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Taking child education to the next level April 19, 2007

Posted by Janine in Education, innovation.
5 comments

Ok, so I was talking with my dad recently, and he was telling me about all the new toys that my 7 year old brother is playing with nowadays.  Most were pretty basic toys for someone his age, but one thing that caught my attention was a game called “Webkinz.”

http://www.webkinz.com/

I do not know if any of you have heard of this, but kids go online and “adopt” / pay for an animated stuffed animal. Then they are given a room for this animal, name it, etc.  Well the interesting thing about this game is that then you are given webkinz dollars.  You start out with 2,000, then depending on how well you care for your animal, and also depending on how well you do on the trivia games you can play on the site, then the kids are awarded more money.  They then use this money to buy more food, clothes, furniture, more animals to add to the family!  At the bottom of the screen, the kids can see how happy their animal is!!

 My little brother is obsessed with this game.  He heard about it from all his friends, and apparently, my father was saying, it is becoming a household name in homes with children.

Isn’t is quite amazing what “toys” have become?  I remember only having Barbies, and other such dolls and board games.  Now, everything is interactive.  It is all done on the computer.  This online game is an example of where our future is going.  It is almost scary to imagine what our kids will be playing with someday!

How far does the internet go? April 17, 2007

Posted by Abby in innovation, Internet, Technology.
6 comments

It’s amazing what you can find on the internet. It’s only been 1 day since the Virginia Tech tragedy, and already there are all kinds of things that have been published about the student. His assignments for a Creative Writing class, and scripts have all been made public online. There is an audience for it too, everyone seems to be hungry to find out what his motivations were.

If we simply looked back, perhaps 5 years, none of this would be available. Online documents/readings/files of another student. The curiosity of the public, and how much they want to know is slowly affecting the design and abilities of the internet.

On a separate note, in my ‘Topics in Gender Studies’ class, we were discussing porn. Our professor mentioned that it is the porn industry and it’s technicians that are the driving force creating new technologies for the web. This is an example of how a market drives what technologies need to be created, and how technicians might be inspired and given new ideas.

Update (4/18)
Here is a little section from a reading that I have for this English class, relating to the internet and developing technologies:

“The Internet and all sex trade, tourism, trafficking and pornography are experiencing unprecedented growth. Donna Hughes claims that “the Internet as a communications medium would exist without the sex industry, but the Internet industry would not be growing and expanding at its present rate without the sex industry” (2000:36). In 1998, it was estimated that 69 percent of the total Internet content sales were related to adult content (Hughes 2000). Jonathon Coopersmith reminds us that what is driving the transformation of the sex industry technology has been “the great capitalist engines of innovation and the quest for profits” (28). Internet pornography has become the highest growth, highest profit market ever known (Hughes; Coopersmith). “

– ‘E-Brides: The Mail-Order Bride Industry and the Internet’ by Julie Pehar

Taking cell’s to the next level in Japan – Manga April 11, 2007

Posted by silviamocanu07 in innovation.
7 comments

Japanese mobile phones now have the capability of downloading comics (manga), which are popular for both the teenage and young professional age groups in Japan (http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/apr2007/gb20070409_610225.htm?chan=search).

 I found this improvement on features available for a product was interesting, particularly when thinking of our class discussion relating to innovation. Is this really innovation? Although producing companies may portray it as such, I don’t think this new feature can be considered true product innovation. It is simply a new feature designed to meet consumer needs and to offer them more flexibility, while at the same time increasing revenues for the providers.

In 2006, Japanese readers spent $20 million to download manga, and although this is still a small portion of the” $3.4 billion Japanese cell-phone market content (which is dominated by music and games)” (page 1), I wonder if in the future cell-phone manga downloads will replace printed manga altogether, similar to the trend of reading newspapers on-line versus hard-print. What do you all think?

Apple TV April 4, 2007

Posted by Bertan in innovation, Technology.
2 comments

Apple Inc. announced last wednesday that they are starting to ship a new product line into the US market. The product is called APPLE TV and for the moment only supports media downloaded through itunes. However, the media played on Apple TV will be the same as DVD quality with superb sound techonology. Apple TV works through a wireless connection and is touted as delivering entertainment to a TV screen rather than watching the media on your personal computer. The new product will have a memory of 50 hours of video, 9,000 songs or 25,000 photos, or a combination of the three formats. The price at the moment stands at $299.

