Wearable tech R&D hub launched by Obama Administration in Silicon Valley
Sep01

Wearable tech R&D hub launched by Obama Administration in Silicon Valley

When he started wearing that Fitbit Surge earlier this year, President Obama had grander plans for the integration of wearable tech into our society than we ever could have imagined. On August 28, the Obama Administration announced that the Department of Defense would invest $75 million in a “flexible hybrid electronics” innovation center in Silicon Valley. It will be called the Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics. This isn’t the first research and development center funded by the government. The White House has already brought to life eight other R&D operations, whose focuses range from 3D printing to WBG semiconductor technology and other advanced manufacturing innovations. The teams in Silicon Valley will be led by FlexTech Alliance, a public-private manufacturing consortium based in San Jose, to “secure U.S. ‘leadership in next-generation bendable and wearable electronic devices.” The goal is to go far beyond step tracking and to “unleash wearable devices to improve medical health monitoring and personal fitness; soft robotics to care for the elderly or assist wounded soldiers; and light weight sensors embedded into the very trellises and fibers of roads, bridges, and, and other structures across the globe.” Overall, the Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics received a total investment of $171 million to lead a consortium of 162 companies, nonprofits, labs and universities, including big names like Apple, Motorola, Kodak, John Deere, and Boeing.  At the time of the announcement, the White House published a list of possible wearable tech applications including but not limited to: Revolutionizing electronic wearable information devices to monitor vital signs and physical states to optimize health and lifestyles decisions. Dramatically improving medical technology delivery — through biomarkers and device implants — which can monitor vital signs for the elderly, those with chronic conditions, and our soldiers during combat.  Enabling embedded sensors to monitor the state of commercial automobiles and aircrafts operating in harsh environments such as undersea pressures or extreme temperatures. Improving security operations, with applications in light weight robotics, as well as, next generation imaging and sensing capabilities, used across the entire spectrum of land, air, sea, and space-based systems. Dramatically reducing the electronic systems package size and weight through electronics that conform to complex shapes such as aircraft wings or unattended vehicle platforms, and integrating electronics in clothing and fabrics. In addition to the above information, the White House released a thorough fact sheet regarding the hub, followed by a strong call to action. “The Administration is also calling on Congress to make a clear choice: We can make critical bipartisan investments to strengthen manufacturing across the United States, laying a strong foundation for good jobs and economic growth —...

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You can now pair an Android Wear smartwatch with an iPhone
Aug31

You can now pair an Android Wear smartwatch with an iPhone

Hell hath frozen over: Those with iPhones can now pair their Apple smartphones to an Android Wear smartwatch. For now, only a certain selection of Android Wear smartwatches will be compatible with an iPhone 5 or later running at least iOS 8.2. The first smartwatches on deck are the Huawei Watch, the Asus ZenWatch 2, and the LG Watch Urbane. However all future generations of Google’s smartwatches will be iOS compatible right out of the box. You might also like: The best Andoird Wear watches on the market Temper your expectations, because it’s widely reported that you cannot do nearly as much with an Android Watch and an iPhone as you could by pairing together a smartwatch and smartphone of the same brand. There are no third-party apps or Wi-Fi support. As Wired succinctly put, “Using Android Wear will be like using the Google app on your iPhone — it’s very good, but it’s siloed.” A limited experience it may be, but users can expect to receive notifications, integrate Google Now, use voice search, and track their fitness. Below are the specifics Google outlined in its official blog post. Get your info at a glance: Check important info like phone calls, messages, and notifications from your favorite apps. Android Wear features always-on displays, so you’ll never have to move your wrist to wake up your watch. Follow your fitness: Set fitness goals, and get daily and weekly views of your progress. Your watch automatically tracks walking and running, and even measures your heart rate. Save time with smart help: Receive timely tips like when to leave for appointments, current traffic info, and flight status. Just say “Ok Google” to ask questions like “Is it going to rain in London tomorrow?” or create to-dos with “Remind me to pack an umbrella.” If the user experience is strong — and this is a huge “if” — this is a largely positive move for Google and any other Apple Watch competitors. An entire new market of customers has just opened up for Android Wear. Also read: Android Wear 101: What it is, what it can do, and which device to...

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Smartglasses expert Tim Moore discusses the “tipping point” of wearable tech
Aug10

Smartglasses expert Tim Moore discusses the “tipping point” of wearable tech

Tim Moore is a self-described futurist and media-appointed influencer in the space of wearable technology. As the current VP of Marketing at Six15 Technologies and former CMO of Rochester Optical, he’s often on the forefront of inspiring discussions centered around future implementations of the somewhat nascent wearables industry. This fall, he will be among the panel of experts gathered for IEEE’s Rock Stars of Wearables in Austin, Texas. In advance of the event, we sat down to pick his brain about the way of the future. We’d like to dig into your thoughts on the current state of augmented reality and smartglasses. You’ve been predicting the future for many years now, so I’m curious to hear where you believe we stand. We are very close. We have about 16 to 24 months to go before we’ll really tip. Some of the technology, the waveguide technologies, are maturing. We’re going to start seeing a lot of that over the rest of this year, and that’s really going to start to evolve things. Plus, all of this wearables stuff is a migration from the phone that’s in our pocket to our wrist and then from the wrist to the head. [The head] is where all of our sense are. Our hearing, smell, sight, taste, everything is there. And for millennials and the group after them, that’s kind of the way they’re going to want to live. Heads up, hands-free. They don’t want to be distracted. They want what they want when they want it. So, from those that I have polled in this country, in Hong Kong, and throughout Europe, specifically Germany, the UK (London), and Italy, about 74 percent said that if the wearable worked right, they would ditch their phone today. How do mobile payments play a part of the future? The Samsung 6 has Samsung Pay on it, Apple’s watch has Apple Pay, Google has Google Wallet that you can use on their Android devices. So, we’re seeing that money is evolving from a debit card or, you know, I don’t have cash in my wallet, I can hardly remember when the last time is that I had even had cash, and coins, I just throw away. It’s pathetic, but I just don’t want any of that stuff in my pocket, a pocket full of receipts. I think we’re going to see a transparent movement as pay-wear comes online, and people are now starting to see that with a fob or a ring or a watch or even glasses, that maybe it’s just a special 8-digit PIN number that they can pay with things and they don’t have to have anything on them,...

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The best smartwatches in 2015, so far: Apple, Pebble, Sony, and more
Jul16

The best smartwatches in 2015, so far: Apple, Pebble, Sony, and more

At the same time that much of the internet grapples over whether or not smartwatches can actually enhance one’s life, a multitude of timekeeping devices have come into existence, giving users a wide variety of options to choose from. Smartwatch manufacturers certainly — and thankfully — do not adhere to a one-size-fits all credo when it comes to this kind of wearable technology. Rather, companies like Apple, Pebble, Samsung, TomTom, Fitbit and more have found their own ways to appeal to a variety of smartwatch-wearers, whether they love running, sleeping, standing out, or staying under the radar. We’ve compiled the best smartwatches your money can buy in 2015 so far, according to personal preferences. Moto360 The best smartwatch for getting the bang out of your buck Moto360 first turned heads for being one of the first smartwatches to feature a circular face design akin to traditional timepieces, and it continues to be praised for its always-on screen. But don’t worry, that feature won’t annoy you thanks to the smartwatch’s ambient light sensor which detects your surroundings and adjusts the LCD brightness accordingly. If you’re into talking to your watch, the Motorola smartwatch offers one of the best voice-command experiences currently on the market. It’s far less expensive than an entry level Apple Watch, and for more attractive than other more expensive devices. Though it suffers from a short battery life, the price makes this Android Wear device a great deal for what you get. Critics’ rating*: 3.2 of 5 (*Wearables.com compiles the top critic ratings online for an aggregate score) TomTom Runner The best smartwatch for serious runners As far as the built in heart rate sensor goes, the TomTom Runner uses the same technology that’s in the Adidas MiCoach Smart Run watch. The GPS sensor is pretty outstanding, establishing a GPS signal quickly and thereby freeing the user of valuable minutes wasted waiting for connection. The watch band is actually a continual piece of rubber that holds the GPS module and watch display in place. And where some running smartwatches have trouble monitoring heart rate from the wrist, TomTom Runner excels and can track down to detailed heart rate zones.   Critics’ rating: 3.8 of 5 Apple Watch The best smartwatch for investing in the future As much as everyone wanted to hate it, the Apple Watch remains the media’s darling. Its deft fusion of  comfortability and familiarity (well, for iOS users) make it the standout smartwatch of 2015. But where the power lies with Apple Watch (aside from its looks) is the potential it has with its app ecosystem. And with Native apps coming with Watch OS2 in the fall of 2015, the Apple Watch experience will...

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A cooler summer camp: Austin Spark League throws kids into startup environment
Jul10

A cooler summer camp: Austin Spark League throws kids into startup environment

“The larger movement to teach kids coding is awesome and very much needed. But, we found that coding camps were just that: coding,” Nick Hahn of Austin Spark League tells Wearables.com. “Austin Spark League is focusing on the broader picture of educating around product development as a whole.” Kicking off its inaugural year, Austin Spark League (ASL) is a “startup style” summer program for teens that goes beyond a “coding for kids” curriculum, run by Hahn and cofounders Ben Littler and Justine Tan. Over the course of two weeks, a team of instructors will lead 15 to 20 kids between the ages of 13- and 18-years-old towards finding their “spark” — “that path leading them to the intersection of passions, paychecks, and proficiencies,” as Hahn puts it. We spoke to Hahn a few weeks before the session kicks off about his motivation, the program’s relationship with Pebble, and the future of wearable tech. You’re a grown adult with lots of things to do, why do you want to spend your summer teaching kids? I have always had a passion for sharing the knowledge that I’ve gathered through the years — especially the knowledge gained through making mistakes. I’m an optimistic futurist and have strong faith in humanity. I think we should each be trying to make sure those who are coming after us don’t have to stumble the same ways we did. I’ve spent time mentoring adult students in the user experience and interactive design fields and saw how much help I could be by even sharing a little. Austin Spark League is grander vision of this style of hands-on mentorship. I hope to help as many students possible explore paths in the technology and creative fields. Coding camps are not uncommon nowadays, so what makes ASL unique? To make a successful product you need a whole lot more than the skills to code — even if that is your primary role. It’s important to understand that when creating something (through code or otherwise), that in essence you are solving a problem. . . it’s your duty to understand the problem that you’re solving, to be a broad thinker, and not just build something as directed. Ultimately, we’d love to be able to help students make a more educated choice about what path they might take after high school. What major to pick (or not) and what career path might make them successful and happy in the long term. Tell me about the startup mentality you conduct this summer camp with? In a startup environment, founders have to wear so many hats. We want to show our students what each of these hats are...

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