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PAX AU 2014 - Oculus VR is a company I just have to meet at any trade show I go to, with PAX Australia 2014 being no exception. The now Facebook-owned VR startup was showing off four different titles at the show, where we jumped on two them: Alien: Isolation and Superhot.
The crowd at Oculus VR was absolutely huge, and it never slowed down. Other than the League of Legends crowd, Oculus had the biggest crowd.
Alien: Isolation was just the tech demo that was shown off at E3 2014, with Oculus Rift support baked in, but it worked incredibly well for something that wasn't built for the VR headset from the ground up. Superhot is similar, in the way that it wasn't built for the Rift, but worked incredibly well.
Apple will reportedly launch its Apple Watch in spring 2015, which is unfortunately later than originally hoped for by consumers and analysts. However, Angela Ahrendts, Apple Senior VP of Retail and Online Stores, wants Apple Store employees to be prepared for what could be an extremely busy spring.
Here is what Ahrendts said in the voicemail: "You guys were hired because you're the best people in the world. And you know how to service customers. But we're sprinting a marathon right now, and it's not going to stop."
Apple previously said the Apple Watch would ship in early 2015, but never confirmed an exact launch date - however, it was believed Valentine's Day would be too early, with some analysts predicting a May-June launch.
Chinese company Shanda hopes its Geak Watch 2 will win over consumers with at least one week of battery time up to 18 days on a single charge. The smartwatch can switch from a "high definition" color LCD to a "standby" E-Ink display to help conserve energy, which is a rather nice twist on most current battery-busting smartwatches.
The Geak Watch 2 can last up to six days on a single charge and costs $327, while the Geak Watch 2 Pro is $409 and can last up to 18 days in standby mode.
Here is what Ben Wood, CCS Insight spokesperson said: "One of the big challenges that smartwatch manufacturers have had is that people stop using the devices, and one of the reasons they do so is that they have to be charged on a regular basis, whereby they are being taken off constantly. Anything that enhances the battery life is a big win. That's why we've seen people who have Pebble devices typically using them longer than some of the rivals with daily charging requirements."
Microsoft publicly announced its 'Band' wearable, a new health-focused device that contains 10 sensors for accurate tracking of footsteps, heart rate, sleep patterns, and other biometrics. The built-in UV sensor can also track sun exposure, in addition to a galvanic skin sensor able to determine stress levels.
Band also includes a GPS, 3-axis accelerometer/gyro, gyrometer, light sensor, skim temperature sensor and microphone. All collected health data is wirelessly sent to the Microsoft Health app, compatible with Windows Phone, Google Android, and Apple iOS products.
The wearable market is booming at the moment, even with casual consumers still sitting patiently on the sidelines, but analysts expect continued segment growth in the coming years. Microsoft's decision to set initial pricing at $199 should help generate additional interest, as many other devices start at $249, with prices routinely topping $300+.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) don't want movie patrons to have wearbles in the theater with them. Not surprisingly, both trade groups want a zero-tolerance policy that prevents the use of any recording device, even when recording isn't taking place, because of piracy concerns.
"As part of our continued efforts to ensure movies are not recorded in theaters, however, we maintain a zero-tolerance policy toward using any recording device while movies are being shown."
If movie goes do not comply with the new rules, they could be asked to leave the theater - and law enforcement will be notified if suspected piracy is taking place. There is particular concern of Google Glass, but with other wearables featuring video recording ability, all similar devices will also be banned.
Apple and Nike are reportedly developing a new 'stylish' wearable product that will be able to integrate with electronics but still be fashionable. Additional details about the new device weren't disclosed just yet.
"I think it's going to be a big part of the future, absolutely," said Mark Parker, Nike CEO, in a recent interview with Bloomberg TV. "I think the form it takes is critical. You can go from the very geeky kind of wearables today - we've all seen some of those - to what I think you'll see in the future, things that are more stealth, more integrated, more stylish and more functional, yes,"
If true, this makes sense for both companies - along with Nike and Apple supporting large customer groups - Nike will be able to further benefit by teaming up with the technology giant again, ensuring it doesn't need to directly worry about hardware and software development.
Wearable device technology looks more promising than ever, especially for medical health tracking, but it still remains a novelty, according to a report from PwC. Samsung, Apple, and other companies heavily involved in wearable hardware development hope to use health technology as a springboard to reach new consumers.
More than 80 percent of those surveyed believe these devices, however, pose a significant risk to their privacy - and that is an issue that software and hardware developers will have to address. As security breaches continue to increase, while also capturing mainstream media attention, companies are trying to encrypt all wireless data.
It seems consumers would be interested in testing wearables if their primary care physician recommends a product and service for them. However, doctors are largely waiting to see how the industry evolves, though partnerships are being created between tech companies and hospitals.
Microsoft is just a few weeks away from launching a smartwatch, in an effort to join in on a booming consumer business sector, according to a report published by Forbes. The device will be able to track the wearer's heart rate and can be used on multiple mobile platforms, with a battery life of over two days.
It appears Microsoft wants to launch the device in time for the 2014 Christmas holiday shopping season, as the wearable market is expected to dramatically grow. In the past, Microsoft had its Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) technology, but the market has significantly evolved since then. The company wants to promote Windows and other Microsoft products across a wider variety of products, and this could be a good step forward.
The smartwatch market has a number of different appealing models for consumers, including the Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Gear, and products from other companies.
Fitbit will soon launch three new fitness trackers, with the top-of-the-line model being the new Fitbit Surge. Surge will be more than the average wearable, with the company referring to it as a "superwatch".
The new Fitbit Surge should be priced at $249, with the superwatch featuring built-in GPS tracking, PurePulse heart rate monitoring, and the ability of real-time workout data for various activities. The superwatch will provide users with stats on distance, pace, elevation climbed, heart rate intensity, and more. The new Surge will also carry over Fitbit's 24/7 activity tracking, where it'll make sure that you're getting enough sweat generated on your body each day.
Sleep tracking continues over, with the Surge having its, and your stats wirelessly synced over to the Fitbit app. Surge will also have "smart" notifications for phone calls and texts, and you can also control your music playback from Surge, which is a nice touch - pun not intended, but hey it works. Surge will launch in three colors: black, slate, and a colorful tangerine option.
Floating around in space can't be all that fun, and after being up there for days, weeks, or months on end, you'd get pretty bored, right? Well, NASA is looking at solutions to this boredom, where it is looking at creating a VR holodeck, using the Oculus Rift.
Scientists over at the University of Dartmouth's Digital Arts Leadership and Innovation lab (DALI) have been working on this type of software and technology since 2001, where they recently received a grant of $1.6 million from NASA to fund their work. They are now on a mission to create virtual environments and digital therapists to de-stress astronauts in deep space, as well as help manage inter-personal conflicts, if they were to arise.
Dartmouth research professor Lorie Loeb said in a press release that the team was working on multi-sensory experiences, something that included smells and sounds that would "trick the brain and make people feel as if they are in a variety of beautiful and calm settings, such as with their family at home or strolling on the beach". Not only that, but the team is working on digital therapists that would "assess and manage psychosocial problems to prevent them from becoming serious enough to jeopardize a mission".