Microsoft aims to break down language barriers with Skype Translator

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on December 16th, 2014

We’re living in the future, folks, in case you didn’t know. This week Microsoft is leading the charge in breaking down language barriers with its Skype Translator. Essentially, the new software allows Skype users to translate their conversations into another language in real-time. A perfect example of it in use is featured in the saccharine clip posted above. Students in America are video chatting peers in Mexico City; when an American student speaks English, the Spanish-speaking student on the other side can understand her completely (and vice-versa) as their spoken words are translated almost instantly. It’s quite magical, really.

Skype Translator is currently available as a preview and only supports English and Spanish. Skype promises that additional language support is on the way. You can help refine the incredible technology by signing up to become a preview user today.

[Via Microsoft]

Sony celebrates 20 years of PlayStation with a retro-designed limited edition console

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on December 6th, 2014

This December 3 marked the 20th anniversary of PlayStation. It was on that day in 1994 when Sony released the original PlayStation in Japan forever changing the gaming landscape and evolving the industry into what it has become today: a place to play and discover and wow with incredible, life-like graphics and intuitive mechanics.

To celebrate 20 years of PlayStation, Sony is manufacturing a special, limited edition PS4 with a design that harkens back to the aforementioned OG PlayStation. The bundle is packed with a 20th Anniversary Edition PS4, DualShock 4 wireless controller, PlayStation Camera, and a vertical stand all coated in the same Original Grey finish as the PS1. You’ll also spot the original PS logo across the new hardware, as well as a cool 20/X/Square/Triangle pattern design scheme embossed all over the console and the controller’s touch pad. And when Sony says “limited,” they mean it: only 12,300 of these bad boys will be made (that number matches the PS1’s release date–neat, huh?). Consoles will be specially marked with their number (as in x/12,300). Want one? Today (12/6) the company put it up for preorder on its online store and to nobody’s surprise it sold out in minutes. This is not to say Sony won’t release another batch, but eBay will likely end up being your best bet in the future.

Already own a PS4 and still want to get in on the celebration? Sony’s got you covered: fire up your console, download the latest firmware update, and you’ll be privy to a free PS1 retro theme that takes over your home screen with a predominantly grey color scheme with floating colorful O’s, X’s, Squares, and Triangles. It also features a familiar boot-up sound! Preview the theme here.

Elsewhere in PS Land, Sony is holding its inaugural PlayStation Experience this weekend in Las Vegas. Some cool announcements worth mentioning follow, in brief. Remember when Microsoft offered those customizable console faceplates for its Xbox 360? Well, Sony is following in their footsteps with new faceplates to spruce up the PS4 for those so inclined. “Project Skylight Beta” is currently offering two faceplates at $24.99 apiece featuring designs inspired by the games The Order: 1886 and LittleBigPlanet 3 with more on the way. Removing the console’s current faceplate and snapping in a new one is, well, a snap; Sony demonstrates the painless process here.

Also at PSX, the company held a keynote for fans brimming with upcoming titles for PS4, PS3, and PS Vita. Engadget‘s done a nice job of collecting trailers for the announced games. Ones that popped out for me include this new look at Hello Games’ trippy exploration adventure No Man’s Sky, this first look at Capcom’s fifth major installment in the Street Fighter franchise, and this 15-minute preview of stunning in-game footage from Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Oh, and speaking of games, EA is handing out three free (I’ll reiterate: free) games at this very moment. PS4 owners can download the addictive animated shooter Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, PS3 users can nab the uniquely first person Mirror’s Edge, and handheld Vita gamers are awarded Need for Speed: Most Wanted. You’ll want to hop on this fast–these awesome deals expire tonight at midnight PST/3am EST.

