Tag Archives: Oculus Rift

PTJ 189 News: Eyes on the Prize

The race is on between Sony and Samsung to patent smart contact lenses that function as cameras floating atop your eyeballs. Yes, eyeball cameras.  Sony’s design even makes it hard to tell someone is even wearing an eyeball camera. But let’s not forget Google, which received a patent for a solar-powered contact lens last year and recently just got a patent for what’s described as an intra-ocular device; it sounds sort of like a bionic eye that could perhaps be used to help with degenerative vision diseases.

riftSpeaking of eyeballs, the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset is headed to 48 Best Buy stores on May 7th, and will be included as part of a special in-store promotional kiosk called The Intel Experience. A small number of units available for sale at those particular Best Buy outlets, too. You can look up the stores involved on Best Buy’s site. Amazon and Microsoft plan to start taking Oculus Rift orders at 9 a.m. Pacific time on May 6th.

Microsoft has decided that its Cortana virtual assistant for Windows 10 is not going to be allowed to play with other company’s web browsers and search engines. No Cortana for you, Google Chrome.

Yahoo hasn’t found anybody to pick up its pieces yet, but it has cut its list of potential dance partners down to 10 companies. Whatever happens, though, Yahoo CEO (and micromanager of bad logos) Marissa Mayer will make out all right. A  Securities and Exchange Commission filing revealed she’ll get a severance package worth about 55 million bucks if she’s booted within a year of any sale. No ramen noodles and Tang dinners for you, Marissa Mayer. (Unless you want them, that is.)

bitcoinArguments about the true identity of Bitcoin’s anonymous founder have bubbled up this week. Australian businessman Craig Wright has claimed he is the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, elusive founder of Bitcoin, but the Motherboard blog over at Vice isn’t buying it.

From the ever-expanding Department of Mergers & Acquisitions News, Comcast/NBC Universal made a deal to buy the DreamWorks animation studio for $3.8 billion. Also, the online video-sharing site Vimeo has acquired VHX. And there are even more video-streaming services than ever now, as Hulu is said to be preparing its own service to bundle streams of broadcast and cable channels to paid subscribers. This would move Hulu away from being primarily a streaming TV rerun site with a few original shows to an enticing option for cord-cutters.

robotsecurityGoogle has changed the name of its own monthly Nexus Security Bulletins patch collection to the more inclusive Android Security Bulletin, and this week’s May is intended to fix about 40 vulnerabilities in the mobile operating system. Many of the holes in the Mediaserver software for Android are on the fix list here. And make sure when you do update apps on your Android device, get them from the Google Play store itself and not from a website disguising itself as an Android update site. This is because there’s a new little piece of malware on the loose that claims to be an update for Android’s Chrome browser, but it’s really an infostealer app.

Google may have found a hardware partner for its self-driving cars. Bloomberg News is reporting Fiat Chrysler plans to team up with the Big G on prototypes based on the Chrysler Pacifica minivan.

Some exciting typing news: The popular Google Keyboard app just got a big update this week.  Also in keyboard developments, the Giphy Keys app for iOS arrived this week, making it easier than ever to add just the right animated loop to your messages. No boring messages for you, Giphy Keys user.

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Consumer Encryption and Government Security concerns continue to clash. This week, it’s Brazil throwing a 72-hour block on the Facebook-owned WhatsApp messenger service after Facebook refused to hand over information requested for a criminal investigation. Another judge in Brazil soon overturned the order.

includeSeveral women working in the tech industry have come together to form a new nonprofit venture called Project Include that hopes to help the aforementioned tech industry work on its diversity issues. Let’s check back this time next year to see if anything has changed.

And finally,  Ad-Block Plus, the popular ad-blocking extension, and Flattr, a micropayment service that lets its users donate money have teamed up a new service called Flattr Plus that lets you set a content budget and then send money to the sites you actually spent time reading. No money for you, clickbait sites.

PTJ 184 News: Never Mind

Well, after all that legal grandstanding and trying to force Apple to build a back door in its mobile operating system, the Justice Department went back to court this week to say: Never mind. Thanks to help from a third-party volunteer hacking specialist, the FBI says it is now rolling through the encrypted data that was harvested from the iPhone of the San Bernardino terrorist.

So now that the whole incident is over, what was it about? Some argue that corporate compliance is mandatory in this dangerous era of terror. Others, including famed NSA leaker Edward Snowden, have gone on record saying the FBI could have gotten into the phone on its own and the whole thing was about establishing a legal precedent. So, until next time…

Speaking of Apple’s iOS software, the company has acknowledged bugs in its recent 9.3 update. Patch on the way!

instagramInstagram’s previously announced move to using algorithms  in feeds has caused a bit of a panic in the Insta-community, so that’s why you’ve been inundated by people asking you to turn on notifications so that their posts will not get buried. No word on when that change to the system  going live, but Instagram did announce this week that it was increasing the maximum running time of posted video from 15 seconds to 60 seconds.

Twitter celebrated its 10th-anniversary last week and this week, the company’s Periscope app for live-streaming video celebrated its one-year anniversary from its official launch date. Periscope has reportedly been used for 200 million live video broadcasts and not all of them were Game of Thrones or House of Cards bootlegs.

People poking around in Facebook Messenger code say they’ve found evidence that points to the potential to make purchases in retail stores and fund them with Apple Pay, all without leaving the Messenger app. Facebook has made no announcements yet, nor on reports that it’s also working on Snapchat-like self-destructing messages called Secret Conversations. (But, while we’re talking bout Snapchat, that company has just released what it calls Chat 2.0, which lets users easily tap between text, audio and video chat.)

riftIn gaming news, reviews of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset are starting to pop up around the web, including one from Brian X. Chen at The New York Times who called it a well-built hardware system brimming with potential. However, the first wave of apps and software will probably only appeal to hard-core gamers.

Sony is also stepping up the graphics in its console games and said it plans to release an updated version of its PlayStation 4 machine later this year. The current PlayStation 4 model would stick around, but it would add a newer version with enough mojo to handle virtual reality and other visually intense gaming experiences.

Vimeo announced this week that it’s made some updates to its channel on the Roku set-top box. As explained in a blog post on the company site, you can now you can rent or buy films and video series directly from their creators right there on your Roku TV.

Audio-sharing site SoundCloud is also stepping things up with a new subscription service here in the States called SoundCloud Go.

Oracle is not happy with Google over a little matter of copyright and is suing the Big G for use of Java in the Android operating system. Oracle seeking 9.3 billion dollars in damages. Google, for its part, has other things on its mind this week, like its new Fiber Phone service, which brings unlimited and nationwide phone calls to homes with Google Fiber broadband service for $10 a month.

fiber

Yahoo’s financial woes have not gotten any better this year and the company announced it’ll be accepting bids for its web business and Asian assets. The Wall Street Journal reports the company has set an April 11th deadline for preliminary bids from interested buyers. Perhaps Yahoo can throw a few departments up on eBay.

And finally, if you don’t live in the States or you’re too broke to buy one of those handy Amazon Echo speakers that does your bidding when you give it verbal commands, you can build your own with an inexpensive Raspberry Pi barebones computers and a little time. Novaspirit Tech has a demo video:

Lest you think this is an unauthorized adventure, Amazon itself has posted its own instructions on GitHub for getting the hardware working with its Alexa Voice Service. So, if you need a summer project this year when you’re not picking up Yahoo properties at a weekend tag sale, consider the DIY Raspberry Echo.

 

PTJ 177 News: Unboxed

Might the cable bill have fewer line items in the future? The Federal Communications Commission would like to make it happen! While the intended merger of Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications is still under review and the agency is defending its net neutrality policy against attacks and appeals, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler got the cable industry in a further tizzy by announcing a proposal that would do away with the practice of customers having to rent their set-top boxes from their service providers. Cable companies: Not so happy.

budget2017President Obama sent his last budget to Congress this week, and out of the $4 trillion dollars total, the budget requested $19 billion dollars for national cybersecurity. The new plan calls for a chunk of change to finally upgrade federal workers off their ancient totally hackable computer systems. Case in point, according to VICE’s Motherboard site, an anonymous hacker has threatened to dump gigabytes of employee information grabbed off a Justice Department computer. Homeland security, indeed.

A worldwide tweetstorm began to brew over the weekend after BuzzFeed reported that Twitter was getting ready to change its real-time reverse chronological feed into a Facebook-like algorithm-run arrangement that shows you tweets the program thinks you want to see rather than what’s happening at the moment.  Wired defused some of the tweet-rage saying the new version of Twitter basically expands the While You Were Away highlights of older tweets. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also responded. Oh, and Twitter launched its First View ads this week, which are video adverts that sit on top of your newsfeed so you can’t miss them.

bird

Speaking of Wired, the site is cracking down on ad-blocking and soon plans to start restricting access to the site for readers cruising by in a browser with an ad-blocker. You can also give them money to get rid of the ads.

Facebook’s promise of free Internet — or at least Facebook’s version of the Internet — has been rejected by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the government authority there who blocked the Social Network’s Free Basics app. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has vowed to press on.

Instagram, also owned by Facebook, had better news. The official blog announced an update to its app that allows you to add multiple accounts and then easily switch between them.

Home theater hobbyists who have been eagerly awaiting the Samsung UBD-K8500 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player to buy won’t have to wait much longer. Samsung jumped its own expected March release date for the player to slip a few units into the Video & Audio Center out in Santa Monica, where they quickly sold out.

Google Cardboard has been the on-ramp into the world of virtual reality for a lot of people, but Google is now said to be working on a higher-end VR headset to rival the Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift gear. Google is not commenting on its plans.

linuxtabletCanonical, the company that makes Ubuntu Linux, just announced the Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition tablet produced with European hardware maker BQ and is expected to go on sale next month. The Penguin Pad has a 10-inch screen and runs the touch-screen version of Ubuntu.

But be very careful when shopping for USB-C cables. The Verge site reports that the faulty or improper wiring on cheap uncertified USB-C cables has actually shorted out laptops due to incorrect power usage.  The article points to lists of cables that have been tested to work correctly, but also calls USB industry groups to come up with reliable certification procedures because nobody wants fried laptop for dinner.

StubHub is  moving into direct sales with a new ticketing platform. The new system won’t delineate between second-hand resellers and direct sales from the venue’s box office and lets StubHub give TicketMaster a lot more competition. StubHub is also partnering with the Philadelphia 76ers to sell tickets to the team’s games when the NBA season starts up this fall.

And finally, if you long for a more simpler time when computer viruses were not just out to steal your money and identity, visit the Malware Museum online at the Internet Archive. Curated by security expert Mikko Hypponen of F-Secure, the emulated selections in the museum have been cleansed of their destructive power but show you the sometimes-whimsical messages left by hackers in a gentler, DOS-based era.

frodovirus

PTJ 167: Virtual Insanity

Welcome to our first virtual episode. Ok, that’s a lie but we are focusing on Virtual Reality this week. El Kaiser explains just what Google Cardboard is all about and J.D. gives us a rundown on all the flavors of VR available to consumers. And of course, we have a heaping helping of tech news and shenanigans.

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.

gc

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.

samsungvr

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.

hungergames

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 159 News: Solid Opinions and Virtual Reality

It’s been a busy September already, but the Federal Communications Commission hasn’t  forgotten about the proposed merger of Charter Communications/Time Warner Cable/Bright House. The agency has put forth the request for public comments on the possible transaction, just as it did last year with the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger that later collapsed. You have until October 13th to comment and yes, you can file your comment online, as several people have already.

In other legal news, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco has ruled that copyright holders must pause to consider if use of their material qualifies as fair use before issuing a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It’s all in the case of Lenz vs. Universal, also commonly known as The Dancing Baby Lawsuit, and it started way back in 2007.

Although a triumphant Monday press release touting first-weekend sales did not arrive, Apple did release a statement announcing that global pre-orders for the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models were on track to beat last year’s 10 million first-weekend sales of the iPhone 6. The iPhone 6s Plus does seem to be sold out in numerous areas, but a manufacturing issue has been rumored in the shortage blame game. And if you’re thinking about buying one of the new iPhone models, The Washington Post has a guide to the various payment plans you can choose from now if you have to have the latest model.

cashtagThis week saw yet another Republican debate on television as next year’s Presidential campaign continues to grind on. In the spirit of things, Twitter announced that it was teaming up with Square to let people in the United States donate to the political candidate of their choice with a tweet.

Facebook bought the Oculus Rift virtual reality company last year and many wondered why, but The Wall Street Journal is reporting that The Social Network is developing a stand-alone video app that would support “spherical” or 360-degree clips. Facebook is not commenting on that topic  yet, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg did say this week that the company was developing a Dislike button for posts.

Flickr is also getting into virtual reality and did a little VR demo at a festival in Oregon last weekend. After putting on a the VR goggles, a user would be immersed in a 360-degree panoramic photo. Oh, and Sony announced its Project Morpheus product is now PlayStation VR.

fembotsAlso in the world of “virtual” but not “reality”. . .  Annalee Newitz over at the Gizmodo site continues her investigation into the Ashley Madison site and how the company alleged used female-identifying chatbots or “fembots” to lure unsuspecting male customers into paying for credits in order to keep interacting with what they thought were real women. Although they used more sophisticated language, the Ashley Madison fembots were not all that far removed from ELIZA and some of the early chatbots from the 1970s.

NASA is preparing to send Microsoft’s HoloLens hardware up to the astronauts in the International Space Station, with delivery scheduled for a cargo mission in early December. And for those with Ultra High Definition 4K TV sets and not much to watch on them, NASA just announced it’s partnering with Harmonic to create a new channel called NASA TV UHD. NASA says this will be the first ever non-commercial consumer ultra-high definition (UHD) channel in North America and said it plans to start broadcasting on it November 1st.

sleepyAnd finally, an Oculus Rift virtual-reality production has become the first show of its kind to win an Emmy Award. The production, called Sleepy Hollow: VR Experience and set in the town cemetery of the supernatural FOX TV show, won the 2015 Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media category for User Experience And Visual Design. Perhaps next year, NASA will start a non-commercial consumer UHD VR channel so we can really reach for the virtual stars…

PTJ 95 News: Catching Fire

Amazon, which has been locked in a heated battle over e-book prices for weeks with book publisher Hachette, is hoping customers warm up to its new Fire TV box with a little taste of the action. The company’s website is currently running an offer for selected (and interested) users  can sign up for a free 30-day test drive with the Fire TV box .

The Oculus Rift technology may have a bigger future than just creating a virtual world for Facebook users. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, (club name: DARPA), has been experimenting for the past few years with using the virtual reality headsets for cyberwar training. The project is called Plan X and Wired has a detailed look at it.

Speaking of games, a new PlayStation 4 system update from Sony allows customers to download pre-ordered games in advance so you don’t have to sit there and wait for it to crawl down your wires on release day before you can play. Destiny, a first person shooter due out for the PS4 in September, is the first game to support pre-loading.

Spotify is telling its Android users of a security breach concerning user data and is advising people using its Android app to upgrade to a new version. Those using the Windows Phone or iOS apps are not affected.

Malware is everywhere, including on the Mac, and Google has just released an OS X upload client for its VirusTotal meta scanner. Elsewhere in the Googleverse, the company has added its Google Now-style Voice Search to its Chrome desktop browser. To get rolling with it, you just need to do a bit of setup, then point Chrome to Google.com. From your desktop, you can ask Google the same sort of questions you may ask your mobile device running the Google Search app.

checkbookThe spring shopping trend in the tech world continues. Intuit, maker of the personal finance mainstay Quicken has dropped $360 million for the mobile bill-paying app Check. (And yes, after weeks of rampant whispers, Apple sealed the deal with Beats this week.)

Rumors about Apple’s forthcoming announcements at next week’s World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco have already started to fly, and the Financial Times says its sources point to a new software platform for the “smart home.”  Apple does plan to livestream the keynote address next Monday at 10 a.m. Pacific.

The Internet of Things has raised all kinds of discussion, including excitement about the remote control of one’s home to security fears about appliance rebellion. For deep thoughts, consider the upcoming philosophy conference devoted to The Internet of Things. It starts July 3rd at York St. John University in England.

The audio software Pro Tools is partly responsible for a new compilation of unreleased songs by the rock band Queen. The album is mixed from unreleleased vocals by Freddie Mercury, the group’s late lead singer, and new instrumental tracks by living members of the band. Dr. Brian May, a guitarist, songwriter and backing vocalist for the group, as well as an astrophysicist at Imperial College London, recently confirmed the plans to The Guardian of London. The new album, tentatively titled Queen Forever, is due out by the end of the year.

queen

And finally, if you like antique computers, want to feel old or like to see the kids confused by technology for once, check out The Fine Brother’s “Kids React to Old Computers” video that’s been lighting up YouTube the past few days. The 8-minute clip shows a variety of pre-teens trying to figure out how to use an Apple II-like PC. Kids, back in the Olden Days, we had green-on-black VDTs and 300 baud modems to connect to our BBS’s, uphill both ways. And, not to get philosophical about it or anything, we liked it.

PTJ 95: Another Rootin’ Tootin’ Good Time

The Pop Tech Jam crew couldn’t help getting their geek on over this past U.S. holiday weekend.

J.D. spent her time off digging up online Cultural goodies from the British Library and New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art while El Kaiser tried valiantly to install customized versions of the Android mobile operating system onto his Samsung and Google branded devices.

In the news Amazon offers selected users the opportunity to sign up for a free 30-day test drive of the Fire TV set-top box ;  Oculus Rift technology may become an integral tool in the training of cyberwarriors;  Sony will allow customers to download pre-ordered games in advance for the PlayStation 4 game console; Intuit, makers of Quicken, goes shopping; technology paves the way for a new album from Queen with Freddie Mercury on vocals; and the Fine Brother’s “Kids React to Old Computers” video lights up YouTube.