Just add an iPhone to experience AR with Mira’s $99 headset

While mobile VR is a vibrant market these days, thanks to the Gear VR and Google’s Daydream View, the same can’t be said for AR. If you want to dabble in augmented reality, you’d better be prepared to shell out at least $ 950 on hardware like the Meta 2, and even more for a beefy PC to run it. Microsoft’s HoloLens, which helped to popularize the dream of AR, still costs a whopping $ 3,000. But Mira, a young LA-based startup, is hoping to make things simpler Prism, its $ 99 mobile headset. Just drop in an iPhone 7, and you too can view AR atop the real world.

Prism looks like a slimmed down version of the Meta 2, with a similar set of transparent, oversized lenses for displaying AR imagery. Similar to the Gear VR and Daydream, there’s a slot for for your phone (it only works with the iPhone 7 for now). Instead of pointing the screen right at your eyes, though, you position it away from you. A set of mirrors reflects what’s on the screen and repositions it on the front lenses. It might sound like a bit of a hack, but the result is a surprisingly clear set of holographic images in a relatively inexpensive device (not including the cost of the iPhone, of course).

I had no trouble putting on the Prism; even though looks a bit bulky, it’s significantly lighter and easier to wear than either the Meta 2 (which needs to be tethered to a PC) or HoloLens. Mostly, that’s due to the healthy layer of cushioning that rests on your forehead. The front lenses snap on magnetically, allowing you to easily remove them when you need to travel with the Prism.

Mira has also developed a small motion-sensing controller, which is curved and fits into your hand like the Daydream View’s. Most importantly, it also includes a trigger for your index finger like the Gear VR’s remote. That’s particularly useful for interacting with virtual objects. The remote also sports a touchpad on top, as well as menu and home buttons.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Even though I only had a few minutes with the Prism, I was impressed with what I saw. I’m used to trying on headsets that are too expensive for most people to buy, so it was a bit of a shock that it worked at all. Beyond the initial setup experience, I played a holographic game that involved maneuvering a character through a maze, which relied on the controller’s motion controls. Another game had me spinning around in my chair to destroy asteroids hovering all around me. I was particularly surprised how well Prism tracked virtual objects in AR, even though it doesn’t have any spatial mapping technology like HoloLens and Meta.

Mira says developers will be able to build both single and multiplayer experiences with its SDK. Your friends will also be able to see your AR adventures on their iOS devices using Spectator Mode. They can also take photos and videos of you interacting with virtual objects, which makes the Prism experience a bit more communal than VR headsets.

Of course, Prism will only be as useful as the software available for it. Mira says the initial release of the headset is targeted at developers, and it’s partnering with a few studios to build more AR experiences. (You can expect to hear more about those in the coming weeks.) The company plans to ship Prism to developers this fall, and it should reach consumers by this holiday season. Clearly, Mira has a long and difficult road ahead, but Prism’s low price and relative convenience could help it play an important role in the nascent world of AR.

Source: Mira

Engadget RSS Feed

Qualcomm wants to ban iPhone imports with new Apple complaint

Qualcomm’s latest move in its rapidly escalating legal battle against Apple is bold. It filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission (ITC), saying that the import and sales of some models of iPhones is “unlawful” and is requesting that the commission “bar importation of those iPhones and other products.” According to Qualcomm, those devices “infringe one or more claims of six Qualcomm patents covering key technologies that enable important features and functions,” and constitute “unlawful and unfair use of Qualcomm’s technology.”

On top of that, Qualcomm is seeking a Cease and Desist Order to bar further sales of “infringing Apple products that have already been imported and to halt the marketing, advertising, demonstration, warehousing of inventory for distribution and use of those imported products in the United States.”

In other words, Qualcomm wants to make it impossible for Apple to sell any iPhones that it believes have used its technology without permission. It’s also seeking “damages and injunctive relief” via a complaint filed in the District Court for the Southern District of California.

According to Qualcomm, the six patents in question “enable high performance in a smartphone while extending battery life.” The company even made an infographic to show you how iPhones use these patented technologies.

It’s not yet clear which generations of the iPhone will be affected, or how the US ITC and the respective courts will rule. Just as Qualcomm countersued Apple earlier this year, it’s certain the iPhone maker will respond soon.

Via: CNBC

Source: Qualcomm

Engadget RSS Feed

The next iPhone reportedly scans your face instead of your finger

Rumormongers have long claimed that Apple might include face recogition in the next iPhone, but it’s apparently much more than a nice-to-have feature… to the point where it might overshadow the Touch ID fingerprint reader. Bloomberg sources understand that the new smartphone will include a depth sensor that can scan your face with uncanny levels of accuracy and speed. It reportedly unlocks your device inside of “a few hundred milliseconds,” even if it’s laying on flat of a table. Unlike the iris scanner in the Galaxy S8, you wouldn’t need to hold the phone close to your face. The 3D is said to improve security, too, by collecting more biometric data than Touch ID and reducing the chances that the scanner would be fooled by a photo.

Does that sound good to you? You’re not alone. The leakers claim that Apple ultimately wants you to use face recognition instead of Touch ID. It’s not clear whether this will replace Touch ID, though. While the tipsters say that Apple has run into “challenges” putting a fingerprint reader under the screen, they don’t rule it out entirely. There are conflicting reports: historically reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is skeptical that under-screen Touch ID will make the cut, while a representative at chip maker TSMC supposedly claimed that it’s present. Your face may be the preferred biometric sign-in approach rather than the only one.

The Bloomberg scoop largely recaps existing rumors, including an all-screen design (with just a tiny cut-out at the top for a camera, sensors and speaker), a speedier 10-nanometer processor and a dedicated chip for AI-related tasks. However, it adds one more treat: if accurate, the new iPhone will get an OLED version of the fast-refreshing ProMotion display technology you see in the current-generation iPad Pro. So long as the leaks are accurate, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the next iPhone represents a massive hardware upgrade, even if the software is relatively conservative.

Source: Bloomberg

Engadget RSS Feed

I don’t regret being an iPhone early adopter

Do you remember where you were when Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone, more than 10 years ago? It’s a pretty nerdy thing to admit, but I do. I spent the day glued to my computer, at my desk — theoretically hard at work. But I was actually devouring Engadget’s liveblog, after which I watched and rewatched video of the event so I could see the mythical device in action. And then I spent the next 12 months waiting for my Verizon contract to expire, hating my Moto RAZR the entire freaking time. (No, I wasn’t a day-one adopter, but I definitely stopped in an AT&T store to play with their demo phones.)

The first iPhone wasn’t a world-beater in terms of sales, and many have pointed out that it was the classic “first-gen” Apple product. It lacked important features like 3G connectivity and any third-party apps, you had to hook it up to iTunes to activate it, and it was wildly expensive — $ 500 for a paltry 4GB of storage (or $ 600 for 8GB), and that was with a two-year contract.

None of that mattered to me, and that’s in large part due to Jobs’ presentation, one that’s widely considered the best he ever gave. I’d agree with that assessment, because he so clearly outlined the benefits of the iPhone over the phones that most consumers (including me) were using. Some of my colleagues fondly remember the Windows Mobile devices they used before the iPhone and noted how they waited a few years for Apple to fix those first-gen issues before getting on board.

But the 2007 smartphone market was wildly different, particularly in the US. BlackBerry and Palm Treo devices dominated, but they were business-focused and didn’t resonate with the people buying iPods. Jobs’ presentation was the complete opposite. The first feature he announced and demoed was iPod functionality — before even bothering with the phone part. Nearly everything he showed off was focused on consumers, from photos and movies to looking up restaurants on Google Maps.

Of course, Jobs tied it all together at the end, showing a sequence where he listened to music, took a call, sent a photo over email and looked up a movie while still talking on the phone. He then hung up the call and the music automatically resumed. Right now, it seems laughably simple, but in the days of flip phones this seemed like magic.

Even the six-month gap between the iPhone’s announcement and its on-sale date worked in Apple’s favor. The company didn’t typically announce products that far in advance, but in this case it gave them crucial time to polish the device and make improvements (like adding YouTube support and using glass instead of plastic for the front screen cover). It also helped build up some serious hype and anticipation among the Apple faithful. Jobs’ presentation paid dividends over those months; it was something fans could rewatch and use to stoke their interest in the iPhone while they waited.

Jobs had made presentations like this before, and Apple has continued to do so long after he died, in 2011. The format has changed slightly, but Apple still focuses on selling you on the entire vision of its connected universe of products — all of its devices and services work better the more you use them together. When Apple makes a presentation like the one at this year’s WWDC, I often come away with the notion that my digital life would work better if I went “all in” on its software and hardware. It’s not just Apple, though — after Google I/O, I always consider whether things would be easier if I used Android for everything, and Microsoft has been doing a good job of selling me on the benefits of Windows everywhere lately as well.

The iPhone presentation was a bit different, because it was focused purely on one device — Apple hadn’t tied the phone so closely to the Mac just yet. But Apple did tie the iPhone to the Mac — before the cloud, it was home base for your phone and let you sync photos, movies, contacts, calendars and music, making it a mini-extension of your personal computer. And even though some aspects of the first iPhone did feel a bit beta (remember how you couldn’t send pictures via text message?), it also did exactly what Apple promised.

The relatively large screen and unique UI couldn’t have been more different from the garbage Verizon forced onto the Moto RAZR. There weren’t any third-party apps, but between Safari, YouTube, Mail and Maps, I could get to the most essential info on the internet while on the go … even if it took forever. I learned to accept that and use the phone’s more data-heavy features when on WiFi, which was fairly easy to find in 2008.

I still carried my iPod around for a while, but it wasn’t long before I started working around the iPhone’s limited storage space and leaving my iPod at home. Sure, the Windows Phone and BlackBerry crowd may have been doing many of these things for years, but for me (and millions of other iPhone owners), this was a huge step forward, even if there were caveats.

Looking back, the iPhone’s influence on the consumer electronics market is obvious. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reflecting on. It’s also worth considering Jobs’ performance to see how it influenced Apple’s competitors. Jobs made many similar presentations over the years, but after the iPhone became a success, Microsoft, Samsung and Google (among others) really started emulating Apple’s events. It’s common now to see companies sell you on their entire vision, not just a series of products or software features.

Ultimately, Jobs’ presentation is as much a part of the iPhone’s history as the product itself. The introduction was nearly a complete disaster, with shoddy prototype phones barely able to connect to the internet, running out of memory and crashing if they weren’t used very carefully. But that craziness only adds to the legend of the iPhone’s introduction.

Fortunately, the experience of actually using the iPhone was pretty seamless when it launched six months later. The first iPhone didn’t age very well (I had mine for only 18 months before grabbing a 3GS when it launched), but it made a good enough impression that I’ve been a repeat customer for nearly a decade. If Jobs’ introduction had gone as badly as it could have, things would have worked out very, very differently for both the iPhone and Apple as a whole. Yes, the first iPhone was basically a working beta — but it worked well enough to change an entire industry.

Engadget RSS Feed

An iPhone is your only option on Virgin Mobile

It’s no secret that American carriers sell a lot of iPhones. Virgin Mobile, however, is taking that to a logical extreme. The Sprint sub-brand has announced that it’s the US’ first iPhone-only carrier as of June 27th — if you don’t like iOS, you’ll have to head elsewhere. In return for the exclusivity, you’ll get a fairly good rate as well as some potentially juicy promos.

You’ll normally pay $ 50 per month for unlimited talk, texting and data, with the potential for “deprioritized” data (read: it may slow down) if you use more than 23GB per month. There are no commitment. However, you’ll get 6 months of service for $ 1 if you buy an iPhone and sign up — and those who enlist before July 31st will get a full year of service for the same buck. Also, Virgin is selling the iPhone SE at a starting price of $ 279 ($ 379 for 128GB), well under Apple’s usual $ 399. Combine those with perks with Virgin brands (such as a round-trip companion ticket to the UK on Virgin Atlantic) and sales of used devices and it may be tempting to switch over, at least if you’re looking for a new iPhone.

We’ve asked Apple about the extent of its involvement and whether or not more is planned down the line, and we’ll let you know if there’s anything it can add. Regardless, it’s an audacious move. Apple may be playing it safe by partnering with a relatively small carrier like Virgin (Sprint can still count on its own brand and Boost Mobile), but you don’t really see providers limiting themselves to one manufacturer — even fledgling networks like Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile have some diversity. Apple and Virgin are clearly betting that many Americans are more interested in a sweet deal on iPhone service than a wide choice of devices.

Via: 9to5Mac

Source: Virgin Mobile

Engadget RSS Feed

CNBC: Apple wants the iPhone to manage your medical history

Apple has been working on a hush-hush project that would make your whole medical history more accessible, according to CNBC. The tech titan reportedly wants to turn your iPhone into a repository for every diagnosis, lab test result, prescription, health info and doctor’s comment. That way, you don’t have to go through a bunch of emails to find that one test result sent as a PDF attachment or to have your previous doctor send data over to your new one. All you need to do to share any part of your medical history is to look fire up your iPhone.

According to CNBC, Cupertino is attempting to replicate what it did for music: it wants to create sort of an iTunes for health that would serve as a centralized management system for all your medical info. Apple is reportedly already in talks with various hospitals and health IT industry groups to work out the best way to make its vision a reality. One of those groups is “The Argonaut Project,” an initiative promoting the widespread adoption of open standards for health info, while the other is “The Carin Alliance,” an organization that wants to give patients control over their own medical data.

