Saturday, December 20, 2014
Google rolled out its preview of Android Auto in June. Designed to support easier in-car use of audio and messaging apps, Android Auto has been touted as a way to integrate mobile devices with cars in a safer and more streamlined way.
Last month, Google announced that it was making the first APIs available to developers who want to build Android Auto-enabled apps. It has also begun working with a number of Android Auto partners, including iHeartRadio, Pandora, SoundCloud, Spotify and WhatsApp.
Google is far from the only Internet tech company looking to gain a foothold in the automotive market. In March, for instance, Apple announced a new offering called CarPlay with many of the same features that Google is working on.
Designed for in-car integration with iPhones, CarPlay uses Apple's iOS operating system to give drivers hands-free access to their phones' contacts, calls, messages and music. The system features Apple's Siri personal digital assistant that can read messages, take dictation and respond to voice commands.
Rolled out first in vehicles made by Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, CarPlay will eventually be featured in cars from a number of other manufacturers including BMW, Ford, GM, and Honda, according to Apple.
The first Android Auto-enabled cars are expected to hit the market in 2015, according to Reuters. As with Apple CarPlay, however, a user would be required to connect a mobile device to the vehicle's system.
The basic ones are going to feel more like bracelets the width of a bandage. The last two resemble watches and have larger displays for advanced features, including heart-rate tracking. But they also may feel big on smaller hands.
This device feels cheap -- because it is. The Move comes with a clip to attach to your waist, but you have to pay extra for a wristband, including a slim-width version for women. The wristband isn't easy to secure, but you can't beat the price.
You get most of the features available with pricier Up models. That includes basics such as steps and distance traveled, calories burned and sleep patterns. Last year's Up 24 ($130) is slimmer and more stylish, but I found the Move's performance to be about the same as the 24, at least when using the wristband. The upcoming Up 3 ($180) will also have a heart-rate monitor and additional sleep tracking.
With many of these fitness trackers, don't expect a high degree of accuracy. Because the Move and the 24 count steps based on arm movement, I got credited with a half-mile from heavy clapping during Act 2 of "The Nutcracker." They also logged a 5.5-mile run as more than eight miles. With a rival device, the Fitbit Charge, I also got extra credit for washing the dishes, even with my feet stationary. These devices are good for those new to fitness, but serious athletes will want more.
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We've known for nearly a year that Boeing is working on an understandably hush-hush smartphone project. It's a self-destructing phone for spies called the Boeing Black. And now we know that BlackBerry is helping—which is kind of weird since the Boeing Black runs on Android. Again, it's all very hush-hush.
Details are terribly scarce. In an earnings call on Friday, BlackBerry John Chen revealed that his company is "Boeing is collaborating with BlackBerry to provide a secure mobile solution for Android devices utilizing our BES 12 platform." He added, perhaps cheekily, "That, by the way, is all they allow me to say." That said, Boeing does offer some details about the project on its website.
Well, whatever the partnership involves, this is certainly exciting news for BlackBerry, a struggling company that could use some exciting news right about now. In fact, BlackBerry's had some luck with it more clandestine clients. Last year, it announced its biggest single order ever when it sold one million units to an unnamed "partner". We also know that the military's very interested in smartphones, though they prefer the Android operating system. It sounds like BlackBerry's willing to work with Android, which is a good sign because BlackBerry clearly needs to work with something. [Reuters]
Image via Boeing
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Museum specialist Drew Robarge made the announcement Monday in a blog post. He included a photograph of the crinkled cartridge along with the official serial number assigned to the game by the city of Alamogordo, New Mexico.
The game was one of hundreds recovered at the city's landfill last spring as a team of documentary filmmakers investigated a decades-old urban legend that centered on Atari secretly dumping the cartridges. The "E.T." game had the reputation of being the worst game ever, and it contributed to the demise of the company.
Robarge said the Smithsonian has some amazing artifacts that represent big moments in video game history, including Ralph Baer's "Brown Box" prototype for the first video game console and a Pong arcade cabinet. However, missing was something that represented what he called "the darkest days" of the early 1980s when the U.S. video game industry crashed.
He describes the "E.T." cartridge as a defining artifact, saying it tells a story about the challenges of adapting blockbuster movies to video games and the end of an era in video game manufacturing.
"All of these possible interpretations make for a rich and complicated object," he said. "As they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure."
Members of the film crew that sparked the dig at the Alamogordo landfill said they were excited to get the call from the museum.
"Just saying the name Smithsonian resonates throughout the world, and to be part this dig and an iconic museum like the Smithsonian with something that we created and researched and actually had come to fruition is pretty amazing," said Gerhard Runken of Fuel Entertainment.