Why My Samsung Gear VR Virtual Reality Headset Is Gathering Dust

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Photo by Daryl Deino

I once considered the Samsung Gear VR the most innovative tech device since the iPad in 2001. The Gear VR went with me everywhere. I bought the developer’s version in December of 2014 and the commercial version last November. I never thought I would get bored of it, but I have; it’s is in my room gathering dust. As a matter of fact, when I went to test out a new app this morning, I had to wipe the lenses.

Don’t get me wrong; the Gear VR really is an innovative device and Samsung deserves a lot of credit for helping Oculus build a device for mobile VR. When I first got it, my eyes spent hours viewing movies in the VR Cinema. It was so cool to have my own virtual IMAX movie theater. It was also cool to visit China, New York City, and even Africa just by putting on the headset. Did I mention that both you and a friend who is thousands of miles away can visit the moon together while watching video clips and chatting, provided that both of you have the Gear VR?

The problem is that although all this is exciting at first, the rather poor quality of the experiences seeps in and, eventually, these experiences become too much of a hassle. The biggest problem is what is called the “screen door effect,” where one can easily see individual pixels that build up an image. It’s like looking at something through a screen door. A Quad HD resolution screen may look beautiful on a smartphone from a foot away, but when that screen is magnified in front of your eyes, things are different.

Perhaps, a 4K screen would take care of the screen door effect, but a 4K smartphone screen eats up a lot of battery life and isn’t necessary for 95 percent of smartphone users. Still, this is needed to make what’s supposed to be an immersive experience more immerse.

The most annoying problem with the Gear VR (and this includes every version that has been released so far) is that the lenses fog up really easily. Sometimes, it gets so annoying that you just want to take the Gear VR off your head and throw it across the room. I have found a solution that usually helps: Rain-X Interior Glass Anti-Fog. But why should somebody have to spend money on this after they already spend more than $100 (it used to be more than $200) on the headset?

Then, there is what is commonly know as the FOV (field-of-view), which determines the widest dimension your eyes can see an image. While the Gear VR does provide somewhat of an immersive experience, it looks like you are seeing that experience through an igloo helmet. However, it gets worse. Because of the light reflection, your eyes will notice two transparent dark squares on the sides of the image. They aren’t that prominent, but they are there. When you look to the right one, it disappears and the same goes with the left one. But in the virtual reality world, you need to be able to look in the center.

In order to get rid of these transparent and annoying black squares, I have tried to put a couple of bandages on my nose, which sometimes works, but makes the headset feel more uncomfortable. Once again, why should I have to make the compromise? Why should the consumer have to make all these compromises? The Gear VR is supposed to be about enjoyment, but it’s become a tough job to get it to work correctly.

 

Perhaps I am being a little too harsh. After all, most people I have showed the device to have been blown away — at least at first. I dare anybody not to be totally impressed with the Jurassic World VR app, which has an Apatosaurus staring right at you, centimeters away from mistaking you as a vegetable. There is also Temple Run VR, which makes you really feel like you are running away from monsters. The Netflix app is also enjoyable, just as long as you don’t watch anything more than a half hour.

However, VR is a very important type of techology. It has failed for decades and only now does it have a chance of taking off. If consumers experience mediocre virtual reality experiences like they do with the Google Cardboard or frustrating experiences with the Gear VR, they may not give the technology a chance when it is perfected. Hopefully, the upcoming Oculus Rift can correct at least some of the ills of the Gear VR and bring virtual reality to the mainstream.

[“source-huffingtonpost”]

The iota Lite by Cube26 Is an Affordable Smart Bulb

The iota Lite by Cube26 Is an Affordable Smart BulbThanks to cartoons like The Jetsons on Cartoon Network, we’ve grown up with the idea of a future home where all gadgets are connected and smarter than anything we’re used to right now.

Whether it’s food at the press of a button, lights that know your schedule and switch on and off on their own, or a robot that follows you around, cooking, cleaning, and cracking wise too, the future looks appealing. Some of this is already possible, but little is affordable.

(Also see: Philips Hue Review: Cool, With a Catch)

The iota Lite by Cube26 is a rare example of an IoT (Internet of Things) device – that is to say, a smart gadget connected via the Internet – that is useful, and still relatively affordable.

