Will the Lytro Illum Succeed?

You’d be forgiven if you perhaps hadn’t heard of Lytro before now. A relatively new company in the world of photography, Lytro manufacture consumer targeted - and indeed relatively affordable - light-field cameras. 

Lytro’s first camera, the aptly named ‘Lytro’, perhaps didn’t generate the sales and reaction the company were hoping for. Liberties with the camera’s design, ostensibly to allow the light-field technology to work, didn’t endear consumers to its merits. 

Their second camera, the ‘Lytro Illum’, has seemingly remedied this issue with a much more conventional and arguably user friendly design. A traditional style lens sits on a compact form factor body, making it strikingly similar to the Sony Alpha series. The only indication that the Illum has anything groundbreaking to offer is its awkwardly angled body - something which has potentially been avoided by other manufacturers for good reason. 

That being said, the Illum packs a rather unique punch. The Illum (and the initial Lytro) use modified CMOS sensors and some clever physics to create a ‘light-field sensor’ instead. So what on earth is a light-field sensor and how is it different to a CCD or CMOS sensor? We’ll start with old money: the CCD.

A CCD, or Charge-Coupled Device, is a sensor comprising an arrangement of pixels in rows and columns. As an example, open a spreadsheet and imagine the spreadsheet itself is the camera’s sensor (a CCD in this case). Each cell of the spreadsheet is a pixel in the sensor. The megapixel count of your camera is related to this. A 20 megapixel camera would have 20 million pixels on its sensor. In the case of the spreadsheet example, it would contain 20 million individual cells - that’s a big spreadsheet! 

Each pixel is essentially a bucket that collects light incoming from the camera’s lens whilst the shutter is open. When light strikes a pixel, it generates a small electrical charge in that pixel (for the real world analogue, it begins to fill the bucket). Once the shutter has been closed, the sensor is ‘read’ so that the amount of charge (or water in the bucket) in each pixel is analysed. At this point the camera’s processor interprets the information it has read and turns this into an image which is saved to the storage unit. 

Most smartphone, tablet and indeed DSLR image sensors are not CCD based. They are in fact CMOS, or Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor sensors. The CMOS style of sensor is, essentially, a more technologically sophisticated version of a CCD that uses a different process to read each pixel. The process uses transistors mounted to each pixel making CMOS sensors much more cost effective, as well as more efficient, hence their uses in devices that need to use power sparingly like smartphones and DSLRs. Telescopes, interestingly, use CCDs. 

Regardless of sensor types discussed, the images they produce will always be 2-dimensional. Whilst we may perceive depth in the image, that depth is manufactured and interpreted by the brain and not embedded within the image. To understand why some theory is required.

We live in 3-dimensional space. Things have height, width and depth. Light is similar, only it is has many more dimensions. It has the 3 spatial dimensions (height, width and depth) but also further dimensions that describe associated quantities that make up the literal light-field. A conventional CCD can only capture information based on height and width as the CCD’s pixels all lie on a flat surface, hence why the image it produces is also flat (2-dimensional, as it lacks depth information). The Lytro’s light-field sensor cannot directly detect depth information as, much like the CCD, its pixels are once again on a flat surface. It can, however detect further information from the light-field that it then uses to ‘fake’ depth in the image using both clever hardware and clever software.

In terms of clever hardware, the light-field sensor uses an array of incredibly small lenses (Lytro market this as a microlens array) in front of the pixelated sensor so that the incoming light is broken up into individual light rays. This allows the sensor to analyse individual, rather than multiple, rays of light as would have been the case with a CCD. The microlens array also allows the camera itself to take images through each individual microlens, therefore generating information about each megaray. As a consequence of this Lytro market their cameras with a ‘megaray’ value rather than a ‘megapixel’ value. The megaray value is the number of individual light rays the sensor can process and doesn’t necessarily correspond to the megapixel value of the sensor. As such the Lytro could use a relatively small number of megapixels but still generate a fairly high megaray value. 

In terms of the clever software, the light-field engine does something quite spectacular. Because a traditional camera cannot detect depth information, it relies on its user to define the position of the focal point prior to taking the image. The Lytro Illum has a fixed focal length and aperture (resulting in an f-number of f/2) so its focal point cannot be manually defined by the user. Thanks to the information that the light-field sensor captures however, the light-field engine can combine each microlens image and adjust the focal point and aperture after the image has been taken. On the topic of focal points, the Lytro Illum does allow the user to change the focal point using the integrated touch screen. The user simply taps the location of the desired focal point and the light field engine mimics the change in focal length required.

