Terrafugia Has Created a “Flying Car:

“It’s the future – where is my flying car?” Somehow, a lot of us expected that shortly after the year 2000 we would all be living in a world that resembled a cartoon called The Jetsons. We hoped that one day soon we would be making our daily commute to work via a flying, saucer-like, car. This has not yet become a reality.

However, Terrafugia has accomplished something that puts us all a little bit closer to seeing that dream realized. It is a flying car. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. What they have created is more like a plane that you can drive as well as fly. “Flying car” sounds more intriguing, though, doesn’t it?

It is called The Transition. It was designed to create a solution for a problem that many private and sport pilots face. When they want to fly their small aircraft, they must first find some way get themselves to the garage that the plane is housed in. After they land their plane at the next airport, they have the same problem once again. How are they going to get from the airport to their hotel, (or back to their home)?

The Transition is a combination of a small aircraft and a car. It is small enough for a pilot to fit one into the garage at his home. The wings fold up, and the vehicle can be driven on any surface. A pilot can drive the Transition to the airport, put down the wings, and then take it for a flight. When he lands at the next airport, he can fold the wings back up, and drive to his hotel, or back to his house. This saves the pilot the money he would usually be spending on the airport garage that would house his plane. It has been classified as a Light Sport Aircraft (LSA).

It isn’t the type of vehicle that is meant for a person to drive around on a regular basis. It has rear wheel drive, and the doors open in an automotive style for easy entry and exit. There are two seats inside, one for the pilot, and a second one for a passenger. It has modern glass avionics, automotive crash safety features, and a full vehicle parachute that can be used if needed.

The Terrafugia website says that it takes about 20 hours of flight time in a Transition-specific course for a person to be certified to drive / fly one. You will need to have at least a Sport Pilot license to fly a Transition. The company is anticipating that the base price for one of these amazing, transforming, vehicles is going to be around $279,000.

At this moment, there is a backlog of orders for the Transition. This is either the first “flying car” that will be sold to the general public, or, it could be a functional version of those transformer toys we all played with when we were little kids. Either way, it’s still pretty exciting!

Nokia Files Patent for Vibrating Tattoo

Does it drive you crazy when you miss a call or text? Have you ever been annoyed by the problem of trying to use your phone, only to discover that the battery is low? Nokia has found a unique way to alleviate these types of problems that many people have to deal with more often than they would like. Soon, you could be able to get a tattoo that will vibrate to let you know that your phone has received a message.

Nokia has filed a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a magnetic tattoo that generates a tingling or itching sensation whenever the person’s phone rings. The tattoo would be made with ferromagnetic material that would be added to the ink that is used to make a tattoo. After the skin has healed, the ink would be magnetized, and connected with a person’s mobile device.

The patent application says: “prior to using the ferromagnetic inks for attaching to human skin, the ink material may be exposed to elevated temperatures to cause demagnetization. Such demagnetized ink is then used for creating an image by dispersing the ink material on or under the skin to make a functional, tattoo like image. Once the apparatus is settled and the skin cured, the user with the functional image may use permanent magnets to magnetize the functional image on the skin again”.

In other words, once you get this high-tech form of tattoo, and connect it to your phone, you will be physically alerted every time you get a call, message, or text. You can set it to remind you of an upcoming appointment. It can let you know that your phone is running out of juice, so you can go charge it before it dies.

The tattoo will also act as a form of identity. Instead of typing in a password, the tattoo itself functions as your password. Don’t like the idea of having a visible tattoo, somewhere on your body? The magnetic mark can also be applied in a way that is invisible.

The way I see it, the advantages of the tattoo are many. If your phone is connected to your tattoo, and someone steals your phone, that person won’t be able to access it. You would never miss a call, message, or text ever again. On the other hand, Nokia has not said what will happen if you get the magnetic tattoo, and hook it up to your phone, and then upgrade to a new phone after that.

Image: Tattoo by BigStock

Steering Wheels that Tell You When to Turn

Steering WheelToday while driving we are often distracted by many things including cell phones, audio systems and the GPS monitors. Unfortunately people will look down at their GPS monitor on the center console while driving especial if they don’t know where they are going. Distracted drivers are a major cause of accidents in the United States. Many people are looking for solutions to this problem including the AT&T Lab. For those of you who don’t know AT&T has one of the best and oldest technology labs in the world. They were key in the development of everything from cell phones to HDTV. They are currently working on a steering wheel that uses vibrations to tell you which way to turn. If you need to turn left the left side of the steering pad will vibrate and if you need to turn right the right side will vibrate. They hope to add other abilities including the ability to tell if there is someone in your blind spot in the future.

My first question was whether having the steering wheel buzz would in it self be distracting. However testing with both younger drivers, those 25 and younger and older drivers 65 and older show that with both groups they are distracted less often using this method. It also showed that driver follow direction better using this method then others. AT&T labs is still doing more testing on this and it will not be in consumer cars anytime in the near future Anything that will keep drivers eyes on the road is a good thing. Do you think this is a good or bad idea. You can find out more about this concept at Technology Review.

GNC-2011-10-17 #717 Mixing it Up!

Time to mix it up a bit to keep things interesting. Watch and see :) Lots of great commentary tonight. Times are a changing and it is going to be an amazing time to watch it all go down. I will be on the road for the next two weeks, will likely have guest hosts for the next two shows enjoy.

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With Nuance Acquisition of Swype, Could We See iPhone, iPad’s Siri with Swype Technology?

This morning, Michael Arrington reported that Nuance is going to purchase Swype for over $100 million. This is the technology that lets you slide your finger across the on-screen keyboard to spell out words. It is also known that Nuance works with the new Apple product called “Siri“. Therefore, will we see this technology available for Apple keyboards, soon?

Let’s hope so.

Swype is a technology first discovered at TechCrunch a couple years ago. It was incorporated in some smartphones and found by moving the finger around as opposed to tapping, a person could type words a lot faster. This is the video TechCrunch put out in 2009:

Enter in Siri

Siri is the new technology Apple announced earlier in the week. To read more about that, check out Andrew’s article – Apple’s Siri Delivers on the Sci-Fi Dream.

Siri uses Nuance Technology – even though you might not find someone at Apple or Nuance that will say that. Before Siri was purchased by Apple, it had Nuance as the background software. The company tried Vlingo, but it just didn’t fit Siri’s programming.

So is it safe to say that Nuance is part of Siri? Well, unless Apple was working on their own software to replace Nuance, then yes. If they did change, then we would have heard something of them splitting. Let’s not even get into any patent debate that would have been reported if Apple was developing their own software.

As I always say: The possibility is there, but the probability is pretty low.

Swype on iPhone, iPad

Let’s get back to this idea – I used Swype technology and love it. By moving one finger across the screen keeps my eyes on the keyboard and not switching back and forth to what I am typing. Add in the spellcheck and I could be typing 40-45 words a minute on a mobile device (as opposed to 30 words a minute currently). Swype on iPad would be better, especially since most people use a one-hand type method if they are standing with the device coddled in the other arm.

With a personal dictionary, extensive language support and predictive tap suppot, Swype could be a great added feature to the Apple iPhone. Of course, it would also be a great addition to an Android phone, too (which is available with the FlexT9 Android Application).

So far, this is just a pipe-dream. But if it becomes a reality, the Siri application just got a little bit cooler.

How to Prevent Traffic Jams

Traffic Jam If you’ve driven at all you’ve probably been in a traffic jam at least once in your life. If you live in the Northeast or around any major metropolitan area such as Chicago, Dallas, or Los Angeles you may feel like you are in one almost daily. Sometimes there is a visible cause such as a car accident or roadwork, but other times a traffic jam seems to appear for apparently no reason at all. Scientist and engineer have been studying this phenomenon for years. In 2007 ScienceDaily published an article explain how this can easily happen using a truck switching lane and therefore cause the traffic behind them to slow down below a critical speed. The traffic around the incident clears and moves forward however the problem rolls back like a wave creating the traffic jam. There is a good graphical representation of this at SmartMotorist

So Scientist have known what happens in a traffic jam for awhile, the question is how can they be prevented. There are three types of traffic flow. Free flow, where traffic is flowing at the maximum speed allowed. Synchronized flow where because of the traffic density the vehicles move at a slower but still constant speed. Finally there are jams where speed drops to zero when traffic density reaches a certain unknown threshold. So how do you prevent the third circumstances. One possible solution is to have vehicles to talk to each other through an automated system. If you have been in a traffic jam you will quickly recognize that most people have one of two reactions the first are the defensive drivers who leave more space between them and the vehicle in front of them then necessary. The second group are offensive driver, the  kind that drive up so close behind you that you can see the spinach they had for diner. What you want is for vehicles entering the traffic jam zone to act more defensively and enter the problem zone slower and those in front to leave the jam quickly causing the traffic jam to dissolve.  What is the best way to do this, one possible solution is to have cars talk to each other. They could share their speed and position to the cars around them. As cars in front of them slow down this would hopefully convince the cars coming up to the area to slow down also. Meantime the cars in front of the congested area would leave faster, keeping the flow going.  This is the idea that is discussed in a Technology Review article published by MIT.

There are of course several problems that need to be resolved for this to work. First is security you want to make sure you have a system that can’t be hacked. Second at this point it is unclear how many cars need to have a system installed for it to be effective. Also systems that are manufactured by different companies need to be able talk to each other. Finally people have to actually use the information that they are provided in the way they are suppose to. As more and more cars enter our highways both in the United States and around the world developing technology like this becomes increasingly important. This type of technology is still in its infancy, but if it becomes reality, it will have far more impact on productivity and the economy, then any social network.

The Loss of Tech Know-How

What do compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), LCD screens, rechargeable batteries, solar cells and integrated circuit packaging all have in common? They’re all technologies that the USA can no longer produce within the country itself and must rely on companies in Asia, such as Taiwan and China to manufacturer. The technology has effectively been lost to the US, having migrated from West to East as part of major purchasing deals.

These deals might be considered as best business practice too. The way it often works is that a US-based company develops a technology and a product, but a small part is subcontracted out to foreign 3rd party. Say a little daughter board. Time passes and the 3rd party comes back to the US company and offers to build not only the daughter board, but also the motherboard, and more cheaply too. The deal happens, it’s a success and profits are up all round. Time passes and the 3rd party comes back and offers to build not only the motherboard but the whole product and more cheaply too. The deal happens, it’s a success and profits are up all round. It’s all good.

What happens next? The once 3rd party contractor goes to a US-based major distributor or retail chain and offers to make them an own-brand version of the product more cheaply than the market leader, now having access to all the technology required to make the product without any assistance. Surprised? Don’t be; this is what happened between Dell and ASUSTeK but it’s a pattern that has been repeated in many industries and continues to be repeated.

If you want to know more, Forbes are running a series of articles by Steve Denning, starting with Why Amazon Can’t Make a Kindle in the USA, on the loss of technological expertise from the USA. I think they’re an excellent read that explains much of the world today, even if you don’t necessarily see the loss of know-how from the US as a bad thing. It’s also worth browsing some of the comments to see other people’s thoughts on the articles, especially those from other countries.

Ford Shows Off V2V Car Tech

Today, through both Cnet and Engadget, we got a look ahead at Ford’s vision of the future of the automobile.  The “V2V” monicker refers to “vehicle to vehicle” and it’s a new way for cars to communicate with each other while driving down the road.

A video, produced by Ford, has surfaced that gives a nice walk-through of the technology involved.  As you can probably guess, before the rep explains it, it is really just basic cell phone technology being used here.  The cars can let other vehicles in the area know of slowing or stopping traffic, lane changes, stop sign and red-light runners and a host of other things.

The video is demonstrated with both animation and real, live footage in the video below.  You will also get a brief, but passable, explanation from some of Ford’s representatives about what it is capable of and how it works.

Like much of car-automation technology, a lot of this is probably years in the future.  But, we are starting to see a lot more similar technology creeping into today’s showroom models.  Enough to say I am hopeful that this is closer than we may think.

REVIEW: Jabra Freeway Hands Free Bluetooth Speaker

I have an older car – with no Bluetooth and definitely no MP3 player. It hasn’t been a big deal – I have been using my iPhone through a device that sends an FM radio signal. But now I can take all those wires away and use this Jabra Freeway Bluetooth speaker. A pretty impressive device that was awarded the best of CTIA wireless in 2011.

Jabra Freeway Front View

Jabra Freeway Front View

The Good Stuff – Jabra Freeway

Let’s answer the “What is the FM button for” question. Well, it simply turns this device into a FM tuner. You can listen to the voice through the built-in speaker, or through the radio on a tuned frequency. Great for if the whole car needs to hear a conversation.

The Jabra Freeway charges on a Micro-USB plug. The device can be affixed to the visor of your car (or wherever you want to put it). Turn the power on and you hear a voice say “Jabra on – Ready for pairing”.

The pairing process on iPhone is pretty standard. Turn on Bluetooth and choose the Freeway. Key in the pin (if necessary) and the device will pair.

When you have to answer a call, just hit the button with the phone receiver on it. Need to hang up – do the same. Volume buttons on the bottom to turn up and down the audio and a mute button if sirens are piercing outside.

Even though it’s pretty big for a Bluetooth hands-free unit, the contour does make it work so you can place it on the visor without blocking the vanity mirror. However, the speaker will also do double-duty. Whereas most hands-free units only take the phone calls, you can play music right through this unit. Turn on the FM button and your music will transfer over.

Like most units nowadays, you can charge in a couple hours and be on standby for days. Even with moderate to heavy usage, you might have to re-charge once every 6-7 days.

Since the unit is most likely right above your head, I can talk to someone while my windows are rolled down. Everyone I talked to through the unit has said there was no issue in hearing me. That is the best test of the Jabra Freeway.

The Not So Good Stuff – Jabra Freeway

I wasn’t completely impressed with the speakers in the unit. There was a noticeable clip (a buzzing sound) when I was listening to either music or someone talking to me with the volume around 70-80%. I had to turn down the speaker a bit to make the clipping sound go away.

The devices’ wire clip to the visor causes a bit of concern – especially since this is a bigger unit. If I am driving down the highway with the windows rolled down, then get a blast from the sun – causing me to whip the visor to the side window – I could see that unit go flying into the cross-traffic. A piece of velcro could be the answer, since I don’t see a person moving this unit around too much.

There are a lot of voice commands in this unit. Other hands-free units let me say “Call – [person]” once I press the button. You have to learn the commands – although by asking for help, the unit will give you a list of options.

There is no pause or stop button for the music. You have to press voice and then say “Pause”. Would have been better with just the button.

The Verdict

It does have a couple flaws, but the device is pretty good. This is a unit that sells for $129.99, so the price might be the tipping point to saying no. After all, I don’t need a device to play my iPod music as much and I can get a hands-free bluetooth unit for $50 or less.

If the Freeway was to drop below $100 and fix the speaker clipping, then it will be worth it. Otherwise, if you need a nicely designed unit with a larger speaker, then the Freeway is for you.

Disclaimer: I did receive a unit from the company. This is a unbiased review of the Freeway.

Things I Used to Use

I was thinking today about how differently I am doing things on my computer and on my mobile devices then I did only a couple of years ago. I use Google Chrome as my default browser and I realized there are a couple of things that I use to use that I no longer do. The first is bookmarks, truth is I couldn’t tell you the last time I was in my bookmark file. The only book marks that I use constantly are those that are installed on my tool bar. I also rarely ever go to the Google search page. The only time I go there is when someone twitters that there is a new Google Doodle to look at. It is just faster to start typing what I am looking for in the URL bar. Once I have gone to a Web site, the next time I start typing it in the URL bar it will pop up almost immediately. To save specific articles, I use Instapaper or Pinboard. I also use to be a big Google Reader user, but since I got the iPad I find myself using Zite and Flipboard to keep up with the news I am interested in. I do connect to Google Reader in Flipboard , so I haven’t cut myself off from Google Reader entirely, but I rarely go to the Google Reader site.

The other thing I have start to go to less is the iTunes store. I find new music by way of  Twitter or Facebook or while listening to Slacker Raido. I am already online so it much easier just to buy my music from Amazon. Now with the Amazon Cloud Player, I can take my whole library with me where every I go, without having to worry about how much space it is using up on my 16GB iPhone. I am a big podcast listener. The fact that anytime I wanted to update a podcast on my iPhone I had to physically link my iPhone to my Macbook and then wait while itunes went through its process was so annoying, especially if all I wanted to do was update a single podcast. Fortunately I discovered PocketCast and now the only time I connect my iPhone to my Mac is when there is an update. There are so many other things and applications I use to use all the time, now use rarely. What about you, are there things that you use to use, but rarely do now? With the invention of products like Google Wallet and Square, just to name a few, will paying with actual money seem quaint in a couple of years, something we no longer use?