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Highlights Day 1 @ The (Web) Summit, 2013

This morning The Web Summit changed its name. It’ll be known as The Summit from now on, reflecting the broad appeal of what is the biggest technology event in Europe this year. What’s remarkable is that the The Summit is only a few years old – and like the archetypal success story we hear about at this event The Summit itself has grown exponentially from 500 attendees in 2010 to 10,000 today, with 900 start-ups and 300+ speakers. Today was Day One of the 2013 event and I tried to cover as much ground as possible – there’s lots to see and hear so you need to be quick to leave a stage, dash around the exhibition halls and make it back for the next must-see session.

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This morning The Web Summit changed its name. It’ll be known as The Summit from now on, reflecting the broad appeal of what is the biggest technology event in Europe this year. What’s remarkable is that the The Summit is only a few years old – and like the archetypal success story we hear about at this event The Summit itself has grown exponentially from 500 attendees in 2010 to 10,000 today, with 900 start-ups and 300+ speakers.

Today was Day One of the 2013 event and I tried to cover as much ground as possible – there’s lots to see and hear so you need to be quick to leave a stage, dash around the exhibition halls and make it back for the next must-see session.

Highlights: keynotes

Aaron Levie  is a one-man Thunderbirds of interviews, anything can happen in the next half-hour, and today he was great – with a slant towards good advice rather than a Box.com message – he made a great point about start-ups and the danger and temptation of spreading yourself too thin to try and do too much – there’s always a focussed App out there to eat your space, message: focus.

Having spent a decade writing software at Apple I was keen to hear Tony Fadell, the man who originally designed the iPod. Former President of Apple Europe, Jean-Louis Gassé was the first person I heard use the phrase ‘if I’m cut I bleed six colours’; Tony Fadell, when he gets a paper cut, must gush ingenuity. A fascinating interview with a guy who instills in any one who hears him the desire to make beautiful products.

Highlights: growing companies

Inventure Cloud have a fascinating proposition. Described by founder Alicia as collaborative creation, this isn’t just a crowd-funding website, or a maker-movement sharing site it’s a whole ecosystem for inventors where projects are funded, resourced, critiqued, developed and delivered. Having relocated to Valencia having being selected as one of fifteen companies from over 4,000 applicants for the Juan Roig Alfonso funded Lanzadera Incubator, Inventure Cloud  is new – and could be something special.

Sonolux from Finland are a couple of guys, for now who make the most beautiful speaker systems for your home. Great design, modernist aesthetics and they’re not as expensive as mass-produced high end speakers. Some of most elegant speakers i’ve ever seen.

I have too many climbing photos that need to be kept somewhere. There’s too many to post to my favourite travel websiteTriptease  but I found the answer today withI Looove It. I met the founder Gaylord and I was about to suggest the sort of things I’d like his site to do when he showed me ILoooveIt in action – it did everything I wanted, and more. Similar to what Triptease does for travel, with flat design and context, it makes your images and advetures more memorable.

Highlights: pitches

ViddyAd CEO Grainne Barron gave a great pitch today, which I just learned was good enough to win her the ESB Spark of Genius Award, and €25,000. Interviewed on RTE Six One News this evening I couldn’t believe the news that she’s packing her bags for the West coast of the US – customers and partners are all there so it does make sense, but it’s a shame for Ireland’s technology industry to see a world-class entrepreneur having to leave to grow her business.

Made By Medics CEO Dr. Michelle Teo ran short on time at her pitch today – but she did a great job illustrating how attractive MadeByMedics is as an investment prospect. Although there wasn’t a huge number of medical device or software companies at the WebSummit I got a distinct feeling of an oncoming swell of interest as we get serious about mHealth rather than just as a hobby or leisure business.

External links & references

  1. Aaron Levie interview at Forbes.com
  2. Why a brilliant designer is re-thinking Smoke Detectors : Tony Fadell
  3. Made by Medics : Task Management App
  4. Web Summit Agenda Day Two
  5. Market Watch on NASDAQ opening in Dublin

 

Robotics

We Prefer Robots, That Wag Their Tails

Humans like looking at each other’s faces. If we want to figure out if someone’s happy or sad we get our clues from the face. Robot researchers tell us that robots, are different.

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Humans like looking at each other’s faces. If we want to figure out if someone’s happy or sad we get our clues from the face. Robot researchers tell us that robots, are different.

Canadian student Ashish Singh and professor James E. Young have looked at whether humans can accurately figure out the “feelings” of a robot vacuum cleaner. They took a standard iRobot Roomba, the best known brand of home vacuum robot and gave it a fluffy tail that wags – just like a dog.

We’re pretty sure that iRobot vacuums don’t have feelings but Singh’s research shows that once we see the robots wagging their tails, in a happy family-pet way we understand that they’re working as planned.

The Manitoba University student says that a dog-like tail “seemed to be a nice, clear choice—even people without dogs or cats may be able to read some tail motions, so we decided to formally investigate that.”

Professor Young compared the idea of looking at a screen to find out how the robot’s operating versus seeing a familiar visual signal, like the tail wagging, “With a dog tail that projects a robot’s state, you could be preparing dinner and just see the robot going by from the corner of your eye,” he said. “That would let you quickly know how the robot is doing, whereas a screen would probably require training to understand and sound would be intrusive.”

2013-DogTail-LidRemoved

It turns out, according to the team’s research, that whether we own pets or not, we can all identify whether a robot is happy or not, just by how it wags its tail. Professor Young’s team went on to look at how we would feel about the next generation of robots, humanoids if they had tails. It turns out that we may not want our robots to be that human, after all.

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Technology

Revolution Vinyl USB Turntable

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Retro, or vintage is everywhere. From clothes to food, we can’t get enough of the past. And even technology has seen a retro revival. Original Apple I computers sell for a fortune at auction and retro style games are finding audiences with the children of parents who played the original versions. The turntable is one piece of tech that seen a huge resurgence in interest, and audiophiles whooped with delight earlier this year, as Technics re-released the iconic SL-1200 turntable.

If you don’t have the budget for a fancy high-end turntable though, Elyxr Audio are trying to make the vinyl record resurgence fun, but accessible. Their Revolution Turntable attempts to fuse two worlds by combining an entry level vinyl turntable with USB recording, at an affordable price.

I unpacked the box to discover a small, 1950s style suitcase. Opening the suitcase reveals the Revolution Turntable in all its retro-glory. Packaged in the box was as power lead and an RCA to 3.5mm jack cable which lets you connect the turntable to a hi-fi system or media Player.

Once powered up, the turntable has a few modes to choose from. I unearthed a couple of old vinyl records from the attic and put one on the turntable. The standard speeds remember are 45 and 33rpm for albums and singles, but the turntable will also play 78s, should you have inherited some along the way. Switching speeds is easy as the player has a dedicated speed button, as well as controls for switching modes, a nice old fashioned circular volume control dial and an auto-stop switch. There are four easy to see LED bulbs on the top of the device that let you see easily what mode you’re operating in.

Once I’d set the mode to Turntable mode, there was a short re-assuring crackle from my old Police album and, then Sting and Co burst in to action. The turntable has a useful auto-stop function which stops the player from wearing out in case you get distracted as you’re listening, but you need to return the arm to the rest position once the record’s finished playing.

If you have music that you’re already recorded on a USB memory stick you can insert the key, switch to USB mode and use the player to play back your MP3 music through the turntable’s speakers, with the previous and next buttons on the player navigating through the music on the memory stick.

The record mode utilizes both the vinyl and USB elements of the player. Pressing record mode will start recording on a USB stick that’s been inserted. Once inserted and recording, set the record playing and the music from your vinyl will be recorded, directly as a single track on to the attached USB device. There is also an option to record an album as individual, or split-tracks, tracks, which is more useful when you’re playing back later, on a different device.

The Revolution turntable has two other useful modes. The first is a simple line-in mode, allowing you to connect a 3.5mm audio cable to an audio or MP3 player and that music will be played through the turntable’s speakers. The feature I used the most though, was the line-out functionality. Packaged with this gadget is an RCA cable, which connects to the back of the device and the other end goes to a small headphone jack, which I was able to plug in to my digital home-audio system. Using this set-up, I was able to play vinyl records and enjoy the enhanced audio from my digital set-up, for a deeper sounds, but with the traditional characteristics of vinyl.

This is a well made device with exceptional styling. The sound it produces is not audiophile quality but it’s decent given the entry level price. Overall, it’s a clever way of combining new and old tech, and with the living room lights dimmed it’s the perfect way to relive some old musical memories.
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Technology

3 Gadget Breakthroughs Coming To A Surgery Near You

Tara Purcell

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There’s a lot of doom and gloom associated with the future and of technology’s ability to marshall the human spirit and lead us to a better time to come. But, just when you think it’s all apocalyptic robot cults and people being run over by driverless cars as they walk around with VR headsets on, you get a few reminders of how much tech can be used to help mankind. To redress this balance, we’ve found a few mechanical medical marvels that have come to light in the last while.

Stem Cell Cartilage Is Being Grown In Awesome Goo Labs

Using a 3D scaffold, scientists have begun growing cartilage from stem cells for use in human patients, and have done so with a fairly enchanting beige blob of goo that could one day work as a prosthetic replacement for socket joints, such as the human hip. Moreover, they’ve programmed the artificial joint to “release molecules on demand to keep the arthritis at bay” which is so epic we can barely believe it.

CRISPR Gene Editing To Begin Human Trials

Crispr is a form of gene editing technique that is a so sophisticated, people are already saying it may spell the end of certain cancers and genetic disorders within the next generation of scientific application. Memorably covered in a particularly fascinating edition of Radiolab, CRISPR is now due to start human trials, which is good news for us, bad news for pesky diseases.

Scientists Can Cure Blindness (Partially, and in Mice)

Taking a leaf out of the Fairy Tale School of Science & Biology, scientists took an as yet undefined number of blind mice and managed to restore some part of their eyesight by fixing damaged ganglions and activating the affected regions with chemicals so as to restore their rodent peepers to their full glory. No word as of yet on whether they plan to put eggs back together or heal wounds suffered by cows during unprompted jumps over nearby celestial objects.

 

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