Gadgets news: Blackberry Priv and Lytro VR professional camera

9 Nov 2015

This week in gadget happenings, Blackberry released its latest handset, the Blackberry Priv, while Lytro showcased its new Light Field virtual reality (VR) camera.

With a lot of the tech world basing themselves in Dublin last week for the Web Summit, it appears that the hardware side of things made way for software with a number of new services and tweaks to popular services.

The first of which sees Google using its algorithmically-powered crystal ball to predict how you plan on replying to an email.

Dubbed Smart Reply, the technology uses “deep learning” to figure out quick responses to your emails from your smartphone.

In slightly more basic forms, it would be most familiar to users of predictive text on their mobiles, but this development adds yet another way for Google to read your email.

That other tech powerhouse, Facebook, announced it will begin adding 30 second music samples to peoples’ news feeds from Spotify, Apple Music and iTunes.

And finally, things got all very lovey over on Twitter, which decided it would change the ‘favourite’ star into a bright, red heart. Not everyone was feeling the love though, saying they hated it, but as always, life went on.

BlackBerry Priv

Still languishing with less than a 1pc share of the mobile phone market, BlackBerry continues to power on with its attempts to reclaim its position as the phone of choice for business professionals.

And it appears that it believes that, in order to do so, it needs to move away from the pure touchscreen model and bring back buttons with its slide-out keyboard.

The keyboard slides out from beneath the rather large 5.4in OLED screen, which has a resolution of 2560x1440p.

But while having a physical keyboard gives you a pang of nostalgia – which will definitely appeal to a percentage of people – perhaps Blackberry’s best decision could be that it ditched its own operating system in favour of Google’s Android.

It’s an established platform on which to build a phone, with the vast majority of manufacturers having already done so, and offers hope for encouraging former Blackberry users who have switched to Android to switch back.

As for what hardware lies beneath, it has a 1.8GHz dual-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 chip paired with 3GB RAM and 32GB of built-in storage and a hefty 3,410mAh battery.

Shipping on 23 November in the US, it will set you back $699.

Sennheiser’s Orpheus headphones

Apple might want you to shell out $14,000 for its Apple Watch Edition, but Sennheiser wants to take things to a whole new level with its Orpheus headphones that cost an eye-watering $55,000.

So what exactly makes a pair of headphones cost nearly twice the price of two average cars? Well, it seems that it is largely due to the fact that they are electrostatic.

This means that when audio signals are sent through a thin film between two metal plates, it leads to amazing sound quality for the wearer.

On top of that it is marble-clad and has a whole fancy motorised housing for the headphones as well as some seemingly unnecessary valves and knobs.

There’s also some oxygen-free copper cabling that offers a sampling rate of 384kHz, which is considerably more than the 44.1kHZ used in CDs.

Sennheiser Orpheus

The Sennheiser Orpheus heaphones and case

Circle with Disney

Disney’s latest product, Circle with Disney, has now launched, which aims to help parents control what their kids are getting up to on tablets and phones.

Shaped as a little white cube, the device pairs with the home Wi-Fi network, allowing the parent to limit their child’s use of a particular site by a defined length of time, or even block Wi-Fi in the house to that device.

The company who produce the device, Circle, formed a partnership with Disney not so long ago and since then has been able to take it to another level with the ability to access Disney Interactive’s vast collection of child-friendly content to offer to kids through Circle.

Costing $99 in the US, the device is arguably quite Big Brother in its concept, but the device’s creator, Jelani Memory, has said that there is no need for parents to fear that their child’s data is being stored in a distant data centre.

Circle with Disney

Circle’s first Disney-backed device

CyPhy Parc limitless drone

A Boston-based company called CyPhy is rolling out a commercial model of its latest drone, the Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (Parc) drone, which it seems is capable of flying for ever and ever and ever.

According to the company, the Parc can stay in the air for as long as the owner wants due to a ‘microfilament’ that is capable of transmitting and receiving power and data.

Oh, and that microfilament is a cable so do not expect this tethered drone to be a long-range device.

With six rotors, the Parc can fly to a set max altitude of 500ft and stay there, where its high-res camera can take infrared footage, which is why it has been so popular with those looking for around-the-clock surveillance.

CyPhy Parc

Lytro Immerge VR camera

With more and more VR headsets coming on the market, and YouTube offering VR-compatible videos, there will be more and more demand for professional VR footage from companies.

With that in mind, Lytro is now offering a new ‘light field’ camera ball called the Lytro Immerge that takes images all around it and allows the user to edit them to their heart’s content afterwards.

Included in the ball is several rings of ‘multiple hundreds’ of cameras and sensors that create so much data that a portable server also created by Lytro can store up to one hour of footage.

Don’t think that you’ll be buying one, however, as, when it’s released at the beginning of 2016, it’s expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and will likely be available on a rental basis only.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic