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A Week In Tech: The Anti Smartphone

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Introducing the “Anti” Smartphone

Whilst many of us have become a little too attached to our smart devices in recent years (myself included), there are still those amongst us who long for a simpler time, when our phones were just that; phones, not computers that just so happened to send and receive calls. For these people, The Light Phone could be the answer to their prayers. It's an ultra thin, incredibly light see-through phone that lasts 20 days on a single charge and does nothing but make and answer calls. It also costs just $100, and (supposedly) is a one-off, which means there will never be a need to upgrade. The phone is currently being funded through a Kickstarter campaign, and there's still 31 days to go.

The Light Phone is designed to work with your existing phone, lasts for 20 days on a single charge, and does nothing besides making and receiving calls

The Light Phone

The phone's creators, Joe Hollier and Kaiwei Tang, created the phone at Google’s 30 Weeks incubator in NYC. They both came from a design background by Kaiwei has a background in building phones. They said: “So much of our days are spent connected and staring at screens that we are losing that presence in so many situations. We built The Light Phone as a way for people to find balance with their connectedness. It’s not that we think people should never connect again, it’s just that taking a break is extremely healthy in every sense of the word.” I agree, to an extent. But you won't see me giving up my S6 just yet! Either way, the phone is looking to ship in May 2016.

 

Instagram gets desperate

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In an effort to retain its constantly dwindling user base, Instagram has started to send out its own “Highlights” via email, which features what the site deems to be the most interesting pictures from the people you follow. The idea is to rope back in users who might have strayed from the service in recent months to migrate their image-based social networking over to Twitter or Facebook. Of course, not everyone is going to be thrilled to receive even more email they didn't ask for, and there's currently no way to switch off the service, but it might help net back a few lapsed users. Personally, however, it seems like too little too late to me.

 

YouTube gets an upgrade

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If you're one of those picky individuals who gets all up in arms when a video or game doesn't run at a steady 60 frames-per-second then you're in luck, as a YouTube update arrived this week adding support for users who wish to stream content in 60fps. The sire already introduced support for 60fps playback last year, but this latest update shows that YouTube are dead serious about taking on Twitch in their goal to become the definitive platform for live streamers.

YouTube now allows users to stream content in 60 fps

A statement from YouTube explains: “When you start a live stream on YouTube at 60fps, we'll transcode your stream into 720p60 and 1080p60, which means silky smooth playback for gaming and other fast-action videos. We'll also make your stream available in 30fps on devices where high frame rate viewing is not yet available, while we work to expand support in the coming weeks.” It is worth noting, however, that live streaming in 60 fps is only in “Early preview” mode at the moment, and support is currently limited to browsers compatible with HTML5.

 

LG's “Wallpaper TV”

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A new concept from electronics giants LG was unveiled this week in the form of an ultra thin, 55-inch TV that can be stuck safely and easily to any wall with a magnetic mat. Weighing in at just 4 pounds and with a thickness of just 0.87mm, the “Wallpaper TV” was shown off at a press event in Korea last week, where the Seoul-based company also unveiled its future plans, including an ongoing commitment to OLED technology.

 

Disney put words in your mouth

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Disney Research Labs have developed a (frankly rather terrifying) new algorithm that literally puts words in people's mouths. Like an incredibly advanced version of one of those awfully derivative lip dub videos, the unique system uses an auditory illusion called the McGurk effect, which tricks our brains into hearing something that hasn't even been spoken. It's explained in this video from the BBC below.

Disney have developed an algorithm that literally puts words in people's mouths

The McGurk Effect Explained

I'm not exactly 100% sure how Disney are intending to use the algorithm, but I guess it could be used to dub movies more effectively, or edit bad language out of existing movies without resorting to cheap edits. It's all very clever and very creepy, but it's also pretty cool, so I'm a little conflicted. Trust Disney!

 

Turn your Apple Watch into a Casio Calculator

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Whilst the idea of taking a device worth hundreds of pounds and altering it to resemble an old Casio calculator watch might not appeal to everyone, for retro fiends such as myself, the GeekWatch app is a real find! Of course, Apple hasn’t enabled custom watch faces yet, so it’s not able to take over the entire screen, and you’ll still have some borders/margins/text around the edges, but it costs less than a quid, and it looks incredibly convincing. Plus, imagine the fun you'll have typing in 5318008 and turning your watch upside down to show all your mates! Just me then?

 

Smart banking looks pretty smart

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GoCardless co-founder Tom Blomfield has been working on a new UK banking startup for a while now, and details finally emerged this week regarding the project, which is currently trading under the name “Mondo.” The service is described as a full stack, mobile first-bank, in so much as it isn't simply a mobile app piggybacking existing banking software or an existing bank in order to offer a better user experience, but a legitimate, modern alternative to traditional banking.

Mondo is described as a mobile first-bank from GoCardless co-founder Tom Blomfield

As well as applying for a full banking license in its own right, which means it will be able to generate revenue through lending out bank deposits, Mondo is writing its own full stack banking software from scratch. This will allow the “Smart Bank” to offer unique features such as realtime reporting of cash withdrawals, geolocation-marked spending and more besides. Pretty smart!

Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer, struggling musician and notorious gadget fiend from Kidderminster in the UK.

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