Sandia Labs’ MegaDroid project simulates 300,000 Android phones to fight wireless catastrophes (video)
We’ve seen some large-scale simulations, including some that couldn’t get larger. Simulated cellular networks are still a rare breed, however, which makes Sandia National Laboratories’ MegaDroid project all the more important. The project’s cluster of off-the-shelf PCs emulates a town of 300,000 Android phones down to their cellular and GPS behavior, all with the aim of tracing the wider effects of natural disasters, hacking attempts and even simple software bugs. Researchers imagine the eventually public tool set being useful not just for app developers, but for the military and mesh network developers — the kind who’d need to know how their on-the-field networks are running even when local authorities try to shut them down. MegaDroid is still very much an in-progress effort, although Sandia Labs isn’t limiting its scope to Android and can see its work as relevant to iOS or any other platform where a ripple in the network can lead to a tidal wave of problems.
We haven’t seen weather stations garner the same level of clever mobile integration as other pieces of household gear — like, say, thermostats. Netatmo wants its newly available Urban Weather Station to inject a similar dose of life into a category that some of us still associate with the thermometer by the window. The aluminum tube design certainly gives a fresh look to the WiFi-linked indoor and outdoor sensors, but the real trick is the matching iOS (and eventually Android) app. It’s for more than just gauging the wisdom of biking to work: the free app tracks historical trends and shares them with fellow users in a network that Netatmo hopes will provide a better understanding of wider-scale and longer-term trends. The sensors go beyond just obvious air quality, humidity, pressure and temperature conditions as well, flagging noise levels and warning if the CO2 levels are high enough to warrant airing out the house. The $179 price for the Urban Weather Station isn’t trivial, but neither is knowing just how well you can cope with your environment.
If your company doesn’t have a camera with WiFi sharing somewhere in your lineup, many will say you’re not even in the photography game. Fujifilm is definitely playing: welcome the FinePix F800EXR, its first camera with wireless sharing as part and parcel of the experience. Its centerpiece is a free Photo Receiver app for Android and iOS devices that will catch as many 30 images at a time from an ad hoc WiFi camera link. The matching (if unceremoniously named) Camera Application can return the gesture by geotagging shots as well as finding existing photos on the map. Fujifilm will even pre-Instagram the photos through six new on-camera filters for those who can’t stand posting images online without at least some Lomo or tilt-shift effects thrown in.
As for the actual camera part of the camera, Fujifilm is keeping afloat in the competitive waters with a 16-megapixel, CMOS-based EXR sensor that can widen the dynamic range or lower the noise if sheer resolution isn’t all that vital. An equally noteworthy 20x (25-500mm equivalent) lens out in front will zoom in a lot closer than any phone camera — well, most of them. We’re otherwise looking at the technology we’d expect in a point-and-shoot of this class, such as full-resolution burst shooting at up to eight frames per second, 1080p video and a RAW mode for image quality sticklers. Stores should have the F800EXR in August for about $350, or about as much as the Galaxy Nexus that just might serve as its companion.
Facebook App Center goes globetrotting with 7 new countries, blankets all of the English-speaking world
Facebook’s App Center is having its passport stamped quite a lot lately. Just days after the HTML5 app portal set foot in the UK, it’s making the leap to seven more countries. Brazil, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Taiwan and Turkey will all get a crack at using web apps both on the desktop as well as in the Android and iOS native clients. The new group is coming onboard in the next few weeks. In the meantime, countries where English makes a frequent appearance — Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK and the US — now supply the App Center for every single user. To help speed along the virtual customs claims, Facebook is trotting out a translation tool to get developers on the right track. It shouldn’t be long before App Center is a mainstay of the entire Facebook world, even though we may end up cursing the company after hour three of a Jetpack Joyride marathon.
Virtually every corner of the Google universe is being touched at Google I/O, and that now includes Google Drive. A version 2 update to the Drive SDK gives Android and iOS developers the option of building the cloud storage into their mobile apps, whether it’s downloads, uploads or on-the-spot edits. The programming interface has likewise been expanded as a whole to handle everyday file duties, such as conversions, copying and revision handling. Web-only users are taken care of with support for embedded shares and opening Google documents in any given software that will take the exportable formats. The updated Drive SDK is ready to go, with a flood of apps either coming or already here — if you want to hop on the bandwagon, just take a peek at the source link.
