Acer has announced that the new Gateway NV and ID series laptops will provide one-touch access to social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Social networking hot keys will activate integrated widgets that enable activities such as status updates, message posting, uploading media and more.
However, some laptop makers — including HP and Dell — suggest that hot buttons could potentially overwhelm users, and prove to be an unnecessary feature when software could easily do the job (in some cases, such keys are even being removed from business laptops).
Computer users spend on average one out of every six minutes of online time on social networks, according to comScore.
In what appears to be a slight departure in strategy, Netflix announced it is offering an unlimited DVD rental plan for those who want to avoid streaming content.
Subscribers can now pay $7.99 per month for unlimited DVD rentals under the new offering.
Prior to this plan, Netflix subscribers had a choice of “$4.99 a month for one DVD out at a time (up to two a month) or $9.99 a month for one DVD out at a time with access to Netflix Instant.”
This model may surprise some, considering CEO Reed Hastings has been touting streaming delivery of late, highlighting the fact that subscribers were accessing more streaming content than physical media for the first time in his company’s history.
It may also be surprising to some since the streaming service recently became the largest source of Internet traffic and the company is planning to produce exclusive online content.
Nearly a quarter of Generation Y viewers are now opting for Internet-connected TVs over broadcast.
A new survey from Knowledge Networks indicates viewers 13 to 31 are more likely to cut the cord than other generations.
Of this demographic, 44 percent still watch regular prime-time broadcasts, compared with 66 percent of baby boomers.
It is interesting to note that Generation Y also uses DVRs significantly less than Gen Xers.
Multichannel News asks: “Will the younger generation at some point subscribe to ‘real’ TV? Or do their current media-consumption habits point toward an eventual decline of traditional television viewing?”
Georgia Tech researchers have developed an energy-harvesting device that can collect power from various sources including radio and television transmitters, cell phone networks and satellite communications systems.
“We are using an ultra-wideband antenna that lets us exploit a variety of signals in different frequency ranges, giving us greatly increased power-gathering capability,” explains Manos Tentzeris of Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The device has the ability to capture energy from a range of banks, convert the energy from AC to DC power, and then subsequently store it in capacitors and batteries.
The team hopes that the device could provide a new means of powering networks of wireless sensors, microprocessors and communications chips.
BBC News reports that police in the UK are planning to use new laser scanners at the location of serious motor vehicle accidents to create 3D images of the sites and, in turn, clear the roads more quickly for other motorists.
It is expected that the technology will save the time required to “painstakingly log everything at the scene” and will save the economy hundreds of thousands of pounds each year.
The 3D laser technology uses a special tripod-mounted scanner that records a 360-degree image of the crash site down to a resolution of less than one millimeter. Each sweep takes about four minutes.
ETCentric contributor Phil Lelyveld comments: “This technology could be useful for location scouting for 3D shoots, as well as recording positions for later reshoots.”
Crescent Inc. recently demonstrated its new head-mounted VR system at Japan’s 3D & Virtual Reality Expo.
The Immersive Digital Entertainment VR system provides a full 360-degree virtual environment accessible through the head-mounted display in what Engadget describes as “like a Virtual Boy that your wear.”
The system uses Virtools real-time rendering technology, image analysis technology, and a Vicon motion capture system in order to capture users’ movements and the items they interact with in the VR space.
An array of HD motion capture cameras make the “virtual reality that much less virtual (and in turn, that much more reality).”
The post includes a video report featuring an interview with Takahiro Akiyama who worked on content development. He is CEO of 4D Brain and former visual effects art director for the film “Final Fantasy.”
For the future, Akiyama envisions a new form of entertainment that integrates biofeedback within such a VR system.
According to a recent Nielsen study, the average iPhone user commits twice the average amount of time to playing mobile games as compared to other mobile gamers, suggesting that iOS may have the most engaged gaming audience.
The study also indicates that 93 percent of app customers have paid for games in the last 30 days.
The average iPhone owner spent 14.7 hours playing games during the month, while the average Android owner spent 9.3 hours (the overall average for smartphone gamers is 7.8 hours/month).
The report explains that consumers are typically more willing to spend money on games than other types of apps.
Nielsen breaks down the leading categories of most popular apps for Q2 2011 in the following order: Games, Weather, Social Networking, Maps/Navigation/Search, Music, News, Entertainment, Banking/Finance, Video/Movies, Shopping/Retail, Dining/Restaurant, Sports.
After weeks of speculation, Verizon Wireless has announced it will no longer offer customers unlimited data service plans, but will instead introduce service tiers at varied price points.
Verizon joins AT&T and T-Mobile in offering tiered service models. Sprint Nextel remains as the only major carrier to offer an unlimited data plan.
Verizon’s current unlimited data model is $30 on most plans. Moving forward, customers will get a maximum of 2GB/month for that price. Customers who use up to 10GB will pay $80/month.
Customers with an existing unlimited plan will be grandfathered in and will not have to change to a tiered plan, but any change in service will terminate the unlimited data plan.
ETCentric contributor Phil Lelyveld comments: “It will be interesting to see if this becomes a competitive differentiator among services, and whether consumers hit the limits and start caring about limits on their wireless data plans.”
UK researchers led by the University of Exeter have created a prototype 3D printing technology that creates custom objects in chocolate.
Similar to how plastic and metal models are created with 3D printing, the research team hopes that consumers will soon be able to create custom designs on their computers and then “print” the designs in “three dimensional chocolatey form.”
The biggest challenge has been finding a way to successfully manage accurate heating and cooling cycles required to work with the delicate substance.
“By combining developments in engineering with the commercial potential of the digital economy we can see a glimpse into the future of new markets – creating new jobs and, in this case, sweet business opportunities,” explains ESPRC’s chief exec Professor Dave Delpy (ESPRC is managing the project).