Friday, May 29, 2015

Google Photos Breaks Free Of Google+, Now Offers Free, Unlimited Storage

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Google officially announced its long-rumored revamp of its photo-sharing service, Google Photos, at its I/O developer conference in San Francisco today. The killer feature? Users can now backup up full-resolution photos and videos – up to 16MP for photos and 1080p for videos – to Google’s cloud for free. The service will roll out to Android, iOS and web users starting today, the company says.
The free storage option makes more sense for those with point-and-shoot cameras, and lets you keep a copy of your photos that’s good for your typical printing and photo-sharing needs. However, those with DSLR cameras or who want to store their photos and videos in their original sizes can choose a different plan which taps into your Google Account’s 15 GB of free storage. This is what was available before, and you can add to your storage quota as needed for a fee.
We had been hearing for some time that Google would break out Photos from Google+, where it was previously more of a feature within the larger social networking site rather than a standalone product.
With the relaunch of Photos, which will now be available from any device, Google wants to provide a way for users to privately and securely back up and share their photos from a single destination.
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As before, the photos you snap using your mobile phone’s camera are automatically backed up to Google Photos using the new app, which displays the most recent photo at the top of the stream.
The app also lets you sort your photos by day, or even scroll back through the months or years. While the app looks a lot like an improved version of your phone’s native photo gallery at first glance, the images themselves are not actually being stored on the device. That saves space on mobile phones’ sometimes limited storage. Google claims that photos will still load fast, however, making it seem as if they’re stored locally.
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The app also highlights Google’s machine learning capabilities better than it did when it was part of Google+. Many users weren’t aware they could search their photos on Google+ for persons, places or things, but the new Photos app calls this out more visually in its user interface.
“Google Photos can automatically sort photos based on the people and places that matter in your life,” explained Anil Sabharwal, director of Photos, on stage. “I did not tag a single one of them, and these information is private – it’s for your eyes only.”
This feature means that you’ll be able to more easily find specific photos – whether it’s a dog, your kid’s birthday, your beach vacation, and more – without having to first tag or organize photos into albums.
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This ability to understand and locate photos by what’s in them directly competes with the new photo sorting and search features Yahoo’s Flickr recently debuted – something which has gotten it in hot water, however, as its auto-tagging capabilities have been a little rough around the edges.
As before, Google Photos will also help users do more with their photos without requiring them to manually create things like collages. The new app will build videos and collages for you, and with a swipe to the left, an “Assistant” feature will appear to offer suggestions if you need inspiration. For example, it might suggest you build a montage of your recently uploaded GoPro video, or a timelapse of recent photos.
Essentially, this is an update on Google+’s earlier “auto awesome” feature, though with an improved interface.
In addition to collages, Google Photos can also help you build GIF-like animations, movies with soundtracks, and more.
There’s also a new gesture for sharing multiple photos at once – you can now press and hold on a photo to select it, then drag your finger across all the other photos you also want to select. (Flickr recently introduced this, too. It seems will be a new baseline for competing photo apps at this point.)
After selecting your photos, you’ll be given a link that lets you share photos with others however you choose – the sharing interface lets you copy the link, email it, text it, or share to a variety of social services, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more. Anyone on any device can access the link, and even download the high-quality images you’ve shared.

Bitfinder’s Awair Air Monitor Is Now Available For Pre-Order

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Bitfinderlaunched out of the R/GA accelerator in February, has opened up pre-order availability for the Awair air-monitoring system.
The Awair sits in the home, office or other indoor space to monitor the quality of the air in that environment, with sensors to detect temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide (CO2), fine dust particles (PM2.5) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). The information is then securely transferred to an app that gives you a readout of the air quality.
But it goes beyond tracking the environment to take into account the user’s main health interests and suggest recommended products, like humidifiers or smart thermostats.
The Awair also connects with various smart devices and has a chip that can be put into dumber electronics, humidifiers and purifiers, that don’t have any way to connect to the platform. Right now, the platform automatically integrates with products such as the Philips Hue lightbulbs and the Misfit Shine, with plans to integrate with Nest and IFTTT for other products. This ensures that the Awair is using every possible resource at its disposal to make sure you’re breathing clean, healthy air.
To simplify the process, Bitfinder combines the preferences of the user towards what kind of air they want, as well as the algorithms that determine the various qualities of the air to give a combined Awair Score. It gives a little context to the state of the space without getting into the particulars.

The Bitfinder Awair is designed to look a lot like a speaker, said co-founder Ronald Ro, and should be able to go anywhere you’d normally put a Bluetooth speaker. It has an old-school feel and is made with real wood. You can also hook up multiple Awair units to a single space to get a comprehensive readout of the home.

