Micro-sensors and the future of information

Micro-sensor chipWe live in the information age. You don’t need to go to the library for information. You can pull out your smartphone from your pocket and ask Siri or Google Now or Cortana, and it will read out the latest information for anything you ask. We have resources like Wikipedia for knowledge, Wolfram Alpha for mathematical information and countless news sites and blogs indexed by Google. All of this information is at our fingertips. But we are about to get a lot more information about a lot of new things. We have reached an era of powerful micro-computers that are cheap and affordable. They have a plethora of on-board sensors that can produce data. This data will give us an insight into a lot of topics that we did not know about. It will open up our understanding of the environment we live in, the factors affecting it, and we will learn even more after studying co-relations between the data we will soon have.

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Are facial features the future of passwords?

Next Genertion AuthPasswords have been around for centuries. When Julius Caesar was fighting a war in Europe, they used a password at the gate before soldiers could enter the camp. In those days, you did not have government issued Photo IDs. The enemy could kill a soldier, wear this uniform, steal his horse and penetrate the their camp. Having a password allowed camps to only grant entry to the soldiers who knew the password. With the advent of the internet, we have used passwords as an authentication mechanism for everything from email and online shopping sites to banking.

It is becoming easier for hackers to break passwords and hijack accounts. We have resorted to using more complex passwords than we cannot remember, and relying on password manager apps to store them. This is becoming very inconvenient. To solve this problem, many companies are working on the next generation of passwords. EyeVerify has developed eye-detection software that detects eye characteristics using a picture from the camera, and generates a password based on the characteristics. They call it the EyePrint. They also detect features like vein patterns in the eyes. So when you want to login to a service, you can simply snap a picture of your eyes and be authenticated. MasterCard is also working on a similar approach. They are using selfies for authentication. This involves analyzing more facial features like position of eyes, nose, mouth, etc. MasterCard believes that this is the future of passwords.

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Is Dreamcatcher the next level of CAD?

Autodesk Dreamcatcher BikeComputer Aided Design (CAD) has existed for a long time now. Designers learn how to use popular software like AutoCAD from Autodesk, and design products using the software. The traditional human designing process is now aided by computers. CAD enables designers to try out different designs on the computer and analyze them before they can settle on a design. Autodesk now has a new research project called Dreamcatcher. With Dreamcatcher, the fulcrum is slightly moved. Instead of computers providing help to the designer, the computer takes over and designs the product, while the human can propose tweaks and pick a design short-listed by the software. Dreamcatcher understands the product that needs to be designed, analyzes the different variables involved and does mathematical calculations to come up with the best design for the product. The human can then tweak or change the design and Dreamcatcher will finalize it.

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Smartcars and future of driving

Smart vehiclesIn the last few years, we have gone from smartphones to smart-devices. We have intelligent home appliances, wearables and even smart vehicles. Technology is making everything convenient and autonomous. While we have basic smart-features in cars today, auto makers around the world are working on the next generation of smart cars. The main goals for smart vehicles include reducing accidents, and adding autonomous features so the drivers can take their hands off the wheel.

The next wave of cars would have distinct technology that would differentiate them from cars we have today. Cars would have speed limit alerts with cameras that would scan for speed limit signs and alert the drivers if the car is going faster. It would even alert the driver by haptic feedback through the steering wheel or gas pedal. The cameras would also monitor pedestrians and alert the driver if someone is moving towards the front of the car. They would scan for lane markings and alert the driver if the car is straying away from the lane. The cars would also be able to detect if you are too close to the car in front and alert the driver to keep safe distance. There are some cars that would even monitor vital signs of the driver through the seat and be capable of pulling over if there was a medical emergency that could cause the driver to lose control. These technologies would reduce driving accidents and make driving safer. Besides safety, smartcars could also include features such as monitoring bad roads along the city and report them to city authorities so the roads could be fixed. In this way, all cars could become a way to monitor infrastructure and bring attention to issues that need repair. This would allow bad roads to be fixed before they cause accidents.

