Smart Displays are coming first from JBL, Lenovo, LG, and Sony.
One of the big trends from CES 2018 was Google’s response to the Amazon Echo Show. In 2017, Google matched the Amazon’s Echo Dot with the Google Home Mini, and this year it took aim at the Show with its new smart displays with Google Assistant built in.
Smart Displays are Google Assistant-powered speakers that also feature screens, and while we likely won’t see a Google Home-branded one until later in the fall, there are already four companies that have announced Smart Displays of their own. Let’s take a look at what we know so far.
- Lenovo Smart Display
- JBL Link View
- LG ThinQ View WK9
- Sony’s yet-to-be-announced Smart Display
Lenovo Smart Display
The first of these gadgets announced was the Lenovo Smart Display. You’ll be able to get Lenovo’s Smart Display with either an 8-inch or 10-inch display, and while the 8-inch model opts for a traditional plastic back, the 10-inch unit has a gorgeous bamboo one.
Both models have an odd wedge on the back, and this allows you to position the Lenovo Smart Display either vertically or horizontally. There are buttons for adjusting speaker volume, and there’s even a switch that places a physical lens cover over the front-facing camera that’s used for video calls.
Lenovo will sell the 8-inch Smart Display for $199, and upgrading to the larger 10-inch one will cost you $249. It’s on sale starting July 27.
See at Lenovo
JBL Link View
JBL’s Smart Display goes by the name of the Link View, and while it serves the same general purpose as the Lenovo Smart Display, its design is quite a bit different. JBL has only announced one version of the Link View so far, and it comes with an 8-inch screen. There’s a 5MP camera above it and a JBL logo at the bottom and both the left and right side are flanked by two 10W stereo speakers that are paired with a passive radiator on the back to enable “rich, deep bass.”
The body as a whole favors an oval shape versus the rectangular nature of the Lenovo Smart Display, and while you won’t find any bamboo back here, it’s arguably the sleeker of the two thanks to the all-black paint job. Along with this, there’s also support for Bluetooth, Google Cast, and IPX4 splash resistance.
Pricing details have yet to be announced, but JBL says the Link View will be available at some point this summer.
LG ThingQ View WK9
LG’s first foray into the world of Smart Displays comes in the form of the LG ThinQ View WK9, and while we’ll have to get hands-on time with the device before we can make any final judgments, it currently looks like the most underwhelming of the Smart Displays we’ve seen so far.
The large, boxy design looks boring and not all that aesthetically pleasing, and while the 8-inch touchscreen display itself should be fine, the fact that there’s no tilt to it like there is on Lenovo and JBL’s options could make for some difficult viewing angles.
Speaker tuning from Meridian Audio still has us interested, however, and this paired with the two front-facing stereo speakers will likely create a solid audio experience. Similar to the other Smart Displays on this list, you’ll also find Chromecast support.
LG simply says that the WK9 is “coming soon” with a hefty price of $299.99.
Sony’s yet-to-be-announced Smart Display
Google confirmed that Sony will be releasing a Smart Display, but a month on from CES and we still know literally nothing about it. Neither specs or renders for the speaker have been released, and as such, there’s not a whole lot we can say about it right now.
As soon as details are released, we’ll be sure to share them with you!
Might Google Assistant and the Lenovo Smart Display be the whole-home hub the Echo Show isn’t?
Updated July 2018: Added the latest information available.
The Mi Mix 2 combines an interesting design aesthetic with global LTE bands, and is available for $399.
The Mi Mix 2 continues to be one of the best phones Xiaomi has released to date. The phone took the first-gen Mi Mix’s design aesthetic —with ultra-thin bezels on three sides — and shrunk it down to a more manageable 5.99-inch display.
The phone has a unique design that sets it apart from the rest of the devices in this segment, and it has global LTE connectivity. The latter suggested a wider release in Western markets, and while Xiaomi rolled out the Mix 2 in Europe earlier this year, the phone isn’t officially available in the U.S.
That’s where Amazon comes in. The unlocked 6GB/64GB version of the Mi Mix 2 is currently listed on Amazon.com for $399, and the listing is backed by the retailer’s 30-day Prime guarantee. Here’s why you should consider picking up a unit.
