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Google Photos’ AI-powered Magic Editor feature to ship with Pixel 8 and 8 Pro

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Google is bringing generative AI to its popular Google Photos app with the arrival of the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro smartphones. The feature, first announced at the company’s I/O developer conference in May, allows for more complicated edits — like filling in gaps in a photo, repositioning the subject, and other edits to the foreground or background of a photo.

At I/O, Google demonstrated how Magic Editor could easily combine various editing tasks. For example, it took an image of someone standing in front of a waterfall, removed the additional people from the photo’s background, and then removed a bag strap from the subject’s shoulder for a cleaner shot. It then leveraged AI to “cut out” the photo’s subject and better reposition them in the resulting image.

Image Credits: Google

Previously, Google Photos users would have to use other tools, like Google’s Magic Eraser or professional tools like PhotoShop, to get the same effect. And the process would involve more manual edits.

In another demo, Google had shown off how you could reposition the photo’s subject and have AI “magically” fill in the rest of the photo as you shifted things that were more off-center in the original image. This time, Magic Eraser let you drag a boy sitting on a bench holding balloons closer to the photo’s center, and AI fills in the rest of the bench and the city scene behind him — even filling the sky with white fluffy clouds for a better photo.

Image Credits: Google

Under the hood, Google Photos is leveraging generative AI to make these more complex edits, like resizing or repositioning a subject. To work, users just tap the object to edit, then drag it to move it around or pinch to resize. Its contextual suggestions also let you change the photo’s lighting and background. Plus, Google says Magic Editor will offer multiple output options so you can choose the one you like best.

As demoed, the feature was fairly impressive, but it’s soon it going to be put into consumers’ hands for real-world tests. And it may or may not end up producing the natural-looking polished images we’ve seen so far. Google admits this to some extent, by noting today that Magic Editor is an experience from its Labs program that’s in “early stages” and it knows “there are going to be times when the result isn’t exactly what you imagined.” But it hopes that over time, with technology improvements and user feedback, users will get better results.

The scale of its test could be sizable, however, given that Google Photos users edit 1.7 billion photos every month. Even if only a subset of those are on the newer Pixel devices, there will likely be a lot of data and edits to learn from.

Magic Editor was one of several new AI-powered photo editing features for the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro. Others included Best Take, which takes a series of images and combines them into a blended image that produces the best shot; a generative AI feature Zoom Enhance feature that looked fairly sci-fi; and other improvements to its existing Magic Eraser feature that can now remove larger distractions from photos. Google said Best Take, Magic Editor and Audio Magic Eraser, which removes background noise, will be available on Pixel 8 devices starting October 12.

Read more about Google's 2023 Pixel Event on TechCrunch



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NASA reveals footage of astronauts training in desert for moon mission

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It’s taken more than half a century, but NASA really is going back to the moon.

Some of the space agency’s astronauts have been training in the Northern Arizona desert for the looming Artemis 3 mission, which is currently slated to land in September 2026. Decades of other U.S. space priorities (such as the Space Shuttle and building the International Space Station), along with the astronomical costs of sending astronauts to our natural satellite, have impeded such a return endeavor.

But after the successful launch of NASA’s new megarocket in 2022 — the Space Launch System — the moon mission’s wheels are turning, albeit slowly. That’s because every component of the agency’s new lunar campaign, dubbed Artemis, must be profoundly safe. Lives will be aboard.

NASA has released images of the astronauts’ May 2024 training in the desert, including a recent view of NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Andre Douglas simulating a nighttime space walk (the official Artemis 3 astronaut crew has yet to be announced). Training in the dark or twilight is essential, as the conditions mimic the dark, shadowy regions Artemis astronauts will explore: NASA is going to the moon’s south pole region, a place where the sun barely rises over the lunar hills. It’s a world of profoundly long shadows and dim environs.

Mashable Light Speed

The endeavor you see below is called the Joint Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility Test Team Field Test 5, or JETT5.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Andre Douglas simulating a moonwalk for the looming Artemis 3 mission.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Andre Douglas simulating a moonwalk for the looming Artemis 3 mission.
Credit: NASA / Josh Valcarcel

On left: Astronaut Andre Douglas reviews sample collection procedures. On right: Astronaut Kate Rubins ensures she has the necessary tools.

On left: Astronaut Andre Douglas reviews sample collection procedures. On right: Astronaut Kate Rubins ensures she has the necessary tools.
Credit: NASA / Josh Valcarcel

Astronaut Kate Rubins used a hammer to drive in tube that will collect soil samples from the ground. On the moon, these samples will be sealed and then returned to Earth.

Astronaut Kate Rubins used a hammer to drive in tube that will collect soil samples from the ground. On the moon, these samples will be sealed and then returned to Earth.
Credit: NASA / Josh Valcarcel

The two astronauts pushing a tool cart across the desert surface.

The two astronauts pushing a tool cart across the desert surface.
Credit: NASA / Josh Valcarcel

NASA captured these images in a rugged region called the San Francisco Volcanic Field. The area astronauts are headed to is also quite rugged. It’s a heavily cratered region, teeming with volcanic rocks. Crucially, they’ll be hunting for ice deposits, too.

“The ice deposits could also serve as an important resource for exploration because they are comprised of hydrogen and oxygen that can be used for rocket fuel or life support systems,” NASA explained.

The moon may one day serve as a lunar fuel depot, where after burning copious amounts of fuel during launch, spacecraft stop to fill up for deeper space missions. They may be headed to Mars, resource-rich asteroids, or beyond.





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Webb Telescope Discovers Galaxies Formed Right After Birth Of The Universe With Earliest Elements

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A group of astronomers sifting through the James Webb Space Telescope have found three galaxies from the earliest universe. According to their findings, which have been published in the journal Science, the universe was just 400 to 600 million years old when the said galaxies were born. According to current estimates, the universe is about 13.8 billion years old.

Kasper Heintz, the lead author and an assistant professor of astrophysics at the University of Copenhagen, called these galaxies “sparkling islands in a sea of otherwise neutral, opaque gas.”

ALSO SEE: Webb Telescope Finds Best Evidence Of Potential Atmosphere Around A ‘Super-Earth’

Scientists believe that the universe was very different during the Era of Reionisation – the period of several hundred million years after the big bang. At this point, gas between stars and galaxies was largely opaque and things became transparent only after one billion year later.

About the galaxies discovered using the Webb telescope‘s data, they are believed to be surrounded by almost purely hydrogen and helium which are the earliest elements to form in the universe.

Darach Watson, a co-author of the paper, said that the large gas resorvoirs suggest that “the galaxies have not had enough time to form most of their stars yet.”

Moving forward, the researchers will work to build large statistical samples of these galaxies and measure the prevalence and prominence of their features.

ALSO SEE: Webb Telescope Discovers Oldest Ever Black Hole Merger From Over 13 Billion Years Ago

(Image: NASA)





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Neuralink’s Rival Company Precision Creates World Record By Placing Over 4,000 Electrodes In Human Brain

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Elon Musk-owned Neuralink’s rival Precision Neuroscience has set the world record for placing 4,096 electrodes in the human brain. It is double the number of electrodes placed last year – 2,048.

According to the official statement, the record-setting operation took place in April at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York, as part of an ongoing clinical trial for the brain chip.

Precision’s chip in the brain. Image: Precision Neuroscience

Precision’s implant uses a thin-film microelectrode array containing 1,024 miniature electrodes covering 1.6 square cm of area. Four such arrays were placed on the patient’s brain.

More number of electrodes will ensure higher data transmission to and from the brain, and this will determine the capability of the chip.

ALSO SEE: Neuralink’s Paralysed Patient Desires A Tesla Robot Assistant He Can Control With His Mind

“This record is a significant step towards a new era. The ability to capture cortical information of this magnitude and scale could allow us to understand the brain in a much deeper way,” said Benjamin Rapoport, Precision’s co-founder and Chief Science Officer.

Also a co-founder of Neuralink, Rapoport exited the company and established Precision with two other Neuralink members in 2021.

According to Ars Technica, he told The Wall Street Journal that the reason for his exit from Neuralink were the safety concerns regarding the brain implants which he says are too invasive.

ALSO SEE: Elon Musk’s Neuralink Gets Approval For Second Chip Implant In Human Brain

The company claims that its ‘Layer 7 Cortical Interface’ can conform to the brain’s cortex with minimal invasiveness and without damaging any tissue.

Neuralink is currently at the forefront in the brain-computer interface game. It implanted the chip in the first patient earlier this year and is preparing for the second operation.

As for Precision, it is testing its chip through research collaborations with West Virginia University’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, Perelman School of Medicine (Penn Medicine), and New York’s Mount Sinai Health System.

(Image: Precision Neuroscience)





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