Can Google’s project glass transform mobile computing, even if they make you look like a pirate?

imgresEver since Robocop made its film début, little boys everywhere wanted to have a heads up display on the world. It looks like the Google founders were no different, because project glass is just that. The idea of having the world be part augmented reality part cinema verite  has some very real advantages. For example imagine being able to navigate the streets of a foreign city without having to refer to a map on your phone while being able to snap photos and video along your journey. These are ideas that are very easy to visualize because they are a very pragmatic use of the technology. I’m interested in what will come from this technology, that’s not pragmatic but revolutionary. Much like what the internet did to every industry known to humanity. The one thing that may pose and problem for project glass is the way the glasses look. Part of Google’s effort to make the glasses more commonplace has been to make one of the founders wear the glasses anytime he’s out in public. While the glasses are somewhat sleek and svelte looking, I can’t help to think that Sergey looks a bit like a high-tech pirate with them on. I hope that looks won’t kill a project as potentially revolutionary as project glass… What do you think, will fashion get in the way of the Robocob revolution?

Two weeks with a Jawbone UP band.

imgres-2In early 2012 I had the pleasure of attending TEDMED, if you haven’t heard of it, it’s a healthcare conference that focuses on innovation. Part of their misson is also to be socially conscientious, this corporate initiative ended up causing the swag bag to have coupons for things instead of the the actual items. One could debate the carbon footprint of shipping things versus me carrying them home in my bag with me, but I won’t do that today.  One of the items in this very nice bag was a coupon for a Jawbone UP band. The UP band is a 3D accelerometer shaped as a bracelet, used to calculate daily movement. I can understand Jawbone’s idea, give their new personal heath product to a group of vocal, influential and tech centric conference attendees to test out. This premise while sound at the time, backfired somewhat due to the problems that Jawbone had manufacturing these devices. Fast-forward to February 2013, I come home one day to a FedEx package, did I order something? I certainly didn’t remember ordering anything(but that’s not that unusual)… I open it and there staring back at me is a black UP band. It took me a few minutes to remember why I had one of these on my kitchen table, but it all slowly came back to me. Being the gadget freak that I am, I decided to give it a try to use it for two weeks to see what I thought.

The setup of the band was pretty simple, after downloading the UP app, I plugged it into my smartphone’s headphone jack . The app found the band and asked me some setup questions about my weight, height and gender, and that was it, it was ready to use.  The UP has some nice features besides being a fancy pedometer. It can also wake you up in the AM, with a subtle vibration, within a predetermined window you specify. It can monitor your sleep quality and time spent in bed. It can also remind you to get up and move around if you are inactive for a predetermined time.  These features are nice additions that most of the other products in this space don’t offer.

After using it for a few weeks, I can say I like it. It has definitely changed my activity level in a positive way. I like being awoken by its subtle vibrations and I can say being able to quantify my sleep habits has shown me that I sleep less than I think I do… I would like to see a web presence for my collected data. As it is currently setup, the data only resides on my smartphone. I think a cloud store of the data would be a welcome addition. Another negative aspect of the band is the small cover for the headphone jack, it is a terrible idea. I predict it will be lost within the next few weeks, once that happens it will be very uncomfortable to wear… Overall the UP is nice, however I’m not sure it can out shine the many competitors that have entered this space within the past year, only time will tell.

3d Printing goes low tech!

6bd9c4b21565ef618416ddaac1125dbe_largeA Kickstarter.com project called 3Doodler has a unique twist on 3D printing, it’s a pen. The team that invented this device have taken the extruder head from a 3D printer and packed it into a wireless pen. This is another example of the 3D printing phenomenon taking hold, but this time at a lower price point and and even lower learning curve.  I think it will be fun for those that don’t want an expensive, hard to program printer. It may also be a hit with children, (if the extruder head doesn’t present a burn hazard).  Take a look at the video here, and you decide cool or not?

