Archive for January 30th, 2010

Nokia mixed reality …

Augmented reality is the stuff of science fiction, and I am quite excited about the offering’s different manufacturers for this amazing technology. Augmented reality until now has been mostly only offered on the iPhone. I am not a very big fan of the iPhone, Nokia is more of my phone. Although in the past couple of years the innovation coming out of the Nokia camp is not up to the mark looking at some of their concept videos and literature online I am sure they are working on something big that will change that computing happens in our everyday lives. I am sure there are a lot of you who are reading this who are now rolling your eyes and telling me Nokia is loosing its grip, but I am sure that they will bounce back and just hope it’s not too late 😉

This is an interesting video from Nokia Research Labs that shows Augmented Reality with not only their phone but also wearable devices like glasses that will make a change. This concept allows to you to experience immersion and effortless navigation in an Augmented Reality environment. New types of interactions involving near-to-eye displays, gaze direction tracking, 3D audio, 3D video, gesture and touch. Through these new types of social linkages people will be connected in creative ways between the physical and digital worlds.

Nokia has taken the first step with Nokia Point and Find, an application that very much like Google Goggles looks for online content based on what the image recognition is displaying be it though QR Codes or just images. Here are some amazing demonstrations of the Nokia Point and Shoot with different applications:

Point and Find Demo

Retail Sector

Print Publishers

Out of Home Advertising

There are many developers who are working on bringing Augmented Reality to the Nokia phones, until Nokia work out their strategies on when to launch these awesome devices. Here are some AR games that are available for the N95.

Other Nokia videos of Interest (Morph Concept video)

Until then we need to wait for some transition devices like this one here.

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Robots that can snatch jobs from us

Emotional Robots

Emotional robots are robots who can read human facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language to determine the emotional state of the person addressing them. The robot can then simulate an appropriate emotional response using its own tone, facial expressions, and actions. For example, if a person is upset the robot can be soothing. They are being developed in research labs, and have been deployed in a limited way in some hospitals in the US and Japan. Two of the more famous emotional robots are Kismet, developed by roboticist Cynthia Breazeal at MIT, whose facial expressions might be crude but are nevertheless very effective; and the Actroid series of robots developed by Hiroshi Ishiguro at Osaka University in Japan.

Emotional robots are ideally suited for a number of working-class or retail jobs. They will work in hospitals and homes as caretakers, eliminating those jobs for humans. Emotional robots will also take over receptionist jobs and retail work in many stores. They are incapable of becoming angry or upset when customers yell at them or make strange demands. If a customer is upset, the emotional robot will always act sorry and mean it.

Surgeon Robots

Surgeon robots are just what they sound like – a pair of robotic arms equipped with a camera that can conduct surgeries with precision and speed that no human could ever muster. They have already been used successfully in several surgeries. Sometimes the robot arms are controlled by a human, but several successful surgeries have been performed by robots operating autonomously.

Surgeons might be eliminated, or will be turned into technicians rather than exalted mega-doctors. This goes to prove that robots don’t just threaten the jobs of regular working people – they will also eliminate professional middle-class jobs too. Or they will turn formerly high-paid, highly-trained surgeons into skilled labor like forklift operators. The advantage with them is the fact that the emotional aspect that a doctor might have while operating someone, will be eliminated.

Brain Computer Interfaces

Brain computer interfaces (BCIs) are any piece of technology that allows your brain to control a computer directly. One of the most famous examples of this technology is BrainGate, a device that plugs directly into your brain and carries electrical signals from it to a computer. People who use BrainGate are able to control a computer cursor, which has allowed people who are completely paralyzed to communicate again by moving a cursor over a virtual keyboard and typing out words. Future kinds of BCIs will operate wirelessly. One example of wireless BCI was an experiment done on a rat who could be remote-controlled from a distance when operators sent electrical signals to the parts of his brain responsible for directing his body left or right. Often called the “robo-rat,” (see video below) this creature demonstrated that BCI works both ways, wirelessly: You can send signals from your brain to a computer, and send signals to somebody’s brain too. Can someone see the Matrix ??

Brain implants could change the jobs of machine operators. Operating heavy machinery might move from being a physical job to being a mental one. You could use your brain to control a robot who is digging up a fuel tank, or laying cement. Other jobs that might be profoundly changed are entertainment-industry related. Cameras and sound systems could be brain-controlled, possibly allowing for new kinds of camera work that will be more crazily vivid than anything we’ve seen before. Either way, people trained on the manual systems for industrial machines and cameras will have to learn to use BCI or get downsized.

