitted its neural network against 10 well-traveled humans using an online game that challenges players to pinpoint on a map where they believe an image was taken. Unsurprisingly, PlaNet got it right more often than its human counterparts.

While its accuracy is far from perfect, it highlights just how far such technology has come. Oh, and if you want to play the game yourself, you can do so by clicking here. Be sure to look for clues in the images – road signs, types of vehicles, architecture type, etc. – to give yourself the best shot.

Perhaps most impressive is the fact that the model uses a very small amount of memory. Tobias Weyand, a computer vision specialist with Google that worked on the project, told Technology Review that it utilizes just 377MB – far less than other methods that rely on gigabytes of data.

These are the most liked / least liked tech CEOs

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg may be experiencing pushback in some regions as he tries to connect the rest of the world to the Internet but in the US, he’s still garnering plenty of “likes.”

In a recent Morning Consult poll, 48 percent of registered voters said they view the Facebook boss favorably. Roughly four in 10 respondents (39 percent) said they had a favorable opinion of Apple chief Tim Cook although those results may be skewed a bit in the wake of Apple’s ongoing legal battle with the FBI over iPhone encryption.

The publication said most of the other respondents either didn’t have an opinion of Cook or didn’t know who he was. Apparently the latter scenario is rather common as 31 percent of people didn’t know who Zuckerberg was while 59 percent had never heard of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Ironically enough, Zuckerberg is also the least liked tech CEO as 21 percent of those polled said they had an unfavorable opinion of him. That’s only slightly worse than Cook as 17 percent viewed him unfavorably. As far as ratios go, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick didn’t do so hot as only 16 percent of those polled had a favorable opinion of him versus 19 percent that didn’t (the other 65 percent either didn’t have an opinion or didn’t know who he was).

The poll was conducted on February 24-25 among 1,935 registered voters with a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

Netflix is introducing data saving, second screen, and HDR features this year

netflix, streaming, hdr, second screen, netflix app, data saving, bitrate, data limit

If you have a limited data plan for your smartphone and find you can’t always binge-watch Netflix shows when you’re out and about, the video streaming site has some good news for you – an update to the Netflix mobile app later this year will give users more control over how much data they use.

According to a report from Pocket Lint, the update for the iOS and Android app will introduce a data saver button that can be turned on to limit bitrate. Once activated, the app will intelligently select the most economical bandwidth at which to stream the content, meaning some video may drop below 1080p to conserve data.

Netflix added that when the update is released it won’t take into account the screen resolution of the user’s device, it also won’t allow users to set the bitrate limit, but this may change in the future.

Additionally, Netflix is introducing a second screen function, which can be used on smartphones and tablets while users stream videos on their main displays. In development for the last four years, this feature will display information on mobile devices related to whatever content users are watching on their TVs. So no more trawling through IMDB trying to find out an actor’s name or some information about the show you’re watching.

The second screen feature will initially launch on Android and Chromecast, and appear on iOS and consoles sometime later.

Finally, Netflix revealed that it will finally introduce HDR (high dynamic range) content in March for the second season of the hit show Daredevil. It was pointed out, however, that it may not be immediately available at the time of the Daredevil’s March 18 release.

HDR, whichexpands the range of both contrast and color significantly to produce more realistic images, will also appear in other Netflix shows, such as Marco Polo. The company has high expectations for the new technology. “HDR is a bigger leap in terms of experience than 4K,” said Netflix.

Facebook’s Canvas brings full-screen interactive ads to its mobile platform

facebook, canvas, ads, facebook app, full-screen ads, immersive ads, facebook mobile

Facebook has just launched a new feature that will allow advertisers to display full-screen ads on the social media site’s mobile platform. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though; users have to click on an advertisement for it to take up the entire screen.

Facebook unveiled the feature, called Canvas, back in September last year. The company calls it an immersive experience for businesses to tell their stories and showcase their products. Once a user taps on a News Feed ad connected to Canvas, the smartphone’s entire screen will be taken up with interactive elements related to the product that the users can swipe through. These include videos, animations, carousels, catalogs, and tilt-to-view images.

Canvas utilizes the same technology that is used to display photos and videos quickly in the Facebook app. The company says that ads using Canvas load as much as ten times faster than they would on the “standard mobile web.”

Facebook has assured users that the introduction of Canvas doesn’t mean they will see more ads appearing in the mobile app.

The company stated the repose to Canvas has been pretty positive, with 53 percent of users that open one of these ads sticking around to view at least half of it. Some of the top ads are recording more than 70 seconds of view time per user.

Big names already using Canvas include Target, Wendy’s, Universal Orlando, BMW, Macy’s, and Marvel’s Jessica Jones. Facebook said it is looking at ways to expand the feature to its other apps, such as Instagram.

Providing that Facebook sticks to its word and doesn’t increase the overall number of ads it pushes out on the mobile platform – and viewing the full-screen experience remains optional – Canvas seems like a good way for advertisers to show off their products without being annoyingly invasive.

Instagram finally gets around to adding two-factor authentication

facebook, security, instagram, social network, two-factor authentication, hacker

It has taken way longer than it should have but Instagram is finally rolling out the option for two-factor authentication.

TechCrunch first learned of the development from a tipster that spotted two-factor authentication in testing. On Wednesday, the social network confirmed with the site that it is indeed rolling out the added layer of security. Here’s how it’ll work.

Instagram will let users register a phone number with their account. Anytime someone tries to log into your account using your username and password, you’ll receive an authentication code on your phone that must be entered to grant access to the account. That’s not a problem if it’s you trying to get in but for an unauthorized user, it’ll pretty much stop them in their tracks.

While a welcomed addition, one has to wonder why it has taken so long for Instagram to get with the act – especially considering the fact that parent company Facebook added two-factor authentication nearly five years ago.

As the publication correctly explains, someone that gains unauthorized access to an account could delete your photos, harass your friends and send them spam. For an individual, such behavior may very well fall under the category of a minor inconvenience but to a celebrity or a major brand, it can be downright damaging.

It’s not uncommon for celebrities or other public figures to lose thousands of followers as a result of a security breach. For those that use Instagram as a source of income, a hack could cost them hundreds or even thousands of dollars in lost wages.

There’s more to Amazon Prime than 2-day shipping

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In case the Super Bowl commercial and accompanying jingle didn’t clue you in, there is more to Amazon Prime than simply free two-day shipping. And while the chorus line points out a few of the additional benefits, there are even more perks than could be squeezed into that minute-long spot, some of them more heavily promoted than others. As such, we thought it was a good idea to make sure you knew about everything you have coming to you.

Free two-day shipping

Still Prime’s main selling point, you get free two-day shipping with no minimum on most orders. Ordinarily, one needs to spend at least $35 to get free shipping. Even then, it is standard shipping which takes twice as long.

No-rush shipping credit

What if you don’t need your order in two days? Amazon provides an incentive for letting them take their time getting your order out the door. Depending on what you buy, you could get a digital credit towards an eBook, MP3, or movie, or a credit towards a Prime Pantry order.

Guaranteed Delivery (which can result in free Prime)

But what if you really, really do need your order in two days and it takes longer? Amazon will give you an extra month of Amazon Prime for free. The only catch is that you have to ask. See also: How to Get One Extra Month of Amazon Prime for Free

Same-day delivery

What if you really need your order right now? If you happen to live in one of the 21 cities where Prime Now is available, you can get most items delivered the same day, and many items as soon as within two hours.

Streaming music, movies, and television shows

The most promoted of its secondary benefits, a Prime membership gives you access to millions of songs and thousands of movies and television shows — including Amazon original programming (Mozart in the Jungle, Transparent, The Man in the High Castle, etc.).

Unlimited cloud photo storage

If you’re like some people I know, your phone quickly fills up with photos. Then, this perk will be especially lucrative. Your Prime membership allows you to store all your photos in the cloud, freeing up your memory for taking even more photos. This was a big perk until Google decided to offer the same thing (with better search tools) withGoogle Photos.

Free Kindle eBooks

Like a virtual public library, Prime gives you access to more than 500,000 eBooks. You can borrow one book per month and there’s never any late fees. Note: This feature only works for Kindle owners, not Kindle app users.

Early access to deals

Ever miss out on one of Amazon’s amazing lightning deals? With Prime, you get a 30-minute headstart over the rest of users and that could make all the difference between scoring a lucrative deal or not.

Prime-only prices and coupons

In addition to getting a headstart on lightning deals, a Prime membership also gives you access to deals to which you wouldn’t otherwise be privy. In the past few months, we’ve seen an increase in the number of these Prime-only prices. Additionally, we’ve also seen a recent uptick in the amount of clippable coupons being available only to Prime members.

Prime Pantry

Especially when it comes to buying large quantities of household items, Prime Pantry is an big added bonus. For just $5.99, you can have 45 pounds of groceries delivered to your doorstep.

Amazon Family

For those with infants or young children, Prime’s Amazon Family perk can be a godsend. Diapers and other items are 20% off when ordered with Subscribe & Save (which can be cancelled at any time), saving you money and a trip to store for this necessity.

Amazon Household

And like a cherry on top of the proverbial sundae, one of the best things about Prime is that you can share nearly all the perks with another member of your household. Choose wisely.

Here’s how to get a free Chromecast from Spotify (and other great deals)

google, spotify, free, music, roku, pandora, chromecast, streaming music, music streaming, tidal, sling tv, apple music, google store

The streaming music scene is really heating up. Apple Music crossed the 10 million paid subscriber threshold last month, Spotify is rumored to be approaching the 30 million listener mark and Tidal received exclusive rights to Kanye West’s latest albumthis past weekend. All of this is in addition to the fact that Pandora may be looking for a buyer just months after it acquired assets from Rdio.

Given the competitive landscape, it should come as little surprise that obtaining paying subscribers is a top priority among those jockeying for position. Regardless of the industry, such fierce competition is almost always a “win” for the consumer.

That said, Spotify is running a new promotion in which it’s offering up a freeChromecast for those that commit to three months of paid premium service up front at the standard rate of $9.99 per month ($29.97 total). Unfortunately, the offer only applies to new listeners as those that have subscribed to the premium or unlimited service in the past, are currently premium subscribers or have taken a trial offer aren’t eligible.

For those that are eligible, Spotify says you’ll receive an e-mail with a redemption code within seven days of signing up for the offer. Said code can then be used to “buy” the Chromecast from the Google Store. Codes must be redeemed before July 31, 2016, while the promotion itself runs through February 28 (or while supplies last).

If you’ve been looking to give Spotify a shot or are interested in buying a Chromecast, there’s little reason to pass on this offer if you qualify. Even if you never use the Spotify subscription, you’re still coming out ahead as a Chromecast retails for $35. Just remember that you’ll need to cancel the subscription before the promotion runs out, otherwise you’ll automatically become a paying monthly subscriber.

Those that aren’t eligible still may be able to save some money each month as Spotify is one of several companies that offer deep discounts to students. Optionally, Target is offering a $10 gift card for anyone that buys a Chromecast through their site.

Sling TV offers a similar deal as those that commit to three months of service up front can receive a free Roku 2, half off the price of a Roku 3 or $50 off the cost of an Amazon Fire TV.

Twitter adds video support for direct messages and rolls out native GIF search

video, twitter, update, social media, gifs, direct messages, record video

It seems that it’s a case of another day, another new feature for Twitter. This time, however, the microblogging site has revealed two new additions to the platform. The first is native support for GIFs, the second is the ability to record and share videos within direct messages.

Twitter very briefly tested its GIF button earlier this month, when users spotted the icon between the camera and poll buttons inside the Android app. The company has now confirmed that it is rolling the feature out over the “coming weeks,” and it will appear on the iOS, Android and web versions of Twitter. The feature is powered by GIF search engines Riffsy and Giphy.

As with other apps that have native support for GIFs, such as Facebook Messenger, users can browse through the library of files using keywords or by category. The GIFS can be embedded into both Tweets and direct messages.

As a way of giving its DM service similar functions to the public feed, Twitter has introduced the ability to record and send videos within direct messages.

The company has doubtlessly seen how popular Messenger is for Facebook, and wants to try to emulate some of that success with its own messaging service. Twitterincreased its direct message limit from 140 characters to 10,000 last year.

Unlike some of the other features Twitter has introduced recently, these new additions will likely be appreciate by its users. The company has had a torrid time over the last 12 or so months, as it struggles to attract new users and compete with the social media giant that is Facebook.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai is Apple’s latest high-profile supporter in its FBI encryption battle

google, apple, fbi, security, tim cook, encryption, backdoor, sundar pichai, iphone access, san bernardino, reform government surveillance

Tim Cook has found a host of allies in his stance against the FBI’s demand that Apple helps authorities access the encrypted data on San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone. A coalition of tech groups, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Edward Snowden have all lent their support to the Cupertino-based company’s CEO.

Advocacy group Reform Government Surveillance (RGS), which counts Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter amongst its members, said in a statement that while it’s important to help law enforcement in order to keep us all safe, “companies should not be required to build backdoors to the technologies that keep their users’ information secure.”

Sundar Pichai put aside Google’s rivalry with Apple by tweeting his support for Tim Cook, although he was very careful in his choice of words. Across a series of five posts, Pichai said that requiring companies to enable hacking of customers devices could set a troubling precedent.

Important post by @tim_cook. Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy. We know that law enforcement and intelligence agencies face significant challenges in protecting the public against crime and terrorism. We build secure products to keep your information safe and we give law enforcement access to data based on valid legal orders. But that’s wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices & data. Could be a troubling precedent. Looking forward to a thoughtful and open discussion on this important issue

Another name fighting in Cook’s corner is WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum, who echoed Pichai’s views. “We must not allow this dangerous precedent to be set. Today our freedom and our liberty is at stake,” he said in a Facebook post.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has also been tweeting his support for Apple, calling manufacturer access a vulnerability. Other groups, including the ACLU and EFFhave also released statements supporting the iPhone maker’s stance.

One person not on Cook’s side is presidential candidate Donald Trump. He was apparently shocked when he heard that Apple had not volunteered to help authorities access the locked iPhone. “Who do they think they are?” he said on Fox News.

Reports claim that Facebook will soon introduce ads inside Messenger

facebook, ads, facebook messenger, customer service, short url, b2c

Facebook’s incredibly popular Messenger service will introduce ads inside the platform sometime within next few months, according to a report from TechCrunch. A document obtained by the site says that businesses will be able to send advertisements as messages, but only to those users who have already initiated a conversation.

The document, which TechCrunch says it acquired from a “verified source” that it is keeping anonymous, also revealed that Facebook has introduced a personalized URL short link for companies to share that, when clicked, will open a chat thread with the business.

Brands will be able to share their personalized short links as a quick way for consumers to get in touch with a customer service agent. And once someone contacts a business on Messenger, they’ll start receiving ads from the company.

The exact nature of the ads is still unclear, although it’s been suggested that they could be used to inform people of upcoming sales and product launches, and possibly use videos or GIFs to promote items. Firms may even contact Messenger users to inform them that a product they previously showed an interest in has been reduced.

If the report proves to be accurate, it appears that you’ll be unable to opt out of receiving ads from companies you make contact with, which could stop people from messaging them at all. It is possible, however, that users may be able to ask firms to stop sending them ads, much like unsubscribing from an email marketing list.

Facebook has talked about increasing Messenger’s use as a B2C platform in the past, so it looks as if this feature really will be implemented, but there’s always the chance that Facebook may alter some elements if the public response is overwhelmingly negative. We’ll no doubt learn more at F8, the company’s annual global developer conference, in April.