TechSummit Rewind #010: January 10, 2014

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewind, which puts the pause button on the technology newswire.

EyeMore Myris is a USB eye scanner offering security that’s unique to you

Eyelock Myris

When it comes to unique passcodes, it doesn’t get much more secure than an eye scan. Thanks to EyeLock’s Myris, you’ll be able to create super complex passwords that you won’t have to keep track of — using a USB-powered add-on to authenticate your identity instead. Myris is about the size of a makeup compact and cloaked in a blue cloth exterior. On the backside, there’s the camera that’s lined with a light ring, changing color to show where you are in the scanning process. It starts light blue, then changes to dark blue at the start before finally showing green when it’s complete. Once connected to the port on your traditional laptop or desktop, the device takes a scan of your eyes to set up its defenses with the help of a companion app. That capture takes about 15 seconds while moving the camera toward the eyes from arm’s length and then backing it away. In the process, Myris snaps a whole library of images before converting them to a video-based template unique to up to five users. The software allows the setup of those insane passwords and manages profiles to complete the configuration.

When using the gadget to unlock the item of choice, Myris completes its scan in less than a second. There is a bit of a learning curve about how best to hold the device so it can do its thing, but we were able to get the hang of it after a few tries. Instead of happening on the computer it’s tethered to, authentication happens on the device. The company says this will keep identities secure if stolen of lost. In terms of security, the peripheral supports AES 256-bit encryption while working with Windows, Mac OS X and Chrome OS to lock down things like email, online banking, Internet VPNs, workstations and more. Myris is available now for a price tag’s that is under $300, however, the future implications of cramming this security into laptop and desktop machines may make the most compelling case for EyeLock’s tech.

BBC rolls out ‘Enhanced Red Button’ features to major smart TVs

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The BBC’s Connected Red Button service promised a new level of interactivity when it launched in the UK two years ago, including news and weather overlays, recommended viewing curated by humans and alternative streams during live sports event. The downside was that it was only available to Virgin TiVo customers, but the Beeb promised to extend it to more platforms and, finally, this is happening. As of today, both owners of Samsung and Sony Smart TVs should both have access to a beta version of the service when they press the red button on their remotes (although a few Sony-heads noticed it go live just before Christmas), while LG smart TVs are on track to get it later on as the TechSummit Rewind continues. “Many more” platforms are still planning to receive the service in 2014, so stay tuned to the TechSummit Rewind as coverage continues.

Spree’s head-worn fitness tracker doubles as a … sweatband

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We’ve seen plenty of fitness watches, armbands and pedometers, but it’s a rare moment when we see a pedometer that sites on your forehead. Spree believes that the top of your noggin offers the most accurate physiological data, and that was enough to get our attention. The device itself is a small, square, rubber brick, with an optical sensor covering one of the sides. Naturally, that side has to be pressed up against your skin to check your heart rate and body temperature, while an accelerometer records your moment. In order to get the Spree into its intended place, there’s a rubber headband, which doubles as a sweatband, so, no matter how frantic you’re nodding, you won’t be left wiping your eyes in sticky frustration.

400K people have picked up a Hudl tablet from Tesco

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UK supermarket chain Tesco appears to have found a winner with the £119 Hudl tablet. After notching 35,000 sales in its first few days on the market, healthy Christmas demand helped it offload over 400,000 units in the last three months of 2013, according to the chain.. While the figure isn’t likely to have heavy impacts on Google and Amazon’s tablet sales, it’s a very healthy start for the Hudl, which aims to keep customers locked to the brand by offering grocery orders and movie downloads via its custom apps. With Tesco set to refresh its Hudl lineup this year, its year-end sales undoubtedly prove customers like being able to pick up a low-cost tablet along with their bread and milk.

Matterform is a sub-$600 desktop 3D scanner that folds into a box

Matterform desktop 3D scanner

Hidden among the armies of 3D scanners in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s South HAll is the Matterform: a crowdfunded, $579 desktop 3D scanner that’s also its own carrying case. The device operates on similar principles as other devices in the space (*cough* Makerbot’s Digitizer *cough*).There are a couple of clear differences between the two offerings, right off the bat; first, the price, with Matterform’s offering coming in lower than the price tag of MakerBot’s offering. Also cool is that the rotating bed also raises and lowers, so you get more angles for a fuller picture of the object being scanned. And then there’s the fact that the thing folds up into a rugged case with a handle, for those ever-important 3D-scanning house calls.

Ivee Sleek is a voice assistant that controls your connected home via WiFi

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By this point, most of us are getting accustomed to being able to talk to our laptops, phones, tablets and game consoles to get them to do what we want (most of the time, anyway). Now, Ivee’s Sleek wants to give you the same control for your WiFi-equipped lightbulbs, thermostats and door locks we’ve been seeing lately. Sleek looks like a standard alarm clock, but when hooked into your home network it taps into AT&T’s Watson voice recognition technology to give you voice control over your home. It’s not exactly a natural language speech system, but direct commands like “make the temperature to 72 degrees” works best, according to company CEO Jonathon Nostrant, you can also tell Sleek “I’m hot,” and I’ll turn on the A/C, too. The device is also compatible with Z-Wave devices from Iris and Staples Connect thanks to those platform’s WiFi gateways.

We got to see (hear?) Sleek control a plethora of devices in Ivee’s CES 2014 booth, and came away impressed. To get Sleek listening, Ivee pulled a page from Google’s playbook with a simple “Hello, Ivee” getting you started (or using a physical button that accomplishes the same thing).

Commands were correctly interpreted without fail and the fact that Sleek lets you know with audio cues when your message gets through is a nice touch. However, during our demo, there was a delay of a few seconds between speech, recognition and execution. On the delay, Nostrant blamed the convention center’s wireless interference, but assured that the Sleek works much quicker in residential settings. As of the device itself, build quality looks pretty good.

The Sleek is available now in black and white with soft touch plastic surrounding the thing and uniform seams all around. It’s available now for $199 at your local Staples.

StickNFind reveals vision for the future of retail

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StickNFind’s Bluetooth speakers made its CES return in 2014 with even greater ambitions than helping you find your lost keys. Founder Jimmy Buchheim’s mission was to show off plans for retail applications. The idea is pretty simple, really: Put the company’s Beacon offerings all over your storefront, and you can tell who’s looking at what and for how long. If that’s not targeted marketing, I don’t know what is! The store can create an app with a map, whih can help the shopper find specific items in the store and, naturally, serve up coupons and deals based on tracked shopping habits. The company also showed off a slew of different-sized Beacons, with ranges up to 0.6 miles and batteries that’ll keep going for as long as nine years.

Dropbox goes down after problem with ‘routine maintenance’

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Dropbox had some problems with its site following an issue with “routine internal maintenance.”

This occurred while the cloud storage provider was attempting to upgrade operating systems when a scripting bug reinstalled a number of active machines, bringing down Dropbox’s service in the process. The company restored its core processes within about three hours of the failure, but it took until the following Monday to get all its databases running smoothly. If this ever happens again, though, Dropbox will be more ready since the company built a tool to let them pick up the pieces faster.

Lumus turns its military-grade eyewear into a Google Glass competitor

Lumus DK-40

Lumus has long developed heads-up displays for the US military, but now it’s using a developer kit called the DK-40 to bring its HUD tech to wearables outside the battlefield. The contraption’s first stop was the CES show floor. The DK-40’s key feature is the “optical engine,” which eliminates the need for a thick piece of glass to house a substantially sized prism. For the most part, the lens is transparent, but refracting light can occasionally catch the prisms and remind you (again) that it’s not your standard set of glasses. And if one display isn’t enough for you, it’s possible to add a second one for the left eye, according to the firm. Folks with eyesight issues can attach a pair of prescription lenses that rest on the nose grips, but the firm is also developing a version where the medically prescribed glass bonds to the lenses.

