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Technology Archives - Page 25 of 27 - Team2Soft

04 Feb


Feds Will Require All New Vehicles to Talk to Each Other (from Wired)

February 4, 2014 | By |

The feds want to make V2V technology a requirement on all new cars Image: DOT

The feds want to make V2V technology a requirement on all new cars. Image: DOT


The future of automotive safety isn’t about more airbags or stronger steel. It’s about building smarter automobiles that talk to each other, so your car knows that other car is about to run a red light and applies the brakes to save your bacon. The feds think such technology, called vehicle-to-vehicle communication, is a great idea and want to make sure every new car has it.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have approved V2V communication systems that regulators say will increase safety, reduce accidents and pave the way for connected cars. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said V2V technology could do for motorists in the coming years what seatbelts did in the 1960s and airbags did a generation ago.

“V2V has the potential to help drivers avoid 70 to 80 percent of crashes that involve unimpaired drivers,” Foxx said. “The potential of this technology is absolutely enormous.”

Foxx compared the adoption of technology to the scope and scale of the creation of the U.S. interstate highway system in the mid-20th century. Automakers have been experimenting with V2V communication for about a decade, and Monday’s announcement by the feds lays the groundwork for a uniform standard for all to follow. The technology federal regulators propose uses a dedicated short range radio network that allows vehicles to “talk” to each other up to 300 yards away. V2V would provide a 360-degree view of a vehicle’s surroundings, allowing the car to see what the driver can’t. This will allow our cars to, say, see around the curve ahead or around that semi blocking our view.

“Today’s announcement turns research into action,” said Greg Winfree, the DOT’s assistant secretary for research and technology. “Automotive technology has been about surviving crashes, but in the future, it will be about preventing them.”

V2V technology could be used in conjunction with semi-autonomous technology like adaptive cruise control or pedestrian detection systems — not to mention safety systems like anti-lock braking already required by regulators — to further protect us from ourselves. The feds have been working with the University of Michigan, evaluating V2V technology in a fleet of 3,000 vehicles in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and tests are underway in Europe as well. NHTSA’s acting boss, David Friedman, said such tech is “already halfway there” and federal safety officials continue working closely with automakers and universities.

Nearly every automaker — including Audi, Volkswagen, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda and Toyota — is developing some form of V2V technology. German automakers have launched a pilot program that combines V2V with vehicle-to-infrastructure technology, allowing cars to communicate with each other and with traffic lights. GM is studying the possibility V2V systems also could recognize pedestrians by picking up their cellphone’s wireless signal and alerting drivers to an impending collision.

The Association of Global Automakers, a trade group representing 13 automakers, praised the move and said V2V “has the potential to save thousands of lives.” But it says the feds must proceed cautiously. V2V systems would use operate in the 5.9 GHz frequency band, a spectrum the FCC is considering opening to unlicensed Wi-Fi devices.

“We’re concerned that opening up the 5.9 GHz frequency band to other wireless users could cause harmful interference and affect the integrity of the V2V safety communications,” Michael J. Stanton, the association’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “Communication delays of even thousandths of a single second matter when dealing with auto and highway safety. That’s why we are working with the Wi-Fi industry to find out if this spectrum can safely be shared.”

Gloria Bergquist, Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, echoes that sentiment, saying, “DSRC radios may well play a larger role in future road safety, but many pieces of a large puzzle still need to fit together.”

And then there’s the issue of privacy.

“What remains to be addressed is security and privacy, along with consumer acceptance, affordability, achieving the critical mass to enable the ‘network effect’ and establishment of the necessary legal and regulatory framework,” says Bergquist.

Friedman said such systems won’t record or store any personal data. “No personal information is being sent or received,” he said. “Your personal information is completely not involved.”

The feds did not say when such technology would hit the road, but Foxx said the goal is to have the proposal wrapped up by the time President Obama leaves office in 2016. Just when it might be implemented remains an open question.

“The rule-making process involves a substantial amount of public input,” Foxx said. “And the timing is fluid.”


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03 Feb


Solar or Kinetic Charging a possibility for iWatch (and every other rumor we’ve heard) (from DigitalTrends)

February 3, 2014 | By |


It was obvious during CES 2014 that manufacturers love smartwatches – there was an entire section of the show floor dedicated to them called the “Wrist revolution.” We’re not sure any of them have revolutionized our wrists yet, but if anyone can launch a truly groundbreaking smartwatch, it’s Apple.

The impending arrival of the iWatch, as it has been dubbed, has been rumored for many months. However, there’s absolutely no official proof such a device is in production, or planned by the firm. Instead, rumors, leaks, and a mountain of circumstantial evidence is piling up around Apple making a move into wearable tech, potentially starting with a watch. Will it be the product to silence those who say Apple can no longer innovate? Here’s everything we’ve heard so far about the iWatch.

Updated on 02-03-2014 by Andy: How will you charge the iWatch? Apple is rumored to be working on wireless, solar, or even kinetic systems.

When did all this watch talk start?

Amazingly, iWatch rumors can be traced back to the end of 2012, when a Chinese site indicated Apple was building a smart watch with a 1.5-inch OLED screen, which would connect to the iPhone. An early 2013 launch date was provided, which obviously didn’t come true.


The next round of meaningful rumors began in February 2013, when both Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal discussed Apple’s interest in a “Wristwatch-like” device. At the time, Apple had a team of around 100 people working on the project, including software and hardware engineers and a marketing team. This suggested the device had moved beyond the concept stage and was being primed for release.

A report around the same time from the New York Times said the watch would run Apple’s iOS mobile software, and differentiate itself from the competition by using curved glass.

Apple assembles a team, Mission: Impossible style

If the iWatch project is as important to Apple as we’re led to believe, it must have a crack team of geniuses working on it, right? The members of Apple’s very own IMF team has been the subject of much speculation, equalling talk of the watch itself. In July last year, 9to5Mac reported that Apple’s Bob Mansfield was heading up the team, assisted by VP Kevin Lynch and James Foster.


iWatch could be covered in Corning’s super flexible Willow Glass. It’s so strong, Corning says it can be wrapped around a device.

French website added that other team members on the project also worked on the iPod. Of all Apple’s previous products, the sixth-generation iPod Nano is the closest it has come to releasing a wearable device. 

There are two other notable names attached to the project – unofficially, of course. The first is Jay Blahnik. Fitness expert Blahnik joined Apple in August 2013, having previously worked on the iOS-only Nike FuelBand, and sources told 9to5Mac he would be assisting the iWatch team.

The other interesting addition to the Apple family is Paul Deneve, who once headed up Saint Lauren Paris. He joined Apple in July 2013, and in a statement it was revealed he would be working on unnamed special projects. As style is going to be paramount to the iWatch’s success, this could be that special project.

At the beginning of January 2014, Apple went on a health kick, and reportedly snapped up two health tech experts. The first, Nancy Dougherty, worked on a Bluetooth-enabled Band-Aid for Sano Intelligence, which can monitor heart rate, breathing and body temperature. The second name is Ravi Narasimhan, formerly of Vital Connect, which also makes a wearable sensor to monitor your vital signs. As fitness and health is rumored to play a part in the iWatch’s feature list, these could be two new additions to Apple’s team.

The iWatch has also been linked with engineers who worked on the iPhone 5S fingerprint sensor and experts on miniaturization and power efficiency. Apple’s design expert Jony Ive is also said to be heavily involved.

What’s the tech going to be like?

We’ve heard about the people working on the iWatch, but what will the watch be like? For much of this we must rely on analyst predictions and speculation. Sizes ranging between 1.3-inches and 1.5-inches have been put forward as possible iWatch stats, as has a much larger 2-inch screen.

According to a Korean news source, LG was awarded the contract to produce the screens for Apple’s iWatch. Apparently measuring 1.52-inches, the screens will be P-OLED displays, which is the same technology used on LG’s G Flex flexible smartphone. Mass production is said to begin after July, which makes a late September onwards announcement seem possible. The usual supply constraints are also mentioned. It’s all far from official though, and the article was pulled from the website after publication.

The watch could also be covered in Corning’s super flexible Willow Glass, which is thin and flexible enough to be used on curved displays, has been specially designed for touch screens, and is compatible with OLED panels. It’s so strong, Corning says it can be wrapped around a device. Patents from Apple showing curved screens have been spotted in the past.

However, Willow Glass isn’t the only option for keeping the iWatch’s face free from scratches and damage. Apple’s recent deal with makers of sapphire crystal panels, GT Advanced, means it’s in a prime position to use the almost indestructible material instead. A document has been uncovered which seems to show Apple and GT Advanced’s new factory in Mesa, Arizona will start operating in February.

There’s no confirmation it’s going to produce screens, but the so-called Project Cascade is going to produce a, “Critical new sub-component of Apple products.” The use of the word new suggests it won’t be anything to do with Apple’s current use of sapphire – the camera lens cover and TouchID sensor on the iPhone – though. Working with sapphire crystal is time-consuming, meaning any product which relies on GT Advanced’s component is many months away from release.

Wireless charging may be essential

Patents hint at flexible battery packs, while a Forbes contributor says wireless charging will be an essential part of making the iWatch usable because the inevitable color display will eat through the unavoidably small battery. In a report published by the New York Times, anonymous sources indicated Apple has been experimenting with “Magnetic induction,” or wireless charging, for the iWatch. Apple’s tech would potentially use the same method seen on several Nokia smartphones, where the device is placed on a special mat, which then charges without the need for cables.

Apple apparently hasn’t settled on wireless charging, and may also be looking at both solar and kinetic charging. These have been used in watches before, but the increased power demands of a smartwatch could mean they will supplement a wirelessly charged battery, helping the device last through the day.

More than one version is possible

A Korean news source says Apple is developing three different versions of the iWatch – which may explain why no-one can agree on the screen size – perhaps so it can provide a model suitable for men and women separately. The report also talks about the watch having a flexible OLED display.


Speculation, and not fact, has brought up talk of a fingerprint scanner just like the iPhone 5S, along with the inclusion of NFC for wireless payments and syncing. While they’re possibilities, the inclusion of Siri may be more likely, if only to make it easier to use the small screen. However, would this involve the watch running a full version of iOS? A cut down version for use on the wrist makes more sense.

Of course, we can expect fitness and health tracking to play a part, along with sleep analysis, and all the usual notification and music controls we’ve seen on existing smartwatches. All of this is made possible by Bluetooth Low Energy. Finally, we’re not sure whether the iWatch will end up being able to make calls. If so, it may follow the Galaxy Gear and include a microphone and speaker, rather than a SIM card slot.

What has Apple said about all this?

This is where the rumors become something more. Apple CEO Tim Cook is to blame. At the D11 conference in May he called the wrist “interesting” when talking about wearable technology, but dismissed the idea of smart glasses like Google Glass. He continued, “I think the wrist is somewhat natural,” and that the wearable market was “Ripe for exploration.”

Cook has also talked about what’s coming in 2014, saying the company big plans for the year that “Customers are going to love.” Will the iWatch be one of these products?

When is it going to be released?

If you’ve followed the story, then you know the iWatch has been expected since early last year. Since it hasn’t materialized, production may not be going smoothly. This is backed up by reportssaying less then 50 percent of models assembled actually work, thanks to problems making the tiny devices reliable, and that the battery has been causing headaches.

In August 2013, DigiTimes claimed that the iWatch was scheduled for launch during the second half of 2014. An analyst pegged the price at around $150 to $230, calling it an iPod replacement rather than a smartwatch. With more than a half year between us and the watch (at least), we’re sure to hear plenty more about it, so check back for regular updates.

Updated on 01-30-2014 by Andy: A document has been uncovered suggesting a joint Apple/GT Advanced manufacturing plant will start producing sapphire components in February. Could the panels end up on the iWatch? Also, Apple has reportedly been hiring health technology experts.

Updated on 01-20-2014 by Andy: A news source states LG has won the contract to product the iWatch screens, which will be 1.52-inch P-OLED displays.

