TechSummit Rewind #007: January 7th, 2014

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewind, which allows you to hit pause on the tech news wire.

A first look of Canary’s web connected home security system’s app

Canary security system

Canary is an all-seeing, all-knowing, internet-connected home security system that obliterated its funding target to raise almost $2 million. Now, if we were the folks behind it, we’d be celebrating in Vegas, but instead of being at the Mandalay Bay, they were at the Las Vegas Convention Center showing CES attendees their progress. While the team brought final hardware along, it doesn’t look any different from the original proposition. Many of the internal components, however, have been swapped out for better versions as development has been ramped up, according to Canary’s CEO Adam Sager. Ethernet was also added (in addition to WiFi) due to backer demand.

What garners my particular interest, though, was taking a look at the companion app Canary has been crafting. Sager demoed the iOS version, which takes many design cues from iOS 7 (and 8), on an iPod Touch. He showed how the app handles alerts, including that HD video recordings and all other sensor metadata associated with that event, as well as the various ways you can immediately react. We also saw how live video feeds would be presented, the feed-like alert history, and how you can set up both user and trigger profiles. Considering this isn’t “fully functional,” as Sager calls it, we would call it extremely slick for something that’s being considered as still in the works. Development is being steered, in part, by an ongoing internal beta, and backers who signed up for the open beta are due to receive their hardware within the next month. Canary is available now.

Hyundai’s second generation Blue Link tech runs custom version of Android, keeps you connected with Verizon

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Hyundai’s latest Genesis sedan names the latest version of the automaker’s Blue Link tech: voice navigation, media navigation and remote tech. That means unlocking your car remotely, navigating to both specific locations and general search terms (like flowers, sushi, coffee, etc.), and a whole bunch of other pieces of “smart” functionality. Unlike the first-gen Blue Link, all of that functionality is being brought to your new Genesis with a Verizon-provided cell signal.

Consider this the latest in a series of cross-company explorations into how best to implement Android in cars — Hyundai is also exploring iOS for cars, according to a company representative, but won’t have more to share until some later on in this series.

In the brief time we spent with Blue Link 2, it was impressive! Blue Link 2 picked up on voice commands without a hitch, and was able to wirelessly connect to Google Places from within the confines of a Las Vegas hotel conference room. Sadly, navigation costs $100 annually, and it’ll set you back another $100 for remote services.

Audi’s Sport Quattro Laserlight concept officially debuts at CES

CES Las Vegas 2014

Audi teased us with concept drawings of its Sport Quattro Laserlight months ago, and it decided to show off the vehicle in the flesh (or metal and carbon fiber) at CES. Before we wax on about the concept car’s looks, it’s important to note the machine’s technical details, as they alone inspire a fair bit of awe. The car’s titular feature is its headlights, whose laser light can cut through five football fields (500 yards for those mathematicians out there) of darkness. Aside from the futuristic headlamps, the car’s calling card is the combination of electric and gas motors — the latter of which takes it 90 miles per gallon — for a whopping 700 horsepower.

Simply put, Audi’s crafted the Laserlight to look stunning from any angle. From the front, its rectangular beams offer a dose of futurism, and its large grill looks eager to breathe in as much air as possible while tearing through the freeway. From the sides, it’s difficult to ignore how the top of the car swoops down into the base, still leaving room for two seats in the rear. from behind, the iconic lights make a return alongside a carbon fiber accent, which can be found as trim in other areas of the hybrid. Of course, there’s no word on price or availability for now, as the automobile is still in the conceptual stage.

meMini’s wearable camera gives you the gift of hindsight

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Picture this: your child speaks its first words, you’ve just spotted a public official in a compromising position or you’ve just shred some phenomenal powder. Of course, unless you’ve had cameras set up previously and pointing at the action, it’s not likely that you’ll have that recorded for posterity. That’s the idea behind meMini, a wearable camera that’s constantly recording, but only preserves the last five minutes when you’ve spotted something worth saving. meMini is the brainchild of New Zealanders Samuel Lee and Ben Bodley, and the former’s snow sports background was the inspiration behind creating the hardware. While the technology is still in the fluid “late prototype” stage, Bodley’s expertise with cameras has ensured that the unit will ship with a high quality 3.1-megapixel camera with a 160-degree field of view. In terms of storage, meMimi has 16GB of non-expandable memory, with a 32GB edition mooted as a bonus for a certain class of Kickstarter backer. Which brings us around to the price: as, like any invention or proof of concept released in the past few years, the company will be taking to Kickstarter with the hopes of raising $50,000, with the standard edition setting priced at $150 for early backers, while the standard edition is expected to retail for around $200.

TiVo prototype DVR recordings stay in the cloud, watch them anywhere on any screen

Tivo nDVR

All of our favorite TV shows, accessible anywhere, anytime? It might sound like a fantasy, but that’s what we can expect if the prototype DVR TiVo is showing off at CES ever sees the consumer light of day. Intended as a service that your local cable operator could offer, the TiVo Network DVR project brings the Roamio experience that we already enjoyed on its latest DVRs to the cloud, letting them push recordings out over the internet. Dubbed NDVR for short internally, the preview images show how viewers could get their TiVo on an iPad or Roku, manage program recordings, see what’s on and, if necessary, buy more storage space in the cloud.

That last bit is key, because this isn’t just for consumers — TiVo needs to convince cable operators (the smaller ones; we figure Comcast, AT&T U-Verse, DirecTV, Dish and other big names will stick to their own custom solutions) they can make more money and have a simpler setup with its product. One other cable company-friendly feature is the ability to target advertising during the recordings, as we’ve seen TV companies start doing with video on-demand. We’ll have more coverage with its prototype and see what else is new with the prototype and see what else is new, and hopefully see what the next generation of TV is like.

Audi partners with AT&T to introduce in-car LTE in US

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Audi’s in-car LTE capability has arrived to the states from across the Atlantic aboard the upcoming 2015 A3 sedans, thanks to the carmaker’s partnership with AT&T. When the vehicles, and hence the feature, became available in the US, AT&T’s wireless customers will have the option to share their smartphone or tablet data plans with their cars. Owners can use the connection for faster access to Google Earth, Google Street View and web radio stations, as well as to get social media alerts on the Audi connect navigation system. Up to eight passengers can also take advantage of the long term evolution (LTE) speeds by using Audi connect as a WiFi hotspot. While the feature was originally limited to the 2015 A3 family for now, Audi plans to include it on the new and refreshed models bound to come out in the future.

For those wondering whether AT&T’s cutting its ties with T-Mobile, the carrier’s rep reached out and said that it wasn’t the case at all. In fact, the representative said that “T-Mobile renewed its relationship as the exclusive supplier of wireless connectivity for the sale of new A8, A6, A7, A5, Q5 and Q7 models” in August 2013.

Neato Robotics’ XV Essential vacuum brings affordable automation to Walmart

Neato Robotics XV Essential

There’s something to be said for taking the easy way out. Neato Robotics has figured out how to get the price down on its well reviewed, but slightly pricey XV Signature line of autonomous vacuums, by simply swapping in a cheaper brush and filter. Thus the XV Essential was born. Under the hood it’s exactly the same as the $400 Signature model, but thanks to the plain plastic blade bush and flat filter, it comes in a cool $30 cheaper. That might not sound like much, but shoppers at Walmart (where the XV Essential will be sold exclusively) are sure to appreciate the additional value. Otherwise, you are still getting the impressive laser guidance system and smart charging function that tells the little sucker to return home when its battery is running low, then picks right back up where it left off once it refills the juice tank.

There are, of course, some trade offs. The riddled filter in the Signature model is much better at capturing pet dander and dust, for one. Plus the purely plastic-bladed Essential is quite noisy on hardwood floors — it easily overpowered the din of Bluetooth speakers, overzealous PR representatives and drunken bloggers at the Pepcom event.

3D Systems gets in haptic mouse game

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3D Systems came into CES like a wrecking ball (I apologize for the use of that line). A few months after releasing the Sense handheld 3D scanner, the company’s offering up yet another peripheral for creating 3D models. This time out, the company has a bit of a harder sell in the form of a 3D haptic mouse. For starters, the functionality of such a device isn’t quite so immediately clear as a product that creates 3D images with a wave of your hand. Also, there are already haptic mice on the market — though, like the scanner, the competition has chiefly been targeted toward professions. And while (like the Sense,) the price point here certainly isn’t low enough to make this a mainstream product, it may well prove to entice for a small cross section of the 3D modeling/printing community.

Of course the tool plays nicely with the company’s Sculpt software, offering up haptic feedback to give the user the sensation of really creating something with a lump of virtual clay. In fact, the $500 asking price also includes a copy of Sculpt. 3D Systems’ Touch is available now.

Budget TV maker TCL has something for everyone, including curved 4K panel, ‘virtual-holographic’ 3D TV

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Here at CES 2014, it’s all 4K, all the time (You can have that slogan CEA, if you want it). Budget TV maker TCL has revealed a curved, 55-inch 4K model of its own, claiming the arc angle is the same as your retina for a “truer picture that minimizes eye strain.” We’re not quite sure if we comprehend that logic, but if flat is more your thing, the Chinese company also has something for you.

TCL flaunted an “ultra-thin” 55-inch OLED model at the show, claiming that it has a wider color gamut, better contrast and a faster refresh rate. That model, however, seems to be a standard 1080p HDTV resolution.

The company also showed off an 85-inch HDTV with a Touch Pen for artists, a virtual-holographic 3D TV using zSpace tech and a 110 inch HD model that uses polarizers to allow simultaneous program viewing. There was no mention of pricing or availability at the show. Stay tuned for more detail as the TechSummit Rewind rolls on.

Fuhu’s DreamTab line pops up at CES sporting Kung Fu Panda and other DreamWorks fare

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These are all still early-stage pieces of hardware, so let’s just get that out of the way to begin with. Even the “most final” of the three DreamTab slates Fuhu (makers of the Nabi line of tablets) showed off at Pepcom in Las Vegas had a number of apps that just wouldn’t load. Instead, the company came to the show to show off what was more of less final hardware designs and a handful of DreamWorks-sanctioned apps like one that teaches kids how to draw Kung Fu Panda and the link and a Puss in Boots-branded version of Fruit Ninja, which will come pre-loaded on the final units.

We’ve got to say, the hardware design on these bad boys was extremely good looking. They’re a fair bit sleeker than a number of the kid-focused tablets that’ve been previously announced (including Fuhu’s own Nabi 2 line of tablets, ironically). On the front, you’ll find a speaker grille on either side of the display. On the top is a slot for a stylus, power button and volume rocker, while the sides have a unique concave design that makes it nice to hold — as does the silicone sleeve that ships with the systems. Here at CES, the company showed off an eight-inch, twelve-inch and a large desktop tablet, which is a pretty solid way to slice some virtual fruit.

OLPC shows off two new kid-friendly tablets

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OLPC’s Giulia D’Amico and company brought the organization’s two new tablets to CES, so we decided to spend some quality time with it. While Vivitar retains its hardware partnership with OLPC from the first generation, this year’s new tablets have certainly seen an increase in the spec department.  seven-inch XO-2 looks nearly identical to its predecessor, the company’s first-ever consumer-facing device. It’s still a bit clunky and the rear has that same plasticky dimpled design. There’s also that great Yves Behar-designed silicone slipcase. The really significant changes are all inside the slate, including a quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage and built-in GPS and Bluetooth. The custom Android software remained, as well (built on top of Android 4.4 KitKat this time and comes with 100 pre-loaded apps in both English and Spanish, which the company values at around $200), though the company is adding more content to its offering. The devices also share the same 1200×600 display resolution. The XO-2 will net you seven hours of battery life on a charge.

The 10.1-inch XO-10, meanwhile, shares most of the same internals as its little brother, but brings a sleek industrial design that makes the little one look like child’s play. There’s a green metal back (that could change, but personally we like the fact that it maintains the uniformity among the company’s other offerings) and a much slimmer profile. Of course, the thinner design calls into question just how rugged it will ultimately be. The XO-10 features a battery that came flowing for more than twelve.

The tablets will set you back $149 and $199, respectively. Also new are digital microphones and telescopes that were first shown in an early form last year, along with a wireless keyboard designed by superstar designer and OLPC pal Yves Béhar.

Sceptre showed off 4K TVs, Roku Ready displays, earbuds, pretty much everything ever at CES

Spectre 4K TV

Some companies make a big to-do over a single product, with big press events and bigger ad campaigns. And then there are those companies like Sceptre that just kind of do the shotgun thing, jamming a single press release up with several product lines, ranging from a series of 4K TVs to earbuds with a zipper-esque cord that’s less likely to get tangled than an ordinary pair. The big announcement here is the unoriginally titled 4K Series, which ranges from 49 to 58 inches. Though, for the record, it’s a much more solid moniker than the “Color Line,” which are apparently named for their frames and not the fact that their picture is no longer confined to just black-and-white.

The company also has a line of Roku Ready displays, some soundbars and a “Mobile Internet Display,” which runs Android and sure sounds a lot like a tablet to us. Stay tuned for more details.

Samsung announces a batch of sharing-focused SMART cameras, including a dual-grip beast with 60x zoom

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They don’t run Android, and we’re not sure if it even runs Tizen OS, but a lineup of new smart cameras at CES represents Sammy’s best efforts to elevate point-and-shoots to a higher slate of technological being. (Hopefully before the entire genre of the “cheap camera” is wiped out by smartphones.) We’re still lacking exact pricing and availability, alas, but the model numbers and specs hint at the essential hierarchy, starting with the huge WB2200F bridge with 60x zoom and going all the way down to the tiny WB35F with a 12x zoom. All the cameras come with WiFi and NFC for quick pairing to a smartphone or tablet; all deliver 16MP images as a bare minimum; and we’ll take some time to cover each one in a little more detail now.

WB2200F

This bridge camera sits at the head of the table, with a Back-Side Illuminated (BSI) sensor for improved low-light performance (at least compared to the regular CCD sensors lower down the lineup), 60x zoom with optical stabilization for ridiculously detailed shots of squirrels and usefully wide 20mm focal length at the other end of the zoom range. Aside from NFC and WiFi, other connectivity options come in the form of a full-sized SD slot and HDMI output. In addition to the big 75mm Dual-grip design stands out as being unusual for this category of camera, and it makes room for a bigger battery that Samsung promises will allow users to “indulge their passion [for photography] for longer periods of time than ever before.”

WB1100F

Samsung WB1100

On the face of the Samsung WB1100F, this camera delivers much of the same features set as the previously mentioned WB2200F, but with a smaller 35x zoom that brings the weight down to 462 grams (without the battery), instead of 608 grams. But there are other sacrifices to be made: the sensor is a non-BSI CCD, plus there’s only 720p video recording (instead of 1080p) and no HDMI output.

WB350F

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This looks to be an updated (and hopefully cheaper) hybrid of last year’s Galaxy Camera and WB850F, without Android, but with the same 21x zoom, 16MP BSI sensor and max ISO of 3200 — all of which suggest that picture quality should be pretty decent. We’ve got the same-sized LCD as the WB220F here, but now with touch sensitivity. We also have the same connectivity features, but here housed in a camera that weighs 216 grams, which suggests this could be the most mainstream offering of the bunch.

WB35F and WB50F

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This is the smallest of the bunch, at 144 grams and just 10 centimeters wide. Aside from the difference in form factor, with just a 12x zoom lens here, most features and specs are similar to the WB1100F. Also the SD slot was axed in favor of a microSD card slot, which might actually be more convenient for sharing to other mobile devices. Finally, the WB50F is billed as a “child-friendly” alternative to the WB35F, with a slightly more rugged build that adds to the weight slightly.

Jelly answers your questions through photos and social networks

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Biz Stone’s, otherwise known as Twitter’s co-founder’s next project, Jelly, has been shrouded in mystery. Is if a social network or a distributed computing hivemind? As it turns out, Jelly isn’t anything that special — but it’s worth checking out regardless. The new service expands on the basic concept of Quora, drawing on the collective wisdom of Facebook, Twitter (naturally) and Jelly itself to both answer questions and identify objects in photos. if you’re stumped, you can forward questions to just about anyone. Jelly’s Android and iOS apps are available now, so it won’t take much to learn whether or not it’s worth the wait.

Project Christine offers a glimpse of Razer’s modular computing future

Razer Project Christine

Razer’s Project Fiona was announced all the rage back at CES 2012 — it married console-like controls in a tablet form factor that looks ridiculously similar to the Wii U’s Gamepad, not to mention packing a real computational punch. At the time, CEO Min-Liang Tan was cagey about its retail availability; I mean, it didn’t even have an official name at the time. Fast forward to last year, when “Fiona” became the Razer Edge, and Tan’s tune changed from prototype to consumer-ready.

At CES 2014, the cycle revisits phase one. Razer introduced Project Christine as the trade show officially opened at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Like Fiona, Christine is an ambitious project from an ambitious company (don’t even get me started on the Nabu smartband again): a modular-computing initiative with a form factor that space aliens would truly appreciate.

Christine is a massive black PC tower with varying sizes of individual pods or modules, a green underglow vignetting out from underneath its base, all cooled by mineral oil running vertically down the middle (If that doesn’t entice you, it gets better!). Frankly put, it looks like no other gaming PC that’s ever been prototyped or released into the marketplace ever. That’s not necessarily a bad thing! In its own unique way, Project Christine is a beautiful piece of hardware. It looks like a computer sent from a future beyond the Industrial Design Revolution of 2135.

The modules that are the heart and soul of this design have a true function beyond just looking cool. They enable a wide range of setups — from the tri-SLI GPU setup running on the reference model to integrated processing and graphics on a single chip for less-demanding users. The idea here is to both combat the waste in the PC world of having to buy annual hardware refreshes and to push back on massive price spikes from supporters of the PC master race.

Tan:

“We’re really looking at other models. Perhaps to say a subscription model of sorts, that we could interchange modules when they come in. Users don’t have to worry about a huge bump every time there’s new architecture out there.”

Of course, those modules have to be made by someone, and that aforementioned someone will exclusively be Razer. As of right now, each module uses two self-sealing ports for the most literally plug-and-play functionality in this industry (beyond plugging in your thumb drive of course). Adding a new GPU is as simple as plugging one into the back, and the same goes for additional storage, RAM, ports or any other upgrades you might want to make down the road.

Modularity requires customization. Anyone who’s tried to install a new video card knows how much fuss can go into that relatively simple process, and Christine aims to eliminate that. As such, the traditional motherboard is broken up into a variety of pieces and scattered through the tower’s middle spine. We’ll not going to cover the reference design’s specs because it’s simply one of the many, many builds one could create with Don’t like that LCD screen? Swap it out for a power button. Wanna go all digital and cut out the Blu-ray drive. Cut the silver disk?. There are only two pieces that are set in stone, however, the tower design and modular approach.

Cyanogen partners with OnePlus on debut phone OnePlus One

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Ex-Oppo executive Pete Lau’s new company OnePlus has partnered with Cyanogen on its first device, the OnePlus One. Lau announced that the handset would run on a custom version of CyanogenMod’s custom version of Android OS (ironically, enough) with “special features and tweaks” with Cyanogen’s Steve Kondik. OnePlus has already said that its mission is to build the “perfect smartphone” — with Oppo building the device no less. This means that OnePlus could achieve its ambitious goals, since Oppo has some CyanogenMod experience and a bite from Google.

BBC iPlayer tablet viewing overtakes PC for the first time

BBC-IPlayer

If you’ve ever needed further proof on the fact that tablets are affecting PC usage, the BBC has heeded your call. Eight months after seeing that viewing on its iPlayer app on tablets has overtaken its phone counterpart, the UK broadcaster reported that over Christmas, the rise in iPad and other smart slabs helped push tablet viewing past PC streaming for the first time in the streaming service’s history. The BBC saw almost a million downloads (941,000 for those looking for specifics) of its iPlayer apps between December 21st and New Year’s Day, as viewers rushed to a, check up on the Beeb’s festive programming and b, simply get the app installed after picking up that new iPad or Galaxy Tab of theirs. Although PCs overtook tablets again before the Times Square ball made its descent into 1 Times Square, the return of headlining shows like Sherlock and Doctor Who could lean tablet viewing figures in its favor once more, perhaps giving us an idea of what to expect as the tablet revolution continues.

Amped Wireless’ WiFi gear makes it to the desktop

Amped Wireless PCI20E

Amped Wireless certainly made its name known at CES, and while the company has previously offered up USB adapters for tablets and laptops, there’s never been a card-based solution for the desktop. That has changed with the creation of the PC120E, which combines a PCI-E card and two high-gain antennas that gives you 500 mW of wireless power. It’s available now.

Lexar’s CFast 2.0 cards boast SSD speeds, but have no camera support

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Lexar has announced new Compact Flash cards using the CFast 2.0 SATA tech format to improve speeds and possibly steal back some of the limelight from the SDHC format. The cards, which range in sizes from 32GB to 256GB, support a mind-boggling max read speed of 500 MB/s (which is better than most desktop hard drives), which is an improvement over earlier models from SanDisk. That’s easily enough to keep up with even RAW 4K images, let alone the 65 MB/s barrier required for the VPG-65 performance guarantee standard. Combined with the digital storage giant’s Professional Workflow CFast 2.0 USB 3.0 reader — also announced at CES — gives you super fast speeds on your desktop when you pick it up now, and with support for the likes of Arri’s Amira and other cameras, it’ll be nice to know you won’t need to somehow find a way to cram an SSD into your camera to have the space to capture 4K.

Bang & Olufsen’s Beosound Essenge allows wall-mounted music control of your wireless streaming habits

Bnag _ Olufsen Beosound Essence

At CES 2014, Bang & Olufsen is looking to make it as easy as possible to make access to tunes as soon as you jump out of bed. To do so, the high-end audio company has announced the Beosound Essence: a circular music control dial that can be either wall mounted or fixed to a small metal plate for use around the house. The device features a rotating aluminum ring that also happens to double as a volume dial with track skipping, play/pause and power touch controls on the face. In fact, it’ll pick up at the exact second where you last listened. That bit of silver alongside minimal graphics and black accents keeps the unit in line with B&O’s upscale look. Measuring about two inches across, the Essence is quite small and only extends a couple of inches off of the wall — when it’s mounted in that fashion, of course. Up to three of the controls can be used in a single room, if you’d like to spread them out.

In the event that you need that controller to be slightly more on the mobile side, the audio outfit has accounted for that as well. Bang & Olufsen’s calling it a “table-top” mount and it’s attached to a metal plate that’s roughly the size of an index card. As you might expect, the add-on keeps with the same aesthetic as the Essence while making it a bit easier to keep track of. In order to connect to a set of speakers, there’s a separate box that can remain hidden in a cabinet, for example, and connects to the control via low-energy Bluetooth. In terms of compatibility, you can expect AirPlay and DLNA support as well as streaming from Spotify Connect, QPlay and a variety of internet radio providers. It also plays nice with the BeoPlay smartphone app as well. Speaking of its availability, the Essence is available now for $595 with that so-called table-top option setting you back an additional $200. Despite showing off a platter of color options for the back plate at CES, only the dark grey option is available — which is a shame, because the wood grain looks pretty nice if I do say so myself.

Native Union’s Jump is a charging cable with a built-in battery

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Native Union’s Jump might win the award for most thoughtful accessory at CES, which is a Lightning or micro-USB cable that goes through a cable wrapper, which is intentionally designed to fit into the tiny coin pocket in your trousers. Now, you might be thinking, so what, it just sounds like the cable that my device manufacturer gives when I unpack it from the box. Here’s where it gets interesting: This gray pebble also packs an 800mAh battery (with a 1A current output), so it’s good for those emergency situations where you need some extra juice but left your Mophie Space Pack at the office. But wait, there’s more! You can use the Jump as a normal cable to charge your phone, and when the phone’s full, the intelligent circuitry — which has been a tough challenge for Native Union — diverts the power to the Jump’s own battery. To put it in the simplest terms: you’re killing two birds with one stone here. No need to remind yourself to plug in your portable battery separately at night.

The Jump is available now for $30.

Audi’s Smart Display is a 10.2-inch Android tablet that lives in your car

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German car manufacturer Audi has pulled the curtains back on its Smart Display, a 10.2-inch Android tablet wrapped in brushed aluminum that lives in your car. The slate is powered by an NVIDIA Tegra 4 chip, boasts crash resistance and the chops to survive temperatures as high as 176 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius for you non-Americans out there). Of course, this isn’t meant for the driver, passengers are the Smart Display’s focus. The hardware hooks up to vehicles over in-car WiFi and provides folks along for the ride with access to the web, media and navigation systems, as well as control over the radio. It’s not clear what version of Google’s OS it runs or if and when it’ll find its way on the streets but stay tuned for more details.

PlayStation Now streams PlayStation games to PS4, PS3, Vita, mobile devices

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Sony announced PlayStation Now, a new streaming game service for PS4, Vita, PS3, tablets, smartphones and Bravia TVs based on its acquisition of streaming outfit Gaikai. It represents a new subscription model for PlayStation users, and is available now. Games can be rented by the title or subscription and supports PSN features like multiplayer, online, trophies and messages, even when you’re on the road. During his CES 2014 keynote, Sony head honcho Kaz Harai said that it’ll “enable streaming across your smartphone, Vita, tablet and PS4 wherever, whenever,” even at the same time. To enable that, PS Now is tied to a new cloud service. Stay tuned below for a first look at the service.

First look: it works!

Please excuse this random burst of “Eureka, it works!” because to be honest, we didn’t expect PlayStation Now to work as well as it did about six months before its official launch. It’s a game-streaming service, and the history of game-streaming services is littered with casualties. When Sony spent a whopping $380 million on Gaikai, it seemed impossible that the service could live up to that valuation. While PlayStation Now may not live up to that valuation, it does, in fact work. Really well at that.

We demoed the service at a CES 2014 PlayStation event, where we tried God of War: Ascension on a Bravia TV (without a PS3) and The Last of Us on a Vita. Both games played as they would on a local device (including the incredibly long initial load time for The Last of Us) and ran without a hitch. There was zero perceptible lag in our brief playtime, but we suspect that the internet connection Sony used is of the extremely strong variety.

The service is available now on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, on mobile as well as on the company’s Bravia support. Given the relative early stage of PlayStation Now, the UI was non-final (and looked like little more than placeholder art). The same gooks for the list of supported titles via streaming — the service has a variety of “marquee PS3 games,” though nothing’s set in stone thus far. We expect the God of Wars and Gran Turismos of the PlayStation world to be available on the service, but only time will tell.

Beyond the subscription to access full games, there’ll be rental and demo options available through PlayStation Now. But again, none of this is final, and only one facet of PlayStation Now was available for testing at CES. What we did see was impressive and fulfilled the promises Sony’s made when it comes to game streaming.

Onewheel is a self-balancing single-wheeled electric skateboard

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If the idea of combining a Segway, a skateboard and a unicycle sounds like your idea of fun, the Onewheel is for you. It uses gyros, accelerometers, proprietary algorithms and a single rubber tire to give its passengers a “smooth, self-balancing ride” that supposedly mimics surfing or snowboarding on dry land. Its direct-drive motor pairs with the aforementioned components to determine the board’s speed based on how you lean your body. Compared to something like the ZBoard, though, the Onewheel seems incredibly lithe; all of its components are stored within the billet-aluminum-and-maple plank, giving it a sleek aesthetic. With an estimated battery life of about 20 minutes per-charge though, the contraption comes off as more of a fancy toy than a means of transportation. Should you fancy taking a (short) ride for yourself, it won’t be cheap: The minimum pledge required to claim a Onewheel as your own is $1,200. For that price, you could build about three of Gob Bluth’s rides yourself.

Ford Sync will let you order pizza on the road

Ford Sync

Have you ever wish you could order pizza while driving home without fumbling around dialing your local pizza joint? Ford gets it and the company has announced Sync AppLink support in five apps that could prove handy for many commuters, including Domino’s Pizza. A version of the parlor’s software will let you dictate orders without taking your hands off the wheel. New editions of Parkopedia and Parkmobile, meanwhile, will respectively help you find and pay for parking. ADT’s Pulse app will give you the peace of mind that your house is safe and sound, with an update to HABU sending mood-setting tunes to the car stereo. You can order an extra-large Pacific Veggie from Domino’s while you’re stuck in rush-hour traffic now.

SMS Audio reveals three sport-friendly Carmelo Anthony signature headphones

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If you like to soak up some beats while you’re out on the court, SMS Audio’s Audio Sport Carmelo Anthony signature collection is looking squarely at your attention. There are three models in the line: the Sync Wireless Sport in-ear, and Street Wired Sport in- and on-ear editions. All three come with sweat-proof protection and tangle-free cables (on the wired ones, of course). The Street on-ears even come with an SMS Audio sports towel in the box, and all models come in three color variations. If you fancy picking up a set of the wireless Syncs, it’ll set you back $160. The on-ear Streets are $20 mode, but if you’re more into the in-ear, wired version, you can snap them for a much less ding on your wallet-inducing $80. All are available now.

Sprint announces Virgin Mobile hotspot with Spark LTE support, adds six new markets

Netgear Mingle

Most carriers shy away from offering LTE on its prepaid plans, but Sprint is diving in by making it available on its first Virgin Mobile device. The network takes advantage of Sprint’s Spark service, which offers tri-band LTE support at faster speeds on the company’s Broadband2Go plans. The first device to leverage it is the Netgear Mingle, which is essentially a red version of Sprint’s Zing. You can get the fast service for $5 per day, or you can pay $25 for 1.5GB or $55 for 6GB.

Additionally, Sprint announced that the service would be available in six more cities:

  • Dallas
  • Austin
  • Fort Worth
  • San Antonio
  • Houston
  • Fort Lauderdale

Intel unveils a pair of smart earbuds that match songs to your heart rate

Intel-Smart-Earbuds-1

Ok, we apologize in advance for this not being as groundbreaking as Kolibree or that internet-connected baby onesie, but Intel’s smart earbud concept is still one of the neater items at CES. To cut to the chase, it’s a pair of headphones with sensors inside the earpiece that monitors your heart rate. The headphones are powered through the same headphone jack as the one you already use to connect to your tunes, which means that you won’t have to worry about going silent mid-workout.

But anyway, you don’t care how it charges; you want to know what it does. Using that biometric data, the earbuds work with a companion app, where you can set a target heart rate for your workouts, and automatically select appropriate music tracks (fast, slow, et cetera). According to the earbuds’ inventor, Indira Negi, the built-in music providing workout coach won’t change songs too abruptly, even if your heart rate does fluctuate a bit. Instead, you’d get a warning and then, if you still weren’t reaching your target heart rate, the app would switch to slower-tempo songs. For now, Intel just said that it’s working with partners to potentially bring it to consumers.

AMD’s Project Discovery tablet is for work and play (mostly play)

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Part of the energy-sipping Mullins APU and the DockPort connector is to create small devices that have the power and versatility to perform a variety of tasks. The Project Discovery tablet is an experimental reference device designed to work all day and play all night (in typical Vegas fashion). The concept of DockPort is that it can expand to a host of connections. So slot it into a productivity dock, and you can power Excel across two monitors while using a traditional keyboard and mouse. But, when you head home, you can slap it into a gaming cradle that looks exactly like a Razer Edge and play some FIFA 14 or Dirt 3. As with most of the truly innovative pieces of technology at CES, this is not a shipping product, nor will it likely ever be one. Instead it’s a concept that AMD is using as a proof of concept for its vision of the future. Now it just needs one two make that twelve OEMs to take up the torch and getting it to consumers.

Panasonic’s first-person 4K camera debuts at CES

Panasonic first-person 4K camera prototype

Wearable devices and 4K are two of the biggest trends at CES, and Panasonic has managed to mash them both together. The outfit revealed a UHD camera that you wear on your head with the help of a plastic mount that wraps around their ears and neck. While the prototype is similar to the HX-A100 announced at last year’s show (complete with the same waterproof capabilities), this Ultra High-Definition model is lined with some more powerful parts on the interior. Detailed tech specs weren’t announced at CES, but the unit on hand was sending a live feed of the juicy pixel-packed footage to a 4K display through a mini-HDMI port — a feature that made it to the final version. Despite the hardware’s compact size, it produced sharp video free of stuttering, and caught a fairly wide field of view with its fisheye lens. While there was no word of pricing at the trade show, we’ll have it as the TechSummit Rewind continues.

PlayStation 4 sales hit 4.2 million to pull ahead in next-gen console wars

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SCEA CEO Andrew House took to Sony’s CES 2014 stage to announce some figures on the PS4: 4.2 million systems, and 9.7 million games as of December 28th, 2013. That’s exactly double what the company said last month, selling 2.1 million consoles by December 1st. It’s an impressive lead for the next-gen console wars for Sony, with Microsoft selling three million Xbox Ones in 2013 (though Redmond’s console was available in fewer markets).

Moving forward, Sony will build on its sales momentum by launching PlayStation Now, a service that’ll eliminate cross-platform compatibility issues by letting gamers stream titles on their PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, smartphone and tablet directly from the cloud. Based on Sony’s acquisition of streaming outfit Gaikai, PlayStation Now is part of a new subscription model for users, and is available now in the US.

Scandu Scout’s hardware goes final: a real, functioning tricorder

Scandu Scout

It’s been a long time coming, but an actual, functioning tricorder is on the final lap to become an reality with the final hardware being available at CES. The Scanadu Scout is its name, and in case you aren’t familiar with it, the little handheld human health tracker has been on our radar since its inception in 2012. Since that first glimpse of a prototype, the device has received a new design, received more than a million dollars in funding on Indiegogo and is available now. The devices themselves are tightly crafted, with uniform seams around the chrome bits, and while they feel solid, they are still quite lightweight.

Getting to this point hasn’t been all roses for Scanadu, as company founder and CEO Walter de Brouwver noted that the thyroidal design he and his team dreamed up has proven to be exceedingly difficult to manufacture. Despite that fact, the tooling up has begun, and rest assured; the devices that the general public will receive look exactly like the ones pictured above.

Sony’s $30K+ Life Space UX projector all-in-one puts a 147-inch 4K screen on any wall

Sony_Life_Space_UX

You can tell the veterans from the young upstarts making their CES debuts by the way they announce products. Simply putting a new device on stage and raddling off the spec sheet is pretty much child’s play. (Though, it would make my job a heck of a lot easier.) The big boys know that you’ve got to bury the lead among piles of hyperbole and abstrate concepts that will (supposedly) improve your entire state of being. Exhibit A might just be awarded to Life Space UX. Sony’s concept for a world where your walls become virtual windows into the world around you. You could, for instance, project the sky at various points of the day across your living room walls. (Now, why you’d want to do that, is a completely different discussion.) At the heart of the concept is a new Ultra Short Throw Projector that can fill 147 inches of wall with a full 4K image. There’s even a pair of built-in speakers and a cabinet for hiding your home theater setup. But, as you’d expect for something like this, the price tag will give you a heart attack. You can get the short throw projector now for between $30,000 and $40,000.

Vimeo redesigns its HTML5 player for speed, on-the-spot rentals

vimeo-logo

While Vimeo was one of the first to adopt HTML5 for streaming web video, its player hasn’t been able to keep up with the times. That changed with a redesigned player available now. The new version starts playback much quicker, resizes elegantly and will even sync preferences across multiple players in a single browser. And if you’re addicted to Vimeo On Demand, you’ll be glad to know that you can now buy or rent videos in-player, no matter when in the clip. The improvements are big enough so that Vimeo has made HTML5 the default on all platforms — you’re only have to use Flash if you’re on an outdated browser.

Oculus Rift’s latest prototype features positional tracking, OLED screen and kills motion blur

SONY DSC

The newest version of the Oculus Rift headset is another major step toward the retail version that promised to make its debut in 2014. It takes the existing HD headset that debuted at E3 2014 and swaps its LED screen for an OLED one. It also adds an external camera, and positional markers on the headset, to track your position depth-wise. Perhaps, most importantly, it kills motion blur — one of the biggest issues with previous versions of the Rift.

The latest prototype, dubbed Crystal Cove, debuted at CES 2014. Let’s break down how much of an improvement this guy is over the previous model.

Leaning forward in the cockpit of an EVE Valkyrie dogfighter, readable text is revealed on a smattering of control panels. The forward thrusters are about to be engaged, hurtling us into space amongst a volley of other spaceships searching for blood. Oculus VR’s director of developer relations Aaron Davies paused to toggle one of Crystal Cove’s newest features: “low persistence.” We turn from left to right, unable to read the blurred text in front of us. He flips a switch, and motion blur becomes almost zero. It’s a far cry from the first Kickstarter dev kit and, despite the importance of positional tracking, makes a tremendous impact on the Rift’s usability.

In the same breath, let’s take a moment to point out how amazing it is to move your head forward and have that action replicated one-to-one in-game. This means that the gauges in the cockpit are more than just window dressing: that’s the HUD. Another demo, specially made for Crystal Cove by Epic Games, had us sitting in the Unreal Engine 4 demo with the magma lord that previously terrified at E3. Looking down between where he’s seated and our own position, a little world of creatures in a castle is available for torture should we push the face buttons. Push A and fire rains down to decimate the little guys. It’s a bit like The Seventh Seal, but less existential. Thus far, position tracking is handled by adding a camera to the equation, which t racks a handful of sensors on the Rift’s front. The company’s CEO Brendan Iribe made sure to note that the camera wasn’t final and might not ever make it into the average Joe’s hands. It’s just the easiest solution for now.

 And all of this looked far, far crisper than previous units — thanks to the OLED screen inside and a 30 millisecond lag time (down by half from the previous dev kit). As far as when all these bells and whistles will arrive in developer hands  — that’s a different question. According to Oculus, the Crystal Cove prototype is only that: a prototype. With around 46,000 dev kits out in the wild already, it’s probably unfair to beg everyone to re-buy kits.That said, it probably wouldn’t be long before the new dev kits are available, and not long after that for the world of VR to drastically expand. If 2013 was the year of proof-of-concept for modern virtual reality, 2014 might end up being the year that virtual reality comes into its own. Crystal Cove makes that possibility greater than ever.

Scosche’s heart rate armband wants you to leave the smartphone at home

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If you’ve forgotten about your New Year’s resolutions already, Scosche has announced another fitness wearable that’ll help you make up for lost time. The Rhythm Smart+ is an armband designed to optically monitor your blood flow and heart rate that’s supposed to be much more accurate than a traditional chest strap. The unit can pair with both smartphones and sport watches through Bluetooth and/or ANT+, and will work with the usual assortment of apps like RunKeeper and Strava. If you prefer to leave the rest of your gear at home, embedded memory will track your stats for a later upload. The Scosche Rhythm Smart+ heart rate armband is available now for $99.

Kindle for iOS updated with flashcards, notebook filters and better search

Amazon Kindle for iOS

Thinking about replacing your textbooks for an iPad? Amazon hopes to make the transition from analog to digital a little easier for you. The e-commerce powerhouse’s Kindle iOS app has added flashcards and improved in-book search for print replica textbooks, giving students a better way to find information they need for class, as well as a convenient way to catalog and study them. The update packs in a handful for items for classroom retirees too, including page footers that display page numbers and time left (for audiobooks), a redesigned dictionary for iOS 7, an updated X-Ray experience and a new set of Notebook filters for sorting through annotations. It’s not quite as hefty as the previous redesign, but it’s a great update for those who need some new features for the semester.

AMD’s thin nano PC prototype sits on your TV, but doesn’t want to be called a set-top box

Zotac-Zbox-PA330-Pico-Series-AMD-Mullins-3Let’s take a moment and throw out the spec sheet (at least for a moment). Besides, at CES 2014, we only got the Cliff Notes about Mullins, the company’s next-gen ultra-low voltage APU. Instead, let’s take a moment and gaze upon the tiny wonder that the Nano PC is and soak it all in. This reference design from the Sunnyvale, CA-based company packs enough power to run Windows 8.1 seamlessly and even get in a quick game of FIFA 14 at 1080p. Inside, in additions  to a Mullins chip, is a 256GB SSD, a camera, Bluetooth, WiFi and a DockPort connector. All that fits into a package that’s not much larger or thicker than a Galaxy Note 3 — it’s an absolute marvel of engineering. It’s the last of those specs that’s pretty important, since it allows you to connect to a tiny breakout box with HDMI and USB ports. Obviously you’ll need one of those to connect it to a TV, which the Nano PC is designed to sit atop of. Here’s hoping that a company or two picks up on the design and starts making absurdly thin machines of their own.

Yahoo acquires Aviate to build context-sensitive Android apps

yahoo-aviate

Before Aviate could even finish developing its context-aware Android home screen, it’s been acquired. Yahoo announced at CES that it swooped up the app for an undisclosed amount; the web giant pictured Aviate’s simplified, ever-changing interface as a “central part” of its Android software in 2014. Stay tuned to the TechSummit Rewind to see what became of the app.

Polar’s latest wearable wants to be more than just a sports watch

Polar V800

Polar’s making a bold statement with the V800: the fact that it could replace both a running watch and an activity tracker. But the company’s executives might be going for an even bigger target. Polar was working on an update to the wearable that would give it the ability to produce notifications and alerts in a similar way to the current crop of smartwatches. The company also worked on an option to offer a store for customized watch faces, and the ability to buy additional functionality as you require it.

3Doodler 3D printing pen available now at Brookstone stores

3doodler-xl

If the only thing standing between you and a $99 3Doodler was the ability to mull the decision over in a nearby massage chair, Wobbleworks has some good news for you! The company has announced that its 3D printing pen has finally gotten a little retial distribution, namely Brookstone, which added the peripheral to its offbeat gadget arsenal. The 3Doodler also extended its online reach, thanks to ThinkGeek, the MoMa Store and Maker Shed. The Wobbleworks team is apparently working on even more retail partnerships, though it didn’t offer up any details on those.

