Author's Archive

Electric Objects Launches Kickstarter Campaign To Build Displays For Digital Art

Electric Objects 05 Startup Electric Objects aims to build displays for Internet art, separate from devices like laptops and smartphones that it says are “designed for distraction.” Today it’s launching a Kickstarter campaign for its first wave of displays, dubbed the EO1. Founder and CEO Jake Levine, who was previously the general manager of Digg (at Betaworks), elaborated in the video… Read More

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Anthony Ha

July 8th

Gadgets

Wearable Solar’s Prototype Dress Combines Fashion With Phone-Charging Capabilities

Solar Dress Here’s an unusual way to keep your smartphone charged — with a solar-powered dress. That’s what fashion designer Pauline van Dongen is developing with her startup Wearable Solar. She brought a prototype dress to Brooklyn’s Northside Festival last month, where I had a chance to see the dress in action. Read More

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Anthony Ha

July 6th

Gadgets

Google Glass Aims To Entice Travelers With New TripIt, Foursquare, And OpenTable Integrations

google glass opentable A day after Google announced that it will sell Google Glass to anyone in the United States, the company is unveiling some new "Glassware" (basically, Google Glass apps) that's supposed to be particularly useful for travelers. This isn't the first travel-related Glassware. The company announced Word Lens for Glass last fall, so if you saw a sign written a language that you didn't understand,… Read More

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Anthony Ha

May 15th

Gadgets

Mimi Launches An iPhone App To Combat Hearing Loss

mimi4 Mimi, a company launching today as part of TechCrunch's Disrupt NY Startup Battlefield, plans to use the iPhone to help people with hearing loss. I didn't know much about the issue before discussing it with co-founders Philipp Skribanowitz and Pascal Werner, but they pointed me to a number of articles and studies about how widespread hearing loss has become, affecting an estimated 350 million… Read More

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Anthony Ha

May 6th

Gadgets

Mobile

Aiming To Build Beautiful, Internet-Connected Displays, Electric Objects Raises $1.7M

electric objects Jake Levine, most recently the general manager of Digg, is hoping to build devices that change the way we interact with the Internet, and he's raised $1.7 million in seed funding to make that happen. Levine is founder and CEO of a new startup called Electric Objects. He outlined the general idea in a blog post earlier this month, writing that his goal is to "put the Internet on your wall": Read More

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Anthony Ha

April 30th

Gadgets

The Not-So-Secret Language Of The Misfit Shine

misfit shine packaging Here's a random tidbit about the Misfit Shine, the activity tracking device from Misfit Wearables. I ran into CEO Sonny Vu about a week ago, and when he pulled a Misfit Shine out of his bag, he pointed out something that no one seems to have noticed. Or if they noticed it, they didn't say anything about it online. Read More

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Anthony Ha

April 20th

Gadgets

214 Technologies Is Crowdfunding A Smart Doorbell Called Chui

chui "What the heck is a smart doorbell?" That's what my friends asked me any time I mentioned that I'd be meeting with Nezare Chafni and Shaun Moore, co-founders of 214 Technologies. They've developed a product called Chui, which they describe as "the world's most intelligent doorbell." Read More

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Anthony Ha

April 18th

Gadgets

Google Prepares To Launch Android TV (Report)

Google has plans for another smart TV product, according to a report in The Verge. Apparently this set top box will be less ambitious and easier to use than one of the company's previous initiatives, Google TV. In the words of Google documents that The Verge said it has obtained, "Android TV is an entertainment interface, not a computing platform." Read More

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Anthony Ha

April 5th

Gadgets

The Eye Tribe Says It’s Shipping Its First $99 Eye-Tracking Units, Raises Another $1M

the eye tribe

The Eye Tribe, which took the stage today at TechCrunch’s CES Hardware Battlefield, is developing hardware that allows users to control technology with the motion of their eyes.

In fact, co-founder and CEO Sune Alstrop Johansen told me that the company has started shipping its first units and software development kits (they’re available for $99), and that the initial users should be receiving them now.

Johansen said The Eye Tribe has also raised another $1 million in seed funding, bringing its total seed/angel funding to $1.8 million. (It  also received a $1.3 million grant from the Danish government.) The money comes from “primarily existing investors, board members and key individuals from the US,” he said — new backers include former semiconductor executive Richard Sanquini.

CES marks the first time that the finished product, not just a prototype, has been demonstrated publicly, he added. And although the initial version was built for Windows, he said the company is unveiling a Mac version too. As for the iOS and Android versions that the company has mentioned in the past, Johansen said they’re still on the product roadmap but declined to get specific.

