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My main point of skepticism aboutGoogle Glass is not whether it can do what it claims to (it can) but whether we care. Smartphones have had voice controls for a long time, and headsets have been hands-free for even longer. I have never wanted to use Siri when she was in my hand, and I don’t think that would change if she were perched on my face. So when a Kickstarter for a product called Meta started up, saddled with the inevitable label of “Glass killer,” the world didn’t quite care. It wasn’t until a few days ago that I came to pay to attention to the product at all — that’s when Meta announced that it hired Steve Mann as its head scientist.
For those who don’t know, Steve Mann is sometimes referred to as the “father of wearable computing.” He’s been involved in the field of computational photography for as long as the field has existed, and his famous skull-grafted Digital Eye device has earned him the (disputed) title of the world’s first cyborg. There is essentially no name to drop that could carry more weight for a fledgling cyborg technology. Mann’s street-cred means that, if nothing else, Meta must have at least some features worth getting excited about.
David Cardinal: Tablets are the future
Tablets are cool. They’re fun, portable, have long-lived batteries, and are increasingly useful. The immediacy of a touchscreen you can hold in your hand, coupled with a screen large enough to read a magazine make them the most exciting development in computers since the laptop. Currently the iPad is all the rage for tablets, even among those who already own an iPhone. Alan Kay — inventor of the Dynabook, the iPad’s 1968 virtual ancestor — explained why when he commented to Steve Jobs about the iPhone, “Make the screen at least 5″ x 8″ and you will rule the world.”
Smartphones, with their small screens, aren’t going to replace the trillion pages of books, notebooks, newspapers and magazines that the world has been consuming for the last 500 years. The tablet will. Already kids are feeling shortchanged when their books don’t come to life the way their electronic devices do.
For all their appeal, tablets have one life-threatening drawback. It is just plain hard to create content on them. They do have a huge advantage over smartphones, with the larger screens making possible a facsimile of a true keyboard — and more than one published author has written a book entirely on a tablet — but compared to a full-size keyboard they fall way short, if you are a touch typist at least. It is no wonder Apple plowed a few hundred million into Siri.
Whether you like it or not, it seems this fall will be all about the smartwatch. This morning, following LG’s tease of the round-faced (but awfully named) G Watch R, Samsung has unveiled the curved Gear S — the first major smartwatch with its own 3G connection, allowing it to send/receive calls and generally act as an internet-connected smart device without being paired to a nearby smartphone. And on top of all that, it seems Apple will unveil an iWatch alongside the iPhone 6 at its September 9 event. Is the world ready for a standalone smartwatch? Do we even have the battery technology to allow a 3G smartwatch to run for more than a few hours?
The Samsung Gear S is the company’s first standalone smartwatch, using a built-in 3G connection to make/receive calls and texts, and to pull down notifications, emails, and so on from the internet. The Gear S, like the Gear 2 and Gear Neo, runs the Tizen operating system. The smartwatch will come preloaded with S Health, Nike+ Running, and Nokia’s Here maps for navigation. There are a ton of sensors that allow the Gear S to act as a fitness band, as well as something that vaguely resembles a very small smartphone. With Google wading into the wearables arena with Android Wear, I have a feeling that Tizen smartwatches won’t be around for long.
After years of rumors, leaks, and false starts, it seems the stars will finally swing into alignment this fall: Apple is will unveil an iWatch smartwatch alongside a new large-screen iPhone 6 at an event on September 9, according to the latest reports. Presumably the iWatch will also be released to the public alongside the iPhone 6 a week or two later. Previous rumors had pointed to an October unveil for the iWatch, but it seems Apple has moved it forward — possibly in response to the Samsung Gear S, LG G Watch R, and the Moto 360, all of which will be released over the next month or two. Just as the iPhone and iPad popularized the smartphone and tablet, will the arrival of the iWatch signal the beginning of the wearable computing revolution?
Over the last couple of months, Apple’s (AAPL) stock price has been buoyed by Wall Street’s belief that, at long last, a new segment-defining device was on its way. Last week Apple’s stock price finally rose back above its September 2012 peak. It would seem that, after a couple of years of uncertainty — the echo of Steve Jobs’ death, essentially — the stock market finally thinks that Apple is ready to do more than just squeeze its iPhone cash cow for billions of dollars in profits every quarter.
Real-time emotion detection with Google Glass: An awesome, creepy taste of the future of wearable computers
The wily geniuses at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany have created the world’s first real-time emotion detection app for Google Glass. The app (glassware, as Google prefers to call it) can also accurately detect someone’s age or gender. All of the analysis is carried out on-board — the cloud isn’t used; the raw data (which might be sensitive in nature) never leaves the Glass device. Real-time emotion detection could be of great use for people with disorders such as autism, who often struggle to interpret facial expressions, or simply for people who struggle to divine their partner’s true emotional state when they say that they’re “fine.”
Fraunhofer’s Google Glass app is based on its tried-and-tested SHORE (Sophisticated High-speed Object Recognition Engine) system. SHORE started off as an object-detection computer vision system, but over the years it has developed into a face detection and fine facial analysis system. It can pick out a person’s face with a 91.5% success rate, and tell you that person’s gender 94.3% of the time. It can even take a stab at the person’s age. Previously, SHORE — which is essentially a highly optimized C++ library — has been deployed on various computer systems, from PCs to tablets. Now, Fraunhofer IIS has squeezed all of that facial analysis goodness onto Google Glass’s rather wimpy hardware (1GB of RAM, dual-core TI OMAP 4430 SoC). Watch the video below; it’s a little bit scary how accurate the system is at detecting gender, age, and emotional state.
Wearable Technology is Redefining What it Means to be Disabled as People adopt Devices and move into a Bionic Future
The visually impaired have used canes to navigate for most of recorded history, but the white version we’re familiar with was born in early 20th century Paris. Guilly d’Herbemont lived above a street frequented by blind pedestrians, regularly witnessing their peril in an era when automobiles were common but crosswalks a novelty. By 1931, she had come up with the idea of establishing a bold white cane as a protective symbol and navigational tool for the blind, and distributed more than 5,000 of them at her own expense. The idea had spread internationally within two years.
According to Fortune, tech developer Krispian Lawrence hopes to build on d’Herbemont’s legacy. Lawrence lives in India, which he says has “the unfortunate distinction of being the blind capital of the world,” and he sees both the strengths and drawbacks of the white cane. “The cane has social significance. At the same time, it has two major defects: it can’t [guide] you from one place to another, and it can’t orient you.” Lawrence is CEO of Lechal (Hindi for “Take me there”), which he co-founded with Anirudh Sharma in 2011. The company is about to release its first products: footwear that will supplement the white cane by providing navigation and safety information through vibrations in the wearer’s feet.
Virgin Atlantic is taking wearable tech to the skies. USA Today reports that concierges for the airline have today begun wearing Google Glass to aid in the process of checking in passengers. With the information closer than their fingertips, concierges will be able to offer passengers the latest flight, weather and event information. Glass will also offer the valuable ability to translate languages.
The articles states that at some point, the device will also be able to link a person will their food and beverage preferences. Director of information technology for Virgin Atlantic Dave Bulman said, “The whole industry needs to listen to what these passengers are calling for, and keep innovating to bring a return to the golden age of air travel. Flying should be a pleasure, not a chore.’
This project, which was launched with the help of SITA, an information technology company, will last for a six-week trial period. Should everything go well, the program could be extended to other airports.
Do you view this as a luxury experience for travel? Would it disturb you to be called by name by someone you’ve never seen before and have them know your flying preferences? It does give back a sense of importance to passengers but is it more important to recognize that all passenger information is being uploaded and shared by Virgin Atlantic concierges?
As wearable technology expands into use by various members of different professions, its great to see industries that don’t usually adopt technology quickly jump on the bandwagon. But it will also be interesting to see how privacy concerns are met.