See the pedals on this horse? They help power a generator to allow users to charge their mobile devices. There’s a USB charging port on the back of the horse’s neck. Neat, functional public art.
The word sandbox can mean different things to different people.
For some, it might evoke a play area inhabited with children and their toys, fuelling young imaginations as they shape and reshape the sand to create an evolving imaginary world.
For other, it’s simply a technical term to describe a virtual place for safe technological experimentation.
The V&A Museum in London melds those concepts with an exhibition called The Future Starts Here, which runs until Nov. 4.
The multi- and inter-disciplinary installation, which I visited as part of a personal vacation this spring, is best described as a quick survey course on futurism, with an emphasis on humans’ role in fashioning the world of tomorrow and how we all might fit in such a place — should we fit in at all.
As visitors descend into a vast space in the bowels of the museum, they are greeted by a laundry robot (photo above) — the first of a chain of thought-provoking displays tackling our present and the future in relation to science and technology, climate change and environment, politics and philosophy, urbanism and more.
The introductory focus on home automation and other types of high-tech convenience quickly gives way to weightier subjects, including the effect of technology on care for seniors. A sign next to a cuddly robotic therapy seal (photo below) asks viewers to evaluate if such devices are simply helpful tools or if they are the first step in the outsourcing of companionship.
Farther along, visitors get to peer into the mind of a teenaged aspiring architect (photo above) as he conjures up an ideal for his home city, war-ravaged Aleppo, Syria. His Aleppo, according to the card describing the display, would have integrated public green spaces, top-notch public transportation and buildings fuelled by sunlight — and when he grows up, he wants to help bring such a city to life.
What if humans truly mess up and permanently wreck this fragile blue marble suspended in space we call home? That’s where the sandbox (first photo in this post) comes in, asking us to participate in a virtual terraforming exercise. Dig deep and create a vast sea; pile up the sand and watch snow caps form. If only things were so simple in real life.
A few steps away is a prototype showing an artificial leaf capable of photosynthesis, just like its natural counterpart, offered as a possible aid to slow climate change. And around the corner from this is a brief examination of space exploration and the ongoing hunt for a new galactic foothold for Homo sapiens.
As visitors wend their way through the displays, they are also asked to consider the impact of technology on democracy, energy consumption/extraction and the accumulation/dissemination of knowledge.
The myriad questions posed by the presentations are left to linger as you leave — and how to answer them is, of course, left to you.
If you’ve ever wondered what an automated photo booth looks like when the user interface is torn away … this post is for you. (And yes, photo booths still exist!) This happened as I was wandering into the grocery store.
Like many users of Apple’s mobile products, I’ve been getting a hands-on experience with iOS 9 for a few weeks now.
I can happily report I am generally pleased with the upgrade. I have (so far, anyway) not seen any of the negative side-effects that have been reported elsewhere on the Internet.
Here, I’d like to share two small things I’ve noticed about iOS 9 on iPad that I found neat.
1) App switcher with external keyboard
I most often use my iPad as it is — that is, naked — but from time to time it turns into a backup computer with a Bluetooth-enable keyboard.
Imagine my surprise when I absent-mindedly hit Command+Tab and saw this:
iOS 9 shows you something very reminiscent of OS X, Apple’s desktop operating system.
It’s a nice little touch!
2) Battery widget in notification screen
I’ve never seen a battery widget in the notification screen until today.
The widget exists in portrait and landscape modes but it disappears once I power off my Bluetooth keyboard. There is also no battery widget currently visible on my iPhone’s notification screen. I can only presume this only becomes visible when iPad is connected with one or more devices capable of displaying remaining battery capacity. Another small, if cosmetic, addition.
I’ll pass along more iOS 9 hidden gems if I encounter any more!
With recent security changes at Flickr making it impossible (for now) to upload pictures there from my favourite mobile photo editing apps, I’ve resorted to exporting images to my camera roll and uploading them from the Flickr iOS app.
Although I’m happy to see most IPTC data are now being properly read and transferred by the app, one critical field always comes up blank when pictures appear online: the title.
Indeed, after uploading a test image for which every IPTC data field was filled in, no data are automatically read and converted into a photo title.
While this is just a minor inconvenience for uploading one image, having to manually re-insert titles for a batch upload could be quite the chore.
