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Oculus Go Review: Entry Level VR For The Masses

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For many people, the barrier to entry to get into VR can be quite high. PlayStation VR has been on the lower end at $299 for the headset and $299 for the PlayStation itself. You could also see yourself paying upwards of $400 for an Oculus Rift and at least $800 for a powerful enough PC. Even with these setups, you’re tethered to your console or PC via a cord connected to the headset.

Want to watch a movie in VR? Better do it by your computer.

Want to have a tour guide show you around Venice? You’ll have to be by your computer for that too.

There’s always the option of connecting your phone to a mobile headset, but then you’re draining your phone’s battery rather quickly and nothing breaks the immersion more than a phone call.

This is all about to change with Facebook’s newest entry-level Virtual Reality headset, Oculus Go.

Oculus Go offers many benefits by being a standalone headset without the need for a PC or smartphone. And it starts at $199.

Quality and Comfort

After putting one on I found the build quality and comfort to be on a premium level, especially at that price point. The straps are soft and flexible, the included Glasses Spacer adds room for your frames (nice touch), and the face mask sits comfortably in place with little fuss. I had an easier time adjusting the headset to a viewable angle than with other products. Other people have told me the same. However, the ability to adjust the distance between the lenses so they line up with your eyes is missing here, but that never really got in the way for me. Maybe for some, it will.

The face mask sits comfortably in place with little fuss.

Once the headset is on you’d be pretty hard pressed to not notice how good the display looks. It’s pretty remarkable. In fact, it’s even higher resolution than the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Despite still having the infamous “screen door” effect, it’s barely noticeable unless you’re looking at a text. Watching movies on Netflix for the first time in VR felt like an experience I’d actually want to do. And I did! I watched all of Arrested Development’s remixed fourth season on Oculus Go and enjoyed the experience immensely.

Any VR video content I watched left much to be desired to no fault of Oculus Go. VR cameras still have a long way to go before they produce content at a reasonable quality. Until then it’s passable and we’ll just have to wait. Luckily Oculus Go will be capable of viewing VR video at a higher quality once technology catches up.

The audio for Oculus Go cleverly comes from hidden slits built into the straps unbeknown to most on a quick glance. They produce spatial audio while allowing you to hear what’s actually around you in real reality. If you prefer using your own headphones, there’s also a headphone jack. 

Mild Downsides

Not everything about Oculus Go quite reaches these high points, but none of the downsides interfere with the experience too much.

For starters, I had some mild issues with my controller. At times the virtual laser pointer froze, forcing me to restart the headset and reconnect. Granted it only happened it a few times I still found it frustrating when it did.

There’s less freedom of movement compared to the Oculus Rift.

There’s also less freedom of movement compared to Oculus Rift, which offers six degrees of freedom. Oculus Go only offers three degrees. It’s the difference between walking in a virtual room and only being able to move your head around. Not a deal breaker, but definitely something to know before purchasing.

Disappointingly the battery lasts only two hours, maybe a bit more with dimmer brightness settings. This can make watching a full movie in Netflix a challenge. Knocking out a few episodes of a show never presented an issue, but many popular blockbusters that would benefit from being watched in a simulated movie theater will outlast the battery. Even a battery pack won’t save the day since the Oculus Go drains energy faster than it can take in from a charger. Oculus actually recommends not charging the device during usage for this reason.

Games also drain the battery fast, but I found that less of an issue because I never wanted to play a game for two hours. Most of the games available offer lighter mobile experiences, which aren’t bad necessarily just not something to dedicate a lot of time to.

All About Apps

The Oculus Go focuses on entertainment content, which can be found on the Oculus Store. The library of available apps is taken directly from the Samsung Gear VR, which is made in partnership with Oculus so it’s not exactly surprising. I found a lot of the content to be filler rollercoaster thrills and cheaply made apps. Some more travel applications to visit a few museums would’ve been appreciated. That said, a few hidden gems make the offerings worthwhile.

Netflix, as mentioned before, fits right at home on Oculus Go. Educational apps such as Space-Time by PBS and Ocean Rift offer unique ways of immersing you in the information. Even some games popped out. Virtual Reality took me by surprise by creating VR experiences within VR experiences – think Inception.

Even some of the social apps were intriguing. Imagine playing a hand of Texas Hold’em and actually being able to see, interact, and converse with the other players. BigScreen VR offers a similar social experience for watching movies in a virtual movie theater.

For a standalone headset priced at only $199, most of these shortcomings can be forgiven. I highly recommend Oculus Go to anyone interested in Virtual Reality that doesn’t plan on playing games. Entertainment experiences are at the forefront what makes this headset fantastic with built-in audio and a higher resolution screen. But for gamers wanting to play a game free of wires, they’ll probably be disappointed. Oculus Rift offers the better experience there. 

Facebook and Oculus have a really fantastic product here opening the door to VR for many people unwilling to make the leap into PC-based VR. Oculus Go could be the headset that gets VR into the mainstream by eliminating many hurdles, the price being a primary one. And with time and future upgrades, the Oculus Go line will only get better.

