67.4 F
jacksonville,fl
Sunday, January 19, 2020

Gadgets

Home Gadgets

Sony Interactive will skip E3 again this year

0

Sony Interactive Entertainment will skip E3 again this year and participate instead in “hundreds of consumer events across the globe,” the company told GamesIndustry.biz today. The company, which is preparing to launch the PlayStation 5 before this holiday season, missed the show for the first time last year, after two decades of being one of its biggest exhibitors.

A Sony Interactive spokesperson told GamesIndustry.biz that the company has “great respect for the ESA as an organization, but we do not feel the vision of E3 2020 is the right venue for what we are focused on this year.” Instead, it will “build upon our global events strategy in 2020 by participating in hundreds of of consumer events across the globe.”

As TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey noted last year, Nintendo hasn’t held a formal E3 press conference in years, but still has a booth where attendees can play their games, and hosts a live stream. Before skipping the event last year, Sony used E3 to debut new consoles and flagship games, though focusing on other events gives it more flexibility for when it announces major news.

TechCrunch has contacted Sony Interactive and ESA, the organizers of E3, for comment.

The robot homecoming is upon us

0

Robots were everywhere at CES, as has been the case for at least a decade. But there’s a different tenor to the robots shown off at the recent annual consumer tech event: they’re designed for home use, and they’re shipping products, not just concepts intended strictly for trade show glam.

Home robots have already had a few false starts, including some high-profile flare-outs like Anki and previous CES darling Kuri (despite the backing of global technology giant Bosch) . But other robots, including autonomous vacuums, have already carved out niches for themselves within the domestic milieu. Between slow-burn but now mature categories and the sheer volume of newer products jumping in to establish new beachheads, it now seems certain we’re on a path at the end of which lie hybrid companion and functional robots that will become common household items.

Industrial to residential

One of the biggest signs that home robotics is gaining credibility as a market is the fact that companies which have found success in industrial technology are branching out. At CES, I spoke to Elephant Robotics founder and CEO Joey Song, who was at the show demonstrating MarsCat, a fully developed robotic cat designed to be a companion pet with full autonomous interactivity, similar to Sony’s Aibo.

Kids with lazy eye can be treated just by letting them watch TV on this special screen

0

Amblyopia, commonly called lazy eye, is a medical condition that adversely affects the eyesight of millions, but if caught early can be cured altogether — unfortunately this usually means months of wearing an eye patch. NovaSight claims successful treatment with nothing more than an hour a day in front of its special display.

The condition amounts to when the two eyes aren’t synced up in their movements. Normally both eyes will focus the detail-oriented fovea part of the retina on whatever object the person is attending to; in those with amblyopia, one eye won’t target the fovea correctly and as a result the eyes don’t converge properly and vision suffers, and if not treated can lead to serious vision loss.

It can be detected early on in children, and treatment can be as simple as covering the good eye with a patch for most of the day, which forces the other eye to adjust and align itself properly. The problem is, of course, that this is uncomfortable and embarrassing for the kid, and of course only using one eye isn’t ideal for playing schoolyard games and other everyday things.

Kids with lazy eye can be treated just by letting them watch TV on this special screen 1

And you look cool doing it!

NovaSight’s innovation with CureSight is to let this alignment process happen without the eye patch, instead selectively blurring content the child watches so that the affected eye has to do the work while the other takes a rest.

It accomplishes this with the same technology that, ironically, gave many of us double vision back in the early days of 3D: glasses with blue and red lenses.

Blue-red stereoscopy presents two slightly different versions of the same image, one tinted red and one tinted blue. Normally it would be used with slightly different parallax to produce a binocular 3D image — that’s what many of us saw in theaters or amusement park rides.

In this case, however, one of the two tinted images just has a blurry circle right where the kid is looking. The screen uses a built-in Tobii eye-tracking sensor so it knows where the circle should be; I got to test it out briefly and the circle quickly caught up with my gaze. This makes it so the other eye, affected by the condition but the only one with access to the details of the image, has to be relied on to point where the kid needs it to.

The best part is that there isn’t some treatment schema or tests — kids can literally just watch YouTube or a movie using the special setup, and they’re getting better, NovaSight claims. And it can be done at home on the kid’s schedule — always a plus.

Kids with lazy eye can be treated just by letting them watch TV on this special screen 2

Graphs from NovaSight website.

The company has already done some limited clinical trials that showed “significant improvement” over a 12-week period. Whether it can be relied on to completely cure the condition or if it should be paired with other established treatments will come out in further trials the company has planned.

In the meantime, however, it’s nice to see a technology like 3D displays applied to improving vision rather than promoting bad films. NovaSight has been developing and promoting its tech over the last year; it also has a product that helps diagnose vision problems using a similar application of 3D display tech. You can learn more or request additional info at its website.

At CES, companies slowly start to realize that privacy matters

0

Every year, Consumer Electronics Show attendees receive a branded backpack, but this year’s edition was special; made out of transparent plastic, the bag’s contents were visible without the wearer needing to unzip. It isn’t just a fashion decision. Over the years, security has become more intense and cumbersome, but attendees with transparent backpacks didn’t have to open their bags when entering.

That cheap backpack is a metaphor for an ongoing debate — how many of us are willing to exchange privacy for convenience?

At CES, companies slowly start to realize that privacy matters 3

Privacy was on everyone’s mind at this year’s CES in Las Vegas, from CEOs to policymakers, PR agencies and people in charge of programming the panels. For the first time in decades, Apple had a formal presence at the event; Senior Director of Global Privacy Jane Horvath spoke on a panel focused on privacy with other privacy leaders.

Cherry goes downmarket with its new Viola mechanical keyboard switches

0

Cherry has long been the de facto standard for mechanical keyboard switches. Since mechanical keyboards are, almost by default, significantly more expensive than membrane or dome-switch keyboards, that has kept the company out of a large part of the market. Now, on the last day of CES 2020, the company is launching its new Viola switch, the company’s first fully mechanical switch for the value market, meant for keyboards that will cost somewhere between $50 and $100.

As the Cherry team told me ahead of today’s announcement, its engineers spent well over a year on designing this new switch, which only has a handful of parts and which moves some of the complexity into the circuit board on the keyboard itself. A lot of the work went into designing the new self-cleaning contact system (which the company quickly patented) and to ensure that the switches’ materials would be able to handle regular use despite the simplicity of the design.

Cherry goes downmarket with its new Viola mechanical keyboard switches 4

Because of this new design, the new Viola switches are now hot-swappable, so if one ever goes bad, swapping in a new one shouldn’t take more than a few seconds. And because the company stuck with the same industry-standard cross-stem design for attaching keycaps, keyboard manufacturers can reuse their existing designs, too.

Like most new switches, the Cherry Viola supports LED lighting, which in the case of this new design can be mounted right on the circuit board of the keyboard.

If you’re a keyboard aficionado, you won’t confuse the new Viola switch with any of Cherry’s high-end MX switches. For a lot of users who want a mechanical keyboard at a value price, this looks like it’ll be a great option.

Cherry goes downmarket with its new Viola mechanical keyboard switches 5

I didn’t get a chance to spend a lot of time with the new switches, but as best as I could tell, the current version resembles a quiet MX Brown switch. Cherry itself discourages any comparisons, though. Even the name is clearly meant to remove any confusion that this switch is part of the MX series. And while Cherry has plans to offer similar switch variants as the MX Black, Brown, Blue and Red, it won’t recycle those colors for those switches either. While the company tells me it isn’t all that worried about the new switches cannibalizing the MX market, it’s not leaving that to chance either.

One major difference with the Viola switches is that Cherry isn’t giving any guarantee for how many keystrokes they will withstand — at least not yet. The company tells me it may give some guidance at a later point.

Like all other Cherry switches, the Viola switches are built in the company’s factory in Germany and all of its suppliers, too, are building their products in the country as well.

For the MX switches, though, the company is now raising its guarantee from 50 million keystrokes (which was already a lot) to 100 million. Some pro-gamers actually reach those numbers (and the switches usually continue to function well beyond that), but for everybody else, it’s just an assurance that the company stands behind its products. To achieve this, the team made some minor adjustments to switches and especially the guide rails on the inside of the switch housing. That won’t change the actual typing experience, though.

The first keyboards with the 100-million MX switches are already available, and the first Viola keyboards will become available soon.

Cherry goes downmarket with its new Viola mechanical keyboard switches 6

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

August Home ditches the bridge, and Yale launches a smart lock in Europe

0

Assa Abloy, the world’s largest lock maker and the parent company of August Home and Yale, announced some new products at CES this week. The company didn’t talk about doorbell cameras at all — it could be related to recent Ring’s controversies.

As a well-known brand when it comes to smart lock in the U.S., August Home is iterating and refining with new products without any groundbreaking change. This time, the company is introducing a new August Wi-Fi Smart Lock.

This is the fourth generation lock from the startup that got acquired by Assa Abloy. It is 45% smaller than the previous version and it features a Wi-Fi chip on the device itself. It means that you no longer need to plug a bridge that connects to your Wi-Fi network and communicates with your lock.

As a result, battery life should be a bit worse on the new device. The company says that you can expect 3 to 6 months of battery compared to 6 months with the third generation device.

Like previous versions of August devices, it integrates directly in the deadbolt so that you don’t have to replace your lock altogether.

August Home ditches the bridge, and Yale launches a smart lock in Europe 7

While August Home is quite popular in the U.S., the same can’t be said in Europe. It turns out that the lock market is quite fragmented with different locking system depending on the country.

But Yale is releasing a smart door lock called Linus that works pretty much like August Home locks in Europe. Yves Behar has designed both the new August Home lock and the Yale Linus lock. The company has designed different mounting plates so that it fits with as many European homes as possible.

You can lock and unlock your door using your phone, temporarily hand out digital key to guests and more. The Linus lock isn’t connected to the internet, so you have to get a bridge in case you’re interested in that functionality. There are integrations with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, Airbnb and IFTTT.

When it comes to apps, the August Home and Yale apps are now identical. The company is just keeping both names for branding reasons.

Yale also took advantage of CES to announce a Smart Cabinet Lock that can lock your medicine cabinet for instance. The company has integrated that lock into a delivery box that you can put in front of your house. There’s a new smart safe as well.

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

OrCam announces new AI-enabled device for hearing impairment

0

OrCam is expanding its product lineup with new devices that tackle new use cases. OrCam’s best-known device is the OrCam MyEye 2 — a tiny device for people with visual impairment that you clip on your glasses to help you navigate the world around you.

At CES, OrCam announced that the MyEye 2 is getting new features. In addition to being able to point at text and signs to read text aloud, recognize faces and identify objects and money notes, you’ll be able to let the device guide you.

For instance, you can say “what’s in front of me?” and the device could tell you that there’s a door. You can then ask to be guided to that door. The MyEye 2 is also getting better at natural language processing for interactive reading sessions.

OrCam announces new AI-enabled device for hearing impairment 8

When it comes to new devices, OrCam is expanding to hearing impairment with the OrCam Hear. It can be particularly useful in loud rooms. The device helps you identify and isolate a speaker’s voice so you can follow a conversation even in a public space. You pair it with your existing Bluetooth hearing aids.

Finally, OrCam is introducing the OrCam Read, a handheld AI reader. This time, you don’t clip a camera to your glasses, you take the device in your hand and point it at text. The company says it could be particularly useful for people who have reading difficulties due to dyslexia.

OrCam announces new AI-enabled device for hearing impairment 9

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

How Ring is rethinking privacy and security

0

Ring is now a major player when it comes to consumer video doorbells, security cameras — and privacy protection.

Amazon acquired the company and promotes its devices heavily on its e-commerce websites. Ring has even become a cultural phenomenon with viral videos being shared on social networks and the RingTV section on the company’s website.

But that massive success has come with a few growing pains; as Motherboard found out, customers don’t have to use two-factor authentication, which means that anybody could connect to their security camera if they re-use the same password everywhere.

When it comes to privacy, Ring’s Neighbors app has attracted a ton of controversy. Some see it as a libertarian take on neighborhood watch that empowers citizens to monitor their communities using surveillance devices.

Others have questioned partnerships between Ring and local police to help law enforcement authorities request videos from Ring users.

In a wide-ranging interview, Ring founder Jamie Siminoff looked back at the past six months, expressed some regrets and defended his company’s vision. The interview was edited for clarity and brevity.


TechCrunch: Let’s talk about news first. You started mostly focused on security cameras, but you’ve expanded way beyond security cameras. And in particular, I think the light bulb that you introduced is pretty interesting. Do you want to go deeper in this area and go head to head against Phillips Hue for instance?

Jamie Siminoff: We try not to ever look at competition — like the company is going head to head with… we’ve always been a company that has invented around a mission of making neighborhoods safer.

Sometimes, that puts us into a place that would be competing with another company. But we try to look at the problem and then come up with a solution and not look at the market and try to come up with a competitive product.

No one was making — and I still don’t think there’s anyone making — a smart outdoor light bulb. We started doing the floodlight camera and we saw how important light was. We literally saw it through our camera. With motion detection, someone will come over a fence, see the light and jump back over. We literally could see the impact of light.

So you don’t think you would have done it if it wasn’t a light bulb that works outside as well as inside?

For sure. We’ve seen the advantage of linking all the lights around your home. When you walk up on a step light and that goes off, then everything goes off at the same time. It’s helpful for your own security and safety and convenience.

The light bulbs are just an extension of the floodlight. Now again, it can be used indoor because there’s no reason why it can’t be used indoor.

Following Amazon’s acquisition, do you think you have more budget, you can hire more people and you can go faster and release all these products?

It’s not a budget issue. Money was never a constraint. If you had good ideas, you could raise money — I think that’s Silicon Valley. So it’s not money. It’s knowledge and being able to reach a critical mass.

As a consumer electronics company, you need to have specialists in different areas. You can’t just get them with money, you kind of need to have a big enough thing. For example, wireless antennas. We had good wireless antennas. We did the best we thought we could do. But we get into Amazon and they have a group that’s super highly focused on each individual area of that. And we make much better antennas today.

Our reviews are up across the board, our products are more liked by our customers than they were before. Jamie Siminoff

Our reviews are up across the board, our products are more liked by our customers than they were before. To me, that’s a good measure — after Amazon, we have made more products and they’re more beloved by our customers. And I think part of that is that we can tap into resources more efficiently.

And would you say the teams are still very separate?

Amazon is kind of cool. I think it’s why a lot of companies that have been bought by Amazon stay for a long time. Amazon itself is almost an amalgamation of a lot of little startups. Internally, almost everyone is a startup CEO — there’s a lot of autonomy there.

At CES, Schneider Electric unveils its own upgrade to the traditional fusebox

0

As renewable energy and energy efficiency continue to make gains among cost-conscious consumers, more companies are looking at ways to give customers better ways to manage the electricity coming into their homes.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Schneider Electric unveiled its pitch to homeowners looking for a better power management system with the company’s Energy Center product.

Think of it as a competitor to products from startups like Span, which are attempting to offer homeowners better ways to integrate renewable energy power generation to their homes and provide better ways to route the electricity inside the home, according to Schneider Electric’s executive vice president for its Home and Distribution division, Manish Pant.

The new product is part of a broader range of Square D home energy management devices that Schneider is aiming at homeowners. The company provides a broad suite of energy management services and technologies to commercial, industrial and residential customers, but is making a more concerted effort into the U.S. residential market beginning in 2020, according to Pant.

Schneider will be looking to integrate batteries and inverters into its Energy Center equipment over the course of the year and is currently looking for partners.

In some ways, the home energy market is ripe for innovation. Fuse boxes haven’t changed in nearly 100 years and there are few startups looking to provide better ways to integrate and manage various sources for electricity generation and storage as they become more cost competitive.

Lumin, and Sense (which is backed by Schneider Energy) also have energy efficiency products they’re pitching to homeowners.

At CES, Schneider Electric unveils its own upgrade to the traditional fusebox 10

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

Intel and Google plot closer collaboration around Chromebooks and the future of computing

0

Intel, the chip-making giant, has been on the road of refocusing its strategy in recent months. While it has sold its mobile chip operation to Apple and is reportedly looking for a buyer for its connected home division, it’s also been going through the difficult task of rethinking how best to tackle the longtime bread and butter of its business, the PC.

Part of that latter strategy is getting a big boost this week at CES 2020. Here, Intel is today announcing a deeper partnership with Google to design chips and specifications for Chromebooks built on Project Athena. Project Athena is framework first announced last year that covers both design and technical specs, with the aim of building the high-performance laptops of tomorrow that can be used not just for work, but media streaming, gaming, enterprise applications and more, all on the go — powered by Intel, naturally.

(The specs include things like requiring ‘fast wake’ using fingerprints or push-buttons or lift lids; using Intel Core i5 or i7 processors; “Ice Lake” processor designs; better battery life and charging; WiFi 6; touch displays; 2-in-1 designs; narrow bezels and more.)

Alongside the Google/Athena announcement, Intel also unveiled its latest Core mobile processor. Codenamed Tiger Lake (like Ice Lake from a previous range, the name comes from a natural spot in Oregon), they are being built using intel’s Xe graphics architectue-based GPUs, the first instance of using this, with the aim being to use these chips in AI and other computing-intense applications. And it also showed off a new concept device called “Horseshoe Bend,” a giant, 17-inch foldable tablet that would run on said Tiger Lake processors. Both of these are very much in keeping with the Project Athena ethos, where Intel is working to focus on what the computing environment of tomorrow will be and how Intel can fit into it.

Intel and Google plot closer collaboration around Chromebooks and the future of computing 11Earlier today, the first two Chromebooks built on those Athena specifications — from Samsung and Asus — were announced by the respective companies, and Intel says that there will be more to come. And on stage, Google joined Intel during its keynote to also cement the two companies’ commitment to the mission.

“We’re going a step further and deepening our partnership with Google to bring Athena to Chromebooks,” Gregory Bryant, the EVP and GM of Intel’s client computing group, said in an interview with TechCrunch ahead of today. “We’ve collaborated very closely with Google [so that device makers] can take advantage of these specs.”

For Intel, having a Chromebook roster using Athena is important because these have been very popular, and it brings its processors into machines used by people who are buying Chromebooks to get access to Google services around security and more, and its apps ecosystem.

But stepping up the specifications for Chromebooks is as important for Google as it is for Intel in terms of the bottom line and growing business.

“This is a significant change for Google,” said John Solomon, Google’s VP of ChromeOS, in an interview ahead of today. “Chromebooks were successful in the education sector initially, but in the next 18 months to two years, our plan is to go broader, expanding to consumer and enterprise users. Those users have greater expectations and a broader idea of how to use these devices. That puts the onus on us to deliver more performance.”

The renewed effort comes at an interesting time. The laptop market is in a generally tight spot these days. Overall, the personal computing market is in a state of decline, and forecast to continue that way for the next several years.

But there is a slightly brighter picture for the kinds of machines that are coming out of collaborations like the one between Intel, Google, and their hardware partners: IDC forecasts that 2-in-1 devices — by which it means convertible PCs and detachable tablets — and ultra-slim notebook PCs “are expected to grow 5% collectively over the same period,” versus a compound annual growth rate of -2.4% between 2019 and 2023. So there is growth, but not a huge amount.

Up against that is the strength of the smartphone market. Granted, it, too, is facing some issues as multiple markets reach smartphone saturation and consumers are slower to upgrade.

All that is to say that there are challenges. And that is why Intel, whose fortunes are so closely linked to those of personal computing devices since it makes the processors for them, has to make a big push around projects like Athena.

Up to this month, all of the laptops built to Athena specs have been Windows PCs — 25 to date — but Intel had always said from the start Chromebooks would be part of the mix, to help bring the total number of Athena-based devices up to 75 by the end of this year (adding 50 in 2020).

Chromebooks are a good area for Intel to be focusing on, as they seem to be outpacing growth for the wider market, despite some notable drawbacks about how Chrome OS has been conceived as a “light” operating system with few native tools and integrations in favor of apps. IDC said that in Q4 of 2019, growth was 19% year-on-year,  and from what I understand the holiday period saw an even stronger rise. In the US, Chromebooks had a market share of around 27% last November, according to NPD/Gfk.

What’s interesting is the collaborative approach that Intel — and Google — are taking to grow. The Apple -style model is to build vertical integration into its hardware business to ensure a disciplined and unified approach to form and function: the specifications of the hardware are there specifically to handle the kinds of services that Apple itself envisions to work on its devices, and in turn, it hands down very specific requirements to third parties to work on those devices when they are not services and apps native to Apple itself.

While Google is not in the business of building laptops or processors (yet?), and Intel is also far from building more than just processors, what the two have created here is an attempt at bringing a kind of disciplined specification that mimics what you might get in a vertically integrated business.

“It’s all about building the best products and delivering the best experience,” Bryant said.

“We can’t do what we do without Intel’s help and this close engineering collaboration over the last 18 months,” Solomon added. “This is the beginning of more to come in this space, with innovation that hasn’t previously been seen.”

Indeed, going forward, interestingly Bryant and Solomon wouldn’t rule out that Athena and their collaboration might extend beyond laptops.

“Our job is to make the PC great. If we give consumers value and a reason to buy a PC we can keep the PC alive,” said Bryant, but he added that Intel is continuing to evolve the specification, too.

“From a form factor you’ll see an expansion of devices that have dual displays or have diff kinds of technology and form factors,” he said. “Our intention is to expand and do variations on what we have shown today.”

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

Follow threeblocksaway | styleandeasy

0FansLike
0FollowersFollow
34FollowersFollow
7SubscribersSubscribe

EDITOR PICKS