Gadgets

Some experts think wearable technology – from sleep monitors to fitness bands – could be the next frontier in how companies monitor their workers, further blurring the lines between our work and private lives.

Over the next four days Sarah O’Connor, the Financial Times’ Employment Correspondent will be fitted out in wearable gadgets while she works, to see if the personal data they generate really would be useful to managers – and whether workers could learn to live with it.

Follow her regular updates via the Wearables at Work Facebook page, where you’ll find her updates, videos, and thoughts on the project. She’ll be tweeting about the project using the #wearables hashtag, and each day, we’ll storify a selection of the Facebook posts and bring it here to the Techblog.

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Richard Waters

You’re standing on the surface of Mars. You look down and marvel at the detail, then up to the horizon, following the ridge of mountains around to your left. You jump: the Mars Rover is right behind your left shoulder, taller than you are, one of its cameras slanted to the side and looking like a pet robot waiting for an order.

This isn’t some gamer version of Mars. It’s the real thing. Every rock, in clear 3D. In front of you stands the bronze avatar of a scientist ready to talk about the experiments you’re going to perform.

Microsoft has lacked the “wow” factor for some time. It’s been left to Google, Apple and Facebook, with its acquisition of virtual reality company Oculus, to set the standards in technical daring and creative ambition.

Not any more. With HoloLens, the “mixed reality” headset it unveiled on Wednesday, Microsoft is suddenly a contender in one of the most exciting races in the tech world: to mix the real and virtual worlds in ways that transform both.

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By Jonathan Soble and Lindsay Whipp

OK, so you know selfies are a thing – who doesn’t? But what about encasing that selfie-taking mobile phone in a case shaped like a Chanel perfume bottle?

Meet the Smelfie (Perfume + Selfie) – a thing, apparently, among women in China. And it hasn’t escaped the notice of product designers at Sony. Read more

goog3

Smart watches, TVs and cars featured prominently on Wednesday as Google laid out its plans for pushing its Android smartphone software into new fields. At its annual I/O developer event in San Francisco, “wearables” had pride of place, with news that the first smartwatches based on Android Wear are now on sale – before Apple unveils its much-anticipated iWatch. With Android TV and Android Auto, on the other hand, Google was playing catch up with Apple. The event pointed to how the battle for the next big tech markets beyond the smartphone will be fought. Richard Waters and Tim Bradshaw were at the Moscone Center for this round. 

Chris Nuttall

Livescribe has written a third chapter in the story of its development of a digital pen that also records audio, with the launch of the Bluetooth-enabled Livescribe 3 following the Wi-Fi Sky version and the original Echo device.

The fact that the company will continue to sell the Echo and Sky alongside the 3 suggests it has yet to come up with the perfect smartpen and that there are strengths and weaknesses to each version – something I discovered as a longtime user in trying out 3 and its new app. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

On a brisk, foggy Tuesdsay morning in San Francisco, Apple unveiled the iPad Air, a new tablet which is thinner and faster than the previous devices, in a bid to consolidate its grip on the high end of the tablet market.

In what it called the “lightest full-sized tablet in the world”, Apple said it had a “dramatically different experience” but the new tablet did not include the fingerprint reader that some had expected after it was introduced for the latest iPhone. The company also unveiled a new iPad mini and cut the cost of the original smaller tablet to $299, the cheapest price for an iPad ever.

Revealing a whole host of updates from mobile apps to its Mac OS update, it announced that it would now offer its software for free. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said the move was “turning the industry on its ear”.

Tim Bradshaw and Hannah Kuchler followed the launch for the FT’s Apple liveblog as Tim Cook took to the stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in downtown San Francisco.

 

Sarah Mishkin

Environmentally conscious or just clumsy people buying a smartphone are better off with a new Samsung or Motorola than with one of the new iPhones.

A new ranking from iFixit, a group that specialises in tearing apart phones to figure out to repair them, looks how easy it is to fix the top smartphones on the market. Read more

Back of Google Nexus 10

Google’s latest addition to its hardware range, the Nexus 10, has landed. This time Google partnered with Samsung to produce an iPad-beating spec sheet and what they tout as the ‘highest resolution display in the world’. Priced at £319 in the UK and $399 in the US, could the Nexus 10 tempt Android holdouts? Read more

Chris Nuttall

New smartpen connects to a wireless network

Livescribe’s digital pen has finally been set free from the need to tether it to a computer to synchronise its text and audio capture, with the release of a Wi-Fi model that saves documents in the cloud.

