About Gabe Honigsberg

Hi, I'm Gabe Honigsberg, a teenage developer. I blog about technology that is relevant, and how its going to change in the future. All from the perspective of a teenage developer.

My Vision for the Ultimate Smart TV

Image: © Samsung

Image: © Samsung

Many companies have tried to unleash the “smart” trend onto TV’s, but it hasn’t completely caught on. Samsung has a brand of Smart TV’s. So do Sony and LG. Google has a $30 plugin option dubbed chromecast that tries to make regular TV’s smarter. And, there’s rumors that Apple is looking into entering the TV market–maybe as soon as this year.

Here’s what makes creating a great smart TV difficult. It’s hard to make the experience personal and dynamic, because the TV is so detached from our realm of interaction. Even with a remote, interacting with the TV is a complicated experience compared to others, because you can’t manipulate it using the controller and see what’s happening at the same time. This is why there’s been a push to use smartphones as controllers.

So, what can be done? First, we need a controller with a nice touch screen, and buttons. Buttons allow the user to see the TV while changing the content because with buttons you can just feel around without looking down. The touch screen would allow for more complicated options, and the ability to see content while looking away from the screen.

My next idea, which is the better idea as far as controlling, is to remove the remote from the equation, using hand and arm motions along with voice recognition for control. This would make for the smoothest experience. Using the technology from Siri, Apple could definitely make this happen.

Finally, because smart TV’s will undoubtedly be expensive it is imperative that they have high quality design to attract their customer base. This means having a thin exterior, 4K resolution, and advanced programming that can change brightness and contrast of localized areas of the screen, according to shadows and light in a certain room.

The good thing about this is that all these ingredients already exist. Now, all we need is for a company to come along and compile them together smoothly, creating an experience our smart TV viewers can enjoy.

Design in Technology and Everything Else

ght-designintechnologyWe often take design for granted. Well, we shouldn’t. It’s important to realize the attention to detail that is taken to make products perfect. Everything is thought about. Design is the reason one button on a smartphone was placed two millimeters to the left, and it’s the reason some products make it while others don’t. More than anything, change in approaches to design is what develops technology the most. For example, the creation of laptops that could flap open like a notebook revolutionized computing, making PC’s portable.

There are two principles I see in design: functionality and aesthetic, which often go hand in hand. In technology, these are the most important qualities of successful products. Here are a few rules that make design successful.

  • Eliminating distractions. If something isn’t necessary and doesn’t serve to further the purpose of the object being designed the only thing it does is detract from the objective. This is why there is a huge emphasis on “clean” design.
  • Design is an art, not art. When designing, the focus should be primarily on the function of an object, not the aesthetic. Making something look good is secondary and usually comes in later. Now, don’t get me wrong, making things look pretty still counts for something. It just shouldn’t get in the way.
  • Simplicity is complexity. Figuring out how to design something as focused on the goal as possible is difficult. The ultimate goal is to have something appear simple, even if the method of getting to that state is difficult and complex.
  • Attraction. A product that is designed well can have all the above, yet not be successful if it doesn’t catch the eye. A little bit of color and creative design never hurt as long as functionality isn’t hindered. However, it is important to remember what the goal is: the space shuttle just had to get people into space safely, it’s looks weren’t a priority.

No matter what the product is–a shoe, a website, a chair or phone–these are the principles I use to judge the design of a product, and ultimately it’s quality. Altogether, focus on design is probably the most important feature of any product.

Invisible, Weightless Money

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The exchange of money has developed in numerous ways over human history. At one point, people traded clay tablets which signified an amount of crops to be paid at the end of the season. Eventually, coins became popular. Then came paper currency and in the past fifty years credit cards. The general trend has been to make transactions as simple and weightless as possible. Recently, the race has begun to make money completely weightless, using today’s and tomorrow’s technology to make it happen.

