Tech East and More of Day 1 at CES

I wrapped up at Tech West (previous posts here and here), and in the afternoon I ventured over to Tech East at the Las Vegas Convention Center where many of the larger tech firms have their exhibits.

A big theme this year was obviously the Internet of Things (IoT) — connected everything, with a focus on connected home devices. There seems to be a lot of innovation here, and many companies seem to be pushing their products closer to the point at which the benefits of some of these devices justify the (falling) costs, but I don’t think we’re there yet.

Zigbee had a big home automation demo, showing everything from connected lights, speakers, flood monitors, motion sensors, and more:

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New connected lights from Sylvania, which appeared to be competitive with the Hue and Lifx at a much lower price point:

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More home automation from Wemo:

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Not sure who would use this, but there was Droplet, a Roomba-like robotic sprinkler system. Kind of amusing. Who knows, maybe it works:
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There were a few exhibits showing sleek connected car interfaces, and all digital dashboards:

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Of course there were drones, and luckily for everyone at CES, they were all in drone cages:

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I was very impressed with a company that created electronic waterproofing technology. They showed a working circuit board powering a TV above (not shown) and iPhone submerged in water:
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They also had a fully functioning TV, operating in a tank of water:

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Water-free solar panel cleaning robots:

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I was excited to see Nikon’s setup, as I was hoping they’d announce an update to the D7100 camera, but no such update yet. Only a new entry level SLR, the D5500, which does look nice.

2015-01-06 15.52.49I did get to play with a bunch of beautiful lenses. I loved the 300mm f2.8:
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Too bad it’s $6,000.

They had a guy telling stories about amazing photos he took on an African Safari — I was blown away by some of the shots he had taken:

There was a “mirror” that shows you an image of yourself wearing virtual clothes:

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Towards the end I made it over the to bigger exhibits, which were impressive, but nothing too surprising.

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Just when I thought 4K TVs were only getting started, there were 4K Ultra TVs, 4K 3D TVs that didn’t require any glasses (they made me dizzy), and a whole new line of 8K TVs. They looked beautiful, but with all the competing technologies, it just made me think I don’t want to upgrade my TV for a very long time.

Curved TVs were a big craze. Nearly all of Samsung’s TVs were curved:

2015-01-06 16.25.17 2015-01-06 16.24.58They just made me think of this from Vizio:

Curved TV seating chart


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And finally Sony:

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That was it for day 1. My iPhone step counter says I walked 11 miles.

First Day at CES

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I spent my first full day at CES, and most of the descriptions I’ve read are spot on. It’s a complete zoo, it’s exhausting, and it’s awesome. I started the day at Tech West, spending most of my time in the Sands Expo. I first worked my way through more fitness/health trackers than I previously could have imagined existed. There were obviously dozens of Fitbit-like step counters and sleep trackers, which seemed increasingly irrelevant as much of this functionality, at least the step counter part, is a feature on most new smartphones.

I found a “Smart Basketball”, 94fifty, that sends real time data on your shot speed, backspin, arc, and dribbling to your phone:

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There was Skulpt, which initially sounded ridiculous to me, but within minutes I was very impressed. It’s a piece of hardware that measures the strength of each of your muscles. You have to hold it to each muscle area — forearm, bicep, tricep, shoulder, quad, etc — to get a reading. It then rates each muscle on a quality and fat percentage scale. You can then use the readings to set goals and track results with follow-up readings. Again, it sounds ridiculous. But it was very easy and quick to use. The hardware seemed thoughtful, and the software looked impressive and easy to use and interpret.

I rolled up my sleeve and the founder put the hardware up to my arm to get a reading, which took about two seconds. My muscle quality was 110, which was characterized as fit, while my fat percentage was “amazing” — must be all the pushups from the 10K Pushup Challenge:

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Here’s their breakdown of muscle quality readings:


I tried another health reader, MyBiody Balance, which requires you to take their hardware and hold it in one hand while touching the other side to your ankle, and it reads bone mass, muscle density, hydration, body fat and a few other metrics. I found the hardware to be awkward and klunky. It’s a French company, and it was amusing to watch the two representatives arguing in French accents about how I should be holding it. When it wasn’t working, they kept insisting it was the simplest thing in the world, implying the lack of a reading was entirely my fault. After a few tries they got it, and then the device synced some data to an iPad that basically said I was in good health. Not sure who would use this:

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The device looks like a half guitar:

Then there was obviously Fnitbit:

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And a company that makes small tracking devices to put on bikes, skis, snowboards, surf boards, and any other activity hardware — once you’ve attached the devices they track speed, spin, and other motion to provide a 3D rendering of whatever it is you do (e.g., bike jumps, ski flips, etc). Seemed pretty interesting, but obviously not too relevant for the average person:

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I never figured out what this was:

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Of course now that human activity trackers are becoming mainstream, the new frontier is per trackers. There was FitBark, which is a small device that goes on a dog collar to measure steps and distance:

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There was also a wireless pet fence system:

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Bellabeat is a device that allows you to listen to your unborn baby’s heartbeat. Really?

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And finally, not sure why this was here, but there was a free tooth whitening booth:

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So that pretty much covers my first hour of my first day. I’ll hopefully post more soon.

First Impressions of the iPhone 6 Camera: Callahan State Park

I’ve had my iPhone 6 for almost a month now, but hadn’t really tested out the camera in a meaningful way until today. With all the warm weather we’ve had this week, Laura and I decided to head out to Framingham to meet up with my Mom and take Bella for a walk in Callahan State Park. In rained for the first part of the walk, but the sun broke out right around the time we got to Eagle Pond. The light was perfect.

I’d read the camera was a big step up from my previous iPhone 5, and after looking at a handful of shots on a big screen, I’m very impressed. The hardware is great, but I also love the auto HDR feature much more than I expected. I took a bunch of similar shots with and without it on, and found that it was extremely effective at capturing cloud contrast. When I had it off, I’d often be stuck with white washed skies. Taking the same picture with it on completely solved the problem.

All of these were taken on my phone, and edited right in Apple’s Camera app:

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I also played with slo-mo. More on that soon.

UberBoat Boston

This could be interesting. Starting this week, Uber began offering boat rides around Boston Harbor for $10/person:

“June 4 through June 15, you can use the Uber app to request a water taxi, powered byBoston Harbor Cruises. Make waves as you ride to your favorite Seaport restaurant. Sail over to the ICA for First Friday. Add a splash of fun to your morning commute – or even a quick cruise to or from Logan. Catching a flight has never been so easy!”

It actually seems like a reasonable deal to the airport from the Seaport, especially during rush hour. Or potentially as a quick way to get to Charlestown. Here’s a list of the pickup docks and destinations.


Lasers for Space Broadband

Speeds of 622 Mbps from the moon:

Wireless broadband service went cosmic in a demo conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory and NASA, in which a laser-based communication uplink between the moon and earth beat the previous record transmission speed by a factor of 4,800.

The team’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) transmitted data over the 384,633 kilometers between the moon and earth at a download rate of 622 Mbps. In addition, data was transmitted from the earth to the moon at 19.44 Mbps, a factor 4,800 times faster than the best radio-frequency uplink ever used, MIT said.

Other moon-laser applications here:

Google Just Bought Some Scary Robots

From the NYT:

“Google confirmed on Friday that it had completed the acquisition of Boston Dynamics, an engineering company that has designed mobile research robots for the Pentagon. The company, based in Waltham, Mass., has gained an international reputation for machines that walk with an uncanny sense of balance and even — cheetahlike — run faster than the fastest humans.”

But they’ll probably do less scary things with these guys then the Pentagon would have. Check them out below.




Petman in Camo:

Learning to Code (Kind of)

Aside from playing around with visual basic over the years (I coded a configurable metronome in 1997 and a number of other simple windows-based apps), and learning just enough HTML and CSS to know which questions to Google to run a few websites, I can’t by any reasonable definition code. A colleague recently suggested that we take the One Month Rails class in our free time (of which I seem to have less and less), to learn some Ruby on Rails basics. It’s essentially a video and exercise online class.

I like the idea. I don’t have any far fetched illusions that I’ll become a competent coder in the near future (or likely ever). But as coding becomes increasingly important in the tech space, or maybe just increasingly glorified (probably both), I think it will be helpful and interesting to know more about how products are built. I’m not trying to build a car, but I’d like to learn how to change my oil (while I think that analogy works well, I’m not good at changing real oil, really not good).

The One Month Rails tagline: “Stop waiting for that perfect technical co-founder.” And the pitch from the website:
RailsIt’s $99, and I have a 25% off coupon code for anyone who wants to join us. I’ll follow up with some posts on how it goes, and will hopefully share whatever it is I end up building.