Remember all those Hong Kong kung-fu movies with really poor dubbing so the actors’ mouths would keep flapping after the words had stopped? That was charming. What’s less charming is the possibility of stone-faced avatars poorly mouthing dialogue, detracting ever so slightly from the immersive power of virtual reality worlds. That’s why we’re all slightly excited that Oculus released (and quietly yanked) a beta Unity plugin called OVRLipSync.
The plugin lets developers sync an avatar’s mouth movements to either existing audio or input from a microphone without too much hassle. Even though Oculus seems to have killed the OVRLipSync page pretty quickly, a couple quick devs accessed the tool and showed off what it was capable of (see below). Granted, the results aren’t wholly life-like, but it’s not a bad showing for beta software. More importantly, we’re left wondering how many new VR titles will up taking advantage of this thing. Our guess? Lots. Its potential importance stretches beyond just making NPCs look more natural, too. Oculus is working on shared VR experiences with Oculus Social, so maybe we’ll get those ornate virtual chatrooms with fully animated avatars that were promised in cyberpunk novels after all.
Source: Oculus Developers
You may have a good feel for the scope of the Star Wars universe, but Swiss researchers just took things to another level. They’ve created maps of the space fantasy series’ expanded universe that visualize the connections between 20,000 characters, spanning a period of 36,000 years. The results are surprisingly pretty (you’re only seeing a fraction of it above) and help fill in gaps for characters that aren’t fully fleshed out, such as where they sit in the timeline. They also turn up facts that might not be readily apparent, even if you’re well-versed on the likes of the Old Republic or Grand Admiral Thrawn. For example, just shy of 80 percent of characters are human — clearly, writers aren’t going out of their way to include more Sullustans and Wookiees in their stories.
Before you ask: no, this isn’t just a clever side project. The algorithms mapping Star Wars can also be used with other large data sets, illustrating links and answering lingering questions. In other words, the same code tracing the influence of the Skywalker family could one day help a company serve you better, or help scientists discover things that are hiding in plain sight.
If you’re a dedicated beer geek, chances are you’re using the app Untappd to track your libations. For the unfamiliar, the mobile software allows you to log and rate beers while following what and where your friends are drinking. With a new update to the iOS version, the app is getting a load of new features. First, there’s a new barcode scanner that’ll make searching for beers you’re drinking a breeze. Rather than having to manually search, all you’ll have to do is point your phone’s camera at the barcode on a bottle or can.
When you’re ready to head out for the evening, you can hail a ride from Uber inside the app by selecting the venue you want to visit. After you select the option, destination info is automatically sent to the transportation app. Other new features include friends lists to keep your feed tidy, support for 3D Touch, the ability to tag friends in comments and more. The truckload of new stuff is only available in the iOS app for now, but Untappd says the features will make it Android soon enough.
Untappd merged with fellow alcohol app Next Glass last month. In doing so, the folks behind the beer app promised to deliver new features and updates on the regular. Today’s news is certainly a nice start to the partnership.
The ability to post from multiple accounts inside the Instagram app is a feature users have begged the company to add for quite some time. After making an appearance in both the Android and iOS apps, the tool will go live this week. In addition to making things official today, Instagram says you’ll soon be able to add up to five accounts to the app. Of course, this means that you can toggle back and forth without having to log out and log back in each time you want to switch. What’s more, you’ll be able to receive notifications from each, so long as you have them turned on. It’s about freakin’ time.
— Instagram (@instagram) February 8, 2016
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Even though we focus on Android here at AndroidSPIN, it’s been an interesting experience watching Firefox OS try and break into the mobile industry. It’s been enlightening, definitely for us, but presumably for the team at Mozilla as well. Unfortunately for Mozilla, however, that enlightening has informed them that it might be time to end the experiment that is Firefox OS and instead focus on IoT (Internet of Things) projects instead. Here’s Mozilla’s statement on the end of Firefox OS:
“Through the work of hundreds of contributors we made an awesome push and created an impressive platform in Firefox OS. However, as we announced in December, the circumstances of multiple established operating systems and app ecosystems meant that we were playing catch-up, and the conditions were not there for Mozilla to win on commercial smartphones. We have decided that in order to succeed in the new area of Connected Devices we must focus our energy completely on prototyping the future and exploring how we can make the biggest impact in IoT.”
Firefox OS support will cease after version 2.6. This news is probably a bit of a bummer for the people who have sunk time into seeing whether Firefox OS might have the legs to steal a part of the smartphone market, but it’s probably a necessary lesson that will hopefully serve as a precedent for other companies thinking about having a go as well.
What do you about the end of Firefox support? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
It can be tough hearing each other on the phone no matter how much you shout if you’re in a noisy environment. Fraunhofer believes its new audio software can solve that problem, though, and make even garbled loudspeaker announcements at train stations more understandable. The German research organization’s ADAPT DRC software uses microphones to listen to and analyze ambient noise. If it senses that it’s rather noisy around you, it boosts certain parts of your speech, particularly consonants like “p,” “t” and “k.”
The sounds those consonants make are short and higher in frequency, making them hard to hear. Fraunhofer’s software can adjust sounds to ensure the other person hears if you’re saying “paste” or “taste.” It can also amplify your voice when you speak softly and tone it down if you’re being too loud, as high volumes can distort your words. The organization says ADAPT DRC is already available to industrial partners. If any manufacturer wants to incorporate it into their devices, they can simply install it on their phones since they already have microphones. Train stations, however, will have to put up mics to be able to analyze ambient sounds.
Since Android Wear’s debut, Google has regularly added new features for the wearable software. Today, those gadgets are getting three more tools — the stuff we first heard about back in November. First, Android Wear is adding new gestures for navigation through what’s on your smartwatch. You can push, lift or shake your wrist to peruse cards, pull up a list of apps or return to the home screen. If you’re not exactly sure how the movements work, you can get a tutorial on your Android Wear device from the Settings menu.
Android Wear already allows you to search or control music with your voice. Now, you can use those voice controls to send messages. Apps like Google Hangouts, Nextplus, Telegram, Viber, WeChat, and WhatsApp will all accept your spoken cues, so you won’t have to pull out your phone to text someone. For example, saying “OK Google, Send a Hangouts message to Edgar: Does 5PM work?” will employ the voice feature to complete the task.
Lastly, if you happen to have an Android Wear device with a built-in speaker, like the Huawei Watch and ASUS ZenWatch 2, you can take calls and listen to messages on your wrist. Of course, you’ll be doing so in a speakerphone-like scenario, so you’ll want to be sure you have some privacy. All of these features are rolling out “over the next few weeks,” which means you’ll be able to take advantage soon enough.
Yesterday, HBO’s Bill Simmons tipped the arrival of podcasts in Google Play Music this month, and the launch appears to be close at hand. In fact, Android Police reports that podcasts are showing up inside the app for a few users. Google revealed its plans to bring the episodic audio content to its app back in October, but there was no word on a launch date or how they would work with the existing software. Thanks to an apparent server issue during the test phase, we now have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
As you might expect, the Podcast section looks like the rest of Google Play Music. Shows are arranged in a card-like interface with artwork and detailed descriptions. On the show screen, there are controls for playing the most recent episode, subscribing or reading all of the info on the podcast. If you opt to subscribe, the app will ask you if you want to automatically download the five most recent episodes or receive notifications when new material is posted.
When you begin playing an episode, the interface offers those skip ahead and skip back 30 seconds buttons that are a must alongside the usual play/pause and skip controls. There are some other features we’d like to see in the final version (like playlist controls), but the integration looks pretty straightforward. We just hope the selections aren’t limited to a collection of popular shows. Podcasts will also show up when you search from the main menu, so you don’t have to navigate to the dedicated section in order to hunt for one. There’s still no word on when this will go live for everyone, but it looks like Mr. Simmons may have been correct after all.
Source: Android Police
It’s no secret that SoundCloud is aiming to roll out its audio streaming service this year, and the company is laying the groundwork with new features. With an update to both the Android and iOS apps, SoundCloud added a new stations feature to encourage music discovery. The continuous play tool will help you find songs that aren’t available anywhere else by starting an endless mix from any track. And yes, it’s a feature that the likes of Pandora, Spotify and Apple Music already offer.
The stations feature uses your listening habits and the tracks you’ve liked to determine the mix. All you have to do tap the three-dot menu next to a track and select the “start track station” option. After the first song your station is based on plays, you’ll still get the title under what’s currently playing to you’ll know where you started. You know, in case something really strange pops up. If you find mix you like, you can revisit them from the “recent stations” under the “likes” section of your profile. The feature is live in both the iOS and Android apps now, but it hasn’t made it to the web just yet.
Via: The Next Web
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Right on cue, Google has today released new Nexus factory images which contain the security patch fixes for February. The images will have build numbers of either MMB29Q, MMB29U or MMB29R, and are available to download for the usual suspects: the Nexus 6P, 5X, 6, 9, 5, 7 and Player. Naturally, the software version number stays at Android 6.0.1, but as for what is actually fixed in this release, Google says it’s resolved some Critical security flaws:
“The most severe of these issues is a Critical security vulnerability that could enable remote code execution on an affected device through multiple methods such as email, web browsing, and MMS when processing media files. The Remote Code Execution Vulnerability in Broadcom’s Wi-Fi driver is also Critical severity as it could allow remote code execution on an affected device while connected to the same network as the attacker.”
To get the full, technical low-down, you can check out the rest of Google’s security bulletin here. And for those of you who want to flash the factory images to your device, you can get them from the Google Developers site. As always, make sure to back up your data before attempting this, otherwise sit tight and wait for the OTAs to start flowing.
What do you think about this month’s security patch? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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