5 Ways Robotics is Changing Manufacturing

5-ways-robotics-is-changing-manufacturing
5-ways-robotics-is-changing-manufacturing

The need for top quality automated tools in combination with the request for improved margins and faster completion of the various manufacturing projects are some of the main reasons why robotics could be decisive for the future of manufacturing.

Nevertheless, there are still many things that have to be done before we can claim that robotics is taking over manufacturing. The good news is that automation plays already an integral role in the industry.

We did some research and we present to you below five ways in which the use of robotics can transform manufacturing:

1. Multi-functional robots

One of the biggest misconceptions in the manufacturing industry is that robots can serve multiple purposes and missions. Truth is, though, that in the majority of cases the process adjusts to the robot and not the opposite. That’s because most of the robots are built in order to complete one particular task.

As you can imagine, this hinders flexibility and limits the potential for a more agile and efficient manufacturing process. Under such circumstances, customization is out of the question.

The advent of better software could contribute dramatically toward the creation of interchangeable robotic units of improved quality. As a result, professionals working in manufacturing would have the option to constantly repurpose their robots on site according to their daily needs.

2. Portable robots

Another big challenge that robotics is expected to solve in the near future has to do with the portability of the manufacturing equipment. Due to the lack of flexibility and the limitations in terms of design and functionality, the deployment of manufacturing robots costs a lot both in terms of time and money.

It is no exaggeration to mention that in certain cases the total cost of deployment can be considerably higher than the purchasing cost of the robot. To this problem, add also the cost of redeployment as well as the effort and resources required in order to train those who handle the robot.

It comes as no surprise, then, that one of the most beneficial changes that the advent of advanced robotics will eventually bring has to do with the simplification of the deployment process, the increase of portability and by extension the acceleration of the whole process.

3. Improved collaboration

Collaboration is another significant parameter both in manufacturing and other industries, such as construction. The ongoing technological progress is anticipated to revolutionize the way robots work and collaborate on site with other systems and people.

At the moment, there are still many steps that need to be taken before we can say that robotics has fully unlocked collaboration on site. For instance, most of the robots in warehouses and factories work well secluded from people.

However, the first tracking sensors with the help of which robots can detect people and potentially collaborate with them in harmony have already been created. This is a remarkable first step which will eventually lead to a more productive and data-driven manufacturing process.

4. Smart factories

As a continuation of the previous point, it is apparent that the emergence of smart factories is a matter of time. By the term ‘smart factory’, we mean production units which go beyond the basic automation functions and allow the unhindered real-time flow of information between the different project sides.

Every component of the manufacturing process will be connected and the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented, and virtual reality will contribute to the faster and easier completion of a project.

Furthermore, the collected data will be used as the basis for future projects in an effort to save both time and financial resources. What is more, a fully-automated manufacturing procedure is expected to help significantly with lowering the production cost and increase customization.

A great example is Speedfactory the new Adidas factory in Ansbach, Germany which allows the creation of highly customizable trainers through the use of 3D printers and robots.   

5. A new type of workforce

Last but certainly not least, the type of workforce in the manufacturing industry is anticipated to change significantly during the upcoming years. The industry is becoming more automated day by day and it goes without saying that the need for tech-savvy individuals will increase considerably.

This is a great opportunity for the sector to redefine its profile and manage to attract young, ambitious workforce with a strong interest in automated tools and robotics. After many years, manufacturing can be seen again as an extremely appealing option for an ambitious long-term career.

Of course, some traditional manufacturing jobs are expected to be lost but this shouldn’t be seen as a reason to avoid automation. To the contrary, this ground shaking shift should be perceived as the perfect opportunity for the sector to invest in workforce training and embrace the presence of both people and robots in manufacturing’s next chapter.

Wrapping it up!  

To sum up, it is understandable that robotics holds great potential for the sector’s future. It goes without saying that we are still only in the very beginning of this journey. Nonetheless, the first signs are extremely promising and it is no exaggeration to claim that robotic technologies will sooner or later transform the manufacturing industry as we know it. This vital transition to a smarter and more automated manufacturing process will generate some remarkable opportunities for the sector and the people who work in it.

About the author: Anastasios Koutsogiannis is Content Marketing Manager at GenieBelt.

9 “New” Features on the iPhone 7 & 8 Features That Make the iPhone 8 What You Really Want

*Picture Credit to Apple

Have you been waiting for the past two or more years to upgrade your old, worn out phone to the iPhone 7 or the iPhone 7 Plus?

I mean, new iPhones coming out are one of the biggest events every fall!

Did you wait eagerly by the internet to watch Apple release the new and exciting features they included in this iPhone?

And after hearing about the iPhone 7, were you a little disappointed?

If so, you’re not alone. Millions of people think Apple could have done so much more with the iPhone 7 release.

If you live under a rock, don’t have access to the internet, or just have better things to do with your time and haven’t heard what’s the fuss about this new iPhone 7, read on. I’ll be sure to fill you in on everything that I know (and many of my opinions, as well). There’s 9 bullet points that are chalked full of information, so make sure to grab some snacks before you start reading.

For those of you who have heard about the iPhone 7 features, you can skip ahead. There you will find my list of 8 features that will make you want to wait for the iPhone 8.

I know, I know, “The iPhone 8 isn’t even out yet!” you say. Well, being someone who loves Apple products and someone who likes to believe in people, I’ll go ahead and tell you. No, I have no idea what Apple will change when they release the iPhone 8 next year. However, the list I’m about to give you are a collection of my (and many other internet people’s) hopes for what we know Apple can achieve if they put their mind to it for the next iPhone release date.

iPhone 7 & iPhone 7 Plus Release Information (Included are my lengthy, humble opinions)

For those of you who are in the need to know or don’t feel like watching 37+ minutes of a YouTube clip, here’s what is coming “new” to iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

1. Colors- Apple will be offering the iPhone 7’s in 2 new colors. Are you ready for your world to be rocked? These two new colors are…glossy jet black and matte black. *drops mic*

OK, maybe it’s not the most revolutionary colors in the world, but it’s “new” right?
However, you should know that the glossy jet black is only available to phones that are 128 GB or 256 GB. So, unless you have an extra 100 bucks to spend, then glossy jet black is not an option for you. The phones will come in the usual silver, gold, and rose gold as well.

2. Design- The design is almost identical to the iPhone 6S’s. Not much new in that area.

3. Home Button- They now have a solid state home button. If you don’t know what that means, no worries. All it means is you can’t click or tap the home button.  I have read it takes some getting used to. Then again, if you’ve been using an Android you will be accustomed to this feature, as many of their phones have had it for a while now.

Apple claims, it allows for new “feelings and experiences” when using your phone. New feelings? I guess so. New experiences? I’m not sure about that one. This isn’t a ride on a rollercoaster or a trip to Europe. To me, that seems like a more “humanizing” way to say that it gives haptic feedback. That is, specific buzzes and vibrations from the phone’s taptic engine.

For the average person, I don’t think this feature will blow many people away. It does take away the potential of the home button breaking or getting water inside it, though.

4. Stereo Speakers- This feature is new for Apple. They have designed the iPhone 7 to have stereo speakers at the top and at the bottom of the phone. Apple says the speakers have increased dynamic range and 2x the volume for better listening sound. This may be new for Apple’s phones, but not for phones like the HTC One M9.

5. Water and Dust Resistant- Also new for iPhones, but not new for Androids. The iPhone 7’s scored at IP67 in protection. Don’t understand that rating system? No problem! The new iPhone does have the highest rating for dust resistance, which is 6. So, it’s pretty safe to assume your iPhone is protected against things like lint, sand, etc. However, it is never guaranteed.

The water resistance score is 7. (The highest is 9.) While that is pretty good, there is definite room for improvement. Roughly, this means you can submerge your phone in 1 meter (around 3 feet) of fresh water for up to 30 minutes with no damage. Should you take it swimming with you or leave it exposed for that long? Probably not.

Apple did not mention if their warranty would cover water damage now. It’s a valid concern though. What if your phone drops in 1 foot of water for 5 minutes and stops working? Would they cover that?

6. Airpods- This might be long. If you don’t want to hear all the critiques I have about their newfound wireless dreams, then just know this. There is not a headphone jack on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Instead, they have gone to wireless listening devices. Or you can connect your headphones through the lightning port (This is the port where you plug your charger into the phone.)

The positive thing about this transition is they do provide, with each purchase of an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus, a lightning adaptor. (It sells for $9.00 and you can use it to plug in your old headphones.) They also provide a set of ear-pods with a lightning connector. (They sell for $29.00. They are just like old headphones, but have a lightning connector at the bottom.) So I guess gone are the days where you could listen to your music and charge your phone at the same time.

I suppose the move to wireless headphones is futuristic. But, it is also expensive. They have created wireless ear-pods that can connect to your devices called Apple Airpods. These bad boys sell for a whopping $159. Not exactly available to all the masses out there, huh?

This also adds to the list of items you have to remember to charge each night. Each Airpod can play up to 5 hours of music. (This could be annoying if you’re someone who likes to listen to a lot of music.) You can charge them in the little box it comes in, but you have to charge that box every 24 hours.

You can use both Airpods at the same time or you can use them one at a time. Maybe you’re someone like me, though, who headphones don’t fit my ears well to start with. AND they fall out quite often if I’m running or working out. Since these are not connected to anything there is no doubt I would lose or step on one of these son of a guns. I also heard a comment from a YouTuber who questioned the protection of these Airpods if someone steals one out of your ear. Would they be under some kind of warranty?

They do have some better options that will work with the new iPhones. These include: Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones (You can get up to 40 hours of listening with these.), Powerbeats3 Wireless Earphones, and BeatsX Earphones. None of these options are “reasonably priced” though, as Apple mentioned. They cost $299.95, $199.95, and $149.95, respectively.

Yes, I think it’s awesome they have created their first W1 chip (wireless chip). But I also think they should make these products cheaper until they perfect the wireless listening devices. Or they should still give the option to use the old headphone jack. (Until they see how often people use/like the wireless aspect of the phone, that is.)

Alright ya’ll, I could say more, but we have to get to an entire other list! Let’s move on.

7. Camera- I think this is the feature Apple likes to focus on because it’s probably the most utilized feature that consumers use. So, it is what Apple spent the majority of their time talking about. But, I’ll shorten it up for you. They kept the 12-megapixel camera and added a f/1.8 aperture that lets in 50% more light. The camera has other cool features like a flicker sensor that reads flickering of artificial light and compensates for it. Or it now has optical image stabilization so you can still get clear photos even if your hands are shaking.

The iPhone 7 Plus is special and gets a second 56 mm telephoto lens for a pretty insane zoom option. There is a new front facing camera with 7 megapixels (the 6S has a 5-megapixel front-facing camera). It includes auto-image stabilization (but not optical image stabilization). (If you want to add even more cool features to your camera, you should check our blog post here about the Insta-360 Nano!)

So, yes, this camera is, without doubt, better than any camera an iPhone has had before and that’s cool. But, there are other phones out there with 16-megapixel cameras. There are phones that already have had 2 cameras on them. And there are phones that have optical image stabilization on both the front and the back cameras. So, while this camera phone may be the best one yet for Apple, there are other camera phones out there that are better or at least just as good.

This isn’t to say, however, it’s not a vast improvement for Apple. I was very excited to hear about the new features on the iPhone 7’s cameras and I think the camera aspect of the phone, alone, would make people want to buy an iPhone 7.

8. Performance- Apple says the iPhone 7 has the longest battery life of any iPhone so far. You can get 12 hours of LTE browsing; the iPhone 7 Plus adds up to 2 hours more. Yet, there are androids out there that can last 1-2 days without the need for charging them.

Apple has also added more storage. This iPhone comes in 32 GB, 128 GB, or 256 GB. Personally, I like that my phone is somewhere in between at 64 GB. Maybe this is just me but, I feel as if they didn’t offer 64 GB as the lowest option so that people will buy the more expensive (or as they see it, more bang for your buck) option instead. But hey, that’s just marketing strategies, right?

And this phone comes with the A10 fusion chip which is a 64 bit, quad-core processor. Apple says it runs 40% faster than the A9 and 2x as fast as the A8. I don’t think this means much to someone who isn’t a tech nerd.

9. Price & Availability- And finally, price and availability. The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus have been available for pre-order since September 9th. They became available for purchase on September 16th. So, you can go buy one today if you would like!

One of the biggest differences in this iPhone than the previous one is the price. The iPhone 7 sells at $649 for 32 GB, $749 for 128 GB, and $849 for 256 GB. The iPhone 7 Plus sells at $769 for 32 GB, $869 for 128 GB, and $969 for 256 GB.

$1,000 dollars? I didn’t realize we were putting a small mortgage down for this new phone. I guess whether you think it’s a bit extravagant of a price is up to you. Considering though, the price for the iPhone 6 was $199, $299, or $399 this seems a bit exorbitant to me.

