Google seems pretty intent on pursuing this Google TV thing, despite the television networks’ initial skepticism. There’s just too much evidence that consumers want technology that helps blur the lines between broadcast TV and online video–and Google TV helps provide that. And now they’re getting some help from one of their partners, Logitech. Logitech makes [...]
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Research in Motion announced this morning that it acquired Swedish interface design firm TAT, whose initials stand for The Astonishing Tribe.
RIM clearly plans to use the Swedes’ talent to beef up future versions of the BlackBerry user interface, which despite the addition of touchscreen tech in the last year still seems clunky and quaint compared to iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7. That could make future BlackBerry phones — not to mention the upcoming Playbook tablet — a whole lot more exciting.
That got us wondering: What might the future, TAT-enhanced BlackBerry UI look like?
We have no idea, but if these concept videos produced by TAT are any indication, we’re guessing your next BlackBerry might have:
- A touch- and motion-sensitive UI that reponds to your body’s movement as well as your fingers on the screen
- Eye-tracking technology to provide enhanced 3-D effects
- A slicker, easier-to-manage interface for switching between multiple apps
- Eye-popping 2-D and 3-D visuals
What do you think the future holds for BlackBerry? Let us know in the comments.
This page: TAT’s vision of the “Future of Screen Technology” video (also embedded below) includes some pretty eye-popping examples of touchscreens embedded into every aspect of daily life. A man wakes up and checks the news on a stretchable screen that starts out iPhone-sized, but which he pulls on to make it nearly iPad-sized. A woman brushes her teeth while reading headlines and checking her calendar on a touchscreen mirror. A man composes a sport publication on a translucent touchscreen display whose images he can flip around, so coworkers on the other side of the screen can see them. Cool stuff!
The latest developer channel release of the Chrome browser now supports sandboxing for Adobe’s Flash Player on Windows 7, Vista and XP.
Windows users on the dev channel should see the update arrive automatically. We should note that the sandbox does have some bugs and may break other parts of the browser — this is a developer release, after all. Once the kinks are ironed out, all of these sandboxing features will begin making their way into proper stable Chrome releases.
Google’s Chromium team has been working with Adobe to build better Flash controls into Chrome, and to utilize Chrome’s sandboxing technology for the plug-in. Google says Wednesday’s update makes Chrome the only browser on XP that sandboxes Flash. For more about sandboxing and how Chrome is implementing it, read the overview post on the Chromium blog from October. Also, Wednesday’s release comes less than a month after Chrome introduced click-to-play controls for Flash and other plug-ins.
Adobe’s Flash Player is the most widely-used browser plug-in on the web, and it’s the dominant choice for video playback and games online. Even so, the technology gets beat up for performance issues and its security shortcomings, and it’s still falling out of favor among standards enthusiasts who are pushing HTML5 as the better solution for displaying multimedia in the browser.
Adobe also released a new beta version of the Flash Player on Wednesday that improves some of its performance issues.
- New Flash Player 10.2 Goes Easy on the CPU
- Chrome Now Offers Click-to-Play Option for Flash, Other Plugins
- Chrome 7 Arrives With Bug Fixes, Better HTML5 Support
[Updated, see below] Adobe has released the first beta of Flash Player 10.2, an update that focuses primarily on speed and performance improvements. New in Flash 10.2 is something Adobe calls “Stage Video hardware acceleration,” which the company claims will “decrease processor usage and enable higher frame rates, reduced memory usage, and greater pixel fidelity and quality.” And the hardware acceleration technology does do all of these things, though your mileage will vary depending on what kind of hardware and software you’re using.
To try out the new Flash Player 10.2 beta, head over the Adobe download page. Be aware that, while 10.2 appears to be relatively stable, it is a beta release and there may be bugs.
The Stage Video hardware acceleration means that Flash Player 10.2 can leverage your graphics card for not just H.264 hardware decoding (which works in Flash Player 10.1) but also color conversion, scaling, and blitting.
Adobe’s press release makes a rather bold claim: “using Stage Video, we’ve seen laptops play smooth 1080p HD video with just over 0% CPU usage.”
Sadly, we have not seen such results. While we won’t argue with the smoothness of the playback in this new release, Flash is still going to use quite a bit of your PC’s CPU. Based on my testing (done on a Macbook Pro laptop using both Firefox 4b7 and Safari 5, and a Mac Pro tower using the same browsers — Wired is an all-Mac office), while CPU usage is down in Flash 10.2, it’s still a long way from zero.
