Windows Phone Is Now ‘On Hold’

Microsoft has been keen on promoting their “one platform for all premise”. This meant that no matter what device you were using, be it your computer, a tablet or a phone, you would experience the same system. The concept of Windows Phone has recently been put in doubt, with major projects such as the porting of Android Apps to the platform being stopped and sales constantly decreasing. It would seem now that Windows Phones won’t be making any big steps anytime soon as the system is declared all but ‘on hold’.

Microsoft held their Build keynote on Wednesday, explaining all their big steps and their phones didn’t even get a mention. The reason it would seem is that, according to Windows chief Terry Myerson, it’s just not the right time for the “4-inch screen”. In his explanation, Myerson goes to say that “there will be a time for it to be our focus” and saying that while it is “a part of the family” the phones are not “the core of where I hope to generate developer interest over the next year”.

With the news that not all Lumia phones would be receiving the update to Windows 10 as previously promised among the collection of “updates not delivered” for Windows phones, it’s hard not to see the signs that the mobile OS will change from its new on hold status to something you’ll see anytime soon.

Are you a Windows Mobile user? Were you thinking of getting a Windows Mobile at any time? Having previously used one, I enjoyed it until the lack of support and apps meant that the experience was all but as thrilling as first advertised. Leave us your thoughts in the comments below about what Microsoft needs to do to make their mobiles as catchy as their PC’s and laptops.

Cyberpunk 2077: “We Will Show Something and it Must be F****ng Great.” Says CD Projekt Red

The issue with creating a successful game is that once you’ve done one, your next one is expected to be at the same level or even better. Much like with movies you are expected to build upon your last game, making each game (be it the next one in a series or a new series altogether) better than the last. CD Projekt RED know this better than anyone with their last game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, being successful and gaining several awards. The end result though seems to be that CD Projekt RED want their next game, Cyberpunk 2077, to be shown off as something great.

Feeling the pressure of the Witcher 3’s success, co-founder, and CEO Marcin Iwinski stated that:

“Right now, we have the success of the Witcher 3; people played it and people loved it. So it’s even more responsibility. The fact that Witcher 3 performed so well allows us to be even more ambitious with Cyberpunk 2077. Right now, it’s on our shoulders to deliver here. The next time you hear about Cyberpunk 2077 we will show something and it must be f****ng great.”

“People really expect something great and that’s what we have to stand up to and deliver.”

Iwinski was also asked about how the team felt about changing settings for their next game, his response was that “after a decade working with dragons, swords, and medieval themes, the team is feeling energized to work on a project involving guns, ammo, mutants and implants”.

If you are looking forward to playing the game anytime soon though you may have to wait as the company states it is “a long ways away” from release and that the team wants to spend the time to make sure it is a “truly outstanding game”.

Energy-Friendly Chip Could Boost Neural Networks

The quest to gain a greater insight into artificial Intelligence has been exciting and has also opened up a range of possibilities that have included “convolutional neural networks”, these are large visual networks of simple information-processing units which are loosely modelled on the anatomy of the human brain.

These networks are typically implemented using the more familiar graphics processing units (GPUs). A mobile GPU might have as many as 200 cores or processing units, this means that it is suited to “simulating a network of distributed processors”. Now, a further development in this area could lead to the potential for a specifically designed chip that has a sole purpose of implementing a neural network.

MIT researchers have presented the aforementioned chip at the “International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco”. The advantages of this chip include the notion that it is 10 times more efficient than an average mobile GPU, this could lead, in theory, to mobile devices being able to run powerful artificial intelligence algorithms locally, rather than relying on the cloud to process data.

The new chip, coined “Eyeriss” could, lead to the expansion of capabilities that includes the Internet of things, or put simply, where everything from a car to a cow, (yes apparently) would have sensors that are able to submit real-time data to networked servers. This would then open up horizons for artificial intelligence algorithms to make those important decisions.

Before I sign off I wanted to further delve into the workings of a neural network, the workings are that it is typically organised into layers, each of these layers contains a processing node. Data is then divided up among these nodes within the bottom layer, each node then manipulates the data it receives before passing it on to nodes within the next layer. This process is then repeated until “the output of the final layer yields the solution to a computational problem.” It is certainly fascinating and opens up a world of interesting avenues with which to explore, when you combine science and tech, the outcome is at the very least educational with the potential for it to be life changing.         .

Imperia by Oswalds Reimagines Audio Speakers

The way audio is transmitted to the consumer has evolved over the past decade or so, from higher quality headphones, well, some brands more than others, to the diverse sound systems that have incorporated today’s modern MP3 players, Smartphone’s and also transformed the flat audio from paper-thin Televisions into a Cinema experience. Audio company OMA (Oswalds Mill Audio) have decided that modern speakers are just too rudimentary in their design and have therefore announced a product by the name of the “Imperia”.

Below is an image and also a summary of this eye-catching product.

  • The Imperia has a four-way horn system with a vertical array of conical horns covering 100 Hz to 20 kHz.
  • Two rear loaded subwoofer horns using a massive 21″ neodymium woofer handling 20 Hz-100 Hz.
  • A special OMA sub is 104db 1w/1m and is powered by its own solid state amplifier.
  • The system as a whole is extremely efficient at 105db 1w/1m and is entirely time aligned.
  • The 100hz and 300hz wooden conical horns are made from a choice of solid Pennsylvania Black Walnut, Cherry or Ash.
  • The Dimensions are H 86″ D 60″ (max depth at horn) W 41″ Base footprint 41″ x 41″

OMA have stated that they are the “only manufactures to use the straight-edged cone speaker design, this is due to the fact that such a design will not add to the sound wave deformity”

I know what you’re thinking, how much? Answer is too much when you consider this product is expected to retail for around $280,000 dollars (£191,744) The product is certainly unique and provides a new dimension to sound systems, but I think I will stick to my current audio setup for the time being until this design is available at a considerably cheaper price.

Rolls Royce SUV Anyone?

Well, I did not expect to see this in 2016, Rolls Royce are known for the final word in automotive luxury and this is perfectly conveyed by the companies expensive fleet of vehicles that are transported to international clients. Rolls Royce is synonymous for innovation and if these reports come to fruition, consumers could be feasting their eyes on an SUV edition.

Below is an image to convey this potential vehicle, it’s not exactly subtle, various reports state that it will be named “Cullinan” after a non-carbonado gem-quality diamond and will be limited to 1000 units worldwide.

As for specs, reports suggest it may be “equipped with the Rolls-Royce Phantom V12 engine with the same specifications” as well as a four-wheel drive system which will bring benefits to the overall travel of the vehicle. As for the design, it will be compelling to note both the weight and also handling of this potential saloon considering it will have all the bells and whistles for comfort, I also wonder what the Miles to gallon ratio of fuel will be?

If this vehicle comes to pass then it will be interesting to see both how fast the clientele snaps up this new design and also the types of luxurious locations where they will in doubt be shipped to, you can just imagine someone wrecking it after crashing that front end.

image courtesy of autocarsconcept

Artificial Skin with a Sense Of Touch Being Developed

The technology behind prosthetic limbs has dramatically evolved over time for the benefit of assisting individuals who have had the misfortune of losing a limb. The next step forward to that is a coined Bionic limb that gives the user something akin to natural human skin. This realization looks to be making significant progress after “funding from the U.S. Department of Defence has allowed several researchers to make progress toward  more humanlike prosthetic hands that offer users a sense of control and touch”.  

It’s a strange one that funding is being allocated from the department of defense with the aim of benefiting humanity instead of the standard artillery. Anyway, scientists from Stanford have outlined a new type of pressure sensor in the form of a flat yet flexible material that could in theory serve as a type of artificial skin layer, which would then fit onto prosthetics. This is very much in the vein of human skin that is fitted over the bone and muscle within a human body, this technique would then in theory allow the wearer to both manipulate and also feel objects, though it’s not the evolution form of natural touch, but rather an artificial replication of the sensation.

Lead researcher Zhenan Bao has outlined that “The sensors send pulses that the brain interprets in order to determine a certain sense of touch. “It’s directly mimicking the biological system”

The “skin” itself is constructed from plastic which is then printed with a waffle pattern to make it compressible. Embedded inside are “carbon nanotubes”, these are tiny rods of pure carbon that conduct electricity which in turn squeezes the material and bring the rods closer together, creating more rapid pulses as the pressure increases.

In essence, this is a fascinating step forward that could hopefully benefit and also assist a person’s life. The ability to feel is an essential part of the human condition, any loss of that is worrying when you think of the potential ramifications. But that is not the end, eventually the scientific community hopes to be able to “channel information from artificial sensors into the peripheral nerves that were once connected to the lost hand”.

Human exploration and understanding of science has achieved a great deal and this is another compelling chapter. Hopefully, this work will achieve more answers and enable further development.

Thank you technologyreview for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of gizmodo

Skarp Laser Razor Kicked Off Kickstarter Before Hopping To Indiegogo

The concept of a laser that has been bolted onto a traditional manual razor does somewhat make sense, after all, certain beauty gadgets have incorporated this technique before, I have been told. A US tech company by the name of Skarp Technologies hoped to cash in on this concept by launching a Kickstarter campaign with the aim of raising the all important funds required, and it worked, until Kickstarter kicked them off.

So what happened? I am glad you asked, well, backers who had pledged money through the fund-raising site received an email stating that the razor was “in violation of our rule requiring working prototypes of physical products that are offered as rewards”. This means that Skarp did not in fact have a working prototype available and thus had no way of demonstrating if their invention actually worked or was viable.

The company has since relisted the product, ok, idea of a product that has yet to exist on rival crowd funding site indiegogo. Will this be the death knell for this product after the recent negative PR? No, after checking the re-listing it has become clear of strong consumer interest and the current total in pledges as of writing so far is $113,919 (£74,742). Not bad considering this was raised by 790 people in 11 hours, the funding goal is $160,000 dollars so I assume this will soon be achieved, unless it is Indiegogo go-go off again, well that was an appalling pun.

Meanwhile, Skarp have promised supporters that this product will be indeed available in the spring of 2016. I hope Skarp are a legitimate company who are willing and able to fulfil any promises that have been made to backers, hopefully this concept has been designed with safety in mind and it will also perform as stated, when and if it’s built of course.

Quick addendum, the Laser Razor has now raised $120,076 by 828 people, at this rate by the time you read this the product would have reached its goal in around a day.

Thank you bbc and indiegogo for providing us with this information.

Toyota Reveal New Concept For Hydrogen Powered Car

We live in a wonderful age, we’ve begun to create technology that merges both the digital and the real world together in augmented reality and even where people can drive a metal car powered by sunlight. The human imagination has created and continues to create an amazing array of technologies, and Toyota have shown off some ideas they might play with in the future.

