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20 Posts authored by: Cabe Atwell

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A real-life Star Trek communicator for $99 (via OnBeep)


OnBeep is a San Francisco start-up company that recently unveiled its Onyx communicator to technocrats in New York, sparking buzz. OnBeep is only one year old, but they raised $6.25 million in early 2014 to develop their Onyx device: something that lets you communicate with groups of people at the touch of a button.

 

The working, finished product was only unveiled early last month, but Business Insider, CNN, Forbes, and Wired already have something to say about it. The design is meant to be worn on any type of clothing, handbags, belts, or even put inside your pocket. The ease of talking at the push of a button was inspired by Star Trek, so your LARPing adventures can be fortified by this device for sure.

 

In practice, the Onyx seems like an expensive, stylish speaker phone in the style of a walkie-talkie. In terms of hardware and design, it basically is exactly that. But the co-founder, Jessie Robbins notes that it does more: it allows a group of people to work together and stay focused on the task at hand. Both Robbins, and the OnBeep CTO, Greg Albrecht, have experience in emergency situations as firefighters and EMTs. Hence, the Onyx really makes sense when you need to communicate real-time with a group of colleagues and can’t afford to waste time messing around with a phone.

 

The cool thing about the Onyx is that in thoeryit allows you to collaborate with anyone around the world. For now, radio frequency regulations mean that people outside the US can't technically buy the Onyx. Considering the amount of funding OnBeep has raised, it seems like a matter of time before the Onyx is available everywhere. The device can currently be pre-ordered for expected release in December 2014. The current cost of the Onyx is $99 which seems a bit steep for an extension of your smartphone, but I can see how it can be super helpful depending on your job environment.

 

I can certainly see businesses adopting this technology as a new part of team management: cutting the time and space between employees. Perhaps this is why so many business gurus are interested in the technology since it enables people to work together, real-time, outside of boring meetings.

 

The Onyx works by using Bluetooth to sync to your smartphone. In order to take advantage of Onyx's capabilities, you must download the OnBeep smartphone app which is currently available for iPhone and Android systems. The Onyx then takes advantage of wireless data/WiFi to contact your networks and stay connected. The app allows you to manage your groups, see who's available, and see where every member of your team is located – if you are worried that Tom forgot the dip, for instance.

 

You can talk to up to 15 people at once with the Onyx, and you can create as many groups as you like. The platform works regardless of network carrier, however it is only compatible with iPhone and Android at the moment.

 

C

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Blueshift Hydrogen (via Blueshift)

 

If you thought the ‘80s mobile boombox was out of style, guess again. Blueshift recently announced the launch of its portable, supercapacitor-powered, Bluetooth speaker, Hydrogen – your new best friend.

 

The Blueshift Hydrogen speaker is changing the nature of mobile devices. The portable Bluetooth speaker is powered by supercapacitors, and while it only takes five minutes to fully charge, the 4lb speaker can play for more than 4 hours at 80 percent volume. Connect it to your computer, cell phone, or any other Bluetooth-capable device and let the beat drop.

 

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Inside the Hydrogen speaker (via Blueshift)

 

Blueshift’s Hydrogen sits at 9” x 8” x 4.” What it lacks in stature it makes up for in sound. The beach-friendly box speaker features a 3” full-range driver, Class-D amplifier and volume controls, housed in a bamboo shell – a wood which really vibrates well for music., All of the speaker’s parts are custom-made in America and the entire unit is plastic-free. The real secret, however, are the supercapacitors.

 

While batteries store chemical energy, supercapacitors house energy in the form of a physical, electric field. This allows for the technology to charge rapidly and remain extremely durable. For example, the supercapacitors that power the Hydrogen speaker charge in five minutes and are guaranteed to function at optimal energy levels for up to half a million charges. If the same technology is applied to mobile devices everywhere (or any electronic devices, for that matter), your local energy company would be very upset.

 

The Hydrogen speaker is open-source and includes a Bluetooth A2DP and 1/8” wired input, 1/8” cable and AC charger in the box. Blueshift claims that the Hydrogen speaker is built to last. All of the parts are easily replaceable and/or upgradeable and all of the parts, from the components to the bamboo shell itself, are durable. With this, since the project is open-source, Blueshift welcomes new upgrades and enhancements from consumers. While supercapacitors are still more expensive than traditional batteries, having a practical way to use the technology really opens the doors for makers to change the way we charge. 

Blueshift has designed a number of other speakers, currently on presale via Crowd Supply, including a subwoofer, entitled Iron Subwoofer, preamp and home sound system. All of the speakers feature bamboo and the signature Blueshift simplistic design. While the designs are open hardware, the retail versions are proprietary.

 

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Blueshift Product Line (via Blueshift)

 

Blueshift is currently running a crowd-funding campaign via Crowd Supply. The Hydrogen speaker will retail for $400, but is on sale for early backers at $330. All of the company’s speakers are on presale, but the Hydrogen may be the best bang for your buck. Cool Material was quoted saying that the portable speaker might be the best deal in the market, when factoring charge time vs. playback.

 

The crowd funding campaign is open for two more weeks, so if you’re considering buying one, act now. Honestly, who couldn’t use a portable speaker? So, hurry and support their effort!


Sure, they’re wonderfully useful at morning board meetings, but they’re epically awesome on the beach. C’mon man. Drop that bass.


C

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The RN4020 Bluetooth Smart Module is Microchip Technology’s, first Bluetooth 4.1 Low Energy module. It comes industry-certified and functions completely as a stand alone or in conjunction with any microcontroller.

 

The module not only functional immediately but also carries various international certifications right out of the box, including certification from Bluetooth Special Interest Group.

 

The RN4020 Bluetooth module also comes with the Microchip Low-energy Data Profile pre-installed, enabling immediate compatibility across the BTLE network. It is also stack-on-board and can either connect directly to Microchip’s line of PIC MCUs with a UART interface (or any microcontroller with a UART interface) and it can operate independently for basic uses, such as the collection and transmission of data.

 

It’s the first of its kind at Microchip and the micro tech giant hopes to provide developers with an easy solution for the next generation of wireless products that will eat up less power.

 

Microchip hopes that its RN4020 revolutionizes the development of Internet of Things devices by providing energy-efficient access to Bluetooth technology on a chip. If MCU-powered devices gain access to Bluetooth, they can revolutionize the industry, enhancing a wide range of products, from consumables to medical devices.

 

Imagine if pacemakers, for example, began utilizing Bluetooth technology. The device would not only save the life of its host, but could even transmit critically important data to doctors, such as technical malfunctions and abnormalities. There are a lot of requirements for on patient products including FDA approval; off the shelf Bluetooth product are not necessarily certified for use in medical care.

 

The RN4020 LE Smart module comes preloaded with useful profiles, such as MLDP, Bluetooth SIG low-energy, public and private profiles via the ASCII command interface.

 

The RN4020 also comes equipped with a PCB antenna, capable of 7 dBm transmission and -92.5 dBm receiving sensitivity over 300ft. The module itself is 11.5 x 19.5 x 2.5 mm and will retail to manufacturers and developers at $6.78 each, sold in quantities of 1000 units.

 

C

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A prototype of the FreFlow gone fashion accessory which may become a ‘must-have’ for concerts. (via SONY)


Sony may be bringing another risky product to market that may sink instead of swim. However, their prototype tested at concert venues was a success, so it seems the synchronizable glowing wristband may soon hit markets in the USA.

 

The new product is a riff on their FreFlow glow pen which takes the form of a wristband fashion accessory. The basic idea is that the LED equipped bracelets will flash colors in unison with the performer’s master lights. Hence, it is basically the ultimate rave gear.

 

Concert- goers went crazy for the FreFlow technology when it was tested by the Japanese Rock band, Fuji Fabric on October 24th, 2012. The FreFlow also allowed concert goers to manually change the color of their lights to fit their mood.

 

It seems that this technology was a big hit during the concert because it give a feeling of collectivism with the performers and audience. However, who knows how a capitalistic, individualistic society (yes I mean us)will judge these unison rave bracelets.

 

The main concerns are also the logistics of these products as there would need to be someone controlling the remote-controlled master wireless transmitter and concerts would have to support the technology. This provides many barriers as concert venues would probably have to buy thousands of these little gadgets and pass them out to concert attendees; which could happen. But, then the venue would have to get the bracelets back which is less likely to happen as attendees may want a free souvenir.

