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Microsoft wants to push augmented reality to the next level, and hopes it can use its HoloLens headset to win over customers. A recent US patent application indicates Microsoft could try to use HoloLens to help read and respond to wearers' stress levels, based on heart rate, pulse oximetry, sweat production, and other biometric signals.
"A person may experience stress that is related to a situation or current context," according to the Microsoft patent application. "For example, a person may have difficulty performing a task and grow frustrated as the number of unsuccessful attempts at completing the task grows."
There is concern that the biometrics feature could be more trouble than it's worth, depending how Microsoft includes it in HoloLens. However, the idea that the AR headset can identify when a person is struggling to repair their kitchen sink, and then super impose step-by-step instructions, could prove to be helpful.
All eyes are currently on the Apple Watch, but it looks like Samsung could have an answer to the Digital Crown with its upcoming smartwatch dubbed 'Project Orbis'.
Samsung's new smartwatch will reportedly feature a 1.18-inch circular display with a resolution of 360x360 (305PPI), a 2G data connection and Samsung's own Tizen OS. Project Orbis will also include various sensors like GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, heartbeat sensor, pressure sensor and a magnetic sensor.
Project Orbis will have something that stands out however, with a metal bezel that can be turned to navigate throughout its operating system. The rotatable bezel can be used to not just navigate the UI, but adjust the volume, zoom in and out of photos, and much more. Samsung is expected to call Project Orbis the Gear A, which should be unveiled with the Galaxy Note 5 at IFA 2015 in September.
Luxury watch manufacturers already had to deal with slowing sales, largely caused because of the euro, and it looks like the Apple Watch could cause further financial stress.
"That watch business, which was great for the last six years, was slowing down before the [Apple Watch]," said Jan Kniffen, retail consultant, and CEO of J. Rogers Kniffen Worldwide Enterprises, in a statement published by CNBC. "This is the nail in the coffin, the new Apple Watch. I don't think it's taking over the world. But it's a negative to those sellers."
Kniffen also said the true market could be for watches from $300 up to $600, and Apple has two models that fit into the price range.
Virtual reality isn't really even here yet, and while Samsung might have the Gear VR in the retail market, the Oculus Rift is still a development kit with the consumer version arriving in Q1 2016, and HTC and Valve's collaboration on the Vive headset arriving later this year.
This hasn't stopped companies from jumping into the world of VR, with Discovery Digital Networks getting right into the VR world early. Discovery Digital Networks is "the online arm of Discovery Communications" reports AdWeek, where they have over 110 digital series "covering everything from science and technology to current events and pop culture". Discovery Digital Networks has just announced that it going to be using VR in the very near future.
Discovery Digital Studios' Senior Vice President, Conal Byrne, said: "This is one of our most innovative moves in the next year, period, across the company. We believe VR will fundamentally change the way that fans connect with your content. When you experience VR, it is like seeing the future. It is digital media at its very best".
With the Oculus Rift not shipping until the first quarter of 2016, the VR game is up in the air until HTC and Valve can get their Vive headset to the market. That is, however, unless you go for mobile VR thanks to Samsung's Gear VR headset.
The mobile giant has released its new Gear VR headset that works with the new Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge handsets, versus the old Gear VR which was locked to the Galaxy Note 4 smartphone. The new Gear VR is said to be much better than the previous iteration, with a smaller 'tunnel vision' experience in some apps courtesy of the smaller 5.1-inch display found on the new S6 handsets.
The new Gear VR can be purchased from Samsung's website, or from Best Buy starting on May 15.
The growing activity tracking company Fitbit has today announced plans to float on the stock exchange, in a $100 million IPO.
In documents submitted to the New York Stock Exchange, via TechCrunch, the company has announced it's sold through 20.8 million devices since its inception in 2007. The company has also demonstrated significant growth with over half of its lifetime sales made in the last year, with revenue for 2014 at $745.4 million, a huge leap from $271.1 million in 2013.
Fitbit is upfront about the challenges it faces in a competitive environment, even naming the Apple Watch in it's registration statement, but noting that they "believe we compete favorably with our competitors on the basis of these factors as a result of our leading market position and global brand, advanced and proprietary sensor technologies, software-driven online dashboard and mobile apps, our motivational and social tools, and our premium software offerings" and kicks Apple with "our singular focus on building a connected health and fitness platform, coupled with a leading market share, has led to our brand becoming synonymous with the connected health and fitness category."
Popular tequila company Patron has introduced its "Art of Patron Virtual Reality Experience," giving customers the chance to check out its Mexican distillery using VR. The tour can be viewed using an Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear VR headset, with Patron also showing the VR demo at company events and seminars.
The tequila maker recorded its agave fields and distillery using a drone equipped with seven GoPro cameras, with binaural audio recorded so clear sound accompanies the video footage. It took six months to prepare the VR experience.
"It's relatively easy to write brand education materials or shoot a video, but that doesn't always capture the full experience," said Lee Applbaum, global chief marketing officer at Patron Spirits, in a press statement. "What we've created, using the very latest VR technology, is an authentic, intimate and unprecedented look inside our private Hacienda doors, second only to visiting in person."
Consumers are expected to begin adopting wearable "smart" clothing at a rapid rate in the coming years, with the market topping 10 million units each year by 2020, according to the Tractica Research firm.
The sports market gets most of the attention related to smart clothing, with athletes wearing shirts, shorts, socks, and other apparel using embedded sensors to track physical data. However, a transition from sports material to street apparel is expected for smart clothing, as the necessary technology begins to drop in price.
"The ultimate wearable computer is a piece of smart clothing that one can wear as a garment or a body sensor that can track and measure specific vital signs," said Aditya Kaul, director of Tractica Research, in a statement published by VentureBeat. "Both of these device categories are designed to seamlessly integrate with users' daily lives."
Epic Games has been making waves with its new iterations of Unreal Engine, with the latest version including integrated support for Valve's SteamVR platform.
Unreal Engine 4.8 is available right now, with the team at Epic explaining: "Virtual Reality technology is evolving rapidly and becoming more powerful and immersive by the day. Even if you're starting with a simple project to learn VR or AR, build your team, your assets and your workflow around a technology that can deliver on your creative vision - now and in the future. From students just starting out and small teams of veteran developers, to world renowned VFX houses and Hollywood storytellers, you'll never outgrow Unreal Engine 4".
The team continues: "To create immersive experiences that are believable to the human mind, VR requires scenes to be complex scenes rendered at very high framerates. There are no shortcuts. Because it was designed for demanding applications such as AAA games and photoreal visualization, at its core Unreal Engine 4 meets these requirements and provides a solid foundation to build upon".
- Rendering pipeline that gets you to 90 Hz stereo framerate or faster at high resolutions, no code changes required.
- Tools that scale from simple to extremely complex scenes, environments and characters.
- Advanced cinematic, post processing and PBR capabilities out of the box.
- Plug in your dev kit and go. Low friction startup and rapid iteration.
- Frequent updates that take advantage of rapidly evolving hardware.
- Support for all the latest VR hardware including Oculus Rift,Samsung Gear VR, Steam VR, Leap Motion, and Sony Project Morpheus
The Apple Watch is currently the best smartwatch available to consumers, according to a recent Consumer Reports tested 11 different smartwatch models, including several different Apple Watch models. The results are based on various tests that include durability, water resistance, readability, ease of use, ease of interaction, and health functionality.
The Apple Watch tops the Apple Watch Sport and LG G Watch R (tied for No. 2), Pebble Steel, Moto 360, ASUS ZenWatch, Samsung Gear S, Martian Notifier, and Sony SmartWatch 3.
"In the end, our top-rated smartwatch is the stainless-steel Apple Watch," according to Consumer Reports. "Its performance on the scratch-resistance test and excellent scores for ease of pairing and ease of interaction make it our top choice. Not an iPhone user? Not to worry, several Android-compatible models and one multi-OS-compatible smartwatch got very good overall scores as well."