Tiny Ear Computer Controlled with Eye Blinks
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The device can function as a hearing aid, monitor the wearer's pulse and body temperature and log how often the person eats and sneezes to offer early warning of the onset of illness.
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This week, our tech slideshow is all about the Mobile World Congress, the consumer electronics show that takes place in Barcelona each year. Innovative smartphones, wearable computers and Internet-connected cars are among some of the technologies that were on display. Here are some of our favorites.
The Mirama smart glasses, fromJapan-based Brilliant Service
, have a gesture recognition system combined with augmented reality technology. The wearer uses her hands to interact with virtual objects seen in the glasses. Brilliant service wants their smart glasses to one day replace for smartphones.
For its unique aluminum unibody design, the HTC ONE was awarded this year's "Smartphone of the Year."
Walldorf, Germany-based SAP is working with the German national football team to prepare for the World Cup in 2014, and take soccer to the next level. The ball has embedded sensors and electronics that capture and analyze a wealth of data in real time, including spatial analysis of player movements.
Blackphone is the world's first smartphone that places security back into the hands of the user. The $629 phone, which comes unlocked, was developed in a partnership between Silent Circle and Geeksphone. Along with the PrivatOS, built on Android, the phone comes with a suite of Silent Circle apps, including Silent Phone, Silent Text and Silent Contacts; anonymous search, private browsing and VPN from Disconnect. SpiderOak provides a secure cloud file storage and the Blackphone ships with a remote-wipe and device recovery tool.
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LG was on hand to promote its new G Flex, which has a 6.0” curved OLED screen, that while not flexible, does have a shape that fits well into the palm of a hand. The big screen provides an impressive panoramic view, while minimizing glare.
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Samsung's Galaxy Fit was among many wearable fitness devices on display at the Mobile World Congress. The Fit has a thin, curved shape meant to follow the wrist; the user navigates menus by swiping horizontally. Along with a heart monitor, the Fit is designed to provide notifications for calls, e-mail and text message. A personal fitness coaching app is an option.
One of the most surprising announcements at the Mobile World Congress came from Mozilla, who plans to launch seven new devices using Firefox OS, including a smartphone -- the ZTE Open C -- priced at $25. The devices are being aimed at people in developing countries.
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Chinese company Gionee presented its Elife 5.5, the world's thinnest smartphone. At 5.5 millimeters thick, the phone edges out the 5.75mm Vivo X3. For comparison, the iPhone 5s is 7.6mm thick.
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The new Xperia Z2 phone and tablet from Sony are waterproof, come with brighter screens and noise-canceling earbuds.
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Sony's SmartBand SWR10 is also waterproof, which makes sense if you plan to sweat while wearing them.
Practically speaking, cars are becoming gadgets. Ford was among several automakers displaying their versions of fully connected Internet cars. These cars work in conjunction with a person's smartphone or work like a smartphone to run apps that connect to the Internet, play music and movies, display GPS navigation and control security features at home, among many other features.
A tiny personal computer worn on the ear and controlled with the blink of an eye or the click of a tongue is being tested in Japan. The 17gm (0.59-ounce) wireless device has bluetooth capability and is equipped with a GPS, compass, gyro-sensor, battery, barometer, speaker and microphone.
Wearable computing is thought by many commentators to be the next big thing in technology, with products such as Google Glass at the forefront.
The device, known at the moment as the "Earclip-type Wearable PC" has a microchip and data storage, enabling users to load software, said engineer Kazuhiro Taniguchi of Hiroshima City University. Its designs are based on traditional "ikebana" flower arrangements.
"We have made this with the basic idea that people will wear it in the same way they wear earrings," Taniguchi told AFP in a recent interview as he showcased a black prototype.
The system, which developers are hoping to have ready for Christmas 2015, can be connected to an iPod or other gadget and would allow the user to navigate through software programmes using facial expressions, such as a raised eyebrow, a stuck-out tongue, a wiggle of the nose or by clenching teeth.
The device uses infrared sensors that monitor tiny movements inside the ear, which differ depending on how the eyes and mouth move. Because the user does not have to move either hand, its developers say it can serve as "a third hand" for everyone from caregivers to rock-climbers, motorbike riders to astronauts, as well as people with disabilities.
"Supposing I climb a mountain, look at the sky at night and see a bright star up there, it could tell me what it is," Taniguchi said. "As it knows what altitude I'm at, which direction I'm looking and at what angle, it could tell me, 'The bright star you are seeing now is Sirius'."
Using a smartphone to connect to the Internet would mean you could be automatically put in touch with people in faraway places who are doing the same thing as you.
"This could connect you with a person who is looking at the same star at a remote place at the same time," enabling the people to swap impressions, Taniguchi said.
A second version of the device might be pressed into use to help relatives keep an eye on elderly family in greying Japan.
The earpiece, which could also function as a hearing aid, could monitor the wearer's health, including their pulse and body temperature, while logging how often they eat and sneeze, offering early warning of the onset of illness. An onboard accelerometer could tell when the user falls and instruct the smartphone to pass information to relatives, or call an ambulance based on GPS data.
Tests are being carried out in Hiroshima, with the aim of commercializing the device from April 2016.