TechSummit Rewind 161

Netflix ditches five-star ratings, New figures on Uber’s anonymous division, and Qualcomm rebrands its processors

This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Netflix ditching five-star ratings in favor of thumbs up

Earns Netflix

Netflix will soon make its first change to ratings in years, switching from a traditional five-star rating to a binary thumbs up/thumbs down system, per a press briefing from company vice president of product Todd Yellin.

“Five stars feels very yesterday now. We’re spending many billions of dollars on the titles we’re producing and licensing, and with these big catalogs, that just adds a challenge.

“Bubbling up the stuff people actually want to watch is super important.”

-Todd Yellin, Netflix VP of product

Per Yellin, the change will happen next month globally.

“What’s more powerful: you telling me you would give five stars to the documentary about unrest in the Ukraine; that you’d give three stars to the latest Adam Sandler movie; or that you’d watch the Adam Sandler movie ten times more frequently? What you do versus what you say you like are different things.”

-Todd Yellin, Netflix VP of product

In addition to the ratings change, Netflix will also start percent matching, meaning that it will use algorithms to show a percentage below a title based on how likely it is a viewer will enjoy it. This is personalized, per Yellin, like dating sites that match you with potential partners based on interests or earlier activity.

Netflix is also “matching” members based on a global database of activity, not segmenting it by local markets. The company found that its members are willing to watch Netflix content that has been produced in other countries or has subtitled.

“We’re finding these clusters of people and then we’re figuring out who is like you, who enjoys these kinds of things, and then we’re mixing and matching those.”

-Todd Yellin

Docs: Uber’s anonymous cars drove over 20K miles, had to be taken over at every mile

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Per documents circulating through Uber’s self-driving group obtained by Recode, the company’s 43 active cars in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and California drove 20,354 miles autonomously last week for only the second time since late December.

Uber passengers took around 930 self-driving rides in Pittsburgh last week and around 150 rides in Phoenix. These vehicles had a driver at the wheel to take over if needed.

However, those human drivers are taking over more often than they did in January.

Uber uses several methods to determine how its systems have progressed. Those include:

  • The average number of miles a car drives itself before a driver must take over for any reason
  • The average number of miles between “critical” interventions (when a driver must avoid causing harm, like hitting pedestrians or causing material property damage)
  • The average number of autonomous miles between “bad experiences” (jerky motions or hard braking, which are more likely to cause discomfort than damage)

During the week that ended Mar. 8, the 43 active cars on the road drove only an average of close to 0.8 miles before the safety driver had to take over for some reason.

The mile per intervention metric includes all the times driver have had to take back control from the system over the course of a week.

Reasoning for these interventions can vary, but they can include navigating unclear lane markings, the system overshooting a turn or driving in inclement weather. This excludes “accidental disengagements, end-of-route disengagements, and early takeovers.”

That’s down slightly from earlier this year. At the end of January, a driver had to take over roughly once every 0.9 miles and was at the one-mile mark during the first week of February.

Then there’s the company’s “critical” interventions. Last week, the company’s cars drove an average of approximately 200 miles between those types of incidents that required a driver to take over.

While that’s an improvement from last week, which was about 114 miles between critical interventions, that progress hasn’t been steady.

At the end of January, drivers only needed to take over after an average of 125 miles driven, but that dropped to about once per 50 miles during the first week on February. Those numbers then increased over the following two weeks but dropped again in the first week of March.

Part of that can be blamed on the cars being introduced to new routes (parts of Arizona) or having to navigate around objects or road markings they don’t recognize.

The cars also had more “bad experiences” during the week ending on Mar. 8 than in January. The miles driven between things like auto-detected hard decelerations or abrupt car jerks and movement has been cut in half from over four miles in January to less than two miles last week.

Per Uber’s self-driving team, the rider experience dropped significantly along Arizona’s Scottsdale Road. Cars were only able to drive 0.67 miles between interventions and two miles between bad events.

Google Home plays Beauty and the Beast audio ads

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Some Google Home owners have reported hearing an advertisement for the opening of Beauty and the Beast alongside a summary of the day ahead.

Some Android users also reporting hearing the ad through Google Assistant.

The ad was delivered with the usual Google Assistant voice, so it blended in seamlessly with the usual daily briefing of news, weather, calendar appointments, etc.

The company has since stopped serving that content to users.

“This wasn’t intended to be an ad. What’s circulating online was a part of our My Day feature, where after providing helpful information about your day, we sometimes call out timely content. We’re continuing to experiment with new ways to surface unique content for users and we could have done better in this case.”

-Google, in a statement

Qualcomm Snapdragon brand changing to reflect ‘platform’ capabilities

qualcomm_snapdragon_802

Most of the mobile devices we know and love run on Qualcomm Snapdragon processors that often get mistaken as just CPUs.

For that reason, Qualcomm is subtly changing its branding and messaging to now call the processors the “Qualcomm Snapdragon platform.” This helps Qualcomm explain that it’s more than just a processor inside – instead, it’s a system-on-a-chip with a cellular modem, GPU, and more.

“We can now articulate the value that we provide to a device manufacturer – from developing algorithms for great pictures and videos, to making sure that the battery is long lasting. More importantly, the word “platform” will be used to explain the combined key user experiences – camera, connectivity, battery life, security, immersion – that these essential technologies are designed to deliver.”

-Qualcomm, in a statement

This signals the chipmaker’s movement into selling its wares to more than just phone makers – think automotive, IoT, and laptop – with a broader branding paintbrush.

As part of this change, the Snapdragon name is being removed entirely from its low-end chips. The current Snapdragon 200 range will now be known as “Qualcomm Mobile.”

iMessage App Store growth slows

iMessage App Store

The excitement is fading for the iMessage App Store along with its growth. During its first few months of existence, the store saw growth of over 100 percent month-over-month. Between January and February, that’s dropped down to just nine percent.

Per a new report from app intelligence firm Sen.sor Tower, there are nearly 5,000 iMessage-enabled apps (the same number of iOS apps released in year one of its App Store).

Games continue to be the most popular iMessage app category, ahead of entertainment, utilities, social networking, and photo & video apps. However, even within these categories, many of the apps are stickers – for example, those that use existing IP from a popular gaming franchise.

Gmail can now stream video attachments on desktop

Gmail-com

Desktop Gmail users can now stream video attachments on the page, rather than being forced to download it first.

Attachments can still be downloaded, but clicking on a file will now pull up a YouTube-like video player that’ll let you play the clip back, adjust quality and volume levels, and even stream it to a Chromecast.

Per Google, the feature will roll out to everyone over the next 15 days.

Swatch launching smartwatch OS

A Swatch Scuba Playero wrist watch is displayed in a shop in Zurich

Swatch is developing an alternative to watchOS and Android Wear.

The company’s Tissot brand will launch a smartwatch towards the end of next year with the OS built in, per Swatch CEO Nick Hayek. Hayek claims that the system will need less power and will better protect data.

“There’s a possibility for wearables to develop as a consumer product, but you have to miniaturize and have an independent operating system.”

-Nick Hayek, Swatch CEO

Swatch is willing to give third parties access to the operating system co-developed with the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology, per Hayek. The company has received about 100 requests for more information, with half coming from smaller Silicon Valley companies.

Amazon puts Alexa inside main iPhone app

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Available to all iPhone users next week, Amazon iOS app users will be able to talk to the company’s Alexa assistant.

Naturally, the assistant can shop and track packages, but she can also do other quirky things like tell jokes, give weather updates, and predict items like Best Picture at the Academy Awards or the winner of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. It also plays music, controls Internet of Things devices, and grants Amazon app users access to over 10,000 skills.

At launch, Alexa won’t support the Door Lock API that lets users lock (and eventually unlock) doors with smart locks.

Settings changes still require use of the separate iOS Alexa app.

Nvidia partners with PACCAR on self-driving truck tech

Paccar

Nvidia has launched a new autonomous vehicle partnership with PACCAR, one of the largest makers of transport trucks.

The arrangement has already given us one proof-of-concept vehicle, a Level 4 autonomous truck that uses Nvidia’s Drive PX 2 platform with neural network training fed by data of humans driving tractor-trailers. The partnership’s announcement included a showcase of this initial vehicle managing a closed road course, with no one behind the wheel.

 

TechSummit Rewind 129

Apple launches iOS 10.2, live video comes to Instagram, Bill Gates launches a new fund to fight climate change, and more

This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Apple launches iOS 10.2

iOS10-Hero

Apple has launched iOS 10.2, which brings a few nifty features.

Perhaps most important is the very creatively named TV app, which is Apple’s all-in-one hub for streaming content. Instead of searching through several apps to find something to watch, you can simply glance at a single guide. There’s also a new Single Sign-On feature that lets you access content from select services without having to type your password in for every provider.

Finally, there are several new emoji, including the shruggie, David Bowie, face palm, bacon, and crosissant.

It’s a free download that should be rolling out now as an over-the-air update.

Instagram brings live video broadcasts to all U.S. users

Instagram

Over the next few days, Instagram users in the U.S. will begin seeing Live Video functionality pop up in their app.

Bill Gates to lead $1B, 20-year fund to fight climate change

bill-gates

Bill Gates is leading a billion-dollar fund focused on fighting climate change by investing in clean energy innovation.

Gates and his all-star line-up of fellow investors plan to announce the Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund, which will begin making investments next year. The fund, which will go on for 20 years, aims to invest in the commercialization of new technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in areas like electricity generation and storage, transportation, industrial processes, agriculture, and energy-system efficiency.

“Anything that leads to cheap, clean, reliable energy we’re open-minded to.”

-Bill Gates, Breakthrough Energy Ventures chairman

BEV directors include Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Reliance Industries chairman Mukeseh Ambani, venture capitalists John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, former energy hedge fund manager John Arnold, and SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner. According to net worth estimates from Bloomberg and Forbes, the directors’ combined net worth is nearly $170 billion.

Gates is “surprised” that technology isn’t discussed more as a solution to climate change, since clean-energy advances could limit any economic trade-offs from switching off carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

“All of that takes place just as a normal market mechanism as you replace energy sources with other ways to do it.

“People think you can just put $50 million in and wait two years and then you know what you got. In this energy space, that’s not true at all.

“It’s such a big market that the value if you’re really providing a big portion of the world’s energy, the value of that will be super, super big.”

-Bill Gates

BEV estimates the global energy market at a valuation of $6 trillion, with energy demand increasing by a third by 2040.

Uber employees secretly tracked public figures: lawsuit

Uber_NY_request-screenshot

According to a declaration in a lawsuit filed against Uber by its former forensic investigator, the company’s employees used its lax tracking system to monitor the location of “high profile politicians, celebrities, and even personal acquaintances.”

The lawsuit was filed by Ward Spanenberg, who worked on security systems at Uber from March 2015 to February 2016. According to the suit, the 45-year-old dealt with age discrimination, as well as retaliation for blowing the whistle on alleged security lapses and other problems in the company. He was later fired.

According to the declaration, Uber would shut down office connectivity during law enforcement raids to stifle investigators, and improperly destroyed documents related to pending litigation.

If true, this could potentially run afoul of a settlement made in January on its “God View” tool with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. As part of the settlement, Uber agreed to “designate employees with a legitimate business purpose,” and conduct regular assessments of the effectiveness of that program.  A representative for Schneiderman has confirmed that the office is “looking into it.”

“Uber continues to increase our security investments and many of these efforts, like our multi-factor authentication checks and bug bounty program, have been widely reported. We have hundreds of security and privacy experts working around the clock to protect our data. This includes enforcing to authorized employees solely for purposes of their job responsibilities, and all potential violations are quickly and thoroughly investigated.”

-Uber, in a statement

According to the company, approval “by managers and the legal team” is required for employees to access data and, although some employees do get legitimate access to data, that access is compartmentalized to what employees need for their jobs.

NVIDIA gets go-ahead to test self-driving cars in California

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Nvidia has been granted a permit by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to start testing self-driving vehicle technology on the state’s public roads.

JetSmarter raises $105M Series C for private jet business

jetsmarter

JetSmarter has raised $105 million in Series C funding, at a $1.5 billion valuation, to build its marketplace for private jet services.

According to company CEO Sergey Petrossov, the round will be used for global expansion into Asia and Latin America, as well as increasing the number of routes and flights available to JetSmarter members in the U.S.

While anyone can download and evaluate its app, before flying JetSmarter members go through a light background check and pay $15,000 for a “core membership” in the first year they join. Members then get a free seat on a wide selection of flights, but have to pay for companion tickets if they want to bring a non-member along or pay to charter whole planes.

Members of the Saudi royal family, and hip hop icon Jay-Z, earlier backers of JetSmarter, increased their investments in the round.

New investors include an Abu Dhabi-based equity fund, private aviation company JetEdge, KZ Capital, and a Qatar-based private equity fund.

XOJET president and CEO Bradley Stewart also joined JetSmarter’s board, after an earlier partnership between the companies to allow JetSmarter to expand its North America flight offering.

As of today, JetSmarter connects travelers to flights in 50 markets around the world including New York, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Atlanta, London, Paris, Moscow, Dubai, and Milan. According to Petrossov, he wants to expand that to 80-100 markets by the end of 2017.

Possible destinations include more American cities, including connecting Florida destinations to Boston, New York, and Washington and from San Francisco to Seattle.

Microsoft Ventures launches AI startup fund, backs Element AI

Microsoft Ventures

Microsoft Ventures is now pursuing investments in AI startups through a special fund dedicated to AI startups that focus on “inclusive growth and positive impact on society.” Secondly, it became the first backer for Element AI, a new Montreal-based incubator co-founded by “the godfather of machine learning” Yoshua Bengio, which is dedicated to the space.

According to Microsoft Ventures head Nagraj Kashyap, the fund is “focused on inclusive growth and positive impact on society.”

“AI holds great promise to augment human capabilities and improve society. Microsoft is committed to democratizing AI with guiding principles to drive positive impact. Element AI shares our approach and philosophy.”

-Nagraj Kashyap, Microsoft Ventures head

Dropbox comes to Xbox One

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Dropbox has launched an Xbox One app.

“We wanted to solve an issue that we all have: making it easy to access and share your content from the biggest screen in your house. That meant giving users the ability to access files without the need to plug in an HDMI cord or connect to their laptop.”

-Rudy Huyn, Dropbox staff engineer

Once logged in, you can upload screenshots or pictures taken with Kinect straight to your Dropbox. You can also stream any video files in your Dropbox to the Xbox One. You can also upload files from USB drives connected to the Xbox One or upload files from USB drives connected to the Xbox One or upload files from other universal Windows 10 apps you may be running on your console. And other applications (VLC, etc.) can see files in your account and access them.

The project was born at Dropbox’s annual hack week, when the entire company takes five days to build and show off a variety of projects.

“At this year’s event, one of our engineers decided to prototype the app, and demo’d it to other Dropboxers, showing how we can bring a new Dropbox user interface within Xbox that is optimized for TV screens and for gamepad navigation.

“Given what we heard from our users, we knew that there was demand for this app, and so we decided to make it available to everyone as a full blown offering.”

-Rudy Huyn

The development process was fairly simple thanks to the universal nature of Windows 10.

“The simplicity of building this app is part of why we decided to transform the prototype into a real product. A big reason that it was so easy to build is that Microsoft makes it easy to develop applications for Windows 10.”

-Rudy Huyn

However, some changes had to be made to best deal with a Xbox controller and a TV roughly 10 feet away. Specifically, Huyn noted the difference in how TVs display colors compared to monitors needed a new, darker theme with more contrast “to make the app easier on our users’ eyes.”

Facebook rolls out lightweight web version of Moments

Facebook Moments

Facebook is giving Moments, its mobile photo-sharing service, a more prominent role on desktop.

Users can now access a web version of the service on Facebook’s site through the left-side navigation, which takes you to a collection of your private photo albums.

Essentially, you can only view shared photos here. If you want to add photos to an album, leave likes or comments, or create slideshows, you’ll need to download the mobile app for iOS or Android.

Netflix launches standalone Google Daydream app

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Netflix has launched its app on Google’s Daydream VR platform.

It looks very similar to its Gear VR app, placing you in a simulated cabin with a big screen TV for watching Netflix.

 

TechSummit Rewind 096

A daily recap of the top technology headlines.

This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Facebook updates code to nullify AdBlock Plus workaround attempt

Facebook_Logo

Adblock Plus’ latest workaround to Facebook’s ad block bypass has been nullified after Facebook updated its code.

According to Facebook, the workaround ham-handedly removed posts from friends and Pages along with ads.

“We’re disappointed that ad blocking companies are punishing people on Facebook as these new attempts don’t just block ads but also posts from friends and Pages. This isn’t a good experience for people and we plan to address the issue. Ad blockers are a blunt instrument, which is why we’ve instead focused on building tools like ad preferences to put control in people’s hands.”

-Facebook, in a statement

“Anger or blame toward ad blockers is misdirected; we merely enforce ‘the will of the people’ (via the open-sourced filter lists) … it’s disheartening that a company like Facebook would abuse everyone’s experience of their site by forcing their experience into a one-size-fits-all, see-the-ads-or-else tube. The internet just doesn’t work that way. At least it shouldn’t.

“In the meantime, we’ll do what we can to keep users in control in the apparently endless loop.”

-AdBlock Plus, in a blog post

Simplenote goes open source on all platforms

Simplenote

Automattic, Simplenote’s parent company, has made the app available as open source software across iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, and Linux.

You can grab Simplenote’s source code from Automattic’s GitHub page.

Microsoft acquires Beam

Microsoft-Beam

Microsoft has acquired Beam, a Seattle-based interactive game streaming service that lets viewers interact with streamers through crowdsourced controls as they watch.

Players interacting through Beam can direct the play of the person streaming, through things like setting which weapon loadout they take into a multiplayer shooter, for example. Visual controls let viewers help players pick quests, and assign challenges that can significantly alter gameplay from a typical play through.

Beam will join Microsoft’s Xbox team, according to Microsoft, and “remains committed to its mission to importing users and streamers across platforms.”

“I’m really excited about Xbox’s focus on community. Beam is fundamentally built on a connected group of passionate individuals that love gaming, and Xbox is super in tune with that.

“Right now, it’s business as usual! We just launched three brand new interactive integrations and we’ll continue to focus on making the Beam platform an awesome place for gaming communities that want to interact with their audience.”

-Matt Salsamendi, Beam founder & CEO

Hewlett Packard Enterprise buys SGI for $275M

Hewlett Packard Enterprise installs new signage on the exterior of its Palo Alto, CA headquarters. CREDIT: Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Hewlett Packard Enterprise signage on the exterior of its Palo Alto, CA headquarters. CREDIT: Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has acquired SGI, a Milpitas, Calif.-based company that makes servers, storage, and software for high-performance computing, for $275 million in cash and debt.

“HPE and SGI believe that by combining complementary product portfolios and go-to-market approaches, they will be able to strengthen the leading position and financial performance of the combined business.”

-Hewlett Packard Enterprise, in a statement

Logitech Pop Home Switch simplifies smart home control

Logitech Pop Home Switch

Logitech’s Pop Home Switch is a noticeable step away from its universal remote past, with simplicity personified in a single button.

The Pop is roughly the size of your palm, and connects to a hub that plugs directly into an outlet with Bluetooth LE. The hub offers support for top smart home gadgets, like Philips Hue lights, LIFX connected bulbs, Lutron smart drapes, and August locks. Using a companion Android/iOS app, you can scan your WiFi network for compatible devices, then tie those devices to a Pop(s) for simplified control and recipe creation.

Individual Pops have a single button that can be programmed to do three things, using a press, double press, and long press to trigger an action. For example, you could program a Pop to turn on/off Phillips Hue lights, activate just a single room/group, and set it to dim the brightness for striking the right move. For more flexibility, you can add more Pops. The Starter Pack comes with two and a hub, while additional Pops can be added to the same hub.

“A phone is actually very, very personal to you. If your friends come over, or you’ve got a babysitter, the aspect of control that you’ve got set up on your phone, you can’t just give that person, since you’re not going to hand over your phone.

“You still want to be simple, you still want to be capable. And so we landed on three gestures, as something from a mental model that would be easy enough that a user would know those gestures.”

-Neil Raggio, Logitech senior director of home control

The Pop comes in four different colors to help people keeps track of what controls what.

Both the Pop Home Switch Starter Pack and Pop standalone add-on units are set to go on sale in the U.S. this month. The starter pack retails for $99.99, with additional Pops setting you back $39.99 each.

Microsoft Flow comes to Android

Microsoft Flow

Workflow management tool Microsoft Flow has come to Android. The app lets you mash up two or more services to create workflows – getting a text when you receive an important email, copying images from Instagram to Dropbox, and saving a Twitter search to an Excel file among other things.

Microsoft Flow significantly focuses on integrations within the Microsoft family, including Office 365, Dynamics CRM, PowerApps, and Yammer.

On mobile, the app is used to monitor/manage the workflows you’ve previously set up on the web. To use Flow on Android, you’ll sign in with your work/school account, then you can view your workflows, enable/disable them from running configure alerts, check out the workflow history, and more.

The app also includes an Activity Feed where you can see all your recent Flow actions, including if there are issues with a given Flow that needs attention. You can search the Feed and filter it, or drill down to individual results.

Flow is available now in the Google Play Store.

NVIDIA earnings: Revenue of $1.43B, EPS of $0.53/share

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Nvidia reported Q2 earnings of $0.53/share on $1.43 billion of revenue.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company has forecasted Q3 revenue of $1.68 billion and gross profit margins of 58 percent.

“Strong demand for our new Pascal-generation GPUs and surging interest in deep learning drove record results. Our strategy to focus on creating the future where graphics, computer vision and artificial intelligence converge is fueling growth across our specialized platforms – gaming, pro visualization, datacenter, and automotive.

“We are more excited than ever about the impact of deep learning and AI, which will touch every industry and market. We have made significant investments over the past five years to evolve our entire GPU computing stack for deep learning. Now, we are well positioned to partner with researchers and developers all over the world to democratize this powerful technology and invent its future.”

-Jen-Hsun Huang, Nvidia CEO

SeatGeek wants to bring tickets to every app

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SeatGeek is launching SeatGeek Open, a platform that’ll let customers buy tickets in almost every app.

Through Open, an Uber customer who was riding towards a stadium, for example, could see and purchase tickets available for a game that day.

“Ticketing has long been a closed industry, and one that hasn’t been positively by the power of technology in the same way many other industries have. We believe the open ecosystem we’ve built will transform the way people access tickets, allowing fans to go to more live events and teams and artists to reach more fans.”

-Jack Groeztinger, SeatGeek co-founder

SeatGeek Open works with apps and brands to bring tickets to their platforms. The platform is focused on apps and mobile, but it’ll work online as well.

“It bucks the trend that Ticketmaster has created over [the] past 20 to 30 years of forcing inventory through their own channels exclusively. Our approach is different. How can we empower teams to sell tickets on many, many different channels?”

-Russ D’Souza, SeatGeek co-founder

CVS Pharmacy launches CVS Pay mobile payment solution

CVS Pay

CVS Health is launching its own mobile payments solution that allows customers to pay for products, pick up prescriptions, earn ExtraCare loyalty rewards, and pay – by scanning a barcode in the CVS mobile app. The idea, according to the company, is to eliminate the number of steps it takes today to complete a checkout.

Currently, customers either have to present their physical CVS rewards card at the register, or say their name and birthday for the store associate to look up their account information. Then, they’ll have to pay.

Now, all the verifications for the prescriptions and the payment – including name, birthdate, signature, and PIN – will take place within the app.

“What we’re trying to do is provide real utility and solve real problems for customers using digital. With one scan, we’re taking away three or four extra steps that customers have lived with for a long time.

It has to be more than just payments. The value is in combining a couple of these things… and the examples in the market where that has happened here worked really well.”

-Brian Tilzer, CVS Health chief digital officer

That app also lets you do things like store additional payment cards, including Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) or Health Spending Accounts (HSAs), to split your purchases.

The app will also work at drive-up windows, where instead of handing your phone over to the CVS employee, you’ll give them a five-digit code presented on screen to process a transaction.

Information in the app is also secured through your fingerprint, through fingerprint reader systems on your device.

CVS Pay is available now in select stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, with a national rollout coming by the end of the year. It’s available in the CVS Pharmacy iOS and Android apps.

TechSummit Rewind #063

A daily recap of the top technology headlines.

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily recap of the top gaming headlines.

Oculus Rift goes on sale at Best Buy later this week

Oculus Touch

The Oculus Rift is coming to retail stores this weekend, with 48 Best Buy locations across the U.S. beginning to offer demos and an “extremely limited” supply of Rifts for purchase on May 7. A small number will also be going on sale online through Amazon and the Microsoft Store, starting at 12 p.m. ET on May 6.

For those still waiting on Rift preorders, there’s a little hope: If you get a Rift retail unit, you can contact Oculus and get your preorder cancelled without losing any attendant benefits.

“We had always planned for retail to come after launch, but we pushed it out as far as we could extend our partnership with retailers. We also scaled units down to very small numbers until we catch up with preorders.

-An Oculus spokesperson

Potential visitors can search for participating locations online, where they can schedule demos up to a month in advance, and see a reel of Oculus’ Dreamdeck short experiences, and Crytek’s The Climb rock-climbing game.

Google Keyboard updated to v5.0 with one-handed mode, key borders, new gestures

Google Keyboard

Google Keyboard has bene updated to version 5.0 with UI tweaks, new gestures, layout changes, and a whole lot more.

Starting with the layout, the keyboard theme and layout have gotten a few tweaks, with the ability to show key boards on material light and dark. However, the old holo themes are gone in the update with key borders rendering them obsolete. The keyboard’s height can also be changed in settings.

Google also added a one-handed mode to the keyboard, accessible with a long-press on the comma on the search/enter button or in settings. The handedness of the keyboard can be changed with the arrow button, with another button switching it back to full-screen mode. The alt/number layout also has new buttons for quick access to the numpad and emoji keyboard on either side of the spacebar.

The gesture typing menu is the other big deal. By default, you’ll now see dynamic suggestions in the suggestion bar instead of floating along with your finger. The floating preview toggle is also gone. There’s a new gesture that deletes entire words with a swipe left from the delete key. Go slowly and words will be highlighted one at a time. Let go, and they’re gone. The new cursor control gesture lets you tap and drag left/right to move the cursor. Anything that pops up in the suggestion bar can be long-pressed and dragged to a trash can (above the keyboard) if you want to remove it.

The new version also has a nifty feature when logging into apps and websites. When you highlight a password field, the suggestion bar becomes a number row. There’s also full Unicode 9 support, which changes how emoji’s implemented. With the expanded Android N emoji, you’ll be able to long-press on certain emoji to get different skin color variations.

As usual, Google is rolling the update out in stages.

Nvidia settles with Samsung over graphics chips

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Nvidia and Samsung have settled a patent dispute by agreeing to license a “small number of patents by each company to the other, but no broad cross-licensing of patents or other compensation,” according to a joint statement.

The agreement came hours before the International Trade Commission was set to announce its final decision in the Samsung-filed case, involving graphics chips. The case claimed that Nvidia’s Shield tablet infringed three tablets related to how the chips are made.

Google acquires Synergyse

Google Synergyse

Google has acquired Toronto-based startup Synergyse, which offers a Google Apps training service. The Synergize Training service will be integrated into Google Apps “later this year.”

Synergyze Training is a “virtual coach inside of the Google Apps interface, built on Google Cloud Platform.” The training will become available at no existing cost for all Google Apps users, with anyone being able to download its Chrome extension for free.

The program provides voice and text interactive modules, searchable by topic and directly available in Google’s apps. Because the trainings are hosted in the cloud, they are updated as new features roll out.

“By joining the Google Apps team, we can accelerate our mission because we will be working even closer with the teams that build Google Apps. Advancing our mission at a faster speed is very exciting for the Synergyse team and our customers will directly see the benefits as we move forward.”

-Synergyse CTO Alex Kennberg; Synergyse co-founders Varun Malhotra, Majid Manzarpour; in a blog post

Michael Dell reveals new Dell-EMC name

Dell

According to Michael Dell, Dell-EMC will be known as Dell Technologies.

The new name aims to “convey a sense of being a family of businesses and aligned capabilities,” according to Dell.

As far as family names go, I’m kind of attached to Dell.”

– Michael Dell, Dell CEO

The company will comprise brands including Dell, EMC Information Infrastructure, VMWare, Pivotal, RSA, and Virtustream.

The new company’s client services business will be branded Dell, according to Dell, with its combined enterprise business being touted as Dell EMC.

Microsoft sells 50% stake in Caradigm to GE

Caradigm

Microsoft is no longer investing in Bellevue, WA-based healthcare startup Caradigm, selling off its stake to General Electric.

The startup builds software that gives healthcare providers the ability to access, analyze, and act on data. The system works in conjunction with healthcare information exchanges across medical providers, and helps address broader population health.

Caradigm has over 200 customers, and is used in over 1,500 hospitals worldwide.

“This is an extraordinary time to be in healthcare and I am thrilled that Caradigm has the ability to innovate – hand-in-hand with our customers – to bring new ideas and solutions to the forefront, as the industry shifts to value-based care.”

-Neal Singh, Caradigm CEO

SoundCloud extends Go premium service to U.K., Ireland

New-SoundCloud-iPhone-app_1

SoundCloud Go has expanded to the United States and Ireland.

The premium service offers SoundCloud’s audio library free of advertising for £9.99 ($14.64) in the U.K. and €9.99 ($11.50) in Ireland.

“We are planning to roll out to multiple territories this year. We are looking at a couple of years to really take this to the whole world.”

-Eric Wahlforss; SoundCloud CTO, co-founder

Affirm acquires Sweep in play for financial planning services

Affirm

Affirm, the San Francisco-based online lender started by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, has acquired the technology, staff, and assets of financial planning app Sweep.

According to Affirm growth and new markets VP Brad Selby, “everyone but one guy” on the five-person Sweep team would be joining the company. There are plans to launch an Affirm-branded Sweep app later this year, with the current app shutting down.

Oracle buys Opower for $532 million

Oracle

Oracle plans to acquire software-as-a-service company Opower for $532 million.

Opower primarily sells customer engagement and energy efficiency cloud services to utilities, using big data analytics to comb through meter reads to help companies cut costs, engage with customers, and meet regulatory requirements.

TechSummit Rewind #006: January 6th, 2014

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewind, which allows you to hit rewind on the tech news wire.

NPR receiver receives closed-captioned emergency alerts for the hearing-impaired

NPR Labs Receiver

This first iteration of a standalone box for closed-captioning  is intended for emergency relief organizations like FEMA, NPR and its partners for testing in the Gulf states. The box uses a tablet as a display, getting emergency information through the radio spectrum, so you can use it when the power is out and your WiFi isn’t working — assuming you still have juice in the tablet, which powers the box.

Currently, those emergency alerts are the only thing that’s being closed-captioned, though NPR is aggressively looking at captioning most or all of its programming, so you could theoretically get the text narration through the box or the public radio network’s site. Future iterations of the receiver will also be a fair bit smaller, perhaps eventually being built into the radio with a display, so hearing-impaired folks can get their All Things Considered fix.

NVIDIA (seriously) made a crop circle to market its Tegra K1 chip

nvidia-tegra-k1

It’s CES, where you go big or go home. NVIDIA has clearly taken that mantra to a whole new level, with an advertisement featuring a crop circle that popped up and then disappeared. Yes, that actually happened — seriously. Watch it for yourself below. I guess the chipmaker has to get people interested somehow.

Amped Wireless launches WiFi extender that boosts wireless coverage up to 5,000 square feet

amped wireless rec15a

Amped Wireless continues to expand its wireless repertoire with a new 802.11ac WiFi range extender that’s both powerful and compact. Dubbed the REC15A, the device offers a whopping 500 milliwatts of power, four amplifiers and a high-gain dual-band antenna in a relatively small 3×5-inch package — it even fits neatly into a wall socket with the built-in plug. All of that power should result in up to 5,000 square feet in additional wireless coverage, according to the company, which would be great for those with palatial estates or large backyards. The REC15A repeats both 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi signals. There’s also an extra wired port that you can use to attach a networked device like a PC, TV or game console. On the software side of things, it also has parental controls, adjustable settings and free Android and Windows apps that tweak the coverage even more. The REC15A is available now from Amped Wireless at a $99.99 price point.

Nikon previews pro-grade D4S camera with faster autofocus

Nikon D4s

The D3300 isn’t the only DSLR that Nikon showed at CES. The camera maker has revealed that it will preview its next-generation flagship camera, the D4S, at its booth on the show floor. While Nikon didn’t say much about the pro camera’s advantages over the D4, it’s already talking up a new imaging engine that should deliver faster autofocusing — no mean feat considering that the D4 is already quite nimble. It’s still early for launch details at this point, but we’ll have it as CES 2014 continues.

Intel unveils RealSense hardware and software line, including 3D camera module

Intel-3D-camera

The takeaway from Intel’s CES 2014 press event was that all signs point to the RealSense product line — a number of hardware and software products that ‘make interaction with technology simple, more natural and immersive,” according to the company’s own words. The first product bearing the compound name is the RealSense 3D camera. Intel describes the product as “the world’s first integrated 3D depth and 2D camera module that helps devices ‘see’ depth much like the human eye,” suggesting that this isn’t just a substitute for Leap Motion or Kinect.

The camera does full-color 1080p and has an on-board sensor for gesture and face detection. The latter of which apparently helps it “understand emotions.” It also recognizes foregrounds and backgrounds, so you can replace that messy room and make it appear as if you’re Skyping from the Moon. But, if you’re looking for something more practical, you can also use it to scan objects in 3D using 3D System’s Sense software. The RealSense 3D camera is set to be integrated into a number of diverse devices this year, including tablets, Ultrabooks, laptops and all-in-ones, from top companies like Acer, ASUS, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo and NEC. Seven such devices were being demonstrated, and Intel itself has a demo unit.

If you’d rather talk to your computer than wave at it, there’s also a next-generation version of Dragon Assistant from Nuance that will be part of Intel’s RealSense push. Of, course, while all this sounds good on paper, it remains to be seen how many people will actually want to wink, point or shout at their laptop to get it to open Netflix or point Chrome towards Facebook.

Makerbot launches new connected Replicator 3D printer

makerbot-replicator-2-dual-head-3d-printer-4

MakerBot has launched a new “prosumer” machine to go along with the Replicator Mini.

The device breaks with the naming conventions of its predecessor. The build volume has increased by 11 percent over the Replicator 2, and the printer can create objects with resolution as small as 100 microns. As with the Mini, the new Replicator was built for PLA plastic. When you run out, the Replicator will actually send you a message to let you know. There’s a 3.5-inch color LCD on the printeRr and a dial to navigate around it that was “modeled on high-end stereo equipment.” The display will tell you, among other things, how much time you have left to print.

There are connectors for USB and Ethernet, as well as built-in WiFi for printing from third-party devices. As with the Mini, there’s an on-board camera for sharing build pictures. Both devices also feature the “Smart Extruder,” which snaps on and off magnetically. The build platform, meanwhile has a light that indicates when it’s leveled during the setup process. The third Replicator is available now for $2,899. Watch an official video announcement below:

Sony announces Alpha 5000 with 20.1MP sensor, 180-degree display, WiFi

Sony Alpha 5000

Sony’s NEX branding died today at CES. The Alpha 5000 is the company’s first entry-level camera to drop the familiar moniker, falling instead under the higher-end Alpha lineup. Everything else about this model fits the mold, however. There’s a 180-degree tilting LCD that flips forward for self-portraits (aka selfies), built-in WiFi and NFC for instantly sharing pictures and videos on the web, Camera Apps for tweaking shots and uploading directly through a wireless hotspot. and Sony’s 16-50mm power-zoom kit lens for smoother zooming during video capture.

On the imaging front, there’s a 20.1-megapixel sensor, a 16,000 top ISO and 1080p shooting at 60i, 30p and 24p. There’s also a built-in flash — an appropriate feature for the Alpha 5000’s target demographic of beginner photographers stepping up from a less-capable point-and-shoot.

Despite the new name, the Alpha 5000 still has the heart and soul of a NEX. There’s a more pronounced grip (like the NEX-5T), and the same tweaked (and improved) multi-page settings interface that was first used in the Alpha 7 and 7R in October 2013. Like its recent Sony counterparts, the 5000 charges via a microUSB port, and it sports an HDMI output (with 4K image support this time around) for photographers looking to share their shots on the big screen. Of course, with WiFi built in, you can also transfer shots to a smartphone or tablet, back up your media to a connected computer or boot content to a compatible television using DLNA. It’s in stores now for $600 in black, white and silver, including the 16-50mm power-zoom lens.

NVIDIA reveals second Tegra K1 with 64-bit support; features 2.5GHz Denver CPUs

nvidia-tegra-k1

Ever since the iPhone 5s trotted out with Apple’s A7 chipset, 64-bit has become the latest buzzword in the marketing arsenals for manufacturers like Qualcomm, NVIDIA, Samsung and MediaTek. The former has already followed in Cupertino’s footsteps with 64-bit support on the Snapdragon 410, an SoC destined for budget devices and emerging markets, but we were awaiting word on NVIDIA’s next-gen aspirations at the company’s CES 2014 press conference. And now we have it — the company announced a second version of the previously-announced Tegra K1, this time with a dual-core 2.5GHz Denver CPU and 64-bit support.

The K1 has been certified by AT&T and Vodafone (among other carriers), and devices with the new chipset are available now. LTE support doesn’t come natively on the chipset, according to NVIDIA representatives, but it’ll still be available thanks to an external chip that will be part of the K1 setup.

Audience’s new voice processors offer always-on listening without sacrificing battery life

Audience VoiceQ

The touchless controls on the Moto X have us spoiled. It’s far too enjoyable to jolt the smartphone out of a deep sleep by speaking a keyboard-based trigger phrase (for the X, it’s “OK Google” or “OK Google Now”) and commanding it to read the weather forecast. And while Motorola managed to integrate the feature into its flagship smartphone without taking a huge hit on battery life, there’s always room for improvement. Audience, a manufacturer of digital voice and audio processors that are commonly found in a large number of smartphones, is introducing its next-gen chip with VoiceQ, an always-listening features the company claims is even more efficient and powerful than Moto’s X8 chipset.

VoiceQ, like the Moto X, will be continually ready and waiting for your trigger phrase (“Ok Audience” by default) and verbal commands. Your mileage may vary here, since it’ll be up to each handset maker to program those phrases and commands to their own satisfaction. The difference between the two devices, Audience says that the VoiceQ not only uses a lot less power (less than 1.5mA) as it listens for you, it also doesn’t require you to pause between the trigger and the commands; you won’t find yourself speaking the same command twice just to ensure the phone heard the whole thing.

VoiceQ isn’t the only enhancement to the next-gen chips, known as the eS700 series. It also comes with noise suppression for windy conditions, a type of speech-restoration tech that filters out extremely noisy situations and 48 kHz voice processing. In other words, if touchless controls aren’t really your thing yet, at least your smartphone will be much clearer on the other end for whoever you call. Device manufacturers are already testing samples of Audience’s new chips, and it’s showing up in devices now.

Avegant Glyph home theater handset isn’t competing wtih Oculus Rift

Avegant-Gylph-Virtual-Reality-Helmet

Avegant’s Glyph just got its name, and the first prototype looks an awful lot like what you’d see underneath a Terminator cyborg’s smooth visage. As Oculus did before, the company’s eight-person team is taking its impressive proof-of-concept to Kickstarter in hopes of funding a beta unit: $500 is the base level for a Glyph, and the project is available now. However, the Glyph isn’t competing with the Oculus Rift.

Ed Tang, Avegant’s CEO:

“We’re not trying to compete with Oculus.”

There’s good reason for that. For starters, the Glyph and the Rift are two completely different devices. By different, I mean dramatically. Yes, they’re both video headsets. Yes, the both offer some form of interactivity. What each is trying to achieve, however, is where the differences begin. The Rift aims for deep immersion — it cuts off your field of view, encompassing your entire spectrum of vision — whereas the Glyph is more like a pair of sunglasses. You can play games on it, but it’s really more suited for movie watching (like on a plane). Both the alpha model and the beta model that shipped to Kickstarter backers have a relatively small 45-degree field of view, allowing for a partially obstructed perspective of the world while using the Glyph. It’s this distinction that makes all the difference here.

As such, if you’re looking for the immersive virtual reality experience that the Rift offers, the Glyph isn’t for you. If you’re looking for a $500 way to buy your own, very personal home/mobile theater (that just happens to still be in beta), the Glyph is a perfect match. The Avegant Glyph’s image is extremely crisp. Similarly impressive is the fact that the Glyph can do 3D without any glasses: it projects the image directly onto your retinas rather than using a screen. The effect, however, is more than a little underwhelming. Sure, the image is nice, but it’s surrounded by a massive amount of dead space that feels wasted. Moreover, three to four minutes were wasted adjusting the interpupillary distance (IPD) — the space between your eyes — just to make it work. That’s exactly three to four minutes longer than it should take to make a $500 visual entertainment device function.

Another major differentiator from the Rift? Glyph has a fancy pair of headphones built in. If you want to get a little (by little, I mean very) crazy, you can wear the device like a standard (albeit very large) set of headphones. Normally, though, it just serves to make video viewing more comfortable. It’s a nice and rational addition, but adds yet another layer of adjustment, which translates to you not only having to adjust the IPD, but also how tight the whole enchilada is on your head. The alpha model had a headstrap, though it disappeared for the beta. The beta model is also considerably lighter — but as it stands, the Glyph rests somewhat uncomfortably on noses.

So, let’s recap: Who is the Glyph for? Not just gamers, that’s for sure. A single MHL/HDMI cable will attach the Glyph to virtually anything — seriously, we could even get some mobile gaming in thanks to a Lightning adapter on an iPhone 5. An expected three-hour battery life, however, applies some serious limitations to viewing on the go. As best we can tell, like Google Glass’ Explorer Edition and Oculus’ Rift dev kit, the Glyph beta unit is only meant to see the light of day of early adopters and developers who are willing to put up with a very promising wearable that isn’t quite ready for prime time, but not for your common Joe just yet.

Wilson Electronics’ new 4G signal booster doesn’t care about carriers

Wilson Electronics DT4G

Wilson Electronics is only interested in one thing: boosting cellular signals for those starved of bars. The company’s also quite fond of Vegas, and for the third straight year, it made the trek to CES with fresh hardware in tow. Previously, Wilson’s boosters have been able to enhance the signal from a couple of carriers at most, but the new DT4G doesn’t care what device you’re using, nor which network bills you receive in the mail at the end of the month — all it cares about is making sure you’ve got all the 4G, 3G or 2G airwaves you needed. It’s being touted as the first carrier-agnostic booster, and is ready to cling to walls now for around $400.

Roku renews bid for the living room with streaming-ready Roku TVs

roku-tv-main

Up until now, Roku’s bid to take over the living room has mainly come in the form of its hockey puck-like streaming players and sticks. These devices, priced at below $100, are a cheap way for consumers to augment your existing television (high or standard definition) and make them “smarter” (or “smart” to begin with). But now Roku’s getting into the TV hardware business directly. It’s partnered up with six manufacturers, with Hisense and TCL being the first partners to be revealed publicly, to produce a line of Roku TVs that come pre-loaded (hence the name) with the company’s streaming software. These sets should be making their way to retail right about now, but at CES 2014, we got a first look at what’s in store.

Roku’s shift from a provider of streaming players to that of integrated smart TVs isn’t actually a far-reaching one. The company’s aiming to leverage its streaming software as a smart TV platform; something to license out to TV manufacturers that can’t compete with the handful of vertically integrated titans like Samsung, Google, Apple, LG and Amazon. In other words, Roku wants to supply the brains of the set and leave the design work mostly to its partners.

Roku’s seeking to make a “TV for the ways TVs are used by people today,” according to Jim Funk, the company’s senior vice president of Product Management. That is, a hassle-free, streaming-ready set that does away with the need for extraneous dongles, players, video game consoles or a spaghetti mess below your home theater setup. It’s ironic considering that the company built its reputation itself on these exact peripherals that they’re trying to abolish, but you can’t blame Roku from accepting the inevitable and jumping ship. As consumer reliance on streaming becomes less and less an “interesting endeavor” and more and more a normal part of everyday life, so too will the availability of streaming -ready sets. Streaming peripherals are very nearly a thing of the past.

In keeping with its emphasis on simplicity, Roku TV’s UI is staying mostly unchanged from what’s running on the company’s streaming hockey pucks. You’ll still find a navigable grid of streaming providers and browsable categories, but you won’t find any web browser or guide overlay for cable when you turn these sets on. That said, inputs for Blu-ray players, gaming consoles and cable boxes will all be present from atop the UI, making switching between devices not a dreadful experience.

For the first run, Roku TVs will arrive in a variety of sizes from 32 to 55 inches and features the company’s branding on the bezel. It’s not known if any of these initial models will ship with remotes capable of audio output, though they should look similar to the streaming sticks. Design decisions like these, it seems, are entirely up to each manufacturing partner. So far, only TCL and Hisense have been named by Roku as set makers, but further partner announcements, as well as details on pricing, are planned for later this year.’’

The sets shown off at the show were of the 48 to 55-inch variety and were all accompanied by standard Roku remotes. The company’s representative pointed out that we can expect the standard 20-button remote, with different manufacturers controlling the overall design. The 48-inch TCL set that we saw has a 1080p, 60Hz display and contains a Sigma UXL processor. Roku hasn’t announced pricing details, but said we would be seeing that closer to launch. Stay tuned for more details.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 802 processor is a 4K powerhouse for your big screen

qualcomm_snapdragon_802

With 4K TVs (and content to go along with it, hopefully) promising to be a major theme at CES 2014, it makes sense that Qualcomm would introduce a processor tailored to handle some heavy-duty trimming. The new Snapdragon 802 is the result: a TV-specific quad-core processor that shares many features with the chipmaker’s Snapdragon 800 and its “Ultra HD” 805 for mobile video.

The Snapdragon 802 brings the best of smartphones to your smart TV, according to Tim McDonough, Qualcomm’s vice president of marketing. So, in addition to powering 4K content on your living room big screen, the processor will enable a much-improved app experience (aka: apps that run at a pace that’s actually usable) on your living room set. Of course, it can also handle multitasking, from browsing online while streaming a movie to simultaneously playing up to four HD videos on one TV. And thanks to the Hollywood Quality Video video-processing engine, 1080p content can be upconverted to a level that is “approaching Ultra HD.”

As for where the processor itself will be housed, that’s up to the OEMs. The Snapdragon 802 can be built into both TVs and set-top boxes. The processor won’t turn up in devices until late 2014, but we have some more nitty-gritty details below.

  • 1.8GHz quad-core Krait CPU
  • Adreno 330 GPU
  • Two stream, dual-band 802.11 WiFi
  • AllJoyn integration
  • Snapdragon Studio Access content protection

Razer’s Nabu smart band is half fitness tracker, half smartwatch

razer-nabu

Try as hard as you might, but it’s hard (to say the least) to predict what a company like Razer might do. The firm has surprised us year after year with overpowered tablets, shockingly thin gaming laptop and OLED screen-adorning keyboard interfaces. When tasked with predicting what the company could surprise us with next, a fitness tracker in 2014 wasn’t exactly at the top of the list. And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. Enter Nabu. When the company’s CEO Min-Liang Tan briefed on the product, he did a careful dance around the word tracker.

Tan:

“It’s not a smartwatch. It’s not a fitness band. It’s what we’re calling a ‘smart band.”

Min gave us an introduction at CES 2014. Stay tuned below for a closer look at the band.

The device is actually an odd combination of the both, featuring the bio data-tracking features of fitness products, while also dispensing notifications via two small OLED displays (by small, we mean small) — a small 32-pixel square that displays notification icons, and a larger 128×32 panel that ticks off text messages, emails and other personal data. By positioning the screens on opposite sides of the user’s wrist, Razer hopes the second screen will act as sort of a privacy keeper, keeping folks from reading your texts by glancing at your wrist. The band can also track a user’s location, attitude, steps walked, sleep data and everything else one needs to quantify their bodies. All of this, according to Min, works right out of the box, for both iOS and Android.

Nabu appears to be a good take on the growing wearables market, but the underlying question remains: Why is a gaming company building a so-called smart band? Never fear, Min says that “real-world gamification is something we’re really focused on.” Nabu is built on an open development platform, which Min hopes will allow developers to build augmented reality games. Band-to-band communication allows Nabu devices to detect proximity to other Nabus and trade information (sort of like Nintendo’s 3DS Street Pass), which could be used to create augmented reality “tag” games, for instance. We can’t say that it’ll be a selling point, but it’s definitely a differentiator. Developers can pick up Nabu now for $50, and the company says it should last 7-10 days before it screams for the power cable. Razer didn’t give specifics on the final consumer price, but did say that it should fall under $100.

Nissan reinvents London’s black cab again, will launch all-electric model in 2015

Nissan NV200 Taxi for London

When Nissan introduced its modern interpretation of London’s black cab more than a year ago, the compact diesel was all but ready to hit the city’s streets. However, the Japanese automaker decided that it wasn’t quite finished with its final design, so it headed back to its London studios with feedback from the London Mayor’s office to make it a little more iconic. At CES 2014, Nissan updated its NV200 Taxi for London and unveiled it to the public, highlighting its round headlights and remodeled grille in an attempt to mirror the black cabs of yesterday. The new model also ditches diesel for a cleaner 1.6-liter gas engine and used LED lights to improve the visibility of its orange taxi sign. The gas-guzzling NV200 will go on sale next month, serving as a “stepping stone” for a zero emission electric version, which could become the UK’s first all-electric taxi next year.

Samsung estimates that its operating profit dropped to $7.8 billion in Q4

Samsung CES 2014 booth

In summer 2013, Samsung was booming with a record-setting quarter, but it simply crashed and burned (hard) in the fall. The Korean tech giant made estimations that its operating profit dropped to about $7.8 billion in Q4 2013, which is lower the $8.3 billion Samsung rolled in the bank in 2012 and the $9.6 billion from Q3 2013. Samsung remained numb on what triggered the drastic dip, but the forecast isn’t helping concerns that the company’s red-hot growth in smartphones may be cooling down. It’s not exactly crisis time at Samsung — the company generates more operating profit in a quarter than many of its mobile rivals do in total revenue. Still, I think that it’s happy to be launching a slew of new gadgets that could make up for the underwhelming earnings.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 is a gigantic tablet that promises extensive productivity

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

In much the same way that smartphones all trending towards larger screens, it appears that manufacturers like Samsung are experimenting with the same concept in the tablet realm. The company has announced its latest (not to mention largest) Android-running Galaxy Note device known as the Note Pro 12.2. Announced alongside the Tab Pro 12.2 at CES, the Note Pro offers the same S Pen functionality that’s been made recognizable by the Galaxy Note line of smartphones and tablets, and as usual, you’re going to see some refinements in Samsung’s firmware and user experience as well. The device is available now in LTE, 3G and WiFi variants worldwide.

As soon as I got my hands on the new Note Pro, we immediately noticed the size and weight difference compared with the Korean tech giant’s 10.1-inch offerings. Regardless of how slim you can get its bezel, a 12.2-inch tablet simply isn’t going to be the most portable device in the world, which translates to it being used most likely as a coffee table device or for special projects and conferences at the office. It’s just a little too awkward to hold for long periods of time. Aside from that and a glaring weight difference — 1.66 pounds in the 12.2, versus 1.21lbs on the 10.1 — there is almost no way to find any variations between the Note Pro 12.2 and the Note 10.1 2014 edition (more on that in a moment); it features the same design, button layout, “leather-like” back skitching and display resolution (2560×1600, which translates to a pixel density of 247 ppi). Other than that, what stands out on the 12.2, which features Android 4.4 KitKat at launch, is a few key new features within Samsung’s TouchWiz skin like Remote PC and Magazine UX. Read on below for more impressions.

First, let’s breakdown the key specs. With a larger Note comes an even larger 9,500mAh battery, 8MP rear camera paired with a 2MP front camera, “super clear” WQXGA LCD panel, IR support, dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi MIMO, USB 3.0 and Bluetooth 4.0. The LTE model promises support for 800/900/1800/2100/2600+850, while you’ll get quad-band HSPA+ (with a max of 21Mbps).

As previously mentioned, the Note Pro 12.2 runs Android 4.4 KitKat at launch, but the user experience is drastically different than any other Note we’ve seen before. Instead of being graced with the traditional Android skinned with TouchWiz home screen panel when pressing the physical home button, you get whisked away to a new interface fittingly called Magazine UX. This experience consists of three separate customizable on-screen panels: one for your office/workspace, another for your personal use and a last one that handles your social media and media. It’s much like My Magazine on the Note 10.1 2014 edition, but Samsung has streamlined the number of screens and assigned one of them as the default screen that pops up when you press the home button. So far, Samsung has made it impossible to opt out of that default. You can still access the notification menu and status bar on the top, as well as the app tray in the lower right corner, but if you want the standard home screen, you’ll need to swipe to the right to bring it up.

The Multi-Window feature also makes an appearance here, and Sammy is making good use of the extra screen real estate. Instead of having the option of two windows side by side, you can now have up to four (how long before we have a WSB-TV 22-box option, Samsung?) — and that’s not counting the ability to add pop-up windows on top of that. There are now two ways to access the menu as well: there’s the traditional method of long-pressing the back button, but you can also swipe in from the right bezel to pull up the list of compatible apps. Tapping on those apps will make them float above the screen as a pop-up window, and minimizing each one turns them into small circular icons that takes a great resemblance to Facebook’s Chat Heads feature. If you want the quad-box four-screen setup, you’ll need to drag-and-drop the app into its rightful place.

The last (but certainly not least, definitely not for the enterprise) major firmware enhancement that the Korean tech giant boasts is its Remote PC setup. We weren’t able to demo these features in our time with the Note Pro 12.2, but they certain sound promising. Granted, the idea of accessing your PC or Mac (or Chrome OS device, for that matter) isn’t a new concept by a long shot, but we can’t complain about having the functionality baked into the device right out of the box. In fact, Samsung has built in a UI that allows you to drag and drop files between your PC/Mac and Note Pro, which would be a huge asset to productivity when you’re away from the desk. The ability to edit and save files is also included, as well as support for Cisco’s WebEx Meetings.

In terms of performance, we didn’t see much of a difference between the Note Pro 12.2 and the Note 10.1 2014 edition, which is likely because Samsung opted to use the same processor inside: the LTE version of the Note Pro comes with a 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, while the 3G and WiFi-only options are fitted with the same Exynos octa-core processor as the Note 10.1 unit; each unit also comes with a whopping 3GB of RAM. As luck would be, the models on hand were Exynos-powered, and unfortunately there were the all-too-familiar signs of hesitation, stutter and lag in even the most basic of tasks. Since we didn’t get a chance to see final production firmware or hardware at CES (although we suspect it’s pretty close to final at this point), we’ll give Samsung the benefit of a doubt that these issues will be fixed once it hits retail shelves.

And if you’re curious, no, there wasn’t an attempt to put the Note Pro 12.2 up to our ears like a phone. You’re welcome.

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Pro series comes in 12-, 10- and 8-inch variants, but look a little too familiar

Samsung-Galaxy-Tab-Pro-Series

In case you’re keeping track at home, this is the sixth entry on Samsung in 2014 (and we’re just in week one). Yeah, you’re not the onlyone that’s getting Samsung fatigue. Anyways, the company’s tablet divison didn’t stop with the previously mentioned productivity-centered Galaxy Note Pro line of tablets, by launching three more tablets for 2014. Say hello to the Galaxy Tab Pro, which comes in 12.2, 10.1, and 8.4-inch screen sizes. Interestingly, all three share the same 2560×1600 resolution, with LTE and HSPA radios all baked in for good connectivity measure. If you’ve seen any Samsung Galaxy Tab over the last few years, then you’ll find the new range very familiar. If you liked those relatively clean lines and grippable bezels, then Samsung’s 2014 hardware is going to be a joy. On the back, each tablet also borrows the leathery finish found on both the Galaxy Note 3 and the most recent Note 10.1 iteration, which makes it not so difficult to grip and gives it a much better feel that a traditional glossy plastic surface.

The biggest Galaxy Tab Pro comes with 3GB of built-in RAM, compared with 2GB in its smaller siblings, but other than that, the devices share identical spec sheets. From the 8MP rear and 2MP front-facing cameras to the Android 4.4 KitKat launch OS, troubled tablet buyers really just have to consider the size that’s best for their needs. It’s also worth mentioning that the eight-inch Tab Pro is vertically oriented, which is a smart move on Samsung’s part — it feels more comfortable that way. This smaller screen, with the same resolution as the bigger ones, meant it was as sharp as could be and is a major win in helping it be our early favorite of the device trio.

The whole range is less than eight millimeters thick, which (again) is exactly like the 2014 edition Note 10.1 — in fact, the 10.1-inch middle model is completely the same, aside from the lack of a S Pen and the slight drop to 2GB of RAM. The Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2, however, seems like a harder sell. It’s just big. It’s not thick or unattractive, just a big honking device. However, that is what many said about the Galaxy Note phablet line, but look at it now!). A selling point (if you could truly call it one), is that only this Galaxy Tab Pro features the same $700 bounty of built-in software and services found on the Galaxy Note Pro. The full breakdown is below, and all three tablets are available now starting at $399.99, $499.99 and $649.99 respectively:

  • Bitcasa: 1TB storage for three months
  • Bloomberg Businessweek+: 12 months free subscription
  • Blurb: Free coupon
  • Cisco WebEx Meetings: 6 month free subscription, unlimited meetings
  • Dropbox: 50GB free for two years (100GB for $99/year)
  • EasilyDo Pro: Free app purchase
  • Evernote: (Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 and Tab Pro 12.2 only) 3-12 months of free Evernote Premium (depending on market)
  • Hancom Office: Free subscription
  • LinkedIn: 3 months of LinkedIn Premium membership
  • Livesport.tv: 6 month free subscription
  • New York Times: (Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 and Tab Pro 12.2 only) 12 weeks free subscription
  • Oxford Advanced Learner’s A-Z: Free app purchase
  • Remote PC:  2 year free subscription
  • Sketchbook Pro: Free app purchase

Sharp Aquos 2014 lineup features 1080p and 4K TVs, a revamped SmartCentral platform and the Quattron+ series

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Coming into CES 2014, we knew four five six things for certain:

  1. 4K would be an extremely overused buzzword
  2. So would wearables, smartwatch, smart band and anything else you can think of that relates (even remotely) to the aforementioned three
  3. Samsung would announce a gazillion and one new devices
  4. Sharp would make its annual appearance in the tech press
  5. Razer would blow us away by launching something that a gaming peripheral company shouldn’t exactly have up its sleeve
  6. The TV hounds would be released

Sharp just singlehandedly confirmed three of my CES 2014 predictions in one swoop (Thanks, Sharp!). Seriously, though, Sharp announced its Aquos portfolio for 2014, with new hardware being introduced across its HD, Quattron and 4K Series — there’s also the debut of the Quattron+ line, but we’ll get to that in a moment. As expected, Sharp is placing emphasis on going big (After all, it’s go big or go home, right?) in the screen size department: Each model starts at 60 inches, ranging all the way up to a 90 inch-model in the case of the HD Series line. Speaking of which, the entry-level Aquos HD will be priced starting at $1,300, offering 1080p at 120Hz, 2D/3D options and Smart TV features. Meanwhile, the Quattron Series, which starts at $1,700, also transmits at 1080p, but at 240Hz, plus it’s equipped with Quattron technology and Sharp’s completely overhauled SmartCentral platform, much like the HD and rest of the lineup.

Those looking to burn a little more cash will be able to choose from the fresh off the assembly line Quattron+ or 4K Series, but of which are running the company’s revamped SmartCentral 3 Smart TV software. TVs in the Quattron+ line are a step up between 1080p and a step down from Ultra HD (4K). Sharp calls them the “highest-resolution full HD” sets available, noting that the technology “divides each pixel, creating two pixels from one, to deliver 16 million sub pixels.” Prices on these are in the ballpark of $2,300 to $6,000 — before you (or your wallet) die of a heart attack, this gets you features like Active 3D, THX-approved picture quality, Bluetooth and an AquoMotion 960, 240Hz screen on the higher-end models.

Lastly, the 4K Series, which is probably the most interesting of the bunch and ranges from $5,000 to $6,000, nets you an Ultra HD TV (obviously) with an 120Hz AquoMotion 240 display, THX 4K, 3D, a duo bass subwoofer (because apparently Mozilla is all about that bass) and four HDMI 2.0 ports. All in all, Sharp kicked off the year with a total of 19 different Aquos TVs; the HD, Quattron, Quattron+ and the 4K Series are available now.

Mozilla kicks off Firefox OS tablet developer program, teases new ZTE phones

Mozilla Firefox OS

You might only know Mozilla for the Firefox web browser that you’re probably reading this exact entry on (we’re not judging), but Mozilla has lit the fire to its fox to expand beyond the desktop with Firefox OS. After announcing a smart TV deal with Panasonic, the company behind Firefox and Thunderbird has unveiled a tablet developer program that gives dedicated contributors both reference hardware (initially from Foxconn, also known as the original leaker of Apple products) and other resources; they’ll help create the tablet-native version of Firefox OS in the same communal fashion that Mozilla builds its other entities.

The company also provided the first details of ZTE’s second-generation of Firefox OS smartphones. The Open family expanded to included two upgraded models, the Open C and the dual-core Open II; the companies remained numb beyond that, although we’ll hear more on those handsets later on. If you’re looking for something a little more tangible, you’ll be pleased to hear that VIA Technologies released a version of its tiny APC Rock desktop PC with Mozilla’s OS pre-installed. The bare system is available now for $59, while those who want it in a recycled Paper case will pay $99.

Check out the Clio if regular speakers are too opaque for you

ClearView-CLIO-Wireless-Invisible-Speaker-1

If your speaker looks a little bit too much like, well, speakers, ClearView’s got an interesting solution for you. Meet Clio, a new product that’s being deemed as “the first invisible speaker.” That title seems ready for a TV infomercial, as you might have thought as you ready that. For starters, there’s a clearly visible base, which houses the electronics and underlying technology, controls and inputs. The phrase refers to the transparent, curved glass at the top, which resonates to produce sound waves and certainly makes the system look less like a traditional clunky black box (I’m looking at you, Sonos and Bose).

So, aside from the aesthetic (and eye-grabbing marketing campaign), what benefits does such as product provide? For starters, the sound waves disperse from all angles, so in theory, if you were to put the speaker in the middle of a room, you’ll be able to hear clear sound from all angles. If that’s enough for you to throw your wallet at ClearView, you can pick one up right now for $350.

Corning’s new Gorilla Glass actively kills germs on contact

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Every properly raised gorilla (should) know that it’s not enough to be touch; you also have to be hygienic, which is the sure explanation for why Corning has developed an antimicrobial form of its Gorilla Glass technology that inhibits the growth of algae, mold, mildew, fungi, bacteria and other nasties that might take root on the traditional heavily-used touchscreen. The glass contains and ionic silver coating that’s similar to what’s found on other germ-killing surfaces. That is, except for that fact that it’s meant to be ”intrinsic” to the material and is therefore claimed to function for the device’s lifetime, whether it’s a phone, tablet, laptop (or desktop) or even a piece of medical equipment — although Corning stopped short of promising any health-related breakthroughs (or promises, for that matter). The company also avoided saying whether any antimicrobial gadgets would appear in the near future, because any good gorilla always under-promises and over-delivers.

Netgear’s new 802.11ac WiFi range extenders laugh at walls, distances

Netgear AC750 WiFi Range Extender

The 802.11ac WiFi standard is no longer a spring chicken, which makes us curious on why there’s a lack of range extenders supporting it — barring Amped Wireless’ efforts (which we covered earlier), of course. Looking to capitalize on the situation, Netgear launched a pair of this developing species at CES, starting with the AC750 (also called the EX6100). This wall-plugged model bounces up to 750 Mbps of dual-band WiFi to underserved areas, as well as being home to a lone Ethernet port. The beefier AC1200 (also known as the EX6200) looks more like a router and packs a plethora of ports. By a plethora, we mean five Ethernet ports and one USB 3.0 port, beamforming capabilities and can deliver speeds up to 1,200Mbps. Both are available now for $90 and $130, respectively, putting Amped Wireless’ $200 option into the “It’s a hard sell” territory.

 Samsung shows off 85-inch curved TV that bends with the touch of a button

Samsung 85-inch 4K bending TV

Somewhere to the right of Samsung’s huge 105-inch UHD TV, there was something even more innovative. The TV was initially off, but otherwise was plainly labelled for all to see as “85-inch bending TV.” We have no further details, but we wanted to pass that along.

Toshiba enters 2014 with extra-bright 4K TVs, simple streaming media hubs

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Toshiba has found the secret sauce to knowing how to shine in the 4K TV space when there’s a sea of competition — make them brighter (obviously)! Its 2014 Ultra HD TV lineup focuses on 58- and 65-inch Premier L9400U models that both have extra-bright “Radiance” LED panels. They similarly share a third-generation 4K video-scaling engine, a 240Hz refresh rate, DirecTV RVU support and voice control. If brightness isn’t what you’re looking for, there are more conventional alternatives. The 84-inch L9450U relies on more conventional local-dimming LEDs while preserving the rest of the L9400U’s features, and the 50- and 58-inch L8400U sets cut costs through both their smaller sizes and 120Hz panels. All three TV lines are available now, though Toshiba couldn’t commit to a price point at CES.

Toshiba Symbio

The Japanese electronics giant also launched a pair of next-generation Symbio set-top boxes, both of which combine a Blu-ray player with streaming media using a newly simplified,one-page interface that brings Smart TV Alliance app support. The BDX5500 leads the group with 4K upscaling and 3D playback, while the BDX3500 saves some cash by sticking to 2D. Toshiba didn’t announce pricing for the new Symbio line (Stay tuned for that), but it’s available now.

Sony unveils waterproof T-Mobile exclusive Xperia Z1S at CES

Sony Xperia Z1S

For the past two years, Sony Mobile could be counted on to introduce new Xperia smartphone lines at the biggest technology trade show on Earth — the S and Z, to be more specific. This year, Sony did a not so fast, as the company offered twists on previously announced hardware, which results in the Xperia Z1S for T-Mobile here in the US market. The Xperia Z1S, which is available now for $528 outright ($22/month) retains much of its Z1 counterpart’s spec load — a five-inch Triluminos display, Snapdragon 800 processor, 3000mAh battery and 20.7 megapixel rear-facing camera — albeit with some notable upgrades. Stay tuned for the breakdown.

Despite maintaining the same five-inch screen size as its Z brethren, the Z1S is significantly taller, owing to the larger 3000mAh battery inside and 32GB of internal storage. Though its lack of an IPS display means viewing angles aren’t as generous, the Z1S does feature X-Reality Engine (It’s disabled by default, ironically enough) for improved contrast in stills and video.

