Thursday, April 4, 2013

Facebook Announces Facebook Home, An Android Homescreen Replacement

Facebook today announced a family of apps you can install called Facebook Home, featuring full screen photos, status updates, and notifications piped into your homescreen. It won’t require a forked Android operating system, as Facebook wants it to be available to a wide audience. “We want to bring the experience of having a home, of having everything you need right around you… to your phone.”
Apps are important too, Zuckerberg says, so you can still add apps to your device. One swipe away from the home screen is the launcher for apps. Messaging is at the forefront. Phones are communication devices and we spend all day message, in today’s appcentric world, messaging is treated like another app. Switching between apps is annoying. We want to talk to people, not apps.
When a friend messages you, Home brings up the Facebook Chat Heads feature. It pops up a person’s face and you can tap on their face and bring up a conversation without losing any context of what you’re doing in the app behind.
“Today we’re going to finally talk about that Facebook Phone, More accurately, we’re gonna talk about how you can turn your phone into a Facebook Phone” Mark Zuckerberg said to start the event. After noting we spend more than 20% of our mobile time on social apps, Zuckerberg said “We asked ourselves — if we’re already spending this much time on our phones, how can we make it easier? What if they were designed around people first, and you could also just happen to interact with apps?”

Patent filing suggests Apple is working on 'Street View' mapping technology

An Apple patent application discovered on Thursday hints that the company is looking to deploy on mobile devices a virtual navigation system based on panoramic location data, much like the popular "Street View" seen in Google Maps. 
Published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's "3D Position Tracking for Panoramic Imagery Navigation" describes a graphical user interface that leverages an iPhone or iPad's onboard sensors to navigate panoramic imagery. 
Panoramic Image

Source: USPTO

According to the filing, Apple's invention improves upon current technology, like Google's Street View, which boxes users into a panoramic "bubble" that can only be navigated through an input device like a mouse or multitouch screen. For example, in a conventional GUI, the user must "jump" to a panoramic "bubble" at a given intersection and pan within said bubble to move in a desired direction; a tedious experience for mobile device users on the go.

Instead of the traditional approach, Apple proposes tracking subsystems and onboard sensors deployed within a mobile device be used to translate a user's physical motion into a panoramic navigation UI. In the examples that follow, data from accelerometers, cameras, gyroscopes and other sensors are used to "move" a user through virtual street-level panoramic space.

First, the invention notes a user must first enter the street-level view, which can be accomplished by "pinching in" on a map, or by selecting a dropped pin icon. Once in street view mode, a user can move their device up, down, left or right to view panoramic imagery supplied either by built-in storage or streamed wirelessly over cellular data networks. Movement is controlled by moving the device forward and back.
Panoramic Image Movement

Illustration of device transitional movement from original position (104) with informational overlay (103b).

Throughout the process, onboard sensors are collecting movement data, including linear and velocity metrics, and translating the motions into the GUI. 

Further, the filing notes informational bubbles can be displayed on the virtual environment to point out places of interest such as buildings or shops. Information is stored in layers, an example being "businesses," and can be displayed according to a user's preferences. In some embodiments, the bubbles can be hidden to reduce clutter on smaller device screens.

In an alternative implementation, the system can translate movement data from an imaging sensor in what is called "optical flow," which reads apparent patterns of motion of objects in a panoramic image in relation to an observer. By scaling distance data, a device can display the appropriate virtual location of a user within the environment.
Panoramic Image Movement

One particularly intriguing idea is the use of multiple displays to increase the visible area of a panoramic image. Devices can communicate wirelessly to display concurrent information regarding the virtual environment. 

Finally, the application mentions the use of interior imaging data for use in some implementations, allowing users to "walk into" a building using their device. When inside structures, other actions can be performed, such as "selecting an object for purchase," though further detail regarding that level of functionality was not discussed. 

Apple's iOS Maps currently lacks a street-level viewing option as it simply doesn't have the imaging data. This feature, which is available on Google's mapping service thanks to its Street View initiative, was sorely missed by some iOS device users with the introduction of the Maps app in iOS 6. 

It is unclear if and when Apple will implement the invention in a future iteration of Maps, but the filing shows the company is at least actively investigating a competitor to Street View.

Apple's patent application was filed in September of 2011 and credits Patrick Piemonte and Billy Chen as its inventors.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

HTC first Facebook phone press photo leaked

Those of you still skeptical about the possibility of an HTC Facebook Phone can toss in the rest of your chips – there’s been a full leak of the so-called “HTC first” this afternoon. This leak includes one extremely clear photo of the device in question from the notoriously accurate @evleaks, leaker of so many devices such as this in this same manner that we’ve simply come to trust the man. This device is one that will be launching with Facebook’s own customized user interface over Android later this week.
It’s also become apparent via this same source that Facebook for Android – the application you’re using right this minute if you’re working with the main Android-based Facebook app – will need to be updated later this week in order to work with the new system. The new system has been once again confirmed to be called “Facebook Home” as well.
For those of you wondering what this device will be like, hardware-wise, we’ve got a bit of a look at that too! Have a peek at the following list, then head back to the post Facebook Home leaked – the HTC Facebook Phone spills its guts. This device will be bringing on some relatively mid-tier specifications and will be aiming at the everyman, if you pardon the expression.
• HTC Myst (code-name)
• 4.3-inch display, 720p
• Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor (MSM8960) (same as Galaxy S III)
• 5 megapixel camera on back
• 1.6 megapixel camera on front
• Sense UI 4.5 (Facebook Home modifications onboard)
• Bluetooth 4.0
• Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
Don’t forget to check and see if the HTC Facebook Phone belongs in your pocket! We’ll be live in effect at the Facebook event this Thursday – catch SlashGear through our most excellent Facebook tag portal – we’ll have everything you need to be in the know from start to finish!