One method being implemented is payment using smartphones or portable chips on rings or cards with Near Field Communication (NFC). This allows people to tap smartphones against a terminal through a contactless transaction to make a payment. The good news: most new phones (not iPhones) already have NFC technology. To take advantage of NFC payments, a person just has to set up a virtual wallet with a service like Google Wallet. iPhone users that can’t use NFC because they don’t have the hardware necessary in their phone can use other options like the Square Wallet app that doesn’t require a physical tap. The idea is that in today’s world a wallet won’t be necessary anymore, because most people already walk around with smartphones which can just as easily serve as wallets.

Another recent development is the use of virtual money like Bitcoins. Bitcoins is a currency that exists solely in digital format, and can exist on anything that can hold digital memory. This could take a long time to be used commonly by people because at the moment Bitcoin transactions are too complicated for most to understand. They will probably never be used widely beyond investments or transactions for illegal goods, because like cash, Bitcoins cannot be traced. Unlike cash, they have the potential to be transferred online across the globe. Also, because Bitcoins aren’t controlled by any central bank, the value of a Bitcoin fluctuates in large amounts which might turn consumers away. As I write this post, the value of a Bitcoin is at 350 USD, but it could drop back down to 250 tomorrow.

There are a few hurdles that must be crossed before the use of these new technologies becomes widely accepted. First, one of the major concerns with being dependent on virtual currency is security. Anything that is digital and connected can be hacked. If there is anything that people like to keep more secure than anything else, for good reason, it’s money. Additionally, using these new technologies has to be introduced into the common consumer’s habits, which may be difficult considering how attached many are to their credit cards. Old habits die hard. However, I have faith that in the next ten years many of those currently using credit cards will be using alternative forms of payment. But, If the credit card users don’t convert, the new generation of consumers will probably swoop in to pick up the invisible payment market. People questioned the introduction of the credit card half a century ago. Plastic to invisible shouldn’t be too big of a leap now.

Most People Don’t Care About Wearable Technology, Despite the Hype

Tech companies come and go. Sometimes very fast due to the nature of this ever changing industry. When critics begin to charge companies with a lack of innovation, they are basically predicting these companies’ imminent demise. This makes the tech guys scared.

So what do they do? They try to innovate. That’s why there’s all this hype around wearable technology, devices that can be worn like a watch or glasses. “It’s the future” they tell me. “I don’t care” says the average consumer. I agree: wearable tech is the future, but consumers aren’t ready to invest in it.

Now, let me get something clear, I’m not saying I don’t like wearable tech. If I could get my hands on some Google Glass I would literally go insane. Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, a touch screen watch that connects to Samsung smartphones, would be incredible. I would love these devices but the average consumer these companies rely on doesn’t care.

By being “innovative” and creating wearable technology, tech companies that are feeling old and out of date are trying to get back in the game, but they aren’t doing it the right way.

What these companies need to do is make wearable tech realistic in people’s minds. Wearable technology has to start off really simple. For example, Samsung’s new smart watch has voice recognition, can take phone calls, and even has a camera. With a 1.6 inch screen, most people will find so much stuff unrealistic and inapplicable in their lives. Definitely not worth the 299$ dent it will make in someone’s wallet.

Instead, I would recommend a watch that can only do a couple things that are simple yet extremely helpful. A smartwatch that can simply check emails and answer calls would be the perfect step into wearable tech for most consumers. Between $100 and $150 it could also become an instant hit. People could imagine having such a device, and it could make their lives easier, as innovative and powerful technology should.

What IS Technology? It’s history, present, and future.

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We throw the word technology around a lot. Today, it’s become almost synonymous with computers, cameras, and GPS’s. But, it’s much more than that. Technology has a history as long as that of humanity. In fact, it’s the constant that separates the eras, centuries, and generations of people. We are different from our grandparents and ancestors because of technology.

