Tag Archives: Google Cardboard

PTJ 191 News: Advancing Torpor

Even more characters on Twitter — and we’re not even talking about the trolls!  Bloomberg is reporting that the bird-themed microblogging service will soon stop counting the characters used by web links and photos in that 140-character limit.

Microsoft has big plans this summer for its Windows 10 Anniversary Upgrade, like more ads for promoted apps on your Start Menu.  And as CNet and others have reported, Microsoft has gotten aggressive with the pop-up notifications now. Windows 7 and 8.1 users who have no plans to upgrade should pay careful attention to what those little nag-ass boxes are saying.

WhatsApp is moving into video-calling, according to those who have seen a recent beta version of the app for Android. At last,  another video calling option to compete with FaceTime, Skype, Google Chat and the other apps out there.

Amazon, the über-mega-everything store already sells thousands of name-brand items, but The Wall Street Journal is talking to sources within the company who claim that Amazon plans to introduce its own house-label products like diapers and beverages.


AT&T, on the heels of its corporate hookup last year with DirecTV, announced this week that it had acquired Quickplay Media. Not to be confused with Apple’s QuickTime multimedia software or Quick Draw McGraw, the equine sheriff of the animated Old West, QuickPlay Media is a video-streaming platform for the “TV Everywhere” initiative and other over-the-top applications.

Adobe churned out yet more patches for its Flash Player multimedia software last week, but it seems Google has had about enough of the security-addled software. Developers for the company recently laid out plans to disable Flash by default and move to HTML 5 for multimedia playback. When the move happens by the end of the year, embedded Flash files in websites viewed in the Chrome browser won’t run or acknowledge the plug-in; Flash will hang around on some sites like YouTube until the end of 2017.

The Google I/O developer conference kicks off this week in Mountain View, California. Here’s the keynote speech. Google also put out a new app called Spaces this week for “small-scale” sharing.

Have you checked out the YouTube app’s Google Cardboard modeAs of this week, it’s now available on the iOS app as it catches up to  the Android version. The mode converts any YouTube video into a Cardboard-worthy VR experience. (Disney is also after virtual reality fans with its new Disney Movies VR app out on Steam.)


Apple has finally updated its iTunes program for the desktop with an attempt to make navigation for the cluttered app more streamlined and sensible. Apple also pushed out other updates this week, including those for OS X, iOS, watch OS and tvOS for the fourth-generation Apple TV. (Speaking of the Apple TV, BitTorrent has just launched its own Live app there.) Be careful, though: According to screams from around the Twitterverse, however, the iOS update, version 9.3.2, has bricked more than one iPad Pro tablet. The OS X update 10.11.5 for El Capitan is seen primarily as a security fix.

Doom 2016 has come blasting out into stores. One reviewer over at PC World said the new modernized version of the classic first-person shooter succeeds because it knows it’s a big dumb bang-bang game.


Current C, a mobile-payments competitor to Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay and similar services, has, shall we say, “suspended its campaign” and laid off about 30 staff members. Current C, which was hacked before it ever got out of the gate, is largely considered to be stranded on the Island of Abandoned Software Projects.

The SoundHound mobile app just got an update that adds a virtual assistant. To use it, just start out saying OK, Hound, and then you can ask it to do things like play music from certain streaming services, add songs to playlists, play YouTube music videos.

For consumers of more genteel entertainment, The Daily Telegraph over in London reports that the BBC and ITV television networks plan to launch a British competitor to Netflix. The working title, of course, is Britflix. Perhaps it will show Downton Abbey.


And finally, NASA has provided funding eight projects that are based on advanced technology, but could help kick the agency’s space exploration efforts into high gear. The development grants were part of Phase II NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program, also known as NIAC. Among this year’s projects: “Advancing Torpor Inducing Transfer Habitats for Human Stasis to Mars,” which would put human passengers in a hibernation-like state for long trips to other planets and “Further Development of Aperture: A Precise Extremely Large Reflective Telescope Using Re-configurable Elements,” for a new type of space telescope that would use a membrane-like primary mirror that could be corrected after deployment. Congratulations to all the grant winners! Thanks for making the future!

PTJ 176: The One with Google Cardboard and Election Apps

Google’s corporate parent, Alphabet, is now the most valuable company in the world but all Pedro has on his mind is virtual reality. J.D. puts together a set of the Big G’s Cardboard VR goggles for the hapless Kaiser then fills us in on some very useful apps and sites to help U.S. voters make an informed decision on Election Day in November.


