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3D Touch: Apple’s pressure-based screens promise a world beyond cold glass

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By adding a more realistic sense of touch to its iPhone, Apple Inc may have conquered a technology that has long promised to take us beyond merely feeling the cold glass of our mobile device screens.

In its latest iPhones, Apple included what it calls 3D Touch, allowing users to interact more intuitively with their devices via a pressure-sensitive screen which mimics the feel and response of real buttons.

In the long run, the force-sensitive technology also promises new or better applications, from more lifelike games and virtual reality to adding temperature, texture and sound to our screens.

“Force Touch is going to push the envelope of how we interact with our screens,” says Joel Evans, vice president of mobile enablement at Mobiquity, a mobile consultancy.

The fresh iPhones, unveiled on Wednesday, incorporate a version of the Force Touch technology already in some Apple laptop touchpads and its watches. Apple also announced a stylus that includes pressure sensing technology.

As with previous forays, from touch screens to fingerprint sensors, Apple isn’t the first with this technology, but by combining some existing innovations with its own, it could leverage its advantage of control over hardware, interface and the developers who could wrap Force Touch into its apps.

“Here we go again. Apple’s done it with gyroscopes, accelerometers, they did it with pressure sensors, they’ve done it with compass, they’ve been great at expediting the adoption of these sensors,” said Ali Foughi, CEO of US-based NextInput, which has its own technology, trademarked ForceTouch. “Apple is at the forefront.”

TOUCHY FEELY

Haptic technology – a tactile response to touching an interface – isn’t new, even in mobile devices. Phones have long vibrated to alert users of incoming calls in silent mode, or when they touch an onscreen button.

But efforts to go beyond that have been limited.

BlackBerry incorporated pressure sensing into its Storm phone in 2008. And Rob Lacroix, vice president of engineering at Immersion Corp, said his company worked in 2012 with Fujitsu on the Raku-Raku Smartphone, an Android phone that could distinguish between a soft and firm touch to help users unfamiliar with handheld devices.

But most efforts have been hamstrung by either a poor understanding of the user’s needs, or technical limitations. A vibrating buzz, for instance, has negative connotations, causing most people to turn off any vibration feature, says James Lewis, CEO of UK-based Redux, which has been working on similar touch technology for several years.

The technology powering vibrations is also primitive, he said, meaning there’s a slight delay and a drain on the battery. Early versions of pressure-sensing technology also required a slight gap between screen and enclosure, leaving it vulnerable to the elements.

Apple seems to have solved such problems, experts said, judging from their trackpads and the Apple Watch. Indeed, the trackpad carries the same sensation of a physical click of its predecessors, but without the actual pad moving at all.

The result: In the short term, Force Touch may simply make interacting with a screen more like something we’d touch in real life – a light switch, say, or a physical keyboard. With Force Touch, the device should be able to tell not only whether we are pressing the screen, but how firmly. It should in turn respond with a sensation – not just a vibration, but with a click – even if that click is itself a trick of technology.

“What we’re going to see initially is putting life back into dead display,” said Redux’s Lewis. “We just got used to the cold feel of glass.”

HARD PRESSED

To be sure, mobile is not the first industry to flirt with haptics.

For example, for car drivers, Redux demonstrates a tablet-like display which creates the illusions of bumps and friction when you run your fingers over the glass, mimicking physical buttons and sliders so your eyes don’t need to leave the road.

Mobiquity’s technical adviser Robert McCarthy points to several potential uses of Apple’s technology – measuring the force of touch when entering a password, say, to indicate how confident the user is of their selection, or keying in a numeric passcode using different pressure levels as an extra layer of security.

While Apple’s adoption of the technology has awoken the mobile industry to its possibilities, it was pipped to the post by Chinese handset maker Huawei, which this month unveiled one model with what it also tagged Force Touch technology. Pressing harder in a photo app, for example, allows you to zoom in on a picture without the usual two-finger spread.

Other manufacturers are exploring how to make touching a device more friendly, and more advanced, says Freddie Liu, CFO of Taiwan-based TPK Holding Co Ltd, an Apple supplier.

“This is just the beginning for Force Touch,” he said.

 

Amazon will soon release a tablet which costs $50

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Online retailer Amazon.com plans to release a $50 tablet in time for the holiday season.The 6-inch screen tablet comes with a mono speaker and is priced much lower than Amazon’s Fire tablet, the cheapest variant of which is sold at $99.

The company was not immediately available for comment. Amazon also plans to release 8-inch and 10-inch screen tablets, the report said. While other Amazon Fire tablets show advertisements as screen savers, it was not clear if the new 6-inch tablet’s cost included ads, according to the report.

In addition, these tablets are said to be simple and are intended for streaming videos, browsing through social media and one more medium for shopping online via Amazon’s website.

According to the report, Amazon outsourced much of the development to overseas firms including Shanghai Huaqin Telecom Technology and Taiwan’s Compal Communications in an attempt to lower the cost for the new 6-inch tablet.

With an affordable price tag, the devices might carry ‘inferior specifications’ but no confirmed information has been provided. However, this might set these tablets apart from the ones manufactured by Apple, Samsung and others which fall under a premium bracket.

YU introduces YUPIX smart mobile printer; now print photos from smartphone

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Indian electronics brand YU Televentures, owned by Micromax has launched a portable photo printer called the YUPIX.
According to YU, the YUPIX prints 2.1 x 3.4 inch sized digital photos at a resolution of 291 dpi in 60 seconds. The printer itself is pocket sized and weighs 273 grams.

After installing the YUPIX app, you can edit and print photographs without a computer. The YUPIX can print edited photos with a resolution of 1280 x 1920 (2.5MP). Images can be transferred via Wi-Fi or an NFC enabled connection and the device is compatible with Android smartphones as well iPhones.

Since the YUPIX uses dye sublimation for printing images, its unique cartridge doesn’t require a cleaning roll. It includes an Ink Ribbon with Photo Paper Integrated into it apart. In addition, it is also water and finger print proof.
The YUPIX will be available on Amazon.in from 7 September for Rs 6,999.

The YUPIX measures 2.99 x 6.01 x 0.94 inch and is powered by a 750 mAh battery. It is interesting to see the introduction of devices such as the YUPIX. Interestingly at IFA, an instant digital camera that prints images without using ink! It accomplishes the task of printing crystal clear images by using a thermally sensitive paper with ink crystals. It seems the industry sees potential in helping consumers recreate their digital moments in print, the personalised way.

 

 

IFA 2015: Samsung unveils its first Ultra HD Blu-ray player

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At IFA, Korean giant Samsung unveiled its first Ultra HD Blu-ray player, which supports UHD Blu-ray disc playback as well. As of now, the company has not provided any details regarding pricing or availability.

 

The player, which is capable of providing four times the resolution and 64 times higher colour expression compared to standard Blu-ray, is capable of upscaling content to provide UHD resolution for any disc. Additionally 4K streaming services are available. The Ultra HD Blu-ray Player features a sleek, curved design, which goes well with Samsung Curved SUHD TVs.

In addition, the company stated that it is committed to expanding the ecosystem for Ultra HD or 4K content. To deliver more UHD content worldwide, the company has also partnered with a number of firms including Amazon, Netflix, British Telecom, and Canal Plus.

“For Samsung, IFA 2015 is all about the Internet of Things. We are certain that IoT will revolutionize the world of consumer electronics, and this is our opportunity to update you on how far we have come in just a year,” said Dr W.P. Hong, Chief Marketing Officer for Samsung Electronics.

“Every year, Samsung sells more than 300 million products to European consumers. Today, our products are used by 85 million Europeans – at home, and increasingly at work. No organization is better placed to ensure that the latest industrial revolution is driven not by technology, but by people’s expectations. Our vision is of an IoT that’s ‘In Sync With Life’, that’s an IoT for you.”

Microsoft Snip will offer screenshots on Windows with music and scribbles

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Microsoft has introduced a new beta app called Snip, which aims to ease the process of taking screenshots on touch-enabled screens for Windows computers. Once installed, the app not only takes screenshots, but will also annotate it and add music to it as well.
The new beta tool can be installed on Windows 7 and Windows 10 from here. Microsoft Snip will float on the screen so that one can quickly take a screenshot of the screen or a particular area, as and when required.
This office tool captures are mostly copied automatically to the clipboard but, if one adds audio to it, it will automatically get transformed  into an MP4 file that can be embedded on websites or viewed from a URL. However, the beta app is said to be a little ‘buggy’ as of now but there is scope for improvement.
Most people will be familiar with ‘Snipping Tool’ which is already present on Windows but the new enhanced Microsoft Snip is said to be a leap forward. The app, which is a smarter variant of the Snipping Tool, enhances screenshots and makes them easier to share or doodle over them too. The report points out that there are a variety of screenshot and screen capture tools for Windows but most of them are not free.

OneDrive’s Groups feature shutting down October 16th

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Microsoft officially announced it’s axing the Groups feature in OneDrive in the coming weeks, meaning stalwarts still using the online storage service for collaborating will need to start migrating their data to new locations. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, though: The feature has been largely shuttered for months. As it is, users haven’t been able to create new groups; they can only work within existing ones. However, that’s no longer the case: People who still use Groups received an email today informing them that the feature will not be available after October 16th, 2015, and that any data stored in a group file will be deleted. If you want to keep your data currently contained in Groups, follow these instructions to migrate it to a different folder in OneDrive. This means you’re essentially downloading files to a desktop, then uploading them into a different folder in OneDrive. (Oddly, these instructions claim that Groups will no longer be available after September 30th 2015 but our contacts at Microsoft have assured us that October 16th is the correct date.) The email also contains instructions on how to share files and folders after moving them out of Groups. It’s worth mentioning that individual OneDrive accounts already include free access to Office’s online version, which has real-time co-editing so it doesn’t matter if a file is owned by a group or a single person.

Google launches $90 Android One smartphone in six African countries

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Google is introducing a low-priced smartphone in six African countries where most people still can’t afford an Internet-connected device.

The “Hot 2″ phone announced Tuesday is made by Infinix and has a recommended price of $88. It will be sold in stores in Nigeria and offered by online retailer Jumia in five other countries: Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Morocco. Jumia listed the phone at $98 before it sold out, based on a check of its website late Tuesday.

Infinix worked with Google on the Hot 2 as part of a program called Android One that made its debut in India last year.

Android One represents Google’s push to lower the prices of smartphones in less developed parts of the world where computers are considered a luxury. Google consults with device makers to build cheap phones that can still run the latest version of its Android software.

Infinix’s phone will be sold with an Android release that came out last year under the nickname “Lollipop.” It will be capable of running the next upgrade of Android, called “Marshmallow,” due out this fall.

The price for the Hot 2 is a steep markdown from other smartphones equipped with Android’s newest software. For instance, prices for Samsung Electronics newest Android phones to be released this month will cost from about $700 to more than $800 without a wireless contract.

The Android phones being released in Africa, though, are bare-bones models that can’t do as many things as more expensive phones.

Google, Facebook and other Internet companies are trying to get more people online in places like Africa so they can expand their audiences and eventually sell more digital advertising.

As part of that effort, Google already has built a fiber-optic network to provide faster Internet access in Kampala, the capital of Uganda.

 

Google launches Wi-Fi router named ‘OnHub’ for home use

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Google Inc launched a Wi-Fi router on Tuesday, the latest move in the company’s efforts to get ready for the connected home and draw more users to its services. The cylinder-shaped router, named OnHub, can be pre-ordered for $199.99 at online retailers including the Google Store, Amazon.com Inc and Walmart.com.

The router comes with in-built antennas that will scan the airwaves to spot the fastest connection, Google said in a blog post.

With the router, users will be able to prioritise a device so that they can get the fastest Internet speeds for data-heavy activities such as downloading content or streaming a movie.

The router can be hooked up with Google’s On app, available on Android and iOS, to run network checks and keep track of bandwidth use among other things.