ION Audio’s Sound Lounge speaker lets you get down while sitting down

SoundLounge_WebLarge_02

If you thought that your furniture was missing something, perhaps it’s missing some speakers? If it is, ION Audio has answered that call to action with the Sound Lounge Bluetooth speaker… ottoman? The sonic-seat has a 2.1-channel stereo system built right in, and as you might have already figured out with the mention of Bluetooth, you can hook it up to your phone, tablet or any other Bluetooth-toting media device. If you’re a wire-person, there are two phono connections around the back (one input and one output) so you can daisy-chain multiple units. There are also physical volume and bass controls if you want a little more rumble in the jungle.

The 10w (20w peak) speaker inside managed to make itself heard above the fairly chaotic ambient noise of Pepcom, and of course, we couldn’t check it out without taking it for a spin. We can confirm that it’s the most comfort we’ve ever sat on (if the only one at that), and the choice of red and white finishes give it the authentic Manhattan feel that it truly deserves. No word on pricing or availability, so for now you’ll just have to stand. Alone with your thoughts.

Internal game development at Oculus VR already happening

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It’s hard to imagine John Carmack not developing games. Sure, he signed on to Oculus VR as chief technology officer, but he’s also the co-creator of gaming classics like Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D. With Oculus Rift, Carmack and the many talented game developers working at Oculus VR have a new test on their hands; showcasing their new device with impressive software. Thus far, Oculus relied on third parties to create demonstrations for the Rift. This mauy change in 2014, accoreding to CEO Brendan Iribe and Director of Developmr Relations Aaron Davies.

Iribe on Carmack’s role:

“He’s working on a lot of exciting tech. But, his heart and soul and history certainly lies in the game-development side.”

That means, like id Software and Epic Games afterwards, Carmack and co. are working on software to showcase the Rift’s many functions.

Iribe:

“That’s always been Epic’s philosophy. And it’s what allowed them to make what they made. It’s certainly been id’s philosophy in the past. It’s been John Carmack’s philosophy — you gotta eat your own dog food here, and develop internal content also.”

So that’s what Carmack and Oculus are doing, with plenty of game developers in-house to expedite the process.

Iribe:

“You’ll see, over the next six to 12 months, if you monitor the careers page, we are putting up our team our there. We wanna make this a very open company. Pay attention to that page and you’ll see more and more game developers showing up.”

That’s to say nothing of supporting external dev studios, both big and small, or even outright publishing third-party games. The company even hired David DeMartini, ex-EA Partners director, to lead that charge. There’s also a blend of the two, where the folks at Oculus discover an especially exciting mechanic, but don’t have the means to dig in themselves.

Iribe:

“When we catch on to a nugget that seems like it should become a full experience, we may end up doing it ourselves. We may end up putting it out and working with a third-party studio that does. We’ve actually started to engage with third-party studios like that through the relations group, the publishing group, as well as our own development.”

Of course, the Rift has a UI built in for navigation and management. All that was being developed in-house at Oculus VR. In terms of internal game development, though, that avenue is just now being explored.

Iribe:

“We’ll see where it goes. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t do more and more internal development.”

JVC ruggedizes its Everio camcorders for 2014

JVC Everio GZ-R70

If your first thought when considering a camcorder purchase is “can it take a punch?”, then JVC’s speaking the same language as you. The company’s new Everio shooters are clad in the same hard-wearing shell that was previously see we’ve previously seen on the rugged ADDIXION line. Both models come with a 2.5-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS, 40x optical zoom and a three-inch touchscreen, but those stats aren’t the ones you’re interested in. No, get this outside, for instance, and the hardware will resist water in depths up to five meters, drops from a height of 1.5 meters and cope with bone-chilling -10°C (14°F). The only difference between the two devices is intternal storage, with the GZ-R70 having 32GB of internal memory, which is priced at $500, while the GZ-R10 will set you back $100 less. There’s no solid information about availability (yet), but stay tuned to the TechSummit Rewind for more updates.

XYZprinting unveils $499 3D printer

XYZprinting Da Vinci 2.0

After the deluge of announcements from Makerbot and 3D Systems that we’ve previously covered in the TechSummit Rewind, it’s going to be difficult for any one else to cut through the noise — though XYZprinting’s made a heck of a run at it with a sub-$500 price point; $499, to be exact. The Taiwanese company will be brushing elbows with those aforementioned big boys with the da Vinci 2.0, a semi-enclosed cube printer with a 7.8 x 7.8 x 7.8 build volume, which is available now in Europe, Japan and the US.

Seattle kills Gigabit Squared’s fiber internet rollout before it even starts

Seattle Skyline

Gigabit Squared’s fiber-to-the-home rollout was facing money problems, but it’s now clear that those problems were simply too much to bear. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray told the Puget Sound Business Journal that his city’s agreement to launch public internet through Gigabit has fallen apart before it could even take on its first customers. The official hasn’t ruled out a future deal, but Murray didn’t have any alternative providers lined up. Meanwhile, hope springs eternal at Gigabit Squared with the company “looking forward” to speaking with Murray about future plans.

FINsix laptop adapter is tiny, yet powerful

FINsix laptop adapter

It’s 2014, and while Intel’s Haswell processors are all the rage in laptops, many still have to carry a bulky power adapter for those more demanding machines. Luckily, MIT spin-off FINsix has come up with a breakthrough technology that dramatically reduces both the size and weight of laptop adapters. The startup’s new 65W brick is dwarfed by its conventional counterparts; the claim is that it’s four times smaller and six times lighter. The new adapter also comews with a handy 2.1A USB port alongside the laptop plug, both of which can be used at the same time. For those MacBook-toting users, no fret is required, as the startup is working on getting Apple’s blessing to make a version for your MagSafe adapters.

For the sake of keeping you awake, we won’t get too deep into the spec sheet, but in a nutshell, the FINsix adapter is enabled by MIT’s VHF (very high frequency) switching technology, which is a thousands times faster than traditional adapters. As with all legit electronics, this product will go through the usual safety compliance tests, so there should be nothing to worry about once the product does hit store shelves. The FINsix laptop adapter is available now.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. I more or less share your take on this topic and look forward to upcoming posts and comments. Thanks!

    Like

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