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Nissan, Renault Targets 2020 To Introduce Autonomous Vehicles

October 25, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

nissan-and-renault-150x150The Renault-Nissan Alliance has put together a new 300-person division for the purpose of releasing at least 10 vehicles with “significant” autonomous driving capabilities by 2020.

Nissan and Renault’s new Mobility Division will focus on the development of software, cloud engineering and big data analytics for connected-car technologies.

In 2018, Nissan said it expects to unveil a “multiple-lane control” application that can autonomously negotiate hazards and change lanes during highway driving. Two years later, it plans to add the capability for a vehicle to navigate city driving and intersections without driver intervention.

The new autonomous models will be released in the U.S., Japan, Europe and China.

In September, the Renault-Nissan Alliance acquired French software company Sylph to accelerate the expansion of its connected vehicle and mobility services programs.

Also in September, the carmakers penned a multiyear agreement with Microsoft to develop next-generation connected services for self-driving cars that will be enabled through Microsoft’s Azure cloud service.

The carmakers said they will also focus on promoting “social acceptance” of autonomous vehicles between now and when they begin to launch them in 2018. Educating the public will “allow consumers as well as involved governments, groups and other agencies, the time to consider the benefits of the new technologies.

“There must be a huge change in government and society,” Nissan stated in a blog. “Once autonomous drive technology reaches a certain level of technological advance, decisions must be made on driving infrastructure and laws to ultimately change society’s mindset.”

While autonomous development announcements are far from new, the Renault-Nissan Alliance is unusual in that past autonomous vehicle efforts have not been taken on solely by automakers, according to research firm IDC.

Artificial intelligence and connected technology are a major focus among some carmakers, who see it as the basis for future human-machine interface development in autonomous vehicles.

Last year, Toyota Motor Corp. spent $1 billion to create an artificial intelligence division. Toyota’s Research Institute is being led by Gill Pratt, who joined Toyota from DARPA, where he ran the Robotics Challenge, an event that promoted work on robots that can work with humans.

Without A Touchscreen Is Nintendo’s Switch DoA?

October 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-switchNow that Nintendo has finally teased the world with its Switch hardware reveal, everyone of course wants to know more and bigger questions about Nintendo’s strategy have become top of mind.  Analysts have brought up a number of potential issues facing Nintendo as it moves forward. Most importantly, who is Nintendo really targeting with its new product and how is the company positioning the Switch against powerful consoles like next year’s Xbox Scorpio or this year’s PS4 Pro?

“Nintendo’s Switch reveal trailer unveiled a product positioning which aims to defend against the increasingly robust encroachment of the smartphone and tablet gaming opportunity yet still appeal to traditional console gamers that are looking for a big-screen gaming solution in the home. It has designed the Switch to deliver a flexible solution to cover multiple types of usage, but must avoid delivering a substandard experience by trying to be all things to all users,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, head of games research at IHS, which is now forecasting that Switch will sell 2.85 million units globally next March when it launches.

“Interestingly, the Switch reveal trailer was squarely targeted at young adults, which suggests that Nintendo is refocusing its early marketing on more traditional console gamers and those that also increasingly like gaming on the move. To build success with these buyers the offering must include third-party titles that are supported on other platforms,” Harding-Rolls continued. “Nintendo looks to have killed off its motion controllers with the Switch and opted for a more traditional form of gaming experience. This suggests the company is serious about getting third-party publishers to support the platform with multi-platform titles. Potentially, this will help Nintendo’s ambition to target young adult gamers.”

Third-party support does seem to be better already. Wii U had a list of just 21 publishers and developers at its launch while Switch has close to 50. Support, of course, is something that’s always in flux, but it’s crucial for Nintendo to get its messaging right with consumers if it wants to maintain that support from third parties. “They need a proper message. Right now I am concerned they are pitching it as just another tablet with controllers,” said DFC Intelligence’s David Cole.

“Nintendo’s ability to market a clear use case message to the audience [will be key]. Nintendo failed to do this with the Wii U and paid the price,” added Harding-Rolls.

