Gadgets of the month

30 Jul 2012

We take a look back at some of the biggest gadget news this month and look ahead at what’s to come.

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This month…

Ouya console set to disrupt games industry

A proposed games console running on the Android operating system and a Tegra3 quad processor has raised more than US$5.7m in funding on Kickstarter. The original funding target for the Ouya console was US$950,000 – a figure that was reached within eight hours of going live.

Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of donors, Ouya’s creators have now added game streaming through OnLive and an exclusive game to the mix.

Feeling that the console market is pushing developers away, leading to more games created for smartphones and tablets, the team behind Ouya decided to create a developer-friendly console that welcomes hacks and creativity.

A potentially disruptive force to the likes of Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation, the Ouya console is made to be hacked and enhanced by developers, who are then encouraged to release free-to-play games for the system.

The team plans to bring the Ouya console to market by 2013, reaching Kickstarter donors by March, at a price tag of US$95.

An iPhone 4 case that packs a punch

This month we’ve seen plenty of creative iPhone covers, from Pong’s colourful, radiation-reducing, signal-boosting covers,  to sustainable hand-carved wooden covers from Carve, to transparent, form-fitting, waterproof and disinfectable skins for healthcare workers.

But Yellow Jacket has created an iPhone 4 case that protects more than just the phone, with a built-in stun gun for personal protection. Easily deployed with one hand in less than two seconds, the stun gun iPhone cover can deliver 650,000 volts.

A battery pack is also built-in, allowing up to 20 hours of additional standby battery, the company claims.

Yellow Jacket is said to be developing similar covers for the HTC Evo, Samsung Galaxy and future iPhone models.

Father of wearable tech assaulted in Parisian McDonald’s

Inventor Steve Mann has been wearing a computer vision system that has been fixed to his skull for the past 13 years or so. The EyeTap device is similar to Google Glass – only less easily removed. This fact appears to have been lost on two men who attempted to pull the device from Mann’s head in a McDonald’s restaurant on Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris earlier this month.

Mann was holidaying with his family and was completely caught off guard by the incident. Documenting the entire experience on his blog, Mann notes that at least one of the men involved was a McDonald’s employee who attempted to conceal his nametag. McDonald’s has admitted employees approached Mann but denies that the altercation was in any way physical, even though images retrieved from the device show the nametag-wearing man with his hand on it and the other man tearing up documents that Mann had handed over to explain his use of the system.

The event has since sparked questions on whether or not the general public is ready for wearable technology, particularly in the case of businesses that do not permit photographs to be taken on premises.

Coming soon…

New contenders for the smartphone market?

This month saw Samsung retain its position as the world’s top smartphone vendor, but by next year the landscape may change dramatically with two new contenders rumoured to be entering the mix. Unnamed sources have been saying that HTC and Facebook are set to team up on a new smartphone. Rumours that the social network is branching out into hardware have been doing the rounds for quite some time now, and the latest earmark a Facebook smartphone for a 2013 release.

And Facebook’s not the only tech giant expected to grace the smartphone market soon. Amazon, creator of the Kindle and allegedly planning to release five or six more tablets in the coming months, apparently plans to make a move into smartphone manufacturing, with rumours that a device is already being tested in Asia.

Anticipation and frustration ahead of fifth iPhone launch

The fifth iteration of the iPhone, unofficially referred to as the iPhone 5, is expected to hit retailers some time in autumn, and analysts say advance demand for the device is higher than any previous iPhone.

It’s predicted that the iPhone 5 will run on iOS 6 and feature a larger display, improved camera, and 4G/LTE capability. But there are some features fans of the Apple smartphone won’t be so excited about. To allow for improvements like boosted battery performance and NFC capability, Apple is rumoured to have shrunk the 30-pin connector port to 19 pins – making a wide range of iPhone accessories used today incompatible with the new model.

The good news is that Apple is apparently planning to release an adapter for the new port, though whether this will be bundled with the device or sold separately, or be suitable for all accessories, remains to be seen.

Many disgruntled users have pointed out that this 19-pin port is still bigger than a micro-USB, a common connector used by most other smartphones, which goes to show how stubborn Apple can be when it comes to maintaining exclusivity with its devices and accessories.

Vodafone Ireland Gadgets of the Month is made possible by Vodafone Ireland

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic