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9
Jan

Nomu S30: A promising phone ruined by hardware defects (review)


nomu s30

In a time where we have reached a plateau in terms of innovation in the smartphone segment, companies have to resort to doing things differently in order to stand out in a sea full of choices. Nomu has built its brand around ruggedness, about getting things done in environments where no other phone can, about not worrying about the well-being of your device in certain conditions. The Nomu S30 is the company’s flagship device, packing the best specs out of the trilogy (completed by the Nomu S10 and S20). As such, Nomu has tried to incorporate everything it’s got, from NFC to useful software features, from a 16MP camera to an impressively loud speaker, from a 1080p screen to an elegant body design.

Specs

Being the flagship phone by Nomu, the phone packs really good components under the hood.

  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 5.5-inch display at 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution; Gorilla Glass 4
  • Octa-core MediaTek 2.0GHz processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB internal storage; microSD expansion card slot for 32GB
  • 13-megapixel (interpolated to 16-megapixel) rear camera
  • 5-megapixel (interpolated to 8-megapixel)front-facing camera
  • Dual-SIM
  • 5000mAh battery
  • 2G GSM:850/900/1800/1900(B5/B8/B3/B2)
  • 3G WCDMA:900/2100(B8/B1)
  • 4G FDD-LTE:850/900/1900/2100(B5/B8/B2/B1)
  • FDD-LTE:800/900/1800/2100/2600(B1/B3/B7/B8/B20)
  • WiFi: IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4GHz
  • Bluetooth: 4.0 BLE
  • NFC

Unlike its smaller, less powerful brother, the Nomu S30 actually has two SIM slots and a microSD card, so you won’t have to compromise anything.

Initial Impressions and Setup

nomu s30The back of the device is plastic, with a nice carbon fiber pattern.

Nomu tried to keep the device packaging as uncomplicated and straightforward as possible. The box is a light brown package with the Nomu logo on the center and not much else. Inside, you’ll find the phone and, below it, some instruction booklets, a pair of headphones and a charger. Keep in mind that it is designed for European outlets, so, in order to charge your phone in the United States and some places of Latin America, you will need an adapter.

Unlike the Nomu S10, the S30 takes you to the usual Android configuration process. This means that you can’t use your device until you finish the lengthy setup process. I can’t figure out with the S30 has a different setup process than the S10, but I like the S10’s approach much more.

Hardware and Build Quality

Just as Scott mentioned on his initial impressions article, the Nomu S30 doesn’t look like a rugged device. You can see elements that both the S10 and the S30 share, such as the distinctive corners of the device or the flaps that protect the ports, but other than that, they look very different.

At the bottom of the Gorilla Glass 4 screen, you’ll find three capacitive buttons: Menu, Home, and Back. More on these buttons later. The front of the device is only disrupted otherwise by the front-facing camera and the earpiece. A hole for the microphone can be seen at the bottom left of the device, something I haven’t seen in a phone for a while.

The device has a plastic shell with carbon fiber patterns on the back. There’s also a door just below the camera/flash combo that houses the ports for the SIM and microSD cards. At the top of the device is the headphone jack, while at the bottom you’ll find the microUSB port (which is curiously aligned to the left of the device and not to the center). Both are covered by rubber flaps.

The sides of the device are covered by a silver metal frame. The right side is the home of the volume keys and the power button, while the left side has a button that can be mapped to different functions (more on that later).

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Personally, I dig the aspect of the device. It looks elegant, different from the glass/metal craze that is invading several OEMs these days and does a good job in hiding the ruggedness of the device behind its looks. Something I dislike is the huge bezels that the device has. It makes the phone unnecessarily big, and it is more noticeable when you compare it to other 5.5-inch devices. Sure, most of them don’t pack a 5000mAh battery, so that’s the tradeoff you have to make in order to get a phone with a big battery.

Also, I have to mention that the device is heavier than you might me accustomed to. I’m coming from an iPhone, but before that, I had a Nexus 6, which is probably the heaviest device I’ve ever owned. At 260 grams, it is a full 76 grams heavier than the Nexus 6 and more than 100 grams heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S7. Keep in mind the battery that this device has, though.

The IP68 water resistance rating this phone holds means that you can submerge it in water for 30 minutes up to 1.5 meters. This means that you can pour your favorite liquid over it and the S30 will be fine.

nomu s30The device has capacitive keys that weren’t working correctly for me.

Here’s the problem: my capacitive keys are nuts. They just love to press themselves for no reason. You think that you finally got the perfect angle for that shot? It would be a shame if the back button presses by itself. In the middle of a very important conversation on Telegram? Home button for you, sir. Sometimes when you are on the home screen, you see the phone struggling with itself, pressing the menu button and then the back button repeatedly with no reason at all. It’s sad and thus, it diminishes my enjoyment using it. Scott reported this same thing as well.

We don’t know the reason, but if it was because of water or shipping, then this leaves the company in a bad position. Being a phone that is supposed to handle water with ease, while being shock resistant, and then breaking at the first sign of unfavorable conditions doesn’t speak well about its ruggedness. We will work with Nomu to see if they can find the source of the issue and update the article if we get some news.

Screen

The Sharp-produced 5.5″ 1080p panel manages to produce very vibrant images. Everything seems to pop out of the screen. Sure, this is no Samsung AMOLED, but the screen on this device is very respectable and more than enough for whatever activities you plan to do on the device. I feel like it could get a little bit brighter, but that is a minor thing that doesn’t cut away from the enjoyment of using it.

Also, it’s good to know that it doesn’t have the weird defects the Nomu S10 has, so that’s a plus. I certainly was expecting an improvement from the S10, but the vibrant colors, deep darks and overall clearness of the screen left me pleasantly surprised.

Unfortunately, the screen is almost unusable when wet, even if it is just a little bit. True, most screens can handle just a certain amount of water before they have no idea of what is going on, but the Nomu S30 is particularly bad at this. It’s a real surprise since the phone is supposed to fare well under conditions that are not ideal.

Something that surprised me is that the screen is weird under normal conditions, too. If I want to change the home screen’s page, but I just drag halfway and keep holding, the icons jump around until I let go, something I have never seen in a modern smartphone. Sometimes, it registers my scrolls as clicks too, leading to a lot of undesired actions and navigation. Sometimes it doesn’t register my touches at all. Since the screen is the main source of user input, having a panel that doesn’t work obliterated the enjoyment I got out of this device.

Speakers and Audio

nomu s30Since the speaker is on the bottom, the device doesn’t have to be in a specific position to get the most out of it.

The bottom-facing speaker means that you can actually leave your phone on the table and it will work flawlessly. It seems like loudness is pretty high on Nomu’s list of priorities because, just as the Nomu S10, this speaker can get very loud. Unfortunately, at high volumes, some quality is lost, but it is not as bad as with the Nomu S10.
Being a drummer, I pay close attention to the drumming lines in songs, so I was disappointed when I could barely hear the drums in Kamelot’s “Insomnia” or Delain’s “Fire With Fire.” However, quality is decent enough to use the phone as a speaker for some nice background music in one of those improvised moments where you don’t have a proper speaker nearby.

Quality from headphones was good enough too. When I don’t have my iPod nearby, Spotify is my product of choice, and I had no issues outputting music through my headphones while walking to my lectures.

Connectivity

This aspect of the phone could make or break it for you. Apparently, Nomu has very few intentions of penetrating the US market, since its phones don’t include some of the necessary bands for LTE connectivity. This means that you could be stuck in 3G (or even in 2G!). As I live in Estonia, the phone actually has the bands necessary for LTE reception.

nomu s30Remember checking the compatible bands before clicking the Buy button.

I think these days, very few phones have problems with call quality or connectivity. Some get a bit more reception than others, but that’s about it. This phone got the same signal strength as my iPhone 6 and the Nomu S10 review unit. Also, WiFi behaved the same as with other devices I have (not laptops, obviously), so there’s no surprises in this area.

Software

nomu-s30-software-1Stock Android!

Thank you, Nomu! The company decided to ship the S30 with an almost stock Android 6.0 build. Also, the few things that were added are actually useful! Weird, right? Let’s dig further.

The stock launcher is pretty barebones. Also, for some reason, it isn’t the same as the S10’s launcher. In the S30, the app drawer features horizontal paged navigation, which is a deviation of what Google is doing with the Google Now Launcher and the Pixel Launcher. Other than that, the minimum features are included and not much else. A problem with the S10 was that some of its apps had icons from the Jelly Bean era, and some Google apps were not installed by default. This is not a problem from the S30, as the only missing app is YouTube. Even Android Pay is included.

The quick settings have a new member that is not included in stock Android: Audio profiles. This lets you change quickly from four different presents: General, Silent, Meeting and Outdoor. It is a very useful and fast way of changing from different environments.

Curiously, one of the highlights of the Nomu S10, Supershots, is not included here. You can only take a screenshot and it will be saved for you. That’s it. No editing, no cropping, no scoll, nothing.

Also, Nomu has included some gestures when the screen is off. This includes double tap to wake, swipe up (lights up the screen and unlocks), launch apps by drawing letters on the screen while it is off and control music through gestures. I’m glad to say that all of them work extremely well and add to the experience. More OEMs should consider adding this kind of useful stuff to their Android builds.

Other interesting features added to the software are Glove Mode, Flip to Mute (incoming calls, alarm, music, and videos), and a built-in task cleaner. Also, you can change what the previously mentioned left button does. You can choose between triggering an app or an SOS situation. To expand on this last feature, the S30 lets you call an emergency number and send an SMS to it. We hope you never have to use that function, but it’s there for you anyways.

Performance

For those of you interested in benchmarks, the phone scored 52149 in AnTuTu.

nomu s30 antutu

This puts it fairly above the Meizu M3 Note, Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8. The difference between the S30 and the Xiaomi Mi 4s is almost 9000, while it has similar values to devices like the HTC One M9, Samsung Galaxy S6 edge and the Nubia Z9 Max.

Fortunately, this is translated into good performance in real life. Every task is a breeze, the phone never lags (except when using Facebook, but that isn’t the phone’s fault) and gaming on it is really good. Even when trying some N.O.V.A. 3, the phone was able to keep up a produce great graphics. I didn’t notice any slowdowns or skipped frames, even when there was a lot going on.

Going from one app to another through the task switcher is swift, thanks to the 4GB of RAM. Unless you’re doing something extremely heavy and processor-demanding, there’s no way the performance of the S30 will leave you disappointed.

Camera

The 13MP (interpolated to 16MP), Sony-produced, f/2.0 lens camera aided by a single flash behaves exactly like me in university (and almost every human being, for that matter): really good in some situations, decent in some of them and laughably bad in others. If you are here looking for a Samsung Galaxy S7 camera experience, then you will have a bad time. However, if you just want to take some shots of things happening around you, then the S30 does a pretty good job at it… Except in nighttime.

Living in a place that has been covered in snow almost every day since the end of October, the pictures that I can take are mostly white with cloudy skies. I noticed that the camera sometimes struggle to capture the sky. It just gives up and gives you a white thing on top. If you are patient enough, then the camera can actually make peace with it and capture its details. Other than that, the camera behaves decently enough, although it tends to blur things a little sometimes without no reason.

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The problem comes when the sun sets. Night pictures are so unbelievably bad. You can judge from the samples yourself.

I had a Siemens C66 that behaved better than this in night time. Well, not really, but I can’t recall a camera that performed so poorly in night conditions.

Also, on both situations previously mentioned, the camera was really slow to focus and to actually take the shot. This was exacerbated in night shots, where the camera just stood there doing nothing for 2-3 seconds.

Indoor shots performed much better and are definitely the strength of this camera. Photos taken inside are detailed and have very vivid colors. Also, almost none of the lag found on other situations was found here.

Regarding the front camera, as long as you are not planning on printing them or something similar, you’ll be fine. Just don’t rely on it for taking decent pictures of that once-in-a-lifetime trip you’re about to make.

Battery

Nice functions have been added to the software and they don't affect battery life in a noticeable way.Nice functions have been added to the software and they don’t affect battery life in a noticeable way.

As with the Nomu S10, battery life is one of the S30’s strongest points. Featuring a massive 5000mAh battery, it puts my iPhone 6’s battery to shame (but then, which phone doesn’t?). I reported that the Nomu S10 could last three days on a single charge easily. The S30 has less endurance, with two days being easily achievable and maybe two and a half if you are careful enough. Still, two days is pretty good and I have no complaints about it.

Something to note, when I received the unit, it was fully discharged. I failed to bring it back to life using the phone’s included charger. On a last try to revive the phone, I used my iPhone’s charger, and then it worked. Not sure if this is something about my device or if it is a widespread issue, but either way, I’m still worried about the QA process that this company has.

Conclusion

Just as the S10, the Nomu S30 left a bitter taste ion my mouth. Even though it has everything to succeed, it has these punctual but almost unforgivable mistakes that keeps it from reaching the glory. While some stuff is really good, such as performance, battery life, software and the speaker, stuff like the poor camera, dodgy screen and build quality issues are very evident and make this device difficult to recommend.

If they can get these stuff sorted out, then Nomu will have a winner in their hands. In it’s current state, however, the bad things outweigh in importance the good things. Sure, it’s nice to have a phone with a big battery so you don’t have to worry about charging it every day, but it’s of no use if your capacitive keys keep messing with you and your actions.

If you still want to buy the phone and see if you have better luck than I do, you can do it from these outlets:

  • iGoGo.es
  • Coolicool
  • Geekbuying
  • GearBest
  • EverBuying

Prices vary from $230 to $270, but you shouldn’t pay more than that. To get more information about the phone, head to Nomu’s official site. They have everything laid out in a nice way.

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9
Jan

Google brings AR to museums with Tango


Tango museum experience

Restore color to ancient artworks, or see inside an ancient Egyptian mummy

Google has announced a new venture to bring augmented reality to museums around the world, starting with the Detroit Institute of Art. Google’s Tango program for phone-based AR will make its way to the DIA through the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and a new AR experience built by GuidiGO, a developer which previously built tour apps for Google Glass.

Tango at DIA

Four new AR experiences are showcased on Google’s official blog today. Visitors can take a peek at the skeleton and innards inside an ancient Egyptian mummy, bring color back to long-faded artworks, unravel ancient scrolls, or view historical structures in scale. It’s all intended to make the experience of exploring a museum more interactive and immersive.

Tango at DIA

DIA visitors wanting to use AR to bring the past alive can request a Phab 2 Pro from the museum’s front desk. Google promises more tango-based interactive experiences in museums around the world “soon.”

Tango at DIA

Tango at DIA

9
Jan

#DOUBLETAKE: Here were some of the CRAZIEST things at CES 2017!


crazy-things-ces-hero-01.jpg?itok=Q0wPpV

What were some of the most insane things that were at #CES2017?!

cella-on-a-hover-board-ces-gif-01.gif?it

Okay, first off: CES is a gigantic wonderland of anything and everything techie and weird. That means that no matter which corridor you decide to hoverboard down, there’s a chance you’ll find something that could make you do a serious double-take.

While wandering around the massive halls of the Sands Expo and the Las Vegas Convention Centre, there were quite a number of things both big and small that had me wondering, “Huh. Hey. What the heck is that?” So as we explored, we kept track of the oddballs!

Here are a couple of bizarre gadgets that stuck out this year at CES!

  • The Force Trainer 2
  • O’2 Nails
  • HandL Butt Case
  • Play-Doh Touch Shape to Life Studio
  • iGulu Home Beer Brewery
  • Nurugo

The Force Trainer 2

the-force-trainer-2-01.jpg?itok=vR9OLZgX

For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.
– Yoda

If you’ve seen Star Wars, then you’ve probably attempted to use The Force on something at least once in your life. Maybe you’ve practiced with automatic sliding doors or a perfectly-timed green light, but we all know that’s luck (or someone just, like, walking passed a censor at the right time).

But what if we told you that you could actually use your mind just like Jedi? What if we told you that there was brain-sensing EEG technology that’s been regularly used in military and medical devices that can allow you to take down enemy droids with just your mind?

Meet the Star Wars Force Trainer 2; an incredibly crazy/cool device that seamlessly mixes science and sci-fi to let you train to be a Jedi Master! All you have to do is focus, and make it so (THIS IS A JOKE. I KNOW THIS IS A QUOTE FROM STAR TREK AND NOT STAR WARS. PLEASE DON’T EAT ME).

See at Amazon

O’2 Nails

Having your nails done can not only be time-consuming, but it can get a bit, well, booooring.

Sure, you love you esthetician and nail artist, but having the same floral and jeweled designs time and time again can get dull and repetitive, and using a glitter, matte, or metallic polish is alright, but it really isn’t that terribly daring.

That’s why O’2 Nails is actually kind of a big-deal and a game changer in the aesthetic world: the little portable box pairs with an app that allows users to literally print images directly onto their nails.

The ARTPRO NAIL from O’2 Nails is an inkjet printer FOR YOUR FINGERNAILS! #nailart #ces2017

A video posted by iMore (@imoregram) on Jan 6, 2017 at 3:11pm PST

After applying a few base coats, you’re good to pick your high-quality image – it can literally be anything as long as the picture is clear enough– and start paint-printing. Just sit still and in no time, you’ll have puppies, kitties, or octopi on your nails!

(Oh, and it’s not available online yet, but you can read about when it may be available and how much it’ll cost right here).

To quote #BradPit in the movie #Se7en, “WHAT’S IN THE BOX?!” While that’s a very good question, it’s actually what comes OUT of the box that’s super cool and amazing! This is the @o2nails_beauty, a device that allows people to print and truly customize their #manicure without any mess or hassle. The best part? It’s portable! #CES2017 #O2Nails #LasVegas #SandsExpo

A photo posted by Android Central (@androidcentral) on Jan 6, 2017 at 3:39pm PST

HandL Butt Case

Oh, my, god. Becky, look at her butt. It is so big.
– Sir Mix A Lot, Baby Got Back

We’ll cut to the chase: The HandL Butt Case is exactly what it sounds like, and when I first heard about it, I thought it was super silly…

… until we actually had the opportunity to use and play with it.

Say what you want about the design, but HandL’s Butt Case is an incredibly comfortable phone accessory with an (extremely) unique look and feel. While the brand makes plenty of more ‘regular’ looking cases, the function and design is always the same: a strip of leather that pulls up from with an elastic attachment to the case, so your phone can always stay secure in your hand.

Two words: Butt. Case. 🍑 #CES2017 #SandsExpo #iPhone #iMore #butt #buttcase #Handl @mikahsargent

A video posted by iMore (@imoregram) on Jan 6, 2017 at 7:20pm PST

Think a Stylering , but with more stability and, well, butt style!

Is it a thin case? No, not really, but the Butt case looks identical to a rear-end and is incredibly squishy and comfy, making it a super crazy, but super awesome phone accessory!

TLDR: Baby got back.

See at HandL

Play-Doh Touch Shape to Life Studio

Have you ever doodled a cool looking character and thought, ‘Hey, he’d make a really awesome dude in a video game?’ Well, what if you could physically build and put together any type of creature using something simple like, I dunno, Play-Doh, and have it scanned into digital, playable real-ness?

While never fear, because the Play-Doh Touch Shape to Life Studio is here!

Step one: Build cat-to-pus Step two: Scan cat-to-pus into reality and start playing! Seriously though, how cool is this @playdoh video game?! You can get SO creative and wild! We’re obsessed! #CES2017 #ShowStoppers #LasVegas

A video posted by Android Central (@androidcentral) on Jan 5, 2017 at 8:38pm PST

All you have to do it take a little bit of Play-Doh, mush and model it into the ideal lil’ creature of your dreams (I made a cat-to-pus!), scan your creation onto your iPad using the special scanning pad, and you’re good to start playing levels with your self-made shenanigans.

The coolest part? Your character doesn’t move in a standard sort of way – depending on how many legs and appendages your creation has, it will react and play in its own unique way!

See at Hasbro

iGulu Home Beer Brewery

igulu-home-beer-brewery-01.jpg?itok=sALQ

If you’re a big beer fan and love having an ice-cold glass of some delicious hops, then take a peek at the 2017 CES award-winning iGulu Home Beer Brewery!

iGulu is an automatic, technologically advanced beer-brewing machine. The machine boasts high-tech control systems and sensors, making brewing beer a smart and excellent process, suitable for beginners as well as for experts.

Now if you’re worried about messing up your favorite beverage, don’t be, because a smart control chip helps keeps things constantly monitored in real-time.

Users can even share and access a ton of different recipes by simply logging into the iGulu Library.

Happy boozin’!

See at iGulu

Nurugo

You’re totally lying, and lying is bad for your skin, so…
– Tammy, Bob’s Burgers

While lying is probably bad for your skin, we would never lie to you when we say that the Nurugo is the next logical step in smart skincare maintenance. Afterall, it did win a CES 2017 innovation award!

Nurugo is an itty-bitty UV camera that attaches directly to your phone. From there, you just have to hold up the device to your face and start scanning! In a couple of seconds, a full report will appear on your phone screen, letting you know how big your pores are, if youn have dry or oily skin, and so, so much more.

At the moment, all the Nurugo can do is scan your skin and tell you what’s up, but in the next couple of months, the system will be able to actually recommend things to do to clear up acne, dryness, or any other skin issue!

The Nurugo Micro is SICKKK! It scans and analyzes your skin, giving you metrics and recommendations for skin health!

A video posted by iMore (@imoregram) on Jan 5, 2017 at 1:30pm PST

See at Nurugo

So what do you think!?

Is there an item on our list that you think is the most out-there and bizarre? Were you at CES yourself, and saw something super cool? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

9
Jan

Alexa will make your car smarter — and vice versa


Every year at CES, some of the world’s biggest tech companies try to one-up each other. TVs get thinner and brighter. Home appliances get chattier and robots get friendlier. But this year, instead of standing out for their memorable devices, a lot of companies showed up with a shared identity: the voice of Alexa.

Within a span of just two years, Amazon’s cloud-based voice service has spread far beyond the Echo speaker where it first debuted. Alexa has gone from being an at-home helper to a personal assistant that can unlock your car, make a robot dance and even order groceries from your fridge.

At CES, both Ford and Volkswagen announced that their cars would integrate Alexa for weather updates, navigation and more. According to CJ Frost, principal architect solutions and automotive lead at Amazon, the car industry is moving into a mobility space. The idea isn’t restricted to the ride anymore; it encompasses a journey that starts before you even get in the car. With the right skills built into the voice service, you can start a conversation with Alexa about the state of your car (is there enough fuel, is it locked, etc.) before you leave the house. It can also pull up your calendar, check traffic updates and confirm the meeting to make sure you’re on track for the day.

Alexa fires up Ubtech’s latest robot, Lynx. Photo: Cherlynn Low/Engadget.

Using a voice service in the car keeps your connection with the intelligent assistant intact. It’s also a mode of communication that will be essential to autonomous cars of the near future. I caught up with Frost and John Scumniotales, GM of Automotive Alexa service, at the Las Vegas convention center to trace the progression of the intelligent assistant from home speakers to cars on the road.

Alexa is ubiquitous at CES this year. To what do you credit the explosion of voice service integration?

John Scumniotales: I think there are multiple reasons. One is our approach to the market. We released the Echo a couple of years back. The device demonstrated intelligent voice service and provided customers with that access. Then we rapidly built services on top of it that allowed people access to the cloud. What we’re seeing is the benefit of having 7,000 skills built by third parties, and having more and more companies embed Alexa into their devices and cars. Having intelligent services to assist us in our day-to-day lives has been a big driving factor.

There’s a huge emphasis on voice interaction but speech recognition technology still has a lot of challenges like languages, accents, etc. Are we really at a point where we’ll instinctively talk to our appliances? And more importantly, will we be understood?

Scumniotales: I think we’re starting to see voice services and personal assistants emerge. I do think it’s becoming more common to interact with devices: mobiles, appliances and vehicles. For many emerging technologies it can be an evangelical sell, where you first have to train people to a new approach, but we’re starting to see it crossover in regards to voice.

With the far field technology that we have and the echo cancellation, there can be complex background noise, the TV can be going, and I can still have a conversation with Alexa. That’s the magical experience that’s helped convince people that this is a viable mode. On top of that the natural language capability as well, where I no longer have to learn a specific grammar and sequence to interact with a device. I can ask for something in five different ways and Alexa usually knows what I’m talking about.

Mattel’s Aristotle uses Alexa to be an efficient personal assistant for kids.

How did this progression from Amazon Echo to vehicles come about? Would you say this is a natural progression or a planned move?

CJ Frost: I think what we always planned on was consistency of experience and to really allow the consumer to experience that engagement. Having that interaction in the home, we saw that opportunity. So did the automotive makers. It was very obvious that people wanted to get in the car and have an easy conversational experience.

Scumniotales: The feedback we’ve gotten from the Echo at home is that people have gotten accustomed to having voice-activated access to their digital lives. They want that continuity in their cars, whether it’s entertainment, productivity or knowledge. That’s been an intentional thing that Amazon has done. We want this to be a multi-modal experience.

