If you’ve ever wanted to tour Mars from the comfort of your living room, today is your lucky day. In honor of the second year of Curiosity roving around the surface of Mars, Google now lets you virtually blast into outer space and poke around on the moon and Mars. To get into outer space, go to Google Maps and click on the “Google Earth” button in the lower-left corner. Wait for the image to load, then zoom out as far as you can go. Wait a second or two until the options for Moon and Mars appear at the bottom of your screen. Click on either and begin exploring! You can mouse around and zoom in, just like on regular Google Earth, or click on any of the landmarks to learn more about that area. There aren’t nearly as many spots to check out on the moon or Mars as there are on Earth, but it’s the quickest trip you’ll make to either location… and the cheapest, too.
The e-paper screens you find on devices like the Kindle have many benefits, but their use has been fairly limited. A company called Visionect has developed a new platform designed to open up e-paper screens to a world of new uses. The V-Platform lets developers build and manage apps designed for e-paper screens as if they were traditional web apps. The apps are all designed for Visionect’s V-Tablet, which is designed to last a long time with its killer battery life. So where could these devices be used? Imagine you’re hosting an event, and want to keep its attendees up to date with the latest schedule. The V-Platform lets you push info wirelessly to the V-Tablets, keeping them updated with the latest information and keeping everyone at the event informed. The V-Tablets have also found a home in museums, where their lack of light pollution comes in very handy. They’re also able to display any information for visitors, further enhancing the museum experience and giving museum operators real-time feedback about guest activity.
If you think Siri is great, wait until you get a hold of Viv. Developed by the creative team behind Siri, Viv blows Siri out of the water. While Siri is limited to the tasks Apple wants it to do, Viv can teach itself and break down commands or questions into individual parts, figure everything out, then respond. Say you want to pick up a bottle of cheap wine that pairs well with Italian food. Viv will use your contacts to find out who your brother is and where he lives, then map a route to your brother’s house and find nearby liquor stores. Next, Viv will look up lasagna to find the right kind of wine to pair with it. It’ll then give you a list of wines, sorted by price, that you can grab on the way to your brother’s place. Viv’s not tied to a particular platform, and isn’t ready for public use. But it’s coming soon, and it’ll completely change the way we use our phones – and how we live.
Samsung recently debuted its new flagship phone, the Galaxy Alpha. With no press event and little fanfare, Samsung quietly took the wraps off its newest device, which features a metal case around a 4.7-inch screen, making it just smaller than the Galaxy S5. Its camera and battery fall a little shy of the Galaxy S5, too, placing the device in line with other mid-range smartphones. The Alpha isn’t a bare bones release, though, as it has a couple nice features like a fingerprint scanner and “ultra-power-saving mode.” The best part about the phone, though, is that metal case, which addresses one of Samsung customers’ biggest complaints: their phones feel cheap in your hand. The phone, which doesn’t have a price yet, is scheduled to launch sometime in September – right around the time the company is set to unveil its Galaxy Note 4. The Galaxy Alpha isn’t a device that’ll replace your iPhone 5S or LG G3, but it’s worth checking out if you’re looking for a solid midrange device.
The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset offers many new types of experiences, but its latest use may one day save your life. The Rift is currently being used by med students to view surgeries from a first-person perspective. After a donation from the MOVEO Foundation, surgeons have begun recording medical procedures using GoPro’s Dual HERO system, which captures video from two GoPro cameras, then converts it to 3D in post-production. In the past, med students could only experience a surgery from a first-person perspective by being in the room, but that means there was a chance some of the process and techniques would be missed. With Oculus Rift, though, med students can see the surgery first-hand, then re-live it all through the surgeon’s eyes. Experts say the Oculus, which is owned by Facebook, likely won’t become a medical device, because Facebook won’t want to deal with the FDA. But this trial run shows one of the endless possibilities of virtual reality, and offers a possible glimpse into the future of medicine.
No one likes waiting in a long line at a hotel check-in counter, especially after a long flight and the stress that comes with it. Starting next year at Hilton hotels, however, you’ll be able to skip those lines entirely and get into your room with nothing more than your smartphone. Hilton recently announced that it will start rolling out new a new type of door lock next year, and will finish the global rollout to its 4,200 locations by the end of 2016. The new program bypasses the need for a room key by sending a code to your phone that you use to unlock your door. The technology is similar to what other hotel chains are doing – Starwood announced a similar program earlier this year – but Hilton is by far the biggest hotel chain to offer the feature to date. Hilton’s mobile app already lets pre-order amenities for your room and lets you check in and check out, but this latest program will help make your hotel stay even more relaxing.
LG’s newest flagship phone, the LG G3, is the best Android phone available on the market – and the one I’d buy if I was buying a new phone today. One of the G3’s best features is its camera. My daughter likes to say that her “camera is her primary smartphone.” If this describes you, the LG G3 is your phone. The G3 comes with a laser autofocus camera, where a tap on the screen focuses and takes a picture at the same time. That means you’ll capture the exact moment you want to save. For selfie fanatics out there, LG’s added a couple of awesome features. The front-facing camera now has gesture recognition, so you can take hands-free selfies whenever you want. The G3 also has a “selfie flash” feature that turns the screen white to illuminate your face in low-light situations – perfect for taking beautiful selfies in a dark restaurant. If you want an awesome phone with the best camera on the market, LG’s G3 is the device for you.
Amazon may be the biggest name in the world of e-books, especially with its new Kindle Unlimited service, but it’s far from the only game in town. Oyster and Scribd offer similar – and arguably better – services for about the same price. But another company is silently making a push to challenge Amazon: Apple. Apple recently acquired a company called BookLamp, which is known for its Book Genome Project. Called “Pandora for books,” the Book Genome Project gives you book suggestions based on a natural language analysis of the other books you’ve read. Basically, BookLamp’s tech scans the writing styles of books you like, then goes and finds other books or authors that write in a similar style or with similar themes. Its goal is to recommend books you won’t be able to put down, instead of just recommending whichever books are most popular. That means Apple’s iBooks service will be able to offer better recommendations and smarter searches than ever before – and help you discover your next favorite book.
If you have a Gmail address, did you know that you can tweak it in a few ways to make your life easier and your inbox less cluttered? Gmail lets you add periods anywhere in the front part of your email address, or a plus sign with an extra word, and the email will still make it to your inbox. email@example.com registers the same as firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. So what difference does this make, and why should you care? Two words: Gmail’s filters. To avoid unnecessary emails from sites you don’t care about, sign up with an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org. Then, in Gmail’s settings, filter all mail sent to that email address to be marked as read and archived, or sent straight to your trash. You can also use this feature to make sure you never miss an email from a close friend. Give them a special address, like shelly.palmer, then filter those to be marked as high priority. The possibilities are endless. Go give it a try today!
If I had to buy an Android phone today, I’d run to the store and pick up an LG G3. It is, without question, the best Android-powered smartphone available right now. The LG G3 was built around a personal assistant feature called Smart Notice. Smart Notice takes the best features of the personal assistants you’re used to, like Google Now and Siri, and adds a few new awesome features of its own. Smart Notice reminds you when you need to call someone back, points out unused apps for you to uninstall, and tracks the weather to let you know if you should grab an umbrella on your way out the door. Smart Notice also comes with QSlide, which is a new way to multitask where you can open apps in pop-up windows on top of other apps. It’ll take a minute to learn, but it’s awesome – and only on the G3. If you’re looking for a new phone and want the best phone available today, the LG G3 is the one to buy.