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JUST for Geeks

A Social Robot as Connected Home Hub

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A Social Robot as Connected Home Hub

Dr. Cyntia Breazeal believes the families of the future need something more than a tablet or PC to handle their general computing needs-- which is why she and her team created Jibo, the world's first "family robot."

Looking like something out of a slightly sinister science fiction movie, Jibo is essentially a pod on top of a 3-axis motorised swivel. The pod carries dual cameras, 360-degree microphones, a 5.7-inch circular display, a quad-core ARM processor and wifi radios, as well as software handling artificial intelligence, facial recognition and natural language processing.

The Jibo pitch video has the robot act much like a physical version of voice-activated mobile device personal such as Siri and Google Now. However, unlike a smartphone Jibo can recognise faces, rotating its cyclopean "face" (complete with animated eye) to directly address the speaker and even moving its 2-part plastic shell in an approximation of body language.

According to its creators Jibo can manage all of its users mobile communications, with a smartphone app pushing emails, messages and call notifications. It can also act as a videoconferencing device, search for information on the internet, take photos, call for deliveries and even show interactive eBooks on its circular face/display.

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Meet the Smartphone-Connected... Cup

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Meet the Smartphone-Connected... Cup

Do you know what and how much you are drinking? Just in case in case you want to learn more about your hydration, the Vessyl might prove to be something of an app-connected "smart cup" solution.

The Vessyl is the brainchild of one Justin Lee and Jawbone designer Yves Behar. It looks like a fancy oversized (380ml) container, and carries sensors allowing it to detect what is inside. Apparently it can tell between different strengths of coffee or brands of drinks (such as Pepsi or Coke), with a tilt-activated display letting one know what they are drinking.

More impressively it also pushes the drink's nutritional data to smartphones via Bluetooth and companion app, and even tells users how much they should drink via "Pryme," a NikeFuel-style metric for overall hydration.

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A Smart Scale for Smart Nutrition

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A Smart Scale for Smart Nutrition

Ex-Apple employee turned technology journalist Michael Grothaus proposes a tablet-powered means for customers wanting to easily keep closer track of their nutrition-- the SITU Bluetooth food scale.

The SITU shows the weight and  nutritional value of food the user plans to eat. It connects to iPads or Android tablets via Bluetooth, and a companion app calculates the nutrition value of the food in question, from calories to salt, sugars, vitamins and minerals. In other words, it promises to eliminate the need for calorie counting tables and the like.

The easy to use app even keeps track of entire meals, and provides a user history complete with nutrient limit alerts and data exporting options.

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The Rise of the Robots at CeBIT 2014

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The Rise of the Robots at CeBIT 2014

The more paranoid of visitors would have all reason to believe CeBIT 2014 is all about science-fiction as robots appear able to take care of anything from driving to even opening ceremony duties.

After all, the show was opened by a so-called "RoboThespian," an Engineered Arts creation designed for use as an educational guide. The robot was arguably the more amusing on-stage presence (in the least it was less mechanical than the "Digital Native") but alas it was too quickly carted off to make way for more human speakers.

Other robots occupying CeBIT include... pole dancers. No, really. Germany's Tobit Software decided to put the talents of British artist Gile Walker to good (?) use with a booth decked out as a nightmare club of the future compete with two robot dancers and a robot DJ with a megaphone for a head. The robot dancers are actually upgraded versions, having made a first CeBIT appearance back in 2012.

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Even the Toothbrush Gets Smart

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Even the Toothbrush Gets Smart

Mobile World Congress 2014 hosts more than smartphone and tablet launches-- Oral-B makes an appearance at the show with the SmartSeries 7000, a toothbrush with Bluetooth connectivity.

The toothbrush connects to smartphones equipped with an Oral-B app and, as the company puts it, guides users through fully personalised brushing routines. As one does.

Meanwhile the app monitors brushing progress in realtime, telling users to move to different parts of the mouth or whether they are brushing too hard. It also allows dentists program individual brushing programs according patient needs.

"It will guide you in terms of how to brush, and you will be able to fully personalize the brushing routine for you," the company tells Reuters.

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Mo-Caping Future Gaming?

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Mo-Caping Future Gaming?

Startup YEI Technology proposes a wearable means for customers wanting more immersive gaming and, perhaps, a spot of exercise-- the PrioVR, a motion-sensing suit able to turn body movements into in-game actions.

First seen at CES 2014 as a working prototype paired with the Oculus Rift VR headset, the PrioVR comes in Lite, Core and Pro versions. The Lite is an upper-body only suit with 8 sensors tracking the torso and arms. The Core is a full-body number with 12 sensors torso, arms and legs, and the Pro boosts sensor count to 17 for a system YEI claims is suitable even for professional motion capture.

"Inertial" sensors promise 360-degree low-latency real-time motion tracking, without need for Kinect-style cameras or additional equipment. Connectivity is wireless (YEI does not specify the technology in use), and the system handles multiple simultaneous users.

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Oculus Rift Gets Crystal Cove Update

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Oculus Rift Gets Crystal Cove Update

Oculus VR shows off an updated version of its titular virtual reality headset at CES 2014-- a prototype dubbed "Crystal Cove" promising higher resolution video and reduced latency within a sleeker design.

The updated AMOLED display handle 1920x1080 resolution and features low persistence, a technology reducing the picture smear and motion blur causing motion sickness to at least some users. Meanwhile latency is down to around 30ms, meaning Oculus is getting closer to its aim of sub-20ms latencies.

A further addition to the headset is built-in positional tracking. An externally-mounted camera tracks a smattering of LEDs peppering the prototype's faceplate to add forward/backward, left/right and up/down tracking ability. In other words, users can move their head within a virtual space-- and the system translates such movements into actual motion within a virtual space.

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A Mother for the IoT

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A Mother for the IoT

Move over Mother of Dragons, CES 2014 just introduced us to our new favourite semi-maternal figure-- "Mother," a motion-sensing device promising to be nothing less than the Mother of the Internet of Things.

Looking like a cross between a Russian nesting doll and girl robot EVE from Pixar's WALL-E, Mother does like mothers do and follows all one does. To do so she uses "cookies," small wireless motion and temperature sensors. The idea goes that users attach cookies to any objects, and in turn Mother keeps track of habits and warns of changes.

Among the examples developer Sen.se (founded by Nabaztag creator Rafi Haladjian) gives are checking whether a door is open or closed, keeping track of how much coffee is being drunk or even making sure one is brushing their teeth well. Cookies communicate with both Mother and to each other via wifi, and in turn the Mother unit does the digital equivalent of nagging through the medium of smartphone alerts.

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A Next Step in Wearables... Smart Rings?

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A Next Step in Wearables... Smart Rings?

An Indiegogo campaign proposes a next step in wearable electronics-- the Smarty Ring, a high-tech stainless steel ring armed with a built-in LED display, Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity and companion smartphone app.

Like smartwatches the Smart Ring promises to display incoming caller IDs, text messages, social network updates and even the time. It should also handle smartphone control, with hardware buttons for accepting/rejecting incoming calls, making calls to preset numbers, trigger camera, control music or change user profile.

It even acts as a phone tracker-- if the smartphone is over 10m away from the ring it triggers an alarm-- all from a rechargeable (via wireless induction pad) 22mAh battery supposedly powering 24 hours of use.

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