Technology is all around us. With so many new things being produced, it is hard to keep up with what you could actually use and what you just want to play with. This blog post is of some of my favorite gadgets and applications: Platform 46 by Ideum, Google Glass, Leap Motion, Ring by Logbar Inc., 8Pen, Myo by Thalmic Labs, and SCiO by Consumer Physics. This is only the beginning of some tech I'd like to discuss. (More are listed at the end for next time.) I would love to hear how you are using or would like to use all this awesome bits of technology, so be sure to comment!
Disclaimer: All the following images in this blog post are from the respective website or press kit of each technology project. No copyright infringement is intended. Images are shown for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, and scholarship so others can be informed of the latest technology that can be incorporated into our daily lives. If you feel an image does not fall under fair use, please contact me and the graphic will be promptly removed. Videos are all publicly available from YouTube or Vimeo.
Platform 46 Coffee Table by Ideum
With technology advancing into multi-touch, motion, 3D, and augmented reality very rapidly, a Smart TV soon will become a thing of yesterday (at least in my opinion). Platform 46 is a table and a computer that comes in two styles. My preference is the Platform 46 inch multi-touch Windows 8/Android running coffee table by Ideum. Why get a tri-monitor set-up for your desktop computer when your table can be the computer which can connect via WiFi to other displays (such as that Smart TV).
All that wide open space between you and your computer is now just for hands and fingers. The Leap Motion Controller senses almost every little move they make, and every big one, too. Technically speaking, it’s 8 cubic feet of interactive, three-dimensional space. But you can say it’s magic." from LeapMotion.com
Leap Motion senses how you naturally move your hands and lets you use your computer with motion technology. The device is 3 inches long, sleek, and lightweight. It doesn't take away mouse, trackpad, or keyboard functions while plugged in; Leap lets you enhance your experience by naturally moving. It uses 3D space so the closer your hands get to the screen it behaves accordingly with 0.01mm of spatial precision. In the case of Corel, I've been able to create pressure sensitive art just like on a drawing pad. Discovered on Kickstarter, I love my Leap Motion for exploring maps, drawing, controlling my computer, and using Virtual DJ.
Augmented reality has a lot of potential for the future of technology. Wearables are unique, personal, and an extension of ourselves. A good wearable should be able to do the tasks we want in a nonintrusive way and have the ability to learn how to do new things based on our lifestyles. Enter Google Glass, one of the most loved and hated wearable devices in the United States.
What is Glass? Google Glass is a wearable device, running Android KitKat (as of XE 18.1), that sits on your face like a pair of glasses. A small prism sits above your eye on the right side equipped with a camera (photos in 5 MP, videos in 720p) and has a high resolution display is the equivalent of a 25 inch high definition screen from eight feet away. It can play audio through custom headphones or through the Bone Conduction Transducer behind the right ear. It comes with 12 GB of usable storage, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, and a battery life that is subjective to how intensely the user operates the device.
What does Glass do? Right out of the box, Glass can connect to your phone for phone calls and text messaging. When connected to WiFi or your phone/tablet's data plan, you can browse the Internet, use Google Hangouts (chat with friends) or any other Google Service (Gmail, Calendar, Now, and Play Music), check up on your social networks (Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Foursquare), watch YouTube videos, and use most other Glassware. Disconnected from all networks you can use the camera to snap photos and record videos, run the timer, use the stopwatch or compass, play games you've installed, and look at all the data the device received while online.
So its a glorified camera with Internet capability? Yes, and no. Glassware, approved apps by Google, are only the beginning. Since Google Glass uses Android as an operating system, you can essentially build any app the operating system and developer kit can handle. If you want it to do something, you or someone talented in building apps can make it do what you want.
You're an archaeologist... what can Glass do for you? Right now, straight out of the box with no sideloaded apps, my Google Glass allows me to record (in both photo and video format) real time research in the field. In archaeology, a TON of time is wasted during field research. Unfortunately, archaeology is cursed (or blessed, depending on how you want to look at it) by having to record every step of research. Time for excavation is limited and a lot of data and in the dirt labor is expected to happen accurately in a short period of time with a microscopic budget. Sometimes it feels like you're collecting everything so quickly you don't have a chance to record your thoughts on all the little things you find. That interpretation has to come later, and possibly by a different set of eyes who was not present at the moment of discovery, once everything is collected and taken back to a lab. Lab time also costs money. All the materials collected are catalogued again, photographed, and analyzed.
What if... what if you could stay at the field site longer, the native environment of your study subject... what if you could map the entire site using the integrated gyroscope technology, combining panoramic photos, location of materials in a 3D plane, images of the materials discovered, and catalogue everything at that very moment? What if you could make more progress, more efficiently every single second of that hard earned grant money being spent? What if you could take that 3D plane collection and take apart the entire excavation layer by layer again on a computer in the lab and enhance your spatial analysis of materials?
Glassware for Geoarchaeology
What if you could augment reality by making an app that functions as a total station by plugging in a micro USB laser to Google Glass?
Imagine the potential of simply eliminating the need to budget in renting a total station (we use this for 3D mapping). A total station can cost up to $2000 USD a month; yes this cost may be offset if you only rent it for one day (around $200 USD) or a single week (around $700 USD). Keeping track of where everything was, that is the archaeologist's greatest challenge. People can make mistakes in field notes, not draw that one map quite to scale, or forget to write down something which can never be recovered (like the type of soil at a certain depth). These mistakes can still happen with technology, so why not double team with written records and technology? Suddenly all the expensive equipment we have to rent every summer for field work is inside a tiny computer on your face that you only have to buy and install once.
What if you could determine the exact color of a soil that everyone can agree on?
Digital cameras can measure aperture and light sensitivity. ISO or light sensitivity rating is an algorithmic value that indicates the film’s or the image sensor’s specific sensitivity to light. Computers read colors as HEX (hexadecimal) values. Every person sees color slightly different. In soil science, colors are important (as well as in geology and stratigraphy). We record the colors of soils in order to determine certain properties the soil can have, along with a bunch of other properties which when combined together can tell us about the history of a landscape (climate, vegetation, stability, and more). Right now, we use a standardized book called a Munsell Color Chart. You take some soil, place it on a page, and attempt to match it as best as possible to a swatch. What if... what if you could match all the Munsell colors to HEX values that are processed through a camera lens on your face, a series of algorithms that takes into account the light sensitivity outside, and gives you a definitive color? What if you could objectify science even more?
These are only two major ideas I have for Glassware development this year (at least to start, it may take longer) that are 100% applicable to my field of study. A total station with artifact cataloguing and a digitized Munsell Color Chart in HEX values could eliminate the costs of both resources as well as optimize productivity in field work. I also have thoughts on how to set up an advanced cataloguing system... but I'll save some brainstorming to the rest of you archies who would like to make this possible. Chris Webster had some ideas before the actual launch of the device. I'm sure that as a community of scientists we can use Google Glass to enhance our research in ways we never dreamed possible. Meanwhile, here's an example of Google Glass being used in an excavation.
Glassware To Sideload
Here is my recommendation list of Glassware (with descriptions from their creators/sources) to install from the MyGlass app or Sideload:
Ring by Logbar Inc.
Wearable Input Device that lets you control anything. Gesture control, text transmission, payment, and more! Ring is like magic, allowing you to control anything you want, by wearing it on your finger. You can send texts, control home appliances, and even pay your bills — all at once and in a flash." - from Ring by Logbar Inc. on Kickstarter
I cannot think of anything more Sci-Fi come to life than being able to draw something in the air or whatever nearby surface I have and have an application start. Ring by Logbar Inc. is a customized gesture control ring that is paired to a Bluetooth enabled device. Custom gesture marks made in the GestureMaker of the app triggers the device into performing a command. For example, draw an envelope to start a new text message then hand write the letters in the air. No more virtual keyboard nonsense on that tiny screen.