It has global LTE connectivity
The most compelling reason to purchase the Mi Mix 2 in the U.S. is global LTE connectivity. The phone has 24 FDD-LTE bands, making it compatible with most carriers around the world.
The sheer number of LTE bands on offer means you should have no issues when using the Mi Mix 2 on either AT&T and T-Mobile. Here’s the full list of FDD-LTE bands supported by the device: 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/18/19/20/25/26/27/28/29/30/34/38/39/40/41.
Snapdragon 835 is still incredibly fast
Like all Xiaomi phones, the Mi Mix 2 offers incredible hardware for the asking price. You get a 2.45GHz Snapdragon 835, 6GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, dual SIM connectivity, Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0, 12MP rear camera, 5MP front shooter, and a 3400mAh battery.
The Snapdragon 835 may not be quite as fast as the current-gen Snapdragon 845, but it still has a lot of grunt. You won’t notice any lag during day-to-day usage, and the 6GB of RAM is more than adequate for multitasking.
Xiaomi has also ironed out a lot of the UI bugs with the latest MIUI 9 release, while introducing new features like navigation gestures that are akin to what you get on the OnePlus 6.
The design is one of the best around
Xiaomi turned a lot of heads with the first-gen Mi Mix, and the Mi Mix 2 retains a similar design aesthetic. The phone has razor-thin bezels on three sides, and the 5.99-inch FHD+ (2160×1080) 18:9 display is one of the best you’ll find in the $400 category.
Another interesting design choice is the positioning of the front camera module: Xiaomi decided to put the camera sensor in the bottom bar, thereby allowing the brand to come up with a way to avoid a cutout at the top of the phone.
The Mi Mix 2 has a layer of Gorilla Glass 4 up front for the screen, and the back is made out of ceramic. There’s an aluminum mid-frame to add rigidity to the device, and the ceramic body in particular gives it a reassuring heft. It also feels great to hold in-hand.
You’ll easily get two-day battery life
Xiaomi’s MIUI custom ROM has a wealth of options that let you eke out the most out of the 3400mAh battery. The Mi Mix 2 consistently delivers a day-and-a-half’s worth of usage from the battery, and more often than not you’ll be able to get two-day battery life from the device.
And when you do need to top up, there’s Quick Charge 3.0 built in. The one downside with the Mi Mix 2 is that it doesn’t have a 3.5mm jack, but it is hardly the only device in this segment to eschew the analog port. If you don’t mind that particular omission, there’s plenty to like in the device.
It is because of global LTE compatibility that it was initially suggested that the Mi Mix 2 would go on sale officially in the U.S., but that wasn’t meant to be. Still, with the phone now available for just $399, it’s a great time to pick up the device unlocked.
See at Amazon
Yes, you do need to spend another 10 minutes with a smart display.
You’ve read the Android Central review. … You’ve marveled over Mr.Mobile. And now we’ve got one more look at the Lenovo Smart Display — Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo Show — from ye olde Modern Dad himself.
If you think it’s weird writing about yourself in the third person like this, that’s where you’re right. But if you think the Lenovo Smart Display is basically a Google Home with a touchscreen running a scaled down version of Android meant for the internet of things, which in its early days and most certainly will improve over time — well, you’re also right.
But that’s what it is, and that’s what it will be, and to be completely honest I’m still finding new little gems and features tucked into this thing, even after a week of use. So here’s another 10 minutes with the intriguing first entry into a lineup of smart displays.
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LinkedIn has introduced a new voice messaging service that’s built in to the latest version of its mobile app.
Called LinkedIn Messaging, the feature gives users the ability to record and send audio messages up to one minute long.
Voice messaging is rolling out now in the LinkedIn app on iOS and Android, and you can receive voice messages on mobile and on web. This feature will be available globally to all members in the next few weeks.
We hope this makes it easier than ever to communicate when you want, how you want with your professional community.
Voice messages are recorded by tapping the microphone icon on the mobile messaging keyboard. Users then tap and hold the microphone symbol in the circle to record their voice message and release their finger to send.
The business networking platform is touting voice messages as an easier way to communicate when you’re on the go or multi-tasking, but many account holders will likely be wary of the feature given the already high volume of unsolicited messages sent over LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a free download for iPhone available on the App Store. [Direct Link]
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If you’re trying to determine your future career path, there are many options out there that promise exciting duties and responsibilities. Besides fulfilling and interesting work, it’s important to look for other desirables for your next career, such as job security, a strong salary, and a sense of purpose. One job that might fit the bill is a front end engineer. A front end engineer works to create innovative websites for consumers and builds features to entice site visitors. Here are five reasons why this career may be right for you.
1. Strong Demand
The first reason why you should consider going into this field is because of the strong demand for talent in this industry. Nearly all companies across the world place importance on their online sites and presence on the web, so front end engineers are needed in a variety of work settings. Demand for this type of job is expected to continue to grow well into the next decade. This can make it easier to secure a job after graduation.
2. Interesting Job Duties
Front end engineers also experience a high level of job satisfaction because of the variety of duties they do. They work on website projects, script coding, and online applications. They also participate in team projects with other professionals. Front end engineers get the satisfaction of completing a job and seeing the final result on the web.
3. Strong Salary
If you want a high-paying job, this is also a great career choice for you. The front end engineering salary is higher than many other jobs with a similar level of education and experience. In some parts of the world, front end engineers can make more than six figures on average. This figure goes up as you work your way up the career ladder and take on more responsibility and gain more experience.
4. Manageable Education Requirements
The high salary you can enjoy as a front end engineer doesn’t come along after a significant time spent in post-secondary education like other high-paying professional jobs. For most people in this role, they have landed great jobs with only a four-year degree as part of their credentials. Other jobs that see high salaries, such as doctors or lawyers, require additional education and potentially higher amounts of student loan debt.
5. Part of the Tech Revolution
The last reason why this job is so hot in today’s world is because it puts people right into the newest and most exciting advancements of digital technology and the internet. Front end engineers can find fulfilling work in their daily routine because they are often trying out some of the newest applications and creating exciting advancements for incredible websites. Being successful in this field means you’ll need to keep up with the advances in technology and constantly learn the newest trends.
Going into the field of front end engineering and developing unique websites can be a great option for your future. If you want to experience ultimate job satisfaction and get paid a top salary, this may be the right choice for you.
The Mi A2 offers everything you’re looking for in a mid-range phone, and then some.
Xiaomi made its foray into the world of Android One last year with the Mi A1, and the company is now introducing updated variants for 2018. Xiaomi has overhauled the hardware and rolled out key upgrades to the camera, making the Mi A2 an even more attractive option.
The Mi A2 is designed around an 18:9 panel, and the goal with the taller form factor is to increase screen real estate by cutting down on the bezels. However, the Mi A2 still has sizeable bezels at the top and bottom, and in this area Xiaomi could have done better.
Then there’s the design at the back. Xiaomi has been using a similar design aesthetic for over a year now, so the Mi A2 doesn’t really feel like a new device. If anything, I think it looks like a smaller Mi Max 2. The vertically-arranged dual camera module at the back once again evokes similarities with the iPhone X.
While the design itself may not be exciting next to the likes of the Nokia 7 Plus or the Honor 10, the subtle curves at the back and the sleek 7mm chassis make the Mi A2 fit comfortably in your hand. As the phone is considerably thinner than its predecessor, the rear camera sensor juts out from the body. And because Xiaomi didn’t want to lose internal space to an analog port, it got rid of the 3.5mm jack.
The Mi A2 is available in four color variants — gold, black, blue, and rose gold — and the blue variant looks like the most interesting option. Xiaomi says it will have all four models available at launch when the phone debuts in India early next month, so if you’re eyeing the Mi A2, the blue or rose gold colors are the way to go.
|Screen||5.99-inch 18:9 FHD+ IPS LCD|
|SoC||2.2GHz Snapdragon 660|
|Camera 1||12MP, ƒ/1.75, 1.25um|
|Camera 2||20MP, ƒ/1.75, 1.0um|
|Front Camera||20MP, ƒ/1.75, 1.0um|
|Battery||3000mAh Quick Charge 4.0|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi ac, BT 5.0|
|Security||Fingerprint, face unlock|
|Dimensions||158.7 x 75.4 x 7.3mm|
|Colors||Black, Rose Gold, Gold, Blue|
|Price||$290, $325, $410|
Although things haven’t changed by much from last year on the design front, Xiaomi overhauled the internal hardware. The Mi A2 is powered by the Snapdragon 660, and comes with up to 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The Snapdragon 660 is one of the best chipsets available right now, offering flagship-level performance for less than a third of the cost of the Galaxy S9 or the Pixel 2 XL.