Get the Oculus Go at just $199.

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This new camera app by Moment will blow your mind!

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Since the past few years, a debate has popped up in the photography community.

Can smartphones revolutionize classic photography?

“Photography has always depended on technology, and every change in technology has affected the history of photography, but the smartphone, in its nature, is a device that is not for photography. It’s a device that is for communication,” says photographer and filmmaker Henry Jacobson.

But then, the iPhone was launched in 2007. And it hit back to all the naysayers.

The iPhone was a “revolutionary mobile phone” and a “breakthrough internet communications device” — with a camera. It was certainly not the first phone to have a camera — and it probably wasn’t even the best camera available in a phone at the time — but it certainly was the best camera in your phone. As soon as you used it, you felt a genuine, relaxed enthusiasm for taking pictures that you, as a daily user, hadn’t felt for years.

Over the period of time, cameras in smartphones have improved to a great extent. Some have gotten so far with their hardware, that they’re making photographers drop DSLRs and instead stroll around with a 500 gm smartphone.

Then, a couple of years back, Moment launched extensive camera lenses and cases for smartphones. Which in addition to an already improvised sensor, took smartphone photography to a whole new level.  It mainly focuses on cases for the Pixel 2, Galaxy S9, and Apple’s iPhones. The wide angle and telephoto lenses have rocked the market so far.

But now, Moment is stepping away from the hardware and released a new app for both Android and iOS.

 

It’s called as Moment- Pro Camera. 

Just like any other third party camera apps, it’s designed to replace your default camera app while giving you access to all of the pro controls you could ask for. You can shoot in RAW, control exposure/ISO/shutter speed/focus/white balance, analyze all of your photo metadata in a DSLR-like format, and see a real-time histogram to know exactly what your exposure is like.

Despite all of these controls, Moment’s kept the UI for its app very clean and simplistic so that it’s not too overwhelming for people looking to gradually up their photo game. There’s also a section in the app where you can let it know you’re using a Moment lens if you have one, and according to Moment, it’s working on adding support for the Pixel 2’s Pixel Visual Core, the technology that has blown everyone’s minds with it’s ability, at some point down the road.

                        

 

While all of that sounds great, Moment’s Android app is lagging a bit behind. When I was watching videos about the app, the Android version didn’t support video recording or the ability to switch between sensors if you’ve got a phone with dual rear cameras.

Speaking of the Android app, it’ll set you back $1.99 on the Play Store. For our iPhone friends, the iOS app can be downloaded for free but requires a one-time $2.99 payment to access all of the pro controls.

Are smartphones better than DSLRs? Stay tuned to know more.

 

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The Peaks and Valleys of WWDC 2018

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Today Apple held WWDC 2018 to announce their much anticipated software updates. iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS all got new features, and despite being smaller in features there’s still much to talk about.

Apple from the very beginning setting the stage with iOS claiming that the focus was performance and stability improvements. So, although there might not be as many user features as prior updates, the new features here are meaningful. However, some don’t quite meet that standard.

In my opinion, here the peaks and valleys of WWDC. First the positives…

Peaks

1. Porting iOS Apps to Mac

Looking back, we might see this as the most important feature announced today. At the tail-end of the macOS announcements, Craig Federighi gave us a sneak peak of Universal Apps now incorporating iPhone, iPad, and for the first time Mac.

The Mac App Store has had issues with Mac developer retention for some time now. Getting iOS developers to come over has been a whole other issue. iPad apps were quickly adopted by developers because it shared so much in common with iPhone development. All that a developer really had to do was update the UI. Mac, on the other hand, currently requires a whole new app be written.

This transition to Universal Apps across OSes comes in two phases. Phase 1 we saw today. It starts with Apple porting some of their own apps to Mac, which include: News, Stocks, Home, and Voice Memos. Phase 2 comes next year and will open up tools to developers allowing them to port their own iOS apps.

Hopefully these new additions, plus the new Mac App Store design, create greater incentive for developers to bring their apps to Mac. From where I’m standing, these tools could make a big difference.

2. Screen Time and Digital Health Features

Last month Google showed off their bevy of “Digital Wellness” features, and while they might have gone farther, it’s great seeing Apple take steps to make your time spent with your phone healthier.

All these Digital Health features show up in a few different ways. First were some additions to Do Not Disturb. Now in Control Center you’re able to associate Do Not Disturb functionality with a particular location (where you work) or a calendar event (a specific meeting at work). Even when using the Bed Time function added last year, Do Not Disturb will automatically turn on.

Screen Time is the biggest Digital Health feature added. In settings right under Do Not Disturb a new tab dubbed Screen Time will show you how long you used your phone, how many notifications you received, how many times you picked up your phone, and your most used apps. From here that data can be broken down by current day or week. There are also options to set timers per application or type of app determined by its category in the App Store.

3. macOS Dark Mode

The most immediately apparent update to macOS Mojave is the new Dark Mode. First off, it’s gorgeous. Holding back from using the developer beta of Mojave just for Dark Mode has been a trying effort. I’ll manage, somehow. There’s not much to say other than to look at these beautiful stills.

