Huawei unveils AI Ascend chips

Huawei has unveiled its artificial intelligence (AI) strategy and full-stack portfolio, including a series of chips, cloud services, and products.

Announced at Huawei Connect 2018 in Shanghai by rotating chair Eric Xu, Huawei’s Ascend AI chip series includes the Ascend 910 and Ascend 310, with the company also unveiling the Compute Architecture for Neural Networks (CANN), a chip operators library and automated operators development toolkit, and MindSpore, a device, edge, and cloud training and inference framework.

The latter includes “full-pipeline services (ModelArts), hierarchical APIs, and pre-integrated solutions”, Huawei said, with the Chinese networking giant to later expand its AI stack to include an AI acceleration card, AI server, AI appliance, and other AI products.

“Huawei’s AI strategy is to invest in basic research and talent development, build a full-stack, all-scenario AI portfolio, and foster an open global ecosystem,” Xu said during his Huawei Connect keynote.

“In the telecom sector, we will adopt SoftCom AI to make network O&M more efficient. In the consumer market, HiAI will bring true intelligence to our consumer devices.

“Our Huawei EI public cloud services and FusionMind private cloud solutions will provide abundant and affordable computing power for all organisations — especially businesses and governments — and help them use AI.”

According to Huawei, 10 changes across technology are pushing its AI development and strategy: faster model training; affordable and better computing power; AI deployment and user privacy; new algorithms; AI automation; practical application; real-time, closed-loop systems; “multi-tech synergy”; platform support; and “talent availability”.

Huawei said its AI research will focus on natural language processing, computer vision, decision/interference, and machine learning. It is also planning to apply AI to its own operations across “routine business activities”, as well as offering deployments to businesses across public and private cloud, edge computing, industrial Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and consumer devices.

“Huawei is ready to work with all stakeholders to turn AI into a practical reality, making it inclusive and available for every person, every home, and every organisation,” the company said.

Huawei also announced a smart cities AI partnership with Tianjin Binhai New Area, as well as a smart campus solution and joint innovation laboratories alongside Chinese real estate developer Vanke.

“The Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA) designed and developed an AI-based ‘1 + 4 + N’ smart city solution, which refers to one centre, four platforms, and additional innovative applications,” Huawei said.

The centre is Huawei’s “city brain” Intelligent Operations Centre (IOC), which aggregates and processes data collected from the government, businesses, and citizens through IoT applications and internet access.

The four AI platforms are then Resident Voices, which has voice recognition for all citizens of Tianjin; Sensing the City, which uses image recognition across people, places, vehicles, and things “for the purpose of fostering harmony for all”; Resident Care, which involves deep learning and correlation for personalised services for citizens; and Enterprise Services, which ensures services availability match their need by applying “multi-dimensional and correlation analysis to clarify the internal relationships of industries in the TEDA district”.

In addition to its AI solutions and strategy, the tech giant also used Huawei Connect to outline its FusionStorage 8.0 multi-cloud solution; its CloudFabric network solution; and its Atlas200 “intelligent acceleration module” which it said can conduct real-time analysis of HD videos and smart small cells.

Huawei’s AI push saw it sign a strategic agreement with Chinese search engine giant Baidu in December last year to build an open mobile AI ecosystem that covers platforms, technology, internet services, and content ecosystems.

The open ecosystem was built using Huawei’s HiAI platform and neural network processing unit (NPU), and Baidu’s PaddlePaddle deep-learning framework and Baidu Brain, which contains Baidu’s AI services and assets. It will allow AI developers to make use of the technology.

Huawei head of Consumer Software Engineering and director of Intelligence Engineering Felix Zhang had last year said the addition of AI capabilities to smartphones will bring the next shift in technology.

Huawei had unveiled its Kirin 970 chipset with built-in AI in September 2017, at the time calling it the “future of smartphones”. Its mobile AI is made up of a combination of on-device AI and cloud AI.

“Huawei is committed to developing smart devices into intelligent devices by building end-to-end capabilities that support coordinated development of chips, devices, and the cloud,” Huawei Consumer Business Group CEO Richard Yu said at the time.

“The ultimate goal is to provide a significantly better user experience. The Kirin 970 is the first in a series of new advances that will bring powerful AI features to our devices and take them beyond the competition.”

In February this year, Huawei then used the AI capabilities of its Mate 10 Pro to drive an autonomous car.

Under its RoadReader project, Huawei said it has used the smartphone to conduct intelligent object recognition to distinguish between thousands of different objects including dogs, cats, balls, and bicycles and “learn to take the most appropriate course of action”.

