петак, 04. октобар 2013.

Chromecast support for Hulu Plus coming today

The popular video-on-demand service Hulu Plus is now compatible with Chromecast. The service, which offers up programming from a number of major networks for a small monthly fee, pledged to officially support Chromecast back in July, but is only now making good on that promise. Hulu is rolling out the new feature through an update to its Hulu Plus apps for Android and iOS phones and tablets. The updated apps will have a "Cast" button for one-touch streaming to Chromecast. Google has, until now, supported Hulu Plus through its "tab casting" feature, which lets you stream the contents of any browser tab to your TV. However, the experience through tab casting isn't perfect, and the new feature should improve support significantly. Hulu Plus is one of the first premium video options to natively support Chromecast since the streaming stick launched with Netflix and Pandora support, but other popular video services like HBO are also said to be working on support. The new apps will be available today from both Apple's App Store and the Google Play store.

Apple hires veteran cable TV exec to engineer 'something big'

Apple has a new Engineering Director in its ranks, whose CV suggests the California company might finally be ready to start taking the TV as something more than a hobby. Jean-Francois Mulé joins Apple from CableLabs, where he was Senior Vice President of Technology Development and also founded and staffed the company's Bay Area office. With expertise in IP voice and video, TV apps, and "over 15 years of experience solving problems," Mulé looks set for a leadership role in Apple's TV division. Having joined Apple in September, he describes himself as "challenged, inspired and part of something big." That'll inevitably rekindle speculation about Apple contemplating the production of an actual television set, but Mulé's expertise in software engineering suggests he'll be part of refining the set-top box Apple already has rather than designing and building all-new hardware.

Internet proves that only four things are better than kittens

For over a decade, designers and artists have used the internet to share and seek critique of their work. Be it on DeviantArt, or, more recently, sites like Dribbble or Behance, submitting work online is a useful way for creatives to gain vital feedback. However, a new site puts designs up against their toughest test yet: pictures of kittens. Better Than Kittens allows designers to submit their work to stand side-by-side against kittens, calling on users to click on their preferred option in an ever-lasting loop. It's a tough test for any designer. Currently, only four pieces are besting the kittens, two of which feature animals prominently. You can head over to Better Than Kittens to make the comparisons for yourself.

FAA panel: Wi-Fi use is safe during takeoff and landing

A special United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) panel has been discussing loosening in-flight electronics restrictions. After reportedly recommending to the FAA that it let airline passengers use their smartphones, e-readers, tablets, laptops, and other electronic devices uninterrupted during flight, the panel is now endorsing Wi-Fi use. The Wall Street Journal reports that the 28-member committee has determined that Wi-Fi use is essentially safe regardless of what applications are running on devices and the altitude of the plane. "The vast majority" of aircraft "are going to be just fine," says Amazon's vice president of global public policy, Paul Misener, who is part of the committee. While there are recommendations to allow gate-to-gate use of devices, the panel doesn't specifically recommend Wi-Fi use during takeoff and landing. Instead, it recommends simpler testing of existing Wi-Fi solutions used by airlines. Cellular connections are still off limits, even if a device can be used during takeoff and landing. The Federal Communications Commission has long prohibited airborne cellular service, and even onboard systems on flights from London to New York must be turned off at least 250 miles outside US airspace. Even gate-to-gate use of electronics would be a small victory for passengers The committee's report is now expected to be released by the FAA shortly, but the fate of the recommendations are unknown. While the FAA created the committee and has several members on it, approvals could delay any implementations which would see the recommendations in place by 2014. If the FAA follows the recommendations, flight attendants may be tasked with detecting whether passengers are connected to onboard Wi-Fi systems or cell towers during takeoff and landing. It's essentially an impossible task, but even if passengers ignored the rules Misener doesn't believe it's a significant safety hazard. It's now up to the FAA to decide, but even if Wi-Fi isn't permitted the use of electronics during takeoff and landing could be a small victory for passengers across the US.

Abandoned house given a facade-melting facelift

From the Knees of my Nose to the Belly of my Toes is an art installation created by Alex Chinneck. The pristine brickwork on the front of this three-storey house sloughs away, revealing a dirty, destroyed home within. The installation was created in the British seaside town of Margate, around the shell of an abandoned property. For £100,000GBP ($162,208), Chinneck had a team remove the house's original white front, and replace it with slowly slumping brickwork constructed using prefabricated panels. The building's interior remains untouched, and just visible on the top floor. Chinneck explained to Dezeen that he started to like the concept of "exposing the truth and notion of superficiality," but that he "didn't go into the project with that idea." He was originally inspired to create From the Knees of my Nose to the Belly of my Toes to appeal to "the simple pleasures of humor, illusion, and theater" to be "enjoyed by any onlooker." The house itself is found in Margate's Cliftonville area, a place Chinneck describes as having "social issues," and "high rates of crime." He was drawn to the place "because it's an area where the culture hasn't reached," and he feels "public art too often forgets its responsibility to the public." The work was paid for by the UK's Arts Council after Chinneck spent twelve months asking for funding. Once he had the money, the work was completed in a short six weeks. Many of the artist's other works deal with dilapidation and dereliction, including a set of 312 similarly smashed warehouse windows. He told Dezeen that he likes "taking a subject that's dark [...] and delivering a playful experience within that context."

Bulgarians trade free will for free beer

Dutch brewery Amstel has launched an innovative new advertising campaign that rewards people for standing still. The Bulgarian advertiser Next Digital Creative Agency has installed an interactive advert called Amstel Still in cities throughout the country that gives away free beer to anyone willing to wait motionless for three minutes. As detailed by Fast Company, the advert takes the form of a vending machine adorned with a single red button. Pressing the button starts off a 180-second timer that will reset to zero if the built-in motion sensor detects movement. "People as a whole rarely take a break," the agency tells Fast Company, "We decided that we want to help them de-stress a little." It's been 16 days since Amstel Still began its tour of major Bulgarian cities, and the organizers say the machine has already given out 1,344 beers, meaning people have spent over 67 hours standing motionless in search of a beer.

This is the Fitbit Force, a smarter fitness tracking watch

Fitbit is set to release a new fitness tracking band called the Force. The new device will be positioned above the company's current fitness band, the Flex, and will feature a built-in altimeter that measures your present altitude. It'll use this information to give you more detailed statistics on your fitness regime through the addition of a "Floors" statistic that tells you how many flights of stairs you've traversed each day. From the promotional images we have obtained, the Force also appears to have a much-improved display over the Flex, and it's also partially water-resistant. There's another welcome addition in the form of a physical button, which will presumably be used to cycle through settings and functions. The Flex requires users to tap the device to enable functions. Another plus over the Flex — and perhaps the most important — is that the Force will function as a watch. It'll be available in both black and blue-ish "slate" colors, and will come in small and large sizes. Fitbit currently offers an altimeter and an option to view the time with its Fitbit One clip, but left both features out of its Flex wristband. Unverified sources suggest the Force will be priced at $129.95, $30 more than the Flex. We're not sure when Fitbit is planning on releasing the Force, but we've seen a host of promotional renders, photographs, and a sizing guide, so the launch shouldn't be too far away. We reached out to Fitbit for comment on the Force wristband and received a "no comment" response.