So, what is technology? The purpose of technology is to extend our natural abilities. Until very recently in human history, this has been a physical concept. Hands can’t cut, knives can. People can’t push, wheelbarrows roll. Horses are fast, engines are faster. You get the picture. Today, technology manifests itself differently. Computers have become extensions of our brains, the most complex organ of our body. That’s what makes right now one of the most exciting times in human history. Technology as we understand it has reached the ultimate frontier, thinking on its own, and not being dependent on a person to function. Imagine a world where we don’t have to think anymore! I can’t.

Anyways, back to the present. The life of technology is in the present. That’s why we automatically call our cell phones, tablets, and PC’s “tech”, when the wheel was “tech” some thousand years ago. The present is where technology is developing and evolving the most at the moment. In the future, it will most likely be something different. And probably, that something is not too far away, now that technology is improving and changing exponentially faster than ever.

So, why am I talking about the definition of something we all know. Well, this blog is meant to discuss the future of tech, which means understanding where it came from and in what direction it is currently going. I can’t say I know where that is, but I do know this: it’s important to have a solid understanding of the past and present before trying to grasp the future. That’s why I like a good definition.

Here’s where I think technology is going. Since tech is meant to extend human abilities, the next frontier for technology is the brain. Programmers and computer engineers are already trying to replicate the brain. After our tech has surpassed the abilities of the brain, who knows where its going? Biological re-engineering maybe? Counter evolution? Whatever it is, one thing is for sure: it will always be “tech”, and I’m gonna talk about it.

One design fits all? Apple thinks so.

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One of the largest and most apparent differences between Microsoft and Apple, is the much larger variety of devices and designs available through Microsofts’ operating systems. Honestly, looking at the huge selection of phones, computers, and tablets running on Windows compared to Macintosh and iOS makes Apple look mundane and boring. For crying out loud, there are only two color options for the iPhone! Black and white. So why does Apple have such few options? Here are a few reasons:

  1. Quality over quantity: It would be difficult to argue against the quality of an Apple product. One reason why they are able to maintain this, is because the company as a whole is able to be focused on a single image and excel at it.
  2. Easy decision makes for a happier customer: When the customer isn’t choosing from a large selection, choosing becomes easier. This makes for happy Apple users. Later, after purchasing an item, the customer remains satisfied with their purchase. It’s not like they could have made a bad decision, there’s not much to choose from.
  3. Easy for developers: Consistency between products makes it easy for developers like myself to make apps for Apple. Although Apple has a strict set of guidelines to follow when publishing an application, I know that one good quality app will look great on all iOS devices. When making apps for other platforms, developers always have to worry about whether their apps will work with all the inconsistencies that exist between devices, like screen sizes.

Apple caters to a large variety of people: IT geniuses, computer newbies, artists, musicians, students etc. To be able to do this, a company has to do one of two things. Either create unique products for each demographic, or create one product that is designed for everyone. Apple chooses the latter. Sure, there are differences between the computers, but the experience remains the same and that is what they deliver.

Fairphone, a Supply Chain Revolution

If you’ve ever looked inside a computer or even seen a picture of what’s inside, you’ve seen the intricate jigsaw of metals that somehow end up being compiled into computer. The metals that allow your computer to run, as you may imagine, aren’t the ordinary metals that we use to build bridges and manufacture abstract furniture. In fact, they are quite the contrary. The precious metals that are necessary for you to send an email or watch a movie are extremely difficult to obtain, especially in the large amounts that companies like Apple, Dell, and Samsung need them. So, these companies go to almost any extent they can to get them. Often, this means crossing socially unethical boundaries that may deter you from buying their products. Some examples are child labor, and trading with warlords. You probably don’t want to be a part of this. Unfortunatly, the truth is, its pretty much impossible to find electronicts that don’t have a dark back story. That is, unless you’re in the market for a new phone.

