Future technology — but not too distant future (probably!)

[I] was introduced to the video below through the Coursera MOOC (massive open online course) in which I am now enrolled. The course is about “E-Learning and Digital Cultures” and I, plus about 260,000 classmates (yes, it’s really that massive), have been exploring how learning intersects with past, present, and future digital technologies in our culture.

The course has asked us, the students, to consider whether past, present, and future technologies of the emerging digital culture have been or will be utopian (i.e., contributing to or even causing a “better” or “higher” culture and society) or dystopian (i.e, contributing to or even causing a “worse” or less-desireable version of culture and society). In this video, Microsoft is obviously inferring that the future appears more utopian with the new technologies. The optimist in me wants to embrace this view. However, in the course we have also explored how technology potentially has a dark side, potentially being disruptive in a negative way, giving certain privileged segments of the population unfair or even potentially oppressive power. For an example, see my earlier post about whether we should trust Google. As a university professor, I now include a review of these cautions about Google in my own courses on computer network design, security, and privacy).

I found the video below, produced by Microsoft, quite engaging and thought-provoking. I’m mainly wondering how long (or, how short) the time will be before we see most or all of them in common use in our homes, education providers, and businesses. I think you will enjoy it, too.

(6 minutes)


Amazing “Second Screen” digital broadcast technology at TheBlaze.com

[I] am continually fascinated at the new things coming out of The American Dream Labs and TheBlaze.com television network (Dish Network satellite TV channel 212). Glenn Beck and his production company are working on the cutting edge of digital technology, news reporting, and media production.

In the segment below, Glenn discusses what he calls “second screen” technology, whereby traditional broadcast TV is combined with some amazing interactive technology on a digital tablet (e.g., an iPad) or notebook computer, to give the viewer a highly-controllable dual-screen experience. The basic concept is not uniquely new. For example, Dish Network has already built some interactive technology into its system. I notice that during some commercials, in particular, a message will pop up on the screen inviting me to press a button on my remote to view additional information about the product currently being shown. This puts the original video feed on hold while the viewer goes out to explore more information.

What makes TheBlaze.com’s second-screen approach unique is that they invert the implicit priority of the feeds. The user’s own smart device (iPad, laptop computer, etc.) actually becomes the control center for interacting with all the material, AND potentially with the production studio itself. For example, one might be able to visually explore, and even interact with the production set in real time as a live broadcast is underway.

Check out the relatvely short video below to take a quick tour of this new technology’s potential!

(12 minutes)

I’m taking my first MOOC — Massive Open Online Course

[I] just signed up for the first MOOC I’ll have been any part of. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. Several different educational consortia now offer quite a few such courses. The course I’ll be taking is E-Learning and Digital Cultures, from a team of “tutors” at Edinburgh University in the UK. A course description from the Coursera website:

“This course will explore how digital cultures and learning cultures connect, and what this means for e-learning theory and practice.”
More info at: https://www.coursera.org/#course/edc

The course starts next week, and runs for five weeks. I just received an email confirmation from the course team today, and they shared that they now have over 260,000 participants enrolled in this one session alone!

One of the hallmarks of MOOCs is that they are nearly all free, as this one is. It is coordinated by a consortium of universities founded by two faculty members from Stanford University, named Coursera, at www.coursera.org.

Here is a short video overview of the course:

(3 minutes)

Visualizing human development from conception to birth

[I]n a recent TED presentation, technical/medical artist Alexander Tsiaras dazzled his audience with an amazing visual journey. Using state-of-the-art medical sensing and scanning devices, powerful computer technology, and his largely self-taught but nonetheless stunning artistic abilities, he has created an animation that documents the full development of the initial conception of a human being through his or her birth event.

One of his comments early in the talk really stuck with me, as he was discussing the structure of collagen and how it is arranged in the human body, “… it was hard not to attribute divinity to it.” He uses words like “marvel” and “wonder” when describing what he discovered and modeled on the way to producing this piece.

You can read a biography about Tsiaras here:

Please watch this 9-minute video and marvel, as I did, at the Creator’s handiwork in making you, me, and all of our fellow human beings, from the instant of conception until our birth.

(10 minutes)

Do you trust Google with your privacy? Maybe you shouldn’t.

I just finished reading a fairly new book by Scott Cleland titled, Search and Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Search And Destroy book coverGoogle, Inc.

I knew I already had personal misgivings about Google. However, this book verified and magnified my concerns. As an information systems and security technology professional, my initial misgivings were from my gut. My second set came when I read on a discussion group of technology professionals that Google had recently declared that groups that “discriminated in hiring practices using religion or sexual orientation” would no longer qualify for free or reduced-fee access to Google’s products, including Google Docs. This effectively removed this benefit for churches. You can read more about this shift in corporate policy in a recent article from Christianity Today, entitled “Google Cuts Churches out of Non-Profit Program.” What this article said to me is, “Google has turned hostile toward Christian organizations.” This fact is also documented in Mr. Cleland’s book.

You can read for yourself Google’s information page for non-profits. Pay particular attention to the statement:

“Google reserves the right to grant or deny an organization’s application or participation at any time, for any reason, and to supplement or amend these eligibility guidelines at any time. Selections are made at Google’s sole discretion,  and are not subject to external review. “

So they tell us right up front they they are reserving the right to be capriciously discriminatory, without recourse on our part.

The book cites many, many examples of why we all should be concerned, if not alarmed, at Google’s enormous power and influence in the marketplace. The author even exposes Google’s capability, even its intent to influence the policies of world governments and even elections with this power. The book is exceptionally well documented with over 700 footnoted references.

Finally, I found this recent discussion about this topic on www.TheBlaze.com. I hope you will find it as interesting and informative as I did.

(8 minutes)

3D Scanning on a grand scale, for grand purposes

[I]n an earlier post I wrote about the new technology of 3D printers, by which solid 3D objects can be scanned and reproduced faithfully. I just recently discovered an additional new 3D scanning technology that can scan entire archeological sites with amazing accuracy. Its inventor, Ben Kacyra, is applying it to the recording and preservation of what he calls “heritage sites,” such as Mt. Rushmore. He has recently launched an initiative to complete 500 such projects of worldwide significance during the next five years. He recounts a story of how his team had only recently completed the recording of an ancient African tomb, only to have it destroyed soon thereafter by suspected arsonists. Because of his organization’s efforts, the site is being considered for an accurate reconstruction and restoration project.

My thoughts immediately went to applications for recording, preserving, and sharing for education the most significant sites of biblical archaeology, particularly those at highest risk to destruction or loss for various reasons.

I applaud and marvel at the scale, intricacy, and intentions of this notable and worthy project. Be sure and watch until the very end, when a “live” scan of the presentation room and audience is revealed! Enjoy!

Amazing 3D Solid Object Printers

[T]echnology continues to amaze me. Here is a short documentary about how a huge variety of working machines, tools, and other objects can be created and reproduced by a resin-based 3D printing system. Just imagine its applications for creating working models, prototypes, visual aids, and even production items for distribution.

Recently I was able to observe one of these machines in action at one of our local high school technology labs. Instructors were using it to help students create visual models of molecular structures.

Want to buy your own 3D printer and try it out? Here are some commercial sources:

Watch this video to see a printer reproduce a working, usable, resin copy of a large crescent wrench. Wow!


A Rant About Customer Service vs. “Personal Security Questions”

I just encountered a pet peeve of mine last night. I was asked to update my account information on my cell phone carrier’s website, and I had to set up one of those now-common sets of “secret questions” for security in order to make a change to my account. While I agree very much with the concept, I think they must be letting 18-year-olds create the lists (no offense to young people here!). One of the lists they gave me, with no other options, was all about my ‘favorites” — my favorite movie, my favorite actor, my favorite restaurant, etc. These are all things that change over time, and therefore are TERRIBLE answers to expect me to provide in six months or a year, when I’m making more changes to my account and my “favorites” have changed! These lists should always ask for static information — where I was born, my brother’s middle name, the year I graduated from high school, etc.

Hand-drawn illustration of a talk and making it a video

In an earlier post, I shared Mr. Daniel Pink’s talk on his book, Drive. I discovered this additional version of the presentation. I believe it is the same audio track, but an organization named RSA has modified the video to be a very innovative, hand-drawn-on-a-whiteboard illustration of the talk. I find it fascinating for its communicative value. The site where you can see more illustrated talks is www.theRSA.org.

Here is the illustrated talk: