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After 97,000 steps (about 45 miles of walking), a couple dozen press events, countless booth visits, and six nights in an overpriced hotel room, my week at CES is over for another year. Like last year, cars and car tech were a major theme of the show. Fortunately, we had yeoman Bill Howard on site for ExtremeTech to sort it all out. Ben Algaze focused a lot of his attention on the AV space, so expect to read his thoughts on the smart TVs and some of the audio technology that was introduced.
As usual, I have a short attention span, so I dove into a little of everything, including a drone that lets you make Hollywood-style movies, an immersive 3D desktop, a roundup of the slew of 3D printers that were released, and a cool new Android tablet that hopes todethrone Microsoft’s Surface in the hybrid space. Stay-tuned for a couple more articles on the brand-new indoor navigation system used at the show, and a company that promises to do away with passwords (yes, I know, they’re not the first to make the claim).
Ever since Apple announced that it was building its own smartwatch, fans of wearables have been eager to see what the Cupertino company would deliver. Whether you love it or hate it, Apple has a reputation for excellence, and for waiting until it can deliver a superior experience that make previous products from lesser companies look like floundering newbies by comparison. Now, that long-time reputation for excellence may be sorely tested by the one force in the universe that remains impervious to the company’s Reality Distortion Field — physics.
New reports indicate that while the Apple Watch will pack significant processing power and a fluid, 60Hz display, it won’t deliver much in the way of battery life. 9to5 Mac is claimingthat the CPU inside the Watch is close in power to the Apple A5 and running a stripped-down version of iOS known as SkiHill.
Opera was one of the original internet browser companies, and the only one that is still alive — and independent — from that era. Jon Von Tetzchner was a co-founder of Opera, and his new company, Vivaldi Technologies, has just launched a technical preview of its new browser. Von Tetzchner has said that the purpose of Vivaldi is to build a browser for sophisticated users and to bring back the community, which was a key differentiator for the Opera browser platform.
Competing in the browser market is no mean feat. Today it is a fundamental piece of every operating system platform — that’s the reason Microsoft, Google, and Apple all have integrated browsers in their desktop and mobile offerings. The browser is also a very important piece of tying an end user closer into the platform. Thankfully, browsers have become increasingly better at supporting standards like HTML5 making it easier to build sites and web apps that work consistently across browsers. Compare that to mobile applications, where apps are clearly tied to iOS, Android, Windows, or Blackberry. While browsers are critically important, because of great standards support it’s becoming harder to differentiate the feature set.
In spite of the significant backlashthat the Google Glass pilot program generated, Sony is dipping its toe into the augmented reality market. Dubbed “SmartEyeglass,” these hilariously bulky glasses are currently available for pre-order in Germany and the UK. This initial release is only intended for testing and development purposes, but does Sony really expect anyone to go out in public with these ridiculous goggles on?
Just last month, Google stopped selling the “explorer edition” of Google Glass. And while we’ll likely see another iteration on the concept, it’s clear that Google’s implementation was too conspicuous. SmartEyeglass, however, is even worse. The glasses themselves are bulky and odd-looking, but the addition of a large cable and a controller makes this “developer edition” stand out like a sore thumb.
Pebble set a Kickstarter record when it launched the original Pebble Smartwatch way back in 2012. That’s like the smartwatch stone age. Now it’s back with a new campaign for the Pebble Time, a smartwatch with a color e-paper screen and a somewhat more refined design than the original watch. If you think the internet might react negatively to a second Kickstarter from this company after the first one netted a whopping $10 million, you’d be wrong. It took only 17 minutes for the campaign to smash the $500,000 goal, and it’s now well into the millions.
The Pebble Time seems to have more in common with the original Pebble than the slightly more premium Pebble Steel. It looks nice, but not something you’d get away with wearing at a formal event. The body is plastic and the bezels are fairly large in relation to the screen. The back is curved to allow for a more ergonomic fit on your wrist. It still has physical buttons on the side for control rather than a touchscreen as most other smartwatches rely on. There’s also a microphone for voice interaction, but it’s not clear how that will tie into your phone yet.
Via Technology said it will be asking OEMs to build its concept of a “Hi-Fi PC”, which it launched at the opening of its Via Technology Forum in Taiwan.
According to Via, The Hi-Fi PC combines instant-on playback of all the latest digital video and audio formats, including CD, DVD and VCD with the flexibility, power and connectivity of a standard PC system. Housed in a sleek 19cm wide x 19cm high x 34cm deep aluminium case, the Hi-Fi PC includes a unique feature: PlayNow!, a full functioned multimedia player contained within the flash memory of the BIOS, is the key to the instant-on application, enabling rapid optical disk play capability at the touch of a button. A user can then boot the PC.
Central to the Hi-Fi PC is the Via EPIA M mainboard, a new 17 cm by 17 cm platform solution to be launched soon that is optimized for the killer digital media applications, such as watching movies and listening to music, Via said. The Via EPIA M mainboard is based on the Via Apollo CLE266 chipset with an integrated MPEG-2 decoder and 2D/3D graphics capability to provide superb DVD playback, and integrates several Via technologies that provide high quality audio, Fast Ethernet networking and support for the latest communications standards USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394 ‘Firewire’. There is also a TV-out to either analog or digital displays.
After traversing the Emerging Technologies demonstrations earlier in the week—as reported in our first report on SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group Graphics)—we spent two days scouring the SIGGRAPH show floor for interesting new products and technologies. We’ll soon be presenting our findings from the tradeshow, but first we have a real treat—a photo essay of the exciting SIGGRAPH CyberFashion Show, held on Wednesday, August 11th.
What exactly is cyberfashion? Think wearable computers and displays (Borg-like for sure, with the head-mounted, eye-level screens, data gloves, and so on). Also luminous attire fits the bill, as do smart clothes that perform various functions, like displaying messages, giving massages, being touch reactive, and performing video surveillance. Heck, we saw one jacket with the ability to communicate over WiFi to the Department of Homeland Security’s website, obtain the current threat advisory level color, and display the color on the jacket’s surface!