Oculus Quest is a new, $399 standalone VR headset shipping next year

Adi Robertson, writing for The Verge:

Oculus has announced its new headset, the Oculus Quest: a $399 standalone virtual reality headset that’s launching in the spring of 2019. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says that “with Oculus Quest, we will complete our first generation of Oculus products.” Zuckerberg says that the Oculus Quest combines “the key attributes of the ideal VR system” — a wireless design, virtual hand controllers, and full positional tracking. “If we can bring these three qualities together in one product, we think that will be the foundation of a new generation of VR.”


The Oculus Quest is a consumer version of what was previously known as Project Santa Cruz. It uses motion controllers similar to Oculus Touch, and four wide-angle cameras provide positional tracking that lets people walk through virtual space. It’s supposed to support “Rift-quality” experiences, with a starting catalog of over 50 titles, including well-known existing games like climbing simulator The Climb and adventure-puzzle game Moss. Oculus VR head Hugo Barra describes the Oculus Quest as “made for games,” distinguishing it from Oculus’ other, more video-focused mobile headsets. “We are going to invest significantly in this new platform,” he says.

Oculus Quest essentially combines the high-end, tethered Oculus Rift headset with the relatively cheap, standalone Oculus Go device that was released earlier this year. It uses the same optics as the Oculus Go, with a resolution of 1600 x 1440 per eye, but with the option to adjust lens spacing. Also like the Oculus Go, the Oculus Quest includes built-in speakers that pipe sound into users’ ears, but supposedly with improved bass.

But unlike the Oculus Go, you can walk around, apparently for large distances. Barra describes it as having “arena-scale” tracking that supports at least 400 square feet of space. Its controllers have the same button layout as the Rift’s Touch controllers, but with the half-moon tracking ring reversed, so it loops above your hands instead of below them.

It’s interesting how much focus on stand alone VR rigs Oculus is starting to do with both the Go this year and the Quest next year. 

I’ve been enjoying the Go myself, I like being wire-free when I’m doing VR.

Instagram’s Co-Founders to Step Down From Company

Mike Isaac, reporting for The New York Times:

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the co-founders of the photo-sharing app Instagram, have resigned and plan to leave the company in coming weeks, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. The exits add to the challenges facing Instagram’s parent company, Facebook.

Mr. Systrom, Instagram’s chief executive, and Mr. Krieger, the chief technical officer, notified Instagram’s leadership team and Facebook on Monday of their decision to leave, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

[…]

“We’re planning on taking some time off to explore our curiosity and creativity again,” Mr. Systrom said. “Building new things requires that we step back, understand what inspires us and match that with what the world needs; that’s what we plan to do.”

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, praised the Instagram founders in a statement and said that he wished them “all the best and I’m looking forward to seeing what they build next.”

The departures raise questions about Instagram’s future at a time when Facebook faces its most sustained set of crises in its 14-year history. For much of the past two years, critics have railed against Facebook for being careless with user data and for not preventing foreign interference across its network of more than two billion people.

The issues have started taking a toll on Facebook’s business, with the company saying in July that growth in digital advertising sales and in the number of its users had slowed down.

Against those problems, Instagram has been one of the jewels of Facebook. The social network acquired Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion, when the photo-sharing site was used by around 30 million people. Since then, Instagram’s reach has ballooned and it has widely been seen as one of Facebook’s most successful acquisitions.

Facebook has lost other founders of businesses it has acquired. In April, Jan Koum, a Facebook board member and a founder of WhatsApp, the messaging app that the social network purchased in 2014, said he was leaving. Mr. Koum had grown increasingly concerned about Facebook’s position on user data in recent years, people with knowledge of the situation said at the time.

In Silicon Valley, reaction to the Instagram founders’ resignation was swift.

“Wow,” tweeted John Lilly, a venture capitalist at Greylock, calling the exits “a real moment.” He added, “What an impact they’ve had on all of us.”

