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NVIDIA says it can make VR worlds sound and feel real

Tonight at NVIDIA’s event in Texas, the company showed off some new tools that should help developers make VR experiences even more realistic. CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said its VR Works suite of APIs is getting a “major” upgrade, with the ability to connect haptic controllers to its Physx physics engine for more realistic feedback, and the “world’s first real time physically modeled acoustic simulator.” As he described it, the audio engine works on top of the optics API to help it match what you can see. “

Using VRWorks, we’ve created VR Funhouse – a new standard in audio, haptic, and physics in VR.

— NVIDIA (@nvidia) May 7, 2016

NVIDIA VRWorks Audio

“When you walk into a hallway, it sounds like a hallway. When you walk into a stadium, it sounds like a stadium,” according to Huang. We haven’t tried it out for ourselves yet, but he showed bits of an NVIDIA VR Funhouse demo (above) that puts all the new abilities together, and it looks very interesting. You can watch the live stream of the event right here, and we’ll post any more announcements (GTX 1080) as they happen.


NVIDIA’s GTX 1080 GPU is twice as fast as Titan X, lands May 27

NVIDIA gave us a taste of its new Pascal architecture with the P100 graphics card last month, which is aimed at servers for heavy duty computing. Now, it’s ready to show off how that technology will be adapted for consumers with its new GeForce GTX 1080 GPU. As you’d expect, it’s fast: NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang revealed that it’s twice as fast as its current performance king , the Titan X, as well as three times as power efficient. Of course, those stats likely only come from certain gaming scenarios, like VR. The 1080 also faster than two GTX 980 cards running together using SLI technology. Like the P100, the 1080 is built with a new 16nm FinFET (a type of 3D transistor) manufacturing process, which makes it more power efficient, on top of just being faster.

The GTX 1080 is the “largest GPU endeavor, largest chip endeavor, largest processor endeavor, in the history of humanity,” said NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang. He added that the R&D budget for the new card was “several billion dollars” over the span of more than two years. “I’m pretty sure you can go to Mars [for that],” he said.

NVIDIA is basically positioning the GTX 1080 as the gamer’s dream card. Prior to its unveiling, Huang showed off several new titles like The Division and Rise of the Tomb Raider running at max settings in a high resolution over 60 frames per second. He later revealed that all of the games were running on the new card, to the delight of the entire crowd.

The Tomb Raider demo made it clear just how fast the 1080 is. When Huang pulled up the GPU’s stats, it was running at 2.1 GHz and the memory was running at 5.5 GHz. That’s faster than any GPU today, except for one of its last generation cards with liquid nitrogen cooling. Most remarkable? The 1080 was just just relying on air cooling. (Of course it was also running at 67 celsius, which is far hotter than I’d like my video card to run.)

Among other new technology, the 1080 offers “simultaneous multi-projection,” which helps games look less distorted for triple monitor setups or ultra-wide 21×9 screens. It also makes the card more efficient at VR rendering (which is far less forgiving about low frame-rates).

The GTX 1080 will be available for $599 on May 27, and you can also snag a special NVIDIA-designed “founders edition” for $699 (which looks like it includes a stylish new cooler). Almost as an afterthought, NVIDIA also revealed that the GTX 1070 is coming on June 10 for $379 (the founders edition will run you $449).

NVIDIA didn’t have too many technical details to share about either card, but it gave out a few stats: The 1080 pumps out 9 teraflops and packs in 8GB of RAM. The 1070, which is also faster than the Titan X, spits out 6.5 teraflops and also has 8GB of RAM. For the smart gamer, it sounds like the GTX 1070 will be a pretty good deal (just like the 970 was).

But of course, NVIDIA won’t be alone with new hardware this year. AMD is expected to debut new cards with its Polaris technology this summer, which will focus on power efficiency as well. It sounds like Polaris is better suited for gaming laptops at the moment, but it could also be a way for AMD to deliver some powerful cards that you can actually afford (think under $300).

(Photo credit: GTX 1080;NVIDIA)


Tap into Alexa from your iPhone with a $5 app

We’ve seen support for Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant arrive on a variety of devices, and iOS gadgets are next. That’s by way of the Lexi app. The Next Web reports that the application mirrors Alexa’s functionality on the Echo speaker and lets you place orders, control smart devices and do other general stuff like ask about the weather and movie listings. Unfortunately, it sounds like you’ll still need an Echo if you want to take advantage of stuff like Amazon Prime Music or its book service.
Oh, and the whole thing costs $5. But even then, that’s at least $175 cheaper than Amazon’s original smart speaker, so if you’re budget-minded perhaps the trade-offs won’t bother you too much.

Via: The Next Web

Source: iTunes


Harvard researchers trial cheap, efficient paper-based Zika test

Based on the paper-based sensors they made to detect viral-based pathogens like Ebola, a Wyss Institute at Harvard research team created a version that checks for Zika. This prototype method could reveal the presence of the disease in hours instead of the days or weeks it takes for blood tests, but it needs more refining before it’s accurate enough to be deployed.

Put simply, the new test is strips of paper embedded with a synthetic biomolecular sensor made of genes and proteins that change color if they detect their target — in this case, Zika — and can tell the difference between that virus and other mosquito-spread illnesses like Dengue. But a crucial improvement over the previous version is the new one’s ability to detect traces of the* disease in blood, urine or saliva.

While the color change can be seen with the naked eye like a home pregnancy test, researchers also designed an electronic reader that can get faster results than eyeballing. After some developments, it could quantify viral loads.

Once they refine the test, the researchers see this method as a platform. By changing the target the test’s genes and proteins are hunting for, a new diagnostic can be designed, tested, validated and deployed in a week, say the researchers.

Source: The Wyss Institute


iOS 10 Likely to Include Standalone HomeKit App Designed by Apple

A unified, Apple-designed HomeKit app has been desired by HomeKit users since HomeKit first debuted, and it appears Apple is planning to introduce such an app in the near future, perhaps in iOS 10.

The hint on Apple’s HomeKit plans comes from an Amazon reviewer who works in the marketing department at Apple. The name of the reviewer coincides with the LinkedIn profile of a marketing employee at Apple, and we have confirmed that the Amazon review was indeed created by the Apple employee.

As I work in marketing for Apple, we test many Smart Home devices, especially for iOS HomeKit integration. […]

Some advice, there are many third party applications, most free, that offer more control and customization(s) with many Smart Home devices. “Yonomi” is a free app that I often use, “Home” is another which cost $14.99. Both offer support for many devices with more added daily (including Amazon “Echo”). The next version of iOS due this fall will have a standalone “HomeKit” app as well.

While we verified the source of the information, there’s always a chance that Apple’s plans could change ahead of the release of iOS 10. There have been several past rumors suggesting Apple would debut a public HomeKit app, but such an app has not materialized even though Apple has long used a HomeKit app internally.

Apple has previously trademarked a HomeKit app icon (pictured above) that could potentially be used for a standalone HomeKit app and rumors have suggested it could be called “Home.”

A cohesive, Apple-branded HomeKit app would go a long way towards improving the HomeKit experience. At the current time, HomeKit users with multiple products must use several different product apps, many of which offer different features, or rely on third-party apps.

Related Roundup: iOS 10
Tag: HomeKit
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iTunes 12.4 Update to Feature Minor Redesign With New Sidebar, Improved Navigation

Back in February, iTunes chief Eddy Cue promised a new version of iTunes would be coming out with OS X 10.11.4, featuring a simpler design that makes Apple Music easier to use. That update wasn’t included in OS X 10.11.4 and has been delayed, but a source has shared some screenshots of the upcoming iTunes 12.4 update with MacRumors, giving us a look at the changes Apple plans to introduce in the near future.

A redesigned dropdown media picker will be used to switch between Music, TV Shows, Movies, and other content, replacing the existing navigation icons. Like the current menu, the new menu is customizable, so sections of iTunes that are not used can be hidden from view. Forward and back buttons can be used to navigate between different sections.

A persistent sidebar located on the left side of the app is being added, which will make it easier to access different portions of an iTunes Library like specific songs or albums. The sidebar, like the menu bar, can be edited to show desired content, and songs can be dragged and dropped to playlists.

Menus in iTunes 12.4 are being simplified to make them easier to use, and the available content in Library can be customized using the redesigned View menu. Menus will be “easier to use” updated with new navigation options.

The mini player will also get some slight design changes, with the Up Next song feature being relocated to the right side of the player where it is more clearly visible.

It is not clear when Apple will debut iTunes 12.4, but our source says it should be released within in the next few weeks, putting a launch date in late May or early June.

