Wearable Electronics

Wearable Decline Hits Fitbit

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Wearable Decline Hits Fitbit

Fitbit might be the current leader in wearable devices, but things are not looking so rosy for the fitness tracker maker-- the company faces the wrath of Wall Street, as its 2016 results fail to reach expectations.

The company reports Q4 2016 revenue totals $572-580 million from sales reaching 6.5m devices, down from previously announced guidance of $725-750m. It also says 2016 growth is around 17%, instead of growth forecasts of 25-26%. However it does point out a bright spot in EMEA, where Q4 2016 revenue growth reaches 58% Y-o-Y.

“Q4 2016 results are expected to be below our prior guidance range; however, we are confident this performance is not reflective of the value of our brand, market-leading platform, and company’s long-term potential... To address this reduction in growth and what we believe is a temporary slowdown and transition period, we are taking clear steps to reduce operating costs," CEO James Park says.

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A CMRA Camera for the Apple Watch

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A CMRA Camera for the Apple Watch

Customers want to add the capabilities of the first Galaxy Gear to the Apple Watch? Glide has a solution with the CMRA, a band providing a pair of cameras for use with the Apple smartwatch.

Revealed at CES 2017, the CMRA band has an 8MP outwards-facing camera and a 2MP front-facing shooter. Taking a photo simply requires tapping a built-in button, while a long press starts recording video. A double-tap allows users to switch between cameras, and integration with the stock Photos app ensures easy storage, editing and sharing of moments captured with the band.

Glide adds the cameras include tilt-balancing, lens correction, noise reduction and pixel optimisation for the best possible photos, as well as 8GB of onboard flash storage. One can also use the CMRA with the iPhone and Watch chat app for Dick Tracy-style wrist-based videoconferencing or sending of pre-recording video messages. Connectivity with Watch and/or iPhone comes through Bluetooth and wifi.

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A Fitness Tracker Inside a Ring

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A Fitness Tracker Inside a Ring

Motiv has an ambitious take on fitness trackers at CES 2017-- all the components making likes of the Fitbit, including an optical heart rate sensor, crammed in a finger-worn ring.

The Motiv ring has an "ultralight titanium shell" and is powered by a battery charged via including magnetic dock. Like any other fitness tracker it pairs with a companion smartphone app and measures steps, sleep and "active minutes," with the goal of having users do at least some activity for 150 minutes per week.

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Warm Feet Via Connected Heated Insoles

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Warm Feet Via Connected Heated Insoles

Customers suffering from the misery of cold feet now get an smartphone-controlled solution-- +T presents the +Winter, heated insoles featuring Bluetooth connectivity and wireless charging.

Why would a pair of insoles require Bluetooth? It allows users to set a temperature, of course. Such connectivity also monitors battery life, with +T saying the warmth lasts for around 5 hours on a single charge. Making the +Winter insoles even smarter is a built-in accelerometer turning them on when the wearer starts walking.

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IDC Undercalls Apple Watch

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IDC Undercalls Apple Watch

The International Data Corporation (IDC) has again reported Apple Watch shipments of only 1.1M in its wearables report for Q3 2016, matching the assessment it gave in its smartwatch report in October. This is 72% down its reported 3.9M units in Q3 2015.

However there are many reasons why these numbers should be treated with caution.

Like many, IDC appears to have got caught up in the excitement of the Apple Watch launch, and suggested frothy early numbers, then overcorrected in 2016. Others have been rather more bullish about ongoing Apple Watch momentum: Canalys for example tracked Apple Watch shipments at 2.8M units in the same period, 2.5x the IDC number.

On balance it would appear that Canalys is rather nearer to the true picture, as a reasonably straight forward analysis would indicate.

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Tim Cook: Watch to "Set Record in Holiday Week"

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Tim Cook: Watch to

Tim Cook is bullish about the success of the Apple Watch, at least in the short term-- the CEO tells Reuters the smartwatch will "set a record during the first week of holiday shopping."

Cook adds Q4 2016 should be the best for the device yet, with sales to consumers (as opposed to shipments to retailers) reaching a new high. However no actual sales numbers for the device are available, and Apple lumps the Watch in the "other" category in its quarterly financials.

"Our data shows that Apple Watch is doing great and looks to be one of the most popular holiday gifts this year," an email from Cook to Reuters reads. "Sales growth is off the charts. In fact, during the first week of holiday shopping, our sell-through of Apple Watch was greater than any week in the product’s history. And as we expected, we’re on track for the best quarter ever for Apple Watch."

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Control the Home Using the Force (Band)

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Control the Home Using the Force (Band)

The Force Band is a wearable motion-based controller for the Sphero toy based on the BB-8 robot from the latest Star Wars movie-- but the addition of IFTTT support turns it into a motion controller for all kinds of connected devices.

Controlling the home using the power of the Force (Band) requires the latest version of the companion app. An applet maker allows the easy creation of If This Then That (IFTTT) recipes, combining gensture controls with a variety of enabled devices and services. Thus, one can control a WEMO switch through a "force pull" gesture, "force push" to change the colour of Philips Hue lights or "force stop" to play the Imperial March. As one does.

Users can also pair such gesture controls with social media, pulling to "post Jedi Wisdom to Twitter."

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Motion Control Via Smartwatch Accelerometer

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Motion Control Via Smartwatch Accelerometer

Researchers at Carnegie Mallon University discover a novel new use for smartwatches-- boosting the built-in accelerometer turns the wrist-worn devices into a souped up motion-based controller able to handle a variety of gestures.

The accelerometers found inside smartwatches sample motion around 20-100 times per second (ie at 100Hz), enough to detect whether the wearer is walking or running, or a lift of the wrist. However, increasing the sample rate to 4000 times per second (or 4kHz) allows not only for a wider range of gestures, but also the capture of "bio-acoustic signals," or sounds generated by the body. This lead to a system dubbed ViBand.

Such an idea might sound basic, since one might imagine body-generated sounds to be simply things such as claps or snaps of the finger. But the researchers discovered just about any action, such as touching or grasping objects, generates unique sounds, and the boosted accelerometer can tell between different sounds. This can lead to previously unimagined applications, with proposals including a smartwatch guitar tuner using the vibrations from the hands turning the pegs, a recipe application showing progress bar for how long one should beat eggs, and even a paintball app showing remaining ammo.

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MIT Sets to Cut VR's Cable Problem

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MIT Sets to Cut VR's Cable Problem

Researchers at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) claim to have a solution for the cables holding VR headset users down-- MoVR, a system using high-frequency radio signals to turn any headset wireless.

But how can wireless technology replace the HDMI cables streaming data to VR headsets? After all, VR platforms work in real-time, meaning one cannot use compression to allow for lower data rates. According to MIT the key lies in "millimeter waves" (mmWaves), high-frequency signals many experts believe will be behind the super-fast 5G connectivity of the near future. Such signals handle the 6Gbps data rates required by VR visuals.

However mmWaves come with a hitch, as they are affected by obstacles and reflections-- even briefly moving a hand between a transmitter and receiver blocks the signal-- and require constant line of sight. This is where the MoVR system comes in. A programmable "mirror" detects the direction of the incoming mmWave signal and reflects it towards the receiver on the headset. MIT says the MoVR can "learn" correct signal direction to within 2 degrees, meaning it can correctly configure its angles.

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Timex Tracks Fitness With IQ+ Move

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Timex Tracks Fitness With IQ+ Move

Watchmaker Timex announces a second device best described as a smart analog watch-- the IQ+ Move, a simple wristwatch able to track steps, sleep metrics, distance walked/run and calories consumed.

As a followup to the Metropolitan+, the IQ+ Move is more fitness tracker than smartwatch, since it does not show smartphone notifications. It has what Timex calls "Indiglo" (a fancy word for blue backlighting), is water resistant up to 50m and features swappable bands in either leather or silicone flavours.

Power comes via traditional watch battery, and a Bluetooth radio pushes fitness data to Android/iOS devices.

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MFi Hearing Aids Get Live Listen Streaming

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MFi Hearing Aids Get Live Listen Streaming

Customers using Made for iPhone (MFi) hearing aids get an iOS 10 enhancement-- Live Listen, an adaptation of the Bluetooth-based streaming using the iPhone mic to focus conversations in loud environments.

The OS update also extends support for direct streaming of phone calls, FaceTime conversations, movies and other audio to supported hearing aids, all without need for a middleman "streamer." The iOS 10 hearing aid features integrate device battery life and independent bass, treble and right/left volume controls, and support audiologist-designed presets for the handling of sound in environments ranging from restaurants to concerts.

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