Archives for January 14, 2010

Skype makes HD video calls

Video calling makes people “feel more connected to friends and family,” says Skype. To make the connection clearer, the internet communications software provider is now supporting 720p HD video at 30 frames per second.

Today, 34 percent of all Skype-to-Skype calls include video, the company says.

Using the new Skype 4.2 for Windows requires, of course, an HD webcam, sufficient bandwidth, and processing power.

The In Store Solutions Talk-7170 HD Pro and the Talk-7181 HD Pro Plus have a 5-megapixel sensor for 720p video, and the company says its onboard chip “eliminates the need for additional processing by the computer running the Skype application, enabling superior video conversations between people.” This also means less network bandwidth and CPU cycles for HD video calls. The models differ by having two or four built-in cardioid microphones to help improve echo canceling performance, and are priced at $120 and $140, respectively.

Alternatively, HDTVs shipping later this year will have Skype internet calling software embedded. Panasonic, for example, says consumers can make voice and video calls over Skype on its Viera Cast-enabled HDTVs – although the 720p camera will be sold as a separate accessory. LG and others will also market Skype-enable TVs.

Rollei rolls out tiny 10MP touch screen

Rollei debuted its Flexline 100 inTouch, an ultracompact camera with a 3-inch touch screen.

The new model has a 10-megapixel sensor and 3x optical zoom lens, and can take 30 pictures per second. It measures 4.5-by-2.6-by-0.6 inches, and is priced at about $300.

Touching a projected image

The Light Touch projects an interactive touch screen on any surface.

“Today, consumers are no longer passive viewers of multimedia content,” says developer Light Blue Optics. “People expect to engage, interact, and share content.” To enable just that, the company is offering a reference product for OEM partners that it calls “a new application platform.”

With holographic laser projection, the Light Touch creates a 10-inch display; an infrared touch sensing system transforms the projected image into a virtual touch screen that works on any flat surface.

Light Blue Optics is headquartered in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Toy-size Helicopter with two cameras

A newly developed ultra-stable miniature helicopter sports multiple sensors, and it’s been developed for an iPod game, apparently.

Paris-based Parrot says its AR.Drone quadricopter provides an “augmented reality gaming experience” for use with the iPhone and iPod touch.

The drone is “easy to control and flies like a dragonfly,” the company says, with excellent maneuverability and extraordinary stability. Its central cockpit is surrounded by four propellers.

The drone has an accelerometer, gyro, ultrasound sensor, and two cameras. The first camera, located underneath, connects to an inertial measurement unit, which allows the AR.Drone to measure its speed and perform flawless stationary flight. Parrot says its Smart Piloting technology compensates for wind and other environmental conditions during outside flights. These technologies, used primarily for professional and military applications, are now in a consumer product for the first time. The second camera, located at the front, broadcasts and streams what the AR.Drone sees to the iPhone, as if the user is sitting in the cockpit.

The drone communicates via Wi-Fi, letting the user control the flight by moving an iPod, while simultaneously playing a video game seen on the device’s screen, overlaid atop the real-time video captured by the camera.

Pricing and availability were not announced.

Kodak sues Apple, RIM, over camera phone imaging

Kodak alleges patent infringement by Apple and Research In Motion Limited, saying camera phones infringe Kodak’s digital imaging technology.

Kodak filed its complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission, claiming that Apple’s iPhones and RIM’s camera-enabled BlackBerry devices infringe a Kodak patent that covers technology related to a method for previewing images.

Separately, Kodak filed suit against Apple that alleges infringement of two patents generally covering image preview and the processing of images of different resolutions.

Kodak adds it has “had discussions for years with both companies in an attempt to resolve this issue amicably, and we have not been able to reach a satisfactory agreement.”

The company says it has royalty bearing licenses on its digital imaging technology with approximately 30 companies, including phone makers LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson.

This month, Samsung and Kodak settled their suits with a patent sharing agreement, and a royalty payment to Kodak. Kodak reports that during this disagreement, an ITC administrative law judge issued a ruling declaring that the Kodak patent covering color image preview (No. 6,292,218) was valid and enforceable, and that Samsung’s camera-enabled mobile devices infringed upon that Kodak patent.

Kodak’s full announcement is here.

Apple is also currently involved in patent suits with Nokia.

Corel prepares for delisting

On January 5, Corel Corp., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, received a notice from NASDAQ the company no longer maintains the minimum number of publicly held shares required for continued listing.

According to a filing made by the company’s CEO, Kris Hagerman, Corel intends to terminate registration under the applicable U.S. securities laws and to delist the company’s shares on both NASDAQ and the TSX (Toronto Stock Exchange) immediately after the special meeting of shareholders to be held on Jan. 26.

The majority of Corel’s shares were recently purchased by a venture capital company which planned to take the software company private.

Retailer launches iPhone photo contest, apps awards

New York City-based retailer Adorama has taken the bull by the horns and launched APPOS, the first annual iPhone App Awards for Photography 2010, as well as an iPhone Photography Contest. The annual APPOS Awards, says the retailer, are designed to spotlight the rapid rise in popularity of the iPhone as a new platform for digital point-and-shoot photography and to recognize developers of outstanding photo apps.

The APPOS Awards will cover six categories of photo software: colorization, masking/cropping, filters, zoom, panoramic and stop action. Along with honoring the software titles and their developers, Adorama will showcase the winning photo apps, chosen by popular vote, and award-winning photographers and their pictures, chosen by the panel of judges, in such categories as Nature, People, Humor and Creative/Special Effects.

The Grand Prize is a $1,000 Adorama gift certificate; other prizes are 10 Wacom tablets, 15 Canon wireless printers, 30 $100 Adorama gift certificates, and 25 $50 Apple App Stores gift certificates. The contest closes Feb. 15.

Judges include Photoshop Guru Scott Kelby, Nikon shooters Joe McNally and Moose Peterson, and Canon shooters Eric Meola and Syl Arena, plus WFAN radio personalities, former football quarterback Boomer Esiason and commentator Craig Carton. Winners for both the photo contest and the app awards will be announced in March.

“We were amazed to see what our customers were accomplishing with their iPhones,” says Adorama’s Ahron Schachter. “They were getting photographic results that no ordinary digital camera could accomplish without the use of image editing software normally found on a desktop computer. But they were doing everything on their iPhones! We believe the Apple iPhone is changing the way people think about their photos; there’s no doubt it is changing the picture-taking habits of even novice photographers.”

Sakar introduces new Kodak webcams, Nickelodeon-themed products

Sakar International, Edison, N.J., unveiled a series of Kodak webcams and Nickelodeon-themed products. The company’s Kodak series webcams include three autofocus models: the $59.99 Kodak T130 webcam, featuring a 1.3 MP sensor and VGA video; the $79.99 Kodak L200 webcam, featuring 2 MP sensor and VGA resolution; and the Kodak P310 HD webcam, with 3 MP sensor and HD video. All come with built-in noise-cancelling microphones, motion-detection and 3X or 5X zoom.

Sakar’s Nickelodeon line includes cameras for fans of “iCarly,” “Dora the Explorer,” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.” The line includes: the $49.99 iCarly Digital Video Cam with Faceplates; $29.99 iCarly Mini Web Cam with Faceplates; $49.99 Dora the Explorer Digital Video Cam; the $29.99 Dora the Explorer Talking Digital Camera; and the $29.99 SpongeBob SquarePants Underwater Camera.

Samsung announces 30nm-class, high-density NAND flash for mobile devices

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Seoul, South Korea, announced two high-density memory solutions for mobile devices. The new storage solutions – a 64-gigabyte (GB) moviNAND memory device and a 32GB micro secure digital (microSD) memory card – satisfy mobile handset designers’ requirements for advanced compact high-density memory.

“Samsung’s high-density memory solutions bring the storage capacity levels of computing systems to small, mobile devices,” said Dong-Soo Jun, executive vice president, memory marketing, Samsung Electronics. “The 64GB embedded memory, moviNAND, and the 32GB microSD card each greatly expand the data storage density of mobile devices, meeting customers’ memory requirements and ushering in a new era of mobile and IT device capacity growth.”

The memory solutions are based on Samsung’s advanced 32 gigabit (Gb) NAND flash. The 64GB moviNAND, which measures 1.4mm in height, consists of 16 30nm-class 32Gb MLC NAND chips and a controller. The 17-die stack was achieved by using 30-micron thick chips and advanced package technology. With the new 64GB solution, Samsung's proprietary embedded memory, moviNAND, is now available in 64GB, 32GB, 16GB, 8GB and 4GB densities.

The 32GB microSD card, developed this month, stacks eight 32Gb NAND components and a card controller. The industry’s highest capacity, production-ready microSD card is enabled by the use of Samsung’s advanced 30-nm class 32Gb NAND flash memory technology. Previously, the highest density microSD card in production had a 16GB capacity and was based on 40nm-class 16Gb NAND. The new 32GB card is 1mm-thick. The portion of the card that is inserted into a handset measures just 0.7 mm in height.

According to market research firm iSuppli, the global NAND flash memory market for 32GB and higher memory cards is forecast to be 530 million units in 2010 and reach 9.5 billion units by 2013 (in 16Gb equivalent units).

Samsung’s new 64GB moviNAND began mass production last month, while the 32GB microSD is now being sampled with OEMs, with mass production expected next month.

SuperValu reports third quarter sales decline

SuperValu Inc., Minneapolis, Minn., reported third quarter fiscal 2010 net sales of $9.2 billion and net earnings of $109 million. Net sales were $10.2 billion, and the company reported a loss of $2.9 billion.

Retail food net sales were $7.1 billion in the third quarter compared to $7.9 billion last year, a decline of 9.4 percent. This change primarily reflects the impact of negative 6.5 percent identical store sales, the Salt Lake City retail market exit and previously announced store closures. The identical store sales performance was driven by a challenging economic environment, heightened competitive activity, and deflationary pressures. Total retail square footage at the end of the third quarter was approximately 67 million. Total retail square footage decreased 5.3 percent from the third quarter of fiscal 2009.