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25
May

BBC Store to close, get a refund for any digital TV shows you bought


The BBC is closing its online digital content store, BBC Store, on 1 November 2017, just two-years after its launch. It is also shutting the cloud content locker so those who bought shows through the service will no longer be able to access their paid-for shows.

It will, however, refund customers for any content bought since November 2015.

Customers will either get a full refund or vouchers for digital TV or film rentals and purchases on Amazon.co.uk. The vouchers will even be worth more than the total value of your original BBC Store purchases, should you choose that option. And they can be used on any Amazon content, not just BBC programming.

Speaking to Engadget, a BBC spokesman said that BBC content on streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Video, has negated customer interest in buying digital content outright: “Since the appetite for BBC shows on SVOD and other third party platforms is growing in the UK and abroad, it doesn’t make sense for us to invest further in BBC Store where demand has not been as strong as we’d hoped in a rapidly changing market,” he explained.

The BBC also recognises that the BBC Store was the only place to get digital copies of programming not available elsewhere. It will be looking to make archive content available in “new ways” though.

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25
May

You’re more rational on a smartphone than on a PC


Could the device you’re using — smartphone versus PC — affect the moral decisions you make when using the device? A study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior suggests that it’s possible. The results reveal that people are more likely to make a rational decision when a dilemma is presented on a smartphone. PC users, on the other hand, rely more on intuitive emotional decision making.

The researchers hypothesized that smartphones focus user attention on a single task, while PCs allow for more outside information. To test this theory, they presented multiple dilemmas to a sample set of 1,010 people and judged how they reacted based on whether the participant was using a smartphone or a PC. The participants were assigned a device at random.

One example of the questions participants were asked is the classic “trolley problem”: A runaway trolley is headed towards five people tied up on a set of train tracks. You can do nothing, resulting in the deaths of five people, or push a man off a bridge, which will stop the trolley. The utilitarian, rational response is to kill one man to save five lives, which 33.5 percent of smartphone users chose, compared to 22.3 percent of PC users.

In another variation on this question, which involved pulling a lever that would divert the trolley from the five people but would result in the death of one person, the results were closer: 80.9 percent of smartphone users, compared to 76.9 percent of PC users, chose to divert the trolley. But in both cases, smartphone users picked the utilitarian response more often.

“What we found in our study is that when people used a smartphone to view classic moral problems, they were more likely to make more unemotional, rational decisions when presented with a highly emotional dilemma,” Dr. Albert Barque-Duran, the lead author of the study, told City, University of London. “This could be due to the increased time pressures often present with smartphones and also the increased psychological distance which can occur when we use such devices compared to PCs.”

As for why the researchers started this study, Dr. Barque-Duran noted, “Due to the fact that our social lives, work and even shopping takes place online, it is important to think about how the contexts where we typically face ethical decisions and are asked to engage in moral behaviour have changed, and the impact this could have on the hundreds of millions of people who use such devices daily.” It’s clear we need more research on how our devices affect our moral decision making because we’re using screens at an ever-increasing rate.

Via: Phys.org

Source: Computers in Human Behavior, City, University of London

25
May

B&O hides high-end speakers in hexagonal wall art


When buying a new piece of tech that’s going to live with you for years, your primary concern is balancing price, features and future-proofing. But some products don’t wave spec sheets around, instead focusing on design that complements minimalist spaces, or conceals its true function. Bang & Olufsen’s new BeoSound Shape modular speaker system falls firmly into that category, and would look more at home in a modern art gallery than a high-end Hi-Fi store.

B&O is exhibiting the BeoSound Shape as part of London’s Clerkenwell Design Week, and the accompanying presentation is slanted appropriately. I heard about how the mosaic speaker system is “domesticating technology” and how the peaked, many-faced design plays with light in the same way mountain ranges do at dusk. The tagline “good sound, good silence” came up at one point, but cut through the colorful, emotive pitch and you’re looking at a fairly elaborate bit of kit.