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03 Feb


Apple reportedly testing inductive, solar and motion charging for its unannounced smartwatch (from Engadget)

February 3, 2014 | By |

We’ve heard that when Apple reveals its first smartwatch product, there’s going to be a heavy focus on health and fitness, but There might also be a way to charge the wearable without plugging it in, according to a report from the New York Times. Inductive charging came in a wave of smartphones last year, including Google’s Nexus 4 and Nokia’s Lumia 920 range, although we don’t often see it in anything smaller than a phone (or camera) form-factor. Apple, however, is looking into cramming the same technology into its iWatch, or whatever it eventually calls its debut wearable.

It works like this: electromagnetic fields are generated from a charging base, which are then picked up by metal coils and transformed into for-real electricity that charges your device. The Cupertino company is experimenting with other new charging methods too, although these are apparently years away from consumer products. Sources close to the matter also mentioned the inclusion of a solar layer beneath the device’s display, while the company has also looked into kinetically charging its wearables — something that is already used in many modern (non-smart) timepieces.


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03 Feb


Google’s New Wearable Tech: Smart Contact Lens (from RedMondPie)

February 3, 2014 | By |

Sometimes modern technology amazes us. The things we can do today are the kinds of things that we could only dream about ten years ago, which makes us wonder what we’ll be doing in ten years from now. If Google has its way, we could be putting contact lenses in our eyes that monitor our blood sugar, and if that doesn’t get your techy heart racing, there’s something not quite right!

With 1 in 19 people suffering with diabetes worldwide, it should perhaps come as no great surprise that the folks at Google have turned their attention to the condition. Sufferers must take regular readings of their blood sugar, usually meaning a prick of the finger or some such. This is often neither convenient or indeed fun for anyone concerned, and Google thinks that there must be a better way. And they’re not wrong.


With researchers having already looking into whether tears could be a good way to measure blood sugar levels, Google has been working on a contact lens that features miniature technology that can test a person’s tears for blood sugar, removing the need to start drawing blood. This could potentially mean that people who put off checking their blood sugar are now at less risk of complications caused by their diabetes. And that, without a doubt, has to be a good thing.

Detection isn’t the end of it though. Google says that it even has an idea for a contact lens that would feature small LEDs that would light up if a person’s blood sugar exceeded a safe level, too.

Hand holding - zoomed in

If the idea of wearing a contact lens with sensors and wireless transmitters in seems like pie in the sky stuff, then you’ve obviously not heard of Google. The company is already hard at work via its Google[X] lab and the company is even already in talks with the FDA to ensure everything is above board. The smart contact lens as Google is calling it is still some way from being in an eye near you, but considering Google’s ability to make driverless cars and such, we’re not going to bet against anything it comes up with.

How about tossing in a full color display and replace Google Glass with it? Not yet? Guess we’ll just wait another ten years.

(Source: Google)

You can follow us on Twitter, add us to your circle on Google+ or like our Facebook page to keep yourself updated on all the latest from Microsoft, Google, Apple and the web.


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02 Feb


A closer look at the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (from Engadget)

February 2, 2014 | By |

Okay, that’s it. You’ve had enough of highly compressed video codecs that crap out on detailed shots and make decent color grading a pipe dream. Now that Blackmagic’s $995 Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC) is RAW-ready, isn’t it time to make the jump to higher bitrate video? Perhaps. The company’s latest pint-sized weapon does produce magnificent images using a downsized version of its first Cinema Camera sensor, yes. But it’s not quite as simple as laying down the money and raking in the 12-bit video. There are limitations to the camera itself, plus a steep learning curve and the likely need for further investment that could more than double the price of the camera. As you’ll see, whether it’s worth that depends completely on your needs and, particularly, your expectations.


Like the original Blackmagic Cinema Camera, the Pocket version sports a unique, all-metal design that feels solid — hugely out of proportion to its low price. It’s also hefty, which adds to the feeling of quality and makes handling easier by damping small movements during filming. The all-important sensor is 12.5 x 7mm, making it a touch smaller than the “Super 16″ standard, and considerably less than a 17.3 x 13mm Micro Four Thirds chip. The end result is a 2.88x crop factor, meaning you’ll need a very wide lens just to get a normal perspective — and there aren’t many out there, even for regular MFT cameras.

There’s a 1/8-inch mini microphone input jack, headphone output and micro-HDMI connector, but unlike the BMCC, no Lightning port. You also get playback and recording buttons on top along with a 1/4-inch threaded hardware connector, and another on the bottom for tripods or other rigs. Otherwise, its form factor is similar to Sony’s NEX cameras, which you may find handy or awkward, depending on the situation. If you’re trying to shoot stealthily, for instance, you’ll probably never get hassled in sensitive locations. On the other hand, if you’re trying to impress production clients, they may actually wonder if you’re joking when you arrive at the shoot with it.

The Pocket Cinema Cam also lacks the larger model’s touchscreen, requiring arrow key pushes to navigate the 3.5-inch LCD. I didn’t mind that, but given the aforementioned fiddling required to get exposure and focus right, it would have been nice to have some dial controls to set ISO or shutter “angle” or speed more rapidly. The LCD is also on the dim side, which can make critical focus difficult. Cranking up the brightness helps, but it also drains the battery quicker. If I owned the camera and used it a lot, I’d seriously consider an external LCD to plug into the micro-HDMI connector — another potential expense that could easily match the price of the camera.

If you use the camera to record sound, you’ll definitely need to purchase an external microphone like this one, as the internal unit is woefully inadequate for anything but guide sound. If you do, the 1/8-inch external mic jack records at very low levels, meaning you may also need a pre-amp. By contrast, most DSLRs also have pitiful mics on board, but many purpose-built camcorders like Sony’s NEX-VG20 are excellent in that regard.

