June 27, 2006 There are 174 million visually impaired people in the world, and we can hardly imagine how overjoyed these people will be to hear of a groundbreaking new device that has been announced by the United States National Federation of the Blind (NFB) - the Kurzweil-NFB Reader. The handheld machine was developed by NFB and renowned inventor Ray Kurzweil, and enables users to take pictures of and read most printed materials. Users hold the device over any print document (such as a letter, bill, restaurant menu, airline ticket, business card, or office memo) and in seconds they hear the contents of the printed document read to them in a clear synthetic voice. Readers go on sale July 1 for US$3,495. Download a brochure here. The invention will once again focus public attention on the inventive mind of Ray Kurzweil which has made significant contributions to human knowledge in the areas of optical character recognition, music synthesis, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence – read about his remarkable career inside.
June 18, 2006 The world’s most lucrative technology award, the Millennium Technology Prize
, has been awarded to Professor Shuji Nakamura. Nakamura was awarded the 2006 Millennium Technology Prize, including a cash component of one million euros, for his work in developing new sources of light – bright-blue, green and white LEDs and blue lasers. Professor Nakamura’s work has launched a totally-new sector in light-producing semiconductor research, made possible the widescale industrial production of efficient, energy-saving LED lights and created the conditions for applications that improve the quality of human life. His blue lasers have enabled the next generation of optical storage (BluRay and HD-DVD), his LED work has enabled highly efficient lighting systems suitable for significantly reducing consumption of the world’s resources, and his work with ultraviolet LEDs could enable far cheaper and more efficient water purification processes to provide the third world with its most needed commodity (sadly, safe water). Nakamura’s win is also significant in that a significant body of his work related to a high profile patent dispute
that challenged the Japanese tradition of selfless devotion to employers.
June 10, 2006 The population density of the world’s continents says it all: North America (32 people/sq mile), South America (73), Europe (134), Asia (203), Africa (65) and Australia with just 6.4 people per square mile. Given that 90% of Australia’s population live in large cities in the South Eastern corner, the immense interior known as “the Outback” is one of Australia’s defining features. Eighty years ago, with almost no telecommunication infrastructure beyond the seaboard, the tyranny of distance loomed much larger in the Outback as the nearest doctor could be several thousand miles away, with no method of contacting them in an emergency. Hearing that German WW1 soldiers had used hand-cranked radios for battlefield communications, Alf Traeger set about creating a radio powered by bicycle pedals. The invention of the pedal radio in the late 1920s enabled the famous Flying Doctor service, and offered remote settlements access to telecommunications for th first time,
May 2, 2006 As extraordinary as it may seem, one of the people who created the first television died last week when Elma G. "Pem" Farnsworth, author of the Distant Vision: Romance and Discovery on the Invisible Frontier and wife of Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of electronic television, died in Bountiful, Utah at the age of 98. Pem married Philo Taylor Farnsworth
in 1926. She was on her husband's lab team, handling technical drawings for his experiments with transmitting pictures through the air and was present on September 7, 1927, in San Francisco when his invention of electronic television was first demonstrated successfully. Pem was the first person ever to appear on television and is often referred to as "The Mother of Television", given that her husband is recognised as one of the last lone inventors. Her technical drawings of those early experiments are part of the permanent collection in the Smithsonian Institute. A devout Mormon, she derived her greatest satisfaction in encouraging young people, saying "if you believe you can do it, anything is possible."
March 31, 2006 A fortnight ago we wrote about the plans for Chicago-based merchant bank Ocean Tomo
to conduct the world's first, live multi-lot technology patent auction
in San Francisco on April 6, 2006 but we didn’t realise that CircleScan
would be among the lots on the day. Originally developed by inventor Eddie Paul of EP Industries
in El Segundo, CA, the patented CircleScan makes 3D television entertainment a technical and economic reality. Unlike traditional 3D technologies requiring specialized cameras to record stereoscopic images, CircleScan easily attaches to any existing equipment. But what really sets CircleScan apart from all other 3D systems is that it can be delivered with virtually zero-cost of deployment across the entire media landscape: theaters, broadcast, DVDs, Internet and even iPods and cell phones. The picture? That's Circlescan being used to shoot a Victoria's Secret catalogue.
March 30, 2006 The unveiling of the LongPen at the London Book Fair earlier this month is one of the most important technology stories of 2006. The fact it was conceived and funded in its development by Booker Prize-winning novelist Margaret Atwood seems to have helped to disguise the story from the tabloids. Similarly, the absolute focus of Unotchit on the LongPen as a tool to enable authors to escape the drudgery of book signing tours has been equally myopic – Atwood could not have picked a harder industry in which to pioneer a machine that challenges traditional ways. The LongPen machine threatens the lucrative tradition of book signing tours because it enables the author to sign a book remotely while they chat via videophone with the recipient – all facilitated by the Internet. Viewed with some perspective though, LongPen is the world’s first real-time, remote signing device and will likely find many applications in a world unshackling itself from the tyranny of distance. It is already being adapted to sign basketballs and will be used by entertainers, musicians ad infinitum to sign CD/DVDs and photos remotely. Instead of focussing on how much the value of a signed book is diminished by LongPen, we think Unotchit should forget the book market and go after the burgeoning distance-everything markets where it is a landmark tool that will enable public figures of all types to represent themselves more effectively to the global community.
March 23, 2006 There can be no more difficult proving ground than Formula One in the design and rapid prototyping of parts, and we have written before about the advanced techniques employed by Renault F1 in building the cars which won the 2005 title and lead the 2006 title. Accordingly, those who study advanced composites are in for a treat at the JEC Composites Show 2006 show to be held later this month at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles in Paris, France. Engineering software developer Vistagy will be on hand to show the latest version of its FiberSIM 5.1 design environment for composite products and to have one of their best known customers present not just the Renault F1 race car, but to have the F1 team’s CAD support engineer, Alan Duerden, deliver a presentation entitled “Champion cars, composite parts, and FiberSIM” in the VISTAGY booth. FiberSIM 5.1 provides specialized tools that enable engineers working in commercial CAD systems to automate design processes early in product development. This results in more efficient and accurate manufacture of complex or large composite parts, including products produced in multiple stages. There will also be demonstrations of the new Airframe Design Environment (ADE) which helps engineers design airframe assemblies.
March 22, 2006 It seems the outlook for entrepreneurial activity is looking good and getting better – at least that’s the result of a survey of current Silicon Valley entrepreneurs conducted earlier this month that shows startup Conditions, valuations and liquidity opportunities have improved in the last six months. According to the survey of entrepreneurs (individuals who are seeking or have sought venture capital funding over the past year ) over two-thirds of respondents indicated they believe conditions for starting a company today are more favourable than they were six months ago, outnumbering those who felt conditions were less favorable by more than a 10-1 ratio.
March 17, 2006 How many times have you seen a good idea that would offer compelling features and benefits and elected not to join because the process is just too time-consuming? Removing the barriers to entry of such systems is something that marketers have been battling with forever, which is why ExxonMobil’s latest enhancement to its Speedpass
electronic payment system is worth a look – it offers a significant step forward in customer convenience. The Speedpass electronic payment system is one of the fastest ways to pay for gas and other purchases at Exxon and Mobil stations across the U.S. The new enhancement utilizes wireless hand held computer technology, to enable enrollment and activation within about two minutes at Exxon and Mobil retail locations or other remote sites. Customers no longer have to initiate the enrollment process using paper applications, wait for the device to be mailed to them, and then call to activate the device.
March 16, 2006 Many of the things the world’s 6.5 billion inhabitants do every day are done in a certain manner because they’ve always been done that way. In a world that is rapidly changing though, many of the traditional ways are under threat, with the most recent being the way that IP is bought and sold. Chicago-based merchant bank Ocean Tomo
is hosting the world's first, live multi-lot technology patent auction at The Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco on April 6, 2006. While some would suggest auctions are the absolute model of economic efficiency, uniting buyers and sellers at just the right price to their mutual benefit, there are those who argue that there is a winner's curse of ALWAYS paying too much at an auction, based on the fact that there will almost always be one or more persons who add irrationality to the model hence making the winning bid too high. If all bidders were truly rational, the winner would not overpay, but they wouldn't win many auctions either. Statistics also suggest that the bigger the universe of bidders, the more overrepresented the true worth will be. Which means that the auction might just be a better way of selling IP. The catalogue is available here
, though you'll need to pony up US$500 for a look at the details.