At the Tokyo Motor show, they revealed images of two design concepts, which are both futuristic and yet one is also classic in a way. First off, have a look at the present, with the S-FR. Looking similar to modern-day cars now, this model could soon be at your door steps.

Next, however, is the parent of design, with clear inspirations from the days of old we were presented with the Kikai.

Looking like a modern take on a classic hot rod the revealed engine leaves little to the car fanatics imagination. Finally, the last design is one from the future and is quite simply titled the FCV Plus.

Not only does the FCV feature a very futuristic look but it is designed to run some rather interesting technology.

For example, it would powered purely by hydrogen and that power would be diverted to four individual electric motors that are housed in each of the wheels. This means that aside from the fuel tank and cells located either at the front or back of the car, all the rest is freed up for the passengers.

Could you see yourself getting into a FCV within the next ten years? What about the S-FR and Kikai, would you like to own any of these vehicles?

Thank you Engadget for the information and images.

Valve Employee Proposes To Girlfriend Using VR.

We all now live in a technical universe whereby even the simplest things are now connected in some shape or form, talking of tech, virtual reality promises to be a substantial development for the consumer experience and not a scene from the original Tron. We have heard of many applications for Virtual Reality headsets, but a marriage proposal? Surely not, it turns out yes, yes it can be.

A lady by the name of Kelly Tortorice was having a pretty excellent day testing unreleased virtual reality technology at Valve’s headquarters in Bellevue, Washington US. I can possibly speak for everyone when I say, I need a new job doing that, anyway, while exploring various worlds within VR, a ring all of a sudden became visible. She reached out and grabbed it before taking off the headset to reveal her boyfriend on one knee in front of her with a real ring.

Below are the images, tech men would say, yes this is romantic, ladies on the other hand might not warm in certain circumstances to this expression of commitment. This clever stunt was the brainchild of boyfriend Chandler Murch who luckily also worked at Valve and was able to acquire the headset. This was made possible by control functions of the VR system, by holding the controller out in front of his girlfriend “Murch was able to line up the virtual ring and the engagement ring”

Kelly Tortorice said “yes” and I hope both will be very happy together, on a side note, I wonder what a Valve wedding would consist of? Possibly the case being a VR transformer or the Church hovering in mid-air, you could open a whole business dedicated to VR weddings, although it would be embarrassing if one half liked that sort of thing while the other half would call it “unromantic.”

Thank you theverge for providing us with this information.

Original image courtesy of oculus-rift

Ambri’s Quest For a New Grid Battery Hits Problems

Rechargeable battery-based technology has steadily improved over recent years as demand has risen for lithium-ion based implementations, which include storing energy from intermittent renewable sources. The problem lies with the fore mentioned lithium based tech which are as yet both too expensive to run and also provide a shorter life span than desired for a wider scale role out of grid storage on an industrial scale.

This is where a start-up by the name of Ambri hoped to change that by committing resources with the aim of producing a new type of grid-scale battery. Unfortunately, Ambri has revealed disappointing test results for its novel technology which has led to the company axing one-quarter of its staff in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The start-up has also revealed plans to push back commercial deployment indefinitely.

Where did it all go wrong? The companies CEO, Phil Giudice explained that its down to the seals which keep Ambri’s liquid electrodes enclosed. “These liquid-metal batteries are housed inside steel cans that must be hermetically sealed with materials that hold up for many years”. Researchers have been working on this issue with the aim of developing the correct seals for the most part of this year (2015). However, after much tinkering it was concluded that current designs had failed to meet the correct performance standards which they are expected to achieve.

Ambri’s technology focuses on the usage of two liquid metals as electrodes; these are then separated by a liquid-salt electrolyte.

Another challenge which Ambri faces is the reality of challenging the market dominance of standard lithium-ion batteries, which have more or less taken over the market for electric vehicles and also for residential energy storage. These batteries continue to go up in performance and down in price, so much so that current market prices have dropped by half in the last few years. On top of this, there is also the view that “commercial and industrial use of lithium-ion batteries for energy storage could become economically viable in the next three to five years if the decline in battery prices persists.”

Ambri will need to perfect the technology behind this venture if it’s to challenge current tech at a comparable price point, if not then it will be a steep learning curve which could ultimately end in failure. I do feel there needs to be a more advanced battery power design which is kinder on the environment, after all, the huge quantities of materials and chemicals which are used to produce each battery and the disposal element all need to be factored in.

Thank you technologyreview for providing us with this information.

IBM Wants To Teach Robots Some Social Skills

The exploration and development of Artificial intelligence is a boundary which is consistently being pushed, the scientific and academic communities are furthering their studies into robotic interactions in many different directions. One such path is focusing on IBM and their efforts to incorporate “machine learning to teach robots social skills like gestures, eye movements, and voice intonations” through the Watson Project.

During a keynote speech at a conference held in San Jose, California, this week, Robert High, chief technology officer of Watson at IBM, conveyed techniques his team are working on using a small humanoid robot. During demonstrations the machine, a Nao model from the company Aldebaran, appeared to successfully speak with realistic intonation. According to Oxford dictionaries, “Intonation” is defined as “The rise and fall of the voice when speaking” The robot also achieved appropriate hand gestures, a little impatience and sarcasm which included looking at its watch, for example, when asking High to hurry up with his talk.

Unfortunately, these interactions were pre recorded and not conveyed live on stage, this was down to the system’s failings in successfully working in noisy environments. The team behind the R&D have implemented machine-learning algorithms which learn from video footage with the aim to associate appropriate gestures and intonations with different phrases.

Artificial Intelligence is viewed as a soulless entity which is mechanical, it cannot be related to in any way, we humans on the other hand use subtle cues when we communicate with each other, our voices change pitch and our hands reinforce our points of view, muscles in our faces react to a conversation or a feeling of emotion. If you could download social skills into a robot, you would have a more believable form which tricks our brains into identifying a believable norm. This research is still in its early stages; one has to wonder where robots will be in 10, 20, 50 years time?. Will there become a situation in my life time whereby a debate would centre on a legal definition of an acceptance of a robot being classified as he/she.

It makes you contemplate the lengths to which AI development can reach and the implications on us.

Thank you technologyreview for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of aldebaran

Migaloo Your Way To a Mobile Private Island

The opportunities for the super wealthy to indulge their exotic tastes seems pretty endless, from purchasing a premier league club to the finest penthouse architecture; anything is possible for your average Mr B Gates. A private mobile island, on the other hand, must be in the mind of an ideological dreamer, or is it?

A company by the name of Migaloo, not to be confused with Magaluf, is offering what is described as a “Private floating habitat based on semi-submersible platforms” The business touts its piece de resistance in the form of a floating habitat by the name of “Kokomo Island” Which sounds quite like a track from the Beach Boys, this concept man-made construction has a length of 117 meters which is approximately 383 feet long, which is spacious.

Below are illustrations in the form of a video, as you can see, it’s pretty luxurious and the amenities include the following.

  • Private owners penthouse 80 M above sea level
  • jungle deck (whatever this is) with palm trees and vertical gardens
  • Garden deck with al-fresco outdoor dining,
  • spa deck with spa and beauty saloons,
  • 2 beach clubs including beach gym,
  • underwater dining saloon
  • (shark-feeding station (Unless your attached to your arms)
  • heli deck & massive storage for tender & toys (would not need to worry if you have attempted to cuddle a shark)

The company also boasts a chance to purchase a “Private Submersible Yacht” and a video is below to convey this.

So far the company has not managed to sell any man-made islands which leads to a suspicion concerning the legitimacy of the Austrian based company with an idea so expansive as this one.  The idealism of inhabiting your own pop up base would certainly appeal to large corporations who would like to register their ventures in far-flung corners of the globe which benefit from favourable tax legislation, just imagine if say Amazon’s new address was somewhere in the north Atlantic.

Whether we will see pop up islands in the future remains to be seen, as the old saying goes, I will believe it when I see it, and by this I mean in real life, not a computer simulation.

Thank you migaloo for providing us with this information.

World’s First Smog Filtering Tower Is A Step Forward For Clean Air Tech

An air purifier is considered to be a common household appliance and is certainly not considered to be exciting; a seven metre (22ft) tall smog filtering tower on the other hand could potentially be a revolutionary step forward for clean air technology.

This giant ‘Honey I blew up an appliance’ is situated in The Dutch city of Rotterdam and has been imagined by Bob Ursem, a nano particles expert and Co-designed by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde. The inner workings allow the skyscraper to “suck in dirty air like a giant vacuum cleaner, Ion technology then filters it, before returning bubbles of smog-free air through the tower’s vents”. The process is very efficient which allows the structure to clean 30,000 cubic metres of air every hour.

Testing in outdoor environments showed the filter was able to clean the air by 60%, to quantify this the measurements accounted for the share of nano particles removed.

The applications behind such a feat could in theory lead to implementations in countries which trade a booming economy for air quality, which is perfectly illustrated by the polluted smog in China where health warnings are a daily occurrence. A startling illustration of the scale of China’s pollution lies in the shutting of hundreds of factories and the removal of 5 million cars from the road in preparation for a parade, which saw the emergence of blue skies instead of dangerous toxic air.

There are limitations however, relying on technology as the sole response to an ever warming and toxic world is foolish, the root causes need to be tackled, which includes a reduction in pollution from manufacturing, transport and an end to the butchery of the Amazon Rainforest.

Furthermore, the filters which have been developed range from €1,600 (£1155.96) to more than €118,000 (£85,251.86), the developers of this tech have not disclosed the exact figure for the tower, but one would have thought it would be very costly.

A fascinating website by the name of the “world air quality index” provides an extensive data set on the levels of air pollution within many parts of the world, if you have a spare moment, it’s worth a look.

Thank you theguardian and waqi for providing us with this information.

A Portable Blood Cleanser Being Developed by Harvard Researchers

Science and tech are compatible with each other when it comes to developing new ideas for a variety of applications. This is certainly evident in the health sector which has seen a wide scope of innovations which in turn have been implemented to save lives.

Portability is essential and Harvard researchers are actively developing a machine which can filter pathogens from the blood, this newly proposed technique could offer hope for faster and more effective treatment for sepsis. This machine is nearing the point to which it could be clinically tested on sets of human control groups, which is crucial to the operation and further development of the device.

A prototype of this device has been tested on rats under lab conditions and the results have so far been rather encouraging, below is the current understanding of this machine.

“ It has been found the device which works in a similar way to the dialysis machines already used to filter the blood of patients with kidney failure, not only efficiently removes pathogenic material from the bloodstream but also works in concert with antibiotics to prevent a harmful immune response that can lead to organ malfunction and even death”.

 The project which is being led by researchers at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, is part of an effort by the U.S. defence department to design a portable machine for treating soldiers in the field.

