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Technology

From Kathmandu to Paris, the selfie

Thursday, 9 November, 2017 0 Comments

Sometimes, a headline is more baffling than illuminating. Example: “Oppo to launch selfie expert F5 in Nepal”. Oppo? And who is the “selfie expert” known cryptically as “F5”?

It helps if one knows that OPPO Electronics Corp. is a Chinese electronics firm based in Guangdong that’s intent on grabbing a share of the Asian smartphone market, and its new F5 model is being marketed as the device that “takes camera phones to the next generation.” Then there’s this: “It defies the paradox of marrying Artificial Intelligence technology with organic beauty to create the most natural and stunning of selfies.” How does it do that? Time to revisit our headline about Oppo, the F5 and Nepal. It’s from the Kathmandu Post and, quoting from the press release, the writer notes that “the AI will utilise information from a massive global photo database to beautify a selfie shot taken by the Oppo F5.” Is that “massive global photo database” Getty? Or is it a Chinese venture using surveillance photos for commercial purposes? There’s a story there.

Meanwhile, London-based creative Daniel McKee notes that more than six million people visit the Mona Lisa at the Louvre each year and “Many share their visit on social media.” Using images found on Instagram, he created this:


Information I need to remember

Tuesday, 7 November, 2017 1 Comment

Ben Bajarin, who describes himself as a “Student of the intersection of human behavior and technology,” focuses on global consumer technology at Creative Strategies in Silicon Valley. From his firm’s smartphone photography study on the things people like to snap, “Information I need to remember” is impressively popular. The smartphone has become an extension of human memory.

smartphones


Employee Nr. 7 saves the day

Friday, 13 October, 2017 0 Comments

One of Tesla’s earliest challenges involved the thousands of lithium-­ion batteries the company intended to pack into its e-sports car, the Roadster, which was produced from 2008 to 2012. Problem: They caught fire embarrassingly often. Enter Gene Berdichevsky, employee No. 7. He helped solve the issue using a mix of heat transfer materials, cooling channels and battery arrangements that ensured any fire would be self-contained.

Berdichevsky has now co-founded Sila Nanotechnologies, which aims to make better lithium-ion batteries using silicon-based nanoparticles. Silicon has almost 10 times the theoretical capacity of the material most often used in lithium-ion batteries, but it tends to expand during charging, causing damage. Sila’s particles, however, are porous enough to accommodate that expansion, offering the promise of longer-lasting batteries. Lucky Nr. 7 saves the day again.

Sila


Inside Tesla

Thursday, 12 October, 2017 0 Comments

“My proceeds from PayPal were $180m. I put $100m in SpaceX, $70m in Tesla and $10m in Solar City. I had to borrow money for rent.” — Elon Musk

Tesla

Five links…


Bosch Bike

Monday, 9 October, 2017 0 Comments

Want to spend a few grand on an e-bike? Stuttgart-HQd Bosch will be happy to trouser it. The new Bosch eBike ABS, which goes on sale next year, won’t be cheap, but it comes with ABS and that’s worth a lot, Bosch claims. The technology is being marketed as the first standard anti-lock braking system for e-bikes and anything that contributes to safety is valuable. Bosch is definitely serious about this industry as it demonstrated last month when its eBike Systems division acquired COBI, a connected biking startup.

Anything (engineering) the Germans can do, the Swiss can do as well and the Bosch eBike ABS will get a run for its money next year when the Stromer ST5 hits the streets. Again, be prepared to dig deep for this one, but there is consolation in the fact that there are almost a thousand e-bike models on the market and prices are falling. The only downside to the upside is that bike lanes are getting crowded with ever faster (uninsured) e-machines and when they are combined with increasing bike rage, cycling may not be the healthy, happy, stress-free alternative to automobile transport that it was supposed to be. Maybe Bosch and Stromer can help solve that one, too.


Amara’s law

Wednesday, 4 October, 2017 0 Comments

“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

Those 21 words could easily fit into a tweet and allow room for attribution to Roy Amara, a futurist and co-founder of the Institute For The Future in Palo Alto, California. It’s been said that Amara’s Law should make the optimist somewhat pessimistic and the pessimist somewhat optimistic, for a while, before each reverts to their norm.


A Dyson EV is on the horizon

Monday, 2 October, 2017 0 Comments

“It has remained my ambition to find a solution to the global problem of air pollution. At this moment, we finally have the opportunity to bring all our technologies together in a single product. So I wanted you to hear it directly from me: Dyson has begun work on a battery electric vehicle, due to be launched by 2020.”

So wrote Sir James Dyson to his employees last week. It was news, but not a surprise. In October 2015, Dyson bought solid-state battery company, Sakti3, for $90 million, which he said had “developed a breakthrough in battery technology.” That Dyson is working on an electric vehicle has been apparent in its recent hiring: executives from Aston Martin and Tesla are among those headhunted. Dyson says it has a team of “over 400 strong” on the project and it plans to invest more than £2 billion in the venture. The vehicle is set to hit the road in 2020, and Asia will be a key market. The company’s decision to open a tech centre in Singapore this year with a focus on R&D in AI is part of a greater global strategy.

Founded in 1987, Dyson is best known for its home appliances, including its bagless vacuum cleaners, fans, heaters and a hair dryer and the company’s revenue reportedly hit £2.5 billion last year. Because most Dyson devices use small, efficient electric motors, the company sees itself as an electric motor company, not a vacuum cleaner company, and electric vehicles are very much about motors.

Writing about Sir James and his dreams, Jack Stewart noted yesterday in Wired: “He could enforce Britain’s strong tradition of producing boutique automakers, the likes of Aston Martin, Lotus, TVR, MG, and Caterham.”

Dyson


The End of Typing

Tuesday, 8 August, 2017 0 Comments

The full title of Eric Bellman’s excellent Wall Street Journal article is “The End of Typing: The Next Billion Mobile Users Will Rely on Video and Voice.” Some commentators are criticizing the tech companies Bellman writes about on the grounds that their push for video and voice means that they have a vested interest in prolonging illiteracy. Possibly, they have, but those low-end smartphones also have the potential to enhance the lives of millions of people who are desperately disadvantaged. Snippet:

“Instead of typing searches and emails, a wave of newcomers — ‘the next billion,’ the tech industry calls them — is avoiding text, using voice activation and communicating with images. They are a swath of the world’s less-educated, online for the first time thanks to low-end smartphones, cheap data plans and intuitive apps that let them navigate despite poor literacy.”

Eric Bellman gives the last word to Megh Singh, a railway porter in New Delhi, who uses a basic Sony phone with 4GB of storage. “Life has become better. Life has become faster. I wish I had it earlier. We wouldn’t be so backward.”


Automation is different this time

Monday, 12 June, 2017 0 Comments

The automation of the past industrial revolutions will be different to the automation of the future industrial revolutions. That’s because our information age is fundamentally different to the preceding agrarian and industrial ages. Past automation led to higher productivity and created new and better jobs for an expanding, urbanizing population; future automation will happen much faster globally and outpace the creation of new jobs for migrating humans.

These arguments have been discussed by a range of futurists, especially Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots, and by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, who together wrote The Second Machine Age. Adhering to this somewhat dystopian line, Nicholas Carr, author of The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, says: “There is no economic law that says that everyone, or even most people, automatically benefit from technological progress.” Recently, the Munich-based YouTube channel Kurzgesagt sampled their core ideas for a video titled “The Rise of the Machines – Why Automation is Different this Time.”


eBike Days

Saturday, 20 May, 2017 0 Comments

Ebike days
ebike days
eBikes


It’s not English as we know it, Jim

Thursday, 18 May, 2017 0 Comments

Sample sentence: “Bitcoin.com Pool Cloud Mining offers the highest profit contracts in the cloud mining industry, due to 110% block reward and competitive contract prices. Additionally, our cloud mining contracts provide 100% guaranteed uptime and stable hashrate.”

Eh?

If you’ve ever thought about where Bitcoin comes from, the answer is that it gets “mined”. Bitcoin mining adds transactions to the block chain and releases new Bitcoin into circulation. The mining involves compiling recent transactions into blocks and trying to solve a computationally challenging puzzle. The first person who solves the puzzle gets to place the next block on the block chain and claim the rewards. The rewards include the transaction fees paid to the miner as well as the newly released Bitcoin.

Clear?

“Our mining pool has been growing fast with a hashrate of 141.19 Ph/s and now captures 2.93% of the Bitcoin network.” That’s from the introduction to yesterday’s press release announcing that Bitcoin’s cloud mining industry has been opened to the public. “Now Anyone Can Mine Bitcoin” is how the initiative is being marketed. So, instead of having to invest in our own mining gear, we can simply leap into the pool.

Pool. Mine. Cloud. Odd that the cryptocurrency is located in such real-world places.