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They’re making a real HAL 9000, and it’s called CASE – TechCrunch

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Don’t panic! Life imitates art, to be sure, but hopefully the researchers in charge of the Cognitive Architecture for Space Exploration, or CASE, have taken the right lessons from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and their AI won’t kill us all and/or expose us to alien artifacts so we enter a state of cosmic nirvana. (I think that’s what happened.)

CASE is primarily the work of Pete Bonasso, who has been working in AI and robotics for decades — since well before the current vogue of virtual assistants and natural language processing. It’s easy to forget these days that research in this area goes back to the middle of the century, with a boom in the ’80s and ’90s as computing and robotics began to proliferate.

The question is how to intelligently monitor and administrate a complicated environment like that of a space station, crewed spaceship, or a colony on the surface of the Moon or Mars. A simple question with an answer that has been evolving for decades; the International Space Station (which just turned 20) has complex systems governing it and has grown more complex over time — but it’s far from the HAL 9000 that we all think of, and which inspired Bonasso to begin with.

“When people ask me what I am working on, the easiest thing to say is, ‘I am building HAL 9000,’ ” he wrote in a piece published today in the journal Science Robotics. Currently that work is being done under the auspices of TRAC Lab, a research outfit in Houston.

One of the many challenges of this project is marrying the various layers of awareness and activity together. It may be, for example, that a robot arm needs to move something on the outside the habitat. Meanwhile someone may also want to initiate a video call with another part of the colony. There’s no reason for one single system to encompass command and control methods for robotics and a VOIP stack — yet at some point these responsibilities should be known and understood by some overarching agent.

CASE, therefore, isn’t some kind of mega-intelligent know-it-all AI, but an architecture for organizing systems and agents that is itself an intelligent agent. As Bonasso describes in his piece, and as is documented more thoroughly elsewhere, CASE is composed of several “layers” that govern control, routine activities, and planning. A voice interaction system translates human-language queries or commands into tasks those layers can carry out. But it’s the “ontology” system that’s the most important.

Any AI expected to manage a spaceship or colony has to have an intuitive understanding of the people, objects, and processes that make it up. At a basic level, for instance, that might mean knowing that if there’s no one in a room, the lights can turn off to save power but it can’t be depressurized. Or if someone moves a rover from its bay to park it by a solar panel, the AI has to understand that it’s gone, how to describe where it is, and how to plan around its absence.

This type of common sense logic is deceptively difficult and is one of the major problems being tackled in AI today. We have years to learn cause and effect, to gather and put together visual clues to create a map of the world, and so on — for robots and AI, it has to be created from scratch (and they’re not good at improvising). But CASE is working on fitting the pieces together.

Screen showing another ontology system from TRAC Labs, PRONTOE.

“For example,” Bonasso writes, “the user could say, ‘Send the rover to the vehicle bay,’ and CASE would respond, ‘There are two rovers. Rover1 is charging a battery. Shall I send Rover2?’ Alas, if you say, ‘Open the pod bay doors, CASE’ (assuming there are pod bay doors in the habitat), unlike HAL, it will respond, ‘Certainly, Dave,’ because we have no plans to program paranoia into the system.”

I’m not sure why he had to write “alas” — our love of cinema is exceeded by our will to live, surely.

That won’t be a problem for some time to come, of course — CASE is still very much a work in progress.

“We have demonstrated it to manage a simulated base for about 4 hours, but much needs to be done for it to run an actual base,” Bonasso writes. “We are working with what NASA calls analogs, places where humans get together and pretend they are living on a distant planet or the moon. We hope to slowly, piece by piece, work CASE into one or more analogs to determine its value for future space expeditions.”

I’ve asked Bonasso for some more details and will update this post if I hear back.

Whether a CASE- or HAL-like AI will ever be in charge of a base is almost not a question any more — in a way it’s the only reasonable way to manage what will certainly be an immensely complex system of systems. But for obvious reasons it needs to be developed from scratch with an emphasis on safety, reliability… and sanity.

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The best portable projectors for 2021

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We love the idea of casting a large screen whether it’s to binge-watch a series over the weekend, deliver business presentations during the weekdays, or project photos from the smartphone anytime in between. These conveniences grow manifold with the portable projectors that are mini-sized to fit right into your backpack and transform any surface into a large screen, ideally 100-inch plus, without any hassle.

We have rounded up the best 4K ultra-short throw projectors on the market previously. But if that’s not your budget or it doesn’t really fall in your scope somehow, here’s a list of (in no particular order) the best mini projectors worth your cash. Some of these may feel old but they are as good to hit the road with. Without ado then – here are the best portable projectors in 2021.

