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Xbox Gets a New Jam, The New Network, Testing Consciousness

Microsoft has offered Zune players and music services for a long time, but with the passing of the Zune player, the Zune pass is also being retired. Xbox Music launches for Xbox 360 October 16th as Microsoft’s answer to music streaming like Rdio or Spotify. Offering unlimited (DRM‘d) music downloads from the 18 million song database (for the US), the service is impressive. Down be confused, though. Xbox Music is both the streaming/download service and the store, which will be available on Windows 8 (being released on October 26th) and Windows Phone 8 devices.

The Xbox Music service provides a variety of features, but also has a downside. Actually – there’s two or three. First, the (US) price of the subscription is $9.99 a month, but you can alternatively choose to purchase a full year of service for $99.99. Second, you are required to have an Xbox Gold account, which is of course a separate, paid subscription. If you can bear to shovel the dough, the service is probably superior, offering intelligent “Smart DJ” channels based on your specifications, which will use both your current music, including your unlimited downloads, and your unlimited stream of music. ‘Unlimited’ is the key word, and that factor probably provides the best chance in helping Xbox Music become a real competitor for music. Read more.

Surprise! The majority share of Sprint Nextel was just bought at over $20 million. What does this mean for the future of the yellow carrier? For those of you, like myself, on the carrier which provides the only “truly unlimited data” network, this change in majority stock means that the Japanese company SoftBank has the biggest say – 70% –  in the goings-on of the carrier, and more importantly, Sprint now has $8 million to blow on getting its name back. Whether this means better 4G LTE, more phones, or just better commercials, this investment can hardly be a bad thing for Sprint. Read more.

Neurologists from the Belgian National Research fund may have discovered a more definitive method of determining whether a patient is actively conscious. Many patients may be put into a state of minimal consciousness, called a vegetative state.  Melanie Boly and her team presented a new method to measure the amount of consciousness that someone in a vegetative state may have; doctors may soon be able to measure just how actively someone is thinking while in a state resulting from something like brain trauma or cardiac arrest. At a point at which there is no option for resuscitation, families of patients may which to decide whether their family member should remain on life support, or be let off. This method involves emitting brief electromagnetic pulses through cranial electrodes and measuring the resultant brain activity. Doctors can then see into the minds of patients just a little, and can better inform the conscious of the unconscious mind. Read more.

Sources: Engadget, BGR, Nature News, Popular Science

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E3: The Tech

Though the yearly E3 convention is intended for video games, often times companies stretch the definition a bit and unveil new software and technology enabling new ways to play. Microsoft and Nintendo took the stage in this regard, though we did see a few other pieces of technology rear their heads. In all honesty, the concept of Xbox Smartglass looked an awful lot like the new features of the Wii U, given the tablet-console communication will enrich the gaming experience. The Wii U’s tablet integration has been awaited for a while now, but this does raise questions. That said, Microsoft has been keeping us on our toes in awaiting the “Three Screens Vision”, connecting the console, tablet or phone, and PC. It’s also important to note that both have their advantages. Xbox Smartglass will be available for Windows 8 tablets, Windows Phone, Android, and iOS as far as we know. In the keynote,  Marc Whitten mentions the use of the app on Android, so we can assume iOS as well. The Xbox website’s Smartglass page says that there will be an Xbox Smartglass app for Windows and Windows Phone, and that the “Xbox SmartGlass technology is available on other major platforms in the My Xbox app”. There is already an Xbox Companion app for Windows Phone and a beta for Windows 8 (since Windows 8 is in beta–download the latest iteration, Release Preview here). We also assume that there will be something along those lines for Android and iOS, perhaps with some limited features, though we have no details as of yet. The real deal here is that Xbox Smartglass is connecting “the devices you already own” for an enhanced experience not just gaming, but viewing movies or videos, and for browsing the web. All these features are briefly described in Xbox video below.

As far as the Wii U goes, I’m convinced that Nintendo has this technology pretty much in the bag. The integration that they demoed does look more refined than that of Smartglass, and, as of late, superior. That said, Nintendo has the advantage working with only one “tablet”, if the so-called “gamepad” could be described as such. As far as we know, the gamepad will have some abilities we associate with a tablet, like video-chatting, but the apps and services which will be available are uncertain. We can’t hardly blame Nintendo for this though, because so far as we’ve “heard” the gamepad should be in the $100 price range, limiting the hardware. Then again, if Amazon can do it, why can’t Nintendo? It’s important to note that the gamepad isn’t a tablet. And unlike the devices meant for Smartglass, the gamepad is not really a device outside of gaming purposes. Outside of gaming, we know the gamepad may have features like the 3DS currently has. Both devices will feature integration with the new MiiVerse “social network”, for which smartphone apps will also be available. Nintendo seems to be really going out of their comfort zone in order to try and bring customers what they want most, so kudos to them there.

We’ll admit there was some other technology that was there, but we’ll save you the trouble of it because it wasn’t all that special. If you’re interested on the “virtual reality” Doom 3 goggle gizmo, we recommend the article at the Road to VR blog.

Sources: Xbox.com, KCCI.com,

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