Motorola plans to upgrade its gray matter in 2012

Motorola has made the claim that it will bring upgraded cell phone smarts to its upcoming line of handsets. Billed as “Smart Actions”, this feature is designed to help smartphone beginners remove complexity from their devices.

For example you’ll be able to tell a phone to automatically turn the ringer down at work, or up its volume after multiple missed calls. As Motorola Senior VP Alain Mutricy reportedly told a group of gathered press, tackling these functions is certainly possible through menus and
Android settings wizards but he said, “You need to be a geek to do that”.

Well I’m not sure if I buy the logic behind this notion. I do admit that one of the major detractors to Android, besides fragmentation and a myriad number of manufacturer-made skins, is sometimes it can feel plain clunky. Champions of iOS are always annoyingly quick to point this out. Smart Actions is not exactly new either and was on the original Droid Razr.

Even so, I’m used to the way Android works and often am thrown for a loop when I pick up an
iPhone or Windows Mango phone–just for a few moments though to be honest. Perhaps this new initiative to bring Smart Actions to all Moto phones is a result of Google buying Motorola Mobility last year, and the software giant can’t help adding its love of advanced engineering into the mix. Or maybe this is just another way phone makers hope to differentiate their designs from competitors–MotoBlur reborn!

If so, it’s not the first time this approach has been taken. Remember HTC and the way it touted all the ways it tried to make Android and even old Windows Mobile devices more intuitive–placing the phone on its face to fire up the speakerphone during calls and all that? I’m not sure how useful this was or how handy Smart Actions will prove to users.

I do know these functions are also planned for the new Droid Razr Maxx. Check back soon for a full review.

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Lego Minecraft fuses best of both worlds

A fan-made Lego Minecraft creation.

(Credit:
Michael Thomas)

As a child, I played with Lego sets incessantly, and as an adult, I have built many creations in the game Minecraft. Fans of both will be pleased to know that Lego has confirmed an official Minecraft collection.

(Credit:
Michael Thomas)

Details are scarce at this time, but this all came together after Minecraft founder Notch posted the idea on Cuusoo, a site officially created by Lego that allows fans to vote on brick-based concepts (similar to Kickstarter). If a proposition gets 10,000 votes, then “a Lego Jury evaluates the idea’s feasibility as a product and makes a decision.”

Last month, Lego Minecraft eclipsed 10,000 votes in 48 hours, and Lego’s decision makers finally confirmed the development today.

After a month and a half of internal discussion, the Cuusoo site confirmed that the brick maker is working on “a concept that celebrates the best aspects of building with the Lego system and in Minecraft and we can’t wait to show it to you.”

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Zero emissions from liquid air

Dearman Engine Company

The Dearman Engine Company is developing an engine that uses liquid air as fuel.

(Credit:
Dearman Engine Company)

The Dearman Engine Company is developing an engine that runs on what most people would not think of as fuel, liquid air.

Call it a new kind of cold fusion. The pistons get pushed by the pressure of rapidly expanding air in the cylinder. Liquid air is stored at -256 degrees Fahrenheit. The engine pumps liquid air into the cylinder along with what Dearman calls a heat exchange fluid. The liquid air very quickly changes to a gaseous state as it reaches ambient temperature, expanding at the same time.

When the exhaust valves open, the only emission is air.

Using a temperature difference to power the engine is a workable concept, but is it practical? The Dearman Web site points out that, unlike hydrogen or new battery technology, its engine relies on existing infrastructure and no exotic materials.

The liquid air is not so much a fuel as an energy carrier. It would have to be cooled to a liquid state, which would require energy from an existing source, then put into an insulated tank. Unlike batteries, it should take only minutes to refill a tank with liquid air. And unlike hydrogen, liquid air is stored at normal atmospheric pressure.

However, even in an insulated tank, liquid air is likely to slowly evaporate, just as liquid hydrogen does over time. That would mean a
car‘s tank would lose fuel if it is parked for a long time.

The Dearman engine is currently undergoing independent testing by Ricardo Engineering to assess its feasibility.

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What to expect out of HTC at Mobile World Congress

HTC should have at least four Android devices on tap for Mobile World Congress.

(Credit:
HTCSource.com)

HTC has begun sending out press invitations to a February 26 event that takes place on the literal eve of Mobile World Congress.

After essentially skipping out on Las Vegas and
CES altogether, we should be in for a real treat next month. Details for at least three
Android handsets and one
tablet have already emerged with perhaps more on the horizon.

