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6
Feb

The HTC Vive isn’t limited to perfectly square rooms


I’m not gonna lie: I was jealous when I heard that my colleague Sean Buckley got to play 12 virtual reality games in Seattle last week. (He even moaned about it later.) I got to try “only” four on the Vive Pre at HTC’s Taipei headquarters. But that’s OK, because in the end I also had a blast — to the point that I ended up running around the room, high on adrenaline. Not even the zombies in Arizona Sunshine made me do this much exercise. As I sat down to recuperate afterwards, I caught up with one of the key execs on HTC’s VR team to learn about the Vive’s setup process and what other features are in the works.

These New HTC Vive VR Games Got My Adrenaline Pumping

Until now, little has been said about what the Vive’s setup process will be like when it goes on sale. (For the record, “Vive Pre” is still a pre-release name.) But in my interview, Associate Vice President Raymond Pao gave a little more insight into how this will work. The Vive system consists of five pieces: the wired headset, two wireless controllers and two “Lighthouse” base stations for laser tracking. Obviously, you’ll also need a Windows PC with a relatively powerful graphics card — preferably, at least an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 or an AMD Radeon R9 290, according to Pao, which is the same recommended requirement as for the Oculus Rift. For the diagonally placed Lighthouse hubs, you just need to secure them at somewhere just above the user’s height. Typically, they should be set at 2.2 meters in the US or 2 meters in Asia.

Pao added that the Vive works best in a 4.5 x 4.5–meter room, though a tiny 1.5 x 2–meter space is also fine, especially for titles like Elite Dangerous that require the gamer to be seated. Of course, not everyone’s room is a perfect square or rectangle; it might be slightly trapezoidal or there might be a table in the way. This is where Chaperone comes in.

Chaperone, which debuted last month at CES, is a safety mechanism that shows you a gray overlay of the physical world — be it a wall or an object — when you’re about to hit something, or whenever you double-tap the menu button on the controllers. To enable this feature, there’s a one-time calibration process: You need to go around the room and map the boundaries with one of the controllers. This is aided by a new front-facing pass-through camera introduced on the Vive Pre. Pao said his team is aiming for an overall installation time of somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes.

“We’ve been trying different [wireless] solutions, but none have truly fulfilled our needs thus far.”

For the sake of bandwidth and latency, the Vive Pre’s headset still needs to be wired to the PC. “Many wireless communication companies have approached us claiming they have the technology to solve these issues, so we’ve been trying different solutions, but none have truly fulfilled our needs thus far,” Pao said. However, as far as he knows, no one has yet tripped over the cable in the public demos, even after his team intentionally stopped holding the cables for the gamers.

“People are conscious [of the cable]. It could be to do with the games’ design, but it’s certainly not as hazardous as we thought it’d be.” That said, Pao also welcomes the idea of hanging the cable from above, but he’ll let users decide on this one.

As the owner of a cat and a dog, I’m actually more concerned about tripping over my pets, not the cable. Fortunately, Pao’s team has recently started working on a feature that will help detect incoming pets or other moving objects, but he doesn’t have much else to share at the moment. Though, come to think of it, it’s probably best if we just physically keep our pets out of the zone in the first place.

“We don’t want to make a compromise for the sake of compatibility with other platforms.”

During my visit, I got to try three cool new games by Futuretown, a Taiwan- and Canada-based studio that’s developing exclusively for the Vive. Johan Yang, the CEO and co-founder, made that decision when he met Peter Chou last year and experienced the Vive for the first time. Chou encouraged Yang to focus on VR, and ended up becoming his mentor as well as an investor in his company. That little detail aside, it’s still interesting that this team of 15 would risk limiting the size of their audience by making games for just one platform.

“We don’t want to make a compromise for the sake of compatibility with other platforms,” Yang said, “so our games are designed with the Vive’s every single feature in mind.”

Indeed, my colleagues and I were blown away with Futuretown’s games. We started off with an easy one called Cloudlands, which is simply a VR mini-golf game. (It was also shown at that Valve event last week.) We then switched to something much more intense: a first-person shooter called A-10, in which you stand on a platform floating above a planet (maybe Earth?) and you have to shoot down alien drones that are flying in from several wormholes. The game has the right balance between fun and intensity, as long as you remember to shake the controllers to reload your pistols once in a while.

