Microsoft demos 3D photo avatars, display tech

Microsoft has taken the wraps off some of the natural user interface (NUI) projects currently in development within its research group.

As a follow-up to a NUI-centric and Kinect SDK TechForum event yesterday, the company today posted videos of 3D talking heads, as well as new initiatives in smart displays--both of which make use of camera technologies to create new types of interaction experiences.

The first is an evolution of Microsoft's face-mapping technology, that is soon to be introduced as part of the Xbox 360's Avatar Kinect feature. Instead of mapping facial movements to a virtual character though, … Read more

This is Kinect with Windows Phone 7 (video)

In the future, people sitting next to you on the couch with their Windows Phone 7 device will be able to jump in on a game you're playing on the Kinect.

At least that's the message being delivered by Microsoft in a technology demo video that shows off the company's vision it outlined earlier today in Barcelona during Mobile World Congress.

The technology preview, which runs less than a minute in length, shows off a male player going up against the computer in Rally Ball, a mini-game included in the Kinect Adventures title that ships with Microsoft'… Read more

CES: First Look at the Nintendo 3DS

LAS VEGAS--Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime stopped by the CNET stage early this morning to give us first access to the brand-new Nintendo 3DS portable gaming system scheduled to hit stores this March.

We were really impressed with the overall design of the device, and the 3D effect is certainly eye-popping the instant it's picked up. Fils-Aime explained that the 3DS is a "game changer" in terms of how people consume 3D content.

We were then treated to a quick 3D demo of Pilotwings, which really showed of the effectiveness of the 3D slider. Gamers will … Read more

Sling Media 'very close' to launching iPad app

Yes, folks, the much-anticipated SlingMobile Player for iPad app is almost here. We can't tell you exactly when this baby will appear in the App Store--or how much it will cost--but a company rep sent us an e-mail saying the company was "this close" to releasing the app and pointed us to a YouTube Video demo.

For now, have a look and feel free to comment (it looks pretty sweet to us). We'll let you know as soon as it goes live and what price tag Sling puts on it. Hopefully, it won't be exorbitant. … Read more

Get better screen captures with Snagit for Mac

Arguably one of the best screen capture programs for Windows is now available on the Mac. TechSmith's Snagit has a long history with Windows fans as a highly flexible and feature-rich tool for quickly grabbing visual info on your screen. The software's main strength is that it offers a number of tools for adding graphics--like arrows, boxes, and thought and speech balloons--to call out specific areas on the screen. When you're finished with a capture, you can quickly add the project to a presentation, just about any document, or send the screen capture through e-mail. One of … Read more

Yet another side of Bob Dylan: The Witmark Demos

"The Witmark Demos" two-CD (or four-LP) set features 47 Bob Dylan songs recorded for his music publishers, Leeds Music and M. Witmark & Sons between 1962 and 1964. Fifteen songs have never been officially released until now. All of the songs on "The Witmark Demos" were written and recorded before Dylan was 24 years old.

Some of the earliest songs on "The Witmark Demos" weren't first heard on Dylan's own albums; they were covered by others, including Peter, Paul, and Mary, Stevie Wonder, Judy Collins, and the Byrds. In 1962-3 Dylan was primarily known as a songwriter, and the demos were made in hopes of getting more artists to cover his songs.

The demos weren't recorded at official Columbia Records sessions, so there's no fancy production or sweetening, just Dylan singing and playing his guitar in a tiny 6-by-8-foot studio at Witmark Publishing on 51st Street and Madison Ave. in NYC. "The Witmark Demos" contains Dylan's very first recordings of songs like "Blowin' In the Wind" and "The Times They Are A-Changin'," so it's almost as if you're hearing them at their moment of creation.

Reissue producer Steve Berkowitz worked from the surviving original analog tapes and promo records. The amount of research that went into finding the best possible tapes and other materials from nearly 50 years ago was extensive. Even so, some tunes are distorted and downright fuzzy, and sound quality varies from track to track, but most are good, and some are the best, most natural sounding versions I've heard. The demo recordings are free of dynamic range compression so you really hear Dylan singing his guts out. "Boots Of Spanish Leather" gave me a new appreciation for Dylan's singing. He's really thinking about the words. … Read more

Bob Dylan's mono recordings, 1962-1967

"The Original Mono Recordings" box set features Bob Dylan's first eight albums, available on CD and in their original release format, mono LPs (and on MP3, sans box). The set runs from his first album, "Bob Dylan," released in March 1962, to "John Wesley Harding" from late December 1967. At that time most people listened to Dylan's music over mono AM radios in the car, mono portable radios, or mono home hi-fi systems. Sure, stereo Dylan LPs were simultaneously released with the monos, but it's my best guess that Dylan and his production team listened to the mono mixes in the studio. Besides, mono LPs retailed for $2.98 in the early 1960s, and stereo LPs were a buck more, so most kids bought the mono, even if they had a stereo (that would include me). "John Wesley Harding" was the last mono LP from Dylan; after that all subsequent American releases were stereo only. So unless you have original 1960s-era LPs, chances are you've never heard the mono mixes.

I spoke with reissue producer Steve Berkowitz to get more details about how the transfers were done. He assured me the 96/kHz-24-bit resolution digital masters were made from the original analog master tapes, played on vintage mono tape machines, and that the LPs were cut directly from the analog masters. I was relieved to hear that; most, no, nearly all newly recorded or remastered old analog music that comes out on LP is sourced from digital masters. "The Original Mono Recordings" on LP are pure analog discs, with no digital conversions whatsoever in the mastering process. The LPs were cut here in NYC at Sterling Sound by George Marino, a true master of the record-cutting lathe.

