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Qualcomm dives into drones

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Qualcomm has introduced the Snapdragon Flight, an optimised circuit board targeted specifically for consumer drones and robotics applications.

Qualcomm Snapdragon Flight is based on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, and offers robust connectivity, advanced drone software and development tools, bringing cutting-edge mobile technologies to create a new class of consumer drones.

The Snapdragon 801 processor powers some of the world’s most popular smartphones and includes a 2.26GHz quad-core Krait CPU, Adreno 330 GPU, Hexagon DSP, dedicated video encode engine and dual image signal processors (ISP). Together, these support the development of advanced drone features such as obstacle avoidance and video stabilisation.

Yuneec, a leading developer of consumer and professional drones with a long history of innovation in electric aviation, will be one of the first companies to embrace the Snapdragon Flight. It plans to release a drone based on the platform in 2016.

“Until now, drones have been made from multiple component vendors providing separate solutions for photography, navigation and communications, adding to their cost and bulk,” said Raj Talluri, senior vice president, product management, Qualcomm Technologies. “The Qualcomm Snapdragon Flight brings together the technologies that have defined the mobile industry onto a single board, enabling OEMs to build drones that are lighter, smaller, easy to use and affordable, with long battery life and superior functionalities.”

The Snapdragon Flight features advanced processing power, real-time flight control on the Qualcomm Hexagon DSP, built-in Qualcomm 2×2 Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and a leading global navigation satellite system (GNSS) optimised to support highly accurate location positioning. The Snapdragon Flight is designed to enable the advanced features that drone consumers want most, including:

•        4K Video – 4K high resolution camera support, image enhancement and video processing capabilities and simultaneous 720p encoding for first person view

•        Advanced Communication and Navigation – Dual-band 2×2 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and 5 Hz GNSS location capabilities with advanced real-time flight control on Hexagon DSP

•        Robust Camera and Sensor Support – 4K stereo VGA, optic flow cameras, inertial measurement unit (IMU), barometer sensor support and ports for additional sensors

•        Quick Charge – Supporting fast battery charging in between video/picture sessions

“Drones are enabling a broad range of applications such as aerial photography, and sports filming, so the ability to shoot in 4K is a must-have feature,” said Talluri. “Qualcomm Technologies is already a leader in bringing 4K video capture to consumers, with over 500 device designs powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon processors with 4K UltraHD video capability. It’s natural for us to support the same technologies in the consumer drone space.”

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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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