PocketQube launches a DIY micro-satellite store

PocketQube

Thanks to Kickstarter, we’ve seen projects of all types go from someone’s dream to the limelight, and the folks behind PocketQube want to keep that cycle going., After raising the needed funds and successfully launching a fleet of tiny satellites into orbit, the outfit is opening a one-stop shop with everything you’d to send your own gaggle of cubes into space. Because the platform uses proven off-the-shelf components and a comparatively smaller 5cm x 5cm x 5cm frame than its competitors, its vessels are cheaper to launch and land, according to the firm. Typical cube missions can cost as much as a house according to PocketQube, while its own celestial rangers are priced roughly similarly to a car. While that amount might still be out of reach to the average person, it could be low enough for schools and universities to get into the second space race.

MetaPro glasses do pretty amazing things with virtual reality

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Yeah, I went through the whole “not another wearable” thing you’re probably going through right now after reading that headline when the Meta team sported an early prototype of a device tethered td to a small animal-style backpack at CES 2014, but one rep started namedropping some of the parties involved in the AR glases like Steve Mann. The wearables pioneer now sports a “chief scientist” desgination on their website.

The demo is really just a proof of concept for the technology, but it really drives home the connection between the real world and the virtual one that the device is bridging. Since the hardware pictured above is in a prototype phase, they’ll naturally look a little easier on the eyes down the road than its current state. In fact, the MetaPro’s final version will look like a set of aviator glasses, with a little extra.

The interface is also far from finished, and one of the company’s recent announcements was that the designer behind the Iron Man movie interface will be helping the UI — so, naturally, the company drops references to Tony Stark’s alter ego as often as possible. What I saw was an AR grid laid over the real world; the X, Y and Z axes laid out to give you a better idea of where the virtual objects are placed. The demo involved grabbing a virtual lump of clay, sculpting it with hand gestures and tossing it to a real-world 3D printer to make the virtual a reality. The system tracks hands without the need for gloves, identifying yours and others, so multiple people can interact in the same VR world at the same time. In the current demo, the system renders appendages as being sorta covered in static, while the final version will be a fair bit subtler.

In its final consumer form, the MetaPro will run around $3,000, a hefty premium over the developer kit that ran for $667. That’s thanks in part to some premium pieces like the Core i5 Haswell chip inside and the Carl Zeiss lenses. As the company points out, the MEtaPro will also features a viewing angle that’s 60 percent larger than Google Glass. Plenty of developer kits have been moved, and the company is expecting somewhere around 100 functioning apps when the product ships, including the aforementioned sculpting one.

IDrive’s new Safe service marks conversion of cloud storage, old-school archiving

IDrive Safe

 

An Internet connection is usually the only thing between you and your remotely stored data. Not with IDrive’s new “Safe” service, howerver, which is a strange mix of traditional archiving and newcomer cloud storage. For an one-off payment of $100, the company will send you a physical 1TB hard drive to fill up, collect it from store, and store it indefinitely for no recurring charge. With 24 hours notice, IDrive will dive into its warehouse, dig out your HDD and let you have at its contents through the interwebs — higher pricing tiers are also available for individuals or businesses that require more frequent data dumps. We can almost see why some might prefer their very own HDD as opposed to an anonymous server rack, even if both are technically out of reach. Best to keep some treasured family photos backed-up though — that flight isn’t going to wait 24 hours for you to recover your e-ticket.

PowerUp’s smartphone-controlled paper plane will make you jealous of modern kids

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So, it turns out that people like paper airplanes (no, not the MIA song). We’re talking about PowerUp’s Bluetooth propellor kit for paper planes that enables you to steer your origami aircraft. Creator Shai Goitein previously developed a propellor kit for kids, but took to Kickstarter to raise fundfs for a smartphone-controlled model with a rudder, and was staggered with it managed to raise its $50,000 goal in a mere seven hours.

