Siri gets smarter

Apple unveiled its upcoming iOS 12, the update for iPads and iPhones coming this fall, and what I found most interesting was some long overdue upgrades in Siri’s capabilities. You’ve probably noticed how when you get in your car, a message is often displayed on the lock screen anticipating where you’re going and telling you how long it’ll take to get there. Apple is now adding the ability for Siri to learn how you’re using apps, and to use that information to make suggestions. As Apple put it:

Siri can now intelligently pair your daily routines with third-party apps to suggest convenient shortcuts right when you need them.

You can also set up shortcuts, teaching Siri to perform a number of actions when a simple command is provided. When you’re heading home from work, a single command can adjust your home thermostat, tell you how long it’ll take to drive there, text your significant other that you’re on the way, and start playing your favorite podcast. There are other interesting examples in this article at TechCrunch, check it out if you’re curious.

iOS 12 should be available this fall, and will work on most devices (going all the way back to the iPhone 5S!)

3D magnetic storage may be possible

For a long time, conventional magnetic hard drives had a theoretical limit to storage capacity driven by them storing data on the surface of flat platters.  Physical limits on the size of each bit area, and how many platters could fit inside a single hard drive, resulted in huge but still limited capacity.  That 2D platter constraint is on the verge of being broken though, with scientists finding a way to also take advantage of the depth or thickness of the platter, turning each platter into a 3d array of data rather than merely 2D.  With this technology, we may see drives with a capacity of more than one hundred terabytes!  Ponder that for a minute…it’s a truly mind-blowing amount of data for how we use computers today, but perhaps in the future will be laughed at as woefully inadequate like the 64GB drives of today…

Read more over at ExtremeTech – it’s pretty fascinating how they’re pulling this off…each of three layers is written to with a special head, with the reading being the vector sum of the three layers.

I love iOS7!

ios7I’ve spent a day with iOS7, and I gotta say, I love it.  Fantastic upgrade and you’d be a fool to note jump on this.  I know there are plenty of functional improvements, but what strikes me most is the huge improvement in the user interface.  Partly the look, partly the swipes and button locations, but overall it’s a really solid upgrade and I’m thoroughly impressed.  Very beautiful, very usable, and makes anything else look antiquated, like Pole Position compared to Gran Turismo 5.

That said…my attempt to upgrade one of our iPads (iPad2 FWIW) failed miserably.  The upgrade process froze, so I forced a power-off.  At that point, I had to do a system restore to factory settings, then restore from my most recent backup.  Normally that’s a pain, but what made it worse is that Apple’s activation servers were not responding for a while so I was stuck waiting for those before I could restore.  So when you plan to upgrade to iOS7 (when, not IF, right?), be sure you’ve recently backed up your iPhone/iPad, and don’t embark on this journey if you’re in a rush.  At best, you’ll be fighting slow download times (it’s ~700MB)!  At worst, your device will be plugged in to your computer for a while restoring itself.  But it’s worth it, trust me!

I’m still on an iPhone5…but am equally impressed by the iPhone5C.  I design lots of plastic parts, and to see Apple accomplish what they did with the 5C is really cool.  I’ve rarely even added CNC second ops to a part, and usually got scolded by the purchasing folks for the added cost.  Apple went overboard with their second ops, but the result is really beautiful.  Check out this video to get an idea:

The Year of the Smartwatch

2013 is quickly shaping up to be ‘the year of the smart watch’, as early entries hit the market (Pebble, Metawatch, I’m watch, etc).  Following closely behind are an increasing number of big players, few of whom admit to working on a smartwatch but all suspected of doing so.  Among them, Apple, Google, LG, and Samsung.  Whether products from those bigger companies will hit the market in 2013 is a bit uncertain, but I’d say it’s very likely that at least two of those companies will be shipping a smartwatch in time for Christmas.  As the early entries show, the technology is mostly here, with issues seeming to revolve around battery life and overall software/usability.

Power-harvesting sensors

I’m seeing some interesting progress in the industry with harvesting ambient power to drive low-power devices, like wireless sensors.  While it still seems to be in the lab stages, it’s quickly advancing and I expect it’ll become a part of our lives in the near future.  Texas Instruments has recently introduced a small device (the TPS62736) to help use the minuscule amounts of power harvested from any source really (solar, radio wave, thermoelectric, magnetic, or vibration).  We’re talking about microwatts and milliwatts here, but it’ll be cool to see devices that no longer need batteries (not to mention, keeping that battery waste out of the landfills will be good for the environment).  Imagine a smoke detector that never needed a new battery, for example.  Anyway, cool technology…it’ll be here before you know it!

StickNFind – the evolution of smart ‘things’

Sticknfindinhand575There’s a cool project over on Indiegogo now called StickNFind, that creates small bluetooth-enabled ‘tags’ you can attach to objects.  A smartphone app can measure signal strength to approximate distance (it cannot tell you what DIRECTION the tag is in, though), which is nice, but what impressed me more was the ‘leash’ function and the ‘find it’ function.

The ‘leash’ will alert you on your phone when a tag has moved a set (approximate) distance away from your phone.  I can see this being useful for kids in crowded areas, pets, etc.

The ‘find it’ function is pretty neat too.  Imagine a tag out of range.  When it is back within range, your phone will alert you.  Lots of possible uses for that!

The campaign closes in 11 days, and they’ve already exceeded their funding goal…so time is limited if you want to get in on it.  Check it out here.

Intel working on a TV solution, also

It seems every hardware company is working on creating a better TV experience (Apple, Google, and Samsung being the big ones).  Intel is now joining the mix with a set top box, but they’re encountering the same problem that has kept Apple’s TV in the labs instead of your living room.  Namely, they are up against content owners who like things the way they are and don’t want to change.  This ‘head in the sand’ approach is simply not going to work…technology will advance and change is inevitable.  This is much like the music companies resisting change to their business model, until file sharing services like Napster came along and forced change.  TV will eventually face similar pressure…if the TV content owners act now and partner with the tech companies, they can help shape the future of TV…rather than sit on the sidelines and watch it be shaped for them.

Transform anything into a touch sensor

The Disney research lab in Pittsburgh released a cool demo video showing how any surface can be converted into a touch sensor.  One of the coolest applications would be to use your skin to control an iPhone.  Your body becomes the buttons…touch your palm with one finger for one action, two fingers for something different, touch the wrist for another action, you get the idea.  Exciting possibilities here, check out the video:

If you’re more the DIY type, check out the video below that shows someone making their own version of this touch sensor.  You can find instructions and details here.


(via Hack a Day)

Disruptive technologies

Technology doesn’t so much change our lives, as much as our lives change as technology changes.  In many countries, it’s an integral part of what we are today.  This graphic from frugaldad.com does a nice job of showing some of the areas where new technologies are replacing the old (‘disruptive’ technology).  For example, smartphones and tablets are making the traditional desktop PC obsolete.

It’s worth noting though, that while this technological evolution continues, the majority of the world is left out of much of it, though at the same time, the rapid evolution of technology allows others to leapfrog the first-world countries.  Cell phones are a good example, where third-world telephone infrastructure is so sparsely deployed and unreliable that more people own cell phones than traditional land lines.  Or in India, where solar is favored over coal.  People in first-world countries can ride the wave of technological progress, while much of the world ends up on a different path, skipping ahead once technologies have reached certain price/performance points.

The infographic is pretty big, so check it out after the ‘more’ link.

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