The temperature outside has dropped in many parts of the world and that means it’s officially cuffing season, the time of year when people want to get involved with another person in a way less naughty and much more meaningful. The cold weather easily lends itself to plenty of cuddling with a significant other. But for those of you without that cuddle buddy, you’ve got work to do. That perfect guy or girl likely won’t appear aside you at the coffee shop, strike up a conversation, and ask you out on a date. We all like to blame our singleness on something called “social awkwardness,” which is a different way of saying you’re nervous to meet new people. So you’re probably going to need a little help from an app or two.
It’s time for me to be your digital matchmaker.
More people are using Tinder, which is about as simple as they come, than any other dating app in the world and generates around 26 million matches ever day of the year. Tinder is built around choosing potential matches based on photos other users who are nearby have uploaded. It’s based almost entirely on looks because users just swipe left or right anonymously to make a decision. Swiping right means you’re interested in the other person while going the other way just moves you on to another person. The kicker, though, is that the people you swiped right for in approval will have to do the same for you two to be matched and begin exchanging messages.
Tinder uses authentication from Facebook, so I think it’s almost guaranteed that you’re swiping among a group of real people with similar interests and common friends. The app won’t send anything to Facebook — saving you from any embarrassment you may feel being on an online dating app. Information from your profile negates the requirement most apps have to complete a profile and answer a mountain of questions. Tinder gets everything needed from your Facebook profile.
Like most dating apps, Tinder is free with a premium subscription available. The two key features unlocked with a Tinder Plus subscription are Passport and Rewind. Passport allows you to change your location to anywhere in the world to experience a fresh set of locals that could be your next partner in life. Rewind, as the name suggests, makes it possible to take back that last swipe that you may or may not have intended to do. Trust me, I won’t tell your potential matches if you swiped left but took it back out of desperation.
People complain that Tinder is too superficial, but you have to have thick skin while dating because you never know when rejection will slap you in the face. Another downfall is that Tinder lacks a web version, limiting users to use phones and tablets only.
Can you believe OkCupid has been around for twelve years? It’s true. What started with only a web version in 2004 has since expanded to include apps across all major platforms. OkCupid is for anyone who wants their dating life to be accessible on their laptop, phone, and tablet. The service syncs across all of your devices, and OkCupid never pushes you to pay any money. Temporary bonuses exist but none of them are required for you to get the most out of the service.
OkCupid is one of the most complex dating apps because, when setting up a profile, you’re given a massive amount of questions to answer. These responses you provide will be the biggest player in getting OkCupid to show potential matches located in your area. A match percentage is displayed so you have an idea as to whether or not the person you’re about to message shares the same interests and views. But that match percentage is just that. It doesn’t actually mean anything and you’re free to message anyone on OkCupid. What you can do in order to increase the likelihood of chatting with a winner is taking advantage of the Tinder-like swiping feature to notify someone that you’re into them.
Like I said before, OkCupid is free but you can get access to extra features by joining their ‘A-List’ at a price that seems to vary by user. Being an A-List member introduces invisible browsing, read receipts, a bigger inbox, and username changes. It’s not at all necessary and I believe OkCupid offers enough to use without spending a dime because you can view entire profiles at will.
Coffee Meets Bagel
Coffee Meets Bagel was launched in 2012 by the Kang sisters but really became known by many singles after making an appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank. The service’s founders, who sought $500,000 in return for 5% equity of Coffee Meets Bagel, rejected an offer by billionaire Mark Cuban worth $30 million because he wanted to assume complete ownership of the business. Since that Shark Tank episode aired in January 2015, Coffee Meets Bagel has grown to be one of the top dating services out there.
It works in a way similar to Tinder because authentication comes from Facebook, but the difference with Coffee Meets Bagel is that it’s only going to recommend matches who are friends of your friends. Then the really magic can begin. Every day at noon, you’ll be presented with a single match (aka the “Bagel”) that was hand-picked based on common interests and geography. Coffee Meets Bagels says attraction is also included with the formula to create matches, but I’m not confident that there’s a real algorithm to determine it. Mutual friends shared between you and your Bagel are displayed, and then you can decide whether or not to like or pass on that Bagel within twenty-four hours. Assuming both of you like other’s profile, a private chat is built for you two to get to know each other more by exchanging messages and answering ice breaker questions.
Over time, Coffee Meets Bagel learns what you do and don’t like in an effort to improve the Bagel selection. And in case you’re the shy type that will never ask someone else out on a date, Coffee Meets Bagel pushes for you and your Bagel to meet.
The success of Coffee Meets Bagel for you, considering it’s still relatively new, mighty vary but the service claims to have generate over 1 million dates while matching five hundred pairs on a weekly basis. Does it hurt to try the app? No, because using Coffee Meets Bagel is free of any charges.
Every of other app listed is missing something at the core that Grindr has: a focus on a specific group of people. Grindr is the world’s leading “social network app” for gay, bisexual, and sexually-curious men. It’s used by over 2 million users in two hundred countries on a daily basis, but those who enter Grindr should go into it with the understanding that the majority of fellow users are seeking hookups. Getting dates out of Grindr is certainly possible; however, don’t be surprised if a blank profile randomly messages you with something as brief and direct as “u lookin?” You’ll need to be a mature person to handle what Grindr’s users send your way.
Grindr is location-based, so all guys on your grid are within a reasonable distance. Select a profile picture and then you can read about the person before starting a chat with them. Profiles are limited to a headline, age, short bio, height, weight, ethnicity, body type, expectations, and relationship status. If that’s not enough for you to build the perfect profile, the app allows linking to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. That’s really all there is to Grindr before the messaging begins. Also, you can use some of the items as parameters for a filter to see the exact type of guy you want.
The popularity of Grindr, especially among gay men, is insane. Most forgo using anything else because the app gets the job done so well. Grindr’s population is high, the design is simple (albeit dated), and it’s free to use. Grindr Xtra adds things like an ad-free experience, push notifications, and unlimited blocks, and those features can be experienced at no cost with the free 14-day trial.
Grindr should greatly improve later this year because Beijing Kunlun Tech Company invested around $100 million in the company.
A collection of the best dating apps wouldn’t be whole without mentioning the world’s top dating service, Match. Millions of singles have used Match because of its proven track record and success rate, leading to the service being first in dates, relationships, and marriages. Having twenty-one years of experience in the business has allowed Match to build an algorithm to deliver matches almost guaranteed to get along with you. Of course, the only downfall is lack of physical attractiveness between you and matches. An algorithm can’t solve what pleases the eye.
The Match app built like its own little social network with four distinct sections: Matches, Search, Viewed Me, Mixer. Matches goes match-by-match with profile previews, giving you to the option to express interest in someone or move one. Viewed Me tells you exactly who checked out your profile. Mixer, which takes notes from Tinder, presents a profile and asks you to swipe left or right; therefore, both of you swiping right will facilitate more interaction because you know there’s at least some type of interest. Always at the top of the app’s user interface are buttons for viewing chats, your own profile, and notifications.
The turnoff of getting yourself onto Match is its price. Although accessible on the web and mobile devices (and even Android Wear), Match is very expensive. A single month of Match costs $40 but you can pay a lower monthly fee by subscribing long-term. A commitment of twelve months lowers the monthly fee to $20. However, like any good service, Match offers free trials before telling you to pay for its superior algorithm. Will singles in their early-to-mid twenties use Match? I doubt it. But an older crowd will continue using Match because of its relaxed, feature-packed nature.
Now do you think you’re ready to start dating in 2016? I think so. The options are so vast, and you don’t have to spend a penny to use really great services with the possibility of coming across your soulmate. Services like Tinder and Grindr focus on speed while Match and Coffee Meets Bagel put your qualities first. These services are available on most major platforms and have huge user bases, which means you better get going because a lucky guy or girl is waiting to chat with you!
Come comment on this article: Best dating apps 
If you were hoping to attend the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Ariz. but couldn’t, you’re in luck. The PGA has released its first virtual reality videos for Samsung Gear VR.
The videos were taken over the course of two days of the golf tournament. Two of the videos will allow viewers to see the practice area and receive an instructional session from PGA tour professionals Patrick Rodgers and Peter Malnati. Another video focuses on the 16th hole of tournament home TPC Scottsdale and the final video takes viewers behind the scenes of a PGA Tour Live broadcast.
