Wearable Computing

Why Pebble failed

Pebble was an early smartwatch company that launched with a successful Kickstarter back in 2012, with a focus on providing a customizable wearable front-end for apps that ran on your phone. They had pretty good success for the first few years, but then started running into cash problems, and eventually ran out of money and […]

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Book chapter in “Extending Intelligence”

Back in 2001 I was a guest speaker at the Third International Spearman Seminar on Extending Intelligence, a seminar hosted by the Educational Testing Service’s R&D Division and Sydney University’s Department of Psychology. Most of the other speakers were either from the field of education or psychology, but I and a couple other speaker were brought in to provide a view from outside the field. I’m pleased to say those talks have finally been turned into a textbook, Extending Intelligence: Enhancement and New Constructs, including my own chapter “Challenges and Opportunities for Intelligence Augmentation.”

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Head-up display for athletes


Sunglasses company Rodenstock presented Informance, a “design study for the spectacles of the future” at this year’s OPTI trade fair in Munich. Made in conjunction with UK-based Cambridge Consultants, these are a pair of sunglasses with a 160 x 120 pixel head-up-display embedded in the glasses. The design looks similar to the prism-in-glasses approach that MicroOptical (now Myvu) did about 10 years ago.

One of the big problems with the old in-glasses-style MicroOpticals was that the field-of-view was small enough that you really needed a custom fit to put the display in the right location, and even then it was hard to use when walking or running. MicroOptical’s display was at the center rather than the edge of the glasses, which may make a difference — given that Rodenstock intends athletes to use this to see heart-rate, time, etc., I certainly hope so.

(via NewScientistTech via engadget via Fairyshaman)

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Wireless power


Powercast (formerly Firefly Power Technologies, and spin-off based on University of Pittsburgh research) made a splash at CES this year with their dime-sized receiver that harvests RF energy from a nearby wall-wart transmitter. Based on their patent and related tech from PITT, the technology looks pretty darned simple (so simple I’m surprised there’s not prior art, but then this isn’t my field). It’s basically just an antenna with a bunch of taps, each tap consisting of an inductor to resonate with the desired RF frequency and a rectifying diode to turn the energy into DC. That DC voltage is integrated across a series of capacitors, and stored in another capacitor.

I’ve not seen any detailed specs on how efficiency drops off with range from the transmitter, though a Businesses 2.0 write-up claims their range is only about 3 feet, with voltages too small for laptops but good enough for small devices. Their tech has also been tested for recharging wireless sensors at the Pittsburgh Zoo, and Philips is apparently coming out with a wirelessly-powered lightstick using the technology later this year.

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