A picture speaks a thousand words, so the saying goes. Consequently, good quality images are extremely important in supporting our client’s messages and gaining wide media coverage. Alas, getting that great picture can often be fraught with problems, particularly when ( as is often the case) the image supplied was not taken by a professional. We can often correct and enhance images electronically to achieve the desired effect, but this is not always possible. So it was with great interest that we discovered this new technique for image manipulation. As far as we know, it’s not commercially available yet but it’s sure to become a very useful addition to the toolbox when it is.
A pseudo-transparent screen from Microsoft and Mitsubishi lets people enter data from both sides of a handheld device. Researchers at Microsoft and Mitsubishi are developing a new touch-screen system that lets people type text, click hyperlinks, and navigate maps from both the front and back of a portable device. A semitransparent image of the fingers touching the back of the device is superimposed on the front so that users can see what they’re touching.
The current prototype, which illustrates a concept that the researchers call LucidTouch, is “hacked together” from existing products, says Daniel Wigdor, a researcher at Mitsubishi Electric Research Lab and a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. The team started with a seven-inch, commercial, single-input touch screen. To the back of the screen, they glued a touch pad capable of detecting multiple inputs. “This allowed us to have a screen on the front and a gesture pad [on the back] that could have multiple points,” says Wigdor. “But what that didn’t give us was the ability to see the hands.” So, he says, the researchers added a boom with a Web camera to the back of the gadget.The image from the Web camera and the touch information from the gesture pad are processed by software running on a desktop computer, to which the prototype is connected. The software subtracts the background from the image of the hands, Wigdor explains, and flips it around so that the superimposed image is in the same position as the user’s hands. Additionally, pointers are added to the fingers so that a user can precisely select targets on the touch pad that might be smaller than her finger. In October, a paper describing the research will be presented at the User Interface Software and Technology symposium in Rhode Island. From TechGlobal.com
Though revenue from plasma display panels (PDPs) shipments is on an upswing right now, that’s not going to last, according to iSuppli.
For the first quarter of 2007, the world’s largest plasma panel maker, Matsushita, retained its lead with 31.5 percent of the market, followed by LG with 24.7 percent and Samsung SDI with a 22.9 percent share.
In what’s likely related news, Matsushita, which sells plasmas TVs under the Panasonic brand in the U.S., announced today that it would broaden its LCD lineup to include 37-inch TVs.
via [cnet news]
The news that Mattel have been forced to recall millions of defective toys marks a significant watershed in the explosive growth of the use of Chinese manufacturing power to underpin Western commercial interests. The implications for Mattel are, of course, extremely serious. But the repercussions will ultimately have far more widespread consequences for business and the economies of MEDC countries which are increasingly reliant on China’s ability to deliver manufacturing capacity at minimal cost. Until the Mattel recall, there seemed to be an accepted mode of thought that it was entirely possible to squeeze Chinese manufacturers to reduce costs to miniscule levels by forcing them to compete with each other, while at the same time demanding the very highest quality. This is clearly a completely illogical strategy:
Just because unit costs are reduced compared to Western levels, does not alter the fact that competition amongst manufacturers locally – and so the temptation to cut corners – is just as great. Just like someone playing Russian roulette, click the trigger often enough and sooner or later you’ll find the chamber with the live bullet. In this case, it was Mattel who pulled the trigger one too many times. It remains to be seen how many other businesses will discover the truth behind the old adage “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”. But until business in MEDC’s get more realistic about the pressures they putting their suppliers under, there are sure to be many more.
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1 08 2007
LG Philips, known for its nearly constant pursuit of new flexible display solutions, has recently applied for a patent on a bendable OLED screen technology which would use oil and water to produce images. Apparently, current flexible OLED displays are hampered by the fact that the OLEDs get hotter than the plastic substrate, making manufacture difficult and expensive. The new process that the company is developing would circumvent those problems by making pixels out of oil and water connected to plastic electrodes. The opaque oil would float on the water and obscure a colored surface beneath — when an electric charge was applied to the field it would reveal the surface and change the color of the pixel. The process is cheap and simple, which hopefully means a future of reading a completely digital morning paper for all of us.
A brave step indeed.
In fact, I’m less concerned with her privacy now than I am with my own. She’s 16 and can look after herself, but now she has access to my online friendship network. Not only will she be able to see who I’m hanging out with, she’ll also be able to send them all messages.
This is one of the big problems with Facebook, Bebo, MySpace and the other social network sites. They bring the many different groups we all belong to into one online space, creating a “social soup” that encourages intermingling when most of us work hard to keep our friends, family and colleagues just a little bit separate, negotiating the boundaries with more or less skill. The tools used to manage privacy and sharing online remain crude and inflexible compared with the nuanced way we handle real-life social networks, and we are going to have to learn to deal with the new modes of social engagement that result.
One thing that may change significantly is the way we interact with the services. At the moment, Facebook and MySpace are page-oriented and text-heavy, but alternatives seem to be emerging. Like many other technology watchers, I’ve been captivated recently by a preview release of a new program called Photosynth, developed at Microsoft Live labs.
Gibson imagined an online world in which large corporations defined rigid hierarchical structures of data like the “stepped scarlet pyramid of the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority”. By contrast, we could have billions of Flickr photos and Facebook profiles stitched together into an ever-changing quilt, but the end result would be the “graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system” that he described.
We may be watching on screens instead of having a direct neural input allowing us to “jack in” to the matrix, but it will still be a lot more fun than today’s flat web.
Bill Thompson is an independent journalist and regular commentator on the BBC World Service programme Digital Planet.