Thursday, November 11, 2010

Android 2.3 Gingerbread and the Samsung Nexus S Are Almost Here!

Well it's November 11th and I can smell the sweet smell of Gingerbread.... Not because of the rapidly approaching holidays but because Google is getting closer and closer to officially releasing its next big Android update, Gingerbread.  Samsung has been identified to make the successor to the Google phone produced by HTC the Nexus 1.  It is looking like it will be called the Nexus S and pics are beginning to leak.... Hopefully go will go official soon!

Source: Engadget

Monday, November 8, 2010

Windows Phone 7 Is Here!!!

Microsoft is all geared up and ready for their re-entry into the mobile phone arena and those Windows Phone 7 devices I talked about before are finally hitting the U.S. AT&T and T-Mobile are the only carriers that will be selling handsets at launch with Sprint and VZW to follow early 2011.  Check out my old post for more details about the handsets available. The OS as whole looks promising but not enough to lure me away from team Android and the upcoming Gingerbread update back to Windows.... I still have the bitter taste of Windows Mobile in my mouth.  Anyone taking the dive and going to Windows Phone 7?


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Xbox Kinect..... R.I.P. Wii

I've been waiting a long time since I first saw it debuted as Project Natal, I finally got my hands on Microsoft Kinect Xbox 360's new motion sensing peripheral.  Kinect takes a different approach to motion based controls than the Wii or even PS3 bypassing controllers of any kind for a sensor capable of capturing motion and providing true "controller free" gaming.  I was very skeptical that this would actual work as promised but I have to say my skepticism was laid to rest once I got a chance to try it myself.

Diving into the box you have your typical Xbox 360 setup plus the Kinect sensor bar pictured to the right. This sensor bar is stuffed full of high tech goodness. Before you scoff at the $150 price tag understand this is not just a camera.  Kinect sits on a motorized pivoting base that allows it to adjust itself for an optimal viewing angle.  Housed inside the "bar" part Kinect features an RGB camera, depth sesnor and 4 microphones running software that allows full body 3D motion capture, facial recognition and voice recognition. The 4 mic setup allows Kinect to  locate your voice and suppress ambient noise in your surroundings for things like party chat without having to use headsets.  Kinect also uses a inrared projector to "see" in 3D under any ambient light conditions.  This 3D view helps Kinect calibrate and adjust to varying setups, player positioning and the presence of furniture or any other object.  Kinect is capable of simultaneously tracking up to 6 people. In addition to gaming Kinect adds voice navigation to some of menus and media playback.

After the last few years playing the Wii I honestly had lost faith in the concept of motion sensing based video games. I mean teh Wii is definitely fun but after playing some of the games you definitely see it has some major limitations that I think Kinect may be able to over come.  Kinect provides a much more immersive gaming experience because it can "see" you.  It can track your body movements, log you in with facial recognition, obey your voice commands and take pictures of you and lay that over the 3D image of you putting you right in the game.  I am not only impressed with the games I've tried so far but with the potential of Kinect.  The dance game Dance Central absolutely amazed me.  Unlike most dance games you aren't just stepping on arrows or buttons along to a beat.  This thing actually watches your movements! You've got to move your hips, arms and legs to the beat.  Kinect is sensitive enough to know if your half-assing it and it will be reflected in your scores! I highly recommend dropping into your local Bestbuy to give Kinect a try its one of those things you just have to try for yourself.

The add on for your Xbox 360 cost $150 or you can get a bundle with Kinect and the newer slimmer sleeker Xbox 360 S and games are strategically placed at $50 (just like Wii titles). I grabbed mine at mid-night at Bestbuy and got a small gift package with a Kinect bag, water bottle and towel, all of which were appreciated after working up a sweat playing Kinect Adventures the bundled game that comes along with Kinect. 

One down side to Kinect is the fact that you need space! Microsoft recommends at least 6-8ft between Kinect and the playing area; and that's just the minimum recommendation.  You obviously would want to have more space for two player games and would want to move furniture out of the way. I found that the space in my basement is just a little too small for optimal play space after nearly breaking my toe attempting to kick a virtual ball and hitting my head on the ceiling while jumping over a virtual hurdle.

Kinect can be mounted below or above the TV.  Placing it above the TV seems to help in a less than ideal sized space; Bestbuy sells a special mount to securely place your Kinect on top of your TV for $40 bucks. Unfortunately, this  mount does not work with TV's that are mounted on the wall, so to remedy this situation I created my own wall mount for about 8 bucks.  A piece of wood, a shelf mount, a few screws and some black spray paint and BOOM a custom Kinect mount!

Video source and for more detail visit Engadget's full review


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Samsung Galaxy Tab

The first real Android Tablet competitor to the iPad is among us. The Samsung Galaxy Tab, and it is available in a number of different carrier flavors and is equipped with wifi and varying types of cellular data coverage. I am very excited about Android Tablets in general and I think the Galaxy Tab really gets things heading in the right direction.

Powered by Android 2.2 Froyo, with a 7" screen Samsung emphasizes  it's "portability", I guess implying that other larger screen tablets *cough iPad cough, cough* aren't very portable. I will agree I think I'd prefer the slightly smaller sized screen, but definitely look forward to tablets to come that cover a spectrum of screen sizes. The Tabs only 14oz but I don't know about Sammy's implications that it is pocket-able. Sounds like a great way to waste a few hundred bucks, but it's clearly a bit more hand-sized than the 10" iPad. One feature the iPad lacked that the Tab has that I griped about is a camera; and not just one but two! So unlike iPad which will undoubtly be followed by a slightly upgraded successor with the camera it should've had to begin with, the Tab will allow photo, video and video chat (via front facing camera) out of the box!

Samsung does there best to make it more than just a giant Android powered smartphone. Adding their own app suite to the mix to provide some additional functionality and features.  One I really like is the landscape email app; which allows you to view your inbox list on one side and a preview of a given email on the other.  Apps like this are the things that get me excited about replacing my laptop on daily treks around campus and to work with a tablet of some sort.  It gives you the mobility of a smart phone with the expanded functionality of a more full-fledge computer.  On the flip side Android still has a way to go with its tablet platform as many of the apps are still not optimized for the larger screen experience and it seems that in many capacities it is just a large phone (without phone functionality).  Fortunately Google is on top of this and should be addressing these issues soon with Android 3.0 Honeycomb software update, which will be optimized for tablet devices.

If nothing else I welcome the Galaxy Tab as a worthy competitor in the Tablet arena, and I am very excited to see what is to come. Not just from the Tab but from the upcoming onslaught of Android tablets from a plethora of manufacturers. With the Tablet-centric Honeycomb version of Android on the way we should see a boost on the software/OS side too.  2011 will definitely be an interesting year and we will likely see some exciting changes in the way we use technology, computers and the web.

Check out some Galaxy Tab video footage!

More detail at sources: