A burst of 8 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team
The story so far: John Carmack of Oculus has shown off the Gear VR headset, which uses Samsung's new Galaxy Note 4 to generate the visual field.
Alex Wawro: So what did you learn from your first Android development outing, and what should developers know about moving into mobile VR development?
Carmack: Okay, there's the normal hell of moving to a new platform - and I gotta say, Android was more hell to move to than most consoles I've adopted. Just because of the way Google has to position things across a diverse hardware spectrum, and because Google still doesn't really endorse native code development - they'd still rather everyone worked in Java. And that's a defensible position, but it's certainly not what you want to be doing on a resource-constrained VR system.
So brace yourself: Android setup and development really does suck. It's no fun at all.
The other thing that was a real surprise to me was how important the power management was, not just for battery life, but for performance. Because if you go ahead and fire up all four cores at the top clock rate and draw a bunch of stuff, you overheat within minutes. If you really load everything onto the system that can draw power, you will probably thermally throttle down in under a minute. So you literally just can't use all the capabilities of the system at the same time.
So that became one of the critical things that, honestly, we're still figuring out how to manage in the VR process.
Heat turns out to be the big problem. But as Carmack says, "This will be the first place where VR enters a market, with a store and an ecosystem where you can go out and target customers. Much will be learned from that." How big is the potential customer base for VR?
With the help of its ever-expanding army of Explorer testers, Google's been tweaking the tech for some considerable time, developing not only the software, but the hardware, too. But a couple of years after it first took the wraps off Glass, there's still no concrete information from the Mountain View company on when it might take the device out of beta and start offering a completed version – with a reasonable price tag – to consumers.
Over the weekend, however, it appears to have taken yet another step in the direction of a full release, adding it (without any fanfare whatsoever) to the Play Store.
That's correct, folks, the Explorer edition of Glass now has its own listing in Google's online store, though disappointingly the price tag remains at $1,500, or £1,000 for UK shoppers. Should you choose to open your wallet, Google promises to throw in a set of frames or shades for your trouble.
Although Amazon still won't say how many phones it has sold, the online retailer tacitly admitted weak demand for its Fire Phone Monday, cutting its price to 99 cents with a two-year contract.
"With access to all of the Prime content, Mayday, 32GB of memory and free unlimited cloud storage for photos, plus the exclusive Dynamic Perspective and Firefly features, Fire is another example of the value Amazon delivers to customers," Amazon Vice President Ian Freed said in a statement.
The Fire Phone currently ranks fifth among contract phones within Amazon's own store.
The new pricing scheme is a big switch from when Amazon first introduced the phone in June when it spotlighted the fact that it was pricing the phone at a level comparable to the top-of-the-line iPhone and Android-based devices.
Andrew Orlowski (who's so old he used to wear a Nokia 6230i:
I'm sure the Moto 360 will sell a few units. It's more convenient than the current generation of fitness bands, and blessed with Google's support, will be better integrated with its ecosystems than current smart watches. Sony recognised as much as it dumped its own smartwatch platform for Wear. But still, all I ever see people do with smartwatches today is change the face.
"I'm bored with analogue, I'll choose a digital face."
Ten minutes later.
"I'm bored with this digital face, I think I'll choose hexadecimal. Hey! Last orders is at 0xB:00"
Google must have noticed too. The 360 lets you change watch face with a double tap.
I keep being told that speech makes all the difference, now, because in the era of Siri and Cortana speech has evolved into a "rich dynamic intelligent personalised interface" – or some such marketing speak. But that gives the game away. What we have is people trying to embed an embedded technology into a new container. But speech is already embedded in the car and in the phone – and these are ubiquitous. Anyone who wants to talk to a gadget is already doing so. Those who aren't, are not doing so for a good reason: it annoys their colleagues, looks daft, and so on.
(Saying "but it sold out on the website!" doesn't mean anything - we've no idea how many were sold. The original Microsoft Surface laplet "sold out" on its website too. And took a bath costing hundreds of millions in unsold stock.)
