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NailO prototype Bluetooth thumbnail trackpad

Posted by Tom April - 20 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off

While there’s no plans to make the NailO commercially available at the moment, it’s still a pretty cool new way of interacting with regular touchscreen displays.

The NailO is a thumbnail sized Bluetooth trackpad developed by researchers at MIT Media Laboratory and can be used for easy scrolling.

The tiny prototype features a microcontroller, Bluetooth radio and antenna, a battery and a capacitive touch sensor.

There are a number of practical uses for this tech but it may have come a little late now smart watches are looking likely that they could provide a similar function. However, if this does make it out and at a nice price, it could be a nice solution for clean screens and distance navigation.

Via liliputing

AutoMate app on beta, brings Android Auto-like UI in app form

Posted by wicked April - 7 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

If you’ve followed our reports on Android Auto, you will understand that Google’s efforts towards reaching your car’s dash control is only available in head units at this time – and some very expensive ones to boot. AutoMate may just be the answer to that – it provides a sort of control hub for you while driving your car, but it’s still in beta release at this point.

App developer Kahtaf Alam has made AutoMate available via the Google Play Store, but only for those who want to do beta testing. The app delivers an Android Auto-like experience – bringing messaging, call, navigation and music capabilities together so you can access it while driving.

When you test out the app, it looks very much like Android Auto – that is intentional. AutoMate wants to capture a piece of that experience in app format. The features are still rough, you would expect that in a beta release. But basically, it does everything Android Auto can do – it can read back your text messages (via Google’s text-to-speech), navigate via Google Maps and other navigation apps, play music, and make calls.

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If you want to test this out, there is a dedicated Google+ group (see source link) that you can join, and ask how to be part of the beta test. The developers have been very open in their need for quality user feedback, so maybe you can help.

SOURCE: +KahtafAlam

Figure the best route to your destination with TomTom GO Mobile

Posted by wicked March - 26 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off

Getting around a city or a suburb, whether it’s an everyday routine or you’re in an unfamiliar place, is getting more and more complicated. Yes, your native maps on your smartphone can show you where your destination is, but you sometimes need much more than that. TomTom GO Mobile is the latest app that will help you navigate your way through traffic jams, unfamiliar territory, and even avoid speed traps.

The app promises that it will get you to wherever you want to go, but faster. It will always give you real-time traffic information and will give you the best route to get to your destination, avoiding traffic, road construction, and even telling you where the speed cameras/traps are (so you know what to do, wink wink). When you favorite your usual places to visit on the map, you just tap on it and it will automatically give you the best route already. And if you input your contacts on to the app, with their addresses included, just select who you will visit, and your route will be planned out already.

The maps are stored on your phone so you can still use it even when you don’t have Internet connection. It has maps for around 100 countries so even when you’re outside the US, you can still use TomTom. The buildings and landmarks are in 3D so it will be easier for you to navigate.

TomTom GO Mobile is the new app, actually replacing the previous GPS Navigation app. It can be downloaded for free from the Google Play Store, but you’ll only be able to use it for free for the first 75 km every month. If you want unlimited driving, you can upgrade through an in-app purchase. One year will cost you around $22 while 3 years subscription will be around $50.

SOURCE: TomTom

Cops take matters into their own hands with Waze fake police reports

Posted by wicked February - 14 - 2015 - Saturday Comments Off

You don’t listen to our complaints and requests to take down that feature? Fine, we’ll do it our own way. At least, that’s what we think what the cops are saying to Google and Waze since they were basically ignored. We reported a few weeks ago about the issues cops are having with the police feature in the navigation app, and this time, they are taking matters into their own hands, so to speak.

Several prominent police officials requested that Google take down that feature in Waze where users can share cop sightings in the areas, saying that this can actually be used by some people for nefarious and dangerous purposes. Even though most people use them to actually avoid cops, they believe that it poses a danger to some cops’ well-being, especially given tense relations lately between the public and law enforcement in some states.

NBC Miami has reported that some cops in the region have taken to the digital streets by downloading Waze and then flooding it with fake reports of police sightings. This is both in unofficial protest against Google and also to confuse users and throw off the scent on actual sightings. There is nothing in the user agreement that requires people (or agencies) to make legit reports, which is also one of the drawbacks of a crowd-sourced navigation app like Waze.

There is no official statement yet from any law enforcement agency if this is an actual campaign. There is also no word from Google regarding the latest development in their “tiff” with the cops. Let’s wait for the next chapter in this ongoing digital argument.

