The 180 Degree iWatch

This image is the closest I have found to how I imagine the iWatch will look:

I think the screen will be 180 degrees long. Turn your wrist to see the bottom of the screen.

Actually it won’t quite be 180 degrees, because opposite the on-screen watch will be a fingerprint scanner (works best with the thumb of your other hand) that will double as an on/off switch. It will be at the place where you would check your own pulse.

The on-screen watch will be the only visible part of the screen (probably be a separate screen) unless you touch the scanner / or if an alert is being displayed along with a vibrate.

Regarding charging, I think the iWatch will come with a night stand that charges the watch while working as a bedside alarm clock. Many people take their watch off when they go to bed, and it isn’t hard to achieve.

Battery life will be one week, but much less if you use various apps. One week will be when you only use it as a watch and bluetooth connection to your phone.

Price will be $349-$399

Saving Paper via the word The

Making news recently was the idea (from an American teen) that simply using Garamond as the main government font, millions of dollars could be saved:

Using the General Services Administration’s estimated annual cost of ink — $467 million — Suvir concluded that if the federal government used Garamond exclusively it could save nearly 30% — or $136 million per year. An additional $234 million could be saved annually if state governments also jumped on board, he reported.

Unfortunately the readability of printed Garamond means this idea is unlikely to be adopted.

But here’s another idea that will not only save in print costs, it will also massively reduce the bandwidth associated with online writing:

Abbreviate the world the to just “t”. 

I am convinced that adjusting to this reduction would be quick and painless. Try it:

T quick brown fox jumps over t lazy log.


Wearable Tech: Google Glass Will Fail, Others Will Win

In the latest issue of Wired is an excellent article on wearable tech, like Google Glass, Pebble and so on. It seems to me that the winners are losers of the near future are quite easy to predict, due to one important factor – wearable tech is hard to hide (for now).

However gorgeous a Bluetooth earpiece, it fundamentally says that its wearer might need to make or receive a call at any time—and for most people, that’s not a cool message to send. It makes the wearer look like they jump at the world’s beck and call rather than engaging with it on their own terms.

Bluetooth earpieces haven’t taken off. For example, sales were predicted to grow by just 3% in 2012. By comparison, corded headphones for listening to music are a recent success story. What’s the difference? Well, as is pointed out above, it comes down to your social environment. Bluetooth earpieces are fine when you are pacing about solo in your office, but unacceptable for a dinner date. Corded headphones are only used when you are in solo mode and not socially interacting.

Google Glass is too in-your-face. Like earpieces, people know you are wearing Google Glass and will rightly decide that they don’t have your full attention. Until a similar product can be made that is indistinguishable from regular glasses, it won’t take off. There might be an exception though – sunglasses. I can imagine tech being incorporated into sunglasses and people taking them on or off to suit the environment.

Wristwatches, however, are already fully entrenched into society, and we are used to people glancing at them. We are also used to people glancing at their smart phones. Because a smart watch is too small to do much that is meaningful when you have company, it will be successful.

Likewise with rings – too small to matter. Nobody is going to stare at their ring for 30 seconds, no matter what is being displayed on it.

Another factor is connectivity. Bluetooth isn’t perfect, and having that permanent (wireless) connection running across and through your body makes some people uncomfortable. I expect that many people will take a long time to convince that they need to be permanently wired.

And of course battery life needs to improve. Having to recharge our tablet and phone every day is most I am willing to tolerate. I won’t recharge glasses, a watch and a ring as well.

So, my predictions for current technology:

Google Glass FAIL
Any smart glasses FAIL (except perhaps if they are sunglasses)
Smart watches WIN (but only if the battery lasts for a week)
Smart rings WIN  (but only if the battery lasts for a week)

Wearable tech for soldiers / sports / business WIN

FAIL means that uptake will be limited to tech geeks and people that have an extra need for the device due to work or sports.

In the future, big hits will be wearable tech that you can’t see/tell someone is wearing. Primarily that means Google Glass that looks 100% like regular spectacles.

In the distant future, perhaps 15-20 years from now, the big hit will be imbedded tech. That means a video camera that looks like a freckle, or is built into your eyes. That means enhanced vision. That means bionic hearing. That means embedded sensors, comms and drug delivery systems. When nobody knows you have it, it will really take off.


Real ID / Real Avatar

Here’s an idea for the future – grown-ups playing dress-up online. Initially it would be for virtual social environments and virtual business environments.

It will depend on two other technologies becoming every day:

Real ID – an international, verifiable ID for online purposes. The sort of thing that could be used for online voting, and serious discussion forums etc.

3D Full Body Scanning – so that your avatar can be created. This already exists to make 3D models of small objects.

So, the idea is to enable people to use avatars in online 3D environments, but keeping their look close to reality. After being scanned, users can tweak their avatar as much as they like in terms of:

  • hair
  • clothes
  • skin color / complexion

Additionally, they can change one other part of their body, for example:

  • nose
  • breasts
  • butt
  • cheekbones
  • chin
  • biceps

You should be able to recognize someone in real life from knowing their avatar. But by changing the one thing that irks them the most about their looks/body, and giving everyone nice skin (tan optional), and an unlimited range of clothing and hairstyles, people will be tempted to play dress-up. With renewed confidence, while still being true to themselves, they will feel like meeting others in online environments.

It is perfect for online dating – singles parties. It could work for business environments as well.

With time the same technology used to capture people and represent them in cartoon form in movies should be available to consumers. Software and a Kinect device will enable your mannerisms to be authentic.

Car Cameras That Film The Driver

This might be decades away, but it could be implemented tomorrow. This is what we currently know:

1. There is a trend towards black box flight recorders for cars. Cars can measure impact forces to determine whether the air bags should be deployed. It is simple to record such data. Police and now civilians are using video cameras that record what is happening in front of the vehicle – for use as evidence for who is to blame in an accident. GPS systems are also being used for trucks, so that in an accident we know how fast they were traveling just prior.

2. People are happily trading privacy for benefits, and with time we are allowing more and more of our private life to become data.

3. Many accidents are caused by inattention due to:

  • speaking on a phone
  • texting
  • opening / consuming food and drink
  • sneezing
  • lighting a cigarette
  • falling asleep
  • conversing / arguing with others in the vehicle
  • being on drugs or alcohol

In many places phone use by drivers has been banned. And of course so has being drunk. The obvious next target for the authorities is anything else you might be doing with your hands and distracting you. They might want to ban eating and drinking while driving.

A good way of proving if someone was distract just before crashing is to film the driver. Like store security cameras it could be on an overwrite loop of say 5 minutes. That way, if people knew it would:

  • only ever be seen by crash investigators
  • only contain the last 5 minutes

they probably wouldn’t mind it being there. And such a device would be dirt cheap to deploy, the trick is to get it to stop recording when an accident occurs.

Moving in Virtual Reality: A Stationary Segway Exo-Skeleton

Sure, virtual reality headsets will be a big part of gaming in the future, but they have major limitations. If you can feel immersed in a 360-degree environment, you will want to explore. And clearly you will want your hands free to hold weapons, open doors, make love etc.

So you will need to move forward, back, left and right using your legs – but without actually going anywhere in the real world.

Ultimately you would want a treadmill-like floor surface that moves in every direction and responds to how fast you are walking or running. That could be decades away, although studies have begun – see here.

In the interim, I suggest existing technology. The Wii Balance Board has been explored – see here – but I have to admit I have never used one myself. I do however feel that it is too subtle for serious gaming.

Why not the bottom half of a Segway? You still steer and accelerate/brake by shifting your weight. But you would have your legs locked in place, like an exo-skeleton, so that your hands are free. The machine would be fixed to the floor (or really heavy?) so that when you swing your broadsword at a VR troll, you don’t fall over.

 UPDATE: Funded via KickStarter and available in 2014 (pre-order now) is the Virtuix omnidirectional gaming treadmill

Personhood Beyond the Human

As the general public become better read (or better Youtubed…), and religion declines, you can expect a greater number of people to start accepting that humans do not have any divine rights over non-humans. In the last 50 years we have, as a species, learned to love nonhumans more and more – some examples:

  • free range chickens
  • save the whale
  • save old-growth forests
  • concern over extinctions
  • dogs migrating from the kennel to the bedroom
  • paganism
  • assigning “love” to devices like iPhones and corporate branding

There’s a definite trend – and it will become quite interesting when nonhumans become more prolific, because we will need to decide just how much we care about their well-being and the their “rights”.

So this December Yale will be hosting a conference – Personhood Beyond the Human.

The conference will be co-sponsored by the Nonhuman Rights Project and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies in collaboration with the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics.

Looking at the list of speakers, it seems most of the focus will be on animal rights (regular welfare and intelligent animals gaining extra rights), but also there will be discussions regarding the rights of androids and other forms of artificial intelligence – plus transhumans.

Now would be a good time to get started on legal definitions and ethical treatment. If a person in a permanent vegetative state has rights, what about the mouse that is injected in the brain with human stem cells?

The Price of Lettuce

Until today, like most people, I had no idea how much farmers sold their bulk lettuce for. After doing some basic research I’ve decided that $1000 per ton is roughly the best price you will receive.

For years now I have been reading about vertical farming and how it will revolutionize agriculture. The concept is quite simple: land is expensive, so build your farm vertically rather than horizontally. These days you don’t need dirt – many crops can be grown hydroponically.

Until now it was all theory – although there were no technical hindrances to building such farms, they weren’t yet financially viable. They would need to wait until food was more expensive and harder to source.

Thankfully the cost did not scare off Sky Greens farm in Singapore (rich country, little land, makes sense…).

So that is why I looked up the price of lettuce. The article at The Intel Hub mentions the cost, the yield, but not the return…

  • Currently producing 0.5 tons of produce per day
  • Farm cost $7+ million so far, and they seek $21 million more

According to my math that equals about 180 tons per year, or $180,000. That’s a terrible return from a $7 million investment! Even if the lettuce was more gourmet than I expected, still no way it could be profitable.

According to Inhabit, locals are willing to pay a premium for this produce because it is so fresh – but it looks like they’d have to pay 10x as much for it to be profitable.