SuperData’s Joost van Dreunen believes Nintendo needs to do a better job in defining its audience. “I have my reservations with regards to the breadth of the audience it targets. The Switch will likely be most popular among a younger audience: its functionality is uniquely geared toward pre-teens and teenagers. While the device seems much less like a toy than we’re used to from Nintendo, its features like backseat multi-player and the ability to have several people play using a single piece of the controller target Nintendo’s traditional audience. The reveal video makes a lot more sense to me if you swap out all the adults in it with kids,” he noted.

It’s clear that the widespread adoption of gaming on smartphones has had an impact on Nintendo, and indeed the company is pushing out its own mobile titles like Super Mario Run this holiday, but will that approach truly serve as a stepping stone to the Switch, or will it ultimately cannibalize Nintendo’s new hardware?

Dr. Serkan Toto, an analyst who specializes in the mobile market in Asia, remains skeptical. “Sorry, but is a portable/home console approach really that innovative in 2016? I am most concerned about the target group of the device: who else but die-hard Nintendo fans will buy the Switch? The Switch lacks a killer feature, and I think it will be very difficult for Nintendo to win back the casual gamers that are mostly on mobile now,” he commented. “In Japan, for example, the mobile gaming sector is already 2-3 times bigger than consoles. Even the PS4 struggles over here. It’s going to be a huge challenge to try to reverse that trend.”

So will Super Mario Run make a difference? “I find it very difficult to picture a scenario where a critical number of mobile, free-to-play users converts to console and buy hard- and software for several hundred dollars upfront. Different markets, very difficult to bridge,” Toto continued.

As ever, the biggest factor in the Switch launch and its chances for success could be its price. “Price pretty much depends on specs, and success depends on both price and specs. If the specs are close to PS4, I think they can price around the same ($249), and at most $299. If specs are weaker, price could be lower,” noted Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter.

“Assuming they are close to PS4, they are making porting of games easy for developers (and inexpensive), and I think they will get a lot of third party support. If the specs are weaker, porting will be costly and less likely to occur. So my ‘prediction’ is that if specs and pricing are similar to PS4, the Switch will get a lot of third party support and will be immensely successful. If specs are weaker or if pricing is too high, sales will suffer because of lack of third-party support or because of uncompetitive pricing.”

Analysts agreed that $299 really is the highest Nintendo could acceptably go. “They must find a way to release the Switch at US$299 to stand a chance, that’s the threshold,” said Toto. “It’s not impossible by offering the device in multiple versions, i.e. without the home dock. ‘Hardcore’ video game fans can, at US$299, already get fantastic devices from Sony and Microsoft. The portable gaming use case, at scale, has been taken over by smart devices.”

SuperData’s van Dreunen added that a high profile bundle, like Zelda, which we know is a launch title, could play an important role in incentivizing consumers. “I’m hoping they’ll keep it under $300, ideally bundled with a Zelda or Mario Kart. Anything over that will severely limit its market potential,” he said.

Harding-Rolls sees $300 as the max as well, commenting, “The reveal suggests it is competing more significantly with traditional home consoles, but with the edge of mobility. Pricing will need to be competitive in this context and anything over $300 may not be a convincing proposition.” He pointed to similarities with Nvidia’s Shield as evidence that Nintendo may very well end up in that price range.

“The new console shares a number of design, positioning and component similarities with Nvidia’s Shield tablet. As such it is likely that Switch will be capable of displaying 4K video content and judging by the pricing of the original Shield tablet is likely to sit in the $250-$300 range,” he said.

Excitement is currently sky high for the Switch. In fact, as noted by Bloomberg yesterday, right after Nintendo said it would unveil the console, its shares climbed almost 5% leading to a market value gain of $1 billion (the stock is up 3.34% as of this writing today). The company’s stock is up more than 50% in 2016 in large part because of its embrace of smartphone gaming, but how Nintendo balances its portfolio and its message on mobile and Switch will be fascinating to watch in the next 6-12 months and it will reveal a lot about the future of the firm.


Can Google Sell 4 Million Overpriced Pixels By Years End?

October 13, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-over-pixelAccording to new estimates from Digitimes Research, the recently announced Google Pixel smartphone is expected to reach 3 to 4 million shipments in the second half of this year, giving a 10 percent increase in HTC’s total smartphone shipments from the first half.

Google’s latest Pixel and Pixel XL devices come in 5-inch and 5.2-inch display sizes and feature a quad-core Snapdragon 821 processor, a 12.3-megapixel rear camera, an 8-megapixel front camera and look very similar to Apple’s iPhone from an aesthetic perspective. Pricing is also very similar, as the Pixel starts at $649 for 32GB and the Pixel XL starts at $769, while the iPhone 7 is also $649 for 32GB and the iPhone 7 Plus is $769 for 32GB.

Performance similar to Snapdragon 820 devices

Recently, the performance of the latest Snapdragon 821-powered flagship Android devices has become a recent site of investigation, When averaging the top eight Geekbench 4.0.1 scores sorted by multi-core performance, the results show the Pixel and Pixel XL receiving scores of around 1,603 single-core and 4,106 multi-core, still lower on average than the iPhone 6S (2,506 / 4,320). Meanwhile, the A10-powered iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus manage scores of around 3,473 single-core and 5,707 multi-core.

For the most part, the Pixel and Pixel XL seem more in line with the HTC 10 (1,745 / 3,961) and LG G5 (1,699 / 4,108), both of which feature the Snapdragon 820 with 2.15GHz high-performance cores and 1.6GHz power-efficient cores. The Snapdragon 821 features two 2.4GHz high-performance cores and two 2GHz power-efficient cores, meaning Google’s Pixel smartphones should be at least 10 percent faster than these devices, but this does not seem to be the case in this benchmarking utility for now.

Battery life is another story entirely, and this is where the Snapdragon 821 shows improvement over Snapdragon 820 devices including the previous Nexus 5X and 6P. Internet browsing over LTE improves by 60.2 percent over the Nexus 5X and 30 percent over the 6P, while talk time improves about 30 percent over the Nexus 5X and 13 percent over the 6P, according to a list compiled independently by Reddit user TyGamer125.

Pixel, Pixel XL will be 40 to 50 percent of HTC shipments

Meanwhile, Google’s launch of the HTC-manufactured Pixel smartphones is projected to increase HTC’s total handset shipments to around 6.5 and 7 million units by the end of the year, up from between 5.8 and 6.1 million units in the first half.

According to Luke Lin, a senior analyst at Digitimes Research, Pixel shipments should account for around 40 to 50 percent of HTC’s total smartphone shipments in the second half of this year.


Does Sony See A Rise In Demand For Image Senors?

October 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Technology

There are signs that the smartphone component industry is picking up, after being in the doledrums for a year or so.

Japanese electronics company Sony has said that it is about to throw the switch to 11 on the production of image sensors and move its plants to full capacity in the October-March half-year.

The head of its chip-making subsidiary Yasuhiro Ueda said momentum slowed late last year due to tepid demand for smartphones, but now the plan is to make the combined monthly production equal to 73,000 wafers at Sony’s five image sensor plants.  This is more than double the 70,000 wafers Sony is currently churning out.

He made the comments at a news conference on Friday at Sony’s Kumamoto factory in southern Japan, which was damaged by a series of strong earthquakes earlier this year.

Sony has its paws in about 40 percent of the market for complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors, a type of chip that converts light into electronic signals.

The sensors were central to Sony’s recovery from years of losses stemming mainly from price competition in consumer electronics. A slowdown in the global smartphone market prompted Sony to cut sensor production in the October-March half of the last business year, but demand has since picked up.

He said brisk demand for Sony’s sensors also reflects the firm’s effort to diversify its client base, and pointed out that its clients had recently experienced some ups and downs.


Japanese Firm Develops Stretchable Electrical Cable

October 11, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

roboden-cables-150x150A Japanese firm has developed an electrical cable that has stretchable capabilities. Asahi Kasei says the cable, called Roboden, will expand by up to 40 percent of its length before hitting its limit.

