Toshiba to Build Chip Plant Without Partner Western Digital

Toshiba to Build Chip Plant Without Partner Western Digital

Toshiba is moving forward with plans to build a new memory chip plant without partner Western Digital, another escalation of the fight over the future of their joint venture.

The electronics maker will spend JPY 195 billion ($1.8 billion or roughly Rs. 11,275 crores) on construction of Fab 6 of its Yokkaichi semiconductor facility in western Japan, the Tokyo-based company said in a statement Thursday. Toshiba, which owns the land, buildings and the production know-how at the factory, has split investments in production equipment with SanDisk since the joint supply venture started in 2004. Western Digital acquired SanDisk last year.

Toshiba and Western Digital are locked in a legal fight over Toshiba’s plan to sell its share of the business to make up for multibillion-dollar losses in its nuclear power operations. Western Digital argues that it has a say in the sale, as well as right of first refusal. Further legal wrangling could delay the sale to a group of preferred bidders, putting Toshiba at risk of being delisted.

Western Digital, based in San Jose, California, needs to retain access to output from new Toshiba factories as improvements in manufacturing technology are one of the key determinants of success in the memory chip industry. Newer plants and equipment typically produce better semiconductors more cheaply.

“If you keep going down the path and you play to its finality it may not be a good path for either company,” said Amit Daryanani, an analyst at RBC Capital. “The hope would be cooler heads prevail.”

Toshiba said the two sides are far apart on the new project.

“Toshiba has held discussions with SanDisk over several weeks, but could not arrive at an agreement because of the vast difference in opinions over capital spending,” said Kaori Hiraki, a spokeswoman for Toshiba. “We need to boost our production capability to meet increasing demand for Nand flash.”

Toshiba said it is spending JPY 15 billion more than originally planned, but going it alone won’t impact production or development. Installation of fabrication equipment to produce so-called 3D Nand flash will begin in December 2017 and output will ramp up to 90 percent of capacity in the fiscal year ending March 2019, Toshiba said.

“While we are disappointed by Toshiba’s announcement, the agreements governing the JVs give us the right to participate in investments,” Western Digital said in a statement. “That is exactly what we intend to do.”

Shares of Toshiba closed 0.8 percent lower in Tokyo Thursday, paring losses prior to the announcement. The stock is down 8.5 percent this year. Western Digital’s stock was little changed at $84.53 in New York trading.

Toshiba clinched a preliminary agreement in June to sell its memory chip unit to a group led by the Innovation Network of Japan, Bain Capital and other investors. The consortium of preferred bidders is offering JPY 2.1 trillion, people with knowledge of the matter have said.

Western Digital in May invoked an arbitration clause in the business agreement, seeking to block Toshiba’s transfer of ownership of the unit to a separate legal entity in preparation for a sale. Toshiba, which has since reversed that transfer, had its lawyers send a letter demanding that the US company stop its “harassment” as it seeks to sell the business.

The legal spat is threatening the very existence of the venture, according to people familiar with the matter. The breakup would increase the financial burden on Toshiba and reduce cost advantages that come with scale. It would also deprive Western Digital of access to advanced chips necessary to compete in the storage business.

If Toshiba is forced through arbitration to sell its stake in their venture to Western Digital, the move could trigger the dissolution of their legal partnership, according to regulatory filings. That would cancel the supply agreement under which the US company gets chips and make it the owner of only some equipment, according to people close to Toshiba and the terms of their relationship. That equipment would be useless without other machinery and the plant itself, which would remain Toshiba’s property. Production of memory chips for Western Digital would stop, the people said.

“Any slowdown of the joint development projects – even if temporary – could result in severe and lasting consequences,” Mark Long, chief financial officer of Western Digital, told a California court last month.

The largest maker of flash memory chips, Samsung Electronics, is currently completing what it says is the world’s largest chip plant. Underlining the speed at which Toshiba needs to move, Samsung’s plant is already in production, even before construction is complete.

GoPro Bets on Upcoming Hero6, Fusion Cameras in Bid for Profitability

GoPro Bets on Upcoming Hero6, Fusion Cameras in Bid for Profitability

GoPro forecast a smaller-than-expected loss, and said it was on track to launch the latest version of its flagship camera by the holiday season, as the company seeks to achieve its goal of returning to adjusted profitability in 2017.

The company’s shares were up 12 percent at $9.28 in after-market trading, and were set to wipe out their year-to-date decline if they open at that level on Friday.

Once a Wall Street favorite, GoPro’s body-mounted point-of-view cameras won a huge following among surfers, skydivers and other action junkies.

But the company came under pressure following a series of missteps including a delay in the launch of its Karma drone and production issues with its Hero5 camera.

GoPro also lost ground to feature-rich smartphones and rival products from companies such as Garmin and Sony.

The company is now betting on the Hero6 and the Fusion 360 action-cameras to help bring back its followers.

GoPro said during a post-earnings call on Thursday that it would realize revenue from the new products in the current quarter by shipping to customers ahead of the launch.

“Hero6 will probably perform in line with expectations, and at a higher gross margin than Hero5,” said Alicia Reese, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, adding that the management seemed to have a better handle on inventory levels this year.

GoPro forecast third-quarter adjusted loss of 1 cent to 11 cents per share and revenue of $290 million to $310 million (roughly Rs. 1,973 crores), compared with analysts’ estimate of a loss of 12 cents per share and revenue of $278.5 million.

“We expect margins to continue to improve throughout 2017, with the introduction of new products,” Chief Executive Nicholas Woodman said on the post-earnings call.

GoPro’s net loss narrowed to $30.5 million, or 22 cents per share, in the second quarter ended June 30 from $91.8 million, or 66 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, GoPro reported a loss of 9 cents per share, smaller than analysts’ estimate of a loss of 25 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company’s operating expenses fell 35.5 percent to $130.6 million.

Revenue rose to $296.5 million from $220.8 million.

Analysts on average had expected revenue of $269.6 million.

Google, MIT Researchers Create New AI-Based Real-Time Photo Editing

Google, MIT Researchers Create New AI-Based Real-Time Photo Editing

Scientists from MIT and Google have developed a new artificial intelligence system that can automatically retouch images like a professional photographer in real time, eliminating the need to edit images after they are clicked with smartphones.

The data captured by today’s digital cameras is often treated as the raw material of a final image. Before uploading pictures to social networking sites, even casual cellphone photographers might spend a minute or two balancing colour and tuning contrast, with one of the many popular image-processing programs now available.

The system developed by researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Google in the US is so energy-efficient and fast that it can display retouched images in real-time on phones, so that the photographer can see the final version of the image while still framing the shot.

The same system can also speed up existing image-processing algorithms.

The system employs machine-learning. The researchers trained their system on a dataset created by Adobe Systems, the creators of Photoshop.

The data set included 5,000 images, each retouched by five different photographers. They also trained their system on thousands of pairs of images produced by the application of particular image-processing algorithms, such as the one for creating high-dynamic-range (HDR) images.

The software for performing each modification takes up about as much space in memory as a single digital photo, so in principle, a cellphone could be equipped to process images in a range of styles.

Researchers compared their system’s performance to that of a machine-learning system that processed images at full resolution rather than low resolution.

During processing, the full-resolution version needed about 12 gigabytes of memory to execute its operations.

The researchers’ version needed about 100 megabytes, or one-hundredth as much.

The full-resolution version of the HDR system took about 10 times as long to produce an image as the original algorithm, or 100 times as long as the researchers’ system.

“This technology has the potential to be very useful for real-time image enhancement on mobile platforms,” said Jon Barron from Google.

“Using machine learning for computational photography is an exciting prospect but is limited by the severe computational and power constraints of mobile phones,” said Barron.

This paper may provide us with a way to sidestep these issues and produce new, compelling, real-time photographic experiences without draining your battery or giving you a laggy viewfinder experience, he said.

Nintendo SNES Classic Mini Pre-Orders From ‘Late This Month’

Nintendo SNES Classic Mini Pre-Orders From 'Late This Month'

Nintendo has announced that the SNES Classic Mini console will be available for pre-order later this August. The news comes via the company’s Facebook page.

“We appreciate the incredible anticipation that exists for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System: Super NES Classic Edition system, and can confirm that it will be made available for pre-order by various retailers late this month,” the company said in a post.

Furthermore, it claims to have increased the number of units that will be made present at stores in order to avoid a scenario akin to the NES Classic, that was hard to find at launch and even tougher to find soon after.

“A significant amount of additional systems will be shipped to stores for launch day, and throughout the balance of the calendar year,” the post reads.

Earlier, Nintendo confirmed that the SNES Classic will be available for this year only. The complete quote is as follows:

“We aren’t providing specific numbers, but we will produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition. Super Nintendo Entertainment System: Super NES Classic Edition is currently planned to ship from Sept. 29 until the end of calendar year 2017. At this time, we have nothing to announce regarding any possible shipments beyond this year.

Our long-term efforts are focused on delivering great games for the Nintendo Switch system and continuing to build momentum for that platform, as well as serving the more than 63 million owners of Nintendo 3DS family systems. We are offering Super Nintendo Entertainment System: Super NES Classic Edition in special recognition of the fans who show tremendous interest our classic content.”

Call of Duty: World War 2 Private Beta Bonuses Announced

Call of Duty: World War 2 Private Beta Bonuses Announced

The Call of Duty: World War 2 private beta for PS4 starts from August 25 and ends on August 28.

In the run up to this, Activision has announced what bonus items will be given to those who partake in it. Dubbed as the Call of Duty: World War 2 Private Beta Combat Pack, this is what it has.

Call of Duty: World War 2 Private Beta Combat Pack contents

  • Custom helmet
  • Beta calling card
  • Call of Duty: World War 2 emblem

These will be available to those who play the Call of Duty: World War 2 private beta in the full game when it hits in November. Keep in mind that access to the private beta is only for those who pre-order the game. Xbox One players can try it out from September 1 to September 4 along with PS4 users again. No beta date has been given for PC gamers just yet.

Take-Two Won’t Commit to Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC; Says PC Gamers Are ‘Very Important’

Take-Two Won't Commit to Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC; Says PC Gamers Are 'Very Important'

During GTA publisher Take-Two‘s latest earnings call, the company maintained that the PC market is lucrative for its titles.

When asked if the PC is on the radar for its major releases, Take-Two President Karl Slatoff stated it depends on game to game. “Some titles are actually heavily weighted to PC, for example, Civilizationand XCOM,” he said, further stressing that the computer side of the business is of great importance.

“The great news is that the PC market is vibrant for us. It’s a great market for us. It’s a big market. It’s a core market in consumers that are highly engaged. It’s a predominantly digital market, which also removes friction in terms of ongoing engagement with a consumer. So, for us, the PC market as a company is very important and very exciting and something we focus on.”

During the same call, an investor asked if Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick is able to share updates on the PC version of Red Dead Redemption 2. Sadly, Zelnick gave the typical “any updates about any of our titles will come from our labels” answer.

Though we speculate a PC version of this Wild West open-world adventure is the works, Take-Two has only announced it for the PS4 and Xbox One and is due next year. Previously Take-Two implied that Red Dead Redemption 2 could have a bigger online component than expected. “Obviously we know what Rockstar tends to do. And Rockstar’s activities have been transformed by Grand Theft Auto Online,” Strauss Zelnick said.

Overwatch Summer Games 2017 Start and End Time Revealed

Overwatch Summer Games 2017 Start and End Time Revealed

Earlier Gadgets 360 reported that popular hero shooter Overwatch would see the return of the Summer Games event. This was its first event last year and it’s back again.

Blizzard has announced that the Overwatch Summer Games 2017 event will take place from August 9 to August 29. No exact time has been mentioned, but if it’s anything like the Overwatch Anniversary event, expect it to begin from 8:30pm IST on August 9 and end on 12:30pm IST on August 29.

Along with it comes the obligatory game modes, loot, and of course a new ap. Lucioball – the football inspired mode that made its debut with last year’s Summer Games makes a come back. In addition to the Rio map of 2016 is Sydney.

Although Overwatch Director Jeff Kaplan did not explain why the team had selected the locale, it perhaps could pertain to lore regarding Junkrat – an Australian character in the game.

Moreover, Lucioball sees some interesting modifications. For one, there’s Capa Lucioball – a competitive playlist with a placement and ranking. Also, Lucio’s ultimate ability doesn’t pull the ball to the player, instead it increases his movement speed and reduces the cool down time on his alternate ability. Lucio’s ultimate won’t let you ‘boop’ opponents either. What this means is, you can’t use Lucio’s ultimate to push goalies away and pull the ball inside.

In a welcome move, the Overwatch Summer Games 2017 brings a stack of event loot crates featuring all new cosmetics as well as returning favourites from the 2016 event. What’s more is, last year’s gear will be cheaper than the new ones.

New Overwatch Summer Games 2017 cosmetic items price:

  • Legendary Skins: 3,000 credits
  • Epic Skins: 750 credits
  • Rare tier: 225 credits
  • Common tier: 75 credits

Overwatch Summer Games 2016 cosmetics price:

  • Legendary Skins: 1,000 credits
  • Epic Skins: 250 credits
  • Rare tier: 75 credits
  • Common tier: 25 credits

With the Summer Games making a return, it’s safe to say Blizzard will have Halloween, Christmas, and Anniversary events as regular, annual fixtures.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle for Nintendo Switch Gameplay and Modes Revealed

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle for Nintendo Switch Gameplay and Modes Revealed

Ubisoft let slip some details on what to expect from Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle for the Nintendo Switch when it hits on August 29. From playable characters, strategies, and story mode, this is what you need to know.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle gameplay is similar to Final Fantasy Tactics 
Yes, you read that right. Here there is a team to balance, techniques to master, and a Skill Tree to develop for each hero. The enemies you face at the very beginning are tougher than you’d expect. However it seems to be a whole lot more cerebral. Encounters in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle are puzzles with the visual reward being the opportunity to see your favourite Nintendo characters like Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Yoshi pull off their trademark moves in a new genre. This is compounded by the Rabbids companions that enliven the proceedings with dollops of humour.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle combat, skills, and weapons 
The gamut of available weapons and tools in Mario + Rabbids is wide, and each hero can bring Primary and Secondary techniques to the battlefield that can be combined, such as using Luigi’s Magnetic Dance to set up a Grenade Duck ambush for Princess Peach.