I didn’t get a chance to try the product out for myself, but if you’ve ever wanted to see someone play Fruit Ninja with their eyes, well, watch this video.

As you can probably guess from the fact that an SDK is included, the company is currently focused on recruiting the developers that it hopes will actually build applications that take advantage of these capabilities. In fact, when a prototype of The Eye Tribe Tracker was demonstrated in our Hardware Alley at last fall’s Disrupt Europe conference, the company said it was also going to provide free trackers to developers with the best ideas.

Those ideas also help answer the question, “Why the heck would I want to control software with my eyes?” — they give a sense of what people could potentially do with the technology. The winners include an idea for a device combining eye tracking and EEG technology to help those with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) communicate, as well as ideas for driver assist applications, breast cancer detection, drone control, and improved reading on tablets.

Last fall, a company representative told us that users don’t have to train themselves to act differently. Instead, they claimed that after the initial calibration, users could just let their eyes interact normally with applications and the software should respond accordingly.

The company has also said the eventual goal is to partner with hardware makers who want to integrate these capabilities — so in the future, you could get a tablet with eye-tracking capabilities built in, rather than having to buy a separate to device. In fact, Johansen told me this week that the company is setting up an office in Palo Alto “as we believe this will be the best place for us to engage” with the manufacturers.

You can see the specs of The Eye Tribe Tracker here.


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Anthony Ha

January 8th

Gadgets

Livemap Demonstrates A Motorcycle Helmet Concept With Built-In Navigation

livemap02

Livemap, a Russian startup on-stage today at our CES Hardware Battlefield, aims to make GPS navigation more accessible to motorcyclists in the form of a new kind of helmet.

After all, CEO Andrew Artischev noted that if you’re riding a motorcycle, interacting with a GPS touchscreen interface isn’t exactly safe or convenient, and even looking at it means taking your eyes off the road. Livemap’s Motohelmet, on the other hand, is inspired by fighter pilots, who have “heads up” displays showing them important information directly in their helmets.

Similarly, Livemap plans to build motorcycle helmets that display navigation information directly in your field of view. The helmets will use an Android operating system with Nuance-based voice control and NAVTEQ mapping data. As for the display itself, Artishchev said it employs “a beaming scheme.”

“That means it doesn’t contain a display that could hurt the user’s eye or make obstacles for his view,” he said. “The image is beamed on the clear visor, is not visible from outside, is transparent, [and] all elements of the beaming system are hidden inside the helmet in a safe way.”

The Livemap team argues that there are no direct competitors — in other words, no other companies building this technology into the helmet itself. What GPS companies like Garmin and TomTom are doing to address this market is building navigation devices that can be mounted on motorbikes, can be shock-resistant and waterproof, and can be connected to headsets via Bluetooth.

But those features don’t fundamentally address the issues mentioned above, because you may still have to physically interact with the navigation device, and it might not be directly in your field of view.

Livemap’s approach has also been compared to Google Glass, and Artishchev discussed Glass as a potential competitor, saying his company will offer better image quality and won’t force users to look at “the upper right corner of the human field of view.”

The team previously demonstrated a full-face helmet using this technology, but now they say they’ve found a way to build the technology into a modular helmet that’s smaller and more convenient. (It also has the benefit of allowing Livemap to go into production with existing helmet shells, which is more affordable.)

Instead of spending the money to build a full new prototype, Livemap has come to CES with some of the key components of the technology. They showed me the actual display that motorcyclists would see while riding, and it was transparent as they claimed — so I could imagine seeing the directions without having my view obscured. They also showed me the voice-controlled navigation application running on an Android phone, and it was able to give me accurate directions around San Francisco.

Part of the Livemap team comes from Sukhoi, a Russian company that has been developing heads-up displays and optical systems for military helmets over the past 50 years. Through a combination of grants, debt, and Artishchev’s own money, Livemap has raised $1 million in funding, and it’s looking to raise another $10 million now. He said it’s been a challenge to get money from Russian venture capitalists who are more interested in backing hardware than software, particularly clones of services that have been successful elsewhere.

“If we speak about my motivation, I want solve to real problems, not invented ones, not social networks for dogs or cats,” he said. Ultimately, Artishchev argued that this could “save the lives of motorcyclists on the road.”

The company has already made deals with the key manufacturing partners, he added, and it plans to start selling the helmet in the US and Canada in the last three months of 2014 for $2,000. The Motohelmet is available for pre-order now at a $500 discount, and you can also get updates by following the company on Facebook and Twitter.


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Anthony Ha

January 7th

Gadgets
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