Many of us start off with big intentions to do big things. Although I’m a person who loves to dream big, (when I say big, I mean BIG!) I find that there is a power in thinking small when getting started with something. Whenever you’re on the tracks to get anything done, big or small, start from where you presently are.
It was fairly recently that scientists called Graphene as the new wonder material, not soon after, it’s time to give way for the new kid on the block – Stanene. According to a team of physicists led by the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University. a single layer of tin atoms could be the world’s first material to conduct electricity with 100% efficiency at the temperatures up to 100 degrees. It’s true, but the sad part is that, it still works only in theory.
Stanene is a wonder material that is known as a ‘topological insulator’, which simply means its interior is an insulator yet conducts electrons along its surface. By making the material only a single atom thick, the stanene is essentially just a surface, allowing it to conduct electricity with 100% efficiency. The most advantageous factor is that temperatures up to 100 degrees Celsius is the operating temperatures of all computer chips. Stanene could well be the Silicon replacement we were looking for. But I should remind you, this still works only in theory, the final product is yet to be fabricated.
Shoucheng Zhang, a physics professor at Stanford and the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences, said, “Eventually, we can imagine stanene being used for many more circuit structures, including replacing silicon in the hearts of transistors. It could increase the speed and lower the power needs of future generations of computer chips, if our prediction is confirmed by experiments that are underway in several laboratories around the world.”
The first true touchscreen was unveiled in 1974, and the resistive touchscreen was patented in 1977 and is still used today (although capacitive touchscreens have taken over now). It’s been close to four decades, don’t you think it’s time for an upgrade? First it was Leap Motion that caused a stir in the industry, but it didn’t rise to expected levels. Now, Intel has joined the league, and when Intel plays the game, they dominate. Perceptual computing—the next big wave of technology—is about to hit, bringing with it the promise of very engaging computing experiences.
Perceptual Computing (PerC) is an organization within Intel Corporation which focuses on next-generation, natural user interfaces such as touch, gesture, voice, emotion sensing, biometrics, and image recognition. The organization is funded by a $100 million grant from Intel Capital. Intel have provided developers with their own Intel Perceptual Computing SDK. Developers are now working to make computers as cognitive about their surroundings as we are so they can process much of the information around them and arrive at a logical conclusion based on a user’s intent. Extracting information from the environment will include data points such as the directionality of the voice (for example, is the user talking to the computer or to a friend nearby?), the ambient background noise, facial recognition for automatic user selection (and security), 3D maps of the environment for object and gesture recognition, and more.
Intel had demonstrated how it would work. Cameras sensed the position of fingers, and spun virtual lightning between them. A user’s hands could be used to tickle a virtual child. And in another demo, Eden played the game Portal 2 by waving his hands and orally commanding the computer to drop a Companion Cube. Finally, Eden demonstrated a new version of the Nuance virtual assistant, co-developed by Intel and Nuance and running on top of Intel’s Atom and Core silicon.
Intel has been the biggest player in terms of technology and innovation in the industry. Whether this will be the future of computing, we will find out. Soon.
Phonebloks is a Thunderclap project started by Dutch Engineer David Hakken that might just be the next big thing in the mobile industry. A phone only lasts a couple of years before it breaks or becomes obsolete. Even if just a part of it failed us, we’ll have to make it an expensive paper weight. Phonebloks is all about solving this problem, in an unusual, yet innovative and possibly viable way. Phonebloks is made of detachable bloks. The bloks are connected to the base which locks everything together into a solid phone. If a blok breaks you can easily replace it; if it’s getting old just upgrade. David Hakken has publicized this project as an attempt to reduce e-Waste.
And guess what it has a store all for itself. The Blokstore. It’s like an app store for hardware. In the store you buy your bloks, read reviews and sell old bloks.
Motorola has shown keen interest in Phonebloks. The company’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) team went public with its one-year-old Ara Project (it’s own version of upgradable smartphones) after agreeing earlier this month to partner with Phonebloks. Now with Hakken as its new face, Motorola’s Ara project aims to bring some substance to Hakken’s arguable pipe dream, and “do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software.”
Martin Cooper, the inventor of the cell phone, told CNN that while the Phonebloks concept is ‘well-meaning’ he suspects it will never become a reality: “the main reason that the Phonebloks will not hit the market as it will cost more, be bigger and heavier, and be less reliable. By the time it could be brought to market, the problem that engendered it will be gone.”
He might be right, but there’s always two sides to a coin.
Why I think it could work?
- People love customizing their phones! The time of software upgrades, rooting & jailbreaking could be history.
- If it’s physically possible, it might be bigger than the huge leap forward Capacitive touch screens were, when they first arrived.
