Wearable intelligence

Establishing protocols to socialize wearable devices.

The age of ubiquitous computing is accelerating, and it’s creating some interesting social turbulence, particularly where wearable hardware is concerned. Intelligent devices other than phones and screens — smart headsets, glasses, watches, bracelets — are insinuating themselves into our daily lives. The technology for even less intrusive mechanisms, such as jewelry, buttons, and implants, exists and will ultimately find commercial applications.

And as sensor-and-software-augmented devices and wireless connections proliferate through the environment, it will be increasingly difficult to determine who is connected — and how deeply — and how the data each of us generates is disseminated, captured and employed. We’re already seeing some early signs of wearable angst: recent confrontations in bars and restaurants between those wearing Google Glass and others worried they were being recorded.

This is nothing new, of course. Many major technological developments experienced their share of turbulent transitions. Ultimately, though, the benefits of wearable computers and a connected environment are likely to prove too seductive to resist. People will participate and tolerate because the upside outweighs the downside. Read more…

Comment |
Four short links: 1 April 2014

Four short links: 1 April 2014

Unimaginative Vehicular Connectivity, Data Journalism, VR and Gender, and Open Data Justice

  1. Connected for a Purpose (Jim Stogdill) — At a recent conference, an executive at a major auto manufacturer described his company’s efforts to digitize their line-up like this: “We’re basically wrapping a two-ton car around an iPad. Eloquent critique of the Internet of Shallow Things.
  2. Why Nate Silver Can’t Explain It AllData extrapolation is a very impressive trick when performed with skill and grace, like ice sculpting or analytical philosophy, but it doesn’t come equipped with the humility we should demand from our writers. Would be a shame for Nate Silver to become Malcolm Gladwell: nice stories but they don’t really hold up.
  3. Gender and VR (danah boyd) — Although there was variability across the board, biological men were significantly more likely to prioritize motion parallax. Biological women relied more heavily on shape-from-shading. In other words, men are more likely to use the cues that 3D virtual reality systems relied on. Great article, especially notable for there are more sex hormones on the retina than in anywhere else in the body except for the gonads.
  4. Even The Innocent Should Worry About Sex Offender Apps (Quartz) — And when data becomes compressed by third parties, when it gets flattened out into one single data stream, your present and your past collide with potentially huge ramifications for your future. When it comes to personal data—of any kind—we not only need to consider what it will be used for but how that data will be represented, and what such representation might mean for us and others. Data policies are like justice systems: either you suffer a few innocent people being wrongly condemned (bad uses of open data0, or your system permits some wrongdoers to escape (mould grows in the dark).
Comment: 1 |
Four short links: 31 March 2014

Four short links: 31 March 2014

Game Patterns, What Next, GPU vs CPU, and Privacy with Sensors

  1. Game Programming Patterns — a book in progress.
  2. Search for the Next Platform (Fred Wilson) — Mobile is now the last thing. And all of these big tech companies are looking for the next thing to make sure they don’t miss it.. And they will pay real money (to you and me) for a call option on the next thing.
  3. Debunking the 100X GPU vs. CPU Myth — in Pete Warden’s words, “in a lot of real applications any speed gains on the computation side are swamped by the time it takes to transfer data to and from the graphics card.”
  4. Privacy in Sensor-Driven Human Data Collection (PDF) — see especially the section “Attacks Against Privacy”. More generally, it is often the case the data released by researches is not the source of privacy issues, but the unexpected inferences that can be drawn from it. (via Pete Warden)
Comments: 2 |

Connected for a purpose

Are we finally seeing connected vehicles doing more with the connection than infotainment?

A few months ago, I rented a Toyota Prius and was driving it up the 101 when, predictably, I ran into a long stretch of mostly-stop-with-some-go traffic. I remember thinking at the time, “It’s too bad this thing didn’t see this traffic jam coming; it could have topped off the battery and I could be motoring through this bumper-to-bumper on much more efficient electric drive.” Instead, I entered the traffic with the battery relatively depleted and ended up running the engine a bunch even though I was only going 5 mph.

Then last week, I was getting my car worked on and saw this sign in the waiting room:

Mini_Drivetrain

That was cool because it was the first time I had seen an auto manufacturer (in this case, Mini) using externally obtained data to actually improve how the car operated instead of using it for some lame in-dash “experience.” It got me thinking. Read more…

Comments: 3 |

Horseshoes, hand grenades, and building mobile applications

The difference between location and proximity: knowing you’re in the restaurant vs knowing what table you’re sitting at.

As the old proverb goes, “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” It doesn’t quite apply when building mobile applications, however. Smaller screens and the resistance to extensive keyboard input define the input and output constraints of mobile apps, but there is something more fundamental that a mobile application can do. At its best, an application that knows where you are will augment reality to help you navigate and interact with the physical world. These applications are sometimes described as “location” applications and sometimes described as “proximity” applications. Many people are guilty of using the words interchangeably — myself included. In response to my post on iBeacon basics, Alasdair Allan called me out on Twitter:

His comment was spot-on. In this post, I’ll define (and be very precise about) the difference, the importance of which leads directly to the level of interest in proximity — and informs the excitement levels around technologies like iBeacons. Read more…

Comment |

What BlackBerry is up to these days

Practically dead in smartphones, BlackBerry is dominant in the auto industry.

Here’s a surprise, via Bloomberg:

“BlackBerry’s QNX operating system, used to power its BlackBerry 10 phones, has become the technology of choice for mapping, communication and entertainment systems in cars from Ford Motor Co. to luxury German brands Porsche and BMW.”

BlackBerry acquired QNX in 2010 from Harman International, a long-time supplier to the auto industry. “Long-time supplier” is the crucial bit. As for why QNX has done well, Bloomberg explains:

“‘QNX is the standard right now,’ said Matthew Stover, an analyst at Guggenheim Partners in Boston. ‘It’s proven and people know what it is.’

A key to maintaining the lead is QNX’s track record in running safety systems, crucial in situations where a software freeze could mean a car accident.”

By the logic of Silicon Valley, that’s a disruption waiting to happen, as Google and a consortium of automakers have foreseen. But this also underscores the ways in which the market for software in heavy industry, and in physical machines in general, is different from the market for software that stays strictly virtual.

[H/T Jim Stogdill]

Comment: 1 |