What got me all sweaty was the third game, Jeeboman (pictured above), which lets you beam yourself between rooftops in a psychedelically colored city and shoot down enemy drones that come up to your face, with the added challenge of having to pick up batteries, ammo and health packs in order to survive. But even though I was running around in the room, the cable issue I mentioned earlier didn’t affect my gameplay that much.

As developers, Yang’s team have naturally tried their hands at other VR hardware, but they were left unimpressed, due largely to the lack of a room-scale experience and intuitive in-game interaction. For instance, it wasn’t until last June, when the Oculus Rift finally started supporting controller tracking, that the company even reached out to Yang’s team to discuss the possibility of porting their games to the Rift, which we now know won’t be happening anytime soon. The alternative solution would be to implement hand tracking using Leap Motion or similar offerings. But again, Yang wasn’t satisfied by their reliability or speed.

Similarly, the Samsung Gear VR — also powered by Oculus — lacks positional tracking, in the sense that there’s no tilt tracking, only rotational tracking, so your brain knows immediately that what you see isn’t real. For Yang, that’s a deal breaker, especially when he’s aiming for about 30 minutes per session in his own games.

VR devices will eventually replace our laptops.

Looking beyond gaming, Yang believes VR devices will get so compact that they’ll become standalone computers, to the point that they’ll eventually replace our laptops and thus let us set up a virtual workspace wherever we go. You won’t need to pay a premium for a large monitor, because in the virtual world your screen can be as large as you want it to be, or you can even have multiple screens. But of course, we’re still years away from that vision.

“I think the VR market is still at the ‘DynaTAC‘ stage right now, just like how it was a niche market at the beginning and only the bosses would use one,” Yang added. “People would ask, ‘Who needs a mobile phone? I can just go home and make phone calls.’ But look at what happened many years later.”

Photos and video by Andy Yang and Ross Wang of Engadget Chinese.

6
Feb

Recommended Reading: High-tech sports stadiums of the future


Introducing the Stadium of the Future, Where Technology is King
Patrick Sisson,
Curbed

For sports fans, the experience of attending a game in person is becoming increasingly more high-tech. Levi’s Stadium, home of Super Bowl 50 this weekend, touts ticketing, concessions and instant replays from a mobile app. It’s also LEED certified and employs solar collection system. High-tech sports venues are becoming the norm and this piece from Curbed offers a glimpse at the near future.

Snowed in at NASA, Keeping Watch Over a Space Colossus
Ross Andersen, The Atlantic

Just because there’s a massive snow storm doesn’t mean the work at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center comes to a halt.

Tech Has No Space for Breastfeeding Moms
Lauren Dragan, The Daily Beast

This piece follows the difficulty of trying to be a breastfeeding mom and work the largest tech show of the year. There’s a simple solution, but the tech industry has to be willing to help.

30 Years in Space: Meet the Man Who’s Kept Space Sims Flying
Richie Shoemaker, Eurogamer

Shawn Bower is the founder and only developer for Star Wraith 3D Games. He’s also done his part over three decades to make sure the genre continues.

Battling Postpartum Depression with an iPhone
Chris Burns, SlashGear

While the photography of Erin Brooks is being used in an iPhone ad campaign, the snapshots also served a greater purpose. Capturing images with her phone helped Brooks overcome Postpartum Depression.

6
Feb

Twitter needs searchable GIFs for fun and profit


This week, a group of Android users noticed a new feature in the Twitter app: a GIF button that can be used to search through trending GIFs to drop into status updates. As you’d expect, the internet lost its collective mind. Twitter is the unofficial home of GIFs. Whether you’re sharing a quick moment in time or trying to make a point without words, bite-size animated images are a perfect match for the social network’s dynamic timeline.

Introducing a native way to search and add GIFs to tweets seems like a no-brainer. It’s what the people want, which is good, because Twitter is desperately trying to create a service that more people want. If the company pulls this off, it’ll appease the will of animated-image aficionados, gain some new users and (gasp) give the not quite profitable company another source of revenue.

A few years ago, developers and brands tried to convince us that “second-screen” apps were the ideal way to follow along with our favorite TV shows. For the most part, they sucked. In the end, the ultimate second-screen application was Twitter. Whenever there’s a TV event, you don’t go to Facebook to see how people are reacting; you head to Twitter. Sporting events, awards shows, premieres or even episodes of Game of Thrones see more juice on Twitter than they ever would on Facebook.

Twitter is in the moment; Facebook is “Hey, did you see that thing that happened a few hours ago?” Twitter knows this and plays up its part of the right-now aspect of its service. For the upcoming Super Bowl, the social network is going all out to remind users that it’s the destination for real-time information.

Now Twitter has the opportunity to partner with networks to offer up nearly real-time GIFs of these events to add to the conversation. During last week’s hilarious X-Files episode, for instance, it could have surfaced the following image:

It was a turning point in the episode, and if it had been available within the Twitter app, it would have been tweeted out almost immediately. Then retweeted again and again. As it currently stands, a GIF like this would be created after the show aired, by someone in the audience, from a recording. Instead Fox could have created this GIF with its branding beforehand and let the entirety of Twitter handle its advertising.

To get these animated images into its system, Twitter could partner with consumer and entertainment brands. The GIF button would not only allow users to search for GIFs but would also surface trending and featured images. For example: The NFL could sponsor the featured area and fill it with GIFs of big plays from the game immediately after they happen. The trending section would have the top GIFs being shared at the moment, and the search field would offer up a library of GIFs for any situation. All of this in the Twitter app ready to go at a moment’s notice.

This weekend’s Super Bowl will be watched, as always, by billions. Twitter will light up with play-by-play commentary of not just the game, but the pregame, the commercials and the halftime show. Those comments could be accompanied by GIFs of amazing plays and halftime shenanigans. (Oh, I hope Left Shark returns.)

In 2014, Twitter purchased SnappyTV to help it quickly create short videos of live TV events. Going that extra step to create a GIF from those videos is simple enough.

Twitter could make sharing animated images easier — something that’s quite cumbersome on mobile right now. The by-product of that is relevancy. If it can get more people to join the conversation with these images, maybe, just maybe, new users will jump aboard for the chance to send GIFs about their favorite show or movie.

These topical GIFs can easily become the reaction GIFs of the future. The Abe Simpson snippet below is from Simpsons episode “Bart After Dark,” which aired nearly 20 years ago. Maybe we’re not all walking into a brothel and seeing our grandson working the front desk, but the bit works when you want to convey the feeling of walking into a situation and realizing you should leave right away. It’s timeless and will outlast the actual show for as long as we use GIFs to communicate.

Plus, these GIFs could equal money. Twitter is not a profitable enterprise. Sure, it makes more money than ever, but it’s not enough to cover the costs of all our 140-character tirades.

The NFL doesn’t want you livestreaming its games from Periscope, but it might be open to feeding branded GIFs to Twitter. The UFC isn’t a fan of you making GIFs of its fights, but it might want to create and serve its own.

Then of course there are the brands. Yes, Starbucks, Taco Bell, Honda, H&R Block and others will want in on this. But the beauty of the implementation is that users will determine which tiny ad will end up in their timeline. Most ads are lame, but there are some gems out there. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want a Night Vision Top Hat?

Twitter selling your tweets as ad space seems, well, icky. But we’re already making GIFs from commercials, movies, TV shows and sporting events. Users are pulling in video from streams and their cable boxes, using a variety of apps to create GIFs on their own, and uploading them to Twitter, Imgur, Giphy and Reddit. Twitter could step in and make it as simple as a search. Brands (ugh, brands) have the opportunity to control the message Twitter users see by creating content that works in a snack-size format.

In fact, it’s already happening. PopKey offers up searchable and featured GIFs for text messaging, Slack and Twitter. It’s also partnering with companies like Starbucks to create tiny, looping ads.

At the end of the day, users just want an easier way to tweet out GIFs. It’ll be up to Twitter to figure out if it can make money off that desire.