The Mi A2 is just as fluid in day-to-day usage as the Pixel 2, and the fact that you can get this level of performance for under $300 is fantastic. A lot of that has to do with Android One as well. The clean interface combined with the sheer power on offer with the Snapdragon 660 makes the Mi A2 a delight to use.
I’ve been using the phone for just over two days, and while that’s not nearly enough time to get an accurate picture of battery life, I was able to get a day’s worth of usage with room to spare. The Mi A1 managed to deliver excellent battery life from the 3010mAh battery, and it looks like the Mi A2 is no different.
Like last year, all models of the Mi A2 support Quick Charge 3.0, but Xiaomi is introducing Quick Charge 4.0 support exclusively for the variant that will go up for sale in India. That’s the model I’m using now, and while there’s a noticeable lack of reliable QC4.0 wall chargers in the market, that will likely change in the coming months. Xiaomi, for its part, includes the usual 5V/2A charger in the box, so you’ll have to get a third-party wall unit to access QC 3.0 or QC 4.0 speeds.
Another area that has received a significant update from last year is the camera. The Mi A2 has dual 12MP + 20MP cameras at the back, with the secondary sensor relying on pixel bunning to produce clearer photos in low-light conditions. The 20MP camera is engaged during low-light shots, but you do have the option of manually switching between sensors from the pro mode.
This isn’t the first time Xiaomi used the IMX376 sensor to this effect, and the Mi A2 produces incredible shots for a device in this category. The front camera also uses the same 20MP IMX376 module, and offers pixel binning as well. There’s also a front LED light that automatically kicks in during low-light scenarios, and Xiaomi is leveraging AI-assisted features to enable portrait mode for the front camera and automatically select beautify effects based on your facial features.
The Mi A2 is slated to make its debut in India on August 8, and it’s clear that Xiaomi is targeting the Nokia 7 Plus with the Mi A2. Both phones have near-identical hardware, and run Android One. With the Nokia 7 Plus retailing in the country for ₹25,999 ($375), Xiaomi will undoubtedly try to undercut HMD’s mid-ranger by launching the Mi A2 at around the ₹18,999 ($275) price point.
Should the Mi A2 be available at that $275 mark, it will be the phone to beat. It may not come close to the Redmi Note 5 series’ meteoric sales figures, but for those looking to get their hands on a device with clean software and robust hardware, the Mi A2 is a great option.
I just started putting the Mi A2 through its paces, so stay tuned for continued coverage of Xiaomi’s latest Android One phone over the coming weeks.
Tuberculosis, a bacterial disease which predominantly affects the lungs, isn’t all that common a sight in the United States. On average, fewer than 10,000 cases are reported each year in a country with a population of 325.7 million. In developing countries, it’s a different story, however. More than 95 percent of cases and deaths of TB take place in these countries, with the majority of patients are adults in their most productive years.
While TB can be treated with the right medication, there are some big obstacles involved. One of the biggest is the increasing number of drug-resistant tuberculosis strains. That’s something researchers at Brock University in Ontario, Canada have been working to help with. With this goal in mind, they have developed microscopic nanobots capable of determining whether a blood sample not only contains the tuberculosis bacteria — but also bacteria with the necessary mutations to make it drug-resistant.
These nanobots reduce the length of time it takes to test for drug-resistant TB, slashing it from anywhere up to six weeks down to mere hours. A faster diagnosis can lead to better, more accurate treatment, as well as reducing the threat and spread of drug-resistant strains.
“What we have developed is a nanoscale machine that detects disease biomarkers with high sensitivity and specificity,” Feng Li, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at Brock University, told Digital Trends. “Specifically, this machine is made by chemically attaching hundreds of synthetic DNA molecules on a 20nm gold nanoparticle. The sequences of synthetic DNA molecules were designed using computer simulation so that the nanomachine could discriminate single nucleotide mutations. [This is] an important class of genetic marker for diseases such as drug-resistant infections and cancer.”
When the nanobot is dropped into a serum extracted from human blood, it will glow if the sample is found to contain drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria. If the sample is free of disease, the robot stays turned off.
As smart a solution as this is, however, its application will remain limited unless it can scale in a way that is cost-effective in developing countries. While the technology is still at a very early stage, Li said scalability and cost are at the forefront of their minds. “We will keep improving this technique and hopefully it can benefit patients at developing countries in the near future,” Li continued.
A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Chemical Science.
- Yale scientists edit genetic diseases out of mice before birth; humans are next
- Is this the future of medicine? Synthetic blood could buy patients 48 extra hours
- Doctors in Britain are zeroing in on a universal cure for the common cold
- Prototype ‘smart bandage’ can detect infections and auto-apply antibiotics
- Tummy ache? Swallow this sensor-studded pill to get a diagnosis on your phone
For something that’s been called “a household name for molecular biologists,” many of you have probably never heard of CRISPR, and don’t know why you should be excited (or, possibly, terrified). It’s all about advanced gene therapy and splicing – and it’s bringing sci-fi ideas straight into reality. Here’s a quick FAQ on the science behind CRISPR and why the world is paying such close attention.
Okay, what is CRISPR and what does it stand for?
CRISPR refers to unusual DNA sequences that help protect organisms by identifying threats – especially viruses – and attacking them. The name stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. Yes, that sounds a little ridiculous, but it’s actually a very accurate description when looking at the DNA sequences themselves. They are clustered, they are spaced out at clear intervals, and when assigned letter values they do look like short palindromes repeating over and over with slight variations.
Caroline Davis2010 | Flickr
Caroline Davis2010 | Flickr
CRISPRs were first noticed way back in the 1980s when scientists were studying the genomes of archaea and bacteria. Even in such relatively simple genomes, biologists (notably Francisco Mojica) began to notice these odd sequences that seemed to repeat in a very specific way, with spaces in between. Molecular biologists were sure they had a unique purpose, and the prevailing theory soon became viral defense, which was finally proven in 2007 under the direction of Philippe Horvath. It wasn’t until the early 2010s, however, that researchers began to get especially passionate about the potential behind CRISPR.
So it’s just a DNA strand?
Yes and no. CRISPR has become an enabler of gene splicing, editing, and general experimentation. To understand how, it’s important to first understand the role of CRISPRs in genomes, and how they work to protect organisms (typically, as we mentioned, bacteria). A fair comparison would be telegraphs sending out Morse code. Every sequence is a message about a different attack, and every space is the STOP that ends that message. If metaphors aren’t your thing, Harvard goes into a lot more depth.
When an organism encounters a new and dangerous virus, it doesn’t know how to protect itself or beat back the virus – it has to learn, just as most immune responses do. This can be tricky, because viruses attack DNA directly…but this also makes them vulnerable in certain ways. The CRISPR sequences steal key strands of DNA from the virus and keep them in those little Morse code messages. When a similar virus attacks again, CRISPR responds, “Oh, we recognize this: Here’s how to defeat it!” And it sends the relevant Morse code message on to the battlefield.
We told you it was a battlefield. Wikipedia Images
There, little CRISPR soldiers called Cas – enzymes produced specifically for this mission and numbered according to their purpose – bind to viral DNA and slice it at its weak spot, according to the information encoded in the message. This shuts down the virus, and enables the organism to successfully defend itself.
A 3D model of the invaluable Cas9 enzyme, and a heartwarming tale for all ugly proteins around the world. NIH Image Gallery | Flickr
…Okay. Why does this matter again?
Because – and it’s hard to understate the importance of this – while CRISPR only uses its telegraph system for defense against viruses, scientists realized that they could use that telegraph to communicate anything. Shut a gene down? Sure (it doesn’t even have to be a viral gene). Turn a gene on? No problem – just telegraph the right instruction over to the enzyme Cas soldiers. CRISPR-Cas9 in particular can become an excellent tool for slicing, recombining, and generally editing DNA, as long as it receives the right messages.
For years, scientists have been working on ways to control Cas9 and, later on, to develop little RNA guides for the Cas9 soldiers and even supplemental soldiers call Cpf1, which are better at infiltration and extraction without risk of mutation. Compared to this, the old, unwieldy tools of gene manipulation looked like caveman clubs next to surgical lasers. It became huge news in the scientific community, and actually started several battles between different groups and researchers about who deserved credit for what.
So far, so good. But why is this a big deal in the tech world?
