Touch Free, Just Use Your Head

Israel Innovation News is reporting a very simple but cool new technology for the disabled.

It enables them to “read, play games, search the web, and make calls without the need for touch.”

Sesame Reader, from the Google App Store, “tracks your face and allows you to turn [eReader] pages with the movement of your head.”

You can also dial a number or type of a keyboard by using movement of the head to control the cursor movement and by hovering over a button to “click it.”

This helps people to function in a digital world, when otherwise they couldn’t.

Hence, the name Sesame from Ali Baba’s magic phrase “Open Sesame.”

Now people can read, write, and interact with others online–even when they don’t have use of their limbs because of neurological, muscular, and other structural defect, or if they simply want hands-free use.

Touchscreens, keyboards, and keypads are now accessible to anyone with the simple turn of the head–up, down, left, and right is all all it takes to navigate, touchless. 😉

The Galaxy S4 Is Crap

The Galaxy S4 Is Crap

Okay, it takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong.

Reference my blog “How Apple Is Losing Its Fan” dated August 10, 2013.

After testing the Galaxy S4 for the last 5 days, I can honestly say, I was wrong!

I hate the Galaxy device, and am returning it tonight!

Despite a dearth of recent innovation from Apple, their iPhone is SO MUCH better than the Galaxy.

Do NOT listen to the stats comparing them!

The battery on the Galaxy was horrendous, and after never running out of juice on the iPhone, I got a warning message yesterday on the Galaxy that the battery was almost dead after only 8+ hours of use!

Also, syncing it up with my car system was clumsy and annoying compared to the iPhone which did it seamlessly everyday.

Even simply syncing up music, videos, and so on with iTunes required a 3rd party app to facilitate this.

Checking email was a pain as there were separate icons for Gmail and the for all other email (yahoo etc.), so this very basic feature was not consolidated.

The cheap material on the Galaxy, even with the nice case I got, made it feel like the crappy buttons would break anytime.

But most important, the integration of the Apple iPhone ecosystem is so much tighter than on the Galaxy–whereas everything on the iPhone works the first time and every time, the Galaxy is an annoying hit or miss.

Everything on the Galaxy felt to me like more clicks, more annoying messages, less intuitive interface, and like I just wanted to toss it into the trash.

When the lady said she completed my switchback over to the iPhone, I only had one thing to say–thank G-d!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

How Apple Is Losing Its Fans

How Apple Is Losing Its Fans

Without a lift, Apple is already (and unfortunately) on the way down.

IDC reports that the recent quarter global smartphone shipments show Android with an almost 80% market share compared to Apple’s flimsy 13%.

I’ve been a diehard Apple fan for years (and I still love them, but…)

Years ago, I converted all my Windows computers and even my old Android phones.

Apple was innovative, sleek, and intuitive to use.

But since Steve Jobs passed, the company has lost its mojo.

Siri was a bust and what else have they done since.

Google is leading the way with Glass for wearable technology.

Apple is disappointing its consumers, and their stock plummet from over $700 to the upper $300s (now in the mid $400’s) shows investor sentiment.

Out comes the Samsung Galaxy S4 and I am salivating–the differences from the iPhone 5 make them “almost” not comparable.

Thought I’d wait for Chanukah, but the opportunity came early and so I am now a proud owner.

A couple of days earlier, a young women on the Metro was using the Galaxy and I asked how she liked it–she said she loved it, mentioned the big screen and all the free apps, and then went on to say that her mom also just switched over from the iPhone and loves the Galaxy too.

What is it about the Galaxy?

The larger 5″ screen on the Galaxy versus 4″on the iPhone 5 is the first thing you notice–and yes, when it comes to doing email, reading news articles, or watching video, size does matter!

Also, the Galaxy has Corning Gorilla glass and a higher 2.85 resolution and 35.28% higher pixel density–so it is strong and sharp and images really come out looking like a beautiful work of art.

Also with air gesture, you can just wave your hand to navigate pages and not get fingerprints and smudges all over the screen.

The camera is another huge difference: the Galaxy is 13 megapixels compared to only 8 for the iPhone and if you like taking photos that don’t look like they came from a smartphone, this is a better way to do it.

In terms of speed, the Galaxy again outperforms the iPhone, it has 2 gigabyte of RAM versus only 1 for the iPhone and its CPU is 2.46 as fast. I was able to transfer my entire iTunes music library in just a couple of minutes.

Finally, battery power is key and the Galaxy has 1.81x what the iPhone has–which basically makes it not necessary to get a heavy and costly Mophie external battery pack for it.

While there are many features I like better on Galaxy s4, the one thing I’d recommend Samsung improve on is the body, which is a cheaper plastic compared to the iPhones aluminum, but once you have a solid case on it, it doesn’t really matter for the end user experience.

Overall, Galaxy has out-done the iPhone, and I think the venerable and cash rich Apple, without some major new technology leaps and advances in design is under very real threat.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Magic Computer Displays

This is some awesome technology from Tactus Technology.

It is called a dynamic tactile touchscreen.

Here’s how it works:

When you want to type with a tablet or other touchscreen display, not only do you see a QWERTY keyboard, but also the buttons actually rise out of of the flatscreen display–for a tactile typing experience.

Using microfluidics, the fluids in the screen actually change shape–and form buttons.

When your done typing, the keyboard buttons melt away back down into the screen.

It all happens in a split second and has negligible impact on power consumption (i.e. less than 1%).

This type of tactile experience with computer displays can be used for tablets, smartphones, gaming devices, and I would imagine even SCADA devices (e.g. for turning a dial, pulling a level, etc. all virtually on a monitor).

Goodbye physical controls and hello magic touchscreen–presto chango. 😉

Apple Designers Lost In The Imagination Orchid

Apple Designers Lost In The Imagination Orchid

Apple which is under competitive pressure to come up with something new—since Steve Jobs, their chief and master innovator passed away—seems like a deer in the headlights, where they can’t sprint forward to the next innovation and instead, they just sit paralyzed in fear and stair dumbly into the oncoming Mac truck called Google and Samsung.

Apple, the pioneer of the mobile icons on your smartphone and tablet that look like what they are, has lost their way—big time.

Their new iOS 7 abandons this intuitive, user-centric architecture approach of skeuomorphism for instead a more amorphous look and feel—where the user has to guess what an icon is supposed to be (check out the unintelligible icons for Newstand or Passbook mobile wallet).

In other cases, there is virtually no significant perceptible change at all (see Messages and iTunes that are just a little bigger) or other changes that are actually detracting from what was in iOS 6 (see Reminders without the check marks, Notes without a notepad look, Settings without the gears, and the addition of clouds to the Weather icon).

I love Apple products—but just like they are flailing with a new backwards-leaning graphical user interface and Siri, the useless automated personal assistant, they are behind in the wearable technology arena, where Google Glass in almost off and running.

There is a reason Apple stock has tanked from over $700 to hovering in the low to mid $400 range,–without the brilliance of Job’s imagination, a laser-focus on perfecting their products, future-thinking functionality, and sleek elegant design–Apple is in trouble.

Will an Apple watch or television be unveiled soon and save the day?

It will extend Apple’s successful running streak, but their distinctive culture of creativity and excellence had better emerge in more ways than an iWatch or iTV for Apple to hold their crown of technology glory. 😉

(Source Photo: Facebook Fan’s of Apple)

Kurzweil, Right and Wrong

Kurzweil, Right and Wrong

Ray Kurzweil the famous futurist is an amazing person, but like everyone he has his good and bad days.

When it comes to the Singularity–Kurzweil had a very good day.

With the accelerating speed of technology change, the advent of super intelligence and superhuman powers is already here (and continuing to advance) with:

Smartphones all-in-one devices give us the power of the old mainframe along with the communication capabilities to inform and share by phone, text, photo, video, and everything social media.

Google Glass is bringing us wearable IT and augmented reality right in front of our very eyes.

Exoskeletons and bioengineering is giving us superhuman strength and ability to lift more, run faster and further, see and hear better, and more.

Embedded chips right into our brains are going to give us “access to all the world’s information” at the tip of our neural synapses whenever we need it (Wall Street Journal).

In a sense, we are headed toward the melding of man and machine, as opposed to theme of the Terminator movie vision of man versus machine–where man is feared to lose in a big way.

In man melded with machine–we will have augmentations in body and brain–and will have strength, endurance, and intelligence beyond our wildest dreams.

However, Kurzweil has a bad day is when it comes to his prediction of our immortality.

Indeed, Kurzweil himself, according to the Journal “takes more than 150 pills and supplements a day” believing that we can “outrun our own deaths.”

Kurzweil mistakenly believes that the speed of medical evolution will soon be “adding a year of life expectancy every year,” so if only we can live until then, we can “Live long enough to live forever.”

But, just as our super intelligence will not make us omniscient, and our superhuman powers will not make us omnipotent or omnipresent, our super advances in medicine will not make us, as we are, immortal.

Actually, I cannot even imagine why Kurzweil would want to live forever given his fear-inspiring Singularity, where advances in machine and artificial intelligence outpaces man’s own evolutionary journey.

Kurzweil should knock off some of the pills and get back to humankind’s learning and growth and stop his false professing that humans will become like G-d, instead of like a better humans. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Fun, The Good ‘ol Fashion Way

Fun, The Good 'ol Fashion Way

This was a funny picture today on the street in downtown D.C.

This guy was getting a cheap ride down the thoroughfare in a bin.

She was pushing and he had his arm raised as the winner of the big race.

It reminded me of when we were kids and used to ride go-karts down the hill–and only after we picked up some speed did we realize that the breaks didn’t work that good.

Oh well, a little flip and some chuckles and no worse for the wear.

Those were the days, young and carefree–nothing to worry about except whose house we were going over to, next, to wreck some havoc.

I remember, one day we were having a huge wet paper towel fight and one kid ran into the garage to escape the barrage, I gave chase and unwittingly pushed against the glass in the door to follow and oops my hand went right through.

Not a pretty sight, but I thank G-d lived to tell my kids about it, and now they got one up on me when they do something a little out of bounds and fun–actually they are a lot better than I was at that age.

And it wasn’t that I was a bad kid, I was actually one the good ones–or so I was told–but before we all had computers, the Internet, social media, and smartphones, we had each other.

It wasn’t the technology that drove us, but rather the evolving web of interactions (today my new best friend is…), the challenges we made up (let’s bike up to Tarrytown in 100+ degree heat), the fun we found ourselves in (from the board game Risk to early gaming on the Atari, or just cleaning out a friends garage for a few bucks)–times were simpler, more innocent, and in a way better.

When we went home at night from work or for the weekend, our time was our own–were weren’t glued to email and always on call.

When we attended an event, we didn’t check our Facebook and Twitter, but paid attention to the company we were in.

When we ate dinner together, maybe the one rabbit-ear TV was going in the background with one of the 3 networks stations, but everyone wasn’t being pulled away for gaming, blogging, or some Internet shopping.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my technology as much or maybe more than the next guy, but I also miss just being me in the physical world with my family and gang of friends, and not just so much TheTotalCIO in the office and in cyberspace. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

What Did The Cereal Box Say To The BMW?

What Did The Cereal Box Say To The BMW?

This family had just come out of Costco loaded with groceries.

They are heading to the garage to pack it into their car.

A BMW comes racing through the garage and runs over one of these mega Costco cereal boxes.

The car keeps going with the cereal box being dragged underneath.

The family runs through the garage and cuts off the BMW waving and yelling for him to stop.

He skids across the double-yellow line and stops blocking both sides of the road.

The man who lost his cereal bends under the front of the BMW to try to extricate the cereal.

The box is so Costco big, it barely can come out.

The man’s family looks on from the side.

Finally, he wiggles the box this way and that and gets the cereal box out from under the BMW.

The driver is standing there sort of bewildered by the whole thing.

If the cereal box could talk, I think it’d beg for a better ending than this.

Too often, as we go through life, we mow other people down who are in our way.

Thank G-d, this was just a box of cereal and not the man’s child or wife that had been run over and dragged.

I wondered how degrading it must have felt for this poor guy to be bending down in the street to get the box out, while the driver simply looks on in an uncaring disdain.

I almost thought for a moment, the driver was going to either just keep going or when he got out wallop the other guy for hassling him to get his cereal.

People can be strange that way and you never know what is going to happen next.

It is good that other people can be around with smartphone cameras and video, so that people don’t feel that they can just behave indiscriminately and obscurely.

In the end, no one should think they are all that–and have the right to uncaringly run over others’ persons or things.

We are all frail humans and G-d is always there with a very big, high megapixel smartphone recording it all for judgement day. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Sony, From Hipster to Nerd

Sony, From Hipster to Nerd

Gone are the days when Sony made innovative products like the Walkman and great products like televisions that you willingly paid top dollar for.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek (18-24 February 2013) reports on Sony that “after eight years of losses in the TV business, it projects a $215 million profit this year–only after selling its New York headquarter for $1.1 billion.”

LA Times reported last May that Sony announced its largest ever loss for year-end March 31, 2012 of $5.6 billion, nearly double its prior-year loss of $3.2 billion. They also announced layoffs for 10,000 employees.

Sony is reorganizing and shedding businesses (displays, chemicals, etc.) and according to Bloomberg looking to generate 70% of sales and 85% of profit from just 3 remaining businesses–cameras, smartphones/tablets, and gaming.

However, Sony has lost its way…

Maybe it started in the 80’s when Sony lost out in VCR (videocassette recorder) format wars with its Betamax to VHS, and it continues today with a lack of innovation in the mobile technology marketplace. Anybody want to buy a Sony Ericsson phone? Ah, no!

Additionally, if you have ever been to a Sony retail store–probably not–they are a truly sad imitation of Apple and virtually nobody is in there. Hello–echo.

Sony is not only losing the technology war, the retail war, and the market share (it has only 4.5% of the phone market according to the Wall Street Journal) and earnings war, but also the branding war and they have just become plain uncool.

Sony’s products have names that are unrecognizable, unpronounceable, or just plain alphabet soup.

Do you want to buy a MacBook or a Vaio, iPhone or Xperia, Kindle Fire or PRST, a Sharp Elite or XBR, an Xbox 360 or a PS4?

The answer is obvious to everyone but Sony. 😉

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

Smart Technology Makes Smart People

This is a good video on creating a smart house by a company called SmartThings.

Building on Facebook’s social graph where we are all connected in the social realm, SmartThings has developed the concept of the physical graph, where all things are connected and are programmable.

While most of us still don’t see the real need for our toasters and fridge to be connected to the Internet and wouldn’t pay more for it, SmartThings has some cool ideas that may just yet help the smart home market actually take off.

The obvious–turn on/off lights, fans, and appliances; adjust thermostats, and monitor your home through security cameras over the Internet.

The not so obvious–

– Add a “presence tag” and the home can sense when you arrive/leave and take appropriate action to adjust lights, temperature, security system, and so on.

– Add a open/shut sensor and you can know if you left a door or cabinet open or if someone (like the kids) is getting into the liquor closet or a small child into the cabinet with dangerous cleaners and chemicals.

– Add a “moisture sensor” and you can be alerted to broken water pipes.

– Add a “smart service” and you can notify the plumber about the water emergency at your home.

– Add smart apps by 3rd party developers and you can get notification when there is a severe weather alert and you left the windows open.

– Add “party mode” and you can have the patio lights, blender, music and disco ball going on for some fun.

I like the look of the app they’ve created to control all these things on your Smartphone–simply choosing your location (home, office, etc.), room, and then physical item that you want to remotely monitor or control.

Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal (23 Feb. 2013) take this “smart” concept yet further to where we actually start giving up control to the devices themselves and asks “Is smart [technology] making us dumb?”

Some examples…

– Cars sense when we are tired and attempts to drive for us or they detect we are driving too fast or reckless and notifies our insurance company.

– The scale sees that we put on a few pounds and contacts the personal trainer for an appointment for us or won’t allow us to heat up the pizza when we slide it into the microwave.

– The toothbrush senses that we brushed a little too quick today and urges us to brush a little more.

– The trashcan detects that we did not separate out the recyclables and splashes this embarrassing information on Facebook.

– The washer detects high water usage this month and suggests we hold off on the next load.

The WSJ comes to a distinction between “good smart” and “bad smart,” where good smart gives us more information for better decision-making and the control to execute on it, and bad smart is where you “surrender to the new technology.”

While I agree with Google’s CFO who said “The world is a broken place whose problems…can be solved by technology,” I also believe that “smart design” means that we remain the masters and the technology remains the slave.

Technology is a tool that can help us solve-problems, but we are the problem-solvers and we must learn through trial and error and a maturation process so we can continue to address ever larger and more complex problems.

Giving up control to technology may make sense if we are about to harm ourselves or others–like with having automatic stopping on a car backing out and about to hit a little child–but it doesn’t make sense in directing the personal decisions that we see fit for ourselves.

Sometimes we will be right and other times, very wrong, but that is living, learning, growing, and being human beings accountable for our actions–not being another automaton hooked to the physical graph. 😉