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December 7, 2014

Special specs with live subtitles for hard of hearing

Filed under: Technology by Orangemaster @ 8:44 pm

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Together with the help of engineer Michiel van Overbeek who himself is hard of hearing language researcher Niels Schiller of Leiden University developed a pair of glasses that provides live subtitles during one-on-one conversations. The glasses display the translated conversation on the inside of the glass with a delay of some hundred milliseconds per word and at a rate of 172 words a minute. Film subtitling, which is commonplace in the Netherlands, runs at 120 to 160 words a minute.

Schiller claims this could really change the daily lives of people who are deaf and hard of hearing, especially the elderly who are not eligible for a cochlear implant and who have issues learning sign language. After testing the glasses, their comprehension went from 25% of a conversation to between 70% and 85%.

However, just like other translation devices, the glasses still get it wrong quite a bit and the speech recognition microphone doesn’t always work the way it should. Schiller points out that like when using autocorrect on an app, the person with the glasses on has to correct some words within the context. In the future, the glasses could be used when visiting a foreign country where a person can’t speak the language, and place a light on the outside of them so the person talking knows when the translation has been completed.

I trust a lot of issues have to be addressed: what happens when the wearer already wears glasses? Durability? Price? Quality of speech recognition in busy and loud places? And there’s nothing wrong sign language although the Dutch have five sign language dialects.

(Link: www.kennislink.nl)

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November 29, 2014

Rich foreigners won’t immigrate to the Netherlands

Filed under: Technology by Orangemaster @ 12:31 pm

Security and Justice Minister Fred Teeven had a plan to lure rich foreigners to set up shop in the Netherlands, hoping they would pump money into the economy by being allowed to invest in innovation – and nothing else. In one year’s time, one millionaire was interested but got caught up in red tape and gave up.

The idea behind the plan was to lure small IT companies rather than rich millionaires who buy a mansion and don’t invest, but that was never specified. Dutch online newspaper app Blendle is being funded by Americans, while the Dutch guy behind travel app Gidsy who left Amsterdam for Berlin with money from Aston Kutcher is now continuing his career in San Francisco. When an opportunity to fund innovation crops up, the Dutch government is glaring absent yet it believes to be competent enough to school rich foreigners on innovation.

“Foreigners who invest at least 1.25 million euro in the Dutch business community can get a residence permit for one year,” but only if they invest in innovation. Last time I checked how capitalism works, you let the rich people make business proposals and see if that fits the rules. When I left Canada 15 years ago you could get a resident’s permit for one year for 2,000 CDN (1,400 euro). I can’t possible imagine the price is anywhere near 1.25 million euro and being dictated to by a Dutch uncle.

Teeven doesn’t want criminals coming over and “parking their money”, but let’s be honest, he has a hand in letting in poorer immigrants who are turning to crime. And indeed with a few hundred failed asylum seekers still roaming the streets of Amsterdam two years after we told you about them, Minister Teeven’s policies are epic failures on all counts.

(I wonder if the NLTimes knows it’s using a promotional picture from the American vampire television series ‘The Originals’)

(Links: www.z24, www.nltimes.nl)

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November 21, 2014

App shows outdoor markets with fresh produce

Filed under: Food & Drink,Technology by Orangemaster @ 11:23 am

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Since 18 November, the app ‘Buitenmarket’ (‘Outdoor market’) created by Vandemoortele, a European food products manufacturer headquartered in Gent, Belgium, has been available for free through the Google Play Store to find fresh produce near your location. It lists food such as beef, pork, chicken, grain, honey, pears, apples, dairy, vegetables, and miscellaneous foods. The app is in Dutch only.

I’ve installed it and enjoy the look and feel of the app, but there’s nothing really in Amsterdam (pic), although I could always get on my bike. You can click on an icon and find out more about a market, their opening hours, etc.

One review mentions that the app is missing many places. The app is either not quite finished, which is usually the case, or has only added certain venues with a criteria we know nothing about. I would use this app if I were in another part of the country and wanted to see if I could grab some local produce, and for that I’m keeping it on my phone.

(Link: www.emerce.nl)

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November 15, 2014

Dutchman has Bitcoin wallets injected in hands

Filed under: Gadgets,Health,Technology by Branko Collin @ 1:44 pm

bitcoin-key-fob-btc_keychainAmsterdam-based entrepreneur Martijn Wismeijer had two NFC chips injected into his hands earlier this month, The Telegraph writes.

The chips are to act as encrypted Bitcoin wallets. Wismeijer is the owner of Mr. Bitcoin, a company that distributes and operates ATMs for the currency.

Wismeijer told The Telegraph, “Most doctors will not want to install the implant so a body manipulation artist (preferably not just tattoo artist or piercer) will be your next best bet. Make sure they work according to strict hygiene codes and know what they are doing.”

Parool adds that Rockstart in Amsterdam (a start-up accelerator) hosted an implant session yesterday where one could have a sub-dermal NFC chip injected for about 130 euro. Wismeijer told the newspaper that currently about 2000 people have such implants.

It’s not clear from the articles whether Wismeijer uses the chips to store Bitcoins, keys to unlock Bitcoins or something else.

Check the Telegraph for a video in which the question “does it hurt” is answered. Too scared / don’t want to? Martijn Wismeijer told Parool: “They were the biggest needles I’ve ever seen.”

(Photo by BTC Keychain, some rights reserved)

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October 16, 2014

Wearable tech onesie turns into Wi-Fi hotspot

Filed under: Design,Technology by Orangemaster @ 10:35 am

BBSuit

Borre Akkersdijk, a ‘textile developer’, designed a onesie called the BB.Suit that “allows you to become technology”. Presented at the SXSW in Texas earlier this year, the knitted BB.Suit has Wi-Fi, GPS with room gadgets and computer chips. At the time it was a prototype, and the issue of washing the onesie with tech in it was definitely a problem. Akkersdijk aptly points out that wearable technology still has a long way to go.

Walking around and being a Wi-Fi hotspot seems like the most practical use of this outfit, especially abroad.

Embedded with copper wires that enable WiFi, GPS, NFC, and Bluetooth, the BB.Suit turns its wearer into a mappable hotspot with mp3 streaming ability. Batteries, processor boards, and UI actuators live in the BB.Suit’s pockets, making the rest of the suit feel seamless, and it’s made of two layers of cotton to hide and protect the copper cables, with filling that puffs when it’s steamed, meaning the onesie is super-comfy too!

(Link: www.shinyshiny.tv, Photo: byborre.com)

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October 14, 2014

Crazy verdict: Dutch Rail may abolish paper tickets

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 8:44 am

lady-justice-chaoukiThe business court of The Hague has determined that Dutch Rail can abolish paper train tickets even though the law says a traveller has a right to an objective proof of the right to travel.

The court felt that the new electronic travel card system (OV Chipkaart) suffices because there are five places where you can confirm you have the right to travel. Arnoud Engelfriet lists them all:

  1. The display of the electronic gate at the time of checking in.
  2. The display of the vending machine.
  3. A paper print-out at the service desk.
  4. A transaction data listing on the Dutch Rail website.
  5. The display of the train conductor’s travel card reader.

Engelfriet and his commenters point out that there are numerous problems with this verdict.

  1. The electronic display only shows that you’ve checked in for a very short time, especially if somebody checks in a fraction of a second later (this happens a lot during rush hour).
  2. If you are in a rush, you are not going to stand in line at the vending machine or service desk.
  3. The Internet listings are only updated after a significant delay.
  4. Train conductors are “masters at being impossible to find”, according to Rikus Spithorst of travellers association ‘Voor Beter OV’ (‘for better public transport’). (Doesn’t that make train conductors hobbits?)

Basically this means that you either show up five minutes early for your daily commute to double check you are actually checked in or you pay a tax in the form of fines every time you fail to check in for whatever reason.

What bothers me is that in the case of a conflict between a traveller and Dutch Rail (and only the OV Chipkaart in place) travellers now have to rely completely on the antagonistic party to provide them with the proof that they have in fact travelled legally. Travelling without a valid ticket is a criminal offence, so why would the state make rules that make it practically impossible for a suspect to defend their innocence?

See also:

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September 30, 2014

iPads are ‘means of communication’, not computers or phones

Filed under: Gadgets,Technology by Orangemaster @ 9:44 am

In late 2012 a Dutch court ruled that iPads were not phones and that angered broadcaster RTL Nederland because that meant they would owe back taxes to the tune of 323,687 euro on 664 iPads with Vodafone subscriptions given to their employees for Christmas.