It was originally developed for use in robotics, where cables sometimes need to snake around joints that pivot or extend. Typically, spare cable has to be built into the wiring to accommodate this movement, and that can get snagged. Roboden can closely follow the robot’s body and stretch as needed.

Asahi Kasei is demonstrating the cable at this week’s Ceatec electronics show in Japan, where it is looking for additional uses for Roboden.

It works like this: The inside of the Roboden cable has an elastic core and wire is wound around the core in a spiral. A second stretchy sheath covers the entire thing. The spiraled wire means there is enough inside the cable to allow it to be stretched without incident.

One potential use is in gadget cables. Anyone who has pulled a cable by accident and sent a gadget crashing to the floor will attest that current USB cables don’t stretch at all.

It could also have a use in portable gadget cabling for devices like power adapters and headphones. No matter how well the cables are coiled on devices, a day inside a backpack always manages to unravel the wire and leave a mess of digital sphaghetti. With Roboden, the cable will remain coiled up if a little stretch is put in when winding it tidily.


Lenovo Said To Be In Talks To Acquire Fujitsu PC Business

October 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

lenovo-logo-3-150x150Lenovo may be about grab more of the PC market as Japanese IT conglomerate Fujitsu is considering selling its PC manufacturing business, and Lenovo may be the buyer.

As part of a strategy to focus on core activities, Fujitsu in February spun out its PC business as an independent operating unit. Such spinouts are usually a prelude to a sale.

On Wednesday, Japanese media reported that the company was in talks to sell the PC business to Lenovo.

“These reports are not based on any official announcement made by Fujitsu,” the company said Thursday, adding that it “is currently considering various possibilities, including what is being reported, but a decision has not yet been made.”

Once a powerhouse of PC production, Japan has largely retreated from the market over the last decade. Sharp pulled out of PC manufacturing in 2010 to concentrate on the tablet market. In 2011, NEC put its PC business into a joint venture with Lenovo, which went on to buy the majority of NEC’s stake in July. And in 2014, Sony sold its Vaio PC business to an investment firm.

A person familiar with the Lenovo-Fujitsu discussions told the Wall Street Journal that the deal could be structured similarly to the one with NEC, which now holds a 5 percent stake in its joint venture with Lenovo.

Lenovo made a name for itself outside China as a PC manufacturer when it bought IBM’s PC division for $1.75 billion in 2005, vaulting into third place in the global PC market.

Fujitsu targets the data center market with its servers, networking equipment, batteries and cooling systems, and also runs an IT services and cloud hosting business. But it also has other businesses not directly related to that, including smartphones, semiconductors and PCs.

Like IBM before it, Fujitsu wants to hang on to its more lucrative services and servers businesses — although even this could change. Almost a decade after its PC deal, IBM went on to sell part of its server business to Lenovo, too.


Laundroid Robot That Does Laundry To Launch In 2017

October 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

laundroid-150x150The world’s first laundry sorting and folding robot will go on sale in 2017, its manufacturer announced this week at the Ceatec electronics show just outside of Tokyo.

Laundroid is the size of a large refrigerator and has a pull-out drawer near its base where unsorted clothes can be thrown in. A robot inside the device picks up each item of clothing and uses image analysis with artificial intelligence to figure out what kind of clothing it is so it knows the correct way to fold it.

For humans, identifying and folding laundry is an easy albeit mundane task, but for a machine it’s very difficult. That’s reflected in the size of the device and its speed. During a demonstration on Tuesday it took about 10 minutes to pick out one garment, identify it and fold it. Some garments will take longer.

The folded laundry is placed onto one of several shelves that are about halfway up the Laundroid machine.

In fact, so novel is the robotics inside Laundroid that its maker, Tokyo-based Seven Dreamers, is keeping the technology close to its chest. It hasn’t provided a glimpse inside the machine to see how the robot manipulates clothes.

But that will change next year, when the first machines are made available to the public.

Pre-orders for Laundroid will begin in March 2017 and be restricted to Japan only. The first units will be delivered later in the year and wider availability of a commercial version is planned for 2018, said Shin Sakane, president and CEO of Seven Dreamers, in an interview with IDG News Service.

He said that while initial sales will be concentrated on Japan, the company expects to sell a limited number in the U.S. A price has not been announced.

MasterCard Launches Developer’s Platform For App Creation

September 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

mastercard-logo-150x150Mastercard has unveiled an ambitious open Mastercard Developers platform to help third-party developers easily create commerce-related apps and services.

Developers will be able to use six different coding languages to work with 25 different Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in payment, data, security and experimental areas. The experimental category includes APIs for bot commerce such as chatbots and virtual reality and augmented reality devices.

In one example of how a bot commerce API could be rolled out in an actual setting, Mastercard and Pizza Hut Asia are piloting a commerce application with Pepper the humanoid robot, who acts as a restaurant waiter capable of taking orders, serving food and collecting payment at the table.

Pepper is a humanoid robot developed by a subsidiary of Softbank Group of Japan.

Mastercard’s role in the Pepper pilot is the commerce element through MasterPass, a service that allows secure payments across various devices. Restaurants could soon deploy the waiter robots in Japan because of a serious labor shortage in restaurants there, said Oran Cummins, senior vice president for APIs at MasterCard.

MasterCard is also experimenting with blockchain, a distributed database first implemented in 2009 as the underpinning of bitcoin. Blockchain can be used as a public ledger to automatically maintain a continuously-growing list of records.

“It’s very much exploratory,” Cummins said in an interview. “We’ve done a lot of work in blockchain and we’ve been experimenting with a number of things in exposing APIs and blockchain functionality.”

It isn’t clear when blockchain will be part of the Mastercard Developers platform, however.

The platform is made up of Software Developer Kits (SDKs), developer tools and sample code for each of the 25 APIs. The code provided is in Java, Javascript, C#, Ruby, Python and Node.js.

Mastercard first started offering third-party developer APIs six years ago, and has seen a 400% increase in API usage in 2016. With the growing interest from tens of thousands of individual developers and those inside large companies globally, Mastercard decided to expand the program to provide open APIs for all of its products.


Nissan, Renault Team Up To Purchase French Mobility App Developer

September 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

nissan-and-renault-150x150Renault SA  and Nissan Motor Co announced that they will acquire French software development company Sylpheo as they compete with global automakers and tech firms to develop new services including ride hailing and car sharing.

The French and Japanese automakers said that the acquisition, under which they would absorb Sylpheo’s 40 engineers and consultants, would boost their software development and cloud engineering expertise.

“The Sylpheo team of software developers and cloud engineers joining the Alliance will have a unique opportunity to work on our next generation of connected cars and other advanced technologies,” said Ogi Redzic, Renault-Nissan’s senior vice president of Connected Vehicles and Mobility Services.

“They will be playing a critical role in this new era of tremendous change for the global auto industry.”

Automakers from Toyota Motor Corp to General Motors have been investing in software firms and mobility start-ups to position themselves for the rise of autonomous driving, ride-sharing and other connected services which threaten the traditional vehicle ownership model that has dominated the past century.

Sylpheo will develop the applications for the alliance’s connected car service platform, a Renault spokeswoman said. She said the acquisition was part of the alliance’s recruitment push to hire 300 technology experts to better compete in the fast-growing mobility services sector.

These services will be integrated with autonomous driving technologies. In July, Nissan launched a suite of semi-autonomous driving functions in one of its Japanese minivan models which enables the vehicle to drive on single lane motorways and navigate congestion.

The two companies plan to launch more than 10 vehicles with autonomous drive technology by 2020. Nissan is aiming to develop autonomous multiple-lane driving functions, including lane changes, by 2018, and functions for full urban driving, including intersection turns, by 2020.

UPS Plans To Expand 3D Printing Operations

September 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

ups-logo-150x150United Parcel Service plans to grow its 3D printing service by expanding to Asia and Europe, the U.S. shipping company has told Reuters, in a bid to fully embrace and get ahead of a trend that threatens to eat away a small but lucrative part of its business.

Aside from its main package delivery service, UPS gets an undisclosed portion of its revenue from storing and shipping parts for manufacturers. If those customers were to switch to 3D printing their own parts, that business would face a drastic reduction.

