Piixls Jetpack PC Is Gaming Set-Top Box

Piixl has debuted a PC called the Jetpack that runs on Steam OS, and fits flat behind a flat-screen TV to act as a SteamOS gaming machine. The machine utilizes an open hardware platform that allows the user to customize their experience. Starting at $1,000, it represents an attractive, Steam-based gaming and media-viewing option in the living room for those already baked into the system, and for those who want a set top box that doesn’t disrupt the space. 

NFC Ring Might Expand NFC’s Horizons

NFC is a buzzy topic in the ad sphere lately, but its real-world spread has been limited. A British team is aiming to put NFC in (or on) the hands of more people by developing a chipped ring with dual NFC zones to allow geeks, I mean, early adopters, to activate simple NFC-based commands like unlocking their phones or front doors, or share contact information.  The ring’s creators envision the ring as having a “public” zone, meant to be worn facing out, and containing contact information or something similar, as well as a “private” zone, worn facing in, containing unlock commands, passwords, or other sensitive data.  The invention’s Kickstarter campaign has just met its £30,000 goal with 26 days remaining, so perhaps this early popularity could contribute to NFC’s more widespread adoption in everyday life, as well as in the ad space.

Quantified Self Takes Center Stage

The New York Times published a piece this morning about the various options for keeping track of personal health, encompassing the trend known as Quantified Self. The article covered the technological specs of Jawbone’s Up and FitBit’s Flex, ultimately settling on the Flex as the best choice because of its Bluetooth connection. Though the article was more cursory than all-encompassing, it’s important to note that the Quantified Self movement is reaching mainstream adoption, and is continuing to expand with new devices and platforms. 

Let’s Talk Hardware

A big theme on this, the final day of TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013, has been hardware.

On stage upstairs, Limor Fried of Adafruit sat down with TechCrunch to discuss her company and philosophy on hardware and education. Adafruit is a NYC-based electronics design and manufacturing company. We profiled one of their products, litleBits, on this blog a few months ago.

The goal of the company is to teach people how electronics work and to have them become comfortable making relatively simple things. Relatedly, they want to help encourage kids to get interested in engineering.

Underlying all of this is Ms Fried’s perspective on open source hardware. While open source software is widely known about (insomuch most companies are running at least some of it) open source hardware is less so. Beyond just source code, open source hardware includes such items as CAD files and material specs. The idea is that someone could take digital files provided and go make an exact working replica of the hardware in question. This is similar to how someone can take open source code and compile their own perfect working copy of a computer program.

Ms. Fried shared an anecdote of how she had posted a design for an efficient solar battery charging mechanism. After some time, someone reached out to her to let her know they aimed to use her designs as the basis of a new Kickstarter project. The project aimed to create solar charging stations for mobile devices in developing nations. Instead of being protective of her designs, Ms. Fried was more than happy to bless the project in the name of the overall advancement of innovation.

Meanwhile, downstairs on the expo floor today is a dedicated area called Hardware Alley. While most of the startups showcased on days 1 & 2 were primarily software-oriented, today’s focus is on hardware. Displays include home automation systems, 2D and 3D printing technologies, tech for dogs, and a little drone helicopter the size of your palm.

Intel CES 2013 Announcements

Marketing and quad-core processors don’t necessarily go hand in hand, but Intel’s chips actually power many of today’s smartphones, tablets and computers which allow us to enjoy the high-tech media experiences of today. Intel enables robust gaming on tablets and is responsible for the shrinking computers as processors get smaller and smaller. They’ve also forged an interesting partnership with Comcast to power second screen viewing. Needless to say, we were at the press conference to take some notes.

Smartphones: Intel is taking a crack at the emerging smartphone market in developing nations with their new Atom chip, Z2420 which is 1.2 GHz and optimized to run Android apps speedily. Acer and Lava will develop the hardware for these phones in the future.

Tablets: The first quad-core Atom chip, dubbed “Bay Trail” comes to Windows 8 and Android tablets later in 2013. Better battery life, cheaper prices and twice the performance of the previous generation.

PCs: Releasing new 7W Core processor shipping to manufactures today. Allows for devices to be 20% thinner with superior performance. Also releasing 4th generation Core for ultrabooks which can accomodate 13 hours of battery life and an ultrabook that’s less than a half inch thick. Wow.

Perceptual Computing: Intel is developing a package in partnership with Nuance that allows for more natural interfaces incorporating voice controls, facial recognition security systems, eye tracking and more.

Comcast Partnership: Intel will be partnering with Comcast to let customers view live and on-demand TV on Intel-powered device via Intel Puma 6MG-based XG5 multiscreen video gateway.