“Apples” in the car: Re-introducing Apple CarPlay

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Earlier this March, Apple finally announced and confirmed CarPlay, which is the long-awaited ‘iOS in the car’ project you possibly heard about. Because the lifespan of a car is so long compared to the life cycle of digital technologies like phones and the software they run, the challenge is to create a smart in-car infotainment system that can stay up to date even as your car ages. And so, the battleground is set for the mobile tech world just maybe this time with an “auto” attached to it.

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With the fact that most of the big names in the auto industry already have their own systems, it would be a worthy question to ask about what Apple brings to the deck that makes things different. Obviously the technology is not new; and we’ve already seen several cars natively running Android and offering some level of integration with Android smartphones. “CarPlay has been designed from the ground up to provide drivers with an incredible experience using their iPhone in the car,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of iPhone and iOS Product Marketing. We will take a moment to explore CarPlay thus, giving you what to expect from it.

First, and maybe most importantly, do NOT let the pictures fool you. CarPlay is not an in-car system that runs iOS or iOS apps. It’s a system that integrates your iPhone apps with your car’s digital systems, allowing you to control them and your device an an easier, tech-savvy manner. The idea is that you plug your iPhone into your car via USB, and viola! You can now use the functionality of your iPhone without having to fumble around with it and take your eyes off the road. Take a moment to imagine how safer and more convenient that could be.

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CarPlay aims to empower you to use all your iPhone’s functionality without actually touching it. So that includes playing your music, navigating to the shops, taking phone calls, reading text messages and even watching YouTube videos which you would be able to do from the start. In theory, there are no limits to the interplay. Perhaps you’ll even be able to turn your wipers on and off simply by talking to Siri or unlock your vehicle using your iPhone – but that’s a way off even if it’s possible. And For those who love to play around by “having a conversation with Siri” well, your dreams are as here as technology would possibly have it.

The CarPlay interface takes over the car’s LCD when the phone is plugged in, with all processing running on the device. Much like the iOS interface, CarPlay shows app icons, although in a bigger format. Once upon a time, cars had increasingly featured USB ports that let you plug in an iPod, iPhone, or iPad with its white cable, and control music playback using the car’s own touch screen LCD or dashboard controls. With this integration, you can browse music by artist, album, genre, and track, select something, and play it.

You get to control CarPlay using one of three methods:

  • Siri voice control: just press and hold the voice control button on the steering wheel.
  • Touchscreen: If your CarPlay-equipped vehicle has a touchscreen, you can use it to control CarPlay.
  • CarPlay also works with the knobs, dials, or buttons in the car. If it controls your screen, it controls CarPlay.

Apple’s plans to have third parties building CarPlay compatibility into their apps, making them usable through the system. Apps like Spotify, Podcast, Stitcher and Beats Radio are already confirmed and with access to all their online library features, that long and easy driving entertainment is guaranteed.

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No! No!! NO!!! Siri on CarPlay can NOT drive you home. Why? Because it cant! All it can do is give you turn by turn directions with audio cues using the Map app from Apple. You would also like to note that ONLY the iPhones with the lightning connector (iPhone 5, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s) are compatible with CarPlay so, those with the former 30-pin connector would finally have to consider that upgrade. Also no plans have yet been officially announced for an after-market version of CarPlay; which means that unless you buy a car which has CarPlay compatibility installed (of which there are none in existence at this time), you cannot have it. Cars with CarPlay functionality will be hitting the streets later this year, with models from Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Mercedes, Volvo and many other big names in the car industry who are also committed to support the CarPlay platform.

So, with that much said, what do you think about it?

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Laughing last, laughing best: Here comes the Xbox One

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Today, Microsoft tears down all of the rumors of the next generation Xbox console called “Xbox One.” It features a brilliant glossy hardware finish that is sleek and catchy. It is geared to take what you love and make it even better.

The ideals of the next generation console is to light up the bare essentials of television and entertainment which are simplicity, instant response and complete immersion. The Xbox One does not fail to produce world class software innovation and interactive applications to make the overall user experience pleasant. Very unlike Sony, Microsoft has gone all the way to blur the lines between a gaming console and a media center and created the all in one box for all of your living room magical needs.

 

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It is amazing; you talk to the Xbox One to turn it on and control all of its applications with integrated voice commands. Imagine switching between television and game in a second just by saying: “Xbox, play game” or “Xbox, watch television.” The new Kinect is bundled with every Xbox One which gives a new dimension to motion capturing technology and even conference calls on Skype with its 1080p HD Camera. From the start, your Xbox One remembers everything you did last and well, you can snap applications just like on Windows 8 on the Xbox One with full motion based or voice commands! It is stated that it would NOT require an internet connection to function. Seeing is believing right?

It packs quite a handful on the tech specs. 8GB RAM, 8 Core CPU power, 500GB Hard Disk and Blu-ray drive. It also has an 802.11n wireless device with Wi-Fi Direct, USB 3.0 ports and HDMI out.  Microsoft’s Marc Whitten stated clearly that “Variable power states” ensure a “practically silent” operation. The console is engineered to last “well into the future,” which, of course, is an obvious reference to the company’s engineering struggles with the Xbox 360.

Imagine a console with 3 operating systems. One for your gaming on Xbox, a windows kernel and a specific operating system that covers instantaneous switching between multiple running applications. With the newly designed Xbox controller and Xbox Smart Glass technology, users can choose various ways to control their console to provide a truly complete user experience.

Microsoft has partnered with Electronic Arts for new and exclusive innovations to their ongoing sport series, The NFL for custom sporting integration and is planning to host about 15 new exclusive titles for the Xbox One on release later this year. A new, most impressive Call Of Duty is also to be released so we can be sure that it would kick off to a good start.

So there we have it for now on the new Xbox. Rest easy till E3 later on in a couple of weeks.

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PlayStation 4: When great development leads to greater questions

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February 20 2013 was a day like no other in the world of technology; and though its prime significance was centered around building the necessary expectations to usher in another great day in the world of technology, the day did spark off well… some other great things.

Video game consoles are nothing like they used to be. Gone are the days where you bought a console for the sake of gaming. “Buy the game, then the cartridge or CD, insert, power on and play” is old news. Video game consoles have taken on several tasks that give even the non-gamer good reasons to get one. With the fact that they also provide hours of great gaming entertainment for both the kids and the adult minded, owning a video game console has finally become a set standard for modern homes. On February 20 2013, the PlayStation 4 was officially announced with Sony, giving presentations of several good things to come concerning various breakthroughs in video entertainment technology.

The PlayStation 4 was billed to be released by late 2013 so, it would be quite a long wait for many. The wait might be worth it though; Sony’s fourth console entry to the PlayStation brand packs more than a punch in making sure “nothing is between you and the game.” It boasts of an 8 core Accelerated Processing Unit, 8GB GDDR5 RAM and 1.8 teraflops of processing prowess of which, even if you have no idea of what these mean, you just have a hunch that it must be powerful enough to deliver what you are expecting.

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Coming along is the PlayStation 4 eye which is a newly developed camera system that utilizes two high-sensitivity cameras equipped with wide-angle lenses and 85-degree diagonal angle views. There are also lots of comments about the new PlayStation 4 DualShock controller which comes with an “Option” button that replaces the traditional Start and Select buttons, a three axis gyroscope and touch panel. Will the DualShock 3 be compatible for the PlayStation 4? The answer is most likely a big no.

A number of issues come up whenever you give a closer thought on the anticipated Sony pacesetter. One of these would be backward compatibility. Some people would not find it very palatable spending money on great PlayStation 3 games just to spend even more for PlayStation 4 games which also come on blu-ray discs. A single console that could run pre-owned games would be extremely user cost effective. Having acquired Gaikai, a cloud based service, Sony plans to render older PlayStation games and stream them to the PS4. Cloud based services play a very integral part of the PlayStation 4 concerning games and this could mean that without a good internet connection, you may not even have access to the games you may have bought on the online store. Worse still, you may end up paying again for a game you already own since you can only play older games through the cloud service. Is that really okay?

Whether or not the PlayStation 4 would support blu-ray movies on 4K ultra high HD is still being rumored but having that would certainly do well to promote other offline functions of the console. The relationship between the still young-in-the-market PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 is unclear as well – if this remains, and no relationship is established, PS Vita owners might be headed for a level of heartbreak. The PlayStation 4 is estimated to cost about $400 – $600 which seems decent enough for its abilities.

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One other thought that comes to mind is what the future of console gaming would be. The PlayStation 4’s active social media integration involves a SHARE button on the DualShock 4 controller that allows the player to cycle through the last several minutes of gameplay to select a clip appropriate for online sharing. Videos can be uploaded directly from the console, either to websites or other PSN users. Players also have the chance to access their PlayStation online account using a PlayStation app available on the iOS AppStore and Google PlayStore. This App, is also mentioned to even support games as a second screen on compatible tablets and phones.

With all these features, it is sure that Sony has done a rather impressive job in presenting a working entry to this current technology demanding age. But whether it would be the next big thing in gaming compared to its rivals is another question for another post.