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Tech round-up: Iron-Man earpiece and smartwatch unveiled
This week we get closer to the Iron Man dream with Intel’s ‘Jarvis’ technology, enjoy extended music streaming from Spotify, learn of Samsung’s 2014 plans and report the announcement of two new exciting gadgets.
CUTTING EDGE: Intel Releases Their Smart Earpiece ‘Jarvis’
Well you Iron Man fans will be happy as Intel has just introduced ‘Jarvis’, their smart earpiece designed to rival Apple’s Siri and Google Now.
Jarvis performs commands that can be carried out by your phone, it can even make suggestions and interrupt you with relevant information you might want to know.
What might be slightly disheartening to you die-hard Iron Man fans though is that Jarvis actually speaks with a female voice not that of Paul Bettany…Still, Intel provided a live demonstration of the product at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
On request, it recommended a restaurant, arranged a call to make a reservation and even re-scheduled calendar events. Of course, digital assistants are nothing new; Siri in particular has been with us for some time now.
However, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich believes the competition cannot yet match the conversational and hands-free elements of Jarvis. It is always-listening and can seamlessly integrate with your calendar, interrupting politely with the information you need.
The potential application of such a device is huge but don’t expect it to help build your Iron Man suits yet…
APPLE: Spotify Introduces Free ‘Shuffle-play’ Feature for iOS
The music streaming service Spotify has recently unveiled an update for its iOS app that allows users to play an artist’s whole music catalogue without a paid subscription.
The limitation is that this can only be done through shuffle mode but now all user and Spotify created playlists can be listened to as well.
Advertisements will still play every now and then, which is to be expected but on iPad, users can listen to any song at any time, without the ‘shuffle-play’ limitation.
It had previously been the case that Spotify users must pay a subscription to stream music on their mobile devices as per the company’s licensing agreements with music labels.
However, recent pressure from the ever-growing US service Pandora and Apple’s iTunes Radio has caused the Swedish company to make changes as it struggles to maintain market share.
It would be a shame to see Spotify fall behind its rivals; it offers a fairly comprehensive music catalogue and its iOS apps for both iPhone and iPad are slick and intuitive. This recent change is a definitely a step in the right direction.
ANDROID: Samsung Unveils its Plans for 2014
In an interview with Bloomberg News, Samsung has outlined its plans for various Android devices to be released this year.
The biggest revelation is that the Galaxy S5 may come out as soon as April, potentially with new iris-scanning technology in response to Apple’s fingerprint reader on the iPhone 5S.
Samsung’s Galaxy S range has long been considered their flagship so it’s good to see they might be pushing some technological boundaries here.
Samsung’s mobile executive Vice President Lee Young-Hee also revealed that the Galaxy Gear smartwatch is set for a makeover, improving on the somewhat bulky design of the original and increasing its functionality.
Finally, the Note 4 might emerge in the second half of 2014 with a three-sided display to allow for multiple viewing angles.
That could really be something to see, excuse the pun… Lee went on to say that significant improvements will be made to their flagship Galaxy S5 after a somewhat lacklustre consumer response to its predecessor.
As a result, Samsung will be “going back to basics” focusing on hardware, screen and the overall feel of the phone. It has been rumoured that we may see an overhaul of Samsung’s user interface as well.
Previous iterations of its Android based ‘Touchwiz’ UI have not always been well-received so it would be good to see some improvement. This hasn’t been confirmed yet so fingers crossed for now.
GADGETS: ‘Pebble Steel’ High-end Smartwatch Announced
If you cast your minds back you might remember us writing about the ‘Pebble’ smartwatch, arguably one of the better wearable tech pieces of last year.
Well now they have stepped into the high-end market with the introduction of the ‘Pebble Steel’. It will be available in both a brushed stainless steel and matte black finish with the choice of a matching or leather strap.
The Steel also uses Corning gorilla glass to protect its face, which should make it quite durable. If this wasn’t enough, it even gets a brand new Pebble app-store with six main categories: daily, fitness, remotes, tools and utilities, notifications and games.
The addition of a dedicated app-store means developers no longer need to rely on the iOS notification centre to relay information so can create a smoother user experience.
If you have the original Pebble, don’t worry you won’t be missing out as a firmware update is due to allow you use of the new app store as well.
However, if you don’t yet have a smartwatch, the Steel retails for $249 over at getpebble.com with pre-orders shipping globally from January 28th.
GAMING: SteelSeries Unveil the ‘Stratus’ Bluetooth Gaming Controller
Gaming peripheral creator SteelSeries has recently unveiled its new Bluetooth gaming controller the ‘Stratus’.
The new product is MFI-certified, which means it has been signed off to work with all Apple devices.
It differs from the competition by acting as a standalone controller and uses Apple’s ‘extended’ control layout featuring: a directional pad, four action buttons, four shoulder buttons and dual analog sticks.
The Stratus has a built-in battery providing around ten hours of game time from a full charge and can be topped-up by USB charging in just two hours.
Up to four Stratus controllers can be connected to a single iOS device at once, with LED lights showing which controller is which.
This rather exciting new device can be purchased in a not quite so thrilling choice of black or white colours and is available for pre-order from the company’s website.
It costs just under £85 and is set to ship on March 2nd.
James is a freelance technology and science writer from Bucks.
His interests range from gadgets and apps to movies and gaming, really anything geeky!
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