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Disney virtual reality content is coming, Nokia Ozo to be used for filming

The mighty Disney has announced it will use the Nokia Ozo camera to create virtual reality content.

Disney is planning to use the Ozo 360-degree camera to create immersive videos that will be unleashed alongside its movie feature releases.

The Nokia Ozo is a virtual reality camera that’s aimed at super high quality content. It’s for this reason that it’s being aimed at professional level film-making. The camera is able to capture images from multiple angles and then stitch that together to create the 360-degree persecutive. 

Nokia and Disney have already worked together using the Ozo before. Two 360-degree videos were released in conjunction with the launch of The Jungle Book movie. This allowed viewers to see the red carpet premiere event and cast interviews in virtual reality.

Anyone can watch the videos using YouTube by clicking and moving the mouse to change view. For the best experience VR videos can be viewed on a smartphone in a virtual reality viewer headset, like Google Cardboard, so looking around in the real world moves the perspective in the virtual one.

Here’s hoping Star Wars gets plenty of VR work done so we can get further into the world of Star Wars ready for the next movie release.

READ: What is Nokia Ozo? Here’s everything you need to know


Ford boss believes an Apple Car is in the works

Apple has long been rumoured to be working on its own car, currently called the Apple Car or Project Titan by the press. And it seems that major players in the motor industry believe so too.

Ford CEO Mark Fields has confirmed that his company assumes the Apple Car is a real possibility.

“Our working addumption is that they are,” he told the BBC’s economics editor, Kamal Ahmed, when asked about the Apple vehicle.

“And that provides us with the right motivation to make sure we stay very focused not only on the product but overall on the experience that the customer has interacting with the products and the services that we have.”

Apple recently hired former Tesla vice president of vehicle engineering, Chris Porritt, further spinning the Project Titan rumour mill. He also used to be Aston Martin’s chief engineer, so Apple’s plans could be for a high end, premium vehicle.

READ: Apple Car: What’s the story so far on Project Titan?

Ford boss Fields also suggests that Google could become a major player in the motor industry too. Its self-driving cars have sparked interest from others in similar technologies.

“There are a lot of traditional competitors that we have in our business who we know and we respect,” he told the Beeb.

“There are a lot of new non-traditional competitors who are looking at the automotive space and looking at that addressable market and saying ‘gee can we get a piece of that’.

“We are viewing that as an opportunity not as a threat and there will be some things [we can do] on our own to be able to satisfy those customer needs that technology enables.”

Fields also pointed to Ford’s research and innovation centre in Palo Alto as a direct result of combating newcomers to his company’s market.


Adapter brings your own wireless gamepads to the NES

Wireless gamepads for the NES are nothing new (just ask anyone who bought an Akklaim Double Player), but what if you had your pick of controllers? Analogue and 8Bitdo want to make that happen. Their newly launched Retro Receiver lets you use a host of wire-free gamepads with Nintendo’s classic console. You’ll get the most authentic-feeling experience if you use one of 8Bitdo’s peripherals, but the real party trick comes when you bring modern controllers into the fray — you can use a Wii remote, a Wii U Pro Controller or even Sony’s DualShock 3 or 4. Retro Receiver sells for $20, so it might be worth a go if you’re determined to play some old-school Legend of Zelda without stringing an original controller across the room.

Source: Analogue


UK bans cold callers from withholding numbers

Have you been involved in an accident at the workplace, taken out a loan with unnecessary payment protection insurance, or think it’s time to upgrade your double glazing? If too many of your conversations begin with one of these questions, you either have a pretty boring group of friends or you’re frequently a victim of the dreaded cold call. Thankfully, the government isn’t a fan of these unsolicited chats either, and is bringing new rules into force that should cause companies to think twice before dialing your number.

From May 16th, any direct marketing firm registered in the UK — regardless of where they’re physically based — won’t be allowed to hide the number they are calling from. While seeing a withheld number pop up on your mobile is a pretty clear sign it’s a nuisance call, having the digits in your log gives you an opportunity to redress. With numbers to hand, the government hopes more people unduly targeted by cold callers will be inclined to report offenders. And if a company is found to be skirting the rules, they can expect a fine of up to £2 million from regulator Ofcom, and potentially an additional £500,000 slap on the wrist from the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office.

