TechSummit Rewind #008: January 8th, 2014

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewind, which puts pause on the tech news wire. 

Cambridge Consultants wants to make you a better basketball player with the power of technology

Cambridge Consultants ArcAid

I’m not exactly a NBA superstar. But, that shouldn’t be a surprise (at least when you get to know me). Yes, I’m relatively tall, but I’m also hopelessly uncoordinated and a journalist by trade. However, Cambridge Consultants believes that there’s hope for my basketball career if this gig falls south. The company is working on a collection of technologies that can be used to analyze your performance in a particular sport and provide data, tips and coating to help you fully realize your physical potential. For demonstration purposes, Cambridge brought the ArcAid system to CES. It starts with three cameras mounted behind a backboard. Two of them are used to watch the ball fly through the air, calculating speed, angle and arc; while a third watches to see if you actually make the shot. If we were using an actual basketball, the cameras would have also been able to track its spin, but to avoid damaging the booth behind them Cambridge Consultants went with a blue foam ball instead. I took a few tosses and to say the least, things didn’t go well. With each attempt, a giant screen to the right would tell me if I needed to shoot harder, aim farther to the left or lower my arc.

This is, of course, just a rudimentary implementation. The system can support other sensors, like accelerometers, or track movement across a larger field. So, for instance, it could tell you where on the court you’re having the most success, and even help you identify if a particular angle of attack is throwing off your game. Obviously, this system can be used beyond the hardwood. You could tackle tennis, baseball or even boxing with the right combination of software and sensors. Even with a couple years of tutelage under ArcAid, I’ll never make the NBA in any capacity, but at least I’ll finally be able to win a game of HORSE.

Xbox Music for iOS/Android now plays music offline

Xbox Music

Xbox Music landed on mobile devices with a big splash, but its absence of offline playback hurt its appeal for frequent flyers and anyone else who isn’t always getting their internet juice. That was until Microsoft updated its iOS and Android apps with offline support. Tunesters just have to flick a virtual switch to cache playlists (a la Spotify) for listening no matter if you’re on or off the grid. The move probably won’t lure loyalists to services like Spotify and Rdio who have been enjoying this convenience for a while, but it’s hard to object to a little more convenience for Xbox Music subscribers.

JVC unveils more MHL-ready in-dash receivers at CES 2014

JVC KW-V0BT

Face it: Your old car’s factory stereo system isn’t going to last forever — eventually, you’ll need an upgrade. Luckily, JVC trotted out its latest head units at CES 2014. Just like last year, the company has outfitted two of its new receivers (the KW-V0BT and KW-V40BT, specifically) with MHL support, giving Android users easy access to their mirrored apps while on the road. The new receivers can also mirror iPhone 5 apps, provided that you bring your own Apple Lightning AV adapter. Folks without MHL-capable devices (or those who opt for the company’s lower-end receivers) will still find support for 20 iPhone 4 and 4s apps through Bluetooth, including Waze and MotionX navigation. All seven of the company’s new models also support Pandora, iHeartRadio and a standard assortment of hands-free features like wireless music streaming, one-push voice calling and other phone functions. JVC’s new receivers are available now.

Apple, Samsung CEOs meet to give peace another chance

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Previous attempts by Apple and Samsung to negotiate a truce in the patent wars haven’t exactly panned out, but all hope hasn’t been lost. The companies’ CEOs agreed to attend mediated settlement discussions no later than February 19th, potentially averting a trial in March (and future legal action). We’d like to believe that Apple and Samsung would finally reach a common ground, but we’re not betting our money on it given how long the duo have been at each other’s throats.

White House agrees to fund International Space Station until 2024

International Space Station

The International Space Station has another lease on life. The White House has approved funding that would keep the floating lab running until “at least” 2024, as long as other countries chip in. The additional funding should help both general science research as well as the human endurance studies that NASA needs for voyages to asteroids and Mars. The extension is primarily good news for those who want a long-term human presence in space; it’s the second extension past the original 2015 decommissioning timeframe. It’s also potentially good for business, as the deal will give SpaceX and other private spaceflight companies a better chance at growing their fledgling operations.

 Archos’ Smartwatches don’t want to be smartphones-lite

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Archos is coming into the burgeoning wearables space in a different way. Rather than hedge its bets on a single device, it released a trio of smartwatches for every end of the consumer spectrum. The water-resistant smartwatches in question don’t have specific branding attached as of yet, but are easily distinguished by screen size and display tech used.

Unlike the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none Galaxy Gear, Archos’ smartwatch line hews more closely to the Pebble. These Android and iOS-compatible devices are designed to supplement your smartphone experience, not replace it. And so, users that buy in have access to notifications (SMS, emails, text, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), media playback controls and, of course, a clock. What they won’t be able to do is snap photos on a low-resolution camera, talk into their risks or reply to messages.

