Our weekly roundup of the top news stories in the world of tech for the week beginning February 22nd, 2016.
IBM is helping turn a Japanese series from VR fiction to fact
If you’re a fan of Japanese anime, you may already be familiar with Sword Art Online; the franchise, which started out as a light novel series in 2009, has found mass appeal with both eastern and western fans. The universe of SAO is set within the realm of virtual reality, but an upcoming video game will actually leverage real VR tech to bring players into that world in a more immersive way than other game.
Sword Art Online: The Beginning sponsored by IBM will leverage the technology company’s “Watson” Cognitive Computing platform and SoftLayer cloud infrastructure. At an upcoming event, taking place from the 18th to the 20th of March, players will be able to have their likeness transposed into the game world using 3D a scanner and will then control their avatar using motion controls, rather than a conventional gamepad.
Alpha tests will take place using only 208 participants, selected from the Tokyo metro area, but the plan is to eventually send this title onto mainstream VR platforms, with support for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive Already in place. Find out more here.
MWC 2016 gave us modular smartphones and so much more
If you haven’t been keeping tabs on Recombu Mobile this week, you’ve been missing out on all the goings-on from Mobile World Congress, the annual mobile technology expo that’s held in Barcelona every year.
Recombu’s Chris Barraclough was on the show floor going hands on with all of the latest a greatest smartphones, tablets and tech. Notable launches included the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, which bring expandability and waterproofing to the slick design work laid out by last year’s Galaxy S6 family. LG’s G5, the company’s new flagship, was also a head-turner, boasting a modular design and a host of new accessories; from a VR headset to a rolling robot that patrols your home for you. Find out more from our MWC hub, right here.
Facebook Reactions launch globally, giving you more than just a ‘Like’
The humble ‘Like’ is no longer, or rather the humble ‘Like’ is no longer the only response you can give photos, posts and shared links within Facebook. As of this week, one of the social network’s signature experiences is being expanded to accommodate a range of new responses, dubbed Reactions.
You can ‘Love’ when your best friend gets engaged, ‘Haha’ that photo of your cousin’s baby wearing dinner on its face, ‘Wow’ when a video of the next Pizza Rat goes viral, ‘Sad’ that post about dropping your ice cream in the park or ‘Angry’ an acquaintance’s misinformed political post. Zuckerberg also teased another reaction, ‘Yay’ back in October last year, but now that Reactions is internationally available that option doesn’t appear to exist anymore.
There is of course the argument that it’s unhealthy to distil important emotions like sadness down to a single button or gesture (the Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern has an interesting piece on the matter), and there’s still no dislike button (which may be for the better), but update your Facebook app, refresh your web browser and then try them out. Find out more here.
S7 pre-orders at Carphone Warehouse are through the roof
It’s fair to say that 2015’s Samsung Galaxy S6 was a pretty popular phone, but according to new data published by Carphone Warehouse, the Galaxy S7 is going to blow it out of the water. In the first 48 hours after the phone hit pre-order, twice as many would-be S7 owners had signed up with CPW; 30 per cent of which did so on the evening Samsung actually unveiled the phone.
As we mention here, Carphone Warehouse is one of the many mobile retailers offering up a free Samsung Gear VR to those after the new flagship, which will be available until March 10th before hitting retail. Whilst we’re sure other carriers have seen similar interest in Samsung’s 2016 top dog, these stats actually put a number on just how big this phone has the potential to be. Find out more here.
Read next: Samsung Galaxy S7 hands-on review | MWC 2016
HTC’s Vive is finally hits pre-order Monday, launches April 5th
Valve and HTC’s long awaited virtual reality hardware, the Vive, is finally ready for prime time, with the Taiwanese company announcing official pricing and availability.
Similarly to the early 2016 developer version of the hardware, the Vive Pre, the consumer-ready Vive consists of a headset, two motion controllers and tracking sensors as well as three titles built for Vive. Google’s Tilt Brush application lets users paint and sculpt in 3D, whilst Fantastic Contraption and Job Simulator are two VR games that HTC has used during its Vive demos over the last few months.
Pre-orders begin from 3 p.m. GMT on February 29th with pricing varying by market and the headset actually becoming available on April 5th. Would-be Vive owners in the States get the best value for money, where the system will cost $799 (approximately £575). Here in the UK HTC is pricing the Vive at £689 and fans based in China will have to pay the most the bundle at 6888 CNY (approximately £757).
Many VR fans have scoffed at the final pricing for both the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift, but truth be told, this is truly innovative tech that has required years of research and development into technologies that simply didn’t exist before. Find out more here.