Samsung launches massive VR content library with HMD-enabled live streaming

Samsung has announced the launch of a new VR content service, playing host to a huge library of virtual reality experiences. SamsungVR.com and the Samsung VR application will not only have masses of content for consumers, but will enable developers, publishers and enthusiasts to live stream and host their content in one accessible location.

Announced at Unpacked 2017, SamsungVR.com will have over 8,000 videos and 2,000 premium experiences available at launch. The new platform will initially feature content from a range of providers; Copa 90, Rinse FM and Nowness are all due to launch local content for the platform in the coming months.

The platform will be available for mobile, web and, obviously, the Samsung Gear VR itself, although understandably there currently seem to be no plans to expand to other VR devices. Seemingly working like a sort of VR Netflix, you’ll be able to browse channels based on your interests, taking in everything from animation to wildlife.

“Samsung already leads the way in giving people access to VR through our best-selling Gear VR headset, and we want ensure that we are also offering our consumers the very best VR content experiences.” said Conor Pierce, vice president of IT & Mobile at Samsung Electronics UK and Ireland.

“Together with the new Samsung Gear VR and Controller which we announced at MWC earlier this year, our vast curated library of free high-quality content and our efforts to engage working the best content creators out there, we will make it easier than ever to for people to find and consume VR content.”

The mentioned work being done with content creators is perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of SamsungVR.com. Among the experiences available in the new library will be a range of premium made-for-VR series, including Invisible, a supernatural drama that follows a mysterious American family, which is directed by Doug Liman, the man behind The Bourne Identity.

Images courtesy of Samsung

Additionally, there is a clear social media aspect to this update. Partially enabled by the new Gear equipment being released, it will supposedly be near-seamless for users to capture and upload VR content straight from their Gear camera. And with the capability to live stream as well, it would appear the other inspiration for the platform is Twitch.

The combination of professionally curated content and user uploads/streams seems like a potentially strange one and how it fits together will be an important part of making the platform work. However, in concept alone a Netflix-style library for VR content, particularly if the premium originals are on par with Netflix’s efforts in that direction, seems like a no-brainer.

The Twitch-like aspect of the service seems somewhat less natural, but given the size and growth of the streaming platform, if the Gear can establish a solid presence, it seems something that creators will be able to take by the reigns and establish something unique with.

In the face of a collapsing market, Acer goes once more unto the smartwatch breach

Despite the fact that smartwatches are generally seeing their sales plummet, Acer has decided to release a new product into the collapsing market. Taking “an elegant approach to fitness”, the Leap Ware smartwatch seems to be fairly standard fare, using an array of fitness-tracking sensors in combination with an app to keep tabs on all of the various statistics the sensors provide.

“As the pace of modern lifestyles become ever more hectic, people demand technology that can keep them on track and motivated to pursue their goals,” said MH Wang, general manager of Smart Device Products in Acer’s IT Products Business.

“The new Acer Leap Ware is designed to act as a virtual coach to help people go, track, and share, sending them reminders and alerts when they need them the most.”

Acer obviously has to promote its product but the above statement seems somewhat bizarrely unaware of the fact that not only is the company offering pretty much the exact same thing every other smartwatch does, but is are doing so in a market that is dying a fairly nasty death. With big names like Pebble going under, and Fitbit’s stock having been on a steady decline, the persistence in putting out new products is a bold move.

In October 2016, the BBC wrote about a new report by market analysts IDC that showed amartwatch shipments declined by 51.6% year-on-year. The Apple Watch held its place as the market leader, but shipped only a quarter of the units it had sold in the same period (July-September) of 2015. And of the five leading brands, only Garmin showed growth with that growth still being underpinned by low figures.

“It has become evident that, at present, smartwatches are not for everyone,” said Jitesh Ubrani from IDC. “Having a clear purpose and use case is paramount, hence many vendors are focusing on fitness due to its simplicity.”

Images courtesy of Acer

It was pointed out by experts that the period examined was before new versions were released, but there is still a clear lack in significant consumer appetite. The market has largely survived off the fitness aspects, with other products largely falling by the wayside as the novelty wears off. And Acer itself hasn’t exactly been the premium forerunner.

The Leap Ware watch certainly seems a perfectly fine entry into the marketplace. It’s got “diverse fitness tracking features thanks to an array of sensors with advanced algorithms” and supposedly has a battery life of three to five days so you don’t miss out on logging those all-important stats. My watch only tells the time and date. It also has a battery life of ten years.

There is a reasonable chance that initial sales for the Leap Ware may be strong, being all shiny and new as it is. There’s also a very good chance they will quickly plummet as Acer discovers what consumers are desperately trying to tell them: people don’t want smartwatches anymore.

For more information and discussion of the collapse of wearable technology, check out the latest issue of Factor magazine.

Premature lambs kept alive in artificial wombs

Extremely premature lambs have been kept alive in a artificial womb. The fluid-filled plastic bag reproduces the environment of the womb and replaces the function of the placenta. The scientists responsible believe the device could be used for premature babies within the next three years.

Source: New Scientist

British engineer is using recycled plastic to build stronger roads

British engineer Toby McCartney has devised an innovative process that replaces much of the crude oil-based asphalt in pavement with pellets of plastic, made from recyclable bottles. The result is a street that’s 60% stronger than traditional roads, ten times longer-lasting as well as the obvious environmental benefits.

Source: Curbed

Elon Musk’s giant tunnel boring machine arrives at SpaceX

In February, Musk was looking at purchasing a used Herrenknecht boring machine: about 26 feet in diameter, about 400 feet long, and weighing about 1,200 tons. It’s not clear if this is the same machine, but one just arrived at SpaceX’s headquarters and can now be found in the parking lot.

Source: Electrek

Surgeon claims brain transplants are just three years away

A pioneering Italian surgeon has claimed people who have had their brains cryogenically frozen could be 'woken up' within three years. The claim is being made by professor Sergio Canavero who also claims he can carry out the first human head transplant within 10 months before he begins trials on brain transplants.

Source: The Telegraph

Facebook 'observed propaganda efforts' by governments

Facebook has revealed in a new report that it observed attempts to spread propaganda on its site, apparently orchestrated by governments or organised parties. The firm has seen "false news, disinformation, or networks of fake accounts aimed at manipulating public opinion", it said.

Source: BBC

Ex-head of Google China predicts AI will take half of all jobs in a decade

The ex-head of Google China, Kai-Fu Lee, has said that AI will be bigger than all previous tech innovations put together. "These are things that are superhuman, and we think this will be in every industry, will probably replace 50% of human jobs, create a huge amount of wealth for mankind and wipe out poverty," said Lee.

Source: CNBC