Update: Since this article was published, we’ve been hearing from you, our awesome readers, in the comments and over e-mail. Some things to note: The new beta performs much better on Windows computers than it does under Mac OS X. Also, full hardware acceleration on Mac OS X requires Snow Leopard or later, otherwise it falls back to using software rendering in the CPU. Thanks for the comments, and keep them coming!
On our Macs, we tested several 1080p videos on YouTube in Flash Player 10.1 and found that on average the 10.1 plugin used between 44-48 percent CPU. Watching the same movie in Flash 10.2 did drop the CPU usage down to the 18-22 percent range, but definitely not zero.
Worse, running the same tests on Adobe’s Stage Video optimized demos, Flash 10.2 actually performed worse than than it did on normal 1080p movies with the cpu usage varying widely between 5 and 60 percent (the 18-20 percent range appears to be the norm).
The short story is that, while Flash 10.2 does offer decreased processor usage, it doesn’t quite live up to Adobe’s claims. While Flash Player 10.2’s performance falls short of the hype, there’s no question that it’s a huge leap forward in terms of performance. The smaller CPU footprint alone is well worth the upgrade, provided you don’t mind running beta software. So far Adobe has not set a final release data for Flash 10.2.
One other thing to keep in mind: to take advantage of the new Stage Video tools, sites like YouTube and Vimeo will need to alter their video players. So, it may be some time before the full benefit of Stage Video’s improvements makes it to your day-to-day web browsing.
As for other new features in this release, there’s Internet Explorer 9 GPU support and support for fullscreen mode with dual monitors — meaning that you can have a movie on one screen and keep working on another.
Custom cursors get some love in this release, too, with Flash Player 10.2 handing off the job to the operating system rather than using resources to manually draw custom cursors. The beta also improves text rendering, adding sub-pixel rendering enhancements that should make your typography look a bit nicer and more readable.
It’s worth noting that the Flash Player 10.2 beta does not replace the Flash Player “Square” preview release — in other words, Flash Player 10.2 still isn’t 64-bit native. If 64-bit support is important to you, stick with the Flash Player “Square” preview.
- Adobe Flash Player 10.1 Arrives
- Adobe Revamps Flash Player for Netbooks, P2P, Private Browsing
- Adobe Fights Off HTML5 Threat With New Flash Player 10.1
Microsoft’s PhotoSynth tool is jaw-droppingly awesome. But, because it’s a Microsoft project, the technology is unlikely to appear on some of your favorite non-Microsoft online apps, like Google Maps or Flickr.
However, our friends at ReadWriteWeb stumbled across a very similar tool — at least in terms of the end result — developed by the University of North Carolina in conjunction with Swiss university, ETH-Zurich.
The team has developed a method for creating 3D models by pulling in millions of photographs from Flickr and using some fancy algorithms to generate 3D models of local landmarks. Perhaps even more impressive the results can be generated using a single computer in under a day.
Project lead Jan-Michael Frahm touts the project’s efficiency saying, “our technique would be the equivalent of processing a stack of photos as high as the 828-meter Dubai Towers, using a single PC, versus the next best technique, which is the equivalent of processing a stack of photos 42 meters tall — as high as the ceiling of Notre Dame — using 62 PCs. This efficiency is essential if one is to fully utilize the billions of user-provided images continuously being uploaded to the internet.”
While the results are cool and would make an impressive addition to any number of geo-based services, more serious use cases include helping disaster workers get a better idea of where they’re headed and the extent of damage.
So far the researchers have released a movies demonstrating the technique on landmarks in both Rome (get it? built in a day…) and Berlin, and the results are impressive. For more information on how the process works, check out the UNC website.
- Photosynth Returns With More Mind-Blowing Photo Tricks
- New Flickr Is Bigger, Wider and Uncut
- ‘Unwrap Mosaics’ Take Video Editing to a New Level
Accessibility in web design has come a long way since the days of table-based layouts with single-pixel .gif spacers. But even current best practices are far from perfect.
Today, we’ll tell you a bit more about these accessibility troubles as they relate to dynamic web apps — fitting, as today is Blue Beanie Day. For four years now, design guru Jeffrey Zeldman has encouraged web authors to wear a blue beanie on November 30 to show their support for web standards. Also, you’re encouraged to take a picture of yourself wearing a blue beanie and upload it to a Flickr pool. So, with standards quite literally on the brain, we’ll tackle the topic of rich web apps.
One of the coolest things about web apps is that elements refresh inside the browser without reloading the page. But most screen readers used by those with disabilities can’t parse these changes, so users who rely on them will remain unaware of any dynamically refreshed elements on the page. That’s just one of the many problems that WAI-ARIA, an emerging specification for Accessible Rich Internet Applications from the W3C, is hoping to solve.
At its core, WAI-ARIA is a means of annotating page elements with the roles, properties, and states that define exactly what those elements do. Take a navigation element as a simple example. In HTML5 we might do something like this:
<nav> <ul> <li>Home <li><a href="/about/">About</a></li> ...etc... </ul> </nav>
While it might seem that the
tag would defining the nav element’s “role,” not every browser will understand it (just because the browser can display it, does not mean it understands the tag). Also, the purpose of a navigation element may be obvious to most users, but to a screen reader being used by somebody who can’t see, the navigation strip could be just a jumble of words. Leveraging WAI-ARIA’s syntax, we can double up to ensure screen readers will know that this chunk of code is navigation:
<nav role="navigation"> <ul> <li>Home</li> <li><a href="/about/">About</a></li> ...etc... </ul> </nav>
attribute is what’s known as a landmark role and is designed to let non-visual browsers know where they are.
It seems simple, and indeed when the spec is finished and fully supported by all the major screen readers, WAI-ARIA promises to make the web more accessible without overly complicating your markup. Unfortunately, there are numerous problems with WAI-ARIA at the moment, which make support uneven and can be confusing for web authors trying to do the right thing.
Our friends at A List Apart recently waded into the confusion and uneven support with two great posts on WAI-ARIA and how you can use it (and not use it) on your sites. The first article, The Accessibility of WAI-ARIA, dives into what WAI-ARIA is, what it’s trying to do, and why it’s not yet a panacea.
As Derek Featherstone writes in his ALA piece:
The problem that we have right now is that ARIA is an all or nothing deal. And writing scripts that respect both an ARIA supported methodology and a non-ARIA methodology is going to be incredibly difficult, because we have no reliable way of knowing the status of a user agent’s support for ARIA—it depends on something we can’t detect: the right combination of browser, assistive technology, and full ARIA implementation.
For more information on the various levels of support in screen readers and web browsers, have a look at Accessible Culture’s article, HTML5 plus ARIA “Sanity Check.” The post highlights some of the bugs, pitfalls and gotchas in current screen readers, as well as some workarounds and other non-ARIA solutions.
As Detlev Fischer writes in the first of the two ALA articles, “as long as older screen reader/browser combinations incapable of interpreting WAI-ARIA still constitute a significant part of the installed base, web designers who care for accessibility should use WAI-ARIA markup only to enrich their sites.”
In other words, use WAI-ARIA, but don’t rely on it. Make sure you have fallbacks in place until the spec is finalized and browser/reader support more widespread.
Unicorn photo from Wikimedia Commons/CC
- Microdata: HTML5’s Best-Kept Secret
- W3C’s Unicorn Validator Checks Multiple Standards at Once
- Using Microformats in HTML5
- Add Semantic Value to Your Pages With HTML 5
Letter from Facebook executive says reports of a privacy breach are “false” and due in part to a misunderstanding of how Web technology works.Tags: Cloud Hosting - Coding Web 3.0 - HD Video - Hi-Def Multimedia (HD) - HTML 5 - Multimedia and Video Platforms - Multimedia News - Music on The Web - Online Marketing - Open Source Software (OSS) - technology - The Bleeding Edge of Tech - The Blog Roll - Vlog
Canesta, which a year ago took in a $16 million round of funding, makes technology that enables people to control devices using motions instead of hardware interfaces.Tags: Cloud Hosting - Coding Web 3.0 - HD Video - Hi-Def Multimedia (HD) - HTML 5 - Multimedia and Video Platforms - Multimedia News - Music on The Web - Online Marketing - Open Source Software (OSS) - technology - The Bleeding Edge of Tech - The Blog Roll - Vlog
Updated. There’s been an interesting development in the recent Google TV saga, in which the search giant has shifted responsibility for the new TV operating system into its YouTube division, according to a report the SF Chronicle. By doing so, Google hopes its online video site can help Google TV with a lesson in striking content deals. But if that’s the case, it will probably be disappointed.
The whole issue revolves around the lack of premium content available through Google TV and a number of high-profile content companies that have blocked their content from being available on TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes powered by the Google OS. Broadcasters such as ABC, CBS and NBC have all declined to let their web content be played back through the integrated web browser built into Google TV devices built by Sony and Logitech.
The broadcasters were unhappy with the prospect that viewers would be able to watch their web offerings in lieu of live broadcast content on the biggest screen in the home. Since those companies rely on high-value broadcast advertising, as well as increasingly high retransmission fees from cable operators, the idea of giving viewers access to web programming that they can’t monetize as well was a bit of a turn-off. The whole affair has caused a bit of a stir, especially since it takes away from Google’s initial pitch for the TV OS, which was to enable viewers to mix and match web and TV content on the big screen.
But Google TV is primarily a technology platform, and the folks there don’t necessarily have a ton of experience in media matters. As a result, Google is reportedly shifting responsibility for the fledgling TV division into YouTube, which actually has some experience striking content deals with broadcasters like CBS.
The problem is that YouTube itself has had a hard time bringing real high-value, prime-time content onto the site. Most partnerships thus far have included short-form clips of new shows or full-length episodes of older programming. It hasn’t really proven that it can negotiate to add new hit shows or the kind of stuff you’d find on Hulu or broadcast sites.
YouTube is trying to change that, having recently added a pair of execs — Robert Kyncl, former vice president for content acquisition at Netflix, and Dean Gilbert, former vice president of product management for Google TV — to bolster the amount of premium content on the site. But in the short term, it’s difficult to see broadcasters getting on board, unless Google can somehow write a check that makes up for the billions of dollars in broadcast advertising and retrans fees that are at stake if web video competes directly with broadcast programming on Google TV.
We’ve reached out for comment from Google, but haven’t gotten confirmation or more information from YouTube or Google TV representatives about the reported move just yet — but it’s early here on the West Coast. We will update if we hear back.
Update: Google has issued the following statement, denying the key assertion of the SF Chronicle story, that Google has reorged the division to move Google TV within YouTube:
Google TV has been closely aligned with YouTube for years. Although we did reorganize a division within YouTube a month ago, that was based on streamlining our operations so we could make faster decisions and align team goals with the company’s overall business objectives. Just like any rapidly growing organization, it is important for YouTube to evolve and grow to ensure further success in the future. The recently created YouTube Content Organization is run by VP of Content Partnerships Dean Gilbert.
While YouTube says there’s no actual story there, we stand by our initial take on the idea of YouTube leading Google TV content negotiations, which is: Google TV and YouTube will have a hard time convincing broadcasters to unblock their content without writing some very large checks.
To hear what Google TV product lead Rishi Chandra has to say about bringing broadcast content to Google TV, come see him speak at NewTeeVee Live on November 10 in San Francisco.
Related content on GigaOM Pro:
- Will Cable Operators Let the Google Fox Into the Henhouse?
- Cord-cutting? Hold the Phone
- Pay-TV’s Ala Carte Tipping Point
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Fox, Cablevision and FCC’s Learned Helplessness; all about how the FCC wanted the job of “Palace Eunuch” for the Media Barons. So the FCC busily went to work lopping off everything that stood between it and its desired job. Seriously. (Public Knowledge)
Netflix Could Be Racking Up a $2 Billion Content Tab; Netflix has committed $1.2 billion to pay Hollywood studios for the rights to stream their movies and TV shows, up from $229 million three months ago. (MediaMemo)
Ustream Cuts 4.5% Of Its Staff; the online streaming video service Ustream laid off 9 people from its 200 person staff. (TechCrunch)
Cisco’s Online Video Gamble; networking-gear maker Cisco is betting big on Internet video, investing in consumer telepresence and video cameras. (Forbes)
Kantar Video: ‘Gross Ratings Points’ Are For TV, Not Online Video; after years of planning, WPP Group’s Kantar Video is releasing a video platform for marketers that will let them syndicate video and track it across all broadband sites. (paidContent)
Kyte Brings Live Streaming and HTML5 Ads to iOS Devices; the online video platform announced support for live streaming to iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) along with HTML5 ads. (VideoNuze)
Cable, Technology, Media Firms Form Digital Registry; Major studios, cable and technology companies announced the new Entertainment Identifier Registry (EIDR) to track movies, TV shows and other assets the same way books are coded. (Reuters)
It’s ‘Showtime Anytime’ With Comcast; premium cable network Showtime will jump into the TV Everywhere area with the launch of an authenticated streaming service, and it has signed Comcast as its first affiliate for the service. (Multichannel News)
NETGEAR Roku Player Hits Retail Shelves in Time for Holiday Season; the NETGEAR Roku Player is immediately available at major consumer electronics stores including Best Buy, Radio Shack, Fry’s and online at Amazon.com and Buy.com. (press release)
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