Sony to unveil three new Xperia devices at IFA 2014

xperia-ifa-2014Excitement is mounting ahead of the IFA tech trade show, which kicks off in Berlin this week and will see all the major tech companies (except Apple, that is) launch their latest products.

As usual, there has been much speculation about what the likes of Samsung and Sony have up their sleeves. Supposed leaked images have been doing the rounds and some companies have even stoked the intrigue by teasing us with what they have in store.

Last week Sony released a mysterious image featuring the silhouettes of three devices, thought to be its new range of Xperia products, and has since tantalised us further still with a video teaser.

Sony Xperia Teaser Video

Xperia-Z3-Compact-coloursThe devices are rumoured to be a new compact tablet (Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact), and two smartphones (Xperia X3 and Xperia X3 Compact). Recently leaked details and images of the eagerly anticipated Xperia X3 Compact claim that it will have a 4.6-inch 720p display, 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, a 20.7-megapixel camera, and come in black, white, green, and red variants.

If the rumours are true, it could be a major contender in the smartphone market. All will be revealed at the Sony press conference on Wednesday…

What announcements are you most looking forward to from IFA 2014?

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Google unveils Project Wing delivery drone programme

Google.drone.290-x195Google has revealed that it’s been building and testing drones that can be used to make deliveries. Project Wing is being overseen by Google X, the company’s secret tech research branch, and has been under development for the past two years.

The drones have a single “blended” wing measuring 1.5 metres, as well as four electronically driven propellers. It weighs 19 pounds and can carry packages up to 3 pounds, which are positioned in a gap in the middle of the wing. They are programmed with a destination and then fly there autonomously using a system of cameras, GPS, radios, accelerometers and gyroscopes.

Recently Google has been testing the drones successfully in Queensland, Australia, where the laws on flying drones are more “progressive” than many other parts of the world. The use of commercial drones is currently banned in the US, although both Amazon and Google are in talks with the regulators to change this.

The project is similar to the one announced by Amazon last year, although while Amazon’s Prime Air Service is intended to deliver goods to its customers, Google claims that its drones are being developed to deliver medical equipment and humanitarian aid. The idea was apparently first conceived as a way of delivering defibrillator kits to suspected heart attack sufferers more quickly than an ambulance. However, Google did also add that it envisaged the drones could be used to deliver goods to consumers eventually.

It would appear that the technology for drone delivery services is there, but the main hurdle is going to be changing regulations so that they can actually operate, and this will clearly involve a lot of research into the logistical and safety implications of having drones flying around autonomously.

Do you think it’s likely that we’ll see drones replacing delivery drivers in the near future?

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Apple confirms big event on 9 September

Apple eventFor months we’ve been tantalised by supposed leaked details and images of the iPhone 6, but finally it would appear that we’re just days away from finding out what Apple really has in store with the latest version, or versions, of its ever popular smartphone.

Yesterday Apple started sending out invitations to a big event on 9 September, and although it was teasingly cryptic with a tagline “wish we could say more”, it’s widely expected to be a launch of the latest iPhone, or iPhones.

According to hearsay, the new iPhone will come in two sizes: a 4.7 inch model and a larger 5.5 inch version. The other major improvement that we’re expecting to see is a sapphire-based display that will be more durable and reduce the risk of scratches and shattering.

Apple’s new software for iPhone and iPad, iOS 8 will also be launched alongside the new handsets.

There’s also much speculation that Apple will also use the 9 September event to launch the long awaited iWatch.

Many had already penciled in 9 September as the launch date for the new iPhone/s as Apple has chosen the same date to launch its new incarnations dating back to the release of the iPhone 4S. Less predictable was the choice of venue. This year’s event is to be held in the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino, which is where Apple unveiled the first Mac personal computer in 1984. The significance of this combined with the fact that the Flint Centre is a much larger venue than is used for most launches leads many to believe that this is going to be a big occasion.

I guess we’ll have to wait until 9 September to find out… 11 days and counting!

Are you excited to see what Apple has up its sleeve for the 9 September launch?

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Tom Hanks’ typewriter app a hit on iTunes

hanx-writer-app-by-tom-hanksRemember those traditional typewriters that hurt your fingers and made a heavy clunking sound every time you hit a key. They even used real paper – lots of it. No, us neither. Honest.

Well, if like Tom Hanks you lament the passing of the traditional typewriter, with its clunking sounds, sticky keys and smudged, unevenly spaced characters, you can now download an app for your iPad that emulates the experience. And you won’t be alone as the app, that was released last week, has already shot to number 1 in the iTunes App Store

It might have something to do with the fact that it has been developed by Tom Hanks, who not only has celebrity appeal but has also spent months waxing lyrical about the charms of this iconic old piece of machinery.