This work was a concerted effort by Wei Liu, Yangqing Jia, Pierre Sermanet, Scott Reed, Drago Anguelov, Dumitru Erhan, Andrew Rabinovich and myself. Two of the team members - Wei Liu and Scott Reed - are PhD students who are a part of the intern program here at Google, and actively participated in the work leading to the submissions. Without their dedication the team could not have won the detection challenge.
This effort was accomplished by using the DistBelief infrastructure, which makes it possible to train neural networks in a distributed manner and rapidly iterate. At the core of the approach is a radically redesigned convolutional network architecture. Its seemingly complex structure (typical incarnations of which consist of over 100 layers with a maximum depth of over 20 parameter layers), is based on two insights: the Hebbian principle and scale invariance.
With the purchase of JetPac, this sort of analysis will start to really roll - and Moore's Law is still at work.
Stephan Dörner and Chase Gummer:
what's equally hard to escape is the fact that, for now at least, the new devices being rolled out are mainly designed to connect with other new devices made by the same company.
Most of the major consumer electronics companies rolled out or highlighted devices that only 'talk' to devices by the same manufacturer.
Giants such as Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Bosch, and Siemens are betting on a world of connected appliances where toasters 'talk' to kettles and ovens know what food their nearby refrigerators are going to give them. But so far it only applies to their own ovens and kettles.
Both LG and Bosch presented refrigerators that can take photos of the contents inside and send a grocery list to a user's smartphone. The South Korean electronics company also showcased a series of new products that connect over the Japanese chat application Line, allowing users to converse directly with an LG oven, microwave or washing machine and tell them what to do.
Were there five Tiles at the Starbucks this morning? Your Tile app took note of them. Your cubicle mate left their Tiled keys at their desk during lunch while you worked straight through? Your Tile app knows that too, even if you and your cube mate don't. The same will be true for your Tiles.
If there's a killer ingredient to the Tile, this is it: By leveraging the combined tracking power of thousands of Tile users (er, Tilers?), that paltry 150-foot Bluetooth radius is amplified many times over.
It's the same concept that smart-bike maker Vanhawks is using to let owners of its Valour bikes keep tabs on their wheels should their bike make an unauthorized trip somewhere without its owner.
The Community Find method relies on people having the Tile app installed — and running — on their iOS device. If the app is closed, it cannot track the presence of Tiles. Evans realizes this could be an issue.
"We're working on ways to entice people to keep [the Tile app] open," he says. "It would be easy to do push notifications, but these can get annoying. We don't want to annoy people."
If you're hoping to find your goodies, you'll have the best chance of success if you live in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, or Houston. These, according to Nick Evans, are the top five cities in the world in terms of Tile ownership, though he declined to tell me exactly how many Tilers were in each location.
50,000 Tiles shipped total but rising. If they cut the delay down from a year, they could have a good business.
merchants won't support a new payment method unless lots of valuable customers insist on it, but said customers won't insist on a particular payment method unless lots of merchants support it.
That's where Apple's ability to move units simply because they are Apple becomes something that is an incredible weapon: suppose 10% of iPhone customers are willing to buy a wearable with some cool fitness functionality mainly because it's built by Apple. Boom – suddenly there are 80 million wearables with payment functionality out in the wild [based on 800m iCloud accounts]. Moreover, the customers sporting said wearable are likely to be both vocal about their desire to use said payments, and high spenders to boot. That's a very good way to spur merchants to install what will likely be a free payment device, available at your local Apple Store. Of course it wouldn't hurt to move the process along by having partnerships already set up with Nordstrom and Target [according to at least two sources].
Moreover, I'd bet the difference between using a wearable for payment and using your phone will be greater than most people expect. I have no particular evidence for this outside of my own experience with keyless ignition systems in cars; the first time we got it, I thought it was a tremendous waste of money (it was part of a package); since then, I can not imagine buying a car without it. Saving a bit of hassle and a few seconds on a daily basis really adds up; it's the type of subtle experience improvement that is Apple's biggest differentiation.
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