View-Master gets a virtual reality makeover for the 21st century

view-master_1I loved my View-Master as a kid and can still vividly remember clicking through 3D images of Worzel Gummidge (youngsters, Google it) with a mixture of excitement and terror. So when I heard the news that it’s being reinvented for the kids of today with virtual reality replacing static 3D images, and smartphones replacing the cardboard photo discs, I was overcome by nostalgia and couldn’t wait to find out more.

Mattel, who manufactured the original View-Master, has teamed up with Google to bring its Google Cardboard virtual reality software to their next generation viewer.

The viewer itself resembles other virtual reality headsets on the market but is also reminiscent of the original View-Master, and even bears the same distinctive red colour.

View-Master-ftHowever, instead of slotting a cardboard disc of pictures into the viewer, the updated version works by inserting your (Android) smartphone into the device. A range of themes including “San Francisco”, “Solar System” and “Dinosaur Adventure” can be purchased through the app, which can then be viewed and explored in 360 degree 3D.

So as to adhere to the original, the themes can also be purchased in the form of plastic “experience reel”, which emulate the cardboard originals, but rather than being slotted into the viewer, they are scanned in order to access and navigate the content.

The new View-Master is expected to be released this autumn and will cost around $30 (£20), with “experience reels” coming in at $15 (£10) for three. Might have to get one for myself…!

What do you think of the new View-Master?

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?

Google’s first Android Wear smartwatches go on sale

LG G Watch

LG G Watch

One of several announcements made by Google at its annual I/O developers conference yesterday was news that the first smartwatches powered by its Android Wear operating system have finally gone on sale.

The Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch are now available to pre-order through Google Play, with shipping expected on 7 July. Those who’ve been holding out for the eagerly awaited Motorola 360, which also runs Android Wear, will have to wait until “later this summer” for it to go on sale.

With its new smartwatch-specific operating system, Google hopes to make Android Wear the ‘go-to’ platform for developers. Analysts believe that part of the reason that smartwatches have failed to take off thus far is due lack of decent apps. However, it’s thought that a standardised platform such as Android Wear will encourage the development of better integrated, more sophisticated and widely used apps.

Another factor that’s deemed to be crucial to the success of smartwatches is the ability for them to be used as passively as possible. This is something that Google has focused on with Android Wear. The user interface is based around Google Now cards, which can be easily navigated using swipe, and press and hold gestures. Voice commands are also an integral feature.


Samsung Gear Live

The £145 LG G Watch measures 37.9 x 46.5 x 9.95mm, weighs 63 grams, and is available in Black Titan and White Gold. Other specifications include a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor; always-on 1.65-inch IPS (280×280 pixels) display; 4GB of built-in storage; 512MB of RAM; 400mAh battery; Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity; and a 9-axis sensor. It is also dust and water resistant for up to 30 minutes in 1 metre of water.

The Samsung Gear Live costs £118 and looks very similar to the Gear 2 smartwatch that was released earlier in the year. It measures 37.9 x 56.4 x 8.9mm, weighs 59 grams, and has a 1.63-inch Super AMOLED (320×320 pixels) display. It also features a 1.2GHz processor; 512MB off RAM; 4GB of inbuilt storage; Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity; 300mAh battery; heart rate monitor and a range of other sensors including accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass.

Both smartwatches are compatible with smartphones running Android 4.3 or above.

What do you think of Google’s Android Wear and the new smartwatches running it?

Google announces plans to build self-driving car

Google is to do the seemingly unthinkable and start building self-driving cars. Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin revealed the ambitious new project at the Code Conference in California last night.

Google carThe electric cars will have no steering wheel, pedals or controls other than a start/stop button. Instead they will be driven using a combination of laser and radar sensors, software and a camera that will be able to pick up on everything going on around it. The sensor unit will be mounted on the roof of the car giving it a 360 range of “vision” with no blind spots.

The vehicles will seat two passengers and initially only be able to travel at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour.

Pictures of the prototype car reveal it to be a cute little bug-like vehicle with a “friendly face” – a deliberate design feature which is intended to make self driving cars seem less intimidating to a potentially wary public.

Understandably, safety has been a high priority in the design on Google’s self-driving car. It has two sets of brakes and steering in case one fails and a big emergency stop button inside that can be hit by the passengers at any time. The car’s construction has also been designed with safety in mind with a flexible plastic windscreen and 2 feet of foam padding as a bumper.

Google expects the cars to be ready for testing by early next year but it’s likely to be at least five years until a non-prototype model is ready, and even longer before they will be a viable prospect for public use.

Over to you…

What do you think of Google’s self-driving cars?







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LG releases more information on the G Watch on new website

LG-G-Watch_mainLG has just released more information on its upcoming smartwatch, the G Watch, on a new dedicated website

The G Watch was first announced in March alongside Google’s Android Wear, and will be one of several smartwatches to use the new wearables-specific version of the operating system.

Initial details on the new smartwatch were sparse but the new website has unveiled the following details:

Permanently switched on

Unlike other smartwatches that sit on standby until ‘woken up’, the G Watch will be permanently switched on – a feature which calls into question its battery life.

Water and dust resistant

Like it’s rivals, the Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 and Sony Smartwatch 2, the G Watch will be water and dust resistant.

G WatchWill come in two colours

The G Watch will come in ‘champagne gold’ as well as the previously advertised ‘stealth black’. 

The company is yet to confirm a retail price and release date but it’s expected to go on sale in July, in the region of £180.

Over to you…

Do you think the G Watch will be a contender in the increasingly crowded smartwatch market?

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