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At the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration, Angela Zutavern of AlixPartners offers advice for companies exploring AI.

Intel makes 5G push across China with Huawei

Intel has partnered with China’s biggest tech giants to accelerate the development and deployment of 5G.

Huawei: Indian government ‘open and welcoming’ on 5G

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5G technology: A business leader’s guide (Tech Pro Research)

It’s still early days for 5G services, but as they’re being trialed and deployed, they’re on track to have a far-reaching impact for both consumers and businesses.

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Razer soups up its gaming smartphone

Razer is quick to refute any suggestions that its second phone is little more than an iterative update. Sure, the thing looks remarkably identical to its predecessor from the front, but the innards are certainly souped up — and there’s a snazzy new back to match.

As the company puts in the Razer Phone 2 press materials, “we wanted to keep the core Razer industrial design intact with a CNC aluminum frame flanked by powerful dual front-firing stereo speakers.”

Fair enough. The first Razer Phone wasn’t the prettiest handset on the market, but that was never the point. The gaming peripheral company entered the mobile market with one very clear motive in mind: helping usher in a new age of serious smartphone gaming. It follows, then, that the Razer Phone 2 sports some beefy specs to match.

Razer’s not quite at the point in its mobile story where custom silicon makes sense, so the company’s relying on the the latest Snapdragon (845), instead. What is custom, however, is the vapor-chamber cooling system inside, which dissipates surface heat for intense game play. In all, the company says it’s able to eke out a 30 percent bump in performance over gen one. 

The battery is the same size, at a still impressive 4,000mAh — though this time coupled with Qi for fast wireless charging. It’s a beefy battery in a beefy phone. It’s not the slickest design out there, compared to flagships by Apple and Samsung, but it’s built like a damn tank. It’s also IP67 rated water-resistant and dust proof. 

As mentioned above, the front-facing speakers are still intact from the first generation, and they can get plenty loud, as evidenced by the demo Razer gave us ahead of today’s event. Those are tuned with Dolby Atmos. 

At 5.7 inches, the screen is the same size as the first generation. I’m a bit surprised the company didn’t go a bit larger this generation — gaming is one of the stronger arguments for large screens on mobile devices. That said, Razer’s increased the brightness by half and improved color accuracy.

While, as expected, the front looks pretty much exactly like the first gen’s, the back’s been souped up a bit. The familiar tri-headed snake logo lights up now, with 16.8 million color options. There are different settings for the light, including the ability to have it light up with notifications based on different apps — so, light blue for Twitter, red for Gmail. You get the picture.

Of course, having a light-up logo on the back would be silly, so the company’s created a case with a cutout, specifically to showcase the new lighting rig.

Razer’s managed to maintain a decent price point here. At $799, it’s not cheap, but it’s a couple hundred bucks below the latest from Apple and Samsung. Preorders start tomorrow.

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ServiceNow to acquire FriendlyData for its natural language search technology

Enterprise cloud service management company ServiceNow announced today that it will acquire FriendlyData and integrate the startup’s natural language search technology into apps on its Now platform. Founded in 2016, FriendlyData’s natural language query (NLQ) technology enables enterprise customers to build search tools that allow users to ask technical questions even if they don’t know the right jargon.

FriendlyData’s NLQ tech figures out what they are trying to say and then answers with text responses or easy-to-understand data visualizations. ServiceNow said it will integrate FriendlyData’s tech into the Now Platform, which includes apps for IT, human resources, security operations, and customer service management. It will also be available in products for developers and ServiceNow’s partners.

In a statement, Pat Casey, senior vice president of development and operations at ServiceNow, said “ServiceNow is bringing NLQ capabilities to the Now Platform, enabling companies to ask technical questions in plain English and receive direct answers. With this technical enhancement, our goal is to allow anyone to easily make data driven decisions, increasing productivity and driving businesses forward faster.”

The acquisition of FriendlyData is the latest in ServiceNow’s initiative to reduce the friction of support requests within organizations with AI-based tools. For example, it launched a chatbot-building tools called Virtual Agent in May, which enables companies to create custom chatbots for services like Slack or Microsoft Teams to automatically handle routine inquiries such as equipment requests. It also announced the acquisition of Parlo, a chatbot startup, around the same time.

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How to Get the Pixel 3's Coolest Features on Older Pixel Models

Google officially unveiled the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL after weeks of rumors and, unsurprisingly, they’re packed with new features and hardware that make them an appreciable upgrade over not just Google’s past Pixel smartphones, but many of their competitors as well.

As exited as some may be for Google’s new phones, don’t let the hype over these newcomers convince you that the Pixel 2 and 2 XL—or even the original Pixel and Pixel XL—are about to become obsolete. In fact, the Pixel 3’s arrival will be a boon for all Pixel users regardless of if you upgrade, as some of the Pixel 3 and 3 XL’s most exciting new features will be rolling out to all Pixel smartphones in the coming weeks.

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So don’t go trading in your current phone just yet, it’s about to get some cool upgrades. Here are all the new features older Pixel phones will be enjoying in the coming weeks. They will all be made available via system updates in the future.

Night Sight

Image: Google

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Night Sight is probably the most exciting of the new features older Pixel phones will be sharing with their newest sibling.

In basic terms, Night Sight uses machine learning to enhance low-light photographs, making them brighter and clearer, which means you will get better-looking photos without having to rely on your camera flash to illuminate the scene. A demo for the feature was shown during the press conference, and compared a low-light photo taken on a Pixel 3 with Night Sight against the same scene snapped on an iPhone XS. The difference was striking. Sure, there are probably a few pinches of salt we need to swallow here, but we’re eager to see how Night Sight performs in person.

According to Google, Night Sight will be rolling out to previously released Pixel smartphones “in the coming weeks,” starting shortly after the Pixel 3 and 3 XL’s October 18th launch date.

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Duplex

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Duplex could either be a super helpful Google Assistant feature, or a really good example of just how creepy AI is getting.

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With Duplex, Google Assistant will call to take care of tasks like booking restaurant reservations, making take-out orders, or scheduling appointments. The AI voice apparently sounds and responds believably enough that Google was forced to include a disclaimer so people will know they’re speaking to Google Assistant, and not a human.

Duplex has actually been in a limited-release beta test since June, but it’s getting a full-on release with the duo of Pixel 3 devices and will be coming to the other Pixel phones in November, though the exact timing will depend on where you live as the feature will be rolled out city-by-city throughout November.

Call Screen

You know those annoying, autodial phone calls you get from time to time? Well, your Pixel phone will soon be able to take those calls for you and let you know if that random number is from someone important, or just another spam call.

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Like Duplex, Call Screen is a driven by Google Assistant, which will be able to answer an incoming call, check if it’s worth your time, then let you know if you should answer or even hang up if it recognizes it’s telemarketers or similar time-wasters.

You can expect Call Screen to show up on your Pixel phone alongside Duplex within a few weeks.

Playground and Improved A.R.

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Playground is another new camera feature coming to Pixel phones that uses augmented reality (AR) to insert 3D characters (née AR stickers) into your photos and videos. While not a quality-of-life feature or major enhancement, Playground looks like a neat, novel feature to play with, and it comes as a part of an overall upgrade to AR functionality on Pixel phones in general. The feature will launch with select Marvel characters, while a Childish Gambino character being developed with Donald Glover will be released sometime in the future. Like the other features here, it will launch first on the Pixel 3, but rollout to other Pixel phones soon after.

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Razer Phone 2 is a gaming smartphone built for 'Fortnite' addicts

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Every product here is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our work.

The new Razer Phone 2
The new Razer Phone 2
Image: RAZER

Almost a year after releasing its first gaming-focused smartphone, Razer is throwing its hat back into the arena. Behold: the Razer Phone 2.

For the uninitiated, Razer is a powerhouse in the game peripheral market, and the company’s second smartphone cements its place as an industry leader. The Razer Phone 2 is built specifically for people who love video games and want to do more of it on a touchscreen — namely with titles like Fortnite or PUBG Mobile.

To handle this, the new Razer Phone, which I got a chance to try out for a few minutes, is said to perform 30 percent better than the previous generation thanks to its Qualcomm 845 Snapdragon processor and Adreno 630 GPU. 

The new Razer Phone 2 with a Tekken theme.

The new Razer Phone 2 with a Tekken theme.

Image: Matt binder / mashable

Moving onto the screen, Razer claims its new phone is the only phone with a true 120Hz display, which should basically eliminate those annoying stutters or lags during gameplay. Plus, the display on the Razer Phone 2 is bright. The company says it’s 50 percent brighter than its predecessor. 

Since the phone was made specifically for gaming, you’ll likely be using the Razer Phone 2 most in landscape mode, as it was designed to be comfortable in that position. In fact, when using it for gaming, you’ll find the phone has left just enough room on each side so that your hands never cover the screen.

The Razer Phone 2 as it's meant to be held.

The Razer Phone 2 as it’s meant to be held.

Image: RAZER

Speaking of design, the Razer Phone 2 is still a lot like its predecessor in the looks department and boasts the same aluminum unibody. It’s nice and feels premium in your hand — but doesn’t quite match the same feel of a new iPhone or Pixel.

With all its big promises of high performance, you’re probably wondering about the phone’s battery. Razer claims the new Razer Phone 2’s battery can last up to 10 hours. That’s the same as the previous Razer Phone, but this one is packing much more power, particularly with its 120Hz screen display rate. 

However, aiding the battery is a feature called the Razer Cortex: Game Booster. It allows Razer Phone users to optimize their mobile experience by creating settings attuned to each game on their phone. 

For example, if you know you’re not going to need that max CPU performance and frame rate output for a simple puzzle game on your commute home, you can create settings that will be remembered every time you launch that game so it doesn’t drain battery life. 

The audio on the Razer Phone 2 is truly one if its greatest features. This phone can get loud and the sound never distorts. Combined with built-in Dolby Atmos surround sound, the Razer Phone 2 may be the most audio immersive experience I’ve ever had with a smartphone. Spend a moment watching a movie on the Razer Phone 2, and it’s clear this product comes from the same company that owns THX.

Boosting the Razer Phone 2’s entertainment system bonafides is the fact that it’s the only phone to receive official certification from Netflix for HDR video and Dolby Surround 5.1 audio content.

The Razer Phone 2 chrome light feature

The Razer Phone 2 chrome light feature

Image: razer

Upping the cool factor of the Razer Phone 2 is another feature making its way from Razer’s line of computers: the RGB Chroma light. Razer’s three-headed snake logo on the back of the phone can light up in over 16.8 million colors just like the Razer logo on the Blade 15 laptop. And as an added bonus for the Razer Phone 2, the logo on the back can light up based on a specific app’s notification. A new Gmail message notification can be set to appear with a red glow or a new WhatsApp message can give you the heads up with a green flash. It’s really not a necessary feature, but it sure is neat.

If you’re familiar with the first Razer phone, everything you love about it has been improved upon. Even a number of the things we hated about the phone have been dealt with. Razer’s rolling out a wireless charging unit with its Chroma feature that lights up while you use it.

The Razer Phone 2 is also water resistant. There’s still not a headphone jack, but that’s the way things go now.

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However, one glaring flaw pointed out in our review of the first model still lingers: the camera. It’s not that the camera’s bad. It’s even been improved with a rear dual 12-megapixel camera and a front-facing 8MP selfie cam optimized for streamers with full HD video capabilities. They’ve even added a few camera features like panorama mode to the previous barebones offerings. Unfortunately, even with a phone so forward-thinking, in a market where basic smartphones are pulling out all the stops with slow-motion, time lapse, and cinemagraphs, the camera is left behind.

The new Razer Phone 2 is now available at Razer.com for $799. It’s a fantastic refresh that’s sure to make the hardcore gamers happy. After all, that’s who this phone is made for.

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Razer unveils a cheaper Blade 15 gaming laptop with a hybrid hard drive

Razer's new Blade 15 lineup
Razer’s new Blade 15 lineup
Image: RAZER

Razer’s premier gaming laptop is getting a big update.

Less than six months after releasing the Blade 15, Razer is already rolling out an update to its gaming laptop line with its new Blade 15 Dual Storage edition. 

If you couldn’t tell from its name, the Razer Blade 15 Dual Storage edition comes with two drives, a smaller SSD for performance and a larger hard drive for capacity. The Blade 15 Dual Storage edition is a little bit thicker than the earlier Blade 15 models because of this additional 2.5-inch drive, but Razer took advantage of the extra space by adding in a gigabit Ethernet port to improve connectivity. For a gaming laptop especially, this is more than an acceptable tradeoff. 

The new Razer Blade 15 Dual Storage edition

The new Razer Blade 15 Dual Storage edition

Image: RAZER

One visual aspect that most associate with Razer’s gaming computers is its Chroma lighting keyboard features. In its dual-storage models, the company is including a full single-zone RGB Chroma keyboard. This allows users to illuminate their entire keyboard with any one of 16.8 million colors. While the earlier Blade 15 laptops allowed users to select per-key colors, unlike the previous models, this new keyboard allows secondary functions, such as the “@” or “#” symbols, to be backlit as well.

Razer calls its Blade 15 line “the world’s smallest 15.6-inch gaming laptop” and the dual-storage version, weighing in at 4.48 pounds, is even a little lighter than its prior iterations. It has a full HD 60Hz display, up to 6 hours of battery life, packs an 8th-generation Intel Core i7 core processor, and has 16GB of dual-channel RAM. 

