Technology on your ear: Japanese researchers test wearable PC

JAPAN-SCIENCE-HEALTH-ELECTRONICSA tiny personal computer that is worn on the ear and can be controlled with the blink of an eye or the click of a tongue is being tested in Japan.

The 17-gram (0.59-ounce) wireless device has Bluetooth capability and is equipped with a GPS,compass, gyro-sensor, battery, barometer, speaker and microphone.

Wearable computing is thought by many commentators to be the next big thing in technology, with products such as Google Glass at the forefront.

The device, known at the moment as the “Ear-clip-type Wearable PC” has microchip and data storage, enabling users to load software, said engineer Kazuhiro Taniguchi of Hiroshima City University.

Its designs are based on traditional “ikebana” flower arrangements.


“We have made this with the basic idea that people will wear it in the same way they wear earrings,” Taniguchi told AFP in a recent interview as he showcased a black prototype.

The system, which developers are hoping to have ready for Christmas 2015, can be connected to an iPod or other gadget and would allow the user to navigate through software programmes using facial expressions, such as a raised eyebrow, a stuck-out tongue, a wiggle of the nose or by clenching teeth.

The device uses infrared sensors that monitor tiny movements inside the ear, which differ depending on how the eyes and mouth move.

Wearable-PC-3Because the user does not have to move either hand, its developers say it can serve as “a third hand” for everyone from caregivers to rock-climbers, motorbike riders to astronauts, as well as people with disabilities.

“Supposing I climb a mountain, look at the sky at night and see a bright star up there, it could tell me what it is,” Taniguchi said.

“As it knows what altitude I’m at, which direction I’m looking and at what angle, it could tell me, ‘The bright star you are seeing now is Sirius’.

“Using a smartphone to connect to the Internet would mean you could be automatically put in touch with people in faraway places who are doing the same thing as you.

An on board accelerometer could tell when the user falls and instruct the smartphone to pass information to relatives, or call an ambulance based on GPS data.


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Native apps

Google Android operating systemNative apps are platform-specific software specifically built for devices like Android or iPhone.

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Hybrid apps

Hybrid apps are just mobile-optimized webpages that look like an app. They are run by a mobile browser and they render HTML web pages and are typically written in HTML5.

Google Android operating systemIn a Hybrid app, one set of code can work on various devices without having to do much device specific coding, even though it will compromise on performance and features, you don’t need to maintain different software for various devices for the same application.

Users initially access them as they would access any web page. Then they navigate to a special URL and have the option of “installing”. There is nothing to install actually, as they are only bookmarking that page on their home screen.

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HTML5 web apps are becoming increasingly popular; with HTML5, one can obtain functionality similar to that of a native app within the browser. Nowadays, as more and more sites use HTML5, the distinction between web apps and standard web pages are becoming narrower.

Resources: Native app development vs hybrid app development

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