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Technology Archives - Page 27 of 27 - Team2Soft

28 Jan


Tesla Superchargers now cover drives from coast to coast (from Engadget)

January 28, 2014 | By |

Tesla’s Superchargers, which can provide up to 170 miles of range with just a 30-minute charge, now cover trips between Los Angeles and New York, Elon Musktweeted yesterday. The somewhat circuitous route brings drivers through states like New Mexico, South Dakota and Wisconsin during a journey from LA to NY, rather than the more direct I-40, I-70 or I-80 options that run farther south, so expect the cross-country adventure to take a bit longer than usual if you’re setting out within the next few months. Tesla will be adding many more Superchargers throughout this year, however, eventually enabling a more direct routing. And, come 2015, the entire country will be covered, making it possible to visit all 50 states and parts of Canada without going out of your way for a charge.


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27 Jan


A Human’s Guide to Google’s Robot Army (from Gizmodo)

January 27, 2014 | By |

A Human's Guide to Google's Robot ArmySEXPAND

Google can’t stop buying robotics companies. In the past two months, eight of the 12 companies the search giant has acquired have “robotics” in their name or descriptions. Here’s your complete breakdown of the robot army presently at Google’s command.

As stated in the midst of its buying spree, the company’s largely letting its new robotics divisions continue to work on their preexisting projects, and why wouldn’t they? The newly acquired companies are doing a damn good job. They’re even winning competitions.

Robot technology would help with self-driving cars, certainly, but the range of these acquisitions hints at even broader ambitions. Again, we don’t know much. They’re all a part of the Google X division, which is top secret by definition. We do know what the new companies in the Google family are up to, though, and that might offer us some clues.

Schaft Inc.

A Human's Guide to Google's Robot Army

These guys are rockstars. The Japanese team that got its start at Tokyo University just took the top prize at DARPA’s Robotics Challenge Trial thanks to the cunning and agility of its 5-foot, 5-inch, 209-pound bipedal robot. After being purchased by Google in early December 2013, Schaft’s blue machine proved to be the best at walking on uneven terrain, climbing ladders, clearing debris, and connecting hoses, ultimately scoring an impressive 27 out of 32 possible points.

The company was originally founded to build disaster response robots after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 but has since broadened its scope, thanks in part to funding from the U.S. government. Who knows how far they’ll go floating on Google’s coffers?

Industrial Perception, Inc


Industrial Perceptions, Inc., is an imaging company that spun off of the Menlo Park robotics company Willow Garage. Before being acquired by Google in December—the day after the Schaft acquisition, in fact—IPI was focusing on building advanced technology for 3D vision-guided robots to be used in manufacturing and logistics. This includes the ability to see and sort different objects, say, in a factory. You could imagine a company like Amazon being very interested in this kind of technology, but it’s so far unclear exactly what Google wants to do with it.

Redwood Robotics

A Human's Guide to Google's Robot ArmySEXPAND

Redwood Robotics started as a joint venture between Meka Robotics, SRI International, and Willow Garage, IPI’s parent. And like IPI, it’s always had a very focused mission. Redwood wants to build the “next generation arm” for robots. Meka Robotics founder Aaron Edsingeronce said that he wants to do for robotic arms what the Apple II did for computers. Specifically, Redwood wants to build robotic arms that can work alongside people even in the comfort of their own home. That also means being the common arm manufacturer of service robots, so in the future, everybody’s personal robot could have Redwood arms. Well, make that Google arms.

Meka Robotics


Like its cousin, Redwood Robotics, Meka is dedicated to building robots that can live and work with human beings. The company describes its flagship model, the M1 Mobile Manipulator, as having “human-safe, human-soft, and human scale robot technologies that will enable the robots of tomorrow to work alongside people in the home and the workplace.” The human-like faces on the robot can even emote, a feature that’s as creepy as you let it be.


A Human's Guide to Google's Robot ArmySEXPAND

Even before joining Google, Holomini was a pretty secretive outfit. All we really know from its now shuttered website is the company describes itself as “Creators of high-tech wheels for omnidirectional motion.” The image above is just a stock photo guesstimate of what a “high-tech wheel for omnidirectional motion” might look like.

Bot & Dolly

[vimeo w=640&h=360]

If Redwood and IPI are the engineers in the family, Bot & Dolly are the artists. The companydescribes itself as “a design and engineering studio that specializes in automation, robotics, and filmmaking” with a mission “to advance motion control and automation as a creative medium.” In reality, this means that Bot and & Dolly use robots to help film commercials and movies like Gravity. This doesn’t mean that Google wants to get into the movie business, but hey, if a robot’s good enough to make a movie, what else can it do?

Boston Dynamics

A Human's Guide to Google's Robot Army

Boston Dynamics is the real celebrity of the bunch. After acquiring six robotics companies in six days, Google took a couple of days off before announcing this major acquisition. The company is known for building all kinds of futuristic bots from the bipedal, humanoid robot Atlas (above) to the impossibly fast, four-legged Cheetah. Actually, Boston Dynamics brings a whole robot army to Google, one that the military is very eager to recruit.

DeepMind Technologies

A Human's Guide to Google's Robot ArmySEXPAND

Google’s latest purchase is less interested in building an actual robot than in designing an intelligent robot brain. The self-described “cutting edge artificial intelligence company” that uses “the best techniques from machine learning and systems neuroscience to build powerful general-purpose learning algorithms: comes with a team of 75 researchers and software engineers whose talents could be put to use on anything from the hypothetical Googlebot to the company’s flagship search engine and anything in between. Because after all, robots are just another step in Google becoming the company that is everywhere, and does everything.

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27 Jan


Samsung to Launch ‘Galaxy Glass’ in September (from Mashable)

January 27, 2014 | By |


Samsung might launch a competitor to Google Glass during the IFA trade show in Berlin in September this year.The device, named Galaxy Glass, could connect to your smartphone, display call alerts and allow the user to listen to music, reports Korea Times, citing unnamed Samsung executives.

The report doesn’t reveal many details about the actual hardware, but it does state that 

Samsung Electronics would collaborate with another Samsung subsidiary, Samsung Display, to create the Galaxy Glass.

Samsung Electronics would collaborate with another Samsung subsidiary, Samsung Display, to create the Galaxy Glass.

“The new smart glass to be introduced by Samsung is a new concept of wearable device that can lead to an exciting culture of communication,” the unnamed official said, according to the report. “The smart glass will present our aim to lead the new market with proven capability. Wearable devices can’t generate profits immediately. Steady releases of devices are showing our firm commitment as a leader in new markets.”

Samsung unveiled a wearable device, theGalaxy Gear smartwatch, at last year’s IFA, and the company patented a smartglass-type device in October 2013, giving the report some plausibility. However, September is still far off, and even if the report is accurate, it’s quite possible that Samsung will change its plans before then.

Korea Times also cites an unnamed executive of a Google parts supplier in Asia, which claims Google Glass — so far available only as a limited beta product — will be commercially available to the general population in the “latter half” of this year.

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27 Jan


The Ryno one-wheeled motorcycle is a Dragon Ball fantasy brought to life (from TheVerge)

January 27, 2014 | By |


The genesis of the Ryno one-wheeled electric motorcycle can be traced back to a moment when Chris Hoffman’s daughter asked if he could build something like what she saw in an episode of Dragon Ball. A few years later, the Ryno is now a reality, and since it’s street legal, we took one for a spin on the streets of Brooklyn.

The Ryno uses gyroscopes and accelerometers to balance and drive. I’ve tried to learn how to ride a motorcycle before, and I found the Ryno easier and more intuitive. You sit down, lean into it, and you’re off. Getting comfortable takes a little while, and tight turning was too advanced for my 20-minute lesson, but I was still able to have fun zipping back and forth on my motorized unicycle.


You can ride the Ryno sitting down, but it’s easier if you hop up and stand on the foot pegs. Avoiding obstacles by drifting left and right was accomplished by simply looking where you wanted to go, aligning your shoulders in that direction, and letting the Ryno do the rest. There is a hand brake to help you stop but I never had to use it. Leaning back slowed me down and I could simply put my feet on the ground when I was ready for a full stop.

The Ryno is a beautiful machine, with the slick lines and vigorously mechanical look of a sports car or high-performance motorcycle. While it is street legal, the Ryno’s top speed is capped at 10 miles an hour and it only has a range of 10 miles on a full battery. Hoffman says the bike could easily go much faster, but 10 miles an hour was the best balance of speed and safety. Still, it could work for some urban commuters.

Unfortunately, the Ryno itself weighs about 160 pounds, meaning you won’t want to cart it up and down any stairs. And with a price tag of over five grand, it’s significantly more expensive than the comparable electric vehicles with equal or better range and speed that we saw at this year’s CES.

But that’s not really the point. The Ryno seems like the kind of thing you would splurge on if style was your thing. It’s definitely alluring. While we were testing it, a half-dozen people stopped by to gawk, take pictures, and ask about the bike. The company says it has more preorders than it can handle.

Riding it is a unique and enjoyable experience, one I’m sure would get better with a little more time spent learning how to operate it. It’s not the most practical or economical electric vehicle I’ve been on recently, but it’s not trying to be. The Ryno is more about taking a crazy dream and making it come to life.

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26 Jan


GE’s bringing good things, and massive robots, to life (from Engadget)

January 26, 2014 | By |

America was in the middle of a post-war economic boom during the ’50s and industries were in a rush to build the future, often with outlandish results. RCA-Whirlpool was busy whipping up the “miracle kitchen,” chock-full of mod-cons to make the Jetsons jealous, and Simplicity Mfg. Co.’s air-conditioned, bubble-domed lawnmowers arrived to ease the painful process of landscaping. General Electric (GE), a longtime hotbed of innovation and research, had various projects underway, including engineer Ralph Mosher’s Cybernetic Anthropomorphic Machine Systems (CAMS). Mosher was building man-amplifying tools that would allow users to control robotic appendages with natural human movement. Not to be left out, the US Army was plotting the future of rough- and remote-terrain vehicles, and it had its eye on GE and Mosher’s work.


Consulting engineer Ralph Mosher and GE’s VP of research and development Dr. Arthur Bueche

The CAMS project was dedicated to fine-tuning human-control systems, since autonomous robots were still a bit half-baked and would require more computing power than was available. Mosher built the controls so that machines could echo human movements with increased precision, while also augmenting the strength of its human user. In 1956, Mosher’s “Yes Man” project was highlighted in Lifemagazine, which touted it as a “chivalrous robot,” capable of such a delicate touch that it could assist a young lady with her coat and even take a selfie after picking up a camera (and not crushing it, essentially). An operator was able to control the robotic appendages because of Mosher’s “force feedback,” which helped mediate the level of pressure applied through its electromechanical claws. (Imagine a robot ripping off a doorknob as it attempts to simply open a door.) By sending back a portion of the sensory feedback from a remote manipulator to the operator, it helped the user gauge the appropriate level of pressure that should be applied.

In 1958, Mosher’s work had seen some iterative development and was now called “Handyman.” This time it was developed as a method for handling radioactive equipment, with an operator strapped into a harness that controlled a set of Doctor Octopus-like robotic arms from a safe distance. While there were definite military angles to the development, GE was also still building tools for the consumer market, and the benefits of applying this research to intuitively controlled industrial machines was apparent. By 1961, the Army decided to team up with GE in order to further the research on a “walking” vehicle concept, planning to incorporate Mosher’s CAM control as a way to drive its four “legs.” As the years went on, others agencies would get involved with GE and Mosher’s unique man-machine control interface, including ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency), the DoD and the Navy.

