Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

#1,460 – Targeted Audio

We all learned growing up that it was rude to share secrets but the time may have come to rethink our stance as secrets may soon be the coolest thing around.  The change in heart coming on account of the fact that MIT has invented a way to deliver a targeted message to someone that only the recipient can hear.  Using lasers!

As Futurism puts it, “Scientists have figured out how to use a laser to transmit audio, ranging from music to speech, to a person across a room without any receiver equipment — a potential breakthrough for the future of audio and communication.

‘Our system can be used from some distance away to beam information directly to someone’s ear,’ Massachusetts Institute of Technology research Charles M. Wynn said in a press release. ‘It is the first system that uses lasers that are fully safe for the eyes and skin to localize an audible signal to a particular person in any setting.’”

The possible use cases of this technology are plentiful.  You could use it to communicate secretly with hostages or disaster recovery victims to let them know that help is on the way.  The police or military could use it to coordinate their maneuvers during a raid.  Football teams could use it to call in plays to the quarterback without fear of having their signals stolen by the other team.

The same goes for baseball teams as hand signals would become obsolete.  Meanwhile, TVs could use them to make it so that someone can watch their favorite show without bothering their partner who would rather be reading a book.  Stores can use them to push out customized advertisements to shoppers as they walk by their displays.  Cubicle dwellers can use it to listen to podcasts without their boss even realizing it. Headphones and earbuds would be out.  Laser based technology would be in.

It would be absolutely amazing.  Everyone doing their own thing, unbeknownst to anyone else, no ambient noise to worry about.  Never again would you have to roll your eyes at the annoying strap-hanger who was playing their music too loud on the subway.  Since only he can hear the song you wouldn’t even know that he was listening to music.  This is an absolute game-changing technology that can completely revolutionize society.  The age of secrets is almost upon us.

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Is Targeted Audio the Greatest Idea Ever?

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There are a lot of ways that you can go about monitoring your health to make sure that you stay fit.  You can weigh yourself, monitor your blood pressure, or use a fitness tracker to track your steps and heart rate but at the end of the day you probably still wouldn’t have a complete picture of your health.  For that you would need the Aura Band.

As the Daily Caller explains, “The body is divided into four main components, which includes fat, muscle mass, minerals, and body water. The Aura Band Smart Fitness Tracker will tell you exactly how much of each component is present in your body. From all the measurements, this fitness tracker can calculate your hydration level, fat percentage, and muscle percentage. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Aura Band is your one-stop shop for monitoring sleep efficiency and stress levels as well.”

But that’s not all.

According to Mashable, “Using the health data it collects and analyzes, the AURA will also make personalized recommendations based on your specific goals. And guess what? Once you meet said goals, you’ll be rewarded with coins that can be redeemed for free attire, workouts, health consultations, and more…”

One stop-shop indeed.

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Is the Aura Band the Greatest Idea Ever?

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When I first heard about 3D printing I thought the technology was an inevitability, a foregone conclusion that would soon take its rightful place in our homes alongside our refrigerators, coffee pots, toasters, and washing machines as an appliance that we just can’t live without.  But that never happened.  They were too costly, too slow, and too impractical.  Why go through all the trouble of printing an item when it’s quicker just to order it on Amazon.

But I always held out hope 3D printing would eventually catch on once a few breakthroughs occurred that would enable objects to be printed in the blink of an eye.  Once the logistics caught up to our expectations.  And now that day has come thanks to the Star Trek inspired Replicator, a new kind of printer that uses light to do its heavy lifting.

As Futurism puts it, “3D printers work by laboriously printing objects layer by layer. For larger objects, that process can take hours or even days.  But now scientists at the University of California, Berkeley have found a shortcut: a printer that can fabricate objects in one shot using light — and which could, potentially, revolutionize rapid manufacturing technology.”

According to the article, “It works more like a computed tomography (CT) scan than a conventional 3D printer. It builds a 3D image by scanning an object from multiple angles, then projects it into a tube of synthetic resin that solidifies when exposed to certain intensities of light. In two minutes, for instance, the team was able to fabricate a tiny figurine of Auguste Rodin’s famous ‘The Thinker’ statue.”

This is an amazing technique, that once fully refined, could completely revolutionize multiple industries and the way we lead our daily lives.  The era of 3D printing may finally be upon us.  Better late than never.

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Is the Replicator the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Technology has continued to evolve at an exponential rate thanks to Moore’s Law as our phones have gotten smaller and smaller while becoming more and more powerful.  However, one aspect of technology that hasn’t been able to keep pace are batteries as people have been forced to live in a world where constantly having to charge your phone or constantly having to fret about your phone’s battery life are considered normal behaviors.

But all that may be about to change thanks to a new breakthrough that could make it far easier to charge our phones.  In fact, the entire world may soon be blanketed with charging materials.

According to The  Guardian, “scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created super-thin, bendy materials that absorb wireless internet and other electromagnetic waves in the air and turn them into electricity.  The lead researcher, Tomás Palacios, said the breakthrough paved the way for energy-harvesting covers ranging from tablecloths to giant wrappers for buildings that extract energy from the environment to power sensors and other electronics.”

If this claim is true it means that you won’t have to fight with fellow passengers over the one outlet in the airport terminal and it means that you won’t have to carry around a portable charger with you everywhere you go.  You’d just have to place your phone down on the seat next to you or put it in your hiking pack to charge it.  Giving us the ability to always be connected, 100% of the time.  Whether or not that’s a good thing remains to be seen.


Is an energy harvesting cover the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Most people who have an Amazon Echo speaker absolutely love them.  But they’re also a little bit wary of them, of the fact that because they’re always on, always listening in case we need them, that they’re also always spying on us.  Thankfully, there’s a technological solution on the way that can help us navigate this troubling paradox.  And it’s a solution with its roots in biology.

As Fast Company puts it, “Project Alias is the technological equivalent to parasitic fungus. But instead of latching onto an insect, it latches onto a Google Home or Amazon Alexa device–taking control of their strengths for its own purposes…It effectively deafens the home assistant when you don’t want it listening, and brings it to life when you do.”

It achieves the deafening by sounding, “like a white noise machine to the assistant, covering your speech with an inaudible, omnipresent static.”  It is then able to bring your home assistant to life by serving as a middle man.  Instead of saying “Alexa” or “Hey Google” you would instead speak whatever imaginative wake word you came up with.  When prompted by that word Project Alias would then whisper the actual company branded wake word to the speaker enabling it to spring into action as designed.

This is a great hack, one that eliminates privacy concerns, while still enabling people to communicate with their devices, and in a more natural, fully customizable way to boot.  My only question is why is it that Google or Amazon didn’t think of this in the first place?  Surely they could have designed their speakers with this two-step process built directly into the hardware so that their speakers could be always on, yet unable to hear until prompted.  So, why didn’t they?  Perhaps the answer is obvious.  Maybe they did want to spy on us after all.

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Is Project Alias the Greatest Idea Ever?

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One of the biggest problems with AI infused virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa is that it’s annoying and potentially embarrassing to interact with them in public.  Not only can others hear your conversations but the mere act of constantly engaging with them is disruptive to those around you. Fortunately, Microsoft has been working on a solution: a way to silently interact with our virtual friends.

As Futurism explains, “Microsoft’s ‘silent’ technology makes use of the way whispering works. When you whisper you exhale breath from your lungs with your words. Microsoft’s proposed device would instead have you inhale while whispering (give it a try, it’s even harder than it sounds.) It’s a process known as ingressive airflow, and Microsoft proposes exploiting it to enable devices to process whispered voice commands in public.”

As interesting as this concept is there are some drawbacks.  In order for it to work you’d have to get extremely close to your phones, which is not very subtle, not to mention potentially unsanitary.  Also, there would be a learning curve with getting used to whisper speaking in this way and I suppose that it’s possible that not everyone would be able to do it.

But at the same time there is also a lot of potential for this technology.  Perhaps one day we could even get to the point where we could actually whisper from several feet away or even communicate with our devices entirely telepathically just by speaking to ourselves internally.  Either way, it’s clear that the way that we interact with our devices and virtual assistants is likely to change in the years to come.

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Is Ingressive Airflow the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,439 – Elevate

There hasn’t been a whole lot of buzz coming out of CES this year but one idea that is likely to make headlines is Hyundai’s walking car concept known as Elevate.

While I can’t really imagine a car walking on a city sidewalk to pick up passenger from a Brownstone I can foresee a scenario where a car like this would come in handy and that’s in disaster recovery operations as having the ability to walk over obstacles or across uneven terrain could come in handy when roads are damaged or otherwise impassable.

A sentiment shared by Hyundai according to Futurism’s reporting:

“’When a tsunami or earthquake hits, current rescue vehicles can only deliver first responders to the edge of the debris field. They have to go the rest of the way by foot,’ John Suh, Hyundai vice president, said in a news release. ‘Elevate can drive to the scene and climb right over flood debris or crumbled concrete.’”

For now this concept car is purely hypothetical. There isn’t a drive-able full-scale version yet but that day may come. And if it does we may have to get used to a future where all cars pull a Bumblebee and walk among us. A sight that may take some getting used to.

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Is a walking car the Greatest Idea Ever?

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