The device’s now also rated for IP58 certification, making it waterproof, not just splash-resistant, at a depth of up to four and a half feet for about 30 minutes. As for the hardware, the Z1S still feature the all-around flat-sided (Sony calls it “omnibalance”) design Sony ushered in with the Z, but here the edges are gently rounded with a plastic trim, making for a much more comfortable feel in the hand. It’s a change we wish didn’t have to be made (meaning it should’ve been here from the very beginning of this Xperia Z line).

Much like its predecessor, the Xperia Z1S’ ports are all tucked away behind flaps, with one exception: the headphone jack. At the behest of T-Mobile, that jack, nearly centered on the top of the device, has now been made fully accessible when submerged, so users can laze around the pool and not worry about water damage. That’s not the only functional change the company made in the cosmetics department; Sony also added in a dual-detent camera key that aims to make taking shots when you’re taking advantage of its waterproofness far easier to do.

With a (as previously mentioned) 20.7-megapixel, f/2.0 camera module on deck and an associated software suite, it’s clear Sony’s placing heavy emphasis on the Xperia Z1S’ imaging prowess. Like its Z1 sister, this US iteration ships with a specially designed, larger Exmor RS sensor is on par with those found in the company’s compact cameras, according to Sony. That’s in addition to the company’s in-house G Lens solution and BIONZ for mobile image processing which, together, should translate into faster autofocus, better white balance and images with less blur and discernible noise.

Sony loaded up the Xperia Z1S with the PlayStation App (a Xperia line first) and a suite of camera apps to complement that imaging ensemble; the same camera apps found on the Z1. Of the bunch (By bunch, I mean InfoEye, AR Effects, Social Live and TimeShift Burst), only Background Defocus, an app that creates artificial bokeh or background blur, is new and an Z1S exclusive. Users can also augment this app suite with a selection of third-party add-ons, which are searchable from within the camera app.

The Z1S is available now for $528 unlocked or $22/month, exclusively in black on T-Mobile.

Alcatel brings the world’s fastest octa-core phone to Europe

Alcatel Idol X+

TCL already jumped the gun by launching its Idol X+ in China in December 2013, but the same flagship device got its passport at CES and headed to Europe under the Alcatel branding. This dual-micro-SIM, 7.9mm-thick Android phone packs a 2GHz MediaTek MT6592 processor (the world’s fastest true octa-core chipset, as of launch). You’ll find the usual top-spec components around the Idol X+ as well, including a five-inch 1080p IPS display, a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera (which is capable of taking 40-megapixel panoramas and digital stabilization for video capture), a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, a 2500mAh battery and dedicated ESS audio amplifier chips. Internal storage starts at 16GB (with 12.3GB available to you), along with support for up to 32GB microSD cards. The phone also comes with a pair of JBL earbuds, but there’s no word on whether the China versions’ Bluetooth activity tracker will be included as well — at least it won’t be called Boom Band, as it will apparently be a more refined version when it goes international.

The Idol X+’s design and build quality left us rather impressed. The solid plastic bezel features a brushed-metallic effect, accompanied by a spin finish (achieved by in-mould labelling) on the back of the phone. Like the screen, the backside will also have a nano-coating treatment to minimize fingerprint smudges. Shoppers can get it in either black or white for around $300 without a contract.

Martian Notifier watch uses custom vibration patterns to signal what app wants your attention

Martian Notifier

Martian Watches is back at CES this year, bringing with the best of both worlds in the watch industry. The Martian Notifier is a slight departure from previous efforts given it drops voice control (which was originally the feature that hooks you into the company’s products, although you can still remotely trigger Siri or Google Now with the press of a button). The watch keeps everything good about Martian’s range, though, like the small OLED screen for displaying contact names or text messages, and the ability to engage a device’s camera shutter remotely, among other things.

The Notifier pairs with iOS and Android devices via Bluetooth, and as the name suggests, its focus is on alerting you to notifications. Rather than just vibrating every time something happens on your phone, though, you can select exactly what triggers a buzz on your wrist. Furthermore, using the watch’s companion app (also available on iOS and Android), you can set up vibration patterns, so you know one long buzz and two short buzzes means someone’s calling you out on Twitter, for example. Any software that uses the iOS or Android notification back-ends will feed into the app’s settings, so you aren’t relying on this app or that app specifically building in support. While simple, it’s actually quite clever, and doesn’t look half bad, which is a great bonus. Anyone that’s intrigued by the Notifier and its semi-smarts can pick one up now for around $130.

Ozobot is a tiny robot that uses your mobile devices a a playground

Ozobot-following-line-patterns

All right, we’ve officially seen everything. This is definitely the sort of thing it helps to see in-person, so here’s the quick explainer: Ozobot is a tiny robot (by tiny, we mean roughly the size of a twist-off bottle top) that is capable of recognizing codes and sensors both on a mobile device and a more analog surface. The company has developed a handful of games that create patterns, which serve as paths for the robot. Ozobot also has built-in lights, which flash in different colors to let you know what it’s up to. The company pulled out a couple of add-ons and stuck them on an iPad, extending the robot’s course — a race track kits runs at a price point around $120 and ships with two Ozobots, so you can have the little guys compete.

Theoretically, Ozobot can work with non-digital board games, and the company is looking to build partnerships with companies like Parker Bros (The company behind Monopoly, Sorry! and Trivial Pursuit). It’s also looking for third-party app developers to create more games for its system. From what we saw, the selection was pretty limited, but there are certainly some cool potential applications for a little tablet-friendly robot like that, should the right developers come on board. In the meantime, the product is available now for around $59.

Sony announces the ‘tiniest’ gadget it’s ever made: Core, a wearable built for life-logging

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Sony has unveiled a new modular wearable — comprised of a Core sensor pack and a SmartBand bracelet at its CES press event. Core tracks your movement and activities using a companion LifeLog app that uses the information to suggest personal highlights based on your daily communications and activities. What’s more, you can don the NFC-enabled Core in additional ways, according to the Japanese tech giant, as a pendant or inserted into the footpod in a shoe, for example. Folks digging the standard implementation won’t be saddled with merely one or two colors like many other wearable bracelets either, as a whole host of colors are available. As of this point, we don’t have much more information about Core’s capabilities of its internals, Sony Mobile is working with various partners on more hardware (aka: additional clips and band designs), according to the division’s CEO Kunimasa Suzuki and software features, and they’ll be more details at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The Core is tiny. Thick as two sticks of gum, but twice a smart. This is Sony’s renewed effort for wearables and it really couldn’t look any more different from the SmartWatch the Japanese company launched in 2013. It’s a different device to begin with: an activity tracker with no screen whatsoever. Sony’s been keeping it all pretty vague, but going on the details of the colorful, oddly appearing app, it’s more life logger than health monitor. The idea the outfit is chasing is to collect what you do in your life, your movement, your photos, music listened to and your social network happenings, and put them together into a Flipboard-esque automated journal, which lives in a new LifeLogger app that launched alongside the Core.

You’ll need to hook the Core up with your smartphone through Bluetooth to see what’s happened activity-wise, and the battery should be good for up to five days on a simple charge: it’s tiny but there’s no blinking lights or vibration to sap power. There’s a micro-USB port for recharging, but the whole package is also waterproof. As previously mentioned, Sony promised to reveal more details at Mobile World Congress next month, but the company did show a glimpse at one of the places the Core will reside and, in true CES 2014 year of the wearable style, it’s a wristband.

With a textured rubber band (and coming in a stack of colors and patterns) it bears a resemblance to the Misfit Shine: the band is really just a stylized case for the Core. With the sensor stored inside, the SmartBand remained light and comfortable. Because it’s flexible and soft, it shouldn’t jar you when you rest your arms on a desk or laptop, something the Nike FuelBand fails on. There’s’ a machined aluminum Sony decal, while metal studs make sure to keep the band on. in short, details were hazy, but Sony’s at least got a plan where it wants the Core to go — somewhere that could play to the company’s strengths across entertainment, imaging and its mobile devices. Stay tuned for the sales pitch in Barcelona.

Nuance’s next-generation Dragon Assistant wants to have a conversation

Nuance-Dragon-Mobile-Assistant

The fruits of the partnership between Intel and Nuance has finally arrived, after its incarnation way back when. Enter the next-generation Dragon Assistant. The virtual assistant is designed specially for Intel RealSense technology, and comes with two default personalities: American female or British Butler. The assistant does the normal voice recognition tasks, of course, but Nuance is particularly proud of the program’s conversation skills. Asking who directed Pulp Fiction, for instance, produces the correct answer (Quentin Tarantino, if you’re curious), but Dragon will also remember you asked that, fielding follow up questions like “Hey, who was in that movie?” into the proper context.

Nuance Mobile Vice President Michael Thompson:

“This latest version of Dragon Assistant is transformative. People can have an interactive dialogue that is natural and intuitive, with a voice assistant that listens and understand the context of the conversation.”

Best of all, the new assistant is available now in devices from Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Asus and Toshiba, just to name a few, in Ultrabooks, all-in-one PCs and tablets.

All Intel microprocessors will be conflict-mineral free

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Intel has announced that its entire 2014 line of microprocessors will be conflict-mineral free (tin, tantalum and tungsten, if you’re curious), in its CES keynote address. Previously, the company joined the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition and its Conflict-Free Smelter group in an effort to separate itself from the blood-for-materials market. This looks like the logical next step in those efforts.

Okidokeys gives you more options than you’ll ever need to open the front door

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The Okidokeys smart lock system is probably the most overkill way to open your front door. When seeing it as CES Unveiled (the pre-show to CES proper), it was pretty much in various states of disarray on a table. The primary module hooks up to the lock on the inside of door, with no trace of the mechanism visible from the outside. Trigger it via your mobile devices and it rotates to unlock the door. There’s also a large button you can use to unlock it without a smartphone from the inside. The system starts at $179.

There’s also a bundle priced somewhere in the mid-$200 range, which nets you an RFID reader. The reader doesn’t attach directly to the module, so you can put it anywhere on the exterior of the door in question to unlock via a bracelet or card you keep in your wallet. Or, if you’re feeling nostalgic, you can still use your traditional key. Using the Android or iOS app, you can also unlock the door remotely and grant access to users. The sets are available now. The company also showed off a garage door module that works with its proprietary app. However, there was no word on pricing at the show.

Canon’s PowerShot N100 available now for $350

Canon Powershot N100

 

You might’ve read about the Canon PowerShot N100 (and seen it, if you’ve looked above this blob of text), but how much do you really know about it? For starters, it has an adjustable rear viewing window which shows more than just the world in front of you — it also has your face staring back at you. The dual capture mode is the main attraction for the N100, which pulls down an unique perspective on everyday life — both the subject and videographer are part of the story, at once (No more invisible videographers!). On the spec sheet, there’s a 12-megapixel CMOS sensor, Canon’s DIGIC 6 processor, a 5x f/1.8-5.7 (24-120mm) optically stabilized zoom lens and a three-inch, 922k-dot touchscreen that flips up 90 degrees rounds it out. The new PowerShot is available now.

Cubify 3D printing destination hits 2.0 with curated and branded collections

Cubify

 

Even if it completely flopped in the consumer market, 3D systems would still be on pretty solid ground thanks to its strong industrial 3D printing presence. But that hardly means the company is going to take a half-hazarded effort to capture market share (and mindshare) from MakerBot and Thingiverse. Before CES even officially kicked off, the company announced the Cube 3 and CubePro printers and the launch of Cubify 2.0 — the next generation of its consumer site for hosting and posting ready-to-print models. While there is a community-driven site to the portal, including user-uploading collections and profiles, there’s also a heavily curated portion that includes partnerships with brands like Nokia and Digital Dollhouse (a virtual playground for kids, who can now 3D print their creations). The collections are divided up into categories like fashion, decor and “mancave,” and include both products that you can print at home on your Cube or, for the more complex products like guitars, you can have 3D Systems print it out for you on one of its giant industrial machines.

This isn’t a wrap for the company at CES, either. There’s still a press event to come that will feature will.i.am, which translate to some good things ahead for 3D Systems.

Whyd’s music-streaming aggregation now open to the public

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It was nearly 14 months from this date that Whyd was first available to check out. The music aggregation service pulls songs scraped from sites like YouTube and Soundcloud, letting you build streaming playlists out of music often not available through the likes of Spotify and iTunes. And while there hasn’t been a peep out of the service in the intervening year, it’s clear that the company has been cooking on something over there. The site is finally shedding its long-standing invite-only status, opening up for one and all. The news also brings with it a wider variety of features, including Deezer compatibility, comments, revamped profiles and more to help nudge you in the direction of yet another streaming music offering.

Huawei had a respectable 2014, wants to ship 80 million smartphones in 2014

Huawei CES 2014 booth

At Huawei’s CES press conference, the company’s executive VP Colin Giles reminisced on 2013, when the company truly embarked on its journey from being an ODM to a consumer-facing OEM. By the end of the year, 95% of all handsets left its factories with the Huawei name attached, and in Q4 2013, smartphone shipments topped 17.5 billion. In the previous quarter, the Chinese phone manufacturer jumped into the top three manufacturers list worldwide, according to various analysts. Despite all the company’s success and rapid growth, there’s no intention to slow down — Giles wrapped things up by setting Huawei’s sales targets for 2014, and no less than 80 million devices will be acceptable.

Cube 3 3D printer brings user-friendly hardware, higher resolutions for under a grand

3D Systems Cube 3

Like clockwork, 3D Systems has offered up a refresh to its entry-level Cube line. The third iteration of the Cube line, introduced almost exactly a year after its predecessor, features a new, semi-enclosed body, speedier printing and resolutions of down to 75 microns. The ink cartridges have been redesigned, as well, for an experience that’s “easier than changing an ink cartridge.” The printer features Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, for printing from the Cubify apps on Android and iOS and a build volume of up to six square inches. You can also print with both ABS and PLA and two colors at the same time. The Cube 3 is available now for under $1,000.

AT&T Sponsored Data lets businesses foot the bill for consumers’ wireless data use

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AT&T introduced what it calls Sponsored Data, at the company’s Developer Summit, something it compares to a 1-800 number for wireless data. Sounds strange I know, but this new wireless data model is pretty straightforward (I promise). The service, which is mostly geared towards businesses, allows user to test out or view applications, games, upcoming movie trailers and even websites without impacting their monthly data plans.

Sponsored Data is (naturally) all about consumer engagement… and data mining. With unlimited data fast becoming a rarity, consumers need to monitor their data consumption to avoid blowing past caps. It’s easy to see how that cautious behavior doesn’t translate well for businesses looking to hock their virtual wares and glean insight into consumption habits. Sponsored Data then removes that concern, offering users a way to browse the web or test drive new apps freely on their phone with the same 4G speeds they’d normally enjoy on their personal data plans and it gives business access to key usage info. Though consumers won’t be charged for taking advantage of Sponsored Data, they will see it appear within their monthly billing statement. The fees, however, are entirely responsible for by business partners backing that “toll-free data.”

Panasonic introduces Toughpad FZ-M1, a seven-inch rugged tablet

FZ-M1

At its CES press conference, Panasonic unveiled a new addition to its Toughpad line of rugged tablets. According to the company’s North American President, Rance Poehler, the seven-inch FZ-M1 is the thinnest rugged tablet of its kind, and it’s certainly a more portable solution than the 20-inch, 4K Toughpad launched last year. (It’s unlikely to pack just as many pixels on its smaller display, though.)

The tablet’s edges are rounded, and a rubber lining’s on hand to protect ports and connections. Though Panasonic touts this guy as the thinnest rugged device in its range, that doesn’t exactly say much; it’s no Nexus 7 or iPad mini. The M1’s bezel is a glossy white, as is traditional for Toughpads, but its build is unapologetically (as it should be) high quality. There aren’t many specs to share, but we’ll blow through what we do know on the internals front.

Unsurprisingly, the seven-incher is packing some serious specs once you take a peek under the hood. It runs a 64-bit flavor of Windows 8.1 Pro on a fanless Intel Core i5 vPro processor, and (naturally, I mean it is a ToughPad we’re talking about) it meets the requirements for shock, drop and temperature resistance. Specifically, it boasts a MIL-STD-80G rating for shocks and drops, in addition to IP65 certification for dust and water resistance. The shell might be impressive, but the screen isn’t a couch potato either — the multi-touch display even boasts “glove touch technology,” which hopefully will let you use your mitts (or welding gloves, for that matter) on your screen. It’s also daylight-readable, and the matte finish does look like it could hold its own against the sun overhead.

When it comes to connectivity, the slate packs a USB 3.0 port and micro SDXC slot, with options for barcode, MSR, SmartCard, Serial and LAN features. Panasonic’s hardened tablet also sports WiFi, dedicated GPS, NFC, UHF RFID, Bluetooth 4.0 and optional, integrated LTE connectivity. Sure, it’s got an air-tight case, but the hardware still manages to handle hot swaps of its batteries. Unfortunately, that’s all we have for now — stay tuned for more details.

ASUS unveils Zenfone line packing Android, Intel chips and a simple interface

 

It’s been a while since ASUS has announced a smartphone that wasn’t meant to be used with (or as, for that matter), but the company is making up for that absence by giving birth to the Zenfone line. The Zenfone 4, Zenbook 5 and 6 all sport dual-core Intel Atom processors and a range of exotic color options. They also tout a new interface layer on top of Android 4.3, ZenUI, that promises both simplicity and a What’s Next feature for tracking your daily schedule. Differences between models largely boil down to screen size and performance. The Zenfone 4 starts things off with its namesake four-inch 800×480 LCD screen, a 1.2GHz Intel Atom processor, a five-megapixel rear camera and a front VGA shooter.

Move to the Zenfone 5 and you’ll get a larger 720p display with pen and glove support, a 2GHz Intel Atom processor, an 8MP back camera and 2MP front-facing camera.

The Zenfone 6 builds on this with an even bigger (although still 720p) screen and a 13MP rear camera. ASUS didn’t say when the Zenfone series would hit stores, although the lack of LTE suggest that the handsets won’t reach 4G-obsessed US carriers in an official capacity. They’ll definitely be cheap to buy off-contract, however — the Zenfone 4 hits the low-end range at $99, while it’s five and six-inch counterparts will cost $149 and $199.

Wysips Connect will make your phone a solar cell that can receive data transmitted through light waves

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The Wysips Connect 90% transparent solar-cell that made its debut at last year’s CES made its return at CES 2014 with some new tricks. Wysips Connect made its official debut on the show floor this year, and while the transparent panel can still generate electricity through sun exposure, it’s now equipped with LiFi — a visible light spectrum communication technique capable of transmitting data at broadband speeds. If LiFi becomes common in smartphones, shopping malls, airports or hospitals could use the technology to push local map data to a user’s phone, or help them find a product’s location in an oversized supermarket.

All talk? Not quite: Sunpartner Technology and Qualcomm announced that they’ll be announcing the first Wysips Connect equipped smartphone during the trade show. The jury’s still out on if the technology will truly revolutionize the mobile world (as in, becoming widely adopted), but hey it’s a start.

LaCie’s Culbuto is a $50 USB thumb drive inspired by roly-poly toys

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If you wished your thumb drive was a little more whimsical, LaCie has announced an accessory to fill that void. The storage outfit teamed up with French designer Constance Guisset for Culbuto: a USB flash drive with a design inspired by roly-poly toys — complete with a weighted bottom to keep it upright. Further explained as “a storage device disguised as a decorative object,” Culbuto is coated in molded rubber with a solid gold metal base that connects via USB 3.0. And wait, there’s more! The cap doubles as a photo or business card holder when it’s not in use. Now that’s how to get the most bang for your buck! The Culbuto is available in both 16GB and 32GB capacities, starting at $50.

Google bringing Android to cars with help from Audi, GM, Hyundai, Honda, NVIDIA

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Google’s Android operating system already has more than one billion activations on mobile and media devices, the OS announced that it would make an impact on another major industry: cars. Following rumors that the internet giant was working with luxury carmaker Audi to embed its open-source OS inside its automobiles, the company has confirmed that it has teamed up with five automotive and technology companies (at least to begin with) to form the Open Automotive Alliance. Alongside the aforementioned Audi, Google will be joined by General Motors, Hyundai, Honda and chipmaker NVIDIA, which all worked to bring Android to cars starting in 2014. The coalition aimed to create a common platform that drives (no pun intended) innovation and would in term make cars “safer and more intuitive for everyone.” With Apple (with their Siri Eyes Free initiative) and Nokia also pushing hard to put their own names in the automobile market — with Apple counting the previously mentioned Honda, GM and Hyundai as Siri Eyes Free partners — 2014 could be the year of the connected car.

Panasonic brings Firefox OS to your smart TV

Panasonic CES 2014 booth

Firefox OS won’t be confined to your smartphone or tablet for much longer. Panasonic has announced a partnership with Mozilla that will bring Firefox OS-powered smart TVs and other “smart screens.” The deal could potentially open up the frequently proprietary world of TV software — since the program guide and other interface elements will be web pages, they won’t be limited to any one company’s hardware. It should also be easier to write remote control apps, personalize the interface and integrate TVs with home automation systems. Panasonic didn’t go into more detail about the hardware at this stage, but Firefox OS TVs should be available now.

BMW unveils prototype self-driving car platform, i Remote app for Samsung Galaxy Gear, driver assistance tech

BMW-ActiveAssist

Automotive manufacturers, long regarded to as laggards in terms of new technology, has been making a push in recent years to catch up with consumer expectations. BMW is one such car maker, and it’s rolling out a suite of new technologies to improve its cars at CES 2014. First up is an improvement to its suite of driver-assistance technology known as ActiveAssist that’s been built into a new prototype car. Generally speaking, it’s a series of control systems that allow the car to react “to fluctuations grip levels” like during hydroplaning to react and bring the car back under control precisely, automatically and without driver input. It accomplishes this by both braking individual wheels (like existing systems) and adjusting steering input in response to its active monitoring of road conditions using lidar, radar, ultrasound and optical cameras.

BMW is also apparently on board with the new wearable trend, as it’s also built a version of its i Remote app — that lets owners access vehicle information for their mobile device — for Samsung’s Galaxy Gear. The app delivers the BMW i3’s remaining range charge level and any departure times you’ve entered into the app, plus whether or not the doors ,windows or sunroofs are open. Not only that, Galaxy Gear owners can also send navigation destinations and assess the climate controls in their i3, too.

Bavarian Motorworks also rolled out improvements to its parking-assistance system. Using ultrasound sensors, your car will now find you appropriately sized spaces (as long as you aren’t traveling faster than 22MPH) by evaluating the open spots on either side of the vehicle. It looks for those at least 55cm (21.7 inches) longer than the car and when you stop the car, press the parking button and hit the turn signal to let it know which side you want to park on, the system then maneuvers your car in for you. No muss, no fuss. Additionally, BMW has improved its Traffic Jam assistant as well. When traveling at 25 MPH or slower, the system automatically maintains a set following distance and controls the steering to keep you steady in your land when traffic gets heavy. The system uses the optical camera located behind the rearview mirror, and works in tandem with the cruise control and Stop & Go systems that provide driver assistance at speeds up to 87 MPH.

Stay tuned for more details on how all this new gear works in the real world as CES 2014 rolls on.

NVIDIA certifies PCs and routers that can stream games to Shield handheld

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If you’ve ever tried to stream a game from a PC (or PlayStation 4) to a mobile device over WiFi, then you’ll know the bandwidth requirements can be quite fussy. Attempt to remote play in high definition at 60 frames per second, as NVIDIA promises with its Shield handheld and recently upgraded GameStream service, and things start to get seriously pinnikity. So, to help you pick the right hardware to go with your Shield, NVIDIA has started a certification program to label PCs and routers that are GameStream-ready. Expect to see the green logo on pre-built machines from companies with the likes of Digital Storm and Maingear that have the necessary GeForce GTX graphical guts, as well as a number of dual-band and wireless-AC routers from ASUS, Buffalo, D-Link and Netgear. Compatible routers will also support streaming from the cloud, thanks to NVIDIA’s alternative GRID service, although of course you’ll also need a steady 10 MBps broadband connection before that even becomes a remote possibility.

Qualcomm looks to improve the connected car with the Snapdragon 602A

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In addition to announcing a version of its Snapdragon 800 processor tweaked for your home theater, Qualcomm has introduced a chip made specifically for in-car entertainment. The Snapdragon 602A, unsurprisingly given its name, shares several specs with the Snapdragon 600 chip seen in mobile devices, but it’s made to meet the automotive industry’s requirements for temperature, longevity and more. It also packs in plenty of additional tech, which we’ll get to in a moment.

Qualcomm’s been involved in the connected car space for about a decade, with 3G and 4G modules to show for it. Though it offers Gobix 9×15 3G/4G LTE modules along with WiFi and Bluetooth, the 602A is ambitious on more than just the connectivity front: The chip will initially power infotainment — serving multiple video streams to numerous screens in your car, for instance — but will pave the way for more advanced connectivity and safety features. For example, facial recognition support could let you start the car by looking in a camera, and gesture recognition could enable a smarter backup camera.

As with the Snapdragon 802, the goal behind the 602A is to bring the dynamic app experience of smartphones and tablets to a different environment. This means improved 3D navigation, cloud-based software and integration with mobile devices, among many other things. Support for both Android and QNX give carmakers options for building their own infotainment systems that comply with the automotive industry’s requirements, as well. Qualcomm hasn’t mentioned a timeframe at that time, but I have a feeling that we’ll have something to pass along to you before CES 2014 wraps.

T-Mobile promises better coverage after spending $2.4 billion on spectrum from Verizon

T-Mobile Logo

T-Mobile has made a big move to improve its coverage by purchasing a large z A-Block spectrum from Verizon for nearly $2.4 billion in cash. The UnCarrier — which has been in a buying mood — said the deal will help improve its coverage for 158 million people in 21 of the top 30 US markets, including New York, LA, Atlanta and Dallas. It added that the low-band spectrum (which has a greater range than high-band frequencies) will be particularly useful in city suburbs. As part of the deal, it’ll also transfer $950 million worth of spectrum to Verizon in several markets, mostly in northern California and Atlanta.

Grocery stores use Apple’s iBeacon to remind you what you’re shopping for

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Many of us will occasionally forget to pick up important ingredients (the milk!) when visiting the grocery store, but that momentary lapse of focus may not be a problem for much longer. A handful of Giant Eagle and Safeway stores are now using a new marketing service, InMarket’s Mobile to Mortar, that relies on Apple’s iBeacon to send proximity-based notifications while you’re wandering the aisles. In addition to offering on-the-spot coupons and rewards, the system can remind you what’s on your shopping list at just the right moment. It can also send an alert when someone adds to the list; if the family runs out of juice while you’re in the store, you’ll know to pick up another jug before you hit the checkout line. Only certain Giant Eagle and Safeway outlets in Cleveland, San Francisco and Seattle are using Mobile to Mortar at launch, but InMarket promises more news as time goes on.

Dish announces streaming app for PlayStation consoles

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In an effort to bring its streaming chops to gaming consoles, Dish Network has announced an app for for PlayStation that does just that. The TV provider’s customers will be able to take advantage of Dish’s widely successful Hopper’s functionality via its Virtual Joey software on both PlayStation 3 and PS4 consoles to access their favorite TV shows without having to switch devices after the end of a marathon gaming session. This software also allows for control via either the PlayStation 4’s native DualShock 4 controller or the Dish remote that comes with your traditional cable box. The app is available now in the PlayStation Store.

Nikon’s D3300 DSLR captures detailed, filter-free photos for $650

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Nikon started removing optical low-pass filters on pro-DSLRs, where owners are more likely to notice the extra detail, but that emphasis on super-sharp photos has been moving rapidly downrange. At CES 2014, it reached the entry level line through the D3300. Although the camera shoots at the same 24 megapixels as its predecessor, its filter-free sensor should produce crisper-looking pictures without pushing would-be buyers to costlier models. It also get s the newer Expeed 4 engine and its matching improvements to battery life, performance and image quality. The D3300 is still stuck with 11-point autofocusing, and there’s no built-in WiFi, but it captures at a more sensitive 12,800 ISO (versus the ISO 6,400 on the D3200). It’s the first Nikon DSLR with an Easy Panorama mode, too. SHould you be intrigued by the D3300’s blend of high resolution and beginner features, you can pick it up now for $650 paired with an equally new, more compact 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II lens. Veteran Nikon fans can buy the stand-alone lens as well for $250.

MakerBot shows off a trio of new apps: Desktop, Mobile, Printshop

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Yeah, the hardware was the big reveal at today’s MakerBot press conference (in some cases, literally), but that wasn’t all the company had to show off at CES. First off is the Desktop app, which lets you monitor and control your prints and access MakerWare, a feature that lets you view your prints. The app’s available now for free.

MobileApp-tablet

 

Also announced at the company’s press conference was MakerBot Mobile, an app that lets you monitor and control your printer remotely. The app also sends alerts to let you know when the prints are complete. You can also download prints directly from Thingiverse. This one’s also free and is available now on iOS and Android.

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The last addition to the MakerBot ecosystem is Printshop, a way to actually get those pesky 3D model to print. There are two ways to use it: a text feature, which lets you print out words and a bracelet maker, which, as you’ve no doubt already figured out, lets you design your own plastic wrist wearables. The app also features a number of “Verified” files from Thingiverse, with easy access to good models. MakerBot Printshop is available now on iOS and Android.

iRobot shows off improved Scooba mop ‘bot, still not ready to tackle the Las Vegas Convention Center

irobot scooba 450

Nothing particularly revolutionary came out of the iRobot booth this CES. A couple of months after dropping a new souped-up Roomba (the robot vacuum cleaner), the company did the same for its floor-mopping Scooba. iRobot’s promising “three times better performance” on the 450, thanks to a 600 RPM brush and improved navigation. The company demoed the robot ahead of CES in a pretty tight space. It’s tough to say definitely how well the 450 actually works based on limited time with it, but it seemed to do a pretty good job picking up muddy water and spilled Cheerios, combining them into what can now be called the world’s grossest breakfast cocktail in its tank — which, as it turns out, is actually slightly smaller than the one in its predecessor’s.

The device’s Three-Cycle Cleaning Process promises to kill up to 99.3 percent of bacteria (there’s always something, right? I guess they can’t catch them all), sweeping, soaking and then scrubbing your floor. The robot has two cleaning modes: a 40-minute cycle for up to 300 square feet and a 20-minute version for 150 square feet and smaller. That means, interestingly, that no matter how large or small the room is, it’ll spend that much time picking up the pieces. Also, for the first time, the Scooba plays nicely with Roomba’s Virtual Walls, so you don’t have to run out and pick up a proprietary set, if you already have the Scooba’s sister vacuuming robot sitting around your house. The new Scooba is available now through iRobot’s site for a cool $600. There’s also an upright charging station that allows you to dry it out while it charges. If you’re interested, that’ll set you back another $80.

Broadcom’s new WiFi chips aim to keep your video streams flowing

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All that hardware strewn throughout your digital life is only as good as what’s beneath the surface. Broadcom is one of the firms bent on evolving those parts, and at CES the company introduced two new chips that’ll pervade the tech mentioned throughout this series (even though it won’t garner much attention). First up is the BCM43569 (2×2 MIMO), which blends 5G WiFi (most widely known as 802.11ac), and Bluetooth 4.1 standards with a USB 3.0 interface. The combo SoC is intended for the next generation of smart TVs and set-top boxes, allowing the simultaneous WiFi and BT connections to other devices and ensuring solid video-streaming performance in your airwave-saturated home.

The BCM43602 (3×3 MIMO) 5G WiFI chip, which instead uses a PCI Express interface, is destined for future routers and set-top boxes. It, also, is slated to improve the reliability of video streaming over 802.11ac by assuming the brunt of wireless processing work usually executed by those products’ internal CPUs. Both new chips also support beamforming for maintaining stronger connections, and are available now for OEMs to put into their devices.

Pebble introduces the Steel, an all-metal smartwatch with an elegant look

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To say 2013 was a banner year for Pebble would be an absolute understatement. The company began its journey to prominence at CES 2013 showing off functional versions of its iconic Pebble smartwatch — the same one that generated over $10 million on Kickstarter in a matter of weeks — and ended the year with the announcement that it pushed out more than 300,000 units and was planning to launch a dedicated app store. But while the watch has a healthy app (and watch band, for that matter) ecosystem, loyal following and a sporty look, the Pebble isn’t exactly the kind of device you would slap on your wrist for wine-tastings or browsing through an exhibition at the local art gallery or presenting at events, you’ll need a premium-looking smartwatch, but good luck finding one; you’ll probably just opt for your traditional Rolex or other classy, fancy and trendy piece of wristwear over anything else on the market.

Fortunately Pebble a, didn’t come to CES empty-handed this year and b, might have found a solution for you. CEO Eric Migicvosky announced the Pebble Steel at the company’s trade show press conference, which takes the original Pebble watch’s heart and soul and encapsulates it in an all stainless steel, CNC-machined body. If you like the concept of the Pebble, but don’t think it radiates enough elegance or class, the $250 Steel may be more up your alley. The new device is available now.

So what are our thoughts on Pebble’s new look? In a nutshell, we like it. Before we go any further, let’s make an important clarification. The original Pebble isn’t going away because of the Steel. It’ll continue to be available for $150 through several different distribution channels. Fortunately, it isn’t creating fragmentation within the Pebble lineup either; aside from a few minor hardware changes (such as a new charger, Gorilla Glass, an anti-fingerprint coating and an LED notification light that indicates whether or not the device is charging, the Steel adds very little functionality. Many of the other specs remain unchanged: the e-paper display, waterproof design, user interface and battery are just a few examples.

The most striking changes to the Steel are all cosmetic, all of which are welcome improvements that give the Pebble a much more mature appearance. The stainless steel body is surrounded by a small, black racing strap near the top, which doubles as an external antenna. It’s a functional trade off for those who like consistency, without it, the Bluetooth signal would be completely obstructed by the watch’s metal chassis. Each steel will come with two wristbands — leather and metal — but this time, standard bands aren’t going to be compatible. However, Pebble plans to release the design specs in a 3D-printable format, allowing third-party manufacturers to come up with a wider variety of options.

You can also choose between two colors: Brushed Stainless and Black Matte. While both models feature the same build material and quality, the black unit’s casing is coating with a Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) finish that helps make the body more scratch-resistant and slightly more durable.

The original Pebble’s look will always hold a sweet spot in my heart, but there is definitely something to be said about the fact that the Steel is not only more stylish, not to mention easier to use. It still feels just as comfortable to wear and even the buttons offer a more enjoyable experience; we didn’t feel like we had to push as hard on the Steel’s buttons to navigate around the UI, which is a huge win for the watch’s industrial design.

Earlier we mentioned that the Steel (unfortunately) doesn’t use the same charger as the original version. Since the new watch is shaped quite a bit differently than its predecessor, the team had to make some adjustments. Fortunately, the result is at least a good one: In theory, since the contacts actually have a little more surface area, it actually charges the Steel faster. Also, don’t worry about having to buy a new one — as you might expect, it’ll come with one in the box.

On the firmware side, the Steel will come with Pebble OS 2.0 built-in, allowing you to take advantage of the company’s new App Store. CEO Migicovsky says that more than 6,000 developers have already submitted apps, so the Steel has a healthy selection of games, watch faces and other apps. The list of developers includes ESPN, Pandora, GoPro, Yelp, Foursquare and Mercedes.

Dolby Vision imaging comes to Netflix, Xbox Video as partners

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Dolby’s TV image-enhancement technology has been in development for a good little while, and at CES the company has finally announced when and where you’ll find it. The outfit has promised that we’ll see TVs with Dolby Vision baked in this year. Perhaps more excitedly, Sharp and TCL had compatible hardware on display in both of their booths, and Amazon, Netflix, VUDU and Xbox Video have stepped up as content providers. Stay tuned for more details.

Canon unveils WiFi-equipped PowerShot SX60HS, ELPH 340HS point-and-shoots

Canon Powershot SX600 HS

 

It’s going to be hard to get excited about an ordinary point-and-shoot again after Canon showed off its funky PowerShot N100, but if practicality is the name of your game, this new duo has you covered. Let’s start with the PowerShot SX600 HS, which includes a 16-megapixel CMOS sensor, a DIGIC 4+ processor, an 18x 25-450mm, f/3.8-6.9u optical zoom lens and a three-inch 461k-dot LCD display. There’s also built-in WiFi and NFC, so you can pair the camera with an Android smartphone or tablet and transfer stills and video with ease. There’s a Mobile Device Connect button, enabling instant access to wireless features, such as app control and upload.s The SX600 includes a Hybrid Auto mode, which records four seconds of video before each still photo; a Smart Auto mode with 32 predefined shooting modes; and a dedicated movie button, giving you instant access to taking 1080p video captures.

Canon ELPH 300 HS2

Next up is the PowerShot ELPH 340HS. This more portable camera will set you back $200, and includes the same 16-megapixel CMOS sensor and DIGIC 4+ processor as the PowerShot SX600 HS, a 12x 25-300mm f/23.6-7.0 optical zoom lens and a three-inch 461-dot LCD display. It also supports WiFi and NFC, with the same functionality mentioned above, along with the Hybrid Auto, Smart Auto and video shooting modes. The 340HS is available now for $200 in purple, black and silver. The $250 SX600 is also available now in red, black and white.

Sharp teased 3D-ready, 85-inch 8K display at CES, with no glasses required

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Sharp loves to show off the 8K technology that it hopes will make it to the television in your living room in the not too distant future. It’s no surprise, then, that the Japanese outfit is yet again using CES as a platform to tease us with another super, super high-res 85-inch display. Unlike the panel Sharp showed off last year, though, this time the company rolled into the desert with a glasses-free 3D flavor of its 7680×4320 display. The company didn’t share many more details at the moment, but, for what it’s worth, it did mention that its latest 8K concept was created in collaboration with Philips and the previously mentioned Dolby. Stay tuned for more updates as the Consumer Electronics Show rolls on.

Formula E’s Spark-Renault SRT_01E electric racer makes official public debut in Las Vegas

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Sure, you might’ve already heard about Formula E’s car being tested and details as its inaugural season draws closer, we haven’t yet had the opportunity to get cozy with it. The fledgling racing series chose Las Vegas’ CES 2014 to give the public its first proper demo and peek at the car. If you had that opportunity, would you pass it up? Most of you (except for the one wannabe troll) probably said no. We simply can’t pass this one off. If you’ve missed the other announcements, the SRT_01E is an all-electric car producing 200kW of power — that converts to roughly 270 HP — with the motor, gearbox and electrics designed by McLaren, batteries and management systems by Williams, tires by Michelin, monocoque chassis by Dallara and Renault puts all of the pieces together.

So what do we think? To be blunt, with the shopping list of F1 teams above how could it not be fantastic? Of course, the proof will be in the sport’s uptake as it starts its maiden season in the fall of 2015. For now, imagine the SRT_01E doing donuts in Lucas di Grassi’s — wearing a helmet with a design that’s very similar to his Formula 1 days — capable hands in a Las Vegas parking lot.

TechSummit Rewind #005: January 5th, 2014

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewind, which (usually) can be seen every Saturday right here.

Lenovo gives ‘portable’ all-in-ones another shot with 27-inch Horizon 2

Lenovo Horizon 2

In addition to announcing a slew of laptops, tablets and convertibles (more on that in a moment), Lenovo also unveiled a trio of Windows 8 all-in-ones at CES 2014. Of the bunch, the most notable might be the Horizon 2, which marks Lenovo’s second attempt at a “portable” 27-inch desktop. In particular, Lenovo added both NFC and a new way to pair the PC with an Android device: you can now shake your smartphone to share its media with the Horizon 2, causing photos and other content to “fall” onto the tabletop screen. From there, you can use motion controls on the smartphone to do things like navigate the UI and sort through photos, music tracks and the like. The wireless link between the two devices also lets you instantly browse fresh photos on the Horizon 2 once they are taken with the phone, as well as letting you throw PC content onto the phone.

Additionally, Lenovo built in some more multi-user games, along with enhanced Facebook integration so that you can upload photos directly to the site after editing them. All of which sounds completely reasonable: if someone’s meant to buy a 27-inch desktop meant for digital board games, they’d better be able to get the most out of the software experience.

Getting to the hardware, this version is also more compact than last year’s model. Granted, 16.8 pounds isn’t exactly portable, but still, a 12 percent weight reduction isn’t a small feat. Other changes include that though the standard screen resolution is still 1080p, you can now opt for a 2560×1440 panel instead.  also features the “latest NVIDIA graphics,” up to 8GB of RAM and up to 500GB of storage, though to be honest: you’re not buying this for the specs. You’re buying it for the suction-cup joysticks, which have stuck around (see what I did there) from the first generation.

Lenovo A740

In addition, Lenovo updated last year’s A730 with the A740. This, too, has a thin (4mm to be precise) frame, which can be pushed down so the screen lies flat. Now, though, there’s a 2560×1440 screen option, in addition to the standard 1080p (noticing a theme here?). Lenovo also stepped up to 802.11ac WiFi, with Intel Haswell processors, up to 8GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, NFC and an optional TV tuner rounding out the spec sheet.

Lenovo C560

Moving on, there’s the C560, which replaces last year’s C540. Available in black and white with a 23-inch screen, it’s clearest the low-end of the tabletop PC range, with a 1080p display, an optional touchscreen and processors that run the full range of Intel’s lives from Celeron to Pentium to Core i3, i5 and i7. Other specs include up to 8GB of RAM, up to a 2TB 7200RPM hard drive and optional NVIDIA GeForce 705A graphics with either 1GB or 2GB of VRAM. The C560 is available now for $659, while the Horizon 2 and A740 are both on sale now starting at $1,499.

Lenovo refreshes ThinkPad X1 Carbon with ‘adaptive’ keyboard, 2560×1440 screen option

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

A year and a half after Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook first went on sale, it still had a 1600×900 screen and a 2012-era Ivy Bridge processor. Thankfully, at CES 2014, Lenovo finally unveiled a refreshed model, and it brings about everything you’d expect from a modern machine, including a 2560×1440 screen option, Haswell processors and longer battery life (up to nine hours, according to Lenovo). If nine hours isn’t enough for you, the X1 Carbon makes use of Lenovo’s Rapid Charge tech, which promises an 80 percent charge in under a hour.

Oddly, Lenovo dared to mess with the keyboard — the main reason some folks have remained avid fans of the ThinkPad brand. Here, there’s an “adaptive” panel up top, with context-specific controls that only light up when needed. Thankfully, the layout otherwise didn’t change much, and the ubiquitous red TrackPoint is still there (so is the large buttonless trackpad, but you should be used to that by now). Aside from that top row of adaptive keys, it feels almost identical to the chiclet keyboard used on its predecessor. In fact, the redesigned keyboard looks cleaner and more modern than previous ThinkPads. The fingerprint scanner now sits flush with the keyboard lines, while the touchpad is now a flat plane, more in line with other Ultrabooks and simply more modern.

Elsewhere on the machine, Lenovo added NFC, voice commands (via pre-installed Dragon software) and gesture control, allowing you to swipe through presentation slides and the like by waving your hand.

On the performance front, this uses “IT-friendly” vPro Intel Haswell processors, going all the way up to Core i7. Other configuration options include up to 8GB of RAM, up to 512GB of solid-state storage and built-in 4G. Given that it’s a business-oriented machine, you can also expect TPM security, along with a fingerprint reader. Additionally, Lenovo says that the fan is 13 percent thinner — dust-resistant, even — though it’s unclear what impact, if any, this will have on operating noise.

As of the display, the X1 Carbon still comes standard with a 14-inch, non-touch 1600×900 screen, though there is that 2560×1440 panel, assuming you have the money to upgrade beyond the $1,299 starting price. And hey, if you choose the higher resolution, you can also upgrade to a touchscreen, with a minor drop in brightness (270 nits compared to the 300 on the non-touch model). The brighter model looks basically identical to the 2013 model. Adding a touch panel will naturally increase the weight as well. Without a touchscreen, the X1 Carbon weighs in at 2.8 pounds — similar to the last model, but still impressive for a 14-inch laptop. Go with a touch model, which will be sending the scale beyond the three-pound, but somehow, you should be able to deal. The X1 Carbon is available now.

Chevrolet debuts Corvette Performance Data Recorder to record audio, video, overlay telemetry

Chevrolet Corvette Performance Data Recorder

Chevrolet spent some time pre-CES 2014 demonstrating how it plans to offer Corvette owners a new instrument to hone their track skills: the Performance Data Recorder (PDR). The system, which was designed with British auto engineering company Cosworth, will begin shipping its 2015 Corvette Stingrays as a factory add-on. In the simplest sense, the PDR captures video with user-selectable levels of vehicle telemetry overlaid on the 720p output. In its most complex, the session data can be dissected by the included Cosworth Toolbox software on your PC.

The Performance Data Recorder consists of three main parts: audio and video recording, telemetry capture and an SD card slot in the glove compartment where the data is stored. The driver then selects one of four modes: Track, Sport, Touring or Performance and with the click of a button on the car’s eight-inch display, sets the start/finish line and begins recording the lapping session. Once started, the system starts grabbing info from a dedicated GPS receiver that captures data point five times more often than a traditional GPS, a 720p camera mounted at the top of the windshield begins recording and then hooks into the car’s Controller Area Network (CAN) for access to all the vehicle’s performance data. Track mode records the most metrics including speed, throttle position, brake force, rpm, g-force, lap time and even a location-based map. Once you come to a stop, you can quickly replay the video in-car or take it offline and examine every nuance of the drive on your desktop.

When loaded in Cosworth Toolbox, the data is superimposed on a Bing map of the track and can be compared to a reference lap in real time to help find where you’re losing precious seconds with corner traces, vehicle speed and cornering forces. Obviously, the PDR won’t sell Corvettes — they do that well by themselves– but for a novice or pro drive trying to improve their skills, it seems that Chevrolet has put together a compelling suite of tools.

LaCie Fuel brings 1TB of streaming storage to your Apple devices for $199

LaCie Fuel

You’re probably quite familiar with LaCie’s reputation for stellar storage devices, and at CES 2014, the outfit expanded its territory. The company has outed Fuel: a 1TB portable repository for that media library, offering wireless streaming to your Apple arsenal. With no internet connection required, Fuel acts as a WiFi hotspot for on-the-go streaming to iPads, iPhones and Macs (up to five devices or three HD streams at a time) while claiming 10 hours of battery life on its spec sheet. The peripheral is accessed just like an external drive and — as you might expect– allows file transfers without cords with Dropbox integration in tow. For times when you absolutely, positively, must have a cable, there’s a USB 3.0 port for handling those tasks. Streaming stored media on those mobile devices is sorted via the Seagate Media app and the unit plays nice with AirPlay-compatible devices and the Apple TV. In a spot with connectivity? Fuel will allow you to share it with that handful of gadgets as well. If all of that sounds too good to pass up, you can snag one now for $200.

Pure digs deeper into multi-room audio with higher-end Jongo and Evoke systems

Pure Jongo T4

Pure first set foot into the multi-room audio space at 2013’s CES with its frugal Jongo line; in 2014, the company targeted slightly more affluent listeners who would otherwise buy a Sonos product. Its $299 Tongo T4 speaker is reaching the US for the first time, and carries enough oomph at 50W to fill a living room.

Pure Evoke F4

The $229 Evoke F4, meanwhile, is the company’s first internet-savvy radio with Jongo support built in. There’s also a pair of big software upgrades on the way, including SiriusXM streaming for their subscribers and a developer kit for third-party app support. The T4, F4 and software are all available now.

Lenovo intros ThinkPad 8, an eight-inch tablet for business users

Lenovo ThinkPad 8
Lenovo ThinkPad 8 (Source: CBS Interactive)

You may have noticed, but eight-inch Android tablets are sort of becoming a thing now: Toshiba, Dell and Lenovo each have one (not including this one), and Acer is already on its second. Until now, they’ve all been aimed toward the general consumer, with low-end specs and equally low prices to match. Now, however, Lenovo is taking a different approach: The company has announced the ThinkPad 8, an eight-inch (obviously) business tablet with enough premium services that even regular shopper might be tempted. For starters, the 8.3-inch screen boasts a 1920×1200 display, whereas most of its rivals top out at 1280×800. Additionally, it sports an aluminum chassis, micro-HDMI port and optional 4G, all of which are pretty rare on eight-inch tablets (or budget tablets in general). Even the camera setup is slightly better, with eight-megapixel still shots and an accompanying flash, not that there’s ever high poes for imaging performance on tablets.

If anything, the only cost-cutting measure seems to be the omission of an active digitizer for pen support, which was included on last year’s ThinkPad Tablet 2, and is included on Dell’s less-expensive Venue 8 Pro. Otherwise, the performance should be on par with other Windows tablets: the ThinkPad 8 packs a quad-core Intel Z3770 Bay Trail processor, along with 2GB of RAM and up to 128GB of built-in storage. And with a rated battery life of eight hours, its runtime should also be similar to other eight-inch tablets. If that high-res screen does anything for you, the ThinkPad 8 is available now for $399 (without 4G of course). Here are our impressions:

Putting a 1080p display into an eight-inch tablet makes an awful lot of sense: it’s already in plenty of flagship smartphones half the size. It’s also a functional resolution, perfect for watching movies and other video content. The screen is bright with wide viewing angles, making it a clear improvement over other small Windows tablets. Those higher quality build materials also mean an all-around classier design as well: we were particularly shocked with the ThinkPad styling (including the same light-up dot on the ‘i’ in the ThinkPad logo). Sure, fingerprints were visible on the tablet’s satin finish, but Lenovo’s prior tablets weren’t nearly as slick — in fact, this feels as premium as the company’s flagship Ultrabooks.

As for performance, the Intel Bay Trail chip powering it was more than capable during our hands-on time, and it streamed video to connected monitors with no issue. It’s a tempting little Windows 8 tablet.

Lenovo unveils line of low-cost Miix 2 convertibles, refreshes its Flex, Y, Z series laptops

Lenovo Miix 2
Lenovo Miix 2

Well, this is confusing. After releasing the Miix 2, not the one referenced in the headline above but the eight-inch Windows tablet, Lenovo announced two more products called the Miix 2 at CES 2014, except these aren’t tablets, but rather, detachable laptops. True to their name, the Miix 2 10 and Miix 2 11 have 10.1- and 11.6-inch screens, respectively, and come with both a tablet and keyboard dock. In particular, you can insert the tablet with the screen facing either in or out — just like on last year’s ThinkPad Helix and the company’s growing Yoga line. Either way, you get a 1920×080 IPS display, an eight-hour battery, dual 5MP rear-facing/2MP front-facing cameras, optional 3G, a microSD slot, micro-HDMI port, JBL speakers and a full-sized USB port on the dock.

Aside from screen size, the biggest difference is in processing power: The 10-inch model users a low-power Intel Bay Trail processor with up to 128GB of storage, whereas the bigger guy packs a more powerful Core i5 chip. Also, that model goes up to 256 gigabytes of space, instead of 128. The Miix 2 10 is available now, starting at $499, while the 11-incher is available now for $699.

 

 

Lenovo Flex 14D
Lenovo Flex 14D

Additionally, Lenovo refreshed some of its existing laptops, including the Yoga-like “Flex” series, the powerhouse Y series and the multimedia Z line. Starting with the Flex 14D and 15D, these are basically the Flex 14 and 15, which can contort into many of the same arrangements as the Yoga, except they can’t fold all the way into tablet mode. The real difference between these and the existing models is that the 14D and 15D make use of quad-core AMD A6 chips and a 1GB AMD Radeon HD 8570 GPU — a move that allowed Lenovo to lower the starting price even further to $499. Those are shipping now.

Lenovo IdeaPad Y40, IdeaPad Y50
Lenovo IdeaPad Y40, Lenovo IdeaPad Y50

Moving on, the IdeaPad Y40 and Y50 replace the existing Y410p and 510p, respectively. Based on the spec sheet, at least, it seems that if you can deal with slightly less portable machine, you’ll get much better specs on the 15-inch model. For example, it’s offered with a 3840×2160 display and optional touchscreen, whereas the Y40 tops out at 1920×1080 and is exclusively non-touch. Further, the Y50 has a backlit keyboard option, while the 14-inch version doesn’t. The two will also have different graphics solutions — AMD for the Y40 and NVIDIA for the Y50 –but it’s hard to tell by brand name alone whether either model has an advantage. Either way, both with up to a Core i7 Haswell processor, up to 16GB of RAM and either a 512GB SSD or up to 1TB of hard drive space. They’re both available now for $999 and up.

Finally, the Z40 and Z50 bring slightly lesser specs at a much lower price. Both come standard with a 1366×768 screen, but can be configured with a 1080p panel. Additionally, both will be offered with up to a Core i7 processor, up to 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB of storage space. Integrated graphics are standard, as you’d expect on a mid-range system, but you can get either machine with a NVIDIA 840M GPU if you so choose. These are available now, with prices starting at $599.

Sphero’s 2B smartphone-controlled toy is quick, easy to control, a lot of fun

Sphero 2B

The budget smartphone-controlled Sphero 2B rolled into CES Unveiled and retails for $100 — $60 less than Sphero 2.0’s current asking price. The company had a handful of models on site, and while all of them were prototypes, they worked well. It’s responsive and handles a lot better than its’ predecessor right out of the box, no doubt owing to the slightly more traditional form factor — that is, if you can use a word like “tradition” to refer to something like this.

Also, despite being a prototype, the 2B is pretty rugged. A Sphero representative said that the final version will likely have IR built-in, so multiple 2Bs can interact — and with the lower price point, it’ll be that much easier for people to pick up a couple of devices for their home. The final version will also have more lighting effects built-in. Those nub tires you see are removable, by the way, so you can customize your device. The company also showed off a 2B rocking smoother tires, which was even faster, with speeds of up to 14 feet a second. a fair bit zippier than the Sphero 2.0.

Kolibree is a smart toothbrush that shows you how clean your teeth are

Kolibree toothbrush
Kolibree toothbrush

 

One of the current technology trends is that inventors jam wireless radios in gadgets that you wouldn’t expect to find them. For instance, during CES Unveiled 2013, the HAPIfork, a smart fork that sent your eating speed to your phone in an attempt to get you to chew your food slower, became an unprecedented hit. Kolibree hopes to duplicate that with its connected toothbrush. Yes, connected toothbrush. Once you’ve cleaned your teeth like you usually do, the Kolibree pushes your stroke count to your smartphone, telling you if you did a good job and showing which parts of your gob still need some attention. Naturally, the company requested money over the summer, where you’ll be able to pick up a model priced somewhere between $100 and $200.

The device’s partners, Thomas Serval, is an ex-Googler who went back to hardware design after several years with the software giant, was inspired to build the device after getting tired of asking his children whether they’d brushed their teeth. Containing an accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope, the hardware builds a model of the inside of your mouth and then offers you a percentage score of how well you’ve done in keeping it clean. The model is built in two ways: firstly, when you get the device, you can calibrate the hardware by showing it around your gob, but also the company has a dentist-supplied list of measurements that help it understand the size of your mouse compared to your age and gender.

Hold the hardware in your hand thru hand and the prototype is surprisingly light, despite the built-in battery that is re-juiced on a wireless charging plate. It’ll push the data over Bluetooth to your smartphone or tablet, and you can monitor your family’s statistics with a league table that, hopefully, will encourage kids to out-do their parents. That same data can also be shared with your dentist, should you wish them to know how well (or not) you’ll doing in the oral hygiene stakes. Depending on the hardware you’re buying, an individual Kolibree will set you back between $100 and $200, but the company will offer discounts for family packs when it’s ready for public consumption.

NVIDIA announces Tegra K1 with 192 cores, Keplar architecture

NVIDIA Tegra K1
NVIDIA Tegra K1

In what’s becoming a yearly tradition, NVIDIA came to its CES press conference with tidings of its next-generation mobile processor which will begin gracing devices this year. The chipset maker officially announced Tegra K1, which features the first 192-core GPU based on the Kepler architecture which was originally designed for desktops and notebooks and later added to supercomputers. As you can imagine, NVIDIA is bringing its graphics chops to the new DirectX 11-powered GPU, and it packs a serious punch — so much so, in fact, that it will come with support for Unreal Engine 4 and OpenGL 4.4. In the company’s usual form, the chipmaker showed off demos of the new chip’s power compared side-by-side with a Tegra 4, and the difference is quite noticeable; the K1 offers real-time computing, global illumination, higher dynamic range and greater detail like reflective surfaces, dripping water and other realistic physically-based rendering.

Interestingly, Tegra K1 will actually come in two different versions: a 32-bit option with a 2.3GHz “4-plus-1” A15 CPU and a 64-bit unit with a 2.5GHz dual-core Denver CPU. NVIDIA representatives have said that the K1 has already been certified by AT&T and Vodafone, among other carriers, and devices with the new chipset are available now. We also learned that although LTE support doesn’t come natively on the chipset, it’ll still be available thanks to an external chip that will be part of the K1 setup. It’s hard to say whether or not this will help NVIDIA gain some lost ground on Qualcomm, but only time will tell.

Addition of Unreal Engine 4 support

The latest iteration of the Unreal Engine, Unreal Engine 4, is adding support for NVIDIA’s latest Tegra chip, the K1. Epic Games’ ubiquitous engine powered much of the last-generation’s games with Unreal Engine 3, and Epic’s promising even more with the next generation.

With Unreal Engine 3, Infinity Blade was the first mobile game running on the engine — demonstrates on-stage during an Apple keynote showcasing a new iPad. Unreal Engine 4, however, scales both up and down right out of the gate, apparently, according to Epic Games head Tim Sweeney:

“We can take absolutely anything that runs on PC or high-end consoles and run it on Tegra…I didn’t think that we’d be at this level on mobile for another three to four years.”

Chevrolet and OnStar announce in-car 4G LTE connectivity, curated AppShop

OnStar AppShop
OnStar AppShop

Chevrolet, AT&T and OnStar banded together at CES 2014 to offer a glimpse of the heart of the Connected by OnStar 4G LTE infotainment offering: AppShop. The new service will feature a curated collection of HTML5 apps — meaning that if you’re driving in the sticks and are out of cell range, your apps mostly won’t work — focused on music, weather, news and vehicle telematics all connected via AT&T’s LTE network. All cars that include the OnStar 4G LTE service will also feature a WiFI access point built into the car with support for up to seven devices — taking advantage of the same AT&T LTE link, though there’s no word on the data service’s pricing.

We took a peek at an AppShop-equipped Impala and were most impressed with its Vehicle Health app, which shows any issues with your car from “oil health” to tire pressures. Think of it as a usable replacement for the “Check Engine” light seen on most car’s dashboards, but rather than simply blinking orange it translates the error into something a tad more user friendly. Aside from car health and warnings the app enables the driver to schedule an appointment for service without having to pick up the phone. For example, by simply selecting your preferred dealership and then clicking on a date in the calendar-like display you’re then presented with AM or PM time slots, and available time in either. Chevrolet’s AppShop will initially be offered in its Canadian and US MyLink-equipped 2015 model-year Corvette, Impala, Equinox, Volt, Malibu, Silverado and Silverado HD.

Cobra Electronics demos power pack that can jump-start your car

Cobra Electronics CPP 750 JumPack
Cobra Electronics CPP 750 JumPack

Cobra Electronics is a big player in the automotive way, largely thanks to its line of radar detectors. What a lot of people don’t know, however, is that the company has also been dabbling with products that jump-start your car. At this year’s CES, Cobra introduced the JumPack, which it says is a game-changing device for jump-starting — an odd-sounding statement, but we have to agree. The 7,500-mAh portable JumPack (model number: CPP 7500) looks suspiciously like your run-of-the-mill external smartphone/tablet charger, and it’s the smallest jump-start power pack we’ve come across. It features a 200A starting current and gets up to a peak current of 400A, which is enough to give your car’s battery a few jumps — given that it only takes three to four hours to recharge, it should be more than enough to manage those unfortunate situations in a lonely parking lot. It also comes with a built-in flashlight as well as USB output (2.1A) in case you want to give your smartphone a power boost. It’s available now for $130.

Lenovo trots out a 4K Android-powered all-in-one, with a standalone monitor to match

Lenovo N308
Lenovo N308

So Lenovo announced a whole bunch of all-in-ones at CES 2014, you say? You’ll have to be a little more specific than that. In addition to unveiling a trio of Windows-based models, the company announced two more than run Android. These include the consumer-friendly N308 (pictured above) and the ThinkVision 28, a 4K machine destined for the workplace (pictured below). Starting with the consumer model (this is the Consumer Electronics Show, after all), it costs a reasonable $450 and, accordingly, comes with some fairly middling specs — notably, a 19-inch, 1600×900 display and a spinning hard drive with up to 500GB of storage. That big display aside, you’re basically looking at an oversized tablet, with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean installed and a quad-core Tegra 4 SoC running the show. Like other all-in-ones Lenovo’s released, this one’s portable with a battery rated for three hours. At 10 pounds, though, give or take, it’s actually a good deal lighter than the other portable desktop Lenovo announced that we mentioned earlier.

Lenovo ThinkVision 28
Lenovo Thinkvision 28

As for the ThinkVision model, it’s crowned by a 28-inch, 2840×2160 display, allowing you to poke 3 Jelly Bean at at a screen density of 157 pixels per inch. Note that the OS interface is actually upscaled from a 1080p resolution, but 4K content is played at its native resolution. Additionally, the machine uses NFC and a “tap to connect” feature to pair devices, though you could also hook them up using one of the four USB ports, three HDMI sockets or the micro-USB connection.

Lenovo Thinkvision Pro2840M
Lenovo Thinkvision Pro2840M

Want the same screen quality, but can do without NFC and Tegra guts? Lenovo is also selling the ThinkVision Pro2840, which has a smaller 28-inch, 3840×2160 display (and a less flexible design). As it turns out, the monitor arrived first in April for $799. The ThinkVision 28 followed in July, with prices starting at $1,199.

Lenovo’s Beacon media hub can house up to 6TB of video, photos; streams to PCs and Android devices

Lenovo Beacon
Lenovo Beacon

Lenovo makes a lot of laptops and tablets, as well as a few phones. But amid its exhaustive PC range, there’s also the eye-catching Beacon. Priced at $199, although lacking any storage out of the box, it tries to strike a balance between personal cloud storage and media server. It comes preloaded with XBMC, while dual HDD bays will support up to a hefty 6TB of storage. The Beacon, powered by an unspecified dual-core Intel Atom processor, can then stream whatever you put inside it to multiple devices at once — it managed to output to both a PC and Android device without a hiccup. You can use your handheld smart device as a remote, which makes digging through piles of photos and videos at least semi easier.

On the back, alongside HDMI, there’s Ethernet and twin USB ports, meaning it’ll be happy to link up to PCs and TVs for viewing on the big screen. Once linked to the respective app, pictures and videos captured on your phone can be automatically (or manually) uploaded. As you can see, it’s also not the typically unassuming (dull) storage hub either and is available in orange, blue, gray and black finishes for $199.

Mother is a WiFi-enabled Russian Doll that wants to replace your mother

Mother Russian doll
Mother Russian doll

When doom-mongers pretend that technology is destroying human relationships, plenty of them will use this as exhibit one. Mother is the brainchild of Rafi Haladjian, the mastermind behind the Nabaztag, and is a device designed to monitor the objects, creatures and people in your home. The white plastic Russian Doll connects to a series of sensors, called cookies, that measure motion and temperature, and will alert you when it notices a change. For instance, if you strapped a cookie to the door where your medications are kept, but one day forgot to open it when you were due, the device would nag you until you got annoyed to the point where you do it “just to just get it done so you can shut the d*mn thing up” or until you remembered (just like your actual, biological mother).

Of course, that’s a reasonable simple example, and the company has cooked up 14 different ways in which the cookies can be used to monitor your home. Another example is if you strapped a cookie to your door, Mother will send an alert and make a noise every time it’s opened — which is useful when you’re on vacation and are worried about unwanted intruders. Speaking of which, the cookies themselves can be used for up to a year before you have to replace them and you can connect up to 24 at a time — but be warned, buying and replacing those things is a little pricey, as it’s $99 for a set of four. The Mother hardware bares a resemblance to Eve from Disney’s Wall-E, although its facial expressions are limited to blinking to show that its connecting to WiFI. It’s available now, with one Mother and four cookies retailing for $222.

Griffin updates its PowerMate and StudioConnect hardware for 2014

Griffin PowerMate Bluetooth
Griffin PowerMate Bluetooth

If you think that the best part about making music is twiddling the knobs, than Griffin and you are on the same page, at least if their announcements at CES 2014 are any indication. The company updated both its StudioConnect portable iPad studio and the PowerMate jog dial for movie and music editors. The StudioConnect HD now features a pair of XLR inputs, USB and five-pin MIDI support, dedicated monitor controls and can handle both 30-pin and Lightning-based iPads.

The PowerMate Bluetooth, obviously given its name, breaks free from the restrictions of cables, offering iMovie and GarageBand users the chance to cycle through files without having to use a mouse. Naturally, the clickable wheel is also highly customizable, enabling you to craft a wide variety of utilities that can use the hardware. The StudioConnect HD will set you back $200, while the PowerMate is priced at $60.

Evernote CEO Libin pledges to refocus on core features; fix buggy, confusing apps

Evernote's Redwood City, CA office
Evernote’s Redwood City, CA office

As a student and content creator, I would personally be lost without my Evernote account. It’s understandable that it’s simply painful when the service lets us (the users) down by failing to sync notes or falling prey to hackers. Jason Kincaid posted a lengthy tirade on his blog about such an instance, in which the iOS app produced corrupted audio notes that were completely unplayable. During the troubleshooting session with the company’s support, Kincaid came across a bug that captured entire notes in plain text in its log files — the very files that a support person request when trying to diagnose a problem.

That post caught the attention of Phil Libin, Evernote’s head honcho, who admitted that the company perhaps focused too much on adding features and expanding its user base while sacrificing the core experience. But Libin proclaimed those days as being over. In fact, the Evernote team quietly shifted its focus back to squashing bugs and improving stability a couple of months ago, but that there was still plenty of work to be done, according to CEO Libin. In addition to boosting performance and fixing broken features, updates rolled out that aimed to greatly improve and simplify the user experience. The company specifically would be targeting note editing, navigation, search, sync and collaboration features across all platforms.

Liquid Image brings LTE to the action camera market with its Ego LS

Liquid Image Ego LS
Liquid Image Ego LS

Snowy mountaintops and sheer dirt tracks are a couple of locations fitting for an epic action cam recording session, but they’re not exactly the first places you think of when trying to get a good WiFi connection (or one at all, for that matter.) Without putting extra hardware at a significant risk of damage or destruction, livestream just isn’t possible in many of these desirable situations. Liquid Image aims to change that with the CES 2014 unveiling of its Ego LS camera, which features LTE connectivity. It’s capable of transmitting 400×240 WQVGA video at 30fps for up to two hours, or still images over 4G. Otherwise the eight-megapixel camera has WiFi,

Bluetooth, and can partner with iOS and Android devices via the Liquid Image app like the company’s other models. A microSD slot capable with microSD cards with up to 64GB of storage keeps you recording at 1080p/30fps or 720p/60fps in those (admittedly rare) times you’re disconnected, and like other members of the Ego line, it’ll be accompanied by various mounts. Two variants of the Ego LS, both with motion detection and continuous photo modes, but one with LTE and one without, are available now for $200.

LaCie partners with Christofle on silver-plated limited-edition Sphère hard drive

LaCie & Christofle Sphere
LaCie & Christofle Sphere

At CES 2013, LaCie unveiled the Philippe Starck-designed Blade Runner to grab the attention of those who prefer their storage gadgets to be on the “holy s**t, that’s a hard drive” side of the range. This year, the outfit teamed with French silversmith Christofle on Sphère. The globe-influenced external hard drive is silver-plated (as you can probably tell by the outfit LaCie partnered with) and touts 1TB of storage. File transfers are sorted via a USB 3.0 connection that just happens to double as the device’s power supply. Just like its predecessor, the Sphère is going to be in short supply and has a price tag to match at $490, in case you want to get some heads turning at your workstation.

Despite what appears to be a weighty silver shell, the drive is quite light. The shiny exterior may double as a mirror in extreme circumstances, but it’s prone to being mucked up with fingerprints quickly (which is an absolute shame). Aside from the branding inscriptions on the front and the iconic blue light, there aren’t any other details aside for the aforementioned USB 3.0 cable slot around back on the unit’s black base. Of course, less is more here.

Dish Network pulls a Time Warner Cable with Virtual Joey streaming app for smart TVs that take the place of a set-top box

Dish Network Virtual Joey
Dish Network Virtual Joey

Let’s take a trip down memory lane (after all, this is a year-in-review recap). Back at CES 2012, Dish Network announced a whole-home DVR setup, including the Hopper DVR (you know with the kangaroo) and a multi-room extender, called the Joey. (Clearly there’s been some sort of kangaroo obsession at Dish Network’s headquarters). Then, at CES 2013 last year, Dish introduced a version of the Hopper with Sling built in, allowing you to send both live and recorded programming to your smartphone, tablet or laptop. That brings us to CES 2014, when Dish turned its attention back to the Joey line of boxes except, well, the hardware kinda was the victim of a disappearing act.

The pay-TV operator announced the Virtual Joey, a smart TV app that will come built into select LG televisions, and which will take the place of a physical Joey extender. To be completely clear, this isn’t a ditching of the cable/satellite box. You’ll still need a Hopper DVR to serve as the base of the whole experience, but this is one less box to deal with in your entertainment center. According to company representatives, the app will come to 2013 and 2014 LG smart TVs, though it’s working to get the app on other manufacturers’ televisions as well.

Withings’ latest health gadget wants to help you sleep

Withings Aura
Withings Aura

If you’re anything like me, getting up in the morning isn’t exactly the greatest experience in the world. Plenty of gadgets have promised to monitor our circadian rhythms and rouse us when our body’s biologically ready like the Zeo and most FitBits. That hasn’t deterred Withings from jumping in with the Aura, a two-part device designed to help us catch some shut-eye. The $300 device combines a movement sensor that sits beneath your mattress and an LED lamp that aims to relax you at night and gently rouse you in the morning. The unit also promises custom light and sound patterns that’ll help with power napping, getting over jet lag or chilling out with a good book. Naturally, all of this data will be fed into a mobile app, and I’m personally looking forward to seeing how this compares to the Philips Wake-up Light.

The sleep sensor is designed to sit underneath your mattress and monitor your breathing, heart rate and monitor in order to better understand the way your sleep. It’s connected via USB rather than wirelessly, with the cable draping over the side of your bed and onto the lamp, which should sit atop your bedside table. While you’d assume that the Aura was a singleton-only deal, there are three USB ports, two of which can be used for the sleep sensors, which enables couples to get the benefit. Assuming, of course, that their lifestyles are relatively similar.

In our eyes, we assumed the lamp was very much a Philips Wake Up Light clone, but unlike that hardware, this unit doesn’t even attempt to simulate daylight to help you get out of bed. Instead, when sending you to sleep, it pumps out a glowing orange — similar to a low summer sunset — designed to promote your melatonin, and a neon blue is used to banish that same chemical in the morning. Accompanied by a variety of pre-programmed sounds that are designed to aid the process, like nature sounds or classical music. In addition to replacing your bedside light and alarm clock, the lamp has designs on the rest of your normal bedside gadgets. The third USB port, for instance, can be used to charge your smartphone, the mono speaker will as a mono Bluetooth speaker, and if you’re wealthy enough to own two, you can use A2DP to get stereo sound.

The lamp’s top and sides will recognize touch inputs, with a long press activating the reading light and a stroke along the side setting the alarm — but most controls will be kept for the mobile app. If you’re already baked into the company’s ecosystem, the data will also update into the Health Mate app, although there’s no plans for unification just yet. While the $300 retail unit, will only contain one bed sensor, units for your other half are available to buy from the company’s website for $129 now.

HTC boosted by Beats Electronics sale but notches second consecutive operating loss

HTC's Taipei headquarters
HTC’s Taipei headquarters

HTC posted another $52 million loss, but managed a small net profit of $10.3 million. Though the Taiwanese company trimmed the previous quarter’s operating loss of $101 million, total revenue actually fell slightly to $1.6 billion. That marks the ninth consecutive quarterly drop in sales, according to Bloomberg, despite the recent addition of the HTC One Max to its device lineup. Unfortunately, the company’s had to deal with a few outside setbacks, including sales bans and patent setbacks, which aren’t helping the declining interest in its handsets.

Schwinn’s CycleNav bike navigation system points cyclists in the right direction

Schwinn CycleNav
Schwinn CycleNav

When you’re in a car, it’s relatively easy to keep an eye on your GPS without moving your hands away from the good ol’ 10 and 2 positions, but how do you get from point A to point B when you’re on your bike? Schwinn’s CycleNav bike navigation system wants to answer that question. The $60 Bluetooth device clips onto your bike’s handlebar. The premise is simple: Download the product’s iOS or Android app, enter in where you want to go, choose the best route and then let the CycleNav point which way to go, using one of three LED arrows. After your journey comes to an end, the app records fitness stats for you to track (such as distance, calories burned and duration). Fortunately, it doubles as a headlight for your bicycle as well. The navigator is available online and at Walmart for the aforementioned price now.

Caterpillar’s bringing feature phones back with the super-rugged B100

Caterpillar B100 feature phone
Caterpillar B100 feature phone

If the first thing you said when you saw the header above was, “Seriously a feature phone! What is this, 2000?,” I think we might become good friends. But still, it’s pretty cool as far as things go. Granted, though, the Cat B100 wants you to go back to that pre-smartphone mindset (No touchscreen and a keypad? I can’t believe this!) Like its older B15 sibling, the B100 is as rugged as you’d expect for a device bearing the Caterpillar logo and its signature black-and-yellow bumblebee color scheme. The B100 feels solid thanks to its metal sides. The phone can sustain a drop up to 1.8 meters (5.9 feet), and thanks to covered ports, can survive being submerged in one meter (3.3 feet) for half an hour.

In place of the 15’s touchscreen is a large-button keyboard, which you should theoretically be able to operate while wearing work gloves on the job. On the rear is a three-megapixel camera and flash, along with a large speaker — or you can open up the headphone jack located on top of the phone. In terms of availability, we know that it’s available now in Germany and other parts of Europe, though a representative assured that there’ll be more news on that front later on in the year. We’ll have it here.

Sculpteo makes factory-like 3D printing much easier with Batch Control option

Sculpteo
Sculpteo

If you’re in need for more than a few 3D-printed parts for your next project or business venture, Sculpteo has a production method that’ll help you bring home the bacon. The company has just announced 3D-printing Batch Control to output as many figurines, drone parts or whatever you might need. Using Sculpteo’s software, customers can view the order inside the printer, compare pricing in real time and control both axis and orientation all while nabbing multiple units in a single batch. As far as customization goes, 11 coloirs, three finishes and two resolutions are offered for orders in an effort to cut production costs, allow for limited editions and more — like 168 pigs, for example. While the 3D-printed items displayed at CES were connected in cube form, orders don’t arrive that way by default, but it sure does make for easier transport.

Seagate’s Backup Plus line extends with Slim, Fast and desktop external drives for file storage

Seagate Backup Plus Fast
Seagate Backup Plus Fast

Seagate’s Backup Plus line has been familiar for some time now, and the company has announced three new offerings under that moniker at CES. The storage outfit has pulled the wraps off the Backup Plus Slim, Fast and desktop external hard drives, living up to each of those names with both automatic and scheduled backups. First, Fast is being touted as the first 4TB portable drive with dual 2TB drives in RAID 0. The unit is bus-powered at the hands of its USB 3.0 connection and claims speeds of 220 MB/s with a metal-topped plastic enclosure. It’s available now for $300.

Seagate Backup Plus Slim
Seagate Backup Plus Slim

Next, the Backup Plus Slim has been labeled by Seagate as the slimmest (12.1mm, to be accurate) portable drive on the market with 500GB, 1TB and 2TB versions. This options is also powered by USB 3.0 transfers and sports the same plastic shell with a solid aluminum top. If color coordination is your thing, black, silver, red and blue paint schemes is available now for prices ranging between $100 and $180, depending on the storage configuration you choose.

Seagate Backup Plus Desktop
Seagate Backup Plus Desktop

Last but not least, for those who don’t mind keeping their storage repositories at a workstation, the Backup Plus desktop serves up 2TB, 3TB and 4TB capacities inside a metal housing. This option is larger than the other two, as its meant to be left at home rather than stuffed in a jacket pocket. Pricing for the trio has been set at $130, $160 and $260, respectively, and is available now.

In addition to the new hardware, Seagate has also updated its Dashboard app that’s used with all of its Backup drives. The software still acts as a PC backup and allows for social sharing, but this time around, mobile device backup has been adding. Apps that take advantage of the update are available now for both iOS and Android, however the Apple supporting version will only back up the Camera Roll. The option for Google’s mobile OS protects videos, contacts, messages and your call log in addition to pictures in case of a gadget failure.

Belkin announces remote-controllable slow cooker, smart LED light bulbs

Belkin CrockPot WeMo slow cooker
Belkin CrockPot WeMo slow cooker

Last year, Belkin announced a partnership with Jarden (the company behind beloved brands like Mr. Coffee, Sunbeam and Crock-Pot), promising we’d eventually see kitchen appliances with Belkin’s WeMo home automation controls built in. Fast forward a year later, and Belkin has a real product to show for it: The company announced the Crock-Pot WeMo Slow Cooker (if that’s not a name, I’m not sure what is). Being a smart product and all, you can use the WeMo app for iOS or Android to remotely turn it on or off, adjust the temperature or change the time settings. You can also receive reminders so that you don’t let it sit too long. It’s available now for $100, with an air purifier, space heater and coffee maker to follow.

Additionally, Belkin introduced the WeMo Smart LED Bulb, a dimmable light that can be controlled remotely using the same WeMo app you’d use to control the aforementioned CrockPot. In particular, you can control the bulbs individually or in groups, and also set them to dim as you sleep and wake up. To get your hands on it, you’ll need to shell out $130 for the starter kit, which includes two 60W equivalent bulbs and a bridge that plugs into an outlet. Thereafter, the lights cost $40 apiece and are said to last up to 23 years. Also, the bridge can connect to up to 50 bulbs, so odds are you’ll never have to buy another. Last up, there’s the WeMo Maker kit, which lets modders manage anything with a simple DC switch — gates, garage doors, blinds, AC units, and anything else you think of. That is also available now for $79.99.

Wrapping all this together is an improved mobile app, which lets you control all your WeMo home-automated devices remotely. New in this edition is the ability to simulate occupancy, Home Alone-style, so that the lights come on at a certain time, making it seem like someone’s home. If you’re hip to the ways of If This Then That (IFTTT), you can set your lights to go on every night at sunset and turn off every day at sunrise — with that time changing as the days get shorter and longer. If you already own some WeMo gear, you’ll have to download the app update, but it’s available now for those that are new to the WeMo line.

Apple buys SnappyLabs to improve high-speed iPhone photography

Snappycam iOS app
SnappyCam iOS app

The iPhone 5s can already capture photos at a brisk 10 frames per second, but that’s apparently not enough for Apple. The company has confirmed that it has acquired SnappyLabs, a one-man outfit best known for its popular iOS camera app SnappyCam. Cupertino hasn’t outlined its plans following the buyout, but the software’s party trick is its extremely high-speed photography; it takes full-resolution shots at up to 30fps, and scales up to 60fps. You don’t need an oracle-like insight to predict that insight that future Apple devices could snap pictures at a rate that would put many professional cameras to shame.

InAir Smart HDMI adapter overlays Web atop television content with custom user interface

InAir Smart HDMI adapter
InAir Smart HDMI adapter

Televisions are no longer simply screens for viewing DVDs, Blu-rays and terrestrial television: Folks want to have the internet on them, too. SeeSpace is a startup building the InAir Smart HDMI adapter that plugs in-line between your set-top box and TV to deliver web content to the big screen. The system then overlays an intelligent layer atop your video feed that analyzes what you’re watching and supplies relevant web and social content as well. InAir’s UI is controlled by a companion app for both iOS and Android that turns your phone or tablet into a trackpad that lets you navigate by swiping and scrolling on the screen. Additionally, interested developers can use an API to build new features for the platform. The InAir adapter is available now for $99.

Samsung’s SmartCam HD DIY security cameras capture 1080p video indoors or out

Samsung SmartCam HD DIY security camera
Samsung SmartCam HD DIY security camera

Just in case the NSA isn’t keeping a close enough watch over everything, you can use Samsung Teckwin’s latest SmartCams to do your own surveillance. The SmartCam separates from its competitors by recording 1080p video to an internal SD card, and has a version designed to work outside. That means that unlike Dropcam, for example, it’s not constantly uploading video to a remote server for storage and doesn’t require an add-on subscription to work. While that cuts out some of the cloud-based security Dropcam can offer, it combines with Samsung’s compression tech to enable these to use about 30 percent of the bandwidth other cameras require, and still lets owners tap in remotely for a peek whenever they like.

Both connect over WiFi, and can be configured from Android or iOS devices using the SmartCam app and WiFi Direct. Both claim excellent low-light video quality, and while the indoor version has a range of about 16 feet, the outdoor version extends to 50 feet. Beyond its extra viewing range, the outdoor version is ruggedized for the elements, and comes in two parts, keeping the power and WiFi module securely inside your home, connected to the camera outside via a network cable. The SmartCam HD and SmartCam HD Outdoor are both available now for $179 and $229, respectively.

Tao WellShell offers up isometric resistance, tracks fitness, rhymes

Tao Wellshell
Tao Wellshell

It’s safe to say that this is the year of the wearable. Tao Wellness’ rhyming WellShell wants to be a bit of a one-stop shop for all things portable fitness. The handheld’s primary function is isometrics– offering you resistance as you work out, while helpfully coaching ou with built-in audible encouragement. The device is built for 50 different isometric exercises, recording results by way of your Android or iOS device. It can also track your steps, caloric intake, heart rate and sleep patterns — so pretty much everything, but the cooldown massage.

It looks like a flat, symmetrical mouse — minus the cable. After giving it a squeeze (you’re supposed to), as well as testing out a pair of earlier models that avoid the screen of the functionality). Instead, these flat tokens are actually more stylish and simple, with a glowing light in the center. However, with these smaller models, all the data and exercise instruction is delivered by the app, meaning that while the new WellShell it might just lose out in the looks, the new model looks to offer a far gentler learning curve.

Wellograph activity tracker has good looks, fun graphs

Wellograph smartwatch
Wellograph activity tracker

One of the latest entrants to the crowded wearable market is the Wellograph activity tracker, which is one of the few trackers you might actually want to wear on a night out. The activity tracker, which features a sapphire crystal display, features a heart rate monitor and an activity tracker, in addition to being (wait for it) a standalone device, with no smartphone integration to speak of beyond syncing with Bluetooth 4.0.

The Wellograph stands out from other activity trackers by displaying information such as steps taken and heartbeats per minute in graph form (rather than simply displaying digits), according to Wellograph CEO Sarasin Art Booppanon. Another distinguishing feature is the sapphire crystal display, which is allegedly the first to appear on a consumer product at a price point that won’t absolutely obliterate your wallet. This type of screen is known for being scratch resistant, and while that’s not something that could be put to the test at CES Unveiled, it looked and felt pretty sturdy.

You’d expect a fitness-focused device to look rugged (even clunky) but the Wellograph is the exception to the rule (or expectation, in this case). It’s leather strap and stainless steel design screen dollar signs, and I’m thrilled that Wellograph took a sophisticated approach. It’s a nice change from the more utilitarian designs we’ve seen, but it’s not exactly unisex.; the timepiece looked a tad bit ridiculous on female wrists.

The Wellograph features a 168×144 e-paper LCD screen, and visibility was limited with strong overhead light by our findings. To navigate the interface, you press one of the two buttons on the device’s right side: the top one to toggle pages within a certain features (think: clock or fitness stats) and the bottom to move between the different features. It’s simple but engaging, especially because they’re more interactive that what’s been seen on other activity trackers. You can see your fitness level and your fitness age, pinpointed on a bell curve, for example. The activity tracker slides into a magnetic charging dock via a connector on the back — the rear end of the Wellograph, incidentally, is also where you’ll find the heart rate sensor.

The Wellograph is available now for about $300, according to Booppanon.

PrioVR full-body mocap suit promises accurate motion tracking in VR gaming

PrioVR
PrioVR

Sure, the last generation console motion tracking race (Xbox 360’s Kinect; Playstation 3’s Move) did a great job of bringing motion tracking closer to the mainstream, but it hasn’t exactly fulfilled the dreams of futuristic gaming that Hollywood (and our imaginations, frankly) promised. PrioVR, a motion-tracking suit meant for virtual reality games, aims to bring us to take that next big step to that point with accurate full-body motion-capture abilities without a camera array in the mix.

The demo was pretty impressive: A representative was decked out in the upper-body suit, complete with Wii nunchuks, playing a first-person shooter. Sensors on his chest, back, head arms and hands translated his movements to the screen with little latency, showing up on the display in a fraction of a second. However, there was an ever-so-slight choppiness — which could be blamed more on the game engine than the hardware — but it remains to be seen how much of an effect this has on gameplay. Though only a upper-body rig was being shown off at CES, a full-body getup promises to capture everything from walking to kicking.

YEI Technology, PrioVR’s parent company, originally launched a Kickstarter effort during late 2013, but after only raising $111,237 of its $225,000 funding goal, the firm’s giving the prototype another go, with a new campaign. The upper-body suit will go for about $300, while the full-body version will come in under $400. Obviously, this type of technology opens up a world of possibilities for developers, especially when paired with products with the likes of the Oculus Rift and other head-mounted displays.

Qualcomm shows more of the Snapdragon 805’s camera, pin tricks

Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
Qualcomm Snapdragon 805

Even if you couldn’t make it to CES to see the Snapdragon 805 processor flex its muscles, the chipmaker’s got you covered. Qualcomm has posted a slew of videos showing what the chip can do for photography, including automatic close-ups through OptiZoom, continuous focusing on a subject through Touch to Track and natural-looking low-light shots through Chroma Flash. The CPU can even begin recording video as soon as a subject crosses a line, such as at a race. As a bonus, the company has also showed off Ultra Sound NotePad, a refinement of an earlier technique that uses microphones to translate a pen’s ultrasonic vibrations into handwriting on screen. It could be a while before any of these features make it to a shipping device, but that’s what makes CES so exciting every year; it’s an opportunity for companies to think about the bigger picture. The clips embedded below should give you a feel for the real thing.

Parrot’s MiniDrone climbs walls, rolls around the ceiling, is really, really small

Parrot MiniDrone
Parrot MiniDrone

Parrot’s been offering up relatively small updates to its AR.Drone line each year at CES, and while the quadcopter is, without question, the iPad of this space, it’s about time we see a genuinely fresh take on the product. The MiniDrone delivers on that expectation — and then some. It’s exceptionally small and light, so far as consumer drones go. It’s quick, nimble and fairly user-friendly thanks to on-board autopilot and myriad built-in sensors, controlled via a smartphone or tablet via low energy Bluetooth.

Other than the size, the coolest thing about the product may be the removable wheels, which let you drive the MiniDrone across the ceiling and up walls. And if the demos we got at CES Unveiled event are any indication, the little drone’s looks are deceiving, at least on the ruggedness front. The MiniDrone is available now for $159.99.

Okidokeys smart locks let you manage your front door remotely

Okidokeys smart lock
Okidokeys smart lock

There are goofy product names, and then there’s Okidokeys, a moniker that might very well has been awarded the goofiest product name of CES 2014 (which is a stellar achievement, if you ask me). All jokes aside, however, the company is taking its line of smart locks seriously. Its parent company, OpenWays Group, already is looking to provide smartphone-based door lock solutions to hotels. The company’s leveraging the 256-bit AES cryptology security it’s used in those products to Okidokeys, home locks that can be controlled with an Android or iOS device via Bluetooth. There seems to be a pretty wide array of options here, letting you enable a hands-free unlock when you’re near the door or associating objects like an RFID card, in case your smartphone should run out of battery power before you get to the door. Using the company’s website, you can manage accounts, giving people limited access to the door so, for example, your babysitter can only get in during designated times, and if anyone tries to break in, you’ll get an alert on your phone. You can also unlock the door from afar, should someone forget their key. The line of locks are available now starting at $179.

LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 wields dual 500GB SSDs, Intel’s latest port tech

LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2
LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2

When Intel officially launched Thunderbolt 2 in June 2013, it promised that we’d see devices sporting those blazing-fast speeds soon. It seems LaCie was one outfit willing to pick up the baton to embrace the tech as the storage company has announced the Little Big 2. The successor to the Little Big Disk Thunderbolt, version 2.0 touts transfer speeds of 1375 MB/s, thanks to Intel’s Thunderbolt 2 port (naturally), and a new all-black paint scheme on its aluminum shell. Inside, two 500GB PCIe Gen 2 SSDs in RAID 0 format can wrangle 4K and 3D video edits — power that should property arm creatives that demand a little bit more (just a little more) than the average consumer. That interior space has also been designed to properly handle heat distribution so that the virtually silent, thermoregulated fan needs to only kick on every now and then. The storage gadget is available now for $1299.

During our demo time with the Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2, we observed write speeds of 1200MB/s and read marks at 1300 MB/s — which translates to transferring a 300GB file in about four minutes. Thankfully, the drives were set up before the demo, and were sorting files for some time, remained at nearly room temperature. With two of the Thunderbolt 2 drives setup in RAID 0, we witnessed 2000MB/s write speeds and read numbers of 2600 MB/s. Although the front plate of the new unit is glossy, the entire enclosure is still made of metal and the black paint job looks quite nice beside a new 2013 Mac Pro.

Moneual’s RYDIS H68 Pro robot aims to replace both your Roomba and Scooba

Moneual Rydis H68 Pro
Moneual RYDIS H68 Pro

Why would you drop the cash for both a Roomba and Scooba when you can get a device that does both? Of course, it’s still early to tell whether the RYDIS H68 Pro can match (or come anywhere close to) the efficiency of either of iRobot’s flagship lines, but Moneual certainly is winning some convenience points here. The sequel to the RYDIS H67 features a large water tank, and is capable of capturing nearly all particles that are 0.3 micron or larger. There are 42 omnidirectional sensors on board and it uses Smart Vision Mapping to determine the best routes to cover a room as it mops and vacuums at the same time. The RYDIS H68 Pro is available now.

Eton’s ruxus Xtreme is a solar-powered Bluetooth speaker that loves the great outdoors

Eton ruxus Xtreme
Eton ruxus Xtreme

Eton has a bit of a thing for music combined with solar power. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Its latest eco-powered music machine is the ruxus Xtreme, and blast potentially non-stop jams (as long as you have a Sun to power your jam session) to the great outdoors. The Bluetooth 4.0 device has five speakers (two main, the rest for “bass radiating”) and has a built-in 6600mAh battery that can be charged either by Mother Nature (in about five hours), or the Ol’ Reliable power outlet (in three). No matter which way the ruxus Xtreme gets its juice, you can use it for prolonged listening, or use the speaker’s battery to power up your mobile device — so it could also be called a solar charger. There’s NFC for easy pairing, and you can even link up two units for what we imagine Eton is looking to trademark as Xtreme loudness. The IPX4 water-resistance rating also makes it good for those who like to jam in the rain (or snow) is ready to soak up some Vitamin D now for $230. There’s also a rugged rukus II model for $130, if you’re willing to sacrifice some battery life (1600mAh instead).

Griffin launches iPhone 5 case for Square card reader using merchants

Griffin Merchant case for iPhone 5
Griffin Merchant case for iPhone 5

If you’re looking for a durable way to carry that Square card reader while you’re raking in that moolah for your small business? Griffin has you covered with a case for that. Teaming up with Square for CES 2014, the case manufacturer has announced an iPhone 5 case designed specifically for businesses making their money on the go. For the most part, the Merchant Case is little more than a standard silicone phone sleeve, but a few minor tweaks make it particularly suited to Square users. The case’s bottom edge, for instance, is designed to hold the reader in place, while also providing a credit card shaped groove to help guide your customers’ plastic into the Square. The backside of the case also has a recessed storage area that can serve as the card reader’s home when it’s not in use, making it easier to carry around. The case does look a little bulky, but it does seem to be a simple solution to a simple problem. The Griffin Merchant Case is available now for $20 on the company’s website.

Valve names company’s first 14 Steam Machines partners

Some of Valve's first 14 Steam Machines displayed at CES 2014
Some of Valve’s first 14 Steam Machines displayed at CES 2014

Valve’s Steam Machines initiative has already been supported by a first-party box used by 300 beta users, but 2014 is all about third-party Steam Machines taking that reference box and running with it. Thus far, the only third parties we know of that are making Steam Machines are iBuyPower and Digital Storm — but today, all that changed. Alienware, Falcon Northwest, CyberPowerPC, Origin PC, Gigabyte, Material.net, Webhallen, Alternate, Next, Zotac, Scan Computers and Maingear (in addition to iBuyPower and Digital Storm) are among the first companies signed on to support Valve’s initiative.

The entire lineup was on display at CES 2014, and we’ll have more details below. Beyond the company’s 14 partners above, it’s completely possible that there are other third parties signed on for Steam Machines — we didn’t know until Valve’s press conference on the afternoon of January 6.

The Specs

Valve’s Gabe Newell took to the stage at Valve’s CES 2014 event and doled out specs for gaming rigs from all of the companies I mentioned above. There are 13 machines in all, varying in price from $500 to $6000 apiece. We don’t have full hardware specifications as of now, but we’ll rundown what we know as of now.

Alienware — Price TBD

Alienware Steam Machine
Alienware Steam Machine

The folks at Dell (Alienware’s parent company) were kind enough to reveal their machine at Valve’s event, but didn’t clue us in on what’s inside. What we do know is that the case is a fairly basic black box, flaunting only Alienware and Steam logos for flare and offering a pair of front-facing USB ports. We don’t know what’s inside, but given the company’s tradition of configurable hardware, there will probably be multiple options.

It’s available now and Dell didn’t give any spec suggestions (except to say that it will perform on par with a gaming notebook). Even then, Dell representatives declined to make any specific comparisons with Alienware’s current notebook offerings, so you really won’t know until later if this is an equivalent to an Alienware 14 or 18. As for the price, it will be “highly competitive to the next generation of consoles,” according to Alienware business development’s Marc Diana. That translates to between $400 and $500, then? Dell is hoping it can sell more Steam Machines than the nearly countless other Steam Machines on the market, even if this is an experimental category.

Diana:

“We feel we are uniquely positioned in that we can serve a lot of customers from the start.”

As seen above, Dell’s aiming for its Steam Machine to be exceptionally compact.

Greg Coomer, Valve designer:

“It’s dramatically smaller than about everything else in the lineup.”

Coomer noted that there will be at least one machine that’s smaller, but it will be far less powerful. Given that we don’t know the specs as of yet, we’d take any comments about performance with a grain of salt. That said, anyone with two eyes can see that this is indeed a compact little box, especially compared to the PS4 or Xbox One. As for the rest of the design, Dell is already taking up the cooling system, which sucks in cold air through channels on the back, and is said to run quietly. Unfortunately, we can’t vouch for that last piece, as we haven’t seen a working prototype in action.

Elsewhere on the device, you’ll find two USB ports up front, but that’s of course subject to change as the unit on display today is hardly final. Also, given that this is an Alienware machine we’re talking about, there will naturally be some colorful LED lights. The setup is (thankfully) quite modest for Dell’s standards: Right now, only the Alienware and Steam logos are expected to light up. Alienware’s rationale? The Steam Machine will likely reside in your living room — a spot where you’d probably rather it blend in than call too much attention to itself.

Alternate — $1339

Alternate Steam Machine
Alternate Steam Machine

This simple cube isn’t exactly going to win any beauty contests, but it has some pretty decent internals. Alternate’s Steam Machine is specced with an Intel Core i5 4570 processor, an NVIDIA GTX 760 GPU from Gigabyte, 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB of storage, via a hybrid solid state hard drive.

CyberPowerPC — $499 and up

CyberPower PC Steam Machine
CyberPower PC Steam Machine

If you’re looking for something that resembles an original Xbox-era game console, take a look at CyberpowerPC’s rig. It’s packing an AMD 3.9GHZ A6 CPU, 2GB Radeon R9 270 GPU, up to 8GB of RAM and 500GB of internal storage. If you’re not too keen to AMD, CyberPowerPC is offering an Intel based alternative with a 3.5GHz Core i3 processor and a GeForce GTX 760 GPU instead, with dozens of other configurations available at a customer’s whim. It’s available now.

Digital Storm “Bolt II” — $2584

Digital-Storm-Bolt-II
Digital Storm Bolt II

Digital Storm’s laltest Bolt is more than the standard tower seen from the boutique PC company in the past. It’s a Steam Machine, but also a regular PC with the ability to dual-boot into both Windows and Steam OS. The biggest difference is that it ships with Valve’s Steam Controller — something you’ll need if you’re interested in playing any cursor-based games in your living room.

The Bolt II will be outfitted with an Intel Core i7 4470K processor, a GTX 7880 Ti graphics processor, up to 16GB of RAM and a traditional one-two HDD/SSD combo: one terabyte of storage on the traditional spinning disc and 120GB on the speedy solid state drive.

Oddly, its price was above the $1,500 we originally heard, but that’s apparently because of power. Digital Storm decided to offer a more powerful entry-level system, according to a company representative.

 

Gigabyte “Brix Pro” — Price TBD

Gigabyte Brix Pro
Gigabyte Brix Pro

This diminutive box appears to be a little wider than a DVD, but also seems to suffer for its size. Although its Intel Core i7-4770R CPU is fast enough, Valve’s press materials describe it as having integrated graphics — Intel Iris Pro 5200, specifically. Integrated chips have come a long way in recent years, but definitely worth noting. The box also sports 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SATA HDD.

iBuyPower — $499 and up

iBuyPower Steam Machine
iBuyPower SBX Steam Machine

Like so many Steam Machine builders, iBuyPower is known for offering its customers customizable boxes, which is why the company didn’t specify any one type of processors. The company’s Steam Machine will offer GPUs from both AMD and Intel, and promises an AMD graphics card — a Radeon R9 270, to be specific. Plus, if you’ve got a thing for consoles, you’ll love it’s case, which looks like an odd mix of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

The pretty little Steam Machine, dubbed “SBX,” is iBuyPower’s direct challenge to Microsoft and Sony’s game consoles: $500 gets you to the box, a Steam Controller, an HDMI cable, and all the power therein. The prototype we saw pack a modified (with “some voltage and speed tweaks”) Athlon X4 740 CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB HDD, and a Radeon R7 250 GPU (1GB GDDR5) power Steam OS — no dual booting here! iBuyPower hoped for a Radeon R7 260X (or equivalent) GPU when it shipped, but most of the other specs have stood the test of time.

This is iBuyPower’s first console, rather than a highly modified PC, according to the company’s director, Tuan Mguyen. It’s easy to see his perspective after getting to know a prototype here at CEs. Of the various Steam Machines announced during Steam’s press event, SBX is a middle of the road entry in terms of both price and specs. It’ll run today’s prettiest games on Steam without an issue, but not all of them turned all the way up. Two color variations of the box are available: glossy white and matte black. What about that color bar dividing SBX in two? An iOS and Android app named LEDControl enables a wide variety of color choices on the fly (no light at all is also an option).

Falcon Northwest “Tiki” — $1,799-$6,000

Falcon Northwest Tiki
Falcon Northwest Tiki

Falcon Northwest’s Tiki PC isn’t exactly a newcomer, but the Steam Machine version certainly is. It’s a direct replica of the currently available Tiki, albeit with Steam OS and a Steam Controler packed in. In terms of specs, there’s a pretty wide range: up to a GTX Titan GPU, 6TB of storage (yes, 6,000GB!), and up to 16GB of RAM. If that wasn’t enough, the outside its emblazoned with the planet on fire imagery seen in so much Steam Machine marketing.

Materiel.net — $1,098

Materel.net Steam Machine
Materel.net Steam Machine

Materiel is aiming at your game consoles with a box packing a tad more power than what Microsoft and Sony are offering. An Intel Core i5 CPU, a NVIDIA GTX 760 GPU, 8GB of RAM and 1TB of storage round out the box’s specs, and the rice is just right — a slight step above the newest game consoles and comparable boutique PCs, with a big enough power upgrade to justify the price.

 Next “Spa” — Price TBD

Next Spa
Next Spa

Next’s Steam Machine is just a step above the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, offering an Intel Core i5 CPU, a NVIDIA GT 760 and 1TB storage. It looks like it’ll land just below a grand.

Origin PC “Chronos” — Price TBD

Origin PC Chronos
Origin PC Chronos

Origin’s taking a configurable approach with its Steam Machine, off an Intel Core i7 CPU, two NVIDIA GTX Titan GPUs, 32GB of RAM and 14TB of storage (with swappable drives). There’s a good reason why the price for the Chronos hasn’t been announced — because either a, your wallet is going to physically die or b, you’re going to have a heart attack when you hear how much this Lamborghini PC setup is going to cost.

Scan NC10 — $1,090

Scan NC10
Scan NC10

Scan’s flat, long Steam Machine is a mix of high end (NVIDIA GTX 765M GPU) and low end (Intel Core i3 CPU), and seems destined for mostly game streaming. 8GB of RAM and 500GB of HDD storage mean you’ll be able to do at least some gaming right on the NC10, but it isn’t exactly a powerhouse.

Webhallen — $1,499

Webhallen Steam Machine
Webhallen Steam Machine

Webhallen’s take on the Steam Machine concept is on the higher-end of the spectrum, with an Intel Core i7 CPU, a NVIDIA GTX 780 GPU, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSHD — clearly they’re not kidding around! Of course, great power comes with a mighty price tag (in this case, $1499). It might be double the power of new game consoles, but being more than double the price makes Webhallen’s model a bit of a hard sell.

Zotac — $599

Zotac Steam Machine
Zotac Steam Machine

Zotac’s got an especially small little box, with an unnamed Intel Core CPU, a NVIDIA GTX GPU (also unnamed) and unknown amounts of storage and RAM. What we do know is that the Zotac is a box on the level of a new game console, and it has a price to match.

Valve hasn’t ruled out making its own Steam Machine

Valve's logo
Valve’s logo

The question that’s probably on your mind right now after reading through the spec rundown above (it was in my mind, at least) is that “What about Valve; where’s their Steam Machine?” Steam didn’t show one off at the Consumer Electronics Show, but that doesn’t mean that the masterminds behind the Steam game store has ruled it out.

Newell during Valve’s CES 2014 press conference, in response to a question asking whether the company would make its own Steam Machine:

“We’re gonna make that decision as we go along. We have plans to build more machines as customers ask.”

So far, only 300 beta testers have the answer to that question beyond Gabe Newell’s statement. Part of Valve’s reason for being at CES was to solicit feedback from press and consumers, according to Newell, which pretty much puts a nail in the coffin of the fantasy of a Valve-made Steam Machine box.

Road Warrior Bluetooth speaker aims to amp up your tailgating with 200 watts of power

ION Road Warrior Bluetooth speaker
ION Road Warrior Bluetooth speaker

If the average portable Bluetooth speaker doesn’t pack enough audio punch for your liking, Ion’s revealed a titan that just might meet your needs. Dubbed the Road Warrior, the firm’s 200-watt wireless stereo system packs a duo of ten-inch woofers paired with two one-inch tweeters. In addition to Bluetooth streaming capabilities, the box also boasts an AM/FM radio and an 1.8-inch jack. When it comes to power, the package can only rely on its built-in battery, a wall plug or the 12 volt outlet in your car. The kit was designed for occasions like tailgating events and cookouts, so it’s fitting that the speakers are contained in a cloth-covered box reminiscent of car audio gear. A price tag and release date are MIA, but we’ll have it here as the TechSummit Rewind continues.

HP launches a bunch of business PCs, including an Android-powered all-in-one at CES

HP Slate 21 Pro
HP Slate 21 Pro

I think that HP forgot that CES is short for the Consumer Electronics Show. Pretty much everything HP showed off in Vegas was aimed for the enterprise user — or should I say, the IT guys tasked with outfitting employees. Out of everything Hewlett-Packard announced, the most interesting thing might be the Slate 21 Pro, an Android-powered all-in-one tailored for business users. Granted this isn’t even HP’s first Android AiO (that honor goes to the original Slate 21), but it is the first Android-toting all-in-one for the corporate world. And hey, if HP isn’t going to announce any consumer products, the next best thing is products that are at least consumerfied, am I right?

At any rate, the big story here is in the software department: In addition to all of the usual Google services (Gmail, Google Plus, YouTube, Google Calendar, Google Drive), HP pre-loaded the thing with Kingsoft Office, Evernote, Skype, HP Classroom Manager, 50GB of lifetime Box storage and Citrix Receiver for remote Windows access. To be sure, one could use all these apps in the office, at least on a secondary display, but HP also imagines the Slate 21 Pro in classrooms, computer labs, public kiosks and maybe the business center at Hampton Inn. And given that it runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean (at launch), the owner can use the restricted profile feature to make it so that guests can only use certain apps (like Chrome, for example). It’s available now for $399 with a keyboard and mouse — not that you’re going to buy one for yourself.

HP Pro x2 410
HP Pro x2 410

Additionally, HP announced the Pro x2 410, an 11-inch detachable laptop, and its first hybrid for the business market (I think you can see the theme here). All told, it’s pretty much a business version of the Split x2, in that it runs either an Intel Core i3 or i5 processor and rocks a decent 1366×768 display with no pen input. That’s available now for “at or around $899,” according to a company representative.

HP ProOne 400
HP ProOne 400

Also, in addition to the Slate 21 Pro we just mentioned, HP unveiled two other AiOs — the ProOne 400 and the HP 205, both of which run Windows. Starting with the 400, it’s available available in two screen sizes: 21.5 inches with touch or 19.5 without. Either way, you get a choice of Intel Haswell processors, though screen resolution varies depending on the model; the touch version goes up to 1080p, while the non-touch is capped at 1600×800. Those are available now, starting at $799 with touch and $649 without. Meanwhile, the HP 205 is an 18.5-inch machine with low-end specs (1366×768 display, dual-core AMD Kabini APU) and a budget $449 and up price tag to match.

Finally, HP launched the new 300 line of laptops, which consists of 14- and 15-inch models that feature spill-resistant keyboards, anti-glare panels and fingerprint readers, but not the premium software add-ons you’d get on the existing 400 series. That’ll go starting at $399.

NVIDIA files complaints against Samsung, Qualcomm for infringing GPU patents

NVIDIA has announced the filing of complaints against Samsung and Qualcomm at the International Trade Commission and U.S. District Court in Delaware, alleging that the companies are both infringing on NVIDIA’s GPU patents covering technologies including programmable shading, unified shaders and multi-threaded parallel processing.

Samsung products identified include the following:

  • Galaxy Note Edge
  • Galaxy Note 4
  • Galaxy S5
  • Galaxy Note 3
  • Galaxy S4
  • Galaxy Tab S
  • Galaxy Note Pro
  • Galaxy Tab 2

Most of these devices incorporate Qualcomm processors, including the following:

  • Snapdragon S4
  • Snapdragon 400
  • Snapdragon 600
  • Snapdragon 800
  • Snapdragon 801
  • Snapdragon 805

Others are powered by Samsung’s own Exynos processors, which incorporates ARM’s Mali and Imagination Technologies’ PowerVR GPU cores.

Jen-Hsun Huang, NVIDIA co-founder and CEO:

“As the world leader in visual computing, NVIDIA has invented technologies that are vital to mobile computing. We have the richest portfolio of computer graphics IP in the world, with 7,000 patents granted and pending, produced by the industry’s best graphics engineers and backed by more than $9 billion in R&D.

“Our patented GPU inventions provide significant value to mobile devices. Samsung & Qualcomm have chosen to use these in their products without a license from us. We are asking the courts to determine infringement of NVIDIA’s GPU patents by all graphics architectures used in Samsung’s mobile products and to establish their licensing value.

Source: NVIDIA

NVIDIA’s Tegra K1 aims to transform Chromebooks

When NVIDIA looks at entering new markets, the company likes to move into areas “where we can innovate and where our products can help solve hard problems. The Acer Chromebook 13 helps the chipmaker achieve both.

The Acer Chromebook 13 is the industry’s first Chromebook with the company’s Tegra K1 processor. It offers customers “unmatched graphics performance, record-setting 13 hour battery life and breezy multi-tasking performance, all in an ultra-mobile form factor.”

The Chromebook phenomenon surprised many with its swift rise to popularity, and now people are steadily expecting more and more (this guy included) from their devices. When powered by the Tegra K1, the Chromebook experience is “better than ever.” Here’s why:

  • Tegra K1’s “breakthrough power efficiency” gives Chromebooks “incredibly long battery life, and “silent, slim, fanless designs, which are true measures of any mobile device’s portability.”
  • People rarely use computers for just one thing at a time. We might be browsing multiple websites while streaming audio and running productivity apps. Tegra K1’s quad-core CPU has more cores available than the majority of Chromebook processors, so you can run everything you need to “without missing a beat” faster than on “any other mobile processor on the market.”
  • Lots of schools use Chromebooks, but mostly for “mundane activities like spreadsheets and quizzes.” With the arrival of a new wave of 3D interactive educational websites, Tegra K1’s “best-in-class GPU performance is transforming the Chromebook into a powerful interactive learning tool.”
  • The web is rapidly becoming a graphically rich, visual environment, thanks in part to the wide adoption of WebGL. Tegra K1 “delivers the raw graphics power” that these visual environments demand.
  • We game on all our devices, so why should a Chromebook be any different? With the upcoming launch of games like Miss Take and Oort, along with the promise of great titles thanks to the adoption of WebGL in Unreal Engine 4 and Unity 5, the future of Chromebooks is looking really fun.

NVIDIA is entering this market with Acer, the “#1 player in the Chromebook space.” With the Acer Chromebook 13’s $279 price tag, the world’s first Chromebook powered by the Tegra K1 processor may also be the “world’s best deal.”

It’s a “high-performance, power-sipping marvel,” delivering “well over 50 percent more battery life than the average top-selling Chromebook. Plus, Tegra K1 stays cool without a fan, so the system is completely silent.

Its screen is sized at 13 inches diagonally, which allows for a “full-size keyboard,” as well as a “much larger trackpad and display” than previous models. And to top it all off, its 18mm depth makes it “one of the thinnest Chromebooks on the market.”

The Acer Chromebook 13 is available now through Amazon and Best Buy.

Source: NVIDIA

Ubisoft and NVIDIA form ‘alliance’ to give PC gamers a visual edge

Today, Ubisoft and NVIDIA announced a new alliance to offer PC gamers the best gaming experiences possible for Ubisoft’s biggest upcoming titles, including Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Blacklist, Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag and Watch Dogs.

NVIDIA’s Developer Technology Team is working closely with Ubisoft’s development studios on incorporating graphics technology innovations to create game worlds that deliver new heights of realism and immersion. Examples include TXAA antialiasing, which provides Hollywood-levels of smooth animation, soft shadows, HBAO+ (horizon-based ambient occlusion), and advanced DX11 tessellation.

The PC version of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Blacklist, released on August 20, is available now from participating retailers as part of an NVIDIA bundle with GeForce GTX 660, 660 TI, 670, 680, 760, 770, or 780 GPUs.

Source: Joystiq

NVIDIA Shield Now Has Open Source Software Support

NVIDIA has released the open-source code developers and modders can use to customize SHIELD’s entire operating system.

If you’re not content with what SHIELD can do out of the box, NVIDIA invites you to build out the SHIELD’s capabilities any way you wish.

However, NVIDIA’s warranty policy does allow them to reject returns if a device has been rooted or a boot loader has been unlocked. NVIDIA’s goal isn’t to discourage people from rooting their devices but to give them a course of action if folks start to abuse the hardware through software modifications.

Source: NVIDIA Blog