Hololens at E3: Just as I Had Hoped

19 Jun

When I arrived at E3, I knew that if I did nothing else, I would want to try Hololens. At the beginning of each day, the crowd rushed to the Hololens line for the Halo 5 Experience just to be able to wait several hours.  Hololens-w-logoWith my trusty media badge, I thought I might be able to skip the line. I was right, but it wasn’t as easy as I anticipated. Turns out every other reported wanted to try it as well (who would have thought?).  Eventually I talked to the people at the Xbox press office and they generously fit me into one of the demo groups on the last day: Thursday at 3:40 pm.  Turns out these Hololens demos were harder to get than I thought, since when I showed up and told them I was here for the 3:40, the girl looked surprised and said, “Oh that’s the special one.”  For that slot, it was just me and three other reporters in the group from the media.

They take you to the front of the line and measure your IPD (Interpupillary Distance) using a gadget, and write it down on a lanyard card to show to the staff doing the demo.  This is to make sure the holograms are displayed correctly. We get inside and sit in what looks like a Halo ship, with about 10 people total. We sit against a wall in two groups, with two benches in front of us where they put on the Hololens and fit it for each person. When it was my turn, I sat down on the bench, and they put the Hololens on my head and allowed me to adjust it using a dial on the back of the device. You look forward and there’s what looks like a flat rectangular projection on the wall with a little Halo-type logo and four dots in the corners. If you can see all four dots at the same time, you’re good to go (it’s just to make sure your device isn’t too far from your face I suppose).

You’re told to stand up, step forward onto the metal walkway, turn left, and walk towards “the waypoint.”  I did as I was told, and holy sh*t, there was a waypoint.  Maybe about 30-40 feet in front of me was a diamond-shaped hologram that looked exactly like a waypoint might look in a video game, floating in mid air. If you looked away from it and out of the Hololens field of view, an arrow would stick within the square boundary and point towards where you should look. It was very intuitive, and I just started walking towards the waypoint automatically. At this point, the device is also talking at you through speakers on the sides, but it almost sounds like it’s within your head. I had not noticed the voice talking to the other people who had gone before me, so it seems good at isolating the audio to just the wearer.

After you reach the waypoint, you are greeted by a staff guide who instructs you to look through “the hatch window.” It’s not a real window, but it looks like one. The fake window behaves exactly how one would in the real world, where if you move around, your view through the window changes, as opposed to just a flat static image sticking to the wall.  If you move closer, you can see more of the scene in side, and if you back up, you see less. You can look around the edges of the window to see more of the left, right, etc. The scene inside was a ship hanger, with all sorts of ships flying around and taking off. The hologram was really good, in the sense that I could not see through it to the surface behind it. Also, the tracking was incredible. There was no latency that I noticed, or at least it wasn’t significant enough to destroy the illusion.  The most significant part of this in my opinion, is that all the tracking is done within the headset itself, so there are no external trackers.  The device uses outward tracking and knows where you are, where the window should be, and how the scene should look based on the relation of the two. That is incredible.

After the hatch closes you walk into a room with the other testers and stand around a futuristic console to hear a briefing. Basically, it explains a Halo 5 multiplayer map and gametype we played after the demo.  A hologram rises out of the table like a sci-fi movie and Cortana starts talking.  You see holograms of Halo 5 characters, the map, and markers to show important points on the map. The resolution was pretty high, which meant there was great detail in the holograms.  Seeing the holograms rise out of this table was exactly what I expected a real life hologram to be, and I think Microsoft knew that was the case for most people. They knew people wanted a “futuristic” device and proved that it was capable of delivering just that.  After the briefing, you get to take a little USB drive with some Halo 5 footage on it, which was a nice touch.

One of the complaints most people have is the field of view. Indeed, it is not great, and only borderline good. I would say it’s “workable.” It gets the job done, but you have to be sufficiently far from the hologram if it’s large to see the whole thing.  However, everything else about it is amazing. The tracking is crazy good with little latency, even without external tracking device.  I do think the FOV should be improved, but you really have to consider the whole picture. Hololens is an absolutely amazing device that delivers what we’ve always wanted: “real” holograms.  This type of device is completely brand new; there has never been another augmented reality device ever, yet people are still complaining. Well I’m not complaining – I’m going to get one as soon as it’s released.

The above video is more or less the same account, perhaps a bit more animated. If you enjoy video, my channel might be for you. Let me know what you guys think about this whole new con-founded gadget.

LG G4 Full Review and Unboxing

27 May

I was recently sent an LG G4 to review as part of their “LG G4 Trial” program.  I finished my full review which you can watch below.  The video contains much more detail and cool shots of the phone, so I’ll just talk about some of my favorite features here.

First of all, the battery life is great. I don’t use my phone very heavily, but I do use it all day. I’ve never had it die on me, and the phone lasts longer than anything else I’ve used. Coming from my Nexus 5, the battery was a massive change, because my Nexus 5 almost seemed to have no battery at all.  Next, the G4’s camera is really good for a phone, and that’s the main thing LG was pushing as a main feature. I took some test photos in the video, and you can see that the low light performance is reasonable for a small sensor. I like that you can shoot raw, which is important for getting the best image quality possible out of a photo.  The screen is also great – it’s bright and the colors are vivid. The QuadHD (4x 720p) makes it super sharp, and this is coming from a Nexus 5 (1080p) which I already thought was sharp.

