January 30, 2011

iFixit Kinect TeardownI’ve written here and there about how 3D is not the only intriguing capability of the Nintendo 3DS and the components of the system generally work well together and complement each other. But two in particular can be at odds with each other – the 3D screen and the gyroscope.

One tradeoff of the 3DS’ autostereoscopic display is that the 3D effect needs to reorient if the viewing angle moves too far from its sweet spot; this causes a dark wave to pass over the screen. Of course, gyroscopes invite such reorientation since they respond to it to enhance gameplay.

Recently, I discussed this challenge with Greg Galvin, CEO of Kionix, a company that produces accelerometers and gyroscopes, and he held out hope for its reconciliation. The key, he self-servingly notes, is that the sensors in many of today’s products – while a step up from the early efforts that are in the original Wii controller – aren’t nearly as sensitive as they could be. Higher-end components, though, are more precise and require far less of a tilt to produce the same effect.

There must be a fine line, though, between subtlety and the natural tilting and shaking that could be a normal byproduct of playing a handheld game. It seems similar to the kind of intelligence Synaptics and others are addressing with palm or wrist detection on touchscreens to differentiate purposeful contact from a resting part of the hand.

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December 31, 2009

imageThose planning to start 2010 on the right foot connected to a healthier body may have been interested in one of the accelerometers married to a monitoring Web site such as the Fitbit or the Philips DirectLife. However, only one of those is currently available as production delays have plagued the Fitbit and the pre-order backlog is scheduled to start shipping again after the end of January.

Enter the DirectLife, which lacks the OLED display of the Fitbit but is waterproof; Philips claims you can even swim with it. The company has also integrated the services of human coaches to help motivate buyers to keep using the DirectLife device.

But their services cost $12.95 per month. What if you want to keep using the DirectLife without their counsel, simply uploading your activity and self-monitoring as you would with the Fitbit, or share the information with your own fitness counselor or coach or doctor? Too bad. If you stop paying the subscription price beyond the four months of service included with the price of the device, the little white gadget turns into a (rather ineffective judging by its bantam characteristics) paperweight, and you lose the ability to upload data.

It’s unfortunate that Philips didn’t take the Fitbit route and enable self-monitoring for free as the Nike+ site also offers, particularly in this emerging device category that faces competition from smartphones and particularly for a target customer who has no problems finding excuses.. If the counselors are good – Philips says they are pre-qualified and they’ve gotten some good early reviews – then their value should be manifest for those who want to take advantage of them after a trial.

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