TechSummit Rewind 159: Sony at MWC 2017

Sony hopes to shake off a lackluster 2016 with three new smartphones

This is a special edition of the TechSummit Rewind, focusing on Sony at MWC 2017.

Xperia XZ Premium

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Sony hopes to bounce back from a lackluster 2016 with the introduction of the 5.5-inch Xperia XZ Premium with a number of world firsts.

The XZ Premium has the world’s first 4K HDR (2160×3840) display in a smartphone.

Besides the display, the phone also has the new Motion Eye camera system. Sony has embedded fast memory right into the camera stack, allowing it to produce super-slow motion of 960fps at 720p resolution. The rapid burst only lasts for 0.18 seconds however, so you’re technically only capturing something closer to 180 frames.

The addition of the extra memory also helps Sony start buffering shots as soon as the camera detects motion in the frame – so that there’s absolutely no lag when you press the shutter button, the camera just pulls the image it was already taking at that moment. This is the sort of system that’ll rely on good autofocus, and Sony is bringing back the triple-sensor system from the Xperia XZ: there’s laser AF, an RGBC infrared sensor for adjusting white balance on the fly, and an updated ExmorRS image sensor. The latter now has 19 percent larger pixels, stepping its resolution down to 19 megapixels. Sony’s Bionz image processing engine has also been updated with better motion detection and noise reduction.

Both colors (luminous chrome or deepsea black) are fingerprint magnets with Gorilla Glass 5 layered around the front and back, with metal antennas at the top and bottom of the device.

In terms of specs, Sony touts the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and won’t launch until the late spring or early summer because of it.

Other notable features include IP65 and IP68 water resistance, a thinner 7.9mm profile, and microSD card support. The phone’s battery is reasonable at 3,230mAh, and there’s the usual fingerprint sensor baked into the side-mounted power button.

Mid-range Xperias

Sony also unveiled three mid-range phones. The first and most interesting is the Xperia XZs, which features the exact same Motion Eye camera system as the XZ Premium.

However, the screen is bumped down to a 5.2-inch 1080p screen (with 2.5D curved glass running over the top). Instead of glass on both sides, the XZs has a metal back that saves you from the fingerprints and smudges on the XZ Premium.

It’s outfitted with a Snapdragon 820, and other Sony signatures like water resistance. The XZs will launch beginning in April.

Rounding out the lineup are the Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra. Both are powered by Mediatek Helio P20 processors and feature edge-to-edge displays (with sizable top and bottom bezels). The XA1 has a five-inch 720p screen, while the Ultra has a six-inch 1080p display. Both devices have a 23-megapixel f/2 rear camera lens, with differing selfie cameras. The XA1 has an 8-megapixel front camera, while the Ultra increases that to 16 megapixels and adds optical image stabilization for vloggers.

Both phones include Xperia Actions, a new software feature that Sony claims can learn user habits and automatically manage apps accordingly.

“When you go to bed, your Xperia can learn your bedtime routine and automatically adjust the screen brightness and call volume.”

-Sony, in a press release

The XA1 and XA1 Ultra will launch this spring in white, black, pink, and gold.

Sony TVs will be able to buy, stream Sony Pictures movies

Sony’s Ultra app will run on its new HDR TVs to allow you to buy and stream Sony Pictures movies. The roughly 40-50 title starting lineup include the following:

  • Chappie
  • Elysium
  • Fury
  • The Walk
  • Salt
  • Men in Black 3
  • Pineapple Express
  • Crouching Tiger
  • Hidden Dragon
  • Hancock
  • After Earth

The app will launch in the U.S. later this year.

Source: The Verge

TechSummit Rewind #024: May 30th, 2015

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

Sony’s Xperia Z4 goes global as Z3+

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Sony’s newest flagship is the Xperia Z4, at least for Japan. For everyone else, the Z4 will be the Z3+, which will launch in June. Sony has pretty much reissued the Z3 with refreshed internals. The new handset is still waterproof, but its USB port no longer needs a flap to protect it from water.

Sony’s Z3+’s 5.2-inch display still has a 1080p resolution, the rear camera is still a 20.7-megapixel Exmore RS sensor, and the aluminum-framed body is still available in black, white, or copper. There’s also an aqua green option, and the phone’s thickness has been slightly trimmed to 6.9mm.

The processor has also been upgraded to the newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 with Adreno 430 graphics with 3GB of RAM, however, the Z3+ has a slightly smaller 2,930mAh battery than its predecessor, and Android 5.0 Lollipop.

Microsoft partners with LG, Sony, others to sell Android tablets with Office, OneDrive, Skype

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Microsoft has signed up 20 more hardware partners to sell Android tablets with Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, and Skype included out-of-the-box.

“Today, I’m excited to announce that 20 additional global and local OEM partners, including LG, Sony, Haier, Positivo, and Wortman, will make Microsoft productivity applications and services available on their Android tablets. Those 31 partners will offer Android tablets pre-installed with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive, and Skype in the near future. They will be available on a new LG tablet, and Sony will include them on their Xperia Z4 tablet in the next 90 days.”

-Nick Parker, Microsoft’s original equipment manufacturer division corporate vice president

Ford launches pay-per-minute GoDrive carsharing service in London

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Ford’s GoDrive car-sharing service is now open to the public, making 50 vehicles available at 20 London locations.

“As cities become more and more congested, people are becoming increasingly open to new means of mobility, and car sharing is proving to be an appealing model. A crucial part of delivering effective car-sharing services is to learn alongside these drivers what best meets their needs and expectations, and complements their location and existing transportation infrastructure.”

-Ken Washington, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering vice president

GoDrive uses a pay-as-you-go approach to pricing and trips are charged by the minute, which includes the cost of the central London congestion charge, insurance, and fuel.

Cars are either Ford Focus Electric vehicles or Ford Fiesta 1.0-liter EcoBoost models, and there will always be a guaranteed spot to drop off the car when carrying out a one-way journey.

Based on the feedback Ford gets for the beta, the company will look into providing different day-hire pricing options and other on and off-street parking spots.

Phone Companion app coming to Windows 10

Windows 10 Phone Companion

Microsoft has announced that a Phone Companion app is coming built-in to Windows 10 to connect your Windows PC to your phone – whether it runs Windows, Android or iOS.

When you launch the PC app, you can pick the phone you own. With a Windows Phone, you’re pretty much done, but for an Android or iOS device, you can install apps like Cortana, OneDrive, OneNote, Office, and Skype to allow for it to “work great in conjunction with your Windows 10 PC,” according to a Microsoft blog post. Here’s a full list of suggested apps:

  • OneDrive– Photos taken on phone will show up on Windows 10 Photos app
  • Xbox Music- Store, access OneDrive music for free (update coming)
  • OneNote- Notes you write on PC will show up on phone, and vice versa
  • Office- Documents can be worked on from any device

Cortana

The company has also announced that the Cortana voice assistant will come to both Android and iOS as a dedicated app.

The app will be able to do most of what Cortana does from Windows. Cortana can remind you to pick you milk the next time you’re at a grocery store, track a flight, and show you everything from Cortana’s Notebook with everything syncing between devices.

However, the voice assistant will not be able to toggle settings, open apps, or be opened hands-free by saying “Hey Cortana” because it doesn’t have those device permissions since it’s only an app.

The Phone Companion app will come to the Windows 10 Insider Preview in a few weeks. The Cortana companion will be available for Android at the end of June and iOS later this year. The updated Xbox Music app for Android and iOS will be available in late June or July, with playable or OneDrive music content coming in beta.

Charter buys Time Warner Cable in $78.7 billion deal

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Charter Communications has agreed to acquire Time Warner Cable for $78.7 billion.

Charter also finalized an updated deal with Advance/Newhouse Partnership, Bright House Networks’ parent company, to acquire it for $10.4 billion. The amended agreement allows the two companies to form a new partnership with Charter owning 86-87 percent depending on shareholder decisions in the Time Warner Cable deal. Charter will pay Advance/Newhouse common and convertible preferred units in the partnership in addition to $2 billion in cash.

The combined company will be the second-largest U.S. cable operator (behind only Comcast) and the largest in Southern California.

The combined company will have roughly 23 million total subscribers, compared to Comcast’s roughly 27 million customers as of the end of Q1.

Charter will pay Time Warner Cable shareholders $100 per share in cash and stock of a new company called “New Charter” equivalent to 0.5409 shares of the current Charter, according to the company.

The deal values each Time Warner Cable share at $195.71 based on Charter’s May 20 closing price, or $200 based on Charter’s 60-trading day volume weighted average price. In addition, Charter will provide an election option for each Time Warner Cable stockholder to receive $115 of cash and Charter shares for each Time Warner Cable share they own.

Vox Media acquires Re/code

Vox Media

Re/code, Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher’s website, has been acquired by Vox Media, publishers of properties like The Verge, SB Nation, Vox, and Polygon.

Both Mossberg and Swisher plan to stay with Re/code.

The deal was announced Tuesday at Re/code’s code conference in Rancho Pales Verdes, CA. The site has 44 full-time employees and three contract employees.

Re/code will also gain access to Chorus, Vox’s publishing platform, which has been a key to luring marquee journalists like Vox editor-in-chief Ezra Klein.

While The Verge also covers technology, according to editor-in-chief Nilay Patel, they cover the industry from a different angle than Re/code.

“The Verge is explicitly not a business publication. [The site] is about being a new kind of culture publication.”

-Nillay Patel, The Verge editor-in-chief

Re/code is The Verge’s polar opposite in that respect, covering the business of the technology industry.

While there could be fighting over certain stories between site leaders, according to CEO Jim Bankoff, a Vox Media study indicated a three percent content overlap between the two sites.

Snapchat users watch two billion videos daily

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Snapchat users watch over two billion videos daily, according to CEO Evan Spiegel.

That’s roughly half the daily video views that Facebook gets.

“More than 60 percent of 13- to 34-year-old smartphone users in the U.S. are active on the service,” according to Snapchat.

“We are fortunate that we have an audience that is compelling and big enough that people will change their video to make it a better product.”

-Evan Spiegel, Snapchat CEO

Apple drops discoveryd in latest OS X beta

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The latest beta of Mac OS 10.10.4 has dropped discoveryd, the process used for networking performance in Yosemite, in favor of the older process used by previous versions of the OS. This should address the network stability issues introduced with Yosemite’s new networking stack.

The process causes users to regularly drop WiFi access and causes network shares to list many times over due to bugs.

Discoveryd would cause crashes, duplicate names on the network, and other WiFi-related bugs.

In OS X 10.10.4 seed 4’s Activity Monitor, discoveryd is no longer loaded by the device – instead using mDNSResponder, the process used in OS X versions pre-Yosemite.

Mandriva is officially dead

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French company Mandriva is being liquidated, according to the company.

Although the company raised $585,000 in revenue in 2013, it wasn’t enough to make it through 2015.

The company aimed to take on Microsoft with a Linux-toting desktop PC. Mandriva won out against Microsoft with the Nigerian government to put its Linux distro on 17,000 school PCs.

The company was on the brink of bankruptcy by 2012, but was saved by Jean-Manuel Croset, who joined as COO in 2011 and eventually became CEO.

Hyundai becomes first manufacturer to embrace Android Auto

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The 2015 Hyundai Sonata will be the first vehicle to natively play nice with Android Auto.

The company will begin using the in-car operating system this year, first appearing on the Sonata before appearing on other models.

“Android Auto aligns with Hyundai’s core interior design principles of safety, intuitiveness and simplicity. We launched this highly anticipated feature on our best-selling Sonata, adding to our promise of value. With the launch of Android Auto, we provide more owners with the experience of cutting-edge technology.”

-Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai Motor America CEO

“Android Auto helps keep drivers’ eyes and attention on the road by integrating the advanced driving-related functions of the user’s smartphone with the familiar centralized screen, physical controls and microphone of their car. Furthermore, the smartphone’s screen becomes ‘locked,’ so drivers are tempted to look down and interact with their phones directly while Android Auto is in use.”

-Hyundai

TechSummit Rewind #013: January 14th, 2014

Editor’s Note: Welcome to the TechSummit Rewind, which presses pause on the technology newswire.

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TechSummit Rewind #007: January 7th, 2014

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

A first look of Canary’s web connected home security system’s app

Canary security system

Canary is an all-seeing, all-knowing, internet-connected home security system that obliterated its funding target to raise almost $2 million. Now, if we were the folks behind it, we’d be celebrating in Vegas, but instead of being at the Mandalay Bay, they were at the Las Vegas Convention Center showing CES attendees their progress. While the team brought final hardware along, it doesn’t look any different from the original proposition. Many of the internal components, however, have been swapped out for better versions as development has been ramped up, according to Canary’s CEO Adam Sager. Ethernet was also added (in addition to WiFi) due to backer demand.

What garners my particular interest, though, was taking a look at the companion app Canary has been crafting. Sager demoed the iOS version, which takes many design cues from iOS 7 (and 8), on an iPod Touch. He showed how the app handles alerts, including that HD video recordings and all other sensor metadata associated with that event, as well as the various ways you can immediately react. We also saw how live video feeds would be presented, the feed-like alert history, and how you can set up both user and trigger profiles. Considering this isn’t “fully functional,” as Sager calls it, we would call it extremely slick for something that’s being considered as still in the works. Development is being steered, in part, by an ongoing internal beta, and backers who signed up for the open beta are due to receive their hardware within the next month. Canary is available now.

Hyundai’s second generation Blue Link tech runs custom version of Android, keeps you connected with Verizon

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Hyundai’s latest Genesis sedan names the latest version of the automaker’s Blue Link tech: voice navigation, media navigation and remote tech. That means unlocking your car remotely, navigating to both specific locations and general search terms (like flowers, sushi, coffee, etc.), and a whole bunch of other pieces of “smart” functionality. Unlike the first-gen Blue Link, all of that functionality is being brought to your new Genesis with a Verizon-provided cell signal.

Consider this the latest in a series of cross-company explorations into how best to implement Android in cars — Hyundai is also exploring iOS for cars, according to a company representative, but won’t have more to share until some later on in this series.

In the brief time we spent with Blue Link 2, it was impressive! Blue Link 2 picked up on voice commands without a hitch, and was able to wirelessly connect to Google Places from within the confines of a Las Vegas hotel conference room. Sadly, navigation costs $100 annually, and it’ll set you back another $100 for remote services.

Audi’s Sport Quattro Laserlight concept officially debuts at CES

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Audi teased us with concept drawings of its Sport Quattro Laserlight months ago, and it decided to show off the vehicle in the flesh (or metal and carbon fiber) at CES. Before we wax on about the concept car’s looks, it’s important to note the machine’s technical details, as they alone inspire a fair bit of awe. The car’s titular feature is its headlights, whose laser light can cut through five football fields (500 yards for those mathematicians out there) of darkness. Aside from the futuristic headlamps, the car’s calling card is the combination of electric and gas motors — the latter of which takes it 90 miles per gallon — for a whopping 700 horsepower.

Simply put, Audi’s crafted the Laserlight to look stunning from any angle. From the front, its rectangular beams offer a dose of futurism, and its large grill looks eager to breathe in as much air as possible while tearing through the freeway. From the sides, it’s difficult to ignore how the top of the car swoops down into the base, still leaving room for two seats in the rear. from behind, the iconic lights make a return alongside a carbon fiber accent, which can be found as trim in other areas of the hybrid. Of course, there’s no word on price or availability for now, as the automobile is still in the conceptual stage.

meMini’s wearable camera gives you the gift of hindsight

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Picture this: your child speaks its first words, you’ve just spotted a public official in a compromising position or you’ve just shred some phenomenal powder. Of course, unless you’ve had cameras set up previously and pointing at the action, it’s not likely that you’ll have that recorded for posterity. That’s the idea behind meMini, a wearable camera that’s constantly recording, but only preserves the last five minutes when you’ve spotted something worth saving. meMini is the brainchild of New Zealanders Samuel Lee and Ben Bodley, and the former’s snow sports background was the inspiration behind creating the hardware. While the technology is still in the fluid “late prototype” stage, Bodley’s expertise with cameras has ensured that the unit will ship with a high quality 3.1-megapixel camera with a 160-degree field of view. In terms of storage, meMimi has 16GB of non-expandable memory, with a 32GB edition mooted as a bonus for a certain class of Kickstarter backer. Which brings us around to the price: as, like any invention or proof of concept released in the past few years, the company will be taking to Kickstarter with the hopes of raising $50,000, with the standard edition setting priced at $150 for early backers, while the standard edition is expected to retail for around $200.

TiVo prototype DVR recordings stay in the cloud, watch them anywhere on any screen

Tivo nDVR

All of our favorite TV shows, accessible anywhere, anytime? It might sound like a fantasy, but that’s what we can expect if the prototype DVR TiVo is showing off at CES ever sees the consumer light of day. Intended as a service that your local cable operator could offer, the TiVo Network DVR project brings the Roamio experience that we already enjoyed on its latest DVRs to the cloud, letting them push recordings out over the internet. Dubbed NDVR for short internally, the preview images show how viewers could get their TiVo on an iPad or Roku, manage program recordings, see what’s on and, if necessary, buy more storage space in the cloud.

That last bit is key, because this isn’t just for consumers — TiVo needs to convince cable operators (the smaller ones; we figure Comcast, AT&T U-Verse, DirecTV, Dish and other big names will stick to their own custom solutions) they can make more money and have a simpler setup with its product. One other cable company-friendly feature is the ability to target advertising during the recordings, as we’ve seen TV companies start doing with video on-demand. We’ll have more coverage with its prototype and see what else is new with the prototype and see what else is new, and hopefully see what the next generation of TV is like.

Audi partners with AT&T to introduce in-car LTE in US

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Audi’s in-car LTE capability has arrived to the states from across the Atlantic aboard the upcoming 2015 A3 sedans, thanks to the carmaker’s partnership with AT&T. When the vehicles, and hence the feature, became available in the US, AT&T’s wireless customers will have the option to share their smartphone or tablet data plans with their cars. Owners can use the connection for faster access to Google Earth, Google Street View and web radio stations, as well as to get social media alerts on the Audi connect navigation system. Up to eight passengers can also take advantage of the long term evolution (LTE) speeds by using Audi connect as a WiFi hotspot. While the feature was originally limited to the 2015 A3 family for now, Audi plans to include it on the new and refreshed models bound to come out in the future.

For those wondering whether AT&T’s cutting its ties with T-Mobile, the carrier’s rep reached out and said that it wasn’t the case at all. In fact, the representative said that “T-Mobile renewed its relationship as the exclusive supplier of wireless connectivity for the sale of new A8, A6, A7, A5, Q5 and Q7 models” in August 2013.

Neato Robotics’ XV Essential vacuum brings affordable automation to Walmart

Neato Robotics XV Essential

There’s something to be said for taking the easy way out. Neato Robotics has figured out how to get the price down on its well reviewed, but slightly pricey XV Signature line of autonomous vacuums, by simply swapping in a cheaper brush and filter. Thus the XV Essential was born. Under the hood it’s exactly the same as the $400 Signature model, but thanks to the plain plastic blade bush and flat filter, it comes in a cool $30 cheaper. That might not sound like much, but shoppers at Walmart (where the XV Essential will be sold exclusively) are sure to appreciate the additional value. Otherwise, you are still getting the impressive laser guidance system and smart charging function that tells the little sucker to return home when its battery is running low, then picks right back up where it left off once it refills the juice tank.

There are, of course, some trade offs. The riddled filter in the Signature model is much better at capturing pet dander and dust, for one. Plus the purely plastic-bladed Essential is quite noisy on hardwood floors — it easily overpowered the din of Bluetooth speakers, overzealous PR representatives and drunken bloggers at the Pepcom event.

3D Systems gets in haptic mouse game

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3D Systems came into CES like a wrecking ball (I apologize for the use of that line). A few months after releasing the Sense handheld 3D scanner, the company’s offering up yet another peripheral for creating 3D models. This time out, the company has a bit of a harder sell in the form of a 3D haptic mouse. For starters, the functionality of such a device isn’t quite so immediately clear as a product that creates 3D images with a wave of your hand. Also, there are already haptic mice on the market — though, like the scanner, the competition has chiefly been targeted toward professions. And while (like the Sense,) the price point here certainly isn’t low enough to make this a mainstream product, it may well prove to entice for a small cross section of the 3D modeling/printing community.

Of course the tool plays nicely with the company’s Sculpt software, offering up haptic feedback to give the user the sensation of really creating something with a lump of virtual clay. In fact, the $500 asking price also includes a copy of Sculpt. 3D Systems’ Touch is available now.

Budget TV maker TCL has something for everyone, including curved 4K panel, ‘virtual-holographic’ 3D TV

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Here at CES 2014, it’s all 4K, all the time (You can have that slogan CEA, if you want it). Budget TV maker TCL has revealed a curved, 55-inch 4K model of its own, claiming the arc angle is the same as your retina for a “truer picture that minimizes eye strain.” We’re not quite sure if we comprehend that logic, but if flat is more your thing, the Chinese company also has something for you.

TCL flaunted an “ultra-thin” 55-inch OLED model at the show, claiming that it has a wider color gamut, better contrast and a faster refresh rate. That model, however, seems to be a standard 1080p HDTV resolution.

The company also showed off an 85-inch HDTV with a Touch Pen for artists, a virtual-holographic 3D TV using zSpace tech and a 110 inch HD model that uses polarizers to allow simultaneous program viewing. There was no mention of pricing or availability at the show. Stay tuned for more detail as the TechSummit Rewind rolls on.

Fuhu’s DreamTab line pops up at CES sporting Kung Fu Panda and other DreamWorks fare

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These are all still early-stage pieces of hardware, so let’s just get that out of the way to begin with. Even the “most final” of the three DreamTab slates Fuhu (makers of the Nabi line of tablets) showed off at Pepcom in Las Vegas had a number of apps that just wouldn’t load. Instead, the company came to the show to show off what was more of less final hardware designs and a handful of DreamWorks-sanctioned apps like one that teaches kids how to draw Kung Fu Panda and the link and a Puss in Boots-branded version of Fruit Ninja, which will come pre-loaded on the final units.

We’ve got to say, the hardware design on these bad boys was extremely good looking. They’re a fair bit sleeker than a number of the kid-focused tablets that’ve been previously announced (including Fuhu’s own Nabi 2 line of tablets, ironically). On the front, you’ll find a speaker grille on either side of the display. On the top is a slot for a stylus, power button and volume rocker, while the sides have a unique concave design that makes it nice to hold — as does the silicone sleeve that ships with the systems. Here at CES, the company showed off an eight-inch, twelve-inch and a large desktop tablet, which is a pretty solid way to slice some virtual fruit.

OLPC shows off two new kid-friendly tablets

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OLPC’s Giulia D’Amico and company brought the organization’s two new tablets to CES, so we decided to spend some quality time with it. While Vivitar retains its hardware partnership with OLPC from the first generation, this year’s new tablets have certainly seen an increase in the spec department.  seven-inch XO-2 looks nearly identical to its predecessor, the company’s first-ever consumer-facing device. It’s still a bit clunky and the rear has that same plasticky dimpled design. There’s also that great Yves Behar-designed silicone slipcase. The really significant changes are all inside the slate, including a quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage and built-in GPS and Bluetooth. The custom Android software remained, as well (built on top of Android 4.4 KitKat this time and comes with 100 pre-loaded apps in both English and Spanish, which the company values at around $200), though the company is adding more content to its offering. The devices also share the same 1200×600 display resolution. The XO-2 will net you seven hours of battery life on a charge.

The 10.1-inch XO-10, meanwhile, shares most of the same internals as its little brother, but brings a sleek industrial design that makes the little one look like child’s play. There’s a green metal back (that could change, but personally we like the fact that it maintains the uniformity among the company’s other offerings) and a much slimmer profile. Of course, the thinner design calls into question just how rugged it will ultimately be. The XO-10 features a battery that came flowing for more than twelve.

The tablets will set you back $149 and $199, respectively. Also new are digital microphones and telescopes that were first shown in an early form last year, along with a wireless keyboard designed by superstar designer and OLPC pal Yves Béhar.

Sceptre showed off 4K TVs, Roku Ready displays, earbuds, pretty much everything ever at CES

Spectre 4K TV

Some companies make a big to-do over a single product, with big press events and bigger ad campaigns. And then there are those companies like Sceptre that just kind of do the shotgun thing, jamming a single press release up with several product lines, ranging from a series of 4K TVs to earbuds with a zipper-esque cord that’s less likely to get tangled than an ordinary pair. The big announcement here is the unoriginally titled 4K Series, which ranges from 49 to 58 inches. Though, for the record, it’s a much more solid moniker than the “Color Line,” which are apparently named for their frames and not the fact that their picture is no longer confined to just black-and-white.

The company also has a line of Roku Ready displays, some soundbars and a “Mobile Internet Display,” which runs Android and sure sounds a lot like a tablet to us. Stay tuned for more details.

Samsung announces a batch of sharing-focused SMART cameras, including a dual-grip beast with 60x zoom

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They don’t run Android, and we’re not sure if it even runs Tizen OS, but a lineup of new smart cameras at CES represents Sammy’s best efforts to elevate point-and-shoots to a higher slate of technological being. (Hopefully before the entire genre of the “cheap camera” is wiped out by smartphones.) We’re still lacking exact pricing and availability, alas, but the model numbers and specs hint at the essential hierarchy, starting with the huge WB2200F bridge with 60x zoom and going all the way down to the tiny WB35F with a 12x zoom. All the cameras come with WiFi and NFC for quick pairing to a smartphone or tablet; all deliver 16MP images as a bare minimum; and we’ll take some time to cover each one in a little more detail now.

WB2200F

This bridge camera sits at the head of the table, with a Back-Side Illuminated (BSI) sensor for improved low-light performance (at least compared to the regular CCD sensors lower down the lineup), 60x zoom with optical stabilization for ridiculously detailed shots of squirrels and usefully wide 20mm focal length at the other end of the zoom range. Aside from NFC and WiFi, other connectivity options come in the form of a full-sized SD slot and HDMI output. In addition to the big 75mm Dual-grip design stands out as being unusual for this category of camera, and it makes room for a bigger battery that Samsung promises will allow users to “indulge their passion [for photography] for longer periods of time than ever before.”

