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Six months after their spectacular unveil, Google is about to send the first round of augmented reality Google Glass devices to developers. Developers will pay $1,500 for the privilege of receiving an early, prototype version of Google Glass, but the polished consumer version — due in 2014 — should be a lot cheaper.
As it stands, Google Glass is a browband — like a pair of spectacles, but without the lenses — with what basically amounts to small ARM computer running Android attached to the right side, by your temple, and a large battery behind your right ear. There’s all the usual hardware that you would find in an Android smartphone — a speaker (near your ear), a forward facing camera, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, a couple of microphones, and WiFi and Bluetooth aerials — but instead of a large touchscreen, there’s a tiny display placed near your right eye.
In theory, if you’ve seen the original Glass promotional video (embedded below), Google’s goggles are meant to finally usher in the era of wearable computing. In reality, Google Glass is currently just like having an Android smartphone strapped to your head.
This past weekend, rumors made their way into the wild that Apple is looking to add a watch to its line of iDevice products. However impressive or sleek an iWatch would end up being, would it really be a good idea for Apple to get into the wristwatch game?
Now, before you instantly discredit an iWatch rumor as just being a rumor that the news cycle created in order to have news to cycle, the report originated from the Wall Street Journal, and despite what you may or may not think about the publication, it has a great track record with Apple-related rumors. Reportedly, Apple has discussed the production of a smartwatch with one of its manufacturing partners, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. — otherwise known as Foxconn — and would be adding some smartphone-like features into the device. The watch would be made out of curved glass that can form around the human body, and would run iOS.
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.
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.
WSJ’s Joanna Stern seems surprised by not seeing an eye-popping Ultra HD display? No retina scanner? But the rumors suggested the Galaxy S5 was going to be a life-changing phone, she complains.
No, the Galaxy S5, unveiled in Barcelona Monday, isn’t chock full of radical new hardware components or fancy-sounding software features, which require you to hold one arm over your head and tilt the phone towards the equator to work properly.
The Galaxy S5 feels different for Samsung. Literally, she concludes.
Instead of the slimy, glossy plastic rear cover that has plagued previous Galaxy S generation, the fifth edition has a higher quality matte plastic adorned with what can best be described as inverted braille dots. It feels nicer than previous models, though it’s still not as good looking or feeling as the iPhone 5S or the various flavors of Moto X. The GS5’s black, blue and white versions are much more handsome than the gaudy gold, which we all agree looks a lot like a Band-Aid.
Latest about Google Glass and Wearable Technologies at Wearable Computing Conference 2014 San Francisco, New York, London, Seoul and Munich
According to a report by CNN, Patrick Jackson has developed an app for Google Glass, Google’s experimental head-mounted computer, which feeds important information directly to the eye-line of firefighters in an emergency. When a building is on fire, every second counts for the first responders rushing to the scene. This computer-savvy firefighter in North Carolina is hoping a bit of futuristic wearable technology and clever programming can help save time and lives, themes that will be covered at Golden Networking‘s Wearable Computing Conference 2014 (http://www.wearable-computing-conference.com), “How Wearable Technologies are Revolutionizing Mobile Wireless Internet, Healthcare and Fashion”, forums to be held throughout 2014 in San Francisco (March 18), London (May 29), New York City (July 31), Seoul (September 25) and Munich (November 20).
A self-taught programmer, Jackson first started tinkering with computers when he was 7 and later spent a year studying computer science in college before transferring to the University of North Carolina, Asheville, for an environmental management and policy program. He became a firefighter. About four years ago, he purchased a smartphone and was inspired to start programming again. “Since then I’ve taught myself way more than I ever knew about programming. I’ve developed an Android app, an iPhone app and a Glass app,” Jackson said.
His first project was the Android app Firefighter Log, which routed key information directly to the smartphone, including text messages from dispatchers, streams of emergency radio feeds, and location information for fires and nearby hydrants. Jackson says more than 20,000 people have downloaded the apps. To get his hands on Google Glass, Jackson submitted his idea to Google’s IfIHadGlass competition.
By routing information directly to Google Glass, the app can save firefighters from having to stop what they’re doing in order to reach for a radio, smartphone, tablet or computer. Jackson plans on adding even more useful data in future versions, like information on specific buildings including blueprints, potential building hazards and contact information for owners. A firefighter might be able to say an address out loud or simply look at a building with the Google Glass camera to retrieve information.
Google Glass can also record the first video of a situation when crews arrive. That early documentation will be important to fire investigations down the line. For now, Google Glass isn’t compatible with the oxygen masks firefighters wear on the ground, so the app is more for external personnel. Jackson’s Glass stays behind in the truck.
Other fire departments and researchers also are experimenting with wearable technology, thanks to a recent availability of affordable wearable sensors that can track vitals and environmental factors like air quality and temperature. The Wearable Advanced Sensor Platform, or WASP, can track a firefighter’s location as well as physical data such as heart rate, breathing and activity levels in real time. A Belgium finalist for Microsoft’s Imagine Cup created a system that combines location sensors and augmented reality glasses to help firefighters move around buildings when there is minimal visibility.
Golden Networking‘s Wearable Computing Conference 2014, “How Wearable Technologies are Revolutionizing Mobile Wireless Internet, Healthcare and Fashion,” will examine wearable technologies’ functions, application, the competition and possibilities for economic and personal growth in San Francisco, London, New York City, Seoul and Munich.
Wearable Computing Conference 2014 is produced by Golden Networking (http://www.goldennetworking.net), the premier networking community for business and technology executives, entrepreneurs and investors. Panelists, speakers and sponsors are invited to contact Golden Networking by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.