The light-field engine does not output standard JPEG or RAW files, preferring a proprietary file type called LFP: Light Field Picture. Through Lytro’s desktop application, Lytro Desktop, these files can be read and edited to allow the full functionality of the Lytro to be realised. These images can then be uploaded and shared through Lytro Web (https://pictures.lytro.com), Lytro’s web interface to allow rich interaction with its unique images.

All of this technology comes at a price, and a fairly hefty one at that: $1499. Moreover the sensor, although advanced, is limited to an effective resolution of 4 megapixels meaning that the dimensions of a conventional format Lytro image are small in comparison to its competition. Whilst bigger doesn’t always mean better, the rather limited functionality outside of the Illum itself and Lytro Web mean that your interaction with Lytro images is severely restricted. Coupled with the small image size reducing the likelihood that Lytro image JPEGs would appear in print format, the Illum may just be another expensive novelty item. It deserves to be more, but only time will tell if it gets what it deserves.

Author: Tomas James - Twitter

QUICK MOBILE FIX GOES LIVE

QUICK MOBILE FIX GOES LIVE … 
It Breaks. You Send. We Fix

Last year it was reported that 7 out of 10 people in the UK own a Smartphone. Nowadays, many of us have come to rely heavily on our mobile phones, from the mundane function of waking us up; to reminding us about important events and, obviously, keeping us connected with others. Naturally, mobile device related mishaps happen from time to time; these accidents can be anything from breaking the screen to more technical issues such as liquid damage. In fact, a well-known technology news source reported that 26% of iPhones break within 2 years of purchase.

Quick Mobile Fix is a new national mobile device repair service that offers a solution to the problems many of us face when our mobile phone breaks, mainly, how do I contact people now? Not only will Quick Mobile Fix mend your current mobile phone, tablet or iPod with their 24 hour service, but, also, offer incredibly competitive prices, include free postage and a 1 year warranty on all repairs, and will, additionally, offer you a courtesy phone in return. The phones on offer range from basic Nokia’s to the latest iPhone & Samsung Galaxy.

Quick Mobile Fix repairs all Samsung phones, iPhones and iPads, which is handy, because iFixit have recently announced that the latest iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S are trickier to repair than the iPhone 5, and the Samsung Galaxy S5 is harder to fix than its predecessor. Aside from these fantastic offerings, Quick Mobile Fix also sells a number of different used and reconditioned mobile phones at affordable prices.

To find out more about this useful new service please check out www.QuickMobileFix.com or follow @QuickMobileFix on Twitter.

Most Popular Tech Creations this Century

In the 21st century the rate of change is faster than ever. When people in the year 2100 look back on our century, who knows what advancements they will celebrate. Although we are only 14 years in and there is still a long way to go, this century has already witnessed technological changes that affect everyone’s lives. Here are just a few:

Smart Phones

The iPhone was introduced in January 2007 and Google’s Android software for smart phones was introduced in 2008. It’s hard to believe that modern smart phones are less than a decade old, and they just keep getting more useful, with millions of apps available for both platforms to add just about any feature imaginable. The multi-touch screens, GPS, and ever faster connectivity mean that you can use your smartphone as everything from a GPS for driving directions, a small television, a game console, or a communications platform for Facebook, messaging, and video calling. The introduction of smart phones means you can truly be connected to the Internet just about any time, anywhere.

Tablet Computers

Tablet computers may not be entirely new, but the introduction of Apple’s iPad in 2010 made them a sought after device that can perform many of the functions of a larger, heavier laptop. Early tablets were mostly devices for consuming media, whether reading books or watching movies. But with the introduction of better and faster chipsets and the creation of new apps, today’s tablets can be used to create business documents, edit videos, or store a doctor’s searchable library of medical texts for diagnosis.

Image Credit: Sam Churchill

Image Credit: Sam Churchill

Driverless Cars

Google has created a car that can drive itself, a concept that has furthered advances in computer traffic grid systems and other near-future set ups. The goal is to reduce driver accidents by allowing some, or all parts of a journey, to be handled automatically. The Google car is a Toyota Prius outfitted with cameras, radar sensors, and a laser range finder to help it navigate through city streets. The car has been reported to have travelled 140,000 miles in a publicity tour without ever having an accident.

Image Credit: Intel Free Press

Image Credit: Intel Free Press

Ultra Light Laptops

With more power than a tablet but still incredibly thin and light, ultra thin computers such as the Toshiba Kira Laptop have changed the face of laptop computing. These laptops typically use low-power Intel processors, solid-state drives, and a unibody construction to make the smallest, lightest product possible. The MacBook Air was introduced in 2008 and today there are dozens of ultrabook makers in the market. Click here for more information on adding the speed andportability of an ultrabook to your technology tools.

Image Credit: Jason Howie

Image Credit: Jason Howie

Social Media

Who could have predicted when Facebook launched back in 2004 that it would have over 600 million users in less than a decade? Or that YouTube, launched in 2005, would soon boast over 4 billion videos viewed every day. Social media has invaded and changed every aspect of Internetculture, from how you connect with friends to how products are marketed.

Mobile Device Management is Making a Splash in Enterprise

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

Due to the rise of smartphone usage, businesses are looking into Mobile Device Management (MDM) platforms for better control of personal devices in the workplace.

MDM is the ability to closely monitor, notify, secure, and protect digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. The need for MDM platforms has exponentially increased in the past 5 years due to cloud technology, cheaper and more reliable mobile devices, and the adoption of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).

This article provides a closer look at MDM and how it is changing key industries worldwide. It can also help you distinguish what types of MDM features are applicable to your business.

How Does MDM Work?

MDM works by installing an app in personal mobile devices at the office. The app has two functions. First, it communicates with the main MDM platform, sending information that is used to monitor the device. From the main platform, IT personnel can deploy notifications and updates to individual MDM applications and perform data wipe protocols. 

Next, the app serves as a dashboard for the employee who is connected to the company network. MDM dashboards usually include a secure login page and a selection of secure apps or other company features that support daily tasks such as virtual organizers and calendars.

Benefits of MDM

There are several benefits that come with using MDM. For companies that are concerned about security, MDM can help reduce potential threats to the network. It also enables employees to use their own devices at work, which removes the need for costly company phones. Moreover, reoccurring expenses for the upkeep of company smartphones are virtually non-existent with a BYOD policy in place.

Relying on a MDM can put an entire organization on the same page through a single, unified app. Regardless of the type of digital device or model; all employees within the company are using the same app with the same features. Businesses that are going paperless can use the MDM platform to send short memos and create virtual lists. With cloud integration, backing up and sharing files through MDM is as simple as choosing a recipient from a list of employees.

Companies that rely on BYOD use MDM to lower the risk of security threats and access to sensitive data. Furthermore, MDM can help businesses implement a data wipe protocol in case an employee's mobile gets lost or stolen. MDM is equipped with features that restrict the download of harmful apps, which is the first line of defense for potential hacks and malware. This can help ease other security measures that are in place.

Additionally, businesses use MDM to streamline BYOD policies in the workplace. This is achieved by applying MDM features that limit or remove smartphone functionality. As a result, employees are discouraged from attempting to download malicious apps or use features that lower productivity levels.

Which MDM Platform is Right for my Business?

Choosing the right MDM platform for your company ultimately comes down to your business objectives and goals. Organizations should consider SaaS (Software as a Service) MDM vendors for faster deployment, which is ideal for small companies. In-house MDM platforms are required for large businesses that have a reliable IT team that can efficiently manage the entire process.

When it comes to a security, a case study by TrendMicro highlighted BlackBerry as a leading MDM platform due to its suitability for enterprise. BlackBerry MDM features a system that allows companies to manage the usage of apps, customize security functionality on networks, and generate reports. The BlackBerry platform is easy to use and versatile to the needs of today's leading businesses.

To conclude, a superior MDM platform is considered to be one of the best investments for companies that are serious about the use of personal devices in the workplace. In order for MDM to be effective, businesses must take the time to implement the right features that are both secure and useful for employees.

How has MDM helped you organize your business? Do you think MDM technology is here to stay? Let us know what you think. 

LG G3 - Is this the smart phone of the year?

Last year LG gained a whole lot of respect from the tech community with their LG G2, which was amazing in almost every way and it got one of the highest scores from me last year (9/10) to be exact. This year LG is hoping to repeat all their success all over again with some killer specs and all around a great experience. So can they do it? Well read along with our first look and find out.

The LG G3 makes a statement in many ways and especially in specs. This beast is running a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset paired with a Quad-core 2.5 GHz Krait 400 CPU and an Adreno 330 GPU, which shouldn’t be taken lightly. Speeds appear to be rock solid and makes the phone very enjoyable to use.

Right off the bat LG gives us their own flavour of Android on top of 4.4.2 KitKat. LG’s skin seems to be quite different from last year, not in a bad way though. The color pallet and fonts are tuned down to make it look more “professional” I guess you could call it. The icons are flattened and it looks very modern in my opinion. Plus you get all of LG’s extra goodies such as a Google Now like feature which can help with recommendations without you even asking. It seems good but we’ll have to see how the consumer likes it.

The screen is beautiful, like honestly it’s amazing. The True HD-IPS+LCD panel looks stunning and produces some amazing quality and at 5.5 inches it’s also great for consuming media. Not to mention how it’s got 1440x2560 pixels (534ppi) which is amazing. The screen is a huge positive for this phone.

The build is fantastic too. Not an HTC One M8 like quality, but close to it. It feels like metal on the back, even though it’s not. Also on the back is the very popular volume up/down button and power button, which has become very well known with LG. They even changed the way they feel to make it easier for the user as it provides better physical feedback. At 149 g (5.260z) it feels great in the pocket, plus the very popular curve is on the phone, which is becoming a benchmark in the Smartphone world.

The camera is a 13MP shooter which has a whole suite of features from LG, which can shoot videos in 1080p. The camera is paired with a 2.1MP front facing camera for all your selfies, which can also shoot 1080p video. For my short testing it provided some great photos and low light seemed good as well.

So there you have it folks, just a quick rundown of the phone and some quick opinions. Be sure to stay tuned in the channel and website to keep up to date on news and reviews, including the G3. Follow Geekanoids on social media as well. Thanks everyone and leave a comment on what you think about this phone, we love to read them. Have a good one!

Author: Ben Smith - Twitter

Top Tips to help you afford the latest gadgets

There’s only so much you can expect from people on your birthday and at Christmas, isn’t there? So how can you get hold of the latest tech on the market? How can you be the owner of an X-Box One or a PlayStation 4? Here is our guide to the best ways to be able to afford the latest gadgets on the market.

Make a trade.

There are plenty of high street stores that will buy your old gadgets off you: CEX and Game being two prime examples. There are also a plethora of online stores that will do the same, from Music Magpie to Mazuma Mobile. Most of these places pay cash or cheque, meaning that if you have a treasure trove of unwanted old technology, you can trade it in and maybe put a bit of that money towards something brand new.

Save up.

The dreaded word: savings. Before you start to try and explain how little money you have in the first place, and how you don’t save, think of it this way. If you put away £50 a month, in eight months, you’ll have enough for that brand new PS4 you’ve been after. That’s not so long, and it’s not that much to put aside. A few nights out, a game, that’s all it costs each month to afford it. Saving money might not be the easiest way to afford something new, and it might not be the quickest, but it is the safest. You don’t rely on another company to give you money, or to value your old tech, and you don’t have to pay anything back with interest.

Take out a loan.

The last option also seems like the easiest and quickest option. You can take out a loan for the value of whatever it is that you want, the money will be in your account quickly, and you’ll be able to spend it instantly. Of course, you’ll have to pay it back, but then, you’ll have the gadgets or tech that you were after in the first place. If you do consider going down the loan route, then you might be interested in Totally Money’s ‘Cheapest Ways to Borrow’ tool, which can help you work out the least expensive way to borrow money for your situation. It may suggest a credit card is the cheapest way or if you’re looking at paying it off over a really long time, a loan may be for you.

Olympus TG-850 Winner

So the winner has been chosen. Both myself and the Olympus UK team went through all the amazing #TG850MAY photo entries and unanimously agreed on the winner. The theme for May was to post 'action' or 'tough' themed photos and this one from Joseph Choi really captured so much action in the boy doing an awesome flip. The emotion in the face is epic too. Congratulations go out to Joseph who has won an Olympus Stylus Tough TG-850 camera. Thank you to everyone else who took part, keep checking back for more photography competitions coming soon. 

