Author Archive | Larry L.

Is this Real Life or is this Fantasy? Oculus Touch Blurs the Definition

The gaming world has changed considerably with the introduction of virtual reality. The idea that you can move around and see yourself in another world is nothing short of fantasy. Oculus has stepped up its game by introducing Oculus Touch – handheld devices that can accurately mirror your movements in the virtual space.

The controllers are made to work with the existing Rift, and unfortunately, people are suffering a bit of sticker shock from the rumored US pricing (sigh). It’s an expensive pasttime, but users will be able to interact with Rift in a way they never have before with existing controllers (like the Xbox One it shipped with). Oculus has also claimed they’ll be launching many games and apps post-launch to expand on the experience.

So, is it worth it? The controllers are surprisingly very accurate – they’re covered with LED sensors that can tell where your hands and fingers are positioned. They have a number of buttons and a trigger on each so you can perform different actions, and we can only describe the feeling as “natural” – which is saying a lot for the virtual world. You grab the controller the way you’d grab an object in real life, and your virtual self follows suit. Wicked!

The Details:

  • Price: No official word yet, but looks to be around $200 USD
  • Launch date: Not official, but rumors say November 21
  • Sensors: infrared LED
  • Wireless controllers, mirror images of each other
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Flexibility is Key in the Yoga Book

Image by Lenovo

Image by Lenovo

When you hear the word “yoga”, you probably think of flexibility, comfort, and relaxation. What you probably don’t think about is technology. However, Lenovo has fused the two and attempted to embody these feelings with their new tablet, the Yoga Book.

Their goal was to shake up the tablet category with innovative features that would combat the issues users were finding with other existing tablets. The biggest issue they chose to tackle was notebook-style writing. It just wasn’t feeling natural with other tablets. This one (which has some laptop-like features such as hinging and folding) boasts a flat, touch keyboard, on which you can type or write with its dual-purpose stylus. Speaking of the stylus – it works as a real pen with refillable ink as well.

What we love the most about this tablet is the “note-taking” feature (which can also be used for sketching out a quick idea for someone). Lenovo worked hard to get the screen brightness and anti-glare exactly right so it looks as close as possible to writing on a real notebook. They include a magnetic pad of paper that you can attach to the screen and write on with the stylus (pen version). Write on this pad and it shows up on the other screen, making it easy to see what you’re working on and instantly providing a digital copy of your work.

With a click of a button on your stylus, you can switch from handwriting mode to typing mode. Writing with the Wacom stylus is seamless and feels more like a real pen than others we’ve tried – and it really was an engineering feat to figure out the ink/digital combo.

This seems like a great option for students to bring to class, take notes on, and study with.

The Details

  • Laptop/tablet hybrid
  • Flat, touch screen with backlit keyboard
  • Magnetic notepad included
  • Wacom Real Pen stylus included
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro
  • Dimensions: 10.1″ x 0.38″ x 6.72″
  • Weight: Starting at 1.52 lbs
  • Colour: Black
  • Front and rear cameras (2MP and 8MP, respectively)
  • 360 degree hinge so it can fold in half both ways
  • Price: starting at $499US

Learn more at lenovo.com

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Welcome (Google) Home


Video courtesy of CNET

This week, Google announced at its I/O developer conference, a long-awaited competitor for the Amazon Echo – Google Home.

It’s a digital voice assistant, activated by saying “OK Google” (but the plan is to incorporate “Hey Google” as an option as well). The speaker does need to be plugged in to work, but the benefit to this is it enabled Google to add in a powerful speaker – which will be great for listening to music. It’ll also be able to connect to smart home devices (specifically Nest, as Google now owns it) to do things like turn on lights and change the thermostat.

An interesting feature is that the Home will be able to connect to other speakers located in different rooms, allowing you to talk to whichever one is closest and tell it to play music in another room (for example). And of course, you’ll be able to “Google” questions just by talking to the speaker.

Price and launch date haven’t been announced yet, but we’re hoping to hear about them soon. While the Home may not be useful in a dorm room, if you’re living in a house, it could ease your mind with automating things around the house, and be a great party-pleaser speaker for your Friday night get-togethers.

Sign up for announcements on Google Home here.

The Details:

  • Price: No announcement yet
  • Base shell: Comes in different colours so you can match your decor
  • Not portable – must be plugged in
  • Compatible with Chromecast, Nest
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Mark Zuckerberg explores Artificial Intelligence

Image by Robert Scoble, Flickr

Image by Robert Scoble, Flickr

When you think about artificial intelligence, chances are one of the first words that comes to mind is “robot”. We’ve seen plenty of movies that show computers becoming too smart for their own good and trying to take over the world. Dramatic? Of course. But is there some truth behind it? Sounds like Mark Zuckerberg is trying to find out. His newest venture is to explore artificial intelligence to create something to make his life more efficient – he compares it to Jarvis in Iron Man. While this would be interesting (and really cool), it makes me wonder what it would mean for the rest of us. You’ve seen the way technology has changed our lives in the past ten years – gone are the days of scribbling down notes with pen and paper in class; now we’re taking pictures of the slides with our phones or watching lectures online. So what if we each had our own Jarvis? Here’s what comes to mind:

  • Going to class would be a thing of the past. We could send our Jarvises of the world to take down the information for us.
  • Could we send them on our errands too? Use them as personal assistants? Goodbye grocery shopping!
  • Our (currently) high-tech phones might become obsolete – Jarvis could make our calls and send our messages for us. I wonder if we’d become more social?

Well, Zuck – we’re definitely looking forward to what you come up with here!

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Getting bang for your buck: the ZTE Axon mini Android phone

Getting-bang-for-your-buck

The latest ZTE phone boasts a lot of cool features – ones you expect to find in higher end phones, and not so much in mid-range phones like the Axon mini. So naturally, we had to check it out. Appearance-wise, the phone looks good. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, though it does have some faux-leather features on the top and bottom. This phone comes with the latest and greatest toys – pressure touch, fingerprint, eye, and voice scanners, and is apparently made out of aviation-quality aluminum titanium alloy. However, it could have used some final tweaking before coming onto the market (as made most obvious by some spelling mistakes throughout the system).

The fingerprint scanner is not as accurate as I’d like – sometimes it took a few tries before it would scan. Same goes with the 3D pressure screen – even after calibrating a couple of times, it occasionally misunderstood what I was trying to do. I was most excited to try “Sky eye” – the eye scanner, but didn’t realize that it could only be used to unlock certain apps – not the phone itself. I guess I won’t be feeling like Bond every day after all!

As for the camera, it seems that this is a feature many people use very often – and it was ok. Pictures were blurry in low-light conditions and perfectly fine with good lighting.

Overall, it is a decent phone if you can live with or work around a few of its quirks. It’s definitely more affordable than some of the other phones on the market, but does boast similar features.

Specifications:

  • 5.2-inch HD screen
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 32GB of storage (though you can add microSD cards)
  • 13-megapixel back camera, 8-megapixel front camera
  • 2,800mAh battery
  • 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 processor
  • 2.5D curved screen
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