Category Archives: Top Tech

Top Tech in Movies and Television

Much of today’s technology was seen in movies first––it makes you wonder how much these movies have influenced designers.

Devices resembling the iPad have appeared in many movies throughout the years, including 2001: A Space Odyssey (whose HAL was a precursor to Siri) and Star Trek with its PADD (Personal Access Display Device).

Cell phone–like items have been seen many times over, most famously as Star Trek’s “communicator,” but in the 1956 science fiction film Forbidden Planet, those aboard the United Planets Cruiser have phones attached to their belt buckles. And in more recent times, Jim Carrey’s character in The Cable Guy predicted we would have a phone, computer, television, and game-playing device all in one.

Minority Report has a scene with gestural interfaces, as well as other user-interface innovations, in front of transparent screens. In the same scene, there are also flexible and transparent displays!

Minority Report UI Innovation analysis from Philippe DEWOST on Vimeo.

Which other Hollywood inventions have become realities? What other ones would you like to have in real life?

Author: Susan Hallinan

Mozilla Mobile OS

At the Mobile World Congress, Mozilla introduced its new operating system, featured on the ZTW Open phone. Mozilla worked with Telefónica to create a mobile operating system that is low-cost and open-source, and phones with this operating system are geared toward Latin America and developing countries.

Mozilla does not aspire to world domination, but it does want to change how people and developers interact with their mobile operating systems. This new operating system is HTML5-, CSS-, and JavaScript-based and can be changed on the fly. Once an app has been developed for the Mozilla mobile OS, its distribution will not be limited to a closed ecosystem, like the apps of Android and Apple. Apps can be downloaded from the Mozilla Marketplace or from any web-based site, creating what Mozilla believes will become a healthy competition between developers. The new operating system has some big-name partners––Disney, Twitter, and Facebook, to name a few––as well as eighteen mobile network operators and four phone manufacturers backing it. The first phone featuring this new operating system will be released in the second quarter of this year in countries including Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.

Author: Susan Hallinan

Mobile World Congress 2013

It is that time of the year when all eyes turn to Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress (MWC).

The MWC is where the major mobile devices are revealed.

Some of the companies that will be showing their wares:

Samsung will be launching their latest Galaxy phone after MWC. But they will be introducing two Galaxy tablets: 8- and 10-inch versions. Both will come with Android Jelly Bean.

RIM will be making the best of a badly needed opportunity to show off their latest wares: the Z10 and the BB10 BlackBerry smartphones.

ZTE is the one to watch: this industry outlier is rumored to be introducing a mobile device that runs on the new Mozilla operating system!

Author: Susan Hallinan

Touchscreens and Beyond

Technology is always moving, but one thing that has stayed the same for a while is the touchscreen on your mobile device. Although the touchscreens of today are efficient, they too will evolve. Here are some thoughts on where they may be headed:

3-D Buttons: Tactus Technology has developed a touchscreen that has on-demand raised buttons. Its microfluidic technology changes the user’s experience from that of touching a flat surface to one of a typing on a keyboard.

Gesture: Imagine that turning a page while reading on a tablet was as easy as waving your hand over the device. This technology is being tested and perfected with the Gesture Cube. Apple recently won a patent for something similar to the Gesture Cube. Apple’s patent specifically addresses the “pinch-and-pull gesture,” which allows the user to touch the screen to “pinch” and “pull” away from the screen to register a gesture, as well as 3-D gesturing inputs.

Voice Recognition: Siri was a big step in our introdution to voice or speech interfaces, but if Siri were human, she would be like a two-year-old, not comprehending larger words, requiring us to speak slowly and very clearly, and only only understanding basic commands. This technology will evolve quickly as the big tech companies compete to make devices easier to use.

Thought: IBM predicts that by 2017, most devices will be controlled by brainwaves. Emotive currently has a headset that reads EEGs (electroencephalograms) and facial expressions to control games, but everyday use can’t be too far away.

Author: Susan Hallinan

Repurposing and Sharing Your Digital Assets

Not too long ago, once a file was printed and distributed, that would be the end of the story. Today, the same files that were sent to print can be distributed a number of different ways, allowing more people access to an agency or company’s digital assets within the mobile environment.

The New York City Poison Control Center initially asked Vanguard Direct to include a QR code on its bus shelter posters, brochures, and fact sheets that, when scanned, would simply go to its homepage on the nyc.gov/health website.

We reviewed the Poison Control Center’s homepage and found that it was not mobile-user friendly.

The website’s homepage did, however, have a wealth of information available for New Yorkers to view: four medicine-safety brochures produced in six languages (English, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, and Spanish) and two medicine-safety videos that were produced in English and Spanish.

We could have just created a QR code linking to the homepage as requested, but…

Instead Vanguard Direct proposed a smarter solution: Distributing the client’s existing digital assets to the public via print and mobile environments.

Vanguard Direct applied a QR code to the client’s print materials and developed mobile landing pages where smartphone users could select their native languages and view existing PDFs, videos, and associated websites. All mobile landing pages in six languages (English and Spanish are now active, with the other four about to go live) as well as the pre-existing digital assets can now be viewed from one QR code. “Save to Contacts” and “Call Now” features were added and can be saved on the user’s smartphone for future use.

Author: Mark Dion, Matt Ford, Susan Hallinan

Mobile News

In case you missed it: Apple has unveiled its new iPhone, the iPhone 5. It has a larger screen with Retina Display, a thinner, faster processer, better battery life (so they say), and will run iOS6.

But also recently released was Nokia’s flagship phone, the Lumina 920. It has a PureMotion HD+ screen that has baked-in technology from Synaptics in the display––allowing the user to operate the touch screen with gloves––a PureView camera that compensates for shakes, and a sensor that allows for low-light photography. The 920 also adheres to the Qi wireless charging standard, and for the first time in a smartphone, wireless charging is the default. The Nokia 920 runs on Windows software.

On the heels of the iPhone 5, LG is launching its new phone in Korea. The Optimus G will be released in the US by Christmas. It is currently being released with Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, but hopefully by the time it reaches our shores it will be shipping with Jelly Bean, the latest Android operating system. The phone is powered by Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, promising longer battery life and more speed. One cool feature of the Optimus G is the QSlide, which allows you to overlay two screens running different apps so that you can, for example, text while watching a video or surfing the web.

What features would you like to see on future mobile devices?

Author: Susan Hallinan

Reddit: How President Obama Communicated with the Masses

We live in a day and age where the Internet has become so important that the technology is quickly becoming a platform for politicians to stand on. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have pledged to support Internet freedom, developed mobile campaign applications, and utilized as many social media channels as possible, meeting with both success and disappointment.

Yet the biggest event to grace the Internet at 4:30pm on August 29 was President Obama doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on online news aggregator Reddit. Gaining tremendous popularity this year, Reddit has launched itself into the public eye, backing events like the SOPA Internet blackout and Washington, D.C.’s Reason Rally. A place to voice your opinion anonymously, Reddit hosts conversations that range from crude and inane to incredibly constructive and thought-provoking.

So what? The President talked to some people on another social platform. The “what” is the sheer amount of people participating in this online event. At a time when getting people to the voting booths or a rally is a tiring and seemingly hopeless process, the opportunity to reach out to over 1,800,000 people is tremendous, and something that couldn’t even be dreamed of just a few short years ago. Where did the number 1,800,000 come from? That is the amount of people who have visited and read the content that was written as part of this single conversation. That number does not represent users or bots, but people who, at the very least, came to the thread and read the content. From those 1,800,000 people, over 22,000 comments were generated, mostly questions that users wanted answered.

Ten lucky users got their questions addressed, on topics including corruption, Internet freedom, college debt, the space program, and the most difficult decision Obama has had to make. The answers given were typical, middle-ground answers, peppered with humor and campaigning, but that doesn’t diminish the amount of people reached and interacted with. Over the course of about two hours, Obama reached more people than he could have at twenty of his best-attended rallies.

The best part? Reddit was there to listen. This is not a community of people who take things at face value, and it is certainly one composed of countless backgrounds, ideals, and political affiliations. They were there to understand and to challenge, and whether it was to their satisfaction or not, they at least received a response. This is the value of a conversation held in this medium. This is utilizing the tools that are at everyone’s disposal. There is no telling what the implications of this are and for how long this will be a new and impressive campaigning method. For now, this is just another testament to the growing power of the Internet, social media, and the vast network at every person’s fingertips.

Author: Zack Smith