Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Projector and smartphone: a marriage made in heaven? Samsung intros the Galaxy Beam with built-in 50-inch projector.

Samsung introduced the projector-enabled "Galaxy Beam" at Mobile World Congress 2012. Should other smartphone vendors start working on a similar project?

I've had the opportunity to test several pico-projectors over the years including some projector handsets. So far, the real-world image quality and true usefulness of such devices has been limited, as have the number of SKUs and sales. A number of smaller Chinese handset vendors have introduced projector handsets during the past four years or so. And then, three years ago at CES 2009, Samsung became the first major handset vendor to introduce a projector phone. The announcement certainly got attention, but little real market interest.

Relevant component vendors such as TI and Microvision have been knocking on doors with their wares for years. But given battery-life and bill-of-material issues along with what appears to be limited consumer attention, most handset vendors appear to be taking a rather dim view about the short-term potential of projector phones.

But now as smartphone vendors are desperately seeking a WOW factor in this age of look-alike products, is it time for the projector phone market to shine?

Head games. BCI (Brain-controlled input) comes to Linux. Is “thinkput” for real?

STORY via Neurogadget >>

Think carefully about what you want.

I admit that the notion of thought-controlled interfaces or brain-controlled input sounds rather far out. But consumer products have been on the market for a number of years already, some reaching price points below $100.

If you haven’t had a chance to try any such mind-reading devices, you might want to track one down at a trade show or some other venue and give it a thought.

Here's a game for Linux that uses the $100 neuro-input device from NeuroSky. MindLabyrinth works together with the head-worn device to allow simple movements to be thought-in.

Is it time to start taking "mindput" seriously? For device vendors of all kinds, it’s something to think about.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tongue in cheek: Special Reminder -- It’s soon Valentine’s Day. Please give generously. Sometimes money is no object.

Welcome to the great world of mobile finance. Your greatest wishes are only a phone call away.

Gentlemen, please start your engines. It’s time to do some giving. Yes, you know it: February 14th is right around the corner now. The big V-day is at hand. So open your hearts – and your wallets. Please give until it hurts, even if the pain belongs to someone else.

Here’s a case in which money really is no object.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Google Glasses rumor. Is it time to take heads-up displays serious as a device form factor?

Android Authority Story >>

In a smartphone market filled with look-alike, black rectangular products, is it time to eye fresh, new form factors?

Way back in the year 2000, I had the opportunity to try a few near-to-eye displays being pitched at several major trade shows. The devices came from both start-ups and mega consumer electronics vendors which saw these gadgets as a potential new computing form factor.

So, the rumor is that Google is actively working on developing a stand-alone heads-up display device that could be, in effect, "smart glasses." The glasses would run a thin version of Android on top of an ARM processor, have voice recognition, and a series of sensors such as gyroscope and accelerometer to detect head movement and direction.

Apparently one of the key applications of the glasses is to support augmented reality. Such glasses could, for example, detect what products the user might be looking at using a front-facing camera and then display additional information and pricing details for the user. We could begin to wonder what new types of information collection this would enable: Google already knows what we're looking at in the virtual world. Now the company can begin to collect information about what people are looking at in the physical world as well.

Privacy issues aside, I think Google and other vendors of HUDs and NEDs have an uphill battle. While I see discreet wearable computing has significant potential, I can't say that I see eye-to-eye with such an in-your-face approach to keeping users connected. But as always, it's important to remain open-minded to change, and maintain a heads-up approach to monitoring any potential form factor shifts and opportunities.

View to a kill. (via 9TO5 Google)

Sony's near-to-eye display: the market seems far away.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Note to self: is the stylus about to make a comback? The Nintendo DS generation is here.

What's old is new again.

Samsung's Galaxy Note suffers from an identity crisis. Is it a big smartphone? YES! Is it a small tablet? YES! I suppose in the end, it depends on the size of the user's hands.

With a 5.3-inch Super Amoled HD display, the Note is a big device compared to the average, everyday smartphone. The iPhone 4S, for example, has a 3.5-inch display. Otherwise, Note has the type of hardware specs one would expect of a high-end Android-based smartphone these days: 8 megapix camera with 1080 HD video support, 3G+ (no LTE in this version), and memory expansion.

