Those of us who like racing games all wish we can have that arcade type setup – you know, the massive flat screen, a racing seat, and of course the steering wheel and pedals. But then reality sets in – we realize we cannot have the racing seat and mounted steering wheels and pedals, because what do you do with it once you are done playing? Sure, if you have a massive bachelor pad it might be worth it, but for the rest of us, we are pretty much forced to stick to out gamepads.
It is with this very market that Microsoft has gone and built the Speed Wheel – an accelerometer based steering wheel which you simply hold up to steer. There is no base to put on a table, and there is no pedals either. Now obviously die hard racing game fans might not like that, but in use I found the Speed Wheel great. When holding the Speed Wheel I was quite amazed at how well put together it is. It has some decent heft to it, without making it feel heavy – you will be holding it in the air after all. It is also well balanced, with the heavier internal components put in the bottom of the steering wheel, which does give it some center-weight. In the middle you will find the standard XBox silver button, and the back and start buttons. On the left hand side there is a D-pad, and on the right the X,Y,A,B keys. Quite simple. But the triggers on the rear is greatly improved over the standard game pad, with a lot more travel. But more on that later. The rest of this strange looking steering wheel is just as weird – there are some rings on the top of the steering wheel that can light up based on how much throttle or braking you do. So the harder you rev your car, the brigher they become. (more…)
General Motors and the FUTURE LAB at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Israel have collaborated to create the Windows of Opportunity Project (WOO). General Motors challenged the students at the design academy to develop a technology that conceptualizes new ways for vehicle passengers, especially children, to have a richer and more interactive experience while on the road.
According to World Car Fans, the WOO project was “inspired by psychological studies indicating that car passengers often feel disconnected from their environment. GM asked the Bezalel students to turn car windows into interactive displays capable of stimulating awareness, nurturing curiosity and encouraging a stronger connection with the world outside the vehicle.”
One concept involves children interacting and playing with the window by drawing on it as one would with cold temperatures outside the vehicle. Another app involves a little creature that travels with passengers as they’re on the move while interacting with the vehicle’s speed and changing landscape. The enabling technology for the apps is the same technology used for augmented reality.
Thomas Seder, GM R&D lab group manager for human-machine interface explains that, “Unlike my generation where I explored the world with my dad’s tools, the kids today are exploring the world with a digital toolbox. So we’re trying to create applications that they can use to really understand in an intuitive way how the world works.”
Twitter today announced that it would for the first time start censoring content based on a user’s location, at the request of governments. If a country has a law or is about to pass a law that restricts global interpretations of freedom of speech, Twitter can abide by specific country’s requests. While it has not yet been implemented, Twitter did give some examples of what it might refer to on their blog:
As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content.
Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.
Twitter has not used the system yet, but when it does, it will inform the user why their tweet might have been censored. Twitter is very clear about this policy only being about different location’s interpretation of freedom of expression, and not a way to inhibit the freedom of information flow.
But it makes one wonder – will it reach a point where a company can request that all tweets about a certain topic must be removed? Too many revolutions in 2011 occured which were somehow connected to Twitter and social networking. Twitter is saying they will be transparent about any censorship it does apply. Right now you can see which cease and desist notices Twitter have received so far at Chilling Effects.
In a post-recession climate, commercial software continues to lose traction in favour of Free and Open Software Solutions (FOSS), particularly in the corporate environment. However, with a lack of support available both locally and internationally, companies are left having to fend for themselves, or forced to pay handsomely for specialised technical support.
South African development company, Snapt, has launched a series of revolutionary user interface tools that effectively utilise this open source software to provide powerful and economical solutions for corporate clients. Snapt’s high-end customized open source software tools are not only easy to use, but at the same time offer the kind of support and reporting traditionally associated with commercial software offerings.
Despite being relatively new to the market, it hasn’t taken long for Snapt to get noticed by some heavy hitters at both a local and international level, with NASA JPL, EuroVPS, and NeoAssist already among their pedigreed list of clients.
The company’s two initial software offerings – Snapt HAProxy and Snapt Squid – have been built with business in mind, and afford enterprises the ability to effectively manage server capacity, as well as to maintain and monitor network systems and intranets.
“Our mission in the creation of Snapt was essentially to make open source software accessible and useable for big businesses,” says Dave Blakey, CEO of Snapt. “The user interfaces we’ve created can empower enterprises to really harness these existing frameworks, and ultimately manage them in the same way they would with commercial software, but at a fraction of the cost.”
In addition to an impressive clientele, Snapt has also managed to garner the support of 4Di Capital, a venture capitalist firm who immediately saw the potential of the company to deliver real return on investment for corporate firms.