Personally, I would love Ring to be 8Pen compatible. As a Google Glass explorer, I do not always want to reply to messages using the voice setting. 8Pen is a wonderful app (a good virtual keyboard!) that places letters in a circular layout. The motion required on the screen makes writing feel more natural, as if you were writing out the letters. Having 8Pen for Glass would be phenomenal, especially if I can write using Ring on the side of my leg, the table in front of me, or again wherever I happen to place my hand!
8Pen is by far the best virtual keyboard I have experienced. It already has the option to be used with Leap Motion on any of Leap's operating system compatibilities! Will 8Pen make it to Ring? I am rooting for it.
Myo by Thalmic Labs
The Myo armband lets you use the electrical activity in your muscles to wirelessly control your computer, phone, and other favorite digital technologies. With the wave of your hand, it will transform how you interact with your digital world." from Thalmic.com
Enhance your gesture control with your body's muscles! The Myo Armband by Thalmic Labs uses Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy to communicate with paired devices. It uses proprietary EMG sensors that measure the electrical activity from your muscles. What does that mean? It can figure out what your hand is doing by sensing motion, rotation, and muscle activity to perform the task you wanted it to control. Its compatibility with Android, iOS, and Windows leaves its daily functionality limitless.
As an archaeologist, I would love to use Myo to explore 3D renderings of sites so that geographic location does not impede on research progress. Since archaeology is by nature destructive, Myo and 3D imaging can preserve how a site was (before excavation), is (post-excavation), and what it may have been like (reconstructions) and allow for additional detailed exploration after the summer field season.
SCiO by Consumer Physics
All the gadgets and apps discussed so far are all fine and dandy, but I am sure you're asking: what about stuff for science? Like actual stuff that screams science the moment you see it. SciO by Consumer Physics is the final gadget I'd like to cover in this already lengthy post.
Smartphones made it easy to research facts, capture images, and navigate street maps, but they haven’t brought us closer to the physical environment in which we live – until now. Meet SCiO. It is the world's first affordable molecular sensor that fits in the palm of your hand. SCiO is a tiny spectrometer and allows you to get instant relevant information about the chemical make-up of just about anything around you, sent directly to your smartphone." from ConsumerPhysics.com
SCiO is a pocket spectrometer. It offers instant, affordable, and portable analysis of materials such as food, plants, medication, oil and fuels, plastics and wood. The device scans a material and can tell you the composition of it. SCiO has huge potential in geology for sourcing rocks, such as obsidian.
In geoarchaeology, one of the things we research is where people are getting stone from to make stone tools. An obsidian point in southern Arizona may be from a New Mexico source - the distance between the source and point of discovery can provide insight into travel patterns and trading. Also, the same concept is used for ceramics: where are people getting their resources from? SCiO makes all these studies portable! You won't have to send the sample off to a lab to a giant machine run by one specialist. You can do it at that second. Of course, right now, there is no reference database for this type of use but by pre-ordering SCiO we can take part in the production of a database that will give archaeologists and geologists access to information instantly.
With every scan, SCiO learns more about the world around us, so we can all get smarter. Our development team has taught SCiO some exciting things, like to tell how much fat is in any salad dressing, how much sugar is in a particular piece of fruit, how pure an oil is and lots more." from ConsumerPhysics.com
For Next Time
This is only the start of some technology I have added to my collection and what else I would like to integrate into my lifestyle.
What didn't I cover? Bublcam, Deltaprintr, Circuit Scribe by Electroninks, Scribble, Remee by Bitbanger Lab, DisplAir, Sherylbox by Sher.ly Inc., Haptix by Ractiv, AR Drone by Parrot, Oculus Rift, and Virtualizer by Cyberith.
We'll save these for next time. Happy Summer!
Melanie E Magdalena