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Microsoft Acquires Solair, Dives Deeper Into IoT

May 5, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft took a deeper dive into Internet of Things technology  with the purchasing of Solair, an Italian company that operates a cloud-based IoT platform.

According to a Microsoft blog post, Solair’s technology will be used to upgrade the company’s Azure IoT Suite, a collection of cloud services meant to help companies use the Internet of Things.

Microsoft and Solair didn’t disclose the financial terms of their deal.

Solair’s technology, which already uses Microsoft’s Azure cloud services, offers IoT services focused on a variety of markets, including home automation, smart metering, remote maintenance and inventory management.

Microsoft didn’t say specifically what it will get out of Solair’s technology, but it promised to release more details on the integration of the two companies later.

Microsoft acquired Solair for its technology, not its customer base, MachNation analyst Dima Tokar wrote in a commentary. Sam George, the partner director for Azure IoT, said in a blog post that Microsoft is excited about the technology and talent that will come with the acquisition.

Azure is a key part of Microsoft’s corporate strategy. The company is betting big on getting more customers to use its cloud offerings, and acquisitions like this one are aimed at getting more companies to buy into the Azure ecosystem, especially for new workloads like those driven by IoT.

 

India Says No To Apple’s Used iPhones

May 5, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

India has squashed a plan by Apple Inc to import used iPhones, according to a government official, dealing a blow to the U.S. tech giant that has been seeking to revive waning sales of its flagship smartphones.

Apple sells what it calls refurbished iPhones at a discount in some countries, including the United States. Extending this practice to India would have likely helped it increase its share in one of the world’s fastest growing smartphone markets against competitors with much cheaper offerings.

But India, which is pushing a ‘Make in India’ initiative to boost the competitiveness of its manufacturing sector, rejected the proposal citing rules against importing used electronics.

“India does not encourage dumping or recycling of hazardous materials,” NN Kaul, a spokesman for the telecom ministry said.

Apple’s proposal was opposed by domestic phone makers who claim selling refurbished iPhones – devices that have been returned by buyers or repaired to factory condition after damage – would breach India’s anti-dumping rules. The Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association had written to India’s telecom ministry to stall the move.

An Apple spokeswoman in Singapore did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The news comes at a time when Apple posted its first-ever drop in iPhone sales amid weakness in China, its most important market after the United States.

In India, Apple only has about a 2 percent market share but its sales there surged 56 percent in the first three months, driven mainly by cheaper older-generation devices such as the iPhone 5S while demand for the new iPhone SE disappointed.

“The 5S’ success in India has more to do with affordability of a premium brand than a preference for smaller phones, and the move to the more expensive SE will discourage budget buyers,” said Wilmer Ang, an analyst at research firm Canalys.

The newly launched iPhone SE retails at 39,000 rupees ($585) in India – almost $200 higher than its U.S. price.

 

 

Semiconductor Sales Improving

May 5, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Global semiconductor sales saw a slight increase in March for the first time in five months.

According to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) trade group March chip sales totaled $26.1 billion on a three-month average basis, up 0.3% compared with February.

Total first quarter chip sales totaled just $78.3 billion, down 5.5 per cent  compared to the fourth quarter of 2015 and down 5.8 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2015.

John Neuffer, SIA president and CEO, in a statement that while global semiconductor sales increased in March for the first time in five months, soft demand, market cyclicality, and macroeconomic conditions continue to impede more robust growth.

First quarter sales declined sequentially in nearly all regions, with the Americas showing the sharpest decline.

March sales improved over February by 4.8 per cent in Japan, 2.3 per cent  in the Asia-Pacific region and 0.1 per cent in Europe. Sales declined by 1.1 per cent  sequentially in China and 2.8 per cent  in the Americas.

Sales for March increased in Japan and compared to March 2015, but decreased significantly in Europe, the Americas and the Asia-Pacific region, the SIA said. Sales in the Americas were down nearly 16 per cent compared to March 2015.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Amazon To Beef Up Alexa With Investment In TrackR

May 4, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc is investing between $250,000 and $500,000 in Bluetooth technology firm TrackR to expand the reach of its Alexa virtual assistant, according to a source familiar with the matter

Alexa is the cloud-based system that controls the Amazon Echo, a speaker system launched by Amazon in 2014 that has emerged as a surprise hit. “Alexa” is the name the device responds to when users make requests, such as “turn on radio.”

Amazon and TrackR declined to comment on the size of the investment.

Like Apple Inc’s  Siri and Google’s Google Now, Alexa is designed to answer questions or take other actions in response to simple voice queries.

Unlike its rivals, Amazon allows non-Amazon devices to integrate Alexa technology. The investment in TrackR came through Amazon’s $100 million “Alexa Fund,” which invests in and supports technologies that broaden Alexa’s abilities.

Santa Barbara, California-based TrackR uses Bluetooth technology to help track lost items. Users put a small chip on an item, such as a wallet or TV remote, and can order those products to make a sound through their phone so that they can be found.

If a TrackR customer loses an item out of Bluetooth reach, any TrackR user can connect to the device using the company’s network to alert the owner of the lost item.

The Alexa partnership will give the TrackR service a voice response capability and will also integrate in the other direction and enable people to find their lost items via the Echo.

“The ability to bring on more partners and realize that you are building an entire ecosystem – I think that is what was really important for us,” said Chris Herbert, who co-founded TrackR with friend Christian Smith in 2009.

TrackR raised $8.7 million last year in a Series A round led by Foundry Group.

Amazon has made roughly 15 investments so far through the Alexa Fund, including The Orange Chef, which helps connect kitchen prep devices, and Garageio, which makes a connected garage door opener.

 

Samsung Shows Off New FinFet Process

May 4, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung Electronics is introducing a third 14-nano FinFET system semiconductor process that has lower electricity consumption and production cost than previous cost.

According to the Electronic Times, Samsung said that it will soon be completing development of Low-Power Compact (LPC) 14-nano FinFET process. Strategic partners of Samsung’s foundry business are predicting that this process will be used in anger by the end of the year.

All this is moving fast Samsung mass-produced Low Power Early (LPE) Chips, which are 1st generation chips just last year. It has just mass-produced second 2nd generation 14-nano LPP66 (Low Power Plus) chips that have 15 per cent lesser electricity consumption compared to LPE chips.

The Exynos 8 Octa Series and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 443 820 which is under the bonnet of the Galaxy S7 are mass-produced through 14-nano LPP process.
Samsung’s third generation process reduces the number of masks that are used for wafer manufacturing process. It is expected that 14 nano will be around for as long as 28 nano was.

Even when 10-nano and 7-nano processes are developed, there will be many fabless manufacturing companies will still use cost-efficient 14-nano process.

Qualcomm, Samsung and Mediatek recently introduced new 14 and 16-nano AP products that are inexpensive. They will be used for Snapdragon 443 625, Exynos 7870, and Helio P20, and this indicates that a number of chips produced by 14-nano process will increase.

Samsung’s 14-nano LPC process, will start a war with Taiwan’s TSMC in a battle to secure customers. TSMC has three types of 16-nano FinFET processes. It’s first 16-nano FinFET process arrived at the end of 2014.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Sony Patents Eyeball Camera

May 4, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Recently, Sony Computer Entertainment filed a patent with the USPTO to integrate a camera into a wearer’s contact lens, complete with the imaging sensor as well as data storage and a wireless communication module. The technology, powered wirelessly and controlled by blinking, also offers the possibility of auto-focus, zooming and image stabilization.

Sony is the second to file a patent for integrating a wearable camera into a contact lens, after it was discovered that Samsung filed a patent in South Korea for a similar concept on April 5th. Sony’s patent is filed under the name “Contact Lens and Storage Medium” and is slated to become a full-fledged camera device, complete with a lens, main CPU, imaging sensor, storage area, and a wireless communication module. The camera unit also includes support for autofocus, zooming, and image stabilization.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen wireless sensor technology integrated into a contact lens. In January 2014, Google announced its ambitions to create a glucose-level monitoring contact lens for the diagnosis and monitoring of blood sugar levels for diabetic patients. Google’s project integrates several miniscule sensors loaded with tens of thousands of transistors that measure glucose levels from a wearer’s tear drops, along with a low-power wireless transmitter to send results to other wearable devices along with smartphones and PCs.

More recently on April 7, it was discovered that Samsung could be working on mass-marketing a CMOS imaging sensor into a contact lens thanks to a new patent discovered by SamMobile and GalaxyClub.nl. The patent application, filed in South Korea, includes a display that projects images directly into a wearer’s field of view and includes a camera, an antenna, and several sensors for detecting movement and eye blinks.

Sony’s contact lens patent could be successor to its HMZ 3D displays

Rather than placing focus solely as a healthcare solution, Sony’s patent appears to become a more biologically integrated implementation of the company’s early head-mounted displays (HMDs) with wireless video streaming. The big difference this time, however, will be the inclusion of a camera lens and near-undetectable appearance, depending on how well Sony manages to camoflauge any chips and modules into its first-generation contact lens units.

In November  2011, Sony introduced its first-generation HMZ-T1 head mounted 3D display, complete with dual 1280x720p OLED displays, support for 5.1 channel surround via earbuds and signal input from an HDMI 1.4a cable. This model weighed 420g / 0.93lbs with a launch price of $799.

In October 2012, Sony introduced the second-generation HMZ-T2 follow up in Japan. This model reduced weight by nearly 20 percent (330g / 0.73lbs) and replaced earbuds with a dedicated 3.5mm headphone jack, complete with near-latency free wireless HD viewing (dual 1280x720p displays), 24p cinema picture support, and signal input via HDMI 1.4a cable.

In November 2013, Sony introduced the HMZ-T3W, the third-generation of its head mounted 3D viewer with near-latency free, wireless HD viewing (dual 1280x720p displays) with a 32-bit DAC delivering 7.1 channel audio (5Hz – 24KHz), and signal input via MHL cable and HDMI 1.4a. This device was not available in the United States and launched in Europe for a stunning £1,300 ($2,035) and is alternatively available as an import from Japan for $1090.

Will not come cheap

Based on the initial launch prices of Sony’s previous HMZ headsets ($799 and above) and the Google Glass launch price of $1499, and depending on the company’s target market, we might expect Sony’s first-generation contact lenses to be somewhere in between these two price points when they begin mass-production within the next couple years.

Courtesy-Fud

 

TiVo To Be Acquired By Rovi

May 2, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Online entertainment company Rovi plans to purchase digital video recording firm TiVo for $1.1 billion in a stock and cash deal, the companies announced on Friday.

TiVo has cloud-based technology for integrating live, recorded, on-demand and Internet television into one user interface, with search, discovery, viewing and recording options from a variety of devices. Its technology has been deployed by operators including Virgin Media and Vodafone Spain.

Rovi announced in March that Sharp’s new Aquos TVs would include its G-Guide electronic programming guide.

The combined company is forecast to have more than $800 million in revenue in the current year. More than 10 million TiVo-served households are expected to be added to the current base of about 18 million homes that use Rovi guides. The new entity will serve nearly 500 service providers worldwide, the companies said.

The deal between Rovi and TiVo, besides creating a large media and entertainment technology company with complementary products and services, will also lead to the setting up of a company with a worldwide portfolio of more than 6,000 issued patents and pending applications worldwide.

The two companies have a strong licensing business and have also sued key players like  Comcast for patent infringement in the past. The companies said they have more than $3 billion in combined IP licensing revenue and past damage awards.

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter and the combined company will use the TiVo name. Tom Carson, CEO of Rovi will be the chief executive of the new company.