In 1966, the Army contracted GE to build a working prototype of its quadruped design, which could be likened to today’s BigDog robot by Boston Dynamics except that it was “driven” by a human pilot and stood about 11 feet high. The “walking truck” was powered by a 90-horsepower, gasoline-fueled engine, weighed in at about 3,000 pounds and had four jointed legs in order to move around. The on-board operator would control the legs of the vehicle using pedals and hand controls; e.g., the driver’s right arm and leg would control the vehicle’s right front and rear legs, respectively. This imbued the machine’s movement with human dexterity and decision making, while leveraging its ruggedness and strength. The machine was able to lift a 500-pound load with one foot and rescue a jeep that was stuck in a mud hole.

In 1965, Mosher and the GE team began work on a parallel project that also used CAM controls and was developed by both the Army and Navy. It was called the Hardiman I, and where the original Handyman project was controlled from a distance, this time the user would sit inside an exoskeleton framework. The goal was to directly augment the wearer’s lifting ability so that it could assist in remote and restricted areas where access to forklifts and other heavy-lifting equipment would be limited. The Hardiman I was built and tested in separate sections, beginning with a single arm and leg, before the entire exoskeleton was assembled. The single-arm tests were largely successful, enabling it to lift a 750-pound load. The leg tests were more problematic, with difficulties in perfecting the feedback mechanism and mobility. When fully assembled, the Hardiman I would stand six feet tall, weigh 1,500 pounds and use a combination of hydromechanical (hands) and electrohydraulic servos (arms and legs) for control and motion. After years of development, however, the government’s contract ran out before a fully successful model could be completed.

We may not have seen the GE Hardiman I come to fruition, and the quadruped vehicle never seemed to catch on, but Mosher’s work definitely made an impact on future researchers. Marc Raibert, founder of the robotics company Boston Dynamics, said, “The GE walking truck was one of those inspirational projects some of us remember from when we were kids, just getting interested in technology.” Although Raibert’s projects, like BigDog, are not built around human controls, there is some crossover with Mosher’s research at GE. “Ralph’s designs had captured the key ingredient of force feedback; in his machines, the forces were fed back to the human operator to give him or her a sense of the environmental interaction of the limbs under control. In our designs, force feedback is still important, but the control algorithms running on the computer [are] the target of the feedback: same principle with a different implementation.” The concept of massive, heavy-lifting exoskeletons seems to have fallen out of favor as well, in lieu of smaller supportive devices. Companies like Ekso Bionics have employed the technology as a rehabilitation tool and assistive device, while military developers, such as Lockheed Martin and its HULC exoskeleton, have opted to work on flexible field units for subtly amplifying load capacity and endurance. There doesn’t appear to be a single, unified path of development for man-amplifying and robotic technology; instead, researchers seem to be sampling from “a kind of technical stew,” as Raibert puts it.




[Images courtesy of the Museum of Innovation and Science]


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26 Jan


Apple to Build Mobile-Payments Service, Report Says (from Mashable)

January 26, 2014 | By |

Apple is preparing to expand its presence in the mobile-payment space, according to a new report.

Eddy Cue, the company’s senior vice-president of Internet software and services, has met with “industry executives” to discuss Apple’s role in handling payments for physical goods and services, The Wall Street Journal reported.

WSJ also said Jennifer Bailey has been promoted from her role running Apple’s online store to a new position focused on building a payment business.

The mobile-payments space is hot, with companies such as SquarePayPal and Stripe all working to make it easier for users to pay for physical goods with their phones.

Apple sells billions of dollars worth of movies, music, books and apps through iTunes. Still, aside from allowing customers at Apple retail stores to scan and pay for physical items inside the store via an iPhone, Apple hasn’t extended its payments ecosystem outside of the digital realm.

That doesn’t mean the company could’t instantly become a major player in the mobile-payments space overnight, thanks to its absolutely huge iTunes customer base.

Apple said in 2013 that it has 575 million iTunes accounts — most with registered credit cards. In June of 2012, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that its then cache of 400 million iTunes accounts with credit cards made it “the store with the most credit cards on file anywhere in the world by far.”

With features such as Passbook (introduced with iOS 6) — which allows users to store event tickets, loyalty cards and coupons on their phone — Apple is already nearly in the payments space.

Companies such as Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks allow customers to pay for their purchases using Passbook.

Apple has famously avoided building NFC (near-field communication) technology into its phones, a fact that many mobile-payment experts have attributed to the relative lack of NFC uptick across point-of-sale systems, particularly in the United States. One expert at Mobile World Congress 2013 told Mashable that if Apple were to enter the payments space, it would instantly compel merchants of all sizes to roll out system updates.

Instead of NFC, Apple has invested in different technologies that can achieve many of the same results, but without some of the drama that has prevented that technology from gaining mass traction.

When TouchID was released alongside the iPhone 5S last fall, many instantly thought about the potential for payment guarantees tied to iTunes, iCloud and TouchID. That, along with technologies such as iBeacon could pave the way for a mobile wallet or payments solution.

Right now, it’s unclear where Apple’s payment aspirations lie. Apple could simply act as a mobile wallet, which is what Google Wallet tried (and has largely failed) to do.

It could even open up the ability for customers to make in-app purchases for non-digital goods (think paying for Uber or buying something from an online store), using the credit-card credentials already tied to an iTunes account.

It’s also possible that Apple could allow iTunes accounts themselves (regardless of what powers that account) to be used as a payment method at physical stores for physical goods and services.

With its tremendous credit-card customer base, any move Apple makes in mobile payments has the potential to be immediately disruptive.


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26 Jan


TOSHIBA 65L9300U REVIEW (from DigitalTrends)

January 26, 2014 | By |

Having reviewed Samsung’s F9000 and LG’s LA9700, we’ve gone on record in two reviews as saying that buying a current-generation Ultra HD TV simply doesn’t make sense. It would be fair to ask, then, why we would bother to review yet another current-gen Ultra HD set when we’ve already made our opinion clear. The answer is simple: Toshiba’s 65-inch L9300U is currently selling for $3,600 online. To put that in perspective, it’s at least $900 less than any other top-tier competitor at that size, and dangerously close to equally-sized top-tier 1080p TVs.

With the Super Bowl fast approaching and prices bound to drop even further as the next generation of Ultra HD televisions nears the market, we think Toshiba’s L9300U is going to be hard to resist. After all, conventional wisdom tells us that, even without 4K content, Ultra HD televisionsshould also make the best TVs for watching 1080p content. Right? With that in mind, we worked Toshiba’s 65-inch Ultra HD over for a few weeks to see if it is the sort of TV you’d want to live with on the long term.

If you’re not in a hurry to buy, it’s worth pointing out that this particular television has absolutely no bearing on what Toshiba will be bringing to market next year. As we detail in our report from CES, Toshiba has instituted a long list of reforms and hardware upgrades for its next line of televisions, and we think those efforts will put it in a very strong position when they arrive. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what’s out now.

Toshiba 65L9300U review

Out of the box

The 65-inch model we received for review is one of the heaviest TVs we’ve ever tested. At just over 100 lbs. it tops the LG LA9700 by 10 lbs., and the Samsung F9000 by a good 30 lbs. You feel that weight as you lift it from its box, too. Have a (strong) friend around for any setup or mounting of this television, because you’ll need them for sure.

We’d like to point out, though, that Toshiba’s packaging was as effective as it was manageable. You’d be amazed at some of the convoluted foam contraptions we see these TVs arrive in – putting them back together the right way can be a nightmare. Fortunately, Toshiba gets it right here. Inside the box we found a table-top stand and the requisite hardware, four pair of passive 3D glasses, a wireless keyboard, remote control and batteries for the remote.

Features and design

While the L9300U may weigh a bit more than its contemporaries, it certainly doesn’t look bulky for it. The TV lacks the insanely trim bezel found on Samsung’s set, and it is a touch deeper than LG’s, but it still looks marvelously fit for such a large-scale television. While we haven’t had a chance to really give the 58-inch model a proper once-over, we imagine it has the same appeal.

While the L9300U may weigh a bit more than its contemporaries, it certainly doesn’t look bulky for it.

As we stared at the dead-black panel, we noted a fair amount of reflection bouncing back from it, even in relatively dim light. The mirror-like surface does great things for the picture when it is bright, but is decidedly less desirable when it is the least bit dim. Just a touch of anti-reflective coating would have gone a long way here.