The cheapest of the bunch is Archos’ $50 model, a rugged-looking smartwatch that features a 1.55-inch non-capacitive, black-and-white memory LCD and is rated for between one and two weeks of battery life. For $50 more, there’s a color capacitive model that steps up the screen size to 1.8 inches (the same size of an iPod nano if you need an comparison) and lasts about 36-48 hours. Fans of customization and fashionistas will be glad to know that the band on this model can be swapped out. And finally, occupying the line’s premium perch, at $130, is Archos’ e-ink smartwatch, which retains the same 1.8-inch screen size, but with an aluminum-encased curved display.

The smartwatch line is available now.

France slaps Google with $204,000 fine for violating privacy laws

Google logo

Google’s run in with France’s privacy regulator has come to a rather undignified end. After months of deliberation, the National Commission on Computing and Freedom (CNIL) has hit the search giant with a €150,000 ($204,000) fine for breaking the law with its unified privacy policy. According to the watchdog, Google didn’t adequately inform users about its data collection processes, nor did it obtain consent or tell users how long cookies would be installed on their machine. It’s significantly less than the €300,000 ($364,739) CNIL threatened in September 2013, but the regulator will compound Google’s misery by requesting it to display a notice on its Google.fr homepage for two days explaining the decision. It’s the latest in a long line of privacy-related investigations against Google: six European countries have launched probes into its privacy policies, with Spain fining the company €900,000 ($1.2 million). The internet giant has maintained its innocence throughout, but with penalties coming in thick and fast, it could be forced to amend its policies once more. Stay tuned for more updates in the TechSummit Rewind.

The next generation of Meta’s smart watch

METAWATCH

MetaWatch, the wearables business that was spun out of watch maker Fossil, has lingered at the periphery of the space for quite a while. Now, however, the outfit has teamed up with the legendary Nokia and Vertu designer Frank Nuovo, who has helped redesign both the branding and the hardware in preparation for a relaunch as the Meta. The hope is that, when this new unit launches in the spring, Meta will be able to jostle as an equal with the Galaxy Gears and Pebbles of this world.

Aside from the name, the biggest innovation has been to shrink the slab-like hardware down to something a little more wrist-friendly. The bezel that surrounded the display has been split into four armatures that pivot — which means that it’ll now drape around your arm rather than jutting out and breaking the line of your sleeve. Considering that the team behind this started at Fossil, which offers a huge amount of interchangeable faces and straps, it’s no surprise to see that Meta will be offered in a wide variety of materials and styles. There’s a flat, shiny plastic model; a chunky (and weighty) stainless steel version; and an aluminum one, which is significantly lighter.

MetaWatch, the wearables business that was spun out of watch maker Fossil, has lingered at the periphery of the space for quite a while. Now, however, the outfit has teamed up with the legendary Nokia and Vertu designer Frank Nuovo, who has helped redesign both the branding and the hardware in preparation for a relaunch as the Meta. The hope is that, when this new unit launches in the spring, Meta will be able to jostle as an equal with the Galaxy Gears and Pebbles of this world.

Aside from the name, the biggest innovation has been to shrink the slab-like hardware down to something a little more wrist-friendly. The bezel that surrounded the display has been split into four armatures that pivot — which means that it’ll now drape around your arm rather than jutting out and breaking the line of your sleeve. Considering that the team behind this started at Fossil, which offers a huge amount of interchangeable faces and straps, it’s no surprise to see that Meta will be offered in a wide variety of materials and styles. There’s a flat, shiny plastic model; a chunky (and weighty) stainless steel version; and an aluminum one, which is significantly lighter.

Technology-wise, you’re going to be staring at a 126×126 LCD display from Sharp, controlled by a TI MSP 430 microcontroller with a whopping 64Kb of RAM. The plan is, at least, that the MetaWatch SDK will be ported over to the new platform, and with it, Bluetooth 4.0 notifications will be pushed from your smartphone to your wrist. The battery will always be on, and will vibrate whenever it demands your attention, requiring a recharge once every seven days or so.

Spotify for iOS gets its promised free, shuffle-based music streaming

Spotify for iOS

Spotify delivered free mobile music streaming to Android users and while it’s following up with a corresponding update to its iOS app, there are some differences within the apps. iPhone listeners can listen to artists or playlists in shuffle mode without spending cash on a Premium subscription, while iPad listeners can play any song they like at any time. As long as you live in one of Spotify’s supported countries, you can swing by the App Store to grab the update.

3D Systems bestows Creative Director title on will.i.am

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If Alicia Keys and BlackBerry have taught us anything, it’s that music stars aren’t always the best equipped to become the creative director of a tech company. In spite of her songwriting prowess, the Girl on Fire singer couldn’t do much to reverse the phone maker’s eroding fortunes. We’ll say this for wil.i.am, however: this isn’t his first rodeo. Though, again, his gig with Fusion Garage head Chandra Rathakrishnan also kind of seemed doomed from the outset. Given the sort of show 3D Systems has been having this CES, however, things are definitely looking up for the 3D printing giant. So, maybe they’ve just got a feeling that the second time’s the charm.

Gemini Planet Imager photographs alien worlds in just a minute

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Although it has been possible to take direct photos of exoplanets for a few years, the technology involved has been low-resolution and slow — it can take up to an hour to get a crude shot of a dimly-lit world. It’s much easier with the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), though. Scientists have released early images from the Chile-based instrument that took a mere minute to capture, and reveal more detail than ever before. Researches have already spotted a full dust ring and the spectrum of a young planet. The imager’s secret ingredient is a deformable, etched silicon mirror that can correct for atmospheric distortion much more effectively than traditional glass. GPI is still relatively untested, but it should ultimately let astrophysicists focus on quality over quantity when studying alien worlds.

Thalmic Labs’ MYO armband does gesture control with muscles

Thalmic Labs MYO armband

2013 saw the rise of gesture cameras for TVs and various smart devices, but Canadian startup Thalmic Labs thinks its MYO armband is the way forward. The company’s co-founder and CEO Stephen Lake explained that his Bluetooth 4.0 device features a new type of biosensor, which can pick up minute electrical impulses in our arm muscles. This allows any wrist movement, finger twitch or fist clenching to be interpreted as a gesture, so long as the inner side of the MYO has skin contact. There’s also an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a magnetometer, so arm and body movements are accounted for as well.

The idea of MYO traces back to the co-founders’ university days, where they explored various wearable technologies while working on a navigation aid for the blind. Lake said since brain control isn’t quite there yet, his team found muscle sensing to be the next best thing. From what we saw, Thalmic Labs seems to be on the right track: We watched co-founder Aaron Grant play Call of Duty: Ghosts using just a pair of MYOs, and he was able to make his avatar run, crouch, jump, fire a weapon and reload. Lake also gave a demo on music playback control and slideshow presentation on an iPad, both of which worked just fine. But it doesn’t stop there; the CEO also sees opportunity in industrial robotics, space application and even gesture-based authentication.

The retail version of the MYO is available now, and not only will it be half as thick as the MYO Alphas shown at the show, but it also features at least two core applications that’ll make full use of the armband. Lake said he’ll be showing the final design in the next couple of months (stay tuned to the TechSummit Rewind for more), but if you’re game, you can head over to Thalmic Labs’ website to order a black or white one for $149.

Mophie’s Space Pack boosts both battery life, storage, requires a special iOS app

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If you’re a smartphone power user, one of the devices that might intrigue you most at CES 2014 won’t be a 4K TV or sleek sports car, but actually the Mophie Space Pack. The Space Pack is an iPhone case that marries a backup battery and additional storage into a case — a first of its kind, according to Mophie. The concept is an attractive one, especially for iPhone owners who are stuck with both a sealed-in battery and no external memory. As it comes in both 16GB and 32GB versions, it could also potentially double or triple your existing space. It does look very similar to the company’s Juice Pack Air — it’s almost indiscernible as far as look and feel goes. The only difference seems to be a silver brushed button on the back instead of a simple plastic one.

If you’re expecting the Space Pack to merge seamlessly with your existing iPhone storage to become one single entity, you’re sadly mistaken. The case really acts more like an external USB thumb drive that you can offload files to. This is why Mophie requires you to use its Space iOS app, not only to manage that additional storage, but to access it as well. Unfortunately, this means that native iPhone apps like the Camera Roll and iTunes are not integrated with that extra capacity — after you transfer those files over, they’re only accessible through the aforementioned app. As such, the outfit has recommended that most first-time users simply dump their entire Camera Roll or iTunes library into the Space Pack so that they can empty out their iPhone and start “fresh.”

The Space app does have its own built-in camera function that captures photos directly to the Space Pack, and there’s a built-in media player as well for playing videos and audio stored on it. In our demonstration, video played seamlessly without any hiccups, and taking pictures seemed as easy as with the default camera. However, you won’t be able to edit those photos because it lacks an editing function, at least for now. Also, these sub-apps require some effort to use and we’d rather just add this storage to our existing apps, or at least have a better way to synchronize them.

Despite those issues, however, this is the best bet for most iPhone users that are short on storage space and battery life and need an easy way to deal with both. The lightweight design of the Space Pack is nice, and the base model is only about $50 more than the Juice Pack Air. Either that, or you could just practice some judicious file collecting and rely more on the cloud for your storage needs. The Mophie Space Pack is available now from the company’s website in black and white now. The 16GB model is $149.95 while the 32GB version is $179.95.

PulseWallet lets you pay with palm recognition, but only if you’re a returning customer

PulseWallet got a lot of attention at CES, thanks to its point-of-sale system that allows you to pay for things with a wave of your palm. The interesting thing, though, is that PulseWallet already has a setup that lets customers pay with their fingerprints. The problem, according to the company reps, is that fingerprints can potentially be lifted. (They’re also a bit messy.) So, the outfit is moving to a Fujitsu-made palm sensor, which is more secure and supposedly faster, too. Here’s how it works: After you visit a store once, you can register your palm and link it to the credit card of your choosing. Then, the store will have it on hand the next time you stop by. When it comes time to pay, you can swipe your palm, after which point you’ll need to enter your phone number to verify it’s really you. Voilà! You’ve managed to pay without digging out your credit card, and without getting (as many) greasy fingerprints on the point-of-sale system. No word on when you’ll start seeing these in stores, though the company did say that it’ll begin its deployment in the US.

WWE Network streams choke slams 24-7 for $10 a month

wwe-network

CES isn’t only about new devices. It’s about programming too, and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) had an event of its own to announce its plans for the year. Those plans include a subscription-based network that provides grappling coverage 24/7 here in the US. WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon made the announcement in Vegas with a smattering of wrestling’s biggest names (like Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and Steve Austin) lending a hand. The $10-a-month price tag will include 720p streaming of all 12 of the company’s live pay-per-view events — including the popular WrestleMania. In addition to the live content, you’ll also be able to access past pay-per-view events from WWE, ECW and WCW cards on-demand at your leisure. Yes, that means that you can rewatch your favorite Royal Rumble over and over and over again.

The network’s WrestleMania Rewind original series allows subscribers to relive classic bouts with commentary from the wrestlers involved. There’s also a one-hour Countdown series that ranks the top finisher moves, submissions and more. Monday Night War runs down the WWE/WCW rivalry for supremacy on Monday nights. In terms of access, the WWE Network is available on the Web with iOS, Kindle and Android apps for mobile devices. Content is also available to stream on PlayStation consoles, Xbox 360 & Xbox One, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, as well as through smart TV platforms like Sony & Samsung’s with more to be added. A second screen icon will pop up when the program you’re viewing offers that functionality on a mobile device for accessing that complementary content. While the launch was slated just for the States, the company plans to extend the offering beyond.

WWE Network is available now.

T-Mobile has best quarter in 8 years, adds 1.6 million net customers

T-Mobile Logo

In the last quarter of 2012, things were looking bleak for T-Mobile. The network lost over 500,000 postpaid customers, and lost well over four times that for the year overall. Fast-forward to present day and things are on the mend: at CES the company revealed that Q4 2013 was its best quarter in over eight years, and it grew by more than 1.6 million customers during that time. CEO John Legere didn’t say how many of these customers came from their competition but did call out Sprint as the carrier it ported the most numbers from, followed closely by AT&T and distantly by Verizon. All in all, the Uncarrier gained 4.4 million net customers in 2013, an enormous turnaround from the dark days of 2012. Naturally, Legere pointed to its Uncarrier initiative as the secret sauce to its success.

Legere:

“There will never be contracts in our business! 12.2 million customers have come to simple choice.”

 Harman ads the Infinity One to its wireless speaker lineup, partners with Linkin’ Park

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The hordes of wireless speakers made its way to CES. Harman’s Infinity brand has its first entry into the group with the One. The unit claims portable hi-fi sound with the aforementioned wireless capability and rechargeable battery that touts up to 10 hours of run time before needing a power outlet. The company also signed Linkin Park to be Infinity’s brand ambassadors. For the next five years, the band’s involvement will extend beyond advertisement to collaboration in production design.

BMW unveils ConnectedDrive ActiveAssist autonomous car prototype at CES

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BMW promised, under the banner of its ConnectedDrive platform, to demonstrate some autonomous driving at CES, and wow did it deliver. Labeled as ActiveAssist, the technology describes both partially and highly automated driving and we were definitely out to sample the highly automated variety. Highly automated driving, as the name implies means that the car will essentially drive itself with you sitting as passenger “up to the car’s dynamic limit,” or as we discovered up to about 80 MPH.

The prototype research cars on hand were tuned for CES by removing the external sensors to make them, more than likely, more pleasant to look at. We chose the M235i, though there was also a diesel six-series Grand Coupe as well. Seeing as the sensors were missing, the car was following a predefined path, but still completely reactive to its environment. The most compelling example of this was on the second lap of the infield track set up at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, when we drifted. Yes, we put our faith in robot hands and got extremely sideways through a wet section of the track. Watching the wheel as we slid almost hypnotized me seeing it constantly spinning to correct our trajectory and keep the slide going.

Sure, the reality of being transported about by your car is a long way off, maybe as long as a decade. But all the small pieces that spin off from this technology into today’s cars make the small steps to robot domination fun. Consider things like active cruise control, which can stop the car completely, then resume driving or self-parking cars and it is easy to see that gradual progress. We for one love where this is going, but we wouldn’t be hurt to see it let us race our own cars, you know?

Bobolat launches smart tennis racquet that’ll improve your swing

Babolat-Play-Pure-Drive

Unless you’re Novak Djokovic or John McEnroe, then it’s highly unlikely that you’re able to take advantage of the computer-assisted coaching used by tennis pros. Like Sony, French racquet maker Bobolat is hoping to bring such tech to the masses with the Play Pure Drive, a smart racquet that’s packed full of sensors. The gear inside measures gyroscopic and vibrational data to show how many backhand and forehand swings you’ve made and where they hit on the strings. You don’t need to worry that the sensors will weigh you down either, as the handle was designed to weigh the same as a normal model. Naturally, all of this data is pushed to your smartphone via Bluetooth, where the accompanying app will analyze your fact, and give you helpful hints. For instance, if you’re hitting it too close to your open throat, then the app will advise you how to get better. There’s also a social component that lets you see how far your skills match up to Bobolat’s team of professional testers — although given that the top-ranked name on that list is Rafael Nadal, it might add to that inferiority complex.

