Madrobots at IFA 2018. Part 1 - startups
In early September, the Madrobots team visited Berlin, where an exhibition of new consumer electronics and home appliances IFA 2018 was held. We were interested, of course, first, and also robots, artificial intelligence and other small joys of the geek. Alas, the IFA is more about refrigerators with integrated tablets than about the future and the Matrix. Nevertheless, our landing force managed to find quite a few promising start-ups and gadgets. We share impressions.
Bellabeat: Leaf Trackers, Spring's Smart Bottle
European startup Bellabeat trackers Leaf outwardly do not look like serious gadgets. No buttons, screen, LEDs, plastic, aluminum or other characteristic features of an electronic device. Each "leaf", made of natural materials, looks like decoration. Meanwhile, it is one of the few female health trackers on the market.
Startup Bellabeat began its journey to success at the 2014 Y Combinator American Business Incubator. The company was founded by Slovenian artist Urška Srsen and Croatian mathematician Sandro Moore. They won a start-up competition at the Pioneers Festival conference in Vienna. One of the judges turned out to be a partner of Y Combinator, so that European innovators went to another continent.
The first gadget Srsen and Mura was a portable device for ultrasound, which helped expectant mothers to monitor pregnancy. Soon the Europeans turned down the project for the sake of a more successful undertaking - the wearable health tracker Leaf.
On the one hand, Leaf is a spectacular pendant, brooch and bracelet, depending on the accessories chosen for it. On the other hand, a device that counts the number of steps taken, hours of activity and sleep. Leaf is paired with a mobile application. The latter provides deeper analysis and statistics of the data tracked by the gadget. Separate application tabs are devoted to directional meditation, assessment and prediction of stress levels, and the menstrual cycle. You can even set a reminder to take a birth control pill and monitor the course of pregnancy (but without ultrasound).
The tracker has two versions: Urban and Chakra . They are both made of wood composite and stainless steel. The new model Chakra, presented at IFA 2018, is supplemented with an insert made of black onyx or rose quartz.
Another Bellabeat product - the intelligent water bottle Spring , which works with the same application as the Leaf tracker. The app calculates optimal water intake based on age, weight, height and activity level. The algorithm also takes into account pregnancy and breastfeeding. A bottle equipped with scales and a gyroscope counts and analyzes how much water has been drunk. To transfer this data to the app, the gadget must be connected to the smartphone via Bluetooth and vigorously shaken.
Like the Leaf tracker, Spring has an elegant design. Its flask is made of borosilicate glass, the cuff is made of silicone, and the cap and base are made of plastic without BPA. The bottle is disassembled, after which it can be washed in a dishwasher. The volume is 473 milliliters.
WizEvo: smart hair dryer Sylph
Shenzhen startup WizEvo came to conquer Europe with a smart Sylph hairdryer . Last year, this hairdryer collected a little less than $ 100,000 on Indiegogo. The campaign, as often happens with Chinese startups, was rather needed for advertising purposes, and not as the only source of funding.
Sylph is a modest-sized gadget that fits in one hand or in a woman's purse. The device weighs only 150 grams, and it differs from traditional hair dryers in the absence of a long nozzle. A small brushless motor is hidden in the handle, and the air intake, respectively, is located at the lower end of the device. The rotational speed of the motor is 75,000 rpm. The hair dryer is not wireless, it requires a constant power supply.
According to the manufacturer, the small Sylph is comparable to a “professional” 1400 watt hairdryer. It is more convenient to use it because the hair dryer does not suck in the hair and is easier to hold, which means it is easier to dry the back of the head and the whole head in general.
Another "trick" Sylph is that it does not overdry hair. The dryer is equipped with sensors and a microcontroller based on the Cortex-M4 core. The device checks the air temperature 50 times per second and regulates the temperature of the heating element so that the temperature of the blown air is kept at the same level. A total of four installations: cold air, 59 ℃, 78 ℃ and 92 ℃. The dryer is equipped with an ionization function, magnetic nozzles (diffuser, concentrator) and magnetic wall mount.
Sylph is vaguely reminiscent of the Dyson 'super-zoomed hair dryer, which the English company introduced in 2016. However, the Chinese gadget is smaller and two times cheaper: Supersonic still sells for $ 400 (the gold-plated version costs $ 500), and Sylph offered to beckers for $ 100–200.
Hym Originals: Seed and Duo Vinyl Players
The Taiwanese company Hym Originals owes its existence to a vinyl fever that has swept the entire world, including China. A small startup has been recording vinyl records since 2015. In 2017, the service also decided to produce players, for which he launched a gadget campaign called Seed on Kickstarter.
Seed- This is not just a vinyl player, but a combination of a player and a modern audio system. The plate with the plate revolves right on the sound box. So that the vibration does not interfere with playback, the plate is mounted on a spring suspension with a three-point support. The tonearm is equipped with an Audio Technica AT3600 cartridge and a counterweight eccentric. The anti-skating mechanism and the clamping force are pre-configured and are not manually controlled in any way - much to the relief of unassuming music lovers and the wrath of vinyl aesthetes.
