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Instagram: Time to up your stories game as app adds augmented reality effects | Science & Tech News

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Get ready to see your friends turn into a Terminator and take a selfie in outer space as Instagram adds augmented reality (AR) effects.

Much like the visual tricks seen in smartphone games like Pokemon Go, which allows players to see Pikachu and pals as if they were appearing in the real world, Instagram users will soon be able to up their stories game by overlaying a whole host of weird and wacky effects on to their photos and videos.

Instagram stories differ from regular photo or video posts that appear in the app’s timeline with them appearing at the top of the app in a slideshow format containing a stream of pictures and clips for just 24 hours.

Instagram AR effects
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Instagram AR effects could change the way you post stories

The photo-sharing platform is owned by Facebook and will use the tech giant’s in-house AR platform called Spark to produce the effects, which will also allow people to create their own designs.

Existing filters, smileys, stickers and other overlays featured in Instagram have all been pre-made, but the company is hoping the AR functionality will allow for even greater creativity.

New creations can also be shared with friends and followers, with an effects gallery to be introduced so that users can browse and use anything they fancy.

In a showreel built by Instagram to get the creative juices flowing, people are seen chilling with a virtual pet on their shoulder, taking a selfie as it rains fire, and unmasking their face to reveal a Terminator-style android.

One youngster is seen gradually turning invisible like Harry Potter in the restricted section, while another snaps a selfie in outer space while reacting wildly to a surge of gherkins falling from above – all standard internet fare.

Instagram will also allow users to create their own AR effects
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Instagram will also allow users to create their own AR effects

The company said: “Whether you want to add a new layer of fun to an event like a wedding, birthday party, or graduation with a custom filter or you’re a professional who wants to continue to hone their craft, Spark AR Studio has everything you need to get started.

“And with Instagram stories being used by over 500 million users daily, there’s no better place to express yourself with your own AR effects – or simply share the ways you’re using them with your community.”

Instagram will have a dedicated gallery for people to browse the effects
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Instagram will have a dedicated gallery for people to browse the effects

The update has been released on both the App Store and the Google Play Store, which have both become packed with apps featuring AR effects.

Some offer dedicated AR-only experiences, such as seeing how new furniture might fit in your living room or mapping the stars on a clear night, while others have begun adding AR features as a bonus.

Last week, Google said it was to more widely introduce AR tools to aid navigation in its Maps app.

The new feature will see AR arrows appear on the real-world scene as seen on your smartphone screen, to help with walking navigation.

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Costa Rica’s largest ever cocaine haul found in ornamental flower shipment bound for Netherlands | World News

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Costa Rica’s largest ever haul of cocaine has been seized from a shipment of ornamental flowers bound for the Netherlands.

About 5.8 tonnes of the drug was found in 202 briefcases hidden inside a container at a port in Limon.

Police said they found 5,048 packages of cocaine weighing 1kg (2.2lbs) each.

The cocaine has been transferred to a stockroom at San Jose airport
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The cocaine has been transferred to a stockroom at San Jose airport

A ship was due to set sail to Rotterdam on Saturday when the drugs control police detected some suspicious containers.

They sent them to be scanned and detected the packages of cocaine hidden inside the ornamental plant shipment.

Security forces then seized the cocaine and transferred it to a drugs stockroom at San Jose airport.

Police arrested a Costa Rican lorry driver, 46, who had delivered the containers to the port and said he has no criminal record.

Because of its location and shipping network, Costa Rica has a major problem with drug trafficking which dates back to the mid-1980s.

As the US has tightened its borders and its anti-drug operations, drug trafficking has worsened in Costa Rica.

The country is often used as a pit-stop for drug traffickers and a refuelling stop for shipments coming from Colombia and Panama.

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Elton John ends New Zealand show early after walking pneumonia diagnosis | Ents & Arts News

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Veteran performer Elton John has apologised to fans after cutting a gig short in New Zealand, after being diagnosed with walking pneumonia.

Sir Elton was performing at the Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland on Sunday evening as part of his global farewell tour when he lost his voice and began crying on stage.

Footage online shows the 72-year-old being escorted from the stage while thousands of fans in the stadium give him a standing ovation.

Sir Elton posted an emotional message on Instagram. Pic: Instagram/ Elton John
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Sir Elton John is helped off the stage. Pic: Instagram/ Elton John

Posting on Instagram shortly after leaving the stage, Sir Elton wrote: “I want to thank everyone who attended tonight’s gig in Auckland.

“I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia earlier today, but I was determined to give you the best show humanly possible.

“I played and sang my heart out, until my voice could sing no more.

“I’m disappointed, deeply upset and sorry. I gave it all I had.

“Thank you so much for your extraordinary support and all the love you showed me during tonight’s performance. I am eternally grateful. Love, Elton xx.”

