Subscribe to:

Subscribe to :: TheGuruReview.net ::

Powermat Releasing Updated, Stronger Wireless Charging Pad

December 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Powermat plans to roll out an upgrade to its wireless charging technology in January  that will enable 15-watt power transfers through a 1.5-in. thick solid surface and provide support for new Apple iPhones and other Qi-enabled devices.

The wireless charging company also plans to release an under-tabletop product that allows users to simply place enabled mobile devices atop a desk, for example, to begin receiving a charge.

By moving from 5 watts to 15 watts with the upcoming software upgrade, Powermat chargers will transfer power to a mobile device at the same rate as a traditional charging cable, according to Powermat CTO Itay Sherman.

The upgrade, to be formally unveiled at CES in January, will also open the door for future software improvements, including power transfer rates of up to 65 watts; that would cover everything from tablets to laptops, Sherman said.

Currently, only Dell’s Latitude 7285 2-in-1 laptop features wireless charging based on technology from WiTricity.

The software upgrade is particularly significant in that it natively supports charging for Qi-enabled devices, such as the iPhone 8 and X series, Apple’s first smartphones to get wireless charging. A software upgrade earlier this year did enable compatibility with the Qi specification, but it only offered 5W power transfer.

Powermat’s upcoming software upgrade will support 7.5W so called “fast charging” for the new iPhone line as well as most Android smart phones.

Powermat’s inductive wireless charging is widely used today and has been adopted by Duracell, General Motors, Starbucks and AT&T. Among airports, coffee shops, malls, restaurants and arenas, Powermat claims to have 12,000 charging spots in the U.S. and Europe, and is being embedded in millions of cars and smartphones.

While the technology is inductive as opposed to resonant, which allows for greater distances between a charger and enabled device, Powermat added a larger charging coil and a booster to its newest chargers. That allows for power transfers of up to 1.5 inches in distance.

“With this charging technology there are no more wires on top of the desk or table,” Sherman said. “In the past, there has been a reluctance on the part of enterprise customers to use wireless charging because of all the wires on the top side of a desk, but with this technology they no longer need to do that.”

The new charger can attach to the bottom of a desk or conference table with just two screws; a sticker atop the surface then directs users were to place their smart phones for charging. The charger’s firmware also contains an algorithm that detects how far power needs to be projected to an enabled device.

Pricing for the new charger has yet to be released.

Powermat is part of the Airfuel Alliance consortium, which was founded when two of the three major wireless charging standard bodies — the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) and the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP)­ — merged in 2015. The Airfuel Alliance competes against the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), a standards groups backing the Qi specification.

Because the WPC’s specification is open, Powermat’s latest upgrade will offer compatibility, Sherman said.

“Charging devices we have today are upgradable to support the WPC’s [Qi] specification, but the new design will be compatible day one,” Sherman said. “To be very honest, the difference between these two technologies have been minute. The whole market is consolidating now.”

Facebook Beefs Up Augmented Reality In Messenger App

December 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is moving forward to add more augmented reality to its services.

For the uninitiated, augmented reality, or AR, lets people superimpose virtual graphics on top of real-world images. It’s what gives you digital sunglasses or dog ears in Snapchat and Instagram.

The social network on Tuesday said it’s bringing a new feature, called World Effects, to its Messenger chat app. The feature lets you add 3D objects you can interact with to your pictures or videos — like putting a heart over someone’s head or adding a robot that plays music to an image.

Separately, Facebook also said that it’s expanding its AR Studios platform, first announced in April during Facebook’s F8 developer conference, to the general pubic. The set of tools allows users to create AR content for Facebook. Initially, AR Studios was only open to around 2,000 brands, publishers and artists.

The expansion comes as rivals Google and Apple invest more heavily in AR. Apple earlier this year announced a platform called ARKit that lets software developers build AR apps for iPhones. Google followed suit in August with its own platform for Android-powered phones, called ARCore.

This isn’t the only investment Facebook has made in AR. The company developed an augmented reality art installation on its corporate campus in Menlo Park, California. The company worked with San Francisco artist Heather Day to create a digital mural you can only see by looking at it through a special app on your phone.

Samsung Begins Production of 512GB Storage Chip

December 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung confirmed that it has begun mass production of a 512GB embedded Universal Flash Storage memory chip for mobile devices, meaning that your next Galaxy phone could have seemingly endless storage.

