Technical Machine launches new board and makes production easier

Technical Machine, a startup making a development boards for the internet of things, has launched a second generation product that has more power and better Wi-Fi. The Tessel 2 goes on sale today for $35 and will act more as a hub device mediating the inputs from a variety of sensors or other inputs. The board will ship in August.

Jon McKay, the CEO of Technical Machine, said in a few weeks the company plans to launch a lower-power version of a Tessel 2 board that will function more like a sensor device.

The idea of the board is to get web developers more accustomed to playing with code, comfortable taking their ideas for software and bringing them into the real world. With both Tessel boards they can now connect the web to a physical device — be it a sensor or something a bit more complicated like a display. McKay says companies such as Azure and SAP are using the boards in their data centers while other customers such as a doctor trying to prototype a wearable device and a company trying to increase insect protein production are also using the boards.

The companies building prototypes are a big market for the Tessel 2 and one that McKay is trying to better serve with this iteration. McKay designed the board to make it easier and cheaper to take it into limited production of a hundred to a couple thousand items, such as making sure that unused sections of the boards can be broken off to avoid wasting space, you can integrate modules into the PCB so they the connectors or more secure.

These efforts are part of several being attempted by companies in the burgeoning hardware sector to make manufacturing and prototyping easier. For example, when I covered the partnership between SnapEDA and Octopart I wrote:

[blockquote person=”” attribution=””]With the emergence of startups like the Toronto-based SnapEDA or the YCombinator startup Octopart, we’re seeing the evolution of hardware development that aims to be a bit more like software. Faster, more iterative and more responsive to the needs of a rapidly-changing marketplace. We won’t ever get to the speed of code, but it’s awesome to see the agility that’s common in software creeping its way into the hardware world as much as it can.[/blockquote]

With Tessel 2, programmers now can use these boards (currently they can program Tessel 2 in Node.js/io.js) to take their ideas for new hardware and turn them into reality without having to spent a lot of time learning a lot about hardware. The steps the Technical Machine team has taken to make getting prototypes to production easier means that the software developers using the boards get an even longer runway when it comes to learning about hardware. This will only help let good ideas mature a bit further and broaden the scope of what the internet of things will make possible.

Technical Machine is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of Gigaom.

Leaked specs say HTC’s smart band works with Android and iPhone

HTC’s first wearable device is expected to debut soon and it might surprise with support for both Google Android handset and Apple iPhones. That’s based on details posted by Upleaks, which generally has a good track record at getting information in advance of product launches.

A look at the Uplinks specifications list for the HTC Petra, the reported code name for the device, reminds me much of the Microsoft Band both in functionality and potential design. For example, this won’t be a round or square watch, which is typical of similar products, due to the alleged 1.8-inch curved OLED display and its 160 x 32 resolution screen. Although that resolution sounds low to me, it would be rectangular like the Band, which uses a 320 x 106 resolution display.

Microsoft Band sensor and buttons

Upleaks says the software inside Petra is HTC’s own, not [company]Google[/company] Android Wear, which currently doesn’t support any other software platforms such as iOS or Windows Phone. The device is expected to have both Bluetooth and GPS, allowing for phone connectivity when required, but possibly used as a standalone exercise tracker on its own. Likely features include an alarm, timer, stopwatch, remote music and camera shutter control, sleep tracking, weather information and phone notifications. Battery life is expected to be three days.

If Upleaks is correct, this would be a smart approach for HTC because it gives the company a chance to branch out. Most of HTC’s current focus is on Android phones as the company has little to offer [company]Apple[/company] iPhone owners. Indeed, HTC said last month that it plans to bring “a line of connected health and fitness-related devices” in part to broaden its reach.

I’m not sure many iPhone users will bite on an HTC health-tracker with the Apple Watch shipping in two months, but it’s worth a try, particularly because a device like this shouldn’t cost nearly as much. Besides, the Android Wear market is fairly crowded already so it would be fairly difficult for HTC to differentiate itself from Samsung, Sony, Asus, LG and Motorola at this point.

LG Lifeband Touch and Heart Rate Earphones hit the US on May 18

We saw LG’s Lifeband Touch at January’s Consumer Electronics Show and it’s finally going on sale. Expect to see it on retail shelves later this month in the U.S., along with a pair of earphones that can measure heart rate and blood oxygen levels.

Are smart wearables having their “iPhone moment” yet?

What does it take for smart wearables to go mainstream? More than you’d think. Not only do the products have to be useful on a daily basis, but they also need the right blend of software support and user experience so they don’t disrupt daily workflow.

The 2013 Google Glass tour begins! First stop: Durham, N.C.

Google is slowly building up momentum for Google Glass: Aside from the 8,000 Glass Explorers using the product, Google is taking Glass on the road. First stop for regular folks to try the wearable device? Durham, North Carolina.