 

 

Is Motorola Going To Court?

May 2, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

Lenovo owned Motorola has been slapped with a $5m class action lawsuit over allegations of shoddy customer service and not honoring warranty policies.

News of the lawsuit comes via Trusted Reviews, which learned this week that the complaint was filed against Motorola on 21 April in Illinois, accusing the company of “unfair, unscrupulous, immoral and oppressive” business practices.

The lawsuit’s main plaintiff, Douglas Lynch, decided to take legal action after a long-drawn out battle over a Moto 360 repair. He contacted Motorola for a replacement after the backplate of his smartwatch cracked, and was informed that a replacement would take four days to reach him.

The replacement failed to arrive, and Lynch was eventually sent a Moto 360 two months later that was a cheaper model than the one he had purchased.

Lynch isn’t alone in having a bad experience with Motorola. Girard Gibbs LLP, one of the law firms handling the case, told Trusted Reviews that Motorola owes “thousands of people” compensation.

This is evident on Reddit, where pissed off Motorola customers have flocked to tell similar stories.

One Redditor said:  ”I have had some of the worst support from them on my Moto G 3rd gen I bought last year.

“I tried to buy an extended warranty plan they supposedly offered, but their website was so jankedy that even after a few escalations over a FEW MONTHS to various higher ups in their support department with no resolution to the problem I finally just gave up and decided to never buy a Motorola phone again.”

Another added: “Wish someone would do the same in the UK as they wouldn’t replace my 6 month old 360 and I ended up having to pay about £120 to get it fixed when it was a hardware problem.”

Esfand Nafisi, an attorney at Girard Gibbs LLP, explained that the actual compensation owed is “likely higher” than the $5m referred to in the original filing, adding: “We want these issues to be resolved for all consumers.”

Motorola said in a statement: “Motorola has a long history of providing exceptional products and services to its customers. We are aware of the lawsuit, and are investigating the claims, which we believe to be without merit.”

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Can USB-C Replace The 3.5mm Headphone Jack?

April 29, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel has called for the standard 3.5mm headphone jack to be dropped in favor of connections like USB-C.

Intel does not think there is much wrong with the 3.5mm audio jack, but apparently there are more advantages to a digital connection. USB-C would allow would mean higher quality and “cleaner” audio, apparently. USB-C could also allow for headphones to track health data like your body temperature and tell the doctors if your ears are bleeding.

At present, Intel is finalizing the USB Type-C Digital Audio technology and plans to release its specification later in Q2. The company does not reveal a lot about the standard right now, but notes that it is working on updating the USB Audio Device Class 2.0 specifications to support new connector, expand the list of recent audio specifications and features, improve power management and simplify the discovery and configuration model to make the upcoming headsets as easy to use as today’s headsets.

Intel calls like this can be taken with a grain of salt. OEMs are the people who decide this sort of thing, but with Intel’s support maybe more companies might consider it. However digital is not all it is cracked up to be.  In the audio world there is a new trend back to old style vinyl and tube amps are still a thing.

At the moment there is no actual music being produced and those who can actually write good music are dying off, so it probably does not matter what headphone socket you have – there is going to be nothing worth listening to in a few years.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Is Nintendo Making A Mistaking With The NX?

April 29, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Nintendo has confirmed that its next-gen console, the Nintendo NX, will launch in March 2017.

Causing many to screw up their Christmas lists, the company told shareholders during its earnings call on Tuesday: “For our dedicated video game platform business, Nintendo is currently developing a gaming platform codenamed ‘NX’ with a brand-new concept. NX will be launched in March 2017 globally.”

Probably also causing some to cancel a trip to Los Angeles, Nintendo said that the NX will not be demonstrated at the upcoming E3 video games conference in June, despite speculation that Sony plans to show off its so-called PlayStation 4.5 console.

Nintendo’s keynote at the games show will focus instead on the next Legend of Zelda game, which will launch simultaneously on the Wii U and Nintendo NX in 2017. Rumour has it that Smash Bros 4, Splatoon and Super Mario Maker are all set to receive an NX makeover too.

