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Samsung may have an answer to Apple's AirPower wireless charger

July 22, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Whenever Apple releases its AirPower multi-device charger, it might have some fresh competition. Recently discovered images and listings have revealed Samsung’s Wireless Charger Duo, which (as the name implies) could offer fast charging to two devices at once. It wouldn’t be as flexible as Apple’s device since you’d need to place your devices on specific spots. However, you could top up a phone and the upcoming Galaxy Watch at the same time, or even two phones at once if you’re using it as a family charging station.

We wouldn’t make bets on pricing at this point. Given that the leaks revolve heavily around the Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy Watch, there’s a good chance that Samsung could unveil the Wireless Charger Duo at its August 9th event. It might just be a matter of weeks before you can check one out first-hand.

This is the Samsung Wireless Charger Duo (EP-N6100) for the Galaxy Note 9. Charges the Galaxy Watch alongside the phone.

— Roland Quandt (@rquandt) July 21, 2018

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Wearable gauges fitness through stress hormones in your sweat

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Paper Boat Creative via Getty Images

Cortisol (best known as the stress hormone) is handy for tracking your athletic performance and even spotting signs of disease, since it reflects how well your adrenal or pituitary glands are working. But there’s a problem: measuring that often takes several days of lab work, by which point the info is no longer relevant. Scientists might have a much better option. They’ve developed a flexible, wearable sweat sensor (not shown here) that tracks cortisol levels with results in seconds — that is, while it’s at its most useful. It sounds straightforward, but the team had to overcome a major obstacle common to most biological sensors.

A typical sensor looks for the positive or negative charge in molecules, but that’s not really an option with a chargeless substance like cortisol. The researchers tackled this with a membrane that binds only to cortisol and lets regular charged molecules pass through. The sensor then measures the cortisol-carrying molecules trapped by the membrane, rather than the cortisol itself. All you need to do is visibly sweat and apply the patch.

The technology isn’t perfect in its current incarnation. It can work multiple times, but it struggles if bogged down in sweat. They also want to improve the overall reliability and try using it on your saliva, saving you from having to work out to gather data. Nonetheless, the potential is clear. This could help sports stars and fitness mavens quantify their abilities mere moments after finishing a sweaty workout, and it might provide clues to otherwise imperceptible illnesses.

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Magic Leap’s lackluster AR demo proves hardware is still hard

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0


Magic Leap announced last week that its mixed reality glasses — which have been shrouded in mystery and hype for almost four years — will be available later this summer. What should’ve been exciting news unfortunately fell flat. In a developer chat on Twitch that same day, the company showed off a less-than-impressive pre-recorded demo of a small rock golem throwing some rubble around. Compared to earlier videos of a crashing whale in the middle of a gym and a floating solar system, this just came off as disappointing. Was this all there was?

The next day, Magic Leap co-founder Rony Abrovitz went on Twitter to explain that the video was a teaching tool for the creator and developer community. “Any video or 2D medium (photos) is completely inadequate to actually deliver the experience of a digital lightfield on ML1,” he tweeted, saying that the Magic Leap hardware is tuned to the way the human eye works, and is not designed for camera sensors. In short, it’s better if you try it.

While that might be true, it’s clear from the backlash that the public’s patience for Magic Leap has grown thin. Over the past four years, the company raised over $2.3 billion in funding, with a chunk of early investment from Google all raising our expectations. The company also released those aforementioned teaser videos, where it really seemed as if it could conjure up virtual creatures and have them interact with the real world.

DEMO MOVIE2 #magicleap #magicleaplive #マジックリープ

— Sadao Tokuyama@MagicLeaper.unity (@tokufxug) July 11, 2018

As great as it seemed, the company has been incredibly secretive, letting only select media try it first hand. There were also reports that some of those early videos were fake, and created with special effects. Combine that with the lackluster golem demo and the fact that it’ll be an AT&T-exclusive and Magic Leap seems like an overhyped mess.

Which, unfortunately, casts doubt on the state of augmented reality in general. While virtual reality is slowly gaining popularity, AR just doesn’t seem to have succeeded in the same way. Google couldn’t make Glass work despite its deep well of resources, and Microsoft’s HoloLens is still very much in the developer stage. Even Apple, which is said to be making its own AR glasses, apparently won’t have anything to show until 2020 at the earliest. What is it that makes AR so difficult? And why hasn’t it taken off?

Except, it sort of has… in the enterprise world, that is. “There are actually over 50 smart glass manufacturers out there in the market now,” said Ori Inbar, the founder of Augmented World Expo and partner of Super Ventures, a venture fund that focuses on augmented reality.

