Category Archives: Interesting stuff

Less science fiction, it’s really just science

I was just reading about Google’s newest project and it got me thinking about how the gap between science fiction and simply just, ‘science’ has pretty much closed since I was a kid and watching films like Innerspace and Terminator… bear with me…

Google’s new patent sees a range of smart contact lenses equipped with tiny cameras embedded within, to allow for ‘in lens’ photography or assistance for the visually impaired. Google also have lenses that are able to provide measurements of blood glucose levels for diabetics through a sensor that measures the glucose in tears and signals the levels through teeny, tiny LED’s.

Soooo… given we know that human bodies don’t accept foreign objects particularly well and this new lens means we can access the small surface of our eye (which is covered by live cells that can represent our whole body) in a non-intrusive way, how long before a contact lens can analyse what is happening inside our body without actually ever entering it… (that’s the Innerspace reference).

… and how long before we have night vision, or augmented data layered in. How long before we don’t need all the other screens around us, our phones, in-car dashboards… and how long before a simple lens scans everyone around us (Terminator ticked) and along with Arnie and Quaid, Cruise needs to re-draft his Minority Report to be something more actual fiction biased science fiction…

He'll be back...

He’ll be back…

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Is this of Pinterest to you?

This first came to life over a year ago but I’ve heard about this new social site a few times over the last week or so and it caught my eye again in the Metro yesterday.

It’s mainly women in the US using it right now (reserve the Desperate Housewives comments for later), but that will change I’m sure as there are currently around a million pins a week being added.

Currently you have to be invited or request an invite; I’m on the waiting list… and still waiting… ahem…

It’s a great virtual mood board experience, visually rich and quick to engage with, although to be honest I’m a little nervous about the copyright issues that could arise here.

I wonder whether it will stand on its own or quickly be swallowed by something bigger – Mr Zuckerberg apparently has his eye on it so who knows.

In the meantime ‘like’ it, ‘g+’ it, ‘tweet’ it or, if you want to join, ‘pin’ it…

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The Snaggletooth Splat; a book for brainstrust

This is the most exciting thing I’ve worked on in the last year, not only is it for a great cause but I got to work with some exceptionally talented people and friends. Winner all round.

It’s also my first published piece (eek) so I’m doubly proud to be working with brainstrust on it. brainstrust is a UK-based brain cancer charity, dedicated to improving clinical care for brain tumour sufferers and providing coordinated support in their search for treatment.

I remember the afternoon the idea first came to light, Will (Communications and Development person at brainstrust) and I were having a pint at our local and he was talking about the brainbox that they were launching, a tool-box shaped ‘brain box’ containing a number of essential things to help brain tumour patients and their carers such as: A brain book, A ‘Have You Lost Your Way?’ booklet, A copy of the ‘Living with a Brain Tumour’ book and A pill-box… all amazing stuff but we felt that was something more we could do for children.

It was at this point we thought it a great idea to write this book which would be designed to explain to children who have just been diagnosed with brain cancer, what a brain tumour is and how the doctors and their carers will fight it and provide brain tumour support.

And so the Snaggletooth Splat was born.

I got to collaborate with Jase, an amazing illustrator (check out his blog here), to whom I am so grateful for bringing the words to life, and also with Andy Lodge who helped get the final product through print and thanks also to Chris Leah for the shots (below). You can read more about it and learn more about brainstrust here.

It’s been a real pleasure and I look forward to working with these guys more.

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Digital to Analogue

I was sat with my grandfather  the other evening putting the world to rights over a glass of Cotes Du Rhone. Fed up with the crap on TV we started trying to fine tune his relic of an analogue receiver, this lasted about  five minutes before I got annoyed and fired up my laptop.

I suggested perhaps now that he has his own laptop (there’s got to be some bonuses from having a geeky granddaughter right?) we try streaming something through the internet which, returned rather a blank expression. (Worth noting at this point when I first showed my grandfather how to work his laptop the first question asked was ‘where does the paper come out when you print these ‘email things?’)

Never the less, it took less than an hour to get him set up on iTunes and creating playlists of all his favourite artists and minutes later we were ordering speakers from amazon.

This got me thinking about just how much we’ve progressed in the world of digital audio. Its usefulness in the recording and quick mass-production of sound has made distribution of music across the internet staggeringly easy.

(If you find this interesting read on, if you don’t skip to the last paragraph for the happy ending…)

With an analogue audio system, when sound is created it’s done so as a physical waveform which moves in currents across the air, to capture that sound you have to transform the waves into an electrical representation via a transducer where it will be stored or transmitted. Then to re-create into sound, the process is reversed through amplification and then converted back into physical waveforms via speakers.

With digital audio you take the analogue sample and convert the pulses/ waves into binary signals which are then normally further encoded to allow modification and enhancement. This digital audio is then far simpler to transfer, transmit or store and from today’s wild variations of music you will know that filters and effects are commonly applied too (think N-Dubz, Gorillaz etc).

Once all this fancy pants wizardry has been applied the digital audio is ready to be distributed, which is significantly easier and cheaper as audio data files rather than as physical objects e.g. CD’s (or records if you’re my grandfather).

To be honest I lost him the second I started chatting about waveforms, but the story ends with a happy grandfather with the complete works of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven all for less than a fiver.

Sorted, thank you digital audio.


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The new X-Box ‘Kinect’

It’s ‘sleeker, smaller and quieter’ and according to the Vice president of Microsoft, the X-Box 360 ‘Kinect’ is the next revolution in gaming.

With 250GB HD and built-in wi-fi the console brings you technologies that allow you to use your voice as a control, plus movement and gestures.  The team at Microsoft have created new partnerships with the likes of ESPN in order to build more intelligent software that recognise you and your opponents to add in more interactive dimensions to the world of gaming.

You might worry that this will be detrimental to the quality you expect to receive as historically we’ve all experienced rich high-definition video but Microsoft promise they’re not moving away from delivering this quality and look to better their three massive blockbusters: Halo, Gears of War and Call of Duty.

One for your wish list to Santa, the ‘Kinect’ is due to hit stores by the end of this year.

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Foursquare: The Facts

Foursquare was founded by Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai.

Foursquare is a location-based social networking website and game.

Foursquare is built primarily for smart phones.

Foursquare has more than 600,000 people checking in at this moment in time.

Foursquare grew more than 10% during one conference (SXSW). That hasn’t been done since Twitter.

Foursquare employ 16 people. The square root of 4 is 16… See what they did there?

If you want to know more, check out their blog.

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Geek Alert: Cloudkick launch Cloudkick Viz

With browser support constantly growing there’s been a lot of talk around how to make the web a more user-friendly place to live and work.

Cloudkick have developed an interesting tool for the IT guru’s working at the heart of the technical platforms that keep a multitude of web applications up and running for us all.

They’ve launched Cloudkick Viz;  a simple tool that makes it simpler and easier to manage server infrastructure.

Now for the techy bit: Cloudkick Viz turns your browser into an interactive Network Operations Centre (NOC) which automatically pulls in the data from the servers you’ve connected to Cloudkick. Built with HTML5, canvas (an element of HTML5 that allows dynamic rendering of shapes and images), and JavaScript this is the first cloud monitoring system in the world that runs in real-time in tune with your servers.

To make it even easier to use it’s all displayed in a nice 3D graph that rotates around a central axis: check out the live demo here

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iPhone v Android

I’ve been the owner of an iPhone for almost a year now but I doubt very much I’ll ever own one again once my contract runs out, reason being Android are kicking the heels of Apple all the way and seem to be doing everything better and above-board.

One thing that I particularly don’t like about Apple is the way that they treat their developers, having worked with teams on the receiving end of their do’s and dont’s you get to a point when you think enough is enough, just be nice it doesn’t cost anything Apple!

What’s nice about Android is they have a firm but fair term of service policy that make it much easier to develop apps and get the support you need to get it right, interested? You can read the full thing here.

Android have also adopted a full refund policy, if you buy an app you have a 24 hour cooling off period to decide whether or not it’s worth the money you paid for it, beneficial both to the user and the developer, also another thing Apple don’t offer.

Can’t help but think Apple are going to start sweating a bit…

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Are we there yet?

It’s Sunday morning and ignoring the unwritten law that dictates this is the Hollyoaks omnibus slot, I’m watching Star Trek instead.

Further to that I’m investigating the Time Warp theory, I’m amazed NASA haven’t sussed this one, it’s simple.

Take a bit of space-time and move it, place a space ship (or transportation of your choice) inside that bubble of time, the space ship thinks it’s not moving and that the space-time is moving instead.

In theory what actually happens is the space-time expands behind the spaceship and contracts in front of it… similar to the big bang theory (where cosmologists refer to the idea that the Universe has expanded from a primordial hot and dense initial condition at some finite time in the past and continues to expand to this day. Source: Wikipedia)

It’s fascinating, even more so is the idea of time travel paradoxes, you could have been on a trip you’ve planned, had a wild time and returned home before you’ve even left the house to get in your space ship and go…

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Pandora marries Facebook

Soooo…the top online radio service and the world’s largest and most successful social network have solidified a plan for domination of the virtual world.

It seems that you can share music with your friends with no catch (really?) and integrate your Pandora and Facebook accounts without a real-time irritating update of what you’re listening to (really… really?). Pandora pay the license, facebook opens it up…

There are countless other similar music services but if you do the basic math, Pandora + Facebook = bloody easy way to get the music/ life balance.

Following on from my earlier post (which didn’t quite work thanks to the lack of ‘Like’ widgets for WordPress) Facebook will include ‘Like’ buttons which users can embed on other websites, by doing this Pandora can then provide you with the most update musical trends based on what you ‘Like’. Easy peasy.

It’s early days but I guess we’ll find out soon enough whether this genius partnering will come to fruition.

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