Not all tiles that make up the speaker installations are equal. The heart of every system is a hexagon B&O calls the “Core.” This is what drives the amps that, in turn, power the speakers. It supports several wireless streaming protocols including humble Bluetooth, as well as AirPlay and Chromecast, and plays nice with B&O’s other speakers for multi-room shenanigans. The Core is also responsible for tweaking the output of individual speakers, so no matter the eye-pleasing geometric arrangement, sound is spread across the canvas like musicians across a stage. This means vocals are prioritized in the center, with other pockets emphasizing specific ranges/instruments.

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They aren’t dainty little modules, either, kicking out a wall of sound that can easily be overwhelming. But as there’s so much speaker footprint (at least with regard to the demo setup I heard), it excels in filling the room with a subtler background sound of ambiguous origin. The size of your wallet is almost the only factor limiting how expansive and elaborate you want your wall art to be. B&O offers plenty of tile textures and colors, every Core supports 11 amps, and every amp can drive four speakers. That means one system can comprise up to 44 speakers or 56 hexagons in total, not including acoustic dampener tiles: Inert modules you can use to flesh out designs.

Only the deepest of pockets could entertain such an audio display, though. Ahead of the BeoSound Shape’s August launch, B&O has released speculative pricing of $4,025/£3,400 for “a standard setup” that includes one Core, one amp, two speakers and two dampeners. Pricing aside, the tiles are pretty big — each roughly the size of a dinner plate — so finding the space to mount a multi-amp setup could be problematic.

Then again, if you’ve got the capital to dump $25,000 into speaker art, you probably also have a huge loft somewhere with high ceilings and so much wall space you don’t know what to do with it.

25
May

Binge-watching will be as easy as breathing


It’s never been a better time to be a media addict. We’re in the midst of a television renaissance, where writers are pushing the medium to new heights. It’s easier than ever to get access to foreign and independent films. And the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, as well as digital rentals, makes it a cinch to watch just about anything we’d like at a whim. If anything, one of the biggest issues with the media landscape today is that there’s simply too much to watch.

Just 10 years ago, though, things were much different. Netflix’s streaming video service was just getting started, with around 1,000 films at launch and a very limited amount of viewing time (the $18 plan got you 18 hours of video, at most). Consumers were trying to wrap their heads around HDTVs. And HD-DVDs were still fighting it out with Blu-ray discs. Given how quickly the media industry changed over the past decade, we’re expecting similar shifts in the decade ahead.

Online Streaming Services

Streaming thrives

If there’s one certainty, it’s that streaming video isn’t going anywhere. When it comes to media formats, the more convenient one always ends up winning over consumers. That was true for VHS (compared to better quality, but more expensive, technology like Laserdisc and Betamax) and compressed audio files (MP3 and AAC, which killed off CDs), and it’s already the case for streaming video, which has led to a major decline in Blu-ray and DVD sales.

Naturally, streaming video quality will get better over time. You can already get great looking 4K/HDR (high dynamic range) content from Netflix, Amazon and Vudu today, but it’ll get even better as compression and internet speeds improve. The real turning point will be when streaming can deliver picture quality that looks as good as a 4K Blu-ray. Many consumers might already be hard-pressed to tell the difference, but it’s not tough for A/V experts to detect the telltale signs of lower bit rates.

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A decade from now, streaming video will be even more seamless than it is today. Loading times will practically be nonexistent, buffering will be a thing of the past (you’ll be able to preload several hours of video in seconds), and there will be even more ways to access your streaming libraries. Both Netflix and Amazon already offer offline viewing, and that feature will only become more widespread as storage capacities and download speeds improve. Honestly, the idea of being “offline” might even be extinct in 10 years, except for the most extreme circumstances.

At this point, streaming video has conquered TVs, PCs, phones and tablets. That’s largely due to how simple it is. You don’t have to worry about carrying a disc around and switching between devices. As long you’ve got internet access, you just have to load up your streaming service of choice and hit play. Moving forward, we’ll likely see a bigger push toward bringing video to screens all over your home, car and office. That could be through displays integrated into new types of devices, like Amazon’s recently announced Echo Show, as well as things like your bathroom mirror.

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LG and Samsung have been trying to stuff screens into refrigerators for years. The screens haven’t caught on yet, mostly because they didn’t do much. The prospect of watching video in your kitchen, and integrating digital assistants like Alexa (which LG is doing), could make smart refrigerators much more appealing.

The influx of connected cameras, speakers and other devices could also improve the way we watch things at home. With most streaming services today, you can easily pick up where you’ve left off watching a video across many devices. As our homes get smarter, it’s not hard to imagine a video “following” you throughout your home, across different screens and rooms, without any effort on your part. You could, for example, easily move from binging on your favorite show on the couch, to streaming it on a display in your kitchen as you make dinner. It might sound like a Big Brother nightmare, but it’s also the sort of thing consumers would lap up if it makes their lives easier.

Screens everywhere

We might eventually have to rethink the notion of a “screen” altogether. It won’t be long before any blank surface could become some sort of display. You can do that today with pico projectors, which are bright and portable enough for casual viewing. Eventually, they could be integrated into homes to throw images onto your bedroom or living room wall, working in tandem with connected speakers. And we’re already seeing plenty of innovation with short-throw technology from the likes of Sony, projectors that can be placed right against walls to throw up a huge, bright image.

As someone who’s already been bitten by the projector bug, the idea of bringing screens all over my home is much more enticing than bigger TV sets. Not only do you get large images, you also don’t have to worry about physically installing a screen. That’s something even LG’s glorious wallpaper OLED TV can’t offer. Standalone TVs won’t disappear a decade from now, but they’ll probably look much more different than you’re used to. The move towards OLED has already led to insanely thin sets from LG, and unique designs like Sony’s latest, which uses the screen as a speaker. Being thin and light will likely be the main focus for most OLED sets going forward, but I wouldn’t rule out further advancements from traditional LCDs. Samsung and Vizio have done wonders with their newest LCD TVs, which edge closer to the quality of OLED for far less.

Although cinephiles might object to it, you can also expect more people to rely on their phones for watching video. “Convenience is going to trump quality every time,” John LePore, creative director of the visual effects firm Perception, said in an interview with Engadget. “There’s a degree to which I subscribe to David Lynch’s rant against watching something on your phone phone [see above clip]. At the same time, my phone has a beautiful display, and watching something with headphones on might get me a better audio experience than my noisy home.”

Indeed, future generations of phones and tablets will probably make them even better suited for binge-watching. There’s also a chance that mobile VR will reach a point where you’d actually want to slip on a headset for hours just to watch video. Mobile VR headsets are already lighter and more portable than their desktop siblings, but we’re still waiting on battery and display improvements to make them truly compelling. Eventually, they could deliver an experience that’s akin to sitting in the middle of your favorite theater.

There’s also plenty of promise in virtual retinal display technology, which beams images right onto your eyes. We first saw it in action with the Avegant Glyph, a pair of headphones that also doubles as a personal cinema. It managed to recreate the experience of watching a big screen TV from far away. And though it wasn’t perfect, it was a surprisingly effective first stab at using the tech. Virtual retinal display technology has been around for years, but now it finally seems be ready for consumers. I’d wager that cinephiles wouldn’t mind spending a bit extra for the privilege of watching films on a “big screen” just about anywhere.

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On the augmented reality (AR) front, there’s light-field technology, which can project virtual images that you can focus on just like real-world objects. It most recently appeared in Avegant’s new prototype headset, and it’s landed Magic Leap plenty of hype and funding. The big advantage with light-field tech: It doesn’t completely block your vision. It’s the sort of thing that could eventually be integrated right into glasses and goggles. It’s the key to making AR more than just a tech demo or gimmick.

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A CES attendee inspects Sharp’s 8K TV set.

JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images

The 8K dilemma

And what of 8K? While it’s the logical upgrade from 4K video, with quadruple the amount of pixels (7,680 by 4,320, compared to 4K’s 3,840 by 2,160) it might not find much of a place in homes. “To me, 8K might as well be ‘Smellovision,’” LePore said. “It’s not going to be something people can appreciate.”

For most consumers, it’s already difficult to see a huge difference between 1080p and 4K displays under 50 inches. Most advantages with 4K sets come from upgrades beyond the mere resolution bump, like better panel quality and HDR’s massive color and brightness improvements. You’d need a cinema-sized screen to really perceive the resolution difference between 4K and 8K video. (Most digital projectors in theaters today spit out 4K.)

NHK is testing out 8K satellite broadcasts in Japan, but it’s going to be a while before any others follow suit. It wouldn’t make much sense to stream massive 8K files, which can reach upwards of 200GB today. Of course, network speeds and compression will inevitably get better, but there’s a point where simply throwing more pixels on a screen doesn’t actually improve anything.

Although 4K Blu-ray will likely go down as the last consumer-facing physical format, there’s a chance that 8K could find its way to extreme A/V enthusiasts through another disc technology. Just be prepared for it to be very expensive and somewhat inaccessible — think of it like an extreme version of Laser Disc. I’m the sort of home theater geek who doesn’t mind investing in a doomed format like 4K Blu-ray, but even I see the writing on the wall.

The theatrical experience

With so many things to watch, and so many places to watch them, it’s no surprise that movie theaters have it rough. They won’t disappear a decade from now, but those that remain will look much different. We’re already seeing some evidence of change today, with things like reserved seating, reclining chairs and in-theater dining becoming more widespread. And we’re also seeing disastrous attempts at making the cinema experience more “extreme” like 4DX.

If we’re going to see 8K video anywhere, it’s going to be in theaters. You can also expect things like HDR and laser projection to become standard. Hopefully that’ll mean the end of dim screens, something that still plagues theaters today (and 3D glasses only make things worse).

Even as consumers invest in bigger screens at home, theaters still deliver a grander cinematic experience. The best upgrades typically involve making the cinema feel more like your perfect living room, such as with those aforementioned comfy chairs. But I wouldn’t be surprised if theater chains also catered more to specific audiences.

Cinepolis, for example, already has a few screens with playgrounds, where parents can let their kids let loose before the movie and during a short intermission sequence. We might even see the dreaded idea of a theater where you can use computers and phones. That’s not my cup of tea, but it’s a reality I could live with if it meant keeping a local theater in business.

“More” is the future of media

Ultimately, the media landscape a decade from now will look similar to what we have today — except it’ll reach new heights thanks to more content, more screens and more ways to enjoy it all. You’ll be able to catch up on shows as easily during your commute as you can anywhere in your home. It’ll be a utopia for TV and movie addicts. But if you’re the sort of person who already has trouble keeping up with the vast amount of video out there, it might look more like a dystopia.

[Photo credits: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek/Getty Images]

Welcome to Tomorrow, Engadget’s new home for stuff that hasn’t happened yet. You can read more about the future of, well, everything, at Tomorrow’s permanent home and check out all of our launch week stories here.

25
May

Microsoft’s Twitch competitor gets a new name and co-op streaming


While Twitch has been busy expanding the breadth of what you can watch on its platform, Microsoft has been quietly improving how you watch and broadcast with its Beam service. Just to get it out of the way, Beam will henceforth be known as “Mixer.” There’s a PR-speak reason for the change in nomenclature, but it doesn’t really matter. What does is how the service is improving. Specifically, Mixer now offers co-operative streaming and broadcasts in 4K UHD.

Trying to watch a group of friends streaming on Twitch has always been kind of a mess. You’d need four browser windows open, each with their own chat stream and, for the broadcasters themselves, setting something up was a logistical nightmare. The base functionality is available right now, and Microsoft says that soon (probably during E3) you’ll be able to invite friends to co-stream with you directly from the Xbox Guide.

“Co-streaming doesn’t require streamers to play the same game or even do the same activity, and you can join a co-stream with friends who are streaming from different types of devices,” a post on the Major Nelson blog reads. Meaning, if you want to play some Dota 2 while one of your pals is grinding in Destiny and two others are playing Portal 2’s co-operative campaign, that’s absolutely doable, with one common chat room. It’s pretty wild.

Oh, and if you want to catch Xbox’s media briefing in 4K UHD that’ll be available as well. We’ve reached out to Microsoft to see if 4K game broadcasting is in the works.

Beyond this, Mixer is playing catch-up to Twitch and going mobile. The app is in beta right now but Microsoft promises that “soon” the ability to self-broadcast your on-the-go gaming will be available for everyone and that you’ll even be able to co-stream from the app.

Curious for more? Mixer is getting its own dedicated page on the Xbox One dashboard, a curated homepage featuring all manner of broadcasts called Mixer One, Microsoft has built a live-streaming studio at its flagship store in New York and will also host a stream today dishing out more details and announcements. The latter starts at 2pm Eastern.

Twitch, the ball’s in your court — adjustable video playback speed and pre-recorded chats don’t quite stack up compared to what Microsoft is doing.

Source: Major Nelson

25
May

T-Mobile launching its flexible ‘Digits’ plan on May 31st


T-Mobile has been working on a new type of multi-number, multi-device phone service. Digits, one of the company’s UnCarrier moves, is now through beta testing and ready to launch at the end of the month.

Digits allows customers to seamlessly use their phone number for messaging and calls across a number of devices including phones, tablets, and computers. This type of service has already been available to Apple device users, but T-Mobile is taking it a step further.

Along with streamlined messaging, Digits also allows you to use more than one number on a given device. So, rather than carrying around different phones for personal and work use, you can have more than one number on the same device. You can also have the same number on different devices, meaning you can get rid of that ancient landline and have your home number on every one of your family members’ phones.

All current T-Mobile customers will have their numbers upgraded to Digits on May 31st and they’ll be able to purchase an additional Digits line for $10 per month. Customers with a T-Mobile One Plus plan will be able to get an additional Digits line for free for a limited time.

Source: T-Mobile

25
May

Lyft challenges Uber Black with its own luxury cars


Lyft passengers who prefer a black Audi or Lexus to the ubiquitous Toyota Camry can rest easy. On Thursday, Lyft launched their Lux service in New York City, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and Chicago, bringing premium black cars with drivers ranked 4.7 and above. Lyft says they want customers not only using this service for business travel, but attending weddings too — Lux SUV is for parties of six or more. The service is one tier higher than Lyft Premier, which launched last year.

Lyft’s new service competes with Uber Black, and follows a huge expansion that brought Lyft to over 50 new cities earlier this year. As Uber has a string of shady practices exposed — the latest was a New York Times report that Uber owes tens of millions of dollars to drivers in miscalculated commissions — Lyft may be capitalizing on an opportunity to steal customers. Yet while Lyft had a good 2016, it has a lot catching-up to do: Uber is still supposedly worth almost nine times its closest rival.

25
May

Everyone’s favorite useless Pokemon gets its own game


It’s pretty obvious that Pokémon Go wouldn’t have been the worldwide success without, well, Pokemon. Niantic and Nintendo tapped a phenomenally rich vein of wish fulfillment when they sent people scurrying around the real world catching monsters on their phone. The app was sadly limited to collecting, not raising the fighting beasts as the original game/manga/anime/feature films showcased. But a smartphone game has come out promising that elusive trainer experience with the greatest Pokémon of them all. Give a warm welcome to Magikarp Jump.


