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Microsoft's research into 3D audio could become a big boon to virtual and augmented reality applications like the Oculus Rift and Valve's 3D glasses. Essentially, the technology turns simple headphones into ones that can mirror where the sound is supposed to be coming from to create an even more immersive environment in applications like gaming.

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What could be cooler than robots in space? How about technology that could lead to space robots being controlled via an Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s Kinect 2 technology? NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is planning to do just that and they have a demo to show off.

The United States’ Space agency, NASA (Nation Aeronautics and Space Administration), has been trying to find a way to control their million dollar robots via modern day natural interface devices. The hunt itself has led NASA to test out devices such as Leap Motion, Microsoft’s Kinect, Oculus Rift, and more.

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Chinese electronics giant, Huawei, is opening a new Research and Development facility in Helsinki, Finland, home country of mobile phone competitor Nokia. The $90 million R&D venture will start with 30 employees whose purpose will be “optimizing the user experience of existing operating systems such as Android and Windows Phone 8" and is expected to grow over the next five years to as many as 100 employees...

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Apps on Windows Phone boot up fairly quickly and the user only has but a few seconds to wait for the software to fully load, but what if the operating system itself could predict what app(s) you're likely to run that exact second? Cue FALCON, a project undertaken by Microsoft Research. The "Fast App Launching with Context" allows the faster execution of apps by preloading the software in memory (multitasking stack).

One of the researchers, Tingxin Yan, describes FALCON as:

A context-aware mobile app preloading component for mobile OS. Based on intensive data analysis of app usage across multiple mobile users, FALCON presents a decision engine which exploits temporal and spacial characters of user behavior to pre-load apps ahead of time, thereby improves the responsiveness of smartphones.

How FALCON would achieve this is by anticipating what apps the user is likely to launch using algorithms, and is part of a larger project called "Context Data OS (ConDOS)". Microsoft Research aims to improve the mobile experience with ConDOS by integrating context into the platform OS.

The team is set to present their research at the MobiSys 2012 conference this year. It'll be interesting to see such functionality built into Windows Phone to further improve responsiveness beyond competitor platforms.

Via: iStartedSomething

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We've seen the headlines, we've heard the pundits (looking at you, Scoble) that tout apps as the "big" thing on smartphones. And while initially this may hold true for new users, the novelty wears off, or so suggests a new study by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.

In that study, 68% of users only use five or fewer apps at least once a week. Furthermore, 17% don't use any apps on a regular basis while only 42% of respondents even have apps on their phones. Those are certainly interesting numbers and what it suggests is people are downloading lots of apps but rarely use them on a regular basis. In fact, we hear this often from developers who don't get many ad-hits in their apps after a few weeks despite seemingly large numbers of downloads. Speaking of, the study also points out that judging an app's popularity by number of downloads alone is probably not a good metric (though app reviews and number of them may be).

In other interesting stats from Nielsen, Android users spend about 90 minutes a day on their phones, two-thirds of that time in apps (probably customizing their UI, just kidding). That suggest that even though few use many apps, the ones they do use, they use often and on a regular basis.

While no numbers are revealed for Windows Phone users, it will be even more interesting for our users since things like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are baked into the OS, reducing the number of popular services that people need to download separate apps for. That will only increase if Microsoft continues, as expected, to bake in other services as the OS grows and updates roll out. This of course makes us ask the question: Do you fit this model or are you folks app-fiends? (We're also pretty sure games don't count as apps for the purposes of this study).

Let us know in comments....

via USA Today; Thanks Mark W. and ZX9, for the tips

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WP7 UK Research and Feedback Panel

Live in the UK and within travelling distance of London? Fancy attending a small event for the good of Windows Phone? Of course you do! Microsoft is holding a small research and feedback panel in central London on the 10th and 11th of August (6.15pm OR 8pm). Attendees (only 24 places) will receive £60 for their trouble, food (presumably accompanied by drink) as well as a few "surprises" - Microsoft funded pub crawl anyone?

What do you need to do to enter with a chance in being one of the lucky 24? Simply fill out this survey and the team will get back to you. In all honesty, we'll be attending should the pub crawl turn out to be true.

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The University of Southampton sure has some ideas of how to have fun with their HTC 7 Trophy...namely sending it to the upper atmosphere (18,237 meters/59,832 feet). The project is part of the University's ASTRA (Atmospheric Science Through Robotic Aircraft) program and is meant to investigate " technologies for making low cost observations of the physical parameters of the atmosphere."

In this case, they teamed up with Microsoft to use the Trophy, write software for the phone meant to track the balloon and predict where it was going to land. From the Guardian article:

In Flight Mode, the app installed on the handset was able to record and transmit GPS and location data part of the way up and down – while within range of mobile networks – while in Hunter Mode on the team's own handsets, it plotted the latest data and predicted a landing site on a Bing map.

So why a Windows Phone? Partly because no one wanted to program in objective C (what the iPhone uses) and also because mobile phones today, with their small size yet onboard GPS, 1GHz processor and excellent build quality just make great mini-computers. All you need to do is write the app, have the software/hardware back-end (Microsoft Azure, in this case) and a signal. Like others, they hope Microsoft extends the Bluetooth profiles so they can have the phone "talk to" some of their other equipment and that compass API might be useful too. Friday's flight was just a test run and the whole system reportedly did very well. Either way, it sounds like a cool project and it would probably make a good ad for HTC.

Source: ASTRA Launch Diary; via

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