Computex 2014

https://download.taiwantradeshows.com.tw/files/model/photo/CP/2014/PH00013391-2.jpgEarlier this month, Computex 2014 wrapped up in Taipei. And while this trade show may not have all the glitz and glamor of its counterpart in Vegas (aka. the Consumer Electronics Show), it is still an important launch pad for new IT products slated for release during the second half of the year. Compared to other venues, the Taiwanese event is more formal, more business-oriented, and for those people who love to tinker with their PCs.

For instance, it’s an accessible platform for many Asian vendors who may not have the budget to head to Vegas. And in addition to being cheaper to set up booths and show off their products, it gives people a chance to look at devices that wouldn’t often be seen in the western parts of the world. The timing of the show is also perfect for some manufacturers. Held in June, the show provides a fantastic window into the second half of the year.

https://i0.wp.com/www.lowyat.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/140602dellcomputex.jpgFor example, big name brands like Asus typically use the event to launch a wide range of products. This year, this included such items as the super-slim Asus Book Chi and the multi-mode Book V, which like their other products, have demonstrated that the company has a flair for innovation that easily rivals the big western and Korean names. In addition, Intel has been a long stalwart at Computex, premiered its fanless reference design tablet that runs on the Llama Mountain chipset.

And much like CES, there were plenty of cool gadgets to be seen. This included a GPS tracker that can be attached to a dog collar to track a pet’s movements; the Fujitsu laptop, a hardy new breed of gadget that showcases Japanese designers’ aim to make gear that are both waterproof and dustproof; the Rosewill Chic-C powerbank that consists of 1,000mAh battery packs that attach together to give additional power and even charge gadgets; and the Altek Cubic compact camera that fits in the palm of the hand.

https://i1.wp.com/twimages.vr-zone.net/2013/12/altek-Cubic-1.jpgAnd then there was the Asus wireless storage, a gadget that looks like an air freshener, but is actually a wireless storage device that can be paired with a smartphone using near-field communication (NFC) technology – essentially being able to transfer info simply by bringing a device into near-proximity with it. And as always, there were plenty of cameras, display headsets, mobile devices, and wearables. This last aspect was particularly ever-present, in the form of look-alike big-name wearables.

By and all large, the devices displayed this year were variations on a similar theme: wrist-mounted fitness trackers, smartwatches, and head-mounted smartglasses. The SiMEye smartglass display, for example, was every bit inspired by Google Glass, and even bears a strong resemblance. Though the show was admittedly short on innovation over imitation, it did showcase a major trend in the computing and tech industry.

http://img.scoop.it/FWa9Z463Q34KPAgzjElk3Tl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBVvK0kTmF0xjctABnaLJIm9In his keynote speech, Microsoft’s Nick Parker talked about the age of ubiquitous computing, and the “devices we carry on us, as opposed to with us.” What this means is, we may very well be entering a PC-less age, where computing is embedded in devices of increasingly diminished size. Eventually, it could even be miniaturized to the point where it is stitched into our clothing as accessed through contacts, never mind glasses or headsets!

Sources: cnet.com, (2), (3), computextaipei.com

The Future of Electronics: Touch Taiwan 2013!

touch-taiwan_amoledEvery year, companies from all over the world that are dedicated to creating touch surfaces, displays, and personal digital devices convene on Taipei Taiwan for the International Touch Panel and Optical Film Exhibition – otherwise known as Touch Taiwan. Running from August 28th to 30th, visitors were treated to over 1000 exhibition booths that showcased the latest from developers in touch panels, OLED, flexible displays and optical films.

One such company is AUO, a display company based in Taiwan, which is working on flexible, ultra-thin technology. Much like the AMOLED (Active-Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode) display Nokia showcased at CES in Las Vegas last year, the AUO exhibit showed a series of screens that could be bent, but would still broadcast a crystal clear imagine with 512 pixels per inch.

This is in keeping with the apparent “pixel race” that is on, where developers are trying to outdo each other in sheer pixel density. 512 seems to be the current high, though that can be expecting to change soon! And though the AUO displays seen here are not yet been available on a specific device, it is clear that future devices will look something like this:

AUO Ultra-Thin Display Tech:


Another big hit at the show were display glasses. Clearly, the consumer electronics industry is now in a race to create the next generation of Google Glass, looking for ways to improve on the existing technology by making it smaller, cheaper, and the images sharper. That was the rationale behind CPT’s display booth, where a series of display glasses were shown that relied on a “smartbox” displays rather than display lenses.

