Smartwatches, Fitness Bands Still Dominate Wearables Sector

At last year’s CES, wearables were a viable category but had lost a bit of the luster of previous years, as consumers were deluged with competing fitness bands, smartwatches and even smart fabrics and jewelry. Although many of the entrants were intriguing, nothing popped out as revealing the path forward. CES 2018 promises to be similar, with some notable exceptions. Shipments in the wearables market are at an all-time high, but few manufacturers think wearables will have a significant impact on their bottom line in 2018. Continue reading Smartwatches, Fitness Bands Still Dominate Wearables Sector

Google to Acquire Part of HTC Mobile Division for $1.1 Billion

Google will spend $1.1 billion to purchase part of HTC’s smartphone operations. The Internet giant plans to use HTC’s engineering and design teams to help ramp up its nascent hardware efforts to complement its expanding portfolio of software products and grow its revenue beyond Android and search ads. The deal, which is expected to bring about 2,000 HTC employees to Google, also includes a non-exclusive licensing agreement for HTC intellectual property. While HTC has shown growth potential in VR with its Vive headset, its mobile business has been struggling. Continue reading Google to Acquire Part of HTC Mobile Division for $1.1 Billion

VR Industry Forum Draft Guidelines Push for Open Ecosystem

Over the weekend, the Virtual Reality Industry Forum (VRIF) released its draft VR and 360 video production and distribution guidelines at IBC 2017 in Amsterdam. The draft document begins with an intro section suggesting best practices for VR/360 production, including experiences with three degrees of freedom (3DOF). It then makes specific recommendations for the technical aspects of visual and audio VR/360 content production, media and presentation profiles, and content security. VRIF aims to release the full guidelines, with an emphasis on an open ecosystem, at CES 2018 in January. Continue reading VR Industry Forum Draft Guidelines Push for Open Ecosystem

Apple’s Innovative Chips Ready to Lead in AR, AI, Wearables

The new iPhone X offers several new features, but none of them more innovative than the neural engine that is part of Apple’s new A11 Bionic SoC processor. Artificial neural networks, which excel at processing images and speech, are behind the phone’s ability to recognize the user’s face to unlock it, transfer facial expressions onto Animoji (animated emoji), and other, as-of-yet unspecified features. As Apple moves into augmented reality and image recognition, the neural engine will likely be central to these endeavors. Continue reading Apple’s Innovative Chips Ready to Lead in AR, AI, Wearables

Google Debuts Software Tools for AR App, Web Developers

Google just released ARCore, software to enable developers to more easily create augmented reality apps. The company took its first step into augmented reality in 2014, when it introduced Tango, its 3D mapping system. But it had a hard time getting Android phone makers to make the necessary hardware upgrades to foster widespread AR adoption. Google now hopes that, rather than expensive hardware upgrades, developers will be more enticed by its software solution for allowing apps and sites to track physical objects and overlay them with virtual images. Continue reading Google Debuts Software Tools for AR App, Web Developers

Amazon Promotes Alexa With SDK, Revenue for Developers

Amazon is going full bore promoting its virtual assistant Alexa. In an effort to make it available on more devices, the company has debuted the Alexa Voice Service Device SDK toolset, which lets developers integrate a fully functional version to their devices, offering speech recognition and all the other Alexa capabilities such as notifications, weather reports, streaming media and thousands of voice apps. Amazon is providing additional incentive to developers by paying those whose voice apps demonstrate customer engagement. Continue reading Amazon Promotes Alexa With SDK, Revenue for Developers

Nokia Phone Features Zeiss Optics, 360 Video, Spatial Audio

The once-popular Finnish smartphone manufacturer Nokia, now under the aegis of HMD Global, is introducing a new mobile device. With its Android-based Nokia 8, the company hopes to compete with the iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S8. HMD Global, led by former Nokia employees and funded by private equity, bought Nokia’s phone tech from Microsoft, which purchased it in 2013. The flagship phone, encased in polished aluminum, is 7.9-mm thick and features a high-resolution 5.3-inch screen, 4K video recording, Carl Zeiss optics and spatial audio emanating from its 360-degree camera. Continue reading Nokia Phone Features Zeiss Optics, 360 Video, Spatial Audio

Andy Rubin’s Company Unveils New Phone, Digital Assistant

Android operating system co-creator Andy Rubin has introduced his Essential Phone that he says can be dropped onto concrete without breaking. The new smartphone, which will run on Android software, has magnetic connectors for a 360-degree camera or charger. Priced at $699 and available only in the U.S., Essential Phone will come without preinstalled apps or a need for yearly updates. Rubin also unveiled Essential Home, a voice-activated device that controls appliances. Both products are part of Rubin’s Playground Global incubator. Continue reading Andy Rubin’s Company Unveils New Phone, Digital Assistant

