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CES 2016: Next generation tech comes to fore

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CES 2016 opened its doors earlier this week spanning the largest exhibit floor in the show’s 49-year history, with 2.4 million square feet of exhibit space and featuring more than 3 600 companies, including a record 500 startups.

Owned and produced by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), formerly the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), CES 2016 runs through to Saturday, 9 January, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“CES kicks off earlier this week as the global platform where emerging technology meets the marketplace. I’m like a kid in a candy store this week, surrounded by mind-blowing innovation that is truly improving the human experience,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association. “From robotics, 3D printing and unmanned systems to automotive tech, wearables and beyond, our world is changing as technology connects us all and works to solve the impossible. It is incredible we get to bring together so many industry visionaries, influencers and entrepreneurs this week at CES to showcase how tech is changing the world. The energy in Las Vegas right now is palpable.”

Intel kicked off Tuesday’s keynotes with art and a concert followed by the company’s CEO Brian Krzanich asking the audience to fist pump the lit bracelets that were on each chair. Intel had it all, including next-generation drones, robots and more. Krzanich announced a number of new innovations that incorporate Intel’s technology, including the Oakley Radar Pace smart eyewear, featuring a real-time, voice-activated coaching system designed to improve and enhance athletes’ training and performance and the Typhoon H Drone, powered by Intel’s RealSense technology to avoid collisions in real time.

Later Tuesday evening, Dr. Herbert Diess, chairman, board of management, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, took the keynote stage and addressed the company’s recent diesel issue, stating that “we are doing everything possible to make it right,” and discussed the company’s focus on creating a “New Volkswagen” and redefining and re-engineering every aspect of VW. Dr. Diess then announced the new e-Golf Touch, a zero emissions, all-electric car, as “a smartphone on wheels” that will be available before CES 2017. Additionally, the electric BUDD-e, a unique concept for a long-distance electric vehicle, was unveiled as the “first car in the Internet of Things.” Users will be able to connect the smart home with the smart car through partnership announcements with LG and startup company Door Bird.

Preshow press events kicked off Monday with the largest CES Unveiled in show history. The official media event of CES 2016, CES Unveiled featured more than 160 exhibiting companies, including a record-breaking 52 startups from Eureka Park – the dedicated CES exhibit area for early-stage companies. Exhibitors offered a sneak preview of products launching at the show to more than 2,000 media, covering the latest in sensors, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, wearables, virtual reality and robotics all captured in the official highlight reel.

Companies big and small use CES to introduce the latest innovation to the global market. Major product announcements continued during Tuesday’s CES Press Day, which featured 28 exhibitor press conferences kicking off and setting the tone for a week that will see some 20,000 products launched. Major product debuts included:

  • Bosch – In-Vehicle Audio/Video System with Personalized Haptic Touchscreen, including haptic control so drivers can feel the buttons on the screen and receive touch feedback
  • Casio – Smart Outdoor Watch WSD-F10 powered by Android Wear, the first watch with a built-in microphone that is water resistance up to 50 meters and features a dual layer display structure that meets U.S. military standards
  • DISH – Hopper 3, powering up to seven home TVs at once, and comes with 16 tuners and a “Sports Bar Mode” that lets owners watch four regular HD channels at once on their Ultra HD TV
  • FitBit – FitBit Blaze, a new smart fitness watch designed to balance fitness and style
  • GoSun – The E-Grill fries, roasts and bakes, powered by an electric heater or a solar panel that captures solar energy to cook after the sun goes down
  • Hisense – 2016 line of TVs with ULED technology, which is three times brighter than OLED and has quantum dot technology
  • HS Innovation GmbH – RUN ROCKETS™ & DIGITAL SKI™, high-end precision sensors attached to skis or running shoes that measure the exact movements of the skis or user’s feet
  • Kia – The Drive Wise combines the current advanced driving assistance system (ADAS) with telematics, bringing faster and more accurate assistance for drivers
  • LG – LG Signature OLED TV, featuring picture-on-glass design, a 2.57 mm panel, Dolby Vision technology, and an integrated speaker system with a built-in woofer
  • Marathon Laundry – Smart laundry machine that customizes wash cycles and allows users to switch from washer to dryer without removing clothes
  • MobileHelp – Next-generation remote health medical alarm that pairs with smartphones
  • Monster – The Blaster boombox, which produces bi-directional sound with full and deep bass
  • Morpx Inc. – Mu smart toy, a sensor add-on that acts as a smart eye and brain for your existing remote controlled toys
  • Nobo – B60 health and fitness app, which monitors hydration in real-time during exercise
  • Panasonic – DX900 4K LED TV and UB900 UHD Blu-ray Player, as well as the Technics SL-1200 high-fi turntable
  • Qualcomm – Snapdragon 602A automotive processor, which will be used in 2017 Audi cars, allowing for high bandwidth in-vehicle Internet connectivity
  • Samsung – KS9500 SUHD TV, highlighting quantum dot technology, High Dynamic Range (HDR) and 4K Ultra HD resolution capabilities with the world’s first bezel-less design
  • Sony – 4K HDR TV (X930D series) features new slim backlight drive technology, voice recognition in 40 languages, Sony’s exclusive Content Bar and ultra-thin design
  • StreamTV – Unveiled Ultra-D 4K Glasses-Free technology
  • TCL – QUHD TV with quantum dot, local dimming, IDP engine and HDR technology offering a wider color gamut
  • Valeo – Les Lunettes by Valeo are connected, technology-packed glasses that improve driver visibility day and night by reducing glare from different sources
  • ZTE – GrandX3, carried by Cricket, features 5.5″ HD infinity edge display, Qualcomm 1.3 GHz Quad-Core Processor, 16 GB ROM (expandable to 64 GB) and LTE speeds

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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