PTJ 97 News: All Ears

If it’s June and the WWDC is over, it must be time for the Electronic Entertainment Expo! The show opened in Los Angeles earlier this week to show off this year’s offerings for the gaming crowd; sites like GameSpot and Kotaku have the latest news. Some early announcements included Sony’s new PlayStation TV, formerly the PlayStation Vita TV, a $99 set-top box for streaming PS4 games to other TV sets around the house.  Sony presented its new console game lineup for this year, as did Microsoft, which formerly put the new lower-priced Xbox One Without the Kinect Controller on sale for $399.

ligthingApple’s Worldwide Developers Conference wrapped up last week, but not before revealing a new standard that uses the company’s own Lighting connector (right) for headphones. The new Lightning module is supposed to provide more bandwidth and control for services like iTunes Radio. By drawing power from the iPhone through the Lightning port, for example, headphone accessory makers could do things like design noise-canceling headphones without the need for an external battery. No announcements have been made concerning the demise of the standard 3.5 mm headphone jack on iOS devices, but some people point out that Apple did just buy Beats Electronics, maker of headphones, so hello, new standards. Others, like the gang over at The Unofficial Apple Weblog argue strongly that Apple will keep the traditional headphone jack because of the massive mount of gear out there that uses the 3.5 mm plug.

The World Cup tournament kicks off this week, and Facebook and Twitter are jumping in with their own social-media fútbol features. Facebool will host a special Trending World Cup section on the Newsfeed page. Meanwhile, Twitter is promoting the official #WorldCup hashtag and encouraging fans to keep up with the news by following the official Twitter accounts like @FIFAWorld Cup and @ussoccer. (Perhaps in all the excitement of the looming soccerpalooza, Facebook accidentally released its new Slingshot messenger app to the public for a short time. Whoops!)

amazonAmazon announced the integration of its Audible audiobook lineup into the Kindle ebook app for Android and iOS. Book lovers can now listen to their audiobooks without having to use a separate app; that Kindle app upgrade is available now. Even if you don’t own the audio version of an ebook, Amazon is also offering “Whispersync for Voice,” for more than 45,000 of its Kindle titles so you can read and listen to a book at the same time. You can find out if one of your ebooks as a companion audio track with Amazon’s Matchmaker tool and then add in an audio-track upgrade for less than four bucks. (Amazon is also muscling in on Paypal’s territory with the launch of a new online payments system.)

Meanwhile, Google, which purchased a drone company in April, has confirmed its acquisition of Skybox Imaging for the low, low price of $500 million dollars in cash. Skybox is a company that makes small, high-resolution imaging satellites.

Netflix and Verizon have been having a corporate slapfight about poor-quality video streaming and who’s to blame for it. Each side has been bashing the other and Netflix went so far as to send messages to its subscribers sticking Verizon for the problems. Verizon fired back with a cease-and-desist letter telling Netflix to knock it off and accused the video company of pulling a PR stunt. On its monthly ISP Speed Index blog post, Netflix notes that Verizon FiOS and DSL service have actually gotten a bit slower in the first month of their very special friendship. Money can’t buy love, Netflix, but maybe you can get a better rental price.

amtComputer scientists have been arguing for the past few days whether a computer program has actually beaten the Turing Test. The Turing Test was introduced by computer pioneer and World War II codebreaker Alan Turing (left) in a 1950 academic paper called “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.” The test challenges a computer’s ability to show intelligent behavior equivalent or indistinguishable from that of a human being. In the recent Turing Test 2014 competition over at the Royal Society in London, a computer program named Eugene Goostman convinced 10 out of 30 judges that it was a real live person. To pass the test, the computer must fool human judges 30 percent of the time, which led some to say the program had passed. Other said the computer flunked the test by using advantageous factors like claiming to be a teenage non-native English speaker — which could account for some odd responses to questions.

stVAnd finally, Wired points out that this week marks the 25th anniversary of what’s arguably the worst film in the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. For those who have blocked it out after years of therapy, the film was directed by Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner. It featured a storyline in which Kirk and crew up against Spock’s half-brother Sybock, who jacks the Enterprise to go find God. The film currently averages a one-star rating on the Rotten Tomatoes site, but thankfully, the franchise’s shields were strong enough to deflect the damage and move on. To be fair, just about every long-term series has an enormous clunker or two back down the road, Case in point: A  certain galaxy far, far away suffered not only The Phantom Menace, but The Star Wars Holiday Special as well.

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