Apple’s rumored PrimeSense buy may open Siri’s eyes


Apple’s rumored PrimeSense buy may open Siri’s eyes

For years, technologies like Apple’s Siri and Google’s Google Now have been flying blind, awoken by the spoken command of their users. If Apple acquires PrimeSense, perceptual computing may finally open its eyes.

New Siri features in iOS 7 | The 10 worst Siri annoyances, and how to fix them

Reports from Israel’s Calcalist indicate that Apple is close to snapping up PrimeSense for $345 million or so–lower than what investors had hoped for, apparently. PrimeSense has not confirmed the talks, which reportedly could be concluded as early as this week.

Gamers know PrimeSense–the company was the eyes and ears behind the original Xbox, able to “see” users and put them inside the game itself. The original Xbox also recognizes spoken commands, which can be used to control the console itself (and, to a lesser extent, some games–although gamers haven’t warmed to in-game commands as readily.)

One possible reason for the relatively low valuation is that both Microsoft and Intel are each working on perceptual computing themselves. Rather than use a PrimeSense sensor, the Xbox One incorporates its own, smaller sensor, which has been improved and more deeply integrated into the Xbox OS. (The One launches this Friday.) Intel has also worked with third parties, including Creative, to integrate depth-sensing cameras like the kind PrimeSense helped develop into ultrabooks by the end of 2014. Another Israeli developer, PointGrab, has also showed off technology that uses the Webcam built into notebooks to recognize gestures.

For now, PrimeSense isn’t talking. “PrimeSense is the leading 3D technology in the market,” the company has said in a statement. “We are focused on building a prosperous company while bringing 3D sensing and Natural Interaction to the mass market in a variety of markets such as interactive living room and mobile devices. We do not comment on what any of our partners, customers or potential customers are doing and we do not relate to rumors or re-cycled rumors.”

The work by Microsoft, Intel, and PointGrab means that if the Apple-PrimeSense deal is completed, PC makers won’t necessarily have to wave gestures goodbye. But so far, it’s been the mobile platforms that have shown the most interest in perceptual computing.

The PrimeSense sensor inside the Xbox does point the way toward technologies that could prove useful in phones, including facial recognition, a technology that Google launched with the Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0. And unless users turn it off, the new Kinect camera is otherwise eternally vigilant, keeping its eyes and ears cocked for new commands.

Phones haven’t gone quite so far, primarily limited by concerns about limiting their battery life. But Apple has already begun leaning toward always-on sensing. Apple’s new M7 sensor chip within the iPhone 5S aggregates information from the in-phone gyroscope, compass, and accelerator–and as the MIT Technology Review notes–is forever collecting data. Apple is also reportedly installing sensors within its stores to track how shoppers move–and over which products they linger.

Meanwhile, Google designed the Moto X smartphone to constantly listen for spoken commands, also with a dedicated chip. For now, however, Apple’s Siri needs a bit of prompting to wake up.

That could change. Integrating PrimeSense wouldn’t mean that tomorrow’s iPhone would integrate an always-on camera. But with a battery life that already exceeds eleven hours, phones like the iPhone 5S can spare a few milliwatts–especially if they’re smart enough to turn the camera off when it’s inside your pocket.

As of now, there’s no indication that an iWatch or an Apple version of Google Glass is in the works, although Apple has registered the trademark for iSight. Nevertheless, giving Apple eyes and ears into your world suggests some intriguing possibilities. For now, however, they’re all the subject of speculation–which is sometimes just as fun as an actual product.

What to do if your Mac is stolen, and how to make sure you can locate it if it is


What to do if your Mac is stolen, and how to make sure you can locate it if it is

What if Find My Mac doesn’t locate my Mac?

If the service can’t locate your Mac, you still have the option of playing a sound, remotely locking the computer, or remotely erasing it, but these actions won’t take effect until the Mac connects to the Internet. To receive an email notification when your Mac does come online again, select the Notify me when found checkbox.

Indie high street iPod retail chain revealed


Indie high street iPod retail chain revealed

A company which hopes to become the first UK chain of dedicated iPod and accessory stores will open its first branch on November 21.

PopXpress revealed its first location at London’s Liverpool Street this morning. The company hopes to have a dozen such stores open by the end of 2006.

Jonathan Cole, CEO of popXpress said: “We have been planning the rollout for over a year and our plan is to have a second London West End store open before Christmas and twelve more stores nationwide by the end of 2006.”
 
The first location is set across three floors. The store will carry Apple’s full iPod range, accessories and an array of third party products.

popXpress has also commissioned a range of luxury peripherals, including gold and silver-plated iPod nano’s and lanyards.

Apple updates Intel Mac firmware


Apple updates Intel Mac firmware

Apple has released new firmware updates for Intel Macs.

Three versions of the update are available: one each for the Intel iMac, MacBook Pro and Mac mini, all raise the computer firmware to version 1.0.1. All updates are just 2.8MB.

Apple says the means the Macs: “Now run on localised systems that use languages that read right to left.”

Editing and annotating images with Preview


Editing and annotating images with Preview

By now you’ve accumulated plenty of documents–music, movie, image, text, and PDF files–and at this point you may want to do something with those files beyond flinging them into folders. One of the best ways to get any such doing done is to double-click them. Try it and their default application opens. In the case of pictures and PDFs, that default application is Apple’s Preview.

As its name implies, Preview is designed to let you view documents. But it doesn’t have mystical all-seeing powers. Rather, it confines its talents to image and PDF files.

Preview’s ability to open image files is very broad. The application supports the major image formats–including those that bear the bmp, gif, jpeg, pict, png, and tiff extensions–as well as rarer file types. And it can export images to most major file types. In addition, you can use Preview to lightly edit these files. For instance, if you need to cut Cousin Jo-Jo out of a photo, you can use the Crop tool to do just that. You can also rotate images, adjust their color and size, annotate them, and select specific portions of them (everyone but Cousin Jo-Jo, for example).

Similarly, you’re not limited to viewing PDF files. You can combine multiple unprotected (meaning not locked by the document’s creator) PDF files into a single document; rearrange their page order; and annotate, crop, and sign PDFs.

Because Preview’s abilities go beyond the obvious ones, we have a fair bit of ground to cover. Consequently, we’ll concentrate on images this week, and In the next lesson we’ll turn our attention to Preview and PDFs.

Images go in and out

You have various ways to open images in Preview. The easiest is to double-click a compatible image file (or group of selected files). By default, it (they) will open in Preview. Alternatively, you can drag images to the Preview icon in the dock. Or within the Preview application, you can choose File > Open and navigate to the image you want to open.

Once an image is open, you can convert it. One avenue for doing so is to hold down the Option key and choose File > Save As. (The Save As command won’t appear if you don’t hold down Option.) In the sheet that appears, click the Format menu and choose a different format; your choices are JPEG, JPEG 2000 (a more recent JPEG standard that provides better compression than the original JPEG format did), OpenEXR (a high-dynamic-range image format), PDF, PNG, and TIFF. Unless you have a very good reason for using JPEG 2000 or OpenEXR, stick with JPEG or PNG. (If you’re unfamiliar with these image types and wonder why you might choose one or another, see my “20 more technical terms every Mac user should know.”)

If you have some objection to touching the Option key (and really, isn’t it time you got over that?), choose File > Export. You’ll see the exact same sheet with the same options in the Format pop-up menu.

Altering your images

Before converting your images, you may wish to muck with them. For instance, you may find that an image you’ve opened is rotated 90 degrees the wrong way. Or that darned Cousin Jo-Jo may have crept into the outer edge of an otherwise lovely family photo. Let’s now look at some ways you can use Preview to edit your images. To begin, choose View > Show Toolbar (if the toolbar isn’t already present). In addition, choose View > Show Edit Toolbar.

Rotate and flip: I occasionally prod you to memorize certain keyboard shortcuts. This is one such case. Although you could choose Tools > Rotate Right or Tools > Rotate Left, you’ll find it far easier to rotate images if you imprint the Command-R and Command-L commands, respectively, on your brain. (Regrettably one of these commands is not consistent with iPhoto’s Rotate command. In iPhoto you press Command-R to rotate counterclockwise and Command-Option-R to rotate clockwise.)

You can flip images, too. When you choose Tools > Flip Horizontal, the image flips around so that objects that were on the left are now on the right, and vice versa. If you choose Tools > Flip Vertical, the image appears upside-down and backward.

Crop: If you haven’t learned this trick by now, let me catch you up. You can greatly improve many images by cutting out extraneous or distracting material–the kid who expresses his displeasure at the camera by jamming out his tongue, or an element-choked screenshot that hampers the viewer’s ability to focus on the subject of the image. This is where cropping comes in. When you crop an image, you scissor out material you don’t want to see.

