Friday, 24 May 2013

How Google Glass Could Augment Our Realities and Memories

Wearable technology and AR pioneer Thad Starner on how Google Glass could augment our realities and our memories
Countless wearers of Google Glass stalked the halls of this year's Google I/O developer conference, but only a lucky few were sporting the prescription model, which makes room for lenses in a more conventional glasses frame. Among those lucky early adopters with imperfect vision was Thad Starner, a Georgia Tech professor who, in 2010, was recruited to join a top-secret project at Google's fabled X Lab. That project, as it turned out, was Glass, and Starner's role on the team as a technical lead would be a vital one.
Starner invented the term "augmented reality" in 1990 and, after experimenting with wearable technologies for 20 years now, offered us a rare perspective on where the stuff has been and where it's headed. So, then, we were very glad to get a few moments to chat with the man at I/O and get his insight into how we got to be where we are and, indeed, get some suggestions from him on where we're going from here.
Wearable technology and AR pioneer Thad Starner on how Google Glass could augment our realities and our memories
Starner says he's been wearing computer devices of some form or another daily for the past 20 years, a claim that few others can make. Before becoming an assistant professor at Georgia Tech, he founded MIT's Wearable Computing Project. It's in these years that he made the acquaintance of a pair of grad students named Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The group had discussions about the future of search and, given Starner's tech persuasions, how wearables might fit in to that:
We talked about how it would make you more powerful if you could have web search on your eyeball ... One of the problems was simply making a search engine that was good enough that the right hit was in the first four links, versus AltaVista which was the first 14 links. That took way too long to navigate.
They went their separate ways, Starner continuing to refine his wearable prototypes while Page and Brin built themselves a little search engine. After about a decade, Starner thought that it was time to reconnect:
About 2010, I sent Sergey an email saying, "Now that you guys are doing Android and you're doing these phones, you should really take a look at the wearable computing technology that we've been working on in academia. Why don't you come out to Atlanta and I'll show this stuff to you?" Next thing I know I'm on a plane out [to Google Headquarters] to join the Glass team. They had the same kind of thoughts. The time was right. The next thing you know I'm working on it too, making the early prototypes.

The term "augmented reality" comes from Starner's earlier work, a 1990 fellowship proposal. (Fun fact: this wasn't actually Starner's preferred term. "Artificial reality" had already been used by Timothy Leary to describe a drug-induced state.) However, his concept of a life augmented by technology is rather different than the "AR" that we generally think of when describing things like the Layar browser.
Starner's term for augmented reality simply referred to "information .....................

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

A Plane You Can Park in the Garage:Video

Steen Strand and Kirk Hawkins, founders of ICON Aircraft, describe the features of their groundbreaking A5 light-sport aircraft. They show video demonstrating the personal aircraft handles more like a Jet Ski than a Cessna.


Kirk and Steen speak to design's power to unleash new markets. They tell the story of how ICON Aircraft set out to maximize the vast potential of the FAA's regulatory changes by creating, for the first time, a recreational powersport for flying.

They discuss the challenges in the development of the ICON A5, an airplane that makes flying more accessible, safer, and more enticing than ever before. - IDEO Know How Talks

Before graduating from Stanford Business School in 2005 and founding ICON, Kirk Hawkins flew F-16s in the U.S. Air Force and 767s for American Airlines. Prior to the USAF, he worked in both aviation and aerospace engineering most of his early career.

After earning his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Clemson University, he was the Director of Engineering at an aerospace contractor before returning for his Masters in Engineering from Stanford University in 1995, specializing in manufacturing.

Steen Strand is a seasoned sports product entrepreneur with 14 years of hands-on operational startup experience. Strand's expertise is in product design, marketing and brand building. Early in his career he worked at IDEO, one of the world's leading design consultancies before founding Freebord, a skateboard company with a global subculture of fanatical riders.

He later served as COO and Director of Product at Secara, a funded healthcare startup. Steen received his MS in Product Design from Stanford University, where he periodically instructs courses in Product Design. Steen's designs have been featured in numerous TV shows, websites and magazines, including Time, Forbes, Newsweek and Wired.

World's first manned flight with an electric multicopter

On October 21st, 2011, Thomas Senkel of e-volo made the first manned flight with an electric multicopter, the so called volocopter VC1, at an airstrip in the southwest of Germany. The flight lasted 90 seconds, after which the constructor and test pilot stated: "The flight characteristics are good natured. Without any steering input it would just hover there on the spot". This could be the future of aviation, piloting a device as easy as a car.

The Mycestro 3D wearable mouse

While we now have scroll-wheels, wireless connections and touch-surfaces, the basic form factor of the computer mouse remains remarkably similar to the box-with-a-button first demonstrated by Douglas C. Engelbart back in 1968. This doesn't mean there haven't been attempts to shake-up mouse design though, and the latest to cross our desk is the Mycestro 3D mouse – a thumb-activated, wireless mouse that attaches to your index finger.
The traditional mouse has its limitations when it comes to certain human-computer interface scenarios we find ourselves in these days: the cramped train commute, crowded coffee shop, and not forgetting the airplane fold down table that was the original inspiration for the Mycestro design.
The founder of Ohio-based Innovative Developments LLC Nick Mastandrea has been working on the design for around two years. The current prototype uses 3D space recognition to control your computer without any requirement for dedicated mouse space or a touch pad on your device.
The Mycestro is the size of a Bluetooth earpiece and designed to be worn on the index finger. It uses a combination of sensors and algorithms to collect finger movement information and a touch sensitive panel located on the side of the finger closest to the thumb. Like removing your hand from the mouse, the Mycestro is inactive until you touch and hold anywhere on its side panel, which means you can type or make a coffee without having to remove it. Once the cursor becomes active, finger movements combined with the active thumb press direct it to the desired location, whilst further thumb motions on the touch panel button sections provide a full range of mouse clicks and scroll functionality. The 3D mouse also enables users to personalize programmable gesture commands in addition to the usual mouse functions, such as a flick or swipe movements.
The Innovative Developments LLC team hopes to have the first products available for delive...
The Mycestro uses Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy (BLE) Protocol to give it a range of 30 ft (9.1 m). It's compatible with Bluetooth Smart Ready devices including iPads, MacBooks, and any PC with a compatible BLE dongle. According to its creators, Android devices should be on-line by the end of the year. The current version has two interchangeable clip sizes to cater for different digits an it's charged via USB, with one charge said to provide eight hours of battery life depending on usage.
A Kickstarter campaign is underway to raise funds for tooling and a preproduction prototype run. The Innovative Developments LLC team hopes to have the first products available for delivery around October 2013. Kickstarter prices range from US $79 for a white version, and US$ 99 for a choice of colors.

13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display Review

When Apple released the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display last June, it started at US$2,200. When the 13-inch model arrived last October, it rang up at only $1,800. Progress, I suppose – but still a pretty penny. Now, however, Apple has dropped the prices on all Retina MBPs, and the entry level is now $1,500. With its more affordable price tag, perhaps you’re eyeing its gorgeous 2,560 x 1,600 screen. Is it worth it? Read on, as we review the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display.
For this review, we handled the entry-level (128 GB, 2.5 GHz) model. Apple recently upgraded the 256 GB model with a slightly-faster 2.6 GHz chip, but otherwise the two machines are identical.

Hardware and design

The MacBook Pro with Retina Display runs Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion
In terms of size and weight, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display (rMBP) splits the difference between the (still on the market) non-Retina MacBook Pro (MBP) and the svelte MacBook Air.
The Retina MBP is over 20 percent thinner and 21 percent lighter than the non-Retina MBP. On the other hand, it’s 21 percent heavier and 10 percent thicker than the MacBook Air. It’s really more than 10 percent thicker than the Air, but we’re comparing the uniformly-thick Retina Pro to the tapered Air's thickest point.
The 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro (top) is thicker than the 13-inch MacBook Air (bottom) - bu...
The 13-inch rMBP feels great in hand, and comfortable on the lap. If you’re accustomed to using a MacBook Air, you’ll notice a difference. A bit heavier, but closer than you might expect.
Its secret is that – like the MacBook Air – it loses the old optical drive, and adds a speedy solid-state drive (SSD). So if you aren’t ready to bail on CDs and DVDs just yet, you’ll want to avoid the rMBP for now (or invest in an external DVD drive).
The Retina Pro’s design is mostly familiar. It looks a lot like a thinner version of the (non-Retina) MacBook Pro. That, however, is a good thing: same responsive (backlit) keyboard, multitouch glass trackpad, and unibody aluminum build.
The rMBP's design isn't a radical departure from previous MacBooks
One subtle difference is a thinner black bezel surrounding the screen. In fact, the laptop’s entire surface is slightly smaller than both the Air and its Pro predecessor. Shedding some excess millimeters around the keyboard and trackpad gives it a more focused appearance – and a smaller footprint in a backpack.
On its sides, the rMPB has two USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, an HDMI port, a headphone jack, and an SDXC card slot. The computer charges with a MagSafe 2 port, which uses the new T-shaped connector (the older L-shaped chargers require an adapter).


This is the difference between the Retina MacBook Pro's 2560 x 1600 display and the MacBoo...
So, great: it looks like a thinner MacBook Pro without an optical drive. But what about that Retina Display? That’s what you came for. All 4,096,000 pixels of it.
It doesn’t disappoint. Though the Retina MacBook Pro has fewer pixels-per-inch than the 3rd and 4th generation iPads, it doesn’t show. In fact, it looks noticeably sharper than the iPad. This is because a laptop’s screen typically sits about 8-10 inches farther away from your eyes than a tablet’s does. The rMBP’s perceived sharpness is, right now, about as good as it gets.
On the Retina MacBook Pro, high-res photos reveal levels of detail you aren’t accustomed to seeing. Text is razor-sharp, allowing more sophisticated fonts to pop in ways that they can’t on other displays. Colors are vivid, and appear accurate under default settings.
The magnified section is the exact level of detail you'd see in this screen
There is one downside. Software that hasn’t been optimized for Retina Displays doesn’t look so hot. The Mac App Store’s Twitter app is a great example: it looks like garbage, with fuzzy text and pixelated images. Fortunately, most other prominent apps have shifted to Retina graphics.
Make no mistake. For all of the rMBP’s great qualities – its thinner, more compact build; its high-end performance; its great battery life – the Retina Display is the reason to buy it.


Apple's excellent keyboard hasn't changed from previous MacBooks
Performance-wise, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display offers similar results to its non-Retina cousin – with the added benefit of a zippy SSD.
On a technical level, the entry-level rMBP rocks a dual core 2.5 GHz (with Turbo boost to 3.1 GHz) Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000.
... and on an experience level? Most apps open instantly (a bounce or two in the dock at most). Processor-intensive tasks like high-res content-aware fill in Photoshop complete in a few seconds. All but the very heaviest power users will find plenty of punch here.
If you need more power, the updated 256 GB 13-inch Retina MBP (with 2.6 GHz Intel Core i5) is about 3 percent faster than this entry-level model. Apple also offers built-to-order models with a 3 GHz Intel Core i7 for the most extreme power-hungry users.

Battery life

Our mixed-use battery test yielded six and a half hours of uptime
Apple estimates that the Retina MacBook Pro’s battery will provide “up to seven hours of wireless web” use. Does it live up to the company’s promises?
My highly-unscientific testing conditions included web browsing, writing, reading, and Photoshopping high-resolution images. Brightness ranged between 50 percent and 75 percent.
Under this hodge-podge of light and heavy conditions, the rMBP lasted six and a half hours.
My use was – on average – a bit more intense than Apple’s “web use” estimate, so I’d say the seven-hour claim for web use is sound ... and perhaps even slightly understated.


The MacBook Pro with Retina Display is slightly more compact than other MacBooks
The MacBook Pro with Retina Display hasn’t quite dipped into the consumer laptop price range. The MacBook Air’s flag is still firmly planted in that territory.
But it is inching closer. For $300 more than the 13-inch Air, the entry-level rMBP gives you better performance, the same outstanding battery life, and – oh, yes – that utterly breathtaking display. The tradeoff is some extra weight and a slightly thicker build.
Someday soon, more affordable MacBooks (and other laptops) will sport similar displays. One rumor even suggests that the MacBook Air will join that club later this year. If you can wait a year or two, you’ll get a similar machine for cheaper. But that will always be the case with any tech product.
The MacBook Pro with Retina Display is still a bit too expensive to recommend for everyone. But if your needs lean a little toward power use – and you appreciate a cutting-edge display – then you may find it to be worth an extra $300 over a MacBook Air (or an extra $400 over the non-Retina MacBook Pro). If nothing else, your eyeballs will love you for it.

Marussia and reveal concepts for new car for President Putin

It appears that Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t like his car. Tired of seeing Russian officials being carted about in Mercedes and BMWs, Mr. Putin ordered that a Russian domestic limousine be designed to replace them. Unfortunately, according to the Moscow Times, Mr. Putin apparently didn’t much care for the Zil-4112P that Russian car maker Zil came up with, and told them to have another go. Seeing a chance to get in on the action, car rivals GAZ and Marussia Motors are jumping into the game with Marussia and teaming up for a public competition to find “A car for the President.”
During the Cold War, Soviet luxury cars were nothing to write home about – except to express disbelief. The limousines that chauffeured the likes of Brezhnev and Kosygin were massive, ugly creations with gearboxes like coal scuttles, the turning radius of a container ship and huge engines that, paradoxically, provided hardly any power.
Two decades after the fall of communism, with Marussia Motors are using their “A car for the President” competition to put those days behind them with a call for a completely different model, and have released images of the entrants’ concepts
Concept by Gerardo Delgado (Image: Transportation Design)
For those who are used to competition concepts showing cars that defy gravity, violate the laws of physics or are simply impossible to get into, the proposals for the Russian President’s future runabout do seem a bit on the conservative side, with many of them looking like tweaked Cadillacs and Bentleys. This isn’t surprising, since the competition rules are very specific about the basics of the cars. They have to fall into three classes – limousine, minivan or SUV – they must be front engined, rear-wheel drive, fit inside a specific set of dimensions and “stand on a par with competitors from Mercedes-Benz, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, etc.”
The rules also recommend starting with current Russian models and going on from there. Given this and the fact that the target demographic are heads of state who have their offices in the Kremlin, it's small wonder that they look more like something for going to a summit meeting rather than tearing up the track on the weekend.
According to, the competition received 40 entries from students and professionals and over 80 amateur entries with some from abroad. The winner of “A car for the President” will receive cash prizes plus a chance to work on developing the actual cars. The concepts are currently being reviewed by a jury of car experts and Marussia Motors.
The results will be announced May 1.

Accidentally Extraordinary headphones feature capacitive touch controls in the cable

Due mainly to the influence of the iPhone and iPod, a good many headphones have a playback/call control unit of some sort bulging out from the audio cable. Though undeniably useful, this can add some unwelcome weight (particularly with earbuds), but more often the housing just gets in the way or adds its own thump to the music as it bangs against your upturned collar. California-based Accidentally Extraordinary is looking to change all that, with a pair of elegant studio headphones featuring a capacitive touch control interface on the surface of the cable itself.
"I was just about to go to sleep while listening to music and I started getting annoyed that my headphone buttons located on the right cable kept getting in the way," founder and CEO of Accidentally Extraordinary (AE) Kunal Dalal told us. "Long story short, I thought about how easy it could be to wrap flexible touch electrodes directly on the cable of the headphone, get rid of this remote/mic housing and create a sleek, asymmetrical look to earbuds and headphones."
Development started in September last year and, with a few prototypes under his belt, Dalal took his idea to the Eureka Park section of CES 2013. Four days later, Dalal walked away from the Vegas Convention Center with an address book full of useful contacts and some very positive feedback from both the press and public.
The AE design centers on nano-carbon graphene touch sensors that are printed directly onto...
The AE design centers on nano-carbon graphene touch sensors that are printed directly onto the surface of the cable using graphene-based Vor-ink. In much the same way as existing in-cable controls, this flexible and durable touch strip will allow users to play/pause or skip tracks with a tap/double tap, but will also change volume with a swipe of the finger.
The design features swipe-to-turn-on and lock functionality, though the strip won't be accidentally activated by inanimate objects. While the prototype images show the red touch section flanked by slightly bumpy metal strips, the whole interface will be flush with the rest of the cable in the production models.
Users will also be able to customize touch commands and gestures using a smartphone/tablet app (in a similar way to the Jay One Plus headphones). AE has confirmed that a built-in microphone is planned for inclusion some time in the near future.
"We are looking to address the limits placed on us by the different operating systems," said Dalal when asked about device compatibility. "Our original prototypes controlled volume internally so, regardless of the device, users would be able to control their volume via touch. While we are still exploring that option, the additional power requirements will determine the feasibility of that route. This option may be available in a high-end model geared specifically to the audiophile crowd, powered internally to work across all devices – including your old record player or Walkman."
At this stage in development, the headband and earcups are made from a strong and abrasion-resistant thermoplastic polymer called Delrin, which has been found to lend some crispness to the audio. Foam ear cushions are covered in a soft synthetic fabric and there's a foam cushion on the underside of the headband (not pictured). Dalal says that the design team is currently experimenting with memory foam for the cushions to give users an improved, snug fit.
For the audio side of the development equation, AE is working with an experienced (but as yet unnamed) California-based audio company. At the time of writing, all we can tell you is that the current prototypes use closed acoustics, low impedance (~32 Ohms @ 1 kHz), and high-quality dynamic drivers.
To get this technology into the hands of consumers, AE has launched on Kickstarter. An early bird special of US$160 will get you one of the first 200 off the production line. After that, you'll need to part with at least $200. The campaign closes on March 23 and the product launch has been penciled in for June/July, with delivery to backers scheduled to start in August.
While failure to reach the funding target won't mean the end of the AE project, it will likely result in significant delays in bringing this product to market.
Kickstarter backers are being offered a set of non-capacitive earbuds that sport a soft bu...
AE is also working on some earphones with a capacitive touch strip built into the cable, but they won't be ready for a public debut at the close of the funding campaign. As an exclusive Kickstarter special $60 pledge level, however, backers can get a taste of things to come with a set of non-capacitive earbuds that sport the same red section along the audio cable, but this is a soft button that can be used to control playback and answer calls on iOS, Windows and Android smartphones (in addition to offering volume control for the latter).