“We immediately identified with the opportunity to make FOSS network and server applications more accessible to a broader market,” says Douglas Cherry, a partner at 4Di Capital. “Snapt offers a rich supplementary layer of value-added functionality, delivery and management capabilities, and we see it as being perfectly positioned to present an advantageously disruptive product to the network and server management space.”
With on-going investment and support from some of the world’s biggest brands behind them, Snapt’s future is bright, and, according to Blakey, this is just the beginning of the journey.
“The potential of FOSS is unlimited, and we’re always looking to deliver an increased range of enterprise-ready offerings to a broader market,” says Blakey. “The need for such solutions is apparent, and we will continue to devise unique, user-friendly interfaces to efficiently and cost-effectively service the full spectrum of corporate requirements.”
Pretoria based online company SnapBill is a billing system aimed at small and medium sized businesses requiring automated subscription or recurring billing with payment collection facilities. Unlike many other billing solutions, SnapBill fully automates direct debit orders via a variety of payment gateways.
SnapBill offers a comprehensive mix of invoicing, billing, client management and payment collection features and can be fully customised for your branding . It has integrated service provisioning functionality so you can add and sell your own services while it fully automates your recurring and subscription billing.
SnapBill is secure, automated and always available. Use it anywhere in the world, from any web enabled device and at any time.
SnapBill was developed by South African entrepreneurs Jaco van Wyk and Josh Yudaken. It grew out of the need they had for a billing system at Lusion Technologies, their web and reseller hosting business. The main goal behind SnapBill was to bring affordable enterprise level billing to any business. Snapbill was launched in beta form in Mach 2010 to local businesses and after thorough user testing and extensive detailed refinement, was launched internationally in March 2011.
“We are uniquely positioned amongst other billing solutions in the sense that SnapBill provides a highly customisable, out-the-box, billing and client management solution,” says co-founder Jaco van Wyk. “We do have an API available but our focus has been on providing businesses with a system they can immediately put to use.”
Skype is currently a video chat experience commonly used between two people across devices, be it a mobile phone or PC, that are low resolution encounters. The telyHD, a new device developed by a mall Silicon Valley startup called Tely Labs is about to change the Skype experience as we know it.
The telyHD, a black, horizontal bar less than a foot long and under 3 inches high with a wide-angle lens and multiple built-in microphones is mounted on top of the TV screen using a built-in clamp and allows for a group of friends or family in one room to chat in high definition. The device, displayed at CES 2012, is easily installed and comes with a remote control that is used to answer and terminate calls, zoom in and pan you screen image. It can connect to any other Skype-enabled device including PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets however, some of its more advanced features require a telyHD on both sides of the conversation for the device to be fully optimised.
TelyHD isn’t just a webcam but a small computing device, powered by Google’s Android operating system. It contains software and Internet capabilities that most TVs lack, some of which go beyond simple video calls including the ability to send and receive video voice mails, retrieve pictures from a flash memory card and share with and copy pictures from another telyHD user.
The source revealed that there are various sample devices around but it is impossible to tell which of them is most likely to be the final product. However, there are a few features that are common among all the devices. They include:
What is important to note here is that iPhone 4S production did not gear up until late spring of last year. If a pattern is followed and an approximate five month lead time is given, it would appear that Apple is back on its new iPhone launch for summer/WWDC pattern that it maintained until last year.
The source that provided this information was the same source that indicated to 9to5 Mac late last summer in the U.S. that the iPhone 5 was not about to be launched, against the prevailing tide of information, and that Apple was building the iPhone 4S model instead.
Any thoughts on all the emerging iPhone 5 details?
How do the different South African App stores compare? Apposition Consulting decided to monitor and track one of their apps called ExpenZa on the Android Market, Vodacom App Store and Samsung App Store. This is a summary of their experiences and while not necessarily applicable to all apps, does raise some interesting points.
ExpenZa is a free Android app and automates expense tracking by intercepting the expenditure SMS message sent by your bank. It uses the information contained in the SMS message to automatically populate your expense list. ExpenZa can also be used without a bank’s SMS service by manually adding expenses, for keeping track of the cash in your wallet for example. The app allows the user to create a monthly budget with different expense categories and a budget amount for each category. The total spent for each category is shown which gives the user a continuous overview of their spending throughout the month. This helps them to make adjustments necessary to keep to their budget.
All the app stores were configured to allow only downloads from South Africa. The app also went through five updates during the period under study. This was mostly to add the functionality to recognise a larger variety of sms’s, but some additional features requested by users were added (e.g. to be able to import historical sms’s from your inbox) and the un-escapable bug fixes. What is encouraging is the amount of user feedback received as well as the variety of users who forwarded sms’s not currently recognised by the app to be included. App downloads were tweeted daily from their account (@AppositionC) with hashtag #MarketDownloadChallengeZA.