Reuters Poll Shows Industry Leaders Believe Mobile Phone Sales Will Shrink

December 16 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Economics   Year: 2009   Rating: 6 Hot

phonedeath.jpgReuters reports that most leaders in the mobile phone industry see sales plummeting in response to the global economic crisis.  "On average, the poll of 36 analysts shows global market volumes shrinking 6.6 percent next year and 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter -- traditionally the strongest period for the industry due to holiday sales."  The interesting note is that a similar poll in early November saw predictions that the market would grow by 2.6% next year.

We all know the economy is going to crap, so it's not surprising that people are going to stop buying things they don't really need.  For many, that's a brand-spanking new cellphone.  Our culture has become (or always has been) a sort of throw-away culture where if your technology isn't the latest then you're way behind the curve.

iPhone after iPhone is thrown away, replaced by a new one ten times better and sexier, only to get replaced less than a year later.  This economic jolt might be what it takes to get people to start sticking to their stuff, quell the need for the latest and greatest, and stop shopping smartly.  Imagine a phone where you could switch out some of the components instead of buy a whole new product.  Like a computer tower, just upgrade the parts instead of buying a whole computer.  Honestly though, I see this as unlikely.

Image: Tim Psych (Flickr, CC-Attribution)

HP and ASU Develop a Cheap Flexible Electronic Display

December 08 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2009   Rating: 2

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HP and the Flexible Display Center at Arizona State University announced their first prototype of a flexible screen that is both easy to produce and affordable.  Made almost entirely out of plastic, the displays hope to revolutionize the size of our electronics such as laptops, phones and televisions.  The amazing thing about it is their prototype consumes 90% less material than traditional displays of the same screen size.

It's been difficult for flexible screens to break into the mass market due to their cost and complicated design, but with recent breakthroughs like this we can expect flexible displays start to show up in our everyday lives by next year.  I mean, if they can build a plant that can crank out thousands of feet of thin film solar fairly quickly, it would make sense they could use the same type of production to mass-produce flexible displays.

via BusinessWire

Need WiFi On That Roadtrip? Bring it Along With MiFi

December 10 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2009   Rating: 4 Hot

You've got a laptop, a cellphone, a digital camera and at least one other gadget in your arsenal.  Sadly, only your phone gets internet which costs about $60 a month.  You thought about getting mobile internet for your laptop but that was another $60 plus the cost of the USB drive.  You're tired of hopping from coffee shop to coffee shop looking for internet on trips.  What do you do?

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Novatel, a company specializing in mobile information technology, will soon release MiFi, a mobile WiFi system run through cellular phone lines.  MiFi acts as your own personal WiFi system which you can link to from any of your mobile gadgets.  On a road trip you can carry it along for any of your passengers to latch onto.  With a 4 hour life-span or 40 hours on standby, business trips might be just that more bearable.

Flying on Jatropha Biofuel

December 10 2008 / by amisampat
Category: Transportation   Year: 2009   Rating: 5 Hot

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By Ami Sampat

What Happened?
Continental Airlines and Boeing are preparing for the first flight of a plane run partially on next generation biofuels, which will leave on January 7 from Houston, Texas. Continental and Boeing's joint venture will be the first American plane to use jatropha as a biofuel. This biofuels milestone follows Virgin Atlantic's earlier test run, using coconut oil and babassu oil.

Why is this important?
Biofuels would not only help reduce the airline industry's carbon emissions but it could also be a more stable source of fuel.

The January 7th flight is going to be fueled by a 50/50 blend of traditional jet fuel and biofuels derived from algae and jatropha fuel. Jatropha is a shrub (non-food crop) grown on marginal lands.  Its oil-rich seeds can be used to make biofuels. The first commercial scale Jatropha operations are now being tested in India,  China, Indonesia, Malaysia and West Africa

What's Next?
Provided the test run goes well next month, this could open doors for the airline business and biofuel producers looking to capture a part of the aviation biofuel market.

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Commuters to Generate Electricity From Walking Into Train Station

December 08 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2009   Rating: 1

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A train station in Tokyo, Japan has put up a demo LED display which is powered by pedestrians stepping on a spring-board type power generator.  "A person weighing 60kg (132 lbs) can generate 0.5W by stepping on the panel twice."  The small panel you see above generates enough power for the LED screen to light up and display how much power has been generated so far.  Although it will be removed by the end of the year, it still shows the potential power we can generate from the human body.

img_photo1.jpgThe greatest thing about this demo is it's sheer practicality in the real world.  So many have been talking about solar panel highways or body-heat generating mobile devices, but not so much about kinetic energy.  The energy-generating springboard has the additional benefit of being comfortable on the feet and back, something cement and pavement clearly lack.  If these were installed in every pedestrian zone (heck, even on roads) it would feel like walking on a basketball court which are in themselves springy.  If it proves to be more beneficial instead of developing a solar asphalt, it may just take over ground-level solar production.

via Digital World Tokyo

Apple Aplies for Mysterious Patent, OLED Touchscreen On The Way?

December 05 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2009   Rating: 2

A while back I reported on Microsoft's prototype called the SideSight, a cellphone which uses infrared sensors to determine your hand movement.  Now it turns out Apple has applied for a patent on just that.

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Sure, the image isn't too clear, but what you see is a possible infrared sensor array using LEDs or OLEDs as the sensor.  You'll be able to rotate displays with just a wave of your hand if you bring it close to the screen.  It doesn't stop there too.  Apparently they're looking into the same technology for a possible OLED iPhone that will feature these sensors.  Now THAT would be awesome.

via OLED-display.net

Emotiv Systems Hits Roadblock, Delays Release Until 2009

December 02 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2009   Rating: 2

project-epoc-wireless-mind-reading-headset.jpgJohn Callaham over at Big Download reports that Emotiv Systems, the company that was expected to release a brain-wave controller by the end of the year, is delaying its release due to issues of it actually working.  The press release where it was unveiled at the Game Developers Conference may be a sign.  "The public demo didn't go as planned; the device simply didn't work in front of the media who attended the press conference."  And while the company later explained that the product didn't work properly due to "interference from wireless transmitters," it's probably safe to say that the product didn't work because it simply isn't working.

I guess we all should have seen it coming.  A Brain Controlled Interface which is good enough to control video game characters seemed too good to be true for a 2008 release, and I guess it was.  What Emotiv probably found out was that technology as specific as this, much like Google's Voice Recognition software, takes a lot of time to perfect.  Google 411 has been working for years, using hundreds of thousands of voices to finally make a viable product.  Emotiv needs more time to do just the same.  The real question is how long will it take?  2009?  Let's hope.

Augmented Reality Pop-Up Books for the Kids

December 01 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Technology   Year: 2009   Rating: 5 Hot

"You can have children reading about Alice in Wonderland ... and Alice can pop out of the page, and have a tea party on the page."

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Every amazing new technology needs to be wrapped in an equally elegant high-demand application if it is to diffuse past just the military on through the human masses.  Often the first killer app is targeted at youth (ie, Facebook, Club Penguin, MMORPGs), then gradually spreads upward to older generations that require more convincing and immediately useful applications.

When it comes to augmented reality, it's possible that a company called Mixed Reality Lab (MXR), a spin-off owned by the National University of Singapore, is on the verge of creating such a cross-over app: Virtual 3D Pop-ups for Children's Books. 

Coming on the heels of MXR's real-time augmented battlefield displays, the new Magic Books product aims to generate revenue from mommies and daddies who feeled compelled to get their kids interfacing with the most advanced new media.

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Toshiba Unveils 16GB MicroSDHC, Bright Future for Computer-phone Interactions

November 26 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2009   Rating: 5 Hot

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Toshiba recently announced that they would start producing a 16-Gigabyte MicroSDHC in January of next year.  "Toshiba Corp. (Toshiba), a leading innovator in memory card technologies and solutions, and Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc. (TAEC), its subsidiary in the Americas, today reinforced their memory card line-up with the launch of a 16GB microSDHC card offering the largest capacity available in the market."  Although the smaller chip only transfers at 6Mps instead of the faster 20Mps, the fact that 16 Gigabytes can be crammed into such a small area could mean huge changes in the computer/smartphone environment.

The bridge between phone and computer has been constantly blurring with the increase of mobile internet use among smartphone users.  The ability to link the phone and the computer so far has been relegated to files and applications both share.  The increased space on the phone could be used for more files, but it could also be used as a back-up for your computer.

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Honda's New Fuel-Feedback System - Behavior Modification Applied to Real-Time Driving

November 27 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Technology   Year: 2009   Rating: 7 Hot

As sensors and computers continue to spread throughout the world they quantify our environment and offer the opportunity of real-time feedback.  Case in point is Honda's new "Ecological Drive Assist System for Enhanced Real World Fuel Economy", a sensor/display system that learns your driving style and conditions you to become a more ecologically conscious driver.

Here's what the interface will look like:

Honda Ecological Drive Assist System for Enhanced Real World Fuel Economy

 
And here's Honda's description of the new system:

TOKYO, Japan, November 20, 2008– Honda Motor Co., Ltd. announced the development of the Ecological Drive Assist System, which combines three functions to enhance fuel economy: the ECON Mode utilizes harmonized control of the continuously variable transmission (CVT) and engine to support more fuel-efficient driving; the guidance function uses speedometer color to provide real-time guidance on fuel-efficient driving; and thescoring function provides feedback about current driving practices, as well as feedback on cumulative, long-term fuel-efficient driving.

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OLED Is Now Where LCD Was 10 Years Ago: Tiny, Expensive, Awesome

November 25 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Gadgets   Year: 2009   Rating: 5 Hot

Sony is finally selling the worlds first Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) television. At 3mm wide (imagine a stack of three credit cards, that’s how thick) it boasts an HD display, an aspect ratio of 16:9, Dolby Digital Surround Sound, and a contrast ration of one million to one. The greatest feature I feel is the ability to turn off the pixels in areas of the screen that are meant to display black — too often a black screen glows annoyingly making colors seem blurry. This set is sharp.

And while this amazing beast is going to eventually kill off old power-hungry LCD televisions over the next few years, right now it is tiny and expensive as Hell. How much you say? With a screen size of 11-inches (diagonal) and costing $2,500 on the Sony site, it gives one pause.

I remember the first LCD computer screen I ever bought in 2001. It cost an arm and a leg, but it beat those old 40-pound monoliths everyone else was sporting those days. I showed it off to all my friends, laughing when they had to move their belongings from apartment to apartment, lugging their computer monitor like a dead weight everywhere they went. I enjoyed this feeling for about a year or two before my world came to an end with even thinner LCD monitors costing half the price of mine. I wept silently.

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America's New Face to the World

November 20 2008 / by DSMason
Category: Government   Year: 2009   Rating: 2

Cross-posted fromThe End of the American Century

The election of Barack Obama sends a signal to the rest of the world that the U.S. can behave differently.

In the last chapter of my book The End of the American Century, I write that “a best-case scenario for the future of the United States would have to begin with new political leadership” and that the first thing a new president could do “would be to mend American relations with the rest of the world and to temper the unilateralism, hubris and militarism that have made it so difficult for the United States to work with other countries in solving pressing global issues.”

The election of Barack Obama is a big first step for the United States in changing our orientation to the rest of the world, and the way the world sees the U.S.

As Britain’s Economist magazine put it, in its endorsement of Obama as “the next leader of the free world”—“Merely by becoming president, he would dispel many of the myths built up about America: it would be far harder for the spreaders of hate in the Islamic world to denounce the Great Satan if it were led by a black man whose middle name is Hussein; and far harder for autocrats around the world to claim that American democracy is a sham.”

He is widely seen as a leader who is open to the views of others, and willing to work with other countries. France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a handwritten letter of congratulations to the U.S. President-elect, said “your election raises immense hope” in Europe and beyond, “of an open America. . .that will once again lead the way, with its partners, through the power of its example and the adherence to its principles.”

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