Acer Announces Social Networking Hot Button for New Laptops

  • 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.

Onkyo Launches THX-Certified 3D Blu-ray Player

  • Onkyo has announced a $599 Blu-ray player with THX certification and 3D capability (available in August).
  • The DLNA 1.5 certified player also handles WMA, MP3 and DivX HD files.
  • The BD-SP809 offers streaming service access through Netflix, VUDU, Blockbuster On Demand and Film Fresh.
  • Network connection is via the Ethernet port since there is no indication of Wi-Fi connectivity.
  • The player offers 1080p upscaling and features two outputs for simultaneously connecting a 3D TV and a 1080p projector.
  • Onkyo may face stiff competition from other 3D Blu-ray players that have Wi-Fi connectivity and expanded access to streaming services such as Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant, Crackle and Pandora.

Zune Subscription Video May be Coming to Xbox, WP7

  • Electronista reports that Microsoft is considering a subscription video service to be branded under the Zune name.
  • The rumored service is expected to be separate from the live Xbox TV service recently announced at June’s E3 Expo.
  • The Zune service may be modeled much like the current pay-per-title store and compete with the likes of Netflix.
  • It would “most likely” offer videos to stream on Windows Phone 7 smartphones and Windows PCs.
  • “Whether or not it would follow the traditional month-to-month plan, integrate with the Zune Pass, or bolt on to an Xbox Live Gold subscription wasn’t as evident.”

Netflix Launches Unlimited DVD Rental Plan

  • 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.

Insiders Say Netflix Not Interested in Acquiring Hulu

  • Netflix is reportedly not among the handful of companies currently considering a purchase of Hulu.
  • Sources “familiar with the matter” indicate Netflix was absent from the first round of bidding presentations that concluded last week.
  • The same sources also suggest that Hulu has no interest in seeing its biggest rival take it over.
  • Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo are reportedly still among the companies interested in the TV streaming service.

Over-the-Top TV: Growing Numbers from Generation Y

  • 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?”

Researchers Create Device that Harvests Energy from Ambient Signals

  • 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.

British Investigators to Use 3D Laser Technology at Crash Sites

  • 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 Demonstrates 360-Degree Real-Time VR System

  • 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.

Virtual Advertising Finds its Way into TV Syndication

  • Virtual advertising is making its way into re-runs.
  • An episode of “How I Met Your Mother” (that originally ran on CBS in March 2007) recently aired in syndication featuring a magazine cover that mentions a new movie, “Zookeeper.”
  • The Kevin James comedy that appears in the four-year-old episode premieres today.
  • The digital ad is an example of “virtual advertising” that inserts messages into video that wasn’t originally there — not a new technology, but perhaps an interesting approach for repurposed content.
  • The article includes links to images before and after the digital insertion.

iPhone Users Lead the Charge in Mobile Gaming

  • 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.

Verizon Wireless Dumps Unlimited Data Service Plan

  • 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.”

Next for 3D Printing Technology: Custom Chocolate

  • 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).

Most Popular Smartphone Platforms: Android, iOS, BlackBerry

  • Google’s Android continues its lead over all other smartphone platforms, according to the latest quarterly report from comScore.
  • However, Apple has overtaken Research In Motion’s BlackBerry for second place among U.S. smartphone software providers.
  • Android grew from 33 percent to 38.1 percent, while Apple grew to 26.6 percent and RIM declined to 24.7 percent.
  • Microsoft and Palm both showed declines as well.
  • In terms of handsets, Samsung currently leads with 24.8 percent of the smartphones in circulation while Motorola remains in second place.

Amazon Announces Cloud Drive and Cloud Player Updates

  • Amazon announced several notable enhancements to its Cloud Drive and Cloud Player service this week.
  • The Cloud Player is finally available for the iPad and has been optimized for Safari (joining existing apps for the Android phone, Android tablet, Mac, and PC).
  • New customers who register for the annual $20/20GB plan will receive unlimited space for music tracks.
  • Cloud Drive users can also store all of their previously Amazon-purchased MP3s for free.

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