Mekamon 2.0 is here to give AR gaming a dose of personality

Reach Robotics has launched the second generation of its augmented reality (AR) fighting robot, Mekamon – and it’s weirdly adorable.

In February, TechRadar visited the company’s new UK office, where we spoke to chief operating officer John Rees and chief technology officer Chris Beck about the history of Mekamon and the future of AR gaming. Now, the team has more than doubled in size and is about to spill over to another floor in the building. 

We returned the day after the team submitted the app for Mekamon 2.0 to Apple for review. It had been a long night, but Reach is used to working at speed; this is a company that took its first robot from a handmade plastic prototype to the shelves of real-world Apple Stores in just four years.

Next-gen skirmishes

The robot itself has also had a speed boost. The spider-like Mekamon 2.0 isn’t just faster and more agile than the machine TechRadar reviewed last year (there’s noticeably less latency between app and robot, giving a more direct feeling of control), it has more character too.

“We wanted to change robotics from something boring to something that can evolve,” explained Reach Robotics’ CEO and co-founder Silas Adekunle. “Now the robot has personality.”

Upon powering up, the machine taps each of its feet and ‘looks’ around to take in its surroundings. This isn’t just a cute animation, said Adekunle, it’s also part of the calibration process as Mekamon finds its feet.

We wanted to change robotics from something boring to something that can evolve. Now the robot has personality

Silas Adekunle, CEO Reach Robotics

While Mekamon 1.0 required a patterned mat to help it recognize the floor, Mekamon 2.0 is fully markerless. Marking out the space where it will do battle is a simple matter of walking around the area and allowing the app to map a patch of floor.

Adekunle likens the concept of Mekamon to ‘Pokémon in real life’. The robot works with a mobile app (available for iPhone and iOS), and can engage with other physical bots, or virtual opponents presented on your device’s screen in augmented reality. Whereas Mekamon 1.0 was only capable of one-on-one battles, version 2.0 can take on three adversaries at once, with results shown on a leaderboard.

If you (or a friend) invested in the previous model, don’t worry – Mekamon 2.0 is fully backwards compatible, and Reach aims to make sure its hardware is supported for as long as possible. Eventually, the aim is for anyone to be able to go into battle using the app alone – whether they own hardware or not, making Mekamon into a whole platform.

Kinematic animation

Skirmishes have been improved, with new loadouts (combinations of weapons and shields that tie in with properties like firepower and speed) and ways to engage the enemy, but perhaps the most exciting addition to Mekamon’s app is the new Create mode, including Kinematic animation.

This works much like stop-motion. The robot takes on a kind of waxy flexibility, enabling you to bend and pose its limbs without damaging it. Once you’ve made a pose – essentially a frame – you can capture it with a tap of the app. Once you’re done, press play and Mekamon will move through the set poses, creating a smooth animation.

The Reach team demonstrated several of their own creations, including a kind of Mexican wave, a dab, and twerking, and soon you’ll be able to share your own creations with other users around the world through the app. 

We’ll be reviewing the new and more characterful Mekamon very soon.

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HP empowers creators with new products

During the Adobe Max event in Los Angeles, HP Inc. announced a number of new devices geared towards delivering the next generation of technology solutions to creative professionals.

The company is combining the power of its Z by HP portfolio with its print and packaging capabilities to curate the ultimate experience for creators. The new Z by HP portfolio includes both mobile and desktop devices to deliver the powerful productivity, versatility and security today’s creative professionals need to do their best work.

Director of Workstations, Thin Clients, Retail Solutions and Immersive Computing, EMEA at HP Inc, Gwen Coble offered further details on the company’s new products for creatives, saying:

“Today’s creatives need specialized tools and solutions to help them stay in the creative zone, increase their productivity, and create whenever and wherever inspiration strikes. We are listening to the needs of creative pros and investing in innovation that makes it easier for them to unleash their creativity. With the most powerful hardware, feature-rich software and services, as well as innovative programs for creators, HP is reinventing the way the world creates.” 

  • We’ve also highlighted the best laptops for graphic design

Empowering creators

The new Z by HP portfolio includes ZBook mobiles, Z desktops such as the HP Z2 Mini and the powerful HPZ8 as well as the HP DreamColor displays.

The HP ZBook Studio, HP ZBook Studio x360, HP ZBook 15 and HP ZBook 17 have all been revamped with greater processing power, innovative security features and bright displays.

The devices now come with six-core Intel Core i9 processors to allow creators to tackle heavier workloads such as video editing and 3D rendering. The expanded memory option of up to 32 GB of memory (expandable up to 128GB on some models) also allows users to work faster even when dealing with large amounts of data.

HP Inc has even added Raid 1 which gives users a mirrored hard drive to back up their creations automatically in case of a drive failure.

The HP ZBook Studio and Studio x360 are also getting a significant boost in graphics performance with the inclusion of a Nvidia Quadro P2000 graphics card.

HP SmartStream Designer

In an effort to unleash creative potential and make the limitless possibilities of print and packaging possible, HP also announced that its HP SmartStream Designer for Designers (D4D) Adobe Illustrator plug-in is now available globally.

The company’s Illustrator plug-in is a suite of “light” design solutions to help users customise and personalise any design through the use of variable text, colour and images. Additionally, the HP SmartStream Mosaic feature within the D4D software allows designers to create seed files which can be manipulated infinitely through the use of algorithms to create unique outcomes in real-time.

Global head of brand innovation at HP Inc., Nancy Janes explained how designers can utilise the new plug-in, saying:

“HP Digital print has the ability to make packaging and print more agile and limitless, but until now there has been a gap between concept and creation. With HP SmartStream D4D, designers can for the first time, play with the powerful software in Adobe Illustrator CC to create memorable and impactful packaging campaigns for global & local brands.” 

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Spain vs England live stream: how to watch today’s Nations League football online

The UEFA Nations League may have baffled all of us when it was announced, but since the action has got underway, the competitive, closely-fought nature of the matches has won football fans over across Europe. Next up for England is a tricky trip to Spain, where Gareth Southgate’s men will be looking to avenge the 2-1 defeat suffered at Wembley in the first group game against the Spanish. Keep scrolling down to find out how you can live stream Spain vs England wherever you are in the world. 

The UEFA Nations Cup means big sides locking horns in a competitive format, and serving as a testament to that is England’s next fixture in the tournament – away to the might of Spain. Despite their memorable World Cup campaign in Russia, doubts remain over England’s ability to beat the world’s top tier sides. Spain added weight to that argument with a 2-1 win on English soil in the group’s opening game, and they’ll no doubt enter the return fixture as favourites.

Gareth Southgate may have the World Cup’s golden boot striker Harry Kane at his disposal, but with the likes of Isco and Busquests orchestrating the Spanish play, the question is whether England will get enough of the ball to be able to feed their talisman up front. And even if they do, will Spain still be able to keep a clean sheet like Croatia did in Friday’s 0-0 draw?

Are Spain cruising through to the Nations League finals next summer or could England pull off a surprise in Seville? Find out by following the instructions below and grabbing a live stream of Spain vs England wherever you are in the world. 

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How to live stream Spain vs England from anywhere with a VPN

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Live stream Spain vs England in the US

The best cheap TV sales and deals in October 2018: 4K TVs for less

Cheap TV deals are on something of a roll right now. Prices dropped over the summer and we’re seeing fresh waves of discounts and new TV sales every day still. So if you’re after a new TV, you can get a fantastic price today, with no need to hold out for something in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. 

And with the longer nights now closing in and Netflix seemingly hell-bent on releasing excellent fresh box set content every week (just ignore Iron fist) you may as well enjoy them on a lovely TV. Netflix, Amazon, Sky TV and the like are all increasing their 4K content too.

We keep our eye on the latest deals throughout the year, so we’re poised to find you the best price whenever the need to replace your old TV arises. We’re fully behind the 4K TV movement too seeing as prices have dropped nicely, meaning you’re not saving much money at all by opting for a standard HD TV and most stores are clearing them out. One look at the prices below and you’ll see what we mean. 

We’ve split our carefully curated 4K TV deals into different size categories immediately after our pick for cheap TV deal of the week. Whatever your budget, we’re sure we can find something for you. 

Note: all of our selected deals are for 4K/Ultra HD TVs and include a built-in freeview tuner as standard. Pretty much every deal comes with Smart TV functionality built-in  along with HDR technology. If they don’t we’ll clearly call it out.

cheap ambilight tv sales deals

TechRadar’s cheap TV deal of the week

cheap tv sales tcl deals

Cheap TV deals (40-49 inch)

4k tv sales

Cheap TV deals (50-59 inch)

Samsung UE65MU6220

Cheap TV deals (60-85 inch)

More large screen 4K TV sales

If you’re after more seriously large TV deals, we should warn you, they don’t come cheap. However, if you want to see some more large screen TV deals -we’re talking about 65 to 85-inch TVs- we’d recommend heading over to John Lewis, Currys and Amazon as they seem to stock more models than most UK retailers.

Extra retailer cheap 4K TV sales links:

Not found the right cheap TV for you today? Or maybe you’d prefer to directly browse the TV sales at your favourite retailers instead of our highlights of the best cheap TV deals? We’re updating this page on a regular basis, so you may have better luck another day. If you want to take a look for yourself now though, here are the direct links to a the full collection of TV sales at multiple stores. 

  • Amazon
  • Argos
  • ebuyer
  • John Lewis
  • Very
  • Currys

Real-time translation rolls out to more Google Assistant-enabled headphones

One of the features that wowed us when we first saw the Pixel Buds from Google was the instant translation feature – even if it worked a little slower than “instant” in practice. It appears the same feature is no longer a Pixel Buds exclusive, and has now rolled out to all headphones offering Google Assistant integration.

Droid Life spotted the subtle but crucial change in the Pixel Buds support pages, which now state that “Google Translate is available on all Assistant-optimized headphones and Android phones” rather than only on the Pixel Buds and Pixel phones.

The actual translating happens through Google Translate via whichever smartphone is connected to the headphones, so Google just needs to flick a switch to give third-party hardware access to the functionality. The likes of LG, Sony and JBL all have headphones with Google Assistant on board.

Choose your language

At the moment, the real-time translation feature supports some 40 languages including English. The voice command “help me interpret…” then a language is enough to launch the Google Translate interface on the phone, with audio routed through the headphones and the phone speaker as you try and keep up a conversation.

We’re not sure exactly how the feature is going to work on headphones that aren’t the Pixel Buds, or if translation will be limited to specific models from third-party manufacturers, but it looks like as far as Google is concerned it’s open to all.

“The Pixel Buds make translation a less awkward and more rewarding process, but nevertheless stilted by Google’s own Translate app,” we wrote in our original Pixel Buds review, so maybe don’t cancel that Spanish course just yet. For quick and simple translations though, you’ve now got a broader choice of devices to pick from.

  • Google Assistant is getting more updates on more devices

Via 9to5Google

Malicious messages reportedly crashing PlayStation 4 consoles

We’ve seen single malicious messages able to crash smartphones, but now there’s one for Sony’s PlayStation 4 console to look out for – users on social media and Reddit are reporting receiving a certain specially coded message that’s enough to put their hardware out of action.

As The Verge reports, the message includes unreadable characters that are enough to cause glitches on the PS4 when opened on Android or iOS. Once the message is read, the problems start, even if it’s then deleted.

Some users are having to report they’ve gone to the lengths of a factory reset on their PlayStation 4 consoles in order to clean up the mess – this looks like a particularly nasty bug. In some cases it seems to be being used by online opponents looking to disrupt the gaming of their rivals.

Can we fix this?

With the bug only just coming to light, Sony has yet to officially confirm or respond to the problems, but presumably a software update is going to be enough to plug the security hole and protect against similar problems in the future.

For now, you can set your PlayStation 4 and its mobile apps to only accept messages from friends you’ve already confirmed, or block messages completely: the options are under Account Management then Privacy Settings in the console settings. If you are hit with problems, one fix appears to be rebooting in Safe Mode and then rebuilding the database which shouldn’t affect your data.

As we’ve said, this isn’t the first time that dodgy program code inside a message has been enough to cause a device to fall over, but it’s the first time we’ve seen it happening on a console. If we hear more about the bug and how to fix it, we’ll update you here.

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Super League Grand Final live stream: how to watch Wigan Warriors vs Warrington Wolves rugby league

The end of the 2018 Super League is here with just one final showdown needed to determine this season’s champions. Yes, it’s time for the Super League Grand Final between Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves and you can watch all the action live, even if the match isn’t been shown where you are.

As if the drama of a Grand Final wasn’t enough, this Wigan vs Warrington clash comes loaded with narrative and sub-plots. Most notably, it’ll be the final match in rugby league for Wigan coach Shaun Wane before his move to the Scottish Rugby Union, ending an incredible 30-year association with his hometown club. There’ll be no room for sentiment in the Warrington camp though, as they’re out to avenge the two Super Final defeats to Wigan in 2013 and 2016. 

But who could be the match-winner on the pitch? Well, The Wolves’ Tom Linehan is joint fourth in the Super League try-scorers with 18 to his name, but in England international George Williams, The Warriors have one of the top creators around, with 22 try-assists recorded in the 2018 Super League. 

So, how do you get to see all the all-important clash at Old Trafford? Below we’ve laid out exactly what you need to do to get a live stream of the Wigan Warriors vs Warrington Wolves Super League Grand Final, so you can simply click and enjoy.

Live stream the Super League Grand Final from absolutely anywhere with a VPN

How to live stream the Super League Grand Final in the UK

What does Google know about you?

Google first began as the helpful search engine which endeavored to index the entire web. The company’s previous “Don’t be evil” motto was embedded into its code of conduct during its formative years, way back in the early days of the internet in 1998. The organization took its name from the word ‘googol’ which refers to 10 to the 100th power, or in other words, a stupendously large number.

As the company grew, it moved into other online content areas, including the popular webmail offering, Gmail, the online office suite Google Documents, as well as personal cloud storage courtesy of Google Drive, and navigation with Google Maps.

Google also developed operating systems that grew from Linux roots, including the Android OS used on the majority of smartphones today, and Chromebooks which are based on Chrome OS. All of those smartphone pictures feed into Google Photos, naturally.

Finally, let’s not forget the Chrome browser which is available across many platforms, and boasts over two-thirds of global browser market share as of September 2018. For most users, Google and its products are truly everywhere.

  • Stay secure and anonymous online with one of our best VPNs

Data questions

With so many avenues for data collection, Google rapidly acquired a good deal of information on each user. This begs the question: what is the company doing with all this data? And the answer circles back to its core monetization stream, and the personalization of ads, also known as targeted advertising.

This is particularly valuable, as rather than just showing random adverts to random folks, as was traditionally done with television, radio and print advertising, Google can instead target ads at specific users.

This is frequently seen when a user searches for an item, and then for the next few browsing sessions – even on a different device – there are umpteen ads shown for not only the item searched for, but also competing products in that category, with the assumption being that if you searched for that particular thing, then you are a potential buyer for all these products.

In fairness, it should be stated that Google maintains that it does not sell your personal info to anyone, and openly states that this data is collected to personalize ads. Let’s take a look at exactly where the data comes from, and how much data Google collects.

It all starts with search

Google’s data collection begins with its search engine, as this keeps track of the topics you search for. The company then shows adverts relevant to those searches, and furthermore keeps track of which ads users click on to gauge interest, and therefore further target ads. Google then collates a whole list of topics that are relevant to the particular individual.

Also taking data from your mobile, Google builds a comprehensive list of personal info that includes your name, nickname, emails, phone number, birthday, gender, and location.

Reading your Gmail – or not

This is not only about search, but also continues with Google’s webmail offering, with Gmail maintaining a list of all the contacts you send and receive email from. One particularly controversial element here is that the content of the emails sent and received has been analyzed for the purpose of targeting ads.

However, more recently, Google has reportedly stopped scanning user’s emails, although apparently third-party apps still do – for example, an app that integrates with Gmail for the purpose of trip planning.

Other Google services provide further data to collect and analyze. Some are more obvious, such as the text of chats in Google Hangouts. However, others may not be as immediately apparent, such as Google Photos, where data is collected on the people and places tagged, and images are analyzed so that all pictures of dogs or cats can be grouped together, for example. It also goes beyond this, as Google analyzes images using facial recognition tech to determine who is in the picture – and there is already a biometric privacy lawsuit in Illinois based around this.

Google along for the ride

Furthermore, Google uses its popular Google Maps service to collect information via desktop browsers and smartphones. For this service to work, there is some personal data which is required, such as your home and work address to facilitate navigation.

However, it quickly goes beyond this to track not only the addresses searched for, but where users go on a daily basis, including the number of miles driven, and walked, the stores and restaurants visited, and the amount of time spent at each. Google will know, for example, if you stop at a car dealership, and then use this information to serve up car-related adverts.

Those looking to get away from Google Maps, and turning to the popular alternate Waze, should bear in mind that Google owns this outfit as well, and it feeds into the same data set.

