TechSummit Rewind 190

This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Several crowdfunding sites ban fundraising for Charlottesville murder suspect

Violent Clashes Erupt at "Unite The Right" Rally In Charlottesville

Several crowdfunding sites – including GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo – have banned fundraising efforts on behalf of James Fields, the man accused of driving his car into protests at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

GoFundMe communications director Bobby Whithorne told Reuters that the platform has removed several fundraising campaigns for Fields.

The fewer than 10 campaigns created on his behalf “did not raise any money and they were immediately removed,” Whithorne said. Any further efforts will also be shut down on the grounds of violating GoFundMe’s rules against promoting hate speech and violence.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo have not seen any campaigns supporting him, but reiterated their respective policies prohibiting hate speech or encouraging violence.

Facebook, Instagram get readability redesigns



Facebook is revamping the design of the News Feed to make it more legible, clickable, and commentable with inspiration from line drawings. Specifically, Facebook makes it clearer where threads start and end in comments. Meanwhile, Instagram got redesigned with threaded comments so you can have public sub-conversations.

“The idea was to break things down into their atomic parts, and make certain the design choices we’d made in the past served the needs of our audience right now.”

Shali Nguyen & Ryan Frietas; Facebook design managers, in a Medium post

Changes for both apps will roll out to all iOS and Android users over the next few weeks.

Facebook comments

Facebook is adopting Messenger’s bubble style for comments. This will make threading more obvious and encourage the rapid-fire conversations people typically have in private messages.

 “Our goal is to make it easier to engage in meaningful conversations, make conversation more central to more interactions, and give people more ways to express themselves. Our existing formats were rooted in message board styles, with similarly limited affordances for personal expression. As we started to look at other formats for comments, it was obvious that messaging design paradigms have empowered people to converse better than they could before.”

Shali Nguyen & Ryan Frietas

Navigation and like buttons

Its navigation and feedback buttons have been made bigger and easier to recognize with a new unified style inspired by line drawings. The News Feed, Video, Marketplace, Like, Comment, and Share buttons now all feature this look. Meanwhile, Facebook is swapping the classic globe notifications icon for a more standard alerts bell.

Other legibility redesigns include higher contrast text that’s easier to see and circular profile icons that take up less space. Link previews are also a little bigger now, however, Facebook says today’s changes shouldn’t impact the reach or traffic of Pages. The URL domain is now more prominent, appearing above the link’s headline.

Knowing where you are

Facebook wants to make sure you don’t get lost several layers beyond the feed. Now, you’ll see a more obvious header with a bigger black back button when you dive into a post from the News Feed. Facebook also says that you’ll be able to “see where a link will take you before clicking on it,” although it’s unclear whether that’ll be any different from the existing link previews, blurbs, and URLs.

Apple, Facebook, Google, others tell Supreme Court to protect cell phone data in key case


A collection of the biggest tech companies – including Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Snap – urged the Supreme Court to set new limits on the ways law enforcement can obtain a suspect’s smartphone location data.

This is stemmed by the Carpenter vs. United States case, spurred by a 2011 investigation into a series of robberies in Detroit. As part of the probe, law enforcement officials got information from nearby cell towers to determine the whereabouts of Timothy Carpenter, one of the suspects, without first obtaining a warrant.

As the Supreme Court considers the matter, tech giants stressed in a new amicus brief that they “do not take a position on the outcome of this case.”

The major players that signed it – also including Airbnb, Cisco, Dropbox, and Verizon – do argue however the need for greater Fourth Amendment safeguards to “ensure that the law realistically engages with Internet-based technologies and with people’s expectations of privacy in their digital data.”

The companies said that most Americans presume such requests from law enforcement already require a warrant in many cases.

“No constitutional doctrine should presume that consumers assume the risk of warrantless government surveillance simply by using technologies that are beneficial and increasingly integrated into modern life.”

The companies, in an Atticus brief with the Supreme Court

Google Allo comes to web, only pairs with Android phones


Google Allo, the company’s consumer-facing chat app, is now available on the web for desktop users. The service, which lets you chat with friends while taking advantage of features like stickers, “smart replies” for one-tap responses, and Google Assistant integration, has been in the works for some time.

On the web, Allo currently uses a pairing process similar to WhatsApp to your mobile device. As of now, only Android devices are supported with iOS support coming soon.

To get started, you can launch the web client in Google Chrome. You’ll then need to open Allo on your Android device and search for “Allo for web” in the menu. From there, select “Scan QR code.”

Scan the unique QR code displayed on the Allo website, which pairs the app with your computer.

Because the web version mirrors what’s on your mobile device, if your phone runs out of battery and dies, you’ll no longer be able to use the Allo web app.

Its two-panned interface features contacts on the left and chats on the right. Emoji can be added with a tap of the smiley button in the text input box or popped up over to a right-side column, where you can also search for sticker packs.

Google Assistant is also available and will keep a history log of requests.

Qualcomm launches Spectra depth-sensing camera

Qualcomm is adding three new camera modules to its Spectra Module Program, which lets device manufacturers select ready-made parts for their products: an iris-authentication front-facing option, an Entry-Level Computer Vision setup, and a Premium Computer Vision kit. The latter two carry out passive and active depth sensing, respectively, using Qualcomm’s revamped image-signal-processing architecture.

The premium computer vision kit is capable of active depth sensing, using an infrared illuminator, IR camera, and a 16-megapixel RGB camera (or 20MP depending on the configuration). The illuminator fires a light that creates a dot pattern (using a filter), and the IR camera searches for and reads the pattern. By calculating how the dots warp over a subject and the distance between points, the system can tell how far away something is. The technology can also work in the dark with the infrared light.

The module can get very detailed since it uses over 10,000 points of depth and can discern up to 0.125mm between the dots.

There are plenty of applications for depth sensing, according to Qualcomm, including creating artificial depth of field in images; facial detection, recognition, and authentication; 3D object reconstruction; and localization & mapping.

The entry-level computer vision options allow for similar (and less-precise) features at a lower price, but it consumes more power than the premium kit. According to Qualcomm, its iris authentication module can read your eyes even when you have sunglasses on.

There’s no word yet on when the new cameras will ship inside devices, but Qualcomm expects the new modules and ISPs to be part of the next flagship Snapdragon Mobile Platform.



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