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

Computing

Intel’s new Core i9 processors bring 8-core power to laptops

Intel announced a new line of ninth-generation mobile processors that bring eight-core Core i9 processors to laptops. In addition, the company announced a slate of new desktops CPUs that bring the rest of the lineup up to date.
Home Theater

No car? SiriusXM’s $8 a month streaming plan has everything but Howard Stern

SiriusXM is stepping into the streaming music ring with an $8 per month plan designed specifically for people who get their music via smartphones and smart speakers. It doesn't work on SiriusXM radios, and Howard Stern is extra.
Smart Home

Grow it, cook it, smoke it: Marijuana tech gadgets for your home and kitchen

Legal marijuana consumers buy around six marijuana products each month. Some of the products we found look like something out of a stoner sci-fi movie. Check out this collection of marijuana tech.
Gaming

Get jiggy with it and find the jigsaw pieces with our Fortnite challenge guide

For this Fortnite weekly challenge, players must search for jigsaw puzzle pieces under bridges and in caves. We've got the best locations for finding these pieces so you can complete this challenge fast.
Mobile

Need a minute to yourself? Buy some alone time with the best tablets for kids

Looking to keep those tiny fingers and brains busy? Tablets aren’t just for grown-ups, and many are kid-friendly! Here's our list of the best tablets for kids, with parental controls and plenty of tempting features to satisfy your…
Mobile

Bigger isn’t always better: 5 of the smallest smartphones worth buying

Phones are getting larger and larger, but what options exist for the small-of-hand, or people who just want a phone they can use one-handed? In a world of phablets, some of the smallest smartphones can still pack a punch.
Wearables

Before buying a Fitbit, check out these Garmin fitness trackers under $100

The Apple Watch is a great fitness tracker, but it's not cheap. Thankfully, there are plenty of fitness trackers under $100, and they offer many of the same features. Here are the best fitness trackers under $100.
Mobile

Waze vs. Google Maps: Which map app should you be using?

Waze and Google Maps are two of the most popular apps for those looking for turn-by-turn navigation, yet there are some notable differences to point out. Here, we examine both to decide which offers the best feature set.
Health & Fitness

Google’s redesigned Fit activity tracker is now an iOS app

Google Fit has landed for iOS. The activity tracker offers the same clean design that arrived with the major revamp of the Android version a year ago, with features such as Move Minutes and Heart Points also included.
Mobile

Stunning photo shows Honor 20 will get the full Moschino designer treatment

Honor will launch the Honor 20 on May 21, at an event taking place in London. A special Moschino version will also be revealed, potentially with a Lite version, and perhaps even another model also showing up on the day.
Mobile

Leak says Huawei will supply 5G equipment to the U.K., but with a caveat

A leak from the U.K.'s National Security Council says Huawei has been approved to supply certain 5G infrastructure equipment, but not the core components related to secure aspects of the network.
Mobile

Smash your carrier shackles with the best unlocked phones

If you want the freedom to switch carriers at will or you prefer to get your phone directly from the company that makes it, you'll want to buy an unlocked smartphone. These are the best unlocked phones you can buy in the U.S.
Mobile

Google Assistant for Android and iOS wants to tell you a story

Just in time for National Tell a Story Day on April 27, Google has added the ability for Google Assistant for iOS and Android to read you a story. So now there's no excuse for not catching up with a good book.
Android

Here's how much it will cost to buy the Galaxy S10 5G, and when it releases

Samsung announced a whopping four new Galaxy S10 devices, from the low-cost S10e to the triple-camera S10 and S10 Plus. But it's the Galaxy S10 5G that steals the show, as it will be the first 5G-ready smartphone to hit the market.