TIME devices

Get Ready To Turn Your Thumb Into a Miniature Trackpad

You could soon use your phone while your hands are full

Next up in wearable tech: a device that turns your thumb into a miniature wireless trackpad.

MIT researchers are developing a device that could have a host of benefits for users juggling smart phones and regular life. Users could answer the phone while cooking, control their cell phones even when they hands are full or discreetly send a text, according to a press release.

But the researchers aren’t forgetting about style, either. Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao, a graduate student in media arts and sciences and lead author on a new paper on the device, said the thumb track pad was inspired by colorful nail decals. To that end, it will come with detachable covers in different colors so users can match their pad with their outfits.

In the end, the benefits of the thumb track pad will be in its size and ease. “It’s very unobtrusive,” Kao said. “When I put this on, it becomes part of my body. I have the power to take it off, so it still gives you control over it. But it allows this very close connection to your body.”

Researchers will present the prototype this weekend in as a conference in Seoul, but it’s unclear when, and if–, it will be available for retailers.

TIME the big picture

Why This Apple Watch Rival Is Very Important

Pebble Pebble Time

The Pebble Time offers an important alternative

The day the Pebble smartwatch went up on Kickstarter a couple of years back, I pitched in enough money that I got the device when it was finally made. The good news was the early version worked mostly as advertised. But Pebble’s early software was basic, hard to learn and unstable. Still, Pebble quickly addressed those issues, and to date the company has sold 1.1 million smartwatches — the startup was second only to Samsung in terms of smartwatch sales over the recent holiday quarter.

Not long after the first Pebble smartwatch came out, however, devices powered by Google’s Android Wear operating system hit the scene. I decided to retire my Pebble in favor of an Android smartwatch, but I kept my eye on Pebble, hoping it would continue to improve on its design. Indeed, like all good technology companies, Pebble’s team has kept making the company’s watches smarter and better. The company recently headed back to Kickstarter to raise a record $20 million for a brand new smartwatch sporting a completely new operating system with a cleaner user interface and streamlined app installation process.

That new watch, the Pebble Time, especially intrigues me. In designing it, Pebble execs looked hard at how people were using their devices and noticed a key trend — people used it in what Pebble now calls “timelines.” Built around this metaphor, the new Pebble Time will have 3 buttons connected to people’s timelines. One button is for the past and gives you things like a sleep score, calories burned, steps walked, and so on. The second button is for the present, like controlling music or checking texts. And the third button is for future items, such as a list of flight reservations coming up or dinner reservations. Pebble has also introduced smart straps that add functionality to its watches — for example, a strap with built-in GPS could add location services to the Pebble. I really like this approach, which should help Pebble stay competitive against the upcoming Apple Watch and the various Android Wear devices out there.

The new Pebble Time will be important for the smartwatch market for two reasons. First, the Android Wear operating system isn’t well designed, and most Android Wear devices have a long way to go in the style department. If you’ve got an Android device, you won’t be able to use the Apple Watch — but Pebble’s offerings give you an important alternative.

At $199 retail, the Pebble Time also offers a cheaper option for iPhone owners not ready to invest $349 or more in the Apple Watch. Those who have been using the Apple Watch tell me that it’s very intuitive and extremely powerful — but it may be more than some people need. The Pebble Time may appeal to plenty of iPhone owners who may never want or need what the Apple Watch provides (The Pebble connects with both iPhone and Android devices).

The good news for people in the market for a smartwatch is that most of them will soon have at least two platform options — Apple Watch and Pebble for iPhone owners, Android Wear and Pebble for Android users. While Apple and Android may get the lion’s share of the smartwatch market, the new Pebble Time offers a solid alternative and increases consumer choice.

 

TIME Apple

See What It’s Actually Like to Use the Apple Watch

An animated look at the Apple Watch's various function

  • The digital crown lets you open the homepage and select an app:

    Video By Jason Cipriani for Fortune; Gif by Josh Raab & Joseph Lin for TIME
  • You can then swipe between apps like Weather, Apple Maps, and Instagram:

    Video By Jason Cipriani for Fortune; Gif by Josh Raab & Joseph Lin for TIME
  • You can use the digital crown to scroll through a list of your friends and send them a message:

    Video By Jason Cipriani for Fortune; Gif by Josh Raab & Joseph Lin for TIME
  • A fitness app lets you choose a workout and set activity goals for the day:

    Video By Jason Cipriani for Fortune; Gif by Josh Raab & Joseph Lin for TIME
  • You can control your iPhone’s camera from the Apple Watch:

    Video By Jason Cipriani for Fortune; Gif by Josh Raab & Joseph Lin for TIME
  • You can customize your Apple Watch using an app on the iPhone:

    Video By Jason Cipriani for Fortune; Gif by Josh Raab & Joseph Lin for TIME
TIME Apple

Everything We Just Learned About the Apple Watch

It goes on sale April 24 and ranges from $349 to upwards of $10,000

Apple gave more details about its upcoming smartwatch, the Apple Watch, at a press briefing in San Francisco Monday. Some six months after unveiling the device, CEO Tim Cook filled in many of the blanks, such as how much various versions will cost and how long the built-in battery will last.

