Archive for the ‘wearables’ Category

Samsung refreshes wearable line, including new Galaxy Watch Active

February 20th, 2019

Along with the S10 smartphones and the new Galaxy Fold handset, Samsung officially announced new wearables in its Galaxy family at its Unpacked event today. The information leaked just days ago purportedly by Samsung's own Galaxy Wearables mobile app has been proven correct as Samsung showed off a new Galaxy Watch Active smartwatch, a Galaxy Fit tracker, and new true wireless earbuds called the Galaxy Buds on stage.

Starting in the audio department, the Galaxy Buds are Samsung's latest shot at the cord-less earphone market popularized by Apple's AirPods. Samsung says they get six hours of battery life on their own per charge, with an additional seven hours available through their charging case. That case supports wireless charging, and can be powered by one of those new Galaxy S10 phones.

The company claims the Galaxy Buds's case is 30 percent smaller than that of its previous Gear IconX earbuds. Samsung's much-maligned Bixby assistant is built into the earphones by default, letting users perform a modicum of smartphone controls with their voice—send texts, answer calls, change songs, and more—but the earphones can also use Google Assistant if desired. They connect over Bluetooth 5, and Samsung is touting easier connectivity with its own devices. The company says the Galaxy Buds' audio has been tuned by its AKG subsidiary, though we'll have to give them a listen before making any judgments there.

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Posted in fitness tracker, Galaxy Fit, galaxy watch, Galaxy Watch Active, Samsung, smartwatch, Tech, wearables | Comments (0)

Retina resolution headset puts the “reality” into “virtual reality”

February 19th, 2019
Promotional image of virtual reality goggles.

Enlarge / The Varjo VR-1 headset. It looks unassuming from the outside. (credit: Varjo)

Current virtual reality headsets are pretty good at the "virtual" bit but tend to fall down on the "reality" side of things. It's all too obvious that you're looking at a screen, albeit a screen held very close to your face, and a lot of screens just aren't meant to be looked at that close. The "screen door" effect that breaks the display up into a grid of individual pixels is distracting, and resolutions are low enough that curved lines are noticeably jagged, and fine detail gets lost. Second-generation headsets like the Vive Pro certainly do better than their first-generation counterparts, but they haven't eliminated these shortcomings. Even with eyes as appalling as mine, the human optical systems are clearly higher quality than the VR headsets can satisfy.

But the Varjo VR-1, available to buy today, is the first headset I've used that convincingly provides an image that looks real. The VR-1 puts a 1920×1080 micro-OLED display with some 3,000 pixels per inch (or 60 pixels per degree) slap-bang in the middle of your field of view. It looks like nothing you've ever seen from a headset before: no pixel grid, no jagged lines (or anti-aliasing), no screen-door effect. The images it displays look every bit as detailed as real life. Varjo calls it the Bionic Display and claims its resolution is about that of the eye, giving it a level of fidelity like nothing else on the market.

Surrounding this screen is a conventional 1440×1600 AMOLED display providing an 87 degree field of view. This showed an image that's much like any other headset. I found the experience of using the VR-1 a little like that of using Microsoft's HoloLens. In the HoloLens, the display has a relatively narrow field of view, so you have to look straight forward to see the images. When looking around, you have to turn your whole head and keep your eyes looking more or less straight ahead if you want to look at something. Otherwise, as soon as you look off to the side, the 3D images disappear.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, hardware, headset, steamvr, Tech, virtual reality, wearables | Comments (0)

Google buys $40 million worth of smartwatch tech from Fossil Group

January 17th, 2019
Google buys $40 million worth of smartwatch tech from Fossil Group

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Wearables have brought Google and the fashion-focused Fossil Group closer together. Today, Fossil announced it will sell intellectual property related to smartwatch technology to Google in a deal worth $40 million. Upon news of the deal, Fossil Group shares jumped about 8 percent today.

Along with the IP, a section of Fossil's research and development team focused on wearables will join Google. However, the announcement highlights Google and Fossil's "shared investment in the wearable industry," which likely means that this deal will not quell Fossil's wearable efforts entirely. Fossil Group—which includes Diesel, Armani, Skagen, and Michael Kors—has launched smartwatches running Wear OS and hybrid smartwatches across 14 of its brands.

Greg McKelvey, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy and Digital Officer at Fossil Group, said the following in a statement:

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Posted in fossil, fossil group, google, smartwatch, Tech, wear OS, wearables | Comments (0)

Apple’s anticipated ECG app rolls out today in watchOS 5.1.2

December 6th, 2018
The Apple Watch Series 4 on a wooden table.

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

The newest update for Apple Watches is out now, bringing a highly anticipated feature to Series 4 devices. Apple pushed out watchOS 5.1.2 today, which includes its ECG app for monitoring irregular heartbeats.

Apple Watch Series 4 devices all have built-in electrodes that can measure electrocardiograms, or ECGs. At the time of the Watch's debut in September, Apple's native app with which the electrodes communicate wasn't ready for consumer use. Now, it's rolling out as part of the watchOS 5.1.2 update.

The ECG app is for the Watch itself, while ECG data gets stored in Apple's Health app on iOS devices. To take an ECG reading, users must place their finger on the flat side of the Digital Crown on their Series 4 Watch. The electrode on the Digital Crown communicates with the other electrode on the Watch, which sits near the heart rate monitor, to take a complete ECG measurement.

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Posted in apple, apple watch, ECG, heart rate, Tech, watchos, wearables | Comments (0)

New wearable tech lets users listen to live music through their skin

November 25th, 2018
Deaf and hearing concert goers enjoy a shared live experience in Las Vegas with new wearable technology from Music: Not Impossible (M:NI).

Enlarge / Deaf and hearing concert goers enjoy a shared live experience in Las Vegas with new wearable technology from Music: Not Impossible (M:NI). (credit: Zappos)

Back in September, 200 music fans gathered at the Bunkhouse Saloon in downtown Las Vegas for a private live concert with a unique twist: several of the fans were deaf. The concert served as a beta test for new wearable technology that allows deaf and hearing users alike to experience musical vibrations through their skin for a true "surround body" experience.

The tech is called Music: Not Impossible (M:NI), and it's the brainchild of former Hollywood producer turned entrepreneur Mick Ebeling, founder and CEO of Not Impossible Labs. The user's kit includes two battery-powered wristbands, two ankle bands, and a harness that fits across the back and shoulders. It interfaces directly with a venue's sound system and sends electrical pulses (coordinated with colored LED lights) corresponding to various tracks in the music to the sensors against the skin. Lady Gaga, Hans Zimmer, and Pharrell are fans, with the latter declaring he had "felt the future" after trying M:NI out. The Las Vegas show was presented by Zappos Adaptive and the Church of Rock & Roll.

"We're not trying to replace music," said Daniel Belquer, director of technology for Not Impossible Labs. "We're trying to provide an experience that relates to music. It's less a new technology and more a new form of expression that, instead of going through the ears, goes through the skin. When you feel it, you understand it."

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Posted in auditory inclusion, concerts, deaf, Gaming & Culture, music, Tech, Technology, Technology & Culture, wearables | Comments (0)

Spotify officially releases first version of its Apple Watch app

November 14th, 2018
The Apple Watch Series 4 on a wooden table.

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

After rolling out wearables apps across other platforms over the past few weeks, Spotify just released the first iteration of its Apple Watch app. The watchOS app will be rolling out to Apple Watch users over the next week, and you must have the latest version of the Spotify iOS app on your iPhone to download the app.

Much like Spotify's other wearable device apps, the program for the Apple Watch focuses on controlling playback on your iPhone from the watch. Users can pause, play, skip, and rewind their music, podcasts, and other tracks. They can also tap a heart icon to add new music that they stumble upon to their libraries. Most of these features, aside from adding music to your library, are available in Apple's native Now Playing app that lets users control playback from nearly any audio source on their connected iPhone.

The Apple Watch app also has Spotify Connect support, which lets users manage connections and playback with Bluetooth devices. Directly from the watch, you can choose which devices—like laptops, speakers, headphones, and others—you want to play music.

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Posted in apple music, apple watch, spotify, Streaming music, Tech, watchos, wearables | Comments (0)

Spotify comes to Wear OS with stand-alone app, Spotify Connect support

October 17th, 2018
Spotify standalone Wear OS app on three Fossil smartwatch screens.

Enlarge (credit: Spotify/Fossil)

Wear OS gains a popular new app today that many have been waiting for, as Spotify announced that it's bringing a stand-alone wearable app to Google's smartwatch platform.

Spotify's stand-alone app lets you browse and control music from your wrist. It seems to be a lighter version of Spotify's mobile app, allowing you to browse your tracks and playlists and quickly save songs to your library. You can also control playback from your wrist—it appears similar to Wear OS' native music controls, just built into a dedicated Spotify app.

The Wear OS app also integrates with Spotify Connect, the company's method of connecting and controlling playback on Bluetooth devices. Now from your wrist, you can manage connections between Bluetooth speakers, laptops, and other devices and quickly change the playback source.

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Posted in apple watch, fossil, spotify, Tech, watchos, wear OS, wearables | Comments (0)

Fitbit for the blind: Echolocation-based smartwatch aids sightless steps

August 4th, 2017

Enlarge (credit: Sunu)

As some Fitbit wearers find amusing ways to skip steps—attaching the devices to hamster balls, ceiling fans, and power tools—a new wrist gadget aims to make sure others never miss one.

The Sunu band smartwatch, designed for people with visual impairments, uses a sonar sensor to detect objects and people within a 15-foot range. When it does, it gently vibrates to alert the wearer, changing intensity as an object or person gets closer. Wearers can also customize it using an iPhone app via Bluetooth, adjusting for walking speed and to make buzzes stronger or weaker.

Sunu, a company based in Boston and Guadalajara, Mexico, will start shipping the devices for $249 to $299 later this month.

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Posted in science, Tech, vision, wearables | Comments (0)