Rumour: Sony to launch motion controller wand?

Sony’s inevitable contribution to the world of gesture control finally has some concrete details to go along with it. The ‘Motion Controller’ – a working title, Sony assure us – has only seen light of day at trade events thus far, but expect that to change now that the peripheral has a release date of Autumn 2010. That would put the device in direct competition with Microsoft’s Natal motion controller so expect the hype machine to hit overdrive just in time for Christmas.

The controller, resembling a microphone in shape, comes equipped with two motion sensors, three axes gyroscope and three axes accelerometer that can detect the controller’s angle and movement while held in the user’s hand. Sony promises that this technology, when combined with the PlayStation Eye camera, will accurately track the absolute position of the controller for an accurate, adaptable experience.

The sphere placed on the top of the controller is not only used to track position but can also give visual feedback to users by changing the colours or the illuminating patterns onto the sphere. Physical feedback meanwhile is provided via similar rumble technology as currently employed in DualShock 2 pads.

‘We have decided to release the Motion Controller in fall 2010 when we will be able to offer an exciting and varied line-up of software titles that will deliver the new entertainment experience to PS3 users,’ said Kazuo Hirai, President and Group CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.

All big words from the Sony chief but so far the confirmed catalogue of games is a little on the thin side, a new Ape Escape game being the most illustrious of Sony’s launch date offerings. That said it seems the device will be compatible with already released games, titles such as Flower, PAIN and Eyepet all set to receive patches that will incorporate motion controller functionality.

There is no doubt that the success of the Nintendo Wii has paved the way for gesture control on home consoles, but a key part of that success has been down to the Wii’s competitive pricing and catalogue of so called ‘casual games’ so appealing to traditional non-gamers. Whether the public will be willing to invest substantially more for the promise of the PS3’s tighter motion control and high definition visuals remains to be seen.

Who’s who in wireless power?

In recent years, we’ve managed to cut just about every cable from our gadgets –  bluetooth used the airwaves to liberate our keyboards and mice, WiFi brought us high-spreed data at home and 3G covered everywhere else. Even the information sent from a computer to its monitor can now be transferred wirelessly.

So what prevents us from living as a cable-less nomad, strolling through life, untethered by a mass of knotted cables (usually found under a desk, covered in dust)? You probably know all-too-well: the power cord.

However, like Alexander the Great cutting through the Gordian Knot, four companies believe they can slice through the burden that ties us to our plug sockets and become the king of wireless power: eCoupled, Powermat, Wild Charge and PowerBeam.

The first player, eCoupled, comes from Fulton Innovation, who have partnered with major companies including Texas Instruments, Motorola, Nokia, RIM, Energizer and Duracel to form Qi – a wireless power consortium consisting of 27 members.

Their device, which consist of an external charging pad and a battery pack which fits inside gadgets, were shown to power anything from a mobile phone, to a laptop computer, to a power drill – all at 70% efficiency.

While the size of the instruments they can power is impressive, there is no doubt that green enthusiasts will be complaining about that lower efficiency percentage, and those 27 members are missing some major names such as Apple, who appear to have shown no interest in the technology at all.

This lack of commitment by some big players leaves hope for eCoupled’s most similar rival, Powermat. The device uses the same kind of technology to Fulton’s product, which consists of a coil of wire in a charging pad and another in the device, through which electricity is transmitted via a magnetic field – a process called ‘near field induction’. Fulton provide an explanation of the technology here. Unfortunately, the two companies products are entirely and frustratingly incompatible.

However, unlike Fulton, Powermat has already launched retail versions of its product and is beginning a big marketing push, creating its own Powermat-compatible battery packs for popular mobile phones.

Wild Charge are attempting to solve the problem in a slightly lower-tech way than the previous two, by still using physical contact. Small sleeves with metal contacts are fitted over devices, such as mobile phones and home-entertainment console controllers, which are then placed on a pad with similar contacts, and the power flows through.

The final, and probably most exciting offering, comes from PowerBeam, who intend to beam electricity through a laser to power picture frames and wireless speakers.  Cool? Yes. Terrifying? Slightly.

While it is always difficult to predict a winner from new, emerging technologies, usually the guy with the strongest friends wins. My advice? Invest in eCoupled, just as most of the big-boys seem to have.

Gmail users crying out for a GBoard?

I didn’t realise that Gmail’s usability needed improving. But clearly it does because an American company has launched GBoard: an USB add-on keyboard providing shortcuts for the most used Gmail actions.

This  4.88″ x 3.5″ x 0.38″ keyboard offers 19 functions, plugs straight into a USB port, works with Windows and Apple Macs and doesn’t require a software download. Once you plug in, just make sure to turn on shortcuts in Gmail’s general settings.

I knew keyboard shortcuts could be created in Gmail settings. But to be honest, I was ignorant to the many Gmail shortcuts available, most likely because I’ve never felt I needed Gmail shortcuts in my life. I do, however, feel enlightened to the new possibilities for me and my humble Gmail email account.

Each key has a different function, for example, search, trash, reply, reply to all. By dividing the small keyboard into colour co-ordinated sections, it’s easy to navigate and you save time clicking on screen icons; heck, never again do you have to remember those keyboard shortcut combinations.

The layout of the key functions is quite logical. However, you can’t customise buttons to prioritise the functions you use most; if I press ‘Compose’ mail more than ‘Reply’ and decide I would like this shortcut moved to the mini keyboard’s biggest button, it’s tough luck, you can’t.

The short 26” cable also presents a potential problem. The mini-keyboard is fine to sit next to a laptop and be within reach but I’m sure it would be a nightmare for a desktop computer user with their tower unit – and USB ports – under a desk. This would definitely not provide any shortcuts to using Gmail.

Perhaps this gadget is like Phones 4U’s phones for popular people; if you have too many emails and too little time, then $19.99 (around £12)  will be well spent on this nifty USB plug-in, helping you to whizz through your emails at breakneck-speed. I’m not sure I receive the quantity of emails needed to make this gadget worthwhile. It does make a colourful desk accessory, though.

The Sunnybag: fashionable and responsible?

We’ve all been in the situation haven’t we? One too many drinks on a Wednesday evening whilst trying desperately to impress the slightly common HR girl who always wears the skimpy skirts; failing miserably, watching her cop off with your boss who’s really very smug about it before arriving home far too late and dishevelled for a school night. In the haze you forget to charge your phone, and by the time you arrive late to work in the morning the battery has run out. Truly a 21st century dilemma it be.

Well, thanks to Austrian inventor Stefan Penfold this can be a thing of the past. Stefan has invented the Sunnybag which had its release on the 12th November. These range of bags with an in-built 3 Watt solar panel which powers a 1600m Ah LI-Ion battery pack, which in turn can be connected to over 400 mobile phones, PDA’s, iPod’s, iPhone’s and USB’s.

Great, you may think, but surely a bag with a solar panel is going to look like a misplaced prop from Total Recall? Oh ye of little faith. The Sunnybag team have knocked together two swanky leather satchels, appropriate for businessmen, everyday-ers and students alike with multiple compartments. These come in dark brown or black, while there is also a green canvas bag that will suit those who are looking for a bag for camping trips and the like. Somewhat perversely, generating electricity from sunlight n’ all, the bags also do not necessarily need a sunny day to get your equipment charged; a cloudy one will easily suffice- good news for all those used to English Winters (and Summers, thinking about it…).

Stefan himself says of the bag: ‘Our solarbags are more than a fashion statement, they are a personal statement about a commitment to sustainability, sensibility, and responsibility.” And it is in this that the Sunnybag really becomes an invention for our time, with its admirable use of the worlds natural resources to fuel our needs. However, and here is the rub, this comes at a high price with the product retailing at 199 Euro’s, which puts it out of reach of the high street market. If the Sunnybag is a success, though, this price will surely come down and make forgotten chargers and low battery an oft-mocked memory.

Look out Q, here comes the W Phonewatch

Miniscule, inconspicuous and with its real identity masked, even James Bond’s “Q” would be proud of Kempler & Strauss’s W Phonewatch.

As the name suggests, the W Phonewatch is a cellphone, disguised as a wristwatch. Although unlike the torrent of wrist-watch phones that have saturated the market in recent years, which awkwardly lie on its owner’s wrists and become more of a hindrance than a help, the W Phonewatch is the world’s smallest, fully-featured, GMS unlocked cellphone available, offering discretion with a multitude of features.

w-gsm-phonewatch
It is mind-boggling how such a slim-line and unobtrusive device can host such throng of facets, including a built-in camera, multimedia stereo player, Outlook contact sync, video recorder and games.

Because the W Phonewatch is Bluetooth-enabled, it allows for seamless communication when used in conjunction with existing Bluetooth devices. But particularly, Kempler & Strauss insist, when it’s used with their own micro stereo Bluetooth headset, known as the Communicator. Keeping up the W Phonewatch’s ‘emissary’ theme, the Communicator is proudly advertised on its ability to be stored in the most hidden of places, like a shirt pocket. There is even a micro USB port incorporated that connects to a charger and a PC, giving frustrated and tired eyes some respite from squinting at the W Phonewatch’s diminutive screen.

Although pioneering in its aesthetical and dimensional advances, a phone offering this amount of feature diversity in such a condensed product, there are bound to be some drawbacks. Its tiny menus rely on the most perfect of vision, whilst its micro-touch user interface relies is most delicate of touches. Positioning such a petite viewfinder accurately results in the ‘happy snapping’ conventional phone cameras proudly offer, being replaced by more ‘haphazard snapping’.

In short, Kempler & Strauss’s W Phonewatch is designed as an accessory – a secondary phone for whenever the urge arises to wear a phone on your wrist. Although as this undeniably intuitive gadget costs just 119.48 GBP, the prospect of wearing a real-life Bond-style phone, watch and camera on your wrist is obtainable, and consequently Kempler & Strauss may be on to a winner.

Shipping for this sophisticated, slight and stylish machine starts in the US on December 20th but won’t be available in the UK until 2010.  So unfortunately unwrapping a W Phonewatch on Christmas Day will not be possible, although the novelty could have worn off by Boxing Day anyway.

Nu-M8 GPS locator watch for kids

NuM8

These days, as a kid, you’re lucky if you’re parents let you go more than a few feet out of their view. Gone are the days, for most kids at least, of jumping on their bike and ensuring they’ll be “back in time to tea”. Unfortunately we now seem to live in a world where parents are just too afraid of the dangers of letting their children out of their sight.

One company that is trying to use tech to help solve this problem is midlands based firm, Lok8u, with their slightly awkwardly named “nu-m8” GPS locator for designed for kids 3-12 years old.

Designed to look like a standard watch (although we’re not 100% convinced it does) the nu-m8 is securely fastened to the child’s wrist and stays there unless deactivated by the parent. It even has a nifty feature whereby if the watch is forcefully removed an alert is sent to the designated email/mobile phone address detailing the child’s location. In this situation the locator will also turn to a “live track” mode allowing the child’s location to be continuously monitored, which Lok8u states is accurate to 10 feet.

Another feature which sounds interesting is the setting of ‘safe zones’ by establishing a virtual boundary. If the child strays outside of this zone the parent is notified by a priority alert.

The nu-m8 comes in black, blue or pink, priced at £149.99 and is available to buy now from www.lok8u.com and Amazon.co.uk. In addition, there is a monthly subscription charge starting from only £4.99 dependent on the selected usage tariff.