Uber Settlement Keeps Drivers as Contractors; Google I/O Highlights Virtual Reality

Uber has settled a couple class action suits in California and Massachusetts that will eventually play out 100 million to drivers, but keeps them classified as independent contractors, and not employees. Cnet.com says it will also set up a ‘driver association’ to address driver concerns, and a key point is that Uber won’t be able to terminate drivers at will, and they will have to establish appeals panels for those who feel they have been terminated unfairly. Drivers will also be able to post signs to ask for tips. Lyft has already allowed for driver tipping. They also won’t be allowed to terminate drivers for turning down rides when logged in, which was considered a key issue in considering drivers as employees.

Google I/O is a month away, and much of the schedule has been posted. According to arstechnica.com, a large swath of time will be dedicated to virtual reality talks. VR is an entire content track at I/O this year, with 7 sessions dedicated to virtual or augmented reality…including one called ‘Google’s Vision for VR.’ The keynote for this year’s Google I/O is May 18th at 10am Pacific.


Amazon Prime Adding Monthly Subscriptions; GoPro Rolling Out VR Camera

Amazon Prime has been $99, and if you get a lot of stuff from them, it’s a bargain in just the saved shipping, let alone Prime Video. Now, gizmodo.com reports that Amazon is offering Prime for $11 a month, and you can get just Prime Video for $9 a month…undercutting Netflix by a buck. The new pricing is available now.

On the heels of Facebook’s $30,000+ insane virtual reality camera that you’ll have to make yourself, GoPro has launched one you can buy from them for $4999. GoPro’s Omni only has 6 cameras….6 Hero4’s…compared to Facebook’s 17, but GoPro says the rig will capture up to 8K video. It’s available for pre-order at their website now. They have also introduced GoPro VR a website and app for iOS and Android to show off VR content and allow for sharing it. Mashable.com says GoPro will continue to offer its high end 16 camera GoPro Odyssey model for 16 grand.

Samsung Galaxy S7 & S7 Edge Revealed; LG’s Svelte VR Headset

The long-awaited Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge were showed off yesterday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Looking great with a premium metal and glass case, the latest Edge has a bigger screen than last year’s S6 at 5.5 inches. The regular S7 has a 5.1 inch Super AMOLED screen. The micro SD slot is back, so you can expand to an insane 200 GB of memory! The upgraded 12 MP camera is almost flush with the back, and shoots 4K video. The S7 has a 3000 mAh battery, and the edge a 3600 mAh power supply. Pre-orders start February 23rd, and they go on sale March 11th in black, gold, wine red, and gray/silver.

LG has showed off their new 360 VR headset, and it’s a pleasant departure from others. Instead of large goggles that hold your smartphone in view, the 360VR looks like an overgrown pair of glasses, something like those telescopic ones you could buy. The smartphone plugs in, and you also jack into it for audio. LG says it simulates a 130 inch TV that’s 2 meters away, with a resolution of 630 ppi. It works with their own 360 cam footage, and also with Google Cardboard content. Pricing and availability to be announced later.

iPhone and Others May Get Sony Dual-Lens Cameras; Google Baking VR Into Android

We’ve reported earlier that Apple was testing a dual lens camera for the iPhone 7. Highly reliable KGI Securities says the top iPhone 7 will get the next gen camera, which will have dramatically improved image quality and optical zoom, plus other features. Now, macdailynews.com says a Sony report confirms that their dual lens camera system will be out in iPhone and 3 other unnamed smartphones, and they expect it to be widespread by 2017. Other vendors, including the one that supplies 60% of iPhone camera lenses, have sent dual lens camera samples to Apple. It isn’t much of a reach to think that Samsung is one of the 3 makers besides Apple that will bow these vastly improved cameras.

Facebook has Oculus, and we know Apple has a division working on virtual reality. Google has had a VR division too, and now comes word that they…as Apple…are working on more than just a Rift or Gear-like VR headset. Google is reportedly working on Android VR. According to 9to5google.com, Google plans to bake VR software right into Android….where the current Cardboard is just an app. This means latency would be decreased, and users could spend significantly more time in VR without getting queasy. It looks like they and Apple are working towards eventually making VR essentially an operating system. Google may show off it’s latest VR for Android at Google I/O in May.

Apple Next Big Thing- VR; Your Twitter Timeline Isn’t Changing

Ever since Steve Jobs left the mortal world, there’s been fairly continuous hand-wringing about what Apple’s going to do when they run out of his clever ideas. Now, it appears Apple’s next big thing may well be virtual reality. What could be bigger than a powerful computer in your hand? How about dropping you into a totally computer generated world of VR, or assisting you with amazing augmented reality? Business insider.com points out that Cupertino is already staffing up, and that a division has been building VR prototypes for months, and that Apple has purchased at least 4 startups in related tech. Then, there’s the fact that Apple-ites hadn’t set foot in Stanford’s VR lab for 13 years…until lately. Now, they’ve dropped in 3 times in the last 3 months. Finally, think about the dual lens camera Apple has been placing large orders for…as we’ve reported, to go into the iPhone 7. Besides shooting stills and video at the same time, and multi focus adjustable pictures, a dual lens is good for augmented reality.

After a major freakout that Twitter was going to kill the chronological timeline, CEO Jack Dorsey had to come out over the weekend and say ‘it ain’t so.’ Dorsey says such a change was never planned, and in fact Twitter hopes to make your timeline feel more…not less…live. As engadget.com notes, the chronological feed is the feature that separates Twitter from the other social networks…and despite out of order features like ‘while you were away,’ it will continue to be a firehose of breaking news and fresh information.

Apple Working on Holographic Screens; App Translates Into Emoji

A story was out a few days ago that flew under the radar a bit about Apple opening a secret lab in Taiwan. Now, bgr.com says the 50 some researchers there may not just be working on thinner, brighter iPhone screens or OLED screens…it may be flexible and micro-LED screens…to make HOLOGRAPHIC iPhone screens! The holograms would be visible to the naked eye, no goofy special glasses. Apple already has a patent for interactive holographic display device and others for virtual and augmented reality, and recently purchased an augmented reality company. No idea on when or if this will happen, but when it does, talk about the next big thing!

Available free right now, for both iOS and Android…Speak Emoji. You speak into your smartphone’s microphone and it processes what you say into a sentence using emoji. Thenextweb.com reports you can then share your emoji sentence directly in a text message, and on Twitter, Facebook, Messenger, and email. For those who wish they’d picked up another language better in school…here’s your chance. 😛

Virtual Reality Headset from Samsung & Oculus Here; Volvo & Microsoft Team for VR Car Shopping

We’re about to get a real feel for how fast virtual reality will catch on. Samsung and Facebook’s Oculus VR division are dropping the Gear VR headset for $99.99. Cnet.com notes that it basically lets you strap a samsung smartphone to your head. It debuts with a Netflix app, and over 100 other apps and games, to offer what Oculus is calling ‘bottomless content.’ Apps on the special app store will go for $1.99 to $9.99.

In a more specialized…and maybe long term use of virtual realty…Volvo has partnered with Microsoft on a HoloLens based virtual car shopping experience. Geekwire.com reports they are testing out sitting in your living room, office, or wherever, strapping on the VR headset, and checking out and configuring car models. One touch in midair, and you change the color…another the interior, and so on. You can rotate the model on the table in front of you, then gesture and poof….it’s full size, and sitting on a rotating platform across the room. Volvo expects to have the HoloLens based system available to customers next year.

The Next Updates to Android Wear

With all the frenzy about the Apple Watch, Google hasn’t been standing still. The verge.com says Android Wear for those OTHER wearables will be getting Wi-Fi support and gesture control in the next update. Most Android Wear smart watches already have Wi-Fi baked in, the update will just activate it.

First it was their signature learning thermostat, then Nest had the shake start with the Nest Protect smoke alarm. Now techcrunch.com reports they are advertising for a head of Nest Audio, in a move to integrate control of your audio and video system.

That takes care of sight and sound, what about smell? According to geek.com, FeelReel has a new virtual reality accessory that simulates 7 different ‘smellscapes!’ Fire, ocean, jungle, grass, and flowers are among them, and there are heat and water mist ports too. It’s $249 PLUS a VR headset!

Mobile Moving Up In Google Searches

Google has an upcoming change to search…engadget.com says on April 21st, they will roll out an updated algorithm that puts mobile versions of websites higher in the search results. The search giant also has a mobile-friendly test tool available for website operators to check that Google recognizes their mobile version.

Samsung has frequently been dinged for copying Apple. According to bgr.com, the tables are about to be turned, as Apple may be working on a virtual reality headset like the Gear VR. Cupertino already has some VR patents, but new job listings indicate things are heating up on developing an Apple VR headset.

Electric cars get all the glory, but a co-founder of Tesla says its electric trucks that will matter more. The verge.com reports that Ian Wright claims companies should retrofit gas guzzling trucks with his Wrightspeed range-extended power trains. Wright is already converting 25 FedEx trucks to his system, and says they’ll save 35 grand a year each in fuel and $20,000 in maintenance.

HTC Goes Big With High Megapixel Cams in New Smartphone

HTC will show it’s new flagship smartphone, code named ‘Hima’ at CES next week. 9to5google.com says it has a 5 inch screen and a 20.7 megapixel camera, and a 13 megapixel front facing ‘selfie’ camera!

LG has rolled out a new ‘Art Slim’ series of TV’s that are 75% slimmer! They’ll be showing off a .3 thick 55 inch one next week, and cnet.com reports the 65 inch screen is barely thicker. They’re 25% lighter weight, too!

Virtual reality headsets are cool, but you need content, and now Samsung has introduced a service called Milk VR featuring 360 degree content. TechCrunch.com notes that Samsung wants it to become the YouTube of VR content.