Tag Archives: kickstarter

SOUNDBOKS: Batteries to Power the Next Speakers

Your next portable speakers may be able to violate county noise ordinances without the necessity of them being plugged into a vehicle power inverter, a portable generator or even a wall socket. This is what Soundboks is claiming, and their speakers will be battery-powered.

Most portable speakers are limited in their size and their power output. Usually, if you want sizes and power capacity beyond those, it becomes necessary to power the speakers through AC adapters or wall plugs so they can output continuous power. That does not help when catering to outdoor gatherings, where truly wireless music at extreme volumes is the norm. With the battery-operated speakers from Soundboks, you can now expect 30-hours of nightclub-level decibels on a single charge.

In the market, one can find plenty of audiophile-grade boom-box sized speakers such as the Nano HiFi NH1 or the rugged JBL Xtreme suitable for supplying ample amounts of power for pool events, camping, or backyard cookouts. However, the portable speakers from Soundboks beats them hollow, as they house a pair of low-frequency drivers each of 96 dB, and a pair of high-frequency drivers, also of 96 dB SPL or sound pressure level speaker units, along with 42 W digital amplifiers.

With high-efficiency custom-designed amplifiers, Soundboks speakers enhance the life of the driving batteries while optimizing the sound for outdoor usage. They have designed the speakers for dual-phase boost function and these can belt out a maximum of 119 dB of sound. You can easily get an experience of a live concert, simply by turning up the volume dial on the speaker to position 11.

Weighing in at 14.5 Kg (32 lb.), the 66x43x32 cm (26x17x13 in) Soundboks speaker is not much different from other carry-on luggage used. The low weight is because of the wood and aluminum construction of the case and that makes it shockproof, weather proof and temperature resistant. The case has an integrated side handle that makes it easy to carry about on the beach as easily as a cooler filled with beverages and ice. Wireless and wired connectivity are offered. Bluetooth 3.0 with extended range allows you to connect wirelessly while a 3.5 mm audio input provides the wired connectivity.

The truly remarkable thing about the Soundboks speaker is its ability to play music for 30 hours at 113 dB. That easily violates the county noise ordinance and that too without any help from a vehicle power inverter, portable generator, or wall socket. Each speaker comes with two external batteries, which you can swap and that gives the capability to play for a total 60 hours continuously.
The batteries are special, as they are not the usual lithium-ion type. Rather, Soundboks uses LiFePO4 or lithium-Ferro phosphate batteries that need only three hours to charge, can meet power demands and are safe. Therefore, you only need six hours of charging time, and then enjoy a full weekend-long festival program or a complete week with the volume toned down. Shipments are scheduled to start this April, as Soundboks has already raised 174% of its Kickstarter goal in one day.

Technology Allows Writing in Air

Fujitsu has made what they claim to be a lightweight and compact wearable ring-type device offering handwriting functionality and capability of reading near-field communication tags. You can wear it on your index finger, and the ring has several sensors such as a gyroscope, an accelerometer and a magnetic sensor to help with text input, apart from wireless communication functionality and an NFC tag reader. The smart ring can identify the movement the user makes with his or her fingertips as they write in the air. To begin the air-writing process, the wearer has to press an operation button on the ring with the thumb. That makes the operation single-handed.

Fujitsu had already developed a glove-style of wearable device, last year. The current device, however, compresses the entire functionality into a ring-type instrument weighing less than 10-grams, suitable for wearing on a single finger. The tiny instrument has power-saving features and operates on a single button-cell battery.

The technology developed by Fujitsu successfully corrects letterform tracings. This feature improves the accuracy of character recognition, which the user traces in air with his finger. Its success rate is 95% and the capability includes Chinese characters and numbers. The user has only to tap a finger to get documentation and instructions for working on a device with the help of the built-n NFC tag reader.

The technology from the Fujitsu Laboratories is sophisticated enough to recognize automatically unwanted connections between the strokes of a letterform when the wearer is writing a longhand trace. It corrects the data accordingly, removing the unwanted connections and this improves the legibility and text-recognition rate tremendously.

With modern advances making smart devices more miniature, along with cloud environments and efficient communication technology, there is increasing interest in HMDs or Head Mounting Devices. These and other wearable devices are very useful for people engaged in maintenance and other tasks in buildings and factories. The operator can have both hands free because of the ICT or information and communication technology used in these wearable.

Therefore, operators are no longer required to hold devices in their hands to receive information in the field. Consequently, there are high expectations from the use of such wearable devices in fieldwork that allow operators to keep their hands free to use at all times.

According to Fujitsu, the smart ring-type wearable device is targeted for use in the working world rather than at homes. At present, the company is carrying out real-world tests on the device and they have a goal of practical implementation in 2015.

Not that Fujitsu is alone in developing such finger-sized wearable technology. Others are also present in this field. For example, Logbar Inc., operating from San Francisco and Tokyo, started a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 and was able to raise close to $900,000. They have developed their Ring, which is a wearable input device capable of enabling users to text and control home appliances. Additionally, it can help the wearer complete financial transactions as well. Unlike the Fujitsu device, which is suitable for workplaces, the Ring of Logbar is meant for consumer use at home – it is not yet available for purchase, though.

Free Your Smart Phone and Let it Fly

You may not feel very enthusiastic about Lily, the flying camera-drone that follows you around, but a PhoneDrone is bound to change your point of view. Using your smartphone as its brains, the PhoneDrone lends it wings and allows it to fly along a predetermined path.

This is a perfectly logical situation as a smartphone already contains the necessary sensory and computing power that a drone needs. Most smartphones run on a powerful multicore processor along with several sensors on-board, so why pay for all these things over again when buying a drone. The people at PhoneDrone were also led by the same reasoning and the result is a drone that utilizes its owner’s smartphone for its brains. Users have to dock their phone into the device for each use. Not only does this approach help to keep the price down, it also makes the user exercise caution not to crash the thing.

The Indiana-based company, xCraft, has designed the PhoneDrone, which can accommodate not only iPhones 4s and above, but also the most popular Android phones as well. This same company had earlier produced the fixed-wing/hovering X PlusOne drone. Users can fly the latest PhoneDrone, a quadcopter, in a few different fashions.

By using another mobile device, users can control their flying mobile through Wi-Fi and at the same time, watch live streaming video from the camera on the PhoneDrone. A free app allows users to enter a flight path for the PhoneDrone to follow autonomously. When transporting the device, the propeller arms of the PhoneDrone will fold back.

The user can also impose a follow-me mode with the second mobile device, if required. The phone in the aircraft locks on to the signal of the hand-held device and will automatically pilot the drone to position it above the hand-held device as it moves. A folding mirror on the drone allows the camera of the phone to shoot straight ahead, down or anywhere in between. The battery in the drone gives a flight time of 20-25 minutes. According to xCraft, they are working on an ultrasonic type of collision-avoidance system.

At present, xCraft is raising product funds via Kickstarter for their PhoneDrone project. You can pledge US$199 for the product, which will be yours as soon as xCraft is ready to go.

Others have also tried their hands at making drones with brains based on smartphones. Notable among them are the University of Pennsylvania and the Vienna University of Technology. However, their attempts were mostly one-off. Qualcomm and UPenn have also combined the drone and phone earlier. They had used the electronics of the Android smartphone and its software to fly the drone. All the sensors required for providing navigational information for the drone are already present on the smartphone – accelerometer, GPS, gyroscope and others.

The present trend is to utilize the camera on the phone itself and use its visual input to steer the phone. The user has to install an app on the phone to achieve this. In future, expect more hobbyists to substitute smartphones for hardware at the heart of several other types of machinery such as drones.