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The unbelievably thrilling potential of SixthSense

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One of the most incredible, yet exciting technologies with a brilliant potential to change the world around us is SixthSense.

Created by Pranav Mistry, ‘SixthSense’ is a wearable gestural interface that augments the physical world around us with digital information and lets us use natural hand gestures to interact with that information.

We’ve evolved over millions of years to sense the world around us. When we encounter something, someone or someplace, we use our five natural senses to perceive information about it; that information helps us make decisions and choose the right actions to take. But arguably the most useful information that can help us make the right decision is not naturally perceivable with our five senses, namely the data, information, and knowledge that mankind has accumulated about everything, and which is increasingly all available online. Although the miniaturization of computing devices allows us to carry computers in our pockets, keeping us continually connected to the digital world, there is no link between our digital devices and our interactions with the physical world. Information is confined traditionally on paper or digitally on a screen.

SixthSense bridges this gap, bringing intangible & digital information out into the tangible world, and allowing us to interact with this information via natural hand gestures. ‘SixthSense’ frees information from its confines by seamlessly integrating it with reality, and thus makes the entire world your digital playground.

The SixthSense prototype comprises a pocket projector, a mirror and a camera. The hardware components are coupled in a pendant like mobile wearable device. Both the projector and the camera are connected to the mobile computing device in the user’s pocket. The projector projects visual information enabling surfaces, walls, and physical objects around us to be used as interfaces, while the camera recognizes and tracks the user’s hand gestures and physical objects using computer-vision based techniques. The software program processes the video stream data captured by the camera and tracks the locations of the coloured markers (visual tracking fiducials) at the tip of the user’s fingers using simple computer-vision techniques. The movements and arrangements of these fiducials are interpreted into gestures that act as interaction instructions for the projected application interfaces. The maximum number of tracked fingers is only constrained by the number of unique fiducials, thus SixthSense also supports multi-touch and multi-user interaction.

The SixthSense prototype implements several applications that demonstrate the usefulness, viability and flexibility of the system. The map application lets the user navigate a map displayed on a nearby surface using hand gestures, similar to gestures supported by Multi-Touch based systems, letting the user zoom in, zoom out or pan using intuitive hand movements. The drawing application lets the user draw on any surface by tracking the fingertip movements of the user’s index finger. SixthSense also recognizes user’s freehand gestures (postures). For example, the SixthSense system implements a gestural camera that takes photos of the scene the user is looking at by detecting the ‘framing’ gesture. The user can stop by any surface or wall and flick through the photos he/she has taken.

SixthSense also lets the user draw icons or symbols in the air using the movement of the index finger and recognizes those symbols as interaction instructions. For example, drawing a magnifying glass symbol takes the user to the map application or drawing an ‘@’ symbol lets the user check his mail. The SixthSense system also augments physical objects the user is interacting with by projecting more information about these objects projected on them.

For example, a newspaper can show live video news or dynamic information can be provided on a regular piece of paper. The gesture of drawing a circle on the user’s wrist projects an analogue watch. Augmented Reality is something that’s much closer than you think, and it’s coming soon to a device near you. Personally, we can’t wait to dive headfirst into this exciting future.

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Apple will give PC makers sleepless nights with MacBooks’ new computing direction

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Steve Jobs built Apple on a formula of enduring simplicity and usability. With products that are approachable, and easy-to-use for seven and seventy-year-olds alike, it created a user base that is as extensive as it is fiercely loyal.

This simple, ‘it just works’ approach is reflected in the company’s culture as well, and can be seen in the software underpinning its gadgets, such as iOS. As a result, iOS is one of the world’s most popular operating systems, and dead easy to use. All Apple devices run the same software, something no other business has yet accomplished. When we consider Apple’s main competitor, Android, we see that it is more complicated and fragmented than iOS, with updates sometimes taking months to roll out. This combination of technology with simplicity, creativity and design, has been Apple’s secret sauce for success for the longest time.

Not one to rest on its laurels, Apple has upgraded its product lines for the second month in a row. After the Apple iPhone and a portion of the iPad series were updated last month, it was now time for Apple’s Mac and AirPods to be updated. Apple not only unveiled the new Apple MacBook Pro 14, but also updated the MacBook Pro 16 after a long hiatus during its ‘Unleashed’ keynote. With the arrival of the Apple M1 Pro and Apple M1 Max processors, the entire Mac line-up is looking to level up in the coming months.

“M1 Pro and M1 Max take Apple silicon even further, and are unlike anything else in a pro notebook,” says Johny Srouji, Senior Vice President of Hardware Technologies at Apple. “With massive gains in CPU and GPU performance, up to six times the memory bandwidth, a new media engine with ProRes accelerators, and other advanced technologies, M1 Pro and M1 Max take Apple silicon even further, and are unlike anything else in a pro notebook.” According to Apple, the M1 Pro boasts a 16-core GPU that is up to 2x quicker than the M1 and up to 7x faster than the integrated graphics on the current Windows 8-core PC laptop chip.

