Best
AirTag wallets
iMore
2022

If any object in your life deserves Apple AirTag tracking, it’s your wallet. There are several ways to track a wallet with AirTag, although we don’t suggest stuffing it into a credit card pocket. The most effective way is to buy a wallet with a built-in AirTag Pocket or insert your AirTag into a card-shaped AirTag case. These are the best AirTag wallets and AirTag wallet cards we’ve seen so far.


Leather Airtag Billfold Wallet

AirTag incognito:
Geometric Goods Leather AirTag Billfold Wallet


Staff Pick

Most wallets keep the AirTag in plain sight. This looks nice, but if the wallet gets stolen, the thief will quickly discard it. Geometric Goods provides a hidden AirTag pocket inside the wallet that is not visible to the outside observer.

$118 at Geometric Goods


Anovus Smart Airtag Wallet

Smart choice:
Anovus™ Smart AirTag Wallet

Anovus™ is a smart wallet with a discreet button that you can flick to fan out all your cards at once. No more fumbling around to find the right card! The AirTag fits into a specialized exterior pocket.

$44 at Anovus


Airtag Ready Speed Wallet

Fine leather:
The Frenchie Co. AirTag Ready Speed Wallet

If you appreciate fine leather and good design, this is the AirTag wallet for you. Not only is it crafted from fine Italian leather in several color choices, but it also incorporates a convenient AirTag pocket and leather pull-tabs to extract your favorite cards in seconds.

$99 at The Frenchie Co.


Stretch Fabric Mount For Airtags

Not just for wallets:
Moment Stretch Fabric Mount for AirTags

If you’d like a reliable method of attaching an AirTag to your existing wallet, bag, or purse, then the Moment Fabric Mount is a clever solution. The small fabric AirTag pocket comes with a strong adhesive that can be used to securely attach the AirTag to any fabric or leather material.

$25 at Moment


Spigen Air Fit Designed Apple Airtag Wallet Card Case

Just the card:
Spigen Air Fit AirTag Wallet Card

Keep your AirTag inside your wallet safely with an AirTag wallet card. Simply insert your AirTag into the card-shaped case and slip it into any wallet pocket. The included carabiner will also serve as a key ring or bag charm.

$17 at Amazon


Card For Airtag

Sleek and smooth:
Nomad Wallet Card for AirTag

Nomad offers a similar solution with a smooth, sleek polycarbonate wallet card. This one does not come with a carabiner as it is only intended for use within the pockets of a wallet or purse. The card’s shape will not reveal the round shape of the AirTag held inside.

$25 at Nomad


Lechivee Slim Wallet Airtag Wallet

Best value:
leChivée Slim Wallet for AirTag

The most affordable AirTag wallet on our list is the leChivée Slim Wallet for AirTag. The subtle carbon fiber texture fits into any wardrobe, from dressy to casual. It’s slim and simple with a convenient AirTag pocket on the outside.

$13 at Amazon


Snapback Slim Air

Slim pickings:
Snapback Slim Air

Here’s another slim, minimal option made from high-quality leather in the USA. The Snapback can hold up to six cards along with some cash and the AirTag. Choose from either black or brown leather.

$55 at Snapback

The unlosable wallet

This is the ideal accessory for AirTag. Never lose your wallet or forget it at the coffee shop again. With an AirTag securely tucked inside, it will be virtually unlosable. My favorite is the Geometric Goods Billfold Wallet because it hides the AirTag completely inside a secret compartment in classic spy-movie style.

If you’re looking for a wallet card, on the other hand, then the Spigen Air Fit is a great option for securely slipping an AirTag inside any wallet. It also has a detachable carabiner in case you need to clip it onto your possessions instead. Any of the AirTag wallets on this list could be a great solution; you’ll just have to decide which one works best for you!

We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.





Source link

You shouldn’t hold your breath for the Pixel 7 getting this tech, but what about the Pixel 8?
  • A Google filing has hinted at a future Pixel phone with under-display selfie camera tech.
  • This patent doesn’t mean a Pixel device is coming with the tech any time soon though.

2020 saw the first major smartphone with an under-display selfie camera debut in the ZTE Axon 20 5G, with the likes of Samsung and Xiaomi following up in 2021. It looks like Google is also thinking about this feature thanks to a newly spotted patent.

Let’s Go Digital discovered a Google Pixel patent filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), showing a smartphone with a pair of under-display selfie cameras as well as a couple of other sensors under the screen. Check out the image below for a better idea of what to expect.

Google Pixel under display camera patent LetsGoDigital

This wouldn’t be the first time Google filed a patent for under-display selfie camera tech on smartphones. The firm’s previous patent imagined a prism-based under-display selfie camera, with the prism pointing to the camera when you need to take a selfie, or pointing to a tiny secondary screen otherwise. So the latest filing clearly seems to be a more conventional take on the tech.

It’s worth stressing that this patent isn’t indicative of a future Google Pixel phone, such as the Pixel 7. Companies file patents all the time that don’t become a commercial reality, so you shouldn’t hold your breath for a Pixel with an under-display selfie camera coming this year.

Do you want to see more phones with under-display cameras?

0 votes

Yes, even if image quality is poor

NaN%

Maybe, if image quality is okay

NaN%

Maybe, if picture quality is good

NaN%

No, I don’t care about the tech

NaN%

But it’s clear that many manufacturers (including Google) are researching this tech and it seems like a matter of time until image quality from these cameras can compare favorably to traditional selfie snappers. So we wouldn’t rule out a Pixel phone arriving with an under-display selfie camera in the future, but we’re guessing that 2022 might be a little too soon.

Another hurdle for manufacturers (aside from image quality) is simply ensuring that the display area above the selfie camera blends in well with the rest of the display. Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3 had a very noticeable “haze” in the area above the under-display camera, so we hope manufacturers tackle this issue as well in 2022.

Source link

Minecraft‘s New Year’s celebration continues with the introduction of the free Howl of the Wild map.

The latest map from Mithey, “Howl of the Wild transforms you into a lone wolf, navigating through a magical forest filled with puzzles to solve, areas to explore and unlikely companions to team up with,” says Sofia Dankis in a post on Minecraft.net. “This ambient adventure challenges you to collect, explore and solve problems creatively while you take in the beautiful views.”

Head over to Minecraft.net to find out more, download the new map and check out Dankis’ interview with Mithey.

Source link

Scania’s aim is to be the leader in the shift towards a sustainable transport system. Battery electric vehicles will be the main tool to drive this shift and to enable decarbonised transport solutions with better transport economy to customers.

The rapid development of electric solutions for heavy duty vehicles includes the fast advancement of battery technology in respect of energy storage capacity per kg. Charging time, charging cycles and economics per kg are improving rapidly. This means these solutions will become more cost effective, primarily in repetitive and predictable applications. They will gradually overtake Scania’s industry-leading fossil and biofuel powered solutions in most transport applications.

“We see that battery electric solutions are the first zero-tailpipe emission technology to reach market broadly. For the customer, a battery electric vehicle requires less service than a conventional one, meaning higher uptime and improved costs per km or hour of operations. We have learnt from the bus segment where transformation started earlier and battery electric options are in high demand. Scania’s timing in that segment was not optimal, however it provided good experiences and we are presently accelerating with the new Scania bus range. It also gave us good base knowledge as we ramp up the electrified truck business,” says Alexander Vlaskamp, Head of Sales and Marketing at Scania.

The company has already launched a fully electric truck as well as a plug-in hybrid truck. In a few years’ time, Scania plans to introduce long-distance electric trucks that will be able to carry a total weight of 40 tonnes for 4.5 hours, and fast charge during the drivers’ compulsory 45-minute rest.