Because we are currently at the start of a huge burst of CRISPR experimentation. Our medical devices and scientific knowledge have reached a point where we can put everything we’ve learned from CRISPR into practice and start running swift, effective experiments on gene splicing. For those interested in the cutting edge, Fringe-worthy exploits of science, this is the place to be.
Really? Are you saying that we can edit anyone‘s DNA now?
Good question. We aren’t there yet, but several promising experiments have been conducted. A pair of monkeys was produced with specific gene alterations through targeted mutations using CRISPR techniques. The goal here was to identify genetic problems before birth and disrupt the faulty genes so that they cannot do any damage (it was also a big deal that it worked with monkeys instead of just with mice). Other experiments have shown that the process can also be used to safely alter DNA to resist HIV infection.
However, the most exciting experiment is ongoing in China, where scientists are trying to use CRISPR techniques to remove damaged DNA from the cells of living, adult lung cancer patients. There are a lot of eyes on this project to see how successful it is.
Alright: What does the future of CRISPR look like?
We have a lot of work to do. It’s worth noting that the experiments mentioned above required a long period of expensive research and many, many failed cases before success was reached – and even then, learning how to accurately repeat those experiments is going to take serious labor and investment.
But this is more about refinement than new discoveries: In other words, it’s just a matter of time before we learn to use CRISPR well enough to bring applications into the medical world. When that starts to happen (and it could be only several years away), many of the theoretical questions we have about gene manipulation, designer babies, weaponized organisms, human augmentation, and pay-for-cure systems are going to become a much more than theoretical.
- Scientists will use use stem cells to grow ‘mini brains’ using Neanderthal DNA
- To unlock secrets of evolution, scientists want to sequence all life on Earth
- 92 million accounts at DNA testing service MyHeritage have been hacked
- When we run out of room for data, scientists want to store it in DNA
- DNA link to Golden State Killer raises questions of privacy versus safety
According to the latest report by research firm Canalys, Apple claimed a majority of smartwatch shipments for the second quarter of 2018. Of the 10 million units shipped during the quarter, the company shipped about 3.5 million Apple Watches.
In comparison to the same quarter last year, Apple increased the number of smartwatches it shipped by 30 percent. But while shipment has grown, the report notes the company’s market share has done the opposite. The report states that Apple’s share of the smartwatch market fell to 34 percent from 43 percent since the first quarter of 2018.
Canalys associates the nine percent decrease in market share with Fitbit and Garmin’s increase in sales during the quarter.
“Apple faces a growing threat from competitors, which have started to pass the million quarterly mark,” Canalys Research Analyst Vincent Thielke said. “Vendors are trying to differentiate their products with advanced heart-rate metrics, smart coaching, and mapping, and consumers now have a much wider range of smartwatches to choose from than they did a year ago.”
Thielke also mentions Samsung and Google as additional competition Apple should watch out for. Both companies are rumored to launch their own smartwatches within the near future — Samsung’s Galaxy Watch and the Google Pixel Watch.
Meanwhile, in Asia (excluding China) the cellular-connect Apple Watch Series 3 took the title for the best-shipping smartwatch for this 2018’s second quarter. Apple Watch shipments exceeded 250,000 units with the LTE version accounting for about 60 percent of the shipments.
It was also just last month that the International Data Corporation released its report on the wearables’ market. Out of the top five wearable companies in the first quarter, Apple also took the top spot. The company’s shipments grew 13.5 percent over the previous year, following the release of the Series 3 smartwatch.
Apple is already only a few months away from its Fall hardware event, where it will most likely unveil its next-generation smartwatch — The Apple Watch Series 4. While the company has been keeping any details under wraps, rumors have been surfacing across the internet. According to some, we could see a bigger battery and improved health tracking in WatchOS 5.
In 2017, Apple submitted a patent in late 2017 for a “sunscreen detector” that can be used with a “mobile and/or wearable device,” that monitors sun exposure and can then notify users to apply sunscreen. While we don’t know if this feature will ever be released, or whether it’s going to part of the next Apple Watch, it could be what distinguishes it from other competitors if it’s added to the device.
- Latest IDC report shows decrease in global tablet shipments in 2018
- Smart wearables see big spike as ‘basic’ devices drag down overall market growth
- Fitbit has already shipped a million Versa smartwatches
- Shrinking demand forces Apple to slow down iPhone X production
- Google Home speakers outsell Amazon Echo in first quarter of 2018
In the United States there are roughly 8.4 million people with some form of visual impairment. In the entire world, that figure increases to 253 million, a population size greater than that of Brazil. Can technology help them?
Having previously looked at some of the amazing accessibility tools available to the deaf community, here are six of the amazing breakthroughs aimed at helping those with visual impairments. Regardless of whatever else may be happening, this is a reminder of why we’re glad to be alive in 2018:
The power of augmented reality
When people talk about the possibilities of augmented reality (AR) tech they unfortunately tend to gravitate way too quickly to retail apps and games. Helping people who are legally blind or have impaired vision could be significantly more life-changing, however.
With this in mind, researchers at the U.K.’s University of Oxford are developing smart glasses that can pick up on specific weaknesses in a person’s eyesight and enhance just those details. The OxSight glasses use a combination of computer vision algorithms and cameras to exaggerate certain details in an image, such as increasing image contrast or highlighting specific features.
The Android-powered glasses aren’t out yet, but the project creators claim the final versions will look just like regular sunglasses, so shouldn’t make users stand out from the crowd.
We take it for granted that machine translation tools can translate, say, German into English. But what about translating into Braille, the tactile writing system developed for people with visual impairments? That’s something MIT’s “Team Tactile” have been working on with a device designed to carry out real-time translation of “regular” text into Braille.
The gadget features a scanning mechanism which lets users take an image of a picture to be translated. Optical character recognition (OCR) tech is then used to extract the text, before the lines of translated text appear on a physical display, which features pins that move up and down to form the Braille characters.
The team aims to have a final prototype ready for manufacturing in the next couple of years.
Indoor mapping technology
Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have created an app for Microsoft’s mixed reality HoloLens device which can guide individuals through a complex building with a combination of 360-degree sound and real-time room/object mapping.
This could be used to either guide individuals to specific objects or to help them follow a pre-set path by calling out the words “follow me” from the direction they need to head in.
“Our design principle is to give sounds to all relevant objects in the environment,” a paper written by the creators states. “Each object in the scene can talk to the user with a voice that comes from the object’s location. The voice’s pitch increases as the object gets closer. The user actively selects which objects speak through several modes of control.”
An easier Braille substitute
Braille is brilliant for those able to read it, but doing so can be pretty darn tough. But there’s good news: A simpler alternative hit Kickstarter earlier this year, promising a new font which can be learned in hours instead of months. ELIA Frames, as it’s called, can be installed on a computer like a regular font, and then put onto paper using a special printer that’s capable of tactile printing. Current shipping plans are for later this year.
“We customized the standard alphabet for tactile reading,” creator Andrew Chepaitis Digital Trends. “It is raised print, optimized for a specific use case. We set about applying best practices from the field of human factors design to the standard alphabet. But standard alphabet letters weren’t made for tactile reading, so we pushed the basic elements of each letter to the edges of a given space by using a frame. We then added the core elements of the letters to the interior of the frame, and iteratively tested letter designs to identify what is easiest to feel.”
An obstacle-aware wearable
If you don’t want to wear an intrusive Hololens headset, you might want to try the wearable device developed by researchers at VTT Technical Research Center of Finland.
Called Guidesense, it’s a box-shaped device that’s worn like a heart rate monitor. Thanks to millimeter wave radar sensors, the device is able to detect obstacles — even including thin overhanging branches — in the path of the wearer, and then relay this information in the form of haptic and audio feedback. In tests, 92 percent of subjects said Guidesense helped them better perceive their environment, while 80 percent felt more confident moving around on their own.
Bionic eyes and 3D bioprinting
All of the options on this list do a great job of presenting technology which could help a person work around their visual impairment. But what if it was possible to actually use technology to restore a person’s eyesight for real? That idea is, in fact, getting closer to reality.
For instance, earlier this year, researchers at the U.K.’s Newcastle University mixed stem cells with algae molecules to create a bio-ink, with which they 3D-printed an artificial cornea. In another piece of research, the company VisionCare has developed an Implantable Miniature Telescope, which can replace the eyeball’s regular lens and restore parts of patients’ vision.
While both of these technologies are still early in their life cycles, they hint that the next major wave of tech for people with visual impairments may be even more transformative than the current options.
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