AOC goes ultra-sharp with 28ʺ Ultra HD monitor

Amsterdam, 27 May 2014 – The trends in the monitor market go to larger screen sizes and higher resolutions. AOC now combines both of these trends: With the u2868Pqu, the display specialist launches a 28ʺ (71.1 cm) monitor with the stunningly high Ultra HD resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels at a 60 Hz refresh rate. Equipped with DisplayPort, HDMI (MHL) and USB 3.0 connectors, the sophisticated display also comes with full ergonomics to meet the high standards of professionals and demanding home users alike – at a surprisingly low price.

Ultra HD: See every detail
CAD/CAM professionals, architects, engineers and power users at home – all will benefit from the finely detailed pictures delivered by the u2868Pqu’s latest TN panel technology. Thanks to the Real 8-bit +FRC arrangement, more than a billion colours can be produced. With the Ultra HD resolution (3840 x 2160), over 8.29 million pixels are displayed in a 16:9 aspect, equalling four times the pixel amount of Full HD panels. The 28ʺ model delivers UHD resolution with a refresh rate of full 60 Hz. With a pixel response time of 1 ms only, the u2868Pqu is even perfect for working on or watching fast-paced action video clips or enjoying games. Delivering a luminosity of 300 cd/m², the UHD model is well-suited for desks with bright ambient light. The picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture functions allow watching images simultaneously from different signal sources, such as (4K) Blu-ray players or PCs.

Ultra convenient
The u2868Pqu boasts a classic design with a finely texturised surface in black. For full ergonomic flexibility, the bezel offers an intelligent cable management, tilt, swivel and pivot (90° rotation) functions as well as height adjustability of 130 mm – adjusting the monitor to individual users results in reduced eye and posture fatigue. The monitor is capable of receiving signals via its DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI and D-Sub connectors. For Android enthusiasts, the HDMI connector also offers MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) connectivity to directly mirror smartphone and tablet screens onto the big screen. In addition, AOC equips the display with four USB ports, two each of the 2.0 and 3.0 standard, as well as a set of integrated 3 W speakers. The monitor can be fixed on VESA compliant wall mounts and racks.

AOC offers a 3 year warranty with on-site exchange service for the u2868Pqu. The Ultra HD monitor is available as of now at an MSRP of £ 499.

Do We Know Microphones?

Most consumers think that there is just one type of microphone that everyone uses, but that is far from the truth. There are many different types of microphones that are used in a variety of situations. So what are they? There are four main types which are dynamic, condenser, boundary and ribbon. 

Fun fact: Did you know that a microphone is a speaker reversed?

Dynamic microphones are the most common that are used in live performances, in a recording studio and the same technology is used video camera microphones. They work using magnets and a copper coil which create an electrical current which then turns into an audio signal. A small diaphragm inside the microphone moves when air is passed through causing the magnet to move back and forward through the copper coil creating the electrical current. These microphones are well known to have a solid build quality, which is why they are used for live performances. The most well known and most used by musicians is the Shure SM58, this microphone was developed in the 60s for rock and roll but others soon learnt about its clear and crisp sound quality and now use it for professional sound recordings.

The most common type used in a studio situation is a condenser microphones and typically needs an electrical current to operate. These microphones are mostly used in a studio situation and not in live performance as they are too sensitive. They work with two plates, one being the diaphragm. These move when current audio waves pass through changing how much signal goes through the microphone. They can be used in all sort of situations in a music studio, to capture vocals, room ambience, drum mic ups and guitars. They offer a flatter frequency when compared to the dynamic variety but come at a heavier price.

The next two microphones are well less known and used within the music industry, but they are still used in some places. A boundary is a small microphone which is can be used in a recording studio environment but it is mainly used in meeting rooms so the meeting can be recorded. It works with a boundary plate and a dynamic microphone. Sound bounces of the boundary plate and into the microphone capsule. For best results it has to be flat or mounted on a wall.

A ribbon microphone is very special, this type was used in the early days of radio, giving broadcasts that amazing warm sound. These microphones are mainly used in studios for the clear crisp sound, which is caused by a ribbon of metal in the microphone. This minute piece of delicate metal is suspended between a magnet when the pressure changes it sends the signal to the microphone. Ribbon microphones are extremely delicate and very expensive, they can easily be damaged by loud noise.

I hope this give you some insight into the four main types of microphone available.

Author: Jake George