If you were busy frying the turkey and eating pie, here comes what you may have missed in web news last week. Google’s self-driving cars are going to talk, text, and possibly gesture to nearby pedestrians. Amazon drones may soon deliver your urgent packages to a landing pad in your backyard. When you see Sasquatch on your next venture into unconnected territory, you can text your hiking buddy stat, even without cell or WiFi signal. Also, we consider that the future of biowearable devices might just stick right to you like a Band-Aid. And, we look at the possibility of super-speed LiFi connections. Last, The Force Awakens is coming!! We share a few web helpers to get you by until the release.
Here’s your sign
A friendly driver will give you a wave or a nod when you are on-foot waiting to cross the street, but self-driving cars have no hands to wave nor heads to nod in order to communicate with pedestrians. A patent issued to Google this week gives us some clues about how driverless cars will communicate with walkers and bicyclists who share their roadways. Screens mounted on the side, roof, hood, and/or rear of the vehicle may display text or a traffic sign to let pedestrians know the autonomous car’s intentions. The patent also describes the possibility of speakers on the exterior of the car that will audibly tell pedestrians that it is “safe to cross,” as well as the option of a robotic arm that gestures acknowledgment of pedestrians’ presence. Could that robotic arm also learn non-friendly gestures to use when another car cuts them off?
If you don’t realize that it is your anniversary until you come home to a candlelit dinner, you may be able to save yourself by discreetly ordering jewelry from Amazon. In the “not too distant future,” flying drones will deliver your package before your better-half knows of your big mental lapse. This week, Amazon released prototypes for drones that will deliver Amazon Prime Air packages in less than 30 minutes. The drones weigh 55 pounds, and will deliver packages weighing up to 5 pounds. An Amazon spokesperson describes the drones as "part helicopter and part airplane," and able to "fly long distances efficiently and go straight up and down in a safe, agile way." Amazon is awaiting clearance from the FAA to fly drones in airspace under 400 feet in a 10-15 mile radius from their warehouses.
GoTenna can keep you connected on your next deep wilderness trek. Now available for purchase, the small device pairs with a smartphone app to give you text messaging and location sharing capabilities, even when you do not have a cell phone or WiFi signals. The others with whom you want to communicate must also have a GoTenna device, similar to converting your cell phones into walkie-talkies with a range of up to five miles depending on the terrain. The idea is not to send selfies as you whitewater raft down the Colorado River (and it is not capable of doing so). It is intended for communication to help users find each other and stay in touch where an expensive satellite phone might be the only other alternative. Starting at $199/pair and no subscription fees, they would make a great Christmas gift for an outdoorsy friend or your favorite Doomsday Prepper!
Don’t implant that microchip into your body just yet. The creative tech development company, Chaotic Moon, is pitching a prototype for a “biowearable” temporary tattoo that will monitor vital functions such as body temperature, heart rate, and respirations. Tech Tat uses electro-conductive paint that adheres biosensors and chips directly to the skin to collect and store data. It will transmit information collected over wireless protocol Bluetooth Low Energy. It may also include a light sensor that illuminates LED lights. Potential uses of the technology include a less clunky fitness tracker, monitoring vital signs of active hospital patients, or even for authorizing payments, similar to Apple Pay, but with a gesture instead of a PIN or fingerprint. Chaotic Moon’s vision includes eventually selling the temporary tattoos in bulk, similar to a box of Band-Aids.
As fast as light!
The tech world is buzzing about Li-Fi this week, the potential next generation of connectivity that is 100 times faster than average Wi-Fi speeds. Developed by Estonian startup company Velmenni, Li-Fi uses flickering LED lights to transmit data. The lights flicker faster than the human eye can see, so a specialized light bulb could both light a room and serve as a wireless hotspot. A detector will also be required to translate the light flickers into current. Since light does not penetrate walls, it will have less range, but that should also make it more secure. It is being piloted in an industrial environment and an office space, and it is expected that Li-Fi could be more widely available within four years.
Don’t awaken the force prematurely
Are you counting down to December 18th? If you can you hardly wait to find out what happens when the force is awakened, but want to make sure you get to find out for yourself, install the Star Wars Spoiler Blocker. This Chrome extension covers a web page with a Star Wars logo, and a warning about the dangers of proceeding when potential Star Wars Episode VII spoilers are detected. Google will also let you join the “dark side” or “light side,” applying themes to all of your Google-based apps across all of your devices, including sound effects, Star Wars history, and other goodies. Also, for some fun while you are eagerly awaiting the big day, try typing “a long time ago in a galaxy far far away” into the Google search box to give your search results a Star Wars themed makeover. And to show your spirit before everyone else is doing it, change your profile picture by putting your face into a Star Wars character using the ‘Show Your Disney Side’ or the official ‘Star Wars’ app.
Share your thoughts. What do you think about the possibility of a sky full of drones delivering our Amazon boxes? Do you think LiFi connections can replace WiFi? Is sticking circuits to our skin safe? What tech news did we miss this week?