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There are two main features of this bulb that make it worth checking out – first of course, you can switch it on or off from your phone. Secondly, you can also adjust the intensity of the light so that you’re not constantly switching lamps and lightbulbs on or off, or just flooding your room with an overly bright tube light. Priced at Rs. 1,899, it’s not too expensive, though it’s still much costlier than a 7W LED from Philips (which costs Rs. 383 online). Interestingly, unlike most other smart bulbs, where you have to buy a base station along with the lights, the iota Lite doesn’t have any additional hardware you need to pay for.

It is powered by a Texas Instrument processor and can be connected to your phone via Bluetooth 4.0 low energy so that you don’t have to worry about the battery drain. To keep the range limited so that you won’t have someone sitting outside your house able to play with your lights, the range has been limited to 15 meters.

The bulb draws 7W power and gives 500 lumens of light. You can also dim the light from the app according to your need. Aside from that, you can also adjust the hue, choosing from between 16 million different colours if you want to.

The default socket for the bulb is of type E27, which is the screw type socket you will see in many lamps in your house; but you can easily grab a B22 converter for our traditional pin sockets. Right now, if you buy the iota Lite on Flipkart, it comes bundled with this converter as well.

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And obviously, it functions like a normal bulb, giving out white light from the word go – you can switch it on and off with the switch as well – and using the various smart functions will require you to download the free companion app and pair the bulb over Bluetooth. The app is pretty simple and intuitive to use, although it doesn’t have the greatest of the design and finish.

As soon as you open the app, it prompts you to switch on Bluetooth. If is already on, the app searches for the bulb and connects to it. All the known bulbs are listed in the left sliding pane so you can easily find the bulb you want to control. As a security feature, each bulb can only be connected to one phone at a time, which might be inconvenient for the other members of your family, though once again, turning the bulb off from the switch, and then back on again, will reset it to a full power white bulb.

The home screen of the app has a colour palette circle to change the light colour of the bulb. It also has the sliding bar to change the intensity of the light. On the top bar there is a mic icon, and you can click that and speak the name of the colour you want the light to be of, instead of using a slider.

The second tab is music, and by using that you can sync the bulb’s light to the music you’re playing via your phone. It’s cheesy and stupid, but it’s a great conversation starter, and if you’ve always dreamed of having a disco ball in your house, well, this is a cheap and easy way to make it happen.

There are also app shortcuts for different modes, such as yellow light for reading, party mode where colours keep changing rhythmically, or kaleidoscope and strobe modes, which seem more like gimmicks than anything else really.

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There is also a candle mode where the light flickers like a candle. You can customise each mode by changing colours, luminosity, transition period, and you can add your custom modes as well.

You can also set up smart interactions, like a visible alert for calls, SMS or weather changes, make the light blink if your subscribed YouTube channels get new videos, and more.

On the iOS app, the layout is slightly different, but the oveerall functionality is pretty similar. One difference is that it also includes a proximity mode, where the bulb switches on automatically when you come into range, and switches off when you leave, and timers and schedules as well.

Cube26 CEO Saurav Kumar says that he sees a lot of opportunity for IoT devices in India, and believes that we’re at the cusp of the devices seeing widespread adoption.

“We saw a lot of innovation abroad in IoT sector and we wanted to bring it to India keeping in mind the price range,” he says. “We had worked on IoT solutions for corporate before but we really wanted to get into the consumer space.”

“Over the coming months we are bringing a lot of exciting features to the IOTA lite bulb, including games, alerts for cabs like Uber, Ola,” says Kumar. “And we’re also working on a store where there will be multiple apps related to the smart lighting.”

Considering that just about a year ago, we thought that the cheapest smart home installation would cost you Rs. 52,000, it’s a lot of progress in a relatively short time. With simple installation, smart features, and a reasonable price, the iota Lite has a lot going for it.

The one issue we had with it is the app, which can be improved on much more easily than the hardware itself, and it’s a sign of how IoT could become a reality, over time.

[“Source-Gadgets”]

Homido Mini Is a Cheap VR Headset That’s Even Simpler Than the Google Cardboard

Homido Mini Is a Cheap VR Headset That's Even Simpler Than the Google Cardboard

The Homido Mini is a small, easy to use, and extremely portable virtual reality ‘headset’ for mobile devices that works with apps that support Google Cardboard. It’s reasonably cheap, and you can use it to very easily showcase VR experiences without having to carry around a large boxy cardboard headset, which makes it a great buy if you’re interested in virtual reality.

Getting into virtual reality has never been easier thanks to smartphone-powered VR headsets. Although a full-fledged VR setup is expensive – for example, the Oculus Rift will cost you $599 to pre-order (roughly Rs. 39,500) – mobile setups are significantly cheaper.

(Also see: Oculus Rift Preview: Bringing Reality to the Virtual World)

The Samsung Gear VR has launched at Rs. 8,200 in India and is available elsewhere at $99(approximately Rs. 6,700). But aside from that, there are also a number of Google Cardboard headsets. You can get these online for prices ranging from roughly Rs. 200 for basic cardboard sets, to around Rs. 2,000 for more fancy designs with plastic bodies and headstraps.

google_cardboard_dev.jpgOne problem with all these headsets is that they’re not really very portable – you can disassemble the headset but this takes time and effort, and an assembled Cardboard headset isn’t something you can really slip into your pocket.

The Homido Mini is the simplest possible solution to this problem – its creators recognised that the essence of Cardboard is just the lenses positioned to let you look at images on your phone’s screen, and so they got rid of everything else.

Design
The result is a tiny gadget that will fit in the palm of your hand. The Homido Mini has a clip in its centre to attach to your phone, and two lenses that fold into a slim line along this axis. The lenses fold outwards to look like a pair of eyeglasses, and that’s all there is to the Homido Mini.

homido_mini_unfurled_ndtv.jpgTo use it, you simply need to hold your eyes up to the lenses, and you’ll see the world in 3D just like you would with a regular Cardboard headset. Since there’s no buttons on the Homido Mini, you’ll need to touch the screen with your finger, but given how minimal the headset is, this isn’t much of a problem. There are no straps to attach it, so you’ll need to use one hand to hold the phone up at all times, though this is the case with most basic Cardboard headsets too.

It’s got a thin plastic frame, and the entire thing collapses into a small unit that you can easily keep in your pocket when you’re traveling, though you’ll want to get a small pouch or something else to carry it around in, to protect the lenses from getting scratched or smudged.

When you want to use it, just unfold the lenses, and then line up the clip with the divider line in the middle of your screen, and attach the Homido Mini viewer. It’s a lot simpler than fitting a phone into the standard Google Cardboard headset, where you’re worried about lining up the screen with the holes, and where you can easily turn the flaps in the wrong direction damaging the cover in a moment of carelessness.

homido_mini_folded_ndtv.jpgAlso, since it’s made of plastic and not actual cardboard, there’s less risk of ruining it forever by putting the headset down on a slightly damp surface.

Performance
As a basic Cardboard headset, the Homido Mini performs admirably. Since there are no straps or flaps, it’s easy to set up and use, and it also means that it’s comfortable to use for people who wear glasses. If your power is high enough that you can’t ditch glasses when in VR, then this is definitely a lot more comfortable.

However, the design also means that it allows all ambient light in when you’re viewing something in VR. That’s not ideal, and can reduce the immersion for some experiences. However, although it’s mildly annoying, we found it was not as bad as we had feared.

homido_mini_attached_ndtv.jpgAs a Cardboard headset, this kind of viewer has some general problems that are common to other headsets too. For one thing, your inputs are limited, and since your hand is tied up to hold the phone in place, you can’t even try and use a Bluetooth remote or controller. That means that the Homido Mini is best suited for looking at photos or videos, than playing a game.

Secondly, unlike the higher end headsets for PCs, or even the Gear VR, you can’t adjust the IPD on Cardboard headsets. That shouldn’t be a problem for most, but some people will find any Cardboard headset blurry as a result. And because the headset has no accelerometer or gyroscope (again, unlike the Gear VR or better headsets) there can be some issues with the view drifting. If you’re using a slightly older phone, then you’re going to see some other issues as well including ghosting of images, or laggy motion tracking.

Verdict
The Homido Mini lives up to the ‘Mini’ in its name with a very portable and easy to use device that lets you carry a VR headset in your pocket. That’s not to say that it’s perfect – it lets light in, lacks any means of going hands-free, and has the usual Cardboard issues to boot.

homido_mini_half_top_ndtv.jpgDespite these caveats, the experience of using the Homido Mini has been excellent. Watching 360-degree videos on YouTube or exploring photospheres and images taken with Cardboard Camera all works perfectly. And since the Homido Mini is small enough to slip into your pocket, it’s always on hand when you want to show someone a glimpse of VR. It might not be the best Cardboard viewer you can get for the price, but if you’re looking for something you can slip into your pocket and easily take with you when you’re traveling or want to show something to a friend, then it’s great.

Price: $14.99 (approximately Rs. 1,000) on Amazon

Please note, Amazon does not ship the Homido Mini to India, so you’ll need to get this when you’re traveling or via one of the services that can ship to India.

Missed the news? Here’s a list of all phones launched at MWC 2016 on one handy page – or catch our full Mobile World Congress coverage.

[“Source-Gadgets”]

Deadpool Is the Ultimate Date Movie for Your Bromance

Deadpool Is the Ultimate Date Movie for Your Bromance

Of late, you’ll find Deadpool just about everywhere, and he’s become one of those characters that even non-comic book fans will recognise. Deadpool also has an excellent video game to his name that manages to mix together humour and mayhem with elan. As a movie character though, he’s had a less successful past – we were first introduced to the character in the (honestly bad) X-Men Origins: Wolverine – where he was played by Ryan Reynolds, who did a fair turn as wisecracking Wade Wilson, and then the film stitches his mouth shut so he can’t speak. It was a really bad decision that soured people on the character.

Yet here we are again, with Ryan Reynolds playing Deadpool a second time, in an all-new origin story that actually works really well. This time around, Reynolds’ Wilson gets to keep talking throughout the film, and it’s a good idea because he carries the movie with his non-stop wisecracks. What’s more, Deadpool is true to the comics, and fans of the character – whether they know him from the comics or from the games – will definitely not be disappointed.

deadpool_and_fight.jpgFor Reynolds, who was not just connected with Deadpool’s previous disastrous appearance, but also with 2011’s objectively awful Green Lantern movie, this new version of Deadpool was a shot at redemption, and he’s certainly made the most of the opportunity. The movie, which is written by the same writers as Zombieland, also takes digs at both the earlier Deadpool and Green Lantern through fourth wall breaking jokes. Deadpool’s character has always directly addressed the reader and the movie doesn’t shy away from this, with jokes about actors playing the parts.

As a result though, the film leans very heavily on humour – from the exaggerated jokes in the opening sequence, which is one of the most visually spectacular parts of the film, to the non-stop running of the mouth of most of the characters. Unfortunately, this means that things like plot and narrative take a back seat. Despite that, the movie is well put together, and even if you’ve never heard of Deadpool before, it has a good chance of leaving you laughing and enjoying the movie.

deadpool_and_vanessa.jpgHowever, as anyone who’s seen the Deadpool trailers would know, the humor has a very particular tone. It’s kind of like the “Scary Movie” of superhero movies, where a lot of the jokes are simple references, throwaway nods to the audience to say, “see, we know this cool thing you like,” instead of actually doing anything with the reference, and that can wear a little thin over time. The film also treats violent sociopathy as comedic fodder – much like Zombieland actually – and that can be a hit or miss thing for people as well. If you thought Zombieland was hilarious but could use some more jokes about testicles, then Deadpool hits the sweet spot; and we were definitely laughing, but the humour is not for everyone.

Speaking of not being for everyone – Deadpool has an A rating in India, unlike most of the other superhero films that play it safe for the broader teen audience. As a result, there are some visuals of gore and nudity, along with a lot of language, that you definitely won’t find in other superhero films.Censorship can be an issue in India, but we can confidently say Deadpool film hasn’t been cut to pieces until it loses all sense, and you can definitely watch the movie in the theatres.

deadpool_and_guns.jpgWhether you will enjoy it is a different matter – as we said, the film relies very heavily on humour, and the actual narrative feels a little predictable. The various characters do their parts, and can be quite enjoyable – Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead from the X-Men have small parts through the movie and are enjoyable to see, while sidekick Weasel can be quite funny as well. But although Deadpool keeps joking about being nothing like other superhero movies, the actual film plays out exactly like any other origin story. And while Vanessa might have a scene where she pegs Deadpool, this doesn’t make her a stronger character who’s different from what we’ve seen before either as she doesn’t really have much to do beyond looking beautiful, and becoming a damsel in distress.

There’s a lot that can be said in praise of the movie, from its stylish aesthetic to its enjoyable soundtrack to the fact that the movie is upbeat and funny through its entire run. Ultimately, Deadpool feels like the ultimate date movie for your bromance.

[“Source-Gadgets”]