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Sunday
Apr192015

MINI AR Glasses Out for a Test-Drive

MINI today unveiled a new heads-up display concept that’s embedded not in a windshield but in a pair of augmented reality glasses at the Auto Shanghai show. I got to try it out on Friday.

The verdict: it’s pretty cool.

The glasses have a few advantages over heads-up displays integrated into the windshield. For one, the speed limit, gas gauge, upcoming street names and other contextually relevant information comes with you if you happen to glance away. (Just be careful, OK?)

There’s also an opportunity to tailor the information on the heads-up display for where you’re looking. MINI showed off one example: a safety feature it calls X-Ray view. The demonstration vehicle has a pair of side cameras – one on each side – that it employs for detecting hazards. In the demo, the glasses lit up because a child’s ball was rolling toward the passenger side of the car. And when I looked over, I actually saw “through” the vehicle to see the ball by the front tire.

The glasses, by the way, are built around Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 805 processor. They make use of the chipmaker’s Vuforia augmented-reality platform to determine where you’re looking – and when to empower you with X-Ray vision.

The glasses are compatible with several MINI models already on the road, and could be made to work with other automakers’ cars as well. MINI doesn’t yet have a timetable for turning the glasses into a real product.

Here’s another advantage of the heads-up display glasses over windshield units: the heads-up display sits behind the glasses. On a bright sunny day, that means you don’t have to lift your polarized sunglasses just to see what’s on the display. As someone who’s in danger of developing repetitive stress syndrome from constantly lifting and lowering my sunglasses while driving, that may be the biggest advantage of all.

Friday
Apr102015

Dr. Smartphone Will See You Now

Your smartphone's not an MD just yet. But you might say it's ready to be your home-health nurse. Thanks to a new breed of apps, smartphones are beginning to help real-life doctors, clinicians and other care-givers – even patients themselves – better manage chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and even depression.

For the 133 million Americans with chronic conditions, these apps keep a constant eye, watching for changes that could signal trouble's brewing. That could help doctors and patients tackle problems in the moment, while they're small -- hopefully reducing the need for urgent care or hospitalization later. So the patients are healthier. And their wallets are too.

See my entire column at USA TODAY here.

Tuesday
Apr072015

Surface 3: Say Good-Bye to Windows RT

Windows RT was doomed from the start, with Microsoft offering only the Modern UI with few apps and shockingly little support for apps on the desktop, which had all the apps PC users ever needed. And now it's over.

At least it sure seems that way. With the first two generations of its own-brand PC line, Microsoft offered the RT-based Surface models, which offered lots of battery life at the expense of support for the apps you cared about, and the Surface Pro, which had the apps but couldn't keep pace on power.

With the third version, the Surface Pro has made great strides in performance, usability and battery life. And the Surface is now built around Intel's low-power Atom lineup - which means it's got great battery life and supports all the apps you know and love (and hate) on Windows.

The death knell for Windows RT? I'd say so. Read more HERE.

Sunday
Mar082015

#MWC15: What Samsung Is Thinking

 

We learned a lot more about Samsung's mobile technology outlook from the company's annual reveal than how thin, light and powerful the new Galaxy S6 will be. You can read it all in my USA TODAY column.

Wednesday
Feb252015

Mobile World: LTE-U and the Need for Feed

On the eve of the biggest mobile industry event of the year, one of the more high-profile technologies for dealing with the growing cellular capacity crunch is leaving the lab and making its way out into the real world. The technology, called Unlicensed LTE, or LTE-U, puts the latest 4G cellular technology onto Wi-Fi bands.

Because LTE-U touches both Wi-Fi and cellular networks, influential trade groups from both sides want a say in how the standard develops. They'll resolve their issues, I'm sure. They'll have to, because the cellular capacity shortfall is getting worse.

In the meantime, I've seen LTE-U in action in a highly dense environment, where the technology should shine. And it does.

Read my entire USA TODAY column HERE.