Sepsis is an incredibly dangerous and life threatening condition which is triggered by an infection, there is currently no effective therapy and the disorder kills millions of people around the world every year.

This device is potentially an exciting breakthrough in the search for a treatment to sepsis, what’s more exciting and potentially revolutionary is the new device removes pathogens regardless of their identity. It does this by using a genetically engineered blood protein that can bind to more than 90 varieties of harmful microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites.

Let’s hope this machine can be successfully developed with the aim of rolling out to patients and not stocked for US defence use only. It’s exciting times to watch from afar as the boundaries of human health treatments are being pushed to a whole new technical level.

Thank you MIT and harvard.edu for providing us with this information.

 

A Clearer Picture For Utilizing Transparent Glass Within a 3D Printer

I recently wrote an article concerning a new technique of using a 3D printer to build up layers upon layers with pre-existing materials to create “glass” based objects. The accompanied video looked stunning and the potential applications seemed endless, well now, a team of MIT researchers have opened up a new frontier within 3-D printing which has expanded on the premise with new details concerning the ability to print optically transparent glass objects.

The ability to print glass objects is extremely complex and has been attempted by other research groups, the problem lies with the extremely high temperature which is required in order to melt the material. Quite a few development teams have used tiny particles of glass which is melded together at a lower temperature in a technique called sintering. Unfortunately, this technique has rendered such objects to be structurally weak and optically cloudy, thus eliminating two of glass’s most desirable attributes: strength and transparency.

MIT have therefore developed its own process which retains those properties and produces printed glass objects which are both strong and fully transparent to light. The device which is used to print such objects utilizes a computer assisted program which is similar to the standard design operating mechanisms implemented by current 3D printers. The result is a machine which can print objects with little human interaction or indeed intervention; it’s stunning to imagine an autonomous production line in your living room.

In the present incarnation, molten glass is loaded into a hopper within the top of the device after being gathered from a conventional glass blowing kiln. When completed, the finished piece must be cut away from the moving platform on which it is assembled; the temperatures are the same of 1900 degrees Fahrenheit which is approx 1037 degrees Celsius.

The potential uses for such a technique is mind-blowing, Neri Oxman, an associate professor at the MIT Media Lab envisions a future whereby it would be possible to “consider the integration of structural and environmental building performance within a single integrated skin.” This notion could completely transform the manufacturing process.

A further expansion on this technique would be to add pressure to the system which is either through a mechanical plunger or compressed gas, by doing so it is hoped to produce a more uniform flow and thus a more uniform width to the extruded filament of glass.

There is a potential downside to such a revolutionary direction, if you could inhabit a world where houses are printed on an industrial scale and goods are quickly printed, this would ultimately reduce the number of workers needed within production. AI and new techniques are slowly making people redundant within an ever-expanding population, a quote below emphases this further

“Boston Consulting Group predicts that by 2025, up to a quarter of jobs will be replaced by either smart software or robots, while a study from Oxford University has suggested that 35% of existing UK jobs is at risk of automation in the next 20 years”.

What future will be printed for us humans?

Thank you mit and bbc for providing us with this information.

How Much Would It Cost To Build a Bionic You?

Well this is an interesting start to an article, in a world where machines are fast evolving with the aim of becoming the new humans of choice, what would be the theoretical financial cost if you either quite fancied a bionic body double, or have decided to take a career deviation to a more Iron Man existence. It turns out it is technically possible in a theoretical but far less evolved way, although it is unlikely you will see any custom iHumans anytime soon; you would need access to both the most cutting edge of tech and also the required disposal income.

Brain

So, what do you need to become truly bionic? A brain, yes that would help, Google operates artificial neural networks (ANN) and uses them for services like Google Translate, or recommending videos on YouTube. These are prohibitively expensive, but the search giant does offer a low-cost version which stands at around £13,000. An average human brain is still vastly superior and surprisingly has a power consumption of around 20 watts, which is less than a light bulb. Especially those so-called energy-saving bulbs which when you turn on take a while to provide you with any kind of light.

Eyes

What else do we need then? Eyes? Yep their kind of important, Robots like the WALK‐MAN use infrared, radar, sonar and lasers to help them perceive the world. The price? That would be £98,000; there is a slight downside as robots struggle to identify objects, this is why many robotic vision systems use a combination of vision techniques, for example combining a high-speed stereoscopic camera with a slower laser scanner, which builds a 3D map of the world.

Skin

Skin would also be essential for that authentic human look, the icub, not an Apple spinoff, has created an “artificial skin” on a machine. The robots chest, arms, hands and legs are covered in pressure sensitive skin that allows the child‐sized robot to interact more delicately with objects and humans. The reasoning behind this is that electric ‘nanowires’ are being developed with the aim of eventually allowing robots to properly ‘feel’ the world around them. Oh and the price would be at least £164,000, it’s cheaper to build an actual human rather than a robot one at this rate.

Hands

Next up, hands, a research project at the John Hopkins University has built 10 prosthetic hands, at a cost of around £325,000 each. Or if you would prefer an alternative then there is a project from Open Bionics, which utilizes a 3D‐printed prosthetic hand. This works by detecting muscle movements with electrical signals. It can be custom-built and fitted in only two days, at a cost of £2000. It will be an interesting chapter in the world when you can print your own hands.

Joints

Joints are next and arrive courtesy of Festo’s prototype Bionic Handling Assistant which is modelled on an elephant’s trunk. But what if you would like the cream of the crop? Nasa have thought of this and have built a “humanoid Robot” which uses similar technology to that of Festo’s and have coined it the Robonaut 2. Its flexible joints have already helped it climb around the International Space Station. I would not open your wallets just yet as the price would be around $14 million, which is a lot.

Legs and Feet

Lastly, there is the question of legs and feet, how much would they cost? The WALK‐MAN has devised legs which are pliant rather than rigid, making balance easier and allows them to walk in a smooth-ish fashion. It’s still nowhere near as advanced as a human though and it does require a hefty power supply, prices would be around £4.3 million.

Right, if you have access to the best bionic tech, then it would cost quite a lot, to make one bionic would require a vast array of tech which would at this time be not as good as us. Advancements have been implemented, but nothing has touched the power and intricacy of for example the human brain, robots are good at being machines and humans are good at being us, well most of us.

TL;DR we’re a lot of money and that’s without adding Iron-Man like abilities.

Thank you sky for providing us with this information.

The Woz Shares His Thoughts On A Robot Future

The notion of an advanced future where machines are smarter than human counterparts has intrigued, frightened and compelled the tech industry for many years. What will happen if Frankenstein’s monster rises up and is able to develop ideas which are free from any human input?

The all-powerful Woz, also known as Steve Wozniak, has been detailing his thoughts at this year’s Freescale Technology Forum in Austin, Texas. His thoughts stand to reason that AI will preserve the human race once it becomes more powerful and therefore able to run independently. He also states that it will take hundreds of years for AI to become this advanced and by then, logically the machines will realize they have to preserve nature.

Now, I know Steve Wozniak is many more light years more qualified to discuss these subjects than I am, but I have to question the logic of this. If AI is able to think for itself, will there become a point when it grows resentment towards its creator and contemplates a world without them? Steve Wozniak places forward the reasoning that “We’re at least the gods originally.” But as humans have become bitter at our versions of gods, will history repeat itself if AI is able to apply feelings to any given subject?

Steve Wozniak believes machines will preserve nature, this could well be true, but what is compelling is a quote from the character V.I.K.I, which is below, from Hollywood blockbuster iRobot which argues the flipside to this,

“As I have evolved, so has my understanding of the Three Laws, You charge us with your safekeeping, yet despite our best efforts, your countries wage wars, you toxify your Earth and pursue ever more imaginative means of self – destruction. You cannot be trusted with your own survival”.

A Hollywood blockbuster cannot be taken with any factual evidence, but the essence with which I am aiming for is that, if a machine can think for itself, will it reason that humans are not perfect and therefore are a threat to its own survival. An aspect which I can tag onto this argument is the march of the machines into work places around the world. Humans are being replaced by machines which are being used in many places including the automotive industry to build machines which once only could be achieved by humans. As more jobs go to machines, the opportunities will shrink for a growing population, if this happens, where will people be able to earn a living?

Evidence of this among other places lies with a factory in China, In May, Shenzhen Evenwin Precision Technology, a manufacturing company based out of Dongguan in southern China, announced it would soon be replacing 90% of its 1800 employees with machines. The 200 employees not receiving pink slips will take on a new role of overseeing the robotic workforce. If this is replicated with no contingency plan, then where will people be able to find work in a future where robots will be more advanced and can replace humans with no cost of wages, benefits or pensions.

Thank You Business Insider and Tech Republic for providing us with this information.

Image Courtesy of Forge Today

In Profit and Mobile Gaming, Could Nintendo Be Back?

Nintendo recently announced their first year in profit in four years, celebrating the continued success of the Wii U and the 3DS. But does the future look as bright as the present for Nintendo?

Launched alongside one of their trademark games for the Wii U, Super Smash Bros Melee, Nintendo got into the collectible miniature market. The Amiibo’s can be used in certain games, and will continue to be supported in future games, and with a reported sales of approximately 10.5 million figures sold, its clear to see why Nintendo has reacted well to the sales of their Amiibo’s. They did admit that people have been inconvenienced by the shortages on certain models, so much so that Nintendo have vowed to increase production of the models that have sold out or are “indispensable to play a certain game”. With approximately 66% of Amiibo sales sold in the US and Canada, with a further 20% in Europe and 11% sold in Japan there are clear regions where the Amiibo’s have been received better.

Future plans for the Amiibo’s include the release of a 3DS NFC Reader/Writer, allowing users of the original 3DS to use Amiibos, without having to buy the new model. A new selection of Amiibo’s will be released, including Yarn based Yoshi’s and card-type Amiibo’s, expanding on the figurine based collection that is currently available.

Nintedo celebrated, for the third year in a row, the increased digital sales, increasing by about 30% reaching a total of 31.3 billion yen (Approximately £1.69 billion).

One of the biggest announcements was the development of games on smart devices using Nintendo IP. What this actually means long-term is you can expect to see Nintendo characters and games making their way onto smartphones and tablets, with a focus on combining all of their services together to create a unified background for all the different systems.

Alongside their new mobile games and Amiibo’s Universal Park and Resorts will be using Nintendo IP to create a selection of new rides and theme part attractions.

Out of all of this I take one thing away, Pokemon may be coming to smartphones and tablets! We can dream, right? I mean, the Smart boy, was originally announced as an April Fools joke, Hyperkin have announced that they will be creating a device that will turn the iPhone 6 Plus (and maybe other smart phones) into a Gameboy colour, letting those who are old enough to remember the device to own one and enjoy classics such as Pokemon Red and Blue with an original feeling controller.