And now the Tablet – The battle continues

Its competition that eventually makes a product good or bad. I say that with a sense of a consumer. As long as there is someone who is willing to challenge you with a great product and an attractive price package to match it, you will have great innovations and even better products to play with. The beginning of such battles were seen with the browser wars of the early 90’s down to the PC and computers race and mobile platforms. The latest entrant into the warzone is the tablet. I would have said tablet PC but that is a bit of a failure as such. Touch sensitive tablets who have the ability of connect to the internet, have larger screens than your traditional phones but lighter and more agile than a standard laptop, are features that the tablets offer to us, encouraging us to look at this new ‘screen’ among the others that take away our time like the TV, computer, Mobile, Gaming Device and Movies. I believe that the launch of apple’s tablet might have just sparked off one of the biggest tablet race yet.

Tablets are not new and have been around for a while, but the touch sensitive tablets with good processing power and a host of great features has been missed by all. The ‘iPad’ might be a device that is aimed at the normal person on the street, but with no multi tasking, no camera and other small features that could have made it better; has indicated that the tablet business will not get ‘swept over’ by Apple. So the next straight question would be, if not the tablet then what will. It is hard to tell, but if I were to put my money on it, I would point to the Microsoft Courier. It is not usually the case, where I point to a Microsoft product as a game changer or actually something that can make normal geeks go wow. But it is clear with an initial look at this device that it will take on the best, and might even make it as the favorite of many. Featuring a dual screen with a typical organizer type look and feel this tablet and some of the features that it packs might just revolutionalise how we interact with the digital world around us, more so enabling Microsoft to reach heights that others can only dream of. Their foray into the world of PC’s is legendary, Mobiles not so good. But this could definitely bring them to our palms soon enough. Gadget blog Gizmodo has uncovered a set of illustrations that make it clearer how you would operate the device, and what its mains functions would be. On paper, Courier looks like it would be an innovative device, with some killer features.

Based on what has already been reported, the rumored Courier tablet would have two 7-inch color screens, with a flexible hinge in the middle allowing the device to close like a book. The hinge would also have a home button, as well as indicators for wireless signal and battery strength. The two screens can accept handwriting from a stylus or multi-touch inputs from your fingers. Courier would not have any type of keyboard, and rely entirely on handwriting recognition for text input. Courier would also include Wi-Fi connectivity, and a camera on the back of the device. There’s no word on whether Courier would include extras like a Webcam for video conferencing or 3G connectivity. At the core of Courier’s functionality would be the Infinite Journal, which is exactly what it sounds like: limitless virtual pages where you can take notes, sketch, and store Web clippings. Gizmodo says the Infinite Journal would have page numbers for easier reference, and every page receives a timestamp and a location tag once content has been entered. It’s not clear whether the Infinite Journal’s location tag would come from automatic geotagging through GPS or wireless access points, or whether it’s just a matter of manually entering your location for each page. You can also mark Infinite Journal pages with keyword tags to make it easier to search for content. The Smart Agenda would essentially be a condensed version of your Infinite Journal pulling together day-to-day information for easy reference including e-mails, to-do lists, appointments, and recent messages. Clicking on any of these items in the Smart Agenda would take you to the page where these items are stored in your Infinite Journal.

Microsoft is all about the cloud these days, with company executives constantly referring to Microsoft’s three-screen vision (personal computer, mobile device, and television all syncing or pulling information from an online database). Courier is no exception, as it offers a function that allows you to share portions of your journal with colleagues and friends online. When your content appears online, the people you share your journal with will be able to make notes and comments about your content. Once the comments have been entered, they are automatically updated on your Courier device so you can see what your collaborators are saying. One of the most interesting functions of Courier is its ability to clip content from a Web site and allow you to store and manipulate that information any way you like. Called Clip, Tuck, and Paste, with this function you would be able to clip information from a Web page, and then ‘tuck’ it underneath Courier’s hinge between the two screens. Then, you can flip or search through your Infinite Journal until you find the page you want to store the content in, and then paste the Web clipping into your journal. According to the illustrations, there’s a lot more to the Courier, including a Web browser, camera, a file browser called the Library for a quick look at all your stored information, easy-to-use painting tools and more. These new details about Courier make it sound like a fascinating and innovative device. However, we also don’t know some basic things about Courier like how it would handle Web-based video or what kind of storage this device would have. I should also point out that so far we’ve only seen illustrations, and computer-generated videos of Courier in action. Hope we see a real working device of this and that would be something that I would buy, for the time being I would suggest to give the iPad a pass.

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