December 18, 2017

New Apple building graces the Chicago River

I continue to cheer every time a new structure is added to the Chicago River scene. The new Apple Store under Pioneer Court at Michigan Avenue and the river bridge was constructed with international supplies and know-how.

The architectural firm that planned this glass marvel is Foster + Partners from London. A Dubai company supplied the carbon fiber roof panels. The glass elevator is from Japanese company, Mitsubishi. Granite is from a quarry in China, and the leather throughout the store is from France’s Hermès.

The architecture is a mixture of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie-style with wide eaves paired with 21st century glass laminate walls that make the building appear to be transparent. The views of the river and the surrounding buildings make this a new Chicago jewel.

The interior features a 6 K resolution screen that literally floats above the seating for visitors. Yes, the main purpose of the building is to sell Apple products but architectural buffs and tourists alike will want to pay a visit to this new Chicago architectural wonder.

Photo by E. Doyle

Robotic lawn mowers: Honda’s Miimo

A friend of mine uses an electronic system to keep her dog in their fenceless yard. Lo and behold, robotic lawnmowers are now combining that concept with that of the Roomba vacuum to keep lawns clipped and mulched.

The number one on-line choice appears to be the Honda Miimo lawn kit which comes with 3 elements: perimeter wire with pegs to mark your property’s boundaries and to mark off flowers, trees and bushes from being mowed, the robotic unit itself and the charging station.

Using a smart phone app, the owner can set the grass cutting height and the mower proceeds to manicure the lawn. The device can be programmed to only run at night with a sound equivalent to an air-conditioning unit. Contrast that with the ultra-loud power mowers of yore.

The machine finely slices the grass into mulch which is left on the lawn as a natural fertilizer. When the mower runs low on juice, it automatically goes to its charging station and powers up.
The Honda Miimo comes in two price models, the HRM 310 for $2,499 or the HRM 520 for $2,799 so only the well-heeled will be buying these mowers, for now.

A couple of my nephews make money mowing sporting fields in the summer. Let’s hope these robotic mowers don’t come down in price and proliferate until these two young guys are out of college!

The future of eyeglasses

While the big tech companies are perfecting Virtual Reality glasses, I have been keeping my eye on what’s happening in everyday vision ware.

Omnifocal Glasses by an Israeli company called Deep Optics promises to allow us to see whatever distance we focus on with the use of a layer of transparent liquid crystal and electrical current. The glasses will ultimately change your prescription instantaneously with the help of sensors that track your pupils and determine what distance they are looking at. The company has not succeeded in packing all of this technology into simple glasses yet, but liquid crystal lenses are literally around the corner. http://www.deepoptics.com/do_site/

You can now pre-order the amazing Shima glasses by Laforge for $590. Imagine glasses that can give you directions, tell you how far you’ve walked and play your favorite music through an app on your smart phone. And these glasses have stylish frames, not the futuristic and bulky VR glasses that Google and other companies are designing.

https://www.laforgeoptical.com

Don’t laugh but many people ascribe to the idea that looking through lenses of specific colors have the ability to improve one’s function and mood. Blue may promote relaxation and calmness; orange is supposed increase social confidence and cheerfulness along with cancelling out the blue light of electronic devices; yellow encourages concentration and mental clarity and may additionally help with night time driving.

After a brief internet search, I find no glasses that can electronically give you a rainbow of color options. Yes, there are glasses that go from clear to shaded sunglasses, but for other colors, one must buy a regular pair with only one color of lens. Here is a site that will sell you those single color glasses and explains more about color therapy.
If you know of an electronic pair that allows the wearer to change the color of lens, please let me know!

http://www.colorglasses.com/

I might wait until I can purchase a pair of electronic glasses that have all of the above features, but there will undoubtedly be a company that can implant a sophisticated electronic device directly into my eyes.
And soon.
Who is with me in entering this brave and slightly terrifying new world?

The Do Not Snap Badge

do-not-snap-badgeHas someone ever posted a candid photo of you without your permission and you look like death warmed over? The Do Not Snap badge will automatically pair up with software that will blur out the face of the person wearing it, on any social media platform. Definitely something I want to wear when there is no make-up artist and hair stylist in the vicinity! do-not-snap-wearer

Apple TV Generation 4

I finally bought a flat screen Samsung Smart television after quelling family resistance to installing something new.  Yet, nostalgia has kept us from wheeling the old tube tv to the dumpster.

I must admit that television is now a much more vivid and engaging experience which is a bit of good thing, but with its dark side, too. Binge-watching is a little too easy. Especially with Siri.

Did I mention that I also bought the Generation 4 version of Apple TV?  The system is now voice-activated with Siri being all too happy to find your selected program, especially if it means buying it from itunes. She is quite the sales clerk.

The only real set-up needed is to download free and paid apps for anything you may want to watch. For example, PBS and CNN apps were free; the MHZ Choice, Netflix and HBO Now apps simply connected to my existing paid-monthly accounts.

The remote-control allows you to swipe to make selections, hold down a button to summon Siri or punch Menu which takes you back to your previous page view.

A nice feature is your iCloud photo gallery can be run as a slideshow on your tv screen. I’m still discovering ways to use Apple TV, but Siri alone has revolutionized how I watch television.  Imagine being able to talk to all of your appliances?

Apple, please come up with an equivalent to Amazon’s Echo so I can tell Siri to turn my lights on, lower my heat, switch off my oven or set my alarm clock. And then put Siri into a robot that can do my laundry while I watch my Apple TV.

Nike’s HyperAdapt 1.0 smart sneakers

Remember when tying your shoes was a rite of passage for your children, your students or you? Well, Nike will be selling sneakers in November that make that simple action obsolete.

Their self-lacing  sneakers are reminiscent of the pair worn by Marty McFly in the iconic movie, Back To the Future. The shoes electronically sense whether the laces need to be tightened or loosened providing an “Adaptive Fit.”

The sole of the HyperAdapt 1.0 shoes feature a lit sole that indicates if you are “powered up.” Does this mean that we will charge our sneakers next to our phones? Nike, can you give us some jet propulsion next?

For more information:
http://news.nike.com/news/hyperadapt-adaptive-lacing

Micro Wind Turbine for off-grid power

Imagine packing a contraption called the Micro Wind Turbine that is no bigger than an umbrella and can catch enough wind to power your electronic devices when you are “off grid.”

The inventor, Lausanne design student Nils Ferber, is looking for partners for his 2-pound invention that can capture wind at night and on overcast days when sunlight is not an option. The Turbine can power up electronics directly or charge the device’s battery pack.

Campers and survivalists, take note.

http://www.treehugger.com/wind-technology/portable-micro-wind-turbine-prototype-weighs-2-lbs-and-packs-down-size-umbrella.html

The Hadrian, a robotic brick layer in Australia

Named for the Roman Emperor who built a wall in Great Britain, the Hadrian is a one-armed robotic invention that can lay bricks four times faster than a human. Invented by an Australian engineer, the machine boasts being able to work 24 hours non-stop, lays the bricks with an accuracy within one hundredth of inch and secures them with mortar.

The Hadrian could ostensibly build 150 houses per year. It could also make one of the world’s oldest jobs go the way of the dinosaurs. Is this another step towards the demise of human manual labor?

Drone-ovic, your tennis buddy

For tennis devotees, check out this high tech invention that is being tested for production.
Using drone technology, the machine drops a tennis ball at an optimal angle so you can practice your serves. The flying gizmo also has a camera so you can record your swing and analyze your form in playback.

http://mashable.com/2016/07/01/drone-improves-tennis-training/#jc0xfR1RSmq1

Tech Shop: fostering creativity and innovation for all

While visiting Detroit for a music job, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing a business called Tech Shop. Club members have access to a building filled with tools, software and the ability to rub elbows with like-minded artisans, inventors and entrepreneurs.

Including the facility in Detroit, there are currently 8 Tech Shops throughout the United States in cities like Austin, TX, Chandler, AZ, Arlington, VA, Pittsburgh, PA and San Francisco, Mid Peninsula and San Jose in California.

Each 20,000 square foot building has laser cutters, plastics and electronic labs, a machine shop, a woodshop, a metalworking shop, a textiles department and welding stations. In Detroit, I also saw an industrial spray painting bay, a 3D printer and a car repair area including a hydraulic lift for vehicles.

You simply buy a monthly or yearly membership which entitles you to use of the facility, lectures on topics like 3D Printing, textile arts, screen printing, glass etching, mold-making for concrete, book-binding or tutorials on how to use Autodesk Inventor. Members can also attend clubs and Meet-Ups for topics like art, lasers, electronics and drones (for the droniacs).

Members include stone-cold professionals creating prototypes all the way to hobbyists and crafters, Tech Shop appears to have something for everyone who wants to exercise their tech skills, their ingenuity and their creative expression. Founder Jim Newton started the enterprise in 2006 and has termed the business “Kinko’s for geeks.”

Tech Shop has been lauded as bringing about the “democratization of innovation.” Some of the companies that have used TS facilities are Embrace which makes incubation blankets that have saved the lives of more than 150,000 babies and Square, the mobile payment company that is now a billion dollar company.

Did I mention the facilities are open 24/7? Creativity does not sleep!  The motto on the web site is “Dream it. Build it.” When are we going to get a Tech Shop in Chicago?

http://www.techshop.ws