ViewSonic M2

There is still time before you start traveling for business like you did say about two years back. When you do, the ViewSonic M2 will be the right portable projector to haul along in the bag for presentation anytime, anywhere. The full HD (1920x1080p resolution) LED projector is compact for office settings and lightweight to be carried along. It provides 1,200 lumens of brightness and offers over 30,000 hours of light source usage.

What We Like

– Interesting kickstand design
– Good brightness
– Dual Harman Kardon speakers

What We Don’t Like

– No built-in battery

The $732.99 ViewSonic M2 is even more interesting because of its short throw lens that allows the projector to cast up to 100-inches from only 9 feet away. Built-in dual Harman Kardon Bluetooth speakers for amazing audio, the projector runs Android and lets users download apps to project directly for entertainment. The ViewSonic M2 supports HDMI and USB Type-C input modes and is compatible with PCs, Macs, smartphones and all sorts of media players.

AAXA P7

AAXA P7 is one of the smallest mini projectors to deliver true native 1080p resolution. This next-gen solid-state mini projector integrates compact 4th generation Texas Instruments Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology – found in movie theaters – to makes the native 1920×1080 pixel resolution possible.

What We Like

– Full HD resolution
– Great performance for its size
– Delivers big picture in low light

What We Don’t Like

– Limited contrast ratio
– No zoom

Provided with rated brightness of 600 lumens, better than some of the other projectors in a similar form factor, the AAXA P7 doesn’t support Wi-Fi but comes with VGA, USB and HDMI options for connectivity. It also features a card reader to project content directly. The versatility of this compact projector is supported by a tripod provided alongside. Backed with 30,000 hours luminous LEDs, the P7 projector produces a 120-inch image. Its MSRP has been dropped to $419 from the initial $499.

Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12

One of the more refined portable projectors from Epson, the EF12 touts 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution with 1,000 lumens brightness. Designed primarily for streaming enthusiasts in the work-from-home era, this 4K compatible (downconvert), smart streaming laser projector comes with built-in Android TV and support for HDR.

What We Like

– Up to 150-inch projection
– Built-in Android TV for direct access to apps
– Nice design, superior sound

What We Don’t Like

– Limited brightness and contrast

If you want to continue your binge-watching sessions on a screen measuring up to 150-inches, pack it and take it along in your travel bag after use, the $899.99 Epson EF12 is a delightful option. It lets you play movies, series and videos directly from Hulu, HBO or YouTube over wireless connectivity with true audio by Yamaha, right out of the box.

LG CineBeam PH550

The extremely portable and lightweight LG CineBeam PH550 LED projector features built-in TV tuner and can project TV shows with nice video and image quality. The LED-based DLP projector comes with 550 lumens rated brightness but is slightly low on resolution. The projector has only 1,280 x 720 pixel resolution and it delivers up to 100-inch screen.It is priced at $499.

What We Like

– Small structure big delivery
– Onboard rechargeable battery
– Built-in TV tuner

What We Don’t Like

– Very low resolution
– Expensive

Enabling entertainment or a professional set up is not at all difficult with this LG projector. It is Bluetooth compatible and features an HDMI port. It comes packed with a rechargeable battery onboard offering 2.5 hours of backup. The LG PH550 features wireless mirroring to connect with a smartphone or tablet and has 30,000 hours lamp life (virtually it will never need replacement).

Anker Nebula Solar

While the Anker Nebula Capsule II is a very capable projector in its own right, our preference lies with the Solar Portable. Arguably, Anker Nebula Solar is the finest portable projector in the company’s portfolio with the right blend of features to deliver immaculate picture quality both outdoors and indoors. It can be mistaken for a solar-powered projector because of its moniker, but the Nebula model is far from renewably powered. It does come with built-in battery.

What We Like

– Great features for its petite size
– Decent picture and sound
– High resolution and HDR support

What We Don’t Like

– Dreary sound

The Nebula Solar features 1080p resolution and supports HDR10. It can cast up to 120-inches screen with a good degree of brightness for impressive picture quality. The projector has 400 lumens of brightness and it runs Android TV. The onboard battery runs for almost 3 hours but this can be beefed up with the provided USB-C charging cable. Currently Anker is selling it at $469.99.

Kodak Luma 350

A flagship offering in the Luma series of Kodak’s palmtop projectors, the Kodak Luma 350 is powered by Android to let the users download apps in a jiffy and stream content directly without the phone’s intervention. The projector comes with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, HDMI and USB for connectivity.

