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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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SIGGRAPH 2004 CyberFashion Show

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!
Isa Gordon aka Psymbiote

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IBM cracks open a new era of computing with brain-like chip: 4096 cores, 1 million neurons, 5.4 billion transistors

Scientists at IBM Research have created by far the most advanced neuromorphic (brain-like) computer chip to date. The chip, called TrueNorth, consists of 1 million programmable neurons and 256 million programmable synapses across 4096 individual neurosynaptic cores. Built on Samsung’s 28nm process and with a monstrous transistor count of 5.4 billion, this is one of the largest and most advanced computer chips ever made. Perhaps most importantly, though, TrueNorth is incredibly efficient: The chip consumes just 72 milliwatts at max load, which equates to around 400 billion synaptic operations per second per watt — or about 176,000 times more efficient than a modern CPU running the same brain-like workload, or 769 times more efficient than other state-of-the-art neuromorphic approaches. Yes, IBM is now a big step closer to building a brain on a chip.

IBM's TrueNorth chip, and a few friends, in an SMP setup

The animal brain (which includes the human brain, of course), as you may have heard before, is by far the most efficient computer in the known universe. As you can see in the graph below, the human brain has a “clock speed” (neuron firing speed) measured in tens of hertz, and a total power consumption of around 20 watts. A modern silicon chip, despite having features that are almost on the same tiny scale as biological neurons and synapses, can consume thousands or millions times more energy to perform the same task as a human brain. As we move towards more advanced areas of computing, such as artificial general intelligence and big data analysis — areas that IBM just happens to be deeply involved with — it would really help if we had a silicon chip that was capable of brain-like efficiency.

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Wearable Technology is Redefining What it Means to be Disabled as People adopt Devices and move into a Bionic Future

Wearable Technology Conference 2015: How Wearable Computing is Revolutionizing Mobile Wireless Internet, Healthcare and Fashion

Wearable Technology Conference 2015: How Wearable Computing is Revolutionizing Mobile Wireless Internet, Healthcare and Fashion

The visually impaired have used canes to navigate for most of recorded history, but the white version we’re familiar with was born in early 20th century Paris. Guilly d’Herbemont lived above a street frequented by blind pedestrians, regularly witnessing their peril in an era when automobiles were common but crosswalks a novelty. By 1931, she had come up with the idea of establishing a bold white cane as a protective symbol and navigational tool for the blind, and distributed more than 5,000 of them at her own expense. The idea had spread internationally within two years.

According to Fortune, tech developer Krispian Lawrence hopes to build on d’Herbemont’s legacy. Lawrence lives in India, which he says has “the unfortunate distinction of being the blind capital of the world,” and he sees both the strengths and drawbacks of the white cane. “The cane has social significance. At the same time, it has two major defects: it can’t [guide] you from one place to another, and it can’t orient you.” Lawrence is CEO of Lechal (Hindi for “Take me there”), which he co-founded with Anirudh Sharma in 2011. The company is about to release its first products: footwear that will supplement the white cane by providing navigation and safety information through vibrations in the wearer’s feet.

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Latest about Google Glass and Wearable Technologies at Wearable Computing Conference 2014 San Francisco, New York, London, Seoul and Munich

Wearable Computing Conference 2014 (http://www.wearable-computing-conference.com) global: New York City, San Francisco, London, Seoul and Munich, “How Wearable Technologies are Revolutionizing Mobile Wireless Internet, Healthcare and Fashion.”

Wearable Computing Conference 2014

According to a report by CNN, Patrick Jackson has developed an app for Google Glass, Google’s experimental head-mounted computer, which feeds important information directly to the eye-line of firefighters in an emergency. When a building is on fire, every second counts for the first responders rushing to the scene. This computer-savvy firefighter in North Carolina is hoping a bit of futuristic wearable technology and clever programming can help save time and lives, themes that will be covered at Golden Networking‘s Wearable Computing Conference 2014 (http://www.wearable-computing-conference.com), “How Wearable Technologies are Revolutionizing Mobile Wireless Internet, Healthcare and Fashion”, forums to be held throughout 2014 in San Francisco (March 18), London (May 29), New York City (July 31), Seoul (September 25) and Munich (November 20).

A self-taught programmer, Jackson first started tinkering with computers when he was 7 and later spent a year studying computer science in college before transferring to the University of North Carolina, Asheville, for an environmental management and policy program. He became a firefighter. About four years ago, he purchased a smartphone and was inspired to start programming again. “Since then I’ve taught myself way more than I ever knew about programming. I’ve developed an Android app, an iPhone app and a Glass app,” Jackson said.

His first project was the Android app Firefighter Log, which routed key information directly to the smartphone, including text messages from dispatchers, streams of emergency radio feeds, and location information for fires and nearby hydrants. Jackson says more than 20,000 people have downloaded the apps. To get his hands on Google Glass, Jackson submitted his idea to Google’s IfIHadGlass competition.

