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Cutting-Edge Technology

January 10, 2012

I attended a very interesting panel discussion and lecture yesterday at Google’s headquarters in Chelsea, hosted by the New York Technology Council (NYTECH): “Cutting-Edge Technology Showcase” by tech enthusiasts, artists and “white hat” hackers.

The five speakers represented growing fields in consumer technology: From interactive gaming platforms (“mobile augmented reality” presented by Ogmento), 3D visualizations of the human body (by BioDigital Systems in collaboration with New York Hospital) that run on an ordinary web browser with stunning results, to 3D printing (by Shapeways) and of course camera- and voice activated searches by Google (“Google Goggle” and “Search by Voice”). Senior Google Research Scientist Johan Schalkwyk called the latter “augmenting your own intelligence,” by using speech recognition to translate, navigate and understand data pulled from the cloud to make the world accessible.

From mobile to social to location-based and now augmented, I am less interested in virtually throwing rings on a bottle of beer that I’ve photographed with my smart phone (even though the sounds and shapes are life-like), but I guess there is a huge market for that. But what I found intriguing is our ability to use gadgets to dig ever deeper into our research, to come up with even more information, to be able to customize what we’re looking for (and maybe losing sight of what we really ought to know?).

As a writer, ahem, forgive me, as a “content creator,” I was especially intrigued by “Google Goggle” that lets you take a picture with your smartphone of a paragraph in a book or a newspaper/magazine article and Google will find within seconds the source: be it in a book (via “Google books” or via Google search of online publications, including PDFs and databases). My silver-haired seat neighbor drily remarked: “that’ll be the end of plagiarism.” And of quotes taken out of context. Good times indeed for, what keynote speaker Rick Karr of PBS referred to as “dead tree media.” Bad times for German politicians. But I regress.

The 3D printing was truly stunning: Case in point, a workable propeller  with 70 moving parts (at left) that got printed in one take using a malleable, white plastic material. The printers are still as large as refrigerators, but they will soon shrink and their price will fall. The possibilities are endless: cheaply and quickly mass-produced stuff or designer products on the go — from the individual creator to the market.

Scientists are already working on printing organs by using human cells: They’ve already created a human kidney prototype. But can it be implanted using augmented reality and Google goggles, Search by Voice and 3D visualization to guide the scalpel?

It still needs another remarkable gadget: us.

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