gadgets

Watch Apple’s First Timberlake And Fallon iPhone 6 Ads

Apple has gone back to territory that treated it well in the past with new ads for the iPhone 6, with a spin on the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” John Hodgman/Justin Long duo act that served it well in the latter half of the last decade. This time, it’s not quite so oppositional, as the spots compare the relative virtues of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake making funny sounds and agreeing that the new features on both phones are generally awesome.

One ad is about the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus camera capabilities, and in this one Fallon and Timberlake experience a sort of mind-meld where their message is essentially the same, albeit with each focusing on some different new feature Apple has added or improved, including Slow-Mo video capture and cinematic image stabilization. In the other ad, Timberlake mostly just says “Huge” while Fallon chides him.

These ads are both entertaining and well-conceived, and Apple’s use of celebrities without even including their faces in the frame is basically a pitch perfect way of the company saying it doesn’t actually need celebrity endorsement to sell its products (but it’s nice to have it). The ads also harken back to early iPhone marketing, which generally featured a single hand extolling the device’s virtues and features with simple narration and a catchy instrumental backing track.

Apple never needs to advertise to sell its first batch of devices, as evidenced by record pre-sales, but these ads combined with Fallon and Timberlake’s appeal should help keep the records falling as these devices continue to expand their regional carrier and global rollout.

Follow this link: Watch Apple’s First Timberlake And Fallon iPhone 6 Ads

Rumor: Oculus Will Unveil A Handheld Virtual Reality Controller [Update: Not Yet, But Coming]

Oculus‘ headset lets you look around virtual reality but requires integrations with unofficial controllers to move an avatar, fire weapons, or input other commands. But at tomorrow’s Oculus Connect virtual reality conference, sources say Oculus is expected to unveil an official controller or controller industry standard to make it easier for developers to build more complex games. Several developers have been placed under NDA regarding the conference’s big news, though sources could not confirm details. However, four sources told TechCrunch that a gamepad is what’s being whispered around the Los Angeles VR community.

[Update 9/20/14 12:45pm PST: Oculus did not reveal a handheld controller today, instead showing off its new Crescent Bay feature prototype headset that's the successor to the DK2, and the Oculus Platform VR app marketplace. However, when a source was getting a demo of the Crescent Bay and told an Oculus employee they wished there was a handheld controller, the employee replied "it's coming."]
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The Sixense STEM System wireless virtual reality controller

One developer told us that code in the new Oculus SDK implies some official controller or API for connecting the Rift headset to a gamepad is on the way. The news makes a lot of sense considering that earlier this year, Oculus acquired Carbon Design, which designed the Xbox 360 controller and the Kinect motion sensor. We’ve reached out to Oculus for comment.

Right now, some developers use hacked console video game controllers or third-party VR controllers like the Sixense STEM to pipe inputs beyond head movements into Oculus. I tried the lightsaber game demoed below last night at TechCrunch’s Virtual Reality Meetup in LA, and the Sixense STEM felt natural and easy to pick up (literally). It was clear why Oculus would want to officially support these kinds of experiences.

Oculus could potentially release an input device of its own design. This could look like a traditional Xbox controller that may or may not have motion control, or like two handheld Wii Nunchucks which would allow for more realistic wielding of objects, such as pistols, swords, or a bow and arrow like in Survios’ ‘Zombies On The Holodeck’.

Alternatively, Oculus may simply create a standard for controllers built by third-parties like Sixense that could connect to the Rift, along the lines of the MFi standard for game controllers introduced by Apple with iOS 7 last year. It would then likely present an example of these controllers built by partner.

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The Sixense Razer Hydra controller

Since the Rift already uses a camera facing the user to detect head movement, controllers could piggyback on the same platform to recognize how a user moves the input device or devices.

An official input device or platform could unify some of the fragmented VR space, encouraging developers to invest in building games, art, and social apps that work on Oculus hardware connected to PCs and mobile offerings like Samsung’s VR headsets. That confidence will be critical to getting flagship experiences built that lure mainstream consumers to the alternate dimensions offered by virtual reality.

Come back to TechCrunch at 9:30am PST on September 20th to watch the livestream of the Oculus Connect conference and see what’s unveiled.

Additional reporting by Kyle Russell

More: Rumor: Oculus Will Unveil A Handheld Virtual Reality Controller [Update: Not Yet, But Coming]

Oculus Reveals Its New “Crescent Bay” Prototype With 360-Degree Head Tracking And Headphones

Oculus gave the world the first look at its new prototype Crescent Bay today at the Oculus’ Connect conference (livestream), and I got the very first hands-on demo. Crescent Bay has a faster frame rate, 360-degree head tracking, and integrated headphones, plus it’s lighter.