The audio system itself is equipped with a 70-watt amplifier, two 1-inch tweeters with silk membranes and two 4-inch woofers with kevlar membranes. Seed connects to third-party audio sources via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. At this point, it is easy to see that the maximum playback volume of the record will be lower than the maximum sound volume from the same Spotify.
But the design of the device is extremely good. The case of an interesting curved shape is made of eucalyptus, birch and ash wood, treated so that they seem to be a single whole. Complement the picture with metallic accents and fixed grille of gray fabric.
Seed was brought to IFA 2018. Together with last year's player, the Hym team showed something new: the Duo turntable. Like the Seed, the device is a complete audio system, but the speaker is removed and works separately. It connects via Bluetooth to alternative audio sources. Currently, the campaign of the novelty takes place on the Taiwan crowdfunding platform zeczec.com.
Innomdle Lab: Sgnl Smart Bracelet
The Sgnl bracelet is an alternative to traditional bluetooth headsets for smartphones. The gadget transmits sound in the form of vibrations through the hand and "turns" the tip of your finger into the earpiece. The accessory itself is equipped with a miniature microphone. That is, to talk on the phone, just put Sgnl on your wrist and plug your ear with your finger.
Korean inventor Choi Hyun Chal invented an unusual accessory. He felt embarrassed due to the fact that others could hear his conversations on the phone. With the idea of a bracelet, Hyun Chal turned to C-Lab, a Samsung business incubator, and as a result, he got his own startup called Innomdle Lab. In 2016, Sgnl collected $ 2.2 million on Kickstarter and Indiegogo crowdfunding platforms, and has since regularly appeared at electronics fairs, including IFA and CES. By the way, at CES 2018 we tested the gadget and nothing happened, but at IFA it really worked!
A great advantage of Sgnl is the fact that the bracelet can be used as a strap for analog and smart watches, including the Apple Watch and Samsung Gear. Apparently, the work of vibration emitters does not interfere. The accessory connects to the smartphone via Bluetooth and requires the installation of a mobile application. Claimed bracelet talk time is 4 hours, standby time is 4 days.
It is worth mentioning that the deliveries of the first model of the bracelet, the Sgnl WB-S50, began last July and the users who received it have already expressed dissatisfaction with the rapidly discharging battery and the insufficient volume of their fingers.
At IFA 2018, Innomdle Lab representatives brought both this model and a slightly updated leather version of the Sgnl WB-S30, which received additional functions for tracking health indicators. In addition, on the stand of the startup were wireless headphones, "nekbend" (HB-N50) and smart headphones (HB-V70). Both accessories support noise reduction and allow you to hear the surrounding sounds - but not at the same time, naturally. Let's see if the young company will cope with sudden difficulties, and how justified will be its approach to wireless headsets in practice.
Fitbit: fitness tracker Charge 3
Fitbit brought to IFA 2018 a new fitness tracker with a heart rate monitor Charge 3, which was announced a week before the exhibition. Outwardly, it is not much different from Charge 2, the whole difference lies in the details.
The display is now touch-sensitive, it has slightly increased in size and displays shades of gray in addition to black and white. The body of the device has finally received protection from water, so that with a tracker you can swim in fresh and saline water bodies. Because of this, the physical button on the side was replaced with a capacitive one.
The tracker body material has changed from stainless steel to “aerospace aluminum" (from which they are doing everything recently - from forks to scooters. Maybe because of a stagnation in the field of alloys in spacecraft there are holes?). The change of material had a beneficial effect on the weight and size of the gadget - it became thinner than its predecessor (11.7 mm versus 12.7 mm) and lighter (30 grams versus 36 grams).
Charge 3 does not have a built-in GPS antenna, which the developers explain by saving space in the case and battery charge. It’s rather a matter of unwillingness to compete with Fitbit Ionic’s own smart watches, which aren’t selling as well as corporations would like.
From Ionic Charge 3 got the controversial oxygen saturation sensor - Sp02. Controversial because it still does not work. Shortly after the completion of IFA, Apple introduced the next generation of Apple Watch smart watches with an ECG sensor. In response, Fitbit announced the launch of Fitbit Care, a health tracking service. The Sp02 sensor from this loud statement did not turn on. Alas.
In addition to the standard features for Fitbit trackers, Charge 3 supports NFC payments, as well as tracking menstruation and ovulation. The latter function is too simple, especially compared to existing applications and trackers. But, probably, in the case of Fitbit, the main thing is not a gift, but attention.
Together with Charge 3, other models of Fitbit wearable gadgets could be found at the exhibition booth. We liked the smart watch Fitbit Versa - which is not surprising, since the device has a neat design without unnecessarily sharp corners.
Nanoleaf: Smart Canvas Lighting System
Nanoleaf is that startup that realized the secret dream of space opera fans. No, not flying to the stars, but a futuristic backlight, from which an ordinary earthly room looks like the cabin of a space station. Before the panels were only triangular, and at IFA 2018 the company showed new, square.
New lights called Canvas . Like the first version, Aurora , these are modular panels that are attached to one another and glued to the wall in any order. Thousands of such panels are connected to one controller at once - previously their number was limited to thirty. Plus, touch modules. One touch on them can be used to “wave”, or do something more boring - turn the backlight on and off, adjust the brightness.
Canvas panels are still under development. They were demonstrated at CES 2018, then the lights broke and worked with difficulty. They brought a refined, more stable product to the European exhibition. Most likely, the final version of the panels will not have a visible cross in the middle.
How do you like that, Ilon Musk?
Kscooter: Russian smart electric scooter
Three companies represented Russia at IFA 2018. For comparison, Slovak exhibitors were five, Latvian - 6, Polish - three dozen.
Using the example of a St. Petersburg startup kScooter, it becomes clear what's the matter. This small company has been developing the ultra-light smart electric scooter of the same name for four years. The IFA organizers went to kScooter on their own and sent an invitation to a team of innovators. They arrived, but without a scooter: Russian customs refused to produce a prototype abroad, because it did not have a certificate for lithium-ion batteries. Draw your own conclusions.
Scooter drove to Berlin in the last days of the exhibition. Before that, we were able to communicate with its inventor, Ivan Kononov. The electric scooter weighs 4 kilograms, its mileage per charge is 30 kilometers. For cushioning during the drive meets carbon fiber deck. The scooter is paired with the application, and extremely easy to manage - it does not even have a gas handle. To master the management of such an electric scooter can anyone.
To finance the serial production of kScooter, its creators are planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter in 2019. Production is likely to be organized in China. The electric scooter will cost from 499 to 999 €.
MysteryVibe: no, this is probably not a neck massager
London startup MysteryVibe is developing smart sex toys. The most famous (in narrow circles) product of the company is the Crescendo vibrator . It is equipped with six motors, bent arbitrarily and connected to a smartphone. It is possible that in the near future, Alex or Google’s assistant will learn to control the vibrator.
However, developers want to go beyond their narrow niche. At one of the exhibitions held in this year, a sex startup presented his vibrator as an intelligent massager. At the same time, the founder of Madrobots Nikolay Belousov bravely endured a neck massage made by a smart device. It seems that, by IFA 2018, the British visionaries refused a revolutionary idea.
But on the stand there was a novelty - a smart vibrator for men Tenuto. You can't confuse it with a neck massager, although the device looks frightening. It is controlled using a smartphone and has six zones of vibration. We will spare you the extra details.
Mobvoi: Ticwatch Pro, S and E smart watches, TicHome Mini smart speaker
Chinese startup Mobvoi was founded by former Google employees. At first, the company developed AI systems and Chinese speech recognition, but later went into smart watches.
Ticwatch S and Ticwatch E are, among other things, the result of two crowdfunding campaigns of 2016: first on Jd.com, then on Kickstarter. This is the first smart watch of a startup that works on Android Wear 2.0, and not on its own Mobvoi fork. The difference between gadgets is as follows: the S model is a millimeter wider, 4 grams heavier and has a built-in GPS antenna. Everything else is identical: heart rate sensor, touch screen, 4 gigabytes of space (including music), battery, which lasts 48 hours of active use. Ticwatch Pro
Watchcame out in 2018. A distinctive and unusual feature of the model is a dual-layer screen, as in several models of Casio smart watches. The bottom layer is the color OLED display, which is traditional for this kind of gadgets; top - transparent monochrome liquid crystal panel. As a result, the user can switch between an economical basic mode, in which time, steps and heart rate are shown on the LCD screen, and a full-fledged smart watch mode. If you want a battery Ticwatch Pro enough for five days.
In the case of the device there was a place for an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a heart rate sensor, a GPS antenna, 4 GB of space. Among the shortcomings, it is worth noting the massiveness common to all Mobvoi watches and the long wait time when switching from “basic” to “smart” mode, because the Wear OS is turned off completely.
In addition to hours, at the Mobvoi booth, we noticed a new smart TicHome Mini column . It is distinguished from the rest of the numerous speakers by its IPX6 waterproof rating and native Google Assistant support. According to the assurances of a Chinese startup, with this gadget, a smart assistant will be able to safely go to a place where no artificial intelligence has ever been to your soul.
In addition to all of the above, at IFA 2018 we met a lot of curious. We played with robot dogs and humanoid robots, threw each other with a ball column and rode roller skaters.
We were especially impressed by smart projectors who managed to stand out in a separate category. We will tell about them in detail in the second part of the post. If you do not want to wait, then you can learn about projectors and gadgets from the video that our team recorded at the exhibition (in the intervals between eating German sausages and emotional conversations with Chinese startups).
Madrobots has a serious question for you: which gadgets did you like? Are there any other interesting devices from the last exhibition that you would like to buy in Russia? Be sure to share your opinion in the comments.