Tag: Wearables

Researchers create prosthetic hand that offers more lifelike dexterity

Researchers at Georgia Tech have developed a prosthetic hand inspired by the bionic one given to Star Wars' Luke Skywalker. What sets this one apart from other prosthetics is the amount of dexterity it offers, allowing users to move individual fingers at will. With it, Jason Barnes, the amputee working with the researchers, was able to play piano for the first time since losing part of his arm in 2012.

Most available prosthetics use electromyogram (EMG) sensors to translate muscle movement where the limb was removed to hand and finger motions. But those types of sensors are pretty limited in what they can do. "EMG sensors aren't very accurate," Gil Weinberg, the professor leading the project, said in a statement. "They can detect a muscle movement, but the signal is too noisy to infer which finger the person wants to move." So the team took their prosthetic one step further and attached an ultrasound probe. Just as physicians can use ultrasound machines to take a look at a fetus inside of a womb, the probe can see which muscles are moving in an amputee's arm. Algorithms can then translate that into individual finger movements. "By using this new technology, the arm can detect which fingers an amputee wants to move, even if they don't have fingers," said Weinberg.

There are a number of groups working on improving prosthetics and trying to make them more lifelike. Some of those efforts include introducing tactile feedback to let users know where their prosthetic is without having to look and giving prosthetics the ability to see what they need to grasp. DARPA even has an advanced prosthetic named LUKE, also inspired by Skywalker.

This isn't the first prosthetic built for Barnes by the Georgia Tech team. In 2014, they gave him an arm that let him play drums. It even had a second drumstick that moved based on the music being played and could play faster than any human drummer. About his second, dexterous prosthetic, Barnes said, "It's completely mind-blowing. This new arm allows me to do whatever grip I want, on the fly, without changing modes or pressing a button. I never thought we'd be able to do this."

Source: Georgia Tech


Google reveals all the Android Wear watches getting Oreo

Google left us in the dark for a bit as to which Android Wear smartwatches are getting Oreo. Thankfully, just a few days after its official arrival, we're getting the lowdown on device upgrades. Aside from the LG Watch Sport, which was spotted with Oreo last week, an additional four smartwatches are getting the Android bump (peep the full list below). The update brings with it some technical modifications, including vibration strength settings for notifications, touch lock, and battery-saving enhancements.

The list is mainly made up of smartwatches from fashion brands, such as Louis Vuitton, while older Android Wear devices and the Asus ZenWatch 3 have been left out for now -- among them the LG Watch R, and the original Huawei Watch and 2nd gen Moto 360/Sport from 2015 (as noted by 9to5Google). Getting stuck on Nougat doesn't bode well for those that didn't make the cut.

Android Wear Oreo(8.0) update is already available in the following watches:

Fossil Q Venture

LG Watch Sport

Louis Vuitton Tambour

Michael Kors Sofie

Montblanc Summit

Watches that are currently pursuing the Android Wear Oreo (8.0) update:

Casio PRO TREK Smart WSD-F20

Casio WSD-F10 Smart Outdoor Watch

Diesel Full Guard

Emporio Armani Connected

Fossil Q Control

Fossil Q Explorist

Fossil Q Founder 2.0

Fossil Q Marshal

Fossil Q Wander

Gc Connect

Guess Connect

Huawei Watch 2

Hugo BOSS BOSS Touch

LG Watch Style

Michael Kors Access Bradshaw

Michael Kors Access Dylan

Michael Kors Access Grayson

Misfit Vapor

Mobvoi Ticwatch S & E

Movado Connect

Nixon Mission

Polar M600

TAG Heuer Tag Connected Modular 45

Tommy Hilfiger 24/7 You

ZTE Quartz

Source: Google


The best touchscreen winter gloves

By Nick Guy

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

Over the past five winters, we've tested 47 pairs of touchscreen gloves while moving half ton of stumps, climbing on ice, and just walking and biking around town. For the third year in a row, Moshi's Digits are our favorite touchscreen gloves for most people, offering the right combination of warmth, dexterity, and grip. They aren't the absolute warmest touchscreen gloves you can buy, but they're warmer than anything that's better for using on touchscreens, and better for using on touchscreens than anything that's warmer.

