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13
Nov

Heads up, sports fans — ESPN is debuting a Snapchat version of ‘SportsCenter’


Although Snap has turned in rather lackluster performance as of late, what with a plummeting stock price and sluggish growth, there are still those who believe in the power of Snapchat. Chief among those appears to be ESPN, which recently launched a Snapchat-specific version of its flagship show, SportsCenter. In doing so, ESPN joins NBC News’ Stay Tuned and CNN’s The Update as the app’s daily shows.

Seeking to appeal to millennials, who make up the core of Snapchat’s user base, ESPN’s new program will run twice a day and will feature “more dressed-down, millennial hosts,” Variety reports. Each episode will be no more than five minutes long, capitalizing upon the bite-sized content format that has been popularized by the ephemeral nature of the app.

But despite the lack of length, Snapchat’s SportsCenter will pack in plenty of information, including the daily news and sports highlights.

Hosts for the first show will include Emmy-winner Katie Nolan, SportsCenter anchor Elle Duncan, ESPN NBA commentator Cassidy Hubbarth, ESPN Radio host Jason Fitz, and comedian Cy Amundson.

“SportsCenter on Snapchat provides a creative new format and platform for our flagship franchise to continue to evolve,” said Connor Schell, ESPN executive vice president of content, in a statement. “Katie, Elle, Cassidy, Jason, and Cy collectively bring a new style, energy, and substance that I believe will connect with Snapchat’s audience in a real way. I’m thrilled to bring this level of talent and personality to a new and innovative daily touchpoint for ESPN.”

Snapchat has had plans for content for months, having signed one of the largest TV deals in history over the summer with Time Warner shows. But in order to appeal to as broad a demographic as possible, the app is looking to program as much as possible. “SportsCenter is the crown jewel of ESPN, and I think it’s defined how generations experience sports and think about the culture of sports,” said Sean Mills, Snap’s head of content. “Now we have a new medium in mobile video — and there’s a huge opportunity for a SportsCenter made for mobile, for the next generation of sports fans.”




13
Nov

As FAA considers electronics ban, battery explosion sparks chaos at airport


A loud explosion caused panic and delayed flights at the Orlando International Airport on Friday, November 10 — but officials later confirmed that what many travelers thought was a gunshot was actually a lithium-ion battery exploding inside of a passenger’s bag.

According to a statement from the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Phil Brown, a passenger in the main terminal had a camera inside of their carry-on, which caught fire and began to smoke inside of the bag.

“Realizing this, the passenger of course immediately dropped the bag and those around them moved away from it,” Brown wrote. “Emergency services arrived quickly and moved the bag farther away from passengers queued for security. Unfortunately, with all of the events occurring around the world some witnesses panicked and self-evacuated the area dropping their carry-on luggage and knocking over the stanchions queueing the checkpoint. Others hearing the luggage being dropped, stanchions falling, and rapid movement mistook the sounds as gunfire and within seconds a spontaneous evacuation of the main terminal occurred.”

Because of the incident, the TSA opted to rescreen everyone at the airport, Brown said, including passengers that had already boarded waiting flights. The rescreen process caused a 2.5-hour delay through most of the airport, with the gate where the explosion occurred not resuming normal activity for about four hours. Along with a number of delayed flights, the change caused 24 flights to be canceled, according to local news outlets.

While the bag with the camera began to smolder, no injuries were reported.

The incident comes after the TSA revised security measures regarding electronics, requiring travelers to remove any electronics from their bags and send them through a separate screening process. Just last month, the FAA released a report recommending any electronic device larger than a smartphone be banned from checked bags.

According to the report, batteries packed near items like hairspray, even under the eight-ounce limit, could cause a fire. In an FAA test, packing a laptop next to dry shampoo, nail polish remover, hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol all resulted in fires, with the dry shampoo creating a fire that couldn’t be contained by fire prevention systems already installed in aircrafts. If the proposal is approved, electronics would be required to be taken in carry-on luggage. The Orlando incident could bring that proposal back into the spotlight.

The FAA already has a ban on uninstalled lithium-ion batteries inside of checked baggage. According to the FAA, if a battery comes in contact with something metal like a pair or keys, coins or the contact point on another battery, the battery can create an unprotected circuit, generating extreme heat. Earlier this year, a passenger’s headphones caught fire during a flight; a flight attendant put that fire out with a bucket of water.




13
Nov

As FAA considers electronics ban, battery explosion sparks chaos at airport


A loud explosion caused panic and delayed flights at the Orlando International Airport on Friday, November 10 — but officials later confirmed that what many travelers thought was a gunshot was actually a lithium-ion battery exploding inside of a passenger’s bag.

According to a statement from the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Phil Brown, a passenger in the main terminal had a camera inside of their carry-on, which caught fire and began to smoke inside of the bag.

“Realizing this, the passenger of course immediately dropped the bag and those around them moved away from it,” Brown wrote. “Emergency services arrived quickly and moved the bag farther away from passengers queued for security. Unfortunately, with all of the events occurring around the world some witnesses panicked and self-evacuated the area dropping their carry-on luggage and knocking over the stanchions queueing the checkpoint. Others hearing the luggage being dropped, stanchions falling, and rapid movement mistook the sounds as gunfire and within seconds a spontaneous evacuation of the main terminal occurred.”

Because of the incident, the TSA opted to rescreen everyone at the airport, Brown said, including passengers that had already boarded waiting flights. The rescreen process caused a 2.5-hour delay through most of the airport, with the gate where the explosion occurred not resuming normal activity for about four hours. Along with a number of delayed flights, the change caused 24 flights to be canceled, according to local news outlets.

While the bag with the camera began to smolder, no injuries were reported.

The incident comes after the TSA revised security measures regarding electronics, requiring travelers to remove any electronics from their bags and send them through a separate screening process. Just last month, the FAA released a report recommending any electronic device larger than a smartphone be banned from checked bags.

According to the report, batteries packed near items like hairspray, even under the eight-ounce limit, could cause a fire. In an FAA test, packing a laptop next to dry shampoo, nail polish remover, hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol all resulted in fires, with the dry shampoo creating a fire that couldn’t be contained by fire prevention systems already installed in aircrafts. If the proposal is approved, electronics would be required to be taken in carry-on luggage. The Orlando incident could bring that proposal back into the spotlight.

The FAA already has a ban on uninstalled lithium-ion batteries inside of checked baggage. According to the FAA, if a battery comes in contact with something metal like a pair or keys, coins or the contact point on another battery, the battery can create an unprotected circuit, generating extreme heat. Earlier this year, a passenger’s headphones caught fire during a flight; a flight attendant put that fire out with a bucket of water.




13
Nov

Best Unlimited Data Plan


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Unlimited plans are back, but which one is the best?

All four major U.S. carriers offer an unlimited data plan again. After years of hearing how they were unable to provide unlimited data to every customer and maintain the quality of service they wanted, new technology and a more competitive market means a 180-degree turnaround was in order and here we are.

We’ve previously written about how most people just don’t need unlimited data, and you should have a look if you have any questions about how much you should spend or how much data you need. But if you’re sure you need all the data you can get each and every month, let’s look at which company you should give your business to. We’ll start with a quick look at what each company has to offer and what it will cost you.

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AT&T

Price for single line $90 for Unlimited Plus $60 for Unlimited Choice (data speeds are capped at 3M/s)
Price for two lines $145 for Unlimited Plus $115 for Unlimited Choice
Additional lines $20 each (wearables are $10)

Features

There are a few differences between the plans, so let’s break each down.

Unlimited Plus

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • 10 GB mobile hotspot (tethering)
  • Unlimited talk and text to Canada and Mexico
  • Advanced messaging between compatible phones on the AT&T network
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico with free Roam North America Feature (if more than 50% of use is outside the U.S. the plan can be terminated)
  • Unlimited music and video streaming with optional Stream Saver for less data use
  • $25 monthly credit for DirecTV services
  • Free HBO subscription

Unlimited Choice

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • Data speeds capped at 3Mbps
  • Standard definition video streaming
  • Unlimited talk and text to Canada and Mexico
  • Advanced messaging between compatible phones on the AT&T network
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico with free Roam North America Feature (if more than 50% of use is outside the U.S. the plan can be terminated)
  • $25 monthly credit for DirecTV services
  • Free HBO subscription

Like most carriers, the monthly fees don’t include tax or regulatory fees and you may have other costs if you get your phone from AT&T.

  • Everything you need to know about AT&T’s unlimited plans
  • See plans at AT&T

Sprint

Price for single line $60
Price for two lines $100
Additional lines Free (with the current promotion) for phones Tablets are $25 per month

Sprint Unlimited Freedom plan details

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data (with certain restrictions)
  • Unlimited data for streaming video up to 1080p
  • Unlimited data for gaming up to 8Mbps
  • Unlimited data for streaming music up to 1.5Mbps
  • 10GB high-speed mobile hotspot with VPN and P2P support
  • Add a tablet with unlimited data for $25 per month

Note: These features apply only to new accounts.

Again, you’ll need to pay taxes and fees on top of these prices and equipment fees aren’t included.

  • Everything you neeed to know about Sprint’s Unlimited Freedom Plan
  • See plans at Sprint

T-Mobile

Price for single line $70
Price for two lines $120
Additional lines $140 for three lines $20 each for more

These prices include taxes and all fees

T-Mobile has a lot of feature fine print that goes with their T-Mobile ONE plan, and it might make a difference:

  • 200MB of roaming data per month
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico
  • One hour of free Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi and unlimited texting on enabled flights
  • Unlimited data and texting in over 140 locations at 2x speed (264kbps) (limited time offer)
  • Netflix streaming included

T-Mobile also offers two Plus add-ons that are worth a mention here:

The $10 monthly T-Mobile ONE Plus add-on includes everything from the standard ONE plan plus the following:

  • Unlimited HD video streaming
  • 10GB of high-speed data tethering per month
  • Unlimited in-flight data on all Gogo-enabled flights
  • T-Mobile Visual Voicemail
  • T-Mobile Name ID

The $25 T-Mobile ONE Plus International add-on includes everything from the ONE Plus plan and adds the following:

  • Unlimited international calling to landlines in over 70 countries and mobile numbers in more than 30 countries
  • Unlimited high-speed mobile hotspot

  • Everything you need to know about T-Mobile’s unlimited plans

  • See plans at T-Mobile

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Verizon

Verizon offers two tiers of unlimited plans. Here’s the breakdown.

Go Unlimited

Go Unlimited is the cheaper of the unlimited plans, aimed at users that don’t necessarily need the fastest performance at all times or high-quality video streaming.

  • One line: $75/month
  • Two lines: $65 per line/month
  • Three lines: $50 per line/month
  • Four or more lines lines: $40 per line/month

Paper-free billing and $5/mo AutoPay discounts apply.

The Go Unlimited plan offers unlimited LTE data, but you’re subject to reduced speeds (throttling) when the network is congested. Verizon may choose to throttle at any time of the billing cycle, which is unlike most other unlimited plans that only do so after a certain amount of data is used.

On Go Unlimited, all video streaming is capped at 480p on phones and 720p on tablets. And while the Go Unlimited plans offer unlimited mobile hotspot (tethering), the speed is capped at 600kbps, which is likely too slow for most people do anything other than browsing the web — slowly.

As of November 3, 2017, customers can pay $10 per line to remove streaming restrictions and have video delivered at its original resolution.

Beyond Unlimited

Beyond Unlimited is basically Verizon’s original unlimited plan with some slight tweaks.

  • One line: $85/month
  • Two lines: $80 per line/month
  • Three lines: $60 per line/month
  • Four or more lines: $50 per line/month

Paper-free billing and $5/mo AutoPay discounts apply.

The Beyond Unlimited plan offers unlimited LTE data, but you’re subject to reduced speeds (throttling) at times of network congestion if you exceed 22GB in a billing cycle (customers that sign up on a two-year contract get 25GB per month before throttling).

Video streaming is capped at 720p on phones and 1080p on tablets. Mobile hotspot use is unlimited, with 15GB of LTE data in each billing cycle. Laptops or other devices used through the hotspot have a 1080p hard cap for streaming video.

As of November 3, 2017, customers can pay $10 per line to remove streaming restrictions and have video delivered at its original resolution.

  • Everything you need to know about Verizon’s unlimited plan
  • See plans at Verizon

The best unlimited wireless plan

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There are a few things in common with all four carriers: The listed prices in all advertisements are for customers who use autopay for their monthly bill. Each carrier can slow down your data to 3G speeds once you hit an invisible cap on data, which is right around 20GB per line. And no carrier guarantees great coverage, no matter what their coverage maps might say.

T-Mobile offers the best unlimited plan in the U.S.

Overall, T-Mobile has the best unlimited plan you can buy. We considered price, coverage, and features equally and while we can’t say T-Mobile will work for everyone, it’s where you should look first. Here’s how we reached the decision.

  • Which companies offer the coverage you need? Having a cheap cell phone bill isn’t so great if your phone doesn’t work where you need it to work. There are large areas of the U.S. where T-Mobile has no coverage at all but for the most part, these are rural areas. While we think rural areas are awesome, we can’t ignore that T-Mobile does offer coverage where most people live. As always, if total overall coverage is your main criteria when buying an unlimited plan, you should have a look at Verizon.

  • How much are your monthly taxes and fees going to be? In some places, these extra fees will add up. When you add upwards of $30 (or more) to each month’s bill, T-Mobile bundling them into the plan price might make a difference. Once you add in all the fees that find their way into your monthly bill, there probably won’t be much difference between Sprint and T-Mobile unless you have three or more lines. Sprint is cheaper, but T-Mobile picking up the tab for those fees makes a big difference.

  • Do you need any of the other services that come with a particular plan? If you have to pay extra for things like texting or calling people in other countries be sure to add those costs into the price unless it’s included in the plan. T-Mobile offers roaming data, calls, texts and data in all of North America as well as texting and data in 140 other places around the world. They even offer free in-flight Wi-Fi with Gogo. This is a great set of useful extras.

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The best news is that everything here is subject to change at any time! Because the market has become so competitive for unlimited data, companies will constantly be adjusting prices and features. When one company makes a move the rest will soon follow with their own new pricing or other offers.

See at T-Mobile

Updated November 2017: This article was updated with the latest plan details, but T-Mobile still gets the number one pick.

Carriers

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  • Which unlimited plan should you buy?
  • Verizon’s Unlimited plans: Everything you need to know
  • Everything you need to know about the T-Mobile ONE unlimited plan
  • Everything you need to know about the AT&T Unlimited plan
  • Everything you need to know about Sprint’s Unlimited Freedom plan
  • Join the Discussion

13
Nov

Check out the upcoming PlayStation VR games we’re most excited for!


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PlayStation VR has some fantastic games coming to get excited about!

After a year PlayStation VR is off to a great start with tons of great games already available. Of course, the best is yet to come, and there are some fantastic games that are going to be making their debut on the platform soon. With so many excellent titles to get distracted by, we’ve collected the games that we’re most excited about. Some of these will be appearing on the PlayStation store in the next few weeks, while we’re still a few months out from others releasing.

Read more at VRHeads

13
Nov

How to fix common Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL problems


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Having trouble with your Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL? Here’s where you start.

No phone is perfect. And even though the Pixel 2 and 2 XL seem to be pretty solid devices, there are some issues that have cropped up over time as thousands and thousands of them made their way out into the wild. Some of the problems are inherent in all smartphones, others appear in rare cases and a couple are simply unavoidable in the Pixel 2 and 2 XL in particular.

If you’re having trouble with any aspect of your Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, this is a great place to start. We’ve gathered up some of the most common issues owners are having, and accompany them with some possible remedies.

Screen color is ‘wrong’

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How you feel about the color and saturation of your phone display is a very personal decision, and everyone has different thoughts on what looks “right.” But the Pixel 2 XL in particular has taken heat for not having the most colorful or saturated display out there, to the point of looking dull to some. If you’re not a fan of how your Pixel 2 or 2 XL’s screen looks, you have some options — at least, once your phone has the November software update (or later).

Once you have the update, go into your Settings, then Display and tap on Colors and choose between the three options. “Natural” will be the most neutral and simple, “Boosted” will be natural still but with a little extra punch, and “Saturated” will go more over the top with colors. Most people will be happiest with Boosted, but those coming from other OLED phones that are often tuned to offer deeper colors will want to switch to Saturated to keep things familiar.

Noticing screen burn-in

Perhaps the biggest hullabaloo surrounding the Pixel 2 XL has been early reports of image retention and full-on burn-in on the screen. The former isn’t much more than an annoyance — sometimes things that have been shown on the screen for a long time stay there faintly for a bit after switching away. The latter is more of an issue — burn-in seems the same as image retention at first, but the effects are permanent and typically seen for core interface elements like the navigation and status bars.

Don’t go hunting for screen burn-in, but if you see it early you should get a replacement.

The most important thing to say here is that you probably shouldn’t go hunting for signs of screen burn-in on your phone. If you don’t notice it in the regular use of the phone, you shouldn’t have any issue with it — and at the same time, every phone today with an OLED-based screen will have some level of burn-in over time. It’s just a characteristic of the display technology at this point.

