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.