Category Archives: Gadgets

10/GUI — Meh …

My husband sent me video of the “10/Gui” multi-touch mouse replacement.

Link

Yay — put the touch interface physically on the user’s desk instead of in the screen.  The first thing that  came to mind watching the video is “nice”, but show me how you type accurately at keyboard speed.  And with that I’m at “meh.”  Also introduced in the video is the idea of a linear windows management system.  I immediately blanched on this idea.  I’ve never encountered the problem this guy described.  My windows always pop up where they were last opened or closed and I like having layers of different windows from which little pieces peek out so I can see what I’ve got open.  I also like arranging my PC desktop how I like — but then again I’m sitting in front of two very large flat panels, multi-tasking away as I translate and monitor my e-mail/RSS Feeds  …

This is not to say the concept is bad.  It’s just that having a huge touchpad below a traditional keyboard causes ergonomic issues of it’s own.  Basically, a keyboard and mouse are placed at the same distance in front of the user so the user is in a neutral position regardless of which device he or she is using.  Along this line I see a five-fingered multi-touch mouse  or an integrated keyboard/touch interface device instead.  I’ve seen the a keyboard/touch device on a PS3  where the keys on the keyboard can be used as the touch interface.  As for a flat touch keyboard, that allows for all kinds of modifications and customization based on application by pairing it with a screen underneath the surface.  People could create their own interfaces with a few “primitives,” which could have great possibilities for gaming, image editing, music making, and things like Bloomberg.  Manufacturers could make one keyboard for all languages.  In combination with haptics (or the likes), keyboard-like feedback could be provided, thereby creating a very familiar experience.

Personally, though, I’m very happy with the mouse.  A lot can be done with very little movement, plus mice are quite inexpensive and space friendly.

New Chumby Drops the Bean Baginess

Link

I wonder if they fixed the heat issue …

Well, I think I like having a choice between an alarm clock looking Chumby or a cute fuzzy ram plushy Chumby.  Of course, they could always offer a line of costumes for the Chumby One to those folks who want plushy animal or plant-like Chumby’s.  It’s all about “attach” … heheheh …

Magazine Publishers Prepare Themselves for Tablet Readers

Here’s an interesting article from Ad Age about how magazine publishers are trying to get a leg up on iTunes before the anticipated release of the Apple tablet.

Link

Not to disparage Apple (because iTunes is very easy to use and the pricing is right for the content), but I would love to have a device independent version of “iTunes” to purchase content.  I think Amazon is very well suited for that.   The magazine industry, however, wants their own storefront so they can control distribution (pricing) of their content.  Hahaha! Well, I hope publishers don’t get greedy and make their content so expensive that people turn to piracy or don’t get the information at all.

It will be interesting to see what the next generation of tablets are like.  As of now readability is a issue with LCD screen and some of the e-reader devices have resolution and color limitations.  Again, I can’t wait to see how laptops and e-readers will converge, both in terms of screen technology and usability.

I have seen some interesting Flash based e-magazines that could serve as prototypes for future e-readers.  I especially like those e-magazines that allow for zooming in and links to other content.  With schools looking harder at e-text books, I think we may be approaching a tipping point where e-reading begins to become the norm.  I am eager to see what will happen with all of this in the next 5-yrs.  How will this change “brick-and-mortar” bookstores (especially used book resellers)?  Will this be end the “periodical” as we know it? Will be see micro-targeted  advertisements in everything we e-read? And what will happen with books, newspapers, and magazines when reading becomes a shared experience through social networking?    It’s a lot to noodle on and I’ll more to say about it after I digest things for a bit.

Are you Ready for 3D TV?

Quite honestly, I’m not excited by this technology yet.  I’ve experienced prototypes of 3D displays at CES.  Most of them required special glasses, although one manufacturer had actually managed to make a multi-planed monitor that produced “3D” without glasses (these displays were targeted for casino gaming).  The multi-planed display was quite trippy, yet mesmerizing — perfect for video slots and video poker.  For the most part, though, like 3D movies, it was very taxing on my eyes to view the displays through the special polarized glasses.

Eye strain aside, the basic question that comes to mind is does 3-D enhance my viewing experience?  I’ve seen a few movies in 3D and, basically, the movie makers, being conscious of 3D, add sight gags to titillate viewers.  However, I have yet to see any of these sight gags enhance or even have relevance to the movie’s storyline.  Along these lines, when considering whether to pay extra to see a movie in 3-D, I skip it, and opt to see the movie on the largest screen with digital projection.  I prefer a clear, vivid image over 3-D any day.   Oh, and let me not forget that I can see the refresh in 3-D movies, which actually makes me feel a little queasy on top of the eye strain (if the refresh rate hits a certain sweet spot, I have been known to pass-out).  The same was true for me when experiencing 3-D TV — Eyestrain, disorientation, and queasiness.

