iOS 8 Beta 2 Now Available

Apple has released iOS 8 beta 2 three weeks after releasing the first beta to developers at its World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California on June 2nd. The second beta is available now as an OTA update or through Apple’s development portal. The new beta features mostly bug fixes. Check out the full iOS 8 beta 2 changelog below.

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Apple is expected to launch iOS 8 alongside its next-generation iPhone and rumored iWatch this fall. iOS 8 will bring a host of new features to Apple products including Apple’s Health app, improvements to messaging, an App Store Family Sharing option and more.


Lego Fusion merges physical brick building Electronic Kids Toys digital play

Lego has revealed a new line of play kits which are designed to combine its traditional brick-building and app-based gaming. The new Lego Fusion range will allow children to photograph their physical creations using a smartphone or tablet, and then see them brought to life in virtual worlds.

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There will initially be four Lego Fusion sets: Town Master, Battle Towers, Create and Race, and Resort Designer. Each kit will consist of more than 200 Lego pieces, a “capture plate” to build on, and will be accompanied by a free downloadable app for iOS or Android. The purpose of the capture plate is to allow the app to identify the size and colors of the Lego bricks used.

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As prompted in the games, users build on the capture plate and import their creations by pointing the device’s camera at them. At this point, the constructions are incorporated into the digital world, allowing them to be played with virtually. In games with buildings, 2D façade creations (their capture plates are just one row of studs deep) are automatically transformed into 3D buildings.

Gamers are then, through a series of challenges and interactions, required to continue building in the real world, to progress in the game. This creates a constant back-and-forth between the physical and virtual elements of play. Lego says this engages children in both the digital world and the real-life one, and helps combat the “zombie gaze” that parents will recognize in their app-playing kids.

In Lego Fusion Town Master, users create their own Lego town, building things like houses, restaurants, a fire station and shops, and importing them into the game. They also complete errands and missions, such as catching robbers, fighting fires and skateboarding, all while trying to keep citizens happy. Resort Designer, which is part of the Lego Friends line-up, works in much the same way, but with a holiday resort theme … and more pink bricks.

The Battle Towers set requires players to build a tower and then defend it against virtual attack in a bid to rule a kingdom. Damage to towers in the app can be repaired by completing timed real-world building challenges. In Lego Fusion Create and Race, players construct a car which can be taken for a virtual spin in races, demolition challenges or used to perform stunts. Every brick used in the real-world car will have an impact on its performance in the game.

From September, users of Lego Fusion sets will also be able to access their digital creations from any compatible device. After logging into the Lego Fusion app with a Lego ID, they’ll be able to see and select their gallery and game play progress.

Aimed at 7-12 year-olds, Lego Fusion Town Master, Battle Towers and Create and Race will go on sale in August. They will be followed by the Resort Designer kit, which will be released in September. The kits will cost US$35 each.

 

Japan is planning to bring 5G network by 2020

The Japanese government continues its support for the development of network technology, pushing together with local companies in trying to make 5G (5th generation) mobile bandwith available by the year 2020 – which is, incidentally, the year the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games roll in – way before other countries do.

Long Term Evolution – or more popularly, LTE – has been more or less the standard in Japanese mobile networks, growing in popularity and usage since it was launched in 2010. LTE is technically not 4G, as misrepresented in most marketing ploys – it is 3.9G, with a standard bandwidth of around 70 to 80 Megabits per second. With 5G technology, Japan is looking at speeds of 10 Gigabits per second. For comparison, if you think your LTE connection is fast enough, imagine speeds 100 faster than your current LTE. This kind of connection is of course primed for higher densities of content, like 4K videos. We might not be seeing a lot of 4K-resolution videos at the moment – and there are not a lot of screens, whether TV ormobile gadgets, that can handle 4K video – but Japan is looking at 4K and even 8K video to be developed in the near future. For those kinds of high density content, 5G connections will be almost essential.

With this in mind, Japan’s Ministry of Communications plans to give the private sector impetus for developing 5G network technology faster than other countries. The ministry is planning to take this proposal to Japan’s three big mobile carriers this year – that is, NTT Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank – as well as smaller communications companies and manufacturers of cellular phone technology and network hardware, the likes of Panasonic, Sharp and Fujitsu. It is understood that the ministry will be looking for government support for funding the development of 5G technology. The Japanese government is even hoping to pull in the considerable abilities of Japanese universities to make sure Japan is way ahead of rivals in Europe and South Korea in this endeavor.

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NTT Docomo looking toward 5G mobile network infrastructure by 2020

NTT Docomo, Japan’s largest mobile network by virtue of sales, has released a statement of its ambitions for an ultra-high speed 5G network in place by the year 2020. Presenting the available details of this plan to the technology media at this year’s Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (CEATEC) Japan, Docomo hopes to join other major technology outfits in coming up with their own 5G network by the end of the decade.

