While some categories at this year’s International CES were a little quiet, the same cannot be said for autos. 2014′s show floor was filled with car stuff, not simply from the major vendors at the show, but also from the acres of companies selling every accessory imaginable. Our takeaway from this outing is that autonomous control and re-inventing our car’s oft-overlooked analog interiors are what most — if not all — vendors will be up to at least in part for 2014. Follow on for a few of the highlights from this year’s show.
Chevrolet Corvette Performance Data Recorder
Our CES Best Automotive Electronics Product award for 2014 went to Chevrolet’s Performance Data Recorder (PDR) found in the 2015 Corvette Stingray. The PDR is an amazing example of how the automotive and electronics arenas can marry and become so much more compelling than the sum of their parts. Using sensor output from the car, a 720p camera mounted in the headliner and an SD card slot, all your track video is output with sensor data beautifully overlaid. We fully expect more announcements around this product from Chevrolet and wouldn’t be too surprised if other automakers find ways to ape this enviable tech.
BMW autonomous M235i
BMW’s highly autonomous prototype was two parts fast M-series coupe, one part robot, a dash of technical magic and mountains of fun. We lapped the car at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in an infield mini track and came away amazed at the experience. Using a pre-programmed and memorized track, the car kept us pointed in the right direction through some tight bends and a slalom course, until we finally drifted through a wet section. Of course, we’re years away from this becoming a mundane, everyday experience, so in the interim, we’ll take the time to love every second we get to spend behind the wheel with our car-driving robot overlords.
BMW i3 self-parking feature
Much less terrifying than the autonomous car is the self-parking BMW i3. Literally at the push of a button, the little car will begin the hunt for a spot. Once found, you’ll be notified on its large color display and then, by simply signaling and holding down a button and nothing else, the car parks. Great fun and very useful. Well done BMW, well done.
2015 Audi TT all-digital interior
Starting with the TT in MY2015, Audi will start removing analog dash clusters. Good or bad, like it or not, your favorite needle-driven sweeper is history. Though, look at the bright side: Your navigation will become more accessible and likely safer, with music, calls and all other data also ending up right in front of you rather than on the center stack. Speaking of that center stack, we’re still waiting on word if that Audi Tablet we saw earlier this week will end up in this car.
QNX CAR platform
QNX became an instant favorite of ours last year after we saw its Car Platform 2.0. This year, it showed a much more refined variant with a better, more-polished UI and really impressive audio quality. One of the more interesting features is that, while playing back music, you’re still able to use voice control with the system because it knows what’s currently playing and can remove that from your voice command. Simple right? Sure sounds like it, but we know it’s likely outrageously complicated. We’re definitely going to chase QNX down this year for some more live demos of its gear.
Filed under: Transportation
Sure, we had to hop in a cab and take a rather expensive ride out into the boonies. But we had no option — SmartThings had no official presence on the CES floor. Thankfully, the 45 minutes we spent in transit were not wasted. The company rented a rather opulent McMansion far from the strip and tricked it out with sensors, connected light bulbs, smart locks and cameras. It looked like the sort of place that was probably used as the set in a porn at some point, but on this day it was the location of a rather impressive connected home demo meant to showcase its new Labs program. SmartThings announced Labs during CES, which gives users early access to third party apps and devices. Philips Hue, Belkin WeMo, and Sonos are the first three partners to join, and many of the demos in the home revolved around those products. For example, they built a “wake up” routine triggered by a Jawbone Up24. When the wearable is taken out of sleep mode, it tells SmartThings to turn on the lights in the kitchen, start brewing a pot of coffee and fires up NPR news on a Sonos Play1. In other examples the Sonos was used as an alarm or virtual guard dogs.
A more fun example had a motion sensor attached to a hammer inside a piano. When that particular key is hit, it tells a Sonos to playback a file, allowing founder and CEO Alex Hawkinson to mime his way through a rather challenging classical piece. Obviously, there isn’t much practical purpose to rigging up your piano with sensors (at least not that we can think of) but it shows just how versatile the young ecosystem already is. We don’t want to ruin all the surprises, so just check out the video after the break, in which Mr. Hawkinson gives you tour of SmarthThings’ CES headquarters.
Filed under: Household
It’s hard not to do a double-take when first laying eyes on the Onewheel. After all, it is a single-wheeled skateboard that uses an electric motor, accelerometers, gyros and a microcontroller to give riders a smooth, self-balancing ride. The contraption’s creator, Kyle Doerksen, brought a prototype by the Engadget trailer here at CES, and we couldn’t resist putting it through its paces. Although the unit we played with was a pre-production model that still needs refining, you can color us very impressed.
If the sight of a metal frame, wooden deck and a chunky go-kart wheel didn’t convey a sense of great build quality, laying hands on (and picking up) the 25-pound package drives home its heavy-duty nature. When it comes to speed, the deck can go as fast as 12 MPH, but Doerksen tells us its acceleration is software-limited to allow for better self-balancing (and maybe even to protect users from overdoing it). As for range, Onewheel can go from four to six miles on a single charge thanks to a lithium battery, and it can be juiced up in two hours — or 20 minutes with an “ultra” charger. What’s more, the gadget sports regenerative braking to recoup roughly 30 percent of expended energy. Unfortunately, the device only has about 20 minutes worth of ride time in its battery, though that changes with terrain and personal driving style.
Riding the board for the first time feels a lot like learning how to use a bicycle. The first few tries weren’t much more than attempting to maintain balance while stationary, but I managed to stay planted and mobile much longer with each try. It might sound strange to have trouble keeping your balance on a self-balancing skateboard, but the board’s chops truly shine once you get going. Tilt forward or backward ever so slightly (while holding down a silver button with your foot) to start moving in one direction, and lean even further to pick up speed. Turning is also a matter of throwing a bit of weight in the direction you wish to go. The hefty tire gives the board a smooth ride — which Doerksen likens more to snowboarding than skateboarding — even making for a fluid cruise on cracked and uneven asphalt.
After spending a few minutes with Onewheel, it became abundantly clear that it’s fun to master and presumably an even bigger blast when you become an expert. This editor certainly didn’t want his cruising to end. You can snag your own board this September by kicking in at least $1,300 to the project’s ongoing (and already-successful) Kickstarter campaign.
Filed under: Transportation
Bombing on a home shopping network near you.
Jamie: “You spin meat right round, baby right round.”
Alexis: Marinator 3: Rise of the Meat
Brian: “I didn’t suffer through eight years of medical school to be called ‘Mr. Marinator.’”
Timothy: “Mr. Marinator: For those times when letting your meat soak in a dish is too much work.”
Dave: “Now little Billy, this is what happened to the last kid who didn’t clean his room.”
Nicole: “It’s MISTER Marinator to you, buddy.”
John: “Bathe me in oil, rub me with salt and let me twirl it for you.”
Richard Lai: “Mr. Marinator, you may kiss Hamburger Helper.”
Jon: “A few rounds with Mr. Marinator will teach that steak who’s boss.”
Filed under: Household
That’s Beats’ new streaming service. No surprise, of course. Seems like the Jimmy Iovine / Dr. Dre’s red headphone-pushing company has been eyeing the space since the World Class Wreckin’ Cru days. Last month, the company offered up a bit of information in the form of an online teaser, noting that it would finally be dropping in January. The exact date, it turns out, is the 21st, though the company happily let us download an iOS teaser of the offering (it’ll be available on “nearly all the major platforms” at launch according to the company). The product is reportedly the culmination of two years of work, an attempt to approach music streaming from a different angle — namely populism. The rep I spoke with told me the company sees many of the current streaming offerings as appealing primarily to the early adopter.
The first part of the solution is the “on-boarding” process. Here you tap bubbles on a series of screens, first designating your favorite genres (one tap for “like,” two taps for “love” and holding down on the bubble to make it disappear — take that, electronic music). Next up, do the same thing with artists, designating your favorites amongst the offerings. Then, the system begins “curating music based on what you like.” The idea is somewhere between a Spotify and a Pandora, offering up custom playlists based on your listening habits, curation that will change as you continue to utilize the service. The playlists, as the company puts it, are based on “”feels like, not sounds like,” and future iterations will also include options to make it possible to follow your listening habits based on location, so you can, say, get a workout playlist when you’re at the gym.
The result of that initial curation is a page full of artwork not dissimilar from Spotify’s current front page, offering up songs and playlists with big Play icons in the middle. This is called Just for You. Swipe to the right and you’ll see the Right Now page, where you choose your location, activity and genre choice, so the app can build a playlist. Another swipe brings you to Highlights, a page of playlists curated by the “experts” and one more brings you to Find It, where you can search for music by Genre, Activities and Curators. All in all, it’s a pretty promising offering, with a sharp and highly dynamic interface — of course, it’s hard to say how much the world is clamoring for another streaming offer. Though most of the ones that come along certainly don’t have the marketing force of a Beats Music.
At launch, the service will offer up 20 million tracks for $10 a month.
Filed under: Software
Alongside the TVs and tablets, CES is also home to the future of… homes. LG had smarter washing machines and robot vacuums that you can turn on by texting with everyday language, while Samsung introduced an entirely new ecosystem: one it’s inviting third-party hardware companies to join. Qualcomm had a similar proposition with AllJoyn: Some companies are looking to dominate smart homes. This tech will come to your house. In Vegas, however, it’s often the smaller companies that pique our interest. Don’t we all want an appliance to automatically marinate our meat?
LG and Samsung are old stalwarts of the household sector of CES, but we also saw the likes of Panasonic staking a claim, with a new voice-activated pendant that allowed you to control TVs and other internet-linked appliances (not only Panasonic ones). With it, a “good morning” could open your curtains or turn on the TV to your favorite morning fare. Again, Panasonic promises it’ll understand natural language, too. Beyond your home theater and kitchen, Sleep Number’s x12 smart bed monitors sleeping patterns, heart rates and — most importantly — features a Partner Snore function that will raise the guilty party’s head, and hopefully jog them out of it.
SmartThings has taken its series of sensors and added richer app interfaces, buddying up with Sonos, WeMo and Philips Hue, making the notion of low-energy sensors and unobtrusive installation — you just stick the sensor where you need it — an even better proposition. We have several editors already testing out (and in love with) the SmartThings system.
Alongside the explosion in wearables, sensors and processors are also elbowing their way into smaller household appliances. From a distance, Belkin’s Crock-Pot WeMo slow cooker looks a lot like any other slow cooker, but this one ties to a WeMo app that lets you adjust temperatures and set timers without being in the kitchen. Belkin is also promising more WeMO-compatible devices (including space heaters) very soon.
Then there was Mr. Marinator. It’s not all that smart, but it marinates meat. It revolves your favorite cut in a soup of deliciousness. For however long you want. It should probably win some kind of award.
Welcome to Feedback Loop, a weekly roundup of the most interesting discussions happening within the Engadget community. There’s so much technology to talk about and so little time to enjoy it, but you have a lot of great ideas and opinions that need to be shared! Join us every Saturday as we highlight some of the most interesting discussions that happened during the past week.
It’s hard to believe CES is finally over and it seems like the Engadget community was just as busy as the Engadget editorial team. This week we speculated about who would be buying Steam Machines, discussed whether or not 12-inch tablets make sense, wondered why the duck autocorrect is annoying, sought good headphone recommendations for the PlayStation 4 and asked about USB hubs to manage the cable clutter. Click past the break and read what fellow Engadget users like you have to say.
Veronica says, “iPhone, there is never an instance where I meant to write “ducking,” except this one. Never. I promise you.” Needless to say, it’s a source of much frustration for many users. Why the duck can’t we change this shot already? Share your tips and tricks for getting around your phone’s helpful spell check.
Who will play Steam Machines?
Frankspin takes a look at the Steam Machines announced during CES, compares them to next-gen consoles and wonders who will ultimately be buying them. Do you have a serious affinity for this new take on PC gaming? If so, tell us why you’re excited about the latest Steam Machines!
USB hub recommendations
We have wireless displays, wireless charging and wireless communication. So, why are there still so many wires on our desks? RobotTurkey has too many USB cables and is looking for USB hub recommendations. What are your favorite USB hubs that help manage (or contribute to) the clutter on your desk and keep your mobile devices fully charged? Post your recommendations right here.
Do 12-inch tablets make sense?
Samsung recently announced the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, a gigantic 12-inch tablet. There have also been numerous rumors that Apple will eventually make a 12-inch iPad. Engadget reader TgD decided to break down the rumors of a 12-inch iPad. Would you find a larger iPad (or any 12-inch tablet) to be useful? Tell us what you think.
Best headphones for a PlayStation 4
Saving your squadmates in Battlefield 4 requires hard work, dedication and good communication. That’s why Baileylo is searching for a good set of headphones to use on his new PlayStation 4. What are his best options for optimal fragging goodness? Post what you’re using to survive the digital battlefield.
That’s all this week! Do you want to talk about your favorite gadget or have a burning question about technology? Register for an Engadget account today, visit the Engadget forums and start a new discussion!
Portable solar chargers aren’t so out of the ordinary anymore, but minuscule windmills that can charge your phones? Now, those are something new. A couple of UT Arlington researchers, Smitha Rao and J.C. Chiao, have developed wind turbines so small (they measure 1.8mm at their widest), you can stick 10 of them on a grain of rice. One possible application is to embed a bunch of the Lilliputian devices onto a phone sleeve — you can then simply hold your phone out the window or place it in front of a fan to recharge. Since the tiny windmills are made of durable nickel alloy, you won’t have to worry about strong wings blowing their little blades off, either. Although it’s still too early to say if this leads to an actual product, a Taiwanese company is already exploring commercial opportunities, so cross your fingers if you dream of owning a wind farm for ants.
Filed under: Misc
Source: University of Texas Arlington
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