Technology

One channel to rule them all

Monday, 4 December, 2017 0 Comments

As J.R.R. Tolkien fans know, the One Ring is the central plot element in his masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings. It’s got a malevolent power, this ring, which is not surprising as it was created by Sauron as part of his plan to conquer Middle-earth. The words inscribed on the Ring were uttered by the Dark Lord himself as he forged it:

“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them”

There is no parallel to be drawn between YouTube and the One Ring, of course, but it has turned into the internet for video content from Middle-earth. All the big players publish on Google’s channel: Amazon is there, so is Microsoft, so is Twitter, so is Facebook and Apple has now bowed to reality.

“Someone else always has to carry on the story.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


Tesla’s Burning

Friday, 24 November, 2017 0 Comments

Could be the hot title of a film, that, Tesla’s Burning. You know, in the style of Paris is Burning and Mississippi Burning. Not to forget Burn After Reading and, the very topical right now, Burn Hollywood Burn.

But this is a very different script and the full title goes: Tesla’s Burning Through Nearly Half a Million Dollars Every Hour. This is a Bloomberg production and here’s a sneak preview:

“Over the past 12 months, the electric-car maker has been burning money at a clip of about $8,000 a minute (or $480,000 an hour), Bloomberg data show. At this pace, the company is on track to exhaust its current cash pile on Monday, Aug. 6. (At 2:17 a.m. New York time, if you really want to be precise.)

To be fair, few Tesla watchers expect the cash burn to continue at quite such a breakneck pace, and the company itself says it’s ramping up output of its all-important Model 3, which will bring money in the door. Investors don’t seem concerned. Tesla shares rose almost 3 percent to $317.81 Tuesday, giving it a market capitalization of $53 billion. Ford Motor Co. is worth $48 billion.”

The “Monday, Aug. 6.” referred to there, by the way, is August 2018. So will this drama end next year? Well, the wily Elon Musk is always good for a surprise twist and last week he unveiled his latest plan to raise funds. The Tesla CEO is asking customers to pay him upfront for vehicles that may not be delivered for years yet. It’s an old trick, that, but it has worked in the past. Taking In Huge Deposits to Help Fund Tesla Through its Immense Production Challenges is not a very catchy title, but it’s far less scary than Tesla’s Burning. To be continued.


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.”