RTL appealed the ruling at the time, and yesterday a higher court overturned the decision and ruled that not only are iPads not phones, they are also not computers: they are “means of communication.” The clincher is that the law also prescribes categories of devices that are applicable to be taxed, including “phones, Internet and such communication devices.”

The iPad is a fancy tin can with a string attached to it that is not primarily used to do all your work on, giving RTL a reason to pop open some champers.

(Link: webwereld.nl)

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August 24, 2014

Extending the self into the corporate cloud

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 9:19 pm

interferenceI went to Interference last weekend, a hacker convention run by anarchists in a former squat called Binnenpret. Most Dutch people know the part of the complex called OCCII, a music venue on Amstelveenseweg.

The talks were somewhat similar to what I have encountered at other hacker conventions in the past. If there was a difference, it was that in the Q&As audience members were criticizing language that could be used as a weapon, as a means to disempower outgroups.

Also, the hosts did not appear to serve coffee.

Cory Shores had a talk about post-humanism and spoke about the blind man’s cane. This is apparently an issue of some contention in philosophy: is the cane part of the man, of the self? A blind man ‘sees’ with the tip of the cane after all, his hand being no more than a relay.

A similar extension of the self was identified by Paulan Korenhof and Janneke Belt who pointed out technological differences in the way people remember things, such as remembering a shopping list versus writing one down. They did not further explore the issue of the self, but instead looked at where our shopping lists (and therefore maybe parts of ourselves) end up: in the cloud, specifically in the indexes of search engines owned by international companies.

Earlier this week I mocked visitors of the Lowlands festival in a posting who gave away their privacy for RFID trinkets, but perhaps my commentary wasn’t entirely fair. The Lowlands RFID wristbands do have some value to the user as they extend the self, even if the company behind them is solidly grounded in the philosophy of “if we give you something for free, you are in fact the product”.

See also: the Interference reader.

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August 19, 2014

Protesting free Wi-Fi that doesn’t even work

Filed under: Sports,Technology by Orangemaster @ 3:04 pm

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With a banner that probably made international news because it featured the word ‘fuck’ on it and was written in English, PSV Eindhoven supporters were recently sporting a banner at a game that read “Fuck Wi-Fi, support the team”.

After paying good money to attend a football game, the last thing many fans would be caught doing is staring at their mobile phones. The thing is, free Wi-Fi is great because you can take pictures and post them to social media about all the fun you’re having. You can also throw the score up on Twitter and check if the media has more news on the player they just carried off the field than you would get at the stadium.

Omroep Brabant has claimed that the Wi-Fi connection is crap, which is not good advertising for a tech region made famous by brands like Philips and ASML.

However, many of us in the Netherlands can just turn on 4G and ride the interwebs. Banning something that is free and doesn’t even work seems like a waste of time, but we do get the point that it’s about joining in and not being a douche with your phone.

(Link: www.omroepbrabant.nl, Photo of Football by Bramus, some rights reserved)

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August 18, 2014

RFID bracelets track festival goers

Filed under: Music,Technology by Branko Collin @ 8:11 pm

waldo-lowlands-2008-gabe-mcintyreHave you ever gone to a music festival but got too drunk to remember which acts you saw?

Yeah, me neither, but apparently now there’s a solution. For the price of whatever was left of their privacy, visitors of the Lowlands festival last weekend could get a ‘free’ wristband that allowed them to keep a diary of sorts.

Every time you held the Nedap-developed wristband against a scanning station, the station would register your ID, time and location in order to be able to present you with a slew of data on the spot or afterwards. The data contained the location of both you and bracelet-wearing friends, the bands that played nearby, photos of you and your friends, ‘spotified’ set lists, and so on.

According to the video below by Face Culture, some people ‘hacked’ the system by trying to get into the top ten of the people that scanned their bracelets the most. Other advantages mentioned were the ability to remember the names of obscure bands you saw and not having to trawl through 20,000 photos online before finding yours. One person complained that she still had a sliver of privacy left: she wanted more scanning stations so that she could also see when she had gone for a burger.

A Campign Flight to Lowlands Paradise (its full name) is an annual festival held near Biddinghuizen in the province of Flevoland.

(Photo of Waldo at Lowlands 2008 by Gabe McIntyre, some rights reserved; if only he had worn an RFID tag, you would have spotted him instantly; link: AD)

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