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Wearables have tremendous potential for the enterprise and consumer markets, but the industry still has multiple challenges to overcome. Companies are focusing more on the enterprise wearable market at the moment, but technology breakthroughs should trickle into consumer markets as familiarity and stability increase.
(From right to left: Bruce Hawver, SteelSeries CEO; Paul Travers, Vuzix CEO; Fred Ishii, Iron CIty Micro Display founder; Mark Spitzer, Google X Director of Operations; and Jessica Lessin, moderator)
During the recent Kopin Wearable Technology Launch Event in Santa Clara, California, panelists spoke during a round table discussion and shared their views on what needs to change for the future of wearables to accelerate even faster.
"Miniaturization is hugely important - and second to that, bringing down cost (is important)," said Bruce Hawver, SteelSeries CEO, during a panel discussion at the Kopin press event. "Consumers are now more aware and willing to adopt it. Technology is now pervasive in our lives and users look for easier ways to access it."
With the 2014 Mobile World Congress just around the corner, some of the major players behind the scenes in the mobile device world are beginning to release info on what can be found under the hood of the next-generation devices we will see showcased next week. Broadcom has just unveiled its newest System on Chip (SoC), that is designed for the smartwatch segment of the market.
The new BCM4771 GNSS System on Chip is designed to fix some of the power-hungry issues with GPS on current SoCs on the market. Built on a 40nm process, the chip features a new GPS sensor hub that us designed to not only shrink the component size, but greatly reduce the power draw of the device when used in applications where a small battery may be the only option. This comes in quite handy for devices like smartwatches and smart glasses, where batteries are typically in the 300-500mAh range. Broadcom says the device will launch in late March and will arrive in retail devices by the end of the summer.
The original Oculus Rift development kit (or DK1) is no longer being manufactured by Oculus VR, with the company out of the necessary materials to produce more Rift DK1 units, according to a post on the /r/Oculus section of Reddit.
Oculus VR is "looking for alternate sources for the needed components", but doesn't have a time frame of when additional Rift units will be made available. The company will sell out of its inventory in each region, but once this happens it will halt sales in that particular region until it can deliver new orders to consumers.
Right now, Oculus VR is only selling and shipping Rift DK1 units to the following countries:
- United States
- Countries in the European Union
- South Korea
Not so surprisingly, /r/Oculus poster 'cybereality' said: "We never expected to sell so many development kits and VR only made this much progress with the community's support and enthusiasm. Even though we never wanted to sell out, it's a good problem to have -- Thank you!"
Mobile World Congress 2014 kicks off in Barcelona, Spain next week, and the latest rumor is that HTC will unveil a smartwatch at the event. The device in question would be powered by Qualcomm internals.
Considering Qualcomm has its own smarwatch in the Qualcomm Toq, this would be an interesting move for the struggling Taiwanese company to pull off. Bloomberg is behind the report, which states that the company might also show off a second smartwatch that would use the amazing powers of Google Now, as well as an "electronic bracelet that plays music". Next week should be quite hot with mobile and wearable devices, that's for sure!
We've heard a bit about Sony's venture into virtual reality, but nothing has entered actual reality just yet. Another tease is here, with an industry insider hinting that Sony would show off a VR headset for the PS4 at E3 2014 in June.
Ahsan Rasheed, or thuway on Twitter, posted on the social network: "Ugh I just got a bit of info I was sworn to secrecy on :-/. VR is going to be amazing. You will say KANDO". He continued: "Very interesting solutions, multiple prototypes, but the end product is Hnnnnng. Say hello to Gran Turismo 7", suggesting that Sony is indeed working on its own VR headset.
If you were excited with that news, prepare your VR underwear for the next bit: Rasheed also mentioned PS4 VR in one last final tweet, where he listed upcoming Sony projects:
Things to look forward to-
- 1. Drive Club updated footage
- 2. PS4 VR + SSM New IP
- 3. UC 4
- 4. Guerilla new IP
- 5. UC4
- 6. The Last Guardian
This is where things get inteersting, as Guerilla with a new IP working on VR would be quite the title, and so would The Last Guardian. SSM most likely refers to Sony Santa Monica, which is the development studio who made God of War and others.
Google is trying to stop people from making Glassholes of themselves in public with its wearable Glass device, so the Mountain View-based giant is now offering a list of "Do's" and "Dont's" of wearing Glass.
Google specifically asks Glass users: "Don't be creepy or rude (aka, a 'Glasshole')". Yes - Google even refers to "Glasshole", something I was quite shocked - but amused - to see. In the list of "Do's", Google wants you to take in the world around you, use Glass' voice commands, and Google wants you to "Ask for permission" while using Glass.
How so? Well, Google explains: "Standing alone in the corner of a room staring at people while recording them through Glass is not going to win you any friends (see Don'ts #4). The Glass camera function is no different from a cell phone so behave as you would with your phone and ask permission before taking photos or videos of others".
Samsung is expected to unveil a refreshed Galaxy Gear smartwatch at Mobile World Congress later this month, but the latest rumors hitting the Internet state that the new wearable device will feature Samsung's much-touted Tizen operating system.
Tizen is in a perfect position to land itself on smartwatches, with Samsung being one of the development partners on the OS. Samsung can scale Tizen down in terms of its feature set to better accommodate the new Galaxy Gear. If Samsung does go down this road, it won't mean it's abandoning its relationship with Google over Android, but it is spreading its wings and not using a full-blown mobile OS on a device that simply doesn't need it.
Women's clothing brand Topshop will use virtual reality technology to help give customers a unique way to access the upcoming Topshop Unique fashion run show. Topshop teamed up with London-based Inition, a company specializing in 3D graphics application development.
Using virtual reality for the Web-based stream provides a "new dimension" of traditional fashion shows, according to Topshop executives. Customers visiting the flagship London Topshop store and use a VR headset loaded with fashion footage, providing a customized, personal method to grab shopper attention.
"VR is the ultimate interface to the digital world with the power to transport the user to another place as soon as they put on a special display," said Andy Millns, Inition co-founder, in a statement. "This unique technology has the potential to open up fashion shows to the consumer at home and we believe this will be the first of many executions of this kind."
The use of virtual reality is transitioning from an over-the-top, unrealistic tech fad into something that provides businesses a chance to work with customers.
Virtual reality and augmented reality hardware and software products are changing the way users interact in the living room and at the PC. The Oculus Rift, Avegant Glyph, and smart glasses might get a lot of the attention from gamers, but VR and AR create potential for so many business and enterprise apps.
Smart glasses are being used as training tools for industry decision makers trying to embrace new technologies and cut prices, as the military, medical, and biotech companies show interest in VR.
As VR hardware continues to evolve, the bundled software also provides great opportunities for consumers and business users. Sixense's MakeVR 3D modeling software, which needs a 3D multi-touch interface, pushes the boundaries of the type of software that can be developed in the future. The MakeVR Kickstarter reached $56,000 of its $250,000 goal just three days after launch.
Moving forward, Oculus, Sony, Vuzix, Recon Instruments, Google, Meta, GlassUp, and other companies are helping drive innovation.
Pyle Audio, best known for its car, home and competition audio equipment, recently released its Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor and Watch (PSBTHR70) for consumers trying to lead a healthier lifestyle. The device can store 10 workouts or 100 lap records, easily transfer workout data to smartphones and Bluetooth-enabled devices, and will include overall distance covered.
Google Android and Apple iOS users can send workout data to services such as MapMyRun, RunKeeper or WahooFitness automatically. The Pyle Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor and Watch is available now for $69.99 MSRP, available in blue, black, green or pink.
"We've long been providing customers with high-quality home, pro and car audio products," said Abe Brach, Pyle Audio Vice President, in a press statement. "It was the natural next step to bring our decades of experience with personal technology products to the health and fitness market. During any workout either on land or in water the Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor and Watch is a must have."
Casual fitness wearables will see increased growth in 2014, because the technology is becoming easier to use, while the overall price tag drops.