By default, the rectangle selection tool is the active option when you open an image. To crop an image, simply click and drag over the portion of the image that you want to keep. If you don’t capture the selection exactly right, just click and drag one of the eight handles (which appear as dots around the edges of the dotted selection border) to resize the selection. To impose the crop, choose Tools > Crop (or memorize and use the handy Command-K shortcut). Do this and you’ll be left with just the portion of the image that you selected.

About selection tools

You don’t have to use a rectangular selection tool, however. If you’ve exposed the toolbar, you’ll see five selection tools listed along the top-right of the toolbar: Rectangle, Elliptical, Lasso, Smart Lasso, and Instant Alpha. Elliptical is straightforward–you use this to create an oval or circular selection. (If you wish to force a perfect circle, hold down the Shift key while making your selection.) The other three selection tools require a bit more explanation.

A Lasso selection lets you draw a selection that exactly matches the contours of the object that you wish to select, much as you might trace around the edges of a magazine’s picture with a pencil or pen. But a Lasso selection isn’t complete until the two ends meet; you must end your selection where you began it.

Making a selection in this way can be challenging because a mouse or trackpad isn’t exactly a precision device. For this reason, Preview includes the other two selection tools–Smart Lasso and Instant Alpha.

When you choose Smart Lasso Preview presents you with a very broad drawing tool. The idea is to “paint” around the edge of the area that you want to select. Preview will then decide what you’re trying to select based on detectable edges. For instance, if you have an image of a tree against a blue sky and you outline the edges of the tree, there’s a good chance that the selection will include all of the tree but none of the sky. You can then crop or copy the selection.

Instant Alpha is even more clever. Again, Preview tries to guess what you mean to select, but this time it bases its assessment on nearby contiguous colors. For instance, suppose that I have an image of the Apple logo–the gray version–on a red background. If I click the Instant Alpha selection tool, click in the middle of that logo, and drag gradually to the right, increasing amounts of that logo will turn red (based on how close they are to the color I initially clicked) indicating that they’re selected. I can then crop the image so that only the logo shows. Or, I can copy it and choose File > New From Clipboard to place the selection in a new PNG document.

Adjusting exposure, color, and size

Although Preview has nowhere near the editing power of iPhoto, Aperture, or Photoshop, it does let you manipulate your images in important ways. The means for doing so are the Adjust Color and Adjust Size commands found in the Tools menu. (You’ll find shortcuts to these commands in the Edit toolbar.)

When you choose Adjust Color, you’ll see a palette similar to iPhoto’s editing pane, with controls for Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Saturation, Temperature, Tint, Sepia, and Sharpness, as well as Auto Levels and Reset All buttons. Someday we’ll talk in depth about adjusting images with such controls, but today is not that day. Play with the sliders, and you’ll get an idea of what they do.

Although you can reduce a file’s size by cropping it, occasionally you’ll want to keep every bit of the image but make the image smaller. That’s the purpose of the Adjust Size command. When you invoke it, a sheet appears where you can choose a new size for the currently active image. You can do this by entering values in the Width and Height fields measured in pixels, percent, inches, centimeters, millimeters, or points; or you can click the Fit Into pop-up menu and select a preset dimension (1024 by 768, for example). When you click the OK button, the image will be resized.

If you increase the size of your image (especially if you do it by a lot), the image is likely to become jagged. This happens because the image’s elements swell up and become blockier. So, while you can get away with small size increases, beware of taking giant steps.

About annotations

Finally, you can harken back to your grammar school days by doodling all over someone else’s work through the use of annotations. Preview lets you annotate images in several ways, as evidenced by these tools in the Edit toolbar–Rectangle, Oval, Line, Arrow, Text, Speech Bubble, and Thought Bubble. Just select the tool you want to use and drag it over your image. Once you do, the annotation will be selected and you can drag it to a new position. You can also change its shape by dragging one of its handles.

Tiny tip: The Speech and Thought bubble’s arrow (where the words apply) appears where you first click when you drag to create the bubble. So if you want it to point down and to the left–indicating that these words are coming from Cousin Jo-Jo’s lips rather than from Aunt Miffy’s–click with the cursor on Jo-Jo’s mouth and then drag up and to the right.

From the Colors menu to the right of these tools, you can choose a color for your annotation (and this affects both its outline and any text it may contain). You can increase or decrease its line width from the Line Attributes menu to the right of the Colors menu. And if you’d like to choose a different font or font size for annotations that contain text, click the Show Fonts button in the toolbar or choose Tools > Show Fonts (Command-T).

Before we close our textbooks, I’ll end with this annotations tip. You’ve slathered an image with annotations: Poor Cousin Jo-Jo has purple ovals covering his eyes, an arrow through his head, and a thought bubble that reads “I am STOOPID!!!” But in the tranquility of sober and mature reflection, you now regret these additions and would like to remove them.

To avoid the penance of selecting and deleting each one, choose Tools > Show Inspector (Command-I). A small Inspector window will appear and, with luck, will show you a list of the annotations you’ve added. (Select the Annotations tab in this window if you don’t see them.) To remove all of the annotations, press Command-A and then press the Mac’s Delete button. At once they’ll disappear. Alternatively you can press and hold the Command key and then select just the annotations that you wish to remove. As you select an annotation in the list, its drag handles will appear so you can see which annotation you’re dealing with.

Next week: Preview and PDFs.

New Executive Producer Owen O'Brien Joins CCP: How Will Mirror's Edge Reflect on EVE: Valkyrie? | EVE:Valkyrie


New Executive Producer Owen O’Brien Joins CCP: How Will Mirror’s Edge Reflect on EVE: Valkyrie? | EVE:Valkyrie

Last week, Jon “CCP Unifex” Lander told us they didn’t have a spare Executive Producer laying around at CCP. Now, it seems, they have. Another big signing for the developers of EVE Online and DUST 514.

As Icelandic sci-fi MMO developers CCP Games continue to ride the wave of opportunity brought about by the industry impact of EVE: Valkyrie, their virtual reality tech demo turned hotly anticipated space-sim now has a new supremo overseeing the project.

Owen O’Brien was announced today as the new Executive Producer of EVE: Valkyrie where he will be using his experience at DICE, developers of the Mirror’s Edge and Battlefield franchises. O’Brien’s most notable achievement was as Senior Producer of the under-appreciated but well regarded parkour-centric Mirror’s Edge.

Reflecting on Past Lessons

This could be a very canny appointment, with Mirror’s Edge sharing many of the same values as the pioneering and cutting-edge opportunity that EVE: Valkyrie presents.

O’Brien has previously explained what Mirror’s Edge, released in 2008, had been trying to achieve. DICE was already dominating the first-person shooter market with Battlefield and there was an intent to explore where else first-person gameplay could go. They wanted to redefine first-person genre.

The following quote, taken from an interview O’Brien did with MTV Multiplayer in 2008, shows they were trying hard to create a gaming experience that EVE: Valkyrie can already deliver with aplomb.

“We developed movement from the word go… It’s a very different feeling. It’s a very immediate, visceral experience. It is you. You’re there doing everything. You feel every impact. You feel when you’ve been shot. You get the vertigo, the dizziness.” – Owen O’Brien, Mirror’s Edge Senior Producer, 2008 

Despite the push for innovation and perhaps because of marketing pressures, Mirror’s Edge had a troubled launch and a lukewarm reception. However,  retrospectively it has come to be fondly regarded and a long-awaited sequel was finally announced by Electronic Arts at this years E3 expo. 

Unsurprisingly, O’Brien was endorsed by CCP’s other recent senior signing, former EA executive now CCP’s Senior Vice President, Sean Decker.

“I worked with Owen for many years at DICE. His experience bringing Mirror’s Edge to market will be invaluable as we work to make virtual reality an actual reality for gamers worldwide.” – Sean Decker, September 2013

Valkyries on the Tyne

In today’s press release, Owen O’Brien said,

“The opportunity to work with a focused, talented and passionate team at the forefront of game-changing technology is a dream scenario for me. But it’s not just about the technology. This was a project born out of a genuine passion for gaming, and that shows in what the team has already achieved.” – Owen O’Brien, newly appointed EVE: Valkyrie Executive Producer, September 2013

O’Brien will commence his role at CCP’s UK office in Newcastle, where temporary EVE: Valkyrie Executive Producer Jon Lander recently began establishing the Valkyrie project (as covered in this recent interview).

A spokesman for CCP Games confirmed to GameSkinny that Jon Lander will continue to be the wearer of many hats and “will be helping transition till near the end of the year,” after which he will be able to return to focusing his efforts on mobile development.

There has been much changing of the guard at CCP Games of late. There are interesting times ahead for the veteran MMO studio.

New MGS V: The Phantom Pain Online Details: "Countering Cheaters, Maps, Not Similar To CoD Games, Fan Feedbacks"


New MGS V: The Phantom Pain Online Details: “Countering Cheaters, Maps, Not Similar To CoD Games, Fan Feedbacks”

Last few weeks were tough one for both Hideo Kojima and Konami as the news about rift between the two parties made its way on to the internet. Now that the controversy seems to have died down, the focus of both parties has shifted to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Metal Gear Online. Today, Konami Los Angeles Studios via Twitter shared some interesting new details about Metal Gear Solid Online, what fans should expect from multiplayer portion of MGS V: The Phantom Pain, how devs are planning to counter cheaters, modes and many other things.

MGS V: The Phantom Pain

First and the more most thing that Konami clarified is the accusation that Metal Gear Online will play more like Call of Duty games. The studio confirmed that Metal Gear Online is never designed to be that way.

Fans feedback are given top priority for Metal Gear Online development, and many well known designers along with few fans of previous Metal Gear Online games are working on it.

Konami also talked about how the progression system of Metal Gear Online will work: “Balance and sense of fun throughout are paramount to a good multiplayer experience regardless of intent.”

Furthermore, Konami stated that development team has no plan to have a three team mode in Metal Gear Online, if gamers drop out of the match then game will continue.

Lastly about maps, Konami said all maps will be available in playable form in all available game modes. This is a clear indication that Metal Gear Solid Online won’t feature too many maps, however there will instead be multiple modes of play within them.

RIM warns Q1 earnings to be lower than expected


RIM warns Q1 earnings to be lower than expected

Research In Motion warned that its first-quarter smartphone shipments are likely to be lower than expected, cutting its earnings forecast for the quarter.

In March, RIM forecast earnings per share for the quarter ending May 28 in the range of US$1.47 to $1.55. It now expects earnings of $1.30 to $1.37.

The change is due to smartphone shipments that are now expected to be on the lower end of the 13.5 million to 14.5 million units that RIM thought it would sell, as well as a shift in sales toward low-end models.

The company now expects revenue to fall slightly below the range of $5.2 billion to $5.6 billion that it had predicted earlier.

RIM said shipments of the PlayBook, its first tablet, should be in line with its expectations. RIM has not quantified how many tablets it has sold or expects to sell.

The company will release its first-quarter earnings results on June 16.

RIM has been struggling to keep pace with newer smartphones such as the iPhone and those running Android, which have begun to chip away at RIM’s dominance of the enterprise market.

In after-hours trading late on Thursday, the company’s shares (Nasdaq: RIMM) were down $6.38 at $50.11.

Axiom Verge Gets Speedrun Mode | Axiom Verge


Axiom Verge Gets Speedrun Mode | Axiom Verge

Axiom Verge mode dedicated to speedruns announced.

Axiom Verge creator Tom Happ has made an announcement today that will make speedrunners very happy. Axiom Verge will have a dedicated speedrun mode. Axiom Verge is a Metroidvania style game that will be available on PS4, PS Vita, and PC. Axiom Verge is scheduled for launch sometime this year.

Axiom Verge seems that it will give every Metroid fan the 2D game they have been waiting for since Super Metroid; minus the Metroid universe. Axiom Verge will offer players new weapons and powerups as they explore a randomly generated world. Now all of this can be done with the newly announced “Speedrun Mode.” 

In a statement posted today Happ said:

“Speedrun Mode is just one of the features I’m adding to Axiom Verge to make it the ideal game for diehard fans of the genre. Axiom Verge has been a passion project of mine for a really long time, so it will be very exciting to experience it with people who share my love for those classic games.”

It appears that Happ has put a lot of effort into making a game that will leave a mark to remember on the current gen console. Axiom Verge will be an indie game to remember on the PS4. Happ as also explained that he has put a lot of time into making sure the game has the essentials making it an indie game to remember. To see his full post click here.

English Tales of Xillia Screenshots and Battle Videos | Tales of Xillia


English Tales of Xillia Screenshots and Battle Videos | Tales of Xillia

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All of this is nice, but when are we going to get a release date?

Namco Bandai put their first Tales of Xillia Character Focus post on Facebook yesterday, chock-full of screenshots of Millia and Jude. Along with these localized screenshots are two battle videos featuring the two characters, one of which can be seen above and the other just below.

This is the first in a series of Character Focus posts, which will arrive on Facebook once a month. This one is careful to note that Jude will be renamed Jyde in the German release of the game for cultural reasons.

More about the game will be revealed at this year’s Wondercon on March 29 in Anaheim, California. Tales of series producer Hideo Baba will be present to speak about Tales of Xillia and its release. Fans who take the time to cosplay as their favorite series characters will have the chance to participate in a group photo with Baba during the event. Get more information on the Tales of panel over on the Namco Bandai Facebook.

Check out some of the screenshots in this Character Focus below. Head on over to the official post to see more.