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Weekly Roundup: New Pebbles, superhero smartphones and VR backpacks

Our weekly roundup of the top news stories in the world of tech for the week beginning May 23rd, 2016.

Pebble focuses on fitness with the new 2, Time 2 and Core

Wearable specialists Pebble have once again turned to the Kickstarter community to seed its next generation of products. Unlike the company’s existing line, the new campaign is looking for funding across all three of its new devices: the Pebble 2, the Pebble Time 2 and the Pebble Core. Although the campaign only launched on the crowdfunding site on Tuesday (May 24th), it’s already smashed its funding target of $1,000,000 with the current total standing at $8,432,073 (over £5,760,000) with 33 days remaining.

The Pebble 2 and Time 2 smartwatches boast optical heart rate trackers (a feature absent from Pebble’s first-generation products), water resistance up to 30 metres, voice reply functionality and the latest iteration of the company’s Timeline OS. The Pebble 2 will come in five colourways at launch, promising up to seven days of battery life with an early bird price of just $99 ($129 at retail), whilst the Time 2 features a 53 per cent larger colour display than its predecessor and up to 10 days of usage per charge. Early bird pricing is set at $169, with full retail price cited as $199 when it officially launches.

The Pebble Core is the company’s push into a new area of wearable tech, serving as a clip-on activity tracker in place of a smartwatch. It lacks a screen and instead features a single button to start and stop tracking. On the inside, the Core packs GPS, Bluetooth and WiFi so it can track your runs without needing to be paired to a smartphone all the time. It can also synchronise with your Pebble smartwatch and stream music from Spotify, take voice notes or leverage Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant for things like controlling smart home appliances or reading out news headlines to you. Pebble is also marketing the Core to hackers with its simple operation and connectivity options. The Core is scheduled to launch in January 2017, with early bird prices at $69 and a retail price of $99. Find out more here.

Honor and Samsung give their top phones the superhero treatment

It appears that one of the unspoken rules of the universe dictates that a superhero movie must be showing in cinemas somewhere at all times and right now we’ve got both Marvel’s X-Men: Apocalypse and DC’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice screening in picture houses all over the place.

Honor 5X X-Men: Apocalypse bundle

To capitalise on the success of such massive franchises, both Honor and Samsung have teamed up with these big names to create special editions of their star smartphones. The Honor 5X, can now be had as part of a special X-Men bundle that includes an etched smartphone plus a themed cap, sunglasses, card holder, keyring and drawstring bag. You can either pick up this Marvel-flavoured 5X bundle from the company’s online store vMall for £169.99, or enter (last day for entry being May 27th) to win one of five prizes (one handset and four swag bundles). Find out more about the Honor 5X offers here.

Whilst DC’s principle characters are in everyone’s minds, Samsung has teamed up with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to celebrate the third anniversary of Injustice: Gods Among Us – a title developed by NetherRealm to bring the biggest heroes and villains from that comic book universe onto your smartphone. The partnership has resulted in the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Injustice Edition, which features a black body, gold accents and Batman’s signature emblem on the back. The special edition S7 Edge will roll out to select markets from June, come bundled with a Samsung Gear VR headset, plus tokens for Injustice: Gods Among Us and some Oculus VR content tokens. Find out more here.

HP just revealed a backpack PC for VR

If you’ve tried a high-end virtual reality experience like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive (or read our review of the latter), you’ll know of the practical issues that come with the tether of cables connecting you to the PC powering your VR experience. Some ingenuitive folks have stuffed half-closed laptops into unzipped backpacks to alleviate the issue to a degree, but these are at best clunky, temporary fixes.

HP Omen X Medusa Heroic 3/4 view

HP is in fact, the third notable name in a small group of hardware manufacturers who’ve tried addressing the issue with various, more purpose-built solutions, but it’s also produced the best looking concept so far. Not unlike the creations from Zotac and MSI, HP has teased imagery of a new machine that’s supposedly going into testing with developers next month.

The unit, which forms part of the company’s flagship Omen X range (and might adopt the name ‘Medusa’), will be wearable like a backpack and run on rechargeable batteries worn on a belt, as opposed to having to be plugged into the wall. The batteries should provide up to an hour of use and can be replaced on the fly, whilst a third, smaller battery stops the system from switching off during an exchange and dual fans keep it cool whilst in use.

HP Omen X Medusa Heroic ports

Should this PC see the light of day, it’ll certainly be catering to an already small subset of VR users and the finer details on performance and price are still unknown (talk of Intel i5 and i7 options as well as up to 32GB of RAM and an unknown GPU). The system will be able to connect to an external display, mouse and keyboard wirelessly, but whether this is solving a problem or creating new ones is really what we’re trying to figure out right now. Find out more here.

Raffler passes 25,000 players and awards nearly £90K in prize money

You may be asking yourself, ‘what the heck is Raffler?’ and if that’s the case we’re not too surprised. The 27,500 users already playing, not to mention anyone just joining in on the fun, are all faced with the same conundrum when they first sign up – rope your friends into play too and up your potential prize money, or don’t and avoid lowering your odds of winning.

Raffler

Raffler is an app with a simple premise – opt in to watch two 30 second adverts and as a result, enter a daily prize draw where you can potentially win at least £1000. It’s the creation of university friends George Hattrell and Joe Glick, and through the app they’ve already handed out a total prize fund of £88,700, with the biggest single rollover prize currently standing at £4,200. Raffler is currently only available to iOS and Android users in the UK, but its creators have plans to take the service Stateside and eventually worldwide. Find out more here.

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