ARM IoT, Autonomous Satellites, Google Chrome Battery Life, Prime Profiles, Sega Mini Retro Cabinet

  • Episode 658
  • July 8, 2020
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Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday July 8, 2020


Arm plans to spin off its IoT businesses under the SoftBank banner as it focuses on core chip design business.

Arm has announced plans to spin off its two IoT businesses, a move that would effectively transfer the divisions under the broader umbrella of the SoftBank Group, which purchased the chip designer back in 2016. The move comes as Arm seeks to focus its efforts exclusively on the semiconductor business that has made the company a ubiquitous presence in the mobile world.

The transfer is pending additional review from the company’s board, along with standard regulatory reviews — though Arm says it expects the move to be completed before the end of September of this year. While it would effectively remove the IoT Platform and Treasure Data businesses from its brand, the company says it plans to continue to collaborate with the businesses. The company will retain the chip aspect of IoT, while leaving the data software and services aspects as their own spin-off businesses.

Arm’s IoT business has seen quite a bit of success, with its technologies shipping on billions of devices and the planned goal of one trillion expected next decade.

Source: techcrunch.com

Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson


Autonomous driving startup turns its AI expertise to space for automated satellite operation.

Hungarian autonomous driving startup AImotive is leveraging its technology to address a different industry and growing need: autonomous satellite operation.

AImotive is teaming up with C3S, a supplier of satellite and space-based technologies, to develop a hardware platform for performing AI operations onboard satellites. Their aiWare neural network accelerator will be optimized by C3S for use on satellites, which have a set of operating conditions that in many ways resembles those onboard cars on the road — but with more stringent requirements in terms of power management and environmental operating hazards.

The goal of the team-up is to have AImotive’s technology working on satellites that are actually operational in orbit by the second half of next year. The projected applications of onboard neural network acceleration extend to a number of different functions according to the companies, including telecommunications, Earth imaging and observation, autonomously docking satellites with other spacecraft, deep space mining and more.

While it’s true that most satellites operate essentially in an automated fashion already — meaning they’re not generally manually flown at every given moment — true neural network-based onboard AI would provide them with much more autonomy when it comes to performing tasks, like imaging a specific area or looking for specific markers in ground or space-based targets. Also, AImotive and C3S believe that local processing of data has the potential to be a significant game-changer when it comes to the satellite business.

Currently, most of the processing of data collected by satellites is done after the raw information is transmitted to ground stations. That can actually result in a lot of lag time between data collection and delivery of processed data to customers, particularly when the satellite operator or another go-between is acting as the processor on behalf of the client rather than just delivering raw info.

There is also more value from a business perspective, in selling processed data, ready to be consumed.

AImotive’s tech could mean that processing happens locally on the satellite, where the information is captured. Single board computers and other disruptive tech have shifted toward this kind of “computing at the edge” in ground-based IoT setups, and it only makes sense to replicate that in space for many of the same reasons — including reducing the time it takes to deliver the processed data, which in turn means more responsive service for paying customers.

Source: techcrunch.com

Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson


A new Chrome experiment may boost your laptop or device battery life by up to 28%.

The latest experimental addition to the Chrome browser promises to save a ton of power usage.

A new flag in the Canary version of Chrome called "Throttle Javascript timers in background" will cut down on the processing that normally happens in background tabs, and it could add two hours to a laptop's runtime.

JavaScript timers often track user interaction with a webpage, checking things like the scroll position and ad interaction while a tab is open. This also happens on background tabs, which really isn't useful since, by definition, a background tab isn't being interacted with. When you have a bunch of tabs open, these timers can chew through a good amount of battery for no reason.

Normally, background tabs can trigger a wake-up once per second. Now, in Canary, if you turn on the new "Throttle Javascript timers" setting, any tab that has been in the background for more than five minutes will have these timers disabled, with wake-ups limited to once per minute.

Google ran some tests to see what kind of impact this would have on battery life. For the first test, they used a 2018 15-inch Macbook Pro and loaded up 36 background tabs with a blank foreground tab, then let the laptop run until it died. With the feature turned on, the laptop lasted two hours longer, or 28 percent longer, than the default settings. That's a huge improvement, but it still can't get Chrome up to the level of Apple's Safari, which bested Chrome by three hours with the default settings and by one hour with the new throttling flag.

