The world of tech is no stranger to weirdness, but even by its standards it’s been a strange old week. We saw Google’s Nest shoot the Internet of Things in the foot, experienced VR under the influence of very powerful pharmaceuticals, and discovered that some people find robots’ bottoms sexy. Turning to more sensible tech matters, we also discovered some hot new hardware from Huawei and what might just be your favourite new web browser, and found out whether the HTC Vive lives up to the hype. It’s Week in Tech!
Huawei: how do you like them, Apple?
Huawei has been dubbed the Apple of China, and this week it showed off its latest flagship, the Huawei P9. Most of the focus – no pun intended – was on its clever dual-camera system, but there’s much more to the P9 than that. As John McCann reports: “While it’s not easy to infiltrate the top table, Huawei has been edging closer and closer in recent times, and the Huawei P9 could be about to pull up a chair alongside the big boys.”
Huawei also had a new wearable to show us. The TalkBand B3 is the successor to the frankly hopeless TalkBand B2, and Huawei promises an improved chipset, better audio and noise reduction and a more comfortable fit.
The Internet of (broken) Things
Imagine investing in smart home technology, only to see it shut down within two years. That’s what’s happened to the Revolv home hub, which was bought by Google’s Nest division two years ago. Nest has shut it down completely, killing the servers and turning every Revolv into an expensive paperweight. We’re sure Nest has its reasons, but it’s a terrible way to treat the very early adopters who are helping drive smart home adoption.
New browser launched, not many dead
There’s a brand new browser in town: Vivaldi, which comes from the nice people who invented the Opera browser. Could it be the next Chrome? We spoke to Jon Von Tetzchne, Vivaldi’s co-founder and CEO, to find out. “Vivaldi provides more useful functionality out of the box than any other browser. We also provide a lot of options,” he says. “The idea is that people like what they see when they start the browser, but after tweaking a few things, the browser feels like it was made specifically for you.”
Let’s all watch the football… on Twitter
Twitter isn’t just for anonymous hate mobs and pointless hashtags these days: it’s a place to watch American football too. Or at least it will be come September, when it’ll be live-streaming 10 Thursday night NFL games. And it won’t just be streaming highlights and the odd Periscope – it’ll be streaming the full games too. “Twitter is where live events unfold, and is the right partner for the NFL as we take the latest step in serving fans around the world,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, which is corporate speak for “Twitter gave us a whole bunch of money”.
Facebook: it’s a Live!
“Facebook just proved its future is all about video streaming,” Michelle Fitzsimmons says. “Facebook’s answer to Periscope is being imbued with a host of new features that will enhance the platform even further…” Facebook Live can now stream to specific groups of people or around specific events, and you can now use the same reactions as in your News Feed. Facebook is also adding replay for comments, so you can see posts at the appropriate points in the video replay. Filters and doodling are coming too. As Fitzsimmons adds: “Hear that, Snapchat?”
There goes our productivity: PS4 owners can now stream games to PCs and Macs courtesy of the PS4 3.5 system update, codenamed MUSASHI. Groups are easier, you can create the equivalent of a Facebook Event, and you can pretend you’re offline when you’re online. The streaming isn’t perfect – it’s only 720p, and Sony reckons you need a 12MB internet connection to do it – but it’s a lot of fun. Just don’t forget to take your DualShock out with you, as Remote Play depends on it.
Vive le Vive
Great news for anybody interested in VR – or in looking like a giant ant: the HTC Vive gets a rare five-star review from our very own Nick Pino. “If you have the budget [$799 / £689 / €899], the HTC Vive is the best virtual reality experience on the market, bar none,” he says. But what’s it like for non-gamers? Gareth Beavis spent a weekend bumping into things to find out. After scaring himself silly in horror games and feeling like a 14-year-old all over again, his verdict: “It’s something for the early adopter. The amount of sacrifice and setup (drilling into walls, tethers from the bulky headset, paying huge lumps of cash for the system) means VR is for those that want to experience the future at any cost.”
The drugs do work
“Logan is on magic mushrooms, and he’s freaking out.” That’s because Logan is playing American Truck Simulator in VR, and he’s spotted a UFO. As Hugh Langley reports, “drugs and virtual reality have long shared a close relationship”, and – now that VR is better and cheaper than ever – “people are strapping on and doping up”. Imagine the bad trip you’d have playing VR Resident Evil.
I like tin butts and I cannot lie
“If a robot asked you to touch its bum, how would you feel?” Duncan Geere asks. Helpfully, a team from Stanford University knows the answer, and it’s “Aroused, yet hesitant”. It turns out that touching robots produces much the same response as touching other humans, which has interesting implications for robot design: “Our work shows that… people respond to robots in a primitive, social way,” says researcher Jamy Li.