Moky Bluetooth keyboard is also a trackpad

We’ve seen a number of ideas for making Bluetooth portable keyboards that are compact yet still not frustratingly tiny – these have included devices that project virtual keys, devices that fold, and that can be rolled up. The Moky keyboard, however, takes a different approach. It saves space by allowing its keyboard area to double as a multi-touch trackpad.

According to the Seoul-based Moky company, the device uses “infrared laser sensors” to overlay an invisible trackpad on top of the keyboard. It lets users perform actions such as clicking/dragging, scrolling, swiping, pinching in and zooming out, simply by making the traditional finger movements directly above the keys.

While it isn’t clear exactly how the system works, the principle appears to be the same as that used by Continental’s “infrared curtain” technology for multi-touch displays in cars. In that case, a raised rectangular frame around the display has a series of LEDs along two adjacent sides, and a series of photodiodes along the other two. Each LED emits a beam of infrared light, which is picked up and converted into an electrical signal by the photodiode located in the corresponding spot on the opposite side of the frame.

When the user reaches through the grid of infrared light beams in a given location, their finger blocks some of the beams. Those beams’ photodiodes temporarily stop receiving light, and thus cease sending a signal. By analyzing the combination of affected photodiodes, the system can determine the location of the user’s finger relative to what’s being displayed on the screen, in real time.

Some of Moky’s other features include pantograph (i.e: individually spring-loaded) keys, an aluminum body, a folding cover that also serves as a smartphone/tablet stand, and a rechargeable battery that should be good for a claimed three months of use per charge (based on about four hours of use per day). The keyboard utilizes Bluetooth LE, and is compatible with iOS, Android and Windows devices.

Moky is currently the subject of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, where a pledge of US$69 will currently get you one – when and if the keyboard reaches production. You can see it in use, in the pitch video below.

And although Moky may end up being the first true keyboard/trackpad hybrid to make it to market, this certainly isn’t the first time that the concept has been conceived of. Microsoft Research’s prototype Type-Hover-Swipe keyboard uses an array of infrared proximity sensors located between the keys to achieve the same ends, while Apple’s patent for the Fusion keyboard incorporates touch sensors in the surface of the keys.

Sources: Moky, Indiegogo

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Google announces its plans for virtual reality at I/O 2015

Google has unveiled some big virtual reality plans at I/O 2015. Not only did the company announce an updated version of its low-cost Cardboard headset, but it also unveiled a new feature designed to allow teachers to take their students on virtual field trips, and a new project that allows users to create their own 360-degree virtual reality experiences.

You’ll likely remember Google’s Cardboard VR headset from last year’s I/O press conference. The headset, which true to its name is actually made of cardboard, offered a low-cost entry point to VR, and was pitched as a great way for developers to easily get their claws into making virtual reality experiences.

The company is back with a brand new model this year, adding support for larger phones (up to 6 inches), replacing the magnetic switch with a cardboard one that will work with any smartphone, and providing a streamlined setup process, with assembly in just three steps. Google is also opening up the platform, with the Cardboard SDK set to support both Android and iOS.

An updated Cardboard headset isn’t the only new thing that Mountain View had in store when it comes virtual reality. It also announced a new feature called Expeditions, that’s designed to bring VR to the classroom. Schools can apply for packs which include numerous Cardboard headsets that can be linked together, with the teacher guiding students through virtual tours of supported locations such as the Great Wall of China and Venice.

Lastly, Google announced a new project called Jump, designed to allow people to create and share virtual reality experiences. The company has partnered with GoPro on the project, with the actioncam maker producing the first Jump-ready 360-degree array, comprised of 16 individual cameras.

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The project includes software that compensates for the depth of different objects, cutting together the footage from the different cameras to produce a seamless VR experience. YouTube will start supporting Jump VR content this summer, viewable through – you guessed it – Cardboard VR headsets.

Source: Google

How wearables will shape the future of mobile payments

Wereable

Credit: Apple

Three finance executives discuss the essential role wearable technology will play in the evolution of mobile payments.

Last week, at the Wearable World Congress in San Francisco, executives from Capital One, MasterCard and PayPal participated in an animated discussion about the future of mobile payments and explained why wearable technology is an important part of their companies’ game plans.

Speaking from a shadowy stage in the city’s Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, just spitting distance from the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean, Stephane Wyper, MasterCard’s vice president of startup engagement and acceleration, said MasterCard is focused on leveraging the latest and greatest gadgets, including wearables, to create loyal customers.

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“As we look at the future, consumers are clearly interacting with a whole host of new devices that extend beyond plastic or the devices in their pocket,” Wyper said. The question for MasterCard is, “How do we enable all of those connected devices to be payment devices?”

Wearables improve, enhance mobile payment experience

The number of wearables in the market is proliferating, and Capital One thinks it can use them to draw and retain customers. Angie Moody, Capital One’s vice president of new product innovation, says her company is looking to wearables to “reinvent the way consumers interact with money on a daily business.”

Capital One wants to extend the payment experience to help its customer make more informed, responsible payment decisions, by using data collected by wearables, including location and behavioral information. Wearable technology presents a unique opportunity because of the types of data it collects, according to Moody. “Wearables offer new ways to learn who you are, when you are and where you are.”

PayPal’s Varun Krishna, senior director of its consumer wallet division, sees wearable computing as a significant opportunity for the company that will eventually “give rise to more connected, more personal experiences.”

“Wearables provide connectivity at a point that mobile apps can’t,” Krishna says. “By nature, they’re more connected to the user than a phone can be.”

However, Krishna stressed that the mass adoption of wearables for mobile payments will hinge on the size of the “acceptance network,” or the number of retailers and destinations that support a wide variety of digital payment options. PayPal is aggressively trying to develop and expand that acceptance network, according to Krishna.

Big data, analytics key to success of wearables for mobile payments

Advances in data analytics will also play a crucial role in the evolution of wearable-based, or wearable-assisted, mobile payments, because they’ll help finance companies put consumer data to better use. “The amount of data that we have about how consumers spend money is astronomical compared to how we’re actually using it,” Krishna says.

“Data analytics will be huge,” Wyper says, because it will let payments companies “take all the information that’s collected and turn it into useable insights. The future [of mobile payments] might be predictive based on context, so if you always use the same service in a location, it might be able to predict which to use when.”

For example, if you frequently work in Manhattan, and you always use your corporate credit card while in New York City, it could be automatically served up a payment option on your smartwatch when you arrive at your favorite bar or dining spot, based on your location and past behavior.

Today, payment companies mostly request data about customers, and they then enter as much (or as little) information as they’re willing to share into mobile apps or websites. In the future, wearables and other devices will automatically collect data (after users opt in) and deliver relevant, contextual information. It will be “less of a pull and more of a push,” Moody says.

Challenges for wearables in mobile payments

Wearables can improve and extend the payment process, but there’s also a balance between ease of use, or “friction removal,” and the need to provide all information necessary to make informed financial decisions, Moody says.

“You have to balance reduction of friction with the need to make people understand the process,” Moody says. “People today spend money without even thinking about it. By removing friction, you take the customer away from the tangibility of cash.”

Moody cites Uber’s recent decision to make its customers confirm that they’re willing to pay for “surge pricing” before they can request a driver. That additional confirmation was added because Uber had “removed too much friction,” making it too simple for people to request a ride during peak hours and then get stuck with huge fares, according to Moody.

A balance between ease of use and providing the pertinent information protects consumers and helps build trust between service providers and their customers. “If you break that trust, it’s really hard to get it back,” Moody says.

Future of wearables and mobile payments

The panelists agreed that there won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to mobile payments or mobile wallets. Just as people carry multiple credit, loyalty and membership cards today, they’ll likely use more than one mobile wallet or payment option, on multiple devices, in the future. “It’s hard to say there will be one solution that solves all [the challenges],” Wyper says, and a number of different apps and services will provide built-in payment options.

Beyond payments, data collection and predictive analytics, wearables will also play a key role in the future of customer loyalty and ticketing, according to Wyper.

The application ecosystem for both wearables and mobile payments is relatively immature today, and providers will learn from their early mistakes. As they do, the user experience and overall value of the offerings will skyrocket. “I get most excited about this space becoming ‘sexy,’ developers wanting a piece, [because that] breaks down the ‘walled garden’ and brings more innovation,” Moody says.

Capital One is also actively trying to establish itself as a player in the mobile payment space by offering promotions and discounts in popular mobile apps, including Uber.

“We’re just starting to learn,” Moody says. “You don’t see the gaps until they’re in market.”

“Today there are lots of disparate pieces … A lot of the small pieces will come together” in the not-too-distant future to create something highly contextual and relevant, according to Krishna.

CIO Magazine

Google shows off Android M, its smartphone future

Google has been showing off the next version of Android at its Google I/O conference in San Francisco. It doesn’t have an official name yet – it’s still called Android M Developer Preview – but we’ve got our first glimpse at some of the features arriving in the mobile OS in the near future.

Google’s Dave Burke was keen to emphasize that the update was focused on small but significant improvements. Developers can now create smoother links between apps, for example, so tapping on a tweet in an email opens Twitter automatically. Coders can also take advantage of new Chrome Custom Tabs, browsing tabs that stay within an app (like Twitter) but bring all the benefits of Chrome (such as passwords and history).

With Android M, app permissions are going to become more iOS-like. Access to location, the camera, contacts and other elements isn’t granted when the app is installed, but the first time these permissions are needed. After that, they can be toggled on or off from inside Android’s settings.

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Android M will also come with Android Pay, which Google had previously hinted at, and it’s ready to go in over 700,000 stores in the U.S. from today. There are partnerships with AT&T;, Verizon and T-Mobile, and it covers payments inside apps as well as NFC payments in stores.

Tying into that is the new fingerprint sensor technology built right into Android M, something that had previously been left to manufacturers such as Samsung to add on top. It’s very much Google’s version of Touch ID, and it will let you authorize purchases from the Play Store as well as unlock your phone.

Finally, Google had some power and charging news to share. Android M will bring with it a new feature called Doze, which recognizes when your device isn’t being used and sends it into a deeper sleep. According to Google, phones or tablets can last up to twice as long with Doze enabled. The new OS also supports devices with the USB Type-C socket we have already seen in Apple’s new MacBook.

There are smaller tweaks too: Simplified volume controls, a sharing widget that identifies the people you share with most often, improved word selection. In general, though, this is a much smaller step forward than Android Lollipop was.

Google Now is getting some extra smarts too. A new feature called Now on Tap better integrates Google Now with other apps – with one tap it can recognize content inside an email app or chat app and make reminders or bring up relevant information.

Gizmag

Lenovo looks to a future of big screen smartwatches, phone projectors and mood-broadcasting shoes

Lenovo has used its first global technology event to imagine a not-too-distant future where you gauge somebody’s mood by their footwear, smartphones can be controlled via projected displays and smartwatch screens are stretched to 20 times their current size. At Lenovo Tech World in Beijing, the Chinese company went public with these concept devices, flagging intentions to position itself for an era of internet-connected everything.

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Of the announcements made by Lenovo, perhaps the most timely was the detailing of a smart watch concept dubbed Magic View. Just as Apple Watch owners around the world finish snapping their bands into place, the company has asked the question, do smartwatch displays really need to be that limited?

Sure these small screens are more than enough to see our notifications, track our steps, or even, you know, tell the time, but should we demand more from our wrist-worn companions? Lenovo’s Magic View smart watch concept features an additional screen described as a “virtual interactive display.” The company says this relies on “optical reflection” to create a virtual, immersive image more than 20 times the size of the regular watch display. It could be used to view photos or videos, but the wearer will need to hold the device right up to their eye to get the effect.

Lenovo also cranked up the quirkiness factor with a set of Smart Shoes. These would track fitness data; such as heart rate and calories burnt, but could potentially also provide maps and guide the wearer to their destination. The real centerpiece of the shoes, however, is a screen on the side that displays the wearer’s mood, presumably deduced using the aforementioned data.

Around five years ago, Samsung toyed with the idea of integrating projectors with smartphones with its Galaxy Beam, though this wasn’t met with a great deal of enthusiasm from consumers. But Lenovo is persisting with the idea. It’s Smart Cast concept would see a phone equipped with a built-in laser projector and an infrared motion detector to offer a virtual touch screen.

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Like the Celluon Epic, Smart Cast would let users to type on a virtual keyboard projected onto a flat surface, but it goes further, providing the ability to do things like punch the buttons of a virtual calculator, draw pictures or take handwritten notes. This of course is in addition to the ability to turn surfaces into screens for movies, TV shows and presentations.

You can see a demo of the Magic View smartwatch, Smart Shoes and Smart Cast concept devices in the videos below.

Source: Lenovo

Google unveils Android’s latest technological tricks

The upgrade will give Android’s personal assistant, Google Now, expanded powers of intuition that may be greeted as a great convenience to some and a tad too creepy for others.

Google’s next version of its Android operating system will boast new ways to fetch information, pay merchants and protect privacy on mobile devices as the Internet company duels with Apple in the quest to make their technology indispensable.

The upgrade will give Android’s personal assistant, Google Now, expanded powers of intuition that may be greeted as a great convenience to some and a tad too creepy for others.

Most of the renovations unveiled Thursday at Google’s annual developers’ conference won’t be available until late summer or early fall, around the same time that Apple is expected to release the latest overhaul of the iOS software that powers the iPhone and iPad.

The annual changes to Android and iOS are becoming increasingly important as people become more dependent on smartphones to manage their lives. Android holds about an 80 percent share of the worldwide smartphone market, with iOS a distant second at 16 percent, according to the research firm International Data Corp.

Both Google and Apple are vying to make their products even more ubiquitous by transplanting much of their mobile technology into automobiles and Internet-connected televisions and appliances. Google hopes to play a prominent role in the management of home security and appliances with a new operating system called Brillo that will interact with Android devices.

Here’s a closer look at some of the key features in the upcoming Android upgrade, currently known simply as “M”:

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NOW ON TAP

Google Now currently learns a user’s interests and habits by analyzing search requests and scanning emails so it can automatically present helpful information, such as the latest news about a favorite sports team or how long it will take to get to work.

With the M upgrade, users will be able to summon Google Now to scan whatever content might be on a mobile device’s screen so it can present pertinent information about the topic of a text, a song, a video clip or an article.

The new Android feature, called “Now on Tap,” will be activated by holding down the device’s home button or speaking, “OK Google,” into the microphone. That action will prompt Now on Tap to scan the screen in attempt to figure out how to be the most helpful. Or, if speaking, users can just say what they are seeking, such as “Who sings this?”

Google is hoping to provide Android users with what they need at the precise moment they need it without forcing them to hopscotch from one app to another.

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MOBILE PAYMENT DO-OVER

Android M will include an alternative to the mobile payment system that Apple introduced last fall. Google’s response, called Android Pay, will replace Google Wallet for making mobile purchases in stores and applications. Google Wallet, which came out in 2011, will still work for sending payments from one person to another.

Like Apple’s system, Android Pay can be used to store major credit and debit cards in smartphones that can be used to pay merchants equipped with terminals that work with the technology. Android Pay will also work on devices running on the KitKat and Lollipop versions of Android released the past two years.

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PROTECTING PRIVACY

Android M will be compatible with fingerprint scanners so device users can verify their identities by pressing a button instead of entering a passcode. Apple’s iPhones began using a fingerprint reader in 2013.

Besides supporting fingerprint scanners, Android M will make it easier to users to prevent mobile applications from grabbing their personal information. Permission will only need to be granted to each app if the access is needed for a specific action. That means Android users won’t be asked to share information about their contact lists, photo rolls or locations until an app won’t work without it.

–Associated Press

Experts bust Android security myths

A set of mobile security experts provides insight on the current state of Android security.

Thanks to its inherent “openness,” the open source Android OS is vulnerable to a variety of security risks, but how often do people you know actually fall victim to Android malware or other attacks?

Is the Android security risk overstated? Is the Android risk really greater than the risks posed by its iOS and Windows Mobile counterparts? And what can users, and the enterprise IT departments that support them, do to better protect their Android devices?

We asked these questions, and more, to a variety of mobile security experts from companies including Cisco, Dell and Lookout. Here’s what they had to say:

Android security threat is real

Android malware that affected U.S. users increased by 75 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to security firm Lookout’s “2014 Mobile Threat Report.”

“That’s a significant jump, predominantly driven by an increase in ransomware, a nasty form of malware that locks a person’s device and demands money in exchange for reinstated access,” says Michael Bentley, Lookout’s senior manager of security research and response.

Android devices were the targets of 97 percent of all mobile malware in 2014, according to Pulse Secure‘s “2015 Mobile Threat Report.” And the Android security risk level “increased substantially year-over-year,” says Troy Vennon, director of Pulse Secure’s Mobile Threat Center. In 2012, there were 238 specific Android malware threat “families,” and that number jumped to 804 in 2013 and 1,268 in 2014, according to Vennon.

At least 15 million mobile devices were infected with malware in September 2014, according to a report from Alcatel-Lucent’s Kindsight Security Labs. Of those devices, 60 percent were Android smartphones and about 40 percent were Windows PCs that connected to the Web via mobile networks. Windows Mobile, iOS, BlackBerry and Symbian devices represented less than 1 percent of mobile malware infestations.

Symantec’s 2015 “Internet Security Threat Report” says 17 percent of all Android apps (nearly a million) are malware in disguise. In comparison, Symantec uncovered approximately 700,000 Android malware apps in 2013.

Android more vulnerable than iOS, Windows Mobile

Android is more vulnerable than iOS because of its OS fragmentation, according to Geoff Sanders, cofounder and CEO of LaunchKey.

“Even when Google releases a security patch, it’s ultimately up to the [device] manufacturer to provide this patch to end users,” Sanders says. “This puts many more users at risk as their devices age.”

The overall risk level for Android is also higher because it’s the most popular mobile OS, according to Bojan Simic, CTO of HYPR Corp.

Apple deploys iOS only on its own devices, so the company has “far better control and knowledge of risk,” Simic says. Apple’s app verification system is also significantly more rigorous than Google’s process in the Play store, and it results in less malware, according to Simic.

Windows Mobile users are safer due to the rule of “security by obscurity,” Simic says. “Most hackers will direct their efforts where the biggest payoff is, and right now that target is Android due to its sheer amount of users.

Documented high-profile Android attacks

During the past year or so, a number of high-profile Android-based attacks and vulnerabilities made headlines.

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Operation Emmental, which targeted 34 European banks, is probably the highest profile attack that used Android malware as a key component, according to Simic.

“The sophisticated attack was used to bypass two-factor security implementations that banks had deployed to protect their users,” Simic says. “Throughout the attacks, it is estimated that about $1 billion was stolen.”

The WebView bug in Android 4.3 (and older versions) was also widely reported, according to Gleb Sviripa, an Android developer at KeepSolid, and it left around 930 million Android devices vulnerable to potential attacks. WebView let “apps display Web pages without launching a separate app, and the bug could open up affected phones to malicious hackers,” Sviripa says.

Google launched security patches for Android 4.4 and above but said it wouldn’t develop patches for earlier OS builds. Instead, it encouraged the development community to step in. Google’s head Android security engineer said the decision was due to “the complexity of applying patches to older branches of WebKit,” according to ZDNet.

AndroidLocker, another very real threat, is “a new malware variant discovered last year by Dell, which mirrored the functionalities of ransomware,” says Swarup Selvaraman, senior product manager at Dell SonicWALL. “The malware would lock down mobile devices, claiming to be the FBI, and demand users pay a ‘fine’ within a certain time to unlock their devices and avoid criminal charges.

In 2014, Dell also discovered an Android Trojan that targeted South Korean banks, Selvaraman says. “When users would download the malware, it would appear in their app drawer as ‘googl app stoy,'” Selvaraman says. “If opened, it would show an error message, shut down, and seemingly uninstall itself. However, it was secretly still running in the background, specifically monitoring South Korean financial apps.”

Android security threat is real but ‘overblown’

The mobile security threat exists, but it is “overblown,” according to new research from Damballa. For its spring 2015 report, the company monitored about 50 percent of U.S. mobile traffic (including but not limited to Android). Damballa concluded that mobile users are 1.3 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to have their mobile devices compromised by malware.

“This research shows that mobile malware in the Unites States is very much like Ebola – harmful, but greatly over exaggerated, and contained to a limited percentage of the population that is engaging in behavior that puts them at risk for infection,” said Charles Lever, a Damballa senior scientific researcher, in a press release on the company’s website.

Mark Hammond, senior manager for Cisco Security Solutions, agrees the Android threat has been greatly exaggerated. “The threat of Android malware is also directly associated with the source. If the average user is sticking with a well-regulated app store, like Google Play, then the risk of malware diminishes significantly.”

The mobile malware threat is “really minimal,” according to John Gunn, vice president of VASCO Data Security. While many people have some sort of malware on their computers, “few know anyone who has had malware on their mobile device,” he says.

Verizon’s 2015 “Data Breach Investigations Report” also concluded that “mobile threats are overblown,” and “the overall number of exploited security vulnerabilities across all mobile platforms is negligible.”

The risk of malware making its way into a native Android app is lower than ever thanks to Google’s automated scanning and other new security improvements, according to Terry May, an Android developer with Detroit Labs. Google “reinforced the Android sandbox with SELinux and enhancements to the Google Play services library that can scan for vulnerabilities on the local device and not just the apps in the store,” May says. “This means that even apps that have been side-loaded can be scanned.”

Less than 1 percent of Android devices had a potentially harmful app (PHA) installed in 2014, and the number of PHAs on Android devices dropped by 50 percent between the first and fourth quarters of last year, according to a Google Online Security Blog post published by Android security lead engineer Adrian Ludwig in April 2015. Less than 0.15 percent of devices that only installed apps from Google Play had a PHA installed last year, Ludwig wrote.

The bottom line is that malware attacks “are increasing because users are spending more time on mobile devices than ever before, the value of the data on mobile keeps increasing, and a single OS (Android) dominates the market, increasing the footprint for attackers,” says Domingo Guerra, president and cofounder of Appthority.

However, mobile malware isn’t necessarily more prevalent. “Although the number of mobile malware apps is definitely booming, so is the number of good and benign apps,” Guerra says

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