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Beneath the Surface of Microsoft Surface

[ Comments Off ]Posted on June 19, 2012 by admin in Technology

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

It’s the interface, stupid. And what Microsoft is doing may be bigger than you think.

Last week, some words came out of my mouth that you don’t hear coming from my mouth too often. They were “I’m really excited about this new Microsoft product!” Strangely, I wasn’t referring to Microsoft’s new Surface tablet. I had no idea it was coming. I was actually referring to Windows 8, but the announcement of the new Microsoft hardware just validated the things I was saying to a friend about why Windows 8 had me worked up. The funny thing is, I’m not really that excited about Windows 8 itself. I’m no Microsoft Fanboy by a long shot. I’m still running XP, because when I use a computer I really prefer ignoring the OS so I can just get work done. And glassy swooping windows don’t help me get work done. I even turn that stuff off on my beloved MacBook. And I don’t feel like battling with Linux. No, what I’m excited about is the fact that Windows 8 and a viable Windows tablet (don’t forget, they’ve tried this before) will probably push a paradigm shift I’ve personally been waiting for for almost a decade. And I think a lot of tech industry writers are really missing a beat here on the significance of what Microsoft is doing, by zeroing in separately on the device or the OS as focal points, rather than looking at the whole shift that is occurring. It’s similar to how the industry got wowed by the iPad or Kindle, while failing to notice the genius of where the real change was taking place, which was in the control of content. No, I think there’s a bigger shift afoot thanks to Microsoft’s new direction. Read the rest of this entry »

The Internet Of Things & Augmented Reality

[ Comments Off ]Posted on March 5, 2011 by admin in Technology

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Your first life wasn’t enough, so they created Second Life. Apparently that wasn’t enough for you either. No worries, soon you can augment your reality and live in your “Internet of Things”.

Having trouble recognizing
reality? There’s an app for that.

Reality just not real enough for you lately? Having a hard time identifying the objects around you? Well, no worries. There’s an app for that. Or at least there will be before too long. We’ve talked about Augmented Reality before, but another concept is gaining traction as the next big thing. It’s called the Internet of Things . It’s based on the idea that since the coming IPv6 addressing system for the web will make it possible to encode 50 to 100 trillion objects, well heck, we just might as well. And since the average person only has about 1000 to 5000 objects around them, we’ll just give all of them addresses so we can attach information to them, since there are plenty of URL’s for everyone! We jest of course. In (ahem) reality, these technologies make some amazing stuff possible. One implementation of the idea that has gotten some press is Green Goose, an activity monitoring system that uses green, egg-shaped sensors to track your activities and help you to reach goals that you select. Their tagline is “Play Real Life”. ReadWriteWeb covered the start-up in February of last year and again this year,  if you’d like to learn more. Personally, I’m already busy enough living my life that I don’t feel a need to do it twice. But the system points to interesting possibilities. We’ve already seen some of the cool tools made possible by object or environment analysis and universal connectivity. The song recognition app SoundHound and Quest Visual’s instant translator app Word Lens are two popular examples. But in the future, we may be able to access information about nearly anything around us, with tools similar to the “terminator vision” used in T2: Judgment Day. Let’s just hope this stuff works better than autocorrect. Below is just one example of the possibilities of having detailed information about the things and people around you with point and shoot simplicity. Just make sure you keep that antivirus software updated! Read the rest of this entry »

Losing Touch With User Expectations

[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 11, 2010 by admin in Technology

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Do you ever find yourself touching touchscreens that aren’t touch sensitive?

The other day, a friend handed me their Blackberry and asked me to call up Google Maps. After fussing with the device for a moment, I mentally cursed its lousy touch-sensitive interface, until I realized it wasn’t touch sensitive. I would’ve felt pretty stupid, but I see this kind of thing all the time, whether it’s someone trying to touch an LCD monitor to do something, or spastically backspacing on Google trying to get the right Instant Google/Google Autocomplete result instead of just typing what they’re looking for. I’ve already shared my thoughts on Google Instant, and the more I’m exposed to it, the more strongly I feel that Google shouldn’t impose this kind of “improvement” on me until they develop it to the point that they actually know what I’m thinking, which would eliminate the need for me altogether. In any case, I fear that because of smart phones, self-serve kiosks, and the iPad, we may briefly have to suffer these occasional human malfunctions. Personally, I’m prepared to wait; I’ve been quietly rolling my fingertips on my lifeless and uncaring work surfaces for years as I wait for the kind of tactile holographics that were featured in Iron Man 2 (video also below). This kind of interface may not be far away, but the best I’ve seen so far is a bit primitive; check out this clip from last year about touchable holographics being developed at Tokyo University. So what do we have available? Well, back in the world of two dimensions, there are really amazing tools for designers like Wacom’s Cintiq, and for education, there are tools like Hitachi’s StarBoard, and for business, the somewhat more limited Smart Podium, but these are all still pretty pricey. I think that as consumers, we may have to wait a bit for all of our devices to be more pervasively touch sensitive. One of the last products to be touted as consumer-oriented was Microsoft Surface, but the platform was made public way back in 2006, and I still don’t have any friends with touch-sensitive coffee tables. Perhaps because – as this hilarious video about Surface points out – why use a compact device like an iPhone to get maps and directions, when you can use a device the size of a small car? More video below. Read the rest of this entry »

The iPad As A Musical Instrument?

[ 1 Comment ]Posted on September 7, 2010 by admin in Music

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Well, maybe not quite yet, but here’s a roundup of some tools that are available that point to a cool future for multitouch musical instrument controllers.

Way back in November of 2008, we took a look at the state of innovative tactile controllers for music. At the time, the coolest cutting edge tools were mostly research projects, certainly not something you’d pick up at the local music store. Well, this is finally beginning to change. For professional work, and for about two grand, there’s the JazzMutant Lemur, which is probably beyond what a lot of musician/songwriters or dabblers need. And if you have the brains and can get your hands on the hardware, there’s the Töken multitouch screen running Emulator (video below). But the iPad – in spite of being an annoyingly closed platform – is coming into its own as a somewhat interesting tool as more sophisticated apps become available. And the overall cost of working with an iPad can’t be beat. After the initial purchase of the iPad itself, many of these apps – like MorphWiz, Pro Keys by BeepStreet, or the latest and probably coolest, Seline HD by Amidio Inc., are often less than ten bucks. For a more comprehensive roundup, both PCWorld and CreateDigitalMusic.com did features earlier this year. Below are a few videos that demonstrate some of the available tools. Read the rest of this entry »

The Future Of Musical Instruments?

[ 2 Comments ]Posted on May 28, 2010 by admin in Music

Friday, May 28th, 2010

The Eigenharp and the Misa Digital Guitar are amazing devices. Are instrument designers finally making devices that aren’t just silly keyboard/guitar mashups?

I’ve always been intrigued by new ways to make musical sounds. In fact, the very first post here on Dissociated Press was about the Moog Guitar. Although I call myself a guitarist on occasion, my main “axe” for a long time was a Rickenbacker 481* with custom pickups, usually run through odd combinations of a Big Muff, an A/DA flanger, rack delay, and a heavily EQ’d PA amp instead of a guitar amp. I also was pretty adept with analog synths, way back when they were new. As a result of my creative but less-than-virtuosic skill with both guitar and keyboards, for years I’ve longed for a more expressive instrument that utilized all the amazing digital tools available while still remaining musical. Early devices like the Casio Keytar or the SynthAxe were amusing, but really just gimmicky mashups of existing instruments. At one point I almost bought a Chapman Stick (made famous by Peter Gabriel’s “bassist” Tony Levin, see him play one here) but in spite of its amazing versatility, it wasn’t really suited to controlling digital devices. And as fascinating as I find the devices we previously rounded up in this piece, none of them really seem like “instruments”. Which is why I’m a little intrigued with both the Eigenharp and the Misa Digital Guitar. More so by the Eigenharp, because while the Misa’s touchscreen and software appear remarkable, they’ve gone and put it all in a “guitar”, which just doesn’t make sense to me. The Eigenharp, on the other hand, brings just about every available control method (save a theremin) into a new and seemingly ergonomic body design which sort of resembles a bassoon. Or that instrument in the Star Wars band. It has velocity sensitive multi-expressive keys, a wind controller, ribbon controller strips, percussion keys, and a built-in step sequencer with indicator LEDs for each key. Pretty amazing if it all works! Below are demo videos, decide for yourself. Read the rest of this entry »

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