Tuesday March 31, 2015
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Norway's got a new king of the road.

Tesla Motor's Model S sedan is now the best selling car in Norway, accounting for over 5.1 percent of the market. It knocked the Volkswagen Golf down a notch, now at number two with 4.6 percent, according to Reuters.

Though the Model S sells for just over $60,000 in the United States, the price tag in Norway is the equivalent of $110,000, and because of high demand right now, they're typically about $20,000 more on the second-market. So why has Norway fallen so hard for Tesla?

While Californians seem to be ordering Tesla cars at a nice rate, Norwegians really can't get them quick enough. Norway's unique government subsidized car market makes the Model S especially appealing: Norwegian owners of electric cars are provided with free parking, free charging at stations throughout the country, use of express highway lanes and exemption from toll fares. On the other hand, large taxes are levied on those that choose to buy gas-guzzlers, so the migration to EV cars makes sense for the citizenry, even at the higher-than-U.S. cost.

The numbers out of Norway come at a "hot" time for Tesla. After a video showing a Model S in flames on a Washington state highway began circulating online last week, the company's stock took a hit, falling over 6 percent in a day. It was said that the fire from the video was caused by the car's battery.

CEO Elon Musk explained in a company blog that investigators found the fire was a result of the car "driving over large, oddly-shaped metal object which impacted the leading edge of the vehicle's undercarriage." The fire began in the front battery module after it was impacted, according to Musk.

"Had a conventional gasoline car encountered the same object on the highway, the result could have been far worse," Musk wrote.

Business Insider reports that the company's value is still at about 434 percent above where it was this time last year. And if the Model S catches on in America like it has in Norway -- well, Tesla might just need a bigger factory.

 

Samsung may have gotten the time right with the release of its new watch launch - but that was about it.

The company has become the talk of Gadget Town with its Galaxy Gear smartwatch, but the response to the device itself has been lukewarm at best. Whether it's the watch's lack of ability to do much independent of a Galaxy smartphone or its poor battery life, consumers and tech pundits last week took to news sites and social media to complain about Samsung's new-age timepiece.

We've compiled some of the main reasons why the Galaxy Gear just doesn't work for many reviewers. Though the Galaxy Gear might herald a new age of wearable technology, with Google and Apple both rumored to be working on smartwatches of their own, the time for consumers to purchase their own wrist computer may still be a while away.

ONLY SYNCS WITH SAMSUNG PHONES


Vlad Savov of The Verge opened with a photo of the Gear on his wrist physically tethered to his Samsung Galaxy Note 3 with a USB chord: This is a fair metaphor for and critique of the smartwatch's limitations. Not only does the Gear rely on a constant Bluetooth connection to a smartphone in order to operate most of its apps and features, the Galaxy Note is currently the only phone it's compatible with.

Samsung said other Galaxy devices like the S 4, S III and Note II will soon be updated to offer compatibility.

DOESN'T DO ENOUGH

A broader critique: That the Galaxy Gear doesn't feature enough functionality to justify it's $299 price tag.

"Samsung describes it as a companion device, and the Gear is indeed chronically dependent on an umbilical link to another Samsung device, but it never left me feeling like it was a helpful companion."

Samsung Galaxy Gear review

"Ideally, a smartwatch is supposed to free you from the shackles of smartphone over-reliance, all without leaving you disconnected from the digital world," Wired's Christina Bonnington wrote, echoing Savov's complaint. "For now, that promise remains unfulfilled.

Bonnington called the Gear a "$300 smartphone accessory."

NOTIFICATIONS COME UP SHORT


The team at T3 wasn't taken with the Gear's notifications, writing "[t]he Samsung Galaxy Gear never made us feel like we needed it, in fact the more we used it the more useless it became. The notifications - its primary use - are basic, the apps are few and far between and the voice smarts are disappointing."

Gizmodo's Brent Rose was particularly unimpressed with what is supposed to be the Gear's strong point - notifications - since he found that "there's nothing this watch can do that your phone can't do better."

"You get the first few sentences of emails, which are actually very easy to read on the watch's sharp screen," said Rose. "However, this only works for emails sent/received through Samsung's generic email app. We suspect that the vast majority of Android users have Gmail accounts, and thus find the Gmail app better and more convenient. Tough luck for now."


NOT ENOUGH APPS, AND THE APPS IT HAS AREN'T THAT GOOD

Rose continued: "Take S Voice, for example. In theory, it's capable of doing almost everything that Android's voice assistant can. Except that it's excruciatingly slow and far less accurate.

"The real problem is that the Gear just doesn't do much yet, and what it does, it doesn't do very well."

Samsung's Galaxy Gear was launched with more than 70 apps, but many, like Evernote, require that the related Android app be installed on your connected Galaxy smartphone and merely function in collaboration with the full app. In other cases, apps just aren't available yet, and there's no real assurance that companies will develop for the Galaxy Gear unless it proves successful.

BATTERY IS A BUMMER


Although Samsung has taken measures to make the Gear power efficient, having to plug your watch in to charge in every evening didn't impress many reviewers.

