Archive for the ‘Consumer Electronics’ Category

Every year, the CEATEC Innovation Award recognizes the most promising technology at the Consumer Electronics And Technology Conference, Japans largest trade show of its kind. This year’s nine categories were taken under the wing of 7 judges, comprised of prominent U.S. journalists and industry advisors, who explored the entirety of the show to find what technologies are making, or will soon make, a difference in people’s lives. I was again honored to serve as a judge on the panel, and as one of the founding members, and it’s absolutely overwhelming the professionalism and depth of knowledge the other judges possess and use during this annual event.

And the winners of the 2016 CEATEC Innovation Awards are (press release):
Transportation – Panasonic Touch Panel with Rotary Knobs
Smart Community – 4R Energy Freedom
Digital Imaging – VRC Shun’x Full Body 3D scanner
Mobile Technology – DJI Osmo Mobile
Home Entertainment – Aroma Shooter Mini
Component – Panasonic Bendable, Twistable Battery
Software – NEC Security Guard Support Solution
Health & Household – Fujitsu Retissa Rental Imaging Laser
Industrial Design – Honda Variable Design Platform (VDP)
GRAND PRIZE:
Fujitsu Retissa Retinal Imaging Laser
And, of course, here’s our awesome panel of judges:
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Details of all the winners can be found at the Ubergizmo write-up.

Want to see of the latest and greatest tech before it hits our shores? Then hit CEATEC, Japan’s largest consumer electronics trade show, held in Makuhari Messe every year in October.

Below are some of the highlights from the first day of the show. If you want to see all the videos I’m taking at CEATEC 2016, which cover many items I’m not writing about, take a look at my YouTube playlist.

Yukai BOCCO SIM Robot

Yukai showed their BOCCO SIM robot, designed to sit in the home and notify occupants of events. New this year is a sensor to detect a door locking and unlocking, so you know if someone left the home unprotected. Users can also leave messages for others when they arrive home. The robot cannot differentiate between user voices. The $240 product is available on Amazon and the $35 sensor should be coming soon.

YouTube Video

Honda 3D Printed Car

Honda showed off a 3D printed vehicle, using their Vehicle Design Platform. In tandem with cookie company Toshimaya, and design firm Kabuku, the shell of the battery-powered vehicle was 3D printed, and placed over the chassis provided by Honda. The shell is made from ABS plastic, and in the photos you can see the polished, finished surfaces versus those needing a final pass. Printing took 1 month, occurring 24×7, using a Stratosys Focus 900 printer, one of the largest in the industry. The vehicle utilizes a motorcycle-like pipe frame, has an 80 kilometer range, a large lithium ion battery, and a small cartridge battery for adding extra range 15 kilometers at a time.

Omron Table Tennis Robot – Now with Player Skill Recognition

Omron’s Table Tennis robot was a hit last year, beating its human challengers handily. This year, the system can detect a player’s skill and curb its own abilities when playing. We were also treated to watching the device break its arm, and the engineers had to come out and fix it. Omron’s solution has been recognized as the first robot table tennis tutor. Unexpectedly, it does not recognize different players, nor does it use deep learning, so it doesn’t get any better as it plays.

YouTube Video

 

NEC Police Officer Body Cam Video Analysis System

NEC showed off their Security Guard Support Solution, which works in tandem with vest-worn law enforcement cameras. The system can extract faces in the video feed and send them to an officer’s smartwatch for suspect identification, assisted by facial recognition. Accuracy detection rate is 90%. NEC also showed how it can compensate for low bandwidth or unpredictable network coverage with a blur compensation algorithm that appeared to greatly enhance the video playback quality and smoothness.

Rakuten ZapZap Word Cloud Shopping Assistant

Rakuten, the largest online retailer in Japan, again showed advanced customer assistance technologies at this year’s CEATEC. One, the ZapZap, enables a customer to place a book on an enhanced table, and see keywords from that book begin to hover around the cover. Tapping a word brings up a related passage from the book to ease browsing. The solution uses an RGBD camera, basically RGB plus Depth, to provide this service.

YouTube Video

Panasonic Bendable Battery Prototype

Panasonic showed off a prototype bendable lithium ion battery solution, capable of bending and not losing any power from the process. This package could enable batteries in watch straps, hats, and many wearables. The largest cell was 60 mAh. Samples will be available in October. You can see the bendability in the video below.

YouTube Video

Panasonic Listnr Baby Talk Recognition App

Japan faces an increasing number of two-working-parent households. Keeping track of a baby’s needs is more difficult when mommy and daddy aren’t home. Panasonic’s Listnr device listens to and recognizes a baby’s sounds and sends alerts to an app reporting whether baby is happy, sad, angry, and so forth. You can see the interface in the photos below. The system is already available on Amazon.

Hobot Window Washing Robot

Hobot showed off their latest window cleaning robot, the Model 198. Like their other units, the system must be plugged in to run. If disconnected from power, it can stay stuck to the window for up to 20 minutes before falling. However, it stops cleaning when that happens. Not sure of the point, but it was cool to see a window washing equivalent of the Roomba, even if it wasn’t nearly as well thought out.

YouTube Video

Epson PaperLab In-Office Paper Recycling Plant

Why send your paper out to be recycled when you could do it yourself? Epson’s PaperLab is about 9 feet wide, 6 feet high, and 5 feet deep and fits in a decently sized copier room. Feed it paper and it shreds it, removes all text, and within 3 minutes it will have recycled that paper. Once the system gets going – that 3 minute startup period – it can churn out 14 A4 size pages per minute. Choose the color of paper you’d like, its weight (thickness), and even add an optional scent, and voila – paper from paper. The system will be released in Japan this year. There is no water or waste, due to Epson’s proprietary Dry Fiber technology. Price unannounced, but it’s going to be “affordable” according to an Epson representative.

The recycling process is as follows:

  1. Insert Waste Paper
  2. Restore Paper to Fiber Form
  3. Use Binders to Bind Paper and Increase Strength and Whiteness
  4. Pressure Form the Paper, optionally mixing CMY to change color, and/or add scent
  5. New Paper is Ready

VoiceITT Speech Impediment Correction App

VoiceITT showed their TalkIT app for those with speech impediments. If you stutter, slur your speech, or have some other impediment, the solution clears up your speech in realtime so people can better understand you. VoiceITT is targeting those with autism, brain injuries, Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, MS, strokes, ALS, and throat cancer, among others that affect a person’s normal ability to speak clearly. Quite fascinating in my opinion. The startup has already raised over $750K in funding. See the video below for an example.

YouTube Video

Blincam Camera for Eyewear

I often find myself wishing I could take a photo of whatever I’m seeing at the moment without whipping out my camera. Some cool bird, a funny shirt or license plate, anything – and the moment is right and easily missed if only a few seconds pass. ShapChat has their Spectacles product coming with a built-in camera to address such a need. However, if those loud, bright, and slightly cheap-looking, shades aren’t your thing, Blincam may be exactly what you’re looking for. The device attaches to practically any pair of eyewear, and takes a photo when it detects you’ve blinked. Resolution is only 1920×1080, but that’s good enough for an Instagram/Snapchat/Facebook upload.

YouTube Video

VRC’s Lightning Fast Full Body Scan 3D Model Generator

VRC showed off their CVS – Virtual Reality + Creative – 3D model scanner. The solution can take photos in 4 seconds of any 3D object, and within 2 minutes it will have a full 360 degree render of the subject. That’s 30x faster than existing systems, which take 1-2 hours to perform the same task.

Aroma Shooter Wearable Scent Transmitter

AromaJoin’s Aroma Shooter showed a scent transmitting wearable that can send quickly multiple scents in specific directions without switching cartridges. This overcomes a common issue with “scent” solutions – often they only contain one scent at a time, run slowly, and are relatively pointless. The AromaShooter solution is quick and directional, so it can send different scents to multiple surrounding recipients, with effectively no overlay. So, whatever it is you’re smelling, your neighbor wouldn’t. I can think of a few uses for that one!

The full size Aroma Shooter holds 7 cartridges and can switch in 0.1 seconds, the fastest of its kind. The Aroma Shooter Mini holds 1 cartridge, and can be placed on any metal surface due to its magnet. All products use Bluetooth LE. 200 scents are available so far.

AromaJoin will begin its Kickstarter campaign in May 2017.

YouTube Video

 

 

CEATEC is Japan’s largest consumer electronics trade show, and is similar to our state-side CES. Held in Makuhari every year, the show boasts over 100,000 attendees and hundreds of vendors, showcasing the latest technology in everything from fully manufactured consumer-ready products to the individual components necessary to build them.

As a judge on this year’s Innovation Awards, I had the opportunity to tour the show floor and get a first look at some amazing tech before the public stampedes the halls looking for the same.

Fujitsu’s Emotion Sensing Robot

Just look at the video… Skynet is coming.

