While research groups like IDC and Gartner have shown an overall 15.6 decrease in worldwide tablet shipments in 2016, the market has not gone entirely belly-up, as Amazon continues to pull ahead with a phenomenal 99.4 percent increase in annual tablet growth during the same period.
According to a report by the folks at TrendForce, Amazon managed to ship 11 million Fire-series tablets over the course of 2016 even as global tablet shipments fell by 6.6 percent from the previous year. While the sales numbers were impressive, the company still fell behind Apple at 27 percent of the market and Samsung at 17.2 percent, yet managed to beat expectations as a result of strong year-end holiday sales.
Apple also pulled ahead with strong tablet sales last year and retained its top spot, selling 42 million devices to Samsung’s 27 million. A few weeks ago, we wrote that IDC may have regretted telling the media to rely on expectations that the fruit-themed device company would allegedly oversee the decline of traditional PC sales by 2015. While traditional PC sales dropped 5.7 percent to 260.2 million in 2016, they still remain an impressive part of the overall device market and have not fallen as quickly as tablets have over the past year.
TrendForce expects tablet sales to continue declining from 157.4 million units in 2016 to around 147.8 million units 2017. While Amazon nearly doubled its annual shipments and Apple enjoyed strong iPad sales over the holiday season, other brands such as Microsoft are expected to fall into 7th place as the company experiences panel shortages for its Surface Pro series.
For a limited time, Amazon will occasionally offer its 7-inch 8GB Fire Essentials bundle and its 16GB Fire Essentials Bundle at discounted prices. For instance, the former had been available for $33.33 in November and $49.99 until earlier this month, along with free Prime shipping. The company is expected to offer similar deals throughout the year in an effort to strengthen its sales base from loyal Prime customers.
MediaTek is planning a Helio X30 in 10nm later this year but news from Taiwan indicates that some key customers didn’t order the new flagship 10 core chip.
One of the main reasons might be the increased competition in the Chinese market and companies cannot afford to have two designs of the same phone with Qualcomm or a MediaTek chip in. The rumor is that Xiaomi, MediaTek’s big customer, might be coming up with its own Pinecone SoC and this will put some additional pressure on MediaTek’s high-end. There might be two Pinecones SoCs targeted at the mainstream and high end market.
LeEco, another big MediaTek customer is going through tough financial times, and was not interested in making big orders. Hope, which is the number one smartphone vendor in China, is usually a big customer. Another big one that usualy goes with MediaTek is the current number 3 in China, Vivo. The number two, Huawei has its own Kirin SoC while the number Four, the fruity Apple has its own SoC.
Oppo is MediaTek’s big hope as is Vivo. Oppo and Vivo are expected to sell 120 million and 100 million smartphones respectively in 2017.
The upcoming Snapdragon 835 SoC is also going to give Mediatek bother. It is shaping up to become one of the best, if not the best phone SoC of all times. MediaTek usually has a pricing advantage over most of its competitors so it might compete against it on price.
This is a TSMC manufactured chip based on the the long relationship that the company has with the biggest chip foundry which is across the street from MedaiTek’s headquarter in Hsinchu, Taiwan. The end result might be the massive cancellation of 10nm wafer orders at TSMC, as there wont be anyone who would want to buy. The timing could not be worse, as this is the first time MediaTek wanted to take the leap of faith and bet on the farm with the latest and greatest 10nm . Now it looks like it will have to cancel a lot of the 10nm orders. Still a few phones with Helio X30 deca core will hit the market.
Announced officially by AMD and to be held on February 28th at Ruby Skye in San Francisco, the new Capsaicin and Cream event promises “a feature-packed show highlighting the hottest new graphics and VR technologies propelling the games industry forward”.
Streamed live, the event will include the main Capsaicin & Cream part, which will hopefully include a bit more details on the actual lineup of graphics cards based on the new Vega GPU, as well as the Cream developer sessions which promise “inspiring talks focused on rendering ideas and new paths forward, driven by game industry gurus from multiple companies including Epic and Unity”.
The event will start at 10:00 AM PST, while the livestream is scheduled to start at 10:30 AM PST (20:00 CET).
For many, the success of Resident Evil 7 and its atmospheric campaign has offered a glimpse of what a “killer app” for virtual reality might look like; the game that shifts the common perception of VR from an intriguing glimpse of the future, to an essential part of contemporary entertainment. The term will be familiar to anyone who has seen the launch of a new console, but, as a panel of experts discussed today at Casual Connect Europe, VR defies such easy categorization.
The discussion was triggered by nDreams CEO Patrick O’Luanaigh, who was in the crowd to watch a panel that included representatives from Valve and Nvidia. When asked to pin down his definition of the term “Killer App,” O’Luanaigh said, “it’s less about revenue, more something that everybody talks about. A lot of people say that VR hasn’t had that killer game yet.
“If we look to the consoles we might say, ‘You have to have your Mario or your Sonic.’ But do you?”
“There’s lots of cool stuff out there, but nothing that really makes you feel, ‘Oh my god, this is so amazing, I have to go and buy a headset.’ We’re all saying that we want games like that to come, and as budgets go up hopefully that will happen. It’s really about where that game might come from.”
For Chet Faliszek, who has become the globe-trotting representative for Valve’s VR efforts, the very notion of a ‘Killer App’ seemed to belong more to traditional game hardware – the consoles made by Nintendo, Sega, Sony and Microsoft. “We have so few data points to extrapolate from to figure out what this is,” he said. “If we look to the consoles we might say, ‘You have to have your Mario, or your Sonic.’ But do you?”
Faliszek referred to a talk he gave the previous day, in which he suggested smartphones as a more appropriate comparison for VR technology. “What was the killer app for the App Store?” he asked the crowd the previous day. “I would argue it was flexibility; the ability to become different for each person. If you’d have asked me 20 years ago what feature do I most want on my phone, I probably would say something about making phone calls; now I rarely make a phone call.
Faliszek emphasized this point again, and suggested that some of the difficulty analysts have faced in grappling with the VR market relates to this kind of misunderstanding. “That’s why there’s slower growth in virtual reality than other people predicted – the analysts,” he continued. “Whereas I think people in the [VR] industry have the understanding that, if you demo ten individual things, out of those one person would say, ‘Why is this thing in there?’ And the next person would go, ‘That’s the best thing ever.’
“Today’s high-end becomes tomorrow’s mainstream… If you develop for the high-end, you know that’s going to have the longest tail”
“You have these personal reactions… Everybody finds that thing in there that they want to have.”
It was telling that, when asked about the most impressive applications for virtual reality right now, Faliszek listed tools for creativity: Google’s Tilt Brush, and the VR development capabilities offered by engines from Unity and Epic. There is a desire for a fully formed consumer market for VR to hurry up and arrive already, but the truth may be that, even a year after the launch of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, the space is still best defined by its creators and the broad range of use cases they are attempting to discover.
However, one basic truth was mentioned on several occasions, starting with O’Luanaigh’s original question about the importance of positional head-tracking and motion controls becoming standard in mobile VR. These are core features the current high-end of VR hardware – including, but not limited to, the HTC Vive – but Faliszek also believes this is the smartest target for any developer wanting to reach the largest possible audience.
“If you want to make the most money in VR, you should make [games] for the largest addressable market,” he said. “The largest addressable market right now may be headsets that are rotational only, but they will be museum piece in a couple of years. If you make something that has positionally tracked head and motion controls you can probably still be selling that game years from now – or some version of that. If you did rotational only? Someone has to pull a headset out of the closet to experience that. The shelf life of that product is going to be much shorter.”
Faliszek made a similar point the day before, advising Casual Connect’s attendees that, “today’s high-end becomes tomorrow’s mainstream. If you really want to think about the largest addressable market, it’s not about the number of headsets out there for any one platform. It’s what will become the standard. If you develop for the high-end, you know that’s going to have the longest tail.”
Despite the probable advantage in the number of headset owners, then, mobile VR may have to reach a better technological standard to be a better commercial opportunity. No part of the VR market offers a huge installed base at present anyway, and, as Faliszek pointed out, “a game that works on 5 million [mobile] headsets this year isn’t necessarily going to work on 50 million headsets in a few years’ time.”
It has been reported a few times that Zen and the desktop part Ryzen are a crucial part of AMD’s strategy in the future. The fact that our sources confirm that Ryzen will compete well against Core i7 Extreme edition will definitely help AMD’s stock.
AMD’s John Taylor, Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Marketing at AMD showcased Zen running the CPU at Computex in June 1st 2016 and the stock market reacted favorably to it. Since early January last year, AMD stock grew tremendously from $1.90 USD roughly a year ago to $13.42 USD now. The stock price will definitely rise further.
It can be anticipated that Ryzen will be in high demand and that every single AMD fan will have a desire to get an AMD Zen based Ryzen machine. The reason is simple – people want AMD to succeed and the price will be much more competitive. We have readers in our community who never gave up hope that AMD would once return to its K7 glory Athlon days. Well, Ryzen is the closest to that goal.
AMD will quickly get some desktop CPU market share back, but we anticipate that demand will exceed supply. Wall Street likes what AMD has been doing and it will most likely react very favorably on Ryzen reviews and shipping.
Lisa Su, AMD’s CEO, has already confirmed that you can expect to see Ryzen shipping this quarter and the closest that we heard to a launch date is the first few days of March. It is happening rather soon and this is the single most important launch in the last decade for AMD. Intel is working on a response, but AMD fanboys will embrace the Zen, even if it ends up slightly slower compared to Intel.
The positive financial impact will help AMD becoming more competitive in both CPU and GPU areas, which is great news for the market. Intel has been left almost alone, for long enough and it is about to taste its own medicine.
Industry veteran journalist Kyle Bennet wrote back in December that Intel might launch a CPU powered by Radeon technology. This happens in the middle of the last quarter when Nvidia and Intel’s cross licensing GPU deal is about to expire.
Just recently, Kyle said that there might be a CPU with Radeon coming this year but more important is that from April 1, Intel will not have a valid GPU license from Nvidia or AMD. None of the three companies spoke publicly about a possible GPU licensing deal and as far as Fudzilla is aware Nvidia hasn’t reached a deal with Intel to extend the licensing.
As part of the original deal and the terms and conditions of the patent cross license agreement, Intel agreed to pay Nvidia licensing fees which in the aggregate will amount to $1.5 billion, payable in annual installments, as follows: a $300 million payment on each of January 18, 2011, January 13, 2012 and January 15, 2013 and a $200 million payment on each of January 15, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
The original document states that “Capture Period” shall mean any time on or prior to March 31, 2017 indicating that this is the last date where the license is still valid.
There are a few possible scenarios going forward and one very likely and that Fudzilla suggested a while ago, is that AMD will license its GPU technology to Intel and get some much-needed cash. Nvidia is always the more expensive choice. If you have been following Nvidia and AMD long enough you will recognize the pattern that both PlayStation and Xbox stayed away from Nvidia simply as AMD was the more affordable choice. Good fellow Jen-Hsun Huang, the CEO of Nvidia is all about making more money, something that resulted in a surge in the stock price.
AMD doesn’t want to talk about it. Fudzilla asked many contacts inside the company on and off the record, but no one seems to want to touch this touchy topic. Where there is smoke, there might be fire, one might imply.
The bottom line is that Intel needs a license or it faces a potential lawsuit. If it gets the GPU patent licensing from AMD, Nvidia would probably stay away from potential legal action.
Nvidia and AMD borrow GPU related ideas from each other left and right and center and we are quite sure that they don’t plan to sue each other for the GPU related patents anytime soon.
We would expect to see some announcements related to a potential AMD – Intel deal in the next few months. While many will argue that AMD is hardly going to benefit from it, making Intel a bigger competitor and losing the edge on the GPU performance lead, AMD would be making some additional cash, something that it desperately needs.
While an Nvidia graphics chip seems to be hanging the office laptop’s Outlook, the company has seen its quarterly revenue surge more than 50 percent for the second straight quarter and beat expectations.
Apparently it is seeing rising demand for its graphics chips and strength in rapidly growing areas such as self-driving systems and artificial intelligence.
The company also forecast revenue of $1.90 billion, plus or minus 2 percent, for the current quarter, marginally higher than the $1.88 billion the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street predicted.
The Revenue in the company’s graphics processing unit businesses that contributes to more than three-quarters to its total revenue rose 57 percent to $1.85 billion in the fourth quarter.
Also, the Revenue from the company’s fast-growing data center business which counts Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft Azure and Alibaba Groups cloud business as its customers has more than tripled to $296 million in the quarter.
The business is also expected to grow sequentially, Nvidia Chief Financial Officer Colette Kress said on a conference call.
Revenue in Nvidia’s automotive business, which produces the DRIVE PX 2 self-driving system used by Tesla Inc, reported a 37.6 percent rise to $128 million.
Analysts had expected revenue of $135.3 million from the business. Nvidia’s total revenue rose to $2.17 billion from $1.40 billion, beating the average analyst estimate of $2.11 billion.
