February 21, 2013

Tech Thursdays: New Travel Gear to Kick Off Your Travel Year

Welcome to Tech Thursdays, penned by Miguel, tech expert and our Airport Operations Supervisor in San Jose, California. This month’s topic is new travel gadgets that Miguel suggests hot from the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (C.E.S.).

Mobile technology has picked up steam in 2012 and if this past January’s C.E.S. was any indication, innovations in mobile technology will rule most of 2013.  The Consumer Electronics Show or C.E.S. held in Las Vegas has been showcasing innovations for decades.  Some noteworthy electronics that debuted include the VCR, camcorder and DVD’s to name a few.  During my coverage of the event in 1998, I thought GPS or Global Positioning System was the best thing since sliced bread.  I could never figure out that multi-paged map book so GPS was a real big deal to me.  And as expected, mobile technology has grown leaps and bounds since 1998.  I found some intriguing gadgets and technology that will definitely have an impact on travelers who uses tech on the go.

1. Smart wrist watch

Rather than pulling out your smartphone or device, how cool and convenient would it be to look down on your wrist, make calls, send emails and access your apps? The concept is not new but technology has finally caught up to make this a reality.  Welcome to the world of smartwatches: an arena that’s primed to have mass-appeal and technical advancement.

One of the products that caught my attention in this category is the i’m Watch.  Using Bluetooth technology, i’m Watch allows users to sync-up with current smartphones to answer calls, read SMS messages and emails and listen to music.  The i’m Watch also comes in several attractive styles but because it’s still in the novelty-stage, the i’m Watch can set you back anywhere from $400 to $2000 depending on the style you choose.

Pebble is another entrant in this arena.  It’s slightly more affordable for $150 a pop.  It seems that it’s designed not only to look good but also withstand the rigors of daily life.  Pebble’s developer deemed it scratch proof and waterproof in both fresh and saltwater up to 132 feet deep.  I don’t know why you’d be checking email 100 feet under the sea, but everyone has a reason.  As with the i’m Watch, Pebble works by connecting to your existing iPhone or Android device via Bluetooth to access applications.  Make sure to check their website for compatibility if you’re interested.

2. Fitness Trackers

I’m a big believer in getting the right balance of sleep and activity.  The Basis health and heart rate monitor quickly caught my attention.  While most wearable gadgets use magnetometers and accelerometers to give activity stats and mileage count, the Basis heart and health monitor takes wearable tech to another level.  In addition to a 3-axis accelerometer, Basis has blood flow, perspiration and a skin temperature sensors built at the back of every unit.  It monitors not only your activity but also sleep patterns.  Their goal is to give users a way to better track health habits, see the patterns as well as modify them if necessary.  The Basis beats the mammoth sleep monitor I had to use when I took a sleep-pattern test back in the day.

To see and experience how far technology has come, fitness fanatics can take advantage of Amiigo.  On top of tracking, blood-oxygen level, heart rate and skin temperature, Amiigo also has the ability to recognize a hundred types of activities.  According to the Amiigo site, this fitness tracker can tell if you are swimming, jogging, doing bicep curls or elliptical.  In turn, users can record and track the results in their iPhone or Android device.

Amiigo cleverly uses social media and gaming apps to track, share and compete with other users.  I think this is a nice touch as an added motivational tool.  Everybody can use that extra push, right?  On paper, the concept and technology behind Amiigo is quite impressive.  I don’t have experience with Amiigo first hand but I can see how the bracelet-shoe clip combo can be integrated in games for existing video game consoles using Bluetooth technology.

3. The eyes have it!

I’ve always been interested in the advancements in computer interface; eye tracking technology in particular.  Tobii Technology grabbed a lot of attention at CES because of their Tobii REX peripheral for Windows 8 laptops and desktop PCs.  The Gaze technology will allow laptop and Windows 8 PC users to navigate the screen by using their eyes.  Rather than swiping or touching the screen, REX users do the swiping and squeezing on the laptop’s touch-pad.  According to Tobii, this allows for a faster, cleaner and more precise interface.  The Tobii REX will fit under the monitor and connect via a USB cord.

As a gamer, I already have several ideas how I could utilize Tobii’s Gaze Technology in future video games.  As an airport crewmember who often interacts with customers with disabilities, I can also imagine how this technology can greatly help and enhance the lives of people without the ability to control their muscles.  There is one such example on video on Tobii.com.

The 2013 Consumer Electronic Show did not disappoint.  Even as a jaded technology enthusiast, I felt that the spirit to innovate is alive and well.  I can’t wait for next year.

Read Miguel’s previous column Sharing the Gift and Don’t Leave Your Gadgets Behind.

Learn more about Miguel and stay tuned for the next edition of Tech Thursdays!

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