Weekly Rewind: Galaxy Note 8 vs. iPhone 8, paper lightsabers, Nissan Leaf review

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A lot can happen in a week when it comes to tech. The constant onslaught of news makes it nigh impossible for mere mortals with real lives to keep track of everything. That’s why we’ve compiled a quick and dirty list of this week’s top tech stories, from a battle between the Galaxy Note 8 and the iPhone 8 to a smart home makeover — it’s all here.

Facebook Messenger is now used by 1.3 billion people worldwide

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Facebook Messenger has grown a lot since it was originally introduced as Facebook Chat way back in 2008. Since it launched, it has grown from a very simple web-based messaging system to one that supports video and group chats on both Android and iOS. With the introduction of several new features in 2017, Facebook Messenger saw its biggest year yet, with more than 1.3 billion users globally.

Read: Facebook Messenger is now used by 1.3 billion people worldwide

The Galaxy Note 8 and iPhone 8 Plus battle it out for photo supremacy in Japan

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Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Many of us will only ever use a smartphone, not a DSLR, to take pictures on vacation. That means smartphone cameras need to offer high-quality images, be easy to use, fast to react, and ideally, feature-packed. In the second half of 2017, Samsung released the Galaxy Note 8, and Apple brought us the iPhone 8 Plus. Two phones from two giant rival companies, both with highly capable dual-lens cameras.

We carried them both on our recent trip to Japan, and took hundreds of pictures with each phone, ready to put them both under the microscope to see which one captured the best pictures. Through rain and shine, neither phone missed a beat, and they both performed superbly. But one did manage to stand out against the other.

Read: The Galaxy Note 8 and iPhone 8 Plus battle it out for photo supremacy in Japan

A.I. algorithms study brain waves to predict seizures

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Chris Hope

Researchers at the University of Melbourne and IBM Research Australia have taken a big step in developing the ability to predict seizures triggered by epilepsy. Using deep learning, a brain-inspired machine learning technique, the system automatically analyzes the electrical activity of a patient’s brain, improving seizure prediction by 69 percent, and giving patients time to recognize the onset of an episode.

Artificial intelligence algorithms are increasingly being used in healthcare, from crunching chemical combinations to discovering new drugs, to offering advice on dieting. But in most of these cases, the algorithms are best used in combination with medical professionals, giving human decision-makers insight to make better decisions.

Read: A.I. algorithms study brain waves to predict seizures

Want a lightsaber? Just roll up a piece of paper and InstaSaber will do the rest

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Who didn’t, as a kid, wave around a folded sheet of paper and pretend they were brandishing their very own lightsaber? Well, to quote a famous Apple slogan, “there’s an app for that” — or, at least, there will be very soon. Created by developer Hart Woolery, the InstaSaber is an augmented reality app, set to arrive in the iOS app store soon, which lets you fire up your very own George Lucas-style laser sword from the comfort of your smartphone.

“It’s an iPhone app that turns a rolled up piece of paper into a virtual lightsaber,” Woolery told Digital Trends. “I think the best thing about it is that it brings a special effect that has typically been reserved for advanced video editors to a mass audience.”

Read: Want a lightsaber? Just roll up a piece of paper and InstaSaber will do the rest

2018 Nissan Leaf first drive review

2018 Nissan Leaf review
Stephen Edelstein/Digital Trends

The second-generation 2018 Nissan Leaf picks up where its predecessor left off, but the Leaf faces stiffer competition. The Chevrolet Bolt EV and Tesla Model 3 have proven that long-range electric cars can be affordable, and other automakers have their own mass-market electric cars waiting in the wings. So can the pioneering Leaf stay relevant?

Read: 2018 Nissan Leaf first drive review

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The best 10 movie that should be made into TV shows

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We’ve put our producer’s hat on and picked 10 movies that we’d love to see studios make into TV shows.

Since it’s possible to reimagine almost any movie as a TV series, we whittled down the options by picking films that have gripping or unresolved story points, an intriguing cinematic world, and compelling characters that touch upon topics we don’t see enough of on TV. The fact that almost any movie you can think of has at least been considered as a TV show also helped us dig deep to find unexplored projects. Enjoy!

Read: The 10 best movies that should be made into TV shows

We took a dumb home and made it smart. Here’s where we started

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20 years ago, new home builders saw an opportunity to add value to a property by installing in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, routing miles of speaker wires, and installing volume dials in every room. Before the days of Sonos and LCD TVs, it was a novelty to be able to listen to music everywhere, and getting a big screen meant a dedicated room with a projector. Today, if you’re buying a home under 30 years old, there’s a good chance the house will come with just such a system or room. It may seem pretty cool at first, but it won’t take long before you realize it’s disappointingly outdated — certainly nothing like the connected smart homes you read about online.

Such was the case with our gorgeous new test bed for smart home technology and smart appliances out in the country. The new home had speakers in every room, an aging home theater, and two closets loaded with what was high-end gear in its day. Unfortunately, all of the infrastructure was horribly outdated, and the gear in the closets was either showing its age, or entirely defective.