As you can see, the smartbox resides in the upper right corner of the glasses, which a person can consult whenever they are out and about. Simply look to your upper right to get a desktop image or browse, and look away to see the rest of the world. The goal here is clearly utilitarian, with CPT hoping to create something that could beam images into your eye without fear of distraction.

What’s impressive about this is the fact that CPT was able to use AMOLED technology to create detailed, multi-colored images with 200 ppi in a smartbox display that was only half an inch big. The technology is ready to ship, so expect to see a wider range of display glasses at your electronics store soon!

CPT AMOLED Smart Glass:


Aside from AMOLED technology are the equally important developments being made in Micro-Light Emitting Diode (or MLED) technology, which offers the same benefits as LEDs but in a much smaller package which relies on significantly less power. The company leading the charge here is ITRI, a research division of the Taiwanese government that also creates consumer electronics.

So far, the display is monochromatic, as you can see from the video below. However, ITRI expects to have a full-color version ready towards the end of 2013. Have a gander:

ITRI MicroLED Display:


And then there was Corning Glass, which once again made big waves with the display of their “Gorilla Glass”, a next-generation type of display glass developed with Microsoft. As their promotional video from last year demonstrated (“A Day with Glass”), the company hopes that this new type of display surface will one day be integrated into all walks of life because of its sheer versatility.

And aside from the usual benefit being offered – a thin surface that is sensitive to touch commanders and offers high-definition imagery – Gorilla Glass (as its name suggests) is also highly resistant to damage. Whereas other makers are focusing on small devices that can withstand damage by being flexible, Corning and Microsoft are thinking big and resilient. Check out the video:

Gorilla Glass Demo:


If it were not already clear from all the new devices making it to the street in recent years, these exhibitions certainly confirm that the future is getting increasingly digitized, personalized, ergonomic, and invasive! And the devices powering this future, allowing us to network and access untold amounts of information at any moment in our day, are looking more and more like something out of a William Gibson or Charles Stross novel!

If I weren’t such a sci-fi geek, I might be worried!

Sources: mobilegeeks.com, displaytawain.com, chaochao.com.tw

The Future of Medicine: Smartphone Medicine!

iphone_specIt’s no secret that the exponential growth in smartphone use has been paralleled by a similar growth in what they can do. Everyday, new and interesting apps are developed which give people the ability to access new kinds of information, interface with other devices, and even perform a range of scans on themselves. It is this latter two aspect of development which is especially exciting, as it is opening the door to medical applications.

Yes, in addition to temporary tattoos and tiny medimachines that can be monitored from your smartphone or other mobile computing device, there is also a range of apps that allow you to test your eyesight and even conduct ultrasounds on yourself. But perhaps most impressive is the new Smartphone Spectrometer, an iPhone program which will allow users to diagnose their own illnesses.

iphone_spec2Consisting of an iPhone cradle, phone and app, this spectrometer costs just $200 and has the same level of diagnostic accuracy as a $50,000 machine, according to Brian Cunningham, a professor at the University of Illinois, who developed it with his students. Using the phone’s camera and a series of optical components in the cradle, the machine detects the light spectrum passing through a liquid sample.

This liquid can consist of urine or blood, any of the body’s natural fluids that are exhibit traces of harmful infection when they are picked up by the body. By comparing the sample’s spectrum to spectrums for target molecules, such as toxins or bacteria, it’s possible to work out how much is in the sample. In short, a quickie diagnosis for the cost of a fancy new phone.

Granted there are limitations at this point. For one, the device is nowhere near as efficient as its industrial counterpart. Whereas automated $50,000 version can process up to 100 samples at a time, the iPhone spectrometer can only do one at a time. But by the time Cunningham and his team plan on commercializing the design, they hope to increase that efficiency by a few magnitudes.

iphone_spec1On the plus side, the device is far more portable than any other known spectrometer. Whereas a lab is fixed in place and has to process thousands of samples at any given time, leading to waiting lists, this device can be used just about anywhere. In addition, there’s no loss of accuracy. As Cunningham explained:

We were using the same kits you can use to detect cancer markers, HIV infections, or certain toxins, putting the liquid into our cartridge and measuring it on the phone. We have compared the measurements from full pieces of equipment, and we get the same outcome.

