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Next Tech - The Future is Now

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By Carl Weiss
If you think the Internet has gotten crowded now, incorporating  everything from webcams to remote controls, wait until you get a look at some of the next generation technologies.  Soon your reading glasses and wristwatch will be Internet-ready.   There could even be a robot or talking appliances in your future.  So if you think it's already a Wild, Wild Web, you haven't seen anything yet.

Dick Tracy, Watch Out

Since the advent of the Smartphone, fewer people no longer wear a watch. As a matter of fact, they also use less dedicated GPS, MP3 players and cameras as well.  But if Apple, a number of other companies and even a few startups have their way, wearing a computer on your wrist could soon be consider the norm. 

iWatch (Photo credit: Brett Jordan)
The hoop laded iWatch isn’t even on the shelf yet but it has already stirred up a lot of interest.  As of the date of this article, there isn’t even a definitive picture of what the iWatch will look like, let alone the kind of capabilities the device will incorporate, but that doesn’t stop the rumor mill from going crazy. What it has done is stir up keen interest by competitors and emulators. There is so much interest that there are already competing products available. Products such as Kickstarter funded Pebble, will be making its way to store shelves soon.  While the Pebble looks more or less like a conventional wristwatch at first glance, it is more closely associated with a Smartphone than it is with a Timex. This is because it is fully programmable via apps, similar to that of a Smartphone.

The company says on its Web site that "apps bring Pebble to life." The device is "infinitely customizable." This means you can download everything different watch faces to Internet-connected apps that will allow you to use your smartwatch as a fitness tracker, accessing GPS on your Smartphone to display speed, distance, and pace data. You can also use the music control app to play, pause, or skip tracks on your phone.  This new smartwatch has a 1.26-inch screen that uses e-paper technology so that it can be viewed even in bright sunlight. The device is water resistant, and it's battery should last a week on one charge.

Wrist This

It turns out that the wrist isn’t only for watches, if Thalmic Labs has anything to say about it.  Their Myo (pronounced "me-oh") armband is designed to control a computer or other device using hand and arm gestures. While the device is not yet on store shelves, preorders are being taken for $149, with the expected shiping date later this year.

  “Myo fits around a user's arm just below the elbow. Users have access to a range of controls, allowing them to navigate pages by swiping in the air with two fingers, stop tracks in iTunes by clenching a fist, control first person shooters by mimicking a gun, and more.

Myo's range of gesture controls stems from the device's monitoring of the electrical signals passing through the arm muscles of its wearer. Different arm and hand motions require different muscle movements, and the device's sensors pick up on the different electrical activity, translating it into digital commands.”

Google Takes the Digital High Ground

Of course, as anyone knows, when it comes to shooting for the digital high ground, you have to aim high.  This is exactly what Google has done with its latest innovation, called Google Glass.  While not exactly available on the shelf, Google has made the device available to app creators along with limited numbers of the general public who are willing to shell out $1,500 and travel to New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles to pick up their prize.  That’s right, I said prize, because in order to qualify, you need to enter a contest in which you come up with a creative way in that to use Glass. If you are one of the lucky “winners” you will be one of the first to experience the all-encompassing sensation of sporting a wearable computer.

"Joshua Topolsky at The Verge tried out Glass at Google’s New York City headquarters and reported that acclimation to the device was very easy. “The privacy issue is going to be a big hurdle for Google with Glass,” Topolsky says. “Almost as big as the hurdle it has to jump over to convince normal people to wear something as alien and unfashionable as Glass seems right now.”

The Sky is Not the Limit

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While wearing a computer on your head might seem a bit self-conscious to some, when it comes to the next wave in digital technology, the sky’s the limit … quite literally.  What I’m alluding to are personal aerial drones.  While you may have read about or seen the Pentagon’s predator UAV, think smaller when you think PAD.  Literally dozens of companies have created remote controlled miniature aircraft replete with cameras.  Able to hover, these aren’t the toy helicopters you played with as kids.  These are highly sophisticated aerial surveillance platforms that retail anywhere from $300.00 to tens of thousands of dollars.  While units at the high end of the price range are mostly being used by law enforcement agencies, those at the lower echelon are eminently available to the public.
“For example, the Parrot AR Drone, has a range of about 160 feet, is controlled by a smart phone app, and can be bought at Toys R Us for $300. It's aimed at teens and adults that want an enhanced video game experience. Parrot said sales have already exceeded 500,000.  3D Robotics makes a $500 drone that flies itself via GPS, scouring fields for information on crop conditions including water levels, pest infestations and other signs of trouble. Currently, Anderson said farmers pay $1,000 an hour for aircraft flyovers, a cost that's prohibitively expensive.”

While some would consider these devices as toys, the ACLU is already looking into the ways in which this kind of technology has the potential to infringe on personal privacy.

"The technology of surveillance is becoming retail, and that will pose real challenges to our traditional notion of privacy," said Catherine Crump, an ACLU attorney. With ever-shrinking size and ever better camera technology, the group is concerned that people acting under the assumption that they're in the privacy of their own homes or yards could be wrong. Crump said. "It's not clear that there's anything restricting someone from flying a drone over the property of others."

Sweeping with the Enemy

Scoobas's first cleaning
Scoobas's first cleaning (Photo credit: sbisson)
With everything from the government to search engine data collection  slowly but surely eroding our privacy, you wouldn’t think that Americans by and large would be keen to embrace even more technology into their lives.  And you would be wrong.  At least you are when it comes to eliminating mindless routine and thankless chores from their lives.  While the personal robot isn’t exactly going to emulate Rosie the robot from the Jetsons (not unless you have a spare $400,000 lying around), the market for these devices is clearly a growth industry.

Yes, Virginia, there are currently robots that will do everything from cleaning your floors (Roomba) to mowing the lawn (Robomow).  They can also clean the gutter (Looj), the pool (Verro), and even wet mop your tile (Scooba). The Cadillac of domestic robots is without a doubt Willow Garage’s PR2, a unit that is capable of shooting pool, baking cookies and even fetching and opening a beer from the fridge. (You can’t make this stuff up.  See video at the link below.)

Like any technology, robotics can be a double-edged sword.  What could be a time-saving device could eventually cost people jobs. Check out the description of Sears RoboMower:

Work Smarter, Not Harder This Summer With The Right Lawnmower

"Whether you wish to spend your free time basking in the warm summer sun, working on important summer projects or heading out to the beach, take a tedious task off your plate and spend more time the way you want to. Add the RoboMower robotic lawn mower to your tool collection and make an effective friend that'll keep your yard in order week after week so you can get out and enjoy life in the sun.

Moving at .5 meters per second, this RoboMower makes short work of standard yards while giving you a neat uniform cut and depositing mulch, giving you a thicker, healthier lawn without all the work."

Tell me this technology isn’t going to wreak havoc with the wallets of every enterprising teenager in town.  Of course, then there is the flip side of the coin. Most teenagers would be even happier if they never had to mow a lawn again.  In essence this is the meme of technology; that some will benefit, others will be supplanted and inevitably when it comes to technology, we will all need to adjust our personal comfort zones.  

If you like this article, you can find more by typing “Tech or Technology” in the search box at the top left of this blog. If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century", fill out the form below.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Since 1995, Carl Weiss has been helping clients succeed online.  He owns and operates several online marketing businesses, including Working the Web to Win and Jacksonville Video Production. He also co-hosts the weekly radio show, "Working the Web to Win," every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on

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