Read: We took a dumb home and made it smart. Here’s where we started

 ‘Operation Apex’ lets you explore the deep, no scuba gear required

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The water surrounding me provided little resistance to the powerful handheld propeller in my hands. Effortlessly gliding over the seabed, I reached the edge of a precipice and stopped. I gazed down into the blackness. It was filled with mystery, and I felt dizzy staring down. Looking up, schools of tuna and black sea bass swam, creating dark shadows against the bright sunlight beyond the rippling surface. A voice urged me to continue my mission of cataloging sea life, and exploring the effect our environmental carelessness was having on them.

This wasn’t real life, although I was in the coastal city of Brighton in the United Kingdom. I was wearing an HTC Vive headset and playing Operation Apex, a virtual reality game from startup Curiscope. It’s as close to living out The Blue Planet as I’m going to get.

Read: ‘Operation Apex’ lets you explore the deep, no scuba gear required

T-Mobile wants you to ditch cable, satellite for its ‘disruptive’ new TV service

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T-Mobile has set out to shake up another industry. The Un-carrier is planning to take on satellite and cable providers by launching a “disruptive new TV service in 2018,” according to a press release.

To bring its TV ambitions to its millions of customers, T-Mobile acquired cable provider Layer3 TV. The company brands itself “the new cable,” and has its own IP network, which allows it to send high-definition video to homes at levels of bandwidth similar to Netflix. Layer3 TV is currently only available in five U.S. cities and provides more than 275 channels, including ESPN, NBC, AMC, and other popular channels at higher video quality than similar services. The TV provider also mixes video content from streaming services and social media with broadcast and cable channels.

Read: T-Mobile wants you to ditch cable, satellite for its ‘disruptive’ new TV service

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

Winter coming in spring? HBO reveals 'Game of Thrones' season 8 premiere date

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable, if you don't mind spoilers.
Emerging Tech

The 20 best tech toys for kids will make you wish you were 10 again

Looking for the perfect toy or gadget for your child? Thankfully, we've rounded up some of our personal favorite tech toys, including microscopes, computer kits, and a spherical droid from a galaxy far, far away.
Mobile

Here are the best Black Friday deals for the iPhone XS, XS Max, XR, 8, and more

Black Friday is right around the corner and it's a great time to get your hands on an iPhone if you've been thinking of buying one. Thankfully, there are a ton of great iPhone deals for Black Friday, including discounts on the phones.
Home Theater

What is MHL, exactly, and how does it work with your TV?

There are more ways to mirror your smartphone or tablet to your TV than you might think. Check out our rundown of MHL for everything you need to know about the wired protocol and its myriad uses.
Deals

All the best Amazon Black Friday deals for 2018

Amazon may be an online-only retailer, but that doesn’t mean its Black Friday sales are anything to sniff at. In fact, due to its online status, Amazon has huge flexibility with the range of products and deals it can offer. Here's our…
Product Review

Google’s Pixel 3 is a hair away from pocket-sized perfection

Google’s Pixel 3 smartphone is the best Android phone you can buy. It doesn’t have the best looks or the best hardware, but you’ll be hard pressed to find better software and unique A.I. functionalities.
Social Media

Facebook is rolling out a Messenger ‘unsend’ feature, and here’s how to use it

Facebook is starting to roll out a "remove message" feature for its Messenger app. It lets you delete a message in a thread within 10 minutes of sending it, and replaces it with a note telling recipients that it's been removed.
Mobile

Google rolls out Night Sight to Pixel 3 and 3 XL camera app

Google's latest flagships, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, are now official and we have all the details from the October 9 event in New York City and Paris. Here's everything we know about the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.
Mobile

You can now message businesses straight through Google Maps

Google has been updating Maps with a ton of new features over the past few months, and now it's back with another one -- the ability for users to message businesses directly through the Maps app.
Mobile

No cash. No talking. What goes next? Welcome to your ‘app-tive’ digital life

Bank of America's 2018 Trends in Consumer Mobility Report found mobility has changed our lives. Mobile tech influences how most of us communicate, meet people, build relationships, and handle money as we move toward a cashless society.
Mobile

The Motiv smart ring is coming to 20 more countries and physical stores

Remember Motiv's activity tracking smart ring? It's back with a raft of new features that adds biometric identification and token authentication, all on a device that fits on your finger.
Wearables

Everything you need to know about Garmin’s GPS watches and trackers

Garmin jumped into the GPS smartwatch and fitness tracker market five years ago and has built a portfolio of devices that rivals competitor Fitbit. Here's your guide to the latest and greatest fitness devices that Garmin has to offer.
Mobile

Sharp doubles down on the notch trend with Aquos R2 Compact

As if one notch wasn't enough, Japanese manufacturer Sharp unveiled a new smartphone that has two -- one teardrop style notch at the top, and a bigger notch at the bottom. Here's what the world's first dual-notch smartphone looks like.