The company’s net income more than tripled to $655 million.
Apple may have spun its results last week so that the Tame Apple Press thought that it had done much better than was expected.
When Apple published its results, we were surprised as we expected the company to be in a somewhat poorer state due to slumping iPhone 7 and Tablet sales.
Imagine our surprise when Apple announced that it made record profits. After all we knew that Apple had actually contracted its supply of its iPhone’s twice and tablets were a mess – how was it possible to be making even more money? The Tame Apple Press reported that everything was alright and Jobs Mob was back seemingly without coming up with a new product.
We were not the only people who smelt a rat. Jason Snell and the Under pass also thought there was something wrong and delved into the figures. Before the lawyers complain that we are calling Apple liars there is no proof that lied, it just failed to point out that the Tame Apple Press was wrong.
Most Apple fiscal quarters are 13 weeks long. Occasionally, however, they have a 14-week quarter. Apple’s Q1 2017 was a 14-week quarter, for the first time since Q1 2013. This means that Jobs Mob could add in the results of an extra week’s profit.
Snell said that even a rubbish week would add enough to counting stats to push it well above the year-over-year quarter, which was 13 weeks long. In fact, if you knock off a week from the results Apple’s sales and profits fell exactly like we expected.
He said it was possible to make the numbers tell the story you want to tell, with charts to match, and slice it nine different ways.
Part of the issue which the Tame Apple Press failed to spot was that Jobs’ Mob finances were based on its financial statements—and that means the quarters as Apple defines it. In this case Apple, has defined an extra week of sales that it won’t get again for another few years.
To make matters worse it was a windfall week that next year’s year-over-year holiday-quarter comparison will not be able to match.
But that was not the only thing Apple did. A huge settlement benefit hit the first quarter of FY16, which makes Services look even better (but doesn’t change the overall net) so everything is artificially inflated.
So where are the analysts pointing out that Apple might not be the investment that people claim? When this happened in 2013, the Tame Apple Press did exactly the same thing and Philip Elmer-DeWitt wrote a brilliant headline “Apple analysts: Stupid or lazy?” This time they did the same thing and few people have batted an eye lid.
IDC has added up some numbers and divided by their shoe size and worked out that they really cocked up when they believed Apple’s propaganda that tablets were “game changers”.
After telling everyone that tablets were to blame for declining PC sales, IDC famously claimed that tablets would overtake traditional PC sales by 2015. Now, it is really regretting believing the Tame Apple Press and supping on Steve Jobs’ Coolaid.
Today they have issued a report saying that there had been a 15.6 percent decline in tablet sales for 2016.
Shipments of tablets – defined to cover both dedicated tablet devices and convertibles like the Surface family of half-tablet half-laptop portables – flopped from 207.2 million in 2015 to 174.8 million in 2016. Traditional PC sales might have been miserable but they still sold 275.8 million in 2015 and 260.2 million in 2016.
It was the high-end tablets that suffered the most. Apple which started the whole thing off by stealing a Microsoft design which was not going anywhere and claiming it invented it saw its shipments drop 14.2 percent. Samsung saw a 20.5 percent decline over the same period. However cheap and cheerful tablets did rather well. Huawei’s shipments jumped nearly 50 percent, though it still holds a minority 5.6 percent share of the overall market, while Amazon’s Fire family of tablets shipped nearly double in 2016 compared with 2015 at a 98.8 percent growth rate.
Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers division said that the tablet market continues to grow stale and not even talk of the detachable segment doing well is helping.
Typical tablets without a dedicated keyboard, which IDC refers to as slate tablets, are continuing to lose relevancy across all regions.
“We do see future growth in some emerging markets like the Middle East & Africa as well as Central & Eastern Europe with the sole catalysts being simplicity and low cost. Unfortunately for the industry these are the devices that don’t equate to large revenues.”
Still no apology for helping to lead the market astray by claiming that an Apple marketing fad change everything in the long term.
AMD has announced its Q4 financial results reporting a revenue of US $1.11 billion and an operating loss of three million dollars, which is still way better than financial analysts expected and has once again confirmed that both Ryzen CPUs and Vega-based GPUs are on track.
While its revenue was at $1.11 billion, which is about £200 million lower than in the Q3 2016 and just under $200 million higher than the same quarter last year, as well as an operating loss of US $3 million and net loss of US $51 million, or 0.06 per share, the announced financial results were still better than what analysts expected.
