Something quite unexpected might be announced alongside the next iPhone models on 7 September.
While everyone is focused on built-in hardware features for the so-called iPhone 7, Russian regulatory trademark filings spotted by mobiltelefon.ru seem to confirm that Apple is readying standalone hardware for its upcoming phones. The filings, which were published by the Eurasian Economic Commission on 29 August, refer to wireless headphones called AirPods.
This has been a long-rumored brand name for Apple’s wireless headphones for iPhone 7. The next iPhone is thought to ditch the 3.5mm headphone jack, leaving customers with either the Lightning connector or Bluetooth technology for connecting audio devices like headphones. These AirPod headphones are likely a first-party accessory, as there is no indication they’re a Beats product.
It’s also unclear if Apple will bundle them with the iPhone 7 or sell them optionally. Other reports have claimed Apple made a Lighting version of its existing EarPods, and if that’s true, maybe we’ll see those bundled instead. Either way, we’ll know for sure soon.
Check out Pocket-lint’s round-up to see what else Apple might unveil.
Polyphony Digital has a reputation for taking its sweet time to bring Gran Turismo games to Sony consoles, and Gran Turismo Sport won’t be an exception to the rule. The studio has delayed its first PS4 racing game to sometime in 2017 after having previously committed to a November 2016 launch. Why the sudden change of plans? Polyphony chief Kazunori Yamauchi says his team doesn’t want to “compromise the experience in any way” — as is frequently the case, the company would rather be late than sully its obsessive vision. That’s wise given the history of rushed driving game launches (case in point: Driveclub), but it’s unfortunate for PS4 owners who’ve been waiting for what’s likely to be their console’s definitive racing title.
Source: PlayStation Blog
Microsoft is getting its proverbial development ducks in a row, with the addition of new capabilities to its Dev Center that should make multi-platform publishing a whole lot more straightforward, as well as provide more feedback to developers.
Microsoft’s been working towards this point for some time — it announced the plan in January last year and even before that had selectively been porting Windows apps to the console — but this is the first time devs have been able to offer apps built using the Anniversary Update SDK directly to Xbox One owners.
The Dev Center Dashboard has also been overhauled, meaning it should be quicker and easier to edit apps, as well as bringing notifications and personalized suggestions.
Ultimately, there are a whole load of new options aimed at giving developers more control over their apps and games across Windows and Xbox devices. These include the ability to only push an update to a small percentage of users or to make updating mandatory, which would be handy if, for example, a developer discovers a serious bug.
If you want to start making cross-platform games that’ll end up on the Xbox One, don’t forget that you’ll need concept approval too. We wouldn’t want you wasting all that effort.
Source: Windows Blog
I’ve been reading a really great story recently. By which I mean I have been playing a really great video game. Specifically, I’ve been playing adventure game Kentucky Route Zero, now on its fourth episode (of five). Despite being a video game, it is also one of the best magical-realist stories I’ve read in years. Kentucky Route Zero’s existence is a testament to the steadily improving quality of prose writing in video games.
It certainly wasn’t always this way. For decades, with the exception of the text-adventure genre, writing in games was merely functional: It was for labels, instruction or only the faintest of character-building. It was riddled with typos, infamous translation errors and unclear meaning. This was just fine, because the stories that video games were trying to tell — when they were even trying to tell one — were usually very simple. “Text-adventure” games by companies like Infocom told intriguing and clever stories — but these were very much in the Dungeons & Dragons vein, and catered to niche audiences. But as mainstream video games entered more cinematic territory in the ’90s, they embraced storytelling and narrative like never before. To do this, developers generally adopted two techniques: cutscenes (pre-rendered cinematics) and lore-dump text files. These text files — which described character, backstory, settings, props, weapons, etc. — were often found in the margins of the pause menu, in a file called the journal, the codex or something in this vein.
