No, that was not a mistake. Yes, it is called the iMac Pro. And yes, it comes with a 8, 10 or 18-core Intel Xeon processor. It can also be configured with up to 128 GB of RAM and up to 32 GB of AMD’s newest Radeon Pro Vega desktop-class GPUs. Incredible.
Now that Virtual Reality has established itself in the tech industry, companies all over the world are racing to make high-quality VR experiences available to the public. In the growing breed of large, heavy and uncomfortable VR headsets, Dlodlo (a Chinese company whose name is difficult to pronounce) announced a fashionable pair - the Dlodlo V1.
The Virtual Reality revolution is already underway, with big players like Facebook Oculus, HTC, Sony PlayStation, Microsoft and Samsung developing and shipping VR headsets and content. However, most of the VR content available today is 360 degree video and VR games. There are barely any productivity on convenience related content in virtual reality as yet. But Facebook has a plan already in place, and it is very appealing.
At the day 2 keynote of Facebook’s developer conference ‘F8’, Mike Schroepfer (CTO of Facebook) gave a demo of social presence in virtual reality. Watch this short video that summarises the demo:
Cool, huh? Although the experience isn't as realistic as meeting a person in real life, it is a huge step up from flat screen video calling. The ability to interact with people by actually moving hands, holding virtual objects and using them as virtual tools enables an all new form of virtual communication. Human communication has always involved facial expressions and body language, both of which can be experienced in VR presence.
What will this mean in real life? You can have virtually-real meetings across the world in the same day without travelling, virtually be present at an important event that you would have otherwise missed, and share and collaborate with tools in the exact same way you would use them in real life. This proves distance to be no barrier for communication. In the future, expect virtual events where multiple people located miles apart meet, play and communicate without any real medium of presence.
Virtual social presence has three main parts - the capturing, the transmission and the displaying. With high speed fibre optic and wireless communication, in addition to Facebook's efforts in the arena, the transmission part of the equation is solved. VR headsets enable the display of the transmitted media. However, the biggest challenge is capturing the body itself! The idea of capturing facial expressions and body language seems simple but is extremely complicated technologically. Only with the help of multiple cameras capturing all angles of a body with great accuracy can render humanly acceptable input. This is neither economically feasible nor practical, and it definitely isn’t perfect to completely replicate your presence. Facebook is now researching for techniques to achieve high quality input, but the technology is far from developed.
Well, we now know a future aspect of virtual reality. I wonder how Facebook would look in virtual social presence mode though! (Maybe virtual 3D renders of people will replace profile pictures!)
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Microsoft’s 6th Build developers conference began with a keynote where Nadella and other leaders from the company talked about software, artificial intelligence, gaming and the power of computing. Here are the biggest announcements from this year’s keynote:
1. A unified Windows 10 experience
Windows 10 was always meant to be one OS for all devices- including desktops, mobile phones, Xbox One and HoloLens. Finally, Microsoft is implementing the same by bringing Universal Windows Apps onto the Windows Store. Not only will we see older Windows apps (based on .NET and Win32) converted to native Windows 10 apps with the help of a desktop converter tool, but we will also see all new apps from developers all over the world. This includes an all new Facebook app that’ll include Facebook, Instagram and Messenger services in a single app. Uber, Starbucks, Vine, WWE are also bringing new Universal Windows Apps to the Store.
2. HoloLens Developer Edition
The much anticipated AR headset, Microsoft HoloLens, is finally getting a developers edition that interested developers can purchase today onwards for $3000.
Microsoft gave us an on-stage demo of the HoloLens as a tool to teach biology students at Case Western Reserve University how the body functions using 3D holographic projections. HoloLens’ new app ‘Galaxy Explorer’ is an open source app that allows people to explore other planets though the holographic projection of the galaxy.
3. Bots & intelligence everywhere
A key portion of yesterday’s keynote was Microsoft’s emphasis on improving our lives through the integration of bots and artificial intelligence across all the devices we use. The core of ‘Conversations as a Platform’ is Cortana, with will act as an intelligent cross-platform link between you and server side bots. This is prominently demonstrated in Skype - which gets bots support - where Cortana can create events in your calendar, then can call up a bot, say of Westin hotel, to register a hotel booking. All this is done in a simple, humanly chat conversation with Cortana.
Microsoft announced all new APIs for development of bots. These APIs are available on microsoft.com/cognitive. All sorts of bots - form image recognition to speech translation - can be developed using these APIs.
There you go! These were the biggest announcements from the keynote. The Verge compiled a 15 minute summary of the event which you can watch below.
Considering Microsoft is handicapped in developer community, the Build keynote is pushing hard to promote developer support for Microsoft’s services. Indeed Microsoft is aiming high with the bots platform and HoloLens, and I can only hope they become successful in making these services available for consumers as early as possible. A new era of Microsoft has begun - expanding from desktop computing to unified, intelligent and futuristic experiences.
Take the poll below and voice your opinion.
Images/Video from The Verge
Until a few days ago, LG was going nowhere in the smartphone game. However, LG didn’t stop innovating. The result of this is reflected in the partial success of the LG V10. But the LG G5 is a completely new ball-game… bringing in the best of all their previous products, improving upon it and adding a plethora of all new accessories to make it more desirable. The LG G5 is a fantastic phone, both on paper, and in the real world.
Let’s talk inside first:
The spec sheet is top notch, just as expected. The LG G5 runs the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with Adreno 530 graphics, paired with 4 GB RAM. Here are the other specs:
The G5 houses a dual camera setup. The module contains a standard 78 degree lens and a wide-angle 135 degree lens. The wide-angle lens is literally 15 degrees wider than the human eye, which means you can capture a large area standing close to the subject. Powering the cameras are the Qualcomm Hexagon DSP and Qualcomm Spectra 14-bit dual image signal processors (ISPs) designed to deliver high resolution DSLR-quality images.
LG also stressed on the always-on display on the G5. Just like on the LG V10, the display shows the time and relevant notifications without the need to touch your phone. Unlike the V10, there is no secondary display - the primary display itself is always-on. LG says that it only consumes 0.85% of battery per hour, so it’s not a battery guzzler.
The important thing though is the modular design of the G5. Yes, the construction is a unibody metal frame, but the bottom of the phone simply snaps out like this:
You can then change the battery, or use a completely different module to enhance the capabilities of the phone. Which leads to the external accessories that are made for this device...
LG today showed us two modules for the LG G5:
1. LG CAM Plus: This module adds a camera grip to the G5, along with a physical shutter button, a zoom dial and extra battery (1200 mAh) to the phone.
2. LG Hi-Fi Plus with B&O PLAY: In collaboration with B&O PLAY, LG introduced this module which is essentially a portable Hi-Fi DAC audio player.
We also got a lot of accessories, called “Friends”, for the phone, so here is a brief about each of them...
1. LG 360 VR: This is my favourite accessory - connect this portable VR headset to the G5 and you can experience high quality virtual reality content without the need of your phone in front of your face. It tries to solve all the problems that comes with Google Cardboard, by providing a lightweight frame, individual 639 ppi displays.
2. LG 360 CAM: The 360 CAM captures full 360 degree pictures and 2K video by holding it up and clicking a button. Moreover, this content can be uploaded to Google Street View, YouTube 360 and can be viewed using the 360 VR headset. Impressive!
3. LG Rolling Bot: This one is all ‘bout the fun factor. This Sphero like bot rolls around your house, live streaming video video. Playing with cats just got a lot of fun - with technology!
4. LG Tone Platinum: A Harman Kardon Platinum grade bluetooth headset equipped with aptX HD codec, for lossless 24-bit audio.
5. LG Smart Controller: Although still in prototype stage, this smart controller is made in collaboration with Parrot to make drone flying a piece of cake.
And to bring all of these accessories together, LG introduced the “Friends Manager” app, which pairs with any of these accessories in 3 taps.
That rounds up the press conference for a brilliant phone that might prove to be the key to LG Smartphone’s success. Let’s see how it goes!
Lots more MWC coverage coming soon! The list of live streams is here, so you can join the tech carnival as well.
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Will 2016 be the year of Virtual Reality? I think so.
If one thing is clear, it is that virtual reality will create the biggest news this year. We will see Sony’s PlayStation VR (for the PS4), the Oculus Rift, the HTC/Valve Vive, the Microsoft HoloLens and the Google Glass. Technology has already taken over our wrists, and our eyes are next. These headsets will bring about a huge change in the way we consume content. We will no longer need to go to a theatre to watch a movie, because a virtual theatre will do the job. We will play games in first person looking straight through the protagonists’ eyes. We will consume - and produce - content that is not just flat, but that spherically surrounds you in 3D.
But not everything is sweet about VR. The headsets will be too costly to be a common commodity, and the experience will be limited by the amount of VR content available. If 4K took over 5 years to become a standard, VR might take longer. Moreover, the equipment that is required to shoot 360 degree video seamlessly is still not perfect. Basically, 2016 will introduce VR to us, just like 2007 introduced the smartphone to us, and in the coming few years we will see content and adoption grow.
Now, 2016 might also be the year of the revival of small sized phones. Sure, ‘bigger is better’ is the philosophy everyone has accepted, but there is still some demand for great quality pocket sized phones. The iPhone 6C will kindle this movement, by packing the powerful A9 processor into a package that is the size of the iPhone 5/5S.
What about smartwatches? There is no doubt we will see an all new generation of smartwatches this year. These smartwatches will be thinner and lighter, significantly more powerful, will run far more apps and support new, more dynamic operating systems. The Apple Watch 2 will probably stand out this year, with a possible watchOS 3. Android Wear too might see a significant upgrade, supporting new apps and hardware. 2016 will be the year smartwatches will mature into more usable products.
Cars. Like 2015, I don’t expect any drastic change when it comes to cars in our daily lives. One thing though - more and more people will buy electric vehicles. Not just that, we might see Tesla push an all new, more affordable ‘Model 3’ onto the roads that will drastically pull mainstream crowds towards electric vehicles.
2016 will also be a significant year for the internet of things. We’ve already seen a ton of smart home tech and IoT related products in 2015 (and earlier), but 2016 might be the year for its adoption and better integration will services like Amazon Echo, IFTTT, Apple HomeKit and Google Brillo. Don’t be surprised to hear your neighbour saying “Alexa, I’m going to the office” to turn off certain home appliances and lights, lock the door, turn off the gas and start the safety cameras!
To fulfil all of these expectations, I am very excited about this year's tech events:
Jan 5 - 9: Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Las Vegas
Feb 22-25: Mobile World Congress, Barcelona
March 14-18: Game Developers Conference
March 30-April 1: Microsoft Build
April 12-13: F8 (Facebook’s developers conference)
(expected/unannounced) June: WWDC (Apple’s developers conference)
June 14-16: E3
…and many more that aren’t yet announced.
I'll try my best to cover all these tech events in as much possible detail. A lot of boiling hot content is going to be uploaded, so make sure you follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Flipboard.
Welcome to 2016.