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PAX Australia 2013 - I have been waiting since Oculus first reached Kickstarter to try out their Rift VR headset, and today my day came. We first went to another booth and tried out the 720p Developer Kit version, which we'll have a video uploaded shortly on.
The first story I wanted to write from PAX AU was about Oculus. We had a 2:30PM meeting but turned up 30 minutes early by mistake, but the Oculus guys were happy to accommodate us. We were sitting there, in one of the smallest booths at PAX AU and while it's small, it had heart and soul, and most of all: passion. We were introduced to Joseph Chen, who is head of Product at Oculus, who mentioned that Nate (the Vice President of Product at Oculus VR) would be on-hand soon.
We were been greeted with the Full HD 1920x1080 version of the Oculus Rift, which is different to the HD 1280x720 version of Rift which is found in the form of the Kickstarter backed Developer Kits. These devices are much higher resolution, but as we were told, are more like 'alpha' units.
I'll be attending PAX AU on Friday, where I'll finally get some hands-on (or is that heads- and soul-on) with Oculus' Rift VR headset. I'll be using the Full HD version, which I'm quite excited about.
But, for now, the company have said that they're going to be releasing Rift to consumers at $300. Most people will look at that and think it's expensive, but consider the price of a Full HD 27-inch monitor, which is around the same price, and it doesn't seem so bad. Moving onto multi-monitor setups, which are even more expensive, it makes Oculus' Rift look like a much better alternative.
During an interview with Edge Online, Oculus' CEO, Brandon Iribe noted how he hopes it would influence how we play games in a better way than next-gen consoles. He talked about the way that Rift will reach the market, acknowledging that "the lower the price point, the wider the audience." It's true, but getting it cheaper than $300 will be hard.
Originally thought to be slated for a July 15 launch, Sony has now confirmed that we will see its SmartWatch 2 released to the public on September 9, 2013. This launch date actually aligns closer with Sony's original plans for a September / October launch. This means that Sony will have beaten all the major manufacturers to the punch in releasing a next-generation SmartWatch.
Sony says that the SmartWatch 2 has been completely redesigned from the ground up and is far more feature-rich than its predecessor. The new watch features a 1.6-inch LCD, Bluetooth 3.0, micro-USB charging port, and near field communication connectivity. This will allow the SmartWatch to quickly pair with other devices through just a single touch. If that weren't enough, the SmartWatch 2 is both dust and water resistant and carries an IP57 certification.
With Samsung's upcoming smartwatch rumored to still be months away from release, and recent developments that have put Apple back to seeing their iWatch released in late 2014, Sony could have a winner on their hands. At a pricing point of $150, which is far less than any high-end analog watch you will find on store shelves today, I think that this new offering from Sony will fly off the shelves.
Today is shaping up to be smartwatch rumor day with this morning's report that the Apple iWatch has been delayed by at least a year. Now, a new rumor that Microsoft is testing a "translucent aluminum" smartwatch has cropped up. The report comes from The Verge and states that the company is now prototyping a smartwatch device under the supervision of the Surface team.
Apparently, the company was previously testing variations of a smartwatch design which was built by the Xbox accessories team. The report says that the new device features a Surface Connector and a 1.5-inch display. Tech site AnandTech said that Microsoft is working on a number of removable wristbands based around the Windows 8 color schemes of blue, red, yellow, black, white, and grey.
The Verge says that Microsoft is testing prototypes with a modified version of Windows 8 that is focused on integrating the device with other Windows-powered devices. This could lead to your watch sinking up to your Surface tablet, Windows Phone 8 devices, and Windows 8 laptops and PCs. This plan is very similar to what Apple wishes to do with their iWatch and what Samsung has planned for its GALAXY smatwatch.
It appears that the rumors of an Apple iWatch arriving this year are holding less credence than we originally assumed. Recent reports suggest that Apple is still in the hiring phase for design engineers as well as electrical engineers to take on the project. Apparently the delays and additional hires are because there are some pretty tough engineering problems that need to be solved before the project can move forward.
In a recent report from the Financial Times, we have learned that Apple has been in an "aggressive hiring phase" for the last few weeks and that this is an indication that Apple has stepped up the development on the iWatch platform. Sources close to the matter also state that Apple has been experiencing some "hard engineering problems that they've not been able to solve" leading the bosses to believe that its in-house engineers are just not up to the task of designing wearable technology.
All of this leads up to the fact that we most likely will not see a smartwatch from the Cupertino-based company anytime this year. While 2014 is still an option, these recent developments lead me to believe that it will be 2015 or 2016 before Apple creates a design that they deem acceptable to launch to the public. With so many companies readying launches for this year such as Samsung and Sony, and with the Pebble already on the market, I think that Apple may be a little late to the party this time.
According to Dell's Global Vice President of Personal Computing, Sam Burd, the company could be looking at wearable computing. Burd says that Dell are "exploring areas in that space."
Burd was talking with The Guardian about how the company could be part of the new market for wearable computing where we already have Google, Sony, Pebble, Samsung and Apple. All of those companies have either teased their devices, shown them off (Google Glass) or are rumored to release a wearable device later this year. He adds:
There are challenges in cost, and how to make it a really good experience. But the piece that's interesting is that computers are getting smaller. Having a watch on your wrist - that's pretty interesting, pretty appealing.
I've expressed my thoughts on next-gen games countless times, with my latest piece here. I truly believe Oculus Rift is the future of gaming, and so do the Game Critics Awards, who chose Oculus Rift as the Best Hardware/Peripheral of E3 2013.
This means that the Oculus Rift beat out both the next-gen consoles, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. This speaks volumes about the next-generation of games, with the consoles yet another evolution and not a complete revolution which is what we need. Oculus Rift turns the entire industry upside down, offering the game in virtual reality.
I'm glad that Oculus Rift took the award home, they obviously deserved it. Well done, Oculus VR!
Google have pushed out an update to their wearable device, Glass, which improves the experience for most people. Voice controls have been improved, which now handle the incoming and outgoing text messages, answering calls and sharing directly with your friends with voice-only commands.
Glass can now interact with your entire Google Contacts list, compared to the previous firmware which could only handle the previous ten favorite friends list. Google have also included full web page viewing from Google Search results in Glass. This means that after you make a search, you can tap on a "View website" screen to be taken to a full view of the page.
From here, you'll be able to scroll up and down with two fingers on the touch pad to the side of your Glass, or hold two fingers and move their head to pan around the page.
With all of the major tech giants such as Apple, Samsung, Sony and Google all working on wearable computers in one form or another, Intel has decided that it would like to join the party. During a recent interview with Reuters, Intel's CEO Brian Krzanich confirmed that the silicon giant is actively developing a wearable computer.
Krzanich went on to say that the company is not only developing a wearable computer, but designing specific chipsets for wearable devices. He was careful not to hint at what type of wearable device we might see from Intel, but he did say that we can expect to see wearable technology featuring Intel hardware by the end of this year or early next year. It is still unclear if those chips will be repurposed Atoms or if the company has developed a whole new SoC line just for wearable computing.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, Oculus' VR headset, Rift, is probably my most anticipated product of the year and I really think it could change everything when it's released.
Surgeon Simulator has a new build, which is compatible with Oculus Rift. It gives players control over the hand and arm only, with the field of view directly in the Rift headset, so you have a perfect point of view. This gives you the look (with VR) and feel (hand and arm) of a real surgeon. Bossa Studios announced both Oculus Rift and Razer Hydra support for Surgeon Simulator earlier this month.