Play, stop, start, pause and control your multimedia playback with Flutter

flutter_iconMicrosoft’s Kinect is hot right now.  Controlling your game console, and multimedia equipment – which the Xbox also doubles as – with hand gestures is pretty cool. Many PC owners would love to be able to do the same thing – control their PC with their body.  Well, now with Flutter, a web cam and your PC, you can do just that – but only with your multimedia apps. Flutter allows you to control playback of your favorite media with some of your favorite aps. Let’s check it out to see if it’s going to become part of your PC toolbox.

Flutter uses gestures detected by your web cam to play, pause and skip media. Flutter supports YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, Grooveshark, iTunes, Netflix, among others.  If you’re an Apple Keynote user, you can also control your slide show presentation with hand gestures.  The cool thing is that Flutter works even when the app you want to control isn’t in focus, and is playing media in the background.

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Flutter is an interesting app; but not one that I think will last long. Maybe I’m too old to get it; but with an effective range of 1-6 feet, I can’t see how taking my hands up away from the PC and waving them at the screen is easier or better than controlling media playback with a keyboard or mouse.

I can see where this would be really awesome at say a party or perhaps in a business setting where you were playing a slideshow with Keynote and wanted to control the app that way.  However, I can see things heading way south after a DJ says, “Put your hands in the air..!” I’m just sayin’…

Flutter is coming out with additional gestures and with support for additional apps. We’ll have to see how well this gets adopted, but until then, while really cool, I am going to stay firmly planted on the fence.

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Xbox One and Only

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Microsoft revealed their new multimedia console on May 21, 2013. Also known as the Durango project, the new console is the third iteration in the Xbox family. Officially named as Xbox One, this console brings the series to the next level of gaming experience, at least from the hardware point of view.

Unlike Xbox 360 which featured a PowerPC architecture, Xbox One comes with a x86 based one, making the backward compatibility with Xbox 360 games just a dream which will never come true. The processing speed will be determined by 8 GB of DDR3 RAM from which 3 GB will be reserved for apps and OS, the rest of memory being left for the actual games. The graphics unit is based on an AMD GCM architecture. Also the the new Xbox will not have a composite or component video output. The video and audio input and output will be combined into a HDMI 1.4 support which is ready for a 4K video resolution (3840×2160) and 7.1 surround sound output.

Microsoft went to a more simplified design for their new console, similar to PS3 featuring a two-tone “liquid black” finish and a boxy look. By all means, Xbox One is like a black box, with no replaceable components. Even the 500 GB hard drive cannot be changed or removed. The good thing about this design is that the console looks much more compact, with no moving parts. Even the Blu-Ray drive features a fixed retractable system for a more secure way of reading the discs.

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In case you want to borrow some games from your friend, you should know that the game discs can be played on more than one console, but only after you pay a fee in order to unlock it on your console. That’s because the games are tied to both Xbox One console and Xbox Live account. Even if the game features only singleplayer you need to have 24 h internet access in order to play it.

The Kinect sensor is now part of the whole system. This means that Xbox One will not function without the sensor plugged in. The new Kinect uses a 1080p wide-angle view in comparison to the VGA resolution of the previous version, and has the ability to process a huge amount of data to read its environment. Therefore the sensor can now track up to 6 players at once, including their heart rate, and their gestures performed with the Xbox One controller.

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The Xbox One controller maintains the overall look from the Xbox 360 design. If it works, why would you change it? The design of the directional pad has been changed to a four-way button while the battery compartment is slimmer. The big addition here are the triggers which will feature independent rumble motors which simulate directional vibrations. Imagine firing a gun with a trigger. On the xbox 360 gamepad you would get a vibration effect in the whole surface of the controller. But now, with the new technology, the vibration will focused only on the trigger.

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A digital video recorder is the new component available in Xbox One, which empowers the user to record his gameplay. The user can also edit and share their video creations using built-in video editing tools. Unfortunately no one known at the moment if the DVR component will be able to record video from cable or satellite TV services.

The console is schedules to be released at the end of this year. Overall it seems that Microsoft will mark a new financial success with Xbox OneMore, and will be able to attract new users in their ecosystem, because their gimmick  is not just a gaming console, but more of a media center which  can easily compete against with other similar products like Apple TV and Google TV platform. More details and info will be presented exclusively at E3 2013.

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E3 2012 Report

E3 2012 took place in Los Angeles,  from June 5 to June 7. Overall 45,700 video game industry professionals, investor analysts, journalists, and retailers from 103 countries attended the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 2012). E3 resulted in an estimated 30,000 total hotel room nights and generated nearly $40 million in revenue for the city. Approximately 200 exhibitors showcased the latest in computer and video game hardware and software, including the unveiling of the titles that will be the hottest titles among consumers.

We have gathered the crumbs and build an overall picture of what we have to expect from this year’s gaming industry. There are many new video games coming next year, a lot of them sequels to established franchises and many choices regardless of the console you own. If you could not make it to E3, here are some of the biggest highlights below:

Halo 4

“Halo 4” marks the return of Master Chief and the beginning of a new saga in the blockbuster franchise that has shaped entertainment history. E3 2012 marked the worldwide premiere of “Halo Infinity Multiplayer,” including the all-new, story-driven experience known as Spartan Ops. A first of its kind, Spartan Ops is an episodic adventure — playable in single-player or cooperatively with up to four players — that blends immersive storytelling, high-quality cinematics and action-packed gameplay to deliver an unprecedented serialized experience. Spartan Ops will extend the “Halo 4” experience well beyond the game’s launch. “Halo 4” hits store shelves on Nov. 6, 2012, delivering its most epic and explorative campaign yet, together with groundbreaking multiplayer action.

Resident Evil 6

“Resident Evil® 6” features three distinct, yet interwoven, storylines, each with its own pair of protagonists for either solo or co-op play, both offline and online. Leon S. Kennedy is paired with government agent Helena Harper, while Chris Redfield teams up with fellow BSAA member Piers Nivans. Finally, gun- for-hire and son of the infamous Albert Wesker, Jake Muller is joined by series returner Sherry Birkin. All six must face new horrors as they fight to survive the global C-virus outbreak. Blending both action and survival horror, “Resident Evil® 6” promises to be the dramatic horror experience of 2012.

Tomb Raider

Armed with only the raw instincts and physical ability to push beyond the limits of human endurance, “Tomb Raider” delivers an intense and gritty story into the origins of Lara Croft and her ascent from a frightened young woman to a hardened survivor.

Gears of War: Judgement

“Gears of War: Judgment” takes you back before the events of the original “Gears of War” trilogy to the immediate aftermath of Emergence Day — the defining event of the “Gears of War” universe. Follow Kilo Squad, led by Damon Baird and Augustus “The Cole Train” Cole, as they fight to save the city of Halvo Bay from an unstoppable enemy in the most intense “Gears” game yet. “Gears of War: Judgment” introduces a variety of new multiplayer experiences, including OverRun, a thrilling new class-based competitive mode that will pit Locust and COG soldiers in a head-to-head battle unlike anything “Gears” fans have experienced yet. “Gears of War: Judgment” will launch worldwide in early 2013.

Forza Horizon

Combining the legendary “Forza Motorsport” authenticity with a festival atmosphere and the freedom of the open road, “Forza Horizon” is a high-intensity, action-racing game set against the backdrop of the world’s most unique motorsport party. Featuring an expansive landscape, daring driving maneuvers to master, a rousing soundtrack and visceral moment-to-moment gameplay, “Forza Horizon” offers an immersive pick-up-and-play experience while retaining the unrivaled realism, diversity and innovation that are hallmarks of the “Forza Motorsport” franchise.

Fable: The Journey

“Fable: The Journey” offers a whole new way to experience the deep storyline and picturesque world of Albion that fans have come to know and love. Set 50 years after the events of “Fable III,” this new version asks you to come to the aid of the mysterious Theresa, who thrusts you into an action-packed adventure full of dangerous enemies, hair-raising chases and humorous characters. Built from the ground up for Kinect, “Fable: The Journey” gives you the power to wield magic as a deadly weapon, defend yourself in combat and solve puzzles on your journey to becoming a hero.”Fable The Journey” will launch on Oct. 9, 2012, in North America, South America, Asia and Australia and Oct. 12, 2012, in EMEA.

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Last week’s highlights #3

It’s Monday and time to recap the highlights from the last week:

Safari for Mac and PC: fast and elegant

While Internet Explorer may hold the top browsing seat in the Windows environment, it’s not the only browser choice available.  The browser wars may or may not be over, and choices now abound. If you’re looking for an alternative for your Windows platform, or have made a switch to OS X, then you’re going to want to take a look at Apple’s Safari browser. It’s one of the best browsers around, and like most, it’s free.

Safari is a great browsing alternative, and offers a great deal of features and functionality. The only down side that I’ve seen is that not all features are available to Windows users, though it is the default browser on all Apple Mac systems. On the Windows side, its security features and speed make it a worthy choice in replacement, or in addition to, any other browser you may currently use.

Download Safari for Windows | Download Safari for Mac

Internet Explorer drops below 50% of web usage

Even by the most generous estimates, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is used by barely 50% of Internet users worldwide, meaning that we are approaching or even past the point where most people aren’t using the browser. It’s been a shocking decline from the mid-1990s when as many as 95% of people were on IE. But the big story now isn’t Microsoft’s losses, but rather that it’s Google picking up much of the slack.

It’s important to note that the methods used to create browser market share figures vary from source to source. Most involve using website traffic logs which record the browser used by each visitor to a site. Some of the leading market share figure reports come from web analysis companies who get data from hundreds of thousands of clients, making a reasonably representative sample of the entire web, but this can vary. Still, even while the figures vary (and most sources already have Microsoft below 50%), the pattern is consistent

Microsoft XBOX 360 Kinect is 1 year old

Microsoft’s Kinect system was designed simply to be a way for the Xbox 360 games console to compete with the Nintendo Wii for a family audience. But one year on it is among the fastest selling consumer gadgets ever as well as being adapted for a wide range of non-gaming uses.Kinect, originally known as Project Natal, came about after Nintendo revolutionized the gaming industry with its Wii motion control system that brought a whole new meaning to “pick up and play.” Suddenly TV news reports on gaming were no longer of stereotypical greasy-haired teen loners mastering intricate control systems: instead we had families playing together and even nursing home boxing contests.

10 years of Windows XP

It has now been a decade since Windows XP revolutionised the world of computers and on October 25 of this year the world’s most popular operating system turned ten years of age. Although the world has been flooded with wave after wave of new technology since the initial launch of Windows XP, the simple fact remains that Microsoft’s most successful and longest lasting operating system is not going anywhere, anytime soon. It is still the computer software of choice amongst millions of people and companies worldwide, and despite the hype and marketing surrounding Windows 7, Windows XP will still be used by many of us another ten years from now.
Let’s take a look at the beginnings of Windows XP, why it became so immensely popular, and why only a fool would bet against it still ruling the roost by the time it turns 20.

Nexus Prime – First Ice Cream Sandwich Smartphone

The Galaxy Nexus had the working title of Nexus Prime, taken from a backstory for the Transformers movie series. It’s an appropriate name as Google is hoping the device will continue to help Android transforming the smartphone market. The Nexus is produced by Samsung but will be specifically marketed by Google itself, following on from the Nexus One and Nexus S.

One of the key elements of the Galaxy Nexus is that it will be the first commercial phone to run Android 4.0, the latest edition of Google’s mobile operating system, with the odd marketing name of Ice Cream Sandwich (previous updates included Cupcake, Eclair, Gingerbread and Honeycomb.)

 

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Microsoft pushes more Kinect-like user interfaces

Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360 ditched handheld controllers for gestures and sound, but natural user interfaces don’t have to be restricted to video games.

That’s what Microsoft’s research group said Tuesday as it kicked off the TechFest conference, an annual gathering of research scientists at Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters.

“In the months and years to come, a growing number of Microsoft products will recognize voices and gestures, read facial expressions and make computing easier, more intuitive and more productive,” Microsoft said.

Microsoft Research “is working closely with Microsoft business units to develop new products” using technology similar to the natural user interface exhibited by Kinect, the company said. “Computers are moving rapidly toward … interfaces that are more intuitive, that are easier to use, and that adapt to human habits and wishes, rather than forcing humans to adapt to computers.”

Several of the 17 Microsoft projects exhibited at TechFest take advantage of natural user interfaces.

Microsoft’s Applied Sciences Group is working on smart, interactive displays using Kinect technology, including one that improves display of 3D images. The project uses “a special, flat optical lens (Wedge) behind an LCD monitor to direct a narrow beam of light into each of a viewer’s eyes,” Microsoft said. “By using a Kinect head tracker, the user’s relation to the display is tracked, and thereby, the prototype is able to steer that narrow beam to the user. The combination creates a 3-D image that is steered to the viewer without the need for glasses or holding your head in place.”

A related project uses a “Kinect-based virtual window,” which tracks a “user’s position relative to a 3-D display to create the illusion of looking through a window,” Microsoft said. Along with other 3-D technologies, the Kinect-based virtual window could improve upon existing telepresence systems, Microsoft said.

Natural user interfaces represent just a few of the projects Microsoft is displaying at TechFest. Here are some more examples:

Face recognition in video. “In the near future, a television or an Xbox will be able to recognize people in the living room, home video will be annotated automatically and become searchable, and TV watchers will be able to get information about an unfamiliar actor, athlete, or singer just by pointing to the person on the screen,” Microsoft says.