In role-playing games, these “journals” evolved into actual digital books that piled up in your inventory (perhaps you are familiar with playing Skyrim and having a Deathlord about to smash you in the face when you pause the game, freeze time and whip out a book about the reign of Uriel Septim and start reading). Because they were now putting lore in things that looked like books, video-game developers felt compelled to try their hand at writing. The results were, er, hit and miss. Skyrim books are full of purple prose, derivative stories, and tons of telling at the expense of showing. On the other hand, the books in The Witcher 3 inventory are wittier and full of character (perhaps because they were rooted in honest-to-God literature; The Witcher is itself an adaptation of a long-running novel series).
But games like Kentucky Route Zero have taken a different tack, completely embracing story, making it the core subject of the game. The story in these games has sometimes displaced traditional gameplay mechanics (often, there is no way at all to “win”). In doing so, they have created hybrid works of fiction that depend upon the quality of their written word, while most games would rely on the quality of their bullet physics. They have blurred the line between interactive fiction and the kind of respectable novels your English teacher would assign.
The central narrative in Kentucky Route Zero is about deliveryman Conway’s journey down the mythical “Zero” highway to deliver a package. However, it’s not really about him. Like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude, the meat of the experience lies much more in the exploration of the ensemble cast that accompanies Conway, and its complex web of relationships, desires, and regrets. The primary gameplay mechanic revolves around selecting people to speak with, and then making dialogue choices to shape a conversation. The writing in these conversations is crisp and compact, bursting with Southern-fried flavor straight out of a Flannery O’Conner short story.
The characters, though they are animated with blank faces, strike vivid, fully realized figures thanks to their dialogue. You can subtly shape who they become through your choices, but the options you don’t choose can also reveal something about these mysterious, troubled people as well. Instead of a descriptive paragraph of prose, the background art in the game paints mysterious images that still allow the player’s imagination to fill in the blanks. Playing Kentucky Route Zero is like interacting with a deconstructed and digitized novel: You have to assemble the setting, the characters, and the story yourself at your own pace, but what you create is a rewardingly intimate and layered narrative about the human experience.
Eighty Days for iOS tilts even further into interactive-fiction territory. The game is a retelling of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. The experience consists of actual gameplay mechanics: You plan a route around the world on a map, and you stop in at markets to buy and sell your goods in order to fund your trip. But the game’s real genius lies in the deftly written prose and the subtle relationship development between player-character, Passepartout, and his employer and adventurer, Phileas Fogg. Sure, it’s about the journey around the world, but it’s just as much about crafting the dynamic between these two characters. And though it has startling power as a narrative (it was Time magazine’s “Game of the Year,” while The Telegraph lauded it as one of the best “novels of the year”), 80 Days remains very much a traditional game with a clear objective and win state.
But some works blur the line between game and story even further; for example, The Silent History. This iOS app is actually classified as an “e-book,” despite several highly gamified elements. The story is set in a world where new children have been born without the ability to comprehend language, and the main narrative is a serialized, thought-provoking story of parenting that delivers on a high-minded literary pursuit: the exploration of how language shapes our world. And yet it’s also iPhone app for which, like Pokemon Go, you need to physically hunt down and download geolocated side stories that flesh out the world. This design choice makes the fiction feel more realized, but it also makes the book feel a lot like a video game.
There has also been a resurgence of text-adventure games of late in the classic Infocom style. Plenty of young writers and developers in the Interactive Fiction Database and on other small indie-game platforms like itch.io, are creating compelling, heartfelt and funny stories using Twine, open-source writing software tailored for interactive fiction.
It’s clear that great prose is no longer confined to the page — it has found a welcoming new home in the medium of games, and this should come as no surprise. It’s always been the mission of great literature to transport the reader to a fantastic new land. So too has it been for great video games. It was only a matter of time till the twain did meet.
Satellite operator SES will be the first company to launch a spacecraft on a ‘second-hand’ SpaceX rocket. The Falcon 9 which travelled to the ISS in April, before landing on a drone ship in open water, will be called upon for the new flight later this year. Blast-off is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2016 and will be used to send an SES-10 satellite into a geostationary orbit over Latin America. Here, it’ll deliver “direct-to-home broadcasting, enterprise and mobility services” to people back on the surface.
“Having been the first commercial satellite operator to launch with SpaceX back in 2013, we are excited to once again be the first customer to launch on SpaceX’s first ever mission using a flight-proven rocket,” Martin Halliwell, chief technology officer for SES said. “We believe space rockets will open up a new era of spaceflight.” The job is hugely significant for SpaceX. The company, run by Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk, is driven by the idea that spaceflight can be done better, and for less. Part of its master plan is a reliably reusable rocket — one that can land safely and protect its internals, minimizing repairs and delivering cost savings.
SpaceX has landed six rockets successfully — others, well, not so much. Back in April, Musk suggested that a Falcon 9 rocket could be ready for a second launch by May or June. Obviously, that didn’t happen (to be fair, it was an ambitious timeline). However, in the future the company hopes to turn around each rocket in a few weeks. For now, it’s presumably focused on ensuring the rocket will go back up with zero problems. “Relaunching a rocket that has already delivered spacecraft to orbit is an important milestone on the path to complete and rapid reusability,” Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer for SpaceX stressed.
Source: SES, BBC
Sony was vague about when PlayStation Now would reach PCs, but apparently you didn’t have to wait long at all — it’s available today. If you have a sufficiently beefy Windows PC (a 3.5GHz Core i3 or better), you can stream PS3 games to your computer that include recent additions like Tomb Raider: GOTY Edition or Heavy Rain. You’ll still need a fairly pricey subscription. You’ll ideally want a DualShock 4 controller (either wired or through the $25 wireless adapter due in September) to play as well, although it’s not strictly necessary — an Xbox 360 gamepad is fine if you don’t need Sixaxis support, for instance. As it is, Sony is sweetening the pot through a promo that gives you a year of PS Now for $100. That’s inexpensive enough that it could be worth a shot, especially if you’ve never owned a PlayStation and want to see what the fuss is about.
Source: PlayStation Blog
The new Google+ is slowly being rolled out to additional users over the next few days, according to Danielle Buckley, Project Manager at Google. Finally, anyone who wasn’t able to take a look at the new features back when the preview was introduced last November will get a chance to sift through the changes.
Additional features are coming to the network, like the ability to add photos or links to comments, a new notification center where you can check out your recent activity on Google+ and approved posting options for Community owners and moderators.
In the coming days, regular Google+ pages will be upgraded with the new additions upon sign-in with the ability to swap back to the old version for right now. The changes will be available across PC, Android and iOS.
Google will also be making Collections and Communities available to more organizations in the future, with Google Apps users who utilize Google+ seeing the changes today.
Source: Danielle Buckley
When Pebble announced its latest Pebble 2 and Time 2 watches earlier this year, it also revealed several software improvements that would roll out not just to the new models, but to most other existing Pebble hardware. Today, the company is finally releasing that update. Now even old-school Pebble users can get Quick View peeks, shortcut buttons, a revamped Health app plus more email features for iOS users.
Available only to the latest Time edition devices, you can now press down on the watchface to check out upcoming events thanks to a new Quick View peek that takes up just a small sliver of the display. Tap it for more info or hit the Back button to dismiss it.
The update also adds 4-button Quick Launch, which essentially lets you map the side buttons to specific shortcuts — you trigger them by long-pressing each key. You could do this before the Up and Down buttons but now you can do so with the Back and Select keys as well. Additionally, if you press Select from the watchface, you’ll see a new Launcher menu
Seeing as Pebble is a lot more fitness-focused these days, it also took the opportunity to redesign its Health app. Now you’re able to quickly glance at weekly charts to get a better idea of your progress toward your step or sleep goals. You can also just press the up button on the watchface to access the Health app that much quicker. Pebble Health settings are also now in the main settings area instead of the Apps tab.
