October 2016

Police car colouration controversy

A recent article in the Toronto Star by Betsy Powell discusses controversies surrounding new colour schemes for Canadian police cars.  A number of Canadian police forces have been changing from older schemes based on red, white, and blue to darker schemes based on grey, navy blue or black.

The ultimate tuque

John Brownlee at FastCompany describes the "ultimate tuque",  a version of the hat most associated with Canada.  Designed by Toronto design firm Frontier, the tuque aims to get this iconic piece of headgear right.

In terms of function, the Frontier tuque is designed to address many common complaints about tuques, such as scratchy material, lack of warmth, retention of sweat, and being too tight. It may be the most technotonic tuque of all time!

Privacy and productivity in the workplace

Science writer David Berreby has posted an interesting piece in Psychology Today about the relationship between privacy and productivity in the workplace

Cars, bikes, and safety technology

The Internet sometimes provides interesting pairs of news items.  Today's pair concerns an intersection between mobility, safety, and technology.

Drone strategies

This blog has documented many of the purposes for which drones have been used.  Sometimes, drones seem to be the best solution to a given problem.  Other times, drones seem to be the best solution in search of a problem.

Here are some more drone applications to ponder.

Smart lights reduce congestion in Pittsburgh

An item in IEEE Spectrum by Prachi Patel notes the development of a smart traffic system in Pittsburgh.  Called Surtrac, the system developed by CMU professor Stephen Smith uses Artificial Intelligence techniques to adapt traffic signals to current conditions.

Prof. Smith's research suggests that Surtrac has reduced trip times 25 percent and idling times by over 40 percent, a significant difference.

Machine readable bikes

I was interested to see in Ben Coxworth's brief piece in New Atlas an item about a gadget designed to make bicycles more visible to radar-equipped cars

The "Shield TL" is a kind of souped-up rear light that can be attached to a bicycle.  Besides the usual blinking red light, the Shield TL has a baffle shaped to create a large reflection when struck by radar of the type used by driving assist technology in high-end vehicles. 

A minimalist door bell

Rima Sabina Aouf describes a "minimalist" door bell in Dezeen.  Just launched on Kickstarter, the "Ding" door bell provides a wireless door bell ringing and answering system.

The system consists of a button, which is hung on or near the door in question, and a speaker, which emits the chime.  Both components have been simply styled, appearing as almost featureless rectangles with circular ends:

Conversational computing and context

Quentin Hardy at the New York Times has written an interesting article introducing conversational computing, that is, the use of speaking software interfaces. 

It probably has not escaped your notice that people interact with software through conversational means more and more often.  Tech companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon have made speaking agents, such as Siri, Cortana, and Echo, central to interactions with their consumer goods.

Speak French without embarassment

Sean Captain at FastCompany reports that Duolingo—perhaps the world's best-known second-language learning app—is trying to remove the embarrassment of being a newbee in a second language.

The service has unveiled a set of chatbots that users can interact with in order to practice their French, German, or Spanish—with more languages to come.  "Practice real Spanish conversations without blushing," is the assurance given to curious users.

The history of "innovation"

In his article "Technological innovation", Benoît Godin provides a history of the term innovation and its adoption in discourse about technological change. 

The history of the expression begins as a translation of a Greek term that referred to subversive novelties and was invariably negative in tone.  Early Christian authors used the new word, innovo, to refer to regeneration, a return to a better state of affairs from the past, clearly a positive connotation.

The last of yesterday's telephones

Scott earlier talked about simplistic notions of firsts in technology.  When was the first computer invented?  Depends on what you mean by computer!  Anyway, who says the arrival of computers was marked by the invention of any given machine?

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