It’s unclear how far into the project Apple is at this point, but it sounds like the tech titan plans to store all your data on the cloud, since it has already started talking to cloud storage startups. If the company succeeds into making your full medical history available on the iPhone, it will solve what the medical industry calls “interoperability crisis.” That’s the lack of data-sharing between health providers that could lead to unnecessary mistakes and missed diagnoses that could be fatal for some patients.

Source: CNBC

Engadget RSS Feed

Mophie’s cases add wireless charging to iPhone 7 and Galaxy S8

Mophie’s cases provide a quick way to add wireless charging capabilities to iPhones and Samsung Galaxy S devices, and now they’re available for the models’ latest iterations. The accessories maker has released charge force cases for the iPhone 7, 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. These leather-wrapped cases are compatible not only with any Mophie wireless charger, but also with Qi and other wireless charging systems. Just put one on your phone if you don’t feel like messing with wires, though note that it still leaves access to your device’s charging port.

Mophie has also released a mini charge force powerstation, which is essentially a wireless power bank. It’s a 3,000 mAh battery unit that sticks to a charge force case using magnets, so you can replenish your phone’s battery anywhere. Since it’s slim and wireless, it doesn’t add much bulk to your phone — you can still slip the whole thing into your pocket or a small purse.

The iPhone 7 cases are now available in black, tan, brown, blue and (PRODUCT)RED, but you can unfortunately only get black if you have a Galaxy S8 or an S8 Plus. You can get any of the cases and the powerstation mini from Mophie’s website.

Source: Mophie

Engadget RSS Feed

Google Assistant on the iPhone is better than Siri, but not much

Google’s Assistant is finally ready to take on Siri on Apple’s own turf: the iPhone. Yes, you could already play around with the AI-powered chatbot if you downloaded Allo — Google’s mobile-only messenger app — but its functionality was limited. Today, that changes thanks to a new standalone Google Assistant app available on Apple’s App Store (though it’s US-only for now). Eager to check it out, we downloaded it right away and spent some time commanding our Google-branded phone butler around. After a few hours, I’ll say that while I find Google Assistant a lot friendlier and smarter than Siri, it doesn’t quite replace it. At least, not yet.

The first obvious barrier is that while Siri is baked right into iOS, you’ll need to download Google Assistant as a separate app. Plus, accessing Siri is as easy as holding down the iPhone’s home button — with Google Assistant (as with Cortana, Alexa and all other third-party assistants), you’ll need to take the extra step of launching an app. If you have an Android phone, Google Assistant is ready to go without having to download anything at all.

As you might expect, when you first launch Google Assistant on the iPhone, it asks you to log in with your Google account. After you do, it introduces itself to you and invites you to ask it anything you wish. Press the microphone icon at the center to offer a voice command, or if you’d rather not disturb the people around you, you can hit the keyboard icon to type your query.

The first thing you might wonder is if you can make a call or send a message on the iPhone with Google Assistant. The answer is: You can, but it’s not any easier than it would be with Siri. When I say, “Call Mom,” for example, it brings up her name and triggers a phone call, which you can then cancel or confirm. When I say, “Text Mom,” it asks me for my message and then kicks me over to the Messages app on my phone, where I can choose to send it off or not. At least Siri can send messages without me having to open the app.

I also tried to play music on Google Assistant to see how the experience compares to Siri. It was a little, well, uneven. When you first tell Google Assistant to play music, it’ll ask you to choose between Apple Music and YouTube as your default. I chose YouTube and then said, “Play LCD Soundsystem.” It kicked me over to the YouTube app, where it played a random song from the band. Then I went back and said “Play Radiohead,” and it would just give a list of albums. I then tried to switch the default choice to Apple Music, which I somehow was able to do so by saying “Play on Apple Music.” From then on, whenever I said “Play [name of song],” it would play the song on Apple Music. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that I can switch back to YouTube as the default, despite multiple attempts. Sometimes it says it’s playing a song, but nothing happens. Clearly, this feature is still pretty buggy.

As you might expect, Assistant plays particularly well with Google’s own apps. So sending email through Gmail is a snap — say who you want to send the email to, and it’ll kick you over to the Gmail app to follow through. Similarly, it’ll offer directions with Google Maps rather than Apple’s own.

What I found particularly intriguing about the Google Assistant app on iOS is that there’s a whole Explore page full of suggestions on what you can do with it. There’s a list of the usual suggestions, like “How many pounds in a kilogram?” or “What sound does a dog make?”

