Microsoft’s Rock Paper Azure Challenge is Back

The weekly online challenge where holders of Azure accounts can win up to $5,000 is running again from now till mid December.

The Rock, Paper, Azure Challenge is open to Azure developers in the USA, and as with earlier versions of the game, you code a player ‘bot’, host it on Windows Azure, and take part in battles with other competitors to try for weekly prizes.

Microsoft’s future Kinect 2 device will reportedly lip read and measure emotions

Microsoft’s next-generation Kinect will feature lip reading support, according to reports.

The rumored support will allow developers to make use of an overhauled motion sensor and voice recognition unit. Euogamer reported on Monday that one development source indicates that the Kinect 2 will be powerful enough to lip read, detect when gamers are angry and even determine which direction they are facing. Kinect 2 is also expected to support the tracking of pitch and volume of player voices and facial characteristics to better measure their emotions.

The current Kinect unit has been updated several times to improve its camera tracking. Recently Microsoft launched its Avatar Kinect technology which allows the sensor to track mouth and eyebrow movements. There’s been a number of rumours suggesting the company is also working to build in finger tracking to the next-generation of Kinect. Eurogamer reports that the current version isn’t powerful due to its use of USB technology. Future versions will utilise a faster technology to provide more data to the Xbox.

Microsoft’s Xbox console allows Kinect users to control TV shows using their voice or by gestures. The software maker is currently on the verge of delivering a massive overhaul to its dashboard software to provide nearly 40 different live TV stations. Microsoft is also preparing to make new Kinect for Windows hardware available in early 2012. The optimized hardware includes components for PC scenarios. Microsoft is planning to shorten the USB cable to ensure reliability across a range of computers. The company will also include a small dongle to help ease coexistence with other USB devices. The new firmware updates for the Kinect will enable the depth camera to see objects as close as 50 centimetres in front of the device without losing any precision. Microsoft calls this “Near Mode” and the company hopes it will enable a whole new class of “up close” apps that have not been made available previously.

Google I/O 2012

If you were one of the thousands of disappointed developers who didn’t manage to get a ticket when registration opened for Google I/O 2011, there’s good news for Google I/O 2012 – it will be harder to get into so you’ve got more of a chance!

According to the Google Code blog, Google has received an ‘unexpected opportunity’ to extend Google I/O to three days, and to move to conference to June 27-29, 2012. It will still take place at Moscone Center West in San Francisco.

When the registration for I/O 2011 opened, the tickets sold out in 59 minutes, and the servers crashed under the load of would-be applications. Partially in view of this, next year’s event will be harder to get into. According to Monica Tran of the Google I/O Team in the blog post:

Be sure to brush up on your coding skills. They’ll come in handy when the new application process opens in February. That’s all we can tell you for now, but we’d advise against making travel arrangements until then.

So it looks as though you’ll have to prove you can code to qualify for registration. If you’re wondering just what this means, it’s not completely clear, but according to a response to a question about it on the Google Developers Page on Google+:

The application process will test general programming skills, as opposed to product-specific knowledge. We’re designing it so that every developer is given a fair shot at attending Google I/O, but don’t expect it to be as involved as last year’s Last Call for Google I/O…how’s that for a hint?

Google says that lengthening and rescheduling the event means attendees will have more time to attend sessions, visit partners in the Developer Sandbox, and meet with the engineers behind developer platforms and APIs. There is a link where you can tell Google what you’d like to see happen in the extended session, but when we tried clicking on it we got the message that the form was no longer accepting input – another victim of it’s own success?

Here comes the Google Music

Google officially release Google Music services now.

Users can upload their own music files or shop millions of songs in Android Market. Google music stores 20,000 songs for free in addition to the purchase. Listen on the web or Android mobile devices without the hassle of wires or syncing.

Google music adds social network feature. Users can share the music with their Google+ friends after purchasing. Your friends are able to the entire song instead of 90s trial.

Other than agreement with the music companies, Google also signed agreement with T-Mobile, so that users can buy songs with the mobile expense.