Archive for the ‘Mobile’ Category

I’m continuing my resolution to record as many of my programming and technical presentations as possible. I recently spoke at the inaugural Indy.Code() conference. It was excellent, with an incredible speaker line-up. I hope they, too, post some of their presentations online!

Watch the Video on YouTube

From the synopsis:

Should you write your app “native” or use a “cross-platform” solution like React Native, Xamarin, or NativeScript? The new wave of native-cross-compiling solutions provide significant cost savings, code reuse opportunities, and lower technical debt. Does wholly native, per platform development, still play a role in future mobile development? Let’s discuss together.

In this presentation, we’ll discuss:

  • The growth of native, hybrid, and cross-platform mobile development solutions
  • Cost analysis of multiple native and cross-platform apps
  • Considerations for each native and cross-platform solution
  • Lessons learned

Slides are available here: https://t.co/5iLhEoEfen

If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them! Please email me or ask on Twitter.

 

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 been putting off finishing my HTC One M8 review for a couple months. I’m hoping to finish it soon, but for now, here’s my draft…

A Dilemma

Before I start my review, I need to explain the technology dilemma of new phones, and new laptops and desktops, too, for that matter. Technology has come to a performance and feature point that it’s hard for manufacturers to prove any necessity their new products in these categories. Case in point – my previous phone, the Galaxy Nexus, was perfectly fast for everything I did with it. Sure, it wouldn’t launch apps or take photos as quickly as the newer devices, but it was acceptably fast, so much so that, as I shopped for a new product, the newer devices weren’t obviously beneficial.

I imagine my dilemma similarly affects the PC market. For the average consumer, is the laptop of today that much better than the laptop of two years ago? If you spend most of your time plugged in, as many users I’ve met do, will they notice the processor speed? The display? They’ll definitely recognize the SSD speed and touch. Yet their old systems are acceptably fast. Lucky for them, new laptops are affordable. Desktop PCs? That’s a different story – there’s nothing really new about them that you’d need to upgrade, and you don’t see many shipping with SSDs.

Phones, unlike laptops and desktops, are lucky in that they are a) popular to drive consumers to buy when upgrades are unnecessary, and b) have sex appeal. You rarely tell anyone these days about their chic new laptop. Well, you used to… That desire has shifted to the phone, now a mini laptop in itself. Yet, beyond the better battery life, what makes a phone better today, other than you can get a new model up front, and paid off [again] in two years?

Anyway, I ignored all that introspection and needs analysis. I bought HTC One M8.

The Phone

First, let’s talk about the One. It’s beautiful. It’s slick. A bit too slick, as the aluminum is so smooth I often was afraid it would fall out of my hands. Thankfully, HTC provides one free screen replacement in the first six months. I like little support touches like that. The HTC Dot View case solved my grippiness issue, which I’ll discuss below. Wow, though – it’s a beautiful phone. I had a number of people ask me “Hey, what phone is that?” and often times heard “I think I’ll be switching to an Android phone next. Wow, that screen is big.” Maybe Google should be courting HTC for the its next Galaxy phone?

The Camera

The HTC One takes great photos. So why isn’t it my favorite camera? First, we need to explain the difference between HTC’s approach to phone cameras compared to practically everybody else: bigger pixel sensor size versus more pixels. The One sports 2 micron sensors vs. the 1.3 micron sensors used by practically every other flagship phone from Samsung, Google, and even Nokia. However, it only has a 4 megapixel effective resolution, versus 13+ on the others. True, the larger sensors bring in more light, and make the HTC One an excellent low light level camera. But when it comes to image quality, that lack of additional resolution makes every shot a make-it-or-break-it affair. With a 16 megapixel imager, for example, you could get a large shot and crop to something perfect. But with 4 megapixels, you’ve got to get it right the first time, lest you risk cropping to Facebook resolution. Definitely nothing good to print, and sometimes so few pixels there’s nothing good to display, either.

To be fair, the One takes excellent photos. Albeit quite a bit overexposed when there’s too much light… You can’t get balanced exposure between, say, the sky and the grass on a partly cloudy day. If you focus on the grass, the sky turns white. If you focus on the sky, the grass turns almost black. It sounds like something that can be solved with software… I’m hoping HTC has something in the works.

A few bugs I noticed, in case HTC is listening:

  • You can’t add stickers to a photo taken with a flash or low light. I have no idea why.
  • U Focus is not available for flash or low light photos, either.
  • Facebook uploads from the HTC One M8 appear to be very low resolution. I’ve seen this issue on many HTC Android phones. It looks like HTC has their own Facebook for HTC, but I can’t exactly confirm which uploader is being used when sharing.

The Dot View Case – The Sleeper Accessory Success story to what Austin Powers was to Sleeper Movie Successes

Long title, but true. The Dot View case may seem like a gimmick, but it does a great job at what it’s supposed to do. Lined with little holes that form letters and shapes when combined with the One’s screen gestures, you can check the time, make a phone call, answer and decline phone calls, and see if you have any messages all without ever looking at your screen. Samsung and other manufacturers have done similar things by putting cutouts in cases, too. Yet HTC’s approach is unique, and very, very cool. I think many folks who have seen my little demos of the Dot View case are thinking the One is their next phone. Maybe it’s just sheer luck for HTC, but I don’t think I’ve met anyone who’s contract isn’t about to expire this year. Good thing I’m not in charge of a survey! <grin>

Ok, learned this sort of the hard way today… I picked up the brand spanking new HTC One M8 yesterday. So far it’s a fantastic phone. I wanted to add a 32 GB MicroSD card, since it wonderfully supports such expansion. Beware! There’s a little tray that comes out when you use the paper clip in the little hole. Put the MicroSD card in that tray! I thought it was simply a placeholder at first, so I slyly proceeded to simply insert the card into the hole. Whoops!

imageIf you fall into the same trap, it’s easy to get the MicroSD card out. First, you might as well finish the formatting steps – it’s in there anyway. When that’s done, use the paperclip to release the MicroSD card from the tray. Yes, I know it won’t come out all the way. After releasing it via the eject hole, use the side of the paperclip to gently pull the card out from the right side a little bit. Once you can see the plastic of the card, pull it out the rest of the way with your fingers. Problem solved!

Good luck!

-Auri

I picked up a Dell Venue 8 Pro for $99 as part of Microsoft’s 12 Days of Presents spree. Here are some tips & tricks for the more techy folks out there:

How to Access the BIOS

Press the power button once. Then hold down the Volume Down button until the Dell logo disappears. You don’t need a keyboard – it has an on-screen mouse mapped to the touch screen. Cool, eh?

To access the Advanced settings of the BIOS, follow the instructions through Step 7 below:

How to Speed Up SSD Disk Access by Modifying the EFI / BIOS

Thanks to Sasha for the following steps, which can increase speeds by over 50%!

1) From Windows, bring up the charms (swipe in from right)
2) Select Settings -> Change PC Settings, or Start, then All Apps, then PC Settings.
3) Choose Update and Recovery -> Recovery
4) Under Advanced Startup, select Restart Now
5) From this blue menu, select Troubleshoot, then select Advanced Options
6) Select UEFI Firmware Settings, then click Restart
7) Now, the BIOS shows up, hit the on-screen ESC button ONLY ONCE.
8) You’re now in the Main “tab”, with a vertical list of options, from here you must select Advanced, this lets you see all the BIOS settings and is different from hitting the Advanced tab across the top.
9) Select LPSS & SCC Configuration
10) Select SCC eMMC 4.5 HS200 Support and select Enabled (Mine was disabled by default)
12) Select DDR50 Support for SDCard and select Enabled (Mine was disabled by default)
13) Press F10 on the on-screen keyboard to save, then Save Settings and Exit and you’re all set.

Getting Back ~5 Gigabytes of Space by Removing Recovery Partition

The Dell Recovery Partition is essential for restoring your machine should something catastrophic happen. To add insult to injury, Dell often runs out of stock of recovery media, and won’t send you such after a year or two has passed. That’s hit me before, and it’s not fun. So, make sure you’ve backed it up!

