Monday, 23 June 2014

China Has the Fastest Supercomputer in the World — Again

China Has the Fastest Supercomputer in the World — Again
Zipping along at 33.86 petaflops (quadrillions of calculations per second), China's Tianhe-2 is the world's fastest computer for the third year in a row, according to Top500, a twice yearly compilation of the fastest computers on Earth.
The results were announced on Monday at the International Supercomputing Conference in Leipzig, Germany.
The Tianhe-2 was developed by China's National University of Defense Technology. Its predecessor, the Tianhe-1A, held the top spot on the supercomputer list in 2010. Top500 organizers note that the top 10 supercomputers are mostly unchanged from the last list, with the exception of a Cray XC30 computer, which is "installed at an undisclosed U.S. government site," according to a release on the site.
Overall, the United States has by far the most supercomputers out of the top 500 systems, with China in a distant second; the UK, France and Germany lag far behind.
Supercomputers are not like the computers you use at home or in the office; they're not even much like the servers you’ll find in the office basement. They’re comprised of thousands of nodes and designed for crunching data and solving very difficult problems — in other words, research and development. That's why you'll find them hidden away at military facilities and laboratories.
Top500 notes that the rate of performance growth for the entire list is slowing down. Performance at the low end of the list typically grew at 90% year-over-year, but has now dropped to a 55% growth rate. Part of this deceleration is attributed to the dearth of new systems at the top. Despite that lack of change, these supercomputers will get more super. Tianhe-2 is projected to reach 100 petaflops by 2018.
Of the 500 systems on the list, 37 offer performance above the 1 petaflops range, nearly all of them use multicore processors, and 85% of them are running Intel processors. As for the systems themselves, 36% are built by HP and 33% by IBM. Cray builds 10%.
This is the 21st year that organizers in Germany and the United States have compiled the list.
The computer scientists measure system performance with the Linpack Benchmark, which is used in each system to solve "a dense set of equations." The benchmark is not a measure of the system's overall performance, but rather its performance on that task. Top500 organizers insist that no single benchmark can effectively measure the overall performance of a given system.
Posted by : Gizmeon

Harmony Ultimate Remote Now Supports Nest Thermostat

Harmony Ultimate Remote Now Supports Nest Thermostat
Logitech's Harmony line of remotes has long allowed users to control every device in their living room, and now, a new update will bring in wider support for even more connected devices.
Logitech is issuing a software update to its Harmony Ultimate remote, which will offer support for the Nest Learning Thermostat. In addition to controlling the temperature from the Harmony's 2.4-inch color screen, Logitech says you can change settings on the Nest, including switching from cool to heat, or turning off the system altogether.
Nest support joins Philips Hue light support on the Harmony Ultimate. This means the Harmony is getting one step closer to being a total home remote control.
In a statement, Joerg Tewes, vice-president of Logitech's digital home business group said, "With one touch of the remote or the Harmony app on your tablet or smartphone, you can dim your Philips Hue lights, turn on your TV, start a movie and now set the temperature on your Nest thermostat."
Support for the Nest comes by way of the Nest Developer Program. The integration also enables Logitech's Harmony Ultimate to work with Nest's Auto-Away function. The remote and the Nest are both connected to your home network, and picking up the remote will notify the Nest that you're home, so it can adjust the temperature accordingly.
It's very useful, especially if you have family members who don't use one of Nest's smartphone apps to activate the feature.
Extending the remote's value
I've been a Harmony customer since 2003, and have zero qualms abut paying a few hundred dollars for a solid, universal remote control. Why? Because life is too short to deal with multiple remotes.
Previously, the Harmony line was hampered by a lack of of built-in connection for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices. However, that changed with the release of the Harmony Ultimate and the Harmony Smart Control smartphone apps. (Owners of the Harmony Touch or Harmony Ultimate One can get those features by adding the Harmony Ultimate Hub to their existing device.) This is fantastic because it makes the value proposition for a $350 remote control that much better.
These days, an increasing number of my connected devices speak through something other than infrared (IR), a wireless mobile technology. And when it comes to connected-home devices, such as thermostats, lights and even cameras, the fewer controls required, the better.
Logitech has a real opportunity to turn its existing product into an Internet of Things hub that can work today. Harmony owners don't need to wait for the next all-in-one connected-home ecosystem — they can look at using their existing remote now.
It would be even better if the process of adding new devices to the Harmony ecosystem was as simple as tapping a button to pair an object. (A girl can dream, can't she?)
Harmony Ultimate users will get a free update with Nest support, starting June 24. For more information, check out Logitech's Nest site.
Posted by : Gizmeon

Samsung Reportedly Explored Acquiring Company That Powers Siri

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Siri, can you say "complicated"?
Nuance Communications, a software company that develops speech recognition tools and powers Apple's Siri personal assistant, has talked with multiple companies about a possible sale, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. One of those, according to the report, just happens to Apple's rival, Samsung.
That said, The Journal is unclear on the seriousness of these talks — and which, if any, may lead to a deal. A representative for Nuance declined to comment on the report, and Samsung did not immediately respond to our request for comment.
Nuance operates the Dragon Dictation app, a popular voice dictation app, among other products. Apple launched Siri with the iPhone 4S in 2011. The voice-activated personal assistant has been criticized for its flaws, but it has gradually improved over the years and is no longer characterized as being in beta.
Samsung later introduced a service similar to Siri, which it called S Voice.
For what it's worth, Siri doesn't seem to be a fan of the possible deal, although perhaps this response would change if Samsung were the owner.
Posted by : Gizmeon

Apple Expected to Appeal E-Book Price Fixing Ruling

Apple Expected to Appeal E-Book Price Fixing Ruling
Apple just simplified its approach to the ongoing litigation around its alleged e-books price fixing. A damages settlement struck Monday with several state attorneys general and a class of plaintiffs clears the way for Apple to focus on appealing a July 2013 ruling that it fixed prices in violation of antitrust laws. The company agreed to a deal with U.S. states and consumers who were seeking damages of up to $840 million. A jury trial on those damages was scheduled to start next month.
Federal judge Denise Cote in Manhattan on June 17 asked all sides to submit a filing by July 16, seeking approval of the proposed deal. As Bloomberg News reports, details of the agreement weren't disclosed. Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet, Apple's attorney Theodore Boutrous, and plaintiffs attorney Steve Berman declined to comment.
The July trial would have been one of four lawsuits to emerge from a Justice Department investigation into e-book pricing by several companies, including Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. All the defendants except Apple settled the various federal and state cases.
Monday's settlement doesn't end the main dispute between the Justice Department and Apple, which was tried last June and which Apple lost. A July ruling by Judge Cote found the company had violated antitrust laws and colluded with book publishers to inflate the price of e-books. In February, Apple asked the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Cote's ruling, arguing that it is "a radical departure from modern antitrust law and policy," according to the appellate brief. "If allowed to stand, the ruling will stifle innovation, chill competition and harm consumers. This Court should overturn it."
Apple, through its lawyers at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, has denied the price fixing charges and called the government's case and the arguments it was built on "absurd," "fundamentally flawed," and favoring "monopoly, rather than competition." The appellate brief says Judge Cote's ruling contradicts other Supreme Court and Second Circuit decisions in price-fixing cases. Apple's case could itself make its way to the high court.
A little over two weeks ago, the Justice Department and the states responded to Apple's appeal, writing in their brief that the "price-fixing conspiracy is per se unlawful under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, and Apple is liable for it." They argue that rather than address the district court's findings, Apple instead claimed it struck several separate agreements with publishers "whose only purpose was to facilitate Apple's precompetitive entry into the e-book market. That characterization … cannot be reconciled with the evidence presented at trial, which demonstrated that Apple had conspired with the publishers to achieve their shared goal of eliminating e-book retail price competition and raising e-book prices."
The brief charges Apple with putting forth unsound legal arguments, and asks that Cote's judgement and injunction be affirmed by the appellate court. Apple's response to the government's brief is due by June 24.
So the settlement now focuses attention on the pending appeal, which is likely to determine the fate of the class actions and state damages cases.
Posted by : Gizmeon

Film Your Life Like a First-Person Shooter With This Camera Drone

Film Your Life Like a First-Person Shooter With This Camera Drone
Many gamers have fantasized about seeing the first-person, top-down view shown in many video games in real-life. Now a new autonomous camera drone promises to deliver just that.
Created by a team from France, the Hexo+ allows you to record yourself from the vantage point of an aerial drone that follows you as you move through the world. If the video game analogy doesn't work for you, think of it as a kind of super selfie machine.
In the device's demonstration video, team member Xavier De Le Rue, a professional snowboarder, says that part of the inspiration for the project came from a desire to be able to shoot better action sports scenes. But it only takes a few minutes of viewing the footage to realize that the Hexo+ could be harnessed for a wide array of situations beyond sports.
Weighing just 2.2 pounds, the Hexo+ can autonomously track and shoot its subject from up to 164 feet away — which means you can conceivably shoot a professional-looking movie with a camera crew of just one person. The tracking, which uses the MAVlink Micro Air Vehicle communication protocol, is set up in a smartphone app that allows you to visually position the camera in relation to the user's position via a 3D icon or live video.
Since the six-rotor device can travel at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour, it can easily handle action shots, if you want it to follow you while running or biking.
The Hexo+ does have a couple of significant limitations, the most important being the fact that it only has 15 minutes of battery life. No matter how innovative the shoot, you'll have to master time management to get the most out of the device.
There's also the problem of obstacle avoidance: it doesn't have any. In the video, you'll notice that the shots all occur in open-air situations with no one else near the primary subject.
While its spatial limitations cut down on the Hexo+'s overall usefulness, if you can find the right environment, the device is a powerful way to capture stunning scenes on your own.
The team's Kickstarter page quickly blew past its initial $50,000 goal, reaching nearly $500,000 as of this writing, with a full 28 days left to go. Early bird supporter prices for the device are $599 without a GoPro camera included and $699 with the camera included.
When the Hexo+ hits retail the device will sell for $899 without the GoPro camera, $1,099 with a GoPro Hero3 White Edition HD camera, and $1299 with a Hero3+ Black Edition 4k camera. Early backers are scheduled to receive the device in May 2015.
Posted by : Gizmeon

If Amazon Launches a Phone, It Will Have a Serious App Problem

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At this point, it's all but guaranteed that Amazon will be introducing its own smartphone at a big Willy Wonka-esque event on Wednesday. While we're busy ruminating over the specs, the design and the standout features, I'm left with a larger question: Can Amazon build a phone with the essential services it needs to compete?
After all, a smartphone is more than just a screen, RAM and a 4G LTE chipset. As we've seen time and time again, with everything from the Palm Pre (RIP WebOS), BlackBerry 10 and even Windows Phone, the services and ecosystem that a phone has are just as important as specs.
That's why when the rumors of an Amazon phone (and a 3D one at that) started to spread, I mentally dismissed them. It's not that a phone isn't the next natural extension for Amazon, it's that I was unsure how the company could build a phone with all the essentials customers need. And without Google.
Core app stumbling blocks
Amazon isn't entering the smartphone space blind. The company has spent nearly three years building and selling its Kindle Fire tablets. And that strategy has found great success. But can that success translate into a phone, where the core requirements are quite different?
Amazon's Fire OS is an interesting product in that it's a true Google-free version of Android. Nearly every pixel has been redrawn and all dependency on the big G's services have been removed.
On a tablet, this situation works quite well. In North America at least, Amazon has an equal (if not better) content ecosystem of books, movies, music and TV shows. And Amazon has built up its own Appstore to have plenty of games and media apps.
But the core apps for a phone and a tablet are very different things. When it comes to a smartphone, there are a few core apps that every platform must have:
Good email app
Great web browser
Camera and photo software
Ideally, the built-in options for these options are sufficient — but if they aren't, the platform better have third-party alternatives that can fill in the gaps (we're looking at you, Apple Maps).
The potential problem for Amazon — and a roadblock its new phone will have to address out of the gate — is that right now, Fire OS doesn't have adequate solutions for any of those core apps except for photos. (Amazon's Cloud Drive Photo app for Android does offer a seamless way to back up photos to Amazon's cloud.)
Doing email, maps and a browser
So what do a web browser, maps and email have in common? All three are services where Google is best in class.
Especially on Android, Google has nailed the maps, browser and email experience better than anyone else. Compare the Gmail app to Android's stock mail app, and Google Chrome to the stock Android browser. The experiences are like night and day (even though the stock Android apps are also made by Google).
Google, smartly, uses the importance of its Google-branded apps as a kind of unspoken leverage to prevent manufacturers from forking Android. Doing your own version of Android (as Amazon has with Fire OS) — without Google approval — means that you give up Chrome, Gmail, Google Maps, Hangouts, Google Voice, Google Drive and every other major Google service.
In countries where Google has little to no presence — like China — giving up these services might not be a big deal. That's one of the things Nokia is betting on with its Android phone. In the United States, however, making a phone that doesn't have native Google support is risky.
With Windows Phone, Microsoft at least has a solid first-party base of replacements. Internet Explorer, Nokia Maps and Outlook are all powerful, competent offerings.
Microsoft might not have the market share, but it does prove that a Google-free ecosystem can be built. So what about Amazon?
Amazon purists may argue that the Kindle Fire and Fire OS have built-in email and a built-in web browser. This is true. But built-in ≠ adequate. Just ask BlackBerry.
The email app included with the Kindle Fire and Fire OS is rudimentary. It works, but it's hardly the sort of app you'd want to spend a lot of time in — especially on a phone.
This is even more true for Amazon's Silk web browser. Silk's big claim to fame was supposed to be its ultra-fast speed, helped by Amazon's AWS backend. If only that worked in practice. If you've ever used Silk, you know that it hasn't lived up to its premise of more speed. Moreover, the interface is clunky.
On a tablet, the subpar email and lackluster browser are no big deal — you spend most of your time in apps or watching content anyway. On a smartphone, however, email and the web browser are vital to the entire experience.
This is even more true for maps. As Apple's initial rollout of Apple Maps proved, maps are one of the most crucial aspects of a smartphone. Mess up maps, and customers will revolt.
Going without Google
Short of some surprise (and very unorthodox) deal with Google, we have to assume that Google's core apps — Gmail, Maps, Chrome — won't ever find their way to Amazon's smartphone. Some of those apps might be available via subterfuge, but the reliance on Google services will likely relegate access to the individuals willing to tinker and hack their phones.
So what can Amazon do in response? It's possible that Amazon has spent the last few years building out a robust core-apps team of developers and that it can launch competent replacements itself — à la Windows Phone.
It should be noted, however, that Microsoft's Outlook and Internet Explorer platforms go back two decades, which made that kind of transition with Windows Phone 8 less of an internal struggle. Again, to cite Apple Maps: Buying a bunch of companies and hoping that the fruits can be slapped together to take on incumbents with years of data is short-sighted and naive. Microsoft also benefited from Nokia's longstanding mapping relationship.
Instead, I think it would be more tenable — and probably more successful — for Amazon to adopt solid third-party offerings as the defaults for its platform. Maybe license Nokia Maps from Microsoft, for instance. For email, look at Mailbox or one of the other new email startups. The web browser is more difficult, but a customized version of something like Dolphin browser, Opera or even Firefox for Android could work, too.
Don't expect the defaults to be 'good enough'
My only fear with an Amazon smartphone is that no matter how great the exclusive Amazon features are, how exciting the tech might be, how solid the user experience — the core default apps will still suffer.
That cannot happen. If Amazon can't built first-rate default apps or partner with third parties to include those apps as defaults, the Amazon Appstore better make finding replacements easy and seamless.
Amazon's target customer is not the user who wants to read a bunch of reviews hunting for a way to get a mapping app that works correctly — or an email app that doesn't suck. This customer wants stuff to work seamlessly. That has always been Amazon's calling card. Deviating from that method, especially for core apps, could be disastrous.
We should all heed the lessons of Facebook Home and the dozen other failed attempts to reinvent the smartphone wheel — if you make things too different and obfuscate or de-emphasize core features too much, customers will respond by not buying a phone.
At the end of the day, I'm not sure how Amazon is going to address the core apps problem — but I'm confident the company has a plan. Let's just hope it can execute.
Posted by : Gizmeon

This App Can Send Scented Text Messages

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For foodies desperate to make their food porn as realistic as possible, a new app could finally attach what's missing from all those pictures of gourmet meals: smell.
Harvard University professor David Edwards, along with a team of students, created an iPhone app called oSnap that can take photos and send accompanying scents to the recipient. The app premiered June 17 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York with a scented message sent from Paris to New York.
The app has an Instagram-like automatic camera with which the user can snap photos of the object they wish to send. After the photo is taken, a tagging menu appears with a selection of scent notes for the user to choose from, such as butter, cocoa beans, baguette or red wine. Up to eight different scents can be combined to give the recipient the full picture of a meal or other experience. The photo and its corresponding scent tags are then messaged to the recipient, who uses a scent-transmitting machine called an oPhone to "receive" the smell.
Currently, the oPhone is only available at the Museum of Natural History and at Le Laboratoire in Paris. Users who send an oSnap from their iPhone can travel to the two locations and download the message — called an oNote — along with the scent. But Edwards and his team are raising support via an Indiegogo campaign to mass-produce the oPhone for home use. The sticker price of an oPhone is $199. Since the site launched Monday, 27 contributors have pledged nearly $7,000, a small dent in the $150,000 goal.
The team envisions the device becoming commonplace in restaurants, coffee shops and other places where explaining complex smells and flavors can be difficult. Edwards suggested that baristas could use the oPhone to give customers a sense of a product before buying.
The invention evokes memories of Smell-O-Vision, an ill-received effort to add smells into the movie-watching experience. Edwards was quick to point out that while Smell-O-Vision and its subsequent attempts doused the room with an overwhelming scent, the oPhone keeps the odors contained to the individual's nose.
"[The oPhone] produces just enough aroma that it's your message, not your neighbor's message," he said. "It's enough for a signal but it's not anything more than that."
The Museum of Natural History will be displaying the oPhone in an interactive exhibit in the Sackler Educational Laboratory for Comparative Genomics and Human Origins. Part of the appeal in curating the device was in its demonstrating the connection between primitive and modern humans.
"The museum is very interested in the evolution of life and scent is a big part of that," said Michael Novacek, the museum's senior vice president. "In a sense, our whole legacy really comes from the olfactory system."
Posted by : Gizmeon

Google Names Glass Partners for Medical, Sports Apps

Google Names Glass Partners for Medical, Sports Apps
Google named five developer partners on Monday for Glass apps from the medical, media and sports industries.
The partners include APZ Labs, which makes Skylight, a business software app for Glass; AugMedix, which markets a service for doctors; CrowdOptic, which makes context-aware apps for the sports, entertainment and medical industries; and GuidiGo, which aims to make museums and cultural institutions "more accessible." Finally Google also named Wearable Intelligence, a creator of enterprise solutions using Glass. Glass Certified Partners are authorized by Google's Glass at Work program for delivering enterprise solutions for Glass. The developers are also eligible for co-branding and listing on the Glass at Work website.
Google culled the four from "hundreds" of applicants to the program, according to a blog post.
The move comes after Google made Glass available to everyone in May. The $1,500 device had previously been available by invitation only. While initially there was a lot of curiosity about Glass, the headset is now experiencing a bit of a backlash, which was expressed in a popular Daily Show clip last week that mocked the insularity of Explorers, a.k.a. Glassholes. Recent confrontations between patrons wearing the device at restaurants and bars have fueled the shift in sentiment.
Despite the blowback on the consumer front, some argue that there are solid applications for Glass for businesses. For instance, doctors a Boston Hospital are using Google Glass and QR codes to identify patients. The system allows doctors to quickly scan a patient’s code and view information about him within Glass. Another recent marketing-focused application includes CrowdOptic's virtual reality gallery for beauty brand Lancome.
Posted by : Gizmeon

Health and Fitness Apps Are Growing 87% Faster Than Any Other Apps

Health and Fitness Apps Are Growing 87% Faster Than Any Other Apps
Either people are sticking to their New Year's resolutions, or interest in fitness has found new life through technology. Health and fitness app usage is up 62% in the past six months.
According to Flurry Insights, health and fitness tracking apps are growing 87% faster than any other app category.
While tech companies have been trying to impact the health industry for years, consumer interest has been reignited thanks to wearable fitness trackers like the Fitbit and Jawbone UP, as well as rumors that Apple is gearing up to launch a wearable (possibly called the iWatch), which will likely have a strong focus on health.
Earlier this month, Apple announced its HealthKit for developers that will be able to pull in data from other third-party apps such as Nike to keep all your health-related information in one hub.
Last year, mobile apps in general grew 115%, but health and fitness-focused apps only had a 49% bump. As major companies like Apple introduced consumers to its health services, these numbers are only projected to grow.
Flurry Insights also found that women (62%) tend to be more interested in tracking their health than men (38%). Age distribution skews higher too, with people from 35 to 54 comprising 47% of fitness app users, more than any other age group.
Posted by : Gizmeon

Possible Proof That the iPhone's 'Kill Switch' Stops Thieves

Possible Proof That the iPhone's 'Kill Switch' Stops Thieves
Apple's iPhone "kill switch" is apparently making would-be thieves think twice.
The switch locks up iPhones running iOS 7 unless the authorized user is there to unlock it — preventing thieves from being able to wipe over or repurpose stolen phones by doing a factory reset. And a new report makes the case that the kill switch has dramatically reduced iPhone-related crime.
Following Apple's lead, Google said in a statement to Bloomberg that it would implement a "factory reset protection solution" in the next major version of Android, expected to be revealed at Google I/O next week.
Microsoft said Windows Phone would also be getting theft-deterrent features in an upcoming software update, and Samsung introduced its own kill switch this past April.
The report, initiated by the New York State and San Francisco Attorneys General in June 2013, was a response to the rising tide of smartphone thefts. In the U.S., smartphone thefts nearly doubled from 2012 to 2013, totaling around 3.1 million.
But that seems to have changed, at least for iPhone and iPad owners. In New York City, robberies of Apple products dropped 19% in the first five months of 2014 compared with those months a year earlier. Grand larcenies involving Apple devices plummeted 29% over the same period.
iOS 7, which includes the kill switch feature, was released in September 2013.
Meanwhile, Samsung users seem to be more in danger than they were a year ago. Robberies and larcenies of the company's smartphones climbed more than 40% in New York City from January to May of 2014.
And it's not just New York City. Crime related to Apple products fell by 38% in San Francisco and 24% in London. Robberies and larcenies of Samsung smartphones trended up at a rate of 12% in San Francisco and 3% in London.
iPhone users can make sure their kill switch is enabled by tapping on settings, then iCloud, followed by "Find my iPhone." If the slider is set to on, users will be able to lock the phone and erase data remotely.
The attorneys general and other officials who are a part of the Secure Our Smartphones Initiative are pushing for kill switches to be an automatically enabled feature.
Windows Phone 8 will have several theft-deterrent features by July 2015, Microsoft says, pending various approval procedures. Those features will let users erase data remotely, just like the iPhone's kill switch, and will only allow the phone to call 911. Only authorized users will be able to reactivate it.
Kill switches are fast becoming a legal requirement. The Minnesota government last month became the first state to require them in smartphones sold there. The requirement will go into effect next July.
Posted by : Gizmeon

Funny-Looking Coat Turns Away Spying Electronic Eyes

Funny-Looking Coat Turns Away Spying Electronic Eyes
If you always wanted Harry Potter's invisibility cloak but wished it was a bit comfier, your wish may have come true.
Austrian architecture firm Coop-Himmelblau has designed a Snuggie-like piece of clothing that jams the wearer's phone, effectively rendering him invisible. The Jammer Coat shields the phone from wireless signals, so the device becomes undetectable to things like search engines or tracking software, and there's no way for anyone to pull credit card information.
The code is basically a Faraday cage, with metals embedded in the fabric that reflect incoming radio waves, protecting the wearer from unwittingly sharing any information on any device beneath it.
Apparently, one of the cloak's most useful features is its lumpy pattern, which acts as a disguise for would-be phone hackers and thieves.
"The Wave Circle pattern of the fabric gives an illusion of strange multiple body parts, which hides and frees the individual physicality," the product's website states.
Whether or not anyone ever buys the Jammer Coat, it's certainly another symptom of the ongoing privacy-vs-surveillance debate, exemplified by people who want to be "forgotten" by Google and similar web trackers, and the increasing presence of drones and other surveillance technology.
Posted by : Gizmeon

Google Gesture App Translates Sign Language Into Spoken Language

Google Gesture App Translates Sign Language Into Spoken Language
A new app in development could help people understand sign language in real time.
Students at Berghs School of Communication in Stockholm, Sweden are working with Google to build an app that can translate sign language into speech. The team won an award at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for their work.
The app — called Google Gesture — is paired with a band worn on the forearm that analyzes muscle movements made when signing — a process known as electromyography. These movements are then sent to the app, which translates them into audible words as they are signed.
"The vast majority of people don't understand sign language, which means a lot of interesting conversations never take place," the Gesture video says.
The app's goal is to fix that problem by translating sign language right away, so there's no lull in conversation while the signer waits for audio voice to kick in.
In the past, Google has developed software that enables the deaf and hard of hearing to communicate via technology. For example, Android offers an option on its Google Translate app that turns speech into text.
A release date for the app has not yet been announced.
Posted by : Gizmeon

20 Years Ago, Apple and Kodak Launched the Digital Camera Revolution

20 Years Ago, Apple and Kodak Launched the Digital Camera Revolution
Back in Apple's dark ages — during Steve Jobs' interregnum in the mid-1990s — the company experimented with some strange products. Everyone remembers the ill-fated Newton PDA, for instance, which was considered ahead of its time. Less memorable was the QuickTake 100, the first mass market color consumer digital camera.
First unveiled at the Tokyo MacWorld Expo on February 17, 1994, the QuickTake 100 went on sale 20 years ago from yesterday — June 20, 1994. It was priced at $749 and initiated the age of consumer digital photography.
One reason why the QuickTake 100 is not often mentioned as an Apple breakthrough — other than the fact that Jobs' himself had nothing to do with it — was that it's one of the few non-computer products Apple produced and one Apple itself didn't design.
The QuickTake 100, which captured and stored eight 640 x 480 pixel (or 16 320 x 240 pixel 24-bit color images) was the product of the inventor of the digital camera: Kodak. Afraid of jeopardizing its film business, Kodak didn't want its own name on its own creation, just one in a long series of digital camera history ironies.
What's even less known is how that first binocular-shaped digital camera started out 20 years earlier as a toaster-shaped device.
The accidental chip
There would be no digital camera or no digital imaging of any kind without the charged-coupled device, otherwise known as the CCD, that was invented by a couple of Nobel prize winners completely by accident.
As the story goes, Dr. George E. Smith wandered into the office of his boss, Dr. Willard Boyle, at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ, on Sept. 8, 1969, for their usual brainstorming session. Smith and Boyle convened that warm but drizzly fall afternoon to talk about semiconductor integrated circuits. Their boss asked them to examine if it was possible to devise a form of bubble memory using semiconductors.
Smith had been involved with an effort to create an electron beam imaging tube for Bell's Picturephone, having a target consisting of an array of silicon diodes. After jotting some notes on the blackboard, Smith realized what they were devising could store data, but also could be an image sensor.
The CCD takes advantage of the solid state equivalent of the photoelectric effect that won Albert Einstein his lone Nobel Prize in 1921. Amazingly, it took the pair only an hour to sketch out what would become the first digital imaging chip.
"[We] knew we had something special," Boyle, who worked both on the laser and helped choose landing sites for the Apollo mission, later understated. "We are the ones who started this profusion of little cameras all over the world."
Boyle died in 2011 at age 86.
The CCD was announced early in 1970 and was quickly picked up by several companies including RCA, which marketed the commercial TV chip Fairchild that made an aerial camera for the U.S. Air Force, Texas Instruments, and, of course, by Bell Labs for its Picturephone.
In 2009, Boyle and Smith were awarded the Nobel Prize for physics for their invention of the CCD. But it took a gangly young fresh-faced Kodak engineer to give the CCD its true purpose.
Part-time work
While Boyle and Smith were creating the CCD, Steve Sasson — who later became known as the inventor of the digital camera — was still in college. Soon after earning his bachelor's and a master's degree in Electrical Engineering from Renesselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY, in 1973, the 23-year-old Sasson joined nearby Kodak as an junior electrical engineer working in an applied research laboratory in the Apparatus Division.
While capturing a digital image sparked Sasson's curiosity, he had a plethora of projects on his plate. He noodled about this CDD imaging idea in his spare time.
"I started to look around how these things worked and read whatever I could about them," Sasson told me eight years ago during an interview. "Then I thought about how to capture images, then maybe building a camera. It became really came clear to me that if I could digitize an image, freeze it and hold it and analyze it and store it and look at it, that was sort of the goal."
First, he ordered a two 24-pin dual inline Fairchild type 201 100 x 100 pixel CCDs for about $500. Inside the box were handwritten instructions that described the dozen clock setting and matching voltage variables.
"Each device would work only if each voltage was set at a certain value," he told me. "These things were very experimental, and it only took one of these voltages to be off and you wouldn't get any output. Then at the bottom was written 'good luck.' I remember looking at this and saying, 'boy, I'm in trouble.'"
Getting the CCD to work required a lot of trial and error: "There was a plan, you do the plan and you think everything's right and there's no signal coming out, so what do you do? In addition to getting all the clocking signals generated, the output of the CCD is just little pulses of voltage," Sasson said. "A volt for each pixel in the image is represented by a short pulse of voltage that appears at the output terminal. I had to build all the clocking in order to see these little the pulses that represent the output of the charged coupled device when it's working correctly to see if the device was operating properly."
"We got to the point where we shined light on it, we knew that the pulses of output voltage represented actual light that was being seen by the device," he added. "We were very happy when that was working. But that was only the beginning of the story."
Sasson needed more than a chip, of course. He needed a lens, an optical assembly and exposure control — all of which he eventually salvaged from a Kodak XL55 movie camera.
Winter turned to spring then to summer and then to fall again. Sasson worked to integrate the CCD with a Motorola A-to-D converter and a dozen 4096-bit dynamic memory chips. He built and debugged the circuits, and designed and constructed the digital circuitry from scratch. He also toiled on the CCD timing, the playback timing, the data boards and the power supply.
To store the captured images, Sasson used a 12-volt portable Memodyne Model No. 300 data cassette recorder.
When it was finished, Sasson's prototype looked like something a kid would have built with an Erector Set. It weighed eight-and-a-half pounds, ran on 16 AA batteries, and, at 8.25 x 6 x 9 inches and was about the size of a toaster.
"It's an odd-looking beast," Sasson chuckles. "Odd today and really odd in 1975."
The first picture
Without a PC, all of Sasson's CCD experiments were measured on an oscilloscope. Finally, in December 1975, he was ready to take an actual picture.
He and his assistant asked lab technician Joy Marshall to pose for them. "She knew us; the weird guys from the back lab. She didn't know what we were doing, no one knew. So she said okay and I took a head and shoulder shot."
With a resolution of 100 x 100 pixels – .001 MP, it took 23 seconds to record the black and white digital image to the cassette tape. But when they connected their contraption to a lab TV set, the picture looked weirder than the camera. Her hair looked right, while her face was just static. Standing behind Sasson and his technician, Joy remarked "needs work," and wandered off. It took Sasson a couple of hours, but he discovered the problem.
"When I designed the playback unit to read it off the tape, I somehow flipped around the bits to read the most significant bits first instead the least. Everything that was really white and really dark was correct, but anything with greyscale was flipped. We switched some wires around, waited the 23 seconds and up popped her image. I think we called [Joy] back. She was happier."
Electronic? Digital?
Sasson's part-time project was nowhere near ready for prime time. Once Sasson proved the concept, the rest of Kodak started work to develop what was clearly a breakthrough product. Kodak researcher Kenneth A. Parulski, for instance, led the successful development of a color CCD.
But Sasson and Kodak were beaten to the filmless camera market by Sony, which marketed the Pro Mavica, the first commercial electronic still camera, in 1981. But the Mavica was an analog electronic still camera that used a proprietary two-inch floppy disc to store images. Several other companies announced similar electronic still cameras, but these cameras were either too expensive or their images of insufficient resolution – often both – to crack the consumer market.
In the mid-1980s, several camera makers introduced multi-thousand dollar electronic still cameras for the professional market, including Canon with its RC-701 and Nikon with its QC-1000C. In mid-1987, Sony unveiled a consumer version of its Mavica, the MVC-C1 Hi Band VF Mavica, which was an analog still camera, not digital, that stored images on two-inch square discs. In September 1988, Fuji unveiled the DS-1P, the first electronic still camera that recorded images digitally on a 16MB internal memory card developed with Toshiba, but it was never sold in the U.S.
None of these were true digital cameras.
In the early 1980s, Kodak senior project engineer and the chief designer of the company's professional cameras, James E. McGarvey, led a team at Kodak that included Sasson to develop a megapixel digital camera. The first prototype appeared in 1986 and the first commercial model, the Kodak DCS (Digital Camera System) 100, a 1.3 megapixel CCD fit into a Nikon film camera body, in 1991. The DSC 100 is often cited as the first true commercially available digital camera, but it was sold only to well-heeled photojournalists for $10,000 to $20,000, such as to reporters covering the first Gulf War who were forced to lug around an 11-pound accessory pack.
Also in 1991, Dycam launched the Dycam Model 1, a $995 palm-sized all-digital camera that took black & white photos. Dycam licensed the technology to Logitech, who sold the camera as the Fotoman the following year. But the camera was aimed not at the consumer market but to real estate agents, insurance companies and other businesses requiring quick images.
Kodak saw the consumer commercial possibilities of a film less digital camera connected to a computer and began working with Apple to create the QuickTake 100.
The combination of Kodak and Apple has produced several paradoxical ironies. The first was Kodak's attitude toward its invention. The company was afraid the new invention would cannibalize its foundational film business — and they were right. But instead of controlling the cannibalization, Kodak allowed other manufacturers to steal its thunder. Under the unrelenting pressure from everyone else capitalizing off the popularity of its invention, Kodak declared bankruptcy in January 2012.
And now we are seeing the demise of the digital camera as a standalone product. Digital camera sales started to seriously slide three years ago because of the quality of the camera found in smartphones, which started when Apple introduced the iPhone. So, in the final irony, Apple both initiated the digital camera revolution 20 years ago and helped end it as well.
Posted by : Gizmeon

