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Sony Plans To Release Six Smartphone Games Next Year

December 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

sony-smartphone-games-150x150Japan’s Sony Corp  will release as many as six mobile phone games in the next year, looking to build on its own gaming franchises success off of console rival Nintendo Co’s Pokemon GO.

The upcoming titles will free up some of Sony’s popular gaming franchises, such as Everybody’s Golf, from PlayStation consoles to make them available on Apple Inc’s  iOS and Google’s Android mobile platforms.

An aggressive push into the rapidly growing segment is seen as a necessity for Sony as its games unit has emerged as the group’s largest profit contributor following an overhaul of the group’s consumer electronics business.

Sony revealed on Wednesday a total of 10 mobile gaming titles it is working on, including those to be released in the financial year starting in April. The 10 titles include PaRappa the Rapper and Arc The Lad.

They will be available initially in Japan and eventually in other Asian countries, Tomoki Kawaguchi, executive director of Sony’s mobile gaming unit, told reporters.

The announcement comes before Nintendo debuts its game franchise Super Mario Bros on Apple’s iPhone next week.

While disappointing sales of Wii U consoles helped push Nintendo into mobile gaming, Sony has been a decisive winner in console gaming with over 40 million PlayStation 4 sales, almost double the sales of Microsoft Corp’s XBox One.

But Sony is facing the increasing threat from mobile in countries such as Japan, the world’s third largest game market where mobile gaming accounts for more than half of the $12.4 billion market, according to games research firm Newzoo.

Sony has launched some games for smartphones through its music entertainment unit but failed to fully introduce mobile gaming to its PlayStation business.

Analysts doubt Sony’s chances of major success in mobile gaming, citing a lack of powerful characters like Nintendo’s Super Mario and Donkey Kong, which have achieved widespread appeal globally.

Nissan To Offer Maintenance Alert Option For Internet-connected Cars

November 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

nissan-logo-150x150Nissan Motor Co will mark its first major entry into internet-connected cars by offering an option in some new vehicles that will use big data technology to notify drivers when vehicle maintenance is required.

As automakers compete fiercely to develop self-driving cars and improve the customer experience inside vehicles, Japan’s second-largest car maker said on Tuesday it will begin rolling out the service in Japan and India in 2017, followed by other countries through 2020.

With the availability of new mobility options including ride-hailing and car-sharing services threatening to cool demand for individual car ownership, automakers are looking for new ways to attract loyal drivers.

 Toyota Motor Corp, Japan’s biggest car maker, announced earlier this month that it will have a similar alerting feature in the domestic version of the upcoming Prius plug-in model.

And Ford Motor Co last month announced that by year’s end, some of its models will be able to communicate with smart home devices using Amazon’s Alexa voice service.

Nissan said that it would also market the device required to access the service, which can be retrofitted into existing models. In the future, 30 percent of its existing vehicles would eventually be equipped with the hardware, it said.

The new service will be enabled by a telematics control unit which will enable the automaker and its dealer network to access information about the car’s diagnostics and location, alerting the driver to any required maintenance work.

“With connectivity we can provide better information and better service offerings to our customers,” Kent O’Hara, Nissan corporate vice president and head of its global aftersales division, told reporters at a briefing.

“We’ll know what’s wrong with that vehicle, we’ll know where the vehicle is, we’ll know what parts are needed for the vehicle … and we can provide convenient service and alternative transportation options.”

He added that connectivity services and other new technologies would contribute 25 percent of the automaker’s aftersales revenues by 2022, from “low, single digits” at the moment.

 

Japan Aims For World’s Fastest Supercomputer

November 28, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

supercomputer-150x150Japan aims to construct the world’s fastest-known supercomputer in a bid to arm the country’s manufacturers with a platform for research that could help them develop and improve driverless cars, robotics and medical diagnostics.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will spend 19.5 billion yen ($173 million) on the previously unreported project, a budget breakdown shows, as part of a government policy to get back Japan’s mojo in the world of technology. The country has lost its edge in many electronic fields amid intensifying competition from South Korea and China, home to the world’s current best-performing machine.

In a move that is expected to vault Japan to the top of the supercomputing heap, its engineers will be tasked with building a machine that can make 130 quadrillion calculations per second – or 130 petaflops in scientific parlance – as early as next year, sources involved in the project told Reuters.

At that speed, Japan’s computer would be ahead of China’s Sunway Taihulight that is capable of 93 petaflops.

“As far as we know, there is nothing out there that is as fast,” said Satoshi Sekiguchi, a director general at Japan’s ‎National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, where the computer will be built.

The push to return to the vanguard comes at a time of growing nostalgia for the heyday of Japan’s technological prowess, which has dwindled since China overtook it as the world’s second-biggest economy.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for companies, bureaucrats and the political class to work more closely together so Japan can win in robotics, batteries, renewable energy and other new and growing markets.

 

nVidia Goes Efficient Supercomputing

November 28, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

nvidia-sche GPU maker named after a Roman vengeance daemon, Nvidia has been patting itself on the back over the DGX SaturnV, which it says is the most energy efficient supercomputer of all time.

The DGX SaturnV has 63,488GB of RAM, 60,512 Intel Xeon E5-2698v4 CPU cores and 125 Nvidia DGX-1s oh and it also has 100 GPUs which should be just enough to get a game of Doom running on the extreme settings.

Nvidia claimed that the DGX SaturnV, which is the world’s 28th fastest supercomputer is 2.3x more energy efficient than the Camphore 2 system, a supercomputer of similar performance powered by Xeon Phi Knights Landing.

It has been built to run Nvidia’s AI programme and in a statement the company said it was convinced that AI could give every company a competitive advantage.

“That’s why we’ve assembled the world’s most efficient, and one of the most powerful, supercomputers to aid us in our own work,” the firm said. SaturnV helps Nvidia build its autonomous driving software that’s a key part of our Nvidia DRIVE PX 2 self-driving vehicle platform. We’re also training neural networks to understand chipset design and very large-scale integration, so our engineers can work more quickly and efficiently. Yes, we’re using GPUs to help us design GPUs. “Most importantly, SaturnV’s power will give us the ability to train and design new deep learning networks quickly,” a spokesNvidia said.

Courtesy-Fud

Is EA Skeptical On Nintendo’s Switch?

November 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

EA CFO Blake Jorgensen says he ‘can’t yet predict’ if people will be interested in Switch alongside their regular portable device.

His statement came at the UBS Global Technology Conference, and reported by GameSpot. He says the firm is excited about the product and committed to bringing ‘one or two’ of its biggest games IP to the platform. Based on EA’s history with Nintendo, these will likely be games from its sports catalog.

“We’re excited for Nintendo, it’s an interesting device,” Jorgensen stated. “But I can’t yet predict how broad it’s going to be, and if folk will be interested in a portable device alongside their regular portable device that they already have.”

He continued: “In their announcement they announced that we’ll be supporting with a game or two on that new platform. We haven’t yet announced what game, but you should assume that it’s one of our bigger games we’ve been involved with.”

It is clearly positive for Nintendo that EA is showing support for its next machine after it abandoned publishing efforts on Wii U shortly after the machine launched. The company’s Wii U line-up included ports of Need for Speed and Mass Effect 3.

Nintendo proudly boasted a strong Switch third-party line-up, with the likes of Activision, Capcom, Warner Bros, Sega, Take-Two, Codemasters, Konami, From Software, Square Enix, Ubisoft, Bethesda, Bandai Namco, Platinum, Level-5, GameTrust and Atlas already signed on to support the device.

If Nintendo hopes to maintain this level of third-party support, it will need a significantly stronger start for Switch than it achieved with its Wii U console. It’s not clear what the launch line-up for Switch will be, with reports suggesting that the highly anticipated The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will miss the console’s release window. Other games shown during Nintendo’s Switch reveal, although not confirmed titles, included Mario Kart, a new Mario platformer, Skyrim and Splatoon.

More details on the Switch launch is scheduled for January, with the machine due to launch in March.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Will Google Be Able To Stop Proprietary USB-C?

November 16, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

0-fast-chargingEarlier last week, we wrote that 28W fast-charging has made its rounds into the smartphone market with companies such as Qualcomm and Huawei preparing new USB-C charging accessories to charge devices between 55 and 70 percent in under 30 minutes.

Now, Google is telling the entire Android ecosystem of manufacturers that it does not want anyone to be using so-called “fast charging” technology on any Android devices, according to the latest Android Compatibility Definition document posted to its site. This includes proprietary technologies such as Qualcomm’s Quick Charge, which is already used on a handful of devices, and OnePlus Dash Charge. The reasoning is that these and similar methods require licensing a piece of hardware onto the device or charging cable, which makes them incompatible with USB-C equipped desktops and notebooks using the USB Power Delivery standard developed by USB-IF.

Android Compatibility Definition document (via source.android.com)

Under the “USB Peripheral Mode” section, the paper says that USB Type-C devices are strongly recommended not to support “proprietary charging methods that modify Vbus voltage beyond default levels or alter sink/source roles” as this can cause operational issues with devices supporting standard USB Power Delivery methods.

Not every chipset compatible with the same voltages

There are currently a few proprietary charging standards that operate using varying voltage levels, and this is the kind of situation the company wants to avoid as the Android platform moves ahead. With different manufacturers allowing devices to be charged at varying voltages with different USB-C cable modifications and wire gauges, there is no way to guarantee that a given SoC will be able to handle a USB-C charger that was not made specifically for the device.

Many Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 and 3.0 capable devices from ASUS, HP, HTC, LeEco, LG, Xaiomi and others use an approach called INOV (Intelligent Negotiation for Optimum Voltage) that adjusts voltage between 3.2V and 20V in 200mV increments, drawing less current as the battery charges up. On the other hand, OnePlus Dash Charge features voltage and current regulating circuitry inside the charger, which pulls heat away from the phone’s CPU and GPU and results in less performance throttling while charging.

Google only recommends USB Power Delivery standard

Currently, the USB Power Delivery standard already supports fast-charging, and this is used in Google’s own Pixel and Pixel XL. While the Nexus 6 supports Quick Charge 2.0, it appears the company has moved away from the technology and now suggests using the more unified USB-PD standard as it can ensure a more utopian vision where all Android device owners, PC owners and notebook owners are charging using the same cables within the same voltage specifications on the same standard interface.

Courtesy-Fud

Who Is Nintendo’s Switch Target Audience?

November 2, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima has asserted that the company’s new console does not represent a shift in the way it sees its audience. “As the name implies, we’re switching a lot of things,” he told Bloomberg, “but we have no interest in switching our customers.”

The Switch debuted in a promotional video that had a distinct lack of families and children, two groups with which Nintendo is closely associated. It also featured footage from core-facing franchises like The Elder Scrolls and NBA 2K, despite neither being confirmed for the console when it launches in March next year.

According to Kimishima, however, Nintendo has no intention of “just going after a certain age group. Depending on the kind of software that comes out, families and kids will be able to play too.” The prominent use of games like Skyrim was to communicate with groups who “will grasp it right away,” referring to the console’s ability to be used as a handheld or connected to a television. “For families and kids,” he added, “we want them to understand by actually experiencing it.”

“Our core philosophy is that we want to increase the number of gamers at all ages, and there’s no change to that. So we have no intention to lean just towards core gamers. But to communicate our new idea, when you think about who will understand it first, naturally it will be people who really understand games. To communicate that as quickly as possible, we focused on those folks who really understand games.”

Kimishima placed the Switch in the context of a plan to “revitalize” Nintendo, which he devised along with creative lead Shigeru Miyamoto and tech led Genyo Takeda three years ago. Console hardware was one aspect, smartphone software another, and making better use of the company’s enviable IP stable another.

“Now the critical period is finally here,” he said. “From the end of this fiscal period and into the next one is when we actually show the product and deliver it to our customers.

“Our revenue has fallen for eight straight years. What we aim for is to increase the number of people who play games. We want to deliver all kinds of new surprises to our customers, and it is through their support that our revenue increases. That’s the end result. But if that result doesn’t show, that means we weren’t able to deliver. Next year is when we see the result.”

Kimishima also described the Switch’s detachable controllers are “add-on hardware” or “accessories,” and that we “can assume that there will be a wider array.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

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.

Courtesy-GI.Biz

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.

Courtesy-Fud

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.

Courtesy-Fud

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.

 

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