Why Google Stories will save, not screw, Snapchat Discover

Snapchat has a new ally or enemy depending on how you look at Google’s new mobile magazine format, but the social app is welcoming the search giant. Google’s clone of Snapchat Discover, called AMP Stories, officially launched today, allowing news outlets to create photo/video slideshows that appear in mobile search results and on their site. 
Suddenly, Snapchat isn’t the only place to show off Discover-style content.
In response to Google’s launch, Snapchat’s VP of Content Nick Bell told TechCrunch, “Our ambition at Snapchat is to empower great storytelling, and we think we have pioneered the best format for doing that on mobile. We’re delighted to see that an industry is starting to form around that, and hope that it will encourage more newsrooms to invest in teams that focus on made-for-mobile content.”
Snapchat refused to detail whether it demands exclusivity from Discover publishers and forbids them from reusing the content elsewhere, which was its policy when Discover launched in 2015. But Bell’s quote implies that Snapchat sees the opportunity for more publishers to adopt the format if they can reuse content from Discover and port in content from AMP Stories.

There are still a lot of big questions, like how prominently Google will feature AMP Stories in search, whether Google will offer powerful tools for creating them and how advertising revenue splits will be handled. There are no ads in AMP Stories yet, even though the format has been in testing since August. But the biggest question is how publishers and advertisers will react to having multiple places to show their animated ‘zines.
There are two ways I see this going. The reality is it will likely be a mix of both, though I think the opportunities outweigh the threats for Snapchat.
The threat: Google steals content and ads from Snapchat
Having the world’s most popular advertising and information platform barge into your business should be at least a little unnerving.
On the content side, Snapchat won’t have a monopoly on placement of Discover-style content. That weakens its negotiating position when striking deals with publishers. Previously, after building up a team to create the visual articles, publishers didn’t have anywhere to go, so they were largely stuck with Snapchat’s revenue split terms unless they were willing to fire or reassign the staff.
Snapchat now won’t necessarily have exclusivity on content created for Discover, as publishers might seek to host it on their sites and promote it in search through Google AMP Stories. This comes at a time when Snapchat’s peer-to-peer Stories have been copied by Facebook’s apps and Discover remains one of its most differentiated features.
If Snapchat refuses to let publishers reuse Discover content on AMP Stories, it could piss off news outlets, disincentivize investment in producing top-notch content or push them to pick Google over Snapchat.
Meanwhile, advertisers will have more inventory to exploit for vertical video ads, potentially reducing the rates of Snapchat’s ads. Google’s scale and relationships with advertisers could allow it to lure dollars away from Snapchat Discover.
But… the fact is that Google and Snapchat have very different audiences. Snapchat’s users skew much younger than Google’s. Most advertisers would want to reach one demographic or the other or both. So it’s unlikely that Google AMP Stories would directly cannibalize Snapchat Discover ad revenue. That’s why I think Google’s arrival looks more like…
The opportunity: Google recruits more publishers to Discover’s format
Think of it like Google building its own brand of VCR in the early days of videotapes. Snapchat might not want competition for its own VCR, but if Google convinces more movie studios to make videotapes, the rising tide of the format could lift all boats.

Publishers have had to put a lot of trust in Snapchat Discover until now. If they built up a content creation team, and then Snapchat lost popularity or buried the Discover feature or monetization didn’t go well, the news outlet had no alternative. And once they made the content, there was nowhere else to put it.
Now, publishers have a hedge in case Snapchat stumbles. They’ll still be able to show their Discover content elsewhere. And with more viewing opportunities and chances to earn ad money to recoup their investment, publishers could pour more resources into creating high-quality visual articles.
The opportunity to sell ads against the content twice could convince more publishers to dive into the format. Snapchat earned more than $100 million for its content partners in 2017, but Google AMP could grow the ads pie for the whole format. And pulling in recycled content from Snapchat could be a boon to AMP Stories, since publishers could start experimenting with it without gambling a big investment on the success of Stories in search.
Exploiting this opportunity might require Snapchat to loosen its grip on publishers, and officially allow them to reuse content on AMP Stories. If it wanted a compromise, it could window Discover content, requiring it to stay exclusive to its platform for 24 hours or longer. Snapchat could still tout its high-performance native mobile apps as a better way to consume the content than the mobile web.
The whole equation could change if Facebook and Instagram develop their own version of Discover. Snapchat might have to clamp down and insist on exclusivity then as Instagram offers a similar demographic of audience, though that would risk publishers choosing Facebook’s apps over it.
But for now, Snapchat could view Google as an ally against Facebook and Instagram. If they can popularize the vertical slideshow mobile magazine format together, publishers might envision the dollar signs necessary to staff up Discover/AMP Stories content teams.

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Meet the company trying to break the taser monopoly

Last month, Digital Ally, a Kansas-based company known for its police body and dashboard cameras, announced that it had secured a patent for a new conducted electrical weapon. This marked the first time in more than a decade that a serious player in the police business showed interest in building a newer and better taser.
Ever since 2003, when one of the two companies making tasers bought out the other, there has effectively been a taser monopoly. If you’ve ever seen a police officer carrying a taser, that taser was almost certainly manufactured by the publicly traded company formerly known as Taser International, now named Axon Enterprise, Inc.
Axon’s version of the taser isn’t perfect. It uses copper wires to transmit an electrical charge, and those wires can be awkward and clumsy. And even though tasers were once marketed as “non-lethal” weapons, they’ve nonetheless played a role in more than 1,000 deaths and counting.

Ever since 2003, there has effectively been a taser monopoly

Axon’s market dominance is unmatched. An overwhelming majority of United States police departments carry Axon’s tasers today. And while Axon has gotten a lot of recent attention for last year’s name change and its outward focus on police body cameras, evidence management systems, and RoboCop-inspired artificial intelligence gambits, shock weapons are still where Axon’s money is made: more than 75 percent of its annual revenue in 2016 came from selling tasers.
So it makes sense that another company would try to make a better taser and challenge Axon’s monopoly. Digital Ally’s device is still in the early stages — it has the patent and is working on a prototype — but the company’s engineers saw a couple aspects of Axon’s taser that they hoped to improve. One was the wires.
When a shooter pulls the trigger of an Axon taser, compressed nitrogen shoots two-pronged darts from the weapon’s barrel, which are attached to electrically charged copper wires. Tasers generally only function properly if the shooter’s target happens to be within 15 feet or so of the shooter, and if the darts get close enough to (or impale) the target’s skin. If the distance is too great, or if the darts don’t connect with the target in just the right way, the taser is going to fail. If that sounds like a lot of variables to take into consideration when firing a weapon in a high-intensity police interaction, it is. Axon’s tasers have been criticized for being effective only a little more than half the time with some departments, and they are notorious for failing to work when someone’s wearing a coat.

Tasers have played a role in more than 1,000 deaths

Instead of using wires, Digital Ally’s director of engineering, Steve Phillips, decided that radio frequencies would work better to send electricity into a target. Instead of attaching darts to wires, Digital Ally’s taser — its patented “wirelessly conducted electronic weapon” — uses compressed gas to shoot a projectile that doesn’t necessarily emit an electrical charge, but can do so if the shooter decides it’s necessary.
This isn’t the first time a company has tried to create a wireless electrical weapon. For a few years, Axon attempted to market something called the XREP — a shotgun that fired an electrically charged projectile as far as 100 feet and then doled out a 20-second shock when it made contact with a target. One problem, Phillips said, was that the XREP was too bulky. “Who wants to carry around a shotgun wherever they go?” he said. Another was that there was no way to control the 20-second charge. So, Digital Ally made the device smaller and designed a remote control.
Another advantage with such a design, Phillips said, is that police might potentially track a suspect if the charge doesn’t work or the officer decides not to shock the target. Phillips equated the idea to “GPS cannons,” which are designed to launch location-tracking devices onto cars that speed away from officers. Cops can then track where the cars are going and send backup there, rather than participating in a dangerous high-speed pursuit. In the case of Digital Ally’s taser, the devices are shot onto humans rather than vehicles.

“We want to minimize the use of the shock.”

Digital Ally claims the ability to control the shock may result in fewer people getting electrocuted, therefore lowering the risk that someone could be killed. “We want to minimize the use of the shock,” Phillips explained.
In Phillips’ estimation, the threat of the shock is often enough to calm a suspect down. So the idea would be that, in an interaction with a suspect, an officer could shoot the projectile at the suspect and then warn them that if they don’t comply with orders, they’d be shocked with an electrical charge, which the officer could turn on and off from the taser gun itself. Having the option to not shock someone at all would reduce the risk, Phillips said. Setting a time threshold — a limit on the number of seconds that the suspect could be shocked to avoid potentially deadly cardiac capture — would reduce it further.
“There are always going to be circumstances you can’t avoid in policing,” said Stan Ross, Digital Ally’s chief executive officer, referring to unforeseen life-threatening situations, such as when a person hits their head on the ground or falls off a ledge after being shocked with a taser. “But we believe we can bring safety features that are not available at this point that could save lives.”

“They sued us out of business.”

Digital Ally isn’t the first to attempt to launch a taser competitor since 2003. Robert Gruder, a Tampa, Florida-based businessman, tried to do it twice — once with a company called Stinger Systems, and again with a company called Karbon Arms. Axon (then Taser International) went after him both times with every legal tool it could. “Needless to say, they had a bigger bankroll than us,” Gruder told me back in 2014. “They sued us out of business.” Phazzer, another company that’s been trying to pull off a taser competitor for years, likely isn’t far from that same fate. Last year, a Florida judge ruled that its executives had “engaged in a pattern of bad faith behavior” and ordered a permanent injunction barring it from selling Phazzer tasers. Phazzer has appealed the decision.
What separates Digital Ally from these other potential taser competitors is that it’s already established in the police business. Unlike, Stinger, Karbon, and Phazzer, Digital Ally already sells dashboard and on-body cameras to more than 6,000 police departments. A taser would thus be a new product offering for Digital Ally, rather than something to build an entire company around from scratch.
Digital Ally has also already been successful fighting Axon in court. Digital Ally sued Axon in 2016 for infringement over its auto-activation body camera patent, among other things. Digital Ally has so far been successful in court regarding auto-activation and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing with Axon in the spring.
But would police departments buy Digital Ally’s taser? Could the taser monopoly be upended? Digital Ally has certainly identified parts of Axon’s taser design that it feels can be improved. At $1,399.99 per unit, Axon’s tasers are expensive, and they need new cartridges every time a taser is fired. (Digital Ally is too early in the process to have identified a price point or sales structure of the weapons or cartridges.) Police departments tend to renegotiate their taser contracts either as standalone agreements, or as part of tie-in contracts for body cameras and other equipment, but Digital Ally can compete in that space as well. Teaming up with Safariland, Digital Ally was added last year as part of a major contract to provide body cameras to the New York Police Department, beating out Axon and others. Might the NYPD also purchase its tasers from Digital Ally? And if so, might other agencies as well?
It’s mostly a hypothetical question at this point. Digital Ally hasn’t gone into production on its new taser, and its executives wouldn’t tell me when they plan to. An Axon representative declined to comment. But I put the hypothetical question to , a former officer with the Tallahassee Police Department who’s now a University of South Carolina law professor studying the uses and effectiveness of police body cameras. He also knows quite a bit about Axon’s history. I asked him: does Digital Ally have any chance of challenging Axon in the taser market?

“Axon is pretty protective of its market share.”

“Maybe, if they can show that having a wireless projectile is safer/better/more effective than having a wired projectile,” he wrote in an email. “One of the complaints about TASERs that I hear from officers is that they get shocked when they come into incidental or accidental contact with the wires… But Axon is pretty protective of its market share, so I expect that this will be contested in the marketplace and in the court of public (and police) opinion, if not in an actual courtroom.”
Stan Ross, Digital Ally’s CEO, said he’s in it for the long run. “We think we have a real competitor here,” he said. If he’s right, it’d be the first one in more than a decade.

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Source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/2/13/17007376/axon-taser-monopoly-digital-ally-wireless

Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson sets Olympic hockey record by scoring 2 goals in 6 seconds

Team USA rolled Tuesday morning behind the record-setting performance.
Team USA forward Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson set an Olympic hockey record for fastest consecutive goals by scoring twice in just six seconds in a 5-0 win over Olympic Athletes from Russia on Tuesday morning. The pair of goals helped the Americans roll to a second consecutive win to open the group stage in Pyeongchang.
Lamoureux-Davidson broke an Olympic record that had existed since 1960, when Sweden’s Carl Goran Oberg scored a pair of goals in eight seconds at the Winter Games in Squaw Valley, Calif. She finished a dominant performance with two goals, an assist, and six shots on net in just 14 minutes of playing time.
There was little doubt during the match between USA and Russia about which team was better. The Americans dominated the shot distribution, 50-13, and it only got worse as the game went on. In the second period, USA held a 24-7 shot advantage. In the third period with the lead extended to 4-0, USA outshot the Russians, 19-4.
Lamoureux-Davidson’s first goal came on a rebound resulting from a shot by her sister, Monique Lamoureux-Morando. The second goal came on the ensuing faceoff when a miscue by the Russian defense gave Lamoureux-Morando a breakaway that she cashed home for another score.
Team USA is now second in Group A with a 2-0-0-0 record and a plus-7 goal differential through two games in Pyeongchang. They’re behind Canada, which won its first two games with a plus-8 goal differential. Finishing top two in the group, which is guaranteed at this point, ensures that both teams will be placed in different semifinals for the playoff stage and sets up a probable gold medal rematch between the two juggernauts.
But before we can do that, Team USA and Canada will face off to wrap up the group stage at 10:10 p.m. ET Wednesday night. The game won’t have much importance in terms of medaling in Pyeongchang, but it’ll be a fun preview for both tests to test themselves against their biggest foe.
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France drop players for ‘inappropriate behaviour’ after Scotland defeat | Sport

• ‘They failed to respect their duty as international players,’ says FFR
• Police found no crime committed after report of sexual assault

The France players react after being beaten by Scotland 32-26 at Murrayfield.
Photograph: Robert Perry/EPA

Several players have been left out of the France squad to face Italy in their next Six Nations game after the French Rugby Federation said it had sanctioned those who went on a night out following Saturday’s defeat by Scotland.
“[The coach] Jacques Brunel has decided to exclude from that list the players who went out after the defeat in Scotland,” the FFR said in a statement. “With this inappropriate behaviour, they failed to respect their duty as international players.”

Alexandre Lapandry, Arthur Iturria, Sekou Macalou, Anthony Belleau, Felix Lambey, Jonathan Danty, Remi Lamerat, Louis Picamoles and Teddy Thomas – who scored two tries against Scotland – do not feature in the 32-man squad for the game on 23 February in Marseille. However, the FFR did not name the players sanctioned.
The French Rugby Federation said on Monday that some players had been interviewed by Scottish authorities. Police Scotland said on Monday that “following an initial report of sexual assault in Edinburgh city centre during the early hours of Monday 12 February, police conducted various lines of inquiry, including speaking to a number of potential witnesses. These inquiries have established that no crime has been committed.“
France lost their first two games, 15-13 at home to Ireland, and 32-26 to Scotland at Murrayfield last Saturday.
France squad to face Italy
Mathieu Babillot, Mathieu Bastareaud, Lionel Beauxis, Eddie Ben Arous, Hugo Bonneval, Yacouba Camara, Camille Chat, Henry Chavancy, Baptiste Couilloud, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Benjamin Fall, Gael Fickou, Paul Gabrillagues, Kelian Galletier, Cedate Gomes Sa, Remy Grosso, Guilhem Guirado, Wenceslas Lauret, Bernard Le Roux, Maxime Machenaud, Geoffrey Palis, Adrien Pelissie, Jefferson Poirot, Dany Priso, Baptiste Serin, Rabah Slimani, Romain Taofifenua, Marco Tauleigne, Francois Trinh-Duc, Sebatien Vahaamahina, Virimi Vakatawa.

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Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 review: Hands on with Qualcomm’s latest smartphone processor

We’ve known about the Snapdragon 845, Qualcomm’s upcoming flagship mobile processor, since it was announced in December 2017 – but now we’ve had our first chance to go hands-on with it, and see how well it’s likely to perform ahead of its first handset releases later this year.

READ NEXT: The best smartphones of 2018

Snapdragon 845 review: What you need to know
To recap, the Snapdragon 845 is – like the preceding Snapdragon 835 – an octa-core chip built with a 10nm process, with four “efficiency cores” running at 1.8GHz and four more powerful cores running at 2.8GHz. The lower-power cores have had their speed downtuned slightly from their 835 equivalents, which can hit 1.9GHz. However, in exchange you get a considerable boost to the “performance” cores, which only run at 2.35GHz on the 835.
The 845 also packs an upgraded GPU, the Adreno 630, as well as Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon X20 LTE modem, which can supposedly reach download speeds of 1.2Gbps (up from 1Gbps on the 635’s Snapdragon X16 modem) and adds dual VoLTE support for devices with dual SIMs.
Snapdragon 845 review: Performance and first impressions
These are all very encouraging words and numbers, and we recently visited Qualcomm’s San Diego headquarters to see how they translate into measurable CPU and GPU performance.
Testing on a non-retail reference handset with 6GB of RAM, a 2,560 x 1,440 display and Android 8.0, the Snapdragon 845 got off to a flying start in Geekbench: scoring 2,444 in the single core test and 8,339 in the multi-core test. That immediately shows considerable gains on the Snapdragon 835, which normally scores within the 1,900-2,000 range in the single-core test and within 6,300-6,700 in the multi-core test, depending on the device it’s powering.
It also handily beats the Samsung Exynos 8895, which provides the brainpower for the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8, and scores similarly in Geekbench to the Snapdragon 835.
This new chip, then, has a good chance of being the most powerful Android-minded mobile processor ever, unless Samsung’s next Exynos offering can pip it. Notably, though, the Galaxy S9 has been rumoured to use the 845 in the US market, just like American Galaxy S8 units adopted the 835 instead of the Exynos 8895 us Europeans got.
What the 845 hasn’t managed is to catch up to Apple and its ludicrously fast A11 Bionic chip; the iPhone 8 Plus, let’s remember, scored a nigh-unbelievable 4,254 in Geekbench’s single-core test and 10,517 in the multi-core test. To be fair, Apple has always had the advantage of being able to relentlessly synergise iOS with its own hardware, whereas the Snapdragon family has some difficulty in optimising for open-source Android and its many manufacturer-designed variations.
Things seem to be a lot more even for gaming. In GFXBench Manhattan 3.0, the Snapdragon 845 sailed to 83fps in the offscreen test (which assumes a 1080p resolution for fairer comparisons between phones). That’s practically imperceptible from the iPhone 8 Plus’ 85fps, and another big improvement on the Snapdragon 835 and its Adreno 540 GPU; the older chip struggles to even break 60fps.
Of course, that’s not always a bad thing when most smartphone displays are capped at 60Hz, but with devices like the 120Hz Razer Phone increasing the maximum frames-per-second you can get, this kind of future proofing is reassuring at the very least. It also managed a slick 54fps in the onscreen test, which uses the native (in this case 1,440p) resolution, so it will outpace the Snapdragon 835 and Exynos 8895 on sharper displays too.
Snapdragon 845 review: Early verdict
While it seems the iPhone range will continue to be the first stop for anyone wanting maximum power from their smartphone, it was always essential that the Snapdragon 845 proved itself a worthy successor.
That’s because the latter is an almost comically common component in the premium smartphone arena: almost every Android flagship launched in the past year, save for the European release of the Samsung Galaxy family, has a Snapdragon 835 in it. The Google Pixel 2, the OnePlus 5T, the HTC U11, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, the Nokia 8… the list goes on, and there’s no reason to believe that their inevitable 2018 replacements will upgrade to the Snapdragon 845 as well.
This might mean, to the occasional chagrin of reviewers, that there once again won’t be much of a performance difference between this year’s major releases. Still, if that’s going to be the case, at least they’ll all be blisteringly fast.
It will probably fall to things like battery life to see how manufacturers harness the latest chipset, but the 845 might have one more trick. Following our benchmarking session, we saw two outwardly-identical phablets running GFXBench Manhattan on a loop – one, containing an 845, was averaging a power draw of 2,969mW. The other, running on the 835, was averaging a not-so power efficient 3,834mW.
Can the Snapdragon 845 deliver the dream of a big performance boost with higher efficiency and, thus, longer battery life? That, for now, will have to wait until 2018’s flagship smartphones begin to appear on store shelves.

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Olympics cheat sheat: Team USA loves the halfpipe and pizza

Here’s what you missed last night in Pyeongchang and what you should watch out for on Tuesday.
Good morning, Chloe Kim! Good morning, fans of Chloe Kim!
Good morning …. well … actually those two groups above should just about cover everyone. Right?
Got your morning coffee? Same. Did you see that wild finish in the women’s short track 500m final this morning? No? Welp, that was some .
Before we get caught up on what you missed last night and what you can watch for today, let’s all take a second — or about 30 of them, actually — to watch the halfpipe run that sealed a gold medal for the 17-year-old snowboarding sensation last night:

Chloe Kim has thrown down the HAMMER with her first run. https://t.co/D65Nuoyydu
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics)

The U.S. picked up two medals in women’s halfpipe to keep within sight of the leaders in the overall medal standings.

Chloe Kim became the youngest halfpipe medalist in Olympics history by racking up the two highest scores in the final. Sure, let’s watch her victory lap run that was somehow even more incredible than the one you just watched:

GOLD for Chloe Kim! The 17-year-old has done it for Team USA in the women’s snowboard halfpipe! https://t.co/D65Nuoyydu
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics)

Kim was joined by U.S. teammate Arielle Gold on the medal stand. Gold edged 34-year-old U.S. veteran Kelly Clark for bronze on her final run.