To counter that threat, UPS has chosen to get on board the 3D revolution, and is now looking to offer a service in which UPS will print out plastic parts – anything from nozzles to brackets to prototype soap dispensers or multi-faceted moving parts – around the world and deliver them.

“3D printing is a great opportunity for us, but it’s also a threat,” Alan Amling, UPS vice president for corporate strategy, told Reuters.

The dynamic – welcoming rather than fighting a threatening new technology – is not unlike automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp and Volkswagen AG teaming up with ride-hailing services Uber and Gett, respectively.

Amling said UPS is looking at either Singapore or Japan for an Asian 3D printing factory. He did not say where the company might open a European facility, though UPS’s operational hub in Europe is in Cologne, Germany.

UPS has already got into the business in its home market. In May, it launched a U.S.-based 3D printing service with Fast Radius, a 3D printing company based outside Atlanta, where UPS is headquartered. UPS bought an unspecified stake in Fast Radius, which has a 3D printing factory at UPS’s Louisville, Kentucky, hub.

There are also now 3D printers at 60 UPS stores in the United States that print parts using industrial grade thermoplastics. Customers can upload images for printing at the Fast Radius factory or at one of those UPS stores and have the printed products shipped to any location.

Can Robots Become Criminals?

September 13, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Analyst have been shuffling their electronic tarot cards and reached the conclusion that by 2040 the people committing the most crimes will be robots.

Tracey Follows from The Future Laboratory, which helps businesses plan for the future through its research and consultancy experts, has been looking at the matter after more and more robots could be used in industries replacing humans on jobs.

Follows, chief strategy and innovation officer, said that Futurists have been forecasting a sharp rise in lone-wolf terror attacks for years.

“But once robots can be hacked to become suicide-bombing machines, lone-robot attacks could become rife too,” she warned.

Follows is not really a sci-fi writer. Her work in telecoms, technology, retail and media  has helped to shape the future strategies of brands such as T-Mobile, BT, O2, EasyJet and John Lewis.

She said that artificial intelligence and machine-learning could let robots  self-program criminal activity.

“My forecast would be that by 2040 more crime will be committed by machines than by humans,” she commented.

Experts have been warning that as more and more robots replace humans in jobs the future could see problems when their programs are hacked or they go rogue. Now it seems that even when you are being mugged, the robot could be the perpetrator.


SoftBank To Acquire ARM For $32 Billion

July 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

Japan’s SoftBank will acquire UK chip design company ARM Holdings to take advantage of growing demand for processors and other technologies for the internet of things and mobile markets.

SoftBank is paying £24.3 billion ($32 billion) in cash for the chip company that licenses its designs to a large number of chip suppliers to smartphone makers and to the emerging IoT market.

The Japanese company will retain ARM’s headquarters in Cambridge and plans to double the number of employees in the U.K. over the next five years, when it will also increase the company’s headcount outside the U.K.

ARM, with 4,064 employees,  will be an independent business within SoftBank, which will pay for the acquisition from existing cash resources and a loan. SoftBank said it intends to retain the current ARM organization including the existing senior management team, brand, and partnership-based business model and culture.

SoftBank has invested in a number of media and technology companies, including Internet retailer Snapdeal in India and ride-hailing app company Didi Chuxing in China. It also acquired Sprint Nextel in 2013.

The acquisition of ARM would place the company in a market where it would be an upstream supplier to some of the biggest names in the tech industry as licensees of ARM’s designs like Qualcomm gear up to supply chips to the connected devices market.

“ARM will be an excellent strategic fit within the SoftBank group as we invest to capture the very significant opportunities provided by the ‘Internet of Things,'” said SoftBank chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son in a statement Monday.




Nissan Launches New Semi-autonomous Driving Features

July 14, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Nissan Motor Co Ltd had unveiled a suite of semi-autonomous driving functions, stressing they were intended to assist and not replace drivers, just two weeks after similar technology in another maker’s car was involved in a fatal crash.

Japan’s second-ranked carmaker by vehicle sales said its ProPilot can drive a vehicle on single-lane motorways and navigate congestion. It said the feature will first appear on a Serena minivan model on sale in Japan from next month.

As global automakers race to develop self-driving cars, the safety of current automated systems was called into question by U.S. investigators saying a driver died in a crash while the autopilot of his Tesla Motors Inc Model S was engaged.

While Nissan declined to comment directly on that incident, Executive Vice President Hideyuki Sakamoto said it was important drivers did not overestimate the purpose and capabilities of automated driving functions.

“These functions are meant to support drivers, and are not meant as self-driving capabilities” which let drivers take their eyes off the road, he said. “These are two very different things.”

Pushing a button on the steering wheel activates ProPilot, which keeps the vehicle a fixed distance from the car in front without requiring the driver to control the steering, accelerator or brake.

Like Tesla’s similar technology, ProPilot requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel. A warning sign flashes if the wheel is released for more than around four seconds, and an alarm sounds after 10 seconds.

General Manager Tetsuya Iijima at Nissan’s Advanced Technology Development department said it was up to automakers to educate drivers about the capability of automated driving functions to prevent misuse that could lead to accidents.

“Naturally, there are limitations to the system, and our job is to communicate what those limitations are,” he told reporters.

With ProPilot, Nissan joins many automakers including Tesla, BMW and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz in marketing adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assistance.

Nissan will sell its ProPilot-equipped Serena for under 3 million yen ($28,758), making it one of few mid-priced vehicles with autopilot features more common among luxury cars.

The automaker also plans to add ProPilot to Qashqai sport utility vehicle crossover models in coming months, and introduce the feature in the United States and China.


Is Nintendo Delaying Its Virtual Reality Plans?

July 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

Nintendo is keeping fairly quiet about its VR plans, although a system is clearly on the drawing board.
The rumor mill suggests that the former playing card maker is determined to fix a problem which has dogged other VR machines on the market. Basically after you have worn a headset for half-an-hour you get tired and a bit sick.

Nintendo’s acting representative director Shigeru Miyamoto told shareholders that the company was “researching VR” – but didn’t want to show off the NX at E3 as they wanted to “avoid imitators.”

The research appears to be focused on coming up with a way that the headsets can be deeply immersive without turning the player into Linda Blair from the Exorcist. But it is clear that Nintendo does want to incorporate VR into its hardware once more.

It must think that it is likely to do better now than when it tried to in 1995 to run the Virtual Boy.

Apparently it will have a machine ready to show off in March next year. If it manages to avoid the VR fatigue then it might be onto a winner.



Messaging App Line To Set IPO Price After Delay

June 28, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

Japanese messaging app firm Line Corp has held off on setting a tentative price range for its initial public offering (IPO) by one day, until Tuesday, the company said in a regulatory filing, citing the “market environment”.

The IPO price range was originally scheduled to be announced on Monday. Line still plans to list in New York on July 14 and in Tokyo the following day, the filing showed.

On Friday, the S&P 500 fell 3.6 percent, its biggest one-day drop in 10 months, and Japan’s broad Topix index slid 7 percent after Britain voted to exit the European Union.

The equity market in Japan recovered somewhat on Monday as the Topix closed up 1.8 percent, but the delay will allow the company to assess the market in New York and London on Monday before setting the tentative price range, a Line spokesman told Reuters.

Earlier this month, the company announced plans to sell 35 million new shares in an IPO, which would raise 98 billion yen ($963 million) at its initial reference price of 2,800 yen per share.

Line’s listing will go ahead according to its planned schedule, the company said on Friday.

Companies around the world are wrestling with the aftermath of the Brexit vote, which is likely to delay or disrupt upcoming takeovers and initial public offerings. Companies with direct exposure to the British economy are more likely to see their deals scuppered compared with those who are just caught up in global market volatility.

Line has little direct exposure to Britain or Europe. Its main markets are Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan and Thailand.

Line delayed its IPO by two years, buying time to fix weaknesses in weak financial reporting controls, bolster staffing and develop its business plan. But in doing so, it left billions of dollars on the table as its valuation shriveled.


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