For the first time, the MacBook line-up has two options that offer exactly the same series of features and specs. Both will get the M1 Pro and the M1 Max chips. The MacBook Pro 16-inch and an all new 14-inch join the existing MacBook line-up. The 16-inch variant is 16.8 mm thick while the 14-inch option is 15.5 mm thick, and the new design language adds rounded edges. Less reliance on dongles too, with the HDMI port, an SD card slot, headphone jack with Hi-Fi audio support and more Thunderbolt ports.

Apple has made some big statements about the new MacBooks’ battery life. They say that the 14 inch MacBook Pro can play video for up to 17 hours, and the 16 inch variant can play video for up to 21 hours.

When we look from this window, although there are many companies in our age, there is no other company that offers the depth and breadth of expertise Apple brings to the table. Another feature of Apple is that it intelligently extends its product range and range. With its latest product boasting a power-packed punch, Apple is well poised to take on all comers for some more time yet.

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How 5G rollout, tech innovations will define the future of Indian telecom

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According to a recent CII-Deloitte paper titled ‘Digital reset — Touching a billion Indians,’ technological breakthroughs with 5G could reshape the future of communication in India.  

India is making a big contribution to the next generation of telecom services, with enterprises partnering to widen options. Shortly, private networks are projected to witness a surge in demand from businesses in fields such as healthcare, education, finance, e-commerce, and entertainment.  

“Telecom has played a critical role in causing a shift in consumer behavior. According to Peeyush Vaish, Partner and Telecom Leader at Deloitte India, “data availability has pushed more and more digital services to the end-user.” 

However, India’s telecom sector still faces significant challenges on the route to the 5G rollout. “The government, telecom regulators, telecom service providers (TSPs), and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) must collaborate,” Vaish said, citing poor fiberization, local hardware production, high spectrum costs, and the selection of appropriate 5G standards and bands as important challenges.

But even beyond the bones of infrastructure and networking that defines these technological advances, there is a story to be told beyond mere connectivity. India’s great mass huddles in its hinterland, and 5G, or even lesser forms of connectivity, have been levers of great social growth and upliftment, impacting our communities like never before. While the industry can be referred to in colder terms as a ‘service enabler’, the honest truth is that it is a democratiser par excellence, a lever for social equity that is truly once-in-a-generation. Digital India has laid the platform for a lot of these advances, and India Inc. too is playing a part in scripting this growth story. Through a continued collaboration of government and industry, India can hope to leapfrog its growth trajectory to an altogether new level on the back of this telecommunications push.

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Technology

Can fuel cells be a better option than EVs?

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As the automobile world is moving its focus to electric vehicles, traditional names like Tata Motors to new-age technology companies like Ather Energy and Ola are throwing their hat into the ring with an array of mobility solutions. As pollution levels touch extraordinary levels and the impact of climate change starts to make itself all the more apparent, a new wave of mobility seems to be taking root. 

Why FCEVs?

Every automobile enthusiast celebrated the introduction of EVs. Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) were the first EVs to hit the market. Despite their merits, these cars are not a viable alternative to Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) based vehicles because they have a limited range-per-charge capacity and are reliant on external charging facilities.Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles, or FCEVs, can overcome this shortcoming and prove to be a better alternative to traditional ICE vehicles. 

FCEVs do not require external charging and instead use a fuel such as hydrogen to create the electricity needed for driving and to charge the built-in batteries for auxiliary functions. FCEVs, like ICE-based vehicles, will require gasoline, but it will be a green fuel that will not pollute the environment. What’s more, they do not produce noxious exhaust fumes; their only by-product is pure, distilled water, making it a clean, green mobility solution that can serve us all.

So when can I drive one? 

Although FCEVs are not yet present in India, they have been tested. National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), the country’s largest power provider, had encouraged the automobile industry to procure such vehicles for experimental projects in 2021.  

According to news sources, the project has caught the interest of major automakers Toyota and Hyundai Motor, as well as Indian companies Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland, and KPIT Technologies. Because their powerplants are so specialized, FCEVs are also much costlier to build than regular gas-powered cars, causing a bit of a catch-22 situation, as consumers are waiting to jump on this bandwagon once ownership costs get rationalised and the refueling infrastructure gets created. Automobile companies, on the other hand, are holding their cards close to their chest as they try to understand if there’s enough consumer interest to warrant the hefty investments FCEVs demand. This is a Mexican standoff that will go on for some time yet.

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