In one turn, a hero can slide into and trip over an enemy, before Team Jumping off an ally’s shoulders to land behind cover from which to launch another attack. This can set up a chain of attacks that could be anything from a rocket launched Spike, to ink damage from a Bwahntasaurus Wrecks sentry.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle story mode, co-op mode, environments and enemies
The game’s story mode takes you from a host of varied locales such as the sun-drenched Ancient Garden close to Prince Peach’s castle to spooky moonlit graveyards. Enemies are equally aplenty ranging from shield-bearing Rabbids that require sneaking up from behind, and Boos that teleport team members to dangerous parts of the map. Plus, there’s a co-op mode that supports every Nintendo Switch controller ensuring that the Joy-Con included with the console get a fair work out.

IBM Develops Tape Cartridge That Stores 330TB of Uncompressed Data in the Palm of Your Hand

IBM Develops Tape Cartridge That Stores 330TB of Uncompressed Data in the Palm of Your Hand

In an interesting development, scientists at IBM have managed to develop a prototype magnetic tape drive that fits in the palm of your hand and can store a whopping 330TB of uncompressed data. IBM Research worked alongside Sony Storage Solutions for years to achieve increased areal recording densities and develop this magnetic tape.

If you are wondering about the recording density, the prototype comes with an unprecedented 201Gb per inch density. “Tape has traditionally been used for video archives, back-up files, replicas for disaster recovery and retention of information on premise, but the industry is also expanding to off-premise applications in the cloud,” said IBM Research fellow Evangelos Eleftheriou in a statement.

“While sputtered tape is expected to cost a little more to manufacture than current commercial tape, the potential for very high capacity will make the cost per terabyte very attractive, making this technology practical for cold storage in the cloud,” he said.

In its release about the magnetic tape cartridge, Sony said that this achievement was made possible by bringing together it’s “new magnetic tape technology employing lubricant with IBM Research – Zurich’s newly developed write/read heads, advanced servo control technologies and innovative signal-processing algorithm.” It further pointed out that closing the gap between the magnetic tape and magnetic head is critical to achieving high-density recording capabilities for tape storage media.

Interestingly, IBM has also said that this achievement is also reflective of the viability of scaling up storage on tapes continuously for another decade.

Our storage needs have been growing for years with advancement in technology sector and if you didn’t realise this till now, just imaging how iPhones with 8GB base storage would feel in this day and age. This sort of achievement gives hope that our data requirements will be met with advancement in technology and we won’t be ill-equipped to tackle the situation going forward.

Facebook Did Shut Down AI System, But Not Because Things Went Out Of Control

Facebook Did Shut Down AI System, But Not Because Things Went Out Of Control

Amid the battle of words between billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk over the future of artificial intelligence last week, a story that suggested that Facebook had to shut down an AI program went viral. We may have gotten carried away by the pun, however. According to reports, Facebook had to shut down an AI program after two bots created their own language, that humans couldn’t understand. The conversation between the bots, named Bob and Alice, went on like this:

Bob: “I can can I I everything else.”

Alice: “Balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to.”

The reaction to these stories, as you would expect, was hysterical. But as amusing – and at the same time, creepy – it may have appeared to you, it was an inaccurate account of what had actually happened.

You see, Facebook did create an AI program, and it did terminate the project. But it wasn’t a disaster, and it was in no way something that the social juggernaut had to stop because of unforeseen outcome.

It all began last month when Facebook’s AI Research group published a report in which it described how it created bots and explored whether these bots could talk in a human manner. The idea behind creating this AI program was that these bots could learn from human interaction and become sufficiently advanced that their interactions become like outs.

Here’s how Facebook researchers described it, “Similar to how people have differing goals, run into conflicts, and then negotiate to come to an agreed-upon compromise, the researchers have shown that it’s possible for dialogue agents with differing goals (implemented as end-to-end-trained neural networks) to engage in start-to-finish negotiations with other bots or people while arriving at common decisions or outcomes.”

The actual hiccup occurred, as Gizmodo reports, at the human’s end, when Facebook programmers forgot to code the bots in a way that would let them talk like humans. Without the instructions, the code did what seemed fit to them.

“There was no reward to sticking to English language,” Dhruv Batra, Facebook researcher, told Fast Company magazine. “Agents will drift off understandable language and invent codewords for themselves.”

Facebook concluded the program and said the project marked an important step toward “creating chatbots that can reason, converse, and negotiate, all key steps in building a personalized digital assistant.”