Taxi companies aren’t pleased with Uber and Lyft, but they could be making way better use of ride-sharing technology themselves, according to researchers. A study by MIT and Fujitsu examined why cabs are usually underutilized, but never available during surge periods when you need them. To combat that, they developed on-demand tech that automatically assigns vehicles three possible operating states: taxi, ride-sharing and fixed-route modes. Customers could choose one of those when they order a ride, and immediately receive the boarding times and fares, which would vary by mode. That could save passengers a lot of money, and a test on Tokyo roads resulted in operators making 80 percent more profits too. Fujitsu’s goal is to see it operating in Tokyo by 2016, but it might take some convincing to get it adopted more widely. Still, why not beat the upstarts at their own game?
Microsoft isn’t just supporting White House’s ConnectED education program by lowering the cost of Windows — it’s also giving schools the cash they’ll need to buy Windows PCs. The company is donating $1 billion to make sure that students have the tech they’ll need for both getting online and learning technology skills. The funding comes alongside a new device pricing program that should make the PCs more affordable — to start with, it’s offering sub-$300 systems from Acer, ASUS, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, Panasonic and Toshiba.
The company isn’t shy about having a commercial incentive behind its generosity; its Education CTO, Cameron Evans, tells CNET that there’s a hope that kids will become loyal Windows fans down the road. However, he adds that any eventual sales are secondary to the more immediate focus on improving education. The influx of cash should reduce the technology gap for less fortunate students, many of whom could miss out on digital learning without a little help.
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With all of the talk surrounding smartphones and tablets, it’s sometimes easy to forget that desktops still occupy most of our working days. Fujitsu hasn’t forgotten them, however, and is wheeling out a pair of all-in-one units that’ll accompany you on the 9-to-5. The Esprimo X923 comes with a 23-inch 1,920 x 1,080 IPS LCD and a wide variety of build-to-order options, including a choice of Core i3 – i7 CPUs, HDD or SSD and up to 16GB RAM. It’s so far, so Fujitsu, but the company is also trumping low power active mode, a sleep state that’ll keep the hardware on and connected to your network, but drawing so little power that you don’t actually need to turn it off. The other model that’s been outed today is the X923-T, which, as you can guess, is exactly the same as the 923, but with a touchscreen. Both are available from today, so it’s high time that you started sending flattering emails to your company’s purchasing manager.
Filed under: Desktops
For all the popularity of fingerprint scanners, Fujitsu believes that it can go one better. The Japanese company has been working on palm-based systems for the last few years, and we’ve already seen turnstiles, wallets and tablets that are accessed from your hand. Fujitsu believes that palm vein sensing is around a thousand times more secure than conventional biometric methods and it’s implementing the technology in its next range of business-focused laptops due out this week. We’ve been shown around some of these models, which have the new sensor fitted into an area that is roughly the same size and position as the company’s existing fingerprint scanners, just below the bottom right corner of the keyboard. Using it is simple: Hold your hand a few inches above the sensor and the hardware will quickly scan the unique arrangement of your veins. If it judges you to be the real deal, it’ll open up its secrets for your enjoyment.
Of course, your biggest objection to that would be that, if some nefarious type wanted to get at your Amazon account, all they’d have to do is grab a sword and lop off your hand, right? Turns out, biology has provided us all with a built-in failsafe. Fujitsu’s technology only works while blood is flowing through your veins, so your lifeless limb can’t be used to breach the wall. Having seen this technology in action, we’re reasonably sure that it’s ready for prime-time, and we’re excited to see if this as fool-proof as Fujitsu claims. Even if it is, however, the easiest and least messy way to access someone else’s login will always be to ask them — an approach that worked just fine for Edward Snowden.
Sharif Sakr held his hands in the air (like he just didn’t care) for this report.
Filed under: Laptops
Since Fujitu’s prototype Haptic Sensor Tablet revealed yesterday is all about touch, describing it will be like trying to explain how a steak tastes. But here goes: it works by emitting ultrasonic vibrations below the touchscreen, which can be pulsed with varying force on any region of the screen. Those oscillations actually push your finger off the surface of the tablet and, depending on the force, can give different tactile sensations. For instance, a high pressure layer of air can reduce friction, making the surface of the screen seem slippery. By contrast, rapidly varying the pulses can make the display seem rough or even bumpy.
At least, that’s the theory. After trying it, we found some illusions like the slippery surface to be very convincing, for instance. But the rough texture sensation feels more like the screen is just sticky, and the bumpy experience is even less convincing. When touching the crocodile skin, it just felt like I was moving my finger over slippery and then clingy patches. There’s also a strong buzzing sensation, which is mildly disconcerting. All that said, though, it was still a lot of fun, and it’s hard to see how you could get much more realistic than that with a smooth, 2D surface. There’s a video after the fold showing it in action, but we apologize for the occasionally poor sound quality — as you’ll see, each time the haptics activated, it messed up our camera’s microphone.
