Tuesday, 21 May 2013
Microsoft have just announced their new Xbox console: the Xbox One.
Designed to be central to your living room, the Xbox One will bring with it a host of features that intend on making it the ultimate of all-on-one entertainment and gaming system.
To quote from Microsoft's press release:
"New Xbox One hardware is sleek and modern and complements any décor. The console is shaped in the 16:9 aspect ratio and employs a horizontal orientation optimized for its high-speed Blu-ray™ disc player. It is molded in a deep and rich liquid black color and includes a distinctive beveled edge.
The completely redesigned, revolutionary 1080p Kinect is more precise, more responsive and more intuitive. Its unparalleled vision, motion and voice technology let you reach into games and entertainment like never before by dramatically expanding its field of view and fidelity. It works in nearly any lighting condition, recognizes precise motion control from a slight wrist rotation, and distinguishes your voice even in a noisy room using advanced noise isolation.
The class-leading Xbox controller is refreshed with more than 40 technical and design innovations. Updated directional pad, thumb stick and ergonomic fit immerse all gamers in ways that are uniquely Xbox, and precision and control have been dramatically increased with all new vibrating impulse triggers. The Xbox One Wireless Controller is designed to work in concert with the new Kinect, allowing the two to be paired automatically to create seamless player syncing."
In the same announcement, Microsoft announced updates and new features in Xbox Live, including SmartMatch, in-game DVR functionality, the ability to play against "ghost" Xbox Live friends and more. They also announced new content, games and titles - such as a Halo TV tie-in produced by Steven Speilberg, a host of new games including Forza Motorsport 5 and Call of Duty: Ghosts.
No release date has been given yet - but we were promised that the new Xbox will be available "later this year".
You can visit the new Xbox Wire blog at http://news.xbox.com for in-depth features on the new system, including photos and videos from the unveiling event and new and rotating content from Xbox. More details about Xbox One and blockbuster games will be explored at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June, and we will continue to bring you more news and updates when they are provided.
More pictures: (click to enlarge)
Aside from the new appearance, the biggest changes are huge increases in storage capacity for free users, and the (rumored) first steps toward sunsetting its paid user (Pro) accounts. Mashable have a great summary up of the changes.
From today, free Flickr users will have access to up to a terabyte of storage, individual image size limits increased to 200MB, and the ability to upload full HD videos up to 1GB or 3 minutes long.
And what of the Pro users? They still have unlimited storage, access to viewed stats on their photos, and will enjoy an ad-free experience as long as their membership continues to be renewed.
But there are a few oddities leading to the rumors of the end of Pro:
- Pro users are still capped at 50MB image sizes, and 500MB videos; the only way to get the new, increased file sizes is to convert to a free account.
- You can no longer purchase a Pro account, they stopped being sold in March 2013. Your two upgrade options now are to pay US $49.99 (twice what a pro-account used to cost) per year for an ad-free Flickr, and/or US $499.99 for an additional 1TB of storage.
- There doesn't seem to be any way for free users to purchase the ability to see viewed stats on their photos; one of the biggest draws for professional photographers, and those who'd come to rely on Flickr for promotion (rather than personal sharing).
But if I had a puppy and was keen to maintain him in tiptop condition then I would definitely consider one of these. It would also be an interesting way of keeping track of your pooch when he's in kennels or has a dog sitter.
See, it's not such a bonkers idea now!
Following our theme of backing some of the more "homegrown" Kickstarter campaigns (see here), we now would like to bring your attention to another UK-based and gadget-related campaign: The iBeacon.
The iBeacon aims to solve one of life's most frustrating occurrences: missed calls. We've all been there: you hear something that sounds vaguely familiar but it's too quiet so you pause a second to hear more closely. Then it hits you - it's your phone! Unfortunately your phone is down in the bottom of your bag, and no matter how fast you search for it amongst your other belongings, there's always the same outcome: it goes to voicemail before you get a chance to answer.
Either that or you don't hear it at all, and when you finally stop for a break to check your phone you find 10 missed calls and 20 text messages asking why you aren't answering.
The iBeacon is a small beacon that clips onto your bag and alerts you via a speaker and flashing light to activity on your phone. And thanks to the bright red fabric cable that connects the iBeacon to your phone's headphone jack socket, it even helps you locate your phone within your bag quickly so you don't miss that all important call.
