Are Holograms Coming to Your Hand-Held Devices?

Are holograms coming to our hand-held devices?

The world’s first ‘nano hologram’ could bring 3D technology to your smartphone

Wired – By: Alexandra Simon-Lewis – “Holograms have been a part of our imagination since the dawn of science fiction. But fiction is now starting to cross over into reality.

A team of scientists from RMIT University and the Beijing Institute of Technology have designed the ‘world’s thinnest’ hologram. It is said the hologram is capable of being integrated into everyday products such as smartphones.

The work was led by RMIT’s Min Gu led the project and claims the holographic technology can be seen without 3D goggles and is 1,000 times thinner than human hair. The academics dubbed the technology a ‘nano hologram’.

At present, the constraints that hold back holographic technology lie in the limits of optical thickness. Regular holograms modulate light to project the illusion of a three-dimensional shape. But this needs to be within the parameters of the optimal thickness limit – computer-generated holograms are too large to fit atop smartphones and therefore have limited practical application.

Now, Min and the team behind the work has developed a 25 nanometer hologram using topological insulator material. It has a lower refractive index on the surface layer, but an ultrahigh refractive index in bulk. This thin insular film can enhance the holographic image without sacrificing its compact design.

Min says that the nano hologram is ‘fabricated using a simple and fast direct laser writing system, which makes our design suitable for large-scale uses and mass manufacture.’

Theoretically, the technology may be able to fit inside smartphones and other devices but there is still work to be done. The next step is to shrink this technology even further, so that it can become suitable for integration upon LCD and smartphone screens, effectively producing a holographic device in your pocket.

The possibilities for portable holograms are appealing for a wide range of industries, Min says. ‘Integrating holography into everyday electronics would make screen size irrelevant – a pop-up 3D hologram can display a wealth of data that doesn’t neatly fit on a phone or watch.

‘From medical diagnostics to education, data storage, defence and cyber security, 3D holography has the potential to transform a range of industries and this research brings that revolution one critical step closer.'”

Is It Time to Buy a New Smartphone?

Should you take the leap and get a new smartphone?

There’s no better time to buy a new smartphone than right now

CNBC – By: Todd Haselton – “If you’re in the market for a new smartphone, there’s no better time than right now to buy one.

Almost every single smartphone maker has its latest flagship out on the market, which means your device isn’t going to be outdated in a week or a month, which is what most people worry about.

It’s a message I want to relay because, while eating lunch this afternoon, I overheard one of my CNBC colleagues speaking about buying a new phone for his daughter, questioning whether or not he should buy one now or closer to the start of the school year. ‘Now!’ I wanted to yell, but I decided against it. Feeling guilty since I continued on with my chicken sandwich instead of offering advice, I decided to write this post. You’re safe buying a new smartphone right now and I recommend doing so.

You’re safe buying a new smartphone right now and I recommend doing so.

‘But what about the iPhone 8, Todd?’ I hear you. Let me explain.

Apple’s new iPhones probably won’t launch until September, although some rumors point to a 4-6 week delay for the most high-end model. That’s four months from now. In the meantime, the selection of great phones has never been better, and the carriers are offering strong incentives.

The selection has never been better

Samsung recently launched its Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, which we praised in our review. There’s also the new LG G6, which we also named one of the best alternatives to the Galaxy S8.

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are still two of the best smartphones you can buy and, since Apple always keeps its devices up to date with the latest software for a few years, they’re still a top pick. They won’t be outdated anytime soon.

If you’re really worried about missing out on the iPhone 8 (or whatever it ends up being called), you can sign up for Apple’s upgrade program and switch to the newest iPhone a year from now, which will only be a few months after the iPhone 8 launches.

Google’s Pixel is another top smartphone choice, and it’s unlikely to be replaced until sometime around October, when Google typically refreshes its smartphones. BlackBerry fans even have a pretty exciting new option with the BlackBerry KeyOne.

Carrier promotions

All the major U.S. carriers have recently launched promotions which are likely to expire at some point. If you’re willing to sign a contract to pay down the cost of your device over time, you can take advantage of various buy-one-get-one deals on phones like the iPhone 7 Plus and even the new Galaxy S8.

A word of warning: You don’t typically walk out of the store with a free phone — rather, the carrier adds a credit to your monthly bill over time. Also, sometimes carriers require you to open a new line, which is why switching carriers can make the most sense if you want to take advantage of the deal.

(Want to free yourself from carriers entirely? Follow my guide on ditching carriers here.)

Just don’t wait too long

You can ignore my advice and wait, too.

Wait too long, though, and suddenly you fall within the zone, which spans most of the year, when any new phone you buy will probably soon be out of date. In addition to the next iPhones, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8, if it exists, will probably launch in September. Then we’ll enter a whole new season of new Android launches until right around next April or May.

So unless you’re an iPhone fanatic who has to have the newest model right when it comes out, now’s the time to buy.”

Amazon Refreshes its Tablet Line-up

Kindle TabletsInexpensive tablets with Amazon features… a win/win?

Amazon hits ‘refresh’ with its tablet lineup

LowellSun.com – By Hayley Tsukayama – “Amazon has cut the price of its Fire HD 8 tablet by $10, with an upgraded model that will be available next month for $80.

The company also announced a new version of the 7-inch Fire tablet, which will keep its $50 price tag. It also introduced two new versions of its tablet for children — a $100 update to its Fire 7 Kids Edition and brand new $130 Fire HD 8 Kids Edition — and a limited promotion that will slice 20 percent off for anyone who buys at least three Fire devices at once.

The price cut comes as Amazon and other manufacturers try to settle on the right price for a tablet. Apple recently dropped the price of its cheapest iPad to $330 — far above what Amazon is offering — in an acknowledgment that people aren’t as eager to update their tablets as they are their smartphones.

Amazon also seems to know that you aren’t sure if you can justify buying a new tablet. It’s trying to make them cheap enough that you might not care.

Tablets have become a tricky product for many gadget-makers to address, as enthusiasm for the devices continues to cool. In an industry obsessed with growth, tablets have been a particularly dark spot, with analysis firm IDC recently reporting that sales of tablets are currently down 8.5 percent from the same time in 2016.

Tablets saw incredible growth between 2010 and 2013, filling the need for a device as portable as a smartphone but still a bit more powerful. But now, large-screened smartphones and a surge in sales of detachable laptops — essentially, tablets with a keyboard — are growing and have many of the same selling points as tablets.

For consumers looking for something on which they can watch video, shop or peruse comfortably while watching television, there are now more versatile options.
Shipments of Amazon tablets, IDC said, are currently down 8 percent from the same time last year.

So why bother? Gadgets are valuable to Amazon, because they make it much easier for people to buy things from the company. Independent analysts estimate that Kindle tablet and e-reader owners spend far more than non-Kindle owners on Amazon.com — up to 30 percent more, according to a report from the Consumer Intelligence Research Group. (Prime subscribers spend about twice as much.) As a sort of Trojan horse, then, Amazon devices are incredibly effective.

Even with slowing growth, IDC said that Amazon’s strategy of dropping prices to sell its tablets is what’s keeping it in the fight for the top-selling tablet manufacturers in the world.

“Regardless of the changing industry dynamics . . . Amazon seems poised to remain a competitor given its market strategy,” IDC analysts said in the report.

Tablets also give company a way to get its newest software in front of consumers. Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant, is available on both the new, cheaper high-end tablet and Amazon’s low-cost Fire. The Fire 7 also boasts a thinner and lighter design, eight hours of battery life and improved WiFi connectivity. It starts with 8 GB of storage that can be expanded to 256 GB with an SD card; there is also a 16 GB model. The Fire 8 HD has 12 hours of battery life and either 16 GB or 32 GB of storage that can also be expanded to 256 GB.

The children’s tablets do not have Alexa but both come with a year’s subscription to Amazon’s parental control software, FreeTime Unlimited. The smaller tablet has 16 GB of expandable storage and 8 hours of battery life. The Fire HD 8 Kids Edition has 32 GB of expandable storage and promises 12 hours of battery life.

The new tablets will ship June 7, Amazon said. The company did not say how long the 20 percent promotion would last.”

The Google Pixel and Pixel XL

(Reposted from the Dr. Bill.TV Site)

Pixel and Pixel XL review: What happens when Google designs phones?

Engadget – By: Chris Velazco
– “Google’s fascination with hardware stretches back years. Remember the early days of Android and the G1? The rise of the Nexus line? Those ill-fated Android@Home lightbulbs and those beautiful Chromebooks? It took Google a while, but that fascination turned into a sort of experimental hobby, and now into something far more serious. Software is Google’s art, and the company has been working for a long time to craft the right canvases.

That’s where the new Pixel and Pixel XL come in.

Google has more control over the development — and destiny — of these two smartphones than it ever had with any Nexus phone. It’s not surprising, then, that the company has turned to close friends to help chart this new course. Former Motorola Mobility CEO Rick Osterloh is back at Google heading up hardware after the search giant sold his company to Lenovo. HTC, which most recently worked with Google on the Nexus 9 tablet, is handling the Pixel phones’ production and assembly. There’s a palpable sense that Google wanted to round up its A-team for this project.

It shows. These Pixel phones are a culmination on Google’s part of years’ worth of experimenting with hardware, and they’re unsurprisingly great.

Pros
Excellent build quality
Fantastic camera
Smooth performance

Cons
Expensive
Yawn-inducing design
Less water-resistant than rivals

Summary

After years of experimenting with Nexus devices, Google finally decided it wanted to make a phone of its own. HTC might be assembling the phones, but Google designed and developed the Pixel from end-to-end. In doing so, it crafted a truly great smartphone that sadly looks a little dull. Still, the inclusion of a speedy new Snapdragon 821 chipset and a fantastic camera make the smaller Pixel a device to be reckoned with. Now, if only it were a little cheaper.”

Open Source Sirius Takes on Siri!

Move over Siri! Now, there’s an Open Source alternative for Linux users!

Meet Sirius, the open-source Siri clone that runs on Ubuntu

PC World – By: Chris Hoffman – “Sirius is an open-source virtual assistant, a bit like Apple’s Siri (pictured above), Google’s Google Now, or Microsoft’s Cortana. But unlike those well-known helpers—and like Linux itself—Sirius is an open platform anyone can use and contribute to, from universities to startups. It’s currently being tested on Ubuntu, and you can download and install it on your own Linux PC today… if you’re particularly adventurous.

How it works
Sirius includes speech recognition, image recognition, and text recognition components. Ask it a question, and Sirius will analyze the meaning of the words, then extract the relevant knowledge from Wikipedia.

One big feature Sirius offers is the image recognition integration. For example, you could take a photo of the Eiffel Tower and ask ‘when was this built?’ Sirius would analyze the image, determine it was the Eiffel Tower, and then go find out when the Eiffel Tower was built. The big commercial assistant programs don’t yet offer a similar feature. This University of Michigan video provides a good introduction.

Organizations like Google, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) are funding this project, but don’t expect Google to replace Google Now any time soon. Instead, it’s being developed by researchers at the University of Michigan’s Clarity Lab, and technologies from it may one day make it into the commercial virtual assistants.

But Sirius isn’t just a dry research project—it’s actual software you can download and run today.

Get the code
This project is licensed under the BSD license and hosted on GitHub, so anyone can contribute and play with the code. You’ll also find a ‘Sirius Suite’ download package, which you should use if you want to install this stuff on your own Linux PC.

sirius interface from video
This isn’t a piece of ready-made consumer software, so getting it on your own PC involves compiling the code from source. Sirius is built from many other open-source projects, including Carnegie Mellon University’s Sphinx for recognizing speech and UC Berkeley’s Caffe deep learning framework software. For image recognition, it uses OpenCV’s SURF. To answer all your questions, Sirius uses Carnegie Mellon’s OpenEphyra software. All of these bits of software are included in the Sirius Suite package.

Linux desktop environments and distributions could one day integrate this software with a pretty graphical interface, providing their own alternative to Siri, Google Now, and Cortana.

Yes, you could use this stuff on your own Linux PC today and impress your friends. Cortana integration is still in development in Windows 10, and Apple hasn’t made any moves to add Siri to Mac OS X. Currently, the best you can do on Windows and Mac OS X—and yes, Linux too—is use Google Now in Google Chrome.

But Sirius isn’t just a cool little open-source program to install. It’s a long-term vision for ‘the Linux of virtual assistants,’ an open project anyone can improve and use for their own needs. That’s something worth supporting—and something worth looking forward to.”

“On Body Detection” for Android Phones

This would be cool, I don’t like having to remember to lock my phone!

New “On-Body Detection” Smart Lock Mode In Android Seems To Be Hitting Some Devices

Android Police – By: David Ruddock – “Google is currently rolling out a new smart lock mode called on-body detection. The feature, described in the screens below, uses your accelerometer to figure out when your device is in your hand or pocket, and lock when it’s not. The idea being if you leave your phone sitting on a table or forget it somewhere, it will lock, preventing would-be thieves from easily accessing your data.

Once you unlock your phone, it will stay unlocked while you’re holding it or it’s in your pocket. Once you set it down, it will lock again. Picking it back up requires you to manually unlock it (assuming you’re not using another trusted authenticator factor). If you hand the phone to someone else while it’s unlocked, it will not lock – the feature isn’t able to recognize that you specifically are holding the phone. It just knows when the phone is being held / pocketed and when it isn’t.

The device the feature was noticed on was a Nexus 4 still running Android 5.0.1, but we’re now seeing it on many devices including most Nexuses. This doesn’t seem to be a feature related to Android 5.1, but you probably need 5.0+ for it to work. We do know our tipster has the most recent version of Play Services (we tried with the same version on our Nexuses, and no dice), and we know trusted places is enabled by Google Play Services, so it seems likely this on-body detection mode is probably activated similarly, and isn’t part of the core OS.

This appears to be Google slowly launching a new feature with a small rollout to begin with, so don’t worry if you’re not seeing it yet – we’ve got multiple confirmations it’s out there.

Let us know if you’re seeing this on your devices running the most recent (7.0.97) Play Services – we’ve got confirmation that it’s showing up on non-Nexus hardware running 5.0+ as well.”

GCW-Zero – A Kickstarter Hand Held Gaming Platform

Lon Seidman has a good review of this interesting device:

They say of themselves:

“We live in a technological era where it is possible to place powerful gaming hardware that exceeds yesterday’s PCs in the palm of your hand. Tablets and smart phones are just one example of this. Their touch screens have already revolutionized casual, portable gaming. However, many gamers would agree that they are in their true natural habitat when in direct control of that experience with physical buttons and a real d-pad or authentic analog control. The world just needed these two ideas combined into one package for the gaming community.

We are developing the Game Consoles Worldwide (GCW) Zero, a handheld console built around the Ingenic JZ4770 1 GHz MIPS processor. It is powerful enough to run classic PC games, emulate the game consoles we grew up with and run homebrew games seamlessly at high frame rates.

We here at Game Consoles Worldwide believe that a company should not just capitalize and consumers should be allowed to do more than consume. Too many devices today are walled gardens, designed solely for consumption. Not ours! The GCW Zero gives you full control of your handheld. Install any application you want to run, change the operating system in any way you want. We won’t fight you; in fact we’ll encourage you.”

Their Kickstarter page goes into more detail:

The GCW-Zero Kickstarter Campaign

“Handheld Gaming Is Awesome
We live in a technological era where it is possible to place powerful gaming hardware that exceeds yesterday’s PCs in the palm of your hand. Tablets and smart phones are just one example of this. Their touch screens have already revolutionized casual, portable gaming. However, many gamers would agree that they are in their true natural habitat when in direct control of that experience with physical buttons and a real d-pad or authentic analog control. The world just needed these two ideas combined into one package for the gaming community.

We are developing the GCW Zero, a handheld console built around the Ingenic JZ4770 1 GHz MIPS processor. It is powerful enough to run classic PC games, emulate the game consoles we grew up with and run homebrew games seamlessly at high frame rates.

Open Source Software Is Awesome

We here at Game Consoles Worldwide believe that a company should not just capitalize and consumers should be allowed to do more than consume. Too many devices today are walled gardens, designed solely for consumption. Not ours! The GCW Zero gives you full control of your handheld. Install any application you want to run, change the operating system in any way you want. We won’t fight you; in fact we’ll encourage you.

Because the Zero runs Linux, a huge library of excellent, free, open source software can run on it. Our core development team is hard at work porting popular applications to provide a strong launch day lineup and we’re sure many more will follow from us and from our community.

Developers Are Awesome

We are committed to working with the open source and homebrew communities. Have an idea for the Zero? We want to help. Port your favorite game, or write your own homebrew title! How about media software? Streaming? Turn it into a server? Your ideas and creativity excite us and we want to help develop the Zero into a full-spectrum device.

The Zero’s operating system is OpenDingux, a Linux distribution which is designed to be developer friendly with SSH login, SFTP file transfer and a debugger with profiling tools already included. Both the distribution and the SDK are kept up-to-date; for example we are currently using Linux 3.7 and GCC 4.7.2.”

At about $150.00 per device, this thing looks VERY interesting!

Hand Held Device Gaming Outstrips Console Usage

It seems having our phones handy all day, every day, means we are playing more games there, than at home on consoles!

Smartphone, Tablet Gaming Far Outpaces Handheld Console Games

24/7 Wall Street – By: Paul Ausick – “At the end of 2014, the installed base of smartphones worldwide was about 2.2 billion. There are, in addition, more than 600 million tablets in consumers’ hands as well. More than a third of that total of more than 2.8 million portable devices are used for gaming: more than a billion in fact.

The installed base for Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Android-based devices is nearly 75% of the total worldwide installed base of smartphones and tablets. Android’s share of the market rose by 5.2 points in 2014, compared with a decline of 2.3 points for iOS devices from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and a decline of 2.8% from other platforms, such as Windows and BlackBerry.

