Saturday, September 29, 2012

Samsung Transparent Screens at IFA 2012

One of the coolest technologies showcased at IFA 2012 come from a long due Sci-Fi dream: transparent screens. The Sci-Fi culture has long dreamed about the next generation screens that will allow us to project user interfaces and at the same time allow us to see through it. From movies like Minority Report to Avatar, transparent screens have been locked to the world and only made possible through CGI graphics.

Well, Samsung has been pushing the boundaries of technology and has been demonstrating different screen technologies since a couple of years ago, including flexible screens, transparent monitors and smart touch-enabled transparent screens. IFA 2012 wasn’t the exception, and Samsung dedicated a good portion of their exhibition hall to showcase a couple of version of the newer transparent displays.

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Samsung Smart Window has been showcased since last year and it was also being displayed at IFA 2012. A 42 inches touch-enabled display capable of running desktop-like widgets, videos, applications and the Windows OS itself. Although still in prototype phases (and without clear information about its software capabilities), the screen is capable of running a few apps and widgets.

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This includes a curtain simulation to increase or lower the screen transparency, widgets displaying date, time and weather information, and a few videos showcasing how even applications like Microsoft Office will be able to run on screens like this. Still no price information, but I’d assume that the first iterations will be far to expensive for mass consumption.

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Another really cool example was a 20 inches square transparent screen that is designed to display products with enhanced digital information. Products can be placed behind the screen, and videos (and eventually applications) can be displayed in the semi-transparent screen to provide additional product information. The demonstration in question was displaying Gucci products while videos were being displayed showcasing the fine crafting and history of the brand.

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This screen technology has a huge potential for retail installations since it can provide an augmented reality experience for consumers. It wasn’t clear if this particular display was capable of providing a touch-enabled user interface where users can explore product details and additional information, but I’m sure that Samsung will be able to combine the technologies displayed and future versions will come in extra slim touch-enabled transparent screens in multiple sizes.

You can watch a couple of videos I took from my visit to IFA 2012 Samsung exhibition. The audio is not that good, and I’m not into the filming business, but still, I hope you can see some of the cool bits on them.

Samsung Smart Window – Touch Enabled Transparent Screen, at IFA 2012

 

Samsung Transparent Screen at IFA 2012

If you think about Google Glass, Microsoft’s SmartGlass and future Xbox concepts, Apple’s retail stores and the latest fashion retail installations, it will be easy to see how transparent screens could easily become one of the most wanted technologies in the retail and out-of-home experiences.

Let’s hope a consumer version becomes available soon, so we can start swapping or old fashioned windows at home too !

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Zero-Day Flaw targeting Internet Explorer

A new zero-day flaw targeting Internet Explorer versions 7, 8 and 9. The flaw can be exploited on Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

The zero-day flaw is apparently quite difficult to exploit, and only skilled engineers with enough time to exploit the flaw might be able to take advantage of it. The flaw could potentially grant a hacker remote access control over the target machine.You can read the detailed article posted by The Guardian here.

Microsoft has published the warning, and is urging people to download and install a tool called "Enhanced Mitigation Security Toolkit", while they work on a patch for the found flaw. The installation is straight forward, and has a couple of default configuration settings that will make it quite easy to setup and mitigate potential exploits in your system. The tool comes with a guide document which also explains how the exploit works and what the tool does to prevent it. You can download the tool here. Check the tool screenshots below.









Sunday, September 16, 2012

IFA 2012: Thoughts and Opinions (part 3)

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This is the third and final part of my IFA 2012 review. You can find part 1 here, and part two here.

At this point, I didn’t have much time left and I wanted to focus mostly on the new laptops, ultrabooks and specially on the new Windows 8 tablets. I did a quick tour around laptops and ultrabooks, and I can tell you that most of them look way better on pictures that they are and perform in reality. The big thing is about making laptops and ultrabooks as thin as possible, which is a good objective since it makes them sleek and compelling, but on the other hand, most of them get really, really hot, making them really uncomfortable. Also, the materials used on most of them feel too plastic and cheap.

To my surprise this was the case on most Samsung and Acer machines, including the new tablets. The Lenovo ThinkPad computers were a good conservative display, with a few new laptops being thinner and more powerful than previous generations. I believe that enterprise PC users will love the new thinner laptops (I know I will!).

An unexpected surprise was too see that pretty much every computer manufacturer had Windows 8 machines on display. I could almost say that on laptops it was half Windows 7, half Windows 8. On tablets, Android was the dominant operating system, but there were a LOT of Windows 8 tablets from companies like Samsung, Sony, Dell and Asus, displaying an arrange of Windows RT and Windows 8 PCs. This was pleasant for me, because people felt quite attracted to them, and I say many, many people spending a lot of time playing around with Windows 8 features, especially with the Samsung Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets.

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Samsung also displayed some of the hardware prototypes created during the Windows 8 and Windows RT hardware manufacturing process.

Since I don’t have many photos and detailed descriptions of the devices, I’ll instead direct you to their reviews by Trusted Reviews, where you can find most of the top laptops and tablets that were showcased at IFA 2012. Also, you can find specific overviews about the latest Windows 8 devices at the Windows Team Blog.

To my disappointment, despise Samsung’s ATIV S Windows Phone 8 announcement, the phones were not on display and I could not see even a picture of them. However you can stay tuned to my blog and check the photos and specs on the Samsung’s ATIV site.

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That being said. My favourite picks are the following:

Asus Vivo Tab

Samsung ATIV Tab

Asus Zenbook U500

Dell XPS One 27

Overall, I would say that Asus and Samsung ended positioning themselves higher above the competition. However, both hardware manufactures seem to have fallen behind the expectations set by Microsoft’s Surface. Samsung in particular seems to have a hard time matching the looks with the feels, and Asus had a hard time making detachable keyboard feel just right. Overall, a good start on the new generation of Windows 8 devices, and hopefully the innovation bar will keep rising. Let’s not forget that as the new Windows Phone 8 devices are finally able to compete with Apple’s iPhone 5, Windows 8 tablets need to be able to compete with Apple’s iPad 3!

More on tablets and smartphones to come on the blog, along with more tech-coding-and-development specific blog posts soon.

Thanks for reading and if you like what you find here, please help me out and share the blog in your networks!

IFA 2012: Thoughts and Opinions (part 2)

Continuing with my IFA 2012 review (you can read part 1 here), we move from the sleek and incredibly thin OLED TVs to monitors and touch displays.
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One of the really cool monitors on display was the EA93 21:9 widescreen monitor. This is a beautiful truly movie-like monitor, offering 2560 horizontal pixels. A monitor like this will be specially handy for movie and video editors and sound editors, although may be too much for regular use. You can check a more detailed review on the best monitors by Trusted Reviews.
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Quick video on Samsung’s 3-Screen-Array displaying synchronized video
Samsung was also displaying a gorgeous array of three portrait oriented really thin screens playing a synchronized video, which I could easily image on retail and out-of-home spaces, like flagships.
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Regarding touch screen technologies and devices I was a little disappointed. While the progress on touch displays for tablets was actually quite good, interactive touch screen technologies still falls below expectations. Although I can’t give much details on the devices I tried, most touch monitor displays still feel sluggish and feel hard on your fingers. The exception to this was a Sharp 80’’ PN-E802B with an Overlay Touch Panel. The responsiveness was impressive and it felt good to touch it without minimal friction.
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Quick video showcasing the Samsung’s SUR40 with output on a horizontal 4-screen-array
From all touch displays on the show, the Samsung’s SUR40 PixelSense (formerly known as the Surface 2 Table) is still the best multi-touch, multi-user device on the market. Although PixelSense is not targeted to consumers, it is always an attractive and engaging device. Retail spaces have a lot of potential for the PixelSense tables. However, developing compelling applications is a .NET expertise that is hard and expensive to invest on, apart from the high price of the device itself. Nonetheless, I always enjoy to see the tables on display since I have worked with Surface since the early versions.
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To finish this second part of my IFA 2012 review, I want to share a really cool prototype that I had the chance to see and test for myself. Haier had a still-in-development prototype of a brain controller display. The prototype uses a small headset with sensors that is capable of measure the different brain waves generated and then transmit them to an app that process them and display the results on screen. While testing the prototype, the goal is to concentrate on something being displayed on the screen. If the person is able to concentrate really hard, the ball on the screen starts to levitate, giving you the feeling that you are actually moving the ball with your mind. Although is still a work in progress, this has tremendous potential. Imagine how disabled people could you a device like this to control the TV or their computer!
The third, and last part of the post is to finalize with tablets, laptops and ultrabooks plus my conclusions on IFA 2012. Make sure to check it out!

IFA 2012: Thoughts and Opinions (part 1)

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This review is a little bit late already, but I wanted to share my experience attending the IFA 2012 show, and more than talking about showcased gadgets (which you will find a lot more information online and just by following the links included in this post), I wanted to share my impressions and opinions on Europe’s biggest consumer electronics show.
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First of all, I must say I was disappointed to see so many crappy companies selling the same useless (or maybe not) accessories for Apple products. I understand that there might be some cool waterproof covers, or a different colour you might want for your iPhone back-cover, but this was IFA 2012! Isn’t it supposed to be a showcase of the latest technologies and devices on the market? There were dozens of companies selling the same stuff all over the place, kind of like a souvenirs hall in an airport for last minute gifts. Really bad first impression I must say. I hope they cut down the amount of crap-parasite products next year.
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The only cool thing I saw on this area was the iRig products, which allow musicians to record and produce music on the go, connecting live instruments to iRig gadgets, which in turn use an iPhone or an iPad to record and playback what you are playing.
IMG_4016Once you get past the small parasite companies, you get into the bigger halls where companies try to impress customers and display the latest gadgets. IFA 2012 was mostly about television technologies with a massive array of different televisions devices, including OLED and 3D displays. One important fact to notice is that despise the fact that hardware is progressing amazingly on this area, the software empowering the TVs is still quite poor. There were several companies, including Samsung, Sharp, Panasonic, Vestel, Philips and LG, displaying all kind of different television displays. The most impressive displays that I was able to see were mostly from Samsung and LG, where the slim OLED TVs caught everybody’s breath.
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Many were also pushing the concept of Smart TVs, TVs able to use basic cameras and poor sensors to provide a “smarter” connected TV experience. Personally I think that for the price you will have to pay (in the $3K range) you will be better off buying a flat screen with an Xbox or a PS3 system. That will give you a better experience, content, entertainment hub and will still save you money. There were some TVs able to run Android apps and share content with Android devices, but the interfaces seemed quite sluggish and  poor.
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3D technology was also a main topic, and there was a lot of different displays, including a massive array of 3D screens in the entrance of the LG hall, 2D to 3D conversion demonstrations in the LG gaming area. Honestly, I don’t get the fuzz about 3D TV technology. I know that is cool to see a 3D movie from time to time, but the 3D glasses always feel uncomfortable and after a couple of hours you start to get your eyes tired.
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I don’t think 3D TVs is something that I would get for my main TV, and the 3D TVs being displayed are way to expensive to consider them just a cool secondary TV in case you feel like watching a movie or a TV show in 3D. Nevertheless, I had the change to play StarCraft 2 in 3D which was kind of cool.
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By the way, I was expecting a lot more gaming focused halls as you can expect from CES, but I was disappointed to see that gaming was not a paid a lot of attention at IFA. Acer had a booth, same as Toshiba dedicated to gaming PCs, but failed to provide an engaging or innovative experience.
The next part of the post is more about monitors, touch displays, retail displays, tablets and computers, plus my conclusions on IFA 2012. Make sure to check it out!

Bleeding-Edge Technology comes to the Fashion Industry

As some of you may know, the last couple of weeks have been quite exciting for technology and fashion. While big hardware manufacturing companies were showcasing the latest mobile devices, tablets and gadgets at IFA 2012 and event all over the world, fashion designers have been deep diving into the Fashion Week events in New York, London and soon Paris.

