Category Archives: Tech

teenagers-and-iphonesWe knew eventually there would be a “wedge” driven between us and that shiny, glowing device that never seems to leave our sides… well, it looks like you now spend more time with your smartphone than you do with your partner! According to a study by mobile phone provider O2 and Samsung, the average smartphone user tends to spend two hours a day using their gadget. Yet, the amount of time spent with our partners per day is just 97 minutes – a third less – on average. Many of us even sleep with our smartphones, and some have admitted to spooning their phone over their mate… Read more about this report here.

ipodnanowatch1-e1324315781148We’ve all seen Google Glass, laughed at the young, entitled “glassholes” lucky enough to land a pair, and chortled along with how ridiculous people look when walking around with them on. However, Google Glass is arguably the most important tech innovation in recent years, and will more than likely represent a fundamental shift in how we connect and respond to each other and other things. Why? Well, think about what factors are involved in deciding to wear technology versus just use technology.

Sophisticated, wearable information systems can enable a host of capabilities to help increase productivity, efficiency and knowledge. With real-time data access in a user-friendly UI, and the ability to recall data from everything you’ve done, you will be able to more effectively filter the information that’s relevant and meaningful for you. This is the power of real-time analytics: you will instantly be able to do more with less, experiment with what works and doesn’t work, and let the device anticipate where you will go next and what you may want or need and then construct the best way to achieve that interaction or activity.

You may shake your head and feel OK with the fact that you can do a lot of this now with the smartphone in your hand. Sure. But putting something on your body is a deeply personal act, and may further automate and integrate your own preferences into the system you decide to wear. Our smartphones are untethered, they are an “outside system” that we must consciously choose to interact with and take several actions in which to engage with, and we make emotional connections to our smartphones, many of us even sleep with them. However, placing a device onto our bodies embeds that emotional connection directly into our being and sense of self. That’s the biggest leap we’ll ever really make with technology: to integrate it into our sense of self.

For anyone to “agree” to do that, they’ll want something back, such as:

Deeper Adaptive Personalization. Wearers will want personalized tools and services that build on their previous interactions, and that add value to their overall experience.

Contextual Support. The system will need to learn the wearer’s preferences over time, and then generate tailored results and anticipate future needs while serving up relevant information.

Long Distance Togetherness. Wearers will desire instant access to others and things based on building more meaningful relationships (and seeking expertise). Wearable technologies must first be fashionably acceptable, and then extend the reach and power of how people connect, communicate and share details about themselves over any distance.

Wearable technologies will respond to us in highly personalized ways, adapting their form and functionality to match a unique set of ever-changing needs more than smartphones will ever be able to do. At some point in time, we will wonder why we ever had a separate device that we had to constantly reach for.

This won’t be the typical “year in review” post highlighting the best books, the best films, or the best songs of the year. There’s plenty of places you can get that kind of info, including here, here, and here. Instead, I want to focus on some of the more meaningful occurrences, some that may have flown under the radar a bit, but that will more than likely have a lasting impact:

andre

We lost Andre Cassagnes. Who, you ask? Well, if you grew up in the last few decades, you’ve been touched by his main creation: the Etch-A-Sketch. At the age of 86, he passed in January. I remember spending untold hours with my Etch-A-Sketch, and how when I finally painted my masterpiece, I would beg my sister to not shake it away (which she always seemed to find a sneaky way to do behind my back). It’s my generation’s Snapchat, and it gave so much to that “alone time” throughout my youth. Although it’s practically impossible to draw a circle, the Etch-A-Sketch was a toy for the ages.

(Tribute sketch of André Cassagnes by Tom Shillue)

Dealey_Plaza_2003When it comes to the events of November 22, 1963: we evolved (a bit). Yeah, 2013 marked the 50th year since our 35th president was gunned down on the streets of Dallas. First, Dallas itself owned up to its own role in that fateful day. The city’s leaders decided to honor Kennedy by producing a respectful commemoration, and for the first time since ’63, apologized for being the “city of hate” that took our President from us. The past is never in the past, but we can learn, heal and move forward. Dallas decided to do that in 2013, and it deserves praise for honoring that horrible day with a recognition it never knew how to do before. Of course, the “independent” Texas spirit is still alive and well as shown by this guy who felt the need to strap on an AR-15 at Dealey Plaza…

12.09.11-Skeuo-4We officially re-entered an era of “design rationalism”. Not wanting to be left behind, Apple fired Scott Forstall, the lone holdout in charge of Apple software design that still held onto the Jobsian design ethos of using fake leather and brushed aluminum backgrounds in software user interfaces. Microsoft and Google had already moved on, ditching ornamentation, and re-birthing the design philosophy set forth in the 1920s by the Bauhaus movement. Now, for at least awhile, pixels are pixels and old leather desk calendars are no longer allowed in your Calendar app.

 

cancerAnd, finally, 14 year old Jake Andraka showed us what Steve Jobs really meant when he pleaded for us to “always think like a beginner.” After his family friend died of pancreatic cancer, Jack was frustrated that there wasn’t an easier, earlier detection method for this common, but deadly cancer. Although he was only in 9th grade, he took the initiative to investigate a low-cost test idea he had come up with. His test was finally accepted at Johns Hopkins after he had received hundreds of rejection letters from other research institutions. Now, his low-cost early detection test is helping to transform the survival rates for pancreatic cancer. Goes to show you: persistence is critical, next up: just think of a problem you want to solve!

Photo of Jake: TED2013. Long Beach, CA. February 25 – March 1, 2013. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Fran+Lebowitz+Wolf+Wall+Street+Afterparty+dEGeOh, and there’s no way I can forget to add this honorable mention as the weirdest/funniest/most interesting cameo in a movie this year: Fran Leibowitz as a Judge in Wolves of Wall Street! Go, Fran, GO!

Photo of Fran: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images North America

 

Windows-8_1_3

Today sees the global release of Windows 8.1. It should start rolling out in the App Store for everyone. Although 8.1 is a minor upgrade, there are some big changes: mainly the re-positioning of SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud-based storage service. My relationship with SkyDrive has been like a celebrity marriage: lots of excitement at first, love and hugs, and then a quick unraveling as its little glitches become more apparent. It just never has stacked up well to Dropbox, or even Google Drive, for God’s sake. But, as Ballmer once told us, Microsoft is “all in” … so this update sees SkyDrive move to front and center. So front and so center that its sync engine is built-in to the core of the OS. Additionally, Microsoft has made one improvement that really excites me (the whole celebrity marriage thing reignites!) — instead of defaulting to syncing your entire SkyDrive folder to your PC, it first loads icons, and enough information required to identify the file. When you decide to open the file, it downloads it on the spot. I love that, since my SkyDrive space sometimes exceeds my SSD space! You can still set preferences to sync entire folders for offline work as well. The other magical result of SkyDrive being front and center is easy access to all your apps, files and settings across multiple Microsoft devices. Like a thin client, just login to any device and continue where you left off (kinda)!

With 8.1 also comes IE11… another version of the venerable web browser we all love to hate. I’m slowly becoming somewhat of an IE convert… it’s kinda become like the Republican Party — it has a loooong history of reckless behavior to overcome — but it’s actually quite a mature, responsive browser. I couldn’t ever see myself leaving Chrome, but IE11 is worth calling out in this upgrade mainly because of two seemingly little tweaks that will undoubtedly have a big impact: it now supports WebGL, so now you can play in-browser games with stunning speed and cool visuals, and IE now has a “Reading View” option, similar to the one in Safari that is the absolute #1 reason to use Safari if you’re on a Mac! Thanks for these, Microsoft. Now, if you would only grasp the idea of “extensions” like Chrome has, we would have a much more lively relationship.

Let’s not forget the App Store. Just last year, Microsoft’s App Store resembled a Soviet grocery store in the 1940s: cold and dusty with barren shelves full of nothing but moldy bread. With only 10,000 apps (and let’s be honest, some of what Microsoft counted as an “app” were thinly disguised versions of silly web pages), the App Store has now grown up a bit and boasts over 100,000 apps (but still no Instagram!). The one thing worth noting with this post, however, is the rejoicing we can all engage in because the Mail app has been redesigned. W00t! Thank God for small miracles. The Mail app has been one of the most consistent reminders of how bad an app can actually be. With this upgrade, Microsoft realized it needed to make some hefty changes. The Mail app has been completely redesigned, improved for both touch or keyboard and mouse use. You can drag and drop messages into folders, easily select multiple messages with checkboxes, and generally filter out and manage email a lot more easily. Performance has also greatly improved, with draft emails simply appearing on the right-hand side rather than taking up the full screen. Thank you, Redmond.

Even better news: this big, little upgrade is free for existing Windows 8 users. I’d say go get it now!

I deactivated my Facebook account the other night. I had a few realizations:

1. I was getting all my news via Facebook.

2. I was losing a ridiculous amount of time reading my stream on Facebook.

3. My head was always down in my phone when I was out … checking Facebook.

4. I seemed to want to share mundane things. I mean, does anyone really care where I ate or want to see a photo of what I had for dinner?

5. Facebook had an interesting effect on my emotions. I noticed two things: posting on Facebook and generating comments made me feel good, like I’d achieved something. (You like me! You really like me!) I also noticed that more often than not, my Facebook stream could make me feel pretty bad about myself, just because my achievements couldn’t compare with those in my stream.

All that together and I realized that it was time for a break. It’s a snap, really, to deactivate your account. It takes less than 5 minutes. It’s worth mentioning that deactivating is like suspending an account. It’s temporary and I can easily reactivate at any time, with no loss of data. Deleting, on the other hand, is a whole different story. (Just ask Stan in South Park.)

I want to see if I’m more attentive to the real world around me. I want to know if I’ll get my time back, and what I’ll do with it. Will I just tweet more?  And with the ridiculous stream of people and “friends” on Facebook, will anyone notice if there’s one less voice in the cacophony? (I did accidentally send my closest girlfriends into a panic when they couldn’t find me online.)

Cartoon by Rap (from Deviant Art)

Cartoon by Rap (from Deviant Art)

Where will I get my news now, if not from Facebook? Will not being on Facebook affect me emotionally? Will it be a problem with all of the “sign in through Facebook” web sites? So there are a lot of little questions to this Great Experiment. I’d like to think I’ll find other things to do with my time. As for emotionally, it’s actually been freeing to not “need” to check in on Facebook all the time. No withdrawal yet!

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