Glad to announce a new attack on #nuisancecalls Cold callers must display phone numbers from 16 May #nonuisance

— Lady Neville-Rolfe (@LNevilleRolfe) 25 April 2016

Via: Ars Technica

Source: UK government


The Netflix effect: SNL to air fewer commercial breaks

Honchos at NBC have told Ad Age that Saturday Night Live is going to show fewer commercials from next season. The 42nd year of the long-running sketch show will lose two whole ad breaks compared to the current season. That time will be handed back to producer Lorne Michaels to fill with the stated intention of making it “easier to watch the show live.” In exchange, the channel will let six companies pay to create “branded original content,” that harnesses SNL’s cadre of writers and performers. We’re not sure how much paid-for programming will change the show’s slightly subversive tone, but as long as Kate McKinnon’s free to be Kate McKinnon, we’re not sure we care.

It’s not explicitly addressed by either NBC Universal’s Linda Yaccarino or Lorne Michaels, but we’re fairly sure what’s causing the about-face. After all, cord-cutters and ad-averse millennials may prefer to watch the individual SNL sketches the morning after on YouTube. That way, they’re free from the burden of having to sit through an endless parade of commercials that break the mood of the comedy. The sort of young viewers that SNL is often designed for are increasingly used to watching shows without commercial breaks at all, thanks to Netflix and Amazon Prime. Hulu, even, offers smaller ad breaks than broadcast TV (and none when you upgrade to the premium tier).

Ad Age says that around six-and-a-half-million people watch SNL during its traditional broadcast slot, er, live on Saturday nights. A further 2.2 million people subscribe to the show’s YouTube page, and even a lukewarm sketch like the Julia Louis-Dreyfuss cold open earned 1.4 million views. Clips that go viral, meanwhile, can get views an order of magnitude higher than that. Obviously, NBC and its advertising partners would like to get those eyeballs in front of their TV for the actual broadcast, and so it’s going to have to adapt to the modern era. Of course, some might say that nothing’s going to increase SNL’s audience unless it either: airs earlier or its creators work out a better ways to end a ske

Source: Ad Age


US launches its first cyberattacks against ISIS

The US no longer thinks that it’s enough to hurt ISIS through airstrikes and cutting off propaganda channels — it’s starting a full-on digital warfare campaign. Cyber Command is launching its first attacks against ISIS’ digital infrastructure in a bid to disrupt its communications and other basic functions. According to New York Times sources, this includes everything from imitating commanders to interrupting payments to fighters. This, in turn, could slow down ISIS as it second-guesses its moves for fear of being led into an American trap.

This represents a big shift in strategy not just in the fight against ISIS, but for the US’ approach to cyberwarfare. Typically, the country has reserved cyberattacks for Iran, North Korea and other nations which might pose a physical threat. They’ve been preventative measures. Here, the military is using them as part of an active (if limited) conflict — they’re as much a weapon as a bomb or missile. Although it’s too soon to say if these internet assaults will be effective (they may lead ISIS to harden its online security), the very fact that they’re being used at all is noteworthy.

Source: New York Times


Apple’s updated MacBook is indeed faster with longer battery life

Apple dropped some Mac news last week, but it might not have been the news you were waiting for. Neither the MacBook Air nor the MacBook Pro have seen a processor refresh since last year, and both have had the same design for several years now. So, if you were hoping for the mythical Retina display Air, or an MBP with one of Intel’s newer Skylake chips, you’re still outta luck.

If, however, you were waiting to pull the trigger on the 12-inch MacBook, this was your lucky week: Apple updated its lightest-weight notebook with newer CPUs, faster SSDs and a Rose Gold option — the first pink computer the company has ever made. Aside from the new color, which I am not reviewing so much as judging, the refreshed MacBook promises a 25 percent boost in graphics performance and an extra hour of battery life. I’d say those claims are indeed accurate.


