Three different approaches to home automation and a sleek wearable video eyepiece and camera stood out from from the crowd tonight at CES Unveiled. More than 70 companies demonstrated new products at the annual pre-show press event. Mostly, it was headphones, speakers, big displays, mobile phone cases and various other accessories.
The new OLPC XO 4 tablet/computer was a delight, more about that here.
The other standouts were…
Vuzix Smart Glasses. Think of a big Bluetooth earpiece with a boom that extends out past your nose, put a small video eyepiece and camera on the end of the boom, and you have the Vuzix product. Pictures of the prototypes have been floating around the Internet for months, but now they have a working model. It's a definite follow up item for when the show floor opens later in the week.
Lowes showed their do-it-yourself Iris home automation platform. It's another one I'll be looking at more closely in coming days. Technical details were lacking tonight, so it's hard to say exactly how they're doing it. But what they're doing is packaging a home automation hub (suspiciously similar to the MiOS Vera unit) into installation kits and certifying third party products – light switches, thermostats, locks, you name it – as compatible and supported. They might just be able to build a consumer-friendly ecosystem around it.
Allure Energy is doing one cool thing now, and setting up for aggregating more products and functionality later. Their EverSense thermostat talks to a smart phone app and figures out where you are – in the house, far away or on your way home – and adjusts the temperature accordingly. The kicker is that the thermostat is also a hub. Once people get used to using it, Allure has an opening to add more devices and then piece by piece build a more comprehensive home automation solution.
I'm not exactly sure what to make of Parrot's Flower Power plant monitor. It's a sensor you stick in the dirt next to your favorite plant and then it connects to your smart phone via Bluetooth. It lets you know how the plant is doing, stuff like whether it needs watering. In one sense, it's a one trick pony. But the idea of using your phone as the hub and connecting via Bluetooth on an every-so-often basis could have some interesting applications.
No ground-shifting product announcements tonight, but there's always tomorrow. That's when the big press conferences happen.
The newest One Laptop per Child (OLPC) device made its debut at the CES Unveiled event in Las Vegas tonight, although it might have been by accident.
Marvell was demonstrating its Smile Plug e-learning platform, with the newest OLPC device just sort of sitting on the table, apparently as eye candy. Well, it certainly was that.
The OLPC XO 4.0 sports a touch screen and keyboard, and folds three ways: as a tablet, a netbook or a well protected carrying case. Check the video for how it transforms from one to another.
First look at the OLPC XO 4.0.
The OLPC Foundation announced the specs for the device a couple of months ago, but didn't show a working model. No one from the organization was at tonight's event, and the Marvell representatives couldn't say much about the functionality. But they could talk about the chipsets that power it.
The XO 4.0 is basically a big smart phone without the phone. It runs on a Marvell Armada PXA2128 dual core ARM processor and connects wirelessly via a Marvell Avastar 88W8787 WiFi and Bluetooth SoC. Both are standard Marvell products originally designed for use in mobile devices. Which means power requirements are low – a necessity in developing countries – and the technology is relatively inexpensive – a key feature of the OLPC program.
No details were available on what it costs to build. Battery life and screen performance were thought to be on a par with the previous version 3 of the XO.
The XO 4 has a form factor that parents and kids in any country would love. The original OLPC was the spark that launched the netbook category. This version has similar mass market breakout potential. The OLPC Foundation won't be selling it to consumers – they work on different business model – but there are plenty of companies here at CES that would be happy to do so.
It was obvious to anyone at the CES Unveiled 2012 event back in January. The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) display was mobbed, as they demonstrated a $100 tablet that replaced their original $100 computer project. Which, by the way, was the genesis of the netbook.
They never quite got their computer down to the target price point, but so many people who saw the prototypes said “I want one” that manufacturers such as ASUS and MSI jumped on the opportunity.
Five months later, they returned to find that the kids had figured out how to use the tablets, despite the fact they couldn’t read or write and didn’t speak a word of English.
For no good reason, someone involved in the project had disabled the cameras in the tablets. The kids figured out that the camera 1. existed and 2. didn’t work. So they hacked it. Kids who apparently had never seen a computer before figured out how to bust into the Android operating system and kludge a fix.
I’m looking forward to getting an update on the OLPC project at CES in a week or so. If you want to see great ideas at work, you need go no further than their booth.
One Laptop per Child stole the show at tonight’s CES Unveiled event with a $100 tablet computer. Featuring a solar charger integrated into a protective hardshell case and an optional, robust hand-cranked generator, the device gets it right. It could be the defining digital bridge into the developing world.
The original OLPC project – a $100 laptop computer – launched the netbook market but did not achieve the degree of mass distribution in the developing world as originally hoped. It was by no means a failure, but it never really connected with its killer app: digital textbooks.
Textbooks represent a major cost for developing world governments and a nice profit center for publishers. A $100 e-reader combined with open source or deeply subsidized educational content would completely disrupt that business model, making it possible to put a book on virtually any topic into the hands of any child who has one. It’s self liquidating, or nearly so, in just the first year.
The tablet form factor could – should – be the key to OLPC’s break out. The new tablet is a perfect distribution platform for e-books, plus it supports basic computing and communications functions. It has a capacitance touch screen, which eliminates the need for keyboard skills, and it supports a wide range of network interfaces, I/O modes and power sources. It even has an accelerometer.
The demonstration units are based on a Marvell Armada 610 ARM chip, and include Marvell WiFi silicon as well. It’ll run the Linux, Sugar and Android operating systems, and is specced with 500 MB of RAM, 4 GB of storage and 8 hours of battery life.
It’s not a product as such. It’s a fully implementable design developed by the OLPC Foundation. It’s open source and ready for deployment.