Hanx Writer (see what they did there) presents you with an on screen keyboard that looks like that of an old fashioned typewriter and makes all the authentic sounds as you type, including the distinctive “ding” when you move on to the next line. Your text appears in old school typewriter script as if it is emerging from the typewriter on the screen. There’s also the option to connect to a Bluetooth keyboard for a slightly more authentic typing experience, and you can even chose different (virtual) machines, for a premium.

Hanx WriterWhile the app replicates the sounds and, to a certain extent, the experience of using an old fashioned typewriter, it does have enhanced features that writers back in the back would have killed for, such as the ability to delete mistakes. You can also save, print, email or share documents.

The app comes in three different versions for iPad, with the basic one being free. You can upgrade to more sophisticated versions that allow you to use different coloured ribbons and backgrounds, save multiple documents and incorporate photos into your documents.

It’s probably not an app to use to produce an important report for work or anything that requires to be done quickly. And it’s probably wise to avoid using it on the train or other public place, if you don’t want to incur the wrath of those around you who may not feel quite so sentimental about sounds from a bygone age. But as a novelty app, it’s well-made, fun to use and allows you to pretend that you’re one of the great classic novelists or screenwriters tapping out a masterpiece, but without the inconvenience of Tip Ex or finger fatigue.

Have you downloaded Hanx Writer? What do you think?

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New iPad to have anti-reflective screen

ipad-air-gallery1-2013With autumn fast approaching, we’re getting closer and closer to the expected arrival of Apple’s latest products. And as August marches on, more and more details about what to expect from the latest crop are starting to emerge.

Leaked details and images of the iPhone 6, in both a 4.7 inch and 5.5 inch model, have been circulating for a while but until now we’ve heard relatively little of any note regarding the new iPad Air 2.

However, today Bloomberg revealed that “according to people with knowledge of the matter”, the new 9.7 inch iPad has gone into mass production, with a launch expected at the end of this quarter. It also revealed that the new larger iPad will have an anti-reflection coating on the screen to make it easier to read in bright light. Details on the nature of this coating were not provided but it’s a change that will be well received by iPad users who’ve previously had to add anti-glare films to the screen to make it easier to see in direct sunlight.

A new 7.9 inch iPad mini was also reported to entering production for release towards the end of the year, but it’s unclear whether that too will feature the anti-reflective screen.

The iPhone 6 is expected to be launched at an event on the 9th September, exactly a year after the launch of the iPhone 5s, with the new iPads to be unveiled at a later launch in October. The eagerly anticipated iWatch is also expected to make an appearance this autumn, but it’s likely to be at a later launch.

Are you excited about the latest crop of Apples about to drop?

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HP teams up with fashion designer to create luxury smartwatch

hp-luxury-smartwatchWith early smartwatches being more substance over style, manufacturers of the latest models to hit the market are placing more importance on aesthetics in the hope that more attractive and wearable devices will finally lead to a boom in the industry.

More stylish designs are starting to emerge, such as the much-lauded Moto 360, but HP is going all out with its inaugural smartwatch by teaming up with designer Michael Bastien and high-end retail site Gilt, to produce the first luxury smartwatch.

Like the Moto 360, HP’s smartwatch will have a round face, but its dimensions will be much more in line with traditional watches than any smartwatch that’s gone before. It will have a 44mm stainless steel case and a bezel featuring inlaid button controls. Unlike other smartwatches, which have been marketed as unisex items (although realistically, are much too big to fit comfortably on smaller wrists), HP’s watch is being targeted at men and has a masculine, sporty design. It will also come with a range of interchangeable straps in brown leather, black rubber and green nylon.

HP smartwatchWith the emphasis being on style and wearability rather than an overload of tech features, the watch is primarily designed to be a notification hub that alerts the wearer to incoming calls, emails, texts, calendar appointments and updates on weather, stocks and sports etc. It will also function as a remote control for music apps.

HP’s smartwatch will be compatible with both iOS and Android, and be controlled via a companion app, similar to Pebble smartwatches. This suggests that HP is developing its own software.

The company has also promised that the watch’s battery life will last seven days, which will be another major selling point.

The price of the watch is yet to be unveiled, but its positioning at the luxury end of the market suggests that it won’t be cheap. The watch is due to go on sale this autumn, exclusively at Gilt.

What do you think of HP’s luxury smartwatch?

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Air Type: “keyboardless keyboard” that lets you type on anything, anywhere

air-type_655x438Sick of struggling to type on your phone or tablet? It’s one of the main issues people have with mobile devices and the reason why compact laptops remain so popular.

Certain companies have devised ways to incorporate discreet keyboards into tablet-style devices, such as the Microsoft Surface with its ‘type cover’ or the Lenovo Yoga Pad that folds in half. However, a start up in Texas is working on a prototype that will allow you to type anywhere, without the need for a keyboard at all.

Air Type is being billed as a “keyboardless keyboard” that allows you to type on any surface thanks to a pair of cuff style sensor units that fit around your hands and detect your finger movements. Unlike other virtual keyboards that project an outline of a keyboard onto a flat surface, Air Type will provide no outline whatsoever.

Airtype-keyless-keyboard-innovative-ideaFirst impressions are that it would be nigh on impossible to touch type accurately enough without a guide, but the company behind Air Type claims that you won’t have to, as the cuffs will have adaptive technology that allows them to learn to adjust to your typing habits in much the same way as voice recognition software learns to recognise speech patterns.

Air Type will also come with an app that provides autocorrect and text prediction.

The cuffs are slim and unobtrusive, and to make them even more portable, they will clip onto your tablet when you’re on the move.

It all sounds great in theory but as the project is still in the early stages of development, we’ll have to wait and see whether the team is able to deliver on its objectives.

Could you see yourself using a “keyboardless keyboard”?

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LG announces advanced rollable and transparent TV screens

LG Flex screenPioneers of the OLED TV market, LG has announced two ground breaking new screens, one of which is transparent, and another that can be rolled into a 3cm diameter cylinder.

Various companies have been developing flexible screens, but LG’s latest offering is the most impressive to date. The paper-thin 18-inch screen has a backplane made of “high molecular substance-based polyimide film” rather than plastic, which makes it highly flexible. The screen has a resolution of 1200 x 810, which remains undistorted even when rolled into a tight tube.

With its new transparent screen, which is just as thin, LG has managed to increase transmittance by 30% to provide a much better transparent effect when switched off and has reduced haziness to produce a much clearer picture when turned on.

LG transparent screenLG says it’s confident that by 2017 it will have successfully developed an Ultra HD flexible and transparent OLED panel of more than 60 inches that will have transmittance of more than 40 percent and a curvature radius of 100R.

While 60-inch flexible screens are likely to be prohibitively expensive for the mass market, the technology offers exciting prospects for innovations in other areas, particularly wearables and tablets.

Do you think flexible and transparent TV screens are the future?



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Pavlock: a wearable designed to shock

pavlockFind yourself lacking will power or struggling to kick bad habits? Well, an altogether different type of wearable has been developed to help give you the push you need, by shocking you!

Pavlock is a wristband that’s designed to encourage habit forming by zapping the wearer with a mild electric shock when they don’t comply with certain tasks that it’s been programmed to monitor. For example, you can programme it wake you up by vibrating at a certain time. You’ll have the option to snooze it, but if you snooze it too often, it’ll shock you.

It might sound a bit extreme but the device has been developed following in-depth research into human psychology, which asserts that we respond to negative reinforcement.

pavlokgroupjtHowever, as positive reinforcement and social encouragement are also influential factors, the band works on these levels too. An app will allow you to team up with a buddy so you can monitor each other’s activity. If you fail to complete a task, for example swipe in at the gym or log a run, your buddy will be able to shock you.

Pavlock has been proven to yield results in beta testing, but whether or not people would be prepared to shell out $250 (£146) for what is effectively a torture implement, remains to be seen!

However, the band’s developer, Maneesh Sethi has confidence in his product and plans to launch it for crowdfunding in September with a view to having it on general sale by early 2015.

Do you think there will be a market for Pavlock? Would you try one?

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GOkey: charger, cable, flash drive and locator, all on one small key ring

GokeyBottle openers, torches, USB sticks, supermarket reward cards… you’ll find them all designed to go on a key ring these days. However, none are as smart and useful as GOkey, a key ring that acts as a portable phone charger, USB cable, locator and flash drive all in one small fob.

This powerful little device can give your smartphone up to 2 hours extra battery life when you’re out and about, and also contains a USB cable so you can sync and charge it from any computer. It also comes with either 8, 16 or 32 GB of flash memory so you can store photos, video, music or other files.

If this wasn’t handy enough, GOkey also features a built in locator that uses Bluetooth to help you find your either your smartphone or your keys.

gokey-keyringGOkey comes in either white or black and offers either Lightning or micro USB connectivity so it can be used with either iPhone, Android or Windows devices.

The project has just raised over $1 million through its campaign on crowdfunding website Indiegogo, by far exceeding their goal of $40,000. The additional funding has allowed them to add extra features to the product including a GPS tracking app; USB 3.0 with 5 times faster transfer speed; phone remote, which allows you to operate native apps that are open on the foreground of your phone; and a file manager app that allows you to copy and paste files from GOkey to your device.

The team behind GOkey aims to have the finished product ready for shipping by January 2015. Prices are expected to start from $69 (£40) when it goes on sale in retail outlets.

What do you think of GOkey? Would you buy one?

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