Category Archives: Technology

Microsoft uses HoloLens tech to turn your living room into the ultimate sports den

While companies like Oculus, Samsung, Sony and Valve are betting big on virtual reality, Microsoft is taking the road less traveled (I’m looking at you, Google) and putting its focus on augmented reality. It’s HoloLens helmet aims to merge the physical world with digital by overlaying holograms on top of the real world around you. From video games to the classroom, Microsoft HoloLens aims to be a dominating force across myriad industries. One that makes just as much sense as the others? Sports.

At a panel called “The Future of Football: How Technology Could Shape the Next 50 Years of the Game,” Microsoft showcased the power of HoloLens and the exciting potential augmented reality and holograms can bring to gameday. Imagine if you had the ability to extend the big game beyond the confines of your existing HDTV, and not just by literally making the screen bigger. I’m talking live, interactive player stats and real-time fantasy football updates. Peer at your coffee table and watch it come to life with 3D instant replays viewable from any angle. This is the future of watching sports, and with it, the so-called “second screen experience” folds back up into one.

Now, I hate to burst your bubble, but this seemingly pie-in-the-sky tech doesn’t exist yet as it’s shown in the visually impressive demonstration above. It’s merely a concept, but you can rest assured Microsoft is considering it very seriously. The HoloLens hardware and software (it runs on Windows 10, believe it or not) is still in the development stages; Microsoft is ramping up production for developers to test and improve the device later this year. Still, this glimpse into the future is nothing short of amazing and it expands the evolving potential for an augmented reality lifestyle.

[Via Microsoft] READ MORE Microsoft uses HoloLens tech to turn your living room into the ultimate sports den

Apple squeaks out record 2016 Q1 results, braces for revenue decline

On January 26, Apple reported its 2016 first quarter financial results. Apple posted a record quarterly revenue of $75.9 billion and record quarterly net profit of $18.4 billion. Compare this to one year ago, that’s up from revenue of $74.6 billion and net profit of $18 billion. Says CEO Tim Cook in a press release: “Our team delivered Apple’s biggest quarter ever, thanks to the world’s most innovative products and all-time record sales of iPhone, Apple Watch and Apple TV. The growth of our Services business accelerated during the quarter to produce record results, and our installed base recently crossed a major milestone of one billion active devices.”

It was another “record quarter” for Apple, but there were some startling yet inevitable declines across its product sales. Let’s break it down by product category and then discuss. Apple sold 74.8 million iPhones in the quarter (compared to 74.5 million in the year-ago quarter); 16.1 million iPads (compared to 21.4 million); and 5.3 million Macs (compared to 5.5 million). As for iPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch, the company stuffs these products into a single category called Other Products and does not disclose how many units of each were sold. However, what we do know is that this division accounted for $4.4 billion of Apple’s revenue this quarter (compared to 2.7 million in the year-ago quarter).

A quick look at those numbers and you’ll come to realize that Apple’s finally hitting a plateau with its innovative product lineup. The iPhone is the company’s most profitable product today, and yet its sales were up just 0.4 percent compared to last year’s first quarter results. The iPad and Macs didn’t fare so well either. Tablet sales dropped 25 percent compared to last year, and computer sales went south by 4 percent. Apple CFO Luca Maestri addresses these significant slumps when predicting 2016’s second fiscal quarter revenue to fall between $50-$53 billion; if that happens, it would mark a year-over-year decline in revenue for the company for the first time in 13 years.

It isn’t all bad news for (still) one of the most profitable companies in the world. Apple’s touting a 63 percent jump in sales in its Other Products category that now includes hot holiday gifts like the new-and-improved Apple TV and Apple Watch. In addition, its Internet-connected Services jumped 27 percent year-over-year; iTunes, the App Stores, and Apple Music helped rake in $6.1 billion in revenue this quarter.

Despite the declines due to “the overall [economic] malaise in virtually every country in the world” and in particular the economic “softness” in China, Tim Cook is bullish on Apple’s future. With an active install base of 1 billion devices (that is iPhone, iPad, Mac, iPod touch, Apple TV and Apple Watch devices that have been engaged in Apple’s services within the past 90 days) and strong customer service and retention rates that are “second to none” in the industry, Cook is unwavering in his belief that Apple will continue to grow as new hardware, software, and services will push his company into the future. It’s just a sad thought knowing that the next quarter will likely be the first one in awhile we won’t be calling a new record.

