Category Archives: tech

The Future of Touch Technology…From Disney?



As ubiquitous as touch screens have become over the past decade or so, the future of touch technology is right around the bend. Actually, it seems to be in Pittsburgh, PA, of all places. Even less expectedly, it can be found at the Disney Research facility there.

The new technology is a complex touch and gesture sensing technology called “Touché” that uses a Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing technique. This technique essentially allows for sensors to read a range of actions, touches or gestures, rather than the conventional, binary approach we see now with touch screens (basically, touch or no-touch).

In addition to reading complex touch actions over a range of objects far beyond our current touch screens (think doorknobs, furniture, appliances), Touché can also be implemented to read gestures.

As usual, seeing this new technology in action does far more justice than simple explanation.  Some of the examples are pretty impressive – controlling the music player on your phone or device through customized hand gestures. Some are just plain weird – teaching children how to eat cereal by sounding a buzzer when they use the wrong utensil (seriously, who came up with that one? That’s some old-school psychological conditioning right there).

The practical implications of this technology are fascinating. With the sensors used to capture gesticulations and touch interactions with virtually any object, this type of technology widely implemented could fundamentally change entire environments. Your door handle “learns” your touch. Your couch learns your entertainment habits and adjusts ambiance based on your posture. Heck, this stuff even works underwater.

Pretty impressive stuff from the folks that typically bring us cartoons and kid’s programming.


Tech Bubble? There’s An App For That.



Courtesy Facebook

Whether he knows it or not, Mark Zuckerberg fired the starter’s pistol when he reportedly single-handedly spent more than $1 billion on photo-sharing app Instagram earlier this month. The Facebook CEO apparently cut his board of directors out of the picture and decided unilaterally to purchase the relatively small Instagram for a universally huge sum of $1 billion-plus.

Nearly two weeks later, we find out that Facebook dropped another half-billion dollars on a patent buy from Microsoft – who had purchased that chunk of patents and more from AOL for a billion bucks around the same time Facebook bought Instagram.

Courtesy LinkedIn

That might qualify as a spending spree. And when one social media giant whips out its checkbook like that, you can bet a handful of other players start to wriggle a bit in their office chairs. On the other side of things, when one of those checks gets delivered to the owners of an app, you can bet the sea of app developers starts to roil and swell with the “next big thing” hoping to emerge from the churn and become overnight gazillionaires. Continue reading Tech Bubble? There’s An App For That.


Google’s Project Glass Parodies Better Than Actual Glasses



Criticism and mockery of Google’s newly announced Project Glass – the Internet giant’s recent foray into tech in the form of augmented reality eye glasses – flourished almost as soon as the announcement was made.

At this point, taking shots at Google and anything they do is sport, so the eruption of criticism over Project Glass has made getting a quality analysis of this new future-product a bit daunting. However, PCWorld has put together a fairly level-headed piece on the pros and cons of Google’s  “hybrid glasses that act as a miniaturized smartphone wired with hands-free access to a micro display, cameras, microphone, Web browser, and speech recognition” – minus the hysteria and outrage I’ve been seeing across the Web over the past couple of days.

Fodder on these new augmented reality glasses has mainly been aimed at the video Google released to show the new glasses in action:

It’s hard to admit that doesn’t look pretty neat. However, the industry as a whole has pegged Google as a tech-company-turned-advertising-company because of their knack for gathering data and putting ads in front of every user at every possible opportunity. With that in mind, here is probably a more realistic look at what Project Glass will end up looking like:

I mean – c’mon. It’s Google. It would be weird to NOT see ads.

 


VESA and DisplayPort



VESA LogoVESA, the Video Electronics Standards Association has been responsible for defining many video-related standards, starting with SVGA in the late 80s. More recently VESA has been defining and promoting DisplayPort, the latest video interconnect. Andy and Dave chat to Craig Wiley, VESA Chairman, to understand the technology.

Display Port LogoIn developing DisplayPort, VESA has worked to ensure that the standard meets the needs of the modern user. The standard allows for multiple screens at high resolutions and the aim is to replace VGA, DVI and HDMI with a single connector. Cleverly, DisplayPort has backwards compatibility with the legacy devices as the DisplayPort itself is powered, so cable adaptors can be used to convert the signals to an older connection types.

Moving forwards, the basic DisplayPort can drive a 4096 x 2048 display with 30 bit colour depth at 60 Hz. Other resolutions and bit depths are possible but there’s a trade off between resolution and bit depth as it’s the overall bandwidth that’s the constraining factor. DisplayPort v1.2 also supports the daisy chaining of video displays, which is pretty cool.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net, and Dave Lee from Waves of Tech.

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Diversity in Silicon Valley



http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c2/San_Jose%2C_California%2C_USA.jpg/275px-San_Jose%2C_California%2C_USA.jpgDoes Silicon Valley have a diversity problem. That question is raging today on Twitter and Google Plus after the screening of the show Black in America 4 produced for CNN by Soledad O’Brien which will air in a couple of weeks. One of the participants  in the show was Michel Arrington, who said “I don’t know a single black entrepreneur”. He then went on to say he thought that Silicon Valley was a meritocracy and that the best rise to the top no matter their race, sex or creed. This is when the fireworks started. Many called him out on the idea that Silicon valley is colored blind and a pure meritocracy. It is true that the customer doesn’t care who is behind a piece of technology as long as it works, however the business side of Silicon Valley is a different story.

Silicon Valley is no different then the rest of society. The problem is not out-and-out racism, the problem is one of familiarity. As Hank Williams an African-American entrepreneur pointed out people tend to gravitate toward those who are like them. Investors and most mentors in Silicon Valley are white and male and they tend to naturally gravitate toward young, white male entrepreneurs. In other words the investors finds those who fit a pattern that they are looking for. It often happens without any thought or intention behind it. Often groups like NewMe Accelerator which focus on helping black tech entrepreneurs, have trouble even getting mentors or investors to take a look at them. Hank Williams said Techcrunch barely looked at NewMe Accelerator at the last tech meet up. That when they finally did  the Techcrunch report was mostly about the group itself and not about the individual tech companies that were working within it.

If this discussion highlights one thing it is that if you are white and male you need to tread lightly when the conversation about diversity comes up. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk about it, but expect a reaction especially if you make sweeping statements like Michael Arrington did.


ASUS Combines Smartphones and Tablets With The Padfone



Considering the relative success ASUS has already seen in the tablet space it’s no surprise they want to keep them coming. The EeePad Transformer, according to them, is selling pretty well and they recently revealed another impressive Android tablet… err phone… no, tablet phone… Oh yea, it’s the Padfone.

What if we could take our tiny smartphone screen and blow it up to 10.1-inches whenever we wanted? We’d never have to squint again and when our phone rings we could just squish it back down to handheld size and answer the call. See where ASUS is going with this?

Rather than going out and spending money on a smartphone and a tablet, ASUS is going to combine the two… sorta. The smartphone will be just like any other Android handset we’ve seen before. What separates the Padfone from the competition isn’t the handheld itself, but the dock. In essence, the “Pad” aspect of the Padfone is just a 10.1-inch touch screen USB monitor with a battery shoved in it.

The phone provides all the computing power and a 3G connection for access to the web. Toss it in the back of the Padfone tablet-dock and your ready to go. The phone connects to a mini-HDMI and mini-USB at the same time, then you close the lid, completely hiding the handset it from view.

Details were absent regarding which version of Android will be running on the Padfone, but speculation is already swirling the web with “Ice Cream Sandwich” in the eye of the storm. It is definitely a possibility — ASUS says the Padfone’s interface will automatically adjust to better suit the larger screen size when it is docked and Google has already told us Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) would not be coming to smartphones. If you check out the promo video on the Padfone site you’ll see the same navigation bar we were introduced to in Honeycomb. But, if Honeycomb isn’t coming to smartphones (where the “brains” of this device will be located) than we can only move forward, right?

No pricing or availability was announced so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens over the coming months. As far as Ice Cream Sandwich goes, Google’s Eric Schmidt will be talking at the D9 Conference later today — fingers crossed we’ll learn something there.


History Is About To Repeat



I remember it well. Back around October of 2004, I first heard the word “podcast” used on The David Lawrence Show via my XM Satellite Radio. It sounded interesting, and I wrote it down on my driver logbook cover with the idea of looking it up later. I heard David mention it again once or twice over the next few weeks. Finally, in early December of 2004 I finally got around to looking it up. I found Adam Curry’s podcast, realized what it was, and knew that I felt compelled to not only listen to podcasts but get involved as a podcaster myself. This was exactly what I’d been looking for for many years – a wide variety of content that I could choose, download, and control the playback/consumption of on MY terms.

Podcasting took previously-existing elements and applied them with a new twist. MP3 files had already existed for a number of years. Virtually every computer already came with a sound card and had the basic ability to both play back and record audio. Portable MP3 players had been around for a while. Apart from Adam Curry’s and Dave Winer’s contribution of the podcasting concept and making it work, the one key element that suddenly made podcasting viable and actually inevitable was the fact that Internet bandwidth got good enough to make it practical.

Practical is an important key.

We have now passed another important milestone in terms of mobile bandwidth. Mobile bandwidth, while not yet perfect, has improved dramatically in both terms of data delivery and coverage. About three or more years ago I had experimented with streaming audio via my smartphone while driving my truck, and quickly determined that it wasn’t viable. I couldn’t listen long at all before I would lose the stream. No problem, I had plenty of podcasts to listen to.

I’ve been hearing a lot of people talk about Pandora.Com lately, so last week I finally tried the Pandora Android app out on my new Sprint HTC Evo. To my surprise, it worked amazingly well – even in Arizona and the western third of New Mexico along Interstate 40 where Sprint still has 1XRT service. The streaming music sounded great, and the few times it did briefly drop out in a couple of mountainous areas, it automatically reconnected and reestablished the playback stream.

(By the way, a side note – I was surprised to learn that Verizon has NO data card coverage around the Kingman, Arizona area – my Verizon aircard would NOT connect in the Kingman area.)

Streaming radio via the Internet in a moving vehicle is now practical. Smartphones have also reached critical mass to the point where they are really beginning to move into the mainstream. Even though streaming Internet audio has been around for quite a few years at this point, I believe the automotive market for streaming audio is about to open up in a massive way.

Up until this point most people have felt that streaming Internet radio had plateaued or was only going to grow slowly. I believe that improved cell networks along with smartphone proliferation will create a new market for streaming audio services. The automobile has been the traditional stronghold of terrestrial and now satellite radio services. An old kid that’s been around a while suddenly has a big and growing shot at a new lease-on life.

I believe opportunities exist for streaming Internet radio stations that deliver highly specialized content. For us geeks, imagine a 24/7 tech-centric streaming station. The sky really is the limit. The cost of running a streaming station can be very low, so therefore it becomes possible and practical to narrowcast to relatively small audiences.