Technology category

Send Touch Over Distance With HEY Bracelet

HEY is an innovative bracelet that really makes you feel connected to a loved one. It uses a unique technology to send your touch as far as needed. It’s the first bracelet that mimics a real human touch, not by producing a mechanical vibration or buzzing sensation, but an actual gentle squeeze.

On Valentine’s Day the stylish piece of smart jewelry was launched on Kickstarter and within one hour it was already ‘trending’. Check the campaign video:

The bracelet incorporates advanced technology that communicates through Bluetooth with your smartphone. The ingenious design  ensures that a touch wouldn’t be sent accidentally. In order to send a message you should touch the bracelet in two places and it will be transferred directly to your phone and from there to the connected HEY bracelet anywhere in the world.

Via Bluetooth HEY is connected to an app on your smartphone. This app makes sure all your little squeezes reach the other bracelet directly. It also helps you pair the bracelets easily, fast and without any hassle. And last but not least it keeps track of your love stats. For instance the distance between you and your loved one or the last time you were together. If desired, these features can be turned off. In the future more features will be added to the app.

HEY is invented by Mark van Rossem. He looked at the current world of communication and saw that one thing was missing. And that thing was touch. People communicate through technology 24/7, but there is always a physical distance separating them. So Mark set himself the seemingly impossible goal to send touch at great distances and came up with the idea for HEY. Together with successful entrepreneur, David van Brakel, he gathered a team of creative and technical professionals that have all earned their credentials in their field of expertise. Together they want to build products that bring people closer.

“From a simple touch like squeezing someone’s hand, to hugging, social touch is important in the way we maintain healthy and happy social relationships with the people that we care about most.” – Gijs Huisman, who collaborated in developing bracelet, is an expert at the University of Twente in the field of Social Touch Technology and has been researching haptic technology (touch by tech) for five years now.

No need to worry a lot about the safety of the bracelet electronics since the design is weatherproof. With only 30 minutes of charging, you will be able to send touches for around 3 weeks!

HEY adds a completely new dimension to relationships and more haptic products will be developed in the near future. For more information and updates, check the official website and the Kickstarter campaign. 35 days are left to pre-order 2 HEY bracelets with the Kickstarter deal for €83 which is 30% of the retail price.

Low-Cost FPGA With Reconfigurable Electronics Feature

Iolinker is a cheap 64 FPGA board with a MachXO FPGA that functions as a dynamically configurable IO matrix. Its main functionality, besides IO extension, is to dynamically set up a matrix of GPIO connections, that allow direct pass-through of high-frequency signals. Circuits can thereby be configured and programmed on the fly. There are UART / SPI / I2C connections that allow for easy integration of up to 127 chips connected in parallel.

Thanks to the open source library, Iolinker allows developers to create reconfigurable, easy to self test electronics within minutes. It can be used to be an IO extender and can output PWM signals. In addition, its revolutionary “IO linking” feature allows to dynamically pass through high-speed signals between IOs, better than any microprocessor ever could.

Check this teaser about the new board:

Iolinker has the following specifications:

  • Reprogrammable FPGA board with Lattice LCMXO3L-4300E-5UWG81CTR50
  • Preprogrammed and usable out of the box as your IO interface of choice.
  • 49 GPIOs for PWM or IO extension usage, VCCIO is 3.3V.
  • Boards can be connected in parallel, to create endless IO extension.
  • IOs can be linked to each other, i.e. you tell the FPGA to connect them, and it forwards the input signal from one pin to another. (Read more about the iolinker chip function.)
  • UART, SPI or I2C interfaces are available.

In order to make the ultimate IO interface for users, the team are accepting feature requests at the contact page.

In short, the Iolinker board is easy to use and can reconfigure schematics on the fly, what makes it ideal to reduce prototyping time and jumper cable mess, and to maximize the ability of using IO extensions.

More technical details about Iolinker and its price will be announced soon at the Kickstarter campaign at Feb 14. Some special offers are for everyone who register in the website’s newsletter, so register now and stay tuned!

 

Puck.js - A JavaScript powered button

Puck.js – The Ground-Breaking Bluetooth Low Energy Beacon

Puck.js is a low energy smart device which can be programmed and debugged wirelessly with JavaScript. It is both multi-functional and easy to use.  This beacon uses a custom circuit board with the latest Nordic chip, Bluetooth LE, Infrared transmitter, NFC, magnetometer, temperature sensor, RGB LEDs, and much more. Unlike other beacons, Puck.js comes with the open source JavaScript interpreter Espruino pre-installed, which makes it incredibly easy to use. Anyone without any prior programming experience can get started in seconds.

Puck.js Has a Very Small Form Factor
Puck.js Has a Very Small Form Factor

Specifications:

  • Espruino JavaScript interpreter pre-installed
  • nRF52832 SoC – Cortex M4, 64kB RAM, 512kB Flash
  • 8 × 0.1″ GPIO (capable of PWM, SPI, I2C, UART, Analog Input)
  • 9 × SMD GPIO (capable of PWM, SPI, I2C, UART)
  • Compatible with Bluetooth 5.0 – giving Quadruple the range, and double the speed of Bluetooth 4.2
  • Built-in Near Field Communications (NFC)
  • 12 bit ADC, timers, SPI, I2C, and Serial
  • MAG3110 Magnetometer
  • IR Transmitter
  • Red, Green and Blue LEDs
  • Pin capable of capacitive sensing
  • Built-in temperature sensor, light sensor, and battery level sensor
  • ABS plastic rear case and silicone cover with tactile button
  • CR2032 210mAh battery

Features:

Puck.js has various sensors for different purposes and various kinds of output components. It can measure light, temperature, magnetic fields, and capacitance. This beacon also can control Infrared remote devices, produce any color light using RGB LED, and has a tactile switch that turns the Puck into one big button.

The Magnetometer on Puck.js is a digital compass. You can measure its orientation about the earth’s magnetic field in 3 dimensions. It can also detect a magnet nearby and measures the magnetic field.

Detailed View of Puck.js Bluetooth Beacon
Detailed View of Puck.js Bluetooth Beacon

Puck also has the Web Bluetooth feature that enables controlling it from a web page wirelessly. The website simply sends the JavaScript code directly to the Puck, and it’ll be executed. Another excellent feature of Puck.js is internet accessibility. Espruino contains TCP/IP and HTTP client and servers (including WebSockets). With a suitable Bluetooth LE to the Internet Gateway, you’ll be able to put your Puck on the web!

The story doesn’t end here. Compared to other smart beacons, Puck.js has much more features that make it unbeatable. Open Source hardware and software is one of them. Go here to get a complete list of all features.

Conclusion:

Puck is an outstanding product. It has tons of booming features in a small package, yet easy to program. Anyone can get started with this amazing device within seconds. You can get it at £28 from this Kickstarter link. Also watch this video from Kickstarter campaign or the below video by Adafruit.com for a better understanding.

facetVISION camera

facetVISION: Compound Eyes for Industry and Smartphone

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF have developed a process that makes the production of a two-millimeter flat camera possible. Similar to the eyes of insects, its lens is partitioned into 135 tiny facets. The researchers have named their mini-camera concept facetVISION, following nature’s model. This mini-camera has a thickness of only two millimeters at a resolution of 1 megapixel.

facetVISION compound eye: First prototype
facetVISION compound eye: First prototype

All 135 small, uniform lenses are positioned close together, similar to the pieces of a mosaic. Each lens receives only a small section of its surroundings. The newly developed facetVISION technology aggregates the many individual images of the lenses to a whole picture. Finally, this technology should obtain a resolution of 4 megapixels. This is certainly a higher resolution compared to latest cameras in industrial applications like robot technology or automobile production.

The compound eye technology is also suitable for integration into smartphones. The lens of a modern smartphone must be at least 5 millimeters thick in order to capture a sharp image. The manufacturers of ultrathin smartphones are facing this challenge since the camera lens is thicker than the housing of the phone. But, this new technology can reduce the thickness to around 3 millimeters without compromising picture quality. Andreas Brückner, the project manager at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena, says:

It will be possible to place several smaller lenses next to each other in the smartphone camera. The combination of facet effect and proven injection molded lenses will enable resolutions of more than 10 megapixels in a camera requiring just a thickness of around three and a half millimeters.

The researchers also explained how this camera can be used in medical engineering as optical sensors to examine blood. The facetVISION has many other applications like checking image quality in a printing machine, parking camera in cars or in industrial robots to prevent collisions between human and machine.

Mass production of facetVISION is possible
Mass production of facetVISION is possible

Under the leadership of Andreas Brückner, the researchers have already demonstrated that facetVISION is suitable for mass production. So, keep waiting and maybe you will purchase a new smartphone equipped with a facetVISION compound eye in not so distant future.

Dosime Radiation Meter

Dosime Radiation Meter: Know The Radiation Surrounding You Using Smartphone

Radiation is always present in our lives. We can’t see, taste, feel or smell it, but it exists. Excessive exposure to ionizing radiation may cause potential damage to our health. The new Dosime device helps you to track and understand radiation exposure in your environment and display them using an app on your smartphone.

Dosime Radiation Meter For your Smart Phone
Dosime Radiation Meter For your Smart Phone
Pie Chart of Radiation Sources
Pie Chart of Radiation Sources

Dosime is a hybrid smart home and wearable device. The device weighs just 57 grams and is only 6.8 centimeters in height, making it extremely easy to take it with you everywhere. Now, the most important question is, how necessary is it to measure radiation level if someone is not living by a nuclear plant? Well, a nuclear plant is not the only one who emits radiation. 82% of the radiation we are exposed to comes from natural sources. The remaining 18% comes from man-made sources. So, yes. It is necessary to measure radiation level in your environment. On their website the company says:

Healthy living includes managing your environment, including factors you can not perceive. Knowledge of radiation exposure empowers you to make informed decisions about your wellbeing.

The Dosime radiation meter can measure radiation levels up to 100 R/h with a maximum dose of 1000 rem. The range of the measurable energy is 50 keV to 3 MeV. It can detect X-Rays and Gamma (γ) rays, but not Alpha (α) rays and Beta (ß) rays. Unfortunately, they are also sources of harmful ionizing radiation.

The Dosime device seamlessly connects to smartphones via WiFi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). It comes with a built-in rechargeable battery and an AC/DC module. The battery lasts for about one week on a single charge. At home you can dock it in the charger, giving it access to the Wi-Fi network. The app for this device runs on iOS 9 or later, or Android KitKat 4.4 or later.

The Dosime device is available for purchase at a price of US $249.00 (+ $4.81 shipping). You can order it at Amazon.

The Next-Generation Semiconductor for Power Electronics

Researchers have demonstrated the high-performance potential of an experimental transistor made of a semiconductor called beta gallium oxide, which could bring new ultra-efficient switches for applications such as the power grid, military ships and aircraft.

The semiconductor is promising for next-generation “power electronics,” or devices needed to control the flow of electrical energy in circuits. Such a technology could help to reduce global energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by replacing less efficient and bulky power electronics switches now in use.

The schematic at left shows the design for an experimental transistor made of a semiconductor called beta gallium oxide, which could bring new ultra-efficient switches for applications such as the power grid, military ships and aircraft. At right is an atomic force microscope image of the semiconductor. (Purdue University image/Peide Ye)

 

The schematic at left shows the design for an experimental transistor made of a semiconductor called beta gallium oxide, which could bring new ultra-efficient switches for applications such as the power grid, military ships and aircraft. At right is an atomic force microscope image of the semiconductor. (Purdue University image/Peide Ye)The transistor, called a gallium oxide on insulator field effect transistor, or GOOI, is especially promising because it possesses an “ultra-wide bandgap,” a trait needed for switches in high-voltage applications.

Compared to other semiconductors thought to be promising for the transistors, devices made from beta gallium oxide have a higher “breakdown voltage,” or the voltage at which the device fails, said Peide Ye, Purdue University’s Richard J. and Mary Jo Schwartz Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Findings are detailed in a research paper published this month in IEEE Electron Device Letters. Graduate student Hong Zhou performed much of the research.

The team also developed a new low-cost method using adhesive tape to peel off layers of the semiconductor from a single crystal, representing a far less expensive alternative to a laboratory technique called epitaxy. The market price for a 1-centimeter-by-1.5-centimeter piece of beta gallium oxide produced using epitaxy is about $6,000. In comparison, the “Scotch-tape” approach costs pennies and it can be used to cut films of the beta gallium oxide material into belts or “nano-membranes,” which can then be transferred to a conventional silicon disc and manufactured into devices, Ye said.

The technique was found to yield extremely smooth films, having a surface roughness of 0.3 nano-meters, which is another factor that bodes well for its use in electronic devices, said Ye, who is affiliated with the NEPTUNE Center for Power and Energy Research, funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research and based at Purdue’s Discovery Park. Related research was supported by the center.

The Purdue team achieved electrical currents 10 to 100 times greater than other research groups working with the semiconductor, Ye said.

One drawback to the material is that it possesses poor thermal properties. To help solve the problem, future research may include work to attach the material to a substrate of diamond or aluminum nitride.

The research was based at Discovery Park’s Birck Nanotechnology Center.
Source: Purdue University

Human Motion Powered Nanotechnology Devices

Michigan State University researchers have came up with a new method for  harvesting energy from human motion using nanotechnology. They designed a low-cost film-like device, a nanogenerator, than can power a LCD display,  keyboard, and some LEDs without any source of electric power, by only using some human touching or pressing.

This device called FENG, biocompatible ferroelectret nanogenerator, consists of several thin layers of silicon wafer made of environmentally friendly substances like silver, polyimide, and polypropylene ferroelectret – which is introduced here as the active material of this device. To add the electrical powering feature, researchers added ions to each layer to make sure that each layer has its own charged particles. Finally the circuit works only once some pressure or mechanical energy is performed on the device. For example, by using this technology you will be able to power the LED lights with the pressure of your palm, while the pressure of your finger is enough to power the LCD screen.

In this video 20 LEDs are powered with hand pressing:

Researchers’ investigations had shown that the voltage and current generated by pressure can be doubled if the device is folded, means a high-frequency pressure is already demonstrated.

“Each time you fold it you are increasing exponentially the amount of voltage you are creating,” said Nelson Sepulveda, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and lead investigator of the project. “You can start with a large device, but when you fold it once, and again, and again, it’s now much smaller and has more energy. Now it may be small enough to put in a specially made heel of your shoe so it creates power each time your heel strikes the ground.”

Sepulveda believes that implementing this technology in real life will shift wearables to be completely powered by human motion. He and his team are working now on transmitting the power generated from the heel strike to be used for powering other devices like a headset.

In this video you can take a look at the flexible keyboard they designed:

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation. You can learn more about this project by checking the scientific paper, and the university official website.

Efficient Low-Cost Solar Energy Converter

Researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and the Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique have invented a new device to store solar power while the sun’s not shining by converting it into Hydrogen. Although many current methods use the same approach to store energy, but this device rivals them in stability, efficiency and cost.

An effective and low-cost solution for storing solar energy © Infini Lab / 2016 EPFL

 

They combined commercially available components that have already proven effective in industry, such as Nickel, in order to develop a robust and effective system, that is  :made up of three interconnected, new-generation, crystalline silicon solar cells attached to an electrolysis system that does not rely on rare metals. The device is able to convert solar energy into hydrogen at a rate of 14.2%, and has already been run for more than 100 hours straight under test conditions.”

In order to develop this device, the researchers used layers of crystalline silicon and amorphous silicon to allow higher voltages. Thus, three cells in series generate a nearly ideal voltage for electrolysis.

“We wanted to develop a high performance system that can work under current conditions,” says Jan-Willem Schüttauf, a researcher at CSEM and co-author of the paper. “The heterojunction cells that we use belong to the family of crystalline silicon cells, which alone account for about 90% of the solar panel market. It is a well-known and robust technology whose lifespan exceeds 25 years. And it also happens to cover the south side of the CSEM building in Neuchâtel.”

This method, which outperforms previous efforts in terms of stability, performance, lifespan and cost efficiency, is published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society. You can check the scientific paper here.

 

Supercapacitors Surpassing Conventional Batteries

Researchers at the University of Central Florida have been looking for alternatives for lithium rechargeable batteries which are largely used in every device.

Using two-dimensional (2D) transition-metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) capacitive materials, they are building a new supercapacitor that overcomes the performance of conventional lithium battery and replaces its efficiently.

Transition metal dichalcogenide monolayers (TMDs) are atomically thin semiconductors of the type MX₂, with M a transition metal atom and X a chalcogen atom. One layer of M atoms is sandwiched between two layers of X atoms.

TMDs are considered as promising capacitive materials for supercapacitor devices since they provide a suitable current conduction path and a robust large surface to increase the structure’s high energy and power density.

Researchers have developed “high-performance core/shell nanowire supercapacitors based on an array of one-dimensional (1D) nanowires seamlessly integrated with conformal 2D TMD layers. The 1D and 2D supercapacitor components possess “one-body” geometry with atomically sharp and structurally robust core/shell interfaces, as they were spontaneously converted from identical metal current collectors via sequential oxidation/sulfurization” according to the research paper.

The new prototype is said to be charged 30,000 times without any draining, 20 times the lifetime of an ordinary battery.

“You could charge your mobile phone in a few seconds and you wouldn’t need to charge it again for over a week,” says UCF postdoctoral associate Nitin Choudhary.

This research was published in the NANO science journal, you can check the scientific paper here.

Bluetooth 5 Is Here!

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has officially launched the core specifications of the new version of Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5. These specifications include longer range, faster speed, and larger broadcast message capacity, as well as improved interoperability and coexistence with other wireless technologies than recent Bluetooth versions, making it possible to advance IoT applications and usages.

Bluetooth is revolutionizing how people experience the IoT. Bluetooth 5 continues to drive this revolution by delivering reliable IoT connections and mobilizing the adoption of beacons, which in turn will decrease connection barriers and enable a seamless IoT experience” says Mark Powell, SIG’s executive director.

Keeping up with powering IoT, Bluetooth 5 has some additional features that better enable industrial automation and whole home coverage by addressing challenges like range and download speeds. It is said to improve location awareness with a smarter technology that collects data to provide personalized experiences for the end user.

While doubling the speed to enable the making of more responsive devices, Bluetooth 5 developers didn’t miss to maintain low-power consumption that results a faster data transfer.

By 2021, ABI Research predicts 48 billion internet-enabled devices will be installed, and Bluetooth—predicted to be in nearly one-third of those devices—is a cornerstone of that growth.

“The global wireless connectivity market is growing rapidly, with an anticipated 10 billion annual IC shipments by 2021,” said Andrew Zignani with ABI Research. “The introduction of Bluetooth 5 will create new opportunities in various verticals of the IoT market by reducing complexity and cost and giving manufacturers greater flexibility in targeting multiple applications and use cases.”

Within two to six months, new products are expected to be launched using this ubiquitous technology, so stay tuned!

More details about Bluetooth 5 here: www.bluetooth.com/bluetooth5