Features

Zuckerberg steals Samsung show, unveils big vision for virtual reality

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Nothing can prepare you for the day you come face-to-face with an icon.

It hasn’t really sunk in yet, and I’m not sure if as a tech journalist I’m even supposed to feel this way. But it happened, last night at the tail end of Samsung’s hour-long Unpacked event, I came almost face-to-face with Mark Zuckerberg, and I was awestruck.

Mark Zuckerberg says Virtual Reality is THE next platform

Mark Zuckerberg says Virtual Reality is THE next platform

Staring through my camera’s viewfinder I stood huddled along with almost a hundred other journalists at the foot of the stage where just moments earlier, Samsung unveiled two impressive smartphones and an innovative 360 camera.

But our thoughts weren’t about these devices anymore, they were about the Facebook founder that stood right in front of us. A man whose unveiling was more dramatic than that of the phones we’d travelled thousands of miles to see.

Just minutes before, with virtual reality goggles on and a 360 degree video presentation playing, an entire audience was clueless that one of the world’s most recognizable faces was nonchalantly walking past, with a sheepish grin on his face that told of world domination. When the video was over we took off our headsets, and there stood Mark Zuckerberg, in the middle of the stage with a thousand watt smile on his face.

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If what he was about to say comes true, there is plenty for him to be happy about.

Just two years ago his company spent $2B to acquire virtual reality company Oculus, and today he talked about how together, Facebook and Samsung were going to “push the state of (VR) technology forward.”

What happens when two of the world’s largest tech companies form an alliance? Great things. Late last year Samsung, with Facebook’s help, launched the Gear VR, a sub $100 dollar virtual reality headset – the world’s most affordable consumer VR product.

This year, Zuckerberg estimates, “millions of people will get their hands on one.”

At $99 Samsung Gear VR is the world's most affordable, commercially available consumer VR product.

At $99 Samsung Gear VR is the world’s most affordable, commercially available consumer VR product.

Zuckerberg’s 10 minute presentation was long enough to qualify for a supporting role nomination at the Oscars, but his presence here would have taken the grand prize. And I don’t think Samsung minds one bit.

Facebook’s grand vision for virtual reality is that it is THE next platform, “VR is going to be the most social platform. Pretty soon we’re gonna live in the world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes as if you’re just there in person. (And) VR is the next platform where anyone can create and experience anything that they want.”

Samsung's Gear 360 camera brings 360 video to the masses

Samsung’s Gear 360 camera brings 360 video to the masses

With the launch of their new Gear 360 camera, a Go-Pro like device that can shoot 360 degree video, Samsung is positioning itself as the hardware manufacturer behind the content of tomorrow. Zuckerberg said, “Samsung is the only company in the world that can deliver, at scale, (the technology) required for a good comfortable VR experience.”

For its part, Zuckerberg said Facebook is working to push itself as the best platform for 360 videos. Last September the company rolled out support for 360 degree video in Facebook news feeds. Now with Samsung Gear 360 everyday consumers can create this kind of content, and with devices like Samsung Gear VR everyday consumers can experience them.

And this is just the beginning. “Right now VR is still mostly used for games and entertainment, but that’s quickly evolving,” Zuckerberg adds, “one day you’re gonna be able to put on a headset and that’s going to change the way you live, and work and communicate.”

Perhaps there really is a lot to be in awe about.

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Accessories

Apple Watch Series 6 vs Watch SE: Unboxing and Buyer’s Guide

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There’s a new Apple Watch iteration every year — although this year, we have two new models to unbox. Other than that, we also have the newest one-piece bands called ‘Solo Loop’ — both in silicon and braided.

Although Apple completely removed the charging brick out from the usual packaging, they packed several new features on the Watch Series 6 including the new blood oxygen sensor and Always-On Altimeter. Meanwhile, the Watch SE is meant for people who’d want to experience Apple’s wearable without having to spend too much.

Between these two, which of them is your GadgetMatch? Or are you struggling to choose one?

You can head over to our latest Apple Watch Series 6 vs Apple Watch SE Unboxing and Buyer’s Guide right here to find out more.

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Camera Shootouts

Pixel 4a vs iPhone SE (2020): Camera shootout

Battle of the small phones

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Pixel 4a iPhone SE

Now that we have the Pixel 4a in our hands, it’s time for another smackdown! Priced at US$ 349, we tested it against Apple’s US$ 399 iPhone SE that packs the powerful A13 Bionic Chip. With two compact phones sporting single rear cameras, which one will shoot better?

Make sure to jot down your answers, as the results of this blind test will be at the end of this article. As usual, photos were labeled, resized, and collaged (this time) for you to load the images faster. No post-processing nor any color adjustments were done in any of the photos. So, let’s begin!

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Results

Pixel 4a: 1A, 2A, 3B, 4B, 5A, 6B, 7B, 8B, 9A, 10A, 11A, 12B, 13A, 14A, 15B, 16B, 17A, 18B

iPhone SE: 1B, 2B, 3A, 4A, 5B, 6A, 7A, 8A, 9B, 10B, 11B, 12A, 13B, 14B, 15A, 16A, 17B, 18A

If you observe closely, the iPhone SE produced warmer yet vibrant photos and well-lit, wider portraits. During daylight, it provides more details while it gets pretty noisy in lowlight.

Meanwhile, the Pixel 4a captured cooler photos. Portrait-wise, it has better focus compared to the iPhone SE despite the cropping. But this affordable phone shines better with its HDR and Night Sight, doing a great job in lowlight!

At the end of the day, both phones took photos that are rich in colors and manageable highlights. They also have decent backlit shots and creamy depth-of-field which might appease smartphone photography enthusiasts. For US$ 399, we already have an impressive camera performance. There are no losers here.

 

 

 

 

SEE ALSO: Apple iPhone SE vs Google Pixel 4a: Head to Head

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Unfiltered

My Internet service provider sucks and I can’t do anything about it

Is this what living in a third-world country is about?

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It’s 2020 — a year that many people were looking forward to. To some, it’s another year to chase after their goals and dreams. While for others, it’s merely the start of a new decade.

In the technology industry, 2020 was supposed to be a culmination of the innovation we’ve had for years, bringing the future to the present. Technology should’ve been ripe enough to usher us into a truly digital age.

Frankly, we’re already living in the so-called digital age. We have gadgets and technology focused on communication and connectivity, aiming to improve people’s lives. The most recent development is the 5G connectivity taking over some parts of the world.

Yet even with the promise of bringing technology closer to people, I still can’t feel it.

The struggle of being in a third-world country

I live in a third-world country, where having a good, stable Internet connection is a privilege. In the Philippines, the major telecommunication companies and some smartphone brands have been aggressively pushing for it this year, dividing most people regarding its arrival.

Some techies and geeks rave about the hopes of having the future right in the palm of their hands. But most people — distressed customers like me — are wondering why there is so much emphasis on innovation, yet there are no solutions to most problems consumers currently face.

While I cover stories about new technology and occasionally try it out before it finds its way to more people, my heart never goes too giddy at the sight of new tech. Instead, I look for the functionality, purpose — how can it help the average consumers e.g. my family, friends, colleagues, and people who are just constantly trying to keep up with new technology.

That was what lingered on my mind when people discussed 5G connectivity. “How could you keep on blabbering about the next generation, when we haven’t experienced the proper service we deserve?” or so I thought.

All my angst are channeled to a certain Internet service provider I’ve been subscribed to. I’m just not getting my money’s worth. Whether it was a DSL connection from a few years ago or a recently-installed Fibr connection, they never fail to disappoint.

Living life with the Internet

I’m not alone in my frustrations. I know that thousands of people out there have similar complaints. Imagine paying for a 15Mbps connection, but only getting around to 2-3Mbps. It’s been this way since March 2020 despite our numerous attempts to have the problem rectified. That’s six months of having sluggish connection while paying the same amount. On top of the speed issue, I experienced multiple disconnections and loss of dial tone.

When the pandemic struck, everyone was reliant on proper Internet speed yet the limited number of players proved to be difficult to handle millions of subscribers just from the nation’s capital. We stayed at home, alienated, and struggled with the so-called new normal. In the wake of the devastating situation we were thrust into, my life went on even with the disruptive issues I encountered with my Internet service provider.

I lost count of how many virtual meetings were interrupted because of my sudden disconnection. I can’t exactly remember how many times I’ve wanted to call my bank regarding my finances and purchases. Moreover, I stopped tracking the amount of money I spend on mobile data to keep me connected and to continue my life — whether it’s working remotely, ordering food, and staying alive by not going out.

What irks me the most is my ISP’s customer service. They have been harder to reach, given the limited personnel caused by the coronavirus health crisis that’s taking so long to be addressed. The last ticket I created with their customer service representative took more than two weeks to get the repair service I requested.

We’re all glorifying the remote working setup as the future of productivity and distance learning as the future of education, yet we continuously forget how difficult it is to handle when Internet access isn’t the same for everyone.

We’ve been dependent on the Internet and online services, to keep us safe and continue our lives in this pandemic. Yet somehow, the company I trusted my money, livelihood, and perhaps my life too, doesn’t give the service I rightfully deserve.

Exhausting options, on the brink of giving up

Maybe you’re wondering, “Why don’t you just switch providers?” That’s easy to say when you have options. Believe me, I’ve tried. I considered three more providers, only to find out my area isn’t serviceable.

I’m nearly giving up on the mere fact that this hopeless situation won’t improve. I’ve been exhausting all possible options, using prepaid services to connect to the Internet so I can resume my life and work. But it’s taking a toll on my financial, emotional, and mental health.

What’s the point of paying an enormous amount for a service that’s considerably trash? When the sudden disconnection causes you to become agitated when it disrupted your work? We’re all glorifying the remote working setup as the future of productivity and distance learning as the future of education, yet we continuously forget how difficult it is to handle when Internet access isn’t the same for everyone.

I’ve tried looking for answers, too, given my inquisitive nature. When I had a conversation with a friend — an engineer who worked on the project of bringing 5G in the Philippines — I learned the difficulties of setting up towers in different areas, and mostly had to do with red tape. Limited towers mean there will be limited connection. In case you didn’t know, it’s what the 5G connectivity is trying to solve: bringing access to places that 4G connectivity is having a difficult time reaching.

Despite having the knowledge about how it works, I’m still disgruntled. At the end of the day, I’m just a consumer. All I want is to get the service I paid for, sans souci. I’m certain a lot of people feel the same way. This collective frustration forced the Philippine government to break the duopoly and let another player enter.

Frankly, I’m even more skeptical. When most players are struggling with the infrastructure needed, how is another player going to help? It might just bring more disappointment. But that’s something we can all worry about more in the future.

For now, I just need my Internet service provider to become competent in handling after-sales, customer service, and being true to what they advertise. Because I’m already resigning to my fate that being in a third-world country means you won’t get the service you deserve, and you can’t hold anyone else — private entities or the government — accountable. (Unless you’re a pretty celebrity with four million followers.)

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