ROHM “Machine Health” Solution

ROHM showed off a “Machine Health” factory equipment monitoring solution. The board, running the LAPIS processor at 920MHz, enables retrofitting of factory equipment with sensors. Data can be transmitted with enOcean, a common transmission solution, and Wi-Sun, among others. Once equipment has the board and sensors attached, the ROHM software brings all sensor data to a single front-end interface, altering factory personnel of any machine issues. This solution may save cost by not requiring new machine purchases for safer use monitoring, rather using new “IoT-like” technology and tacking it onto existing equipment.
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Next Generation Lazurite ORIZURU Flying Crane

RoHM introduced a new version of their ORIZURU flying origami. Running their 3.1g Lazurite processor, operating at 920MHz, the board solution is light enough to enable the device, including the battery. This year they added two additional wings, for a total of four, a tail motor, and a wrist-worn cuff to control flying. As you can see in the video below, the flight capabilities aren’t yet perfected.

ALPS IoT Smart Module Package

Alps showed the new version of their Next Generation Development Kit for IoT Smart Module package. After selling 1,400 units last year, they received useful feedback and this is the result. The solution is now expandable, supporting SDC, I/O, SPI, and I2C (“I Squared C”) modules. It also sports 4 megabytes of RAM, enabling logging of data for about one month when communication is bad, or the system doesn’t need to call home often. With a standard CR232 battery, the system can log data for up to 1 year between data dumps.

Murata Traffic Counter System

Murata showed off their Project Atlas traffic counting solution, blanketing a community’s traffic signals and road signage with IR sensors to monitor traffic flow. A prototype implementation has been running in Bangkok for 2 years now and has seen relative success. It takes one sensor every 500 meters to monitor 4 lanes of traffic. The system is not available for sale as of yet. When asked what challenges they face with IR to monitor the traffic, the most complex was noted to be heavy rain.

Fujitsu Palm Vein Verification

Fujitsu showed off its palm-vein-based payment solution. Users register their vein print and link it to any number of credit cards, point cards, and so forth. Veins are used due to the much larger set of verification data points. 17 million people are already using this system – ATM use in Brazil for example. The system uses near infrared to penetrate the skin, so skin color shouldn’t be an issue, according to the representative. Error rate is 0.000001%. Facial recognition wasn’t used due to glasses, weight changes, and contacts changing the verification pattern. While this solution has been available for a few years, Fujitsu’s new version of the senor, available this year, has more power, and can be placed in more environments, including automobiles.

Fujitsu Global Security Management and Hacking Demonstration

Fujitsu showed off a hacker doing a “real” attack – actually using a real hacking tool, Armitage – and explained how their security system could prevent this. See the video below for a replay of the actual attack against a Windows XP machine.

Fujitsu Laser Eyewear

Fujitsu’s laser eye projection solution projects a 720P image directly on the retina. The technology is intended for those with low sight capabilities.
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Fujitsu Ontenna

Fujitsu’s Ontenna – a play on the words “antenna” and “On” (own) the Japanese word for “sound” – uses a vibrating device placed in the hair to help those who are deaf or hearing impaired detect sounds. According to Fujitsu, our hair is very sensitive, so it’s the perfect medium to relay sound information. Users overwhelmingly wanted the hair solution versus any other sort of attachment. This was due to the device no longer touching the skin, and therefore not causing irritation. Using two in parallel can assist in distance and sound location detection.
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Fujitsu Smart City

Fujitsu’s citywide surveillance solution can visualize an entire city by monitoring vehicles, people, and objects in realtime. Advanced deep learning technology can detect suspicious activity, identify faces, read license plates, and more. It can also detect available parking spots using a single 1080P camera to track up to 100 spots.

Fujitsu LiveTalk Realtime Language Translation

Fujitsu’s natural language conversion solution can translate 12 different languages in realtime and seemed pretty accurate in our demo. See the video below for an example.

I recently purchased an LG UltraWide 21:9 display. Why an ultra-wide and not 4K? a) I write code for a living and this is a great way to get two windows full size side-by-side without an extra monitor. b) It was only $130 instead of $400 due to a Best Buy sale. Sold!

I get home, connect it to my Surface Book, and nothing works. The screen just blinks on and off, on and off, blinkety blink, blinkety blink. No Bueno. Changing the cable made the blinkety blink go away, but the display control panel would suggest trying different settings, and wouldn’t light things up.

My friend Shane recommended I get an Active MiniDP to HDMI adapter. So I bought one on Amazon. Still, I didn’t want to wait… that’s 2 days with Prime shipping, and not fast enough.

So, I looked into the MiniDP adapter I was using. I found out it only supports up to 1080P! Maybe it’s DP 1.1 or something. Whatever it is, it couldn’t support a 2560×1440 or thereabouts display.

Fry’s had the answer – I made sure I found a MiniDP to HDMI adapter that clearly stated it supports 4K and MiniDP 1.2. The particular product I purchased was the Cirago Mini DisplayPort to HDMI Display Adapter.

I got home and the adapter worked flawlessly.

I hope that helps anyone having a similar issue!

 

If you want to see next year’s consumer electronics trends, go the current year’s CEATEC. The largest CE show in Japan, held in Makuhari for at least the past 7 years, plays host to products and their components from all over the Asia Pacific area, where most of the CE industry innovation resides.

In a nutshell, based on what was observed at this show, I can practically put money on the items below being the CE Trends for 18 months. You can see many of these reflected in the winners of the CEATEC Innovation Awards, a panel on which I’m a judge.

  • 4K Television Sets + 8K, 3D is dead again and hey, why not buy a 4K set?
  • AR Headsets, likely trending towards VR – I’m thinking AR leads to head-mounted Android Wear, and, heaven forbid, iGlasses
  • Better device user experiences, totally non-techie

Over the next 3 years, probably the following:

  • “Simple” Robots transforming healthcare and family interaction
  • Family, home, and building monitoring solutions, healthcare
  • 5G wireless

The Under-appreciated Heroes of our Industry

I feel it’s harder to innovate full products these days. Many CE technologies we see in the pipeline are simply better, smaller, faster, higher resolution, more efficient versions of what’s come before. The real shining star of this industry is the component manufacturers and what they’ve been capable of. The second rarely told story is the countless research hours creating amazing solutions most American consumers will never hear of.

Alright, I found a Moto 360 and I’m enjoying it. The following is not my review. It is a list of bugs Motorola and Google need to fix on this device and across Android Wear. Note this is only what I’ve noticed after one day. I’ll post more as I explore.

  • When you take the phone out of the box, it doesn’t turn on or has a low battery. That’s understandable. What’s not alright is no prompt about the battery level or what to do. It’s simply “Connect your device to Android Wear,” or something to that effect. That’s very un-user-friendly. Where were the UX guys with the setup process?
  • Only one watch face shows the date. $250 and no date? Seriously?
    • Update, thanks to Rich DeMuro: Drag down slightly to see the date.
  • When asking the watch to make a call to a contact with more than one number, it asks "Which One?" However, it doesn’t give you a list. Saying "the first one" works, but I don’t know what I selected until it dials.
  • There’s no confirmation request when sending a text… it just sends it.
  • It sometimes stops listening or lists your options when listening.
  • It sometimes starts listening when it shouldn’t.
  • Carrier messaging apps break the ability to reply to texts. I had to disable Verizon Messaging entirely.
  • Facebook support for displaying the new comments would be nice, like the email display feature.
  • There’s no battery level meter anywhere on the device, or at least that’s obvious.
    • Update, thanks to Rich DeMuro: Drag down slightly from the top to see battery level.
  • The Android Wear app doesn’t show battery level, but Moto Connect does. Weird?
  • Sometimes Google search results take precedence over actions. For example, saying "play ebay by weird al" brings up YouTube results. However, "play technologic by daft punk" plays the song. It’s hit or miss.
  • So far, adding a calendar entry hasn’t worked.
  • There needs to be a notification center to control which notifications are sent to the phone. Yes, you can do it via the App Manager, but it’s horrible.
  • The accelerometer doesn’t always sense the wrist has been moved to a viewing angle.
  • When driving, the accelerometer appears to trigger the display to turn on *a lot*. It’s not good when driving kills your battery.
  • A speaker would be helpful for prompts.

Added 9/15 afternoon:

  • The Motorola Feedback website doesn’t list the Moto360 as a product. So, how do I register it or get support?
  • The device occasionally says its Offline when the phone is only three feet away. I’m thinking this is a bug in the Google Now integration and not an actual communications issue.
  • Asking the device "What is the battery level" always causes the phone to report it’s offline

Added 9/17:

  • Saying “Call <insert name here> on cell” doesn’t work most of the time, but saying the same “on mobile” is generally reliable.
  • Calling “Send text to <insert name here>” sometimes asks “Which one?” but only shows the phone numbers. I wasn’t sure if I was sending to the right person because the name wasn’t listed.
  • Most of the time, when the screen turns on when moving even the slightest, the watch starts listening, even if I don’t say “Ok, Google”. It’s very annoying.
  • It would be nice if “Ok, Google” could be changed to something else. I feel like I’m advertising Google every time I use my watch.
  • The pedometer seems inaccurate, rendering phantom steps as far as I can tell. The inaccuracy extends to the heart rate monitor. After a long workout, the monitor said I was at 74 bpm, then 90. I took my own pulse, and it was quite off the mark.