The PGA plans to develop more VR videos throughout the season. The new content will allow viewers to see courses which they’ve never visited and watch their favorite golfers.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (February 10, 2016) – The PGA TOUR announced the release of its first-ever virtual reality (VR) videos on Samsung Gear VR, powered by Oculus. The videos and app were produced with the assistance of IM360, a leader in immersive and interactive content solutions.
The video was captured over two days at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale and is packaged in four separate VR videos. Two of the videos will take viewers to the practice area where they’ll be immersed in one-on-one instruction with PGA TOUR players Patrick Rodgers (@PRodgersGolf) and Peter Malnati (@PeterMalnati). A third video focuses on what it’s like to be on TPC Scottsdale’s famous 16th hole with Rickie Fowler. The fourth feature goes behind-the-scenes of a PGA TOUR LIVE broadcast.
“Our goal at the PGA TOUR is to bring fans as close to the game and players as possible,” said Sloane Kelley, PGA TOUR executive producer. “VR allows us to do that in a completely new way. Our initial focus with VR is around storytelling. We’ve opted to produce on-demand videos, which will reside in a dedicated PGA TOUR app on the Oculus platform. After doing test shoots last summer, we found the best VR experience is in stories that can immerse our fans in the most beautiful locations while allowing them to feel like they’re on the course with our players.”
The TOUR plans to create additional VR content throughout the season, finding opportunities to bring fans behind-the-scenes, to visit courses they’ve never seen, and to watch their favorite PGA TOUR players.
IM360 was the PGA TOUR’s vendor of choice, with the company producing the four videos involving 360-degree video capture, post production and distribution, featuring the top golf professionals in the world. To support the virtual reality experience, IM360 also built the custom PGA TOUR VR app on Oculus that includes exclusive content from instructional videos like bunker shots and putting, to behind-scenes footage on the PGA TOUR.
“The PGA TOUR has not only embraced virtual reality technology but has been fantastic to work with in building a revolutionary immersive experience for golfing fans around the world,” said IM360’s spokesperson Rich Flier. “It was a thrill and an honor to deliver a one-of-a-kind VR experience featuring the world’s top golf pros.”
Come comment on this article: Samsung Gear VR lets you explore Waste Management Phoenix Open
Samsung refreshed their Galaxy A series at the end of last year, with the new smartphones in the series borrowing heavily from the design language and construction of Samsung’s 2015 flagships. Apart from the 2016 editions of the Galaxy A3, A5, and A7, Samsung also added a new device to the lineup, which is also the largest of the bunch, and at least on paper, falls squarely in the “premium mid-range” category that we’re all increasingly familiar with.
What does this latest large Samsung offering bring to the table? We find out, in this comprehensive Samsung Galaxy A9 review!
Samsung has always had a penchant for bringing their flagship design language to the rest of their smartphone portfolio, so it’s not really surprising that the Galaxy A9 looks like an over-sized Galaxy S6, or a Galaxy Note 5, albeit without the curves on the back. What returns is the fantastic build quality, with two Corning Gorilla Glass 4 panels held together by a metal frame. A few elements do differentiate the Galaxy A9 from its flagship counterparts however; its corners are less rounded, resulting in a more angular look; meanwhile, flagship features like the S-Pen and the heart rate monitor aren’t to be found here.
Featuring a large 6-inch display, the handling experience is admittedly quite unwieldy, and while Samsung has done a great job in keeping the top part and the bottom chin relatively thin, one-handed use is quite literally a stretch. Some users will find hand gymnastics to be required to get across and to the top of the display, but with a somewhat slippery glass backing, using this phone with two hands will be your safest bet. Worth noting here is that despite being slightly thinner than the Galaxy Note 5, the camera unit on the back doesn’t protrude as much, which is one less thing to worry about when handling the device.
What you will notice right away when you first pick up the Galaxy A9 is its weight, and at 200 grams, it is certainly one of the heaviest smartphones we’ve come across. This heft does result in a substantial feel, but combined with the phone’s large dimensions, it can feel a little unbalanced when maneuvering it around. Given that the additional weight is likely a result of the huge battery packed into the device, it’s something that is at least understandable.
The Galaxy A9 comes with a 6-inch Super AMOLED display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 367 ppi. Samsung’s display prowess makes itself known once again with this screen, and everything you’d expect from a Super AMOLED panel, including vibrant, saturated colors, deep blacks, high brightness, and good viewing angles, are all to be seen here. The large display may not make for the best handling experience, but media-consumption and gaming-centric users will certainly appreciate the additional display real estate that is available to them.
With Quad HD being the current flagship standard, some may be disappointed with the comparatively lower resolution of the display, but Full HD definitely gets the job done in this instance. Granted, some texts may appear fuzzy, and you may notice that the images are not the sharpest, especially if you’ve moved over from a device with a Quad HD display. All said and done however, the resolution doesn’t make as much of a difference as the vibrant colors do, and this display in certainly gorgeous. Add that to the fact that using a Full HD display will also lead to some benefits in terms of battery life, and Samsung’s decision to stay with a 1080p screen does make sense.
You’ll find something quite different under the hood this time around, with Qualcomm returning to the Samsung fold with this device. The Galaxy A9 comes with the recently-renamed octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 GPU, backed by the Adreno 510 GPU, and 3 GB of RAM. Seeing a Snapdragon 6xx at the helm may make you think of this as a mid-range processing package, but in terms of performance, what you get is actually quite close to the Galaxy Note 5, and the A9 seemingly surpasses the Galaxy S6, which is very impressive.
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The device handles everyday tasks with ease – opening, closing, and switching between apps is a breeze, and gaming is a lot of fun, with few and far between dropped frames. Everything remains smooth and snappy for the most part, and the only instances of stutter that are noticeable are when moving to the Briefing screen to the left of the main homescreen, but that has been the case with previous Samsung smartphones as well, and is likely an issue with software optimization. The overall experience has been incredibly smooth, and the Galaxy A9 is certainly not going to disappoint as far as performance is concerned.
In hardware, the Galaxy A9 comes with a standard suite of connectivity options, including NFC, and you also get dual-SIM capabilities. 32 GB is the only storage option available here, but the great news is that expandable storage is now available with a near-flagship Samsung smartphone once again, with microSD card support up to 128 GB. The lack of expandable storage with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Note 5 caused an uproar among consumers, and it’s nice to see Samsung bring this feature back with a device that features a premium unibody construction, and perhaps, this is a little foreshadowing of the future as well.
Retained from its flagship counterparts is the fingerprint scanner, returning to its usual position up front and embedded in the physical home button. Its placement allows for the scanner to be accessed at any time, letting you quickly unlock the device even if it is resting on a table. It can be a little awkward to reach it when you hold the device up, in which case the rear positioning that some OEMs have opted could be preferable.
You still have to push the home button for the scanner to do its thing, but the scanner is otherwise very fast and accurate, failing to read the registered fingerprint only once in around twenty attempts. Apart from just unlocking the device, the fingerprint scanner is used with Samsung Pay as well, which is always a big plus. You may not get all the bells and whistles that Samsung packs into their flagship devices with the Galaxy A9, but it’s great to see the very useful fingerprint scanner making the jump.
The single speaker unit is located on the right side at the bottom, and, as is the case with most bottom-mounted speakers, the placement isn’t ideal, as the sound is directed away from you, and makes for a speaker that is also very easy to cover up when holding the phone in the landscape orientation. However, it does get loud and the audio is also quite clear, with only a small amount of compression to it.
Moving on to the battery, we were certainly excited to put the Galaxy A9 through its paces when we first heard that it featured a large 4,000 mAh battery, and along with that, the promise of fantastic battery life. It’s certainly great news that the device stands up to that promise, and comfortably so, easily lasting for as long as 2 days with average use. Even when using the device to take a lot of pictures, I experienced a very impressive 8 hours of screen-on time.
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You’ll be hard-pressed to drain this battery quickly unless you’re a heavy gamer. On the flip side, you can get even more juice out of the battery by using Samsung’s built-in battery saving modes when you’re running low. You will rarely find the need to charge the Galaxy A9 every night, and when you do have to, it charges really quickly as well, taking advantage of Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 technology.
The camera, on paper, seems to be a step down from the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy Note 5, with the Galaxy A9 featuring a 13 MP primary shooter with a f/1.9 aperture. Fortunately, optical image stabilization is available as well, and overall, this camera is capable of taking some really good shots. To take pictures at full resolution, you’ll have to resort to shooting in a 4:3 aspect ratio however.
