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Archive for June, 2014

#529 – Gone

I mentioned previously that I’m going to be moving soon which means that I have a lot of stuff to get rid of.  Some of it has sentimental value only and wouldn’t be of much use to somebody else.  Like the foul ball that I battled a seven year old for at a Spring Training game last year.  Or my Love Actually DVD.  But some other things would have value such as my Wii, iPad keyboard, or Dragon Dictation software all of which I never use.  I would love to be able to sell some of these items but as I detailed in an earlier post there’s no good place to host a garage sale near me.  Thankfully, that’s no longer my only recourse for getting rid of old junk as there is now a company that will sell your stuff for you!  This company is appropriately named Gone and it sounds absolutely amazing.

As Tech Crunch explains:

“In an age when consumerism is almost the only path to survival, it’s pretty easy to accumulate a lot of stuff. And then you get more stuff, and wind up startlingly close to a hoarder’s lifestyle before deciding to sell a bunch of it. At first, the idea feels brilliant, until you start tabulating the time, effort and resources involved in selling off a bunch of old crap. Is it worth it, you ask?

With Gone, it totally is.

The new app lets you snap a picture of items you want to sell and add a description. Gone takes care of the rest. It will either sell the item for you, or donate it to charity if it can’t find a buyer. Gone then sends you a box to pack up your stuff, and returns the next day to pick it up and ship it off to the recipient. Packing up your items in boxes dropped off at your house is literally the extent of the effort you put into this.”

That’s good because that’s literally the extent of how much effort I’m willing to put into it.  It’s just so much easier to throw things away then attempt to sell them one by one on eBay.  I know that I’m literally throwing away money.  Funds that I may very well desperately need in a few months.  But at the time that you’re going through your belongings you’re not thinking that far down the road.  All rationale thought goes out the door when you’re staring at a pile of back issues of Wired magazine.  Drastic action is required.

That’s why Gone seems like such a promising idea.  It makes the hassle of moving or the chore of getting organized simple.  Which begs the question: where do I sign up?

Is Gone the Greatest Idea Ever?

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When I move in a few weeks I’m going to need to buy all new furniture.  A couch, a dresser, a coffee table to display my book of coffee tables, and presumably a book case to store my vast collection of Clive Cussler novels, my book on crop circles, and all of the Baseball America Prospect Handbooks that I’ve accumulated over the years.  That’s a lot of furniture that’s going to take up a lot of space.   It sure would be great if I didn’t have to buy all of it especially that book case which traditionally takes up a lot of room and can be an eye-sore.

Well, thankfully in the near future I won’t have to buy a bookcase.  I can just throw up some digital wallpaper instead!

As Springwise reports, “Originally conceived to increase the amount of mobile data usage in Romania, the Digital Library Wallpaper is designed to emulate the appearance of a traditional wooden bookcase. To choose the books that will appear on their wallpaper, users must first log on to the Biblioteca Digitala site and select from the range of free titles on offer. A nice attention to detail is that they can even add photos and decorations to the bookcase to give it a more natural appearance. The adhesive wallpaper can be ordered at around USD 100 for a roll, and it will then be delivered for users to mount themselves. Once in place, books can be read by scanning the QR codes located on their spines with a mobile or tablet…”

Check out this video to find out more:

While scanning wall paper to get to a book doesn’t seem that convenient especially when you can easily save those same titles to an e-reader it still makes sense when you consider how much space you’ll be saving.  Not to mention the fact that you won’t have to worry about cleaning it, losing anything, or having anything borrowed and never returned.

There is, however, an obvious downside to doing away with physical bookcases and that’s the fact that going forward it’s going to be a lot  harder to hide a trigger to a secret lair, the type of which that I assume is behind every bookcase that I see in an old home.  Or maybe not.  Perhaps we’ll just have to scan a certain book to gain entry!

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Is a Digital Bookcase the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#527 – Passion Wall

Riding in an elevator with a colleague is awkward.  What do you talk about?  The weather?  That lame report that they’re working on?  Whatever you choose  it’s likely to be a complete and total waste of time for both parties involved.  Wouldn’t it be great then if there was a way to find out what someone is interested in?  What they’re passionate about?  That way when the time comes you’ll have a visual prompt to help you out.  Well soon there very well could be and it may be coming to an office building near you.

As Fast Company reports:

“You can’t tell much about someone just by looking at them. Maybe you see that they like Italian leather shoes, or that they need more sleep, but you don’t know much else. What causes do they care about? What projects are they working on? What excites them?

For this sort of discovery, many of us stalk Facebook or Pinterest. Architecture firm NBBJ has a better solution. They’ve developed a project called fluidWall. And as you walk by, it projects a series of photos that represent you.”

The best part about this is that it gives people a creative outlet as participants get to hand pick the images that get projected. In other words, each person is basically curating their very own public image.  Creating a self portrait for the entire world to see.  And that’s exciting to me.  Facebook profile pictures, avatars, and all of the other ways that we express ourselves in the digital world from our Twitter feeds to our Instagram accounts pale in comparison to this new medium; pale in comparison to a public display of one’s sense of self.

If given the opportunity to curate my own image I would likely choose references to my favorite TV shows, sports figures, the places I want to travel to, licorice nibs, and of course some of the latest mind blowing new inventions that I write about on this blog.  What would you choose?

Is a Passion Wall the Greatest Idea Ever?

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When I first heard that Amazon was going to be making their own phone I didn’t think much of it.  I just assumed that it would be like any other phone albeit one that put Amazon’s core products and features front and center.  It’s the same reaction I mustered years ago when I heard that Facebook wanted to create a phone.  However, now that the Fire Phone is actually here and I’ve taken a look at the promotional video I have to admit that I was wrong.  Amazon hasn’t just created yet another phone.  They’ve created a whole new way to interact with a phone giving them a very real chance of cutting into Apple’s market share.

The first new way to interact with the phone is called Dynamic Perspective and it’s the kind of thing that the crowd at an Apple Developer’s Conference would have been ooing and ohing over had Tim Cook just revealed this.  Basically what it does is change what you look at on screen based on the way you are holding your phone.  As the Amazon website explains, this means that, “In Stubhub stadium view, see 90 degrees to the left and right of your seat, as if you were actually there, looking around. In games, like Lili, take on the character’s viewpoint and move your head to look around corners, obstacles, and other objects.”

You could also use this capability in maps to get a better sense of what an area looks like.  But wait there’s more!  Your phone doesn’t just react to what you are doing.  It’s actually designed to interact with you based on what you are doing.  That means that you gain additional functionality if you move your phone in a certain way.  For example, you can tilt, turn, or swivel your phone to get to control panels, notifications, and many other features.  You can even scroll through text while reading an article without having to touch the screen.

The other cool game changing feature is called Firefly.  Basically it’s an app that allows you to scan items or advertisements and it’ll quickly identify it for you and give you a way to buy it.  Apparently it can even identify songs and TV shows that you are listening to or watching much like Shazam.  If this feature works as advertised it could change the way we shop and it could be the one thing that makes this phone a must have.

Here’s the million dollar question though: as cool as this phone seems is it going to be like Fire TV, a really cool device in its own right that nobody cares about, or is it actually going to catch on and challenge Apple and Samsung?  Most pundits are going to suspect that this phone is much ado about nothing but if they do they may be selling Amazon short.

As the Verge reports, “During the announcement, Bezos took time to mention that when Amazon first launched the Kindle, it was met with something of a tepid response. That has, he took care to note, changed in a big way. The same thing happened with Kindle tablets, he said — and he not-so-subtly implied that the same might happen with the new phone.”

Only time will tell but even if the phone doesn’t catch on there’s a chance that some of these new features will.  Either way, the way we interact with our phone just changed for the better.

Is Amazon’s Fire Phone going to change the way we shop?

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There is a problem that most of us aren’t aware of that threatens to undermine our society in the near future.  It’s not a particularly sexy problem.  Most people including heads of state probably aren’t even aware that this problem exists.  And yet it does.  Quietly.  Lurking in the shadows.  Waiting until the time is just right to unleash it’s fury and hold us off back from achieving our goals.

The problem that I’m referring to is that our computers are on the verge of losing a battle with the vast quantities of data that we now produce on a daily basis.  Quantities that are only going to grow exponentially larger once the Internet of Things takes shape.  I told you this wasn’t a particularly sexy problem.  But it is definitely a significant problem.  Producing a lot of data is only useful if you have a way to analyze it quickly.  Thanks to “The Machine” from HP we soon will.

I Fucking Love Science does a great job of explaining exactly what The Machine is:

“Let me introduce The Machine- HP’s latest invention that could revolutionize the computing world. According to HP, The Machine is not a server, workstation, PC, device or phone but an amalgamation of all these things. It’s designed to be able to cope with the masses of data produced from the Internet of Things, which is the concept of a future network designed to connect a variety of objects and gadgets.

In order to handle this flurry of information it uses clusters of specialized cores as opposed to a small number of generalized cores. The whole thing is connected together using silicon photonics instead of traditional copper wires, boosting the speed of the system whilst reducing energy requirements. Furthermore, the technology features memristors which are resistors that are able to store information even after power loss.

The result is a system six times more powerful than existing servers that requires eighty times less energy. According to HP, The Machine can manage 160 petabytes of data in a mere 250 nanoseconds. And, what’s more, this isn’t just for huge supercomputers- it could be used in smaller devices such as smartphones and laptops. During a keynote speech given at Discover, chief technology officer Martin Fink explained that if the technology was scaled down, smartphones could be fabricated with 100 terabytes of memory.”

This is absolutely incredible!! Forget about how a smart phone is basically a miniaturized computer in your pocket.  Thanks to HP we may soon have the equivalent of a miniaturized quantum computer in our pockets!  I have no idea why I would ever need that much computing power but I’m sure there are plenty of practical applications for this technology from healthcare to financial services.

What’s great about this technology is that HP realizes just how important it is and not just from the standpoint of helping their bottom line.  They realize that this is something that could revolutionize computing and that it is an absolute necessity considering the pace that we are on.  That’s why they are absolutely hell bent on bringing it to market.  They even have an unheard of 75% of their job force working on it right now!

All I have left to say is thank you, HP.

Is The Machine from HP the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#524 – oSnap

Oh, snap! That used to be something that you would say to someone after they got dissed.  Now it’s the name of a new technology that enables users to send smells to one another!  That’s right.  Starting tomorrow users in different parts of the World will be able to send smells to each other.

According to Fast Company history will be made when, “On Tuesday morning, at Manhattan’s American Museum of Natural History, Harvard Professor and CEO of Vapor Communications, David Edwards, will hit the send button on his iPhone, and an email photograph tagged with the quintessential smell of New York–Pizza? The halal food trucks on 6th Avenue? The stench of horse piss on Central Park South?–will be delivered to a colleague in Paris, completing the first ever TransAtlantic transmission of a scent message.”

Take that Alexander Graham Bell!!

So how does it work?!?!?!?  As Fast Company describes:

“The oSnap app enables the creation of scents through an aroma vocabulary, which appears via a scrolling window. There are 32 unique scents users can combine into some 300,000 permutations.

If, for example, Edwards decides to send his Parisian friend the smell of a New York pizza, he may tag the photo with the scents ‘tomato,’ ‘cheese,’ ‘pepper,’ and ‘onion’.

The scent is then delivered via chips in the oPhone receiver similar to printer cartridges. When air is spun over them, the scent is released. The aroma is designed to last for about 10 seconds. If the photo is tagged with more than one scent, the scents will play in chronological order, so the phone has time to clear the previous aroma.”

While this technology may be used by pranksters for nefarious purposes it offers far more potential for more practical applications.  Say sending a really personal message between lovers in a long distance relationship or sending a reminder of grandma’s cooking to a college student that is away from home.

It may even be possible one day to tie this technology in with social networks.  Instagram, for example, might become even more addicting if users could actually smell the food that everyone is constantly posting during each of their meals.  Who knows we may even have scent selfies one day.  Perhaps someone will even create a whole new social network dedicated just to smells enabling users to share the true essence of what they are experiencing at that moment.  Actually, that’s not a half bad idea….

Soon we will have the ability to send smells to one another.  Is this the Greatest Idea Ever?

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The way I see it I have about one year left before my life ends.  One year to travel the world and see everything that I want to see from the Great Pyramids to the Coliseum.  One year to find the love of my life, get married, and start a family.  One year to cross every single item off of my bucket list.  Because in one year, give or take, there’s a very good chance I’m never going to want to leave my apartment again.  Even more so than now.  Because in one year, give or take, I’m going to be officially addicted to the Oculus Rift.

I say this with a grain of salt but at the same time I mean every word of it.  In fact, this is a real concern of mine that keeps me up at night.  You see, there are very few things in life that I really love.  Licorice nibs are one.  Brittany Snow is another.  And I’m pretty sure that the Oculus Rift will soon be joining that highly selective, very short list falling in line somewhere between Derek Jeter and Independence Day.

There are plenty of reasons why that might be the case since the Oculus Rift has the potential to disrupt at least a dozen different industries from tourism to education.  But the number one reason may be the mind blowing potential that the Rift has when it comes to games.  Not just playing games mind you.  Not even just playing games from the first person perspective like driving a giant mechanized fighting robot Pacific Rim style.  No what I’m talking about is a whole new way of consuming games that the Rift could offer.  In other words what I’m talking about is experiencing what it will be like to be inside of a video game Tron style.  That’s right.   Thanks to a new Mario Brothers style game called Lucky’s Tale you’ll soon get to know what it’s like to be inside of a game!  That means that you’ll be able to look up and see pieces of an object that recently exploded rain down around you.

As Hardcore Gamer describes, “if you want to look over the other side of the bridge that you’re viewing from one side, a lean forward will let you see over the edge and down into the stream below. I found myself constantly craning around to check around ledges and corners, looking for goodies and pathways or just seeing what’s there. It’s also hard to understate how important being able to look up is as well, as a simple glance lets you take in the giant tree that the path wraps around and beneath into the tunnel below. Jumping on an egg released a little fluttering monster-critter that normally would have flown up and off camera, but tracking it as it flew showed it popping out of the scene in a burst of 3D fireworks. The view of the world made everything feel like it was being seen for the first time, in a way that watching it on a tv screen wouldn’t have. Despite all attempts at resistance I’ve become slightly jaded over the years, but applying the Rift and its view on the world completely reinstated the wonder of exploration.”

Considering that exploration is the thing that I love to do the most when playing a video game this is an incredible breakthrough.  Just imagine how cool it would be to play a game like Indiana Jones where you have to explore and find Idols that are hidden or a game like Portal where you have to figure out how to exit a room by looking around.  The possibilities are endless.

Which is exactly why I’m so excited for this platform.  We’re just barely scratching the surface of what this technology could become.  As time goes on we’re going to continue to invent new and amazing ways to interact with this new reality.  I can’t wait.  Even if it means I never see the light of day again.

Thanks to the trail blazing game Lucky’s Tale we may soon know what it’s like to be inside of a video game.

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