Up close and personal with the Microsoft Hololens

We experienced the future firsthand, and we lived to tell you about it

https://www.stuff.tv/sg/features/close-and-personal-microsoft-hololens#HwMO89Vi88cuhLYE.99

 By Osmond Chia

 

Of all digital realities – VR, AR and MR – Mixed Reality is undoubtedly the hardest to get your hands on.

A technological baby, MR is being pioneered by very few companies - the one we know best is Microsoft. To make things more difficult, Microsoft’s only MR solution, the Hololens, is only sold to developers with valid justification – not to mention the tedious process to get it on to our shores.

While it may seem distant, its technology is going to change the way we live in so many ways – from the way we shop, game, study - to the way we see the world – and we got a glimpse of just how useful this piece of tech is. 

We were given a very thorough demo of the Hololens courtesy of Helloholo, a local start-up that provides developers and interested parties access to the Hololens. They’ll teach you how to use it, how to develop apps with it, and provide bespoke MR solutions to issues you may be facing. They also provide rental and assist with tricky Hololens acquisitions.  

Yeo Jun Jie, the Marketing Director of Helloholo brought the Hololens to us. Right away you get the sense of how well-built the headset is. It’s lightweight, premium-looking and didn’t make you look ridiculous like a HTC Vive. Microsoft are indeed serious about bringing MR to the world. 

 SKYPE ON THE HOLOLENS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QiGYtd3qNI

The first app Yeo loaded up was something familiar to us all, but given a whole new dimension of usefulness, and that app is Skype. He had to scan the room, so that the Hololens knew its dimensions and space, then he handed us a laptop that showed us what he could see through the lens.

The difference here is digital objects can be brought into what we see. The Hololens knows that that’s a wall, and using a pen tool, Jun Jie was able to draw symbols and markings which stay fixed on the wall and don’t shift even though we look away. The tracking on this thing is phenomenal – there was no lag as if all these digital objects had some sense of physicality.

Microsoft doesn’t expect other parties to make a S$5000 investment either; the other party doesn’t need a headset to enjoy the benefits of video calls and other applications as they are able to stream what the user sees. Imagine this in education and how helpful that would be! Being able to teach students from afar through the Hololens, and creating digital objects and interacting with them as with a usual class. So many industries and individuals can be benefitted by this.

ENTERTAINMENT AND GAMES

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hf9qkURqtbM

We moved on to a bit of fun and games – an alien invasion game called RoboRaid. As with most apps, we had to scan our perimeters, and before we knew it, parts of the wall began crumbling away and little alien squids began crawling through to kill us.

Admittedly, it’s not as immersive as VR, (which would literally being taken to a whole new digitally rendered realm) but MR adds to our own world to let us interact with virtual elements in a way never seen before. It retains your awareness of where you actually are, and adds another dimension to it. If it were more natural and integrated, it could be some kind of sixth sense.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ULJV4G5XkA

The game that seriously impressed us was a crime scene investigation simulator, Fragments, that Yeo set up for the team.

The scanning process was far more thorough; the app required us to scan every nook and cranny of the room, under real objects and behind chairs – it’s quite commendable how the machine picked it all up.

Our room was then transformed into a crime scene, with digital objects rendered on top of our reality. We had to familiarize ourselves with this new set up, as there were plenty of items added, like a cracked wall, frames, a corpse on the floor and smashed objects. These could all be interacted with, by peeking through cracks, opening boxes and other contextual actions as you move around your actual room. 

While it wasn’t the most fun game ever made, it certainly unveiled the potential of the device as a gaming device. 

 

CURRENT LIMITATIONS

The Hololens isn't quite ready for the market yet.

We say it lacks a natural feel party because of its limited controls. There are two moves: to access the menu, you need to stick your fist up in front of its sensors and open it up. You may then select things by pinching icons, strictly with your other fingers tucked in.

This applies to “shooting” in video games as well – it can’t quite recognise objects as substitutes for weapons and thus we’re left with this awkward way to shoot enemies that simply doesn’t feel very immersive. Onlookers probably wouldn’t be able to tell we were in a game. 

But perhaps the Hololens’ greatest setback today is its poor field of view – look straight and the screen only fills about 80% of your view. Digital objects may be cut off, and you have to look around to fully capture the object within the screen. As a result, you get no situational awareness and it’s tiring to keep moving your neck around – it doesn’t track eyeball movement.

Having said that, this is most problematic for games like RoboRaid, where peripheral vision is essential to locate aliens creeping up from beside you. Alas, where Hololens matters most – developers – the limited field of view won’t be a deal breaker. You can still render digital constructs and share them between users for projects, demonstrations and digital tours, but its an setback we hope to see future models addressing.

 

 SCANNING AHEAD

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MqGrF6JaOM

There’s a huge future for MR, especially if developers are willing to make that step to incorporate this fascinating tech into their work. “Hololens represents limited resources made unlimited”, Yeo told us, and began to explain how real companies can really benefit from it.

The final app we tried was probably the simplest of the lot, but with real practical benefits companies can use right away. Room scanned, Yeo brought in virtual objects like tables and rendered cats that we could place around the room. The device recognised real world items like a couch, and digital objects sat realistically above it, without sinking through or being awkwardly positioned. 

Scale this up for developers; imagine IKEA incorporating MR into their catalogs. You could wear a Hololens, and visualise how your dream setup would be with digitally rendered IKEA furniture, planning your future purchases whether for home or office. 

Helloholo are spearheading MR on our shores, and is already working with shipyards and other major corporations to create virtual renditions of spaces they have, as they all recognise the efficiency and flexibility of this piece of tech. Yeo hopes to see more developers jump on board to “promote more innovation in Singapore and be more creative”, with the help of MR.

