Tech round-up for October 5: Google's new gadgets, LG's Music Flow P5 speaker, the Dyson Award shortlist, and No Man's Sky, the game that may never end

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This week, a look at the game that will never end: No Man’s Sky. Plus, a look at the new portable speaker from LG and the smart Canadians who are up for a prestigious award. But first, Google announced some new things yesterday.

Google’s got some new neat things coming

Google held a press event yesterday and showed off a bunch of new gadgets. And these were all designed by the company.

The Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, for a start. These are the first handsets actually designed by Google (they are being built by HTC) and one of the key features is that they will work with Google’s Daydream virtual reality (VR) headset, something else revealed at the event.

The Pixel handsets, which are available for preorder from Canada’s mobility companies, will have many of the features we expect, including a fingerprint sensor (on the back). They also have a top-line camera, and Google’s throwing in free, unlimited storage on Google Photo for Pixel owners. They are priced starting at Cdn$849.

The Pixels will also run Google’s new Assistant software, which is also at the core of Google Home, the smart home interface that is akin to Amazon’s Echo. You can talk to these devices, assking questions and getting into on things like the weather.

Daydream View is the VR headset, which will work with any headset that can run the Daydream software. You can get on the waiting list. for the headset, which will cost $99 and arrives in November.

Google Wifi is a new multi-point network system that will have you placing routers throughout your home, and Google also announced a new Chromecast device that supports high-dynamic range and 4K video. The Ultra will be priced at $90.

Google did not announce Canadian availability for Google Home and Google Wifi. But they did promise both were coming to Canada at some point.

Canadian nanotech engineers shortlisted for James Dyson Award

An ingenious project from three engineers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario is in the running to win the prestigious James Dyson Award.

The smart contact lens platform was conceived by Harry Gandhi, Huayi Gao, and Maarij Baig. The lens is constructed to monitor glucose levels in the tears of diabetics, sending the information to the individual’s smartphone so they can monitor their glucose levels without needing to test blood.

The idea has already picked up a bunch of awards and as the national winner from Canada, earned the trio US$3,500. They are among 20 projects that are being considered by Dyson himself, who makes the final decision.

The overall international winner picks up $45,000 plus $7,500 for their university. Dyson will announce his decision on October 27.

LG’s new Bluetooth speaker provides good sound, good value

I like to listen to the radio in the morning when I’m making lunches for the kids. But who’s got a radio in their kitchen anymore?

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been using a new Bluetooth speaker from LG to catch up on world events. The Music Flow P5 is small – it’s only six inches long – but provides plenty of sound to fill my quiet kitchen.

It’s got a rechargeable battery, too, so I can place it over the sink without having to worry about wires getting in the way. LG says the battery is good for up to 15 hours, and I can verify that. In almost two weeks of using it for between 15 and 45 minutes every weekday, I haven’t had to charge it yet.

It connected to my iPhone quickly and simply, it starts up fast with the touch of a button. And it can connect to more than one Bluetooth source, so when my wife wants to change stations, she can connect her iPhone to the speaker.

Pair two Music Flow P5s and you can have them give you stereo sound, and if your mobile device doesn’t have Bluetooth, you can plug it in with a 3.5 mm audio cable instead.

This is an appealing speaker because it’s lightweight and portable, it provides decent sound, and it’s priced at only Cdn$150. Great value for the money.

Explore an entire universe with No Man’s Sky

What to say about No Man’s Sky?

The space adventure game, developed by Hello Games and recently released for PS4 and Windows, has been unfairly judged against what fans hoped it would be, instead of its own merits.

No Man’s Sky is not for everyone, that’s for sure.

It’s what I imagine being a true explorer would be like: sometimes breathtaking, often boring.

It is repetitive, it is tedious, it is bland.

And I love it.

I sat down to turn it on and play through the opening sequence, which involves you becoming aware of your surroundings on a strange planet.

I looked up again six hours later.

In that time I explored a planet and its moons. I catalogued alien flora and fauna, and mined resources that I used to craft and trade. I learned snippets of an alien communication and tried to use them in conversation.

No Man’s Sky is almost meditative.

There is a story anchoring the experience, but frankly, I ignored it, choosing instead to take my time and go where I wanted to go, instead of where the game sent me.

I’m getting glimpses at the narrative, and it seems a bit thin. But it’s a great framework for the imagination, providing just enough detail so that you have a sense there’s something bigger, but vague enough that each player will be able to bring their own story to the game.

You can do some trading and you’ll get involved in some basic space battles, but really, No Man’s Sky is exactly what was promised: a neverending exploration of a vast galaxy.

Since the game was announced, I’ve been joking that No Man’s Sky might be the last game I ever need to get. I’m not sure it’s a joke anymore.

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