- As a student, we can get tight on the pocket, we could settle for the default and upgrade later!
Why I think it might not work?
- The phone could get too bulky
- It might succeed as a concept, but to surpass the impact that the iPhone or Galaxy’s have in day to day work might be too much of a task.
- Google Play is a key factor to the success of Android. As for the Blokstore, a store with a very small number of bloks could lead its way to doom. I don’t think there could be bloks enough to satisfy consumer needs.
- It will be as expensive as hell.
Let’s see where it goes from here.
Project Loon is Google’s R&D project aiming to provide internet access to rural and remote areas. Balloon-Powered Internet for Everyone is what Google aims at doing. Project Loon balloons travel around 20 km above the Earth’s surface in the stratosphere, almost twice as high as airplanes and the weather. The balloons are guided by the slow and steady winds in the stratosphere. Project Loon uses software algorithms to determine where its balloons need to go, then moves each one into a layer of wind blowing in the right direction. By moving with the wind, the balloons can be arranged to form one large communications network. People connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building. The signal bounces from balloon to balloon, then to the global Internet back on Earth.
Project Loon started pilot testing in June 2013 in New Zealand. A small group of Project Loon pioneers tested the technology in Christchurch and Canterbury. Thirty balloons were launched from New Zealand’s South Island, and beamed Internet to a small group of pilot testers. The final outcome was that the balloons were able to get a range of about 40 km with rather constant speeds in the lower broadband regions. A lot of other findings were made and Google is now working on improving the Loon.
A Google official stated that India is among the countries that have showed an interest in implementing Project Loon. Google’s Project Loon has been received with criticism and awe alike. Project Loon is a source of hope for a lot of Indians. While there is no word on when Loon will reach India, I do hope it’s soon enough. The success of this project depends on how the regulators in India greet it because the project will be requiring spectrum, which is firmly regulated in the country. The usage of radios and spectrum will be a touch task to tackle in the country.
Mood Indigo or MoodI is IIT Bombay‘s annual cultural fest. The 4 day event is the largest of its kind in Asia. Last year alone almost 88,000 students from over 700 colleges across India witnessed the epic event. Started in 1971 by a bunch of IITans, it now stands at its 43rd edition this year from December 20th to 23rd.
Some of previous year events that stole the show
- The French Canadian rock band Simple Plan came exclusively to India to perform in Mood Indigo 2012.
- Australian Progressive Rock Band Karnivool‘s first performance in India in 2011.
- The first ever Sumo Wrestling match in India in Mood Indigo 2010.
- Swedish metal band Katatonia’s first Asian performance in Mood Indigo 2010
- English band Porcupine Tree’s first Indian concert in Mood Indigo 2009
- The Ensiferum concert in 2008 which was the first international night of Mood Indigo
It would be awesome if I could go there this year. I really don’t want to miss it. You can download the brochure here.
For over 50 years, both computers and mobile devices have depended upon NAND Flash as a memory module. It’s high time it needs a much needed replacement. Crossbar, a California based technology startup has come up with a ReRAM (or RRAM) design that they claim is capable of being commercialized. I know what you’re thinking, what on earth is ReRAM!?! ReRAM (Resistive Random Access Memory – do memristors ring a bell?) is just another form of RAM has been around for a while but with little success in becoming anywhere near being commercialized. The company has not announced that it is ready for mass production, but that they have successfully implemented the architecture on Silicon.
So How Does It Work?
ReRAM works by creating a resistance rather than directly storing charge, as in traditional memory. When an electric current is applied to the material, it changes the resistance of that material. This change in resistance is what is exploited for data storage. The new resistance state is then measured as, you guessed it, 1′s and 0′s, and READ or WRITE processes are initiated. ReRAM designs are low voltage, its endurance is far superior to flash memory, and the cells are much smaller and a lot faster. If you are a true geek, you might want to read the whole working as well!
What makes ReRAM an even better alternative than NAND Flash is that it is almost 20 times faster (140 MB per second WRITE speed as compared to 7MB per second for flash) than the best flash storage available today. An added bonus is that it has a lifetime of more than 10 years and it uses very low amounts of power. ReRAM is a technology that can take the mobile device industry by storm. The biggest problems we face with mobile devices is the terrible battery life and low data storage. ReRAM is capable of rectifying all these problems and giving us a phone capable of storing thousands of HD Videos with a playback time of over a week! A dream come true for many Android users!
The current estimate is that ReRAM will be ready for mass production by the 2017-2018 time frame. But there’s still no certainty that this technology will make it. Improvements made here may be applied to flash and manufacturers may take advantage of the characteristics of ReRAM and implement it in flash without having to change anything. It’s funny the industry, ain’t it?