[Via Apple; Engadget 1, 2; Deadline]

iTunes shares 2015’s top-selling music, movies, TV shows, apps & more

Thanks to its undeniable ubiquity, Apple’s iTunes storefront is a great barometer of the most popular media sold in entertainment. Let’s take a look at who and what performed well in 2015…

Included in iTunes’ top-selling albums are Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, Taylor Swift’s 1989, and Adele’s 25 (which came out only weeks ago!). The top-selling song of the year is Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars’ addicting “Uptown Funk.” Hanging around in the top 20 are Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen,” The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face,” and of course, Adele’s “Hello.” In addition to these top-selling lists, Apple likes to share hand-picked Editor Choice awards and they include: Drake (Best Artist), Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly (Best Album), The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” (Best Song), and Bryson Tiler (Best New Artist).

Top-selling movies include Star Wars: The Digital Movie CollectionBig Hero 6American SniperInside Out, and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Apple’s featured best movies include Mad Max: Fury RoadInside Out, the Amy Winehouse documentary Amy, and Dope. In TV, Game of ThronesThe Walking Dead, Downton AbbeyScandal, and The Blacklist are amongst the year’s best-selling series. Apple’s featured best TV shows include Mr. RobotFargoUnREAL, and Inside Amy Schumer.

Apple’s App Store is home to the largest library of apps in the world. The best app to help pass the time with friends, Heads Up!, keeps its crown as the top-selling paid app in 2015. Rounding out the top five paid apps: Minecraft: Pocket EditionTrivia Crack (ad free)Five Nights at Freddy’s 2, and Facetune. The top 5 best-selling free ones are always easy to nail: Trivia CrackFacebook MessengerDubsmashInstagram, and Snapchat. Don’t worry–YouTubeFacebookUber, and Crossy Road don’t trail far behind.

Calling all book readers! Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, E L James’ GreyFifty Shades of GreyFifty Shades Darker, and John Green’s Paper Towns are among the best-selling fictional novels. Top-selling non-fiction novels include Chris Kyle’s American Sniper, Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat, and Erik Larson’s Dead Wake.

Lastly, in the realm of podcasts, NPR’s Fresh Air is the most downloaded of the year. Apple named Mystery Show Best New Podcast and WTF with Marc Maron Best Classic Podcast.

Want more? Open iTunes to view all the top-selling media across Apple’s digital ecosystem.

Harmonix & Oculus team up to bring ‘Rock Band’ to virtual reality in 2016

Rock Band just made its comeback on consoles with Rock Band 4 on Xbox One and PS4, but that wasn’t enough for developer Harmonix. The company behind the original incarnations of Guitar Hero is hard at work on bringing the Rock Band experience to virtual reality via the Oculus RiftRock Band VR–as it’s being called for now–will suitably place the gamer on stage in front of a roaring crowd ready to hear some rock and roll. Harmonix and Oculus are keeping pretty mum on the exciting project. All we’ve got to go on is this quick clip that invites Dragonforce into the fold. Any Guitar Hero fan will remember the classic (arguably hardest) track featured in Guitar Hero III, Dragonforce’s heavy metal “Through the Fire and Flames.” The VR version of the game will come with this song in tow. The video has fun with the musicians paling around with Harmonix co-founder Alex Rigopulos and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey. It’s the final 20 seconds, though, that’ll get your heart racing in anticipation of the VR title; the nostalgic track plays as you catch a glimpse of what it’ll be like to live our your rockstar dreams like never before. How cool would it be to look around and see your bandmates playing right alongside you, feeding off your stage presence and the crowd’s energy? Both the Rift headset and the game aren’t due out until next year, so there’s still plenty of time for Harmonix and Oculus to invent imaginative ways to bring Rock Band into the untapped world of virtual reality.