In good lighting conditions, the camera performs very well, and there is some sharpening that happens during post processing, that helps create sharp looking pictures with vibrant colors. On the negative side, the camera can struggle with dynamic range, and lots of detail can get lost in the shadows. Overexposure is also very common for the camera, especially on overcast days, but HDR does a great job with fixing this while maintaining a realistic look. Image quality deteriorates as lighting conditions worsen, and you will start to see images that are quite dull, with not a lot of vibrancy to the colors, along with lots of noise as well.
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The front-facing camera of the Galaxy A9 is actually a step up from what is found with its flagship counterparts, and the 8 MP shooter, also with a f/1.9 aperture, makes for a noticeable difference. While the selfie cam of the Galaxy S6 lacked detail, the Galaxy A9 allows for a good amount of detail to be seen in images. It is a wide angle lens as well, which helps get a lot of information into the shot.
Overall though, the cameras of the Galaxy A9 are very capable, but the Galaxy S6 is still the one to beat.
Finally, on the software side of things, it is certainly very surprising, and disappointing, to see the Galaxy A9, a device launched in December 2015, running Android 5.1.1 Lollipop out of the box. Granted, an official update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow is in the works, but with a device released so late in the year, we were certainly expecting it to come with the latest version of Android right away. For now, we have a version of TouchWiz that we’ve been familiar with for close to year.
Samsung has done a decent job in toning down this version of its software package, when compared to previous iterations, but there are a few nice features still included. The notification dropdown is very nicely designed, if you don’t mind the color choice, and you do get to customize the Quick Settings toggles for easier access. Dual window support is also available, which can easily be taken advantage of when using this large display, but the feature is limited to only a select set of applications for now. Finally, the robust Theme Store is returning, which gives you the opportunity to really make the experience your own.
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Granted, there is still work to be done here, like addressing the small stutters that are seen in relation to the homescreen animations, or when swiping over to the Briefing screen, but these will hopefully be taken care of when Samsung releases the official update to Marshmallow for the Galaxy A9.
|DIsplay||6-inch Super AMOLED display
Full HD resolution, 367 ppi
|Processor||1.8 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 652
Adreno 510 GPU
expandable via microSD card by up to 128 GB
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
FM Radio with RDS
|Cameras||13 MP rear camera, f/1.9 aperture, OIS, LED flash
8 MP front-facing camera, f1/.9 aperture
|Software||Android 5.1.1 Lollipop|
|Dimensions||161.7 x 80.9 x 7.4 mm
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Pricing and final thoughts
The Samsung Galaxy A9 can be found on Amazon priced at close to the $600 mark, which is quite steep, but given the flagship features this device provides, it does make sense. Available color options include silver, white, gold, and pink gold.
So there you have it for this in-depth look at the Samsung Galaxy A9! This smartphone proves to be quite compelling, by offering a flagship design and build quality, high-end performance, and incredible battery life, along with expandable storage coming back into the fold as well. The display resolution may not be the highest out there, and the camera may not be as good as Samsung’s flagship devices, but they are certainly not bad either. The Galaxy A9 proves that Samsung can definitely find the balance between looks and functionality, and this device could put the company back on top when it comes to creating smartphones for the power user.
Look inside just about any Android Wear smartwatch (plus a few running alternative OSes, no less) and you’ll find one of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400-series chips thrumming away inside. The company’s stranglehold on wearable gadget processors is pretty damned thorough, and it just might stay that way thanks to a new chip — the Snapdragon Wear 2100 — that was announced earlier today.
Perhaps the biggest change here is how much smaller the new chip than its prolific predecessor; Qualcomm says it’s a full 30 percent tinier than a 400-series chipset, and that power consumption has been slashed by about 25 percent to boot. That goes for both versions of the chip, too: there’s a “tethered” model with support for 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 links, while the “connected” version folds in an LTE modem for all-in-on wearables like Samsung’s Gear S2. The biggest pain point for most people living with (or even contemplating living with) wearables is how frequently they need to be recharged, but with any luck we’ll soon be able wear these things for more than a few days without making a power outlet pitstop.
