Thursday, May 09, 2013

Adventure Tech: Meet Earl - A High-Tech Tablet Built For The Backcountry

Lets face it, we all love our iPads and various Android tablets, but they aren't always the best devices to have with us when we head into the backcountry. Sure, they pack a lot of functionality into a relatively small frame, but they don't have all the features we could truly use while out on the trail. A new start-up called Sqigle INC is hoping to bring a very different tablet to the market, one that is designed with the outdoor adventurer in mind. Their product will offer a lot of the features you would expect from similar products from other companies, but with some key differences that backpackers, climbers and others will find very useful.

The new tablet is named Earl, which is derived from some of the device's primary functions: explore, alter, relay and listen. Powered by Android 4.1, Earl uses an e-ink display much like those found on the original Amazon Kindle. Those screens are easy on the eyes but don't offer the same wow factor that you find on an LCD screen such as the Retina display found on Apple's iPad. But the e-ink screen has one big thing going for it – it consumes much less power, which is crucial for battery life when traveling in places where you won't have access to a power outlet for some time.

Speaking of battery life, Earl is rated to last 20 hours on its built-in rechargeable power cell. After that, you'll need to either plug it in to charge it again or use the device's integrated solar panel to start refilling the battery. Yep, that's right, this tablet has its own solar cell built in too.

But what really makes Earl interesting is that the gadget comes with some nice options specifically designed for outdoor enthusiasts. For instance, it features a full-blown GPS chipset and trail maps for charting your way through the backcountry. It also supports both Bluetooth and ANT+ technologies for connecting to a variety of heart rate monitors and other external devices. The device comes equipped with a thermometer, barometer and hygrometer for tracking weather and altitude, while an anemometer will even display the current windspeed.

That's not all however, as Earl can also serve as a walkie-talkie while in the backcountry, transmitting on FRS, GMRS and MURS transceivers to help users to stay in touch. It can even transmit weather reports, locational data and route information as well. It even comes with a built-in radio receiver to listen to AM/FM transmissions as well as to get weather alerts and more.

Rugged and built to withstand the elements, Earl comes preloaded with trail maps for the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The device is runs all Android apps and will even connect to the Internet when within range of WiFi. Sqigle INC is hoping to get the tablet into production in June and with that goal in mind they've launched a crowdsourcing campaign designed to raise the $250,000 needed to get the device off the ground. Currently they've raised about 11% of the money they need with 32 days to go. They're hoping to bring the device to market for under $300.

This looks like a promising device. It'll be interesting to see if they hit their fund raising goal.

No comments: