Samsung is displaying several innovative design concepts at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, including a smart belt that tracks a wearer's waist size and activity and a hand-motion controller for virtual reality headsets. Also being demonstrated is technology that allows smartphone users to hear sounds from their devices by touching their fingertip to an ear, rather than listening through earphones.
The three technologies, which are being developed as personal projects by employees in Samsung's Creative Lab (C-Lab) innovation center, are being shown publicly for the first time at CES 2016, according to the company. The C-Lab projects are "being showcased to assess their market potential and to gather hands-on feedback from CES attendees, enabling further improvements to be made," the company said in a statement.
The smart WELT healthcare belt (pictured) looks like a traditional fashion belt but includes special health tracking sensors that monitor a wearer's waist size in real time. The belt's sensors also measure a wearer's eating habits, steps taken, activities, time spent sitting and more, according to Samsung. By building the sensors into a traditional-looking belt, wearers can discreetly monitor their own health.
The WELT smart belt sends its collected data to a special app that analyzes the information and provides a range of personalized health care and weight management plans, according to Samsung.
Also coming from C-Lab is the Rink hand-motion controller for mobile VR devices, allowing users to "intuitively control the game or content just by using their hands," which gives a deeper level of mobile VR immersion, according to Samsung.
TipTalk is a C-Lab project that allows users to hear sounds from their smart devices such as smartphones without having to use earphones or headsets. Instead, TipTalk lets people listen to sounds from their devices by touching their finger to their ear, according to Samsung. "This enhances the clarity of calls, enabling them to be taken in public, even in noise-sensitive or loud environments, such as a concert hall or building site—without the risk of being overheard."
TipTalk can also be added to analog or smartwatches and can sync with smartphones, enabling text-to-speech (TTS) functionality, the company stated.
Samsung's C-Lab center was founded in 2012 as a place to foster creative thinking by employees. So far, more than 100 projects have been supported and developed.
In December 2015, Samsung also launched an automotive technology team to seek new business revenue opportunities as its mobile devices business continues to struggle due to competition from Apple, LG and others. The automotive team is aimed at developing and bringing in new business in the fields of in-vehicle entertainment, satellite navigation and autonomous driving, according to a recent eWEEK story.
In November, Samsung replaced its longtime handset chief, J.K. Shin, with another executive as the global smartphone leader continues to seek a strategy to get itself out of a pattern of disappointing financial quarters. The company in October reported revenue and operating profits for the third quarter of 2015 that are were up 8 percent and 37 percent, respectively, from the same period a year earlier, which was the first positive financial news for the company in quite a while.
Despite those improved quarterly numbers, Samsung's mobile unit continued to underperform as operating profit for the unit fell 13 percent to $2.1 billion (2.40 trillion KRW) from $2.4 billion (2.76 trillion KRW) in the second quarter.
The in-vehicle infotainment and navigation market has been expanding in recent years as more carmakers build more such features into their vehicles. In the last few years, smartphones have become more integrated with vehicles through Bluetooth connections, hands-off control capabilities and more.