Who should buy these

Touchscreen gloves are for anyone who uses a smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch and lives (or regularly visits) somewhere that gets cold. At some point or another, you'll be out in the cold and need to respond to a text you just received, or to use your device for some other reason, and you won't want to strip down to do it. Touchscreen gloves are also handy for drivers of cars with touchscreen panels.

How we picked and tested

Over the past several years, we've spent more than 30 hours researching hundreds of gloves. We've conducted testing across cold winters in Oregon and in Buffalo, New York. Some years we've tested during hikes and ski trips, and other times we've used gloves while walking around downtown in the evenings and during daily dog walks. In 2015, we even tested gloves in a 42º F walk-in cooler at Resurgence Brewing Company in Buffalo, New York. We've also tested durability by running strips of Velcro across one glove from each pair to see if they snagged. To read in detail about our tests throughout the years, check out our full guide to touchscreen gloves.

We also interviewed Matthew Meyer, founder of TouchscreenGloveReviews.com, who has followed the field since 2008 and has reviewed just about every glove available. He looks for three things in every touchscreen glove: grip, 10-finger compatibility, and ease of use (essentially, fit and conductivity).

We looked for gloves that were either gender-neutral or had versions for men and women (though we made some exceptions if a glove really stood out). Fashion was a legitimate concern, but we were more concerned about functionality. We also found that stretchier gloves made from knit and spandex were more pleasant to use with touchscreens, though fleece is a better option if warmth is your top concern.

Every winter, we've noticed that the stock for our touchscreen-gloves picks grows thinner as the weather gets colder. The following picks were available at the time of this writing, but we've had to adjust our recommendations several times over the years due to stock issues.

Our pick

The grips on the palms of the Moshi Digits help to keep your phone from slipping. (The current version adds grippy dots to the palm.) Photo: Kevin Purdy

Moshi's Digits are the touchscreen gloves we recommend for most people. First and foremost, they're very good knit winter gloves, as they kept our hands pretty warm in even subfreezing weather. On top of that, we found ourselves able to thumb-type with little issue; with autocorrect turned on, we had zero typos in our typing tests. A rubberized palm helps to keep your phone from slipping out of your hand. For 2017, Moshi added a pattern of dots to the inside of the palm for an even better grip.

Above all else, the snug fit throughout the hand and fingers (including at the tips) and a lack of seams on the fingertips gave the Digits the edge in accuracy and handling over competitors. We were very impressed with the responsiveness in our testing: Despite the gloves' slightly bulky feel, we found typing easy, even with our thumbs.

A thinner pick for warmer climates

The Glider Gloves Urban Style Touchscreen Gloves were our original pick, several years ago, for the best touchscreen gloves, and we still like them. Their conductivity is great, and because they're thin, they're also very accurate if you get a good fit (we recommend sizing down if your fingers are shorter than average).

The reason they're no longer the top pick is that warmer designs with a comparable level of touch accuracy are available: The Urban Style gloves have a single-layer knit style, so they're less resistant to wind; they stop being warm enough somewhere in the high 30s. That said, the Urban Style gloves are still a great buy if you live in a more-temperate area or don't venture out into the cold much.

Premium leather

Kent Wang's Deerskin gloves are a good pick if fashion is your primary focus. Photo: Kevin Purdy

If you insist on an all-leather glove, chances are you're concerned enough with fashion that you know what you want already. We thought the Kent Wang Deerskin gloves were a good premium option for those who want the look and feel of all-leather while maintaining touchscreen compatibility.

The Deerskin gloves are made of calf leather and deerskin and are classically designed—there's no way to tell them apart from a pair of gloves that aren't touchscreen compatible, as they don't look "techy." We found them to fit well, with a little more give than other leather gloves that can be too constricting.

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.


HTC’s standalone Vive Focus launches in China for $600

While we've already taken a good look at the Vive Focus standalone VR headset with 6DoF "world-scale" tracking, HTC had yet to reveal its detailed specs nor price, but almost a month later, we finally have some answers. First of all, as of December 12th, the device will be available for pre-ordering in China starting from 3,999 yuan or about $600, with shipment commencing in January next year. The base price isn't far off from the original PC-tethered Vive which is priced at $599 before tax in the US (in China it costs 5,488 yuan which is about $830). Better yet, that price applies to a new white version which, in my opinion, is much better looking than the original "electric blue" -- that's now a limited edition priced at 4,299 yuan (about $650).

In addition to pricing and availability, HTC also shed more light on the internal specifications. We already knew about the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset deep inside the Vive Focus, and now we're also told that there's a 2,880 x 1,600 single-piece AMOLED display, which is actually sharper than the Vive's 2,160 x 1,200 made up of two AMOLED panels. While both headsets have the same 110-degree field of view, the Vive Focus' 75 Hz refresh rate is a little slower than the Vive's 90 Hz. Alas, the mechanism of the inside-out tracking module remains a mystery for now. There's also no figure on the weight yet, but as mentioned in our hands-on, it felt lighter than its tethered counterpart.

In terms of battery life, HTC claims that a single charge is good for up to three hours of continuous use or over a week on standby. When depleted, you can bring it back to life using Quick Charge 3.0 via USB-C. As for connectivity, the Vive Focus features WiFi and Bluetooth, but there's no cellular radio here. The WiFi part also supports Miracast for streaming to TVs, which worked well during the demos I saw at last month's launch event. And speaking of Bluetooth, that's for hooking up to accessories such as the bundled 3DoF controller, which runs on two AAA batteries for up to 30 hours of usage.

That's pretty much it in terms of fresh details regarding HTC's Vive Focus. As before, it's still unclear as to whether this VR headset will ever make it outside of China and go head-to-head against Oculus' Project Santa Cruz (not to be confused with the $199, 3DoF-only Oculus Go). Still, with the seeming flexibility of porting content across Daydream and Vive Wave, HTC's VR efforts in China should still be somewhat beneficial to Lenovo's upcoming Daydream Standalone device, which the rest of the world can still look forward to.

Via: Engadget Chinese

Source: HTC Vive (Chinese)


Android Wear’s Oreo upgrade is ready

Google has been doling out Oreo treats to a bunch of devices of late. The HTC U11 got the bump last week, followed by Android 8.1 landing on Nexus and Pixel devices. Now, it's Android Wear's turn. After all, there's nothing like a software upgrade to assure skeptics that you're still serious about wearables. (You can blame the scare on Google's abrupt removal of Android Wear hardware from its online store). A developer advocate in the big G's Android Wear community on Google+ announced Oreo's roll out, "starting today." But, as with handsets, "timing is determined by each watch's manufacturer." The update has been spotted on the LG Watch Sport, notes Android Police.

Unlike Android Wear 2.0., Oreo doesn't mark any big shifts on the design or functionality fronts. There are tweaks galore, though, including vibration strength settings for notifications, touch lock, and battery-saving enhancements.

Google adds that Android Wear is now available in seven additional regions and several new languages, including Belgium (Dutch), Czech Republic (Czech), El Salvador (Spanish), Honduras (Spanish), Nigeria (English), Paraguay (Spanish), and Portugal (Portuguese).

Via: Android Police

Source: Hoi Lam (Google+)


MIT researchers made a living ink that responds to its surroundings

Researchers at MIT have developed a 3D printable hydrogel that can sense and respond to stimuli. The hydrogel is loaded with bacteria that can be genetically programmed to light-up when they come in contact with certain chemicals and, therefore, could be used as living sensors.

To demonstrate the living ink's abilities, the researchers printed the hydrogel in a tree pattern with different sections of the tree's branches containing bacteria sensitive to different types of chemicals. They then smeared those chemicals on a person's skin and put the 3D-printed tree-shaped "living tattoo" on top. When the branches came in contact with those chemicals, the bacteria were triggered to fluoresce.

"This is very future work, but we expect to be able to print living computational platforms that could be wearable," researcher Hyunwoo Yuk said in a statement. Some examples of possible future applications of this type of technology could be living sensors programmed to monitor inflammatory biomarkers or ingestible versions that can affect gut microbiota. Bacteria-loaded materials like this could also be used to sense pollutants in the environment or changes in temperature, for example.

The research was published today in Advanced Materials and you can check out the video below for more information on the project.

Image: Liu et al.

Via: MIT

Source: Advanced Materials


Fitbit’s Ionic will let you stream Deezer from your wrist

Fitbit's Ionic smartwatch suffers from a dearth of apps, we noted in our Engadget review, but the wearable firm is trying to flip that equation with an update to its Fitbit OS. It brings over 100 new watch faces and 60 apps, including Yelp, Nest, Hue Lights and Flipboard. The most interesting one is Deezer, as it will run on the Ionic without a smartphone, lightening the load for runners and other athletes. The company also launched Fitbit Labs, a new effort to create apps that motivate athlete behavior changes and accelerate Fitbit's pace of innovation.

The addition of more apps is a big deal for Fitbit, because as of now, the Ionic only supports Pandora, AccuWeather, Starbucks (in North America) and Strava. Along with those already mentioned, apps available today for free download include the female health tracking app Clue, Game Golf's score tracker, which will give precise distances to the green, Surfline, The New York Times app, TripAdvisor and United Airlines. More are coming in January, including British Airways, Lyft and Walgreens.

The lack of music services is a sore point on the Fitbit Ionic, but Deezer will come to the device around the world later in 2018. The main takeaway is that you can listen to music offline and without the need for a phone, presumably on wireless headphones or earbuds like Apple's AirPods. A full feature list isn't available yet, but Deezer says that Premium Plus subscribers will get a personalized music experience and be able to use Flow, which creates a personalized soundtrack using smart data, editorial recommendations and analytics.

Fitbit has occasionally struggled with product and feature design, so Fitbit Labs is an effort to keep its apps, watchfaces and other software features on track. The company is using its savoir faire in data analysis and behavioral sciences "to test potential new features in the form of experimental apps and smart clock faces designed to motivate users and drive behavior change," it wrote. There's also a new APK for developers.

Fitbit Labs has built a few fanciful apps like Fitbit Pet, that keeps you active by caring for a virtual dog or cat, and Treasure Trek, a gamification app aimed at motivating you toward your step goals. Others include the Mood Log mood tracker, Tennis game-tracking app, and the Think Fast task-switching game that shows how sleep and nutrition impact your mental sharpness. Fitbit Pet is available now, and the other apps are coming by the end of the year.

Other new features include enhanced options for Fitbit Pay and the Fitbit Leaderboard directly on the Ionic watch. The company said it will continue to add new apps and clockfaces "throughout 2018 and beyond."

It's always an uphill battle for an individual manufacturer like Fitbit to get developers on board, considering that they may already be working on Android Wear and watchOS apps. Fitbit is a big enough player in the health and fitness game to make it work, but it'll have to continue to develop and expand Fitbit OS and its Ionic lineup. The new OS and apps, available today for Ionic owners, will likely help that cause.


Google lets developers find 3D assets without leaving VR

Google recently unveiled Poly to give VR and AR developers an easy way to find 3D assets for their virtual worlds. Now, it has introduced Poly API to help developers work with and discover those assets directly in virtual reality. "It's just so much more natural to work in VR in something like [VR painting tool] Tilt Brush and then use it in a VR project," said CEO Max Weisel from VR developer Normal.

Poly, as a reminder, is a big collection of royalty-free 3D objects and "scenes" that developers can incorporate into virtual or augmented reality apps, games, and other programs. The idea is to help creators populate their worlds with objects (either as-is or modified) to boost development speed and quality.

With its Daydream platform, Google has a vested interest in getting as many AR and VR apps out there as possible. Nevertheless, the objects will work on other platforms, too, including Apple's ARKit. They include simple characters and objects like trees, plants, fountains, or bricks, along with more elaborate things like a full 3D version of Wonder Woman.

Poly API lets developers pore through its large collection of assets, while interacting directly with them via Poly in VR. You can search by keyword, category, format, popularity or date uploaded, and even by model complexity and other factors. "Think of Poly like Google for assets," said Mindshow CCO Jonnie Ross.

For developers using Unity or Unreal Engine, Google has also created the Poly Toolkit, letting you import 3D objects and scenes directly into a project. "Finding and creating 3D assets are both time-consuming processes," said Mindshow CEO Gil Baron. "Poly API not only speeds up the exploration of production, but the production itself." For consumers, that should in turn lead to more and better VR apps.


FDA clears first EKG band for the Apple Watch

AliveCor's KardiaBand, a device that detect dangerous heart rhythms, has become the first Apple Watch accessory cleared for medical use by the FDA, the company announced. It can capture your EKG in 30 seconds, then detect problems like atrial fibrillation, a type of heart arrhythmia.

In addition, the company launched a new version of the band today in the US with a feature called SmartRhythm. That uses Apple's built-in heart rate sensor and AI algorithms to warn you if your heart rate is elevated when you're not exercising or doing strenuous activities.

FDA clearance means that AliveCor can sell and market it as a medical device, but users don't need doctor approval to use it. "The average consumer doesn't know what a normal sinus rhythm looks like or what atrial fibrillation looks like. Yet the FDA has cleared our individual algorithms," AliveCor CEO and former Google exec Vic Gundotra told Business Insider. "We have the clinical studies to prove it."

These capabilities will allow people to easily and discreetly check their heart rhythms when they may be abnormal, capturing essential information to help doctors identify the issue and inform a clear path of care to help manage AFib, a leading cause of stroke, and other serious conditions.

The device uses AI to determine what range of heart and EKG readings are correct for individual users, rather than just a generic group. If the band detects problems, it will advise you to take a more accurate EKG test. You can also use AliveCor's voice recognition tech to describe your symptoms aloud, and the watch will combine all the data. It can even email an analysis to your doctor.

AliveCor's KardiaBand is now available for a reasonable $200, but you'll need a premium $99 per year ($10 per month) subscription to get all the features and analysis. That means it's more or less aimed at patients who might have reasons to worry about abnormal heart rhythms because of a family history or previous diagnosis.

That will put older patients squarely in the target market, but Gundotra said that ease-of-use was high on the design list for AliveCor. "The members of our team are people who build consumer products and so we know what it takes to run a product that a 55 year old can use," he said.

Source: AliveCor (PR Newswire)


HTC’s latest VR investments include a brain control startup

HTC is continuing its quest to fund promising VR startups, and its latest batch includes a few pushing the boundaries of what's possible in virtual spaces. The Vive X program is backing 26 companies that include Neurable, the company building a brain control system for the Vive headset -- they'll have help fulfilling their vision of wand-free VR. Other notable investment targets include eLoupes' light-field based surgery imaging system, QuarkVR's 4K-per-eye simultaneous video streaming and Wewod's location-based VR (which has served customers like Disney and Nintendo).

Other startups focus on everything from racing simulators and theme park rides to behind-the-scenes frameworks for multiplayer or VR character animation.

The support brings Vive X's startup tally to more than 80 companies and gives a better picture of HTC's strategy. Itwants to get its fingers in as many pies as possible to foster the VR community at large and create a wider audience for its headsets. Some of these startups could wind up supporting the competition as well, but HTC is clearly betting that it's worth the risk.

Source: Vive