Added 9/30:

  • The latest build, 4.4W.1 KGW42R, has greatly improved battery life. On an average day of use, unplugging the watch at around 7am, I was still at 20% at roughly 9:45pm. Great job, Motorola!
  • Even with Messaging as the default app, I have no option to Reply to texts when the notification appears. This may be due to HTC overriding some default app, but I’m unsure.

A few tips:

To launch apps, go to the Google screen, then go to Start… and you can select an app.

You can say the following things and it’s really cool:

  • Call <person’s name> on mobile
  • Play the song <song name>
  • Play the song <song name> by <artist name>
  • What is the current stock price of <company name>

I’ve spent the past few days using Dell’s solution for those who need a keyboard for their Venue Pro 8 tablet. It has come in handy when needing to write emails and edit documents. I have yet to write code with it, although I plan to soon. Unfortunately, while the keyboard and case match the Venue Pro 8 perfectly, it’s hard to recommend this accessory for medium to heavy duty work until Dell treats the keyboard with the attention to detail afforded its laptop-bound brethren.

Every time I use a compact keyboard I am reminded all designers of such keyboards must be sadists. They move keys around to obscenely hard to reach places. Sometimes they remove keys altogether, making the keyboard worthless. Dell’s Tablet Wireless Keyboard for their Venue 8 Pro is no exception. Take a gander at the photo below. Why does the keyboard need two Alt keys? Couldn’t that second Alt be used for the apostrophe, which is explicably a Function key combination? Why is the question mark key on the left, next to a full size shift key, when it could have been put in its normal position next to a smaller right shift key?

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That’s not to say it’s all bad. Actually, the keyboard itself is quite good for short emails and corrections to documents. Expectations are usually low for compact keyboards, so this is better than some when it comes to comfort. I didn’t make many mistakes, although any time I needed certain punctuation I had to stop and think. It’s the ergonomic and functionality decisions, and aforementioned omissions, that make absolutely no sense. For example:

  • The keyboard has no backlight. If Microsoft can insert a backlight in a keyboard half as thin, why can’t Dell?
  • Two watch batteries are required. Yes, it comes with them, but those things are expensive. Why isn’t there a rechargeable battery that could charge via MicroUSB from the Venue Pro’s USB port?
  • I said it before, but come on – what in the world were they thinking with the apostrophe and quote keys? They’ve moved from a normal location – next to : and ; – to requiring a Function Key combination. But they left { and } intact? Who uses those often while typing in Word or web sites? Maybe developers, like me, but we need the quote and apostrophe, too!
  • The keyboard connects magnetically to the case – which is awesome – except, the keyboard doesn’t deactivate itself when the magnet is engaged. That causes key presses to turn the tablet on, thus draining the battery. It also drains the keyboard’s battery. It sounds like a simple engineering task, magnet turning off the power circuit, but maybe I missed something? The magnet is also a bit weak. Don’t treat this like Microsoft’s Surface keyboard. You’ll want to place the keyboard elsewhere if you’re only going to use the Venue Pro 8 as a tablet.
  • If the on-screen keyboard can fit all keys on the Venue Pro’s screen, why can’t the physical keyboard that has more physical room?

If you were a product manager, would you let this thing ship with such obvious issues?

Those gripes aside, I like the keyboard, and its design complements the Venue Pro 8. The design of the folio case, it’s built-in pen holder, and magnetic grip of the keyboard to the case all make this a worthwhile addition to your Dell Venue Pro accessory list. Just don’t expect to get much work done with it if you need apostrophes, dashes, or quotes.

Pros: Keyboard perfectly matches contours of the Venue Pro 8, and connects magnetically. Package comes with a case that looks very nice and can hold the digitizer pen. Keyboard can be left in the car, at home, and so forth, so you don’t have to carry it around when not needed.

Cons: The keyboard + case combo seems to weigh as much as the Venue Pro, practically doubling the weight. Alcohol must have been involved when deciding the keyboard layout. The magnet is a bit weak. The keyboard isn’t good for any long documents due to the layout’s inexplicable key locations.

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Figure: The keyboard connects magnetically to the flap on the case.

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Figure: The keyboard looks great even when not being used. That doesn’t mean it folds back like the Surface – it will fall off if you treat it like Microsoft’s prodigy.

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Figure: The keyboard runs off two CR2025 3 volt batteries. The tray is a bit difficult to remove.

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Figure: The keyboard.

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Figure: Unwrapping.

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Figure: The packaging. Front.

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Figure: The packaging. Back.