Rumors have suggested Apple is also planning to introduce significant changes to Apple Music in the iOS Music app in iOS 10, and additional tweaks could be made to iTunes in OS X 10.12 to mirror changes being introduced in iOS 10.

Related Roundups: WWDC 2016, OS X 10.12
Tags: iTunes, iTunes 12.4
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Watch the trailer: Battlefield 5 is actually Battlefield 1 and set in World War I

Electronic Arts has announced a name for the next Battlefield game, and it debuted a trailer for the wartime first-person shooter.

The game, which follows Battlefield 4 but is confusingly titled Battlefield 1, will release for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on 21 October. It is set during World War I, allowing you to fight in the air and on the ground in countries like France, Italy, and elsewhere. If you recall, the Battlefield franchise began as a World War II fighting game when it was first launched in 2002, so EA is basically taking things back with Battlefield 1. 

In a blog post, EA described why it chose World War I as the setting for the game: “With Battlefield 1 we set out to create some of the largest create, most dynamic battles in FPS history while continuing to tap into what fans love most about the franchise. One of the things that makes World War I such an amazing era is just how advanced it really was […] Tanks, planes, machine guns, artillery – a lot of the tech you’ve used in other Battlefield games was perfected during this era, letting the classic Battlefield DNA shine through.”

Battlefield 1 has a single-player mode as well as online multiplayer, and it will let you join 64-player battles. Watch the game’s first trailer below to see all sorts of World War I goodness featured throughout, including global-scale conflict, tanks, trucks, and plenty of zeppelins.


EE Power Bars are no more – network won’t bring back charger promotion

Remember those free EE Power Bars? Yeah, they’re gone for good.

EE announced a free portable charger scheme last April and said it would be available to every network and broadband customer. Called the EE Power incentive, it offered a free portable Power Bar charger to EE customers, which could be swapped for a new full one in-store when depleted.

EE ran a similar promotion at Glastonbury in 2014, and many had assumed both schemes were big successes. But things took a turn for the worse in late 2015 when EE recalled the portable charger it gave away after learning about a medical student who was severely burned while using one.

In return for handing their Power Bars back, customers received a £20 voucher to redeem. But ever since then, many have wondered if EE plans to ever bring back the promotion. Unfortunately, according to an EE spokesperson who recently spoke to Mobile News, the answer is no:

“Our EE Power Bar promotion had a hugely positive response from our customers, however after careful consideration we’ve decided not to bring it back. We still sell a wide range of chargers and power packs to keep our customer connected. We’ll share news shortly about ways to stay connected at Glastonbury and the summer festival season, as well as some exciting new loyalty offers throughout the summer.”

The EE Power Bar had a 2,600mAh capacity and built-in LED torch. It lasted 500 charges and took 4-hours to charge back to full. It was free to EE customers who were on a 30-day, 12-, 18- or 24-month mobile or broadband contract or to Pay-As You-Go customers.

With Glastonbury just around the corner, it’ll be interesting to see what type of loyalty scheme EE offers up this time around. Hopefully it’ll be as cool as the EE Power Bar (but less dangerous, of course).


Watch this smartwatch turn an arm into a touchscreen control

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a smartwatch system that uses your arm as a touchscreen.

Called SkinTrack and developed by the Human-Computer Interaction Institute’s Future Interfaces Group at the university, the new system basically eliminates the nusiance of having to use a small smartwatch screen by extending the touchscreen experience to the skin. SkinTrack uses a signal-emitting ring and an electrode-equipped watch band. With this setup, the band can track movements of the ring-wearing finger.

When the ring-wearing finger touches skin, it emits a high-frequency electrical signal through the user’s arm, which acts as an electrical conduit, and as the finger moves across the skin, the system uses the electrodes in the band to detect the finger’s position. The system can even work through clothing and supports all the usual inputs, like tapping, swiping, and gestures.

A demo video, for instance, showed researchers drawing on wrists to launch apps and ignore calls. SkinTrack can also be used to scroll, zoom in, and control games. Researchers said the system could determine when a finger touches skin with 99 per cent accuracy. In fact, the system “compares to other on-body finger-tracking systems and approaches touchscreen-like accuracy”.

Chris Harrison, an assistant professor in the HCII and adviser to the project, explained to CMU News that SkinTrack makes it possible to “move interactions from the screen onto the arm,” thus providing a much larger interface.

Researchers plan to present the technology at CHI 2016 on 10 May.


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