Samsung’s TipTalk is a smartwatch band that lets you listen to voicemails simply by touching your ear

People are skeptical when it comes to wearables because so far, all a smartwatch can do is act as an intermediate between the user and their smartphone. That is, until Samsung unveiled a piece of technology called TipTalk.

What TipTalk does is quite incredible; it sends sounds through the user’s arm (from their wrist) and then when the user places their finger on their ear, they can hear voicemail messages through the unique reverberation.

Samsung have not commented on whether this technology will be implemented in future wearables, but in a market that is slowly becoming super-saturated, it’s good to know that the technology giant has a few incredibly innovative aces up its sleeve.

Samsung teases round Gear S2 smartwatch

Engadget:

Samsung has dropped a surprise at its Unpacked 2015 event by showing off a new Gear S2 smartwatch. The model appears to be a far cry from the original Gear S, however. Samsung has upped the style quotient considerably with a round watch face, metal body and new user interface. Given the naming convention (it lacks the “Galaxy” moniker that generally denotes Android), it likely runs on Samsung’s Tizen OS rather than Android Wear, like the original Gear S.

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MR PORTER (Japan) takes a retrospective look at wearable technology

A close look at the Gear VR for the Galaxy S6

The old and the new

The Verge (by Sean O’Kane):

Earlier this week, we saw some big news in the world of virtual reality when HTC announced the Vive, a new VR headset made in partnership with legacy video game company Valve. But the most important news for the adoption of virtual reality came from Samsung, Oculus, and Facebook: there’s a new version of the Gear VR that can be powered by both the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the S6 Edge.

Virtual reality is quite obviously still in a nascent state. Even the best headsets still face myriad problems like poor resolution, bulky headsets, and social stigma. “What we want to do is we want to get down to sunglasses,” says Max Cohen, head of Oculus Mobile.

But that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Cohen couldn’t comment on a time frame, but admits how far Oculus has to go before VR glasses are a reality. “Every aspect of this technology, both on Gear VR and the Rift, still needs to improve to get it where we want it,” he says. “We’re not going to declare victory any time soon.” Until then, headsets that use phone drop-ins might be the best consumer solution available.

The original Gear VR, which works with the Galaxy Note 4, took a step towards solving some of VR’s problems, but left much to be desired. The resolution was good enough, but not great. It was wireless and light, but got uncomfortable after extended use. And it did little to change the fact that people inevitably view you differently once you have a VR headset on your face, and you’re unavoidably cut off from the world. Perhaps most important, not many people owned the Galaxy Note 4, whereas the new version will work on a mainstream phone.

The first two issues are alleviated in the newest version of the Gear VR. At first blush, the new version is not much different than the Gear VR that uses the Galaxy Note 4. But once you put it on the differences are profound. To start with, the whole unit is much lighter, thanks in part to the fact that the Galaxy S6 weighs less than the Note 4. The straps are more comfortable but still fit tightly, and there’s a vent on the left side of the headset that helps reduce lens fogging. Overall, Oculus has really gotten the headset to feel, well, less like a headset.

The other big focus for Oculus is increasing the screen resolution, which is another place Cohen is ready to admit that the company — and virtual reality as a medium — still has a long way to go.

The reality is we need to go a lot further. We need 4K screens, potentially even 8K screens. So there’s still some time before we feel like we’ve hit the point where that “screen door effect,” as we call the impression of a pixelated display, goes away entirely. But the 1440p looks pretty darn good.”

He’s right. The Galaxy S6’s 5.1-inch screen is smaller than the 5.7-inch one found on the Note 4, but that means the pixel density is noticeably higher — 577 ppi compared to 515. That might not sound like a lot, but it made a big difference when I got to try it here at MWC. Everything I queued up — games, a new Cirque du Soleil demo, a 360-degree 3D photos app made by Otoy — was more impressive than anything found on the Note 4 version of the Gear VR.

But the difference from the old version to the new was most stark in the videos featured in the Oculus Cinema section. On the Note 4 version of the Gear VR, this was by far my least favorite content — it’s where the weaknesses of the resolution and lower pixel density were most apparent. My eyes would strain after just 10 or 15 seconds of watching a video, and the experience was worse with 3D content. But on the Galaxy S6 version, all the videos I previewed were not only watchable, they were enjoyable. That screen door effect was majorly mitigated here, and in its place was a much smoother and visually comfortable experience.

It’s hard to understate how important this could be for the success of the Gear VR, and Oculus’ efforts in the mobile space in general. The biggest barrier to the Gear VR so far hasn’t been the social awkwardness of wearing a head-mounted display, it’s that it only worked with a niche device. The idea of a $199 consumer VR device was attractive to many, but shelling out nearly $1,000 more to get a Note 4 off-contract kept the reality of it out of reach.

The new headset will likely be priced the same, though Samsung will ultimately set the price when it releases it to market — it’s not yet clear when that will happen. Cohen told us before that he thinks the ideal price is free. Alongside the new headset the company also announced that paid content is making its way to the Gear VR (it should be available in the Oculus store now, and to Note 4 users as well).

The Gear VR is about to face its sink-or-swim moment. Instead of being a cool idea burdened by the requirement of owning a niche device, it’s now going to be an affordable accessory to a phone that millions of people will own. If you still don’t think that’s a big deal, you probably haven’t tried it. And imagine the hype if it were compatible with an iPhone.

By leveraging the new revenue source with paid content and spreading the user base by building a headset around a flagship phone, the idea of dropping the price of the Gear VR to zero doesn’t seem so crazy anymore.

Until then, people are going to have to understand a few simple facts: virtual reality still needs headsets, and headsets are inherently awkward. But that doesn’t mean that the experience isn’t outrageously cool.

 

HTC (Taiwan) teams up with Under Armour for a fitness wearable

HTC has announced it will be releasing its first wearable with the help of Under Armour, who will be supplying the tracking software for the fitness band. The waterproof Grip wrist band is the first in a series of co-branded products, and will feature a pedometer, GPS and an integrated “Record” tracking portal which aggregates sleep, steps, active time, distance, workouts, calories burned and weight. It can also be connected with a phone to receive and respond to notifications via the 1.8-inch curved monochrome touchscreen.

Though an official release date has yet to be announced, expect the HTC Grip to be available at select retailers in North America beginning in Spring 2015.

The Huawei Watch (China)

The new Huawei Watch looks less like a computer and more like a watch

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Many smartwatches have a tendency to look like a tiny computer on your wrist. But Huawei‘s first shot at the wearable looks more like a classic timepiece.

The Chinese manufacturer announced its entry into the smartwatch market on Sunday at Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. The Huawei Watch is an elegant circular watch that runs on Google’s Android Wear software. The company is targeting both men and women with the product, allowing users to personalize it based on colors (silver, black and gold), a variety of band options (for example, leather and stainless steel) and 40 different watch faces.

The Huawei Watch will launch by mid-2015, likely in June.

The AMOLED display is 42 mm in diameter, which, according to the company, is the most compact design that exists. This was to make it more appealing to both genders; typically, smartwatches skew more masculine-looking because of the limited size and style options. The display is protected with a sapphire crystal covering to prevent scratching, which is a nice touch. Many existing smartwatches on the market are protected with Gorilla Glass, but traditional watches typically come with sapphire crystal glass, which has a different look.

Huawei Watch

Like other smartwatches, the Huawei Watch will let wearers receive text messages, check email, receive phone call notifications, play with apps and view their calendars directly from the touchscreen. The device is powered by a Qualcomm 1.2GHz processor and syncs up with smartphones running Android 4.3 and higher. Under the hood, the Huawei Watch includes 4GB of storage, 512 MB of RAM and Bluetooth 4.1 compatibility.

Huawei Watch

 

The watch can also function as a fitness tracker; its sensor can tell whether a person is running, biking or sleeping, and tracks those stats, including calories burned, distance traveled and heart rate via its built-in heart rate monitor.

Huawei added that it will be building a “health and lifestyle ecosystem” to help users stay on top of their goals and progress, with the help of partners and app platforms like Jawbone.

The circular shape and the stainless steel frame is a nod toward traditional watches and a design that most consumers already consider more appealing. As we’ve noted previously, many smartwatches — including the Apple Watch, slated to be released in April — have square or rectangular-shaped designs, because it’s difficult to fit so much technology into a smaller, curved case. But Huawei does a striking job.The arrival of the Huawei Watch doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Manufacturers with roots in the smartphone industry like Apple, Samsung, LG and Motorola have already invested big money and resources into developing a wearable, so it makes sense for Huawei to follow suit. The look of the watch isn’t a huge shocker, either; two promotional videos leaked online earlier in this weekend, which were pulled shortly after. A promotional ad for the watch was also spotted at the El Prat airport in Spain.

This isn’t Huawei’s first attempt at wearables. Last year, it launched the TalkBand 1, a fitness tracker and Bluetooth headset hybrid.

The Huawei Watch has the potential to inch out competitors also banking on the circular look, like the Moto 360. However, unlike other competitors like the Apple Watch, the Huawei Watch runs on Android Wear, which has gotten shaky reviews.

The Huawei Watch will launch in 20 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Norway, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

Pricing and availability has not been announced yet and will vary depending on the market, the company said.

Apple to introduce multicultural Emojis with iOS 8.3 beta

Apple has launched its second OS X 10.10.3 and iOS 8.3 beta updates for developers today. As part of the release, the promised multicultural emoji pack has been unveiled. The redesigned keyboard will allow a user to adjust the complexion of an emoji by tapping and holding on each character.

The new skin tones are based off the Fitzpatrick scale, a numerical classification schema for human skin color which was developed by a Harvard dermatologist in 1975. Along with racial diversity, Apple’s new emoji pack will also feature same-sex couples and couples without children. Furthermore, 300 additional new characters will be available once the new iOS is released to the public this spring, including an unsurprising replacement of a traditional watch by an Apple Watch.

Sony SmartEyeGlasses are technologically advanced but stylistically questionable

Sony announced its foray into smart glasses last September, and now we get the first look at the development of “SmartEyeGlasses,” a transparent lens eyewear that connects with smartphones to superimpose information onto the real world, such as symbols, text and images. The eyepiece is equipped with a diverse range of sensor technologies such as a CMOS image sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, electronic compass, microphone and more.

The augmented reality accessory aims to give the user information about their current status, acting as a live feed of necessary information that appears in your field of view. The “SmartEyeGlasses” utilizes unique hologram optics to achieve a lens that is capable of a high transparency of 85% with just a 0.3mm thickness. Technologically, the glasses are advanced with huge potential, however, aesthetically, they may be more reminiscent of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle than someone tech-savvy. The glasses will be available in some countries beginning March 2015, but check out the video above.

LG’s “Watch Urbane” luxury Android smartwatch