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2014

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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'.

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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