Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Catch me if you can.

In a couple of generations human pilots will go extinct.

The US Federal Aviation Administration this month kicked off what could be the first step in a journey towards the full automation of the airliners we all travel on.

The FAA commissioned the Boeing subsidiary Insitu, based in Bingen, Washington, and the New Jersey Air National Guard to begin investigating ways for civil aircraft to share their airspace with remotely piloted uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Once UAVs can avoid passenger jets, remotely piloted cargo planes are likely to take to the skies, pushed by some compelling economics. "The cargo airlines want very much to lose their pilots. The money that would be saved in salary and benefits, including retirement and healthcare costs, is pretty staggering,"


tags: tool, control, transportation, commerce.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

History in the making.

According to VentureBeat:

Crowdstar is giving a big endorsement to Facebook Credits. The social gaming company has made a five-year commitment to using Facebook’s virtual currency.

The use of Facebook Credits is important to Facebook as a way to monetize its vast audience of nearly 500 million monthly active users. Davis said early results show that Facebook Credits is increasing both the revenue per paying user and the number of people who are buying things in apps. He acknowledged that changes that Facebook made to its platform this spring have slowed growth of games, but he said that newly launched Facebook games are seeing rapid growth.

History of money shows that introduction of a widely accepted currency is key to the development of a market for services. So far, we've seen trading in goods only. One reason for that would be narrow scope of most gaming scenarios and lack of service development tools. Another, a steep tax (30%) that Facebook imposes on all transactions.

tags: commerce, money, payload, service, control, market, scale, games, virtual

Monday, June 28, 2010

On Monday, President Barack Obama signed a memorandum that commits the U.S. to making an additional 500MHz of government and commercial spectrum available for auction and for unlicensed use within the next 10 years. This goal of getting 500MHz more spectrum in the hands of wireless broadband providers over the next decade is a key part of the National Broadband Plan that the FCC presented to Congress earlier this year.

This initiative is very important because it aims to unclog wireless pipes between the cloud and the mobiles. In the world of the 21st century's communications, this is equivalent to building railroads that connected American East and West coasts and provided a platform for country-wide industrialization.

tags: distribution, growth, mobile

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

AppStore economics

Like in any other Long Tail business models, iPhone/iPad applications seem to make money for the store owner, not the content developer.

The development of the typical app cost $35,000 and the median paid app earns $682 dollars per year after Apple took its cut. You see where this is going.. We get to break even on our App Development costs in... 51 years.

h/t marginalrevolution.com


tags: distribution, business, model, control, control point, mobile, apple

Sunday, June 20, 2010

According to research cited in Wired, travelers seem to think that south-bound routes are shorter than north-bound ones of the same length. The authors of the study explain the effect by a common perception that north is "up" on all maps, therefore people instinctively associate "north/up" with working against gravity.

For journeys that averaged 798 miles, time estimates for north-going jaunts averaged one hour and 39 minutes more than south-going trips, he and his colleagues report in an upcoming Memory & Cognition.

“This finding suggests that when people plan to travel across long distances, a ‘north is up’ heuristic might compromise their accuracy in estimating trip durations,” Brunyé says.

Moving up through a company hierarchy is also more difficult than down. It must be the gravity :)

tag: psychology, effect, example
A new technology that has the potential to become a game changer in residential energy consumption:

The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory has invented a new air conditioning process with the potential of using 50 percent to 90 percent less energy than today's top-of-the-line units. It uses membranes, evaporative cooling and liquid desiccants in a way that has never been done before in the centuries-old science of removing heat from the air.

Friday, June 18, 2010

FIFA and technology

Certain important game situations in soccer, such as offside or hand ball, can be easily resolved in real time with the new video technology. Today, many TV stations already have equipment capable of showing replays of controversial plays within seconds after they happen on the field. It's hard to imagine any TV game broadcast without video replays. In addition to that, during important international games refs wear wireless audio headsets.  A TV operator could easily use the system to tell them, whether a goal was scored legally or not. Thus, technology exists to make the right call at the right time. Nevertheless, FIFA is not in a hurry to use it. Why? Are they afraid to undermine the authority of the refs?

tags:  10x, technology, diffusion, innovation, games,
1963. A demo of a Graphical User Interface with the computer. During the interview, the reporter asks, "Can the computer work with a three-dimensional object?"

Isn't it amazing how in 50 years breakthrough ideas become "obvious".



tags: interface, computers, information, history, example, technology, video

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The high fashion of iPad

Reuters reports on iPad's success in Asia:

In Japan, wedding service firm Novarese Inc is using iPads to help customers choose a wedding dress at its flagship store in Tokyo's Ginza shopping district, and plans to adopt iPads at seven other stores and its wedding ceremonial halls.

The firm now shows customers video clips of models strutting with dresses on the iPad, making it easier to see things such as how a hemline flares.

I still think iPad is the ultimate shopping device: from food to cars to media. A dedicated interactive product application can do much better than a browser script with embedded flash. Amazon, if they play it right, could be the company that benefits the most from iPad proliferation.

tags: commerce, interface, tool, source, interaction, apple

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Experiments in creativity: Lucid Dreaming

Here are some top tips on how to achieve lucid dreaming:

Step 1: The reality test.

Ask yourself whether you are awake or dreaming throughout the day. Later on, in the land of nod, you might find yourself pondering this question. If you succeed, congratulations! You have opened the door to lucid dreams.

Step 2: Focus your thoughts.

People who focus single-mindedly on a task during the day, be it a computer game or playing a musical instrument, are more likely to experience lucid dreams, says Jayne Gackenbach at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Canada.

Step 3: Plan your fantasy.

Almost as fun as the dreaming itself. Before you go to bed, think about what you want to dream lucidly about, in as much detail as possible.

Step 4: Total recall.

When you wake up, try to recall as many of your dreams as you can.

Step 5: Wake up and get motivated! ...And then go back to bed.

To solve a stubborn problem, on step 3 do a complete problem analysis, e.g. using the Three Magicians technique.

 tags: creativity, tool, method, magicians,  analysis
The future of abundant green energy might be nuclear:

TerraPower, a company seeking to commercialize a novel nuclear-power technology which has the enthusiastic backing of Bill Gates, has raised $35 million in venture funding.

The basic idea behind traveling-wave reactors is to use a small amount of enriched uranium and spent uranium fuel from traditional nuclear-power plants to produce electricity. Rather than needing to refuel every several years, these reactors would be able to operate for decades without refueling.

The company's goal is to have a working machine by 2020.

tags: energy, problem, solution, source,

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Road to new ideas: skiing in swim trunks

NYT writes in its obituary for a Russian genius mathematician Vladimir Arnold:

Dr. Arnold had an unusual approach when he got stuck on a problem. ...he would ski for 25 miles or more, wearing nothing more than swim trunks.

“According to him, this practice would always lead him to a new idea,” they wrote.

tags: creativity, example, quote, brain

The future of video conferencing

Here's how creators of the Avatar technology solved the problem of producing realistic facial expressions:


Weta’s specialty is motion capture, which relies on sophisticated software and hardware to transfer an actor’s body movements and facial expressions to an animated character. The actor wears a black suit with light-colored dots; to detect his movement, optical systems track those dots.

Friday, June 11, 2010

More virtual goods for your real money

June 7, 2010. VentureBeat:

Zynga is the biggest success story to come out of the new wave of social game companies, buт it has been curiously absent from one of the hottest new game platforms — the iPhone. That’s changing today with chief executive Mark Pincus' announcement that Zynga is releasing FarmVille for iPhone.

One question is whether virtual goods purchases on FarmVille for iPhone will be as lucrative as they have been on Facebook.

Buying and trading virtual goods using a mobile device is becoming easier, which means the frequency of transactions is going to increase dramatically. Furthermore, beginning with this generation of users, purchasing with digital money will become routine and start the process of gradual disappearance of physical bills, credit cards, and wallets. They will follow hand watches to the museum of extinct human artifacts.

tags: money, ideality, 10x, payload, system, social, market, commerce

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lying: an out-of-the box experience

Here's a study that may hint at a reason why so many people are bad at thinking "outside of the box":

A team of researchers has conducted a study which argues that liars betray their actions through drawing.

"Another distinguishing factor was the perspective of the drawing. Fifty-three per cent of truth-tellers penned a drawing from their own first-person perspective at the scene; 47 per cent opted for a birds-eye view. By contrast, 81 per cent of liars went for the birds-eye view and just 19 per cent for the first-person perspective."

When we invent and/or work to develop creative ideas we have to lie. That is, we have to use our imagination to come up with a description of events that haven't happen yet. These events are still in a possible future, therefore we can't tell the truth about them. But, since most of the people are trained to tell the truth, they have trouble creating the big picture, e.g. draw the birds-eye view of a problem situation and its potential solutions. Over the last six years that I've been teaching my Principles of Invention class at Stanford, seeing and drawing the big picture has been by far the most difficult exercise for the students. Here's a snippet from a recent e-mail from one of them:

Even in the class discussions one could see people getting trapped in linear thinking and unable to climb above the problem and see the big picture. Practicing “climbing on the roof” to see the big picture is what I will focus on to improve as an inventor.

Drawing by itself is not going to make people more creative. To produce good results, it needs to be combined with systematic tools that teach people how to step out of the first-person perspective.

tags: creativity, magicians, imagination, class, example, dilemma

reference: Vrij, A., Leal, S., Mann, S., Warmelink, L., Granhag, P., & Fisher, R. (2010). Drawings as an innovative and successful lie detection tool. Applied Cognitive Psychology DOI: 10.1002/acp.1627

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The cloack and dagger war between Apple and Google continues. It appears that Google might be locked out of the emerging market for mobile advertisement on Apple devices:

Apple quietly changed the terms of service for the iPhone developer agreement Monday along with the release of developer version of iOS4 at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, according to MediaMemo and several other blogs. If preliminary interpretations of a key section are correct, Google's newly acquired AdMob subsidiary will be unable to share ad analytic information with its customers who have placed ads in applications on the iPhone, rendering those ads much less valuable.

Either this is a legal quirk, or, more likely, Apple intends to extract from Google a heavy price for playing on the wrong side of their prisoner's dilemma game. In the meantime, Google protests the agreement.

tags: battle, technology, apple, google, advertisement, business, law, information, tool, detection

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Wanted: Invisibility Cloak

A new camera that makes the idea of privacy in public places a total joke:

[the camera] gives law enforcement high-def, 360-degree footage of a scene. The feeds are integrated with image-stitching technology.

The ultrawide camera system streams distortion-free, real-time stitched video and has a resolution capacity of 100 megapixels, which is "as detailed as 50 full-HDTV movies playing at once, with optical detail to spare," the DHS said in a release. It has been built with off-the-shelf cameras, image processors, and software.

If we put it on a drone or some other surveillance vehicle (a cat, a hat, a mouse) we get the ultimate multi-scale anti-privacy system. The amount of video processing, storage, routing and stream management is going to be staggering. Especially, if we add 3D capabilities, which should no be a problem whatsoever.

tags: video, control, detection, payload, system, evolution, problem,

Monday, June 07, 2010

Killing brain cancer cells with electricity

June 5 (Bloomberg) -- Doctors treating brain cancer have a limited toolkit. They can cut tumors out with a knife, burn them with radiation or try to poison them with drugs.

NovoCure Ltd., a closely held Israeli company, has added a fourth option for hard-to-treat tumors. It’s an array of electrodes resembling a tight-fitting helmet that bathes the cancer in a faint electric field, scrambling the inner workings of the rampaging cells and preventing them from multiplying.

We can probably expect a whole new range of cancer therapies to come out this initial application. In a few years, debilitating chemotherapy may be a thing of the past.

tags: health, problem, solution, tool, 4q diagram

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Schools and Creativity

A 2006 TED talk by Ken Robinson. Sir Ken is a brilliant speaker and he raises an important issue of how children are taught to dull their creativity in school.

The Greatest Innovations of All Time

I will be teaching BUS 200 (The Greatest Innovations of All Time) this summer. The course starts on June 24 and will go for six weeks. Last time I taught it, in Winter 2010, we had a wonderful class, people had lots of interesting ideas, and we found a number of good innovation opportunities even in a recession-stricken economy.

Here's a brief description of the course and weekly syllabus. Feel free to pass along.

This hands-on interactive course treats the current global crisis as a unique opportunity for breakthrough innovations. Individuals, businesses, and societies that take advantage of such opportunities propel themselves to the next level of prosperity and growth. Our goal will be to explore five areas essential to modern human endeavor: energy, transportation, information and communications, money and commerce, and health services.