All posts in “Software”

Niantic’s follow-up to Pokémon Go will be a Harry Potter AR game launching in 2018

Niantic Labs had tremendous success with Pokémon Go, which paired their expertise in building location-based augmented reality mobile experiences with a top-flight IP with a ravenous fan base. So, it stands to reason that we should expect a similar fan response to Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, an AR title set to launch in 2018, co-developed by Warner Bros. Interactive and its new sub brand Portkey Games.

Niantic building a Harry Potter game similar to Pokémon Go was rumoured last year, when the company noted that it had acquired the rights to the app. But the rumour was subsequently debunked, oddly enough, with the original article containing the information pulled from the web.

The app is now official, bu the details are still scarce, with the launch timeframe of just sometime next year, but it sounds like there will be significant influence from the Niantic game Ingress, which allows players to roam the real world collecting power-ups, defending locations and exploring their environment.

The mechanics of Ingress would actually translate pretty well to the fictional Harry Potter universe, and seems almost ready-made for a fantasy spell casting coat of paint to replace its science-fiction special forces veneer. Also, like Pokémon Go, it could benefit from the location database built up by Ingress originally (and expanded by the Pokémon title) to incorporate real-world locations into the in-game experience.

Featured Image: Warner Bros.

Google’s Pixelbook is my new favorite travel buddy

The Google Pixelbook is a bit of an odd duck among notebooks, or among tablets – or even among notebook/tablet hybrids. It’s a Chromebook, which by now is an established category, though one with very specific appeal; and it runs Android apps, which makes it feel very much like an iPad competitor. It’s a great device in terms of hardware build and general performance, but it’s obviously not going to work for everyone. It is, however, perfect for one use case, and maybe more so than any other gadget that preceded it: Travel.

Pixelbook was my companion for a couple recent trips, and it proved more than equal to the task. The form factor in particular is a big boon, since the convertible keyboard that tucks under the display means you can use it during taxi and takeoff without getting any flack from the flight attendants. It’s also great for ensuring a comfortable viewing angle regardless of how little room you have, owing either to just general airline seat design or to front neighbors who insist on reclining even though we all know that the only people who do so are selfish inconsiderate monsters.

Using it in “entertainment mode,” with the keyboard reversed and the screen coming forward, proves the perfect solution for watching movies on the foldout meal tray, for instance. And the tent mode is also effective for lower viewing angles depending on whether your maybe get bumped into business. It’s also still a relatively compact notebook for use as an actual notebook with keyboard for when you want to get work done while up in the air.

The ability to use Android apps provides even more flexibility in terms of travel options, since you can do things like save Netflix shows for offline viewing. One caveat here: I tried to do the same with Amazon Prime Video, and found that playback stuttered in a way that was unacceptable to me, at least. This seems to be one of the bugs that still affect some Android apps when working in Chrome OS, and will hopefully be resolved via future updates on either the Chrome or Prime app side.

Pixelbook can also act as a great offline reader, again supported by the Android app library including Kindle, and it’s a terrific virtual notebook or sketchbook if your interests lean that way thanks to the Pixelbook Pen and its terrific, low latency input. Physical controls and USB-C ports make it a bit more flexible than the iPad for doing things like editing photos in the air, and even though its operating system is based around a web browser, there’s actually a lot it can do while offline. The 10 hours or so of battery life that Google claims for the Pixelbook holds especially true when you’re connecting to the web only intermittently or while laying over between flights, too.

One other thing makes it a superior notebook either while travelling, or any time: That keyboard. It’s probably the most satisfying keyboard to type on I’ve ever experienced in a notebook computer, with responsive, pleasing tactile key response, but with a minimum of noise, which is perfect for confined quarters like an airplane cabin (and starkly opposite the effect of the current MacBook Pro means of type input).

Ultimately a lot of mobile devices travel well these days, but the Pixelbook just seems particularly well-suited to this task. It’s also impressive how far Chrome OS has come in terms of serving the needs of a greater number of customers – it’s very close to being the only device I need to get everything done both personally and professionally, and for a lot of people I’m sure it’s already there.

Parrot releases drones for firefighters and farmers

Parrot is continuing its push into the commercial drone space with two new drones. The Bebop-Pro Thermo and Bluegrass are aimed at specific targets namely firefighters and farmers. Both join Parrot’s Professional range of drones that include the Disco-Pro AG and Bebop-Pro 3D Modeling. At this point, if there’s an industry that could use a drone, Parrot seems to be building one for it.

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The Bebop-Pro Thermo is based on an updated version of the Bebop drone. Along with a 14MP camera, the drone is equipped with a Flir One Pro thermal imaging camera that Parrot says can be used in construction and rescue services. The drone can fly for 25 minutes and the retail package includes 3 batteries, a Skycontroller 2 controller and a backpack for $1400. This drone will be available in November.

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The Parrot Bluegrass is an all-new drone design from Parrot and can cover 30 hectares at 70 m / 230 ft. flight altitude per battery. The Bluegrass is equipped with an HD camera and a special sensor developed by Parrot that can provide an overview and detect problem areas in all types of crop fields. Called the Parrot Sequoia, this is a multispectral sensor specifically developed for crops and can record images of crops in four distinct spectral bands.

The Bluegrass comes with the software needed set an autonomous flight path over a plot of land. Parrot says the user sets the boundaries of the fields and selects the types of crops and the drone and software does the rest — though it can also be piloted manually.

When the Bluegrass hits stores in November, the drone will be available for $5,000, which includes access for one year to the aforementioned software.

Parrot is clearly trying to tune its drones for use other than just casual aerial photography. And that could be the start of something big. Drones have countless use cases but many of those that could benefit from using a flying robot are unaware they need such a device. Parrot played a big part in developing the consumer drone market with the Parrot AR Drone and the company could be well positioned to do the same in the commercial space too.

Delphi buys Nutonomy for $400 million to scale and deliver autonomous vehicles

Delphi today announced it is purchasing the self-driving car company Nutonomy for $450 million. Founded in 2013 by Dr. Karl Iagnemma and Dr. Emilio Frazzoli, Nutonomy is Boston-based company that develops autonomous vehicle technology. The core thought behind this purchase is to accelerate the pace of developing autonomous vehicles with Delphi.

Delphi CTO Glenn De Vos noted on a conference call about the purchase Delphi wants to be a leader in autonomous vehicles but sees the first opportunity in commercial vehicles. De Vos sees the technology accelerating into the commercial space and then bleeding over into consumer vehicles over time. By buying Nutonomy, De Vos sees Delphi gaining a significant advantage in intellectual property and engineering talent. “This [purchasing Nutonomy] helps us deliver at scale,” he noted.

“Our mission has always been to radically improve the safety, efficiency, and accessibility of transportation worldwide,” said nuTonomy co-founder and CEO, Karl Iagnemma said in a released statement. “Joining forces with Delphi brings us one step closer to achieving our goal with a market-leading partner whose vision directly aligns with ours. Together we will set the global standard for excellence in autonomous driving technology.”

The purchase cost Delphi $400 million in cash and will pay out an additional $50 million in performance based pay-outs. Nutonmony had raised $19.6 million in funding from among others Highland Capital Partners, Samsung Ventures and Detroit-based Frontinalis Partners. The two companies started talking a few months back after Delphi starting looking to scale its autonomous vehicle operations.

Nutonomy’s partnerships with Lyft and others will continue and the company will work in parallel with Delphi from its home base in Boston.

Upon completion of this purchase, Delphi will have autonomous driving operations in Boston, Pittsburgh, Singapore, Santa Monica, and Silicon Valley and the company aims to have 60 autonomous cars on the road by the end of the year.