Cook revealed more about the device’s price. The Watch, which comes in three distinct lines and various metals, is the most customizable device the company has ever sold. The entry-level Watch Sport will cost $349 and $399, depending on the size of the body, 38 millimeters or 42 millimeters. The mid-tier Watch collection will range from $549 to $1099. The top-of-the-line Watch Edition will retail for $10,000 and up. Cook said the later device will be available in limited quantities and only in certain stores.

Apple will begin taking Watch pre-orders on April 10, and is planning to offer a preview program to let customers try the devices on in stores. The Apple Watch will go on sale April 24.

Cook also reviewed the device’s major features, including receiving and making phone calls, reading email, making wireless payments, controlling the music on a connected iPhone, and tracking exercise. Apple’s CEO touted features that let two Apple Watch owners send each other animated messages and imprints of their heart beats. Many of those features had been presented last year.

The Apple Watch will be able to run third-party apps, much like iPhones and iPads, and the firm showed off a few new examples. Kevin Lynch, the company’s vice president of technology, demonstrated a weather application powered by The Weather Channel. Another, messaging app WeChat, works on the Watch much like it does on a smartphone, allowing users to send one another text and images. Other apps included Facebook’s Instagram, ride-hailing app Uber, music app Shazam, and a ticketing system for American Airlines.

Lynch said the Watch connects to a user’s iPhone over both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, meaning the phone doesn’t necessarily have to be in close range of the watch to provide data connectivity.

Cook for the first time showed off the company’s Apple Watch iPhone software, which will allow users to download apps for the device and configure their wearable via their phones.

He also addressed the Watch’s battery life, one of the device’s biggest unanswered questions. He said the device would last 18 hours on a single charge.

Cook showed a video of former model Christy Turlington using the device. She wore the Watch during a half marathon she ran for charity in Africa. She spoke about how the device tracked her run, including distance and pace. In a departure from previous Apple presentations, Turlington then came on stage wearing the device to give a testimonial. “We want to the Apple Watch to help you prepare for your next marathon,” Cook told her.

Read next: The Apple Watch Edition Not Only Tells Time, It Also Tells Plenty About You

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Apple

Everything We Know About the Apple Watch So Far

[Time-brightcove videoid=4101479199001]

Apple will reveal more details about its latest device on Monday, March 9

The Apple Watch is arguably the company’s biggest launch in years.The upcoming wearable, expected to go on sale in April, is the first all-new product category for Apple since the introduction of the iPad in 2010. Some six months after unveiling the device, CEO Tim Cook is getting ready to take the stage and give the world more details. On Monday in San Francisco, Apple is holding a “Spring Forward” event, presumably to update press and consumers about the device’s imminent launch. Until then, here’s everything we know so far:

The event is Monday, March 9 at 10AM PST / 1PM ET. As it usually does, Apple sent out invites to the media ahead of time with a little tease about the subject matter at hand. “Spring Forward,” as the invite reads, is a joke about the recent time change and telling time.

It’s not just technology, it’s a piece of jewelry. As TIME’s hands-on with the Watch last year made clear, even more so than an iPhone or iPad, the Watch is a luxury item the company wants people to display on their bodies proudly.

Jonathan Ive is really into it. Apple’s chief designer was recently profiled extensively by the New Yorker. He went on at length about the gadget’s design and “integrity.”

Tim Cook is also excited about the device. No surprise, this is the first all-new product the company has release since Cook became CEO. He’s been traveling the world, letting details of what the Watch can do slip to Apple Store employees he’s briefed.

It runs apps much like an iPhone. Though it packs less processing power, the Watch will run apps from a variety of software developers just like other iOS devices. Many of them have been toiling away in a secret lab on Apple’s campus to get ready.

Seriously, it does a lot. For a full list of features, check out this compendium.

Apps use touch and scroll. The device has highly sensitive touch screen as well as a so-called “digital crown” for scrolling through longs lists. This is what some of the apps will be like to use on the device.

It will be highly customizable. The Watch comes in multiple metals like gold and aluminum with a variety interchangeable straps. This configurator lets enthusiasts see what the different combinations will look like.

It will be expensive (possibly very expensive). Apple said the basic model would start at $349 last fall. But estimates for higher-end models made of more luxurious materials range anywhere from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands. One after-market company is already promising a $75,000 version.

All the kinks haven’t been worked out. One of the most intriguing revelations in a recent Wall Street Journal story was that the company started out with some grand ambitions about what the Watch could do in terms of monitoring users’ health. But challenges during development forced the company to scale the first version back.

Battery life will be an issue. Cook claimed his Watch lasted a full day on a charge. But, just in case, it will come with a low-power mode simply for telling the time.

You can wear it in the shower. Or so CEO Tim Cook has said.

It will have plenty of competition. Google is pushing its own version of wearables, but so far they haven’t proven very popular.

It’s going to add a lot of revenue to Apple’s bottom line. The company’s stock is likely to benefit even from relatively modest sales.

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.

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