Adobe developing AI that turns selfies into self-portraits

OnTheGo

We all know the trademarks of a bad selfie: Unflattering angles, front-camera distortion, distracting backgrounds. Adobe is testing artificial intelligence tools to automatically correct these common issues and infuse selfies with more pleasing portraiture effects.

Adobe shared some of its research on selfie photography in the video below, and the potential results are compelling. That warped-face effect from the too-close front-facing camera? With a few taps, the typical selfie transforms into an image that appears to have been taken from a further distance, as would be seen in a more traditional portrait.

There’s also an automatic masking tool, which could add bokeh and depth-of-field effects similar to the iPhone 7 Plus’ Portrait Mode, blurring out distracting backgrounds for more emphasis on the subject, without the need for a dual-lens camera or other specific hardware.

In addition, Adobe hinted at the potential for automatic styling effects, similar to those seen recently in some of its other AI-driven photo retouching research, only selfie-specific.

Adobe has not confirmed if and when these tools will hit its lineup of smartphone apps, but if they are as easy and effective as this behind-the-scenes look suggests, they could be helping amateur photographers achieve more professional-looking results sometime in the not-so-distant future.

Source: New Atlas magazine

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The best Samsung Galaxy Note 7 alternatives

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So you were a Galaxy Note 7 fan, but your dreams of smartphone-stylus harmony went up in flames. What are your other options? Unfortunately, there aren’t many, but let us present a few that come close.

The Galaxy S8 series
OK, so the 2017 Galaxy S8 series does not officially exist yet, but we do know that Samsung releases new generations of these flagships in the early part of the year. Word is that the Korean company has decided to skip its usual announcement at the Mobile World Congress at the end of February, and will instead announce new products at an Apple-style launch event in March.
Like many others, we expect Samsung to really bring the heat (figuratively, this time) to make up for the Note 7 fiasco. If rumors are to be believed, it’s on track to do just that. Among other things, leaks suggest the S8 series will have larger, practically edgeless curved displays with cutting-edge internals to match. We’ve also heard whispers that there may be a new version of the S Pen as an optional accessory for the S8 series.
Of course, there’s no guaranteeing exactly what the new lineup will offer, and those indications are purely hearsay. But considering that the new phones are only a few months away, that Samsung is in comeback mode, and that there aren’t any other truly high-end stylus-equipped smartphones out there, it could be worth the wait.

Galaxy Note 5
An older Note – especially if you’re able to score a bargain on a slightly used or refurbished model – may be your best option if you’re invested in a premium experience. There was no Note 6, so this 2015 release is only one generation older.
The Galaxy Note 5 is an excellent phone and is by no means obsolete. In terms of dimensions, weight, size and display quality, it’s nearly identical to the now-defunct Note 7. Mostly, you’re just missing out on Note 7’s trendy features, such as its curvy glass display, iris scanner and GIF shortcuts, but you will also miss the Note 7’s microSD slot, USB-C port and water resistance. (Of course a generation-older processor also holds it back a bit.) Here’s a side-by-side look at how the two phones compare.
A new Note 5 retails for around $550-$580, but we recommend copping a lightly used or refurbished model, since new options are on the way. For reference’s sake, the brand-new Note 7 retailed for around $850.

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
We’re not necessarily trying to push Samsung on you, but if you’re a fan of the Note 7’s characteristic curvy glass build, you’ll find similar contours and quality in the S7 series.
The Galaxy S7 edge is the Note 7’s stylus-free phablet cousin. It has a capacious display, industry-leading water resistance, zippy and still-competitive internals, wireless/fast charging and Samsung’s excellent camera. Find out more through this comparison of the two phones’ tech specs.
The earlier coming-soon caveat applies here as well. A new generation is on the horizon, so we recommend the S7 edge only if you can obtain it at a significant discount over its original $790 asking price.

Google Pixel XL
At the time of this writing, the first made-by-Google phablet is sold out at major retail outlets, and for good reason – it’s one heck of a phone. Still, it could be worth the wait. While it represents a significant departure from the Samsung style and interface, it offers heaps of appeal for Android aficionados.
You’ll have to relinquish key Note 7 features like the stylus, microSD expansion and water resistance. What will you get in return? Google Pixel XL’s stellar camera, top-of-the-line operating system, Google Assistant and buttery-smooth performance. You’ll still be able to enjoy perks like mobile VR (through the Google Daydream headset instead of the Samsung Gear VR) and a forward-looking USB-C charging port. At $769, it’s at a slightly lower price point than the Note.
You may notice we’ve omitted stylus-sporting smartphones like the LG Stylus 2 Plus. Why? Well, they’re decidedly mid-ranged. They don’t offer the high quality internals or user experience of the top-shelf phones above. Since the Note 7 smacked of luxury, middling offerings are not on the same level.
If this list seems short, we feel you – there simply aren’t that many phones that come close to approximating Samsung’s elegant stylus-sporting phablet. If you’re willing to broaden your horizon, you could also take a peek at alternatives to the Pixel XL, a roundup of some of the best larger-sized smartphones currently available.

Emily Ferron

The best iPhone 7 alternatives

Suggestions for smartphones to stand in for an iPhone 7

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Not interested in being an iPhone 7 owner? Here are some alternatives. These are all premium smartphones with great cameras, bloat-free operating systems, and a satisfying user experience.

Google Pixel

The Google Pixel has an iPhone-like approach, right down to the price tag (US $649). Here’s a spec-by-spec comparison of how these phones stack up.

Like iPhones, Pixels’ hardware and software are made by the same company (technically HTC manufactured the Pixel, but Google claims the design as its own), so there is a harmony between the internals and the externals. If you’re departing the iOS ecosystem, you still have to adjust to Android, but you won’t be fettered by common Android problems like bloatware or aggressive manufacturer skins. In addition, you’ll be first in line for future operating system updates, so the Pixel will continue to offer the best Android experience around.

The Pixel also has one of the best smartphone cameras on the market – on par with or better than the iPhone 7’s, depending on who you ask. At this point, it’s also the only phone that ships with Google Assistant, the Android answer to (and improvement on) Apple’s Siri.

And if you’re departing the Apple world because the company just doesn’t seem to serve its customers, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by Google perks like its 15 GB of free cloud storage via Google Drive. Photos taken on the Pixel don’t count against that storage total.

OnePlus 3T

Don’t be deterred if you don’t recognize the name OnePlus. The Chinese startup company’s OnePlus 3T is the best value in smartphones today. For a starting retail price of $439, the phone ships with a near-stock version of Android Nougat, a high-end camera with strong low-light photography, excellent battery life, and fast, smooth performance rivaling that of the iPhone or Google Pixel.

The OnePlus 3T is a bigger phone than the iPhone 7, but at 153 mm x 75 mm x 7.4 mm (6 in x 3 in x 0.3 in) it’s not so massive as to be intrusive. It also packs in a 5.5-inch display, which is 27-percent larger than the iPhone’s.

One major caveat for US customers: The 3T only works with GSM networks. It’s not compatible with Verizon or Sprint, which use CDMA.

iPhone 6S

Yes, the iPhone 6S is a generation old, but if you want to stay in the iOS 10 ecosystem without spending any more, it’s probably your best bet. You won’t get the latest-and-greatest features like IP67 water resistance, an incrementally improved camera and a solid state home button (big whoop) but what will you get? A headphone jack and a fatter wallet. iPhone 6S is available new from Apple for $549, but you’ll get an even better value if you buy it lightly used or refurbished (recommended).

If the gadget lover in you is cringing at buying a phone from 2015, take heart in the fact that many of the key features are identical or nearly so – and its A9 processor still feels fast running the latest mobile OS. Between the two phones, there are few differences in size, build, display or overall user experience.

Samsung Galaxy S7

The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a great phone, despite the explosive reputation of its cousin, the Note 7. One piece of advice before we extoll its virtues: Scour the market for a good deal. Samsung is expected to release an updated version of this flagship within the next few months, and there’s no reason to pay full price for a previous generation phone.

The Galaxy S7 is a glassy, curvy, IP68 water-resistant phone with an excellent camera, microSD for expandable storage, fast/wireless charging and great battery life. It recently received the update from Android Marshmallow to Nougat, with a layer of Samsung’s TouchWiz interface on top. It’s not the purest version of Android, but modern TouchWiz is one of the more reasonable manufacturer software additions out there.

HTC 10

This is another option that’s expecting a new upgrade soon, but regardless, the HTC 10 is one of our favorite flagships from 2016. The previous advisory applies: Only consider it if you can score a bargain over its original $699 asking price. HTC’s next-gen flagship launches in March, and it’s possible the company will have another high-end phone this year.

This phone’s angular build is still noticeably high-end. It also boasts worthy internals, a good-looking QHD display, warm and rich audio, microSD expansion and a very subtle UI over a near-stock version of Android. For more info, check out this spec comparison.

If you’re still on the fence about the iPhone 7, check out New Atlas’ review. Alternatively, you could always upgrade to the iPhone 7 Plus, a bigger and more expensive phablet.

 

Emily Ferron

 

 

There’s a better solution than rice if you drop your phone in water

When a phone accidentally falls in water, we normally run to get rice.

It’s common lore that if your phone doesn’t turn on after getting dunked in water, you put it in rice. The logic here is that the rice will soak up the water, and your phone will work again.

But rice can take up to three days to fully dry your phone, and even then it’s not guaranteed that it’ll work again.

A company called TekDry is setting up electronics-drying locations around the US, where customers with wet gadgets come to dry them for $70 in special machines that literally pull the water out of them in a vacuum chamber. But if your phone doesn’t work because the water damage went too far, you won’t be charged anything.

It’s a much better deal than buying a whole new phone.

So far, you’ll only find TekDry locations in Colorado, Michigan, and New Hampshire, but they’re adding 82 more locations in California, New York, Philadelphia, and the greater Boston area in mid-October. In New York, two locations will be in Brooklyn, two in Manhattan, and two in the Bronx.

It’s actually quite satisfying to watch water ooze out of the sim port and the cracks around this old iPhone:

TekDry’s machines can dry phones in 30 minutes with an 80% success rate if you bring it within 48 hours of getting your phone wet.

Recently, it was discovered that Apple’s latest iPhones are much more resistant to water than previous generations. It turns out that Apple added gaskets around the edges and seals around important components into the latest iPhone 6s and 6s Plus to keep water out.

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The new iPhones survived a test where they were dunked in a shallow bowl of water for an hour, with only the 6s suffering from a diagonal line across its screen. So you might not need to worry if you drop a new iPhone into, say, a toilet bowl.

However, another put the iPhone 6s under four feet of water for a couple minutes, which broke the iPhone from water damage. So if you jump into a pool with your iPhone, you still have a chance of saving it if you bring it to TekDry. (Still: Don’t do that.)

Other phones boast water resistance, like Sony’s flagship line of Xperia phones. But others are doing away with the feature. Samsung, for example, recently did away with the water resistance in its line of Galaxy smartphones.

TekDry also dries other devices, like tablets, laptops up to 13-inches, cameras, and basically any battery-powered portable device.

Business Insider