According to Docomo, 3G frequencies – that is, the standard network infrastructure including HSDPA, HSUPA, and HSDPA+ – are getting a bit crowded because of the ubiquity of smartphones in the current market. As with the current leading edge 4G LTE-Advanced, Docomo will aim to use higher unused frequencies with its 5G plan. This goal will utilize additional smaller cells along with the current ones to boost the network signal. The small cells would cover smaller areas, with the company planning to use a lot of these in regional batches. The 5G concept is not a finished product yet, as the concept and indeed the global standard, is still being developed. But the Japanese mobile communications leader is aiming to have the 5G technology and infrastructure come together by 2020.

NTT Docomo is not alone in pursuing 5G speeds. In May this year, South Korean mobile giants Samsung revealed that it had hit 1Gbps during testing of its own 5G technology. As Samsung noted at the time, using high-frequency bandwidths – for 5G, it may fall in the 6GHz range – will pose issues in transmission, as the range of these frequencies will be smaller. This is the current problem for most 5G developers, but it should be ironed out eventually. Chinese technology outfit Huawei has also claims to be on the development of 5G network technologies, which it plans to have ready for 2020. Everybody seems to peg 5G by the end of the decade, but for consumers and smartphone users, it just means that 2020 could be a breakthrough year for handheld download speeds.

5G Networks By 2020? Samsung Looks To The Future

Samsung is looking some seven years into the future and claims to have built and tested a 5G wireless network capable of delivering one-gigabit-per-second speeds. Though many parts of the world are still scurrying to build out their 4G networks, Samsung says they´ve developed the necessary technology to operate in the millimeter-wave Ka bands and deliver such ultra-fast speeds.

The Korean company claims their “mmWave Mobile Technology” is a proven solution, and by pitching in with others in mobile research, they hope to have this network “commercialized” by 2020.

“The millimeter-wave band is the most effective solution to recent surges in wireless Internet usage,” said Chang Yeong Kim, executive vice president of Samsung and head of their digital media research in a statement.

“Samsung´s recent success in developing the adaptive array transceiver technology has brought us one step closer to the commercialization of 5G mobile communications in the millimeter-wave bands.”

Delivering faster wireless broadband speeds requires a larger data pipe. Current “4G” networks operate on the lower end of the frequency spectrum. The mmWave network is said to broadcast signals at higher frequencies and can theoretically deliver speeds up to several hundred times faster than 4G. Though widening the spread of frequencies used seems like a viable way to offer a faster and more full-featured network, previous research has shown that these high-frequency, millimeter-wave bands might not be well suited for transmitting data over long distances.

Enter Samsung´s adaptive array transceiver, a cluster of 64 antennas which has been shown to successfully transmit data in the 28 GHz range (4G networks often operate in the 800 MHz range) at around 1.056 Gbps and across a distance of about 1.2 miles. Samsung claims this array of 64 antennas can mitigate any radio reception lost to operating in these millimeter-waves lengths.

Though Samsung claims that their network will be able to deliver data at one gigabit per second, this isn´t the first time we´ve heard about wireless networks operating at these speeds. LTE-Advanced is the next great wireless advance to be commercialized, and it can transmit data at a theoretical 1Gbps. More realistically, however, it will deliver speeds of 15 megabits per second, or about 25 percent faster than the average 12 megabits per second delivered by today´s 4G networks. In an interview with CNN following this year´s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Tod Sizer, the head of wireless research at Alcatel-Lucent´s Bell labs said 5G has more to offer than speedy data.

“5G won’t be about more speed, necessarily. It may be faster, but it will be more about meeting the expectation of service quality,” said Sizer.

Each new iteration of wireless networking has brought about a new feature in addition to fast speeds. For instance, 2G delivered better voice quality, 3G delivered data and 4G has enabled faster video streaming.

5G is expected to be ubiquitous enough to handle millions of connections and deliver wireless connectivity to millions of other connected devices. Samsung specifically mentions using their 5G network to deliver 3D movies and games as well as ultra high-definition content and even remote medical services. The Galaxy maker also said they plan to jump into this increasingly competitive 5G market and further the research with their adaptive array transceiver. For now it seems Samsung sees 2020 as a very real goal for rolling out 5G networks to wireless providers all over the world.

New version of Android will enhance battery life and speed up apps

Several months ago, Google added an experimental runtime option to speed up apps in Android 4.4 KitKat. A runtime, for the record, supports the apps running on your device — without it they’d be nothing but piles of useless code. Called ART (short for Android Runtime), that same mode will become the default when Mountain View releases the next version of its operating system. Developers spotted tweaks to Android’s open-source code indicating the upcoming change, and the update looks to be a positive one. Without getting bogged down in details, ART essentially makes apps run faster and more efficiently, with the downside being that they’ll take up slightly more space on your phone, as well as lengthier install times.

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ART will likely replace the current app-running software Dalvik as the default on Android, though the latter option could still be available. In addition to enhancing app performance, ART is said to slightly increase battery life. Even if the gains are small, that’s good news for anyone using the most popular mobile OS in the world. And with Google I/O just a week away, we may hear about the next version of Android very soon.