CES 2012: Qualcomm implementing augmented reality on education gadgets

Qualcomm goes all business-like at the Consumer Electronics Show with integration on education and healthcare products.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

LAS VEGAS -- When it comes to Qualcomm, the Snapdragon chip family tends to steal the media spotlight with plenty of placement on fancy new smartphones and tablets.

But Qualcomm managed to turn the focus away from consumer devices (at the Consumer Electronics Show, of all places) to two other major initiatives: education and healthcare.

For anyone watching the press conference on Tuesday morning, well more than the first hour of the event would have been quite a bore considering Qualcomm was only trotting out gadgets that we've seen before -- notably those that have already been unveiled in the last two days. That includes the Nokia Lumia 900, Lenovo's new smart TV, and the Metro UI on Windows 8 in general.

See also: CES 2012: ZDNet’s news and product coverageCES 2012: CNET’s news and product coverage

First up in the education sector, Qualcomm introduced some textbook e-readers with its Mirasol colorized electronic ink-like technology.

Digital textbook readers would arguably have demand in any country with students so long as it can promise to save the student money and pain from having to carry tons of books to class. But the only disappointment here is that it looks like Qualcomm is only partnering with manufacturers in Asia, specifically China and South Korea, as CEO Paul Jacobs covered during the event.

For younger students, Jacobs moved on to further describe the partnership with the Sesame Workshop in India. Here is one area where Qualcomm is implementing augmented reality, and it's really quite fascinating.

Enter Vuforia, an electronic eye of sorts that can see what you see to recognize 3D objects and then tack on virtual objects of its own. For example, you can activate virtual characters in a tablet app (say digital Bert and Ernie, as seen in the demo) and then they will move around and react within the app based on what the electronic eye within the tablet can see in the child's room.

To some parents, it would be easy to ask what's the point of this, and Qualcomm will need to provide more examples about how this could be useful and educational. Nevertheless, it's pretty fun and futuristic.

Moving on to healthcare, Qualcomm spent a good deal of time covering personal, mobile health devices that can monitor vital stats like blood pressure, body temperature, and respiratory rates.

It's a shame that Qualcomm didn't spend more time discussing these kinds of products as they have a lot more potential to start selling right away -- at least compared to the interesting yet still developing augmented reality platforms.

Although mobile healthcare might sounds as exciting as cutting-edge smartphones and tablets, at least it hasn't already been covered to death in the last two days like most of the products Qualcomm spent the majority of its time on.


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