Thursday, February 04, 2016

Android Wear update adds new gestures and voice-to-text


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.

Source: Google


Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Samsung reportedly launches its VR camera February 21st


Tired of waiting for Samsung's virtual reality-oriented Project Beyond camera to be more than just a well-meaning idea? You might just get your hands on it (or rather, something like it) soon. SamMobile sources hear that Samsung is preparing to launch a finished VR camera, the Gear 360, alongside the Galaxy S7 on February 21st. From the sounds of it, this device won't be as elaborate as Project Beyond -- it'll have two 180-degree fisheye cameras (à la devices like Nikon's KeyMission 360) rather than the abundance of cams on the concept. It'll record a 4K wrap-around picture if you use both lenses, though, and will have trick modes like split image views, panoramas and timelapses. There's no word on whether or not you can stream live footage online.

This remains a rumor, so you might not want to set aside some cash for the Gear 360 just yet. With that said, a launch simultaneous with the Galaxy S7 would make sense. Tech enthusiasts everywhere will already be watching, and Samsung itself makes a big deal out of VR in its Unpacked event teaser. The big questions are the price and compatibility. Will this be affordable enough that you can pick one up out of sheer curiosity? And will it work with phones that aren't made by Samsung? If the claims are accurate, you may get your answers in a few weeks.

Via: The Verge

Source: SamMobile


Microsoft just dropped $250 million on one of the most popular iPhone and Android keyboard apps (MSFT)


SwiftKey Flow 2SwiftKey

Microsoft has purchased SwiftKey, one of the first and best predictive-typing keyboard apps out there, for around $250 million, the Financial Times reports.

SwiftKey's keyboard relies on trendy machine-learning technology, where it learns from you as you type to better suggest the next word or phrase.

It's on over 300 million smartphones today, according to the Financial Times report. Samsung and BlackBerry have preinstalled the SwiftKey keyboard on some Android phones, and it once topped download charts on the Apple App and Google Play stores.

For Microsoft, keyboards are a big deal right now, as it works to bring its home-built Word Flow smart keyboard from the Windows 10 Mobile platform over to the iPhone at some point in the near future. Word Flow for iPhone will reportedly feature a one-handed typing mode, too.

Microsoft also is a big fan of that same machine-learning technology, using it to make tools like the Cortana virtual personal assistant better, faster, and more personal.

For SwiftKey, this is a solid exit. Despite its popularity, the London-based company had trouble finding a reliable business model, going from a $4 download to a free-to-use model where you had to pay for certain extras, but never settled into a groove, said the FT report.

Microsoft had no comment on the report.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Google's Nexus 5X now starts at $349


If you've been looking for an excuse to buy Google's latest entry-level smartphone, the Nexus 5X, here's your chance. Today, the search company announced a permanent price cut for the LG-made device, bringing down the cost of its 16GB and 32GB models to $349 and $399, respectively. This, of course, will make the Nexus 5X even more appealing to people, as it has received nothing but great reviews from the press -- including us, where it tallied a total of 88 in the Engadget Score.

Up until now, Google had offered the Nexus 5X starting at $379, but the recent $30 drop almost pushes it into impulse-buy territory, especially since it is unlocked and free from any carrier contracts. In comparison to rival smartphones, the OnePlus2 is $329, while the Moto X Pure Edition sells for $400 -- both also highly rated and off contract. You can get the cheaper Nexus 5X now from Google's online store.

Via: Android Central

Source: Google Store


Monday, January 11, 2016

New material can store solar energy to warm you up later


Solar projects are usually focused on generating electricity, but we could arguably save more power by storing heat. Scientists from MIT have created a new type of solid material that does exactly that. When exposed to sunlight, it assumes a "charged" state that can be maintained for long periods of time. However, when triggered with a small burst of heat, the material reverts to its original chemical composition, releasing a much larger amount of heat energy. Since the film is thin and transparent, scientists think it could be useful in the near future for defrosting your car's windshield and could one day heat your home or even your clothes.

The film can be made using a two-step process that's "very simple and very scalable," according to grad student Eugene Cho. The scientists start with materials called azobenzenes that change their chemistry when exposed to sunlight. They then modify them so that they can change states with a burst of heat, which in turn releases much more energy. The current prototype can increase the ambient temperature by 10 degrees Celsius (about 18 degrees Fahrenheit), which is enough to break ice off of a windshield, for instance. Since the material is transparent, it could be used on the front windshields of cars, saving a lot of energy over the normal defrosting process.

The team needs to change the tint of the film so that it's less yellow, and is also aiming to double the heat yield to a 20 degree Celcius boost (36 degrees Fahrenheit). However, the existing material is already good enough for defrosting and other heating applications, and could be manufactured relatively easy as-is. "The research is a major advance towards the practical application of solid-state energy-storage/heat-release materials from both a scientific and engineering point of view," says Ted Sargent, a University of Toronto professor not involved in the research.

Source: MIT