Planet Earth HD, Eco-cities, Universal Translators, and Augmented Reality

· Developments, Technology

Hey everyone, here’s my next little update on what’s been going on in the tech world these past few days. As always, I can’t catch everything that is happening, because as we all now, technology advances at such an alarming rate (this is part of what makes it awesome ;)). Anyways, here we go!

Do you have those moments when you are watching TV and you feel like there is absolutely nothing on to watch? I know I have these quite frequently, but is there anything that can help this feeling? Well, maybe not. But at the very least there is a company that will be streaming HD footage of the Earth from cameras on the International Space Station. While this won’t be available on cable, it will be available to anyone with internet access or a smartphone (so basically, better than it being on cable). What’s better? It’s interactive! Sounds cool? Of course it does! Check it out here! http://www.urthecast.com/about/

So I was browsing facebook when I saw a link that my friend Chuk had posted, talking about a city where no one would need to drive. Being into sustainability I immediately thought “Hmm, great idea! But how does it work?” Well, from what I understand, the whole concept of a city needs to be rethought. Basically, everything needs to be meshed together so that everywhere is easily accessible by public transit. Now, while the plan actually calls for the city to make automobiles “essentially unnecessary”, meaning that some cars may be present, it also implements other technologies to save on water and electricity use, as well as waste production. Of course I don’t have the nitty-gritty details of the master plan, but if you want to have a look at it yourself, here’s the link! http://tinyurl.com/d6vw8qp

Okay, now for something that I found to be pretty cool. As in, this could potentially revolutionize the business world and the way we communicate with each other cool. A speech to text to speech translator; sounds a bit confusing right? Well, let me explain: basically Microsoft unveiled this new technology which not only does speech to text (from what I saw, this is better than the speech to text systems that have been released as of late), but then can take this text and translate it to another language. So for example, I can speak English into the microphone, and then on the other end text can be displayed in either English, or it can be translated into another language, such as Mandarin.

Okay, that sounds cool, right? There’s more! In addition to spewing out text in another language, it can also speak for you. Now, I am not talking about a robotic voice that sounds like Microsoft Sam and will butcher everything that you type, but I am talking about your own voice. You read right; apparently this program will analyze your voice patterns (presumable to be done before you actually attempt to translate anything), that is, everything from tone, cadence, pitch, etc., and then when it reads out the translated text, it will sound like it is you actually speaking the language (whether this adds the appropriate accent, I am not sure).

Either way this is an amazing rollout, and if it is pushed into commercialization, I am sure it will have a huge impact on the ability of everyone to communicate with one another. While I don’t like that this will potentially cause people to get lazy and not bother actually learning other languages, it would be a cool technology that could be used to eliminate language barriers. Anyways, I’ve talked enough; here is the video of it in action: http://tinyurl.com/bhsdx53

Now, not exactly a recent development, but Google Glass has just been called one of the best inventions of 2012. What is it for those that don’t know? Basically, you know how you use your smartphone, telling you everything from when your next meeting is to what the weather is outside (apart from games :P)? Well, imagine all those utilities, except in a pair of glasses; just by looking outside your window, you would immediately know what the forecast for today, or by looking at a company billboard you would be able to immediately know what their stocks are like and any major news stories they came up in. That is the augmented reality that Google aims to create with these glasses, and pre-orders are already happening for the device. Here is a video-ad for what they envision wearing the glasses would be like: http://tinyurl.com/blgjdk9  *Edit: Pre-orders for the Google Glasses were intially made at the Google I/O conference, and primarily only to developers. They plan on rolling these puppies out by 2014.

Could you imagine if somehow these glasses and the translation technology software were combined, to make some sort of universal translation headset? What do you think, is this translation software a revolutionary step forward to unite humanity, or is the concern that the art of learning languages may be lost too great?

What about augmented reality: it something really cool that you would grab right away, or is the thought that you are, in essence, “plugged in” too much?

Until next time!

-Mike

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