It looks like one of the bigger rumors for CES 2015, at least for me, is the news of Sony launching its new Xperia Z4 smartphone at the Las Vegas-based event in January 2015.
Sure, the Xperia Z4 will launch with an impressive Snapdragon 805 processor from Qualcomm, a sure-to-be gorgeous 5.4-inch QHD display (which I'll presume is their "Triluminos" panel), Android 5.0 Lollipop, and more than likely, 3GB of RAM will be great - but it's the image sensor in the camera that has me interested. Sony is rumored to be using its next-gen Exmor IMX230 camera sensor, which will have the Z4's camera turning some heads.
The new image sensor works almost like anti-aliasing when it comes to pictures, giving them a much sharper look as if you were using a much more powerful camera. All the other specifications and grunt under the Z4 hood is just gravy, baby.
Tech giant Google is now promoting the Liftware spoon, a custom-designed smart utensil that is able to help people with tremors and Parkin's disease make eating easier. Lift Lab, the smart spoon's manufacturer, was acquired by Google earlier in 2014 - and has now been rolled into the Google X life sciences division.
"We want to help people in their daily lives today and hopefully increase understanding of disease in the long run," said Katelin Jabbari, Google spokesperson.
The spoon is able to analyze how a hand is shaking, and uses hundreds of algorithms to make adjustments to stay balanced. There are more than 10 million people throughout the world that suffer from Parkin's disease and tremors, and the spoon can reportedly reduce shaking by an average 76 percent. The Liftware spoon is available now for $295.
To counter package theft, and make e-commerce shopping and delivery easier, San Francisco Bay Area startup Doorman will deliver packages to customers. The service costs $4 per package, or frequent ecommerce buyers can pay $19 or $29 per month for the silver and gold packages. Deliveries are made from 6:00PM until midnight, currently available only in San Francisco.
"Once it arrives, we notify you on your phone and then you use the Doorman app to schedule a delivery on your phone until midnight, seven days a week," said Zander Adell, Doorman founder.
Doorman is designed to make it more convenient for residents to receive their packages, while also helping prevent against theft. Throughout some parts in the Bay Area, package theft - taken off house porches and from apartment doorsteps - as thieves tend to take packages while people are away from their house in the afternoon.
Many cybersecurity specialists working for the NSA and GCHQ tend to get burned out, and then head to the private sector. It provides a unique opportunity to hear more about some of the efforts the US government have employed to conduct organized cyberespionage against foreign governments.
For regular Internet users, it doesn't matter whether it's the government or a foreign cybercriminal, cybersecurity must be appreciated and not overlooked. As former government programmers and security experts abandon their government jobs in favor of the private sector, companies want to rely on technology advice from intelligence officials - providing valuable insight into how governments are conducting increased surveillance.
"Whether they're cybercriminals or state sponsored actors, I think a lot of times they can get into a network using a less sophisticated approach or a variant of a known piece of malware... it's a lower risk operationally for them," said Jim Penrose, former NSA employee and part of the department's Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group. "They don't want to fire silver bullets unless it's absolutely necessary; like a zero day or something like that, or a previously unseen piece of malware. Those are really high quality and you want to save those for a time when it's absolutely critical."
Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi has enjoyed a meteoric rise to become the No. 3 smartphone company in the world - but don't expect it to jump into new markets just for the sake of expansion. Xiaomi is focusing on China, India and Indonesia, for example, while Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Turkey and Thailand will have to wait until later down the road.
"We have to build better and better products making sure they're catered to each market and sold at the best possible price," said Hugo Barra, Xiaomi VP of global operations.
As Xiaomi continues to grow, the company will likely need its own manufacturing plants - and lessen the burden on its partners. However, it appears Xiaomi management is prepared to have new markets wait as it is able to establish itself further - showing impressive logic that other companies don't necessarily appreciate until it's too late.
NASA is doing some cool things on-board the International Space Station, with the US space agency taking up a 3D printer and printing out some cool faceplate.