Before I did the review, I did an unboxing which you might like.  It’s not totally accurate and I did make a few mistakes. For example, what I called the “spectrum analyzer” is actually a laser focus assist, and what I thought was a second flash is the actual spectrum analyzer. Still, that wasn’t the point of the video, so hopefully you can forgive me.

YouTube to Announces Subscription Fee to Get Rid of Ads

13 Apr

YouTube has always been a free platform, and they aren’t going to change that any time soon. We’ve seen a few experiments by Google to further monetize the site such as Paid Channels, but none of these have really been successful. The latest attempt is to get people to pay a fee ($5 /mo) which would remove ads from the site. They haven’t specified and additional features, but I personally think they’ll need to do better than that to get people to pay up. Though, the fee would not just go to YouTube; a portion would go to content creators that the paying viewer watches. The split is expected to be calculated based on watch time, so if the viewer spends exactly half the time watching two different creators, each creator would get 50% of the cut after YouTube’s.

On one hand, I’m really excited about this new feature because it could make it easier for creators to make a living off their videos. But on the other hand, I don’t anyone is going to sign up for this if an ad-free site is the only incentive.  Most people already use adblock, and if they don’t already, they certainly will when they find out their $5/mo feature can be replaced for free with browser extension.  I think YouTube is going to need to introduce more features to make it worth while to pay the monthly fee, and I’m sure they know that tool. I can’t speculate on what these features will be, but I can hope. We see sites like Twitch that have a pay model where viewers can pay $5/mo to subscribe to each specific streamer, and that streamer gets a 50% cut (the site gets the other half).  For this, the viewer gets a special badge recognizing their contribution, and exclusive and unique subscriber-only emoticons (created by the streamer) that they can use across the entire site. This creates huge incentive, since it allows the viewer to belong to an exclusive club, as well as promote their streamer even in other streams via the emoticons.

I went into detail on this topic in my latest video, which you can watch below. I’d love to hear what you guys think, and particularly about what features you think YouTube would need to add to make it worth while.

Top 5 Cool Free Programs (You Haven’t Heard of)

22 Mar

There are a few programs that I think everyone should check out for one reason or another. You may have heard of some of these, but I’m willing to bet there’s at least a couple that you don’t know about.

1. F.lux

It’s widely known that staring at a computer screen makes it hard to fall asleep, but in this day and age it’s pretty unavoidable.  Flux is a program that changes the color temperature (tint) of your screen based on the time of day (sunset), eliminating the color wavelengths of light that are the culprits. These wavelengths are mostly in the blue range, and flux turns your monitor more of an orange and dims it a bit. You might think it would be annoying to look at an orange screen, but the thing is you don’t notice. Our eyes are really good at white-balancing, so even though the screen is pretty orange, it will look almost totally normal. In fact, when you disable flux in the middle of the night, you’ll be pretty much blinded, and wonder how you ever used a computer at night at such an obnoxious brightness.

2. Rainmeter

Rainmeter is a powerful desktop theme and customization program that lets you add widget-like tools to your desktop. For example, I have a clock widget, weather, computer resource monitor and others. Now that windows no longer includes the “gadgets” feature, you might be interested in this software.  Creating your own widget is pretty difficult, but luckily there are sites that have pre-made ones for basically every purpose.

3. Puush

Have you ever wanted to quickly share what you see on the screen with a friend, or save a screenshot instantly? Puush is a program that allows you to quickly select a portion of your screen, and it automatically uploads the image and copies the link to your clipboard. This allows you to send screenshots to people faster than any other program I know of.  You can also use it to upload other types of files too, such as music, videos, anything. The behavior is the same for any file type: it automatically uploads and puts the link to your clipboard. You can delete previous uploads through the icon in the taskbar or on the site itself.

4. Universal Media Server

I like to watch content on my Xbox because I can sit on the couch instead of my computer chair. However, it’s a pain to have to put files on a thumb drive and carry it over to the xbox. Sure, windows supports streaming videos from your computer to the Xbox, but only if it’s the right file format. For example, mkv files are one of the most popular downloadable video formats you’ll come across, but can’t be played on the xbox or streamed with windows. However, UMS does allow you to stream these files because it can transcode them. So no matter what type of video file you have, you can stream it to your Xbox as long as you have the codec on your computer.

5. WinDirStat

Have you ever seen your hard drive space slowly shrink, and not know why? WinDirStat is a program that will analyse your hard drive, and visually represent the space on your Hard Drive using boxes. The larger the box, the bigger the file, so it will be immediately obvious if you have any huge unknown files taking up all your space.  It also color codes them based on location and file type, so if there’s a certain folder or group of files taking up a bunch of space, that will be obvious too.

New YouTube Feature: Interactivity Cards

27 Feb
I noticed that I just got this feature recently. I think I got it at the same time my channel was enabled for Fan Funding.  You can have the card pop up a link to fan funding, a fundraising site (like Patreon, Change.org, kickstarter, indiegogo, and several others), and a merchendise site like Spreadshirt.  A full list is available in the google help article titled “Link to fundraising sites through annotations” which I can’t link to.
Personally I think this is really cool and I’ll definitely be using it in my videos. It’s much better looking than a regular annotation. For a live example you can find the video on my channel, but again I can’t link to it.
This pops up when you go to edit settings in a video:
Here’s what the interactivity tab looks like. You can add multiple cards that expand at different times in the video:
What the card looks like, it shows up at the top left of your video:
Hovering over the card expands it. It also expands for a few seconds at the time you pick in the settings:
Here are what the cards look like. Clicking on the icon when there are multiple cards will show them both, but one is highlighted in the middle.