Tag Archives: Virtual Reality

Take a virtual reality tour of the Raspberry Pi Store

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/take-a-virtual-reality-tour-of-the-raspberry-pi-store/

Some months back, we received an email from Rob Chinery, explaining that he’d created a virtual reality (VR) tour of the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge.

When I heard about the new Raspberry Pi store in Cambridge, I was immediately impressed by the design and aesthetic of the store. I thought it would be a great project to add to my portfolio, so I put together a quick virtual experience based around the store.

Here’s a video for those without VR headsets:

Raspberry Pi Store VR Tour With Narration

A narrated VR tour of the Raspberry Pi Store in Cambridge, U.K.

Cool, right?

Based in New York, Rob hadn’t visited the store at the time and created the walk-through using images and video content that he’d found online.

I had to rely on a few press images from the opening to make the model (which did make things a bit difficult). One of the reasons I decided to build the app is to allow us Pi fans on other continents to virtually experience the store.

Since our initial communications in April, Rob has now managed to visit the store in the flesh, as he explained on Reddit.

Rob has built the tour specifically for mobile VR platforms, and it is available for free on Oculus Go and Gear VR. You can also view it via Testflight on Android and iOS using a cardboard viewer. You can try the Raspberry Pi Store VR tour here. And, if you’re in need of a mobile VR experience for your architectural projects, Rob’s your guy!

In the words of Liz, colour us impressed.

The post Take a virtual reality tour of the Raspberry Pi Store appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Backblaze at NAB 2018 in Las Vegas

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backblaze-at-nab-2018-in-las-vegas/

Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage NAB Booth

Backblaze just returned from exhibiting at NAB in Las Vegas, April 9-12, where the response to our recent announcements was tremendous. In case you missed the news, Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage continues to extend its lead as the most affordable, high performance cloud on the planet.

Backblaze’s News at NAB

Backblaze at NAB 2018 in Las Vegas

The Backblaze booth just before opening

What We Were Asked at NAB

Our booth was busy from start to finish with attendees interested in learning more about Backblaze and B2 Cloud Storage. Here are the questions we were asked most often in the booth.

Q. How long has Backblaze been in business?
A. The company was founded in 2007. Today, we have over 500 petabytes of data from customers in over 150 countries.

B2 Partners at NAB 2018

Q. Where is your data stored?
A. We have data centers in California and Arizona and expect to expand to Europe by the end of the year.

Q. How can your services be so inexpensive?
A. Backblaze’s goal from the beginning was to offer cloud backup and storage that was easy to use and affordable. All the existing options were simply too expensive to be viable, so we created our own infrastructure. Our purpose-built storage system — the Backblaze’s Storage Pod — is recognized as one of the most cost efficient storage platforms available.

Q. Tell me about your hardware.
A. Backblaze’s Storage Pods hold 60 HDDs each, containing as much as 720TB data per pod, stored using Reed-Solomon error correction. Storage Pods are arranged in Tomes with twenty Storage Pods making up a Vault.

Q. Where do you fit in the data workflow?
A. People typically use B2 in for archiving completed projects. All data is readily available for download from B2, making it more convenient than off-line storage. In addition, DAM and MAM systems such as CatDV, axle ai, Cantemo, and others have integrated with B2 to store raw images behind the proxies.

Q. Who uses B2 in the M&E business?
A. KLRU-TV, the PBS station in Austin Texas, uses B2 to archive their entire 43 year catalog of Austin City Limits episodes and related materials. WunderVu, the production house for Pixvana, uses B2 to back up and archive their local storage systems on which they build virtual reality experiences for their customers.

Q. You’re the company that publishes the hard drive stats, right?
A. Yes, we are!

Backblaze Case Studies and Swag at NAB 2018 in Las Vegas

Were You at NAB?

If you were, we hope you stopped by the Backblaze booth to say hello. We’d like to hear what you saw at the show that was interesting or exciting. Please tell us in the comments.

The post Backblaze at NAB 2018 in Las Vegas appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

[$] Supporting virtual reality displays in Linux

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/748208/rss

At linux.conf.au (LCA) 2017 in Hobart, Tasmania, Keith Packard talked with
kernel graphics
maintainer
Dave Airlie about how virtual reality devices should be hooked up to
Linux. They both thought it would be pretty straightforward to do, so it
would “only take a few weeks”, but Packard knew
“in reality it would take a lot longer”. In a
talk at LCA 2018 in Sydney, Packard reported back on the progress he has
made; most of it is now in the upstream kernel.

Building Blocks of Amazon ECS

Post Syndicated from Tiffany Jernigan original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/building-blocks-of-amazon-ecs/

So, what’s Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS)? ECS is a managed service for running containers on AWS, designed to make it easy to run applications in the cloud without worrying about configuring the environment for your code to run in. Using ECS, you can easily deploy containers to host a simple website or run complex distributed microservices using thousands of containers.

Getting started with ECS isn’t too difficult. To fully understand how it works and how you can use it, it helps to understand the basic building blocks of ECS and how they fit together!

Let’s begin with an analogy

Imagine you’re in a virtual reality game with blocks and portals, in which your task is to build kingdoms.

In your spaceship, you pull up a holographic map of your upcoming destination: Nozama, a golden-orange planet. Looking at its various regions, you see that the nearest one is za-southwest-1 (SW Nozama). You set your destination, and use your jump drive to jump to the outer atmosphere of za-southwest-1.

As you approach SW Nozama, you see three portals, 1a, 1b, and 1c. Each portal lets you transport directly to an isolated zone (Availability Zone), where you can start construction on your new kingdom (cluster), Royaume.

With your supply of blocks, you take the portal to 1b, and erect the surrounding walls of your first territory (instance)*.

Before you get ahead of yourself, there are some rules to keep in mind. For your territory to be a part of Royaume, the land ordinance requires construction of a building (container), specifically a castle, from which your territory’s lord (agent)* rules.

You can then create architectural plans (task definitions) to build your developments (tasks), consisting of up to 10 buildings per plan. A development can be built now within this or any territory, or multiple territories.

If you do decide to create more territories, you can either stay here in 1b or take a portal to another location in SW Nozama and start building there.

Amazon EC2 building blocks

We currently provide two launch types: EC2 and Fargate. With Fargate, the Amazon EC2 instances are abstracted away and managed for you. Instead of worrying about ECS container instances, you can just worry about tasks. In this post, the infrastructure components used by ECS that are handled by Fargate are marked with a *.

Instance*

EC2 instances are good ol’ virtual machines (VMs). And yes, don’t worry, you can connect to them (via SSH). Because customers have varying needs in memory, storage, and computing power, many different instance types are offered. Just want to run a small application or try a free trial? Try t2.micro. Want to run memory-optimized workloads? R3 and X1 instances are a couple options. There are many more instance types as well, which cater to various use cases.

AMI*

Sorry if you wanted to immediately march forward, but before you create your instance, you need to choose an AMI. An AMI stands for Amazon Machine Image. What does that mean? Basically, an AMI provides the information required to launch an instance: root volume, launch permissions, and volume-attachment specifications. You can find and choose a Linux or Windows AMI provided by AWS, the user community, the AWS Marketplace (for example, the Amazon ECS-Optimized AMI), or you can create your own.

Region

AWS is divided into regions that are geographic areas around the world (for now it’s just Earth, but maybe someday…). These regions have semi-evocative names such as us-east-1 (N. Virginia), us-west-2 (Oregon), eu-central-1 (Frankfurt), ap-northeast-1 (Tokyo), etc.

Each region is designed to be completely isolated from the others, and consists of multiple, distinct data centers. This creates a “blast radius” for failure so that even if an entire region goes down, the others aren’t affected. Like many AWS services, to start using ECS, you first need to decide the region in which to operate. Typically, this is the region nearest to you or your users.

Availability Zone

AWS regions are subdivided into Availability Zones. A region has at minimum two zones, and up to a handful. Zones are physically isolated from each other, spanning one or more different data centers, but are connected through low-latency, fiber-optic networking, and share some common facilities. EC2 is designed so that the most common failures only affect a single zone to prevent region-wide outages. This means you can achieve high availability in a region by spanning your services across multiple zones and distributing across hosts.

Amazon ECS building blocks

Container

Well, without containers, ECS wouldn’t exist!

Are containers virtual machines?
Nope! Virtual machines virtualize the hardware (benefits), while containers virtualize the operating system (even more benefits!). If you look inside a container, you would see that it is made by processes running on the host, and tied together by kernel constructs like namespaces, cgroups, etc. But you don’t need to bother about that level of detail, at least not in this post!

Why containers?
Containers give you the ability to build, ship, and run your code anywhere!

Before the cloud, you needed to self-host and therefore had to buy machines in addition to setting up and configuring the operating system (OS), and running your code. In the cloud, with virtualization, you can just skip to setting up the OS and running your code. Containers make the process even easier—you can just run your code.

Additionally, all of the dependencies travel in a package with the code, which is called an image. This allows containers to be deployed on any host machine. From the outside, it looks like a host is just holding a bunch of containers. They all look the same, in the sense that they are generic enough to be deployed on any host.

With ECS, you can easily run your containerized code and applications across a managed cluster of EC2 instances.

Are containers a fairly new technology?
The concept of containerization is not new. Its origins date back to 1979 with the creation of chroot. However, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that containers became a major technology. The most significant milestone to date was the release of Docker in 2013, which led to the popularization and widespread adoption of containers.

What does ECS use?
While other container technologies exist (LXC, rkt, etc.), because of its massive adoption and use by our customers, ECS was designed first to work natively with Docker containers.

Container instance*

Yep, you are back to instances. An instance is just slightly more complex in the ECS realm though. Here, it is an ECS container instance that is an EC2 instance running the agent, has a specifically defined IAM policy and role, and has been registered into your cluster.

And as you probably guessed, in these instances, you are running containers. 

AMI*

These container instances can use any AMI as long as it has the following specifications: a modern Linux distribution with the agent and the Docker Daemon with any Docker runtime dependencies running on it.

Want it more simplified? Well, AWS created the Amazon ECS-Optimized AMI for just that. Not only does that AMI come preconfigured with all of the previously mentioned specifications, it’s tested and includes the recommended ecs-init upstart process to run and monitor the agent.

Cluster

An ECS cluster is a grouping of (container) instances* (or tasks in Fargate) that lie within a single region, but can span multiple Availability Zones – it’s even a good idea for redundancy. When launching an instance (or tasks in Fargate), unless specified, it registers with the cluster named “default”. If “default” doesn’t exist, it is created. You can also scale and delete your clusters.

Agent*

The Amazon ECS container agent is a Go program that runs in its own container within each EC2 instance that you use with ECS. (It’s also available open source on GitHub!) The agent is the intermediary component that takes care of the communication between the scheduler and your instances. Want to register your instance into a cluster? (Why wouldn’t you? A cluster is both a logical boundary and provider of pool of resources!) Then you need to run the agent on it.

Task

When you want to start a container, it has to be part of a task. Therefore, you have to create a task first. Succinctly, tasks are a logical grouping of 1 to N containers that run together on the same instance, with N defined by you, up to 10. Let’s say you want to run a custom blog engine. You could put together a web server, an application server, and an in-memory cache, each in their own container. Together, they form a basic frontend unit.

Task definition

Ah, but you cannot create a task directly. You have to create a task definition that tells ECS that “task definition X is composed of this container (and maybe that other container and that other container too!).” It’s kind of like an architectural plan for a city. Some other details it can include are how the containers interact, container CPU and memory constraints, and task permissions using IAM roles.

Then you can tell ECS, “start one task using task definition X.” It might sound like unnecessary planning at first. As soon as you start to deal with multiple tasks, scaling, upgrades, and other “real life” scenarios, you’ll be glad that you have task definitions to keep track of things!

Scheduler*

So, the scheduler schedules… sorry, this should be more helpful, huh? The scheduler is part of the “hosted orchestration layer” provided by ECS. Wait a minute, what do I mean by “hosted orchestration”? Simply put, hosted means that it’s operated by ECS on your behalf, without you having to care about it. Your applications are deployed in containers running on your instances, but the managing of tasks is taken care of by ECS. One less thing to worry about!

Also, the scheduler is the component that decides what (which containers) gets to run where (on which instances), according to a number of constraints. Say that you have a custom blog engine to scale for high availability. You could create a service, which by default, spreads tasks across all zones in the chosen region. And if you want each task to be on a different instance, you can use the distinctInstance task placement constraint. ECS makes sure that not only this happens, but if a task fails, it starts again.

Service

To ensure that you always have your task running without managing it yourself, you can create a service based on the task that you defined and ECS ensures that it stays running. A service is a special construct that says, “at any given time, I want to make sure that N tasks using task definition X1 are running.” If N=1, it just means “make sure that this task is running, and restart it if needed!” And with N>1, you’re basically scaling your application until you hit N, while also ensuring each task is running.

So, what now?

Hopefully you, at the very least, learned a tiny something. All comments are very welcome!

Want to discuss ECS with others? Join the amazon-ecs slack group, which members of the community created and manage.

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about the core concepts of ECS and its relation to EC2, here are some resources:

Pages
Amazon ECS landing page
AWS Fargate landing page
Amazon ECS Getting Started
Nathan Peck’s AWSome ECS

Docs
Amazon EC2
Amazon ECS

Blogs
AWS Compute Blog
AWS Blog

GitHub code
Amazon ECS container agent
Amazon ECS CLI

AWS videos
Learn Amazon ECS
AWS videos
AWS webinars

 

— tiffany

 @tiffanyfayj

 

Glenn’s Take on re:Invent 2017 Part 1

Post Syndicated from Glenn Gore original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/architecture/glenns-take-on-reinvent-2017-part-1/

GREETINGS FROM LAS VEGAS

Glenn Gore here, Chief Architect for AWS. I’m in Las Vegas this week — with 43K others — for re:Invent 2017. We have a lot of exciting announcements this week. I’m going to post to the AWS Architecture blog each day with my take on what’s interesting about some of the announcements from a cloud architectural perspective.

Why not start at the beginning? At the Midnight Madness launch on Sunday night, we announced Amazon Sumerian, our platform for VR, AR, and mixed reality. The hype around VR/AR has existed for many years, though for me, it is a perfect example of how a working end-to-end solution often requires innovation from multiple sources. For AR/VR to be successful, we need many components to come together in a coherent manner to provide a great experience.

First, we need lightweight, high-definition goggles with motion tracking that are comfortable to wear. Second, we need to track movement of our body and hands in a 3-D space so that we can interact with virtual objects in the virtual world. Third, we need to build the virtual world itself and populate it with assets and define how the interactions will work and connect with various other systems.

There has been rapid development of the physical devices for AR/VR, ranging from iOS devices to Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which provide excellent capabilities for the first and second components defined above. With the launch of Amazon Sumerian we are solving for the third area, which will help developers easily build their own virtual worlds and start experimenting and innovating with how to apply AR/VR in new ways.

Already, within 48 hours of Amazon Sumerian being announced, I have had multiple discussions with customers and partners around some cool use cases where VR can help in training simulations, remote-operator controls, or with new ideas around interacting with complex visual data sets, which starts bringing concepts straight out of sci-fi movies into the real (virtual) world. I am really excited to see how Sumerian will unlock the creative potential of developers and where this will lead.

Amazon MQ
I am a huge fan of distributed architectures where asynchronous messaging is the backbone of connecting the discrete components together. Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) is one of my favorite services due to its simplicity, scalability, performance, and the incredible flexibility of how you can use Amazon SQS in so many different ways to solve complex queuing scenarios.

While Amazon SQS is easy to use when building cloud-native applications on AWS, many of our customers running existing applications on-premises required support for different messaging protocols such as: Java Message Service (JMS), .Net Messaging Service (NMS), Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP), MQ Telemetry Transport (MQTT), Simple (or Streaming) Text Orientated Messaging Protocol (STOMP), and WebSockets. One of the most popular applications for on-premise message brokers is Apache ActiveMQ. With the release of Amazon MQ, you can now run Apache ActiveMQ on AWS as a managed service similar to what we did with Amazon ElastiCache back in 2012. For me, there are two compelling, major benefits that Amazon MQ provides:

  • Integrate existing applications with cloud-native applications without having to change a line of application code if using one of the supported messaging protocols. This removes one of the biggest blockers for integration between the old and the new.
  • Remove the complexity of configuring Multi-AZ resilient message broker services as Amazon MQ provides out-of-the-box redundancy by always storing messages redundantly across Availability Zones. Protection is provided against failure of a broker through to complete failure of an Availability Zone.

I believe that Amazon MQ is a major component in the tools required to help you migrate your existing applications to AWS. Having set up cross-data center Apache ActiveMQ clusters in the past myself and then testing to ensure they work as expected during critical failure scenarios, technical staff working on migrations to AWS benefit from the ease of deploying a fully redundant, managed Apache ActiveMQ cluster within minutes.

Who would have thought I would have been so excited to revisit Apache ActiveMQ in 2017 after using SQS for many, many years? Choice is a wonderful thing.

Amazon GuardDuty
Maintaining application and information security in the modern world is increasingly complex and is constantly evolving and changing as new threats emerge. This is due to the scale, variety, and distribution of services required in a competitive online world.

At Amazon, security is our number one priority. Thus, we are always looking at how we can increase security detection and protection while simplifying the implementation of advanced security practices for our customers. As a result, we released Amazon GuardDuty, which provides intelligent threat detection by using a combination of multiple information sources, transactional telemetry, and the application of machine learning models developed by AWS. One of the biggest benefits of Amazon GuardDuty that I appreciate is that enabling this service requires zero software, agents, sensors, or network choke points. which can all impact performance or reliability of the service you are trying to protect. Amazon GuardDuty works by monitoring your VPC flow logs, AWS CloudTrail events, DNS logs, as well as combing other sources of security threats that AWS is aggregating from our own internal and external sources.

The use of machine learning in Amazon GuardDuty allows it to identify changes in behavior, which could be suspicious and require additional investigation. Amazon GuardDuty works across all of your AWS accounts allowing for an aggregated analysis and ensuring centralized management of detected threats across accounts. This is important for our larger customers who can be running many hundreds of AWS accounts across their organization, as providing a single common threat detection of their organizational use of AWS is critical to ensuring they are protecting themselves.

Detection, though, is only the beginning of what Amazon GuardDuty enables. When a threat is identified in Amazon GuardDuty, you can configure remediation scripts or trigger Lambda functions where you have custom responses that enable you to start building automated responses to a variety of different common threats. Speed of response is required when a security incident may be taking place. For example, Amazon GuardDuty detects that an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instance might be compromised due to traffic from a known set of malicious IP addresses. Upon detection of a compromised EC2 instance, we could apply an access control entry restricting outbound traffic for that instance, which stops loss of data until a security engineer can assess what has occurred.

Whether you are a customer running a single service in a single account, or a global customer with hundreds of accounts with thousands of applications, or a startup with hundreds of micro-services with hourly release cycle in a devops world, I recommend enabling Amazon GuardDuty. We have a 30-day free trial available for all new customers of this service. As it is a monitor of events, there is no change required to your architecture within AWS.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on AWS Media Services and Amazon Neptune.

 

Glenn during the Tour du Mont Blanc

Presenting Amazon Sumerian: An easy way to create VR, AR, and 3D experiences

Post Syndicated from Tara Walker original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/launch-presenting-amazon-sumerian/

If you have had an opportunity to read any of my blog posts or attended any session I’ve conducted at various conferences, you are probably aware that I am definitively a geek girl. I am absolutely enamored with all of the latest advancements that have been made in technology areas like cloud, artificial intelligence, internet of things and the maker space, as well as, with virtual reality and augmented reality. In my opinion, it is a wonderful time to be a geek. All the things that we dreamed about building while we sweated through our algorithms and discrete mathematics classes or the technology we marveled at when watching Star Wars and Star Trek are now coming to fruition.  So hopefully this means it will only be a matter of time before I can hyperdrive to other galaxies in space, but until then I can at least build the 3D virtual reality and augmented reality characters and images like those featured in some of my favorite shows.

Amazon Sumerian provides tools and resources that allows anyone to create and run augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and 3D applications with ease.  With Sumerian, you can build multi-platform experiences that run on hardware like the Oculus, HTC Vive, and iOS devices using WebVR compatible browsers and with support for ARCore on Android devices coming soon.

This exciting new service, currently in preview, delivers features to allow you to design highly immersive and interactive 3D experiences from your browser. Some of these features are:

  • Editor: A web-based editor for constructing 3D scenes, importing assets, scripting interactions and special effects, with cross-platform publishing.
  • Object Library: a library of pre-built objects and templates.
  • Asset Import: Upload 3D assets to use in your scene. Sumerian supports importing FBX, OBJ, and coming soon Unity projects.
  • Scripting Library: provides a JavaScript scripting library via its 3D engine for advanced scripting capabilities.
  • Hosts: animated, lifelike 3D characters that can be customized for gender, voice, and language.
  • AWS Services Integration: baked in integration with Amazon Polly and Amazon Lex to add speech and natural language to into Sumerian hosts. Additionally, the scripting library can be used with AWS Lambda allowing use of the full range of AWS services.

Since Amazon Sumerian doesn’t require you to have 3D graphics or programming experience to build rich, interactive VR and AR scenes, let’s take a quick run to the Sumerian Dashboard and check it out.

From the Sumerian Dashboard, I can easily create a new scene with a push of a button.

A default view of the new scene opens and is displayed in the Sumerian Editor. With the Tara Blog Scene opened in the editor, I can easily import assets into my scene.

I’ll click the Import Asset button and pick an asset, View Room, to import into the scene. With the desired asset selected, I’ll click the Add button to import it.

Excellent, my asset was successfully imported into the Sumerian Editor and is shown in the Asset panel.  Now, I have the option to add the View Room object into my scene by selecting it in the Asset panel and then dragging it onto the editor’s canvas.

I’ll repeat the import asset process and this time I will add the Mannequin asset to the scene.

Additionally, with Sumerian, I can add scripting to Entity assets to make my scene even more exciting by adding a ScriptComponent to an entity and creating a script.  I can use the provided built-in scripts or create my own custom scripts. If I create a new custom script, I will get a blank script with some base JavaScript code that looks similar to the code below.

'use strict';
/* global sumerian */
//This is Me-- trying out the custom scripts - Tara

var setup = function (args, ctx) {
// Called when play mode starts.
};
var fixedUpdate = function (args, ctx) {
// Called on every physics update, after setup().
};
var update = function (args, ctx) {
// Called on every render frame, after setup().
};
var lateUpdate = function (args, ctx) {
// Called after all script "update" methods in the scene has been called.
};
var cleanup = function (args, ctx) {
// Called when play mode stops.
};
var parameters = [];

Very cool, I just created a 3D scene using Amazon Sumerian in a matter of minutes and I have only scratched the surface.

Summary

The Amazon Sumerian service enables you to create, build, and run virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and 3D applications with ease.  You don’t need any 3D graphics or specialized programming knowledge to get started building scenes and immersive experiences.  You can import FBX, OBJ, and Unity projects in Sumerian, as well as upload your own 3D assets for use in your scene. In addition, you can create digital characters to narrate your scene and with these digital assets, you have choices for the character’s appearance, speech and behavior.

You can learn more about Amazon Sumerian and sign up for the preview to get started with the new service on the product page.  I can’t wait to see what rich experiences you all will build.

Tara

 

Fraud Detection in Pokémon Go

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/11/fraud_detection.html

I play Pokémon Go. (There, I’ve admitted it.) One of the interesting aspects of the game I’ve been watching is how the game’s publisher, Niantec, deals with cheaters.

There are three basic types of cheating in Pokémon Go. The first is botting, where a computer plays the game instead of a person. The second is spoofing, which is faking GPS to convince the game that you’re somewhere you’re not. These two cheats are often used together — and you see the results in the many high-level accounts for sale on the Internet. The third type of cheating is the use of third-party apps like trackers to get extra information about the game.

None of this would matter if everyone played independently. The only reason any player cares about whether other players are cheating is that there is a group aspect of the game: gym battling. Everyone’s enjoyment of that part of the game is affected by cheaters who can pretend to be where they’re not, especially if they have lots of powerful Pokémon that they collected effortlessly.

Niantec has been trying to deal with this problem since the game debuted, mostly by banning accounts when it detects cheating. Its initial strategy was basic — algorithmically detecting impossibly fast travel between physical locations or super-human amounts of playing, and then banning those accounts — with limited success. The limiting factor in all of this is false positives. While Niantec wants to stop cheating, it doesn’t want to block or limit any legitimate players. This makes it a very difficult problem, and contributes to the balance in the attacker/defender arms race.

Recently, Niantic implemented two new anti-cheating measures. The first is machine learning to detect cheaters. About this, we know little. The second is to limit the functionality of cheating accounts rather than ban them outright, making it harder for cheaters to know when they’ve been discovered.

“This is may very well be the beginning of Niantic’s machine learning approach to active bot countering,” user Dronpes writes on The Silph Road subreddit. “If the parameters for a shadowban are constantly adjusted server-side, as they can now easily be, then Niantic’s machine learning engineers can train their detection (classification) algorithms in ever-improving, ever more aggressive ways, and botters will constantly be forced to re-evaluate what factors may be triggering the detection.”

One of the expected future features in the game is trading. Creating a market for rare or powerful Pokémon would add a huge additional financial incentive to cheat. Unless Niantec can effectively prevent botting and spoofing, it’s unlikely to implement that feature.

Cheating detection in virtual reality games is going to be a constant problem as these games become more popular, especially if there are ways to monetize the results of cheating. This means that cheater detection will continue to be a critical component of these games’ success. Anything Niantec learns in Pokémon Go will be useful in whatever games come next.

Mystic, level 39 — if you must know.

And, yes, I know the game tracks works by tracking your location. I’m all right with that. As I repeatedly say, Internet privacy is all about trade-offs.

Backblaze’s Upgrade Guide for macOS High Sierra

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/macos-high-sierra-upgrade-guide/

High Sierra

Apple introduced macOS 10.13 “High Sierra” at its 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference in June. On Tuesday, we learned we don’t have long to wait — the new OS will be available on September 25. It’s a free upgrade, and millions of Mac users around the world will rush to install it.

We understand. A new OS from Apple is exciting, But please, before you upgrade, we want to remind you to back up your Mac. You want your data to be safe from unexpected problems that could happen in the upgrade. We do, too. To make that easier, Backblaze offers this macOS High Sierra upgrade guide.

Why Upgrade to macOS 10.13 High Sierra?

High Sierra, as the name suggests, is a follow-on to the previous macOS, Sierra. Its major focus is on improving the base OS with significant improvements that will support new capabilities in the future in the file system, video, graphics, and virtual/augmented reality.

But don’t despair; there also are outward improvements that will be readily apparent to everyone when they boot the OS for the first time. We’ll cover both the inner and outer improvements coming in this new OS.

Under the Hood of High Sierra

APFS (Apple File System)

Apple has been rolling out its first file system upgrade for a while now. It’s already in iOS: now High Sierra brings APFS to the Mac. Apple touts APFS as a new file system optimized for Flash/SSD storage and featuring strong encryption, better and faster file handling, safer copying and moving of files, and other improved file system fundamentals.

We went into detail about the enhancements and improvements that APFS has over the previous file system, HFS+, in an earlier post. Many of these improvements, including enhanced performance, security and reliability of data, will provide immediate benefits to users, while others provide a foundation for future storage innovations and will require work by Apple and third parties to support in their products and services.

Most of us won’t notice these improvements, but we’ll benefit from better, faster, and safer file handling, which I think all of us can appreciate.

Video

High Sierra includes High Efficiency Video Encoding (HEVC, aka H.265), which preserves better detail and color while also introducing improved compression over H.264 (MPEG-4 AVC). Even existing Macs will benefit from the HEVC software encoding in High Sierra, but newer Mac models include HEVC hardware acceleration for even better performance.

MacBook Pro

Metal 2

macOS High Sierra introduces Metal 2, the next-generation of Apple’s Metal graphics API that was launched three years ago. Apple claims that Metal 2 provides up to 10x better performance in key areas. It provides near-direct access to the graphics processor (GPU), enabling the GPU to take control over key aspects of the rendering pipeline. Metal 2 will enhance the Mac’s capability for machine learning, and is the technology driving the new virtual reality platform on Macs.

audio video editor screenshot

Virtual Reality

We’re about to see an explosion of virtual reality experiences on both the Mac and iOS thanks to High Sierra and iOS 11. Content creators will be able to use apps like Final Cut Pro X, Epic Unreal 4 Editor, and Unity Editor to create fully immersive worlds that will revolutionize entertainment and education and have many professional uses, as well.

Users will want the new iMac with Retina 5K display or the upcoming iMac Pro to enjoy them, or any supported Mac paired with the latest external GPU and VR headset.

iMac and HTC virtual reality player

Outward Improvements

Siri

Siri logo

Expect a more nature voice from Siri in High Sierra. She or he will be less robotic, with greater expression and use of intonation in speech. Siri will also learn more about your preferences in things like music, helping you choose music that fits your taste and putting together playlists expressly for you. Expect Siri to be able to answer your questions about music-related trivia, as well.

Siri:  what does “scaramouche” refer to in the song Bohemian Rhapsody?

Photos

HD MacBook Pro screenshot

Photos has been redesigned with a new layout and new tools. A redesigned Edit view includes new tools for fine-tuning color and contrast and making adjustments within a defined color range. Some fun elements for creating special effects and memories also have been added. Photos now works with external apps such as Photoshop and Pixelmator. Compatibility with third-party extension adds printing and publishing services to help get your photos out into the world.

Safari

Safari logo

Apple claims that Safari in High Sierra is the world’s fastest desktop browser, outperforming Chrome and other browsers in a range of benchmark tests. They’ve also added autoplay blocking for those pesky videos that play without your permission and tracking blocking to help protect your privacy.

Can My Mac Run macOS High Sierra 10.13?

All Macs introduced in mid 2010 or later are compatible. MacBook and iMac computers introduced in late 2009 are also compatible. You’ll need OS X 10.7.5 “Lion” or later installed, along with at least 2 GB RAM and 8.8 GB of available storage to manage the upgrade.
Some features of High Sierra require an internet connection or an Apple ID. You can check to see if your Mac is compatible with High Sierra on Apple’s website.

Conquering High Sierra — What Do I Do Before I Upgrade?

Back Up That Mac!

It’s always smart to back up before you upgrade the operating system or make any other crucial changes to your computer. Upgrading your OS is a major change to your computer, and if anything goes wrong…well, you don’t want that to happen.

iMac backup screenshot

We recommend the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy to make sure your data is safe. What does that mean? Have three copies of your data. There’s the “live” version on your Mac, a local backup (Time Machine, another copy on a local drive or other computer), and an offsite backup like Backblaze. No matter what happens to your computer, you’ll have a way to restore the files if anything goes wrong. Need help understanding how to back up your Mac? We have you covered with a handy Mac backup guide.

Check for App and Driver Updates

This is when it helps to do your homework. Check with app developers or device manufacturers to find if their apps and devices have updates to work with High Sierra. Visit their websites or use the Check for Updates feature built into most apps (often found in the File or Help menus).

If you’ve downloaded apps through the Mac App Store, make sure to open them and click on the Updates button to download the latest updates.

Updating can be hit or miss when you’ve installed apps that didn’t come from the Mac App Store. To make it easier, visit the MacUpdate website. MacUpdate tracks changes to thousands of Mac apps.


Will Backblaze work with macOS High Sierra?

Yes. We’ve taken care to ensure that Backblaze works with High Sierra. We’ve already enhanced our Macintosh client to report the space available on an APFS container and we plan to add additional support for APFS capabilities that enhance Backblaze’s capabilities in the future.

Of course, we’ll watch Apple’s release carefully for any last minute surprises. We’ll officially offer support for High Sierra once we’ve had a chance to thoroughly test the release version.


Set Aside Time for the Upgrade

Depending on the speed of your Internet connection and your computer, upgrading to High Sierra will take some time. You’ll be able to use your Mac straightaway after answering a few questions at the end of the upgrade process.

If you’re going to install High Sierra on multiple Macs, a time-and-bandwidth-saving tip came from a Backblaze customer who suggested copying the installer from your Mac’s Applications folder to a USB Flash drive (or an external drive) before you run it. The installer routinely deletes itself once the upgrade process is completed, but if you grab it before that happens you can use it on other computers.

Where Do I get High Sierra?

Apple says that High Sierra will be available on September 25. Like other Mac operating system releases, Apple offers macOS 10.13 High Sierra for download from the Mac App Store, which is included on the Mac. As long as your Mac is supported and running OS X 10.7.5 “Lion” (released in 2012) or later, you can download and run the installer. It’s free. Thank you, Apple.

Better to be Safe than Sorry

Back up your Mac before doing anything to it, and make Backblaze part of your 3-2-1 backup strategy. That way your data is secure. Even if you have to roll back after an upgrade, or if you run into other problems, your data will be safe and sound in your backup.

Tell us How it Went

Are you getting ready to install High Sierra? Still have questions? Let us know in the comments. Tell us how your update went and what you like about the new release of macOS.

And While You’re Waiting for High Sierra…

While you’re waiting for Apple to release High Sierra on September 25, you might want to check out these other posts about using your Mac and Backblaze.

The post Backblaze’s Upgrade Guide for macOS High Sierra appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Affordable Raspberry Pi 3D Body Scanner

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/affordable-raspberry-pi-3d-body-scanner/

With a £1000 grant from Santander, Poppy Mosbacher set out to build a full-body 3D body scanner with the intention of creating an affordable setup for makespaces and similar community groups.

First Scan from DIY Raspberry Pi Scanner

Head and Shoulders Scan with 29 Raspberry Pi Cameras

Uses for full-body 3D scanning

Poppy herself wanted to use the scanner in her work as a fashion designer. With the help of 3D scans of her models, she would be able to create custom cardboard dressmakers dummy to ensure her designs fit perfectly. This is a brilliant way of incorporating digital tech into another industry – and it’s not the only application for this sort of build. Growing numbers of businesses use 3D body scanning, for example the stores around the world where customers can 3D scan and print themselves as action-figure-sized replicas.

Print your own family right on the high street!
image c/o Tom’s Guide and Shapify

We’ve also seen the same technology used in video games for more immersive virtual reality. Moreover, there are various uses for it in healthcare and fitness, such as monitoring the effect of exercise regimes or physiotherapy on body shape or posture.

Within a makespace environment, a 3D body scanner opens the door to including new groups of people in community make projects: imagine 3D printing miniatures of a theatrical cast to allow more realistic blocking of stage productions and better set design, or annually sending grandparents a print of their grandchild so they can compare the child’s year-on-year growth in a hands-on way.

Raspberry Pi 3d Body Scan

The Germany-based clothing business Outfittery uses full body scanners to take the stress out of finding clothes that fits well.
image c/o Outfittery

As cheesy as it sounds, the only limit for the use of 3D scanning is your imagination…and maybe storage space for miniature prints.

Poppy’s Raspberry Pi 3D Body Scanner

For her build, Poppy acquired 27 Raspberry Pi Zeros and 27 Raspberry Pi Camera Modules. With various other components, some 3D-printed or made of cardboard, Poppy got to work. She was helped by members of Build Brighton and by her friend Arthur Guy, who also wrote the code for the scanner.

Raspberry Pi 3D Body Scanner

The Pi Zeros run Raspbian Lite, and are connected to a main server running a node application. Each is fitted into its own laser-cut cardboard case, and secured to a structure of cardboard tubing and 3D-printed connectors.

Raspberry Pi 3D Body Scanner

In the finished build, the person to be scanned stands within the centre of the structure, and the press of a button sends the signal for all Pis to take a photo. The images are sent back to the server, and processed through Autocade ReMake, a freemium software available for the PC (Poppy discovered part-way through the project that the Mac version has recently lost support).

Build your own

Obviously there’s a lot more to the process of building this full-body 3D scanner than what I’ve reported in these few paragraphs. And since it was Poppy’s goal to make a readily available and affordable scanner that anyone can recreate, she’s provided all the instructions and code for it on her Instructables page.

Projects like this, in which people use the Raspberry Pi to create affordable and interesting tech for communities, are exactly the type of thing we love to see. Always make sure to share your Pi-based projects with us on social media, so we can boost their visibility!

If you’re a member of a makespace, run a workshop in a school or club, or simply love to tinker and create, this build could be the perfect addition to your workshop. And if you recreate Poppy’s scanner, or build something similar, we’d love to see the results in the comments below.

The post Affordable Raspberry Pi 3D Body Scanner appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

New – Next-Generation GPU-Powered EC2 Instances (G3)

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/new-next-generation-gpu-powered-ec2-instances-g3/

I first wrote about the benefits of GPU-powered computing in 2013 when we launched the G2 instance type. Since that launch, AWS customers have used the G2 instances to deliver high performance graphics to mobile devices, TV sets, and desktops.

Today we are taking a step forward and launching the G3 instance type. Powered by NVIDIA Tesla M60 GPUs, these instances are available in three sizes (all VPC-only and EBS-only):

ModelGPUsGPU MemoryvCPUsMain MemoryEBS Bandwidth
g3.4xlarge18 GiB16122 GiB3.5 Gbps
g3.8xlarge216 GiB32244 GiB7 Gbps
g3.16xlarge432 GiB64488 GiB14 Gbps

Each GPU supports 8 GiB of GPU memory, 2048 parallel processing cores, and a hardware encoder capable of supporting up to 10 H.265 (HEVC) 1080p30 streams and up to 18 H.264 1080p30 streams, making them a great fit for 3D rendering & visualization, virtual reality, video encoding, remote graphics workstation (NVIDIA GRID), and other server-side graphics workloads that need a massive amount of parallel processing power. The GPUs support OpenGL 4.5, DirectX 12.0, CUDA 8.0, and OpenCL 1.2. When you launch a G3 instance you have access to an NVIDIA GRID Virtual Workstation License and can make use of the NVIDIA GRID driver without purchasing a license on your own.

The instances use Intel Xeon E5-2686 v4 (Broadwell) processors running at 2.7 GHz. On the networking side, Enhanced Networking (via the Elastic Network Adapter) provides up to 20 Gbps of aggregate network bandwidth within a Placement Group, along with up to 14 Gbps of EBS bandwidth.

Our customers have told us that they are looking forward to visualizing large 3D seismic models, configuring cars in 3D, and providing students with the ability to run high-end 2D and 3D applications. For example, Calgary Scientific can take applications that are powered by the Unreal Engine and make them accessible on mobile devices and from within web pages, with collaborative viewing support. Visit their Demo Gallery to see PureWeb Reality in action:

You can launch these instances today in the US East (Ohio), US East (Northern Virginia), US West (Oregon), US West (Northern California), AWS GovCloud (US), and EU (Ireland) Regions as On-Demand, Reserved Instances, Spot Instances, and Dedicated Hosts, with more Regions coming soon.

Jeff;

2016: The Year In Tech, And A Sneak Peek Of What’s To Come

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/2016-year-tech-sneak-peek-whats-come/

2016 is safely in our rear-view mirrors. It’s time to take a look back at the year that was and see what technology had the biggest impact on consumers and businesses alike. We also have an eye to 2017 to see what the future holds.

AI and machine learning in the cloud

Truly sentient computers and robots are still the stuff of science fiction (and the premise of one of 2016’s most promising new SF TV series, HBO’s Westworld). Neural networks are nothing new, but 2016 saw huge strides in artificial intelligence and machine learning, especially in the cloud.

Google, Amazon, Apple, IBM, Microsoft and others are developing cloud computing infrastructures designed especially for AI work. It’s this technology that’s underpinning advances in image recognition technology, pattern recognition in cybersecurity, speech recognition, natural language interpretation and other advances.

Microsoft’s newly-formed AI and Research Group is finding ways to get artificial intelligence into Microsoft products like its Bing search engine and Cortana natural language assistant. Some of these efforts, while well-meaning, still need refinement: Early in 2016 Microsoft launched Tay, an AI chatbot designed to mimic the natural language characteristics of a teenage girl and learn from interacting with Twitter users. Microsoft had to shut Tay down after Twitter users exploited vulnerabilities that caused Tay to begin spewing really inappropriate responses. But it paves the way for future efforts that blur the line between man and machine.

Finance, energy, climatology – anywhere you find big data sets you’re going to find uses for machine learning. On the consumer end it can help your grocery app guess what you might want or need based on your spending habits. Financial firms use machine learning to help predict customer credit scores by analyzing profile information. One of the most intriguing uses of machine learning is in security: Pattern recognition helps systems predict malicious intent and figure out where exploits will come from.

Meanwhile we’re still waiting for Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons. And flying cars. So if Elon Musk has any spare time in 2017, maybe he can get on that.

AR Games

Augmented Reality (AR) games have been around for a good long time – ever since smartphone makers put cameras on them, game makers have been toying with the mix of real life and games.

AR games took a giant step forward with a game released in 2016 that you couldn’t get away from, at least for a little while. We’re talking about Pokémon GO, of course. Niantic, makers of another AR game called Ingress, used the framework they built for that game to power Pokémon GO. Kids, parents, young, old, it seemed like everyone with an iPhone that could run the game caught wild Pokémon, hatched eggs by walking, and battled each other in Pokémon gyms.

For a few weeks, anyway.

Technical glitches, problems with scale and limited gameplay value ultimately hurt Pokémon GO’s longevity. Today the game only garners a fraction of the public interest it did at peak. It continues to be successful, albeit not at the stratospheric pace it first set.

Niantic, the game’s developer, was able to tie together several factors to bring such an explosive and – if you’ll pardon the overused euphemism – disruptive – game to bear. One was its previous work with a game called Ingress, another AR-enhanced game that uses geomap data. In fact, Pokémon GO uses the same geomap data as Ingress, so Niantic had already done a huge amount of legwork needed to get Pokémon GO up and running. Niantic cleverly used Google Maps data to form the basis of both games, relying on already-identified public landmarks and other locations tagged by Ingress players (Ingress has been around since 2011).

Then, of course, there’s the Pokémon connection – an intensely meaningful gaming property that’s been popular with generations of video games and cartoon watchers since the 1990s. The dearth of Pokémon-branded games on smartphones meant an instant explosion of popularity upon Pokémon GO’s release.

2016 also saw the introduction of several new virtual reality (VR) headsets designed for home and mobile use. Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View made a splash. As these products continue to make consumer inroads, we’ll see more games push the envelope of what you can achieve with VR and AR.

Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid Cloud services combine public cloud storage (like B2 Cloud Storage) or public compute (like Amazon Web Services) with a private cloud platform. Specialized content and file management software glues it all together, making the experience seamless for the user.

Businesses get the instant access and speed they need to get work done, with the ability to fall back on on-demand cloud-based resources when scale is needed. B2’s hybrid cloud integrations include OpenIO, which helps businesses maintain data storage on-premise until it’s designated for archive and stored in the B2 cloud.

The cost of entry and usage of Hybrid Cloud services have continued to fall. For example, small and medium-sized organizations in the post production industry are finding Hybrid Cloud storage is now a viable strategy in managing the large amounts of information they use on a daily basis. This strategy is enabled by the low cost of B2 Cloud Storage that provides ready access to cloud-stored data.

There are practical deployment and scale issues that have kept Hybrid Cloud services from being used widespread in the largest enterprise environments. Small to medium businesses and vertical markets like Media & Entertainment have found promising, economical opportunities to use it, which bodes well for the future.

Inexpensive 3D printers

3D printing, once a rarified technology, has become increasingly commoditized over the past several years. That’s been in part thanks to the “Maker Movement:” Thousands of folks all around the world who love to tinker and build. XYZprinting is out in front of makers and others with its line of inexpensive desktop da Vinci printers.

The da Vinci Mini is a tabletop model aimed at home users which starts at under $300. You can download and tweak thousands of 3D models to build toys, games, art projects and educational items. They’re built using spools of biodegradable, non-toxic plastics derived from corn starch which dispense sort of like the bobbin on a sewing machine. The da Vinci Mini works with Macs and PCs and can connect via USB or Wi-Fi.

DIY Drones

Quadcopter drones have been fun tech toys for a while now, but the new trend we saw in 2016 was “do it yourself” models. The result was Flybrix, which combines lightweight drone motors with LEGO building toys. Flybrix was so successful that they blew out of inventory for the 2016 holiday season and are backlogged with orders into the new year.

Each Flybrix kit comes with the motors, LEGO building blocks, cables and gear you need to build your own quad, hex or octocopter drone (as well as a cheerful-looking LEGO pilot to command the new vessel). A downloadable app for iOS or Android lets you control your creation. A deluxe kit includes a handheld controller so you don’t have to tie up your phone.

If you already own a 3D printer like the da Vinci Mini, you’ll find plenty of model files available for download and modification so you can print your own parts, though you’ll probably need help from one of the many maker sites to know what else you’ll need to aerial flight and control.

5D Glass Storage

Research at the University of Southampton may yield the next big leap in optical storage technology meant for long-term archival. The boffins at the Optoelectronics Research Centre have developed a new data storage technique that embeds information in glass “nanostructures” on a storage disc the size of a U.S. quarter.

A Blu-Ray Disc can hold 50 GB, but one of the new 5D glass storage discs – only the size of a U.S. quarter – can hold 360 TB – 7200 times more. It’s like a super-stable supercharged version of a CD. Not only is the data inscribed on much smaller structures within the glass, but reflected at multiple angles, hence “5D.”

An upside to this is an absence of bit rot: The glass medium is extremely stable, with a shelf life predicted in billions of years. The downside is that this is still a write-once medium, so it’s intended for long term storage.

This tech is still years away from practical use, but it took a big step forward in 2016 when the University announced the development of a practical information encoding scheme to use with it.

Smart Home Tech

Are you ready to talk to your house to tell it to do things? If you’re not already, you probably will be soon. Google’s Google Home is a $129 voice-activated speaker powered by the Google Assistant. You can use it for everything from streaming music and video to a nearby TV to reading your calendar or to do list. You can also tell it to operate other supported devices like the Nest smart thermostat and Philips Hue lights.

Amazon has its own similar wireless speaker product called the Echo, powered by Amazon’s Alexa information assistant. Amazon has differentiated its Echo offerings by making the Dot – a hockey puck-sized device that connects to a speaker you already own. So Amazon customers can begin to outfit their connected homes for less than $50.

Apple’s HomeKit software kit isn’t a speaker like Amazon Echo or Google Home. It’s software. You use the Home app on your iOS 10-equipped iPhone or iPad to connect and configure supported devices. Use Siri, Apple’s own intelligent assistant, on any supported Apple device. HomeKit turns on lights, turns up the thermostat, operates switches and more.

Smart home tech has been coming in fits and starts for a while – the Nest smart thermostat is already in its third generation, for example. But 2016 was the year we finally saw the “Internet of things” coalescing into a smart home that we can control through voice and gestures in a … well, smart way.

Welcome To The Future

It’s 2017, welcome to our brave new world. While it’s anyone’s guess what the future holds, there are at least a few tech trends that are pretty safe to bet on. They include:

  • Internet of Things: More smart-connected devices are coming online in the home and at work every day, and this trend will accelerate in 2017 with more and more devices requiring some form of Internet connectivity to work. Expect to see a lot more appliances, devices, and accessories that make use of the API’s promoted by Google, Amazon, and Apple to help let you control everything in your life just using your voice and a smart speaker setup.
  • Blockchain security: Blockchain is the digital ledger security technology that makes Bitcoin work. Its distribution methodology and validation system help you make certain that no one’s tampered with the records, which make it well-suited for applications besides cryptocurrency, like make sure your smart thermostat (see above) hasn’t been hacked). Expect 2017 to be the year we see more mainstream acceptance, use, and development of blockchain technology from financial institutions, the creation of new private blockchain networks, and improved usability aimed at making blockchain easier for regular consumers to use. Blockchain-based voting is here too. It also wouldn’t surprise us, given all this movement, to see government regulators take a much deeper interest in blockchain, either.
  • 5G: Verizon is field-testing 5G on its wireless network, which it says deliver speeds 30-50 times faster than 4G LTE. We’ll be hearing a lot more about 5G from Verizon and other wireless players in 2017. In fairness, we’re still a few years away from widescale 5G deployment, but field-testing has already started.

Your Predictions?

Enough of our bloviation. Let’s open the floor to you. What do you think were the biggest technology trends in 2016? What’s coming in 2017 that has you the most excited? Let us know in the comments!

The post 2016: The Year In Tech, And A Sneak Peek Of What’s To Come appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

AWS Hot Startups – October 2016 – Optimizely, Touch Surgery, WittyFeed

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-hot-startups-october-2016-optimizely-touch-surgery-wittyfeed/

I’m pleased to share yet another month of hot startups, courtesy of Tina Barr!


Jeff;


Check out this month’s AWS-powered startups:

  • Optimizely – Providing web and mobile A/B testing for the world’s leading brands.
  • Touch Surgery – Building technologies for the global surgical community.
  • WittyFeed – Creating viral content.

Optimizely (San Francisco)
Optimizely is one of the world’s leading experience optimization platforms, providing website and mobile A/B testing and personalization for leading brands. The platform’s easy-to-use products coupled with the high speed of deployment allows organizations to run experiments and make data-driven decisions. Thousands of customers worldwide are using Optimizely to deliver better experiences to their audiences across a variety of channels. To date, those customers have created and delivered over 275 billion optimized visitor experiences.

In today’s digital world, it is essential for companies to provide personalized experiences for their consumers. In Optimizely’s words, “Being personal is no longer optional.” Their web personalization products allow companies to deliver targeted content to their customers in real time by using browsing behavior, demographic information, contextual clues, and 1st- and 3rd-party data. This in turn drives revenue and keeps customers coming back. Companies don’t have to rely on a team of analysts or engineers to know the impact of their campaigns either – Optimizely has developed an industry-leading Stats Engine to support experimentation and decision-making on their terms.

Optimizely relies heavily on AWS for hosting core parts of its data infrastructure that powers experimentation across different channels, targeting and personalization. They use services like Amazon S3, Amazon EC2, Amazon EMR, Amazon RDS, Amazon Redshift, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon ElastiCache to rapidly and reliably scale out infrastructure for supporting business growth. Optimizely also uses AWS security services such as Amazon Identity and Access Management (IAM) roles, Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), and AWS CloudTrail for auditing in order to enhance customer trust in the product.

Check out the Optimizely blog to keep up with the latest news!

Touch Surgery (London)
Founded by 4 surgeons, Touch Surgery is a technology startup with a mission to scale global surgery by using the latest technologies to train surgeons and standardize surgical knowledge. The company is transforming professional healthcare training through the delivery of a unique platform that links mobile apps with a powerful data back-end. The team behind Touch Surgery has spent years working with leading surgical minds from around the world to map and share the language of surgery.

Touch Surgery uses cognitive mapping techniques coupled with cutting edge AI and 3D rendering technology to codify surgical procedures. They have partnered with leaders in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to work toward a vision of advancing surgical care in the operating room (OR). Future surgeons can practice anytime, anywhere by downloading the app (iOS & Android). The app allows users to learn and practice over 50 surgical procedures, evaluate and measure progress, and connect with physicians across the world. Touch Surgery also offers a variety of simulations in specialties such as neurosurgery, orthopedics, plastics, and more.

Touch Surgery’s back-end is fully hosted on AWS. They make use of many Amazon EC2 instances, as well as Amazon S3 and Amazon Elasticsearch Service. AWS has allowed them to scale with the use of Amazon RDS, and they now have over 1 million users and are recording vast amounts of usage data to power their data analytics product. Touch Surgery is also able to deploy different environments with relative ease to help with testing and increase the speed of delivery.

Touch Surgery is always looking for more talent. For more info check out https://www.touchsurgery.com/jobs/.

WittyFeed (India)
WittyFeed is a platform connecting social media influencers with creative writers who have a passion for sharing entertaining and attention-grabbing stories. Launched in 2014 by cofounders Vinay Singhal (CEO), Shahshak Vaishnav (CTO), and Parveen Singhal (COO), WittyFeed has become India’s largest viral content company generating over 60 stories per day and attracting 75 million unique visitors every month. They have over 100 writers that are constantly producing content, and an in-house team of editors ensures that the content goes viral and reaches the right audience. The WittyFeed team is passionate about helping publishers grow their pages and is currently creating tools that will tell them not only when to post, but the type of content that will reach a broad audience.

WittyFeed is easy to use and allows readers to personalize their feeds to get the most relevant content. Their focus is on photo-stories, ‘listicles’, and ‘charticles’ in categories such as Technology, History, Sports, and of course, Hilarious. WittyFeed also makes it easy for users to engage and interact with each other with their new live-commenting feature, which allows readers to leave comments without having to sign into a personal account.

Being a content company means that WittyFeed has to deal with a heavy load, user base, and data. With AWS they are able to have a highly scalable infrastructure that can handle sudden surges and adapts to needs in a short period of time. WittyFeed uses a broad range of services including Amazon Kinesis Firehouse, Amazon Redshift, and Amazon RDS. These services allow WittyFeed to handle over 100 million visitors and serve over 500 million page views with almost zero downtime and have become the central pillars of their infrastructure.

Start exploring WittyFeed today!

Tina Barr

Bringing the Viewer In: The Video Opportunity in Virtual Reality

Post Syndicated from mikesefanov original https://yahooeng.tumblr.com/post/151940036881

By Satender Saroha, Video Engineering

Virtual reality (VR) 360° videos are the next frontier of how we engage with and consume content. Unlike a traditional scenario in which a person views a screen in front of them, VR places the user inside an immersive experience. A viewer is “in” the story, and not on the sidelines as an observer.

Ivan Sutherland, widely regarded as the father of computer graphics, laid out the vision for virtual reality in his famous speech, “Ultimate Display” in 1965 [1]. In that he said, “You shouldn’t think of a computer screen as a way to display information, but rather as a window into a virtual world that could eventually look real, sound real, move real, interact real, and feel real.”

Over the years, significant advancements have been made to bring reality closer to that vision. With the advent of headgear capable of rendering 3D spatial audio and video, realistic sound and visuals can be virtually reproduced, delivering immersive experiences to consumers.

When it comes to entertainment and sports, streaming in VR has become the new 4K HEVC/UHD of 2016. This has been accelerated by the release of new camera capture hardware like GoPro and streaming capabilities such as 360° video streaming from Facebook and YouTube. Yahoo streams lots of engaging sports, finance, news, and entertainment video content to tens of millions of users. The opportunity to produce and stream such content in 360° VR opens a unique opportunity to Yahoo to offer new types of engagement, and bring the users a sense of depth and visceral presence.

While this is not an experience that is live in product, it is an area we are actively exploring. In this blog post, we take a look at what’s involved in building an end-to-end VR streaming workflow for both Live and Video on Demand (VOD). Our experiments and research goes from camera rig setup, to video stitching, to encoding, to the eventual rendering of videos on video players on desktop and VR headsets. We also discuss challenges yet to be solved and the opportunities they present in streaming VR.

1. The Workflow

Yahoo’s video platform has a workflow that is used internally to enable streaming to an audience of tens of millions with the click of a few buttons. During experimentation, we enhanced this same proven platform and set of APIs to build a complete 360°/VR experience. The diagram below shows the end-to-end workflow for streaming 360°/VR that we built on Yahoo’s video platform.

Figure 1: VR Streaming Workflow at Yahoo

1.1. Capturing 360° video

In order to capture a virtual reality video, you need access to a 360°-capable video camera. Such a camera uses either fish-eye lenses or has an array of wide-angle lenses to collectively cover a 360 (θ) by 180 (ϕ) sphere as shown below.

Though it sounds simple, there is a real challenge in capturing a scene in 3D 360° as most of the 360° video cameras offer only 2D 360° video capture.

In initial experiments, we tried capturing 3D video using two cameras side-by-side, for left and right eyes and arranging them in a spherical shape. However this required too many cameras – instead we use view interpolation in the stitching step to create virtual cameras.

Another important consideration with 360° video is the number of axes the camera is capturing video with. In traditional 360° video that is captured using only a single-axis (what we refer as horizontal video), a user can turn their head from left to right. But this setup of cameras does not support a user tilting their head at 90°.

To achieve true 3D in our setup, we went with 6-12 GoPro cameras having 120° field of view (FOV) arranged in a ring, and an additional camera each on top and bottom, with each one outputting 2.7K at 30 FPS.

1.2. Stitching 360° video

Projection Layouts

Because a 360° view is a spherical video, the surface of this sphere needs to be projected onto a planar surface in 2D so that video encoders can process it. There are two popular layouts:

Equirectangular layout: This is the most widely-used format in computer graphics to represent spherical surfaces in a rectangular form with an aspect ratio of 2:1. This format has redundant information at the poles which means some pixels are over-represented, introducing distortions at the poles compared to the equator (as can be seen in the equirectangular mapping of the sphere below).

Figure 2: Equirectangular Layout [2]

CubeMap layout: CubeMap layout is a format that has also been used in computer graphics. It contains six individual 2D textures that map to six sides of a cube. The figure below is a typical cubemap representation. In a cubemap layout, the sphere is projected onto six faces and the images are folded out into a 2D image, so pieces of a video frame map to different parts of a cube, which leads to extremely efficient compact packing. Cubemap layouts require about 25% fewer pixels compared to equirectangular layouts.

Figure 3: CubeMap Layout [3]

Stitching Videos

In our setup, we experimented with a couple of stitching softwares. One was from Vahana VR [4], and the other was a modified version of the open-source Surround360 technology that works with a GoPro rig [5]. Both softwares output equirectangular panoramas for the left and the right eye. Here are the steps involved in stitching together a 360° image:

Raw frame image processing: Converts uncompressed raw video data to RGB, which involves several steps starting from black-level adjustment, to applying Demosaic algorithms in order to figure out RGB color parts for each pixel based on the surrounding pixels. This also involves gamma correction, color correction, and anti vignetting (undoing the reduction in brightness on the image periphery). Finally, this stage applies sharpening and noise-reduction algorithms to enhance the image and suppress the noise.

Calibration: During the calibration step, stitching software takes steps to avoid vertical parallax while stitching overlapping portions in adjacent cameras in the rig. The purpose is to align everything in the scene, so that both eyes see every point at the same vertical coordinate. This step essentially matches the key points in images among adjacent camera pairs. It uses computer vision algorithms for feature detection like Binary Robust Invariant Scalable Keypoints (BRISK) [6] and AKAZE [7].

Optical Flow: During stitching, to cover the gaps between adjacent real cameras and provide interpolated view, optical flow is used to create virtual cameras. The optical flow algorithm finds the pattern of apparent motion of image objects between two consecutive frames caused by the movement of the object or camera. It uses OpenCV algorithms to find the optical flow [8].

Below are the frames produced by the GoPro camera rig:

Figure 4: Individual frames from 12-camera rig

Figure 5: Stitched frame output with PtGui

Figure 6: Stitched frame with barrel distortion using Surround360

Figure 7: Stitched frame after removing barrel distortion using Surround360

To get the full depth in stereo, the rig is set-up so that i = r * sin(FOV/2 – 360/n). where:

  • i = IPD/2 where IPD is the inter-pupillary distance between eyes.\
  • r = Radius of the rig.
  • FOV = Field of view of GoPro cameras, 120 degrees.
  • n = Number of cameras which is 12 in our setup.

Given IPD is normally 6.4 cms, i should be greater than 3.2 cm. This implies that with a 12-camera setup, the radius of the the rig comes to 14 cm(s). Usually, if there are more cameras it is easier to avoid black stripes.

Reducing Bandwidth – FOV-based adaptive transcoding

For a truly immersive experience, users expect 4K (3840 x 2160) quality resolution at 60 frames per second (FPS) or higher. Given typical HMDs have a FOV of 120 degrees, a full 360° video needs a resolution of at least 12K (11520 x 6480). 4K streaming needs a bandwidth of 25 Mbps [9]. So for 12K resolution, this effectively translates to > 75 Mbps and even more for higher framerates. However, average wifi in US has bandwidth of 15 Mbps [10].

One way to address the bandwidth issue is by reducing the resolution of areas that are out of the field of view. Spatial sub-sampling is used during transcoding to produce multiple viewport-specific streams. Each viewport-specific stream has high resolution in a given viewport and low resolution in the rest of the sphere.

On the player side, we can modify traditional adaptive streaming logic to take into account field of view. Depending on the video, if the user moves his head around a lot, it could result in multiple buffer fetches and could result in rebuffering. Ideally, this will work best in videos where the excessive motion happens in one field of view at a time and does not span across multiple fields of view at the same time. This work is still in an experimental stage.

The default output format from stitching software of both Surround360 and Vahana VR is equirectangular format. In order to reduce the size further, we pass it through a cubemap filter transform integrated into ffmpeg to get an additional pixel reduction of ~25%  [11] [12].

At the end of above steps, the stitching pipeline produces high-resolution stereo 3D panoramas which are then ingested into the existing Yahoo Video transcoding pipeline to produce multiple bit-rates HLS streams.

1.3. Adding a stitching step to the encoding pipeline

Live – In order to prepare for multi-bitrate streaming over the Internet, a live 360° video-stitched stream in RTMP is ingested into Yahoo’s video platform. A live Elemental encoder was used to re-encode and package the live input into multiple bit-rates for adaptive streaming on any device (iOS, Android, Browser, Windows, Mac, etc.)

Video on Demand – The existing Yahoo video transcoding pipeline was used to package multiple bit-rates HLS streams from raw equirectangular mp4 source videos.

1.4. Rendering 360° video into the player

The spherical video stream is delivered to the Yahoo player in multiple bit rates. As a user changes their viewing angle, different portion of the frame are shown, presenting a 360° immersive experience. There are two types of VR players currently supported at Yahoo:

WebVR based Javascript Player – The Web community has been very active in enabling VR experiences natively without plugins from within browsers. The W3C has a Javascript proposal [13], which describes support for accessing virtual reality (VR) devices, including sensors and head-mounted displays on the Web. VR Display is the main starting point for all the device APIs supported. Some of the key interfaces and attributes exposed are:

  • VR Display Capabilities: It has attributes to indicate position support, orientation support, and has external display.
  • VR Layer: Contains the HTML5 canvas element which is presented by VR Display when its submit frame is called. It also contains attributes defining the left bound and right bound textures within source canvas for presenting to an eye.
  • VREye Parameters: Has information required to correctly render a scene for given eye. For each eye, it has offset the distance from middle of the user’s eyes to the center point of one eye which is half of the interpupillary distance (IPD). In addition, it maintains the current FOV of the eye, and the recommended renderWidth and render Height of each eye viewport.
  • Get VR Displays: Returns a list of VR Display(s) HMDs accessible to the browser.

We implemented a subset of webvr spec in the Yahoo player (not in production yet) that lets you watch monoscopic and stereoscopic 3D video on supported web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Samsung), including Oculus Gear VR-enabled phones. The Yahoo player takes the equirectangular video and maps its individual frames on the Canvas javascript element. It uses the webGL and Three.JS libraries to do computations for detecting the orientation and extracting the corresponding frames to display.

For web devices which support only monoscopic rendering like desktop browsers without HMD, it creates a single Perspective Camera object specifying the FOV and aspect ratio. As the device’s requestAnimationFrame is called it renders the new frames. As part of rendering the frame, it first calculates the projection matrix for FOV and sets the X (user’s right), Y (Up), Z (behind the user) coordinates of the camera position.

For devices that support stereoscopic rendering like mobile phones from Samsung Gear, the webvr player creates two PerspectiveCamera objects, one for the left eye and one for the right eye. Each Perspective camera queries the VR device capabilities to get the eye parameters like FOV, renderWidth and render Height every time a frame needs to be rendered at the native refresh rate of HMD. The key difference between stereoscopic and monoscopic is the perceived sense of depth that the user experiences, as the video frames separated by an offset are rendered by separate canvas elements to each individual eye.

Cardboard VR – Google provides a VR sdk for both iOS and Android [14]. This simplifies common VR tasks like-lens distortion correction, spatial audio, head tracking, and stereoscopic side-by-side rendering. For iOS, we integrated Cardboard VR functionality into our Yahoo Video SDK, so that users can watch stereoscopic 3D videos on iOS using Google Cardboard.

2. Results

With all the pieces in place, and experimentation done, we were able to successfully do a 360° live streaming of an internal company-wide event.

Figure 8: 360° Live streaming of Yahoo internal event

In addition to demonstrating our live streaming capabilities, we are also experimenting with showing 360° VOD videos produced with a GoPro-based camera rig. Here is a screenshot of one of the 360° videos being played in the Yahoo player.

Figure 9: Yahoo Studios produced 360° VOD content in the Yahoo Player

3. Challenges and Opportunities

3.1. Enormous amounts of data

As we alluded to in the video processing section of this post, delivering 4K resolution videos for each eye for each FOV at a high frame-rate remains a challenge. While FOV-adaptive streaming does reduce the size by providing high resolution streams separately for each FOV, providing an impeccable 60 FPS or more viewing experience still requires a lot more data than the current internet pipes can handle. Some of the other possible options which we are closely paying attention to are:

Compression efficiency with HEVC and VP9 – New codecs like HEVC and VP9 have the potential to provide significant compression gains. HEVC open source codecs like x265 have shown a 40% compression performance gain compared to the currently ubiquitous H.264/AVC codec. LIkewise, a VP9 codec from Google has shown similar 40% compression performance gains. The key challenge is the hardware decoding support and the browser support. But with Apple and Microsoft very much behind HEVC and Firefox and Chrome already supporting VP9, we believe most browsers would support HEVC or VP9 within a year.

Using 10 bit color depth vs 8 bit color depth – Traditional monitors support 8 bpc (bits per channel) for displaying images. Given each pixel has 3 channels (RGB), 8 bpc maps to 256x256x256 color/luminosity combinations to represent 16 million colors. With 10 bit color depth, you have the potential to represent even more colors. But the biggest stated advantage of using 10 bit color depth is with respect to compression during encoding even if the source only uses 8 bits per channel. Both x264 and x265 codecs support 10 bit color depth, with ffmpeg already supporting encoding at 10 bit color depth.

3.2. Six degrees of freedom

With current camera rig workflows, users viewing the streams through HMD are able to achieve three degrees of Freedom (DoF) i.e., the ability to move up/down, clockwise/anti-clockwise, and swivel. But you still can’t get a different perspective when you move inside it i.e., move forward/backward. Until now, this true six DoF immersive VR experience has only been possible in CG VR games. In video streaming, LightField technology-based video cameras produced by Lytro are the first ones to capture light field volume data from all directions [15]. But Lightfield-based videos require an order of magnitude more data than traditional fixed FOV, fixed IPD, fixed lense camera rigs like GoPro. As bandwidth problems get resolved via better compressions and better networks, achieving true immersion should be possible.

4. Conclusion

VR streaming is an emerging medium and with the addition of 360° VR playback capability, Yahoo’s video platform provides us a great starting point to explore the opportunities in video with regard to virtual reality. As we continue to work to delight our users by showing immersive video content, we remain focused on optimizing the rendering of high-quality 4K content in our players. We’re looking at building FOV-based adaptive streaming capabilities and better compression during delivery. These capabilities, and the enhancement of our webvr player to play on more HMDs like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, will set us on track to offer streaming capabilities across the entire spectrum. At the same time, we are keeping a close watch on advancements in supporting spatial audio experiences, as well as advancements in the ability to stream volumetric lightfield videos to achieve true six degrees of freedom, with the aim of realizing the true potential of VR.

Glossary – VR concepts:

VR – Virtual reality, commonly referred to as VR, is an immersive computer-simulated reality experience that places viewers inside an experience. It “transports” viewers from their physical reality into a closed virtual reality. VR usually requires a headset device that takes care of sights and sounds, while the most-involved experiences can include external motion tracking, and sensory inputs like touch and smell. For example, when you put on VR headgear you suddenly start feeling immersed in the sounds and sights of another universe, like the deck of the Star Trek Enterprise. Though you remain physically at your place, VR technology is designed to manipulate your senses in a manner that makes you truly feel as if you are on that ship, moving through the virtual environment and interacting with the crew.

360 degree video – A 360° video is created with a camera system that simultaneously records all 360 degrees of a scene. It is a flat equirectangular video projection that is morphed into a sphere for playback on a VR headset. A standard world map is an example of equirectangular projection, which maps the surface of the world (sphere) onto orthogonal coordinates.

Spatial Audio – Spatial audio gives the creator the ability to place sound around the user. Unlike traditional mono/stereo/surround audio, it responds to head rotation in sync with video. While listening to spatial audio content, the user receives a real-time binaural rendering of an audio stream [17].

FOV – A human can naturally see 170 degrees of viewable area (field of view). Most consumer grade head mounted displays HMD(s) like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive now display 90 degrees to 120 degrees.

Monoscopic video – A monoscopic video means that both eyes see a single flat image, or video file. A common camera setup involves six cameras filming six different fields of view. Stitching software is used to form a single equirectangular video. Max output resolution on 2D scopic videos on Gear VR is 3480×1920 at 30 frames per second.

Presence – Presence is a kind of immersion where the low-level systems of the brain are tricked to such an extent that they react just as they would to non-virtual stimuli.

Latency – It’s the time between when you move your head, and when you see physical updates on the screen. An acceptable latency is anywhere from 11 ms (for games) to 20 ms (for watching 360 vr videos).

Head Tracking – There are two forms:

  • Positional tracking – movements and related translations of your body, eg: sway side to side.
  • Traditional head tracking – left, right, up, down, roll like clock rotation.

References:

[1] Ultimate Display Speech as reminisced by Fred Brooks: http://www.roadtovr.com/fred-brooks-ivan-sutherlands-1965-ultimate-display-speech/

[2] Equirectangular Layout Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/10111691364/

[3] CubeMap Layout: http://learnopengl.com/img/advanced/cubemaps_skybox.png

[4] Vahana VR: http://www.video-stitch.com/

[5] Surround360 Stitching software: https://github.com/facebook/Surround360

[6] Computer Vision Algorithm BRISK: https://www.robots.ox.ac.uk/~vgg/rg/papers/brisk.pdf

[7] Computer Vision Algorithm AKAZE: http://docs.opencv.org/3.0-beta/doc/tutorials/features2d/akaze_matching/akaze_matching.html

[8] Optical Flow: http://docs.opencv.org/trunk/d7/d8b/tutorial_py_lucas_kanade.html

[9] 4K connection speeds: https://help.netflix.com/en/node/306

[10] Average connection speeds in US: https://www.akamai.com/us/en/about/news/press/2016-press/akamai-releases-fourth-quarter-2015-state-of-the-internet-report.jsp

[11] CubeMap transform filter for ffmpeg: https://github.com/facebook/transform

[12] FFMPEG software: https://ffmpeg.org/

[13] WebVR Spec: https://w3c.github.io/webvr/

[14] Google Daydream SDK: https://vr.google.com/cardboard/developers/

[15] Lytro LightField Volume for six DoF: https://www.lytro.com/press/releases/lytro-immerge-the-worlds-first-professional-light-field-solution-for-cinematic-vr

[16] 10 bit color depth: https://gist.github.com/l4n9th4n9/4459997