Microsoft rolls out revamped Xbox One user interface

On November 12, Microsoft rolled out a new Xbox dashboard update and it brings a totally revamped user interface to the surface along with backwards compatibility. Microsoft’s been keen on doling out monthly updates to its home video games console/entertainment hub, and this latest one is its boldest yet.

Xbox One now features a UI based on Windows 10 with a focus on speed, efficiency, and social interactions. Along the top you’ll notice four sections: Home, Community, OneGuide, and Store. Inside Home, you’re presented with your most recently used games and apps, and your pinned games and apps live below them under a category titled “My stuff.” Along the left-hand side there’s a new Guide pane that presents quick access to Friends, Parties, Messages, Notifications, Settings, and app-snapping functionality. From here you can also sign-in and manage users. This pane can be accessed at anytime (read: inside games and apps) by double-tapping the Xbox button on your controller. Inside Community, you’re presented with an activity feed filled with unlocked achievements, screenshots, and clips shared by your friends. Here you can interact with them with likes, comments, and sharing. Above the feed, there are buttons to refresh it and dive into your Game DVR. Next to the feed you’ll see what’s trending on Xbox Live with quick access to content from sources like Xbox and YouTube. A new OneGuide section features trending entertainment offerings across TV, movies, and sports. App channels from content providers like Amazon and Crunchyroll provide quick access to preferred programming. Last, there’s Store; when this section is selected it auto-expands to reveal sub-sections Games, Apps, Movies & TV, and Music. These redesigned storefronts highlight popular media and make it easy to discover and search for content thanks to large thumbnails and detailed splash screens.

In addition to the faster, streamlined UI, the “New Xbox One Experience” brings with it Xbox 360 backwards compatibility, a feature that gamers have been clamoring for ever since launch. Microsoft is launching the initiative with 104 Xbox 360 titles on Xbox One, and it promises more to come as soon as December. You can view the complete Backwards Compatibility Game Library right here, and you’ll want to bookmark that link to stay updated about future additions. Oh, and it’s been confirmed that multiplayer-enabled games will support cross-play between the 360 and the One–how cool is that?!

Kinect owners may notice that motion-activated gestures are no longer supported by the dashboard with this update. There’s no need to fret, though. An even more natural way to navigate the system is coming and that’s Cortana integration. Soon you’ll be able to call up Microsoft’s digital assistant to perform even more advanced commands; finding out if a friend is online, inviting a friend to a party, and recording and sharing gameplay to your activity feed will be handled swiftly by Cortana in the near future. Also coming in 2016 is DVR functionality, so you can look out for that, too.

I’ve spent some time with the updated dash and I’m happy to report that it’s a breeze to use. The redesigned Home, Community, OneGuide, and Store sections present consolidated and streamlined portals into the best of what Xbox has to offer. Accessing your content and sharing your achievements are simple affairs. Peering into your Xbox Live community (Friends list, Parties, Messages, etc.) is made much more efficient thanks to the new Guide. Your favorite Xbox 360 titles are injected with new life on Xbox One; in addition to emulating them on your console, you can also take advantage of Xbox Live’s latest features including taking screenshots, recording Game DVR clips, and even game streaming to Windows 10 devices. In an effort to make Xbox One an easily accessible destination to play games with friends and consume streaming entertainment, Microsoft succeeded with flying colors with the New Xbox One Experience.

In case you haven’t automatically received the NXOE yet, you can manually download and install it inside Settings. And if you’ve got time to kill, jump after the break to preview the nooks and crannies of the new UI with Xbox’s Major Nelson. READ MORE Microsoft rolls out revamped Xbox One user interface

J.J. Abrams & ‘Infinity Blade’ developer collaborate on new video game ‘SPYJINX’

Play video games? Dig the curious mind of director/producer J.J. Abrams? Well, here’s an excitingly fresh piece of news for you. Abrams (LOSTStar Wars)–who previously struck a deal with Valve–is teaming up with Infinity Blade developer ChAIR to produce a game called SPYJINX. Here’s what we know so far:

Powered by Unreal Engine 4, SPYJINX is a unique mix of action strategy gameplay, dynamic world building and RPG character development – all set in a thrilling, treacherous world of espionage.

As is tradition in the world of Bad Robot, juicy details surrounding the upcoming title are being closely guarded for now. SPYJINX is expected to roll out on PCs and mobile devices during its 2016 launch, and the plan is for the game to hit consoles sometime thereafter. Gamers are invited to sign up for the beta now to help the developers shape the game and work out the kinks.

Watch Abrams and ChAIR founder and creative director Donald Mustard discuss their new collaborative effort in the video hanging here. As more information spills around SPYJINX, you’ll know where to find it.

YouTube Red brings ad-free streaming experience to the masses

Can you remember back to the days when YouTube wasn’t muddled with pre-roll advertisements? Yeah, I know, it’s straining. Well, Google is looking to finally alleviate the pain that comes packaged with having to sit through tediously boring commercials. The new initiative is called YouTube Red, and yes, like all magic it comes with a price. For $9.99/month you can stream YouTube videos completely ad-free. Oh, and thankfully there’s more to it. With a YouTube Red membership, you can also save videos for offline playback and background playback is enabled (the latter meaning playback continues even if you’re bouncing around other apps or if you’re mobile device falls asleep). Another perk? A Google Play Music subscription is part of it, too. Of course, Red benefits do not apply to those YouTube videos that require you to pay to view such as film rentals and the like. The rest, praise be, indeed go ad-free.

In time, YouTube Red will also offer exclusive content such as YouTube Music (a new way to curate and listen to music coming next year) and YouTube Red Original Series produced by some of the sites biggest stars like PewDiePie and Joey Graceffa. Preview ten of the new series coming in 2016 over here.

As of October 28, YouTube Red has gone live and you can live the ad-free experience by signing up today. YouTube’s offering a free one-month trial for you to find out if the $10 barrier to entry is worth it to you. If you happen to be a proud owner of a YouTube channel, do note that if you are ever looking to support your videos with ads, you will be forced to pay up for a Red membership. With that slightly sour but understandable point out of the way, go give YouTube Red a test drive and see if the reality lives up to the hype of living in an ad-free YouTube world.

[Via YouTube 1, 2]

Snapchat upgrades video capabilities and Twitter invites users to poll, like & heart

Snapchat’s selfie Lenses and Twitter’s Moments were just the beginning of new updates sprinkled on the popular social networks. Let’s discuss the new features and changes making their way to your mobile devices, in brief.

The app that does away with your fleeting snaps has added additional functionality to shooting its equally fading video recordings. After shooting a video, swipe through the handy filters and you’ll notice three new ones. Instead of switching up the physical appearance of the videos, they actually play around with speed. A filter marked with a snail aptly slows down your recording. Another marked by a rabbit speeds it up, and a third one plays your clip in reverse. Snapchat calls these fun new filters Speed Modifiers, and they are baked into the app’s latest update. Also included in the refreshed app is 3D Touch support; so, if you own an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, you can now force touch the app to pull up quick action shortcuts to chat with friends and add some more.

Twitter, on the other hand, has pushed polls out to everyone. Now you can create your very own poll to receive near-instant feedback from your followers about a topic you’e concerned about. Creating and tweeting out a poll is simple as pie. Update the app and when you go to compose a tweet, you’ll notice a new pie chart icon next to the location and camera icons. Click it to compose a poll, and you’ll have 166 characters to ask a question and 20 characters each for two choices your followers can choose from when responding to the poll.

Elsewhere, and most recently, Twitter is switching up its vernacular when it comes to Favorites. To the point, Favorites are now Likes, and the symbol has been changed from a star to a heart. Many users are confused about the sudden, erm, change of heart, and in a blog post the company does its best to support the facelift:

We are changing our star icon for favorites to a heart and we’ll be calling them likes. We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers. You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.

The heart, in contrast, is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones. The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people. And in our tests, we found that people loved it.

Love it or hate it, Likes and hearts are the new Favorites and stars and you better get used to it as they’re rolling out Twitter’s mobile apps and desktop web portal today.

