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Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 VR reference headset puts body tracking in mobile VR

qualcomm snapdragon 845 reference vr headset

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 was unveiled in December as the company’s latest and greatest mobile chip, and it’s a pretty powerful one. But it’s not just for smartphones — turns out, the chip could also serve as a pretty decent option for mobile virtual reality headsets. In fact, Qualcomm recently unveiled the Snapdragon 845 Xtended Reality platform for developers who want to build stand-alone VR and augmented reality headsets.

The new platform could bring a number of pretty big improvements to mobile VR. For starters, because of the range of sensors onboard the platform, it enables 6DoF (six degrees of freedom). That means that not only can you move forward and backward, but also side to side, and up and down. That should make for a much more natural virtual experience.

The headset also allows for “simultaneous localization and mapping,” or SLAM. That basically involves the headset detected objects in the real world, then integrating them into the virtual environment. Under the hood, the headset allows for 4 million pixels per eye and according to Qualcomm, it will make for 30 percent fast CPU and GPU performance over the previous generation Snapdragon 835.

The platform also could make it much easier to control virtual reality in a natural way. The device has a digital signal processor for detecting analog signals — like hand movements. On the system, you will find two cameras that can track your hands, so you will be able to control whatever is happening in VR with only your hands — no controller needed. The headset also has eye-tracking — which could have big implications for mobile VR. What it means is that instead of processing entire scenes, the headset could only have to process what you’re looking at.

“We are very excited about VR and AR, and the maturity in the market,” Hugo Swart, head of XR at Qualcomm, said in an interview with VentureBeat. “The 845 chip for AR and VR is the next step. We are working with major partners, and we will have complete reference designs for standalone VR and smartphone VR.”

Because it’s a reference design, you won’t see this particular headset available for purchase. Instead, it’s built for companies like Oculus or HTC, which might want to build a headset with the Snapdragon 845 for itself.

We can expect mobile VR to only get better over the next few years. It’s likely that Qualcomm will continue to put a heavy emphasis on VR as it develops better chips in the future.

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Get ready for the (legal) gloves to come off in net neutrality fight

Fun times.
Fun times.

Image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The battle to save net neutrality is about to heat back up. 

The Federal Communications Commission is on the verge of officially publishing its order demolishing the rules that protected a free and open internet, and activists actually have a reason to look forward to it. Why? Think lawsuits. 

A quick look at the webpage of the Federal Register shows that the order axing net neutrality will be published Thursday, and, according to Reuters, that will give those opposed to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s vision of the internet a chance to fight back. 

That’s because once that ruling, known as the Restoring Internet Freedom order (ha!), officially drops, opponents will have something to sink their teeth into and can begin the long process of fighting the rules in court.

You’ll likely remember that the order in question was passed by the FCC with a vote of 3-2, and at the time Pai insisted everything was going to be totally cool. 

“It is not going to end the internet as we know it,” he observed (possibly while daydreaming about the contents of his giant mug). “It is not going to kill democracy. It is not going to stifle free expression online.”

Yummmmmm... deregulation...

Yummmmmm… deregulation…

Image: Alex Wong/Getty

Not everyone bought the assurances of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups fan. In fact, the Attorney Generals of 22 different states announced their intention to sue the FCC over its decision. 

“An open internet – and the free exchange of ideas it allows – is critical to our democratic process,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman noted in a press release. “The repeal of net neutrality would turn internet service providers into gatekeepers – allowing them to put profits over consumers while controlling what we see, what we do, and what we say online.”

With the official publishing of Pai’s order to the Federal Register happening Thursday, expect to see more lawsuits aiming to defend net neutrality hitting any day now. 

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Most Windows 10 devices across the globe now have Fall Creators Update

We’re running Fall Creators Update on Windows 10. How about you? Chances are that is a definite yes, as a recent report provided by AdDuplex shows that 85 percent of the Windows 10 PCs spanning the globe have Fall Creators Update installed. Falling behind that massive number is the vanilla Creators Update with a mere 8.1 percent install base followed by Anniversary Update with a 5.1 percent install base.  

Microsoft launched Windows 10 in July 2015, bringing the coveted desktop back to the forefront. The company also released four feature updates since Windows 10’s debut starting with the November Update in November 2015. After that, we saw Anniversary Update just over a year after Windows 10’s release, Creators Update in April, and Fall Creators Update in October. 

Currently, Microsoft is putting the final touches on what is dubbed as the Spring Creators Update. There is no official name for the upgrade just yet, but it’s locked and loaded for a springtime release. Participants in Microsoft’s Windows Insider program are even beginning to test builds of the feature upgrade slated for late 2018. 

Here is a rundown of the feature updates and their code names: 

Name  Codename  Version  Release Date 
Windows 10 

Threshold 1 

1507 

July 2015 

November Update 

Threshold 2 

1511 

November 2015 

Anniversary Update 

Redstone 1 

1607 

August 2016 

Creators Update 

Redstone 2 

1703 

April 2017 

Fall Creators Update 

Redstone 3 

1709 

October 2017 

Unknown 

Redstone 4 

1803 

spring 2018 

Unknown 

Redstone 5 

1809 

fall 2018 

 Fall Creators Update builds on the feature explosion introduced by the Creators Update. The first “creators” upgrade provided Windows 10 device owners with the tools to make 3D content, including the new Paint 3D app. But the big underlying feature is Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality platform that powers the new virtual reality/augmented reality headsets built specifically for Windows 10. 

Fall Creators Update isn’t quite a grand but provides new features nonetheless. These include the My People feature for pinning shortcuts to friends and relatives directly to the Taskbar. There is also a new “files on demand” element in OneDrive that presents files stored in the cloud as “ghosts” on your local Windows 10 device. 

According to the report, the number of Fall Creators Update installs jumped 30 percent two months ago, another 20 percent in January, and currently sees a 10 percent increase since the beginning of February. In many countries, such as Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Finland, Fall Creators Update commands more than 90 percent of the Windows 10 market. Meanwhile, that number drops to the 60 percent mark in areas such as China, India, and other countries. 

In addition to the Fall Creators Update numbers, AdDuplex’s report also provides information about the number of Surface devices owned across the globe. The biggest seller is the Surface Pro 4, which commands 34.6 percent of the global Surface device market. Trailing behind is the Surface Pro 3 (19.6 percent), the Surface Pro 2017 model (13.3 percent), the Surface 3 (11.4 percent), and the Surface Book (6.8 percent). 

Right now, the Surface Laptop only commands 1.9 percent of the Surface market despite going retail in June 2017. 

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Motorola’s survey confirms we’re addicted to our smartphones

motorola releases survey on smartphone habits no signal teens amp tweens with cellphones camping

It’s no secret that smartphones take up a large part of our time and attention spans. In an effort to understand people’s “phone-life balance,” Motorola released results from a new survey that examines smartphone habits and how this might impact relationships. What it found wasn’t too shocking — users are putting their smartphones before others.

To gain more knowledge on user behavior, Motorola developed a global study in partnership Dr. Nancy Etcoff from Harvard University and the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry. The study was issued by independent research company Ipsos and looked at behaviors and phone use habits across generations in an effort to understand how smartphones impact our relationships with ourselves as well as others.

The study found that people one-third — 33 percent — of respondents prioritize their smartphone over interacting with other people, like friends and family. But the issues with phone-life balance came specifically from the younger generations who have grown up to only know of a digital world. In the survey, over half — 53 percent — of Gen Z respondents (those born from the 1990s to the early 2000s) described their phone as their best friend.

But the results also showed that people are recognizing the issue and want to find a balance. It was 61 percent of participants who agreed they want the most out of their phone when they’re using it, but also want to actually experience life when they’re off their phones. A majority of respondents — 60 percent — said it was important to have a life separate from their phones.

Within the study, there were also three key problematic smartphone behaviors were identified — compulsive checking, excessive phone time, and emotional over-dependence. Half of the participants agreed they check their phone more often than they like to and feel the need to do it constantly. A third also agreed they spend too much time on their smartphones and feel they would be happier if they cut back.

As for being tied to their smartphones emotionally, two-thirds of respondents admit they feel “panic” when they have lost their smartphones. Even when they are not using their smartphones, 29 percent of participants also agreed they are already thinking about the next time they will be able to use it.

With this knowledge, Motorola recognizes that smartphone users are in need of a better phone-life balance. In an effort to help others, the company has put together a simple 10-question survey that allows you to understand how you compare to other phone users and tips to improve your smartphone habits.

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Twitter says its fighting the ‘targeted abuse and harassment’ of Parkland survivors

Lorenzo Prado, a student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, speaks at the Florida State Capitol building on February 21, 2018 in Tallahassee, Florida.
Lorenzo Prado, a student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, speaks at the Florida State Capitol building on February 21, 2018 in Tallahassee, Florida.

Image: Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)Getty Images

Twitter is stepping in to deal with the “targeted abuse and harassment” facing many of the survivors of the Parkland shooting.

Since the teens have emerged as powerful voices on social media following last week’s shooting, they’ve had to face what many other high profile Twitter users before them have dealt with: abuse and harassment. 

This time, the social media platform is wasting no time in addressing the issue which “goes against everything we stand for at Twitter.” The company says it’s “actively working on” responding to reports of abuse and harassment.

It’s also using its anti-spam tools “to weed out malicious automation” targeting Parkland survivors and “the topics they are raising.” (Earlier in the day, Twitter announced new rules meant to crack down on bots.)

Twitter also confirmed that it had verified “a number of” accounts of Parkland survivors. The company previously announced plans for a new verification system earlier in the year, after it paused the program following widespread criticism

Twitter’s updates come as the Parkland survivors have morphed into very vocal and public faces leading a new debate about gun control in the country. That role has quickly made them targets for harassment and conspiracy theories, which have also cropped up on Facebook and YouTube.

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