Last but not least, Pebble is also giving iOS users a bit more email functionality for those with Google accounts. At long last, iPhone fans can reply, delete and archive email directly from Pebble notifications, be it from Inbox, Gmail or the Mail app.
After showing off the capabilities of its new 7th Generation Core, Kaby Lake, during the Intel Developer Forum earlier in the month, Intel corporate vice president Navin Shenoy today gave more details regarding the third “optimized” member of the 14 nm chip family following Broadwell and Skylake. In today’s announcement — focused on the speed and 4K UHD support the new CPUs provide — Intel officially unveiled its first Y-Series and U-Series processors, which could be included in future Retina MacBook and MacBook Air updates, respectively.
The new Kaby Lake processors (prepared as a mid-generation update ahead of Intel’s Cannonlake processors) offer a moderate upgrade on earlier Skylake chips, with Intel focusing on the user benefits of its 7th Generation Core processors. These advantages namely include: 4K ultra-HD video streaming, 360-videos, and more intensive graphical performance for video games on smaller computers.
In addition to gaining access to 4K content from services like YouTube and Netflix, Kaby Lake will grant users the power to create and edit their own 4K content with speeds up to 8x faster than a five-year-old PC. Kaby Lake was manufactured using an upgraded version of Intel’s 14-nanometer process, referred to as 14nm+, which the company claims has produced a processor with 12 percent faster productivity performance and up to 19 percent faster web performance over previous generations.
Everyday users will see these manifested in smooth app switching, even within performance-heavy apps like 4K video editing software, and basic battery life improvements. In this department, Kaby Lake will bring up to 9.5 hours of playback on 4K videos in any computer it’s found in this fall. The release of Kaby Lake will mark Intel’s first processor released after the company abandoned its tick-tock release cycle, where “ticks” represented shrinking chip fabrication processes and “tocks” introduced new architectures.
Kaby Lake “Y-Series” chips appropriate for MacBook
The three Kaby Lake Y-Series processors announced today are suitable upgrades for the MacBook, which was just updated to Skylake chips in April and thus is not expected to see another upgrade in the near future. The three U-Series chips could potentially make their way into future MacBook Air models, assuming graphics performance is sufficient for Apple’s needs. The new U-Series chips include Intel HD “GT2” graphics, while Apple has historically preferred to use chips with relatively higher-performance “GT3” graphics in the MacBook Air.
Kaby Lake “U-Series” chips possibly appropriate for MacBook Air
Apple is rumored to be launching updated MacBook Air models as soon as October, but it is unclear whether the machines will use Skylake or these new Kaby Lake chips, as the current models continue to run on earlier Broadwell chips.
More powerful mobile Kaby Lake chips with Iris graphics and desktop chips such as those appropriate for the MacBook Pro and iMac are expected to begin debuting in January, but Intel did not release a specific timeline or specs for those families.
Related Roundups: MacBook Air, Retina MacBook
Tags: Intel, Kaby Lake
Buyer’s Guide: MacBook Air (Don’t Buy), MacBook (Neutral)
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Just days before Apple is expected to announce the iPhone 7 without a headphone jack, Griffin Technology has introduced a new iTrip Clip clippable adapter that enables any pair of wired headphones with a 3.5mm jack to function as wireless headphones via Bluetooth.
To use the iTrip Clip with Apple’s wired EarPods, for example, an iPhone user would simply plug the headphones into the adapter and pair the accessory with the smartphone via Bluetooth 4.1. The self-powered adapter also works with AUX cables for Bluetooth audio in the car.
iTrip Clip has play/pause, volume, and track controls, and a built-in mic that can be used to make phone calls or Siri voice commands.
The adapter’s rechargeable 800 mAh battery lasts up to 6 hours for music playback or 180 hours in standby. A micro-USB charging cable is included in the box.
iTrip Clip will be available in September for $19.99.
Tags: Griffin, Bluetooth
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