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January 18, 2019
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CES 2019 - page 3

Is Samsung getting serious about robotics?

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A funny thing happened at Samsung’s CES press conference. After the PC news, 8K TVs and Bixby-sporting washing machines, the company announced “one more thing,” handing over a few brief moments to announce a robotics division, three new consumer and retail robots and a wearable exoskeleton.

It was a pretty massive reveal in an extremely short space, and, quite frankly, raised far more questions than it answered. Within the broader context of a press conference, it’s often difficult to determine where the hype ends and the serious commitment to a new category begins.

This goes double for a company like Samsung, which has been taking extra care in recent months to demonstrate its commitment to the future, as the mobile industry undergoes its first major slowdown since the birth of the smartphone. It follows a similar play by LG, which has offered a glimpse into its own robotics plans for back to back years, including allowing a ‘bot to copilot this year’s keynote.

We all walked away from the press conference unsure of what to make of it all, with little more to show for things than a brief onstage demo. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to spend some quality time with the new robots behind the scenes the following day. There were some caveats, however.

First, the company insisted we watch a kind of in-person orientation, wherein a trio of miced up spokespeople walked us through the new robots. There’s Bot Care, a healthcare robot designed to assist with elder care, which features medication reminders, health briefings and the ability to check vitals with a finger scan. There are also yoga lessons and an emergency system that will dial 911 if a user falls.

There’s also Bot Air, an adorable little trash can-style robot that zooms around monitoring air quality and cleaning it accordingly. Bot Retail rounds out the bunch, with a touchscreen for ordering and trays in the rear for delivering food and other purchases.

The other major caveat was look, but don’t touch. You can get as close as you want, but you can’t interact with the robot beyond that.

The demos were impressive. The robots’ motions are extremely lifelike, with subtle touches that imbue on each a sense of personality rarely seen outside of movie robots like Wall-E. The response time was quick and they showed a wide range of genuinely useful tasks. If the robots are capable of performing as well in person as they do in these brief, choreographed demos, Samsung may have truly cracked the code of personal care and retail robotics.

That, of course, is a big if. Samsung wouldn’t answer the question of how much these demos are being orchestrated behind the scenes, but given how closely the company kept to the script, one suspects we’re largely looking at approximations of how such a human/robot interaction could ultimately play out somewhere down the road. And a Samsung spokesperson I spoke to admitted that everything is very early stages.

Really, it looks to be more akin to a proof of concept. Like, hey, we’re Samsung. We have a lot of money, incredibly smart people and know how to build components better than just about anyone. This is what it would look like if we went all-in on robotics. The company also wouldn’t answer questions regarding how seriously they’re ultimately taking robotics as a category.

You can’t expect to succeed in building incredibly complex AI/robotics/healthcare systems by simply dipping your toe in the water. I would love to see Samsung all-in on this. These sorts of things have the potential to profoundly impact the way we interact with technology, and Samsung is one of a few companies in a prime position to successfully explore this category. But doing so is going to require a true commitment of time, money and human resources.

CES 2019 coverage - TechCrunch

News Source = techcrunch.com

Nissan’s new Leaf E+ is packing more than just 226 miles of range

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Electric vehicle competition is heating up and it’s pushing some of the first entrants to add range and other features in hopes of keeping up with automakers that are just bringing EVs to the market.

Nissan has been in this EV game for nearly nine years now. The company has sold more than 380,000 Leaf vehicles globally since the EVfirst went on sale in 2010. And while it debuted a refreshed version of its all-electric Leaf just 16 months ago, the automaker is back with another Leaf variant that’s packing a lot more range and power as well as several other new features.

Nissan unveiled this week at CES 2019 the Leaf e+, a version of the Leaf all-electric hatchback 40% more range. The Leaf e+ has 62 kilowatt-hour battery pack that has a range of 226 miles. That puts the Leaf e+ just under the Chevy Bolt EV, which has a 238-mile range, the upcoming Kia Niro EV with 239 miles, and the Tesla Model 3 mid-range variant with 264 miles.

Pricing for the new Leaf e+ hasn’t been announced for the North American or European markets. In Japan, it will start at ¥4,162,320, which is around $38,000.

Consumers might have trouble distinguishing the Leaf and Leaf e+. Other than a 5-millimeter increase in overall height (16-inch wheels), the car’s exterior and interior dimensions are unchanged. The Leaf e+ has a revised front fascia with blue highlights and an “e+” logo plate on the underside of the charge port lid. Inside, drivers might notice the blue contrast stitching on the steering wheels, seats and door trim.

 

The Leaf e+ is also equipped with advanced driver assistance technology known as ProPILOT and a one-pedal driving mode feature that allows the driver to start, accelerate, decelerate and stop using only the accelerator pedal.

ProPILOT is an in-lane semi-autonomous driving technology that can automatically adjust the distance to the vehicle ahead (some call it adaptive cruise control), using a speed preset by the driver. The system can also help the driver steer and keep the vehicle centered in its lane. ProPILOT Park, which is available only Japan and EU models, is a system that can provide vehicle acceleration, braking, handling, shift changing and parking brake operation to guide the car into a parking spot.

Leaf e+ models in North American and EU will have a larger full-color 8-inch display, with an updated navigation system that can be linked to a compatible smartphone. This thin film transistor display features smartphone-like operation including swiping, scrolling and tapping. Applications, maps, and firmware are updated over the air, instead of having to manually update by USB or at a Nissan dealership, the company said.

Other new features include “Door-to-Door Navigation,” which syncs the vehicle’s navigation system with a compatible smartphone for driving and walking directions.

Nissan Leaf e+ interior

The big story here of course, is the increased range and power. The Leaf e+ has a new electric powertrain that combined with the battery produces 160 kw of power and 340 Nm of torque. This means the Leaf e+ will have the get up and go required for merging and passing slower moving vehicles on the highway.

Nissan says the Leaf e+ is 13% quicker when accelerating from about 50 mph to roughly 74 mph. The top speed has increased by about 10%.

The battery pack in the Leaf e+ is almost the same size and configuration as the one in the standard Leaf despite a 25% increase in energy density and increase in energy storage capacity.

The Leaf e+ also has a high-speed charging package — for those who want to pay for that feature — that will let drivers charge up to 80% of its range in 40 minutes. Based on early testing, Nissan Leaf e+ owners can expect similar charging times when hooked up to a 100 kW charger as current Nissan Leaf owners do with a 50 kW charger, despite a 55% larger battery storage capacity, the company said.

The new variant is expected to hit Nissan dealerships in Japan in late January. U.S. sales are expected to begin in the spring of 2019, and European sales will start in mid-2019.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Holoride’s in-car VR solution is the best thing at CES 2019

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After days of demos and announcements and miles of walking, I’m confident in declaring Holoride the best thing at this year’s CES. The designation of “The best thing at CES 2019” is my badging. This isn’t an official award handed out by a governing body. This is just me saying Holoride is the best thing I’ve seen at the show.

This year’s CES is fine, I guess. The main theme is connecting services around the smart home. There’s a huge range of devices that now support services from Amazon, Google and Apple. CES 2019 also featured the launch of new silicon chipsets and self-driving platforms. But the thing that impressed me the most is from Holoride, a startup from Audi that wants to put VR in cars to entertain and reduce motion sickness.

Iron Man needs help, Rocket told me. And like that I was thrust into a space battle against Thanos’ bad guys. There was an Oculus on my head and my body was dipping and diving, shooting through space, while I was waving my hands around, blasting the enemy. It was straight out of Disney World (partly because Disney helped with the content). Except I was in Vegas, in the back of an Audi SUV hitting speeds of 90 mph on a track.

After two laps around the track, I walked away fine. I didn’t feel sick at all, even though I’m the sort of person who can’t look at their phone in a car.

Matching the VR content to the vehicle’s movements is key to the Holoride experience. In short, when the car moves, the content moves in the same way. This reduces motion sickness, and, from my demo, I can confirm it works — at least on me.

The technology comes from a small startup recently spun out of Audi in a play to put VR in every car. The founders have been working on the technology behind the in-car VR system for several years. The automaker holds a minority interest through subsidiary Audi Electronics Venture, which helped develop the technology. Audi will license the technology to Holoride and the startup will use an open platform to allow any automaker as well as content developers to create whatever reality formats they desire.

I’ve experienced countless VR experiences, and this was one of the best demos I’ve had. The use case is compelling too. Not only does it provide entertainment, but it also solves motion sickness. It’s easy to imagine this in an ad-supported format in the back of an Uber or while on a long-distance bus. It could work in planes too. It could improve long car rides with the kids.

Holoride is a longshot and there are countless questions around the content, consumer outreach and compatibility. In order for it to take off, the company needs to build an ecosystem complete with developers, auto makers and consumers. Building amazing experiences is one thing; selling amazing experiences is even harder.

CES 2019 coverage - TechCrunch

News Source = techcrunch.com

Samsung will unveil the Galaxy S10 February 20 in San Francisco

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CES has never been much of a mobile show for Samsung — not with Mobile World Congress a little over a month away. But the company did use its big platform this week to announce the announcement of its next flagship smartphone.

Turns out Samsung’s not unveiling the Galaxy S10 in Barcelona, either. In fact, the handset will actually make its debut a week before Barcelona’s big mobile show at a standalone Unpacked event in San Francisco. So thanks, Samsung, for those extra frequent flier miles.

We’ve already caught a few glimpses of the handset via a number of leaks, as has become a bit of a tradition for the company. But this gives us another month and a half or so to see the rest of what the premium handset has to offer.

Most notably so far is the company’s decision to forgo the notch, in favor of the camera cutout design Huawei’s helped pioneer. Also reportedly on tap for the handset is the ability to wirelessly charge compatible devices on contact. 

As the invite notes, this is the 10th anniversary of the Galaxy line. Between that and the company’s insistence on holding a standalone event this time out, it seems likely that we’ll be seeing more than just the S10. Perhaps we’ll get more insight into the forthcoming foldable handset and some more news on the 5G front.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Hulu redesign will drop the confusing home screen called ‘Lineup,’ simplify navigation

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Hulu is preparing to update its streaming app in order to make its simpler to navigate to and discover content you want to watch. Some of the changes coming in the weeks ahead are smaller, but worthwhile tweaks – like adding buttons or re-arranging where menus sit. But the more notable change is that Hulu is testing doing away with the app’s existing home page – currently known as “Lineup” – and replacing it with a new experience.

That’s a change that could have a significant impact, as the Hulu home page is the place everyone first lands when they launch the app. The page today sees the most engagement and is biggest driver of content discovery for the streaming service.

Hulu found that users have short attention spans when hitting this page, however – in 30 to 60 seconds’ time, they’ve lost interest. Plus, when users decide to play a piece of content from this landing page, they’re doing so after five actions or less. That means Hulu has only a small window to connect viewers to content they’ll like, before they click away to elsewhere in the app – or close it altogether because they can’t find something to watch.

What Hulu now wants to learn is what sort of content makes the most sense for this landing page. “Lineup,” after all, is a vague term. It sounds like it’s something highly personalized to the viewer – and it’s clearly not, as any Hulu user can tell you, the suggestions here are often hit-or-miss.

“Lineup is confusing,” Hulu’s new VP of Product, Jim Denney, admitted, in a discussion with TechCrunch at CES about the new features. “Lineup, the way it is today, is a combination of editorial picks and recommendations…that combination of things is not as effective as we’d like it to be,” he said.

In its place, Hulu will trial two different variations: a “Hulu Picks” collection, which is curated by staff, and an “Unwatched in My Stuff” option that will show you things you have on your list, but haven’t yet watched.

The former, “Hulu Picks,” would allow the company to have more control over what sort of content suggestions you see first. While the latter option would showcase content you’ve explicitly indicated interest in viewing.

The company says it will test both options with a portion of Hulu’s user base in order to determine which one sees the best response. This will roll out in the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, other changes to the Hulu app will be focused on helping you view more content while searching for something to watch, as well as helping you to more easily navigate, and start watching with less confusion and fewer steps.

For example, Hulu will soon have more content appear on the screen as you scroll down in the user interface, so you can scan the thumbnails and make a decision more quickly.

It’s also adding a larger, more prominent “Details” button on content within its various collections – like the Lineup (or whatever replaces it), as well as sections like “Kids,” “News” or “Sports,” for example. This button will take you to the details page for that show or movie you’re interested in.

 

It’s adding more metadata next to the content, too, including things like the genre, rating, and the year which will help users make a choice more quickly.

On the content’s Details page, there will be a stacked list of quick actions for things like playing the next episodes, adding items to “My Stuff,” or managing your relationship with the show.

This latter option is a small but useful tweak that takes you to an area where you can adjust your suggestions and watch history – meaning you can mark something as watched or unwatched. This will be particularly beneficial for those times when you’ve begun watching a program on another streaming service, and now want to pick it up again on Hulu. Today, Hulu wouldn’t have any way of knowing if you’ve viewed those episodes outside its app – but now you’ll be able to explicitly say so.

You’ll also be able to mark content as unwatched, which could help if you’ve fallen asleep while watching TV, for example, or someone else watched the show while logged into your profile.

New visual templates will make finding news, sports and kids content easier with things like matchup artwork for games and movies identified by their poster, for instance.

On the Live TV side, subscribers will be able to view a full two weeks out on the programming guide, instead of just what’s airing now and next. The navigation here – like Recent Channels, My Channels, All Channels, etc. – has also moved from the top to the left side for easier access.

While these various changes will be rolling out this spring, Hulu plans to continue to iterate on the user interface through the year, says Denney.

“I think you should expect to see the UI continue to evolve,” he said. “We’ll make modifications based on what we’ve learned. We’ll continue to make changes in the UI and make changes to the way we do our recommendations. The mission is to make sure people appreciate the amount of content they have access to without being overwhelming. This home redesign is an ingredient in that,” he added.

 

 

 

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

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