By 2025, Scania expects that electrified vehicles will account for around 10 percent or our total vehicle sales volumes in Europe and by 2030, 50 percent of our total vehicle sales volumes are expected to be electrified.

Battery electric vs hydrogen
Scania has invested in hydrogen technologies and is currently the only heavy-duty vehicle manufacturer with vehicles in operations with customers. The engineers have gained valuable insights from these early tests and efforts will continue. However, going forward the use of hydrogen for such applications will be limited since three times as much renewable electricity is needed to power a hydrogen truck compared to a battery electric truck. A great deal of energy is namely lost in the production, distribution, and conversion back to electricity.

Repair and maintenance also need to be considered. The cost for a hydrogen vehicle will be higher than for a battery electric vehicle as its systems are more complex, such as an extensive air- and cooling system. Furthermore, hydrogen is a volatile gas which requires more maintenance to ensure safety.

However, hydrogen is a promising energy carrier; good way of storing energy over long cycles, and will play an important role in decarbonisation if produced in an environmentally friendly way. Scania looks forward to sourcing fossil free steel for its trucks as hydrogen will play a greater role in several industries.

Stationary fuel cells are an important component of the electric charging system. This solution is especially promising in areas with abundant renewable energy, and in rural areas off the main electricity grid.

“To do what’s best for both our customers total operating economy and our planet, we are not closing the door on any possibilities. It is clear that Scania’s focus in the here-and-now perspective as well as short- term is a combination of renewable fuels and battery electric vehicles. We see that for basically all segments,” Vlaskamp continues.

Committed to more electric products
Scania’s science based climate targets will see the company cut CO2 emissions from its own operations by 50 percent by 2025, as well as reduce emissions from the customers’ vehicles by 20 percent during the same period. To fulfil these far reaching targets, Scania’s focus is on well-to-wheel, which is more stringent than many of the legislative regulations coming up which centre on tank-to-wheel.

The company commits to launch at least one new electric product application in the bus and truck segment every year. At the same time, societal investments in a solid infrastructure for battery electric vehicles remains a priority.

“Scania’s focus is our customers’ business. Transport operators must be able to continue performing assignments in a sustainable way at a reasonable cost,” Vlaskamp concludes.

Source link

The canon I got from a friend a while back for my birthday. The Pentax I found at an antique shop and I just got the fujifilm today for Christmas. The fujifilm is really the only camera I’m gonna be using for now but I was mainly wondering if I should put up a shelf to store them. I want to put them somewhere where they will be on display but I can’t think of any ideas. Anyone have any suggestions?

Source link

The best Oculus Quest 2 games

Most VR games tend to keep their gameplay slow and methodical because anything fast-paced can cause motion sickness. But that doesn’t mean your VR game library should only contain the equivalent of arthouse films. You want action, adventure, and excitement! These VR action games deliver these in bucketloads.

Blade & Sorcery: Nomad

Medieval duels backed by a realistic physics engine

One of the most popular PC VR games, Blade & Sorcery is a giant sandbox where you fight foes with swords, bows and arrows, or magical attacks. Its popularity stems from the realistic physics engine, which lets you parry or deflect attacks and ensures your weapons don’t just teleport through foes.

Now it is available untethered on the Quest 2 with Blade & Sorcery: Nomad, so your duels to the death can become fully roomscale. Plus, it adds a new procedurally generated Dungeons mode in which you traverse through different environments, vanquishing foes, collecting loot, and leveling up your skills. Plus, this port will allow you to use mods, which creative gamers have used to add foes from Star Wars, Marvel, and other popular brands.

Nick described B&S combat as a “balanced mix of ‘video gamey’ and semi-realistic that feels just right. The Goldilocks of VR weapon handling, if you will,” in his review. He praised the game for its variety of weapons and mostly bug-free gameplay. It’s impressive that developer Warpfrog managed to make the game work with the Quest’s limited hardware at all, and it’s been a blast to play so far. — Michael Hicks


Blade And Sorcery Nomad Hands On Hero

Blade & Sorcery: Nomad

A medieval fantasy sandbox with melee, ranged, and magic combat driven by a realistic physics engine. Warpfrog pulled off some wizardry of its own to make Blade & Sorcery work on a portable headset like the Quest.

Blaston

Epic 1v1 arena duels in bullet-time offer an amazing workout

Blaston gameplay is simple but very addicting. You step into an arena with guns floating all around you and your opponent in his own space in front of you. When the match starts, you’ll fire at your opponent to whittle down their health bar, while dodging or shielding against their own wave of bullets. Each gun’s bullets shoot at different speeds and sizes, and some weapons let you curve bullets or throw projectiles at them, so you’ll want to be strategic with shots so they have no room or time to dodge.

Since Blaston launched, the devs have added a ton of new features and modes. You have the original ranked mode where every victory or defeat matters, a Western-themed Quick Draw challenge, a new Arctic Blast mode with deadly icy weapons and a new arctic-themed map. The new Knockout! tournament mode lets you strive for a giant trophy after out-dueling your friends. A short single-player campaign against CPU opponents will help you master your technique against easier foes. And the Ozo Lounge lets you hang out and talk strategy with your fellow Blaston players.

It’s a ton of content for an affordably-priced game, and just a few matches will get you sweating! Coolest of all, it recently added a passthrough mode, so your surroundings are sketched into the void around you as you duel. That way, you can remain conscious of any nearby furniture, people, or pets that you might slam into, making it easier to immerse yourself in the duel. — Michael Hicks


Blaston Logo

Blaston

Blaston tasks you with taking out your fellow duelists online one at a time. Play ranked mode to unlock new weapons, Arctic Resort to casually test new weapons, or Knockout! to prove you’re the best in the Discord chat.

In Death: Unchained

This roguelite is a heavenly romp through the gates of Hell

When it launched on the PC as, In Death, in 2018, many players proclaimed it their favorite VR game. Unfortunately, developer Sólfar Studios couldn’t keep it updated and later transferred the rights to Superbright, which now runs the Oculus Quest version of the title. The subtitle of In Death: Unchained is a duality in itself, referring both to the freeing nature of untethered VR that’s brought about on the Quest platform and the never-ending quest in the game to top the leaderboards with ever-improving skills.

Like most roguelites, In Death: Unchained features a procedurally generated world that’s never quite the same round after round. Set in three main areas of a godless afterlife, players will find themselves fighting through levels with a bow as their main weapon and the ability to fight melee if the need arises. The bow isn’t just used to kill enemies, though; it’s also an excellent means of traversal, thanks to a special arrow that works as a teleportation device. Skilled players will use this movement in tandem with free-moving joystick controls to outsmart enemies and bosses alike, all with gorgeous visuals and compelling boss fights.

In Death: Unchained, unlike its predecessor, has been updated and even overhauled several times now to change things up and keep the action fresh for veteran players. The move to seasonal content has also proven quite successful for the game and its players. In fact, it was among the first batch of games that was heavily updated to support the Oculus Quest 2’s significantly enhanced processing power, a testament to Superbright’s dedication to the game. —Nick Sutrich


In Death Unchained Logo

In Death: Unchained

In Death: Unchained is a roguelite that drops players in a relentless procedurally-generated realm of the afterlife, testing their bow skills as much as their persistence.

Ironlights

An intense melee dueling arena where skillful technique trumps speed

Step into the ring against AI or human opponents and use your brain as much as your arms to strike down foes in a game that has some of the best combat and multiplayer we’ve seen on the Quest. In Ironlights, you challenge your enemies as a variety of classes, each of which uses a different weapon combination. To prevent you from just wildly swiping at enemies as fast as possible, your weapon breaks every time you use it, so you have to strategically strike without leaving yourself vulnerable.

In our Ironlights review, we praised the game for its balanced classes and stressful combat. You’ll start with single-player matches against AI to master your techniques, but the difficulty level spikes once you start playing multiplayer. People are much harder to trick, while AI is more prone to falling for feints. Still, we appreciate that the game lets you fight AI opponents to stay fresh while you wait for PvP duels, the true meat-and-potatoes of the game.

As someone who grew up trying to master different fictional lightsaber fighting techniques, Ironlights gives me the one-on-one dueling that I wish Vader Immortal had. I’m sure I look ridiculous swiping and posing while trying to outsmart my arena rival, but successful hits and blocks make me feel like a medieval swordsman, which is really what matters.

Before buying, make sure that you have plenty of space to move around the virtual arena. If you stand in one place, certain classes can exploit this and attack with longer-range weapons, making it hard for you to counter-attack. Our other recommendation is to get active on the Ironlights Discord server, where players like to put together tournaments and compare techniques. —Michael Hicks


Ironlights VR Logo

Ironlights

Ironlights has some of the best weapon combat for the Oculus Quest 2. Stand directly against your opponent and use your reflexes and wits to strike them down.

Pixel Ripped 1995

A nostalgia-filled love letter to SNES games for ’90s kids

Whatever your childhood-era video game console or favorite arcade was — I’m an N64 and Nickel City child myself — you’ll probably remember long weekends spent gaming non-stop until a parent made you turn off the console or you ran out of tokens. Pixel Ripped 1995 (and Pixel Ripped 1989, available as DLC) hearken back to those childhoods in the best possible way.

You play a young boy trying to squeeze out as much gaming time as possible, while NPCs like your disapproving mother get in the way. Similarly, 1989 has you, an elementary-age girl, playing games in class while keeping your teacher distracted. Most levels start with you playing a game-within-a-game, with gameplay modeled after famous classics like Super Metroid, Sonic the Hedgehog, and others. But you’ll have to let go of your controller to interact with your surroundings. Then, without spoiling too much, you’ll often find that the game world has begun to blend with the real world.

At about five hours, the campaign doesn’t spend too long with any one “game.” And while the in-game graphics look sufficiently 90s, the NPCs’ faces can look a bit wooden. However, the overall experience is genuinely fun and nostalgia-inducing, and the developers added incentives to replay levels like hidden golden cartridges, a hardcore mode, unlockable collectibles, and alternative routes. —Michael Hicks


Pixel Ripped 1995 Logo

Pixel Ripped 1995

Play fun knock-offs of your favorite 16- and 32-bit games, then channel your inner kid and watch as those games come alive in the “real” world. Pixel Ripped 1989 and 1985 give you tons of varied gameplay to enjoy.

Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge + Last Call

Nothing ever happens on the Outer Rim of the known galaxy, right?

Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge is an action-adventure game on the planet Batuu, right within the very same Blackspire Outpost featured at Disney theme parks. While the theme parks let patrons walk the halls of a mythical Star Wars location, Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge takes a more story-based approach to the namesake. You play the role of a droid repair technician who ended up on the wrong end of a Gauvian Death Gang leader’s gun; shooting your way out, you find yourself caught up in matters of galactic importance.

While the game takes place between the events of Star Wars movies Episodes 8 and 9, the stories themselves span the annals of time, including the original trilogy and the High Republic era some 400 years prior. To get the most out of the game, you must download the Last Call DLC, which adds new stories where you play as a Jedi Knight and bounty hunter, along with a proper endgame to the main storyline.

Compared to Vader Immortal — another pick on this list — Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge and Last Call make for a more scattered game, but also a more varied one. Different Tales switch up the gameplay and story for some variety, while the main blaster-based combat is enjoyable and surprisingly challenging at times. Add in the DLC, and you meet a ton of characters, including some fan favorites from other SW properties, that make you feel part of the world. Star Wars fans certainly shouldn’t skip this one. —Nick Sutrich


Star Wars: Tales From The Galaxys Edge Logo

Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge

A collection of stories from the known Galaxy’s Edge awaits you, coupled with blaster fights, lightsaber duels, and plenty of porgs.

Swarm

Spider-Man heads to the arcades

Swarm is what happens when you imagine an old-school high-score arcade shooter brought into VR. You’re launched into an arena teeming with aliens that spawn from random portals across the map. However, it’s not a static shooting gallery; this is a very, very active game. Armed with grappling hooks and pistols, you must pull yourself every which way to avoid attacks and position yourself to strike back — performing aerial acrobatics that only make sense with room-scale VR technology.

Each level lasts only as long as you — or the enemies — can survive. Other levels offer movement challenges that test your ability to accurately grapple as fast as you can without falling to your doom. Power-ups and new weapons are found and earned during play, and you’ll soon find yourself in a zen-like state of grappling, pulling, shooting, and dodging. Can you defeat the swarm and save the Earth? —Nick Sutrich


Swarm Quest  screenshot

Swarm VR

Grapple, fling, shoot, repeat. Swarm captures the essence of classic high-score arcade titles and perfectly translates it into VR.

Until You Fall

Either you’ll fall, or your arms will fall off

Until You Fall is a unique take on the hack-and-slash roguelite genre. Taking thematic elements from high-fantasy epics like Lord of the Rings and injecting it with a thick serum of Tron-like neon highlights, Until You Fall will have your jaw on the floor with its stylistic beauty, up until the moment the first enemy makes you drop to the floor. Then, as the name implies, you’ll battle your way through enemy after enemy until you fall. Then, you respawn back in the hub to upgrade your character and do it all over again.

Until You Fall utilizes seriously realistic physics modeling that makes you feel like you’re actually swinging the weapons you wield. There’s something trippy about feeling like you’re fighting with a giant neon-drenched ax, and Until You Fall nails that feeling with every single swing and block. Enemies will ruthlessly attack you in groups, and the end of each section brings the choice of one randomized power-up to reward you with.

Players will make their way through dozens of levels, separated by three tiers of difficulty, color, and enemy types, battling bosses at the end and collecting Aether. This ethereal currency is used to make those weapons even more brutal, giving you the edge in battle — once you muster up enough patience, that is. The question is, which part of you will fall first, your mind or your body? Until You Fall will challenge both. —Nick Sutrich


Until You Fall Logo

Until You Fall

Until You Fall will test your patience and your body, willing to break at least one in this action-packed hack-and-slash roguelite.

Vader Immortal: Episodes I–III

The Force will be with you, always

So many games over the years have tried to recreate the feeling of being a Jedi, with Kyle Katarn and the Jedi Knight series bringing us closest and motion controls in games like Star Wars Kinect moving us further away. Finally, Vader Immortal raises the bar, giving tons of Star Wars fans the experience they’ve been craving.

If you haven’t already experienced Vader Immortal, you’re lucky that you’ll get to play through all three episodes at once, then dive right into the lightsaber dojos and refine your lightsaber technique. Altogether, the cost and story length is about the same as many other Quest 2 games — a relatively high price for a relatively short campaign. The only thing that made Episodes I and II initially underwhelming for some gamers was their short duration.

Each episode changes your level of Force skill as you develop from a novice into a legitimate threat to Darth Vader. Because of that, each game encourages you to use different skills to defeat enemies; Episode 1 relies more on your lightsaber, while III gives you more power to fling enemies around and adds blasters. After you finish the story, you’ll want to spend hours in the dojo perfecting your Jedi skills.

Keep in mind that you won’t be jumping around and fighting like the flashy Jedi of the prequels. You’re mostly rooted to a single spot while enemies approach you, which helps avoid motion sickness but can also feel somewhat limiting. We’re also waiting on a Quest 2 graphics update; the Quest 2 has more trouble with deep black colors than the original Quest, so some dark areas in Vader Immortal now look grayer than they should. Otherwise, this is one of the best Oculus Quest 2 games for single-player combat. —Michael Hicks


Vader Immortal Logo

Vader Immortal: Episodes I–III

Set between Star Wars Episodes 3 and 4, you’re a force-sensitive smuggler forced to work for Darth Vader and who slowly comes to know the ways of the Force. Enjoy the story, then spend hours fighting enemies in the Lightsaber Dojo.

Source link

A start-up from Oxford is hoping to make laundry more environmentally friendly by collecting clothes and washing them in its more eco-friendly laundrette.

OxWash uses cold water in its machines to reduce energy consumption and uses a specialised detergent that produces ozone to sterilise clothes.

BBC Click’s Chris Fox visited one of the company’s centres in Battersea, London and asked founder Kyle Grant why people would want to send their clothes away to be washed.

Follow Chris Fox on Twitter and Instagram

Source link

Starting January 27, 2022, intermediate certificate updates will be available for the Apple Push Notification service (APNs) and Developer ID.

Apple Worldwide Developer Relations Intermediate Certificate (G4)

APNs SSL certificates will be issued from a new intermediate certificate (Worldwide Developer Relations G4 sub CA) exclusively focused on APNs. Once the new certificate is active and available for download, you’ll be able to use it to send push notifications to apps (including VoIP), complications, websites on Safari, and Apple Wallet passes.

Apple Developer ID Intermediate Certificate (G2)

The digital certificates you use to sign your software and installer packages on macOS will be issued from a new Developer ID Intermediate Certificate that expires on September 16, 2031. Newly issued Developer ID certificates associated with the new intermediate certificate can be used to sign software on Xcode 11.4.1 and later. If you’re running Xcode 13.2 or later, the updated certificate will download automatically when you sign software after January 28, 2022. If you’re using an earlier version of Xcode, you can download the certificate manually or create certificates compatible with previous versions of Xcode.

Your existing certificates will continue to function until expiration or revocation, whichever comes first.

Learn about Developer ID Intermediate Certificate updates

Learn about Developer Relations Intermediate Certificate updates

Source link

roku home interface

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Just a few years ago, the idea of a “smart television” was something out of science fiction. Today, most TVs sold have hardware like Wi-Fi and Ethernet ports, and more importantly, apps that can stream content to your television. But which of these products are the best smart TVs to buy in 2021?

Here’s a look at our picks for the best smart televisions you can currently buy.

Buying the best smart TVs for your needs

Smart TVs come in almost all sizes, but size by itself is not the only thing you should consider before purchasing one. The smart TV OS is another consideration. Televisions made by Samsung, LG, and Vizio have their own proprietary smart operating systems. Others use a third-party OS like Android TV, Roku OS, and Amazon Fire TV.

Unless you are getting a smaller set for your kitchen, home office, or even your bathroom, you should get a TV with at least a 4K resolution screen

Cheaper TVs typically have an LED display, but if you want a better picture, you should consider getting an OLED model, which offers better color variety and deeper blacks. Also, unless you’re getting a smaller set for your kitchen, home office, or even your bathroom, you should get a TV with at least a 4K resolution screen. There are TVs with 8K resolution screens, but they also tend to be more expensive. Plus, there’s very little native 8K video to stream at the moment (although some sets do upscale 4K content to 8K).

Finally, owners of new game consoles like Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X should check to see if the smart TVs they want have a higher refresh rate, like 120Hz, along with special game modes that will improve latency.

Should I get a streaming stick or set-top box to go with my smart TV?

roku streaming stick 4k next to box

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Even if you have a smart TV with included streaming apps, not all of them are created equally. Samsung, LG, and Vizio have their own proprietary smart TV operating systems. However, they tend to lag behind other smart TV OSs from Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, and Android TV, when it comes to adding new apps and features. If you buy a new TV from Samsung, LG, or Vizio, we recommend getting a separate streaming TV stick or set-top box to plug into one of your spare HDMI ports.

If you own a smart TV with Amazon Fire TV, Roku, or Android TV installed, make sure they support the apps you want to have. For example, Roku lacks a Twitch app, which Amazon Fire TV and Android TV have. However, Roku has a Spectrum TV app, which Amazon Fire and Android TV lack. You might want to buy a separate streaming stick with a different OS as a backup.

If you’re still not sure which smart TV would be the best for you, below are our picks of the best smart TVs in 2021 across multiple categories and price points.

The best smart TVs to buy in 2021

  • The Samsung QN900A Neo QLED is the best 8K TV you can get overall, thanks to some impressive video and high brightness levels.
  • The Sony A90J OLED is the best 4K TV, with some great and accuracy levels for viewing video content.
  • The  TCL 5 Series Roku TV is the best budget smart TV, offering high-quality features for a price that’s less than its competitors.
  • The Vizio D-series is the best small (under 40 inches) smart TV, offering up to 1080p resolution and solid picture quality for smaller rooms and kitchens.
  • The LG C1 Series OLED is the best overall OLED smart TV, with great contrast and color variety and support for Dolby Vision IQ.
  • The Sony A80J is the best Android TV, using the Google TV OS, combined with a great picture and powerful processor.
  • The Amazon Fire TV Omni series is the best Amazon Fire smart TV, with hands-free voice control and a slick design.
  • The TCL 6 Series is the best Roku OS smart TV, with solid all-around video streaming and gaming features.
  • The Samsung QN90A is the best gaming smart TV, with variable refresh rates and auto-low latency mode.

Samsung QN900A Neo QLED: The best 8K smart TV

sony 8k smart tv

If you really want to future-proof your television, you want one with 8K video resolution support. There’s a small but growing number of such TVs, and the best comes from Samsung. The QN900A Neo QLED comes in 65-, 75-, and 85-inch models, and uses Samsung’s proprietary technologies. That includes its Quantum Mini LEDs for its bright and accurate display, along with its Neo Quantum Processor 8K that helps to optimize the display to give it the best-looking video and images possible.

There’s very little native 8K video to stream right now, but this TV also includes AI technology that automatically upscales video to the top resolution. The design of the QN900A Neo QLED is pretty slick as well, with a thin and nearly bezel-free screen, and a stand that holds all of the ports and power behind the television. The Samsung QN900A Neo QLED is perfect for your living room/home theater if you have the money.

sony 8k smart tvSamsung QN900A Neo QLED

The Samsung QN900A Neo QLED is expensive but that’s the price to get a TV with an 8K resolution that will be future proof for years to come.

Pros

  • 8K resolution
  • Impressive display
  • Powerful AI processor
  • Sleek and thin design

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Very little 8K content to stream
  • Samsung Tizen TV OS is good, but not perfect

Sony Bravia A90J: The best 4K smart TV

sony 890j smart tv

Sony has always made excellent televisions, and their current smart TVs are no exception. The Sony Bravia A90J, which comes in 55-, 65-, and 83-inch models, is definitely on the pricey side. However, you get what you pay for with this TV. It includes its own Cognitive Processor XR, which could be the most powerful chip inside a smart TV right now. It allows the Sony A90J to offer vibrant colors and deep blacks on its 4K TV.

It also includes features like AI upscaling to convert HD content to 4K, along with Sony’s X-Motion Clarity feature that smooths out video with lots of action so you can see everything. Finally, it uses the Google TV UI version of Android TV, which offers easy and quick access to your smart TV needs.

sony bravia 65 tvSony Bravia A90J

The Sony Bravia A90J combines a great display with a powerful processor for one of the best TVs you can get.

Pros

  • Powerful chip inside
  • Excellent display
  • Google TV version of Android TV included

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Not as good of a gaming TV as it should be

TCL 5 Series Roku TV: The best budget smart TV

tcl series 5 smart tv

Would you like a smart TV with great hardware and software features, but doesn’t cost thousands of dollars? TCL has been making a name for itself by offering high-end smart TVs with much lower prices than the competition. The TCL 5 Series Roku TV models, which come in 50,- 55-, 65-, and 76-inch models, are the perfect example of the balance between price and premium features.

This QLED TV uses Quantum Dot technology that offers its owners some vivid colors for viewing streaming content, along with TCL’s own AiPQ Engine processor for optimizing the content on the screen. Gamers with the newest consoles will appreciate the Auto Game Mode, which turns on when the TV senses a game is being played for smoother video and lower latency. It also uses the popular Roku OS with thousands of streaming apps to choose from.

TCL TVs don’t have a super slick design, but if you can ignore that, the Series 5 smart TVs promise to give you a high-end experience at a much lower cost.

tcl series 5 smart tvTCL 5 Series TVs

The TCL 5 Series TVs use many of the same technologies as more expensive televisions for a far lower cost

Pros

  • Excellent display for a lot less money
  • Support for Auto Game Mode
  • Roku OS installed

Cons

  • Design is not that slick
  • Other more expensive TVs have better features

Vizio D-Series: The best small smart TVs

vizio smart tv

If you want a television that fits on your kitchen countertop, in your home office, or any place that’s smaller than your bedroom or living room, you’ll want a TV that’s 40 inches or less. The Vizio D-Series is the best of these smaller TVs you can get. It comes in 24-, 32-, and 40-inch sizes and offers up to 1080p resolution, compared to other smaller TVs that max out at 720p.

Of course, the prices for these TVs will be much less than any of the other smart televisions on this list. You can get the 24-inch model for just $158, or perhaps lower. Vizio uses its own smart TV OS for its streaming apps, but we would recommend buying a cheap streaming stick from Amazon, Roku, or Google to expand your choices.

vizio smart tvVizio D-Series

The Vizio D-Series offers high resolution televisions at small display sizes

Pros

  • 1080p resolution
  • Cheap
  • Can be placed nearly anywhere

Cons

  • Design is bezel heavy
  • Vizio’s smart TV OS is just not good

LG C1 Series: The best OLED smart TV

lg ci oled

LG TVs have an advantage when it comes to OLED displays. Its sister company, LG Display, makes the best of them for its parent company. The perfect example is the OLED screen in the LG C1 Series. With models in 48-, 55-, 65-, 77-, and 83- inches, this TV uses self-lit pixels in its display. Each pixel is powered by its own light source, which allows the entire screen to offer amazing videos with sharp colors and contrast.

This technology also allows the display to be very thin, since it doesn’t need an additional light source. That means the design of this smart TV looks very cool. You can switch on what’s called Filmmaker Mode, which shows video from movies the way the director intended their movie to look like. Is this TV expensive? Yes! Is it worth the price for such an amazing display? We think it is.

lg ci oledLG C1 Series

The LG C1 series uses a great looking OLED display with some great features for gamers.

Pros

  • The best display on any TV
  • Very thin design
  • Filmmaker Mode

Cons

  • Expensive
  • LG Smart TV OS is not the best

Sony Bravia A80J: The best Android TV

sony 880j tv

While we have seen more TV makers embrace Google’s Android TV OS of late, such as TCL and Hisense, the best smart TVs with that operating system continue to be made by Sony. That includes the Bravia A890J, which comes in 48-, 55-, 65-, and 75-inch models. While the A90J model mentioned earlier in this article has some more advanced hardware specs, the A80J is nearly as good, but at a better price point, which is why we’re including it here.

It comes with the Google TV interface. It’s easy to navigate and lets you quickly get to the content you watch (movie, TV show, live television) on the home screen without diving into different apps. You still get the Cognitive Processor XR, along with a terrific OLED screen. You also get Sony’s own Bravia Core streaming service, which offers hundreds of movies from Sony’s film library streaming in 4K at 80Mbps.

Sony A80J 77 Inch Bravia XR 4K UHD Smart Google TVSony Bravia A80J

The Sony Bravia A80J is the best all around TV with the great Android TV operating system.

Pros

  • Sharp display
  • Google TV UI
  • High-end performance

Cons

  • Still a bit on the expensive side
  • No models larger than 75 inches

Amazon Fire TV Omni series: The best Fire TV smart televisions

amazon fire tv omni series

Amazon’s Fire TV OS comes installed on televisions sold by Toshiba, Pioneer, and Insignia (Best Buy’s in-house label). In 2021, Amazon finally started selling Fire TV sets under its own brand (although made by third-parties). The best of these are in the Omni series. They come in 45-, 50-, 55-, 65-, and 75-inch models. They all have a very nice design with minimal bezels for the display.

The Fire TV OS is a little hard to get used to, but the learning curve to discover the content you want to watch is thankfully one that won’t take long to master. The Omni series supports 4K resolution. Most importantly, it has hands-free Alexa voice support. In other words, you don’t need a handheld remote to send voice commands. The Omni series has built-in microphones, which is a nice touch.

amazon fire tv omni seriesAmazon Fire TV Omni series

The Amazon Fire TV Omni series include hands-free Alexa voice commands and premium video features

Pros

  • Great design
  • Affordable
  • Hands-free voice support

Cons

  • No OLED
  • Fire TV OS has a bit of a learning curve

TCL 6 Series: The best Roku OS smart televisions

tcl 6 series

The Roku OS is used by a number of television manufacturers, including Hisense, Philips, and Walmart’s Onn brand. The best Roku TVs, however, are currently made by TCL. The 6-Series televisions, which come in 55-, 65-, and 75-inch models, are the best mix of high-end features and affordability.

The Roku OS itself hasn’t changed a lot in the past few years, and the reason is it’s so easy to navigate and use immediately. The TCL 6 Series include a QLED display with Mini-LED technology that offers a solid image. It also comes with features like a game mode that supports variable refresh rates for a better gaming experience.

tcl 6 seriesTCL 6-series TVs

The TCL 6-series is the best TV for people who want to have the Roku OS smart television platform.

Pros

  • Roku OS is easy to use
  • Affordable with high-end hardware
  • Game mode included

Cons

  • Design is fairly basic
  • Other smart televisions do things better at a higher cost

Samsung QN90A: The best gaming smart TV

sony qn90a

Sony and LG both make great smart TVs for next-generation console and PC gaming. However, we’re going to give the edge to the Samsung QN90A, available in 45-, 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-, and 85-inch models. It’s one of the first made by the company to use Mini-LED tech in its QLED 4K display, and it offers excellent visuals for gamers with the latest PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X consoles.

In fact, when you connect a console to this TV, it snaps into Game Mode. That includes a special UI called a Game Bar that will show gamers information like HDR, frame rate, and more, that the player can adjust. You can also hook up this TV to your gaming PC, and if the game you’re playing supports ultrawide monitors, the Game Mode lets you switch the screen’s aspect ratio to 21:9 or even 32:9 to simulate playing those games on your desktop monitor.

sony qn90aSamsung QN90A

The Samsung QN90A has a bunch of features that make it the best for gaming on next-gen consoles and even on PCs.

Pros

  • Excellent game specific features
  • Solid display
  • Great design

Picking the best smart TV accessories

Cowin 25W soundbar image

While these are the best smart TVs you can buy, they can be made even better with some accessories. One of the best TV accessories to get is a soundbar, which helps improve the audio by a great amount, compared to the onboard speakers inside televisions. If you really want to go all out, you can also research buying a multi-speaker system for a true surround sound experience.

Read more: Best soundbars for your TV

We would also suggest looking into wireless headphones for people who don’t want to disturb the neighbors or their fellow house guests.

Beats Solo3 Wireless on ear headphones

Lily Katz / Android Authority

While streaming media is how most people watch new movies and TV shows on their smart TVs, there are folks who demand physical media for the best picture and audio quality. If you want that, it’s best to buy 4K Blu-Ray movies and TV shows, and get a solid 4K Blu-Ray player.

playstation logo on ps5

Sarah Chaney / Android Authority

Other frequently asked questions

Q: How much do smart TVs cost?
A: As you might expect, smart TVs range in price from just over $100 to several thousand dollars. Usually, higher prices mean larger displays with more advanced display technology, along with dedicated TV processors and other high-end specs.

Q: Should I wait until prices come down to get the features I want?
A: Holiday sales at the end of the year usually are the best times to get a current smart TV. TV prices also tend to go down in late January as people want to get new televisions before the Super Bowl. We would keep an eye out during these periods for price cuts.

Q: What is this “laser TV” that I’ve read about?
A: Some TV makers use the term “laser TV” to describe what is actually a short-throw projector. It allows people to have a big screen TV experience at 100 inches or higher without setting up a standard projector in the ceiling. They also tend to be cheaper than most big-screen smart TVs. However, projectors also have limitations, such as lower image quality, and the need to install a projector screen.

Source link


Four images highlighting: PIVOT, Ashley Llorens, farming, Race and Technology series

Over the past 30 years, Microsoft Research has undergone a shift in how it approaches innovation, broadening its mission to include not only advancing the state of computing but also using technology to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges. That evolution has never been more prominent than it was during this past year.

Recent events underscore the urgent need to address planet-scale problems. Fundamental advancements in science and technology have a crucial role to play in addressing ongoing societal challenges such as climate change, healthcare equity and access, supply chain logistics, sustainability, security and privacy, and the digital divide. Microsoft Research is increasing focus on these areas and others to help accelerate transformational change and build trust in technology as it evolves. However, these challenges are too large for any single organization to meet alone. They require broader and more diverse coalitions across the global science and technology community, including businesses, scholars, governments, nongovernmental organizations, and local communities.

This year, Microsoft Research hosted the first-ever Microsoft Research Summit, a virtual event that embodied our aspiration to catalyze collaboration and innovation across traditional boundaries. The summit brought together experts from around the world—a mix of speakers from Microsoft and external organizations—to critically examine the way technology can increase understanding and further drive advancement; support creativity and achievement; build a resilient, sustainable society; and open healthcare advances to all while maintaining ethical practices that put people first.

This post explores just some of the work that’s been done this year by Microsoft Research, alongside its partners and collaborators, to drive real-world impact in critical areas, and our aspirations for further impact in the years to come.

Leading the way for real-world impact

Advancing human knowledge and foundational technologies

Fundamental insights into technology and computing can inspire breakthroughs and new computing paradigms while helping to drive scientific discovery forward. In his plenary talk at Research Summit, Peter Lee, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Research & Incubations, cited “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge,” an essay published in Harper’s Magazine in 1939 by pioneering educator Abraham Flexner. Among other things, the essay stresses the role that curiosity and exploration play in game-changing technological leaps. It’s at this root of invention and innovation, Flexner argues, where patience and belief in shared knowledge is key.

LAMBDA, one of this year’s first big announcements, shows how the Microsoft research community can make significant contributions to products and customers when given the time and freedom to follow their curiosities. In this case, the product was Microsoft Excel—a program that has benefitted from the efforts of research teams over time. The feature, which resulted from collaboration between members of the Calc Intelligence and Excel teams, gives users the ability to define custom worksheet functions in Excel’s formula language, making the program Turing-complete, that is, allowing any computation to be written in the Excel formula language.

To make networks in data centers more scalable to future needs, researchers in Optics for the Cloud explored how optical circuit switches could replace resource-heavy electrical switches at a network’s core. They demonstrated the system’s potential to switch between wavelengths at nanosecond speeds—a necessity for supporting low-latency networks at the scale required—using a microcomb and semiconductor optical amplifiers.

Picture of tweet

A research team moved the bar forward for DNA storage, introducing a proof-of-concept molecular controller in the form of a tiny DNA storage writing mechanism on a chip. The chip demonstrated the ability to pack DNA-synthesis spots three orders of magnitude more tightly than before and results in much higher DNA writing throughput than current systems.

AI at Scale continued to gain momentum in 2021. With exponential growth this year, large artificial intelligence (AI) models trained using deep learning are one example of fundamental science where applications in the real world are becoming more ubiquitous. Microsoft Research teams were recognized for advancing the state of the art and developing new multilingual capabilities to build more inclusive language technologies using AI as well as pushing the boundaries of natural language processing (NLP) and computer vision.

In June 2021, Microsoft Research’s LReasoner system set a new standard for logical reasoning ability among pretrained language models. It reached the top of the official leaderboard for ReCLor, a dataset built using questions from the LSAT and GMAT, two standardized admissions tests.

Microsoft Turing’s T-ULRv5 achieved breakthrough performance on the XTREME leaderboard in September. A few weeks later, Microsoft Turing’s model T-NLRv5 reached the top of the SuperGLUE and GLUE leaderboards. Ultimately, these benchmarks and respective leaderboards help to measure progress toward creating AI that better understands language and better converses with people within and across language boundaries. To understand how quickly these advances are happening, one need only look to Megatron-Turing NLG, the language generation model with 530 billion parameters trained to convergence—a collaboration between Microsoft and NVIDIA.

chart, line chart
Trend of sizes of state-of-the-art NLP models over time

To train the Megatron-Turing model, DeepSpeed and NVIDIA Megatron-LM paired up to create an efficient and scalable 3D-parallel system harnessing data parallelism, pipeline parallelism, and tensor slicing–based parallelism. Beyond this achievement, the DeepSpeed optimization library added a number of features and tools this year, including DeepSpeed Inference, its first foray into improving inference latency and cost using multiple graphic processing units (GPUs). The team also introduced DeepSpeed MoE, supporting five types of parallelism and training 8x larger models when compared with existing systems. Zero-Infinity allowed for scaling of large model training from one to thousands of GPUs, furthering its effort to democratize model training for everyone.

These large AI models are impressive in their own right, but it’s what they’re able to do to support people and democratize innovation that makes them especially valuable. Advances in language technologies resulted in the expansion of Microsoft translation and spelling-correction technologies into over 100 languages, breaking down language barriers in products like Microsoft Bing and Microsoft Translator. The Microsoft Turing Team also introduced Turing Bletchley, a 2.5 billion-parameter Universal Image Language Representation model (T-UILR) that can perform image-language tasks in 94 languages.

Meanwhile, researchers from Microsoft Research Asia worked on bridging the gap between computer-language and computer-vision modeling. In October, members of the Visual Computing group won the Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV) 2021 award for their paper on the Swin Transformer. This vision transformer surpasses the state of the art with its high performance, flexibility, and linear complexity, making it compatible with a broad range of vision tasks. With this work, the research team hopes to inspire additional research in this area that will ultimately enable joint modeling between the computer vision and language domains. Research teams in the same lab examined the potential for transformers to find success beyond language and vision, demonstrating the neural network architecture can be applied to graph representation learning. With their standard transformer architecture Graphormer, the researchers achieved state-of-the-art performance in the KDD Cup 2021 graph-level prediction track and topped popular graph-level prediction leaderboards.

Amplifying human creativity and achievement

People are multidimensional, pursuing goals and tasks across different areas of their lives, under a variety of circumstances. Microsoft researchers are dedicated to not only helping individuals accomplish more in their personal, professional, and creative lives, but also to helping them feel more confident doing so.

Over the past year and a half, researchers and product teams throughout Microsoft have responded swiftly to workplace challenges and opportunities arising from the pandemic. Supporting organizations in executing hybrid work models, they explored technology as an intermediary between people who are physically in the room and those who are not, with some researchers presenting their findings in a hybrid meeting prototype during Research Summit. Researchers investigated remote and hybrid work from a variety of angles—from longitudinal studies on multitasking behavior to workplace communication insights gleaned using network machine learning—to understand where technology needs to grow to help people thrive under these fluid working conditions. Previous and ongoing work in this area is captured by the New Future of Work Initiative and the annual Work Trend Index.

As ML techniques and approaches advance, so does the potential for applications to empower individuals in the workplace and beyond does, too. Research teams are leveraging few-shot learning to help support AI that is truly more customizable to the individual with the ORBIT dataset and benchmark. The dataset and benchmark are inspired by a real-world application for people who are blind or have low vision called teachable object recognizers. The dataset strives to reflect the variance within object types and input quality that recognition systems will encounter in the day-to-day, while the benchmark challenges models to identify objects for single users from a few, high-variation examples.

Earlier in the year, at the CHI 2021 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, researchers presented tools and learnings guided by a changing definition of accessibility, one that focuses on helping individuals rise above limitations imposed by a world built to accommodate the majority to realize their full capabilities. Also, members of the Enable Group explored the continuing evolution of Soundscape, an app that uses 3D spatial audio to elevate users’ perception of an environment they’re navigating.

Technology has the ability to not only empower at an individual level but also at a systemic level, emboldening people with tools and support to pursue and achieve large-scale positive change in their communities and society as a whole.

Microsoft Research India’s Center for Societal Impact through Cloud and Artificial Intelligence (SCAI) was established to extend the lab’s research and technologies to create impact across domains such as healthcare and sustainability. SCAI collaborates with social enterprises to augment their ability to make a difference, as has been the case with Respirer Living Sciences. This year saw SCAI and the climate science startup integrate Microsoft Research India’s Dependable IoT solution with Respirer’s PM2.5 sensors for monitoring kits that are providing real-time air-quality data that is easier to access and understand. Project Amplify, a collaboration between the India lab, Microsoft for Startups, and Accenture, serves as another channel for SCAI to share its resources, helping startups committed to addressing societal and sustainability challenges. In its first year (2020–2021), the initiative supported work in aquaculture, agriculture, and mental health.

Meanwhile, the Research for Industry (RFI) initiative connects researchers and industry partners to help a variety of domains—from retail and financial services to energy and entertainment—operate in a dynamic world. The value of such collaboration can be seen by the work already being done in agriculture, where individual farmers are able to preview a suite of technologies developed to bring together low-bandwidth wireless technology, micro-climate prediction using deep learning, and data analysis in Microsoft Azure to improve crop returns and sustainability.

Fostering a resilient and sustainable society

In May 2021, Microsoft Research introduced a new societal resilience research agenda. Inspired in part by the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines and a rising tide of global challenges, it advocates a “reset” between science and society. As we continue to pursue foundational academic advances, we must also accelerate research that addresses societal challenges

Societal Resilience deploys open, adaptable technologies to enable community-oriented, collective problem solving. It drives new tools to help domain experts translate real-world data into evidence (see figure below). This means collaborating across traditional boundaries and engaging people who live where the challenges exist. A new video series looks more closely at the changing nature of innovation and discovering new ways to build resilience.

The Synthetic Data Showcase tool helps nontechnical domain experts use data to respond to human trafficking and exploitation. This tool, also demoed at Research Summit, uses Power BI to support the CTDC global dataset on victims of trafficking while safeguarding victims’ privacy. Microsoft is a founding member of Tech Against Trafficking (TAT)—a coalition fighting human trafficking with technology.

chart: CTDC global dataset on victims of trafficking
In this example, we use Power BI to support privacy-preserving exploration of the anonymous datasets generated by our Synthetic Data Showcase tool. Having selected the records of victims in the age range 9–17, we can see the distributions of multiple additional attributes contained in these records: the year the victim was registered, gender, country of citizenship and exploitation, and type of labor or sexual exploitation. All of the counts in these distributions are dynamically generated by Power BI filtering and aggregating records of the synthetic dataset. These “estimated” counts are compared on the right with “actual” counts precomputed over the sensitive data, showing that the synthetic dataset accurately captures the structure of the sensitive data for the selected age range. For these victims aged 9–17, the association with “typeOfLabourOther” indicates a potential need to expand the data schema to support more targeted policy design tackling forced labor of children.

Environmental sustainability is a key focus area for Microsoft Research. We support our customers’ efforts to reduce carbon emissions, including our work with Project Zerix, which combines biotechnology, chemistry, and materials science with computer science and engineering to develop more environmentally sustainable materials for the IT industry. 

Project Eclipse is an example of local collaboration toward building sustainable and resilient cities. It’s the largest real-time, hyperlocal air-quality sensing network in a North American city. The Urban Innovation team worked with local partners in Chicago to deploy over 100 low-cost air pollution sensors across the city. The team provided several updates this year, including a new video showing how the system works, plus a demo and related presentation at Research Summit. 

Supporting a healthy global society

Technology is driving amazing progress in human health, exemplified by the unprecedented development of testing, vaccines, and treatments for COVID-19. It’s important to make those treatments and therapies available as broadly as possible. Microsoft Research supports inclusive and equitable technologies and studies that improve scientific discovery, along with better, more equitable delivery of health care of people everywhere.

In 2021, as the pandemic raged, it hit some populations harder than others, including people with limited access to or experience with technology. To lower barriers to health information, Microsoft Research developed the Covid-19 Vaccine Eligibility Bot to help people understand their eligibility to receive COVID vaccinations. The bot is accessible across a range of communication channels and in local languages to serve non-English speakers. Separately, a new partnership including Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Verily, and Microsoft will provide cloud, data and AI technology, and access to its global network of more than 168,000 health and life science partners, to help researchers interpret an unprecedented amount of biomedical data to advance the treatment of human diseases through the open-source platform Terra.

As with any health-related technology, it’s important that new medical AI applications adhere to privacy regulations that safeguard sensitive data. Microsoft Research India developed a framework for secure, privacy-preserving, and AI-enabled medical imaging inference using CrypTFlow2, a state-of-the-art end-to-end compiler allowing cryptographically secure two-party computation (2PC) protocols. CrypTFlow2 may allow developers without cryptography experience to build efficient and scalable multi-party computation (MPC) protocols for inference tasks, dramatically improving health providers’ ability to process and analyze sensitive data while respecting privacy.