Leaving aside the minor medical problems caused by 3-D, let’s go back to the question of content enhancement.  Of course when 3-D becomes available, shows will feel compelled to include the usual pointy-sticks-in-the-eye site gags and long with cute-fuzzy-flying-creatures for your children to pointlessly reach out and try to pet.  Beyond this, though, what will 3-D bring to TV entertainment seeing as how it’s brought nothing material to movies?  As a demonstration of 3-D LCD TV technology, I viewed a video of a football game video game.  The field and the players were so small that it really didn’t matter that it was in 3-D.  Extrapolating that to real sports, I just don’t see an advantage — unless, say, I’m courtside and the image is so big that I’m immersed in the world.  Hahaha!!! I imagine that kind of reality is some years away, but I could really see myself enjoying that kind of experience.  I also experienced a video game demo, which was interesting …

Moving on to the “interesting” thing … The thing about 3-D is that the display outputs two images.  The images come out the display via orthogonal light waves, which are visible though lenses that allow one or the other kind of light wave to pass (basically each lens in a pair of 3D glasses picks up one of the images).  Now imagine instead of 3-D, two completely different images are shown and each viewer has a pair of glasses in which both lenses are the same so only one image is viewable to each person.  Suddenly, two people can be looking at the same display, but each person sees a completely different image!  In video gaming this comes in handy for two player vs and cooperative games because each person can see from their own perspective without having to split the screen.  Taking the concept further, pair this with headsets or directional speakers, and suddenly two people watching the same television can be watching two different programs!  This is the thing that excites me and once the technological issues are works out such that people can tolerate 3-D for longer than 10-mins, I could see myself indulging in a 3-D TV.

Here’s a link to an article talking about the near future of 3D TV.  3D TV has a long way to go, and I doubt until TV becomes a fully immersive experience that 3D will catch on universally.  But I think the steps that are being taken now are the brave first steps that move us towards that virtual courtside seat at home.

When Laptops and E-Reader Converge in the Classroom

I’ve been hearing bits and pieces of news stories about the digital revolution that is happening in the classroom.  Coupled with the histrionics about state of the US education system and the seemingly constant cutbacks, it’s got me thinking about how the digital revolution can help.

Let’s face it, textbooks are a scam.  Most cost over $70 each, with some college textbooks approaching $200 each!  K-12 schools struggle with wear-and-tear of paper textbooks and publishers put out new editions yearly, thereby putting a damper on used book sales.  It only seems natural to go to electrons to cut the cost of firing up a printing press for a limited run of specialized books and to save schools the burden of having to replace worn out or outdated textbooks (not to mention the trees).  When coupled with input features like highlighting and notes, digital books are just as powerful, if not more, than paper books (especially considering in K-12 public schools, student cannot write in the textbooks).  The news reports that electronic textbooks run about half the price of paper textbooks.  There are also experiments around teacher tailored content and textbook mash-ups to add diversity to the content.  This is all very exciting and I can’t wait to see how the copyright laws will change to accommodate these innovations.

The most exciting thing to me about the classroom digital revolution is all the technology that will spawn from it.  I can see E-readers converging with laptops as E-readers gain functionality and laptops limit functionality to meet pricing goals.  There will be new ways of collaboration within a class, between classes, and potentially on a worldwide scale.  I can see blackboards replaced with large touchscreens that broadcast the content (both visual and audio) to the student’s devices.  The blackboard can seamlessly display handwritten content as well as display content from the Internet, and feeds from places outside the classroom.  There can be fun stuff like class polling, instant pop quizzes, and in general, easier ways for more student to get more involved in the class.  Of course, this also facilitates cheating — but I think this just requires a new way of looking at learning and understanding how people will collaborate in the future given all the new technology.  Maybe in the future, it’ll will be commonsense to ask those available for assistance and to be able to search to the find the answers needed on a test — that is the way work gets done now, isn’t it?  Anyhow, this all means that screen technology will have to leap to bigger manufacturing formats (or better stitching of smaller units into big ones) and there needs to be a significant jump in durability to withstand the beating a chalkboard takes and the abuse children inflict upon paper textbooks.  There will also be breakthroughs in collaboration.  Something constant has to stitch all the communication together and it doesn’t necessarily have to be one piece of SW, but rather there needs to be a set of protocols so all software can work together regardless of device (I imagine most of that’s in place now, and it’s just a matter of following the rules).  That’s a tall order, but I’m a believer!  The digital revolution is a big task!  Lots of hardware will be needed, lots of people will be needed to design the hardware and the software, and lots of people will be needed to install the infrastructure.  The contracts will be huge!  And in the end the digital divide will be no more and there will be efficiencies gained with the demise of the paper textbook (plus battery and power optimization technologies for convenience and greenness).    I think it will be a leveler and hopefully lead to more prosperity for everyone.  Or so that is what this wide-eyed idealist believes …