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August 18, 2018
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Wearables

VR optics could help old folks keep the world in focus

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The complex optics involved with putting a screen an inch away from the eye in VR headsets could make for smart glasses that correct for vision problems. These prototype “autofocals” from Stanford researchers use depth sensing and gaze tracking to bring the world into focus when someone lacks the ability to do it on their own.

I talked with lead researcher Nitish Padmanaban at SIGGRAPH in Vancouver, where he and the others were showing off the latest version of the system. It’s meant, he explained, to be a better solution to the problem of presbyopia, which is basically when your eyes refuse to focus on close-up objects. It happens to millions of people as they age, even people with otherwise excellent vision.

There are, of course, bifocals and progressive lenses that bend light in such a way as to bring such objects into focus — purely optical solutions, and cheap as well, but inflexible, and they only provide a small “viewport” through which to view the world. And there are adjustable-lens glasses as well, but must be adjusted slowly and manually with a dial on the side. What if you could make the whole lens change shape automatically, depending on the user’s need, in real time?

That’s what Padmanaban and colleagues Robert Konrad and Gordon Wetzstein are working on, and although the current prototype is obviously far too bulky and limited for actual deployment, the concept seems totally sound.

Padmanaban previously worked in VR, and mentioned what’s called the convergence-accommodation problem. Basically, the way what we see changes in real life when we move and refocus our eyes from far to near doesn’t happen properly (if at all) in VR and that can produce pain and nausea. Having lenses that automatically adjust based on where you’re looking would be useful there — and indeed some VR developers were showing off just that only ten feet away. But it could also apply to people who are unable to focus on nearby objects in the real world, Padmanaban thought.

This is an old prototype, but you get the idea.

It works like this. A depth sensor on the glasses collects a basic view of the scene in front of the person: a newspaper is 14 inches away, a table 3 feet away, the rest of the room considerably more. Then an eye-tracking system checks where the user is currently looking and cross-references that with the depth map.

Having been equipped with the specifics of the user’s vision problem, for instance that they have trouble focusing on objects closer than 20 inches away, the apparatus can them make an intelligent decision as to whether and how to adjust the lenses of the glasses.

In the case above, if the user was looking at the table or the rest of the room, the glasses will assume whatever normal correction the person requires to see — perhaps none. But if they change their gaze to focus on the paper, the glasses immediately adjust the lenses (perhaps independently per eye) to bring that object into focus in a way that doesn’t strain the person’s eyes.

The whole process of checking the gaze, depth of the selected object, and adjustment of the lenses takes a total of about 150 milliseconds. That’s long enough that the user might notice it happens, but the whole process of redirecting and refocusing one’s gaze takes perhaps three or four times that long — so the changes in the device will be complete by the time the user’s eyes would normally be at rest again.

“Even with an early prototype, the Autofocals are comparable to and sometimes better than traditional correction,” reads a short summary of the research published for SIGGRAPH. “Furthermore,the ‘natural’ operation of the Autofocals makes them usable on first wear.”

The team is currently conducting tests to measure more quantitatively the improvements derived from this system, and test for any possible ill effects, glitches, or other complaints. They’re a long way from commercialization, but Padmanaban suggested that some manufacturers are already looking into this type of method and despite its early stage, it’s highly promising. We can expect to hear more from them when the full paper is published.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Femtech hardware startup Elvie inks strategic partnership with UK’s NHS

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Elvie, a femtech hardware startup whose first product is a sleek smart pelvic floor exerciser, has inked a strategic partnership with the UK’s National Health Service that will make the device available nationwide through the country’s free-at-the-point-of-use healthcare service so at no direct cost to the patient.

It’s a major win for the startup that was co-founded in 2013 by CEO Tania Boler and Jawbone founder, Alexander Asseily, with the aim of building smart technology that focuses on women’s issues — an overlooked and underserved category in the gadget space.

Boler’s background before starting Elvie (née Chiaro) including working for the U.N. on global sex education curriculums. But her interest in pelvic floor health, and the inspiration for starting Elvie, began after she had a baby herself and found there was more support for women in France than the U.K. when it came to taking care of their bodies after giving birth.

With the NHS partnership, which is the startup’s first national reimbursement partnership (and therefore, as a spokeswoman puts it, has “the potential to be transformative” for the still young company), Elvie is emphasizing the opportunity for its connected tech to help reduce symptoms of urinary incontinence, including those suffered by new mums or in cases of stress-related urinary incontinence.

The Elvie kegel trainer is designed to make pelvic floor exercising fun and easy for women, with real-time feedback delivered via an app that also gamifies the activity, guiding users through exercises intended to strengthen their pelvic floor and thus help reduce urinary incontinence symptoms. The device can also alert users when they are contracting incorrectly.

Elvie cites research suggesting the NHS spends £233M annually on incontinence, claiming also that around a third of women and up to 70% of expectant and new mums currently suffer from urinary incontinence. In 70 per cent of stress urinary incontinence cases it suggests symptoms can be reduced or eliminated via pelvic floor muscle training.

And while there’s no absolute need for any device to perform the necessary muscle contractions to strengthen the pelvic floor, the challenge the Elvie Trainer is intended to help with is it can be difficult for women to know they are performing the exercises correctly or effectively.

Elvie cites a 2004 study that suggests around a third of women can’t exercise their pelvic floor correctly with written or verbal instruction alone. Whereas it says that biofeedback devices (generally, rather than the Elvie Trainer specifically) have been proven to increase success rates of pelvic floor training programmes by 10% — which it says other studies have suggested can lower surgery rates by 50% and reduce treatment costs by £424 per patient head within the first year.

“Until now, biofeedback pelvic floor training devices have only been available through the NHS for at-home use on loan from the patient’s hospital, with patient allocation dependent upon demand. Elvie Trainer will be the first at-home biofeedback device available on the NHS for patients to keep, which will support long-term motivation,” it adds.

Commenting in a statement, Clare Pacey, a specialist women’s health physiotherapist at Kings College Hospital, said: “I am delighted that Elvie Trainer is now available via the NHS. Apart from the fact that it is a sleek, discreet and beautiful product, the app is simple to use and immediate visual feedback directly to your phone screen can be extremely rewarding and motivating. It helps to make pelvic floor rehabilitation fun, which is essential in order to be maintained.”

Elvie is not disclosing commercial details of the NHS partnership but a spokeswoman told us the main objective for this strategic partnership is to broaden access to Elvie Trainer, adding: “The wholesale pricing reflects that.”

Discussing the structure of the supply arrangement, she said Elvie is working with Eurosurgical as its delivery partner — a distributor she said has “decades of experience supplying products to the NHS”.

“The approach will vary by Trust, regarding whether a unit is ordered for a particular patient or whether a small stock will be held so a unit may be provided to a patient within the session in which the need is established. This process will be monitored and reviewed to determine the most efficient and economic distribution method for the NHS Supply Chain,” she added.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Samsung courts mainstream users with the Galaxy Watch

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Name aside, not all that much appears to have changed with the new Galaxy Watch. Samsung’s clearly used the Gear Sport as the jumping off point here. And that’s a good thing. Since the beginning, Samsung’s wearables have been plagued by a size issue.

They’re huge — big on my wrists, even, and I’m 5’11. That rules out a pretty massive potential user base right out of the gate. The Galaxy Watches on display appeared to be the smaller of the two, at 42mm, which fit pretty comfortable on my wrist. There’s also a 46mm for those diehard big watch fans. Samsung has yet to introduce a size for even smaller wrists, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.

Those earlier rumors that the company would be jumping to the more widely used Android Wear operating system were off-base. Samsung’s sticking with Tizen here, with the Galaxy watch running version 4.0. Not a huge surprise, of course. Samsung’s taken ownership over the open OS — moving to Google’s would feel like starting from scratch.

The industrial design is also similar to earlier models, with a well, pronounced metal case and large buttons. There are two color designs, however, so you can opt for rose gold for a bit of a softer touch. And, of course, there are a whole bunch of different band options to further customize it.

LTE functionality is present here — Samsung beat Apple to the draw on that one. The watch is also 5ATM + IP68 water resistant and features a Gorilla Glass face, so it can take a licking, at all.

Like the rest of the wearable world, health is a big feature here. There are six automatic exercises (walking, running, cycling, elliptical, training, rowing, and dynamic workouts), plus sleep tracking and breathing reminder. Speaking of sleeping with the thing on, the company promises “several days of usage,” but that will depend in no small part on which size you opt for. The battery sizes are 472mAh and 270mAh for the 46mm and 42mm, respectively. So that’s certainly a point in favor of opting for the largest one possible.

We’ll no doubt be testing that, along with everything else soon. For now, I’m not seeing any features that really stand out the the rest of the wearable masses.  The 46mm runs  $350 and the 42mm version is $330. Pricing on the LTE models will be carrier dependent (AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon are all repped here). The device is launching at some unspecified time later this year.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Magic Leap One AR headset for devs costs more than 2x the iPhone X

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It’s been a long and trip-filled wait but mixed reality headgear maker Magic Leap will finally, finally be shipping its first piece of hardware this summer.

We were still waiting on the price-tag — but it’s just been officially revealed: The developer-focused Magic Leap One ‘creator edition’ headset will set you back at least $2,295. So a considerable chunk of change — albeit this bit of kit is not intended as a mass market consumer device but is an AR headset for developers to create content that could excite future consumers.

The augmented reality startup, which has raised at least $2.3 billion, according to Crunchbase, attracting a string of high profile investors including Google, Alibaba, Andreessen Horowitz and others, is only offering its first piece of reality bending eyewear to “creators in cities across the contiguous U.S.”.

Potential buyers are asked to input their zip code via its website to check if it will agree to take their money but it adds that “the list is growing daily”.

We tried the TC SF office zip and — unsurprisingly — got an affirmative of delivery there. But any folks in, for example, Hawaii wanting to spend big to space out are out of luck for now…

Magic Leap specifies it will “hand deliver” the package to buyers — and “personally get you set up”.

So evidently it wants to try to make sure its first flush of expensive hardware doesn’t get sucked down the toilet of dashed developer expectations.

It describes the computing paradigm it’s seeking to shift, with the help of enthused developers and content creators, as “spatial computing” — but it really needs a whole crowd of technical and creative people to step with it if it’s going to successfully deliver that.

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

Tommy Hilfiger has launched a ridiculous line of smart clothing that rewards you for wearing it

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Here comes more smart clothing nobody asked for. Fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger today announced the launch of a new line of men’s and women’s clothing, Tommy Jeans Xplore, which comes with smart-chip embedded technology. Unlike, say, Google’s Project Jacquard and its partnership with Levi’s, the goal is not to offer access to calls, texts, maps and music controls when you can’t get to your phone – like when you’re riding your bike, for example. Instead, Hilfiger’s smart clothing aims to reward you with points for wearing Hilfiger clothing. Yes, really.

It’s come to this, folks.

The line includes t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, jeans, jackets, caps, and bags which pair with the Tommy Jeans Xplore (or “XPLORE” if you use their branding) iOS app over Bluetooth. Once paired, the idea is that users will compete in challenges in the app to earn points. You get points for things like how often you wear the clothes (!!!) and for walking around to find heart-shaped, Tommy-branded icons on the app’s map. (???)

The points can be translated into rewards, including gift cards, signed merchandise and pieces from the Tommy Hilfiger archives, among other things, the company says.

I guess doling out more Tommy Hilfiger merch to players makes sense because the only people who would spend $90 on smart sweatshirt just to play a marketing campaign’s idea of fun have got to be the most seriously devoted – nay, obsessed – Hilfiger fans.

But beyond that, Tommy’s smart clothes don’t make much sense for anyone.

Despite its use of smart technology – like the embedded Awear Solutions’ Bluetooth low energy smart tag – the company hasn’t actually innovated here. At best, it’s a loyalty program requiring customers to overspend in order to join.

Even the company seems to be aware of the line’s niche appeal, saying in its official announcement that its goal is to create a “micro-community of brand ambassadors.”

Yep, micro – as in really, really, really small.

The brand, however, is no stranger to experiments with new ideas and technology. But some of its prior developments have been less absurd – like testing the use of A.I. to forecast design trends, its smartwatches, or adaptive clothing for the disabled.

Smart clothing for the sake of smart clothing though?

Just no.

No.

No.

Stop.

No.

 

 

 

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

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