Once you’ve backed up that recovery partition, there’s no point in keeping it. Get those gigs back!

Here’s how:

NOTE: Make sure you have at least 50% of your battery left for this process. I wouldn’t do this when hitting the lower ends of the battery spectrum.

  1. Go to All Applications and scroll all the way right to the Dell group. Tap the My Dell application.
  2. Click Backup, even if it says no backup software is installed.
  3. Click the Download Local Backup button. This will provide a link to download Dell Backup and Recovery, which you should download and install. Basically, once you click the Download button, select Run and wait for Setup to do its job. This process can take a long time. Even the download appears to be huge. It’s probably downloading the latest recovery data, but that’s just a guess.
  4. After the software has installed, it will request a restart. So, restart the tablet.
  5. Go to All Applications and back to the Dell group. Note the new Dell Backup and… option. Tap it.
  6. Wait a few moments for the cool clock animation to complete, then agree to whatever terms are presented, or not.
  7. Tap the Reinstall Disks option. This is the equivalent of a Factory Restore partition backup.
  8. Tap USB Flash Drive, which is probably the only real option you have with this unit. This includes use of the Micro SD card, which is what I used, since I didn’t have a USB adapter handy. If you decide to use an external burner, that’s cool, too. But… why?
  9. Select your USB drive, or the MicroSD card. I backed up to an 8 GB MicroSD. Dell estimates the backup at 4.03 GB, so 8 GB should suit you just fine.
  10. Tap Start, then tap Yes when asked if you’re sure about wiping out the USB or MicroSD drive. Of course you’re sure! (right?)
  11. Wait until it’s done.
  12. When it’s complete, click OK, and put the backup media in a safe place. I put it in my Venue Pro’s box.
  13. Go back to Start, then All Programs, then Desktop.
  14. Hold down on the Start button and select Command Prompt (Admin).
  15. Type diskpart to launch the Disk Partition manager.
  16. Type list partition to see the available partitions.
  17. Type select partition X, where X is the number of the approximately 4 gigabyte recovery partition. On my Venue, it was 6.
  18. Make sure you see “Partition X is now the selected partition”!!!
  19. Type delete partition override and hit enter.
  20. You should be greeting with “DiskPart successfully deleted the selected partition.”
  21. Type exit to quit DiskPart, then exit again to quit Command Prompt.
  22. Now that the partition is gone, we need to expand the size of the main partition.
  23. Open an Explorer window and long press This PC, then select Manage.
  24. When Computer Management appears, select Disk Management under Storage.
  25. You should see the 4.64 gigabytes or so we freed up showing as Unallocated.
  26. Long press your C: drive and select Extend Volume….
  27. The Extend Volume Wizard appears. Click Next.
  28. You’ll be asked where the space to extend the volume should come from. Everything should already be filled out to assign the maximum unallocated space. Simply tap Next or adjust as desired and click Next.
  29. The wizard will confirm the extension settings. Click Finish.
  30. There you go! Your C: drive is now almost five gigabytes larger!

UPDATE: You can also back up to a USB drive by acquiring a USB OTG, or “On-The-Go”, adapter. Pick one up from Fry’s, SKU number 7582626, here. This will also enable you to use thumb drives and such on your Dell Venue 8 Pro.

Disable the Annoying Backlight

Dell’s power management settings for the backlight are wretched, making the display dim almost all the time. Let’s get around that, shall we?

  1. Swipe out the charms menu, then select Settings, then Change PC Settings on the bottom.
  2. Select PC and devices.
  3. Select Power and sleep.
  4. Set Adjust my screen brightness automatically to Off.

Below are my notes from Day 1 of the CEATEC show in Makuhari, Japan.

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Sony Info-Eye + Sony Social Live

Sony showcased two unique social apps, Info Eye and Social Live, part of their Smart Social Camera initiative.

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Info Eye takes an image and analyzes it for different types of information, surfacing that information in different views. For example, take a photo of the Eiffel Tower and you are presented with different "views" of the data. The first view may be related photos of the French attraction, such as a view from the top, or the Eiffel Tower Restaurant. Change views and you’re presented with a map of Paris. Continue to the next view and see your friends’ comments on social networks about the attraction. It certainly is an innovative approach to automatically get benefits from simple photo taking – photos you normally wouldn’t look at again anyway.

