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Google Shows Its Glass, and More

It was like a scene from a Michael Bay movie, just without the explosions – wait, it wouldn’t be a Michael Bay movie then, would it – hipster extreme sport types jumping out of a plane and parachuting, and also in wingsuits, down to the convention center that Google was holding their big IO Conference presentation.  All of it was being streamed live via Google+ with the company’s leader,  Sergey Brin, wearing the device that they had shown off via video presentations just a few months earlier.

This, as in interruption of the conference, was Google showing off the promise of Google Glass – in real time.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, Glass is a wearable device that looks like a pair of glasses, without lenses, that not only can video everything you see, but also project images into your line of site that you can interact with.  It’s all very Jetsons.

What was interesting from the conference isn’t that there looks to be a lot of working prototypes of the device, or the fact that as a prototype it is already incredibly small, or the fact that Google made the device available to attendees for $1500 (shipping Q1 2013) to assist in development, but that what we ended up being shown was a device that simply shot video.  We were not shown any of the interactive web access, or how the device can display to its user directions or other information.  No, there was none of the very cool Terminator-like graphical display that the previous video showed off.  What we got was maybe the most awesome GoPro Hero killer, ever.  Surely the device is capable of much more and in fact the a few media member were allowed to wear Brin’s pair and saw what was described in the LA Times as

“The titanium frames were lightweight and comfortable. They were in “demo mode” and just showed a video of fireworks. The image, which was above my right eye and above my normal line of sight, was quite small. As I moved my head, the video panned. If I cupped my right ear as Brin directed, the sound of the fireworks was amplified.  It wasn’t a true demo of the glasses. Brin clearly did not want the media to see his text messages or email. But had it been activated, I would have heard an alert when a high-priority email arrived in his inbox. I would then tilt my head up to see the message display.”

For anyone watching this and thinking, “how geeky do you look wearing that?” remember how weird brick sized cell phones, original bluetooth earpieces and jam boxes on a shoulder looked.  If the 1st gen is this small (reportedly weighs less than a normal pair of sunglasses) you can quickly see how in a couple of years Glass could end up almost invisible.  But, there was a sense that Google isn’t quite sure yet what the product is, or will be. Brin claims that he gets all of his email and voicemail via the device (although that was “deactivated” for the demo) and maybe that is part of the interesting decision to tell the people in attendance (largely developers) they could buy their own pair of Glass(es?) for $1500 and would have them them at the beginning of next year.  Google needs everyone smart to think about this product and figure out where it is headed.  Right now it’s very cool, but it really doesn’t do anything transformative.  Yet.

Google also showed off the new Nexus 7 tablet – aimed right at the Kindle Fire – with its new interface, connection to Google Play and a set of specs that really turn up the game.  It will be made by Asus for Google and sell for $200.

We also got a look at the next version of Android, 4.1, aka: Jelly Bean.  This really is more of a list of improvements than a major upgrade in the OS, but there was a nightly impressive demo of “Google Now” a true competitor to Apple’s Siri.

And then there was the very odd media box, er, ball, the Nexus Q.  A media hub in the shape and size of a softball, with glowing lights and a top half of the sphere that can rotate to control volume.  The idea is to compete against the Rokus, Apple TVs of the world, but with a built in amp and connects to all your Android devices to stream audio and video.  Oddly priced at $299.

And Google Events, a new party, occasions planner that works with Calendar and allows people to shot pictures and share them to the event’s invite which can be seen by anyone else that got the same invite.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 27:  A Nexus Cube is ...

 

 

 

 

 

Microsoft Makes Its Move, Debuts Surface

Microsoft remains a wealthy and powerful company.  It no longer is the king of computing hill but it still is a tremendous force to be reckoned with and I have thought for a while that it simply had too much money and resources to sit and allow Apple and Google to leave it behind.

So for the last several months Microsoft has been doing two things, continuously building up the successful user base of their XBOX360 console into more than just gamers, rather a total entertainment hub – and the previewing of Windows 8.  The new OS promises to be far more like the others and less like what you think when you consider a Windows OS.  It also holds the promise that what you get from the platform will be consistent from device to device.  Desktop to tablet to smartphone, Windows 8 wants to you know what to expect.

Yesterday Microsoft held what seemed to be a hastily organized conference in Los Angeles and the general prediction was that an e-reader was in the wings, some sort of relationship with Barnes and Noble. What I don’t think anyone expected was Microsoft’s attempt at the proverbial ‘left-hook’ squarely at the jaw of it competitors.

Microsoft’s Surface is their tablet, but it’s actually two different products in the same way the iPad is different from the MacBook Air.  Both hold the tablet form, but one has the guts and power of an ultra book.  Both have a 10.6 screen with proper 16:9 aspect ratio are really thin and reportedly have a “ruggedness” and “high quality feel” to them due to a magnesium case and a kickstand that pops out to hold it at the perfect 22 degrees needed of viewing and video chatting.  The display is called “Clear Type” and certainly shoots at Retina Display quality and falls just short of that in the pixel density department (264ppi v 208ppi).

The brand “Surface” had been attached to a large coffee table sized device topped with a piece of glass (now renamed PixelSense) that allowed for touch interaction and control that led many to think that was the direction Microsoft was headed with their OS and touchscreen.  But that has been recycled here with a non-Pro version that would run of the RT version of Windows 8 and has the same type of processing as other handheld devices (ARM), and then there is this Pro version that knocked everyone out with the news that it would run the full desktop version of Windows 8 and be powered by an Ivy Bridge Core i5, USB 3.0 and other specs that take the device from tablet to a new place of admiration in tech circles.  Here, Microsoft appears to actually built something really neat-o.  In other words, if Apple had released this device, Twitter would have crashed and Walt Mossberg may have had a heart attack from the excitement.

Topping off the cool new tricks is a cover, much like the one Apple added with the iPad2, that clicks onto the Surface, but when opened reveals a full keyboard and trackpad.  The versions shown to the press yesterday were not operable, so no one knows how it feels to work with, or how well it actually works… but it looks beautiful and awesome.

There is way better coverage to be read by people that have actually seen the devices and in some cases held one.

A couple of things to note:  We don’t know how much either of these will cost.  And that will be a giant consideration as the Pro version will probably come in at the $1000 mark which would give anyone pause to consider versus the options in that price range (Mac Book Air), and Windows 8 is going to have to be awesome to really make that deal work.  The RT (non-pro version) has the almost Herculean task of competing in the ring with the iPad – a device so completely in control of that market segment one wonders how anyone (Android or Microsoft) is ever going to best it.  Its price is going to have to be really competitive, below the $499 intro point for an iPad.  Microsoft’s biggest challenge here are the apps.  Apple has such a lead in the department that Android, already with several really nice tablets of their own, can’t grab a real number of developers to spend the time and money to make apps for them.  So, how Microsoft plans on successfully jumping that hurdle has yet to be seen.

It should be noted that Microsoft designed and is building these in-house.  No Dells, Lenovos or HPs.  This is Microsoft’s baby.  We also aren’t sure when these will arrive.  What we know is that the RT version will arrive along side Windows 8, and, confusingly, the version that actually runs on Windows 8 “90 days after that” – an early sign that Microsoft already has some better decision making to do.

Here’s the whole presentation via The Verge:

 

A New “Best” Android Cometh

Android Robot. Français : le logo d'android 日本...

Another six weeks, another “best Android” is about to reveal itself to the US shores.  (I use “best” loosely, there’s much that can be debated over which current model is the “best”)

In what is really the best and worst thing about Google’s Android being available from different manufactures is that something better is always just around the corner.  It wasn’t just a few weeks ago we were all drooling over the new Google Nexus, or the HTC One X (Gizmodo’s Fav Android of the moment) or in fact, it doesn’t seem that long ago we rubbed the Galaxy S II against our face for the first time.

Now the Galaxy S III is coming to America this summer and it looks to be a fine choice for anyone in the market.

Working with the new 1.4GHz Exynos 4 Cortex-A9 quad-core chip, a Gig of RAM and up to 64GB of internal storage and a very high definition-y 4.8″ 720×1280 Super OMLEG display pumping 306ppi (in comparison the iPhone 4s is 3.5″ at 960×640 at 326ppi) that is certain to be bright and beautiful.  The phone will work on 4G LTE systems and have as many as seven different internal sensors – including NFC (near field communication) and (gasp! for the weather nerd in me) a barometer!  Oh yes, a removal battery (which is still Android phones biggest advantage over an iPhone in my mind)

It will shoot 1080p from the back camera and the front facing will do 720p for your face chatting time.