The message was posted alongside an image of him being helped off the stage by a member of the crew.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 16: Elton John performs at Mt Smart Stadium on February 16, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Dave Simpson/WireImage)
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The singer is touring his new show across the world
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 16: Elton John performs at Mt Smart Stadium on February 16, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Dave Simpson/WireImage)
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He had already apologised for his illness earlier in his gig

He was seen by a medic for a few minutes early in his set, and continued to play until he was forced to stop completely.

Sir Elton has apparently told concert-goers that his voice had “completely gone” early in the show, and apologised to the crowd, according to reports on social media.

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He is scheduled to perform two more shows in the New Zealand city later this week, and tickets are still on sale for those shows.

Walking pneumonia is a medical term that describes a mild case of the illness, according to the American Lung Association.

It is caused by bacteria and viruses and its symptoms include fever, chest pain, a cough and chest pain – similar to a cold, but sufferers are often able to continue every day activities.

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Coronavirus: China reports drop in new cases for third straight day | World News

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China has reported a drop in new coronavirus cases for the third day in a row, as it became clear the country’s leadership was aware of the outbreak’s potential before the dangers were made public.

There were 2,009 new cases in mainland China on Saturday, bringing its total to 68,500, according to the country’s National Health Commission.

The fatality rate remained stable at 142 deaths.

The figures have emerged after a 80-year-old Chinese tourist in Paris became the first person to die from the virus in Europe.

The number of dead in mainland China from COVID-19, the medical name for the acute respiratory disease caused by the virus, stands at 1,665.

Shoopers in protective masks at a supermarket in Wuhan
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Shoppers in protective masks at a supermarket in Wuhan

China’s fall in new cases follows a spike of more than 15,000 on Thursday, when the central province of Hubei adopted a new diagnostic method that includes clinical diagnoses in its official account.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had played a muted role in the early days of the epidemic, which has been one of the biggest political challenges of his tenure.

But state media published a speech on Saturday which Mr Xi delivered on 3 February, during which the Chinese president said he gave instructions on the fighting the virus as early as 7 January.

The disclosure indicates top leaders knew about the outbreak’s potential severity weeks before such dangers were made known to the public.

Tourists at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, as France confirms its first coronavirus death. File picture
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Tourists at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, as France confirms its first coronavirus death. File picture

It was not until late January that officials said the virus can spread between humans and public alarm began to rise.

In his speech, the Chinese president also revealed that he ordered a lockdown of the virus epicentre of Wuhan in the Hubei province: “On January 22, in light of the epidemic’s rapid spread and the challenges of prevention and control, I made a clear request that Hubei province implement comprehensive and stringent controls over the outflow of people.”

French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn confirmed the confirmed the first fatality from the infection in Europe on Saturday.

The 80-year-old died from a lung infection at Bichat-Claude Bernard Hospital in Paris.
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The man died at Bichat-Claude Bernard Hospital in northern Paris

The man, who was from the Chinese province of Hubei, had been receiving treatment in a French hospital since 25 January.

He had been kept in isolation while receiving treatment, but his condition is said to have deteriorated rapidly.

He had arrived in France on 16 January.

His daughter was also treated for coronavirus in the same hospital, but has now recovered according to authorities.

His case is one of 12 French cases of COVID-19.

Six of those cases are British nationals who caught the virus from “superspreader” Steve Walsh after coming into contact with him in the French Alps during a skiing holiday.

Ms Buzyn warned: “Our health system must be prepared to face a possible virus spreading across the country.”

She says she will be meeting with medical authorities on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

The man was the fourth death to be reported outside mainland China. The virus has so far spread to more than two dozen countries.

The World Health Organisation ha sent a team of 24 health experts to China to investigate how the virus is spreading and its severity.

Meanwhile, in Japan, preparations are under way to evacuate American citizens from the Diamond Princess, the cruise ship that has been quarantined off Japan.

Around 400 American passengers have been told to decide by Sunday morning whether they will stay or take chartered aircraft arranged by the US government to fly them home. The flights are expected on Sunday evening local time.

Those taking the chartered planes will be taken to Travis Air Force Base in California, with some continuing to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, where they will have to undergo another 14-day quarantine.

So far, 285 people from the ship have tested positive for the virus after 67 new cases were found Saturday. Those with symptoms such as fever and cough will not be allowed to board the evacuation flights.

The news comes as:

  • A total of 1,669 people have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
  • Most of the deaths have been in mainland China but there has been one each in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan and France
  • 69,186 cases have been confirmed since the virus started in mid-December in Wuhan,
    according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

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Temporary hospitals have been set up in gymnasiums and public buildings across the Hubei province of China to facilitate early testing and treatment.

Meanwhile 285 cases of the virus have been confirmed on a quarantined cruise ship in Japan.

The Diamond Princess in Yokohama, near Tokyo, has around 3,700 passengers in total, including tourists from Britain, America and Australia.

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