Tamagotchi is back and this time it’s social

BandaiTamagotchiFriends5Do you remember the 1990s? The decade of Generation X, Cool Britannia, raves, grunge, dressing down, Baywatch, roller blades and Tamagotchi.

Ah yes, Tamagotchi, the digital pet that first launched in Japan in 1996 and took Britain by storm the following year. Small enough to fit on a keyring, the Tamagotchi would ‘hatch’ on screen and required feeding and nurturing in order to keep it ‘alive’ and happy. It introduced a generation of children to the concept of keeping a pet without all the messy cleaning out of cages and burying of deceased gerbils at the bottom of the garden. Because of the attention it demanded it was also widely confiscated by a generation of school teachers.

Now 17 years and 80 million units on the Tamagotchi is set to be relaunched by Bandai Toys. Already predicted to be a best seller as Generation Xers revisit their childhood on their own offspring the new Tamagotchi Friends will go on sale on Boxing Day.

The latest incarnation of the toy has kept the look of the classic ’90s model but now has short range communication technology similar to the NFC feature found in smartphones. This enables Tamagotchi owners to ‘bump’ with other Tamagotchi Friends to send text messages, exchange gifts and even go on a date. ‘Bumping’ leads to more points and rewards being earned and a raised score on the best friend meter.

The new Tamagotchi also includes new characters, five games, a pause function, on-off sound and the ability to interact with a new Tamagotchi Friends website at www.tamagotchifriends.com.

Bandai Marketing Director, Darrell Jones, who worked on the original Tamagotchi launch says, “In the 90s, Tamagotchi paved the way for a digital age in toys so we are incredibly excited to be giving the hugely popular, classic toy a modern day update. The innovative features, including the new characters and the short range communication ‘bump’ feature, will entertain a whole new generation of Tamagotchi fans. We’re really looking forward to seeing Tamagotchi being welcomed into homes and playgrounds across the country, and once again becoming an important member
of everyone’s family.”

Announcing the launch of the latest Tamagotchi the Daily Mail is quick to point out that the original, “…led to pupils the world over being distracted in class as they frantically tried to keep their Tamagotchi’s alive. It was a big enough problem for teachers in some schools that the toys were banned.”

Wired wonders how much of the mechanics of the original will be carried though to the new version, “…pets back in the day could (and would) die, which resulted in news reports about sad children. You might also wake up one morning to discover your Tamagotchi had spent its waking moments producing vast quantities of dung — something that may clash with the cute aesthetic of Kiraritchi, the cute Tamagotchi Friends character who aspires to be a pop star. Will I be cleaning up her ‘downloads’? Will she contract a disease and die if I don’t? She would have with the originals, but that might stop parents spending money with the brand if they see their kids upset at the sight of a dead pop idol.”

Pocket Lint attributes the relaunch to the success of the Tamagotchi L.I.F.E. iPhone and Android app which saw some 2.5 million downloads within 90-days of its release in February this year.

If all this has you ready to shop like it’s 1997, Tamagotchi Friends are priced at £24.99 and will be available via high street retailers from 26 December or they can be pre-ordered now from Amazon and The Entertainer.

PS4 DualShock controller gets overhaul, but is it enough to challenge Xbox?

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One of the biggest names in the gaming industry, Sony’s PlayStation has routinely been one of the top consoles on the market. For owners, this has meant access to a great selection of games, incredible graphics and plenty of additional content. There was just one problem – the controller.

Although sufficient for the job, Sony always seemed to lag behind its rivals where controls were concerned. Whilst Nintendo paved the way for motion-detection technology with the wand-like remote for the Wii, Xbox found a way to better the gamepad style – something which was a bit of a sticking point for Sony … until now.

Enter the PS4 DualShock4 controller. It’s had a considerable overhaul from previous versions but is it finally enough to challenge Microsoft?

What’s changed?

Perhaps the most obvious change to the control is the touch-sensitive interface found on the front. This is designed to recognise small swipes and finger presses in the same way as an iPhone or Wii U gamepad but it also allows you to use it as a giant button, offering a clicking feature.

The rest of the controls remain much the same as they were on previous models, at least where their position and general appearance is concerned. Scratch the surface though and you find a number of small adjustments that make the world of difference to gamers.

On the analogue controls, the tops are now more or less concave. They have a recessed centre which is more nuanced than before – something intended to increase grip and keep all players happy. Comfort is heightened thanks to angled ridges at the side with the overall aim being to cushion players’ thumbs within the centre to allow easy and solid movements.

