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“Razer: 2 prototype laptops stolen at CES” plus 29 more VentureBeat

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“Razer: 2 prototype laptops stolen at CES” plus 29 more VentureBeat


Razer: 2 prototype laptops stolen at CES

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 01:26 PM PST

Razer's Project Valerie is a gaming laptop with three screens.

Theft has struck one of gaming’s biggest hardware companies.

Razer confirmed with GamesBeat that two of its Project Valerie laptop prototypes were stolen from its booth at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The hardware and peripheral manufacturer is offering a reward to any person with information that could lead to their recovery. Razer sent the following statement to GamesBeat:

The product was taken from the Razer press room at approximately 4 p.m. on Sunday, January 8, 2017. A $25,000 reward is being offered for original information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of a criminal suspect. Razer, in its sole discretion, will decide who is entitled to a reward and in what amount. Razer may pay only a portion of the maximum reward offered. The decision will be based primarily upon law enforcement’s evaluation of the value of the information provided. When there are multiple claimants, the reward will be shared in amounts determined by Razer. Razer associates are not eligible for the reward. This reward offer is good for one year from the date it is first offered, unless extended by Razer. Information about the theft can be sent to legal@razerzone.com. Razer will not publicly disclose material that it receives or details about respondents, except to those persons with whom Razer is directly working to resolve this matter or as may be required by law.

Project Valerie is a laptop with three 4K screens arranged horizontally, allowing for a widescreen view that could encompass much of a user’s field of vision. Having devices like this stolen is a nightmare and headache for the company, since much of it is new tech that it doesn’t want in the hands of competitors. Valerie was on display behind glass screens.

We had a chance to look at the laptop ourselves at CES. Kevin Sather, director of product marketing for systems at Razer, told GamesBeat at the show that Razer was gathering feedback on the product. The company also showed Project Ariana at the show, which turns you wall into part of your game display.

Microsoft confirms Platinum Game’s Scalebound is canceled

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 01:07 PM PST

Scalebound.

Microsoft is starting 2017 by killing off a notable console exclusive.

Earlier today, Kotaku reported that the publisher had cancelled the action-role-playing game Scalebound. Microsoft has now confirmed  to the publication that the Platinum Games project slated for Xbox One and PC is no longer in development. Microsoft previously touted Scalebound as a big console exclusive (meaning it wasn’t coming out for its main competition, the PlayStation 4), often drawing attention to the fact that it was going to be the next game from Hideki Kamiya, who previously directed famous action hits like Devil May Cry, Viewtiful Joe, and Bayonetta.

“After careful deliberation, Microsoft Studios has come to the decision to end production for Scalebound,” Microsoft told Kotaku. “We're working hard to deliver an amazing lineup of games to our fans this year, including Halo Wars 2, Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2, Sea of Thieves, and other great experiences.”

Scalebound would’ve had players fighting giant monsters with the help of a dragon companion, which they could also use for aerial combat. It was supposed to come out in late 2016 but suffered a delay to 2017 before this cancellation.

The weirdest gadgets coming in 2017

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 01:03 PM PST

Love Box lets lovers send personal messages to each other.

It isn’t easy to find the oddball gadgets across CES. This year’s big tech trade show in Las Vegas covered more than 2.6 million square feet of event space, with nearly 4,000 exhibitors. As usual, we came back with our impressions of the weirdest gadgets that are coming in 2017.

There were lots of analog turntables, virtual reality headsets, home robots, selfie drones, and smart refrigerators. But those things seem so normal now, compared to some of the new weirdness.

LoveBox

The LoveBox was created by a French romantic who missed his wife. She didn’t like the impersonal nature of Skype or What’s App calls, and so he created a box that was just for messages between the two of them. The sender can type a small message for the receiver to see on a mirrored surface. The box heart spins when there’s a new message. It will cost $120, with shipping starting in June 2017.

Hair Coach

Kerastase Hair Coach is powered by Withings.

Above: Kerastase Hair Coach is powered by Withings.

Image Credit: Withings

Withings worked with L'Oreal's Kerastase brand to create a smart hair brush, dubbed Hair Coach. The brush uses sensors and algorithms to evaluate your hair. It senses brushing patterns that provide insights into frizziness, dryness, split ends, and breakage. It counts your brush strokes and gives you haptic feedback if you are brushing too fast.

E-Skin

Xenoma's e-skin at CES Unveiled party at CES 2017.

Above: Xenoma’s e-skin at CES Unveiled party at CES 2017.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Japanese tech startup Xenoma has created its e-skin motion capture shirt so that you can translate your body’s movements into digital form, which can then be used to control a character in a video game. The e-skin has 14 strain sensors strategically placed to detect the wear’s body movements. A $5,000 developer version will be available on Feb. 1, and the company hopes to launch a $600 consumer version by mid-2017. The shirt is also being targeted at athlete training and virtual reality apps.

FoldiMate laundry robot

FoldiMate folds your laundry.

Above: FoldiMate folds your laundry.

Image Credit: FoldiMate

FoldiMate has created a robot that will fold your laundry. FoldiMate's machine requires you to clip your clothes onto a slot on the machine (this task might be too much for the laziest among us). The robot pulls the item over a board and steams it, and then folds it. It takes the robot about 10 seconds to fold one item, and it has a capacity of about 15 to 20 items. Once the robot is finished with the whole rack, it spits out the folded clothes for you to remove. The machine will cost around $850, or so.

GeniCan garbage can

GeniCan is a smart garbage can.

Above: GeniCan is a smart garbage can.

Image Credit: GeniCan

The GeniCan smart garbage can has a camera on it. As you dispose of objects, in scans what you are throwing away and adds the item to your grocery list. Combined with a smart refrigerator camera, it might very well help you create a full grocery list with a minimal amount of trouble. It’s available for preorder now.

Continue Reading ...

Marc Benioff, Eric Ries, Dave McClure back effort to fund coding academy in Gaza

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 12:55 PM PST

Freelancers and entrepreneurs working in a Gaza Sky Geek coworking facility.

A number of Silicon Valley leaders have banded together to support a crowdfunding effort to build the first coding academy in Gaza. The campaign, which started December 13, is called #PowerUpGazaGeeks and now has the backing of supporters such as Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff, author Eric Ries, 500 Startups partner Dave McClure, Y Combinator partner Paul Graham, Techstars’ Brad Feld, and many others.

#PowerUpGazaGeeks had an initial goal of $95,000, which would have gone towards purchasing a generator and fuel needed to power a coworking space in Gaza during the evenings and weekends. That was surpassed 10 days after the campaign launched, and a stretch goal of $400,000 has been set to establish the area’s first coding academy, facilitate 22 internships for Gazans at European and U.S. tech firms, and teach high school girls to code.

The aforementioned tech leaders have committed to matching the donations.

Gaza Sky Geeks is the organization orchestrating this campaign. It is the first and only startup accelerator in the country to support female entrepreneurs and is operated by the U.S.-based Mercy Corps nonprofit. This group aims to provide opportunities, innovation, job creation, startup support, online workshops, and inspiration to the “next generation of ladies” entering the tech market.

“Gazans are smart people working on ideas for companies,” said McClure, who also serves on Gaza Sky Geek’s advisory board. “They deserve support and investment just like any other startup founder anywhere else in the world. To some extent, they have even more hustle because they’re working in such a tough environment. They may actually be some of the best entrepreneurs in the world.”

Starting a company in the Middle East, especially in a country with scarce resources and daily threats of violence, can be difficult, but Gaza Sky Geeks appears to be a blessing for some entrepreneurs. More than 100 jobs and $91,000 in revenue has been generated by startups participating in the program. Gaza Sky Geeks has also received awards from Google, Techstars, and others.

With the establishment of a coding academy, the expectation is to “deepen existing developer talent, grow a pipeline of new talent, and inspire more Gazans to learn to code.” A $50 donation would provide a half-day coding bootcamp for 1 student, but $1,000 would fund a week’s worth of tutelage for that student.

Learning is a struggle in Gaza, with an average of six hours of electricity a day provided to the facility in which Gaza Sky Geek operates. These conditions are not suitable for people to learn in, so the original plan was to purchase a generator to make the coworking space self-sustaining. But with the outpouring of support, the team has evolved its thinking to support a more ambitious plan to help a larger group of people with a coding academy.

Here’s a list of the supporters matching donations: Skoll Foundation, Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, Techstars’ Brad Feld, Y Combinator’s Paul Graham, author Eric Ries, 500 Startups’ Dave McClure, Aramex cofounder Fadi Ghandour, Crescent Enterprises CEO Badr Jafar, Leap Ventures’ Hala Fadel, Tech.eu cofounder Jon Bradford, Kapor Capital partner Freada Kapor Klein and Mitch Kapor, National Beverage Company — Coca-Cola Palestine Chairman and CEO Zahi Khouri, Jabbar chairman Samih Toukan, Google principal scientist Blaise Aguera y Arcas, Uber’s Amsterdam head of engineering Mustafa Sezgin, 500 Startups’ Khailee Ng, Techstars COO Jenny Lawton, and Techstars cofounder David Cohen.

Top 5 dormant Nintendo franchises that should return on Switch? GamesBeat Decides

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 12:31 PM PST

Bring back Metroid!

Nintendo will soon give us all the details about its upcoming Switch console and games on Thursday and Friday, but we’re not going to wait.

On this week’s episode of the GamesBeat Decides podcast, host Jeffrey Grubb and cohost Mike Minotti decide the forgotten Nintendo franchises that the company needs to bring back on its hybrid home/handheld system that is due out in March. Of course we talk about Metroid and F-Zero, but we also remember some other favorites like Advance Wars that we’d love to play on our Switch systems. Go ahead and listen!

The topic:

  • The top 5 dormant Nintendo franchises the publisher should bring back for the Nintendo Switch.

Listen by pressing play here or on the video above:

Other ways to listen:

  • Watch the episode live every Monday on our Facebook page, just hit the Like button to get notifications.
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Why AI must be redefined as ‘augmented intelligence’

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 12:20 PM PST

Augmented intelligence is the only way to stop hackers.

Popular visions of artificial intelligence often focus on robots and the dystopian future they will create for humanity, but to understand the true impact of AI, its skeptics and detractors should look at the future of cybersecurity.