Take 3-D pictures with a regular camera. Watching 3-D content is one thing, but creating your own is another. Microsoft is demonstrating technology that can create 3-D images with normal cameras. “Our research demonstrates an easy-to-use system for creating photorealistic, 3-D-image-based models simply by walking around an object of interest with your phone, still camera, or video camera,” Microsoft says. A user can view newly created 3-D images “by spinning it around on your screen, tablet or mobile device.”

“Fuzzy” contact search for Windows Phone 7. A demo application for Windows Phone 7 solves the problem of incorrectly typing in the name of a contact on a smartphone. “We propose a fuzzy-contact-search feature to help users find the right contacts despite making mistakes while keying in a query,” Microsoft said. “The feature is based on the novel, hashing-based spelling-correction technology developed by Microsoft Research India.”

Cloud data analytics from Excel. Possibly useful for business customers, this project brings some cloud computing capabilities to Excel to make navigation of large data sets easier. “Our project shows how we seamlessly integrate cloud storage and scalable analytics into Excel through a research ribbon,” Microsoft says. “Any analyst can use our tool to discover and import data from the cloud, invoke cloud-scale data analytics to extract information from large data sets, invoke models, and then store data in the cloud — all through a spreadsheet with which they are already familiar.”

Social news search for companies. Businesses can build an internal news portal by using social media tactics, such as “crowdsourcing,” to improve the quality of results and identify important stories. “We tackle two questions: How can we use social media to provide a rich, topical, searchable, living news dashboard for any given company, and can we build an environment where the curation of the sources of content for a company page is done by the users of the page rather than by an editor?” Microsoft says.

[Via IDG News Service ]

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Microsoft Kinect – the “fastest-selling consumer electronics device in history”

Call it Kinectification. Microsoft said today that its video-game business grew dramatically thanks to sales of its Kinect motion-sensing system.

The Entertainment & Devices division — which includes Xbox 360 and PC games, Zune, Windows Phone 7, and consumer software — generated $3.7 billion in revenue in the quarter ended Dec. 31, up 55 percent from $2.4 billion a year earlier.

Peter Klein, chief financial officer, said in a conference call that Kinect is the “fastest-selling consumer electronics device in history.”

That shows that, after many years of skepticism and losses, Microsoft’s game business has hit its stride. Kinect has given the company a much-needed boost in sales at a time when Microsoft might normally have had to introduce a new game console. The Xbox 360 was introduced in 2005. If it were a normal console cycle, Microsoft would have to introduce a new box this year. But Kinect let the company postpone the new console and keep gamers entertained with something new.

[ More on venturebeat.com ]

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The Gaming Report – Kinect’s First “Sex” Game?

Come on! You knew it, I knew it… Everybody knew it! Sooner or later someone had to start try to make a sex game out of it! Sure, you’re massaging air, but at least you do it with your hand, not with your mouse…

Popular sex game maker ThriXXX is experimenting with Microsoft’s new motion controller toy – the Kinect – in order to give players a fresh new perspective on games.

This early technology preview you are about to see uses the Kinect motion controller (of course), the open source drivers library for it, and runs on Windows 7.

Also note: this video has been taken offline from Youtube several times, so I don’t know how long it will stay up… Enjoy it while you can (or just do a search, I’m sure some good-hearted Samaritan will re-post it under a different account).

Enjoy your groping!

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The Gaming Report – Because Minority Report is finally in the living room

Okay this not only registers as “gaming” but also in Windows, hardware and if there were a “awesomely cool” category I would include it there as well. Everyone talks Kinect these days – how it will revolutionize controller industry, etc. – but did anyone checked how many people actually watched (or re-watched) Minority Report these days?!

Seriously speaking though, I have to watch that movie again! No, no, no…. really serious now: The Germans at Evoluce are the first guys to show a Windows 7 interface controlled by a Kinect device.

Evoluce specializes in multitouch stuff and with a little help from Redmond and a lot of hard work I assume, they can control Windows just by hand gestures. So that first Star Trek episode where Spock showed detailed info on a planet navigating with his hands, or the April first joke from Opera when you could control the browser with face gestures – may not seem so funny now.

Anyway, as you can see in these videos, you can browse through media, resize stuff, arrange icons, scroll through web pages, zoom in or out of webpages and maps, draw stuff, and who knows how many more things will pop up into people’s mind once the foundation for this stuff is established.

And to all the naysayers who claim – for a good reason – mouse interaction is faster, I say the same as I do with voice control. Not only it’s cooler this way, but you don’t have to use just gesture or voice navigation. You can combine methods to increase the speed you interact with devices a lot if you’re smart! It really depends on the purpose they serve as well – a presentation in a crowded conference room for example is the perfect place to use your hands skill…

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