Tech Retrospect: Virtual reality for the PS4 and two new smartwatches for Android

Miss a few stories this week? We'll get you up to speed with this rundown of all the tech news.

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There was a time when virtual reality was widely regarded as the next big thing. That time, sadly, was about 20 years ago and very few have taken the immersive technology seriously since then. Now, it's making a comeback -- in a very big way. That's largely thanks to Oculus VR, the company behind the Oculus Rift. This week that company unveiled a new version of its endlessly improving headset, called Dev Kit 2. It's $350, has a 1080p display, and using a camera can very accurately track your head movements in full 3D-space, including leaning left and right.

Hot on the heels of that, Sony made waves by announcing its own virtual reality headset, destined for the PS4. Called Project Morpheus, it's just a concept at this point, likely at least a year away from release, but our own brief impressions were good. The system has LED lights on it, not only giving it a futuristic look but also helping the PlayStation Eye camera to track it a la the Move controllers -- which some games will use for extra immersion.

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Not only was there no mention of release date, but also no mention of cost. I'm a bit concerned that this will be priced at a point that will put it out of the reach of many gamers. And when it comes to accessories like this, if it doesn't sell well developers won't support it, and soon it'll be collecting dust like so many plastic guitars and drum kits. If you'd like to know more about that particular topic, I have just the thing for you.

LG and Motorola debut first Android Wear smartwatches

2014 was widely expected to be the year of wearables, and so far it has not disappointed. Google took the wraps off of Android Wear on Tuesday, a simplified, intuitive version of Android designed for smartwatches. The experience, stylishly shown in the video above, makes it clear that the intent here is to be quite a bit more involving and interactive than the "tiny moments of awesome" the Pebble team works to deliver. LG and Motorola were the first to display prototype devices, showing the G Watch and 360 , respectively. Look for both to launch a little later this year, at or around Google I/O in June.

Apple launches 8GB iPhone 5C in Europe, drops iPad 2

Is Apple about to launch an even cheaper iPhone 5C?
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Love Apple products but don't always have the need (or the budget) for the latest and the greatest? Apple made a pair of changes this week targeted just at you, dear reader -- though the first applies only if you're outside of the US. The colorful iPhone 5C got a new flavor, 8GB, costing 559 euros but, for now at least, not shipping to the US. The company also finally turned the iPad 2 out to pasture, bringing back the fourth-generation iPad in its place. It's $399 for a 16GB, Wi-Fi-only model, the same price as the Retina-enabled iPad Mini -- which would still be my choice of the two, if I'm being honest.

Google and Viacom finally settle outdated lawsuit

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Remember when media companies actually thought that having their content on YouTube was a bad thing? Those days were roughly seven years ago, a time when Viacom sued Google because it wasn't happy that some of its episodic content was appearing on the streaming video service. Now, the lawsuit is over, the two having settled for undisclosed terms -- though it's widely believed that no money has exchanged hands. No surprise, given that Viacom has had a number of quite successful YouTube channels for some time now.

Microsoft rifles through private Hotmail account to gather evidence on former staffer

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In a move that can only be described as perfectly understandable but still a little bit disconcerting, it was revealed this week that Microsoft dug through the private Hotmail account of a technology blogger to help track down leaks of proprietary information. A former MS software architect was leaking code snippets and other confidential information to the blogger in question and, while the move appears to have been legal, it certainly makes us journalists think twice about what we share over email. The former employee, Alex Kibkalo, was ultimately arrested for sharing trade secrets.

SimCity offline mode finally arrives, a year too late

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When the latest SimCity launched last year, gamers were aghast. Not about the game -- it was quite good, by most accounts. The problem was it needed a constant connection to EA servers in order to work, and those servers were completely flooded during the game's launch. The publisher's ham-fisted antipiracy attempt prevented all those people who had actually paid for the game from playing it. Finally, a patch has been released handing the key to the city over to even those players without a constant connection. This is at least good news for the inevitable shutdown of those once-overloaded servers.

Galaxy S4-powered Lego creation breaks Rubik's Cube-solving world record

5.27 seconds is awfully quick for solving a Rubik's Cube. For two years it was the Guinness World Record -- and now it's been beaten. 3.25 seconds is the new record, set by the same team but via a new robot built using Lego Mindstorms kits powered by a Samsung Galaxy S4. Sound impressive? It is -- but it's even more impressive to watch. Check out the video above, and then enjoy your weekend.

 

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