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See the new iPhone’s ‘focus pixels’ up close

The new iPhones have excellent cameras, to be sure. But it’s always good to verify Apple’s breathless on-stage claims with first-hand reports. We have our own review of the phones and their photography systems, but teardowns provide the invaluable service of letting you see the biggest changes with your own eyes — augmented, of course, by a high-powered microscope.

We’ve already seen iFixit’s solid-as-always disassembly of the phone, but TechInsights gets a lot closer to the device’s components — including the improved camera of the iPhone XS and XS Max.

Although the optics of the new camera are as far as we can tell unchanged since the X, the sensor is a new one and is worth looking closely at.

Microphotography of the sensor die show that Apple’s claims are borne out and then some. The sensor size has increased from 32.8mm2 to 40.6mm2 — a huge difference despite the small units. Every tiny bit counts at this scale. (For comparison, the Galaxy S9 is 45mm2, and the soon-to-be-replaced Pixel 2 is 25mm2.)

The pixels themselves also, as advertised, grew from 1.22 microns (micrometers) across to 1.4 microns — which should help with image quality across the board. But there’s an interesting, subtler development that has continually but quietly changed ever since its introduction: the “focus pixels.”

That’s Apple’s brand name for phase detection autofocus (PDAF) points, found in plenty of other devices. The basic idea is that you mask off half a sub-pixel every once in a while (which I guess makes it a sub-sub-pixel), and by observing how light enters these half-covered detectors you can tell whether something is in focus or not.

Of course, you need a bunch of them to sense the image patterns with high fidelity, but you have to strike a balance: losing half a pixel may not sound like much, but if you do it a million times, that’s half a megapixel effectively down the drain. Wondering why that all the PDAF points are green? Many camera sensors use an “RGBG” sub-pixel pattern, meaning there are two green sub-pixels for each red and blue one — it’s complicated why. But there are twice as many green sub-pixels and therefore the green channel is more robust to losing a bit of information.


Apple introduced PDAF in the iPhone 6, but as you can see in TechInsights’ great diagram, the points are pretty scarce. There’s one for maybe every 64 sub-pixels, and not only that, they’re all masked off in the same orientation: either the left or right half gone.

The 6S and 7 Pluses saw the number double to one PDAF point per 32 sub-pixels. And in the 8 Plus, the number is improved to one per 20 — but there’s another addition: now the phase detection masks are on the tops and bottoms of the sub-pixels as well. As you can imagine, doing phase detection in multiple directions is a more sophisticated proposal, but it could also significantly improve the accuracy of the process. Autofocus systems all have their weaknesses, and this may have addressed one Apple regretted in earlier iterations.

Which brings us to the XS (and Max, of course), in which the PDAF points are now one per 16 sub-pixels, having increased the frequency of the vertical phase detection points so that they’re equal in number to the horizontal one. Clearly the experiment paid off and any consequent light loss has been mitigated or accounted for.

I’m curious how the sub-pixel patterns of Samsung, Huawei, and Google phones compare, and I’m looking into it. But I wanted to highlight this interesting little evolution. It’s an interesting example of the kind of changes that are hard to understand when explained in simple number form — we’ve doubled this, or there are a million more of that — but which make sense when you see them in physical form.


With Instagram Cofounders Out, It’s Facebook All the Way Down

Instagram cofounders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger quit the social media company Monday amid reports of clashes with Mark Zuckerberg.
Source: WIRED

Cody Wilson Leaves Defense Distributed, But 3-D Printed Guns Roll On

Even after the DIY gunsmith’s arrest on sexual assault charges, the fight for and against 3-D printed guns still rages.
Source: WIRED

Coinbase’s new asset listing process will geo-restrict some coins

Coinbase is moving away from its predominantly US-centric approach with a new cryptocurrency listing process. As a result, some new digital assets won’t be available to customers based in the US due to stricter regulations. The popular cryptocurrency exchange announced today that it will be assessing coins based on their compliance with local laws. Oh, and if you thought you can use a VPN or some other computer trickery to get around these restrictions, you’ll be unsuccessful. Coinbase makes coins available to users based on where accounts are registered. Coins must satisfy Coinbase’s new seven step process to be listed…

This story continues at The Next Web

What to expect from Facebook’s big Oculus Connect 5 keynote

The Oculus Connect 5 conference kicks off tomorrow in San Jose where FB and company will let their latest virtual reality efforts loose and attempt to prove to the world at last that VR is coming and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

Tomorrow is going to be a big day for hardware, though there might not be all that many surprises, as Oculus has already been pretty vocal about some of its future plans. We’ll see.

Here’s some of the stuff that we’re expecting to go down tomorrow.

Release date, price for Oculus “Santa Cruz” standalone

The still unnamed standalone, 6DoF headset with tracked controllers is more than likely coming early next year; the big question is really going to be its price.

While Oculus has been very aggressive with their $199 starting price for Oculus Go, it will be interesting to see where the pricing moves for whatever “Santa Cruz” ends up being called. The headset is still running a mobile chipset, though it will more than likely be a current-generation Snapdragon 845 as opposed to the much older 821, which is on the Oculus Go. The headset most notably will also sport positional tracking and hand controllers (which we’ll probably see an updated design for) at launch, features that will also surely add to the price.

I’m expecting pricing to sit around $349-$399; anything less would probably cannibalize Oculus Go sales and anything more would be a tough sell to consumers that have already proven a little reluctant to buy into VR right now.

A look at the next-gen Oculus Rift

We got a peek at the Oculus “Half Dome” prototype at F8; my guess is we’ll see a lot more about it tomorrow and perhaps get some press demos of a feature prototype.

The company’s Rift headset is more than a couple of years old at this point so it’s probably time to start thinking about the next generation of the PC-powered headset. There have been a lot of leaps in GPU power since the Rift was announced and now that Oculus has a few products rounding out the low-end, they may be freed up a bit more to have a PC professional tier that can get a bit more experimental.

The big deal with “Half Dome” is its new approach to the way the lenses focus on objects. With the old system, their fixed focal distance ensured you couldn’t really read anything within arm’s length; with the new system that uses motorized displays and eye-tracking, the headset will be able to act more like your eyes do, focusing on objects as you look at them dynamically. This is coupled with a new lens system that significantly widens the field-of-view. It’s all really powerful stuff, but presents a lot of engineering challenges, so it’ll be interesting to hear more details from Oculus onstage.

Blurrier Oculus/Facebook division

Just as Instagram and WhatsApp have been sucked into the Facebook corporate hierarchy, we’ll likely see the results of deeper Oculus integration into Facebook’s VR division represented at the keynote.

After the big reorganization at the end of 2016, the Oculus exec structure has seen the co-founders downgraded while power has swelled to executives in Zuckerberg’s inner circle. Hugo Barra’s job title is still Facebook VP of VR, while Andrew Bosworth is the VP of AR/VR; we’ll likely hear quite a bit from them. In the conference’s earlier years, we saw an Oculus co-founder take to the stage for the big announcement, then last year Mark Zuckerberg opened things up and walked everyone through the big announcements.

This year, Oculus Research was renamed Facebook Reality Lab. It’ll be interesting to see where else Facebook makes inroads into the Oculus structure.

Facebook Spaces has gotten some air time for the past few years; it’s likely the team will be back onstage sharing their latest feature updates. We’ll see whether the social app gains “Santa Cruz” support and whether it will grow to become a stock app or continue to live in its more experimental phase.

New AAA content

One thing we can certainly expect to hear a lot about tomorrow is new gaming titles available on the company’s existing platforms.

Oculus made a big deal last year about how it’s looking to court AAA game publishers to develop for Rift; the Oculus Studios divisions will probably clue us into its next wave of titles with more of an emphasis on a few polished big-ticket releases rather than a wave of indie projects.

A couple of years back Oculus detailed that they had spent $250 million on content and were spending $250 million more, but we haven’t heard many updates on the dollar amounts pledged to games or experiences. Maybe we’ll hear a few more details about how substantial the company’s investments have grown or where the company is looking to direct its investments next.

Oculus mixed reality

This one might be a stretch, but this could be the year we get to see some of the company’s experimentations with augmented reality that they’ve been lightly teasing over the past few years.

We know the team at the Facebook Reality Lab is working on AR headset technologies, but it’s also clear that it’s still a very early, expensive time for the technology. Nevertheless, Microsoft is likely going to be showing off an updated HoloLens focused squarely on enterprise soonish and Magic Leap has already showcased their first big move into the consumer space.

Oculus showing its hand this early would be a bit surprising, but if Apple is as close to releasing a headset as reports have suggested, perhaps they want to clue people into what they’re working on.



There’s going to be a lot happening over the next couple of days, especially at the keynote tomorrow morning at 10am PT. TechCrunch will be on the ground bringing you the best analysis and the quickest updates you can find on the world wide web.

more Oculus Connect 5 coverage


Twitter’s new policy aims to eradicate ‘dehumanizing speech’

Twitter today announced it’d be altering its hateful conduct policies to prohibit “dehumanizing speech.” By doing so, it intends to patch a hole in its rules against hate speech to account for tweets that don’t specifically target anyone, but which are nonetheless demeaning. It’s also asking for users to give feedback on whether the new rules are clear. Del Harvey, Twitter‘s VP of Trust and Safety, and Vijaya Gadde, Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety Lead, authored the new rules. According to them, this new policy has been in development for months, in an attempt to address tweets that users find abusive but…