4. Siri Notification Suggestions

We’ll talk about some of the other Siri features later, but a smaller addition comes in form of task suggestions seen in Notification Center. Let say that you missed a call from someone and you haven’t called them back yet, Siri will add a notification suggesting you call that person.

I’ve already had experience with this on my phone can already see it has a useful tool to remind me of smaller important items I might have forgotten otherwise. These suggestions also show up in the Search Field. The idea is that after Siri has learned some of your routines she’ll send you handy tidbits when you need them most.

5. Third Party Support For Siri Watch Face

Another small, but potentially big feature here. Last year watchOS 4 introduced the Siri Watch Face with contextually relevant cards in place of the standard complications. This year the watch face gains support for third party apps via the new Siri Shortcut API. Third party integration makes this watch face infinitely more practical with the potential of seeing transportation times, news updates, and whatever else third party developers cook up.

Valleys

1. Increased Animoji Support

Flag this one as highly subjective and very much my own opinion. Many people are going to love these new Animoji and they’ll love FaceTiming their friends as their very own Memoji. Not me. Animoji has always hit a sour note for me and with iOS 12 I’m finding their inclusion that much more frustrating. Beyond FaceTime invites in Messages, Animoji was the only new addition to Messages.

It’s not the inclusion of new Animoji that upsets me, if there were other features to discuss among Animoji I’d have no problem. But it was the only update, and Apple spent a lot of time on it. Which leads me to…

2. No RCS

RCS is the spiritual successor to SMS and includes many practical additions such as read receipts, typing indicators, and rich links. It has been adopted by all the major carriers, and would make texting someone on Android (aka a non-iPhone user) a far more pleasant experience. It’s also far more practical and necessary of an update than additional Animoji.

To me, not including RCS would be like not including Bluetooth 5.0 or a new WiFi standard. Why exactly wasn’t this included? I’m very curious. It can’t be because of security, because SMS already lacks end to end encryption.

3. No iOS Dark Mode

When video leaked of macOS and the included Dark Mode a few days ago, I became hopeful we’d see the feature come to iOS as well. Alas, I was wrong. Maybe there are challenges bringing Dark Mode to iOS and that don’t exist for Mac. iPhone X and future OLED devices would benefit greatly from a Dark Mode. OLED screens don’t have to power black pixels, which could have resulted in a lot of power saving goodness if there were an iOS Dark Mode. I’m sure it’ll come eventually, just would’ve been nice to have seen it released in parity with macOS.

4. tvOS

What is there to talk about, really? Dolby Atmos support. A single new screen saver. And an admittedly cool Zero Sign-In feature for TV passwords let down by support from only one provider. None of this warranted being featured in a keynote that already ran too long, Apple shouldn’t have dedicated time to tvOS on stage. They could’ve left it out.

5. Siri Shortcuts Aren’t Enough

For me this is one of the biggest letdowns of WWDC. Siri has fallen behind competition with Google Assistant, Alexa, and Cortana; and she really needed this year to catch up. Siri Shortcuts seems to be trying to catch up on third party app support seen on other assistants. At a quick glance it would appear Apple has done so, but a second thought changes that outlook.

Essentially the feature takes advantage of available deep links into apps allowing you to go somewhere specific in an app. By going to a deep linked area of an app you’ll be able to tell Siri you want to create a command for that specific information you’re seeing in the app and create your own command to reach it.

Here lies the problem. For starters Google Assistant already has similar functionality, the difference being that the user doesn’t have to point Google Assistant where to go, it just know to go. Siri has to be trained per function, per app. A lot of voice activated requests are thought of on a whim and aren’t initiated preemptively. Who thinks they’ll have a question in a few hours and sets it up ahead of time? Seems like the user is doing work that Siri should be doing instead.

Even though requests can accomplish more complex tasks thanks to the integrated Shortcuts app, they all still require the user come up with a command and consistently use that command verbatim. Stray from the command and you’ll get a different result. Notably Siri falls behind competition on voice recognition as well, and there was no word about and update there.

It’s not a terrible feature, but it certainly doesn’t help Siri catch up to competition.

More to Come

iOS 12, macOS Mojave, watchOS 5, and tvOS had many other features that couldn’t all be talked about here. Increased privacy while browsing, Group FaceTime, grouped notifications in iOS, Camera Continuity, among others were also highlighted during Apple’s event. Stay tuned for more updates and a look at unannounced iOS 12 beta features and overall impressions in the coming days while we get our hands on the software.

 

 

 

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Apple

WWDC 2018 Liveblog: Get on the Hype train!

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WWDC 2018 is in a few hours and we’re here committed, more like excited to share live updates with you. There’s a lot to take home today, with iOS 12 up to the brink, launching with a lot of purported features; macOS– with a dark mode, a news app, and a revamped macOS store, and some basic upgrades to watchOS and tvOS.

Unfortunately, we wouldn’t expect hardware announcements, owing to previous reports but isn’t WWDC a warehouse of software goodies more than hardware ones? Tune in, for a ride in the hype train!

 

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