The best augmented reality and virtual reality headsets for everyone, from developers to latecomers
Aug11

The best augmented reality and virtual reality headsets for everyone, from developers to latecomers

Whether you’re an avid gamer who pre-orders the latest releases months before they hit shelves, or a Baby Boomer who’s still spellbound by the original View-Master, there’s an augmented reality or virtual reality headset just waiting to embrace your face. The following is a condensed guide to all virtual reality devices currently on or entering the market, grouped according to the technological adoption curve. We’ve found the right devices for everyone, from the eager “early adopters” to the reticent “laggards.” And let us assure you, since you’re reading this article on the internet, you have what it takes to enjoy at least one of these VR headsets. The best virtual reality headsets for innovators Oculus Rift DK2 The Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 is a high-powered headset equipped with out-of-the-box engine integrations for the Unreal Development Kit, Unreal Engine 4, and Unity 4. In addition to the OLED display, the Oculus DK2 utilizes real-time microsecond precision measurement of motion-to-photon latency to eliminate simulator sickness and accurately track real-world head movements. The Oculus SDK supports Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, and can be pre-ordered for $350. HTC Vive Developer Edition The HTC Vive Developer Edition combines the HTC Vive headset and Valve’s Steam VR base stations to create a fully-immersive VR experience where users can walk around their room as if they were in whatever game they’re playing. And since it’s a developer edition, gamers will get all kinds of SDKs to test and build their own applications. Although there’s no word on price just yet, you can bet it will be at least as much as the DK2. Fove VR Fove’s biggest differentiator is their eye-tracking sensors, which allow users to interact with their virtual environment through their eyeballs, rather than a handheld controller like most of their competitors. Fove’s SDK also integrates content from Unity, Unreal Engine, and Cryengine, allowing users to port their existing VR content into their ecosystem and make incredible games. Once Fove’s Kickstarter is complete, the headset is projected to retail for somewhere between $400 and $500. Razer OSVR The Razer OSVR headset is strikingly similar to the DK2 in appearance, but what really sets it apart is the Open-Source Virtual Reality (OSVR) ecosystem, “a new standard in VR gaming to push the VR gaming experience forward,” according to their website. Although the hardware behind the Hacker Dev Kit headset is expected to ship sometime in 2016 for $199, the SDKs are now available for developers to start tinkering with on current devices. The best virtual reality headsets for early adopters Oculus Rift The Oculus Rift is like the Arcade Fire of VR headsets — it gained mainstream notoriety...

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The 15 best Android Wear apps in 2015 to help you navigate every day
Jul24

The 15 best Android Wear apps in 2015 to help you navigate every day

Congratulations! You remembered to charge your Android Wear smartwatch last night, and now you’re ready to rule the day with an iron wrist (or whatever material your smartwatch is made out of). That is, if you have the right suite of apps to turn your fashion accessory into a productivity machine. Below are fifteen of the best Android Wear apps destined to help you get the most out of your day. From fitness tracking, to to-do list conquering, to financial consulting, to dating and everything in between, the following pieces of software will remind you why your several-hundred dollar smartwatch is far more valuable than any Rolex or that $775,000 timepiece Rafael Nadal wore at this year’s French Open. Whether your Android Wear watch is a circle or a square, a Moto 360 or LG Watch Urbane, make sure it contains these time-saving, cool Android apps. A day spent with the 15 best Android Wear apps IFTTT Rating*: 4.1 of 5 (*Ratings are based on Google Play’s aggregate scores) The best part of waking up is IFTTT on your watch. (Sorry, Folgers.) With the IFTTT Android Wear app, you can turn on your lights, adjust your thermostat, and even start your coffee pot — all from your wrist. All it takes are a few connected devices and several of the millions of pre-made “recipes” (ex: “If the weather says 50% chance of rain, send me alert to remember my umbrella.”) in the IFTTT archives. Aeris Wear Weather Rating: 4.0 of 5 Once you open eyes and your foggy vision clears each morning, you’re going to want to know what the weather is like in your area. The free version of Aeris Wear Weather provides you with local temperatures and weather conditions. And for $0.99, you can amp up your app experience with notifications and live radar feeds. Wunderlist Rating: 4.4 of 5 Aside from weather, one of the first things people want to know when they wake up is what they have to do that day. One of the best Android Wear apps for teeing up your to-do list is Wunderlist. It allows users to check off tasks, make notes, and receive notifications without lifting their phone. Runtastic Rating: 4.5 of 5 If “Go running” pops up on your daily Wunderlist, you’re going to need an app to record that workout. Fitness fanatics, pay attention: Runtastic is one of the top Android Wear apps for training. In addition to counting your steps, you can start runs via voice command, pause and stop sessions by tapping the screen, and view post-run summaries on your wrist. Find My Phone Rating: 4.2...

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From policing to life-logging, wearable cameras aren’t just for Glassholes
Jul16

From policing to life-logging, wearable cameras aren’t just for Glassholes

Google Glass was hated by the general public for two reasons: First, it’s about as fashionable as dental headgear; second, Glassholes make everyone around them feel uncomfortable — and not just because they look painfully awkward. I’ll never forget the first time I encountered Glass in the wild. It was the start of my workday, I was wearing a wrinkled shirt and purple bags beneath my eyes. The moment I entered the breakroom, I was greeted with, “Hey Mark, smile for the camera.” Like Garfield, I’m not what you would call cheerful before I’ve had my morning cup of coffee. Add the disinterest in being filmed to the mix, and I’m liable to create an HR report of epic proportions. Fortunately, I returned to my desk and cooled off by watching fail videos for the next thirty minutes. Then it hit me like a mountain biker’s front tire to an undetected pothole, a wearable camera can serve many purposes aside from making water-cooler interactions awkward. EXTREME content Thanks to GoPro, the Internet is flushed with first-person footage of death-defying stunts. There are also plenty of less exciting implementations of the technology available for viewing, but even those are worth a laugh. The proliferation of wearable cameras has done wonders for viral entertainment, and devices like Soloshot are pushing the industry even further. With Soloshot, users mount their GoPro (or competing product) to a smart base that follows corresponding Tags worn by the athletes. To put it in layman’s terms, it’s like having a personal cameraman. You simply set up your Soloshot camera base a safe distance from the action, strap the waterproof/shockproof tag somewhere on your person, and go about your business while the Soloshot follows your every move. You can even set it to zoom in or out as you approach the base, as long as you use one of the supported camcorders — most of which are Sony. The Soloshot system also allows you to take photo bursts by tapping the Tag 15, 30, or 45 seconds before you perform your stunt. Soloshot may be the first cameraman replacement to reach the market, but there’s another auspicious wearable hovering in the distance, literally. Nixie is part drone, part smartwatch, and all concept at this point, but the idea was strong enough to win Intel’s Make It Wearable challenge. To sum up their pitch video, Nixie is a drone with a built-in camera that folds around your wrist until you release it into the sky like a trained falcon. The device then films you as you scale a rock face, slackline, or stand awkwardly in a field with one of your closest friends....

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The Apple Watch is actually part of Android Wear’s master plan to win
Apr27

The Apple Watch is actually part of Android Wear’s master plan to win

Yes, we all know Apple sold more watches in one day than Android Wear sold in an entire year. And yes, Tim Cook will probably display that stat in huge, sans-serif letters during his next keynote presentation. But no, you shouldn’t feel bad for Larry Page and Sergey Brin. As a matter of fact, you should be applauding them. Why? Because this was all part of their plan. Android incepted Apple     Android may have the lion’s share of the global (and U.S.) smartphone market, but there’s no denying that Apple is the king of influencing public perception. As Google learned with Glass, a product segment is not legitimate until Apple says it is. David Pierce highlights this in his beautifully designed Wired article, “iPhone Killer: The Secret History of the Apple watch:” There were MP3 players before the iPod, but Apple made you want one. The iPhone transformed the smartphone from business gear into pop culture. The iPad brought tablets in from the fringes, blowing past years of work by the likes of Nokia and Microsoft. For its fourth act, Apple chose a watch. iWatch rumors had been floating around Silicon Valley since the turn of the decade, so why is Apple just now entering the smartwatch market? They needed someone to test the waters first, and Google was happy to oblige. Android Wear v1 was perfectly flawed In poker, there are two basic forms of bluffing. First, you can try to make your opponent believe you have much better cards than you actually do (a.k.a., the Apple method). Or you can downplay your hand, and let your opponent raise the stakes until you’re ready to flip over your cards and collect your winnings. The latter is what Google did with Android Wear v1. Sure, it was buggy, lacking native apps, and the hardware was as disjointed you’d expect from an Android ecosystem, but Android Wear v1 was good enough to make the tech industry take notice. Almost as soon as the first Android Wear watches were released, the media would not stop asking, “Where’s the iWatch?” Apple was pressured into prematurely entering the market with little to go off of, aside from Android Wear’s purposely imperfect OS. All the while, Wear v2 was in the works. OS showdown It was hard to say how the Apple Watch worked back when we were blinded by the A-list celebrities who were wearing them, but now that us normal folk have access, we see that Apple Watch and the best Android Wear devices are pretty similar. As Darren Orf pointed out in his astute Gizmodo article, “How the Apple Watch...

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Where, how, and why VR headsets will change the world
Apr22

Where, how, and why VR headsets will change the world

One second I’m sitting at my desk, and the next, I’m staring down at a Ouija board that’s urging me to “R-U-N.” The lights go out, and all I hear is the haunting song of a neglected child. A flashlight turns on above my head and illuminates the dated, dusty wallpaper in front of me. I sprint through the halls in search of an exit. I turn a corner to find the pale songstress looming over a crib. I should run, but curiosity gets the best of me. I enter the room and crane my neck to get a look at the child’s face. No need. Before I can scream, she appears at the tip of my nose, blood dripping from her empty eye sockets as she ruptures my eardrums with a terrifying shriek. This is not the retelling of a vivid nightmare (yet). Rather, this was my first time playing Affected: The Manor, a popular horror simulator for the Oculus Rift. For the record, I love haunted houses. As a matter of fact, each October I brave the lines of Austin’s internationally-acclaimed House of Torment. And although the Wall Street Journal calls HoT “20,000-square-feet of terror,” it doesn’t feel nearly as real or traumatizing as the 103-square-inch display of an Oculus Rift. While my armpits dried and my resting heart rate lowered, it struck me to investigate what other industries are using this type immersive experience. And good news! Haunted mansions aren’t the only places you can explore with a VR headset. Virtual vacation planning Whether you’re planning a vacation or seeking a temporary change of scenery, VR headsets allow you to explore the world from the comfort of your own home. Remember your old-school, childhood View-Master? Well, a “reimagined” View-Master is slated to hit shelves sometime this fall. In collaboration with the Google Cardboard platform, Mattel is turning its 75-year-old stereoscope and 2D film reels into 3D, 360-degree “photospheres.” View-Master’s demo video shows an animated man exploring an animated San Francisco Bay by placing his Android phone inside the updated viewer and focusing on the corresponding disc. Now, imagine for a moment how useful this tool would be in a classroom setting. Teachers could schedule impromptu field trips without the hassle of permission slips or carting around juice boxes all day. Or what about fiancees in search of the perfect honeymoon destination? Rather than relying on a Google image search to get a sense of their prospective romantic getaway, they could virtually vet locations with a relatively inexpensive headset like the View-Master or the Samsung Gear VR. This same decision-making process is already being used by aspiring college students....

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