We really like the iBeacon and think it is a nifty little device, plus we think it is worth backing just for the great packaging that it comes in. It's a simple yet effective solution, which is a welcome change in a world that is becoming more and more complicated.
If you would like to get your hands on one, or are just interested in helping to get the iBeacon into production, then you can pledge money in the usual way via their Kickstarter campaign page. A nominal pledge of just £14 will get you on the early-bird package, and will let you choose between a white or a black iBeacon.
To find out more about the iBeacon, then visit the campaign page, or contact them directly via their twitter account, @iBeacon1.
Monday, 20 May 2013
Oh, who doesn’t love LEGO? In fact, if you don’t you are probably on the wrong website! Here we feature some of the LEGO Technic range, which we think is an ideal Fathers Day present. In fact, most of you would probably just end up buying it for yourselves. I know I probably will! In fact, forget everything, just go to the following link and watch some of the videos to know what I am talking about:
In true LEGO fashion, these machines pack in gears, pneumatics and electric motors, allowing you to build a whole garage full of your own vehicles. They even provide options for sea and air, so nothing should get in your way!
The range includes Off Road Racer, Race Car, Hover Craft, and many others, as detailed by the press release below. Starting at only £14.99, it is silly not to stock up on these.
Build a mean machine with the latest vehicles from LEGO® TECHNIC!
In 2013 LEGO® TECHNIC brings you a brand new range of action packed vehicles!
Combining creative construction with gears, pneumatics and electric motors, TECHNIC gives you the chance to own a whole garage full of your favourite, fully functioning automotive aspirations! Whether land, sea or air, there’s a vehicle from LEGO® TECHNIC to take on the challenge.
Master the road with the all new, super cool, pull back action vehicles – perfect for those new to TECHNIC - the tough Off-road Racer and the sleek Race Car will get you set for an adrenaline fuelled journey!
42010 – Off-road Racer RRP £14.99
The rugged Off-Road Racer is the perfect introduction to the exciting world of LEGO® TECHNIC building. This realistic model features easy-to-follow instructions, cool, colourful styling and a pull-back motor – just pull back, release and watch it fly! Have hours of fun racing your friends! Combine your model with the 42011 Race Car for a super-fast Dragster!
42011 – Race Car RRP £14.99
The super-fast, super-sleek, super-cool Race Car is the perfect introduction to the exciting world of LEGO® TECHNIC. This realistic 2-in-1 street racer features easy-to-follow instructions, colourful styling and a unique motor – just pull back, release and watch it fly! Have hours of fun racing to the finish line! For an even more action-packed play experience, combine your model with the 42010 Off-Road Racer for a super-fast Dragster.
42002 – Hovercraft RRP £12.99
Race over land, water, mud and ice in the all-new Hovercraft! No terrain is too hostile for this highly realistic LEGO® TECHNIC model, featuring such authentic details as a cool racing design, spinning rotor blades and an engine with real moving pistons! Build action-packed racing at its very best! This 2-in-1 model is ready to take on any outdoor adventure. Rebuilds into a super agile Plane.
42004 – Mini Backhoe Loader RRP £17.99
Make any job easier with the iconic Mini Backhoe Loader! This 2-in-1 LEGO® TECHNIC model features loads of realistic details, like raising/lowering front arm and tipping front bucket, articulated steering raising/lowering/turning backhoe. Construct and create with the 2-in-1 Mini Backhoe Loader that's modelled after the real thing! Rebuilds into a tough Tele-handler.
42007 – Moto Cross Bike RRP £24.99
Tear up the trails on the awesome Moto Cross Bike! This tough-as-dirt LEGO® TECHNIC 2-wheeler has lots of authentic features, like chain-drive, working pistons, front and rear suspension and knobby tires. This cool 2-in-1 model is just like the real thing! Rebuilds into a racing Speedway Motorbike.
42006 – Excavator RRP £49.99
Build the ultra awesome Excavator, a LEGO® TECHNIC construction site staple! This hard-working vehicle features lots of authentic details, including a working four-prong grabber, articulated extending arm, rotating superstructure and moving tracks. Create a model that's like the real thing! Motorize this cool construction vehicle with 8293 LEGO Power Functions Motor Set (sold separately). Rebuilds into a cross-country Tracked Tractor.
The new LEGO TECHNIC range is available from January in all good toy stores. Get ready for the challenge and see what you can do with LEGO TECHNIC!
For more information visit LEGO.com/TECHNIC
Entering the realm of entertainment, XBOX have announced The Music Room, an interactive two part series delivering the latest up and coming artists right to your living room, exclusively on XBOX Live. It will be hosted by Laura Jackson, and hosts a line of exciting new performers.
XBOX Gold members can watch all the action next Wednesday (29th June, 2013), as well as take part in the live polling, which puts the fans in the driving seat.
For more information about Xbox Live Gold, please visit http://www.xbox.com/en-GB/live.
Find out more about the bands here:
• Everything Everything: www.everything-everything.co.uk
• Don Broco: www.donbroco.com
• Swim Deep: www.facebook.com/SWIMDEEPUK
Records are made to be broken, and while not all are exciting, some of them really are. Yesterday, British Explorer Daniel Hughes made the world’s first video call from the top of Mount Everest. This means that the technology works well at about 8500m high above sea, as well as at –35 degrees C.
HTC has been one of the lead sponsors of Daniel’s mission, and it was only fair that he used an HTC ONE to make the video call. Of course, Daniel has already been involved in a lot of other videos such as the highest Harlem Shake, high altitude cooking lessons, as well as various other videos about the turmoil of the climb.
For more details, visit: everestmillion.com
You can see the video below.
Please read the press release below for more details:
EXPLORER COMPLETES INTERACTIVE EVEREST CLIMB WITH WORLD’S HIGHEST VIDEO CALL
20 May 2013: Yesterday, HTC and British explorer Daniel Hughes successfully completed the world’s first video call from the top of Mt. Everest, the culmination of a truly interactive climb. At 8,848m above sea level in -35°C temperatures, Hughes spoke live to the BBC using his HTC One smartphone and the latest mobile satellite technology from Inmarsat.
HTC was one of the lead sponsors for this incredible expedition, which made the scaling of the world’s tallest mountain into an interactive online experience. Hughes has enabled his followers to track his extreme journey through a constant stream of live updates, videos, pictures and a real-time map, making it the most connected climb ever. Throughout his journey, Daniel has shared his updates on the daily trials of harsh weather conditions, sleep deprivation and high altitude, but also created more light-hearted content, including a high-altitude cooking lesson and the world’s highest Harlem Shake.
Followers have been able to get involved remotely through having their names written on Hughes’s tent by following the campaign on Facebook or Twitter.
This interactive climb was enabled by HTC equipment and on-mountain IP broadband access, with Broadband Global Area Network satellite technology provided by Inmarsat. HTC provided Hughes with cutting edge devices to assist and document his mission, including the powerful new HTC One, featuring an Ultrapixel camera, 1080p HD video and features such as HTC ZoeTM.
Hughes, 32, aims to raise one million pounds for Comic Relief after placing the first Red Nose at the top of Everest. The story behind the climb began with a 2010 trip to Bolivia, in which Hughes witnessed extreme poverty in the silver-mining region of Potosí and was inspired to take action to help others. Hughes’ intense training for the trip has taken place over a number of months and has been documented in a series of YouTube videos. To date, preparation has included climbing Mt. McKinley in the USA, the coldest mountain on Earth, as well as Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere.
Talking about the successful expedition and video call, Hughes said: “This project has been two and a half years in the making and it’s hard to put into words how amazing and surreal it is to be speaking to London from the highest point in the world. The support for the expedition has been phenomenal and thanks to the interactive nature of the climb, I really felt like I had everyone behind me.”
Suzi Watson, HTC UK Spokesperson, added: “We’re truly proud to have been part of Daniel’s amazing journey. We pride ourselves on being at the forefront of design and innovation and the HTC One was put to the ultimate test in extreme conditions, where it was able to help Daniel connect to everyone back home – even from the top of the world.”
For more information, and to donate, please visit: www.everestmillion.com
To check 4G coverage in your area, visit https://explore.ee.co.uk/coverage-checker
Sunday, 19 May 2013
However, one thing needs to be remembered, none of the ports are allowed to be open when the phone is being exposed to water. So if you are charging your device, or have the headphones plugged in, those ports can and will let water in.
The phone was given a go in a shower, under a tap, and some other places, and the phone survived. We were also pleasantly surprised at how good the screen responds when wet. It is by no means perfect, and will not be, and let us add, should not be, but it works. So yeah, you can finally take your phone to the bath and read a book on it, play music, and let it set the ambience. And it if drops, you just pick it up, and dry it off.
We also made a short video where we put the phone under a tap to see how it behaves.
If you’d like to know more about the Sony Xperia Z, click the following link:
One of the biggest things that came out of Google I/O 2013 was the new Google Maps. Since they are offering a preview service, we signed up and here is a little hands on tour through what we found and our opinions.
First of all, if you would like to get in on the experience, click on the following link:
The first one was the one quoted during the show, which didn’t work then, but it reroutes to the second one, so you get there anyway, or hey, just click the image below!
Once you go in, you are presented with this screen:
'Your map is your UI’ was the statement they made over and over while presenting this, and this is something you see in the picture above. It seems to always open in ‘map’ mode and gives you a few drop down options that show you your last few searches. As you can see, it is already urging you to explore your area.
The ‘satellite’ mode has now been renamed ‘Earth’, and to see that view, you click on the Earth button in the bottom left corner.
In the bottom right corner, the + and – buttons are for zoom.
The button below helps you ‘Explore’ the area, and clicking on it exposes a bottom bar which shows you highlights of the area you see in your map.
What is cool is if you hover your mouse above one of these, a small line indicates where it exists on the map.
So since we are from Oxford, we put in Oxford and we get the image above.
A little Home shaped symbol actually shows where you live, and that is something this picks up out of Google Now. Some people may not like it, others might.
Now if we click on one of the pictures on the Explore bar, it gives pictures, a 3D street view, or my favourite, a movie, which gives you a 3D tour of the site. For example, while the image is a bit small, clicking on the Christ Church Cathedral gives you an awesome 3D video tour of one of the best parts of Oxford. Obviously hovering above these once again points to where they are on the map.
If you type in ‘Pizza’ now, you will see the following appear:
Note that you also see an AD from Dominoes. This is another feature where they have added different offers from various places in the area you search. This obviously allows you to get the best deals when you do a simple search. Once again, sticking with the Map is your UI statement. You also see an Ad from Pizza Hut, but that doesn’t have an offer.
Clicking on Atomic Pizza gives you the following image:
Hovering above the left top bit, and you get photos, reviews, and other such ratings.
Now, if you notice the Home bit, it shows ‘14 min – Transit’. If you want to calculate Transit or anyway to get there, click on that link.
The ‘Navigation’ bit opens now. It tells you how to get to Atomic Pizza. The options are driving, Transit, walking and cycling. Cycling is quite big in Oxford, so it is a very handy feature to have. The blue bit shows walking/transit combo. While the thick grey line shows the walking option. Clicking on the different icons will give you the option you want.
It should be noted that the ‘flight’ mode is not working for us yet.
As a transit option, it actually gives you all the buses available on that route, and how often they are. Easier than a list of buses to choose from.
Speaking of cycling, if you click on ‘Bicycling’, it even gives you all the related routes that are friendly for cycling in the city.
Now, for some of the other new features they showed off.
If you keep zooming out, you get the ‘Earth’ features in. You can see the whole planet:
Now they say that the clouds you see in the picture are shown in real time. You can see a thick layer of cloud at the bottom of UK, and it is cloudy, so I can only tell you that it seems to work. I guess it could get more interesting as this progresses and puts in more detail.
Zoom out even further, and Earth goes out in space, and you have a day/night view of the planet, with the beautiful sun behind. It doesn’t seem to show as much detail as was evident in the Google I/O, but I think it might just be down to how our monitor shows it. Sadly, you can’t really zoom into this view, as it goes back into older views if you zoom in any further.
So there you go, here is our little run down of the new Google Maps. It is very exciting and interesting, and the new UI features are definitely an improvement over everything we have seen in the past.
YOUR MAP IS YOUR UI!