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Consumer technology: five trends to watch

At CES, the consumer electronics and technology tradeshow that run in January in Las Vegas, it was clear in which direction tech companies are heading. However, the most interesting discovery from the heart of the world’s biggest tech event was a discreet sign of revolt against connecting virtually any device to the Internet.

Vocal computing and engaging the sense of touch for two-way communication with machines, as well as taking advantage of the data generated by the Internet of Things devices to increase sales of products adjusted to the needs of each client individually are no longer a plan for the future, but quickly becoming a standard. These trends include also companies which until yesterday had a little in common with consumer technology.

Here you can find the list of trends that dominated the fiftieth edition of CES. Plus, a signal that the future will not exclusively belong to corporations focused on connecting almost any device to the internet. Businesses that promise to protect customers from the digital world may also be successful.

 

1. Voice

On the presentation “2017 Tech Trend to Watch” that was given before the tradeshow, Consumer Technology Association’s chief economist Shawn DuBravac, Ph.D., pointed the voice interface as the most important tech trend right now.

Tech Trends to Watch by Shawn DuBravac Voice credits TrendNomad

DuBravac drew attention to the fact that since circa 2010, when first wearable devices entered the market, the graphical user interface has been disappearing in certain categories of consumer electronics. DuBravac indicates that communication with machines relies more on more often on voice.

Tech Trends to Watch by Shawn DuBravac Vocal Computing credits TrendNomad

It did not take long to find many confirmations of his words. Two days later, when the CES was officially opened, plenty of consumer technology companies – including those offering vacuum cleaners (Samsung), ovens, refrigerators, washing machines, dryers (Whirlpool), air purifiers (Coway) and printers (Canon) – launched products that can be connected to Amazon Echo to be managed by Alexa, the virtual assistant that speaks English and German.

Canon and Amazon Alexa credits TrendNomad
“Alexa, print the schedule” – Canon Pixma TS8020 printer features voice interface.

Alexa can be asked, for example, to print a document, to turn on an automatic vacuum cleaner, to warm-up and to set an oven, to check the remaining time of the washing cycle and to change the temperature in the selected compartment of the refrigerator.

Amazonon Alexa was the top star at CES. Voice assistants from Google, Apple and Microsoft were mentioned very occasionally.

Today, Alexa is nothing more than a slimy on and off virtual switch activated by voice. It can also order a pizza or a taxi, and respond to simple questions, for example, those concerning weather or the traffic in the city.

Ford and Amazon Alexa credits TrendNomad

Speaking of mobility, Ford and Volkswagen have promised to make Alexa a permanent passenger of their cars. In addition to the long list of obvious questions and commands, eg. to give directions, write down notes on the go, remotely control home lighting (seriously, what for?), one (!) function seems to be pretty useful. While driving a car, you can ask Alexa to read your Kindle e-book out. Naturally, Alexa will start declaiming it from the point you recently stopped reading the text.

More or less useful functions and various incarnations of Alexa were on everyone’s lips. However, her drawbacks were left unsaid. And Alexa, at least now, is far from perfect.

Today, Alexa does not understand the meaning of a series of commands spoken in the same sentence. For example, the request: “Alexa, increase the temperature in the room, play the music and dim the lights” will not work. Every request must be said separately, starting with the name of the Amazon’s virtual assistant.

Alexa does not distinguish different voices and does not know whose commands she should prioritise. Anyone who is in the range of microphones built into the Amazon Echo can control voice-friendly home devices. In theory, access to the system can be protected with a voice password. In practice, it is not difficult to eavesdrop it.

LG tries to fix this issue with face recognition technology. Apart from the built-in camera,  the design of LG Hub Robot includes a screen to express “emotions” of the digital assistant, as well as moving parts to use “body language” that all go beyond verbal communication.

Regardless of the physical form of Alexa, doubts raise as the digital assistant never says “no”. It will take some time before Alexa will be able to refuse to execute some of our commands, asks how do we feel, and find the cause of our unusual behavior, when, for example, we ask her to increase the room temperature when it is already hot inside.

Today, “smart home” does not deserve its name. And it won’t until a home management system will be connected to artificial intelligence such as the IBM Watson supercomputer (goodbye, beloved privacy). Such cooperation was recently announced by EnOcean, the company specialised on energy independent Internet of Things.

