Wearable and Cyber Computing Report

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Wireless power system charges devices up to 20 feet away

A plethora of firms are racing to develop a feasible method for delivering power wirelessly, but thus far the best we’ve managed are short-range standards like Qi and PMA. A company called Energous is on hand at CES with a demo of its new wireless power system known amusingly as WattUp. It uses a mix of Bluetooth and RF to combine the convenience of wireless power with the security of a wireless network. If it all pans out, WattUp could juice up your phone from up to 20 feet (6.1 meters) away.

WattUp

The heart of WattUp is a hub that’s basically a powerful RF transmitter station. Devices that want to receive power from the hub announce their presence via Bluetooth 4.0. WattUp then uses that connection to direct the wireless power signal to the device. It operates in the same unlicensed spectrum as WiFi, which makes me wonder about possible interference in busy wireless environments. Assuming the connection holds, though, the WattUp signal is absorbed and converted to DC power in the phone or tablet by a receiver chip.

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New microprocessor claims 10x energy improvement

As power consumption has become one of the most important metrics of CPU design, we’ve seen a variety of methods proposed for lowering CPU TDP. Intel makes extensive use of dynamic voltage and frequency scaling, ARM has big.Little, and multiple companies are researching topics like near threshold voltage (NTV) scaling as well as variable precision for CPU and GPU operations. Now, one small embedded company, Ambiq Micro, is claiming to have made a breakthrough in CPU design by building a chip designed for subthreshold voltage operation — with dramatic results.

Ambiq Micro

Ambiq’s new design strategy could be critical to the long-term evolution of the wearables market, the Internet of Things, and for embedded computing designs in general — if the company’s technology approach can scale to address to a wide range of products

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Vivaldi: Opera team builds a better browser, but is there room for it?

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.

Vivaldi

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.

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Pebble Time color e-paper smartwatch launches on Kickstarter, already funded in the millions

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.

Pebble Time

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.

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In Short: Via’s “Hi-Fi” PC, Microsoft DX9 Beta 3

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.

Must Have Appliances Being Sold for Next to Nothing

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.

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Printed wireless power chips could be the kick start that NFC needs

If you follow the mobile computing scene, you’re probably well aware that NFC — near field communication— is meant to be the next big thing. In fact, NFC and its sister RFID have been the next big thing for years — but for some reason, they’ve just never taken off. A group of Korean scientists think they’ve finally cracked it, though: The lack of adoption is all down to price, and to rectify that they’ve discovered a way of producing really cheap RFID tags using a roll-to-roll printer.

RFID tags (antenna around the outside, computer circuit in the middle)In the last year, huge strides have been made towards printed computer chips. These chips are flexible, much cheaper to produce than their carved-from-a-silicon-wafer cousins, and one of the most important steps towards ubiquitous, wearable computing. The main difficulty of producing these printed devices is turning materials — such as silver, gold, and aluminium — into inks that can be printed (and dried/cured) using existing infrastructure.

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There can only be one: Smartphones are the PCs of the future

In 10 years, tablets computers will be archaic and obsolete. You will look back at the early 2000s, perhaps with an inquisitive child sitting on your knee, and laugh at how you carried around a cumbersome, neck-straining, gorilla arm-inducing, larger-than-pocket-size computer. “It made sense at the time…”

Desktops and laptops too, having already begun their slide into outmoded antiquity, will soon be nothing more than dusty cupboard-dwelling relics and museum exhibits.

The one form factor that will remain — the last and only bastion of consumer computing — will be the smartphone.

Inevitability

Flexible OLED screen (by Pioneer, not KodakOver the last five years, smartphones have proven that they’re immensely capable. Through the continuing miniaturization of tech and Moore’s law, smartphones are now almost as powerful as a desktop or laptop PC. In a few years, everything you do on your laptop today will be achievable on a smartphone. So why continue to use a laptop?

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