The game follows the typical lifespan of the derpy, majestic Magikarp: Fish one out of the water (hope for a shiny), train it with punching bags, match it against other Magikarp to compete for highest leap and finally retire it at level 20. (In the games, that’s when it can evolve into the far more powerful Gyrados, though some would call that blasphemy.) Magikarp Jump is free on iOS and Android, though it seems the game is suffering a little of the old Pokémon Go popularity curse: I wouldn’t get past the loading screen, but darn if its background music isn’t catchy. It’s all worth it for the Magikarp.

Source: The Pokemon Company

25
May

Microsoft Announces ‘Mixer Create’ iOS App for On-The-Go Live Streaming of iPhone Games


Microsoft today announced a rebranding of its game streaming service “Beam,” which will now be called “Mixer,” along with the launch of a new iOS and Android app that will debut today in beta form. Called “Mixer Create,” the app will include a handful of self-broadcasting features that let streamers keep in contact with their audience while on the go.

Additionally, down the line Microsoft will update Mixer Create to let creators stream live gameplay of iOS games directly from their iPhones and iPads, similar to how Mixer can stream games on PC and Xbox One. The mobile broadcasts will be viewable by users on any platform that Mixer is on, including the basic Mixer app for iOS [Direct Link] and Android, as well as on Xbox One and the web.

Although it hasn’t yet explained the specifics of how the feature will work, Microsoft gave examples of streamers sharing live gameplay from their iPhone, including streaming their hunt for Pokémon in Pokémon Go.

Mixer Create Beta Launches on Mobile Devices (iOS and Android) — Mixer Create is a new mobile app that enables self-broadcasting, and we’re kicking off the beta today. Soon thereafter, we’ll add the ability to stream live gameplay from your mobile device as well. The ability to broadcast gameplay on-the-go opens up entirely new social gaming possibilities.

In the future, you could imagine streaming “Pokémon Go” on your mobile device, through Mixer, and hunting with viewers! Once mobile gameplay streaming launches, you’ll be able to join a co-stream with friends who are broadcasting on PC, console or other mobile devices.

The rebranding announcement today includes multiple other feature reveals, mostly related to the service’s website and Xbox One app. Those who stream on Mixer will now be able to co-stream with up to three other people, meaning up to four creators can combine their streams into one experience for viewers to watch. The company said the feature is aimed at co-op games where four players are playing at the same time, but it also supports each streamer playing totally different games as well.


Beam originally launched in January 2016 before Microsoft acquired it in August 2016 for an undisclosed sum, and then integrated the game streaming service into Windows 10 and Xbox One earlier in 2017. In a launch video explaining the name change and detailing the new features, Mixer’s director of marketing Jenn McCoy and co-founder James Boehm said that the new name was chosen “because it represents what we love most about the platform, that it’s all about bringing people together.”

Mixer Create should begin rolling out on the iOS App Store throughout the day, and the iOS game streaming features will be “coming soon.”

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25
May

Magikarp Jump Launches as Latest Pokémon Game for iPhone and iPad


The Pokémon Company has launched a new iPhone and iPad game revolving around one of the weakest Pokémon ever: Magikarp.

Magikarp Jump, available now on the App Store [Direct Link], tasks players with raising multiple generations of Magikarp by feeding and training them to increase their Jump Power and overall level. Players can then battle—try to jump higher than—other Magikarp in six leagues to increase their personal Trainer Rank.

As a player’s Trainer Rank increases, additional food and training upgrades can be purchased from the Town with coins, which are awarded for various in-game tasks such as winning league battles. A higher Trainer Rank also allows players to fish for additional Magikarp with different designs.


Magikarp Jump is entirely free to play, but diamonds are available as optional in-app purchases for players who wish to buy pond decorations and other items that help Magikarps grow and train even faster.

Magikarp Jump is not nearly as sophisticated as Pokémon GO, but with a number of achievements to complete, it’s a decent way to pass the time on a train ride home or a lazy Sunday afternoon. You’ll also see other classic Pokémon such as Pikachu and Pidgeotto appear at times for a bit of nostalgia.


Magikarp Jump is a free download on the App Store [Direct Link] for iPhone and iPad.

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