Microsoft Surface Dial Vs The Apple Touch Bar, Who Wins?

Microsoft Versus Apple…Again

Microsoft & Apple have both recently introduced some changes in their technology line up, Microsoft has brought us the Surface Dial, and Apple has introduced their clever Touch Bar.


So what exactly are they?

The Surface Dial is a puck shaped, Bluetooth enabled device that drops on top of a variety of Microsoft Surface touchscreen products and brings up a range of options, depending on the application. I could try to explain the technicalities but I think Microsoft’s ad’s do a much better job. The video below is an overview of the Surface products, but the Dial is visible from around 1:04.




The Apple Touch Bar is an integrated accessory that is available on the latest models of the 13 and 15 inch MacBook Pros.

Like the Surface Dial it’s functions can change depending on the application that you’re using. Some developers have dug deep into the Touch Bar code and found that it is basically an adapted Apple Watch system, allowing you to drop in emojis or select sections of a video clip. Again there are a lot of cool features, but I’ll let the video do the talking.




Surface Dial Vs Touch Bar

In fairness to Microsoft & Apple, we really like both products and are confident they will appeal to many users over the coming years.

The Surface Dial, being an external accessory seems to be more flexible and looks to have more potential, and we believe it could be a real game changer in how people use their computers, and look forward to see how it shapes the future of computing.

The Touch Bar is a little bit less exciting but offers a lot of great functionality to the average Macbook user. The idea doesn’t feel as innovative as the Dial, but being a more conventional idea means that it will probably be more useful in the applications you use day to day for now.


MS Paint Is Getting A Long Overdue Update, And It Looks Awesome!

Microsoft Paint Gets Overhaul

The iconic Microsoft Paint looks to be finally getting a long overdue revamp. Videos have leaked on twitter, which demonstrate tools to give 2D drawings a third dimension, bringing things like ‘fish tanks’ and ‘flower arranging’ to life.

Although the development has not yet been officially confirmed (or denied) by Microsoft, it certainly appears to be an interesting move for the software, which is a classic piece of software for any long term Windows users.

As someone who grew up using Windows 98, ME and XP, I remember all the hours spent in my IT classes, making full use of the Spray Can and Fill tools to create some absolute masterpieces. To now find out that these could have a 3D element makes my inner teenager very giddy indeed.




Check out this video, and let us know what you think!

Here’s Why I didn’t Buy Another Apple iPhone

From iPhone Lover To….

OK, so I’ve been an iPhone lover for some years now, I loved the fact that they were an intuitive, reliable, robust piece of modern tech, encased in a sleek and sexy, minimalist design.

I do feel however, that in recent times, Apple seem to have lost their way a little bit. Let me expand on that – the new range of iPhone designs are a little uninspiring, major design updates are further apart, not to mention the reliability and quality we’ve come to expect from Apple generally, appears to have taken a hit somewhere along the lines, and there is an overall lack of pretty much anything exciting on the Apple front.




Aside from the above, the actual ownership of an iPhone has also become a less enjoyable experience. The excessive amount of control Apple has over your iPhone (an example being the amount of mandatory apps pre-installed by Apple, that you then cannot remove, twinned with the fact that you cannot expand the phones memory), the terrible battery life and the frequency of iOS updates (and even the excessive notifications to update), to name a few.

My own iPhone 5s recently started to fail, battery life got to the stage where it was almost unusable, making calls whilst on the move would drop out every few miles and the touchscreen was playing up.

So after accepting Apple was no longer for me I decided to check out the market and see what else was available. If we imagine the phone market as a horse race, then it’s fair to assume that up at the front is Apple, hot on its heels is Samsung, then you have Sony, HTC, LG somewhere in the middle, all the while Microsoft is still at the starting post, trying to mount the retired race horse it acquired from Nokia. Nokia is currently on a beach somewhere, sipping margaritas, and laughing to itself about Microsoft. Sorry I digress.




Back to the story, I perform the usual analysis by checking out comparison sites, reviews and videos. The only conclusion I arrive at is that the iPhone is still not a good choice and that the other options all seem to be somewhere in the middle, with Samsung looking like the most attractive option.

Then, suddenly, I noticed something on this metaphorical race track, a dark horse, something overlooked by nearly everyone, that has literally flown through the first gate, straight past Sony HTC and LG and is up there with Apple & Samsung. This racer is known as Huawei.

WHO? I hear you ask. Allow me to enlighten you.

Whilst you might not have heard of Huawei, you have more than likely seen, used or owned something they have made at some point.

Huawei are in fact (read the rest of this sentence in Jeremy Clarkson’s voice for full effect) the largest telecommunications provider, in the world.

They have been sat back making components for other phone manufacturers, for many years now. During this time, they have gained a wealth of industry relevant information. They’ve been dealing with issues brought to them by so many other manufacturers, which pretty much makes them the “Oracle” of the phone industry.

Obviously someone at Huawei has realised this and had a brainwave.

They’ve recently launched their own line of phones and more specifically, I decided to take a look at the P9.




It’s sleek, sexy and beautifully crafted, it’s blazing fast, the “Leica” dual camera with aperture function is so unique and produces some of the best photos I’ve ever seen from a phone. Further to this, if you register the “HiCare” app, it comes with a 3 year warranty, 3 months screen replacement (even accidental damage), and 3 months product replacement, so if the product develops any fault within the first 3 months, they’ll just straight swap it for you.

Whilst I’m not a huge fan of android, it has all the apps you’re familiar with and you can even download 3rd party applications without the need to go through the official (Google Play) store.

I’m pleased to say, I’ve had the phone for a few weeks now and I’m really happy with it. I have much stronger phone signal everywhere, calls never drop out, but most of all, it just works.

DISCLAIMER: I’m in no way affiliated with any of the companies mentioned above, and the views expressed are that of my opinion only.

Microsoft – Talking With Your Hands

Microsoft Pushing Gesture Control

Almost every object you encounter day-to-day has been designed to work with the human hand, so it’s no wonder so much research is being conducted into tracking hand gestures to create more intuitive computer interfaces, such as Purdue University’s DeepHand or the consumer product, Leap Motion. Now Microsoft has outlined some projects that deal with hand tracking, haptic feedback and gesture input.

“How do we interact with things in the real world?” asks Jamie Shotton, a Microsoft researcher in the labs at Cambridge, UK. “Well, we pick them up, we touch them with our fingers, we manipulate them. We should be able to do exactly the same thing with virtual objects. We should be able to reach out and touch them.”

The researchers believe that gesture tracking is the next big thing in how humans interact with computers and smart devices. Combining gestures with voice commands and traditional physical input methods like touchscreens and keyboards will allow ambient computer systems, such as Internet of Things devices, to better anticipate our needs.

The first hurdle is a big one: the human hand is extremely complex, and tracking all the possible configurations it can form is a massive undertaking. That’s the focus of Handpose, a research project underway at Microsoft’s Cambridge lab, which is using the Kinect sensor you’d find packaged with an Xbox console to track a user’s hand movements in real-time and display virtual versions that mimic everything real hands do.

The tool is precise enough to allow users to operate digital switches and dials with the dexterity you’d expect of physical hands, and can be run on a consumer device, like a tablet.

“We’re getting to the point that the accuracy is such that the user can start to feel like the avatar hand is their real hand,” says Shotton.

Another key aspect to the sensation that digital hands are really your own comes through the sense of touch, and while users of Handpose’s virtual switches and dials still reported feeling immersed without any haptic feedback, a Microsoft team at Redmond, Washington, is experimenting with something more hands-on.

This system is able to recognize that a physical button, not connected to anything in the real world, has been pushed by reading the movement of the hand. Using a retargeting system allows multiple, context-sensitive commands to be laid over the top in the virtual world.

This means that a limited set of virtual objects on a small real-world panel is enough to interact with a complex wall of virtual knobs and sliders, like an airplane cockpit for example. The dumb physical actual buttons and dials help make virtual interfaces feel more real, the researchers report.

The third project comes out of Microsoft’s Advanced Technologies Lab in Israel. The research on Project Prague aims to enable software developers to incorporate hand gestures for various functions in their apps and programs. So, miming the turn of a key could lock a computer, or pretending to hang up a phone might end a Skype call.

The researchers built the system by feeding millions of hand poses into a machine learning algorithm to train it to recognize specific gestures, and uses hundreds of micro-artificial intelligence units to build a complete picture of a user’s hand positions, as well as their intent. It scans the hands using a consumer-level 3D camera.

In addition to gaming and virtual reality, the team believes the technology would have applications for everyday work tasks, including browsing the web and creating and giving presentations.

Credit: Gizmag / Microsoft Blog