The week in gadgets: electric urban unicycle, second-gen Chromebook Pixel and Google Glass

2 Mar 2015

Mocycl One. Photo by Mocycl Technologies

A look at gadget happenings, as Google Glass is reinvigorated, Chromebook Pixel 2 is accidentally confirmed, Mocycl revolutionises urban transport, and cryogenic optical lattice clocks keep good time.

Mo’ transport options from Mocycl

An Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign launched in February is seeking a modest goal of €5,000 to fund production of the Mocycl One, a portable, electric self-balancing unicycle.

Mocycl Technologies, a Barcelona-based company, believes in personal sustainable transport and so the 9kg Mocycl One is meant to be handy enough to carry around when you don’t need it and can be charged in a standard electric socket.

Lauding it as the best thing since the bicycle, Mocycl Technologies claims the Mocycl One charges in 45 minutes and can travel at 18km per hour and for a 20km stretch autonomously. In addition, a sensitive coil recycles energy while braking to keep the Mocycl One going for longer.

Mocycl electric unicycle gif

Mocycl One incorporates technology used in aircraft and is fully waterproof. It stays upright thanks to an internal gyroscope and its makers claim it’s as easy to learn to ride as a bicycle. As you ride, an on-board computer reacts hundreds of times per second to your movement, always aiming to keep you upright.

The case for a single-wheeled electric vehicle is based on the demand for sustainable forms of transport for urban apartment-dwellers with no room for bicycles. Barcelona will serve as a test bed for this new form of transport but the company’s aim is to eventually take Europe by storm.

Chromebook Pixel 2 accidentally confirmed

Google executive Renee Niemi stated while speaking at the TeamWork 2015 event in San Diego last Monday, 23 February, that a second-generation Chromebook Pixel will launch soon. Niemi didn’t give away much in terms of details but it seems she still spoke out of turn as video footage of her comments has since been removed from YouTube.

But that wasn’t fast enough to stop the eager ears from OMG! Chrome! listening in, and the rumours of a Chromebook Pixel 2 have kicked into gear.

According to reports on Niemi’s comments, the audience for the high-spec device will be limited and so the Chrome OS laptop will likely only see a limited production run.

The original Chromebook Pixel launched in 2013 priced at US$1,299 and came equipped with a high-res display and built-in touchscreen. However, the introduction of a high-priced device in a range that prides itself on providing low-cost computing solutions failed to make a significant impact on consumers.

The Chromebook Pixel 2, which will target developers, is expected to sport similar specs and a 12.8-inch display with high pixel density.

Google Glass 2 prototypes said to be in the wild

Google Glass may have gone back under wraps in development with a whimper earlier this year, but it seems the pioneering wearable tech from Google still has a spark keeping it alight, and that’s the Google Glass at Work programme.

Rumour has it that a number of prototypes have been seeded out to select partners, most likely those start-ups involved in the Google Glass at Work programme. These 10 early-stage companies range in specialty from med-tech to business software to broadcast media, but what they all have in common is their involvement in the effort to create enterprise solutions for Google Glass.

“According to several sources”, 9to5Google reports, Google Glass 2 prototypes have been in the wild since as early as October last year. Since then, the engineering team behind Google Glass has had a reshuffle, including the introduction of Tony Fadell, the ‘iPod godfather’, at the top. The change in management has also come with a change of tack, as Fadell has promised that future Google Glass releases won’t be revealed to the public until they’re fully cooked.

Tokyo team build clocks that won’t waste a second for billions of years

A team at University of Tokyo have built a pair of cryogenic optical lattice clocks with 18-digit accuracy. That is to say that these clocks will lose a second only evry 30bn years – which is longer than the Earth is even known to have existed.

Led by Prof Hidetoshi Katori, the team at the university’s graduate school of engineering found a way to measure time that far surpasses current atomic clocks. Using an optical lattice structure – which is like an egg carton made using a laser – strontium atoms cooled to absolute zero could be contained, like eggs in a tray, and then measured at once.

Optical lattice structure

Schematic representation of an optical lattice. Image by Hidetoshi Katori

Two clocks were built on this premise, one in the University of Tokyo lab and another at RIKEN, a natural sciences research institute located just outside Tokyo. The two clocks were connected via optical fibre and, after one month, it was determined by the research team that it would take up to 30bn years for them to develop a one-second difference in their time-keeping.

The results of the study were published in the journal Nature Photonics.

This technology could be useful for satellite-based GPS and communications networks and other precision technologies. It could even result in a redefinition of the second.

Optical Lattice Clocks

Optical lattice clock. Photo by Prof Hidetoshi Katori

However, unlike the cesium atom clock, which is accurate to the second for up to 30m years,  these optical lattice clocks resemble large old computers and are nowhere near capable of being worn on your wrist like the Cesium 133 watch.

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.