But interestingly, there’s also a slew of third-party chatbots you can try out. Examples include Genius, a bot that’ll guess the name of a song based on a lyric snippet, or the Magic 8 Ball, which will offer pithy responses to yes-or-no questions. Google Home users likely already know about some of these third-party chatbots, but to mobile users, this is new.

Aside from Explore, there’s also a Your Stuff tab that lists your Reminders, Agenda, Shopping List and quick Shortcuts that you can add to customize Assistant. So, for example, you can say “Late again” to trigger an automatic text to your best friend that you’re running five minutes late. “Cheer me up” will automatically bring up a list of kitten videos on YouTube.

I then tried to do a number of things on both Google Assistant and Siri to compare the two. I discovered that due to iOS restrictions, Google Assistant isn’t able to set alarms, take selfies, launch apps, post to Twitter or Facebook, call Ubers or Lyfts, or use third-party apps like Whatsapp for sending messages. Siri, however, was able to do all of these tasks without issue.

At the same time, Google Assistant was vastly superior when it came to translating languages (Siri often faltered) and remembering context clues. For example, when I asked, “Who’s the president of the United States” and followed it up immediately with “How tall is he?” Google Assistant immediately responded with “Donald J Trump” and “6-feet 2-inches tall.” Siri, on the other hand, could answer the first question, but not the second (it responded with “I don’t know”). Google Assistant also was smart enough to respond to set-a-reminder requests with the place and time in which I wanted to be reminded — Siri just placed them on a Reminders list. Siri was also sometimes just plain wrong — it erroneously said the population of Egypt was 85,800 (it’s actually 91.51 million).

In many ways, Siri pales in comparison to Google Assistant. It can’t understand voice commands as well as Google, and it doesn’t remember your preferences like Google can. Siri makes so many errors that there’s even a Reddit group called “Siri fails” that documents its many mistakes. But as long as it comes preinstalled in every iPhone out there and does a good-enough job, Google Assistant — and all other rivals — will have a hard time replacing it.

For all the latest news and updates from Google I/O 2017, follow along here

Engadget RSS Feed

iPhone 8 renders point to glass back and wireless charging

Rumor has it that we won’t be seeing the next flagship iPhone until much later this year, but we may have just the right thing to keep y’all entertained for the time being. Earlier this week, a reliable source in the accessory industry showed Engadget a highly detailed CAD file of the “iPhone 8’s” chassis, which allowed us to generate several renders for publishing. The most obvious takeaway here is the dual camera’s new orientation, and that both the microphone plus the flash will be part of the camera bump.

While the contour may look familiar, the back of the device will actually be covered in glass this time, which allows for the integration of wireless charging. This is hinted by what appears to be a carved out area for a wireless charging coil on the underside of the chassis, though we’re not at liberty to disclose related images.

Since this is the smaller of the two next-gen iPhones, these renders suggest that the dual camera plus wireless charging will become a standard feature. Speaking of, our source said both screen sizes will be getting bumped up: the 4.7-inch version will go up to 5 inches, and the 5.5-inch “Plus” version will be stretched to 5.8 inches. Alas, these renders don’t indicate whether the new displays will go from edge to edge as rumored, but the body measurements in the CAD file do point to a slightly taller, wider and thicker body than the iPhone 7.

As with all leaks, there’s always a possibility that these renders may turn out to be false (which we highly doubt given the nature of these files), or that Apple may give up on this design entirely. Either way, there’s still the rumored tenth anniversary iPhone to look forward to as well.

Engadget RSS Feed

‘How to shoot on iPhone’ videos explain why your pictures suck

The iPhone camera has been a consistently emphasized point by Apple, and for good reason. The quality of pictures it can take increases with each iteration, and for most people, smartphone cameras have become their primary way to take photos. Of course, not all of our pictures come out looking like those highlight shots Apple uses in its ad campaigns, but several videos and a website the company just posted may help close the gap.

Most of the videos in the “How to Shoot on iPhone 7” website are vertically oriented for viewing on your phone, perfect to learn about features it has that maybe you never quite figured out how to use. Portrait mode, shooting stills during or shooting a vertical panorama are fairly easy to do, if you can find the right setting. Some of them focus on things like composition, in case you need more basic photography advice.

So, is this enough information for you to become a festival-flogging “influencer”? Probably not, but no matter phone or app you use it could help your next picture look a little bit better.

Source: Apple ‘How to Shoot on iPhone 7’

Engadget RSS Feed