There’s a few other things to think about before ordering one. First of all, the BMPCC comes with a single Nikon EN-EL120-compatible battery that lasts an hour at best during shooting. As such, an external charger and a load of extra batteries should likely also be on your list. As for the SD card, you’ll need something fast to record RAW. Like, really fast. Only a 95MB/s Sandisk Extreme Pro SDHC card worked for me. 64GB holds about 18 minutes of RAW video, so plan accordingly. You’ll also want to consider a fast USB 3.0 SD card reader and a whole bunch of new hard drives for your editing computer — again, the faster the better.


If you’re used to cranking away in “auto” mode on your DSLR or mirrorless camera, you’ll have to reboot your brain for the BMPCC. There’s an extremely slow autofocus mode that only works with a few MFT lenses, so manual focus is the only real choice — and doing it well for moving subjects takes a lot of practice. It also has no auto-exposure other than an “iris” button that sets your camera’s f/stop, but again, only for select lenses. Instead, for best results you’ll be relying on the zebra mode to gauge exposure by adjusting the aperture until the lines disappear. In bright light, you may not be able to stop the lens up high enough thanks to a minimum ISO range of 200, making ND (darkening) filters another accessory you may need. On the other end of the scale, it only hits 1,600 ISO max compared to, say, 102,400 ISO on the Canon 5D Mark III. That means you’ll require fast lenses for low-light situations, though there is another solution: the $489 Metabones Speedbooster custom-built for the BMPCC.

Luckily, I also had that device on hand to test, which proved very handy. Because of its small CCD, the Pocket Camera has worse low light performance and a significantly higher crop factor than regular MFT cameras. For instance, a Panasonic GH3 has a 2x crop factor, but the BMPCC magnifies images by 2.88x, making a 16mm ultra-wide angle lens about 45mm, and a 50mm lens a 140mm super telephoto. The Metabones Speedbooster solves both of those problems by adapting Nikon ‘F’ lenses to fit on the camera, which concentrates more light onto the sensor. As a result, crop factor is reduced by 0.58x to a much more manageable 1.75x — close to that of a Nikon DX or Canon EF-S camera. In addition, the Speedbooster will give you one and a third more stops of light, meaning an f/2.8 lens will “become” a superlative f/1.8 model with more than double the light sensitivity. Though rather pricey at $489, Metabones products also have excellent optics.


Despite some snags with the BMPCC, the footage is what actually counts, isn’t it? There are two recording modes, namely ProRes and RAW, both of which produce robust images with superb dynamic range. Data rates are much higher than typical AVCHD or MPEG video, with ProRes clocking in at 22MB/s, and RAW about three times that (a Sony NEX-VG20 records at about 3.1MB/s, max). That’s likely why the camera heats up significantly during use and why it burns the battery so quickly — pumping so much data through a small body isn’t a trivial matter. As for which codec you may decide to use in the first place? Since 10-bit ProRes is already an enormous improvement over standard DSLR footage, RAW may be overkill — it requires much more storage and a skilled color expert to get the most out of it.

Once you’ve finished gathering footage, there are several ways to process it. A notable difference between the Pocket and full Cinema Cameras is that the latter shoots 2.5K, uncompressed RAW DNG files, while the BMPCC shoots 1080p video for all formats, with RAW compressed losslessly to about half its original size, like a ZIP file. Unfortunately, that format is unreadable (for now) by Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro X, unlike the Cinema Camera’s uncompressed RAW files. The workflow therefore recommended by Blackmagic Design for RAW is to use DaVinci Resolve Lite (the full version is only free with the bigger camera). That’ll let you import your clips, grade them and export them in a format like QuickTime for use with Final Cut Pro or other editors. You can also load its compressed RAW Cinema DNG files directly into Adobe After Effects for processing, but working with clips is much slower. However, such a method might still be more comfortable for those familiar with Adobe’s Camera RAW utility. If you’ve shot with ProRes, of course, you can grade in Resolve, or just edit and grade all at once in your editor of choice.


As mentioned, the BMPCC produces 1080p files from its CMOS sensor. However, like any other CMOS camera including all DSLRs, the effective resolution is actually about 70-80 percent of that after image sensor data is converted to RGB. That means it’s probably a shade better than 720p video (though no charts were harmed in the making of this review). The larger Blackmagic camera’s sensor records at 2.5K resolution, on the other hand, therefore delivering true 1080p resolution, give or take.

Despite that, with 12 bits of color accuracy, the resulting images on the Pocket Camera appear extremely sharp even in detailed areas — unlike the artifacts and “mosquito noise” seen from, say, a Canon 7D. There’s also impressive dynamic range, with Blackmagic claiming 13 stops max in RAW and slightly less with ProRes files — no exaggeration, in my opinion. On the downside, the pocket camera can also produce a bit of moire and aliasing, particularly on finely spaced line patterns, likely because of its sensor size. It’s also very susceptible to rolling shutter, meaning fast pans and shakiness are not recommended. Overall, I achieved the best results at about ISO 800, with dynamic range dropping off below that, and grain increasing above.

Assuming you’ve got a computer with a fast CPU, graphics and hard disks, working with 12-bit RAW or 10-bit ProRes video is a dream compared to MPEG. If you choose the “film” dynamic range setting and your exposures are good, you can stretch the video in nearly any direction color-wise. Even if you over- or under-exposed, it’s often possible to save a shot thanks to the extra latitude. Another plus is that on green screen FX shoots, the high bitrate footage allows more precise keying than, say, the AVCHD files from a DSLR. Conclusion? While the footage isn’t as good as that produced by an Arri, Red or Canon C300 camera, it’s in the ballpark and the BMPCC is 1/10th to 1/50th the price of those cameras. Compared to most DSLR’s, there’s no comparison — thanks to the superior codec, it’s worlds better, unless you’re willing to do a little hacking.


The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is a weird little beast. It’s hard to tell who it’s for exactly, since it costs the same as a mid-range DSLR but seems more suited to pros who could afford to spend a lot more. Also, the larger BMCC camera is now only $1,995 after a recent price drop, making it another tempting option and the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K will hopefully be on the market soon for $3,995. If you are tempted, there are a lot of hidden costs to consider. For a basic package, including a lens, extra batteries, microphone, charger and top-end SDHC cards, you can easily spend the price of the camera again and then some. If you really want to kit it out with a Metabones BMPCC Speedbooster (a must, in my opinion), an LCD monitor or other accessories, you’re looking at high-end DSLRmoney.

All that aside, the BMPCC lets you shoot jaw-dropping video while looking like a tourist. That’s ideal for indie filmmakers or, well, tourists who are really into good-quality video. Its small size and price might also suit production companies looking for a way to shoot in tight places, on UAVs or in stunt vehicles as a “crash-cam,” for instance. The educational market is another possible niche, since its workflow is similar to pricey digital cameras like the Red Epic or Arri Alexa, making it a good student learning tool. As for you and me? If you’re looking to take your video to another level and have the savoir-faire or patience to learn the Pocket camera’s ways, why not, for $995? Once you’ve shot and edited the footage it produces, going back to regular DSLR video is just painful.


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02 Feb


Scentee’s smelly smartphone notifications are now available worldwide (from Engadget)

February 2, 2014 | By |

Scentee on an iPhone

If you were crestfallen when you heard that Scentee’s fragrance-emitting smartphone add-on would be hard to get outside of Japan, you can relax — it’s now available worldwide through the company’s site. The perfume plug-in sells for $35 by itself (plus a whopping $30 in shipping), while scent packs for coffee, lavender, rose, rosemary and strawberry will cost you $5 each. That’s quite a lot to pay for smell-based notifications on your Android device or iPhone, but Scentee is at least more practical than some of the other novelty imports that we’ve seen as of late.


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01 Feb


This Awesome iWatch Concept Takes Heavy Inspiration From Nike+ FuelBand [VIDEO] (from RedMondPie)

February 1, 2014 | By |

Nike’s FuelBand may be seen by some as a bit of a high-priced gimmick, but despite the naysayers, it continues to sell in fairly strong numbers. As well as building a growing number of admirers, FuelBand now arrives in a plethora of different colors and versions in the form ofFuelBand SE, and is as stylish as it is practical. With this in mind, UI design guru Todd Hamilton has offered his take on the enigmatic Apple iWatch by basing it heavily upon close buddy Nike’s likeable gizmo, and the result is truly something to behold.

Although the Nike FuelBand is often forgotten alongside the Galaxy Gear and the Pebble when it comes to evaluating the smartwatch industry, there’s no doubt that the slick, stylish device is continuing to be a big hit with fitness fanatics and lazy slobs alike. Not only is the interface intuitive and quirky, but the device actually does what it purports to do – fancy that! But despite its popularity, it does feel like the FuelBand et al is all just early fodder for Apple’s supposedly imminent iWatch, which some predict will make an iPhone-like impact upon announcement.


When you look at what the iPhone and iPad did for the smartphone and tablet industries respectively (read: neither were, strictly speaking, the first of their kind in terms of categorization), it’s little wonder the industry is once again hyped at the prospect of a potential game-changer. And with guys like Hamilton running around putting such glorious faces to names, as it were, the iWatch fantasy is now going to be almost impossible to shake off.


The iWatch concept is remnant of the FuelBand in almost every facet, but with a genuine (presumably flexi-AMOLED) display for an iOS-like UI, it still offers a familiar Apple experience from the get-go.



There is, according to Hamilton, a single home button on the left-hand side of the device, with two volume buttons located on the opposite side. There’s no doubt that it looks absolutely beautiful, and although it’s unlikely – even with the close relationship between Apple and Nike – that the iWatch would borrow so much of its design from the FuelBand, we can’t say that we’d be too deflated if it did.

[vimeo 84381995 w=600 h=450]

What do you think – would you buy it?


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01 Feb


SONY CYBER-SHOT DSC-QX100 REVIEW (from DigitalTrends)

February 1, 2014 | By |

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-QX100 review

  • Excellent image quality
  • Great low-light performance
  • Simple to set up and use
  • Flexibility allows for creative shooting
  • Live-view stream lags
  • Slow autofocus
  • Limited shooting options
  • Connecting times, shutter lags are long
Our Score:7.5

The innovative Sony QX100 packs a 1-inch sensor and Zeiss lens into a compact lens-shaped form-factor. It delivers image quality that rivals high-end cameras, but not without some operational hurdles.

“Turn your smartphone into a DSLR-caliber camera.” That’s essentially Sony’s promise for the Cyber-shot QX100, a new category of point-and-shoot cameras it categorizes as “smartphoneattachable lens-style cameras.”

Smartphone cameras have improved dramatically, but most still can’t achieve the image quality of high-end cameras; camera makers, on the other hand, have been trying to figure out how their cameras can fit into the smartphone conversation. Samsung has dropped Android into some of its cameras, like the Galaxy Camera and Galaxy NX (or a camera into a smartphone, such as theGalaxy S4 Zoom), but those products have their issues. Sony’s QX100, on the other hand, puts all the imaging components into a cylinder that also contains the lens. It latches onto your smartphone and uses it as the controller, but takes better images that what you could accomplish with your phone alone.

The QX100 uses components from one of Sony’s best compact cameras to achieve that high image quality. But without the rest of the camera, can this smartphone accessory truly take images that rival high-end cameras, even DSLRs? It can, but not without clearing some hurdles.

Features and design

The QX100 is roughly the same shape, size, and weight of a small interchangeable lens for a mirrorless camera. If you didn’t know it was a self-contained camera, you would have guessed it was an ordinary lens. At 3.2 ounces, it’s fairly lightweight, but the weight and dimensions don’t make the camera easy to pocket, creating a noticeable bulge (ahem) even in our winter jacket.

Inside the camera is a 1-inch, 20.9-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor and Bionz image processor. For a point-and-shoot, a 1-inch sensor is huge, so the QX100 is packing a heavy arsenal that’s designed to capture impressive image quality. The lens is a 3.6x Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* optical zoom with a lens construction of seven elements in six groups. It also has Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, and an aperture range of f/1.8-4.9. Of course, there’s Wi-Fi and NFC onboard for pairing the camera with a smartphone or tablet.

Despite the easy setup, the wireless connection isn’t always stable.

These imaging components are similar to those in the highly lauded Cyber-Shot RX100 II compact, one of our favorites. You could say Sony took all the imaging guts out of the RX100 II and put them inside a little canister, but performance-wise the RX100 II is still the super shooter, as the QX100 doesn’t have all the features and performance of a regular camera. We don’t think Sony’s intention was to give the QX100 the same caliber performance as the RX100 II; it’s supposed to be seen as an upgrade to a smartphone or tablet, rather than a competitor to traditional cams.

The QX100’s minimalist design means you won’t find the usual buttons, dials, display, or built-in flash. On the top is a small power button near the stereo microphone, and the N-mark where you would tap against another device’s N-mark to enable NFC pairing. There’s also a light that turns green to tell you it’s on, orange to signal that it’s charging, and red when it’s recording video. On one side is the shutter button and zoom lever, and a cover with the Zeiss logo that covers the Micro USB port (Multi Terminal), microSD/Memory Stick Micro slot, and reset button. On the other side is a small display panel that shows battery life and if a memory card isn’t inserted. On the bottom is the tripod mount.

On the front is the Zeiss lens that extends out when turned on. There’s also a control ring around the lens that lets you operate zoom or manual focus. On the back is the battery compartment; the SSID/password for Wi-Fi pairing is listed on the inside of the battery door. The smartphone attachment accessory, which has the arms for securing the camera onto a smartphone, locks into place behind the back.

The QX100’s attachment arms will fit most smartphones, even ones with larger screens. We clamped it onto an iPhone 5S and Sony Xperia Z1S with ease. But as phone makers continue to churn out even larger screens, there is a limit to what the QX100 can accommodate; you can forget about tablets like iPads. We just happened to have a Nokia Lumia 1520 next to us, and its 6-inch screen form-factor was too big for the QX100 to attach onto; of course, there’s no support forWindows 8 so we couldn’t use the camera with the 1520 anyway. But if you’re a “phablet” user, know that one size does not fit all. You can still use the QX100 detached, however. (Sony in Japan is releasing a new accessory that would accommodate larger devices, but so far Sony U.S. hasn’t mentioned whether it’ll bring it stateside.)

Smartphones are about convenience, but the QX100’s slow performance defeats this instant gratification.

The camera can technically be used independently without a smartphone, but that would be like using a camera blindfolded and defeating its purpose. You really need an iOS or Android device to not only get a live-view image of what you’re actually shooting, but also adjust settings. Right now you can only use Sony’s PlayMemories Mobile app to control the camera, which lets you change the shooting modes (Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, Program Auto, and Aperture Priority), switch from photo to HD video (1440 x 1080), and change exposure compensation, aperture, and other settings. The app is identical on both platforms, so you aren’t getting or losing any functionality on either. Sony has released the SDK for the camera to app developers who might want to add support for the QX cameras, so we could potentially see apps like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accessing the camera in the future – if they choose to, that is.

If you want the QX100’s full 20.9-megapixel images, you’ll need to have a memory card in it. You can choose to have images saved to the smartphone, but it will only save a lower resolution of the captures. If you set the camera up to save both, you can keep high-res shots on the card to print, and low-res shots on your phone for easy sharing with social media or email. Unless you opt to save a lower-res version onto your phone, you can’t playback the images and videos stored on the camera.

What’s in the box

The QX100 comes in a round container that also includes the rechargeable lithium-ion battery, Micro USB cable, wrist strap, smartphone attachment, and a thick manual that contains basic instructions in various languages (the full manual is on Sony’s website). There’s no battery charger, as the battery charges inside the camera via USB.

Performance and use

For our review, we paired the QX100 with both an iPhone 5S and Sony Xperia Z1S, as well as older iPad 2. The QX100 only pairs via Wi-Fi, so the wireless performance is the same regardless of whether you attach it to a phone or use it separately. The first time you enable pairing, you’ll need to create a direct Wi-Fi connection between the two by locating the device’s SSID in your phone’s Wi-Fi settings and entering the password. Once that’s done, open the PlayMemories Mobile app (you’ll need to download it if you don’t have it installed already) and, after a few seconds (sometimes it can feel like an eternity), a live-view image should appear along with camera controls. It’s a bit of legwork at first, but subsequently the app should remember the camera, so you don’t have to reenter the information.

Sony Cyber shot QX100 Sony Cyber shot QX10 bottom closed

Setting up the Android-based Xperia, however, was painless: We tapped the N-mark of the QX100 to the N-mark on the back of the smartphone, and it took us to the Google Play Store to download the app. After the app downloaded, we tapped the two devices again and it handled the Wi-Fi pairing automatically – no SSID or passwords to worry about. We still have mixed feelings about the usefulness of NFC in digital cameras, but in this instance we found the feature to be plus. Because the camera isn’t tied to any particular device, you can share the QX100 with others.

Despite the easy setup, the wireless connection isn’t always stable. Whether it was the iPhone, iPad, or Xperia, we often encountered lag times in the live-view stream, where the image would just stall before it could catch up. It’s not an issue when panning slowly or shooting still life, but moving around quickly will cause some hiccups in the stream. This was particularly frustrating when we tried to shoot movies, as the live-view would freeze up as we were filming – sometimes for as long as five seconds, if not more.

As mentioned, the time it takes for the camera to get connected to the phone can be painfully slow. Smartphones are about convenience, and the appeal they offer casual photographers is the ability to capture the moment when it happens. The QX100, therefore, defeats this instant gratification, so don’t bother using it if you’re trying to photograph a fleeting moment. After taking a picture, the camera and app take a while to process the photo, particularly if you’re saving two images, so expect some waiting time in-between shots (action shots aren’t this camera’s forte). Also, expect some delay when you adjust settings, like changing exposure compensation. Because you’re technically sending an instruction from one device to another, there’s a short buffering time before you see a change take place, as opposed to digital cameras and smartphones where it’s all built in. Perhaps it’s the limitation of current technology, but Sony says some of these issues, like connection time, should improve once the firmware update is released.

The Xperia Z1S is a shiny, slim smartphone, so it looks both awesome and a little ridiculous with a big lens attached to it. Although the arms grasped onto the phone snugly, it’s not a tight hold, so it’s best to hold onto the camera instead of just phone itself – ditto for the iPhone. One thing we enjoyed is the ability to use the camera to shoot in a variety of angles when detached. You can hold the camera up high or down low, in a hard to reach area or in a unique POV, all while viewing the image from uour phone. This also makes taking selfies or group pictures easier, and it offers some great perspectives when shooting videos. (It’s not a totally new concept, as you can do this with many Wi-Fi-enabled digital cameras with remote view.)

To describe it in a few words, the picture quality is absolutely stunning.

Operating the camera is a breeze. You can take a snapshot using the shutter button or zoom toggle on the camera (or the control ring around the lens), or use the same buttons on the touchscreen via the app. You can touch to focus, or touch to focus and snap the photo. The camera is essentially an automatic point-and-shoot, but you can make some adjustments in Program and Aperture Priority modes, such as the exposure compensation, white balance, and aperture, but it’s limited. Again, once Sony rolls out the firmware update, you’ll have more control over the shutter speed in a new Shutter Priority mode and ISO. If we had to complain about another thing, it would be the short zoom, which was an issue we had with the RX100 II. It’s also missing any creative modes or filters that would appeal to the intended user.

With the intricacies out of the way, let’s talk about the QX100’s biggest draw: image quality. To describe it in a few words, it’s absolutely stunning. The iPhone 5S and Xperia Z1S have excellent onboard cameras that take very good photos, but they can’t compete with what the QX100 pumps out. Its cousin, the RX100 II, is one of our favorite compact cameras that take beautiful photos – photos with extremely accurate colors and great levels of details. Being that the QX100 shares the same parts, we were pleased that the lens camera captured similar-quality photos. The QX100 did a great job with saturation and details in highlights, shadows, and midtones. In a comparison shot of a street scene on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, the Xperia’s photo, while fine, didn’t show the level of detail the QX100 captured (despite having a smaller sensor, the iPhone did better than the Xperia in many of our shots). With an f/1.8 aperture, we were able to shoot close-up images with nice bokeh blurring, but that’s only available at the widest angle. Unlike the RX100 II, however, the autofocus system isn’t speedy; it’ll take a second or two for the camera to lock something into focus.

Where the QX100 really shines is in low-light: In a shot of the Empire State Building at night, the QX100 managed to capture a nice shot with good colors and details, and minimal, uniform noise. The only issue we encountered was in extremely limited light.

Just for kicks, we compared the QX100 with a Canon EOS 7D DSLR by taking a low-light photo of the Manhattan skyline. Surprisingly, the QX100 produced a more pleasing image than the 7D, although we should point out that we didn’t play with the settings on the DSLR. After some fiddling, we were able to grab a great photo with the 7D. But here’s to proving Sony’s point: The QX100 is capable of achieving high-quality DSLR-like images without trying. You can get a far better photo with a DSLR, of course, but that’s if you know what you’re doing (using the automatic setting isn’t going to do it); with the QX100, there’s no thinking involved to get great image quality.

An upcoming Sony firmware update will add shutter priority mode for selecting shutter speed, increase the ISO to 12,800 from the current max of 3,200, and push video capture up to Full HD 1080/30p (1920 x 1080). The update was not yet available during testing, but we will update this review should there be significant improvements.


The QX100 definitely qualifies as an innovative product. What’s amazing is that it delivers on image quality in a unique form-factor, and has lots of flexibility in how you can use it to take creative shots. It’s easy to use, and it will give smartphone photographers a huge edge – especially those who enjoy taking pictures with their tablets. Being that is works directly with a smartphone or tablet, you get the convenience of uploading your images straight to the Web. One day in the future, as smartphone cameras and software get more powerful and stronger, lens cameras like this won’t be needed; until then, the QX100 tries to bridge the divide between traditional cameras and smart devices.

The question, though, is how much you are willing to put up to get that extra edge. At $500, the QX100 isn’t cheap, and it also suffers from a lot of issues such as slow autofocusing, limited functionality, long connection times, and streaming lag. It’s not as effortless as Sony’s promotional video suggests. Plus, it’s bulky enough to make you wonder if you should just carry a regular camera in addition to your smartphone. Sure, it’s much more compact than a DSLR or compact system camera, but still…

Consider this: For $200 more, you can get the Cyber-shot RX100 II. It’s a faster camera with more features and greater performance, and you get the same specs (and more) as the QX100. It also has Wi-Fi and NFC, so you can use some of the remote functions found in the QX100. It’s also compact enough that, we think it’s easier to pocket. If you’re going to carry two devices anyway, why not carry a camera that’s even better?

The QX100 is a cool, fun (yet frustrating) gadget that will appeal to many, but not all (although Sony said the QX100 sold like hot cakes over the holiday season in 2013). There’s a less expensive model, the QX10, which uses lesser parts, but won’t deliver the high-quality images like the QX100. If you’re willing to overlook the problem areas for a smartphone accessory that takes great images, very few point-and-shoots can match the QX100 at this price. We’re hoping Sony’s upcoming firmware upgrade, however, will resolve some of the issues. Regardless, if Sony continues with this series, we could see even stronger models that overcome these first-gen problems.


  • Excellent image quality
  • Great low-light performance
  • Simple to set up and use
  • Flexibility allows for creative shooting


  • Live-view stream lags
  • Slow autofocus
  • Limited shooting options
  • Connecting times, shutter lags are long

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01 Feb


Should you buy the new, slimmer and pricier PlayStation Vita? (from Engadget)

February 1, 2014 | By |

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Saying it three times won’t make things any easier, but that’s where we come in. Sony’s latest iteration of the PlayStation Vita handheld, which we’re going to call the Vita Slim from now on (as seems to be the fashion), is coming to the UK, having previously only been available in Asia. It’s up for pre-order right now and will launch a week from today — so, do you want one? The choice is ultimately yours, of course, and it’s a delicate one, but if the pressure is too much to bear, then head past the break where we explore how the Slim stacks up against the Vita of old, and whether it’s really worth the extra £50 (or roughly $80, in US terms) for a console that delivers essentially the same experience.


Now, we’re not here to tell you that the PS Vita is an essential purchase — whichever version you’re looking at. If you’re unfamiliar with the handheld, or perhaps the PlayStation brand as a whole, then it’s really a matter of how you like to game on the go. Are you more Killzone than Brain Training, more Need for Speed than Mario Kart, or maybe you’re happy killing commute time with a bit ofAngry Birds and don’t need another device at all? If you’re going in blind, then it’s probably best to start with a quick browse of the Vita’s game catalog, and check out our full reviews of the original and Slim models to get acquainted.

The Vita, in general, is serious and well-built hardware. Dual thumbsticks, a 5-inch touchscreen display, another touch panel on the rear, stereo speakers and two cameras facing forward and back. Most importantly, it delivers the best graphics of any handheld, verging on last-gen console territory.

As the Vita Slim isn’t a sequel, you’ll find everything mentioned across both iterations, so what’s the hook? As you’ve probably guessed, the Vita Slim is everything the Vita is, but in a smaller package: 20 percent thinner and 15 percent lighter, to be exact. At 15mm thick and weighing 219g, it’s still not pocket-sized by any means, but the nip and tuck’s welcome nonetheless, alongside a few other minor revisions that make it more comfortable to hold.

(Note: The white model in the comparison shot above is available in Japan only. The UK Slim model is black.)

This is one of the main draws of the Vita Slim — it’s just that bit more portable. Beyond aesthetic changes, there’s a far more important improvement to battery life. Instead of three to five hours of game time on the original Vita, you’re looking at around eight hours with the Slim. Forgetting price difference, it’s hard to recommend the old Vita on that stat alone. If a portable console can’t manage a decent-length plane ride without needing a recharge, then we should revisit the definition of portable.

How did Sony achieve this with less space to work with? Well, that’s the one drawback of the Vita Slim. It’s dropped the OLED display of the OG Vita for an LCD panel, which is where much of the power savings come from. There’s no getting around it: The OLED panel is better. Color representation and viewing angles trump those of the LCD screen, but unless you’re a huge videophile, you’ll likely appreciate the extra battery life way more. The screen may’ve been downgraded, but that’s not to say it’s of poor quality.


The Vita Slim is different in two other respects: It’s equipped with WiFi only, whereas the older model has a 3G option, and it has 1GB of internal storage where the other has none. We can’t imagine the lack of 3G is a dealbreaker for anyone, which is probably why Sony couldn’t be bothered with a cellular variant. A gig of storage might not sound like much; it won’t go a long way, and you can pick up a 4GB Vita-specific memory card (thanks, Sony) for under a tenner. Getting 1GB free, though, is just one less thing to think about when you tear it from the box and wanna dive right in. In a pure hardware match-up, we’d have to put our money on the Vita Slim, but how much money are we talking about exactly?


A number of sites have now opened up pre-orders for the Vita Slim, and although it’s more expensive than the older model, it’s still a significant savings over the WiFi-only OG model that launched in 2012 for £230. Yes, it’s still way more expensive in the UK than in its home country of Japan, but you’re British and should be used to paying more for everything, so suck it up. A couple of retailers — AmazonGameSimply Games and ShopTo, for example — have stuck to Sony’s RRP of £180 for the console alone. (There are other sites asking as much as £200, but let’s ignore those.) The latter two retailers are also plugging bundles that add just a fiver to the price of the handheld alone. ShopTo has the greatest selection, bundling the Vita Slim with a number of single, high-profile titles, or download vouchers and memory cards. The best deal seems to be the Slim with 10-game download voucher plus a 16GB memory card, which you’ll need to store those voucher titles on anyway. Sure, most are old, but there are a few gems such asWipeout, and that 16GB card is worth around the price of Vita game itself.

Currently, ShopTo also appears to have the best deal on the original Vita, with the WiFi and 3G model priced at only £130. This appears to be a transient deal, however, and most other retailers have the same model on offer for £140 to £150. At this point, we wouldn’t entertain the thought of getting an OG Vita bundle, as their prices haven’t reacted to the Slim’s impending arrival. Game is selling the same £185 Slim bundle we listed above with the old Vita for £155, but even this deal should see a reduction when the Slim’s launch has had a chance to impact retailer pricing.



We’re sure OG Vita bundles will be revised in due course, but for early Slim adopters, those with a refreshed interest in the Vita or those thinking about upgrading, this is how things stand at the moment. Some PS fans will no doubt jump at the Slim due to the “shiny factor” (it’s new; gotta have it), but unless you can trade in or sell your current Vita for a fair price, we wouldn’t bother upgrading. Definitely not before the price of the Slim comes down, anyway. If you’re sure now is the time to get Vita’d up, then ShopTo’s £130 offer for the original model is certainly tempting. If you can stretch to £185 though, go for one of the Slim bundles with a 16GB memory card thrown in. Any console is an investment, however late you are to the party, and due solely to the portability improvements the Slim boasts, we’d call it the smarter one.


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31 Jan


Sony upgrades smartphone-pairing QX10 and QX100 lens cameras with higher ISO and 1080p video capture (from Engadget)

January 31, 2014 | By |

Shutterbugs who shunned traditional point-and-shoots in favor of Sony’s QX10 andQX100 lens cameras can now take even better images and videos. Thanks to a firmware upgrade, both smartphone lens attachments are now capable of recording clips with a higher resolution (1,920 x 1,080) than before (1,440 x 1,080). It also cranks up the clip-ons’ max ISO settings from 1,600 to 3,200 on the QX10 and from 3,200 to 12,800 on the QX100, which is bound to please those especially fond of nighttime photography. Other than these two feature boosts, folks with the more expensive QX100 get an extra shutter speed mode for their devices. Unfortunately, users can’t upgrade over their phones and will have to download the firmware on a Windows (XP/Vista/7/8) or a Mac computer.


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