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Those manufacturers include Vuzix, ODG, Meta, Solos, Epson and Atheer to name a few, and almost all of them make some kind of AR headset, primarily for businesses — helping technicians fix a

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Corning Unveils Gorilla Glass DX and Gorilla Glass DX+ for Wearables

July 20, 2018 — by Anandtech.com0


Corning has introduced its new Gorilla Glass DX and DX+ protective glass substrates designed specifically for wearables and featuring not only scratch resistance and durability, but also antireflective and contrast-improving properties.

Corning’s Gorilla Glass DX and Gorilla Glass DX+ are evolution of the company’s Gorilla Glass SR+ protective composites for wearables and other devices featuring small screens. In a bid to better address applications like smartwatches, the new substrates feature an antireflective property that is said to be 75% better than that of ‘standard glass’ as well as a special structure that improves contrast ratio of a display by 50% at the same brightness level vs. standard glass. Both features are important for wearables because they reduce necessity to increase brightness and therefore prolong battery life.

When it comes to differences between Gorilla Glass DX and Gorilla Glass DX+, Corning says that while optical properties are the same, the latter features a better scratch resistance that approaches that of “alternative luxury cover materials.” It is unknown whether the DX+ is comparable to sapphire glass, but it is natural for Corning to compete against this material used on fine watches and expensive smartphones. 

As usual, Corning does not disclose chemical composition of its Gorilla Glass DX and DX+ substrates and the only thing we know that they are good enough for wearables. Meanwhile, they are not going to replace Gorilla Glass 5/6 on smartphones, possibly because their properties do not work so well on larger screens that are used differently than wearables (e.g., smartphones fall many times throughout their lifetime, wearables usually do not). Corning does say that the DX and DX+ substrates could be used for devices with screens larger than LCDs of smart watches, but does not elaborate.

Corning did not indicate when it expects its customers to start adoption of the Gorilla Glass DX and DX+.

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Under Armour’s Sport Wireless Train headphones are ready for the gym

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0


Last month, Under Armour launched its Project Rock on-ear headphones, which are built for intense workouts and were designed in collaboration with Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock). But not every fitness buff is going to be a fan of him (even though they should be, because gains), so it only made sense for the company to introduce a model without all his Rock branding. Enter the Sport Wireless Train, Under Armour’s latest on-ear headphones, created alongside audio firm JBL. The new set was first revealed in 2017 and looks nearly identical to the Project Rocks, with the only difference being the UA and JBL logos on the earcups and headband, respectively.

Outside of the design, Under Armour and JBL tuned the Sport Wireless Trains to be more neutral than the Project Rocks, which are quite bass heavy. I was able to notice that right away when I listened to a couple of albums on the Sport Wireless Trains — the vocals just seemed to pop and be more clear in every track. The other main difference, and this is a big one, is that UA made the Sport Wireless Trains $50 cheaper than the $250 Project Rocks. $200 is a much more compelling price point, especially when it still has all of the features that make The Rock’s pair appeal to people who hit the gym frequently.

The Sport Wireless Trains are made from rugged, sweat-resistant materials (IPX4 rating) and come with breathable ear cushions that can be removed and washed — that’s going to make it easy to clean them after your workouts. They also feature 40mm JBL drivers, a 16-hour battery life (5-minute charge will get you one hour of listening), oversized volume and playback buttons, as well as a 3.5mm audio jack in case you don’t want to do Bluetooth pairing. Additionally, Under Armour is throwing in a 12-month premium subscription to its Map My Fitness service, which is usually costs $30 per year.

Unfortunately, as with the Project Rocks, there’s no active noise-cancelling — and that’s likely going to be a deal-breaker for some people. But if that’s something you can live without, the Sport Wireless Train headphones are hitting stores in early August, though you can pre-order on July 24th from the Under Armour and JBL sites.

Gallery: Under Armour’s Sport Wireless Train headphones | 11 Photos 11 +7

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VR standard promises an end to headset connector headaches

July 18, 2018 — by Engadget.com0


If you’ve used a wired VR headset, you probably know the connector situation is inconsistent and messy: you frequently have to plug multiple cables into your PC, which is space consuming at best and potentially impractical if you have a laptop. That might not be quite such a thorn in your side if a handful of tech industry leaders have their way. AMD, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Oculus and Valve have unveiled VirtualLink, an open standard that would whittle VR headset connections down to a single USB-C cable. It would take advantage of the newer port format to deliver four lanes of DisplayPort video, USB data (for cameras and sensors) and 27W of power. It’s optimized for VR, too, promising low lag and a highly optimized path that would enable the “next generation” of headsets.

The technology is very young. The VirtualLink alliance has only published an “advance overview” of their specification for companies that want to take advantage of it ahead of a 1.0 release, and it will be a while after that before headsets adopt the technology. It’s also based on an assumption that wireless VR won’t become the dominant format. And you may have noticed that HTC isn’t involved, at least at this stage — it might not achieve true harmony so long as Vive owners are using another connector.

Even in this rough state, the appeal is clear. It’d lead to faster setup times even as it remained relatively future-proof, and would bring VR to virtually any laptop with enough power to handle it. You could plug a VR headset into a sufficiently speedy ultraportable. This kind of accessibility could be crucial to making VR accessible to more people, not just enthusiasts with desktops and beefy gaming laptops.

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Using your body to control a drone is more effective than a joystick

July 17, 2018 — by Engadget.com0


If you’ve ever been chastised for throwing your entire body around during gaming (because physically leaning into track corners definitely helps somehow), here’s a bit of science-backed vindication. Researchers in Switzerland have discovered that using your torso to control a drone is far more effective than using a joystick.

The team from EPFL monitored the body movements and muscular activity of 17 people, each with 19 markers placed all over their upper bodies. The participants then followed the actions of a virtual drone through simulated landscapes, via virtual reality goggles. By observing motion patterns, the scientists found that only four markers located on the torso were needed to pilot a drone through an obstacle course, and that the method outperformed joystick control in both precision and reliability.

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The study’s lead author, Jenifer Miehlbradt of EPFL’s Translational Neuroengineering Laboratory, said: “Using your torso really gives you the feeling that you are actually flying. Joysticks, on the other hand, are of simple design but mastering their use to precisely control distant objects can be challenging.”

The proof-of-concept system still depends on body markers and external motion detectors to work, so the team’s next challenge will be making the tech wearable and completely independent. However, the range of applications for it are enormous. Being able to virtually fly while your head, limbs, hand and feet are free to perform other tasks could be a major development for gaming, drone control or even the planes of the future.

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'David Bowie Is' coming to your home through AR and VR

July 16, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

Did you miss your chance to see the David Bowie is museum exhibition and pay tribute to the late, great musician? You won’t have to wallow in regret for very long. The David Bowie Archive, Sony Music, Planeta and the Victoria and Albert Museum have announced plans for both augmented and virtual reality ‘recreations’ of the exhibit. These digital productions will use a series of “audio-visual spaces” to showcase 3D scans of Bowie’s artifacts and let you get much closer than you might in real life. You might not only see a legendary costume, but try it on for yourself.

The exhibition will arrive on all “major” AR and VR platforms at an unspecified point in the future. There’s no exact pricing, but it will carry a cost for a good reason: some of the proceeds will go toward both the V&A Museum and the Brooklyn Museum. Think of it as paying for any other exhibition ticket, only with more flexible visiting hours and no other guests getting in your way.

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Adidas pledges to only use recycled plastics by 2024

July 16, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Edgar Alvarez, Engadget

Adidas is planning to expand its use of recycled plastics well beyond its flagship shoes. The sportswear maker has promised to only use recycled polyester in its shoes and clothing by 2024. While the company’s Eric Liedtke didn’t provide a detailed roadmap in a chat with the Financial Times, he characterized it as a transition that will see Adidas take “right-sized bites” out of its budget to make the switch without hurting its profit margins. It’s no mean feat — about half of Adidas’ material is polyester right now, Liedtke said, so an “overnight” changeover isn’t in the cards.

A lot of that cost likely has to do with economies of scale. Recycled polyester can carry up to a 20 percent premium over the freshly-made variety, and it could prove daunting to process the material in Adidas-level quantities. The company is likely betting that refined techniques will bring the costs down over time.

The company wouldn’t be on the vanguard of embracing recycled plastics. Stella McCartney’s fashion label has vowed to stop using brand new nylon by 2020, as an example. It’d be uncharted territory for a company the size of Adidas, however, and that could have a significant effect on the viability of recycled plastics across the apparel industry. There’s certainly an impetus to make the transition. Eco-conscious design is good for the public image, of course, but it’s also crucial when ocean plastic is a serious problem that will only get worse if usage habits don’t change.

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Armani's latest designer smartwatches come with strap options

July 16, 2018 — by Engadget.com0


Emporio Armani

Emporio Armani has launched new touchscreen smartwatches for those who prefer Google’s Wear OS in a designer package. The fall models feature new dial designs on a 1.19-inch AMOLED display and stainless steel cases. One of them is available with either a metal monolink or a rubber/leather two-piece strap bracelet, while the other comes with either a metal mesh or a leather bracelet — because hey, if you’re buying fashion-focused smartwatches, they better look good.

Since they’re still smart devices and not purely timepieces, the models do come with high-tech features commonly found in wearables. They have heart rate trackers that sync with Google Fit and third-party apps. They also have NFC to give you access to Google Pay (where available) or Alipay in China. You can access Google Assistant through the devices, as well, so you don’t have to take out your phone if you just need to ask the voice assistant something.

The devices are now available for pre-order from Armani’s website — the one with the mono-link bracelet will set you back $395, while the style that comes with a mesh or leather bracelet costs $295. They’ll start shipping and will be available worldwide in September at Armani stores and other retailers.