IT & Systems Management

Smartwatch parade keeps on ticking with Qualcomm's Toq

Qualcomm on Wednesday announced the Qualcomm Toq, a smartwatch slated for a fourth quarter release to provide a focal point for the technologies and services under development at the company.

Some of these services were on display at the Qualcomm Uplinq conference in San Diego on Wednesday, including AllPlay, a streaming music service with Rhapsody that will compete with Apple's AirPlay and the recently announced Spotify Connect.

Qualcomm chief executive Paul Jacobs also announced a partnership with the Miami Dolphins football team, who will use Qualcomm's "Gimbal" technology to make apps location-aware, and push deals and additional content to fans at the stadium when they wander in range. The company also showed off a new capability in its existing augmented-reality technology, known as Vuforia, which can import actual objects into an augmented reality environment.

It's all part of what Jacobs called the "digital sixth sense," the first instantiations of which are the sort of digital personal assistants like Siri or Google Now. "This is just the start of stuff that's going to come," Jacobs said.

The Toq joins the Samsung Galaxy Gear, not to mention rumored smartwatches from Apple and Microsoft. But the Toq is real, and Jacobs demonstrated the watch on stage during his talk.

Jacbos didn't disclose the price of the watch, but said it uses a Mirasol screen that's visible in bright sunlight. The Toq connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth, and will allow the user to make and receive calls, send text messages, receive notifications, and use basic applets like AccuWeather weather applications. It also includes a music player, which will connect to a set of wireless earbuds that Qualcomm will bundle with the watch itself. The watch and earbuds will charge wirelessly, with a battery life that will last for "days," Jacobs said.

The software in the Toq is upgradeable and will communicate with devices like the 2Net Mobile medical devices, using apps designed by Qualcomm that will run on a smartphone.

Qualcomm is most commonly known for its mobile application processors and wireless components. However, to sell more components, the company has also developed sophisticated tools and applications that show off the power of its components.

One of those is a technology called AllJoyn, which facilitates device-to-device interaction. "We're trying to create this common language for the Internet of everything," Jacobs said.

AllJoyn forms the foundation of AllPlay, an optimized technology for audio streaming that music streaming vendor Pandora agreed to use. In a demonstration, AllPlay streamed music to several sets of AllPlay-enabled speakers, with independent volume controls for each set of speakers, as well as the capability to stream different songs to each speaker.

It's unclear, however, how many speaker manufacturers will include AllPlay technology. Spotify, for example, announced partnerships with Argon, Bang & Olufsen, Denon, Hama, Marantz, Philips, Pioneer, Revo, Teufel, and Yamaha. Jacobs only said that Qualcomm was talking to leading speaker vendors, and did not provide further details.

The Gimbal technology, for its part, uses Bluetooth to provide "microlocation" services. In the future, Jacobs said, app developers will use the Gimbal technology to push data and additional offers to those that wander in range.

Finally, Qualcomm showed off a new capability of Vuforia, a foundational augmented reality technology that the company claimed many app developers use. A "dynamic terrain" capability that has been added to Vuforia "scanned" in ordinary objects like a tissue box, a stack of books, and a vase, transforming them into virtual objects. Qualcomm executives then mapped that into a digital world, where characters and monsters climbed the objects and interacted with them using realistic physics.

Representatives from MIT's Media Lab also applied a "digital layer" to real-world objects, so that turning a virtual dial on a rock--that didn't exist in real life--turned the audio volume up and down.


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