The War Over Wearables

The War Over Wearables

Google Glass or its wearable technology alternatives from Apple and others is going to be huge.

This is one time that I disagree with many of the pundits interviewed by the Wall Street Journal (30 May 2013) that say that the future of wearable technology is still “out of focus.”

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, who is presumably playing catch-up with Google Glass says that Glass will be “difficult” to succeed with as a mainstream product.

Similarly, another unnamed technology executive said “wearing Google Glass looked a bit silly and borderline obnoxious.”

I don’t know about you, but I read a lot of fear and jealousy by these companies rather than disdain or contempt.

On the pother hand, Mary Meeker, the famous venture capitalist specializing in computers and the Internet, gets it right when she says that wearable computers would be the star of the “third cycle” of the web, and that the world has already entered the phase of “wearables, driveables, flyables, and scannables”

The first two, Glass and driverless cars is where Google has its first mover advantage, and flyable drones and scannable 3-D printing are already having huge impacts in the War on Terror and industrial design and manufacturing.

When wearable technologies are combined with embedded chips, we are going to have a whole new augmented reality experience.

Apparently many interviewed by the Journal saw a “very large gulf between the current [wearable] technology and mass adoption,” but Meeker who knows the Internet is one step ahead here seeing the potential of the emerging technology, rather than the short-sightedness of those without Glass. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Ars Electronica)

Dance Robot, Dance!

This robot has rhythm and can dance Gangnam Style.

It is called CHARLI-2 (Cognitive Humanoid Autonomous Robot with Learning Intelligence–Version 2).

Charlie was developed by Virginia Tech’s Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa).

At five feet tall, CHARLI is the United States’ “first full-size humanoid robot.”

Charlie can do things like walk, turn, kick, and gesture–he is agile and coordinated–and as you can see can even dance and also play soccer!

One of the things that makes CHARLI special is his stabilization technology–where it can orient itself using sensors such as gyroscopes.

According to Wired Magazine (19 October 2012), The Office of Naval Research has provided a grant of $3.5M to CHARLI’s creator to develop a nextgen robot called the Autonomous Shipboard Humanoid (ASH) to work aboard Navy ships in the future and interact with humans.

CHARLI won the Time Magazine “2011 Best Invention of the Year” as well as the Louis Vuitton Best Humanoid Award.

While the CHARLI robots still move relatively slowly, are a little awkward, and are almost in a child-like “I dunno state,” we are definitely making exciting progress toward the iRobot of the future–and I can’t wait till we get there.

For me, I see the potential and this robot can certainly dance circles around me, but that’s not saying much. 😉

Technology Forecasting Made Easy

Envisioning_technology

Here is a really nice technology forecast visualization from Envisioning Technology.

It covers almost three decades from 2012 through 2040.

And includes an exhaustive list of technology categories for the following:

– Artificial Intelligence
– Internet
– Interfaces
– Sensors
– Ubiquitous Computing
– Robotics
– Biotechnology
– Materials
– Energy
– Space
– Geoengineering

Further, specific technologies are informed by their:

Relative Importance–by bubble size
Consumer Impact–by size of the node’s outline
Related Clusters–by a jagged edge

Additionally, what I really like about their online version is that when you hover a technology, you get a decent description of what it is.

Looking in the out-years, it was great to see cool innovations such as machine-augmented cognition, retinal screens, space-based solar power, programmable matter, and anti-aging drugs–so we’ll be overall smarter, more connected, exist in a more energized and malleable society, and live long-enough to appreciate it all. 😉

Hey, Gesture Like This!

This new gesture-recognition technology from Leap Motionis amazing.”For the first time, you can control a computer in three dimension with your natural hand and finger movements.”

The closest yet to get us to the vision in the movie, Minority Report.

“Leap is more accurate than a mouse, as reliable as a keyboard, and more sensitive than a touchscreen.”

Scroll, pinpoint, pan, play, shoot, design, compose, fly–just about everything you do onscreen, but more in sync with how we generally interact with our environment and each other.

I like when the guy in the video reaches forward and the hands on the screen reach right back at him!

I’d be interested to see how this can be used to replace a keyboard for typing or will it be augmented by a really good voice recognition and natural language processing capability–then we would have an integration of the verbal and non-verbal communications cues.