Filed under: Tablets
Fujitsu’s evidently so impressed with how its luddite-friendly Stylistic S01 smartphone has performed in France, thanks to a deal with local carrier Orange, that it’s ready to start plugging a follow-up handset. Only, the company doesn’t have a clue on specifics just yet, but we’ll award a few points for enthusiasm, we guess. All we know of the Stylistic S02, assuming that’ll be the device’s name, is that it’s “expected” to wield NFC and LTE chips, an “energy-saving display” and a processor of the quad-core variety. Plans are to launch the smartphone aimed at “mature users” in a number of European locations this autumn. Not a lot to talk about, we know, but Fujitsu had to announce something phone-related at MWC. Otherwise, people’ll just think it makes tablet concepts with scaly touchscreens.
Back in 2012, we were all excited at the idea of haptic technology — touch screens that fool you into thinking that you can feel what’s on display. As quickly as we saw Senseg and NEC’s implementations, however, haptic fell out of the mainstream. Now, however, Fujitsu is working on an ultrasonic system, that varies the friction between your finger and the glass, which could be ready for prime time. In the demonstration, users are apparently able to pluck the strings of a Japanese harp, turn a combination lock and even stroke an Alligator. The company has knocked together a prototype in time for MWC, and Fujitsu has a goal to get the tech into commercial hardware by 2015 — assuming, of course, that realistic lizard stroking is the one feature you’ve been waiting for.
PulseWallet is going to get a lot of attention at CES this week, thanks to its point-of-sale system that allows you to pay for things with a wave of your palm. The interesting thing, though, is that PulseWallet already has a setup that lets customers pay with their fingerprints. The problem, say company reps, is that fingerprints can potentially be lifted. (Also, they’re a bit messy.) So, the outfit is moving to a Fujitsu-made palm sensor, which is more secure and supposedly faster, too. Here’s how it works: after you visit a store once, you can register your palm and link it to the credit card of your choosing. Then, the store will have it on hand (har) the next time you stop by. When it comes time to pay, you can swipe your palm, after which point you’ll need to enter your phone number to verify it’s really you. Et voilà! You’ve managed to pay without digging our your credit card, and without getting (as many) greasy fingerprints all over the point-of-sale system. No word on when you’ll start seeing these in stores, though the company says it will only be available in the US to start.
Filed under: Misc
The takeaway at today’s Intel press event? All signs point to the RealSense product line — a number of hardware and software products that “make interaction with technology simple, more natural and immersive,” according to Intel’s own words. The first product bearing the compound name is the RealSense 3D camera. Intel describes the product as “the world’s first integrated 3D depth and 2D camera module that helps devices ‘see’ depth much like the human eye,” suggesting that this isn’t just a substitute for Leap Motion or Kinect.
The camera does full-color 1080p and has an on-board sensor for gesture and face detection. The latter of which apparently helps it “understand emotions.” It also recognizes foregrounds and backgrounds, so you can replace that messy room and make it appear as if you’re Skypeing from the Moon. But, if you’re looking for something more practical, you can also use it to scan objects in 3D using 3D System’s Sense software. The RealSense 3D camera is set to be integrated into a number of diverse devices come the second half of this year, including tablets, Ultrabooks, laptops and all-in-ones, from top companies like Acer, ASUS, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo and NEC. Seven such devices are being demonstrated today, and Intel itself has a demo unit.
If you’d rather talk to your computer than wave at it, there’s also a next-generation version of Dragon Assistant from Nuance that will be part of Intel’s RealSense push. Of, course, while all this sounds good on paper, it remains to be seen how much people will actually want to wink, point or shout at their laptop to get it to open Netflix or point Chrome towards Engadget.
Well, we can’t say we didn’t see this one coming. Fujitsu Toshiba mobile communications — now there’s a mouthful — just unveiled the IS12T: Japan’s first Windows Phone 7 device, and according to Microsoft prez Yasuyuki Higuchi, the world’s first Mango handset. The sexy and IPX5 waterproof (!) 3.7-inch WVGA slate is powered by Qualcomm’s MSM8655 CPU of undisclosed clock speed (which we’ve seen running at 1GHz in the Incredible 2 and Thunderbolt), and goes on sale in “September or beyond” on KDDI’s au network. The pink gizmo packs a 13.2 megapixel camera with autofocus and has a plentiful 32GB of flash storage for housing whatever content you’d fancy toting around. The usual Bluetooth (2.1 + EDR) and WiFi (802.11b/g/n) suspects are also onboard. Interest piqued? Peruse the gallery our Engadget Japanese brethren have handily tossed our way.