VIA: SlashGear

Is Google Lost? A Reflection On Android Navigation

Posted by wicked January - 13 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

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I remember my first Android device, and how it differed to the ones I have now in one major point: navigation keys. My old Motorola XT316 (a mid-range phone for Latin American markets) came with Froyo 2.2 and featured 4 TFT capacitive navigation keys: menu, home, back, and the long gone “search”. Android phones have come a long way since that OS, and since the early days of archaic UI design and choppy performance. Now we have the most beautiful and smoothest Android, and arguably one of the best Operating Systems… But there’s something that I really think has not improved all that much despite all the optimizations, and that is navigation.

By navigation, I mean the tools and means you’ve got that encompass all of your options for moving around your interface, or interacting with it. The most notable part of Android’s navigation would be, without a doubt, the navigation keys. Other aspects include the notification bar and shade, and the recent applications panel. While one could argue that the enhancements to speed and smoothness are the most significant improvements one could make to navigation, there are some other functions, additions and usability tweaks that also grant you a better sailing through your vast OS. There’s more to good navigation than just the bare basics and simplicity of the button offerings of Android.

While the 3 bottom keys are intuitive enough, I think Google really should have stretched a little more towards fundamentally improving the Android experience in its latest OS. I personally think that Material Design, and consequently Lollipop, feels more of a skinpack than it is a new iteration of Android, or the revolution in usability that some fans wanted it to be. I guess that when an OS gets to a certain point, there’s not that much to improve other than tweak the user experience through the aesthetics and direct interactions with the UI… but if this is the case, why was navigation neglected, given that there are many good navigation alternatives or concepts out there that could be incorporated? Let’s explore how Google could have done more for a better navigation in Android.

 

Software keys, Functions

 

The 3-key setup in Android is beautifully efficient. It works, and I think few people would have complaints with it. Like previously mentioned, my first device had 4 keys, and some were known to have 5. The removal of the Search button first, and the Menu button later meant a simpler, more efficient Android user interaction. The functions aren’t gone, but now have to be incorporated into the apps that feature them – because this was the problem all along; some apps didn’t need a Menu button, and even more apps didn’t need a Search button. This was a great fat trim by Google.

The movement from capacitive buttons to on-screen buttons allows for a lot of versatility that hasn’t been fully exploited: the keys are no longer tied to a graphic or icon, and thus their function isn’t predetermined to the user. In theory, having on-screen keys means that the keys can take many shapes and do many things, dynamically adapting to the context of the screen. You don’t see much of this on Android. The back key turns into a “Down” key when your keyboard is up, but that’s about it. I’d love to see more things like this, but with more creative context-sensitive functions.

The problem with this is the fact that there are just 3 keys. While you could have some nicer functions appear when the context is right, that would mean some other keys would have to go for the time the new option is available – and we don’t want that. After all, it’d be terrible to not be able to go home or switch apps when a certain element is on the screen. Regardless, I think something else can be done to maximize the possibility of on-screen buttons. Which leads me my second point about the bottom keys: Customizability.

The LG G3 had something that almost every reviewer loved about it, even if some didn’t use the feature: you could customize the navigation keys! Something so simple had taken almost 3 years (since the first software keys on the Galaxy Nexus) to be incorporated by any official phone maker. On LG’s flagship, you could set how many keys you wanted at the bottom, and what keys you wanted there, including access to useful features like multi-window, the deceased menu key, and something we didn’t even know we wanted in the form of a key to bring down the notification panel. Now, the best part about this is that the phone has a large display – and most phones are going this way – so it has the room to accommodate for more buttons without sacrificing much. We’ll talk a little more about phablets in a bit.

nexus2cee_ImportantGenerousAdeliepenguin_thumbAs another note, there’s still a lot of functionality ground Google hasn’t explored with their softkey offering. For example, ROMs like Cyanogen, Omni, Carbon, and Paranoid Android have had the “quick-switch” on the recents key for a while, allowing you to long-press the recents key to quickly access the app you opened before the current one. A little thing like that can do wonders for navigation and can really trim a second or two out of the transition. Things like sliding up software keys have also been known to be incorporated in ROMs. And much more could be thought of and added if Google employees sat in front of the drawing board (with a nice paycheck incentive, of course!) to come up with the future of Android navigation. Things like letting us link a few keys or functions to a single key slot, then swiping the software keys up to swap between them for when we need them, maybe having a nice little menu pop up for visual aid as to what key we are selecting. Not the best idea, but it took me a few seconds of unpaid thinking to come up with… I’m sure a software designer could do much more.

 

Recents panel, Animations

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3 - 6BCLnzHThe new recents panel is beautiful. Simply beautiful! The Lollipop dev preview had me in awe at the sight of such a pretty, colorful and smooth stack of cards for me to file through. But now that I’ve been using Lollipop on multiple devices for a few months, it doesn’t feel all that special, and the initial magic is gone. The old panel, albeit uglier, worked a little better. I find myself spending more time scrolling through the cards back and forth than I did with my older panels. SlimKat and Paranoid Android, for example, also had very efficient recents panel alternatives, that worked well and fast. And I had added in a rather unconventional one for my Note 3’s ROM (pictured) that worked surprisingly well for a phablet.

The motions of the card-stack aren’t confusing enough to warrant a redesign, and admittedly I don’t have a big gripe with the new system, as looking at it is pleasing. But what I think of it when I see it is something that I feel Google is increasingly adopting: style over function. The long animations of Lollipop are pretty, but like hundreds have already pointed out before, they are just way too drawn out. I keep my animations either disabled or set to .5 speed, as I’m sure many here do. Without faster animations, I feel like I’m waiting for my processor-powerhouses of phones to do things I know it can do in a pinch. This also detracts from navigation, as the point of efficient navigation is to save time, not look cool.

 

Interface, Phablets

 

Another big point of navigation is the cardinal location of objects in the interface. I think that Google has a weird double-think on this front. On one side, they are pushing bigger screens to our pockets with their affinity for phablets, given that they opted for a 6 inch device with their latest flagship, often coined their “vision of Android”. At the same time, Google has been doing very little (read, nothing) to incorporate phablet features into Android. And most importantly, phablet navigation. If anything, I feel like they are doing the opposite with their apps.

The bane of a (right-handed) phablet user’s user experience is objects located to the upper left corner of the screen. Which is, coincidentally, where Google’s guidelines place the action bar, the heart of modern apps. If it wasn’t for the Note’s one-handed mode (which shrinks the entire screen), I’d be forced to risk my phone’s integrity by doing hand gymnastics worthy of the power-user olympics Gold Medal. That is just not cool.

Then there’s the fact that, like previously mentioned, phablets can efficiently house more than just 3 software keys, like the G3 proved. But another big issue for navigation on phablets is the fact that the bottom edge of a phablet also requires some hand gymnastics, particularly the bottom left corner. All of this detracts from navigation, as you have to re-adjust your hand to reach certain aspects of the screen. Even Apple had the foresight to incorporate a feature to make one-handed reachability easier on their phablet.

There’s many solutions to this problem. The easiest would be hiding the navigation keys, like their immersive mode already allows for, and adding PIE controls. Many ROMs have incorporated PIE controls already, and there’s Playstore alternatives out there too. The problem with the latter is that they aren’t officially supported, they can be pushed out of RAM and some functions like Menu and Back require root. That already makes it not as good as a built-in solution, which Google has already patented, but never applied!

And finally, there’s some additional features that greatly enhance phablet navigation, such as keyboards that adjust to the side of the screen (like featured on LG and Samsung phablets), or Samsung’s previously mentioned one-handed mode, which comes handy more often than you’d think. But the other very overlooked Samsung feature that just makes handling navigation so much more organic is their multi-window. If there is a reason to have a phablet, multi-window would be it. Some bits of multi-window code were found in AOSP code, and everyone expected Lollipop and its host phablet to bring it, but it didn’t. And Samsung’s solution in particular has fundamentally changed the way I see apps on my phone. If I am watching a YouTube video, and I want to navigate to the chat I had opened previously, rather than switching apps and missing out on the video or audio by pausing it, I can just swiftly resize it and leave it playing on a corner as I type my message. I never thought it would be as useful as it is, but I use it literally all the time and it brings the mobile OS closer to a fully fledged desktop replacement. It’s something you’ve got to try and get used to in order to fully appreciate, and I can’t imagine daily driving a phone without it now.

Finally, having the 480 DPI standard on a phablet is a little ridiculous, specially when Google insists on the Nexus 6’s default launcher to have 4×4 grids of immense icons. It looks like a stretched out phone, and with more room for more content you can also have a better effective navigation, as more options are available to you at any given time without necessarily sacrificing much intuitiveness or ease of use and reach.

 

Where are you going, Google?

 

So here I am wondering why Google’s software designers haven’t addressed some of these issues, added some of these features, and adapted their software to their new vision. There are hundreds of multi-tasking solutions I haven’t talked about, many of them on the Playstore or on XDA ROMs. Switchr, for example, works great and I used it for a while. There are also ways to access apps without visual aid, such as gestures. Why can’t Google look at their developer community and draw inspiration from them? Why can’t they act on their own patents? And why don’t they try to push navigation forward, in a time where we want our experience to be more efficient and pleasant? I love Lollipop, to the point where I can’t go back to my old KitKat ROMs and all the Xposed goodness. But in my sweet love for Lollipop’s optimizations and new features lay some grips and annoyances with its setbacks and conformities. Let’s hope the next version makes the OS as fluid and organic as it can be.

The post Is Google Lost? A Reflection On Android Navigation appeared first on xda-developers.

Garmin unveils Vivoactive, Vivofit 2, and Epix navigation device

Posted by wicked January - 6 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

Garmin International is launching new fitness products and a hands-free navigation device at the CES in Las Vegas: the Vivoactive smartwatch, Vivofit 2, Style Collection, and the Epix. The first three models are ideal for those health buffs and fitness enthusiasts and the last one is a first-of-its-kind hands-free navigation device. As a leader in GPS technology, Garmin continues to bring in new products with great features and functionality.

The vívoactive is a new GPS smartwatch that tracks more of the users physical activities from running to cycling, swimming and golfing through the available tracking apps. The smart watch offers smart notifications of incoming text messages, emails, or calls from a compatible smartphone.

What’s good about this particular smartwatch is the hi-res sunlight readable touchscreen display. It also comes with interchangeable bands to match any outfit. Even when out of range from the smartphone, the Vivoactive can still track stats with the use of the GPS-enabled sports apps. If you want to track more health data, you can choose to pair the device with a bike speed sensor or a heart rate monitor. Available $249.99 and $299.99 (heart rate monitor bundle).

Garmin has also introduced the Connect IQ Store where you can get free widgets, face design, and more apps for customization and fitness tracking such as the Auto Lap, Auto Pause, and different vibration alerts for run and walk intervals, pace, and heart rate. There’s also the golf app that features more than 38,000 golf courses.

garmin vivofit 2

The Vivofit 2 is an obvious follow up to the Vivofit. This new model now features a visual move bar on the display, audible alerts, activity timer for tracking and analyzing workout. It also features a new backlight for easier viewing even in the dark. This one also comes with interchangeable design options.

garmin signature series

The Style Collection is ideal for the more stylish and fashionable fitness buffs. It features different band options for the Vivofit 2. You can choose any band available in different colors from the Style Collection’s Signature Series line. There are various fashionable designs available for both men and women and made from premium materials like stainless steel and leather.

The Vivofit 2 will be out in white, black, pink, and navy this Q1. As for the price, the Vivofit is said to be worth $129.99 or $169.99 with the black or white heart rate monitor bundle. The accessary bands under the Style Collection series will be available in active (blue, red, green), energy (canary, pink, violet), serenity (mint,cloud, lilac), downtown (burgundy, slate, navy), and neutral (black, slate, white).

Garmin epix

Garmin also announced the Epix, a new navi device that acts as a GPS mapping watch. It’s a first of its kind according to the company. It comes equipped with a 1.4-inch hi-res color touchscreen display, 8GB built-in memory, omni0directional EXO steel antenna, GPS, GLONASS support, and traditional compass/barometer/altimeter features. This one also worls with ANT+ sensors so you can monitor heart rate and temperature.

It’s not a smartwatch, just a mapping watch for active outdoor people. It’s simply a hands-free navigator that allows a more efficient and accurate navigation and outdoor features. It doesn’t only track health and fitness data but it also allows the user to plan future physical activities and routes. It also has access to the Connect IQ store for customization. It can last up to 24 hours in watch mode. When it UltraTac mode, its battery life is 50 hours and as long as four months in watch mode. It can also withstand being underwater up to 50 meters. This one is a great product but it’s a bit pricey at $549.99.

SOURCE: Garmin 1,2,3

Video: Android Auto in full detail

Posted by wicked November - 24 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

By now, you’re familiar with Android Auto. The blossoming in-car platform is Google’s attempt at diversifying their platform everywhere you are, and driving is no different. As we increasingly use our phones for things like navigation, they become more like an in-car device. Motorola has even created profiles for when you’re driving with one of their devices, effectively making a tiny in-car system of their own. At the recent LA Auto Show, Chris Davies from our sister site SlashGear got to spend some time with Android Auto. Check it out!


The point of Android Auto is to stop us from actually handling our phone during those times we should be, you know, paying attention to the road ahead (and/or behind). By taking the experience into your car’s dash, your phone is still providing the info necessary, but you don’t have to fumble with your handheld device.

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Android Auto also doesn’t take over your car’s experience as you might find it — it’s totally complimentary to it. If your car’s OEM has built in some features of their own, Android Auto is simply an add-on to that, relying on tech you might use on your phone.

The video below is a touch long at 15 minutes or so, but provides the first in-depth look at Android Auto we’ve really seen. If you’re excited to see what Android Auto will be like in your next new car, check out the video below.

HERE navigation app updated for Android Lollipop

Posted by wicked November - 8 - 2014 - Saturday Comments Off

There will be an avalanche of apps hurrying to update their codes to play nice with Android 5.0, one of those is Nokia’s HERE maps and turn-by-turn navigation app. The app was once locked down to the Windows Phone OS, but Nokia chose to release it in beta for Android recently. Now it’s getting updated for Lollipop.

There was a bug that caused the app to stop when using early versions of Android 5.0, so the developers made sure that the app now works on the Material Design environment of Lollipop. The developers are also pushing for feedback from users on how the app runs with the newly released Android OS version.

The updated beta version app also brings several improvements with it, including the capability to report bugs and offer suggestions from within the app. The update also fixes the bug where downloaded non-English voices would disappear if users have a “cache cleaner” app installed. But the fix means that people will have to re-download any non-English voices they use on the app.

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Do you use the HERE app? Tell us about your experience on it. The developer team has voiced its appreciation for over 1 million downloads of the beta app. If you want to download the latest update that works with lollipop, head on over to the source link for instructions.

VIA: Here 360

Navdy HUD projects virtual images onto car’s windshield

Posted by wicked August - 11 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

Several sci-fi movies from the past (and recent) years have scenes showing holograms being projected on a car’s dashboard or windshield. But with the advances in technology, sooner or later, that kind of device would not be fiction anymore, but a common reality for consumers. Navdy’s aftermarket HUD is bringing it one step closer, as the device acts as a Google Glass for your car.

Aside from just using it as a navigation system through Google Maps, the device can also be used as a secondary screen for your smartphone, as it can project several functions at least six feet in front of your windshield. Through the use of gesture controls, you can show calls and messages into your line of sight so that you don’t need to look at your phone every time a message or call comes in. If you want to answer the call, you just need to wave your hand to the left or if you’re avoiding (hiding from) a call, just wave it to the other direction.

As for reading and sending messages and making calls, you will be able to use Google’s voice recognition system to do those functions. You can even use it to post something on Twitter while you’re driving (and maybe not be pulled over by the police for tweeting while driving).

navdy_front_directions

Navdy can also be used for Google Now and most of the major music apps, which might eventually make the need for a tape or CD deck in your car obsolete. Your other notifications can also be projected but not all of them can be actionable. There’s also a split-screen option so you can see both your notifications and your navigation details.

The device, which runs on Android 4.4, has a 5.1-inch transparent HUD display and has WiFi and Bluetooth for connectivity. For the touchless controls, it uses an IR camera and in terms of navigating, it includes an accelerometer, digital compass and ambient light sensor. It can also warn you when your oil needs replacing and when your car needs to be serviced next. You can pre-order it now at $299 although by the time it hits retail stores in 2015, it will cost you $499. But if you really want a cool device in your car and you could afford it, then you wouldn’t mind shelling out that much for sure.

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VIA: SlashGear

Google Maps 8.2 features voice action, biking elevation

Posted by wicked July - 18 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

It was at the end of May this year when we saw that last significant update of Google Maps, bringing back Terrain View to the app – but today we’re seeing a bunch of new stuff being rolled out by the mothership to its primary maps software. Version 8.2 of Google Maps carries some nifty updates that should make outdoor ad biking enthusiasts happy, as well as some voice actions added into the app while in navigation.

The APK is available at the source link (bottom of the post) if you want to go ahead and install the new version. Don’t worry, the MD5 hash is digitally signed by Google and the APK will just update the Google Maps software in your device. The official rollout will most likely take days to get to you, so if you don’t want to endure the wait, go ahead and grab the APK.

The new elevation feature is pretty nice for bikers, especially if you’re the type (like me) who will want to avoid the higher elevations. If you’re a biking monster and eat up elevation like chocolate chip cookies, the feature will also be nice for you. You will basically see the elevation in a timeline view of your route, and even get comparisons of multiple routes. Nice, right?

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The voice actions is initiated by that familiar icon, and you can ask familiar questions like “how far to my destination?” and stuff like that. It also understands “what’s my next turn?”, very useful when driving in traffic and unfamiliar areas. So give it a whirl, you might enjoy Google Maps 8.2.

VIA: Android Police