Even the heights of the analogue sticks have been lowered to help gamers move between different controls with ease while elsewhere on the controller the D pad controls have been made more pronounced with the buttons giving a sloping angle so that thumbs slot neatly towards the centre for more secure and comfortable control.

Why change?

Always striving to improve the services they offer, the new controller from Sony was developed to elevate game playing to a whole new level. Feedback influenced the decisions made by Sony heavily, helping them to develop a controller that would be comfortable and beneficial to all gamers.

This is something which Xbox themselves had success with when developing their 360 controller – using customer feedback to redevelop their D pad control to make games which require precise movements (such as fighting games) easier to play.

Sony’s decision to listen to their audience has meant that the PS4 controller has received plenty of praise already – and this spells good news for the brand.

Whether it manages to finally be considered superior to the Xbox’s offering remains to be seen but with such strong credentials already behind its name already, we’re sure that people will be rushing to game.co.uk to get their hands on the latest controllers for their new next-generation console.

 

Image courtesy of Alan Klim. This was a sponsored article.

Stay merry by avoiding the “12 Scams of Christmas”

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With office parties, present buying and general merriment – ’tis the season to be jolly. However, with all the pressures and distractions of Christmas, it’s the time of year that cyber criminals like to strike. It’s also the time when we get bombarded by announcements of minor product revisions, solely aimed at trying grab the attention of Christmas shoppers. However, while trawling through our inbox, I found an interesting press release from the folks at McAfee regarding the “12 scams of Christmas”.

Their aim is to educate the public on the most common online scams used during the festive season and, of course, to remind us that they produce software to combat this sort of thing. Last year McAfee saw mobile threats for Android go over the 900,000 mark in the lead up to Christmas, before dropping by 50% in the first few months of the year. The company believes this trend will continue this Christmas, with the amount of mobile-specific threats likely to peak to even higher numbers. In addition, the first week of December sees cyber criminals open ‘the spam floodgates’ luring online shoppers with promises of amazing deals, false delivery notifications, personalised season’s greetings cards, credit card offers and more.

So, without further ado, behold the “12 Scams of Christmas”:

  1. Not-So-Merry Mobile Apps: Official-looking software for Christmas shopping, including those that feature celebrity or company endorsements, could be malicious, designed to steal or send out your personal data.
  2. Holiday Mobile SMS Scams: A widespread piece of malicious code known as FakeInstaller, tricks Android users into thinking it is a legitimate installer for an application and then quickly takes advantage of the unrestricted access to smartphones, sending SMS messages to premium rate numbers without the user’s consent.
  3. Hot Holiday Gift Scams: Ads that offer deals on must-have items that might be too good to be true. Clever crooks will post dangerous links and phony contests on social media sites to entice viewers to reveal personal information or download malware onto their devices.
  4. Seasonal Travel Scams: Phony travel deal links and notifications are common, as are hackers waiting to steal your identity upon arrival. Around 1,000 holiday scams took place in Britain last year, costing holidaymakers more than £1.5million, according to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).
  5. Dangerous E-Cards: Legitimate-looking e-cards wishing friends “Season’s Greetings” can cause unsuspecting users to download “Merry Malware” such as a Trojan or other virus after clicking a link or opening an attachment. (Ed: Our tip is to only open cards from people you know).
  6. Deceptive Online Games: Before your kids are glued to their newly downloaded games, be wary of the games’ sources. Many sites offering full-version downloads of Grand Theft Auto, for example, are often fake and laden with malware, and integrated social media pages can expose gamers, too.
  7. Shipping Notifications Shams: Phony shipping notifications can appear to be from a mailing service alerting you to an update on your shipment, when in reality, they are scams carrying malware and other harmful software designed to infect your computer or device. With an estimated 20,000 click-and-collect points across the UK this Christmas and increasingly flexible delivery options, consumers should be on guard against cyber crooks capitalising on delivery notification.
  8. Bogus Gift Cards: An easy go-to gift for the holidays, gift cards can be promoted via deceptive ads, especially on Facebook, Twitter, or other social sites, that claim to offer exclusive deals on gift cards or packages of cards and can lead consumers to purchase phony ones online.
  9. Holiday SMiShing: During the holidays, SMiShing is commonly seen in gift card messages, where scammers pose as banks or credit card companies asking you to confirm information for “security purposes”.
  10. Fake Charities: Donating to charities is common this time of year for many looking to help the less fortunate. However, cyber criminals capitalise on this generosity, especially during natural disaster events, and set up fake charity sites and pocket the donations.
  11. Romance Scams: It can be difficult to know exactly who the person is behind the screen. Many messages sent from an online friend can include phishing scams, where the person accesses your personal information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details.
  12. Phony E-Tailers: The convenience of online shopping does not go unnoticed by cyber scrooges. With so many people planning to shop online, scammers set up phony e-commerce sites to steal your money and personal data.

McAfee have also issued some general guidance for a scam-free festive season. First up is to ensure you review mobile apps carefully before downloading. Be aware, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Purchase directly from the official retailer rather than from third parties online. Ensure that you’re doing your research before sharing personal details with an organisation you’re not familiar with. Banking and credit card companies should never ask you for personal information via text message.

If you’re lucky enough to go away this Christmas then, before travelling, make sure that all of your software is up-to-date and run a virus scan. If you’re asked for a username and password after clicking a link, try using a fake input on the first login attempt. The extra few seconds it takes to load confirms that the page is actually looking for valid username/password combinations; scam sites will let you right in.

Image courtesy of felixsanch

 

Dyson announce Airblade dB hand dryer, now 50% quieter

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Who doesn’t like dry hands? Dyson have been at the forefront of bathroom technology since the introduction of their iconic (and polarising) Airblade machines. Personally I’ve been waiting for James and co to unleash their version of Demolition Man’s “Three Seashells” but until that day (and it is coming), I’ve been making do with Dyson Airblade dB – which is now 50% quieter.

Noise has never been a real issue for me – I try to keep conversation in the toilet to a minimum and gushing blasts of hot air are a great way from keeping conversations about “the match” or “the trains’ from reaching my ears. I will also happily listen to Merzbow and Boredoms records. However, I don’t have small children with delicate ears – nor do I work in trade locations where noise is a real issue.

The engineers have redesigned the blades on the original Dyson Airblade hand dryer and altered the angle at which the air travels. Each machine already packs a Helmholtz silencer inside but this has been tweaked in order to reduce irritating frequencies – those resonating at 1500htz.

“But surely this will have an effect on quality?” No of course not – especially if you know Bettridge’s law of headlines. According to the man himself James Dyson said: “Powerful machines create noise. Others might decelerate their motor; reducing airflow – and therefore performance – to make machines they claim to be ‘quiet’. But by focusing on acoustic engineering, Dyson engineers ensured that Airblade is still the fastest hand dryer, but with reduced volume”.

Two sheets of high velocity unheated air travel through 0.4mm scallop-shaped (so close to three seashells!) apertures acting like virtual windscreen wipers, scraping hands dry. The scallop resemblance isn’t just a quirky design feature, but instead intended to increase the distance the two sheets of air travel. They’ve also tweaked the angle of the air exciting the machine so the colliding sheets make even less sound – finally dry hands and nuanced bathroom conversation are no longer mutually exclusive.

Check out more from their video here:

While the initial outlay is far from cheap, the running costs are much lower – the Dyson Airblade dB hand dryer is able to dry 18 pairs of hands for the price of a single paper towel (which struggled to dry a single pair).

The Dyson Airblade dB is out now with a recommended retail price of £699.99

Samsung’s New Smartwatch, It’s The Year Of The ‘Wearable’

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Surely the worst kept secret leading up IFA was the launch of Samsung’s smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear.  Everyone knew it was coming, but what exactly would it look like, and how many features would they pack in? Well, these questions and more have now been answered. The Gear, available in Europe from the end of this month (September 25th) is designed to work with the new Galaxy Note 3 and an update will be available later in the year make it compatible with previous versions of the Note.

The Gear is available in six colours, has a stainless steel bevelled face with a shape reminiscent of the beloved 1980s Casio and features a 1.9MP camera on the outward facing strap, which can also record video at 720p HD. All of this makes you feel rather like James Bond, being able to take relatively covert pictures with a simple swipe and tap of the screen via the device’s “Memographer feature”. It is aimed at taking quick visual memos – the sort of shots that are gone by the time you’ve taken your smartphone out of your pocket.

Another feature of the Gear’s camera was its ability to take advantage of augmented reality applications, presumably aimed to rival the Google Glass, but unfortunately this wasn’t something the company expanded on or demonstrated during the launch event. Instead they cited an example where you might take a picture of a wine bottle  and then discover more about the vineyard, grape type and price. It could also be used when abroad to help quickly translate signs, menus etc.

The Gear has a built in speakerphone which means to answer calls you just raise your wrist as if you were answering a hand held phone (or scratching your ear!). This appears to be a nice, instinctive movement, but we did wonder how well it would work if you were in the middle of a task, such as driving.  Users can also draft messages, create new calendar entries, set alarms, and check the weather, all via S Voice functionality.

