In today’s Bulldog wrapup of technology news:
- A software program beats the human champion in Go
- Sony’s new service targets cord-cutters
- Dunking Samsung phones in a test
- A new virtual reality app takes you back in time
- Go-playing program AlphaGo defeats human champion 4:1
Google’s Go-playing computer program again defeated its human opponent in a final match on Tuesday that sealed its 4:1 victory.
The week-long showdown between South Korean Go grandmaster Lee Sedol and AlphaGo, Google DeepMind’s artificial intelligence program, further confirmed the computer software has mastered a major challenge for artificial intelligence.
The series was one of the most intensely watched events in the past week across Asia. The human-versus-machine battle hogged headlines, eclipsing reports of North Korean threats of a pre-emptive strike on the South.
The final match was too close to call until the very end. Experts said it was the best of the five games in that Lee showed performed at his best and AlphaGo made few mistakes. Lee resigned about five hours into the game, failing to offset the extra points that AlphaGo got for playing a white stone.
The final match was broadcast live on three major TV networks in South Korea and on big TV screens in downtown Seoul.
Google estimated that 60 million people in China, where Go is a popular pastime, watched the first match on Wednesday.
Before AlphaGo’s victory, the ancient Chinese board game was seen as too complex for computers to master. Go fans across Asia were astonished when Lee, one of the world’s best Go players with 18 international championships, lost the first three matches.
After his third loss, Lee said he could not find any weaknesses in the 2-year-old computer system’s playing. Some in South Korea raised questions about the fairness of the match, while others in the Go community regretted having underestimated AlphaGo’s ability.
- Aimed at cable cord-cutters, Sony TV service goes nationwide
Sony’s streaming TV service is expanding nationwide Monday, givingTV lovers throughout the U.S. a new, potentially cheaper way to get cable channels such as AMC and ESPN.
PlayStation Vue, which had been limited to major cities during its first year, will start at $30 a month in the new regions. That’s $10 cheaper than current packages, but it won’t include over-the-air channels, such as stations for ABC and Fox. Vue’s seven older markets — big cities including New York City and San Francisco — won’t have access to the new, cheaper deal.
More people are bypassing traditional TV services in light of extensive online offerings from the likes of Netflix and HBO Now. To reach them, cable and satellite TV companies are launching Internet-based TV services. Dish debuted its $20-a-month SlingTV service last year. Comcast and other cable companies have also experimented with online TV packages, though none are offered beyond a few markets. AT&T’s DirecTV service plans a nationwide streaming offering, but details on prices and channels haven’t been released. Published reports have also said that Apple is trying to develop its own streaming-TV service.
Vue’s cheaper offering, made available in more markets than before, could make Vue a more significant challenger to traditional TV services from cable and satellite.
“But nobody really knows how big the opportunity will be,” said Craig Moffett, a Moffett Nathanson analyst who follows the cable industry.
- Dunking new Samsung phone
You can dunk Samsung’s new smartphones in water, but don’t drop them on a sidewalk, a new study finds.
SquareTrade, a company that offers extended-protection plans for gadgets, said the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge still functioned after being submerged in water for 30 minutes. Audio was “permanently muffled and distorted” after the dunking, but the Samsung phones still outlasted Apple’s iPhones in SquareTrade’s water tests.
The study, released Monday, also found that Samsung’s new phones are more prone to breaking than the iPhone 6S, which survived 30 seconds in a tumbling test chamber, similar to a dryer without heat. The test is meant to mimic repeated drops phones often face. Both Samsung models had minor cracks on the screens and significant damage to their backs. The iPhone 6S Plus, a larger version of the 6S, did worse. Its screen completely shattered in SquareTrade’s tests.
The screens of all four phones cracked when dropped face down on a sidewalk. The Samsung phones also cracked when dropped on their corners, while the iPhones had only cosmetic damage, according to SquareTrade.
Samsung Electronics in Seoul, South Korea would not comment on the study.
The new Samsung phones came out Friday. They’re not designed to be used underwater — the touch screens don’t function until dry — but Samsung promises that the phones can still work after spending up to 30 minutes in up to five feet of water.
- Virtual reality app for time travel
Imagine watching frantic shopkeepers busily extinguish the Great Fire of London, or sheltering from Nazi bombing raids during the Blitz.
Now, thanks to a new virtual reality app, you can travel back in time to be immersed in these events.
The Timelooper app allows users to experience key moments in London history with just a smartphone and a cardboard headset.
For example, when Timelooper cofounder Andrew Feinberg visits the Tower of London, a historic castle on the banks of London’s Thames River, he doesn’t queue up with hordes of tourists to catch a glimpse of the royal family’s crown jewels. Instead, he uses Timelooper’s time travel tourism app to experience the tower over 750 years ago, in 1255.
Instead of seeing a busy London tourist site, Feinberg sees a medieval marketplace, a formidable fortress, even an elephant being led down a path.
“We actually overlay the current infrastructure with what the infrastructure of the tower and the surrounding environment was like in 13th century London,” explained Feinberg. “So for example, now you see a Starbucks and now you see the tower as it looks today with the moat drained. When we take you back in time, you actually see the historically accurate representation of the tower in its heyday.”