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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.
Six months after their spectacular unveil, Google is about to send the first round of augmented reality Google Glass devices to developers. Developers will pay $1,500 for the privilege of receiving an early, prototype version of Google Glass, but the polished consumer version — due in 2014 — should be a lot cheaper.
As it stands, Google Glass is a browband — like a pair of spectacles, but without the lenses — with what basically amounts to small ARM computer running Android attached to the right side, by your temple, and a large battery behind your right ear. There’s all the usual hardware that you would find in an Android smartphone — a speaker (near your ear), a forward facing camera, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, a couple of microphones, and WiFi and Bluetooth aerials — but instead of a large touchscreen, there’s a tiny display placed near your right eye.
In theory, if you’ve seen the original Glass promotional video (embedded below), Google’s goggles are meant to finally usher in the era of wearable computing. In reality, Google Glass is currently just like having an Android smartphone strapped to your head.
This past weekend, rumors made their way into the wild that Apple is looking to add a watch to its line of iDevice products. However impressive or sleek an iWatch would end up being, would it really be a good idea for Apple to get into the wristwatch game?
Now, before you instantly discredit an iWatch rumor as just being a rumor that the news cycle created in order to have news to cycle, the report originated from the Wall Street Journal, and despite what you may or may not think about the publication, it has a great track record with Apple-related rumors. Reportedly, Apple has discussed the production of a smartwatch with one of its manufacturing partners, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. — otherwise known as Foxconn — and would be adding some smartphone-like features into the device. The watch would be made out of curved glass that can form around the human body, and would run iOS.
Researchers at Columbia University have conducted the first exhaustive study into kinetic energy harvesting — the harvesting of “free” energy from common human activities, such as walking, writing with a pencil, taking a book off a shelf, or opening a door. Surprisingly, except for those living the most sedentary lifestyles, we all move around enough that a kinetic energy harvester — such as a modified Fitbit or Nike FuelBand — could sustain a wireless network link with other devices, such as a laptop or smartphone.
Energy harvesting is expected to play a very important role in the future of wearable computing and the internet of things, where direct sources of power — such as batteries or solar power — are cumbersome, expensive, and unreliable. At its most basic, a kinetic/inertial energy harvester is a small box with a weight attached to a spring. When the spring moves, the mechanical energy is converted into electrical energy, usually by means of piezoelectrics or MEMS (microelectromechanical systems). If the spring moves with more force, or it bounces back and forth rapidly, more energy is produced.
Using a technique that looks strongly reminiscent of 1950s and ’60s core memory, two NASA nanotechnologists from the Ames Research Center in California have devised a method of weaving non-volatile computer memory into garments of clothing, or “e-textiles.”Read More
At its most basic, the e-textile is formed from a lattice of copper wires. The top copper wire is left bare, the bottom wire is coated in copper oxide, and at each intersection is a small piece of platinum. The data is stored in the copper oxide coating by a process that is called resistive switching, and if you understand how a transistor works, just think of the copper oxide as the dielectric layer. The read/write process is also much the same as normal RAM: a high voltage (3V in this case) is used to write bits, and a low voltage (0.5V) reads bits.
David Cardinal: Tablets are the future
Tablets are cool. They’re fun, portable, have long-lived batteries, and are increasingly useful. The immediacy of a touchscreen you can hold in your hand, coupled with a screen large enough to read a magazine make them the most exciting development in computers since the laptop. Currently the iPad is all the rage for tablets, even among those who already own an iPhone. Alan Kay — inventor of the Dynabook, the iPad’s 1968 virtual ancestor — explained why when he commented to Steve Jobs about the iPhone, “Make the screen at least 5″ x 8″ and you will rule the world.”
Smartphones, with their small screens, aren’t going to replace the trillion pages of books, notebooks, newspapers and magazines that the world has been consuming for the last 500 years. The tablet will. Already kids are feeling shortchanged when their books don’t come to life the way their electronic devices do.
For all their appeal, tablets have one life-threatening drawback. It is just plain hard to create content on them. They do have a huge advantage over smartphones, with the larger screens making possible a facsimile of a true keyboard — and more than one published author has written a book entirely on a tablet — but compared to a full-size keyboard they fall way short, if you are a touch typist at least. It is no wonder Apple plowed a few hundred million into Siri.
After more than 50 years at the top of the heap, the CPU finally has some competition from an upstart called the SoC. For decades, you could walk into a shop and confidently pick out a new computer based on its CPU — and now, everywhere you look, from smartphones to tablets and even some laptops, there are SoCs.
Don’t worry, though, CPUs and SoCs are actually rather similar, and almost everything you know about CPUs can also be applied to SoCs.
What is a CPU?
Despite the huge emphasis put on CPU technology and performance, it is ultimately a very fast calculator. It fetches data from memory, and then performs some kind of arithmetic (add, multiply) or logical (and, or, not) operation on that data. The more expensive/complex the CPU, the more data it can process, the faster your computer.
A CPU itself is not a personal computer, however — a whole framework of other silicon chips is required for that. There must be memory to hold the data, an audio chip to decode and amplify your music, a graphics processor to draw pictures on your monitor, and hundreds of smaller components that all have a very important task.