But if you’re noticing screen burn-in on your Pixel 2 or 2 XL early on, such as within the first two weeks, you shouldn’t hesitate to contact Google support and get a replacement device. While burn-in is relatively common, it doesn’t typically set in on phones so rapidly — and seeing a considerable amount right from the start isn’t a great sign for how that display will look a year on. Google will offer you at least a two week return period, and you should take advantage of it. For serious cases, Google has also extended its manufacturer defect warrant to a full two years.

Bad battery life

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“I’m seeing bad battery life” is the holy grail of problems that are nearly impossible to diagnose. But here are some good basic principles to follow when trying to improve battery life:

  • Check for power-hungry apps: One badly coded app can be a nuisance; a handful of badly coded apps can destroy your battery. At the end of the day, go into your battery settings, scroll down and see what percentage of your day’s battery life was consumed by which apps. If a single app is using more than 5%, think about if it really needs to be using that much — investigate to see if you can get it to calm down.
  • Uninstall unused apps: A bad app can’t drain your battery if it isn’t installed. If you started up your new Pixel 2 and just installed all 100 apps from your last phone, chances are there are dozens on there you don’t actually need. Uninstall the useless ones — you can always install them later if you decide you need them.
  • Turn off always-on display: It doesn’t have a huge effect, but any time the screen is even partially illuminated it’s using battery. Go into the Display settings and turn off “Always-on” — a nice compromise is keeping “Lift to check phone” turned on to have it illuminate when you grab your phone.
  • Reduce display sleep time: In the same vein, you can set your display to go to sleep quickly when it isn’t being interacted with. By default the phone is at 1 minute, but you can set it as low as 15 seconds if you’d prefer to save the battery instead of the convenience of having the screen stay awake.
  • Use a static wallpaper: Out of the box the phones use a great “living wallpaper” that subtly animates. It looks cool, but also uses up battery. Switch to a static wallpaper, and you’ll save some precious juice.

One thing to consider at some point, particularly on the Pixel 2 with its 2700mAh battery capacity, is that you just won’t be able to get more battery life out of your phone no matter what you do. Even if you follow all of the above steps, you have to use your phone at some point — and if you use it hard, it’s going to drain the battery quickly.

Slow performance

Chances are your Pixel 2 or 2 XL is still zippy, but perhaps 6 or 12 months into owning it you’ll notice it slow down a bit. This is normal, but it’s also preventable! It’s no coincidence that some of the fixes for bad battery life noted above are also applicable to issues with bad performance. The best thing you can do is figure out if there is an app (or multiple apps) running rogue in the background and sapping your processor power or memory.

The best thing you can do is check on misbehaving apps and clear up your storage.

First, go to your battery settings and see if an app is draining an an usual amount of your battery over the course of the day — if it is, there’s a good chance it’s also using up other system resources. While you’re thinking about apps, also consider uninstalling old apps you haven’t used in a while — there’s no need to keep them around, potentially running in the background, if you have no intention of using them.

Next, go into Settings and then Storage to see if you have enough free space on your phone. Chances are if you’re at a critically low storage level you’ll have a notification bothering you about it, but if you’re pushing up past 90% full storage you may run into other performance issues. The Storage settings give you a readout of what’s using up storage, and an option to automatically free up space.

LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS problems

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Dealing with wireless radios is so often referred to as a sort of dark art — something that’s difficult to understand but so often extremely frustrating to deal with. But on phones, we rely on mobile networks, Wi-FI, Bluetooth and GPS on a daily basis. If you’re having troubles with any of the set, here are a few tips to consider trying:

  • Turn the radio off and back on again. Yes, really — just toggle on airplane (flight) mode, and turn it back off about 15 seconds later. Give your various radios a few minutes to reconnect to everything, and see if that fixes your issues.
  • At the same time, power cycle the device on the other end. There’s a good chance the cheap pair of Bluetooth headphones, or the wireless router at home, is what’s having an issue. Turn it off and start over.
  • Forget the network or device you’re having trouble with. Whether it’s a Bluetooth speaker or a Wi-Fi network, go into the network/device list and forget it — start back from scratch and see if it fixes it.
  • Reset network settings by going into Settings, Reset options and “Reset WI-Fi, mobile & Bluetooth.” Confirm you want to reset, and it will return all of these areas back to their defaults. Now you can start fresh and reconnect to each device one at a time to determine where the issue may be.

