10 Reasons to Get Excited About Google Glass in 2014

Google hasn’t announced an official retail release date for Google Glass yet but that doesn’t mean we can’t start getting excited about what Google Glass might be able to do! Here are ten reasons to get excited about Google’s intriguing new device this year:

10 Reasons to Get Excited About Google Glass in 2014

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Healthcare applications

When it comes to the potential influence of Google Glass, there’s really no ceiling to what kinds of healthcare applications could be introduced. It’s already been used in a few surgeries over the last six months even. Whether it’s allowing surgeons to keep their eyes on patients (as opposed to constantly looking up at screens), broadcasting procedures for others to watch and study remotely or being used as a training device, there’s limitless potential for the application of Google Glass in and out of surgical rooms.

Navigation

One of the most lauded – and criticized – features of Google Glass is the integration of Google Maps. There’s no denying the usefulness of having live directions show up on the display when one is walking around, but the inherent distraction of having the screen running while one is driving (even if the small display is transparent) can be a worrisome thing – and in some states, has already stirred up a legal debate on the legality of using Glass while driving. But with some subtle improvements, like the ability to overlay directions on the actual road in non-obtrusive fashion – or looking farther into the future, a possible companion to their driverless car. No matter what avenue of travel, Google Glass can take navigating around cities and the world to a whole new level.

Glass in the classroom

There are already some educators enrolled in the Google Glass Explorer Program – and as schools begin to explore the potential application of this technology to the classroom, it’s already becoming clear how useful a device it could be. Forget using it as a screen for information: Google Glass could give educators and students alike the ability to see through each other’s eyes and understand what they’re learning – and how they’re doing it! Like any other entry on this list, there’s limitless potential. All there needs to be are some developers and educators to harness it.

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Smartphone connectivity

Another interesting arena Google Glass is attempting to enter is in direct competition with the trendy smart watch movement. That is, providing a second-screen experience capable of handling the simplest smartphone tasks (playing messages, reading and responding to texts) without having to take said phone out of your pocket or look at another screen on your wrist. Glass already has the ability to dictate texts and emails and the more developers tinker around with the Glass API, the more ingenuity we’ll see in how Glass interacts with smartphones and offloads some of their tasks.

In-home use

Smack dab in the center of the “connected home” technology gaining popularity at CES this year is Google Glass. Just imagine how useful it would be as a way to wirelessly control the temperature or determine how much electricity is being used in your home at any given time. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg on what Glass could do in the home. Setting alarms, streaming video from the television, remotely controlling garage doors and sprinkler systems… like most industries, there’s a limitless number of avenues to explore innovation with Google Glass.

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Google’s Past/Future UI

Taking notes from social media feeds, the Google Glass UI is built on an interesting philosophy: swipe left to see things in the “future” (like tomorrow’s weather, your calender, and alarms), or swipe right to go to the “past” – news headlines, Twitter, text messages, etc. Simple but well-organized, the on-screen UI of Glass isn’t revolutionary, but it represents Google confidence in their Glass philosophies. Hopefully this will be a harbinger of good fortune for Google’s future support of the product.

More hardware innovation

As Google draws closer to public release, it’s expected that the Glass will go through a few more hardware iterations before Google settles on a functional, affordable design to release to the public. But they’re certainly not going to do so by skimping on the technology. With any luck, the public version of Glass will go under some improvements under the hood in the next 6-12 months to ensure its internal.

The Glass Development Kit

The Glass Development Kit is the key to unlocking Google Glass. Like Apple’s API kit for iOS, it contains all the tools necessary to develop anything for Glass, from mini-games to navigation applications and anything else one might be able to think of. Already in the hands of many software developers, it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing what the most creative technical minds in the world have in mind to make Glass more than an impressive bit of physical technology.

google glass prescription

Prescription-friendly versions

For those who wear glasses (like myself), Google Glass initially appeared to be another piece of technology we’d miss out on. However, Google’s recently announced a partnership with eye care insurer VSP will help reduce the cost of getting Google Glass-enhanced prescription frames. There will be available a number of models priced at $195-225 (on top of whatever Google Glass will retail at), costing about the same or less as getting a traditional set of frame and lenses.

Widespread professional applications

Think of how useful Google Glass could be in a production warehouse, allowing workers to monitor efficiency levels. The sky’s the limit when it comes to the professional applications of Google Glass, from manufacturing, to agriculture (instant information on nutrient levels in a field’s soil, for example), to airline travel and the business world. The more Google courts third-party developers to integrate software with Glass, the more versatile and attractive their product will be to the professional world.

What innovations are you expecting Google Glass to bring to the table in 2014? Share your hopes for this new technology with us in the comments below!

4 Things New CEO Satya Natella Should Consider to Get Microsoft on the Right Track

Recently, Microsoft announced Satya Natella as the third CEO in the company’s 38-year history, marking a new era for the American software giant. Although Natella inherits a company boasting north of $40 billion in revenue over the last six months of 2013,  Microsoft’s influence in the post-PC world is waning, especially when it comes to tablets and smartphones. So what can Microsoft do to rebound in 2014?

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Microsoft CEO Satya Natella

Four Things Microsoft’s New CEO Needs to Consider

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Stop trying to create an Apple-killer

The single biggest problem hampering Microsoft right now is that it’s no longer an innovative company: it’s a company stuck playing catch up to Apple and Google in just about every category. Sure, Windows-based laptops still sell a ton but when it comes to tablets and smartphones, Microsoft’s Surface tablets and Windows Phone offerings haven’t caught on with consumers, even with the revamped Surface 2 and their line of Windows-branded Nokia smartphones.

There are certainly things Microsoft can take notes from with Apple and Google – one of those things is creating public buzz. Part of the allure of iOS and Android products is the anticipation these companies create with consumers, “leaking” exciting new features and mind-blowing advances in internal technology to get the public drooling. Of course, this is one of Microsoft’s biggest problems: neither its hardware nor software is impressing anyone anymore. Until they can figure out a way to draw consumers to products besides super-snazzy smartphone cameras and cool-looking keyboards, it’s going to be a rough tumble to the bottom.

surface 2

Pick a UI – and stick with it

When Microsoft launched Windows 8 and its Metro interface, it was a risky move for the company to try and align its desktop and mobile OS’s into one seamless experience. Except it didn’t work: the new aesthetics led to a major disconnect with its desktop devices and a touch-friendly OS that found itself running on mostly touch-less hardware. Yes, the Metro design has proved beneficial with Windows Phone (one cannot deny the functionality of live tiles) and the Xbox One. But when it came to its core audience, Microsoft was more confusing than revolutionary. It’s a problem they’ve only compounded with multiple desktop interfaces, the return of the Start button, and a number of other features that try and straddle the line between desktop and mobile without providing a coherent direction for the company. Given that, it’s no surprise Microsoft is already working on Windows 9 since Windows 8 was not the step forward they hoped it would be.

xbox one

Develop to Microsoft’s strengths, and vigorously 

Looking at Microsoft’s financial results from the end of 2013, two things become clear: Microsoft’s selling less Windows licenses and they’re selling more gaming systems, thanks to the release of the Xbox One in November. It appears Xbox is doing everything it can to promote the Xbox One from announcing exciting features and partnerships to creating television shows and entertainment enhancements. But the 2+ million people who bought the Xbox One are still waiting to see a lot of these new advancements come to light.

Right now, Microsoft’s biggest strengths are Microsoft Office (still a huge entity in the corporate world) and the Xbox. Instead of trying to make an iPad-killer, Microsoft should put an extreme focus on these two products. Continued integration of Office 365 with the cloud is a step in the right direction, as is Microsoft’s entertainment deals with CBS and the NFL for exclusive content on the Xbox One. But both Office 365 and the Xbox One are missing key features for enterprise users and gamers and until Microsoft can advance their new technologies and fulfill the promises they’ve already made (especially with Xbox One features), users are going to be hesitant to embrace the software giant once again.

bing

To Bing or Not to Bing

What is Microsoft doing with Bing? No, seriously. Although it’s one of the most-used search engines in the world, that title comes with a huge caveat: it lags far, far behind Google in every single category. Over the last couple years, Microsoft’s appeared to embrace Bing, providing revenue opportunities for advertisers, a clean, socially-connected interface for users, and a lot of commercials and Xbox integration to make it seem “cool”. But it hasn’t worked. Unless Microsoft wants Bing to fade out into obscurity (which some argue it already has), they need to find a tangible way to truly establish itself as a valid alternative to Google, not just another Microsoft product viewed as a knockoff of a more popular service.

The 5 Best Game Console Controllers of All-Time

The last few months have seen a plethora of new game console controllers hit the market, thanks to the arrival of multiple new gaming consoles and the addition of MFi controller support for Apple’s iOS 7. And those aren’t the only new entries: exciting innovations like the Steam Machine’s touch-screen controller prototype and the many planned iPhone and iPad-compatible game pads look to continue the long, iterative history of hand-held joysticks into 2014 and beyond.

With that in mind, we took a look back at our favorite game console controllers of all-time. Here are our five favorites:

The Best Game Console Controllers of All-Time

 

snes controller

5. Super Nintendo Controller Pad

Our list begins with a huge piece of nostalgia: I can’t count how many hours I spent with the SNES controller in my hands, playing through Super Mario WorldChrono CrossSuper Metroid, and countless other classics from the 16-bit era. Simplistic and colorful, the Super Nintendo controller has provided inspiration not only for future generations of Nintendo consoles, but just about every controller design since (remember those shoulder triggers?), the truest sign of the controller’s lasting design legacy.

 

sega controller

4. Sega Mega Drive Six Button Control Pad

To this day, Sega’s six-button control pad remains the definitive standard game controller for fighting games. The button layout is perfect for the classic, “piano-finger” arcade style of button pressing, and the large, responsive eight-way directional pad remains one of the most thumb-friendly creations of its kind to grace home consoles. Sure, there were a ton of games that never utilized the extra buttons, but when it came to Super Street Fighter II battle royale, there wasn’t a better controller to duke it out with.

 

gamecube controller

3. Nintendo Gamecube Controller/Wavebird

Arguably the most ergonomic controller ever produced, the Nintendo GameCube controller initially looks like a warped version of its predecessor (the head-scratching N64 game pad), full of colorful buttons, a ‘C-stick’, and an oddly placed third trigger. But get the GameCube controller in your hands, and it’s like heaven. The thick, tactile shoulder triggers and well-placed action buttons fit neatly into one’s hands, almost as if it were constructed from some futuristic version of memory foam. To say its a “snug fit” would be an understatement. The GameCube controller (and its wireless, slightly bulkier sibling Wavebird) is a perfect fit for two hands, a memorable piece of plastic full of Super Mario Sunshine and Resident Evil 4 memories.

 

SONY DSC

2. Xbox 360 Controller

The most versatile controller ever made (thanks to the wired version’s compatibility with Windows computers), the Xbox 360 controller is a marked improvement over the Xbox Controller S (let’s not even talk about the original Xbox behemoth), removing some of the extraneous buttons and adopting a more compact, ergonomic design. It also introduced us to the “Guide” button, a multi-functional input that controls everything from opening menus to turning the system on and off – something Sony’s adopted since with their ‘PS’ button, and something that lives on (with even more functionality) with the Xbox One controller.

 

ps4 controller

1. Sony DualShock series

Introduced in 1997, Sony’s DualShock Analog controller was the first home console controller with vibration support built in (the Nintendo 64 required the use of a Rumble Pak, lest we forget) – and Sony hasn’t stopped innovating since, continuing to upgrade and improve their signature game pad with each new generation. Their latest – the DualShock 4 – may just be their best yet, with its Share button, touchpad for navigating menus, built-in speaker, and reconstructed triggers (the DualShock 3’s always felt a little squishy). There’s a reason Sony hasn’t revamped the basic design of the DualShock in the 17 years since its debut: the controller just works, an unbeatable combination of technical achievement and impeccable design.

What is your all-time favorite game console controller? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

CES 2014: Trends to Watch For

What’s a better way to ring in the new year than checking out the latest advancements in consumer technology? CES 2014 kicked off this week out in Las Vegas and already we’re starting to see tons of exciting new products and developing technologies that will make their way to the market in the next few years. Here’s what we’ve seen so far – and what trends we’re expecting to continue as the show continues throughout the week.

CES 2014: What We’re Expecting

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Smarthome technology

Although pretty televisions and cool gadgetry always rule the day at CES, there’s an interesting trend developing at this year’s show: the emergence of ‘smarthome’ technology as a viable revenue stream for tech-friendly companies, like LG and Samsung. But Samsung’s Smart Home App isn’t all we’re expecting to see at CES 2014. From security and energy management, to grocery shopping and organizing, there are a plethora of new products arriving at CES 2014 this year (like Goji’s ‘smart lock’ remote front door access) aiming to connect us to everything in our home, as well as outside of it.

Of course, there are also some new automated vacuums at CES 2014 – but unlike ten years ago, a cleaning robot isn’t quite the wonder of in-home tech it once was. For that, we’ve got to look elsewhere at CES. Already we’ve seen awesome products like the iBaby M6 baby monitor, MakerBot’s mini-3d printer, or Amped Wireless’ new WiFi extender, which can amplify a signal up to 5,000 square feet. And that’s not even getting into kitchen products. Already this week, Belkin debuted their new line of WeMo-compatible devices with a smartphone-controlled crock pot and LG announced a dishwasher that takes commands via text message.

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4K and Ultra HD

As more and more companies focus on Ultra HD development (simple translation: 4K) rather than 3D technology (in fact, Vizio announced yesterday they’re moving away from 3D altogether), 2014’s new televisions are going to be brighter, sharper – and in the case of some companies, a lot larger. We’ve already heard rumors about LG’s 110-inch Ultra HD television and announcements from companies like Sceptre and Vizio announcing their new, Ultra HD-ready product lines. With Samsung, Sony, and others still waiting in the wings, there’s plenty of big, beautiful new televisions being shown off all week on the CES 2014 floor.

intel smart watch

Wearable technology

Last year’s Pebble Watch and Google Glass were only the tip of the iceberg. 2014 is quickly turning into the Year of Wearable Tech, whether it’s coming from Samsung, Intel, or a host of other tech giants and start-ups looking to capitalize on the hottest mobile trend of the new year. Pebble’s already announced a $249 Steel Pebble Watch for the fancier types, XOne Google-Glass compatible safety googles, or something different like Lumo Lift, which vibrates when it notices its user practicing bad posture.

Smartwatches (can we bring back the word ‘swatch’ yet?) aren’t the only thing popping up at CES this year. There’s been a revival of fitness band technology thanks to the popularity of the Pebble Watch. Garmin, Movea, Basis, and Sony have already announced new fitness bands for 2014, all with increased functionality and available in multiple colors. Intel’s even taking it one step further, introducing a new line of ear buds that tracks runs and measures heart rates.

car tech

In-car technology

There aren’t just cool cars like Formula E’s electric race car being debuted at CES. Car and smartphone entities are both announcing big advances in technology inside of cars, like Hyundai’s second-generation Blue Link technology (connected to Verizon), BMW’s driver assistance technology, and Audi’s new partnership with AT&T to bring LTE into their cars across the United States. In other words, cool cars aren’t just getting faster and more efficient, they’re getting a lot ‘smarter’. And quickly.

What are you looking forward to most at CES 2014? Tell us your expectations and hopes in the comments below.

Xbox One or PS4: Which One Should You Get?

xbox one or ps4

Xbox One or PS4? It’s the hottest question of the holiday season – and although both are considered next-generation gaming consoles, their respective visions of said “next generation” are wildly different (and equally exciting). Both systems aren’t for everybody – and with that in mind, we’ve got a few suggestions for different types of gamers looking to pick up a new console this winter.

Xbox One or PS4: which one is better…

 ac4

… For the dedicated gamer?

For many, the next generation console war comes down to one simple question: which system has the best games? Unfortunately, there’s no winner in this category just yet: after a fairly mediocre lineup of launch titles (many of which were multi-platform and multi-generation, released on both Xbox 360/PS3 and Xbox One/PS4), there isn’t much difference between the gaming experiences on the Xbox One or PS4. That’s not to say there aren’t some solid exclusives available: Xbox One’s zombie-infested Dead Rising 3 and PS4’s indie shooter Resogun only scratched the surface of what these systems are capable of.

At this point, there isn’t a winner or loser in the games category just yet: if anything, the PS4’s ability to run multi-platform titles like Call of Duty: Ghosts and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag at native 1080p resolution gives it a slight advantage over the Xbox One. We’ll have a better idea once the many, many indie titles and spring exclusives (like Xbox One’s Titanfall or PS4’s Infamous: Second Son) start making their way to the shelves. For now, we’re going with the PS4, thanks to its pure graphical power and much-lauded Dual Shock 4 controller, with its superior analog sticks and absurdly comfortable, responsive shoulder triggers.

…For the casual gamer and avid media consumer?

One thing is clear about the next generation of gaming consoles: being just a gaming console is no longer acceptable. The PS4 and Xbox One have very different visions about what that exactly means, but the idea is basically the same: both next-generation systems are designed to provide a wide array of entertainment options, be it playing Blu-Ray discs, streaming media from Netflix – or in the case of the Xbox One’s ambitious plans, existing as the only entertainment device in one’s living room.

In this sense, the Xbox One is endlessly more ambitious than the PS4, even if many of the premium features only come with an Xbox Live Gold membership (for example, PS4 can stream Netflix without a PS+ account; the Xbox One does not without Xbox Live Gold). The ability to connect everything from cable boxes to other game systems make it a true “all-in-one” solution for the living room – even if it’s still an imperfect one, with a sometimes-awkward Windows 8-based interface and Kinect 2 voice controls that still don’t quite work as well as one would like.

At the end of the day, the PS4 and Xbox One are aiming to be very different devices: PS4 wants to be a gaming console first, while the Xbox One wants to separate itself by being the all-in-one solution to someone’s living room. For those who aren’t considered with “console exclusives” (games released on only one console, or “timed” to be exclusive for a period of time) and just want something that plays mainstream game titles between video streaming, the Xbox One‘s higher price tag ($100 more than the PS4) is worth the cost.

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… For the social gamer?

There are a few ways to look at the Xbox One or PS4 as “social” systems. Both feature the ability to capture screenshots and game video to upload, both are compatible with Twitch streaming (though Xbox One hasn’t released an update unlocking this feature as of yet), and both cater to gamers who like to play with friends, with features like cross game chat.

When it comes to actually sharing content with friends, Xbox One currently has a slight advantage. Despite the PS4’s useful “Share” button (which has multiple commands for taking screenshots, capturing the last 15 minutes of gameplay, or recording a new clip), the PS4’s video-sharing feature is limited to uploading to Facebook only (at least for now). The Xbox One‘s ability to upload videos to Skydrive, along with its robust video-editing tools, give it a slight edge for the gamer who doesn’t like to just play with his friends, but share those experiences with thousands of others on the web.

… For tech-savvy gamers and their cutting-edge living rooms?

The 4K generation is nearly upon us – and thankfully, both the PS4 and Xbox One are 4K-compatible, ready to deliver the most beautiful virtual worlds imaginable. But it’s not quite clear how well both are prepared for this next generation of television technology: looking under the hood of both the Xbox One and the PS4, there are a few key differences that push Sony’s signature device past the Xbox One’s.

The biggest difference comes in the system RAM: the XBox One’s 8GB of GDDR3 memory finds itself with two big disadvantages, at least a month into the new generation. The first is the RAM itself: with the PS4 adopting the new GDDR5 standard for its memory, the PS4 is able to deliver more pure processing power than the Xbox One (hence why COD: Ghosts and ACIV: Black Flag are optimized to run at 1080p, rather than the Xbox One’s 720p offerings).

More importantly, the Xbox One’s complex OS (based on Windows 8 tiles) naturally requires more memory to run: Xbox One games can only use six of the system’s eight computer cores, reserving a much higher percentage of processing power for the operating system. Yes, the Xbox One’s smooth, tile-based system is pretty and easy to navigate, but it appears to come at the cost of having the most detailed, graphically impressive games – though the continued development on the Xbox One (especially the system’s ability to use Microsoft’s cloud servers to handle data) will hopefully level this playing field in the near future.

ps camera kinect 2

The other big difference between the two systems are their peripherals – and in particular, their voice-command cameras, better known as Sony’s PS Camera and Microsoft’s Kinect 2. Those who think that talking and gesturing to their systems is the future of multimedia experiences, the Kinect 2 – while still a limited piece of equipment, particularly with gestures – is a far more impressive piece of technology, with the ability to understand a wide range of commands and a UI design that almost encourages the use of gestures to navigate menus.

In other words, this category is a pure toss-up: the PS4’s under-the-hood advantages and ability to stream games right to a PS Vita might give it more beautiful games to play all around the house, but with all the exclusive titles coming out for release in 2014, it’s not clear whether the PS4’s graphical prowess or Vita-streaming capabilities will amount to anything substantial. The Xbox One, despite being more closed in its design (unlike the PS4, the hard drive on the Xbox One can’t be replaced by the user), offers a lot more potential in terms of what it could do in the future: and in the present, the advanced voice controls and well-developed (if not a little hard-to-grasp) user interface present their own unique set of advantages.