The week in gadgets: smashing earphones, smartphone speculation and in-car HUD

27 Jan 2014

Still from 'The Gallagher Test' by Aurisonics via YouTube

A look at gadget happenings, as speculation on the next smartphones from Apple, Samsung and Sony abounds, Aurisonics puts its tough earphones to the test, an industrial designer develops a solution for gamer rage, and Halfords plans to take HUD mainstream.

iPhones to go big

Citing “people familiar with the situation”, The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple will once again release two new iPhone models this year, one with a screen size more than 4.5 inches and another with a display bigger than 5 inches.

Currently, the largest display you can get on an iPhone is 4 inches, and even this screen size was only introduced in 2012. In recent years, smartphones with larger screen sizes have become more common and are particularly popular in China, an emerging market manufacturers want to grab hold of.

While curved screens have also been hinted at, larger displays seem more likely from Apple and the smaller model of the two is said to be nearing mass production at this point, with new releases expected in the latter half of 2014. The Wall Street Journal’s sources also claim Apple plans to drop its ‘unapologetic plastic’ casing introduced with the iPhone 5c and return to its all-metal glory.

Sony sneak peek

More smartphone secrets were revealed this week by the Xperia Blog, which published screenshots from the UI of Sony’s upcoming D6503 smartphone, codenamed Sirius, which is expected to be unveiled at Mobile World Congress next month.

Xperia Blog’s post reveals the device will operate on Android 4.4.2 and feature a number of advanced features, such as 4K recording, and Timeshift for creating slow-motion videos.

Other features for the new Sony device mimic technologies already implemented in Samsung’s flagship phones, such as smart backlight control that keeps the screen on as long as you are looking at it, and the ability to answer or reject calls and mute the ringer using gestures and motion controls.

Some unique features coming from Sony include USB DAC support for high-res audio, double-tap to wake the screen, a built-in answering machine, and stereo speakers on the top and bottom of the device.

Samsung Galaxy S5 speculation

The smartphone speculation continued this past week with word from AppleInsider that Samsung’s next smartphone – supposedly the Galaxy S5 – will feature a fingerprint sensor, much like Apple’s iPhone 5s and HTC’s One Max, based on a research note by KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

Expected later this spring, the Galaxy S5 is also expected to house a 32-bit processor along with a 5.2-inch display, 3GB RAM, 16MP rear camera, 2MP front camera and a 2,850mAh battery. It’s also said the device will support 3D gestures.

Immersion therapy for gamers

Industrial designer Sam Matson has developed a gaming headset he believes can help tackle ‘gamer rage’.

Matson’s device, Immersion, functions like a regular gaming headset, only it comes equipped with an optical pulse sensor built into the earpiece which reads minute colour changes in the users’ ear tissue in order to approximate a pulse.

Immersion gaming headset designed by Sam Matson

By tracking the user’s heart rate and providing real-time readings, Matson believes gamers could become more aware of their stress levels and, thus, learn to control them. The headset connects via Bluetooth to any computer running a game developed by Matson in the Unity game engine, which gets more difficult the higher your heart rate gets. The idea behind this is that Immersion could become a training tool for gamers to learn to keep a cool head, both in virtual reality and in real life.

Matson has filed for an international patent for Immersion.

Earphones that survive a hammering

US company Aurisonics has developed military-spec earphones made of titanium shells and Kevlar tri-weave cables – meaning they’re so tough they can survive a sledgehammer.

Rockets earphones have raised more than US$120,000 on Kickstarter – US$100,000 more than Aurisonics’ goal – with less than a week to go in its crowdfunding run. The earphones will retail in the US for US$250 a pop, but they promise not only durability but also quality audio and comfort.

Rockets are said to be more efficient at blocking out external noise, enabling users to listen at safe volume levels, and the rocket-shaped silicon skin is supposed to provide a better fit for your lugholes.

In tests, they were pounded with a 30lb mallet that looks like it came from the set of Thor, and they were the only earphones out of 100 to survive.


Halfords makes HUD mainstream

Halfords is hoping to make in-car heads-up display (HUD) technology mainstream in 2014 as it readies new navigation and entertainment devices with a number of tech companies. These motoring gadgets will project information on the vehicle’s windscreen, just below the driver’s line of sight, in order to reduce the time spent looking away from the road and at the dashboard.

“Drivers have to monitor and process a lot of information on the move, so it makes total sense to place that information in front of them so they don’t have to look away from the road,” said Dave Poulter, director of Halfords’ auto category.

“Until now, the use of HUD technology has been limited to pilots and a few premium car manufacturers but technology advances mean that it is about to enter the mainstream and make a contribution towards enhancing road safety,” he added.

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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.