This location data is considered accurate enough that in multiple cases police have issued warrants for it to place the accused at the scene of the crime at the time of the incident. You can see the timeline of where you have been here, and your travels have been recorded by the day, going back for years.

Filling in the gaps

Google rounds things out with other services, including Google Calendar, which tracks appointments – so for the convenience of maintaining an electronic Day Runner online, we willingly hand over all of the data pertaining to our social events. Just imagine how valuable it would be to advertisers to know about your upcoming wedding, house sale or that birthday party you are planning.

Add in other information from Google News that knows which stories you look at, and before too long Google knows about your interests, and perhaps elements such as your political affiliation, which is particularly valuable in terms of targeting you for a potential donation. Google Fit is another treasure trove of data, a neat app that can track a user’s activity throughout the day, meaning that Google then knows how active or sedentary an individual is.

Additional data is gathered from searching the documents created in Google’s online office suite, G Suite, and what’s saved to a user’s cloud storage in the form of Google Drive. Google also owns the video streaming site YouTube, and you can bet that the company keeps track of what is looked at, and that also feeds into its database.

In conclusion

While Google has helped to shape the modern internet with its many services, also realize that this has come at the price of personal data, in many more forms than most of us would realize.

Strategies to get around this include opting out of data collection, when possible, and using services other than Google, although in most cases this just gives the data to another tech giant, such as Apple or Microsoft, which is not likely any better.

Without using better strategies, such as surfing with a VPN, and using more anonymous services, there is little to no privacy on the internet.

  • We also discuss how to become anonymous online

4K movie upgrades could be heading to Google Play Movies

If you’ve bought a few films from Google Play Movies, you could be in line for a free 4K upgrade in future. Evidence dug up in the Play Movies app for Android suggests Google is planning to roll out a resolution bump to existing titles, so you may not have to pay again for movies you’ve already purchased at 1080p.

As spotted by Android Police, the latest version of the Play Movies app refers to 4K upgrades in several places in the code, as well as including a message “Enjoy this higher quality on any supported 4K device”, which would suggest 4K is coming soon.

Of course Google Play Movies is playing catch up to Apple and its iTunes library here – 4K HDR movies were rolled out across iTunes during 2017, in advance of the Apple TV 4K making an appearance. Customers who had already bought content in high definition were offered free upgrades to 4K.

The price of 4K

Whether or not Google is going to give its users a free 4K upgrade from HD or even SD content, where available, remains to be seen. As yet there’s been no official word from Google on the resolution jump or how exactly it’s going to work across the various different properties Google owns (including YouTube).

Plenty of new movies are already available through Google Play Movies & TV in 4K resolution, but this upgrade is referring to titles that have only been available in HD up until now. Playing back movies and TV shows in 4K needs a 4K-capable device too, of course.

There has been some talk that Google is getting ready to retire the Google Play branding all together, with everything switching over to YouTube – in the same way that Google Play Music is slowly merging into YouTube Music. We’ll have to wait and see whether this happens, but it seems that 4K is definitely on the cards.

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Facebook is testing a feature to let you unsend your messages

Ever had that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you’ve sent a Facebook message you really shouldn’t have? Or you’ve sent the right message, but to the wrong person? Facebook wants to cover your back – it’s testing a new feature to that gives you a small window for unsending messages.

First spotted by seasoned tipster Jane Wong, you’ll be able to long-press on a message to unsend it, though there will be a limit on how many messages you can retract, apparently. These and other details are still being ironed out, we assume.

Facebook hasn’t said anything officially about the news, so it’s not clear if or when the functionality is going to make it around to everyone else. It’s something Facebook has previously promised to do, though, and you can already unsend messages in WhatsApp, so it seems like the feature will reach everyone eventually.

To unsend or not to unsend

Of course this is something you’ve been able to do for a while in the likes of Gmail, so Facebook is playing catch up as far as unsending messages goes. It’s also reeling from the September hack that left data on up to 30 million users exposed, with details still emerging on how information leaked out.

It’s actually not been a great year for Facebook and data security at all. The ramifications of the Cambridge Analytica scandal continue to rumble on, with WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton the latest to encourage users to ditch Facebook for good.

Perhaps being able to unsend messages is going to be enough to tempt a few users to keep their Facebook accounts active for a little longer yet – either that or it could port all of its messaging services over to Instagram and we can all leave Facebook behind for good in favor of a different Facebook-owned platform.

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