CES 2015: Trying to Crash a BMW? Think Again!

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High above the Las Vegas Strip, BMW’s CES setup looks innocent enough: a pair of small i3s and a smattering of various other BMW models parked off in the distance of a parking garage rooftop. In reality, the company was about to freak me out.

First, I got a glimpse of a collision avoidance system using an array of fairly well-concealed external sensors on one of the i3s. BMW set up a bunch of big, soft blocks dressed to look like walls and other hazards — it was a little Super Mario-esque, come to think of it — and told me to punch the gas in their direction.

That’s a tough command to process, and it took me a second to work up the courage. Tentatively, I approached the first couple of blocks in the car; I got so close that I was sure I’d touch them, but at the last moment, I heard a soft “beep” and felt a moderate application of the brakes that stopped me with probably no more than an inch to spare (BMW is quick to note that the sensors they’re using are next-gen and very accurate — these aren’t the ultrasonic parking sensors you see on today’s bumpers).

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The system works in reverse, too, and on the sides — I tried turning too sharply at a corner in such a way that a normal car would’ve taken a huge, expensive gash across the doors. This i3, though, with its enhanced instincts of self-preservation, slowed to a halt before it could take any damage. The system is designed to still permit you to park in a tight spot without getting in the way; I tried parallel parking with no issue.

Next, I tried the company’s automatic valet system in another i3, which uses basically the same set of high-definition sensors to map the environment around the car. We’ve seen a variety of self-parking systems from automakers at CES over the years, but this one seemed to be the most polished: it doesn’t require any special equipment or beacons in the parking garage, it’ll just autonomously find a spot to park without anyone in the vehicle. It’s initiated using an app that BMW has designed for Samsung’s Gear S smartwatch, where you can see the status of your car (charge level, for instance) and tap a command to go park. Slowly — like, really slowly, 5 mph or so — the i3 lurched forward on its own, seeking out an open space. It rounded a corner where the other BMWs were parked, found a slot next to an M4 convertible, and eased its way in.

The app can summon the car, too. I rode alone in the passenger seat for this leg of the journey, which was really eerie — there are no words to describe the feeling of sitting by yourself in a car that’s slowly moving and turning on its own. You can tell it’s designed to be super careful: it moves no faster than brisk walking pace and has the same anti-collision sensors I’d just experienced in another heart-pounding demo. Still, you’re at the mercy of a computer, which is hard to get over.

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I returned to the anti-collision demo one last time, where BMW staff encouraged me to be way more aggressive. So I was: I drove the i3 like I’d stolen it, but I couldn’t get it to hit anything no matter how hard I tried. Any steering angle, any gas pedal input, the car just didn’t care. It’s an additional margin of safety that I’m guessing will eliminate a lot of expensive fender benders in a few years.

Both of these systems are basically branches of the same R&D effort happening inside the company — autonomous driving, which BMW still believes is a few years away. The sensors required for this level of accuracy still need to get smaller and easier to integrate into the car’s bodywork. It’s encouraging, though: if a car is tuned into its environment well enough to consistently stop a driver from bumping into things, it can probably stop itself when there’s no one in the driver’s seat.

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CES 2015: Sony Unveils Stainless Steel SmartWatch 3, new 128GB Hi-Res Walkman and new UHD TVs!

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When Sony announced the SmartWatch 3, it kept its typical smartwatch design language but ditched its own OS in favor of the Android Wear platform. Of course not everyone was keen on Sony’s design language for the watch, and so it looks like Sony is hoping to appeal to even more users by introducing a new variant of the SW3 that offers a stainless steel chassis.

Beyond the change up of chassis, the watch is pretty much identical to the original model packing integrated GPS, a Snapdragon processor and so forth. It is worth noting, however, that the IP rating has dropped here from 58 to IP68, meaning it’s not quite as water resistant as before. The only other real change is support for changing out watch bands, something the original SW3 model lacked.

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If you already bought a Smartwatch 3 and are sore about not having the ability to change out your band, you might be cheered up a bit to know that Sony will introduce a replacement shell that lets you connect any 24 mm strap that you want. Of course to get this ability you’ll have to pay for the adopter, officially called the Smartwatch 3 holder.

Sony intends to launch the steel SmartWatch 3 sometime in February with the Smartwatch 3 Holder coming sometime after that. No pricing or exact release date has been revealed, though we’ll be sure to update you as soon as we know more.

Turning to the SmartBand SWR10, we’re looking at design changes an nothing more, and not for the standard model, either. Instead, Sony has developed a limited edition model in collaboration women’s fashion brand ROXY. The cobalt blue wristband also has a curvy shape, unlike the original it is based on.

Sony’s new 128GB Hi-Res Walkman offers excellent audio, for a price

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CES 2015 is well underway, at least the press releases are, with all the major players introducing great new products all day. Sony has a great selection of new and updated gear to be proud of, and on the personal audio front they have introduced a new 128GB Walkman Hi-Res Digital Music Player NW-ZX2.

The new Walkman is an Android powered device with a 4-inch TRILUMINOS touchscreen, WiFi, Bluetooth and NFC. That 128GB or internal storage is matched by a microSD expansion slot and battery life is projected at 60 hours while playing MP3 titles, down to 33 hours when playing Hi-res audio.

Audio support is an exhaustive list, including the most popular audio formats that are not protected by copyright. MP3 support runs the gamut of the audio type, with this 60 hours of battery expected with MP3 files at 128kbps. Hi-Res audio includes FLAC, Apple Lossless and AIFF running at up to 192Khz at 24bit.

In addition to the list of supported file types, Sony has highlighted a list of key features, including the S-Master HX digital amplifier, DSEE HX (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine), ClearAudio+, Clear Bass, VPT, an equalizer and more. You are also open to install your favorite media player from the Google Play Store as well, thanks to it running Android as an OS.

By all accounts, Sony has a killer audiophile device here, but you aren’t going to buy the NW-SX2. Your favorite audiophile is probably not going to buy this unit either. Why, you ask? Let me explain.

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In the world of Android, most devices strive to launch or update to the latest release of the OS. While this is usually pretty important for your phone or tablet, Sony has a different perspective when it comes to this Walkman NW-SX2, as the unit will ship with Android 4.2 Jellybean.

OK, Android Jellybean is something you may shake your head at and overlook, it isn’t a phone after all. I figured you might say that, so I saved my best argument for last. You and most people out there are not going to purchase the Sony Walkman NW-SX2 because of its price tag. Take a guess. Nope, higher. Higher. That’s right, the ‘best’ personal audio device that Sony has to offer will run you $1200.

Oh, and it does not come with headphones, you’ll need to buy those separately. Head on over to the Sony website for more details.

Android 5.0 Lollipop set to roll out to Sony Xperia Z3 next month

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We already new that Sony would be bringing Android 5.0 Lollipop to the “core” Xperia Z2 and Z3 lines in early 2015, with the first whispers of this time frame surfacing in October with Sony finally confirming the news in December. Up until now, the Japanese smartphone maker hasn’t been too specific on exactly when the Lollipop rollout will happen. Sony still hasn’t given us an exact date, but they have revealed the update will begin rolling out to the Xperia Z3 next month.

It’s unclear how much longer it will take for the update to reach other members of the Z3 and Z2 family, though it’s still nice to hear that Sony is committed to bringing Lollipop sooner rather than later. We’ll be sure to update you as soon as we learn more specifics of their plans.

All of Sony’s new smart TVs run on Android TV

CEO Kaz Hirai just announced that the company’s new smart TVs will run on Google’s new platform for television, Android TV. The remote control for the TV is essentially a giant trackpad, so that you can navigate the Android TV interface more easily. The remote also comes with a microphone, to make searching easier. Because they run Android, they’ll also all support Google Cast, so it will be easier to fling content from your phone to the TV.

It’s not the first time that Sony has bet on Google to help with its living room bets, but we all know what happened to Google TV in years past (it failed). Android TV, however, has a much better chance of success, if only because it’s less ambitious and therefore has fewer ways to fail. Basically, it does the things you expect from a smart TV and does them better and with a nicer interface than most smart TVs, so it’s an easy win. Theoretically, at least, because we’re not going to say the curse of Google’s living room failures have lifted until we’ve tried it.

The biggest hurdle, for now, still seems to be reliable 4K delivery. From the looks of things, Sony has decided against other options like curved displays or next-generation technology like Quantum Dot, too. Instead, it has put its full force into a pretty deep line of 4K sets that can fit in a small bedroom or look good in a home theater setup.

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SONY BETS ON GOOGLE, AGAIN

Sony is announcing no fewer than 11 Bravia LCD TVs from 43 up to 75 inches, including some that are only 4.9mm thick at its thinnest point. That’s .2 inches, if you’re imperial, but no matter what system you use it’s thin, as you can see in the image below. We’re still not completely sold on the necessity of pushing (squeezing?) televisions in this direction, but you can’t deny that it’s a technical achievement.

Sony is powering its smart TVs with its own processor, called the “4K Processors X1.” Rather than explain why every product name has to have either an X or a 1 in it, Sony touted its ability to improve the color accuracy on its “Triluminos” display.

Models should become available in the Spring.

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CES 2015: LG Announces the G Flex 2, a Smaller and Curvier Beast!

LG brought out what will certainly be one of the most innovative products at this year’s CES, the curvedLG G Flex2. It’s more compact and more powerful than its predecessor, more curved and heals faster.

Starting off with the display, LG’s homemade P-OLED tech has improved over the last year and the new screen has 1080p resolution (up from just 720p). Meanwhile the screen diagonal has shrunken a bit to the more manageable 5.5″ (down from 6″).

LG G Flex2: all the new features

The screen is protected by an LG-developed glass cover that is said to be 20% more durable than Gorilla Glass 3. The back has a special self-healing coating – LG marked a massive improvement by cutting the heal time from 3 minutes to just 10 seconds at room temperature.

The body is a combination of multiple curves ranging from 400mm to 700mm radius. The screen is curved to a 700mm radius, which makes for an “immersive” experience (says LG) and brings the mic closer to your mouth. The back is curved to 650mm so it’s easier to handle and fit in the pocket.

Anyway, the LG G Flex2 will be the most powerful device for a while – it will be the first to bring Snapdragon 810 in consumer hands and it only renders at 1080p (no QHD screen here). The phone will launch with Android 5.0 Lollipop and 2GB of RAM. For storage there’s 16GB or 32GB, plus a microSD card.

The camera has carried over improvements from the LG G3, including OIS+ and Laser Auto Focus. The camera itself is a 13MP shooter with dual-LED flash, a 2.1MP camera is on the front. Gesture shot makes selfies easier by recognizing a hand-gesture from 1.5m away. Gesture view will easily preview the selfie once captured.

The connectivity enjoys up to 300Mbps downloads over 4G LTE, but has 3G too (42Mbps). Locally Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.1 with Apt-X handle wireless connectivity. There’s a microUSB 2.0 port with SlimPort for TV out and FastCharge to quickly fill the 3,000mAh battery.

The LG G Flex2 will come in Platinum Silver and Flamenco Red, first in South Korea at the end of the month followed by other regions.

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Samsung Galaxy S6 appears on KNOX video?

Samsung Galaxy S6 appears on KNOX video?Last month, we showed you what was allegedly a photograph of the Samsung Galaxy S6 in working condition. Now, one of our eagle-eyed readers has spotted what appears to be the same device on a video posted by Samsung Electronics’ official blog. The video describes how to set-up the My KNOX app, found in the Google Play Store, on your Samsung handset.

We can’t say for sure that this is Sammy’s next flagship, but we can point out the thin bezels on the device. It also would appear that this model does employ some metal in its build. We’ve seen rumors about a “half-metal” version of Samsung’s next flagship. There is also speculation about a version of the Galaxy S6 featuring a dual-edged curved display.


Earlier this morning, we passed along the latest rumor which has Samsung displaying several variants of the phone at CES, but only to certain partners. As usual when dealing with popular flagship phones, the mystery and the drama remains high until the unit is officially unveiled. With that in mind, it’s back to the salt mines and as soon as we hear something new, we will pass it along to you.

What to Expect from CES 2015 Next Week: Smart Appliances, Smart Cars, Drones and much more Weird Stuff!

The next Consumer Electronics Show is right around the corner. We will provide you with in-depth news and videos on the latest tech from the show floor. But since we’re already super excited about the show, we thought we would give you our top 15 predictions for what you can expect to see at CES 2015.

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New Oculus Rift headset will be revealed: It seems like Oculus revealed its new Crescent Bay prototype just yesterday, but by the time CES 2015 rolls around, it will be six months old. Crazy how time flies. Since then, the company has acquired camera/hand-tracking company Nimble VR. While the acquisition was recently made, Oculus told us at last year’s CES that the company was working on technology that would allow you to see your hands in-game. Could the new prototype finally offer this capability?

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More VR peripherals: Speaking of Oculus Rift, expect copycat VR headsets at the show. In addition, expect more VR controllers. Everybody’s trying to find the best solution to allow you to control VR, so expect to see many wacky endeavors in that space.

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The Internet of Things things: As much as we hate the term “The Internet of Things,” you can expect to see smarter appliances like microwaves, fridges, and more that are hooked up to the web.

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Smarter cars: A lot of people seem to gloss over the fact that cars are a big part of CES. As a matter of fact, they usually take up an entire hall of the convention center. While you shouldn’t expect driver-less cars for sale anytime soon, you can expect to see a more robust system of driver-assisted cars with online integration.

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Wearables: Last year, we saw a slew of wearable devices. As a result, many people thought 2014 was going to be “the year of the wearable.” That hasn’t exactly panned out, but we’ll probably see a maturation of many of those products this year. One added benefit of wearables is that they allow you to closely track your fitness. As a result, you can expect many of these devices to cater to the health sector.

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No Steam Machines: Last year, Valve debuted its Steam Machines at CES 2014. If you’re thinking Valve will be there again this year, you’re likely mistaken. Valve told us that it won’t have a presence at this year’s CES. Luckily, the company did tell us that it is “planning to be at GDC in a big way.” The company also added that this announcement will pertain to the Steam Machines. GDC 2015 happens March 2–6 , so you won’t have to wait too long after CES to hear more from Valve.

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Beyond 4K: Dell initially revealed its 5K monitor to us back in September, and Apple has since released its 5K iMac. With that in mind, expect more 5K (and higher) displays at the show.

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More sophisticated 3D Printers: With each passing year, 3D printers are picking up steam. Expect a new wave of 3D printers to take advantage of the burgeoning market. We could see faster printers, printers with integrated scanners, or printers that can print using a wider variety of materials.mpc_build.jpg

Faster components: This one’s a given, but you should expect to see faster computers, parts, processors, and everything else at CES. Intel and Nvidia will be on the show floor, so it wouldn’t be a big leap to suppose both companies will be showing off new products.

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New chassis/PCs: Pretty much all of the desktop vendors are going to be there, and that means you should expect to see some new computer designs/cases. Small form factor PCs were pretty big last year, and you should expect to see more of those, along with perhaps a few quirky surprises.

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Lack of Microsoft: We asked Microsoft if it will have a presence at this year’s CES, but the company said that it wouldn’t. If you’re looking to hear more about Windows 10, however, you won’t have to wait too long, considering Microsoft is planning its own Windows 10 event January 21.

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More PC peripherals: Expect more variations on mechanical keyboards, gaming mice, and headsets to be on display at the show. RGB devices will be big this year, but hopefully, we’ll see new, interesting devices like Roccat’s wireless Sova mechancial gaming keyboard.

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Drones: Drones are the new hotness. You can thank Amazon’s Prime Air faux advertisement for that. Whether or not these drones actually take off (pardon the pun), expect to see a new wave of remote-controlled drones at this year’s CES. Let’s just hope no packages fall on people’s heads.

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More media streaming devices: We all know media streaming boxes aren’t new, but with physical media reaching a point of near obsolescence, you should expect to see more of these devices. Hopefully, they’ll be able to stream more than just Netflix movies.

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Weird stuff: The truth is, CES tends to showcase the good along with the ridiculous. A lot of quirky products like Razer’s Project Christine, for instance, never actually see the light of day. Expect to see a bunch of other wacky doodads that will either go nowhere or simply find a small niche.

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