Review: MacBook

It appears that some of my fellow tech reviewers tested the new MacBook in something other than this new Rose Gold color. I happen to have the pink version, as you can see, and I’m glad for that: This is Apple’s first-ever Rose Gold Mac, and there’s news value there. If I’m honest, though, this is not the color I would have purchased for myself. The dusty, mauve shade we have here reminds me only of things I don’t want: a Barbie Dream House, ballet slippers and Elle Woods’ wardrobe in Legally Blonde. This color wasn’t my favorite even when it debuted on the iPhone, but on the Mac, where everything but the bezels and keys are pink, it’s just too much. When I use it in public or at the office I feel like I have to explain myself. No, I am not actually this girly, I want to say.

Luckily for me, if I were in the market for a MacBook, I could still buy it in all the usual colors: silver, gold and my personal favorite, Space Gray. Ladies (or gents, even), if you do indeed want a Rose Gold Mac to match your Rose Gold iPhone, knock yourselves out.

As I said, that new color option aside, this is, for better and worse, the same hardware Apple introduced last year. There’s still but one port on the left side: a USB Type-C socket you’ll use both to charge the device and attach whatever optional adapters you choose to buy. The sound coming out of the stereo speakers above the keyboard continues to surprise me, both for its loudness and relative balance.

The 12-inch Retina display, meanwhile, still combines deep contrast, bright colors and some very high pixel density (that 2,304 x 1,440 resolution comes out to 226 pixels per inch). Once again too, this is the display I really wish I could have on the 13-inch MacBook Air — you know, the one where I can still get a built-in full-sized USB port to charge my phone.

Given that I’m used to dividing my time between a 13-inch MacBook Air and 21.5-inch iMac, the 12-inch panel here feels a little too small for me, personally — at least for extended use. (As I type this review in a browser tab, I have one eye on Slack, so clearly this setup is usable, even if it’s not ideal.) That said, it occurred to me during this second round of testing that I might be able to work this tiny Mac into my lifestyle after all. What I realize now is that in addition to being well-suited for travel, the MacBook also makes for the perfect “thing I take to meetings” device. At two pounds, it’s so light that I can easily balance it in one hand, without even having to shut the lid. This makes it easy to stop what I’m doing, hurry to a conference room and immediately be ready to take notes.

I can envision a setup where I use an adapter to keep the laptop hooked up to an external monitor when it’s parked at my desk. The thing is, I happened to cross paths with our company IT guy while I was working on this review, and once he heard what I was testing he just shook his head. Unless Apple adds another port, preferably a full-sized one, using the MacBook for work is a no-go. So while my fantasy is a nice idea, it’s just not meant to be. Maybe you can swing it, though.

Keyboard and trackpad

I also felt more at home this time using the flat keyboard and Force Touch trackpad, even though neither has actually changed since I reviewed the first-generation version a year ago. I partly thank muscle memory for that. Even though I hadn’t used the 12-inch MacBook since the week I spent with it last year, I clearly hadn’t forgotten how to type on the flat keys. That bodes well for people who will actually buy this: If I can make progress on the learning curve in just a week, and still have retained the muscle memory after a year of not using it, imagine how comfortable one would get if this were their primary keyboard.

Even then, the learning curve is gentler than you might think. That’s because the button only look flat. Under the surface, each keycap is propped up by what Apple calls a “butterfly” mechanism that lowers the entire key evenly each time you strike a button with your finger. This is a departure from conventional keyboards, where the common “scissor” keycap design means there’s always gong to be a chance that one side of the keycap will hit the bottom before a press can actually register. That’s why on other ultraportables I test, I often complain that the keyboards don’t always “hear” me the first time, forcing me to either mash the buttons or frequently go back and re-type stuff.

That wasn’t a problem here. Though the buttons are nearly flush with the keyboard deck, they’re actually quite springy and responsive. It helps too that the backlit buttons have 17 percent more surface area than on other MacBooks, which makes it that much easier to hit your intended key.

As for the trackpad, its Force Touch technology means that what used to be a clickable button has been replaced by a hard, fixed surface that uses a vibration motor to simulate “clicks” when the machine is turned on. (Power it off and you’ll find the touchpad doesn’t move at all.) It’s also pressure-sensitive, allowing you to do things like push down extra hard to preview an image in Finder or fast-forward through a movie in QuickTime at 60x.

Even a year after the technology came out, those hard “force clicks” continue to feel awkward; I sometimes have to try more than once to pull off the trick that I meant to. That said, I’ve warmed up to this touchpad when it comes to everyday use: “clicking” when I’m not really clicking anything. No, it still doesn’t feel the same as the trackpad on the MacBook Air, but that’s OK. In my case, I have the iMac’s new Magic Trackpad to thank: It uses the same Force Touch technology as the MacBook. For everyone else as well, I suspect that Force Touch will feel more normal with time. After all, the MacBook Pros already have the same touchpad, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the MacBook Air one day followed suit.

Performance and battery life

MacBook (2016, 1.2GHz Intel Core M5, Intel HD Graphics 515) 5,271 (32-bit) / 5,844 (64-bit) 411 8:45
MacBook (2015, 1.1GHz Intel Core M, Intel HD Graphics 5300) 3,891 (32-bit) / 4,425 (64-bit) 388 7:47
13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display (early 2015, 2.7GHz Core i5, Intel Iris 6100) 6,293 (32-bit) / 7,062 (64-bit) 487 11:23
13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display (late 2013, 2.4GHz Core i5, Intel Iris graphics) 6,288 (32-bit) 428 11:18
13-inch MacBook Air (mid 2013, 1.3GHz Core i5, Intel HD Graphics 5000) 6,021 (32-bit) 304 12:51

Though the base $1,299 model has a 1.1GHz Core M3 processor, the $1,599 one I tested steps up to a more robust Core M5 chip with a slightly faster clock speed of 1.2GHz. Either way, you get 8GB of RAM, and the PCIe solid-state drives are of the same caliber too, though the actual amount of available storage varies between the two configurations. As you’d expect, Apple promises this year’s model is faster than last year’s and has longer battery life. In particular, the company says we can expect a 25 percent graphics boost and an extra hour of runtime, regardless of whether you’re judging battery life by video playback or continuous web surfing.

That’s born out in our benchmark tests, where I saw appropriately higher numbers in tests like Geekbench and Xbench. The startup time wasn’t faster — nine seconds to the log-in screen, versus seven last year — but I’m not complaining. Meanwhile, the PCIe SSD inside now reaches average write speeds of 845 MB/s, according to the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test. That’s way up from 451.7 MB/s on last year’s model, which was already more than what we see on many flagship laptops. Meanwhile, read speeds are now approaching a gigabyte per second, with the rates in my tests coming out to an average of 947 MB/s. That’s up considerably from 738.2 MB/s last year.

In everyday use, I had no problem juggling all my usual apps: Slack, Spotify, TextEdit, Photos, Notes, Messages, Maps and Chrome, with nine pinned tabs and a handful of unpinned ones. Apps were quick to launch, and I thankfully didn’t notice any of the hiccups that sometimes plague slower machines; it kept up as I hopped between pinned browser tabs, for instance, which not all laptops do.

Also, because Core M processors allow for fanless designs, using the MacBook is a pleasantly quiet experience — something I can’t always say about the Air or Pro. Additionally, though I complained last time that the laptop’s bottom side could occasionally get a little warm, that wasn’t an issue for me this year; the machine stayed cool enough for me to work with it in my lap, with shorts on.

Battery life

Apple MacBook (2016)
Surface Book (Core i5, integrated graphics)
13:54 / 3:20 (tablet only)
HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2015)
Surface Book (Core i7, discrete graphics)
11:31 / 3:02 (tablet only)
Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (13-inch, 2015)
iPad Pro (12.9-inch, 2015)
HP Spectre x360 15t
Chromebook Pixel (2015)
Lenovo Yoga 900
Microsoft Surface 3
Samsung Notebook 9
Apple MacBook (2015)
Dell XPS 13 (2015)
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
HP Spectre x2
Razer Blade Stealth
Dell XPS 15 (2016)
5:25 (7:40 with the mobile charger)
Toshiba Radius 12

