Tech

Apple Patents Headphones with Health Monitoring and 'Gesture Control'

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Apple was granted a patent today through the USPTO for new headphones with biometrics to track heart rate, perspiration levels and temperature. Details of the filing can be found on the USPTO website

Interestingly enough, we blogged before about a meeting between Apple and the FDA a few weeks ago, and this looks to be the very first product entry into the fitness category by Apple since that meeting. The"Sports monitoring system for headphones, earbuds and/or headsets" will be able to track physical data such as heart rate, perspiration, body temperature, and through the use of the mentioned accelerometer, also track user movement. 

In addition to the physical data and stat tracking, the Patent curiously mentions a "psychological" sensor. While enigmatic in it's explanation, this sensor could potentially utilize the biometric data gathered along with a number of software algorithms to asses or create a picture of a user's overall psychological or mental state. For example, by utilizing input requested on the users iPhone, iPod or iWatch about their age, sex, height, weight, the system could then combine that information with geographical data from GPS for assessing location, altitude, and barometric pressure, adding in monitored health data during exercise or day to day goings about, applying a software algorithm to then generate a picture of a person's psychological state as surmised from their body's reactions to these metrics. All of this is speculation of course, but the mentioned "psychological" sensor BEGS that type of speculation in the absence of any first hand explanation from Apple. 

Packing in this much additional tech and hardware into the headphones will make them an even more valuable product than the normal headphones packed in with Apple mobile products. From our experience with Apple's earbuds in the past, one would assume that Apple would make them a much higher quality and more comfortable headphone than previously released sets, as many users don't even take the current headphones out of the package and opt for higher quality, MUCH better sounding ones. 

Xbox One to gain GPU performance increase by making Kinect optional

Can Microsoft boost sales by cutting features?

Can Microsoft boost sales by cutting features?

Since their launches in November of last year, The Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 have been in a vicious battle for the #1 spot in gaming. So far, Sony's Playstation 4 has dominated the Xbox One by a fair margin in sales. The commanding lead the PS4 has is interesting, as in most ways, the hardware of both systems is quite similar. In fact,the specs for both systems are almost identical, except for the GPU, where the PS4 holds the clear advantage. Prior to launch, their was an insane amount of discussion about how much of a difference graphical superiority would actually have. But now that gamers have them in their hot little hands, both companies can answer that question clearly. Many of the cross-platform launch titles look better and are running at higher frame rates on the PS4. Following the end of year sales numbers, Microsoft has had enough and is working overtime to fix the Xbox One's weak point, at the expense of the Kinect. 

The APU, With a CPU, GPU and Ram all on one chip

The APU, With a CPU, GPU and Ram all on one chip

As ExtremeTech points out, "At the heart of both the PS4 and Xbox One is a semi-custom AMD APU (A CPU, GPU and embedded ram all on one chip, as seen in the image above). This 28nm part features an 8-core Jaguar CPU and a Radeon 7000-series GPU. The Xbox’s GPU is similar to the Bonaire core from the Radeon HD 7790, an entry-level PC graphics processor. The PS4, meanwhile, is rocking the mid-range Pitcairn core like you’d find in a Radeon HD 7870. Even though the Xbox One GPU is clocked a little higher, it can’t keep up with the PS4 in terms of raw power."

But the real challenge beyond the sheer lack of power, is that Xbox One developers are handicapped by Microsoft in the development process. Microsoft requires that all games reserve 10% of the GPU’s capacity for the Kinect, even if the game doesn’t use it. That’s split up into 8% for the Kinect video features and 2% for Kinect voice. In an effort to give a boost to its console, Microsoft is expected to issue a system patch that removes the requirement that games save that 8% for Kinect video.

Interestingly enough, Microsoft is only willing to give developers access to that 8% margin increase. They still demand a 2% reservation for the Kinect Voice commands, as the ability to control the system with voice commands was one of their biggest marketing pushes, and the system's hottest selling point this holiday. By stripping console features, Microsoft hopes to give the system enough extra oomph to help bridge the performance gap between it and the PS4. 

 

 

Mimo - The Smart Baby Monitor

So the show stealing product at CES this year turned out not to be a new UHDTV, Laptop or Tablet. It wasn't even one of the many, many smart watches and bracelets on display. No, the hot item that stole the show was a new baby monitor tech called Mimo. 

The Mimo unit is a specially designed cloth Onesie called the Mimo Kimono has small contacts that measure your infant’s respiration, skin temperature, body position, and activity level. The Kimono has a slot for inserting the "Lilypad and Turtle" accessory, and according to Mimo:" The Mimo Lilypad connect the Turtle to your home’s WiFi, allowing us to process your baby’s information in real-time using our algorithms. The Lilypad also has a microphone, allowing Mimo to stream your baby’s sounds to your smartphone in real-time. It also comes with a VERY gimmicky Coffee Mug for parents, with LED's in it, that displays little faces on it to indicate baby's current status. Because I know we are all always in the kitchen having a mug of coffee while baby sleeps. Aside from the mug, the entire concept is incredibly cool, but I am not entirely sold that this hardware would not be uncomfortable of disturbing to the baby. However, this is NOT another corporate scheme. This product was developed and tested quite rigorously by a team of parents in Boston. Which gives me hope for a couple of reasons:

- It's American made. By actual Parents. So this is not some foreign product company trying to push a product into consumer space for profit. This is a group of admittedly the most finicky and picky , elitist consumers in the world, Americans, designing a product themselves. This is a true "Internet of Things" product sure to cause buzz. 

- This was actually built and tested with their own kids fist. 

So there may be hope for the product. If it is not as cumbersome and disruptive to baby as it seems, then this could be a runaway success. We will see. 

Check the link HERE for the Mimo Site, and the gallery below.