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Other software features include the ability to browse, play and pause music (stored on your Galaxy devices) via the watch. The Gear also comes with Find My Device which helps users find the location of their smart devices by making them beep, illuminate and vibrate. Another application is the pedometer which uses a built-in sensor to monitor users so they can track key personal data such as calories burned, steps taken and distance covered.

Something that we don’t recall being mentioned during the company’s Unpacked Event is that in case of emergency, you can press the power button 3 times continuously and then your location information is sent to a nominated contact with a message.

galaxy-gear

In terms of technical specs, the Gear uses a 800 MHz processor with 512MB RAM and 4GB of internal memory. The display is a 1.63 inch Super AMOLED with a resolution of 320 x 320 pixels. The watch is powered by a 315mAh Li-on battery which provides up to 25 hours battery life. This revelation certainly caused quite a murmur from the packed audience.  It has also been suggested elsewhere that ‘heavy users’ of the Gear’s features may need to end up charging their watch more than once a day.

The Galaxy Gear is touted by Samsung as the first in the new market of ‘wearables’. With the launch of Sony’s Smartwatch 2 earlier in the day, it appears that we’re going to enter a period where a lot of ideas and concepts are thrown at the wall to see what sticks. Assuming that ‘wearables’ are indeed the future, the next question is whether consumers will want to wear their tech on their wrist or on their face.

5 Unusual “Back to School” Gadgets

No sooner had it began, it’s coming to a close, much to the relief of worn-out parents everywhere. Yes, the summer holidays are drawing to an end, with shops now heavily laden with essential back to school clobber. Every year school children’s possessions seem to get more and more sophisticated with the likes of iPhones, MP3 players and Hex Bugs now littering playgrounds across the country. While the more ‘obvious’ school gadgets need little introduction, there is a more unusual throng of devices that are worthy of a ‘best of’, if not only because of their inventiveness.

Take a look at five unusual back to school gadgets that your children might not necessarily thank you for:

3D Drawing Pad

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All the cool kids go and see the 3D movies and even have a 3D silver screen in their living room. Would the 3D Drawing Pad be held similar esteem? Simply draw on the pad, view the creation through the specs and watch the drawing jump out of the page. Perhaps sketch pads aren’t the hippest things in the playground but it may earn your child a few points with the art teacher.

What’s more the 3D Drawing Pad costs less than a fiver!

Rubber Band Shooter Supreme

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Technology in the classroom may have reached unprecedented new heights in recent years but the mischievous pastime of the class clowns haven’t altered a bit. Shooting rubber bands at a teacher’s bottom when her – or his – back is turned, is guaranteed to generate a room full of sniggers.

Look out teachers because the next generation of rubber band shooters is here with the arrival of the Supreme Shooter. Loop one end of the rubber band around the device’s base, grip the gripper area, aim, fire and then wait for the laughs.

This fun and highly amusing gadget can also be picked up for under a fiver.

3D Mirascope

3d-mirascope

A slightly more tantalising 3D device for children is the 3D Mirascope. This gadget creates a realistic 3D holographic image from smaller objects. Could come in handy for wet playtimes when the kids are confined to the classroom?

This unusual desk toy costs £15.98 on Amazon.

Syringe Shot Ink Pens

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Pens are always going to be needed at school even though we’re now in the digital era. So we may as well let our kids be seen with an ultra-cool pen. The Syringe Shot Ink pens contain colourful blood red, green, yellow, purple or blue liquid and looks like a syringe in an eccentric scientist’s lab. And no they don’t shoot out the liquid as the name misleadingly suggests, which is a bit of a shame.

You can buy a pack of five for £3.49 on Amazon.

Evernote Smart Notebook

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Definitely a more sophisticated unusual back to school gadget, the Evernote Smart Notebook turns anything you scribble into an instantly digitally saveable scribble. Whether it’s notes from a lesson, a sketch in an art class or doodles to relieve the boredom in an assembly, write it down, search it and share it with the world.

For approximately £16, the Evernote Smart Notebook’s got to be a popular back to school gadget.

 

Orbotix Announce Launch of Sphero 2.0

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Last year I had the privilege of playing with Sphero, a crazy little robot ball that you controlled with your smartphone or tablet. It was basically what TV promised us toys of the future would look like- alongside jetpacks and hoover boards. Sphero could roll around and flash colours and was a great way to dazzle small children and cats. Sadly spending £99 on something that replicates the functionality of a ball of wool or keys was prohibitively expensive. The makers of Sphero did create an awesome SDK that enabled programmers to expand Sphero’s potential but that required a lot of additional work on the users behalf (having to seek out other apps) and hard not to imagine quite a few Spheros gathering dust 12 months later.

