Link to TechCrunch » Gadgets

Secret Windows 8 Weapon: Kinect Built Into Your Laptop

Posted: 27 Jan 2012 02:39 PM PST


The Windows release of Kinect is coming up in a couple days, but for most people that won’t be a major event: the Kinect they have is sitting on their TV or in a drawer, waiting to be taken out for an impromptu Dance Central 2 party. Of the 10 million Kinects out there, the only ones connected to computers are the ones being fiddled with by the various hackers and students making science projects out the things.

But according to the Daily, Microsoft is hoping to remedy this particular situation by building Kinect sensors right into your laptops. TechCrunch alum Matt Hickey got to handle a pair of prototypes, which were confirmed to be official, not just one of the many experiments that hide within Microsoft’s various lairs.

Unfortunately the laptops were not ready for their debut and no pictures seem to have been permitted. But they are described as netbook-like, with a number of smaller sensors instead of a webcam, and what could be an IR LED at the bottom of the screen.

The inclusion of depth-sensing cameras on a laptop is an interesting idea, and if they can drive the price of the sensor array down, it might become a standard feature. Microsoft has clearly also been focusing on miniaturizing the Kinect hardware, as the bulky original would seem somewhat out of place on a petite netbook. Whether this smaller sensor set has the same capabilities as the larger isn’t clear and wasn’t discussed.

A smaller Kinect would also suggest that Microsoft’s next console, rumored to have Kinect built in, is nearing readiness. While many gaming industry insiders have discounted the idea that the next generation of consoles will be announced this year, the rumor mill says otherwise.

Android Smartphone Round-Up: December/January Edition

Posted: 27 Jan 2012 12:04 PM PST


We took a break from the Android round-up in December because, well, to be honest I was on vacation. But January gave us a few extra smartphones and the holidays are over, so we’re back. What we’ve got for you today leans into more expensive turf, and unfortunately, our favorite Android devices for the past two months are also exclusively at Verizon, so Big Red subscribers should pay attention.

Without further ado, these are our favorite December/January releases of the Android persuasion: The Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the LG Spectrum, and the Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx.


Samsung Galaxy Nexus


  • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Verizon 4G LTE support
  • 4.65-inch 1280×720 Super AMOLED display
  • 5MP rear camera (1080 video capture), 1.3MP front-facing camera (720p video capture)
  • 1.2GHz dual-core processor
  • MSRP: $299.99 with a two-year contract


  • Ice Cream Sandwich is a solid step up from Gingerbread
  • That 720p display is huge and beautiful
  • Google Hangouts


  • The phone might be a bit too big for one-handed actions
  • Feels a bit plastic-y
  • No pre-loaded Google wallet, but you can download it

If you’re looking for Android, the Galaxy Nexus is where you’ll find it. Ice Cream Sandwich is a joy compared to Gingerbread, and this coming from someone who is quite hard on Android. Of course, the screen on this bad boy is amazing, but as MG points out in his review, sometimes the phone is just too big to perform one-handed actions.

We also expected image quality to be better out of that 5-megapixel rear camera, but it simply can’t compete with the iPhone’s 8-megapixel shooter. (And no, I’m not saying that based on megapixels… Image quality is simply better with the 4S.) But that doesn’t really matter — an Android fan is an Android fan, and this is as good as Android gets.

LG Spectrum


  • Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread
  • Verizon 4G LTE support
  • 4.5-inch True HD 1280×720 Display
  • 8MP rear camera (1080p video capture), 1.3MP front-facing camera
  • 1.5GHz dual-core processor
  • MSRP: $199.99 with a two-year contract


  • Beautiful display
  • Pre-loaded ESPN Sports Center app in HD
  • LG Y is actually a nice custom overlay


  • Not a fan of that brushed plastic back panel
  • The silver bezels don’t handle prints well

I was hard on this phone when I first played around with it, and I still maintain that there’s nothing super special about the Spectrum. It’s not like the Rezound with Beats Audio imtegration or the Razr with its anorexic waist line. That said, you really won’t find these kind of specs on an Android phone for just $200. In fact, I’d be so bold as to call it a steal.

I’m also pretty excited about that display. I have yet to put a Super AMOLED Plus up against this 720p True HD display, but I’d say it’s one of the most (if not, the most) stunning displays I saw at CES. Certainly worth consideration, especially if you are a fan of LG phones to begin with.

Motorola Droid Razr Maxx


  • Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread
  • Verizon 4G LTE support
  • 4.3-inch Super AMOLED advanced 960×540 display
  • 8MP rear camera (1080p video capture), 1.3MP front-facing camera (720p video capture)
  • 1.2GHz dual-core processor
  • MSRP: $299.99 with a two-year contract


  • 3300 mAH battery is a big improvement from the Razr
  • Less of a “Moto bump” along the back
  • Bump in storage from 16GB to 32GB


  • 1.89mm thicker than its predecessor
  • UI can slow things down a tad

The Droid Razr Maxx is a very special phone. It kills the few things that were wrong with the original Razr — which is an excellent device, mind you — and then doubles the storage, to boot. I was originally bothered with how light the Razr was. It made premium materials feel cheap, but the extra heft and weight on the Razr Maxx really gives this phone a pricey, solid feel.

A Droid Razr update for Android 4.0 leaked out this week, so if you’re comfortable with tinkering than that’s an extra benefit to the Maxx. We’ll have a full review on this phone up very shortly, but from the short time I’ve spent with it thus far I’d say it has the superior hardware in this particular bunch of Android handsets.

It’ll all come down to what matters most to you. If that giant 720p screen excites you, go Galaxy Nexus all the way. The Spectrum, on the other hand, offers up some pretty killer specs at a much more reasonable price, while the Droid Razr Maxx wins in the hardware/design department.

Jon Rubinstein Leaves HP After “Fulfilling Commitment”

Posted: 27 Jan 2012 10:06 AM PST


HP’s had quite a 2011 and Jon Rubinstein, former Palm CEO and a top-level executive at HP after the giant acquired Palm in 2010, was along for the ride. But according to a report out of AllThingsD, Rubinstein has officially left the company.

Here’s the official quote out of HP:

Jon has fulfilled his commitment to HP. We wish him well.

Rubinstein was under contract with HP to complete a 12-24 month commitment post-acquisition. The report claims that Rubinstein doesn’t have any plans so far, but has said that he is “going to take a well deserved break after four and a half years of developing webOS."

On December 9, 2011, HP CEO Meg Whitman announced that webOS, Rubinstein’s main project, would be open sourced after the company killed webOS smartphones and tablets back in August.

A Really Nice Flying Ornithopter Video For Your Friday Enjoyment

Posted: 27 Jan 2012 09:00 AM PST

These things are pretty old but sometimes it’s nice to see two dudes really happy about a piece of technology that really works. This ornithopter is made by the guys at FlappingFlight and comes in multiple models including the Park Hawk with “instant glide” feature that allows you to stop flapping and swoop around like a bird of prey at the touch of a button.

At $300 they’re not extremely expensive and they’re a nice change from the smoky sturm und drang of traditional RC fliers.

Product Page via Reddit

Mujjo Conductive Gloves Let You Slide To Unlock With Your Begloved Knuckle

Posted: 27 Jan 2012 08:34 AM PST

Screen Shot 2012-01-27 at 11.31.12 AM

We get a lot of PR pitches (“Write about our social media network for fish lovers! If you don’t, we’ll take our exclusive to,” “We’ll give you a private jet if you write good things about Apple – Sincerely, Tim Cook,” “Take a look at these iPhone gloves!”) and there are few I’ve dreaded more than writing about the aforementioned iPhone gloves mostly because the founders kept emailing me about these damned gloves. These things come from a Dutch company called Mujjo and they purport to allow you to interact with your iPhone with any part of your hand, including your wrist, knuckle, and palm. The founders must have used them to punch out emails on the icy Hague metro every day of the past month because they were pretty darn persistent.

The question when dealing with these sorts of pitches, really, is two-fold: a) does the product advertised work? and b) will I write about the product after being literally hounded for three weeks by these guys? In answer to both, I would respond with a resounding (literally) “Yes.” They work and yeah, what the heck, Mujjo, people like gloves, right? Also a post will get Mujjo to stop emailing me.

I tried these during a few colder Brooklyn afternoons and, like most gloves, they kept my hands warm. Unlike most gloves, I could use them to tap my iPhone screen. Could they be used to tap your iPhone screen with your knuckle? Sure. They’re full of conductive thread so smack away. Is that a major selling point? Not really, but if you’re paying $30 (25 Euro) for touchscreen gloves, these things better let you touch the very heavens with your triquetrum so this is an acceptable middle-of-the-road solution. So there you have it: gloves that are good as gloves and iPhone interaction tools. A double whammy.

If you’re still with me, let’s discuss the takeaways here:

1. These gloves work well.
2. If you email us enough we will eventually cave.
3. Don’t try that technique with every stupid thing you’re trying to pitch because if the product is absolutely stupid no amount of badgering will win our hearts.

Product Page

Report: Nintendo Considering Changing The Wii U’s Name

Posted: 27 Jan 2012 07:05 AM PST


The Wii U brand is a bit underwhelming. At best it builds upon a very successive product. But at worst the name suggests its simply an add-on rather than a completely revamped system. A new report just surfaced that sources a Nintendo insider stating the company is considering renaming the next-gen Wii.

Nintendo is quickly spiraling down. The Wii U — or whatever it’s to be called — needs to be a hit. Nintendo cannot misplace another piece in Tetris.

CVG is reporting that following the 3DS disaster the 100-year old gaming company might change its Wii U strategy prior to E3 in June. The 3DS name is essentially the same naming convention as Wii U — a play on the name of the predecessor. However, consumers have seemingly been put-off by the name causing Nintendo to spend more marketing on the 3DS’ name rather than the 3DS’ features.

That can’t happen with the Wii U. Nintendo experienced a net loss of $630 million between April and December of 2011. It needs the Wii U to be an instant hit. The console is set for a 2012 release. Nintendo just needs to decide if it needs a name change (it does).

The HP TouchPad Rides Back Into Town On Woot’s Back

Posted: 27 Jan 2012 05:44 AM PST


Somewhere, someone out there is curled in a corner, sobbing because they missed out on the last HP TouchPad sale. Ebay messed up, he says. It wasn’t his fault. He clicked the button but Ebay’s servers crashed. So now he’s alone. Left to sulk in his missed opportunities.

But fear not, friend! I bring you great news from the land of the Internet! Woot finagled another batch of TouchPad tablets! They’re refurbs and priced higher than before, but they’re TouchPads! But you better act quick! Don’t let another chance to own a failed tablet slip between your fingers!

As of this post’s writing Woot has both models listed but the 16GB is already sold out. That leaves just the 32GB available. And at $219 it’s still a fine deal for a 9.7-inch dual-core 32GB tablet that can run Android. Of course only fanboys should apply. A general consumer would likely get more enjoyment out of a Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet. But perhaps you’re a starving coder, betting your future on webOS now that its going open-source — by all means, buy the TouchPad and lets never talk about it again.

NEC Forecasts $1.3 Billion Loss, Ready To Cut 10,000 Jobs Worldwide

Posted: 27 Jan 2012 05:39 AM PST

Image (1) nec_logo_blue_large.jpg for post 218717

Bad news from Japanese tech powerhouse NEC: the company yesterday announced [PDF] a net loss of $1.13 billion in the three months through December 2011, compared with a net loss of “just” $350 million in the same time frame last fiscal. NEC said it wrote down its deferred tax assets.

For the three-month period, revenue dropped from $9.3 billion to $8.7 billion year-on-year. For the full fiscal (which ends in March this year), NEC now expects a net loss of $1.3 billion. The company says restructuring costs alone will cause a $520 million net loss.

As a reaction to these numbers, NEC said it will cut a total of 10,000 jobs worldwide by the first half of 2013.

To be more concrete, 7,000 NEC employees in Japan will lose their jobs, while the rest will be laid off overseas. Among those 10,000 people, a total of 5,000 are outsourced or part-time workers (the other 5,000 workers are full-time NEC employees). Worldwide, the company employs around 116,000 people currently – full-time, part-time and outsourced workers combined.