Week in Geek – a roundup of science, technology and pop culture news with commentary each Friday
The three-day long International Consumer Electronics Show wraps up today, Jan. 9, in Las Vegas. The annual show, which started in 1967, has seen product debuts from VCRs to smart TVs and this year, wearable technology was featured prominently, particularly in the area of smartwatches. Last week i previewed the nine teams of innovative CWRU entrepreneurs exhibiting at the show, and i hope to follow-up with them to find out how it went once they return.
In the meantime, highlights from CES show that yesterday’s science fiction is rapidly becoming everyday consumer technology, with marketplaces for everything from 3D printing to robotics and intelligent vehicles. Keep in mind this is consumer electronics – a trade show for things you can expect to see with increasing frequency in our everyday lives.
Everybody’s been dropping the wearables tag when it comes to the hot items at the show. In the smartwatch arena, to me it looks like a lot of the selections are visually run-of-the-mill analog varieties but with some techno-twists to them. Perhaps these hold more appeal for people not yet prepared to embrace the kind of future where we all wear spaceage jumpsuits, and for my money the ones that stood out most are the sleeker varieties, like this one:
Designed to function primarily as a cellphone, this Bluetooth 3.0 bracelet pairs with your mobile device and has its own speakers, microphone and OLED display. Incoming calls cause it to vibrate, and if the caller is in your contact list, their name will display on the screen. Both Siri and Google Now voice-activation are supported, and there are currently three models available. The G1 and G2 lite both retail for about $80 and the G2 Pro for $90. According to MOTA’s website, you can expect 180 minutes of talktime and 72 hours of standby.
LookSee is another Bluetooth bracelet that seeks to combine fashion and technology. It has an E ink display that reduces power consumption, and the always-on customizable display can be used for notifications like text, photos, clock faces, maps and more.
The most exciting wearables imo are ones like the i.amPULS which makes a distinct point that it is not a smartwatch – it is a computer on your wrist. Growing up in the 80s, my best friend and i used to pretend we were superspies who had gadgets like this. Now, you don’t have to be part of a secret organization (or Inspector Gadget’s niece Penny) to have an untethered computer device strapped to your wrist.
Cluing in to this device’s name, it is the brainchild of musician will.i.am, so naturally the promo video on the product website features him and starts off showing how the music capabilities function. The i.amPULS does much more than just play music though. An independent device, it does not require a separate smartphone to sync with, and in fact is itself a functioning phone. Users can also send Tweets, check Facebook, send SMS and emails, manage photos and has built-in GPS.
Still a relatively new market, smartwatches show no signs of slowing down. A fully-functioning computer strapped to your wrist gives consumers a viable alternative to the already diverse options for mobile computing and one that i believe will be well-received. They offer a relatively hands-free experience and all the functions we typically use throughout the day through voice-activation. It’s possible to conceive they may actually replace the cell phones we’re so used to, and i can definitely envision a paradigm shift from a package of home computer-tablet-cell phone to convertible laptop/tablet combo and smartwatch only. It reduces the total number of devices while increasing mobility. Add to that the variety of peripherals with wireless syncing and the movement towards the Internet of Things, and i envision a definite sea change in how we look at our computing lifestyles.
Outside of offering another option to the slate of mobile devices alongside your laptop, tablet and cellphone, another wearable that caught my attention is TempTraq, an adhesive bandage for infants that acts as a thermometer. Equipped with a Bluetooth-connected sensor, temperature is tracked continuously and alerts are made via smartphone. Admittedly, my first reaction to this was a bit wary, because my mind immediately made the jump to proliferation of this kind of technology that could be used to track us all someday. But like all technology, there is the potential for abuse. Overall though, technological advances in medicine used to improve health care are a plus, and expanding technology like this for patient care is a move in a good direction.
In the realm of computing, there was no of shortage tablets, cell phones and laptops. Some of these went beyond what we’re familiar with already and presented innovative hybrid devices that look like they’d be right at home on the bridge of a starship.
The HP Sprout is an all-in-one TouchSmart PC equipped with a scanner and cameras – note the plural. Running up the back of the workstation is the Illuminator Column that bends over the top of the display and projects an image onto the touch-sensitive mat. Documents or objects placed on the mat can be scanned in both 2D and 3D, and can be used for onscreen animations or for printout on a 3D printer. It retails for about $1900.
The convertible Lenovo LaVie is one of the lightest 13-inch PCs shown at CES, with tough but lightweight magnesium-lithium alloy construction around two pounds. The hinge allows this laptop to function as a tablet, and the Intel Core i5 processor can handle most everyday jobs with high speeds. It retails for about $1300.
Aimed at the consumer market, this 3D printer lists for about $350 and is designed for ease of use. The device’s SD card slot means users can print directly from an SD card without needing a computer interface, a feature that gives it more appeal as a shared device in places like schools and libraries. Every day, there are more uses and advances in 3D printing that means sooner or later these will be as common and ubiquitous in our homes as any other household appliance. It would not surprise me if, a few years down the road, we’re replacing protein cartridges in these things and 3D printing our dinners.
What would a consumer technology show be without drones? That’s right, for just $2900 you can have your very own flying drone with 24fps video capability through its 20mm wide-angle camera lens. For an extra $400 you can get the dual-remote version so one person can fly it while another operates the detachable camera. All paranoia aside, drones are an rapidly-emerging niche for hobbyists who in years past made due with RC planes and those annoying helicopter things that shopping mall demonstrators buzz past your head while you’re walking past. Independent filmmakers will also find these sorts of gadgets useful for getting the kinds of shots they could only have dreamed of without at least a moderate budget.
By the end of the show today, there were more than 3200 exhibitors showing their stuff at CES 2015. If you would like to find out more about the show, Flipboard has a handy CES 2015 aggregate filled with coverage from the show floor. Check back here in 2016 and maybe i’ll be a part of that coverage, too. Visiting CES would be an amazing and a fantastic opportunity to discover and cover great new technology making its way into our lives.
Cleveland – Innovation Hub and all around great place
Back in November, i mentioned how Cleveland is becoming known as a hub of innovation. Just the other day, that idea was again presented by Popular Mechanics in an article called Medicine, Manufacturers, and Furniture-makers turned Cleveland into an Innovation Hub.
Thanks in part to both the city’s resurgence in manufacturing, and the investment in medical technology and research, Cleveland is re-inventing itself and its image from a grey Midwestern steel town into a center where new methods, ideas and processes are being developed on the cutting-edge.
In addition to the great strides Cleveland has made to foster this growth, it’s also one of the top 50 places to visit, according to Travel + Leisure, alongside places like Fez, Morocco; Rotterdam, Netherlands; and Milan, Italy.
The repurposing of historic buildings and return of young professionals to downtown are cited as major reasons for the revival, as well as the selection of luxury hotels for out-of-town visitors.
The Cleveland Convention Center has also made an impact on the city’s success, as it prepares to host the 2015 Republican National Convention. In the meantime, the center has attracted other big-ticket shows like Wizard World – one of the biggest comic book and pop culture conventions in North America…and one that i’ll be covering both here at The Long Shot and, along with entertainment editor Mark Meszoros, for The News-Herald.
Cleveland is also known quite well for the food scene, boasting as the hometown of celebrity chef Michael Symon as well as a host of great restaurants in the downtown area and scattered throughout Northeast Ohio. There’s also established institutions like the famous West Side Market.
On top of all that, Cleveland has an amazing cultural scene, too. The Museum of Contemporary Art is a world-renowned place that underwent an amazing reconstruction in 2012, and the nearby Cleveland Institute of Art’s $75 million expansion is nearly complete. Downtown, Playhouse Square in the Theater District is the largest performing arts center in the U.S. outside of New York.
And, i’m not a sports guy by any stretch, but we got LeBron James back so that’s got to count for something right?
If you happened to watch the video on the Popular Mechanics website, you may have caught the segment where Matt Beyer, director of business development at LeanDog, talked about their role in complimenting established manufacturing companies in Cleveland as a strategic partner and helping them keep pace with the demands of the global economy.
LeanDog has been a great friend to me, too. By visiting their monthly meetups, i’ve not only been introduced to the fascinating world of code, but i’ve made several connections with other Cleveland innovators. This Sunday, Jan. 11, i’ll be on the Software Boat again for Coderetreat, a day-long practice event focused on the fundamentals of software development and design. So be sure to visit here next Friday and read about how that goes.
This morning, i awoke to find that there was a new Producer’s Letter posted on the DDO forums. Executive Producer Robert Ciccolini – or Severlin as he’s known on the forums – gave players a rundown of some of the things we can expect this year for Dungeons & Dragons Online. It would have been cool if they had dropped some of this on me back in September when i interviewed members of the development team, but alas.
The biggest news in the letter is an update on what we can expect from the adaptation of the Temple of Elemental Evil, a classic D&D adventure making its way to DDO much like the Haunted Halls of Eveningstar did in 2014. Severlin says the temple grounds will be quite large, with lots of danger and treasures to find inside the halls and chambers.
Monster Champions, which so far have caused a huge amount of debate on the forums, will be getting their own collectible system in the form of Mysterious Fragments resonating with magical power. Various agents scattered about the public areas will be interested in these fragments, which players can redeem for scrolls, potions, cosmetic items and even rare pets.
A new class is on the horizon, too. The Warlock is making its way to DDO, bringing their eldritch blasts to the battlefront. New classes are always an exciting time for players to discover new playstyles and multiclass combinations. Personally, i’m most interested to see how (or if) they will implement the various pacts warlock’s make in order to gain their powers. In the tabletop version of D&D, warlocks have pact options with the fey realm, demons and otherworldly entities akin to Lovecraftian elder gods. Colloquially, these resulted in names like feylock and starlock (i don’t remember the slang for the demon pact one – darklock?). When 4th edition D&D came out i made a starlock and had quite a bit of fun with that so we’ll see how it translates to DDO. To be honest, i would have loved to read that they were adding psionics to the mix first, and maybe someday we’ll see them in-game but for now, news of any new class is good news.
The Vale of Twilight and Shavarath are getting updates and new adventure packs in line with the level cap raise to 30. The more powerful and dangerous Vale will also introduce an update to the classic, beloved Greensteel equipment system. i say beloved because the items are very powerful and useful, but i can’t speak from experience because despite playing DDO since 2006 i have yet to acquire a single piece of Greensteel equipment. One day i hope to at least get that Trap-the-Soul heavy repeating crossbow made, but for now i just have the blank sitting in my vault.
Speaking of the level cap raise, players who reach the new cap of 30 can expect additional feats and power, as well as construct new weapons and treasures. That last part intrigues me the most, as i hope this means they will update the Cannith Crafting system to include all the prefixes and suffixes available on random lootgen, and maybe even allow us to craft clickies…? Here’s hoping.
Finally, there are some new festivals planned for 2015 including a mimic-themed event where players hunt down the diabolically disguised creatures, and a new seasonal festival hinted to be Halloween-themed. A later forum response from Severlin confirmed that “the mimic hunt is actually one of the fun things we have planned for our anniversary,” Severlin wrote. “I believe the Mabar items are still planned as rewards for the mimic hunt. We want to have an entirely new festival around the Halloween time, and that would also include appropriately themed items.”
* * * * *
Thanks for reading the 11th Week in Geek in addition to visiting The Long Shot. Of course, there were many more exciting things that happened in the world of science, technology and pop culture this week…but these were the ones that most caught my attention. If you have any news you’d like to share, drop me a line and let me know – i try to keep up with stuff but i can’t read everything!
If you would like some further reading, about some science and technology stuff that happened this week, here’s a few links i hope you find as interesting as i did:
- In 10 years your job may not exist. Here’s how to make sure you’re still employable
- Samsung calls for openness on net of things
- Toyota is open-sourcing hydrogen fuel cell patents
- SpaceX Falcon 9 launch called off
- This comes after news of the canceled rocket recovery plan, had it launched
- Secret of long life may be written in stars
- ‘Alien Earth’ is among eight new far-off planets
- Philae comet lander eludes discovery
- Smart home orb controls it all
Follow @longshotist on Twitter for frequent shares of related articles and (hopefully) humorous nonsequiters.
Week in Geek will be back next Friday, Jan. 16 and i’d love to see you here!
Remember – if you would like to contribute to The Long Shot, i’d be happy to make that happen!
Week in Geek also appears alongside other great blogs at The News-Herald Blogs (click the logo at the top right of the page for the main site).
Thanks for reading!