In 2010, the Waag Society began a project to tackle the issue of making a globally just phone. One that, for example, isn’t funding wars in the DRC. Three years later, the Fairphone has entered production. It is truly a supply chain revolution. The Fairphone runs on Android, and is created completely under the goal of setting social values first, while maintaining the quality of a successful product. The project has been funded partially through crowdfunding and aims to redefine the global supply chain. This means ethical sourcing, improving working conditions, and working on using recycling materials.

So far, 20,000 Fairphones have been produced, over 11,000 sold. Obviously, this is only a glimpse of the market compared to the millions of other phones and computers that are being sold, but its a great start.

Fairphone: Buy a phone, start a movement from Fairphone on Vimeo.

How does Google Make Money?

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Have you ever thought about the fact that you use Google on a daily basis but never have to pay for it? Yet, the company is worth BILLIONS (market cap of about $261 Billion). Googles founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin are each worth over 20 billion dollars. How does google make that much money when you probably never even gave them your credit card?

Data. Every time you do anything on Google, (as in search, get directions, read a review, or track the news) Google records it. Using that data, Google can then create accurate advertisements which you are likely to click on. Then, when you click on the ad, the advertiser pays back Google. It may not seem like a lot, but it piles up.

Why is this so effective? Well, Google is continuously becoming more important in everyone’s daily lives by increasing the number of products people use, and the amount of time people are using them. These are products like Google+, Google Docs, Blogger, Picasa, and YouTube. This means you have more activity they can track, and use as data. The more data they have, the more accurate they can make ads, personalized for you. Clicks equals money, and its all about making sure that you keep clicking on Google.com.

Also, in case you’re wondering, Google does have different sources of revenue, through Google Play, Chromebooks, and other products. However, these are minimal compared to the 96% of revenue which comes from advertising.

What is the Cloud? Where is it?

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Nowadays we often here about the cloud. Supposedly it’s everywhere, but where is it exactly? For starters, what is the cloud anyways?

The cloud is where all of the data on the internet is stored. It’s everything that can be accessed from anywhere in the world with access to the internet. The data itself, however, is not everywhere at once, or in the sky as the terminology “cloud” suggests. Every website, photo, or document in the cloud is actually stored on a server. There are a lot of servers. It is these servers which hold the seemingly infinite amounts of data that cumulate into what we call the cloud.

How’s it used? Now that mobility is the most critical aspect of technology, the cloud has become very important. Many services, such as Google Apps, are “in the cloud” and allow you to edit and access your documents wherever you are. This means you can change a slide on a slide show minutes before your presentation, on a phone in the subway. Meanwhile, someone else around the world could technically be viewing your changes. This is possible because the presentation isn’t actually on your phone, but in the cloud. You are just using your phone to access the information.

The cloud allows us to be more mobile, because all of its data is accessible where ever we are. Soon, everything you need, will be in the cloud, reachable at any time through any device. The cloud makes technology more convenient and mobile, improving the efficiency of everything we do.

What will replace the PC?

Some time before I was born, a great man, Steve Jobs, brought humanity a gift, the personal computer. It’s been great, but all great innovations come to an end at some point. So, now, what will replace the PC?

I dont think it will be any device in particular. The post PC era will be populated by a multitude of devices: Smartphones, Laptops, Tablets, Tv’s… basically anything with a screen. The potential of these devices will also be varied, meaning, different hardware to handle different tasks.

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How is it possible to have so many different devices? The cloud! All our information will be stored in the cloud, and transformed to fit whatever device we are using at the time. Many websites are already built optimized for whatever platform they are being viewed on. I know this one is. It looks slightly different on a laptop, tablet or phone.

So, is there any one answer to this question? I guess not. Applications and software will be created to make you productive on whatever device you are using, because most of the time it will most likely not be a PC. Every device you use will be synchronized, and content will be accessible easily no matter what platform you are using. The post PC world is a world where anything with a screen, or touchscreen I should say, is a technology resource ready to help you with your daily needs and tasks.