Plus, Oculus VR's $75 million cash injection.
By Jason Imms on December 20, 2013 at 10:17 am
Welcome to the Friday Tech Roundup! Contained herein is your weekly dose of some of the best tech news from across the Internet, rounded up for your edification and entertainment. Read on for all the details of Google’s acquisition of Boston Dynamics, photos of the beta Steam Machine hardware, and China’s unmanned moon landing.
Prototype Steam Machine shipped to beta users
The first prototypes of the Steam Machine, Valve’s console-esque living room gaming PC, have been shipped to 300 lucky beta testers, and thanks to Reddit user colbehr we have a fresh batch of photos over which to salivate. Like most everything Valve does, the Steam Machine prototype is all about presentation, with its heavy and fanciful wooden crate, and cryptic iconography. The machine itself is identical to that which was demoed to a few tech publications last month, save for a single stamped and polished ventilation hole on top of the machine, used to identify the device and its owner as one of the 300 beta testers. An interesting note: The booklet included with the device includes specific instructions for upgrading the system by replacing internal components.
Google buys Boston Dynamics, not officially a military contractor
Web search potentate Google announced the purchase of Boston Dynamics last Friday, the primarily DARPA-funded masterminds behind the terrifying BigDog, and the speedy WildCat, according to the New York Times. This is the latest in a recent series of robotics-related acquisitions spearheaded by ex-Android head Andy Rubin. Google has not announced its overarching plan for its robotics acquisitions, but executives said “the company would honor existing military contracts, but that it did not plan to move toward becoming a military contractor on its own.”
China land unmanned craft on the Moon
On Saturday, China joined the limited group of countries that have successfully soft-landed on the Moon along with the US and the Soviet Union. The unmanned Chinese craft, the Chang’e-3, performed a controlled landing on the surface of the Moon at just before 9:15pm Beijing time, according to Chinese state media. “It landed on the Moon, Chang’e has landed,” came the official announcement, along with video footage of lab-coated scientists clapping and embracing one-another. The craft will reportedly deploy a six-wheeled rover called Yutu (or Jade Rabbit) onto the surface of the Moon to photograph and study the Moon’s surface. It is unclear at this stage whether the project was primarily scientifically or politically devised, though these causes are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Google Glass update adds wink-to-shoot and extra features to Glassware
Google Glass update XE 12 is on its way and promises to add some new features, remove some old features, and tighten up security. XE 12 adds the ability for users to take photos by simply winking their eye, a far more surreptitious process than saying “Okay Glass, take a photo.” Glassware will also see some shiny new features, with the addition of Hangouts providing the ability to send SMS, instant messages, and voice and video calls. On the security front, Glassware now gives users the option to set a lock screen that will activate if the user take off their Glass or deactivate it. Guest mode has also been removed, with Google citing the amount of work required from its engineers to securely maintain the feature.
Oculus VR secures $75 million in funding to complete consumer release
Oculus VR has reportedly secured $75 million in funding to help finish off the consumer release of its eponymous head mounted display, the Oculus Rift. Venture Beat’s Dean Takahashi reports that the funding was provided by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which was founded in 2009 by Netscape founder Mark Andreessen and business partner Ben Horowitz. Oculus VR has stated that the money will be used to acquire more staff, and to build the commercial release of the device.