Wednesday, September 4, 2013

From Israel, cell phone apps offer smartphone capabilities

While items such as the AOptix Stratus and SatSleeve help add extra features to smartphones, what about those still stuck with a regular cell phone? Israel-based VascoDe has created a platform that enables any cell phone to use advanced web applications such as Facebook, Twitter and Skype. The system uses a client-less mobile interaction (CMI) platform – which means that user’s don’t have to install software or hardware onto their handset. Instead, the company has created pared-down versions of social media services that enable cell phone users to interact with them. The CMIs present users with a simple text-based listed menu – for example, launching the Facebook CMI will offer a choice of viewing the news feed, posting a status update, viewing a friend’s page or checking their notifications. Each menu item has a number next to it, and users press the corresponding button on their phone to interact with the site. Information is sent via Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, a system similar to SMS, meaning that no web connection or data plan is necessary. VascoDe has so far created cell phone apps for Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Wikipedia, online payments and even video service Skype.

In the UK, flying drone delivers food to restaurant tables

If the organizers of the OppiKoppi music festival in South Africa have proven that delivering beer by drones is a workable idea, could restaurants use the devices to send food to diners’ tables? The UK’s YO! Sushi has developed the iTray, a flying robot that is able to do just that. Using a wifi-enabled Drone quadrocopter that is remotely controlled with an iPad, customers at the sushi chain’s Soho branch in London can experience the high-tech waiter service when they order one of the new YO! Burgers. The meals are placed on a tray, which is then loaded onto the drone and directed to the diner’s table using the on-board camera. The device can travel at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour and a distance of 50 yards, and is able to deliver food faster than a typical waiter.

Teen reality series created by phone company takes place only on social media

Platforms such as Visual SyncAR and SonicNotify have already attempted to offer more to TV viewers through interactive channels. Now @SummerBreak is the first reality series that is broadcast solely on social media feeds, enabling followers to interact with the characters. Developed by telecoms giant AT&T, advertising agency BBDO and interactive media company The Chernin Group, the series follows a group of high school seniors spending their last summer together, and is produced in the vein of “structured reality” series such as Jersey Shore and The Only Way Is Essex. Rather than the traditional route of broadcasting episodes on TV, however, the action takes place across multiple networks. Each character has their own Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Youtube account, which are filled with status updates, blog posts, photographs and video that advance the plot and develop the characters. Viewers can choose who to follow, or keep up-to-date by following the @SummerBreak Twitter handle, which documents the most important posts made in the series. Users can even interact with the characters and become part of the story.

Armband enables remote control of any device through gesture

While the MJ v1.0 jacket allowed wearers to create music through gestures recognized by embedded sensors, our latest spotting aims to go a step further. Canada’s MYO is a piece of wearable tech that detects muscle configuration to enable users to remotely control any device with arm movements. The armband is a one-size-fits-all device that works out of the box, connecting to popular consumer devices through a Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy connection. When worn, the band can detect the movement of individual muscles in the arm, combining this with motion sensing to determine the gesture being performed by the user. MYO can detect subtle variations in arm position and movement, down to individual fingers, meaning a wide range of gestures are available. Consumers are encouraged to use the suggested gestures for particular actions – such as clicking fingers to play music, holding up the palm to pause or twisting the hand to turn up volume, for example. However, the company does have an open API that lets developers rig the device for their own needs – guiding a robot, custom video game controls or instrument-less music making.

Parking lot barrier only opens if drivers pass a breathlyzer test

We’ve recently seen a couple of examples of campaign using innovative ideas to curb drink driving, such as special labels on Steigl bottles and AmBev’s Beer Turnstile. Now Belgum’s Responsible Young Drivers (RYD) initiative has developed a car park barrier that only opens if drivers pass a breathalyzer test. According to statistics from the organization, 33 percent of road deaths that occur at the weekend involve drivers under 25 years old. In an attempt to stop revellers getting behind the wheel after a night out, RYD set up barriers at the parking lot of CarrĂ©, one of the most popular clubs in the country, on the night of its 22nd anniversary. Developed by B-Park Engineers, the barrier was rigged to open only when a connected breathalyzer showed a reading under the drink driving limit when those trying to leave the club blew into it. If they’d had too much to drink, the barriers remained closed until a safe driver took control of the vehicle. Those without a responsible driver were instructed to find an alternative route home or sleep it off in their cars.

Site enables shoppers to buy from multiple stores, both online and offline

The UK’s Slingshot platform has already made it easier for online shoppers to check out goods from disparate websites in one place. Now Mumbai-based startup 3 Other Things wants to enable consumers to search and buy from multiple retailers’ online and offline inventories from a single location. At first, the platform appears much like a social network that allows users to add products and brands they like to their wish list, which is shared with others. In order to build and curate their profiles, users can add items from any e-commerce site as well as products from partner brick-and-mortar stores. Users can then see what’s popular with their friends as well as the best selling products in a particular category or in their vicinity. The site uses social sharing to direct consumers towards items they may like and also allows them to buy online or reserve an item from a physical store and arrange a pickup. Retailers can then use the data generated by the site’s users to make more informed decisions about their marketing.

Crowdfunding site uses milestones to energize support for social projects

While Brickstarter – the Finnish crowdfunding concept that aimed to get communities involved in bringing to life civic projects that the local government couldn’t afford to implement – hasn’t yet been adapted as a working tool, a new platform called SocialProject.PH is now hoping to rally the masses to support social good initiatives through milestone-based funding campaigns. Sites such as Kickstarter have provided a popular and effective way for creative projects to get off the ground through its all-or-nothing approach – ideas either get fully funded or they don’t. Where social projects – often run by nonprofits and NGOs on shoestring budgets – are concerned, however, an unsuccessful campaign can feel like a wasted effort of time and resources. When users upload their initiative to SocialProject.PH, they set up milestones to indicate what different levels of support will get them, much like Kickstarter’s unofficial ‘stretch goals‘. By creating incremental funding targets, potential backers are given extra incentive to donate, and those who help organizations reach their first milestone may feel more inclined to give again towards the next milestone. Project creators have extra news items with which to promote their schemes as they reach each milestone and are guaranteed at least a portion of their original target even if the project isn’t entirely successful. The platform takes a five percent cut of any funding received, after PayPal fees. Could this kind of crowdfunding work in your part of the world?