The 2016 edition of the Mobile World Congress was abuzz with the launch of new smartphones. The world saw major flagships being unveiled, including the likes of the LG G5, Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge and the Xiaomi Mi 5.
But that being said, the sector of smart accessories wasn’t too far behind either. This year, major OEMs showed off products that aimed at building smarter homes and doubled up as stepping stones in the Internet of Things movement. Wearables were aplenty too, but the more remarkable innovations came forth in the form of smart accessories.
From smart trackers, to projectors which projected complete user interfaces. From Smart Glasses, to rolling robots. From earphones, to ear buds equipped with Artificial Intelligence, a lot was on display at the Mobile World Congress. All of them aim at one thing: the smartification of homes and living experiences. In this piece, we take a look at some of the more significant developments from the accessories and wearables seen at Mobile World Congress.
Motorola Verve retrieve
Motorola Verve earphones
LG Rolling Bot
LG Smart Controller
Sony Xperia Agent
Sony Xperia Ear
Sony Xperia Projector
The Verve Retrieve from Motorola is a waterproof, GPS-enabled tracker that is directed mostly at pet owners to monitor their pets’ movements. It uses cellular data to enable owners to track their pets. Owners can also create virtual geofences using the Hubble app to receive notifications when their pet has moved out of a certain area. The tracker does has some interesting use cases, and can actually be used for monitoring children as well.
Earphones in the Verve lineup include the VerveOnes, VerveOnes+, VerveRider, VerveRider+, VerveLoop and VerveLoop+. All of them are Bluetooth-enabled and are waterproof. Besides being lightweight in nature, all of them have a substantial amount of juice to get the wearer through the day. These earphones are targeted at cyclists and runners.
LG’s Rolling Bot – perhaps inspired by Star Wars’ BB-8 – is a gadget that aims to make homes smarter. A home-monitoring system which can be controlled via a smartphone, the Rolling Bot can control home appliances and even televisions using the dedicated smartphone application. The Bot comes with a charging dock of its own, and might just be the next big-small thing in the smart home space.
Drones are gaining momentum, and keeping this in mind LG has collaborated with French drone corp Parrot to bring forth the LG Smart Controller. A device which is still in its prototype phase, the Smart Controller is a handset docking remote control for controlling quadcopters and drones via the LG G5. Enabling ease of control for drones, the Smart Controller is designed to allow anyone to enjoy the flight experience.
The Xperia Agent is inspired by the Amazon Echo, and might just be the ideal smart home system. A product that’s still in its prototype stage, the Agent has a camera, projector, voice recorder and a speaker built in. It’s designed to respond to both voice and gestures – with the use cases being dictating email, video calling and controlling smart home appliances. Connected via Wi-Fi, the Xperia Agent in many ways hopes to become the next disruption in IoT.
The Xperia Ear is somewhat similar to the Moto Hint, and might be the first step to the earbuds seen in the movie Her. A Bluetooth earpiece with its own Artificial Intelligence (reportedly under development by Sony), the Ear will notify the user of alerts, read email and incoming calls through a Bluetooth (and/or Wi-Fi) connection with the smartphone. There might be a Siri-like integration in the blueprint too, to enable voice recognition and response to queries by the user.
This is where things get interesting. The Xperia projector projects images, information and interfaces on to real surfaces to transform them into interactive areas where the user can actually control the UI to perform tasks. We’ve seen projected keyboards, but projecting functionalities and interfaces on to surfaces is taking futuristic to a whole new level!
A product that seems to be following the trend spearheaded by Google Glass, the Epson BT-300 is a Smart Glass which boasts of an advanced Si-OLED (Silicon Organic Light Emitting Diode) display. This means more realistic content being projected onto the display. The BT-300 has a 5MP camera in front, an Intel Atom 5 processor clocked at 1.44GHz and runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. It is slated to release in Q4 2016.
Following the footsteps (no pun intended) of Under Armour, Samsung-backed Salted Venture showcased its IOFIT line of smart shoes. Equipped with intricate pressure sensors to visually portray the pressure distribution and balance, the smart shoes can show the stance of golfers, lifters and can even keep track of the distance run. When the data from the shoes is synced to the smartphone application, the app can even suggest improvements for the athlete.
Perhaps the most IoT-centric device seen at MWC was the Oral-B Genius. A motorised toothbrush equipped with Bluetooth, the Genius has a timer to keep track of how long you've brushed your teeth for. Additional features include pressure and movement sensors (and automatic motor adjustment) to track which regions have been brushed properly and an application to sync all the data with a phone. There's also a gamificaion system (the 'Challenge Mode') which offers rewards if the user has brushed properly.