Google kicking off $100K Project Ara developer challenge to help fuel development

Google Project Ara ATAP

It was day 2 of the Project Ara developers’ conference, taking place at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. After announcing yesterday that the first Project Ara “gray phone” will launch in January of 2015 for $50, Paul Eremenko, the project’s lead, once again took the stage to tell the crowd of more than 200 developers about an upcoming contest to help fuel Ara’s modular development.

The carrot comes in the form of a $100,000 grand prize and will be given to one lucky developer who comes up with the best module — judged on novelty, functionality, elegance, quality, impact, and commercialization potential — that can be employed in daily use. Two runner ups will be receiving all-expense paid trips for up to 3 people to the next Project Ara devcon and will be guaranteed hardware for their project.

After signing a hardware loan agreement, developers will need to submit descriptions of their module in order to be given a free package consisting of a Unipro bridge and filed-programmable gate arrays courtesy of Toshiba. Devs will need to come up with a functional form factor module (following the MDK’s guidelines), built around the prototype hardware. They will also be expected to create their own drivers and apps necessary for testing.

Following Google ATAP’s tight scheduling, the challenge will officially kick off in May (at which time Google will make available around 100-200 units of the protoype hardware to devs), drawing to a close in mid- September. This means there’s little time for prep work, but as Eremenko mentioned during an interview, “time pressure yields higher quality innovation.”

[TechNewsWorld]

YouTube update brings live streams to the Chromecast [DOWNLOAD]

YouTube app Chromecast listing

Chalk another one down the for Chromecast. Google’s video streaming accessory is getting a little more functionality today after a new update to the YouTube app finally brings live video streams to the tiny dongle  (heh, heh… dongle).

Previously, users could only ‘cast live streams to the Chromecast through the web interface (and control through the app), hardly convenient unless you had a laptop handy. With the latest update (5.6.31), you can now use the one device you always have on you: your smartphone.

Grab the update — which is rolling out in stages — from the Google Play link below, or download here for manual installation. Happy casting!

Download/update on Google Play: YouTube | via XDA

Sorry, Google Fiber wont be coming to New York anytime soon

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Earlier today, folks living near the Big Apple were excited at the prospect that they could soon become Google Fiber’s newest test market. This was after a Google Fiber job posting was discovered in New York, suggesting the high-speed internet service would soon find a new home. But, in a statement to Ars Technica, a Google spokesperson is here to quickly shoot down your hopes of buffer-free 4K video streaming.

“Don’t read into the job listing. We’ve had a full team of folks working on Fiber in the New York office (and other locations around the world) for years. We don’t currently have any plans to bring Google Fiber to New York. We’re entirely focused on building out our networks in Kansas City, Austin, and Provo, and on exploring the possibility of bringing Fiber to the 34 locations we announced in February.”

Google is a very large company, with many branches throughout the US (and the world). While they don’t currently have plans to bring Fiber to New York, the good news is that they are hiring, and Google Fiber is, in fact, growing. I’m sure we’ll all see Google Fiber come to our areas at some point in our lifetimes. Dream on, Phandroids.

Google posts Q1 2014 earnings with a $15.4 billion in revenue

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Google has their hands in just about everything these days. Whether it’s robots, flying drones, or 3D mapping smartphones — it’s clear Google isn’t content with being only your default search engine. The internet search giant revealed their Q1 2014 earnings, raking in $15.4 billion in revenue, a 19% increase over the previous year’s $12.95 billion.

Google’s site revenues saw an increase of 21% over the previous year, hitting $10.47 billion. Still, Google managed to miss analyst estimates, resulting in a 5% drop in stocks following their earnings report. For more details on Google’s financial performance for the first quarter of 2014, hit up their Investor Relations page below.

[Google]

Google details the crazy 3D mapping tech behind Google Camera’s new Lens Blur effect

Google Camera Lens Blur

Lens blur effects seem to be the latest trend in smartphone cameras. An attempt at simulating larger DLSR cameras with their big lenses and apertures, smartphones like the HTC One M8 or Samsung Galaxy S5 are now using a mixture of software and hardware to help create that soft depth of field, otherwise known as “bokeh.”

For the One M8, HTC achieves a shallow depth of field by using their “Duo Camera” system: 2 cameras that work like the human eye that help the phone distinguish what’s near and far, allowing users to go back into a photo and refocus as necessary. As we mentioned in our review, the feature seems to be hit or miss, rarely working out the way it would in a larger SLR.

With Samsung, their implementation is a bit different for the Galaxy S5 in a feature they call “selective focus.” The Gs5 camera quickly focuses close, then far, allowing the user to go back and refocus where they’d like, creating extra bokeh for a professional look. Again, just as we saw with HTC, the results are a mixed bag.

In the newly released Google Camera app (now available on Google Play), we now see Google taking a stab at the DoF issue, albeit approaching it a bit different from what we’re seeing with HTC or Samsung. Once again, it’s a combination of hardware and software working together for a feature they call Lens Blur. When taking a picture using Lens Blur, the user simply sweeps their camera up from the subject, somehow communicating back to the phone what’s near and far. To help detail exactly what the heck is going on behind the scenes, Google detailed everything in a blog post.

Google Camera Lens Blur 3D Mapping

Apparently, Lens Blur uses much the same 3D mapping technology Google already uses for Google Maps Photo Tour and Google Earth — only the algorithm is shrunken down for your smartphone. When sweeping the camera up, your smartphone is taking a whole bunch of pictures, and Lens Blur uses an algorithm to convert that information into a 3D model. Lens Blur then estimates depth, as shown in the black and white image (above), by triangulating the position of the subject in relation to the background. Pretty neat.

It’s all pretty damn technical, and it’s mind blowing the amount of work that goes into making something as seemingly “simple” as Lens Blur work on your mobile device (even if it’s essentially just the of by-product of a much bigger technology). You can read up more on the technicals behind Lens Blur by visiting the link below.

[Google Research Blog]

Chrome Remote Desktop exits beta, now available for download

chrome remote desktop thumb

Hot on the heels of the official Google Camera landing in the Play Store is the Chrome Remote Desktop app! It was found to be in beta a couple of weeks ago, though only a few select lucky users were able to get their sweaty palms on it. Thankfully it didn’t take long for Google’s engineers to finalize everything.

The app is simple in concept: it allows you to view an control any PC that has Google Chrome with the remote desktop extension installed. Setup is about two minutes and pain-free, and once you’re done you’ll be able to do anything you need on your computer from afar (whether it’s from your smartphone, a tablet or even another PC). Make no delay in grabbing it here if it’s something you’ve been waiting on.

Popular iOS app ‘Frontback’ finally launches for Android [VIDEO]

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Taking photos of yourself has become so popular that even the Oxford dictionary recognizes the word “selfie” as an official word. The selfie craze has helped create hundreds of photo apps, but only a few become popular. One such app is called “Frontback,” which has gained popularity in the last few months on iOS. Today the app was finally released for Android users. What’s all the buzz about?

Frontback is selfies, emoticons, and regular photos all in one. The app allows users to easily take a photo with both the front and rear cameras, then stitch them together. The result is a photo that shows what you’re looking at, and your reaction to it. You can easily tell a short story about what you are currently doing and feeling without saying a word. Instead of just sharing a photo of something crazy with the caption “OMG” you can share the photo and include your “OMG” face.

Frontback allows you to add friends and view their photos in a news feed along with curated “Staff Picks.” The photos can also be shared to your favorite social networks. If you’re looking for a fun way to share selfies this is the app for you. Download it below for free from the Google Play Store.

google-play-download-button

 

Gold LG G3 retail box leaks online, 2K display and more reportedly confirmed as well

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The LG G3 cometh. In case you needed further proof — other than leaked screenshots and benchmarks — our friends at The Verge have actually obtained a retail box for device, currently going by the codename “B2.” According to sources, the phone will come with the oft rumored super high resolution 2K display and, as the box suggests, a gold color variant will also be available (as is the trend these days).

While the box doesn’t give anything away as far as the design, The Verge was able to confirm that the LG G3 will look largely like the LG Isai FL that leaked yesterday (the front of the device with those tiny bezels). The Isai also showed a date of May 1st on its display, which could could be a hint to a possible announcement date. New rumors suggest LG could begin mass producing their own chipsets as early as this quarter for inclusion in their handsets, but we think the G3 might miss out on that timing.

With the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 already on sale, LG has little time to waste to bring their next flagship to market. Now we just have to wait until they can make the LG G3 official, though we expect more leaks in the coming weeks.

[Korea Herald]

Official Google Camera app available for download in the Play Store [VIDEO]

google camera wm

Taking a quick stroll through Google’s applications on the Play Store this morning? You may have noticed that a newcomer has entered the fold, with an official Google Camera app being available to download at this very moment.

It’s a pretty clean camera app that gives you all the features you’ve come to expect from typical photo-snapping experiences, as well as some other unique things Google’s known for. The most notable is the addition of Photo Spheres, something Google implemented a long while ago but not many OEMs have incorporated into their own camera solutions.

Here’s what else you can expect from the app:

  • Photo Spheres for immersive 360º views
  • Lens Blur mode for SLR-like photos with shallow depth of field
  • Panorama mode with high resolution
  • 100% viewfinder for getting the maximum resolution from the sensor (no dropped pixels)
  • Updated UI that gets out of your way and is centered on an extra large capture button

And that’s just the start of it. We’re sure Google will be looking to add a lot more to the experience with updates over time, but for now be sure to head to the Google Play Store and dive in!

Note: Google says this will only work for those on Android 4.4 KitKat and higher, so don’t bother if you aren’t up to date.

Samsung Android Wear smart watch still on track for later this year

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To be quite honest, Samsung was the last name we thought we’d see on the list of manufacturers planning to bring smart watches powered by Android Wear. They seem fully vested in their Gear platform, which is now powered by Tizen, and they don’t seem to be slowing down with it with three of the line’s latest devices having launched last Friday.

Samsung still hasn’t shown anything on the Android Wear front, but reports suggest the South Korean company is still full-sail ahead on their plans to get the new smart watch out by the end of this year. They would join LG’s G Watch and the Motorola Moto 360 whenever that day eventually arrives.

We imagine Samsung will look to make this the smart watch that is compatible with all Android phones, opposed to the Gear line which is only officially compatible with select Galaxy devices. In slightly related news, Samsung also mentioned their first high-end Tizen-based smartphone would be out this summer, which should be an interesting dynamic in a business model that primarily revolves around Android.

Samsung would be one of the few manufacturers supporting multiple ecosystems, with their Windows Phone efforts being just as fresh as anything they’re doing over on the Android side. Samsung claims their goal is to diversify their offerings rather than completely ditch Android, but only time will tell if those motives are as true as they say.

[via Reuters]

Magnetic by Nature announced as coming to Ouya as an exclusive next month

As many of you have probably noticed, the Android-powered game console Ouya has been announcing a lot of exclusive titles over the past few months. While this is something that should have probably been happening when it originally was released, it's better later than never right? The newest game announced as an exclusive for Ouya is actually already on PC via Steam Greenlight and is called Magnetic By Nature.

Since it is already on PC through Steam, and doing very well I might add, the exclusive part is referring to the fact that it will only be available for the Ouya game console when talking about the Android platform in general. So what exactly is this new game all about? Magnetic By Nature is a pretty interesting game in the fact that all the visuals are in the style of art deco. This gives it a pretty interesting visual appearance, especially for a side-scrolling platformer type off game. Think of it as a more minimalistic style of visuals.

Magnetic by Nature is described by the developers as a platformer without the platforms. That means you'll be going through each level, playing it as you would any other platformer games, except you will have very few places to land safely (your character flies around). There is also a lot of physics mechanics in this game thanks to all the gravity/magnetism manipulation that you get to do.

Magnetic By Nature Features:

- Master Momentum: Propel yourself through fragmented civilizations filled with constant danger.
- Think It Through: Bend magnetic lines of force and journey through 120+ tricky levels.
- Beat the Best: Compete against the world on cross-platform leaderboards.
- Unlock SpeedRun+ Mode: Designed specifically for speedrunners, race through the game against the clock and showcase your score on the exclusive leaderboard. **
- Bonus Hell Zone: Think you’ve beat the game? Prepare to die!
- Attractive Audio: Soundtrack composed by CTA EMMY Award Winner Lance Montgomery.
- Controller Support: Support for controllers, mouse & keyboard, or keyboard only. **

There are two features in the above list, marked with **, that we are not 100% sure will make it into the Ouya version of Magnetic by Nature. They should be since the PC version won't be too different than this upcoming Ouya version.

Since Ouya will no longer be offering free trials of all the games available on the console, we don't know if there will be a free test version of Magnetic By Nature available when it is released as well as how much the full version will cost. As for an exact date on when the game will arrive, all we know is that it will hit the Ouya Marketplace in May 2014. We will, however, be doing an interview with someone from Tripleslash Studios shortly so hopefully we will find that information out.

Official Website: Magnetic By Nature


BMW’s new 4 Series gets even more confused with 2015 X4 crossover that thinks it’s a coupe

The BMW X4 is a baby brother to the company’s X6 “sports activity coupe,” and is supposed to combine crossover utility with coupe styling. Either that, or someone dropped a piano on an X3.

The post BMW’s new 4 Series gets even more confused with 2015 X4 crossover that thinks it’s a coupe appeared first on Digital Trends.

Configure Your System Settings on a Per-App Basis

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Do you ever like to make sure that certain device settings are enabled prior to entering a particular application? If you’re constantly streaming videos for example, it’s highly likely that you’re going to want to make sure that WiFi is enabled and your screen brightness is set high enough. What about when you open a mobile office suite? You probably don’t need WiFi to be enabled, but you’ll probably want to turn on Bluetooth to connect your external keyboard and/or mouse and you may even want to disable your screen timeout.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were an application that could automate your system settings for more easily than creating profiles in an app like Tasker? Now, thanks to App Config by XDA Forum Member aaro, you can easily define various system settings on a per-app basis.

The aptly titled App Config app does exactly as its name suggests and lets you configure settings on a per-app basis. When you first launch the app, you are greeted by a list of all currently installed applications. Clicking on any app then takes you to a menu where you can modify various system settings. There, you are allowed to change your screen’s brightness and orientation, sleep timeout, and you can toggle mobile data, WiFi, and Bluetooth. The app also creates a persistent notification, which when clicked, launches the configuration page for your currently running app.

App Config is an immensely useful app, which would be well at home in any power user’s arsenal. Head over to the application thread to get started.


Jeep’s Renegade sounds tough, but it looks a little more on the cute and scrappy side

The 2015 Jeep Renegade is an Italian in American clothing, and it promises to be the toughest little SUV in its class. Now, if they’ll just wrap the Grand Cherokee in Alfa Romeo’s design…

The post Jeep’s Renegade sounds tough, but it looks a little more on the cute and scrappy side appeared first on Digital Trends.

Has the Galaxy S5 fulfilled your expectations?

Since the Samsung Galaxy S5 was presented at the Mobile World Congress last month, having been preceded by a lot of hype, the expectant masses were unfortunately hugely let down. We, however, found the Galaxy S5 to actually be quite good if you forget the mishmash of pre-release. But what do you the people who actually bought it think of their new smartphone?

galaxys5 happy sad© Samsung, ArtFamily, Shutterstock, AndroidPIT

(This is a preview – click here to read the entire entry.)


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