Samsung VR devices and high-tech cameras
Bite-sized news, views and updates from the global tech industry. Edited by Ruraidh Conlon O’Reilly.
EYE ON SAMSUNG
South Korean giant Samsung has one of the broadest footprints in consumer electronics today, from flat-screen TVs to fridges and dishwashers. The breadth of its range is nicely illustrated by the opportunity to test some of its latest gadgets, amounting to a state-of-play for Samsung in early 2017.
Thankfully we’re talking VR devices and high-tech cameras here, not washing machines. First up is the company’s latest Galaxy A5 smartphone handset. Pitched at the mid-range of the market, in the hand and in intensive day-to-day use it’s hard to distinguish it from its top-dollar equivalent.
The specs are there though: 5.2-inch 1920×1080 display, 16MP camera, octa-core CPU and that modern miracle, the reversible USB type-C connector. Fast and responsive, there is very little it can’t do for business or personal use.
For a little more firepower, however, we switch to the Galaxy S7. It looks and feels remarkably similar, but the move is necessary in order to fire up the Gear VR headset. Powered by Oculus, makers of the industry-leading Rift, the Gear VR is a pair of goggles that cradles the S7 before one’s eyes and shuts out all other light.
The effect is a surprisingly effective virtual reality experience, cleverly executed: virtual rollercoasters cause queasiness, Star Wars escapades fulfil childhood fantasies and Lewis Hamilton laps the Catalunya circuit with you on board. Navigation, via buttons and a touchpad on the side of the headset, is intuitive and the onboard sound sufficient.
Drawbacks? It’s not always easy to find what you’re looking for, the amount of content is far from limitless, and the sheer immersion of the experience distracts one from noticing that much of the content is quite pixelated. But it’s an achievement not to be sniffed at, and the technology will only improve in months and years to come.
Meanwhile, the Samsung Gear 360 unlocks a whole world of marketing and communications opportunities. Here is a 360° digital camera that captures 180° vertically and horizontally via two lenses.
Recording in 25.9MP and 3840×1920, this sci-fi eyeball sits atop a clever tripod and beams back Bluetoothed video that is crystal-clear and easily used.
Portable and particularly useful for social media content generation and conferences, a trial run suggests that best results are to be had when it’s positioned at eye-level. It’s a clever and user-friendly addition to a marketer’s toolkit – in a lineup that combines refinement and innovation.
FIT TO SLEEP
Wearables-maker Fitbit has introduced its new Alta HR, dubbed the world’s slimmest continuous heart-rate wristband. It comes with Sleep Stages and Sleep Insights functionality that examines heart rate variability to estimate how much time is spent in light, deep and REM sleep.
The device is 25% slimmer than the Fitbit Charge and is available since April.
UPDATE TO CREATE
Early April saw the latest free revision to Windows 10, dubbed the Creators Update. Extensively trialled on the Windows Insider Program, the focus is on 3D, VR and gaming functionality, as well as the usual under-the-bonnet improvements to improve and strengthen the platform.
Known to techies as Redstone 2, it’s the latest in an update strategy that will see Windows 10 updated in twice-yearly chunks, rather than introducing a new operating system every few years. The next is speculated to arrive around November.
SELFIES TAKE OFF
The world’s first flying selfie stick has launched, with prices starting from €259. The AirSelfie is a pocket-sized flying camera with a maximum altitude of 66 feet.
Its built-in wi-fi and 5MP camera connect to most smartphones, beaming back still and video images.
Originally a Kickstarter project, the drone-like gadget is controlled by iOS or Android app and will be available from May.
TV DEBUT FOR AMAZON ALEXA
Consumer electronics giant Amazon’s latest Fire TV Stick arrived in early April, promising better performance at a £39.99 price point. It now has Alexa Voice Remote, allowing users to control the device through voice commands – searching and typing were major drawbacks of the previous-generation Fire TV Stick, which could be a frustrating user experience when used without a Bluetooth keyboard.
The new device is 30% faster, has 8GB storage and 1GB of memory, and again promises full HD and apps such as Netflix.
Jen Carey’s Rampunctious – The Game of Terrible Puns – is a hit on Kickstarter this month, well exceeding its €10,000 target and gaining notice on social media.
Elsewhere, Garibaldi, billed as the world’s thinnest denim watch, is firmly oversubscribed with plenty of time left to get on board.
In Cork, Circus Factory are raising funds to prepare their new training space and a goal of €3,400 will boost the facility’s heat, insulation and aerial training functionality.