But it's the inclusion of a stylus with the device that I would like to touch upon here. Samsung calls the included stylus the "S Pen." It should be noted that HTC recently introduced a tablet, the HTC Flyer, that also shipped with a stylus.

For Note, Samsung has optimized the Ice Cream Sandwich Android build to support S Pen input and included a number of exclusive S Pen apps.

Stylus input is of course nothing new. Palm popularized pen input back in the mid-1990s with their "Graffiti" language on the Palm Pilot. But as capacitive touchscreen became the industry standard support finger-put, the stylus got lost.

Will it soon be time again to stick with the stylus? Let's remember the guideline: three makes a trend.

Recommendation to device vendors: Follow consumer acceptance of stylus in top of smart devices. Track especially how the Nintendo DS generation reacts to this potential trend. Platform vendors could need to adjust deep OS support for more input methods than finger touch.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Outclassed. How classmates.com became classmates.gone. What a dunce!

Now that Facebook is valued as a $100 billion dollar company, it's time to look back and wonder what might have been.

Internet-based social networking is really nothing so new. There has been a slow evolution since the mid '90s when services such as Bigfoot and similar basic whitepage-like directories began popping up. Unfortunately, such services failed to see their potential and faded away.

The one service that really had things going for it was North American-centric Classmates.com. It was the first social networking site many of us signed up for. Via ubiquitous advertising, Classmates managed to establish itself as the go-to place to find old friends and bullies. The service quickly spread across the U.S. and Canada and really did help millions to re-connect.

But in their attempt to go for the gold, the owners of Classmates.com failed to adjust their business model, and began to resemble what many considered to be more of an internet marketing scam. According to stories from around the internet, Classmates.com's business practices were dubious bordering on the fraudulent.

In an attempt to sell their $10/month "Gold" level service, the company allegedly sent members e-mails informing them an old friend was looking to re-connect, and the price of potential happiness was a mere Gold membership fee. This blackmail-like business model didn't last long when it was discovered that it wasn't the senior class's lead cheerleader who always desperately wanted to get to know the shy, awkward, lonely guy sitting in the back of the room. Nope. As it turned out, those messages were actually often from Classmates.com wanting to reconnect with your cash.

I'm sure Classmates.com management is now wondering what might have been. In their attempts to go for the short-term gold, the service failed to adjust to threats from Facebook. And thus, sadly, they failed to reach their long-term potential.

One service was wildly outclassed by another. And now Classmates.com is some sort of sad yearbook depository trying to push $100 re-prints.

The lesson learned here: Be aware, and be fair and djust your business models given changing ecosystems, or go to the back of the class.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Time to see the Lytro? Which will be the first handset vendor to focus on this new imaging technology?


Will Lytro change imaging as we've known it for more than 150 years?

It looks like the technology behind the Lytro camera could turn most of us into at least reasonably decent photographers and revolutionize the camera industry. Reviews of Lytro's boxy-looking camera are, for the most part, matching the hype.

What Lytro does differently is basically to capture a lot more raw data which can then be processed afterwards. This allows the user to change to field of focus of any image after the fact and also provide the viewer with a more immersive experience.
Please check out some Lytro PICS from their own website

As is often the case, what appears to be a wildly new technology has often been around, at least in the labs, for quite some time. Research into enabling cameras to capture the entire light field has been on-going for more than 20 yearss, but now, with Lytro, there is an actual product on the market. Lytro is a $400/8GB ($500/16GB) camera that can be ordered now.

Rumor has it that Apple is very interested in bringing the first Lytro-enabled smartphone to market. If Lytro does actively license out their technology to smartphone vendors, which would be an obvious business model given the incredible volumes in the smartphone biz (hundreds of millions of units per year), we have to wonder which smartphone vendor will be first? In a market of look-alike and act-alike, rectangular black screens, which smartphone vendor will see the Lytro and add a touch of WOW to their products?

Recommendations to smartphone vendors: Investigate the feasibility of incorporating Lytro's light field technology into your smartphones. This may require form factor adjustments. Look into the potential of cross-licensing agreements with Lytro and evaluate sub-branding the imaging feature and potential of cloud-based connections. Look into the Lytro.