Pebble Rethinks Its Smartwatch With a Colorful, Easier to Use Model
Feb26

Pebble Rethinks Its Smartwatch With a Colorful, Easier to Use Model

First emerging out of a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, Pebble has already sold over 1 million of its first-generation version of smartphone-connected watches.  The company is now ready to move on to version 2.0. The new watch is called Pebble Time and it’s 20 percent thinner than the original, with a Gorilla Glass face flanked by a stainless steel bezel. The new interface has been designed to be simpler to navigate and the display has been improved with a newly developed 64-color e-paper screen that offers good visibility in sunlight without compromising on the device’s 7-day battery life. A waterproof microphone was added, enabling translation of spoken words into text or audio that can be distributed via email or Facebook Messenger. Like its predecessor, Pebble Time has a power button on one side and three buttons on the opposite side for navigating up, down, and making selections. Its underside is curved ergonomically to fit your wrist more naturally. It fits a standard 22mm watch strap, but has a quick-release mechanism so you can easily swap straps. The original Pebble digital interface was organized in terms of notifications, apps, and watch faces; simple, but you could get bogged down once you start adding multiple options to each interface category. The new interface breaks down those virtual dividers and instead presents information based on a timeline of your day. Information that’s relevant to you is displayed in the context of being in the past, present or future. “Once we thought of this, everything clicked,” said CEO Eric Migicovsky. “We could understand how you could do more and accomplish more with your watch without it becoming a complex, compound juggernaut.” So, when using Pebble Time to scroll into the past, you might see things like your step count, an email you missed, or the score from last night’s baseball game. In the present, you could see weather and traffic conditions, stats on current sports games, and message notifications. Previewing the future, you would be able to see upcoming calendar events as well as any information relating to them. Pebble is launching a Kickstarter for orders of its Pebble Time smartwatch. The decision isn’t funding-based—the company is profitable, and production of the watches is well underway. Rather, it’s a hat tip towards the community that gave the company its start in the first place, and a way to get the new product in front of Pebble’s core audience of early adopters, tinkerers, and technophiles. Available in three colors, white, black, and red, the $200 Pebble Time arrives this...

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DARPA Is Working on Prosthetics That Will Let Amputees Feel Again
Feb25

DARPA Is Working on Prosthetics That Will Let Amputees Feel Again

For years, science fiction has enthralled audiences with visions of a future when prosthetics have evolved to the point where not only do they move like real, articulated limbs but also carry a true sense of touch to the wearer. Tactile feedback – our sense of touch – is something that most take for granted until faced with the challenge of interacting with our world without it. It’s true that modern users of technology have been given a slight glimpse into the disarray caused by this lack of tactile feedback from the use of touchscreen keyboards and the like, but the real challenges of an unfeeling prosthetic are beyond comparison. The sheer act of moving the prosthetic smoothly and usefully, gripping containers of liquids, as well as a host of other daily life fine motor skill tasks become challenges that could strain the patience of a true saint. Thankfully, DARPA’s HAPTIX (Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces) program is out to do something about this problem. In the ongoing effort to improve the lives of injured servicemen and women, new technologies are being integrated into state-of-the-art prosthetics. This will provide not only more accurate, discrete movement, but also genuinely reproduce the sense of touch which no technology before could manage. Along with this regained sense of precise motion and touch, this technology aims to do away with an ailment which has plagued amputees since the dawn of time. Phantom limb, as it is commonly called, is a neurological glitch which occurs in many amputees. It can range from a sensation of extreme pain in the no longer present limb(s) to extreme annoyance at other, similar false signals. This technology is of course very new, and has a lot of development ahead of it. Still, the DARPA team plans to have in-home tests of this technology for service men and women within four years at the longest. Early prototypes have proven that the simulation of touch is entirely possible, and has been demonstrated in a host of YouTube videos where amputees climb rock walls, pass objects back and forth and a number of other fine motor skill tasks which simply can’t be done without a sense of touch. Replacing limbs organically, or constructing life-like facsimiles with all the comforts of flesh and bone, may still be a thing of the distant future. But, the ability to regain a sense of touch and – with that – a sense of independence and quality of life, is right around the corner. The future is going to be wondrous like...

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4 Wearables That Just Might Give You Superpowers
Feb24

4 Wearables That Just Might Give You Superpowers

Have you always dreamed of being a superhero? While the wearable industry is still dreaming up a multitude of functional designs, there are a few ideas that we’re really excited about. Augmented Muscles Kineseowear is a form of artificial muscle that can be programmed to react in a variety of ways. You could experience a quick trigger while on a run so that you know where to turn, or you might even be guided through the motions of a new dance. While it won’t be turning you into The Hulk, it could be ideal for correcting your form during yoga, weightlifting exercises, and other athletic sessions. Improved Control Have no motor skills? Ouijiband could be used to gently guide your hand and take the tremor out of your muscles, allowing you to experience better control than ever before. Whether drawing or perhaps even completing a surgical operation, you would be certain not to make any sudden movements. Not only could this help for a variety of technical skills, but it could be promising for those with diseases like Parkinson’s. Hidden Identity What’s a superhero without his or her secret identity? The Snapchat IRL could sense camera flashes and then create another flash, in order to make sure that you’re never captured by the paparazzi. Snapchat IRL would also enable you to talk to people in private in person — basically making it so that your clandestine activities cannot be photographed or eavesdropped. Better Hearing Have you ever wanted to just drown it all out? Lalala can isolate sounds for you and noise-cancel anything that you don’t want to hear. Often, the problem in listening isn’t that volume is too low, but instead that other ambient noises are interfering. Lalala could connect you to anyone, even in a crowded room, and ensure that you are able to pay attention to absolutely everything they have to say.   Of course, wearable technology hasn’t progressed very far yet — but who knows what’s to come in the future?...

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New Tech Mimics Old Feel
Feb23

New Tech Mimics Old Feel

While most would agree that today’s smartphones are a tremendous step forward in evolution from the comparatively limited technology found in flip phones of the past, one thing seems to have been lost from those old designs – tactile feedback. Anyone who uses a smart device is familiar with the difficulty involved in using a small touch keyboard. The lack of tactile feedback as formerly provided by the hard buttons of old-style flip phones and computer keyboards basically messes with our heads. On top of that, it makes the typing of a text – something often doable on older phones without more than a second glance – is now something requiring almost complete attention.  And even so, with eyes fixed upon the little keyboard on the tiny screen, it’s still very easy to hit the wrong key due to being off by a fraction of an inch. This problem is something a company named Tactus is aiming to solve with a new kind of case and screen technology. Currently available only as a special case for a specific version of the iPad, and only at a specific orientation, this technology uses pressurized fluids that fill tiny bead-shaped modules placed strategically across the screen. The result is a series of little nubs that rise up from the screen to guide searching fingers to the keys. Of course, this technology does little to provide true tactile feedback for the act of typing, and requires at least the muscle memory to know vaguely where the given keys are, but it’s a step in an interesting direction that Tactus wishes to further explore. In the very near future, Tactus will unveil a similar case for the iPhone 6 Plus. However the more interesting development underway is their prototype Android phone with this technology built into the screen itself. While this technology doesn’t actually offer the level of tactile feedback of something like a Blackberry keyboard or the physical keyboard some smartphones offer, it’s the implications of this technology’s development that are profound. After years of complaints from users about touch technology not being what it’s cracked up to be, technology companies seem to be taking it to heart – at...

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A $34 Smartphone Gadget That Can Detect HIV in 15 Minutes
Feb19

A $34 Smartphone Gadget That Can Detect HIV in 15 Minutes

Over the years, mobile phones have rapidly progressed from bulky, glorified walkie-talkies to a device capable of performing nearly all the functions of a desktop computer. In today’s world, the ubiquitous smartphone has become an incredibly versatile tool for everyone, including scientists and engineers. One recent invention proves just how advanced and life-altering this technology has become. Columbia University biomedical engineering researchers Tiffany Guo and Tassaneewan Laksanasopin have created a device capable of detecting HIV and syphilis in 15 minutes – and its diagnostic powers rely upon a smartphone! The device attaches to any iPhone or Android device through the audio jack and, with one finger prick, a patient drops a small sample of blood onto a cassette that contains a microfluidic chip. That cassette is then inserted into the device and, after just 15 minutes, the results of the test are displayed on the smartphone’s screen. It does all of this, yet costs only $34 dollars to manufacture. The affordable gadget was tested during a small clinical trial in Kigali, Rwanda. During that time, 96 patients participated and researchers concluded that the invention is on par with the most accurate HIV diagnostic tests on today’s market. The implementation of such a device in third-world countries where HIV spreads rapidly could save thousands. This is especially apt in the cases of pregnant women who, as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports, can lower the risk of passing the disease onto their offspring to under one percent if the HIV is detected early and they are able to begin antiviral medication. The idea was first conceived in 2007, but took off in 2013 when researchers thought it would be advantageous to harvest the power, portability and affordability of smartphones. “We saw that the smartphone as this ubiquitous device that already had a lot of the components that we wanted,” Guo said. “So we stripped our dongle down to the essentials of what we needed for our assay—very simple optics and very simple fluid control.” The next step for the device is to seek approval from the World Health Organization, which would allow it to be used to help diagnose thousands of patients in needy countries all over the...

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