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25
Apr
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Praying mantises get extra-tiny 3D glasses to test their vision


3D glasses on a praying mantis

While 3D video may not be very popular these days, someone’s still wearing 3D glasses — or rather, something. Newcastle University scientists are outfitting praying mantises with very small 3D eyewear to test their depth perception, which is unique in the insect world; most species are limited to 2D. The researchers want to see if the bugs are fooled by the effects of a 3D movie like that you’d see in a theater. If they are, we’ll know that they evolved 3D vision similar to that of humans and monkeys.

If they aren’t, things get interesting. That suggests that there’s a different approach to depth perception that could translate to simpler algorithms for 3D-sensing robots. It’s too soon to know how the mantis study will play out, so there’s no guarantee that it will lead to a biological or technological breakthrough. Think of it this way, though — if nothing else, Newcastle will have the world’s hippest-looking invertebrates on its hands.

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Via: Huffington Post

Source: Newcastle University

25
Apr
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This DIY synthesizer cost $70 to build and it sounds amazing


What could you build with a budget of $70? For George Gleixner, it’s a homemade battery-powered synthesizer. One that’s constructed using a circuit bent a children’s Hing Hon EK-001 squarewave keyboard no less. What’s circuit bending you ask? Well, Reed Gazala pioneered the process back in the mid-90s which modifies (read: bends) the original circuits of keyboards, drum machines and even children’s toys to create new sounds that vary from its original use. Each year at Moogfest, as an homage to founder Bob Moog, there’s a circuit bending competition in which entrants hack together their instruments for a shot at maker glory. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the larger festival attracts electronic music’s finest, like Kraftwerk and Dan Deacon, that could end up peeking the goods too. This time around, Mr. Gleixner took the top prize and we caught up with him to see the inner workings of his creation.

As we’ve already mentioned, the unit primarily driven by a Hing Hon EK-001 kids keyboard that was hacked to serve up some quite tasty synth sounds. A wood and plexiglass shell, shaped kind of like a classic Moog instrument, houses the whole thing. That all-important front panel not only packs controls for pitch and two types of distortion, but both also have their own theremins for gesture-controlled sounds. There’s even a hexagonal keyboard layout based on the harmonic table made out of thumb tacks. As if all of that wasn’t enough, the final bill came in under the $70 budget and the instruments runs on four AA batteries — fulfilling the contest requirements. Don’t worry, we’ve got a brief rundown of the tech straight from the builder just below.

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25
Apr
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Android now lets you search for hotels and restaurants you can actually afford


Restaurant filter in Android search

So far, Android search hasn’t been very discriminating when it comes to hotels and restaurants; finding a posh eatery one block away is no use if you can’t afford it. Google is about to provide relief to wallets everywhere, though, as it just updated the mobile search app to include filters à la Foursquare or Yelp. Ask for a place to eat or stay and you can narrow the results by price range, cuisine style, rating and hours. The upgraded search only works in the US at the moment, but it should eventually be a boon to anyone who’s looking for a cheap bite or a late-night crash pad.

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Source: Google+

25
Apr
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Transcend Debuts JetDrive SSD Upgrade Kits Up To 960GB for MacBook Air, Retina Macbook Pro


Transcend has introduced new JetDrive SSD upgrade kits designed for the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro with Retina display. The upgrade kits offer up to 960GB of internal storage capacity and come with both installation tools and instructions.

JetDrive kits also ship with an aluminum USB 3.0 enclosure, which allows upgraders to reuse their original SSD, and all kits include a five year warranty.

Stop shuffling around your files and fretting about storage space. Transcend’s JetDrive SSD upgrade kits offer up to 960GB of storage capacity. Upgrading your Mac to a JetDrive SSD ensures you’ll have plenty of space for all your favorite music, videos, and photos.

The JetDrive SSDs are able to take advantage of JetDrive Toolbox monitoring software, which keeps track of the health of the drive and enables TRIM support for optimum write speeds and SSD life. JetDrive SSDs also have maximum read speeds of 495MB/s and maximum write speeds of 495MB/s.

The company has three separate products for early MacBook Airs, mid–2012 MacBook Airs, and mid-2012 Retina Macbook Pros, in multiple capacities. While mid–2012 MacBook Airs and Retina MacBook Pros can be upgraded with 240, 480, or 960 GB of storage space, earlier MacBook Airs (late 2010 and mid–2011) are limited to 240 or 480 GB. Transcend’s JetDrive kits are not PCIe and are not compatible with the most recently released 2013 MacBook Airs and Retina MacBook Pros.

Transcend’s JetDrives can be found on Amazon.com, with prices ranging from $190 for the lower end upgrade to $600 for the higher end upgrade. Ordering information and specific links can be accessed on Transcend’s website, but the 960 GB SSDs have yet to make their way to Amazon.



25
Apr
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Nike CEO ‘Excited’ About Future of Fitness Partnership with Apple


nike_fuelband_seLate last week, it was revealed that Nike is scaling back its FuelBand hardware effort to focus on the software side of its fitness tracking ecosystem, sparking speculation of a potential partnership with Apple focused around the iWatch or other Apple hardware.

Nike CEO Mark Parker appeared on CNBC earlier today, and while he would not directly address specific plans with respect to Apple, he did note that Apple is a longtime partner and that he is “excited about where that relationship will go forward.”

Parker: [Y]ou’re going to continue to see us commit to this area, to focus on expanding the reach. Today, we have about 30 million FuelBand users. We’re hoping to push that to over 100 million. We have partners that we work with…obviously the most visible partner we have is Apple. We’ve been working with them for a long time. And we’re excited about where that relationship will go forward.

CNBC’s Sara Eisen: Well, can you give us a hint? Are we going to expect some sort of collaborative device coming out? Nike and Apple?

Parker: I can’t really say that. There’s been a lot of speculation, which I understand. I will just say the relationship between Nike and Apple will continue. And I am personally, as we all are at Nike, very excited about what’s to come.

Parker went on to discuss how Nike is going to focus on the software side of the wearable fitness device market going forward, integrating it into some of of Nike’s products as well as those of partners. With those partnerships, Nike is seeking to further its primary goal of expanding the overall Fuel ecosystem to as many people as possible.

Speculation of a Nike-Apple partnership is natural given the long history between the two companies, highlighted by the Nike+iPod initiative to bring pedometer and other fitness tracking to Apple devices. Apple CEO Tim Cook has served on Nike’s board of directors for nearly a decade, and he is frequently seen wearing a Nike FuelBand.



25
Apr
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Spotify Approaching 10M Paying Users, Revenue May Soon Surpass iTunes in Europe [iOS Blog]


Spotify.png Streaming music service Spotify is growing in the UK and soon may overtake iTunes as Europe’s biggest digital music service, reports Music Week, which spoke to Spotify’s European head of media relations Kevin Brown [Via The Guardian].

Spotify’s growth in the UK is quickly accelerating with the service adding more than 1 million active users in the past four months, claims Brown. Many of these new customers are lucrative subscribers who are paying for the premium service instead of listening to the ad-supported, free version. Brown attributes this growth to Spotify’s partnerships with Vodafone and the Sunday Times.

“Some of our partners are saying Spotify is now generating more revenue each month across Continental Europe than iTunes,” Spotify’s head of label relations in Europe, Kevin Brown, told industry site Music Week.

“Given that download sales are declining and Spotify is growing rapidly, particularly in the UK, it is only a matter of time before Spotify is bigger than iTunes across Europe as a whole.”

Spotify last year had 24 million active users and 6 million paying users worldwide, but the company has not updated those figures to reflect this recent increase. Brown believes the company is close to surpassing 10 million paying users, and many believe the company is waiting for this milestone to announce updated membership numbers.

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In the U.S., iTunes is the market leader for digital music downloads and iTunes Radio is number three for streaming music. In the streaming market, iTunes Radio holds an 8 percent market share, with Spotify holding 6 percent. The pair trail iHeartRadio (9 percent) and market leader Pandora, which dominates with 31 percent market share.

In an effort to standardize the experience across platforms, Spotify recently updated its iOS app with a darker theme as well as new fonts and icons that match the web and desktop versions. All platforms also received a new personalized Your Music section and an updated Browse feature.



25
Apr
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StackSocial Offers 9 Apps in ‘Name Your Own Price’ Mac Bundle and MacBook Air in Giveaway [Mac Blog]


StackSocial launched its fifth ‘Name Your Own Price’ Mac Bundle earlier this week that offers up to nine apps and an online iOS development course for purchase with 10% of all sales going to charity.

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There are two apps and an online iOS development course that all buyers receive:

MacX Mobile Video Converter ($50)
PDF Converter Pro for Mac ($80)
Projects in iOS E-learning Course ($147)

If a buyer pays more than the current average price shown on StackSocial’s sales page for the bundle ($8.00 at the time of this post), the buyer will receive all nine apps offered which includes the three items listed above plus the following apps:

RapidWeaver 5 ($79)
Tune Up ($50)
CrossOver 13 ($60)
Disk Drill Pro 2.0 ($99)
Voila ($30)
Snapheal Pro ($40)
mSecure for Mac ($20)

The total retail value of the entire bundle is $807. To encourage higher purchase prices, StackSocial is giving away an 11-inch MacBook Air in a random drawing with entries earned by taking a position on the price leaderboard at any time during the sale. At the time of this post, the person in the top position on the leaderboard paid $94 for the bundle.

The bundle will be on sale until May 7.

MacRumors is an affiliate partner of StackSocial.



25
Apr
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The man behind HTC’s hardware design is leaving the company


Launch Of The HTC Rhyme In NYC - Morning

If you’ve used any HTC device in the last five years, chances are you’ve witnessed Scott Croyle’s handiwork first-hand. Unfortunately, his time at the company is coming to an end as HTC has confirmed that Croyle is moving on to other to-be-determined projects. Croyle, who joined the company in 2008 as part of the One & Co acquisition, has been directly involved with building HTC’s flagship devices ever since. Now, he’ll be handing over the baton of responsibility to Jonah Becker, who’s been Croyle’s right-hand man in the studio. The move will be a gradual transition, as we’re told that he will stick around in a consulting role for a while to finish up his projects (M9 anyone?).

In related news, HTC’s head of Sense’s user experience, Drew Bamford, will now head up the HTC Creative Labs in addition to his other duties, and will report directly to CEO Peter Chou.

Croyle’s departure comes at a turbulent time for HTC, which has seen quite a few employees and executives leave the company in the past year. Since design comes early in a phone’s development process, it’s quite likely that HTC’s upcoming wearable, as well as next year’s flagship device, are both on Croyle’s list of projects to finish. If this is the case, we’ll continue to enjoy his craftsmanship for the immediate future, but the longer-term is still a big unknown; does Becker have the same vision for HTC’s design after 2015, or will the company go in a new direction?

We reached out to an HTC spokesperson, who provided us with a few pieces of information regarding the situation.

“HTC remains at the forefront of smartphone innovation. Scott Croyle will be focusing on special projects and dedicated on next generation developments.”

“HTC continues to invest in talent and recruitment as part of our broader human resources strategy to ensure the continued strength of our company’s organizational structure. To achieve our long-term goals as a business and return maximum value to our shareholders, these are necessary steps to drive ongoing innovation, ensure our ability to create strong products like the HTC One (M8), and forge strong customer relationships that solidify our future.
Drew Bamford is experienced and talented leader at HTC with solid track records in leading and building our user experience team. Effective immediately, in addition to his current duties in product development and user experience, Drew will lead HTC Creative Labs and focus on innovative new products and user experience strategies. HTC is proud of its employees and has a track record of hiring the best and brightest.”

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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Via: The Verge

25
Apr
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What the Galaxy Gear taught Samsung about smartwatches


With countless (well, a lot of) Gear 2 watch straps and just under eight wearables — a mix of Gear 2s, Gear 2 Neos and Gear Fits — on the table in front of us during our interview with Samsung designers, the impression is that the company taking its wearables very seriously. There were just six months between it announcing the original Galaxy Gear and its sequel; that’s a pretty short lifespan.

To make matters more… interesting, Android announced its own wearable platform, months after Samsung’s Gear announcements. (For those not keeping notes, these Gears run on Tizen, a new mobile OS that hasn’t yet appeared on a mobile.) Min Cho, Samsung’s marketing director, explained that its wearables wouldn’t be limited to the green OS. “We’ll continue to work on the best solutions for our customers, including collaborating with Google and Android,” he says. He slows his voice and looks at me: “We are working on it.” Samsung already confirmed that it’s got plans for Android Wear, but what about the current crop of wearables? What did Samsung learn after half a year of the Galaxy Gear?

“After the first Gear, the most important lesson learned was that Gear should be a fashion accessory. It must meet the fashion needs of users,” explains Eunjoo Kim, principal UX designer for the Gear series. She adds later: “One size doesn’t fit all.” This meant more personalization in the second generation, and not just when it comes to product options. The philosophy here is different than the one we hear about the Galaxy S5: Cho told us, independently, that the GS5 is definitely a phone for “everyone.”

“One size doesn’t fit all.”

We covered the physical differences between the Galaxy Gear, and Gear 2 in our review, but Jun Yong Song, senior hardware designer for both smartwatches, tries to offer up a little more context: “Since the first Gear was designed with straps attached, it retains a solid line [that] creates a classic, holistic design. The Gear 2 has been designed to match any strap … to blend smoothly to whichever one is used.” In the process, those odd screw fittings were also banished, while softer materials were used compared to the original Gear “for greater comfort,” adds Song — well, it is a wearable. Otherwise, the core hardware design really hasn’t changed in any dramatic way, just evolutionary improvements.

Changeable straps, a variety of background colors, wallpapers (finally) and clock designs, however, do at least give credibility to this notion of a more personal wearable. Tinkering with design (at least as far as icon layout and wallpapers are concerned) can now be done from the watch itself, and it’s not just about choosing pretty images. “The default wallpaper [is made] to show the benefits and features of AMOLED display.” Kim says. “It can express [colors] that TFT LCDs cannot. Like these fluorescent greens and blues.” It’s something she eagerly demonstrates with a Galaxy Fit. “On TFTs, they become really obscure”. She also adds: “In the case of Gear smartwatches, because of the changeable straps, there was a need for daily changes [to the look of the device].”

If you thought it uncharacteristic for Samsung to settle on a form factor so easily, you’d be right.

Customization is one thing, but why (at least compared to the incoming competition) does the Gear stick to the relative-of-smartphone squarish face? “Consumers have different tastes and values. With [three devices], we are giving users the power to choose what they need and want to have,” says Song. So three equals the right amount of choice? The team previously mentioned that, as a fashion accessory, one size doesn’t fit all. How, then, are these three products expected to deliver to everyone?

“Three is the magic number!” Kim kids, but with both Gear smartwatches and the Gear Fit, the team ran through various size and design prototypes — with the eventual products being deemed the optimal combination. If you thought it uncharacteristic for Samsung to settle on a form factor so easily, you’d be right. “For the Gear and Gear Fit, the size was an issue for a long time,” Kim says. “We have two sizes now, but we are open to many other possibilities, too.” (Past form indicates this is probably very true.)

The Gear Fit is a whole different beast, however. It’s unusual design was apparently inspired by the sun rising over the ocean (there’s a hint in the early sketches, if you really stare), combined with real-world ergonomics. The team attempted to factor in gender and age at the design stage, and this lead to what it reckons is the “optimal display size and form for the content” — as well as the current curve and length of the strap. The OS here, however, is still Tizen. That means it has the same limited selection of apps and features, but it’s not as if another Android-powered wearable would fare any better at this precise stage. Half a year later, and the original Galaxy Gear still has an app-supply problem.

The big question here is why Samsung jumped to Tizen, but it’s hard to get a definitive answer to the reasoning there. Cho talks around the question: “It’s complicated. If you take a closer look at Tizen, it’s web-based; that offers a degree of efficiency in converting existing apps … But you are going to see more efforts with more devices — including Android.” There it is again. The company might have learned a few things from its first smartwatch, but it feels like it’s a case where more study is needed.

Samsung’s betting on the demand for wearables to come (it’s not the only one), but it’s a hedged bet. Tizen? Android? Health device? Smartwatch? And now that Samsung says it’s happening, what will its interpretation of Android Wear look like? Because that’s honestly what we’re more excited about. Will it be a Gear with a personality transplant, or something more “Whoa“? We’re hoping for the latter.

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25
Apr
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​Verizon Samsung Galaxy S5 cameras are failing spectacularly


Well, this is embarrassing: the Samsung Galaxy S5 has only been on the market for two weeks, and it’s already developed a major fault — at least for Verizon customers. “Warning,” the devices reads. “Camera failure.” The camera module appears to be failing outright, with no hope of being revived. Users have tried restarting their camera apps, rebooting devices and even performing factory resets, but nothing works. For now, the only working fix seems to be replacing a device, but some users are still holding out for a software fix.

Fortunately, Verizon and Samsung are both being fairly candid about the issue — both companies have acknowledged the faulty camera and are asking customers to contact support for troubleshooting and warranty replacements. Most of the failed devices seem to be coming from Verizon specifically, but BGR says it’s seen similar reports from Sprint customers, too. Have a faulty device? Skip past the break for Samsung’s official response and customer service instructions.

Samsung is committed to providing the best experience for customers. We have learned that a limited number of Galaxy S 5 devices may have an issue that causes “Camera Failure” pop-up error message. We ask that customers affected call 1-888-987-4357 or visit their carrier for service under Samsung’s standard limited warranty.

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Via: GSMArena, BGR, PhoneArena

Source: XDA, Verizon

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