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Roku's Pro Series TVs are now available | TechCrunch

Announced earlier this year, Roku revealed today that its Pro Series TVs, the lineup of high-end televisions, are now available for purchase in the U.S.

Starting today, Roku Pro Series TVs are being sold at Best Buy stores and online. There are three sizes to choose from — 55, 65 and 75 inches — with prices running from $899 to $1,699.

Compared to the first Roku-branded smart TVs — the Select and Plus Series — the Pro Series has a slimmer design that can be flush-mounted to the wall. (Roku also sells a Wall Mount Kit for $100.) Audio has also been enhanced thanks to new side-firing speakers that provide improved sound clarity, spatial effects and deeper bass. Like the Roku Plus TVs, the Pro Series has HDR10+ and Dolby Vision for a cinematic viewing experience, as well as 4K QLED displays and local dimming.

Image Credits: Roku

In addition to the Pro Series launch, Roku announced new software updates coming to all Roku TVs that aim to enhance the viewing experience.

The most notable feature is “Smart Picture,” which uses AI and machine learning to automatically adjust picture quality based on content. For instance, when watching a basketball game, the Roku TV recognizes it as sports content and selects Sports mode, adjusting the brightness and colors to provide the best experience.

“Think of Roku as the Smart TV assistant that automatically selects the best picture mode for you,” Lei Yu, a product lead at Roku, explained during a demo briefing with the press last week.

Image Credits: Roku

Smart Picture mode is on by default, however, you can adjust the preferences in settings. For example, you can tell it to automatically adjust the contrast when watching movies.

Roku also introduced “Backdrops,” a decorative background that replaces the boring blank screen on your television when not in use. You can choose from a variety of art pieces as well as upload a collection of your favorite family photos.

In the coming months, Smart Picture and Backdrops will launch on all Roku TV models in the U.S.

Other upgrades to the Roku TV experience include rolling out IMDb ratings and trailers within the details page of a TV show or movie. Plus, there is a smarter Save Lists feature, with new badges on the upper right-hand corner of titles to indicate price drops or new episodes or seasons.

Image Credits: Roku

Lastly, Roku unveiled details about its second edition Voice Remote Pro, such as a bigger battery and USB-C charging. It’s the first Roku remote to have touch-activated backlit buttons.

There are also two new buttons: a Live TV Guide button to quickly jump to more than 400 free live, linear channels, local news and live sports, and a programmable shortcut button that you can program to access search, connect Bluetooth headphones or turn on your favorite channel.

The new remote is included with the Pro Series, which has a dedicated remote-finder button on the side of the TV. It’s also available as a standalone accessory for $30. The remote will become available at other major retailers in the coming months.

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Google's Gemini Pro 1.5 enters public preview on Vertex AI | TechCrunch

Gemini 1.5 Pro, Google’s most capable generative AI model, is now available in public preview on Vertex AI, Google’s enterprise-focused AI development platform. The company announced the news during its annual Cloud Next conference, which is taking place in Las Vegas this week.

Gemini 1.5 Pro launched in February, joining Google’s Gemini family of generative AI models. Undoubtedly its headlining feature is the amount of context that it can process: between 128,000 tokens to up to 1 million tokens, where “tokens” refers to subdivided bits of raw data (like the syllables “fan,” “tas” and “tic” in the word “fantastic”).

One million tokens is equivalent to around 700,000 words or around 30,000 lines of code. It’s about four times the amount of data that Anthropic’s flagship model, Claude 3, can take as input and about eight times as high as OpenAI’s GPT-4 Turbo max context.

A model’s context, or context window, refers to the initial set of data (e.g. text) the model considers before generating output (e.g. additional text). A simple question — “Who won the 2020 U.S. presidential election?” — can serve as context, as can a movie script, email, essay or e-book.

Models with small context windows tend to “forget” the content of even very recent conversations, leading them to veer off topic. This isn’t necessarily so with models with large contexts. And, as an added upside, large-context models can better grasp the narrative flow of data they take in, generate contextually richer responses and reduce the need for fine-tuning and factual grounding — hypothetically, at least.

So what specifically can one do with a 1 million-token context window? Lots of things, Google promises, like analyzing a code library, “reasoning across” lengthy documents and holding long conversations with a chatbot.

Because Gemini 1.5 Pro is multilingual — and multimodal in the sense that it’s able to understand images and videos and, as of Tuesday, audio streams in addition to text — the model can also analyze and compare content in media like TV shows, movies, radio broadcasts, conference call recordings and more across different languages. One million tokens translates to about an hour of video or around 11 hours of audio.

Thanks to its audio-processing capabilities, Gemini 1.5 Pro can generate transcriptions for video clips, as well, although the jury’s out on the quality of those transcriptions.

In a prerecorded demo earlier this year, Google showed Gemini 1.5 Pro searching the transcript of the Apollo 11 moon landing telecast (which comes to about 400 pages) for quotes containing jokes, and then finding a scene in movie footage that looked similar to a pencil sketch.

Google says that early users of Gemini 1.5 Pro — including United Wholesale Mortgage, TBS and Replit — are leveraging the large context window for tasks spanning mortgage underwriting; automating metadata tagging on media archives; and generating, explaining and transforming code.

Gemini 1.5 Pro doesn’t process a million tokens at the snap of a finger. In the aforementioned demos, each search took between 20 seconds and a minute to complete — far longer than the average ChatGPT query.

Google previously said that latency is an area of focus, though, and that it’s working to “optimize” Gemini 1.5 Pro as time goes on.

Of note, Gemini 1.5 Pro is slowly making its way to other parts of Google’s corporate product ecosystem, with the company announcing Tuesday that the model (in private preview) will power new features in Code Assist, Google’s generative AI coding assistance tool. Developers can now perform “large-scale” changes across codebases, Google says, for example updating cross-file dependencies and reviewing large chunks of code.

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Robotic Automations

TechCrunch Minute: Where the Apple Vision Pro stands now the launch day hype has dropped off | TechCrunch

A few months after its launch, how is Apple’s Vision Pro faring? The company’s ambitious bet on computers that nestle on your face instead of sit on your desk made a huge splash when it was announced and later release. However, the hype has since seemingly come back down to Earth.

I am a long-term bull on augmented reality, virtual reality, and face-computers in general. I still recall my first session with what became the Microsoft Hololens project as one of the most impactful moments for my excitement for technology. So it is to my partial chagrin that the hype around the Apple Vision Pro has faded more rapidly than I anticipated.

Of course, with its Pro moniker, expensive price tag, and uneven developer support thus far, the new Apple device has a long road ahead of it. But I anticipated the Apple brand to keep the hardware in the news — and atop our collective minds — longer than it managed after its launch.

For now, we remain mostly in the dark regarding the device’s popularity. Sure, some folks returned theirs and TechCrunch’s own review was middling-to-positive in its view, but that doesn’t mean that most folks took their Apple Vision Pro back, or that some users are enjoying the gadget more than we did.

Here’s hoping that Apple and Meta, with its Quest line of VR headsets do not give up until they crack this particular nut. I find it archaic that my monitors are akin to digital chalkboards when they should be built into my glasses. Hit play, let’s have some fun.

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