WB1100F

Samsung WB1100

On the face of the Samsung WB1100F, this camera delivers much of the same features set as the previously mentioned WB2200F, but with a smaller 35x zoom that brings the weight down to 462 grams (without the battery), instead of 608 grams. But there are other sacrifices to be made: the sensor is a non-BSI CCD, plus there’s only 720p video recording (instead of 1080p) and no HDMI output.

WB350F

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This looks to be an updated (and hopefully cheaper) hybrid of last year’s Galaxy Camera and WB850F, without Android, but with the same 21x zoom, 16MP BSI sensor and max ISO of 3200 — all of which suggest that picture quality should be pretty decent. We’ve got the same-sized LCD as the WB220F here, but now with touch sensitivity. We also have the same connectivity features, but here housed in a camera that weighs 216 grams, which suggests this could be the most mainstream offering of the bunch.

WB35F and WB50F

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This is the smallest of the bunch, at 144 grams and just 10 centimeters wide. Aside from the difference in form factor, with just a 12x zoom lens here, most features and specs are similar to the WB1100F. Also the SD slot was axed in favor of a microSD card slot, which might actually be more convenient for sharing to other mobile devices. Finally, the WB50F is billed as a “child-friendly” alternative to the WB35F, with a slightly more rugged build that adds to the weight slightly.

Jelly answers your questions through photos and social networks

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Biz Stone’s, otherwise known as Twitter’s co-founder’s next project, Jelly, has been shrouded in mystery. Is if a social network or a distributed computing hivemind? As it turns out, Jelly isn’t anything that special — but it’s worth checking out regardless. The new service expands on the basic concept of Quora, drawing on the collective wisdom of Facebook, Twitter (naturally) and Jelly itself to both answer questions and identify objects in photos. if you’re stumped, you can forward questions to just about anyone. Jelly’s Android and iOS apps are available now, so it won’t take much to learn whether or not it’s worth the wait.

Project Christine offers a glimpse of Razer’s modular computing future

Razer Project Christine

Razer’s Project Fiona was announced all the rage back at CES 2012 — it married console-like controls in a tablet form factor that looks ridiculously similar to the Wii U’s Gamepad, not to mention packing a real computational punch. At the time, CEO Min-Liang Tan was cagey about its retail availability; I mean, it didn’t even have an official name at the time. Fast forward to last year, when “Fiona” became the Razer Edge, and Tan’s tune changed from prototype to consumer-ready.

At CES 2014, the cycle revisits phase one. Razer introduced Project Christine as the trade show officially opened at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Like Fiona, Christine is an ambitious project from an ambitious company (don’t even get me started on the Nabu smartband again): a modular-computing initiative with a form factor that space aliens would truly appreciate.

Christine is a massive black PC tower with varying sizes of individual pods or modules, a green underglow vignetting out from underneath its base, all cooled by mineral oil running vertically down the middle (If that doesn’t entice you, it gets better!). Frankly put, it looks like no other gaming PC that’s ever been prototyped or released into the marketplace ever. That’s not necessarily a bad thing! In its own unique way, Project Christine is a beautiful piece of hardware. It looks like a computer sent from a future beyond the Industrial Design Revolution of 2135.

The modules that are the heart and soul of this design have a true function beyond just looking cool. They enable a wide range of setups — from the tri-SLI GPU setup running on the reference model to integrated processing and graphics on a single chip for less-demanding users. The idea here is to both combat the waste in the PC world of having to buy annual hardware refreshes and to push back on massive price spikes from supporters of the PC master race.

Tan:

“We’re really looking at other models. Perhaps to say a subscription model of sorts, that we could interchange modules when they come in. Users don’t have to worry about a huge bump every time there’s new architecture out there.”

Of course, those modules have to be made by someone, and that aforementioned someone will exclusively be Razer. As of right now, each module uses two self-sealing ports for the most literally plug-and-play functionality in this industry (beyond plugging in your thumb drive of course). Adding a new GPU is as simple as plugging one into the back, and the same goes for additional storage, RAM, ports or any other upgrades you might want to make down the road.

Modularity requires customization. Anyone who’s tried to install a new video card knows how much fuss can go into that relatively simple process, and Christine aims to eliminate that. As such, the traditional motherboard is broken up into a variety of pieces and scattered through the tower’s middle spine. We’ll not going to cover the reference design’s specs because it’s simply one of the many, many builds one could create with Don’t like that LCD screen? Swap it out for a power button. Wanna go all digital and cut out the Blu-ray drive. Cut the silver disk?. There are only two pieces that are set in stone, however, the tower design and modular approach.

Cyanogen partners with OnePlus on debut phone OnePlus One

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Ex-Oppo executive Pete Lau’s new company OnePlus has partnered with Cyanogen on its first device, the OnePlus One. Lau announced that the handset would run on a custom version of CyanogenMod’s custom version of Android OS (ironically, enough) with “special features and tweaks” with Cyanogen’s Steve Kondik. OnePlus has already said that its mission is to build the “perfect smartphone” — with Oppo building the device no less. This means that OnePlus could achieve its ambitious goals, since Oppo has some CyanogenMod experience and a bite from Google.

BBC iPlayer tablet viewing overtakes PC for the first time

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If you’ve ever needed further proof on the fact that tablets are affecting PC usage, the BBC has heeded your call. Eight months after seeing that viewing on its iPlayer app on tablets has overtaken its phone counterpart, the UK broadcaster reported that over Christmas, the rise in iPad and other smart slabs helped push tablet viewing past PC streaming for the first time in the streaming service’s history. The BBC saw almost a million downloads (941,000 for those looking for specifics) of its iPlayer apps between December 21st and New Year’s Day, as viewers rushed to a, check up on the Beeb’s festive programming and b, simply get the app installed after picking up that new iPad or Galaxy Tab of theirs. Although PCs overtook tablets again before the Times Square ball made its descent into 1 Times Square, the return of headlining shows like Sherlock and Doctor Who could lean tablet viewing figures in its favor once more, perhaps giving us an idea of what to expect as the tablet revolution continues.

Amped Wireless’ WiFi gear makes it to the desktop

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Amped Wireless certainly made its name known at CES, and while the company has previously offered up USB adapters for tablets and laptops, there’s never been a card-based solution for the desktop. That has changed with the creation of the PC120E, which combines a PCI-E card and two high-gain antennas that gives you 500 mW of wireless power. It’s available now.

Lexar’s CFast 2.0 cards boast SSD speeds, but have no camera support

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Lexar has announced new Compact Flash cards using the CFast 2.0 SATA tech format to improve speeds and possibly steal back some of the limelight from the SDHC format. The cards, which range in sizes from 32GB to 256GB, support a mind-boggling max read speed of 500 MB/s (which is better than most desktop hard drives), which is an improvement over earlier models from SanDisk. That’s easily enough to keep up with even RAW 4K images, let alone the 65 MB/s barrier required for the VPG-65 performance guarantee standard. Combined with the digital storage giant’s Professional Workflow CFast 2.0 USB 3.0 reader — also announced at CES — gives you super fast speeds on your desktop when you pick it up now, and with support for the likes of Arri’s Amira and other cameras, it’ll be nice to know you won’t need to somehow find a way to cram an SSD into your camera to have the space to capture 4K.

Bang & Olufsen’s Beosound Essenge allows wall-mounted music control of your wireless streaming habits

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At CES 2014, Bang & Olufsen is looking to make it as easy as possible to make access to tunes as soon as you jump out of bed. To do so, the high-end audio company has announced the Beosound Essence: a circular music control dial that can be either wall mounted or fixed to a small metal plate for use around the house. The device features a rotating aluminum ring that also happens to double as a volume dial with track skipping, play/pause and power touch controls on the face. In fact, it’ll pick up at the exact second where you last listened. That bit of silver alongside minimal graphics and black accents keeps the unit in line with B&O’s upscale look. Measuring about two inches across, the Essence is quite small and only extends a couple of inches off of the wall — when it’s mounted in that fashion, of course. Up to three of the controls can be used in a single room, if you’d like to spread them out.

In the event that you need that controller to be slightly more on the mobile side, the audio outfit has accounted for that as well. Bang & Olufsen’s calling it a “table-top” mount and it’s attached to a metal plate that’s roughly the size of an index card. As you might expect, the add-on keeps with the same aesthetic as the Essence while making it a bit easier to keep track of. In order to connect to a set of speakers, there’s a separate box that can remain hidden in a cabinet, for example, and connects to the control via low-energy Bluetooth. In terms of compatibility, you can expect AirPlay and DLNA support as well as streaming from Spotify Connect, QPlay and a variety of internet radio providers. It also plays nice with the BeoPlay smartphone app as well. Speaking of its availability, the Essence is available now for $595 with that so-called table-top option setting you back an additional $200. Despite showing off a platter of color options for the back plate at CES, only the dark grey option is available — which is a shame, because the wood grain looks pretty nice if I do say so myself.

Native Union’s Jump is a charging cable with a built-in battery

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Native Union’s Jump might win the award for most thoughtful accessory at CES, which is a Lightning or micro-USB cable that goes through a cable wrapper, which is intentionally designed to fit into the tiny coin pocket in your trousers. Now, you might be thinking, so what, it just sounds like the cable that my device manufacturer gives when I unpack it from the box. Here’s where it gets interesting: This gray pebble also packs an 800mAh battery (with a 1A current output), so it’s good for those emergency situations where you need some extra juice but left your Mophie Space Pack at the office. But wait, there’s more! You can use the Jump as a normal cable to charge your phone, and when the phone’s full, the intelligent circuitry — which has been a tough challenge for Native Union — diverts the power to the Jump’s own battery. To put it in the simplest terms: you’re killing two birds with one stone here. No need to remind yourself to plug in your portable battery separately at night.

The Jump is available now for $30.

Audi’s Smart Display is a 10.2-inch Android tablet that lives in your car

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German car manufacturer Audi has pulled the curtains back on its Smart Display, a 10.2-inch Android tablet wrapped in brushed aluminum that lives in your car. The slate is powered by an NVIDIA Tegra 4 chip, boasts crash resistance and the chops to survive temperatures as high as 176 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius for you non-Americans out there). Of course, this isn’t meant for the driver, passengers are the Smart Display’s focus. The hardware hooks up to vehicles over in-car WiFi and provides folks along for the ride with access to the web, media and navigation systems, as well as control over the radio. It’s not clear what version of Google’s OS it runs or if and when it’ll find its way on the streets but stay tuned for more details.

PlayStation Now streams PlayStation games to PS4, PS3, Vita, mobile devices

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Sony announced PlayStation Now, a new streaming game service for PS4, Vita, PS3, tablets, smartphones and Bravia TVs based on its acquisition of streaming outfit Gaikai. It represents a new subscription model for PlayStation users, and is available now. Games can be rented by the title or subscription and supports PSN features like multiplayer, online, trophies and messages, even when you’re on the road. During his CES 2014 keynote, Sony head honcho Kaz Harai said that it’ll “enable streaming across your smartphone, Vita, tablet and PS4 wherever, whenever,” even at the same time. To enable that, PS Now is tied to a new cloud service. Stay tuned below for a first look at the service.

First look: it works!

Please excuse this random burst of “Eureka, it works!” because to be honest, we didn’t expect PlayStation Now to work as well as it did about six months before its official launch. It’s a game-streaming service, and the history of game-streaming services is littered with casualties. When Sony spent a whopping $380 million on Gaikai, it seemed impossible that the service could live up to that valuation. While PlayStation Now may not live up to that valuation, it does, in fact work. Really well at that.

We demoed the service at a CES 2014 PlayStation event, where we tried God of War: Ascension on a Bravia TV (without a PS3) and The Last of Us on a Vita. Both games played as they would on a local device (including the incredibly long initial load time for The Last of Us) and ran without a hitch. There was zero perceptible lag in our brief playtime, but we suspect that the internet connection Sony used is of the extremely strong variety.

The service is available now on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, on mobile as well as on the company’s Bravia support. Given the relative early stage of PlayStation Now, the UI was non-final (and looked like little more than placeholder art). The same gooks for the list of supported titles via streaming — the service has a variety of “marquee PS3 games,” though nothing’s set in stone thus far. We expect the God of Wars and Gran Turismos of the PlayStation world to be available on the service, but only time will tell.

Beyond the subscription to access full games, there’ll be rental and demo options available through PlayStation Now. But again, none of this is final, and only one facet of PlayStation Now was available for testing at CES. What we did see was impressive and fulfilled the promises Sony’s made when it comes to game streaming.

Onewheel is a self-balancing single-wheeled electric skateboard

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If the idea of combining a Segway, a skateboard and a unicycle sounds like your idea of fun, the Onewheel is for you. It uses gyros, accelerometers, proprietary algorithms and a single rubber tire to give its passengers a “smooth, self-balancing ride” that supposedly mimics surfing or snowboarding on dry land. Its direct-drive motor pairs with the aforementioned components to determine the board’s speed based on how you lean your body. Compared to something like the ZBoard, though, the Onewheel seems incredibly lithe; all of its components are stored within the billet-aluminum-and-maple plank, giving it a sleek aesthetic. With an estimated battery life of about 20 minutes per-charge though, the contraption comes off as more of a fancy toy than a means of transportation. Should you fancy taking a (short) ride for yourself, it won’t be cheap: The minimum pledge required to claim a Onewheel as your own is $1,200. For that price, you could build about three of Gob Bluth’s rides yourself.

Ford Sync will let you order pizza on the road

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Have you ever wish you could order pizza while driving home without fumbling around dialing your local pizza joint? Ford gets it and the company has announced Sync AppLink support in five apps that could prove handy for many commuters, including Domino’s Pizza. A version of the parlor’s software will let you dictate orders without taking your hands off the wheel. New editions of Parkopedia and Parkmobile, meanwhile, will respectively help you find and pay for parking. ADT’s Pulse app will give you the peace of mind that your house is safe and sound, with an update to HABU sending mood-setting tunes to the car stereo. You can order an extra-large Pacific Veggie from Domino’s while you’re stuck in rush-hour traffic now.

SMS Audio reveals three sport-friendly Carmelo Anthony signature headphones

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If you like to soak up some beats while you’re out on the court, SMS Audio’s Audio Sport Carmelo Anthony signature collection is looking squarely at your attention. There are three models in the line: the Sync Wireless Sport in-ear, and Street Wired Sport in- and on-ear editions. All three come with sweat-proof protection and tangle-free cables (on the wired ones, of course). The Street on-ears even come with an SMS Audio sports towel in the box, and all models come in three color variations. If you fancy picking up a set of the wireless Syncs, it’ll set you back $160. The on-ear Streets are $20 mode, but if you’re more into the in-ear, wired version, you can snap them for a much less ding on your wallet-inducing $80. All are available now.

Sprint announces Virgin Mobile hotspot with Spark LTE support, adds six new markets

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Most carriers shy away from offering LTE on its prepaid plans, but Sprint is diving in by making it available on its first Virgin Mobile device. The network takes advantage of Sprint’s Spark service, which offers tri-band LTE support at faster speeds on the company’s Broadband2Go plans. The first device to leverage it is the Netgear Mingle, which is essentially a red version of Sprint’s Zing. You can get the fast service for $5 per day, or you can pay $25 for 1.5GB or $55 for 6GB.

Additionally, Sprint announced that the service would be available in six more cities:

  • Dallas
  • Austin
  • Fort Worth
  • San Antonio
  • Houston
  • Fort Lauderdale

Intel unveils a pair of smart earbuds that match songs to your heart rate

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Ok, we apologize in advance for this not being as groundbreaking as Kolibree or that internet-connected baby onesie, but Intel’s smart earbud concept is still one of the neater items at CES. To cut to the chase, it’s a pair of headphones with sensors inside the earpiece that monitors your heart rate. The headphones are powered through the same headphone jack as the one you already use to connect to your tunes, which means that you won’t have to worry about going silent mid-workout.

But anyway, you don’t care how it charges; you want to know what it does. Using that biometric data, the earbuds work with a companion app, where you can set a target heart rate for your workouts, and automatically select appropriate music tracks (fast, slow, et cetera). According to the earbuds’ inventor, Indira Negi, the built-in music providing workout coach won’t change songs too abruptly, even if your heart rate does fluctuate a bit. Instead, you’d get a warning and then, if you still weren’t reaching your target heart rate, the app would switch to slower-tempo songs. For now, Intel just said that it’s working with partners to potentially bring it to consumers.

AMD’s Project Discovery tablet is for work and play (mostly play)

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Part of the energy-sipping Mullins APU and the DockPort connector is to create small devices that have the power and versatility to perform a variety of tasks. The Project Discovery tablet is an experimental reference device designed to work all day and play all night (in typical Vegas fashion). The concept of DockPort is that it can expand to a host of connections. So slot it into a productivity dock, and you can power Excel across two monitors while using a traditional keyboard and mouse. But, when you head home, you can slap it into a gaming cradle that looks exactly like a Razer Edge and play some FIFA 14 or Dirt 3. As with most of the truly innovative pieces of technology at CES, this is not a shipping product, nor will it likely ever be one. Instead it’s a concept that AMD is using as a proof of concept for its vision of the future. Now it just needs one two make that twelve OEMs to take up the torch and getting it to consumers.

Panasonic’s first-person 4K camera debuts at CES

Panasonic first-person 4K camera prototype

Wearable devices and 4K are two of the biggest trends at CES, and Panasonic has managed to mash them both together. The outfit revealed a UHD camera that you wear on your head with the help of a plastic mount that wraps around their ears and neck. While the prototype is similar to the HX-A100 announced at last year’s show (complete with the same waterproof capabilities), this Ultra High-Definition model is lined with some more powerful parts on the interior. Detailed tech specs weren’t announced at CES, but the unit on hand was sending a live feed of the juicy pixel-packed footage to a 4K display through a mini-HDMI port — a feature that made it to the final version. Despite the hardware’s compact size, it produced sharp video free of stuttering, and caught a fairly wide field of view with its fisheye lens. While there was no word of pricing at the trade show, we’ll have it as the TechSummit Rewind continues.

PlayStation 4 sales hit 4.2 million to pull ahead in next-gen console wars

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SCEA CEO Andrew House took to Sony’s CES 2014 stage to announce some figures on the PS4: 4.2 million systems, and 9.7 million games as of December 28th, 2013. That’s exactly double what the company said last month, selling 2.1 million consoles by December 1st. It’s an impressive lead for the next-gen console wars for Sony, with Microsoft selling three million Xbox Ones in 2013 (though Redmond’s console was available in fewer markets).

Moving forward, Sony will build on its sales momentum by launching PlayStation Now, a service that’ll eliminate cross-platform compatibility issues by letting gamers stream titles on their PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, smartphone and tablet directly from the cloud. Based on Sony’s acquisition of streaming outfit Gaikai, PlayStation Now is part of a new subscription model for users, and is available now in the US.

Scandu Scout’s hardware goes final: a real, functioning tricorder

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It’s been a long time coming, but an actual, functioning tricorder is on the final lap to become an reality with the final hardware being available at CES. The Scanadu Scout is its name, and in case you aren’t familiar with it, the little handheld human health tracker has been on our radar since its inception in 2012. Since that first glimpse of a prototype, the device has received a new design, received more than a million dollars in funding on Indiegogo and is available now. The devices themselves are tightly crafted, with uniform seams around the chrome bits, and while they feel solid, they are still quite lightweight.

Getting to this point hasn’t been all roses for Scanadu, as company founder and CEO Walter de Brouwver noted that the thyroidal design he and his team dreamed up has proven to be exceedingly difficult to manufacture. Despite that fact, the tooling up has begun, and rest assured; the devices that the general public will receive look exactly like the ones pictured above.

Sony’s $30K+ Life Space UX projector all-in-one puts a 147-inch 4K screen on any wall

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You can tell the veterans from the young upstarts making their CES debuts by the way they announce products. Simply putting a new device on stage and raddling off the spec sheet is pretty much child’s play. (Though, it would make my job a heck of a lot easier.) The big boys know that you’ve got to bury the lead among piles of hyperbole and abstrate concepts that will (supposedly) improve your entire state of being. Exhibit A might just be awarded to Life Space UX. Sony’s concept for a world where your walls become virtual windows into the world around you. You could, for instance, project the sky at various points of the day across your living room walls. (Now, why you’d want to do that, is a completely different discussion.) At the heart of the concept is a new Ultra Short Throw Projector that can fill 147 inches of wall with a full 4K image. There’s even a pair of built-in speakers and a cabinet for hiding your home theater setup. But, as you’d expect for something like this, the price tag will give you a heart attack. You can get the short throw projector now for between $30,000 and $40,000.

Vimeo redesigns its HTML5 player for speed, on-the-spot rentals

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While Vimeo was one of the first to adopt HTML5 for streaming web video, its player hasn’t been able to keep up with the times. That changed with a redesigned player available now. The new version starts playback much quicker, resizes elegantly and will even sync preferences across multiple players in a single browser. And if you’re addicted to Vimeo On Demand, you’ll be glad to know that you can now buy or rent videos in-player, no matter when in the clip. The improvements are big enough so that Vimeo has made HTML5 the default on all platforms — you’re only have to use Flash if you’re on an outdated browser.

Oculus Rift’s latest prototype features positional tracking, OLED screen and kills motion blur

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The newest version of the Oculus Rift headset is another major step toward the retail version that promised to make its debut in 2014. It takes the existing HD headset that debuted at E3 2014 and swaps its LED screen for an OLED one. It also adds an external camera, and positional markers on the headset, to track your position depth-wise. Perhaps, most importantly, it kills motion blur — one of the biggest issues with previous versions of the Rift.

The latest prototype, dubbed Crystal Cove, debuted at CES 2014. Let’s break down how much of an improvement this guy is over the previous model.

Leaning forward in the cockpit of an EVE Valkyrie dogfighter, readable text is revealed on a smattering of control panels. The forward thrusters are about to be engaged, hurtling us into space amongst a volley of other spaceships searching for blood. Oculus VR’s director of developer relations Aaron Davies paused to toggle one of Crystal Cove’s newest features: “low persistence.” We turn from left to right, unable to read the blurred text in front of us. He flips a switch, and motion blur becomes almost zero. It’s a far cry from the first Kickstarter dev kit and, despite the importance of positional tracking, makes a tremendous impact on the Rift’s usability.

In the same breath, let’s take a moment to point out how amazing it is to move your head forward and have that action replicated one-to-one in-game. This means that the gauges in the cockpit are more than just window dressing: that’s the HUD. Another demo, specially made for Crystal Cove by Epic Games, had us sitting in the Unreal Engine 4 demo with the magma lord that previously terrified at E3. Looking down between where he’s seated and our own position, a little world of creatures in a castle is available for torture should we push the face buttons. Push A and fire rains down to decimate the little guys. It’s a bit like The Seventh Seal, but less existential. Thus far, position tracking is handled by adding a camera to the equation, which t racks a handful of sensors on the Rift’s front. The company’s CEO Brendan Iribe made sure to note that the camera wasn’t final and might not ever make it into the average Joe’s hands. It’s just the easiest solution for now.

 And all of this looked far, far crisper than previous units — thanks to the OLED screen inside and a 30 millisecond lag time (down by half from the previous dev kit). As far as when all these bells and whistles will arrive in developer hands  — that’s a different question. According to Oculus, the Crystal Cove prototype is only that: a prototype. With around 46,000 dev kits out in the wild already, it’s probably unfair to beg everyone to re-buy kits.That said, it probably wouldn’t be long before the new dev kits are available, and not long after that for the world of VR to drastically expand. If 2013 was the year of proof-of-concept for modern virtual reality, 2014 might end up being the year that virtual reality comes into its own. Crystal Cove makes that possibility greater than ever.

Scosche’s heart rate armband wants you to leave the smartphone at home

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If you’ve forgotten about your New Year’s resolutions already, Scosche has announced another fitness wearable that’ll help you make up for lost time. The Rhythm Smart+ is an armband designed to optically monitor your blood flow and heart rate that’s supposed to be much more accurate than a traditional chest strap. The unit can pair with both smartphones and sport watches through Bluetooth and/or ANT+, and will work with the usual assortment of apps like RunKeeper and Strava. If you prefer to leave the rest of your gear at home, embedded memory will track your stats for a later upload. The Scosche Rhythm Smart+ heart rate armband is available now for $99.

Kindle for iOS updated with flashcards, notebook filters and better search

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Thinking about replacing your textbooks for an iPad? Amazon hopes to make the transition from analog to digital a little easier for you. The e-commerce powerhouse’s Kindle iOS app has added flashcards and improved in-book search for print replica textbooks, giving students a better way to find information they need for class, as well as a convenient way to catalog and study them. The update packs in a handful for items for classroom retirees too, including page footers that display page numbers and time left (for audiobooks), a redesigned dictionary for iOS 7, an updated X-Ray experience and a new set of Notebook filters for sorting through annotations. It’s not quite as hefty as the previous redesign, but it’s a great update for those who need some new features for the semester.

AMD’s thin nano PC prototype sits on your TV, but doesn’t want to be called a set-top box

Zotac-Zbox-PA330-Pico-Series-AMD-Mullins-3Let’s take a moment and throw out the spec sheet (at least for a moment). Besides, at CES 2014, we only got the Cliff Notes about Mullins, the company’s next-gen ultra-low voltage APU. Instead, let’s take a moment and gaze upon the tiny wonder that the Nano PC is and soak it all in. This reference design from the Sunnyvale, CA-based company packs enough power to run Windows 8.1 seamlessly and even get in a quick game of FIFA 14 at 1080p. Inside, in additions  to a Mullins chip, is a 256GB SSD, a camera, Bluetooth, WiFi and a DockPort connector. All that fits into a package that’s not much larger or thicker than a Galaxy Note 3 — it’s an absolute marvel of engineering. It’s the last of those specs that’s pretty important, since it allows you to connect to a tiny breakout box with HDMI and USB ports. Obviously you’ll need one of those to connect it to a TV, which the Nano PC is designed to sit atop of. Here’s hoping that a company or two picks up on the design and starts making absurdly thin machines of their own.

Yahoo acquires Aviate to build context-sensitive Android apps

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Before Aviate could even finish developing its context-aware Android home screen, it’s been acquired. Yahoo announced at CES that it swooped up the app for an undisclosed amount; the web giant pictured Aviate’s simplified, ever-changing interface as a “central part” of its Android software in 2014. Stay tuned to the TechSummit Rewind to see what became of the app.

Polar’s latest wearable wants to be more than just a sports watch

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Polar’s making a bold statement with the V800: the fact that it could replace both a running watch and an activity tracker. But the company’s executives might be going for an even bigger target. Polar was working on an update to the wearable that would give it the ability to produce notifications and alerts in a similar way to the current crop of smartwatches. The company also worked on an option to offer a store for customized watch faces, and the ability to buy additional functionality as you require it.

3Doodler 3D printing pen available now at Brookstone stores

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If the only thing standing between you and a $99 3Doodler was the ability to mull the decision over in a nearby massage chair, Wobbleworks has some good news for you! The company has announced that its 3D printing pen has finally gotten a little retial distribution, namely Brookstone, which added the peripheral to its offbeat gadget arsenal. The 3Doodler also extended its online reach, thanks to ThinkGeek, the MoMa Store and Maker Shed. The Wobbleworks team is apparently working on even more retail partnerships, though it didn’t offer up any details on those.

ION Audio’s Sound Lounge speaker lets you get down while sitting down

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If you thought that your furniture was missing something, perhaps it’s missing some speakers? If it is, ION Audio has answered that call to action with the Sound Lounge Bluetooth speaker… ottoman? The sonic-seat has a 2.1-channel stereo system built right in, and as you might have already figured out with the mention of Bluetooth, you can hook it up to your phone, tablet or any other Bluetooth-toting media device. If you’re a wire-person, there are two phono connections around the back (one input and one output) so you can daisy-chain multiple units. There are also physical volume and bass controls if you want a little more rumble in the jungle.

The 10w (20w peak) speaker inside managed to make itself heard above the fairly chaotic ambient noise of Pepcom, and of course, we couldn’t check it out without taking it for a spin. We can confirm that it’s the most comfort we’ve ever sat on (if the only one at that), and the choice of red and white finishes give it the authentic Manhattan feel that it truly deserves. No word on pricing or availability, so for now you’ll just have to stand. Alone with your thoughts.

Internal game development at Oculus VR already happening

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It’s hard to imagine John Carmack not developing games. Sure, he signed on to Oculus VR as chief technology officer, but he’s also the co-creator of gaming classics like Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D. With Oculus Rift, Carmack and the many talented game developers working at Oculus VR have a new test on their hands; showcasing their new device with impressive software. Thus far, Oculus relied on third parties to create demonstrations for the Rift. This mauy change in 2014, accoreding to CEO Brendan Iribe and Director of Developmr Relations Aaron Davies.

Iribe on Carmack’s role:

“He’s working on a lot of exciting tech. But, his heart and soul and history certainly lies in the game-development side.”

That means, like id Software and Epic Games afterwards, Carmack and co. are working on software to showcase the Rift’s many functions.

Iribe:

“That’s always been Epic’s philosophy. And it’s what allowed them to make what they made. It’s certainly been id’s philosophy in the past. It’s been John Carmack’s philosophy — you gotta eat your own dog food here, and develop internal content also.”

So that’s what Carmack and Oculus are doing, with plenty of game developers in-house to expedite the process.

Iribe:

“You’ll see, over the next six to 12 months, if you monitor the careers page, we are putting up our team our there. We wanna make this a very open company. Pay attention to that page and you’ll see more and more game developers showing up.”

That’s to say nothing of supporting external dev studios, both big and small, or even outright publishing third-party games. The company even hired David DeMartini, ex-EA Partners director, to lead that charge. There’s also a blend of the two, where the folks at Oculus discover an especially exciting mechanic, but don’t have the means to dig in themselves.

Iribe:

“When we catch on to a nugget that seems like it should become a full experience, we may end up doing it ourselves. We may end up putting it out and working with a third-party studio that does. We’ve actually started to engage with third-party studios like that through the relations group, the publishing group, as well as our own development.”

Of course, the Rift has a UI built in for navigation and management. All that was being developed in-house at Oculus VR. In terms of internal game development, though, that avenue is just now being explored.

Iribe:

“We’ll see where it goes. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t do more and more internal development.”

JVC ruggedizes its Everio camcorders for 2014

JVC Everio GZ-R70

If your first thought when considering a camcorder purchase is “can it take a punch?”, then JVC’s speaking the same language as you. The company’s new Everio shooters are clad in the same hard-wearing shell that was previously see we’ve previously seen on the rugged ADDIXION line. Both models come with a 2.5-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS, 40x optical zoom and a three-inch touchscreen, but those stats aren’t the ones you’re interested in. No, get this outside, for instance, and the hardware will resist water in depths up to five meters, drops from a height of 1.5 meters and cope with bone-chilling -10°C (14°F). The only difference between the two devices is intternal storage, with the GZ-R70 having 32GB of internal memory, which is priced at $500, while the GZ-R10 will set you back $100 less. There’s no solid information about availability (yet), but stay tuned to the TechSummit Rewind for more updates.

XYZprinting unveils $499 3D printer

XYZprinting Da Vinci 2.0

After the deluge of announcements from Makerbot and 3D Systems that we’ve previously covered in the TechSummit Rewind, it’s going to be difficult for any one else to cut through the noise — though XYZprinting’s made a heck of a run at it with a sub-$500 price point; $499, to be exact. The Taiwanese company will be brushing elbows with those aforementioned big boys with the da Vinci 2.0, a semi-enclosed cube printer with a 7.8 x 7.8 x 7.8 build volume, which is available now in Europe, Japan and the US.

Seattle kills Gigabit Squared’s fiber internet rollout before it even starts

Seattle Skyline

Gigabit Squared’s fiber-to-the-home rollout was facing money problems, but it’s now clear that those problems were simply too much to bear. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray told the Puget Sound Business Journal that his city’s agreement to launch public internet through Gigabit has fallen apart before it could even take on its first customers. The official hasn’t ruled out a future deal, but Murray didn’t have any alternative providers lined up. Meanwhile, hope springs eternal at Gigabit Squared with the company “looking forward” to speaking with Murray about future plans.

FINsix laptop adapter is tiny, yet powerful

FINsix laptop adapter

It’s 2014, and while Intel’s Haswell processors are all the rage in laptops, many still have to carry a bulky power adapter for those more demanding machines. Luckily, MIT spin-off FINsix has come up with a breakthrough technology that dramatically reduces both the size and weight of laptop adapters. The startup’s new 65W brick is dwarfed by its conventional counterparts; the claim is that it’s four times smaller and six times lighter. The new adapter also comews with a handy 2.1A USB port alongside the laptop plug, both of which can be used at the same time. For those MacBook-toting users, no fret is required, as the startup is working on getting Apple’s blessing to make a version for your MagSafe adapters.

For the sake of keeping you awake, we won’t get too deep into the spec sheet, but in a nutshell, the FINsix adapter is enabled by MIT’s VHF (very high frequency) switching technology, which is a thousands times faster than traditional adapters. As with all legit electronics, this product will go through the usual safety compliance tests, so there should be nothing to worry about once the product does hit store shelves. The FINsix laptop adapter is available now.

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

sharpces-0114-de

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

corning-gorilla-glass

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

Toshiba_UltraHD

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

sony-core-smartband

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

conflicfreekeynote2

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

Okidokeys_02

 

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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

Sony’s AS20 action camera offers a “more exciting” point of view

Building on its growing line of Action Cam point of view (POV) cameras, Sony has introduced the AS20 model to the US market. This camera packs many of Sony’s latest POV imaging technologing including SteadyShot image stabilization into an “ultra-compact body at a competitve price.”

Patrick Huang, Sony Electronics Action Cam business director:

“With its slim, low-profile design, our Action Cam line goes wherever you go… from surfing trips to skate parks. With three impressive models now in market, including the AS100V, AS30V and new AS20 cameras, we’re ensuring that all types of POV shooters can capture their adventures with legendary Sony quality.”

Featured on the new AS20 model, Sony’s SteadyShot electronic image stabilization works “seamlessly to control camera shake and vibration, ensuring that all footage from the bike trail or ski slopes is smooth, crisp and free of the bumps or jolts” that are often experienced during point of view video shooting.

The AS20 camera also features a ZEISS Tessar lens with a 170 degree field of view for the “ultimate wide angle experience.” A built-in stereo microphone delivers “outstanding sound quality, adding an extra dimension of realism to those everyday adventures.”

The camera is equipped with a back-illuminated Exmore R CMOS sensor that produces “exceptional Full HD (1080p) video and still photos, especially at dusk and other low-light situations” where other cameras typically struggle. It also features high bit-rate recording at up to 28Mbps, which ensures “crisply-detailed footage in all types of shooting environments, including those with lots of camera or subject motion.”

The AS20 model has built-in WiFi functionality, allowing it to connect to the wearable RM-LVR1 Live-View remote. Available as an optional accessory, the waterproof RM-LVR1 displays a live image preview on its LCD screen, making it easier to frame and record shots in tough conditions. The remote can also control up to five cameras simultaneously, making multi-camera shoots “a breeze.” WiFi also enables the AS20 action cam to link up to iOS and Android devices for “easy content transfer and sharing.”

Sony’s free PlayMemories Home app makes it easy to edit footage and share it via services like Facebook and YouTube. It features Video Merge, which lets users create split-screen composites of up to four simultaneous views captured by different cameras.

The Sony HDR-AS20 Action Cam is available now for roughly $200. The camera and its growing range of Action Cam mounts and accessories is available through Sony’s retail stores, Sony’s online store and other authorized retailers nationwide.

Source: Sony

PlayStation TV launching in North America October 14

Sony will launch the PlayStation TV micro-console for PlayStation games on October 14 in North America, according to the company’s Gamescom 2014 press briefing.

PlayStation TV can serve as a secondary home for PlayStation 4 games via Remote Play, and users can also play PlayStation Vita, PlayStaiton Portable and PlayStation One titles on the console. The device will also offer Sony’s game-streaming service PlayStation Now. It will be available by itself for $99, and for $139 with a Dualshock 4 controller, an HDMI cable, an 8GB memory card and a copy of the PS Vita’s The Lego Movie Videogame.

Source: PlayStation (Twitter)

 

Sony gets in on the selfie bandwagon with Xperia C3

In a “me too” move, Sony got in on the selfie bandwagon today with the Xperia C3, the “ultimate new smartphone for selfies.”

For more on the device, watch the video embedded below:

Calum MacDougall, Director of Xperia Marketing at Sony Mobile:

Xperia C3 is a unique new smartphone from Sony, created to offer the ultimate social sharing experience with a new powerful ‘PROselfie cam’. It also presents a combination of the best of Sony, with leading digital imaging technology and brilliant specs and performance all for a mid-range price.

The rise of selfies shows no signs of abating – its usage has increased by 17,000% since 2012 with the word officially being added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. We’re excited to offer SONY’s first ‘PROselfie Smartphone’ and play a part in this global phenomenon.”

The Xperia C3 produces “perfect selfies wherever, whenever” with a wide-angle 5MP front-facing camera that allows for wider shots. With a soft flash, you can take “flattering photos day or night” by  double tapping the back cover or using Smile Shutter, which you can then share to your friends in “three clicks.” Thanks to the camera’s Superior Auto mode, pictures are automatically adjusted backed on lighting conditios and the auto scene recognition function, which works with HDR and the built-in LED flash to make sure that you get the best photo or video “in any light.”

To enhance images even further, the Xperia C3 comes preloaded with several selfie camera apps, AR effect to incorporate themes that let you easily add fun graphics and animations such as pirate hats, horror faces and laser eyes to your images and videos. Portrait Retouch allows up to two users to receive digital makeovers in real time by using up to 10 beauty styles, 10 deco frame options and 6 eye reflections.

Created with Sony’s Cybershot technology, the Xperia C3’s 8MP main camera, featuring a Exmor RS mobile image sensor, captures “perfect pictures even in challenging lighting conditions.” With SteadyShot, all of your videos will come out “smooth and distortion-free.” The front camera also makes video calls “crispy clear” with “exceptional image quality” on the C3’s 5.5-inch display over 4G LTE or WiFi.

We mentioned the Xperia C3’s camera apps earlier on, but let’s now go in depth on them:

  • Superior Auto- Available on both cameras. From illuminated night views to backlit selfies, Superior Auto recognizes four scene types on the front camera and up to 36 scenes on the C3’s main camera and adjusts the settings automatically, to help you “get the best photos anywhere, in any light.” As the default camera mode, Superior Auto turns HDR on or off depending on our scene. HDR mode takes multiple shots with varied exposures and then merges them together to make your photos “look natural” — even in backlit conditions.
  • Portrait retouch v.2- Style your close-ups in real time. To make sure that you “look your best on-camera,” Portrait retouch v.2 has real-time makeover, several DECO frame options and magic eye beam (light reflection) effects. Portrait Retouch offers a choice of 10 different beauty styles — including four natural looks for the guys — and the ability to retouch portraits of up to two people per image. You can see the changes in real-time before capturing the shot to know what you’re look like when it’s captured.
  • Timeshift burst – Timeshift Burst captures 31 frames in two seconds — starting even before you press the shutter. After the shoot, consumers can choose the magazine-quality shot or keep them all.
  • Picture effects- Apply a wide selection of effects to your photos, change colors, add image trails or apply mirror effects to “enhance your images and open up a world of possibilities.”
  • Social live- Broadcast important moments as they happen live on Facebook. Get responses from your friends onscreen and keep the conversation going.
  • Sweep Panorama- Take a panorama by sweeping the camera around a scene.

Xperia C3 supports 4G LTE with up to 150Mbps download speeds and 50Mbps upload speeds, allowing you “to share every highlight of your day, anytime and anywhere.” Powered by an 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor and 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage, Xperia C3 offers “ultra-fast performance with breathtaking graphics.”

At 7.6mm thick and a weight of 150g, this smartphone is perfect for people that are constantly on the move. Built with “leading Sony technology,” the Xperia C3 has a 5.5-inch  (1280×720) HD IPS  display optimized with BRAVIA technology that “offers great viewing from any angle.”

The Xperia C3 features an easy-toggle keyboard for one-handed input. In addition, its Simple Home mode offers a simplified home screen ideal for first-time smartphone users with larger fonts and is loaded with the most used apps and speed dial features.

The Xperia C3 provides “extended usage to help you get the most out of your smartphone whilst on the move.” On top of this, Battery Stamina Mode 3.0 saves you wasted battery drain by recognizing when you’re not using your display and automatically turning off the functions you don’t need, while keeping the functions you want.

Sony’s latest generation of dual-SIM technology allows users to set up both SIM cards independently with custom ringtones and easily choose between SIMs before making calls or sending texts, while Sony’s dual SIM management means that users can keep both SIMs active and never miss a call, even when taking on one of them.

Xperia C3 will be available in black, white and mint green starting this August in China. but will be available globally. Below’s the rest of the spec sheet:

  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • Dimensions: 156 x 78. x 7.6mm
  • 2500mAh battery (up to 24 hours of talk time, 1071 hours of standby time, 93 hours of music playback, 10 hours of video playback)

Source: Sony

Sony Mobile announces Xperia T3 smartphone

Sony Mobile has introduced the Xperia T3, which is crafted in a stainless steel frame.

For those who prefer to ingest the information through video:

Despite its stainless steel frame, the Xperia T3 weighs 148 grams and has dimensions of 150.7 x 77 x 7mm.

The stainless steel frame ensures that its slim design feels “sturdy and durable,” while also functioning as an antenna. The back cover is designed with a matte finish, helping the Xperia T3 to feel “slim and light” in the hand. The Xperia T3 also has an aluminum power button.

The Xperia T3 also has a 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon quad-core processor and a 2,500mAh battery.

Built with Sony’s BRAVIA technologies, the Xperia T3 has a 5.3″ 1520×720 HD TRILUMINOS display with Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2. Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2 offers “redder reds and bluer blues” and an IPS display that can be enjoyed from any angle.

The Xperia T3 has an 8-megapixel rear camera with Exmor RS for mobile, which enables exceptional pictures “even in changing environments.” HDR for video enables exceptional video “even when back-lit.” SteadyShot enables photos to come out “smooth and distortion-free.”

Social Live enables users to broadcast memories as they happen live on Facebook. It also lets you see and share comments in real time. AR effect enables users to add new sound effects and animations to photos and videos.

Timeshift burst takes 31 photos in two seconds. Creative effects allow users to change colors, add image trails or mirror effects. The feature is available in real-time while recording video. Portrait Retouch enables users to add makeup and deco frame among other things in real time.

The Xperia T3 features Android 4.4 KitKat with Xperia Transfer to help move between another Android/iOS device to the T3. Xperia Transfer helps users move contacts, photos, bookmarks, apps, music and messages among other things. It can be done via a PC/Mac or an Android/iOS with Xperia Transfer Mobile2.

The Xperia T3 will be available globally at the end of July.

Source: Sony