Speed bumps the medical breakthrough of 2012?

imgresThe LA Times has an interesting article detailing the cost of medical procedures and their (sometimes) lack of value. It’s clear that in the developed world there are many medical tests that can be performed for a variety of reasons. Physicians are under pressure to make sure that they provide the best medical care possible and stay in line with the standards that the medical community has outlined (and not get sued for malpractice in the process). There is some debate surrounding what medical procedures are needed and when. In-fact Choosing Wisely.org has a nice list of physician recommended procedures, and when not to have them.  The Christian Science Monitor reports that we waste $750 billion in the US on unneeded care, fraud and paperwork!  If we can reduce this waste we can give better care and more of it. The ability of physicians to have the latitude to treat the patients as they see fit may be at the root of this issue. Most doctors are very good at figuring out how to treat a patient, including what tests are needed and when. A team of physicians in the UK have found a very cheap way of ruling out appendicitis. It’s called the speed bump test. On average  42% of diagnosed appendicitis attacks turn out not to be appendicitis. Even with modern imaging and testing protocols the likelihood of having appendicitis surgery and not appendicitis is higher than it should be. Could a test as simple as asking whether or not there was pain associated with the speed bump your patient drove over on the way to the hospital be as accurate or more accurate than the current standard of care? The physicians at Stroke Mandeville Hospital seem to think so, but only to rule out appendicitis… Their research was published here in the British Medical Journal, December of 2012.

Are 3D scanners the obvious next must have new technology?

ffbc448f3213d4f9cdfb79d87568e23a_largeWith all the excitement over 3D printing, did we overlook the obvious accessory? Well, I may have but CADScan from Kickstarter.com sure didn’t. They have a prototype 3D scanner that works as you would imagine. Simply drop in the object you want to copy and it scans it into a 3D CAD file that you can then alter, or print. I think this takes us one step closer to being able to make things in our homes or jobs, and possibly one more legal morass for the lawyers to wade through. Either way its a needed step toward universal 3D printing.

Are big box retailers like BestBuy about to become extinct?(and did streaming kill them?)

urlEver since the first purchase was completed online there have been rumors about the death of brick and mortar chains. Some turned out to be somewhat true, Amazon put a pretty big dent in retail bookstores, but eBooks changed the dynamic completely  so making a proper comparison is best left to the statisticians. Circuit City found out the hard way that there wasn’t room for 2 electronics superstores (usually a few hundres yards from each other). Lately, I have been reading about new gaming consoles that are about to debut. The big rumor is that both XBOX and the PS4(?) will include streaming games too. That is where I began to think about the effect streaming has had on the retailers  I haven’t purchased a movie on physical media in over a year (thanks Netflix and iTunes). I haven’t bought a song on physical media in over 5 years and I haven’t bought a song as a traditional download in 2 years thanks to Rhapsody. Can these brick-and-mortar stores endure yet another blow if all games will be streamed or downloaded to the new consoles? I don’t think they can. In the case of BestBuy in particular, I think they already know there is going to be a problem.  If you look at their floor-plan an ever increasing footprint is dedicated to appliances, personal health gadgets and TV’s, but even that may not be enough to keep them alive. How may chains do you think are about to die because of just this phenomenon?

Why do so many Russian drivers have dashboard cameras?

imgresWhen the meteor over Russia began to burn up over the Urals, its re-entry was recorded by a driver’s dashboard camera.   My first reaction to the meteor video was amazement that one, it happened on the day when another asteroid was making a close flyby, and two it was captured on a dashboard camera. What are the odds that someone would be driving in the vicinity of the fireball and have a dashboard camera. I’d have said it was a small chance but I’d have been wrong.  When the second, third and fourth dashboard cam video made it online, I was suddenly wondering, why all the dash cams? Were they all Russian state troopers patrolling with their cameras on? It turns out, in Russia,  driving is very hazardous and motorists are fearful of attack, corruption, theft and even the police. The cams are a last-ditch effort to maintain order.    Mashable blogger Lance Ulanoff has a great post about the cams, it makes me think that road rage in the US isn’t that bad after all…