This year, the MacBook’s 41.4Wh battery is rated for up to 10 hours of web browsing, or up to 11 hours of video playback. That’s up an hour across the board from last year, when Apple promised nine hours of browsing and 10 hours of video. Indeed, I saw the MacBook notch almost exactly an extra hour in Engadget’s rundown test, which involves looping video in iTunes and setting the screen to 10 bars out of 16, with no dimming. It’s also hours better than one of its most similar competitors, the 2.9-pound Toshiba Radius 12, whose bright 4K screen helped bring the battery life down to around five hours.

Like last year, though, the MacBook’s battery life fell short of Apple’s promise, even when I attempted to replicate the company’s own testing conditions. The battery life also still trails the thicker and heavier MacBook Air, which is rated for 12 hours. Don’t get me wrong, an extra hour of runtime is a step in the right direction; it’s just that when it comes to battery life claims, Apple usually exceeds, where here it slightly missed the mark. And for people who know they want a Mac, but aren’t sure which one, it will be tough to discount the fact that the Air lasts hours longer on a charge.

Configuration options and the competition

Unlike some of Apple’s other computers, the MacBook is offered in two versions, each of which has very few upgrade options. The base $1,299 model has a 1.1GHz, dual-core Core M3 processor and a 256GB PCIe solid-state drive. Then there’s the $1,599 edition, which has a 1.2GHz Core M5 chip and a 512GB SSD. Either way, both have the same Retina display, 8GB of RAM and Intel HD 515 graphics, and both are upgradeable to a 1.3GHz, dual-core Core M7 CPU.

If you’re looking for something like the MacBook — a super small machine that emphasizes portability and screen quality above all else — you can find a couple alternatives running Windows. I have to warn you, though, that the most promising option isn’t actually out yet. That would be the just-announced HP Spectre 13.3, which, at 10.4mm thick, claims to be the world’s thinnest laptop. Although it’s a little more blinged-out than the MacBook, with copper accents inspired by women’s jewelry, it has a similarly light 2.45-pound frame.

Unlike Apple’s offering, though, it has higher-powered Core i5 and i7 processors, while still offering 9.5 hours of battery life. (The lower-res 1080p screen helps there, I’m sure.) Additionally, the Spectre has more ports than the MacBook: three USB Type-C connections, two of which support Thunderbolt. We’ll be testing that soon, though you’ll probably be able to buy one sooner: It’s slated to go on sale this week for $1,170 and up.

There’s also the aforementioned Toshiba Radius 12 ($1,000 and up), which, despite its less-than-stellar score of 77, actually has a lot of redeeming qualities. Chief among them: a Technicolor-certified 4K display, fast performance, comfortable keyboard, generous port selection, decent audio and a lightweight design. That said, the short battery life and frustrating touchpad are both significant knocks against it.

Really, though, given the MacBook’s inherent compromises, I suspect that many shoppers will look not necessarily toward competing Windows machines, but elsewhere in Apple’s lineup. I’m talking about the MacBook Air, which, despite suffering from an aging design and frustratingly low-res (read: non-Retina) screen, still offers a lot of the things people want: longer battery life, faster performance and ports. Even if the Air better suits your needs, though, you’d be smart to wait for Apple to refresh it with newer Intel processors, as it just did with the 12-inch MacBook. Separate from the Air too, you might consider the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which performs well and offers longer battery life, though the lack of mouse support in iOS might be a killer for people who want a laptop they can use, you know, as a laptop.


How similar is the updated MacBook to last year’s model? Put it this way: I was strongly tempted to assign it the exact same score. In the end, I decided it deserved a slightly higher number as a way of acknowledging the extra hour of battery life and considerably faster disk speeds. Other than that, this is the same machine I reviewed 12 months ago. It keeps everything I enjoyed the first time, including that crisp Retina display and comfortable keyboard. But it also has the same problems — namely, a lack of ports and battery life that, while decent, still trails other thin and light laptops, including Apple’s own MacBook Air.

