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Every new HoloLens video makes us want it more

HoloLens Demo

The future of virtual reality is exciting. Of that, there's no question. But augmented reality — the combination of the physical and digital worlds — is easily just as tantalizing, if not even more exciting. Devices like the upcoming Microsoft HoloLens mark the start of a major shift in the way the world computes. It won't happen overnight, of course, but scenes like the ones we've enjoyed in Microsoft's various HoloLens promo videos will ultimately become a reality in the future.

And with each new video — like the one Microsoft just released — we're reminded yet again of how badly we want that future to arrive.

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Zach Epstein

February 4th

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Windows 10 becomes an automatic download, even if you don’t want the upgrade

Stop Windows 10 Download

Microsoft will start forcing Windows 10 updates on machines that are eligible for the free upgrade as soon as this week. And you won’t be able to do much about it. Windows 10 is now a recommended update, which means it’ll download itself on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs and attempt to install.

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Chris Smith

February 3rd

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Report: Microsoft Is Buying Keyboard Maker Swiftkey

Swiftkey is the most innovative and interesting predictive keyboard maker in the business, and Microsoft is a software giant that’s trying to push its artificial intelligence cred a little higher. According to a report in the Financial Times, it’s a match made in heaven, to the tune of $250 million.

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Chris Mills

February 3rd

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Report: Microsoft Is Buying Keyboard Maker Swiftkey

Swiftkey is the most innovative and interesting predictive keyboard maker in the business, and Microsoft is a software giant that’s trying to push its artificial intelligence cred a little higher. According to a report in the Financial Times, it’s a match made in heaven, to the tune of $250 million.

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Chris Mills

February 3rd

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Microsoft purchases popular keyboard maker SwiftKey for $250 million

swiftkey-6-themes

The Financial Times is reporting that Microsoft has purchased popular third-party keyboard maker SwiftKey for $250 million. While SwiftKey is most known for their predictive keyboard, the acquisition is more of an artificial intelligence play for Microsoft.

While this deal could be seen as just the latest in a line of Microsoft purchases of popular apps, it is not. A source told the FT that, “There’s a war for talent in artificial intelligence…” A majority of the company’s 150 employees around the world are expected to join Microsoft Research. In 2014, Google purchased another UK based startup working on AI for £400m.

Over 300 million people use the Android and iOS app, but SwiftKey has yet to find a reliable business model. Initially, SwiftKey was a paid app before switching to a freemium model where users pay to customize and get different themes. There are still premium versions of the app, but most people make do with the free version. While $250 million is a large sum, many investors have said that the price is lower than they would have expected a few years ago.

As a sign that that is a more of a means to get AI talent, Microsoft recently ported their Windows Phone keyboard to iOS. It’s highly unlikely that the company needs more keyboard apps. Furthermore, the built-in iOS and Android keyboards have long ago integrated similar prediction and swiping features.

Whether Microsoft will continue to support SwiftKey is unknown. We will find out more details of the deal when it is officially announced later this week.


Filed under: Tech Industry Tagged: Acquisitions, alternative keyboards, Microsoft, SwiftKey

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Abner Li

February 3rd

Apple

Mac

Apple granted patent for detecting touch-free gestures at close-range, building on multi-touch

proximity

Apple was today granted a patent for detecting touch-free gestures at close range, the patent language suggesting that the approach could build on the capabilities of multi-touch and 3D touch to respond to fingers hovering close to an iPhone or iPad display, as well as use on keyboards and trackpads.

The patent describes using sensors similar to the proximity detectors used to disable accidental touch input on the iPhone screen when you’re holding the phone to your face during a call. Unlike longer-range gesture technologies like Kinect, the system would detect ‘hover events’ just above the surface of the screen …

In addition to detection of touching events, the detection of fingers, palms or other objects hovering near the touch panel is desirable because it can enable the computing system to perform certain functions without necessitating actual contact with the touch panel.

Apple notes that some functions could be activated by proximity alone, while others could act on a combination of touch and proximity – effectively expanding the capabilities of a multi-touch screen to include non-touch gestures.

The patent notes that the proximity sensors could offer the same pixel-level coverage as touch sensors, or the display could alternate touch sensor rows with proximity-detection rows. Alternatively, it could be employed more selectively, covering only part of the display.

The patent doesn’t limit itself to touchscreen devices: it also describes ways of using the technology for things like creating a virtual keyboard on a trackpad. Part of the patent also describes more mundane uses, such as replacing the existing proximity detector in today’s iPhones.

As always, we note that Apple patents literally thousands of things that never make their way into products, and its patents for touch-free technology date back many years. In this case, though, the company does at least have a demonstrated interest in gesture interfaces, acquiring Primesense – the company behind the gesture-detection technology used in Microsoft’s Kinect – back in 2013.

Via Patently Apple


Filed under: iOS Devices, Mac Tagged: 3D Touch, force touch, iPad, iPhone, keyboard, Kinect, Mac, Magic Trackpad, Microsoft, multi-touch, Patent, Proximity sensor, Trackpad

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Ben Lovejoy

February 2nd

Apple

Mac

Bill Gates chooses Beatles song “Two of us” to sum up his relationship with Steve Jobs

jobs-gates

On a BBC radio show where interviewees are asked to choose eight music tracks with special significance to them, Bill Gates yesterday selected the Beatles song “Two of us” as one of them, saying that it summed up his relationship with Steve Jobs. In the Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs, Gates said the two of them had a varied relationship.

Steve really is a singular person in the history of personal computing in terms of what he built at Apple. For some periods, we were completely allies working together – I wrote software for the original Apple II. Sometimes he would be very tough on you, sometimes he’d be very encouraging. He got really great work out of people.

“In the early years, the intensity had always been about the project, and so then [when] Steve got sick, it was far more mellow in terms of talking about our lives and our kids. Steve was an incredible genius, and I was more of an engineer than he was. But anyway, it was fun. It was more of a friendship that was reflective, although tragically then he couldn’t overcome the cancer and died.

In the wide-ranging interview, Gates also talks about his childhood, girls, cars, holidays, ruthlessness, charity and his wife Melinda.

Via the FT


Filed under: AAPL Company Tagged: Apple Inc, Bill Gates, Desert Island Discs, Microsoft, Steve Jobs

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Ben Lovejoy

February 1st

Apple

Mac

Microsoft Edge’s Private Mode May Actually Record Your Browsing

If you’ve been using Microsoft Edge and hoping that all your private browsing was actually, you know, private, then think again. Turns out that it may be possible to reconstruct the site history of the browser, whatever mode it’s in.

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Jamie Condliffe

February 1st

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Apple reportedly building secret research team to develop virtual and augmented reality tech

During this week’s earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook answered a question on virtual reality by saying “I don’t think VR is a niche…It’s really cool and has some interesting applications.” It looks like Cook’s statements have some background to them. According to a new Financial Times report, Apple had reportedly been prototyping VR headsets in the past under Steve Jobs in the mid-2000s, but the project was eventually abandoned once the technology was found to still be immature. With new acquisitions and a dedicated VR team, the effort is said to be once again a new focus.

Apple has been going on a hiring spree in the world of virtual reality as of 2013 with their acquisition of PrimeSense. Reportedly the VR/AR research unit at Apple has hundreds of staff from multiple previous acquisitions including past employees from Microsoft’s HoloLens team as well as Lytro.

With their latest acquisition reportedly being Flyby Media, a company that worked with Google in developing some of the 3D positioning software for Project Tango, it looks like Apple is reinvigorated to taking this new direction seriously.

This has been an interesting two-weeks behind Apple’s VR news as Doug Bowman, a top virtual and augmented reality researcher, was recently hired by Apple to help expedite the efforts for the platform. Although Apple’s Jony Ive told the New Yorker that the face was the “wrong place” to put technology, the secret research unit at Apple is said to have been building prototypes of possible headset configurations in the past several months.

In regards to the face being the wrong location for the technology, it’s worth noting that Apple was also hiring hardware engineers to work on display and projection systems for VR environments. Although consumer VR has relied on headsets in the past few years, there’s no reason pieces of these technologies can’t be brought to other environments that implement VR in smaller ways. A year ago Apple was also reported to have been developing a 3D iPhone display.

The report goes on to claim that Apple is moving foward by building out the secret VR/AR team at the company. Earlier this week, 9to5Mac’s Chance Miller opined about the state of VR and how Apple should increase its role in the space. Now it looks like that may actually be a reality. You can read the full report here.

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Filed under: iOS Devices, Tech Industry Tagged: Apple, AR, Augmented reality, Doug bowman, Flyby Media, iOS, Jonathan Ive, Lytro, Microsoft, Project Tango, Tim Cook, Virtual reality, vr

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Greg Barbosa

January 29th

Apple

Mac

How to stop Windows 10 from constantly bothering you about what’s bothering you

Turn Off Windows 10 Feedback App

Earlier this month, Microsoft unwittingly angered a significant portion of its user base by publishing frightening specific statistics about Windows 10 usage. The fact that Microsoft has access to this data wasn't much of a surprise, but the lack of tact continually amazes users who are begging the company to be more forthright about its data collection.

Microsoft wants to know what bugs you about Windows 10, but sadly, Microsoft can't even get that quite right.

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Jacob Siegal

January 23rd

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