Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

While we were all preoccupied with waiting for Sony and Microsoft to come out with the next generation of consoles, some smaller more mobile firms were readying some serious tech to stir the gaming industry.

Firstly let’s look at Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset for video games that we told you about back in March.  The Rift is a high-resolution display, with head tracking, that provides an immersive experience that allows you to get right inside the game. Full 360˚ vision allows the gamer to physically turn their head to be able to view things around them and in first person shooters, actually aim where they are looking.

The Rift is coming along nicely with some prototype models going out to developers looking very promising, but in my opinion, you still need other accessories to complete the package……(cue dramatic music) bring in Omni!

Omni

The Omni is one of the first virtual reality interfaces for moving within the virtual space. It allows you to freely walk, run, crouch and jump within the game so that it feels like you are really there. Of course the Omni will require that your purchase a virtual reality headset for the best experience, but it still comes in cheaper than a running machine and is double the amount of fun.

The Omni is compatible with the Oculus Rift and the Razer Hydra and is ready to play out of the box. It can be partially disassembled to store away and comes with support belt, tracking hardware and software.

Imagine the possibilities for something like this to help you lead a healthier lifestyle or even rehabilitating injured people.  Now, the stigma of just sitting down when gaming getting no physical exercise can be a thing of the past as you burn away calories running away from in-coming bullets and grenades. You can even see this being used in training the military or keeping people mobile letting them view parts of the world they never thought they would see without actually ever being there.

TheTechSpy is very excited by this as now the picture is being completed in the virtual reality field at a reasonable take home price. The Kickstarter project has already been immensely successful, nearly raising $500k with still 47 days left, but if you want to bag yourself a complete setup you will have to pledge around $479 now with stonky international shipping rates.

Here is the Kickstarter Video

I am sure most of you have tried to send files from one iOS device to another and I am also sure most of you have found that the process is not as straightforward as you wished it to be.

The method that we all have pretty much resorted to is either emailing it across, cloud services like Dropbox or Apple’s very own iCloud or attempting file sync with the USB cable and iTunes.

Well all of that is about to become a thing of the past as some developers have created an app called Instashare which you will be happy to know does its job with ease.

Instashare is very similar to AirDrop but for iPhones and tablets. It uses WiFi or Bluetooth without a connection to the internet to transfer files from one device to the other. The app is also in beta phase for OSX which will allow you to transfer from mobile device to Mac which will be very handy indeed. 

You can get these apps for free, but TheTechSpy recommends stumping up the 69p to make it ad-free as they are simply annoying and it makes for a much better experience. The interesting thing is the developers are currently working on the same apps for Windows and Android, so expect cross-platform transfers some time soon. 

Instashare

 

So here it is, Microsoft have just announced the next Xbox to the world and simply called it Xbox One.

Let’s start with the way it looks, as this is important as Microsoft have tried to make this an all-in-one entertainment system which is meant to sit in your living room. Microsoft are taking the battle directly to the DVR companies making this look like a sleek TiVo. The box, with its polished black exterior will not look odd in anybody’s home falling inline with most A/V components.

Along with the unit itself, the control pads have had a slight face lift to bring them in line with current standards and include vibration motors in the triggers, but I don’t think this will disappoint as the pads themselves have always been very popular.

The Xbox one will come with 8gb of RAM, Blu-ray drive, USB 3.0 and a 500gb hard drive, but at this point they have not released much about the processor itself just that it is an 8 core processor. It has a HDMI input and output which will lets you plug other devices into it, which is totally new for a console. I can only imagine that they are going to allow for your regions TV receiver to go through the box to further bolster up the media player side of things.

Microsoft confirmed they are not getting rid of Live services and are on the contrary upgrading servers from 15,000 today to 300,000 in the coming months which will significantly improve online game play and will include services such as cloud stored music, games and movies for an all round media player experience.

The DVR function is very interesting, having only a 500gb hard drive which will quickly be eaten up by movies and games, recording live TV may get assistance from the cloud, so a good solid Internet connection is going to be a must. The DVR will allow you to record game play so that you can view it back at any time or share with friends.

The redesigned Kinect camera has a 1080p sensor shooting 60fps which will work with Skype and they have referred to it working with live TV using voice recognition and allowing some kind of interactive TV experience. Skype will have the ability to be used during gameplay and the camera itself will be able to track your heartbeat for games that need it…..wow!

Games already lined up, FIFA 14, NBA live, Call of Duty: Ghosts and a new Steven Spielberg collaboration for a Halo interactive live TV series. Microsoft have also teamed up with the NFL to bring live streamed games direct to the console with a new fantasy football experience.

