Virtual reality’s real life popularity
As many of you may or may not know, virtual reality (VR) headsets and software are the current flavors of the month (read: year).
The Oculus, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, Google Cardboard, Google Daydream, and Samsung Gear seem to be the most popular. However, the Google Cardboard conveniently stands out in the list due to its much more inexpensive nature. Overall, though, it is safe to say customers definitely have options when it comes to VR headsets.
New VR uses
Seeing as there’s apparent consumer interest in the technology, it should come as no surprise that a wealth of technology companies are jumping on the bandwagon. The technology has its doubters, of course.
The primary argument being that it will become just another gimmick used to drive up the cost of otherwise mediocre materials, akin to 3-D.
Regardless, companies are certainly coming up with some pretty neat applications for the technology.
Case in point
Google just unveiled a slew of VR web applications on its WebVR Experiments page- one of the most interesting of the bunch being the “Speak to Go” app.
Using the pre-existing Google Earth program, “Speak to Go” allows users to explore the world using voice commands.
In case you were wondering, this is the point where you, dear reader, go: “Oooohhh” and/or “Ahhhh”.
Speak to go
Having used the desktop application, I personally felt it to be somewhat entertaining, but overall unnecessary.
It is more of a fun feature than a useful tool.
Conversely, however, I can easily imagine that the immersiveness of a VR headset creating an altogether different experience. Both the ability to explore the app without a mouse, as well as the 360 degree views could easily have customers spending large chunks of time with the services.
How it works
The name is self-explanatory when it comes to controlling the app. Just in case anyone is unsure, however:
1.) If users wish to view a specific place or address, all they need do is speak it to the app and it will bring up a fairly accurate street view of said location.
2.) If they choose, they can also speak the name of a city or country, and it will choose a spot at random in whatever location was said.
3.) Lastly, one can visit a spot at random on the map using the “I’m feeling lucky” command.
Remember that trip to Maldives you can’t afford yet?
Well, now you can visit it virtually! Of course, your virtual visit will be constituted of a 3-D panoramic made up of still images. But, you know, put on some ocean sounds and sit out in the sun for a bit and you’ll at least get a small portion of that island experience you’ve been craving.
While it would certainly be a neat experience in virtual reality, the technology has a way to go before it becomes something truly monumental.
However, it certainly does not seem to be too far in the future before one will be able to experience video feeds on a VR headset of many areas on the map. Combine that with the “I’m feeling lucky function,” and users will be able to virtually visit some pretty far out places.
VR’s next direction?
Though it is a fairly obvious step, the introduction of “Speak to Go” certainly seems to be a very strong step in the right direction for the VR industry. Traveling is something that many wish to do, but because of economic and/or personal reasons, are unable to.
As such, travel is a prime example of an industry that should, and could make use of VR technology.
Businesses wishing to make VR software need take note of this, as the success of the technology will likely be in creating experiences for customers that they may otherwise be unable to have in real life.
As evidenced by 3-D technology, kitschy gimmicks will only last so long before consumers begin to tire of them.
Virtual reality has the potential to be a truly influential medium- why not, then, create things for it that showcase that?
Then again, we could already be a part of the Matrix and be completely unaware. I mean, I guess that is a distinct possibility too. (If that were the case though, would it then be a virtual reality within a pre-existing virtual reality? Like a digital Inception? Weird.)
Google set to release new AI-operated meeting room kit… and it’s pretty baller
(TECH NEWS) Google’s newest toy is designed to “put people first” by alleviating video and audio issues for conference room meetings.
Remote meetings can be the worst sometimes. The awful video and audio quality are frustrating when you’re trying to hear important details for an upcoming project. Even with the fastest internet connection, this doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to clearly hear or see anyone who’s in the office. But Google is re-imagining conference rooms with their new video conferencing hardware.
Yesterday, the company introduced Google Meet Series One. In partnership with Lenovo, this meeting room kit is made exclusively for Google Meet and is poised to be the hardware that “puts people first.”
The Series One has several components that make it stand out. First is the “Smart Audio Bar,” powered by eight beam-forming microphones. Using Google Edge TPUs, the soundbar can deliver TrueVoice®, the company’s “proprietary, multi-channel noise cancellation technology.” It removes distracting sounds, like annoying finger and foot-tapping noises, so everyone’s voices are crystal clear from anywhere in the room.
The hardware also has 4K smart cameras that allow for high-resolution video and digital PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) effects. Processed with Google AI, the device knows to automatically zoom in and out so all of the meetings’ participants are framed in the camera. With an i7 processor and Google Edge TPUs, the system is built to “handle the taxing demands of video conferencing along with running the latest in Google AI as efficiently and reliably as possible.”
The meeting kit has Google grade security built-in, so the system automatically updates over-the-air. The system also works seamlessly with Google services and apps we already use. Its touch control display is powered by a single ethernet cable. From the admin controls, you can manage meeting lists and control room settings. Powered by assistant voice commands, their touch controller provides a “touchless touchability”; if you want to, you can join a meeting just by saying, “Hey Google, join the meeting.”
These new meeting kits are easy to install and are versatile. They can be configured to fit small, medium, and large-sized rooms. “Expanding kits for larger rooms can be done with just an ethernet cable and the tappable Mic Pod, which expands microphone reach and allows for mute/unmute control.”
According to the Google Meet Series One introductory video, the meeting room kits are “beautifully and thoughtfully designed to make video meetings approachable and immersive so everyone gets a seat at the table.”
Currently, there is no release date set for Google Meet Series One. However, pre-orders will soon be available in the US, Canada, Finland, France, Norway, Spain, Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Netherlands, Denmark, and Belgium.
One creepy way law enforcement might have your private data
(TECH NEWS) Wait, geofences do what? Law enforcement can pull your private data if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.
By now, it’s pretty common knowledge that our smartphones are tracking us, but what you might not be aware of is just how much law enforcement is taking advantage of our private data. Now, the good news is that some places have gotten wise to this breach of privacy and are banning certain tactics. The bad news is: If you were ever in the vicinity of a recent crime scene, it’s quite possible your privacy has already been invaded.
How are law enforcement doing this? Well, it starts with a geofence.
At its core, a geofence is a virtual border around a real geographic location. This can serve many purposes, from creating marketing opportunities for targeted ads to tracking shipping packages. In the case of law enforcement, though, geofences are often used in something called a geofence warrant.
Traditionally, warrants identify a subject first, then retrieve their electronic records. A geofence warrant, on the other hand, identifies a time and place and pulls electronic data from that area. If you’re thinking “hey, that sounds sketchy,” you are–forgive the pun–completely warranted.
With a geofence, law enforcement can dig through your private data, not because they have proof you were involved in a crime, but because you happened to be nearby.
This practice, though relatively new, is on the rise: Google reported a 15-fold increase in geofence warrant requests between 2017 and 2018. As well as invading privacy, these warrants have led to false arrests and can be used against peaceful protesters. Not to mention, in many cases, geofence warrants can be extremely easy to acquire. One report in Minnesota found judges signed off on these cases in under 4 minutes.
Thankfully, there have been signs of people pushing back against the use of geofence warrants. In fact, there have been multiple federal court rulings that find the practice in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” including your electronic data.
If you’re still worried about your privacy, there are ways to keep your electronic data on lock. For example, turn off your location services when you’re traveling, and avoid connecting to open Wi-Fi networks. You can also work to limit location sharing with apps and websites.
Incoming! Amazon drones will be dropping off packages soon (we hope)
(TECH NEWS) The Federal Aviation Administration has approved Amazon for drone delivery service, but when will the drones actually take flight?
Amazon has finally received the stamp of approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to deliver packages by drones. This pivotal step brings the online retailer closer to their promise of delivering packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.
In 2013, during CBS’s “60 Minutes” interview, Amazon CEO and Founder, Jeff Bezos, said drones would be delivering customers’ packages within five years. Although the estimate is a couple of years off, it seems like that day might be right around the corner.
Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when little floating presents are sailing through the sky (Animal Crossing balloons, anyone?). Despite our excitement to see our latest Amazon impulse purchase land on our doorstep, it isn’t going to happen overnight.
The Part 135 Air Carrier Certificate Amazon obtained for its fleet of Prime Air drones will allow the company to use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) “to carry the property of another for compensation beyond visual line of sight.” Although the FAA certification is allowing Amazon to begin test trials, Bloomberg reports that the retail giant still has “regulatory and technical hurdles” to overcome.
In addition, the FAA has yet to set regulations that will “serve as a framework to expand drone flights over crowds, a building block necessary for deliveries.” Amazon hasn’t said when and where it will start testing the delivery service either.
David Carbon, Amazon Vice President who oversees Prime Air, made this statement: “This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air and indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world.”
This approval is definitely a step forward, but Amazon has been working on the drone delivery service for years. Early last year, the giant retailer revealed they would start offering one-day shipping. They have followed through on this, at least. And during a Las Vegas Conference in June 2019, they revealed their “fully electric drones that can fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds to customers in less than 30 minutes.” But it still doesn’t answer when we can expect to see whizzing drones overhead.
I’m not sure when Amazon will fulfill their last promise. But it is getting closer. What I do know is that I look forward to the Amazon drones taking flight. I can’t wait to place my orders knowing that I will get that last-minute present I ordered just in time.
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