There are so many potential issues here that it’s tough to get into the details. But start here — and hopefully you get on the right path to troubleshooting where the issues are and how to fix them.

Clicking noise in Pixel 2 earpiece

One of the more peculiar issues on the Pixel 2 in particular is a reported “clicking” or “hissing” noise heard in the earpiece when making a call. It wasn’t present on all calls or all phones, but it’s happening on enough phones that Google has addressed the problem. According to Google it has rolled out a fix for the clicking sound with its November software update.

Previously, Google had indicating that turning off NFC would fix the problem temporarily, and though some have reported that this doesn’t work, it may be worth a shot if you’re still waiting for that November update. If the problem persists beyond that update, that points to a potential hardware problem and you may want to contact Google support and look for a replacement device if you’re still within your return window.

How to factory reset the Pixel 2 or 2 XL

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For the software-related issues noted here, if the step by step processes to try and fix them don’t work sometimes the only way to go is a full-on factory reset of the phone.

Before going any further, make sure you’ve backed up any data you want to save. Make sure Google Photos is synced, and you have any other important data offloaded to a service like Google Drive or Dropbox. Then, proceed.

Go into Settings and scroll down to select System.
Tap on Reset options and then Erase all data (factory reset).
Scroll down to acknowledge and tap Reset at the bottom.
Confirm your PIN or passcode, and proceed.

After a brief period and a reboot of the phone, it will come back exactly as it did the first day you took it out of the box. Use this opportunity to start anew — don’t necessarily just reinstall all of the same things you had before, because that may be how you had troubles in the first place!

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

  • Pixel 2 FAQ: Everything you need to know!
  • Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL review: The new standard
  • Google Pixel 2 specs
  • Google Pixel 2 vs. Pixel 2 XL: What’s the difference?
  • Join our Pixel 2 forums

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13
Nov

Smellable VR is coming whether you want it or not


Modern virtual reality is a treat for the senses. Well, two of them at least. “Sight and sound have been the staple of VR environments,” Benjy Li, a postdoctoral researcher with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, told Engadget. Haptic feedback is starting to allow for basic touch, but the next radical evolution in VR could actually come via your nose (and/or mouth).

Augmenting theatrical performances with scent is not a new gimmick, just one that has repeatedly failed to catch on. In 1959, Aromarama technology made its debut with the film The Great Wall. This system was capable of distributing scents through a theater’s air conditioning system and change smells every 90 seconds. The New York Times was not impressed, calling it a “stunt” in its scathing review.

“The artistic benefit of it is here demonstrated to be nil,” NYT reviewer, Bosley Crowther seethed. “While odors are wafted through the theatre, as the picture is going on, more or less in the nature of certain odors you might expect to accompany certain scenes, the accuracy of these odors is capricious, to say the least, and the flow of sensations from the ‘smell-track’ is highly irregular.”

Sight, Sound & Smell

Aromarama’s lacklustre reception didn’t stop the introduction of a similar system, dubbed “Smell-O-Vision,” a few weeks later for the release of the romantic mystery, Scent of Mystery. Unlike Aromarama, it used diffusers located under the auditorium’s seats. “First they moved (1895)! Then they talked (1927)! Now they smell!” the movie’s tagline read. Like its weeks-old predecessor, the public turned up its nose at Smell-O-Vision, relegating it to the annals of movie technology trivia.

Scenting movies made a brief comeback in 1981 when Director John Waters released Polyester, which used Odorama technology (read: scratch-and-sniff cards). It went over with audiences just slightly better than DigiScents’ iSmell device did in 2001. That is, Odorama was never named one of the “25 Worst Products Ever” by PC World. The iSmell was a tabletop device that connected to PCs via USB and belched out one of its 128 scents when you visited specific websites like, say, Chanel.com. iSmell bombed, and the swift public backlash meant the device never made it past the prototype stage.

But what a difference 16 years of technological advancement makes. VR headsets are becoming household items, whether they’re run by phones or gaming systems. And as this medium becomes increasingly common, demands for more immersive experiences are sure to follow.

“The thing about VR is its ability to allow the user to feel he/she ‘is there’, a phenomenon we call ‘presence,’ Li explained. “We see greater influence of VR when users report higher levels of presence.”

