The Technology News Weekend Roundup from Guardian Liberty Voice for August 8 – 10, 2014 includes stories about the newest option in modular phones offered from technology titan, Google and the super-intelligent devices being designed by IBM. Apple teases at the release of Siri for its desktop and childrens’ toys find a new use at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The weekend roundup also covers a potential new drone delivery service that Amazon is looking to add to its long list of services.
Google’s $50 Modular Phone
Compartmentalized do-it-yourself phones are becoming all the rage, or they would be if any had been manufactured and released to date. The idea received widespread recognition when independent company, Phonebloks began to market its idea with Kickstarter. While Phonebloks is still asking for donations, Google is preparing to launch its own version of a modular mobile device. In traditional Google fashion, once available, the product will be set at an affordable price of $50 for maximum accessibility. When the screen or charging port of a traditional mobile phone becomes damaged, the entire device must be replaced. The modular phone differs in that the individual components of the device are designed to be replaced easily by the consumer. The release could change the face of mobile computing for the foreseeable future. Upgrading to a more powerful camera can be as simple as purchasing the individual upgrade and sliding the piece into its designated port. Ara will be offered in 3 different sizes with a varying number of component ports to choose from. The mini version of the phone will have 9 device slots, the next size up will have 1 additional slot and then the largest version, a phablet, will have 11 device slots for customization.
Transforming Paper Robot
A self-folding robot has been designed by team of engineering students at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences led by graduate student, Sam Felton. The tiny transformer is inspired by origami, the Japanese art of creating three-dimensional objects by making multiple folds in paper. Felton and his team began the project with the intention of creating a robot that is inexpensive, easy and quick to produce, and also has the ability to transform quickly. The result is a “crab-like” robot that skitters along flat surfaces with all of the dexterity of its real crustacean counterpart. Surprisingly, the ivy league team utilized a children’s toy in the design of the robotic origami transformer. The elastic polymers of a Shrinky Dink came in handy when creating the folding joints of the transforming robot. Shrinky Dinks were attached to the paper above a tiny heating device. When receiving a command to fold, the microprocessor turns the heaters on, which causes the Shrinky Dink to do what it does best and ultimately initiate the folding transformation.
IBM Super-Intelligent Devices
The computer scientists at IBM have developed a specialized, super-intelligent computer chip inspired by the human brain. Dharmendra Modha, the company’s leading scientist in the field of brain-inspired computing believes that the chip could lead the way into an era of computing that is capable of understanding its environment, and lending a “sixth sense to computing.” The device has been named TrueNorth. Initially part of a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency,) TrueNorth began as a project of the SyNAPSE division, which endeavors to develop computing technology that is capable of handling a large amount of data at minimal energy costs. The sophisticated chip can be utilized in a set of high-tech glasses that can function as a sort of “guide dog” for the visually impaired as well as even aiding individuals with an impaired sense of smell. TrueNorth consumes a minor 70 milliwatts of power for its 5.4 billion transistors, a level of efficiency that has not yet been reached by traditional microprocessors. The gadget’s potential uses are still in a conceptual phase and a release date for related products has not yet been given.
Siri for OSX
The popularity of Apple’s mobile assistant Siri surged with the program’s first release. Since then, Microsoft released its own analog, Cortana to keep up with demand. The 2013 release of Her explored the expansion of this assistive technology to desktop computing and the human attachment that has the potential to occur. Just a year later, Apple is now teasing at the release of a desktop-adapted Siri. Mobile Siri is already capable of aiding the everyday Apple consumer in most tasks for which a phone can be used. Siri can set a timer, find directions, or place a phone call with a simple voice command. A potential move over OS X will likely come with item synchronization and a number of other new features. Siri could potentially be given the ability to analyze gestures being made of the trackpad and anticipate the next tasks that need to be done. For example, after dragging and dropping several items on the desktop, Siri would be able to merge and organize the items into a single folder. A release date for the OS X iteration of Siri has yet to be announced.
The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has received petitions from Amazon requesting permission to test its delivery drones. The online superstore, which only just broke ground by offering a 3D printing store, is looking to add unmanned drone delivery to its growing list of technology-dependent services. Amazon is looking to call the delivery service, Prime Air, and claims that the drones would allow the company to deliver goods to customers within 30 minutes of the purchase time. Since internet shopping became more commonplace, retail stores have had one main advantage over the growing market of retail websites, instant gratification. Prime Air has the potential to provide all of the expansive options of internet shopping, with the added instant gratification of shopping in person and the added novel bonus of delivery by a flying robot. The drones that Amazon is looking to use are capable of flying 50 miles per hour.
The Technology News Commentary By Faye Barton
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