Friday, 18 July 2014

Google And Apple Get Things Rolling

The technology giants are at it again, this time both showing an interest in in-car technology.

Google has, this week, proven exactly why it is serious about moving its technology into cars by adding a new recruit to their ranks. Former CEO, Alan Mulally, has been added to Google’s board of directors which means he brings a wealth of experience to the company and can help them make the necessary steps into the car market.

Alan Mulally left as CEO of Ford after an eight-year stint at the company in June. Before that he served as CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, so he knows his stuff.

Apple have made a move into the car industry too and have set their sights on getting their CarPlay technology into Volkswagen cars by the year 2016. CarPlay was always going to be a slow rollout but we are already seeing more and more names on board.

Volkswagen was not one of those already mentioned in the list of car manufacturers but now there is a lot of talk of Apple changing that. Talks between VW and Apple are currently ongoing and if things go well there could be an announcement made at some point later this year.

Apparently though, if CarPlay is to make an appearance in new Volkswagen models we will have to wait until 2016 as it is a bit late notice for them to feature in next year’s cars. This delay is not wholly a bad thing though as Apple is continuing to update its CarPlay system so it can connect wirelessly instead of having to use the USB Lightening cable.

What both of these moves do mean though, is the race for the best in-car technology system is likely to become very interesting shortly.

Google has already made announcements about its commitment to the motor industry and its Open Automative Alliance includes Audi, Honda, Hyundai and General Motors.

Apple on the other hand, is getting to work on persuading other car manufactures besides Volkswagen, including Mercedes, Jaguar/Land Rover, Toyota and Volvo.

Friday, 11 July 2014

AI Could Match Human Intelligence in Next 30 Years

As you’re probably already fully-aware, we’re big fans of all things digital but in the next 30 years we could be relying on technology a lot more than we do today.

According to Murray Shanahan, professor of cognitive robots at Imperial College London, there is a “good chance that we can see AI matching human intelligence within the next thirty years”.

Murray is working on deep learning in Artificial Intelligence and had also suggested that the chances of us seeing human-level intelligence within AI within our lifetimes are better than 50/50.

This comes as no surprise really, when the likes of Google Now and Siri are becoming more and more intelligent every day. Google recently snapped up the British artificial intelligence company ‘DeepMind’ for £400 million, which has kept Shanahan on his toes and ensuring he keeps a close eye on what they are doing.

Google aren’t alone though, as Facebook and Yahoo are also two companies that have been working closely with AI experts. In fact, Facebook’s ‘DeepFace’ software has the ability to match faces almost as well as humans can.

Shanahan said that there has been a rapid growth and improvement in voice recognition which shows real movement in the progression of AI.

Although, he did mention that as far as learning to be adaptive like humans and animals, AI has a long way to come to be able to work on a human-level. The Imperial College London professor said that there are some missing pieces to this puzzle and that we are yet to come across what they are but once we find out what they are, the growth of AI will happen very quickly.

So Will Smith’s nightmare in the film iRobot of artificial intelligence may have finally subsided, which means there is a very strong chance that he will be able to come face to face with the real thing during his lifetime.

We already rely massively on technology, with many of us checking our phones hourly and using tablets, laptops and computers during working hours, but soon we could be using AI for everyday chores.

As Murray Shanahan suggests though, it is highly unlike to happen any time soon, but he feels a 30 years’ time-frame is a lot more achievable.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Wimbledon Turns Digital With Twitter

It’s that time of the year again when we can watch the world’s best tennis players appear at Wimbledon, one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments.

Unfortunately, the defending champion, Andy Murray is already out of the tournament after getting knocked out earlier in the week. Although this isn’t the only major talking point of the tournament, in fact, this year is set to be the most social Wimbledon ever.

Organisers of Wimbledon are turning to Twitter to help bring fans closer to the action than ever before. Last year social media went into overdrive, especially during the final which saw Andy Murray win the tournament, but this year there is a huge focus on user-generated content.

Members of the public can tweet updates, photographs and votes which will appear on the big screens at Henman Hill (or Murray Mound). There will be a whole host of match-based questions posted throughout the tournament which will prompt the public to get involved.

That’s not all – the organisers are also working with video player Grabyo which will provide video replays of different moments in the games on Twitter. We are likely to see highlights from Centre Court as well as players celebrations, impressive rallies and crowd reactions.

Wimbledon’s adoption of Twitter started on June 23rd when Andy Murray first stepped out onto Centre Court in an attempt to retain his title and the social hashtag to use was #WelcomeBackAndy. Those who got involved were in with a chance of winning one of five digital images of Andy when he won Wimbledon last year, signed and inscribed with a message from him personally.

There is an ongoing competition people can still get involved with too, which gets people to take their best ‘selfies’ and post them to Twitter on a daily basis for a chance to win some prizes and goodies from the official Wimbledon shop.

Although Andy Murray is out, Wimbledon organisers are still optimistic this will be the most social tournament to date. So, if you want to get involved, make sure you tweet the handle @Wimbledon and use a relevant hashtag, or even send in your selfie from Henman Hill.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Google Glass Is Here - And We Have It!

Our MD Richard Eaton sporting our
very own Glass at Appware HQ

If you’ve been one of those people patiently waiting for Google Glass to come to the UK, then we have some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is it’s here.

You can now get your hands (and ears and nose) on Google Glass, although it’s not as easy as popping to the shop to buy it – it’s much more complicated.

The bad news is you can only get your mitts on them if you’re over 18 and own a credit card. If you fit this
criteria you can then attempt to join Google’s UK Explorer Program, which will mean you can then get yourself a prototype headset if you stump up £1,000. Simple right?!

This price tag has already been met with a number of critics who have said Google Glass is overpriced and is reported in the US to give some people headaches, not forgetting making you look a bit strange too.

If the £1,000 price tag doesn’t faze you, then perhaps you want to make the Google Glass look a bit more stylish? If you do, then you can get some designer frames for it so you don’t look a complete “Glasshole” (a term coined to mean someone who wears Google Glass). This is also important for anyone who already wears prescription glasses as normal lenses can be fitted to these. If you don't already wear glasses then there are a variety of sunglass shades available too. Thankfully in the UK for your £1,000 you'll get these for "free" rather than having to stump up even more money.

So, if you’re desperate to get Google Glass you may have to think about selling a kidney to do so. Unfortunately that's the high price for being such an early adopter. This has always been the case with technology though, just take a look at the cost of the original camcorders compared to what they are now!

Here at Appware we decided that it's a price worth paying so are one of the first in the UK to have some. Our MD Richard Eaton wrote up his initial impressions on his personal microblog here if you'd like to read more about them. We're also happy to demonstrate the glasses and will be doing some presentations and talks around the country of Glass shortly. Just contact us if you'd like to know where and when or if you've got an event you'd like us to present at.

As Glass also run Apps then it won't be a surprise to hear that we're already experimenting. Watch this space to see our latest App developments for Glass which will no doubt be some of the first Glass Apps developed in the UK!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Facebook Tries To Conquer Snapchat

Facebook has showed its intention to conquer the social world again by launching a photo-messaging app.

Just one week after accidentally releasing the app on Apple’s App Store, it has now been officially launched in hope of becoming the next big thing in photo-sharing.

The app, known as Slingshot, differs from what is already out there slightly in that the only way you can ‘unlock’ the photo your friend has sent you, is by sending them one back, or ‘sling-it’ back.

Similar to Snapchat though, once the image has been viewed, it gets deleted. Another similarity is that you can also scribble or type all over the photos, something you can also do on Snapchat.

The creators of the app said this on their social media page: “Slingshot was built so that everybody is a creator and nobody feels like just a spectator.”

In 2012, Facebook purchased the photo-sharing network Instagram for a figure said to be around the £589 million mark, and today they are using their knowledge from this to create an app that they think will gain more users than its nearest competitor Snapchat.

Facebook had tried to create a similar app before called Poke, but this was abandoned recently and had been labelled by many as a ‘copy-cat app’. Facebook created Poke after being snubbed by Snapchat when they offered them $3 billion to buy the company. Slingshot has been given a number of different features that other apps don’t have to avoid being given the ‘copycat’ label again.

For Facebook users, it is simple to download the app and login using your normal logins but for those that do not have a Facebook account, you can sign up without having to create a new account.  All the new users will need is their mobile number so that they can connect with friends in their contact list, something that is also very similar to Snapchat.

It will be interesting to see how well Slingshot will do, given its similarities to Snapchat, and whether it will claim the crown of being the best instant photo-sharing app of today.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Gear Your Phone Up For The World Cup

Like it or not, the next month or so will be full of World Cup Facebook updates, office agendas including whose team is doing well in the sweepstake and a serious lack of cars on the roads in the evenings.

Yesterday started the biggest competition in the whole of football, the World Cup in Brazil. If you find yourself getting into the spirit much to your own dislike, you can join in the discussions and keep up-to-date with what’s going on through a selection of World Cup apps.

Regardless of where you are, you can get the latest action with the help of these apps:

1. FIFA Official App
When it comes to trustworthy information, this app has to be the winner. FIFA’s app covers every angle so you can follow your national team, see when their next game is and see who the opposition’s most dangerous player is with the team profiles.

2. World Soccer Finals
If you’re obsessed with football, this one might be for you. This app contains a whole host of information on live matches including line-ups, red and yellow cards, results and player information so you can see who’s playing well and who should be taken out of your dream team.

3. Squawka
This is an app for those people who like to go to the pub and share their opinions, and want to back it up with cold hard stats. This app is assisted by Opta, the fountain of football knowledge. If you and your mate disagree over who is the better player at the world cup, this app can compare the two and you can see who’s right. A pint to the one who wins!

4. BBC Sport
This app is already owned by a number of sports fans and for good reason too; it sends you updates when someone scores and allows you to read a full commentary if you can’t get to a TV (or just prefer not to listen to the commentary).

5. ITV Player
Perhaps you’re stuck at work and can’t get near a TV? Well, the ITV Player app lets you stream the match live so you can catch every minute of the action. Although, your boss might get a bit suspicious if you take 45 minutes to go for a wee.

The best part about all of these apps is they’re free, so you can keep up with all of the goals, cheers and crying without having to pay a penny.

Friday, 6 June 2014

5 Best Free Android Games

If you’re one of those people who gets fed up of hearing, “I’ve got an app for that”, now is your chance to shine as we go through the 5 best free android games available to download now.

The ‘free-to-play’ market has seen a drop over recent months due to a lot of gamers getting fed up with the in-app purchases but the world of mobile gaming is far from over, as these five games will prove.

1. The Simpsons Tapped Out
We all loved watching The Simpsons growing up, but now the loveable Springfield characters have their own mobile game and it is a lot better than you would have thought it to be. EA have created a brilliant game that will make your weekly train commutes feel like a doddle. The storyline is creative and long enough for you not to need to get a new game for a while.

2. Angry Birds Space
Angry Birds has arguably been one of the most successful gaming apps of all time, and there has been a whole host of apps to branch off from it, but Angry Birds Space is, in our opinion, one of the best. It introduces clever physics with puzzling levels to create an annoyingly addictive game, just like all of the other Angry Birds games.

3. Dots
Dots is possibly one of the simplest games you will ever play, but that’s what makes it brilliant. All you have to do is draw lines between the coloured dots, then once these are linked, they disappear and new ones drop in. But, be warned, once you download this free game you may get surprisingly addicted.

4. Stick Cricket
This quirky cricket game reduces cricket to its simplest form and all you really have to do is smash the ball as hard as you can every time it’s bowled at you. Once you get into a rhythm, you will feel like Freddy Flintoff, but at the start, you definitely won’t. Keep at it!

5. Plague Inc
The idea of this game might seem a bit on the crazy side, but it is a strategy game that cannot be put down. The idea of this game is to place a virus in a country and attempt to spread it across the whole globe by getting it in in the air, water or through human contact. The aim is to wipe out each country gradually, but it is not as easy as it sounds.

So, the next time you need to fill that 10 minute void in your day, turn to one of these great free apps.