And given what we’ve seen today, we are excited for what MR can bring to the table, especially in years to com

Huawei to show off new AI, revamped interface with Huawei Mate 10

Huawei's next flagship promises to be one to look out for

https://www.stuff.tv/my/news/huawei-show-new-ai-revamped-interface-huawei-mate-10#BytvjcXkgpH8LRyl.99

By Erna Mahyuni

Huawei decided to reveal key details about its upcoming flagship phones in a special briefing this week. While not revealing all the specs, there were enough juicy details shared to make the prospect of the Huawei Mate 10 very promising.

GOING BIG ON AI

In a session with Huawei's Vice President of its handset group, Bruce Lee, key details were shared about what looks to be Huawei's most exciting handset yet.

As to the display, while the exact size wasn't revealed. Lee said that it would be large and yet compact. Lee also revealed that the Huawei UI would be getting a refresh.

What was most interesting was Lee's comments on AI. Lee said that Huawei was keen on "shifting the standards" where AI was concerned.

According to Lee, the AI would not be relying purely on the cloud, instead shifting to including more localised processing. Lee said that Huawei's flagship AI would also benefit from machine learning capability.

Lee did confirm two crucial specs: the processor, which would be the Kirin 970 and also that the Mate 10 would have a USB Type-C port.

The phone will also be optimised to reduce battery consumption while still offering a performance upgrade from its current flagship range.

While the exact specifications of its camera weren't revealed, Huawei did confirm that it planned to continue on with its partnership with Leica. 

The exact debut date of the new smartphone is unknown but an October date seems most likely, considering its main competitors (Apple and Samsung) will have launched their own flagships by then.

Let's see if Huawei's Mate can be an exciting addition to its current lineup.

Hello Moto: Z2 Play arrives with new Moto Mods

Also along for the ride, new Moto C and Moto E4 series phones

https://www.stuff.tv/my/news/hello-moto-z2-play-arrives-new-moto-mods#jDixeRtBfQ9FJoQ2.99

By Nicholas Yong

Just when you believed modular phones have gone to the dumps, the new Moto Z2 Play arrives to prove us wrong - and it’s still compatible with all past Moto Mods.

The base device is still wafer thin, but packs a 5.5in full HD Super AMOLED display, 2.2GHz octa-core processor, and fast charging - 7 hours power in 15 minutes plugged, faster than my toilet break.

The rear shooter has got a little boost too - laser and dual autofocus pixels for sharper low light photos, and for the Insta-addicts, a CCT flash for better-lighted selfies, plus a wide-angle lens to fit all your friends in.

The cool Moto Actions from the Moto G5 Plus also makes its debut on the flagship Motorola device. Swipe left on the fingerprint sensor to go back, right to see opened apps, tap for the home screen, and long press to lock the Moto Z2 Play.

There's a Siri-esque Moto Voice helper to check weather and schedule updates, plus it can help launch an app without unlocking your phone - all without an internet connection. 

This time around, there are a few new Moto Mods (which also work with the original Moto Z if you’re not upgrading). A TurboPower pack for extra battery life, new JBL SoundBoost 2, new case mods that also gives the Moto Z2 Play wireless charging capabilities, and the most interesting of the lot – a GamePad Mod with dual control sticks, a D-pad, four buttons and its own battery pack, so no more fiddling with Bluetooth controllers to play the classic Sega games you’ve downloaded.

Now in Singapore

The Moto Z2 Play is now available for sale in Lunar Grey and Fine Gold colours at S$799 from 29 July.

The new Moto Mods: JBL SoundBoost Speaker 2, Turbo Power Pack and Moto GamePad are S$149 and beautiful wireless charging style shells go for S$99 each. But you'll have to wait until COMEX 2017 to dress up your new Moto Z2 Play.

Moto E4 and E4 Plus

Motorola’s also banging on the doors of budget friendly consumers, first up with the Moto E4 and E4 Plus.

The E4 has a 5in HD display, quad-core processor, 8MP autofocus rear and 5MP selfie, along with 2800 mAh of power. This 4G enabled phone has a fingerprint sensor to boot, for S$199 in Iron Gray or Fine Gold.

Then there’s the big brother – the E4 Plus has an increased 5.5in real estate, 13MP autofocus rear camera (5MP on the front), and a whopping 5000 mAh battery for close to two days of non-stop use  - fingerprint sensor and quad-core processor intact.

It’s also on Android 7.1.1, and can be yours for S$299 in Iron Gray and Blush Gold. Both phones arrive 11 August.

Moto C and Moto C Plus

The remaining members of the Moto family are pretty basic phones. The Moto C and Moto C Plus packs a 5in HD screen, a quad-core processor, and its dual SIM, plus it runs on Android 7.0.

Where it differs though, is the upgraded 8MP/2MP combo on the Moto C Plus over the 5MP/2MP cameras on the Moto C, and a 4000mAh battery against 2350mAh pack.

Moto C is priced at S$149 in Starry Black or Pearl White, while the Moto C Plus is S$249 in either Starry Black or Fine Gold. The Moto C arrives 11 August, while the Moto C Plus will make its debut at COMEX 2017. 

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The debate rages on, as it has done for years now. It’s a debate even more intense than those of the days of PC versus Mac, or Nintendo versus Sega. And it’s no wonder why: it’s not just a simple question of brand loyalty. Your smartphone is as much a part of your everyday carry ensemble as your wallet and bag, so whatever you decide to drop a few hundred dollars on (or in the case of flagship phones, a thousand), you’d better like it. Your choice of smartphone can say an awful lot about you; typically Apple users prefer to sacrifice customisability for a rock-solid platform and flawlessly integrated ecosystem, while Android users have the luxury of choice, but face the threat of poor legacy support and compatibility issues.

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Your two cents' worth: budget-friendly gadgets for students

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