Sony Experiments with Headgear for VR Gaming

  • Sony Computer Entertainment may launch a 3D headset for virtual reality-type games in the future.
  • The head-mounted display was first introduced during the company’s CES press event in January, but now Sony is reportedly working on developing it for more than just viewing passive entertainment.
  • The device features twin 720p OLED displays (one for each eye) and 5.1 surround sound.
  • Mick Hocking, group studio manager for Sony Europe, said the 3D headset can provide an immersive experience for games (and it is worth mentioning that a number of Sony Computer Entertainment studios fall under his command).
  • “The head-mounted display has twin-OLED screens; very high quality. At the moment it’s just a head-mounted display; the head isn’t being tracked — but that’s something we’re doing R&D on,” Hocking explained. “We’re working with a couple of games at Sony that are experimenting with virtual-reality-type experiences.”

LED Technology as Option for Wireless Data Transmission

  • We may see “Li-Fi” wireless in the future, as visible light communications and light-based data transmission technology continue to advance.
  • Professor Harald Haas of the University of Edinburgh recently demonstrated a prototype of the technology at the TEDGlobal conference in Scotland.
  • Haas used an LED bulb to transmit a video that was projected onto a screen behind him (at 10 megabits per second). He plans to reach 100 megabits per second by the end of the year.
  • This approach may become a viable alternative for wireless communication as mobile devices continue to tax the radio spectrum.
  • It is interesting to note that the idea of using light to send information is not new. Alexander Graham Bell sent a wireless phone message in 1880 using his Photophone.

CEA Predicts Connected Portable Devices will Steer CE Market

  • The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) predicts that the consumer electronics industry will grow 5.6 percent this year and will surpass $190 billion. This prediction is higher than the estimate that CEA offered in January.
  • Significantly, tablet computers are projected to grow 157 percent in 2011, with more than 26.5 million units being shipped ($14 billion in shipment revenue).
  • “Newer, innovative product categories, like tablets, not only meet consumer demand but also help bolster our industry and strengthen the overall American economy,” says CEA chief exec Gary Shapiro.
  • “One year ago, tablets were a new and unproven market, and now they, along with other mobile connected devices including smartphones and eReaders, are leading the entire industry to positive growth,” adds Steve Koenig, CEA’s director of industry analysis. “The revenue boost from these innovative products is undeniable as a number of other CE segments are reaching maturity and sales are naturally declining.”
  • The trade association also expects the market to reach a record $197 billion in 2012, led by sales of smartphones, tablets and 3D TVs.

Logitech Takes to the Cloud with Mobile Video Meetings

  • Logitech’s LifeSize division — headquartered in Austin, Texas — is looking to the cloud in an effort to extend its videoconferencing reach.
  • The company is introducing the $1,499 LifeSize Passport Connect, a new videoconferencing system that integrates with the company’s cloud-based LifeSize Connections service.
  • The high-defintion endpoint system is built around a Logitech webcam and is priced below other LifeSize end systems.
  • Logitech also announced it has acquired Italian mobile video company, Mirial, which offers videoconferencing clients for PCs, Macs, and an array of mobile devices such as Android tablets, iPads and iPhones.
  • The company plans to integrate Mirial’s clients into LifeSize Connections.

Scribd to Launch Subscription News Hub this Fall

  • Scribd — a Web site that lets users share reports, personal stories and recipes — revealed plans this week to launch a digital newsstand that provides a vast library of news to readers for a monthly fee, similar to the Netflix subscription service model.
  • The newsstand, named Float, is the latest in a collection of strategies that have attempted to make money from online news. Other news hubs include Flipboard, Zite, Pulse, and Ongo.
  • Publications that are made available via Float will receive a share of the revenue after the subscription program launches this fall (although subscription fees and the amount to be shared with publishers have yet to be announced).
  • Float will introduce a free version this week featuring articles from 150 publications such as The Associated Press, People, Fortune, Salon and Time magazine (publishers participating in the free version will share in the advertising revenue).
  • Float will initially be available to consumers online and through an iPhone app, while Android and iPad versions are expected at a later date.

Google+ Hangouts Can Provide Two-Way Broadcasts

  • Indie pop singer Daria Musk held a six hour live concert over the weekend from a Connecticut recording studio on Google+ Hangouts with her fans and followers from all over the world.
  • Unfortunately, the one major constraint was that only ten people at a time could join Musk’s Hangout (others were told to try joining again later).
  • According to GigaOM, audience members (including a Google engineering director) “figured out an impromptu way of daisy-chaining Hangouts, making it possible for others to join in on the fun by joining connected video chats. This type of Hangouts relay was a quick hack, something to deal with the fact that Google has restricted the number of live participants in Hangouts to ten — but it also hints at an interesting opportunity for Google to utilize Hangouts as a way to turn live online broadcasting into a two-way medium, that is capable of real audience interaction.”
  • Musk’s comments after the concert: “I have to tell you that I never really felt I belonged in the places I’ve been in… I’ve always dreamed of seeing the world, meeting people from all over, being a global girl, a global artist… Finding my tribe… I found you last night. Thank you for finding me.”

Three Weeks After Launch, Google+ Now Available for iPhone

  • Google launched its new Google+ social network June 28th, and an Android app was made immediately available.
  • Three weeks later, Apple finally approved the official Google+ app for iOS (until Tuesday, iPhone users had to access a mobile Web version in Safari).
  • Similar to the Web version, Google+ for iPhone includes Circles (stream of updates from a user’s contacts) and Huddle (for group messaging within a user’s circles).
  • Google+ for iOS works on the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 (running iOS 3.1 or later). A dedicated iPad version has yet to be announced.

Katzenberg Explains that 3D Focus Should Be on Quality

  • Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg discussed the current status of 3D entertainment at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech Conference in Aspen, Colorado on Tuesday.
  • Katzenberg placed blame on the entertainment industry and lack of content quality for slow consumer adoption of 3D.
  • He explained that Hollywood executives have been short-sighted in their attempts to capitalize too aggressively on the technology without emphasizing quality. Katzenberg described the execs as driven by “that singular and unique characteristic that only exists in Hollywood, greed.”
  • “With time we’ll get back to success here but it’ll only come by embracing [3D] as a storytelling tool and using it to enhance the film experience,” he added.
  • Katzenberg’s full transcript is available from the Fortune post.

Samsung Patent Adds Depth-of-Field to Point-and-Clicks

  • Samsung’s recent patent application illustrates how it is possible to add shallow depth-of-field to a point-and-shoot or smartphone camera.
  • The approach makes use of a dual-lens setup (similar to what we’ve seen with 3D cameras lately), where one lens captures full resolution of the target image while the other calculates and records relative distances.
  • The camera then merges the data with the primary image in order to create a depth map. A graduated blur is applied, based on this depth map, adding simulated depth-of-field.
  • The concept is not found in any product; however, Engadget is optimistic: “No word on whether this neat trick will make its way to consumers’ hands — but with 3D still the reigning buzz, we’d upgrade that possibility to a very likely.”
  • The Photography Bay post includes a link to the patent application.

Advisory Committee Releases Report on Closed Captioning of Internet Video

  • The Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee (VPAAC) released its report to the FCC last week on the closed captioning of IP-video programming (a PDF of the report is available from the Broadcast Law Blog).
  • VPAAC (co-chaired by Vince Roberts, chairman of the board for ETC@USC) submitted the report as required by the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act passed in October.
  • ETCentric member Brad Collar points out this will require closed captions be included in Internet distributed programming (the Accessibility Act requested rules requiring that once a program has aired on television with closed captions, any subsequent online distribution must also include closed captions).
  • The VPAAC report proposes a compliance schedule based on the date of the FCC’s revised rules: programming that has been prerecorded and unedited for Internet distribution (within six months), live and near-live programming (within 12 months), and programming that has been prerecorded and substantially edited for Internet distribution (within 18 months).
  • The report also includes recommendations for performance objectives, technical requirements and capabilities related to online closed captioning.

LG Debuts Glasses-Free 3D Computer Display

  • LG Electronics, a long-time supporter of the 3D TV market, enters a new product category with the introduction of its 20-inch 3D computer monitor that doesn’t require the use of 3D glasses.
  • A sensor on the D2000 detects the position of the user to shift the 3D imagery while the user is looking at games, movies or photos.
  • The company also points out that its eye-tracking technology works in tandem with LG’s 2D-to-3D conversion technologies to enhance 2D movies, games and other content.
  • “LG’s position has always been that 3D will and must eventually function without glasses. The D2000 is a look at what the future has in store.”
  • Expect the display to become available later this year.

Facebook Plans to Launch News Platform: Facebook Editions

  • Facebook is planning a new service called “Facebook Editions” that creates app versions of popular news outlets.
  • CNN, The Daily and the Washington Post are a few of around a dozen news outlets that have already signed on.
  • The recently released Google+, which already has 10 million users, reportedly has a similar idea in the works.
  • Both the Facebook and Google service have a potentially significant obstacle to face: paywalls (New York Times is holding back for the time being due to complications with this issue).
  • Look for Facebook Editions as a new feature of the social networker possibly by September.

Social Media Becoming a Popular Mechanism for Brand Feedback

  • According to two separate studies by ROI Research and MarketTools, consumers are increasingly embracing social networks as a tool to communicate directly with brands.
  • In addition to comparing prices and discussing sales and specials with friends online, 53 percent say they have provided feedback to the companies they support.
  • Additionally, 47 percent say they have used the channels to register complaints.
  • The studies suggest there is room for growth in regards to brands responding to feedback via social networks. “Listening and responding to complaints on social media also offers brands a chance to connect with customers in an additional channel, and to potentially increase customer satisfaction.”

Borders to Close its Doors for Good by September

  • Following failed attempts to draw investor interest in a bankruptcy court auction, Borders Group Inc. has announced it will liquidate its remaining assets.
  • The second-largest U.S. bookstore chain says it will start liquidating its remaining 399 stores as soon as Friday, with the business to be shuttered for good by September. The company employs nearly 11,000 people.
  • “We were all working hard toward a different outcome, but the head winds we have been facing for quite some time, including the rapidly changing book industry, [electronic reader] revolution and turbulent economy, have brought us to where we are now,” explained Borders President Mike Edwards.
  • Analysts have expressed concern that the demise of Borders may speed the decline in book sales and possibly make it more challenging for new writers to be discovered. Michael Norris, a senior analyst at Simba Information added, “Thousands of people whose job consisted of talking up and selling books will eventually being doing something else, and that’s bad for authors, agents, and everyone associated with the value chain in books.”
  • ETCentric staffer Dennis Kuba commented: “Looks like Amazon has one more to go. I’ll miss browsing through the stacks.”

Smart Devices May Soon Replace the Remote Control

  • As an increasing number of portable devices such as smartphones and tablets continue to add TV controller functionality, dedicated TV remotes may soon be “as quaint as rotary-dial telephones.”
  • TiVo, for example, just released a new iPhone app that allows viewers to use their phone to control their DVR (with gesture controls), and share comments on Facebook and Twitter.
  • TiVo already has a similar app available for the iPad, while other related apps are also offered by a number of pay TV providers.
  • It’s a logical jump since studies indicate that many viewers have their portable devices with them while viewing TV.

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