Jump after the break to continue the anniversary celebration with unboxing videos and a special clip featuring Sackboy and the rest of the LittleBigPlanet universe embodying the past 20 years of PlayStation. (Click here for more…)

Sony announces cloud-based TV service PlayStation Vue

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on November 19th, 2014

There certainly is no shortage of ways to consume entertainment these days, and Sony wants in. Sure, it’s got the PlayStation Store where gamers can stream movies, music, and TV shows to their big screen TVs. But the media giant is looking to capture even more eyeballs by providing a full-fledged cloud-based service whereby consumers can pay a monthly rate and watch their favorite TV programs to their heart’s content. Think of it as Hulu Plus or even Netflix, provided by Sony. Thankfully the company is securing deals with major content providers prior to PlayStation Vue’s launch and they include CBS, Discovery Communications, Fox, NBCUniversal, Scripps Networks Interactive, and Viacom. Here are a couple of cool features to mull over:

-PlayStation Vue delivers catch-up and on-demand TV, freeing viewers to watch TV on their own schedules. The service makes the past three days of popular programming available without the need to schedule recordings.

-Viewers can save their favorite shows to the cloud without storage restrictions or scheduling conflicts. Once viewers tag a favorite show, they will automatically have access to episodes of that show for 28 days so that they can watch on their own time.

In essence, if you’re lacking a DVR and if you prefer to watch TV on your own time like the majority of the world, PS Vue sounds like a promising effort from team Sony. In the end it all comes down to content provider support; if Sony can continue to lure in the big guns like CBS, Fox, and NBC (ABC, where you at?), Vue has the potential to become a go-to destination for PS4 and PS3 console owners.

“PlayStation Vue reinvents the traditional viewing experience so your programming effortlessly finds you, enabling you to watch much more of what you want and search a lot less,” says Andrew House, president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment. “PlayStation Vue brings the best of live TV and a robust catalog of the latest content, always keeping you connected to what’s popular, new and trending. Today’s announcement builds on the historic success of PlayStation 4 and demonstrates what our company is capable of when we embrace disruption and stay true to gamers.”

A beta preview for PS Vue is rolling out this month for select people, “with phased rollout starting in New York followed later by Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.” In time the service with become compatible with Apple’s iPad as well as more Sony and non-Sony devices. Sony plans to launch it commercially in early 2015. Stick it here for more details about pricing and availability as that becomes apparent.

[Via PRNewswire]

Sony pushes out Share Play for PS4, a new way to experience games without a disc

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on November 3rd, 2014

Believe it or not, Sony’s PlayStation 4 has been on the market for one year now. To celebrate its one year anniversary, the console maker has released the first major software update for PS4, namely version 2.0. With it comes theming, a more organized games and app library, new voice commands, and the ability to share game session recordings directly to YouTube, just to name a few functionality and aesthetic updates. But there’s one new addition I’m here to spew about because it’s something that may very well change the game (pun!) forever.

It’s called Share Play, and it’s something Sony teased at Gamescom this year. Essentially it works like a “virtual couch;” two players in a party (with PS Plus subscriptions, of course) can play a game as if they were in the same room. A real-life example helps explain: Let’s say you have a copy of Destiny and you’re stuck at a certain level. With Share Play, you can invite a friend to join your party and actually share your gameplay session with them, across the Internet in real time. Your friend, then, can take over the controls of your character and take a crack at getting you past the hard part. Additionally, if the game supports local multiplayer (let’s say NBA 2K15), your friend can join your session and complete against you. The magic here: your friend does not have to own the game you are playing. That’s right–you are hosting an “online local co-op experience,” Sony calls it, where you can share your screen with a spectator, hand over your gameplay session to a friend, and invite a friend to join a multiplayer session. If you thought the inclusion of Twitch and UStream was an effective tool of the future for the console market, Share Play takes things to a whole ‘nother level.

Now, there are a couple stipulations. As mentioned earlier, you and your friend your sharing your session with must be Plus subscribers; additionally, Sony says Share Play sessions can last “for up to one hour at a time.” Not exactly sure what this means; will the session time out after the hour has passed? If you’ve got a PS4 you can test it out for yourself today; software update v2.0 is out now. See how Share Play works in the video above.

Real quick: Where the [bleep] was this when I was in school?!

Posted in Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on October 23rd, 2014

The newly released PhotoMath app solves math equations and shows its work and all you have to do is take a picture of the problem. It’s free in the App Store today. Students, you’re welcome.

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Apple reports 2014 Q4 results: $42.1 billion revenue & $8.5 billion net profit

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on October 23rd, 2014

On October 20, Apple reported its 2014 fourth quarter financial results. Apple posted a record quarterly revenue of $42.1 billion and net profit of $8.5 billion. Compare this to one year ago, that’s up from revenue of $37.5 billion and net profit of $7.5 billion. Says CEO Tim Cook: “Our fiscal 2014 was one for the record books, including the biggest iPhone launch ever with iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. With amazing innovations in our new iPhones, iPads and Macs, as well as iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, we are heading into the holidays with Apple’s strongest product lineup ever. We are also incredibly excited about Apple Watch and other great products and services in the pipeline for 2015.”

Now let’s break it down by product category. Apple sold 39.3 million iPhones in the quarter (compared to 33.8 million in the year-ago quarter); 12.3 million iPads (compared to 14.1 million); and 5.5 million Macs (compared to 3.8 million). iPod sales continue to decline; Apple reports 2.6 million units sold, down 24 percent from the year-ago quarter.

Looking ahead to the first fiscal quarter of 2015, Apple CFO Luca Maestri expects revenue between $63.5 billion and $66.5 billion.

[Via Apple]

Apple dates iOS 8.1 with Apple Pay & OS X Yosemite, intros updated iPads, iMac & Mac mini

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on October 16th, 2014

On Thursday Tim Cook and company took the stage in Cupertino to make some new Apple hardware and software announcements. In addition to announcing an updated iPad Air, iPad mini, iMac, and Mac mini, Apple also dated the next version of iOS and OS X both coming in just a few days time. For the full scoop, jump after the break. (Click here for more…)

Google names latest Android OS Lollipop, loads it on new Nexus devices

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on October 15th, 2014

On Wednesday Google finally revealed the name of the next version of its mobile operating system almost four months after teasing “Android L” at the tech company’s I/O developer conference. Android Lollipop and its consistent look called Material Design will make its debut this fall on two new Nexus devices: the tablet Nexus 9 and the phablet Nexus 6. And “in the coming weeks” it will land on Nexus 4, 5, 7, 10 and Google Play edition devices.

The Nexus 9, manufactured in collaboration with HTC, sports a 8.9-inch 2048 x 1536 LCD display with a 4:3 aspect ratio and reinforced with Gorilla Glass 3. It’s powered by the 64-bit NVIDIA Tegra K1 Dual Denver processor at 2.3GHz and 192-core Kepler GPU. It’s got 2GB RAM and offers 16GB and 32GB storage options. 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 are inside. An 8-megapixel camera sits on the back with auto-focus and LED flash, and around front there’s a 1.6-megapixel shooter. Dual front-facing speakers with HTC BoomSound technology are also included. Sold separately is a keyboard that attaches to the tablet magnetically that allows you to type at different angles. The 9 will be able available for preorder this Friday, October 17. When it releases November 9 it will start at $399 for the 16GB WiFi-only model. A $479 32GB WiFi-only and a $599 32GB WiFi plus LTE model will also be offered. Colors include Indigo Black, Lunar White, and Sand.

The Nexus 6, with hardware by Motorola, has a 5.96-inch 2560 x 1440 QHD AMOLED display with a 16:9 aspect ratio and Gorilla Glass 3. Humming inside is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 805 SOC at 2.7GHz and the Adreno 420 GPU. The rear cam is a 13MP shooter with optical image stabilization and dual LED ring flash, and it can capture 4K video at 30fps. The front-facing 2MP camera can do HD video conferencing. WiFi, Bluetooth, and NFC inside. 32GB and 64GB storage options are offered. Hardware shades include Midnight Blue and Cloud White. You can preorder the Nexus 6 starting October 29. It will go on sale in November starting at $649 with no contract. AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular will sell the handset at an undisclosed discounted price.

In addition to announcing the Android Lollipop powered Nexus 9 and 6, Google also outed a new set-top box called Nexus Player. Made with Asus, the Player runs Android TV and is primed to rival Apple TV and Amazon’s Fire TV as it will provide a one-stop destination for entertainment and gaming needs. The Google Play store is fully integrated to stream movies and TV shows, and apps such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, and YouTube are accessible, too. The box comes with a voice-activated remote to enhance navigation and search, and sold separately is a gamepad for those who wish to play their Android games on the big screen with a video game console-like controller. Also, the Player is Google Cast-ready, meaning it acts very much like Google’s Chromecast dongle allowing you to wirelessly stream media content from your phone or tablet to the big screen. Preordering begins October 17, and the Nexus Player releases on November 3 for $99. The Gamepad will go for $39.

Jump after the break to meet the sleek new Nexus family.

[Via Google 1, 2] (Click here for more…)

First look at Sony’s graphic novel based original series ‘Powers’

Posted in News,Technology,Television by Scott Meisner on October 15th, 2014

A new, exciting, buzzy series called Powers is coming soon and here’s your first look. It’s based on a graphic novel series of the same name from writer Brian Michael Bendis and illustrator Mike Van Oeming and it stars District 9‘s Sharlto Copley with an American accent. Powers follows detectives Christian Walker (Copley) and Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward) who are assigned to investigate cases involving people with superhuman abilities, referred to as Powers. The 10 episode series is written by Charlie Huston and David Slade (Hannibal) is directing the first two.

Now here’s the catch: Sony Pictures Television is out to rival subscription-based companies like Netflix and HBO by making Powers a PlayStation-exclusive. In other words, you’ll have to be a PlayStation Plus subscriber to watch the show on your PS4, PS3, or PS Vita handheld. The pilot will premiere for free on PlayStation Network and across other outlets such as YouTube and Crackle so the public at large can get a taste. If you like what you see then you’ll have to sign up for PlayStation Plus to access more.

The trailer packs quite the punch in terms of action, humor, and vulgarity. Bendis, Oeming, and Sony seem to be pushing the envelope here with PlayStation’s first original series and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of crowd gets drawn to it. Of course PlayStation Nation will gobble it up, but will Powers have the ability to attract new members to Sony’s gaming-turned-entertainment destination? It premieres this winter.

‘Silent Hills’ will scare you (again) in new concept trailer

Posted in Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on September 27th, 2014

How many times have you played through Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro’s terrifying Silent Hills demo? Was one run-through enough to satiate your fears? Well, here’s something new to look at. The directing duo behind the latest installment in the Silent Hill video game franchise debuted a concept trailer at this month’s Tokyo Game Show. It will feel familiar to those who have played through the Playable Teaser on PS4; the game’s protagonist, personified by The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus, is trapped in a haunted house with creaky doors and creepy crawlers. The trailer, however, adds a boy’s severed head, sentient toys, and a giant monster to the mix. See above.

“The concepts we’re discussing, the ideas that we’re discussing and the tools that are in play to create Silent Hills are going to render an incredibly intense and an incredibly scary game,” said del Toro at TGS.

Silent Hills has an anticipated 2015 release.

[Via IGN]

Apple introduces new iPhones, a payment process, and a watch

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on September 10th, 2014

On Tuesday Apple held their highly anticipated event introducing to the world the next-generation iPhone, the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus; Apple Pay, the company’s new payment process that hopes to revolutionize the way we checkout at physical and online merchants; and the Apple Watch, an entirely new entrant in a brand new product category for the company. Jump after the break for all the major details. (Click here for more…)

IKEA parodies Apple in mock commercial for its 2015 product catalog

Posted in Hilarity,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on September 5th, 2014

A fantastic Apple parody comes on the heels of that company taking center stage to unveil the next iPhone and possibly a wearable device rumored to be the iWatch. And it comes from an unlikely source: the Swedish company that sells ready-to-assemble furniture and other home accessories, IKEA. Promoting IKEA’s new product catalog one Jörgen Eghammer, the company’s “Chief Design Güru,” spitfires jokes that you might see coming and yet they pack the humorous punch you’re looking for. “It’s not a digital book or an ebook, it’s a book-book.” Other choice quotes:

“[It] comes fully charged and the battery life is eternal.”

“Notice something else? No lag.”

“Amazing.”

Enjoy the parody, and make sure to stick it here for the latest Apple news; major announcements are coming Tuesday, Sept. 9.

[Via Time; thanks @AndySchar]

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Hideo Kojima & Guillermo del Toro are working on a new ‘Silent Hill’ game starring Norman Reedus (Plus: my impressions)

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on August 13th, 2014

Take a moment to let that sink in. Good. Now, once more with feeling:

Renowned video game developer and creator of the Metal Gear franchise Hideo Kojima and film director/producer Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, TV’s The Strain) are teaming up to create the next installment in the Silent Hill franchise with The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus as the game’s protagonist.

During Sony’s press event at Gamescon on Tuesday, a mysterious new horror game dubbed “P.T.” from unknown developer 7780s Studio was teased on-screen. Sony advised interested gamers to access a playable demo on PS4 via PSN to learn more. Soon enough, an excitable, British gamer chick who goes by the name of SoapyWarpig uploaded a live stream of her completing the demo via Twitch. I highly recommend you watch the final minutes of her gameplay; her colorful commentary is so incredibly enjoyable.

After completing the nightmarish demo (see my impressions below), the names Hideo Kojima, Guillermo del Toro, and Norman Reedus flash on the screen as you briefly visit a dark and gloomy street and are introduced to Reedus’ character. And then the black words Silent Hills splash on a bright white screen as Akira Yamaoka’s classic, chilling Silent Hill theme plays. In amazing Kojima style, gamers were duped into thinking this was some random horror game from some unknown studio. Silent Hills is in fact a Kojima Productions title; 7780s Studio was completely fabricated! Oh, and “P.T.” stands for “Playable Teaser,” that first of its kind boasts Sony. Other details surrounding the now-highly anticipated game, including release date and console support, are still being kept under wraps for now.

I played “P.T.” in its entirety and yes, it scared the living shit out of me. For my impressions skip after the break. (Click here for more…)

Xbox and PlayStation at Gamescom 2014

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on August 13th, 2014

Gamescom is a video games trade show–like E3, except for the that fact that it takes place in Europe (in Cologne, Germany to be precise) and it attracts a much, much larger crowd of attendees including members of the press and game developers. And just like they did at Los Angeles’ E3 in June, console makers Microsoft and Sony held press events revealing new titles, providing updates on previously announced ones, and showing off new system features. For the latest on the games, I recommend you visit Joystiq. This post will mostly focus on software updates coming to the Xbox One and PS4, as well as new hardware options revealed. For the full scoop, jump after the break. (Click here for more…)

Comic Con: Ridley Scott debuts ‘Halo: Nightfall’ first look

Posted in Technology,Video,Web Series by Scott Meisner on July 29th, 2014

Here’s a first look at Ridley Scott’s original live-action digital series Halo: Nightfall. Though Master Chief is nowhere to be found in this debut trailer, the scene is set for a Prometheus-like adventure into the gritty unknown. Here’s the scoop:

Taking place between the events of Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians, Halo: Nightfall follows the origin story of legendary manhunter Jameson Locke (Mike Colter) and his team as they are caught in a horrific terrorist attack while investigating terrorist activity on the distant colony world of Sedra. Led by Locke, the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) agents are forced to coordinate with a Sedran commander with a remarkable history and deep-rooted mistrust of ONI. As the plot unravels, they’re drawn to an ancient, hellish artifact where they’re forced to fight for their survival, question everything, and ultimately choose between their loyalties and their lives. Agent Locke is a new character in the Halo universe poised to play a major role in Halo 5: Guardians releasing on Xbox One in 2015.

Halo developer 343 Industries and Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions premiered the trailer at Comic Con announcing the series’ director Sergio Mimica-Gezzan (Battlestar Galactica, Pillars of the Earth, Heroes) writer Paul Scheuring (Prison Break), and cast led by Mike Colter (The Good Wife).

“In science fiction, we’re always searching for new frontiers. We’re drawn to the unknown,” said Scott. “With Halo: Nightfall, we’re pioneering a new medium in terms of interactive storytelling on Xbox.  It’s going to be fun for long-time fans to see how the worlds come together with an ambition to attract new fans along the way with what we’ve created.”

Halo: Nightfall will come packed inside Halo: The Master Chief Collection and it will be made available to all Xbox Live subscribers beginning on November 11.

[Via Xbox Wire]

The Big Three are all about the games at E3 2014

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on June 14th, 2014

The 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo came and went this week and The Big Three–Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo–were all about games, games, and games. The Xbox maker’s show was literally a lineup of upcoming titles for Xbox One. Sony managed to squeeze some hardware and PSN news into theirs but like MSFT they mainly showcased games for PS4. And Nintendo did what they do best: stand out from the pack with a highly entertaining (not live) “digital event” featuring a fun lineup of games starring their famous mascots.

Jump after the break for the full rundown of games unveiled by The Big Three at this year’s E3. (Click here for more…)

WWDC ’14 at a glance: Apple unveils iOS 8 & OS X Yosemite

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on June 7th, 2014

On Monday Apple held their annual World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco introducing to the world the next versions of its mobile and desktop operating systems. Jump after the break for glimpses at iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. (Click here for more…)

Microsoft announces ‘Halo 5: Guardians’ for Xbox One

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on May 18th, 2014

On Friday Microsoft announced the next game in the Halo franchise and it’s called Halo 5: Guardians. Despite the subtitle (read: ODSTReach) and the introduction of a new hero in the game artwork (see above), Guardians is in fact a direct followup to Halo 4 and it is “the next installment in the legendary saga of the Master Chief.” Guardians, from Halo 4 developers 343 Industries, is coming exclusively to Xbox One running at “60 frames per second, on dedicated servers, with the scope, features and scale [Microsoft has] been dreaming of for more than a decade.” The Xbox maker said the following in a press statement regarding the highly anticipated title:

“Halo 5: Guardians” is a bigger effort than “Halo 4.”  That applies to the content and scope of the game, as well as the technology in what’s now a brand new and more powerful engine.  Certainly there are some core elements carried over from prior games, but we’ve invested a huge effort in retooling our tech to take full advantage of the Xbox One’s hardware and ecosystem to create worlds and experiences worthy of next-gen.

For more on Guardians, pop over to Halo Waypoint where you’ll find a blog post written by 343 Industries Franchise Development Director Frank O’Connor and a piece of concept art from the game. Obviously there’s a lot more where this came from and you can expect Microsoft to push next Halo at E3 next month. Rewatch the “Halo on Xbox One” teaser here, for now.

Guardians is slated to release in fall 2015 and in that same year Microsoft will launch the Steven Spielberg produced live-action Halo TV series. It’s being billed as “a series that will stand alone, as well as complement and enrich the game experience.”

[Via Xbox Wire]

Twitter previews new profile design layout

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on April 12th, 2014

Twitter is rolling out a new design layout for web profiles. The most prominent visual changes are larger profile photos and customized headers that mimic Facebook’s profile and cover photos. Dig a bit deeper and you’ll see that the update allows users to pin a tweet to the top of their feed; this locked-at-the-top tweet serves as an extension to a user’s bio and provides followers and potential followers alike another window into seeing what you’re all about. You may also notice magnified tweets that appear larger in your feed; these are called your “Best Tweets” and they appear larger because they’ve received the most engagement such as being Favorited or Retweeted a lot. Also, when you check out other people’s profiles you can filter between all Tweets, Tweets with photos/video, or Tweets and replies–a new way to quickly search a person’s feed by content type.

The new profile layout is slowly rolling out to all users “in the coming weeks.” If you’re new to Twitter and sign up today you’ll automatically see it. For everyone else, you can preview the new layout today by flocking over to certain celeb accounts such as @ChanningTatum and @KerryWashington.

[Via Twitter]

Amazon gets into the media streaming hardware business with Fire TV

Posted in Images,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on April 12th, 2014

On April 2 Amazon unveiled their latest foray into the hardware space. After making ebooks and tablets the online retailer is directly competing with Apple TV and Roku with their very own media streamer called Amazon Fire TV. The $99 box comes packed with myriad subscription-based and streaming services including Netflix, Hulu Plus, and of course Amazon Instant Video with Prime benefits to Amazon’s catalog of exclusive content.

There really are three things that set the Fire TV apart from the competition. First is its raw power. The box is powered by a quad-core processor, a dedicated GPU, 2GB of RAM, and it supports 1080p video and Dolby Digital Plus surround sound. The company is claiming it has 3x the processing power and 4x the memory of Apple TV and Roku. These specs allow for a fast and fluid experience navigating the UI and media playback. Such generous guts support Amazon’s anti-buffering initiative they’re calling ASAP, or Advanced Streaming and Prediction; instead of waiting 10+ seconds for a video to buffer and stream, the Fire TV will smartly predict the movies and shows you will watch and get them ready for streaming so when you hit play it will immediately begin playback. More specs: ’round back you’ll find a port for power, HDMI, optical audio, Ethernet, and USB. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are also inside.

Amazon’s Fire TV also supports voice search. The included media remote sports a mic that listens to your audible search queries. Simply tap the voice button and speak into the remote to instantly search TV shows, movies, actors, directors, and genres. Of course, an on-screen keyboard is provided in case the software can’t pick up on what you’re saying for whatever reason. Note that the remote is paired to the streamer via Bluetooth so direct line-of-sight for control is not necessary.

Additionally, the box is being billed as a gaming machine. Does it compete with heavy hitters like the Xbox One and PS4–no way, but that doesn’t mean it won’t fight to become an affordable way to access easy-to-pickup titles like world-builder Minecraft and racer Asphalt. In fact, Amazon is so dedicated to making Fire TV a gaming destination that it is also selling a separately sold Amazon Fire Game Controller for $39.99 that is very reminiscent of Xbox’s pad featuring dual analog sticks, a d-pad, and ABXY buttons, as well as media controls. And on top of that, the company has formed Amazon Game Studios to develop games exclusively for the Fire TV such as third-person sci-fi shooter Sev Zero. Press the GameCircle button the Game Controller to view leaderboards and achievements across the Internet. Many games are offered today (a bunch of them are free) with “thousands” more on the way. Check out the Fire TV’s games and apps catalog here. Note that most games do not require the separately sold Game Controller for use, however some do.

What else? In addition to movies and TV, the Android-powered box also streams music (Pandora, Vevo, etc.) and it can wirelessly stream your photos and video saved in Amazon Cloud Drive. You can also mirror your Amazon tablet to your HDTV in the same way iOS devices can be paired with Apple TVs and your Amazon tablet can provide a second screen experience by pulling up content that’s related to what you’re watching on the big screen. Last, Amazon FreeTime allows parents to setup personalized profiles for their kids to access appropriate movies, TV shows, apps, and games.

Amazon Fire TV is available for purchase today. Get a closer look at the media streamer and its gaming controller in the gallery below, then jump after the break to see the UI in action, a sneak peek at Amazon-developed games, and the first commercial for it starring the insane Gary Busey.

(Click here for more…)