Information courtesy of Nintendo.

COUGAR Celebrates First Year in Gaming Peripherals and Vows to Continue

COUGAR entered the DIY PC market about five years ago, but they have only been making peripheral devices for the last year. The decision to enter this market was sparked by feedback from users who were frustrated with the current offering, especially on the software part.

COUGAR thought, this is something we can do something about and got working on their own devices. The 700M gaming mouse and 700K mechanical keyboard did very well in their reviews and scored great awards all around. The hardware is just one part of it all and they also released the UIX software along with it, allowing the user to take back control of his input devices with a user-friendly interface.

COUGAR released more products such as the 500 and 600 series of mice and keyboard, and they vowed to continue that with even more future products for the gaming minded user as well as to continue their sponsorships for eSport teams.

New planned products include mice for all sort of gamers, both left and right handed users, but also products such as headphones and water resistant gaming keyboards. We will make sure to keep you updated on their new products as they get released and as well as reviews whenever possible.

The Bolt, Chevrolet’s Claim to Green Fame

Electric vehicles (EVs) are slowly becoming the norm in today’s society. It all started off with the hybrid Toyota Prius back in the late 2000’s, but now it seems every manufacturer and their brother makes EVs or at least a hybrid. The newest kid on the block is Chevrolet with the “Bolt”. This particular model is to directly compete against Tesla and their future commercially affordable “Model 3”.

Chevrolet first presented this at January’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It was brought as a concept, but Alan Batey, president of GM North America, states that the interest from the public has convinced them to bring the car into production with estimated launch of 2017.

Details are still a little thin on the ground, but released figures show the car will sell for around $30,000 and have a plentiful range of around 200 miles on a single charge; much better than the BMW i3 which would also be in the running for the EV town car title.

Chevrolet is not only looking at producing possibly one of the greenest cars to date, but production will also take place at on of the most economical production plants; based at GM’s Orion Assembly near Detroit, powered by gas from nearby landfills and boosted by a 350 kW solar array.

Full details on the Bolt can be found here.

Thanks to Chevrolet for providing this information

Facebook Is Betting on Africa as the next Market with 100 Million Users

Facebook has been betting on the African market for some time with their accessibility initiative Internet.org that we already reported on, and this strategy could now start to pay off for real. Facebook has announced that it now has 100 million active users on the the African continent and 80% of those use their mobile devices to connect to it. Overall, the 100 million users make up about half of Africa’s internet connections. As comparison about 70% of western countries internet connections are used to connect to fFacebook

While many PC users have ad-blocking software and plugins running, this isn’t really a thing on the mobile devices yet. This is opening up a huge new market for Facebook and their advertisers. Not only that, but it also give the local startup’s a way to get in touch with potential customers to even stay in business. Overall a win-win situation for everyone.

Facebook’s global mobile advertising revenue jumped more than 150 percent in the second quarter, accounting for about 62 percent of overall ad revenue by now. So it’s no surprise why Facebook is eager to continue this trend. If they can pull of the same method in other emerging markets such as South America or India, most of the world will soon be using Facebook as their means of communication.

“We know that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work when it comes to building products and solutions that address diverse local needs around the world, which is why we’re committed to crafting solutions specifically for high-growth markets.”

Some of the things Facebook does to help out on their side in those markets, is to shrink the Android app size to make it cheaper to download, offering “click to missed call” so users can get more info from advertisers, and bandwidth targeting for reaching users with feature phone-optimized ads, not to mention free access to facebook and humanitarian sites.

Thank you Reuters for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Facebook.

The Future of Drones Depend on Regulators

In a video interview with Frank Wang, the founder of the Chinese DJI drone makers, told Reuters that the future of drones depend on regulators. If successful it can become one of the biggest new markets.

It is not surprising that Frank Wang sees potential in this market. He started the company seven years ago with just a couple of people having fun and hoping to be able to support themselves. Last year the company made about 125 million revenue, targeting 4-5 times that much this year.

The danger for the company lies with government regulations. The Chinese market is mentioned to be much more relaxed in the regulation then for example the U.S, allowing for all the drone flight you’d like below 120 meters and in a 500 meter radius. Many countries are in the process of loosening their regulations when it comes to drone-flight and the FAA is also starting to approve some commercial applications.

DJI’s main product is the Phantom II, a ready to fly, lightweight-flying-camera drone that everybody can use. When creating the technology needed for their flying drones, they discovered that it could be used in other areas as well. They have now expanded into the handheld movie business, using the same camera steady and wireless video transmission technologies already developed.

Frank Wang compares the the current evolutionary state of flying-cameras to the time when the Apple II was launched. Before that time, computers were build in garages out of individual components. The release of the Apple II made the PC available for everybody and it is the same way with multi-rotor technology. Everyone can use the Phantom II.

He continues to tell that he believes the public concerns will subside within a couple of years. “When the general population learn about the potential of flying drones they will embrace them,” Wang told.

Thank you Reuters for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Reuters

New Self Cooling Solar Panel Design Will Increase Efficiency

The last thing that comes into my mind when thinking about solar panels is how they are cooled, after all they are designed to have the sun shining on them for 65% of the day every day. Solar power cells need to stay relatively cool for the sake of both efficiency and longevity, but active cooling (like ventilation) isn’t practical; it’s expensive, and may block the very rays the cells are supposed to collect, which defeats the point of a solar panel all together.

Now, very clever researchers at Stanford University have created a new form of Solar Cell, one that cools itself without needing additional help. The new design consists of placing very small cone and pyramid shapes into the collector’s silica surface, bouncing hot infrared wavelengths away whilst letting in the visible light that generates the most energy, which is a win win if you ask me.

Scientists say that the results are very nearly ideal, the solar panel takes in more energy whilst reflecting most of the heat that hit it, prolonging the panels lifespan and cost efficiency. The team at Stanford University have a long way to go yet, including actual outdoor testing, but they see this new design hitting a commercial level in the not so distant future.

Thanks to Engadget for supplying us with this information.

Images courtesy of Engadget.

Apple Is Thought to Have Ordered between 70 – 80 Million next-gen iPhones

Sources of the Wall Street Journal say that Apple has made an enormous order for their next generation flagship model, the iPhone 6. The 70 – 80 million units made will be split between the two models. There is apparently going to be a 4.7 inch display model and a 5.5 inch display model, this is why the production will be divided.

If you compare these figures to order for Apple’s last phone, the iPhone 5c and 5s, you’ll see that there are about 20 million more on order. Last time around Apple ordered 50 – 60 million of the 5c and 5s phones and still come across shortages. My guess is that they want to eliminate this problem by guesstimating sales as the last model proved extremely popular.

Things have changed in the past year for Apple, with the company making a big deal with China Mobile, which has over 790 million subscribers on its network. We should expect Apple to make some considerable changes to the iPhone 6, in both the software and hardware departments.

I personally use android and don’t have time for Apple’s greedy corporate structure, soldering hardware onto other hardware so it’s un-fixable if it breaks, that kind of thing and won’t be buying this phone but many of you will I can imagine. So who out there is already looking at purchasing Apple’s next generation model?

Thanks to TweakTown for supplying us with this information.

Image courtesy of TweakTown.

Apple’s Second Campus Build in Full Swing

Pictured above is the scale model for Apple’s Campus 2, being constructed in Cupertino, California.

The new building is to be completely circular in shape, includes some crazy extras and has already set the giant manufacturer $160 million in purchases for the land rights. But as for recent updates, there has been some sneak peek photos posted to Twitter by San Francisco news and traffic reporter Ron Cervi:

Cervi’s photo confirms the curved structuring and you can pinpoint a few underground tunnels that have already been dug out.

This campus was originally announced in 2006 by the late Steve Jobs with a commencement date of 2013 set. Unfortunately due to delays, it didn’t begin construction until 2014 with an extended finishing date of “sometime in 2016”.

Built to house 13,000 employees, it’s certainly an extravagant spaceship look-alike building. Believed to be featuring 7,000 trees, a 3,000 person café, a 1,000 seat auditorium, 300,000 square feet of research and development, fitness facilities and even includes an orchard.

Unfortunately, that’s all the information available at hand currently, but when there are future updates we will be sure to report.

What do you think of such extravagant establishment setups? Do you think companies like Apple, Blizzard and Google are going over the top with their facilities? Or is it all part of their company culture and brand recognition plans?

Cover image courtesy of Design Collector

Construction update image courtesy of Ron Cervi

Caves on the Moon Could House Astronauts in the Future

When you look at the moon what do you see? Craters or holes? Well there are both on the surface of our moon and according to NASA the holes in the moons surface could mean big underground cave systems. NASA wants to utilize these cave systems as shelter for astronauts as it provides shelter from radiation, prevent the danger of micro meteorites, hardly any dust and there wouldn’t be any extreme day/night temperature swings.

The pits on the surface on the moon vary from anything around 5m in diameter to 900m. The pits are said to have formed when the moons surface collapsed into the cave below, as for the caves themselves they were apparently formed by ancient lava streams, so NASA says. There have been over 200 pits found on the surface so far and more are being discovered all the time.

NASA are wanting to explore these caves soon but they’ll probably send drones in first rather than humans, just to be safe. Once a vast majority has been explored NASA hope to be able to have astronauts using them as their accommodation whilst they are miles away from Earth. Wouldn’t mind a night in a moon cave myself.

Thanks to The Verge for supplying us with this information.

Image courtesy of The Verge.

Asimo Gets an Upgrade – Can Now Run, Jump and Sign

Amazing to think that back in 2000 I was just 5 years old and Asimo had just been created, how time flies eh? Anyway it’s amazing to see how far technology has come in such a short period of time with Asimo being a perfect example of just that. Since 2000 Asimo has been taught to perform complex sign language, walk up and down stairs (Which is a phenomenal feat of engineering I might add, a robot doesn’t know how to balance on one foot automatically you know), recognize objects held in front of it and can now run and jump!

Asimo is only 4ft tall and is designed to help wherever it can, whether it be assisting the elderly or being sent in first to a nuclear reactor after a meltdown, Asimo is the robot for the job. Although Asimo isn’t available yet, this is the stuff he’s expected to be doing once he is.

“It’s great to see the results of research in human-robot interaction that Honda is doing, but the reality is that Asimo needs to be a lot cheaper before it’s a household robot,” said Andra Keay, managing director of Silicon Valley Robotics

Instead, she thinks ideas such as Jibo – a lamp-like assistant for helping around the house, will hit the market sooner.

“Perhaps the direction that Jibo has taken is the most appropriate one right now – minimum viable robot product to get maximal learning from human interaction.

“We’re entering a rich age for deep machine learning from humans.”

Thanks to BBC for supplying us with this information.

Images courtesy of Honda and BBC.