The reason is simple: If we have any hope of winning the war on cybercrime, we have no choice but to rely on AI to supplement our human skills and experience.

With the number and sophistication of cybercriminals continuing to grow, the technology industry has started to address this challenge through the use of AI. As with many new technologies, however, the good that AI can do is threatened by the misconceptions and hyperbole that surround it.

For this reason, the technology industry must address these popular perceptions, and that starts with redefining AI as what it truly is: augmented intelligence.

This might seem to be simple semantics, but I contend this redefinition is critical to the future understanding and acceptance of AI, and our ability to apply it in areas that are of critical importance to society, from education to health care to the environment.

AI fills gaps in cybersecurity

When it comes to cybersecurity, AI is emerging as our most powerful ally, especially as it has become clear that relying primarily on humans to fight this war is a losing battle plan.

Cybercriminals have created one of the largest illegal economies in the world, generating $445 billion in annual profits and stealing more than a billion records of personal information, such as credit card numbers and health records, every year.

The most concerning fact, though, is that 80 percent of cyberattacks are driven by highly organized crime rings that freely exchange data, tools, and tricks of the trade. Cybersecurity experts just can’t keep up, and the situation will continue to be challenging with a projected 1.5 million security jobs to remain unfilled between now and the conclusion of this decade.

Cybersecurity experts can’t wait for these positions to be filled. They need technology that augments their abilities by filling gaps in monitoring and identifying threats.

The good news is there is a growing understanding among security experts about the benefits of cognitive security. A recent survey by the IBM Institute of Business Value found that nearly 60 percent of security professionals believe cognitive security solutions can significantly slow down cybercriminals.

The same survey revealed there will be a threefold increase in the percentage of companies implementing cognitive-enabled security solutions in the next two to three years, from 7 to 21 percent. This won’t alleviate the need to hire additional cybersecurity experts, however, because the fight against cybercrime will require a closer alliance between human and machine.

Big data requires help

Even if all the open cybersecurity jobs were filled, we would still face a crisis due to the staggering volume of data that humans alone simply can’t consume. The average organization sees over 200,000 pieces of security event data per day, with enterprises spending $1.3 million a year dealing with false positives alone, equaling nearly 21,000 wasted hours.

Couple this with 10,000 security research papers published each year and over 60,000 security blogs published each month, and security analysts are severely challenged to move with informed speed.

AI will help security professionals by sorting through all this data, using natural language processing to understand the imprecise human language contained in blogs, articles, videos, reports, alerts, and other unstructured data; connecting obscure data points humans couldn’t possibly spot; and making recommendations on remediation strategies based on those connections and insights.

Without AI, unstructured data will continue to be the Achilles heel of cyberdefense because it represents a huge blind spot, comprising more than 80 percent of all data.

Augmenting the expertise of cyber professionals, AI systems are learning how to monitor unstructured data to detect risks before they emerge. As they continue to learn, AI systems will be more adept at detecting the difference between a computer glitch and a malicious attack, alleviating the need for security analysts to waste their valuable time on wild goose chases.

Humans and bots work together

Once an attack is identified, security analysts often turn to the internet for the latest ways to address it, generating thousands of pages of results that may or may not contain the solution. It’s a process that is neither fast nor accurate. In this stage of the fight, AI can play an important role analyzing reams of information, including unstructured data, to identify the most probable fixes — and do so in orders of magnitude faster than any human.

While we are just on the forefront of the cognitive era of security, progress is well underway in making this vision a reality. Cognitive tools such as IBM’s Watson are currently being trained to ingest and understand vast amounts of security data and research created for human consumption. Dozens of organizations are already working with this technology and helping discover new ways Watson can be used in the fight against cybercrime.

In the future, bots will seek out network vulnerabilities, diagnose them, and recommend ways to patch them — all while working seamlessly with cybersecurity experts, who will be even more valuable in the fight against cybercrime because they have been trained in the use of augmented intelligence.

Today, the often automatic reaction to any mention of systems gaining intelligence is that the robots have come to take our jobs. In the war on cybercrime, reality could not be further from this view. AI will enable humans to deal with ever-increasing threats by augmenting our expertise — but it’s critical for people to first understand and accept the true definition of AI.

Proof tells you when you’ve had too much to drink

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 12:10 PM PST

Proof is a wearable device that tells you when you've had too much to drink

Have you ever wondered if you should have just one more drink? Your body may say no, but your mind objects. Proof wants to put an end to the internal debate with a wearable that functions as a stylish, but conspicuous breathalyzer.

Created by Milo Sensor, Proof is not only hardware but software. When you’re out on the town and choosing to partake in adult beverages, you wear the device, which has a sensor that measures the amount of ethanol in your skin. That is used to determine your blood alcohol level (BAC) and relays the data to the accompanying mobile app. With this information, you can assess whether you’re too impaired to drive (in most places, it’s illegal to operate a vehicle if you have a BAC higher than 0.08).

But it’s not just to tell you when you can’t drive anymore. Milo Sensor claims that Proof will be able to tell you how many drinks you can have before you’ll have a hangover or avoid any potential alcohol-related side effects. The device will track your alcohol consumption over the course of the day so you can monitor your activity.

Proof is a wearable device that tells you when you've had too much to drink.

Above: Proof is a wearable device that tells you when you’ve had too much to drink.

Image Credit: Ken Yeung/VentureBeat

Proof looks similar to a Nike+ fuel band and contains a special cartridge that senses the ethanol in your skin. We’re told that this will last for 12 hours before being replaced — Milo Sensor said that additional ones should be priced at “less than the cost of a drink” and there will be a subscription plan. The wearable band itself has a battery that lasts for 60 hours.

To ensure that it accurately gauges how drunk you are, device owners have to input their height, weight, and gender during the onboarding process.

Proof app

The company had been working on this idea for the past two years, but determining whether you’re drunk or not isn’t the only aim. It plans on focusing on other biotech areas in the future. Milo Sensor will be launching a Kickstarter campaign this year with a plan to bring it to market before the end of 2018. It originally targeted the college market, but now it’s also focused at more young professionals, those interested in the quantified self, and seniors.

If you’re concerned about the possibility of the data gleaned from Proof being used against you in a court of law, Milo Sensor stated that because it believes it’s in the same category of a breathalyzer, it won’t be legally admissible.

Retail price of the Proof hasn’t been disclosed yet, but we’re told it will be similar to other fitness tracking devices.

CES2017

Hearthstone’s Winter Championship will fly south to the Bahamas — with a $250,000 prize purse

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 11:37 AM PST

Murlocs!

Considering how cold and miserable it is in most of the Northern Hemisphere right now, the Bahamas sound lovely … especially with some high-level Hearthstone play to keep you entertained.

Blizzard announced today that the Winter Championship for its Hearthstone Championship Tour will take place in the Bahamas at the Melia Nassau Beach resort from March 23 to March 26. Some of the best players of the digital card game behemoth will compete there for a $250,000 prize pool. The top four players will also earn a berth to the Hearthstone World Championships — at a shot at the world champ title — at BlizzCon late in 2017. Hearthstone is one of the most popular games in growing esports market, and it’s in a clear lead in the digital card games sector.

The competition will feature the top four players from each of the Hearthstone Championship Tour regions: Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and China. After group play, the top eight competitors will then fight in a single-elimination bracket to decide the winner. You can read the full rules for the tournament here.

This is one of the first major events for official Hearthstone esports in 2017, which introduced changes to the championship tour system (and doubled the year’s prize pool from $1 million in 2016 to $2 million).

Blizzard had noted before that it plans to time tournaments to more closely follow the release of new card sets. The latest expansion, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, came out in early December. We usually have to wait a few months between these releases, so it’s likely that the Winter Championship will take place before the release of a new card set.

Moen’s smart shower remembers your perfect water temperature

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 11:14 AM PST

Moen's smart shower remembers your preferred temperature and restores it with one button push.

In a new wrinkle on the Internet of Things, you can now get a smart shower that notifies you when your water temperature is just right. All you do is preset what your favorite water temperature is and it remembers to restore it for you at the press of a button.

The U by Moen smart shower comes from North Olmsted, Ohio-based Moen, a well-known faucet brand in North America. It’s another example of big non-tech companies trying to take high-tech products to mainstream consumers. In Moen’s case, it is targeting the luxury shower market for new homes. The company showed off the shower at CES 2017, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas last week.

The idea is to create a personalized shower experience. You can create a preset temperature for up  to 12 family members. You can pause the water with a push of a button and then start it again with another push. That helps with water conservation.

Through a series of valves, the shower blends the water in the right combination so that it gets as close to your preferred temperature as you want. It has a Wi-Fi connection, and you can control it from afar using an app. The shower timer can keep you on schedule, particularly if you have a tendency to linger in the shower too long.

U by Moen also has a unique encrypted key that helps protect against outside hacking. The shower cannot be remotely activated from the app when the user is not at home. The app is available on iOS and Android.

The 5-inch LCD display can display the time or the temperature. It will also change colors as the water is heating up or cooling down to your desired temperature. When it is ready, the screen will turn white and provide an on-screen notification and signal with a tone. The controller is designed to be reminiscent of high-end audio electronics, with a minimalistic rectangular form. Its metal-and-glass finish is intended to evoke a luxurious feeling so it fits in with high-end shower designs.

For user safety, the shower valve will keep temperatures between 60 degrees and 120 degrees. The U by Moen system costs about $1,225. Because the fixture requires installing a digital valve behind the wall, it’s more for new construction or a remodel than for a casual upgrade.

Your Moen smart shower can notify you when your water temperature is just right.

Above: Your Moen smart shower can notify you when your water temperature is just right.

Image Credit: Moen
CES2017

CardLinx Makes Card-Linking Software Publicly Available

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 10:57 AM PST

BusinessWire_FeaturedImage

Code Accelerates Development of Online-to-Offline Merchant Loyalty Programs

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–January 9, 2017–

The CardLinx Association (“CardLinx”) today announced the availability of a new open source card-linking software suite developed by Microsoft, one of its founding members. Microsoft has made the codebase for its Earn card-linking platform free and publicly available under the MIT License so that other companies can build on the code and expand the availability of card-linking. The software demonstrates API access to the leading payment networks and is available for download today from the CardLinx website (www.cardlinx.org).

Card-linking enables consumers to receive a discount or loyalty benefit automatically when they pay with a payment card that has been linked to an offer or loyalty program. Leading card issuers, retailers, messaging apps and other digital publishers provide card-linked offers through mobile apps and loyalty programs. CardLinx members include Microsoft, Facebook, Mastercard, Discover, Hilton, Chevron, Shop Your Way, Whole Foods Markets, First Data, FIS, Samsung Card, Rakuten and many others.

“Microsoft’s contribution of its software code to the public domain enables any bank or digital publisher to rapidly launch a card-linked program. While users will still need to apply directly to the payment networks and processors for card-linked data access, this code provides a great way to get started and greatly reduces the time to market,” said Silvio Tavares, President and CEO of CardLinx, the leading global association for online to offline commerce and card-linking. “We continue to be impressed by Microsoft’s leadership and thank them for their commitment to card-linking with this contribution.”

“Microsoft has embraced card-linking and views this contribution as a way to further accelerate the global growth of this technology for the benefit of consumers and businesses,” said Eduardo Indacochea, Microsoft General Manager. “It’s our hope others within the industry will participate and help advance this technology.”

The open source codebase is provided as-is for companies interested in implementing card-linking programs by providing an industry standard as a starting reference point and enabling them to further develop this code for their specific use. The goal of this open source code is to lower the barrier of entry and broaden the adoption of card-linking.

Creating card-linking industry standards is part of CardLinx’s mission to increase collaboration among all the industries that participate in online-to-offline commerce and card-linking. Recently a collaborative work group comprised of CardLinx members in the retailing, digital publishing, payments and fintech industries, developed Honey Bee Standard 1.0 to provide model consumer consents for consumer-facing companies in the card-linking ecosystem. The Honey Bee consent is ready for companies to use, compliant with card-linking requirements by the major payment networks and easy for consumers to understand how their payment data will be used and how their card-linked benefits will be provided. To learn more about the benefits of CardLinx membership, visit http://bit.ly/CLXmemb

About The CardLinx Association

The mission of the non-profit CardLinx Association is to increase interoperability and promote the growth of online-to-offline commerce and card-linking. On behalf of its members, the Association fosters cross-industry collaboration, develops industry services and institutes common standards to minimize and eliminate friction in online-to-offline commerce and card-linking. Founding members of the CardLinx Association include Microsoft, Mastercard, Discover, Facebook and First Data; other current members include Chevron, Hilton, FIS, MUFG, UBS, Sumitomo Mitsui Card Company and Rakuten/EBates. Visit our website for more information: www.cardlinx.org

CardLinx Association
Ming Lacey, 917-340-7251
ming@cardlinx.org

Microsoft releases new Windows 10 preview with a massive list of features and improvements

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 10:35 AM PST

Windows 10

Microsoft today released a new Windows 10 preview for PCs with a ridiculously long list of improvements. This is the first new build of 2017 and shows what’s coming in the company’s Windows 10 Creators Update, which is slated for release in “early 2017.”

Windows 10 is a service, meaning it was built in a very different way than its predecessors so it can be regularly updated with not just fixes but new features too. While Microsoft has released many such updates to date, the Creative Update will be a major one and follows the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, released in August 2016.

Here’s a quick rundown of this build that Microsoft sent over:

  • Cortana’s increased helpfulness, as she can now provide a list of suggested app-specific commands when you’re typing in an app into the search box for greater ease of discovery
  • Tab management improvements for Microsoft Edge and various other feature additions that aim to enhance the browsing experience (full changelog)
  • Windows Ink enhancements, including an updated Windows Ink pen, pencil and highlighter control to now visually indicate what color has been selected, as well as a new point erase feature
  • Windows Defender improvements, including new options to run quick, advanced or full scans such as device performance and health scans that provide reports on your PC's health
  • Updated Windows Share experience, redesigned to become more app-focused
  • Lower Blue Light settings to automatically lower the amount of blue light emitted from your PC at night

Cortana now offers suggested commands as you type app names — clicking a particular suggestion launches the app with that command. If you know the command, you can of course just say it to Cortana. Time-based reminders can now be set for “Every Month” and “Every Year.” Lastly, the the keyboard shortcut to invoke Cortana in listening mode is changing to WIN + C (it’s off by default, so you have to enable it in Cortana’s settings).

edge1v2

Edge now has a tab preview bar that gives you a visual preview of every tab you have open without leaving your page. It also lets you set tabs aside to give you a clean slate. Edge finally also has a proper Jump List in the Taskbar, for launching a new window or InPrivate window. Stability has been improved thanks to a new UWP architecture and Flash click-to-run (untrusted content is now blocked by default). Last but not least, Edge now has preview support for the Payment Request API.

ink2

The Windows Ink pen, pencil, and highlighter control now visually indicate which color is selected. Point erase has been added to the Windows Ink Workspace’s Sketchpad and Screen Sketch. If you have the Windows Ink Workspace icon on your taskbar, it now displays the taskbar of every monitor, and clicking it launches the Windows Ink Workspace on that monitor.

settings-display-bluelight

Windows can now automatically lower the amount of blue light emitted from your PC at night (Settings => System => Display). There are settings to use a local sunset and sunrise, or even a custom schedule, as well as quickly override the schedule (Settings => Notifications & actions).

After this build leaked late last year, there was a lot of commotion around the fact that the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) had been changed to green. Given the history of the BSOD, and that green is associated with “go” and “good,” there were many who were quite upset at the change. Microsoft has now clarified that released versions of Windows 10 will continue to have the classic blue color. The green is simply there to distinguish when Windows Insider builds crash.

The desktop build includes the following improvements and bug fixes:

  • The 3D Builder app has been moved to the “Windows Accessories” folder on Start.
  • Fixed an issue where the display brightness keys on some devices weren’t working as expected.
  • Fixed an issue where the display may stay black after resuming from sleep if a USB display is connected.
  • Fixed an issue where opening an app that uses the camera, such as the Camera app, would sometimes result in a bugcheck.
  • Fixed a crash in the RPCSS service which in turn was resulting in some Insiders experiencing CRITICAL_PROCESS_DIED bugchecks on recent builds.
  • Fixed an issue for touch keyboards sometimes requiring multiple clicks to invoke on non-touch PCs.
  • Fixed an issue where Disk Cleanup would sometimes unexpectedly show 3.99TB worth of Windows Update Cleanup files.
  • Updated logic for when the Edge window is narrow and Cortana has a tip, Cortana will only appear as an icon in the address bar. If you expand the window, you’ll see the full suggestion as before.
  • Updated tooltips for the Edge favorites bar to wrap around for longer website names rather than truncate.
  • Fixed an issue where Touchpad settings page via Settings > Devices > Touchpad wasn’t displaying an icon next to its name in the navigation pane.
  • Fixed an issue that may have resulted in a recent drop in Action Center reliability for Insiders.
  • Updated the Speaker Properties dialog to now allow you to configure Spatial Audio for different endpoints. If the current playback device has Spatial Audio enabled, the volume icon in the notification area will now indicate this.
  • Made some tweaks to the backend for how users connect to devices, such as Miracast displays and other PCs. Use the Connect UI (WIN+K) as you normally would, and file feedback if you encounter any issues.
  • Removed the rerouting of mspaint.exe to Paint 3D.
  • Fixed an issue Insiders may have experienced on recent builds where navigating to OneDrive folders could unexpectedly result in popup saying there had been a “Catastrophic Error”.
  • Fixed an issue that could result in a Visual Studio crash when trying to open, add, or save a file.
  • Fixed an issue resulting in some Insiders using PCs with certain older chipsets from seeing colored boxes in the place of text and various other UI in UWPs apps.
  • When you use Miracast to a device that supports input (for example, an Actiontec Screenbeam or Miracast-enabled Windows 10 PC), you will now see a toast notification to help you enable input (touch, keyboard, etc) on that device.
  • Fixed an issue where the Home and End keys were unexpectedly not working in certain Settings pages, for example “Apps & features”.
  • Fixed an issue that could cause some progress indicators in UWP apps to appear to wobble or glitch.

Today’s update bumps the Windows 10 build number for PCs from 14986 (made available to testers on December 7) to build 15002.

This build has 18 known issues:

  • Opening Battery settings page via Settings > System > Battery will crash the Settings app.
  • The option to enable the Virtual Touchpad is missing from the taskbar context menu.
  • Cortana’s cross-device scenarios won’t work on this build (including notification mirroring, missed call, share photos, share directions, low battery, and find my phone).
  • Some websites in Microsoft Edge may unexpectedly show “We can’t reach this page”. If you encounter this, please try accessing the site from an InPrivate tab.
  • Dragging apps from the all apps list to pin on Start’s tile grid won’t work. For now, please right-click on the desired app in order to pin it.
  • Using CTRL + C to copy in Command Prompt won’t work.
  • When projecting to a secondary monitor, if you set the connection to “Extended”, Explorer.exe may start crashing in a loop. If this happens, turn off your PC, disconnect the secondary monitor, then restart your PC.
  • The touch keyboard button may be unexpectedly missing from the taskbar. If this happens, open the taskbar context menu, and select “Show touch keyboard button”.
  • You may see an error from Windows Hello saying “Couldn't turn on the camera” on the lock screen.
  • Brightness changes made via Settings > System > Display will unexpectedly revert after closing the Settings app. For now, please use either Action Center, power flyout or brightness keys to change the brightness
  • The list of apps in the Surface Dial “Add an app” page via Settings > Devices > Wheel may unexpectedly be empty. If that happens, tap the “Browse for an app” button at the bottom of the screen to pick the desired app instead.
  • Miracast sessions will fail to connect.
  • The Netflix app may display a black screen rather than the expected video content. As a workaround, you can use Microsoft Edge to watch video content from Netflix.
  • On certain hardware types (e.g.: Acer Aspire), the Netflix app crashes when starting a movie.
  • 3rd party UWP apps would crash on devices if the DPI settings on the machine are >=150% (Generally people do this on high resolution devices – Surface book etc.)
  • If you upgrade from Windows 8.1 directly to Build 15002, all your store apps are lost during upgrade process but you can go and re-download all the lost apps from the Store.
  • When using Microsoft Edge with Narrator, you may hear “no item in view” or silence while tabbing or using other navigation commands. You can use Alt + Tab when this happens to move focus away from and back to the Edge browser. Narrator will then read as expected.
  • Saying “Hey Cortana, play <item> on <AppName>” doesn’t work immediately after installing the app. Wait 5 minutes for indexing to begin and try again.

If you’re OK with the above and want to get build 15002 now, head to PC Settings, select “Update and recovery,” then “Preview builds,” and then click the “Check Now” button.

You can hang LG’s 2.57-millimeter-thick wallpaper TV with magnets

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 10:00 AM PST

LG's wallpaper TV is 2.67 millimeters thick.

CES 2017 went by in a blur, but one of the memorable moments was when LG introduced its 2.57-millimeter-thick Wallpaper TV.

The LG Signature W7 OLED 4K TV is a very impressive piece of technology. LG announced the television at its press event on Tuesday, and I felt like it got overshadowed during the rest of the show. It is so thin (0.15 inches) that you can mount it on a wall using magnets. To remove it from a wall, you actually peel it off, as if you were pulling wallpaper off the wall. It feels like we’re getting very close to the age of disposable electronics, if we’re not there already.

The 65-inch version of the LG will cost about $8,000 and will debut later this year. It is available for preorder right now. LG also showed off a 77-inch version, also debuting later in the year. It sits on a thicker sound bar, and it has 25 percent better brightness than other OLED TVs.

Of course, if you want other thin TVs and don’t mind a one-inch thickness, you’ll find plenty of cheaper TVs out there. So what would I do with a wallpaper TV? Well, I’d certainly move it away from my dart board.

Here’s the moment of introduction below.

CES2017

Dragon Ball gaming trivia: Learn Goku and Vegeta’s death battle and Majin Buu’s babies

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 09:20 AM PST

Goku.

This trivia is over 9,000 …. somethings.

YouTube channel Did You Know Gaming‘s latest video looks at some of the little-known facts and cut content from video games based on the popular Dragon Ball Z anime. The show (and the manga that inspired it) features plenty of fighting of action, so it’s always translated well to the gaming space.

We’ve had dozens of Dragon Ball games (mostly from publisher Bandai Namco) for just about every console, from the Nintendo Entertainment System to the modern machines like PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 was the most home console recent release, a role-playing/fight game hybrid that came out last October, with the portable role-playing game Dragon Ball Fusions following on the 3DS in November.. And with the new Dragon Ball Super show recently debuting in the U.S., we’re likely to see more of the games in the future.

But even as a (if somewhat lapsed) fan, it’s hard to play all of those DBZ games, so I was interested to learn some of this stuff. Although it may be more fitting to say that I was horrified after learning that Buu made a female version of himself and then shot a love beam together with her, resulting in the creation of a new race.

You can learn about that and more by watching the video above.

Aryballe has created a digital nose to detect and identify odors

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 09:00 AM PST

Aryballe has created a device that can identify smells like gas leaks.

Our noses aren’t as good as they could be at smelling dangerous odors. So Aryballe Technologies has created a digital nose to do the sniffing for us.

Grenoble, France-based Aryballe showed its NeOse sniffing device at CES 2017, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas last week. The NeOse is aimed at industrial users who need to know quickly if a scent is a sign of a dangerous gas leak.

The device uses optical sensor technology to identify molecules, mainly by measuring them and how they interact with the sensor. The devices use surface plasmon resonance (SPR) prism techniques, which are used in a variety of biosensor applications and lab-on-a-chip sensors. The sensors are like nose receptors and can identify hundreds of different smells.

Aryballe's NeOse is a digital nose.

Above: Aryballe’s NeOse is a digital nose.

Image Credit: Aryballe Technologies

The tech was created by a team of scientists and entrepreneurs who want to develop a tech platform for new generations of universal sensors that can be adapted to different applications. To train the device to recognize a particular smell, the team has to expose it over and over. With time, it learns.

The company is developing the software and a database of smells so that it can better identify them. As the database gets bigger, the device gets better at recognizing smells it encounters. At the moment, it can detect one particular smell in an environment, or the global smell that is dominant.

At the moment, the technology is expensive, at $10,000 to $15,000. So the company is targeting enterprises at first. Over time, Aryballe hopes to create a consumer device. Such a device will be able to distinguish one perfume from another or discern a good peach from a rotten peach.

Perhaps one of the best uses is to see if deodorant is working. Right now, you have to sniff someone’s underarm to determine if their deodorant is holding up. That certainly sounds like a better job for a digital nose.

The company was founded in 2014 and has 15 employees. It has raised $3.2 million.

NeOse Pro is aimed at industrial users who need a digital nose.

Above: NeOse Pro is aimed at industrial users who need a digital nose.

Image Credit: Aryballe
CES2017

Airbnb leads $13 million investment into restaurant booking service Resy

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 08:31 AM PST

Resy

Restaurant booking platform Resy has closed a series A funding round led by Airbnb, with participation from First Data Corporation, RSE Ventures, and Lerer Hippeau Ventures.

Founded out of New York in 2014, Resy offers a consumer-focused mobile app that promises people tables at “great restaurants” when they want it. The company also offers its software to restaurants, and works with more than a thousand eateries in Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and 50 conurbations across the U.S.

While Airbnb is better known as the peer-to-peer platform that connects travelers with local accommodation around the world, the company has been pushing out into related experiential services too. Back in November, it introduced local experiences called “Trips” to its app, part of which involved a partnership with Resy that allowed Airbnb users to book local restaurants without leaving that app.

So Airbnb’s investment is building on an existing partnership between the two companies, and in truth it would not be entirely surprising if Airbnb ultimately acquired Resy outright should their partnership prove fruitful.

“Many of our most-treasured travel memories come from experiencing the local food,” explained Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. “Helping people find and book incredible local restaurants is a key part of us moving beyond just accommodation to focus on the whole trip. We can’t think of a better partner than Resy to help make this possible.”

Resy was cofounded by entrepreneur and investor Gary Vaynerchuk; Michael Montero, founder of CrowdTwist and Fotolog; and Ben Leventhal, cofounder of Eater, a food blog network now owned by Vox Media. The company had previously raised a $2 million seed round back in 2014, and its latest round of funding comes just a few months after a similar short-notice restaurant booking service called Velocity raised a $22.5 million round, so it’s clear there’s appetite in the industry for delivering easy access to fine-dining experiences.

And with Airbnb now pot-committed, this should serve Resy well in terms of gaining mindshare among travelers seeking to experience local cuisine. “Resy and Airbnb share a vision for how people experience local venues,” added Resy CEO Leventhal. “We’re committed to building a product that allows anyone, anywhere, anytime to live like a local.”

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How startups are cashing in on R&D credits — and easing their tax burden

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 08:24 AM PST

watering-dollar-sign-shutterstock_519829495-1

 Presented by Sensiba San Filippo


Those first few start-up years are rough — it's a fight to the death, sometimes literally, to turn a real profit. Sometimes you have to get practical, ruthless, and relentless in your search for savings, from cutting out the overhead to digging up coupon codes for office supplies.

And sometimes, for innovative companies breaking new ground, an opportunity to save cash and pave the road to profitability drops right in your accountant's lap. That's because the R&D credit for startups from the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, has not only been permanently extended, but enhanced.

Starting in 2016, Research and Development (R&D) tax credits can be used to offset payroll taxes. Previously, these credits could only be used to offset income taxes. Since many start-ups produce little to no profit in the first few years, there was no income tax for the R&D credits to offset, and therefore, no opportunity to use the research tax credit. However, all businesses with employees must pay payroll taxes (approximately 7.65 percent on gross wages paid by the business). Being able to offset these payroll taxes with the R&D credit means that start-ups can receive a benefit for their research activities even without being profitable.

The Federal R&D credit amounts to roughly 5 percent of the wages, materials, and outside contractor expenses in research activities related to product and software development, including:

  • Product conceptualization and development
  • Prototype development, materials expenses, and testing
  • Manufacturing process development
  • Software development and testing — including embedded, SaaS, PaaS, APIs, etc.
  • Support of software development — including specialized equipment or services

Who qualifies for the R&D credit?

The R&D credit rewards businesses for creating or improving products, manufacturing processes, or software. The research activities must be technological in nature; in other words, they must rely on the sciences such as engineering, physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, etc. This means that marketing or management research activities do not qualify. Typical indicators of qualified research include:

  • Degreed engineers, scientists, or software developers on staff
  • Patentable products, software, or production methods
  • Operating in an industry where prototyping is common
  • Manufacturing products
  • Developing software

It's important to note that the research activity does not need to be revolutionary, as in "the first time ever developed." The R&D credit rewards businesses for making evolutionary steps in any particular technology.

Who qualifies for the payroll taxes offset?

Start-ups in their first 5 years of existence and with less than $5 million in gross revenue for the taxable year likely qualify to use the R&D credit to offset payroll taxes. Therefore, start-ups formed in 2012 or earlier are unlikely to be eligible. This does not mean that the start-up cannot still generate the credits and use them in the future to offset income tax (the R&D credits can be carried forward for 20 years). It just means that the credit cannot be used to offset payroll taxes.

How much is available to offset payroll taxes?

The maximum benefit a business may claim against payroll taxes is $250,000 per year. It's important to note that the use of the R&D credit to offset payroll taxes will not reduce the allowable deductions for the basic research expenses — you get your cake (tax deductions), and eat it too (tax credits).

When can the credit be used to offset payroll liabilities?

The credit is generated yearly and is applied against payroll taxes the quarter following the filing of income tax returns. For example, businesses filing their 2016 income tax returns in March 2017 will be able to use the R&D credit to offset payroll taxes in the next quarter — July 2017. If the credit amount is more than the payroll taxes due for the quarter, the unused credit may be applied in the succeeding calendar quarter. Note that the business will need to determine and report the R&D credit on a timely filed tax return (that is, not an amended return) to use the payroll tax election on the next quarter's payroll.

How do I claim the R&D credit and use them to offset payroll taxes?

To take advantage of the tax credit, the business must first claim the R&D credit based on its research activities expenses. Next, an election must be made on their income tax return to convert a certain amount of its research credits into a payroll tax credit.