6
Feb

Samsung A9100 shows up in GFXBench, but is it the Galaxy A9 Pro?


samsung_galaxy_a9_pro_gfxbench_info

This past month rumors started to surface that Samsung might be adding a new device to their A series of smartphones, a Samsung Galaxy A9 Pro. Sources spotted a Samsung device with model number A9100 and the suspicion was that Samsung may be planning to release an upgraded version of the Galaxy A9. A device with that same model number has surfaced on GFXBench, but we are no closer to knowing whether it is a Galaxy A9 Pro or some other model to be added to Samsung’s portfolio.

The big problem with trying to make the leap from the Galaxy A9 to this mystery device being the Galaxy A9 Pro is the display specifications listed on the GFXBench site. The Galaxy A9 has a 6-inch screen running at full HD resolution. The A9100 device is listed with only a 5.5-inch screen and full HD resolution. That would be a step back which leaves us wondering whether this device is destined to be some other model or whether a mistake was made in the GFXBench entry.

The other information available on GFXBench is consistent with this new device being a mildly upgraded version of the Galaxy A9, probably just enough to warrant the “Pro” moniker. The processor information appears to be consistent with the Snapdragon 652, the same as the Galaxy A9, so no bump there. However, the A9100 is listed with 4GB of RAM instead of 3GB of RAM which is the amount present in the Galaxy A9.

The other improvements appears to be with the rear-facing camera. The Galaxy A9 has a 13MP sensor while this new device is pushing on a 16MP resolution. For the front-facing camera, it looks like Samsung has packed in an 8MP unit.

For internal memory, the unit on GFXBench appears to have 32GB onboard. The other item noted in the GFXBench listing is the Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow operating system coming pre-installed.

source: GFXBench
via: GSMArena

Come comment on this article: Samsung A9100 shows up in GFXBench, but is it the Galaxy A9 Pro?

6
Feb

Flashbacks and Forecasts: Sony in 2016


sony xperia z5 & z5 compact & Z5 premium aa 18

As the inventor of the Sony Walkman and maker of the world’s current most popular game console, Sony devices have enjoyed huge popularity over the years. But electronic devices haven’t been the core of Sony’s business for a long time and it is now crunch time for Sony Mobile, the most problematic of all Sony’s holdings. The stakes couldn’t be higher either: if worse comes to worse this year, 2017 will be the year that Sony Mobile goes up for sale.

Sony has been in the midst of a multi-year “restructuring” plan ever since its current president Kazuo Hirai was appointed back in 2012. Cost-cutting and profit optimization is the name of the game and changes to this effect have steadily been making their way through the Sony Group’s businesses: Sony Electronics, Sony Music, Sony Pictures and Sony Mobile.

In 2015, Sony Mobile was given a clear mandate: get back to profitability by the end of 2016 or face the consequences.

At the end of 2014, a new Sony Mobile chief was appointed, Hiroki Totoki, and Hirai gave the new CEO a clear mandate: get the mobile division back to profitability by the end of 2016 or face the consequences. Considering Sony had already sold off its computer division in 2014, the seriousness of the task ahead was clear.

While the larger Sony Group has become more profitable in recent years thanks to Hirai’s streamlining changes – even as overall revenue has remained relatively flat – Sony Mobile is among the last divisions to be overhauled. The lack of attention being paid to mobile is evident in the number of often embarrassing problems the division has faced in recent times.

sony-xperia-z3-plus-29

The curse of the 810

With the late 2014 Sony Pictures email hack still causing problems, the last thing Sony needed in 2015 was another scandal, but one arrived regardless. Sony’s first major device of the year, the Xperia Z3+, got widespread attention for overheating and camera crashes. The Snapdragon 810 chipset – the bane of many flagship phones in 2015 – was largely responsible, affecting the LG G Flex 2, Xperia Z3+ and HTC One M9 in the first few months of the year.

Sony’s first major device of the year, the Xperia Z3+, got widespread attention for overheating and camera crashes.

When using AR Mode or 4K video on the Xperia Z3+, the app would crash after just a few seconds and the phone would need to be left to cool down before the camera could be restarted. Sony put out patches but failed to solve the problem. Considering the tough times Sony had been facing, the last thing Sony needed was a flagship phone with heavily publicized faults.