Cunningham is currently filing a patent application and looking for investment. He also has a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop an Android version. And while he doesn’t think smartphone-based devices will replace standard spectrometry machines with long track records, and F.D.A approval, he does believe they could enable more testing.

publiclaboratoryThis is especially in countries where government-regulated testing is harder to come by, or where medical facilities are under-supplied or waiting lists are prohibitively long. With diseases like cancer and HIV, early detection can be the difference between life and death, which is a major advantage, according to Cunningham:

In the future, it’ll be possible for someone to monitor themselves without having to go to a hospital. For example, that might be monitoring their cardiac disease or cancer treatment. They could do a simple test at home every day, and all that information could be monitored by their physician without them having to go in.

But of course, the new iPhone is not alone. Many other variations are coming out, such as the PublicLaboratory Mobile Spectrometer, or Androids own version of the Spectral Workbench. And of course, this all calls to mind the miniature spectrometer that Jack Andraka, the 16-year old who invented a low-cost litmus test for pancreatic cancer and who won the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). That’s him in the middle of the picture below:

ISEF2012-Top-Three-WinnersIt’s the age of mobile medicine, my friends. Thanks to miniaturization, nanofabrication, wireless technology, mobile devices, and an almost daily rate of improvement in medical technology, we are entering into an age where early detection and cost-saving devices are making medicine more affordable and accessible.

In addition, all this progress is likely to add up to many lives being saved, especially in developing regions or low-income communities. It’s always encouraging when technological advances have the effect of narrowing the gap between the haves and the have nots, rather than widening it.

And of course, there’s a video of the smartphone spectrometer at work, courtesy of Cunningham’s research team and the University of Illinois:


Source:
fast.coexist.com

The Future is Here: The Personal Fitness Band

Fitbit-FlexOf all the important new gadgets to make it to the Consumer Electronics Show this year, one stood out as far as morning joggers and fitness gurus were concerned. It’s called the Fitbit Flex, an activity tracker designed to be worn all day and monitor movement, sleep, and calories burned. In an age where electronics are getting more personal, flexible, and wearable, it seems that fitness industry is determined not to be left behind.

While the concept of a wearable fitness tracker is not entirely new, the Flex incorporates a number of new developments in the field of personalized technology. For starters, as the name suggests, its a flexible bracelet that is comfortable enough to be worn all day long and malleable enough to stay firmly wrapped around your wrist. And unlike pedometers or heart rate monitors which monitor a single vital function or activity, the Flex is designed to monitor all simultaneously and in terms of the individuals stated fitness goals.

fitbit_flex_syncAnd to top it all off, the band uses a wireless Bluetooth connection to sync with PCs and smartphones. This last aspect is something Fitbit is quite proud off, as the Flex is the first fitness band to sync using the latest Bluetooth 4.0 standard. In addition, the company has announced that it will eventually support Bluetooth syncing of fitness data with Android devices once an update becomes available, hopefully by late January or early February.

nike-fuelband-01Already, other companies have released fitness monitors similar to this new product. The Nike Fuelband is one such competitor, a flexible band that also used LED lights to indicate heart rate, distance, and overall fitness performance. It is also designed to sync up with mobile devices using the Nike+ iPod accessory. What’s more, the company claims that the band and a users Nike+ account will keep long-term track of a person’s fitness and offer incentives (such as awards badges) and motivational tips.

jawbone-upA third contender is the Jawbone Up band, another monitoring band that is even slimmer and more ergonic, as far as wearing it all day is concerned. Like it’s co-competitors, it too is syncable to an iPhone thanks to its specialized app. But unlike the others, it is designed to literally be worn 24/7, thus painting a more complete picture of a person’s health and fitness. What’s more, it has no screen, making its results only available through syncing.

All told, these bands and those like them range in cost from $100 to $269.99, and are somewhat limited in that not all are Bluetooth capable or able to link up with devices other than iPhones or unless you have an account with them (Nike+ being the big example here). But of course, that’s par for the course when it comes to competition between designers, who only want you to use their products and those they have business ties with.

All that aside, these and other products like them made a big impact at CES this year because they signaled that the fitness industry is on board with some of the latest trends and innovations. As technology continues to improve, we can expect more and more of our needs and wants to be handled by portable, wearable and (coming soon!) implantable electronics that are capable of interfacing with external computers to monitor, store and share our data.

Source: news.cnet.com, (2), (3)