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Perhaps the best indicator that the on-officer camera is an idea whose time has come is that business journals are now producing whole articles about the market gains of the companies that provide them. TASER International, Digital Ally, and GoPro have all seen dramatic gains in their valuations as the police surveillance market quietly begins to pick up momentum. Pending Congressional approval, one key driver of this potential windfall will be a new funding initiative from the Obama administration to provide $263 million to improve community relations with police through cameras.
While the crystal ball deep inside ExtremeTech’s technology bunker wasn’t designed for picking stock winner’s, we can provide some analysis of the products already in use by police forces across the country. Between TASER and another company called VieVu, over 70,000 cameras have already been sold to 5000 police agencies. The new funding would potentially equip an additional 50,000 officers with video capability, as well as training in exactly how this new technology should be used.
Via Technology said it will be asking OEMs to build its concept of a “Hi-Fi PC”, which it launched at the opening of its Via Technology Forum in Taiwan.
According to Via, The Hi-Fi PC combines instant-on playback of all the latest digital video and audio formats, including CD, DVD and VCD with the flexibility, power and connectivity of a standard PC system. Housed in a sleek 19cm wide x 19cm high x 34cm deep aluminium case, the Hi-Fi PC includes a unique feature: PlayNow!, a full functioned multimedia player contained within the flash memory of the BIOS, is the key to the instant-on application, enabling rapid optical disk play capability at the touch of a button. A user can then boot the PC.
Central to the Hi-Fi PC is the Via EPIA M mainboard, a new 17 cm by 17 cm platform solution to be launched soon that is optimized for the killer digital media applications, such as watching movies and listening to music, Via said. The Via EPIA M mainboard is based on the Via Apollo CLE266 chipset with an integrated MPEG-2 decoder and 2D/3D graphics capability to provide superb DVD playback, and integrates several Via technologies that provide high quality audio, Fast Ethernet networking and support for the latest communications standards USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394 ‘Firewire’. There is also a TV-out to either analog or digital displays.
Researchers at the University of Maryland, College Park have printed transparent transistors on transparent paper. The finished device is flexible, up to 84% transparent, and in theory this could be the first step towards green, paper-based electronics.
As we’ve covered before, printing computer circuits isn’t overly difficult — you just need to find the right conductive and semiconductive inks (which can be tricky), and then print them out on a suitable substrate until you have a transistor. Because these ink-based printed circuits are very thin, though, the smoothness of the substrate is very important. When you’re dealing with layers of ink that are a few nanometers thick, any blemish on the substrate is enough to disrupt the flow of electrons and break the circuit.
In the case of regular old paper, bumps and blemishes are usually measured in micrometers — far too irregular to print circuitry on. Not to be deterred, the researchers at the University of Maryland used nanopaper — paper created from wood pulp that’s been specially treated with enzymes and mechanically beaten. Nanopaper has a much more regular structure than normal paper, and is stronger (and transparent) as a result. More importantly, though, nanopaper is smooth to within just a few nanometers. “It’s as flat as plastic,” says Liangbing Hu, one of the researchers who worked on the project.
Yesterday, with the simultaneous unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy Gear, Sony SmartWatch 2, and Qualcomm Toq, the smartwatch market was created out of thin air. There are some who will look back on this seminal day and breathlessly say that September 4 2013 was as important as the day that Steve Jobs held aloft the first iPhone. They will say that this was the moment that wearable computing, after decades of dreaming, finally became a reality. Me? I think these smartwatches aren’t smart at all, fall a long way short of actually providing useful wearable computing — and perhaps most terrifyingly, they have created the perfect opportunity for Apple to swoop in and steal the market, creating another iPhone- or iPad-like phenomenon.
What is a smartwatch?
Much in the same way that a smartphone is a smart phone, a smartwatch is a smart wristwatch. A smart wristwatch should fulfill all of the normal wristwatch criteria, and then add some smart functionality on top of that. A wristwatch must be comfortable, highly customizable to suit the wearer, and go for months or years without being recharged. The Gear, SmartWatch 2, and Toq, to put it mildly, are absolutely nothing like wristwatches. They all have noncustomizable straps, they’re all fairly bulky, and all have battery life that can be measured in hours rather than weeks. (See our sister site Geek.com for the full hardware and software specs of the Gear, SmartWatch 2, and Toq.)
At best, these smartwatches are wrist-worn mobile devices — but even then, they are crippled by their “from the future” appearance, limited battery life, and poor wireless connectivity. None of these devices have WiFi connectivity or a cellular modem — they all rely on being paired with a smartphone via Bluetooth for access to the internet or make calls. None of these devices look particularly good on your wrist. Heck, except for the SmartWatch 2, they’re not even splashproof as far as we can tell.
IBM cracks open a new era of computing with brain-like chip: 4096 cores, 1 million neurons, 5.4 billion transistors
Scientists at IBM Research have created by far the most advanced neuromorphic (brain-like) computer chip to date. The chip, called TrueNorth, consists of 1 million programmable neurons and 256 million programmable synapses across 4096 individual neurosynaptic cores. Built on Samsung’s 28nm process and with a monstrous transistor count of 5.4 billion, this is one of the largest and most advanced computer chips ever made. Perhaps most importantly, though, TrueNorth is incredibly efficient: The chip consumes just 72 milliwatts at max load, which equates to around 400 billion synaptic operations per second per watt — or about 176,000 times more efficient than a modern CPU running the same brain-like workload, or 769 times more efficient than other state-of-the-art neuromorphic approaches. Yes, IBM is now a big step closer to building a brain on a chip.
The animal brain (which includes the human brain, of course), as you may have heard before, is by far the most efficient computer in the known universe. As you can see in the graph below, the human brain has a “clock speed” (neuron firing speed) measured in tens of hertz, and a total power consumption of around 20 watts. A modern silicon chip, despite having features that are almost on the same tiny scale as biological neurons and synapses, can consume thousands or millions times more energy to perform the same task as a human brain. As we move towards more advanced areas of computing, such as artificial general intelligence and big data analysis — areas that IBM just happens to be deeply involved with — it would really help if we had a silicon chip that was capable of brain-like efficiency.
You know how wearable computers have always sounded cool, but in practice strapping a big computer to your face seemed a little bit impractical? Well, here’s a slightly more sensible alternative that you can wear without fear of reprisal or feeling self-conscious: The smartshoe. Developed by Ducere Technologies, and available for just $100-150, the Lechal smartshoe is surprisingly comparable to Google Glass — though, of course, it’s not quite as good as capturing point-of-view videos of your loved ones or extreme sports.
The Lechal smartshoe comes in two flavours: A complete pair of shoes with Lechal insoles, or a “barebones” package of two insoles that you can slip into your own shoes. The smartshoe connects to your iOS, Android, or Windows Phone device via Bluetooth. The insole contains the usual slew of sensors that you’d expect from a wearable computer, allowing the companion app to accurately track how many steps you’ve taken, how many calories you’ve burnt, and so on. What truly sets the Lechal apart from a fitness band, though, is that each insole can vibrate.
As Virgin Atlantic and NYPD trial Google Glass, we look at the other potential business uses…
Google has yet to confirm a release date for Glass, but the technology is already being trialed by a variety of industries including airlines, hospitals and police forces.
Having tried the latest version of Glass, we can see the potential of the device. The ability to take photos and video as well as bring up information from the internet via the head-mounted display make Glass a powerful tool. Despite Glass still being in the beta phase, it’s real-world applications are there for all to see and we take a look at 10 scenarios where it will be a good fit.
Glass can make a huge difference in hospitals to increase the efficiency of staff and accuracy of treatment given to patients.
The camera will play a pivotal role – allowing nurses or doctors to scan barcodes and NFC tags to identify patients, bring up medical records and verify the correct medication and dosage is being applied. Below we can see how SAP envisages Glass could be used in combination with its HANA technology.
Surgeons have already used Glass during operations. Sharing videos via Hangouts allows them to impart knowledge to students and seek real-time assistance from specialists who may be halfway across the world.
During operations, the HUD can also provide important images to surgeons, meaning that they don’t have move away from the patient. On the compliance side, recording the surgery can be used to find out why something went wrong during the the procedure, and help settle any complaints.
This week, Virgin Atlantic commenced a six-week trial of Google Glass at Heathrow airport. The airline announced Glass will be used by concierge staff at the Upper Class wing, with the aim of providing a more personalised customer service.
Glass will be used to process check-ins and provide passengers with information about their flight, as well as details of the weather and suggested activities at their destination. It can also aid translation queries.
Virgin will consider a wide-scale deployment and will work on improving functionality if it deems the trial successful. Other potential applications include the ability to provide staff with details of passenger’s dietary requirements.
3. Augmented Reality
Glass can superimpose information over real-world happenings, which will allow the tourism and leisure industry to enhance and support the customer experience.
City and museum tours can be brought to life by overlaying historicals buildings and artwork with key facts or audio descriptions. Users will also be able to take pictures and video and email the files to themselves so they can capture memories hands-free.
If Glass ends up being mainstream, as Google hopes, then a few years from now we will be living in an augmented reality world. Simple tasks like food and clothes shopping will be revamped. Apps could be developed allowing Glass to highlight the health benefits of foods and any promotions. Retail assistants will be able help customers with their queries on the shop-floor by providing information on products and checking stock levels.
Even the construction, retail and real estate agencies will benefit from augmented reality. When designing buildings, bridges and vehicles, the architects, builders and engineers will be able to pop on Glass and see what the finished article should look like, instead of relying on 2D blueprints or pictures.
Similarly, those selling or letting houses will be able to provide real-world tours without having to get clients to visits all properties. This could save the buyers/renters time as they would only need to visit houses in the real world they like the look of in the virtual world.