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Starwood Hotels welcome Google Glass with SPG Glassware

Posted by wicked April - 16 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

Starwood Hotels announced a pilot program that allows guests to swap physical keys for virtual keys. That program was essentially allowing guests to use their smartphones to check-in, check-out and also open the door to the room. Flash forward till present day and it looks like Starwood Hotels has gone another step forward with support for new technology. They have announced the SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) app for Google Glass.

The app is already available for use, but currently listed as being in beta. Starwood plans to continue updating the app based on member/user feedback, but for now there appears to be a decent set of features. This list includes being able to search (by voice) for any of the 1,100 Starwood hotels. Options here include searching by destination, airport code, or what is nearby. You’ll also be able to book once you find the location you prefer.


Users can then get turn-by-turn directions to the hotel as well as explore and share images of the hotel, rooms and more. Perhaps key for SPG members — you will also be able to access your account information to include details on any upcoming stay, your Starpoint balance, and more.

Given you’ll need to be a Glass user, and also someone looking to stay at a Starwood hotel — we expect this will see a limited amount of users. But on the flip side, this does show another interesting use case for Glass. Sure, you can already do this all on a smartphone or tablet, but it is nice to see some real-world Glass potential outside the medical profession.

SOURCE: Starwood

Google’s Project Tango torn apart by iFixit

Posted by wicked April - 16 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

Google’s Project Tango has become the subject of the latest iFixit teardown. We like seeing these teardowns as they generally offer a view that most users will never get to see — the inner guts. But in the case of Project Tango that is especially true as this is a prototype device. Or in other words, a device many will never see in the wild at all.

Still, even with that, the Project Tango teardown followed the same pattern and was assigned a repairability score of 9 out of 10. But while that score may have been on the higher side, this teardown did come with some challenges for the iFixit crew. It seems Google did not want them to power on the device.


Needless to say, a bit of hacking and they were able to power up the IR projector that displayed “shiny dots on the photo room wall.” More interesting here was the result — those dots show that the Tango works similar to the original Microsoft Kinect.

“The bright grid of dots shows that Tango works similarly to the original Microsoft Kinect, with a grid of dots to be captured by the IR sensors of the 4 MP camera, building a depth map.”

Other highlights in terms of hardware show the Tango with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 (8974) processor and SanDisk memory. There is also the “depth-sensing array” which includes an infrared projector, 4 megapixel rear-facing RGB/IR camera and 180 degree field of view fisheye rear-facing camera.

Anyway, as always, we encourage a click of the link below if for no other reason than to see the full set of images. The Story Timeline sitting below also offers links to some of the other recent iFixit teardowns.

SOURCE: iFixit

Watch Matias Duarte talk flat design, his Android Wear watch, and the “death of mobile”

Posted by wicked April - 16 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

Matias Duarte is one of the most influential guiding figures of Android. Responsible for the creation of the polished, mature user experience we know and love in modern Android, Duarte is also deeply involved in guiding Android’s evolution in terms of functionality and integration with Google’s other products. Naturally, any occasion to hear him talk about design, Android, and Google should not be missed.

In the video above, Duarte talks to The Verge’s Josh Topolsky about a wide range of topics, from the definition of design, to the “death of mobile” as the focus for UI designers, to Android Wear, to why flat design should be balanced by tactile elements. The designer apparently drops hints at the rumored bridging of the user experience across Android and Chrome, though he takes the discussion further, extolling the importance of creating a unitary experience across devices, from smartwatches, to laptops, to big screen TVs.

Duarte briefly talks about the philosophy of Android Wear, which is to offer users just-in-time information, rather than a complete mobile UI cramped on a small screen. The designer admits he’s “dogfooding” an Android Wear watch, though he stops short of revealing it.

Asked about his views on the flat UI design trend, Matias Duarte explains how offering a sense of depth is a valuable tool for designers, hinting that future versions of Android will continue on the path opened with Ice Cream Sandwich.

About Google I/O (for which registration just started), Duarte says the conference will be more appealing to designers this year. I/O is mainly a developer conference, though in recent years, it turned in a sort of All things Google event.

For more insight on design and Android, we highly recommend watching the entire 35-minute interview.

Google Glass one-day invitation-free sale quickly comes to a close

Posted by wicked April - 16 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

“That’s all for now, folks!”, spake Google. All available spots in the Glass Explorer program has been filled up rather quickly with no room to spare. Thus ends Google’s time-limited offer to get into the Google Glass hype with no need for an exclusive invite and thus starts another period of waiting for the next opportunity to grab the smart spectacle.

Building up positive hype around the smart eyewear hasn’t exactly been easy for Google lately. What started out as a fascinating and exciting excursion into the realm of wearables has recently turned a bit sour after concerns about privacy and safety have started piling up. Nonetheless, Google Glass definitely still has its fans if the speed at which Google ran out of Explorer slots is any indication. Of course, how many of those slots were available in the first place, we will probably never know.

