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Google Play Edition smartphones start receiving Android 43

If you were wondering just how long it would take the Google Play Editions of the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4 to get Android 4.3, we can now tell you: not long at all. Owners of both devices report that they’re receiving over-the-air updates to the new OS. There isn’t yet word of any GPE-specific additions, but we’ll let you know if there are surprises in store.

Update: AnandTech has noticed a few GPE-specific changes. Most home screen icons appear larger, infrared now works on the HTC One, and Bluetooth-based internet tethering is now an option for the Galaxy S 4.

Dapper Vision’s OpenGlass project sees Google Glass’ camera as useful for more than just hands-free pictures — it’s a tool for interpreting the world around us. To show that potential, the two-person group has tested two of its Glass apps with visually impaired wearers. The first, Question-Answer, lets the poor-sighted ask both Mechanical Turk and Twitter for help in identifying objects. Memento, in turn, automatically recites notes when the user looks at a recognizable scene; it can warn users about dangerous equipment, for example. Dapper Vision tells us that the OpenGlass apps will stay in limited testing until Google lets developers offer Glassware to the general public, but the company isn’t sitting still in the meantime. It’s devising a way to reward Question-Answer contributors with BitCoins, and it will demonstrate new Glass-based augmented reality software next week.

When Avatar hit theaters in 2009 it was notable not only for its incredible computer rendered special effects and record breaking box office returns, but also as a touchstone for a resurgence of 3D movies. Now 20th Century Fox and director James Cameron have announced plans to build out a quadrilogy of Avatar movies. Screenwriters Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Shane Salerno and Josh Friedman are all on board to collaborate on the screenplays for movies 2, 3 and 4, which will be produced by Cameron and Jon Landau’s Lightstorm Entertainment. Avatar 2 is scheduled to hit theaters in December 2016, with the other movies following in 2017 and 2018. WETA remains on hand to produce the special effects, we’ll see what advancements in technology (Jim’s in love with high framerates but The Hobbit didn’t garner a universally positive response) allow them to create this time around and if audiences come out in similar numbers — hopefully the 3D Blu-ray (or whatever format is around) doesn’t take so long to arrive at retail this time.

To us, installing some factory equipment doesn’t seem like much cause for celebration. To LG, however, it’s the first piece of tangible progress made towards getting its new OLED manufacturing line up and running. At a shindig held to welcome the equipment to LG’s plant, the company said it expects to begin mass production of panels for 50-inch plus HDTVs in the second half of next year — a little later than the original plan of first half 2014. Hopefully there won’t be any more delays, as we’d quite like to see the production line flowing and the mammoth prices of those gorgeous curved sets come down a little.

Remember those “Fortaleza” AR glasses we saw in a leaked Microsoft document back when the Xbox One was still the Xbox 720? It looks like those might actually be a thing, if a patent application from Redmond is any indication. It touts the idea of “multiplayer gaming with a head-mounted display,” claiming the device could receive voice commands, track your eyes, calculate depth and recognize the faces of fellow players. All that would be in the rather narrow service of letting you invite others and accept invitations to a game through strictly visual means, though. That makes it similar to another recent Microsoft patent we saw for augmenting live events with AR, since the emphasis is on a specific usage rather than the eyewear itself. We might even see an application some day for actual gaming on such a device, but meanwhile, check after the break for more images.

Remember that China Labor Watch report we recently covered? After digging further into the document, 9to5Mac’s unearthed more possible evidence about that often leaked, low-cost plastic-clad iPhone. The introduction states:

Its assembled products include iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, and low-priced plastic iPhones.

Today’s work is to paste protective film on the iPhone’s plastic back cover to prevent it from being scratched on assembly lines. This iPhone model with a plastic cover will soon be released on the market by Apple. […] The new cell phone has not yet been put into mass production, so quantity is not as important.

Of course, there’s no definitive proof that Apple will be launching a more affordable iPhone made of polycarbonate — after all the company might just be testing prototypes that are not destined to market. Still, the information in this report sure gives all these recent iPhone rumors a lot more merit.

