The arm race has just gotten started, but the Qualcomm Toq smartwatch has a distinctive edge: It makes your most important information more visible than the rest.
It’s the only color smartwatch whose display features crisp, clear images, even in the brightest daylight. The larger surface and color touchscreen display is always on and active for days between charges.
With the Qualcomm Toq, you can leave your smartphone in your pocket or purse. The Toq receives instant updates from your smartphone via Bluetooth wireless. With a flick of the wrist, the device displays notifications for calls, texts, email and more. Using Qualcomm's own AllJoyn technology, the Toq does run its own apps. But the smartwatch is meant to sync with Android smartphones and can be customized to display just the information you need.
No More “On" Button
Watches don’t have “on-off” buttons, nor does the Toq smartwatch. Its screen is always on and always ready to go, giving you your key information with just a glance.
Now you can stay current without reaching into your pocket or purse. No more scrolling through notifications and checking your smartphone hundreds of times a day.
The Qualcomm runs its own apps and syncs with Android phones.
The stunning graphics are made possible by the Qualcomm Mirasol reflective display. Instead of using a typical backlit display found in other smartwatches and some tablet computers, sensors in the watch use ambient light around it so you can see your screen anywhere. If it’s too dark, a double tap on the wristband above the face of the Toq turns it on.
The Qualcomm Mirasol display makes the Toq the first smartwatch to use micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS)-based Interferometric Modulation (IMOD) technology. This makes the display experience similar to a high-definition television screen. The bottom line: You won’t battle the sun to see your important information.
And where other displays gulp power, the Toq runs on a low-power 200MHz Cortex M3 processor. This means the Toq can be constantly on and active for longer between charges.
Get A Charge—Wirelessly
The Qualcomm Toq is also innovative in its wireless charging system. Using Qualcomm WiPower LE Magnetic Resonance technology, the smartwatch eliminates the need for multiple chargers and wires. Simply resting in its cradle, the Toq does not require very precise alignment of devices—just drop it in.
Never Miss A Call Or Skip A Beat
If the Qualcomm Toq looks good, the sound will impress you too. With high-definition wireless stereo headsets you can really pamper yourself. The optional Toq Bluetooth earbuds feature high-quality stereo audio with a dedicated tweeter and woofer for a superior sound. The headsets are also lightweight and sit above the ear canal to prevent hearing loss.
The controls on the Qualcomm Toq smartwatch let you play the songs you want from your smartphone in the order you want them.
The time has come to receive notifications and alerts from your wrist. You can order the Qualcomm Toq now.
If marketing is all about creating stories around a product, few CEOs are as good at storytelling as Apple's Tim Cook. But that doesn't mean the stories he tells are true.
At least, not as true as he'd like. Like any storyteller, Cook likes to cherry pick the data that suits his purposes best. For example, the big news over this holiday period has been, yet again, just how dramatically Apple's iOS devices lead Google's Android when it comes to usage for web browsing and shopping, as illustrated by IBM research. Based on past versions of this same analysis, Cook concludes that Android leads the "junk market" and that only iOS gets used while Android devices sit "in the drawer."
But this isn't what the data says. Not really.
Missing The Forest For The Trees
Commenting on data indicating that, despite Android's massive market share, it still doesn't get used much for Web browsing, Cook opined to Bloomberg earlier this year:
Does a unit of market share matter if it’s not being used? For us, it matters that people use our products. We really want to enrich people’s lives, and you can’t enrich somebody’s life if the product is in the drawer.
IBM's data says that iOS devices capture 32.6% of Web traffic on Christmas Day, as opposed to 14.8% for Android. The IBM Benchmark report focuses on e-commerce data between mobile devices and traditional Web browsing and notes that iOS nearly doubles Android in online spending per sale as well.
It turns out that there are lots of things to do with a smartphone or tablet that have nothing to do with visiting websites or shopping. Recent data from the United Kingdom suggests that the primary thing people do with tablets is watch video and play games. Neither necessarily sparks any online browsing or shopping data to be captured by IBM's report.
Neither may count as "enriching people's lives," either, but then, it's doubtful that much of the shopping or Web browsing being done on Apple's iOS devices does, either. We're a generation that wastes an inordinate amount of time on Instagram and SnapChat and the average American carries over $7,000 in credit card debt: talking about enriching our lives through better ways to browse and spend seems patronizing in the extreme.
Indeed, the device that actually does enrich my life—the Android-based Kindle Paperwhite—doesn't show up on IBM's analysis at all. It's miserable for Web browsing and only lets me shop in one store: Amazon's. But I tend to buy a lot of books there (never videos - it's a Paperwhite, not the Kindle Fire) and ... GASP!, read them on the Paperwhite too.
Nor am I alone, as Flurry data on new device activations shows:
Indeed, separate Flurry data also suggests that WiFi-only tablets are the most gifted devices, given that they're cheap and don't require contracts with a wireless carrier. Cook may have forgotten just how powerful a low-cost, single-purpose device can be (iPod, anyone?) in his haste to denigrate Android adoption. The fact remains: Android devices may not get used for Web browsing but they are getting used.
To be fair, Flurry also released data earlier this year that shows the average Android user also spends about 80% of the time that with apps that an iOS user does. What none of these studies really achieve though is the ability to break down Android usage as a generic term into specific devices. Many Android smartphones are destined for budget-conscious consumers that may have limited data plans and free time. Comparing the entire Android ecosystem to the iPhone and iPad is no longer a one-to-one an equal equation. If you take the top Android smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 or Galaxy Note 3, the Google Nexus 5, HTC One or Moto X and compare them to the iOS devices, would the data look the same?
The analytics on Android vs. iOS tend to talk in generalities without taking the specific sectors of the market (high-end versus low-end smartphones) into account. These generalities play well into Cook's hands as he can then wag a finger at Android and say, "hey, I told you so. Buy an iPhone."
I see the diversity of uses for Android devices whenever I get my hair cut (my barber has two Android devices, one for playing music and the other to entertain her kids with video) and when I go to church and use my Android-based Kindle Fire for nothing other than a once-per-week set of scriptures. These are just two of a variety of examples that Cook seems to ignore. Cook may not think such use counts as "enriching" but it really doesn't matter what he thinks.
After all, he's just trying to pitch a story that sells Apple to consumers and Wall Street.
But What About Developers?
Of course, this does overlook one important constituency: developers. As happy as I may be to use my four Android-based devices for single purposes, developers aren't. They make money selling me apps and they're making far more money on iOS than Android.
That was then, this is now.
It turns out that enterprise app developers make more money, more consistently, than consumer app developers. As we reach saturation in mobile (ReadWrite's Dan Rowinski writes that we may already be there) coupled with increasing success of single-purpose "smart" devices, I suspect we'll see a serious shakeout in the consumer developer ranks.
But not a shakeout in tablet and smartphone interest.
While true that the average smartphone user installs 25 apps on her phone, I suspect that the average number of apps actually used is far lower. I can count on one hand the number of apps I regularly use on my iPhone, and can count the number of apps I use on my iPad on two fingers.
In other words, the real winners in mobile may be the device manufacturers, not the app developers, leaving Cook's rage against the Android machine sounding somewhat hollow.
On the surface, D-Wave’s quantum computer looks revolutionary. Google, NASA, and Lockheed Martin are all customers. The company has published articles on its merits in 60 peer-reviewed scientific journals.
But a very vocal naysayer isn't on board with the company's claims—the scientific community.
Scientists accept that D-Wave has built a very fast computer. The controversy lies in D-Wave's inability to satisfactorily convince physicists that its computer is actually harnessing the mindbending properties of quantum mechanics.
D-Wave CEO Vern Brownell says that scientists are still caught up in the theories of quantum computing, while D-Wave has moved on to practical applications. In the meantime, he said D-Wave’s scientific publications and star-studded customers should speak for themselves.
“We recognize controversy is out there, but the reality of any new groundbreaking technology is that controversy is always going to be out there,” he said.
But according to Christopher Monroe, the Bice Zorn Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland and fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute, it’s not the science community’s burden to prove. D-Wave will have to convince them first.
“It’s incredible they’ve been allowed to take it this far,” he said. “They do publish questionable papers, but they don’t publish data on the foundations of their system because they can’t.”
The Quantum Coffee Cup
Dr. Monroe at work in his lab.
Even for physicists, quantum mechanics can be a mind boggling field. Einstein famously thought the theory was too weird to be true. (He was wrong.)
Here’s the simplified theory for newcomers. In quantum mechanics, subatomic particles—and, under certain circumstances, collections of particles that have become "entangled" in a complex way—can have contradictory properties at the same time so long as no one's looking. But when someone peeks, the system pops into a definite, but randomly determined, state.
This theory is where we get the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat—a feline trapped in a chamber where a radioactive substance has a 50% chance of emitting a particle that will trigger the release of poison gas. Because that particle emission is a quantum event, the cat is both dead and alive at the same time—at least until someone opens the chamber to check on it.
See also: Futurist's Cheat Sheet: Quantum Computing
In classical computing, the smallest denomination of a computer is a bit, which holds a value of 0 or 1. Quantum computing uses a "quantum bit", called a qubit, which is valued at both 0 and 1 at once. When a qubit has two values at once, it's said to be in a "quantum state." If you build a machine with two qubits, it can be valued at 00, 01, 10, and 11 at the same time. As you add qubits, a quantum computer gains vastly more computing power than its classical analogue. Theoretically, at least.
Should it be what the company claims, D-Wave’s computer could be an enormous boon for society, harnessing tandem values to perform multiple equations in parallel, and solving enormous problems that have been too difficult for classical computing. At 512 qubits, it would be the largest ever quantum computer ever conceived. Research scientists who have published their work so far haven’t gotten beyond double digits.
The issue is that building qubits is very difficult, and keeping them in a quantum state is even tougher. According to the laws of quantum mechanics, each time you read data off a qubit—techically, an observation—it decoheres into a non-quantum state. It becomes merely a bit, valued at 0 or 1.
The scientific community accepts two models for building qubits and keeping them in quantum states—gate and adiabatic. D-Wave's is adiabatic, and so is the 20-qubit model Monroe has in his lab. Adiabatic quantum computers apply quantum annealing—put simply, a strategy for finding the lowest-energy solution to a numerical problem.
There are tests to prove whether qubits reset to quantum, usually by reducing the machine down to two qubits and making a model. Since D-Wave hasn’t chosen to conduct such a test, scientists are skeptical.
“Nobody knows much about D-Wave,” said Duncan Steel, a professor of engineering at the University of Michigan. “The rumor is that they have now sold a few of their machines, but the customers are government funded to evaluate the machine. They won't tell anyone how the machine works and so, even in principle, no one knows if it is possible that it might actually be a quantum computer.”
Perhaps the biggest breakthrough in D-Wave’s favor came in June when USC researchers published a paper titled "Experimental Signature of Programmable Quantum Annealing" in the peer-reviewed online journal Nature Communications. The paper posits “strong agreement” between a D-Wave machine and the laws of quantum mechanics, but to Monroe it means nothing.
“If you read [the paper], there is nothing in there that requires a quantum description of what's going on.” he said. “It says that their machine is consistent with certain models based on quantum mechanics. Big deal: I’m quantum too, and so is this coffee cup. But Is there entanglement? Can they use it to compute? It doesn’t say. D-Wave dwells on certain aspects that are consistent with particular quantum models. But there are non-quantum models of what's happening that describe all their data too.”