*Phew* I told you guys there was quite a bit to cover, didn’t I? If you’ve made it this far, you’re all caught up and ready for part 2. Read on, soldiers.

8 Reasons why the iPhone 8 is What You Really Want

If you’ve made it this far, you might be thinking I hate Apple and their products. It’s quite the opposite actually. I’m an avid customer of theirs and prefer their products over others. They are user-friendly even to people who, like me, are not the most tech-savvy people in the world.

That said, I do think Apple dropped the bar a little bit on this new release by not adding anything that innovative. Most of what is “new” on the iPhone 7’s has already been on an Android phone.

This list you’re about to read (and some of what you’ve read already) should be read knowing two things. First, like I said, I’m not a tech person. The following list is just my opinion. They are things I think could make the iPhone better or more convenient. And convenient for people who are just basic consumers and are not “tech people”. Second, some of the things I’m going to list have already been applied to Android phones. So, they may not be actually be “innovative and new”. Not being great with technology, I think that someone much smarter than me would have to be the person to think of things that are actually considered “new” technology. Nonetheless, let’s get into it.

1. New Design- I think this is the easiest and most obvious one. The iPhone has looked pretty much the same the past couple of generations. How can they alter the design? Make it thinner? Make it skinnier? Make it foldable? Put legs on it? I’m not sure what the best route is when creating a whole new design but, with the iPhone 8, it’s time for a change.

2. Wireless Charging- This has been around on Androids for a bit now and I’d love to see this be an option in the iPhone 8. Who knows? Maybe I’m wrong and people will love the wireless/lightning port options for listening to music. If so, then this could allow you to listen to your music and charge your phone at the same time again!

It’d be great to see an option for fast charging too. You know, for those times when you forget to charge your phone and have only 15-30 minutes in the morning to get ready. But you still want to get a decent charge before you leave the house?

I think consumers would appreciate both of these functions in an iPhone. They would help make their lives easier and more convenient.

3. Waterproof- Is there a way to make a phone 100% waterproof? I don’t know, but if there is, I’d like to see Apple be the first to do it. Imagine! Not having to use a life proof case to take photos underwater! Being able to Snapchat in the shower without worry!

OK, so maybe you might not want to do that last one. But, there would be a lot less stress in having a completely waterproof phone than there is with one that is water “resistant”.

4. Shatterproof or Shatter Resistant- This kind of goes along with #3, but I lovethe look of my iPhone without a case. I’m also accident prone, so I have to have a case on my iPhone. I’d love to have the anxiety-free ability to drop my phone here or there and not worry about it shattering.

And if they do come out with a whole new design for the iPhone 8… Why cover that I-know-it-will-be beautiful design with a case just to protect it? #freetheiphones

5. Removable Storage- Again, this is a feature that is found on Androids. And I know, Apple has the cloud. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how to work the cloud. I can’t figure out how to upload stuff to it or delete stuff off of it. Then I will get a message saying my cloud is full and I need to buy more storage (When, hello! I don’t remember putting anything on it to begin with?!)?

Maybe I’m old school, but I like storing my pictures and documents on something that is tangible. I think a lot of users want to see this as a feature on the iPhone 8.

6. Customization- Who doesn’t like to have pretty fonts, colors, and designs on their phones? It’d be great to see a way (or even an App) to add more personalization on the iPhones. So you can customize things like colors, fonts, backgrounds, Apps, or (and this might give away my age here) even ringtones!

And this adds to the design aspect, but maybe having the option to pick an actual color you want your iPhone (the body of it anyway) to be? I love the neutral tones for the phones myself, but I know loads of people who like brighter colors!

7. Siri- This goes along with customization and maybe this is just me, but I would appreciate having the option to change Siri’s voice. You know how you can change the voice of your GPS to a sexy British man? Yeah, give me the ability to change Siri’s voice to that instead.

8. Headphone Jack- And last but certainly not least, the headphone jack. Now, I like I said, I could be wildly wrong and the transition to wireless might end up being a huge success. Ormaybe in a few years, once the technology isn’t so new, the wireless listening devices won’t be so expensive, but I think a lot of customers are going to want this classic feature added back to their phones. (It’s like email, it’s timeless!)

And there you have it folks! 9 new features that the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus will have and 8 features that might make you want to wait till the iPhone 8 comes out to buy a new iPhone.