One thing that will disappoint most is that the console will not play Xbox 360 games as the architecture has been changed, but the console does not have to always be connected as recently covered in the press.

The long-awaited console has yet to have a confirmed release date but they have spoken about it being later this year which would coincide with recent November rumours. Currently we have no prices confirmed, but expect this to come in more expensive than the existing Xbox and to come with an option to sign up to Live annual services to reduce the price of the console.

Move over Surface tablet and Windows 8, all is forgiven Microsoft, you are back in the game!

Xbox One

Continuing on from Part 1 of the iOS Replacement Apps blog, here are some of the next apps which could replace the stock apps on your iPhone to make your life easier and maybe even a little more fun!

 

Apple: Safari

Non Apple: Opera – Free

Now, let me first say, there is not a lot wrong with Apple’s offering, Safari is a great browser but sometimes we get bored and just want those added features. Opera includes all the standards, tabbed browsing, bookmarking and of course the “find in page” option, but also has some added features like share options to easily share with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google + and of course email.

One of the best features is the in-built data usage tracker, which can show you how long you have spent off of WiFi which could become particularly helpful while on holiday on those expensive roaming charges.

This app is a step up from Apple’s offering, but you may also want to take a look at the competition in the form of Google Chrome which is also a great alternative.

 

Apple: Camera

Non Apple: Camera+ – 69p

Camera + is an immense app which will change the way you take photos with the iPhone. Not only can you take photos with it, but also edit them after. While taking a photo, you can edit the exposure and focus in real-time. You also have a variation of shooting modes (Burst, stabilised and even timer) and the unique ability to have the iPhone’s light on continuously to take a picture so that you can see what you are doing in low light conditions.

Editing shots are easy, but you can also import into Lightbox for even more possibilities with the choice of automatic sync available. From the app, you can transform your pictures with almost professional tools, allowing many possible Effects, brushing and layering at your fingertips. The app also allows you to share with the likes of Facebook and Twitter direct from the app after editing and is now available on the iPad.

 

Apple: iBooks

Non Apple: Kindle – Free

iBooks I think has a nice feel to the app, but some of you may not like the life-like design that Apple opt for. The only problem I see with this app, is those of you who like to purchase books and build up a huge collection are going to be stuck with Apple’s collection and of course staying with iOS from now on. Kindle changes that, you can buy books through the Kindle store which offers over 1.5million titles including books, magazines, newspapers and PDF’s.

The attraction for me is that you can pick the book up from the very page you left on in any device across iOS, Kindle devices, PC/Mac and Android meaning you are not stuck with iOS for the rest of your life. Some of the newspapers available are the The Spectator, The Daily Mail and The Guardian and the best features include dictionary look-up, search inside the book and the ability to change font, size and margins.

A great all-rounder which is free and solves a lot of issues.

 

Apple: Music

Non Apple: Groove 2 – £1.49

Once again the stock music app from Apple does the job, but it does have some short comings. Along with being a little bit boring and no major changes in the app being done in the last few years, one of the things that really gets to me is the creation of playlists. Going through my huge music collection to add songs to my newest playlist, I would like to be able to briefly hear the song I am about to choose (just like you can in the iTunes store before purchasing) but Apple have missed this.

Groove 2 is a great app which studies your listening habits and creates a wide variety of instant mixes like your own personal DJ. They claim that you will never have to create playlists again.

Winning quite a few awards, this app has some cool features. When you are in the car, you can use smart gestures to control volume, playback and get new mixes while keeping your eyes firmly on the road. It can also create playlists for you with a touch of a button which before BBQs and parties can be a valuable tool to save time.

You will not regret upgrading to Groove 2, if you are serious about your music, this is the app for you.

Apple Apps

 

 

 

 

The big question on everyone’s lips at the moment with Apple is “What next?” for the giant whose share price has fallen from grace in the last few months. The company issued a record $17bn of bonds yesterday to raise money for future ventures even though it has a mammoth cash pile that the likes of Cyprus would be jealous of. The problem is the money can’t be moved back to the US due to the serious amount of tax that they will incur in doing so, as most is held overseas.

At first glance it looks worrying, but I really don’t think they have anything to worry about. After the high-profile bodge-job they made with the new maps and the subsequent firings at the company to repair the damage, the company is left with trying to fix the issue and coming out with new ideas and products to sustain their reign at the top.

Apple have begun creeping into the car market, with signings like Ferrari and Bentley using the personal assistant Siri to aid driving assistance. According to multiple sources close to the project, Apple plan to move aggressively into the in-car integration space within 2013. As more and more companies offer accessories for the car, Apple have moved away from creating accessories trying to cash into their products doing it natively, slowly removing market share from everyone else. The company has always been concerned with 2nd rate accessories being used with their products they have concentrated so much to perfect.

Apple is apparently working with car makers to update car centre consoles to work with iOS devices. The iPhone could be plugged into a car using a redesigned version of Apple Maps which would appear on the car’s built-in display in a mirror format. The benefit with this is that user will always have access to updated maps controlled by Apple and the millions of developers who could create apps for it using API’s and external info. Currently, the best offerings are from companies like Dension, which are good, but still a little limited due to the car manufacturers not properly teaming up with them. The big problem with the stock systems that come from the car manufacturers is the fact they are poorly updated and limited. Our state of the art cars, too frequently have not caught up with the advancements in tech, so mostly disappoint when you use the control system.

Apple announced at WWDC that it is working with car makers on the Eyes-Free Siri system, including BMW, Toyota, Audio, Honda, and Land Rover. It is likely that Apple is talking to the car makers to take advantage of the new Maps which they will hopefully release in June along with Siri’s car-integrated offerings.

One of the most interesting moves at Apple is the fact that the meticulous product visionary Jonathan Ive is now heading up software. He has already promised to make a complete overhaul of the look and design of iOS which some would say is overdue. The company is rumoured to be trying to finish iOS7 for June’s preview at WWDC, but no release date has been set as yet.

Apple seems to have always had an interest in the car market, with Eddie Cue now sitting on the Ferrari board of directors and Steve Jobs reportedly wanted to take on Detroit with a car design of his own….imagine that, the iCar!

This will be a very interesting sector for Apple to get into as there is so much scope for improvement and not forgetting the famous Apple-esque refinement that some of the luxury brands are missing.

BMW

 

Sony has just unveiled a compact camera that is jam-packed full of features, tightly fitted in its light and small body. The features include a 20.4-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor and a whopping 30x optical zoom. The camera weighs 9.6-ounces, and measures 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.2-inches.

The HX50V with its old-school design is far from old with its rich list of tech. The HX50V has built-in Wi-Fi which when used through the Sony PlayMemories mobile app can work as a remote control and aid wireless transfer of images.

The camera does not forget its roots, still keeping the multi-interface shoe which allows you to add an external mic or flash to take your photography to the next level, but also includes an in-built flash. It keeps the multi-functional dial found on the more professional DSLR which just feels good and allows for connection of a remote shutter controller for those who do not want to use the available app to control it.

Along with all the hardware, Sony have ensured that the camera has the optical SteadyShot system which can only be a good thing when taking pictures on such a good camera. It also records Full High Definition video smoothly and has the normal image filters which we now find on most photographic devices. The unit has a decent maximum ISO sensitivity of 3200.

Altogether, this is a well-rounded camera and keeps Sony up there with the titans. It almost feels like it is a super camera disguised as an older Clark Kent to fool everyone.

It’s out in May this year, but Sony have not unveiled UK prices as yet. Our stateside cousins will be shelling out a cool $450.

Sony HX50V

Sony HX50V

 

Not all of us can afford to drive the kind of cars that have tech built into the dash, but now Parrot want everyone to be able to have access to it.

Bring on the Asteroid Smart, this Android powered, double-din, clever little unit will provide most cars with the ability to be connected and of course give you the kind of tech normally found in luxury motors.

The unit comes with Wi-Fi in-built, 4 x USB slots, Bluetooth, 6.7” capacitive touchscreen display, SD slot and is camera ready. You can download apps from the Asteroid Marketplace to allow you to have internet radio, music on demand and even driver assistance, so all units are customisable to the owner.

The Asteroid Smart can connect via Wi-Fi, USB 3/4g dongle or even connected via compatible smartphone to pull the data it needs to keep you informed. This can be used to access weather reports, emails, internet pages etc. It is also packing a GPS sensor which when combined with the choice of navigational apps will keep you on the right path.

Music can be played from a connected USB or SD card and has the ability to play directly from your iPod/iPhone via cable or using A2DP over Bluetooth direct from your iPhone. The most exciting part is the ability to download the likes of Spotify to potentially give you a huge database to choose from.

This unit is an outstanding piece of kit for any car and will catapult your vehicle into the 21st century, but one issue that we have to mention, is that although the unit has a partial detachable faceplate, will this deter thieves from breaking into your car as they see the beautiful screen proudly displayed?

This point aside, at about £475 this device is not cheap, but we believe you get what you pay for and Parrot have certainly given us everything!

Asteroid Smart