 

2. Touch

Touch screens that are available on the market do not fully deserve their name either. They will be fully “touchable” when they enable us to feel textures of displayed materials (eg. textiles, wood, paper) with a bare finger. At CES I experienced that tactile sensations may be convincingly simulated by a smartphone or tablet.

Tanvas credits TrendNomad

When touching a flat screen with built-in haptic technology developed by a team of US-based company Tanvas, you can feel choppy, grainy, fine and other textures of displayed materials. Tanvas creates tactile sensations by affecting the friction that occurs between the screen and a finger. Their technology is based on electrostatics.

On a tablet with embedded haptic technology, an image of sand is grainy when touched.

Similar tactile experience, but based on a different technology, is delivered by the French start-up HAP2U. Here the friction between the screen and a finger is manipulated by ultrasonic vibrations.

HAP2U credits TrendNomad
At the HAP2U’s booth, one could feel the texture of fish scales and the resistance of sliders and knobs displayed on flat screens.

Visiting Tanvas’s and HAP2U’s booths was interesting, but then in another hall, it came out that haptic technology goes far beyond tactile sensations given on a flat screen. The UK-based company Ultrahaptics has developed a technology that enables users to receive tactile feedback in 3D without touching any physical object.

Ultrahaptics credits TrendNomad

This technology uses ultrasounds to project sensations through the air and directly onto the user. Users can “feel” touchless buttons and get feedback for mid-air gestures or interact with virtual objects. One of the areas of application of this technology may be the automobile industry.

Bosch haptics credits TrendNomad

Bosch cooperated with Ultrahaptics to unveiled at CES the prototype of in-car infotainment system based on contactless haptic technology. The goal is that a driver can intuitively, conveniently and safely operates onboard electronics without taking his or her eyes off the road.

 

3. Real virtual reality 

People working on VR also shown their interest in the sense of touch. Slightly less stunning than Ultrahaptics’s technology, but still very interesting one was demonstrated by the TACTAI company at Ericsson’s booth.

Tactai credits TrendNomad

Tactai Touch put on a fingertip gives you the impression of touching an object that you see on VR goggles. TACTAI team wants to replace the legacy buttons-based controllers by allowing users to interact directly and naturally with virtual worlds.

Cerevo Taclim credits TrendNomad

Another idea of accessories for VR was shown by the Tokyo-based company Cerevo. The set includes gloves-like controllers and shoes with built-in haptic technology.

When wearing Taclim shoes, a player feels under his or her feet delicate vibrations. Depending on a content watched on VR gogles, it may feel like walking on snow, sand, grass, etc.

Apart from technologies engaging the sense of touch, the next emerging trend in the field of VR is body 3D scanning. The aim is to put three-dimensional avatars that reflect individuals look into games and VR social media.

Bellus3D credits TrendNomad

Start-up Bellus3D presented a scanner attached to a smartphone or tablet that measures 500,000 points on a human face to create a high-resolution and accurate face model in seconds. And the 3D model may be used not only for VR applications.

Bellus3D wants to use this technology also for confirming people’s identity and for a realistic simulation of the makeup effect without the time and mess associated with normal trial-and-error. Virtual beauty stores already exist, but now they use only 2D images, so there is a space for progress.

 

4. Beauty under control

The YouCam Makeup app is not new. It is already popular in many markets, but for me the time and place I discovered this brand was CES 2017. The app is used for putting a virtual makeup (including powder, lipstick, eye shadow, hair dyes etc.) on a selfie stored in the memory of a mobile device, or in real-time in the augmented reality.

The most interesting feature here is the online shop. Once you virtually try-on some cosmetics, you pay (with a real money, sorry) for those you like the most, and then you receive (real) products. The lesson worth to remember: virtual fitting in AR is made for real business.

Another product, HiMirror Plus is not an e-beauty store (at least, not yet). It is a smart mirror offering personalised skincare analysis based on the evolving condition of a user’s skin. The device also measures the effect of cosmetics applied on the skin.

HiMirror credits TrendNomad

Through the built-in camera and using the software, HiMirror analyse user’s skin condition including wrinkles, fine lines, complexion, dark circles, dark spots, red spots, and pores. The device identifies problem areas, so the user can react with suggested solutions. Plus, it measures the effectiveness of given cosmetics that can be scanned with a barcode.

HiMirror Plus also helps to apply makeup appropriately for any occasion. The mirror comes with LED light to simulate five different lighting scenarios: a sunset view, outdoor on a sunny day, a brightly lit office, a shopping mall or supermarket, and a restaurant or party venue.

You can analyse at home not only your skin but hair as well. For this purpose, you can use Hair Coach, a hair brush developed by Withings (Internet of Things) and Kérastase (hair care products) brands. The brush is equipped with a built-in microphone, a gyroscope, and an accelerometer.

Hair Coach credits TrendNomad

Hair Coach diagnoses hair conditions mainly by listening to the sound of hair brushing. It identifies patterns, providing insights into manageability, frizziness, dryness, split ends, and breakage. And, naturally, it recommends appropriate Kérastase cosmetics to fix hair problems.

Here lies the core of a business based on Internet of Things: selling more products and services recommended and personalized to each client individually, using data generated by everyday devices connected to the Internet.

 

5. Giants are transforming 

Why among the exhibitors present at CES you could find a huge cruise line and a sports clothing company? Well, both corporations announced in Las Vegas that they strongly bind their businesses with wearable technologies.

Carnival, the largest cruise vacation company in the world operating more than 100 ships worldwide under 10 brands, launched the wearable device called Ocean Medallion. Later this year it will replace keys, wallets, and tickets on The Regal Princess, the largest cruise ship in the company’s fleet. Then, gradually, the technology will be put on boards of other ships belonging to the corporation.

The medallion is delivered free of charge to client’s home. Then the device makes boarding and disembarking the ship as simple as walking past a sensor.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLwImL1R26M&feature=youtu.be

It unlocks your room door when you walk up without any other key. It lets you pay for any purchase you do on the ship and it remembers your preferences to make it much easier to order your favorite meal and drink (through a smartphone or on touch screens placed throughout the ship). All you have to do is to wear the tiny device equipped with the Bluetooth and NFC technology on your wrist or as a pendant, or just keep it in a pocket.

It was not such a huge sensation that the American sports clothing company Under Armour unveiled at CES a new line of shoes with built-in sensors. What is here really worth noticing is the Athlete Recovery Sleepwear line. It is all about the inner side of the fabric that features soft bioceramic particles.

Under Armour credits TrendNomad

Every piece from the hi-tech apparel collection that includes long and short sleeves, pants and shorts, absorbs the body’s natural heat and reflects it back to the skin as far infrared. It helps the body to recover faster, reduces inflammation, regulates cell metabolism, and foster better sleep. Good night, competitors!

 

Post scriptum

Sticking to the story of new kind of clothing related to technology, but looking beyond five trends from CES 2017 mentioned above, one should also pay attention to the extremely interesting product that can be seen as an expression of people’s lack of comfort (or a fear) caused by the increasing number of devices connected to the Internet, as well as a revolt against our addiction to online life and technology. Let me present you the winner of CES 2017 (in my personal competition): men’s underwear brand SPARTAN.

Spartan underwear credits TrendNomad
Arthur Menard, Co-founder and CEO at SPARTAN.

SPARTAN underwear is made of cotton with the pure silver fibre sewn throughout it. The company’s CEO claims that metal thread acts as an electromagnetic shield, blocking 99% of radiation from cellphones and Wi-Fi.

If someone is concerned whether radiation has a direct and negative impact on men’s fertility, this is a perfect product made for him. Additionally, the silver prevents bacteria from proliferating and, in doing so, eliminates odours that may build up throughout the day.

 

All pictures and videos by TrendNomad.com. More content from CES 2017 you can find on my Instagram profile.

Do you find my CES 2017 summary interesting? Then buy me a coffee! Wherever you are, you can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card.

All donations will help me to finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my website. Just click the rectangular button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

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Warm smart home

According to French IT company Qarnot Computing, the heat generated by all the data centres in the world could heat half of American households. Qarnot claims we should stop wasting this heat energy. To make it happen, the company launched Q.rad – a heater embedding microprocessors as a heat source designed for homes and public buildings.

Usually, cloud computing power that is being sold for banks, 3D animation studios, research labs, cars manufacturers, etc. is deployed in huge, concentrated data centres. Microprocessors heat a lot as they operate, and they must be constantly cooled. This process needs a lot of energy.

At present, data centres consume three percent of the world’s electricity, and this figure doubles every five years.

Qarnot Computing has an alternative and disruptive solution to forthcoming challenges related to a global digital growth with radical energy savings. The company provides cloud computing through a distributed infrastructure where remote computing power split throughout the city in the form of thousands of Q.rads wall devices connected to the Internet. While doing its main job (which is, naturally, computing), every Q.rad gives heat to its surrounding.

https://vimeo.com/150405010

A user controls the temperature of the Q.rad with the embedded digital thermostat or, like every smart home device available on the market, with a connected smartphone or through a secured web interface.

In the summer mode, the Q.rad generates unperceptible heat, allowing Qarnot to maintain important computing power during the hot months for its clients’ needs. The company deploys Q.rads in schools, universities and high-altitude areas to maintain processing capacity during the summer.

Q.rad is even more than a heating computer. Present in every room and embedding more than 20 sensors that measure temperature, humidity, luminosity, pressure, volatile organic compound, CO2 and noise level, Q.rads make a building smart.

Qarnot_Qrad2
Q.rad is also a Wi-Fi router, Qi wireless charging station, dual USB power charging, LED strip and stereo speakers. Custom colours for the Corian shell and aluminium heatsink are available on demand.

The most important thing for a user is that Q.rad provides the heating for free. The electricity counter embedded in the Q.rad records its energy consumption which enables Qarnot to bill its computing clients and refund the electricity consumed. The host is automatically reimbursed by Qarnot monthly or quarterly.

Q.rad can be deployed only in new or renovated buildings meeting modern isolation standards and equipped with fiber optics. In each room, the Q.rad requires an electric plug (110/230V) and a network plug (RJ45) connected to the Internet provider box. Q.rads use a cable connection to the network instead of a Wi-Fi connection, for both security and performance.

Once plugged in, the Q.rad is automatically identified by Qarnot infrastructure and is available for heating and computing immediately. To maintain a high-end processing farm, Q.rad is replaced for free every three to five years.

Qarnot_Qrad3
Dimensions of Q.rad unit are 65x60x16 cm. Its weight is 27 kg, and the heating power is 500 W. The device is totally silent (0 dB) since there are no mobile parts (ventilators nor hard drives) inside it.

Qarnot Computing platform integrates state-of-the-art security modules for encryption and authentication to propose an end-to-end protection of client’s data. Q.rads computing nodes are stateless (no storage). The decentralised and no storage approach eliminates the threat of targeted attacks existing for data centres.

If there’s not enough work for the computers to do when clients need heat, the company offers that spare capacity to university labs for free.

Qarnot commercialises the Q.rad to public and private companies implementing tomorrow’s buildings, such as schools and universities, hotels, offices and retirement homes. At present, Qarnot installs Q.rads in buildings for a minimum of 20 units. The heater will be directly available to individuals by 2017. A pilot program has started in 2014 – since then, more than 100 French households are heated for free with Q.rads.

Qarnot Paul Benoit Credits TrendNomad com
Paul Benoit, founder and CEO of Qarnot Computing, presenting Q.rad smart heater at CES 2016 show in Las Vegas. Photography by TrendNomad.com

Qarnot was founded in 2010. It is based in Montrouge of South of Paris. Its team counts 23 people. If you want to know more details about the company, please contact Paul Benoit at paul.benoit@qarnot-computing.com.

www.qarnot-computing.com

PS Qarnot Computing is not the only company with an idea of digital heating. There are at least few other players working on more or less similar business model, including Cloud&Heat in Germany, Nerdalize in the Netherlands, and Exergy in the US. Furthermore, there are office buildings heated by internal servers being used by companies that occupy the building. S11 Park in Zakrzewo near Poznan in Poland is one of the examples.

Do you like the article? Then buy me a coffee! You can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my blog. Just click the button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

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3D printed electronics

Until quite recently, printed electronics and 3D printing, besides the “print” word, had very little in common. Now, companies such as Nano Dimension that are combining both technologies are in a good position to change rules of how supply chains of electronic parts do work, as well as how our smartphones, VR headsets and wearables will someday be shaped and how much they will cost.

Basically, printed circuit boards (PCBs) are the building blocks and the electronic infrastructure of any electronic device: a laptop, tablet, washing machine and dishwasher, to name just a few. This is the element where electronic components are mounted to. A green PCB that we can find in a smartphone may consist of 14 or 16 of separated layers. Some points are connected to each other in such a way that eventually you get a big area of wiring in a very small card.

The way PCBs are produced hasn’t profoundly changed for decades. Generally speaking, the production starts with a plate covered in copper. Then a manufacturer takes away copper they don’t need. The process is called chemical etching. Unfortunately, this method means a lot of waste and environmental damage.

Some printed circuit boards are manufactured in Europe and the United States, but most of them are produced in China and Taiwan. Even prototypes of multilayer PCBs are manufactured in Asia. Many Western electronic companies create their Gerber files (digital files that PCB designers use), send them to a factory located in the Far East, and wait until they get prototypes to start testing them. The process of production and a delivery may take a couple of weeks.

DragonFly 2020 may change this time-consuming procedure. The new 3D printed electronics printer is able to make industrial grade prototypes of PCBs in-house in a matter of hours. Nano Dimension’s printer create multilayer printed circuit boards with ten or more layers, including all interconnections between layers, using a patented process.

Nano Dimension DragonFly 2020 PCB
In order to build a complete multilayer PCB from the bottom up, the DragonFly 2020 printer deposits two materials: one conductive (the company’s nano-silver ink; in the future it will be made with nano-copper ink) and one dielectric polymer. The build volume is 20 x 20 x 0,3 cm, and the printing accuracy is 0,01 mm.

Beyond allowing device manufacturers to prototype much faster, the DragonFly 2020 printer is useful for businesses that want to keep their Intellectual Property secret. Companies that work in a defence or any other sensitive systems are fully aware that they shouldn’t send Gerber files abroad.

Watch the video interview with Simon Fried from Nano Dimension recorded at CES 2016 in Las Vegas to learn more about 3D printed electronics as well as the DragonFly 2020 printer. If you are familiar with basics of 2D printed electronics, please skip the introduction and start watching the video at 3’30.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AYHUz0HPiA

Why does it really matter?

The DragonFly 2020 printer is intended to be used for rapid prototyping of PCBs and small batch production of professional multilayer PCBs, but the implications could be far more revolutionary. Potentially, it can disrupt over several years the way consumer electronics are made and distributed. Low-cost factories in Asia, as well as anyone in the electronic devices business, should carefully observe this emerging trend (and maybe start to fear a little bit).

If 3D printed electronics printing technology gets cheap enough, this could spell the beginning of the end of China as the world’s manufacturer of electronics, and probably start bringing back local production to the West.

From a consumer point of view, the change may be visible in terms of shapes of the next generation of electronics. At present, smartphones, laptops, as well as some parts of wearables and many other electronics are in the shape of rectangles. The reason is that all these devices are designed around the shape of PCBs manufactured accordingly to the standard method. With a 3D printed electronics printer, it will be possible to make a circuit that could be any complex geometries, even in the shape of a pyramid or sphere.

The goal is that one day 3D printed multilayer PCBs will be flexible, geometrically complex, full 3D dimensional and fully functional objects. That sounds perfect for the world of bendable wearables and IoT.

First DragonFly 2020 printer will be rolled out in the second half of 2016. Flextronics International Ltd. will serve as the primary manufacturer and supplier of the printer. The price of the device was not announced yet, but for sure it will not be suited to a typical home user – the printer is aimed at electronics companies. Nano Dimension also plans to launch nanotechnology-based ink products – RFID and solar are their initial markets.

Nano Dimension was founded in Israel in 2012 by Sharon Fima, Amit Dror, Simon Fried and Dagi Ben-Noon. Nano Dimension is listed as NNDM on the Tel Aviv stock exchange, and is traded as an ADR on the OTCQX in the United States (NNDMY). If you have any questions regarding Nano Dimension, you can send them directly to CMO of the company, Simon Fried at simon@nano-di.com.

www.nano-di.com

Do you like the article? Then buy me a coffee! You can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my blog. Just click the button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

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Wind of change

How the transportation in our cities will look like in the late 2020s? After visiting CES 2016 event in Las Vegas, it seems quite feasible that in the next decade we will start using a convenient, environmentally friendly and free car-sharing service, based on a fleet of electric cars, which will not only drive autonomously, but also independently produce electricity from renewable resources.

At the end of 2015, the market research company IDTechEx identified three new megatrends that recently emerged in the world of new technologies: energy independent electric vehicles (EIVs), 3D printed electronics (3DPE) and structural electronics (SE).

At CES 2016 I found examples of two of the three emerging businesses. And what fired my imaginations the most, is a project that can give today’s electric cars enough power to go from current 25-312 mile range to upward of 1000 miles.

Usually, concepts of energy independent vehicles include solar panels or wind turbines for generating electricity. However, there are some doubts and difficulties about the efficiency and reliability of such resources of energy when implemented into cars. But aerospace engineer Robert Yost announced in Las Vegas that he has invented a super-efficient and compact wind turbine, which can provide enough power to extend the range of electric vehicles by 3-4 times. That is an important step toward EIVs.

MicroCube credits Trend Nomad
The creation of this design was made possible through 3D printing via 3D Systems Quickparts Solutions. Through the design and iteration process (Yost worked on more than 20 different iterations) the inventor learned to arrange his print files for maximum efficiency, getting parts and assemblies indistinguishable from injection molding in all aspects apart from timeline and cost of production. Photography by TrendNomad.com

Robert Yost claims that he has developed an incredibly efficient micro wind turbine device that is capable of generating power in wind speeds as low as one mph, and as fast as 100 mph (2,4-161 kph). Yost named his patented invention a MicroCube.

A single MicroCube can generate more power than a standard solar panel for a fraction of the size. Stacking several Cubes together in the same space it takes for one solar panel can produce 18 times as much energy.

The high efficiency comes from the unique, multiple airfoil design, which captures a high level of windflow. Yost borrowed a blade design from a jet engine. Each individual MicroCube stands at only 9x9x9 inches (around 23x23x23 cm) and weighs 9 lbs (4 kg), with a maximum output of 1 kW. While engineers have previously worked with miniature turbines and combining multiple turbines together, there has never been a generator created with the characteristics of the MicroCube.

Yost has installed four mobile versions of MicroCubes on the roof of a Ford C-Max Energi electric car, generating 2,800 watts per hour to keep its lithium-ion battery charged. The goal is to adapt air flow turbines in the lower air dam and side vent.

Before Robert Yost invented the MicroCube wind turbine, he worked for major aerospace companies such as Boeing, GE Aircraft Engines and Pratt & Whitney. His experience gave him the practical skill to follow through on the idea of a small wind turbine. He formed American Wind in February 2012 to fulfill his vision.

To learn more details about MicroCube project, watch the video interview with Robert Yost recorder at CES 2016 at 3D Systems booth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcQFRXriVDc

Yost is aware of his many critics and nonbelievers. In order to demonstrate how his 3D printed MicroCubes can revolutionise the way renewable energy is generated and how people commute, he will drive across the United States in an electric vehicle powered by four MicroCubes without stopping even once to plug in the battery for a recharge.

Transport in 2030

An emergence of EIVs that can produce energy from renewable resources coincides with intense work on self-driving cars (Google and Ford belong to main players in that race). If an automotive company would apply both technologies in one vehicle, a new type of a car would be very economical to operate.

After visiting hundreds of booths at CES 2016 and talks with many representatives of various companies (including Bosch, Ford, Velodyne and American Wind), and following sensational press releases about autonomous cars, I came to the conclusion that Google’s goal for the second decade of this century is not to sell self-driving cars to end users, but to provide in many cities all over the world a mobility service based on autonomous vehicles rented on request using a smartphone (or a device that will replace smartphones by that time).

Due to the fact that self-driving and energy independent electric cars will bring very low running costs, we can guess that rides will be offered free of charge or at low price. However, Google will make a fortune on this business.

If this scenario comes true, Google will earn a lot of money by charging fees from advertisers who will provide content displayed to passengers in moving cars, as well as by selling data about their preferences and reactions. We will pay for this service with our increased vulnerability to personalized ads, accurately matched to the context and our needs.

Another source of incomes for Google may be commissions received from online and physical outlets and restaurants that will use Google Cars for deliveries. Uber and Lyft (though, it is very likely that they have similar plans for the future), cars, buses and trams manufacturers, as well as professional drivers, motorman and couriers may have reasons to start to worry.

Today

Small turbines have more uses than electric cars. Because the MicroCube can work in the turbulent air in cities, they can be built into structures by the thousands. They also can be placed into cellular towers to produce significant power to keep these units working during disaster periods, or to increase power on busy days. Everyone can now place an order for MicroCube turbine. The net price of one piece with a wall case is 2600 dollars. First deliveries will be made late summer this year.

If you have any questions regarding MicroCube, you can send them directly to Rober Yost at robert.yost@americanwindinc.com.

www.americanwindinc.com

Do you like the article? Then buy me a coffee! You can donate a small sum of money using your PayPal account or credit card. All donations will finance my journeys to fairs, festivals and conferences devoted to design and new technology – this is where I find news for my blog. Just click the button below to perform a secure transaction. Thank you for your support, it will help me to take a step forward and write new posts.

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Casual virtual reality

The most interesting novelties presented at CES in the field of virtual reality were neither long-awaited, final version of Oculus Rift goggles, nor the avalanche of cheap, made of cardboard or plastic VR headsets matching different models of smartphones. The biggest surprise for me as a media representative was the prototype of VR lenses that can be affixed to a tablet. Is it how the future of hybrid, online press will look like? 

As expected, virtual reality has been one of the main topics at CES 2016, the huge consumer electronics event that was held in Las Vegas in early January. Compared to the previous year, a much larger number of exhibitors related to the VR industry (goggles and 360 cameras producers, movies and animation makers, as well as 3D sound technicians etc.) testifies to the fact that in the coming months and years the market will be flooded with both professional and amateur VR content and headsets. We can be sure that the VR is entering the market for good, and it is just the beginning of the revolution.

So far, thousands of media outlets have released tons of information about the two segments of the VR goggles and its dedicated content. First, many of them relate to high-end devices, now assigned to companies such as HTC, Sony, and Oculus, that also offer (or will offer in the following months) sophisticated accessories that enable users to move smoothly through the virtual space. Second, many journalists report for the cheapest VR sets, made of cardboard or plastic, that requires a smartphone, and work with a very simplified user interface. In both categories, I haven’t found any spectacular, groundbreaking news (except the retail price of Oculus Rift, which is 599 dollars, twice as high as expected). Fortunately, at the end of the day, I discovered that the third category of VR readers exists. Despite it is a huge WOW, it was presented without any spectacular and noisy show, and therefore, it was unnoticed by mainstream medias.

inVRse zoom credits Trend Nomad
The inVRse immersive viewer transforms a tablet device into a stereoscopic 3D display with integrated inertial tracking and a multi-touch surface for interaction and control.

Hardly anyone associated with the virtual reality industry has taken into account displaying VR content on a tablet. Who would want to wear a large, heavy screen on his or her face? Although at the first glance a tablet seems to be useless in terms of attaching this device to a virtual reality headset, one prototype and his co-creator convinced me at CES that in some cases it can (surprise, surprise!) make a lot of sense. I felt that this is the beginning of a new era in the development of digital newspapers and e-books.

inVRse David Nelson credits Trend Nomad
David Nelson is the Special Project Manager of the MxR Lab (it is a part of the Institute for Creative Technologies, founded by US Army in 1999 at the University of Southern California), where techniques and technologies to improve the fluency of human-computer interactions are explored. He comes to VR from the world of entertainment as a Producer and Director, having created award-winning content in the areas of documentaries, feature films, music videos and commercials. He has studied the art of storytelling for more than 20 years.

Researchers from the Mixed Reality (MxR) Lab showed at the IEEE organization booth their idea assuming that VR content does not have to be watched on more or less sophisticated headset, that usually cut-off a user from his environment. VR can be experienced in a subtly different way, in this case through the lens attached to the top of the tablet. Here a VR animation or 360-video is not the main point of a content, but it enriches the main message. A user who is reading a text on a tablet, from time to time can get closer his or her eyes to attached lenses to watch VR or 360 extras.

The project of goggles that are attachable to the upper part of a tablet is called “inVRse”, and the new, hybrid media format combining text, images and videos with VR animations, 360 videos and the touch interface is named “casual virtual reality”.

When a prototype of inVRse goggles attachable to the upper part of a tablet will be commercialized and enter the market, we will see a new, hybrid media format, that combines text, images, audio and 2D movies with VR content and 360 video.

If the idea presented by a MxR Lab team will find its place on the market, the VR animations and 360 videos will become integrated with a digital press, e-books and, among other online publications, tourist and hotel guides. Thus, the virtual reality experience will no longer be separated from other media, but it will go hand in hand with more traditional content displayed on tablets. This may be a good news for publishers, advertisers and an audience as well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wN35LbpymBw

To learn more details about the in VRse project, I encourage you to watch the video interview recorded at CES with David Nelson, Special Project Manager at MxR Lab. He claimed that in the near future the virtual reality will become an important part of journalism, but at the same time he pointed out that only some of the content will be transferred to the VR format. Moreover, he said that the commercialization of the inVRse project should take place within a year.

If you have any questions regarding the inVRse project, you can send them directly to David Nelson at dnelson@ict.usc.edu.

All photos and the video by TrendNomad.com.

www.mxrlab.com

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