Hand-based motion controls added to developer version of Razer VR headset
Razer's virtual reality headset will include the ability to track the motion of the wearer's hands. The OSVR Hacker Dev Kit from Razer will include an optional faceplate with Leap Motion hardware embedded inside it, allowing for developers to create apps that take into account the wearer's hands, and potentially allowing for a more intuitive and realistic virtual reality experience for users.
Voice recognition systems able to perform home automation tasks via Harmony API
Owners of Logitech Harmony devices will soon be able to perform various automated home commands using their voice. Ubi and Ivee are both using Logitech's Harmony API to communicate directly with smart home devices and appliances, allowing both systems to take control and change settings for various connected items around the house.
Former Panasonic factory to be repurposed, joins other new global facilities
First announced late last year by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japanese media and the mayor of the host city have confirmed that Apple will begin repurposing part of a former Panasonic plant into a new research and development center late this year, which is expected to open sometime in 2016. Apple has recently opened similar offices in China, Israel, and will be adding England to the list shortly.
Fourth iOS 8.3 beta shows no progress on known issues, likely arriving next month
Apple issued a fourth developer beta of iOS 8.3 on Tuesday, one day after an updated OS X 10.10.3 beta emerged. In addition, the company released the second version of a "public" 8.3 beta to registered public Appleseed testers, which is identical to the developer beta. Also included was a new, fourth beta of Xcode 6.3, which includes Apple's Swift coding language, version 1.2.
Version is identical to new update for Appleseed testers
On Monday, Apple issued the fifth beta version of OS X 10.10.3 Yosemite to developers. The latest version, which comes on the heels of the previous fourth release that was aimed solely at new 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro users, is also being released to registered public beta users as the second such version. The forthcoming Photos app has been updated (though it still has some known issues), as well as Yosemite's recovery tools.
BlackBerry adds BBM Protected mode to iOS, Android apps
BlackBerry is allowing its enterprise users to have highly-secure FIPS 140-2 validated conversations with other mobile users, rather than just between BlackBerry devices. BBM Protected, a mode for the BlackBerry messaging app that encrypts the conversation between two parties, is now available on the iOS and Android versions of the client. BBM Protected requires the use of the paid service BES from BlackBerry in order to set up the secure communications, though the secondary party only needs the free client to receive secure chat requests.
Apple employees used as health, fitness test subjects for Watch, HealthKit
In an unusual move for the normally-secretive company, Apple has allowed ABC News crews access to a previously top-secret heath and fitness lab that was designed to test and improve the Apple Watch. A report on the facility, which aired on Nightline on Friday, showed the nondescript building where the company created its full gym and testing facility, centered around activity.
New Pro, Air, MacBook now require Windows 8 or later; VMs still support Win7 for now
Apple's traditional zeal to push users forward extends even to its support for a rival platform, as the latest MacBook refreshes -- the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, 13-inch MacBook Air, and the forthcoming MacBook -- now require Windows 8 or later to work with Boot Camp, Apple's tool to create a dedicated Windows partition for users who need the compatibility. The company first dropped Windows 7 with the latest Mac Pro in 2013.
Early 2015 MacBooks, MacBook Pros get separate version
Apple on Thursday has updated OS X Yosemite 10.10.2 (only) with a new security update. While details are not available, the update could possibly be the first to address an https vulnerability known as FREAK, which can compromise secure web browsing on a variety of systems and applications. In addition, the company has issued an update for iPhoto to further help with the eventual transition to Photos, as well as clear up a few bugs.
Smartstrap efforts for enhancing Pebble Time functionality will gain extra backing
Projects to create a Pebble smartstrap, add-ons for the Pebble Time smartwatch introduced on Kickstarter late last month, will be getting a development boost from the company itself. Developers creating their own smartband for the wearable device will be eligible to apply for funds from Pebble to create their smartstrap, with the manufacturer pledging $1 million for the handouts.
Apple releases new Safari betas for OS X 10.9 and 10.8
On Wednesday, Apple updated the developer versions of Safari with two new betas aimed at users of older OS X versions, specifically 10.8 (Mountain Lion) and 10.9 (Mavericks). The new versions follow a slight update to the current Safari versions for OS X 10.8 and later that contains several WebKit fixes for security issues. Version 7.15 is for Mavericks, while Mountain Lion owners will see only version 6.2.5.
Potential but unwieldy security threat to those running pre-iOS 8.1.1
A new device on the market costing $300 could be used by attackers to crack the PIN codes on iOS devices running system versions older than iOS 8.1.1. While the chances of it being used on someone's personal device are extremely low -- since it requires both physical access to the device as well as a great deal of time -- users can protect their devices and foil the so-called "IP Box" attack by moving to a more complex passcode.
Android apps on Google Play inspected by team of experts before being sold
Google is making one major change to its Android app store, and has revealed it already made another significant alteration. Apps in Google Play will now be covered by a new global content rating system, advising buyers of the kind of content they can expect within the app, and new apps are being subjected to an improved app review process, which will involve a team of human experts inspecting apps before they go on sale.
Google accepts registrations for developer conference lottery draw
Google has started to accept registrations for its Google I/O developer conference, set to take place on May 28 and 29 in San Francisco. Until 5pm PT tomorrow (8pm ET), potential Google I/O attendees can sign up on the website and placed into a lottery. Applicants selected at random will then be asked to pay $900 or $300 for a general or academic ticket.
Testers had been previously warned not to install beta on that model
A new build of the latest beta for the forthcoming OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 was issued on Monday specifically for the few present -- and all future -- owners of the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro. Following the release of the beta last Thursday, which included a warning of a known issue that meant testers should not install it on the new 13-inch MBP, the new build removes that warning -- suggesting that the issue may be fixed.
Small but meaningful changes enforce company's strong privacy, ethical outlook
On Thursday, Apple updated App Store Review guidelines to reinforce privacy, consent, and other ethical concerns regarding the implementation of apps that work with medical data (specifically ResearchKit), Apple Pay, and apps that download or stream music or video. The guidelines generally reinforce more transparency or set minimum standards, but also target apps that illegally "rip" copyrighted material from video and audio sites like Vimeo and Soundcloud.
Company unifies different beta programs into single 'Apple Beta Software Program'
On Thursday, Apple released a flood of new betas for various versions of its two main operating systems, including the first semi-public beta of iOS 8.3, and third developer betas for iOS 8.3, OS X 10.10.3, Xcode 6.3 with Swift 1.2, and OS X Server 4.1 Developer Preview. The company has also decided to unify its various beta programs under a single tent now known simply as the "Apple Beta Software Program."
Free computer hardware heading to students this fall in BBC coding effort
The BBC is continuing in its attempts to promote digital literacy in the United Kingdom, by providing approximately 1 million devices to children. The broadcaster will be providing the Micro Bit, a compact electronic board inspired by the BBC Micro from the 1980s, to students in secondary schools this fall, which it hopes will encourage a new generation of coders to create software.
Publicity from feature spot in 'Spring Forward' event demonstrates Apple influence
On Monday, Apple devoted a portion of its "Spring Forward" event to talking about a previously-unannounced initiative called ResearchKit that will help medical researchers put together apps that improve the voluntary data collection process so vital to the field. Five example applications were also released that day, including one that sought participants in a Stanford University cardiovascular study. Today, some 10,000 new applicants have volunteered through the app.
Marvell first silicon vendor to offer the SDK, drivers for chipset for Apple's IoT
Chip manufacturer Marvell today announced that it is the industry's first silicon vendor to develop a fully-supported SDK for HomeKit. HomeKit from Apple is a framework in iOS 8 for communicating with and controlling connected accessories in a user's home. Marvell's SDK for HomeKit is available on its EZ-Connect Internet of Things (IoT) Platform, including Marvell's 88MC200 microcontroller and Avastar 88W801 Wi-Fi system-on-chip (SoC).
Cute game teaches elementary kids the basic of coding video games
Edutainment took off in the early 1990s, with games like Math Blaster and The Incredible Machine. For the most part, edutainment games have usually been math or science-centric, with enough history and reading thrown in to keep the mix interesting. However, that's beginning to change with a new dawn of kid-targeted apps. Tynker is one such app, which promises to teach elementary-age children how to code their own video games.
Apple's official IDE gets updates following release of iOS 8.2, WatchKit
Among the many other releases on Monday, Apple also quietly brought forth a final version of Xcode 6.2 for developers. The integrated development environment has been updated with the latest SDKs for OS X 10.10 Yosemite, and also includes features designed to help developers write apps for iOS 8.2 and now, the Apple Watch by including WatchKit. The update requires a 64-bit (Core2Duo or later) Intel Mac running OS X 10.9.4 or later. The update is available to all registered ADC members.
Security update 2015-002 fixes problem is OS X, iOS 8.2 patches iOS version
On Monday, Apple issued a security update for OS X 10.8 or higher that resolves a recently-discovered vulnerability in the SSL/TLS protocol that could have allowed supposedly secure communications -- such as bank transactions -- to be decrypted and intercepted. The flaw, known as FREAK (meaning "Factoring RSA Export Keys") forced the security back to a weaker "fallback" standard that had since been cracked. The new update, 2015-002, fixes the flaw in OS X, while today's iOS 8.2 release patches the issue for iOS devices.
Command line tools also updated for 10.10.3 beta testers
Alongside a recent update by Apple to its Digital Camera RAW Compatibility plug-in, the company on Monday updated iMovie for OS X to version 10.0.7. The latter update, along with a minor update for command-line tools, allows iMovie to work with Photos for OS X, which is unreleased but available to testers in the current 10.10.3 beta update, and adds support for Sony's XAVC-S format. The RAW update brings compatibility for a number of cameras to Apple's current three photo programs.
First five apps available today, focusing on diabetes, Parkinson's, more
As part of today's Apple "Spring Forward" event, CEO Tim Cook announced ResearchKit, a framework that enables medical researchers to more easily design the apps they're going to use for clinical studies. The first apps available target Parkinson's disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and breast cancer. The app development kit is strictly opt-in for users, and is designed to collate data from research subjects. It runs hand-in-hand with HealthKit, and will be open source for full availability to all who seek to use it.
News from the video game industry for the week of March 2
Every Sunday, MacNN and Electronista rounds out the week by bundling together some notable stories from the world of gaming. In the same week as GDC's various hardware and software development announcements, EA shuttered the spiritual home of The Sims and SimCity, Amazon reveals it is porting games from its Fire devices to iOS, and Epic Games shows off what could be coming in its openly-developed Unreal Tournament reboot.
Google VR development team said to include dozens of engineers
Google is working on making an interface for Android specifically for virtual reality headsets, a report from the Wall Street Journal claims. The search company allegedly has a team made up of "tens of engineers" and other staff working on a VR experience for the mobile operating system, which aims to make Android more useful for developers of VR apps and games.
Steam Link home streaming device, virtual reality hardware announced at GDC
Valve Software made a considerable number of announcements at the Game Developers Conference, just as it advised, concerning both hardware and software development. The company's Source 2 engine was revealed, alongside a new set-top box for in-home streaming called the Steam Link, Steam Machine updates, and more about its recently-unveiled virtual reality efforts.
New 64-bit engine with lighting, audio improvements now supports 21 platforms
Unity Technologies has finally brought the fifth version of the company's game engine out of beta as a general release, the company announced at the Game Developer Conference. Originally debuted in March last year and existing in beta for a number of months, Unity 5 offers a number of upgrades over earlier versions, including the ability to render better-looking and more complex scenes with an improved lighting system.
LiquidVR API designed to reduce 'motion to photon' lag time
Today, at the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, AMD announced an initiative to deliver what it calls the best possible VR experience for developers and users. The first output of AMD's initiative is LiquidVR, a set of technologies focused on enabling exceptional VR content development for AMD hardware, improved comfort in VR applications by simplifying performance-boosting techniques, and plug-and-play compatibility with VR headsets.
Full specification and details expected later in the year
The Khronos Group, an open consortium of leading hardware and software companies, today announced the availability of technical previews of the new Vulkan open-standard API for high-efficiency access to graphics and computing on modern GPUs used in a wide variety of devices. This ground-up design, previously referred to as the Next Generation OpenGL Initiative, provides applications direct control over GPU acceleration for maximized performance and predictability, and uses Khronos' new SPIR-V specification for shading language flexibility.
Pebble Time Steel has metal body, similar specifications, larger battery
Pebble has given backers of its wildly-successful Pebble Time Kickstarter a difficult decision, by adding an alternative device to purchase. Similar to the Pebble Steel compared to the original, the Pebble Time Steel is a metal-clad version of the smartwatch, containing the majority of internal components as the updated wearable device, but with a few slight changes to match the more mature design.
Potential game developers still have to pay a 5 percent royalty on Unreal Engine 4 games
Epic Games is making it easier for would-be developers to gain access to its powerful Unreal Engine 4 software, by getting rid of the monthly subscription. Previously costing $19 per month per user, Epic has removed the charge entirely, allowing anyone with an interest to register, download, and use the game engine in the production of their own games and apps.
First public release of Photos does not replace iPhoto, Aperture
A little over a week after the second developer beta of OS X 10.10.3, which includes the first public peek at the forthcoming Photos app, Apple has made a new version public for pre-registered beta testers. Build 14D87p is the first public beta of 10.10.3, and includes the Photos app for public testing for the first time (developers had been able to to use the application in the previous two betas). The public version appears to be identical to the second developer beta, numbered 14D87h.
Amendment intended as catch-all, includes motorbikes, ships, aircraft, more
According to a Swiss enthusiast site, Apple has amended the corporate document filings it maintains with the government in that country to include "vehicles" among its activities. The statement, added to official documents that classify the company for tax and licensing purposes, is incredibly broad -- covering any sort of product for any sort of moving vehicle, from wheelchairs to airplanes -- but is notable in light of recent speculation that Apple is developing a car of some type.
Pay API will be used for app integration
Google is finally ready to enter the mobile payment arena, today introducing a payment platform known as Android Pay. The platform will be available via an API framework, with support for NFC and biometric authentication, allowing developers to creatively integrate the feature into a wide range of third-party apps. Android Pay appears to offer many of the same capabilities as Google Wallet, but without relying solely on Google's own app and implementation scheme.
Little known in terms of required specifications for PC, headset performance
Digital game delivery system developer Valve and electronics manufacturer HTC have unveiled their attempt at a virtual reality headset -- the HTC Vive. The system, shown at Barcelona's Mobile World Congress, will see two releases before the end of the year; a developer edition coming this month, and a consumer version shipping in time for the holiday season.
Rare situation where two future iOS betas were in circulation at the same time
Ending an unusual scenario where two iOS betas were being tested by developers simultaneously, a new report suggests that iOS 8.2 is likely to be released next week, possibly as early as Monday. Apple has been testing both iOS 8.2 and the forthcoming iOS 8.3, the latter of which is now on its own second beta version. While Apple released a total of five betas for iOS 8.2, the same report claims that iOS 8.3 will only have a maximum of four betas.
Apple adds gas station location info, school data to Maps app
Apple has added GreatSchools and GasBuddy to its list of sources for data in its Maps program. The latter company is said to be supplying Apple with gas station locations, exact business names and what major gasoline producer they are affiliated with, rather than the gas pricing spot-check that the company is known for. GreatSchools is likewise likely to be providing school locations information rather than specific school information.
Pebble releases preview of SDK 3.0 with color screen support
Pebble has released a new version of its smartwatch SDK, in preview. Version 3.0 is built with the Pebble Time in mind, including support for 64 colors in apps, a new animation framework, PNG and Animated PNG support, and automatic detection of which platforms the developer wants to build for when compiling. According to the company, developers looking to make apps for the new SDK will need to make relatively few changes to the application to get it to work.
Android Pay rumor comes as Softcard pulls support for Windows Phone
Google will be launching a new payments API at its Google I/O developer conference in May, a report claims, potentially giving Apple Pay some stiff competition. Android Pay will allow developers to not only add mobile payments to their apps, but to also facilitate in-store purchases via smartphone over NFC. The news comes as Softcard reveals it is starting to pull support for its apps, following the purchase of its intellectual property by the search company.
Virtual Reality hardware set to be revealed by Valve Software
Valve Software is going to be showing off its own virtual reality headset at the Game Developer Conference 2015 next week. As well as its own SteamVR hardware, Valve will be providing developers with the chance to try out a refined version of the Steam Controller, a game pad that was announced alongside the company's high-profile Steam Machines initiative in 2013.
Cycling tile added to Microsoft band, more exercise tiles incoming
The first update for the Microsoft Band will introduce new tools for users and developers, as the company tries to improve its standing in the fitness-tracking market. A tile for monitoring cycling, improved communications between the band and mobile apps, and an on-screen keyboard are joined by Microsoft's preview release of an SDK, giving developers a hint at what they could do with the wearable device.
Improvements continue in latest pre-releases, along with feature additions
[Updated with further details] On Monday, Apple released new second betas for both OS X 10.10.3 and iOS 8.3, along with a second Xcode 6.3 beta. While any new information on the latest betas is presently scarce, the first releases of the 10.10.3 beta brought the Mac version of Photos to the surface for the first time -- and the new beta version appears to have supplemented that release with some new features, including the return of social sharing services. Meanwhile, iOS 8.3 continues to sport Wirless CarPlay, new emojis, an enhanced Siri voice, and more.
News from the video game industry for the week of February 15
Every Sunday, MacNN and Electronista gather together a selection of notable news from the world of gaming into one post. In this week's Weekly Game Replay, we talk about Epic Games fostering development by providing $5 million in grants to Unreal Engine 4 projects, Twitch announcing its first convention, and the revelation that Kanye West is making a game.
Developers told to switch to ARC memory management by May 1
On Friday, Apple began notifying developers of a mandatory change in how apps manage memory when in use, instituting a newer form of "retain and release" where old code in RAM is periodically flushed out, in Apple's preferred Automatic Reference Counting (ARC) feature. As of May 1, all new and updated apps submitted to the Mac App Store must make use of ARC.
SmartEyeglass headset shipping in march, costs $840
Sony is continuing where the Google Glass headset left off, by putting its own augmented reality headset on sale. The developer edition, model number SED-E1, of SmartEyeglass has become open to pre-order in the United Kingdom and Germany with sales in Japan the United States, and six other countries coming soon, with Sony expecting to ship the $840 head-mounted device in March.
Updated version 2.4.1 currently available to previous buyers only
Multi-format video player VLC for iOS has reappeared in the App Store following its pulling from the store (by its developer) last September. At present, the listing is only available for those who previously owned the software, which allows users on iOS devices to play videos in nearly any format without first converting it to the standard iTunes-supported formats. It was removed from sale due to licensing disagreements among the developers.
MacNN and Electronista deals for February 16, 2015
Welcome to today's Daily Deals, the regular post where we find the best offers and discounts for you, the discerning MacNN and Electronista reader. Since it's a Monday, almost all the deals from last week have been swept away, with new deals on the list including an UltraWide 29-inch display from LG, an Asus gaming notebook, and half-price Destiny.
Publication of vulnerabilities can take place up to 14 days after 90-day window
Google is making changes to Project Zero, its vulnerability discovery and disclosure scheme intended to promote security improvements in operating systems and other programs, giving companies more leniency in terms of time to develop patches for their software. In a number of cases, vulnerability disclosures will take place later than the fixed 90-day deadline, giving companies up to 14 more days to roll out a fix to their customers.