This Software Will Let Anyone Create Virtual Reality Games

This Software Will Let Anyone Create Virtual Reality Games
While the frontiers of virtual reality are expanding due to increased interest in the Oculus Rift headset, creating games and virtual reality experiences has generally been limited to those who can program.
Sixense, a company known for its motion controllers that excel in virtual environments, wants to lower the barrier of entry to VR creation to anyone with a little design know-how with its upcoming software development kit. The SixenseVR SDK will integrate into Unity and Unreal Engine, two of the most popular game engines, giving creators a toolset that already supports most gaming platforms.
"The main reason this is important is because quite often developers such as designers and artist have great game concepts but are not proficient in programming and are often dependent on others to see their ideas come to life," said Sixense Creative Director Danny Woodall. "Giving them the ability to prototype and flush out their ideas without the aid of someone else is very powerful. Unreal 4 has a similar vision and uses a system called blueprints to allow developers to use a node based visual scripting system."
The SDK's Unity integration means creators can download any of the hundreds of thousands of already created assets from the Unity Asset Store. This includes everything from characters, weapons, objects or environments. Once they've imported what they need, it's just a matter of attaching virtual reality controls to the character, Bland said.
As shown in the video, the motion tracking provided by the head and hands fills in some of the animations for the character — the STEM controller can provide up to five points of input — while the normal character rigging already provided fills in the rest.
Sixense originally designed the system to work with its own motion controller called the STEM system, an open platform which was funded on Kickstarter for commercial distribution in October. Previously, Sixense only licensed its motion control technology to other companies like Razer, but now it is also producing its own hardware.
Because of this open platform past, CEO Amir Rubin said Sixense has gotten much further than other motion control companies when creating products for VR. The company also wants to make sure that its SDK works with every potential controller and platform, eventually including Sony's Project Morpheus headset and PlayStation Move controllers, as well as just input from a position-tracked Oculus Rift and regular gaming controller.
"We are developing the sixense VR SDK because we belive that the success of VR is dependent on the suppot it gets from the developer comunity." Rubin said.
The SixenseVR SDK will be available when the STEM controllers ship to backers in July.
Posted by : Gizmeon

Drone Beat: 418 Crashes Worldwide, Spying on a World Cup Team and More

Drone Beat: 418 Crashes Worldwide, Spying on a World Cup Team and More
The U.S. government uses them to bomb alleged terrorists in far-away places, tech companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook are all toying with the idea of using them commercially and, in recent months, they've become the secret weapon of many photographers. Whether we see them or not, drones have become a big part of our lives. Drone Beat collects the best and most important drone stories every week.
418 military drones have crashed since 2001
A year-long Washington Post investigation has revealed that 418 American military drones have crashed around the world since 2001 — a surprisingly high number of incidents. What's worse, several others have simply vanished.
However, none of those crashes led to casualties, a fact that Frank Pace, the president of General Atomics, one of the leading producers of military drones, is quick to point out when asked about such accidents.
"We’ve never reported a loss of life," Pace told the Post, "so we’re doing pretty good."
Nevertheless, others are not so convinced.
In many cases, the reason for the low casualties is the fact that the unmanned planes crashed in deserted areas. In one instance, a drone pilot crashed her flying robot after she failed to realize that it was flying upside down. Other times, the drones have come very close to accidentally killing people.
On Aug. 15, 2011, a 185-pound reconnaissance drone called the RQ-7B Shadow hit a military cargo plane in Afghanistan.
"Holy shit!” yelled the cargo plane's navigator. "We got hit by a UAV! Hit by a UAV!"
The investigation calls into question the safety of drone flights, and might derail the Federal Aviation Administration's plans to allow commercial drone flights in the U.S. by 2015.
Government moves to ban drones in national parks
The National Park Service (NPS) wants drones out of American parks because it is concerned that the flying robots may be unsafe and bother visitors.
"We have serious concerns about the negative impact that flying unmanned aircraft is having in parks," National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a press release. "So we are prohibiting their use until we can determine the most appropriate policy that will protect park resources and provide all visitors with a rich experience."
The agency issued a "policy memorandum" directing park superintendents to take steps to prevent people from flying UAVs in all national parks across the country. The agency says the policy is temporary and excludes use by the NPS itself for "administrative purposes such as search and rescue, fire operations and scientific study."
Drones will soon follow everywhere you go
Forget about dronies, the future of self-obsessed drone technologies are UAVs that follow you everywhere you go.
Some companies are trying to create drone systems that automatically follow their owners. One of them, the Hexo+, was recently described in a Mashable report as a kind of "super selfie machine."
Another project, apty called the AirDog, is described by its creators as the "first auto-follow action sports drone." Even 3D Robotics, the drone company launched by former Wired editor Chris Anderson, has joined the new trend by releasing an app called "Follow-Me."
FAA announces Texas drone test site
And then there were four. After North Dakota, Alaksa, and Nevada, the Federal Aviation Administration announced on Friday that its drone test site in Texas is now operational. The site, which will be located at Texas A&M University’s campus in Corpus Christi, is one of the six designated in December by the FAA.
L.A. Kings fans snatch drone out of the sky during Stanley Cup celebrations
As drones become a more common sight in American skies, more people seem to be venting their anger at them. The latest such episode happened on Friday night, when a Los Angeles Kings fan knocked a drone out of the air during celebrations for the team's Stanley Cup win against the New York Rangers.
The drone was hovering a few feet above the crowd when some fans started throwing objects — including what appeared to be a shoe — at it. The entire episode was caught on camera by a fan and posted to Instagram.
The fans' videos say the drone was operated by the Los Angeles Police Department, but the LAPD denied the allegation on Monday.
Drone spies on France's World Cup team
Someone flew a drone over France's World Cup soccer team practice last week.
France’s manager, Didier Deschamps, was not amused. Soon after, he filed a complaint with FIFA, alleging that the drone might have been operated by a potential opponent or by a French news agency.
“Apparently, drones are being used more and more," Deschamps told the BBC. “We don’t want intrusion into our privacy. It’s hard to fight.”
Despite Deschamps' accusations, the operator appears to be a random fan who just wanted to catch a glimpse of the French team, according to French website BFMTV.
Posted by : Gizmeon

Microsoft Teases Possible Tuesday Launch for New Nokia X

When it comes to product launches, it seems Microsoft likes nothing more than to keep us guessing.
The latest teaser from the company suggests that a new Nokia X device may be launching early next week. Unlike Nokia's other Windows Phone-powered handsets, the X line runs a special version of Android.
A cryptic post on Nokia's Conversations blog simply titled "Green With Envy" seems to hint that a new product will be coming out in the next couple days. The body of the post reads "Summer brings out our inner glow... stay tuned to Conversations to find out what we've got in store." Below the text is a timer counting down until Tuesday morning, when we'll presumably find out what Nokia has planned.
A Microsoft spokesperson did not immediately respond to Mashable's request to comment.
A launch next week would be consistent with earlier rumors that suggested a second-generation Nokia X would be launched sometime this month. The handset is rumored to have a 4.3-inch screen, a 1GHz Snapdragon dual-core processor and a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, according to earlier reports from BGR India detailing the device.
The company sent a similarly mysterious teaser to the press ahead of the Surface Pro 3 launch, which suggested that a Surface Mini was in the works. Although the company has remained tight-lipped about why we never saw the long-rumored smaller Surface, recent evidence appears to confirm that the device was, in fact, part of Microsoft's initial plan.
Posted by : Gizmeon

Mozilla Developing Chromecast Competitor That Runs Firefox OS: Report

Mozilla Developing Chromecast Competitor That Runs Firefox OS: Report
Mozilla is developing its own streaming stick similar to Google's Chromecast, according to a new report.
The dongle will be powered by the company's Firefox OS, and will be capable of running at least some Chromecast apps, according to Gigaom.
Mozilla has been secretly developing the streaming device in conjunction with another partner, Gigaom reported. The partner's identity isn't clear, and the company is still finalizing how the device will eventually be branded, according to a video demoing the prototype, which was posted by reporter Janko Roettgers.
The device in the video appears to function much like Google's Chromecast, beaming content from a Nexus 7 tablet to a television. It will also eventually support beaming from the web via Firefox's browser, Roettgers said. The device is reportedly compatible with some existing Chromecast apps, including Google Play Music, YouTube and Plex.
News of the yet-unannounced Chromecast competitor first leaked Thursday when a Mozilla employee posted a photo of the prototype on Twitter:
If Mozilla launches the streaming stick, which may be codenamed Netcast, it will be joining an increasingly crowded and competitive space.
Roku launched its own streaming stick earlier this year. Amazon is aiming to compete in the streaming space with its recently debuted Fire TV set-top box. Reports have also suggested Apple may be partnering with Comcast to produce its own Chromecast competitor.
Mozilla is hoping to stand out from the competition by making its dongle "more open and hackable," according to Gigaom, with a platform that won't place any restrictions on the types of content open to developers.
The company did not immediately respond to Mashable's request for comment, but emphasized the openness of its platform in a statement to Gigaom:
Firefox OS is an open platform freely available for any company to build on top of without restriction. This means companies can experiment with different form factors that run Firefox OS.
UPDATE, Saturday, June 21, 2014, 5:00 P.M PT: A Mozilla spokesperson told Mashable “this is not a Mozilla device or project” but declined to provide further clarification.
Posted by : Gizmeon