You may recall, HTC had six devices on the agenda for the show last year including the Flyer tablet. Judging by the early rumors, the company may not reach that number for the 2012 event, but it is ready to push the boundaries a little further with the new Android smartphones. Let’s have a look at what might be in store for HTC when it shows up at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

HTC Edge
The HTC Edge was the first of the rumored devices to surface, first breaking cover back in early November. Widely expected to be HTC’s first quad-core superphone, the Edge also should feature a 4.7-inch display (720p HD resolution), an 8-megapixel camera, 1GB RAM, and 21Mbps HSDPA connectivity. Measuring roughly 0.4 inch thick, the phone is said to run both Android 4.0 as well as HTC Sense 4.0 UI.

HTC Ville
Landing online just days after the Edge, the HTC Ville also would count as one of the leading Android smartphones when it arrives this spring. Powered by a dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 processor and running 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the Ville is rumored to have a 4.3-inch qHD display, an 8-megapixel camera (1080p HD video capture), a 1,650mAh battery, and HSPA+ connectivity.

HTC Primo
This third unannounced model just landed on our radar in the past few days and looks to be a midrange handset. Details include a 3.7-inch Super AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass, a 1GHz dual-core processor, 512MB of RAM, and a 5-megapixel rear-camera with an f/2.0 lens capable of recording both 720p video and still images at the same time. Does anyone else find it odd that these are the types of specifications that constitute a midrange device?

HTC Quattro
As if the name wasn’t a dead giveaway, the HTC Quattro tablet should offer consumers a quad-core experience. Like its predecessors, this handset should have a 10.1-inch display, but that’s where the similarities end. Powered by a Tegra 3 processor and coupled with 1GB RAM, the Quattro could be among the first tablets to launch with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Additional details include 16GB storage, Bluetooth 4.0, a 2-megapixel rear camera, a 720p-capable 1.3-megapixel camera, and support for the Scribe digital stylus.

If history is any indicator, we won’t see these devices tied to specific carriers at the show in Barcelona. The following days and weeks, though, may see various wireless providers around the world offer up release details and pricing. As far as U.S. operators are concerned, it may be May and the annual CTIA show before we learn which devices will come stateside in similar HSPA or 4G LTE flavors. The Ville, for instance, has already been tied to T-Mobile.

Given that at least one of these is expected to run a new 4.0 version of Sense UI, I look for HTC to spend some time outlining new features. Early information tells us that HTC should build on its previous custom experience with at least one new option, HTC Family. Word on the street is that the feature allows for an easy way for families to communicate and includes geo-location tools for staying connected. And last but not least, look for Beats Audio technology to be a part of the devices whether internally or via some fancy headphones.

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BMW to use touch-sensitive smart fabric in cars

BMW GINA Light Visionary Model.

BMW GINA Light Visionary Model.

(Credit:
BMW)

As
car makers look for ways to replace unsightly buttons or add more controls without crowding the center stack, researchers are turning to smart fabric.

The driver’s seat has always been synonymous with total control, and that could become even more true as manufacturers begin embedding controls into its fabric. Researchers at the Polytechnic School in Montreal, Canada, have developed a soft polymer-based fiber with electrical properties that can be woven into fabric, according to an article in New Scientist.

Smart fabrics are becoming more mainstream, and touch sensitive fabric isn’t new. But creating a durable fabric that can control a range of functions and differentiate tactile motions is a breakthrough technology developed by professor¬† Maksim Skorobogatiy and his team of researchers at the university. The electrical properties change depending on where the fabric is touched, and finger touches or slides on different areas can be programmed to control air-conditioning or change the volume of the stereo, explained Skorobogatiy in the article.

More car manufacturers are turning to touch-screen interfaces for their streamlined look, and they could use the smart fabric to simplify infotainment systems and declutter the center stack. It’s only a matter of time until consumers start seeing this technology in vehicles, and according to New Scientist, BMW has plans to install touch-sensitive fabric in future models. Other sources report that the researchers have also piqued the interest of GM and Bombardier.

Of course, parents juggling sippy cups or drivers who dine behind the wheel will tell you that this is probably a bad idea. But rather than use metal wires, the smart fibers use woven conductive plastic, which makes material similar to Teflon.

Source: New Scientist

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Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock coming soon to PS3, Vita

(Credit:
BBC)

The clock is ticking for Doctor Who landing on the
PlayStation 3. Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock is coming soon, featuring timey-wimey gaming thrills pitting you against the Daleks, Cybermen, and Silurians.

In the game, you take control of both the Doctor and companion River Song, voiced by Matt Smith and Alex Kingston, to unravel the mystery of The Eternity Clock. Players sneak, run, swing, and jump across rooftops and fog-shrouded London streets, heading “into the belly of the beast” to defeat the nefarious plans of the new-look Cybermen, Daleks, and Silurians, as well as the Silence. Er… what were the Silence supposed to be again?

Read more of “Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock coming soon to the PS3 and Vita,” and watch the game trailer, at Crave UK.

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