Magic Leap Concept Explained

YouTuber Vance Vids has begun doing a series of video explaining what is probably the most exciting Augmented Reality technology on the horizon- Magic Leap and what we know about the Florida-based company that Chinese and American corporations like Google and Baidu are dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into. Everyone who’s seen it says this technology is the future, so how does it work? Vance Vids explores what we know so far:

 

Voice Dream Reader

I always look for ways to improve my reading speed for books, and recently I came across the iOS app called Voice Dream Reader. It was a little expensive for an app, being $12, but it had glowing reviews and it sounded like what I was looking for, so I purchased it to give it a go.

To say that I was impressed is an understatement. Simply put, Voice Dream Reader is a fantastic program for reading on your iPhone or iPad which reads pretty much everything except Mobi (Amazon Kindle) files. But that isn’t the most important part! It’s real shining area is that it’s an amazing Text to Speech reader that turns any book into an audiobook being read by any of 100 different voices in 20 languages, with more high-quality synthetic voices being added all the time.

So now, I can read something, and then just switch to having it read to me as I go out to walk the dogs or run errands, and all without having to buy an expensive audiobook or worry about losing my place. It also syncs nicely with Dropbox or Google Drive for getting books onto the App with ease.

Awesome!

I’ve already used it to power through one book in record time, and plan to keep using it to help get through my Summer reading.

That said, I should note two things:

1) While the default voice “Heather” is comes with is really good, there are better voices in their catalog, but you have to pay between $2-$5 for each extra voice. The one that most impressed me was “Will”, which almost sounded like a real person.

2) These are still synthetic voices, and there is no comparison between them and the performance from a real audiobook reader. While synthetic voice technology has clearly made huge gains, a real reader brings the book more to life with things like inflection and tone changes that indicate different characters are speaking. Voice Dream doesn’t do that, but it still makes for a pretty good listening experience once you get used to it.

 

Everyday Augmented Reality

Futuristic smart glasses

One of the issues with running a general blog like this is that is has no real focus. It serves as a catch-all for whatever I feel like writing about or talking about, but it has no real direction to it. That’s one of the things that’s made it hard to write for on a regular basis- when you can write about anything, you tend to write about nothing.

However, something I’ve always been fascinated by is the power of Augmented Reality, and with the recent release of Microsoft’s new Hololens system, I’ve come to believe that we’re on the cusp of seeing this technology literally transform our lives and the world around us. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch this:

As a result, I’ve decided to start a new blog centered around Augmented Reality and how it’s both developing and transforming people’s lives. If you ask any of my media studies students, AR is something I won’t shut up about, and have been talking about for years, so I thought “why should just my students suffer?”

Everyday Augmented Reality will basically be me collecting news about Augmented Reality and things related to it and occasionally commenting and sharing my own thoughts and ideas on this next stage of media evolution. Everything the Smartphone did to society will be nothing compared to what AR will do, and Everyday AR will be where I watch it all happen.

Come join me and watch the show. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, and we’ll definitely wonder why!

Rob

P.S. This blog isn’t going anywhere, and will still be updated from time to time. I need to talk about non-AR things sometimes too!

The Stories of Ken Liu

One of the hottest names in Science Fiction today is Ken Liu, a Chinese-American programmer, lawyer and writer who seems to jump into everything he does with heart and amazing dedication. He has won the Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy awards more than once for his short fiction, and recently announced he’s going into Epic Fantasy with his debut novel The Grace of Kings due out next year from Simon and Schuster’s new genre fiction imprint Saga Press. He’s a rising star who blends both Asian and Western sensibilities into his work, taking advantage of both to produce unique works.

I first encountered Ken’s work when the sci-fi and fantasy blog Io9 shared one of his stories, The Perfect Match, that was published in Lightspeed in 2012. While not a perfect story, it extrapolated the idea behind Apple’s Siri to its logical and disturbing conclusion with the personal assistant Tilly in a way that really caught my attention. I have since recommended his work to many of my media students to read as a glimpse into the future, because I think he’s captured it all too well.

Today, after hearing about Ken’s new novel, I wandered to his personal website for more information and was delighted to discover that he has placed 14 of his published and award-winning short stories (and more!) up for anyone to read for free on his website. So check them out, and learn why the name Ken Liu is on lips of both many a fan and publisher alike.

Rob

Surprise! Taking notes with pen and paper proven to be more effective.

From: For More Effective Studying, Take Notes With Pen and Paper

According to a new study, Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer of Princeton University and UCLA Los Angeles respectively, students who write out their notes by hand actually learn more than those to type their notes on laptops. Over the course of several experiments, Mueller and Oppenheimer tested students’ memories for factual detail, conceptual comprehension, and synthesizing capabilities after half of them took notes by hands and the other half took notes by way of computer. Students who used laptops cranked out more words than hand-writers did, but the hand-writers ended up with a stronger conceptual understanding across the board.

 

Why? You can read the article, but the short version is that when we write by hand we have to process the material more, and thereby learn it better. Makes sense.

Of course, the converse would also be true. If you just want to dump your unedited ideas in text form (for say, brainstorming) then a computer would be a better tool because it has less steps between you and the data output. Something to think about.

Now if could only convince my students that their laptops aren’t helping them study!

Rob

Look Up and Be There.

A great short spoken-word film about the importance of real life, real friends, and real moments. You can find the full text of his poem here.

How Powerful Are Algorithms? | Idea Channel

Information Determinism. Scary stuff! Sadly, it sounds pretty reasonable. Think about it this way- we become like characters in a console RPG like Fable where every choice we make is locking us into a path because the Algorithms that are looking for key data indicators are channeling us this way and that.

Every time we make a choice, or a search, we’re slowly building a giant pile of data that will be used in certain ways to determine what we’ll be shown and where we’ll be sent online. Facebook is using these systems to even determine who our friends are, since our News Feed is being modified to just show us the people it thinks we most want to interact with based on our interactions with people. This will only get worse and worse with time, as the internet we see will become more and more customized to us and our tastes in an effort to keep us using it as much as possible. (To sell us stuff and make money from us.)

Not sure how to counter this, except maybe not using Facebook or other social networks, using Duck Duck Go for searching, and maybe proxies. But, if you want to use the Net at all for shopping, you have to log in somewhere, Ebay, Amazon, it doesn’t matter. And you will leave a trail, and they will use that data to try to sell you stuff, here, or in the future, it will happen unless you’re an ultra secretive and ultra-passive user.

A better route might be to give them too much confusing and conflicting data so they don’t know what boxes to stick you in. Or, since you know they’re watching, give them data which manipulates them to give you what you want. After all, if you show interest in a book with your Amazon account logged in, and then wait a week or two, you’ll get an email offering you the book at a greater discount. With a little knowledge and patience, you can use the system more than its using you.

Rob

Phoning It In

I often think that we are merely becoming mobile data terminals, sub-cells of a greater internet brain that exist more in the virtual world more than we do the actual real and physical world. Perhaps this is irreverable and our destiny as a species, but it’s still sad to watch sometimes.

I’m as big a technology nerd as anyone, and I love my iPhone too, but there are times when I wonder if I’m not spending too much time interacting with media instead of people. What am I losing by putting my phone away and actually enjoying the company of those around me? Why do I always have to be entertained or occupied? Is it so hard to exist in the moment?

I grew up half of my life without the internet, but now it’s almost unfathomable for me to think about living without it. I can only imagine what it’s like for those who have grown up with it their whole lives, and in a personable and portable form that lets it be with them constantly in an everpresent way.

Some people in the comments on that video say that Google Glass will solve the problem, but I suspect its upcoming release will make things so much worse. Right now our phones are at least something that we physically have to take out and manipulate, but Google Glass will be always there, handsfree, and omnipresent.

http://www.imaging-resource.com/ee_uploads/news/811/google-glass-borg.jpg

For now, I do what I can. I try to do things in the real world when possible, and not always be listening or interacting with my phone. I try to enjoy the peace and quiet, and I try to be with the people I’m with. I don’t always succeed, but I feel I have to try. My technology should be something that I use as a tool, something that services me, not something I’m a slave to.

Balance in all things.

Rob

A Neat Trick for Finding and Getting Rid of Passive Verbs in MS Word

I was hunting for a good site today to give advice on Passive vs. Active verbs to another writer and came across this little nugget. The article it’s from is good, but this part is gold! Serious kudos to the author!

“MS-Word has a great and quick method to finding those “to Be” verbs.

The “Reading Highlight” feature is one of the most useful tools in the MS-Word arsenal, but the RH is an especially neat way to check your writing for passive voice use.

What Reading Highlight does is perform a search, but instead of taking you to the next instance of your search terms, it highlights all instances throughout the text.

To use Reading Highlight,

  1. –select a highlight color from the “Home” tab, then hit CTRL-F to bring up a search window.
  2. –Enter your search term or phrase, click the “Reading Highlight” drop-down, and select “Highlight All”.
  3. –Click “Close” and watch your highlights appear.
  4. –To remove the highlighting, re-open the search box, click the “Reading Highlight” drop-down, and select “Clear Highlighting”.
  5. –Again, click “Close” and the highlighting will be gone.

How do you use this to find passive sentences and those “Here is”, “There are”, and “It is” beginning phrases?

Well, we know most passive statements use the verb “to be” in some form or another. So we want to search for “be” in all its variants: is, was, are, am, were, etc.

Open the search dialog (CTRL-F),

  1. –type “be” as your search term, and click the “More” button.
  2. –Put a check in the box next to “Find all word forms”, click the “Reading Highlight” button and select “Highlight All”, and click “Close”.
  3. –Now, every permutation of “to be” will be highlighted.
  4. –Not all of them are going to be passive — or too passive, anyway — but many will.
  5. –Rewrite all those sentences to have more active verbs.

Using “to Be” verbs for anything other than linking verbs or helping verbs is a bad habit.

Any habit learned can be unlearned.”

via To Be, or Not To Be: Getting Rid of those Pesky “to Be” Verbs | Recipes for Writing.

I tried it myself on the work I’m editing. I had it hunt for “be” and “have” verbs (which also tend to be passive) and highlight each type it found. In a 91,000 word document I found roughly 2000 BE verbs and 1000 HAVE verbs. Not all of them are full words, though, and for the length of the document that isn’t bad.

Still, it’s a new tool in my editor’s toolbox I intend to make great use of!

Rob

Jeremy Rifkin: The Future

If I had to pick three words to describe this interview with Jeremy Rifkin, they would be terrifying, informative, and uplifting.

Why? Watch it and find out. A great interview.

Mind you, if you pay attention, he also says we’re about to be hit by another financial crisis. Sadly I think he’s right on the money, and this time Canada won’t be safe.

Rob