Daily Archives: January 15, 2012
Las Vegas (CNN) — Imagine a future in which icons flash on your car windshield, hologram style, as your car approaches restaurants, stores, historic landmarks or the homes of friends.
Simply point your hand at them, and the icons open to show real-time information: when that bridge over there was built, what band is playing at that nightclub on the left, whether that new café up the street has any tables available. Wave your hand again, and you’ve made a restaurant reservation.
Mercedes-Benz showed off this vision of the future of driving — complete with augmented-reality and gesture-controlled features — this week at the International Consumer Electronics Show.
CES is the world’s biggest technology trade show, and carmakers are becoming a bigger presence here. Visitors climbed into a little cockpit at the Mercedes booth and took a brief, interactive and virtual ride through nighttime San Francisco — with the high-tech windshield as a guide.
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“Gesture is very intuitive. It’s very natural,” said Vera Schmidt, a user-interface designer with Mercedes who led demonstrations of the technology. “You point at something, and you want to know more about it.”
The technology is still crude, and at least several years away from finding its way into Mercedes vehicles. But it illustrates how automakers, while embracing current computer innovation such as dashboard touchscreens and voice-control interfaces, also are keeping an eye further down the road as well.
As digital tech — and our expectations for it — becomes more mobile, carmakers are taking notice. Many automotive designers here seem to have taken inspiration from smartphones, with their promise of being always connected and their vast menu of apps for every purpose.
“Cars are becoming platforms to participate in the digital world in a fully networked sense, just like your tablets can and your phones can,” said Venkatesh Prasad, a senior technical leader with Ford Motor Co.’s innovation division. “It’s our job to take those computing services people are used to at 0 mph and make them available at 70 mph.”
Yes, that sounds a little scary. And with escalating concerns about the hazards of distracted driving, automakers must walk a fine line between convenience and safety. Automotive engineers are continually trying to simplify their interfaces to cut down on the precious seconds that a driver’s attentions are diverted from the road ahead.
“All of our technology is voice-powered,” Ford product manager Julius Marchwicki told CNN’s sister network HLN. “So instead of fumbling with your phone … you keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.”
Sascha Simon, head of advance product planning for Mercedes-Benz USA, agreed: “We determine which apps should be in the car and which shouldn’t. We have these apps integrated in such a way that they’re actually relevant to you.”
For example, say you’re running late to a meeting and can’t call or text while driving. Mercedes’ messaging app will create a menu of logical missives based on your location and your car’s speed — “I’m stuck in traffic,” or “I’m just north of Bakersfield” — and display them on the screen.
You scroll through them and push a button to post the one that fits, instead of having to manually type the words.
Ford this week introduced five new apps for its pioneering Sync hands-free entertainment system, including Roximity, a daily-deals application that provides real-time discounts relevant to a driver’s location. Ford is so committed to morphing its vehicles into digital platforms that the company is recruiting developers to create apps for Sync and plans to open a research lab in Silicon Valley this year.
Meanwhile, Mercedes launched the second generation of its mbrace system, which connects drivers with the Web via customized apps that can be controlled by voice commands or on a dashboard touchscreen. Mbrace is now cloud-based, meaning it’s always connected and its software can automatically update itself.
Not to be outdone, Audi and Kia also have big presences at CES, and both announced updated versions of their Web-based dashboard entertainment systems.
The boldest advancements in automotive tech, however, may be a few years away. All the major car companies are working on systems that would allow vehicles to talk to each other about road conditions, weather and traffic snarls. For example, a car swerving to avoid a tire in the road could send an instant message alerting surrounding vehicles to the hazard.
Ford also is developing technology that takes a more holistic approach to driver safety and welfare. Instead of focusing on preventing collisions, for example, a car could help diabetic drivers by employing wireless sensors to monitor their glucose levels, said Gary Strumolo, Ford manager of vehicle design and infotronics.
Or a car could help allergy sufferers by monitoring for high-pollen areas, then recirculating air within the vehicle instead of pulling it in from the outside, he said.
Kia is testing something called the “user-centered driving concept,” which would emphasize safety by employing an infra-red LED and camera to monitor the driver’s face for alertness. The system would recognize whether the driver’s eyes are opened or closed, safeguarding against an accident caused by the driver falling asleep.
All these advancements may make driving more interesting. Or they may spoil one of modern society’s last refuges from the hyper-connected digital world.
Either way, they are coming soon.
“We’re working on a new generation of vehicles that truly serve as digital companions,” said Dieter Zetsche, head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, in a keynote speech at CES. “They learn your habits, adapt to your choices, predict you moves and interact with your social network.”
Source Article from http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_technology/~3/fvJuFDRd6Mg/index.html
Editor’s note: Andrew Keen is a British-American entrepreneur and professional skeptic. He is the author of “The Cult of the Amateur,” and the upcoming (June 2012) “Digital Vertigo.” This is the latest in a series of commentaries for CNN looking at how internet trends are influencing social culture.
(CNN) — No American city does unintentional irony quite like Las Vegas. And Las Vegas is always at its most unintentionally ironic during Consumer Electronics Show (CES) week, the January extravaganza that annually draws over 150,000 techno-tourists like myself to the seductively coercive city in the Nevada desert to pay homage to the hottest new electronic products on the planet.
This year, the unintentional ironies began as soon as we arrived in town. At Las Vegas’ palatial McCarran airport, we were greeted with a gigantic electronic billboard for Best Buy, a generous CES sponsor and the dominant consumer electronics retailer in America. It was a picture of a happy consumer being greeted by an even happier Best Buy sales assistant. Retail nirvana, the electronic billboard advertised; Best Buy, it promised, is the techno-consumer’s very best friend.
But in Las Vegas, of course, appearance is always the opposite of reality. So let’s imagine a rather different picture: Of an unhappy consumer being “greeted” by an even unhappier Best Buy sales assistant. Last week, in an article that went so viral that it elicited a panicked rebuttal from Best Buy’s CEO, Silicon Valley author Larry Downes explained why he believes the electronics retailer is gradually going out of business. “Walk into one of the company’s retail locations or shop online. And try, really try, not to lose your temper,” Downes challenged his readers, before describing his own experience shopping there.
So how do those 150,000 CES attendees get from McCarran airport to the packed Las Vegas strip? We queue. We queue to catch a cab in improbably long lines that snake around and around the airport’s cavernous concourse. And queuing — or waiting in line, as my American friends like to say — is the dominant mode of being at CES. We patiently queue for cabs, we queue to get our show badges, we queue for food and beverages, we queue for buses to and from the packed conventional centers, we queue to check in and out of our hotels, we queue to squeeze onto the city’s packed monorail system, and, of course, we dutifully queue on our return to McCarran so that we can be x-rayed by the airport’s absurdly low-tech anti-terrorist machines.
The unintentional irony of all this queuing is twofold. Firstly, the whole message of CES this year was mobility. All the most seductive electronic products on show at CES promised to untether us from the world. Smaller notebook computers, now euphemistically called “ultrabooks“, were thinner and smaller than ever. New smartphones were even smarter and easier to slip into our pockets. Apps were more mobile, of course. While absurdly light tablet devices could be found on almost every table in every booth. So that’s the irony. The whole point of CES is to stand in long, frustratingly slow moving lines to fondle devices that promise unlimited freedom. CES, thus, achieved the impossible: it makes mobility immobile.
But it’s the second unintentional irony of all this queuing that is even more delicious. You see, the more CES attendees queue, the more they wait in line to see the blob of an exhibition that now spread over several gigantic exhibition halls and casino-hotels, the less there is to see. Yes, consumer electronics might be becoming more mobile — but apart from this inevitable development, there were very few really memorable new products or technologies at CES this year.
The “next big thing” this year, supposedly, was that televisions are becoming see-through as well as thinner and more social. But, like a dieting commercial featuring impossibly thin models, CES is always promising impossible thinness, particularly on its latest television screens. “Plasma schmasma,” as one jaded East Coast friend of mine repeats himself every year. How much more anorexic can television screens become, I wonder, before they double as gigantic Frisbees or cheese cutters.
And a “see-though” LCD screen? Yes, that seems about as “must have” as goofy gadgets at CES this year such as connected electronic scales for babies or ispeakers for the shower.
Meanwhile, “social” television has emerged as the ultimate mirage in the Nevada desert. Every year over the last ten years at CES, we’ve heard that television is going social. And then, every year, we go home from CES to watch our television sets alone via sets that have little, if any, social functionality. Then there’s that another perennial mirage at CES — 3D technology. This year, like every year in distant memory, I dutifully put on the plastic throwaway glasses to watch vertiginous 3D presentations. And this year, like every other year, I came away both dizzy and radically unimpressed with a technology that is neither essential nor affordable.
No, the big story of CES 2012 was what was happening elsewhere. While we all waited patiently in long lines to see nothing, the real technology news was being made back in Silicon Valley. Earlier this week, for example, Google launched Search Plus Your World in its attempt to socialize its search engine. Meanwhile, rumors continue to circulate about a radically new iPad from Apple — the world’s leading consumer electronics company that has never and will never attend CES and whose ghost hung heavily over Las Vegas this week.
Even Microsoft, a company that has historically invested millions of dollars at CES as a sponsor and participant, made news this year by announcing that this year’s event would be the last that its CEO would keynote. So, in future, without Microsoft and Apple (and Amazon, another innovative company that has never wasted its time in Las Vegas), it’s hard to avoid concluding that CES will — like Best Buy – gradually but inevitably go out of business.
Like Best Buy, I suspect, CES has stood still over the last 10 years while the world has radically changed. The future of this kind of event celebrating technological innovation is probably far far away from the ubiquitous clanging of Las Vegas’ slot machines. Just as all electronic hardware devices are becoming networked, so the future of CES is probably online, in the very networked world which is empowering our increasingly mobile gadgets. There, at least, there won’t be any queues.
Source Article from http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_technology/~3/TcSmDaj6TFU/index.html
Beijing (CNN) — Apple halted sales of its iPhone 4S in Beijing and Shanghai on Friday after scuffles broke out over a delayed launch of the device, sending a shopper hurling eggs at one of its stores in the capital.
Hundreds of devout fans — along with scalpers — braved subfreezing temperatures and camped out overnight, awaiting the phone’s debut near the trendy Sanlitun Village shopping mall in Beijing.
As dawn broke Friday, the mood turned sour when the store’s doors remained shut beyond 7 a.m., when the sale was scheduled to start.
“Open! Open!” people chanted and booed at the employees inside.
After the scuffle, the bad news came via a megaphone that the phone would be unavailable at this Apple Store on its first day of sale. A large contingent of police officers arrived and put yellow tape around the plaza.
Dozens of police and guards slowly pushed people out of the perimeter, dragging away those who resisted, despite their screaming protests.
The tech giant — based in Cupertino, California — said it is halting sales in Beijing and Shanghai for customers’ safety. It launched the iPhone 4S in mainland China on Friday.
“The demand for iPhone 4S has been incredible, and our stores in China have already sold out,” the company said in a statement. “Unfortunately we were unable to open our store at Sanlitun due to the large crowd, and to ensure the safety of our customers and employees, iPhone will not be available in our retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being.”
Apple has seen phenomenal sales growth in mainland China and opened Asia’s largest Apple Store in Shanghai in September. The company announced in July that its revenue from the Greater China region, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, reached $8.8 billion for the first three quarters of the fiscal year, a more than sixfold increase compared with the same period in the previous year.
While many in the crowd criticized Apple for not opening the store when it said it would, others turned nationalistic, blasting the United States in general.
The plaza was soon cleared, leaving iPhone fans standing outside the police tape as a giant screen teased them with Apple commercials.
Source Article from http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_technology/~3/E1zOYMdA6K0/index.html
Source Article from http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/edition_technology/~3/kaXdlcRqaxI/index.html
You can begin with the obvious indications of an app’s quality, its reviews and its permission requests. You shouldn’t have to read through too many of the former to see either repeated reports of problems or a suspicious pattern of lookalike approvals. You should also be wary of an app that asks for access to components of your phone, such as its contacts list, call log or GPS receiver, without an obvious connection to its stated job.
Google has added other layers of screening data to each app’s listing in the Market: an “Editor’s Choice” badge for picks by its own staff, and a count of how many people have clicked a “+1″ button to recommend the app on its Google+ social network.
But if you’re in a hurry, a simpler possibility may be right in front of you: Look at the merits of the developer instead of the particular app. Scroll down the app’s listing and tap the “More by [developer's name]” button: If you see nothing else, or only poorly-reviewed apps, you’re probably not dealing with the sharpest tool in the shed.
Q: I can’t get to my photos on my Mac; the computer says “You can’t open the application iPhoto because it may be damaged or incomplete.” Now what?
A: The solution to this problem should be familiar to PC users: Uninstall the offending app, then reinstall it. Fortunately, the process on a Mac (a relative’s computer had this problem) was a good deal simpler.
First, I deleted the iPhoto file from the Applications folder by dragging it to the Trash (after I approved this by entering the user’s account password). Then I reinstalled iPhoto off the iLife ’11 DVD that came with the computer; its installer recognized that the other iLife components were intact and did not ask to reload them.
Next I had to run Software Update to get the latest fixes for iPhoto, which, on this year-old MacBook, involved two rounds of iPhoto updates. After a brief wait for iPhoto to upgrade its library, the app worked properly.
Some Mac users in Apple’s tech-support discussion forums have reported needing to take extra steps to get this cure to work, such as deleting iPhoto’s preferences files or the “receipt” file created by Mac OSX after its first installation. But leaving that first set of files intact made no difference in my test, while no such receipt file existed.
Note that in a worst-case scenario, you can still recover individual photo files even if iPhoto appears permanently catatonic. Go to your Pictures folder, select the iPhoto Library file, right-click it (or hold down the Control key as you click it), and choose “Show Package Contents.” That will open up a new window showing the contents of this file. (The iPhoto Library file is really a special type of folder that OSX displays as a regular file. Most OSX applications use a similar feature, called bundles, to present single-file versions of themselves.)
In the current version of iPhoto, the master copies of your photos will be in a folder called “Masters”; in older versions, look for a folder called “Originals” or a series of folders named with years for file names.
But why did this iPhoto problem happen in the first place? I have no idea — thanks, in part, to that unhelpful error message, which offered no hint about what had gone wrong or what I was supposed to do about it. It only asked me to click an “OK” button. No, Apple, it is not “OK” to leave the user hanging like that. Just ask Apple: Its interface guidelines say that alert messages should feature “informative text that elaborates on the consequences and suggests a solution or alternative.”
Avoidable mistakes like that — not to mention the disturbing number of poorly-thought-out changes and outright buggy behavior in the Lion update to OSX — make me wonder what’s happened to Apple’s traditional focus on usability.
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