A new radio service, smarter cars, watches and Saturday nights, noisier keyboards and a slightly improved operating system feature in the tech stories of this past week. Videep Vijay Kumar zeroes in on some of them
It appears that everybody wants to jump on board the radio bandwagon. With Apple launching iTunes Radio, it was only logical that eternal rivals/copycats/innovators Samsung got in on the action as well. With their all-new MilkMusic app, which is currently exclusive to owners of their Galaxy line of smartphones, Samsung promises over two hundred ad-free radio stations (the “ad-free” part is for a limited time only, however) in addition to extensive customisation options. At first glance, the service certainly looks good (as does the app, for that matter). It is currently available in the U.S. only and requires that you sign up for a Samsung account.
Tactile, green, lethal
The U.S.-based gaming peripheral manufacturer has imbued its BlackWidow series of gaming keyboards (the ‘Ultimate’ edition, specifically) with what it describes as the “world’s first mechanical switches designed for gaming”. While competitors use Cherry MX grade switches, Razer has designed, produced and incorporated its own mechanical switches. Dubbed the “Green Switch”, the keys are supremely clicky, ultra durable (up to 60 million key strokes), feature optimised actuation and reset points, resulting in the same tactile feedback as other mechanical switches, but Razer’s switches ‘travel’ a shorter distance, which makes them ready for action faster. It’s a good thing we have noise-cancelling headphones.
A slightly better Windows 8.1
The first update for Windows 8.1 is on its way, bringing minor enhancements to both touch and non-touchscreen versions of the operating system. While majority of PC users find Microsoft’s post Windows 7 era quite loathsome, one cannot argue that the Redmond based software giant is not making an effort to make this majority feel more at home. With Update 1 for Windows 8.1, they’re allowing users to boot directly to desktop, set desktop applications as default apps for opening files, adding shut down and restart buttons to the start button (on right-click, but that’s still okay), more mouse-friendly UI, and more minor, yet logical fixes (Touch users aren’t to be left out either). Pat yourself on the back, Microsoft.
Play with Pebble
Over a month after launching its own app store for iOS, the smart people behind the Pebble smartwatch have launched an online marketplace for Android on the Google Play store. For the uninformed, Pebble is an e-ink smartwatch that lets you receive all your phone notifications on your wrist in addition to helping you live your life smarter. Control music on your phone, monitor heart rate, complement your fitness routine with a pedometer and other apps, check the weather, stocks, and change your watchfaces like there’s no tomorrow, because, y’know, you can get bored of them in a couple of days like any owner of a vintage Patek Philippe will tell you.
Smart cars are officially here
Is it not bad enough that we stare at buttons with rounded edges for six hours in a day? Well, Apple doesn’t think the hours you’re logging are enough, so they’ve rolled out CarPlay, putting iOS on your dashboard—provided you own a compatible Ferrari, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Jaguar or a car from 13 other major manufacturers. CarPlay supports voice and touch in addition to knob and button controls that you are likely to find in an automobile. Take calls, listen to music, play Candy Crush Saga, or try something even riskier, like use Apple Maps and try to find your way to the drycleaner’s. The ongoing Geneva Motor Show is more than just about CarPlay, however. Nissan, for instance, debuted NissanConnect, which in addition to featuring a variety of GPS and communication apps, lets you check fuel prices around your location and tells you the exact mileage between you and the petrol station if you’re low. Then there’s the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe which features ‘Active Curve Tilting’, a feature which uses computer processing and/or magic to effectively adjust the suspension of the car as you enter a turn, reducing the ‘counter tilt’ affect passengers experience while banking at speed.
Your Saturday nights just got (relatively) smarter. From the minds of Kyle Addison and Avery Platz comes Livr, a social app for those who enjoy the occasional malted beverage or something with a higher ABV measure. Of course, the app comes into its own if several such beverages are enjoyed. Blow into the breathalyser attachment, hit the right BAC (blood alcohol level) score, and more features are unlocked, such as a crowd sourced Truth or Dare game, post-consumption dialing feature which randomly calls another person connected to Livr, and the incredible ‘Blackout’ button, which erases all records of the night before, including failed attempts to replicate the Oscars selfie, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time. There’s bar hopping tool as well, which features heat maps of popular watering holes. The creators are equating it to a perpetual online party.