Taking advantage of this generous tax credit could mean big savings for start-ups. If you have any questions about the credit or want to know more about how it can impact your business, feel free to reach out to Sensiba San Filippo Senior Manager, Evan Stephens, at 408.286.7780 or at estephens@ssfllp.com. Additionally, for more information about the requirements and qualifying for the R&D credit, please contact Hull & Knarr Director, Carlos Freitas, at 317.889.2134 or at cfreitas@hullandknarr.com.


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CES 2017: Our 66 best photos from tech’s biggest show

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 08:21 AM PST

Samsung's demo of color TV technology at CES 2017.

Here’s our favorite photos from CES 2017, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas last week.

We browsed the show floors across multiple convention centers, with tech products from nearly 4,000 exhibitors covering 2.6 million square feet of space. We were among an estimated 165,000 attendees.

We walked for miles and took pictures of the coolest things, and the weirdest things, that we saw. Robots greeted us at parties, and artists chiseled ice sculptures that melted a few hours later. These are some of the things that you only see in Vegas.

CES 2017 featured plenty of innovations, as you’ll see in the images below. They ranged from second-generation smart refrigerators to smart canes.

Please enjoy them.

CES 2017 ice sculpture Samsung's demo of color TV technology at CES 2017. Intel had an Oculus Rift headset at every seat at its CES 2017 press event. Nvidia has partnered with Audi on AI cars. The Faraday Future keynote at the 2017 CES conference in Las Vegas. Tim Baxter of Samsung at CES 2017. Razer's Project Valerie at CES 2017. Gary Shapiro (left) and Jen-Hsun Huang of Nvidia opened the show at CES 2017. China's Tsinghua Tongea was one of 72 VR exhibitors at CES 2017. Tim Baxter of Samsung America acknowledged the exploding batteries problem in the Samsung Galaxy Note7 at the company's CES 2017 press event. Thrustmaster showed a joystick and thruster demo at CES 2017. Stern Pinball returned to CES 2017 with a Batman game. Sony's wall-sized Cledis TV at CES 2017 Moen's smart shower can get your preferred temperature just right and alert you when it's ready. Smart canes made their debut at CES 2017. The Dring Smart Cane can track if someone has fallen. Sengled put a speaker inside a light bulb. Remi can help your kids sleep at night. VR was everywhere at CES 2017, including at the booths of big companies like Qualcomm. Intel's Project Alloy demo showed untethered VR. At the Pepcom party, these cheerleaders were handing out souvenirs for Plex. Modiface can put makeup on your face in real-time. Sadly, I didn't get a chance to try the advanced massage tech at CES 2017. This tech teaches kids how to code. Mark Hachman of PC World at the Intel CES 2017 press event. Everyone wore VR headsets. The Hydrao shower head changes colors as you use more water. Hoverboards kind of vaporized after disastrous battery fires hurt the market. But vendors were still trying to sell them at CES 2017. Globe UAV is kind of scary as a crowd control surveillance drone. Global Imagination's VR sphere can display 360 images. A giant mech exhibit at CES 2017. Gary Shapiro of CTA said nearly 4,000 companies were showing products at CES 2017. Xenoma's e-skin at CES Unveiled party at CES 2017. DJ Livia opened the press conference for Monster. You can use your fingerprint to unlock Benjilock. Conventioneers lined up to get Belkin to press protective covers on their smartphones. It's kind of an art to do it without air bubbles. I watched what seemed like a big-screen movie on the little screen of the Avegant Glyph Razer's Project Ariana projects game images on your entire wall. LG was one of the many vendors of home robots at CES 2017. Cloud, Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence were big themes for LG at CES 2017. Lego Boost robot Vernie at CES 2017. Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, shows off Project Alloy untethered VR at CES 2017. He said it will debut by the fourth quarter of this year. Hap2U showed its haptic touchscreen at CES 2017. You can feel the fish scales. Morgan Lavaux was injured three years ago. He founded Gaspard to help wheelchair users to become healthier. Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Technology Association, said that about 165,000 people are attending CES 2017. Changhong's H2 smartphone has a molecular sensor that can detect fake or real Viagra. A sea of TVs at TCL's booth at CES 2017. Analog turntables are making a comeback at CES 2017. Beam telepresence let people experience CES 2017 from afar. The CES 50th anniversary sign. CES logo at the Sands Expo. Samsung's Family Hub 2.0 turns your fridge into a voice-controlled AI machine. Panasonic showed its transparent TV for a second year in a row. The Panasonic driverless concept car. Panasonic's floating ball capture 360-degree images of people walking around its booth. ODG's augmented reality glasses range from $1,000 to $2,700. LG's 75-inch OLED TV shows how OLED now stretches across the whole product line. CES 2017 drew an estimated 165,000 people to 2.6 million square feet of exhibits. Interior of Panasonic's concept car for autonomous driving. You could race with a big monitor and driving pod at Hisense's booth. China's Hisense showed off a racing car at its booth. Fitbit was among many fitness wearable companies at the Sands Expo at CES 2017. Fashion tech had a whole section to itself at CES 2017. Dell's ice sculpture at CES 2017. This strap monitors your baby's vitals. Happy Baby was many of many baby-monitoring technologies at CES 2017. CES Unveiled greeter robot. Who is "the successor." New LG OLED TV at CES 2017. Smart desk display at CES 2017. DJ Livia opened the show for Monster's press conference at CES 2017.

 

CES2017

You can unlock the biometric padlock BenjiLock with your fingerprint

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 07:15 AM PST

You can use your fingerprint to unlock Benjilock.

Fingerprint sensors are spreading into more products, including the traditional padlock. BenjiLock is a new padlock that you can unlock with your fingerprint.

Los Angeles-based startup BenjiLock, which uses fingerprint recognition technology from partners, is an offline product. Robbie Cabral, CEO and founder of BenjiLock, said there’s no need to connect the lock to the internet. The fingerprint reader can store your print in its memory and recall it for recognition purposes. It’s a good example of how just the right amount of technology can make something more convenient for consumers without adding a ton of cost.

“It opens in less than a second,” said Cabral, during an interview at CES 2017, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas last week. “There’s no Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. We made it for both young people and older people. They don’t need the tech stuff.”

Cabral and his wife, Brach Cabral, have been working on the technology for a while. The lock will come in a variety of colors, like black, copper brass, and stainless steel.

What happens if you lose your finger? Well, you’ll have bigger problems, but you can open the lock with a fingerprint or a traditional key. It will come out in the third quarter of this year for about $80. I’d say that isn’t a bad price, considering how easy it is to lose a key or forget your locker combination. With BenjiLock, the key is literally at your fingertips.

MyTomorrows raises $10.5 million to connect doctors and patients with early-stage drug programs

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 06:45 AM PST

Medicine, Drugs, Pills

MyTomorrows, an online platform that connects physicians and patents to early-stage drug research and development programs, has raised €10 million ($10.5 million) in a funding round co-led by Octopus Ventures and EQT Ventures, with participation from existing investors Balderton Capital and Sofinnova Partners.

Founded out of Amsterdam in 2012, MyTomorrows essentially collates data on medical conditions, clinical trials, and related early-access programs around the world, including drugs that have been approved by regulators in other countries. It then shares this information through a database that’s open to anyone. At the time of writing, it claims to hold data on more than 300,000 “ongoing and historical clinical trials.”

On the one hand, MyTomorrows serves medical professionals and their patients with access to useful data, but it’s also a useful tool for drug developers, as they are given access to potentially millions of new program participants.

MyTomorrows

Above: MyTomorrows

The company had raised a little more than $10 million before now, and its latest cash injection will be used to “further accelerate investments in technologies and talent” in its push to open up access to early-stage drug trials. More specifically, the company will look to scale its platform to the U.S. and Asia, as well as continuing in its existing markets in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, where it’s currently active across 17 countries.

"We believe we have backed a world-class team that has the experience and skill sets to push this business to the fore of the market,” explained Luke Hakes, investment director at Octopus Ventures. “They are tackling a real problem with a real solution, which will genuinely have a positive impact on users' lives.”

MyTomorrows isn’t the only clinical trial-related company that’s attracting investment. Back in October, Los Angeles-based Science 37 raised $31 million for its mobile-first approach to running clinical trials, helping to eradicate geographical barriers and making it easier to connect patients with scientists and researchers.

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This e-skin from Xenoma captures your body’s motion for games

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 06:30 AM PST

Xenoma's e-skin at CES Unveiled party at CES 2017.

Japanese tech startup Xenoma showed its e-skin motion capture shirt at CES 2017, the big tech trade show last week in Las Vegas. The e-skin translates your body’s movements into digital form, which can then be used to control a character in a video game.

But the shirt can also be used to train athletes and monitor their performance — or record the movements of someone being trained in operating an industrial machine or a vehicle. And it can be used for virtual reality applications.

The e-skin has 14 strain sensors strategically placed to detect the wearer’s body movements that include bending, stretching, and twisting joints. The e-skin hub is placed on the chest, and it transmits sensor data via Bluetooth 4.2.

The e-skin hub can record data at a rate of 60 frames per second. It has a 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyro sensors, and a micro-USB port for recharging. It also has four hours of battery life. The shirt is machine washable.

Xenoma created a software development kit that can be used to make apps for Windows and Android using C# and the Unity game development engine. The $5,000 developer kit for the e-skin will be available on February 1. By mid-2017, Xenoma will launch a $600 consumer version.

Xenoma spun out of the University of Tokyo.

CES2017

Google opens Tango augmented reality platform to museums, starting with Detroit Institute of Arts

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 06:01 AM PST

Tango in use @ DIA

Google has announced that it’s opening up its Tango augmented reality (AR) platform to museums from today, kicking off with the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA).

Google's Tango platform uses computer vision to make mobile devices location-aware, relative to their surroundings — without relying on external systems, such as GPS, Wi-Fi, or sensors. This is useful for indoor navigation and 3D mapping and opens up a world of opportunities for commercial use cases. Just last week, BMW announced it was using Tango to help sell cars remotely. There aren’t many devices on the market that support Google Tango, however. Google’s Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and the Asus ZenFone A do, but the latter was just announced at CES last week and won't be available until later this year.

For this latest initiative, the DIA has teamed up with GuidiGo, a publishing platform specifically for creating guided tours on mobile devices — and a company that has embraced Tango in the past. In February of last year, GuidiGo demoed one of the first Project Tango apps capable of 3D indoor geolocation, at the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Barcelona.

In terms of how the Detroit Institute of Arts will harness the AR powers of Tango, well, visitors will be able to borrow a Lenovo Phab 2 Pro from the front desk, and then they can explore exhibits such as ancient Egyptian mummies, using an AR overlay to garner an X-ray view of the inside of the sarcophagi.

Mummies

Above: Mummies

Ishtar Gate: Ancient Babylonia

Above: Ishtar Gate: Ancient Babylonia

Elsewhere at the DIA, various pit stops will serve up puzzles, games, and quizzes that patrons can interact with through their Lenovo phablet.

Google says it’s working with other museums globally on similar AR-infused exhibits, but it hasn’t shared any specifics yet.

Atlassian is buying my beloved Trello for $425 million

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 06:00 AM PST

Trello on the web.

Publicly traded business software company Atlassian is announcing today that it’s acquiring Trello, the startup behind an eponymous task-management app, for a total of $425 million, with $360 million in cash and the rest in stock. The deal is expected to close later this quarter.

In an interview with VentureBeat, Atlassian president Jay Simons said, “We will take good care of it,” by which he meant that Trello chief executive Michael Pryor will stay in charge, the product will keep operating as it has been (for free and paying users), it will continue to be run out of Amazon Web Services (AWS), the team will keep its New York headquarters, and features will continue to be added.

Trello — which lets people set up boards containing lists of customizable cards and move cards from one list to another to reflect the progress of work — fits in neatly between Atlassian’s Confluence app, which people can use to collaborate on documents, and its JIRA apps, which use a more structured system to track the status of issues and projects, Simons said. Atlassian and Trello are focused on changing the way teams work, he explained, and joining together makes sense because it could help both parties more quickly reach a large user base.

In the past year, GitHub, GitLab, and Asana have all added Trello-like functionality. Trello, meanwhile, has racked up more than 19 million registered users. In 2014, it spun out of Fog Creek Software — as did Stack Overflow, raising money from Index Ventures and Spark Capital.

As I explained a couple of years ago, Trello (originally codenamed Trellis) was inspired by the way software teams used Post-It Notes to keep track of projects, but was conceived of as something that anyone could use, for anything, really. The product launched in 2011.

I started using it in 2014 and immediately became addicted. I used it for work, my relationship, family matters, quick to-do lists, side projects…on and on. I introduced it to friends, family members, and acquaintances — anyone who would listen — and was duly rewarded with a free Trello Gold subscription. Why did I promote it so much? Because it was the best and most convenient and reliable tool I’d found for capturing my ideas.

And other people found it useful, too. The graph showing registered users was beginning to look like a hockey stick — a classic sign of startup growth.

Trello's registered users.

Above: Trello’s registered users.

Image Credit: Jordan Novet/VentureBeat

Trello was enhancing the product, while still keeping it simple: An enterprise tier arrived in 2015, and a Power-Ups Platform brought new integrations in 2016. In August, Google acknowledged its rise when it enhanced the Inbox by Gmail app with summaries of incoming emails from Trello.

All the while, Trello’s team was growing. It’s now at nearly 100 employees, Simons said.

During the interview, Simons took time to assure me that Atlassian wouldn’t ruin Trello. This is Atlassian’s 18th acquisition in 14 years, he said. Acquired properties like Bitbucket and HipChat are still going strong, and nearly all the founders of companies Atlassian has bought are still working there, Simons said.

Now, Atlassian being Atlassian, it will be adding integrations to Trello — specifically JIRA Software. Confluence and Bitbucket integrations are on the way and will be available through the Atlassian Marketplace, according to a statement.

Perhaps most importantly, Trello won’t be going anywhere.

“It wouldn’t be a great acquisition if we’d intended to kill it,” Simons said. It’s a growth product and a growth business. We’re kind of excited about continuing to grow it.”

Government commerce firm Onvia appoints new CEO

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 06:00 AM PST

U.S. Capitol

Onvia, an enabler of business-to-government commerce, has appointed Russ Mann as its new president and CEO.

Russ Mann is CEO of Onvia.

Above: Russ Mann is CEO of Onvia.

Image Credit: Onvia

The Seattle-based company runs a marketplace that makes it easy for businesses to work with government agencies. It is trying to bring the $2 trillion government procurement sector into the modern age of ecommerce.

"We are delighted to bring on Russ Mann to lead the next phase of Onvia's growth," said D. Van Skilling, chairman of Onvia, in a statement. "Russ has a proven record of growing shareholder value at technology and ecommerce companies in B2B and B2C, through sales and marketing optimization and new product innovation, as well as through strategic alliances, business development and corporate acquisitions."

The previous CEO, Hank Riner, is retiring. The company announced that he would retire last March and began a search for a replacement at that time. Riner will stay on as a consultant.

Onvia's B2G Intelligence System equips companies — from global enterprises to small businesses and contractors — to grow their public sector business and helps government agencies gain procurement efficiency. Onvia applies advanced data science, ontology, and machine tagging search technologies to transform unstructured government contracting data into meaningful commerce intelligence, actual lead generation, and CRM workflows for buyers and sellers in the B2G marketplace.

Mann brings Onvia extensive and relevant corporate transformation and transaction experience at the board and executive levels. He had been CEO of Covario, a venture-backed search marketing software and services company with globally recognized enterprise clients.

There, he grew the gross billings, patented several analytics innovations, and completed three software company acquisitions. The company was later acquired by Dentsu Aegis.

Mann currently serves on the board of Ooma, a publicly traded cloud-based telephony company serving consumers, as well as small and medium-sized businesses. Mann joins Onvia from Outerwall — recently taken private by Apollo Equity for $1.6 billion — where he led the turnaround and growth in profitability for the Gazelle ecommerce group, a marketplace for buying and selling recycled electronics.

"I'm very excited to join Onvia at this time," said Mann, in a statement. "It's an honor to join such a great team, serving the loyal customer base who achieve real value from Onvia's B2G commerce intelligence. Onvia is already a leader in the B2G marketplace with the most robust data coverage, advanced IP, insightful market analysis, strong government agency partnerships and broad network of government suppliers as customers."

Microsoft and Qualcomm invest in Israeli cybersecurity firm Team8

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 05:53 AM PST

Cybersecurity-hacker

(Reuters) — The venture arms of Microsoft and Qualcomm have invested in Team8, an Israeli creator of cybersecurity startups, as big multinational companies get behind Israel’s burgeoning cyber industry in the face of growing threats.

Team8, which also announced on Monday a strategic partnership with Citi (C.N) to help develop its products, said the most recent investment brings its total raised to more than $92 million.

Its other investors are Cisco, AT&T, Accenture, Nokia, Singapore’s Temasek, Japan’s Mitsui, Bessemer Venture Partners, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors and Marker LLC.

While the number of attempted cyber attacks was 20,000 a week two or three years ago, that figure had now risen to 600,000-700,000, said Yoram Yaacovi, general manager of Microsoft Israel’s development center.

Israel has some 450 cyber start-ups, which receive 20 percent of global investment in the sector. Although the need for security is growing quickly, the proliferation of start-ups means that several companies compete in every subsector.

“A large part of companies created won’t get to the finish line,” Nadav Zafrir, Team8 chief executive and former commander of the Israeli army’s technology and intelligence unit 8200, told a news conference.

He said he believes Team8’s strong partners and its plan to build a portfolio of different technologies gives it an edge. Team8 confirmed that Microsoft had been an investor since last June.

“The expectation of our investors is to build independent companies that will lead their sectors,” he said.

Israel has a well established high tech industry, using skills of workers trained in the military and intelligence sectors. Tax breaks and government funding have encouraged start-ups, and also drawn in entrepreneurs from abroad.

Launched in 2014, Team8 employs 180 people in Israel, the United States, Britain and Singapore and plans to hire 100 more workers in 2017.

Two companies it created are Illusive Networks, which uses deception technology to detect attacks and has been installed at banks and retailers, and Claroty, which secures critical infrastructure sites such as oil and gas fields.

Details of two more companies it has set up will be announced this year, Zafrir said.

(Reporting by Tova Cohen; Editing by Keith Weir)

Connected car startup CloudCar raises $15 million from Jaguar Land Rover

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 02:50 AM PST

CloudCar

CloudCar, a cloud service provider for connected car companies, has nabbed a $15 million “minority investment” from U.K.-based automotive giant Jaguar Land Rover.

Founded out of Palo Alto, California in 2011, CloudCar offers a platform that connects car manufacturers with a host of services for safely connecting cars to the internet. These include machine-learning smarts, such as natural language processing (NLP) that allows drivers to request apps and services using normal speech, while keeping their eyes firmly on the road. CloudCar also offers carmakers a software development kit (SDK) to tailor the “look and feel” of the in-car information / entertainment setup and lets them customize it with proprietary services. The system also makes it easy to expand geographically without requiring firmware updates.

CloudCar had raised $11.5 million when it was still in stealth mode back in 2012, so this latest cash injection takes the company’s total outside investment past the $25 million mark.

A subsidiary of India's Tata Motors, since it was acquired from Ford in 2008, Jaguar Land Rover last year launched a new independent venture called InMotion, with a specific focus on bringing the company into the internet age. The company revealed at the time that it would begin working on services that leverage smartphones and "other connected devices” and would begin testing a number of services in the real world. Many of those are likely still in the early stages, however. By partnering with CloudCar, Jaguar Land Rover is looking to turbocharge its connected credentials in the near-term — indeed, in addition to investing, Jaguar Land Rover has said it will adopt CloudCar’s platform for its first all-electric vehicle, the Jaguar I-Pace, which was announced last year.

“This represents an important step in developing connected car technology,” explained Jaguar Land Rover’s executive director of corporate strategy, Hanno Kirner. “CloudCar has been working with premium manufacturers on some of the most exciting opportunities and challenges in the fields of machine learning and infotainment. This investment is integral to Jaguar Land Rover’s vehicle technology programme: but the programme also presents an invaluable opportunity for other automotive manufacturers to get involved. The eventual need to integrate into the car hundreds of driver-focused global cloud services and content means this platform is an excellent example where cooperation between OEMs can improve outcomes for customers, as well as reducing costs.”