We appreciate that this television will swivel on its base, simply because this handy feature is often overlooked by other manufacturers. However, in the case of this television, its ability to swivel is crucial to anyone sitting off axis, because its off-axis performance leaves much to be desired. More on that later.

An Ultra HD television, the L9300U features a resolution up-scaling feature and some other processing meant to clean up less-than-optimal video sources. In this set, Toshiba touts its Cevo 4K 2nd Generation Quad + Dual Core Processor along with local dimming technology with “more dimming zones” to enhance black levels. As previously noted, this is a 3D-capable set.

Aside from that, the L9300U shares a lot in common with the L7300U series we recently reviewed, including Smart TV functionality with a full Web browser, plus the same keyboard with trackpad and remote. One notable benefit is the TV’s ability to decode and play back MKV files, a popular format for ripped DVD and Blu-ray discs commonly used by folks who maintain a media server at home. For us, this turned out to be a particularly nice perk.


As we first powered on the L9300U, it was immediately apparent that it was a bit speedier than the L7300U we had tested just weeks before. That television took a rather long 17 seconds until it put an image on the screen, and a few more on top of that before you could really do anything such as change the inputs or launch the smart TV interface. With the L9300U, that number came down enough that we didn’t bother to pull out a stopwatch to find out what the actual time was. Our assessment: It is acceptably short.

Toshiba 65L9300U 4k TV review front 1

When the TV is powered on, the set’s zones of locally-dimmed backlights are immediately evident, thanks to clear segmentation showing through the panel. On a TV of this size, it’s really difficult to pull off even backlighting without a full array of LEDs, but the L9300U seems to suffer a bit more than other edgelit tier-1 televisions did in this regard. With that said, it’s still a few notches above some of the budget Ultra HD televisions we’ve looked at over the year.

Since 4K content is scarce, we started out with Blu-ray material and worked our way down in quality of video through cable/sat HD, streamed HD, cable/sat SD and streamed SD. Streaming sources included content on our own media server as well as content delivered by Netflix, Hulu Plus and Vudu. Associated equipment included an Oppo BDP-103 Universal Disc Player and a Roku 3.

On a TV of this size, it’s really difficult to pull off even backlighting without a full array of LEDs, but the L9300U seems to suffer a bit more than others.

Blu-ray content looked very good, due in no small part to the Oppo’s excellent 4K upscaling chip. When we disabled the Oppo’s upscaling capabilities and let the L9300U take over, we noticed a very slight drop in overall sharpness of the image, though we don’t expect most casual viewers would notice the difference. We think that most consumer-level Blu-ray players will have a tough time competing with the upscaling work the L9300U did.

As the quality of our content dropped, it became clear that the TV’s extensive suite of processing options were going to be necessary to keep the picture looking clean. By default, we turn nearly all processing off before starting our evaluation. We found that, without the resolution upscaler, MPEG noise filter, digital noise filter and other settings turned on to at least medium, lower-quality content looked dismal on the massive 65-inch screen. For example, dark areas became overrun with large, blocky, murky boxes that evoked an effect similar to listening to a really low bitrate MP3. The trouble here is that the bitrate, compression and resolution of some of the content we used really wasn’t that low.

To be clear, it is usually the content source that makes a TV look terrible. Most TVs have to work untold magic to get compressed cable and satellite (even HD stations) content to look good. The L9300U can do it, but it has to use every weapon in its arsenal and, even then, we felt like it didn’t do quite as good a job as the LG or Samsung we reviewed. Once again, however, we’d still place it above a lower-tier budget brand. The L9300U still provides enough of an improvement to justify its slightly higher price.

So how does the L9300U do with 4K Ultra HD content? It looks beautiful. During our evaluation using 4K material provided by Toshiba, the television’s color reproduction capabilities were fully revealed, and its local dimming technology was shown at its best when given a quality signal to work with. Blacks were shockingly and suddenly deep and smooth, and contrast was right where it needed to be. We could still see segmenting of the local dimming zones (by way of vertical lines that down certain areas of the screen) but only in particularly tough scenes, and only because we’ve been trained to look for it. None of our officemates caught it, and plenty of them took the time to stop by and marvel.


A first-generation Ultra HD television purchase just doesn’t make sense, no matter the manufacturer. Since their introduction, standards have been settled on and new apps have been developed that will make accessing 4K content later this year a real possibility, but mostly on next-generation models.

But the L9300U lures buyers in with a price point to performance ratio that bests its competition. Is this a top-performing Ultra HD TV? No. It is, however, far less expensive than the top performers, and it still manages to significantly outclass the budget brands. We’ll stop short of recommending this television, but we can’t deny it will be an appealing option for those looking at premium 1080p sets in the same price range.


  • Attractive design
  • Local dimming enhances black levels
  • Excellent color
  • Great 4K content resolution
  • Attractive price


  • Compressed content looks poor without lots of processing
  • Images appear soft without resolution upscaler
  • No HDMI 2.0 connection

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26 Jan


This Week’s Apple Rumors, Ranked From Dumbest to Most Plausible (from Wired)

January 26, 2014 | By |

Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED


Each week, there are dozens of Apple rumors, reports, and patent filings that hint at what’s coming out of Cupertino next. Some are legit, but most are totally bogus. As always, we’ve parsed the week’s rumors, ranking them in order from “utterly ridiculous” to “duh, of course.” First up…

NOT IN A MILLION YEARS: Apple iWatch Spotted in the Wild
A Twitter user traveling to the Oakland airport snapped a photo of what is purported to be a prototype of Apple’s rumored iWatch. In the image, the watch in question looks like a square iPad nano except with two buttons on each side. Also, it’s affixed to a neon green wristband. It looks awkward and clunky — not at all like something Apple would make. Turns out, it was in fact this watch from Alibaba. So yeah, definitely not an Apple prototype.

ASK AGAIN LATER: Future Apple iAds Will Be Matched to Your Mood
If you thought Google’s location and keyword personalized ad surfacing was creepy, wait til you get a load of what Apple might have in store. According to a recently published patent application, the Cupertino company is exploring how to match iAds content to your mood. The process will try to infer your mood over a period of time by comparing it to a baseline one that’s been previously established. Then electronic content is served up to match it. Hopefully, the system will be perceptive enough to pick up on our never-wanting-to-ever-see-iAds mood.

SIGNS POINT TO YES: Apple Planning to Use Sapphire for Future iDevice Displays
Previous patent applications have shown that Apple is interested in exploring the use of sapphire in displays, potentially for a curved, flexible wearable. Sapphire is super hard — very difficult to scratch or crack — and it performs better in touch displays than glass. In the past, using sapphire was cost prohibitive, but now it’s starting to become a reasonable material for mobile devices. In fact, Apple already uses it in the lenses of its iPhone cameras, and for its fingerprint sensor Touch ID. This week Apple patented
some techniques for attaching sapphire as the substrate for a display. Again, this would be ideal for a mobile device or wearable.

SIGNS POINT TO YES: New Apple TV Set Top Box on the Way
We thought we might see a new Apple TV set top box back at Apple’s October media event. Nothing surfaced. But according to sources with 9to5Mac, Apple is definitely working on a next-gen Apple TV. It’s currently being tested and will supposedly be released in the first half of this year. The operating system may be getting a redesign (to make it more iOS-like), and the new streamer could also end up integrating Kinect-like 3-D gesture controls.

WITHOUT A DOUBT: Apple Working on Larger Screened iPhones, Ditching Plastic iPhone 5c
It’s the rumor we hear every week these days: Apple is working on a larger screened iPhone for 2014. Well, make that two larger screened iPhone models. The Wall Street Journal is the latest to add credence and additional detail to this one, suggesting that the first model will feature a 4.5- to 5-inch display. Another model will come with something even bigger. This is in line with what we’ve been hearing before. Apparently, Apple is also planning to ditch the plastic casing and possibly discontinue the iPhone 5c altogether. Again, not all that surprising if you believe analyst reports.