It's alright if you've already forgotten about Project Soli - with all of the crazy futuristic stuff that the Google Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) team works on, it's easy to get confused. Essentially, Soli is a system that adapts radar-style techniques into tiny hardware in order to enable the tracking of hands and fingers (or anything else, really) which in turn allows software to recognize hand gestures with precision and accuracy that beats anything on the consumer market today. It's pretty cool - watch this video from last year's Google I/O for a crash course.
Fans of the burgeoning art of 360-degree short-form storytelling have probably been enamored by Google's Spotlight Stories, a series of videos designed to highlight the narrative potential of the VR format. The latest one is Pearl, a sort of extended animated music video about a man, his daughter, and the beat-up hatchback car that they share over about 20 years. The short is directed by Patrick Osbourne, and the original song "No Wrong Way Home" was written by Alexis Harte and JJ Weisler and performed by Nicki Bluhm and Kelley Stoltz.
Confession: as a web writer who has to constantly research new stories, keep an eye on social networks, stay in contact with my coworkers, and see if that jerk on eBay has outbid me for the LEGO T-rex from the Dino Defense HQ set, I often have dozens and dozens of Chrome tabs open on my desktop by the end of the day. That sort of wanton disregard for computer memory doesn't really translate over to mobile, where the single screen limits multitasking to a certain degree. But Google is going to enable my bad habits on Android phones and tablets soon: in the third developer preview of Android N, users can open Chrome windows side by side.
Mobile payments are often viewed as a replacement for cash and cards. Why carry layers of bills and plastic in your wallet when you can simply make purchases with your phone? But without universal acceptance, the reality is that there are places where swiping your phone isn't an option. Sometimes even a card won't do. You need cash. And what do you need to get cash from the ATM? A card. Great.
For Bank of America customers, that situation is about to change.
In addition to making phones, TVs, and refrigerators, Samsung builds some pretty decent audio devices. David reviewed the bulk of the Level series (Samsung's name for their audio line) and came away pretty impressed with their build quality and sound performance.
One of the members of the Level family, the Samsung Level Box Mini, is part of a special BOGO promotion today on Samsung's own website. It's simple, buy one Level Box Mini for $80, get another free. Admittedly, the price is higher on Samsung's site than on Amazon (where it is $50), but with the BOGO promotion the speakers come out to $40 a pop.
Android Auto is quite possibly shaping up to be the dark horse in Google's larger Android family. At I/O 2016, Google announced more new Android Auto features than it ever has before, including the much-demanded wireless mode which will finally see Android Auto freed from the tether of a USB cable (if that's something you're into).
The real story from an adoption perspective, though, wasn't really Wi-Fi mode, the standalone phone app, or Waze integration: it was a silly little tire pressure notification in a Honda Civic.
You see, to date, Android Auto's interface has had five tabs - telephony, navigation, media, home, and the mysterious "OEM" tab, which has an icon that looks like a vehicle gauge.
There are many opinions about wearable technology, but most criticisms focus on the awkwardness – or just plain unattractiveness – of many products that have come thus far. One of the more interesting presentations from I/O 2015 came during the ATAP session, in which Project Jacquard was introduced. This is a touch-sensitive fabric that can be woven into regular clothing and used a bit like a trackpad. This technology is being put to real use, and in a partnership with Levi Strauss, the first product using Jacquard will be launching next Spring.
Levi's is calling it the Commuter Trucker Jacket, a denim jacket with Jacquard woven into the left sleeve.
Project Ara was supposed to go into public testing last year, but that didn't happen. Google has been quiet about the state of its modular smartphone since then, but now there's a new demo video. It shows off some weird modules, but what about a release date? Well, there's nothing for regular people, but a developer edition will be available this fall.
It would definitely seem like Google is making Android N the 'polish' release: things which haven't seen any changes for years, like the System UI icon, are getting refreshed, while features are not being included in the final release because of a lack of polish (like the dark theme and night mode). Even the update procedure is getting updated.
As well as the aforementioned System UI icon, another long standing Android fan-favorite is getting a revamp: the OS update animation. Gone is the little Android figure with his front open, a prism turning, and his antenna going. It feels like it's been in Android forever, but it might be gone soon: instead, the new animation is a swirling circle of light, which looks great but maybe has lost some of its inherent Android-y-ness.