In the last couple of years I have noticed an increasing interest from fashion designers and brands to bring more engaging experiences to consumers on their retail spaces and high end events. However, 2012 is pushing the expectations of what fashion and technology can do together.


My wife is an independent fashion designer, stylist and blogger who has been keeping an eye and reporting the latest trends to the community through her blog (if you like her blog, you can also follow her on Twitter). In the last couple of weeks we have been discussing the increasing usage of technology in fashion retail experiences, and beyond that, the use of cutting-edge technology in events like the London Fashion Week.

I believe this is quite relevant for the technology industry, because through fashion, technology can reach a whole different target segment, including non-tech-savvy people which might not otherwise have any contact with some of the bleeding edge technology hitting the fashion stores. People is already loosing the fear to touch and play with technology. Smartphones and tablets are improving people’s relationship with technology, and public spaces mixing digital with traditional experiences will have a deep impact in people’s perception.


Take for example Perch Interactive Footwear display system which turns a normal surface into an interactive display through the usage of cameras, motion sensors, lights and image projections.


Another good example is Topshop’s retail efforts to personalize and provide a premium experience for their clients. Mirror Mirror is a retail installation that puts clients in front of an interactive mirror with real time feedback from fashion designers around the world with access to the installation cameras, giving users designer’s feedback and advise right on the spot.


Topshop also created an Interactive Fitting Room installation powered by Microsoft’s Kinect Sensor which provides users with an augmented reality experience on their store.


Fitnect did a similar Virtual Fitting Room experience using gesture controlled interfaces (also known as Natural User Interfaces or NUIs). Although you might be opinionated about virtual fitting room’s success, the reality is that these kind of installations expose people to high end technology in a seamless way.



Google’s augmented reality Project Glass, which although in its early development stages, is causing a big fuzz in the fashion industry by teaming up with designer Diane von Furstenberg. By using bleeding-edge technology and a very well executed marketing campaign, people is able to experience the fashion’s couture back stage experience like never before, and even if this is just a small part of the technical implications and objectives of the Glass project, it is exposing people to technical terms like Augmented Reality, Heads-up Displays, Natural User Interfaces and large scale video sharing. All these is actually really healthy for the technical and digital industry cause it puts all these terms into the general public’s heads. 


There are many more examples happening all over the world. Some of them could be seem as lame or useless, but others are quite impressive. The latest technologies, like NFC, RFID, Gestures and Facial Recognition, wireless charging and sharing, and many more are being embedded in retail and public spaces like Burberry's London flagship store, digital interactive applications, online experiences with cutting edge social sharing and even wearable clothing. Now, as I was saying think about the implications for the general public. All these efforts are getting people closer to new technologies, not just old, mass technologies, but actually cutting edge, still-in-development technologies. This is good in many ways, and pushes people’s expectations and boundaries, forcing companies and brands to use digital in smarter and more engaging ways.

I final example I wanted to mention is the upcoming (actually in a couple of hours) Topshop interactive online event, which will allow people to customize the London Fashion Live Stream Show by personalizing the stream and providing a social and online shopping real time experience. If you are interested, make sure to tune in Topshop.com today, Sunday, September 16th, at 3:00pm GMT on your favourite Browser.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Microsoft’s New London Windows 8 Tablet Studio

I just found out that Microsoft is setting up a brand new studio focused on tablet development for the Windows 8 platform, which will be leading Windows 8 tablet entertainment and game development. Furthermore, the studios will be based in London and will be headed by Lee Shuneman. You can read the Engaged article here. Make sure to keep an eye on the upcoming exciting work from the first London Windows 8 Studio.

A few weeks ago, Microsoft announced the first wave of Windows 8 games that will be available on October 26th, the official Windows 8 launch. It is cool to see that many existing Xbox titles are going to be available on Windows 8. This will help to consolidate the Windows eco-system and will help to give more value to consumers who upgrade to Windows 8.

iPhone 5: A Quick Glance

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As probably everybody in the world knows, just a couple of days ago Apple announced the new iPhone 5 to the consumers. This was the first time that the new iPhone generation was not presented by the deceased Steve Jobs. If you haven’t seen it already, check out the key note and the official launch video.

I must admit, sometimes I find hard to swallow Apple new product announcements. It just seems to me, that Apple fans are willing to buy anything the company throws at them, even if it is just a marketing strategy to release small upgrades focused on forcing consumers to spend money for something they don’t really need, or with little value compared to what they already have.

However, Apple, under Job’s direction, was able to produce beautiful functional products, and push mobile innovation, forcing competitors to raise the bar to the point were we are right now. It is actually good to see that Nokia, HTC and Samsung, along with Microsoft’s Windows Phone and Google’s Android platform are now true competitors to Apple’s products (more on that to come soon!).

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Anyway, lets take a quick glance at the iPhone 5, iOS 6 features and the current state of the Apple beloved smartphone.

  • 7.6 mm thick, making the iPhone 5 the thinnest smartphone on the market.
  • height: 123.8 mm, width: 58.6 mm.
  • It weights only 112 g, making it the lightest smartphone on the market.
  • 4 inches display screen, which is smaller than Nokia and Samsung newest smartphones.
  • It has a 1136-by-640 pixel resolution display at 326 dpi
  • A6 processor
  • 8MP iSight Camera, offering panorama shots functionality (a good addition since the panorama feature was already available in Windows Phone 7 devices)
  • Video recording at 1080p up to 30 frames per second, and FaceTime HD camera with 1.2MP photos and HD video at 720p up to 30 frames per second.
  • Improved battery and performance, although just enough to compete against the latest Android and Windows Phone 8 devices from Samsung and Nokia. I don’t see a great improvement here. Stats provided promise 225 hours in standby mode, 8 hours talk time on 3G and 50 hours of music playback (all lower than the Nokia Lumia 920 and 820), although they promise 10 hours of video playback, which is better than the competitors. Still, the battery seems to me as one of the weak points.
  • New smaller 8 pin connector, which still keeps the iPhone 5 away from the standard Micro USB connector. Funny to see how Apple can still push proprietary, non standard common hardware to the market, and nobody seems to care (this would and has been a big headache for any other company in electronics trying to do similar things).
  • Comes with 16GB, 32GB or 64GB versions, being the smartphone offering the highest capacity at the moment. This is great and I’m glad they stopped with their 1 year capacity upgrade releases as they used to do with the iPod.

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Overall, the upgrades were well received by the consumers, press and existing Apple costumers. I really like the new design and is amazing how they could make the device lighter and thinner while improving performance and upgrading some of the features. Surprisingly the device doesn’t support NFC, which even if Apple claims that is still unclear if NFC will solve real customer needs, is a downside for the current digital landscape and will surely be a strong advantage for Samsung and Nokia.

Regarding iOS 6 and some of the new features, Apple announced the new Apple Maps, which I still have to see in action and in the hands of Google Maps fans. It might be a reason for some people to switch to Windows Phone or Android (I personally know of people that would change to use a Lumia if it weren’t for Google Maps). Siri and iCloud are still there, improving and evolving, but sincerely I fail to see real advantages over the competitors. Siri sounds cool, but is rarely useful in real case scenarios (at least for most people). The new killer features are AirPlay, which allows to stream content from the phone to the Apple T.V. (playing catch up with stronger options like Xbox’s SmartGlass), and AirPrint which allows user to send files to printers over the air in an easy and convenient way (this one is a killer one indeed!).

All and all, the device is obviously one of the best smartphones in the market, but on the other hand is good to see that now the iPhone struggles to keep at the top against the latest Android and Windows Phone 8 devices. This is good for the market and for consumers since pushes the companies to work harder on innovation and on getting consumers on-board. It has been an exciting month for the mobile industry and smartphone consumers, and that is always cool ! Keep tuned for more on the coolest and newest smartphones on the market!