Thanks to its foolhardy six-month update cycle, Sony had long been accused of releasing new flagship phones that were only incremental updates from the last. The Xperia Z3 had been widely viewed as a very marginal update on the Z2, with the same camera, same amount of RAM, screen size and resolution but a smaller battery.

SONY REVIEWS IN 2015:

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One, two, miss a few

As if performance and specs scandals weren’t bad enough, Sony also couldn’t seem to name anything logically. The Xperia Z4 Tablet arrived at CES when there was no Xperia Z4 phone. When the phone did arrive it was called the Xperia Z4 in Japan, the Xperia Z3+ internationally and the Xperia Z4v in the U.S.. The negative response to the Z4 in Japan was generally accepted as the reason for renaming the device internationally.

The naming confusion only got worse though. The Z3 Compact hit shelves in early 2015 as the successor to the Z1 Compact and was itself succeeded by the Z5 Compact later in the year. No one seemed to know what Sony was thinking and the company just seemed to make one bad decision after another.

Verizon ended up ditching the Xperia Z4v entirely and Sony advised Xperia owners that their phones weren’t waterproof after all. By the time the Xperia Z3+ was available in the U.S. the Xperia Z5 was already available internationally and for some unknown “business decision” the Xperia Z5 bound for America will arrive without a fingerprint scanner.

Sony-Xperia-Z5-Premium-AA-(9-of-10)

Never say “never ever”

With the mobile division’s long-standing troubles only getting worse, rumors circulated in the middle of 2015 that Sony Mobile was going to be sold off. CEO Totoki struck back definitively, saying “we will never ever sell or exit from the current mobile market”. But Sony was hemorrhaging fans and Xperia sales in 2015 were the lowest they have been since 2011.

Against this backdrop it should come as no surprise that a little later in the year, Sony president Hirai was quoted as saying “we will continue with the business as long as we are on track with the scenario of breaking even next year onwards. Otherwise, we haven’t eliminated the consideration of alternative options.”

“We will continue with the business as long as we are on track with the scenario of breaking even next year onwards. Otherwise, we haven’t eliminated the consideration of alternative options.”

While Sony Mobile was being given every opportunity to turn things around, Hirai’s attitude was clearly that of a sober businessman committed to improving the profitability of his stable of companies. And when you look at the facts, Sony Mobile hasn’t been making money for years, just as Samsung Mobile has become a constant drain on Samsung’s other more profitable divisions.

Sony Music, Sony Pictures and Sony Electronics have been picking up the slack for Sony Mobile for a long time. The new Bond film “Spectre”, Adele’s record-breaking album “25,” brisk camera sensor sales, and Playstation 4 sales that broke the 30 million unit ceiling within two years of launch are what made Sony money in 2015, not Xperia devices.

Sony-Xperia-Z5-Impressions-Gold-AA-(2-of-13)

Time to face the music

Like all other Android OEMs, a plateauing smartphone market, flatlining tablet market and increased competition from abroad are taking their toll. Even in Japan, Sony’s market share is only 17.5% and in the U.S. it’s around 1%. Despite a slight upswing in Xperia sales in the last quarter of 2015, Sony Mobile’s revenue was down 15% over the year prior.

While Sony executives have claimed Sony Mobile is on target for a return to profitability in 2016, the company’s most recent earnings call reported a “significantly deteriorated device segment”, going on to report “every other segment had an increase in operating profit”. In fact, even with Sony Mobile’s poor performance, Sony as a whole reported its highest Q3 profit in eight years (Sony’s financial year ends in March 2016, making the Oct-Dec quarter Q3).

Sony is only expecting to ship 3.5 million units this quarter – less than half that shipped in the previous quarter.

The earnings call also contained yet another re-adjustment of forecasted Xperia shipments for the full financial year. The figure once stood at 30 million, was then revised to 27 million and has now been further reduced to 25 million.

Considering Sony has already shipped 21.5 million devices, this means Sony is only expecting to ship 3.5 million units this quarter based on its own data – less than half that shipped in the previous quarter.

Xperia sales Xperia Blog

You may be wondering how figures like these will ever get the division back to making a profit by the end of 2016. The thing is, they won’t. Sony Mobile’s turnaround, like the rest of Sony’s restructuring, isn’t predicated on an increase in revenue. Rather, Hirai’s cost-cutting, streamlining and downsizing is what’s responsible for making each Sony division more profitable, not an increased market share.

We’ve already seen this in effect throughout the year. Sony cut 1,000 jobs back in early 2015 and then another 1,000 a few months later. With a workforce of only 7,000 people this is a significant amount of job losses. In more recent times we’ve heard that Sony is planning to ditch tablets altogether. A wise move perhaps, considering tablet sales only made up 5% of Sony Mobile’s revenue back at its peak in 2013 and things have only gotten worse since then.

sony-xperia-z5-review-14

Sony in 2016

So what does this all mean for 2016? Basically, Sony Mobile is in a race for its life. With 2015 sales of just 29.4 million devices, the lowest since 2011, it’s a sad day when it must be admitted that Sony is better off without Sony Mobile. Unless Sony can turn things around in the next twelve months the Xperia brand will go the way of Vaio before it.

It’s hard to say how far along Hirai’s restructuring plan is within the division though. While Xperia sales may not be going anywhere, if Hirai’s streamlining and profit maximizing works as well at Sony Mobile as it seems to have done throughout the rest of the company, there might still be hope left. But even if Sony Mobile sees a return to profitability through jobs cuts and other strategies, it needs to prove its value, not simply stop hemorrhaging money.

With 2015 sales of just 29.4 million devices, the lowest since 2011, it’s a sad day when it must be admitted that Sony is better off without Sony Mobile.

Opportunities and challenges ahead

Looking at Sony’s other divisions, Sony Electronics has the world’s most popular gaming console on its hands in the Playstation 4, with PS VR still to come this year. Both Sony Music and Sony Pictures are doing well and Sony’s Financial Services business is by far the most profitable of all of Sony’s holdings, generating more than half of the revenue and operating profit for the entire company.

Sony has also recently acquired a semiconductor company. Although global semiconductor sales hit a record high in 2015, the market seems to have already hit its peak and begun its decline. Sony’s image sensor sales have also taken a big hit in recent months. Like Samsung, Sony won’t be able to rely on chip sales to prop up a weak device market and even its popular sensor business is starting to show signs of weakness.

sony xperia z5 compact aa 13

The Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Compact are set to hit the U.S. market on February 8 and with a little luck, the various fiascos of 2015 will be forgotten in light of the generally positive reviews the Z5 series has garnered internationally. An outstanding camera and excellent battery life will hopefully be enough to make up for a debatable waterproof rating, too-familiar design language and interface that’s long overdue for an update.

It’s likely that Xperia tablets will stop being produced in 2016 and Sony will end its six-monthly product cycle.

It’s likely that Xperia tablets will stop being produced in 2016 and Sony’s Smartwatch efforts may begin to taper off too. Sony will likely soon make it official that it is ending its six-monthly product cycle with the Xperia Z6 due for an IFA-release in September rather than its traditional timeframe of MWC later this month.

Apart from the unnecessary expense of developing and testing two flagships a year, Sony can’t afford any more bad publicity about incremental improvements. The U.S. public hasn’t seen a flagship Xperia product on shelves since the Xperia Z3 and the Xperia Z5 has already received some bad press over the loss of the finger scanner.

MORE SONY VIDEOS:

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The forecast

If Sony Mobile gets sold, the result would be a more profitable and stable Sony Group that is known around the world for providing excellent financial services rather than for creating game-changing tech devices. Even if Sony Mobile manages to return to profitability this year, cost-cutting and profit maximization won’t be enough forever.

Sony Mobile needs to re-imagine its wireless portfolio, cutting high investment, low-return areas to remain as profitable as possible. The Xperia range needs to be revitalized in terms of design and interface and the company can’t afford any more high-profile scandals or missteps. The Xperia Z5 series, as good as it is, is faced with the ominous task of keeping the company afloat throughout 2016 if Sony Mobile is going to survive long enough to take the Xperia Z6 to market.

6
Feb

ICYMI: VR yourself into a robot, plasma physics and more



ICYMI: VR Yourself Into a Robot, Plasma Physics and More

Today on In Case You Missed It: UC Berkeley is using VR, motion capture and spatial mapping to put a human ‘into’ the body of a robot with a technique called robotic teleoperation. The video looks like a complicated form of the claw game, but also gives a really interesting perspective.

Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics is running, finally, after nearly 20 years of design and construction. The hope is that its design will lead to a safer alternative to nuclear power.

And a Kickstarter project is asking for money for a cable that backs up your data while charging your phone. It costs about $60 for either an iOS or Android charger; snap it up if you’re into redundancy or don’t trust cloud storage.

It was really a week for car news. We recommend reading editor Roberto Baldwin’s reporting on the Uber protests in San Francisco. As always, please share any interesting science or tech videos, anytime! Just tweet us with the #ICYMI hashtag to @mskerryd.

6
Feb

The Public Access Weekly: Let me see your Super Bowl


Yes, it’s finally here — the day that we all gather around to eat snacks, yell at the TV and watch the sportsball. I have personally prepared for the weekend’s Super Bowl 50 event by doing something I almost never do: Actually throwing a football around. In between finalizing all your Sunday plans, why don’t you sit down and join us for another Public Access Weekly?

This week, the survey is still up and I am still pushing it harder than your auntie with a side dish at Thanksgiving. If you’ve been meaning to chime in, please take a moment this weekend and give us your thoughts because we’ll be closing the survey soon and we really want to hear from you. If you’ve already taken it, many thanks! Your answers have been truly interesting and helpful.

In other news, a big ol’ proper tip of the hat to Edward Watkinson, whose story on travel apps is the first Public Access post to make it to the Engadget home page! Thanks to Edward for a great story on your favorite travel apps! I will honestly fess up to immediately downloading the Bonjournal app to test out (oddly for non-travel purposes, but more on that after I get a chance to play around with it). If you want to see your story on the Engadget home page, you can sign up to contribute to Public Access right here. Go ahead, do it. All your friends are doing it.

We’re also still giving shout-outs on social media to those members who have posted their first stories to Public Access; if you’d like an @ mention, make sure you’ve included a Twitter handle or social media link in your profile. (Not sure how? Sign into your Public Access account and go here.)

Public Access members may have noticed that some old topic ideas have been removed from the CMS, as we’re currently working on updating and refreshing topic ideas and how they’re displayed to members. If you have a draft that you’ve been waiting to finish, now is a great time — It might get a hard due date sooner than later! And if you have an idea for a great Public Access topic idea, feel free to hit us up here.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we’re developing a lot of plans this year for Public Access and we’ll be keeping you updated both via these weekly posts and on the Public Access landing page.

Looking for something to read? Check out:

Operation Finish All The Games January 2016: Kris Naudus gives us the first update on her plans to play through a game a month, all year. This month: Broken Age.

If Apple doesn’t launch an 802.11ah router, who will?: Good question, Robert Blake. Who indeed.

Google ‘ProjectSkyBender’ to Beam 5G Internet Using Drones: Meanwhile I’m still getting my internet out of tubes, like a sucker.

Looking for something to write about? Mull over:

Clean out your computer day: Celebrated on February 8th, this is a holiday designed to remind us all to spend some time cleaning out files and downloads. Share your cleaning tips and organizing tricks in a helpful how-to.

Professional gamers: If you could play a game – any game – professionally, what would it be and why?

Children and technology: There are some interesting points being made in the comments to this story about a man who was arrested after confiscating his child’s iPhone (a case complicated by custody issues). But what are best practices for parenting children who have constant access to technology? How do you instill proper tech etiquette in kids who have never known a life without a smartphone?

6
Feb

Ohlala’s ‘paid dates’ app debuts in New York City


Valentine’s Day for single folks can be a pretty touchy subject. But New Yorkers who don’t have qualms about exchanging money for short-term companionship have an alternative option in Ohlala. It recently launched in Gotham and offers men and women the option of paying for a “date.” From the look of things, it’s a bit like a cross between Tinder and Uber.

