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Tech News & Announcements

Microsoft cuts Surface 2 price by $100, hinting at successor or discontinuation (Peter Bright/Ars Technica)

Microsoft has cut $100 off the price of its Surface 2 Windows RT tablets. This puts the cheapest 32GB unit at $349, the 64GB unit at $449, and the 64GB model with LTE version at $579. With the price cut, the 32GB 1920×1080 Microsoft tablet is priced below all but the 16GB non-Retina iPad mini. The discounts are available through Microsoft's physical and online stores, as well as through some other retailers such as Amazon. The price cuts are described as being for a limited time only, expiring on September 27 or "while stocks last." Microsoft is also limiting buyers, rather optimistically, to a maximum of five discounted units per purchase. While Surface 2's x86 sibling, the Surface Pro 2, was replaced unexpectedly by the Surface Pro 3 , the Surface 2 has been largely unaltered since its introduction last October. The only change Microsoft has made was to add a third model with integrated LTE. $100 off is a hefty discount, the kind of thing that points at stock clearance. But a clearance to what end? Microsoft could be ending its ARM Windows hardware ambitions and discontinuing Surface 2 entirely, but it may just be making space for a successor model. This uncertainty underscores broader uncertainty about Windows RT in general. Microsoft can't abandon ARM processors completely, because they're still critically important to smartphones. However, promoting ARM Windows on a large tablet has always been a little tricky due to the relative lack of applications and the strong competition from cheap x86 tablets with Atom processors. As such, it wouldn't be altogether surprising to see Surface 2 quietly phased out, at least until Microsoft can give the device a big shake-up to create a clear purpose. The Surface Mini was believed to use an ARM processor until it was expensively killed off days before it was due to be unveiled

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The Rise and Fall and Rise of Virtual Reality (The Verge)

When Facebook bought virtual reality company Oculus in early 2014, virtual reality blew up. While game and movie studios began reimagining the future, others looked back at the “old days” of VR — a loosely remembered period in the 1990s when gloves and goggles were super cool and everyone was going to get high on 3D graphics. But things were never so simple. We spoke to 18 key VR innovators about their work and dreams. What follows is over two decades of memories and visions for what the future could be. Some people identify the birth of virtual reality in rudimentary Victorian “stereoscopes,” the first 3D picture viewers. Others might point to any sort of out-of-body experience. But to most, VR as we know it was created by a handful of pioneers in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1962, after years of work, filmmaker Mort Heilig patented what might be the first true VR system: the Sensorama , an arcade-style cabinet with a 3D display, vibrating seat, and scent producer. Heilig imagined it as one in a line of products for the “cinema of the future,” but that future failed to materialize in his lifetime. In 1965, Ivan Sutherland — already known as the creator of groundbreaking computer interface Sketchpad — conceived of what he termed “ The Ultimate Display ,” or, as he wrote, “a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter.” He demonstrated an extremely preliminary iteration of such a device, a periscope-like video headset called the “ Sword of Damocles ,” in 1968. Meanwhile, at the Wright–Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, military engineer Thomas Furness was designing a new generation of flight simulators, working on a multi-decade project that eventually became the hallmark program known as the Super Cockpit. A few years later, in the late ’60s, an artist and programmer named Myron Krueger would begin creating a new kind of experience he termed “artificial reality,” and attempt to revolutionize how humans interacted with machines. Jaron Lanier Co-founder of pioneering virtual reality company VPL, musician, and technological philosopher Ivan Sutherland proposed a head-tracked head-mounted display in ’63 as part of the initial invention of computer graphics itself.

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Amazon Pounces On Twitch After Google Balks Due To Antitrust Concerns (Ryan Mac/Forbes)

A Twitch user broadcasts his racing game session using Twitch on an Xbox One. (Photo courtesy of Microsoft) One technology giant’s loss is another’s gain. In May, Variety first reported that Google Google was in talks to acquire video game streaming company Twitch for more than $1 billion. Three months later, that deal is dead with tech news publication  The Information first reporting that Amazon.com Amazon.com is now the frontrunner to purchase Twitch for about the same amount. Google was unable to close the deal, said sources familiar with the talks, because it was concerned about potential antitrust issues that could have come with the acquisition. The Mountain View, Calif. company already owns YouTube, the world’s most-visited content streaming site, which competes with Twitch to broadcast and stream live or on-demand video game sessions. One source noted that because of the concerns, Google and Twitch could not come to an agreement on the size of a potential breakup fee in case the deal did not go through. Representatives at Twitch and Google could not be immediately reached for comment. Representatives at Amazon did not immediately respond to emailed request for comment. Neither Twitch nor Google ever publicly confirmed that it was in acquisition talks, but various publications confirmed the deal was  pretty much sealed last month.  Today’s reports suggest that was far from the case, as Amazon looks to add to a growing media empire that it’s established with several online television shows and a set-top content streaming box, Fire TV, launched in April. Amazon is not known for making large acquisitions and a deal for Twitch would rank as the second-largest in its 20 year history. The Seattle retailer paid $1.2 billion for online shoe website Zappos in 2009 and $775 million for robotics company Kiva Systems two years ago.

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