LG explains how the G8 ThinQ's tiny gesture sensor works


LG has revealed more details about the “Time of Flight” sensor that will likely power the G8 ThinQ‘s touchless gestures. Built by LG’s Innotek division, it reflects infrared light off of a subject, measures how long it takes to return and uses the data to calculate depth. LG said that the tech works over “long” distances, while consuming less power than other 3D tech. As such, it’s suitable for face detection ID tech, motion sensing, AR, and more.

It differs from Apple’s TrueDepth Face ID tech, which beams thousands of laser dots at a subject, then measures the distortion to calculate depth. Time of Flight, by contrast, measures distances like radar, and is similar to what Microsoft used in its Xbox One Kinect. It can, in theory, deliver more accurate results for biometric scans, augmented reality and more.

LG said that on top of face detection, it could let you run commands using your face and hands without touching the screen. “So, there would be no need to take your gloves off to touch the smart phone in freezing cold weather,” it said. That info seems to jibe with LG’s “Goodbye, Touch” promo for the G8 ThinQ, set to be unveiled on February 24th at MWC 2019 in Barcelona.

In addition to promoting its own mobile devices, LG seems anxious to sell the technology to other industries. With the compact size, it can be “easily applied to PCs, wearable devices, home electronics and automobiles,” the company wrote. In a car, for instance, drivers could use hand gestures to control the radio, AC or GPS, letting them keep their eyes on the road.

With its own smartphone business dwindling, LG is likely looking at Samsung and Sony’s success in selling components for smartphones and other gadgets. It’s no doubt hoping that Innotek can make it a player in the 3D sensor module business.

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LG's G8 will fight FaceID with its own 3D front-facing camera


LG isn’t ready to show off all of the details around its next flagship phone just yet, but tonight it has revealed the technology we’ll see in the G8 ThinQ’s front-facing camera. By including a “Time of Flight” image sensor made by Infineon, LG claims it can deliver features like facial recognition, augmented reality and better selfies in all kinds of lighting conditions while using less power than other solutions like Apple’s FaceID.

While Apple’s TrueDepth technology for FaceID is similar to what we saw in the Xbox 360 Kinect where it projects thousands of laser dots then measures the distortion to figure out where things are, Time of Flight is the tech Microsoft hoped it would get better results from for the Xbox One Kinect device. By capturing IR light as it reflects off of a subject, the idea is that it will give more accurate results with less computing power. There have been rumors that Apple is considering implementing it in the iPhone’s rear-facing camera, however well-sourced analyst Ming-Chi Kuo shot those down, saying the device’s existing dual-camera setup would suffice.

Still, the G8 won’t be the first phone to use this technology. The same Infineon Real3 chip it’s using has been previously seen in Lenovo’s Project Tango-packing Phab 2 Pro that was an early standard-bearer for AR technology. We’ve also gotten a peek more recently in two Chinese phones: the Vivo Nex Dual Display Edition and the Honor View 20.

Besides AR and facial recognition, LG has already promised that users will say “Goodbye Touch” with hints of gesture control that could be linked to this same technology. Whatever the connections are — and whether or not rumors of a second screen add-on are true — we’ll find out in just a couple of weeks during Mobile World Congress, as LG’s launch event is scheduled for February 24th.

Catch up on all the latest news from MWC 2019 here!

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Vivo's all-screen NEX goes dual-display to ditch the pop-up camera

While Vivo is still a largely exotic brand for many of us, you may remember it as the first manufacturer to both tease and release a truly bezel-less smartphone. And of course, Vivo’s NEX S gained extra street cred thanks to its pop-up selfie camera plus in-display fingerprint reader. Just months later, the Chinese company is back with a follow-up model dubbed NEX Dual Display Edition, and as the name implies, it packs a screen on both sides of the phone, just so that it can ditch the pop-up camera — a cool but physically vulnerable feature — while still avoiding the notch on the main screen.

Gallery: Vivo NEX Dual Display Edition hands-on | 6 Photos

The idea here is that you can stick to that sweet bezel-less display for your everyday tasks, but when it comes to selfies or video calls, simply flip the phone over to make use of the 12-megapixel main camera ( f/1.79, Sony IMX363 CMOS), along with the smaller screen below it. Both the 6.39-inch and 5.49-inch AMOLED touchscreens pack a 1080p resolution, which is lower than those Quad HD offerings from others but still plentiful for most users.

Sadly for Vivo, it’s not the first company to realize this concept. The Nubia X from late October also makes use of a secondary display for selfie purposes as well as personalization and adding game controls (think rear touchpad), but it uses a smaller 5.1-inch OLED panel with a lower 720p resolution instead. So Vivo still wins here, at least on paper; and yes, its new NEX supports those use cases for its rear display as well.

It’s also pretty easy to switch between the two screens on this NEX: You can either pull out the control center from the bottom and tap the shortcut at the bottom right, or enable the three-finger gesture in settings and drag from left edge of either screen. Still, I personally prefer the dual-fingerprint-reader implementation on the Nubia X, but that’s obviously not an option on Vivo’s device.

Lunar Ring on the Vivo NEX Dual Display Edition

In addition to the 12-megapixel camera, 2-megapixel assistive camera (for bokeh and enabling “Super Night Mode”) plus the usual LED flash, the NEX Dual Display Edition offers a Lunar Ring, which acts as a selfie soft light surrounding these cameras. The top half consists of 16 LEDs, whereas the lower part overlapping the rear display uses the AMOLED pixels to produce the light. This is supposed to offer prettier selfies as it spreads the light more evenly, and it also doubles as a notification light.

Needless to say, the camera comes with many dedicated software features, including the usual AI face beautification and face shaping. Interestingly, it can even do body shaping if you’re very conscious of yourself.

Mirror Mode capture on Vivo NEX Dual Display Edition

To take full advantage of the secondary screen, there’s a Mirror Mode which is self-explanatory: While you’re taking photos of a person using this phone, the rear display shows a live view of the subject — just like a mirror — which allows him or her to adjust pose where necessary. There’s also a Pose Director mode which uses the rear display to show pose suggestions picked from Vivo’s image library.

Another unique feature here is the Time Of Flight 3D camera, which is used for faster (0.35 seconds) and more secure (300,000 dots) facial recognition and enhanced facial beautification. It also serves as an AR measuring tool — much like what Google’s Project Tango touted back in the days.

Nubia X and Vivo NEX Dual Display Edition

The rest of this Android 9.0 phone is very much what you would expect from a standard flagship, but with a whopping 10GB RAM. You get the usual Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset, 128GB internal storage, a 3,500mAh battery (a bummer compared to the NEX S’ 4,000mAh; but you do get 22.5W fast charging) and, again, an in-display fingerprint reader — now at its fifth generation which unlocks in 0.29 seconds. Hi-fi enthusiasts may also appreciate the integrated AK4377A 32-bit audio DAC chip from Asahi Kasei Microdevices, but we won’t know for sure until we get hold of a unit.

Alas, there’s still no NFC. One possible reason is that Vivo is pushing the use case of QR code-based mobile payment using its rear display, meaning you won’t have to flip the phone around. In other words, there’s less justification for NFC-based mobile payment methods, let alone the additional manufacturing costs.

As with most Chinese smartphones, Vivo’s NEX Dual Display Edition is also a dual nano SIM device, but it’s sadly lacking support for most of the US LTE bands, so phone importers should bear this in mind. As for the rest of you, you can either grab either a “polar blue” or “nebula purple” unit in China from December 29th for 4,998 yuan (about $725), or wait until the international version (blue only) hits the markets in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore in the very near future.

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