Apple Testing iWatch With NBA Star Kobe Bryant, Report Says

Apple Testing iWatch With NBA Star Kobe Bryant, Report Says
Following recent news that Apple is prepping an iWatch for release this fall, a new report claims that the company has enlisted several professional athletes to test the still-unannounced device.
Top players from U.S. professional sports leagues, including Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA), are testing the device's "fitness capabilities in intense training environments," according to 9to5Mac.
Among the athletes testing the iWatch are Lakers star Kobe Bryant and Los Angeles Kings player Dustin Brown. In addition to citing sources with knowledge of the collaboration, the report said Bryant was seen on Apple's Cupertino, Calif. campus last month to meet with the company's design chief Jony Ive.
While Apple appears to be covering all of its bases by involving nearly every professional U.S. sports league to test its new device, it's easy to see why the company is singling out Bryant in particular.
Listed as the world's fifth-highest-paid athlete, according to Forbes, Bryant would also be the perfect brand ambassador to introduce the device to western sports fans, as well as those in China, where he has an enormous fan base. What's more, Bryant has had a long endorsement relationship with Nike, one of Apple's partners rumored to be part of the development of the iWatch.
Reportedly powered in part by Apple's new Healthkit app, the wearable device could serve as a major new tracking and diagnostics tool for professional athletes and amateur fitness enthusiasts alike.
Sources claimed that the device, which reportedly has a curved screen, is already in production, and will debut in October.
Posted by : Gizmeon

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Vishal Sikka to steer Infosys growth from California

Vishal Sikka to steer Infosys growth from California
Vishal Sikka scored two firsts when Infosys named him its next chief operating officer and managing director.
Sikka is the first person outside the group of founders appointed to the position in the company's three decade-old history. He'll also be the first to operate out of California and will spend a "significant amount of time" at its headquarters in Bangalore.
The company undertook a major management shake-up, bringing in Sikka and announcing that mentor N R Narayana Murthy and his son Rohan will step down four years ahead of their tenure.
Sikka, 47, who was previously executive board member of German IT firm SAP, will replace S D Shibulal, one of the seven engineers who founded Infosys in 1981, from August 1.
Asked where he will be based, Sikka told reporters: "I live in California and I plan to continue living there. My family is in California... I'm looking forward to spend significant amount of time here in Bangalore."
Sikka previously worked at German enterprise solutions provider SAP, which he joined in 2002. Five years later, he was named the first chief technology officer of the company and was responsible for all SAP products and innovation.
Asked about Sikka's appointment, Chairman of the Nominations & Governance Committee K V Kamath said: "At this point in time, what is happening all over the world is transformation. We basically had a bias for the transformational leader."
"It is probably not right to say that Vishal Sikka is this or that. He is actually several personalities in one. He is a very strong thinker, strong CTO, strong developer of product and software, and he has executed on this.
"...when we started to talk to various candidates, when we looked at Vishal and then looked at what we wanted...we said he is not only a transformational leader, but he has actually all the qualities and qualifications and I think that clearly made Vishal Sikka stand out," Kamath said.
Deutsche Bank India Research analyst Aniruddha Bhosale said with his stature and experience with products and innovation at SAP, Sikka will command the respect of Infosys' leadership team and employees.
"However, with his products background, we are concerned about Sikka's ability to run a services company. This could also have implications on his view of costs and hence margins," he added.
Posted by : Gizmeon

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Twitter DMs Still Not Working for Some Users

Twitter DMs Still Not Working for Some Users
If you've been experiencing issues with Twitter direct messages for the past week or so, you're not alone. Users have been tweeting complaints that DMs are mysteriously disappearing or not showing up at all during private conversations with other members.
When Mashable reached out to Twitter for comment, a spokesperson directed us to a tweet sent from the company earlier this week, noting that it was looking into the issue. No update has yet been provided, but new complaints keep rolling in.
While some users are receiving only partial messages, others are getting notifications about DMs but don't see them appear when checking their account's inbox.
The issue seems to be affecting both web and app versions of Twitter.
Posted by : Gizmeon

Pinterest's Web Search Is About to Get Much More Powerful

Pinterest's Web Search Is About to Get Much More Powerful
Pinterest's new Guided Search feature, which the company first unveiled on mobile in April, is coming to the web.
Pinterest users will soon see a new search bar when they visit, and just as it works on mobile, the search features will surface recommended keywords intended to help generate more specific queries and better search results.
For example, searching for "BBQ" on Pinterest might surface other keywords like "wings," "recipes," or "chicken." The keywords serve as filters, and the goal is to help users find exactly what they're looking for.
For users unfamiliar with Guided Search, PInterest shared a YouTube video depicting how it works.
Search is important to Pinterest, which now has 30 billion pins on more than 750 million boards. The site is big enough that the majority of items users want to find are probably pinned somewhere; it's simply a matter of finding them. It's also why Pinterest offers Rich Pins that add more detailed descriptions to the images being shared on the platform.
Pinterest's longterm monetization may also depend on its efforts to make content more accessible. Users must be able to find what they are looking for if brands want to make their items shoppable; Guided Search expands that discovery objective for Pinterest.
The new search tool will be available to users in the United States this week, and Pinterest's international users will get Guided Search on the web at a later point.
Posted by : Gizmeon

Swiftkey, Android's Most Popular Keyboard App, Is Now Free

Swiftkey, Android's Most Popular Keyboard App, Is Now Free
SwiftKey, the popular Android keyboard app that uses text prediction to enable super-fast typing, is now free to all users.
The app, which has been one of the best-selling paid apps in Google Play since its launch in 2012, was previously $3.99.
The change is a significant shift for the company, which has always charged for its app. Now, Swiftkey is taking the freemium route; the app is free to download, but users can pay to purchase new themes for their keyboard.
Themes have long been one of the most-requested features for Swiftkey, according to Joe Braidwood, the company's chief marketing officer.
"We can now engage much more with the requests that we get and build out all this great content," Braidwood told Mashable. "This has been one of the biggest requests for the longest time: 'I love your core technology, but I want to change this thing about the keyboard.' Having the SwiftKey store inside of the app allows us to do that."
The store added 30 new themes, which include both free and paid options. Users can also purchase packs of themes. Those who have already paid for the app will automatically get the "Premier Pack" of 10 themes when they download the update.
The latest version of Swiftkey features other enhancements, including new emoji support and emoji prediction for devices running Android 4.1 and higher. An optional number row, which sits at the top of the keyboard, is also available.
Behind the scenes, Swiftkey improved its prediction engine, which enables the app to learn from users' patterns to predict what they will type before they type it. The company also revamped its flow-trail feature, which lets users type by swiping their finger across the keyboard (similar to Samsung's Swype keyboard).
Swiftkey is also setting its sights on new iOS offerings in the near future. The company launched its first iOS app, SwiftKey Note, earlier this year. And Swiftkey is already planning a full iOS keyboard app now that Apple announced it will finally make third-party keyboards available in iOS 8.
Posted by : Gizmeon