(And for the record, I uploaded the same image to Flickr from my desktop … and every field filled in perfectly, including the title.)
This is just the latest chapter in a long-running issue with Flickr’s iOS app and IPTC data.
Just read a news article on a serious security flaw in iOS 7 and immediately downloaded a software update to my device to patch this problem.
According to the news story linked above: “If attackers have access to a mobile user’s network, such as by sharing the same unsecured wireless service offered by a restaurant, they could see or alter exchanges between the user and protected sites such as Gmail and Facebook. Governments with access to telecom carrier data could do the same.”
I had to invoke the update process manually by going to Settings > General > Software Update where I was invited to download the patch, iOS version 7.0.6.
Those among you with iDevices might want to think about doing the same.
The world just rang in a new year.
In the tech universe, every passing year brings with it expectations of the next big gadget, the next innovation, the next sea change in the way everything works.
And yet, in the world of entertainment, it’s as if the calendar somehow got stuck in 1993 and has never been able to move forward.
Check out the image that goes with this post. It’s a screenshot from one of the television apps I have loaded on my phone. The image represents one of the many infuriating aspects of modern entertainment.
I am a subscriber to a traditional Canadian direct-to-home satellite TV service. As part of the deal, I am able to watch channels (already a part of my subscription package) streamed through their app. But it’s just some channels — not all. Apparently, my provider has to negotiate separate agreements for distribution online.
Going the other direction, the same company owns several Canadian television channels. Those TV apps allow you to stream programming as well … except you have to log in through your service provider … assuming they support the app at all … and not all of them do.
Now, God forbid I actually want to watch television on … a television other than the one that’s attached to the receiver box. Nope, we can’t allow you to do that! (Hence the screenshot above.)
What if I am travelling and want to watch television in another time zone? Sorry, no timeshifting.
Travelling abroad? No service at all.
Speaking of geographical restrictions, it boggles the mind how certain TV and movie products continue to be licensed by country.
Wednesday night, while monitoring social media at work, I took great pains to avoid the many spoilers for the third season of BBC’s “Sherlock”. (Failed twice.)
After returning home, I immediately opened iTunes with the hope of purchasing a season pass for the show. Of course, while the program has debuted in the U.K., it has yet to make an official appearance on this side of the ocean … so no legal product for purchase on iTunes.
I can read online spoilers to my heart’s content and probably find an illegal download of the show … but I actually want to give BBC my money to watch the program and have no means to do it.
Along a similar kind of vein is the divergent availability of titles in Netflix Canada versus Netflix U.S.A. Whereas the entire library of Star Trek television series is available on the American version of Netflix, for example, that was never so in Canada.
And as many of you out there have discovered, such streaming apps as Hulu won’t work from a Canadian IP address, causing legions of people to construct workarounds. (And this is despite the wide availability of American channels from Canadian cable/satellite companies and a great number of Canadians living within range of U.S. over-the-air television stations.)
This is even prevalent in the television news industry. The LiveStation website and app, which offer streaming television news services, detect where you’re from and show you channels they’ve been able to license for whatever part of the world you are in. Connecting from the U.S. and want to catch BBC World News? Sorry, no dice.
Every streaming video service currently available is marketed to consumers as something you can use to watch what you want, where you want, when you want.
Except it’s clearly not true.
The only way to do that is to circumvent the system by bending or breaking the law — pretending to be somewhere you are not or partaking in illegal file sharing of copyrighted materials.
Perhaps it’s time for television and movie executives to look to the music industry for inspiration.
Most music for sale on the Internet is free of DRM and mostly available without geographic constraints. Downloads are easy and relatively inexpensive.
If there weren’t enough of us out there who wanted to pay for music, iTunes and the like would have died long ago.
Quite the opposite is true.
The world is clearly ready for a similar arrangement when it comes to television shows and movies.
It’s long past time for entertainment giants to exploit the power of the Internet to reach their TV and film audiences — not to fear it or see it as some kind of nuisance or a threat.
Well, you’ve probably seen a few of these online already … but I thought I’d throw in my two cents anyway with this non-scientific comparison between the cameras on Apple’s iPhone 5S and 4S.
In each row, the 5S photo is on the left and the 4S photo is on the right.
To see a larger version of the picture, click on the image for a link.
None of these images was retouched or cropped. They are as the cameras captured them.
Please share your thoughts and impressions, if you’ve got any.