Google Glass Isn’t Dead, Just Repurposed

Back in 2013, the first edition product of the much-lauded and highly debated Google Glass project was made available to the public. Google Glass Explorer Edition was a fascinating piece of tech — resembling standard eyeglasses, these virtual reality accessories displayed hands-free information in a format similar to smartphones, allowing the wearer to use voice commands or the side touchpad, and came equipped with a camera capable of recording both images and video.

The $1,500 price tag, functionality issues, overall impracticality of the device, and privacy concerns due to the camera led to Google closing down the project, with vague claims of redesigning the gear from scratch and a promise not to release the new version until it was perfect. That was in early 2015. Now, Google has come through on that promise — but in a completely unexpected way.

Introducing the Glass Enterprise Edition.

Unlike its predecessor, the new Google Glass device is not available to consumers. Google’s new design has repurposed the Enterprise Edition to provide functionality for a wide range of business and industry, from warehouses to automobile factories to health care.

With the release of the device, Google revealed that the new edition of Glass has been designed to not only be more comfortable for users, with a lightweight yet durable construction built to withstand tough working conditions, but also boasts increased power and a longer battery life.

Alphabet X, the Google branch that has been working in the background to redevelop Google Glass, has been steadily beta testing the device under actual working conditions. Companies such as Tesla and Boeing received early versions of the next-generation edition, and as of the recent public announcement, more than 50 companies are currently using Glass Enterprise Edition.

The reinvented Glass is already delivering results for these companies. For example, agricultural manufacturing giant AGCO has used the device to reduce production times by 25 percent, while healthcare professionals have reported that doctors are able to spend up to 50 percent more time with their patients due to paperwork reductions.

While there seem to be no current plans for a new public offering of Google Glass, the device is now being offered to more businesses throughout the country.

Google Glass is Back With a New Market

Google Glass initially launched in 2014, after a prototype was made available to select people in 2013. It was not long before the product came under scrutiny. It was heavily criticized for privacy and safety concerns. Within a year of its broader release, the program was shut down.

However, that was not the end for Google Glass. Alphabet X, the branch of Google that created the glasses, has revealed Glass Enterprise Edition. This new version of Google Glass is aimed at companies rather than the general public.

The original glasses featured a touch pad, camera, and liquid crystal display. The privacy concerns came from the use of the camera and the ethics of recording people in public without their knowledge. This is no longer a concern with Glass Enterprise Edition since the plan is for them to be used at work, reducing the amount of paperwork and improving production times. Companies such as GE, DHL, Dignity Health, Volkswagen, NSF International, The Boeing Company, and AGCO have already been using the glasses to great effect.

The new glasses are hands-free, lightweight, and comfortable enough to wear for extended periods of time. The glasses can be used to provide instructions to workers with visual aids, demonstrate processes with videos, and doctors can use an app within the glasses to take notes while they are talking to patients. GE states that their mechanics’ efficiency has improved by up to 12% since they began using the glasses.

The current plan for the glasses does not include providing them to the general public. They plan on continuing to work with businesses to improve their workers’ abilities to use the glasses to improve their productivity and enhance the workplace.

Google Glass Finds New Life in the Workplace

Just four years ago it seemed that Google Glass, the Internet search and advertising giant’s foray into the new frontier of smart eye-wear, would never grow beyond the limited open beta, where the product was met with both privacy concerns and disappointment over its somewhat limited range of features. However, after a careful period of retooling and testing, Google has recently relaunched the product with the Google Glass Enterprise Edition, this time focusing on more practical, business-oriented applications for the device.

The updated model, while similar in design to the original, boasts a number of improvements, including superior wifi functionality and security, extended battery life, superior processing power, and a more powerful eight megapixel camera. Most important to the product’s newfound success, however, is its modular design. The device’s new design allows it to be attached to the wearer’s base eye-wear, meaning the Enterprise Edition can be used in conjunction with safety or reading glasses, making it suitable for a number of industrial applications.

The vastly improved device has found a home in a number of industries. Jay Kothari, the project lead for the Enterprise Edition, cited “manufacturing, logistics, field services, and healthcare” as just a few of the earliest adopters for the cutting edge tech. Kothari and his team spent two years redesigning Google Glass, moving the eye-wear away from its consumer roots into a product focused on meeting industry demands.

This new version allows, for example, a manufacturing floor worker to quickly access data regarding other points along the assembly line without abandoning his station. This sort of hands-free access to data is a remarkable boon for industries heavily dependent upon quick access to information in a multitasking environment. Volkswagen, Boeing Company, and DHL are just a few of the companies who have already successfully integrated Google Glass into their day-to-day operations. While the project may have strayed from its consumer roots, the adoption of Google Glass by these businesses offers a bright and interesting future for smart eye-wear technology.

Augmented Reality Predicted to Reach Over One Billion Users

One of the most recent predictions from the tech world is that over one billion people will engage with augmented reality tech by 2021. With Facebook only recently reaching the 2 billion mark, perhaps one billion doesn’t seem quite as impossible as it sounds. If half of Facebook’s users adopt AR then the prediction can easily be met, the question is how AR will be accessed. Apple has a four-wave answer that includes mobile devices, wearables and hardware.

The most obvious first wave of AR tech is already in use. Facebook’s Camera Effects platform and Apple’s ARKit for iOS provide users the opportunity to engage with digital effects that merge with reality on the phone they already use. This wave will most likely account for the largest number of users, especially if AR becomes a standard feature in future smartphones.

The second wave is AR hardware, like Google’s Tango. This device is a smartphone/tablet that is used only for augmented reality. These singular devices are meant for AR geeks who are committed to the full augmented reality experience. Think gamers and graphic designers. There might not be a billion of them but they make up a huge consumer base.

Next up are wearables, both tethered smartglasses and untethered smartglasses, the third and fourth waves, respectively. Tethered smartglasses give the user a chance to fully engage with AR, leaving his or her hands free. The rest of their person isn’t entirely free, as indicated by the word tethered. Tethered smartglasses are peripherals to a users’ smartphone and make use of smartphone mobile coverage, battery power and existing apps. Standalone smartglasses will cost the most and will likely experience the most hiccups. But with every consumer base covered, it makes sense that Apple will likely dominate the future of augmented reality.

India Railways Embraces Solar Energy

Developments in solar energy are one of the main ways that developing countries will be able to combat global warming. They provide a clean source of renewable energy that can help us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels all around the world.

The railway system in India is a prime example of outdated technology that contributes massively to greenhouse emissions. In 2014, Indian Railways consumed 2.6 billion liters of diesel fuel. That amount accounts for almost 70 percent of the network’s total fuel bill.

However, Indian Railways recently announced its plans to reduce its total diesel fuel consumption. They rolled out a series of trains that have been outfitted with solar cells on the tops of the passenger coaches.

These solar cells are not intended to completely replace the diesel system. Instead, they are used to power passenger displays, lights, and fans inside the passenger coaches. The actual train will still be pulled by a diesel engine.

However, these small changes can potentially add up to significant savings. For each train with six solar powered coaches, the approximate savings is estimated to be around 21,000 liters of diesel fuel a year.

The most positive thing about this development is that it can positively impact the air quality of India. The first trains are set to begin operation in the most polluted city in the country, New Delhi. Once the trains are all converted in this area, they will then be rolled out to other major cities.

India Railways has set a rather lofty goal of 1,000 megawatts of solar energy production by 2020. This goal can then be scaled up to 5,000 megawatts by 2025. While they have only made small amounts or progress towards this goal, the developments of their solar powered coach program are definitely a step in the right direction.

India Railways Debuts First Solar Train

India Railways is embracing new technology to help them save money and the environment. They recently debuted a train powered by solar panels fitted along its roof. It is the first train of its kind in India.

The solar panels will be used to power all of the train’s electrical needs. That includes the lighting, cooling system, and informational displays inside the passenger compartments of the train. It also features a battery bank to ensure there will be enough power even on cloudy days and during the nighttime.

This is part of a series of steps that India Railways is taking to become more environmentally friendly. Other methods they are using include water recycling, bio-toilets, and wind energy. They plan to continue increasing their use of alternative energy sources in order to cut back on the large amount of diesel typically used by their trains.

The locomotive that pulls the solar train will still be using diesel as its power source, but the other applications normally powered by diesel will instead be powered using the solar panels. The solar powered train is expected to save approximately 21,000 liters of diesel. That will amount to financial savings of ₹12 lakh each year.

That is still only a drop in the bucket for a company that uses around 2.6 billion liters of diesel in a year, but the reduction in diesel will increase as they continue to add more trains to their solar lineup. India Railways plans to generate 1,000 megawatts of solar power by 2020.

Apple Wants its Machine Learning Research Reaching Masses and Launches a Publishing Site

Apple recently launched a publishing site for its machine learning research to bring its findings on machine learning to the masses. As of now, the Apple Machine Learning Journal has only one paper published, but more posts are expected in the coming weeks. The move by the electronic giant is considered as a new step, as the firm was tight-lipped about its projects and researches until the date.

The blog and its initial post reveal some interesting facts. The reports confirm that the initial research paper was already published on arXiv, an online preprinting repository for publishing papers. It is also concluded that Apple is trying to attract the research talents through the blog as the initial post also contained a link to Apple jobs page at the bottom. Industry experts say that Apple is trying to grab the attention of machine learning through the initiative as most people think Google and Amazon are doing a better job in machine learning compared to the smartphone major.

The research paper published on the platform discusses the possibilities of improving the realism of various synthetic images. The blog discusses different methods applied to improve the accuracy on various machine learning tasks using the refined images. For illustrating the realism of images better, the blog added images, GIFs, and more. It also discusses a unique and inexpensive method developed by Apple to improve the realism of artificial images.

The paper says that the firm had to train its neural networks to identify the faces and other objects in various photos. The company made a collection of synthetic images to train the neural networks instead of going for any image data base of real images. Interestingly, the tech giant applied its unique method to make them more real and claims that the technique offers faster and cheaper option to train the neural network.

India Tests Solar-Powered Trains

Solar energy is being utilized in all sorts of innovative ways, but Indian Railways seems to be the first train service to try installing solar panels on their coach cars. To be clear, the trains themselves will still be pulled by the traditional diesel engines, but the railroad hopes that installing the solar panels will cut costs and help make their trains more energy efficient.

The first solar-powered coaches are already in use, with sixteen solar panels installed on the roof of each car. The power generated by the panels runs the coaches’ lights, fans and display monitors and six solar-powered coaches can save the railroad about 21,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year.

Indian Railways did have to overcome some challenges to get the coaches into operation. Space had to be carved out of the passenger area in order to hold the batteries which store the power in event of darkness or bad weather. The panels themselves are also expensive, although the railroad expects the installation costs to be recovered in a bit over 18 months.

The real question is the reliability of the solar panels. Unlike panels that are installed on a traditional house or office space, these panels will be subjected to vibrations, weather and road hazards. It’s not clear how the panels will hold up to the stress, which is why Indian Railways is describing this idea as a “test” until they have some time to judge the durability of the installed panels.

Still, it’s an idea with a lot of potential and the minister of the railroad recently described solar-powered coaches as a “path-breaking leap” towards making its cars more green.

Are Robots Soon To Acquire An Ethical Infusion?

Robots are going to play a big part in people’s lives. The image of robots, as presented in classic science-fiction films, may be a massive fantasy dramatization but the integration of task-performing robots into people’s lives won’t be a pure fantasy for much longer. Researchers and developers realize robots can be utilized as mechanical helpers capable of making life easier. Robots may be programmed to perform certain tasks, but developers and designers cannot guarantee robots can perform their duties perfectly and without error.

Researchers want to install “ethical black boxes” in robots. This way, the robots can report facts associated with their decision making when an accident occurs. Doing so comes with more than a mere explanation about what went wrong. The information can assist with reprogramming a robot to prevent mistakes from happening again. Error reports could be uploaded to the manufacturer. The information might be used to improve future models of robots.

Robots cannot think for themselves nor can they make moral decisions. Robots are machines. They can only do what they are programmed to do. Their abilities are limited to their physical capabilities and programming-based artificial intelligence.

This does not mean, however, steps must be done to reduce the potential failures robots may cause. Again, robots cannot act in a perfect way. The main trait they may share with humans is imperfection. Reducing imperfections in robots also could reduce their potential to cause harm due to malfunctions and other issues.

Instilling actual moral ethics may be impossible. Improving performance likely is not.