Google ATAP (that's Advanced Technology and Projects) is where wonderful things are born. Things like the animated magic of Glen Keane's Duet
Google ATAP (that's Advanced Technology and Projects) is where wonderful things are born. Things like the animated magic of Glen Keane's Duet
Posted by Augustine at 2:20 PM
Yet another project is graduating from experiment to proper part of Google. Only two weeks ago, Glass left the confines of the Skunk Works-like Google X and became its own division headed up by Nest co-founder Tony Fadell. Now Project Tango, the 3D-sensing and -mapping concept, is moving on from the ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) labs to become a part of the company proper. Unfortunately what that means for the technology or what products it might eventually end up in isn't exactly clear. Will the next Nexus sport a depth-sensing IR camera? Maybe. Or perhaps they'll be used to build more advanced home automation and home monitoring tools for Nest. All we do know is that Tango will live on, even if the name "Project Tango" eventually fades away.
Source: Google ATAP (Google+)
Posted by Augustine at 3:42 PM
Tech heavyweight IBM has joined forces with food manufacturing giant Mars in an attempt to boost global food safety. Scientists from the two companies have founded the Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain, tapping advances in genomics to gain a better understanding of food safety. IBM ...
Posted by Augustine at 8:20 AM
LG is still trailing Samsung and Apple in total smartphone sales (and profits from them), but the company just revealed its financial data for the last year and has plenty to be happy about. It sold 59.1 million smartphones last year, up nearly a quarter from what it moved in 2013. The report didn't explain when we can expect the G Flex 2 in the US or leak what's in the next big G series phone, but said the company will "concentrate on improving its brand power, operating more efficiently, and focusing on selective key markets." Its TV business is doing well too, where profits grew 31 percent from last year to $482 million. Still, the company had a net loss in the last quarter of 2014 because of write-offs related to shutting down its plasma TV business as it ramps up Ultra HD and OLED.
You'd be forgiven for not knowing what to expect from HTC's next flagship smartphone. The images that have emerged are frequently dodgy, and there are even claims that the company is seeding decoys to throw people off the scent. However, you might finally be looking at the real thing... or rather, things. Well-known leaker Evan Blass (aka @evleaks) has posted a supposed product shot displaying a pair of differently-sized, previously unseen devices that he believes to be HTC's successors to the One M8. Both have edge-mounted front speakers, a large front camera (UltraPixel?) and the super-thin bezels that many have been asking for. The designs are feasible, although that Galaxy S5-style home button on the larger version gives us reason for pause -- either this is sketchy, or HTC's lawyers have decided that Samsung won't get angry. You'll likely know more at HTC's media event on March 1st.
Source: @evleaks (Twitter)
It's only been a few weeks since Microsoft released the preview versions of Office for Android, but the software giant is finally ready to bring the final version of those apps to Google Play. Starting some time Thursday morning -- we're hearing from around 10 a.m. ET onwards -- you'll be able to download the finished versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint to your Android tablet. As before, the requirements for downloading said apps include having a tablet that's 7-inches or larger that's also running Android 4.4 KitKat or newer. They also have to have an ARM-based processor and 1GB of RAM or above.
I had a chance to take a brief early look at the Office for Android apps, and I have to say Microsoft did a pretty good job in porting over its Office apps from desktop to the tablet. However, the first thing you'll be asked to do when you launch any of the apps is to sign up or log in to your Microsoft account -- that's the only way you can edit, save or print documents. It's a bit of annoyance, but seeing as the apps are free to download, I'll acquiesce. If you wish to use the app on screens that are 10.1 inches or larger, you'll have to pony up $6.99 a month or more for an Office 365 subscription. A subscription also offers premium features such as tracking changes in Word and getting the "Presenter View" in PowerPoint. You're also able to sync documents across devices if you have a subscription.
All of the Office apps have a similar home screen. Recently opened documents reside on the left column while templates for new documents sit on the right. At the bottom of that left column is a link to open other documents. You can store your files either locally on your device, on your Microsoft OneDrive account, at a SharePoint location or on Dropbox. The interface for each app is strikingly similar to that of their desktop cousins. As far as I can tell at first glance, the layout and functions on the apps are the same -- everything from editing slides in PowerPoint to creating charts and tables in Excel.
I was a little skeptical that the apps would register my taps accurately, especially on a complicated spreadsheet on Excel, but they did. Resizing tables, text and images was easy and I didn't encounter too many bugs in general. Indeed, there were a few functions that actually benefited from a touch interface -- the ability to doodle and draw circles right on the PowerPoint slide with your finger is pretty great. It's worth noting here that while Word and Excel work in both portrait and landscape modes, PowerPoint is strictly landscape-only. That's not really a big dealbreaker though, as you would want your presentation slides to be in that format anyway.
We'll need a little more time to test these apps to really suss out their worth in day-to-day use, but at first glance, they're not too bad at all. Some of you must have thought so too, as Microsoft tells us that the previews alone generated more than 250,000 downloads across 33 languages and more than 110 countries. It's obvious that a lot of folks are Office aficionados who also happen to own an Android tablet. If that applies to you, stay tuned to that Google Play store, download the apps and let us know what you think. Here's hoping the Windows version of these tablet apps are as good or better.
Until we find that perfect technology to power wearables with our own bodies, scientists all over the world are going to keep developing possible candidates. A team from the National University of Singapore, for instance, has developed a flexible, postage-sized device that can convert static electricity into usable energy. One surface of the device is attached to the skin, while the other is covered in silicon with a gold film underneath. Sandwiched in between the two are tiny pillars of silicone rubber -- slimmer pillars lead to bigger output, since they allow a larger surface area to touch the skin.
The group presented their findings at the 2015 IEEE MEMS conference last week, as well as demonstrated how much electricity the device can produce. After attaching the patch to one's forearm and then to one's throat, they found that clenching your fist and talking generate 7.3 and 7.5 volts, respectively. Tapping it with a finger, though, produces 90 volts or enough energy to power several commercial LED lights. The team plans to make their creation even more flexible in the future, so that they can create one in any size and still confirm to the contours of the human body. They'll find that they have a lot of competition from all over the world, though, such as those researchers who developed a tattoo that converts sweat into electricity and those who created a headset that turns a person's jaws into a power plant.
Filed under: Science
Posted by Augustine at 6:53 AM
Harvard Business School grads Cheryl Han and Eleanor Mak wanted to make personal styling more convenient for women who don't have time to shop.
In January 2013, Han and Mak founded Keaton Row, an online platform that pairs women who are too busy to shop with stylists who can pick out clothes for them.
The styling services are free, and you can shop from retailers like Nordstrom and Shopbop with just the click of a button.
Keaton Row just announced a Series A funding round led by Time Inc. Returning investors Menlo Ventures, Rho Capital, and Grape Arbor also contributed to the round, which sources say was valued at $6 million.
I got paired with a Keaton Row stylist to learn a little bit more about the service.
Posted by Augustine at 5:27 PM
There are plenty of apps
Posted by Augustine at 11:40 AM
At first glance, a pair of Glow headphones might seem like gimmicky glow-in-the-dark earbuds that are designed to get your attention and not much else. But look a little closer and you'll find something a whole lot more interesting: Glow purports to be the "world's first" pair of smart headphones embedded with laser light. Yep, that TRON-like glow from the cable emanates from something called Fibrance, a special light diffusing fiber from the folks over at Corning -- you know, the same folks who make that Gorilla Glass stuff. As for what makes it so "smart"? Well, the colored light of the cable isn't static -- it actually pulsates to the beat of the music. And, if all of Glow's Kickstarter goals are met, even to the beat of your heart.
But that isn't the only thing that makes Glow so unique. Glow is also one of a few pair of headphones that's designed to be compatible with Android right from the start. "Android never had a dedicated audio accessory," says Zi Wang, the man who came up with the idea for Glow almost two years ago. Wang would certainly know a thing or two about this -- he's currently employed at Google and has worked closely with the Android team. Though he invented the concept, however, Wang's role in Glow is mostly advisorial, leaving most of the operations up to a team he built himself. Leading the team is Rafal Zboinski, an engineer with a long history when it comes to research and development in both hardware and software.
"Close to 98 percent of audio accessories on the market don't work properly with Android devices," says Wang, adding that they mostly only work with iOS. What he means by this, is that these accessories often have features that mimic the built-in clicker found on Apple's earbuds. That clicker does all kinds of things, like adjust the volume, answer phone calls, play or pause the music and even take a photo. Those same functions, he says, don't always play well with Android. Seeing as Android has nearly 1.3 billion users around the world, this struck Wang as a severe oversight. "It deserves a compatible solution to iOS."
What sort of functions are they talking about? Well, in addition to the lights pulsing to the beat of the music or to your heart, there's also a five-way D-pad controller that communicates with your phone over Bluetooth LE. You can use the controller to do all the usual things, like change the volume, play/pause music and switch tracks. It should work with most music apps like Pandora, Rdio and Spotify. Pressing the center button would activate voice commands like Google Now and you can use it as a camera shutter button too. There's also a separate phone button to answer or reject calls, and that D-pad has a clip on the rear.
And that's not all. Wang is planning on much more advanced features that include the ability to understand contextual situations. For example, say you're running late for a meeting and you're in your car. Your phone would be clever enough to know all of that information already due to your scheduled appointments and it would recognize your mode of transportation based on data from speed and motion sensors. If you receive a message in that moment asking your whereabouts, you could simply press the up button to trigger a canned "I'm on my way" response. Another example, Wang says, is if the phone notices you're watching a movie, you could hit a button to trigger an "I'll get back to you" reply.
The catch here, however, is that most of these advanced features will be Android-only, at least to start. iOS users will still have base features like music controls and rhythmic light pulsing, but Wang lacks the resources right now to guarantee parity with both. iOS support is, however, one of Glow's stretch goals on Kickstarter.
Of course, Glow also touts a superior audio performance. It boasts dual balanced armature for great harmonic response and true sound reproduction. Wang says they've worked really closely with Knowles, a company that makes high-quality audio components for brands such as Sennheiser.
Interestingly, the Glow still hooks up to the phone via the regular ol' 3.5mm jack. With Bluetooth LE, why not just add stereo Bluetooth to the mix and remove the need to be tethered to the phone altogether? That's because if the battery ever goes out, you can still use the headphones as just regular headphones. "If the battery goes out on a 15 hour flight, you can still listen to music," says Wang. If it was wireless, you'd be out of luck. Still, Wang says Glow will offer eight hours of continuous use and the team is currently developing an attachment to extend the battery life if necessary.
In the end, Wang wants Glow to be more than just a pair of headphones. He wants them to be in the wearable category too. But while earbuds like the Bragi Dash is focused more on fitness, he wants Glow to be more about lifestyle, emphasizing more on utility and usability. "Our heartrate sensing and ability to express that, is about expression. When you're out running, you can see the light pulse faster according to the rhythm of your heart ... if it senses you're in a calm mood, the pulsing will slow down." There'll be a binary switch that lets you choose whether you'd prefer the light to pulse to the rhythm of the music or to your heartbeat.
Wang wants Glow to have a beautiful aesthetic, but he's also careful to make it out of quality materials. That aforementioned D-pad is made out of a soft polycarbonate, and the housing of the light fiber is wrapped in a TPE material that he says will ensure the cord be free of tangles. As for colors? They'll be available in red, green or blue -- sorry, no RGB color-switching mode yet.
Oh, and there's actually a story behind the choice of the Fibrance material itself. Two years ago when Wang came up with the idea, he wanted to use electro luminiscent light cables. Indeed, he was so far along in the creation process that he had already made prototypes and filmed a Kickstarter video for it. But he came across the Corning Fibrance material by chance at an event, and was so enamored by the technology that he had to make the hard decision to scrap the entire thing and start from scratch. They were only two weeks from launching, but he says he had to do it. It was a good decision in the end, he says, because between then and now, they've also integrated other important features like Bluetooth, the beat analysis and a much lower power chip (an ARM Cortex M0, if you're curious).
I had a chance to try out a working prototype of the Glow headphones, and while it's difficult to truly judge the audio quality in such a brief amount of time, I came away impressed. It was neither too bass-heavy nor too treble-heavy, striking a nice, rich balance between the two. The light, as advertised, did pulse according to the music, but not in a heavy staccato like I expected. Instead it sort of ebbed and flowed with the song, almost like a roller coaster of rhythm rather than anything that flashed or blinked (which I imagine would be far more annoying). It seems like a neat feature, but in all honesty I'd probably feel really self-conscious wearing such an eye-catching thing out in public.
Alright, so what's the damage? If you get in on the Early Bird Special, a pair of Glow headphones will set you back $127. Wait a little longer, and you can snag one for $149, which is a special Kickstarter price. It's certainly spendy, but that's about on-par with most premium headphones. There are also a couple of big-ticket Kickstarter packages -- the $1,000 developer kit will get you an SDK, while a $4,000 backing will get you and a friend invited to a special electric dance music event in Las Vegas, appropriate accommodations, plus three different Glow headphones.
It's worth noting here that certain features require the Kickstarter to hit certain stretch goals. iOS support will need $500,000, the ability for the Glow light to dance to steps and movement will need $750,000 and that cool heart rate monitor thing? That will require $1 million. Photosynthetic sensors don't come cheap.
"Kickstarter for us is a market validation," Wang says. "We want to see if people will like it. What do people think? Are we on the right track?" If you feel like it is and you're willing to put your money on it, then head over to Glow's freshly launched Kickstarter page to pledge your contribution.
[Image credit: Glow]
Posted by Augustine at 9:36 AM
New data from Norway reveals that music piracy has completely collapsed in the country. Music Business Worldwide is reporting that the country has hit upon a way to rely on streaming to encourage residents to enjoy music legally.
A new music industry survey asked people under 30 in Norway whether they illegally download music online. The study, carried out by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, revealed that there's been a substantial drop in the number of young Norwegian people illegally downloading content.
In five years, the number of people admitting to illegally downloading files online has gone from 80% of survey respondents to just 4%. The survey also revealed that less than 1% of young people in Norway said that illegal downloads were their main source of music.
The IFPI is, predictably, pleased with the result. "In the past five years, we have virtually eliminated the illegal file-sharing of music," said Marte Thorsby of IFPI Norge.
These numbers aren't a surprise — Norway has worked for years to reduce the number of residents engaging in piracy. An Ipsos survey from 2013 revealed a continuing decline in the amount of pirated music in Norway.
So how is Norway managing to buck the trend and reduce the levels of piracy? Simple: Most people in Norway use streaming services instead of buying music.
Digital music is dominant in Norway, the ! IFPI say s. That's not unusual, but it's the popularity of streaming services that seems to have caused the decline in piracy.
The IFPI says that income from streaming sites in Norway increased 60% from 2012 to 2013, and streaming accounts for 65% of Norway's music market. That's a big difference from other countries. The IFPI estimates that 27% of global digital music revenue comes from streaming services.
Streaming services like Spotify, Tidal and WiMP are big business in Norway, and it's these companies that the IFPI credits with reducing piracy. "We are now offering services that are both better and more user-friendly than illegal platforms," Thorge said.
Piracy is such a non-issue in Norway that police barely have to do anything about it. As Torrent Freak points out, the country hasn't been cracking down on filesharers like the US and UK have been. In fact, nobody in the country has been prosecuted for illegally downloading music, and no piracy sites are blocked by the country's internet service providers.
Posted by Augustine at 7:38 AM
At some point, TV became complicated. It used to be this thing I would plop down in front of after school and mindlessly flip through. Then, in 2009, everything changed
Posted by Augustine at 6:49 AM
Modular phones are certainly a popular idea right now, even if they're currently failing to deliver on their promise
Posted by Augustine at 6:48 AM
Twitter only lets you see a portion of your tweet history, but there's an easy way to get a copy of everything.
You can request to download your Twitter archive, which contains a searchable collection of every tweet (and retweet) you've ever made since first making your account.
Here's how to request your own free Twitter archive.
First, head on over to Twitter, click on your avatar in the upper-right-hand corner, and select Settings.
Next, scroll to the bottom of the page where you'll see a big button that says Request your archive.
Click Request your archive, and you're all set! It might take a while, but Twitter will email you a download link of your entire tweet history, which you can search through using keywords, hashtags, date, and @ usernames.
You can read more about what you can do with your Twitter archive here.
Posted by Augustine at 3:44 PM
You've probably heard the output of Avid's Pro Tools audio production software, even if you don't know what it's like -- it's virtually a staple of the music industry, and spawned now-famous (or infamous) effects like Auto Tune. There hasn't been a cheap way to try it for nearly 15 years, however, so it's not exactly practical for crafting songs in your basement. Thankfully, Avid's about to lower the barriers to entry. It recently unveiled Pro Tools First, a free version that lets you get your feet wet. It includes a "subset" of the usual features (you're mainly missing extra tracks, score editing and video playback), but it otherwise behaves like the paid version. You won't have to relearn anything if you hit the big time and start using the full software.
The real catch (besides the lack of a release date) is Avid's dependence on after-the-fact purchases to make money. You'll get 21 audio effect plugins from the outset, but you'll have to pay for more. Also, First only lets you keep three projects in the cloud for free. While you can export finished tracks when you're done, you'll have to fork over cash if you want permanent offline copies or more online space. All the same, this junior version of Pro Tools may be enough if you want to spruce up your indie band's sound without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to get started.
Posted by Augustine at 8:03 AM
Not to be outdone by Dolby opening its own large-format theater, the folks at IMAX are putting one of their massive screens on a cruise ship. Yes. Really. IMAX says that not only is this an industry first, but that the screen will be three decks high and debut next spring on what'll be the cruise line's biggest ship: the newly minted Vista. The outfit promises recent flicks and classics alike will be shown, in addition to IMAX documentaries. The best way to have seen Interstellar isn't all that the Vista has in store for avoiding the sunlight, either. Next door is what Carnival's calling the "Thrill Theater" where you can check out "multidimensional special effects experience." Given Carnival's less-than-stable history, we're going to imagine that rules out a 3D version of The Poseidon Adventure.
Posted by Augustine at 8:02 AM