July 19, 2018

Driverless van in downtown Las Vegas

My excitement rose as I saw a free driverless shuttle in downtown Las Vegas. In truth, this is a PR stunt to get people used to seeing and perhaps riding in a van that can drive itself. Walking the few blocks would have been faster albeit much less novel.

For now, the modern-looking van seats 8 with seat belts and another 3 for staff. The day I tried the shuttle, downtown construction necessitated having a human along for unforeseen obstacles. The standing driver intervened a couple of times with controls that looked like a gameboy device. The shuttle itself did successfully avoid hitting a car that got too close to us. A company companion car follows the van as it makes its way through the downtown area for an added layer of safety.

The project is sponsored by AAA and the city of Las Vegas with the vehicular service being provided by a French company named Keolis S. A. Our Keolis representative said that there are currently over a hundred cities across the world with driverless pilot programs. The driverless shuttle service is slated to be widespread in 2020. Two years from now, people!

The staff sheepishly told us about the Navya-built shuttle’s first day of service in Las Vegas. A delivery truck hit it causing a minor fender bender. Local police placed blame on the human driver of the truck however. If his vehicle had similar sensors to that of the shuttle’s, the accident may have been avoided entirely.

For now, driverless vans are a rare sight, but we are on the brink of a brave new world where we have to trust machines to do a better job than the human behind the wheel. Ready or not, automated transportation is speeding towards us.

Brainwaves app

Brainwaves, an app for your phone or tablet boasts 35 binaural programs that combine brain waves with ambient music, nature sounds or your own iTunes music selections. Binaural means using both ears so the app works better with earphones.

You can program 5 minute to 8 hour sessions choosing themes like relaxation, deep sleep, energy, meditation and memory enhancement. The app actually makes use of delta, theta, alpha, beta and gamma waves to enhance the experience.

At $4.99, this app is affordable and worth a try if you need stress relief or want to add more meditation and rest periods to your daily life.

Please read any health warnings before using this app. You can always resort to good old fashioned meditation. Or play your own nature sounds and music while you quiet your mind and breathe. Still, this app might be just the thing to encourage calm, sleep or concentration.

Thanks to Amy Lechelt Basta for the recommendation of Brainwaves. The app definitely chilled me down after my dog got loose and led me on a stressful chase. Om!

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

Farmer’s Fridge for Healthy Food on the Run

At O’Hare airport, I was trudging past the usual fast food concerns with hunger pangs lowering my food selectivity. All at once, I caught sight of an automated food kiosk called Farmer’s Fridge in the American terminal. The bright green colors immediately made me think of fresh and possibly healthy food. Jackpot!

I had brought my own vegetables (don’t ask), so all I needed were some protein sources. Peppered hard-boiled eggs and chicken breast came in cute little hard plastic jars that popped out of the machine after I easily paid by debit card. I also bought a snack with chocolate covered fruit and nuts. Yum!

Some of the larger jars contained veritable full meals with colorful layered ingredients. I plan to check out salads like the Peach Caprese with basil couscous, romaine lettuce, peaches, yellow tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, spinach, pine nuts and balsamic vinaigrette, or the North Napa salad with cabbage, mixed greens, grapes, cucumber, chickpeas, avocado, feta cheese, pistachios, dried cherries and vinaigrette.

Heartier dishes like Soba noodles and Salmon Nicoise also appear on the menu. One can opt for protein snacks like Phoenix Bean Tofu or the afore-mentioned chicken or hard-boiled eggs. You can also add various flavors of LaCroix water as one’s beverage.

Breakfast options include almond butter oatmeal, Greek yogurt and granola along with pineapple coconut chia pudding.

The kiosks are refilled every morning with unsold food donated to zero percent, an organization that disperses unused products to local food pantries. There is also a slot on the machines to recycle empty jars.

Farmer’s Fridge food kiosks can be found at venues like McCormick Place, Willis Tower, The Rookery, Revival Food Hall, Block 37, the Merchandise Mart, Northbrook Court and at various hospitals and educational venues. Some kiosks have 24-hour access. For a more complete list, go to: http://www.farmersfridge.com/location

All ingredients, calories and nutritional facts are viewable on the kiosk screen so you can make intelligent healthy food choices.

If you live outside of the Chicago area, you may want to petition the Farmer’s Fridge to add a kiosk to your frequent haunts. Your taste buds and waist line will thank you!
http://www.farmersfridge.com/

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?