Sony at CES 2018: what was announced

2018 is kicking off with CES 2018 in Las Vegas, one of the biggest consumer technology shows in the world. Featuring big-name companies like Nvidia, Sony, Samsung and more, it’s hard to keep track of what’s announced – but we’re here to help.

Check out our CES 2018 guide to find out what’s likely to be announced by every major tech brand at the show, including Samsung, LG, and more. Sony’s big press conference has happened, and here is what it announced.

How to watch Sony CES 2018 live stream

The press conference has already taken place, but if you want to watch it all unfold again, we have the stream embedded below here:

What Sony announced at CES 2018

Sony had already announced three mid-range mobiles for the show: the Xperia XA2, XA2 Ultra, and L2, which are most interesting for their super-wide angle selfie cameras – the XA2 Ultra even featuring dual selfie cameras.

Here is a full list of what Sony announced:

So yes, we have to wait for the rumoured Xperia XZ1 Premium, expected to be the company’s first bezel-less smartphone – and potentially the first to signal broader changes to the company’s design language and naming conventions for its phones. Sony typically waits to announce flagship phones at MWC, which looks to be the case here too. Maybe even a wait till IFA in Berlin in September.


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Maximus Camera Floodlight review: Brand X is trying harder

Ring is the brand most people think of when it comes to floodlight cams, but Maximus (and its corporate ally Kuna, which provides the underlying technology) is trying harder to get noticed. The Maximus Camera Floodlight, first announced way back at last year’s CES is finally available—and it’s a compelling value.

The Maximus doesn’t have an answer for every feature that you’ll find in the Ring Floodlight Cam, but it offers some features Ring doesn’t (I’m in the process of reviewing Ring’s product). The biggest difference is in the floodlight itself. Both companies build their floodlights with LEDs, but where the Ring’s are inside somewhat conventional cans, the Maximus’ lights are flat rectangular panels. The large motion passive-infrared sensor that hangs down and in between the two panels like a round proboscis imbues the Maximus with an insect-like appearance.

The floodlight

The articulated lights can be adjusted left and right and up and down independent of each other. They’re rated to produce 2,400 lumens of brightness, with a color temperature of a cool 5,000K. While that’s less bright than the Ring Floodlight Cam’s 3,000 lumens, the Maximus seemed to illuminate more square footage. I attribute that to the diffuser panels, which focus the light less than the cone shades that Ring uses.

maximus back plate Maximus

The Maximus is very easy to install, thanks to a two-piece locking plate design. The electrical wires are connected to a plate that mounts to the junction box. The backplate on the camera mounts to this with a twist-lock mechanism that doesn’t require screws.

You can set the lights to turn on when the motion sensor is tripped, and you can program them to turn on at dusk and off at dawn, with separate schedules for weekdays and weekends. You can also specify times, but I don’t see that being quite as useful. In any case, the light will turn off 30 seconds after motion detection (unless you’ve programmed it to be on, of course). If you’ve mounted the light near your deck, patio, or other location where you might entertain outdoors at night, you can dim the light so it doesn’t make the area look like a prison yard.

The camera

The ball-shaped camera has a 155-degree diagonal field of view, and you can manually pivot it inside its socket to focus on the area you want to see, almost regardless of where the whole assembly is mounted. It captures crisp, clear video in 1080p resolution with relatively little barrel distortion at the edges. You can record video on demand at any time, but most people will rely on the motion sensor to trigger that action. The Maximus sounds a chime whenever someone comes within range of its motion sensor, which causes that person to reflexively look up at the source of the noise, instantly presenting their full face to the camera. This is a great feature, augmented by the camera’s ability to start recording 10 seconds before an event is triggered.

The biggest feature that’s missing—unless you sign up for a subscription, that is—is the ability to draw motion-capture zones, so that you can train the camera to ignore bushes or trees that move with the wind.

maximus motion detection grid Maximus

With a subscription, you can use the grid-based motion-detection zone to prevent objects such as trees and bushes from constantly triggering the camera.

The camera is equipped with a mic and an onboard speaker, so you can communicate with anyone on the other side of the lens. You can also configure the speaker to play pre-recorded greetings (everything from “Can I help you?” to “Sorry, not interested” to “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Kwaanzaa”). If you find friendly greetings ineffective, you can change the chime to the sound of a barking dog. And if that still isn’t enough to scare a potential intruder away, you can sound a 100dB siren by pushing a button on the smartphone app (the siren is not available as a default choice, in case you were wondering).

Truly optional subscription plans

The Maximus doesn’t have onboard storage, but unlike many security cameras, you don’t need to pay a subscription fee to download video clips from the cloud. But you’ll want to anyway, because without a subscription, you’re limited to a two-hour event lookback and just three downloads per month. Three plans are available via Kuna: $5 a month gives you a seven-day lookback for one camera, $10 a month increases the lookback period to 14 days for up to four cameras, and the $20-per-month plan gives you a 30-day lookback window plus a feature called Kuna AI, which I’ll get to in a minute. Every subscription plan includes unlimited downloads, lifetime theft protection (if the camera is stolen, you’ll get a free replacement), and a 5-, 10-, or 15-percent discount, respectively, on future purchases. Pay annually for any plan and you’ll get a 33 percent discount.

Best iPad apps 2018: download these now

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Sandisk squeezes 1TB storage into a prototype thumb drive

Can you ever have enough digital storage space? As file sizes continue to expand with 4K videos, hi-res audio and mammoth applications, the answer is definitely ‘no’.

But real-world space is always at a premium, which makes Sandisk’s new CES 2018 prototype one to get excited about. It’s squeezed 1TB of storage space onto a thumb stick – making it the smallest flash drive with that much space available.

With a USB-C connection on its male end, that means the drive would conceivably work with mobile devices as well as computers – exponentially opening up the amount of media you could take on the go with you.

Prototype patience

However, as a prototype demonstration, there’s no word yet on a release date or pricing information for the new drive.

If you’re looking for capacious, compact storage, Sandisk is also launching the Ultra Fit USB 3.1 flash drive at CES. It too is currently lacking a release date or price, but is coming to market packing 256GB of storage is a dinky thumb-tip form factor. 

That’s enough for “approximately, 14,000 photos, 10 hours of full HD video and 16,000 songs, with 64GB still available for files”, according to the press release accompanying the announcement, and should tide you over until the prototype becomes a reality.

  • New year, new tech – check out all our coverage of CES 2018 straight from Las Vegas, the greatest gadget show on Earth

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Intel CEO Brian Krzanich Delivers CES Keynote; No 10nm Or 5G Updates

LAS VEGAS, NV — Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich took the stage to deliver the opening CES 2018 keynote during a remarkably among challenging time for not only his company, but also himself. Intel has been woefully late delivering its 10nm process technology, which the company failed to deliver last year, again.

We’ll cover that shortly. First, this: News haphazardly broke last week that all Intel CPUs could suffer up to a 30% performance loss due to an internal bug in Intel’s processors. Soon after, the real story came out: The newly discovered Meltdown and Spectre exploits aren’t exclusive to Intel; they also affect chips from other companies. Some companies aren’t as vulnerable, such as AMD, but a range of Intel’s competitors, such as ARM and Nvidia, share comparable vulnerabilities.

The new exploits aren’t as bad as the regurgitating press reported at first, and desktop PCs are largely safe from performance hits after the first patch. However, the vulnerabilities are causing serious consternation in the data center. That could expose Intel to billions in lawsuits. 

News also emerged that Krzanich sold $39 million of his own Intel stock, leaving him with the Intel-mandated minimum of 250,000 stocks before the company notified the public or the industry of the vulnerabilities. As reported by Bloomberg, that could expose Krzanich to an SEC investigation for insider trading. In fact, just hours before his keynote, Block & Leviton LLP, announced it is investigating Krzanich for securities fraud.

A final piece of news broke as the auditorium filled around us: The Oregonian reported that it had obtained a Krzanich memo that outlines the formation of a new Intel group called Product Assurance and Security. Krzanich is outfitting the group with top guns from the company’s management roster, such as Leslie Culberson, the general manager for systems manufacturing; Josh Walden, head of Intel’s technology group; and Steve Smith, the Vice President and General Manager of its data center engineering group. This new group will tackle the current exploits, likely streamlining patches and collaborating with application developers, and perhaps working on avoiding future problems.

Intel As An Entertainment Company

Forming a new security group is the kind of aggressive action that Intel’s customers, and the industry, needs to see. We fully expected Krzanich to grab the bull by the horns in his keynote, and he did. Krzanich somberly addressed the Meltdown and Spectre exploits just moments into his presentation. He thanked the industry for coming together to address the issues, which is a carefully crafted statement to remind us that Intel isn’t the only company impacted, but he didn’t announce the new security group. Instead, Krzanich repeated many of the same things that we’ve covered over the last week.

Intel has worked with partners to deploy patches for 90% of processors sold within the last five years, and the company fully expects to protect the remaining 10% within the next week. We still don’t know when older chips will receive a patch, though.

After reminding us that the exploits have varying levels of impacts, and that desktop PCs are largely safe, Krzanich embarked on one of the most impressive whirlwinds of visually stunning demonstrations we’ve ever seen at a keynote. The demonstrations lasted seemingly forever, as Krzanich trotted out several new Intel products and partnerships that revolved around the incoming flood of data, and of course, Intel’s ability to handle and analyze it. 

The company treated us to demos of immersive VR experiences, such as Intel’s True VR, and new 3D volumetric video recordings that use “voxels,” which are pixels rendered in a 3D space. The company announced it would broadcast 30 events live from the Winter Olympics in Pyongchang to worldwide viewers in VR. The company even brought out a fully autonomous two-seater helicopter. It flew on stage, albeit behind a protective glass barrier, and the company showed a video of Krzanich riding in the helicopter in a warehouse.

Krzanich also demoed video technology that powers 3D football replays. They even brought out ex-Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to call the play-by-play of the Kansas City Chiefs scoring a touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers. Another demo showed a VR experience that allows you to watch a football game from any point on the field, all while viewing your fantasy league stats in real time.

Intel is also building its new Intel Studios to record volumetric video. The company demoed the new recording technique and brought out Jim Gianopulos, CEO of Paramount Pictures to discuss the collaboration between the two companies with the new technology. Intel also treated us to the latest in Movidius technology, as several musicians used its camera sensing technology and AI capabilities to play invisible instruments. They even trained two AI band members to play along, all in real-time.

With such a heavy focus on entertainment technology, one wondered when the company would talk about new core products. Krzanich almost obliged as he spoke about several of the company’s already-announced products that are in development. First, he showed a 49-qubit processor that the company announced earlier this year, describing the chips as “a step towards quantum supremacy.” This type of chip is several years, and product generations, away from production.

Krzanich also brought out Loihi, another already-announced developmental chip that is years from deployment. This neuromorphic chip simulates the brain in silicon, such as synapses and neurons. That grants it unique learning capabilities. Intel said the chip has already begun to identify objects after just a few weeks in the lab.

Krzanich finally got around to mentioning a processor. He covered the Atom processors when Mobileye brought out the first car of its already-announced 100-car fleet of autonomous vehicles. Atom processors are certainly not exciting from a raw performance perspective, but they do offer a surprisingly efficient platform for autonomous vehicles.

Mobileye announced that Krzanich would use the vehicle as his own; he’ll actually ride it to and from work for a year. He also said some members of the media could ride along.

But Where Is 10nm?

That was the last of the processor talk from the chip giant. Intel originally promised that it would deliver the 10nm process back in 2016. After several delays, the company promised that it would deliver 10nm processors to market this year. Krzanich did not mention the 10nm process tonight at all, and we know the products aren’t at retail. Therefore, Intel apparently didn’t make that target yet again.

This may seem a minor matter, but Intel has sold processors based on the underlying Skylake microarchitecture since 2015, and it’s been woefully mired in the 14nm process since 2014. That means Intel is on the fourth iteration of the same process. That doesn’t bode well for a company that regularly claims its process node technology is three years ahead of its competitors.

In the meantime, custom foundries like TSMC and GlobalFoundries are gaining ground. AMD is already using GloFo’s 12nm process in coming products and will move to 7nm in 2019. Many analysts feel that there is a surprising parity between Intel’s 10nm and GloFo’s 7nm, so we could see AMD finally on an even footing with Intel.

However, the problem with the late 10nm process and stagnant microarchitecture development are even larger than they appear on the surface. Krzanich’s keynote was a sure sign that the company is succeeding in its goal to diversify its product lines into AI, the data center, autonomous driving, 5G (another no-show at the keynote), FPGAs, and IoT, among others.

Unfortunately, Intel’s process technologies touch every segment of all that tech, as well as the chips that power them. 10nm’s unexplained absence could hamper Intel’s competitiveness in nearly all of those segments.

A late 10nm process, expensive Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, potential lawsuits, and a possible SEC investigation of the CEO all loom large for Intel.

Krzanich treated us to one last demo that included 100 of the company’s new Shooting Star Mini drones flying in formation to a popular pop song as they changed colors. The dazzling display was impressive, and Krzanich claimed it set the world record for the most drones flown simultaneously indoors without GPS. After the song ended, the drones whirred quietly in the air above us as Krzanich raised his arms and then lowered them. At his gesture, all 100 drones floated down to the stage and landed in unison. It was an impressive move to end the keynote, but in many respects, the real show is just beginning.

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Oculus Continues Drive For Standalone VR, Partners With Xiaomi, Qualcomm

Oculus announced that it formed a strategic partnership Xiaomi and Qualcomm to bring affordable standalone VR to the worldwide market. Xiaomi singed on to build the Snapdragon-powered Oculus Go headset, and it will make a Xiaomi-branded clone for its home market in China.

Oculus first revealed the Oculus Go VR headset at the Oculus Connect 4 conference in October. The company said that the upcoming HMD would be a self-contained unit with all the processing and battery power built into the body of the device. It also revealed that the Oculus Go headset would support all the applications and games on the Gear VR platform.

In October, Oculus wasn’t forthcoming about the specifications of the device, but sources close to the matter told us that the Oculus Go would be powered by a Snapdragon 821 SoC. Today, Oculus and Qualcomm confirmed what we were told in October. Most standalone VR devices feature Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 835, but Oculus went with the older chip to keep the price down. The Oculus Go doesn’t need the more powerful processor; after all, the content on the Gear VR platform must support all models of Gear VR, and the first Oculus-ready phones included Snapdragon 821 chips.

Oculus also revealed that it would be working with Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi to manufacture the Oculus Go headset. Xiaomi will in turn license the hardware design and sell it under the Xiaomi brand as the “Mi VR Standalone” headset.

The Xiaomi Mi VR Standalone HMD is for China only, and it operates on the company’s proprietary Mi VR platform. Xiaomi’s headset doesn’t support the Oculus Store, but it does support the Oculus Mobile SDK, which enables Oculus developers to bring their content to Xiaomi’s platform.

When Oculus announced the Oculus Go HMD, the company said it would be available in early 2018 for as little as $199. Hugo Bara, CEO of Oculus, didn’t have anything more to say about the release date, but he said we could expect more details soon.

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Intel vows to stop Meltdown and Spectre by the end of January

Intel wasted no time during its keynote to address the Meltdown and Spectre bugs potentially threatening all its processors.

At CES 2018, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich opening moments promised it would patch 90% of affected processors made in the past five years by the end of this week. From there, the following 10% of vulnerable processors will see fixes by the end of the month.

Krzanich also stated that Intel has found no evidence to suggest that either exploit has yet been used to uncover user data.

Intel has yet to put forth details on how and when it will distribute these fixes, but for now follow our guide on how to protect against the Meltdown and Spectre CPU security flaws.

  • New year, new tech – check out all our coverage of CES 2018 straight from Las Vegas, the greatest gadget show on Earth

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