What would you say is the purpose of bringing voice interactions to cars? Is it about productivity or safety?

Frost: We know the drivers in the automotive industry. It’s the industry itself, but it’s also regulation, safety and insurance services. We know that voice interfaces have been a part of cars for a long time primarily to support safe operations. When you look at how easily you can engage: — order a pizza in five to six seconds, check the weather — it’s a very easy, safe and consistent interaction and it adds functionality to the car. You can bring your phone to the car but depending on how the consumer uses it, it can add a level of risk as well. But finding a way to converse without being distracted, with your hands still on the steering wheel, becomes a positive experience.

Scumniotales: Voice can make complex tasks simple. A short utterance compared to completing a task on the phone. You’ll have to toggle between apps and it becomes a dangerous interaction. Voice is a natural and safe human machine interaction model for the car.

Frost: If you think about it, the advent of ordering pizza online was amazing. But now I think about it a different way. I open my laptop, launch a website, type in what I want, pull my card out …I need to go through all the motions and all of a sudden it feels onerous as opposed to having a quick voice conversation and having a pizza show up 30 minutes later.

What’s your biggest challenge with Alexa?

Scumniotales: Going fast enough. Just being able to satisfy the incoming demand and to go global with Alexa is a challenge. There is so much that’s possible; we just need to meet that demand as fast as we can.

Beyond this wave of Alexa in car models this year, how does the service fit into the autonomous car space of the future?

Scumniotales: When you look at driverless cars, it’s a great situation because Alexa either becomes a mobile living room or mobile office. Once we have that much more free time available to us during our commute, then you’ll have Alexa in your car so you can access entertainment and information.

Continuing the conversation from the house to the car also provides more access to Alexa into people’s lives. In what ways does this extended interaction benefit the technology?

Frost: Alexa gets smarter every day. As people engage with this service and as more skills are added, the system is getting smarter about how to respond. From an automotive perspective, there are all sorts of things happening to make cars safer and to get set for autonomous. What’s big this year is vehicle-to-vehicle communication and data sharing between cars. Not an active data sharing or interaction between consumers but cars talking to each other. What happens in the near future when a car can detect snow on the road and tell 15 cars behind it: “Hey, there’s snow on the road.” By engaging the voice in activating that data, we can potentially use that car-to-car communication to let people know there’s an accident or there are changing conditions on the road. That’s the interim step of how we can use data better to make driving safer.

Then, when our hands are off the wheel, we will absolutely have to have that interaction. When people start engaging in different ways in autonomous vehicles, then you can start to learn what patterns on a drive from LA to San Francisco. It allows the service to get smarter and smarter.

“The ultimate vision is that this is like a Star Trek computer, where I’m walking through my house and I can just ask Alexa for things. There may not be devices that you can even see.”

We’ve heard a lot of Alexa over the last year. What’s the future?

Scumniotales: We’ve been laying down the table stakes for an intelligent voice service over the last few years. Now you can start to think about taking the AI we’ve built to the next step, where we can provide some predictive guidance. We will know what your calendar is so when you start interacting with Alexa in the morning, she’ll suggest the next actions you should be taking or she’ll look at your appointments and check the traffic for you. We want to tie in various data sources that we have access to, including a lot of personal information of your day, to have an intelligent assistant that provides predictive behaviors as well.

We’re going to continue to work with our own devices to expand the ones we offer in the marketplace, but also have more third parties embedding Alexa into their environment. The ultimate vision is that this is like a Star Trek computer, where I’m walking through my house and I can just ask Alexa for things. There may not be devices that you can even see. There might be microphones in the walls and speakers in the ceiling.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2017.

9
Jan

Tips and tricks, things to look out for in a phone repair service


You’ve smashed your iPhone. It wasn’t even a big drop but those sidewalks are unforgiving. Now, you have a thin slab of metal and glass splinters. So what’s next?

First, don’t beat yourself up. These things happen. A recent study showed that sports fans are particularly prone to phone accidents – 23 million Americans have damaged their phone while watching a sporting event. Around one in eight threw them across the room because they were excited, elated or furious sports. Just as many dropped them in their beers.

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Holidays are not much better – one in eight damage something electronic during celebrations in the holiday season. And if it wasn’t the sidewalk you dropped it on but, well, in a public bathroom, take comfort from the fact that you are not alone. Just pick it up with a tissue, please. 

Men most often break their cell phones in the garage, while women find the bathroom is the most likely place to break their phone. 

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Second, think carefully about what to do next. Of course, you need it repaired, to be working properly and for this whole sorry accident to become a distant memory. But not all repair organisations are equal and, therefore, neither are their repairs. 

That repair must be a good one: if it’s done inadequately you’ll find you need a second go to make things ship-shape.

You don’t want the repair to work just fine for three months and a day, and then fail, if the shop then says there’s a 90-day warranty on their work. Such a limited warranty is common, by the way.

A company like iCracked offers a lifetime warranty on all parts and labor. If the company you’ve come across offers less than lifetime, make sure the warranty is for two years at least.

