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While it may not have been as iconic culturally significant as its 1984 Super Bowl ad, Apple’s “Think different” marketing campaign from 1997 to 2002 remains the stuff of advertising legend. (How many ads do you remember from last month’s game between the Patriots and Seahawks?) Not surprisingly, the campaign coincided with Steve Jobs’s return as CEO, the […]
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In the final months of 2014, wearable technology sparked significant media and consumer attention – not least thanks to the announcement of the Apple Watch. But as wearables move from the margins into the mainstream, it’s time to consider the next wave of interactive technology. Smartwatches shift existing technology to a new location – from […]
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In the documentary Twinsters, a young French fashion student named Anaïs Bordier accidentally finds a YouTube video of a woman who looks just like her. That girl, Samantha Futerman, was an aspiring actress living in Los Angeles and was born the same day as Bordier in Busan, South Korea and also put up for adoption. Watch the trailer here.
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Google has unveiled a new set of applications, online services, and industry partnerships designed to promote the use of its Android mobile operating system in the workplace. Known as Android for Work, this rather broad effort is meant to drive the use of Android not only on smartphones used inside the world’s businesses, but on […]
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It's getting more and more difficult to tell the difference between a fitness tracker and a smartwatch. In September, Pebble added activity monitoring features to its devices, while both of the new trackers Fitbit launched in January can tell you what time it is.
Then there's the upcoming Apple Watch, which is first and foremost a smartwatch but comes with a slew of health and fitness features too. Is there any real distinction between these product categories any more? Or are we headed for a future where every wrist-worn wearable can track activities, display smartphone notifications, and show the time as well?
Against this rising trend, bands that simply measure steps, heart rate and sleep may seem increasingly irrelevant. But they're not, and here's why.Less Is More
Smartwatches have already won a loyal fanbase, attracting users drawn by the appeal of checking texts, previewing calls and snoozing emails from their wrists. But for some people, a flurry of alerts in such close proximity can be even more distracting than a smartphone.
In that regard, the stripped-down feature set of a fitness tracker is a benefit, not a drawback. These devices keep an eye on our health and fitness without any flashing lights or loud pings (though admittedly many of them buzz every once in a while).
They're useful in a passive, unobtrusive way. Let's hope the manufacturers remember that for the sake of people already up to their eyeballs in notifications and alerts.Lightweight And Invisible
In most cases, the more discreet and invisible a wearable device is, the better (as Google Glass has discovered). Fitness trackers are about as discreet as wearables come right now, and in the future it's not difficult to imagine them becoming as thin as a rubber band—indeed, you can clip trackers like the Jawbone Move and the Misfit Flash can onto clothing or drop them in a pocket, and no one's any the wiser that you've got one on.
If you find yourself heading to the pool, taking part in team sports, going out in bad weather or climbing a rock face, a thin and sturdy strap is preferable to a delicate bit of gadgetry costing several hundred dollars (not even considering the tethered phone). For those who find Android Wear, the Pebble and the Apple Watch too flashy and too delicate, the fitness band still has a role to play.The Battery Doesn't Give Up
When I first got my hands on my Jawbone UP24, it lasted a week between charges; a subsequent firmware upgrade has boosted that to a fortnight. With no display to illuminate and continuing improvements in power efficiency, these lightweight bands can go a long, long time on a single charge, an issue smartwatches still struggle with.
Whether it's getting off the grid, going on vacation or being away from a power socket for a prolonged period of time, longevity is important in all kinds of scenarios. Wearables are built to be worn around the clock, not removed for prolonged periods of charging or dropped in a drawer when they run out of juice—and here again, the humble fitness tracker has the edge.They're Cheap
Not everyone wants to pledge a few hundred dollars to see if step-tracking can make a difference to their lives. The aforementioned Jawbone Move and Misfit Shine will set you back $50, while Xiaomi is trying to shift its band at the rock-bottom price of $17. As sensors and components get cheaper, that price could fall further.
Of course there are more expensive fitness trackers around, but $50 is a much lower ticket price to join the wearable revolution than the $350 base price of an Apple Watch. That low outlay is appealing for users (whether buying for themselves or others), but also for businesses who want to keep an eye on their employees as part of a wellness campaign.
Oh, and one final point: opting for a fitness tracker means you can wear a normal watch, too.
Sony, Jawbone and Fitbit are among the big players who still have a faceless fitness tracker in their product lineups, so these devices are going to be around for a while yet. Smartwatches may be grabbing headlines, but their wearable forerunners are still going to play an important role for —whether that's providing a cheaper entry point for newcomers or offering an alternative for those who want health monitoring without the bells and whistles.
Header image courtesy of Fitbit
Two leading technology companies have joined forces to concoct a speedier way of building Internet of Things prototype or test devices. Chip designer ARM and IT giant IBM devised a kit for testing out connected gadgets that lets hardware developers get started in just five minutes.
The idea is to speed up the process of building prototypes for connected gadgets. It may also help software development, giving app and feature makers hardware for testing purposes, and offer tinkerers, hackers and makers a way to create their own connected devices.
As Zach Shelby, ARM's vice president of marketing, told the BBC:
[It's for] anybody who is into making products, whether they are makers who have a Kickstarter idea ... all the way up to the device engineers for the big companies.
Here's a closer look at the kit.The Nuts And Bolts
The Internet of Things Mbed Device Platform kit consists of two boards: a microcontroller development board with an ARM Cortex-M4 processor, and a sensor expansion board. Mbed refers to the ARM software that acts as the operating system, which will chiefly rely on open standards. The units connect to IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform.
The sensor expansion board is designed to capture readings in any way connected devices might need. It contains a thermometer to measure temperature, an accelerometer for motion, two potentiometers (or rotating dimmer knobs) for light-related gadgets, a buzzer, a small joystick, an LED light that can be adjusted to show up to three different colors, and a rectangular black-and-white LCD display.
The two boards are compatible, and can connect to the Internet via ethernet cable or to other hardware components through USB. While some companies are already actively testing prototypes, others who just hitting the crucial starting point of hardware development could find the kit very useful—and affordable. The price will run between $50 and $200 retail, depending on the options.Connecting Developers And Tinkerers
While the kit is being marketed primarily to technology companies, everything from the lower price to the advertised five-minute install makes it seem like a great choice for hobbyists.
This kit is just the latest in what looks like a concerted push to help would-be makers create Internet-of-Things technologies. Other companies also offer kits for would-be makers, some of which are even less expensive—Broadcom's compact little WICED Sense kit costs just $20.
The ARM Mbed bundle is not yet available for sale, but both ARM and IBM said in a statement that they expect the first products developed with it to enter the consumer market this year.
Photo via IBM
Although he hasn't yet yet demonstrated a product or even a proof-of-concept, Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz has already begun to lambast his competition—in particular, Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality headset.
Magic Leap claims to be developing some as-yet unspecified blend of augmented and virtual reality via a mysterious and also as-yet unspecified “lightweight wearable.” It's raised a ton of money—more than a half billion dollars—from Google, Qualcomm and a bunch of venture capitalists.
In a Reddit Ask-Me-Anything session yesterday, one Redditor asked Abovitz about how he would compare Magic Leap’s mystery product to the HoloLens—and Abovitz didn’t shy away from the opportunity to start throwing bombs:
There are a class of devices (see-through and non-see-through) called stereoscopic 3D. We at Magic Leap believe these inputs into the eye-brain system are incorrect—and can cause a spectrum of temporary and/or permanent neurologic deficits.
At Magic Leap we created a digital light-field signal technology that respects the biology of the human eye-brain system in a profound and safe way—and the experience is awesome—and unlike anything you have ever seen before (except for the real world) :-)”
What kind of deficits could these stereoscopic devices cause? What evidence leads to these beliefs? Other Redditors asked these questions and more, which Abovitz declined to acknowledge or answer, leading more than a few to call him out as an Internet huckster.Based on one of the few images Magic Leap has provided, its mystery tech makes seahorses breathe air. And fly!