High storage phones models currently come with 128GB or 256GB of memory, but Samsung’s new 512GB chip is double or quadruple that. Samsung says the chip consists of eight 64-layer 512GB V-NAND chips, but what’s interesting is that although it doubles the storage and density of Samsung’s 256GB chip, it takes up the same amount of physical space.

Of course Samsung’s and other Android phones sometimes have the option of expandable storage through a microSD chip, but internal storage has its benefits. The 512GB chip is able to read and write new data at 860MB per second and 255MB per second respectively, which Samsung claims is eight times faster than your average microSD card. Plus, expandable storage has always been an add-on; internal storage is built directly into your phone.

Samsung says that the chip is intended for use in next-generation phones, which makes us wonder which phones will get it. Will the Galaxy S9 or Galaxy Note 9 come with 512GB of storage? Or will it appear in other manufacturers’ phones, like how some iPhones used Samsung memory chips.

Increasing sizes of internal storage is a good thing. This is especially the case as apps get bigger, operating systems take up more space and photo and video quality increases for built-in cameras. Samsung claims that the 512GB chip can hold approximately 130 10-minute 4K Ultra HD videos, which is good news for all the phones that come with 4K video recording capability.

If you can’t imagine using that much storage, Samsung also announced that it’ll expand production of its 256GB chips, too. So as memory extremes increase on the high end we may see more phones with 256GBs of storage, too.

Google To Release New Android Go Smartphone OS

December 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Entry-level phones may cost less than popular flagship ones, but they come at the cost of space, speed and efficiency. Google’s looking to change that with Android Go.

Android Oreo (Go Edition) will launch tomorrow as part of the Android Oreo 8.1 rollout and all Android Oreo devices with 512MB to 1GB of memory will be optimised for Android Go. Google says this will allow them to function properly as smartphones while doubling their available storage space. The experience includes:

  • An improved operating system with better performance, storage and security features
  • A new set of lighter Google apps, suitable for first-time web users
  • A Google Play store that highlights apps designed to work best on entry-level devices

Android Go was introduced at Google I/O earlier this year, and we immediately saw possibilities opening up for Android users in emerging markets, kids trying out their first phones or anyone who needs a low-cost backup phone. In a Google blog post, Android director of product management Sagar Kamdar notes that of the 2 billion Android users around the world, more are in India than the US.

“To make sure billions more people can get access to computing, it’s important that entry-level devices are fully functioning smartphones that can browse the web and use apps,” Kamdar writes.

Microsoft Warning Customers Free Office Viewer Going Away

November 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is alerting customers that it will retire several Office application viewers in little more than four months, shutting off the spigot to the free document readers used by those without the productivity suite.

“The Excel Viewer, PowerPoint Viewer, PowerPoint 2007 Viewer and the Office Compatibility Pack, will be retired in April 2018,” said a post to a company blog. “At that time, they will no longer be available for download and will no longer receive security updates.”

The announcement followed one a year ago, when the firm said it would put the Word Viewer to pasture in November 2017. That hasn’t happened yet; the Word Viewer was still available as of Monday.

Along with the also-free Office Compatibility Pack – which will be chopped next April, too – the viewers let people not equipped with an actual Office bundle to open, view and read, and print Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint decks and Word documents. The idea was to allow collaboration with as large a workplace population as possible.

Microsoft launched the viewer concept at the end of the 20th century, but essentially halted development with the versions matching Office 2007. They have been patched against security vulnerabilities since then, however. The viewers were made unnecessary for many by the introduction in 2010 of Office Online, and the mobile versions of Office’s applications, which superseded that initial effort.

In view of the impending retirements, customers should seek alternatives. Microsoft suggested the appropriate mobile apps from the Windows Store for Windows 10 devices; the iOS and Android mobile apps for those with iPhones and iPads, and Android or ChromeOS hardware, respectively; an Office 365 subscription for Windows PCs and/or Macs; and OneDrive and its built-in viewer for Windows 7- and 8.1- personal computers.

At their retirement, the viewers and the Compatibility Pack will be removed from Microsoft’s download website, and updates will cease. Existing copies of will continue to work normally.

Until they’re scrubbed from Microsoft’s site, the Excel Viewer, PowerPoint Viewer, PowerPoint Viewer 2007 and Compatibility Pack can be downloaded free of charge.

There are, of course, other ways to wrangle older Office file formats, or view – or even work with – Office documents without the Microsoft suite itself.

For example, Google Docs lets users open Excel, PowerPoint and Word files in an Office Compatibility Mode (OCM), then save the results as Sheets, Slides or Docs files, respectively, and Office files can be converted to Google’s formats from Google Drive.

A Chrome add-on, Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides, simplifies this further by opening dragged-to-the-browser Office files in the pertinent Google online application.

The open-source OpenOffice and LibreOffice can also open Microsoft Office-formatted files.

Samsung Rumored To Show Off New Flagship Phones At CES

November 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung lovers may get a sneak peek at the upcoming Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus earlier than expected.

According to VentureBeat, the pair of marquee phones is rumored to make an appearance at CES 2018, the huge consumer electronics trade show held annually in Las Vegas.

Though Samsung is expected to fully introduce the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus sometime in March 2018 (similar to how it launched the S8 and S8 Plus during a March keynote this year), a cameo at CES in January would push up previews of the devices by two months.

The degree of this sneak peek remains unclear. Citing “someone briefed on the company’s plans,” VentureBeat says the phones would make their “first public appearance” at CES.

However, it’s unusual for Samsung to bring physical demos of upcoming flagships at CES. Instead, the Korean phone maker could tease the device by showing a short video clip or digital image rendering. For now, Samsung said it “does not comment on product rumors or speculation.”

Whatever the debut strategy may be, speculation around the devices are swirling. The Galaxy S9 Plus, for instance, is rumored by the same source to have more RAM and a dual-camera in addition to a bigger display. This is different from the current S8 and S8 Plus, which only differ in size.

The phones are also expected to have Snapdragon 845 processors (and an upcoming Exynos processor for other global models), expandable memory and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

CNET will be on the ground reporting from CES 2018, so if the phones do make an appearance we’ll be there with all the news.

Google To Release Fix For Buzzing Sound In Pixel 2

November 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Last month, Pixel 2 owners reported strange noises coming from their phones, including clicking noises like a ticking clock and high-pitched sounds. Google acknowledged the problem affecting some devices, and promised a fix. Looks like it’s coming sooner rather than later.

“Coming weeks” is still completely nebulous, but it does suggest a time frame of December or January.

The audio issues are part of a string of bad press befalling the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Phone owners also complained of blue shift, which makes the screen appear blue when you’re looking at it from certain angles, and screen burn-in, a condition that makes “afterimages” permanently visible on the screen, even after you’ve moved on to view something else. This affected two of CNET’s Pixel 2 phones.

Google has so far been able to address some of the flaws with software updates, but it’s too soon to say if the dogpile of bad press has dampened buyers’ enthusiasm for the “pure” Android devices, especially as Black Friday deals roll in.

OnePlus Phones Have Dangerous Hacking Backdoor

November 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Hackers who obtained OnePlus phones can obtain virtually unlimited access to files and software through use of a testing tool called EngineerMode that the company evidently left on the devices.

Robert Baptiste, a freelance security researcher who goes by the name Elliot Alderson on Twitter after the “Mr. Robot” TV show character, found the tool on a OnePlus phone and tweeted his findings Monday. Researchers at security firm SecureNow helped figure out the tool’s password, a step that means hackers can get unrestricted privileges on the phone as long as they have the device in their possession.

The EngineeerMode software functions as a backdoor, granting access to someone other than an authorized user. Escalating those privileges to full do-anything “root” access required a few lines of code, Baptiste said.

“It’s quite severe,” Baptiste said via a Twitter direct message.

OnePlus disagreed, though it said it’s decided to modify EngineerTool.

“EngineerMode is a diagnostic tool mainly used for factory production line functionality testing and after sales support,” the company said in a statement. Root access “is only accessible if USB debugging, which is off by default, is turned on, and any sort of root access would still require physical access to your device. While we don’t see this as a major security issue, we understand that users may still have concerns and therefore we will remove the adb [Android Debug Bridge command-line tool] root function from EngineerMode in an upcoming OTA.”

SecureNow found the tool on the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 5. Android Police reported it’s also on the OnePlus 3T. And Baptiste said it’s also on the new OnePlus 5T.

Baptiste had spotted evidence that EngineerMode was written by mobile chipmaker Qualcomm. But Qualcomm said Wednesday that’s not the case.

“After an in-depth investigation, we have determined that the EngineerMode app in question was not authored by Qualcomm,” the company said in a statement. “Although remnants of some Qualcomm source code is evident, we believe that others built upon a past, similarly named Qualcomm testing app that was limited to displaying device information. EngineerMode no longer resembles the original code we provided.”

AVAST To Seek An IPO In 2018

November 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

AV outfit Avast has hired Rothschild to prepare the business for an initial public offering (IPO) which could value the firm at as much as $4 billion.

CVC Capital Partners, which took control of the Prague-based company in 2014, could seek a London listing for Avast in the first half of next year if market conditions allow.

If successful, Avast’s float would represent the largest ever UK technology IPO. However it would have to navigate a tough market, which has seen a number of planned London listings pulled in recent weeks.

CVC hired Rothschild after talking to a series of banks as part of a contest in October, the sources said, adding Rothschild will carry out the preliminary work for the deal which includes the selection of global coordinators and bookrunners.

Avast, which previously attempted to float on Nasdaq in 2012, has Summit Partners among its minority investors alongside Czech entrepreneurs Pavel Baudiš and Eduard Kuera who founded the company in 1991.

Courtesy-Fud

Is The Linux Desktop Gaining In Popularity

November 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Linux fanboys were dancing in the streets when NetMarketShare’s desktop operating system analysis, which showed Linux leaping from 2.5 percent in July, to almost five percent in September.

The news was seen as living proof that 2017 was the year of the Linux desktop and that things would only get better for next year.

Sadly, though, it was all a terrible mistake Vince Vizzaccaro, NetMarketShare’s executive marketing share of marketing has said that the reported Linux share was incorrect.

“We are aware of the issue and are currently looking into it”, he said.

According to the US federal government’s Digital Analytics Program (DAP) that shows desktop Linux, as usual, hanging out in “other” at 1.5 percent.

Windows, as always, is on top with 45.9 percent, followed by Apple iOS, at 25.5 percent, Android at 18.6 percent, and macOS at 8.5 percent.

The figures are US-based so they over emphasis Apple. Linux tends to do better in poorer parts of the world where people must justify spending money on more important functions such as power, stability rather than just the logo on the case.

The article does, however, acknowledge that Linux’s real market share is probably a little higher this month.

Courtesy-Fud

Did Google Rush The Pixel 2XL

November 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

By now we must all be thinking that there can’t be anything more that could go wrong for the troubled Google Pixel 2 XL.

We’ve had screen burn, black smears, blue screens, failed quality control failed, missing earbuds, wrong colour handsets in the box, and now (drum roll)…the entire operating system is missing.

A Reddit forum has several reports of people who have ignored the naysayers (seriously, that screen is really, really blue), only to discover that when they switch on, they are greeted with “Can’t find valid operating system. The device will not start.”

Because, in common with most phones, the Pixel ships with a locked bootloader, there is no easy way to flash the image yourself, it’s certainly out of reach of the man in the street. So the phone has to go back and be replaced by one that has been properly quality controlled.

There is an error code and a web address for people to go to within the error screen. Trouble is, there’s no error code on the page that matches. This simply wasn’t supposed to happen.

The Pixel 2 XL was made for Google by LG instead of their usual sparring buddies, HTC, but the whole point of the Pixel line is to give Google an identity as a hardware vendor. As such, if it’s Google on the box, it’s Google that will be recognised as having cocked up a major phone release. Totes awkward.

But with a major partnership between HTC and Google now embedded, expect to see the slightly less troublesome HTC designs come to the forefront of future Pixel phones.

Google has told Android Police that the problem has “already been fixed” but we’re not entirely sure what that means, and we could see a few more reports in the coming days until LG successfully rounds up all the affected units.

If you want to see how the HTC version could have been, no problem, just take a look at the HTC U11 Plus, launched yesterday. That’s apparently the design you could have had if Google hadn’t decided to go with LG.

Courtesy-TheInq

Will Broadcom Acquisition Attempt Of Qualcomm Succeed

November 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm has surged $61.81 on a rumor that some people close to the matter have heard that Broadcom is thinking about being bought.

From what we know, this is unlikely to happen and even if you look at Broadcom’s balance sheet, Qualcomm without the NXP acquisition has a market cap of $91.23 billion. Broadcom was bought by AVGO.

Avago Technologies bought Broadcom back in late May 2015 for $37 billion and the company today has a market cap of $117.707 billion –  simple mathematics demonstrate that Broadcom/AVGO would not be able to afford Qualcomm, but let’s wait and see what happens.

However, some sort of joint venture or merger would not be out of the question. Qualcomm has had quite a few success stories with previous mergers, including Atheros which helped Qualcomm a lot in the Wi-Fi and network portfolio.

Over the last two decades, Qualcomm made at least 43 acquisitions and if you ask Fudzilla, we would rather say that Qualcomm could snap Broadcom AVGO up and not the other way around.

Since the companies are doing similar things in the network space, there are likely to be a lot of concerns with regulatory agencies all over the world.

It is not every day that your stock jumps from $54.84 to $61.82 or 12.71 percent in a day. 

One good thing for Qualcomm is that Wall Street finally realized that despite the Apple dispute, Qualcomm is worth much more than was yesterday or the day before.

Courtesy-Fud

Does Virtual Reality Have Unlimited Potential

November 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Virtual reality, exciting as it may be for enthusiasts, is a technology that has yet to truly take hold with the masses, let alone transform people’s daily lives in the way that smartphones have. First, 2016 was supposed to be the “Year of VR.” Then, in 2017, we’ve heard over and over about the trough of disillusionment from VR developers. But that’s okay, because these early VR developers believe that they can become the leaders of a VR space that one day will be mainstream.

Certainly, that’s what Oculus VP of Content Jason Rubin thinks and it’s why his company continues to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the ecosystem. If you ask Rubin to respond to analysts’ assessment that VR’s so-called trough is becoming more of an abyss, he’ll tell you why comparisons to other technologies, like Kinect, simply aren’t valid.

“I tried to explain this in my keynote [at Oculus Connect] in a few sentences and I think I utterly failed to get the point across,” Rubin tells me. “When I said that VR gets compared to other technologies, each technology is different. I would suggest the easiest explanation I can give to a type of technology that VR gets compared to that is exactly wrong to compare would be 3D TV. 3D TV, when it came out, you could understand exactly how good 3D TV could get… It’s two cameras sitting next to one another. It’s still not real 3D yet. It’s stereoscopic, but you can’t move your head and see behind things. So I could say right then and there I am not spending a dollar extra on 3D. And, for that reason, none of the networks wanted to make 3D content…So you saw the entire potential of that device in the moment it was launched and you could easily dismiss it. 

“Let’s look at VR. I can tell you that there is a world in which VR acts a little bit more like a holodeck than it does today. That is way out of our timeline, but if you talk to Michael Abrash about what VR could be in his lifetime or the next lifetime, you start to get into some weird discussions, because VR could be, literally, anything. There is nothing that can come after VR because VR could simulate anything.

He continues, “VR’s potential is literally infinite because as we go from, as Mark [Zuckerberg] said, admittedly bulky goggles to smaller glasses to tricking your inner ear to getting into haptic and touch, you can imagine a world in which VR can do literally anything you can imagine. So, if we judge VR on today’s market, we are making a mistake. Even if the trough of disillusionment is deeper than many analysts might have wanted it to be, or they’re making that momentary discussion, this is silly… Can we imagine a world where there’s no screen door effect? Yes. Can we imagine a world where it’s not heavy? Yes. Can we imagine a world where there’s more content? Yes. So, unlike 3D TV, in exactly the opposite way, it has infinite potential. Not limited potential. Infinite potential. The question is, how long will it take to get there?”

Some have used the discontinuation of the Kinect from Microsoft not only as a reminder of the demise of traditional motion gaming ushered in by the Wii, but as a cautionary tale for technology that just doesn’t resonate on a large enough scale.

Rubin dismisses any Kinect comparisons as well: “Kinect was not as easy to understand as 3D TV. So I cannot look at Kinect and say, ‘Well, that’s [like] 3D TV.’ When I looked at Kinect first, I thought, ‘Huh, this could do some interesting stuff.’ But it was also not [something with] infinite potential because, ultimately, all it can do is track one or more bodies and put the information that those one or more bodies was transmitting onto a screen.

“So Kinect looked great, reached its potential quickly, and then the additional potential failed to deliver. And developers looked at Kinect – and I was there, I remember I was talking to Microsoft about building a Kinect game at one point very early on – and two years later it was pretty clear to everyone that this was not going to be the future. We had reached the potential. So, while Kinect started looking like VR, it very quickly reached its potential. I will tell you as we sit here today, whether this generation of VR, or a next generation of VR, one generation of VR will take over the world. That’s infinite potential. And that’s why I don’t like any of these analogies. They all fall flat for me.”

An analogy he does like, however, is one that Intel’s Kim Pallister shared with me recently. And that is the VR space is still searching for its Wii – a headset that sacrifices some performance for a much more attractive price and accessibility. When Oculus Go launches next year at $199 – $100 more than Gear VR, with which it’ll share a library – Rubin believes the standalone headset could be the answer to the Wii question.

“The perfect product market fit is the right hardware quality with the right price point and the right software to drive it,” he says. “I would suggest that VR is on the path to finding that perfect product.”

Go is far from perfect, but Rubin believes it will offer consumers a good balance between price and performance. “That $199 buys you a significant amount of capability,” he offers. “First of all, it’s fully contained. It doesn’t need a phone to plug into it. So, right off the bat, if you happen not to be a Samsung phone user… it doesn’t require you to switch to Android from iOS or switch to Samsung from another Android marketplace. In being all-in-one, it also allows you to take it on and off quickly. It won’t draw on your phone’s battery. Updates, carrier things, other stuff like that are taken care of much more cleanly because it’s not doing double duty as a phone and a VR device.

“The lenses are fantastic. They’re our latest technology. They’re amazing. If you try it, you will know I’m not exaggerating. The ergonomics are fantastic. When you take apart a phone and you take the pieces you need for a VR device out and distribute it around a headset appropriately, the weight isn’t slung all the way out at the end of your nose, so it feels better. [Gear VR] is still a great way of getting VR inexpensively. But if you’re a big VR enthusiast and you use it often or if you don’t have a Samsung device, Oculus Go gives you an opportunity to jump into the market. So our addressable market at low price point radically improves.”

The other major hardware announcement at Oculus Connect was the company’s Santa Cruz headset – an all-in-one HMD that offers six degrees of freedom and hand-tracking (as compared with 3DOF on Gear/Go) but Oculus isn’t revealing it as a consumer product just yet. Similar to the multiple dev kit iterations that Rift went through following its Kickstarter reveal, it appears that Santa Cruz is going to continue to be tweaked by the engineers on the team. One thing is clear, though: barring a technological miracle, there’s no way Santa Cruz will be able to replicate the exact high-end VR experience that Rift provides.

“To be completely honest, that [power equation] is still a part of our research,” Rubin notes. “That’s what we’re doing. We’re looking at the marketplace that it would come into. We’re looking at the capabilities that are needed to run inside-out tracking, because all of that has to be in the device. We’ll make that decision. Having said that, anyone with a mild amount of technical expertise, could pretty quickly determine that the power usage, the cooling, and the other demands of the PC min spec even that we’ve taken on Rift is not likely to show up in a portable device in the immediate future.”

There’s no doubt that committing to VR remains a risky proposition for many studios still. EVE Valkyrie dev CCP Games just exited VR altogether, and while this interview was conducted prior to that news, Rubin sees a light at the end of this chaotic VR tunnel. Studios may rise and fall around VR in the next few years, but those who manage to stick around may be amply rewarded.

“The chaos and excitement is creating a lot of failure that will eventually lead to success,” Rubin stresses. “So if a company or three or five or ten are struggling, that is the business. They understand that. They may complain, but that’s the world we live in. They’re betting on the long-term success of the hardware, and their ability to be the Naughty Dog, the Zynga, the Rovio, whatever, of VR. There are companies now that are succeeding if you look at the numbers, making million dollar, multi-million dollar titles.

“That did not exist a few years ago. They could not [invest that much]. A few hundred thousand dollars, maybe you could make your money back. Could you make a million dollar title? Probably not. But if you just read across the press, there are companies out there that are self-sustaining and they’re making titles that are a few million dollars… As we continue to make more and more [games with larger budgets], we bring more consumers into the marketplace. As we keep our price reasonable, we bring more people into the marketplace. That allows $2 million games to become $3 million games, etc, etc. As long as we stay ahead of that curve, and continue to expand the size and scope of the products we’re making, we will continue to make the ecosystem larger and larger, and that will bring more and more people in and that makes developers more likely to succeed on their own.”

For that reason, Oculus has been funding games by investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the ecosystem. But it’s clear that Oculus would rather see the ecosystem become self-sustaining. At that point, then we’ll truly see some AAA efforts on digital storefronts.

“If we pull this off – and I intend to – in the long run, we will be able to back away, and there will be companies like EA and Activision and Take-Two and everyone else that are putting $100 million into VR games and making their money back without any input from us,” Rubin adds. “That is the eventual success state. When we reach that point, to wrap this into some of the other questions you asked, some of those people will also want to do non-game things, and that will lead to opportunities to create the next Uber of VR or the Airbnb of VR or whatever strikes the people.”

There’s been a fair amount of controversy surrounding Oculus’ exclusives, but to Rubin it’s the competition that’s not doing VR any favors. “Again, if you’re not investing in the ecosystem, you are not driving VR’s success. You are coming along for the ride,” he states.

These days, Oculus closely scrutinizes every project before it commits to funding rather than looking to fund every small developer that comes knocking at its door.

“If a team comes to Oculus with a $1 million title or so, the question we ask ourselves is, ‘Do we need to finance this?’ That title can make its money back,” he says. “Especially, when we don’t fund it, they can put it out on multiple VR platforms, which we’re all for. It just increases the odds of making their money back. As Microsoft and others enter the marketplace, that is good for VR, because it is yet more pieces of hardware out there. Unfunded content that comes out for all of them has a better chance of making its money back.

“The shape of what we fund will change as that window of investment that can pay off gets larger and larger every year as the consumer base grows. And it may be that we continue to stay ahead of that to the point where we’re funding very expensive games and very expensive non-games. If we get to that point where we’re spending twice what we’re spending now on an average title, the only way we’ve gotten there is the average self-invested title is significantly larger too, because it can afford to make that investment and get a return on its investment. I’m not looking to retire anytime soon. But I do think we’ll get there some day.”

As Rubin alludes to, non-games could very well become a large chunk of Oculus’ business in the future. Right now, Oculus is a games-first company, but clearly social platform software and enterprise software for various industries is gaining in importance. And with the new VR interface for Oculus (called Dash) that allows you to control all your programs within VR, thereby eliminating the PC monitor, it’s conceivable that Oculus could become more like Microsoft – gaming would be just a slice of the corporation.

“Games were a big part of the launch of the [Apple] App Store because it was a low hanging fruit and it was obvious. But, in the long run, there is no question that, when we reach a billion people [in VR], games will be A use case, not THE use case,” Rubin says. “Social will be a massive use case…So will applications and utilities, because we all have things to achieve in our life. Seems to me, since I’ve been alive, every year we get more things we need to achieve in our life. So if we find a technology that makes some of those things easier, faster, or more efficient, we will adopt it. And that is exactly what drove mobile phone usage. It’s in your pocket. Look at how much easier I can do x, y, or z, and you immediately start doing it. By definition, as a computer platform, we will do all of those things. But we will start with entertainment and move towards them. By the way, we announced our enterprise partner program, so we are already taking steps to broaden.” 

One of the problems that content producers may have with VR is that it’s such a young technology that keeps evolving. It’s effectively changing faster than some studios can keep up with. This, too, will stabilize, Rubin promises.

“As a long-term developer of content… the most frustrating and exciting times always happen at the same point,” he says. “It is frustrating because there is so much change. So as a developer, creative, or other app creator, you are frustrated by how much things are changing and how rapidly they’re changing. But it’s also the most exciting time because, invariably, that change leads to opportunity and then opportunity leads to success. I can give you an endless number of examples of this. When cartridge based 2D games went CD and 3D, 2D cartridge based character action game makers stuck with 2D because 2D was something they knew and they made hundreds of millions of dollars at that time making those products. My little team at Naughty Dog didn’t have that background, so we joined the frustrating and exciting change to 3D and we watched a lot of companies try and fail at how to get various things into 3D. My company happened to get it right and we created Naughty Dog and billion-dollar franchises. 

“The exact same thing happened at the beginning of mobile,” he continues. “If you remember iPhone 1, iPhone 2 – every resolution of the screens would radically change. The capability of the screens would change. It was crazy town. And we didn’t know what people wanted out of the devices… Again, when Facebook opened up the opportunity for people to make apps on Facebook, nobody knew how to make a social app. [That] created Zynga. Was it frustrating? Oh my God! I actually was working on games back then. I’m sitting in Facebook’s offices [and] I will still say this. They changed the underlying SDK and rule-set on a bi-weekly basis and we were working on stuff that was going to take six months to a year to come out. It was incredibly frustrating and crazy. [But] it created multiple billion-dollar companies.”

VR developers are in the midst of figuring out how to best leverage the medium’s best traits. Titanfall creator Respawn, for example, announced a new project at Oculus Connect that aims to depict the realism of being a soldier. Rather than simply glorify the violence the way some shooters do today, Respawn wants to make you feel the tension and fear that someone on the battlefield must endure.

very empathetic,” Rubin notes. “I would also add that it may be that if you experience certain things in VR, it will teach you a lesson about what that would be like in real life. And so everything is a lesson and a learning. I will also say that Respawn is very aware of what they make. They’re good citizens. So judge us when the product comes out.”