The wait between iOS 6′s unveiling and its planned fall release just got a little bit shorter, as Apple has just pushed out beta 2. If you’re in the developer crowd that can try it out, don’t expect any revelations: the primarily focus is on the bug fixes that nudge the software closer to a final release. As in past years, multiple additional betas are expected between now and the time the iOS 6 is ready to come to the general public, so there’s likely still lots of room left for Apple to polish the release to a shine. Those paid up on their developer accounts can grab the update through the usual means and see just how much luster has been added since WWDC.
Apple’s VP of iOS Software Scott Forstall just demoed Eyes Free, Siri’s new vehicle integration. The feature is being framed as a safety booster, letting you tap a steering wheel-mounted button to toggle Siri on your iOS device, rather than reaching around for your iPhone or iPad and taking precious seconds away from the road. This being Apple, there are already plenty of partners lined up — BMW, GM, Mercedes, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda are all said to be on board, with Siri support making its way to vehicles within the next 12 months. It’s certainly not the first example of smartphone/car integration we’ve seen, but it could soon end up being one of the most widely utilized, despite the years-long head-start competing technologies have enjoyed.
Google’s SVP of Mobile just provided us with another glimpse inside the horse’s mouth, claiming that Android scored 3.7 million new device activations over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. To put that in context, Flurry reported that total Android and iOS activations on Christmas Day alone totaled 6.8 million. If we can accept a very high margin of error, and if we assume that the vast majority of Rubin’s activations were on the 25th, then we might extrapolate a roughly even split between the two rival platforms. Considering where Android was just a couple of Christmas’s ago, it’s no wonder that Mr Rubin is in the tweeting mood.
In other obvious news, Android and iOS continue to sit pretty atop the US smartphone market, according to a recent NPD study. The current titans of the mobile industry both saw their pieces of the OS pie increase in Q2 of 2011, putting Andy Rubin’s green robot in the lead with 52 percent and Apple at 29 percent. Newly adopted webOS, and Microsoft’s WP7 and Windows Mobile all managed to cling to their respective 5 percent shares with no yearly change, leaving only BlackBerry OS to experience an 11 percent decline. But the real meat and potatoes of the report focuses on Google’s soon-to-be in-house partner: Motorola. Despite the rosy picture painted by recent acquisition talks, the company appears to be facing tough competition from Android OEM rivals, and the wireless market as a whole. In regard to overall mobile phone share (read: dumbphones, et al.) and smartphone-only, Moto saw a 3 percent year-to-year decline, with its biggest loss coming from Android unit sales — a 50 percent drop to 22 percent of the market. Will the rosy glow of Mountain View “help inspire new paths to differentiation” for Moto, or are we just looking at a repeat of the “RAZR era?” While you ponder these pressing questions, head past the break to read the full report.
We’ve had a few weeks to get accustomed to iOS 5 and Mac OS X Lion, but one headlining feature has been notably inaccessible since it was unveiled earlier this summer. During his WWDC keynote, Steve Jobs touted iCloud as a service that will sync many of your Apple devices, for free. Macs, iPhones, iPads, and even Windows computers can synchronize documents, contacts, calendar appointments, and other data. You’ll also be able to back up your iOS devices remotely, use an Apple-hosted email account, and store your music in the cloud. Well, this week Apple finally lit up its cloud-based service for developers, letting some of us take a sneak peek at the new service.
Apple also announced pricing, confirming that you’ll be able to add annual subscriptions with 10GB ($20), 20GB ($40), or 50GB ($100) of storage ‘atop your free 5GB account. We took our five gig account for a spin, creating documents in Pages, spreadsheets in Numbers, and presentations in Keynote, then accessing them from the iCloud web interface to download Microsoft Office and PDF versions. We also tried our luck at iOS data syncing and the soon-to-be-controversial Photo Stream, so jump past the break for our full iCloud hands-on.
We know what you’re thinking — an iPhone interfacing with a Surface? The gods must be crazy. Well, it isn’t and they’re not, so relax. This custom-built, multitouch table of Apple interactivity comes from Computer Science undergrads Artem Vovk and Shuo Yang at the Technische Universität Darmstadt in Germany. Aptly titled Project MGS (Media Gathering System), the system enables wireless transfer of your iPhone’s media to the infrared camera-equipped tabletop for some Java-based, gesture controlling fun. How does it know the phone’s on there? Simple — the table locates a barcode affixed to the back of your device and, after that, it’s just you and all the pinch-zooming, media-playing mayhem you can muster up. The project also supports file transfers between iOS devices, a feature destined for display in future videos. For now, the tech only plays nice with Apple-flavored mobile devices, but the pair promises it can easily make way for future Android connectivity. Hit the break for the full demonstration and its folksy backing track.