The Razer Blade 15 Dual Storage edition is available Oct. 10, and starts at $1,599 for a 128GB SSD and a 1TB HDD. At that price, the dual storage edition is a full $300 less than the earlier, higher-end Blade 15 models.

Fitting in nicely as an entry-level Razer gaming laptop, the company says that many of the qualities users have come to love about the Blade 15, like its performance and build, are kept intact in the dual-storage edition. And, for fans of the single storage model, there’s a Razer store exclusive Mercury White edition coming later this year.

The Razer Blade 15 Mercury White edition

The Razer Blade 15 Mercury White edition

Image: RAZER

While the dual-storage edition certainly does lose some cool features like the per-key Chroma option, it certainly makes up for it on the pricing end. We reviewed the Razer Blade 15 earlier this year and called it “damn close to being the perfect gaming laptop.” Razer’s latest dual storage offering will only open the door to its near-perfect gaming experience to the hardcore gamers who may have been priced out before.

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CenturyLink to open Singapore SOC with behavioural analytics capabilities

CenturyLink has announced plans to open a security operations centre (SOC) in Singapore, which will be its first such facility to showcase user and entity behavioural analytics to identify insider threats.

The new site will be one of the vendor’s eight SOCs worldwide and second in Asia-Pacific, after its Bangalore facility, according to Matt Gutierrez, CenturyLink’s Asia-Pacific senior managing director.

Scheduled to be operational in January 2019, the Singapore centre would support enterprise customers in the region, which previously would have been served out of its SOCs in London or Denver, he said in an interview with ZDNet.

The new facility also would be the first to house employees who were trained on CenturyLink’s full product suite since its acquisition of Level 3 in October 2016.

Gutierrez said the acquisition boosted the company’s network footprint to become one of the world’s largest IP traffic carriers, placing it in a position to analyse traffic flow and better identify potential threats.

CenturyLink said it currently collects 114 billion NetFlow records a day, capturing 1.3billion security events daily and monitoring 5,000 known C2 (command-and-control) servers. The vendor also responds to some 120 DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks each day and removes nearly 40 C2 networks per month.

The ability to better predict potential threats, hence, was crucial to proactively address these and notify enterprise customers of the risks, Gutierrez said.

“CenturyLink’s predictive SOC adds to a growing ecosystem of cybersecurity companies establishing technical capabilities in Singapore,” said Ang Chin Tah, director of infocomms and media at Economic Development Board.

“In addition, the centre will create opportunities for Singaporeans to be trained in sought-after cross-industry skillsets such as incident analysis, incident management and response, and threat intelligence.”

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Volvo goes with Nvidia Xavier for assisted driving

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Volvo has teamed up with Nvidia to use the latter’s Drive AGX Xavier platform in its next generation of cars set to hit the road early next decade.

An earlier partnership between the pair said artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled vehicles would be on the market in 2021.

Although Xavier was touted as being built to handle level 5, or fully autonomous, driving when launched at the start of the year, the companies said that the initial release will be “Level 2+”.

Further, Xavier would be used for “new connectivity services, energy management technology, in-car personalisation options”, the companies said.

“Autopilot done right will bring a jump in safety and driving comfort. Your car will drive you and constantly watch out for you. Making this possible will require sensor architecture, AI software, computing, and safety technology like nothing the world has ever made,” Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said during his GTC Europe keynote.

See: Autonomous driving levels 0 to 5: Understanding the differences (TechRepublic)

The companies said they are working on “uniquely integrating 360-degree surround perception”, along with a driver monitoring system.

Nvidia rates its Drive AGX Xavier system as being capable of 30 trillion operations per second and using only 30 watts of power across six different processors on the board.

At the start of the year, Nvidia inked a similar deal with Continental that will be the Drive platform used from 2021.

Alongside Xavier, Nvidia also has its Pegasus platform, which contains a pair of Xavier system-on-a-chip processors and a pair of TensorCore GPUs, that is rated at 320 trillion operations per second.

During Wednesday’s keynote, Nvidia also announced a new set of libraries for GPU-accelerated analytics and machine learning, dubbed Rapids.

In June, Nvidia unveiled Kubernetes on GPUs for use in multi-cloud GPU clusters.

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Google Cloud adds support for Nvidia’s Tesla P4 GPU (TechRepublic)

The compute accelerator is optimized for graphics-intensive applications and machine learning inference.

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