Hulu’s original TV shows for 20114 are a mix of new series, new seasons, foreign transplants

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Competing video-streaming services have discovered that just like other TV options before them, original and exclusive content are the best ways to attract new viewers. As a result, each one is building up a warchest of shows, and Hulu’s plan to double the amount of original content it has starts with this new lineup for 2014. This year’s highlights include the returns of original series like The Awesomes and East Los High plus a few new shows including a reality-TV parody called The Hotwives of Orlando and supernatural comedy Deadbeat. The Behind the Mask documentary series that goes deep into the lives of sports mascots also returned, while Hulu went overseas for dramas like the original Swedish version of The Bridge and several BBC collaborations.

These shows are meant to compete with Netflix’s hits and give viewers a reason to pick Hulu’s partially ad-supported streams over Amazon Prime — a service that’s also picking up soon-after-broadcast TV and launching its own series.

Kickstarter ends 2013 with $480 million in funding

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Kickstarter is now a relatively mature company, but that doesn’t mean that it has stopped growing — they’re far from it. The crowdfunding pioneer generated $480 million in pledges from three million people during 2013, a big jump from the $274 million and 2.2 million contributors that it attracted in 2012. It’s also eager to show that the contributions of years past have lead to real products. It notes that big-name projects of 2012 like the Oculus Rift and Pebble (both of which have been covered in the TechSummit Rewind) reached backed last year, while more recent successes like the Veronica Mars movie are on the way. Not everything that Kickstarter touches will turn to gold, but its results suggest that crowd power is here to stay.

Origin’s Genesis, Millenium PC cases take customization, expansion to new heights

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Gaming PC cases are already pretty customizable and flexible, but Origin took it one step further at CES. (After all, this is an innovation expo.) In order to accommodate as many possible configurations of components, Origin has made it possible to mount a motherboard in one of four different orientations: standard ATX, inverted ATX, rotated 90 degrees or rotated 90 degrees and inverted. That means it can handle practically any combination of high-powered graphics cards and over-the-top water cooling systems you can imagine. In addition, the company is selling an expansion kit that will turn the mid-tower Millenium into the full-tower-sized Genesis that allows you to add either a giant radiator or 24 additional hard drives. So you should be pretty set on storage even with the “entry-level” model. And we use that phrase pretty loosely, since the Millenium starts at $1,629 and the Genesis will set you back $1,849.

6.8-inch Hisense X1 smartphone is basically a tablet

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There’s big, b-i-g and then there’s “oh my god, are you kidding me that is BIG!” The latter is pretty much how you’ll feel when you first lay your eyes and outstretched hand on Hisense’s X1, a 6.8-inch Android smartphone that made its debut at CES. You wouldn’t be long for thinking it’s a tablet — it pretty much is and depending on your taste and needs, that could be a good thing. The X1, which is available now in China and the US, comes outfitted with what you’d come to expect from a high-end smartphone: Snapdragon 800 processor, 13-megapixel camera, 1080p IPS display, 3,900mAh battery and Android 4.4 KitKat. So the performance and shine are there, but its dimensions stop it just short of being practical in daily use.

With Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 powering the X1, the overall user experience zips along smoothly and briskly. There’s hardly any hesitation when effective input actions, accessing the app drawer or launching applications. Viewing angles are also excellent, thanks to that IPS display. The X1’s also running a light skin atop Android, but it’s not so cluttered to the point that the phone becomes confusing and nearly unusable (a la Samsung’s Touchwiz). Though the X1 model we previewed ran on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, the device ships with KitKat onboard.

Kurio 7x 4G LTE tablet gives kids Verizon data for long family drives

Kurio 7x 4G LTE tablet

Sure, you can give your kids a child-friendly tablet to keep them entertained during the trip to Grandma’s, but what if they want to play an online game or two? Techno Source has introduced a rare cellular-equipped kids’ tablet, the Kurio 7x 4G LTE, for that very purpose at CES. As the name implies, the seven-inch Android slate has built-in Verizon data that keeps little tykes connected in most parts of the US. Per-app parental controls prevent Junior from visiting salacious websites or streaming music after bedtime. The company didn’t share many hardware details, but the presence of an unnamed quad-core processor should give the tablet enough performance to handle at least 2D games and web browsing. The LTE-toting Kurio is available now.

Toshiba debuts 5-in-1 laptop concept with a detachable keyboard

Toshiba 5-in-1 laptop concept

Sure, notebook makers crow about their 2-in-1 hybrids, but Toshiba’s 5-in-1 laptop has surely humbled the competition. The transforming device comes with a slick magnesium alloy case reminiscent of a MacBook, and a 13.3-inch touchscreen. So, what can this laptop transform to? On the tamer side of things are a run-of-the-mill notebook and tablet modes, the latter of which is achieved by pushing the display all the way back, much like with Lenovo’s Yoga line of devices. The next three forms are where things get interesting, and they’re made possible by a detachable keyboard and a bit of metal left attached to the screen’s hinge, which acts as a stand and houses stereo Harman Kardon speakers.

In “canvas” mode, the laptop is lifted from the tablet at an angle helpful for drawing, particularly handy since the hardware’s display packs a digitizer and its top half holds its own stylus. “Presentation/TV” mode is the fifth and final form, which props the display upright. When it comes to connectivity, the laptop sports two USB ports, a microSD slot and a slot to jack in a mini-HDMI cable. Since the hardware’s still in concept phase, there’s no word on detailed specs, price or when it’ll hit the fluorescent lights of your local electronics store.

G-Series wearable tracks sports, sleep, sitting

The language on Movea’s site can be a bit broad and tough to parse at times when trying to figure out exactly what the company produces. The simple answer to motion tracking, particularly as it pertains to things like sports and physical therapy. It makes sense, then, that the company was eager to jump on the activity-tracking wearable bandwagon, celebrating CES by teaming up with Texas Instruments for the G-Series. The wristband monitors a pretty broad spectrum of activities and, well, non-activities, counting your steps, tracking running/hiking, analyzing sleep activity and even detecting your posture (whether you’re sitting or standing for example). The wearable promises a greater than 95 percent accuracy rate when it comes to activity classification and the lowest error rates when it comes to counting steps.

Sharp unveils 85-inch 8K TV with  glasses-free 3D

Sharp 85-inch 8K TV

It’s so big and bright that it wasn’t hard to find inside Sharp’s booth, even when surrounded by a sea of other televisions from the manufacturer. Sharp has launched an 85-inch, 8K glasses-free 3D TV. This behemoth, ultra-high-res display is rather similar to the one from CES 2013, save for the pact you can enjoy three-dimensional content without any eye hardware. While everything about this LED TV is indeed interesting, we can’t say we were too impressed by the glasses-free 3D. It’s pretty easy for your eyes to get tired of the effect quickly, and at times some frames pass through so fast that it ends up making the content seem blurry — we’re not the only ones who feel this way, apparently. Aside from those things, the image is incredibly sharp; the demo unit was showing scenes from Life of Pi and Frozen, both of which looked stunning on the big screen.

Obviously, this is still in the early stages, and thus it wouldn’t be fair to judge it on first impressions. For now, it’s a very dazzling thing to look at and we can’t wait to see it down the road.

OnTheGo Platforms brings gesture recognition to Google Glass apps

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Google Glass can hold its own when it comes to voice recognition and touch, but its current software doesn’t account for gesture controls. OnTheGo Platforms, however, is looking to fix that. The folks at the Portland, Ore.-based company are baking up an SDK for developers to integrate gesture recognition in apps such as the Vuzix M100. We went hands-on with a demo photo-snapping and gallery app to put the software through its paces.

In its current form, the solution recognizes swipes from the left and right, a closed fist and an open hand. A fist aimed at Glass’ camera will off a countdown for a snapshot or take you to the app’s home, depending on the current screen. Waving a hand in either direction cycles through pictures in the gallery. I was tempted to swipe my hand across the camera’s view quickly, but the software is tuned to pick up slower, more deliberate motions about a foot or so away. The detection was often hit or miss, but developers are in the process of refining the recognition and have already eliminated many false positives.

The sample application displayed lower-resolution video than we’ve come to expect from Google’s wearable, but that won’t be the norm the team’s development kit, as what we’re glimpsing is just the footage that the software analyzes. In fact, a live video feed doesn’t have to be displayed on Glass’ prism for apps to take advantage of the code. The SDK still needs refining to live up to its full potential, but you can get access to a beta release now.

 T-Mobile will pay your family plan’s early termination fees to get you to switch

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T-Mobile has announced that it plans to end one of the last remaining barriers to get people to switch over to its network: those pesky early termination fees. At its fourth Uncarrier event at CES 2014, the carrier announced that customers from the three other competing national carriers — Sprint, Verizon and AT&T — can trade in eligible handsets to any T-Mobile handset and then send your final bill from your previous carrier to T-Mobile — either via mail or uploading it to T-Mobile’s website — as proof of your early termination fees. The magenta carrier will then send you an additional payment of up to $350 per line (for up to five lines) to pay those off, and both individual and family plans apply. Only those who are trading in phones, transferring their number and getting new handsets from T-Mobile are eligible to partake in the offer.

Simplicam watches your home while you’re away, uses facial recognition software to tell you who’s home

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WiFi cameras are a handy tool to keep tabs on your home, but they’re really only useful if you’re looking at them. Checking up on your family means pulling up an app, logging in and manually scanning your living room for occupants. ArcSoft thinks that it has an easier way: facial recognition. By equipping its Simplicam WiFi camera with motion-, sound- and facial-detection software, the firm can notify you when your family comes home or if someone is lurking around when they aren’t supposed to be. It also includes two-way talk and automated alarm systems, as well as access from any PC, iPhone or Android device. Oh, and by signing up for Closeli’s optional cloud service, you can record, share and save clips from the camera too. Simplicam is available now for $150.

