News and topics I found interesting in calendar week 34.
- Novel Effect is a bedtime app that overlays sound effects to bedtime stories you read. I am a big fan of augmented audio (see my “The future of headphones report”) and find it great to see development in that direction. However, I am unsure if such applications could be used somewhere else, although education (adding animal sounds, for example) could make sense.
- Knops — The volume button for your ears: These over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids are earphone-shaped and allow you to adjust outside noises (increased/decrease volume). Interesting to see non-medical products in the form of earphones which do not aim at playing music and are OTC. Expecting to see more of these OTC hearing aids.
second… there’s many “smart ring” projects out there focusing on different value props: fitness, security, identity, payments, etc. pic.twitter.com/qaauGImu2e
— Luke Wroblewski (@lukew) August 21, 2017
I also recently came across the ORII ring which uses bone conduction technology for sending and receiving text messages. Besides that, there are several other things you can do with rings:
- use it as a panic button
- record audio
- receive notifications through light or vibrations
- use it as a connector and opener: unlock doors, transfer information between users
- sleep and fitness tracking
- gesture control
- Earphone substitution: like the above-mentioned ORII you can use them to send and receive sound
I am curious which role rings will play in the “augmented human” future (a future where smart glasses augment our vision or headphones our hearing). A panic button is a very niche application (plus it is a preventative innovation. Preventative innovations are difficult to diffuse because you see their value only after something happens. Furthermore, we tend to forget accidents and adjust our behavior only short-term after something happens. Lastly, if nothing happens although you own one of these preventive innovations they would appear useless to you). Using them to record audio would be too secretive, there are better places for sleep and fitness tracking (such as your ear) and putting your finger to your ear each time you want to send or receive a message is cumbersome. It seems to me that they would be most useful as an interface, notifications and hand motion tracking. I imagine them equipped with a scrollable surface and a button which you use to control your headphones, AR glasses or smartphone. Similar to a Bluetooth button (e. g. Flic) or a smaller version of the Click Wheel. What bothers me, however, is that rings are less socially accepted than brackets, especially amongst males. However, fashion preferences change and people might become content with wearing rings.
I am currently thinking about a “cameras everywhere trend” which is leading into cameras being everywhere and us wearing them 24/7. This week, I came across FOMOcamera — The Most Wearable & Customizable Camera. It is a customizable and unconscious wearable camera.
As I think that privacy concerns will be an issue in the adoption of wearable cameras in the short-term (see privacy here) I believe that this camera is too unconscious. This will lead to people thinking of it as a spy camera.
Bike sharing and White-Labelled cars
This week I found out that there are white-labeling possibilities for bike sharing systems. On Bike Share, for instance, provides the whole software infrastructure and hardware (including bikes) which you can adapt based on your CI. What I found most intriguing is that you can white-label bikes. Thinking about it, however, it makes sense. For many people, a bike has no emotional value. It is just a thing for getting from A to B. Drawing the analogy to car sharing I cannot help but think that eventually, we might end up with white-labeled cars as well. carzapp, for instance, already offers white labeling for cars to some extent. They provide the software for fleet management as well as the hardware and software for unlocking cars. Furthermore, you can view VW’s MQB platform as an internal form of white labeling. VW uses this hardware platform as a technological fundamental for all their cars. Furthermore, you can already buy cars online, and Tmall plans to launch car vending machines. I am still unsure whether cars will become a commodity as bikes have, but the here mentioned developments are pointing into that direction.
Decentralization of the cinema
Movie attendance has been declining since 2001. Considering the availability of streaming service and the quality of home entertainment this development can be considered normal. Apple planning to stream cinema movies 17 days after their premiere instead of 90 could additionally push this trend. Furthermore, the German new site t3n reported about Virtual Lab which is building the “cinema of the future” by giving users a “cinema like movie feeling at home” through VR headsets. Thus, threatening the existence of cinemas. I am unsure whether these developments — a decentralization of the cinema into individual homes — is a long lasting trend.
Going to the movies is more than just consuming a film, it is a cultural activity compared to others such as “reading habits (books and newspapers), attending live performances (plays, concerts, operas, ballet and dance) and visiting cultural sites (historical monuments, museums, art galleries or archaeological sites)” . Considering, however, that streets also used to be social gathering places and the trend towards “digital hangouts” (digital live togetherness through apps such as Houseparty or Oculus Rooms in virtual reality) we must also take into account the possibility of cinemas disappearing. If that were to happen, we would need something else to replace the cultural void that a disappearance of cinemas would create. Maybe digital hangouts or virtual reality specifically might be the new cinema. I have written here about how such as need-based product substitution (here the need for culture) can be seen in smartphones and autonomous cars as well.
- Facebook adds “ a news feed of catastrophes”. 😳
- Microsoft’s voice-recognition tech is now better than even teams of humans at transcribing conversations This technology would, coupled with artificial intelligence that also understands content better than humans, make teaching robots a reality. Besides teaching, such a technology could make you, or anybody else, “virtually immortal” as Eternime already promises to do. Eternime collects and analyzes your social media activities and creates a digital version of you. Whereas the thought of talking to dead people seems unbelievable scary, that is what biographies are doing in a way. The main difference is the lack of conversations and personal connections in biographies. Considering how many ideas, knowledge and experiences get lost when people die, the thought of your knowledge being anonymously and virtually immortal has a certain appeal.
- Natasha Lomas from TechCrunch claims that “This VR cycle is dead” and Oculus and HTC are cutting prices for their VR headsets. Cheaper headsets would fuel demand on both sides (developers and consumers) but as, at least it seems so, the VR hardware overall is too weak for really immersive content. Therefore, I am unsure whether the price cut will significantly increase sales. For VR to be successful, they have to offer excellent image quality or new applications. Neither is available. VR headsets are seen as an alternative/substitution to other output devices such as TVs, cinema screens or monitors. All of these screens have remarkable image quality. VR’s relative advantage is measured relative to them, and they fall short. Furthermore, they do not have any other compelling selling feature, in contrast, they actually have several disadvantages (size, design, costs, environmental detachment…) that make them further unattractive.
- A new version of Android came out. It is called Oreo, and besides major updates, it has gotten more “PC-like feature” such as easier text selection or “overlayed videos” which lets you watch a video while doing other things. Simultaneously this video feature can also be interpreted as a response to the growing importance of video on mobile.
- Elon Musk just revealed the first photo of the SpaceX space suit over Instagram. I am always fascinated how much marketing Elon Musk does through his social accounts and how intensely it is picked up by the press.