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Points is the future of street signs

Points street sign


Breakfast, a New York based company, is building Points – a new street sign for the digital age. Points can dynamically change text on the street signs and rotate the sign to point towards different venues. It can also be programmed to show different places at different time of the day. For example, it can point to the “Zoo” during the day and when the zoo closes in the evening, the sign can rotate and change the text to “Saturday night bar”. Another example can be displaying events like “Giants game” instead of “Stadium”, which gives people an idea of what game is on while enabling easy interpretation for people going to that game (in case of multiple stadiums in cities). The distance can also be flashed to show miles and hours/minutes based on online traffic data, which can be helpful. Besides a street sign, Points also acts as a kiosk for people walking on the street. The buttons on the pillar can be pressed to change directions visible on the street sign. A pedestrian can choose “Restaurant” and the signs will show different restaurants. One problem this can create is that a car passing by that wants to go to the stadium will also see the restaurants chosen in the kiosk. I think they should add a small screen near the buttons to act as a kiosk rather than changing the signs.

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Microsoft hit the nail on touchscreens

Microsoft Research just released a video showing the lag on capacitive touch screens. I noticed the same when I bought my ASUS Transformer Prime last month. Tablets today have about a 100ms delay which you can notice if draw a swirly line at a fast speed. This can be annoying if you are trying to do drawings with some precision. Microsoft highlighted the difference when the lag was lowered to 50ms, 10ms and 1ms! I think this is the right direction to focus on before companies continue working on throwing tens of cores on a small processor.

Click on “Continue reading” to watch the video in action.

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Microsoft’s Vision of the future

Microsoft just released a conceptual video of their vision of the future. The concepts are just brilliant! The main devices are transparent cards which turn into a smartphone. This does seem technologically impossible today as we cannot imagine having a phone that is transparent and just a few millimeters thick, because we believe that the device has a processor, memory, batter, camera and other internal architecture. In the video, all this is abstracted out, there is nothing between the user and the content.

There are other creative ideas as well. These can be incorporated with today’s technology. For example, the person in Hong Kong sees a video that asks for help and as he raises his phone to the screen, he sees donation amounts on the device. He then selects and amount and the payment is done. Apps for today’s smartphones can be made to capture images and quickly match it up with a database of donations. Though this would need a massive database and extremely fast image processing, it is still possible to have this technology.

That being said, watch the video for yourself. Its after the break.

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Mozilla Seabird is the future

We all have seen science fiction movies with those cool gadgets that we crave. Movies right from Back to the Future to The Island show us what the future might look like. They have the flying cars, skyscrapers different from what we have today and the awesome gadgets. Technology is surely heading that way from what we have seen in the last decade. A couple of years ago, we were new to texting and as we got used to it, we got social networking which led to a whole new way to communicating and interacting. We can now see friends around our geographical location on our mobile phones and see what they are doing, and share pictures and videos with them. We can hold our phones to the radio and find out what song is playing. We can also scan barcodes of items and find best deals for the product. It’s just amazing how technology has evolved in the past decade.

Mozilla Labs has a new concept for a mobile phone. Its called the Mozilla Seabird. There have been dozens of smartphone concepts for mobile phones, but this one is a true revolution. The Seabird has a unique design, its flat from the front and curved on the back. There is a bluetooth dongle that pops out of the back that can be used as a ear piece. You can also hover it in the air to interact with the phone. Getting it closer to you will zoom in and moving it away from out would zoom out. Another great thing is that it has two projectors build in. One projects a full OS on the wall and the other projects a virtual keyboard and touch pad on the desk. That’s right. It turns into your computer!

Anyway, its better to see the concept rather than reading it. Videos and pictures after the break.

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Need a Boxee set-top-box ?

Boxee is a great multimedia platform that provides music, movies, torrent downloads to online streaming, right from its nice little interface. Furthermore, you can even add friends to Boxee and send and receive recommendations. However, Boxee can only be used with your computer (Mac and Linux – Windows in Private Alpha) or with an Apple TV. Its a great option if you have a Mac mini or an Apple TV. But what about the others ?

Boxee has got a solution. Set-top-box providers can sell their box with Boxee pre-installed. In fact, Boxee has got several inquiries recently. But wouldn’t it be even better if you could get a Boxee set-top-box itself?  Well, Boxee is thinking about it and needs your suggestions. Just head to the Boxee blog and let them know what you want.