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JUST for Geeks

Oculus Rift Gets Release Window

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Oculus Rift Gets Release Window

Facebook-owned Oculus announces the shipping period of the final, consumer version its famous virtual reality headset, the Rift-- Q1 2016, with preorders to open later during 2015.

The final Rift headset builds on the latest "Crescent Bay" prototype, and promises improvement in both viewing and comfort through "highly refined industrial design" and "updated ergonomics." It should support both seated and standing use, and uses 360-degree positional tracking cameras to track head direction.

The Crescent Bay prototype also carries built-in headphones, which we expect will feature in the final headset.

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How to Add Touch to VR Games

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How to Add Touch to VR Games

Researchers at RICE University create a means for gamers to "feel" objects in a virtual world-- the Hands Omni, a glove with inflatable air bladders under each fingertips allowing for the creation of in-game touch effects.

The right-handed glove is designed to be unobtrusive, being wireless and, at 350g, fairly light. It can affect each finger, although the prototype triggers the ring and little fingers as one unit since, as the team puts it, “It’s not very often you pick something up with just your pinkie.”

"[Y]ou can hook this up to a video game and when you reach out and grab a virtual object, it feels like you’re actually grabbing that object,” researcher Thor Walker says.

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The Stove Gets Connected Smarts

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The Stove Gets Connected Smarts

No piece of kitchen equipment appears to be safe from the addition of app-powered connected smarts-- a startup called Meld presents a pair of devices providing customers with automatic and precise stove control.

The Meld system consist of a motor-powered smart knob (replaces existing stove knobs), a thermometer one clips onto pots or pans and an obligatory smartphone app tying the two together. Essentially, the user sets a desired temperature on the app before the thermometer and the knob work in tandem via Bluetooth connectivity to maintain said temperature.

The result? Perfect cooking, every time. Or so the company claims, at any rate.

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WSJ: Google Preps VR Android

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WSJ: Google Preps VR Android

The Wall Street Journal reports Google has "tens of engineers" working on an Android version designed for virtual reality applications, part of the search giant's plan to rival the Facebook-owned Oculus VR.

The VR Android will be freely distributed to headset OEMs, just as Android is for smartphones, tablets and wearable devices. Reportedly leading the development team is Clay Bavor, VP of product management and one of the people behind the cheap-as-free Google Cardboard VR headset, the WSJ adds.

One also has to keep in mind Google is a lead investor in Magic Leap, a mysterious startup working on augmented reality software.

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Valve Takes on VR

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Valve Takes on VR

Game developer turned retailer Valve confirms its virtual reality ambitions as it announces it will show off a previously unannounced "SteamVR" hardware system at the Games Developers Conference (GDC) 2015.

The GDC demos will also involve an updated version of the Steam Controller, as well as mysterious "new living room devices"-- perhaps meaning the company is working on own versions of the "Steam Machines" living room PC concept?

Either way, Steam Machines have been a long time coming. Valve first announced the initiative back in September 2013, with plans to "bring a variety of Steam gaming machines to market during 2014." The console-style PCs were meant to ship with the Steam Controller, but since that particular piece of hardware remains unfinished Valve pushed back the launch (or "release window") to 2015.

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Toy Bird Becomes Bionic Drone

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Toy Bird Becomes Bionic Drone

One of the more charming CES 2015 offerings brings to mind a childhood toy-- the Bionic Bird is a 21st century update on the mechanical toy bird, being an app-controlled flying drone created by the grandson of the creator of the original Tim Bird.

Initially funded back in November 2014 on Indiegogo, the Bionic Bird is described by its creators as nothing less than a "furtive drone." Like the mechanical bird toys of old it does little more than flap its wings to fly, if with the inclusion of battery power and remote control via Bluetooth, mobile device and companion iOS and Android app.

Taking care of charging duties is an egg-shaped "Turbo-Charge" accessory holding enough power to charge 10 flights lasting up to 8 minutes each.

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Connected Smarts Reach the Wallet

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Connected Smarts Reach the Wallet

StreetSmart suggests not even the humble money holder should be lacking in connected smarts as it debuts the SmartWallet-- supposedly the "world's smartest wallet," featuring built-in GPS locator and 1000mAh battery.

The GPS locator uses Bluetooth LE, and pairs with smartphones to prevent the loss of both devices. Should it get unpaired, the SmartWallet saves the GPS location it was last paired at before sending an alert on a companion SmartWallet app. If one lose their phone, a button on the wallet makes the device ring.

The app also helps one find the wallet, with direction range of around 15-45m.

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App Controls Reach the Coffee Maker

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App Controls Reach the Coffee Maker

The coffee maker is the next appliance to get smartphone app-based connectivity courtesy of Bruvelo, a machine claiming to be "simple smart, and do one thing-- extremely well."

The smartphone app and wifi connectivity allow users to decide exactly how the machine brews their coffee, with "Recipes" providing custom settings for temperature, ground-to-water ratio and steep time. The less obsessive of coffee drinkers can also stick to a trio of preconfigured "flavour profiles" (delicate, balanced or robust).

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Will.i.am Takes on Smartwatches

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Will.i.am Takes on Smartwatches

Black Eyed Peas singer and tech entrepreneur Will.i.am reveals his take on the smartwatch at Dreamforce 2014-- the PULS, a "smart cuff" his CE company, i.am+, has been working on for the past 2 years.

The PULS features a 2-inch curved touch display and, unlike most smartwatches, a SIM card slot, meaning it does not need to be tethered to a smartwatch in order to make calls, send emails and text messages or stream watches. In fact, Will.i.am insists "this is not a watch, by any means… This is a new type of communication."

At the presentation an AT&T executive also said the PULS "enabl[es] a millennial to fashionably tweet from her wrist while clubbing," possibly the first time such words have ever been put together in a statement.

As for technical details, the PULS features a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 16GB of onboard storage, 1GB RAM, GPS, pedometer, accelerometer and a battery that goes around the bracelet. It runs on an Android-based platform, and connectivity comes through wifi and 3G.

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