“Utter rubbish—no sources for your assertion,” one commenter with the handle SimplicityCompass wrote. “This AMA is a joke—you have said nothing solid about your product, just marketing fluff.”A Magic Leap ... Of Faith
It’s difficult not to sympathize with Abovitz’s critics. To date, Magic Leap hasn’t revealed much about what kind of product it’s developing, how it works, or why we should care.
As the Abovitz quote above indicates, however, the company hasn't been shy about making big, if unsupported, claims for its technology. And Magic Leap now seems ready to throw its weight around a bit.Microsoft HoloLens
Microsoft will show off more information about the HoloLens at its Build conference in late April and early May. Meanwhile, Magic Leap’s timetable, technology, and product remains a complete mystery to everyone except Magic Leap. Even with Google’s backing and a $600 million war chest, Abovitz and his bold promises so far sound less like magic and more like a mere illusion.
Update, 4:35pm PT: A Microsoft spokesperson reached out to us with this statement:
Microsoft products are designed and manufactured to meet or exceed all applicable regulatory and industry safety standards.
Lead image courtesy of Magic Leap, Hololens image courtesy of Microsoft
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Google has pitted its latest AI software against professional gamers in a punishing set of 49 Atari 2600 games. And guess what? The AI is starting to beat the humans.
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Motorola’s commitment to choice goes much further than letting you color your own Moto X. The way the company sees it, owning a smartphone at all should be a choice—and the Moto E was built explicitly to make that choice easier. It’s made to be one thing, and one thing only: cheap as hell. Today, […]
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Move over, Rolex. According to reports by the French media late last week, Apple may be taking a page from your playbook, prompting it to build dedicated stores for its upcoming Apple Watch.
The company has not breathed a word of this, of course, but there's reason to believe it may be true. But those reasons may be more than skin deep. The popular narrative chalks this up to Apple copying jewelry or luxury goods makers, and it’s tempting to say Apple just wants to give its “precious” an equally precious retail environment.
But there are more pragmatic reasons than that—some of which may offer lessons to other would-be smartwatch makers.How Precious Can You Get?From Apple's Apple Watch Edition line, which features sapphire glass and 18 karat gold.
If the new device was a phone, it would sit out in the open at Apple Stores. The other jewels in Apple's crown, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, are displayed just this way, tethered by thin cables and caked in the thick smudges that only thousands of shoppers could leave behind. They line up like good little soldiers alongside the latest iPads, iPod touches and MacBook Airs.
The company may not want the Apple Watch to suffer that indignity. After all, it has hifalutin ambitions for the product.Apple Watches will also be available for aluminum and stainless steel versions.
Apple's profound power of denial has it refusing to call the wrist gadget—which will link to iPhones and work with apps—something as mundane as a smartwatch. Last September, the company went out of its way to invite fashion journalists and other tastemakers to its press announcement. Vogue China editors saw the watch in person before many American tech reporters did, putting the gadget on its cover. Now Self bookends the fashion push as the first U.S. magazine to do the same.
How glamorous. So if Apple is designing whole stores around the smartwatch—and it is a smartwatch, no matter what Apple says—it seems rather fitting. The company would give its wrist device some space to breath and glass display cases to highlight the beauty. All the better to add to the product’s allure.
But Apple may have another motivation for constructing special brick-and-mortar stores: theft protection. Apple Stores from California to North Carolina to many other parts of the U.S. and abroad, including Paris, have seen robberies, smash-and-grabs and even thefts enabled by barreling a car into an Apple storefront. Former NBA basketball player Rex Chapman alone made off with $14,000, and Apple’s own employees apparently can’t resist joining in on the illicit activity.
Apple downplays the issue, and it doesn’t disclose figures attached to theft, but the sums are likely considerable. (The company has hundreds of stores worldwide, with more than 250 in the U.S. alone.) A few Apple Store employees in the Bay Area have told me their locations see frequent thefts. Some are brazen snatching incidents, others skew toward subtle cons like Rex Chapman’s—with perpetrators waltzing out the door after faking an Easy Pay self-checkout transaction.
The addition of even smaller devices—worth between $350 to as much as $5,000—would surely heighten the temptation.Apple Watch prices may top out at $5,000, but it's still nothing compared to this diamond-crusted variation by Mervis Diamond Importers, which will cost $30,000.
Not that Apple Watches will be entirely MIA from current stores. More likely, the base models will sit out in those display tables, while premium versions will probably get stashed in backroom vaults. But that’s hardly a great way to showcase 18 karat-gold premium devices.
A jewelry store-style setting, presumably equipped with cameras, alarms and tightened security, would allow the company to feature all models of its Apple Watch in a grander—and more guarded—setting.Why Every Smartwatch Maker Should Root For AppleLG Urbane smartwatch
New purpose-built retail locations would allow Apple to give the public hands-on time without magnifying the shoplifting temptation in its regular stores. That hands-on time is crucial.
The last time Apple debuted a category-defining device was the iPad's roll-out in 2010. Ahead of that launch, naysayers just couldn’t see the point of what some called “a vastly oversized iPod touch.” But the extra space allowed developers to rethink their user interfaces and create more immersive experiences that just weren’t possible on smaller displays.
In other words, you had to actually use it to really get it. The same may well be true of the Apple Watch.Samsung Gear S is basically the tablet or "phablet" of smartwatches.
The iPad ultimately won many of the critics over, with some even publicly admitting their error. Its soaring sales prompted many of major smartphone makers to also become tablet makers. Though sales of its big-screen mobile device have dropped lately, the launch experience was valuable for Apple—particularly now as it prepares to unleash its smallest-screen gadget.
Apple likely noticed some interesting customer behavior in its existing stores: Some people need to hold the devices in their hands before they can fall in love with them. That may be even truer for unproven gadgets.
That’s one reason why, even though brick-and-mortar locations seem so very antiquated in these digital times, they’ve become surprisingly de rigueur among tech companies as varied as Amazon, eBay, Microsoft and Samsung. Apple has mastered its grip on physical retail better than most, and now it may be poised to do it once again, all for a single product.
A lot could be riding on it. While the public seems intrigued by smartwatches, many still haven’t yet hopped on the bandwagon. Perhaps, like with iPads, they need to experience them first.
That can be tougher than it seems. When the Asus ZenWatch was supposed to launch at Best Buy last November, I headed to my local outpost to check it out on day one. The employees had no idea what I was talking about, and couldn't even find the device in their inventory database.
If Apple is building Watch Stores, it may be in part because the company wants to give its first real wearable its biggest chance of success. If it works, the tech giant might find itself popularizing a nascent product category once again and raising the profile of a whole industry.
Success should be easy to gauge. We'll just have to look out for jewelry store-like retail spaces with customers lined up all the way down the block.
Device photos courtesy of their respective manufacturers
The McLaren 675LT is a powered-up, stripped-down, track-focused take on the 650S supercar.
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It's like Uber for everything. It's wildly ambitious, brilliantly simple, and hardly works at all.
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"What is Hadoop?" is a simple question with a not-so-simple answer. Using it successfully is even more complex.
Even its creator Doug Cutting offered an accurate-but-unsatisfying "it depends" response when I asked him last week at the Strata+Hadoop World conference to define Hadoop. He wasn't being coy. Despite serving as the poster child for Big Data, Hadoop has grown into a complicated ecosystem of complementary and sometimes competitive projects.Doug Cutting
Which is precisely what makes it so interesting and powerful.
As Cutting went on to tell me, Hadoop can fill a myriad of different roles within an enterprise. The trick to getting real value from it, however, is to start with just one.The New Linux
Hadoop, avers Cutting, is much like Linux. "Linux, properly speaking, is the kernel and nothing more," he notes, channeling his inner Richard Stallman. "But more generally, it’s an ecosystem of projects. Hadoop is like that."
But this wasn't always the case.
Hadoop started as a new way to process (MapReduce) and store (Hadoop Distributed File System, or HDFS) data. Ten years later, Hadoop has become motley assembly of oddly-named projects, including Pig, Hive, YARN, Hbase, and more.
Already a far-ranging ecosystem, Hadoop is the largest galaxy in an ever-growing universe of Big Data (though people often use Hadoop to mean Big Data). Ultimately, says Cutting, Hadoop expresses a certain "style" of thinking about data, one that centers on scalability (commodity hardware, open source, distributed reliability) and agility (no need to transform data to a common schema on load but rather load it and then improvise on schema as you go along).
All of which, he says, means one simple thing: "More power to more people more easily with more data."Calling Your Hadoop Baby Ugly
"Easily," however, is in the eye of the data science beholder.
Hadoop, despite its power, has yet to see mainstream adoption (it still accounts for just 3% of the enterprise storage footprint, as 451 Research finds), largely because of how complicated it is. And that's not helped by how fast the Hadoop ecosystem continues to grow.
This, in turn, may be one reason that Hadoop deployments haven't grown as fast as they otherwise might, as Gartner analyst Merv Adrian highlights:Source: Gartner
Cutting recognizes Hadoop's warts. While it would be too much to say he celebrates them, it is true that he's not embarrassed by them. At all. As he puts it, "One of the things I liked when I got started in open source is that I didn’t have to apologize. Nor did I have to deceive and say a project could do things well if it actually couldn't."
The code, after all, tells its own truth.
Hence, he's comfortable saying things like:
Hadoop is what it is. It used to be a lot worse and used a lot less. It’s gotten a lot better and is now used a lot more.
How much more? Despite the Gartner analysis above, Cutting told me that Cloudera sees the Hadoop world doubling each year: "doubling of number of customers, company revenue, customer cluster sizes, and even Strata has roughly doubled each year."
That's good, but what would make it move even faster? Otherwise stated, what does he see as the biggest barriers to Hadoop adoption?Barriers To Hadoop World Domination
There are a few things that block Hadoop's progress, Cutting tells me. First, there are features that enterprises need that Hadoop and its ecosystem still lack.
More than this, he suggests, there are missing integrations between the different stars in the Big Data/Hadoop galaxy. In other words, it's still not easy or seamless to move data between different tools, like Hive to Solr or MongoDB to Impala. Enterprises want to use different tools to deal with the same data set.
We're also still waiting on applications to remove complexity and streamline Hadoop. As he suggests, Cloudera sees common use cases—like risk management for financial services companies—that require the same tools to solve the problem. At some point these "recipes" for success (use tools X and Y in this or that way) need to become productized applications, rather than each enterprise assembling the recipe on their own.
Finally, Hadoop needs more people trained to understand it. If Strata roughly doubles in size each year, that implies that half are newbies. Getting those newbies up-to-speed is paramount to helping their enterprises embrace Hadoop.Start Small To Go Big
There are, of course, a swelling number of online and classroom-led courses to teach people Hadoop, which is one way to become proficient.
But Cutting thinks there's another way to drive fast, effective learning. As he puts it, "What works best and leads to the least disappointment is to look at your business and find the low-hanging fruit, a discrete project that could save or make the company a lot of money."
Though Cloudera sells a vision of enterprise data hubs, he thinks that's more of an end goal, not the first step. "Don’t try to jump to moving your company to an enterprise data hub," he declares. "Not at first. Start with a point solution with relatively low risk." Then grow the solution (and the team's understanding) from there.
"If you’re doing it right," he continues, "others will find out what you’re doing and they'll ask to add extra data to your Hadoop setup. Maybe it doesn’t solve your immediate business problem, but it allows Hadoop experience to grow organically within an organization."
Which seems like the exact right way to go big with Big Data: by starting small.
The reality, as he notes, is that enterprises don't turn over their technology investments very fast. As such, Hadoop primarily gets used for new applications, with the majority of enterprises still running themselves on old technology. It will take years for Hadoop to take its rightful place in the enterprise, but by starting small, Hadoop-savvy employees can position their companies to profit all along that growth trajectory.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
How do you encourage people to follow a story thematically?
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How does a battery work? Does it store electric charge? No. Here is a model that explains the workings of a battery.
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The plastic elements look like ropes made out of Play-doh.