Instagram was founded in 2010 and at first was a location check-in app called Burbn. Mr. Krieger, an enthusiastic user of Burbn, met Mr. Systrom at a Stanford University fellowship program and they decided to work together. Eventually, Burbn was retooled and renamed Instagram.

Instagram became popular in Silicon Valley almost immediately. The app heavily emphasized the use of a smartphone camera as iPhones were being widely adopted, turning everyday people into amateur photographers. Mr. Systrom and Mr. Krieger popularized photo filters and camera lenses, spurring a wave of copycat apps for the iPhone and Android-based smartphones.

The duo worked out of a small office in the South Park neighborhood of San Francisco. Instagram spent a lot of money in its early years just trying to keep its app online as its servers struggled under the constant stream of new user sign-ups.

Instagram eventually caught the eye of Mr. Zuckerberg, who realized how powerful Instagram’s nascent photo-sharing network would become, and saw the wealth of photo-sharing activity across his own social network. Mr. Zuckerberg handled the negotiations with Mr. Systrom and Mr. Krieger largely on his own.

Facebook purchased Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock (though the final cost was closer to $715 million because the stock on which part of the deal was based declined in value). It was Facebook’s biggest acquisition to date, and came a month before the social network’s initial public offering.

[…]

Facebook went on to purchase Parse, a service that provided tools for mobile developers, and Oculus, a virtual reality hardware start-up, branching into new areas beyond the original social network. Mr. Zuckerberg also spent $19 billion to buy WhatsApp.

But Instagram remained Mr. Zuckerberg’s main success story. As Facebook saw a threat in young people departing the network for Snapchat, a rival photo-sharing network, Instagram was quick to shift and recreate one of Snapchat’s key features of online stories. Since then, Instagram has surged further in popularity, while Snapchat’s growth has been inconsistent.

The departures of Mr. Systrom and Mr. Krieger create uncertainty around the app. It is unclear who will lead the company on the founders’ departures, and if that person can continue Instagram’s longstanding success streak. Marne Levine, who was previously Instagram’s chief operating officer, left her role at Instagram earlier this month to return to Facebook and lead partnerships.

The future of the iPhone SE in an iPhone XS world

Dave Mark on the where the iPhone SE stands today:

Glenn Marston:

When Apple’s website reappeared after shutdown for the company’s Sept. 12 product event, it displayed a list of the new X-Series iPhones.

Eliminated from Apple availability were the regular- and large-size iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s, which had been introduced in September 2014 and September 2015.

Also missing was a unique small phone, the iPhone SE. Based on the body of 2012’s iPhone 5, it had been the only remnant of the compact early iPhones.

And:

One should not assume that Apple has sworn off small phones. They are favorites of smaller folks, plus a segment of women that eschews the grand purse and those of both genders who prefer to travel light with clothes trailered tight.

Apple might have intended no inference other than limiting new iPhones to those in the minimal-bezel, Face ID form of the X series.

With that in mind, Apple should produce an iPhone XR Mini as a follow-on to the iPhone SE.

I’ve been thinking about the loss of iPhone SE form factor. Is Apple undervaluing people with small hands, and small wrists? The Apple Watch is getting larger (thinner, but longer/wider), even though there are plenty of people who wish for a smaller case size.

And, as Glenn points out, Apple has eliminated the last vestige of the smaller iPhone form factor, the iPhone SE. Is this the end of the line for the SE? Or is this, possibly, a supply chain issue?

Apple has unified their iPhone line in a number of ways. All the new phones (XS, XS Max, XR) use Face ID and have the corresponding notch and lack of a home button. And all the new phones are based on Apple’s 7nm A12 Bionic chip.

The XS and XS Max went on sale in Apple Stores this morning (8a, your local time). But, likely due to supply chain constraints, the iPhone XR will not be available for pre-order until early morning October 19th (12:01 am PT).

[…]

Seems to me, Apple is proceeding logically here. The first steps were to unify the product line and ramp up production of the 7nm A12 Bionic chip, to ensure that the iPhones XS, XS Max, and XR are all available to customers who want them.

Once those needs are met, and if they can solve the engineering problems (problems being speculation on my part) of fitting the notch contents in a much smaller package, might we see an iPhone X version of the SE? I really hope so. I’ve got a whole family of iPhone users who prefer that smaller footprint.

The making of the Apple Watch Series 4 fire, water, and vapor faces

Josh Rubin, writing for Cool Hunting:

I vary between this info-dense watch face and the new ultra-minimal and very hypnotic Fire, Water, Liquid Metal and Vapor faces. And these faces are more special than Apple let on during their keynote. They’re not rendered—each face is high resolution video shot in a studio using real fire, water and vapor elements.

Microsoft Abandons Plan to Troll Windows 10 Users With Browser Warnings

Chris Hoffman for How To Geek

Hey Internet, we did it! After a good outpouring of rage and annoyance towards Microsoft, we’ve forced the Windows team to remove the messages “warning” you not to install Firefox or Chrome. They won’t be in the October 2018 Update.

In a comment given to Ed Bott over at ZDNet, a Microsoft spokesman said:

We’ve tested this functionality with Insiders only – The Windows Insider Program enables Microsoft to test different features, functionality and garner feedback before rolling out broadly. Customers remain in control and can choose the browser of their choice.

These warnings have vanished from the current Insider builds of Windows 10. They won’t be in the final version of the October 2018 Update, which will likely be released at some point in the next few weeks.

While this Microsoft spokesman calls this a “feature,” it’s worth nothing exactly what it was : A literal “warning” not to install Chrome or Firefox once you’ve downloaded it, interrupting the installation process. As we pointed out, this would train Windows users to ignore real security warnings.

Of course, the only reason this “test” was unsuccessful is because it enraged Windows 10 users more than usual. If this browser warning was just a feature that generated a normal amount of rage, like automatically installing Candy Crush Saga on Windows 10 Professional, Microsoft wouldn’t have backed off.

But today, let’s celebrate. We all stopped Microsoft from doing something dumb! The battle is won.

Let people use the browser they want to use.

This week’s Apple event in 108 seconds

Here’s all the big news from Apple’s big event in less than two minutes. Introducing iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, the largest display ever on an iPhone. Say a big hello to iPhone XR, with the all-new Liquid Retina display. Then take a look at the completely redesigned Apple Watch Series 4. With the biggest Apple Watch display yet, and a new electrical heart sensor.

Learn more at https://apple.co/2x4QJOB

AirPods product page suggests AirPower may not make 2018 deadline

Peter Cao, writing for 9 to 5 Mac:

While Apple made no mention of AirPower during today’s event, it looks like Apple may be launching AirPower later in 2018 than originally anticipated.

Apple has seemingly updated its website today, removing all mentions of AirPower except in one place. Looking at the AirPods product page, Apple mentions the optional wireless charging case, noting that it is currently unavailable. The charging case is placed on what appears to be the AirPower mat, along with the iPhone X.

Adware Doctor and the Mac App Store

John Gruber on Adware Doctor:

What a bizarre story this is. Adware Doctor was a $4.99 app in the Mac App Store from a developer supposedly named Yongming Zhang. The app purported to protect your browser from adware by removing browser extensions, cookies, and caches. It was a surprisingly popular app, ranking first in the Utilities category and fourth overall among paid apps, alongside stalwarts like Logic Pro X and Final Cut Pro X.

Turns out, among other things, Adware Doctor was collecting your web browser history from Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, and uploading them to a server in China. Whatever the intention of this was, it’s a privacy debacle, obviously. This behavior was first discovered by someone who goes by the Twitter handle Privacy 1st, and reported to Apple on August 12. Early today, security researcher Patrick Wardle published a detailed technical analysis of the appWiredTechCrunch, and other publications jumped on the story, and by 9 am PT, Apple had pulled the app from the App Store.

Contrary to some reports, Adware Doctor didn’t find some sort of hole in the sandbox that prevents apps downloaded from the Mac App Store from being able to access the entire file system. The app asked permission from the user, which is the only way utilities like this can work. Any user who believed in the stated purpose of Adware Doctor would grant this permission though. (MacOS 10.14 Mojave has additional protections for particularly sensitive files, like your browser history and email database — this shouldn’t work on Mojave even if you grant an app permission to access your home folder.)

Also, make sure you read Patrick Wardle’s post on Objective-See:

You probably trust applications in the Official Mac App Store. And why wouldn’t you?

However, it’s questionable whether these statements actually hold true, as one of the top grossing applications in the Mac App Store surreptitiously exfiltrates highly sensitive user information to a (Chinese?) developer. Though Apple was contacted a month ago, and promised to investigate, the application remains available in Mac App Store even today.

Apple’s Biggest iPhone Launch Ever: What to Expect

Jason Snell, on what to expect with tomorrow’s iPhone event

It’s almost here. Apple’s annual iPhone event, this coming Wednesday (Sept. 12), is perhaps the biggest single event on the technology calendar. Apple always uses the event to launch other products — we’ll probably see a new Apple Watch and possibly even new iPads or Macs this year — but the center of attention is, quite rightly, Apple’s biggest product: the iPhone.

[…]

If the rumors are true, this year’s iPhone event will feature three new iPhones: an update to the iPhone X, a larger 6.5-inch version of the iPhone X, and a new 6.1-inch phone that looks a lot like an iPhone X, but with a lower-cost LCD screen.

If that’s all true, this will be the biggest iPhone introduction ever, with Apple introducing two never-before-seen models in addition to updating an existing phone. (Last year Apple rolled out three new models, but two of them — the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus — were updated versions of Apple’s previous models.)

Such a massive launch makes sense. The iPhone is roughly two-thirds of Apple’s overall business, and unlike Android phone makers, Apple is the sole purveyor of iPhones. The more models and variations, the better. If Apple is to continue growing the iPhone market, it needs to find shapes, sizes, and price points that reach people who simply won’t consider the iPhone today.

Last year’s iPhone X was a great step forward for fans of Apple’s smaller phone designs. Though it was a tiny bit larger than the iPhone 8, it offered a much larger screen and (for the first time in a smaller model) two rear-facing cameras. I know a lot of fans of the iPhone Plus line who embraced the iPhone X.

But fans of big phones can’t have their desires quenched by a single phone model. They’re always going to long for more… and the new 6.5-inch iPhone (said to be called the iPhone XS Max) promises to provide everything the iPhone X did, but with a huge screen. Fans of big phones — and the world is full of them — will be thrilled that the new, larger iPhone exists.

But given the $999 starting price tag of the iPhone X, it’s likely that the 6.5-inch OLED phone is going to be quite expensive. What about all the people in the world who like big phones, but not big price tags? This seems to be the target for the other rumored phone, a lower-cost device that still integrates the front-facing sensor block and edge-to-edge display of the iPhone X, but does it with a much cheaper LCD-based screen (and presumably other components that aren’t quite a match for the top-of-the-line products). This handset may be called the iPhone 9.

Meanwhile, there will presumably be an iPhone X successor, reportedly dubbed the iPhone XS, with an updated processor and a few other upgraded specs. This will be the least exciting phones of the three Apple introduces, but it might be the bestseller.

Keep in mind that most people in the market for an iPhone this fall aren’t people who bought the iPhone X last fall — they’re people who are still using an iPhone 6, 6S, or 7. The update to the iPhone X will be much more similar in size to what they’re used to than the two larger models.

[…]

Those are iPhone predictions. Apple is pretty consistent when it comes to a lot of its pricing decisions, but it’s also shown the ability to make huge changes, just as it did when it introduced both the iPhone 8 and iPhone X last year, and presumably as it will do this year in introducing the 6.5- and 6.1-inch iPhone models.


Even when you think you know everything about what’s coming from an Apple event, though, the company finds some way to surprise us. We’ll have to wait until Wednesday to see what it is this time around.