 

Another market strategy could be that people would buy them and concert venue can have the technology available for use. However, it kind-of ruins the feeling of collective euphoria to distinctly separate the haves from the have-nots.

 

Whatever strategy Sony takes to bring these gadgets to market, I am sure the world will learn to live with, or without them.

 

 

C

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Microchip Technology Inc., recently announced a new line of eXtreme Low Power PIC microcontroller that are more secure, more cost effective and feature faster throughput. Your home phone technology will never be the same.

 

Microcontrollers are tiny computers that are programmed for very specific functions, such as running our household appliances. They are also very unique, in that they must run on extremely low power and are expected to last for more than a decade or two.

 

From running the microwave and home phone to powering many emerging products within the Internet of Things, these cheap, simplistic chips power much of the world around us. Because of their importance, Mircrochip, a leading manufacturer of microcontrollers, decided to up its game-on-a-chip with its new XLP line, the PIC24F ‘GB2’ family.

 

The PIC24F line features a hardware crypto engine, One-Time-Programmable passcode storage and Random Number Generator for increased security. It also runs on less energy while in sleep mode, in which MCUs remain more than 90 percent of the time.

 

The PIC24F microcontroller line also features up to 128KB Flash and 8KB RAM hardware in packages that vary from 28 to 44-pin. Microchip says its line is ideal for IoT sensor nodes, security systems and units with keyless access. The microcontroller ‘giant’ also claims the GB2 line allows for faster throughput, longer battery life (180 µA/MHz Run currents and 18 nA Sleep currents), more secure data and lower cost.

 

Microchip is convinced its new nanotechnology will have a large impact within the world of the IoT. With enhanced security, PIC24F microcontrollers may find their way into the growing industry of home automation. Also, with longer battery life and less energy consumption, the PIC24F chip may become a favorite among pacemaker manufacturers too.

 

PIC24F GB2 chips will work seamlessly with Microchip’s entire line of programs and tools for developers. The chip will sell with and without USB access and will be available to manufacturers in SOIC, SSOP, SPDIP and QFN packages starting at $1.30 each when purchased in volume.

 

While the new microcontrollers will last longer and consume less power, it is often not the microchip, but the hardware of a device, that fails us long before the 20-year mark. Microchip told me during an interview at Sensor Expo 2014, they are definitely not expanding into the mobile (smartphone) industry. However, Microchip continued that they may find a way to extend the life of our household appliances then they will really be in business. Here’s hoping.


 

C

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Trinity College Dublin researchers produce graphene in quantity using mechanical exfoliation.

 

Just about everyone knows that the 1-atom thick wonder material, graphene, is poised to take over the world of electronics. Its electrical properties alone would allow manufacturers to build CPUs that could run in the 100GHz range, that’s how unusually great the material is. The only problem is, we do not know when this will happen due in part because it has always been difficult and expensive to manufacture the material in bulk.


Current methods of graphene production include reduction processes (usually in oxide form), sonication (graphene oxide film applied to a DVD and burning it in a DVD writer) and heating silicon carbide to high pressures (among a handful of other methods). The trend of producing graphene using these slow and inefficient methods may be over with, thanks to some clever researchers from Trinity College Dublin’s AMBER department.


Their method of producing the material in bulk is based on the first technique pioneered in 2010- using adhesive tape to grab layers of graphene, otherwise known as the mechanical exfoliation method. Instead of using ‘Scotch Tape’ to grab flakes of graphene, the team used a stabilizing fluid mixed with the material and fed it into a shear-mixer. The mixer shears off sheets of graphene at a sufficient size that qualifies at ‘industrial levels’, claiming that their exfoliation method can be achieved using a few millimeters of liquid up to hundreds of liters and more. This breakthrough could open the door to manufacturing graphene on enormous scales at reduced costs, allowing electronics manufacturers to incorporate the material into their next-gen products.


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Will graphene allow us to truly have a flexible phone? Samsung thinks so.

 

One of those electronics manufacturers is already eying the material for truly flexible electronics. Graphene beats out silicon for electron mobility 100-times over and is more durable than steel, has incredible heat conductibility (meaning it dissipates heat very well) and flexible to boot, which is why Samsung is eyeing it for flexible displays, wearable computing and mobile devices.


The tech giant has collaborated with Sungkyunkwan University to develop a synthesis method of producing the material in bulk. Unlike the AMBER department’s exfoliation technique, Samsung has adopted the multi-crystal synthesis method to synthesis ‘large-area’ graphene into a single crystal on a semiconductor. Multi-crystal synthesis tends to reduce the electrical and mechanical properties of graphene, however the collaborative effort at developing the process of depositing a single crystal on a semiconductor at wafer-scale sizes has allowed the graphene to retain its properties.


To put it simply, their method of fabricating the wonder-material results in sheets of graphene at wafer size, making it possible to mass produce new electronics in the near future rather than decades from now. While the prospects for incorporating graphene into everyday electronics is becoming a reality, powering those devices is a whole different story but may be possible using something the Earth has an abundance of.


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Chinese scientists use graphene and saltwater to produce an electrical charge.

 

Powering our mobile devices is typically done through a rechargeable Li-ion battery but that may soon change, thanks to some ingenious Chinese scientists. Humans have been using water for power as a renewable resource through the use of hydroelectric dams, however to gain a powerful enough charge, the dams need to be large. This presents a problem when the technology is scaled down, as generating electricity at small levels is wholly inefficient.


To that end, scientists have been investigating grabbing a charge at nano-scale levels using nano-structures. Scientists have found that a significant charge could be garnered by passing ionic fluids through a pressure gradient, however even that is limiting due to that pressure gradient needed. As luck would have it, the Chinese science team found that passing a saltwater droplet over a sheet of graphene could produce an electric charge without the need for a pressure gradient.


The team found that when a droplet of saltwater sat static on the material, they carried an equal charge on both sides, however when they slid the droplet from one side to the other, it generated measurable voltage along the way. In fact, they found the faster the droplet moved, the more voltage it creates! While the initial generated charge was only around 30-milivolts, it presents future options to power our mobile devices if it can be refined and developed upon. Until then, we will still have to use the tried and true Li-ion to listen to music, watch our favorite shows and converse with our friends.


C

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California’s BPPE sets its sights on coding bootcamps (via stock)


Education is one of the biggest issues the younger generations are facing today. According to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), the US is lagging far behind other countries when it comes to the sciences, math and even reading (based on the 2012 PISA exam). These statistics will undoubtedly limit what jobs will be available to the students of today, a good portion of which will be in the technology sector with a focus on coding and programming. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for healthcare IT and mobile networks professionals will, in turn, promote an increased demand for programmers, systems analysts and support technicians to the tune of 22% of those currently employed by the year 2020. In an effort to keep those potential jobs from going offshore, the US government, tech companies and academic institutions have initiated several programs that bring the computer sciences to classrooms and other learning centers. Several nonprofits, including Code.org, Khan Academy and MIT’s Scratch have sprung into existence since 2012 to give kids a leg-up on the skills needed to land one of those tech jobs by providing the necessary tools online. The popularity of those programs has invaded classrooms all over the globe (programming has become part of the sciences in some schools) and as a result, has spawned a slew of independent programming and coding schools in the US. This also brought on the rise of ‘coding bootcamps’ where students get a crash course on programming in weeks rather than months or years. As those programs have risen in popularity among high school kids, it also caught the attention of regulators who have recently taken a closer look at how those camps are run and what classification they fall under as an academic institution.

 

In recent weeks, California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) has issued ‘cease and desist’ orders to several coding camps, including Hackbright Academy, Hack Reactor and App Academy (along with a few others) in an effort to bring those institutions up to code. The BPPE is an offshoot of the California Department of Consumer Affairs (NOT the Department of Education) and is tasked at regulating private institutions of post or secondary education, which includes vocational schools and other academic institutions.  The problems seem to be that those programming bootcamps did not (or were not aware of the need to) register or apply for a license with the BPPE and are therefore not in compliance with regulations and guidelines set forth by the regulatory commission. Those bootcamps were issued the C&D orders, which stated either they comply with the guidelines or be forced to shut down and face a hefty fine of $50,000. To get a better understanding of the situation, online programs like Code.org are free to anyone who wants to learn the basics of programming while the coding bootcamps charge anywhere from $10,000 and upwards for a 10-week full-throttle course in specific programming languages. Regulation and oversight when it comes to that kind of money isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however the regulations set down by the BPPE are somewhat archaic in nature when it comes to the digital age. For example, if the institution offers a degree program (which most of those bootcamps do), they must have a library and other learning resources, complete with a professional librarian or information specialist. Suffice it to say, the Application for Approval to get those bootcamps up to regulation is staggering to say the least, which is putting those institutions under immense pressure as they attempt to continue to operate.

 

It should be noted that some of these programs incorporate diversity within their respective communities. For instance, Hackbright specializes in teaching women to code in an effort to gain a competitive edge in the job market. Bootcamps can also help many unemployed Californians find jobs, which could only bolster the state’s ailing economy. Many coding institutions in the state however, fear that they will become bankrupt and forced to close as the application process can take up to 18 months and during that time, no classes can be taken and prospective students cannot enroll, which costs the institutions their income. It should also be noted that those coding bootcamps usually have a job-placement program in conjunction with many of the top tech companies in the nation, such as Google, Facebook and even Microsoft, which many students will miss out on if these camps go under. Most of the institutions that received the cease and desist letters are working to comply with the regulations to get back to the business of teaching, which consists of a $5,000 application fee, course catalog and a performance fact sheet on student progress (among other things). While some may feel that these camps are being unjustly singled out, others feel that regulation is necessary in order to deter fraud, such as implying a ‘guaranteed job after graduation’ (only the military can do that). The question is, does this signal an end to the ever-growing coding camps or will it only serve to solidify their credibility and could that scrutiny transfer over to schools that have implemented their own coding courses?

 

C

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Promo pictures of the kit. Seems like a good idea. I wonder how durable the paint is over time... (via Tony Yu & Kickstarter)


While technology has brought us the glorious touch screen phone, it has yet to bring us gloves that work well with the illuminated screens. Around this time of year, with snow and cold part of the equation in many places, most people are begging for phones with buttons to make a comeback, as the dinosaur phones are at least glove-friendly. Fret no more. Introducing: a “paint” that can make almost any surface touch-screenfriendly.

 

Tony Yu, like most winterers and bikers, was frustrated with the lack of conductive gloves that really work, so he developed Nanotips, a type of liquid that can make just about any substance conductive. The “paint” is a conductive polyamide solution that can be applied to your favorite gloves to turn them into touch screen capable gloves, without the need for conductive thread or sewing.

 

The paint comes in two different versions – Nanotips Blue, which is a transparent shade of blue intended for fabric and Nanotips Black, which is stronger, black in color and intended for tough material, including rubber or thick fabric like leather.

 

The liquid is applied similarly to white-out. The user only need to paint the substance on the index and thumb of their gloves, wait for it to dry and let the fun begin! One bottle of Nanotips Blue can be used for approximately 15 fingertip applications, while Nanotips Black needs less coats, so a bottle can cover up to 30 fingertip applications. It can also be used on other items, such as pens, to create a DIY stylus.

 

Nantotips creates a conductive channel on the gloves, or any surface, that recreates the touch of human skin on the touchscreen. Nanotips Blue also dries relatively transparently, even on light colors, while Nanotips black is solid black; something to consider before coating your crème cashmere gloves.

 

The solution is ready for mass production and the product reached its Kickstarter goal of $10,500 in only four days. They finished off at $72,133 CAD! The product will be available on pre-order for $18-20, depending on the type. The full retail price will be $22 for either serum.

 

C

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Audience eS700 voice processing chips. (via Audience)

 

With the myriad of NSA spying scandals hitting the headlines on a weekly basis, it’s surprising that it hasn’t over-shadowed the legitimacy of using ‘listening technology’ for touchless interaction with mobile devices. In that regard, Audience has released their eS700 line of advanced voice processing chips for sampling, which should be incorporated into new mobile devices by the second quarter of this year. Just like the new Kinect sensor from Microsoft, the chip actively ‘listens’ for voice commands, even while the device is off, to interact with the mobile device and navigate/use applications hands free (touch interaction is so early 21st century). The key behind their new chips is the inclusion of VoiceQ, which enable the chip’s always on feature that actively listens for key voice phrases in its immediate surroundings without the need to siphon off trickling amounts of power (less than 1.5mA) to do so. The technology also eliminates the pause-breaks associated with other devices in regards to those voice commands. For instance, users can turn on their devices and have them proceed to the needed function or app simply by saying ‘power on and play music’ for example, without the need to separate those commands. Other features of Audience’s new eS700 line include noise cancelation (even in windy conditions), speech restoration to increase voice quality in noisy environments and full-band 48 kHz voice processing. It also features a new programming API that allows OEMs to create apps that takes advantage of the voice interactive features and incorporate them seamlessly into their next-gen devices. While various manufacturers are already sampling the chips, its unknown as to exactly which ones will feature them in their new product lines.

 

The NSA doesn't officially endorse these new chips but they like what they 'hear'.

 

C

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LG’s G Flex smartphone. It doesn't flex... but it is a curved panel. (via LG)


Flexible electronics are quickly becoming the rage for companies looking to capitalize on the bendy tech. Products are already flooding the market since their mainstream introduction back in the mid-20th century. Sony’s SmartWear (relays information from smartphones), Razer’s Nabu (relays social and fitness info) and flexible displays are already hitting the market like an unstoppable flood that can’t be stopped. Smartphones too are taking advantage of the flexible fad, with offerings from Samsung (Galaxy Round) and the more popular LG G Flex, with both featuring curved HD screens. While the round isn’t yet available to most of the world (limited to South Korea unless you buy it unlocked, hence: unpopular), the G Flex is widely available and cornering the ‘curved’ market in both Europe and the US. The phone features pretty much the same hardware as most ‘tier-one’ smartphones, with a Snapdragon 2.2GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of memory, 32GB of onboard storage running on a 3,500mAh Li-Polymer battery.

 

While those stats are impressive, the screen is the star of the show, with a 6-inch HD curved POLED flexible display (@ 245 ppi). The idea of the curved screen was to help cut down the reflections and glare normally found on flat phones when in adverse light conditions commonly found on sunny days. It’s also reportedly more ergonomic and better conforms to the human body’s many contours, especially the head. There’s also the ‘cool’ factor that comes with all new technology that gets released, but is it really that great or is it more of a gimmick or a proof-of-concept device? In a word, yes.

 

According to several online reviews, the screen does indeed cut down on reflections and glare and also allows content to be viewed in clarity from a variety of angles but the massive 6-inch screen only has a 720p resolution and is difficult to use and navigate with one hand. The screen sits under a plate of Gorilla Glass and can indeed flex to a flat position (when pressing down on the back) but it won’t fold-up into a convenient carry package of reduced size. Worst of all, the phone costs over $900, which will keep it out of most user’s hands, unless those hands reside in deep pockets. Still, the G Flex smartphone is more of a marketing model to get potential users interested in the design, which will undoubtedly be incorporated into next-gen phones in the near future. On that note, there are already rumors abound surrounding the G Flex 2 that will improve on the lackluster features of the first. The next phone will reportedly feature a flexible screen capable of ‘deforming’ or bend to 900 and that’s while it’s housed in the phones case, making it truly bendable in every sense of the word.

 

This represents the possibility that smartphones will one day be able to be folded into a ‘clamshell’ shape without damaging the internals. It will reportedly be released sometime this year (Fall perhaps?) but will it signal the fall of flat mobile devices? Perhaps not, unless it can overcome current limitations and feature a full 1080p screen with a greater ppi (Pixels per Inch) than that of the current G Flex. Only time will tell.

 

C

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Cabe Atwell

IBM makes graphene RF IC

Posted by Cabe Atwell Feb 17, 2014

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IBM Graphene RF IC. Read the full report in the following link. (via Nature)


Engineers at IBM Research recently announced that they have successfully built the world’s most advanced graphene-based RF chip to date, which may change the functionality of mobile devices as we know it. IBM sent the text message “I-B-M” to the chip, and it was received – a huge leap forward.

 

While it has long been known that graphene-based chips are theoretically faster than simple silicon molds, the manufacturing of the speedy chips has been a struggle, as graphene is fairly fragile and most manufacturing processes are too rough for the dainty technology. IBM did, however, recently discover how to successfully manufacture a chip that, in theory, is 10,000 times more powerful than anything currently on the market.

 

IBM’s design takes a standard silicon chip, manufactured using existing CMOS processes, and adds graphene transistors only after the silicon structure is complete, keeping the fragile material intact. The chip itself isn’t super innovative, as the only difference between IBM’s chip and a standard 200mm silicon chip is simply the graphene transistors. The seemingly insignificant difference does, however, drastically increase the capability of the device.

IBM grows the graphene by dropping a single layer of graphene on a heated copper foil in a furnace with a methane environment at 1,922 degrees Fahrenheit. The copper dissolves in a bath and the remaining graphene is scooped up using the newly manufactured silicon chip. The IBM team of engineers said while this is the easiest way to manufacture graphene, it isn’t necessarily the best and hope to develop a more efficient system soon.

 

The innovative graphene chip can theoretically function at a frequency of 500GHz, well above the capabilities of anything currently used in RF applications. There have not yet been any announcements of an upcoming graphene analog chip, but if the technology is harnessed, we can expect to see faster communication in mobile devices in the near future. Thanks, IBM!

 

C

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OBsIV’s XIM4 console adapter... app based tuning is an important next step. (via XIM)

 

The XIM3 was amazing (see the tear-down)… does the XIM4 live up to the same standards?


Ask any gamer on the planet and they will tell you there are two factions that have been raging a debate with one another over the better part of two decades concerning which platform is the best for gaming, consoles or PCs. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, consoles such as the PS4 and Xbox One allow users to simply buy the game they want, pop it in and begin playing almost instantly with surprisingly good graphics. The graphics themselves however, cannot be changed to a higher resolution and players are restricted to using a limited set of peripherals and controllers. PC gamers on the other hand, buy the game, install it, download game patches, update hardware drivers and then roll the dice as to whether game servers are overloaded before they can play (Sim City anyone?). Not to mention the DRM that’s usually implemented requiring an online connection just to engage in single-player games. They are however, unrivaled when it comes to the game’s resolutions, which can be adjusted on a massive scale for ultra-realistic game-play.


PCs also have the advantage when it comes to input devices, controllers, keyboards and mice (as well as the Kinect) can all be used, which can give some gamers the advantage over others when playing against one another. In an effort to bring that particular advantage to console gamers, OBsIV developed a bridge of sorts that allows users to hookup a keyboard and mouse to their console flavor of choice. Known as the XIM (Xbox Input Machine), the device allows gamers to connect PC peripherals to their game consoles simply by plugging them in to the adapter via USB ports. Unlike the previous versions where a hardline connection to a PC was required, users can customize the controls to configure them for the game being played via an Android-based (running version 2.3.3) mobile device app. The reason behind the app is that console games have native input centered on the gaming pads, so in order for a keyboard and mouse to function correctly it uses new technology, known as Smart Translators, which requires a certain profile for said games. This includes the use of wireless peripherals as well, which can communicate with the console via a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection. Unfortunately for users that already own an older XIM device (XIM and XIM3) will not be able to use the new technology due to hardware limitations, however XIM Edge users will have limited availability with a reduced amount of configurations (or rather games). As it stands at this point, the XIM4 module is currently being tested for Xbox One users only and will eventually hit the market at some point this year. PS4 users will have to wait until the developers find a way to get the Smart Translators to work with the DualShock 4 controllers, which shouldn’t take too long.

 

C

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IoT connected mailbox... or is it just a package monitor? (via kickstarter)


The Internet of Things is fast approaching and many appliances and everyday objects are beginning to become connected to the internet. With the plethora of devices now available, making this happen is now easier than ever. Devices such as Arduinos have attracted people to programming and have brought more people into the do-it-yourself community, creating one of the largest communities in electronics. Due to the Arduino many other devices have been created following a similar ideology: easy to use, simple to program, and easy to interface with other devices. One such device has been the Spark Core.

 

The Spark Core has been made to be as simple to program as the Arduino and also provide an easy method of connecting to the internet. Using this many people have come up with their own way to connect devices to the internet. One example is the Mr. Postman mailbox. Beginning a crowd sourcing campaign on Kickstarter just as the Spark Core, Mr. Postman is a mailbox with Wi-Fi capabilities. Using its Spark Core, the mailbox can allow people to receive notifications when they receive mail or when mail has been picked up. For security purposes it also can be locked and unlocked through a single app that will allow users to monitor it from wherever they may be.

 

As mentioned, the main electronics used to make the Mr. Postman work is a Spark Core. A 0.6 Watt solar panel is used to power and charge the device on sunny days, and a 3.7 Volt battery is used for backup power. Various sensors will also come housed in the mailbox to detect when the door is open and to allow the door to be locked. Additionally, thanks to the Spark Core the device has a simple way of connecting to your home Wi-Fi network, and will also provide a very secure connection.

 

The mailbox comes in dimensions of 9.8” wide x 8.6” tall x 20.4” long. The mailbox has been made a little wider than the traditional mailboxes to accommodate common items such books, electronics, and toys and will be available in 3 different colors. It also has a recessed door to keep mail better protected from weather or any other outside elements. For $180 you can receive your own Mr. Postman for the next 29 days through their Kickstarter page. For more information check out Kickstarter.

 

C

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Geomerics’ Enlighten lighting engine featured in Battlefield 4. Mobile will be able to play games.. but the HMI is still lacking! (via ARM)


Gaming on mobile devices has come a long way in the last five years due to avalanche advancements in technology, which allowed us to go from playing Tetris to playing first-person shooters. There’s a good chance that the mobile device your currently using has an ARM processor in it, especially if it’s an Android-based device. Users that own one of those ARM-equipped Android smart devices and love to game on them should be overjoyed with ARM’s latest announcement regarding their acquisition of Geomerics. The UK-based company is known for their high-quality lighting effects in both the gaming and entertainment industries and will now be part of the mobile device market as well. For those who may not know what triple-A titles Geomerics has under their belt may be surprised to find that their ‘Enlighten’ global-illumination engine is featured in titles such as Battlefield 3/4, The Bureau- Xcom declassified and Need for Speed: The Run to name a few. It’s interesting to note that according to ARM, Geomerics will be able to retain and build upon their existing clients while helping ARM bring their technology to the mobile market. While it has not exactly known what ARM plans on using Geomerics technology for, one thing is for certain, with the new generation of Cortex processors (including Mali GPUs) on the horizon, they will most likely be coupled with some form of the Enlighten engine. Meaning, games will take on a completely new visual level on mobile devices in the near future. The future is shaping up to look very bright indeed!


C

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U.S. Supreme Court building... (via USGOV & wiki)

 

When it comes to software patents, the waters are pretty murky and there’s an obscure line between what can and cannot be patented. The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) has defined a software patent as a ‘patent on any performance of a computer realized by means of a computer program’, however there is no legal definition currently on the law books. In the US, current patent laws regarding software excludes ‘abstract ideas’, natural phenomena and laws of nature, which has been used in the past to refuse a few of those software patents.

 

In an effort to address the issue of patented subject matter, or lack thereof, the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought about by Alice Corporation Pty Ltd against CLS Bank International. Alice currently holds a number of patents for their computer system that implements financial transaction invented back in the 90’s, which they claim were violated by CLS Bank. CLS claims that four of those patents are invalid and several lower courts have favored them regarding those patents, however some, including some tech giants such as Google, Hulu and YouTube along with the Electronic Frontier Foundation found those judgments to be lacking due to the vague interpretation of current patent laws.

 

Those entities claim that the previous judgments were ambiguous at best with no clear terms for their basis, which would leave lower courts with no clear way of handling software patent cases, especially when it comes to ‘software patent trolls’ (companies who own the patents solely for suing other companies looking to expand on those patents). Hopefully the Supreme Court can come to an agreement over abstract ideas and finally layout specific guidelines regarding software patents so that companies can keep their property safe and secure without the need for frivolous litigation that would surely follow after being infringed upon.

 

C

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