The data come from IDC and App Annie in a new report on portable gaming. The number of smartphones and tablets in use worldwide far outnumbers the 175 million portable gaming devices in use. And the worse news for Nintendo and Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) is that full game software shipments and sales volumes in the fourth quarter of 2014 were down 5% year-over-year, and the installed number of devices fell by 10 million worldwide. IDC and App Annie attribute that to decreased demand for the Nintendo DS and DSi players.

Games accounted for 30% of all fourth-quarter downloads from Apple’s App Store and about 40% of all downloads from Google Play. As the chart below shows, App Store game revenue grew by more than 30% and Google Play game revenue grew by 75% year-over-year in the fourth quarter. Handheld game console software rose by just 5% for the year, and all of that came in the holiday season.

The top-selling game at the App Store was Clash of Clans, followed by Puzzle & Dragons and Candy Crush Saga. The top three sellers at Google Play were Puzzle & Dragons, Clash of Clans and Monster Strike. Worldwide the top grossing games for the year are Clash of Clans, Candy Crush Saga and Puzzle & Dragons.

Other highlights from the IDC/App Annie report:

  • Game spending on both iOS and Google Play exceeded that of handheld game consoles in the fourth quarter of 2014.
  • More than 80% of combined iOS and Google Play consumer app spending in the quarter came from games.
  • iOS generated about 1.9 times more revenues than Google Play games.”

Palm is Being Brought Back!?!

Palm PilotWhat? I don’t think so!

Palm is being brought back from the dead

Variety – By: Marc Graser – “Chinese electronics maker TCL, which spent considerable coin to rename Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, has acquired the rights to revive the once-dominant maker of digital personal organizers.

TCL said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week that it will re-create Palm in Silicon Valley, after having purchased the brand’s assets from Hewlett-Packard late last year. HP had paid $1.2 billion to purchase Palm in 2010, but sold off the company’s webOS operating system to LG in 2013, leaving TCL with little other than nostalgia to work with.

‘Palm has always carried a lot of affect and emotions,’ TCL said in a statement. ‘That’s why TCL has set the direction to rebuild the brand involving Palm’s very own community, making it the largest scale crowd-sourced project ever seen in the industry.’

The company will set up a new Palm Inc. in Silicon Valley. It also will back the development of new Palm products with 5,000 engineers and seven research and development centers around the world.

TCL, which is a substantial producer of electronics in China, with its line of TVs and mobile devices, is still relatively unknown in the U.S., although it’s looking to change that through high-profile placements in movies like ‘Iron Man III,’ and naming-rights deals like the one in Hollywood.

It also owns the Alcatel OneTouch brand through which it produces lower priced smartphones Stateside. The new Palm products are likely to become the company’s more high-end line of mobile devices.

Palm was founded in 1992 and had various owners, including US Robotics and 3Com. Its devices essentially established the handheld market, especially among business execs, with the Treo and Pilot, and opened the door for rivals like BlackBerry to step in and take over.

Palm isn’t the only mobile brand trying to make a comeback.

Lenovo is trying to breathe new life into Motorola after buying it last year, with three new smartphones it will launch in China this year. The new Moto X rolls out in February.”

Android “Lollipop” Disk Encryption Causes Serious Performance Issues!

(Cross-posted from Dr. Bill.TV) If you recently upgraded your Android device to Android 5.0, known as the “Lollipop” version, you may be experiencing some strange performance issues after the upgrade if you enable encryption. It appears that the problem is caused by disk encryption of the Android device which can be turned off in the new Nexus devices. It is a “feature” and not a bug! However, users are very upset by the performance hit that this new feature causes. In testing a Motorola Nexus 6 that didn’t have encryption enabled (which is not the way it normally comes) testers at AnanTech discovered that it was, in fact, the disk encryption in the Nexus 6 that slows down the read-write disk speeds… and, unfortunately, you can’t turn it off once enabled.

During tests with a Nexus 6 running without encryption, and another one with it enabled, they saw as much is a 63% decline in read performance and a 50% decline in write performance in the device with encryption enabled. If your math impaired, in terms of understanding those numbers, that’s a big deal!

Now, if you want to turn off your disk encryption in order to see at a performance improvement; you can’t on the Nexus 6 or Nexus 9, at least not at this time.

The geeky folks over at XGA are tinkering with a new boot.img image that will disable the forced encryption, but this is annoying fix for a problem that Google should have already provided a workaround for. We should not have to rely on some hackers to fix their problem!

One would hope that Google will respond to this and give users a way to encrypt their phones and restore performance to reasonable levels!