Saturday, 30 March 2013

Television With Scent! Is This the Next Breakthrough?

Once upon 1981, John Waters tried to engage his cult-ish fans with a scratch-and-sniff "Odorama" card to complement the film Polyester. This TV is not that -- in fact, it's a decidedly higher-tech approach to true Smell-O-Vision. Devised by a team of Japanese researchers at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology and demoed in prototype form at IEEE's Virtual Reality conference, the set uses four corner-mounted fans to break the fourth wall and create an immersive olfactory experience. By merging and adjusting vapors fed through these four airflows, the team can somewhat realistically trick viewers into believing the scent is coming from localized areas of the screen. We can just hear parents of the future now: "Stop sitting so close to the screen, Johnny. You're gonna pass out from the fumes." Ah, the future... [Source]

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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Apple Files New Patent With Smartphone Concept That Contains an AMOLED Display Wrap-Around

Behold, the iPhone 6. Nah, we're only joking -- what you see above is a diagram lifted from an Apple patent application that popped up at the USPTO today, which describes a "consumer electronic product" that's nothing but screen. The patent involves building a device from an open-ended transparent body (of glass, for example) that becomes a full wrap-around display when a flexible AMOLED screen is unfurled within it. It doesn't imagine all that real-estate will necessarily be used at once, though, and includes details of a "detection mechanism," such as a camera and facial recognition software, which would determine how much of the screen you can see, so that power is only sent to the parts that are in view. It's important to note that, apart from mentioning some real-world applications, the concept and method of constructing a wrap-around display are all the application covers. In other words, this patent does not describe anything close to a complete device. Apologies if we've killed your buzz, but we're just managing expectations before we move onto some interesting spitballing from Apple about what other design features such a device could carry -- read on after the break for more.

While the diagram up top is certainly the most attractive-looking concept in the filing, several other form factors are suggested as potential recipients of a wrap-around display, including the traditional rectangle with rounded corners, and one sketch that's almost cylindrical. It's also suggested that part of the housing could be metallic, providing some extra support. In the claims, the transparent body is described as being open at both ends, and Apple explains the "end caps" could allow devices to be connected together (think centiPhone), or could be swapped out for others, such as "an improved camera or a different set of wireless antennae." Layering multiple screens within the enclosure is elaborated on, and could serve to increase image depth for a semi-3D effect. And what about the external buttons? Apple explains alternatives like on-screen replacements and using multitouch gestures to disable screen lock. It's worth reiterating that not only is this just an application, but would be an incredible (and likely, incredibly expensive) feat to actually create something even close to this concept. Also, we don't care how strong Gorilla Glass gets with each new generation -- we're not sure we'd be brave enough to carry around an all-glass iPhone. [Source]

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BlackBerry 10 Device Sales Reach 1 Million, in Q4 of 2012

TORONTO (AP) — Research In Motion Ltd. said Thursday that it sold about 1 million of its critically important new BlackBerry 10 devices and surprised Wall Street by returning to profitability in the most recent quarter.
The earnings provide a first glimpse of how RIM's new touch-screen BlackBerry Z10 is selling internationally and in Canada since its debut Jan. 31. The 1 million Z10 phones were above the 915,000 that analysts had been expecting. Details on the U.S. launch are not part of the fiscal fourth quarter's financial results because the Z10 just went on sale in the U.S. last week.
In the quarter that ended March 2, RIM earned $98 million, or 19 cents a share, compared with a loss of $125 million, or 24 cents a share, a year earlier. After adjusting for restructuring and other one-time items, RIM earned 22 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had been expecting a loss of 31 cents.
Revenue fell 36 percent to $2.7 billion, from $4.2 billion. Analysts had expected $2.82 billion.
Despite the BlackBerry 10 sales, RIM lost about 3 million subscribers to end the quarter with 76 million.
Bill Kreyer, a tech analyst for Edward Jones, called the decline "pretty alarming."
"This is going to take a couple of quarters to really see how they are doing," Kreyer said.
In pre-market trading, RIM's stock rose briefly, but was down 7 cents at $14.50 at about 8:20 a.m.
The BlackBerry, pioneered in 1999, had been the dominant smartphone for on-the-go business people and other consumers before the iPhone debuted in 2007 and showed that phones can handle much more than email and phone calls.
The new BlackBerry Z10 has received favorable reviews since its release, but the launch in the critical U.S. market was delayed until late this month. A new keyboard BlackBerry, called the Q10, won't be released in the U.S. for two or three more months. The delay in selling the Q10 complicates RIM's efforts to hang on to customers tempted by the iPhone and a range of devices running Google Inc.'s Android operating system. Even as the BlackBerry has fallen behind rivals in recent years, many users have stayed loyal because they prefer a physical keyboard over the touch screen on the iPhone and most Android devices.
RIM, which is changing is formal name to BlackBerry, said it expects to break even in the current quarter despite increasing spending on marketing.
"To say it was a very challenging environment to deliver improved financial results could well be the understatement of the year," Chief Executive Thorsten Heins said during a conference call with analysts.
In a statement, Heins said he implemented numerous changes at the company over the past year and those changes have resulted in RIM returning to profitability.
"I thought they were dead. This is a huge turnaround," Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said from New York.
Misek said the Canadian company "demolished" the numbers, especially its gross margins. RIM reported gross margins of 40 percent, up from 34 percent a year earlier. The company credited higher average selling prices and higher margins for devices.
"This is a really, really good result," Misek said. "It's off to a good start."
The company also announced that co-founder Mike Lazaridis will retire as vice chairman and director. [Source]

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