Unlike the worst-case scenario you might have in mind, however, it isn’t a process where you swipe for a ride but the driver doesn’t show up because you gave him or her your phone number. A press release from the company describes the process as such:

To initiate conversations, Ohlala users create verified profiles in which male users can fill date requests detailing specifications such as time and price range. Requests are made available to all active female users in the area for only 21 minutes, emphasizing an instant dating experience.

Only once the request is accepted can private conversations begin to discuss further details of the date – helping foster a safe and anonymous environment. Once both users have agreed upon the terms of the date, the price of the date is logged, and the date is accepted, users can then take the conversation offline and meet face-to-face under the agreed parameters.

Founder Pia Poppenreiter tells TechCrunch that what happens on a date here is actually a private matter. She also disagrees about the idea of her app being an escort service. Her preferred nomenclature? “A dating app with a payment mechanism built in.” It debuted last year in Germany (a profile on Broadly illustrates the ins and outs of the service), and this week’s New York launch marks its first trip outside of Deutschland.

Other apps have existed to help find a paid companion in your area — Poppenreiter previously built another one called Peppr — Ohlala covers every aspect of the transaction from start to climax, and aims to make those connections quickly. Now it’s just up to you to figure out how much a money shot is worth, and if it’s legal in your area.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Pehub

6
Feb

130+ HD minimalist wallpapers of colors, macro images and more


Your phone probably has a fantastic display and there is no better way to see the beauty of it than through a wallpaper. We’ve collected a huge library of over 130 wallpapers of macro images, color, water droplets, dandelions and flowers all to make your background pop. These are perfect to show off the pixels and color gamut on your Android, iOS or Windows smartphones. They’ll also look great on your tablets as well.

We’ve changed things up lately and will be sharing the entire collection through Google Photos rather than hosting them on our servers. There are thousands of you who love these wallpapers and rather than drain the speed on our server, we’re offloading that responsibility to Google. All you have to do is join the collection through this link and you’re free to download all of the wallpapers to your device.

We would also love it if you tweeted screenshots of your home screens to us at Twitter.com (@AndroidGuys). We might feature your background in an upcoming wallpapers collection!

See the entire collection by clicking on this LINK to Google Photos.

Here some of our favorites from the collection.

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water-drop-wallpaper-250 Up-close-blades-of-grass-with-water-droplets-wallpaper Macro-Chinese-Lanterns-2560x1600-wide-wallpapers.net macro_light_painting_bubble_2_by_drivenbyblood-d5sm4b0 Drop-Water-On-Dandelion-Flower-Macro-Wallpaper-HD Desktop-Pen-Drops-Macro-Wallpaper

Dandelion seed with water drops

Dandelion seed with water drops

bubbles-macro_00422673 7026741-water-drops-wallpaper-21813 4377_Macro-Centranthus-plant-HD-wallpaper 4901_Flowers-in-water-drops-macro-wallpaper 178330 346952

The post 130+ HD minimalist wallpapers of colors, macro images and more appeared first on AndroidGuys.

6
Feb

GoPro and Microsoft ink patent licensing deal


GoPro and Microsoft have forged a partnership, and it’s a very secretive one. The two companies have signed a patent licensing “for certain file storage and other system technologies.” That is seriously all they’re willing to tell us at this point, as the rest of the agreement’s details remain confidential. TechCrunch notes, however, that Microsoft made the exFAT file system available for licensing, making it a likely candidate for one of the technologies included in the agreement.

exFAT is a format optimized for flash drives, allowing you to save files 32GB and up. GoPro uses exFAT for larger SD cards, but for 64GB ones and smaller, it still uses the FAT format that only save files up to 4GB in size. Microsoft has refused to give TechCrunch more info about the agreement, but in the partnership’s announcement, Microsoft Technology Licensing’s Nick Psyhogeos said:

This agreement with GoPro shows the incredible breadth of technology sharing enabled through patent transactions. Microsoft’s licensing of personal wearable technologies is seeing strong demand as we partner with companies from all industries to optimize solutions for their customers around the globe.

Despite all the secrecy, GoPro has already benefited greatly from the deal. The action camera-maker’s stock has been dropping these recent months, but it’s gone up from four to six percent after the partnership was announced.

Source: Microsoft

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