Evidence of the Augmented Reality and Smart Glasses ecosystem forming for end to end solutions took major steps forward at MWC.
Firstly, Layar, Metaio and Wikitude, the largest AR platform providers, have cooperated to make it easy for AR content to be shared across their technology platforms. There was a demonstration of AR content being used interchangeably by these browsers at an Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) event at the Institut Cartogràfic de Catalunya (ICC) during the Mobile World Congress. This will greatly expand the scope of content creators and application developers to apply their innovations across multiple platforms.
Secondly, was the joint announcement of AR software platform company Wikitude and Vuzix of an alliance to offer SDK and APIs for Wikitude licensees to develop AR applications directly on the Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses device. This follows a similar alliance announcement made previously between Vuzix and Metaio.
I have been yearning for a few years now to have my cake and eat it too. Basically, I am an info junky and have so much reading stacked up that pleasure and educational reading is my desire and certainly a relaxing part of my infotaiment when on holiday. Problem is, I also like to do this on the beach. My iPad is the collector of all content, stacked, prioritised and ready to read. So I have said for a few years now that tablet makers (in my case Apple) should put E Ink (à la Kindle, etc.) on the back of their tablets. There's nothing else there, it's reasonably proven, cheap, doesn't use much battery - seemingly a no-brainer. Finally a few innovative companies have caught on, but initially on smart phones.
Firstly, Yotaphone. I will let others expound on the innovation and interesting new features of the Yotaphone, but I will point out that this is the first Smartphone (Android) to have displays on both sides. This is well designed and integrated implementation of E ink on a smartphone. But this means dumping your favourite phone for another just to get this innovation.
Another company, Oaxis, has an iPhone case scaresly bigger that most simple protective cases, that interacts with your mobile phone to bring E ink to the back side. It is called InkCase. It has it's own battery and works with their photo and eBook apps to transfer via Bluetooth, pictures and pages to be read at your leisure. The picture app is nice as it customises the back of your phone, or as I did in Barcelona, puts maps of the next destination that day. A good place for a boarding pass as well when trying to stay connected and get through the airport. The display is quite good and about as you would expect for E ink.But the screen size does leave a bit to be desired for book reading and the UI is a bit clunky, but "updates are on the way". Well my comment is, well done Oaxis for being innovative, you caught my eye and please make an E INK case for my iPad Mini!
Heartrate monitoring is becoming much less cumbersome and seems to be an important element not just of exercising, but to monitor your lifestyle as well. The new Mio Link is wrist worn, low power so batteries last and is continuously monitoring. Indicator lights on the unit give you indication of what zone you are in (heartrate-wise) but it works with the Mio Apps and others as well. Also has ANT+ for connectivity to other sports devices. Uses what they call electro-optical cell technology and replaces the more cumbersome chest straps used now. The styling is what caught my eye.
Available this month (March) at $99.
InvenSense sensors and analysis software are in just about everything that moves in the mobile sector (I was told). Very accurate sound and motion sensing devices such as MEMS microphones and multi-axis motion tracking devices. Depending on application, InvenSense offers one to nine axis devices which include gyros, accelerometers and compass functions. These are their bread and butter, but of special note are their analysis software capabilities which make sense out of what is happening to turn raw data into situation and context terms. I spoke at length with Tanja Hofner, their Sr. Director of Hardware Applications and learned a lot about the art of the possible with sensors and why most simple step counters and other sensors being used in wearable products just don't deliver the value without proper in-context analysis and of course the UI to produce a genuinely valuable user experience.
if it's temperature and humidity that is needed, than another sensor company at MWC, Sensirion caught my eye as experts in this area. The tiny speck of s sensor pointed out in the picture is all it takes to add those parameters to the context needed to figure out what is going on. This wonderfully scientific and geeky looking sample they gave me adds battery and display to their tiny sensor to make it useful. Since your mobile phone and most wearable devices already have these, all you need is the sensor.
Yet another amazing addition to iPhone in the form of a thin case that extends the capability of the device we used to call a cellular telephone! This iPhone case with a few extra sensors and image capture devices on board from FLIR Systems is a self contained, pocketable thermal imaging instrument with various analysis, storage and connectivity options on board.
Although seemingly a serious bit of instrumentation, I can see this could be a real tool and potential money saver in the hands of a homeowning consumer. Somewhat affordable at $350. But a bargain for any profession needing this capability. A very interesting and potentially valuable APPcessory to iPhone.
The Martian Watches table at the Pepcom Press event was a breath of fresh air from all the large, geeky/ugly "wearable technology" watches I have seen at CES and MWC.
I have often thought that devout watch wearers these days are sporting normal looking analogue watches and rather than replace it with a watch trying to be a mobile phone, it would make sense to add a few discreet features to a normal looking phone. Martian seems to have made that their key differentiator.
Various watch configurations include a small display, hands free voice capability to keep your phone in your pocket, some voice command recognition and vibration alerts. Discussions with Martian president Stanley Kinsey revealed a high degree of user experience saavy evidenced in the clever use of coded vibration alerts and other features to keep you on top of things without visibly seeming to be constantly at the beck and call of external forces. It's worth watching these guys, and soon might the exclusive high priced watch brands take this type of connectivity on board without spoiling "the look" of their luxury brand?
There was a well produced and very entertaining fashion show at CES this year focused on wearable technology. Many things caught my eye, but the emphasis was much more on fashion than than utility and consumer technology for my liking. Of course all the clothing that sparkled and garments with screens built in so that they could be whatever they wanted to be fit the occasion very well and was entertaining.
Next year I would like to see business and lifestyle enhancing technology blending in or invisibly being worn on the catwalk with descriptions of super powers and augmentations that happen without it being glaringly obvious. And where were all the Smart Glasses? Well, I just don't think Smart Glasses are ready for the catwalk yet. Maybe next year? This is the year of industrial and professional applications for these. Small enough to wear, but still a bit too big to wear out.
Well what about watches?I didn't have time to see all the watches! They are all trying to jam too much Tech into a package that looks ugly and is too big. Not to mention the problem of battery life. it took 15 years to see enough utility in the mobile phone to learn that it should be religiously charged every night.
Watch batteries last four or five years. How can people get their hands around charging a watch every three to six days.
when I see so much technology and features jam packed into something called a watch, it gives me nightmares of the past working with tech companies just putting in everything because they could. And they didn't exactly know what people would find useful, so didn't want to take chances!
Seeing big companies like Qualcomm in the game though, and producing software platforms rather than science projects tells me that this is going to start coming good this year.
I have been wearing a Pebble watch for about three months and found it large, difficult to keep charged and buggy (e.g. Notifications seem to go in and out of operation). But lately now that there are third party apps available, I can see there might be something in it other than lots of clock faces. Lots of fiddling though to find and install these apps...
I have noticed that Apple has been hiring a lot of gurus in the medical, fitness and sensors areas. Gurus of why and how rather than what technology. That is the main reason why I think it will all begin to come good this year. Bring it on Apple!
As I said lots of devices - over a hundred that can be considered to be called products and almost all are step counters of some description (accelerometers). The focus on lifestyle, fitness and medical is important to note as these are the areas which have potential to have real value to consumers.
So everyone reported on Wearables as the feature of CES 2014, but I just couldn't believe how little variety there was in the functionality and also noted how ugly they all were!
this picture is of the showcase of an Asian manufacturer who manufactures a large number of the step counters and Smart Watches for brands that I saw and tried on their booths too.
How many companies can survive, all marketing a single sensor device? Especially since Fitbit and Nike seem to have captured 2/3 of the sales so far.
i was personally wearing four different step countersa CES and all of them were telling me that the eight miles a day I was averaging cruising the exhibition halls was making me healthy. Not taking into account other factors like what my body was actually telling me, not to mention what I was eating and drinking. The user experience, ease of use, and interpretation of what it all means is still lacking for the average consumer to get interested IMHO. So I am not going to list and review a lot of wearable devices. But a few did stand out as being innovative and better equipped to serve mankind going forward.