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Automakers think car buyers are in love with slick connected car features, like buying a song you just heard or updating your Facebook status while parking. Not so. More often, drivers and passengers want mainstream features that get them to their destination faster and then find a place to park. The driver’s top five requests today are on-demand real-time traffic information, automated map updates, real-time weather and news, real-time parking spot finder, and driving assessment/coaching.
“This is a defining year for the auto industry [and] the connected vehicle,” said Thilo Koslowski, VP for automotive at the Gartner tech consultancy, speaking at the Consumer Telematics Show in Las Vegas the day before CES opened. “You will see lots of examples [at CES] of the connected vehicle becoming the main innovator of mobile and IOT [Intenet of Things] innovation. It’s about how the car is connected in the future to the other pieces of our daily lives.” This is the Internet of Cars, or IOC.
After 97,000 steps (about 45 miles of walking), a couple dozen press events, countless booth visits, and six nights in an overpriced hotel room, my week at CES is over for another year. Like last year, cars and car tech were a major theme of the show. Fortunately, we had yeoman Bill Howard on site for ExtremeTech to sort it all out. Ben Algaze focused a lot of his attention on the AV space, so expect to read his thoughts on the smart TVs and some of the audio technology that was introduced.
As usual, I have a short attention span, so I dove into a little of everything, including a drone that lets you make Hollywood-style movies, an immersive 3D desktop, a roundup of the slew of 3D printers that were released, and a cool new Android tablet that hopes todethrone Microsoft’s Surface in the hybrid space. Stay-tuned for a couple more articles on the brand-new indoor navigation system used at the show, and a company that promises to do away with passwords (yes, I know, they’re not the first to make the claim).
Pebble set a Kickstarter record when it launched the original Pebble Smartwatch way back in 2012. That’s like the smartwatch stone age. Now it’s back with a new campaign for the Pebble Time, a smartwatch with a color e-paper screen and a somewhat more refined design than the original watch. If you think the internet might react negatively to a second Kickstarter from this company after the first one netted a whopping $10 million, you’d be wrong. It took only 17 minutes for the campaign to smash the $500,000 goal, and it’s now well into the millions.
The Pebble Time seems to have more in common with the original Pebble than the slightly more premium Pebble Steel. It looks nice, but not something you’d get away with wearing at a formal event. The body is plastic and the bezels are fairly large in relation to the screen. The back is curved to allow for a more ergonomic fit on your wrist. It still has physical buttons on the side for control rather than a touchscreen as most other smartwatches rely on. There’s also a microphone for voice interaction, but it’s not clear how that will tie into your phone yet.
If, like me, you watched Google’s demonstration of Glass and Now, I have a humbling thought for you: You were watching the future of ubiquitous, omniscient, always-on, wearable computing; you were watching the future of Google; you were watching the future of mankind.
If you didn’t watch the Google I/O keynote presented by Vic Gundotra, Hugo Barra, and Sergey Brin, let me quickly bring you up to speed. Google Now is an Android app that uses your location, behavior history, and search history to display “just the right information at just the right time.” For example, if you regularly search for a certain sports team, Now will show you a card with the latest scores for that team. When Now predicts or detects that you’re leaving home in the morning, it will display a card with any relevant traffic information. If you have a lunch meeting in your Google Calendar, Now will show you the route you need to take to get there — and when you need to leave to get there on time. If you search Google for an airline flight, Now will show a card with the flight details (and any delays).
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.
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.
Faced with a lot of recent backlash for its wearable Glass headset, Google has published a list of dos and don’ts for its early Glass Explorers — aka, How To Not Be A Glasshole — and also set about debunking the top 10 Google Glass myths. Both lists highlight one of the biggest issues facing technology at the moment: A growing resistance from the non-technologist public, who are rightfully a bit scared about how hyper-advanced, almost magical technology will impact their society.
Ever since the first round of Glass headsets made their way to Explorers in June 2012, barely a week has gone by without the the press reporting on some kind of “Glasshole” story. These stories nearly always follow the same kind of pattern: Explorer wears Glass while going about his or her everyday life, and then gets into some kind of altercation by going somewhere or doing something that someone else finds objectionable. It’s usually pretty normal, obvious stuff: Wearing Glass while driving, wearing Glass in a locker room, wearing Glass in a counterculture punk bar, etc.