Intel launched its Make It Wearable competition which will see one lucky winner receive $500,000. At the moment 7 of 10 finalists are from Europe with 3 from the UK. We caught up with the UK finalists to see their amazing robot hands, modular smartwatch and wearable intelligent pendant ahead of the final winner announcement on 3 November.
Each of the finalists have won $50,000 for getting this far, using the Intel Edison to power their devices' brains.
We met the creators of the Arc Pendant, the Blocks modular smartwatch and Open Bionics 3D printed robotic hands.
Arc Pendant smart wearable
The Arc Pendant is a smart wearable that not only monitors the body but feeds back using vibration points on the upper body.
The Arc Pendant monitors the body using gyro and accelerometer sensors. It's voice controlled allowing wider gadget control via pairing. It also offers haptic feedback to relay information like when and where to turn when cycling, for example.
The Pendant is made from annodised aluminium with a silicon necklace. Of course it features an Intel Edison board inside as the brain. The final unit will have a mutli-coloured LED light array for visual feedback. Covers are snap-on so they can be changed, including adding 3D printed personalised covers.
There are two microphones in the band to listen to vibrations and words. Six haptic nodes feedback to the body, meaning a wide array of information can be relayed without comprising sight or hearing.
The Arc Pendant will use an open platform for developers. It will launch with three core apps: Arc Explore, Arc Home, Arc Body apps coming at launch.
Arc Explore: This app works simply, you select location in Google Maps and the app will guide you with directions via vibrating feedback. There's even vibrating signals for turn around, turn in a direction and build up to turns.
Arc Home: This allows you to voice control your home with things like Sonos, Hue lights, blinds and so on. This also integrates with IFTTT so can be used pretty much with anything that's connected.
Arc Body: This takes advantage of the heart rate monitor, breathing measurements, core body posture and more. It should offer more sensor data for better apps, with feedback, for health.
Third-parties should also benefit. GoPro, for example, could offer control of camera functions using your voice via the Arc. Strava, as another case, could offer updates for pace fed through the Arc using vibrations.
The prototype should arrive in December with production planned for March 2015. The Arc Pendant will be iOS and Android compatible for launch and will work with Apple HealthKit.
There should be a one month battery life, based on usage of three journeys per week. The unit is magnetically sealed in the front to let you remove it and drop into a pin charger. The entire thing is IP67 water-resistant and will cost around $149 at launch.
Blocks modular smartwatch
Blocks is a modular smartwatch. Each part forms the band, allowing you to swap out parts or add extra functionality, without spending loads on upgrading the entire watch.
The basic unit comprises a display, processor, battery, buzzer, motion sensor and Bluetooth connectivity.
Examples of possible extra units, which make up the strap include Ritot, which can display screens projected onto the hand, or a speaker that bounces from a cupped hand when held to the ear, like on the Hot Watch.
Blocks will have a store, like Apple's App Store, but for hardware. This should drive the price of hardware down and open up variation, just like apps did for software.
The lower part of each link is rubber for comfort while the top is removable for open hardware design. Fashion companies are taking part meaning every person could have individual designs. It's also fair to assume 3D printing your own parts shouldn't be too difficult.
So far Barclays is working with Blocks for contactless payments, Orange for GSM connectivity, and Misfit for a fitness app.
The plan is to ship in Q3 of 2015 after crowd funding early in 2015. The price should be around $150. Each extra block will be $20 to $50.
The strap will come with empty blocks to fit the wrist. Or if you want to have all battery blocks that is an option, for example.
The Block watch will run Tizen OS at launch. But in future could have multiple core blocks with different operating systems.
Open Bionics robotic hands
Open Bionics is working on low cost robotic hands for enabling amputees to access robotic limbs.
Currently the NHS offers split hook limbs that are body-powered – bending of arm and shoulder - or a basic plastic hand unit for look alone that does nothing. High end robotics are pressure sensitive and muscle controlled with sensors but they're expensive at £40,000 to £60,000 and rarely get dished out by the NHS. Open Bionics wants to change this by making $1,000 smart bionic robotic hands.
Open Bionics uses 3D scanning for fitting. An Occipital Structure scanner is used allowing for specific 3D printed socket and hand units to fit the wearer.
There's a single motor for each finger and thumb with a separate servo for the thumb. Every finger can sense the amount of force being applied – resistance will mean it can form around the shape of an object. Software allows for specific grips like key grip.
Ninjaflex is the material that's used on fingers – it's strong, flexible and doesn't affect the skin. The company used nature for focus saying: "it has been kind enough to be open source".
Tendons are steel cables with seven cores of seven strands – 49 in total coated in nylon for strength and flexibility. The human hand has 24 degrees of freedom – this will have 3 actuators and 16 joints – one for thumb, one for index and one for other three fingers.
The ultimate goal is to support a person's weight doing a pull-up, so around 50kg for each hand.
Since amputees can't feel the hand they will be rough with it, so it needs to be strong. When lifting the "bones" will lock making it stronger to take pressure off the cable tendons.
Intel Edison will offer wireless connectivity so modes can be changed depending on what the user is doing. Office mode, bag carrying, key and pinch mode, and so on should be pre-set options.
The battery and some of the electronics will be mounted in the socket nearer to the elbow joint so it feels lighter to the wearer.
Small robot hands should be sold to the robotics market soon. Prosthetics won't make it to market until the back end of 2015.
Prices will sit at around $1,000, ideally. There are 11.4 million hand amputees in the world – the goal is to get price even lower so as to serve developing countries too. Also for children who should be getting new prosthetics as they grow.