If you think your voice has been dulled by wearing masks in this pandemic, then electronics company Razer has the product for you. Zephyr Pro is a wearable mask that has a voice amplification feature in addition to built-in speakers.
In January last year, Razer had unveiled the initial concept and called it Hazel. A year later, it is now Zephyr and Razer already has a Pro version of the product. At first glance, the Zephyr Pro does… See more.
In the 2002 science fiction blockbuster film “Minority Report,” Tom Cruise’s character John Anderton uses his hands, sheathed in special gloves, to interface with his wall-sized transparent computer screen. The computer recognizes his gestures to enlarge, zoom in, and swipe away. Although this futuristic vision for computer-human interaction is now 20 years old, today’s humans still interface with computers by using a mouse, keyboard, remote control, or small touch screen. However, much effort has been devoted by researchers to unlock more natural forms of communication without requiring contact between the user and the device. Voice commands are a prominent example that have found their way into modern smartphones and virtual assistants, letting us interact and control devices through speech.
Hand gestures constitute another important mode of human communication that could be adopted for human-computer interactions. Recent progress in camera systems, image analysis and machine learning have made optical-based gesture recognition a more attractive option in most contexts than approaches relying on wearable sensors or data gloves, as used by Anderton in “Minority Report.” However, current methods are hindered by a variety of limitations, including high computational complexity, low speed, poor accuracy, or a low number of recognizable gestures. To tackle these issues, a team led by Zhiyi Yu of Sun Yat-sen University, China, recently developed a new hand gesture recognition algorithm that strikes a good balance between complexity, accuracy, and applicability.
It’s been a few years since we’ve heard from AR company Vuzix. In early 2019, it came out with its first pair of. After staying relatively quiet over the past two years, it’s now partnering with Verizon. The two didn’t share many details about their collaboration. What they did say is that they plan to find ways to commercialize AR technology for use in sports and gaming scenarios, especially those involving the need for training. The partnership will combine Vuzix’s new Shield smart glasses and the capabilities of Verizon’s 5G network.
It’s hard to say if we’ll see anything impactful come out of this agreement, but it’s not a surprise to see Verizon. Augmented, virtual and mixed reality wearables have been consistently positioned as one of the primary beneficiaries of the speed and latency enhancements promised by 5G networks. Likewise, the focus on gaming and sports isn’t surprising either. Some of the earliest locations where Verizon had 5G service was in. They’re one of few places where the carrier’s mmWave deployments shine since there’s enough density there to justify building out all the small cells required to blanket even a small area with ultrafast 5G coverage.
Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science (CEMS) and the RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research (CPR) in Japan have developed a technique to improve the flexibility of ultra-thin electronics, such as those used in bendable devices or clothing. Published in Science Advances, the study details the use of water vapor plasma to directly bond gold electrodes fixed onto separate ultra-thin polymer films, without needing adhesives or high temperatures.
As electronic devices get smaller and smaller, and the desire to have bendable, wearable, and on-skin electronics increases, conventional methods of constructing these devices have become impractical. One of the biggest problems is how to connect and integrate multiple devices or pieces of a device that each reside on separate ultra-thin polymer films. Conventional methods that use layers of adhesive to stick electrodes together reduce flexibility and require temperature and pressure that are damaging to super-thin electronics. Conventional methods of direct metal-to-metal bonding are available, but require perfectly smooth and clean surfaces that are not typical in these types of electronics.
A team of researchers led by Takao Someya at RIKEN CEMS/CPR has developed a new method to secure these connections that does not use adhesive, high temperature, or high pressure, and does not require totally smooth or clean surfaces. In fact, the process takes less than a minute at room temperature, followed by about a 12-hour wait. The new technique, called water-vapor plasma-assisted bonding, creates stable bonds between gold electrodes that are printed into ultra-thin—2 thousandths of a millimeter—polymer sheets using a thermal evaporator.
Researchers have developed a rechargeable lithium-ion battery in the form of an ultra-long fiber that could be woven into fabrics. The battery could enable a wide variety of wearable electronic devices, and might even be used to make 3D-printed batteries in virtually any shape.
The researchers envision new possibilities for self-powered communications, sensing, and computational devices that could be worn like ordinary clothing, as well as devices whose batteries could also double as structural parts.
In a proof of concept, the team behind the new battery technology has produced the world’s longest flexible fiber battery, 140 meters long, to demonstrate that the material can be manufactured to arbitrarily long lengths. The work is described today in the journal Materials Today. MIT postdoc Tural Khudiyev (now an assistant professor at National University of Singapore), former MIT postdoc Jung Tae Lee (now a professor at Kyung Hee University), and Benjamin Grena SM ‘13, Ph.D. ‘17 (currently at Apple) are the lead authors on the paper. Other co-authors are MIT professors Yoel Fink, Ju Li, and John Joannopoulos, and seven others at MIT and elsewhere.
Imagine that your team is meeting to decide whether to continue an expensive marketing campaign. After a few minutes, it becomes clear that nobody has the metrics on-hand to make the decision. You chime in with a solution and ask Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa to back you up with information: “Alexa, how many users did we convert to customers last month with Campaign A?” and Alexa responds with the answer. You just amplified your team’s intelligence with AI. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Intelligence amplification is the use of technology to augment human intelligence. And a paradigm shift is on the horizon, where new devices will offer less intrusive, more intuitive ways to amplify our intelligence.
Hearables, or wireless in-ear computational earpieces, are an example of intelligence amplification devices that have been adopted recently and rapidly. An example is Apple’s AirPods, which are smart earbuds that connect to Apple devices and integrate with Siri via voice commands. Apple has also filed a patent for earbuds equipped with biometric sensors that could record data such as a user’s temperature, heart rate, and movement. Similarly, Google’s Pixel Buds give users direct access to the Google Assistant and its powerful knowledge graph. Google Assistant seamlessly connects users to information stored in Google platforms, like email and calendar management. Google Assistant also provides users with highly-personalized recommendations, helps automate personal communication, and offloads monotonous tasks like setting timers, managing lists, and controlling IoT devices.
And it could work in wearables and light aircraft.
Researchers at Stanford University are developing an efficient new solar panel material that is fifteen times thinner than paper, a press statement reveals.
Made using transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs), the materials have the potential to absorb a higher level of sunlight than other solar materials at the same time as providing an incredibly lightweight alternative to silicon-based solar panels.
Searching for silicon alternatives The researchers are part of a concerted effort within the scientific community to find alternative solar panel materials to silicon. Silicon is by far the most common material used for solar panels, but it’s heavy and rigid, meaning it isn’t particularly well suited to lightweight applications required for aircraft, spacecraft, electric vehicles, or even wearables.
In the novel-turned-movie Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, the protagonist escapes to an online realm aptly called OASIS. Instrumental to the OASIS experience is his haptic (relating to sense of touch) bodysuit, which enables him to move through and interact with the virtual world with his body. He can even activate tactile sensations to feel every gut punch, or a kiss from a badass online girl.
While no such technology is commercially available yet, the platform Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is in the early stages of creating haptic gloves to bring the virtual world to our fingertips. These gloves have been in the works for the past seven years, the company recently said, and there’s still a few more to go.
These gloves would allow the wearer to not only interact with and control the virtual world, but experience it in a way similar to how one experiences the physical world. The wearer would use the gloves in tandem with a headset for AR or VR. A video posted by Meta in a blog shows two users having a remote thumb-wrestling match. In their VR headsets, they see a pair of disembodied hands reflecting the motions that their own hands are making. In their gloves, they feel every squeeze and twitch of their partner’s hand—at least that’s the idea.