By routing information directly to Google Glass, the app can save firefighters from having to stop what they’re doing in order to reach for a radio, smartphone, tablet or computer. Jackson plans on adding even more useful data in future versions, like information on specific buildings including blueprints, potential building hazards and contact information for owners. A firefighter might be able to say an address out loud or simply look at a building with the Google Glass camera to retrieve information.

Google Glass can also record the first video of a situation when crews arrive. That early documentation will be important to fire investigations down the line. For now, Google Glass isn’t compatible with the oxygen masks firefighters wear on the ground, so the app is more for external personnel. Jackson’s Glass stays behind in the truck.

Other fire departments and researchers also are experimenting with wearable technology, thanks to a recent availability of affordable wearable sensors that can track vitals and environmental factors like air quality and temperature. The Wearable Advanced Sensor Platform, or WASP, can track a firefighter’s location as well as physical data such as heart rate, breathing and activity levels in real time. A Belgium finalist for Microsoft’s Imagine Cup created a system that combines location sensors and augmented reality glasses to help firefighters move around buildings when there is minimal visibility.

Golden Networking‘s Wearable Computing Conference 2014, “How Wearable Technologies are Revolutionizing Mobile Wireless Internet, Healthcare and Fashion,” will examine wearable technologies’ functions, application, the competition and possibilities for economic and personal growth in San Francisco, London, New York City, Seoul and Munich.

Wearable Computing Conference 2014 is produced by Golden Networking (http://www.goldennetworking.net), the premier networking community for business and technology executives, entrepreneurs and investors. Panelists, speakers and sponsors are invited to contact Golden Networking by sending an email to information@goldennetworking.com.

Technology: If the device fits, wear it…but only if the price is right

wearables will potentially increase the number of devices accessing networks by a hundred-fold over the next five to seven years.

THE technology rumour mills are, as ever, running hot. This time it’s all about wearable computing devices.

Google Glass controversial web-connected specs are due to hit the market some time this year; up to 10,000 pairs are said to be already on the faces of testers worldwide.

And an increasing number of feverish reports claim yet again that Apple is close to announcing a wrist-worn i-Watch.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook has been sighted wearing one. It’s said to be a Pebble, mainly used for tracking fitness, but who knows? Perhaps it’s a prototype iWatch in disguise. DoubleClick doesn’t know whether the rumours are right or not.

But we do know the computing market hype machine has sprung into life in recent months, with just about every major manufacturer other than Apple announcing plans for a wearable gadget, and many more minor ones and wannabes bouncing ideas for similar gadgets on KickStarter, the website that helps raise funds for startups.

Some pundits are proclaiming the Year of the Wearable, but DoubleClick has some doubts, as do some of the more cautious IT trends-consulting firms.

Many wearable gadgets are on the way, but early acceptance may be restrained, and it could be next year before the market begins to take off, if then.

There are two types of wearable devices: things worn on your face, like Google Glass, and those worn on your wrist or arm, which include fitness-reading bands such as the Jawbone as well as e-watches like the Pebble.

Google Glass is certainly the most controversial of the moosh-mounted wearables. You wear a small headset that looks like a pair of very slim specs, but which has a little display device mounted just above your right eye.

It can take pictures of what’s around you and record conversations, sometimes unbeknown to those nearby. It can also display weather reports, phone messages and so-called “augmented reality” information about nearby objects, perhaps bars or restaurants or maybe supermarket items.

Wearing Google Glass in a bar or restaurant is strictly a no-no, and they’re also frowned on in company meetings. In the US, several people have been nabbed for wearing them while driving.

Current test versions of Google Glass sell to approved folk for about $US1500 ($1674), but this is expected to come down to $500 or so if and when the things come to market.

Google won’t have this market to itself. Other makers who already have head-mounted gear in the market, or are planning to, include Oculus, PivotHead, Epson, and Lumus.

Then there’s the Avegant Glyph headset, a heavyweight affair that wraps right around your eyes and ears. It doesn’t display information on a screen — it delivers movies, video games and video calls direct on to your retinas. Safe? Let’s hope so.

In the wristband wearable department, a typical example is the Jawbone Up, sometimes described as a pedometer disguised as a bracelet. It coils around your wrist and measures three matters: how you move, how you sleep, and what you eat.

Like most other wearables, you must plug it into a mobile phone to transfer data to an app that stores the figures. The Jawbone Up sells in Australia for about $150.

Other fitness trackers include Nike’s FuelBand and Garmin’s forthcoming Vivofit.

Samsung since September has been marketing the $369 Gear, an e-wristwatch that links to its Galaxy smartphone and Note phablets. It notifies users of incoming phone messages, displays weather reports, includes a tiny camera and captures voice recordings. Yes, it also tells the time.

Sony has been in the wearable market longer than most with its SmartWatch, which sells for about $240 in Australia.

But at January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Sony unveiled a forthcoming and completely different wrist device: the Core, a very slim band that is not so much a fitness tracker as a lifestyle logger. You wear it always, and it tracks your movements, your sleep patterns, your movie watching and even the weather on a particular day.

Linked to Sony’s LifeLog app, it gives a record of everything you’ve done, day in and day out, possibly even some things you don’t want to be reminded of. Pricing and release date are yet to be revealed.

US-based Pebble has produced a number of reasonably successful e-watches. The latest, dubbed the Steel, is good looking in steel and Gorilla Glass and has a growing number of apps that can be swapped on and off via iPhone or Android mobiles.

The Steel can be ordered from Pebble’s US-based online store at getpebble.com, $US249 ($278). Standard (ie, slow) shipping is free; courier delivery within five business days costs $28.

Other outfits that have announced plans to launch wearable gadgets in coming months, among them Taiwan’s Acer, Asus and HTC and South Korea’s LG, though details are sparse.

Is there a place for all. How big will the wearable market get?

Nowhere near as big as some of the wild estimates coming out of the US and Asia, according to Deloitte consulting.

At a media briefing in Sydney a few weeks ago, Deloitte executives suggested that the smart fitness-band market, while moderately healthy, would never go mainstream.

It estimated the total market for fitness bands and smart watches this year would be about four million bands and two million watches: pretty small beer compared with the booming markets for smartphones and tablets.

Deloitte suggested smart glasses would generate more revenue — especially from businesses and mining groups, where they might fill a niche for safety products — with sales of about four million at an average $US500 each.

DoubleClick’s advice: even if your interest in the wearable genre has been piqued, don’t rush to the stores just yet.

There’s hopefully better stuff -maybe even something that’s really useful — and lower prices yet to come.

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Global Travel Industry News: Virgin Atlantic first in world to use wearable technology to serve passengers

Virgin Atlantic passengers will be the first air travelers to experience the benefits of pioneering Google Glass and Sony Smartwatch technology as they arrive at London Heathrow airport, in an innovative pilot scheme which starts today. Concierge staff in the airline’s Upper Class Wing will be using wearable technology to deliver the industry’s most high tech and personalized customer service yet.

Virgin Atlantic first in world to use  wearable technology to serve passengers

The cutting-edge technology is being introduced asVirgin Atlantic publishes the results of a major study of 10,000 airline passengers from across the world on the future of air travel. The results show that as the number of people travelling by plane has sky-rocketed in recent decades, the experience has lessened. Virgin Atlantic is joining with passengers and calling on the industry to introduce more innovations and radical fresh thinking to meet sky-high consumer expectations.

Virgin Atlantic, in collaboration with air transport IT specialist SITA, is the first in the industry to test how the latest wearable technology, including Google Glass, can best be used to enhance customers’ travel experiences and improve efficiency. From the minute Upper Class passengers step out of their chauffeured limousine at Heathrow’s T3 and are greeted by name, Virgin Atlantic staff wearing the technology will start the check-in process. At the same time, staff will be able to update passengers on their latest flight information, weather and local events at their destination and translate any foreign language information. In future, the technology could also tell Virgin Atlantic staff their passengers’ dietary and refreshment preferences – anything that provides a better and more personalized service. During the six-week pilot, the benefits to consumers and the business will be evaluated ahead of a potential wider roll-out in the future.

Virgin Atlantic’s new solution replaces an existing process for serving passengers traveling in the Upper Class Wing, the airline’s premium entrance at Heathrow dedicated to Upper Class passengers. Airline staff are equipped with either Google Glass or a Sony SmartWatch 2, which is integrated to both a purpose-built dispatch app built by SITA and the Virgin Atlantic passenger service system. The dispatch app manages all task allocation and concierge availability. It pushes individual passenger information directly to the assigned concierge’s smart glasses or watch just as the passenger arrives at the Upper Class Wing.

Dave Bulman, Director of IT, Virgin Atlantic, said: “While it’s fantastic that more people can now fly than ever before, the fact that air travel has become so accessible has led to some of the sheen being lost for many passengers. Our wearable technology pilot with SITA makes us the first in the industry to test how Google Glass and other wearable technology can improve the customer experience. We are upholding Virgin Atlantic’s long tradition of shaking things up and putting innovation at the heart of the flying experience.”

Jim Peters, Chief Technology Officer, SITA said: “2014 is shaping up to be the breakout year for wearable technology, and Virgin Atlantic is the first to bring its vision to reality. At SITA Lab, we’ve taken the lead in testing and trialing this new technology for the air transport industry, and it’s been fantastic to work with Virgin Atlantic to launch the industry’s first wearable technology application.”

Virgin Atlantic continues to push the boundaries with other technological advancements with SITA, including testing iBeacon with its Upper Class passengers at Heathrow, a new low-powered Bluetooth transmitter that can notify nearby iOS Apple devices of nearby services, discounts and updates on their flight boarding schedules. In addition, Virgin Atlantic’s newly enhanced mobile site means passengers will be able to book flights, check in online and check their flight status on the move, while also having access to the vast range of information on the main website, including destination and airport guides as well as details of baggage allowances and much more.

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