Well Sphero is back and more Sphero than ever. Although Sphero looks like the same old Sphero, this is not your grandfather’s Sphero. It’s Sphero (2.0). New Sphero can reach speeds of up to 7 feet per second. Interestingly, it doest reach this speeds instantly – you have to level up as you play with the ball, which is an interesting way of bringing video game logic into the real world. It also stops you from getting bored with Sphero and hooks you in for a lot longer. The more efficient drive chain and lower center of gravity means this little guy can really zip along. And the go-faster stripes aren’t the only part of the make over – the new multicolour LEDs make Sphero 2.0 three times brighter than the Sphero of yesteryear.

Sphero also does more – literally of the box. The new Sphero comes with two ramps do you can make Eddie the Eagle Edwards proud. Worried about launching your expensive new toy at speed into the air. Sphero says “relax, I can take it”. But just in case you don’t believe Sphero you can encase Sphero in Nubby, protective all-terrain covers that provide more traction when going outdoors and calming your heart about the leaps you put the little fellow through.

One of the best things about Sphero was the wide world of software available to play around with – you’re not just scooting a ball around a cat. The new update brings this a lot more to the fore with augmented reality apps, racecourses, multiplayer games and simple programming.

Sphero 2.0 will be available worldwide starting 4th September, 2013 for £99.99. For more visit GoSphero.com

Samsung’s Smartwatch: What We (Might) Know So Far…

Samsung Smartwatch

Speculation, rumours and tech-entrenched chatter: recent leaks of Samsung’s possible smart watch patents have triggered gadget gossip on a scale last seen in late 2009 when talk of the iPad first surfaced.

But while Apple stormed the tablet race, the only evidence to suggest it’s making any ground in the wearable-tech race is the fact they’ve registered a trademark for the iWatch in Japan in June. In fact if this month’s rumour mill is anything to go by, Samsung may just clinch the win.

Granted, Sony Smart Watches, Pebble, I’m Watch and myriad sports watches have already hit the market… But with sales of only 330,000 worldwide in 2012 none have really made a big impact. And as Samsung have made serious headway in the mobile, tablet and TV markets in the past two years, they’re possibly the safest bet on who will take smart watches to the next level, too.

Official revelations are suspected to be announced at the IFA 2013 tech mecca in Berlin on September 4, but rumours first began in March when Samsung’s executive vice president Lee Young Hee revealed to Bloomberg that Samsung have “been preparing the watch product for so long.”

Developments then occurred in June when Samsung applied for U.S trademark for the Samsung Galaxy Gear, then again in late July when Indian logistics firm Zauba listed a SM-VL700WATCH on a shipment order from South Korea to Samsung’s Bangalore office. Listed with the description of “R&D purposes” its value was marked as 24,442 Indian rupees which – thanks to Revision3’s Rumour Roundup – is approximately $410, although in mass production this price tag is likely to decrease somewhat.

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Let’s hope so. If these speculative designs are anything to go by, it looks rather desirable indeed. Based on vague patent sketches revealed on Korean tech portal Moveplayer, money saving website Vouchercodespro commissioned a ‘patent and trademark insider’ to explore what the Samsung smart watch will look like.

With its flexible OLED gorilla glass screen that curves around the wrist, and the potential to personalise it with coloured strap, these concept images are certainly striking. What’s more, they answer the one concern that’s been mooted about smart watches all along… Can a potentially cumbersome smart watch design look good on the wrists of both male and female gadget freaks?

The Philippine Star states that the U.S trademark application described the device to be “capable of providing access to the internet, sending and receiving phone calls, electronic mails and messages and keeping track of personal information”. And if the name Galaxy Gear is anything to go by (also mooted to be called Altius in the earlier Bloomberg report) the Android-based operating system will be based on the existing system used in Samsung’s successful Galaxy Note tablets.

Roll on IFA 2013 to find out how much of the speculation is can truly be verified, but one thing is for sure… Smart watches are about to explode onto the market. Tech analysts Canalys predict a 900 per cent rise in forecasted smart watch shipments in 2014 taking smart watch sales up to 5million units globally. Will Samsung take the market share? Time will tell. Expect plenty more speculation, rumours and tech-entrenched chatter in the meantime…