Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

The Wrap – April 15, 2017

Educational VR arrives on a gaming console, a new security camera, a way to understand your children’s art, and an update on the state of Aussie mobile banking. This is The Wrap.




It’s Saturday April 15 and if you’re in the mood for a bit of technology news in Australia, you don’t need to go anywhere. This is The Wrap.

And this week, the wrap is brought you by the letters PS and VR, because Sony this week did something we’ve been quietly hoping Samsung, YouTube, and Google would all do: it released more content for virtual reality.

If you have a PlayStation VR headset for the Sony PlayStation 4-made PSVR addition, you now potentially have access to something a little more educational than those games you’ve been telling your wife or kids you haven’t been playing.

This week, Sony has made available three experiences developed by Alchemy Labs, a company that worked on one of the two David Attenborough VR videos that are gradually making their way around Australia by way of museums.

Attenborough’s “First Life VR” is one of the releases, and it takes viewers on a virtual reality journey through the ocean exploring the beginnings of life in animation, while Alchemy’s other releases explore other underwater journeys through cameras, looking through old ships or plunging you into shark feeding waters of the deep blue.

With prices around six to ten dollars, the experiences aren’t too costly, and should provide families with a PlayStation VR a little education in the virtual world, though we’re honestly surprised Google hasn’t stepped in and made this available in YouTube for Google Cardboard, Daydream, or other VR headsets.

No disrespect to anything Sony has been able to pull here, but the experience isn’t really virtual reality, just more a 360 degree movie, and so as good as the PlayStation VR is and as cool as the movies should be, this isn’t going to be like exploring the virtual world in other PSVR titles.

There’s also another thing missing: Attenborough’s “Great Barrier Reef” title.

Easily the better of the two being shown at museums, this one lets you explore the reef with the man himself, joining a small expedition as it goes below the surface in a tiny sub.

Quickly changing topic to security, because this week network-device maker Netgear has added a new camera to its Arlo range, boosting home security with some smarts if you’re into that.

We’re not going to lie, the home security market is an area that’s beginning to be flooded with networked security cameras, and depending on where you go — electronic, department, or home hardware supply store — you’re going to find a few security cameras, all of which can be connected to your network.

You’ll find them from Swann, from D-Link, from Belkin, from Ring, from Uniden, from Kogan, and from brands you’ve probably never heard of and never will again.

Like those brands we do know and just listed, Netgear is a brand that has been dabbling in home security for a couple of years now, and in the latest update, it’s taking the weather-proof Arlo camera and doing something it probably should have added in the beginning: rechargeable batteries.

For the past couple of years and up until this week, Netgear’s wireless camera system for your home needed four C123 batteries per camera, which may not be expensive overseas, but tends to cost a good fifteen to forty dollars locally. This week, however, Arlo Pro has been released, a new camera compatible with the old system that supports rechargeable batteries.

Now we’ve checked and if you own the old model Arlo, you can’t just buy the rechargeable battery and fit it in. It doesn’t work that way, and you’ll be forced to buy a new camera if that’s what you want, but it will work with the old base station. A new base station has been made, however, and it will come with some new features, such as recognition which will be rolled out later down the track, and a very loud siren for annoying your family and potentially alarming would-be strangers.

Netgear also has a baby camera on its way for the Arlo system, and a portable Arlo camera that you’ll be able to take with you, though these are more for later in the year.

Now if you’re struggling to find something to do this weekend, Google is doing something fun in the area of machine learning, a field of study which can help protect our computers and websites with better predictability in security, as well as in the development of self driving cars.

Google’s AutoDraw experiment is a little different from any other machine learning system we’ve seen before, using Google’s smarts to identify things we may try to draw and replace them with the things we’re intending to draw.

Like when you draw something you intend to be the moon, but it looks more like a banana that just couldn’t be bothered this morning, and now looks closer to something like Lisa Simpson’s Florida costume. If that.

You might file this under the category of time waster, but this is one of those playful concepts that might help you make a card or something nice for a friend, or even turn your children into the artist they see themselves to be.

Simply load up and start scribbling away, with Google’s system revealing what it thinks you’re trying to draw in an online almost psychic-equivalent of Microsoft Paint.

It’s fun, easy, and could finally give you an understanding of what your children mean when they draw things for your fridge. Now we just need a way to scan in their drawings and let the system do its thing

Finally, Samsung this week has announced that an Australian bank has joined its mobile payment system, with Westpac coming to play with Samsung’s mobile and wearable contactless payment system, alongside Citibank and American Express.

There’s a catch, though: a couple actually. First, you need a recent Samsung device, such as a Galaxy smartphone or its Gear S3 wearable, while the other catch is that while Westpac is supported, the banks it owns are not, with neither St George, Bank SA, or Bank of Melbourne listed as supported, and St George confirmed by Samsung as not being included.

That’s bad news if you’re a customer of those banks wondering when you’ll get support for mobile payment technologies. You’d think having a big bank daddy supporting the future driven technologies, but it doesn’t seem to be making a difference, with these owned banks missing in action for support.

Mind you, they’re not alone, with bigger banks like the Commonwealth Bank missing in action on Samsung Pay, Android Pay, and Apple Pay, while ANZ and smaller banks seem to be making inroads on the last two.

Seriously, can’t we all just get along for the benefit of the consumers, banks? I mean back in the late 90s, there were ads telling us we were going to have our phones replace our wallets, and now we’re close to that point only to feel a little hamstrung by the banks not coming to the table, or taking forever to develop the connections to the services.

Come on banks, seriously, get your act together. This is 2017: let me feel like I’m part of the future today, before I grow old and cranky.

You know what? I’m going outside so I feel less cranky, and you should too. If it’s nice outside and you’ve got the time off, head outside and have a bit of a relaxing day.

And join us next week with more news on the technology world around us, and a commentator that doesn’t like to be cranky, but will happily resort to that if he needs be.

Until then, have a great week.

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