Qualcomm’s chipset cavalcade doesn’t stop there, either. We’ve also got three new Snapdragons for phones — the 425, 435 and 625. That first chip is clearly the least ambitious of the trio with its four Cortex-A53 cores and old-school Adreno 308 GPU. The 435 seems like a big leap by comparison — it corrals eight of those same cores that top out at a clock speed of 1.4GHz, and packs a new Adreno 505 CPU that plays nice with 1080p/60FPS screens. Throw in support for QuickCharge and a LTE Cat 7 300Mbps down, 100Mbps up and you’ve got a potent little chipset for all those low-cost devices connected developing markets.
The 625, on the other hand, is clearly the chip to beat in this pack. It’s built on a 14nm process that allows its eight Cortex-A53 cores to hit speeds in excess of 2GHz. While we’re talking speeds, the 625’s connectivity game is pretty strong — there’s support for LTE Cat 7 and 802.11ac WiFi to boot. The ability to record and process 4K video is icing on the mid-range phone cake; it’s too bad the chip’s Adreno 506 GPU means display resolutions top out at 1,900 x 1,200.
While our wireless carriers bicker over who offers the fastest service, Qualcomm went and pulled back the curtain on the Snapdragon X16 modem, a dry sounding bit of networking tech with huge implications. With it comes the promise of insanely fast gigabit LTE download speeds… but shouldn’t hold your breath waiting see your Ookla Speedtest results shoot through the roof.
The X16’s secret sauce has two ingredients. First, it uses its four antennas and some clever signal management know-how to connect to 10 LTE data streams from only three carrier-aggregated 20MHz carriers. Long story short, each of those streams can carry data at up to 100Mbps, giving us the magical 1Gbps figure. Second, the X16 supports LTE Advanced Pro, which (among other things) means the modem can play nice when carriers tap into swathes of unlicensed spectrum to increase the number of connections they can have going at one time. Too bad this tech won’t wind up in the new Snapdragon 820, though; the first X16-friendly devices should show up in the second half of the year.
Here’s the thing, though — as awesome as all of this sounds, the chances of actually full gigabit LTE speeds are slim even if a network operator uses unlicensed spectrum to amplify the number of connections it can hang onto at one time. Given our growing demand for data, though, you can bet that we’ll get very close before long. Samsung and Korean wireless carrier KT cooked up a kind of hybrid network tech called GiGA LTE that has a theoretical max speed of 1.17Gbps, though it’s not clear how many Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge owners are getting speeds even close to that.
Clues have been circulating about Google’s plans for a new VR headset in recent weeks. Now, the Wall Street Journal reports that Mountain View is working on a second virtual reality device. Unlike the headset we’ve seen tipped already, the second gadget is said to be a standalone unit that doesn’t require a phone or PC in order to work. If this is true, it will be the first device to function without being connected to a computer or mobile device. A few days ago, a report surfaced stating that Google had a new headset in the works that would be a much more advanced version of Cardboard, but would still use a handset to drive the visuals.
The WSJ report goes on to explain that Google is actually working on two separate pieces of hardware. That unit we heard about last week, which could be something like Samsung’s Gear VR, is said to still be on tap this year, packed with chips and sensors of its own. By joining the virtual reality fray, Google would be competing with Samsung, HTC, Sony and Oculus in the space. However, three of those four companies have products that need a PC or game console in order to work.
Google is reportedly working with Movidius on motion-tracking cameras for the standalone headset. If you’ll recall, the duo also worked together on the Project Tango, a smartphone that packed in 3D depth-sensing tech. In terms of a release date, details are understandably scarce as it seems to be early in the development phase. One source told the Wall Street Journal it may debut this year while another claimed Google could decide to scrap it entirely. However, the report does indicate that we could see the headset for phones debut at this year’s Google I/O developer conference. That piece of hardware would arrive alongside the annual update to Android, including features to properly accommodate VR gadgets.
Source: Wall Street Journal
“We have detected gravitational waves. We did it,” David Reitze, executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), said at a press conference in Washington on Thursday. Reitze has good reason to be excited. LIGO’s find is a huge, Nobel Prize-worthy accomplishment on par with CERN’s discovery of the Higgs particle in 2012. Just as Higgs particles revolutionized the standard model of physics, gravitational waves are set to do the same to Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Simply put, it will fundamentally alter how we view and interact with the universe around us.
Einstein actually predicted the existence of gravitational waves in his theory of general relativity just over 100 years ago, in 1915. In the general relativity model, as opposed to Newtonian mechanics, which stipulates that the macroscopic universe is static, gravity isn’t just a weakly attractive force; it’s the result of a curvature in the fabric of space-time generated by the mass of objects. Here’s a quick visual demonstration:
As you can see in the video above, large objects with greater mass can bend space-time more than smaller, lighter ones. But when truly massive objects move around — in this case, when a pair of black holes collide — it will cause the fabric of space-time to scrunch up and then expand, moving outward at the speed of light like the ripples in the surface of a pond. That’s what gravitational waves are — ripples in the very fabric of the universe — and what makes this discovery so momentous. We’ve been able to empirically and experimentally confirm many aspects of general relativity over the years. However, directly observing gravitational waves — which lie at the heart of Einstein’s theory — has remained tantalizingly beyond our reach.
For more than a century, we’ve only been able to indirectly observe these waves, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. The National Science Foundation has spent more than a billion dollars over the course of 50 years trying to observe this phenomenon, 25 of which were spent refining the instruments at LIGO’s test sites in Washington State and Louisiana.
LIGO employs a pair of ludicrously sensitive 4-kilometer-long laser beams set up at right angles from each other, with a mirror at the end of each tube. As gravitational waves pass, the distance between the two mirrors shrinks then expands ever so minutely — we’re talking a thousandth the diameter of one atomic nucleus — but that’s enough for LIGO’s detector to pick up. In fact, the confirming observation itself lasted just 20 thousandths of a second as a pair of distant supermassive black holes circled each other. As the black holes spiral closer, the space-time between them becomes increasingly distorted and generates increasingly stronger waves until they eventually coalesce into one and the distortions stop. This process creates the telltale “chirp” that LIGO detects. Researchers can calculate the wave-form of the chirp and from that determine the size of the two holes, their orientation relative to the observer and the manner in which they’re orbiting each other.
“This is transformational,” Birmingham University professor Alberto Vecchio, one of the researchers at LIGO, told the Guardian. “This observation is truly incredible science and marks three milestones for physics: the direct detection of gravitational waves, the first detection of a binary black hole, and the most convincing evidence to date that nature’s black holes are the objects predicted by Einstein’s theory.”
This is huge not just because it validates one of the last unresolved bits of Einstein’s theory of relativity; it could also very well allow us to manipulate the base layer of the physical universe. Just as our discovery of radio waves has led to modern mobile communications and has flat-out revolutionized astronomy by enabling researchers to see beyond the visible spectrum, the discovery of gravitational waves is going to change everything.
For example, astronomers currently can’t observe the first 400,000 years of the Big Bang because the earliest years of the universe are impenetrable to light. Gravitational waves are a different story. “Literally, by gathering gravitational waves we will be able to see exactly what happened at the initial singularity,” professor Neil Turok, director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada, told the Guardian. “The most weird and wonderful prediction of Einstein’s theory was that everything came out of a single event: the big bang singularity. And we will be able to see what happened.”
For all the amazing experiences virtual reality enables (the illusion of flight, the exhaustion of exercise and even the emotional fatigue of trauma), it still has one major flaw: Virtual objects are intangible and have no physicality. If you want to walk through a wall, the game can’t stop you. If you try to lean on a table, you’ll probably fall down. It’s a limitation of first-generation VR technology I’d grown to accept — at least until I played Survios’ Raw Data, a game that tricked me into pretending its completely virtual objects were real.
In Raw Data, two players use an assortment of weapons to protect a shared VR play space from an oncoming horde of killer robots. At first blush, this feels a lot like any other motion-controlled first-person VR action game: aiming with virtual guns, fanatically shooting in all directions and generally feeling like an action hero while doing it — but when I swung the game’s laser sword at another blade, something weird happened. It stopped. And, despite there being absolutely no physical force present to stop me, my arms stopped too.
Stopping my arms felt natural, but I had no idea why I did it. By all rights, I should have followed through on the swing. I asked James Iliff, Survios’ co-founder and chief creative officer, for his thoughts as I pulled off my VR headset. “There’s this trigger mechanism in the brain about mimicry,” he told me. “Like, as kids we were playing around in the yard with sticks, or doing air guitar. We mimicked those actions. When a game gives you 100 percent feedback visually, auditorily and haptically that you’ve stopped, a lot of times the user will play along and they won’t even realize it.” In other words, the game feels more realistic if you pretend it’s real. When the swords stopped in game, clanged on impact and sent a sharp vibration to my motion controller, it was using visual, audio and haptic cues to coax me into playing make-believe.