I chose this article because we went over this topic in class last week. Apple has been growing dramatically over the past 5 years due to changes in their management, designs, reliable and super products and creative advertising. I feel like every time I look online at the Apple site, they have introduced something new whether its software or hardware. This shows they are trying to enter new markets and keep growing, however I am also worried that they might be trying too hard. You may disagree with me, but I feel that some of the new products we see in their stores are completely useless. I am really curious to see what happens with this new TV because I feel like it would be a complete waste of money. What do you guys think?

“When I was your age.. we had car taxis” April 3, 2007

Posted by Elaine in Birth, innovation, transportation.
6 comments

Perhaps all the fictional inventions we see in futuristic movies are slowly coming into play. I came across an article that I found completely mind blowing. Is the next big thing in the transportation an air taxi? This is basically a small jet that carries passenger from one city to another that most major airlines miss. This company, DayJet, will not have the traditional scheduled flights that normal airlines practice. It will schedule their flights around their customers and take off at last minute notices. Private flights are not limited only to the wealthy anymore.

This is going to be a difficult company to get off the ground (no pun intended ha). As we learned in class, this is an example of exploiting, venturing out into a new niche. They can either be really successful and gain loyal customers, or they could risk their billion dollar company and lose it all. These planes need to be 80% full for the company to just break even. The idea is good, but is it practical?

What do you think of this company’s idea? Is it worth risking everything to explore this new idea of travel?

The Future of Books March 28, 2007

Posted by breichen in civil society, innovation, Internet, Knowledge economy, Retail, Technology.
4 comments

Employees of Google, the world’s largest web-search company, are scanning books into computers using secret methods at secret locations. Although Google has not released any official tallies, Daniel Clancy, the project’s top engineer, has given some clues as to what is actually going on. He has stated that Google has a contract with UC Berkeley requires them to digitize some 3,000 books a day for the university. Google also has contracts with 12 other universities and a number of independent publishers. Some conservative estimates are that Google will be digitizing books at a rate of 10 million per year. The total number of book titles said to exist is estimated at 65 million.

This is not the first project like this to exist. The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization created in 1996 by Brewster Kahle in the attempt to recreate a contemporary Library of Alexandria containing all public-domain texts and videos. Other organizations such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo! have all been scanning books but the scale to which Google is digitizing them is far greater than any of them.

As books go digital, new questions, both philosophical and commercial, arise. How, physically, will people read books in future? Will technology “unbind” books, as it has unbundled other media, such as music albums? Will reading habits change as a result? What happens when books are interlinked? And what is a book anyway?

The physical medium of books is unlikely to disappear in the digital age. Sony already sells an electronic book reader with about 12,000 titles available for download. Ron Hawkins, head of marketing for the Sony Reader, states that ““our mission is not to replace the print book.” You may be wondering then, who is going to be reading the millions of pages being digitized by Google and their competitors? The idea is that some people will read the books on a computer screen, some will use Google as a method for previewing books they are considering purchasing in paper form, and some will use the service to “look for specific snippets that interest them.”

Print media is already being diminished by digital replacements. Wikipedia for example, is a free online encyclopedia which is said to have severely reduced the sales of paper-bound alternatives. It is speculated that books which people would not ordinarily read all the way through or that require frequent updates will likely migrate to the digital medium. Other examples of print media being accessed in a digital format more and more frequently include dictionaries, cookbooks or recipes, telephone books/directories, etc.

It will be interesting to see how Google’s project turns out. I think it would be pretty amazing if you could get a digital copy of ANY book in the world just by searching Google Books. I don’t think, however, that paper-bound books are likely to disappear behind the shadow of the digital book.

Microsoft Xbox 360 March 28, 2007

Posted by Charley S in innovation, media, Technology.
3 comments

http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D8O538L01.htm

The video game industry is a very competitive market.  Manufacturers don’t make money on actual console sales, they have to make all of their profits on the games that are sold at ridiculously high prices now approaching $60.  Realizing this, Microsoft with its Xbox 360 has moved to take advantage of this trend.  Through Xbox live, owners of the console can download movies, tv shows and complete games to play on the Xbox.  This program has been an unparalleled success, so much so that now Microsoft is releasing a beefed up Xbox system that has 100 more gigabytes of storage space for music and movies. 

What we are witnessing here is the increased trend towards technology combining into more integrated systems.  We’ve discussed the trend in cell phones that are now practically computers on their own, however the trend is evident in the video game arena now.  For companies like Microsoft and Sony this is a way for them to increase profits at very little cost to themselves because they are not enduring any of the creation costs of the media they sell and are basically acting as a middle man between media companies and consumers.  You can already link up your Xbox to your computer and tv, what’s next?  Before you know it alarm clocks, cell phones, stereos, game systems and refrigerators will all be linked together.  Microsoft is currently in the lead compared to rivals Sony and Nintendo when it comes to online content and as such they will probably enjoy considerable first mover advantages.  In addition, being the giant corporation that Microsoft is, I believe that they will be able to capitalize on this advantage and sink the necessary capital into this program to achieve market domination.

Brain-controlled Games and Devices March 21, 2007

Posted by breichen in innovation, Technology.
7 comments

The possibility of controlling devices by using one’s mind alone has been a subject frequently depicted in the world of science fiction. What used to be fiction however, is now a reality. Two companies in California, Emotiv Systems and Neurosky, have promised that systems controlled by mere thoughts are going to be available on the market within the next year. The technology being used by these two organizations is known aselectroencephalography, or EEG. EEG works by ” deploying an array of electrodes over a person’s scalp and recording surface manifestations of the electrical activity going on under his skull.” These companies are using the technology, which was previously used only in the medical field, to allow the transportation of brain waves to be used in computer games. This would enable people to control the operations of a computer using their thoughts alone (Very Cool).

Tedious fiddling about with mice and joysticks will become irritants of the past.

The EEG technique is currently used mostly in the medical field, where crude brain waves are the outputs of electrodes placed on a persons head. Analysis of these patterns allows doctors use the waves to identify unhealthy abnormalities. Controlling computers by using brain waves has long been considered within the realm of possibility, although there were two significant impediments–those of hardware and software. The hardware issue is that current EEG techniques use a large helmet with as many as 120 electrodes in it, which have to be attached to the scalp with a conducting gel. The software issue is that to use these brainwaves i na computing environment, a huge number of brainwaves must be interpreted instantly and simultaneously.

Neurosky and Emotiv Systems believe that they have solved both of these problems. Emotiv has announced that they have developed a headset with only 18 electrodes that does not require gel to make sufficient contact with a wearer’s scalp. Emotiv explains that “its system can detect brain signals associated with facial expressions such as smiles and winks, different emotional states such as excitement and calmness, and even conscious thoughts such as the desire to move a particular object.” While the specifics of the technology have not been released, it is apparently successful enough that smiling can cause a person’s character in a game to smile, or to move things around by the person who is playing thinking about moving things around. In order to encourage others to create more possibilities of EEG in the computer world, Emotiv has released a software developers kit so that this technology can be expanded. It will also allow programmers to go back and rewrite code for existing games so that the Emotive headset can be used with existing games and applications.

According to Nam Do, Emotiv’s boss, those applications are most likely to be single-player computer games running on machines such as Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3. In the longer term, though, he thinks the system will be ideal for controlling avatars (the visual representations of players) in multiplayer virtual worlds such as Second Life.

Emotiv’s competitor, Neurosky, has stated that they have reduced the size of an EEG headset even further, consisting of only one electrode which is small enough to fit in a mobile phone. While it is not as sensitive or accurate as Emotiv’s 18 sensor headset, it is significantly cheaper and seems to be quite promising.

This technology is incredibly cool and if properly developed it could change the way we use and think of computers. Imagine being able to write and edit a paper merely by sitting in front of your computer and thinking? Perhaps investing in these companies now might be a good idea.

Business Week’s 50 Top Performers March 20, 2007

Posted by Stephanie in Customer Service, Finances, innovation, Internet, Manufacturing, media, pharmaceutical, Public Interest, Retail, Technology, telecommunications.
2 comments

 

Business Week recently announced its yearly 50 Best Performers article in the March 26, 2007 edition of the magazine. When first looking even at the title of the article I was skeptical about how these companies were selected. It seems impossible to compare every company in every sector and rank their performance. I was pleased however to find their criteria for making the selections seems to be as fair as possible.

Financially they use specific criteria and what they look for in companies when making this list. The two principal financial figures Business Week uses in its analysis are average return on capital and sales growth over the past 36 months. They also consider the importance of examining sectors separately, as factors within one particular sector may inflate or deflate the appearance of a company’s performance unfairly.

Specific quotations I highlighted when reading the article regarding what BW determines as strategies for success:

“…rewriting the rules of engagement in their industries.”

“…a deep understanding of customers, a competitive advantage that has enabled them to sell more good and services than rivals.”

“…work hard to anticipate and head off potential problems well before outsiders are even aware of these looming challenges.”

Details about all 50 companies are included in the compilation of roughly 40 pages of discussion. One particular company I had not heard of before, ranked 31 is Stryker. The company manufactures artificial joints, such as knees, shoulders and hips. Part of their success is due to the baby boomer generation who show no signs of slowing down in retirement even as natural aging takes is toll. Anther interesting aspect of the company is its preparation in changing CEO’s. As the current CEO, John Brown is planning on retiring, COO, Stephen MacMillan has had roughly 4 years to shadow and plan the transition. Both the process the company has developed for the transition and the mere fact that the CEO is not being forced out of the company it seems are two incidents not seen as often anymore.

I am still hesitant to agree that companies covering the full spectrum of all organizations and industries can not only be compared but ranked in a hierarchy. Business Week does an excellent job at attempting this challenge but I feel that some subjective factors weigh into the decision, especially between close rankings, say between spot 8 and 9.

 

1 Google

2 Coach

3 Gilead Sciences

4 Nucor

5 Questar

6 Sunoco

7 Verizon Communications

8 Colgate-Palmolive

9 Goldman Sachs Group

10 Paccar

11 Amazon.com

12 Cognizant Technology Solutions

13 Avon Products

14 Varian Medical Systems

15 Bed Bath & Beyond

16 CB Richard Ellis Group

17 Robert Half International

18 Chicago Mercantile Exchange Holdings

19 Adobe Systems

20 EOG Resources

21 Sempra Energy

22 Sherwin-Williams

23 Lehman Brothers Holdings

24 Rockwell Collins

25 IMS Health

26 Allegheny Technologies

27 Oracle

28 Starbucks

29 Moody’s

30 PepsiCo

31 Stryker

32 Best Buy

33 United Parcel Service

34 Apple

35 T. Rowe Price Group

36 Valero Energy

37 Constellation Energy Group

38 TJX

39 Morgan Stanley

40 Paychex

41 Coventry Health Care

42 United States Steel

43 United Technologies

44 Hershey

45 Black & Decker

46 Synovus Financial

47 Linear Technology

48 AT&T

49 XTO Energy

50 PNC Financial Services Group


Apple’s i phone March 19, 2007

Posted by Charley S in brand, innovation, Technology.
4 comments

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1576854,00.html

This article discusses how apple’s new phone can potentially revolutionize the cell phone industry.  The biggest change is the new touch screen technology that is being used to work the entire phone.  Basically, you have an i pod sized device but instead of a screen and a wheel there is a giant, color touch screen.  You work the entire phone including email, texting, phone, camera and Internet with the touch screen that is much brighter and more durable than similar technology in use today.  In addition to this change, the Internet will now be the actual Internet instead of dumbed down cell phone Internet and text messages will be displayed in bubbles on the screen in an easy to access system.  The biggest downside: a minimum $400 price tag and a 2 year comittment to cingular.  This may be the future of phones but it’s going to be awhile before I get motivated enough to buy one.

Apple’s strategy in this area parallels the way they entered the mp3 player market: instead of pioneering the way with innovation they just take the existing technology, notice the problems and fix them.  With i pods apple noticed the problem of mp3 players being unwieldy to use with the computer and bad aesthetic design.  i pods improved with the introduction of i tunes on practically every computer and making them pleasing to the eye.  The strategy that apple is pursuing with phones is the same.  Apple let the phone companies clear the path with innovation and is now fixing the mistakes in the phones.  In addition to fixing technological flaws, apple has a hip image with the public and young consumers will be very likely to spend money on this product.  Only time can tell if apple can make it in this cutthroat industry, but even 1% of the phone industry is worth billions of dollars and can be extremely profitable for apple.