The Current Reality of Virtual Reality

The media world was buzzing this weekend as The New York Times jumped into a new dimension. The company gave out Google Cardboard virtual reality viewers to its home subscribers and pointed them to the new NYT VR smartphone app for Android or iOS to see special videos that accompanied certain stories in the Times Magazine.


As with other virtual-reality systems, once an Android phone or iPhone was placed in the back of the cardboard contraption and the required content downloaded, the user got a much more immersive experience than watching a 2D clip because  the whole thing had a panoramic feel to it. (Shooting a film in virtual reality can be technically challenging as well, but viewing one puts you in the middle of the action; the How Stuff Works site has a good explanation of the virtual-reality experience.) The NYT website helpfully included a frequently asked questions page for users new to the VR scene, as well as a video showing how to fold together the Cardboard viewer.

The Times got a lot of buzz for busting the move, but virtual reality has popping up all over the past year. On the high end of the spectrum, the new Facebook-owned Oculus Rift virtual reality system has been kicking around for years and is scheduled to finally make a commercial debut early next year. The $99 Samsung Gear VR system, (shown below) also powered by Oculus technology, is now available for pre-orders and works with Samsung’s newer Galaxy devices; older Samsung VR headsets are also around. Microsoft’s HoloLens system, which is advertised more as an augmented reality system as opposed to virtual reality, may also jump into the mix when it officially rolls into town next year.


So, what do you need to see the new virtual reality? You need a virtual-reality app that can display the videos on the appropriate format. To get the most of the experience, you also need a Cardboard-style viewer and a pair of headphones to immerse yourself in the audio. These range in price online from about $4 up to $30 for the sturdier, fancier models that look less like pieces of a packing box and more like sophisticated binoculars.


And, along with the hardware, you need content to look at. The Google Cardboard site has a list of VR apps that work with the viewer. But much more content is coming or is already here. The Wall Street Journal announced last week that it, too, was adding virtual reality content to its video app. Facebook is said to be developing its own virtual reality videos app and YouTube’s blog just announced last week that the site had added support for VR, including a The Hunger Games Virtual Reality Experience, (shown above), a trailer from the Apollo 11 mission and many others.

If you don’t have the viewer, you can also watch some videos in standard mode on muse smartphones or in a desktop browser. While you can just turn your head to get a panoramic view with a viewer, you can usually drag your finger or mouse around the frame to see more of the surroundings on the home screen or video window.

Is VR the future or just a fad? Time will tell, but people are testing out the format in all sorts of places. Last month’s Democratic debate on CNN even had a virtual reality version, although viewer response to the experiment was mixed. Some things, after all, may be better off in their own reality.

PTJ 163 News: No Time Like the Present

Money makes the world go ’round, (also the conservation of angular momentum), and things were really spinning this week. That’s because Dell, maker of computers, has agreed to buy EMC, maker of data storage products, for $67 billion dollars. This, of course, is subject to regulatory approval and may take a year to complete, but if it all goes through, it creates the world’s “largest privately-controlled, integrated technology company.” Boo-yah!

When one thinks “Pepsi,” technology usually doesn’t come to mind unless it’s something like the limited-edition Pepsi Perfect bottles the company first released at New York Comic Con last week to celebrate the year depicted in Back to the Future II and 30 years since the franchise started.


However, the soft-drink company has announced a deal to work with a partner to make Pepsi-branded mobile phones and accessories in China. Pepsi’s not doing the hardware, mind you, just putting its name and logo on the Pepsi P1 phone that’s due out soon.

From the It Was Only A Matter of Time Department: Facebook is testing a shopping section that it says will act as a “single place for people to more easily discover, share, and purchase products.” And also never, ever use any other site besides Facebook.


The Hollywood Reporter asks an important question: Does the Future of Television Belong to the Device or the App? The site has a story this week about a new case before the Federal Communications Commission that’s dividing the movie and TV industry and bringing tech companies like Amazon and Google into the fray.

Speaking of control issues, Twitter suspended the accounts for the sports blogs Deadspin and SB Nation over the weekend for posting copyrighted GIFs and video highlights. Deadspin at least had a little fun at the NFL commissioner’s expense when the account was reactivated.

Now, Windows 10 officially came out this summer, but the work is not finished. Microsoft has promised it to make Windows 10 an ever-evolving system and the company just released its Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 10565 version this week.

Apple updated its iMac line of desktop computers, bringing faster processors and 4K or 5K displays to the hardware. New input accessories the Magic Keyboard 2, the Magic Mouse 2 and the Magic Trackpad 2 — now with Force Touch — were also announced.

Experian, one of the bureaus out their keeping tabs on people’s credit, got hacked last week. Brian Krebs, who runs the Krebs on Security blog, has a story about how the bureau’s security practices have lapsed over the past few years due to attrition, dissatisfaction and other factors.

Google Cardboard is expanding internationally. The little fold-together virtual reality viewer that works with your smartphone and a special app is now is available in 39 languages and over 100 countries on both Android and iOS devices.


And finally, with The Martian topping the movie box office two weeks in a row and the Red Planet getting lots of press anyway, NASA released a document detailing its next steps in it Journey to Mars project, which it has been working on for some time. It may sound farfetched, but it it took less than ten years from President Kennedy’s call to put a man on the moon to NASA’s Apollo 11 mission making it a reality. And speaking of the Apollo missions, check out the Project Apollo Archive that was recently published on Flickr. Science! It just makes you want to . . . break into song sometimes, doesn’t it?

PTJ 161 News: Life on Mars

5XGoogle’s turn! Yes, it’s Google’s turn for the big fall product announcement event, which the company held this Tuesday in San Francisco. Among the revelations, the LG Nexus 5X (top) and the Huawei Nexus 6P (bottom). Both are in Google’s Nexus line and available for online pre-order in in the Google Store.  6PYou have to buy the phones from Google and then pick a carrier plan, but the new handsets also work with Google’s Project Fi, a wireless experience made up of Wi-Fi networks and partner 4G LTE carriers.

The Nexus name didn’t continue onto tablets, however, as Google also announced its new Pixel C device, which looks like a tablet with an optional and magnetically attachable keyboard. The 10.2-inch Google-designed gadget (shown below) has already been compared to Microsoft’s Surface tablet.


ChromecastGoogle also updated its $35 Chromcast dongle for streaming media this week. The new version of the regular Chromecast has been redesigned into a small, puck-like ChromecastAudioobject with a smaller connector to the back of the TV set that may fit a little better when you have a bunch of other stuff plugged it. As shown here at the top, you can get it in three different colors. If you don’t care about video and just want a way to stream the tunes on your mobile devices over Wi-Fi to a pair of big-ass speakers in the house, there’s the Chromecast Audio dongle (below). That one’s also $35 and available in basic black.

LG Electronics, which makes appliances, television sets and some very nice high-end Android smartphones, is bringing its laptop business here to the States. Like its smartphones, LG’s laptop line, called the Gram series, leans to the fancier end of the spectrum, with a MacBook-like Air look with Intel Core processors and HD displays. Prices range from about $900 to $1400.

Public Service Announcement: People, stop posting that status about Facebook charging money to keep your profile’s privacy settings! The copyright thing is bogus! It was a hoax three years ago and it’s still a hoax today! It does play on fears about privacy, though, which is a sensitive topic for many people. Microsoft published a post on its Windows blog this week that addressed privacy concerns some users have voiced with Windows 10.

vrkitObservers noticed the Microsoft offering its own variation of Google’s Cardboard viewer called the Microsoft VR Kit for its Lumia phones, at least for participants at a Russian hackathon.  In other reality-avoidance news, Re/Code is among those reporting that YouTube is getting ready to launch an ad-free subscription service next month that will also include access to its YouTube MusicKey streams.

Twitter is also moving away from and supplementing its original service model. Reports are circulating that the company is building a new product that would let users post content longer than 140 characters. Twitter itself is not commenting about that or the TV Timelines feature it’s been working on since March of this year. However, Twitter is seen to be making a bigger grab for more television show fans as the new fall season rolls out by adding shortcuts to its TV Timelines feature on TV-related tweets.

cardreaderOctober is here and along with heartier fall-themed beers, many retail merchants are finally upgrading their credit-card terminals to accept dips from cards with smart chips. Merchants who do not up their security by installing chip-reading credit card terminals could be liable for fraudulent transactions in their stores.

Big news from NASA earlier this week: The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has new findings that provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water is flowing on Mars.

