TIME Gadgets

You Can Control This Heated Scarf With Your Smartphone

Scarf
Martin Dimitrov—Getty Images Woman texting on smartphone outside

New device can also vibrate

A scarf is probably not the first kind of “wearable device” you think of, but Microsoft may change that. A research group at the company has developed a smart scarf that can heat up or vibrate via a smartphone app, MIT Technology Review reports.

The scarf is comprised of hexagonal modules made of felt and overlaid with copper taffeta. One of the modules has Bluetooth functionality in order to communicate with your smartphone. Some of the modules heat up and others vibrate, but they can be rearranged in any order to alter the heat distribution of the scarf.

Researchers told the MIT Technology Review that they’d like to add cooling functionality to the scarf, as well as a music player. The device could even worth with other biometric devices to adjust the scarf temperature based on a person’s mood, perhaps boosting the heat when the wearer appears to be sad.

For now, the scarf is just a research project. A paper on the device was presented at a conference on human-computer interaction at Stanford University on Sunday.

TIME Wearables

Google Will Stop Selling Glass Next Week

Google Glass
DPA—AFP/Getty Images A visitor of the "NEXT Berlin" conference tries out the Google Glass on April 24, 2013 in Berlin.

Google's Glass Explorer program is coming to an end

Google is pressing the brakes on its Google Glass rollout.

The company will stop selling the smart glasses to individual customers through its Explorer program after Jan. 19, according to a post on Glass’s Google+ page. The company will continue to support its Glass at Work initiative, which aims to sell the glasses to enterprise customers.

Glass is also moving out of the Google X research lab to become its own independent unit. It will be headed by Google executive Ivy Ross, who has been leading the Glass team since last summer. That team will now report to Nest CEO Tony Fadell, though Glass is not actually becoming a part of Nest, most well-known for making smart home equipment.

Google Glass, which has seen its official release delayed multiple times, has courted its fair share of controversy thanks to privacy concerns over its use. Google released a guide on how to avoid being a “Glasshole” using the wearable device, which can take pictures, record video and look up content on the Internet using voice commands.

Google offered no timetable for when a new version of Glass would be available to the general public. However, the Wall Street Journal reported in December that a new version of Glass with a processor developed by Intel would launch sometime in 2015.

TIME Gadgets

5 Gadgets That Can Make You Healthier Today

Health Gadgets
Melissa Ross—Getty Images/Flickr RF

Forget New Year’s resolutions. Your body needs these right now.

The holidays are here and — along with good tidings of comfort and joy, of course — they bring stressful shopping trips, overeating, late-night Elf on the Shelf antics, and a general abandonment of usual fitness routines.

But as you button up the year’s end, you don’t need to fall apart. These five connected fitness devices can help you stay on track before you get sidelined by the season’s trappings:

Basis Peak

Fitness bands and smart watches are on everyone’s list this year, but you might be better served to pick this one up early, rather than letting it sit all wrapped up for a month. The $199 fitness and sleep tracking watch has a few sensors that will not only help you survive the holiday, but be able to view the month-long flurry as a time to thrive.

In addition to the usual step and calorie counting, Peak also monitors body heat, sweat dissipation, and heart rate (take that, shopping stress!) without a chest strap. So when you’re running from store to store looking for that Snow Glow Elsa doll, you can honestly declare it a workout.

And then a month from now, when life gets back to normal, this Android and iOS-compatible watch can also automatically track your sleep (without having to tell the device you’re down for the night) and set gradually increasing fitness goals, so you can make next year your best one yet.

Fitbug Orb

Tiny wearables like Fitbug Orb are great for tracking motion, but it’s up to you to actually do something with that information. This $49 sensor not only keeps an eye on steps taken, calories burned, and sleep logged (and syncs this data with an iOS app), it also integrates with KiQplans, which are weight loss programs that combine your movement data with fitness activities and nutrition tips to help you actually slim down.

With 12-week, $19 regimens like Beer Belly Blaster and Goodbye Baby Bump, KiQplans are a good way to turn the most wonderful time of the year into an end-of-the-year, data-driven boot camp. Just make sure to stay away from the figgy pudding.

Push Band

If you’re the kind of fitness freak who won’t get shaken out of his or her routine, then this is the wearable for you. The first fitness tracker aimed at measuring strength, this $189 arm band links with an accompanying Android or iOS app to monitor not just your activity but your output. Pairing with your smartphone via Bluetooth, the app and device lets gym rats set strength, power, speed, and muscular endurance goals. Then, within the app, the user selects from a list of pre-programmed exercises, sets a weight load, presses a button on the armband and starts pumping.

After each set the app reviews velocity and power of each rep, as well as the resting time between, and can even recommend to going up or down in weight the next time you do that exercise. And when the workout is over, a progress tracker gives a session summary in full detail. It’s about working out smarter, not necessarily harder.

Sense Sleep Tracker

Just like Santa, Sense sees you when you’re sleeping, and knows when you’re awake. And it knows if you slept bad or good, with proximity, ambient light, particulate, temperature and humidity sensors, so you’ll learn to sleep good for goodness’ sake.

This $129 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and ANT-connected bedside and pillow-mounting combination sensor can help you to learn about your sleep, from patterns that you go through naturally, to disruptions in your environment that might be interrupting your shuteye. Its microphone detects your snoring and a small speaker wakes you up with gentle, gradual sounds.

But most importantly, the sleep sensor’s Android and iOS app learns your sleep cycles, so it can wake you up when you’re in a light level of sleep near to when you wanted to be awake, rather than at a specific time when you might be off in Never-Neverland.

Withings Smart Body Analyzer

It doesn’t take much to use this Internet-connected scale — literally, you just have to stand there. But by tracking weight as well as body composition data like fat mass and body mass index, this app-synced device can be more helpful than even the most sophisticated fitness trackers.

Still, loaded with sensors, it’s not like this smart scale isn’t trying. Able to automatically recognize up to eight individual users, track heart rates, and even monitor indoor air quality, it can give you a well-rounded picture of your overall health. And paired with Withings’ Health Mate app (and more than 100 other partner apps), it can help you gradually meet weight-related goals — so you won’t have to ask for elastic-waist lounge pants for Christmas this year.

TIME Gadgets

Check Out Microsoft’s Very First Wearable Fitness Tracker

It's Microsoft's new foray into the wearables market

Microsoft is joining the parade of tech companies flooding the crowded wearable health space with a big bet that it can make its way not only to consumers’ desks and laps, but onto their wrists, too.

The company announced a new device Wednesday evening called the Microsoft Band, which will be coupled to a service called Microsoft Health.

Microsoft Band works much like a Fitbit or a Jawbone Up: throughout the day, it tracks your heart rate, steps, calories burned and the quality and length of your sleep. It contains a GPS device, so it tracks distance traveled, too. The Band feeds data back to your Microsoft Health app, which works on Microsoft phones as well as Android and Apple.

The Band does things some other wearables can’t: it notifies you when you receive a text message or a call and allows you to monitor your email. It also lets you interact with Microsoft’s intelligent personal assistant, Cortana, provided you have a Windows Phone. Microsoft also touted Microsoft Health’s coordination with its HealthVault program, which can share information with doctors. And at $199, The Microsoft Band is considerably cheaper than the cheapest Apple Watch will be when that launches early next year at a $349 starting price.

“We don’t think there’s any other device with this level of functionality,” Yusuf Mehdi, a Microsoft vice president, said according to the New York Times in a demonstration of the device on Wednesday. Microsoft released the Band after it apparently leaked early in some app stores.

The big question for the Microsoft Band is whether it’ll hold users’ interest. In a recent survey, PricewaterhouseCoopers found about a third of respondents said they no longer use their wearable device or do so infrequently just a year after purchasing one.

TIME Companies

Nike CEO Hints at Apple Collaboration

The athletic brand and tech giant may come together in the near future

For those looking for wearable tech that’s significantly less nerdy than Google Glass and the Apple Watch, you may not be looking for long.

TIME Gadgets

Teens Aren’t So Hot on the Apple Watch

Apple Unveils iPhone 6
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on September 9, 2014 in Cupertino, California.

It may be the $350 starting price tag

Fairly or not, teenagers are often seen as arbiters of taste in the tech sector. So it might be a little disconcerting for Apple that they’re expressing little interest in the company’s upcoming Apple Watch, according to a new survey by an investment bank.

The Piper Jaffray survey of 7,200 teens, conducted in person and online across 41 states, aims to find out about teens’ consumption habits and technological preferences. While Apple’s iPhone was popular among the teens surveyed—two-thirds said they had one—just 16% said they were interested in buying an Apple Watch, according to Re/Code. Currently just 7% of the teens surveyed own a smartwatch, numbers that reflect their slow adoption across the board. The Apple Watch’s price tag, which starts at $350, could be one factor muting teens’ interest.

There is some good news for Apple in the survey as well. 54% of teens said they own an iPad, compared to 16% with an Android tablet and 6% with a Kindle Fire. Beats by Dre headphones, a part of the Beats Electronics company that Apple is buying for $3 billion, are also growing in popularity among young people.

Overall, kids prefer to splurge on many things besides electronics. Teens surveyed spend 21% of their money on clothes, 9% on their cars and 8% on shoes, compared to 7% on gadgets.

TIME

How Apple Is Invading Our Bodies

Apple Watch Cover
TIME Photo-illustration. Hand: Milos Luzanin–Alamy

The Silicon Valley giant has redrawn the line that separates our technology and ourselves. That may not be a good thing

For the full story, read this week’s TIME magazine.

With the unveiling of the Apple Watch Tuesday in Cupertino, California, Apple is attempting to put technology somewhere where it’s never been particularly welcome. Like a pushy date, the Apple Watch wants to get intimate with us in a way we’re not entirely used to or prepared for. This isn’t just a new product, this is technology attempting to colonize our bodies.

The Apple Watch is very personal—“personal” and “intimate” were words that Apple CEO Tim Cook and his colleagues used over and over again when presenting it to the public for the first time. That’s where the watch is likely to change things, because it does something computers aren’t generally supposed to: it lives on your body. It perches on your wrist, like one of Cinderella’s helpful bluebirds. It gets closer than we’re used technology getting. It gets inside your personal bubble. We’re used to technology being safely Other, but the Apple Watch wants to snuggle up and become part of your Self.

This is new, and slightly unnerving. When technologies get adopted as fast as we tend to adopt Apple’s products, there are always unintended consequences. When the iPhone came out it was praised to the skies as a design and engineering marvel, because it is one, but no one really understood what it would be like to have it in our lives. Nobody anticipated the way iPhones exert a constant gravitational tug on our attention. Do I have e-mail? What’s happening on Twitter? Could I get away with playing Tiny Wings at this meeting? When you’re carrying a smartphone, your attention is never entirely undivided.

The reality of living with an iPhone, or any smart, connected device, is that it makes reality feel just that little bit less real. One gets over-connected, to the point where the thoughts and opinions of distant anonymous strangers start to feel more urgent than those of your loved ones who are in the same room as you. One forgets how to be alone and undistracted. Ironically enough experiences don’t feel fully real till you’ve used your phone to make them virtual—tweeted them or tumbled them or Instagrammed them or YouTubed them, and the world has congratulated you for doing so. Smartphones create needs we never had before, and were probably better off without.

The great thing about the Apple Watch is that it’s always there—you don’t even have to take it out of your bag to look at it, the way you would with an iPhone. But unlike an iPhone you can’t put the Apple Watch away either. It’s always with you. During the company’s press event the artist Banksy posted a drawing to his Twitter feed of an iPhone growing roots that strangle and sink into the wrist of the hand holding it. You can see where he was coming from. This is technology establishing a new beachhead. To wear a device as powerful as the Apple Watch makes you ever so slightly post-human.

What might post-humanity be like? The paradox of a wearable device is that it both gives you control and takes it away at the same time. Consider the watch’s fitness applications. They capture all data that your body generates, your heart and activity and so on, gathers it up and stores and returns it to you in a form you can use. Once the development community gets through apping it, there’s no telling what else it might gather. This will change your experience of your body. The wristwatch made the idea of not knowing what time it was seem bizarre; in five years it might seem bizarre not to know how many calories you’ve eaten today, or what your resting heart rate is.

But wearables also ask you to give up control. Your phone will start telling you what you should and shouldn’t eat and how far you should run. It’s going to get in between you and your body and mediate that relationship. Wearables will make your physical self visible to the virtual world in the form of information, an indelible digital body-print, and that information is going to behave like any other information behaves these days. It will be copied and circulated. It will go places you don’t expect. People will use that information to track you and market to you. It will be bought and sold and leaked—imagine a data-spill comparable to the recent iCloud leak, only with Apple Watch data instead of naked selfies.

The Apple Watch represents a redrawing of the map that locates technology in one place and our bodies in another. The line between the two will never be as easy to find again. Once you’re OK with wearing technology, the only way forward is inward: the next product launch after the Apple Watch would logically be the iMplant. If Apple succeeds in legitimizing wearables as a category, it will have successfully established the founding node in a network that could spread throughout our bodies, with Apple setting the standards. Then we’ll really have to decide how much control we want—and what we’re prepared to give up for it.

TIME Apple

Apple’s Watch Will Make People and Computers More Intimate

The new device will bring us one step closer to human-machine symbiosis

A fundamental quest of the digital age has been to make our devices more personal. Steve Jobs was the Zen master of this, and he ingrained it into the DNA of Apple. That was reflected in the Apple Watch that current Apple CEO Tim Cook and his team launched this week, the latest leap toward creating a more intimate connection between people and computers.

The great pioneer of computer personalization was Vannevar Bush, an MIT engineering dean who oversaw scientific research for the U.S. government during World War II. In 1945 he wrote a seminal article titled “As We May Think” for the Atlantic that envisioned a personal information device that he called a memex. A person would be able to store all of his communications and information in it, and it would serve as “an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.” The word intimate was key, and it was one that Cook used when describing the Apple Watch.

Other ingenious innovators enhanced the intimacy between computers and humans. J. C. R. Licklider, an MIT psychologist and engineer who best deserves the title of father of the Internet, helped design a massive U.S. air defense system that involved networked computers in twenty-three tracking centers. He created easy and intuitive graphic displays, since the nation’s fate might depend on the ability of a console jockey to assess data correctly and respond instantly. He called his approach “man-computer symbiosis.” As he explained, “human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly.” Douglas Engelbart, an acolyte of Bush and Licklider, invented the mouse as part of his mission to make the connection between humans and computers more personal, and at Xerox PARC, Alan Kay and others came up with friendly screen displays with folders and icons that users could point to and click.

For the Macintosh that he launched at the Flint Center thirty years ago, Jobs famously appropriated the graphical user interface from Xerox PARC, quoting Picasso as saying that “great artists steal.” He had an intuitive genius for making devices that established an intimate connection with the user. The iPod, for example, performed the simple but magical task of putting a thousand songs in your pocket. It harkened back to another great triumph of personalization. In 1954, Pat Haggerty of Texas Instruments was looking for a way to create a mass market for transistors. He came up with the idea of a pocket radio. The radio no longer would be a living-room appliance to be shared; it became a personal device that allowed you to listen to your own music where and when you wished—even if it was music that your parents wanted to ban.

Indeed, there was a symbiotic relationship between the advent of the transistor radio and the rise of rock and roll. The rebellious new music made every kid want a radio. And the fact that the radios could be taken to the beach or the basement, away from the disapproving ears and dial-controlling fingers of parents, allowed the music to flourish. Its plastic case came, iPod-like, in four colors: black, ivory, Mandarin Red, and Cloud Gray. Within a year, 100,000 had been sold, making it one of the most popular new products in history.

In the decades since Bush envisioned the intimate and personal memex, a competing school of computer science has set its sights on artificial intelligence, repeatedly predicting the arrival of machines that could think without us, perhaps even make us irrelevant. That goal has been elusive, a mirage always a few decades away. The Apple Watch, designed to touch our wrists and beat with our hearts, again shows the greater power of the approach that Bush and Licklider proposed, that of seeking an intimate symbiosis and deeply personal partnership between humans and machines.

Walter Isaacson’s history of the digital age, The Innovators, will be published in October.

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