Berkowitz stressed the guiding principle for everyone involved, including engineer Mark Wilder and producer Jeff Rosen, was to make the new LPs sound as close to the first generation American LPs as possible. Berkowitz said, "We went back and forth comparing the new mono LPs and CDs with the original LPs. They were the 'masters' we served to replicate." … Read more

preGame 30: Sonic the Hedgehog 4

After 16 years and countless games and appearances, we finally get to play a new side-scrolling Sonic game in Sonic the Hedgehog 4. A direct sequel to Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic 4 propels the franchise into the world of HD gaming but remains loyal to the hard-core fanbase that helped make the franchise so iconic.

Joining us to demo Sonic 4 is Aaron Webber, community manager for the title at Sega. Aaron shares his insight on the game's production, some Sonic trivia, and where the game will go after Episode 1. We'll play through a … Read more

10 cool Demo products you can use right now

SANTA CLARA, Calif.--Of the 50 plus start-ups involved in this year's Demo Fall conference, which wrapped up here tonight, only so many are consumer-oriented.

On top of this, and as past Demo conferences have taught us, just a small portion of sites and services demonstrated on stage are immediately open (or ready) for public consumption.

Below we've picked 10 start-ups, all of which are ready to be hammered on by their first batch of users. Quite a few are mobile and only available on one platform or another, but the rest are Web-based and ready for you to give them a spin.

1. TuneUp is not a new product, but at Demo the company announced that it was about to add a handful of new features. TuneUp goes through your iTunes music library and finds missing metadata and album art, then fills it in. Pretty soon the company is going to expand that to song lyrics, as well as a song de-duplicator that it says will do a better job than the one built into iTunes. Those features are coming in "60 to 90" days, according to CEO Gabriel Adiv.

Adiv says TuneUp is currently up to 1.5 million users, which have collectively cleaned up 1.2 billion music tracks.

2. Footfeed solves the problem of check-in fatigue. If you're interested in using a handful of geolocation check-ins all at once, you can just use Footfeed once and it does the hard work for you. Why would you want to use more than one service? The simple answer is that some offer local deals, or have friends that use it, who wouldn't otherwise see that you're there.

As Footfeed demoed on stage, it's able to determine which business you're on on all of these various networks down to just a few feet. If it's not sure, it gives you the option to drill down into each network to verify that it's checking you into the right place. And after checking in, you get a rundown of how many points you scored, badges you unlocked, and friends who are nearby in each network.

To some degree the need for Footfeed could diminish. During Facebook's introduction of Places, for instance, it was announced that a handful of these existing location networks would be sending that user location information both ways. But not everyone uses Facebook, and not all of these networks are going to be doing that two way sharing, so Footfeed manages to fill that gap well. For now.

3. Hiplogic's Spark. A homescreen of widgets is exactly the kind of thing you cannot currently do on the iPhone, but Android and Symbian are happy to let you switch that up with something else. Spark plays off this idea and gives you a rundown of information from social networks to news stories. The app also lets you update to Twitter and Facebook at once.

Your phone may already have such a feature, but if you're looking for something a little different, this is a well-designed effort. Here's a demo of what it does:

4. Foound is a very smart idea that takes some of the best features of an events service and scales it down into something that can be used for arranging smaller, less-scheduled events with friends. The service was designed by a group of friends who got tired of sending one another text messages and having to look up directions. Foound solves this by offering up push notifications when a user adds anything to the event page, as well as providing a map that can be used to see how close you are to the venue.

Foound can be found only on the iPhone, though its creators plan to bring it to other platforms.

5. IQ Engines Any-Image Recognition Engine. OK, to be fair this is a back-end technology and not an app itself, though to get a taste of what it can do try downloading oMoby, which uses the company's image recognition tool.

What sets this image recognition tool apart from the competition is that it can learn. If you scan something and it doesn't know what it is, it pings a network of people who can look at it, and fill in the information (assuming it's something like a product). Then, the next time you, or someone else scans it, it'll get picked up in the system automatically.

Beyond product scanning, the technology's creators say it's being used to help the vision impaired identify objects, as well as figure out what's in hosted Web photos and serve up contextual advertising.

6. Needly is a place to buy and sell things--be it the junk in your garage or a service like fixing a leaky faucet. What sets the site apart from something like Craigslist is that it's got a built-in escrow service. So say you're buying something locally and you've never met the seller, you can give Needly the money, then get the item, and if you get burned on the transaction you can get your money back. Better yet, as a seller you can sell a high-value item without worrying about dealing with a bouncy check or a wad of cash. … Read more

Start-ups strut their stuff at Demo Fall 2010 (roundup)

A-list venture capitalists and journalists flock to the high-tech conference to see what's buzz-worthy from the confab's start-up companies.

LinkedIn CEO: 99 percent of profiles are active LinkedIn is competing in an increasingly crowded market of social profile sites, including basic social networks like Facebook, but are users keeping their professional profiles as updated as they do on their personal pages? The company says yes. (Posted in Web Crawler by Josh Lowensohn) September 15, 2010 5:02 p.m. PDT

Square producing 10,000 card readers a day The up and coming payment network Square, famously started by … Read more