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2015 Newfangled Tech Considered



The 2014 Fitbit Surge : The coolest Fitness Tracker / Watch
The one that other people actually want! 
Consider the noteworthy wrist computers *aka smart-watches, VR viewers, Hololens, Self Driving Cars, Rugged CE, LED and LiFi of 2015, or not.


Wearables  

Moto 360
Nice looking, possibly the best looking: terrible battery life : 2nd Gen improved : still poor battery life, wireless charging via proprietary dock ever day :(

Apple Watch ok : not bad for first gen: terrible battery life : underwhelming given price : band and style selection amazing : the charging method is similar to the 360, a special dock ;(

FitBit Charge HR & Surge : good : decent battery life : both need better band materials, they also suffer from propriety charging cables, make sure to get a spare.

Scores of other things didn't even make the cut for commenting on because of their disjoined nature, poor designs, or mediocre execution. Even the ones above that did make the cut suffer from proprietary charging cables, something I consider a *headache*

Watch makers produced a formula for how to build things that fit on a persons wrist 24/7 a long time ago. Why the smartwatch makers are missing this boat makes little if any sense. Casio and their G-Shock line for example use band materials that hold up really well over time, in the shower without causing a rash, and have designs that work. I am not sure why Apple, Fitbit, and Motorola are confused about how to use good quality durable band materials. Why reinvent the wheel. I wish their designers would consider history more. I realize that it is tricky business to jam a computer into a watch sized case and give it good battery life, but I know that it is possible using solar and kinetic energy recovery, winding springs or self winding spring generators, etc.

Other IoT wrist wearable computers like the Microsoft Band were terrible in their first iteration. The blocky design did not fit well on any normal wrist, like strapping on a bent blocky rectangular pack of chewing gum, it never sat comfortably. The Microsoft Fitness Band 2 was a great step forward, but still not a comfy wrist item and falls short of the FitBit competition with poor 48hr max battery life.

Samsung should be ashamed of itself with the first generation gear watch. Mounting a 2010 iPod Nano on a wrist strap provided more useful functionality, better listening, and much better battery life. This piece of wrist mounted samsung e-trash was known to die easily, gave terrible battery life, and provided little if any added functionality to their otherwise great smartphones. The later generations of the Sumsung Gear watches are better, but anyone who has tried them gives poor review scores for a litany of reasons. Back to the design studio Samsung, and please don't copy Apple, look to FitBit friends.

While the Intel Curie was launched, I have yet to see any smart clothing worth buying. No smart shoes, no smart hats. It seems that wrist mounted smart things are all the range these days. To really build a wrist watch computer worth owning, they need to put solar charging in the bezel, optimize power sipping, and put a kinetic energy generator, along with a rechargeable battery. To really go head to head against a self-winding automatic watch of the past, the smart watch for everyone needs to gives months of battery life per charge, not days. At the minimum the designers should be aiming for 6 days with GPS enabled, to cover a normal persons entire work week.

Most of these wrist computers of today that have to be recharged every day or so, and are annoying to use as a consequence. Perhaps if you could recharge them by twisting a spring...... in under a minute that issue would not exist. Perhaps if charging it inductively while you sleep, on your wrist, by snorging radio energy and wifi energy from the air.... if the movement of the watch could spin a small magnet it a small coil of wire, kinetic energy could charge the battery. Citizen and Casio put solar in their watches... why not others..... There are lots of ways they could improve battery life, single charge run time, and the user experience. When your trying to tell what time it is, and after only 2 days see a low battery warning, how bad is that..... If your going to call it a watch, it should be able to tell time for a long time between charges, or have fast, easy, intuitive and simple ways of collecting energy from the world, not just proprietary charging cables and docks.

There are some stylish analog watches from Fossil and Withings that are launching in 2016, but this article is about 2015 tech. I guess its fair to say that a lot of tech from 2015 will make it into the products launched this year. Expect some fitness tracking additions, perhaps a blinking notification light of some type, and longer battery life in hybrid smart watches that look the part of a classical analog watch, but pack some tiny electronic fun into the mix.



VR still brewing

Ever since Palmer Lucky started talking about the Oculus Rift, I knew it was the next big thing. But literally for years now, its been baked and rebaked, with new Dev Kits over and over again, and still nothing a normal person can use as a polished consumer product.

Worse, the Oculus Rift at $299 has to be physically plugged into a new 2015 gaming desktop build that costs about $1200. This means to get the proper experiences its going to set you back $1500 in early 2016......not exactly for everyone...

The HTC Valve Steam Vive promised to launch before 2016..... hmmmmm

Google Cardboard is the only thing I have had the pleasure of using that turns my old Note 3 into a VR viewer, and if you have not tried one of these sub-$20 attachments and own a compatible phone, do yourself a favor and give it a whirl. Youtube even has #360 videos with cardboard mode now ^^
If you dare to try the google earth demo with cardboard, make sure your near your wifi router and your internet speed is turned up, also make sure to charge your phone up, the VR viewing drains the battery faster than anything else I have ever used ^^

The HoloLens from Microsoft is the most interesting thing I have seen emerge from Redmond since the launch of Azure. Emerge is probably the wrong word. We know that HoloLense as Augmented Reality is going to set a new bar, perhaps something Google tried to do with the original Google Glass. Underwhelming as Glass was, we know that HoloLense will be like wearing a helmet, and that driving a car while operating one will only really be possible in a self driving car with autopilot. I find the idea of streaming YouTube DIY videos while working on something new alluring. I am very excited for the 3rd Gen HoloLens. Looks like 2018 will be the big year for AR as well.


Self Driving Cars

Safer : Cleaner : Better : Almost Here

Tesla leads the charge with software updates to the Model S
Sadly, nothing else that you can buy that is noteworthy by comparison ;(
It looks like 2018 will be the big year for Autopilot in consumer vehicles~


Rugged Electronics Focus Shifted

Broken glass on your phone?

Rugged is my new focus, I want tough electronics that hold up well in the real world. Thinking about disaster preparedness, I think that tough electronics are better. To put my money where my mouth is, I gave up using my Note 3 as a phone, and invested in a Kyocera Brigadier, the only decent rugged phone available for my Verizon wireless carrier in America. It is not unbreakable, I met a fellow recently who also rolls one, and he managed to snap the screen with 3 clean breaks, by putting it his back pocket......... now that is going to mean different things for different people. Do your research !


LED Bulbs & LiFi

LED everywhere, the diode assault on flo tube and filament lighting continues to rage on. Something that has yet to take off based on this tech is LiFi or light based wireless internet. In LiFi blinking LED lights strobing so fast they look like they are constant on, produce something like fiber optic internet within a room that is showered by that light source. If your LiFi devices can see the LiFi bulb, you have secure internet. The problem with Wifi in some cases is that it leaks through your home, out to where thieves and hackers can break into your network. With LiFi, if they can't get line of sight to your light source, they can't access your network.

Lumens per Watt is the new measure of lighting. Today an ~8.5watts LED bulbs gives up something like 800 lumens. Our Sun, the local star in our solar system is similar at 95 Lumens per Watt. Entrenched T8 low pressure mercury tube fluorescents with high efficiency ballasts can do even better, but the flo tubes light quality is not something people want at home, nor is the 4ft long glass tube ideals for the kinds of fixtures people like at home, less they have ugly commercial fixtures in their ceilings. Flo bulbs also like to be turned on and left on to achieve good life, they have a finite, say limited, number of re-strikes or on off cycles. In commercial applications this is fine, but in a home it often makes little sense anywhere other than in a workshop or garage.

Looking ahead, Laser bulbs will replace LED, and Raman Emitter bulbs will surpass Laser bulbs in the future. Laser bulbs are a few years away because of laws that restrict the use of lasers as lighting. Raman emitters or silicon photonics, are even further away, their direct conversion of electricity to light will raise the bar for artificial lighting sources. Only the Microwave Sulfur bulb exists to trump them all, but it has been plagued with over heating problems, and a lack of used cases that can actually use the incredible 4,000,000 lumen per bulb output, they look like softball sized stars, like little fusion energy light sources, the Sulfur atoms excited by the microwaves, converting microwaves to light. LED is very 2015 : LiFi is not


USB C

I was just reminded by a tech article that Apple has put USB C to work on its latest MacBooks, abandoning the super intelligent MagSafe design that long dominate the power input roll on Apple's laptops. This was not a good idea, MagSafe worked brilliantly, and Apple was the only company doing

USB has only shipped on a few consumer products in 2015, the dominate fragile Micro-USB still reigning supreme, much to the broken port frustrations of android users everywhere. The tiny fragile Micro-USB is the weakest USB connector, the cable ends of the male micro-usb so soft that they bend with the slightest cable tension, the female micro-usb receiver often more durable, but still prone to mechanical distortion failure modes, regularly, for millions of people. Thumbs down to Micro-USB and the narrow minded dill wads that prostituted its supposed virtues to CE companies of all types....

USB C promises to offer a solution to the woes of micro-usb, while offering more power, in a stronger connector that can be plugged in either way. Gone with asymmetry, the rotationally symmetric design of USB C makes it intuitive and easy to use. Gone are the days of cable zen, twist management to make those micro-usb connectors fit correctly.

Up to 100 watts of power, the USB C connector is an electrical beast. Sporting 10Gbit/S transfer rates, its pumps data as fast as 2nd gen Lightning "Apple/Intel" : In most implementations we will see power levels of 20w or less, often 12w or 10w, but that is to minimize the use of copper in cables for devices that are power efficient. Better signal fidelity along with high power capacity, the USB Type-C is a breath of fresh air, except where it replaces MagSafe jacks on MacBooks.


IoT 


The internet of things is on the attack of light switches, power outlets, and possibly even more, once some standards are nailed down. In 2015 we had something along the lines of Amazon Echo, Belkin WeMo, and phone apps galore to make it all happen. If you plan on automating your home, get your smartphone battery all hot and charged, collect your passwords, and a few hundred $, and you can add a drop cam or two, some WeMo enhanced outlets, and some Echo action in your kitchen. Yo, Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights, if the switch is connected to the Echo, magic happens. Beware, the setup is not totally automated yet!

Does your fridge, washer, dryer, etc need internet? Can these things be made better with a connected experience? Pull out your phone, unlock, launch app, wait, thats a lot of steps, sometimes a hard button works better, touch the switch, your have fingers, feel the power, instantly! Sometimes the classical solutions have their own special values~


Sphero BB-8

It product descriptions say everything, 60m battery life, 30m range, its too limited, but I want one. Recovering from a Star Wars Imax 3d experiences on the last day of 2015 with my lovely wife and wonderful mother, I find the idea of having a BB8 robot alluring for a lot of reasons. But I want one with some really magical energy technology that gives in hundreds of miles of range, months of standby battery life. I guess for $150 you can't expect much in 2016, and for a toy, the BB8 from Sphero- is awesome. It makes me long even more for a home robot, to join up with my Neato D75 vacuum cleaner :)

The Sphero- remote control ball was something that caught my eye a couple of years ago but something I never decided to buy. They redesigned it with the 2.0 version, and it peaked my interests once again, but its one of those things that I know I would only get to play with randomly, and perhaps, after a few years I would want to change its battery for a new one and worried that I will not be able to do so without rendering the $130 ball partially defunct. No hints from their website about this issue either.





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