2013: the rise of ubiquitous technology

The focus of digital design has always centered around the ethos of comfortable user interactivity with a device or product. Technology has been developed and modified to give the user a piqued and effective interactive experience, but could this be about to change?

 

The focus of digital development seems to be undergoing a revolutionary switch, rather than user comfort of interactivity with a product, devices are now being engineered to connect comfortably with the user. Ubiquitous technology is being developed on a number of different levels to sync into the functioning of our everyday existence; we are witnessing our day-to-day experiences enhanced by new digital developments; the body is becoming a peripheral in the workings of new digital technology.

 

We witnessed the genesis of this new dawning in technology during 2012. One area that the market swooped in on was health and fitness. The release of fitness bands, such as the Jawbone Up (though not entirely successful in it first run) and the Nike+ Fuelband allowed users to monitor their daily activities, their calorie intake and routine themselves an exercise plan based on bespoke user information provided by sensors built within the product.

 

With 2013 has come a line of products due for release that will certainly revolutionise the way we interact with digital technology; be it in a real-life situation or with other devices, this year will see the way we interact with our devices changed forever. At Kalexiko HQ we have been completely blown away by some of the devices scheduled (or promised in some cases) for upcoming release this year. We also know that you will be as excited and awe-struck as we were with some of these devices. Hold onto your seat and prepare for what you are about to see…

 

Google: Project Glass

Google is going all out in pioneering augmented technology. An early prototype demonstration at Google I/O last year showed a free-faller and a mountain biker performing their stunts wearing the Project Glass. The twist was that the Project Glass allowed you to see their feats through their eyes. Fast forward to February 2013 and another unveiling occurred from the Google. The release of another demonstration, How it Feels [through glass] showed Project Glass’s user interface at work as well as an announcement calling for ‘explorers’ to test the product.

 

So, just how will Project Glass synch into your life? Well, if How it Feels [through glass] is an accurate forecast, if you find yourself lost in a new city you can voice activate a GPS system with a map appearing at the top right of the HUD display to guide you. Another impressive feature is the built in translator; as the video demonstrated, if you find yourself in the situation where you need compliment a Thai dish in the native tongue for example, you can the translate feature instantly and wax lyrical in Thai. Also included are the expected phone, camera (including video), and Google search features.

 

Though Project Glass is set out to be a revolutionary bit of kit, it has met criticism. How it Feels [through glass] exhibited the uses of Project Glass in less than ordinary situations and the real question of practicality comes into play. Firstly, though it isn’t exactly designed to be a high-fashion statement, will the Project Glass be tailored to be discreet enough to wear as you would normal glasses? Though Google are engineering the weight of the titanium device to be as light as possible, looking into functionality with normal specs and no doubt they will alter the aesthetics before a major launch; will a user be comfortable sauntering around the city centre wearing them?

 

Secondly, the voice activation method of controlling the features may strike an issue.As How it Feels [through glass] demonstrated, all the features are activated through the omnipresent ‘Ok, glass…record’ command. In a normal situation, on the tube for example, will a user really be comfortable uttering voice commands without the fear of glancing eyes and looking like an over exuberant tech-enthusiast? Another issue that may come into question is the clarity of the users vision whilst engaging with the interface. Though the demonstration showed that the icons aren’t too obstructive we were only receiving a third-hand view of the users reality. In our own cases will the interface prove too obstructive for long periods of usage? It will be interesting to see how Project Glass will be engineered to make its way into the average user’s life, and not those of us who skydive after taking lunch on a gondola…

 

Apple Watch

Though the Apple Watch isn’t “definitively confirmed” by Apple for release reports last month from Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have all stated that Apple have begun testing a ‘watch like device’; with Bloomberg going as far to say that Apple currently have a 100 strong design team currently working on the product. Speculation around the product suggests that Apple will be incorporating the full iOS system to be reworked into the device; allowing the product to be used alongside iPhones and iPads, as opposed to the more expected iPod Nano’s touch operating system.

 

Though the exact features that the watch will include are hushed clandestine whispers at the moment; general consensus hint that it will feature the ability to be synced to other Apple devices, allowing for notification alerts; ability to see who is calling through the device and fitness tracking technology, such as a pedometer. At this point in time Apple’s Watch still appears to be the worst-kept secret in digital technology but issues are already arising. The big problem being the capabilities of the watch’s battery life. Though it is said that Apple are aiming to engineer the device to have a 4-5 day battery life, experts are suggesting that if the full Apple iOS is used in the device the battery will only last around two days, which for a watch, would be impractical.

 

As more and more rumours generate round the Apple Watch it seems that the release will be sooner rather than later; the hushed nature of the project only seems to stir more excitement around the device. It will be very interesting to see how Apple will attempt to dominate the ‘smart-watch’ market should the product be released, as well as how they overcome the supposed technical issues; if they manage to.

 

Leap Motion

‘The future is in reach’ say Leap, the team behind the Leap Motion. Though this isn’t really a ‘wearable’ piece of tech like the others in this article, it still possesses the same fundamentals in a sense that it engages with real life movements of the body. The Leap Motion is a gesture interface system which comes in the form of a tiny box (the dimensions being; approximately 3 inches long, 1 inch wide and ½ inch thick) that sits on top of your desk- or anywhere you want really. The technology behind the product can track movements up to 1/100th of a millimeter, according to the team, ‘with no visible lag time’. Powered by Infra-red technology and ‘breakthrough algorithms’ the Leap Motion controller emits a sensor field of 8 cubic feet and will track the minutest of movements in all ten fingers of your individual hands at up to 290 frames a second. Overall the Leap Motion promises to be 200x more sensitive than anything on the market today.

 

The inventor behind the product, David Holtz said that the inspiration behind the product came to him as a high-school pupil trying to create 3D models on his computer for science competitions. Through wanting to remove the awkwardness of manipulating 3D images through a mouse the Leap Motion was born. This inspiration hasn’t been overlooked in the design of the product, you can use it to manipulate 3D objects and models with your hands; which will no doubt open up opportunities for use in industries like engineering, product design- pretty much anywhere where you need a 3D visual prototype. The Leap Motion will also feature backwards compatibility, meaning that it will work on existing software programs, so for example, you could illustrate on Adobe Illustrator as you would a canvas on an easel.

 

One problem that circulates around the product is the question of ergonomics; will gesticulating over a long period of time increase fatigue? Though for the sheer impressiveness of the Leap Motion and for the cheap $79.99 price it is well worth experiencing the beginning of a potentially mouse-less world of computing, and no doubt when developers begin to start creating Leap Motion tailored apps and programs, the experience will be something we have never experienced before. The Leap Motion begins shipping on May 13th.

 

Mycestro

Though, with the Leap Motion we are witnessing a step away from mouse implemented computing, with the Mycestro (pronounced my-stro) we are witnessing the next generation of computer mice. Mycestro is a 3D mouse that fits around your index finger, and using Bluetooth 4.0 technology it allows you to control your computer with your hand gestures up to a distance of thirty feet. The inspiration behind the Mycestro came when the creator Nick Mastandrea was flying home from a SIA trade show in Denver and he noticed a spatially disadvantaged gentleman struggling to use his laptop on the seatback tray of his plane seat. The result of seeing this gentleman struggle to use his mouse inspired Mastendrea’s notion; ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if I could control my PC functions just by moving my finger?’

 

So it was to be. The Mycestro is controlled by passive gestures in 3D space. A tap of your thumb and it starts tracking; another tap to click or you can hold and slide the device to scroll or highlight. There are also three buttons included on the tiny device that emulate the three mouse buttons. The tracking takes place through an internal gyroscope and MEMS, so wherever you are in relation to your computer (within a 30 foot range), your movements are tracked accordingly. The Mycestro will make transit computing far easier as the restraints of space are broken. The big issue with the Mycestro is that we are fast approaching a time where the traditional mouse is becoming redundant for most users. Most laptop and tablets employ touch navigation, so the average user may find no need for its use.

 

Another issue is the abundance of gestural interaction methods; will it be too much? Though that being said, the possibilities for interaction with devices in your home will be nearly endless and the ability to control your home media system through the Mycestro will no doubt make those all day sofa affairs that little bit more enjoyable. the Mycestro is expected to be released between October and November this year.

 

Thalmic Labs- MYO

Presuming you have watched the video for the MYO you are probably as mind-blown as we were when we first saw it. ‘Unleash your inner Jedi’ says MYO, and all your childhood dreams come alive again. The MYO comes in the form of a one-size-fits-all armband that you slip on and instantly you begin using ‘the force’. Though the armband is hardly discreet, considering the possibilities that are available to you once you put it on, a bit of excess baggage is hardly a concern. The MYO will allow you to control your digital technologies through the electrical activity in your arm muscles, eliminating camera based wireless control and giving you a hyper sensitive and acute sense of command over your digital devices.

 

The MYO uses a ‘6-axis inertial motion sensing unit as well as muscle activity sensors’ which means that the armband is sensitive enough to register all of your individual finger movements. The Thalmic Labs team are also appealing to developers to create applications and programs that will integrate the with the MYO. As it stands, it can operate with Android and iOS and be used to play video games, but the real excitement comes with seeing how far developers will be able to push the MYO. The MYO is scheduled for release late 2013 at a cost $149.

 

Google and Adidas: Talking Shoes

Never feel lonely again, find a friend in your shoes! That’s right, Google and Adidas have engineered a pair of talking shoes. The shoes come with an accelerometer, gyro and pressure sensor embedded in the soles as well as fully working tongues…well, a speaker embedded into the tongues of the shoes that can utter 250 phrases. The shoes, that were unveiled today at SXSW can also interact with your social networks through Bluetooth. Unfortunately, these shoes won’t be hitting the market any time soon, they were designed purely as a fun experiment by the Google team. Fun experiment or personal fitness coach qualities aside, Google have managed to find a potential niche in a growing market of ubiquitous technology. Those who can’t stand wearing a Fuelband all day may find that just slipping into their running shoes wagging their tongues with motivational commands during their morning run a good idea. It will be interesting to see if Google decide to develop this wacky idea any further, will all our shoes have soul in 2013?

 

Presuming you’re not terrified of the possibility of an eventual AI world takeover drawing nearer I think you will agree that the technology exhibited here will shape the future of human and digital interaction. This year is where the future begins, so stay close as we will be revisiting these devices (as well as many others) upon their release.

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