What We Like

– Built-in Android
– Rechargeable battery onboard
– Plenty of connectivity options

What We Don’t Like

– Average video quality
– Very minimal resolution

Preinstalled with apps like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Twitch and YouTube, this LED-based DLP projector delivers content in 150 ANSI lumens brightness. The projector has an 854x480p resolution, 3,500:1 contrast ratio and is designed primarily for casual video watching. Built-in with 3-watt speaker, the LED projector has a rated lifetime of 30,000 hours and features 7,500mAh battery, good enough to last a couple of days between charges. The $536.99 price tag has been slashed by Kodak and you can pick one up for $299.99.

ASUS ZenBeam Latte L1

A new member on the block, the ASUS ZenBeam Latte L1 LED projector has a slightly low native resolution of 720p and 300 lumens brightness, but that doesn’t stop it from delivering up to 120-inch screen with minimum picture distortion or color difference. The coffee mug-shaped projector features operative controls on the top in circular orientation and includes wireless smartphone mirroring, USB Type-A and HDMI for connectivity.

What We Like

– Lovely design
– Powerful 10W Bluetooth speaker

What We Don’t Like

– Average brightness and resolution
– Lacks USB charging

Interestingly, ASUS packs the ZenBeam Latte L1 with a 6000mAh battery that provides the compact LED projector video playback time of 3 hours and 12 hours in case of audio. It features a rather powerful Harman Kardon 10W Bluetooth stereo speaker that enhances the bass and overall audio for an authentic theatre-esque experience.

Xgimi MoGo Pro

Xgimi MoGo Pro is one of the more versatile portable projectors you can lay your hands on. The compact 1080p resolution projector delivers impressive picture quality with decent contrast and features Android TV to stream movies and tons of other content without having to connect to an external device like a phone or a media player.

What We Like

– Runs Android TV with Chromecast
– Appealing design
– Doubles as Bluetooth speaker

What We Don’t Like

– No card reader
– No USB-Type C

The MoGo Pro works at Full HD with HDR support and also accepts 4K only to downconvert it to the supported resolution. Built-in with dual 3-watt speakers, the MoGo Pro supports both for output and input, meaning the projector can be used as a Bluetooth speaker. The projection from Xgimi’s device is pretty bright thanks to the 300 ANSI lumens of rated brightness. The battery onboard the projector lasts 2 hours while playing video in full brightness and almost 30 mins are increased in energy-saving mode.

Final thought

There is so much variety in the portable projectors currently available. Amid this list of options – or others that didn’t make it – your choice will depend on the requirement and budget. Of importance is also the type of content you want to stream (your need) and the size of the projection image you want.

Then finally you can arrive at a budget for a mini projector. A projector like this may not be a TV alternative in a bright room but in dimmer lighting the image quality is good and its space-saving aesthetics weigh heavier.

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OnePlus Buds Pro are here, should you buy or ditch

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The OnePlus Buds Pro have been finally launched. The company bills it as the “most advanced listening device” in the portfolio that now adds the third set of TWS earbuds. The advanced earbuds have been revealed alongside the OnePlus Nord 2 and there’s enough reason to be excited.

The new pair of buds are a major step up from the OnePlus Buds released last year as OnePlus looks to take on the popular options in the market with features that seem hard to ignore. So, should you jump the gun and buy the Buds Pro or wait for the other options? Let’s delve into the details to help you make a measured decision.

Design and looks

There has been a major design overhaul from the original OnePlus Buds with shorter stems and a horn-like driver casing profile. They get a more modernized aesthetic shape that seems to flow immaculately. This is well complemented by the dual-tone finish with matte plastic for the upper half and a cool shiny metal plating adorning the stems.

The design is definitely distinct from the other options on the market, and so far we love it. The same design language flows to its charging case that now has a lying down flat profile (compared to the original having vertical profile) where the earbuds rest. This also assists in the wireless charging aesthetics of the buds via Qi-certified pads/mats.

Another design feature worth mentioning is the freedom of using silicone replaceable eartips (in three sizes) as compared to the predecessor. This ensures you get a desired secure fit, which in turn helps in blocking out ambient noise for the ANC to work like a charm.

Specs and features

The biggest feature coming to the OnePlus Buds Pro is the smart adaptive noise cancellation. This helps toggle the amount of active noise cancellation being applied depending on the environment. The earbuds have three microphones each for either bud, capable of filtering noise levels almost up to 40dB. A big advantage over fixed level ANC earbuds that have a handful of presets only.

The 11mm dynamic driver delivers a punchy sound and with the Dolby Atmos audio, the earbuds are a pleasure for listening. For those who like the idea of binaural sounds, the earbuds come with the Zen Mode Air feature to play white noise in a jiffy via the headphone settings or the Hey Melody app.