Would I buy this iPhone? You’d probably guess no. If I hadn’t just upgraded my current phone in the past couple of months and I had the extra cash laying around, I might buy it. I am very curious to test all these “new” features out for myself so I can give a more proper critique of them, but for now I’ll stick with my iPhone 6S.

So, when is the new iPhone 8 coming out? I assume it’ll be out in 2017, roughly around the same time as it did this year.

Can we be certain that Apple will drastically improve the iPhone 8? No, but I like to hope Apple will step back up and regain their place as the leader in technology next time around.

What can we know for certain? We know that with the next iPhone release date, Apple will have pretty high expectations coming their way.

 

What do you think about the iPhone 7’s? What do you like and what don’t you like? Do you agree with the critiques that are being said about this new phone? Let us know in the comments below!

Changing the Meaning of “Pillow Talk”

Imagine. A couple comes home after a long, hard Monday. All they want is to do is lie down beside each other. They want to feel the person they love’s warmth and heartbeat next to them. The familiar type of reassurance which can only come from that one person. They get into separate beds and pull the covers over top of them. Wait. Something is wrong with this picture. Shouldn’t they bed in the same bed, comforting one another? The dilemma is that they are a long distance couple.

Spending any extended period of time away from the person you love is tough. If you ask me, a big part of choosing to be with a person is because their presence comforts you. This includes not only couples, but other relationships as well. The father missing his children while he is overseas. The sisters who live across the country from one another. The best friends that moved away after college and haven’t had time to visit each other. The grandparents that aren’t able to travel to see their grandchildren. All these relationships face the same problem. Distance. So, how do you fix the problem of having to be apart from your loved one? How about a little Pillow Talk?

Little Riot created Pillow Talk to ease the burden of long-distance relationships. They believe that “emoticons and pixelated video calls just don’t really cut it” and that we should be able to actually feel connected to those we love (Little Riot).

So, how does it work? I’m glad you asked!

When you buy Pillow Talk, you will get two wristbands and two speakers. They come in red or blue. The device works through an app on either your iPhone or your Android in two different ways. When you want to listen to the other person’s heartbeat, you put on the wristband, put the speaker under your pillow, and connect to the app. Your partner will get a notification that you want to “pillow talk” with them. They put on their wristband and put their speaker under their pillow. Then you both can fall asleep to the sound of each other’s heartbeat playing in real time. If you want the sound of their heartbeat to be louder, just take off the soft material that is on top of the speaker.

Or you can plug headphones into your phone, connect to the app, and listen to their heartbeat that way at any time of the day. All you need to do is make sure that your loved one has on the wristband.

Pillow Talk is available to be purchased for $179. Which, for couples that spend a lot of time apart from each other, $179 may not seem like much. If it brings you closer together and makes the time apart more bearable, then that seems like a pretty good deal. If you do decide to pre-order one, Pillow Talk is set to be delivered in late 2016.

The designer of this unique item is Joanna Montgomery. What does she think Pillow Talk is really all about? She released a press statement that said, “

Pillow Talk is about feeling that connection with someone. Anyone who has spent time apart from someone they love knows that – while it’s great to talk to them on something like Skype – you don’t get that same closeness from a face on a screen. We designed Pillow Talk to give people the feeling that they’re somehow closer together, even when they’re many miles apart.”

Ultimately, Pillow Talk was designed to bring a familiar type of intimacy back into any long-distance relationship. So, if there someone in your life who means the world to you, but you have to be away from them, this invention could be just the gadget for you. Little Riot posted a quote from a user that said, “I love it. It feels so human…like I’m lying with my head on his chest.” It seems that Pillow Talk is redefining the phrase “pillow talk”.

 

*Picture Credit goes to Little Riot’s Pillow Talk

Can Therapeutic Robots Teach Us to Connect?

Connecting to other humans can be hard. It can be hard because of disorders like autism or depression. It can be hard because of behaviors learned from a young age. Or it can be hard because someone has an introverted personality. Whatever the reason (and there are plenty more of them), for some of us, it’s a daily struggle. But as Jasna Burza writes, “Our well-being depends on our connection with others.” So, how can those of us who have a hard time connecting find a way to relate to other people?

Researchers are starting to think therapeutic robots could be one part of that solution.

Physical therapy has used robotic systems for a while now. These same systems are starting to branch out. Assistive robots are being tested for their functionality in psychological therapy. Their biggest achievements, thus far, have been seen in children with disorders like autism or in elderly patients.

Meet “Bubblebot”

Children with autism often have trouble interacting with their peers and adults. They can, also, have an inability to empathize with other people’s emotions. In short, their disorder limits their capacity to connect with other people.

“Bubblebot” was created to help children with disorders like, but not limited to, autism. Brian Scassellati, PhD, a social robotics researcher at Yale, told the American Psychological Association (APA) that autistic children tend to gravitate towards technology. He said, “In almost all cases, you see kids with autism get very excited to interact with [a] robot[.] And they have sustained interest.”

An autistic child’s curiosity in interacting with a robot is important. It can be seen as the first step towards learning how to connect with someone (or something). This is a great achievement because, now, they are not forced to step out of their comfort zone, but they are doing it on their own will. And if they learn how to socially behave with a robot, the thought is that they can then take those skills and apply them in real life.

Maja Mataric, PhD, is a robotics researcher at the University of Southern California who developed “bubblebot”. Her previous graduate student, David Feil-Seifer, PhD, helped create this robot alongside her. She has seen, firsthand, “bubblebot” help teach autistic children how to connect to other people.

She recalled, in an interview to APA, an autistic child interacting with “bubblebot”. He became irritated when he told the robot to do something and the robot would not do it. He then stated, “This is how my teacher feels when I don’t do what the teacher says.” By using the robot, the child was able to learn to empathize with the frustration he had seen his teacher feel. This lesson of empathy could go on to be implemented in his daily life when he is in school or playing with other kids. And that’s a huge success if you ask me.

Meet Paro

It is no secret that a lot of elderly patients in nursing or assisted living homes suffer from loneliness. The elderly also have a higher risk of not being able to relate to their caregivers and/or peers. This inability to connect could come from Dementia. It could come from some form of a debilitating mental disease or even from depression.

That’s why researcher’s at Japan’s AIST developed Paro. Paro is a soft, “stuffed-animal” like seal robot that’s sole purpose is to bring comfort to its owner. Paro reacts to sound and touch. It can move, coo, wiggle, and blink its eyes. It’s said to reduce negative factors in a person’s life like stress and loneliness. While also increasing mood and the ability to connect on a social level.

From what I understand, it seems as if the owner of Paro starts out by learning to care for and interact with this “seal”. Then, after a while of connecting with the seal their happiness increases. They are, at that time, able to take the social and behavioral skills they have learned from caring and interacting with the robot and apply it to everyday life.

The function of this robot seems to be a little bit different from the robots meant for children with autism. This robot appears to re-teach elderly patients how to connect with an object. As a result, they are able to connect with people in real life. (Whereas with children who have autism, the robots seem to just teach them skills they do not have.) Though, I think one the biggest factors with this robot is it lets the user really care about something, maybe even for the first time in years. To me, the benefits that follow that are unparalleled.

 

The use of robots in therapy is still very new. There is a lot of research that needs to be done on the true effects therapeutic robots have on patients. It does seem promising though. Teaching social skills in children with autism or allowing elderly patients to have a companion are essential uses. But robot therapy could even go on to help those with other disorders.

They could be there for patients who are having flashbacks from PTSD or for those who suffer from anxiety and need something to calm them down. They could help teach healthy behaviors like encouraging patients to work-out or to do their homework. The potential for these therapeutic robots is limitless. I don’t think, however, that robots will ever be able to replace the need for therapists and psychiatrists, but it does look like they could be an essential tool in rehabilitation and growth.

At our worst, humans can be judgmental, mean, and hurtful. So for those of us who already have trouble connecting with people, getting help on how to do that from a non-judgmental robot could be a dream come true. Who knows? Robotic therapy could be the first step in teaching us all (those with disorders and even those without) better and healthier ways to connect with each other than ever before. And after all, being able to connect with others is one of the essential things we need to stay happy and healthy.

Everyone needs help sometimes. Would you accept that help from a robot?

 

* Much of the information in this blog post was found through APA’s article

HapticWave: Touching Virtual Realities

Virtual realities used to be a thing only movies could depict. They are now something almost anyone can experience. All you need is a little help from companies like Oculus (or to walk into a Brookstone). Now, I don’t think researchers have yet found a way to create a virtual reality as intense as the one in the Matrix. (Not that we would we want them to.) But, virtual realities have finally stopped being just predictions of the future. They have become, well, a reality.

Oculus researchers have started taking virtual reality games one step further. They want users not only to experience sound and sight, but touch too. Insert HapticWave. This new research is a project backed by Oculus and, would you believe it, Facebook. “Similar” technology has not been able to give feedback that gives a sense of direction. (ex. the buzz your cellphone makes). As a result, the capabilities of that technology are limited.  These devices also usually necessitate the user wears gloves or holds the object. But HapticWave changes both of those features.

In design, HapticWave is “a circular metal plate set atop a ring of electromagnetic actuators” (MIT). How does it work? Well, the user places his or her hand on top of the plate. Then the electromagnetic actuators will send vibrations into that person’s hand. Ravish Mehra, a research scientist at Oculus, commented that a headset and audio features help enhance the illusion even more.

HapticWave has different reactions when low-frequency vibrations and high-frequency vibrations occur. Low frequency vibrations gear towards heavier objects. This means they make it seem like those heavier objects are hitting other items in virtual space. Whereas, it’s the opposite for high-frequency vibrations. They give off the perception that small objects are hitting other items in the same way. One of the main components that sets apart HapticWave is the directional aspect of the vibrations. It conveys to users where the objects are in relation to them. This makes the interactions feel more genuine.

The researchers at Oculus used their Rift VR headset to create a demo for HapticWave. They also added in the factor of spatial audio alongside the two other elements. In one of these demos, they had an animated ball bounce across a table. Then vibrations came from the plate so users could feel where the ball was coming from. And if they wanted to move the ball, they could use their keyboard. Ultimately, in this version of virtual reality, the user could see the ball, hear it, move it, and (as an added bonus) feel it.

The possibilities of where the research of this new technology could go are endless. HapticWave could improve at home video games, for sure. But, this technology might also enhance gamification in learning. If a student is learning about dinosaurs, he or she could actually feel the vibrations from the dinosaurs walking around (PM). You could even hypothesize this technology may allow for games (educational and home) to be developed for users who are blind or hearing impaired. Can you imagine how the aspect of touch would enhance their experience while playing a game they otherwise could not play?

Mehra said he couldn’t comment if HapticWave would appear in any Oculus gadgets. But, he did mention that researchers envision HapticWave used in tabletop style virtual reality games. It’s possible that could be sooner rather than later. The demos Oculus created were set to be shown at the Siggraph computer graphics and interaction conference this past week!

“Our hope around this project was [that we could] generate this extrasensory input so users can be more perceptive and more believable of virtual objects,” Mehra stated. It looks like as if virtual realities might become a big part of our society. They have possibilities of use in the home, a business, or even in education. And I think the greatest aspect of HapticWave is it’s not limited to sight and sound. It brings touch into the equation. There is hope for the development of games that don’t involve sight or maybe even sound at all. Thus, an even bigger population of humans could enjoy and benefit from its technology.

 

*Much of the information (and the photo added) in this post were found from an article on MIT’s Technology Review by Rachel Metz.

Insta 360 – Nano: The Full 360 Scoop

Full HD 360-degree camera footage used to be something only photographers could do. Not anymore. The Insta 360 – Nano has changed the way our world will look at HD 360 degree cameras forever. This pocket-sized device is able “to shoot and live-stream high definition virtual reality and panoramic stills and videos directly from an iPhone” (t3).

It is compatible with the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus (there is not one yet for an Android). However, don’t worry about your Insta 360 somehow becoming outdated for your phone. The Insta 360 can clip to a helmet, drone, selfie stick, or is even usable by itself. This makes it easier than ever to get high quality videos.

There are a lot of pros with this nifty little device and, what seems to be, far less cons. But, there still are a few. It is always more fun to hear how a product can benefit your world so, let’s dig into the pros first.

  • This is the smallest spherical camera in the world. It exists at only 0.8” x 1.3” x 4.3” and weighs in at a mere 2.6 oz. in weight. It’s sleek design compliments the iPhone’s already slender figure. Built with durable material, aluminum, it should hold up under reasonable conditions. This little device is Apple MF certified, as well.
  • You record its images and videos on a TF card, with a memory of 64GB. You don’t save anything on your iPhone. This is such a great utility because users have the freedom of shooting without the fear of clogging up their phones.
  • There is a live-streaming capability. That means if you can’t be at a wedding, party, or get together, you can live stream the event directly through your phone. This feature on the Insta 360 gives users one more way to be close to the people they love and the events they enjoy.
  • The quality seems to be good for such a small device. The resolution is 3040 x 1520 for photos and 3040 x 1520 with 30 fps for videos. You can find more details and specifications about the Insta 360 on their website.
  • Users can share images and videos straight through social media platforms such as: Facebook, Twitter, etc. And while charged, it uses a 800 mAh battery. Theoretically, this means the battery could last up to 100 minutes of non-stop recording.

You can find more commonly asked questions (like these) in their FAQ section on their website. And now we have made our way to the cons.

  • The Insta 360 comes with a manual and a quick start guide (for those who are eager to use it ASAP). It also comes with a USB cable, a carrying pouch, and cardboard virtual reality glasses. The “glasses” have a space where you insert your phone and can watch the videos you have made. The idea appears futuristic, for sure. But, the execution seems a little flimsy. (How long will a cardboard box hold up and who wants to carry a bulky box in their bag?)
  • To operate, this device plugs into your phone upside down. This gives off the impression that it might take some going out of your way to use it. I have not read, yet, if you can still use your phone while the Insta 360 is plugged in, either.
  • It requires that you use 3 apps to help the Insta 360 function in a correct manner. The control app is the first (which does just that). The firmware app helps keeps the device running. And the video player app allows users to playback videos and panoramic video footage. Are three apps are a bit much when it comes to one tiny product? Maybe so, but that depends on the user’s opinion.

And then the biggest debate of all: the price. In the states, you can buy this product for $199.00 with free shipping on Amazon. Now, if you love making home movies, you are a YouTube filmer, an actual professional photographer, or enjoy videography as a hobby, $199.00 may seem like nothing because of how often you would use it. But, if you don’t take videos often or hardly ever, that purchase could be more daunting. It is up to you to decide whether the Insta 360’s pros outweigh the cons or if the price is worth the product.

Whatever the answer to those topics may be, it is certain that the Insta 360 will open the door to HD 360 degree cameras. And will make them more accessible than ever before.

 

 

You Are the Alpha Tester

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The software development life cycle, as well as the hardware product life cycle, is getting shorter and shorter. The GE 90-70 Series PLC had a good 30-year run before it became officially obsolete, but that kind of phenomenon is non-existent today. From consumer products to industrial products, customers are upgrading and replacing systems more and more frequently. This shift in the marketplace has changed the nature of how products are developed and tested.

The economics of conventional alpha and beta testing simply do not work any longer. Back in the days when OEM’s could engineer a component and know that they’d be able to continue selling it for 10 years or more, it made sense to rigorously test that system and create a solid, robust foundation before hitting the marketplace. A bad product release under those conditions could cost a company a huge amount of market share and revenue opportunity for years. But today, the opposite is true. Being slow to release a product is the fatal mistake in the marketplace of the twenty-first century. By the time you’ve done alpha and beta testing the old way, the market will have already moved on to the next thing.

What does this mean to you, as the end user? It means, quite simply, that you are the alpha tester. That’s not going to change. You can expect that when you buy new software products, they will have undergone minimal testing. In fact, you will be one of the guinea pigs. That’s not an entirely bad thing. Software systems are moving to the cloud, allowing for continual updates, live feedback, and fluidity of user experience. Instead of buying a CD-ROM at the store and running an installer program, you simply are assigned a login and password. Some software products don’t even require you to install anything. If they do, it is delivered via download with no physical exchange of product. Why is this significant? It allows software companies to make changes on the fly without having to disrupt your use of their products.

This phenomenon isn’t really all that new. Unix-based operating systems have been this way for decades.  In fact, that’s how they’ve been able to stick around. Unix originally was an operating system for engineers and geeks only. The community was able to provide a strong testing environment that made open-source development feasible. Rather than simulating a set of conditions or having paid users go through a series of pre-determined interaction sequences, the Unix community simply put the code into its real operating and environment and found bugs quickly. Since the user community consisted of expert users, each user could find and fix a programming bug rather than waiting for a single company to release a fix. The Unix model doesn’t work for everything, but it’s one example of how being an end user while alpha testing a product is not a bad thing.

As new technologies continue to roll out, formalized testing is likely to disappear altogether for many product types. Expect to be the one who finds the bug more often.