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Archive for February, 2015

#620 – The New Yo

Runaway llamas!!! An unidentifiable dress!!! One minute you’re the talk of social media.  The next you’re a distant memory.  Just ask Yo, the bare bones “social network”, that took the world by storm last year when it let people say hi or “yo” to one another and did nothing else.  Nothing at all.

The Wall Street Journal summed up the phenomenon pretty well when it said:

“Few apps in history have been as controversial and polarizing as Yo. Many people have called it the world’s dumbest app. It has been satirized on “The Colbert Report,” Stephen Colbert’s Comedy Central show. The first time it was submitted to the app store, Apple rejected it on the grounds that it lacked substance. Yo’s own creators were uneasy enough about being associated with Yo that when they launched it, they didn’t put the name of their software company on it.”

And yet a funny thing happened on the way to obscurity.  Yo reinvented itself.  So much so that it may now be more valuable than Twitter.  That’s right.  An app that started out by only doing one pointless thing may be on the verge of making it big by doing a bunch of really important things.

So what’s changed?  Well, the premise behind Yo is still the same.  It’s still a one dimensional push notification that you’re receiving.  The key difference is that instead of receiving a Yo from your friends you can now sign up to receive them for various entities.  News outlets.  Brands.  Social media sites.

Someone you follow on Instragram just posted a new photo?  Receive a Yo.  Breaking news that affects your fantasy team?  Receive a Yo.  Tracking the performance of a stock?  Receive a Yo when the price reaches a certain point.

What this means is that the way we interact with our phones is about to change.  Instead of drilling down into our phones to open up individual apps we’ll have all the information that’s important to us right at our fingertips, right on our home screens.  It’ll be like Google Now on steroids.  It’ll become what Facebook wanted to be; an always on, in your face take over of your life.  And it’ll be epic.

As Wired puts it, “Fundamentally, a Yo is a notification on your phone, one you likely receive on your lock screen. And it’s an especially instructive example, because it’s about as pure a distillation of a notification as you can get. The word “Yo” appears, along with who sent it.  But swipe it, and the interactivity opens up. See the Funny or Die video. Find out what the Kardashians just did. Find out the current price of Bitcoin. The crucial point here is that you’ve done all of these things, obtained all of this information, without ever going to your home screen and tapping an app. Swipe the notification, and it’s there.”

All of which is to say that Yo, of all things, is about to usher in a new age of communication.  Whose laughing now?

In the Yo store you can subscribe to push notifications from your favorite brands.  Does this mean that notifications are about to replace apps?

 

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Google’s search engine is pretty amazing.  With just a few clicks you have near immediate access to all of the world’s web pages and the information contained therein.  That’s a powerful tool.  One that has changed society from the way we learn to the way we interact with each other.  It’s also about to fail us.

You see, we’re about to enter phase two of the Information Age.  A phase that is going to be dominated by the Internet of Things.  From smart cities to inter-connected household appliances everything we own will soon be generating collect-able data points.

But nothing will generate more data than us.  Life logging and the quantified self movement have already begun but they’re small potatoes compared to the onslaught of data that is coming once we fully embrace phase two.  Once the first socially acceptable wearable comes along, whether that’s the Apple Watch or something else, there’s going to be a deluge of data that follows.  Not only will we be tracking our health and our emotions during every waking moment of the day but we’ll also track our sleep patterns and eventually our sub conscious thoughts.  If you thought maintaining your Instagram page was overwhelming now just wait until you have a personal pet drone that follows you around and records all of the highlights of your day.

What we need to keep up with all of this data is a more evolved search engine.  One that goes from linking disparate web pages to linking all of the aspects of our lives.  In other words, what we need, is a personal search engine.  Something that takes all of our data points and turns it into something searchable, something sort-able, something useful.

I’m talking about medical records, fitness tracker data, credit card purchases, drone camera footage, browser history, tweets, Facebook posts, and blog entries just to name a few.  Anything and everything that is something in our lives.  It doesn’t matter if it’s something trivial like a comment on a fantasy sports message board or something more important like your family tree on Ancestry.com.  If there is data out there in the cloud that relates to you it will be fair game.

What would we do with the power of our very own Google search engine at our fingertips?  Well for starters we might be able to gleam useful medical insights by cross referencing our health records with our location, a growing practice known as geomedicine.  By so doing we might be able to determine if a physical location contributed to our ailments.  We also might be better positioned to take control of our data and actually profit from it by selling certain aspects of it to marketers who currently take advantage of all of the free content that we produce on a daily basis.  And if nothing else it sure would make reminiscing a whole lot easier.  Good bye closet shoe box.

Regardless of what we use it for it’s obvious to me that we should be using it for something.  With billions of data points being created it would be a shame if we have easier access to celebrity gossip blogs than we do our own lives.  Now all we have to do is build it before it’s too late.

Is a personal search engine the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#618 – New MLB TV Features

Yesterday I attended my first Spring Training practice of the year.  Not a game mind you.  But a practice!  In the words of Allen Iverson, “Practice!  We’re talking about practice!”

You know you’re excited for the 2015 major league baseball season to start when you wake up early to watch non roster invitees participate in pitching independent fielding drills.  But while I might be the only person excited to see Ty Blach cover first base there is something that all baseball fans can get excited about:  all of the new enhancements to MLB TV.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this product it’s an app that you can watch through a set top box like Apple TV or Roku, perfect for the cord cutting baseball fan.  For a yearly subscription of about $130 you can watch any out of market baseball game that you want and can chose to do so via the home or away feed. You can even jump to the start of an inning or rewind plays to create your own instant replay booth.  And considering that you’re getting high quality video it’s a tremendous value.  When it comes to digital media MLB is far and away the leader in the sports world.

There were however a few features that the technology lacked.  Specifically the ability to jump to a specific at bat.  Well, here’s where things get exciting.  You can now do that!  That’s right MLB TV in 2015 will feature clickable line scores so that you can go directly to any at bat!  Here’s a look at some of their other premium features that stood out to me (please note that not all of these are new):

  • Multi-Game Viewing Options: Watch up to four games simultaneously.
  • Pitch by Pitch Tracking: Track the location, type and speed of every pitch.
  • Picture-in-Picture: Choose one game and track another or watch in-game highlights simultaneously in a secondary window.
  • Audio Overlay: Overlay the home or away team’s radio broadcast over the live video or use the “Park” option to include the ballpark’s natural sounds.
  • In-Game Highlights: Real-time highlights and player stats automatically load in the media player.
  • Player Tracker: Customize a list to feature entire fantasy rosters and receive on-deck notifications to watch live look-ins for each player. Simply click the alert and watch the at-bat live in a Picture in Picture window.

What the what!!!  We’re talking about being able to listen to a ballpark’s natural sounds or track the movements of our fantasy players!  The season can not start soon enough!!!

With MLB TV coming loaded with new features I won’t mind that the game is dragging on for five hours.

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The other day on my way to the Grand Canyon I almost died three times.  Once when a dust devil came out of no where and attacked our van.  Once when we almost drove off a narrow, windy road on the side of a mountain because our driver was distracted by the breathtaking view.  And once when a rabbit ran out onto the road just as we were passing by.  The first incident was scary but ultimately survivable.  And the second incident was just a figment of my imagination.  But that third incident involving the rabbit…that really happened and if it were a deer that had run out instead of a rabbit that would have been game over.  Either for the deer or me or both.

Sadly that wasn’t the only recent close encounter I had with road kill.  On Friday night I saw a car stopped in the left lane of a three lane road with its emergency blinkers on.  At first I thought that maybe this person was having car trouble but then I realized that it had stopped because it had hit something.  I half expected to see a person lying on the pavement but what I did see was much worse: a dead cat.

It’s estimated that a million animals a year lose their lives on America’s roads.  Clearly something needs to be done to prevent this loss of life as well as the untold millions of dollars in damage these road kill incidents cause.  Thankfully something is being done.  In the form of wildlife bridges.

Essentially what we’re talking about are wide crossings that would go over a highway so that animals would have a way to safely pass to the other side without having to make a run for it.  Of course the animals won’t know that they’re on a “bridge”.  To them it’ll just be an open patch of land to explore.  But the hope is that enough animals will just stumble upon this pathway, saving lives and money in the process.

As I Fucking Love Science puts it, “Sometimes there are ways to persuade animals to spend their lives on one side of a highway, but often there are good reasons for them to cross. If isolated to small pockets, species will lose genetic diversity, and can even die out when climatic conditions leave the grass insufficiently green on their side.  This is where wildlife bridges and tunnels come in. However…getting the bridge just right is not easy. What suits one species is not applicable to another, and with millions of kilometers of highways, a lot of crossings are required. Still, progress is being made.”

Hopefully in the future we can make even more progress and make it so that driving through country roads is much safer for humans and wildlife alike.

How did the chicken get to the other side of the road?  He took the wildlife bridge.

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Is it just me or does swiping on your phone’s screen repetitively damage your fingertips?  The corner of my right thumb in particular is pretty sore right now, the cost of doing business on Tinder.  Considering that I can’t throw a baseball harder than 35 mph and that I recently lost an arm wrestling contest to a kindergartener I could just have incredibly weak hands and by extension incredibly weak fingertips.  Or perhaps there’s more to this and I’m not the only one with skin that’s more malleable than a ball of brand new Play-Doh.  Perhaps there are millions of people out there just like me, suffering in silence, too embarrassed to seek medical attention for injuries sustained while playing Temple Run or researching for unique drinking games on Pinterest.

 What can we do about this problem that probably only I care about?  How about inventing a finger guard that protects your fingers while swiping on your phone, the 21st Century equivalent of a rubber finger that helps you rapidly flip through a stack of papers without having to constantly lick your finger.

 Now this sounds good in theory but would it even be physically possible to invent such a finger guard?  Well, we’ve already seen thin mittens hit the market that enable you to swipe in cold weather without having to expose your hands to the elements.  It would stand to reason then that we should also be able to make a material capable of covering our skin that would still enable us to use our phones at the same time.  However, instead of a mitten that covers our whole hands what I’m envisioning is an accessory that just covers our finger tips.

 To get a better visual of what I’m imagining think of a Hollywood spy movie wherein someone puts a thin translucent material over their finger in order to cover up their fingerprint with someone else’s.  That kind of fake fingertip is exactly what I’m referring to.  Just a small circle, the size of a contact lens, that sits on the top fold of your finger.

 By wearing this finger protector not only will you be protecting your finger from getting sore or from getting a blister but you’d also be protecting your phone’s screen as well as you’d no longer have to worry about smudging it with your greasy fingerprints.  Depending on what finger or fingers you swipe with the most you’ll be able to get a guard that best matches your swiping style.  They could even come with different designs on them to reflect your personal style.

 With an accessory like this in your arsenal you’ll be free to swipe away to your heart’s content whether you’re playing a game, catching up on the news, or trying to enhance your social life.

 Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go ice my thumb.

 

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a way to protect your thumb while using your phone to text or swipe?

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It may sound like something designed to help you quit smoking but it’s actually much more than that.  Much, much more.  In fact, the Cicret Bracelet could very well be the best wearable yet.  One capable of turning your forearm into a tablet via the use of a projector and sensors that capture the movement of your fingers.

According to Gizmag this incredible new device, “will allow users to send and receive emails, browse the web and play games. It will also be possible for users to pair it with an existing smartphone, answer incoming phone calls and activate the speakerphone functionality on the their smartphone.”

So how does it work?

As Silicon Angle describes:

“The Cicret comes with an embedded memory card, processor, accelerometer, vibrator, USB port, Bluetooth functionality, and Wi-Fi. But the ingenious part is the inclusion of a pico-projector and an array of proximity sensors.  The projector allows the armband to beam the screen down onto the users arm, with the proximity sensors tracking finger movement to enable interaction with the content.”

Essentially, what this does is make wearing a smart watch obsolete.  After all, wouldn’t you rather wear a Livestrong bracelet that can turn into a tablet than a bulky watch that does all of the same things that your phone already does?

As we all know the problem with most wearables is that they are fashion faux pas that make you stick out like a sore thumb.  Instead of being a trend setter you’re on the business end of a punch line.  By hiding the goods until you need them the Cicret Bracelet could avoid those misgivings.

Which means that some day soon you may know your forearm better than you know the back of your hand.

Cicret

Is the Cicret Bracelet the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#614 – The Owl

We’ve all been there before.  From long wait times to get seated to getting ignored after sitting down there’s a very good chance that you’ve had a horrible dining experience within the last year alone.  Not to mention all the times your waiter may have interrupted your conversation or taken too long to collect your check.

When everything is running smoothly eating out can be a wonderful experience. You’ll get to enjoy good food with great company in a wonderful ambiance.  Plus you don’t have to go through the hassle of preparing the meal or cleaning up.  However, if things aren’t running smoothly your fun night out on the town could turn into a disaster area.

What can be done about it?  Well we could cook for ourselves more.  But let’s be honest.  That’s not going to happen everyday.  What we need is a real solution.  What we need is a way to modernize the dining out experience.  Enter the Owl.

Developed by the Omni Brain Lab in Spain this device sits on your table during your meal and subtly communicates with the restaurant’s wait staff via a series of color coded signals.  All the patron has to do is set the device to the proper setting whether that’s a do not disturb mode, a hurry up and give me my bill mode, or a waiter I’m ready to order now mode.

What’s even better about this device is that it can remember your past purchases so that restaurants can learn your dining habits and figure out how to best serve you the next time you come in.  That may not seem like that big of a deal but if it can cut down on your waiting time and deliver a more efficient experience it sure would make a big difference in how enjoyable your evening was.

As Springwise puts it, “enjoyable dining experiences are often down to the personality of the waiting staff and not simply the speed of service, but the Owl certainly has potential to streamline the process and seamlessly provide useful business insights. Plus a glowing blue light is definitely an improvement on the dreaded finger clicking of an impatient customer.”

Now if only we could do something about waiters messing up our orders…

 

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Is the Owl the Greatest Idea Ever?

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