OnePlus Buds Pro have the latest Bluetooth 5.2 for connectivity that promises stable connection and 94ms ultra-low latency Pro Gaming mode. Another highlight is the addition of IP55 water and dust resistance rating making this new accessory perfect for workouts and running as well. Even the charging case gets an IPX4 water resistance rating, which is an added bonus for the outdoorsy.

Battery life and charging

The battery of the OnePlus Buds Pro goes on for seven hours on a single charge without ANC and five hours with ANC enabled. That number can be stretched up to a duration of 28 hours (with ANC) and 38 hours in normal listening mode via the charging case.

Where the earbuds edge slightly ahead of the competition is the fast charging support courtesy of the Warp Charging technology. So we are talking about 10 hours of playback time with just 10-minutes of charging via the USB-C. Add to this the ability to charge the case by placing it on the back of a OnePlus 9 Pro, if you happen to own the phone.

Price and release date

The earbuds are all set to release in Europe on August 25 and in the U.S. and Canada on September 1, 2021. They might just nudge ahead of AirPods 3 or the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 in terms of the release date, which will be a slight advantage to win over the eager buyers. The OnePlus Buds Pro will come in two color options – white or matte black.

OnePlus Buds Pro will arrive at $149 – a lot more than the OnePlus Buds’ initial price tag of $79. However, they are more feature rich and look absolutely amazing compared to the predecessor. Given they have a nice ANC mode that price tag will be just right for many buyers. Of course, they do undercut the AirPods Pro by a good margin.

Options to consider

Given the number of options, the ones that are most reliable in terms of feature to price ratio have to be AirPods Pro, Beats and LG TONE Free FN7. Depending on what you want from the earbuds, some features you might miss more than others, it is good to have a four-way choice as all of these are interesting in their own right.

If price is a major consideration, the Beats Studio Buds are also a very feasible option depending on what features you value more. As an overall package, LG TONE Free FN7 earbuds are the best bet –given their set of features (bacteria-killing UVnano tech) and the balanced price point.

AirPods Pro brings added features like transparency mode or even a couple of extra microphones, but other than that, they are fairly comparable. OnePlus instead nudges ahead in some comparisons like the battery life, water-resistance rating and Bluetooth connectivity.

You would not want to count out the upcoming Nothing Ear (1) earbuds by Carl Pei, former co-owner OnePlus. The ANC earbuds are aggressively priced at $99 and they also boast impressive features. The niche earbuds is the first product developed by the tech wizard, and it’s already backed by some big names in the audio and tech industry.

Wrap up

It goes without saying, OnePlus has hit the nail on its head with the Buds Pro. The Chinese OEM has a very competitive feature list that’ll appeal to most buyers at the given price. OnePlus has truly made a leap forward from the previous offerings here, and there is no reason audio lovers will not cherish using them. Now that the availability has been announced, the decision to wait for other options like AirPods 3 or Galaxy Buds 2 is dependent on what you really desire.

However, in the current scenario, there is little reason for you to shy away from the Buds Pro. Until they land in our court and we review them thoroughly, the decision will largely depend on how the Buds Pro looks on paper. On paper, the earbuds look exciting, and they should do well in real-life usage too.

For us, they are a definite yes at this point in time. The attractive design sets them apart from the crowd that still follows more or less the same measured design approach.

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iPad mini rumors may have one key detail wrong: Analyst weighs in

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Apple is expected to release an updated iPad mini tablet later this year, one that may feature a mini-LED display. The latter rumor is a contentious one, with multiple claims that are at odds with each other. Only a day after a leak claiming the new model will feature a mini-LED panel, an analyst is stating otherwise.

Yesterday, July 22, a report surfaced at DigiTimes that claimed the next iPad mini model will feature a mini-LED display, building upon rumors that Apple will reveal a sixth-generation iPad mini model this year. Such hopes may have been quickly dashed, however, at least when it comes to the display.

A day later, analyst Ross Young took to Twitter to directly counter the DigiTimes report, saying simply, “No miniLED iPad Mini this year. Digitimes (sic) story was not correct.” Young went on to clarify that his statement referred to an iPad mini model for 2021, noting that he confirmed the details with Apple’s “supposed miniLED supplier.”

The analyst likewise points out that mini-LED displays are reserved for Apple’s high-end products, of which the iPad mini doesn’t qualify. Though this miniature slate has managed to persist through five solid generations, it doesn’t offer the same features as its larger siblings.

The iPad mini — at least in its current 5th-generation iteration — features Touch ID as with the base $329 iPad. Rumors claim the alleged 6th-generation model will feature around the same 7.9-inch display as the current version, likely also retaining Apple Pencil support while adding more powerful hardware.

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