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Thoughts on the Future of Technology from ceBIT

Say What attended ceBIT last weekend where I was a keynote speaker. I took a few moments to talk with him about my thoughts on the conference, the iPad 2, Skype and FaceTime.

While the conference has gotten a bit smaller over the years (as with other trade shows), I definitely was surprised to see just how big ceBIT was. In my mind, it saw more attendees than even CES did this year. I hate seeing the decline: trade shows are really the only way you can get out there to see the new products and meet the people and teams behind them. You simply cannot make that same connection through a web page or social media account.

I have to say that the coolest things I saw at the conference dealt with assistive devices, such as the intendiX. I’ve long said that technology is becoming more pervasive rather than invasive. That has never been more apparent than it was during my time in Germany.

Some of the things I witnessed while I was here blew my mind. These types of advancements were things we only dreamed of less than ten years ago. Technology is transforming the human experience. I may be able to walk, talk and see but not everyone can do those things. The technologies of today are making it so that everyone is on a level playing field. It’s bridging the gap between those who already could – and those who were waiting for that little bit of help to be able to.

I believe the best and most important tech advances come from simple hacks. Take the Kinect: we’d have never had something of this magnitude if it weren’t for hackers who were tinkering and making gadgets do what they weren’t designed to do out of the box. Geeks see promise in something and take those idea to bring something else. Inspiration leads to inspiration.

The seemingly silly gadgets and gizmos inspire someone to create something better. By seeing what’s already out there, you can then gain a better understanding of where the industry is going. It gives you perspective. Never forget to look beyond yourself and your ego-centric view to the larger picture.

After discussing the conference in depth, we laughed over the fact that I stayed up far too late in order to watch the iPad 2 announcement. I’ve already given my initial thoughts about the device in another video. I will remind you that it’s not about the apps or the hardware: it’s about the experience.

Talking about the camera being integrated led to us bringing FaceTime into the mix. I predict that within a year, we will see Apple shipping a FaceTime application for Windows. Skype sucks in my opinion… FaceTime is where it’s at. It’s video calling done right. Apple has made it simple, clean and easy. That combination makes it appealing to users on all operating system.

What are your thoughts on ceBIT if you were there – or any of the trade shows you may have attended recently? Which technologies really stood out to you?

Thoughts on the iPad 2 from ceBIT

Pieter was an attendee at the ceBIT conference last weekend and I was happy to talk with him during a bit of down time. At the time of the recording, I had not yet posted any official thoughts about the iPad 2. I definitely plan on getting one as soon as it is released, just as I will get the new iPhone whenever it hits the stores.

While the new iteration may not be revolutionary in any way, I feel it is the next logical step for Apple at this point in time. It’s evolutionary. The Cupertino giant has definitely upped the ante for everyone else. They’ve raised that proverbial bar just enough that other manufacturers will be tripping over themselves to attempt to catch up – maybe not with specs, but certainly with price point.

It doesn’t matter if your Android (or other) device has a larger screen or faster processor. It’s all about the experience itself and the amount of cash I’m going to have to shell out to get that experience. I simply haven’t seen a single other vendor out there who can even come close to these two all-important factors.

You cannot deny the sleekness of the iPad. The first gen model wasn’t all that lightweight but the new version is much slimmer and weighs a bit less. That part doesn’t honestly interest me. Whoopie – it’s a few grams lighter than the original offering. It still boils down to the price point.

Forget the number of apps available. I don’t care if there are five billion apps out there – I want quality. In my eyes, Apple’s marketing message is a tad off. It’s not about the quantity – it’s about the experience. I’d rather choose from a pool of 50,000 solid apps than from one of 500,000 questionable ones.

I’ll call it now: HP will give Apple a run for their money with the webOS-based tablets than Android has done. I’m not saying Android is bad, so please don’t start your flame wars. I simply feel that Android needs to mature some more before it can successfully compete in the tablet world. Each new version of the operating system is an improvement over the last – and that’s my point. It’s growing and maturing into what it will become one day.

The way I see it is that it’s the iPad on one side of the fence and everyone else on the other side. I already stated that HP will be stepping up to the plate this year. The only other thing I see bringing any competition to the market could possibly be Google… IF they fully bake their operating system into the right hardware – and with the right cost.

True geeks may want the fastest and best specs on the market. But at the end of the day, the target audience is the non-geeks – those who simply want a good experience.

Meet RoboThespian: Are Robots Taking Over the World?

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We’ve seen robots on trade show floors many times over the past few years, but we haven’t seen one quite like the RoboThespian until now. During ceBIT last weekend, I was able to catch up with some representatives from the company behind the machine – Engineered Arts Limited.

RoboThespian is a human-sized interactive actor. This little machine cannot vacuum your carpets or start your car when it’s cold out. It was created in order to educate, communicate, interact and entertain people. The number one goal here is entertainment – making the audience feel a part of the experience.

The robot was designed as a flexible communication medium. They were first introduced in January, 2005 as actors in the ‘Mechanical Theatre’ production at the Eden Project in Cornwall. The audience reacted to these little dancing devices so well that the company knew they were on to something. They began working to bring more features into the mix by adding a web-based interface to control the robot. This allows you to record and upload your own sound and video files to be used with the little guy.

The RoboThespian comes with standard content including greetings and impressions. You can then tailor him to suit your needs by uploading additional content and movements. The team will also work with you to create and program a robot that fills a perfect spot in your company or home. His three main roles are to meet and greet visitors, interact with the public, and perform.

In the video, you’ll see RoboThespian mimicking one of the staff members by way of a Kinect. I gotta admit that it was pretty cool to see the cool cat reciting Hamlet! He did a better job than some of the actors I’ve seen on the big stage.

Math doesn’t seem to be his strong suit, but it was entertaining watching him try to calculate two plus two. He did a much better job at singing… his rendition of “Singing in the Rain” could hit the Billboard Top 40 in no time!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I seriously want one of these. That’s totally not happening, I’m sure. He probably costs about a bajillion dollars! It does beg an interesting question, though: Are robots going to take over the world? The Engineered Arts team asks this same inquiry:

Is RoboThespian a glimpse of a forthcoming technological utopia, or a dire warning of what may come to be. It is trivial, yet it touches on some profound questions that confront us all. At the very least it’s entertaining.

What do you think? Is our children’s future going to include robots as part of an everyday household?

Using Semantic Search on Video Sites with Semex and Media Globe

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Semantic search attempts to improve accuracy – and your search experience – by understanding contextual meaning of terms. Being able to use semantic search within multimedia is an issue that all video sites are working hard to solve. Think of it this way: you can head to YouTube and perform a simple search for a person without having to use any type of description of keywords. The search would then bring up every video that person appears in – and ONLY those videos.

Try finding every video related to a specific location, function or your favorite sports teams. It can be frustrating, to say the least. Semantic search is needed to make all of these things possible, and Media Globe is promising to deliver.

Media Globe was demonstrated during ceBIT 2011 by Nadine Ludwig and Jorg Waitelonis. The ultimate goal is to make the quickly growing amount of digital media easy to find and use.

The project aims to develop more effective approaches to digitize data and then combine that data with metadata. This is an important step on the path to true semantic search – and the simple navigation of large audio-visual collections, such as found on YouTube.

The semantic media explorer isn’t ready to ship yet, but man is it awesome. It’s a sort of intelligent video search engine. They are doing video analysis using optical character recognition and speech recognition within a video and its audio stream. From all of the extracted metadata, you will be able to detect people, events and places within the video transcript. This makes it a snap for you to filter search results in an intelligent way.

Using an existing video archive, Jorg did a simple keyword search. The software immediately asked him what it was he meant. It asked whether he meant to look for a person, state or venue. Basically, it’s asking for the meaning of the search term. Instead of typing in a word with an ambiguous meaning and receiving millions of results which don’t match, you’re going to get exactly what you’re looking for!

The company looks for this to ship sometime late next year. I’m thinking this is definitely something that Google should look into buying for its YouTube property.

Control a Keyboard With Your Brain Using intendiX

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Have you ever dreamed of the day we would be able to type on a computer without using a keyboard or our fingers? What if it were possible to type using your brain? This is an idea which has been in development for more than twenty years. During ceBIT 2011, Intendix showed off a product designed to help people without motor skills type on a computer. The future of technology is here, folks!

I volunteered to try this cap out, despite being a little nervous – and yes, I am aware I may have looked a tad silly in this getup. The system is based on your EEG potentials, enabling you to select characters in sequence from a matrix on the screen… just by paying attention to your target for several seconds. It’s not a fast process, by any means – but it DOES work.

The intendiX requires a bit of training, but after about ten minutes you will be able to spell 5-10 characters per minute! The cap uses an algorithm to detect what you’re thinking, so that it only selects characters when you pay attention to the system. Besides typing, the user can also use the system to trigger an alarm, make the computer speak written text out loud, print or copy the text into emails or even send commands to external devices!

The extension tool used to control external devices is called the extendiX. It runs on a separate computer which controls other devices and applications such as a television, music, assistive robots and even games. The extendiX receives commands from the intendiX cap via UDP. The entire system is designed around a Brain-Computer Interface:

A Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) provides a new communication channel between the human brain and a computer. The BCI system detects such changes and transforms them into control signals, which can be used for moving objects, writing letters, opening doors, changing TV channels and other everyday household activities.

It’s mind-boggling to try and understand all of the technology behind this device and the protocols that make it work. The important thing, though, is that it DOES work. We are watching advances in technology that will literally change the world.

ceBIT 2011: Interview with Peter Sunde from ThePirateBay and Flattr

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During ceBIT a few days ago, Charbax caught up with ThePirateBay and Flattr co-founder Peter Sunde. Peter is a hero to many Internet users, and the bane of existence to others. He and his websites are controversial but it’s obvious after talking with him only a moment or two that he passionately believes in what he’s doing. Whether you feel that the use of torrents is right or wrong, this interview is definitely an eye-opener.

Flattr is touted as being “the worlds first social micro-payment system.” It’s definitely an interesting concept. Create a monthly account on the site and spread the love amongst blog posts and other content creations that you “flatter” through the month. At the end of the month, the money you put into your account is divided equally among the “things” that you enjoyed. You don’t have to mess around with making small donations through PayPal or another source. You can easily choose to donate to the projects that matter most to you.

A “thing” on Flattr is considered to be nearly any type of content imaginable: it’s “any item which can include a blog entry, the blog itself, comments on a blog post, a tune, video, software or … whatever you have created.” That’s right – a thing is something YOU create. Not only can you donate money to the things you enjoy and believe in, you can also earn money into a revenue account for the things YOU create!

Sunde’s other little project is called ThePirateBay. Whether you “pirate” or not, I’m sure you’ve heard of the project in the news. The site was originally established in November 2003 by the Swedish anti-copyright organization Piratbyran. It has run as a separate entity since mid-2004, though.

TPB (as it is commonly called) lets users search for and download BitTorrent files (or torrents). These are small files which contain metadata needed to download data files from others. The torrents include categories such as audio, video, applications/software, games and pornography. Registration is not necessary to download the torrent files, but there are still more than four million registered users. As of November, 2008, TPB boasted more than 25 million unique visitors.

Sunde is quick to point out that there are good things that the BitTorrent protocol can be used for. Not everything offered on the site is considered to be “illegal.” Torrents can be used to share music and work by independent artists as well as Linux distributions, for example.

There have been demonstrations all over the world by people – dressed, of course, as pirates – in support of the work Peter and his friends are doing. Those who are a part of the anti-copyright or pro-piracy movement tend to speak out loudly in protest of the many lawsuits TPB has had to face.

Peter indicates that he travels approximately 25 days of every month. Instead of being fun as those of us who don’t leave our homes would assume, Peter says that it “sucks.” He laughs that it’s bad for his health, but knows he won’t stop any time soon.

He believes in the work he does with a passion that is unparalleled. Can you say the same thing about your work? It would be a fantastic thing if more of the people in this world were as passionate and dedicated to what they do on a daily basis.

This video was filmed by Charbax of ARMdevices at CeBIT 2011 in Hannover Germany.

Will You be at ceBIT This Week?

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Sprechen Sie Geek? I’m brushing up on the handful of German words I already know because I’m headed there this week to speak at ceBIT. If you’ve never heard of this conference, then you certainly need to have your geek card taken away. ceBIT is billed as “the digital industry’s biggest, most international event. Thanks to its unique combination of exhibition, conferences, keynotes, corporate events and lounges, CeBIT represents an unrivaled tool for doing business and sealing deals.”

Thousands of attendees are expected to grace the conference and exhibit halls with their presence throughout this week. I will be but one lone man navigating my way through the maze of gadgets, gizmos and Germans! If you’re going to be there, be sure to look me up and say hello.

The only device I’m really planning to take with me is my iPhone 4. I’m paying the extra twenty-five bucks in order to use up to 20MB of data while I’m in International territory. However, I plan to connect to the ‘net via WiFi as much as possible. My phone takes fantastic videos and photos, so there’s really no need to pack a lot of extraneous gadgets.

If I see anything interesting – or meet really cool people – I plan to take several videos to share with all of you. So if you know of a particular vendor that you feel would make for an interesting video, then let me know!

The subject of my keynote deals with connecting communities using various technologies available to us. As much as I find the commentary on YouTube difficult to swallow at times, it IS a large part of the communication that goes on within our little corner of the Internet. Yes, I get agitated at times. But hey – I’m human, just like you. Many of us have different facets to our lives. In my mind, that’s what makes a community grow and evolve.

My keynote will be live-streamed. Keep an eye on my Facebook page and my Twitter stream this week. I’ll let you know when the live stream is going and whenever (and wherever!) my keynote may appear.


World's Smallest Windows XP PC

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In this video, usmart Sun Power Technology Limited is showing what they say is the world’s smallest x86 computer. It comes with a 4.8″ screen, an Intel Atom 1.60ghz processor, 512mb RAM, a USB port, Wi-Fi capability, a MicroSD slot, and a removable battery that lasts through 2 hours of Windows XP usage. It should cost below $500 when it becomes available.

When Charbax touched the device seemed to run very hot, and was actually shaking due to the small internal fans. It should be noted that this was a hand-made prototype, so of course all of the bugs are not worked out yet. However, one would hope that things like this are addressed sooner rather than later! In my mind, this device was dangerous to have on display. What if someone would have gotten hurt? I understand trying to get a prototype ready for a big show, but you have to have something that is safe at the very least!

If this little device comes to fruition, is it something you would buy for yourself? What would it take inside of a tiny device that travels well but still has enough oomph to do what you need? If you were to design something like this yourself, what would you put under the hood?

This video was filmed by Charbax during the CeBIT 2010 consumer electronics show in Hannover, Germany.

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