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Gadgets for Geeks

The Lightning-Powered Conference Speaker

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The Lightning-Powered Conference Speaker

Pioneer and Onkyo join forces to deliver the Rayz Rally-- a first Lightning-enabled speakerphone for use with the iPhone, turning it into a portable conference speaker.

The two companies claim the Rally is "loud enough to fill the boardroom." It uses the LightX platform from Avnera to minimise power drain, since it carries no in-built battery. For use, one simply needs to plug the Rally into the Lightning port, initiate calls from the device, and calls are automatically transferred to the Rally speaker.

"We worked closely with Pioneer on Rally to address the needs of today’s mobile consumers without compromising battery life, product size or performance," Avnera says. "This is made possible by the breakthrough innovations in audio, voice, speech and sensor circuits in Avnera's new LightX Platform that is the basis of Apple's second generation Lightning audio module technology."

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A Stealth Startup for Better VR?

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A Stealth Startup for Better VR?

Finnish startup Varjo emerges from stealth mode to present what it claims is a superior VR and AR headset-- "20/20," a headset with supposedly "human eye resolution" of over 70 megapixels per eye.

In comparison, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive push around 1.2MP per eye. In addition, the headset supposedly mimics how human vision works, with smaller, high-density displays filling the centre of the field of view surrounded by lower-resolution displays at the left and right edges. Eye tracking and software calculate the spot the wearer is focusing on, ensuring the eye is focused on the high-resolution display.

Prototype versions of the headset currently have a high-resolution microdisplay (similar to the OLED microdisplays found in professional broadcast cameras) mounted on top, which in turn is reflected inside the headset via mirror. The eye tracking is not in place as yet, but Varjo promises it will eventually allow for an ultra-clear viewing.

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The "Smallest, Smartest and Simplest" DJI Spark Drone

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The

Chinese drone maker DJI announces what it claims is its "smallest, smartest and simplest" drone yet-- the Spark, a palm-sized quadcopter featuring gesture-based control.

The miniature drone weighs 300g, and carries enough battery power to fly for 16 minutes. It can also shoot HD video and 12MP photos, has a 2-axis gimbal camera sabiliser, 3D sensing camera, GPS/Glonass and on-board software to mitigate shake and shutter roll. That said, what makes it really interesting is the aforementioned gesture control, allowing users to end the drone overhead and take a photo without need for a controller or app.

“Controlling a camera drone with hand movements alone is a major step towards making aerial technology an intuitive part of everyone’s daily life, from work and adventure to moments with friends and family,” the company says. “Spark’s revolutionary new interface lets you effortlessly extend your point of view to the air, making it easier than ever to capture and share the world from new perspectives.”

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The Acer Windows Mixed Reality VR Headset

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The Acer Windows Mixed Reality VR Headset

The 2017 Microsoft Build conference sees Acer announce a Windows Mixed Reality VR headset-- one available on the holiday season in a bundle including the new Microsoft motion controllers.

Also unveiled at the conference, the Microsoft motion controllers are reminiscent to the upcoming Touch controllers designed for the Oculus headset. The Microsoft controllers are wireless, and like the Touch controllers feature multiple buttons and triggers allowing users to "grasp" items within a virtual space.

However, unlike the Touch controllers, the Microsoft take on the accessories does not require an external sensors or markers-- instead, the controllers use vertically-placed glowing ring in conjunction with sensors built into the headset.

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Detect Bats Using With the iPhone!

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Detect Bats Using With the iPhone!

Customers want an iPhone-compatible means to learn more about... bats? Wildlife Acoustics has the "right equipment" designed specifically for iDevices-- the Echo Meter Touch 2.

The device is, essentially, a highly sensitive microphone with a Lightning connector. One simply needs to plug it into the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch before firing up a free companion app. The microphone picks up ultrasonic bat calls, while the app adds amplification (making them audible to human ears), displays an interactive spectrogram and even determines the kind of bat making the call in question.

In addition, users can create a bat call library complete with Google Maps GPS tags, and can even share recordings with other Echo Meter Touch users.

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Amazon Shows Things With Echo Show

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Amazon Shows Things With Echo Show

Amazon confirms the existence of a long rumoured touchscreen-equipped Echo device-- the Echo Show, a connected home hub featuring a 7-inch touchscreen together with voice recognition capability.

“Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things," the online retailer turned cloud giant-slash-hardware maker says. "Watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more. All hands-free—just ask.”

Another feature found in the Echo show is a camera, allowing for video calls, and Alexa skills are included for integration with smart home devices. This includes baby monitors from Ring and Arlo, Philips Hue smart lights, and thermostats from the likes of ecobee and WeMo.

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How to Add Eye Tracking to the HTC Vive

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How to Add Eye Tracking to the HTC Vive

Beijing-based startup 7invensun presents a means to add eye tracking to the HTC Vive-- the aGlass, an upgrade kit consisting of 2 eyepieces one can fit inside the VR headset.

The kit includes 3 pairs of interchangeable lenses. The eyepieces connect to the Vive via USB, with each eyepiece having a separate USB cable. In turn the cables are joined by a combiner and fed into the Vive's USB port.

For the curious, each aGlass tracker has a halo of IR lights combined with sensors able to track eye and eyelid movements. The makers say they also support lenses customised according to the vision requirements of individual users, and the technology can find use cases such as foveated rendering (a process combining eye tracking and software to adjust VR experience rendering in real time).

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First-Person Drone Control Via DJI Goggles

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First-Person Drone Control Via DJI Goggles

DJI presents a means for customers to control drones using their heads-- the DJI Goggles, a headset providing a first-person VR-style experience only in the real world.

The DJI Goggles are fairly bulky, being similar in both size and style to the PlayStation VR headset. First teased last year at the Mavic Pro announcement, they carry a pair of 1280 x 1440 resolution displays (creating the equivalent of looking at a 216-inch screen from 3m away) and use DJI's OcuSync technology for wireless video streaming over both short and long distances.

A touchpad on the side allows users to summon intelligent flight features (such as ActiveTrack or Tripod Mode) via on-screen menu. Head Tracking capability puts drone control to head movements, with left and right turns making the drone yaw left or right, just like a joystick. Another mode has head movements control the 360-degree gimbal, with the handheld controller taking care of flight direction.

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Hover Camera Passport Drone Zooms to Apple Stores

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Hover Camera Passport Drone Zooms to Apple Stores

Apple retail outlets get a new drone option in the shape of the Hover Camera Passport-- an ultra-portable number able to follow users around and take hands-free photos.

Developed by Zero Zero Robots, the Hover Camera Passport is a foldable drone built from carbon fibre material. It weighs just 242g and carries a 13MP camera with 4K video support and the ability to capture 360-degree panoramic video. Battery life clocks at around 10 minutes per charge, and the makers promise the Passport is very easy to use, with artificial intelligence allowing anyone to operate both indoors and outdoors.

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A Mini Heater to Heat PC User Hands

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A Mini Heater to Heat PC User Hands

"No more cold hands," the Kickstarter for the Heatbuff promises-- and just as well, since the crowdfunded device in question is a small heater designed to warm the hands of keyboard and mouse users.

The Heatbuff uses infrared as a "no-burn technology" in order to keep fingers toasty, all while not melting keyboards or mice down. The actual device is around 38cm wide, and features twin heaters one can adjust and angle from the centre to customise the amount of heat provided.

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Acer Monitors the Air at MWC

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Acer Monitors the Air at MWC

Mobile World Congress 2017 sees Acer announce the Air Monitor-- a connected device providing real-time air quality analysis through companion app and a colour-changing LED embedded in the chassis.

Part of the company's "Internet of Beings" (IoB), the Air Monitor tracks 6 air quality indicators, namely TVOC (Total Volatile Organic Compounds), carbon dioxide, PM2.5, PM10, temperature and humidity. The smartphone app allows users to easily access the measured data, and it can also send warnings via push notifications when indicators exceed predefined thresholds.

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