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6
Oct

Google’s Assistant could soon take over your entire house


Google recently launched two new smartphones, the Pixel and Pixel XL and the Google Home wireless speaker. All three devices have the company’s new Google Assistant built-in.

  • What is Google Assistant, how does it work, when can you use it?

Assistant is an evolution of Google Now and is designed to offer each individual user a personal experience, being able to have proper conversations and understanding relatively complex tasks.

You can get Assistant with the Allo app for Android and iOS devices, but it’s built into the core of Pixel phones and Home speaker.

Variety reports that Google has said it’s now holding talks with home audio manufacturers to embed Assistant into their products as well, specifically the ones that already support Google Cast.

Variety also says that Google has in some way demanded that any manufacturer that uses Google Cast, can’t use competing technologies such as Amazon’s Alexa, however some Bluetooth speakers and AV receivers do use Apple AirPlay as well, but this doesn’t a voice assistant in the same way.

Mario Queroz, VP of product management at Google has also apparently said Google is looking into ways of allowing manufacturers that don’t currently use Cast to built the Assistant technology into their products as well.

  • Google Pixel and Pixel XL: Release date, specs and everything you need to know
  • What is Google Home, how does it work and when can you buy it?

With Samsung’s recent announcement that it’s bought Viv, a new voice-based assistant developed by the founder of Siri, there’s soon going to be an all out war for best AI assistant. Google, it seems, is taking some big steps into taking over your home so no matter where you are, you’ll be able to get answers to questions, complete online orders or play music. Let battle commence.

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6
Oct

Sony PlayStation VR tips and tricks: How to solve PSVR problems and more


The PlayStation VR headset is finally upon us and we’ve been testing one in order to bring you the most in-depth reviews and features on the build-up to launch day, Thursday 13 October.

During our play we’ve experienced some incredible games but also encountered a few problems, some minor, some a bit more intrusive. We’ve also discovered ways to get round them or even eliminate them entirely.

Sony has also provided us with some official guidelines and help for like minded PSVR fans who stumble across the odd issue or two. Hopefully, some of the tips and tricks below will work for you as they did us.

  • PlayStation VR review: Virtual reality for the masses
  • Sony PlayStation VR launch line-up: Every game listed and best PSVR games revealed

How to set up PSVR

The first thing you’ll do when you upack your PlayStation VR headset is baulk at the amount of cables and elements you need to unwrap and correctly connect. However, Sony has masterfully labelled each with a number so you can follow a practical order to ensure all the right cables go into the right places. The Processor Unit too.

It also supplies a handy diagram of how they all connect together, and you get a step-by-step guide in the box.

Sony

The more tricky, important stuff comes when setting the headset up. A wizard takes you through some of the calibration process, but there are other things you need be aware of too.

Sony PlayStation VR tracking issues

PlayStation Camera placement

You don’t get a PlayStation Camera in the box, you have to supply that separately, but it’s as important as a PS4 and the headset itself as you can’t use PSVR without it. Both the old square PS Camera and the new round one work by tracking LEDs on the headset and controllers to keep on top of where you are looking or moving your hands.

Unfortunately, as it works on light, you have to be really careful where you place the PlayStation Camera. If it can spot bright light sources or other elements that can be confused with the LEDs, it can affect in-game tracking.

We’ve found that incorrect placement can cause a strange shifting effect in games, where the Camera can’t track the headset properly even when stood still. You also ideally want to place the Camera around 6ft from your standing or seated play position.

Check for reflective surfaces, other LEDs or bright lights

Things that can affect the Camera’s tracking abilities include LEDs blinking or shining on other consumer electronics in sight, reflective surfaces such as mirrors or glass-fronted, wall-hung pictures, or light coming in through a windows. Lamps that are in direct line of sight of the Camera should also be turned off.

We even found placing a throw or blanket over a shiny leather sofa to help.

Don’t have direct light shining onto the PSVR

Direct light shining onto the headset can make the tracking LEDs harder to read, so try to avoid that scenario. That includes switching of a massive TV if it is directly in front of you. As the PSVR passes the picture through to the telly as well as the headset, the TV images shining back onto the headset could be a factor in tracking issues.

You can see if there are any weird lighting issues when playing a game and pressing the PS button on one of the controllers. An in-game menu will pop up. Choose Adjust PlayStation VR > Confirm Your Position. This will show a live image of what the Camera can see. It is a negative, so any dark areas on screen could be affecting the tracking.

If the screen is all white, save for the headset and controller tracking lights, you should be okay.

Charge your controllers

As well as headset tracking issues caused by lighting and reflections, you might find that visual representations of your DualShock 4 or Move controllers leap around or stutter when in the virtual world. This includes the floating hands in games like Batman: Arkham VR and the London Heist segment of PlayStation VR Worlds.

One thing that can be causing this is a lack of battery power. You are advised to keep your controllers topped up with as much juice as possible every time you play. Low power can mean they struggle in games.

Other Bluetooth kit can potentially affect tracking

One of the other reasons the system struggles with tracking controllers could be down to too many other Bluetooth devices being in the vicinity. The DualShock and Move controllers wireless connect to your PS4 through low latency Bluetooth standards so they can potentially be affected by multiple other Bluetooth signals flying around. In this case, Sony advises you turn off other Bluetooth devices when using PSVR.

Change your position

Some games work best when seated, others when standing, but all basically work from the same Camera setup. One thing we found to reduce tracking problems is to stand a bit closer to the Camera or move a seat closer. That’s not ideal if you want to play from a sofa that’s already in a room, but it does tend to work, so at least try moving closer to see if the tracking stutters reduce.

Sony PlayStation VR screen issues

PSVR images are blurry

It is paramount that you wear the PlayStation VR headset correctly and as tightly as possible. The closer the visor is to your eyes the better the fidelity of the image.

The headband must sit tight on your head, with a tightening wheel to be clicked on the back until it is firm but comfy. Then you press the button at the bottom of the visor and bring it to your face. Make sure it is clicked in as close as possible.

If you are unsure how to do this or the image has gone blurry, press the PS button on a controller and select Adjust PlayStation VR > Adjust Headset Position from the menu. It then runs you through the same instruction wizard you will have seen when originally setting it up for the first time.

Wipe lenses with supplied cloth

If you have fingerprint marks on either lens that can also affect clarity. Make sure you use the cloth supplied to give them a wipe occasionally.

Never use fluid with the lenses.

If you can’t find the supplied cloth, you could use a camera lens cloth, which you can buy from camera shops on the highstreet and online. It’s not advised to use a glasses lens cloth though as that might be too abrasive for the headset’s own lenses.

Edges are likely to be blurry

The far edges of the screen are likely to be blurry considering the viewing angle is restricted to 110-degrees. Just move your head and you’ll see them clearly though – it’s much like your own, natural peripheral vision.

Keep the PlayStation VR out of direct sunlight

Always make sure between play sessions that the lenses of a PSVR headset are never pointed towards a window or anywhere else where they can be exposed to direct sunlight.

Lenses are similar to magnifying glasses in that they can focus sunlight into a harmful beam that could irreparably damage the screen, causing detroyed pixels, discolouration or even burn marks.

Although this has not happened to us with the PlayStation VR, it has on an Oculus Rift, which uses similar OLED display technology. The sunlight, which can only take a minute to harm the device, made a smudged red blob appear on the screen that will never go away.

It is imperative that you keep the headset protected from such a mishap yourself.

Pocket-lint

Sony PlayStation VR audio

Remember your left and your right

Unlike the headphones that come with the HTC Vive, the Sony earbuds supplied with the PSVR are easy to pop into your ears when you are already wearing the headset.

That’s because the left earpiece has a shorter lead than the one that you wear in your right ear. You will always know which way round to put them that way.

Of course, that’s irrelevant if you want to upgrade to higher standard headphones, such as virtual surround gaming cans, but handy when just setting it up for the first time.

Sony PlayStation VR games tips and tricks

As we play more and more games, we should be able to pass on any technical tips and tricks for them, such as in-game calibration, etc. It is unlikely we will give you any gameplay hints here (unless they are really, really good).

Pocket-lint

Installing games from the PSVR demo disc

When you first unbox your PlayStation VR headset and go to play for the first time you’ll notice that it comes with a demo disc of some of the launch titles. It will take a while to install though, so we’d advise not standing around with the headset on your noggin like a lemon while they do so.

When you are finally inside the demo disc hub you will see several truncated games. You can play a brief demo of each, but also purchase the game from within the hub.

If you do so they will still need to download and can take some time, depending on your internet connected. Again, we’d advise switching the headset off and waiting or play some of the other demos while you wait.

Installing PSVR games generally

You might also find, as we did with PlayStation VR Worlds, that although a game looks like it has installed fully on a PS4 homescreen some of the experiences inside the game still need to download before you can play.

Again, patience is suggested and either play something else or power down the headset.

6
Oct

Oculus Connect 3: What to expect and how to watch online


Oculus VR’s annual developers conference kicked off earlier this week, but the main keynote is happening now.

The Facebook-owned company is holding a two-hour address, where you can expect both Oculus and Facebook to discuss the latest details on not only virtual reality but also Oculus Rift. Here’s everything you need to know about Oculus Connect 3, including how to watch it and what might be announced.

Oculus Connect 3: What is it?

Oculus Connect 3 is Oculus’ third-annual developers conference. It is being held from 5 October to 7 October in San Jose, CA. The conference features over 40 technical talks, workshops, and roundtables. There are also over 80 industry leaders across 50 companies and studios scheduled to present.

But the main keynote is by far the most interesting event on the agenda.

Oculus Connect 3: When is the main keynote?

The main keynote kicks off at 10 am PT on 6 October.

See the list below for your respective time zones.

  • San Francisco: 10 am
  • New York: 1 pm
  • London: 6 pm
  • Berlin: 7 pm
  • Moscow: 8 pm
  • Beijing: 1 am (7 October)
  • Tokyo: 2 am (7 October)
  • Sydney 4 am (7 October)

Oculus Connect 3: Can you watch online?

Watch live video from Oculus on http://www.twitch.tv

You can view the live stream of the main keynote on Twitch.

You can also watch live in VR with NextVR, but it’s limited to Gear VR owners.

There also appears to be a stream on Facebook Live.

Oculus Connect 3: What can you expect?

Rift Touch controllers

We might see new products and new games, and we might hear about new plans or new information about existing products. We’re hoping to learn more about the Rift Touch controllers, including cost, when they’ll be available, and which games will be compatible with the controllers at launch.

Games and partnerships

Oculus previously said more than 30 games would be compatible with Rift Touch, so we expect to learn more. Samsung also appeared at last year’s keynote, as Oculus is a partner of the Samsung Gear VR, so we could see the company appear this year along with some other partners.

Other than that, everything is a mystery.

6
Oct

With the X-T2, I finally get why people love Fujifilm cameras


I’ve tested a handful of Fujifilm cameras over the years, but none of them have convinced me to switch from my shooter of choice, the Sony A7 II. That full-frame sensor is hard to beat. But, with the recently announced X-T2, I might be willing to reconsider. Fujifilm’s new flagship mirrorless offers everything you’d want from a $1,600 (body-only) camera: sleek design, top-notch performance and, most importantly for some, a robust lens ecosystem.

Inside the X-T2 you’ll find a 23-megapixel (APS-C) X-Trans CMOS III sensor — a big improvement over the 16.3 megapixels on the two-year-old X-T1. It’s also the same sensor used by another Fujifilm high-end mirrorless camera, the X-Pro2. What powers this particular camera, though, is an X-Processor image chip that, according to the company, has been designed to produce an accurate autofocus system regardless of scenario. All told, there are 325 single AF points, plus 91 zone, which gives you a sizable coverage area when trying to lock in on a person or item.

And it works as expected. In the month I’ve spent shooting with the X-T2, the camera has quickly and accurately focused on subjects, moving or still. What’s more, autofocus performance hasn’t suffered when I’ve tested it in low-light conditions, which isn’t something I can say about most mirrorless cameras. Speaking of low light, the X-T2 features an ISO range of 100-21,600 (or 52,000 in “High” mode) and continuous shooting at eight frames per second — both respectable specs for a camera in this class.

As I mentioned earlier, the camera was able to handle active subjects with ease, though I do wish I could have tested it in a more challenging scenario than simply roaming the streets of New York City. Something like a sporting event. The X-T2 also performs well in the dark — most of the shots I took in low light came out sharp and free of noise. For reference, I used the X-T2 with two Fujinon lenses, an XF10-24mm f/4 and XF16-55mm f/2.8.

If you want to get the most out of the X-T2 though, you’re going to have to spend an additional $329. That’s the price of Fujifilm’s external grip peripheral, which takes the camera’s continuous shooting speeds from eight to 11 frames per second. It also gives you the ability to record 30 minutes of 4K video in a single shot versus 10 minutes without. You get two extra batteries as well — enough power to save you from a panic attack or two. Without the add-on, Fujifilm says its X-T2 can take 340 shots on a single charge with regular use (whatever that means to you).

Of course, you could argue that the X-T2’s headline feature is 4K video. This is, after all, the first X-series camera to boast this feature. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, there are limitations to what you can do. While the camera can capture 4K (3,840 x 2,160) at 24, 25 and 30 frames per second, it only lets you record up to 10 minutes at once — unless you have that external grip. The company claims it made that decision in order to keep the camera from overheating, but it’s hard to forgive when this isn’t an issue with with less-expensive models like Sony’s A6300 mirrorless ($1,000 for the body).

Aside from that, the X-T2’s 4K footage is crisp and vibrant, thanks largely to that 23-megapixel X-Trans CMOS III sensor. Even so, my favorite parts about Fujifilm’s new shooter are the physical controls. That’s Fujifilm’s signature trait, and here, everything seems to be placed perfectly along the compact weather-resistant body. Adjusting the ISO, exposure and shutter dials feels effortless — so much so that I only used the three-inch tilting touchscreen when I needed to tweak things like white balance. That, along with when I’d manually choose my focus points, were also about the only times I wish the display responded to touch input.

I also wish the settings menu were more concise and easier to navigate. The user interface feels dated and cumbersome, to the point where a simple task like formatting your SD card can take a few minutes to figure out. You’ll manage eventually, but it shouldn’t take so many clicks to find that option. On the other hand, similar to its predecessor, the X-T2 has WiFi, making it easy to control remotely and transfer media to an iOS or Android device. Once you’ve downloaded Fujifilm’s app, you can do things including touch to focus and preview images.

All in all, the X-T2 exceeded my expectations. I have friends who swear by the brand, often praising its premium quality and sound ergonomics. Still, I hadn’t been able to relate until now. That’s not to say I didn’t think much of the company’s digital cameras — I just hadn’t come across a mirrorless model that I felt comfortable shooting with. The X-T2, however, is one that I may have to seriously think about buying.

To view our sample images in full resolution, click here.

6
Oct

Sony’s RX100 V can shoot RAW photos at a crazy 24 fps


Sony only had the Alpha A99 II camera to show at the Photokina 2016 event because of problems caused by the Kumamoto earthquake. The silver lining is that it launched a pair of very interesting new cameras at an event in New York. Along with the A6500 mirrorless, Sony revealed the RX100 V, the latest in its line of high-end compact zooms. Its most impressive feature is speed — thanks to a new image processor, it can shoot an insane 24 RAW images per second for 150 shots, something that was impressive to see (and hear) during the demo.

With a new 315-point phase-detection AF system, it also has the world’s fastest autofocus at .05 seconds, matching the new A6500 mirrorless, the company claims. Sony has refreshed the 20.1-megapixel, one-inch Exmore RS CMOS sensor, adding a built-in RAM chip and larger buffer to speed things up.

There’s also a new AF-A mode, letting the camera switch automatically between continuous and single-shot autofocus. As before, it has a Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 24-70mm equivalent F/1.8-2.8 T lens with optical image stabilization. The pop-up 2.36 million dot OLED EVF is also unchanged, as is the max 12,800 ISO.

Sony doesn’t shirk on video with its consumer cameras, and the RX100 V has 4K video with a full sensor readout, and up to 1000fps shooting, depending on the resolution. Sony says it can capture that rate, which is 40 times slower the regular speed, for twice as long as before. It’s fair to say that the new model now matches or beats Panasonic’s new LX10 in most areas, though the latter model has a slightly faster f/1.4 to 2.8 lens. Sony’s new compact arrives in October to the US for $1,000 and hits Europe in November for €1,200.

6
Oct

Learn a new language with Duolingo’s chatbots


Duolingo has been offering language learning tools for a while now, but today the company debuted a new tool inside its iPhone app that could make the task a bit easier. Thanks to AI-powered chatbots, the language-learning app offers a way to have conversations while you’re trying to learn French, German and Spanish. That’s a short list of languages for now, but Duolingo says more options are on the way.

Right now, you can only interact with the chatbots via text, but the company does have plans to add spoken conversations in the future. Duolingo gave these bots a bit of personality to make them more like real people and created them to be flexible with the answers they’ll accept when there’s multiple ways for you to respond. For the times when you can’t think of the words you need to say, the app has a “Help My Reply” button that offers a few suggestions.

The new feature gives users of the free iOS app a way to learn through conversations without the anxiety of making mistakes when speaking with a real person. The chatbots are available now via the latest update, but just be sure your iPhone has an internet connection before you try to use them.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Duolingo (iTunes)

6
Oct

DJI’s Goggles put you in the cockpit of a drone


No, this isn’t another VR headset. These are video goggles from DJI. Why would you want a headset from DJI? Because it connects wirelessly to the company’s new foldable Mavic Pro drone, giving you a live, bird’s eye view from the camera (in 1080p no less). The idea isn’t new, in drone circles it’s pretty common to see bespectacled pilots, especially in racing, where “FPV” (as it’s called — first person view), is the only way to fly the drones at such breakneck speed. DJI announced the goggles (actually called “DJI Goggles”) at its big Mavic launch event last week, but they weren’t giving demos. We managed to get a rare ride inside them, and it’s a whole bunch of fun.

If you follow our drone news here on Engadget, you may have seen a similar pair from DJI’s rival Yuneec. There’s a lot in common between these two products, at least aesthetically, but DJI’s offer a better resolution (full HD, rather than 720p) and connect wirelessly over the firm’s proprietary “OcuSync” video link for a cable free experience. Right now, the goggles only work with the Mavic Pro, but you can expect more DJI drones to be compatibile going forward.

Let’s talk about the actual headset for a second though. It’s pretty chunky (and not much of a hot fashion look), but the single adjustable hoop-style headband (similar to Sony’s PSVR) makes them much more comfortable than the typical headband that tends to press VR headsets against your face. The front section may be large, but it doesn’t feel heavy.

On the inside are two 1080p panels (rather than one split screen), with an 85-degree field of view. This is a little less than what you’d find in an Oculus Rift or Vive (which offer around 90 to 100 degrees FOV), but it’s still pretty good. On the base of the goggles are two buttons for navigating menus, and a scroll wheel for focus. There’s also a flap on the side covering some connectors, but DJI didn’t show us what was there in our demo. Hopefully at least HDMI input for doubling as a video viewer, some rival headsets also can record the live feed to a memory card. There’s also no mention of head-tracking to move the camera, unless it’s being kept under wraps.

The displays are incredibly bright and clear, and the video feed beaming down from the Mavic soaring above looked crystal clear and the connection was faultless. I had the benefit of one of DJI’s experienced pilots at the sticks; it’s not recommended you fly solo with these. If you can do so legally in your region (or you own lots of land), it changes the game completely. Not only is it straight up a much more sensory experience, you can often fly more competently — as you’re always seeing from the front of the drone, which keeps your orientation “forward” whatever direction the drone is facing.

There is also the option to connect two pairs of goggles to the same Mavic, meaning a friend can fly along with you. More traditional drone goggles go one further, using common radio frequencies, so anyone can tune in to the same ride, but it’s still nice to be able to share the experience.

Video goggles for drones come in all sorts of shapes and sizes (and price points). Usually the more affordable options require more work to connect them to your quad, or have a trade off in comfort, style and functionality. DJI’s pair were the nicest I’ve seen in terms of build-quality and user experience, making them much friendlier to the mainstream user. What will really determine their success though is the cost.

Yuneec’s SkyView goggles will run you $250, and a pair or radio-based FatSharks about the same (depending on your resolution of choice). DJI hasn’t put a price sticker on the Goggles yet, or confirmed a release date, but if it can match Yuneec, these will be the accessory to get for those hoping for a Mavic under the christmas tree.

6
Oct

Google wanted to sell intelligent robot arms (but didn’t)


Google (and parent company Alphabet) build a lot more hardware than fancy new smartphones and AI assistants — it’s just that a lot of it doesn’t make it out of the lab. Take these advanced robotic arms, for example: Alphabet’s robotics group built the arms, which were used in a research project to show how Google’s software helps robots learn from each other over time. But despite their apparent usefulness, Alphabet CEO Larry Page decided to cancel plans to sell the hardware because it failed Page’s “toothbrush test.” As Bloomberg reports, Page only wants to ship products that could be used daily by billions of people, and these robotic arms are significantly more niche than that.

At the time the robot arms were built, the robotics division was part of Google, but near the end of the year the group was moved under Alphabet and plans to sell the arms to manufacturing companies and similar operations were nixed. It’s a move that caused frustration within the robotics group, which felt that Alphabet has a tendency to be too cautious with its more experimental ventures.

“It was still a prototype, but it had a lot of advantages,” James Kuffner, chief technology officer at the Toyota Research Institute and previous lead of Google’s robotics unit, said to Bloomberg. “The team worked really hard. If it had been entirely up to me I would have shipped it. But it was not.”

It’s an example of what some at Alphabet apparently feel is a trend for the company to put smaller projects on hold in the chase for a “moonshot” that’ll have a huge impact — if it works. It’s illustrative of the conflict within Alphabet: Google has some of the most popular and widely-used products around, so releasing any product associated with the brand runs a risk of tarnishing its reputation (just look what happened with Google Glass).

That’s not to say that projects like the robotic arm are a waste — Google’s clearly been using them to learn more about how robots can collectively learn based on the behaviors of other robots, something that fits right in with the company’s focus on machine learning. But in terms of turning the hardware into revenue generating hardware, these arms seem to land pretty far from the toothbrush-level ubiquity that Page looks for.

Source: Bloomberg

6
Oct

Watch the Oculus Connect 3 keynote at 1PM ET


Oculus’ developer conference is going down in San Jose, California this week and today the keynote address will reveal the big news. You can stream all of the announcements as they happen at Oculus Connect 3 on Twitch or if you happen to own a compatible headset, you can watch with NextVR. On top of a load of software news, we’re expecting to get more details on those Touch controllers, including final pricing and an official release date. The event starts at 1:00 PM ET/10:00 AM PT and we’ve embedded the stream down below for your viewing pleasure.

Watch live video from Oculus on http://www.twitch.tv

Source: Oculus (Twitch)

6
Oct

Giphy Cam finally arrives on Android


After 14 months of breathless waiting, Android users can finally experience the Instagram of GIFs. Giphy released its Giphy Cam app to the Play store on Thursday. The app allows you to record GIFs, apply various filters and fades, as well as overlay text and emoji. Unfortunately, the Android version doesn’t currently appear to be able to import video and generate GIFs from that source, as the iOS version can. However a Giphy rep did explain that the Android version should be getting camera roll import as well as the AR capabilities announced for iOS this morning, in coming the months.

A quick tour of Engadget HQ West

Speaking of iOS updates, Giphy rolled out a new Giphy Cam for iOS on Thursday morning as well. Dubbed Giphy Cam 2.5, its marquee new feature is Augmented Reality. Rather than capture video directly from the camera or pull it from the camera roll, the new Giphy Cam will overlay graphics and sprites atop live video — Pokemon Go-style. You can then generate gifs from the augmented feed.

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