There will be a quarter of a billion connected cars on the road by 2020, according to Gartner, which is why we’ve seen myriad investments in the connected car space. Back in November, cloud-based connected car startup Otonomo raised $12 million, while Automile — a startup that helps companies manage their vehicle fleets — secured a $6.2 million investment. Elsewhere, AI-focused mapping startup Civil Maps raised $6.6 million and FiveAI closed a $2.7 million funding round for its machine-learning smarts that could underpin the autonomous cars of the future.

 

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Volkswagen unveils I.D. Buzz, an all-electric connected concept vehicle

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 02:24 AM PST

Volkswagen

Volkswagen introduced Sunday an electric all-wheel drive Microbus called I.D. Buzz, the latest concept meant to show what the German automaker’s next generation of vehicles will look like.

Volkswagen plans to bring a new generation of fully connected, all-electric vehicles to the market in 2020 and says it will sell one million of these vehicles every year by 2025.

The I.D. Buzz, which will be showcased at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, has a battery range of up to 270 miles, autonomous capabilities, as well as seating up to eight people and two luggage compartments. The I.D. Buzz shown in Detroit can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in about 5 seconds, with a governed top speed of 99 mph, Volkswagen says.

Microbus: I.D. Buzz

Above: Microbus: I.D. Buzz

This is a concept vehicle, not one slated for production anytime soon. But it’s notable because it gives consumers and the rest of the industry some sense of what vehicles will make up Volkswagen’s electric vehicle portfolio. And what tech the company wants in its vehicles.

For instance, the I.D. Buzz is supposed to be an autonomous vehicle. The driver can go from manual to autonomous by pushing onto the steering wheel, which will then retract and merge into the instrument panel. This autonomous mode, which Volkswagen calls I.D. Pilot, could make it into production by 2025, the automaker says.

The I.D. Buzz follows the ID concept, a compact electric vehicle that was unveiled last year at the Paris Auto Show.

Volkswagen introduced in 2015 a new modular design for electric cars that it could use on a number of VW models. The first vehicles produced with this so-called MEB design — an acronym for Modular Electric Model — are expected to be in production by the end of 2019.

Technically, the company has already introduced a microbus concept, actually several over the years. The most recent one was the microbus concept BUDD.e, which was introduced in January 2016 at CES, the annual consumers electronics show. It was intended to show the world that it was serious about electric vehicles following a diesel emissions cheating scandal that forced the German automaker to restructure.

In June, the Volkswagen board adopted a plan that would reshape the company’s core automotive business to focus more on electric vehicles and autonomous driving technology, increase profit margins to 7% to 8% from 6% last year, and possibly sell some of its assets. The company plans to introduce more than 30 all-electric vehicles over the next 10 years with a goal of selling two to three million of these EVs in 2025.

This story originally appeared on Fortune.com. Copyright 2017

The most important iPhone feature Steve Jobs didn’t predict 10 years ago today

Posted: 09 Jan 2017 01:55 AM PST

The iPhone 7's rear camera.

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the day Steve Jobs took to the stage to introduce the world to the Jesus phone, er, iPhone.

His keynote that day began with icons for a phone, a compass (for the Safari browser), and an iPod rotating behind him as he uttered his now-famous quote:

“Three things: A widescreen iPod with touch controls. A revolutionary mobile phone. And a breakthrough internet communications device. An iPod… a phone… and an internet communicator… An iPod, a phone… are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device! And we are calling it iPhone."

Yes, okay. But…what he didn’t emphasize at the time is the feature that has arguably become the iPhone’s most transformative: the camera.

“They did not foresee at that time the way the iPhone would become the default camera of a large swath of iPhone users,” said Shawn DuBravac, chief economist of the Consumer Technology Association. “The iPhone’s marketing now is all about its camera.”

Indeed, the rear-facing 2 megapixel camera on the first iPhone didn’t seem to be a harbinger of much. After all, the BlackBerry had a camera. Nothing new here, right?

But the original iPhone also didn’t have the App Store, which wouldn’t launch until 2008. DuBravac said that what happened next is one of those fun, unpredictable turns that technology sometimes takes when it seems to almost magically seek out its own best use case. Faster cellular networks, faster chips, apps, Wi-Fi, all conspired to make the smartphone camera a game changer.

With the advent of the App Store came camera apps. And Apple, recognizing that users were snapping a lot of photos, poured resources into its development. In 2010, we got the iPhone 4 and its first front-facing camera.

“When we put a camera on the front of the phone, we didn’t fully know what it would do,” DuBravac said. “But it gave us many new services, and, of course, the selfie.” (We didn’t say all of them were good!)

Consider, then, that Snapchat launched in 2011 as an iOS-only app, as did Instagram. Their Android versions would come later, but for camera apps to focus first on iOS remains a common strategy today.

By 2013, Apple’s marketing campaign claimed that more photos were being taken by the iPhone than by any other camera in the world. And the company’s marketing shifted to focus on that, as did its keynotes for each new version.

And now we have livestreaming apps. And filters. And face swapping apps. And augmented reality. And selfie sticks. And on, and on, and on…

For your nostalgic viewing pleasure, here are a few samples of Apple’s iPhone camera marketing:

And, of course, the iPhone keynote, because what else could possibly be more important to watch today?

IBM scores a record 8,000 patents in 2016

Posted: 08 Jan 2017 09:46 PM PST

IBM"s patents dwarfed the competition in 2016.

IBM has proven it is once again dominant in earning patents, as it closed the year with 8,088 U.S. patents granted to its investors in 2016. That’s the 24th consecutive year that the company has earned the most patents of any company.

The second-ranked company, Samsung, had 5,518 U.S. patents granted. About 2,700 of IBM’s 2016 patents covered inventions related to artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, and cloud computing. The patents covered a diverse range of technologies that also included cybersecurity and cognitive health.

IBM inventors were granted more than 22 patents per day in 2016, making the company the first to claim more than 8,000 patents in a single year.

"Leading the world in innovation for 24 years in a row is a result of IBM's unmatched commitment to innovation and R&D–reflected in this year's new U.S. patent record, breaking the 8,000 barrier for the first time," said Ginni Rometty, IBM's CEO, in a statement. "We are deeply proud of our inventors' unique contributions to discovery, science and technology that are driving progress across business and society and opening the new era of cognitive business."

More than 8,500 IBM inventors residing in 47 states and territories and 47 countries were responsible for IBM's record-setting 2016 patent tally. IBM inventors based in New York received over 2,700 patents, while IBMers based in California and Texas were granted over 1,000 patents each.

The United States is home to more than half of IBM’s $5.4 billion annual investment in research and development. This substantial commitment to unlocking new technologies is what has long propelled IBM into new markets, allowing it to create value for clients and opportunity for its employees, including the 25,000 Americans the company has pledged to hire over the next four years.

The data was provided by IFI Claims Patent Services.

IBM's patents over time.

Above: IBM’s patents over time.

Image Credit: IBM

In the area of cognitive computing and artificial intelligence, IBM inventors patented more than 1,000 inventions that help machines learn, reason, and efficiently process diverse data types, while interacting with people in natural and familiar ways. The patents ranged from machine learning for securing the best answers to questions, to planning the best route based on a traveler’s cognitive state.

In healthcare, IBM’s inventions include one that uses images to better gauge the health of a heart. Another was a hearing aid personalized to meet your specific needs. IBM inventors also created a way for drones to map microbes in hospitals, food processing plants, and agricultural fields.

IBM also patented more than 1,000 inventions that can help advance the field of cloud computing. For instance, IBM researchers explored how cloud computing could enable resiliency and availability of resources for applications.

In cybersecurity, one of the inventions was for preemptively detecting and isolating cloud application network intrusions. IBM inventors have developed an approach that allows developers to declare fine-grained security policies for their applications by specifying their required degree of isolation. When network breaches are detected, networking between applications — or their subcomponents — can be locked down to minimize the impact of an attack.

How Oasis Games is creating a console beachhead for Chinese game makers

Posted: 08 Jan 2017 08:31 PM PST

Ace Banana Battle is one of Oasis Games' PlayStation VR releases.

Fans of indie games and unusual new gaming experiences may remember a game — quietly released earlier this year in April 2016—called Koi, a game about the eponymous ornamental carp typically found in Asia. What made this game unique aside from the subject matter is that it was the first game fully developed in mainland China to be published on the PlayStation in North America. With the PlayStation 4 (and PS Vita) having officially launched in China in 2015 —effectively ending the black market for consoles in China—it was only a matter of time before the cross-pollination of Western/Chinese began in earnest.

And that cross-pollination took fruit in October with the launch of PlayStation VR as Koi publisher Oasis Games pushed out four games for Sony’s entry into the virtual reality race.

GamesBeat sat down with Martho Ghariani, head of PlayStation business development at Oasis Games, to learn more about this company's strategies and future plans.

oasis-games_logo

GamesBeat: So the company is called Oasis Games, and you're the business development manager?

Martho Ghariani: Yes, I'm in business development, and we started doing PlayStation games. We basically started doing PlayStation since last year with Koi. So basically the console market was closed up until the end of 2014, meaning the only way you could get a console in China was in an import store or something like that. You could definitely get them, but it was a little bit tough, and there was no marketing from Sony of course, because it was just not allowed. But then the markets opened up, and Sony opened a department in Shanghai, Xbox as well. Now you've got Sony organizing all kinds of events, and one of them was working together with this Chinese crowdfunding site, called Modian.

They do a lot of crowdfunding games, and Sony had this contest where they hosted a bunch of games, and you could click on the one you liked the most, and it would be published by Sony in China, which is how we came into contact with our first title, Koi. So they won this contest sponsored by Sony, and we got the rights to publish it everywhere but China, because already Sony published it.

So we basically became the first publisher ever to bring a Chinese game to the West. There are some other games developed by Chinese teams, but they're usually co-developed, like a game like Warframe, so it's hard to say where it's from. But this is the first homegrown game developed in China to be released in the West.

GamesBeat: Where is Oasis Games based?

Ghariani: Beijing. Basically the company started out with browser games, taking a bunch of Chinese browser games, localizing them and releasing them in Latin America, minor countries, and Eastern Europe, then we did mobile gaming as well, and now console gaming for the first time.

GamesBeat: Are mobile games the core business of Oasis Games?

Ghariani: Actually the core business is browser games. There was a browser game called Legend Online, which was a typical browser game. There's an English version that another company acquired the English rights to. It's a very standard sort of browser game where you charge money and stuff, so that's their main source of revenue. The second game we have going on right now that we're publishing everywhere is Naruto Online, which is an officially licensed browser game, that we publish through Tencent and Bandai Namco. At this point that's the main thing, but VR is very promising, consoles are very promising to us as well. So you could say it's a little bit on the side for now, but we have four titles coming for PSVR.

GamesBeat: What's interesting is that you're showing four PSVR games. Are they all going to be released separately? Will they all be released digitally?

Ghariani: Initially digitally. We're talking with partners who'll do a physical release. And we're thinking of releasing a bundle next year, like a China VR pack. We're still in discussions, but this is what we're thinking.

GamesBeat: Are you thinking of doing a direct sales physical release in the limited edition style, like with FanGamer or are you thinking of doing a retail release?

Ghariani: Actual retail. We're thinking of both ways. What I'm mentioning now is full retail. We're working with a partner who helps us get the game into stores, basically.

GamesBeat: So we'll be able to walk into a Best Buy and find your games.

Ghariani: Yeah that's definitely what we're going for. There are a bunch of advantages we see to that, but this for us is still unexplored territory. We're doing digitally now because we've done that before, and we want to move into retail at the same time.

GamesBeat: You're moving into the U.S. market now. Does this mean you've got a North American office?

Ghariani: Not at the moment.

GamesBeat: Everything's happening out of Beijing?

Ghariani: Yeah, everything's basically happening out of Beijing.

GamesBeat: For these four games, are all the developers based in China?

Ghariani: Yeah, they're all in China. One of the developers is an hour away from our office in Beijing. One of the developers looks like a 50 year-old Kurt Cobain if Kurt Cobain was Chinese. [Laughs]

Pixel Gear is another Chinese game for PlayStation VR.

Above: Pixel Gear is another Chinese game for PlayStation VR.

Image Credit: Oasis Games

GamesBeat: Is Oasis funding the development of these games, or are you just facilitating their release by publishing overseas? Because some of them, like Pixel Gear and Ace Banana, look like they're made by smaller teams, while Weeping Doll and Dying: Reborn look like they required bigger budgets.

Ghariani: We didn't have to fund these titles, as they already had investors. In terms of development, we do fund in terms of marketing, promotion, doing events like this, etc.

GamesBeat: OK, so Oasis functions as the publisher. I know you started with Koi on PlayStation, but you seem to be embracing the VR opportunity. Four titles is a pretty big commitment to VR, so why are you making such a push into VR specifically?

Ghariani: After Koi we didn't want to go another 12 months without having any titles coming out, so we wanted to have something —at least two games— and these games basically just came to us and they happened to be VR. At the same time we're the only publishing partner of Sony Shanghai; there's no other publisher doing [bringing Chinese games over to North America]. So we weren't actively looking VR, but they were available, and although two of them are kind of similar —a rail shooter and a more hardcore shooter—packaged together it's still pretty nice. That's why we went for VR.

GamesBeat: I'm guessing the release schedule will be slightly staggered based on the apparent level of completion. Will the shooters come out earlier, with the horror/suspense games coming later?

Ghariani: Except for Dying: Reborn, they're all scheduled to release in October, if everything goes according to plan. Dying might be a little bit later, but unless we encounter problems with the other games they should all be released in October, while Dying will ship in January.

GamesBeat: These seem to be made by small teams. How many people made these games?

Ghariani: Pixel Gear has a bunch of people working on it but the main guy is one person. Ace Banana isn't a huge team but it's not small either; it's about 5-6 people? Dying: Reborn is being made by about 12 people or so? Weeping Doll I'm not sure but I'd deduce it's a similar size team to Dying.

GamesBeat: What's Oasis Games' future strategy? What's your roadmap going forward?

Ghariani: Although we have this VR initiative right now, it's not like we're going into VR only. We just want to have quality games from China. I can't say anything right now, but there are some titles coming up… OK, so I've been a gamer all my life, and I like games in general. You play games from China and some are pretty cool and some are "meh" and some are pretty crappy. Some of the games we're talking about right now are pretty close to being the first triple-A games from China, huge teams and really awesome games. And these are things we're really busy with right now; we've already secured one game. So we're working hard to get these games.

I bet this doll is creepy in VR.

Above: I bet this doll is creepy in VR.

Image Credit: Oasis Games

GamesBeat: It's interesting to see these games come from China. Most games we associate with China are free-to-play, browser-based games, and most gamers in the West probably don't care very much about them. But with the console market opening up in China with PlayStation and Xbox, do you think we'll see more Chinese developers focusing their efforts on the console market?

Ghariani: Definitely. To be honest I don't know all the developers super well, but in the case of Koi, I know they've been gaming and importing games for a long time. And they're just waiting to do more stuff. When I talk to [Dotoyou founder and Koi developer, Julien Li], he says Chinese developers are mostly used to games where you use microtransactions to become stronger, and he says we really need to go through the process. There's an entire generation who has never held a joystick in their hands, they've only played games using a mouse or their thumbs. You can't just go full-blown with these complicated games because the market's not ready for this. In this sense it's extremely exciting what's coming from China, because holy shit some of these people are insanely creative.

Take Koi for example. It started out as a mobile game and it's not the longest game, but the quality of the music to start with —this was a 3-man development team—now they have a 12 person development team, and they really want to make indie games and console games. Just give them some time and whoa…

GamesBeat: With the Koi team I can imagine some cool things coming out of that studio since they have a history of importing Western or Japanese games, and understand what makes these good games. But I can imagine the transition might be harder for a lot of Chinese developers who have only made browser-based MMOs and stuff in the past.

Ghariani: For the Koi developers their favorite game is Metal Gear Solid. It's the stuff they grew up on. I remember visiting them for the first time, I didn't know what to expect. I thought maybe I'd see an aquarium and a chess board [laughs] but I walk in and there's this huge freaking Solid Snake poster, it was like "whoa!" [laughs]

So yeah, these guys are all-in. And the developer for Pixel Gear, he used to work in Japan at other game developers, and another developer we're talking to is working on a Resident Evil-style shooter, a first-person shooter. These guys all used to work in Japan at big gaming companies, and now they're going back to China to get the industry going there, and they're going to make some insane games and the experiences they like to create.

GamesBeat: It'll be great to see the first big hit come from China. No one knows any developers from there, but that'll come around once a really great game comes out of China. That's what'll put them on the map.

Ghariani: I say this from a publisher perspective that it'd be awesome, as I'll continue to have a job [laughs], but apart from that as a gamer I'm really looking forward to that. From the first time I played Koi, it's a personal favorite of mine. It's a real favorite of mine; you could just tell there was something else there that was not in any other Chinese game. So if something like this can get funding and stimulation in the press, whether from Sony or elsewhere, then you know a game like Koi has to go places.

Bellying up to the first Oculus-powered bar in Las Vegas

Posted: 08 Jan 2017 07:59 PM PST

The most on-point bar in Vegas (at least during CES).

Tuesday night, I heard my UploadVR editor, Ian Hamilton, say something he's never said before: "Hey, man I think we should go to a bar."

Once I'd finished administering the necessary Voight-Kampff Test to confirm he was not a replicant, I grabbed my jacket and joined him on this noble quest. Our destination was Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Within those hallowed, vaguely bleach-smelling halls, was Alto Bar — the first Oculus-equipped purveyor of adult beverages and virtual reality in Las Vegas.

img_20170103_212538

Alto Bar's new Rift lounge is usually open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and guests must be 21 or over to participate. We came a bit earlier in the night, around 9 pm on Tuesday, and saw a few other people wander in to check out VR too. We saw two Rifts plus Touch setups each with a pair of tracking sensors in front. There were plenty of plush chairs for comfortable socializing and the Rifts themselves were placed in the room's corners with small square mats to stand on.

The Rifts were running most of the usual suspects for Oculus' many in-store Touch demos. The Unspoken, VR Sports Challenge, Oculus Medium, The Climb and Bullet Train were all ready and waiting. At each of the two Rift kiosks was a representative wearing an Oculus shirt.

If you look closely you can see me either immersed in VR or preparing to do a…backflip…maybe?

The Oculus Lounge is a "limited-time" experience and the Alto Bar website lists March 28 as the end date (the one year anniversary of the Rift's release). Facebook is actively spending resources creating spaces for people to experience VR, many for the first time.  The company has also been spotted in recent weeks offering Oculus-powered demos in airports.

Our demo was free but we were told that, in the coming weeks, Alto Bar might begin requiring a purchase before they would be granted access to the special Rift area. Mixing alcohol and VR is a notable test — we didn't surface any other "VR bars" in a cursory search, and we were asked to sign a waiver during the process.

Waiver for the Oculus Lounge.

Above: Waiver for the Oculus Lounge.

Image Credit: UploadVR

Facebook's Oculus team itself notes in a health and safety warning document:

A comfortable virtual reality experience requires an unimpaired sense of motion and balance. Do not use the headset when you are: Tired; need sleep; under the influence of alcohol or drugs; hung-over; have digestive problems; under emotional stress or anxiety; or when suffering from cold, flu, headaches, migraines, or earaches, as this can increase your susceptibility to adverse symptoms.

We've seen tests from companies pairing VR with hotels, deploying it as in-flight entertainment and modifying roller coasters for a new experience, but mixing in alcohol in a social atmosphere is a bit different. It is easy to imagine problems mixing an excess of alcohol with flailing arms in VR. In that respect maybe it makes sense that only demo content is installed on the devices. This isn't exactly a arcade bar experience with the limited content available to sample.

If we were able to get a competitive magic duel in The Unspoken up and running between the headsets, plus a few drinks, the chance of someone falling into the kiosk holding the computer, monitor and Rift sensors would almost certainly go up. Instead, we got an introductory Oculus demo similar to the ones we've seen at a conference or Best Buy, it just happened to take place in an up-scale bar in Las Vegas.

Upload VR senior editor Ian Hamilton contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared on Uploadvr.com. Copyright 2017

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