Too Good To Be True
The way Brownell describes D-Wave’s product, it sounds like something out of science fiction.
Picture a quantum processor the size of your fingernail, packed with superconducting wires. It sits in a magnetic vacuum, cooled to near absolute zero. It’s programmed by loading a set of mathematical equations into the processor. The processor then moves through near infinite possibilities before determining the lowest energy solution. When it arrives at that, it spits it out as the answer.
It’s a futuristic type of computing that could change the way we evaluate complicated financial or logistical problems. Cancer researchers believe it could be used to determine the behavior of proteins encoded by the human genome.
Based in Vancouver, D-Wave employs 110 people, mostly scientists and engineers, 30 of whom are PhDs. Some focus on nothing but researching papers for publication in scientific journals, the better to finally appeal to the scientific community.
Brownell thinks scientists may be concerned by the D-Wave’s position as a for-profit company, and questions about its quantum state may just be an inability to accept that D-Wave has been able to create something that years of quantum mechanics study has not.
“It’s commercial and it’s a business with the goal to become profitable and fuel scientific research—it’s a very different model than anyone else in the quantum computing community,” he said. “We’ll continue to reach out to the community, and publish papers. It’s hard to do that and build a product at the same time, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job. We’ve built something nobody else has been able to build.”
But D-Wave’s founder, Geordie Rose, takes a more lackadaisical approach. Maybe it doesn't really matter if the company's machine is actually a quantum computer or not, he says, if people find it useful.
"Academic groups tend to want to focus more on the quantum part than the computing part, and that's fine,” he told NPR in May. “It's just not what we do. What we do is build computers, and if we can build the fastest computers the world has ever known, you can call them whatever you like and I'll be happy."
But to Monroe, it does matter. If D-Wave is going to call their machine “the world’s first quantum computer, he wants it to truly be quantum. At its best, D-Wave could change everything. But if it’s not what it says, it could seriously affect the funding of quantum mechanics research.
“In their narrative, I’m a stuffy professor,” he said. “The general public is going to say that professors are conservative and this maverick company is scooping them on everything, and it makes a good story. People could say, ‘Why put money into this field if this small company in Canada already has the technology?’”
Monroe, who has a 20-qubit processor in his lab, knows the amazing potential a 512-qubit computer could offer. But without proof, he thinks D-Wave's claim is too good to be true. It’s on D-Wave, he says, to finally reduce its processor down to two qubits and show him otherwise.
“The best thing that could happen to my career right now is if something like this were right. If this were true, I’d be the biggest cheerleader. I’d be supporting them in any way I could—if I really thought something was there.”
Botanists have been busy trying to iron out the pesky needle drop from Christmas trees for years by crossing different species of fir. But now, scientists are getting involved—and the results could mean that your next tree looks or smells completely different.
Not content with the rate of progress that horticulturists make—after all, it can take years to successfully cross and assess new breeds of tree—researchers have been performing genetic analysis of Christmas trees, reports New Scientist. Indeed, earlier this year the Norway spruce became the first conifer to have its entire genome sequenced, so now things are moving apace.
Researchers from University of Missouri in Columbia have been investigating which genes are related to needle dropping, and spotted some links between Christmas trees and other plants that could mean your carpet never sees another needle. But there are also some rather more... interesting possible new features, too. New Scientist explains:
Trees such as balsam firs already have fragrant, pine-like odours. But it might be possible to use genes from other trees or plants to produce scents such as vanilla, cinnamon and lemon.
Trees with yellow or red needles may also be possible.
Sadly such trees don't exist quite yet, but honestly, what home wouldn't be made better by a lemon-scented yellow or cinnamon-flavored red tree in the future? Perhaps the most desirable tweak of all, though—a self-illuminating tree—is a long way off: while plants have been created that glow, the wax and pigments in firs would almost entirely block any light created. At least fairy light manufacturers can rest easy.