The device is currently available for pre-order for $149 per unit, with plans to ship in fall 2015. The company says that pre-order pricing is discounted and will eventually expire.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Iron Man Galaxy S6 Edge Arrives With An Arc Reactor Charger

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Samsung’s Iron Man-branded Galaxy S6 Edge arrives tomorrow, with a custom paint job, 64GB of on-board storage and a limited edition wireless charger accessory with an appropriate arc reactor graphic included on top. It ships with a clear cover, too, so you can protect your precious “armor” when ticketing around in the real world.
The box it comes in is also red and gold, and there’s a big ol’ Iron Man helmet stencil graphic on the back of the device, too, as well as a software theme to match. I probably would’ve left off the face personally, letting the colors speak for themselves, but this was a partnership with Marvel with the intent of promoting the new Avengers film oversees, so they probably could’ve been a lot less tasteful with the branding overall.
The sad news for those of you who were hoping to advertise their Stark fandom on their phones is that availability is listed as only Korea as of tomorrow, with sales beginning in China and Hong Kong in late June. There’s no U.S. date even mentioned, so you might have to plan a trip or watch the secondary market if you’re hoping to get this particular device finish. For now, you can at least watch Samsung unbox its own device in the video above.

Chevrolet To Offer CarPlay And Android Auto In 14 Models Starting This Summer

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It’s about time. Chevy is going to start offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto across its vehicle line. The rollout will start in a few weeks and eventually hit 14 Chevy models.
Apple and Google announced these systems in early 2014 and have since signed on most automakers. Chevy joins just Hyundai in providing a launch timetable, though. Owners of 2016 Hyundai Sonata can visit dealers now to get the software installed.
Starting first with the 2016 Chevy Cruze on June 24, buyers will be able to opt for the MyLink infotainment system with a seven-inch LCD screen. Later in the year, Chevy will release a MyLink system with 8-inch screen that initially will only offer Apple CarPlay. The seven-inch option will be available for the Chevy Spark, Cruze, Malibu, Camaro, Camaro Convertible, Silverado and Silverado HD. The 8-inch adds to the mix the Corvette, Corvette Convertible, Volt, Colorado, Tahoe and Suburban.
Chevrolet states these 14 models will account for 51 percent of the brand’s total global sales.
“I think we’ll have a promising add for the company and they’ll love it. It’s going to have to be coupled with the radio [choices],” said Barra, speaking at the Code conference today, but noted that customers wouldn’t necessarily need the highest option available. Barra also said that they would announce more models at Opal tomorrow.
Barra said that a Chevy car in the ‘teens’ price-wise would be available with the choice of CarPlay or Android Auto.
Barra says that we’ll see more change in the car industry in the next 5-10 years than we saw in the previous 50. “It’s on every facet,” Barra said.
“When you look at the integration of the vehicle in all aspects of driving…it’s hard to do that safely,” Barra said in a response to iterating quickly in an industry that has a longer development cycle. “But you have to be able to marry that with technology that’s being changed in months, not years.”
“For most of us, our smartphones are essential,” said Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors in a released statement. “Partnering with Apple and Google to offer CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility across the widest range of models in the industry is a great example of how Chevrolet continues to democratize technology that’s important to our customers.”
With Android Auto CarPlay, cars will get smarter and more personal. The systems sit on top of the auto maker’s own infotainment systems but serve up a completely different user interface when a compatible phone is connected — something a bit more familiar to Android and iPhone users. Both systems also provide a far more mature mapping solution and streaming media options than what are found in most cars. In the case of Android Auto, the system also serves as a sort of personalization system. Get into the car, sync a phone and in most vehicles the car will adjust to your settings. Everything from the mirror positions to radio presets to climate control will adjust properly.
This is just the start of the CarPlay and Android Auto roll-out. More automakers are expected to announce their launch plans shortly.

New in iOS 8: Hands-Free Siri and Improved Dictation

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Apple's voice activated features have received some new features as part of iOS 8Siri is a virtual voice activated personal assistant that can answer your questions, call your friends, check the weather, and much more.  Now it can  be activated hands free by saying, "Hey, Siri." Previously, users would have to press and hold the home button to activate Siri.

The new feature will allow people with physical disabilities to easily activate Siri. The hands-free activation feature does have one major caveat: the device must be plugged in and charging. Users who need or want to access this feature on- the- go can purchase a battery case to utilize this feature. It is possible that future iOS devices will not require a power source to use the "Hey, Siri" feature.

In addition, when dictating a question to Siri or dictating text into an app the recognized words appear almost instantly after being spoken. To use dictation bring up the keyboard and then press the microphone icon next to the space key. With words appearing as you speak it is easier to identify mistakes which makes the dictation process faster. Dictation can be a useful feature for people who struggle with spelling and people who have difficulty using a keyboard. These features are available for devices running iOS 8.

MotionSavvy's UNI Tablet: A Break Through in Sign Language Communication

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For people who use sign language to communicate, interacting with people who do not know sign language can be an enormous challenge and create barriers for people who are hearing impaired. Until now, the best alternative might have been writing out notes on a piece of paper. However, an upcoming product from a company called MotionSavvy hopes to offer a better solution.

The solution does not look like the advanced piece of assistive technology that it is, but rather looks like a thin tablet with a Leap Motion device attached to the front. The Leap Motion senses the motion of the users hand to recognize signs using multiple cameras. Once the table recognizes the signs it can display the signed phrase as text on screen or even as spoken words with text-to-speech. This allows the other person that does not know sign language to understand what is being signed. Then the other person can speak into the tablet and speech recognition technology will allow the words to appear on the screen for the hearing impaired person to read.

This technology can allow deaf and hearing impaired users to communicate with other people that do not know sign language without an interpreter or slow hand written messages. However there are some limitations that should be expected from a first generation product such as the UNI. Users will not be able to use their existing tablet with the software and will need to purchase both the Leap Motion device and accompanying Windows tablet and case through MotionSavvy. Also, the system may have difficulty interpreting the nuances of different sign language styles. Additionally only American Sign Language (ASL) will be supported initially. Luckily, MotionSavvy will include a feature to allow people to teach the device how to recognize new signs. With a feature called CrowdSign, the signs imported by one user can be shared with other users of the system. This will allow the library of recognizable signs to increase quickly provided users are willing to create and share their imported signs. However, because of the upkeep needed to maintain the CrowdSign features, users will need to pay a monthly fee to use the UNI tablet.

The MotionSavvy UNI tablet is expected to be released in early 2015. At this time, details on pricing are unclear, but MotionSavvy has said that the UNI will sell for more than $500 when released.

Apple Watch Accessibility: Possibilities, Challenges, and Unknowns

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When the Apple Watch launches next month it will mark the launch of Apple's first new product category since the iPad. The iPad was a game changer in terms ofaccessibility, bringing numerous features designed for people with disabilities at launch. How will the Apple Watch compare and what are some of the challenges and possibilities for the Apple Watch related to accessibility? A lot of questions remain unanswered, but the wait will soon be over.

Apple Watch is rumored to include built-in software accessibility features when launched, however these reports have not been confirmed by Apple. It would make sense and align with Apple's patterns if they included features such as VoiceOver and Zoom in the Apple Watch. While the inclusion of these features seem likely, how these features are implemented will be key for people with disabilities.

The Apple Watch could prove beneficial to people with various disabilities. Apple has already demonstrated the navigation capabilities of the Watch which include providing distinctive taps when a wearer needs to turn left or right while walking. This feature could aid blind and visually impaired users when navigating unfamiliar areas. Additionally, the device could help remind users to complete daily tasks like taking medication. The watch, which can be used for Apple Pay purchases and other forms of authentication could benefit users with physical disabilities who cannot handle a credit card for example.

Just like with the iPad, app developers will likely be key in coming up with unique assistive apps. The initial developer tools have some limitations that could hold back developers, but hopefully useful assistive apps will still be made available.

With all the potential benefits there are some challenges that stem from the device's small screen and buttons. First, the "digital crown," which is a small dial on the side of the Apple Watch, could pose challenges to users with physical disabilities and dexterity challenges. The "digital crown" which is used for scrolling and zooming may be difficult if not impossible for some people to operate. It will be interesting to see if Apple will devise a software solution to this potential challenge. Similarly, the small screen with small icons may prove difficult to press for some users.

Apple's new "force touch" gesture could also prove challenging for users with physical disabilities to preform. A "force touch" is a harder press on the touch screen display that invokes distinct actions from a lighter tap. From Apple's demonstrations, this gesture seems vital to the operation of the watch so hopefully a software solution will be available for users who are unable to preform this gesture.

Hopefully the Apple Watch will follow in the iPad's foot steps and be a game changer in terms of accessibility. If you are thinking of purchasing the Apple Watch, but have doubts about your ability to interact with the device due to a disability I would strongly recommend heading to an Apple Store in April to try one out.

Smarter Everything: Boeing Uses 3D LiDAR for the Vision of the Future

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World’s First 5G mmWave Mobile Technology announced by Samsung

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5G (5th generation) mobile networks denote the next major phase of mobile telecommunications standards beyond the current 4G Advanced standards.Samsung Electronics has announced that they have successfully developed the world’s first Adaptive Array Transceiver technology for Cellular communication that operates on the millimeter-wave Ka bands.It is also called the 5G mmWave mobile technology.It provide speed of up to several hundred times faster than the current 4G Standard and will be capable of providing an omnipresent Gbps experience to subscribers.
Chang-Yeong Kim – Head of the firm’s Digital Media & Communication Centre said that : millimeter wave band is the most effective solution to recent surges in wireless internet usage. The adaptive array transceiver technology has brought us one step closer to the commercialisation of 5G mobile communications in the millimetre-wave bands.
Samsung explains that the implementation of a high-speed 5G cellular network requires a broad band of frequencies. Samsung’s new Adaptive Array Transceiver technology overcomes all the limitations of millimeter-wave bands and transmit data at a frequency of 28 GHz with a speed of up to 1.056 Gbps to a distance of up to 2 kilometers.This technology uses 64 antenna elements which can be a viable solution for overcoming the radio propagation loss at millimeter-wave bands, much higher than the conventional frequency bands ranging from several hundred MHz to several GHz.
Adaptive Array Transceiver technology is expected to be commercialised in the year 2020.