Samsung, as does all manufactures, is rolling out some of their “improvements” to Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich OS.  Some of the cooler ones is the phone will vibrate and/or flash a LED when you pick it up after a missed call.  A new voice recognition called S-Voice which can complete actual tasks and S-Beam, a system that uses NFC for talking to and sharing info with other Galaxy S III owners.  (the video below mentions December, but it is pretty certain the LTE comes here in the summer)


If there’s been a knock on the phone in early reviews is that the materials used don’t always feel as up to snuff as other brands and Samsung has been plauged for sometime for having wonderful looking designs, but when you actually pick up the devices they leave you wishing they felt better made.  I have personally held a S III, but I can attest that other Samsung phones have always felt a bit plasticky in my hands.

The Galaxy S III is due to arrive this summer, but the HTC X is here now and a completely worthy alternative if you’re needed a new phone before then.

 

 

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Instagram is Coming to Android

Now used by over 10 million iPhone peeps, the much beloved Instagram photo app will finally port over to Android.

But when is still a bit of a mystery.  Instagram’s CEO announced the addition at SXSWi over the weekend to the delight of all Android users, but he admitted that he didn’t have a demo version to show off and that he couldn’t specify when it would be available in Google Play.  But “very soon” was given.

If you’ve never used the app, it is the photo filtering/social media app that really started the whole genre, or at least was the first to really take off.

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I. Must. Have. Now.

An awesome listener once purchased as a gift for me a small RC helicopter, the “Blade MCX“, that I flew around my house and still to this day get hours of enjoyment from.

But after seeing this video, I think this is something I can’t hope for the generosity of another.

Ever dream of spy missions on your neighbors, a bird’s eye view of the hot co-ed’s next door in the swimming pool (no?) well check out the new A.RDrone 2.0 from Parrot.  This is the sequel to the A.RDrone, but this one features a HD video camera (running at 720p resolution) and you can record your flight videos and share them.  And yes, you control the darned thing with your smartphone (iOS and Android).

Watch the demo video.  Of course the idea of these things flying around in mass raises a lot of terrible scenarios and I am pretty sure that if I flew mine up to a little kid or pretty girl, I’d make a mistake and maul their face off with one or all four of the rotor blades…

$299 in Q2 of 2012 at select retailers.  #peterapproved

 

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Shopping Apps Save You $$$

When you’re running around buying gifts for loved ones, if you’ve got a smartphone in your hand, consider adding one or all of these shopping apps to it.  Any or all of these can be used to scan the bar codes of something you’re looking at and tell you how it is priced online and in other stores in your area.  Not only can you immediately tell if you’re getting a good deal, you might find out where you can get a better one.

Google Shopper  iPhone  /  Android 

Shop Savvy   iPhone  /  Android   /   Windows Phone

Red Lazer    iPhone   / Android 

Amazon Price Check  iPhone  /  Android

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#peterapproved: Charlie Brown Christmas for Tablets

If you follow me on Twitter (@peet2), you know that I will pass on things that I really like and think you should too, via the hashtag, #peterapproved.

Today I came across this new app for iPad and Android that takes the classic Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon and makes it an interactive experience on the tablet platform.  This is a great example of the potential of the tablet and how older stuff can be expanded with new digital extensions and experiences.

Thanks to Mike Orren for the head’s up

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Ice Cream Sandwich & Galaxy Nexus Are Here

The long awaited unveiling of Ice Cream Sandwich, the operating system for Android that hopes to unify the platform for both phones and tablets, happened Tuesday night along with the first device to use the OS, the Samsung Nexus Prime.

I’ll post more about both here soon, but there are a lot of links that will give you the full details below.  But this is a big deal and the phone is a winner.

Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) removes the psyical button with ones that appear on the touch screen only when needed, facial recognition software that ID’s the user’s face to unlock the phone (although the demo of this didn’t work during the live presentation), new multi-tasking design and app grouping and icon organizing features are all new things found in the OS.

The Samsung Nexus promises to sit on top of the “most powerful” smartphone throne when it hots stores with a fast processor, 4.65 screen running 720p, 1 Gig of RAM, and it will also have Near Field Communications (NFC) for mobile payments.  But it is the curved glass and body that will make everyone Ooo and Aahhh when it hits stores in November.

 

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