There have been two major obstacles in getting ones hands on a Google Glass piece, directly and officially from Google. The first was getting invited into the program, which was and now is again an exclusive club for a select few. But for a single day short of 24 hours, Google removed that hurdle and allowed anyone, who must still meet the legal and geographical requirements, to invite himself or herself to join. Of course, there is still that other major requirement that was never removed, which amounts to $1,500.

The Google Glass Explorer program isn’t over yet, and we doubt it ever will until the device goes into commercial launch. Google promises to find more ways of bringing more people into the fold, which it has indeed done in the past through some promo or “invite a friend” event. All we have to do is wait for that to happen again, or perhaps wait for the final, and hopefully cheaper, retail version, if and when it comes.

Google Play Store cuts down prices in early Mother’s Day promo

Posted by wicked April - 16 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off


In a bid to make Mother’s Day more special — or at least to give you more gift choices for your mother — Google has launched its Mother’s Day promo early on the Google Play Store.

From today until May 5, you can get your mom a year’s subscription for her favorite magazine for only US$5.00. You might also want to throw in a copy of her favorite book — for half the original price.

The promo also includes discounts for other digital content that both mothers and their kids will enjoy.


If you’re planning to surprise your mother with these great deals, you will have to find a way to download these books or magazines under her account. The Google Play Store doesn’t have an option yet to purchase books, magazine, or apps as gifts.

You can, however, buy Google Play Store gift cards that your mom can use to purchase her favorite books or subscribe to her favorite magazine.

If your mom doesn’t own an Android tablet, maybe you can buy her one as gift for Mother’s Day. Then, create a Google account for her and preinstall those books or magazines that she will like. Teaching your mother how to use the tablet can also be an occasion for the two of you to be close to each other this Mother’s Day.

Google, Samsung and others agree to anti-theft remote kill-switch

Posted by wicked April - 16 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

google logo (2) Brionv

Most smartphones will have the ability for users to remotely wipe and lock them down in case they’re stolen after July 2015 thanks to a new industry initiative.

Google, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung joined the top five U.S. carriers and other companies like Apple, Microsoft, Huawei, and Nokia in agreeing to the initiative. The idea is that everyone will have the chance to protect the data on their phone and prevent the phone from being used by someone else if its ever stolen. Of course, users will be able to restore their phone data when they have access to the device, if they ever get their device back.

The initiative comes in response to numerous states considering laws that mandate such a kill-switch in an effort to stem smartphone theft. California state Senator Mark Leno told Re/code the initiative doesn’t go far enough, though. “Only weeks ago, [the wireless industry] claimed that the approach they are taking today was infeasible and counterproductive,” Leno said. “While I am encouraged they are moving off of that position so quickly, today’s ‘opt-in’ proposal misses the mark if the ultimate goal is to combat street crime and violent thefts involving smartphones and tablets.”

The kill-switch being opt-in means if you don’t want the chance to remotely wipe and lockdown your phone, you can simply not turn it on. Of course, that also means that those who don’t know about the feature, or never think they’re going to use it, won’t really be protected. If the feature is included in the myriad menus you have to click through to set up a phone there’s a chance more people will use it. Of course, there’s also the chance some will  ignore it because they just want to set up the phone and get to downloading Instagram, Threes, or whatever app they absolutely need to access right away, leaving the phone unprotected.

There’s still more than a year for Google and Android manufacturers to include the feature in their phones. Those feature may come sooner, though. Some phones already have the feature, Apple included such a feature, called Activation Lock, in iOS 7, but there’s no feature built into Android at the moment.

Do you think an opt-in option is good enough, or should the remote kill-switch be opt-out instead?

Project Ara conference recap: Beta by Q1 2015, tablet plans hinted

Posted by wicked April - 16 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

Google’s Project Ara conference is well on its way and now we’re getting a more solid idea of what the modular smartphone will be like. Aside from pushing the target dates just a bit deeper into 2015, it seems that Google is also toying around with the idea of extending the project to the next logical step: tablets.

Google has, perhaps wisely, decided to push back the launch of the Project Ara “gray phone”, the first modular smartphone that Google is planning to make available even in convenience stores for $50 a pop. Instead of the Q1 2015 launch we reported on before, it will be the beta that will be launched in January 2015, while the alpha is expected to go out next month. This extension was made to ensure that the proper pieces are in place and certifications have been met, as well as to make room for two more developer conferences in July and September. And yes, the gray phone will indeed be gray to really force users to customize their device, unless, of course, they actually prefer it that way.

Though not exactly explicitly stated, Google’s slides briefly revealed visions of taking Project Ara beyond a smartphone but also to other mobile and wearable devices, including, you guessed it, a tablet. While seemingly logical, a tablet will also take a bit more work, especially considering the size. But perhaps the biggest factor to consider is time. The ATAP group, which is spearheading work on Project Ara, is normally given only two years to take a project from conception to completion. That time will be up in April 2015, probably just around the gray phone’s retail launch. The future of a modular tablet will most likely hinge on how well the smartphone performs in the market and how Google will decide to proceed in establishing Project Ara as a more formal group inside the company.

Unfortunately, not all information revealed today about this highly idealistic modular smartphone is good. While Project Ara seems like a pipedream about to become reality, there will necessarily be a price to pay, even if it’s not monetary. These costs will boil down to size, weight, and power consumption, which the Project Ara team is continually working on to bring down as much as they can. At the moment, they are still above a one-third overhead but their goal is to reach just one-fourth. That might seem like a significant reduction, but it does mean that a Project Ara phone might be 25 percent larger, heavier, and more power hungry than most smartphones today. That, however, might be a price some will be willing to pay for a device that they theoretically won’t have to replace every 2 years.

VIA: SlashGear, CNET, The Verge

Major smartphone OEMs and wireless carriers agree to support anti-theft measures

Posted by wicked April - 16 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

smartphone theft

Like with any other valuable object, smartphones are often the target of thieves. Many lawmakers and even carriers and device manufacturers have questioned how to implement features on devices that would cut down on theft, but until now there hasn’t been much of a united stance in making that happen.

On Tuesday, a group of wireless carriers and smartphone manufacturers voluntarily agreed to start including anti-theft measures on smartphones next year. The list of companies that have pledged support include major US carriers like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, as well as big smartphone manufacturers like Samsung, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, but also including OEMs like HTC, Motorola, and Nokia. It’s not an all-inclusive list, but it’s a ton of names, regardless.

This voluntary agreement means that all companies on the list will start shipping devices with security and anti-theft measures preloaded beginning July in 2015. Since the major US carriers are on board, that likely means that even if the manufacturer of a certain phone isn’t in compliance, the carrier is going to enforce it to be allowed on their network. These new features will allow users to remotely wipe and deactivate a phone, and keep it deactivated until they regain possession of the device.

Some lawmakers still have a bit of criticism over this agree, however. As it stands, the security measures will be forced onto the devices, but nothing forces the consumers from turning the feature on. If those features aren’t turned on, the devices will still be just as easy to steal as they have been in the past. Many lawmakers want these features to be mandatory and automatically turned on to ensure that they can be more effective.

However you look at the situation, this is still a step in the right direction towards cutting down on stolen devices.

source: Recode

Come comment on this article: Major smartphone OEMs and wireless carriers agree to support anti-theft measures

KitKat for Google Glass rolling out now

Posted by wicked April - 15 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

The KitKat update for Google Glass has begun rolling out, making a big leap to XE16. Prior to this update, the XE listing was at 12.1, so Google has sidestepped the norm once again and numbered an update as they see fit. The update brings quite a few changes as well, so Glass owners should get ready for this one.

KitKat will act like a back-end solution to Glass, and won’t be as noticeable as we find on our smartphones and tablets. The biggest change may be media, where Glass will now bundle photos and video in an array when scrolling through timelines. Glass users can also reply to Hangouts messages using photos now, either taken in the moment or from their timeline.

The “Ok, Glass” command will now display your most used commands first, which should help those who use a few features often. With an expansive list of commands, it could be easy to confuse what you’re trying to do with what you just said. Video calls will be going away, though, which Google says has to do with video quality rather than any user issues.

If you have Glass, the update is rolling out now. If you don’t have Glass, you can still purchase it for a few more hours via the Glass website. KitKat, with it’s piecemeal take on Android, is a natural fit for Glass, so we’ll be interested to see just how much the headwear improves with this update.

Google Fiber hiring in New york

Posted by wicked April - 15 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

Google may be ready to take on the biggest domestic market, if a new job listing is any indication. A job posting on Google’s website notes Fiber is looking for a Regional Sales Manager for New York. It’s their first Fiber position in the New York office, and has many excited the service may come to New York City.

The listing notes the person “will manage multiple teams that evangelize Google Fiber services to MDU (multi-dwelling apartments and condos) and large SMB owners.” This would mark Google’s furthest expansion in the Northeast for Fiber, and make a big splash in a city that is desperate to see someone care about their internet speed. Time Warner Cable has dragged their heels about a proposed update to the network there, causing many residents to be upset.

Not long ago, Google announced a rollout of Fiber to additional markets across the US. Though an impressive and ambitious project, no major metropolitan area was listed. New York would clearly be the biggest city to get Fiber, and could have a better reach throughout the boroughs.

The price points Google has for Fiber would also be wildly attractive to NYC residents, with a free option (after an installation fee) being the easiest sell. Unfortunately, Google hasn’t announced New York as being part of another Fiber rollout, and there is no timeframe listed for the position to be filled. We also have no indication of what the “region” would be, but Fiber in the Northeast is new.

Source: Google