Mattel Mind Flex – Theta Wave Game Controller

Mattel Mind Flex – Theta Wave Game Controller
Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

Mattel Mind Flex was one of the most remarkable devices at CES 2009.  Simpler but coneptually similar to the Emotiv headset expected to be out soon,  Mattel’s device measures brain theta waves and lets you control a small ball with this output as you change the theta waves by thinking.     Unless I’m mistaken a lot of folks think these devices are silly gimmicks when in fact I’d argue that this type of controller represent the single most important change in history in the way humans interface with machines.    For millions of years our relationship to tools has been primarily by hand and/or foot, generally using sights and sounds and  touch to manage our relationships with the tools we use.     In this sense computer control, like hammer and nail control, comes from our physical interactions with the device.

Brain wave control, although still fairly primitive, is likely to accelerate the process that is going on right now at a pace too slow to be popularly recognized for what it is – the merging of human and machine.    From heart pacemakers to glasses to BrainGate,  the distinction between human and machine is breaking down slowly.    I think that it will break down very rapidly as soon as technologies exist to enhance intelligence via this type of direct brain interface.    How long will it take to refine this such that we can pull up the internet in our mind and access information at computerized rather than junky organic neuron speeds?    I’d wildly guess 5-10 years though part of this answer will come from popular use and “hacks” with things like the mindflex and the Emotiv headsets coming out this year (yes, I’ll be getting one!).

The extension of this approach to interaction with machines may lead to the technological singularity predicted by an increasing number of technologists and futurists though I remain somewhat skeptical that conscious computing will quickly lead to the massive universal intelligence explosion predicted by Kurtzweil and others.

240k Kindles with books on the wall, 240k Kindles with books

OK, so now TechCrunch is reporting that their secret source informs them that Amazon has sold  240k Kindles in less than a year.   That would be pretty good though it does not lead me to retract my May suggestion that the analysis by Citbank is bogus.

In that analyis Mark Mahaney suggested that the Kindle would sell only 189k units in 2008 but then blow the lid off with sales in 2010 of 2.2 million.    That key part of the analysis – huge sales after modest early adoption – still seems unlikely to me, though I might be swayed to Kindle mania if the sales trend over the past months was clearly up.    That would indicate enough consumer satisfaction to suggest they might become a gadget of choice with enough mainstream adoption to see the huge profitability projected by Citibank.   Hey, on the internet anything is possible.

DEN Denver Airport Free WIFI Rocks

Denver International Airport – DEN – offers free WIFI throughout the Airport Terminal Complex.    Although they ask you view a 30 second ad spot this is hardly unreasonable given the cost savings of about $10 over the pay for WIFI airport installations.

I flew out via BWI this morning and although I really enjoyed the city of Baltimore, I would have had a great impression if they provided ad supported WIFI at the Airport.

Mike Arrington, Chris Anderson on Charlie Rose

TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington is on my favorite show tonight talking about the future of technology along with Chris Anderson of Wired.   (not to be confused with TED conference coordinator Chris Anderson).

Here are the videos

Ha – just got a Tweet from Mike that he hasn’t even seen himself yet since it’s not on in CA yet.    

Chris Anderson:
On sharing his next book before it is even out:   “Open Source” the idea, leading to a flood of more ideas, which in turn enrich everybody.   “Google doesn’t show up on your credit card bill”. 

Anderson’s provocative points are about how “free” is becoming a key concept in the digital economy, and may trump

Where does the some $360,000,000 that Craigslist saves the economy go?    Back to us, says Chris.   Hey thanks for the fish Craig Newmark!

Commodity information “needs to be free” vs unique information which may need to be expensive.

Radiohead as using digital economics for what it’s good at, and stimulate demand for the scarce thing – seeing the band in person, endorsements, and T shirts.

You cannot erase yourself from the web.    Shifting from privacy to self-promotion. 

Anderson:  Yes, MS will get Yahoo.    

Google as algorithms, Yahoo as a people business.   Google and the “machines first” culture are winning.    Microsoft, a pre-web culture, believes in software.   Their success kept them from being hungry, but now they are.  

Tech Bubble of 2000 was different.   Softer landing this time?

Facebook:  We’ll see narrowing of social networks (a GREAT point!).    NING model may prevail.  e.g. Chris’ own    What is the right level of granularity? 

Chris: “Everything I believe is written on the back of an iPhone”: 
Designed in California, Made in China

Mike Arrington
Big issues:
* Net neutrality.
* China.   Sites are filtered and slowed rather than outright deleted from the network.   Companies are not happy with the policies, but reluctant to leave 187,000,000 internet users to the competition.
* Mobile space.   Fundamentals are changing such that USA can compete now with other countries in the mobile space.
* Identity theft.   US has done too little to fight this.  Even Sen John McCain had his ID stolen a few years back.
* Education, computers, and internet access for schools.    Government weak in this area, but also true that computers are often an educational distraction rather than enhancement. 
* Economic implications: TV ads suck (great point Mike!), so internet ad share will increase.  However also we’ll see TV and internet increasingly converge.

Mike’s online “about 100% of the time I’m awake”.     TechCrunch startup database is one key focus.    “We’re not worth 100MM”.   (for more on TC valuation issues see the excellent Yahoo Tech TV interview with Mike).

Microsoft won’t back down and be embarrassed by the Yahoo deal.    MS failed in search and fell off the online map.    All the major search engines are roughly equivalent (great point Mike!).  But Google has lots of publishers and lots of action at their own pages.

Amazon – transitioning to a services model.    Renting services in the cloud is eliminating yet another high cost business barrier by providing high level infrastructure at low cost. 

Startups and entrepreneurs:    Modern day pirates.   Gamblers.  They value risk cf risk averse folks.  YouTube’s 1.65 Billion sale as a surprise.

Can Facebook have their “Google Moment”, which for Google was figuring out pay per click advertising.     Facebook as more innovative than Myspace.   Can they invent something to generate a LOT of revenue?   If yes, another Google is born. 

Facebook’s friend based advertising model may be illegal because it’s implying an endorsement without the consent of the person. 

BBC as a great site to review the condition of the world.   Blogs as taking page views from the ‘big guys’.    Comments as important.    Blogs following Silicon Valley as a “trainwreck”, but blogs in general on the rise.

Is privacy an illusion?   Harder to get email address than SSN (hmmm – I don’t think so…).

Obama fan.   Tech potentially will make our lives much better.  3rd world education as exciting.    Worrying about Virtual Reality.   What happens when people want to spend all their time in VR? 

Bluetooth prosthetics for US soldier

A Double amputee will walk again thanks to bluetooth enabled prosthetic legs which can walk naturally in part thanks to using the wireless signals.   News report.   

I find it frustrating that  people are on the one hand very comfortable supporting great technologies like this for those with disabilities, but as soon as somebody suggests we should also use technology to enhance our own “normal” and feeble abilities people seem to get worried and object.       There will be an inevitable trend to enhancing out lives using technologies we place in our bodies, and this is nothing to fear.   We’ve used *external* technologies for many years (e.g. specatacles) and many people already use many internal high tech devices (heart stints).   

So, bring on the brain chips!

Fear of Wi-Flying? Bah and Humbug!

This SILLY article suggests several unlikely scenarios where on board WIFI, a superb innovation coming to several airlines, will be a nuisance.   Loud talking on phones?   Porn surfers?    Well, maybe, but I think this is one of the *billions* of examples where having more broadband access makes a better, not worse, world.    Has he bothered to note how much these things are problems at airports with free WIFI like Las Vegas or Portland, Oregon?     They are NOT problems.

Looking for the gray cloud on the silvery lining of ubiquitous broadband reminds me of the early days of the internet (ahhh – those were the days back in, what….the 1990s?)  when people would explain to me how they didn’t really need email addresses and business websites because this was a passing fad or a “tech thing”.    It didn’t help much to explain that the internet is not about technology, rather it is about people, and that they’d be online very soon.     Now of course everybody is online, but the reporters are explaining to us (again) how all this technology puts us all at great social and personal peril. 

No, it doesn’t.  Get over it, and move on.   You cannot cheer enough for innovation and ubiquitous broadband.   We’ll have it eventually and it’s better to have it sooner not later. 

Hmmm – speaking of Airlines and Airports here’s my Airport Codes website.

ATT – what are you flinging again?

Techdirt notes that the USA Today title “ATT Flings cellphone network wide open” is quite a bit of hype given that it’s been open for 3 years.     Although the article itself notes that this is really nothing big and new, it is an indication that many of the wars are now faught on the marketing battlefields and not the technological ones. 

Also yet another sign that titles to grab attention are becoming increasingly misleading, especially in the blog world.   Even the title of this post is – frankly – somewhat misleading, as was my recent suggestion about Andrew Seybold’s competence during a recent PBS interview, for which he just took me to task in his newsletter.  

But hey I’m in elite company – he’s also pissed at Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt for suggesting that physical limitations on the wireless spectrum won’t post insurmountable challenges to the coming internet convergence.