HTC has announced that the Vive Focus Plus — a new virtual reality headset it unveiled last month — will launch on April 15th for $799. The Vive Focus Plus is a self-contained headset with fully tracked motion controllers, following on the heels of HTC’s Vive Focus, which launched with similar specs but more limited tracking options. It’s loosely similar to the upcoming Oculus Quest, but instead of aiming at a mass-market gaming audience, HTC designed the Vive Focus Plus for business customers.
HTC will let visitors to its Vive Ecosystem Conference try out 15 different apps for the Vive Focus Plus, including at least one game: a “Paintball VR” experience where the headset is paired with a haptic vest. But it describes the system as something for enterprise users, who will be able to buy it in 25 markets with support for 19 languages.
The Vive Focus Plus, like the original Vive Focus, is based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor. Its screen offers 1440 x 1600 pixels per eye, on par with the Oculus Quest and other newer headsets, although it’s more modest than something like the high-resolution HP Reverb. The Vive Focus and Focus Plus both use built-in cameras for inside-out tracking, so there are no wires or external cameras. I didn’t have a good experience with the Vive Focus Plus tracking system, which was shaky and unreliable during a demo — but that might have been a result of trying the headset at a crowded trade show.
The original Focus shipped with a remote-style controller with a small range of motion. The Focus Plus comes with a pair of controllers that include full motion tracking — again, similar to the Oculus Quest. Those controllers add quite a bit to the original $599 price tag, which already costs more than many consumer headsets. (The Oculus Quest, for instance, will cost $399.) But HTC’s focus on making VR work for businesses might still help sell potential users on the headset. And I’m still waiting for HTC to offer more details on another headset: the somewhat mysterious Vive Cosmos.
With its latest product, Apple wants your money. But it also wants to be your personal finance coach. The company is pitching the Apple Card as a way to “help customers lead a healthier financial life,” mostly through an intuitive app interface, a lack of fees and a unique new payment structure. The Card, issued in partnership with Goldman Sachs, does appear to give consumers greater control and understanding of their debt. But it’s also another way to keep users stuck in the Apple walled garden — how can you switch to Android when you owe thousands on your Apple Card?
The benefits for Apple are clear, but there’s a potential upside for users too. More and more people are drawn to the convenience of mobile wallets, and replacing your credit card with your iPhone seems like a natural evolution. Apple’s promises about transparency, privacy and security are very alluring, and it’s encouraging to see a tech titan take on an industry that’s historically taken advantage of consumer confusion. But before you get too excited or angry about the Card, there are some important issues to discuss.
What is it exactly, and how can I get my hands on it?
Basically, it’s a credit card. But it’s different from conventional cards in that you don’t need a piece of plastic before you can start using it. You can sign up from your iPhone, get approved in minutes and use it immediately via Apple Pay. The company will send you a physical card (which Apple crafts from titanium) for times when you need one, like for starting a tab at a bar or to pay a merchant that doesn’t take Apple Pay. You can get it for free, and it’ll arrive in the mail within two days.
This dramatically reduces the amount of time spent waiting on approval and access to your credit. Apple also promised not to charge late fees or international transaction fees or to even set a minimum payment. Interest rates are supposedly lower than on other cashback cards, ranging between 13.24 and 24.24 percent (current rates set by the Fed), and are determined by your creditworthiness.
What about those cashback offers?
Compared with existing cards, Apple’s rewards and cashback offers are underwhelming. Sure, the 3 percent return on Apple products is higher than the industry average, but it’s incredibly limited on where you can earn. Plus, the 1 percent on physical card purchases and 2 percent on Apple Pay transactions simply can’t compete. “[Those rates] won’t sway customers away from competing products, such as Citi Double Cash, which ultimately offers 2 percent back on every purchase,” according to Zach Honig, editor-at-large at The Points Guy.
What is nice is about Apple’s Daily Cash program is that you can (basically) immediately use the money you get back. The rewards are collected on a cash card, and you can get this out via your bank account or use the dollars on things like apps, songs, movies and online shopping, or even pay your friends. The rewards hit the card daily, so you can accumulate money more quickly instead of having to wait weeks to spend what you’ve earned. There’s also no cap on how much Daily Cash you can accrue.
What happens when I lose that physical card or my iPhone?
Since the titanium card doesn’t show your credit card number, expiration date or signature, it makes it harder to steal your information. But because all it has is your name, anyone with your card could potentially take it and start spending. You’d have to be quick to lock your card when you realize it’s missing to avoid letting a thief rack up huge transactions. If you’ve only temporarily misplaced your card, you can unlock your account once you’ve retrieved it.
Compared with a traditional card, this is more convenient than calling your bank to get it canceled. But service providers like Capital One have already been making it easier to keep track of your card and suspend your account at will, so Apple isn’t breaking new ground here.
If you lose your iPhone, you’ll need to go to a computer and sign into your iCloud to find it. The good news is that Apple Pay transactions will still require your Face ID or fingerprint authorization, but payments with the physical card won’t. What’s also nice is that when your replacement phone arrives, all you have to do is sign into your Apple account, and your Card information automatically transfers over, too.
How will Apple help me lead a healthier financial life?
The most appealing thing about the Apple Card is its user-friendly dashboard. Apple said it will use on-device machine learning and GPS information to identify and categorize your transactions. It’ll also color-code your spending and use charts to show you where you drop the most money.
This isn’t new; there are plenty of services available to track your expenditures and make sense of your habits, Mint being the most well known. But at first glance, Apple’s interface appears to be easier to use and understand.
Having all this information in front of you might not change your behavior at all. As with Apple’s and Google’s digital well-being services that show you how much time you waste in certain apps, the goal is more about educating the user. It’s entirely up to you to limit how much money you spend drinking at bars, but at least you’ll have the data.
Another way Apple says it’s helping you make better financial decisions is by making your payments easier to understand. Since there are no late fees and no minimum payments, finance experts are concerned that there’s nothing stopping people from taking forever to repay their debts. The only thing scaring you into paying on time is the fact that the longer you drag it out, the more you will owe.
The Apple Card dashboard should make this concept painfully clear. It’s supposed to show how small increases in your monthly payments can lower your overall interest owed via an interactive animated wheel. When you need help understanding how much you should pay, you can also text or call a support operator, which is pretty convenient.
One thing remains unclear, though. Since Apple hasn’t set a limit on how long you can go without making any payments, you could theoretically get away with never clearing your debt.
What about the security and privacy of these transactions?
It should be pretty clear to anyone by now that all our credit card purchases are being used to target ads to us. But Apple and Goldman Sachs said they won’t sell your information for advertising or marketing purposes. (Though that doesn’t mean they won’t use your data themselves or for other purposes.)
As for the security of the payments, the Apple Card uses technology similar to that of other mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. Each transaction is tokenized, meaning the identifying number for your card is masked and changes every time you use it. Basically, the level of security here is similar to that of existing digital payment systems. The major difference is that since you won’t have a physical card to start with, Mastercard will have to send your phone the information remotely when you set up your account. It’s not yet clear if this introduces vulnerabilities that bad actors can exploit, but Mastercard has been powering credit cards for decades and likely has safeguards against such attacks.
Who, if anyone, should get the Apple Card?
For first-time credit card applicants or those heavily reliant on debit, the Apple Card might make sense. “Apple’s platform will give them an opportunity to get their feet wet in a familiar ecosystem, before they, hopefully, graduate to more rewarding products,” Honig said. It’s also a good way to get into the habit of paying more than the minimum each month.
The best thing about the Apple Card, though, is the spotlight it’s shining on the importance of financial literacy. Not only does the announcement drum up media interest around the topic, but it could also encourage users to educate themselves on things like student loans and mortgages.
Like every major financial decision you make, getting an Apple Card shouldn’t be taken lightly. Managing your credit requires a great deal of responsibility and some restraint. If you’re thinking about it as yet another credit line to use on things you won’t ever be able to pay off, don’t do it. Apple may not be offering much that existing credit card companies haven’t already, but its entrance into the space will at least create healthy competition that bodes well for consumers.
references: apple, engadget
Maybe you don’t need a new credit card, but could use some free tunes?
3D Printing is a revolutionary new technology that allows you to realize, well, just about anything. The most common form of 3D printers use a special form of plastic filament to print durable, hard ABS plastic components or items.
However, there are 3D printers—industrial mostly—that can work with materials like concrete, glass, titanium, steel and more. The tougher materials aren’t really necessary for design, but it’s still a great thing to know especially when you need to consider material design guidelines.
In design and graphic art, you mostly work with hand sketches, digital content and imaging software, and flat, 2D-style designs. How would a 3D printer offer you anything new? Maybe you dabble in the occasional 3D modeling from time to time, or maybe you don’t. Whatever the case, the two mediums just don’t seem to correlate.
We’re going to explain some design tips you should be aware of and how that applies to your particular industry: graphic and visual design.
Major Brands Are Already Using 3D Printing for Design
A variety of large corporations and organizations have not only realized the potential of 3D printing technology — they’ve implemented it in their regular routines.
Nike, Nokia, Ittala, Coca-Cola and even Volkswagen have all been creating and designing with 3D printing tools. Nike even took their 3D printed concepts and rolled them into manufactured products, some of which you can buy on store shelves right now.
If the bigger companies and organizations are starting to adopt and utilize this technology, that will soon trickle down to smaller companies
The reason they’ve taken to this technology is because it streamlines their design and manufacturing processes. All product designs or prototypes can be constructed in-house, and then when it’s time to ship something, they can be manufactured internally as well.
This doesn’t relate to graphic design, but it does point out one obvious thing. If the bigger companies and organizations are starting to adopt and utilize this technology, that will soon trickle down to smaller companies, including you.
More companies will desire 3D printing compatible concepts and visuals, which means turning to professionals who can work with the necessary tools and software. If you haven’t already begun training with these technologies and tools, now is the ideal time.
Learn Printing Technologies
Before diving into the design process, you need to spend some time researching and getting to know the various 3D printing technologies and hardware you’ll be working with. Why? Because depending on the materials and the printer used, you’ll need to work with unique specifications.
ABS, alumide, polyamide, and rubber-like materials all allow you to create components and designs that incorporate interlocking parts. That is, you can build snap-together components that are incredibly easy to assemble. Unfortunately, this is not possible with materials like bronze, gold, silver and resin, but it’s not the consistency of the materials or even textures to blame. It’s really the hardware and 3D printers used during these processes. The latter materials aren’t compatible with the types of printers that can create interlocking parts.
In addition, the way in which these printers create components also differs depending on the material. Be sure to do the research so that you understand how they are all different and how this will influence your design.
Mind the Wall Thickness
When working with traditional 2D-based designs, dimensions are important, but you don’t necessarily have to worry about the thickness of your models. You can use specifications and number measurements to indicate true size, but you don’t actually have to design to scale — at least in many cases.
That’s not so with 3D printing, as you’ll always want to mind the wall thickness of the items you’re creating. Walls that are too thick can generate too much internal stress, causing the item itself to collapse or the surfaces to crack. If the walls are too thin, it can make the concept or prototype fragile and easy to break.
Considering you’ll likely be designing and planning the dimensions so that you end up with a durable, reliable product this is one feature you’ll want to brush up on.
File Resolution Is Still Important
With 3D printing, the designs are still parsed and transferred via digital files or blueprints, if you will. In graphic and visual design, file resolution is extremely important especially when working with larger products or prints.
If you stretch a smaller resolution file too much, it ends up looking grainy and pixelated. That’s why it’s important you always design in larger environments and dimensions because scaling down is more accurate than scaling back up.
The common file format for 3D printing designs is STL, or standard triangle language format. The design—when printed—is translated into triangles in a wider 3D space, which makes it easier for the printers and related hardware to construct the resulting item.
Similar to visual design, you don’t want the resolution or file size of your blueprint to be too big, or too small. Too big means the internal content will be too much for machines and other designers to handle. Too small means no one will ever be able to get a quality print out of your STL.
At a glance, it seems as though 3D printing, and designing for the medium, are much different than the current work you do in graphic and visual design. That’s not necessarily the case though, as both forms of design require you to have working knowledge of modern digital software and tools.
Sure, you might use a different tool to design say, an infographic or visual model than you would a 3D STL file, but the concepts and mechanics are similar.
As long as you mind the tips discussed here, you should do just fine. If you haven’t already started learning how to work with 3D modeling and design tools, you might want to get on that as soon as possible.
The market for additive and manufacturing products and services—which will call for reliable designers and visual artists—is predicted to increase by as much as seven times the current rate by 2020. At that time, the market value is expected to surpass $20 billion.
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“The future of gaming is not a box,” according to Google. “It’s a place.” Just like how humans have built stadiums for sports over hundreds of years, Google believes it’s building a virtual stadium, aptly dubbed Stadia, for the future of games to be played anywhere. You won’t need an expensive gaming PC or a dedicated game console. Instead, you’ll just need access to Google’s Chrome browser to instantly play games on a phone, tablet, PC, or TV. It’s a bold vision for where gaming is heading, and Google hopes its Stadia cloud streaming service will make it a reality.
Google may have just unveiled the future of gaming at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), but it’s a future the company has left us knowing very little about.
GOOGLE’S BIG YOUTUBE AND CHROME PUSH
At the heart of Google’s Stadia cloud streaming service are YouTube and Chrome. Google is leveraging YouTube to lean heavily on the popularity of gaming clips and creators who regularly stream games to millions of people on services like Twitch. These communities and games like Fortnite have turned into virtual places where kids hang out to chat, play, and watch streamers. It’s a big business, too. Fortnite made around $2.4 billion alone last year, and one of the most popular streamers makes more than $500,000 a month.YOUTUBE HELPS PUSH STADIA
The Stadia premise is that you’ll be able to watch a clip of a game and then instantly play it or even launch to the very same point in the game of the clip you were watching. Streamers will be able to create lobbies for fans to join and play with them on YouTube, and Stadia will support instant clipping to the video service. This is a game console running in the cloud and built for the YouTube generation, and it’s Google’s big push here.
Chrome also plays a big role as Google’s dominant web browser. Stadia will only be available through Chrome, Chromecast, and on Android devices initially. Google has promised more browsers in the future, but it’s not clear when this will arrive. Google only demonstrated the service on its own devices, and there was no mention of iOS support through a dedicated app or Apple’s Safari mobile browser.
GAMES, LINUX, AND PRICING
Google has some significant hurdles to overcome if it wants to dominate gaming for the next generation, though. The biggest among them is getting games on its platform. Google showed a single new title, Doom Eternal, running on Stadia, and it promised that more than 100 game studios already have dev kits. Google even unveiled its own Stadia Games and Entertainment studio to create Stadia-exclusive titles, but it didn’t mention any details on what games it will be building.
Google is using Linux as the operating system powering its hardware on the server side. That means game developers will need to port their games to Stadia, and you won’t be able to bring games you already own like some other cloud gaming services (Nvidia’s GeForce Now or Shadow). Google is partnering with Unreal and Unity and even middleware companies like Havok, but there’s going to be some lifting involved for developers to get games onto Stadia. Google needs to convince big publishers to sign up, but it failed to detail how much it costs to develop, publish, and run games on Stadia.
We don’t even know how much the service will cost for consumers or when it’s launching — only that it will arrive in some form in 2019. Will it be subscription-based? Can you own your games in the cloud? These are important questions that Google needs to answer, and it skipped past them yesterday to promise more details in the summer. It feels like Google has rushed to beat some self-imposed GDC deadline to court developer interest here, and it’s likely why the company was only able to show a handful of games yesterday.
Economics aside, Google also stealthily avoided the big questions around existing game streaming services: internet connectivity. Google is using its own compression technology to stream games in 1080p or 4K to devices, and some of the typical latency will be reduced by having the game client and server on the same machine. Still, you’ll need a reliable and active internet connection to access Stadia, and Google is recommending a connection of “approximately 25 Mbps” for 1080p resolution at 60 fps.GOOGLE HAS OMITTED KEY DETAILS ABOUT STADIA
In an interview with Kotaku, Google Stadia boss Phil Harrison says, “[W]e will be able to get to 4K but only raise that bandwidth to about 30 Mbps.” That means the average fixed broadband connection in the US, currently around 96 Mbps by some estimates, will be sufficient, but if you’re living in a state without broadband coverage or relying on rural internet speeds then you’ll be stuck waiting on the Federal Communications Commission to raise the minimum rural broadband speed standard to 25 Mbps. You’ll also need a connection without broadband caps because if you’re going to be playing games a lot, then it will soon eat into data limits. We don’t know the exact bitrates of Stadia just yet, but watching a regular HD Netflix stream uses around 3GB per hour, and this more than doubles for 4K streams.
Speeds won’t cover the latency aspect, though. This is key to any game streaming service. While services like Netflix can download and buffer the fixed content you’re streaming, a game service relies on picking up your controller movements and relaying them in real time back and forth between you and the server you’re playing on. This means the closer to the server you’re playing on, the better, and the fewer hops through internet traffic, the better.STADIA’S GRAPHICAL POWER IS IMPRESSIVE BUT LARGELY IRRELEVANT
Google has a solid advantage here due to its cloud infrastructure, but if you’re not near a big city where Google’s data centers are located, then you won’t get the most ideal experience. Google is addressing part of this by connecting its Stadia controller directly to the server you’re playing on over Wi-Fi, but it has no control over the thousands of ISPs and how they route traffic to its data centers.
Google’s Stadia service is also entirely cloud-based, which means no offline play. While you might typically sync a few Netflix shows to your phone or tablet because you know your LTE connectivity sucks, you’ll need a constant connection to Stadia to play games on the go. 5G will certainly help here, but only partially and not anytime soon.
Google also revealed that its servers will be powered by a custom AMD GPU that will deliver 10.7 teraflops of power, which is more than the 4.2 teraflops of the PS4 Pro and the 6 teraflops of power on the Xbox One X. This graphical power is impressive but largely irrelevant. The end result of actual gameplay will rely entirely on your internet connection to Stadia.
Google will compress the image from its servers to your client, resulting in a loss of image quality. We don’t know the exact bitrates that Google will use for Stadia, but if you’ve ever watched a 4K version of a Netflix show, you’ll know the image quality isn’t as good as a Blu-ray copy. The same will apply for Stadia, and how you notice it will depend on your internet connection and the device you’re using to access Stadia. Smaller screens will make the drop in image quality less noticeable, and more internet bandwidth will give you a higher bitrate and thus a higher-quality image.IMAGE QUALITY WILL BE BASED ON YOUR INTERNET CONNECTION
This will all vary from game title to title, and Google hasn’t shown enough variation of games to really give an understanding of how well Stadia will perform. Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry was able to test Stadia, but the testing was limited to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey instead of a demanding title like a first-person shooter that requires quick player response time or fast-moving action games where artifacts are much more obvious.
All of this makes Stadia look like an early beta for what will be part of the future of gaming. Google has hired a lot of industry talent for this ambitious project. Phil Harrison, a former Sony and Microsoft executive, is leading the Stadia charge, and Jade Raymond, who has previously worked at Sony, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft, is heading up the company’s first-party games. Xbox Live Arcade creator Greg Canessa is also working on Stadia, alongside former Xbox gaming partnerships lead Nate Ahearn. All of this experience should help Google in its cloud gaming fight.
Sony and Microsoft’s approaches aren’t cloud-native like Google’s, and they don’t require developers to port their games or rebuild them for their cloud streaming service. Both companies are using console hardware in server blades. That’s a benefit for now as both Sony and Microsoft can offer big game libraries without needing developers to change anything. Google’s ambitious effort will require more heavy lifting from developers, but Google has the longer-term advantage of being able to switch out its hardware with ease in the future and implement changes that don’t affect legacy console hardware.GOOGLE HAS SOME MASSIVE COMPETITION
Sony, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google will be the key players in any cloud gaming war. Sony has the games and PlayStation Now, Microsoft can leverage its Azure data centers and Xbox Game Pass for xCloud, and Amazon can lean on its cloud dominance, Prime, and its massively popular Twitch service to entice gamers. Google has some fierce competition, but it looks like this cloud gaming war is just getting started.