In a statement, AMD president and CEO, Dr. Lisa Su, said that AMD expects to deliver the strongest set of high performance computing and graphics products in more than a decade. She also added that the company is returning to the high end market, a part of the market where the company has not been in years.
“We met our strategic objectives in 2016, successfully executing our product roadmaps, regaining share in key markets, strengthening our financial foundation, and delivering annual revenue growth,” said Dr. Lisa Su, AMD president and CEO. “As we enter 2017, we are well positioned and on-track to deliver our strongest set of high-performance computing and graphics products in more than a decade.”
During the Q4 earnings call, Dr. Lisa Su also confirmed that its Ryzen CPUs, based on Zen CPU architecture, as well as socket AM4 motherboards, are still on track, scheduled to launch in Q1 2017. This means that these should be ready before the end of April, but earlier rumors suggest that AMD could make an official launch at the GDC 2017 show, which starts on February 27th.
Dr. Su also noted that the first graphics cards based on Vega GPU architecture should ship in Q2 2017, which means anywhere between May and August, but some earlier rumors suggesting May or June. The Computex 2017 show starts on May 30th, so it could give AMD partners a chance to show off their shiny new Vega-based products, so anything is possible.
In any case, AMD will have an interesting year and hopefully, both Vega and Zen will live up to its expectations.
According to the latest rumor, AMD’s upcoming Ryzen CPU lineup might lack 6-core version, due to the fact that AMD cen’t partially disable the four-core Zen module.
According to a rumor started by Zolkorn.com and spotted by PCGamesHardware.de, AMD will not be able to deactivate half of the four-core Zen module, which means the lineup will only launch in quad- and eight-core models, with and without SMT (Simultaneous MultiThreading).
This new rumor contradicts some previous rumors that AMD Ryzen series will include a full lineup, including a dual-core (with two cores disabled) and six-core versions.
The same source suggests that AMD will have several SKUs with a difference in the number of cores, SMT, frequency and TDP, so there will still be plenty of CPUs to choose from.
More details should be coming soon as the expected launch is scheduled for March.
Apple has really dropped the ball when it comes to hardware and is rapidly losing ground to rivals.
Jobs’ Mob’s Mac sales dropped roughly 10 per cent amid a declining market which fell 5.7 per cent for the year. But Apple’s rivals seem to have benefited from Apple’s failure. Bloomberg analysts Anand Srinivasan and Wei Mok noted that Apple’s rivals grew.
Dell saw the most growth at just over 10 per cent.
Apple was pushed to number by with ASUS overtaking it. The top four vendors are now Lenovo, HP, Dell, and ASUS.
These four make up 65.2 per cent of the overall market and each grew year- over-year. All this happened while Apple lost ground by declining to 7.1 per cent. The other 27.7% of the market is comprised of more than 200 vendors.
Bloomberg predicts that the market will consolidate. Samsung and Fujitsu are reported to be in discussions to sell their PC businesses to Lenovo.
Apple has even been losing ground to Microsoft which has been pouching customers so that they switch from the Surface clone that Apple created to the much better real thing.
Srinivasan and Mok suggest that Apple needs to find new markets with their high priced computers to continue growth. They might find an easy mark with the growing middle class in China but they are still in the high price-range relative to other PCs. While
American buyers are that dumb enough to fall for Apple’s marketing, the Chinese are a little more cost conscious. Any Chinese buyer looking at the spec will be aware that they are paying too much for the logo on the clam shell.
Apple needs its US and developed countries in Europe, to improve. These represent 63 per cent of its market and are where people have more money than sense.
Here’s a truism for you: dementia is a god-awful thing. A savage and remorseless condition, it strips away a lifetime of accumulated experience and personality, eradicating memory and emotional attachment, sometimes seeming to erase a person entirely. It’s a heart-rending process to witness, watching somebody vanish by degrees in this way, seeing them become angry, depressed or violent, and losing all recognition for the people they’ve loved for their entire lives.
Sometimes, the decay can be kinder than others – sufferers may drift into a kind of happy reverie, a sort of peace descending as their ember fades. Often it does not. In many cases, someone who has begun to exhibit the early signs of dementia will be aware of what’s happening, the unavoidable degradation made all the more bitter by the diminishing moments of clarity which pass fleetingly across the lens of their consciousness. Agonisingly for those around them, it can be supremely difficult not to will on the acceleration of the process, or indeed the final embrace of death, in a desire to see the tragedy of this recognition extinguished for good. There is scant comfort in knowing that the final stages of erasure leave little room for self-reflection.
And yet, for every guilt-saturated second in which you may wish for the release of a friend or relative from this inexorable grasp, you can be stung a thousand times by the merest hint of recognition in their eyes – a tiny smile, a grateful squeeze of the hand. The darkest curse of dementia can be the fragments of the person it leaves behind.
Of course, this conjecture comes from the selfish perspective of the witness. I speak with a little experience: both my father and grandmother were ravaged by dementia in the final stages of their lives. As a result, I know that it’s difficult enough to be involved in the process, even at considerable remove, that it becomes easier to grieve in advance. To begin, quite frankly, to think of them as dead already.
Then, someone you thought had vanished resurfaces, gasping, for even the briefest moment. In the last days of her life, I visited my grandmother in hospital and talked with her about things which had happened – 30 years ago in my childhood and 80 years ago in her’s – in astonishing detail: memories of happy days spent in sunshine and light. She was frail and faltering, but she had clarity and emotional continuity. A woman I hadn’t seen for years was there once more. She never left that bed, and did not go gently, and I have never really forgave myself for all the conversations I didn’t have in the months and years prior, the encounters rushed through, the moments wasted.
Years later, when my semi-estranged father passed, I wasn’t lucky enough to have another chance. Never tremendously close, we had precious few shared memories to revisit and he’d lost all recognition of me well before his final days, but I know there were things which eased his passing – happy recollections of his own. Even when he began to exhibit signs of unpredictability which sometimes escalated to violence, there were bits of his old self in between.
The point is this. Dementia can present us with a locked door, a sullen slab of unresponsiveness. It’s exhausting, harrowing, alienating. It’s only going to become more common, but there is hope. Pharmaceutical trials are showing some results in the amelioration of its onset. Mental health practices and dietary advances are leading to fitter, healthier brains more resilient to its advances. And VR may have its part to play as well.
The video above found its way onto my social media streams towards the end of last year. I saw it twice before I could bring myself to watch it, but I’m glad I did, because it’s full of hope.
It comes from Alex Smale at TribeMix, primarily a social media marketing company. Smale himself has a rich games industry background, beginning his career job at NMS Software, developers of pinball sim Tilt.
After a few years of moving around “in search of ever higher pay cheques”, Smale eventually found himself working with at Bitmap Brothers as head of art, where he rounded out a decade in games. Since, he’s spent a stint running a pub (“brilliant fun, quite dangerous and always interesting”), and set up a photography business just as Facebook began to take hold, getting an early grasp of the potential of the medium for promotion. After an even wilder turn working as the head of marketing in a zoo, Smale set up his current business.
“Our friends, Stan and Dulcie, are 99 and 94 years old respectively. Over the past two years, we watched them go from active people walking into town to do their shopping, to losing their confidence and never leaving the house”
“I eventually decided to set up a social media marketing agency, Tribemix, to help other businesses use social to grow. That’s been going really, really well. I’ve had one eye on VR since the announcement of the Oculus Rift. I knew that social media and VR would converge, and brands would need to create engaging experiences on this new platform. So I’ve gone back to my roots and we’ve been working on developing branded social VR experiences for our clients.
“We had some elderly neighbours who hadn’t left the house for a long time due to disability. We’d taken them back to some of their favourite holiday destinations using Street View and an iPad already, and I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could take them on holiday again using VR?’ So I created a basic beach scene to run on the Rift for them to try.”
The experiment was a successful one, and Smale realised the potential of the technology to offer hope.
“I had a friend who worked in care homes, and I asked him to introduce me to one so I could try what we’d made on some other elderly people. He put us in touch with the amazing folk at Belmont View in Hertford, which specialises in dementia care and is run by the Quantum group. They were really open minded to the idea and really supportive. Before this, I didn’t have a clue about dementia, but we’ve learned a lot.
“We worked with them for over a year, developing and fine-tuning a range of experiences specifically designed to help people living with dementia. The carers, managers and residents have all given us invaluable feedback which has enabled us to create something really unique and effective. The change in the residents’ behaviour is stark, as you can see from the video.”
“You can’t just put an Oculus Rift on an elderly person’s head and walk away. There’s a carefully developed process we’ve created that ensures the wellbeing of the patient at all times and ensures a positive experience for all”
The sort of experiences which Tribemix has been developing are very much at the gentle end of VR, for obvious reasons. They’re relaxing environments rather than games, but Tribemix doesn’t use 360 degree video or photography of real-world locations, instead preferring the environmental control offered by 3D modelling.
“This is all realtime 3D,” Smale clarifies. “Yes, there’s a trade-off in realism. But the control we have in 3D environment is a world apart from what we can set up to film around a 360 camera rig. And it’s this control that makes all the difference. People living with dementia are often incredibly sensitive, so being able to control simple things such as the distance birds are from the camera, or position of the audio is vital.
“And because of this sensitivity, you can’t just put an Oculus Rift on an elderly person’s head and walk away. There’s a carefully developed process we’ve created that ensures the wellbeing of the patient at all times and ensures a positive experience for all. It’s important to understand, this isn’t for everyone. And even for those people who do like it, they don’t necessarily always like it. So it’s always important to ensure that the experience is carried out on a voluntary basis and never pressured or forced.”
Smale raises a good point. It can be incredibly difficult to understand exactly what a dementia sufferer wants, and even harder to predict how they may react to a sudden or unexpected change in environment. Smale says that not only does the experience tend to relax people, it also offers a longer-term respite from some of the emotional peaks and troughs so common with the condition and assures me that the assessment processes are based on science and the concrete experience of healthcare professionals.
“That video is just the tip of the iceberg. It only shows a few brief minutes from a small number of patients who were kind enough to let us film them and show our work to the world. We’re really grateful to them for letting us do that, as it has opened a great many doors for us.
“But what you don’t get from the video are the long periods of serenity that the patients enjoy. It’s really relaxing just watching them use it. You often wonder if they’ve fallen asleep behind the headset. But then they’ll whisper something about the scene they’re in, and you know they’re still awake. Just very, very relaxed.
“People living with dementia are often confused and distressed. Rather than trying to bring them back to what we consider to be reality, it is better to live with them in the reality that they are in. A virtual experience is a way of taking them to a nice place from wherever they feel they currently are in a way that is actually far less stressful than taking them there in reality. For many, leaving the comfort of a care home and getting on a bus to travel somewhere is just not possible. Our virtual reality experiences allow those who haven’t been able to leave the care homes to enjoy a day out. With our robust processes, we ensure that if at any point, there is a risk of distress, we end the experience immediately and bring the patient straight back to well-being. Something that has always been very important to us to maintain.
“The dementia experts at Quantum have developed a wellbeing assessment tool based on the Abbey Pain scale. This records the wellbeing and behaviour of the patients before, during and after their VR experience. It’s really useful data that clearly shows a positive benefit across the board. We’re now working with two NHS hospitals on a behavioural research study which will expand on this work. It will also demonstrate the effectiveness in an acute setting.”
“People living with dementia are often confused and distressed. Rather than trying to bring them back to what we consider to be reality, it is better to live with them in the reality that they are in”
One of the key challenges facing dementia research is that the condition is often not treated until well established. Often it will go unnoticed, and many sufferers express understandable reticence to bring it to light, fearing stigma attached to it, not wanting to cause concern or present a burden. Stimulation and emotional engagement are increasingly considered to be effective methods of strengthening the brain against dementia, so I ask Smale if his work has potential in preventative care, or whether it might actually slow the onset of an established condition.
“This has yet to be determined,” he admits. “We’re hopeful that our research studies will begin to demonstrate some really useful outcomes, such as reduced medication or improvements in appetite. We have already seen countless memories brought vividly back to life in the patients. Sometimes patients will come out of the experiences and recount childhood memories linked to the experiences for half an hour or more. It’s magical to watch.”
It’s important to note that Tribemix is a for-profit company, not a charity. Whilst he may have noble goals, Smale also has his own bills to pay, and VR is an expensive business. Nonetheless, this isn’t an exploitative venture.
“The care providers will be the ones who have to cover the costs of the systems,” he says. “We’ve tried very hard to keep this as low as possible and we’re at a price point that works well for the industry and allows care providers to have access to the systems 24-7. Hardware is our biggest hurdle to get over. Oculus have been really helpful for VR hardware, but we also need help with the PCs to run it. So we would love to speak to any laptop manufacturers who might be interested in sponsoring our project. It’s getting a huge amount of interest worldwide. We’re also keen to make any connections in the care world.
“The more places we can get the systems in to, the more people we can help.”
The NPD Group and the Entertainment Software Association both released reports on last year’s sales in the US games business today. While overall game software grew six percent from $23.2 billion to $24.5 billion, the total consumer spend, including revenues from all hardware, software, peripherals, and in-game purchases, came in at $30.4 billion, only slightly better than last year’s $30.2 billion.
“Growth in entertainment software consumer spend was seen across the mobile, PC, virtual reality, subscription, portable and digital console segments,” said Mat Piscatella, industry analyst, The NPD Group. “Consumers have more options to purchase and enjoy entertainment software than ever before, while developers have more and easier ways of delivering that content. No matter the delivery platform, entertainment software has never been more engaging, diverse or accessible.”
While there was softness in the AAA games market, a big factor in 2016’s somewhat flat growth came from the hardware side, as consoles did not generate big spending. “2016 was a tough year for hardware spending,” acknowledged NPD analyst Sam Naji. “The category was down 24 percent as unit sales and the average retail price for consoles declined compared to 2015. On a positive note, Nintendo did shift an additional 4 percent of 3DS systems thanks in large part to the heightened demand for Pokemon.”
He added, “Total hardware spending for 2016 reached $3.7B, a decline of 24 percent versus 2015. Unfortunately the release of the Xbox One S and the PlayStation 4 Pro did not generate dollar spending growth. Although the combined ARP for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 systems decreased by 15 percent, consumers bought 7 percent fewer units.”
The hardware trend continued throughout December too, as total sales slipped 20% to $994.9 million. “The PlayStation 4 was the top-selling hardware system in the month and the PlayStation 4 Slim System 500GB Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Bundle was the month’s top seller,” noted Naji, adding, “Year-on-year there was a 10 percent increase in the number of Xbox One systems sold during December 2016.”
On the software side, total sales of console and portable titles (including digital formats) slipped 12% in December to $1.19 billion, while total PC game sales (including digital) dropped 13% to $45.8 million. The big winners in software were Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Final Fantasy XV and Battlefield 1.
“Although a Call of Duty has now topped the December sales chart for the ninth consecutive year, Final Fantasy XV was the best selling game for the PS4 during the month,” said Naji. “Final Fantasy XV was the second best-selling title for December 2016… Final Fantasy XV experienced the best console launch month in the history of the franchise (since tracking began in 1995) selling 19 percent more new physical units than Final Fantasy XIII in its launch month and 54 percent more in total dollar revenue including digital full game sales.”
As for EA’s World War I-themed shooter, Battlefield 1 actually enjoyed 10% higher dollar spending than last year’s Star Wars Battlefront. And of course, in the portable realm, Pokemon: Sun and Moon reigned supreme, as the combined sales were the best for the franchise since Pokémon Diamond and Pearl in 2007.
Accessories felt the pinch in 2016 as well, dropping six percent, and 21% (excluding game cards) in December. Naji pointed out that this was “driven by a 50 percent decline in Interactive Gaming Toys.” He continued, “The Interactive Gaming Toys segment consumer spend sold half the volume the segment achieved a year ago. The only brand to achieve year-on-year growth was LEGO Dimensions, originally launched in September 2015.”
Apple has decided that the reason that people are not buying its tablets is because they don’t have enough over-priced versions available.
To fix this problem Apple is planning to release three more tablets which contain all the same features you can find in cheaper Chinese Tablets at half the price.
According to Digitimes Apple will release three new tablets for 2017, a 9.7-inch iPad, a 10.5-inch iPad, and an upgraded 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The 9.7-inch model expected to enter mass production in the first quarter followed by the other two in the second.
It is odd really as Apple was thought to want to kill off the 9.7 inch pad and replace it with the 10.5-inch iPad. However not it seems that it wants to make the 9.7-inch iPad become an entry-level device. It can then flog these to corrupt or stupid school managers who don’t know that they can save their schools cash by going elsewhere .
There will be a few supply changes too. Apple will also procure components from its secondary suppliers for its new 9.7-inch iPad and Korea-based Seoul Semiconductor will supply LED for the device instead of the existing 9.7-inch iPad’s supplier Nichia.
The 10.5-inch iPad and 12.9-inch iPad Pro will get an A10X processor, but that is pretty much anyone knows for now. Our guess is that it will look pretty much like a tablet, have a similar price tag and be even more ignored than the current batch.