A launch is now less than a year away, but we still don’t know much about the Nintendo NX, which Nintendo confirmed this week is just a codename for the incoming console. However, rumour claims that it will arrive as a hybrid between a home console and a mobile games console to sit alongside the New Nintendo 3DS.

Nintendo president and CEO Tatsumi Kimishima reiterated in December last year that the company is “not building the next version of Wii or Wii U” and that the device will be something “unique and different”.

News of the Nintendo NX’s launch date no doubt came as the firm looked to play down the fact that its profits fell 61 per cent year over year. Worked, didn’t it?

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Does Acer Support Virtual Reality?

April 28, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Acer’s boss Jason Chen says his company will not make its own VR devices and will focus on getting its gaming products to work with the existing VR platforms.

Eyebrows were raised when Acer released its new Predator series products which support  virtual reality devices. The thought was that Acer might have a device of its own in the works. However Acer CEO Jason Chen said there were no plans and the goal was to get everythink working with the four current major VR platforms Oculus, HTC’s Vive, OSVR and StarVR.

He said that VR was still at a rather early stage and so far still has not yet had any killer apps or software. Although that never stopped the development of tablet which to this day has not got itself a killer app. But Chen said that its demand for high-performance hardware will be a good opportunity for Acer.

Acer is planning to add support for VR devices into all of its future Predator series products and some of its high-end PC products.

Chen told Digitimes that said Acer was investing in two robot projects, the home-care Jibo and the robot arm Kubi in the US, and the company internally has also been developing robot technologies and should achieve some results within two years. Acer’s robot products will target mainly the enterprise market.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Will The VR Industry Have Blockbuster Sales This Year?

April 27, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Virtual reality is, without a doubt, the most exciting thing that’s going to happen to videogames in 2016 – but it’s becoming increasingly clear, in the cold light of day, that it’s only going to be providing thrills to a relatively limited number of consumers. Market research firm Superdata has downgraded its forecast for the size of the VR market this year once more, taking it from a dizzying $5.1 billion projection at the start of the year to a more reasonable sounding $2.9 billion; though I’d argue that even this figure is optimistic, assuming as it does supply-constrained purchases of 7.2 million VR headsets by American consumers alone in 2016.

Yes, supply-constrained; Superdata reckons that some 13 million Americans will want a VR headset this year, but only 7.2 million will ship, of which half will be Samsung’s Gear VR – which is an interesting gadget in some regards, but I can’t help but feel that its toy-like nature and the low-powered hardware which drives it isn’t quite what most proponents of VR have in mind for their revolution. Perhaps the limited selection of content consumers can access on Gear VR will whet their appetite for the real thing; pessimistically, though, there’s also every chance that it will queer the pitch entirely, with 3.5 million low-powered VR gadgets being a pretty likely source of negative word of mouth regarding nausea or headaches, for example.

This is a problem VR needs to tackle; for a great many consumers, without proactive moves from the industry, word of mouth is all they’re going to get regarding VR. It’s a transformative technology, when the experience is good – as it generally is on PSVR, Rift and Vive – but it’s not one you can explain easily in a video, or on a billboard, because the whole point is that it’s a new way of seeing 3D worlds that isn’t possible on existing screens. Worse, when you see someone else using a VR headset in a video or in real life, it just looks weird and a bit silly. The technology only starts to shine for most consumers when they either experience it, or speak to a friend evangelising it on the basis of their own experience; either way, it all comes down to experience.

That’s why it was interesting to hear GameStop talk up its role as a place where consumers can come and try out PlayStation VR headsets this year. That’s precisely what the technology needs; where at the moment, there are a handful of places you can go to try out VR, but it’s utterly insufficient. VR’s objective for 2016 isn’t just to get into the hands of a few million consumers – it’s to become desired, deeply desired, by tens of millions more. The only way that will happen is to create that army of evangelists by creating a large number of easily accessible opportunities to experience VR – and GameStop is right to position itself as the industry’s best chance of doing so in the USA. Pop-up VR booths in trendy spots might excite bloggers, but what this new sector needs in the latter half of 2016 is much more down to earth – it needs as many of America’s malls as possible to be places where shoppers can drop in and try out VR for themselves.

In a sense, what’s happening here is deeply ironic; after years of digital distribution and online shopping making retail all but irrelevant, to the point where it’s practically disappeared in some countries, the industry suddenly needs retail stores again – not to sell games, because those are, in truth, better sold online, but to sell hardware, to sell an experience. How exactly you structure a long-term business model around that – the games retailer as showroom – is something I’m honestly not sure about, but it’s something GameStop and its industry partners need to figure out, because what VR makes clear is that games do sometimes need a way to reach consumers physically, in the real world, and right now only games retail chains are positioned to do that.

This isn’t a one-time thing, either – we know that, because this has happened before, in the not-so-distant past. Nintendo’s Wii enjoyed an extraordinary sales trajectory from its first Christmas post-launch into its first full year on the market, not least because the company did a good job of putting demo units (mostly running Wii Sports, of course) into not only every games store in the world, but also into countless other popular shopping areas. It was nigh-on impossible, in the early months of the Wii, to go out shopping without encountering the brand, seeing people playing the games and having the opportunity to do so yourself – an enormously important thing for a device which, like VR, really needed to be experienced in person for its worth to become apparent. VR, if anything, magnifies that problem; at least with Wii Sports, observers could see people having fun with it. Observing someone using VR, as mentioned above, just looks daft and a bit uncomfortable.

GameStop has weathered the storm rather better than some of its peers in other countries. The United Kingdom has seen its games retail devastated; it’s all but impossible to actually walk into a specialist store and buy a game in many UK city centres, including London. Would a modern-day version of the Wii be able to thrive in an environment lacking these ready-made showrooms for its capabilities on every high street and in every shopping mall? Perhaps, but it would take enormous effort and investment; something that VR firms, especially Sony, are going to have to take very seriously as they plan how to get the broader public interested in their device, and how to break out beyond the early adopter market.

Much of the VR industry’s performance in 2016 is going to be measured in raw sales figures, which is a bit of a shame; Vive and Rift are enormously supply constrained and having fulfillment difficulties, and the numbers we’ve seen floating around for Sony’s intentions suggest that PSVR will also be supply constrained through Christmas. The VR industry – ignoring the slightly worrying, premature offshoot that is mobile VR – is going to sell every headset it can manufacture in 2016. If it doesn’t, then there’s a very serious problem, but every indication says that this year’s key limiter will be supply, not demand.

The real measurement of how VR has performed in 2016, then, should be something else – the purchasing intent and interest level of the rest of the population. If by the time the world is mumbling through the second line of Auld Lang Syne and welcoming in 2017, consumer awareness of VR is low and purchasing intent isn’t skyrocketing – or worse, if the media’s dominant narratives about the technology are all about vomiting and migraines – then the industry will have done itself a grievous disservice. This is the year of VR, but not for the vast majority of consumers – which means that the real task of VR firms in 2016 is to convince the world that a VR headset is something it simply must own in 2017.

Courtesy-GI.biz

 

Did Researchers Create Batteries That A Lifetime?

April 26, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Researchers at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) have accidentally – yes, accidentally – discovered a nanowire-based technology that could lead to batteries that can be charged hundreds of thousands of times.

Mya Le Thai, a PhD candidate at the university, explained in a paper published this week that she and her colleagues used nanowires, a material that is several thousand times thinner than a human hair, extremely conductive and has a surface area large enough to support the storage and transfer of electrons.

Nanowires are extremely fragile and don’t usually hold up well to repeated discharging and recharging, or cycling. They expand and grow brittle in a typical lithium-ion battery, but Le Thai’s team fixed this by coating a gold nanowire in a manganese dioxide shell and then placing it in a Plexiglas-like gel to improve its reliability. All by accident.

The breakthrough could lead to laptop, smartphone and tablet batteries that last forever.

Reginald Penner, chairman of UCI’s chemistry department, said: “Mya was playing around and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it.

“She discovered that just by using this gel she could cycle it hundreds of thousands of times without losing any capacity. That was crazy, because these things typically die in dramatic fashion after 5,000 or 6,000 or 7,000 cycles at most.”

The battery-like structure was tested more than 200,000 times over a three-month span, and the researchers reported no loss of capacity or power.

“The coated electrode holds its shape much better, making it a more reliable option,” Thai said. “This research proves that a nanowire-based battery electrode can have a long lifetime and that we can make these kinds of batteries a reality.”

The breakthrough also paves the way for commercial batteries that could last a lifetime in appliances, cars and spacecraft.

British fuel-cell maker Intelligent Energy Holdings announced earlier this year that it is working on a smartphone battery that will need to be charged only once a week.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Researchers Design Lithium-ion Batteries That Can Last A Lifetime

April 25, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Researchers at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) said that’s they have discovered how to increase the tensile strength of nanowires that could be used to make lithium-ion batteries last virtually forever.

Researchers have pursued using nanowires in batteries for years because the filaments, thousands of times thinner than a human hair, are highly conductive and have a large surface area for the storage and transfer of electrons.

The problem they have encountered, however, is that nanowires are also extremely fragile and don’t hold up well to repeated discharging and recharging, known as “cycling.” For example, in a typical lithium-ion battery, they expand and grow brittle, which leads to cracking.

UCI doctoral candidate Mya Le Thai solved the brittleness conundrum by coating a gold nanowire in a manganese dioxide shell and encasing the assembly in an electrolyte made of a Plexiglas-like gel. The combination, they said, is reliable and resistant to failure.

The findings were published today in the American Chemical Society’s Energy Letters. Hard work combined with serendipity paid off in this case, according to senior author Reginald Penner.

“Mya was playing around, and she coated this whole thing with a very thin gel layer and started to cycle it,” Penner, chair of UCI’s chemistry department, said in a statement. “She discovered that just by using this gel, she could cycle it hundreds of thousands of times without losing any capacity.”

“That was crazy,” he added, “because these things typically die in dramatic fashion after 5,000 or 6,000 or 7,000 cycles at most.”

The researchers believe the gel plasticizes the metal oxide in the battery and gives it flexibility, preventing cracking.

Thai, the study’s leader, cycled the nanowire-enhanced electrode up to 200,000 times over three months without detecting any loss of capacity or power and without fracturing any nanowires.

“All nanowire capacitors can be extended from 2000 to 8000 cycles to more than 100,000 cycles, simply by replacing a liquid electrolyte with a… gel electrolyte,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

The result: commercial batteries that could last a lifetime in computers, smartphones, appliances, cars and spacecraft.

 

 

 

 

Will nVidia’s Mid-Range Pascal Processor Debut In Q3?

April 25, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

According to the latest report, Nvidia plans to launch next-generation mainstream segment graphics cards, based on GP106 GPU, in Autumn, or late Q3/early Q4 2016.

According to a report coming from Sweclockers.com, Nvidia’s mainstream graphics cards, which will be based on a GP106 Pascal GPU, should be coming in Autumn, and be ready for sales by the time for a Christmas shopping season.

Meant to replace the currently available Maxwell-based GTX 960 and GTX 950 graphics cards, the upcoming mainstream Geforce graphics cards, most likely named as the GTX 1060 and GTX 1050, could end up with two enabled graphics processing clusters (GPCs), which means that SKUs could end with up to 1280 CUDA cores.

While the upcoming GP104-based graphics cards should cover the higher-end consumer market, the mid-range market is mostly the cash-cow for companies so having that segment on store shelves before Christmas shopping season is quite important.

Courtesy-Fud