CES 2016: Google & Lenovo Selling 3D eyed very smartphone & Oculus Rift Update

CES 2016 Google & Lenovo Selling 3D eyed 2016 images

CES 2016 Google & Lenovo Selling 3D eyed 2016 imagesIt’s heading into Day 3 of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2016), and as expected, there’re plenty of new gadgets to make any tech geek giddy with excitement.

As we reported earlier in the week, Virtual Reality is a big thing this year, and Oculus founder, Palmer Luckey, was quick to defend the rather pricey Rift virtual reality headset ($599). Attempting to do it cheaper would have been a mistake, in his opinion, and quality would have suffered as a result. “People will always come out against any price point,” Luckey said.

Facebook-owned Oculus announced at CES Wednesday that the Rift is going to start selling for $599 in March. For that price, consumers will get the headset itself as well as a positional tracking sensor, an Xbox game controller and an Oculus remote control.

Oculus will sell the Rift on its website and ship it to 20 countries, including the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and much of Western Europe. In April, it will start selling the device “in limited locations at select retailers,” according to the Oculus blog.

The high price tag immediately caused a backlash amongst VR enthusiasts online, with many complaining that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey previously said that the price will be in the same ballpark as the pre-release version the company had been selling to developers. That version, dubbed the DK1, was being sold for $350.

However, Luckey defended the higher price when talking to Variety, saying that the company wouldn’t have been able to ship the device with comparable display technology for less. “We are not making money on the Rift,” he added. And if Oculus had decided for a cheaper headset, it would have risked turning people off VR altogether, he argued.

Luckey also said that the Rift’s price itself won’t actually be the biggest barrier to entry for many consumers. “For most people, it’s the cost of the PC,” he said. The Rift requires a high-powered gaming PC, which will force many consumers to upgrade. Oculus has partnered with select computer makers to bundle Rift-ready PC with the headset itself, with prices starting at $1500.

Oculus executives have long said that gamers will be the first ones to buy the Rift. Luckey compared the Rift to Sony’s PS3 game console Wednesday, which also initially sold for around $600, only to come down in price over time.

Oculus Studios head Jason Rubin went on to argue that his company already has a solution in place for more price-conscious consumers. “We have an answer for that. It’s called Gear VR,” he said, referring to the mobile VR headset that Oculus launched together with Samsung late last year.

ces 2016 google lenovo 3d smartphone gadgets imagesNow’s here’s a breakdown of Thursday’s CES 2016 action:

7:45 p.m.

Google and Lenovo said Thursday that they would begin selling a smartphone that can see in distances and can do things like measuring the height of your ceiling or the area inside of a room simply by touching a few points on the screen when pointing its cameras up and down.

A culmination of Google’s Project Tango, the device would be sold globally for under $500 and have a screen under 6.5 inches diagonally. Test devices have been in the shape of a small tablet that executives said was too large for consumers to use easily.

In a demo of the capabilities of such phones, executives demonstrated how to play a virtual game of Jenga on a real coffee table, and they demonstrated how virtual pets could react to objects in the real world when caught in the phone’s gaze. One app also appeared to place virtual furniture and appliances in a room measured by the device to see if they would fit.

The companies also put out a call for developers to apply to an app incubator by mid-February with the promise the apps could come pre-installed in the device when it goes on sale.

6:30 p.m.

A company based in Santa Cruz, California, says it obtained a temporary restraining order against a Chinese firm for copying its Onewheel electric hoverboard.

Future Motion Inc. had U.S. marshals seize the company’s assets and marketing materials from the floor of the CES gadget show in Las Vegas on Thursday.

Future Motion accused Changzhou First International Trade Co. of patent infringement and obtained the order late Wednesday. Marshals accompanied Future Motion lawyers in the seizure of Changzhou’s “Surfing Electric Scooter.”

Future Motion lead attorney Shawn Kolitch says the Chinese company’s product was identical to the Onewheel, including a reversible light system that glows different colors depending on the direction of travel.

5:15 p.m.

Ohio-based app developer Krush says it’s made mobile video chatting flasher-free. Its speed-dating app, Heystax, lets perfect strangers to chat for 20 seconds and decide, in that time, if they want to chat more.

But keep that camera on your face. Point the camera anywhere else — ahem, downward, for example — and the screen will go dark for the person on the other end. The company plans to release the app in time for Valentines Day.

Company co-founder and CFO Brian Faust said at the annual CES gadget show in Las Vegas that the technology is already part of its game “Flinch” where a person can challenge friends and strangers to a staring contest.

4:30 p.m.

A famous name in mobile phones is going away. Lenovo, which bought the Motorola phone business from Google in 2014, is phasing out the Motorola brand for its phones.

Motorola is widely credited as the first company to produce a mobile phone, and it was a leading brand a decade ago. But it struggled to keep up with newer smartphone makers and, after splitting into companies, saw its mobile phone business acquired by Google in 2012. Google then sold the business to Lenovo two years later.

CNET first reported Lenovo’s decision. A Motorola representative confirmed Thursday that Lenovo will still use the name “Motorola Mobility” for the company’s phone division, but it will shift the branding of its phones and wearable devices to “Moto” and “Vibe.”

3:45 p.m.

Intel wants to tackle the problem of online harassment, starting with a series of “hackathons.”

The giant computer chip-maker is using this week’s CES gadget show in Las Vegas to kick off a campaign against online abuse of women, minorities and others who are frequently targeted for digital harassment. At an event Thursday, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich urged others in the tech and online media industries to help fight what he called a “pervasive” problem.

Intel got into hot water two years ago when it stopped advertising on a computer gaming website that had posted an essay criticizing gaming culture for being misogynistic and dominated by white males. The essay sparked a backlash from some gamers, who organized a campaign to pressure the site’s advertisers. Intel later apologized for pulling its ads, insisting it hadn’t meant to take sides in the controversy.

Since then, Krzanich has been outspoken on what many see as a related issue — diversity in the tech industry — by setting ambitious goals for his own company to hire more women and minorities.

Krzanich has enlisted support for the Hack Harassment campaign from the online publisher Vox Media and Recode, one of its sites, as well as from Lady Gaga‘s Born This Way Foundation. In their announcement, the sponsors didn’t describe any specific actions or solutions for the problem, but said they will host a series of hackathons and brainstorming sessions to develop new ways of fighting harassment.

3:00 p.m.

Some states think daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and FanDuel offer little more than thinly disguised sports gambling. Don’t tell that to big sports commissioners whose leagues are major partners of the sites.

At a sports-business panel at the annual CES gadget show on Thursday, Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred argued that when people complain the same players keep winning, they actually prove the contests are games of skill rather than chance. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, an outspoken proponent of making legal sports betting more widely available as a legal and regulated option, said the sites should be regulated at a federal level to make them fairer.

Neither Manfred nor Silver would say directly if they thought the sites constituted gambling, although Silver drew a comparison to the stock market, which he said is a gamble for many people. He also pointed to state lotteries as evidence that gambling is no longer considered a “moral sin.”

The NBA is directly involved with FanDuel while MLB baseball is partnered with DraftKings. The sites have come under intense scrutiny this year including in New York where the attorney general has ordered the sites to shut down.

2:15 p.m.

A little exercise not only does your body good, it can charge up your smartphone. Evanston, Illinois-based Ampy showed off its Ampy Move, a wearable battery pack that charges with up and down motion that makes a couple of magnets bounce up and down inside coils.

That’s an electricity-creating process invented by Nikola Tesla in the late 1800s. And on a small scale, it’s good for a quick boost of energy that can get you to the end of the day with power.

One hour of jogging while wearing the pack will get you roughly an hour of power for your phone (under normal use). The crowd-funded company has been selling them for $99. Director of marketing Ethan Krupp says a new product is in the works that is slimmer, more efficient and has more indicator lights that give you a better sense that even 15 minutes of bouncing is creating some juice.

12:00 p.m.

Would you trust Cortana to keep an eye on your housemate, or your kid?

Microsoft is promoting its voice-activated digital assistant, which is built into its Windows 10 software, as a user-friendly controller for Internet-connected appliances and home systems. (Apple has made its Siri program work with home systems in a similar way.) Microsoft showed how Cortana works with Samsung “smart” appliances during an event Thursday at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas.

In the demonstration, a Microsoft presenter asked Cortana to let him know when a Samsung washing machine would be finished with its laundry cycle. Then he showed how Cortana could chart appliance use by different individuals in the house, assuming each person carries a small keychain sensor that lets a smart home system track their movement.

The presenter asked how many hours a fictional boy named “Billy” spent watching TV during the afternoon when he was home alone after school. After showing the answer in a bar graph, Cortana also was able to report how many times “Billy” opened the refrigerator door — and how many minutes the door was left open each time.

It sounds like “Billy” needs to buckle down and do his homework.

11:30 a.m.

If you thought wireless charging pads were just giving your phone power, you might be surprised to learn they’re also communicating with your phone.

Low bandwidth data is going back and forth at hundreds of bits per second, and that can make it possible for the pad to identify you.

That means cars with wireless charging pads in them can access personal preferences like seat and mirror position and favorite radio stations, says John Perzow, vice president of market development for the Wireless Power Consortium, which is behind the Qi wireless charging standard.

Existing equipment could enable such functions with a software update, he says.

10:30 a.m.

Thomas Serval’s dentist called him a bad father when his then 7-year-old refused to brush her teeth. So he and his dentist made teeth-brushing fun — almost too much fun.

Serval’s company Kolibree made a toothbrush into a video game controller kids can use to make rabbits race and pirates plunder in games on a smartphone.

He says his company studied as many as 50 kids in a dentist office to see how they used his toothbrush versus a regular one. The kids brushed for more than two minutes on average with his brush and game combo, and he tweaked the product based on what he learned. The games themselves now last a little less than two minutes and appear to keep an avid brusher from playing more than three times a day.

There’s no price tag, yet, for the kid version of the toothbrush, which should be available by April. The adult version, which looks almost identical but has a shorter battery life, sells for $149.

9:30 a.m.

No matter how many cameras, lasers and radar sensors a car has, it will still need super-detailed road maps to drive by itself. Here, a German company owned by Audi, BMW and Mercedes, and Mobileye out of Israel are making the maps, and both will rely on data gathered by cameras and other sensors that are showing up in cars today.

Mobileye, General Motors and Volkswagen announced deals this week to start gathering the data. GM vehicles with forward-facing cameras will start providing it later this year through the OnStar system while VW has plans to send data in 2018. Eventually, Mobileye hopes to get the rest of the auto industry on board with crowd-sourced data to make the mapping accurate to within a few centimeters.

Google and other companies are working on sensors that can read lane lines and monitor other cars and pedestrians. But cameras can’t see in low sunlight and bad weather and radar and laser have limitations.

Here is using data from other cars as well as truck fleets and roadside sensors to build its map. The company announced basic mapping of North America and Western Europe (topography, the number of lanes and their width, etc.) and is working to make detailed maps of the entire highway network in both places by 2018. The detailed maps rely on car sensors and computers that record the distance from fixed roadside landmarks such as signs.

“The detailed map allows you to see beyond sensing,” said Amnon Shashua, chief technical officer and chairman of Mobileye. “Road landmarks resolve ambiguity in sensing.”

Eventually, the map computers will record the actual speed and behavior of cars to guide autonomous vehicles in traffic, said Alex Mangan, Here’s product marketing manager. “Building a map at this scale with this level of detail, it takes time,” he said. “This is a self-maintaining map.”

8:30 a.m.

Segway wants its next scooter to scoot to you.

The company, which pioneered the notion of zooming about town perched on two wheels long before the “hoverboard” craze, showed off a motorized scooter equipped with a pair of blinking eyes. The scooter — apparently dubbed either “Segway Robot” or the Segway Advanced Personal Robot, according to the company’s site — should be able to see you and its surroundings even in the dark, while filming everything.

The company demonstrated Wednesday how the scooter can respond to voice commands while following closely behind you, recording video as it goes. Or you can send it off on its own path, avoiding obstacles along the way.

The company says its robot will travel more than 18 miles on a single charge at a speed of up to 11 miles per hour and weigh a little more than 30 pounds. Segway, which is working with Intel on the project, expects its prototype to be a reality by early 2017, perhaps just in time for the next CES.

 Intel CEO Brian Krzanich says the robot could have industrial and commercial uses, including carrying home groceries home from a supermarket run.