At King, we work together to make great games. To make this possible, we need to involve a lot of people, and when many people need to work together towards a common goal, communication is key. Communication is a hard problem to solve. If I need to contact some other people for some task, I could:
- Email them.
- Initiate a chat dialogue using Hipchat.
- Call them.
- Go to their desks and poke them.
Having long email dialogues takes a long time. Busy people that are using email to discuss something complex can take weeks, maybe even months of calendar time.
Chat conversations using Hipchat or similar is a lot faster but typing is always slower than talking. So you might get something else in focus while the other is typing.
Calling is a more efficient medium for communication. When you want to talk to someone, you don’t always have the phone number, and even if you did, it would feel weird to call someone in the same office, possibly just meters away. Besides, calling everyone for everything is not really part of the working culture at King, at least not in my world.
Talking to each other live is how humans are designed to communicate and that’s what evolution has optimised us for. When talking face to face, we even get to do faces and gestures for higher bandwidth in order to communicate feelings and attitudes.
The only problem with this is… where can I find the people I need to talk to in the office? There are many people around the office and they all have different seats, and many of them also seem to be roaming the office while working. People just don’t always sit still at their desk – they go to the ping pong table, they sit in the library and read books, they walk around and talk to other people, or they might even be lying in the giant hammock:
This makes it harder to find them when they’re needed.
But at King we’re trying out a solution.
The following video showcases the Kingster app, developed by the R&D team, that allows you to find and track other people around the office. The app displays the whereabouts of your colleagues who have also downloaded the app.
By the way, the R&D Chronicles is a series of internal videos the R&D Team at King makes to promote new things that’s been going on in the team. There’s no art or video team involved and the video is edited and recorded by just the programmers of the R&D Team. Hence the programmer art. This video was initially made to try to convince our colleagues to use the app.
The Tech Stack
So, how did we build this app? We’ve placed iBeacons around the office, built an app for Android and iOS that runs on our own game engine Defold, extended that game engine with more functionality so that the app can sense the nearby iBeacons and report back to a server, which then shows the map of everyone on big screens around the office.
iBeacons – Estimate beacons have been placed in the ceiling. The Bluetooth beacons have a unique ID that is broadcast every second. It takes just a few milliseconds, and the beacons have a battery life of approximately two years (in theory).
Backend – To keep things simple, we created a Jetty-based web application, with a servlet for each main function, and MongoDB as database. All communication is HTTP-based and JSON is used on every level of the stack. This is a nice way to get results fast. The application keeps an in-memory list of all avatars seen on the map, with their current location.
All map navigation uses pathfinding. The 1920x1080px map is divided up into a 160×90-tile grid where each tile has a cost associated with it. It can be either walkable (cheap), walkable (expensive), or non-walkable (wall). The expensive tiles are used for areas where we want to avoid walking through if there is a preferred route around it, for example, no walking through the library. For the actual pathfinding, we use PathFinding.js, which implements several pathing algorithms. After we performance tested all of them for our specific use case, we chose the bidirectional A* algorithm (with additional path smoothing on the output). Since there may be many paths to calculate, one for each tracked person, we wanted to amp up the performance. This was done using web workers, when available, to do the heavy lifting in calculating the paths.
Mobile application – We’ve made apps for both Android and iOS. All graphics and animations are powered by the Defold game engine. The app scans for beacons and compiles a list of the approximate distance to each of them. The list of beacons is sent to the backend, which then determines the approximate phone position based on these distances, together with the known locations of the beacons.
Android – Besides the Estimote SDK, only stuff in Android SDK API is used. The API level is set to 18 to support all required features.
iOS – We’ve used a number of additional iOS Frameworks. CoreMotion for motion detection to avoid scanning when the phone is not moving. Photos for selecting photos on the phone. AVFoundation for previewing and taking photos from the phone camera. UIKit for the embedded browser. Estimote SDK on top of CoreLocation and CoreBluetooth for bluetooth management.
Defold – Besides using standard features of Defold, we’ve also extended it with more features that we needed for this app.
Bluetooth extension – This extension lets the app scan and detect iBeacons around the phone. Powered by Estimote SDK, it lets us scan for beacons and determine the distance to the beacons in order to trilaterate a more precise position. Most often though, only one or two beacons are detected, so doing proper trilateration is not possible and we’re falling back to simpler calculations. Even if three beacons are found, they may not always form a useable triangle.
Motion detection – We use the accelerometer to determine if the phone, and hence the phone’s owner, is moving or not. If it is, we scan every 7 seconds and if not, we scan once every minute. This is an optimisation to reduce battery consumption.
Device camera – We extended Defold to be able to handle camera and permissions. It can be used to take a picture for your avatar.
Image handling – We also built an extension to give it the ability to select images from the phones’ Photo Library/Photo Gallery.
Changing healthcare patterns to impact medical imaging equipment market
A new IHS Markit report shows that the global landscape for medical imaging equipment like X-ray and ultrasound will be affected during the next few years by various factors, including aging populations and projected changes in the healthcare spending of important territories.
Worldwide revenue for the medical imaging equipment market is forecast to reach $24.0 billion in 2020, up 11.7% from $21.2 billion in 2016, as shown in the graphic below. X-ray and ultrasound equipment make up the largest segments of the medical imaging equipment space, which also includes magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) systems.
Forecasts and extended analysis of both overall market and individual imaging segments can be found in the report “Medical Imaging Executive Overview,” which collates information from the IHS Markit medical imaging report library to present a summary view of the complete medical imaging market.
Consequences of an aging population
Among the most salient factors expected to impact the medical imaging equipment market is the increasing number of an aging population in all of the world’s regions. Those aged over 60 will account for 22% of the global population by 2020, compared to 12% in 2015, according to the World Health Organization. The aging population will lead to a rise in the rate of many chronic diseases, straining healthcare systems in the process and requiring medical imaging equipment to provide high-quality care.
In many countries, however, funds intended for medical imaging equipment are being diverted toward telehealth systems and related services, negatively affecting the imaging market. Also impacting medical imaging budgets is consolidation in the industry, which is taking place in response to continued pressure to eliminate overhead and duplication of services.
A new focus for healthcare providers is procuring new imaging products that bear a higher return-on-investment (ROI), as new technological advances in the field promise simplified workflows in tandem with more advanced software and faster image capture. For example, handheld ultrasound systems could offer better ROI than stationary ultrasound systems, especially as the former confers mobility on providers to conduct patient examinations in multiple hospital locations.
Healthcare spending worldwide is also changing
An important factor that will shape the medical imaging equipment market will be the change in healthcare expenditure patterns sweeping across the world.
In the United States, which accounted for 25% of total market revenue in 2016, continuing intense debate on the country’s healthcare system is sure to affect the industry’s global prospects down the road. Within the US, imaging equipment will see lower utilization, longer replacement rates, and less equipment being purchased overall.
The depressed outlook on the US market will be alleviated in part by the expected growth in healthcare spending in developing countries, which will lead to increased uptake of basic medical imaging equipment. Last year the Asia-Pacific region represented 40% of global revenue and 43% of global shipments-a strong showing expected to continue in the next few years. In particular, China-the world’s second-largest medical imaging equipment market after the US-will continue to drive investments in the space until at least 2020, IHS Markit projections show.
Call to action
For manufacturers to stay competitive, IHS Markit recommends a course of action that includes more so-called work-horse systems in product portfolios, along with establishing an increased presence in growth markets.
With their capability for multi-purpose use in multiple environments, work-horse products and solutions can boost the operational efficiency of medical imaging equipment while also maximizing ROI. Meanwhile, manufacturers can also stand to benefit from a stronger sales presence in promising growth markets such as Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East.
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Direct LED backlight technology reigns supreme in TV panels
Direct-lit LED backlight technology reigns supreme
Edge-lit is sidelined, while micro-LEDs could mount new challenge
The technology known as direct LED backlighting has gone mainstream, as discussed in the latest IHS Markit Display Backlight Market Tracker.
Global shipments of TVs featuring direct LED backlighting—also known as direct-lit LED—accounted for a whopping 77% share in Q2 2017, where it stayed for the rest of the year, up from 69% the same time in 2016. Direct LED has been used since 2014 in various ultra-high-definition TV models for both the entry and mainstream TV segments, which has led to a progressive decrease in shipments of TV panels using the rival edge LED backlighting technology, as shown in the chart below.
Direct LED vs. edge LED
The difference between direct LED and edge LED lies in the placement of the LED backlight units, determining each technology’s benefits as well as drawbacks. In direct LED technology, the LED light sources are installed at the back of the LED panel. In contrast, the backlights in edge LED are located on the edges of the display panel, usually on opposing sides of the display, facing in toward the TV.
Direct LED backlighting can help lower panel-manufacturing cost. Fewer LEDs are required compared to edge LED, and light-guide plates are not needed given that the LED arrays are situated directly on the back of the backlight rather than at the sides.
However, direct LED backlighting is comparatively thicker than edge LED—the latter is best for a slim design—because the LED array of direct backlights must be kept at a specific distance from the diffuser plate in the backlight module. Even so, it is this gap, also known as optical distance (OD), that enables the uniform and bright illumination of the TV backlight prized in direct LED.
The biggest benefit from direct LED backlighting is local or 2D dimming, a feature that dims the backlight behind areas of the screen that display black. Necessary for LCD TVs featuring High Dynamic Range (HDR), 2D dimming allows for greater contrast, so that blacks appear darker and deeper when film or video is viewed; HDR is not possible with edge LED.
Some panel and TV set makers have also been working to reduce the thickness of direct LED backlights. Already, the OD of direct LED backlights has decreased to 15-18mm today, compared to 25-50mm in the past, allowing for much slimmer TV profiles. The newest development is D-LED 3.0, in which direct LED backlight modules are 10mm thick with an OD of 15mm, yielding a total backlight module thickness of just 25mm, with very narrow edges.
The key to reducing backlight thickness is by resolving uniformity issues, like what is being carried out by Samsung Electronics, which uses a specially designed second lens along with an increase in the number of LEDs to help achieve uniform illumination.
Micro-LED backlighting: advantages and challenges
For 8K displays and large sizes, however, some panel makers are considering a different direction altogether. As discussed in the Market Insight “Micro-LED display opportunities in the competitive display industry,” panels featuring micro-LED backlighting technology cannot compete at present with LCD or OLED in mainstream applications like TVs, tablet PCs, notebook PCs, desktop monitors, and smartphones, with LCD and OLED expected to continue dominating in these areas. Instead, the most promising initial applications for micro-LED display technology are likely to be smartwatches, public information, and automotive.
But rather than developing micro-LEDs for displays, panel makers are developing micro-LED backlights to offer the benefits of both thickness and HDR for high-end televisions, including 8K TVs in the 65-inch, 75-inch, and 80-inch-and-above sizes. Panel makers believe that micro-LED backlight technology can achieve high-performance HDR and an ultra-slim structure at the same time—two features not possible before in tandem.
The biggest advantage of micro-LED backlighting is a thinner form factor, with displays as slim as 10mm, allowing micro-LEDs to compete with high-end direct LED backlights and OLED TVs. Micro-LED chips measure a mere 0.1mm in thickness, and a second lens for boosting luminance efficiency is not needed. In comparison, the height of an LED chip together with the lens package in traditional direct LED backlighting measures 6-8mm. This means the OD is greater, as shown below. With a micro-LED chip and a smaller OD, the entire backlight module can be as thin as 10mm, compared to 24-25mm for direct LED.
A second advantage is that micro-LED backlights can achieve better HDR with more zones for local dimming, as more LED chips are utilized than in direct LEDs. And because micro-LED backlights use smaller LED chips, more uniform light distribution can be achieved.
Micro-LEDs can also reduce panel-manufacturing cost, since both the traditional wire bonding and frame of LED arrays are not needed. Moreover, micro-LEDs can utilize flip-chip-on-modules (FCOMs), providing additional cost savings given that the flip-chip requires neither a second lens nor a package. It must be noted, however, that FCOM requires revising the current backlight design, which would result in additional overhead that could prove onerous to smaller players and makers of small backlight module systems.
There may also be additional issues in using micro-LED backlights, including the following:
- Micro-LED technology requires the use of more LED chips, translating into higher power consumption. While a 75-inch 8K television may need 1,000 direct LED chips as the light source, at least 70,000 chips would be needed in micro-LED, with power consumption 1.5 times greater than that used by direct LED backlighting.
- Given the high number of micro-LED chips that must be installed on the backside of panels, heat dissipation will be critical.
- Although not a major issue when it comes to color binning—as micro-LEDs for backlighting are white in color and therefore have no color function—luminance uniformity could still be affected. Color binning is the process in which LEDs are tested and sorted.
- The key technology for producing micro-LEDs is the transfer method, in which equipment constraints and an immature process are known limitations. Production time for micro-LED could be 10 times longer than that for a direct LED, raising costs as a result. And because the technology is comparatively new, overall reliability remains to be proven.
David Hsieh is Research & Analysis Director within the IHS Technology Group at IHS Markit
Posted 17 January 2018.