Google explains the Pixel 3's improved AI portraits


Cherlynn Low/Engadget

Google’s Pixel 3 takes portrait photos that are more accurate than its predecessor could take when new, which is no mean feat when you realize that the upgrade comes solely through software. But just what is Google doing, exactly? The company is happy to explain. It just posted a look into the Pixel 3’s (or really, the Google Camera app’s) Portrait Mode that illustrates how its AI changes produce portraits with fewer visual glitches.

When the Pixel 2 launched, Google used a neural network and the camera’s phase-detect autofocus (namely, the parallax effect it offers) to determine what’s in the foreground. This doesn’t always work when you either have a scene that doesn’t change much or a are shooting through a small aperture, though. Google tackled this with the Pixel 3 by teaching a neural network to predict depth using a myriad of factors, such as the typical size of objects and the sharpness of various points in the scene. You should see fewer of the glitches that tend to come up in portrait photos, such as background objects that are still sharp.

It required some creative technology to train this neural network, Google said. The company created a “Frankenphone” with five Pixel 3s to capture synchronized depth data, eliminating the issues with aperture and parallax.

While you might not be happy that Pixels still rely on single cameras for photos (and thus limiting your photographic options), this does illustrate the advantage of using AI. Google can improve the image quality without tying it to hardware upgrades.

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Hacker hijacks 50,000 printers to tell people to subscribe to PewDiePie


Chris Jackson via Getty Images

Over the course of this week, some printers have been printing out a strange message asking people to subscribe to PewDiePie’s YouTube channel. The message appears to be the result of a simple exploit that allows printers to receive data over the internet, including print commands. A person with the online handle TheHackerGiraffe has claimed responsibility for the attack.

People around the world have been hit by the exploit. Twitter users in the United States, Canada and England have all posted the printouts, along with confused messages about how it happened. TheHackerGiraffe told Engadget that he sent the message to 50,000 printers. He found the targets on Shodan.io, which is basically a search engine for unsecured, internet-connected devices. TheHackerGiraffe said there are about 800,000 printers total that appear exploitable.

The message was sent using a tool known as PRET or Printer Exploitation Toolkit. According to the GitHub page for the tool, PRET allows attackers to do “cool stuff like capturing or manipulating print jobs, accessing the printer’s file system and memory or even causing physical damage to the device.” TheHackerGiraffe provided the script that he used, as well as the ports required to carry out the exploit.

So why the message about PewDiePie’s subscriber numbers? “I am honestly a huge fan of Pewds to begin with, but at the same time I wanted a light-hearted message that would kind of humanize me instead of just printing a big scary ‘YOU’VE BEEN HACKED,'” TheHackerGiraffe said. “I am a huge fan of PewDiePie and thought it might give him a slight edge in his struggle to remain the number one.”

The occasionally controversial PewDiePie is currently battling to maintain his spot as YouTube’s most subscribed to channel. T-Series, a channel run by an Indian music production company, has been quickly closing in on the top position.

Unless you’d like unsolicited messages coming out of your printer, now might be a good time to make sure your firmware is up to date.

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'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' comes to Facebook Watch


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Starting today, you can give in to your nostalgia and watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly on Facebook Watch. The show comes to the social network as part of a deal with 20th Century Fox. Every episode of the classic programs from Joss Whedon will be made available for you to stream, including as part of Facebook’s recently announce Watch Party feature.

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In addition to putting the shows up for you to binge through, Facebook is also hosting some major watch parties. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer Watch Party will take place today at 3PM PT. You can join the Angel Watch Party at 12PM PT on December 1st, and get in on the Firefly Watch Party starting at 12PM PT on December 2nd. To take part, visit the official page for your show of choice on Facebook.

Facebook’s decision to tap into some ’90s and early 2000s nostalgia seems specifically designed to show off the Watch Party feature. It launched earlier this year and just made its way to Pages this week. Watch Party allows you to watch and react to videos in real time with your friends or, in this case, a whole bunch of other fans.

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Salad Fingers is coming back, and I already want to barf

Those of us who grew up online each have our internet albatross. For some, it’s goatse. For others, it’s those viral pre-YouTube jumpscare videos with a screaming face that flashes across the screen for a split second. Mine, regretfully, was Salad Fingers, the animated web series created by David Firth in 2004, about a disgusting, childlike, inexplicably vibrating zombie creature with piquerism and a penchant for rusty spoons. Thus with even more regret I must relay the news that the heinous abomination of my nightmares is getting a new episode sometime in December.

Per The Daily Dot, Firth apparently confirmed back in 2017 that he would be resurrecting his green hellspawn. “Without giving too much away, I will say that Salad Fingers is obsessed with a handheld mirror and he wants Cumberdale to be a real boy,” he told the Dot about the forthcoming 11th episode, which presumably will, like its predecessors, be 10 minutes of pure hork-worthy evil.

In case you missed Salad Fingers the first time around, your life has indeed been blessed. Maybe the static and heavy breathing that accompanied each episode’s mumbled voiceovers were what inspired my visceral dread around the series. Maybe it was the way the character stumbles across the screen like the runner from QWOP, with an unwieldy gait that almost certainly poses an existential threat to anything good in the universe. Maybe, very probably, it had something to do with the ludicrous amount of bodily fluids Firth manages to squeeze into each episode. There’s just so much blood — sorry, I mean “red water.” Going back and watching it again, it’s actually even more disgusting than I remember!

Inexplicably, the series was so popular when it originally aired that it turned into an early creepypasta of sorts. Fan theories abounded on platforms like Reddit and Newgrounds, where the series was originally hosted.

The series is basically ASMR for psychopaths, and I, for one, am not pleased about its return. Maybe you are, though. If so, I urge you to avoid me at all costs, because this journalist does not wish to be murdered today, thanks.

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The 5 most anticipated new TV shows in December

nightflyers“Nightflyers”SyFy

  • Every month, television-tracking app TV Time provides the most anticipated new shows.
  • December includes SyFy’s “Nightflyers,” based on a novella by “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin; a new animated series from Guillermo del Toro; and a Netflix’s first Turkish original series.

Fans of “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin’s work are excited for a new show based on his 1980 novella, “Nightflyers,” which debuts on SyFy in December.

Every month, Business Insider runs down the most anticipated new shows thanks to data from television-tracking app TV Time (based on its 13 million global users).

Besides “Nightflyers,” December also includes “The Protector,” Netflix’s first Turkish original series, and a new animated series from the Oscar-winning director of “The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro.

5. “3Below: Tales of Arcadia” —Netflix, December 21

3belowNetflix

Description: After crash-landing in Arcadia, two royal teen aliens struggle to blend in as they evade intergalactic bounty hunters.”

4. “Memories of the Alhambra” — Netflix, December 1

memories of the alhambraNetflix

Description: “While looking for the cryptic creator of an innovative augmented-reality game, an investment firm executive meets a women who runs a hostel in Spain.”

3. “Tidelands” — Netflix, December 14

tidelandsNetflix

Description: “Ex-con Cal McTeer’s return to her hometown of Orphelin Bay blows the lid off a generations-long conspiracy of silence around murder, durgs, and Sirens.”

2. “The Protector” — Netflix, December 14

the protectorNetflix

Description: “Given mystical powers by a talismanic keepsake, a young man embarks on a quest to fight shadowy forces and solve a mystery from his past.”

1. “Nightflyers” — SyFy, December 2

nightflyersSyFy

Description: Set in the year 2093, Nightflyers is a psychological thriller that follows a team of scientists aboard the Nightflyer, the most advanced ship ever built, as they embark on a journey to find other life forms. Their mission takes them to the edge of the solar system, and to the edge of insanity, as they realize true horror isn’t waiting for them in outer space—it’s already on their ship.”

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