The first test showed just how much power can be sucked up by background tabs, but the next test was more of a real-world use case. It swapped out the blank foreground tab for a YouTube video. With an actual foreground task going on, the difference was less dramatic but still significant: without throttling tabs, Chrome lasted 4.7 hours, and with throttling, it got an extra 39 minutes, lasting 5.3 hours. Safari was not included in the second test.

While these are promising results, Google says they are still investigating how limiting background timers will affect web pages. While Google says that the work done from these JavaScript timers was often not valuable to the user when the page was in the background, they also don't want to break web pages which provide valuable background services, like incoming chat and video messages, media playback, and notifications.

After a 50 percent rollout on the Canary version, Google plans to gather feedback from Web developers before the change hits the wider Chrome user base.

Source: arstechnica.com

Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson


User profiles, along with parental controls, are finally available for Amazon Prime Video.

At long last, Amazon Prime Video is catching up to competitors like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ with a key feature: user profiles. The feature began rolling out in the mobile and set-top box versions of the Prime Video app beginning Tuesday.

The feature allows multiple people sharing an Amazon Prime subscription to maintain separate watch histories and watch lists. Additionally, Amazon has made a distinction between user profiles for kids and profiles for adults, with different rules. Users can configure up to six profiles in any mix of children's and adults' profiles. All this is rolling out immediately, but it will take time to reach all users.

Multiple user profiles were supported in India and Africa previously, and they are only now making their way to the rest of the world, including the United States. The rollout brings Amazon closer to feature parity with Netflix and other big streaming players. The bulk of major apps in this space offered this feature, but there are some outliers who still don't—like CBS All Access.

Some of those other streaming services offer robust parental controls, so Amazon is leaning into that with these changes as well. Individual profiles can be flagged as a kids' profile. That profile will only see recommendations or search results of TV shows and films that are age-appropriate (12 and under), and kids won't be able to make purchases. Amazon is including a number of other options for filtering content like this, including the ability to restrict content on a per-device basis.

Amazon is making these changes amidst rising competition. Disney+ has seen massive growth in recent months, and Netflix seems to be faring well also. Large new entrants to the market with massive libraries of exclusive content, like HBO Max and Peacock, are also hitting the scene, which puts pressure on Prime Video to offer competitive features and content.

In terms of content, Amazon is working on a Lord of the Rings TV series, and it just released a new season of Hanna. The industry giant is also developing a TV series based on the video game franchise Fallout from some of the writers behind HBO's Westworld.

Source: arstechnica.com

Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson


Sega’s next retro hardware is a 1/6th-scale multi-game arcade cabinet

After the release of the Genesis Mini and the recent announcement of the Game Gear Mini, Sega doesn't show any signs of slowing down its plans for miniature retro hardware releases. The company's next entry in the space is the newly announced Astro City Mini, a tiny arcade cabinet set to sport 36 Sega arcade titles.

First released to Japanese arcades in 1993, Sega's Astro City was a successor to the smaller 1988 Aero City cabinet.

The Astro City Mini will launch by the end of 2020 in Japan for an asking price of ¥12,800, which is roughly $119. The chassis itself will be at one-sixth scale to an actual Astro City cabinet, standing a little more than 6 ½-inches tall. Based on the scale, this suggests that the original cabinet's 29-inch screen will be reduced to roughly 4.8-inches.

The joystick and six-button control, however, will be half scale. And that joystick will sport an eight-way digital switch, which should be a huge improvement over the squishier analog joystick found on the Neo Geo Mini from 2018.

Sega has announced 10 of the system's 36 games, with more announcements planned throughout the summer. So far, the list contains Alien Storm, Virtua Fighter, Alien Syndrome, Golden Axe, Altered Beast, Columns II, Dark Edge, Golden Axe: Revenge of Death Adder, Tant-R and Fantasy Zone.

The unit will take micro-USB power, and will even support HDMI output to a big-screen TV. It'll have basic emulation functionality, such as save states.

There will also be attachable USB control pads, sold separately, which allow up to three people to play on the same mini-cabinet.

Any plans for release outside of Japan have yet to be announced.

Source: arstechnica.com

Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson


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