Goods AND Services –> AMAZON

Repair
Really like what I read yesterday…Amazon is expanding from selling goods to also adding services.

 
Amazon is the #1 stop for just about any daily purchase (except things like cars and houses, which I think Amazon will eventually consider for an acquisition in the future as well). 
 
With their nearly effortless shopping experience, free shipping (for “Prime” customers), and easy returns, it is eCommerce as it was meant to be!
 
Now according to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon is adding local service providers from plumbers to electricians.
 
The cross-selling possibilities are luring–so that as you purchase a household item, up pops local services providers for someone to install or service the item–it’s all integrated.
 
Moreover, Amazon will do background checks on these service partners, determine if they have liability insurance, and offer a money-back guarantee on the services rendered (Oy vey to Craigslist and Angie’s List).
 
Amazon is a brilliant retailer, once they have holodeck like virtual reality experience where you can simulate actually being next the goods to look at them, feel them, even try them (on), then we will achieve shopping nirvana and will never have to enter a Best Buy or other then useless and obsolete bricks and mortar retailer again. 😉
 
(Source Photo: here with attribution to Yo Mostro)

Walk Like A Chicken

Chicken Eyes

So I’ve been reading about the use of virtual technology for the military veterans as a way to help the healing process of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


But this was something different yesterday in downtown D.C….


Using virtual reality to “See Life Through A Chicken’s Eyes”–complements of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). 


So I go up and ask the attendant what this is all about. 


She says, “You can take the virtual reality tour and walk around a field as a chicken!”


She goes on, “Only we’re having some trouble with the technology, so can you come back in 20 minutes?”


Uh, okay, but 2 things:


1. Yes, I do believe in ethical treatment for everyone (including animals), and no one should suffer where we can (and should) prevent it. 


2. I did just have some chicken (only Kosher, of course!) to eat just last week (and it was pretty good), and while I am curious to see the virutal reality, I can’t make it back here in 20 minutes, but thank you!


Lesson: Treat all life compassionately, but I don’t have to walk around as a chicken to see that! 😉

Social Networks–Online and At The Beach

Social Networks--Online and At The Beach

There was a comical editorial in the Wall Street Journal about Social Networks.

This guy, Farhad Manjoo, is addicted to Twitter.

He writes: “I check it first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and about a billion times in between.”

And he admits he doesn’t understand his own addiction: “I’ve never been able to explain what I get out of Twitter, or exactly why I find it so enthralling.”

Manjoo is afraid of what an IPO will do to Twitter–will they have to advertise more, become more like Facebook, favor pictures over text, lose it’s strength in the area of breaking news–hopefully, he is referring to more than what he ate for breakfast!

People are spending inordinate amounts of time on social media–friending and following people they don’t even know!

Perhaps, it’s the fantasy–compliments of virtual reality on the Internet–of being associate–“friends” or “connected–with the rich, famous, powerful, and wise or with the kids who would beat us up in the schoolyard only years earlier.

Online–we’re all sort of friends, aren’t we?

Our avatars or online profiles don’t differentiate much between those we really like or not–we are free to pretty much follow anyone, anytime–unless they block you because you are annoying!

Virtual reality in social media–perhaps the great equalizer–the freedom fighters in the Middle East can post videos of the Sarin attacks as easily as the President can post his inaugural message.

The material is there and free for the ingest by everyone.

Social media has a purpose in bringing us together and spreading the word, videos, and pictures of the times–it make the big world smaller for us to get our arms around.

Then again, a social network of a few close family members or friends on the beach–also good, maybe better for the soul. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

We’re All Digitally Distracted

We're All Digitally Distracted

Focus, focus…forget it!

With smartphones, social media, email, texting, phone calls, meetings, and more…it takes a lot of discipline to not get distracted and actually get things done.

The Wall Street Journal (11 December 2012) laid out half jokingly that most people wouldn’t even be able to finish the article because of all the technological and people interruptions in our daily lives.

There are various aspects to this problem:

1) Digital Addiction–We love and are addicted to the information, connectedness, convenience, and entertainment that computerization, digital communications, and the Internet provide. Loneliness be gone!

2) 24/7 Expectations–Employers, family, and friends expect that we will be available to them around the clock. We are tethered to our jobs and each other with computers, smartphones, Blackberries, telework, social media, and more. If I can’t get to you, it’s because you don’t want to be gotten!

3) Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)–One of the concerns we have about getting off our devices is that we may miss out on something–that critical phone call or email may be regarding an important event, a special sale, a job interview, a long lost friend or lover, someone who needs help, or whatever. But if you shut yourself off, then you may just be missing the opportunity of a lifetime!

For most people the smartphone is the last thing they look at before going to sleep and the first thing they look at in the morning…assuming your significant other doesn’t intervene.

Even going on vacation, for many, means checking work and personal emails and voicemails…a vacation is no longer a real vacation, just perhaps less work than going into the office.

On one hand, we have more information and connectedness at our fingertips than ever before, but on the other hand, we are living in virtual, and not physical, reality.

One example is how we sit with our families and friends, but every one is on their device and no one is interacting with each other in the room.

No wonder there is a movement now to “Turn it off!” or “Leave it at home (or work)!”–We are desperately trying to balance between cyberspace and personal space.

We can’t afford to be distracted or to distract ourselves, incessantly–we need to focus on what’s important, what needs to get done, and on those who love and need us.

Whether you do a zero email day or just leave it all behind vacation–everyone needs some time be human with each other again. 😉

(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)

From Holocaust To Holograms

From Holocaust To Holograms

My father told me last week how my mom had awoken in the middle of night full of fearful, vivid memories of the Holocaust.

In particular, she remembers when she was just a six year-old little girl, walking down the street in Germany, and suddenly the Nazi S.S. came up behind them and dragged her father off to the concentration camp, Buchenwald–leaving her alone, afraid, and crying on the street. And so started their personal tale of oppression, survival, and escape.

Unfortunately, with an aging generation of Holocaust survivors–soon there won’t be anyone to tell the stories of persecution and genocide for others to learn from.

In light of this, as you can imagine, I was very pleased to see the University of Southern California (USC) Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) and the USC Shoah Foundation collaborating on a project called “New Dimensions In Testimony” to use technology to maintain the enduring lessons of the Holocaust into the future.

The project involves developing holograms of Holocaust survivors giving testimony about what happened to them and their families during this awful period of discrimination, oppression, torture, and mass murder.

ICT is using a technology called Light Stage that uses multiple high-fidelity cameras and lighting from more than 150 directions to capture 3-D holograms.

There are some interesting videos about Light Stage (which has been used for many familiar movies from Superman to Spiderman, Avatar, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) at their Stage 5 and Stage 6 facilities.

To make the holograms into a full exhibit, the survivors are interviewed and their testimony is combined with natural language processing, so people can come and learn in a conversational manner with the Holocaust survivor holograms.

Mashable reports that these holograms may be used at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. where visitors will talk “face-to-face” with the survivors about their personal experiences–and we will be fortunate to hear it directly from them. 😉

(Photo from USC ICT New Dimensions In Technology)

Fitting Every Consumer A VIP

Check out this new augmented reality virtual fitting room technology called Virtual Interactive Podium (VIPodium) by Russian Company, Fitting Reality.
Using Kinect, motion-sensing technology, you use simple gestures to:
– Select, mix and match, and try on clothes in 3-D.
– Twirl around and see yourself in 360-degrees
Take pictures, email them or share them on Facebook
Get outfit information including sizing, and
– Place clothing in wish lists for future consideration or into the online shopping cart for purchase
Here is another video of a very cool implementation of this technology at the men and women’s TopShop store in Moscow.
!
The people are visibly engaged and excited shopping and trying on clothes using the latest here for “tech-savy fashionistas.”
Honestly though, I see this more as an augmentation to the physical fitting rooms, in terms of helping select clothes, rather than a replacement, since really seeing how something fits, means actually putting the outfit on.
VIPodium beats simply holding up an new outfit to yourself and looking in the mirror, but it doesn’t come close to seeing how it really feels when it’s when you put it on.
However, add in the interactive social media features, available information, and ability to shop online and I think you got something that makes every consumer feel like a VIP.
Happy shopping!

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Very cool new military technology by BAE Systems called Adaptiv–it’s an invisibility cloak (yes, we now have the technology of the Klingon Empire at our disposal!)
Hexagonal pixel plates are affixed to tanks (and soon battle ships) and these can change temperatures to be invisible to infra-red sensors and confuse heat seeking missiles.
Moreover, onboard cameras pick up surrounding scenarios and can display this onto the vehicle’s pixels, so that the military vehicles blend right into their environs.
Another trick, is that that the pixels can display alternate images to masquerade itself— so a tank is now a simple car or even a cow (according to Wired UK, 6 September 2011).
Like the Trojan Horse, I can only imagine what a military power could do by fully exploiting this capability–whether through the conduct of hit and run maneuvers or by invading and conquering  an unsuspecting foe.
This is the emergence of a whole new era of war-fighting capabilities, where camouflage is no longer just covering yourself with the basic elements, but rather where technology is used to create a virtual reality that masks the true physical.
On the battlefield, this technology will enable us to seemingly be there one minute, and gone the next (machines and people)–that’s technology magic that even Houdini would be envious of.
And yet, this is still just the beginning…we are only now bordering on the capabilities inherent in the Star Trek holodeck–where whole alternate environments are just a simulation away.

Social Media: Closer Together or Further Apart?

This satirical video with lyrics sung by Elliott Yamin (from American Idol) shows a relationship where interest in everything social media outweighs the real social relationship between the two people (boy and girl).

Even sitting right next to each other, they are texting and skyping as if they are a thousand miles away!

The boy keeps trying to get the girl to pay him some real attention–waving his arms, closing her computer lid, and even pretending to shoot himself–but nothing works. The girl is in social media heaven–or hell–and she just keeps on going online: Texting, Tweeting, Facebooking, Yelping, Grouponing, Blogging, Digging, YouTubing, and on and on.

The boy looks miserable and is proverbially screaming out: “hello, can’t we just be together for real?” But to her, the reality is attained ironically through connecting on social media.

While the video exaggerates the relationship dynamics as impacted by social media, it does acutely point out the many ways that connecting with others has changed in the age of social computing.

But is the change mostly positive or negative–does social media draw us closer or does it in a sense drive a virtual wedge between us?

This past week, the Wall Street Journal (16 August 2011) reported that studies show that “digital communications can lead to more or better friendships online and off, greater honesty, faster intimacy in relationships, and an increased sense of belonging...on the whole, technology appears to enhance real-world relationships.”

in particular, social media seems to be a type of panacea for shy and anxious people who report feeling “significantly less shy, more comfortable, and better accepted by their peers” when they are online than off. Additionally, the “frequent communications online could serve as a practice for in-person social interactions.”

When people are online, they feel perhaps safer, freer, and able to be themselves and this helps them connect with others in a way that is maybe more real than the facade they hide behind in the “real world.”

This can work in negative ways too like when people get behind the wheel of the car, they sort of think they are anonymous and you see them cursing, speeding, etc. In this case, they let their inhibitions go, and in it’s place you get things like road rage. Online too, you have creeps come out and say and do inappropriate things behind the veil of anonymity.

Social media provide tools for us to connect with others. And like any tool, social media can be used for good or bad: On the positive side, it can help us to reach out to others and connect, share, collaborate, and innovate. On the negative side, it can be used as escape from reality or even to conduct unethical or criminal activities.

How we use social media is up to us–the potential to go in either direction is very powerful.

>Holograms – Projecting Soon

>

I think Holograms are the next big thing.

This example of a hologram on an an iPhone App is pretty amazing as an early version of what is to come.

Just wait for hologram phone calls and meetings and integration with everything social media.

I see things like avatars–graphical representations of users– as a precursor to actual 3-D projected images of ourselves that will be sitting in the classroom, going to the office, and even interacting socially like going on dates with our favorite other.

This is going to make things like Skype, Facetime, and Telepresence just baby steps in our ability to project ourselves across space and time and “be there” in ever more realistic ways participating and interacting with others.

As part of a training class a number of year ago already, I had the opportunity to see a spatial hologram that was very cool. So holograms are not limited to only people but entire environments that can be virtualized and this gives us the opportunity to test new ways of behaving and model and simulate new worlds.

This iPhone App is just a teaser of what is coming.