Basically, then, if you were turned off last year by what the MacBook had to offer, this year’s incremental changes won’t be enough to change your mind. If, however, you’ve always wanted a pink notebook, or take more comfort in buying a second-generation product than a first-gen one, at least you know what you’re getting.

Photos by Edgar Alvarez.


Disney forges a deal to use Nokia’s VR camera

Nokia’s Ozo virtual reality camera might have been a big gamble for a company best known for its former cellphone business, but it appears that this roll of the dice is paying off. Disney has struck a deal with Nokia to create VR “experiences” using the Ozo camera. Don’t expect feature-length movies, at least not yet. This is more about making complements to those movies, such as the 360-degree cast interview for The Jungle Book.

The deal isn’t entirely surprising. Nokia is one of the few companies building VR cameras specifically for pros, and what alternatives exist tend to be camera rigs rather than true, ground-up VR designs. Ozo gives Disney a ready-made tool that’s meant to plug into its existing video production workflow — it doesn’t have to bend over backwards to offer a virtual set tour. Expect to see VR become a regular staple of Disney’s big movie launches, even if it’s not the star.

Source: Nokia


Apple Watch sequel reportedly includes cellular data

One of the biggest gripes with the now year-old Apple Watch is that it’s not very useful away from your iPhone. You can keep track of a run and do a few things on WiFi, but not much more than that. However, that could all change when the sequel rolls around. Wall Street Journal sources hear that the next Watch should include cellular access on top of the expected faster processor. How it would work isn’t mentioned, but the odds are that it’d behave like existing cellular smartwatches: you could leave your phone at home while continuing to get notifications and run apps. You’d likely still need the iPhone at some point (if just to install apps and get updates), but not nearly as much as you do today.

Needless to say, Apple isn’t confirming anything at this point. However, there is evidence to suggest that cellular data might be part of the company’s wearable future. Apple just recently mandated that all Watch apps must be native, rather than extensions of iPhone apps. While that’s partly necessary for improving the experience (native apps are much faster), it also paves the way for a time when every app would have to run independently. So long as the leak is accurate, the only big questions are when this cellular Watch will arrive, and how much of a premium it’ll carry over standard models.

Source: Wall Street Journal


The creators of ‘Doom’ and ‘Quake’ reveal a new sci-fi shooter

John Romero and Adrian Carmack helped found id Software in 1991, and by 1993 the studio had changed the video game world forever. That’s when id released Doom, a genre-defining first-person shooter, and it was followed by Quake, another classic FPS, in 1996. Today, Romero and Carmack are back with Blackroom, a new FPS set in a future where lifelike holographic reality is the norm, but it’s being overrun with sinister visions. The game stars Dr. Santiago Sonora, an engineer at the massive holographic company, Hoxar, as he investigates irregularities in the Blackroom military training system.

Blackroom is an action-heavy game, with rocket jumping and strafing, and there’s no limit on how many weapons you can carry (you’re in a holographic environment, after all). It features a single-player or co-op campaign, plus arena and one-on-one deathmatch modes. The game will be fully moddable and players will be able to run their own dedicated servers.

Blackroom is in development for PC and Mac only, and it’s scheduled to release in winter 2018. Romero and Carmack launched a $700,000 Kickstarter campaign today, and if they hit that goal, they’ll start development immediately and work with investors to secure the rest of the funding.

Just because Blackroom is set in a world of touchable, lifelike virtual realities, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a VR game.

“I don’t know if this game would work really well in VR,” Romero said during a livestream today. He worries that VR makes people sick and that the tech isn’t quite ready for prime time yet. “If there is any VR, it’ll have to be later,” he said. The same goes for potential console versions of Blackroom — for now, the focus is PC and Mac only.

Romero teased us about his new shooter back in 2014 during the Gamescom conference in Cologne, Germany.

“I haven’t made a shooter since 2000,” he said. “So I’m basically starting to work on another one.”

Coming from the man who helped make Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein, the news was infinitely intriguing — and two years later, it’s wonderful to see Romero’s promise come to fruition as a futuristic, sci-fi shooter with a classic edge.

Source: Blackroom

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