Catching Up With Tech, Part 2

The following is the second of a two-part series looking at some brief technology articles you may have missed, but should take a second look at in order to be aware of what is on the technology horizon, or at least be in the know when someone brings the topic up at a party or on Facebook.  The first part appeared last month.

Someone is Following You

Being tracked while in a store or other public place has some obvious pros and cons, which could be debated in an entire blog post on privacy versus creating a personalized outing.  Today we will just look at the technology that will make this debate possible, iBeacons.  SAP ran a blog post on the devices in January, describing them as “a low-cost, small piece of hardware that utilizes battery-friendly low-energy Bluetooth connections to monitor users’ activity and transmit messages or prompts to their smartphones or tablets.”  The idea behind the devices is a business, say a retailer, could put the little pods all over their store and see if a shopper was looking up a certain item so that they could then turn around and perhaps deploy a salesperson, offer a coupon or suggest alternatives or accessories for the product on the shopper’s phone.  The SAP blog does a very good job of going into much more detail about other uses, like making airport lines less of a hassle or allowing travelers to pay a cab fare in offline mode instead of using the cell company’s data plan.  Whether you feel invaded or are looking forward to the iBeacons, they are worth looking into before you find yourself wondering what the pod on the wall next to the check-out is for and why you keep getting texts about flash sales.

Too Good To Be True?

Low-bid auction sites are popping up all over the internet and are being pushed a lot on late-night TV, but are they too good to be true?  According to a recent PC Magazine article, yes, they might be more expensive than you think.  The idea behind the low-bid sites is you can get an unbelievable deal on hot products, like a $50 iPad.  The article urges shoppers to use caution with such sites, since they charge per bid and that can add up, especially since you still have to pay the bidding fee even if you do not win the auction.  The article also points out other issues, such as extended bidding time that is added to prevent those last minutes steals on traditional auction sites like eBay.  On the low-bid sites, a bid in the last few seconds will add additional time to the auction to allow counter-bidding, which can continue as long as there is a bidding war going on.  Other deceptive practices have been alleged and are detailed in the PC Magazine article.

Jetsons-Inspired Office Environment

Forbes magazine recently published an article with some forward-thinking ideas about what life will be like for office workers in 2020.  While any predictions for six years from now may seem a bit premature, it is a fun read to see what kind of technology may be coming to a cubicle near you.  Most of the technologies cited are already here so the article is more about adapting them to the workplace instead of speculating on something that may be developed in the next few years.  The main theme of the technologies mentioned is the use of gestures and sensors to automate some of the more mundane tasks of work life, such as taking minutes at meetings or adding appointments to your calendar.  One interesting technology mentioned is the remote worker robot.  Anyone who has watched The Good Wife may have seen one of these robots moving around the law offices of Lockhart Gardner, often in comical fashion.  The robots use a set of video cameras and microphones on both sides of the connection to allow the remote worker to move around the office and take part in meetings or simply move from their desk to other areas to complete tasks.  Other technologies are more refined, such as 3D printing and wearable technology.  The printers allow for full-sized or scaled prototypes to be produced in-house while wearables such as Google Glass may make it easier to complete tasks that require the user to keep both hands free, but also look at a manual or diagram.

Mind Over Matter

Mashable reported on a neurological experiment that shows promise for paralyzed patients.  The study is being conducted at The Ohio State University and is testing the Neurobridge microchip, which can be implanted in the brain of a paralyzed patient and used to convert brainwaves into movement of the upper limbs.  The first patient to successfully use the chip is college student Ian Burkhart, who is featured in the article and has been able to move his paralyzed hand simply by thinking about moving it.  Video that accompanies the article shows Burkhart making a fist around a spoon and doing other movements with his hand.  The ten year old project currently targets only the lower part of the arm, wrists and hands, but the successful results show promise to expand research into full arm and lower extremity movements.

- Laura N.


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