Have yourself a very techy Christmas!

Here are some gift giving ideas that incorporate the latest in technology.

Source: Nick from Best Buy, Camas from Walmart and Braden from Fred Meyers

Music: https://soundcloud.com/douglas-ballard-1/the-bells-of-christmas-medley

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Virtual Reality Headsets

Samsung announced on September 24th that its Gear VR Consumer Addition Headset will be available in stores beginning this November.

Samsung is the first to offer to consumers, on a large scale level, a virtual reality headset that consistently offers a good quality experience. To do this, Samsung runs Oculus software through their Galaxy phone. The phone plugs into an open faceplate on the VR headset, providing the screen and powering the devise. The headset is mobile and wireless.

Virtual reality headsets are really big news in the technology/gaming industry. Samsung is only one of many tech companies bringing VR headsets to the public. VR headsets are immersive and offer a 360 degree, 3-D assimilated environment. Instead of playing a game, you are in the game. Instead of watching a movie on a video screen, you are watching a movie on an i-max theater screen.

“The Samsung Gear VR goes far beyond expectations of how mobile technology can be used …”  JK Shin, President and CEO of IT & Mobile Communications Division at Samsung Electronics said in a recent press release.

This sentiment was echoed by Will Shanklin, Mobile Tech Editor for Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine. In his June 7th review of Samsung’s Gear VR Shanklin wrote, “When you’re “inside” the Gear VR, you don’t feel like you’re playing a game, and you certainly don’t feel like you’re playing a smartphone game. You’re just wearing a “magical” headset that transports you into these amazing worlds.”

Not only does VR technology offer immersive experience, it also offers social experience. “People are playing immersive VR games with friends, sharing 360 video experiences, and teleporting around the world with photos and videos – and it’s only the beginning for what’s possible … ”  said Brendan Iribe, CEO of Oculus, in a recent press release.

Bill, a sales associate at Best Buy electronic store, said that Samsung’s Gear VR is just the beginning of what is to come. In 2016 he expects to see a VR system come out for Windows PCs and Xbox (Oculus Rift) and for Sony’s Play Station 4 (Play Station VR) just to name a few. He believes that 2016 is the year that virtual reality platforms enter into the mainstream as they provide an upgraded experience of current technology.

He said that the tech industry has made serious strides in wearable technology quality issues such as; lens fog, headset overheat, and headset weight.

Bill said that the Samsung Gear VR system performs decently. The Galaxy phone provides a 1,440 pixel Super AMOLED low persistence screen and access to Oculus store, and Milk VR service. The Gear VR headset provides Oculus software’s very high quality, very smooth, low latency experience. He said that Samsung has also made virtual reality affordable if you currently own a Galaxy phone. The headsets price $100. Half the price that earlier editions sold for.

Despite attempts to interview consumers of Samsung’s Gear VR, as of the time of this article’s release there has been no success.

Starbucks and Spotify partner up

Seattle — Starbucks Coffee Company and Spotify are partnering to combine their services for Starbucks’ Gold Card reward members. Spotify will be integrated with the Starbucks app, allowing Gold Card members to earn “Stars for Cash” for purchasing Spotify Premium. The goal is to create a link through the Starbucks app connecting the 10 million rewards members to the 60 million global Spotify users.

Reward card members will have the ability to influence in store playlists using the Starbucks app on their phones. Currently, store playlists are predetermined and Starbucks employees can choose between the different playlists.

According to Starbucks this type of unity between the two organizations could be a step into integrating technological influences in the music we all share.

Henry Yarsinske Jr., a local volunteer on air host for 90.7 KSER, uses Apple Music, Apple’s music streaming service, to find new bands and build his playlists weekly. While Yarsinske Jr. does occasionally get coffee at his local Starbucks, he does not believe this partnership is enough to motivate him to switch to Spotify or work toward a Gold Card.

“Apple Music is convenient because it’s easier for me to use,” said Yarsinske, “I have an Apple Watch, an Apple computer and an iPhone, and it integrates better between them.”

The convenience is not as much of a factor for some people. Rebecca Boehm, a Starbucks Gold Card Member since 2010, prefers to use Pandora for her music streaming. Boehm frequents Starbucks for her coffee fix and is very passionate about using her rewards for a free cup.

“$9.99 a month is too much when I can use streaming for free,” said Boehm.

The idea of getting “stars for cash” for purchasing premium may have peaked her interest in the beginning, but she prefers to use the free streaming.

As a byproduct of the unity of Starbucks and Spotify, Starbucks employees are now able to get access to Spotify Partners, a version of Spotify Premium, for free.

“I used to stream Pandora before the release of Spotify Partners,” said Starbucks barista Wendy Hughes. “I listen to Spotify every day now on my cell phone.”

Spotify is now giving all 150,000 U.S. based Starbucks employees the ability to access the premium account at no cost. This is a way of getting the baristas in on the current music

While some people out there do not feel the perks are enough to motivate them to take advantage of the new partnership, others out there like Hughes are able to benefit from it to their fullest extent.

The 3D Cursor

3-D imagery continues to replace 2-D imagery. This technology has been going on for quite some time now and is especially noticeable in the world of video games and  design. Imagine you want to play your favorite 3-D videogame on your big screen television and instead of using a game controller you use your fingers on an interactive tablet to play the game. Sound weird? Welcome to the pioneering world of 3-D cursor technology in design.

In 3D design technology, the cursor hypothetically is no longer limited to navigating and copying and pasting. Instead it can take on interactive abilities much like a game controller, allowing the user to enter into the 3D landscape and interactively navigate and maneuver. Even better, the envisioned 3D cursor has the ability to zero in on any object and cast a 3D net around it. Once the object is netted (selected) it can be moved and manipulated. One new stylus possesses the potential to be used on the interactive tablet to sketch inside the 3D landscape with the sketch then becoming part of the 3D scene with the possibility of being netted and manipulated as well.

The 3D cursor-based design system software was demonstrated at the SIGGRAPH convention in Los Angeles last August by the University of Montreal School of Design. The 3D cursor-based design system software is part of a market launched Hyve-3D system supported by Univalor, the university’s technology commercialization unit through the start up Hybridlab Inc. The Hyve-3D system is a full-scale software/hardware immersive 3D system designed by the University and is currently being experimented in 3D  design, such as architectural design, medical imaging, and computer animation. The pioneering technology is collaborative and allows multiple users to access simultaneously on a shared immersive or non immersive display while at the same time allowing individual observations from different angles and individual manipulations from separate views.

In several recent interviews, lead researcher and professor Tomás Dorta commented that 3D cursor technology isn’t just about giving the cursor a makeover but instead is a fundamental shift in a cursor’s interactive ability in a vast array of applications. He believes that the next generation of computer users will have information presented to them on a 3D landscape as computer interactions become more virtual through 3D technology. Professor Dorta says he envisions 3D versions of a desktop for operating systems to be reality in the near future because they allow easier computer interactions as they are less restrictive and cumbersome then the operational capabilities of the current cursor and its 2D landscape. He says that the computer image is changing, advancing to a more realistic 3 dimensional landscape; this paradigmatic shift creates the need to have a modern cursor that can operate within the three dimensions.

Much like the controller for a video games is changing to keep pace with  advancing 3D technology in gaming, so it seems the cursor may well be advancing to keep pace with 3D technology in design with the envisioned possibility of reaching desktop operating systems in the near future as well.