Category Archives: Wearable Technology

This Week On The TC Gadgets Podcast: Facebook Oculus, HTC One, And Microsoft’s Glass Clone

Emerging technologies such as advanced virtual reality could have major implications for people with disabilities. For example, mobility training could occur in a virtual world where scenarios that require the user to problem solve as a precursor to mobility training within the naturalistic environment. What are some other possible applications for people with disabilities or their caregivers or both?

TechCrunch

Are you ready for the future?

Facebook certainly is, considering the social giant just bought Oculus VR, which makes virtual reality gaming headsets, for a cool $2 billion. And Microsoft is joining in on the fun, with reports indicating that the company has purchased wearable computing technology similar to Google’s Glass.

And in less revolutionary news, HTC finally revealed the latest-generation HTC One smartphone, which had been leaked so hard in the weeks prior to the event that we weren’t even sure if we wanted to cover it anymore. Yet here we are, discussing it on the podcast.

This week’s episode of the TC Gadgets Podcast features John Biggs, Matt Burns, Jordan Crook, Natasha Lomas, and Darrell Etherington.

Have a good Friday, everybody!

We invite you to enjoy our weekly podcasts every Friday at 3 p.m. Eastern and noon Pacific. And feel free to…

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Facebook Buys A Virtual World

TechCrunch

Today, in a somewhat surprising move, Facebook purchased virtual reality company Oculus VR. The buy elicited visceral reactions from people dismayed that Oculus sold out so early to snarky comments about what Facebook might do with it.

First of all, any talk about the Facebook news feed appearing in virtual form is far too short-sighted. Will someone port the feed over to Oculus? Probably. But that’s not even close to the endgame here. Nor is Facebook’s chatter about gaming really what this is about. There will doubtless be a lot of gaming-focused development to come, and it makes little sense for Oculus to abandon that line of thought entirely.

But the gaming market, no matter how lucrative, isn’t the resting place here.

You might even see people talk about this being a “platform play,” but that, too, isn’t the half of it.

When Facebook launched, the landscape of computing wasn’t even a…

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You’ve given me my body back: A Q&A with Hugh Herr

TED Blog

Hugh Herr gave a powerful talk, which posits that we can eliminate disability. Here, we ask him more. Photo: James Duncan Davidson Hugh Herr gave a powerful talk that posits we can eliminate disability. Here, we ask him more. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Bionics designer Hugh Herr spoke today on the TED stage about a future in which disability is a mere memory – a future he believes is both imminent and imperative. With pant legs cropped to reveal his own two bionic legs (“I made sure to shave today,” he joked), he explained the fascinating details of his work in the Biomechatronics Group at the MIT Media Lab.

But his weren’t the only high-tech prosthetic limbs on display: At the end of Herr’s talk, Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a dancer who lost her leg in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, stepped onto stage for her first dance since the tragedy. Her bionic, embedded with the “fundamentals of dance,” was created specially by Herr’s lab to rumba.

We spoke to Herr on the phone…

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Hands On With HereO, The Small And Simple GPS Watch Made Especially For Kids

Great tool for safety, topographical orientation, and other applications.

TechCrunch

[tc_5min code=”518158684″]
If you’ve got a child between the ages of 3 and 8, you’re in an interesting spot as a parent. The kid is old enough to be involved in activities such as school and play dates, which can keep them out from under your watchful eyes for hours at a time. But they’re not quite old enough to have a cell phone of their own for keeping in touch.

A startup called HereO has made a gadget especially for keeping tabs on young kids in that age range. HereO has made what it claims is the world’s “smallest and coolest” GPS watch device, which connects with a mobile and web app to allow parents to keep track of where their children are at all hours of the day. The watch will retail for $149, and is available for $99 to people who fund the device’s ongoing IndieGoGo campaign

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Movies and PwD

Disability Need Not Be Barrier for Moviegoers
by MAURIE HILL on JANUARY 21, 2014

On a recent rainy afternoon, I ventured to our local movie theater to watch “Philomena”. I had the best movie experience since losing my 20/20 vision roughly 30 years ago. Stargardt Disease (similar to macular degeneration) has gradually robbed my ability to read text on the big screen, identify characters’ faces or expressions at times, and pick up important details or actions, no matter how close I sit. So what was different this time around? As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was anxious to try the MovieReading App on my iPhone as soon as “Philomena” came to town. The app allowed me to hear details I would normally miss, and it more than confirmed the idea that this app is the easiest solution for those who are sight-impaired and still want to enjoy movies and television.

Though I used an iPhone 5, the MovieReading app also works on an iPod Touch or iPad (as long as it can run iOS 6 or later); plus, an Android app is in the works. But forget the details for now, and let’s look at the bigger picture: I didn’t have to take a bus to a larger theater that provides specialty equipment for the blind (or hearing impaired). I didn’t have to worry that an untrained person would be the one attempting to show me how to use such equipment. I didn’t bother anyone sitting around me. I didn’t have to ask for any assistance to get it started. I used a device and headphones that I always carry with me anyways.

The movie “Philomena” was phenomenal and most of all, I knew what everyone was laughing or crying about because a pleasant voice in my ear told me what my eyes are not able to.

The MovieReading app was extremely easy to use. It uses the microphone on your device to determine where the playback is at, and then automatically syncs with the movie’s soundtrack within seconds. Though I arrived to the movie early, getting to the movie theater a little late is not a problem because it will sync. You just hear the audio description and reading of any text on the screen (such as subtitles and credits) through your headphones; the rest of the movie you listen just like everyone else through the theater’s speakers. I tried big padded headphones first, and then switched to ear buds. In both cases, I could still clearly hear the movie playing at the same time. I had never tried using audio description in my life, but after the first few minutes, it was neither confusing nor distracting. I chose to just use one ear bud for the descriptions; though I could have popped it out at any time, I never felt the need to.

Determining how to describe a movie through audio is definitely an art; I’m happy to report it was artfully done for this movie. There was no disruption while characters were having a conversation, so it would sometimes go a long time before describing again. Some examples of what and how things were described in different parts of the movie (if I remember correctly) – “Sister Hildegard peers coldly through the window at Philomena”; or “in a quaint village where a BMW pulls off to the side”; or “Anthony’s cherubic face can be seen in the rear window as the car starts down the country road”. The app did not annoy you with every facial expression, but described ones taking place at crucial moments, giving me a complete sense of the mood.

The app works with VoiceOver, so I was able to start the audio description by myself. A message from the app reminded me to put the device in airplane mode and lower the screen brightness so I wouldn’t disturb fellow moviegoers. The description will continue even when the screen is locked. Using wired headphones, the iPhone’s battery life went from 94% to 80% for this 90-minute movie. My fears of having a dead phone at the end (or in the middle of!) the movie were eliminated. I probably could have used my Bluetooth headphones and still had juice by the end of the movie as well.

Philomena is the only content currently available through the MovieReading app. If this movie is no longer playing in your local theaters but you are curious about audio description created by Hollywood Access Services, there are mp3 tracks available for purchase (these do not play within the MovieReading app) for the “Breaking Bad” TV series on DVD, the “Hunger Games” DVD, and more. You won’t have to unearth a buried audio description menu that some DVDs provide or worry about disturbing other family members while you listen to the description on your own device. Due to the fact that distributors haven’t yet made this content available for access through the MovieReading app, you’ll need to follow simple instructions at the beginning to manually sync the mp3 audio description with the DVD playback.

I strongly believe that the MovieReading app and its Solo-Dx technology for automatically syncing the content can hugely broaden access to more blind, sight impaired, and hearing impaired individuals. We’ve come a long way this year in increasing the ways and means of reading books. In terms of accessing visual content, the ease and consistency of enjoying movie and television content through one app is within reach.

In order to get first-run movies available on the MovieReading app, as well as television and after-theater movie content, the distributors must make their content available to Hollywood Access Services. This is necessary in order to create the appropriate audio description for the sight impaired as well as captioning files for the hearing impaired.

With regards to getting distributors to provide access, Anna Capezzera, co-founder and Vice President of Hollywood Access Services states that “there is a small fee to cover all technical aspects of hosting audio description on the app. For distributors that don’t use our company to provide audio description services, we can still upload their description if they give us access to the files. It’s a very simple process.”

She continues, “I think partially because this app is so new, distributors don’t have a full understanding of how enthusiastic people are about this technology and how much easier it makes going to the movies. If they had a better idea, one hopes they’d see that it’s worth their effort and the small fee to put their content on the app. The best thing the blind and visually impaired community can do is make their voices heard. Contacting distributors – movie studios, TV networks, streaming sites such as Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon – en masse would bring better awareness, plus contacting the National Association of Theater Owners could help because they in turn could influence the studios to make their movies available on the app. This is especially the case with smaller cinemas that can’t afford the currently available audio description equipment.”

So, if you want to help break down barriers to enjoying entertainment the easiest way I can imagine, then it looks like we have a job to do. At the very minimum, share your thoughts with all of us here.

For more information, check out these FAQ’s about the Solo-Dx technology used in the MovieReading app, listen to an interview about the app on Serotalk podcast 179 (one hour and 3 minutes into the podcast).

Tagged as: ai squared, app, audio description, iOS, Maurie Hill, MovieReading, movies, theater, zoomtext

Android SDK For Wearables Coming In 2 Weeks, Says Google

These devices make good call for help systems, as well as, memory aids for people with disabilities. An individual’s complete medical history can also be uploaded and available when needed.

TechCrunch

Google is readying a version of its Android OS tailored for wearable devices. Google’s Sundar Pichaitold the SXSW conference Sunday that it would be releasing an SDK for makers of wearable devices such as smartwatches in two weeks’ time.

The SDK will be aimed at other makers of smartwatches and wearables, even though Google itself is thought to be working on building wearable hardware — with a Mountain View smartwatch project rumoured for months. (Last year Google confirmed it previously bought a smartwatch maker called WIMM Labs).

The release of Google’s smartwatch has been slated for either mid to late March, or pushed out to June (although the company has not confirmed its plans).

As with its mobile strategy, the spread of Android is Google’s primary concern here — with the wearable SDK allowing the services it offers packaged with Android to reach even further, via other makers’ hardware.

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iPad DJ Co-Founder Launches Lightwave To Provide Wearable, Real-Time Analytics For Events

Wearable sand real-time feedback! A glimpse of things to come.

TechCrunch

Wearables are being used by users to measure their activity and provide them with feedback that can help them improve their health. Today, a new startup called Lightwave is using wearable technology to provide analytics around live events for performers and artists.

The project was started by Rana June, who was co-founder and VP of marketing at social ad and analytics startup Medialets. But most people know her best from her days touring as the first big iPad DJ, back when creating music on the tablet was a hugely novel thing.

After several years of taking time off and dreaming up the next big thing, she decided to do something that would combine both her tech and music experience. The result is Lightwave, which provides actionable analytics for real-world events.

At the heart of the project is a wearable wristband that measures a number of different user interactions…

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Apple Patents Built-In Automated Emergency Detection And Assistance For iPhone

TechCrunch

A new patent application by Apple just published by the USPTO (via AppleInsider) adds a feature to an iPhone that may not be as cool as an optical heart rate sensor, but could be just as (or more) life-saving: the new tech would use data from onboard sensor to automatically detect when a user is subject to physical attack, including car crashes and violent personal altercations, as well as sudden medical emergencies.

Once the iPhone uses information from those sensors, which include contact detection to determine if someone is suddenly separated from their device in the middle of an interaction, or if a user doesn’t move for an extended period of time in unusual circumstances. It could also draw from cues including a device being dropped, headphones being detached, or even auditory cues like a loud noise being picked up by the mic. The patent also describes one version…

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Emotient Raises $6M For Facial Expression Recognition Tech, Debuts Google Glass Sentiment Analysis App

TechCrunch

Emotient , a startup based out of San Diego that works in the emerging area of facial expression recognition, is today announcing a $6 million round of funding and its first steps into applying its technology in the wearables market: a new piece of “glassware” for Google Glass that measures sentiment analysis based on reading people through the headgear’s camera.

Longer term, the aim is the become the sentiment analytics engine for “any connected device with a camera,” the company notes, with a SaaS model based around its API a fundamental part of that strategy.

The Series B round of funding was led by Seth Neiman, formerly a general partner at Crosspoint Venture Partners and now leading new VC firm Handbag. Previous investor Intel Capital also participated — bringing the total raised to date to $8 million since the startup was first founded in 2012.

Emotient says that the funds…

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