5 Things - Week Ending 1/5/14

This is the 55th post in a series called 5 Things. Each week I will share a combination of technology articles and apps that I have discovered and liked in the past week. Anything highlighted in blue is a link to an article, an app, or another section of my website.

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The Google car has now driven more than half a million miles without causing an accident—about twice as far as the average American driver goes before crashing. Of course, the computer has always had a human driver to take over in tight spots. Left to its own devices, Thrun says, it could go only about fifty thousand miles on freeways without a major mistake. Google calls this the dog-food stage: not quite fit for human consumption. “The risk is too high,” Thrun says. “You would never accept it.” The car has trouble in the rain, for instance, when its lasers bounce off shiny surfaces. (The first drops call forth a small icon of a cloud onscreen and a voice warning that auto-drive will soon disengage.) It can’t tell wet concrete from dry or fresh asphalt from firm. It can’t hear a traffic cop’s whistle or follow hand signals.

And yet, for each of its failings, the car has a corresponding strength. It never gets drowsy or distracted, never wonders who has the right-of-way. It knows every turn, tree, and streetlight ahead in precise, three-dimensional detail. Dolgov was riding through a wooded area one night when the car suddenly slowed to a crawl. “I was thinking, What the hell? It must be a bug,” he told me. “Then we noticed the deer walking along the shoulder.” The car, unlike its riders, could see in the dark. Within a year, Thrun added, it should be safe for a hundred thousand miles.

This New Yorker article about Google's driverless car is the best tech piece I have read in 2013. It is a long read, but well worth the time.

People are really bad at driving and from the sounds of it, you are much less likely to get in an accident with the computer driving the car than you are driving yourself. This sounds freaky, but planes and ships "drive" themselves most of the way and flying is significantly safer than driving.

Google has been very diligent in trying to make the driverless car a reality and I anticipate that we will see one of these for sale in the next decade.


4 Reasons Why Apple's iBeacon Is About to Disrupt Interaction Design

Kyle Vanhemert:

You step inside Walmart and your shopping list is transformed into a personalized map, showing you the deals that’ll appeal to you most. You pause in front of a concert poster on the street, pull out your phone, and you’re greeted with an option to buy tickets with a single tap. You go to your local watering hole, have a round of drinks, and just leave, having paid—and tipped!—with Uber-like ease. Welcome to the world of iBeacon.

Apple has been quietly building the groundwork for iBeacons the past couple years. They have been including the newest version of Bluetooth in the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S, iPad 3, iPad 4, iPad mini, and the iPad Air.

iBeacons was introduced with iOS 7 this past fall. This is an extremely exciting technology that few people are even aware of.

Here are a few of the possibilities with iBeacons:

  • You could walk up to a painting, pull out your iPhone, and find additional information on the artwork right there waiting for you.
  • Your car adjusting the seat and mirrors depending on whether you, your spouse, or your kid plunks down in the drivers seat.
  • Paying for your purchase without pulling out your wallet
  • Receiving a coupon for a hotdog at the baseball stadium as you walk in front of the concession stand

Oxford word of the year for 2013: Selfie

Ben Brumfield:

Oxford Dictionaries’ word for the year for 2013 is selfie.

a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website

Just in case you didn't know what a selfie was. The "kids" take them all the time and send them to their friends via text and post them to Twitter and Facebook.


Amazon Prime Air

If Amazon can figure out how to deliver stuff to people's homes in 30 minutes via drones they will signficantly impact the businesses of retailers and shipping companies.

I am not sure if the goverment will allow thousands of Amazon drones to fly through the skies but I love the concept.


Coin

This looks like a really neat product. You essentially have one card to carry around with you that contains all of your credit and debit cards. You can pre-order one for $50 and it will ship in the summer of 2014. If you want to learn more check out Coin's website.


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