This brings the U.S. all-time Winter Olympics gold medal count to 99:

. now has 99 medals in their history.
(cc )
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics)

Shaun White, you got this?

In the men’s snowboard halfpipe qualifying, White dropped in and lit up the judges’ scorecards with the top score (98.50) to advance to the final. After disappointment in Sochi, White seems poised to add to his career medal haul in Pyeongchang:

— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics)

Who is leading the overall medal count?
Norway is still leading the way (as of RIGHT NOW), but the Netherlands, Canada, and Germany are hot on its heels. The Dutch speedskaters continue to do their thing. Their thing is winning medals. Team USA is hanging just behind that top group, for now:

What can I watch RIGHT NOW? just ended?

The U.S. women’s hockey team just put up a five-spot on the the Olympic Athletes from Russia.

defeats the Olympic Athletes from Russia, 5-0, to secure a spot in the semifinals!
Full recap to follow ➡️ https://t.co/cBXzNnssNL
— USA Hockey (@usahockey)

Who are our new favorites?

We already talked about Chris Mazdzer winning a historic luge medal for the United States. But have you seen the way he eats pizza?

This ice savage won an Olympic last night! I’m not going to say it was because of his pizza eating skills but….. ‍♀️
— Lauren Gibbs (@lagibbs84)

Chris, meet Chloe. Chloe, meet Chris.

A post shared by Sports Blog Nation (@sbnation) on Feb 12, 2018 at 8:11pm PST

U.S. speed skater Maame Biney was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the short track 500-meter quarterfinals this morning. Bummer. It was a surprise early exit for the 18-year-old.

“I got bumped, and I don’t usually get bumped in the start,” Biney said after the race, via Yahoo. “It was a big shock to me. I need to figure out how to get my rhythm back.”
Keep your chin up, Maame. We’ll be watching when you race again in the 1,500 meters on Saturday.

Start your morning with some sunshine!
Watch in the women’s short track 500m quarterfinals at 5am ET → https://t.co/zNVk0IYi9q
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics)

Also, yes, Adam Rippon is still slaying:

To all those who tweet at me saying that they “hope I fail”, I have failed many times many times in my life. But more importantly, I’ve learned from every setback, proudly own up to my mistakes, grown from disappointments, and now I’m a glamazon bitch ready for the runway.
— Adam Rippon (@Adaripp)

What are we going to watch next?

White is competing in the men’s snowboarding halfpipe final at 8 p.m. ET.
Mikaela Shiffrin is set for the women’s alpine skiing slalom first run at 8 p.m. ET.

Figure skating, back. Tonight it’s the pairs short program at 8 p.m. ET.

Check out the complete schedule HERE

Anything else to keep an eye on?

U.S. skier Ted Ligety, in his fourth Olympics, missed the podium in men’s alpine combined. But the 33-year-old should be back for at least two more events (Giant slalom and Super G).
We had our first doping case of the 2018 games. Japanese short-track speedskater Kei Saito tested positive for a banned diuretic, according to the Associated Press.
Don’t worry, the Statue of Liberty goalie mask isn’t going anywhere.

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LG V30 2018 Coming To MWC!

Paul Briden

13/02/2018 – 12:48pm

A new LG V30 is coming to MWC 2018 in a matter of weeks

LG’s flagship from last year, the LG G6, was a bit of a flop, in part owing to the fact it ran a processor from 2016 because in the first half of 2017 (when the LG G6 launched), Samsung had hogged all the Qualcomm Exynos 835 processors for its Galaxy S8. That meant that LG ended up launching another phone later in the year, which was a much better flagship-standard handset despite not being the firm’s main flagship brand; the LG V30 basically superseded the LG G6 in nearly every way and proved a lot more popular with reviewers and consumers alike.
And now in 2018, LG may be already prepping a new model for launch as early as MWC 2018, which is taking place towards the end of February. According to a report from Slashgear, LG is going to be in attendance at MWC 2018 in Barcelona, Spain, and it’ll unveil a new and revamped LG V30. By the sounds of things, although it will incorporate new features, this won’t be a true sequel, hence why its not being dubbed the LG V40, instead it’s more like the OnePlus 5T to the OnePlus 5, or something like that.
A big emphasis will allegedly be new software focusing on AI and voice commands; a feature called Voice AI will reportedly let users give unique commands to Google Assistant not found on any other smartphone. Many of the commands are related to launching the camera in a specific mode. Here’s a quick shortlist below:

Panoramic Photo
Food Photo
Time-lapse Photo (Video)
Slow-motion Video
Low-light Photo
AI Cam Photo
Image Search
Code Scanning
Shopping Search

So amongst other things, Vision AI will use image recognition for search and shopping functions, but on top of that it’s said it will have image recognition for over 100 million images which it will use to inform you on the best setting for the camera, based on what you’re looking at. It’ll reference eight different camera settings based around things it sees in the image, for example, the reflections, the angle, and the lighting.
With all of this said, the changes do appear to be entirely software based, meaning there may not be many changes to the new LG V30 (although we doubt there will be no changes at all), however, it does mean that LG reportedly intends to introduce the software package to its existing phones that can use it, which could well mean the current LG V30 gets a Vision AI update in the future.

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Google Pixel review (and XL): Still worth it in 2018?

The Google Pixel handsets were the bees’ knees when they were released in 2016, but just over a year later are they worth buying? Pricey at the time, they’ve certainly come down considerably – although stock is understandably thinning out. In fact, cheap contracts have all but died out, with those remaining charging a hard-to-justify premium. Still, a pre-owned handset from eBay or the like will do you right – and because they’re made by Google, they’ll  get early access to the latest version of Android before other manufacturers are out of the blocks until the day Google decides they’re too long in the tooth.
What about alternatives? Well, there’s the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL – although the latter has some very annoying screen problems for the price Google has chosen to pitch it at. The former, however, is a very good handset that has seen sporadic discounts, going sub-£500 at some retailers recently. If no such offers are available at the time you read this, then the OnePlus 5T is a good alternative, coming in at £450 – £150 lower than the original Pixel first cost.
You can read Jon’s review of the original Google Pixels below.
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Google Pixel and Pixel XL review: In full 

The Google Pixel represents an important moment in the smartphone industry. Why? Because the new Google Pixel phone and its supersized cousin, the Google Pixel XL, represent a paradigm shift. The Pixel phone is Google, finally, going out on a limb and stamping its own mark on a smartphone, and it’s going directly after the big boys. The clue is in the pricing, which let’s face it, is going to be a huge disappointment to fans (and I count myself among them) of the now-defunct Nexus brand.
The Nexus name always stood for reasonable prices, great specifications and a chance to keep up with the freshest, most up-to-date version of Android. The Pixel brand retains only two of those key strengths, ditching low prices in favour of iPhone-matching, wallet-shrinking starting prices of £599 for the Pixel and £719 for the Pixel XL.
So do the new Google phones deliver, and are they a match for the iPhone 7 or the Samsung Galaxy S7? Are they as good as the prices suggest they should be or has Google slipped up? The answer is, as it so frequently is to such rhetorical questions, a bit of both.
Google Pixel and Pixel XL: Key specs

Google Pixel
Google Pixel XL

5in, 1,080 x 1,920
5.5in, 1,440 x 2,560

2.1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
2.1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821


Size (WDH)
70 x 8.6 x 144 mm
76 x 8.6 x 155mm


Android 7.1 Nougat
Android 7.1 Nougat

Rear camera

Front camera

Battery capacity

UK price
£599 inc VAT, 32GB; £699, 128GB
£719 inc VAT, 32GB; £819, 128GB

READ NEXT: The best smartphones of 2016 – our favourite handsets
Google Pixel and Pixel XL review: Design
First up, the Pixel phones both look great. From a design perspective, I prefer them to Apple iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. I was sent the larger of the two to review and was immediately struck by how much impact a little cut in weight and height makes. The Google Pixel XL simply feels more comfortable to hold and slip into the pocket than the iPhone 7 Plus, the standard Pixel even more so, and I’m a fan of the way it looks too.
Essentially, it’s a progression of the design seen on last year’s Nexus 6P, just a little more polished. It could even be described as a touch outlandish, with its inset glass camera surround spanning the top third of the rear panel, encompassing the camera and circular, centre-mounted fingerprint reader. I like it; you may not, but at least you couldn’t call the design bland.
What I’m not so keen on, and more than a little disappointed by, is the relative ease with which that glass rear seemed to scratch and scuff. Not three days after first easing the Pixel XL from its box, and being very careful about how and where I put it down in the interim, I found several short, light scratches marring the surface. I dread to think what it will look like in a year or so’s time after I’ve grown tired of being ultra-careful with it.
Something else I don’t like is the phone’s lack of dust and water resistance. Although it has become apparent since the launch of the two phones that there is a modicum of protection, the two phones are only rated at IP53. That second number is the one that refers to water resistance, and a figure of three, according to Wikipedia, denotes protection from “water falling as a spray at any angle up to 60° from the vertical shall have no harmful effect, utilizing either: a) an oscillating fixture, or b) A spray nozzle with a counterbalanced shield”. So, it’ll probably be okay if you’re caught in a rain shower, but it may not survive you dropping it in the bath.
The iPhones and Samsung phones are IP67 and IP68 rated, affording protection against complete immersion at a depth of at least a metre, and for up to 30 minutes, so they’re far more robust when it comes to the wet stuff.
So, there’s some good news and some bad news. Everything else about the Pixel is firmly middle of the road, right down to the good old-fashioned 3.5mm headphone jack on the top edge and the white/silver and black/charcoal colours it’s available in. It’s good to see at least one manufacturer rejecting the idea of offering a lurid rose-gold finish.

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Panasonic Lumix GX9 Review – Preview Images

Mac users, Macphun’s all-in-one photo editor Luminar 2018 is out now and available for just $69£64 for new users, with big discounts for upgrading users. We rated Luminar as “Highly Recommended“. Visit the Luminar web site to try it for free.
Use coupon code “PHOTOBLOG” to save another $10£9 on Luminar.

Download Luminar & Try Free »

Windows users, Macphun’s all-in-one photo editor Luminar 2018 is out now and available for just $69£64 for new users, with big discounts for upgrading users. We rated Luminar as “Highly Recommended“. Visit the Luminar web site to try it for free.
Use coupon code “PHOTOBLOG” to save another $10£9 on Luminar.

Download Luminar & Try Free »

Ahead of our full review, here are some sample JPEG and Raw images and 4Kmovies taken with the Panasonic Lumix GX9 compact system camera.

The Panasonic Lumix GX9 is a new compact mirrorless camera that features a 20 megapixel sensor, 5-axis image stabilization and 4K video recording.
A gallery of full-size sample images taken with the Panasonic Lumix GX9 compact system camera.
The Panasonic Lumix GX9 enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We’ve provided some Panasonic RAW (RW2) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).
This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 3840×2160 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 12 second movie is 137Mb in size.
This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 3840×2160 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 12 second movie is 141Mb in size.
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Street Fighter 5 Blanka Release Detailed

Street Fighter 5 is preparing for the release of its second DLC character since its Arcade Edition relaunch. Blanka, the green fighter that debuted in Street Fighter 2, is returning to the franchise. Today Capcom released a bevy of new details regarding Blanka, including a new trailer and when the character will be available for download. Street Fighter 5 players can pick up Blanka starting February 20.

Blanka may not be one of the Street Fighter franchise’s most popular characters, but he has certainly grown to be one of the most well-known. Street Fighter producer Yoshinori Ono carries a toy Blanka with him during every promotional event he attends, taking photos with crowds, and even using the toy to tease future announcements. Blanka’s return to the roster will be celebrated, and Capcom is ensuring the character is authentic to his Street Fighter 2 origins.
The vast majority of classic Blanka moves from Street Fighter 2 and Street Fighter 4 will return with the character’s release in Street Fighter 5.  That includes his patented Electric Thunder move and various spin attacks. Blanka’s V-Skill is the Coward Crouch, allowing him to duck below attacks like fireballs. And his Critical Art, naturally, combines electricity and rolls to deliver awesome damage.

Three new Blanka skins will make their debut with the release of the new character, each of which is teased in the trailer. The Story  Costume features Blanka wearing a mascot costume of… Blanka. The Battle Costume features the fighter wearing Amazonian armor, and comes in 10 different color schemes. And finally the Nostalgia Costume features the classic pea soup and orange fur of Street Fighter 2 Blanka.

Players can pick up Blanka in a variety of ways, the simplest of which is to pay $5.99 up front. Blanka will also be available for 100,000 in-game Fight Money bucks, which is hopefully attainable since it has been some time since that last DLC character release. Then there’s also the Season 3 Character Pass, which also includes the currently available Sakura, as well as forthcoming Falke, Cody, G, and Sagat, for $29.99.
Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition is available now on PC and PS4.

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The content sourced from: https://gamerant.com/street-fighter-5-blanka-release-502/