What is HTML5?

We’re sure by now you’ve heard the term “HTML5” thrown around by the likes of Apple and Google. This is the next evolution of HTML, or Hyper Text Markup Language, which forms the backbone of almost every site on the Internet. HTML4, the last major iteration of the language, debuted in 1997 and has been subsequently poked and prodded so that it can handle the demands of the modern Web.

HTML4 has been tweaked, stretched and augmented beyond its initial scope to bring high levels of interactivity and multimedia to Web sites. Plugins like Flash, Silverlight and Java have added media integration to the Web, but not without some cost. In search of a “better user experience” and battery life, Apple has simply dropped support for some of these plugins entirely on mobile devices, leaving much of the media-heavy Internet inaccessible on iPads and iPhones. HTML5 adds many new features, and streamlines functionality in order to render these processor-intensive add-ons unnecessary for many common functions.

Assuming content providers sign on (and many are), this means you won’t have to worry about installing yet another plugin just to listen to a song embedded in a blog or watch a video on YouTube. Similarly, this is a big deal for platforms that either don’t support Flash (e.g., iPhone and iPad), or have well documented problems with it (e.g., Linux). It will be a particular boon to those smartphones for which supporting Flash has proven problematic.

Rough Timeline of Web Technologies

1991 HTML
1994 HTML2
1996 CSS1 + JavaScript
1997 HTML4
1998 CSS2
2000 XHTML1
2002 Tableless Web Design
2005 AJAX
2009 HTML5

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Last year Audi announced a partnership with NVIDIA to pack its next generation Audi Connect infotainment system with the chip-maker’s Tegra graphics processor. The chipset is part of Audi’s new modular multimedia system – dubbed MMX – which allows the automaker to upgrade the guts of its infotainment system as new hardware comes to market. Today, Audi showed off the fruits of their tie-up.

The new Audi Connect system is set to arrive in the 2013 A3 and Audi trotted out a mock-up of the new compact hatch’s interior to show off the next-gen system here at CES. The Touchpad originally fitted to the Audi A7 and A8 has been incorporated into the MMI knob, allowing users to write individual letters to input destinations, point-of-interest and web searches in place of tedious scrolling. Audi also swapped the traditional buttons flanking the MMI knob with new toggle switches, all of which will make their way to other Audi models in the coming years.

Finally, there’s the ultra-thin seven-inch LCD powered by that Tegra chip, which renders 3D animations with ease, along with displaying Google Earth navigation and Google Street View images. Check it all out in the video below.

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What’s former Facebook CPO Chris Kelly doing post-Democratic Attorney General run? Why backing a feature length film shot on a smartphone of course! The film, called Olive, went up on Kickstarter today and was shot entirely using a Nokia N8 phone and a specially crafted 35mm lens.

Director Hooman Khalili tells me that what differentiates Olive from other films that have tried the whole “movie shot on a smartphone” gimmick — like The Wrong Ferrari – is that he intends to show the film in theatres. Khalili even wants to submit it for Oscar consideration — which would be a first for a smartphone-shot film.

Olive’s narrative centres around a mysterious little girl that doesn’t speak, and three strangers whose lives she positively affects. Indie actress Gena Rowlands and (another former Facebooker) Randi Zuckerberg also star. The film itself is actually finished, having been financed by Kelly and Bill O’Keefe. The $300K it raises on Kickstarter will go towards distribution, and Khalili 100% guarantees that the film will make at least some big screens after its premier this month.

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Microsoft’s Office Division President, Kurt DelBene shared a concept video of how our lives will improve with technology advancements that are just around the corner. He says they create these videos to help tell the story they see unfolding in technology, and how it will impact our lives in the future. The video shows Microsoft’s vision for a future where technology extends and highlights our productive capabilities; it helps us manage our time better, focus our attention on the most important things, and foster meaningful connections with the people we care about.

All of the ideas in the video are based on real technology. Some of the capabilities, such as speech recognition, real time collaboration and data visualization already exist today. Others are not yet available in specific products, but represent active research and development happening at Microsoft and other companies.

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The FCC started talking about its intention to allow for 911 texting (and even photos and videos) last year, and now Chairman Julius Genachowski is out with a detailed plan for a “next generation” 911 service. The standout feature of it is just that — the ability to send a text, photo or video in the event of an emergency — but that also brings with it a complete overhaul of the backend of the service, and a switch to an IP-based architecture from the current circuit-switched system. That, the FCC says, should provide more flexibility and resiliency, and the agency has a number of other improvements in mind as well, including increased accessibility for people with disabilities, and new measures to improve the accuracy of location gathering (including new rules for wireless carriers). Of course, it all still is just a plan at the moment, but the FCC says it will consider a move to accelerate adoption of the plan next month.

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Time-lapse – the best of

Time-lapse photography is a cinematography technique whereby the frequency at which film frames are captured (the frame rate) is much lower than that which will be used to play the sequence back. When replayed at normal speed, time appears to be moving faster and thus lapsing. For example, an image of a scene may be captured once every second, and then played back at 30 frames per second; the result would be an apparent increase of speed by 30 times. Time-lapse photography can be considered to be the opposite of high speed photography. Processes that would normally appear subtle to the human eye, such as the motion of the sun and stars in the sky, become very pronounced. Time-lapse is the extreme version of the cinematography technique of undercranking, and can be confused with stop motion animation.

Inside you will find masterpieces from the best people in the industry like Terje Sorgjerd, Mike Flores, Samuel Cockedey, Sean Stiegemeier, Brad Kremer, Dan Eckert and Daniel Lopez

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Nootropic Design, the makers of the Video Experimenter Shield for Arduino, have used their product to create an instantly updating word cloud from over-the-air television closed captioning data, demonstrated above with The Big Bang Theory as the source. The NTSC video is passed through the shield and the Arduino sends the closed captioning text to the computer via serial. The cloud is generated by a Processing sketch, which makes words larger if they’re spoken more frequently.

This is quite a clever demo of what could be done with closed captioning data and I could see a few other ways to use it. Perhaps you could use a relay to have the Arduino shut off the television when a newscast mentions a particular personality you just don’t want to hear about any more. Or hack up up a sound-making toy to alert you when someone you do want to hear about is mentioned on CNN. Whatever you take on, closed captioning could be a great source of data for a lot of cool projects

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HDR video, as you know, exposes the living breathing smelling unreality hidden in life. Or something like that. AMP’s system uses a two beam-splitter in the camera that takes the light and directs it onto three sensors. This gives it a range of 17.5 stops to “reveal reality” in our drab, incomplete lives. The single-lens camera shoots 1080p video at 24fps or 30fps, records raw, uncompressed data to an SSD, and works with Nikon F-Mount-compatible lenses. To give you some perspective on the amount of sheer storage required, AMP promises a 256GB SSD can hold 30-plus minutes of footage, with 24fps video consuming less space than the 30 fps variety. It’ll be available later this summer for some unknown sum, but not as a mass-produced product. Rather, it’ll end up in the hands of a select few prosumers who add themselves to a waiting list.

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Visidon’s Applock will prevent the privacy-adverse from messing with your personally curated app collection. Snap a pick with your front-facing cam, enable the face-lock in your settings, and those confidential emails are as good as blocked. It’s far from foolproof, however, as some comments indicate an extended bit of facial-wriggling tricks the app into unlock mode. But it is a great start.

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Augmented reality is so passé. This German software is all about diminished reality – removing objects from the visual field. We’ve seen something similar for photos (we’re reminded of Photoshop’s content-aware fill), but this software can neatly delete any object from live, full-motion video.

The effect is achieved by an image synthesizer that reduces the image quality, removes the object, and then increases the image quality back up. This all happens within 40 milliseconds, fast enough that the viewer doesn’t notice any delay. As the camera moves, the system maintains the illusion through tracking algorithms and guesswork. It does seem to be thwarted by reflections though; a cell phone removed from a bathroom counter is still visible in the mirror.

Currently the software only runs on Windows, but the Technische Universität team is planning to develop it for Android in the near future, where it will likely be available for free. See the seemingly magical software in action below.

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Google built the royalty-free WebM video format with the sophisticated VP8 compression technology that it obtained in its 2009 acquisition of On2. In addition to advancing the goal of open video for the Web, the search giant also used On2 technology compression techniques that VP8 relies on to compress individual video frames. The format is intended for use with lossy images as an alternative to the venerable JPEG. to build a new image format called WebP with the aim of reducing page load time by increasing the efficiency of image compression.

WebP uses some of the still-image Google conducted a large-scale study demonstrating that WebP offers an average file size savings of 39 percent. Despite the seemingly impressive results, not everybody is convinced by Google’s findings. Mozilla, which has officially refused to support the format in Firefox, has emerged as one of WebP’s most prominent opponents. Building mainstream support for a new media format is challenging, especially when the advantages are ambiguous. WebM was attractive to some browser vendors because its royalty-free license arguably solved a real-world problem. According to critics, the advantages of WebP are illusory and don’t offer sufficient advantages over JPEG to justify adoption of the new format.

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Sony has been working on Augmented Reality technologies since 1994, and today the company took the wraps of “SmartAR”, a so-called integrated Augmented Reality solution. The company says their technology has four distinct advantages when compared to existing AR solutions.

First, SmartAR doesn’t require markers to work, which, by itself, isn’t really new for an AR solution. Second, Sony says objects can be identified and then tracked at high speed, thanks to a combination of advanced object recognition, matching and image tracking tech (as you can see in the video, SmartAR works very well in this regard). Third, SmartAR is specifically designed for 3D, meaning the technology can identify 3D structures to let objects blend in smoothly (also when moving the camera). And fourth, Sony seems to be pretty proud of the SmartAR UI, which makes it possible for users to easily interact with virtual objects, for example to turn pages in a virtual menu via touch control. See SmartAR demonstration video below.

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We have already done a review of helmet cameras and came to a conclusion that ContourGPS was a better solution in almost all aspects. Well folks from Contour are no lazy bunch, they constantly strive for perfection. On May 18th, you will be able to purchase their latest product Contour+ (formerly known as Countour Plus). Like the ContourGPS, this new imager captures 1080p video at 30fps, and also packs built-in GPS plus Bluetooth v2.1 — the latter’s for the wireless viewfinder app on iOS and, eventually, Android. The difference between these two cameras? Well, ignoring the colors and the extra 3mm in length, the Contour+ does indeed come with a mini HDMI-out port alongside the microSD slot on the back. Better yet, you’ll also find an HDMI cable in the box to get you going. And of course, let’s not forget the new super-wide lens (still rotatable) that does 170 degrees for 960p and 720p recording, or 125 degrees for 1080p. Both modes best the camera’s predecessor, though the trade-off is the lack of dual-alignment lasers.

Update: As of July 20th, Countour wireless viewfinder is available for Android.

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Here is a compiled chart to see how exactly HTC’s latest Android superphone, the Sensation 4G, stacks up against its fellow dual-core competition. Included in this list are the finest and brightest Android handsets from each of the major manufacturers that have gone dual-core so far: the Galaxy S II, the Atrix 4G, the Optimus 2X / G2X, and HTC’s own EVO 3D. As it turns out, there are quite a few commonalities among these phones (besides the benchmark-crushing performance). They all boast screens of either 4 or 4.3 inches in size, the minimum amount of RAM among them is 512MB, the smallest battery is 1500mAh, and yes, they all have front-facing video cameras. Basically, it’s the future of smartphones, reduced to a stat sheet. As such, it must also come with the warning that specs aren’t everything, and user experience will most often depend on the software available on each device and on the preferences of the human holding it.

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When you look at the spec list for the Crystal Acoustics PicoHD5.1 media player you certainly wouldn’t believe that it’s no bigger than an SD card reader. And is actually smaller than its own remote control. There’s just enough space on the device for a few inputs and outputs, including digital audio, HDMI, SD/MMC card slot and an USB port, and it is through this last one that you attach an external source as there’s (clearly) no internal storage on board.

The PicoHD5.1 is compatible with all types of USB memory sticks and FAT, FAT32 or NTFS formatted external HDD drives. It can play a myriad of file types, including MKV, DivX, MP3, FLAC, JPG and BMP, and as it is recognizes NTFS, files can be above 4GB in size (essential for 1080p MKVs, for example). Its 5.1 suffix illustrates that, again seemingly in contradiction to its diminutive size, it can play full surround sound audio. But if you want to use it solely with a flatscreen TV, rather than AV amplifier, it is also capable of downmixing Dolby Digital and DTS audio soundtracks to a stereo mix.

The PicoHD5.1 costs $82 and is available now.

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