SAN FRANCISCO — A couple dozen entrepreneurs trying to leap ahead of today's smartphone juggernaut invaded San Francisco's Old Mint building to show their smart watches, smart glasses, and other digital accoutrements at the inaugural Glazed Conference here.
The former chief technology officer of Citibank fueled the excitement by previewing what he called a "virtual retinal display for the connected self." Yobie Benjamin (below) briefly flashed a black cube he claimed will "fundamentally alter the way we view and create data and media."
The unnamed device basically is a high-resolution heads-up display based on a MEMS micromirror array from startup Avegant. The company aims to show working prototypes at the Consumer Electronics Show in January and ship product in October 2014 at a target price of $799.
"This is not for every teenager out there," said Benjamin, who joined the startup as chief operating officer and chief software officer.
The device comes with its own operating system, called Nix. The OS aims to more fully exercise an unnamed off-the-shelf multicore mobile SoC that drives the array.
The MEMS chip was developed by Allan Evans who holds a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan. He holds at least two patents for MEMS used in drug delivery. The startup has taken $1.5 million in seed funding and is about to close a Series A round.
Avegent was perhaps the most secretive of a handful of hardware startups with glasses and watches at the Glazed event.
Challenging Google Glass
Kayvan Mirza (above) was working as an engineer on rear-projection TVs at Thomson about eight years ago when he and colleagues spun off a company to work on heads-up displays. The Ora-S from Optinvent is a transparent high-res color display that borrows techniques developed at Nokia and Sony.
The company's key invention is a low-cost, machine-manufacturable, plastic device that acts as a display when paired with special optics and a liquid-crystal-on-silicon device (bottom). The startup aims to sell the displays for about $950 starting in December, initially aiming at business markets, then expanding into consumer sales.
Mirza claims his glasses represent a significant improvement in resolution, scalability, and usability over the components used in Google Glass. The startup wants to create its own ecosystem of developers using its SDK. It took in $6 million in seed funding and is seeking an A series round.
Move over, Dick Tracy
Laurent Le Pen (above) showed his OMate, one of a handful of smart watches at Glazed.
Le Pen started the company to develop smart watch software after working in China for Philips's mobile group. To get the software to market he decided to develop his own watch, garnering more than a million dollars in funding from a Kickstarter campaign.
The watch is based on Android running on the Mediatek 6572 chip, a 1.3 GHz dual-core SoC. The watch also supports 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, and 3G cellular for voice and data. It sports a 240 x 240 pixel display and gets about a day of life from its 600 milliAmpHour flat lithium polymer battery.
The watch ships this month in 4 and 8 Gbyte versions for $249 and $299. Besides the usual apps, it has a slot for a micro SIM card and does image and video capture on an Omnivision sensor with full high-def video playback.
Omate shows its faces
Omate showed a working version of its phone showing its basic menus, and its ability to access Twitter and make video updates on Facebook.
Hacker takes a swipe
Yu Jiang Tham won a hackathon at the Glazed event for his work building a prototype smart watch called Xatch that responds to gestures. Tham is a QA software engineer at Apple who took part in the hackathon.
Tham used the Leap Motion gesture recognizer put into a rough smart watch prototype. He showed it responding to gestures to open and close the watch and navigate through menus. Next step: He plans to support handwriting recognition based on words written in the air.
Meet Intel's Mr. Quark
Steven T. Holmes (above) a vice president of the new devices group at Intel that is developing its Quark processor, announced in September, targeting a wide range of low-end embedded consumer and industrial systems.
A year ago Holmes got a call from his former boss at Palm, Mike Bell, who was running Intel's mobile group and starting a new low-end skunkworks. Intel's new chief executive, Brian Krzanich (a.k.a. BK), decided to break the group out as a standalone unit, currently with about 120 people and growing.
"BK wanted us to be very agile and startup-like, and that was one of the things that attracted me -- we are putting together a very talented team," Homes told EE Times in a brief interview at Glazed.
Holmes had been working on the Fuel Band, smart shoes, and other wearable products for a division of Nike when he got the call to join Intel. The new group will develop everything from silicon to cloud services for a range of embedded systems, he said.
The first Quark chips sample before the end of the year. It remains to be seen just how the x86 devices will differentiate themselves from an existing world of microcontrollers.
Watches, shoes, earpiece, and more
Basis showed off its $199 medical monitor in the form of a smart watch (above) the device includes a blood flow sensor, accelerometer, and sweat and temperature monitors.
Plantronics talked about its prototype that builds in several sensors and an API for developers (below). It includes a capacitive touch sensor so the system can tell when the user is no longer wearing it and route audio for calls back to a handset.
Over lunch, Quin Sandler talked about a smart shoe his father, a mechanical engineer, developed for enthusiasts as part of their startup called Plantiga. And in the demo room Printrbot showed its $400 desktop 3D printer (bottom).
More than a dozen attendees wore their Google Glass devices to the event (above). That was held at the Old Mint building in San Francisco (below).