The experiment has revealed to NASA that parts stick to the print tray much more in space and its microgravity, than they do on Earth. It's possible that plastic layers bond differently in zero-gravity, than they do here on Earth. More 3D-printed objects will be printed, but they won't be coming back down to Earth until next year.
Amazon is trialling a new marketplace for service providers, something it calls Selling Services, which wants to hook buyers up with professionals who can install, or perform services.
This will have shoppers buying a product that requires installation, like a wall-mounted TV, after which they'll be offered the opportunity to look at an approved list of local service providers. If you do find an installer that can do what you require, click the Add the Cart button and it'll be included with your purchase. The Amazon-approved installer will be covered by a money-back guarantee, with the e-commerce giant running a business background check for any and all service providers, and personal background checks on technicians.
Amazon will take 20% of the service fee on jobs worth up to $1000, while jobs over $1000 will see Amazon taking 15%. Background checks will cost $50 per business, and $40 per participating employee. Amazon is trialling Selling Services in over a dozen cities and surrounding areas across the United States.
Last week we reported on Thimbleweed Park, the "true spiritual successor" to the super-awesome Maniac Mansion, which hit Kickstarter with a funding goal of $375,000. Well, one week later, it has been met, and isn't stopping.
At the time of writing, they had $407,384 raised, with 22 days to go. If funding keeps up at this pace, they'll have a couple of million dollars to play with. Stretch Goals are now within reach, with $525,000 unlocking an iOS and Android version of the game. If the team reaches $625,000 they will provide "Talkies" with the team explaining "considered witchcraft and a fantasy of crazy people back in 1987, we'll be adding full voice acting to the English version of Thimbleweed Park. Hmmm... that's good thespian".
It'll be interesting to see backers flying past that $625,000 stretch goal soon, and even more interesting if we see new stretch goals introduced, or additional funding on their website ala Star Citizen.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection has launched with its fair share of problems, which doesn't seem to be any different to all the other games launching in the last month, with developer 343 Industries pledging to make it right.
After two weeks of multiplayer matchmaking problems, 343 Industries boss Bonnie Ross took to a letter to fans, writing: "On November 11 we released Halo: The Master Chief Collection. The goal being to create a tribute to Halo fans around the world, and to celebrate the Master Chief's debut on Xbox One. With the initial release of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, however, we have not delivered the experience you deserve. I personally apologize for this on behalf of us all at 343 Industries. Our team is committed to working around the clock until these issues are resolved".
"While our team works on continual improvements and towards solutions, my commitment to you is that we will take care of all owners of Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Our primary and continued focus is first on fixing the issues at hand. Once we've done that, we will detail how we will make this right with our fans," she continued. She closed her letter with: "Please accept my heartfelt apologies for the delay and for the negative aspects of your experience to date. We're doing everything in our power to resolve it as quickly as possible".
Self proclaimed as "Australia's Largest Retailer", Kogan is well known amongst tech savvy Aussie locals as providing a cheaper alternative for devices such as TV's, monitors and camera hardware. However, in latest news they've just released a Windows 8.1 operational laptop for just $329 AUD with decent specifications.
Named the Kogan Atlas X1510 Laptop, this $329 bargain will be released to the public on December the 15th - said to be just in time for Christmas. Based around an Intel N3540 quad-core processor running at 2.16GHz, it comes coupled with 4GB or DDR3L RAM and a 500GB HDD. The display comes in the form of a 15.6-inch screen displaying at 1366 x 768 pixels and sees the device measure at a total of 274mm long, 259mm deep and 2.1kg in weight. Although well-priced, it's not a particularly small object, but it does offer the user a reported 9.5 hours of battery life.
Connectivity is fairly standard on this device, offering up a HDMI port, VGA capabilities, one Gigabit Ethernet port, one USB 3.0 port, three USB 2.0 ports, a headphone and separate microphone port, full-sized SD card reader and provides you with the ability to connect through 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. Reportedly being released with a $15 discount for Office 365, this laptop looks good so far - we're interested to see what the build quality, feel and actual operation are like however.