Give any 17-year-old the chance to pick a dream destination or event and chances are you’ll get a range of thrilling options from Costa Rica to ComicCon to Coachella. But for two Singaporean teenagers out to change the world, the answer is Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC).
Both a lofty and unconventional goal, getting into WWDC is much more difficult than scoring tickets to a Kanye concert. Each year, only around 5,000 tickets are made available to members of Apple’s Developer Program, and because of high demand, a lottery system determines which of these members are eligible to purchase the US$ 1,600 conference ticket.
But for Bozheng Zhang and Dalton Ng, the road to WWDC 2018 is even tougher. Both recent secondary school graduates are part of a select group of students from around the globe to receive this year’s WWDC Scholarship. Earning them a free trip to San Jose to take part in the week-long event and an opportunity to learn from and network with developers from around the world.
Bozheng taught himself how to code at age 11. He is currently in his last year at Victoria Junior College, and hopes to pursue further studies in computing at Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, or MIT.
The project that earned him his WWDC scholarship was inspired by a failed chemistry test; the educational tool is a virtual lab of sorts that helps students avoid a similar fate by allowing them to mix a set of chemicals and visually see how they react to one another.
His advice to other young developers is to get to know your target audience, “to create something suited to their needs.” Some of his early projects are available for download from the App Store, including a nifty app that can measure the height of any object using your iPhone’s built-in camera. Bozheng wants to continue building apps that will benefit the community at large.
In his free time, he works part-time developing apps for commercial enterprise, but one day hopes to start his own business, saying “the beauty of tech is that it lowers the barrier to entry, and enables small business to start up.”
Dalton also started programming at the age of 11 and is currently working on building his own company that will allow him to “make apps and teach others to make apps too.” His WWDC application, a tribute to the late scientist Stephen Hawking, is an AI-based entity named Karl that can determine how a person is feeling based on that person’s messages and responds accordingly, cheering you up if you need it.
In between his busy schedule as a cyber security freshman at Singapore Poly, he is working on his next big project called SpaceRace, a fake-news combatting artificial intelligence-powered news app, that scours the Internet for stories and authors articles without any input from humans. SpaceRace will be the centerpiece of his startup Agrate. Dalton too dreams of changing the the world, he wants to encourage others to start developing apps by as early as 11, and that by focusing efforts on solving smaller everyday problems, we end up stumbling upon life-changing solutions.
That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a teenager, barely old enough to drive, but with the lightning-fast pace at which technology drives innovation, there appear to be no limits to what the next generation can achieve. As Dalton so aptly puts it, “I grew up watching Star Trek, now I feel like I’m the generation that makes it reality.”
Netflix knows what you want and lets you watch without buffering
The best binge-watching experience!
Are you one of the millions of Netflix subscribers like I am? If you are (or even not), I have something interesting to share about how Netflix makes their streaming service the best in the business.
For those who don’t know, Netflix is not what they were before. The company started off as a DVD-rental business — just like your favorite local rental stores back when they were popular. It was in 2007 when they launched their streaming service formerly branded as Watch Now. It was restricted to just PCs and you needed the right browser to be able to play their videos.
It was also in 2007 when the first iPhone from Apple was announced, so two pioneers were born that year and they have yet to properly meet each other.
Netflix formally launched their mobile app in 2010 and it changed how we consume content on our phones. Today, more than 60 percent of Netflix members use the mobile app every month. This is why the company is continuously working to make long-form videos more enjoyable on mobile.
When I say enjoyable, it’s not just about showing in HDR, because there’s more to it than just high resolutions.
First, there is personalization. Netflix considers this very important because of the limited screen space on mobile phones, so you have to see the titles you really like first. This feature is not just on mobile; it’s also available on any internet-enabled device you have Netflix on, whether it’s a TV, laptop, tablet, or even game console.
If you can recall, Netflix added mobile previews to their app earlier this year. This lets users get a sneak peek of the content without leaving the homepage and make choosing a show much faster. It works well on mobile since it’s presented in vertical format — no need to turn the orientation of the phone.
Then we have the new feature called Smart Downloads which is currently available on Android phones and tablets. What this does is it identifies the show being watched and automatically downloads the next episode over a Wi-Fi network. It then automatically deletes the downloaded episode after it’s completed. Basically, Netflix makes sure that you can continue watching the next episode while you’re on the road without using up your data plan.
Speaking of saving data, Netflix is also working round-the-clock to make encoding much better. Thankfully, they know how mobile data can be expensive or slow in certain places.
Back then, Netflix streamed their shows in a “one-size-fits-all” bitrate which is great for high-quality streaming but it consumed too much data. Good thing they learned that not all content requires the same encoding bitrate, so they based it on individual titles. 2D animation shows can be compressed at a low bitrate but still be streamed in high quality, while action-packed titles will be meticulously compressed to avoid any compression artifacts.
Netflix didn’t stop there. Their latest innovation called Dynamic Optimizer Encoding now selects the best encoding recipe per shot. Each shot is dynamically encoded to ensure best overall quality which results in, according to Netflix, 64 percent less bandwidth consumption.
Before all this, users could only watch seven hours of content on mobile using 4GB of data. Since the implementation in 2015, viewers can now enjoy 10 hours, and with the per-shot encoding, members can binge-watch for 26 hours with the same amount of data. Soon, this will reach up to 33 hours using the latest AV1 codec which is something Netflix is currently working on.
Pixel’s Night Sight now available — here are samples
It delivers when it matters
Night Sight, which is an additional mode that improves low-light performance in the Pixel camera app, is now available for download from the Google Play Store for all three generations of Pixel.
It was teased during the launch of the Pixel 3, and I even got a chance to test it early thanks to third-party developers, but it’s only now we’re seeing the final product.
Not much has changed since my first experiment, but I do feel that the UI around it has been refined. It’s a free update, so why complain? In fact, it’s an awesome addition to an already-great camera app.
What’s cool is that it works wonders for the worst lighting conditions, and even applies to the front camera if you really must take a selfie in the dark. Just keep your handheld shot a little steadier — no need for a tripod here.
I was fortunate enough to take the final Night Sight build with me on a trip this week, and I must say it’s impressive when needed most.
Here are some samples with and without Night Sight:
And there we have it. Night Sight isn’t always required, but makes a world of difference when it counts. It can pretty much see in darkness.
For lots of instances, though, Auto mode was sufficient. But that isn’t to say Night Sight isn’t revolutionary; it simply means the Pixel camera’s HDR rendering is still in a class of its own and doesn’t always need assistance.
The rollout of the update may take a few days to complete. Be patient, as it’s definitely worth the wait.
Her Holiday Gift Guide: Presents for the different types of women in your life
Tis the season!
May it be a sister, a mother, a friend, or a lover, this holiday season is the perfect time to appreciate the women in your life. But, different women have different needs so I’ve rounded up a number of great gift ideas and the type of ladies they’d be perfect for.
For the skincare lover
Something to pamper her with! The Foreo UFO offers a home facial mask treatment like no other. Great skin has never been this attainable! This tiny thing is capable of LED light therapy, thermotherapy, and cryotherapy. There are also a number of great face sheets to choose from.
For the fitness buff
For those who aspire for a healthier life, the Fitbit Versa is the perfect gift. Doing what Fitbit does best, the Versa tracks all your health data plus it has smartwatch capabilities! It comes in rose gold and looks pretty with all the great-looking strap options.
For the stylish
Cutting-edge tech for hair styling comes in the form of Dyson’s Airwrap. It’s every girl’s mane dream (pun intended). This iron uses hot air and the British brand’s vacuum technology to make sure hair is curled and not damaged in the process. Oh, and it doesn’t only curl; there are different hair attachments for multiple hair types so you can achieve many looks.
For the sentimental
To help her capture priceless and fleeting moments, get her a Polaroid OneStep+. This pretty camera looks reminiscent of the original Polaroid OneStep; yes, it’s very pretty! Aside from taking great Polaroid photos, this instant camera can now connect to an app. Talk about added fun!
For the traveler
Make her feel safe and look good. Travelon anti-theft bags are perfect to bring on trips. Equipped with RFID-blocking tech, slash-proof material, and locking zippers, these are bags that will leave you with peace of mind without compromising your outfit.
For the homemaker
Make cleaning a breeze with Xiaomi’s Mi robot vacuum. This smart device will clean every inch of your home with a tap on your smartphone. With the Mi Home app, you’ll be able to check which areas the robot has vacuumed and you can even schedule cleaning sessions remotely. And no, this thing won’t fall down the stairs or run over your pets.
For the audiophile
iPods are not a thing anymore but this awesome music player is! The Mighty Music Player is a music streaming device — yes, that means you can listen to your Spotify sounds even without your phone. It comes in yummy colors, too.
For the woman on the go
These colorful Bluetooth earphones are not only wireless, but they’re also smart. Honor’s new Flypods look cool with the teal color option, plus it can answer calls, has wireless charging, and responds to touch control.
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