[Via TechCrunch; Twitter 1, 2]

Apple reports 2015 Q4 results: $51.5 billion revenue & $11.1 billion net profit

On October 27, Apple reported its 2015 fourth quarter financial results. Apple posted a quarterly revenue of $51.5 billion and net profit of $11.1 billion. Compare this to one year ago, that’s up from revenue of $42.1 billion and net profit of $8.5 billion. Says CEO Tim Cook in a press release: “Fiscal 2015 was Apple’s most successful year ever, with revenue growing 28% to nearly $234 billion. This continued success is the result of our commitment to making the best, most innovative products on earth, and it’s a testament to the tremendous execution by our teams. We are heading into the holidays with our strongest product lineup yet, including iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, Apple Watch with an expanded lineup of cases and bands, the new iPad Pro and the all-new Apple TV which begins shipping this week.”

Now let’s break it down by product category. Apple sold 48 million iPhones in the quarter (compared to 39.2 million in the year-ago quarter); 9.8 million iPads (compared to 12.3 million); and 5.7 million Macs (compared to 5.5 million). As for iPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch, the company stuffs these products into a single category called Other Products and unfortunately does not disclose how many units of each were sold. However, what we do know is that this division accounted for $3 billion of Apple’s revenue this quarter (compared to 1.9 million in the year-ago quarter).

Looking ahead to the first fiscal quarter of 2016, Apple CFO Luca Maestri expects revenue between $75.5 billion and $77.5 billion.

[Via Apple]

Twitter’s Moments grants you access to fleeting trending topics in a new & interactive way

Twitter’s added a new section to its mobile and desktop portals called Moments. This particular social network works best when its users spread breaking news in an instant across the world. Twitter’s latest hub, Moments, provides a streamlined way to access such breaking news, whether or not you follow the accounts commenting on world affairs. For example, let’s say it’s awards season and the Oscars are airing live and you’re interested in knowing the night’s winners and the big, ahem, moments from the show. You’re away from a TV and the majority of your friends and other accounts you follows typically don’t post entertainment-related tweets. Moments relives you of this quagmire; simply click the new tab to view an interactive and visually appealing hub home to trending moments happening right now. If the Oscars are on, you’ll see related tweets, GIFs, Vines, and more, regardless of who you follow on the regular. You can even opt to follow a Moment–related tweets from relevant accounts will show up on your timeline. When the Moment ends (when related tweets start to die down), Twitter will automatically unfollow the Moments and you’re timeline will return back to normal.

Visually speaking, Moments is essentially an interactive version of the Trending Topics list that’s hidden inside Search on mobile. In the new hub you can quickly glance at topics people are raving and/or ranting about, with images and video to help contextualize it all. In addition to following Moments, you can also favorite and retweet sub-tweets inside Moments. Categories include Today, News, Sports, Entertainment, and Fun.

Moments are curated by Twitter as well as content partners including Bleacher Report, Buzzfeed, Entertainment Weekly, Fox News, Getty Images, Mashable, MLB, NASA, New York Times, Vogue, and the Washington Post. Even more partners are promised in the future.

iPhone and Android users can explore Moments on their mobile devices today, and desktop users in the US also have access to it as well. If you’re outside the US, the Moments hub is still out of reach (for now), but you can still access them whenever you see a Moment shared in your timeline.

If you’re someone who doesn’t like to follow celebrities or sports figures but still enjoys being “in the know” across interests like entertainment and sports, Moments is the destination to get your fix, right now.

[Via Twitter]

PS4’s latest update is massive, with improved social capabilities all around

Sony’s PlayStation 4 is receiving its most significant system software update since launch and version 3.00 packs quite the punch. The ability to share gameplay with a wider audience is included thanks to expanded support for YouTube and Twitter. Joining Twitch and Ustream on the Broadcast Gameplay screen is YouTube; click the Share button on your DualShock 4 controller to access this screen and stream gameplay from PS4 directly to YouTube. Over on the Upload Video Clip screen, Twitter is now an option alongside Facebook, YouTube, and Daily Motion. Double tap the Share button to start recording your gameplay, and once it’s captured you can send up to 10 seconds of it to the Twittersphere. Live broadcast streams, video clips, and screenshots can be shared and viewed in the improved Live from PlayStation app; here you can browse popular trending content in real time.

You’ll surely notice two new icons featured on the PS4’s home screen. A new hub called Events provides an overview of activities taking place in the games you play most, as well as official broadcasts. Additionally, a dedicated section for PlayStation Plus gives you quick access to membership management, lists of the monthly free games to download, PS Plus deals, and a catalog of games you’ve redeemed through the subscription service on PS4. Oh, and here’s a biggie: online storage capacity has increased from 1GB to 10GB for all PS Plus members.

Sony is taking Party Chat to the next level with Communities. The former feature remains, but the latter one helps gamers foster groups based around shared interests, like games, genres, etc. When a Community is created, members can take advantage of a general discussion message board; text-based conversations and shared screenshots are supported here. Looking to jump into a friend’s game session? Hit him up on the Community board, or better yet, send him a “Request to Watch” notification–that’s new, too.

The Messages and Friends apps has been updated as well. You can now mark PSN friends as favorites, making it easier to group together and later find the people you chat and play games with the most. Stickers are supported in Messages; the first batch include ones themed around Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Knack, LittleBigPlanet 3, and Resogun.

Free system software update 3.00 hits PS4 on Wednesday, Sept. 30. Jump after the break to watch a brief glimpse of what’s in store, and click here to view more screenshots of the enhanced UI.

[Via PS Blog 1, 2] READ MORE PS4’s latest update is massive, with improved social capabilities all around

Latest Snapchat update adds selfie Lenses, Trophy achievements & more replays

Today, Snapchat released a new version of its incredibly popular image and video-based social app and it comes with a slew of fun new features.

First up there’s Lenses. Previously, when users went to capture a selfie in Snapchat, they’d have the option to swipe through a bunch of different aesthetic and location-based Filters. Those remain, and being thrown into the mix now is Lenses, which are basically animated filters that make your selfies a bit more…exciting. Some of them are cute and endearing, such as the heart eyes (raise your eyebrows to make pink hearts pop from your eyes) and heart avalanche (open your mouth a pile of pink, purple, and white hearts fall on you). Others, meanwhile, are straight up bizarre; there’s one that paints your cheeks pink, super-sizes your eyes, and makes you puke a rainbow, and another transforms you into a scary demon. To activate Lenses, simply press and hold anywhere on your face before taking a Snap when you’re in selfie mode; a carousel of Lenses will appear along the bottom of the screen for you to scrub through. After your face gets scanned, on-screen instructions will tell you how to make the animations come to life (either by lifting your eyebrows are opening your mouth). You can snap a picture or hold down to record video, same as always. There are a total of seven Lenses to choose from, and Snapchat says it’ll rotate one out each day and replace it with a new one to keep things fresh.

Next there’s Trophy Case. It’s hidden inside the app’s main menu; in the snap screen, tap Snapchat’s ghost logo (located at the top-middle of the screen) and when the menu drops down you’ll notice a new trophy icon up top. Tap that to access your Trophy Case. It’s here where you’ll find unlockable achievements. The more you use Snapchat, the more achievements you’ll unlock. Achievements are presented as emojis. The one’s I have so far: “Your Snapchat score hit 1,000!” and “Sent a video Snap.” The company is not disclosing how to unlock them all, so you’ll have to send more Snaps to discover what’s hiding behind the unmarked locks. It’ll admit, it’s a smart way to keep users stuck inside the app!

And last, there’s a significant update to Snapchat’s Replay feature in this update. The app’s very first in-app purchase is the ability to purchase additional Replays. “We’ve provided one Replay per Snapchatter per day, sometimes frustrating the millions of Snapchatters who receive many daily Snaps deserving of a Replay. But then we realized — a Replay is like a compliment! So why stop at just one?” says Snapchat in a blog post. Starting today, users can purchase extra Replays for those moments when one a day simply isn’t enough. Pricing starts at 99 cents for 3 Replays. The company admits that’s pricey, “but time is money,” it exclaims. On the one hand, this optional purchase dilutes the magic of Snapchat and its image-focused self-destructive nature. Still, good on them for keeping the single (free) Replay around for users who want to use the feature but don’t want to pay up.

Now start freaking out your friends with those new Lenses by downloading the update today in the App Store.

[Via Snapchat]