Similarly, you need to know that the company you choose knows its business, and isn’t just buying untested parts. iCracked hand-tests every single part before it sends them to its well-trained engineers, called iTechs, to use them. If the parts are not individually tested they could be faulty, so it’s important to ascertain that before they go into your precious cellphone.

It helps if the repair company uses the best-quality parts (as iCracked does). Cheaper parts save the repair shop money, but you’ll suffer as a result. 

The latest smartphones use tough glass, often from US company Corning whose Gorilla Glass is now up to its fifth iteration and the Japanese company Asahi, which makes Dragontrail glass. 

Both are great at resisting scratches from keys, for instance. And while neither is unbreakable, the quality is something you’d quickly miss if the repair company gives you a lower-grade replacement.

A low-quality screen may look the same as a better one, but you may find it won’t behave properly. Often, the touch-sensitivity on inferior screens is poor, either unresponsive when you touch it, or going too far the other way and unlocking itself in your pocket. 

Few things are more annoying than when an important call comes in and, as you swipe the display, the phone won’t unlock and you miss the call!

That’s before you even get as far as the dead pixels, erratic colours and other faults that can affect phone displays. 

Other side effects from lower-quality parts are diminished battery life (and who needs that?), batteries that overheat worryingly and so on. After all, one of the reasons people choose an iPhone, for instance, is that the build quality and components are exceptional – do you really want to put some cheap part into your smartphone?

As well as iCracked, the engineers at the Apple Store use only the best quality parts and deliver a great result, but you do have to stand in line in the store for that service.

In contrast, iCracked comes to you, whether that’s to your home, office or even your favorite coffee bar, so there’s no waiting in line and the repair is done expertly, quickly and before your very eyes.

Once you’ve had your phone repaired, there are two more lessons to consider: first, maybe this is a good time to back everything up, just in case there is another accident one day and, second, this could be the day to buy that protective case you’ve been mulling over all this time!

9
Jan

LG PJ9 levitating speaker preview: The Bluetooth speaker that hovers


Bluetooth speakers come in all shapes and sizes these days, and there are even some that float.

But when you normally talk about floating speakers, you are usually referring to waterproof devices, that you can use in a swimming pool.

The LG PJ9 is a different kind of floating Bluetooth speaker as it floats in the air. That’s right, it levitates, hovering a few inches above a separate base unit, rotating as it does.

Why? We’re not entirely sure. It is mostly a gimmick, but will certainly be the talk at any party.

The top part of the kit is a small, 360-degree speaker, while the “Levitation Station” underneath contains electromagnets to keep it aloft. The base unit also houses a subwoofer, for deeper, more growling bass response.

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One clever feature is that when the floating speaker requires more battery charge, it slowly descends and the station underneath recharges it through kinetic power transfer. Then it rises again, when enough power has been absorbed.

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We didn’t hear the levitating version in action much, considering the only working unit on show at CES 2017 was behind glass. We did hear a non-levitating version though and it was suitably clear and meaty.

The speaker is also weatherproof, so you can even take it outside to wow your neighbours during a barbecue, for example.

There is no word on price or release date at the moment, but we’re sure they will both appear on the horizon soon.

9
Jan

ZTE Blade V8 Pro preview: Dual camera action on a budget


What does ZTE’s latest phone have in common with the Honor 6x and Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom?

Besides being unveiled at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, they each sport dual cameras, allowing you to capture photos with a a “bokeh” depth-of-field effect. The iPhone 7 Plus made headlines last autumn when it launched with a similar capability, but unlike that premium phone, the ZTE Blade V8 Pro is ultra affordable. For $230, you get two 13-megapixel rear cameras, plus an 8-megapixel front camera.

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We recently played with the phone and found that it delivered detail pictures, but if you want that shallow, blurred background, the Blade let’s you apply bokeh and adjust the intensity of the effect by dragging an aperture slider up or down. Doing so doesn’t physical widen or close the physical lens, but it does apply software magic made possible by a monochrome sensor, ZTE told us during a brief demo.

The Blade V8 Pro’s second camera actually has a monochrome mode that shows your shot in black and white before you even capture it. It can also take 4K videos as well as crisp selfies. If you’re on a tight budget but want a phone that can adequately capture your life in stunning detail and accurate colours, this is the phone for you. It even has a 5.5-inch full-HD display and 32GB of internal storage that’s expandable via microSD.

Another standout feature is the physical home button with an embedded fingerprint sensor, as that’s something hard to find on budget phones. The Blade V8 Pro has metal finish on the front, with a rubbery, textured plate on the back. Inside there is a 3140mAh battery that ZTE says will last longer than the batter found on its flagship Axon 7. However, the phone is decidedly mid-ranger when it comes to power.

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First Impressions

It has an octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor and 3GB of RAM, which during our demo, seemed adequate. The camera app could speedily load and take shots with minimal lag. We’d have to play with it for an extended time though to fully give a review on not only its processing power but also camera capabilities, so stay tuned. 

Keep in mind there will be a regular Blade V8 as well. Unlike the Pro, it has a smooth aluminium finish on the back with horizontally placed shooters (one 13-megapixel camera and one 2-megapixel camera. It also has a 13-megapixel camera on the front with a flash, a 5.2-inch Full HD screen, Snapdragon 435 chip, 2GB or 3GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of storage, and a 2,730mAh. No details yet on pricing.

These are the first ZTE Blade smartphones to come to the US. The line has been available in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, with more than 50 million Blade phones worldwide. The Blade V8 Pro is available to pre-order now and will begin shipping 11 January.

9
Jan

Ring Floodlight Cam preview: Smart, bright security system to scare intruders away


Ring has had great success with its camera-enabled doorbell over the last year, so much so that it is expanding its product portfolio to now include a clever security cam and spotlight system that will hopefully keep intruders away.

The Ring Floodlight Cam comprises a camera unit and two decent sized LED spotlights. It is touted as the world’s first security camera with motion sensing and the lights built in, plus a silent alarm and two-way talk.

The latter is a similar feature to the one on Ring’s doorbells, where you can talk through a built-in speaker to someone in the camera’s vicinity. Unlike the doorbells though, this is more likely to be only used to scare off intruders, rather than chat to the postman too.

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The camera captures 1080p Full HD video and has night vision. It notifies a phone or tablet through a dedicated app when it detects motion within a 270-degree field of view. There are even facial recognition capabilities, so ensures the face of an intruder is shown clearly.

When motion is detected, you will be notified on your mobile device and can then choose to speak to the intruder and/or start a 110-decibel siren alarm. The 3,000 lumens LED floodlights can be set to go on automatically or you can control them through the app too.

The app is available for iOS, Android, Windows 10 and Mac. It’s the same app as the one that controls a Ring doorbell.

The Floodlight Cam is available in white or black and we can safely tell you, from standing underneath one, that the spotlights are mighty bright.

It’ll be available from April this year, priced at £229, and you can also opt to pay for all captured video to be stored in the cloud at £2.50 a month for a single camera, or £24.99 annually.

Ring is also making its Ring Pro doorbell available in the UK, with units shipping any day now. It also costs £229 and adds 5GHx Wi-Fi and 1080p video to the feature set of the existing Ring. It is also slimmer and you can change the housing to match its surroundings.

9
Jan

Samsung EV battery offers 500km range with 20 minutes of charge


By the time 2021 rolls around, a number of major car makers will have a varied selection of electric cars available. Developments in battery technology will dictate the range and features that these cars can offer, but Samsung wants to give consumers a brief insight into what will be available at the start of the next decade.

Samsung SDI, the Korean conglomerate’s lithium ion and renewable division that provides power for auto giant BMW, today announced a “next generation” battery that offers 600 kilometers (373 miles) of driving and can be “fast charged” in just 20 minutes.

The high density battery is designed to provide 500 kilometers (310 miles) of range or 80 percent of capacity in the time it takes for a quick roadside coffee break. For reference, that’s more than what the average fully-charged Tesla Model S currently offers.

Instead of fitting cars with more battery cells, which in turn adds weight, Samsung hopes that by delivering smartphone-like fast charging, consumers won’t suffer from range anxiety and will be able to drive longer distances without lengthy top-ups.

That wasn’t the only announcement Samsung SDI made today at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) 2017. The company also confirmed an improved “21700” cylindrical battery, a large shotgun shell-shaped cell with “improved energy density, power and performance.”

Major EV makers are focusing on the 21700 — named after its 21mm diameter and 70mm length. Tesla confirmed recently that its Gigfactory had begun full production of its own lithium-ion battery cells developed in partnership with Panasonic.

Source: Samsung SDI

9
Jan

US Army wants bullets that turn into plants over time


The US military may not seem like the greenest of organizations, but if rising seas and temperatures produce worldwide chaos, they’re the ones that have to deal with that shit. Now, the Department of Defense is trying to tackle environmental problems caused by spent bullets and casings on its firing ranges by using composite materials laced with seeds.

The military fires hundreds of thousands of rounds during training, ranging from bullets to 155mm artillery shells. While casings are collected, and often recycled, the bullets themselves generally aren’t, and can take “hundreds of years” to break down in the environment. That can pollute the soil and water supply, harm animals, and generally look like crap if you stumble upon them.

To tackle the problem, the DoDo has made a proposal call for a biodegradable composite bullet impregnated with seeds that will survive the initial blast and searing velocities. The seeds should only sprout after being in the ground for several months and be safe for animals to consume.

A Marine from 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment loads 40 mm grenades during a training exercise at Camp Fallujah's Eagle Range

40 mm grenade round used during a US Marine training exercise (Getty/Stocktrek Images)

At the same time, the military wants the composite materials to be usable in other sectors, like construction or drink containers. For instance, spent building materials could biodegrade and become gardens, or tossed beverage cups could leave their mark as a clump of flowers. As references, the document cites “bamboo reinforced biodegradable plastics” and composites made from “soy-based matrices.”

For the first phase, closing on February 8th, the military is looking for 40-120mm training rounds built with biodegradable composites and remediation seeds that “meet all the performance requirements of existing training rounds.” If that works out, the suppliers will build a “sufficient number of prototypes for the government to perform ballistic tests.” So if you have a good idea, who knows, you might end up being the first-ever environmentally friendly arms dealer.

Via: Gizmodo

Source: Small Business Admininstration

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