What we can learn from Sony Xperia tags

We talked about Sony’s Xperia SmartTags while at CES last week and it seems we weren’t the only ones who took notice.  According to a PSFK article, a Sony representative says the Xperia tags will be available for sale as early as the second quarter 2012 at a price of $30 for four tags.

Near Field Communication (NFC), the technology powering these tags, is something we’ve had our eyes on for a while and we anticipate it will gain real traction over the next few years.  In addition to the suggestion that this technology will become adopted sooner rather than later, I find the cultural implications of these tags noteworthy.  We live in a world where we constantly struggle to maintain a balance between our work, home, and social lives.  At the most basic level, these Xperia tags can, with a quick tap, turn on our work emails and notifications upon arriving at the office, and then switch them off when we get home in the evening, thereby simplifying and automating a process we as a society have trouble doing for ourselves.  Perhaps a literal shift in our phones’ functions will encourage us to make a mental shift as well.

And, isn’t this, after all, the real goal behind new technology?  Some new devices and mediums are undeniably fun (I’m thinking augmented reality on magazine covers, etc.), but fun isn’t enough.  Meaningful technology should not only fit seamlessly into our lives, but also enhance them.

CES 2012 Video Blog: Kia Motors

The Kia Motors booth displayed one of our favorite innovations at CES 2012: the User-Centered Driving Display. It’s a prototype interface that uses an infra-red LED and camera to monitor a driver’s face– detecting changes in eye movement and eyelid and head position, and sounding an alarm when lack of alertness could cause an accident. Watch this video to see it in action:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rowGY8z6TQ0&w=560&h=345]

Smart Buds: Headphones that Track Biometrics

There’s been a whole slew of smartphone fitness gadgets that monitor your exercise progress–Fitbit and Jawbone are two devices with smartphone connectivity that gather useful health data to name a few.  Well, take a look at Valencell, a U.S. startup that develops earbuds which measure your biometric data, including heart rate and VO2 max.  Surprisingly enough, your ears are a great place to collect that sort of information. Thanks to the easy connectivity to mobile devices, these health trackers can be extremely lightweight and do not have to rely on having their own display.

Health and fitness has embraced the self measurement trend, but who’s next?  Facebook Timeline has helped track your relationship developments (whether you like it or not) while Mint.com does a great job analyzing your finances.  I can see an emergence of transportation data being another area for growth and maybe time spent online.

“Barnacles on the boat to innovation” CES 2012

The northern most part of North Hall at CES 2012 was dedicated to an entire industry built upon accessories to the actual innovations in consumer electronics that are seen almost everywhere else at the event. These are the “barnacles on the boat to innovation”. (I am slightly obsessed by this phrase, which I must duly accredit to Chad).

A quick trip up and down those aisles will quickly reveal that many of these parasitic inventions were made for the iPhone. One critical reason for this is that iPhone cases can be manufactured at scale thanks to the iPhone’s consistent form factor, which has remained unchanged now for three generations. Another factor is that iPhone users tend to be bigger spenders than other smartphone users, and prefer “a sleek device that just does a few things.” That is why they opt for the online roulette beautifully designed iPhone, and why they then (somewhat paradoxically) splurge on decadent accessories to adorn it.

As a new iPhone user, I found myself dutifully conforming to this stereotype when I came face to face with a pink and gold diamante iPhone case with glittery hearts all over it.

It was covetous love at first sight. The vendor from China manning the stall was sympathetic and sold it to me for $30.

Apart from the fact that the sticky labels left indelible marks on the unique “iGlaze” screen protector, or the fact that I had to stretch the hole in the case with a pair of tweezers so it didn’t cover the camera lens, I am completely and utterly thrilled.

Premium TV is about gesture and voice, not 3D.

It is impossible to ignore the wealth of 3DTV being showcased at CES. This might seem like flogging the proverbial dead horse, given that 3DTV has largely failed to take off despite persistent efforts by manufacturers. But 3DTV may well be getting a new lease of life since OEMs have acknowledged that its future is not in premium. Instead, 3DTV”s success will be in going mass.

We saw a TV from LG that turns all TV content into 3D at the click of a switch; we heard Samsung assert its commitment to a 3D content streaming service; and new flagship 3D camcorders will mean a steady trickle of user-generated 3D content. All of this points to an emphasis on access over premium.

The future of premium TV instead lies in TVs that can see, listen and act without the use of a remote gambling control. Samsung revealed a TV with in-built camera; PrimeSense is working on (as yet undisclosed) deals with OEMs to integrate their cameras; and LG has gone for a hybrid solution with its voice and gesture enabled magic remote. The Holy Grail will be to integrate content that can see, listen and act. Xbox Kinect is already there with true interactive TV content for Sesame St and Nat Geo. We expect more of this good stuff to come.

Here Comes The Sun

Eton launched the Rukus Solar at this year’s CES. It’s a solar powered boombox with bluetooth support. That shiny surface on the top is a solar panel. Includes an e-ink display and usb port to charge your mobile device. Retails for $150.



They’ve also got the older model, the Soulra XL which has an iPhone dock and aux in.


But will it bring me a beer on a tray?

Meet PaPeRo!


This robot by NEC is currently only available in Japan, but the company is using CES to test the waters on bringing him here. He is billed as a “communications robot.”

Like an Anybot, you can connect to him remotely and see what he sees. You can speak into your device and your voice will be broadcast by PaPeRo. Here are some more cool features:
– speech recognition and speech synthesis
– face recognition (detection, identification, tracking)
– remote control
– autonymous movement and self-charge

I’m a fan of that last part. If his batteries are running low after a day of wandering the house, he’ll just go back to his charger and charge himself back up ala Aibo.

Don’t Have an NFC-Enabled Phone? Get This!

Roughly 6% of the US smartphone market is NFC enabled.  If you’re not one of those few, but want to use tap to pay then look no further than Moneto, an independent NFC payment system by DeviceFidelity and Spring Card Systems.  All you need is their microSD card that turns your Android phone into a tapping machine!  The card allows you to make mobile payments through the Mastercard PayPass system.  For $30, its a bargain if you’re an NFC nut but will likely be a short term solution until more manufacturers begin incorporating NFC technology into their handsets.

Belkin Developing Dyle Mobile TV Accessories

Belkin announced that they will begin making TV accessories for MCV’s Dyle Mobile TV service that brings live TV broadcasts to mobile devices.  The Belkin partnership is huge for making over-the-air TV a possibility for mobile.  In order to tap into the signals, a TV tuner is required.  While MCV initially considered building the tuners into the devices, Belkin’s accessories will likely allow most mobile devices to access Dyle’s service without any preexisting hardware.   Even better news…accessing live TV broadcasts won’t eat up your data as Dyle draws services from existing over-the-air broadcasts.

Cordcutters rejoice!