Airtame wireless dongle mirrors your computer onto any HDMI display

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If you’re looking for yet another option to wirelessly mirror your computer screen to another display, don’t fret: Airtame’s a keeper. The creation of a group of Danish folks, Airtame is is an HDMI dongle that links to your PC — whether it runs Windows, Mac OS X or Linux — to whatever display it’s plugged into over WiFI. Installation isn’t a tedious process either: All you need on your PC is the software, and from there you can choose which dongles to beam your screen to. Why dongles, you ask? You can beam one PC to multiple screens, giving it a leg up over Miracast. Gamers also don’t have to worry about lag plaguing their Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare playthrough, because the response time on the remote display was surprisingly good.

JBL’s Flip 2 speaker, Synchros S400BT headphones, J46BT earbuds suit all different habits

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Portable audio is already in high supply at CES, and JBL is doing its part to maintain that trend. Adding to the fray, the company announced a Bluetooth-enabled trio of products with the Flip 2 speaker, Synchros S400BT headphones and J46BT earbuds to suit all of your mobile listening preferences.

The Flip 2 is the follow up to 2013’s Flip and allows for clearer speakerphone calls on top of its rechargeable wireless roots. There’s also a pair of drivers and on-board bass ports to pump out audio for an $129 investment. The Flip 2 is available now in red, blue, yellow, white and black color schemes.

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The Synchros S400BT headphones offer both wired and wireless listening thanks to Bluetooth 3.0. Packing in advanced aptX functionality and the company’s PureBass to improve audio quality, the cans sport soft ear cushions, a steel headband and collapsible form factor. On the left earcup, you’ll find controls for volume, track control and receiving calls sorted with a touch-sensitive panel. In fact, an LED light tracks your finger in order to cater to cues made on the $299 piece of headgear. The S400BT is available now in black and white (No pun intended to the Michael Jackson song of the same name).

JBL J46BT wireless earbuds

Last but not least, for those who gotta have those earbuds, the J46BT wireless earbuds sport Bluetooth 4.0 compatibility and an in-line remote for switching back and forth between jamming to Katy Perry and an incoming call from your boss. The J46BT is available now for $99 in your choice of black, white or blue.

LifeTrak’s new watch combines smartwatch, fitness tracker, ECG machine

LifeTrak Zone R415

The theme at CES 2014 has been wearables, wearables and oh yeah, more wearables. Another watch that’s hoping to earn a spot on your wrist is the LifeTrak Zone R415, which grabs a little of everything from the technology buffet with the aim of being all things to all people. From the “smartwatch” table, we’ve got vibrating smartphone notifications that’ll let you know when you get calls, texts and emails. Then there’s dynamic sleep tracking which, like the Jawbone Up and FitBit, will record your slumber session and wake up when you’re at your most well-rested. From the fitness tracker cart, the company has added a pedometer, calorie counter and activity tracker that’ll keep you informed of how you’re doing in hourly or weekly intervals. Lastly from ECG, pushing the button on the Zone R415 bezel’s side gives you your heart rate. Using a single watch cell battery, the unit should last for up to nine months between replacements and is designed to remain on your wrist, even when you take a dip in the pool. Holding it in my hand, it was reasonably comfortable and light, and can certainly see some potential in the platform. It could be worth its $130 price point on O2.

LG’s Pocket Photo 2 can handle your selfie prints in 60 seconds

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From time to time, you snap a picture while on the go that deserves more than just a post on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. For those more elegant snapshots, LG’s Pocket Photo 2 can output 30 photos before needing to recharge and refill the requisite paper. We took one for a spin at CES in order to observe the results. Once the LG G2 being used in the demo was paired via NFC/Bluetooth, we were off to capture an image. From there, you can use LG’s app to edit — which includes adding filters, captions, QR codes and borders. When our tweaks were complete, we just laid the G2 on top of the small  printer and let the wireless connection transfer the file. In about 60 seconds, the task was completed with thermal ink and our portrait was brought into the physical realm.

The Pocket Photo 2 has slimmed down a bit from the previous model, and it is noticeable. A button to open up the casing is situated on the bottom edge, allowing access to swap out the paper stack. Around the right side, there’s a power toggle switch alongside the charging port. On the front, LED indicators for power, battery and low-paper levels are located on the right side and silver circles for the opening hinge are on top of both sides. As far as the prints go, the final product is a 3 x 2-inch rectangle that’s slightly smaller than a business card and on-par quality-wise for a device like this. It’s OK for really quick prints, but not much more. The device is available now in Korea in pink, yellow and white.

Gigabyte’s dual GPU Aorus gaming laptop is less than an inch thick

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To impress with a gaming laptop these days requires more than just ridiculously good specs, but Gigabyte’s Aorus has done it. For starters, the 17.30inch model is a mere 0.9 inch thick and weighs 6.4 pounds, which is insane considering that it packs a pair of NVIDIA GTX 765M graphics chips in an SLI configuration. In comparison, the 17-inch Razer Blade Pro is almost exactly the same size with a single GPU. To achieve that feat, Gigabyte made the case out of solid aluminum with a sculpted look that can only attract gamers, while packing copious vents and ports to duct away the hot air. The rest of the spec sheet isn’t anything to laugh at either: a 17.3-inch 1080p display, Intel Core i7-4700HQ processor, up to 323GB of RAM, three USB 2.0 slots, 500GB mSATA SSD storage max and up to 1TB of 2.5-inch HDD storage. Gigabyte calls it a “power plant on your lap,” and it’s available now for $2,099-$2,799 depending on how you decide to spec it out. You may also want to invest in some heat-proof pants.

iRing adds gesture-control capability to iOS music apps

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CES has introduced us to a number of devices that cater to specific people. That includes IK Multimedia’s iRing accessory, designed for aspiring DJs who’d like to control their iOS music apps with gestures.. and a dash of showmanship. So long as a user’s wearing the iRing, the iDevice’s front camera picks the gesture controls up, and the peripheral’s accompanying app translates them to commands music software can understand. According to the company (which is also responsible for a few other iOS music accessories), the iRing’s capable of controlling not only basic music apps, but also advanced ones designed for those who mix their own tunes. It also comes with a couple of its own music-editing apps that one can use to add effects and create non-stop loops.

After going hands-on with the iRing at CES with iRing Music Maker, one of two apps (the other FX Controller) that it can take advantage of at launch. The iRing setup consists of two plastic “rings,” which have an array of three dots on each side. One end of the plastic peripheral has the specks ordered into a triangle, while the other side has them in a line. An iOS device’s camera recognizes the dot formation and controls the mapped function. Push one hand in and out to cycle through music effects or use your other paw to vary intensity. It works as promised, but we wouldn’t consider it terribly useful — unless, of course, you’re a DJ only interested in showmanship.

Those who prefer waving their hands in the air over poking at on-screen controls can get the iRing in various music and electronic retailers worldwide now for $25.

 LG Chromebase serves Chrome OS in an all-in-one form factor

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LG’s first foray into the Chrome OS market is also a first for the Google operating system, an all-in-one. Not a Chromebox then, nor a Chromebook, but a Chromebase, consisting of a 21.5-inch screen connected to a curved hinge. The 1080p IPS LCD was more than adequate for a session of browsing, typing within Google Docs and taking another look at a House of Cards trailer on YouTube.

With three USB ports to connect to companion keyboards and mice (and a thumb drive), using the Chromebase was like using any typical all-in-one. Interestingly, because both are relegated to peripherals here (like a Chromebox) you’ll be able to connect your favorite mechanical keyboard and laser-precision mouse, avoiding the Chromebook lineup’s occasional trackpad-keyboard woes. That said, LG’s keyboard and mouse worked fine, with both coated in the same matte finish of the AIO unit. There’s also the two color options, with a fetching matte finish alongside the white model.

iSense is a $500 3D printer for the iPad

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The iSense is a consumer 3D printer. Well, sort of, only a prototype was shown off at CES 2014. CEO Avi Reichental seemed open to the idea of 3D printing its casing at some point, to future-proof the peripheral, though don’t expect that in the current version. At a cursory glance, the camera and the sensor appear similar — if not exactly the same — as the ones found on the Sense. Around this, you’ll find a brushed metal housing that helps the camera blend in a bit more with the iPad’s backing.


As for why this unit is $100 more than the Sense, we think it has something to do with the much smaller form factor, which helps make this a truly portable scanner, with a Lightning cable that plugs directly into the tablet. The software was also firmly in the beta stage at CES 2014, though you can expect it to be pretty similar to what you see with the Sense.

Canon PowerShot N100 sports modified design, WiFi, rear-facing camera

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Canon’s PowerShot N, an unusual-looking point-and-shoot with a large touchscreen and square design that launched at CES 2013, left us with mixed emotions. That model didn’t follow the traditional pocket camera form factor, and while we appreciated Canon for innovating, we didn’t conceive the N as a success. And now, success or not, the non-traditional cam is back. Enter the PowerShot N100. Canon is even more confident about it, because the company priced this thing higher than the N, at $350. That will give you a 12-megapixel CMOS sensor, Canon’s DIGIC 6 processor, a 5x f/1.8-5.7 (24-120mm) optically stabilized zoom lens, and a three-inch, 922k-dot touchscreen that flips up 90 degrees. There’s also WiFi, like last year’s model, and NFC, so you can tap the camera to a compatible Android smartphone for instant image and video transfers.

But the spec Canon is pushing most with the N100 is a secondary rear-facing camera. We’ve seen plenty of rear-facing cameras on smartphones and tablets, but this appears to be the first time it’s come to a point-and-shoot. The intention here is that photographers will use this second camera to capture their own expression in still or video form alongside content coming in through the primary lens. This concept first was used in LG’s Optimus G Pro and we see it (as gimmicky as it is) resonating well with Canon’s target demographic. There’s also a Hybrid Auto mode that snaps four seconds of video before each still photo, a Creative Shot mode enabling a handful or assistive options and a standard video mode for capturing clips at up to 1080p. The PowerShot N100, available in black and white, is available now.

 

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