Goitein’s career has ranged from being an industrial designer to a cargo plane pilot, but his work with children combined with a desire to combine his passions of aviation, origami and technology inspired him to craft the device. The PowerUp 3.0 works by pairing the module with your smartphone over Bluetooth and firing up the app (after folding the paper and atttaching the module to the central crease). Not only will the software show you an artificial horizon and range information, and as you move the phone from left to right, the rudder will move in time. Charging over a microUSB port, it promises around 10 minutes of flight time per charge, and shouldn’t break (thanks to a rudder and carbon-fiber construction) no matter the amount of crash landings it’s forced to make.

Thanks to the overwhelming level of support for the project, Goitein already commissioned the production run, allowing early backers to receive their units well ahead of schedule. The retail version, meanwhile, will be priced at $50, which includes a module, some paper and a guide to help you craft the perfect plane.

Polaroid is already planning to cut the price of its $1,000 4K TV

Polaroid-4K-TV-Cover

Like the high school kid who doesn’t get invited to parties with the cool kids, Polaroid decided that the best way to turn some heads was to have a dramataic reinvention. So, the company pulled up to CES with a whole range of cameras, tablets and a 4K TV (which we previously covered in the TechSummit Rewind) that broke the $1,000 barrier. However, an executive isn’t satisfied. This company executive remarked that this un-smart TV would likely get a price cut before it hit store shelves to undercut rivals from Vizio and Kogan. Of course, there’s no word on how low the prices can go, but we figure we’ll know in due time.

Cheap OLED TVs won’t be available for three to four years: Samsung

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If you were counting on OLED TV prices coming down any time soon, forget about it. Samsung’s HS Kim warned USA Today that affordable OLED sets likely won’t be available for another three to four years — a year or two later than he first expected. Manufacturing troubles are keeping prices high, according to Kim. If it’s any consolation, though, Kim believes that 4K TV will reach the mainstream faster than 1080p. A number of broadcasters plan to jump to the higher resolution this year, and Samsung has a slew of content deals that could encourage some early Ultra HD upgrades.

Nintendo boasts ‘record-setting’ 16 million 3DS game sales in 2013

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Nintendo’s handheld business is booming, and the company has the stats to prove it. In its annual overview, the company reported sales of a record-breaking 16 million 3DS games in 2013, which translates to a 45 percent increase over last year. US consumers played a big part in Nintendo’s banner year, accounting for 11.5 million of Nintendo’s 35 million 2DS and 3DS lifetime sales. Despite its financial woes and a ruling requiring it to share some of its 3DS sales revenue, Nintnedo reckons it has plenty more left in the tank.

Scott Moffitt, Nintendo’s EVP of sales:

“We’re not slowing down in 2014, the best days of Nintendo 3DS are still to come.”

Google update paves the way for more multiplayer Play Store games

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An update to Google’s Play Services should keep its mobile OS developers busy, particularly if they’re making games. Android’s SDK now has asynchronous multiplayer baked in, the kind of turn-based system that makes playing Words with Friends with distant pals possible. The update also features a developer preview of the Google Drive API, better auto-complete options when sharing to Google+, and fixes the battery-training bug that plagued some Android 4.4 KitKat devices. Thrilling? Not quite, but it’s good to see Google investing in its budding games service.

MediaTek’s wireless-display solution beams video to TV, sets your mobile screen free

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While Miracast wireless display mode is now available on many Android devices, it is both loved and loathed — loved by those who’re content with just wireless screen mirroring, and loathed by those who want to keep doing other things on the smaller screen. If you belong to the latter group, then MediaTek’s got your back. At CES, the Taiwanese chip designer showed off its solution that lets you beam video content to a Miracast-enabled display, without having to give up your mobile display for your other tasks — whether it’s internet browsing, emailing or even gaming.

In order to take advantage of this solution, according to a company rep, app developers would need to use MediaTek’s upcoming API to enable this feature. There’s no word on when consumers will get to use this at home, but give that MediaTek shipped over 200 million smartphone processors last year, we’re pretty sure that developers will want a share of this piping-hot pie.

 

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