The trick worked on me, but only because I decided to play along. Not everybody will follow the rules, Iliff told me. “We call it contextual physics feedback,” he said, explaining the system further. “The system decides, based on context, when not to enable physics feedback.” While this system encourages playing by the rules, it seems to favor keeping in-game action consistent with player movement over abiding by VR physics — if I had followed through on my slice, the swords would have slid past each other. “But if you do stop, it continues to play along with you,” Iliff reiterated. “That essentially gives you the sensation of real feedback.”
This contextual physics feedback system is one of the “big problems” Survios is trying to solve. Having collision that makes sense is essential to enabling the kind of social multiplayer Raw Data is built around. The team is also working on a contextual gaze system to simulate eye contact with other VR players, and a phonic detection system is poised to animate character mouths in tune with voice chat. To top it all off, Raw Data features a cinematic spectating system that broadcasts VR game play from “dynamically generated camera angles” to services like Twitch.
That, Iliff says, could be the key to helping the masses understand virtual reality. “If we can make this easy in all our apps, for users to broadcast to their friends … that’s the fastest way to get everybody talking about VR.”
International bon vivant and Silicon Valley playboy Steve Goldbloom explores the cut-throat world of startup culture in Engadget’s first (maybe only) mockumentary, On the Brink of Greatness. The 12-episode series debuts Thursday, February 18th, but you can see inside the mind of the best thing to happen to the tech industry since the Palm Pre in the trailer above.
Even folks who are not tech-savy may have heard about phone unlocking in some form or another. This is especially likely if you’ve questioned using your phone on an international trip. A locked phone isn’t a complicated concept; it is merely a result of carrier exclusivity. The U.S. carriers often tune phones for their own network’s specs, and part of that process is not allowing that phone to go any other carrier (hence the term “locked”).
But a locked phone can be unlocked and regain the freedom that it’s born with. It’s software-based. However, that may be a painful process to go through. Carriers don’t like when you leave them, so there may be hoops to jump through to get the phone-locking software disabled.
Fortunately, there is another way than pestering the carrier about it. DoctorSIM is a service created to git ‘r done as painlessly as possible. Let’s run through the process and see how easy it can be.
Easy as 1… 2… 3
DoctorSIM says that there’s three simple steps in its service to you to phone freedom.
Essentially, you give them your phone information and they do the background work to obtaining the unlock code. Getting that unlock code is the key. Once you have it, you simply type it into your phone and voila.
To start, tell doctorSIM the make of your phone, the country, and the carrier. It’s important to know that not every combination of phone make and carrier is gonna be a go. Particularly, CDMA carriers (Verizon and Sprint) don’t play the game well. I don’t even see that doctorSIM can do Sprint phone unlocking (I always get a “We are sorry, service not available at this time” message when I try).
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However, because Verizon does phones with “Global” GSM access these days, the service can be available for it. When you do get a suitable match, you’ll be presented with service options.
What’s the difference?
I was initially confused as to why there’s tiers to the service. Isn’t it you either unlock or don’t? Well, because the level of difficulty in obtaining the unlock code is situational, doctorSIM offers Standard and Premium services. Standard looks for the code locally and Premium looks for it on a worldwide scale (doctorSIM is a global company). It is very well possible that the local database can fail to turn up the code, so choosing the Premium service would give you higher success rate.
Generously, if you go with the Standard service and fail, doctorSIM will fully refund you. So it’s nice that you have nothing to lose. The Premium Express service is as implied, it searches for the unlock code worldwide and promises to get it to you much more quickly (if you’re in a hurry).
Once you decide on a service, you just have to tell doctorSIM what your phone’s IMEI is (your phone’s unique identifier number).
This is what doctorSIM needs to track down your specific phone’s unlock code. From here, submit your payment and doctorSIM will take it from there. You’ll be emailed the unlock code when it is retrieved.
Go Get It!
If you’re interested in freeing your phone to use on a different carrier, but don’t want to deal with the annoying process, you should check doctorSIM out (hit up the link below). Most of us like to keep using our device when we travel, so give unlocking a thought if utilizing an international carrier sounds really beneficial.
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