The week in gadgets: ambient backscatter, TREWGrip mobile typing and EISA award winners

19 Aug 2013

Prototype devices developed at University of Washington

A look at gadget happenings, as US researchers develop wireless devices that can communicate without a power source, Outlier Technologies has an idea that could turn mobile typing on its head, and Sony, LG and HTC celebrate EISA recognition.

Batteries not included

A team of researchers in the US have developed wireless devices that can send and receive data without the need for a battery or other power source to do so.

These prototype devices use ‘ambient backscatter’, reports the MIT Technology Review, which means they derive the energy needed to power data transfer from radio waves found all around us from TV, radio and Wi-Fi broadcast.

Future Human

Several prototypes have been made by Shyam Gollakota and a team of researchers in University of Washington. Two of these are credit card-sized gizmos with antennas and, in the video below, you can see how these cards can be used to transfer funds for contactless payments. In the video, the LEDs, sensors, microcontrollers and wireless communication are all powered by ambient TV signals.


Other uses for the power-free devices could include connecting devices and sensors about the house to help solve everyday problems like finding your keys.

So far, the devices can transfer data at a rate of up to 1kb/s, which is enough to share sensor readings or other small pieces of information. They have a range of about 2.5 feet but the ambition is to expand this to about 20 feet.

TREWGrip: a new take on mobile typing

Outlier Technologies, a mobile technology firm based in Ohio, US, recently launched a new patent-pending mobile hardware device called TREWGrip, which takes the traditional QWERTY keyboard and straps it the back of mobile devices for rear-typing.


According to its creators, TREWGrip allows users to use the same muscle memory acquired from years of typing on traditional QWERTY keyboards and apply this to a new keyboard adapted for mobile. This Mobile QWERTY layout was tested during the Cincy Typing Challenge on 25 July where finalists were given five days to learn TREWGrip’s key layout. The results of this challenge have shown that typists can achieve 90pc of their usual QWERTY typing speed after just five to 10 hours of practice on the TREWGrip.

Outlier Technologies is now running a Kickstarter campaign to further promote rear-typing and secure funding for a next round of development.

EISA award-winners

Last week saw the winners of the European Imaging and Sound Association (EISA) Awards 2013-2014 announced, recognising leading technology in television, digital imaging, home theatre and mobile devices.

Sony took home five product of the year awards, including European Advanced Camera of the Year for the 24.3MP SLT-A99; European Compact Camera of the Year for the DSC-HX50/HX50V pocket-sized travel camera with a 30x zoom; European TV of the Year for the W9 Bravia TV (KDL-55W905A) and its stunning Triluminos Display and X-Reality Pro engine; and European Tablet of the Year for the slim, lightweight and water-resistant Xperia Tablet Z 10.1-inch Android tablet.

LG Electronics’ 55-inch Curved OLED TV (model 55EA9800) was awarded European Design TV of the Year. The 4mm-thin TV set first unveiled at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show features a gently curved IMAX-like screen, Cinema 3D technology, and design that makes it look like it’s floating on air.

Finally, HTC was awarded for the HTC One, named Best European Advanced Smartphone. Impressed by the phone’s innovative camera technology and apps, plus the inclusion of features like Beats Audio, the EISA jury declared, “This HTC smartphone is truly One of a kind.”

HTC now adds this accolade to the HTC One’s trophy cabinet, along with GSMA’s Best Mobile Handset Device or Tablet at Mobile World Congress 2013 and Computex Taipei’s Gold Medal award for Design & Innovation.

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Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic