Thanks for joining us here on World Tech Update I'm Nick Barber. And welcome to our holiday gift guide edition. Stay tuned for that in just a moment, but first a bit of news.
Facebook is working with HTC to build an Android-based smartphone with Facebook social networking services at its core, according to All Things D. The phone, code-named "Buffy," would run a version of Android that's altered heavily by Facebook. The new phone won't be available for a year and HTC and Facebook haven't commented.
Microsoft will build a Kinect device specifically for use with PCs, as the company prepares to launch a program to support commercial products developed for Kinect and Windows. In a recent video, Microsoft showed some possible applications for Kinect with Windows. The nwe firmware will enable the depth camera to see objects as close as 50 centimeters in front of the device without losing accuracy or precision. This "near mode" will be more suitable for someone sitting at a computer, as opposed to standing in front of a TV. It's been one of the most requested features from developers already working on products.
Over the weekend here in Boston fingers of fury solved dozens of Rubik's cubes in mere minutes. At the Museum of Science middle and high schoolers gathered and competed in both team and individual matches to solve the puzzle. In the team matches schools needed to solve 25 cubes and in the solo competition just a single cube. Some did it as fast as 25 seconds, but still nowhere near the world record of just 6.
Some math teachers said they used the cubes in class to teach students pattern recognition and geometry.
We're kicking off our first holiday gift guide and we'll take a look at gaming, tablets and some other products. Likely number one on most people's lists this year are tablets and e-readers. There are a number of options to choose from when it comes to both categories, but there are really only a few that you should consider. Leading the pack is of course the iPad2 with its bright display, front and rear facing cameras for video calls and its easy and familiar interface. There's also integration with iCould which stores your content and wirelessly pushes it to all of your devices. The iPad2 starts at $500.
For those not looking for an Apple product, there's the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 with specs that are equivalent or sometimes exceed those on its Apple competitor. It runs Android Honeycomb and supports Adobe Flash. The Tab has a leg up on the iPad2 when it comes to connectivity. The Galaxy Tab supports 4G LTE data from Verizon Wireless, where the iPad only 3G. Those 4G speeds will let you surf at Wifi speed wherever there is service. the Galaxy Tab starts at $530.
If you're looking on the low end then you have choice between the Kindle Fire at 200 dollars and the Nook Tablet at 250 dollars. Of these two devices, both of which launched earlier this year, the Nook Tablet's specs are higher with double the RAM and expandable storage. Still, both offer good value. To learn more about it check out the link below http://bit.ly/pcw-nook
When it comes to e-readers the widest range of products and best value comes from Amazon, the company that kicked off the craze. E-readers use e-ink, which looks just like a printed page. They don't use much battery, some can last up to a month, and you can read them outside in bright sunlight. Amazon's most inexpensive Kindle is $79 for a 6-inch screen and wifi. More expensive models include features like touch controls, keyboards, larger screens and 3G access. To take a look at some more readers, visit our friends at PC World at the link below. http://bit.ly/pcw-readers
For portable gaming there's the Nintendo 3DS, which lets users to take and view 3D photos and video using its twin lens camera and 3D display. Nintendo cut the price of its 3DS to $170 earlier this year to try and boost sales. It has a motion and gyro sensor, analog control circle pad an included 2 gig SD memory card and backwards with almost all DS and DSi games. While it won't be available in the US for the holiday, Sony's Playstation Vita will launch in Japan in December. The Vita has dual touchscreens, a 5-inch multi touch OLED display, dual joysticks, 3G and wifi and augmented reality. It will start at $250.
If you have a small space and you're trying to use your Microsoft Kinect sensor, then you might run into problems. The Zoom attachment from Niko helps to solve that problem. It's a set of lenses that go over your Kinect reducing the distance requirement by about 40%. That means that two people could play in the space that would normally only accomodate one. It takes a few seconds to install the Zoom as it just slides over the Kinect cameras. There are no wires or cables and the device works with all Kinect games. It costs $30.
And last but not least two Wifi toys for big kids. The AR Drone and Rover are both available from Brookstone. Admittedly it's more fun to fly a 4-fan helicopter around your house, but unless your an ace pilot you're probably going to end up with a toy in pieces like us. It's great fun flying it outside, you can fly high and fast, but the problem with the toy is that the video that's sent back to your iPad is too slow to control the chopper. The Rover on the other hand moves slow enough that you can send it to a different part of your home or office and make use of the camera. It even has a night vision mode that works very well. It can hear whomever you're spying on, but there's no way to communicate back with them. That's one of the big drawbacks of this toy. The Rover costs $150 and the AR Drone $300. Other wifi toys are on Brookstone's website.
Of course we couldn't fit everything in our show. Over at Network World you'll not only find an Indiana Jones themed video gift guide, but more than a hundred tech treasures reviewed in categories like smartphone accessories, portable entertainment, health and fitness and travel gear. Check out the link below for more.
If you have any questions about any of the products we talked about today send us an email. As we head out this week we'll leave you with more shots of the Rubiks cube competition. I'm Nick Barber and for all of us here at the IDG News Service thanks for watching and we hope to see you next week.
IDG News Service
IDG News Service
Keith Shaw, Network World
IDG News Service
Barnes & Noble
© IDG 2011
Join us this week on World Tech Update for our special holiday gift guide where we take a look at tablets, e-readers, gaming and more.