Its Sky Wi-Fi smartpen, launched on Monday, connects to a wireless network and automatically uploads the pen’s sessions to the Evernote note-capturing service. Read more

The iPad was on everyone’s lips this week, even if there was puzzlement over what exactly to call the third generation tablet. It was not the iPad 3 or iPad HD as expected, but “the new iPad,” according to Apple. Name apart, the latest version’s hardware divided fans into two camps: those who were disappointed by the modest changes and those who claimed the announcement was “truly huge” for Apple.

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Chris Nuttall

The 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show gets underway in Las Vegas this week with more than 50 tablets, between 30 and 50 Ultrabook notebooks and a record number of smartphones expected to be introduced.

TV manufacturers will show new screen technology that goes beyond current high-definition standards and improvements in Smart TV interfaces are expected. We will be fighting through crushing crowds and squeezing into packed press conferences to cover the new gadgets, key launches and technology news from Las Vegas. Our coverage this week can be found here.

Apple iPad and iPhone 

 

If 2010 was Apple’s year in personal technology, with the launch of the iPad and major redesigns for the iPhone, MacBook Air and Apple TV, it is harder to call the winners of 2011, with Apple happy with incremental updates and the competition still striving to catch up.

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iPhone user

The iPhone 4S includes a new voice recognition feature

You don’t have to go far to get the best business education degree these days. In my case, it is only 1.8 miles – or so Siri, my “humble personal assistant”, advised when I asked her the other day where the best such learning could be found.

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Chris Nuttall

With the holiday shopping season now underway this Black Friday in the US and the Christmas rush also begun in the UK and elsewhere,  there are many bargains to be had in tablets, laptops, digital cameras and big-screen TVs.

There are too many to list here (Retrevo is keeping tabs on some of them), but consider these 10 recommendations instead  for stocking fillers under $100 or £100, as the case may be. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Time has been ticking for Wimm Labs to get its watch-like Android device to consumers in time for the holiday season. Its release to developers on Wednesday, two months later than planned, suggests it won’t be making any Christmas lists.

Nevertheless, after testing it, the Wimm One seems not far off a finished product to me and the potential is there for third-party “micro apps” to give it much more appeal. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Brace yourselves for a health-embracing bracelet from Jawbone, maker of cool Bluetooth headsets and the Jambox wireless speaker.

UP is the name of the wristband and its associated iPhone app and Jawbone is pricing it at $99.99, with availability from Sunday in the US and November 17 in the UK. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Amid all the Apple hoopla of the last fortnight, there has been surprisingly little mention of the potential impact of the new iOS5 on the games console industry.

Combining Apple TV with any iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad running the latest software allows whatever is on the screen of the handheld to appear simultaneously on the big screen, through Airplay Mirroring – including games. The result is something which looks pretty similar to Nintendo’s planned Wii U console, combining a touchscreen wireless controller with traditional console-style gaming. Read more

In a world of smartphones and tablet devices, Hewlett-Packard’s 12c is a relic of the 1980s. An electronic device with one fundamental function: financial calculations. And, by today’s standards, not even a particularly sophisticated financial calculator.

Yet this month, it is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a special “Platinum” edition. The company is coy about figures but it is estimated to sell tens of thousands of these $70 calculators every year. It has never been out of production.

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The whole Taylor family operates a wide mix of smartphones, perhaps reflecting differences in our personalities and preferences.

My two younger daughters (in their 20s) each run Google Android handsets (HTC and Samsung); my son, who lives in the UK, loves his BlackBerry Bold because of its mobile e-mail and free BlackBerry Messenger services; and my eldest daughter, a television field producer in San Francisco, uses a BlackBerry for work and an iPhone 4 for everything else “because it’s cool”. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Travelling gadget-light is easy these days, with smartphones and tablets now as powerful as PCs and fulfilling multiple functions.

However, this week’s Personal Technology column in the FT’s Business Life section looks at eight devices to take on vacation that weigh no more in total than a traditional laptop. You can read the column here and click on the links for fuller reviews of the MacBook Air, iPad 2, Seagate GoFlex Satellite, Nook 2nd Edition, Motorola Photon 4G and Sony 3D Bloggie HD.