The company said the Gear's 315 mAh battery should get you "about a day" of use, and many reviewers judged this to be exactly true -- for better or for worse. "There’s no question about it folks, it requires nightly charges," wrote John V. of Phone Arena.

Those familiar with the smartphone connected Pebble watch, requiring only a weekly charge, will likely lament over having to charge the Gear about as often as their smartphone. Though Pebble doesn't offer a color screen or camera, it does feature battery life that most agree is far more desirable in a watch. Some users would likely trade features to eliminate daily charging.

A BATTERY CADDY?

And though the method of charging is a seemingly convenient wireless station, it can be an awkward setup to carry around with you in the event you'll be out for a full day or longer.

"...You will need to carry the caddy with you if you're going away from home for more than a couple of days," explained CNET's Andrew Hoyle. "With heavy use, you'll get just a day out of the watch, so leave the caddy behind and you'll find it quickly goes from being an exciting new gadget to a lump of useless metal and rubber strapped to your arm."

THE NEXT BIG THING IS...COMING SOON?

So the consensus on the Galaxy Gear is that it's a nice idea, but wake us up when the next one comes out. And we'd have to say that, with Samsung saying that flexible screen technology will be for "future devices," and the recent reports that the Galaxy Gear 2 is already in development, there may be reason for optimism looking forward.

Chris Burns with SlashGear basically wrapped up with this sentiment, saying he's looking forward to Samsung's future line of wearables.

"At the moment, with a market limited to those looking to purchase the Galaxy Note 3, the Galaxy Gear is more of an exercise in paving the way for future devices," Burns said. "Samsung has already done a fine job with the software and the hardware this device comes packed with – now the way is made more than ready for a beastly follow-up."

So, the bad news is that the Galaxy Gear may not be the smartwatch we've all been waiting for. The good news, well, at least Samsung's news commercials for the device are really cool.

 

In case you need yet another reminder that life is short, you may soon be able to wear one on your wrist. Tikker is a watch that counts down the years, months, days, hours, and seconds remaining until your death. More accurately, the Kickstarter project slowly ticks down to its best guess as to when your death will occur. To land on this date, you'll fill out a health-related questionnaire, subtract your current age from the results you get, and just like that the countdown begins. Since Tikker is at its core a wristwatch, you'll be able to see the regular time while wearing it. But every time you glance at your wrist, you'll see a constant reminder of your mortality and the fleeting time you have left.

And while the premise sounds morbid, Tikker's creators say their goal is "to remind you to make most of your life" and achieve happiness. "If you knew how much time you had left, wouldn't you use that time wisely? No more pointless arguments, no more chasing after what you don't really want," reads Tikker's Kickstarter page. "If you know that time is ending, you make every second count." It's one of the more bizarre projects we've seen of late, but early evidence suggests there's demand for this sort of day-to-day motivation. Tikker is well on its way to meeting a funding goal of $25,000; the money will be used for tooling, assembly, testing, and ultimately distributing this "death watch" to its backers.

Also Read

 

Disney Research, responsible for futuristic feedback systems like an earlobe speaker and a touch sensor that can work on water, is working on a new way to let people feel what's on their screens. The group will soon release a paper describing how to turn geometric figures on a touchscreen into simulated textures that users can run their hands across. In a demo video, researchers describe using it to feel the ridges on a map or examine objects that are behind glass. If the examples are any indication, you can do anything from "touch" an apple on a tablet to feel a jellyfish float across your screen.

Disney is following years of work on haptic feedback here. Our sense of touch is partly a function of friction-detecting receptors, and previous research has shown that by manipulating those receptors, you can trick the brain into feeling texture on a flat surface. Disney's touchscreen uses a display that can generate electrostatic force at varying voltages, creating a weak field that simulates different levels of friction. If that technology sounds familiar, it may be because it's also used by Senseg, which created a prototype haptic tablet two years ago. Disney Research is also no stranger to the idea; in 2010, a haptic touchscreen was demoed under the name "TeslaTouch."

 

Samsung has a hit on its hands. Not its much-hyped Galaxy Gear smartwatch — but the ads for that watch. In particular, a supercut-style spot mashing up various fictional techno-watches in action across scenes from bygone pop culture has racked up nearly 2.5 million YouTube views in just a couple of days. The consensus seems to be that the commercials are better than the product.

That in itself is an obvious problem. But it could still be counted as a kind of victory for Samsung, suggesting that it’s finally closing in on the sort of marketing prowess that’s long been a not-so-secret weapon of its rival Apple. Unfortunately for Samsung, however, it’s not true: These clips may have some viral traction, but they’re terrible advertising. Here’s why.

Start with that supercut. It rifles through scenes from “Get Smart,” The Jetsons,” “Knight Rider,” “Star Trek” and (inevitably) a Dick Tracy cartoon, among others. It’s certainly well edited, and it’s easy to see why people enjoy it as a rapid-fire visual essay on what is apparently a recurring dream of a techno-object that society has been having for decades.

But in retrospect, doesn’t that dream seem pretty goofy? Some of the clips made the object seem faintly absurd in real time; others simply look dorky.

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