Amazon smartphone’s real world 3D object recognition/matching service confirmed, detailed in a patent app
Oct21

Amazon smartphone’s real world 3D object recognition/matching service confirmed, detailed in a patent app

More and more information is leaking about the upcoming Amazon smartphone. Few weeks ago we’ve  learned that online retailer has several phones in development, one of them, first imagined by Jeff Bezos himself and codenamed “Smith”,  may come with advanced faux-3D user interface. Last week WSJreported that Amazon has tapped HTC to make its smartphones. Then Bloomberg confirmed the report, adding that Amazon has been in talks with HTC since June 2013, at least. Some of those rumors mentioned an image recognition feature/service that would let you take a picture of a real-world 3D object, match to Amazon product and buy it. We can now confirm, that Amazon is indeed working on such real world image recognition and matching system, and have some details about it. The new service is described in Amazon’s patent application “User guided object identification”: As you can see, if this service is implemented – you will indeed be able to take a picture of the real world object, and then match it to similar offering on Amazon. For some things, like books, the new feature should work seamlessly. Snap a photo of the book cover, and you are taken to that same book page on Amazon. For other stuff – the process is more complicated. To find and match the shoe, a handbag or other real world item, you’ll have to do a bit of work. Like aligning a sneaker or a boot in the camera viewfinder/screen to match an outline provided by Amazon, or even placing it in the necessary category. Which might prove too much of a hassle to make the object matching a widely adopted thing, instead of an interesting curiosity. Of course, the system described in the patent app is just a rough outline, and much will depend on actual implementation- how easy the service is to use, and how accurate the actual 3D object recognition/matching is. We’ll have to wait for the first real  Amazon Kindle smartphone to know...

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Samsung walks the Nokia path. I wonder where does it lead?
Oct09

Samsung walks the Nokia path. I wonder where does it lead?

There is this huge industry giant, let’s call it “X”, that dominates smartphone/mobile device market. And collects almost half of all industry profits. Billions and billions of dollars a year. Every year  they come out with a new flagship device, each one more successful than previous one. This flagship very quickly becomes one of the most popular mobile handsets that year, with very few other vendors capable of producing a device to match or exceed it in unit sales volume. But while the flagships are extremely profitable, this mobile giant is no one trick pony. It actually produces mobile devices at every price point, in every popular form factor. And does so profitably. In fact, its financial resources, logistics, supply, manufacturing and distribution is of such a scale, that only small regional upstarts with pre-baked device designs from Schenzen China are able to compete with it. But only locally, and barely. They have no close competitor on Global scale. Sometimes X misses a hot new trend, and smaller competitor releases a device that becomes a big hit. That doesn’t bother the X in the least. They simply muster their manufacturing and logistics base, and quickly come up with an answer, copying the most important features of the hot gadget. Then it start replicating that successful design up and down the price tiers, adding better spec’d more expensive stuff, removing features or using cheaper components to produce cheaper variations, etc; And floods the market with a plethora of models for every taste. In a few quarters it’s X, who is the biggest player in the hot new category. Speaking about the number of models X is able to churn out each year. It’s simply mindboggling. Even the most ardent fans can not easily name even half of them. X is also not afraid to take risks. Sometimes these risky products are complete duds, but sometimes they can create, define and then dominate new category for years. And X has a very good idea where the mobile industry is headed. They can see the ever increasing importance good software/platforms and online services will have on their business. X has already made getting good at software and creating world class online services one of strategic goals for the whole company. Few years ago, X also got the first taste of what having a winning software platform might mean for business. But they didn’t own that smartphone platform, which was made and owned by another company, and available on the same terms to everyone else. They then tried to get into mobile software platform game themselves, by creating mobile OS of their own. Complete with its own app store and and SDK. While busy trying to make their first...

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LG’s new battery tech: denser batteries, curved batteries, cable batteries tied into a knot
Oct08

LG’s new battery tech: denser batteries, curved batteries, cable batteries tied into a knot

The key bottleneck in smartphone development today, are batteries. It doesn’t matter how fast the CPU is, what a bright and high resolution display the mobile device has, it all goes to naught if you run out of the stored power after a 3 or 4 hours of use. And despite the big promises coming form this or that startup or university research lab, no Moore’s law level breakthrough for battery tech is on the horizon. But there is some progress and steady incremental improvements in battery tech.  Just look at the battery top of the line smartphone of 2010- Nexus One- came with: 1400 mAh. Today we complain if the new smartphone has less than 2500 mAh of electric charge stored. And flagship devices with more than 3000 mAh batteries are now commonplace. Part of that, of course, comes from increase of the physical size of modern smartphone, with more place for larger batteries. But yearly increases in battery density are also a fact. Today LG decided to tell us what their LG Chem battery tech subsidiary has in store for us in the next year or three. And it is some pretty interesting stuff. They are now touting 3 new battery technologies. The stepped battery, which they already put into their G2 flagship smartphone, increases capacity by 16% over traditional design of the same size. They do that by putting two batteries on top of each other, filling the dead space in the device. With this kind of battery, LG says they increased G2’s endurance by 3 hours. Now LG plans to move to 3 and 4 step designs, to pack even more punch into the same package. LG has also developed and is about to start the mass production of curved batteries for curved display phones like upcoming G Flex, smart watches and other devices that want to break out of the rectangular brick design limitations of today. Just like with flexible displays, these are very early days of curved battery designs, and commercial availability will be very limited for now. But the technology is now mature enough to enter mass production, and you will see more and more curved devices during next year. And then there’s some pretty far-out stuff. LG’s Cable Battery. It is shaped like a piece of wire, which is waterproof, can be bent in any direction and even tied into a knot. It is meant to power various wearable electronics and could be integrated into various accessories and clothes. The problem is, that for now it can store very limited amount of power, and can operate at very low voltages to avoid heating up. Also, LG’s cable batteries are still in prototype/testing...

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Here’s Amazon Smith 3D smartphone UI, straight from the Lab 126. Kinect like gesture controls in the works too
Oct03

Here’s Amazon Smith 3D smartphone UI, straight from the Lab 126. Kinect like gesture controls in the works too

According to anonymous post on Hacker News, confirmed by Techcrunch through its own sources, Amazon is working on a smartphone with a 3D-eye tracking user interface, codenamed “Smith”. Instead of traditional 3D display, Smith will have a normal 2D screen, but will track user head and eye movement, and will shift the UI accordingly to create the impression of 3D. An effect similar to Apple’s 3D parallax wallpapers. We can now confirm that Amazon is indeed working on devices with an eye/head movement tracking 3D user interface, and has been at it for at least 5 years.  We just found one place where there are plenty of clues of what Amazon Smith 3D smartphone UI is about. U.S Patent and Trademark Office. Where Amazon filed quite a few patent applications describing their 3D user interface ideas, and a lot of them talk about things we are now hearing about Smith: device with a camera on each corner, eye and head movement tracking, adjusting user interface elements  based on viewing angle, etc. Interestingly enough, the first patent application for Amazon Phone I could find, was filed in May 2008, and lists Jeff Bezos himself as the sole inventor. It already describes a 3D user interface, operated via movement/gestures and user eye/head tracking. That’s how long Amazon CEO has been thinking about Smith. By the way, those four front-cameras that Kindle smartphone should come equipped with? It seems that they are not really necessary to make Amazon’s faux-3D smartphone UI work. One, or at most two cameras should be plenty enough to accomplish the movement tracking task. Instead they are needed for Amazon’s Kinect like touchless input gesture user interface. If the ideas from this patent app make it into the commercial release, you should be able to operate your Kindle Phone by hovering your finger and making various gestures above the device, without touching it. But following your finger movement and hand gestures requires much more detailed resolution and precision, than just figuring out your viewing angle. That’s where 4 front-cameras come into play. Why would you need such a thing for a smartphone or tablet? Touch works just fine? Yep, multi-touch works great on a 2D UI’s of today. But to effectively navigate through the 3D interfaces, you also need the depth dimension. And that’s what Amazon’s multi-dimensional input UI is all about. Another smartphone feature that Amazon has  been working on for a while now, is constant awareness and user tracking. A bit similar to Moto X constant voice command monitoring for Google Now integration. But also able to track your whereabouts in the room through device cameras, and always ready for your voice or gesture commands. It’s described in some detail...

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ZTE exec compares China’s mobile sector to photovoltaic industry. Says it’s headed for a crash in 3 years
Sep26

ZTE exec compares China’s mobile sector to photovoltaic industry. Says it’s headed for a crash in 3 years

Domestic mobile device industry in China is booming. 4 out of ten top smartphone makers in the world – Lenovo, Huawei, ZTE and Coolpad/Yulong- come from China. New upstarts like Xiaomi and Oppo are flexing their muscles, showing global ambitions with innovative products and interesting business models. And localy focused companies like Meizu, TCL, THL, Neo, etc; are coming up with ever more interesting stuff, at ever more interesting prices. Give it a few years, and all this innovation should explode on a global scale, ushering in an era of Chinese dominance in mobile. Or not. ZTE’s Executive Vice President He Shiyou is worried that China’s mobile boom may not end well. And that the industry is headed for a crash within three years. He thinks that heavily promoted by carriers, China’s domestic phone industry has gotten too large. It now faces huge inventory and production overcapacity problems, which may become fatal soon. He Shiyou compared  domestic smartphone OEMs to once booming photovoltaic sector. With strong government support, China’s solar panel industry grew very fast for several years, and became a serious global player. Only to crash and burn after reaching unsustainable levels. ZTE EVP sees similar scenario, with a lot of contraction and company bankruptcies, playing out in mobile. To preempt future problems, ZTE is no longer focusing on market share growth in China.  It is getting out of the low end smartphones at home, and is now moving up-market with branded higher-end products...

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Nokia still working on Android phone, won’t cancel until November. Foxconn already made 10K  prototypes
Sep19

Nokia still working on Android phone, won’t cancel until November. Foxconn already made 10K prototypes

Over the weekend New York Times and The Verge reported that before they decided to sell mobile business to Microsoft, Nokia was working on a cheap Android phone codenamed “Mountain View” as a “Plan B” – if they failed to break through with Windows Phone. Today Chinese site and Weibo account CTechnology, with a pretty good track record of China based smartphone leaks, has more details about this cheap Nokia Android. The device, based on Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 8225Q chip,  was being developed and tested by Nokia’s Beijing based R&D team, and was already at somewhat advanced prototype stage. In fact, before the announcement of sale, Foxconn has already manufactured and delivered a batch of more than 10 000 prototype Mountain View units. And now for the most interesting part. Mountain View development hasn’t stopped just yet. Foxconn is still making more of them, Beijing based Nokia R&D teams are still working on it, and the project will not be cancelled until/if Nokia shareholders approve Microsoft deal at General Meeting in November. This is not a real Nokia Android. Just some good fan art Though the likelihood of Nokia mobile business buyout not going through is extremely low, stranger things have happened. And with tensions between Nokia and Microsoft surfacing already, nothing is guaranteed 100%, until it finally happens. So there still might be a teeny-tiny hope for all of you who pined for Nokia Androids, and felt that Microsoft deal was  the betrayal of everything Nokia stood...

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Samsung Galaxy Gear officially launched. Looks way more interesting than I expected
Sep04

Samsung Galaxy Gear officially launched. Looks way more interesting than I expected

Samsung has announced its highly anticipated watch/smartphone companion – Galaxy Gear. And I have to say, it’s a really interesting product, at least on paper. I was initially very doubtful about Samsung’s ability to create something truly interesting in such an uncharted category. Usually they had to wait for Apple or someone else to figure things out first. Early rumors about Gear’s huge 2.5” display and photos that leaked last week made me even more skeptical. Luckily, the actual device is much smaller – it comes with only 1.63” 320x320px display, and fits quite well on the wrist. Samsung seems also given quite a lot of thought about what Galaxy Gear should do and how. Tight integration with Samsung’s smartphones, ability to send and receive calls with cleverly built-in speakers and mics, the large selection of Gear designed third party apps, 25hr battery life, and even the built-in camera which sounded like a gimmick before, seems like a really useful stuff that should enhance my overall smartphone experience. Of course, overall design might be better, and I would prefer for the Galaxy Gear to be able to sync well with other smartphones. But on paper, and from the scripted presentation, Gear seems like the device I will definitely want to try. Let’s hope real life experiences leaves me feeling the same way. Samsung Galaxy Gear specs include: 800 MHz processor 1.63 inch (41.4mm) Super AMOLED (320 x 320) 1.9 Megapixel BSI Sensor, Auto Focus Camera / Sound & Shot, HD(720p) Playback & Recording 2 Microphones (Noise Cancellation), 1 Speaker Bluetooth® v 4.0 ? BLE Accelerometer, Gyroscope 4GB Internal memory ? 512 MB (RAM) 36.8 x 56.6 x 11.1 mm, 73.8g Standard battery, Li-ion 315mAh Galaxy Gear will cost $299,  and should start shipping in some markets on September 25th, with worldwide roll-out planned for...

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Huawei W2 Windows Phone goes on sale in China for 999 Yuan ($163)
Aug20

Huawei W2 Windows Phone goes on sale in China for 999 Yuan ($163)

After years of struggles Windows Phones might have finally found their market niche – cheap, sub-$200  smartphones. It’s not what Microsoft, Nokia and other OEMs who tried Windows Phone expected, but that’s where some traction is. We got the first glimpse of interest in cheap Windows Phones with the release of $250 Nokia Lumia  620, and saw the real growth in Nokia Lumia shipments after $180 Lumia 520 launched in April. By all accounts, 520 is still doing a brisk business around the world, making Nokia a dominant Windows Phone OEM with 2/3s platform market share. With its worldwide ambitions, Huawei also wants a piece of Windows Phone market, and now is entering the game with a handset that’s even cheaper than Lumia  520. Yesterday they started selling Ascend W2 Windows Phone for 999 Yuan ($163) in China. Huawei Ascend W2 comes equipped with: 4.3” 480×800 IPS display 3G TD-SCDMA connectivity 1.4 GHz Qualcomm MSM8230 1.4GHz dual-core CPU 5 megapixel camera 8GB of ROM, micro-SD card support With specs comparable to Lumia 520, W2 has a chance to sell in pretty good volumes, further enhancing Windows Phone position as the 3d ecosystem, cheap alternative to mid-range Androids and iPhones. Is it where Microsoft wants their mobile OS to be? Most certainly not. But with Windows Phone hardware support capabilities perpetually a generation behind Android, that’s what they can get right now. Some unit volumes, with which comes increase in developer interest and more apps. And, who knows, if Windows Phone is finally able to support quad-core CPUs and bigger 1080p displays before the end of this year, maybe Nokia and other OEMs may finally get some respectable volumes with  better and more lucrative smartphones,...

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Google Project Loon: 10 Mbps for users, 50 Gbps ultra-bright LED links between backbone super-nodes 100 miles apart
Aug14

Google Project Loon: 10 Mbps for users, 50 Gbps ultra-bright LED links between backbone super-nodes 100 miles apart

So far Google has been describing their Project Loon balloon internet initiative in very general terms. Yes, we know that the idea is to provide internet access via a network of balloons floating in stratosphere 20 kilometers high, and use rather stable atmospheric winds at different altitudes up there to keep balloons on station by moving them up or down. But that’s about all that Google told us about Project Loon. How exactly those balloons keep their station and move up or down? How big the Loon network can be? How do they communicate with each other, with ground stations and internet access points on the ground? What kind of speeds can we expect from it? We had no idea. Until now. Recently several patent applications related to Project Loon became public in USPTO database, with a lot of details about Google’s balloon Internet. Including an expected 10 Mbps speeds for users on the ground, and 50 Gbps backbone network of Super Balloons 100 miles apart, covering huge areas via ultra-bright LED free-air optical links. The balloon network with 50 Gbps super-node backbone and 10 Mbps downlinks In the patent apps Google talks about various kinds of possible network configurations. But the most interesting and ambitious one is this: The high-altitude balloon network consists of two types of balloons: The backbone of super-nodes that use ultra-bright LEDs to talk to each other via free air optical links, over the distances of up to 100 miles. According to Google,  such network of super-nodes can achieve data transmission rates of 10 to 50 Gigabits per second A number of sub-node balloons that connect to super-nodes and to the access points on the ground, providing ordinary users with 10 Mbps wireless Internet connections Super-nodes may also talk to each other using lasers, but that may be problematic due to various regulations regarding laser comms. Super and sub-node balloons form balloon clusters (BC) over certain defined geographic area. Sub-nodes can move between nearby clusters and their density may be adjusted according to the data throughput requirements. E.g. a cluster with a lot of sub-nodes may be needed above the city, while  rural areas may make do with one super-node a few sub-nodes. The network is also able to temporarily create and move balloon clusters as needed, for example for an event like rock festival, or disaster relief effort. There is also one more type of balloon – that stays more or less above the project  ground stations and connects the network to them via optical or high throughput radio link. The balloons Balloons move around and keep station above certain area by using relatively constant different direction winds in stratosphere. They...

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LG G Pad 8.3″ Full HD Plus (1920×1200) tablet should be announced at IFA Berlin
Aug14

LG G Pad 8.3″ Full HD Plus (1920×1200) tablet should be announced at IFA Berlin

LG’s first foray into Android tablets back in 2011 was a flop. Of course, back then, LG couldn’t make a decent Android phone either. And Android 3.0 Honeycomb, Google’s first try at tablet optimized OS, wasn’t ready for primetime too. Today – things are different. After a few false starts, LG has  finally figured out how to make very competitive Android devices, and sell them in respectable quantities. Tablets based on Google’s mobile OS have found their buyer as well, and are now even outselling Apple’s iPads. So LG feels ready to enter the tablet game again. Called LG G Pad, the new slate is scheduled for early September IFA launch. It will come with 8.3” Full HD Plus 1920×1200 display, 2GB of RAM, quad-core CPU, and brushed aluminum back. Image of the old T-Mobile G-Slate/LG Optimus Pad Despite the largish 8.3” display, LG G Pad is a very thin, lightweight device with a really narrow bezel, and, according to people who handled it, will easily fit into your pocket. Sounds good and it might be a hit, if LG prices the G Pad right. Despite the high overall volumes, the only way Android tablets compete with iPad for now, is price. If LG manages to offer an entry level G Pad for $299 or less –  it can make some waves. Anything above that, and it will be another tab we forgot by November. Via:...

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