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Is Google Home Vulnerable To A BlueBorne Bluetooth Hack

November 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Amazon Echo and Google Home devices are vulnerable to attacks via the BlueBorne Bluetooth vulnerability that was first disclosed back in September.

Security firm Armis said this week that BlueBorne, a Bluetooth-based attack vector that was initially reported as exploitable on phones and PCs with an active Bluetooth connection, is now setting its sights on digital AI assistants.

The firm said that both the Amazon Echo and Google Home can be exploited using existing BlueBorne vulnerabilities (of which there are eight in total). In the case of the Amazon Echo, those include CVE-2017-1000251 and CVE-2017-1000250, while the Google Home vulnerable to CVE-2017-0785.

Armis notes that BlueBorne represents the first “severe” over-the-air vulnerability that affects the Amazon Echo.

“Given that airborne attacks are virtually invisible to traditional security solutions, a hacker only needs to exploit one device to penetrate further into a network or spread to other devices,” it warned.

Armis CEO Yevgeny Dibrov said: “Burgeoning demand for digital personal assistants is expanding the avenues by which attackers can infiltrate consumers’ lives to steal personal information and commit fraud.

“Consumers and businesses need to be aware how their devices are connecting via Bluetooth, and the networks they may be accessing, in order to take security precautions to protect their information.”

There’s some good news to come out of this, though, as Armis disclosed the vulnerabilities both to Amazon and Google ahead of time, and both have pushed out updates to their respective digital assistants. 

Amazon said in a statement: “A fix has already started rolling out for this. Customer trust is important to us and we take security seriously. Customers do not need to take any action as their devices will be automatically updated with the security fixes.

Google added: “Users do not need to take any action. We automatically patched Google Home several weeks ago, and neither Google nor Armis found evidence of this attack in the wild.

“As always, we appreciate researchers’ efforts to help keep all users safe.”

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Google To Release Fix For Buzzing Sound In Pixel 2

November 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

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

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

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

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

China’s Tencent Surpasses Facebook In Value

November 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Tencent Holdings Ltd has had an impressive week – becoming the first Chinese firm to be worth more than $500 billion and surpassing Facebook to be the world’s fifth-most valuable company.

Earnings for China’s biggest social network and gaming firm have surged on the popularity of its smartphone games led by titles such as Honour of Kings – a fantasy role-playing game, which has as many active players as the population of Germany.

 Also driving earnings has been its messaging-to-payment super app WeChat which has amassed 980 million monthly active users, with 38 billion messages sent daily, while its Youtube equivalent, Tencent Video, has become the video streaming service with the largest paying subscriber base in China.

That success has helped Tencent’s stock more than double this year, making it Asia’s most valuable company worth $522 billion on Tuesday and easily outpacing a 36 percent rise in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Led by Chinese billionaire Pony Ma, Tencent this month reported a better-than-expected 69 percent rise in third-quarter net profit.

“Tencent’s high growth, as demonstrated by its quarterly results, has supported the rally in its shares,” said Steven Leung, a sales director at UOB Kay Hian.

“Since the company has been able to deliver on its earnings, the stock is still worth holding onto despite its current high level.”

In addition to robust earnings, Tencent has also burnished its luster after some units and affiliates have made some eye-catching market debuts.

An executive recently also told Reuters the company is close to making Malaysia the first foreign country to roll out its WeChat ecosystem, pitting it against Alibaba as they scramble for new growth opportunities outside China.

Apple Mac Sales Slump

November 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Apple announced last week that it had sold a record number of Macs for a September quarter.

“The Mac…had its best year ever, with the highest annual Mac revenue in Apple’s history,” said CEO Tim Cook in prepared remarks during a Nov. 2 call with Wall Street analysts. Apple recorded revenue of $25.8 billion from Mac sales in its fiscal 2017, which ended Sept. 30.

Mac unit sales of nearly 5.4 million bested both industry and financial analysts’ expectations. Before Apple released its data, research firm IDC had pegged Apple’s number at 4.9 million, while rival Gartner offered an even lower estimate: 4.6 million. And according to Philip Elmer-DeWitt, who regularly polls Wall Street for quarterly forecasts, every analyst from a group of more than two dozen undershot Mac sales, some by over half a million machines.

Unit sales were up 10.2% over the same quarter in 2016, and the Mac’s ASP, or “average selling price,” jumped to $1,331, a year-over-year rise of $156, for an increase of 13.3%.

According to IDC, the 5.4 million Macs represented almost exactly 8% of the 67.2 million personal computers shipped worldwide in the September quarter.

Apple executives explained the bonanza in different ways when they spoke with financial experts last week.

“This performance was fueled primarily by great demand for MacBook Pro,” said Luca Maestri, Apple’s CFO. “[And] we are also seeing great traction for Mac in the enterprise market, with all-time record customer purchases in fiscal year 2017.”

“Mac revenue growth…was driven by notebook refreshes we launched in June and a strong back-to-school season,” asserted Cook.

When asked why the Mac beat outsiders’ sales predictions, IDC Research Director Linn Huang concurred with Cook that back-to-school sales had been strong. But he had another idea. “To understand 2017, you have to go back to 2016, which was a very poor year for Apple,” said Huang. “It ended a very long stretch where Apple consistently beat the [PC] market.”

Verizon Wireless To Sign A Streaming Deal With NFL

November 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon Communications Inc, no. 1 U.S. wireless carrier, is closing in on a deal  with the National Football League for digital streaming rights, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

With the new agreement, Verizon will be able to give subscribers access to games on all devices, including big-screen TVs, and not just phones, according to the people, Bloomberg said.

Verizon will lose exclusive rights to air games on mobile devices, Bloomberg quoted two people as saying. Verizon’s rights will include the NFL’s Thursday night games, among others, one of the people said, according to Bloomberg.

Financial details and the duration of Verizon’s contract with the NFL could not immediately be learned, Bloomberg said.

Neither NFL nor Verizon could immediately be reached for a comment by Reuters.

Republic Wireless Building It’s Own Smart Speaker System

November 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Phone calls are still new features for both the Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers, both of which focused on music and house controls before adding calling.

Wireless carrier Republic Wireless announced plans to take the opposite approach, saying it will enter the space with a speaker that appears to be all about phone calls.

The Anywhere HQ is the company’s first hardware product. It’s an LTE-connected speaker that can be used to make calls, as well as issue commands.

Like “Alexa” on Echo and “OK Google” on Google Home, Anywhere HQ will require customers to use a start phrase — something like “OK Republic” — before it will make a call.

The speaker itself has volume and mute controls on top and a full number pad underneath.

Republic, a mobile virtual network operator that runs on Sprint, T-Mobile and Wi-Fi, said the speaker also has a built-in smart assistant and works with a customer’s phone number.

Anywhere HQ is part of Republic Wireless’ Labs program, where it’s being tested. Pricing and availability aren’t yet available, and the fine print on the announcement says that it can’t be sold until it obtains authorization from the Federal Communications Commission.

Republic Wireless didn’t immediately return a request for comment about further details.

OnePlus Phones Have Dangerous Hacking Backdoor

November 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Microsoft Unveils ‘Near Share’ Wireless File-sharing Feature

November 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft last week unveiled another Windows 10 preview, a regular occurrence in its Insider program, that featured a handful of additions to the under-construction OS. One of those, called “Near Share,” is a simple wireless service meant for impromptu file transfer between devices.

The easiest way to pigeonhole Near Share is to think of it as Microsoft’s belated doppelgänger of Apple’s “AirDrop,” the share service that debuted on Macs, iPhones and iPads six years ago.

Although AirDrop is one of the most under-used tools in macOS and iOS, there’s no reason Near Share has to follow suit on Windows 10. That’s why Computerworld dug up information on the feature now, rather than wait for its debut next year.

Near Share is Microsoft’s name for its ad hoc file transfer feature in Windows 10.

Like Apple’s AirDrop, which it resembles, Near Share is a file transfer service that works only between nearby devices. It’s designed for occasional inter-device transfer where simplicity and convenience are paramount. Rather than email a presentation from one device to another, for example, or upload to an online storage service or the network, Near Share lets one user zip the file directly from his or her PC to a colleague’s.

Not to beat the comparison horse, but again, it works much like AirDrop, the iOS and macOS file-sharing feature. Near Share relies on both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth alone, to sniff out nearby devices, create an ad hoc peer-to-peer network, then transfer the file.

Like AirDrop, Windows 10’s Near Share uses Bluetooth to broadcast the presence of the sharing-enabled device, detect other ready devices, then negotiate the connection between the two. For all but the smallest files – which are transmitted via Bluetooth – Near Share moves the file over a point-to-point Wi-Fi link.

That Wi-Fi connection uses the Wi-Fi Direct peer-to-peer (P2P) industry standard.

Microsoft doesn’t say, but Bluetooth – the limiting factor here – can reach as far as 300 feet. Most Bluetooth, however, maxes out at an effective range that’s considerably less. Apple, for instance, recommends that AirDrop be used only when devices are within 30 feet of each other.

Microsoft debuted the file transmission in Build 17035 of its Windows 10 Insider program, released Nov. 8. Devices on both ends of the transfer must be running that or a later build of Insider. The feature must also be enabled on both devices by toggling the “Near Share” switch under the “Shared Experiences” section of Settings.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios must also be present in both devices. A Wi-Fi connection to the Internet, or even a Wi-Fi network, is not necessary.

DiD apple Rush The iPhone X

November 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

There seem to be more local problems popping up on Apple’s latest super expensive iPhone X.

According to Macrumors, one of the bugs is related to audio. Some people rich enough to own the latest phone are reporting buzzing and crackling from the stereo speakers.

Some people rich enough to own the latest phone are reporting buzzing and crackling from the stereo speakers.

One customer took his crackling iPhone X back to the Mac shop where he bought it and Apple replaced it with another phone which had the same problem.

So far Apple hasn’t publicly commented on the latest problem to afflict the shiny device but according to some reports the difficulty isn’t down to the hardware but to the operating system.

If that’s true, then the problem may well be fixable.

Over the weekend other buyers of the bright and shiny gadget claimed their phones were showing a green line on the devices display.

Meanwhile other news reports claim that you can beat Apple’s Face ID system by wearing an elaborate mask.  And it is an elaborate mask that you probably couldn’t knock up in your bedroom in a thrice.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple’s Latest iOS Update Increases Wireless Charging Rate

November 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple’s latest iOS update has enhanced wireless charging on the iPhone 8iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X making it 50 percent faster.

Currently, the three iPhones wirelessly charge at a rate of 5 watts, but the iOS 11.2 update allows them to charge at a rate of 7.5w, which is a 50 percent increase. The charging update was spotted and tested out by MacRumors.

Although wireless charging is new to the iPhone, it’s been around on Android devices for several years. iPhones use the Qi wireless charging standard, which maxes out at a rate of 15w. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8, for example, supports 15-watt fast wireless charging.

You won’t need to buy a new charger to take advantage of faster speeds. The Mophie and Belkin wireless chargers that Apple sells are already capable of delivering 7.5w of power. Apple has said on the chargers’ listings since their releases that it will enable “fast wireless charging” with a later software update — it’s likely that iOS 11.2 is that update.

Apple is also planning on releasing its own wireless charging mat, AirPower, that’s designed to charge multiple Apple products at once. It isn’t clear if AirPower would use the faster charging speeds.

To push those charging speeds, the iPhone X, 8 and 8 Plus will charge even faster with a USB-C to Lightning cable setup. The configuration requires buying a handful of accessories, but it can reach top charging speeds if you don’t mind the wires. If you want to stay wireless, you’re stuck at 7.5w for now.

Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment on this story.

Qualcomm To Power Alibaba

November 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Qualcomm and Alibaba have ported Alibaba Cloud Link One to run on the Qualcomm MDM9206 global multi-mode LTE IoT modem.

This is all part of a cunning plan to allow developers to quickly develop and deploy solutions that connect with the Alibaba Cloud using LTE IoT connectivity and client software running directly on the LTE system-on-chip (SoC).

Qualcomm pre-integrated the Alibaba Cloud Link One on to the MDM9206 modem, so that module manufacturers and IoT Tight and cost-effective integration between edge devices and the cloud.

The porting fixes a vast array of the existing and emerging LTE IoT use cases, including smart transportation (e.g. bike sharing), smart cities, as well as industrial IoT applications in areas such as smart grid, smart metering (e.g. electricity, gas, water), asset tracking and more.

It means that Qualcomm will have a foot in the door as more of our hardware becomes sentient and cloud based.

Courtesy-Fud

Can The Nintendo Switch Handle Virtual Reality

November 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The response to Nintendo’s portable/console hybrid has been incredible thus far, with sales almost on track to match that of the original Wii. While the VR market has yet to see mainstream appeal on a level anything close to the Switch, Cloudhead Games CEO Denny Unger does believe that it could benefit from a device that offers similar mobile functionality but when at home can “dock” or tether to a PC to utilize its full power. Moreover, he thinks such a device could help to solve one of the more frustrating issues that VR developers have faced in the early days: market fragmentation.

“I think there’s some frustration in the industry internally with the fragmentation of the market,” he says. “We’ve got this weird separation between high-end VR and lower tier VR, mobile VR, and consumers have a real tough time going into this understanding the differences, what kind of impact those different technologies have on the experience, which makes it a big challenge for developers to target one or the other or all. To target all platforms is a huge financial investment because you can’t build a high-end VR experience and then cleanly port it to Gear VR or some lower-end VR platform. It just doesn’t work that way.

“So what you tend to get is developers making something for Cardboard or Gear VR and then trying to up-sell it to Oculus or the Vive, but it’s not as good of an experience because it started on the lowest common denominator. If you’re working from the opposite end of the spectrum, you can’t really backport it. It doesn’t even work. There’s no motion control. There’s no 6DOF tracking. There’s no positional tracking.”

To that end, Unger says he’s amazed that none of the headset makers have worked towards a hybrid device that can scale based on how it’s being used – something you can throw in your bag and use on-the-go with lower performance capabilities or tether to your PC when at home for a high fidelity experience. It would be a natural solution to the fragmentation problem, and developers would likely embrace it rapidly.

“I want a headset that connects to my PC, utilizes all the power of that platform, uses room-scale, uses motion controllers, but then I can unplug the thing and take it with me and suddenly it becomes a mobile computing platform,” he explains. “It’s got a lower tier, a lower bar of entry, and I can only play certain experiences on it, but I can take the same exact headset with me and it does that job on its own. Then I can bring it back to my PC, plug it in, and I have all that power again. That’s what I want to see as a developer. They must’ve considered it.”

Unger doesn’t have anything against Oculus and others beginning to introduce mid-tier standalone VR headsets like Go or Santa Cruz, but he’d prefer to see more unification around standards and devices.

“This is just kind of a general frustration that I hear from other developers as well. We should be trying to harmonize and come to some kind of platform parity instead of spreading it out so far,” he adds.

The odds are, Unger notes, that some company has already thought about this idea behind closed doors, possibly even prototyped it. But costs could get in the way.

“[Companies are] trying to get price points down… I think that to smash all of these bits of technology into a single headset that is a hybrid and does both things is cost prohibitive,” he says. “But I also believe that a smart company could take that and make the system modular and let people add on things to that headset to make it more capable or less capable. So they could start with a lower baseline product, but if they want to bump up its capabilities, they can add a couple things for tethering to the PC and whatever. There’s a bunch of ways to do it.”

Unger remarks that the frustration around market fragmentation ultimately is borne out of the fact that small studios like Cloudhead have been doing the heavy lifting in VR, and he’d love to see the manufacturers do a bit more.

“Smaller studios are taking the biggest risks in VR right now to really drive adoption for these hardware companies. I guess we want some kind of meaningful voice within that development of stuff. We can’t dump money into every platform. It’s just not possible,” he says.

Another area that he’d love to see more of a unified voice around is in educating the masses on VR and what good VR should feel like in general. This is especially true when developers have to deal with players’ expectations around game length and a title’s pricing. Cloudhead’s communications lead actually took to the Steam forums to address this very issue and the “mistrust” that many gamers unfortunately have of VR developers right now.

“The big problem, and you probably heard this from other developers, is the numbers just aren’t there in terms of adoption, in terms of the headsets,” Unger says. “So consumers come into it and, rightfully so, they expect pricing models that are standard PC gaming pricing models. Because in that market you’re dealing with millions of PCs and because there’s such a density of platform attachment there, you can artificially reduce your price point. You can say, ‘Well, even though it cost us X amount to produce this product, we can drive that price point down to $5 or $10 a unit because we know we’re going to roughly hit a 30% attach rate or a 20% attach rate or a 10% attach rate even, and we’ll still make our money back.’ But VR fundamentally just doesn’t work that way because the numbers aren’t there.

“So, especially when it comes to a product that’s got high production values, like Call of the Starseed or Heart of the Emberstone, our pricing model reflects the actual production costs… And a lot of consumers come into it thinking, ‘Oh, this is just like Telltale Games and you’re just doing episodes and why is it so expensive?’ Again, the reality is it’s a lot more like when Valve did Half-Life 1 and Half-Life 2. They were episodes, but each time they launched a new product, they were dealing with new advancements in the tech. Because of that, there was a deeper production emphasis on research and development and creating new systems or new designs to make this thing better. VR is very, very much like that. It’s heavily front-loaded with R&D.”

Consumers who come into the VR ecosystem expecting some sort of parity with traditional PC gaming are unfortunately going to have a problem accepting how developers price their games currently.

“The big problem for people in VR across the landscape is educating consumers about the slow growth curve of the market and what developers actually have to work with in terms of numbers,” Unger says. “So prices directly reflect that, unless you’re being supported by a third-party entity or you’ve got investors or you’ve got Valve or you’ve got HTC or Oculus supporting you somehow on the back end.

“As a developer, I really wish we had more help from the industry, from the hardware makers, from people who have really strong voices in the industry, to help describe why it’s different, why pricing models are the way they are, why it’s hard, where the effort and energy must go to create good experiences in VR. I would love to see an education campaign to help people out.

He continues, “I think the reason they don’t do that is because it would show some kind of weakness, some kind of systemic, ‘Oh, well then VR’s not doing very well, if we have to educate people on the why.’ So, as developers, we kind of get stuck with that bill and have to try to educate ourselves. But you have to be careful doing that, because then you look like an asshole, right? If you’re saying, ‘Well, it’s because of this, this, and this,’ people don’t care. They don’t want to hear that.”

Getting nasty emails or reading harsh feedback on forums from the audience is all too common for developers nowadays. So as much as Cloudhead may not have enjoyed seeing people complain online, dealing with player toxicity online comes with the territory in 2017.

“What really helps me personally, and it helps most of us in the studio, is to recognize that this isn’t just a VR problem,” Unger notes. “This is a games industry problem in general. And, even in traditional PC gaming, you have people complaining about price versus content and time. And a lot of times they’ll [not think about], well where’s the quality in that equation? Was it a quality experience? Did you have a good experience? Sure, it was two or six hours long, but was it good? That seems to be missing from the conversation. But it’s endemic in the entire video game industry.

“I don’t take it personally. As with any other video game in the industry, yeah, we’re pouring 16-hour days into production. Especially in VR, we’re taking substantial risks and there’s a lot of innovation and invention that happens alongside standard video game production. So it increases the workload for your small team substantially. So it’s hard not to take it personally when somebody attacks the game for being too short, or whatever the thing is. It does help to re-frame it in your head as, this is just the industry that we’ve somehow created together over the last 20 years. It’s what people of privilege tend to do.”

Cloudhead has been one of the leaders in VR since the beginning. It’s narrative adventure, The Gallery: Call of the Starseed, was a hit and the Vancouver-based studio has committed to making at least three episodes in the franchise. Episode 2, Heart of the Emberstone, recently released to rave reviews.

“The Gallery: Call of the Starseed was one of the top five selling games in VR of all time. Because it was so successful initially, even though it was a small market, all of the funding from that went directly into Episode 2. And we went from a 12-ish team to an 18-person team and dumped all of the money into upping production value across the board,” Unger says.

Interestingly, although Episode 2 offers several more hours of gameplay and has more to explore, it actually cost Cloudhead a bit less to make. “We actually started Episode 1 in early 2013. We were using prototype Oculus Rift hardware at the time,” Unger explains. “That was before motion controls and stuff too, so even though we were doing R&D… that was like a three-year span of development. So we actually put more money into Episode 1 than Episode 2, because Episode 2 was a year and a half of production. That was kind of the beauty of Episode 2 – we got into just refining systems, because we’d already done all that hard work. We knew what we were going to do. We could just kind of blow out the length and complexity of what we were doing.”

Cloudhead had a clear vision and plan in place, but that doesn’t make the VR space suddenly less risky for the team. Unger advises any developers interested in joining the VR industry to tread very carefully at this stage.

“It’s incredibly risky to get into VR and you have to do it from kind of a place of purity, honestly,” he comments. “You have to really believe that you’re bringing something new to the table and you’re pushing the conversation a bit further in terms of what the medium is and what it means. If you don’t care about that stuff, you’re probably getting into it for the wrong reasons. It is very costly. There is a lot of R&D involved. And you’re doing things that have never been done before. Because of the very nature of that, things fall apart or don’t work and you have to redo them. So if you’re not in a studio that’s highly experimental, or isn’t willing to put in the extra time and funding to do those things properly, then [it’s] probably not the industry for you right now.”

While the risk in VR remains high at the moment – just ask CCP Games – Unger believes the big turning point is about a year away for the industry. Christmas 2018, in fact, is when the stars may align for the world of VR.

“We constantly have our heads in numbers that are public and not public about where this market is going. We see an uptick in adoption happening sometime after Christmas 2018. So our internal goal is actually to get there. And we’ve been told this by many industry insiders as well – they want Cloudhead to be there – and if we get there, we’re going to be sitting in a really, really good position,” Unger says.

Investors and others staying out of VR simply because AR is on the horizon could be making a mistake, too, he says. Even with Apple getting involved, the AR market will take a long time to become established, while VR meanwhile continues to gain a better footing.

“AR is still a good five years out. I say that because we’ve seen some stuff being worked on and they have a lot of hard challenges,” Unger explains. “Everyone’s touting how amazing AR is going to be, and it will be, but it’s not going to be there for a long time. You’ll start seeing stuff coming out that is developer or enthusiast friendly, but it’s not the kind of thing that consumers are going to want to put on their face. It’s going to have the same trough and dips and ups and downs as VR will. It’s going to take longer. The thing about VR is we’ve already established this design language for what constitutes kind of a stable, good experience in VR. Developers, at this point, can jump in and do some pretty astounding stuff. On the same token, I see a lot of wave shooters and just garbage flooding the market, because that same group of people isn’t willing to take the risk or the investment risk into doing brave and different new things and figuring out what it does best.”

An industry that could give VR a leg up is Hollywood. There’s already been interest from famous directors like James Cameron and Jon Favreau, and the truth is that Hollywood very much needs video game talent in order to make VR work. Some cross-pollination of talent is inevitable, and that’s something Unger embraces. He recently attended an event called VR On The Lot, where he spoke to numerous people in film about why 360 video isn’t the best use for VR.

“I gave the example of, what I really want to do is be in an environment with my family. I want to see them in some way,” he says. “I want to be on the wall with Legolas and he’s shooting orcs with arrows on the top of the wall. I want to watch that narrative kind of play out. And it’s not going to stop no matter what I do with my wife. But if my kids get bored, they can get up and grab some bows and start nailing orcs as well, right?

“There’s a way to build a story that’s very movie-like that has a progression that you can be a part of but you’ve got a limited interactive influence over it. And you can choose to be as much a part of it as you want to be. So driving towards that I think is really important. And, personally, I want to see ports of beloved movies brought to VR. I want to make Indiana Jones in VR. I want to make a completely pitch perfect version of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And I want users to experience that. I want them to be Indiana Jones. That’s the kind of stuff I want to build towards.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

SportsCenter Show Comes To Snapchat

November 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

U.S. sports broadcaster ESPN rolled out its flagship SportsCenter program on messaging app Snapchat on Monday, reimagining the show that provides sports highlights and commentary into a short-form series.

The new show deepens the relationship between ESPN parent Walt Disney Co and Snapchat parent Snap Inc.

The sports network, which has made Snapchat content since 2015, is trying to reach a younger audience, while the social media app, whose messages disappear after viewing, is adding more content in an effort to grow its user base beyond its core youth demographic.

The partnership is a two-year deal and Snap and ESPN will share revenues, Snap said, though it declined to give specifics.

SportsCenter will air twice a day on Snapchat during weekdays, and once a day on weekends. A roster of six hosts will give commentary and perspectives, including ESPN anchors Katie Nolan and Elle Duncan, and ESPN Radio host Jason Fitz, Snap said.

Sean Mills, Snap’s head of content programming, said SportsCenter helps round out the app’s stable of daily shows, which already includes news shows from CNN and NBC News, as well as an entertainment show called “The Rundown” from E! Network.

Along with daily shows, Snap launched a joint venture studio with NBCUniversal last month to produce scripted shows to air on the app.

Disney Plans To Take On Netflix With Streaming Service

November 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Disney’s future streaming service will face off with Netflix, the reigning streaming champ, with lower prices, CEO Bob Iger said in an earnings call earlier this week.

In August, Disney announced its plans to pull movies like “Moana” from Netflix and instead stream them along with future films like the sequel to “Frozen” on its own service, which will launch in 2019.

Iger said:”I can say that our plan on the Disney side is to price this substantially below where Netflix is. That is in part reflective of the fact that it will have substantially less volume. It’ll have a lot of high quality because of the brands and the franchises that will be on it that we’ve talked about. But it’ll simply launch with less volume, and the price will reflect that.”

Iger went on to say that the company’s main goal starting out will be to attract as many subscribers as possible, diverting at least some of the wind out of Netflix’s sales.

Disney-owned brands include Pixar, Lucasfilm (of Star Wars), Marvel Studios (think of all those “Thor” and “Avengers”-themed shows and films) and the ABC television network. While Marvel shows developed for Netflix are expected to stay on that service, such as “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones,” features like “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” will likely move to Disney’s service.

Disney first signed a deal to stream content through Netflix in 2012.

 

Does Nintendo Still Plan To Focus On Mobile Gaming

November 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Nintendo’s long-awaited push into the mobile space hasn’t been quite as disruptive as many might have hoped, but the firm is determined to press on with its plans.

During a Q&A for investors following Nintendo’s most recent financial results, president Tatsumi Kimishima discussed the platform holder’s thoughts on the future of its mobile business and whether he expected Nintendo to develop its own smart devices.

“Nintendo is a newcomer for the smart-device business, and there is still much we have to learn,” he said. “Nintendo has a large stock of valuable IP characters and has developed many games. We cannot, however, simply port our existing games and IP to smart-device applications. A lot of thought is going into what kind of games for smart devices will further our business and how we can continue to foster good relationships with our existing dedicated video game platform business.

“Among the various ideas, a primary concern is enabling our consumers to play on not only smart devices, but also our dedicated video game systems. We want to build up the smart-device business as a core pillar of Nintendoʼs various businesses, but we have not yet reached that level.

“Nintendo is not at a stage where we can consider becoming a smart-device platform developer.”

Kimishima’s comments follow Nintendo’s acknowledgement that Super Mario Run, the ‘pay-to-start’ mobile platformer analysts believed would kickstart the firm’s aggressive growth in mobile, has “not yet reached an acceptable profit level”. This is despite worldwide downloads of 200 million, a not insignificant figure.

Nintendo’s next release for smart devices will be Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, which will utilise the typical free-to-play mechanics that drive many of the mobile sector’s biggest hits rather than the one-time payment found in Super Mario Run. It also continues to enjoy decent revenues from Fire Emblem Heroes, which launched earlier this year.

Elsewhere in the Q&A, Kimishima reiterated how pleased Nintendo is with the performance of its new Switch console. Providing the device sells as well as expected this Christmas, the president is confident the firm “can maintain the same level of momentum we saw with Wii”, Nintendo’s most successful console to date.

Switch is on course to surpass the lifetime sales of its predecessor, the Wii U, within its first year. The previous console struggled so badly, Kimishima confirms Nintendo’s “cash reserves declined by hundreds of billion yen.”

He added: “The peaks and troughs in this business are this extreme, and we need sufficient cash reserves to make it to the next wave peak.

“I wouldn’t consider our current cash reserves to be very high, but if reserves increase going forward, we would need to consider different approaches. We are looking at possibilities for share buyback in terms of the timing and what kind of effect that would have, but I cannot say anything specific at this juncture other than that share buyback is something we always have on the table, and we will make an announcement when we are able to do so.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

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