Oculus also announced the new Oculus Platform coming to the Samsung VR, which brings VR to a large audience through mobile apps, web browsers, and a VR content discovery channel. You can read our full story on Oculus Platform here.

CEO Brendan Iribe called Crescent Bay as big of a step up from the DK2 as the DK2 was from the DK1. This still isn’t a consumer version, but it’s getting closer.

The Crescent Bay is not an official developer kit, but instead a “feature prototype” designed to show off the future of what Oculus is doing, similar to the pre-DK2 “Crystal Cove” prototype. The Crescent Bay likely won’t ship out to developers but will prepare them for what Oculus puts into the “DK3″ or whatever it calls its next developer kit, which VR makers will be able to buy and tinker with.

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Thanks to the 360-degree head tracking powered by a camera on the back of the Crescent Bay, users will be be able spin around all the way so they don’t feel constricted, while previous Oculus headsets could tell if you facing all the way backwards. The expanded positional tracking volume and integrated high-quality headphones will make the sound of Oculus as immersive as the visuals. Oculus licensed RealSpace3D’s audio technology built at the University of Maryland. RealSpace3D allows for high-fidelity VR audio by combining “HRTF spatialization and integrated reverberation algorithms.”

Oculus also announced that it’s done a deal with game engine Unity to make Oculus support official for everyone on both the free and pro versions of Unity.

Update: Hands-On

By camping out, I just got the very first public demo of the Crescent Bay. Oculus wouldn’t allow any official photos or videos, but someone else still snapped a few and sent them to me. You can watch a short video clip of me trying it on, and here’s a description of how it felt.

SubstandardFullSizeRenderDuring the 10 minute demo, I hung out with a tyrannosaurus rex, perched on top of a skyscraper, stood by a fire with some woodland creatures in a polygonal field, floated over a SimCity, shrunk down to microscopic size to look at giant dust mite, and watched a SWAT team fight a giant battle mech.

The headset is remarkably light, causing no neck strain .  . The goggle portion feels like mid-quality hollow plastic, though overall it feels pretty durable for its weight. The best part was how quick and accurate the motion tracking was. At one point in the demo, I was in a dressing room in front of a mirror with a floating mask mimicing my movements. No matter how fast I turned or spun around, I couldn’t detect any real latency in the mask. The motion tracking always kept up.

The way it does that is with an array of tiny LEDs layered over the outside of the Crescent Bay headset. Unlike the DK2 which just used LEDs on the front, there’s a back panel to the strap that goes around you head which holds LEDs that can also be tracked with a camera so Oculus knows when you turn all the way around.

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What felt most noticibly missing was a gamepad or controller for being able to move walk around or enter commands. This is what was rumored to launch today at Oculus Connect, but didn’t. But a source tells me that when they told an Oculus employee they wished the demo had a controller, they were told “it’s coming”.

Oculus Wants To Win PC and Mobile VR

Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe announced that over 100,000 Rift developer kits have shipped to over 130 countries. He said “If you love sci-fi, this is your holy grail. Today it is happening. Virtual reality is here. Just let that sink in. We thought about flying cars, maybe hover boards, and virtual reality. Now it’s here. Our mission is to transform gaming, entertainment, and how we interact…We’re really sprinting towards the consumer version.”

To do that, Oculus needed to nail “Presence” or feeling like you’re actually in the virtual world. That means nailing every component of a VR rig so that no step causes motion sickness. These components are tracking the motion of your head, CPU, GPU, display, photons, optics.

Iribe went on to explain that Oculus sees VR as dividing into two categories, and that it needs to win at both:

  • PC-based: Where computers can drive the most immersive experiences.

    “With positional tracking, high frame rates, low persistence, and strong GPUs, you can create unbelievable worlds, you can create believable worlds.”

  • Mobile-based: Where affordability, accessibility, and mobility will bring VR to a mass audience.

Oculus Nubmers

Last night, Oculus also announced it would open source all the technology around its DK1 developer kit on Github. This could help developers level up their own development, build components using Oculus’ designs, and even sell these products without having had to come up with them.

By creating official new hardware and software platforms, Oculus could help unify the fragmented VR industry which has been using unofficial hacks to make third-party peripherals works with the Rift. The announcements could convince developers that Oculus is a more stable platform to build on so they increase their investment and help it build VR experiences that mainstream customers will find interesting.

WR

Coming off raising $2.5 million through Kickstarter and another $93.4 million from VCs, 2014 has been an epic year for Oculus. It took huge numbers of pre-orders for its DK2 developer kit before being acquired by Facebook in March for $2 billion. Despite a quick backlash from some developers and Kickstarter supporters for selling out, Oculus has largely reassured the VR community that having Facebook as a parent company makes it more of a reliable platform, not less.

Bigger developers began signing on, creating an ecosystem of peripherals and content experiences around the Rift. Most recently, the DK2 began shipping to developers and Oculus built a mobile VR rig for Samsung which lets you slip a Galaxy Note in to act as the headset’s screen.

Now we’ll get to see what developers will do with the new Oculus Crescent Bay headset and Platform.

Go here to see the original: Oculus Reveals Its New “Crescent Bay” Prototype With 360-Degree Head Tracking And Headphones

Join Us In Hardware Alley At Disrupt London, Won’t You?

Disrupt London is fast approaching and I’d love to see you in our amazing Hardware Alley. This even, which runs during the last day of Disrupt, features all of my favorite startups – the hardware ones – in glorious technicolor.

What is Hardware Alley? It’s a celebration of hardware startups (and other cool gear makers) that features everything from robotic drones to 3D printers. We try to bring in an eclectic mix of amazing exhibitors and I think you’ll agree that our previous Alleys have been roaring successes.

We’d like you to register as a Hardware Alley exhibitor. You’ll get to exhibit on the last day of Disrupt Londo, October 21, to show off your goods and get access to some of the most interesting people (and most interesting VCs) in the world.

All you need to demo is a laptop. TechCrunch provides you with: 30″ round cocktail table, linens, table-top sign, inclusion in program agenda and website, exhibitor WiFi, and press list.

You can reserve your spot by purchasing a Hardware Alley Exhibitor Package here.

If you are Kickstarting your project now or bootstrapping, please contact me at john@techcrunch.com with the subject line “HARDWARE ALLEY.” I will do my best to accommodate you.

Hope to see you in London!

Read the original here: Join Us In Hardware Alley At Disrupt London, Won’t You?

Apple’s iPhone 6 And 6 Plus Go On Sale To Long Lines Of Fans

Apple started selling its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus today, with sales in-store kicking off at Apple Store retail locations beginning at 8 AM local time. The lines this year are longer than they have been in recent memory, if not ever for an iPhone launch, and by all accounts this is shaping up to be probably the most successful iPhone launch day in history, provided there’s plenty of stock on hand to satisfy the gathering throngs.

Lines at Apple’s 5th Avenue store goes on for at least five city blocks, for instance, and is estimated to be well over 1,000 people deep at last count, and queues elsewhere in the world are also snaking around city streets and packed with folks.

Apple’s main store in Toronto at the Eaton Centre had already amassed a long line that snaked around the entire upper floor of the mall where it’s located when I dropped by last night, with people spanning an area of about two city blocks indoors wrapping around and doubling back in a massive throng of people.

I spoke to the front-most line sitters, which included Frank Cranton in first, a Canadian soldier just back from Afghanistan who’d been there since Monday and who had never owned an iPhone before, only iPads; and to number two line member Ishan Vadera, who’d been there since Tuesday and who was a repeat iPhone owner but who wanted this device especially badly. Third was Bruno Wong from Canadian startup Orchard, an exchange marketplace for used iPhone devices.

Speaking to those in line revealed that most were drawn to this device because of the bigger screen and impressive new design Apple launched with the 6, though there were also many who were interested in the camera and other new features. For many near the front, this was an upgrade from devices older than the 5s, or their very first iPhone and a switch from Android.

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The scale of this launch, at least as witnessed first-hand at the Eaton Centre, far exceed previous new device releases, so it’ll be very interesting to see what that means in terms of launch weekend iPhone 6 and 6 Plus sales.

Read the original post: Apple’s iPhone 6 And 6 Plus Go On Sale To Long Lines Of Fans

iPhone 6 Plus Review: The First Truly Well-Designed Big Smartphone

Apple is launching not one, but two premium smartphones today, and the iPhone 6 Plus is the one many probably were skeptical even existed just a few short months ago. With a screen size measuring 5.5-inches across the diagonal, it’s well into the territory labeled “phablet” on the ancient sea charts of mariners who’ve braved the Android waters. However, Apple’s version of a smartphone that strains the inclusion of “phone” in any word describing it might surprise even those dead set against the trend toward ever-bigger mobile screens.

Video Review

Basics

  • 5.5-inch, 1920 x 1080 display, 401 ppi with 1300:1 contrast
  • 16, 64 or 128GB storage
  • A8 processor (64-bit)
  • 8MP iSight camera (rear) with 1.5 micron pixels and optical image stabilization, 1.2 megapixel FaceTime camera (front)
  • Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • 20-band LTE support
  • MSRP: 16GB for $299 on contract/$749 contract free; 64GB for $399 on contract/$849 contract free; 128GB for $499 on contract/$949 contract free
  • Product info page

Pros

  • Larger screen is great for productivity and media consumption
  • Battery and camera noticeably better than iPhone 6

Cons

  • Not a one-handed device for most
  • Priced above even the usual premium segment

Design

The iPhone 6 Plus is literally an exaggerated version of the iPhone 6 in terms of its physical design, with dimensions stretched to accommodate its much larger 5.5-inch display. It’s 0.01-inches thicker, just under half-an inch wider, and just under an inch taller than the iPhone 6, and you’ll notice each of those increases in the hand, including the additional thickness, even if it is just a shade of difference. In terms of carrying and holding the device, the additional size makes for a less ‘perfect’ ergonomic quality, something the iPhone 6 definitely achieves, but there’s still lots to love about the industrial design of the 6 Plus.

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Like the iPhone 6, it benefits from rounded edges and smooth surfaces that recall the iPad mini and iPad Air. The curved sides make it easier to page back and forth through content with swipes, and it’s easy to imagine how a design with right angles would’ve resulted in an uncomfortable grip with a device this size. The screen is also the star here, and that 5.5-inch high res beauty is set off by thin side bezels, and top and bottom bezels that appear much smaller since they take up a far smaller percentage of the overall front surface of the device.

Attention to detail is Apple’s forte, and that’s apparent in the way the volume keys, relocated power button (it’s on the right side now) and lock switch are all machined. Perforations including the speaker holes on the bottom right are similarly well-executed, and overall the sense you get of the iPhone 6 Plus is one of extreme high quality, which is not something that can be said for the rest of the ‘phablet’ field. Apple has managed to make the very first well-designed smartphone of epic scale, regardless of your thoughts on the merit of the category as a whole.

Performance

The iPhone 6 Plus may be powering a much larger display, and it may need to output content at a higher resolution, but it’s not showing any additional strain vs. the iPhone 6 despite the extra legwork required. The 64-bit A8 process that Apple has designed, which uses a new, smaller and more power-efficient 20nm process, is more than up to the task of serving up animations, swipes, switches and multitasking for the 6 Plus.

If you’re new to the world of iOS and iPhone, you’ll probably just note that the performance is excellent and move on. But if you’re upgrading from an older device, like perhaps the iPhone 4 or 4S, you’re going to instantly take note of just how speedy everything is with this new processor architecture. The screen sizes are stealing headlines, but the performance of the A8, in graphics-intensive applications and in rendering interface flourishes, means that you’ll be feeling the effects of Apple’s next-generation processor improvements long after people are used to the bigger displays.

iphone-6-lteThe iPhone 6 Plus, like the iPhone 6, also features faster wireless performance, on both cellular and Wi-Fi connections. The 802.11ac Wi-Fi felt blazingly fast when used on my home network, which is run from a current-generation Airport Extreme that supports the latest Wi-Fi speeds. LTE is now able to handle up to 150 mbps connections, where supported (and with 20 bands supported on a single model number, you’re more likely to find it works with carriers around the world). Apple has also worked with carriers to get LTE roaming working with more international carrier arrangements, and I found that my AT&T testing sim provided a strong Rogers LTE connection here in Canada.

Features

Apple has brought a number of great new features to both the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, including Apple Pay, which works as advertised in demos but will launch publicly in October in the U.S., and ‘Focus Pixels’ phase detection autofocus for faster, better picture taking. But there are a few featues that are specific to the iPhone 6 Plus that make it a device destined to appeal to both power users and everyday customers looking to simplify their life with a single gadget, instead of requiring both a tablet and phone (and even a computer).

iphone-6-plus-touch-assistReachability is the feature Apple created to help users deal with much larger devices, regardless of the size of their hands and digits. The iPhone 6 Plus leans on this especially, as it’s impossible for anyone not in the NBA to reach their thumb across to the top opposite corner. I find it difficult to even reach across the other side of the screen, let alone the corner, when one-handing the device. Reachability helps reach the stuff that’s in the top row, but it doesn’t bring down the status bar on the Home screen (it does in app), which would be helpful, and it’s still a stretch to reach the relocated opposite corner.

For most tasks, I find the iPhone 6 Plus to be a two-handed device – but I also find that I’m absolutely fine with that. The 6 Plus is closer in usage style to an iPad mini, in my experience, albeit one that’s pocketable and capable of full cellular voice communications. Part of the reason that it works so well as a tablet-style gadget is that Apple has introduced special landscape support for both the homescreen and some its first-party apps, which really add to my ability to be productive using them.

The apps in question include Mail, Messages and Calendar, and these now offer up overviews in a column on the left, and detail views on the right, much like they do on tablet or desktop devices. In Mail, it lets you quickly scroll through and triage your email without having to constantly swipe back and forth, and in Messages, it lets you keep abreast of the latest goings on in multiple conversations at once. Using these landscape views effectively almost requires two-handed use, but it ends up feeling well worth the trade-off.

Apple has also introduced new optical image stabilization for still pictures to the iPhone 6 Plus, and the effects are very impressive. That’s something I’ll address in greater detail in the ‘Camera’ section below.

The new Slow-Mo function captures action slowed down even further than before, and as you can see in the demo video above, that makes for some fun results. In particular, if you pay attention to the moments when Chelsea licks her lips in the video above, you can see just how good the new video feature is at capturing even blink-of-an-eye action in painstaking detail.

Display

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The iPhone 6 Plus has the best screen of any iPhone. It’s above that of either the iPhone 6 or 5s in terms of pixel density, and it’s capable of playing back full HD content in native resolution. The improved contrast and color rendering Apple has also worked into its screen tech is also even more obvious here than it is on the iPhone 6, and that results in a display that’s perfect for viewing photos or watching movies, as well as for showing off well-designed apps and software.

By the numbers, the iPhone 6 Plus’ display offers 88 percent more viewing area that the iPhone 5s, but at a cost of just 55 percent more volume. That means that while it’s very big, it’s not nearly as gigantic as if they’d just increased the proportions of the 5s. The screen trade-offs have real benefits for certain kinds of users beyond just enabling landscape mode, too – with Display Zoom, all interface elements suddenly become easier to read even for those with age-related vision loss, and that’s going to be a big selling point.

I showed my mother both phones and she was instantly drawn to the larger display of the 6 Plus. For these users, too, the 6 Plus can represent a single-device computing solution; it replicates much of the functionality of a tablet, with additional portability, and if you don’t do much beyond browsing the web, or interacting with the rich field of current apps, you’ll be better-served by this with its always-on connectivity than you would by even the combo of a smaller phone and a Chromebook, for instance.

Camera

iphone-6-plus-cameraApple’s other big selling point here, besides the advantages of a larger display, is the improved camera. Thanks to extra space inside the iPhone 6 Plus, it managed to fit in an optical image stabilization module, which can actually shift the camera lens around both vertically and horizontally to capture a clear image free of the camera shake that can afflict photos taken freehand. And the optical stabilization, in addition to the software-based stabilization Apple already uses in its iPhone camera, results in a photo-taking experience like no other.

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As you can see, it works great both indoors and out, and produces some of the best looking low light photos I’ve seen out of a mobile device. The iPhone 6 Plus image stabilization results in pictures that look crisp even when captured casually, and Apple’s new autofocus tricks mean there’s almost no waiting before a scene is properly focused and exposed, with as little manual intervention as possible. You can still manually adjust the point of focus and exposure, but the camera is smart enough that in most cases, you shouldn’t have to.

Apple’s video recording stabilization means you can stroll and shoot with results that aren’t debilitating to watch, and that’s a big plus. The optical image stabilization works for still images only, but software-based anti-shake is in action in the clip above, and it helps make the iPhone’s movie capture another highlight of the overall camera package.

Battery

The iPhone 6 Plus has another trick up its sleeve, aside from the optical image stabilization and the landscape orientation bonuses: Better battery life. The improved powerhouse on the 6 Plus affords it a full 10 hours more talk time compared to the iPhone 6, plus an additional 6 days of standby time (16 in total), as well as 2 more hours of browsing on 3G and LTE. It’s a trick that, with mixed use, resulted in at least a full day of extra use over the iPhone 6 in my testing, which could stretch to even longer if I used it only sparingly. During one cycle, where I used my phone only a few times a day to check calls, weather and messages, I got over three days of standby time and nearly 11 hours of use.

This alone might be enough reason to get people to opt for the 6 Plus over the 6, and it definitely helps increase the overall appeal of Apple’s big phone. Accustomed as I am to using my phone during the day and plugging it in when I get home in the evening, however, it’s not as great of concern – but already there have been a few times when an extended lack of readily available outlets have shown the merits of the 6 Plus and its capacious power core.

Bottom Line

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The iPhone 6 is still the best smartphone for your money in my opinion, owing mostly to the fact that the majority of people are going to feel most comfortable using a smaller device as their daily companion of choice. But the iPhone 6 Plus surprised me: I went into this review expecting to find it was a niche gadget, reserved for those seeking the absolute top-of-the-line, convenience be damned. Instead, I found myself getting strangely comfortable with a phone I still find difficult to use one-handed. In short, the 6 is my favorite current smartphone, but the 6 Plus is its closest competition.

I suspect we’ll see the trade-offs Apple has made in building a phone on this scale downplayed further by the introduction of the Apple Watch next year, as it means the iPhone 6 Plus can stay in the pocket for small things like seeing a message or figuring out why it just vibrated to indicate some kind of inbound notification. Even know, it’s a device well worth your consideration, and if you’re thinking about which to purchase, you should consider how much you value: 1) The ability to more easily manage communications from your pocket; 2) Having energy reserves at the end of the day; 3) Putting the best possible mobile camera in your pocket; or 4) Replacing up to three devices with just one for casual users. If you rate any of these things as high priority, then the 6 Plus might be the better choice.

See the original post here: iPhone 6 Plus Review: The First Truly Well-Designed Big Smartphone

Up Close With The Tissot T-Touch Solar Expert, The Perennial Hiking Watch For Geeks

For years the Tissot T-Touch line has been Switzerland’s unique answer to the quartz hiking watch. While other manufacturers offered analog quartz pieces, Tissot has been the only company that has tried to take on the altimeter-barometer-thermometer uber watches made by Casio, Seiko and Citizen. And they’ve done a great job so far.

The latest model is the Tissot T-Touch Solar Expert. It is a direct successor to the T-Touch expert except that it has a rechargeable battery and a solar face that creates a trickle of electricity that will keep the watch running without a change for years.

As the name suggests, the T-Touch has a touch sensitive face that allows you to activate various features by tapping near the labels around the bezel. This model has a compass, timer, altimeter, and barometer which includes a fairly accurate external thermometer. When you tap the function both hands immediately swing into action at a surprising speed. The coolest feature is undoubtedly the compass which whirrs into place and then begins showing your orientation.

The T-Touch has long been a great trekking watch but, at $1,150 for the model with a rubber band and $1,250 for the metal band, it’s a pricey proposition. The most expensive Casio Pro Trek, for example, costs $200 for similar features and makers like Suunto and Citizen have been building excellent pieces with similar pieces – including GPS time setting – for far below $1,000.

As a watch snob, however, I still prefer the T-Touch’s understated face and unique interface. Tapping the screen activates the little hands quickly and accurately and the watch is easy to set because the hands move in minute increments for the first 60 minutes and then advances one hour per second for setting international time zones. It’s a lot of fun. The solar feature is admittedly nice but Tissot doesn’t offer much of a discount on the non-solar versions. Sadly, the vagaries of Swiss pricing means that even the non-solar version of the watch costs $1,200, which means your only recourse in getting this cheaper is to look for a used model online.

At 45mm this new model is also a bit bigger than the previous 43mm watches and may not be right for smaller wrists (although my wife wears my previous gen model). I also miss the orange strap in this series, a feature that made the original T-Touches pretty cool. These are small things but overall I’m impressed by the size, the light weight, and the durability of this line.

If you’re planning on doing some real hiking you’ll probably want to get something a bit more complex than this watch and it is decidedly not a good running watch. Think of it as a Casio that you can wear with a suit. Tissot hasn’t advanced the state of the art with this watch but as a simple alti-baro-compass watch this is well worth the investment, especially if you’re directionally challenged and enjoy seeing the spinning hands make their merry way across the watch’s honeycombed solar face.

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Read the original here: Up Close With The Tissot T-Touch Solar Expert, The Perennial Hiking Watch For Geeks

You can now buy devices directly from Motorola’s new UK portal

Motorola has today announced that, for the first time, customers in the UK can buy handsets and other devices directly from its new site.

The portal at Motorola.co.uk is currently stocking the company’s freshly updated Moto G for delivery from £149.99 SIM-free. Alternative colored shells will also available to purchase through the site, but weren’t available at the time of writing.Motorola MotoG 730x412 You can now buy devices directly from Motorolas new UK portal

There are also options to register for more information about the impeding arrival of its new Moto X smartphone and Moto 360 smartwatch – both of which will be offered directly to UK buyers.

It’s an important move for Motorola as it means that it doesn’t just have to rely on UK operators and retailers like Amazon to sell its devices in the country, but can instead control more of its own distribution and give customers a central point of contact and purchase for all its future devices.

➤ Motorola.co.uk

Chromebooks now support Chromecast streaming for videos stored in Google Drive

‘Heartbroken’ Phones 4u team braces for up to 5,600 redundancies as company goes into administration

Continue reading here: You can now buy devices directly from Motorola’s new UK portal

Samsung Attacks Apple’s Keynote With “It Doesn’t Take A Genius” Ads

Samsung has released a series of videos lampooning this week’s Apple announcement, a move that is at once familiar and not unexpected. There are six of them in total, including one on screen size, in a series called “It Doesn’t Take A Genius.” Collect them all.

After years of cringey, tone-deaf commercials, the company has finally grown a few claws and even made fun of Apple’s jittery live feed in the example above. There’s even the obligatory howl of “It’s a bigger screen!” as the two “nerds” in the ad salivate over the new offerings.

Samsung has a long history of iSheep advertising and I doubt it will abate any time soon. Perhaps Apple needs to bring out the big guns again? Where have you gone, John Hodgman? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

See the rest here: Samsung Attacks Apple’s Keynote With “It Doesn’t Take A Genius” Ads

Stack’s Smart Sensor-Packed Light Bulbs Run Autonomously, No App Interactions Required

Over the past few years a swath of self-styled ‘smart lights’ have pushed into the market. The likes of Philips Hue and Kickstarter fueled LIFX. Aka connected lightbulbs that can be controlled via an app. But this is just the first wave of smart lighting — and it’s really not-so-smart, argues new lighting focused startup Stack, launching today on stage here at TechCrunch Disrupt SF.

Stack’s view is that truly smart connected objects should be autonomous, rather than require their owner to continuously tend to their needs via an app. Because, well, as I for one have noted before, needing to use an app for every bulb in your home is just tedious. So Stack’s ‘lightbulb moment’, if you will, is to create smart lights with built-in ambient light, motion and occupancy sensors — enabling them to respond dynamically to their environment without the need for constant app-based interaction.

The bulbs are packed with sensors, Bluetooth, Zigbee and iBeacon hardware, and microcontrollers allowing them to react autonomously once installed. During the initial set up process the owner is asked to specify (yes, via an app) whether the bulbs are installed in a commercial location or a home. And once they choose one of those two options they’re good to go, with the system using a series of commercial or residential pre-sets to dial light up or down, based on ambient light conditions, time of day and occupancy of the room.

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“If you say ‘home’ it automatically defaults all the bulbs with a pre-set,” explains Stack CEO Neil Joseph, who left his day job at Tesla to set up the company. (Another co-founder used to work in electrical engineering at NASA and is now helping Stack nail down its light sensing algorithms.) “In the morning it’ll be a cooler, blue light, and then as the day goes on the lights will automatically adjust their color temperature. All the way to a warmer color by the evening,” he adds.

Initially the residential market will be the startup’s target, although Stack has big plans for business use — hence the iBeacon integration and a planned analytics offering so commercial users will be able to use the bulbs to determine things like footfall within a store.

Using connected light bulbs as iBeacons offers a high-resolution way to surveil a space, argues Joseph. “It’s the same functionality as any other iBeacon except it’s a higher resolution… There are more bulbs in any space than any other electronic device because of how numerous they are.”

“The two biggest applications we see is in the retail sector to measure foot traffic and motion throughout a store. As well as with the iBeacon part of it being able to have that interactivity with their customers. The big thing here is because they already have the lights they don’t have to get a whole separate system installed to have iBeacons deployed,” he adds.

On the residential side, a key area of focus for Stack’s marketing will be on how its product can help improve users’ sleep patterns. That’s because Stack bulbs are color temperature sensitive to the time of day, meaning the shade and intensity of the light will be in tune with outdoor light levels and therefore with the human circadian rhythm.

Hence Stack’s bulbs using a bluer color temperature in the mornings, and becoming warmer, softer and dimmer in the evenings — in an effort to make the indoor environment mimic the natural outdoor light cycle of sunrise, daylight, dusk and darkness. Despite this shifting color temperature, all Stack’s light shades are white. No lurid lighting colors here.

“What’s been interesting through this discovery process is learning how light really impacts people’s health. There’s been a lot of technology… that tries to measure how you sleep. There are all the wearable devices that try to measure that. And the thing is… what do you do about that once you know that you aren’t sleeping well? For your circadian rhythm, one of the biggest influencers on that is light,” notes Joseph.

“If you’re able to tune the lights — so let’s say, saying what time you’d ideally like to go to bed and wake up, and have the right tone of light and amount, it will definitely help readjust your body and really maximize your energy focus and overall health. So that’s one of the big things that we’re doing that will be in our app. That’s actually the biggest thing that we see people utilizing our app for; is just simply saying I want to try to go to bed by 11.30pm and I want to wake up at 7am. So as you get closer to the evening the lights automatically start dimming down and they’re a warmer hue and your body will naturally respond to that, and start to relax.”

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The potential for energy savings using Stack is another key area of focus. Joseph tells TechCrunch the bulbs yield energy savings of between 60 and 80 per cent compared to LED bulbs across residential and commercial deployments. This is owing to their ambient light-sensing smart dimming, so there’s never any redundant light energy being expended. Rather they shine as brightly as conditions require. Also helping conserve energy is their ability to switch off entirely when rooms are unoccupied, so again bulbs aren’t left burning unnecessarily.

It’s worth noting that some commercial environments already have sensor-powered lighting control systems installed that respond to — for instance — room occupancy, to switch lights off at night when the last employees have clocked off and gone home. But Joseph says Stack offer a much cheaper and easier way to install a dynamic lighting system than one of these high cost lighting control systems. No lighting engineers or additional IT installations are required to run Stack.

Per bulb Stack costs $60, although you also need a Zigbee hub. A hub plus a two-bulb pack will cost $150 — with each bulb offering a lifespan of around 50,000 hours. Joseph says that cost stacks up well against the upwards of $100,000 a business might need to shell out to install a full sensor-based lighting control system. And of course Stack allows for bulbs to be installed gradually, as budget allows.

Today the first Stack bulb is up for pre-order — with an estimated delivery date of Q1 next year. The first bulb format is a recessed can light. It’s calling this bulb Alba. Additional bulbs formats will follow in the first and second half of 2015, according to Joseph. The startup is also intending to make a connected fixture for the smallest MR16 bulbs, which might have trouble fitting all its sensor tech inside the bulb itself. “Over the course of the next year we’re going to have all of the major formats of lights and fixtures,” he adds.

Stack’s bulbs will support integration with Google’s Nest and Apple’s HomeKit (IFTTT support is planned too). There will also be a Stack API to extend usage via third party apps, should users want more functionality.

The Stack app itself does also support more granular control if the user is so inclined — allowing the setting up of different zones within a house, for instance, although the core philosophy here is to avoid the necessity for too much micro control. Bulbs can be drags and dropped into zones within the app. Zones can also be provisioned by location — so a user could, for instance, stand in their bedroom and tell the app to zone all the nearby bulbs as the ‘master bedroom’.

Beyond the individual connected bulbs, launching today, the grand vision is for Stack to form the backbone (or indeed the stack) for many more connected indoor devices.

“The way we see it is because we have these sensors in the bulb — and if you think about it, generally lights are the most common electronic devices in a building, whether it’s residential or commercial, we view it as we become the backbone of a responsive sensor network throughout the house,” adds Joseph. “With HomeKit and Works With Nest, with those APIs and some APIs of our own, we’re going to be able to help tie together all of those other products.”

Judges Q&A

Q: Maybe you could walk through the experience of how I use the product…
A: Imagine just setting the time of when you want to wake up and go to bed. It comes on with a bluer hue of light in the mornig… then by the evening a warmer or yellow hue of light helps you to go to bed

Q: What is the major advance here?
A: The major advance that we’ve done is the embedded sensors and being able to tie all that together

Q: I need to be able to control it
A: It can learn, it turns itself on if there’s a commotion

Q: So I can just buy this on Amazon today and screw this into my current light fixture and it’ll work
A: You can pre-order today and we’ll begin shipping in Q1

Q: The context of how I want my life set up is very contextual… how does it know that context and how does it work in an existing environment where I have dimmers and switches?
A: Our bulbs will be able to work with all the common dimmers… We have pre-loaded pre-sets. And common pre-sets – like a dinner party mode that’s softer… In the app you can drag and drop. You can adjust [individual bulbs] in the app if you want

Q: Is commercial or residential the bigger opportunity here?
A: We’re going after residential first because we need more formats of lights

Q: Marketing question. It’s always a challenge to tell people what a reinvented thing is. What’s your elevator pitch?
A: Alba is the world’s first responsive lightbulb. You don’t have to touch an app, it will automatically respond to the environment

Q: My life is never linear, I want to override the pre-sets what do I do?
A: That’s why we have the app. You go down to the individual bulbs and adjust them

Q: How many of the hubs do you need for a normal house?
A: You only need one per house. We use Zigbee… it’s a mesh network. One unit can go all the way

Q: What is the price point compared with Philips Hue or some of these other smart lights?
A: We’re pricing it at $60 just like the Philips Hue. Same price but much more functionality

Q: What’s the life like?
A: Generally the newer LEDs will be 50,000 hours… So a home setting you’re talking 30+ years. In a commercial setting on for 12 hours a day over 11 years

Q: The challenge of getting LEDs to work correctly with dimmers seems to be an unresolved issue. How do you play nice?
A: There are many types of dimmers and a common core set that everyone tries to work with but ultimately there we say get rid of the switch long term. That’s our dream for a truly responsive home

Q: Tell me about the founders – what led to this idea?
A: This started when I was at Tesla… I was sitting in the office building and I thought why are these lights on at full power? Why can’t they dim like our phones or TVs — so I set about creating the technology and building an awesome team.

View post: Stack’s Smart Sensor-Packed Light Bulbs Run Autonomously, No App Interactions Required