Respawn’s title isn’t due until 2019, but as we’ve seen with the VR marketplace itself, patience is a virtue.

“The one thing I have no control of at Oculus is bringing software through production any faster. And it pains me,” Rubin laments. “All the Crash [Bandicoot games] were made in a year. Jax took two years. Two years is aggressive these days. At some point, it’s going to be a lifetime to bring out software. I hope we can figure out a better way. But, yes, unfortunately, it will take a little while, but the payoff will be there when we finish.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Google To Roll Out Fix For Pixel 2 In Coming Weeks

October 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Problems are begging to plague the Pixel 2 XL, Google’s 6-inch marquee phone of the season, but Google says a solution is on its way.

First reported in the Pixel user community, there has been evidence of the Pixel 2 XL recording terrible-sounding audio in video recordings. In addition to recordings sounding sharp and tinny overall, background sounds are muddy and warbled. In one extreme case, a user uploaded a recording in which the whole track sounds completely stifled for a few seconds before returning to sounding somewhat normal again.

No complaints have yet been raised on the smaller Pixel 2 phone exhibiting the same issue, but during our Pixel 2 video shootout, CNET editor Lexy Savvides noted that its audio wasn’t as robust as the iPhone 8 Plus.

Google is aware of the issue however, and told CNET that a fix will be “rolled out in the next few weeks.”

During our time with the Pixel 2 XL, we noticed that the phone’s audio recording abilities were lacking. Recordings sounded sharper and thinner when compared to the Pixel 2 and Note 8. However, the quality in our recordings were not at all as bad as the one’s reported in the user forum. We look forward to testing the phone again when Google’s update launches.

Audio quality isn’t the only problem plaguing the Pixel 2 XL. Earlier this week, reported cases of the phone’s display showing screen burn-in emerged, in which remnants of images remain on the screen despite not being actively displayed, prompted Google to roll out a software fix and extend the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL warranty to two years.

Google’s New Pixel Phone Off To A Rocky Start

October 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The official debut of Alphabet Inc’s  second-generation Google Pixel smartphones has been hampered by display screen problems and pricing and shipping issues, prompting the company to open an investigation and issue multiple apologies to customers.

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, which start at $649 and debuted in stores on Thursday, are the lynchpin of Google’s efforts to take on Apple Inc’s iPhone directly.

 Early Pixel 2 users have voiced frustration with mishaps, including a potentially serious problem with the screen.

Google said on Sunday it is investigating whether graphics are burning into the display of the Pixel 2, following a report on the AndroidCentral blog detailing the issue after a week of use. Burn-in, which usually becomes a problem only after several years of activity, can make it difficult to see information on the display.

Google likely would need to halt production if there is problem, said Ryan Reith, a mobile device analyst at research firm IDC.

“We take all reports of issues very seriously, and our engineers investigate quickly,” Mario Queiroz, Google’s vice president for Pixel product management, said in an emailed statement to Reuters. “We will provide updates as soon as we have conclusive data.”

The investigation follows Google’s acknowledgement that it may introduce new software to respond to users’ concern about a blue tint to the Pixel 2 XL’s 6-inch screen. The device incorporates new OLED display technology, which Google described as offering “a more natural and accurate rendition of colors.”

Reviewers and users in online support forums have also reported a clicking noise during calls and poor Bluetooth connections between the Pixel 2 and other devices. Google did not immediately comment on the issues.

On Friday, the company vowed to reimburse an undisclosed number of people who were charged $30 extra for the Pixel 2 by a Verizon Wireless reseller operating at Google pop-up stores in the United States.

The surcharge “was an error,” Google said in its apology.

Prior complaints led Google to drop the price of an adapter used to connect headphones to $9 from $20, matching the price of a comparable iPhone adapter.

 Google also sent emails over the weekend to buyers advising that delivery of their Pixel 2 may be delayed as much as one month, to late November, according to the AndroidPolice news blog and users’ postings on Reddit forums. Customers said Google offered a free smartphone case, which otherwise starts at $40. Google did not immediately comment.

Google made a significant bet on the smartphone business last month, agreeing to acquire an HTC Corp hardware development team for $1.1 billion.

Next Page »