Deep learning and open-source strategies can improve cancer radiotherapy workflows and care. But the learning models are not easily accessible to researchers and care providers. This webinar provides an update on Project InnerEye, which aims to democratize AI for medical image analysis and empower health professionals to build medical imaging AI models.

Project InnerEye: person reviewing scans on a monitor

Microsoft Research continued to research and develop new technologies to improve healthcare and access for all. Two examples from 2021 include:

Ensuring that technology is trustworthy and beneficial to everyone

Fully realizing the value of technology requires the trust of those it’s intended to help. And trust is earned, which is why developing AI responsibly is a key tenet of the Microsoft mission. Researchers at the company are guided by the principles of fairness, reliability and safety, inclusiveness, and transparency, among others, in their pursuit of advancement, and they build and share resources and tools to incorporate those principles into research and development. Those tools include the Responsible AI (RAI) Toolbox and the Human AI eXperience (HAX) Toolkit. Combining error analysis, model interpretability, fairness, counterfactual example analysis, and causal analysis tools, the RAI Toolbox provides practitioners with the means to understand model behavior, identify and address issues, and support real-world decision-making, while HAX provides actionable resources for prioritizing the safety and needs of people throughout the development of human-AI experiences.

Understanding the benefits and harms of language models has been of particular interest to the broader research community. In discussing the topic at Research Summit, researchers explored limitations of current task framing in building tech that meets real needs and called for interdisciplinary methods to more effectively study real-world impact. Microsoft researchers also covered a variety of other topics related to cultivating trust in AI systems, including executing responsible AI and identifying, assessing, and mitigating harms in AI systems, as part of the Microsoft Research Webinar series. Microsoft Research also launched a monthly lecture series examining the relationship between technology and the perception of race and its ramifications (for more information, see the section below).

RESTler—the first stateful REST API fuzzer—can help efficiently find security and reliability bugs in cloud services. RESTler analyzes a Swagger/OpenAPI specification and produces a fuzzing grammar that contains information about requests and their dependencies. RESTler only fuzzes a request if all its dependent resources have been successfully created—this enables RESTler to achieve deeper coverage out of the box. RESTler also offers a pluggable model for checking security properties. RESTler is open source and available at its GitHub repository.

New complexity in AI systems and an increased reliance on using data to develop and train those systems brings with it increased requirements for keeping those systems secure. This year, researchers at Microsoft started the Privacy Preserving Machine Learning (PPML) initiative to address the need for preserving individual data privacy throughout the ML pipeline. Differential privacy (DP) is one technique that plays an important role in this initiative. Microsoft Research is pushing the boundaries in DP research with the overarching goal of providing Microsoft customers with the best possible productivity experiences through improved ML models for NLP while providing highly robust privacy protections.

Graphic shows framework of Privacy Preserving Machine Learning

Cryptography and privacy researchers are committed to protecting the confidentiality of people’s data, and in January, they collaborated with the Microsoft Edge product team to introduce Password Monitor for Microsoft Edge, a security feature that notifies users if any of their saved passwords has been found in a third-party breach. The underlying technology uses homomorphic encryption, a technique pioneered at Microsoft Research, which ensures the privacy and security of users’ passwords.

Watch For, a technology incubated in Microsoft Research, has been helping to create safe and inclusive digital spaces for Xbox and other platforms. The real-time media content analytics platform traces its beginnings back to the 2017 internal hackathon hosted by Microsoft and has garnered attention as the engine behind HypeZone, gaming’s version of NFL RedZone. Watch For is now officially a part of Xbox Family, Trust, and Safety and will continue to help support content moderation and online safety throughout Microsoft.


Engaging with the broader research community and looking to the future

Microsoft Research values its ties to the academic community, and it continued to support research and learning through its fellowship and grant opportunities in 2021.

  • The Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship was awarded to 40+ recipients around the world in 2021. The fellowship seeks to empower the next generation of exceptional computing talent in order to build a stronger and inclusive computing-related research community.
  • The Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant provides research funding for doctoral students who are underrepresented in the field of computing, with the goal of increasing the pipeline of diverse talent receiving advanced degrees in computing. In their work, this year’s grant recipients explore technology applications for accessibility, healthcare, entrepreneurship, digital literacy, and other areas.
  • The Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship recognizes innovative, promising new faculty, whose work and talent identifies them as emerging leaders in their fields. The 2021 Faculty Fellows’ work ranges from investigating new methods in cryptography to applications of signal processing and ML in biomedicine.

This year, Microsoft Research made changes that enabled our growth and created new opportunities. In January, Ashley Llorens joined Microsoft Research as VP, Distinguished Scientist, and Managing Director of Microsoft Research Outreach. He’s helping Microsoft Research achieve its mission of amplifying the impact of research at Microsoft and advance the cause of science and technology research worldwide. Before joining Microsoft, Llorens served as founding chief of the Intelligent Systems Center at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

In July, Microsoft Research announced the addition of a new satellite research lab in Amsterdam. Building on work being pursued at Microsoft Research Cambridge and Microsoft Research Asia in a larger research effort at Microsoft, the Amsterdam lab will focus on molecular simulation using ML. Distinguished scientist and renowned ML researcher Max Welling will lead the lab, bringing a deep background in physics and quantum computing to the role. By using compute power to run physical simulations, he and the lab’s growing team hope to help Microsoft further explore the application of ML to molecular science and uncover its tremendous potential in tackling some of the most important challenges facing society, including climate change, drug discovery, and understanding biology to help treat disease.

To confront challenges through research and technology, we’re sometimes required to engage in new ways. This year, Microsoft Research started the Race and Technology lecture series, a virtual speaker series designed to foster understanding of, and inspire continued research into, how the perception of race influences technology and vice versa through the work of distinguished academics and domain experts. This series continues through June 2022.

Micah Stampley, Lisa Nakamura posing for a photo
Race and Technology: A Research Lecture Series features 14 distinguished scholars and domain experts from a diverse range of research areas and disciplines. From top left: Dr. Sareeta Amrute, Dr. Kim TallBear, Dr. Charlton McIlwain, Dr. Ruha Benjamin, Dr. Lisa Nakamura, Dr. Simone Browne, and Dr. André Brock. From bottom left: Dr. Sohini Ramachandran, Dr. C. Brandon Ogbunu, Dr. Kishonna L. Gray, Dr. Desmond Upton Patton, Merisa Heu-Weller, J.D., Dr. Denae Ford Robinson, and Dr. A. Nicki Washington.

In 2021, Microsoft Research broadened its engagement with the larger global research community, and the events we hosted and attended this year provided new and enriching opportunities to engage with our community of researchers. Highlights include the ACM Special Interest Group on Data Communication (SIGCOMM) 2021 in August, where Microsoft was a gold sponsor, and the 35th Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing System (NeurIPS 2021) in December. Visit our event page for the full list of events and conferences in which Microsoft participated.

For 30 years, Microsoft Research has invested in rigorous scientific research and ambitious long-term thinking. We have made a lot of progress on both foundational and real-world challenges, but our work is not done. In the coming year, we’ll continue to build on the foundation we’ve developed and focus on creating solutions that drive long-term real-world impact, and ultimately help to create a more resilient, sustainable, and healthy global society. We look forward to the breakthroughs that can make that happen.

Hear from generations of Microsoft researchers as they reflect on the past and look ahead to the future at Microsoft Research. Explore the 30th Anniversary Generations of Inspirational and Impactful Research panel series to learn more.

To stay up to date on all things research at Microsoft, follow our blog and subscribe to our newsletter and the Microsoft Research Podcast. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.





Source link