Apple has been granted a new patent related to camera tech by the USPTO today (via AppleInsider), which uses three different sensors and three different lenses to improve color capture accuracy and image resolution for photos shot with an iPhone or other mobile device. The system is similar to the two sensor Apple patent around mobile cameras the company applied for recently, but solves a different kind of imaging problem.

This sensor arrangement would improve upon most mobile camera designs by using two chorminance sensors, each of which is placed to one side of a luminance sensor. The luminance or light sensor would determine light levels of the image, while the chrominance sensors would be responsible for accurately capturing color data. Two chrominance sensors arranged in that manner would be able to compensate for blind spots in each other’s field of view, ensuring accurate color rendering for all scenes.

If color info is missing from any part of the scene, as can happen with traditional combined sensor arrangements, then overall photo resolution suffers too because of a lack of data, so this would improve not only color rendering but overall image quality. And the information drawn from the two chrominance sensors would also be useful in automatically correcting for distortion caused by the camera lens.

Last week, as mentioned, Apple patented dual-sensor imaging for iPhones, that would automatically combine two separate images to correct for flaws in either. Combined with this sensor design, it begins to be apparent that Apple is doing lots of work on the imaging side of its mobile offerings. The iPhone has long been held up as an example of the best cameras in smartphones, but competitors are starting to focus innovation on their own phone camera designs, the Lumia 1020 being probably the most recent memorable example.

Apple probably doesn’t have much to fear from Windows Phone devices, feature rich as they may be, but a significant camera improvement is a good way to attract customers with something new. Don’t expect changes like these to iPhone cameras coming in the next update this fall, but definitely consider this an area to watch over the next few years.

jellybean43

During today’s Google press event, the company unveiled its latest update for the Android mobile operating system. Android 4.3 adds a few new features, and was showcased right alongside the just announced Nexus 7 tablet.

One of those announced features is the ability to restrict app content at a user level on your Android device. Multi-user settings with Restricted Profiles will let you protect younger users in your family, for instance, a big bonus for parents worried their little one might purchase thousands of dollars worth of in-app content. The new Android update also adds Bluetooth Smart support.

But if you enjoy playing games on your Android device, OpenGL ES 3.0 is likely the most important feature of Android 4.3. The demo footage shown by Google–running on the Unity engine–showed off deeper shadows on the faces of characters. And for those J.J. Abrams fans among you, the addition of detailed lighting effects like lens flares.

Android 4.3 will also support 1080p video streaming, with Netflix being the first app to jump on the wagon. The update should roll out today to existing Nexus device owners, with other Android devices receiving the update in the near future.

DNP donate android's surplus computing power

If you’ve ever wanted to help out with a scientific research project but lack the PhD credentials, there’s now a much simpler way: all you need is a decent Android device and a new app called BOINC. Similar to projects such as Folding@Home for laptops and desktops, the app harnesses your mobile device’s extra CPU cycles to help crunch data for scientific studies. Don’t worry, it’ll only work if you’re on Wi-Fi, so it won’t eat up your data plan. You can choose which research endeavor to support from within BOINC, including Einstein@Home and FightAIDS@Home that seek to discover pulsars (stellar remnants) and AIDS treatment, respectively. The app, which you can install from Google Play, was designed to be as unobtrusive as possible and will work as long as you’re running Android 2.3 or higher. Generous (and envious) iOS users, sit tight — the developer is mulling over the possibility of creating an iOS app next.

“Anything you can do, I can do cheaper,” says the Tokyo Institute of Technology while jabbing a rude elbow in the ribs of Intuitive Surgical. The Japanese institute is showing off IBIS, a surgical robot that is expected to cost between a third and a tenth of the $2 million it takes to buy one of Intuitive’s da Vinci droids. Unlike its electrically-powered American rival, IBIS is pneumatic, making it significantly cheaper and able to provide force feedback to surgeons when the arms touch something. The engineers behind the ‘bot are hoping to produce a practical version within the next five years, and we’re already thinking about inviting both machines along for a fight at Expand 2020. In the meantime, you can catch IBIS in action in the video after the break.

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