A video is worth thousands of pictures, and you already know what those are worth:

And in case you simply want a picture:

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Social Live is like a live video feed, streamed from your phone to various social services. While the example of a live marriage proposal wasn’t so realistic, Social Live still has great consumer applications. For example, set a social live link on Facebook and your friends could view your video feed while you tour the Champs Elise in Paris, without your needing to initiate a Skype call. It’s similar to having a live broadcast stream ready to go at any time.

3D 4K Everywhere!

3D didn’t entice the world – again – so, why not re-use all that marketing material, swapping 4K for 3D? No, it’s not that bad, and 4K is beautiful, but it’s just too early, too expensive, as is almost every evolutionary technology like this. Just for fun I  made a collage of the various offerings. Component innovation is once again creating products at a pace greater than the consumers’ willingness to adopt.

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Tizen IVI Solutions at Intel

Intel had a sizeable display of Tizen OS based In-Vehicle Infotainment solutions at its booth. Apparently Intel had 800 developers working on Tizen while partnered with Nokia on the OS-formerly-known-as-MeeGo. The most interesting Tizen demonstration was Obigo’s HTML5-based IVI solution. On a related note, Samsung is apparently folding their Bada OS into Tizen. It will be interesting to see whether it makes any difference in the global mobile OS movement, still dominated by Android, then iOS, then Windows Phone.

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Obigo’s HTML5-based In-Vehicle-Infotainment Solution

Obigo’s solution is to automotive application development what PhoneGap is to standard mobile application development. Developers build widgets using HTML5 + JavaScript, accessing vehicle data and services via an abstraction layer provided by the Obigo engine. Apps in Obigo’s system are called widgets. Nothing appears to prevent Obigo from bringing this solution to Android, so look for that possibility on the various Android vehicle head units coming to market. Hyundai and Toyota will be the first integrators of the system.

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Apparently Japanese Car Insurance is Very Expensive

Another solution shown at the Intel Tizen display was a driving habits monitor capable of sending an email to your insurance company with said information. The goal would be to lower insurance rates. The solution was a hokey implementation at best, but at least I’ve learned insurance is expensive here as well.

Fujitsu Elderly Care Cloud

In an effort to keep Japan’s increasingly elderly population in touch with their families, Fujitsu has created a "Senior Cloud." The benefit to seniors will apparently be video and photo communication and sharing services with their family, alongside healthcare detail sharing services. I couldn’t get a demo, but it sounds like a good idea. For the next 10-20 years, anyway – by then, the "elderly" will have become the people who know how to do these things.

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ModCrew iPhone Waterproofing Coat

ModCrew displayed a nano-coating solution for iPhones (only), rendering your fruit phone washable.

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Omron Basil Thermometer with DoCoMo Health Smartphone App

Omron has a unique line of basil thermometers, with pleasant shapes and colors, targeted (obviously) towards women. The devices, among other Omron health device solutions, can all transmit their data via NFC to phones and tablets. Using an app from NTT DoCoMo, health data can be consolidated and analyzed, and health advice can be provided.

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All health components gather data to recommend healthy choices.

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Huawei Phone with Panic Alarm

Chinese consumer and mobile electronics provider Huawei showcased their HW-01D feature phone with a built-in panic alarm. Targeted towards women, children, and the elderly, the device has a pull tab that sets off a loud, yet oddly pleasant, siren to scare away would-be perpetrators.

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Fujitsu Finger Link

Fujitsu’s Finger Link solution uses a top-mounted camera to convert physical objects to virtual objects, enabling you to organize and relate such items for later manipulation. For example, put 3 Post It notes down and they are converted to digital representations, automatically recognized as separate objects. Tap each related item and drag a line between others similar to the first. Tap a button on the projected interface and now they’re related, moveable, sharable, and more.

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Fujitsu Sleepiness Detection Sensor

A hot item in vehicles displayed at CEATEC this year was detection of distracted driving. Fujitsu’s component detects eyes moving away from the road, a downward or upward motion possibly signifying the driver is drowsy. The component is for use by automotive integrators.

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Fujitsu big data + open data quiet service, LOD utilization Platform

Fujitsu showcased an open LOD utilization platform for quickly and easily mining and analyzing the data from many Open Data sources all at once, visually. The back-end is using the SPARQL query language.

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Mitsubishi 4K LaserVue

Mitsubishi showcased a prototype 4K Red Laser + LED backlit display, enabling a beautiful, beyond photorealistic video display. Standing in front of the reference unit, I actually felt like I was looking through a window – the colors were amazingly vivid and lifelike.

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Mitsubishi elevator skyscraper swap detection system

Mitsubishi also showcased a solution for preventing elevator stalls in swaying skyscrapers. Their sensor moves the elevator cart to a non-swaying or less-swaying floor to prevent service outages, keeping the elevators running as efficiently as possible, and giving you one less excuse to miss that meeting.

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Mitsubishi 100Gbps optical transmission technology

Mitsubishi showcased a 100 gigabit/second inter-city optical interconnect solution, with a range up to 9000 kilometers.

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Mitsubishi Vector Graphics Accelerating GPU

Who says you need multi-core ARM processors running over 1 GHz + powerful GPUs for beautiful embedded device interfaces? Mitsubishi sure doesn’t. They showcased a GPU running at a scant 96 MHz, accelerating vector graphics display at up to 60 frames per second. Incredibly responsive interfaces for elevators and boat tachometers were displayed. The target is rich user interfaces with incredibly low power consumption.

Related notes:

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Mitsubishi Rear Projection Display for Automotive

It’s no surprise Mitsubishi is proposing rear projection solutions for automotive – RP is one of the company’s strengths. What they propose is curved surfaces to provide an interface that matches the interior of the vehicle. Also possible is 3D-like interfaces, as shown below.

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Sharp Frameless TV Concept

A display with no bezel? Sharp’s frameless concept showcases how beautiful such a solution would be. That it in the center.

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Sharp Mirror Type Display

Also on display (ahem) was the Mirror Type Display, with a display built into a mirror. Have I said display enough times?

Pioneer Wireless Blu-ray Drive

That shiny new ultrabook is pretty svelte, isn’t it? What’s that? You want to watch a Blu-ray? That’s fine – just use Pioneer’s BDR-WFS05J solution to wirelessly connect to the Blu-ray drive across the room and stream the data over 802.11N, as long as it’s in its dock. The unit also supports USB 2 and 3. Ships at the end of September.

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Toyota Smart Home HEMS Using Kinect

Toyota showcased a smart home energy management system (HEMS) using Kinect to interact with various residents.

Toyota Concept Vehicles

I don’t know much about the following one-person electric riders, but they looked cool, so enjoy the photos.

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Clarion Smart Access + EcoAccel

Determining whether you’re driving Green, or "Eco" as they say in Japan, can be difficult. Clarion’s EcoAccel app, which runs on their Android-powered head unit, reads ODB2 sensor data to rate your Eco driving habits. It’s an entertaining way to enhance the eco-friendliness of your driving routine. The representative said there are no current plans to bring this product Stateside, but I’m hoping they change their mind. After all, ODB2 data is pretty easy to read, even if it’s not entirely standardized.

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Mazda Heads Up Cockpit

While the HUD component is nothing to write home about, Mazda’s approach of keeping everything at eye level, while re-organizing the shift knob to also be easily manipulated was a welcome safe-driving-meets-ergonomics approach. Better yet, they will be shipping this in their Axela vehicles, meaning less expensive vehicles may be readily receiving technology to deter distracted driving. They call this the Heads Up Cockpit with a Concentration Center Display.

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Mazda Connect System

Mazda also showcased the Mazda Connect system, enabling car communication and software components to be "easily" upgraded as new features are available. Whether this will be an insanely expensive solution, akin to Samsung’s upgradeable TV approach, remains to be seen.

It’s fascinating to see how some of the most innovative products are coming from what used to be one of the least innovative industries: automotive.