Google said OnHub automatically updates with new features and the latest security upgrades, just like the company’s Android OS and Chrome browser. The router is being manufactured by network company TP-LINK, Google said, hinting that ASUS could be the second manufacturing partner for the product.

Samsung unveils Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+

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Today’s Samsung’s Unpacked event in New York City brought two new large-screen smartphones – the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge+. There’s plenty to like here, along with a few questionable things that will get to below.

 

First, let’s hit the good stuff: The Galaxy Note 5 keeps the stunning 5.7-inch quad HD (1440p) Super AMOLED display it had before, but surrounds it with a thinner bezel and a curved back to help with one-handed use. For the first time, the Galaxy Note 5 lets you write on the screen even when it’s off by using the included stylus, and you can annotate PDFs or download an entire webpage with Scroll Capture. An improved Air Command hovers an icon for instant access to S Pen tools.

The Galaxy S6 Edge+ also trims down a bit compared with the current-gen Edge, and has the same-size 5.7-inch display as the Note 5; it’s more than half an ounce lighter, and lacks the built-in stylus. You can do a few things with the edge portion of the screen, but it’s mainly a gimmick here.

Both phones sport 2.1GHz Exynos 7420 octa-core processors — a significant bump for the Galaxy Note 5 that brings it on par with the S6 — and 4GB of RAM. Both run Android 5.1 Lollipop, contain 3,000mAh (sadly, non-removable) batteries with fast-charging and wireless charging capabilities, 16-megapixel f/1.9 rear cameras, and 5-megapixel front-facing sensors.

While I always appreciate top-notch audio, two snake-oil-like things stand out here. There’s now support for 24-bit, 192kHz audio files, even though the difference over uncompressed 16-bit and 44.1kHz is virtually inaudible for mastered music. 24-bit certainly helps when recording and mixing, but not with the final product in any real sense. And there’s a fake upscaling feature called Ultra High Quality Audio that can’t possibly work, because you can’t re-add the missing musical information to compressed music files once it’s already gone. I would tread lightly with those, and just hope that the two new phones still have high quality DACs and headphone amps (recent models like the Galaxy S6 certainly do).

You can get either phone with 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, but there are no more micro SD card slots, so keep that in mind when choosing up front. The S6 Edge+ comes in black or gold, while the Note 5 comes in black or white.

Samsung got it right with the first Galaxy Note, back when few expected big demand for a large (then 5.3-inch) phone. More and more, large screens are beginning to dominate the spotlight, and increasingly, sales. These two phones will certainly keep Samsung in the game. No one else has developed the capacitive-screen stylus to as high a level, and continued refinements of the stunning-in-person Edge screen are certainly welcome.

 

Google to develop bandage-sized glucose monitoring devices

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Somewhat lost amid this week’s excitement surrounding Google’s rebirth as Alphabet was the company’s latest foray into the world of medical devices.

The company has entered into an agreement with DexCom to create a series of disposable continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices that the companies claim will be smaller and more affordable than current options.

“We’re committed to developing new technologies that will help move health care from reactive to proactive,” Andrew Conrad, head of the life sciences team at Google, said in a statement released by the two companies. “This collaboration is another step towards expanding monitoring options and making it easier for people with diabetes to proactively manage their health.”

The collaboration will pair DexCom’s sensor technology with Google’s miniaturized electronics platform. Together, the two companies hope to develop a device with a bandage-sized sensor that will be connected to the cloud.

Earlier this week, while explaining the reasoning behind the change to the name Alphabet, Google cofounder Larry Page emphasized the importance of the company’s Life Sciences effort, which has been working on a glucose-sensing contact lens Larry Page emphasized the importance of the company’s Life Sciences effort, which has been working on a glucose-sensing contact lens.

Life Sciences initiative will no longer be a part of Google X (the company’s experiment-focused incubator), and will operate as a standalone company under the stewardship of its current leader, Conrad.

Google’s new partnership with an established player in the field of medical devices further establishes the company’s seriousness about making real inroads into health care.