Apple iPhone Sales Dip While Apple Pay, Apple Watch Soar

In the latest quarter, Apple’s profit and revenue have ticked upward, but the company is experiencing problems with its iPhone, whose sales dropped 1 percent from the previous year to 50.8 million phones. The dip in sales is attributed to customers waiting for the 10-year anniversary phone, due in the fall, and weakness in China. Despite the slump, sales of the iPhone 7 were somewhat strong, pushing total revenue up 4.6 percent to $52.90 billion. In contrast to the iPhone, Apple Pay transactions and Apple Watch sales soared. Continue reading Apple iPhone Sales Dip While Apple Pay, Apple Watch Soar

The Rise of Specialized Computing and New Era of Chip Design

Moore’s Law, which states that the number of transistors in a chip doubles approximately every two years, is sputtering to an end. As a result, an increasing number of companies are relying on specialized computing, which transforms software tasks into silicon chips rather than relying on CPUs. This key technology is behind two recent developments: Intel’s acquisition of Israeli startup Mobileye, which produces chips and software for autonomous vehicles, and Nvidia’s latest iteration of a system to speed up machine learning. Continue reading The Rise of Specialized Computing and New Era of Chip Design

Oppo Reinvents Zoom Technology for Mobile Phone Cameras

Chinese smartphone maker Oppo has created a new tech called 5X that it claims radically improves zoomed-in photos recorded from smartphone cameras. The dual camera system was inspired by submarine periscopes; it diverts light through a custom prism onto an angled telephoto lens that subsequently provides more light and clarity to objects positioned in the frame from a distance. Zoomed images are also usually more sensitive to camera movement, so Oppo included an optical stabilization system. The company demoed its prototype at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Continue reading Oppo Reinvents Zoom Technology for Mobile Phone Cameras

Google Takes On Siri, Opens its Assistant to Android Partners

Google is making Assistant available to all its Android partners, in an effort to entice more Apple iPhone customers. Introduced five months ago, Google Assistant, which answers questions, plays music and completes tasks, is showcased in a closer partnership with LG Electronics, announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Up until now, Google’s Pixel smartphone, which was introduced in October, has been the only handset with Assistant. Apple’s iPhone will have its tenth anniversary this year. Continue reading Google Takes On Siri, Opens its Assistant to Android Partners

China’s Phone Makers Dominate Fast-Growing Market in India

In the last few months, Chinese smartphone brands have begun to dominate sales in India, the world’s fastest growing phone market. Led by Vivo, Chinese phones represented four of the top five phones there in Q4 2016, according to a report by Counterpoint Research, which noted that the move demoted former top-of-the-list Indian phones Micromax and Intex. Samsung is the smartphone manufacturer with the most to lose. Although its phones are still No. 1 in India, its share of sales nationwide lost 5 percent in the last year, now at 24 percent. Continue reading China’s Phone Makers Dominate Fast-Growing Market in India

Japan Display Plans to Introduce Flexible LCD Screens in 2018

Apple supplier Japan Display Inc. announced it plans to provide flexible LCD panels next year as part of an effort to take on its South Korean competitors. Samsung introduced the angled display for its Galaxy Edge series in 2014 using OLED tech. Rival LCDs were limited due to their glass layer, “which is why the LCD screens on Apple’s iPhone series — some made by Japan Display — are flat,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Japan Display’s new LCD uses plastic instead of glass. While not as flexible as OLED screens, Japan Display’s chief operating officer, Shuji Aruga, said it is flexible enough to be used in Galaxy Edge-type designs.” Continue reading Japan Display Plans to Introduce Flexible LCD Screens in 2018

CES 2017 Keynote Speaker Line-Up Foretells Scope of Show

A look at the line-up of keynote speakers for the upcoming CES 2017 show in Las Vegas confirms the Consumer Technology Association’s expanding worldview and provides a leading indicator of what to expect when the sprawling show opens on January 5. The “night before” keynote, made famous by Bill Gates, is now a coveted timeslot occupied this year by Nvidia co-founder and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, making his first CES keynote presentation. Nvidia’s substantial investment in artificial intelligence along with its well-established achievements in self-driving cars, VR, and gaming are likely topics. Continue reading CES 2017 Keynote Speaker Line-Up Foretells Scope of Show

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