NASAAnd finally, Mars will be all up in the news this weekend as the new film, The Martian opens around the country. The movie stars Matt Damon and  is based on a best-selling novel originally self-published in 2011 by Andy Weir, a software engineer who used apps and diligence to get the science plausible and right within the story. Ridley Scott directed the picture and worked with NASA consultants to make the visuals technically accurate, and the agency highlights nine real and developing NASA technologies used in the film. (Since NASA has been such a big booster of the film, Yahoo News is among those wondering if the agency even timed Monday’s Mars announcement just ahead of the film’s release on Friday.) But perhaps even more exciting than water on Mars, however, is that Jessica Chastain and Kate Mara are in the film as well — and they get to play actual astronauts instead of astronauts’ wives.
Now that’s progress.



PTJ 145 News: Developing Situations

Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference opened this week, and the very long Keynote on Monday morning brought a whole bunch of announcements with it. For starters , the next version of OS X will be called El Capitan, and over on the iOS 9 Preview side of the fence, a new proactive Siri is just one of the many new features that await. Apple Pay has added more card support, branched out to the UK and  the Passbook app has now been renamed with the more obvious moniker, “Wallet.” There’s a new News app that looks like it’s gunning for Flipboard. The new iOS 9 will have specific treats for the iPad , like a QuickType keyboard for easier input and split-screen views for multitasking — including a picture-in-picture view. The Swift programming language will be open-source in its next version. The Apple Watch got native apps and a bunch of tweaks to makes it less dependent on a nearby iPhone, and Apple announced its long-rumored Apple Music service.   So now we wait, at least until the public betas start trickling out.

cardboardBut 12 days before Apple’s big programmer’s party, Google held its developer’s conference and made quite a few of its own announcements at Google I/O 2015. As expected, the company provided new information and a developer’s preview for Android M, the next generation of its operating system. The new Google Photos app with its free online storage was formally unveiled. The company proclaimed support for USB Type C, (the one connector to rule them all) and announced a bunch of other stuff. While Siri is getting more proactive little Google Now, Google Now is getting a little more interactive like Siri, thanks to a new feature called Google Now on Tap.  Among other things, Google also provided details on Android Pay and an updated version of Google cardboard — a virtual-reality platform for Android and iOS users.

While Apple didn’t announce a new Apple TV model or fancy remote at WWDC, Google added a bunch of content to its Android TV pltform, namely an online store with 600 apps that can be arranged in a sort of program-guide like grid and intermingle with live broadcast channels.  Cable TV is growing less and less mandatory…

win10Trying not to get lost on all the kerfuffle: Microsoft. The company announced last week that July 29th is its release date for Windows 10. Just follow the steps to reserve your copy of the new operatiing system. Once you make your reservation, Microsoft will let you know later when your update is ready to download. Microsoft has a set of Frequently Asked Questions on its site for those of you who want more information. The company also upgraded its Xbox One game console to a version with a 1-terabyte drive and has revamped its wireless controller. The terabyte model is $400, the 500-gigabyte version of the Xbox One is now $350 and the wireless controller will be $60 when it’s released in July.

marsNASA is keeping up its busy schedule and tested an experimental vehicle shaped like a flaying saucer this week as part of the research for its manned mission to Mars one day. The test seems to have failed after a 100-foot-wide parachute ripped during the craft’s test flight.  Meanwhile, the European Space Agency must have really liked the old Space 1999 show, as its announced plans to start building an inflatable town on the moon. The ESA plans to send up a lunar lander in 2018 to get things rolling and start construction on the habitat in 2024 using 3D printers to create the necessary parts right them and there. The structure would not be called Moonbase Alpha, but rather, Lunarville. You know, like the band.

If anyone out there is a fan if the scary longread, check out the New York Times Magazine’s recent story about the Russian Ministry of Trolls that spends its days spreading hoaxes, rumors and misinformation over social media to raise havoc. The story is called The Agency.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge is over and the team from South Korea has won the $2 million prize. A highlight reel is on YouTube.

pacmanAnd finally, the first six members of the World Video Game Hall of Fame have been announced. The classics DOOM, Pac-Man, Pong, Super Mario Bros., Tetris and World of Warcraft made the inaugural cut. The World Video Hall of Fame is part of the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY, and yes, you can visit. Bring a bag of quarters in case you have to exit through the gift shop.