This story continues at The Next Web

Or just read more coverage about: Twitter

Former Telltale Games employee sues company after mass layoffs – CNET

The plaintiff alleges the video game studio violated labor laws.
Source: CNET

Uber wins legal victory against drivers who want employee benefits – CNET

Drivers have to settle with the ride-hailing giant individually.
Source: CNET

How Twitter’s New Safety Policies Are Created

Del Harvey has spent a decade fighting abuse and harassment on Twitter. She spoke with WIRED about Trump, trolls, and the company’s new focus on safety.
Source: WIRED

Protesters call on Salesforce to end contract with border patrol agency

A dozen or so people accompanied by a 14-foot, 800-pound cage gathered in downtown San Francisco Tuesday morning to protest Salesforce’s contract with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), the agency within the Department of Homeland Security responsible for enforcing the Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy.

Today is the first day of Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual user conference that attracts some 200,000 people. The protesters claim Salesforce, which signed an agreement with CPB in March, is complicit in the actions of CBP and should be held accountable.

“Salesforce has a moral and ethical obligation to end this contract,” one protestor shouted.

The sign plastered to the front of the cage — a mock-up of those reportedly used in CBP facilities to hold separated children of migrant families — read “Detention center powered by Salesforce.”

“It’s hard to miss an 800-pound cage rolling down the street,” Jelani Drew, lead organizer of the demonstration and campaigner for the non-profit advocacy group Fight for the Future, told TechCrunch. “They had to look and that was the goal.”

1,800 families were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border from October 2016 through February of this year, per Reuters. And another 2,342 children were separated from 2,206 parents between May 5 and June 9, according to Vox.

In late June, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to end family separation, though the zero-tolerance policy, which mandates that any persons entering the U.S. illegally be prosecuted, remains.

Salesforce chief executive officer Marc Benioff, who has a reputation for advocating for liberal causes and politics, has said the deal with CBP does not involve CBP’s U.S.-Mexico border policies. CBP, rather, uses some of Salesforce cloud tools, specifically Salesforce Analytics, Community Cloud and Service Cloud, to bolster its recruiting process and to “manage border activities.”

When asked for comment, Salesforce told TechCrunch the cloud-computing company respects the right to protest and pointed us in the direction of Benioff’s tweets, which reaffirm the business doesn’t have an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and that the CBP contract is unrelated to family separation.

That tweet, posted in July, was a response to a petition signed by 650 Salesforce employees, who took issue with the CBP contract, specifically CBP’s use of Salesforce Service Cloud to manage activities at the border.

“We cannot cede responsibility for the use of the technology we create–particularly when we have reason to believe that it is being used to aid practices so irreconcilable to our values,” the employees wrote. “Those values often feel abstract, and it is easier to uphold them when they are not being tested. They are being tested now.

In addition to his tweet, Benioff wrote in a memo to employees at the time that he is “opposed to separating children from their families at the border.”

“It is immoral. I have personally financially supported legal groups helping families at the border. I also wrote to the White House to encourage them to end this horrible situation.”

Salesforce co-CEO Keith Block said the company would donate $1 million to organizations helping families separated at the U.S. border and that Salesforce would match employee donations. In his tweet, he did not specify which organizations the company would support.

Today, Block similarly took to Twitter to announce that the non-profit arm of Salesforce would donate $18 million to “Bay Area causes.” The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the San Francisco and Oakland Unified School Districts will receive $15.5 million, Hamilton Families, Larkin Street Youth Services and the San Francisco Food Bank will receive $2 million, and the San Francisco Park Alliance will receive $500,000.

Today’s protest was organized by Fight for the Future, Color of Change, Demand Progress, Defending Rights and Dissent, Mijente,, RAICES and Sum of Us. RAICES, The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, recently rejected a $250,000 donation from Salesforce because of its contract with CBP.

Benioff contacted RAICES executive director Jonathan Ryan over the summer to discuss the opposition to Salesforce contract with CBP, according to a new report from The Guardian. The pair were scheduled to speak until Benioff canceled last minute. “I am sorry I’m scuba diving right now,” Benioff reportedly wrote to Ryan.

We’ve reached out to RAICES for comment.

Benioff and Salesforce are among several large tech companies that have struck controversial deals with government agencies. Employees at both Amazon and Microsoft have protested their companies’ contracts with ICEGoogle reportedly decided not to renew a Pentagon contract after employees resigned in protest of the search giant’s involvement with controversial AI research project Project Maven.

Jacinta Gonzalez, senior campaign organizer with Mijente, a national hub for Latinx organizers, told TechCrunch the she and the other protesters are hopeful tech companies will drop their contracts with both CBP and ICE.

“We’ve been incredibly concerned with corporations, particularly the tech corporations, that are facilitating ICE and border patrol’s destruction of immigrant communities,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a matter of continuing to pressure these investors and executives a these tech companies that are making billions at the expense of immigrants. They are profiting off the suffering of immigrants.”