Li’s research team at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore recently submitted a study for peer review which examines how VR can influence one’s eating behavior with virtual food. “I can’t divulge too much details since the paper is under review,” Li said, “but we found that adding the two senses [scent and taste] into the experience has an effect on human satiation.”

By enhancing these experiences with scents and tastes, their therapeutic effects can be multiplied. For example, the smell of gunpowder might be used in treating certain cases of PTSD or lavender to create a calming effect. In the future, Li ventures, we could use VR to trick our brains into eating healthier, both for themselves and the planet.

“What if one day we are able to show you in VR, a piece of steak, with the smell and scent that goes along with it, and you cut it up and feel its tenderness, and you enjoy every bite of it?” he told Engadget. “But in real life, it’s made of plant-based ingredients.”

This is actually already a thing and it’s called the Vocktail. Developed by Nimesha Ranasinghe and his team at the National University of Singapore, the Vocktail fools senses through the use of light, smell and “virtualized” taste, to make whatever is in the glass — even tap water — taste like, well, anything.

“Our approach is to augment the beverage flavor experience by overlaying external sensory stimuli,” Ranasinghe told Engadget. “In this Vocktail we overlay color, taste, and smell sensations to create an adjustable flavor experience” which can be tuned to the user’s specific preferences via a mobile app. “This also gives users to experimentally create new flavors,” he continued. “Imagine you want to try a Mojito with a twist of chocolate or strawberry?”

The device resembles a martini glass attached to a pedestal. This platform conceals the electronics, three scent cartridges, micro-air pumps, and an LED while a pair of electrodes sit on the glass’ rim. The LED changes the color of the liquid while the scent cartridges are mixed to release different smells. “We can easily plug-in new smells accordingly – similar to cartridges on a inkjet printer,” Ranasinghe explained.

And those electrodes? They’re send a mild electric current to your tongue to generate “virtualized tastes.” By varying the amperage of electricity through the circuit (i.e. your tongue), the Vocktail simulates salty, bitter and sweet. Specifically, 180 microamps (µA) tastes sweet, 80µA is bitter and 40µA tastes salty.

“We want to bring it to pubs,” Ranasinghe said. “How many times you go to a pub and order a drink but you think it to be a little more sourer or with a hint of mint or vanilla.” But before that happens, Ranasinghe and his team hope to devise ways of simulating other aspects of a drink, such as its fizziness or temperature.

Project Nourished is working on a similar setup that pairs a headset, aromatic diffuser, bone conduction headphones, virtual utensils and 3D printed food to simulate almost any sort of food in any setting. “Imagine being able to dine in the world in your favorite storybook or film, enjoying foods that are completely out of this world,” reads the website.

These virtualized gastronomical fantasies are even finding their way into adult entertainment. Internet streaming site, Camsoda, developed a VR scent machine it’s calling the OhRoma. This $200 device augments the VR camgirl experience with 30 different scents.

“There are a lot of guys who watch my shows who tell me, ‘God, I wish I could smell you,’” Florida-based cam performer Victoria Ryan told HuffPost in January.

“Smell can really invoke so much,” Daron Parker Camsoda’s VP of Marketing told Engadget. “The model chooses in the app the sets of smells she wants to create in her room” in order to develop a specific atmosphere for the show. This can range from sweet and fruity to deep musky body odor, “all the things that go along with the smell of sex.”

To make the experience more lifelike, Camsoda is also working on a sensor that actively detects the scents in the model’s room and adjusts the OhRoma’s output to match. “It’s currently the biggest technical challenge [the company is facing],” Parker said. “But it’s also what the users really want.”

The company is also working with toy makers such as Lovense to add interoperability between devices during the VR experience. Parker hypothesizes that in the near future, everything from teledildonic devices to Real Dolls may be incorporated to heighten the tactile sensations just as the OhRoma augments the aromatic.

Continually pushing the limits of realism in a virtualized environment is not without its hazards, however. “The thing about VR is that sometimes the experiences can get so realistic, the negative impacts are felt significantly too,” Li explained. “We have heard of sexual harassment in VR experiences, where victims are traumatised similar to real life situations. In the future when there is a market for realistic VR video games, there is the possibility that realistic violent VR games may have an effect on players.”

Images: Getty Images (Smell-O-Vision)

13
Nov

Microsoft’s Black Friday deals include a $189 Xbox One S (updated)


News of Black Friday deals are starting to roll out, and Xbox is getting in on the action. Microsoft has announced the slate of deals that will be available on one of the biggest shopping days of the year and they include the lowest price ever on an Xbox One S — just $189 from November 23rd through the 27th. Presumably, this is for the 500 GB model of the game system, but we’ve reached out to Microsoft to clarify.

If you don’t want to wait for the Xbox One S (or are worried about retailers selling out), you can snag a console (again, presumably a 500 GB version) for $249 with an additional game as a bonus through the 18th. If you’re eyeing bundles, rather than standalone consoles, you can save up to $50 on any 500 GB or 1 TB Xbox One S bundle from the 19th through the 27th. Accessories are also on sale; you can get $50 off an Xbox Elite Wireless Controller with the purchase of an Xbox One X through the 18th, and $15 off Xbox Design Lab controllers online from the 21st through the 27th. From the 23rd through the 27th, gamers can save $20 on Xbox wireless controllers and $15 off stereo headsets.

Xbox is also advertising $20 off select games and 35 percent off family friendly titles from the 23rd through the 27th. Xbox Live Gold members get access to online Black Friday deals four days early, starting the 17th, and can enjoy up to 65 percent off Xbox One games, Xbox 360 games, movies and TV shows. Gamers can also save on Xbox Live Gold subscriptions and the Xbox Game Pass.

The Xbox One S sale is a great deal on the console that will seriously tempt those looking to upgrade or buy a new game system for the holiday season. It’s worth noting that PlayStation also has released its Black Friday deals, and you can snag a PS4 Slim 1 TB console for $200. You’ll get a larger hard drive for the money, but the Xbox One S supports 4K and HDR (but not for games — that feature is limited to the Xbox One X).

Update: A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to Engadget that the $189 console is indeed the 500 GB version. “The deal includes an Xbox One S 500GB console, 1-month Xbox Game Pass trial, Xbox Wireless Controller and a 14-day Xbox Live Gold trial. Select retailers are also adding additional value, such as a free game with purchase. Check with your local retailer for more details. This deal is only available this Black Friday through Cyber Monday in the U.S. and Canada.”

Source: Microsoft

13
Nov

Amazon may be prepping a free ad-supported video service


Amazon Prime Video is a decent bargain when you’re getting unlimited streaming video and a host of other perks, but it has some fresh competition: Roku, Vudu and others are starting to offer some content for free. How do you compete with that? By offering your own free service, naturally. Ad Age sources claim that Amazon is developing a free, ad-supported streaming service as a “complement” to Prime Video, reviving an idea that had surfaced back in 2014. It would reportedly give creators a lot of power and viewer data in exchange for content guarantees, although the material wouldn’t compete with what Prime offers.

The insiders say that Amazon could share both ad revenue and audience data, and might even tie payments to the amount of time people spend watching shows. Media companies would not only know what works, but would have a strong incentive to offer good content. In return, though, they’d need to offer a “set number of hours” of material every week.

The gotcha: like Roku or Vudu, Amazon would dive into the “back catalogs” looking for older movies and TV programming rather than focusing on the latest and greatest. It’s supposedly interested in kids’ shows, travel, cooking and others that are a “good fit.”

We’ve asked for comment. However, it’s easy to see Amazon going this route. A free tier not only counters the likes of Roku, it serves as a demo for Prime Video. If it can get its foot in your door, you may be more inclined to pay for Prime to get the ad-free viewing and star-studded originals you’d otherwise miss.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Ad Age

13
Nov

Airbus is ready to test its self-flying taxi


We’ve covered Airbus’s Vahana project, which is the aeronautical company’s endeavor to build a self-flying taxi network, in detail before. Now, it looks as though Airbus has reached a major milestone. The company is ready to test its Vahana flying car after moving it from the company’s headquarters to a dedicated hangar in Pendleton, Oregon, as the Vahana team details in a blog post.

Preparing the aircraft for shipment meant disassembling it and loading it into a truck. Once it arrived in Pendleton, the team took Vahana’s landing gear and towing provisions on its first real-world test. After the aircraft arrived safely in the hangar, the team reassembled it. Because the plane was designed to be quickly assembled and disassembled, this process took less than a day.

Now that this cumbersome process is complete, Vahana can finally make its first test flights. Earlier reports had the aircraft on track to complete its first test by the end of next year, 2018, but it’s possible it could come sooner, given the success of the transfer to Oregon.

Source: Vahana

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