Posts tagged gadgets

Global e-Waste Growing to 65.4 Million Tons by 2017
A new study by a coalition of NGOs, and industry, science, UN and government bodies, attempts to map the flow of e-waste around the globe. In doing so, it predict a huge surge in our collective discarded junk, with the United States and China generating the most waste.
Via The Independent:

[S]oaring international demand for electric and electronic products is fueling a global rise in e-waste, which is set to reach 65.4 million tons annually by 2017.
The grim forecast is from a new study released today, which has mapped more than 180 countries.
It reveals that, in only five years, the yearly amount of e-waste will rise 33 per cent from the 49 million tons of used electrical and electronic items generated last year…
…Mobile phones form the bulk of the 14 million used electronic products exported, with most used phones destined for Hong Kong, and countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Old computers are generally sent to Asian countries, while heavy items such as TVs and computer monitors end up in places such as Mexico, Venezuela, Paraguay and China.

The exportation of our unwanted electronics has strong, local health concerns. Take, for example, Guiyu, China. The town has become a dumping ground for old computers, phones and other gadgets with an industry arising that tries to strip valuable metals from, say, say microchips.
Side effect, according to the BBC:

The soil in Guiyu has been found to be so saturated with heavy metals such as lead, chromium and tin that groundwater has become undrinkable.
According to China’s Shantou University, the town has the highest level of cancer-causing dioxins in the world, and local children suffer from an extremely high rate of lead poisoning.

Image: A woman in Guiyu, China strips electronics of their valuable parts. Select to embiggen.

Global e-Waste Growing to 65.4 Million Tons by 2017

A new study by a coalition of NGOs, and industry, science, UN and government bodies, attempts to map the flow of e-waste around the globe. In doing so, it predict a huge surge in our collective discarded junk, with the United States and China generating the most waste.

Via The Independent:

[S]oaring international demand for electric and electronic products is fueling a global rise in e-waste, which is set to reach 65.4 million tons annually by 2017.

The grim forecast is from a new study released today, which has mapped more than 180 countries.

It reveals that, in only five years, the yearly amount of e-waste will rise 33 per cent from the 49 million tons of used electrical and electronic items generated last year…

…Mobile phones form the bulk of the 14 million used electronic products exported, with most used phones destined for Hong Kong, and countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Old computers are generally sent to Asian countries, while heavy items such as TVs and computer monitors end up in places such as Mexico, Venezuela, Paraguay and China.

The exportation of our unwanted electronics has strong, local health concerns. Take, for example, Guiyu, China. The town has become a dumping ground for old computers, phones and other gadgets with an industry arising that tries to strip valuable metals from, say, say microchips.

Side effect, according to the BBC:

The soil in Guiyu has been found to be so saturated with heavy metals such as lead, chromium and tin that groundwater has become undrinkable.

According to China’s Shantou University, the town has the highest level of cancer-causing dioxins in the world, and local children suffer from an extremely high rate of lead poisoning.

Image: A woman in Guiyu, China strips electronics of their valuable parts. Select to embiggen.

The Designer’s Workstation
We particularly dig the customizable Photoshop shortcut pedals under the desk. Ditto the mind reader to read clients’ thoughts.
Image: The Perfect Designer Workstation, via Design Taxi. Select to embiggen.

The Designer’s Workstation

We particularly dig the customizable Photoshop shortcut pedals under the desk. Ditto the mind reader to read clients’ thoughts.

Image: The Perfect Designer Workstation, via Design Taxi. Select to embiggen.

Yesterday’s Electronics in the Palm of Your Hand
Singularity Hub wins in the picture’s worth a thousand words department as it reflects on Moore’s Law and consumer electronics.
Singularity Hub, Moore’s Law is No Joke — Pile of Electronics from 1993 Fits in Your Palm Today.

Yesterday’s Electronics in the Palm of Your Hand

Singularity Hub wins in the picture’s worth a thousand words department as it reflects on Moore’s Law and consumer electronics.

Singularity Hub, Moore’s Law is No Joke — Pile of Electronics from 1993 Fits in Your Palm Today.

Remote Control Cockroach Cyborgs
“Our aim was to determine whether we could create a wireless biological interface with cockroaches, which are robust and able to infiltrate small spaces,” says Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper on the work. “Ultimately, we think this will allow us to create a mobile web of smart sensors that uses cockroaches to collect and transmit information, such as finding survivors in a building that’s been destroyed by an earthquake.
“Building small-scale robots that can perform in such uncertain, dynamic conditions is enormously difficult,” Bozkurt says. “We decided to use biobotic cockroaches in place of robots, as designing robots at that scale is very challenging and cockroaches are experts at performing in such a hostile environment…”
…The new technique developed by Bozkurt’s team works by embedding a low-cost, light-weight, commercially-available chip with a wireless receiver and transmitter onto each roach (they used Madagascar hissing cockroaches). Weighing 0.7 grams, the cockroach backpack also contains a microcontroller that monitors the interface between the implanted electrodes and the tissue to avoid potential neural damage. The microcontroller is wired to the roach’s antennae and cerci. — North Carolina State University
FJP: Wait, what?! 
Image: A Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, with Sensor. Via North Carolina State University.

Remote Control Cockroach Cyborgs

“Our aim was to determine whether we could create a wireless biological interface with cockroaches, which are robust and able to infiltrate small spaces,” says Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper on the work. “Ultimately, we think this will allow us to create a mobile web of smart sensors that uses cockroaches to collect and transmit information, such as finding survivors in a building that’s been destroyed by an earthquake.

“Building small-scale robots that can perform in such uncertain, dynamic conditions is enormously difficult,” Bozkurt says. “We decided to use biobotic cockroaches in place of robots, as designing robots at that scale is very challenging and cockroaches are experts at performing in such a hostile environment…”

The new technique developed by Bozkurt’s team works by embedding a low-cost, light-weight, commercially-available chip with a wireless receiver and transmitter onto each roach (they used Madagascar hissing cockroaches). Weighing 0.7 grams, the cockroach backpack also contains a microcontroller that monitors the interface between the implanted electrodes and the tissue to avoid potential neural damage. The microcontroller is wired to the roach’s antennae and cerci.North Carolina State University

FJP: Wait, what?! 

Image: A Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, with Sensor. Via North Carolina State University.

Hello, Little Printer

We don’t think we want to print out our personalized news feeds but that doesn’t mean we wont want to play with this adorable printer from BERG, a design studio in London.

The printer grabs your “news” from Arup, Foursquare, Google and The Guardian and gives you a receipt size printout of your digital feed.

Via FastCo Design:

Though the Little Printer can seem a bit baffling, it’s really a quietly different paradigm for technology: It’s a hack of old technologies, aimed at creating a calmer vision of social networking. It’s a limited device that’s meant to fit into our day rather than demand attention. As [BERG’s Jack] Shulze points out, amid the din of contemporary tech, “There’s room for shared objects and content that moves a little slower.”…

…Much like a DVR, the Berg Cloud Bridge is a box that plugs into your router and manages online subscriptions from Berg’s content partners (Google, The Guardian, foursquare, and Arup). Each person in a household can create a custom newspaper by managing those subscriptions on an iPhone app. So whenever Mom leaves for work at 7:30, the printer can have current news headlines, a “mini newspaper,” waiting for her to read on the train, along with a crossword. When Dad takes the kids to school at 8:30, his daily to-do list could be ready at the door, along with popular pictures from his Instagram network.

Kind of like having a personalized wire service, old school style, but cuter.

The Museum of Endangered Sounds
On the other side of the Internet Brendan Chilcutt is gathering sounds from a not so distant past. Think the spinning of a blank cassette tape, the processing of a floppy disc, the 8-bit voice of a Speak and Spell, all presented as animated gifs.
Via Chilcutt:

I launched the site in January of 2012 as a way to preserve the sounds made famous by my favorite old technologies and electronics equipment. For instance, the textured rattle and hum of a VHS tape being sucked into the womb of a 1983 JVC HR-7100 VCR. As you probably know, it’s a wonderfully complex sound, subtle yet unfiltered. But… imagine a world where we never again hear the symphonic startup of a Windows 95 machine. Imagine generations of children unacquainted with the chattering of angels lodged deep within the recesses of an old cathode ray tube TV. And when the entire world has adopted devices with sleek, silent touch interfaces, where will we turn for the sound of fingers striking QWERTY keypads? Tell me that. And tell me: Who will play my GameBoy when I’m gone?

Imagine!
We love ourselves the collector’s passion, and that someone, somewhere, has taken it upon himself to organize the buck, ping and hum of the electronics we grew up on.
The Museum of Endangered Sounds.

The Museum of Endangered Sounds

On the other side of the Internet Brendan Chilcutt is gathering sounds from a not so distant past. Think the spinning of a blank cassette tape, the processing of a floppy disc, the 8-bit voice of a Speak and Spell, all presented as animated gifs.

Via Chilcutt:

I launched the site in January of 2012 as a way to preserve the sounds made famous by my favorite old technologies and electronics equipment. For instance, the textured rattle and hum of a VHS tape being sucked into the womb of a 1983 JVC HR-7100 VCR. As you probably know, it’s a wonderfully complex sound, subtle yet unfiltered. But… imagine a world where we never again hear the symphonic startup of a Windows 95 machine. Imagine generations of children unacquainted with the chattering of angels lodged deep within the recesses of an old cathode ray tube TV. And when the entire world has adopted devices with sleek, silent touch interfaces, where will we turn for the sound of fingers striking QWERTY keypads? Tell me that. And tell me: Who will play my GameBoy when I’m gone?

Imagine!

We love ourselves the collector’s passion, and that someone, somewhere, has taken it upon himself to organize the buck, ping and hum of the electronics we grew up on.

The Museum of Endangered Sounds.

Pitifully paid workers, weak environmental policies, supply chains that allow manufacturers to abdicate responsibility. Simon Brew asks: is it even possible to buy ethically sound technology?

Via PC Pro UK:

In the past, when people have voiced ethical concerns surrounding technology, it’s typically been centred on environmental issues. Such issues, as we’ll see, are still relevant, but it’s increasingly the human consequences of manufacturing technology that are coming under the microscope.

How is the end user supposed to know just how their shiny new product came to be? Do they even care that there’s a sporting chance the manufacturer itself couldn’t tell you where every last component came from? And if they did, how is it possible to have confidence that the product they’ve just bought conforms to any kind of ethical standard? Or do we all just want to buy the cheapest product available?

Is it even possible to buy any technology with a clean conscience, without bankrupting ourselves in the process?

As I post this I think of the phones, laptops, tablets, cameras and assorted gear that allow us to do what we do. I don’t know the answers — and don’t want to use that as an excuse to abdicate the issue — but am glad we’re seeing more tech reporters tackling where our shiny things come from and the consequences of our having them. — Michael

Where the iPad Roams (US Edition)
Chitika, an online advertising network, has tracked where millions of new iPads are being activated. 
By mapping their data with US demographic data, they show the luxury tablet remains in wealthier states.
As GigaOm points out, the same holds true for iPad and iPhone penetration in China. Wealthy coastal and industrial areas adopt the devices. The rest of the country? Not so much.
Image: iPad adoption by state, via Chitika Labs.

Where the iPad Roams (US Edition)

Chitika, an online advertising network, has tracked where millions of new iPads are being activated. 

By mapping their data with US demographic data, they show the luxury tablet remains in wealthier states.

As GigaOm points out, the same holds true for iPad and iPhone penetration in China. Wealthy coastal and industrial areas adopt the devices. The rest of the country? Not so much.

Image: iPad adoption by state, via Chitika Labs.

Google Unveils its Glasses

In a post on Google+ the Google[x] team unveil their vision for augmented glasses. The design concept is available here.

Via Project Glass

A group of us from Google[x] started Project Glass to build this kind of technology, one that helps you explore and share your world, putting you back in the moment. We’re sharing this information now because we want to start a conversation and learn from your valuable input. So we took a few design photos to show what this technology could look like and created a video to demonstrate what it might enable you to do.

Could almost be as handy as a reporter’s notebook.

[Apple] CEO Tim Cook should launch a long-term plan to completely remake Chinese contract manufacturing—a plan that improves factory conditions, raises wages, and, over the long run, reduces the number of workers needed to make electronics. He should do so publicly, telling the world exactly what’s wrong with how we make gadgets now, and how Apple plans to fix the system. And he should do so with the same commitment to excellence that Apple brings to its products—setting high standards, and meting out severe punishment for contractors who fail to meet them.

Farhad Manjoo, Slate. Introducing the iFactory: Apple reinvented gadgets. Now it should reinvent how gadgets are manufactured.

Background: Manjoo writes in response to Apple’s incredible last quarter where it recorded  the largest profits of any company ever aside from Exxon Mobile in 2008, and the ongoing troubles at Foxconn, one of its Chinese manufactures, where workers recently threatened mass suicide

Related: “Conflict iPhones,” a new term I hadn’t heard before but something tells me I’ll be hearing more of, eg., “Conflict Gadgets.”

Also related: Foxconn is in the process of automating its factories, believing it can bring on up to a million robots in the next three years to automate the manufacture of phones, tablets, game consoles and the other gadgets we brush up against every day. 

There is a hole in my heart dug deep by advertising and envy and a desire to see a thing that is new and different and beautiful. A place within me that is empty, and that I want to fill it up. The hole makes me think electronics can help. And of course, they can.

They make the world easier and more enjoyable. They boost productivity and provide entertainment and information and sometimes even status. At least for a while. At least until they are obsolete. At least until they are garbage.

Electronics are our talismans that ward off the spiritual vacuum of modernity; gilt in Gorilla Glass and cadmium. And in them we find entertainment in lieu of happiness, and exchanges in lieu of actual connections.

And, oh, I am guilty. I am guilty. I am guilty.
Mat Honan, Gizmodo, reporting on the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Fever Dream of a Guilt-Ridden Gadget Reporter.
We need some angry nerds.

Jonathan Zittrain, Technology Review. The Personal Computer is Dead.

Jonathan Zittrain, whose 2008 book The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It explores the transformation of the open Internet to one that’s increasingly closed and controlled, writes that the growth of “App Stores” is putting too much technological and content control in the hands of too few companies.

The companies, Zittrain argues, are gatekeepers that lock us into platforms and the way we access content as they lock other content and technologies out. 

"If I switch from iPhone to Android, I can’t take my apps with me, and vice versa," writes Zittrain. "And as content gets funneled through apps, it may mean I can’t take my content, either—or, if I can, it’s only because there’s yet another gatekeeper like Amazon running an app on more than one platform, aggregating content. The potentially suffocating relationship with Apple or Google or Microsoft is freed only by a new suitor like Amazon, which is structurally positioned to do the same thing."

And doing the same thing is to have an “App Store Framework” of their own where they can lock in or lock out applications and content.

"But the fact that apps must routinely face approval masks how extraordinary the situation is," writes Zittrain. "Tech companies are in the business of approving, one by one, the text, images, and sounds that we are permitted to find and experience on our most common portals to the networked world. Why would we possibly want this to be how the world of ideas works, and why would we think that merely having competing tech companies—each of which is empowered to censor—solves the problem?"

Focus? That’s so Old School

Wired talks with two professional photographers about their positive experiences using Lytro’s new light field cameras. Unlike traditional digital cameras, Lytro’s lenses capture the entire light field instead of a single plane.

The upshot, as Lytro explains it:

Since you’ll capture the color, intensity, and direction of all the light, you can experience the first major light field capability - focusing after the fact. Focus and re-focus, anywhere in the picture. You can refocus your pictures at anytime, after the fact.

And focusing after the fact, means no auto-focus motor. No auto-focus motor means no shutter delay.

And no shutter delay means, in theory, no missing your shot.

Lytro’s wording is important here: you can experience the first major light field capability. 

In his interview with Wired, photographer Stephen Boxall thinks the technology could eventually be integrated into 3D movies.

3D images could be rendered in real-time to an audience, and the audience’s eyes could be tracked using motion-sensing and facial recognition technology to determine where each person is looking at the film onscreen.

“Now you are able to look around the head of your favorite movie star to see what’s happening behind them whilst having the scene refocus wherever you look,” Boxall says. 

Lytro explains its science here. An image gallery is here. The cameras are scheduled for release in early 2012 with prices ranging from $399-$499.

Image: Jason Bradley, See Lions Soaking in the Sun via Lytro. Select the image to play with its focusing.

Apple’s iPad 2 Launch in Context

So, there’s this tablet device that turned the computer world on its head about a year ago, and apparently the company responsible had a big announcement yesterday. News of the Apple iPad 2 product launch was somewhat inescapable, and had been preceded by months of breathless anticipation and tense speculation. Maybe you heard.

With more than 15 million first generation iPads sold—beating even the most bullish estimates—it’s not an overstatement to say that Apple has set the standard for tablet computing. And while some may revel in the specs, the juiced-up processing power, and onboard cameras available with the iPad 2, there’s more beneath the surface, according to CNET’s Chris Matyszcyk, who writes one of the most cogent wrapups of why the iPad 2 matters.

Apple, though, believes, and with some justification, that it simply isn’t in the gadget business. It sees its competitors precisely as the nerds, the geeks, but not the romantics. It sees them as more prepared to play with their gadgets for the gadgets’ sake, rather than to enhance their experience of life somewhere out there. These are not the guys who will get the girl.

At the same time, it sees its own business as bringing people closer to a better life experience, whatever that might mean for them. The Garage Band demonstration, for example, brought many nearer to the idea that they can create music, even if they can’t read a note.

The contrast couldn’t be clearer between Jobs’ presentation of the iPad 2 and the recent Verizon ad for the Motorola Xoom. While the former emphasized lightness, music, and movies, the latter talked gyroscopes.


Technology for technology’s sake is great, but the experience is what matters. Understanding the experience people want, and building technology to suit, is why the company’s market cap was
$324 billion when the NASDAQ exchange closed yesterday, and why Apple stock has increased in value nearly $100 per share over the past six months alone.

Image: Scobleizer