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I've been using a Pebble smartwatch for months now and I really like it. It's a great way to see who is calling me when I am driving or check texts without having to dig my smartphone out of my pocket. It's also a great way to silence the annoying calls I don't want to take while behind the wheel.
It doesn't have many fancy features like some other devices on the market, but it was inexpensive and works very well for what it is. Pebble reportedly sold 400,000 units last year making it one of the most popular smartwatches out there. The company is also on track to double revenue in 2014.
Pebble is estimated to have made about $60 million during that time frame. Pebble also counts over 1000 apps for the smartwatch available and 12000 registered developers with more on the way. The Pebble smartwatch first turned up on Kickstarter and raised a huge chunk of money there, much more than it was looking for. The company raised $10.3 million on Kickstarter, about 100 times more than it needed. The company got another $26 million form angel investors.
Today Oculus unveiled the second generation of its Rift development kit, and it appears to be a major improvement over its predecessor. The Oculus Rift Devkit 2 is an upgraded, and refreshed version of the company's original virtual reality headset, and boast many new features and improvements over the original Oculus Rift.
The new Oculus Rift DevKit 2 features better latency, better frame rates, and a higher resolution (960x1080 per eye) that is said to greatly reduce the infamous screen-door effect experienced on the original Oculus Rift. Positional head tracking has been greatly improved and is now accurate down to less than a millimeter, and the new screen is a low persistence OLED display that virtually eliminates motion blur and judder.
Sony is rumored to unveil its own virtual reality (VR) device at GDC over the next couple of days, but now its next-gen console competitor, Microsoft, is also rumored to be working on its own VR headset.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting from its sources that "people familiar with the project" confirmed that Microsoft is developing a VR headset, and that the company has already filed a patent for the device. The technology has reportedly been developed side-by-side with another project called "Fortaleza," something that translates to "fortress" in Portuguese.
The two projects are expected to provide users with a "suite of experiences unique to Microsoft's Xbox products."
GDC 2014 - After months upon months of teasing the world, Sony has just taken the wraps off of its VR headset for the PlayStation 4, known as Project Morpheus.
Project Morpheus is a VR headset designed for the PlayStation 4, which comes in two pieces: a closed display, and something that resembles the PlayStation Move sensor. The unit unveiled at GDC 2014 is the development kit for Sony VR games, with Shuhei Yoshida, President of Worldwide Studios for Sony saying: "We believe Morpheus will further enhance, with integration with PlayStation Camera and PS Move." Yoshida has said that the prototype of Project Morpheus is "by no means final," so we should expect a change in the final product.
PlayStation R&D Engineer Richard Marks talked about Morpheus, saying that it needed a high-resolution, high-quality screen, great sound, and control - all of which Sony seems to have under control. SCE is working on "binaural tech" for the audio side of things, with Marks making a point of the PS4 camera being "almost custom-built for VR."
Marks said that VR needs to be easy to use, something that should be as easy as picking it up off your coffee table, and jumping into a virtual world. For this to happen, I really want to see Project Morpheus be wireless, but I think for the first-gen device we're going to have a cable attached.
Just hours after Google announced its new operating system for smartwatches called Android Wear, Motorola had an announcement of its own to make. The Lenovo-owned smartphone giant has just announced that it is the first manufacturer to release a smartwatch design based around Android Wear.
Motorola's new Moto 360 is the first smartwatch to utilize the new Android Wear OS from Google, but that is no surprise as Motorola was owned by Google up until about 2 months ago. The Moto 360 utilizes the new round form factor design which is one of two supported shapes (the other is square) in Android Wear. The smartwatch features OK Google voice control, alerts and notifications, and can display information such as weather, and fitness metrics.
Reports of an LG-designed Google Nexus smartwatch were not that far off. Today Google announced that it has been working on a new Android-based operating system that has been designed exclusively for smartwatches. The new Android Wear operating system is a forked version of Android that is specifically for smartwatches of all shapes and sizes, and features built-in amenities for fitness, navigation, Google Now, OK Google voice commands, and full integration with Android smartphones.
Google says that it is working with major Android partners like Motorola, LG, ASUS, HTC, and Samsung on different wearable designs. One of the most exciting features is that it appears that round smartwatches are a reality and are coming soon. A few days ago I reported on a smartwatch concept that utilized a round face design that I said was the key to a successful smartwatch industry, and with today's announcement, I actually feel like the smartwatch craze may survive its trend period. Google says that boutique watch brands such as fossil will also offer smartwatches with the new Android Wear OS later this year as well.
Sony has been rumored to unveil its virtual reality headset for quite a while now, but Edge is reporting that the Japanese electronics giant will unveil its VR headset at GDC next week, during its "Driving the Future of Innovation" panel.
There's not much software for Sony's VR headset right now, so we should see developers displaying a game or two from one of Sony's first-party studios at GDC next week. Oculus VR is already on the VR game, dominating it pretty badly right now, even without a consumer headset. It should be interesting to see what Sony can deliver to the table that Valve or Oculus haven't yet.
When Fitbit first announced the recall of its Force fitness tracker, the company was doing so on a voluntary basis, but the recall became official today now that the US Consumer Product Safety Commission is handling things. Being an officially sanctioned recall means that it is now illegal to sell affected devices from this point forward, making transactions of the devices on Craig's List and Ebay illegal as well.
The recall started when dozens of users began reporting skin irritation after prolonged use. Official word seems to be that some of the chemicals used in the manufacturing of the wrist bands are allergens to many people who are in prolonged contact with the bands. About 1 million of the devices have been recalled in the US with another 28,000 being recalled in Canada. Fitbit has released an official statement on the recall which we have posted below.
The Jawbone UP24 launched way back in November, and ever since then only iOS users got to partake in the the fitness trackers full mobile experience. Today Jawbone announced that it has officially updated its UP app for Android and now allows Bluetooth syncing with Android phones. Previously the app was only compatible with the UP fitness tracker which has less features than the popular UP 24.
"We believe that helping people understand the context and meaning of their data is key in helping to make sustained behavior changes," said Travis Bogard, Jawbone's vice president of product management and strategy. "Through our investment in data science we have been able to provide personalized insights to help nudge people to meet their sleep or activity goals. Now, our entire community can enjoy the benefits of these insights in real-time."
The update also adds other features to the Android app such as better alerts, push notifications, and milestone tracking. I wrote off fitness trackers for a long time, but with a recent purchase of another fitness tracker that is on the market, I am almost completely sold on he concept and look forward to recording and tracking data every time I head out for a workout, hike, or bike ride.
In the normal civilian world people worry about things like being a glasshole while wearing their Google Glass headset. On the battlefield all most soldiers care about is getting their job done and keeping themselves and their friends safe. BAE Systems has a headset that is sort of like Google Glass that could help soldiers stay safe on the battlefield.
The system is called Q-Warrior and it fits on a helmet that helps protect the soldier. The eyepiece can give the wearer a 3D view of things that are going on outside their field of view. The idea is that the soldier could get video from a drone feed or other types of data showing what the baddies are doing as an operation unfolds.
The coolest part about the Q-Warrior headset is that the system is capable of being used as promised right now. It's not something that is a decade away from feasibility. One of the things holding deployment now is work to secure the wireless video feeds that make the headset useful. It wouldn't do to field something like this if the drone feeds could be hacked or blocked.