Bytes: What’s new in tech
Virtual reality on a budget
Facebook is releasing a cheaper version of the Oculus headset as “part of the social network’s mission to get 1 billion people on board” with virtual reality technology, said Brett Molina in USA Today. The Oculus Go, which will be priced at $199 when it’s released next year, is a wireless, stand-alone VR headset, so it won’t require the user to plug in a smartphone or be tethered to a computer with wires like the more high-end Oculus Rift headset. The Go will have apps and games that are available on both Samsung’s Gear VR headset and the Rift, and will feature spatial audio, “which means no need to wear headphones.” The company clearly hopes that “creating a VR experience independent of a smartphone or PC could help boost adoption of the technology, which has struggled to sway consumers.”
An Amazon allowance for teens
A new Amazon program launched last week allows parents to set up and manage “online shopping accounts for their teenagers,” said Katherine Bindley in The Wall Street Journal. Once parents set up an account, up to four teens can log in and begin shopping. What happens next depends on the parent-controlled settings: Parents can either set a spending limit or opt in to get text or email alerts with links to approve each potential purchase. “Teens get the option to include a message (read: plea) with their request, such as ‘This is the game I was telling you about’ or ‘Everyone in my school has this.’” Parents interested in experimenting with “exercises of trust” can opt out of item approval and just receive a notification of what’s been purchased.
AIM to send its final IM
An internet classic is signing off, said Jacob Kastrenakes in TheVerge.com. AOL’s Instant Messenger service will shut down for good after 20 years, marking the end of an era for anyone who came of age with the internet in the 1990s. One of the earliest and most successful instant messaging services, AIM “was core to many people’s first social experiences” on the web. It pioneered the idea of the status update with its Away Message—a simple line of text to explain why you were absent that has been adopted and transformed by Facebook and other social apps. “But with the proliferation of smartphones,” desktop instant messaging has been overtaken by texting, as well as by messaging services on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Final messages can be sent until Dec. 15. ■