As the spirit of Web 2.0 takes hold, there’s a growing trend of
companies taking their desktop applications to the web. Just this
week, Adobe made the move with the
announcement of Adobe Photoshop Express, a free, online photo
editing service. There have even been
rumors circulating lately that Microsoft may finally offer a
web-based version of its Office suite. It seems like a smart move,
both for the company and the consumer.
Web-based apps are a cost effective alternative to software that
needs to be downloaded, and they’re easily accessible from any
computer. A big advantage for an office or productivity product,
like Google Docs or Zoho, is the ability to collaborate on a
document/project with others in real time, both editing
simultaneously. Free versions aren’t as robust as what you get for
a few bucks a month, but it provides a good test drive before you
commit to a broader range of services, and gives the company
exposure they might not otherwise get.
Academic institutions are usually slow to make changes,
especially when it comes to integrating new methods of teaching. We
keep talking about how the web will shape education, but school
administrations don’t make it easy to take advantage of all the new
tools out there. For instance, most schools block access to
YouTube, leaving teachers no choice but to roll in the VCR cart every time they want to incorporate a video
into a classroom presentation.
Luckily, there are a few sites out there that provide the
platform for educators to upload and share media. Most notable is
TeacherTube, an obvious
YouTube copycat that’s been around for just over a year now. They
boast over 15,000 user-generated videos to supplement K-12
education, many of them tutorials for projects or instructional
videos. Teachers can upload material and collaborate with other
educators around the world, and most schools have allowed access to
It’s been a great way for teachers to generate new and
interesting lesson plans, and it allows students to review a
concept several times to make sure they understand it. It would
also be a great platform for students to share information with
each other from different schools or countries, and work on
projects together. But, despite its popularity and benefits to both
teachers and students, some schools are still wary of allowing
video-sharing sites to be used at school.
National Wi-Fi is a hot topic lately. We’ve recently reported on
Google’s plan to
make it happen and Intel’s new wi-fi platform.
Now, a new product has launched that may satisfy our need for
around the clock connectivity.
Systems announced it’s WalkingHotSpot software
yesterday, which offers a new way to get connected using your
handheld device. If you own a Wi-Fi and mobile broadband-enabled
cellphone, the software turns it into a Wi-Fi router, effectively
transforming your phone into a hotspot.
There are a few kinks to be worked out before this can be widely
adopted. The service will be sold to carriers, not directly to
consumers, so we’ll have to wait and see who picks it up. Also,
only phones based on AT&T Wireless’ service would allow
internet access and phone calls to be made simultaneously. To
narrow it further, only phones using Symbian S60 or Windows Mobile operating systems are currently
Yesterday we outlined the
falling costs of full human genome sequencing, and how it may well
hit a magic price point within the next year or two. Now, we’re
looking at the implications of mandatory genetic testing by doctors
and employers, and what that might mean for insurance and
As clinically available genetic tests become increasingly
affordable that brings us to the cusp of the era of personal
genomics. It won’t be long before your entire genome can be
sequenced for under $1,000, and that service may even get
integrated into health care plans. But what happens if the test
isn’t optional anymore? There are growing public fears that doctors
and employers could enforce testing, and use it as a source of
Could poor genetic makeup become grounds for limiting or denying
access to insurance or a job? Could we end up living in a
policy document pushing for federal legislation to protect the
public against genetic discrimination was just recently released by
the American College of Physicians (ACP). The monograph included
six policy positions, which covered the need for uniform state and
federal protection, and specific prohibition against genetic
testing usage for insurance or employment decisions.
As genome sequencing costs continue to fall, the personal
genomics industry may soon blossom. It could be as soon as next
year. I’m hopeful for that, at least, after reading a post on Brian
Next Big Future. He gave a nice succinct overview of what’s
going on in the field, and how quickly it may become affordable for
In order to really be viable as a supplemental health service,
the magic price point for a full genome sequencing is said to be
$1,000. Here’s a quick breakdown of how drastically the time and
money needed to produce that data has been minimized already,
thanks to the accelerating rate of computing power and
The market for flexible Active Matrix (AM) displays will finally
be open for business this year, according to an iSuppli report.
We’ve seen paper-thin prototypes for a while now, but the quality
and diversity of products is good enough to get the public’s
attention. In fact, the worldwide market revenue is estimated to
reach $2.8 billion by 2013, up from $80 million in 2007.
Gamers are already drooling over the new curved monitors that
were showcased by Alienware at this year’s Consumer Electronics
Show in January. The first of its kind, the screen is the
equivalent of two 24-inch monitors, and promises a richer, more
immersive visual experience. Check out the video, then get in line
– we should be seeing these on store shelves later this year.
It would be great to think that the future will be better than
the present, and all emerging technologies will be created to do
the most good. But, the future holds no guarantees, and we’d be
irresponsible and falsely idealistic to cheerlead every new
development without looking at its acccompanying risks.
To help us at that task, we spoke with Michael Anissimov, a
futurist blogger over at Accelerating
Future, and Fundraising Director, North America of the
Foundation. He writes extensively on existential risk (or
extinction risk), which he defines as “a risk so severe it
threatens to wipe out the human race or permanently curtail our
potential.” The biggest potential threats come from nanotechnology,
biotechnology, and AI/robotics.
Anissimov explained the mission of the Lifeboat Foundation, and
gave us his views about how new technologies might impact us in the
upcoming years if we don’t plan ahead. Though he’s generally
optimistic, he forced us to put down our Future pom-poms for a
minute, and really consider the risks that accompany powerful
Apparently China has a lot to prove at this year’s Olympics, not
just to the world, but to Mother Nature herself. After all, what
other city but Beijing can boast a governmental department called
the Weather Modification Office? To ensure the event goes off
without a hitch, China’s pulling out the technological stops to
keep the spectators and skies rain-free.
First, they’ll track the weather using a combination of
satellites, radar, and an IBM
supercomputer purchased from Big Blue. Then, armed with 7,113
anti-aircraft guns and 4,991 rocket launchers, they’ll shoot the
bejesus out of any incoming rain cloud. Weapons are loaded with a
variety of fun chemicals like silver iodide, dry ice, and liquid
nitrogen, which will work by flushing clouds of rain before they
pass over the stadium.
an architectural and automotive glass manufacturer, recently
unveiled a new prototype glass product that could provide some big
energy gains when integrated into the homebuilding process. The
windows of your house may soon actually supply energy via
passive solar gains instead of leak it.
The vacuum-insulated glass (VIG) panel consists of two glass
panes, one of which is covered in low-e coating.
When vacuum sealed together, the panel effectively eliminates both
convection and conduction of heat. The most impressive aspect of
the product is its potential level of insulation (or R-value). The
higher the R-value, the better the insulation. Most low-e glass
comes in between R-2 and R-4, but this revolutionary glass promises
a whopping R-12 to R-15 rating – the equivalent insulation of your
home’s exterior walls.