In the future, add in the ability to read our facial expressions like from a robot and then we may have some real interaction going on mentally and perhaps dare I say it, even emotionally.

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (24 May 2012), the Leap is just the size of a “cigarette lighter that contains three tiny cameras inside” and costs just $70–“about half the price of a Kinect.”

The Leap is so sophisticated that it can “track all 10 of a user’s fingers and detect movements of less than one-hundredth of a millimeter.”

At their site, I see you can even preorder these now for estimated shipping at the end of the year.

I think I’ll put this on my holiday gift list. 😉

Robot Guard Thyself

The Asian Forum of Corrections in South Korea has developed this 5′ tall robot for patrolling prisons.But rather than restraints and weapons, this prison guard carries a suite of technology:- 3-D Cameras for monitoring safety and security

– Recording devices for capturing activity

– 2-way wireless communications between corrections officials and prisoners

– Pattern recognition and anomaly detection software for differentiating normal behavior from problems

While this sparks the imagination for where this might go in the future, I’m not quite sold on this.

Firstly, how well can these robots really recognize and interpret human behavior, especially from those who may be fairly adroit at hiding or masking their activities, day-in and day-out.

And maybe more importantly, without some serious defensive and offensive tricks up its robot sleeve, I have a feeling that many a prisoner with a two by four, would put this million dollar robot in the junk yard pretty fast, indeed.

I’d rate this as not there yet! 😉

Helping The Disabled Get Their Groove Back

I love this evolving technology using bionics to help the paralyzed stand and walk again.This technology for exoskeleton suits with motors, sensors, and external power supplies was first developed for the military to run farther, lift more, and so on.However, the application has been expanded to those who have had strokes, accidents, or otherwise have lost use of their limbs and movement.

Additionally, there is potential for industrial workers to use these robotic suits to do their work with less effort and more impact by augmenting their movement with hydraulic and battery power.

What Exso Bionics seems to have really gotten right is that the suit looks almost perfectly sculpted for a human body, appears to go on the person with relative ease, and helps the person move in a balanced and controlled fashion.

While these suits are still pricey and according to Fast Company (April 2002) cost approximately $130,000, Exso is looking get the rates down to between $50,000 and $75,000 retail.

Further, the article notes that other companies are building competing devices, such as Argo Medical of Israel that offers the ability to climb stairs and that activates by gesture without a therapist pressing buttons.  Similarly Rex of New Zealand offers a device that is controlled by a simple joystick.

I think the future for these bionic suits for the military and industrial use will be truly transformative in terms of providing superhuman speed, strength, and stamina to advance our capabilities and increase our productivity.

Moreover, the use of these exoskeletons by people who are elderly, frail, or sick is compelling and provides hope for people to live with greater mobility, self-reliance, and human dignity.

Robots, Coming to An Agency Near You Soon

There is an article today in the Wall Street Journal (10-11 March 2012) about how an Anybot Robot attended a wedding party in Paris dressed up as the man’s 82-year old mother who logged on from her home in Las Vegas and by proxy of the robot moved and even danced around the party floor and conversed with guests–she was the hit of the party.

While sort of humorous, this is also amazingly incredible–through robotics, IT and telecommunications, we are able to close the gap in time and space and “be there,” even from a half a world away.

The QB Anybot robot is life size, rolls around on 2 wheels like a Segway, and has glowing blue eyes and a telescreen for a forehead on a long skinny cylindrical body that can be controlled remotely and costs only $9,700.

While this is the story of a robot “becoming the life of the party,” I believe that we are at the cusp of when robots will be reporting for duty at our agencies and organizations.

The function of robots in workplace has been tested with them performing everything from menial office tasks (like bringing the coffee and donuts) to actually representing people at meetings and around the office floor–not only keeping an electric eye on things so to say, but actually skyping back and forth with the boss, for example.

As robots become more dexterous, autonomous, and with better artificial intelligence, and abilities to communicate with natural language processing, we are going to see an explosion of these in the workplace–whether or not they end up looking like a Swiffer mop or something a little more iRobot-like.

So while we are caught up in deficit-busting times and the calls for everything from “Cloud First” to “Share First” in order to consolidate, save, and shrink, maybe what we also need is a more balanced approach that takes into account not only efficiencies, but effectiveness through innovation in our workplaces–welcome to the party, Robots!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)