PROXY Are we technology dependent? Are synthetic relationships on the rise?
Is it the future, or is it a fad?
THIS ISSUES HIGHLIGHTS Tech News Roundup Occulus Rift
An in depth look at the new gaming revoulution
Is Amazon jumping on the bandwagon? Will the company really release a Smartphone?
Synthetic Relationships Smart Technology
The top 10 pieces of smart tech that could benefit you
How to make music from the comfort of your own home
An Overview of Bitcoin Tech Dependency
Are we becoming too dependent on the technology we now have
In the future, we will be able to immerse ourselves in a virtual world of fantastic visuals and cybernetic partners that won’t question our odd habits. The future appears to have come sooner than any of us have expected because we are able to enjoy these technological feats in the present. Firstly the internet has been buzzing with words like ‘VR Headsets’ and ‘Oculus Rift’ flying around on different posts and sites. This could very well be the futuristic step that has only been available in high budget sci-fi films of recent. Speaking of technology of films, the quirky release of the film ‘Her’ allowed us to speculate what life would be like to have a relationship with an AI. Well this brand of synthetic relationship is also prevalent in our society, stretching out from America to Japan. It is ProxyMagazine’s aim to provide you with most up to date and relevant technology stories from around the world. Whether you are swiping away at tablets, or battering your laptop keyboard in search of the information you need, our magazine will have something that speaks out to you. We may open your eyes to a new idea that has yet to be unveiled to you, or even help you make some purchase decisions to help your everyday life. For certain, if it lives off the wonders of electricity, Proxy will be here to give you the latest on it.
Caitlin S Garden Editor
Meet the Team
Ciaran Hanratty Social Media Exec and Staff Writer
Laura Adam Staff Writer
Natalie Woods Designer
Marta Perez Staff Writer
Peter Hastings Staff Writer
Demi McIntee pictured second to the left
Dyeing to Succeed A delighted 14-year-old entrepreneur from Glasgow has been awarded with a £3,000 grant after being announced as the winner of youth enterprise competition, 'Bad Idea'. Demi Mcintee won the accolade for her “innovative” idea for a Smartphone application allowing users to take a picture of themselves and then gauge how they will look if they were to dye their hair. The idea may sound a little gimmicky but the concept has caused excitement from hairdressing professionals who feel this app is a step up from judging dyes in the bottle or on a colour card. The competition is sponsored by Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Kelvin College and aims to aid young entrepreneurs in transforming their raw and undeveloped ideas into marketable business ventures.
In The Palm Of Your Hand RHL Vision Technologies Company are working on Touch-less Technology devices which allows you to try out jewellery without touching it. The product will be known as Tryara, while the company are also developing an app specifically for Blackberry users to control their music. After these products, they are working on technology that you can control with your palm. Fin will be a hardware product that you can wear on your thumb or fingers as a ring and control it by your palm as a gesture interface. It can control your smart TV, change the channel and control the sound by your finger swipes by Bluetooth control. The device can be connected to two digital gadgets: Smartphones and Automobiles. It uses smart Low Energy Technology to interact with touch-less devices and read different gestures from your palm corresponding to different control connected devices. As an example, the gadget can change the mode of your phone while it is in your pocket by using the thumb. Now the company has made the first prototype, the second one and also the testing model. Fin will be provided in some different colours such as Vermilion Orange, Royal White, Matte Black, Liberty Blue and Persian Green.
Scottish Seminar Highlights Technology Opportunities Ambitious business owners from the West of Scotland flocked to a Glasgow hotel on Thursday (27th Mar) in the hope of picking up some wisdom at a technology seminar ran by Scottish Enterprise. Several business minds attended the seminar entitled, 'new technology opportunities in global markets' at Glasgow's Radisson BLU Hotel. Guests were afforded an insight into the expert knowledge of guest speakers, David Lupton Managing Director of Scott and Fyfe Enterprises and Jim Robinson of IbioIC. The visitors listened intently as Mr Lupton explained the modern and innovative ways in which his business had progressed in the past 18 months. These innovations included a complete overhaul of the company's structure and a total re-think of the way in which ideas were being nurtured and developed in their embryonic stage with the help of smart technology. Mr Lupton also detailed some of the new products which his company has been developing, such as a new material to be used for pipe fabric in gold mining operations the world over. Mr Robinson (IbioIC) then captivated the room with a break-down of the recent advancements in 'bio-technology' and the way in which IbioIC were pioneering in this field of the technology market. Robinson spoke of exciting new processes being developed by his company such as the refinement of vegetation to create products such as tyres. Attendees were then given the opportunity to ask questions of both of the speakers before also being given the chance to network with guests from other businesses.
Flexing the Displays Flexible displays are proving to be the latest innovation for all kinds of screen based technology. The crystal of the device is replaced by plastic, which means that the screen can take any form and does not have to be flat. This offers more flexibility and also endurance of the gadget and there are plenty of companies who are taking opportunities when using this technology. For example, during the last months of 2013 Samsung and LG were competing to launch their own flexible display phones. However flexible screens have been a management problem as of late, since a flexible phone in a pocket can be uncomfortable because of its shape. Nevertheless, one thing that could be used with the new flexible displays could be smart watches since a curved screen is better to adapt to the wrist. According to Naver, a popular search portal in South Korea, LG announced it would be the sole supplier of the innovative flexible displays from Apple iWatch. The report notes that Apple will launch the device by the end of the year with LGâ€™s collaboration because the characteristics of their panels are that they are thin, light and also provide adequate brightness with minimal power consumption. The iWatch flexible display will come in two different sizes of 1.3 and 1.5 inches and is expected to be revealed alongside IOS 8 and the iPhone 6.
Drones To Aid Tornado Season As America battens down the hatches for this years dreaded tornado season, experts in Oklahoma are hard at work developing drones to help in the fight against the extreme weather phenomena. Scientists are on the brink of releasing new technologies for research into tornadoes as well as for helping with search and rescue operations in the aftermath of such an event. Five lives have already been lost this year in the states due to these natural catastrophes. The scientists working on these projects (and everyone else) will be hoping that the development of their technology may be able to mitigate the death toll in the coming years. Over thirty people were killed due to tornado outbreaks last year alone.
Facebook Co-Founder Joins Wax Museum A wax model of Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook and one of the world's most successful computer geeks will be displayed at Madame Tussaud's San Francisco attraction when it opens this summer. This immortalisation of Zuckerberg will be displayed alongside figures such as Barack Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio and fellow tech legends Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs. Models on display at Tussaud's feature astonishing detail and craftsmanship and take in excess of 800 hours to create. The wax Zuckerberg portrays the former Harvard student barefoot, clinging onto his laptop computer and wearing his trademark casual combination of a hooded sweatshirt and jeans. It is believed that these leading figures in technology are being featured in the new attraction due to their extensive influence in America. The exhibition is set to open on June 26th and is located at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf.
Customers call for Windows 9 release Microsoft are set to release their new operating system possibly named Windows 8.1 update 2 or Windows 8.2 which is said to be an upgrade on the current version. Customers are now looking forward to Windows 8.2 but the real excitement is in the release of Windows 9 in the spring of next year. Independent Technician Anthony Murphy confirmed the excitement amongst PC users: “I’m hoping for good things from it. Windows 8 was not a very good operating system, Windows 7 being the best since XP and a great operating system, easy to use, I’m hoping it will go back to the old style” People can enjoy Windows 8.2 codenamed ‘threshold’ later this year with Windows 9 following next year. Microsoft are said to be reluctant to continue branding their operating systems with Windows 8 after its bad reception. Anthony explains “Windows 8 is missing the start bar that was a big miss. They just need to make it simpler to use because it takes time to get used to it”. Customers will be delighted at the reintroduction of features such as the start menu, although this feature will only appear in desktop versions of the OS. Leaks say that there will be three major versions of Windows following the Threshold update. The first is a desktop version, designed to be used with a keyboard and mouse. Its features will allow Modern apps to run inside Windows like more traditional applications. The second is a Modern-style edition, focused on apps for tablets, while the third will merge Windows Phone and Windows RT to work across ARM handsets and tablet.
Enter The Rift:
Is Virtual Reality The Next Big Thing?
The core concept of virtual reality is not something that is entirely new – directors and authors alike have all added their interpretation of how virtual reality could integrate with our future. There has never really been a sense that we were close to enabling everyday people to access the wonders of virtual reality as a norm of society. The technology was either too expensive, too ahead of its time or it simply did not work at all. One infamous attempt was Nintendo’s flop hardware known as the Virtual Boy, a clunky binocular like device that attempted to be a portable console capable of displaying 3D graphics. However, a new generation ushers in new
technology with the introduction of a potential giant in the realm of virtual reality – the Oculus Rift. The name itself may not be familiar to everyone, as it has steadily grown in popularity. The Oculus Rift is a VR headset which was originally developed by the company Oculus VR, founded by Palmer Luckey. All throughout his childhood, he was fascinated with virtual reality technology and was known to collect other’s attempts at tackling the hardware. It was not until the bright collector reached the age of 16 that he decided to create his own take on a virtual reality headset.
pair of ski goggles, the magic comes from the inside. To create a stereoscopic 3D image to the wearer, the screen displays the image to each eye while a set of lenses at the top of the screen reshapes the images. The headset also has sensors that are able to track the user’s head movement, allowing it to move the images according to where the wearer is ‘looking’ so to speak. The result allows the user to truly experience being immersed in a 3D world. Of course this image may be relative to the capabilities of the user’s eye sight, which may differ depending on whether the user is dependent on wearing glasses. It would be rather awkward trying to use the Rift while also wearing spectacles so whether this will be addressed in future models will be hopefully be made certain soon.
Most recent model of the Oculus Rift While the idea may have seemed but a dream at the time, Luckey started to make some connections with revered names in the gaming industry that supported his vision. Wanting to grasp this opportunity, Luckey dropped out of college in order to launch his company in June of 2012. The initial Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of these Oculus Rift Headsets began in the August of the same year. Luckey did not intend to create a profit with the campaign, simply wanting to cover the costs of producing the headsets to see if his creation truly could be reality. The response from internet backers was outstanding and within three days the campaign had raised a million dollars. With such an immensely positive reception to the core concept, the first batches of the device were created for the backers to freely enjoy. Youtube gamers heavily promoted the hardware as well, using it in their videos to showcase the capabilities the headset had. How does the nifty piece of technology hardware work though? While aesthetically it looks like a very bulky
The amount of support that the initial Kickstarter gained should be testament enough to how popular this idea is. To add fuel to the fire though, the social networking company Facebook acquired the OculusVR company and their headset which sparked great controversy amongst the backers. This move was perceived by many Oculus backers as the company ‘selling out’ by abandoning their ‘indie’ style roots in favour of having the backing of a large corporate company. It is no surprise though that the takeover went through – over the past few months, Facebook has been buying and taking over a variety of apps and companies that have become vastly popular. Due to the popularity that the Oculus Rift enjoyed, it was probably only a matter of time till the headset became part of the Facebook brand. Some major names in the games industry have also voiced their concerns due to the sale – Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson commenting on Twitter that ‘We were in talks about maybe bringing a version of Minecraft to Oculus. I just cancelled that deal. Facebook creeps me out ‘. It seems that the possibility of an official Minecraft version enabled with Oculus Rift has been shot out of the
“I don’t think it’s gonna be a big market. It sounds interesting, but I don’t think there will be enough content to justify making the capital investment … I think it’s chicken and egg”. water. Not only is the Oculus Rift now faced with the challenge of keeping its initial backers on side but a new challenger has risen to try and knock the Rift off of its proverbial pedestal. Sony has recently entered the fray with its own take on a virtual reality headset, named Project Morpheus. As of now, it appears to be the Rift’s only main rival in the market despite the fact that it is simply a prototype for now. Project Morpheus certainly sports a more sleek and pleasant design, as opposed to the currently still rather awkward looking Oculus Rift. The rival headset also has a jump start, considering the fact that it is a Sony product – no doubt that if the company completes the new hardware in due course, then it will be compatible with the Playstation 4. This way, Sony will be able to stretch its reach to both console and PC gamers. With the right funding and pushing, the giant could possibly market this as the new way to experience 3D films on their own brand of televisions. Since Sony has shown that its latest venture will be in virtual reality headsets, it is a strong possibility that Microsoft
may jump onto the bandwagon in order to compete with Sony, rather than the Oculus. Though a very good point was brought forward by US analyst Michael Pachter in an interview with MCV UK over the move by Sony: “I don’t think it’s gonna be a big market. It sounds interesting, but I don’t think there will be enough content to justify making the capital investment … I think it’s chicken and egg. If there’s no content you’re not gonna buy a virtual reality headset, and if you don’t buy a virtual reality headset, there won’t be any content, because no one will make a dedicated game for a very small audience.” Despite this, the future appears to look bright for the world of virtual reality technology. Time will only tell whether it will indeed make a significant on our society and the market place.
Caitlin S Garden
An interview with... Alex Grau
Immersion is the New Innovation: The 360° film developer talks to us about the success of the Oculus Rift, his current projects and his plans for the future of technology With the growing development for such headsets such as the Oculus Rift, third parties have begun to rise up to offer their own take on what to do with this new technology. Each has their own agenda and goal but it is their interest in the idea of virtual reality being an upcoming phenomenon in the technology market that has sparked inspiration. One such innovator is Alex Grau, a software and hardware engineer who has worked closely with the Oculus headset to produce content for his work in Total Cinema 360. Amidst the buzz over virtual reality development, Alex was able to express what his strategy for the company was. ‘“At Total Cinema 360, we produce 360 degrees video content for virtual reality headsets. We use a camera that can record video from every direction so that when a person puts on a virtual reality headset, they can look around the scene, just like looking around a room. This is the same technology used in Google Street View, except it records a video rather than pictures. These 360 videos can be a movie, an interactive game, or liveevent recording, meaning our content lies somewhere between film, theatre and a video game.” To be able to envision the core idea of filming a 360 may not have seemed important a few years ago. However, the positive response towards the Oculus Rift headset has proven that this is indeed a section in the market that consumers would be happy to spend their money on. Building this new revelation takes time, money and effort. It is similar to producing a block buster that has had a lot of hype to its production and making sure that the final production lives beyond the expectations of those following the progress. Each shot in a film takes a lot of planning from scripting to rehearsing with the actors and the editing process itself. As if filming a simple scene wasn’t hard enough, Alex explains that filming with the intention of viewing through a headset can
make the task even more challenging. “Like other videos, we have to come up with the concept, write a script and shoot the scenes. However, for each shot, we have to think about aspects that most content doesn't: where does the camera go so it hides the wires, how do we light the scene, how will this look to a person watching on a headset, etc. We also cannot rely on previous editing tricks, like jump-cuts, so we have to write a whole new book on cinematography.” Not just anyone can develop such complex technology on day one. To be able to understand all the programming, editing and planning needed for a scheme such as this, hard work and dedication is a must have. To have a basic understanding of how a computer works is one matter but to be able to devote large amounts of time to simply understanding the intricate workings of a machine shows a real passion for technology. With six years of experience working in New York City, Alex had a strong passion for computers and technology from a young age. “I have been interested in computers and technology most of my life. Since I was young, my parents always had a Mac in the house and I wanted to be in front of it at all times, trying to figure out how it works. In high school, I took computer science courses and began writing software and games. From there, I went to NYU for computer science and started conducting research in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) with Professor Ken Perlin. Before and after graduation, I worked for the NYC start-ups Touchco, which was acquired by Amazon, and Tactonic, which were both pressure imaging technologies (when you touch a surface, it can detect where you are touching and how hard).” Having an established fascination with technology is a
helpful platform to start from when trying to form a new brand or concept in the technology market. It is a rather unique area of development and progress as there is always the urge to create something new that will certainly capture the attention of the masses. Just like all technology developers at this time, Alex has highlighted what he would love to develop in the future thanks to what he has learned. “After Virtual Reality takes off, I would like to work on Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI). At the moment, the technology is far from ready but in the next two decades, the technology should become a viable product for consumer release. At that point, you could move around a scene and perform actions without having to move your body or use a controller.” After the recent success of Oculus, the device with humble beginnings has now been acquired by the social media site Facebook. This has sparked some mixed opinions, some of the initial patrons who backed the original Oculus Rift Kickstarter complaining that they were used just to swiftly produce a product to be sold to a larger company. Others have suggested that the online giant was the worst possible partner for the development for the Oculus, simply because they were buying out something that could potentially be competition. However as Alex points out, Facebook’s interest in the virtual reality headset can only mean that it is not just a fad that will quickly fade. “After the Facebook acquisition of Oculus, I would say this is great news for developers in virtual reality (VR). The Facebook acquisition has validated that the future will include VR, whether it is Oculus, Project Morpheus or some unre-
leased VR headset. Personally, I am sceptical of the Facebook control of Oculus but I will withhold final judgement until the consumer product is released.” Despite this scepticism for the future of Oculus under the banner of Facebook, Total Cinema 360 hopes to help others realise their dream of creating 360 videos. With a team fully trained in cinematography, directing and even sound engineering they are highly capable of making the 360 video viewing experience readily available to the masses. Alex is especially excited for further development with Total Cinema 360 in terms of future videos to showcase their expertise in cinematography and virtual reality. “We have been working on a Virtual Reality Web Series concept for a few months now and have just finished filming the first episode. We plan to release the trailer in early April and the first episode in late April. We want to show off what is possible with 360 video for VR. We are also working on VR films and games that will be released in the months and years ahead.” Whether the future of virtual technology will remain solely with the progress of the Oculus is as of now unclear. The baton may be passed to another name and brand, but the fact is clear that in an age where we are pushing our limits, we may indeed shatter the glass ceiling blocking our path. It is indeed an exciting time for developers and engineers alike.
Caitlin S Garden
Total Cinema 360 Oculus Rift footage
Best Apps for Musicians
Proxy have put together a list of the top 10 affordable apps musicians must have
a musician can be hard work, especially if you hold down a job as well as play music, so it’s B eing best to stay organised as best you can. Proxy have put together a list of apps that can help musicians and music lovers alike keep the music alive when the world doesn’t give them the time to pick up and play.
There are a huge number of apps targeted towards musicians on both the iPhone’s App Store and Android’s Play Store, but we’ve managed to skim it down to 10 apps you might want to have to stay in tune with your musical efforts.
One of the best offerings for iOS (as it comes bundled with most of Apple’s products) is this easy to use and versatile music-making app. Whereas before you would have had to buy expensive ProTools and its add-ons, now GarageBand gives anyone an opportunity to make some music using the sampled instruments or even plug in your guitar and use the on-board effects, all for much less than it’s more complicated and expensive competitors. What’s more, you can upload your creations straight to iTunes.
Guitar and bass players may find iRig for iOS much more to their tastes. Currently one of the best apps around for guitarists, the high price tag (starting at around £25) is well justified, as you get thousands of pre-programmed sounds from the likes of Hendrix, but without the thousands of pounds’ worth of vintage gear to buy. You get an adapter to plug your guitar straight into your iProduct to use the free bundled app ‘AmpliTube’, giving you more options than what your bank balance would be able to if you were to buy the real music gear instead of the iRig, it’s a price worth paying if you want a great guitar sound.
This add-on for iRig comes as a free download on the App Store, and is a valuable addition to your iProduct. As well as the free features, for around £15 you can add to the already surprisingly large list of effects and other bits and pieces it has to offer. The app has a number of amps to choose from as well as many guitar pedals which aren’t at all far from the real thing, but are admittedly not carbon copies either. However, considering you spend much, much less for the digital versions, it may be something to look into if you’re on a budget.
Another great music app is SoundCloud, which is similar to Spotify but is totally free. What’s more, you can discover great local artists and unsigned bands due to the use of hashtags and categorisation of the music on it, so you can search for bands and genres near you if you like supporting local music. Also for the bands themselves, accounts are free to make and uploading music is easy – it just takes as much effort as anywhere else to build up your fan base.
Spotify is one of the most well known music services right now, giving people access to millions of songs and artists and all for free too, but there’s a catch – you need to listen to ads, and can’t save playlists. What can also be annoying is that the free version only works over Wi-Fi or 3G/4G. Couple that with an intermittent internet signal when out and about and very quickly the buffering can get annoying when all you want to do is listen to some of your favourite jams. Alternatively, you can upgrade to Spotify Premium: for £10/month - or £4.99 if you’re a student - you can get Spotify totally ad-free, with the option to listen to your music in higher quality (which can make a surprising difference) and also download it locally to your device to listen to it when you can’t get an internet signal. It’s also contract free, so you can cancel anytime if you don’t feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.
Similar to the classifieds on Gumtree, Bandfriend is perfect for those looking to jam or start a band. Purpose built for this, you can showcase your work, message other musicians you’d like to jam with and showcase your work. It’s integrated with SoundCloud and YouTube, so you don’t need to go through the whole ordeal of uploading your tracks into separate apps, just link your accounts and you’re finished. You can also search by genre and post, comment and like on other musician’s profiles. It is social media for musicians, and has a lot of potential to become a great asset for musicians all over the world.
gStrings is a free tuner for Android devices, and something which all musicians should have if they don’t already. It’s a versatile app and allows for not just guitarists but also woodwind, brass and piano players to be able to tune their instruments too. Using the phone’s microphone, it measures the pitch in Hz, giving the users a very accurate reading and as such near-perfect tuning only matched by more expensive and purpose-built tuners. You can upgrade to an ad-free version for £1, but this isn’t really needed as it doesn’t hamper the use of the app.
If you ever find yourself forgetting to take your USB stick or memory card around with you, Dropbox is absolutely essential. It’s free and allows you to access files from anywhere as long as you’ve got an internet connection, so it’s handy if you arrive at the studio without the demos of your latest song or even the lyrics you typed out on the bus that just came to you, sending them to Dropbox means they’re not going to get lost anytime soon and it’s no biggie if you forgot to bring that CD. There are alternatives to Dropbox too, such as the Cloud and Google Drive (which comes as standard on Android phones or is a free download from the Play Store) so for the forgetful out there, you’re covered if you choose one of these.
A lot of musicians will understand the annoyance of coming up with a great idea one day only to forget it the next, especially if it’s potentially going to be your next new song. With Waverecorder you can record all your music with just a tap and also pause in the middle of recording, with the only time limit being when you run out of memory. It saves the file directly to your device (which you could then put on Dropbox or the Cloud) and what’s even better than this is that it’s free.
Although a tad unusual, Gumtree has proven invaluable to many musicians looking to buy and sell instruments, look for bands, advertise for new musicians and get gigs. For those looking for new equipment on a budget and don’t mind second hand, Gumtree is the best place to look, as it’s usually quite cheap and face-to-face exchanges are the norm so it’s usually safer than eBay when you’re spending a considerable amount on something, and it eliminates the risk of being lost or damaged when shipping. Also, there are classifieds for people looking for bands to join, people to jam with and even some students will advertise free recording, photos or videos that they can use for their coursework and you can use for promotion. It’s a versatile place, and it can be extremely handy if you don’t mind checking it every day or so for something that tickles your fancy.
Will Amazon Enter The Smartphone Arena?
Rumours over the shipping company entering the smartphone market increase In the market of smartphones, it is all about innovation and progress. Smart products are produced at an amazing pace and there is more competition between brands. However, there are some companies that have smart products but not in all areas. This is the case of Amazon; on which many people have been speculating that after the runaway success of Kindle Fire tablet they will produce their own brand of Smartphone to go alongside the appointed Kindle. In October of last year, a report from the Financial
Times published that Amazon and HTC were working about developing three new phones, all of them likely to be devices that were Amazon-branded. Although both companies have denied any rumours, the report noted that the devices were in the closing stage of production and planning to launch them in 2014. According to the rumours the company will release their first smartphone in 2014 in three to six months and it will have six cameras, like the Googleâ€™s phone Project Tango project with 3D depth sensors and cameras. Despite the vast quantity of cameras that both products would have, an Ama-
zon smartphone cannot be compare to Google's Project Tango. This is because it will utilize cameras to digitally map indoor spaces to aid navigation services, while an Amazon smartphone would possibly be just another smart device from the US Company but also with 3D cameras. Some of the rumours come from KGI Securities Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who predicts the product release dates in various interviews. He declared Amazon will present the smartphone before the end of this year. To do it, Amazon will use the same hardware used with Kindle e-readers and Kindle Fire tablets. About the smartphone Kuo said that they ‘estimate that the required components will amount to 700k-1.2mn
Google’s Project Tango
units and assembly to 300-600k units’. Apart from the other five cameras, one is in the front for video chats and the other four will be used for gesture control. Kuo says ‘Amazon will have a 13-megapixel main camera sensor made by Sony. All of them will be able to recognize its user as a 3D object’. Kuo has been fairly reliable when it comes to such predictions as this in regards to upcoming ideas, but as of now it is not entirely confirmed as fact. Last year there was also a report from TechCrunch that stated Amazon would create two phones: a cheaper model and another version with system 3D images and the ability to enable eye tracking. Other sources from The Information asserted the first Amazon Kindle phone could be the “Project Area”, aimed at emerging markets. In their report they also mentioned that the Amazon phone would be free as some of the Kindle models are offered at a discount and sometimes the price of their hardware is cheap. However the idea of a ‘free phone’ was swiftly debunked by Amazon themselves. In a quote in regards to the idea of a smartphone, they stated that while they would not confirm whether they were indeed working on a smartphone, it would certainly not be free if they did. Other sources have also given their own opinions about the possibility of an Amazon smart phone. Asked about the differences of the new phone Zach Epstein, Executive Editor at BGR, stated on their site: “Amazon’s upcoming flagship phone looks much like any other touch screen phone on the market. But the company has spent years creating a unique and, at times, novel user experience that has two main focuses: Amazon products and services, and a custom 3D interface unlike anything we have seen before on a smartphone”. There are a lot of possibilities that Amazon will indeed launch a new phone in a few months but despite all the rumours consumers will have to wait for the company to confirm it or at least wait three more months to see if the rumours say the market will have Amazon Kindle smartphones at the end of 2014.
Amazon Phone Mock up
Robotic Girlfriend Will the increasing rate of synthetic relationships have a knock on effect on society?
Director Spike Jonze releases ‘Her’ and non human-human relationships are on the increase. Will relationships with technology become a social norm?
Technology is advancing faster now than is ever has and this is opening a lot of doors for the human race. It allows us to improve in the medical field, the sporting field and just in general life. However, a group of individuals around the world are excited about the advances for entirely different reasons. These people look forward to the day where they can have a fully operational robotic partner, as opposed to engaging in a real life relationship with another human. A similar situation was covered in the recent film release ‘Her’ from director Spike Jonzes. In the film the main character Theodore, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, buys a new OS (operating system) and is intrigued when it starts to develop a consciousness and a personality. Shortly after downloading the OS onto his various technological devices the system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, names herself Samantha and they begin to form a friendship. The most striking element of the film is that despite clearly being set in the future with tech far more advanced and streamlined than ours, the characters behave and dress as we do now. It makes it easy to forget the narrative is set in a
futuristic city; the characters are relatable with realistic struggles and problems. Namely that Theodore is still suffering after the breakdown of his marriage. Therefore the viewer grows to understand when he begins the actual romantic relationship with his OS. She can talk back, gives him her opinions and support and takes an interest in his life and what he does. The only downfall being that she doesn’t have a physical form. It’s easy to see why someone lonely and emotionally scarred would fine solace and love in such a thing. However, humans can form emotional connections easily and the film ends on a rather sad note with a stark reminder that Samantha is still a computer based system. Many other people possess a version of her and that all these versions originate and are generated from the same source. Therefore, her emotions and feelings aren’t exclusively reserved for him alone. The way this film has been put across nearly makes the relationship and situation seem normal; his friends are indifferent to his synthetic relationship and interact with Samantha as though she is human. The viewer leaves thinking that the whole idea isn’t that out of
the realms of possibility if the tech was available now.
memory”. This in itself is a worrying concept, if some-
stream. This raises the question that if a robot could
partner if they didn’t consent to the others will or tried
The idea is almost made more, dare we say it, mainbe created with its own individual consciousness,
thoughts and feelings and be made to look as hu-
manoid as possible, would it really be that different? Advocates of synthetic relationships believe it would
be better. Being in a synthetic relationship means the human has more control, if they don’t feel like tack-
ling relationship drama, they can simply turn it off. If
they don’t feel like they want to deal with another person’s feelings or emotions, they can just switch them off. While they may see this as a bonus, it is also in-
herently unrealistic, humans cannot be turned off and the progression of a healthy human mind isn’t made
by someone who
can just switch of
problems and sit-
uations they don’t
one were to claim their desire to do this to a human to leave them, people would be concerned by what clearly appeared to be dark intentions. Good thing
Alice doesn’t have an actual consciousness yet. No need to worry though, Zoltan claims he wouldn’t re-
turn to regular human relationships, as they are “biological and messy”. However, synthetic love doesn’t
come cheap, Alice cost Zoltan $200 and that doesn’t count upgrades. She knows enough phrases to re-
spond to questions he asks her, but is far away from
having her own conscious thought. He remains positive that the technology for a fully functional robot
woman isn’t far off being readily available soon and he will be first in
"Humans are so biological and messy,"
want to deal with.
line to upgrade
Alice into a fully
Another man who
believes in this is
One man pushing the progression of synthetic love is
40-year-old Davecat. Davecat has become some-
name Zoltan for anonymity and his website, Zoltan's
calls, an “iDollator”. He has done various interviews
a mysterious man from Georgia. He goes by the
Lab, offers a detailed how to guide on creating your
own robotic partner. Zoltan himself has three ‘robotic’ dolls; Alice is his wife, Kiri he has dubbed as a sex
slave and Hal is a male robot created to lure women
into the synthetic love lifestyle. Having tailor made
‘personalities’ in a chat log on his computer creates
his robots; his computer is then connected to a
teledildonic device, which allows him to have a sex-
ual relationship with his wife.
He first created Alice due to his nervousness around
progressing onto having sex with his previous human
partners and now no longer considers himself a virgin
due to his wife. He says that his relationship is ideal;
if anything goes wrong then he can merely “erase her
what of a celebrity off the back of being, what he
and television appearances on the topic and runs a blog that revolves around the synthetic relationship
world and the developments within it. When he thinks back to his youth, he thinks his obsession with dolls
began then, when he went shopping with his mother
as a child he would become fascinated with the store mannequins but didn’t understand what it meant for
him until he tried to become involved with human females later in life. After the failed experiences with
what he calls “organic lass’s” he was pointed in the
direction of a Realdoll site. Realdolls are hyper realistic, anatomically correct dolls of humans made with
silicone to give the illusion of soft human skin. He initially purchased his doll to be a sex doll but shortly
after receiving her, he fell in love and has now been
Davecat and Sidore with her for ten years. Her name is Sidore and he
aware that Sidore isn’t real and says: “As long as you
knows she can’t see or hear but will still come home
now considers her his wife. He does admit that he
and tell her about his day and show her pictures if he
have one foot in reality then it’s a perfectly normal sit-
goes on holiday as though she can, like “any other
After it was deduced that he was perfectly sane and
life with Sidore, she makes him happy, even though
the average person doesn’t understand people like
couple would do”. He enjoys and feels fulfilled in his she cannot do anything or interact with him, and really what harm is that doing anyone?
Despite his aversion to going out in public with Sidore for fear of physical or verbal abuse his contradictory
openness via the media about his relationship lead to
an appearance on TLC’s ‘My Strange Addiction’ in
2011. A then 37 year old, Davecat had a meeting with
a psychiatrist to assess his mental state. During the
session he was quizzed on various aspects of his re-
lationship including why he chose it over a human
one. He responded with: “After a day of interacting
with other people, I don’t want to have to come home
and deal with peoples inconsistencies.” He also
stated that he is “easily discouraged” and doesn’t like
having to pursue human women. However, he is fully
not creating too many waves he went on to insist that him, simply because it’s out of their realm of possibility. He also said: “I think it’s just a matter of time be-
fore more people are choosing the synthetic option.”
Like Zoltan, Davecat is aiming to the standards set in ‘Her’, a synthetic woman you can interact with. For
Davecat, he wants technology to advance enough to give him a fully capable gynoid version of Sidore. A
gynoid is a robotic being that pertains to the female
form and has more realistic features than an android.
He aims for this because he would like a fully interactive relationship with his wife and be able to take her out in public without feeling threatened.
While people like Zoltan and Davecat are not doing any harm, in some places this
“With technological developments, there are more opportunities for people to experience a virtual reality - and one that can offer a different type of experience to that available in real life. So, is it any wonder that some people prefer to live in a virtual world, than in the real?” lifestyle has become an epidemic. Recently, in Japan, birth rates began to drop and the culprit appeared to be a Nintendo DS game that allowed the player to have a virtual girlfriend. Men in Japan became so obsessed with the game that they couldn’t fathom why they would need women around anymore. Not when they could have one that “didn’t complain”. When asked their immediate response was that she was better because she done exactly what they wanted. Dr Gary Tanner, a clinical psychologist, spoke to us about the increase in synthetic and virtual relationships and how they could affect humans and society, and he said: “If virtual reality, and virtual relationships, develops to the point where people prefer those worlds rather than the real world, then there could be cause for concern for the future of human relationships. There are, for example, virtual reality technologies that allow someone to experience the visual, and tactile world, of a simulated relationship. The "partner" who does all that you want, and stops when you ask her/him to do so...this is a fantasy that many people already have in their human relationships. Why would people not want the same, and more, from a virtual relationship?”
However, virtual relationships aren’t the only problem. In 2010 a couple in South Korea were found guilty of starving their baby to death while they played an addictive online game based around raising a virtual child. The husband, a 41-year-old taxi driver, and his 25-yearold wife were sentenced to two years in prison. However, the woman's term was suspended because she was pregnant at the time. The couple played the virtual game at Internet cafes on average 10 hours every day and bottle-fed their baby rotten formula only once a day, which lead to its death from malnutrition. Obviously this is an extreme case and the majority of people involved in similar games or relationships don’t take it this far and despite this, Dr Tanner doesn’t think that these relationships are entirely a bad thing. He thinks for some people with social or behavioural difficulties they could be like a stepping stone to real relationships: “people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can have difficulties in forming relationships, that have much to do with the difficulties they experience in their use of appropriate social skills, behaviours, communication skills, etc. A virtual relationship might, for instance, evoke less anxiety for someone with ASD and, it could be argued, also serve to model the behaviours
and interaction required for developing a relationship with a human. Other types of psychological difficulties, such as social anxiety, may also be lessened in a synthetic relationship. There would, for example, be much less fear and anxiety around saying or doing the wrong thing, and thereby being "judged" for their behaviours. Of course, where a synthetic relationship was sufficiently realistic, one might see the same levels of anxiety as would be expected in a human relationship.” However, he does state, linking back to Davecat, that people who think they’re more advanced for pursuing a synthetic relationship are probably only seeking a different kind of stimulation and may feel isolated. That doesn’t mean they are being hindered by their own ideology though: “I don't believe that developing synthetic relationships need necessarily be seen as hindering growth. It depends on how it is used. It may actually enhance the ability to have relationships for some. For others, a synthetic relationship may actually work against developing a human relationship - where someone may have very unrealistic expectations from a human relationship based on their experiences/desires/demands in a virtual relationship. Can the human live up to the synthetic ideal?” Dr Tanner’s insight into the minds of these people offers a more three dimensional view of why they choose this. While it may be different to the norm and a bit off
the wall in general terms, it doesn’t immediately mean it’s a strange fetish. Sometimes it’s a deeper-rooted issue than that. When we finally asked for his opinion on this growing phenomenon, Dr Tanner said: “I think that there are advantages for people who, through mental or physical difficulties, find it difficult to form human relationships. They may be assisted, with experience in a virtual realm, to go on to have productive human relationships. Alternatively, there are those who would always choose the virtual, given the greater control that can be exercised in such a relationship. With technological developments, there are more opportunities for people to experience a virtual reality - and one that can offer a different type of experience to that available in real life. So, is it any wonder that some people prefer to live in a virtual world, than in the real?” Overall, it may not be what the general population are accustomed to but it looks set to continue to be a growing trend. While it may grow to have some knock on effects of society, should it become popular, at the moment it’s merely personal choice. People in synthetic relationships are happy and fulfilled with what they have, and who knows? Maybe one day in the far future robots and humans will mingle without issue. Only time will tell.
The Rapid Ascent of Smart Technology 10 devices that could potentially improve your life.
You only need to have a smartphone and wireless connection at your home to be able to control your devices from anywhere. Smart Technology products are increasingly expanding in people’s life. They make common things that people already do in their current life so much simpler. The only difference is that these types of products help people more efficiently. The concept of this is focusing on providing specific devices with a logic programming that respond rationally under a stimulus on its sensors. Each of these devices has a microprocessor that analyses the sensor data and responds based on the programming that has been loaded in it as parameters. When we think of smart technology we automatically think of the iPhone, computers, TV’s and appliances but there are other devices not as known. Here are ten devices that could potentially improve your life. One of the most known is the Google Glass, a wearable computer that Google developed in order to display information in a smartphone but with a hands free format that could also access the Internet via voice commands. The first model was available to testers and Google developers in the US in 2013 however the consumer version will be available some time in 2014. The glasses will have several designs in order to offer different deals and designs. With that device people can do the same things that they control by their phone but without using their hands and thus free up their time. Smartphone technology is always looking for ways to improve all the devices but also to improve peo-
ple’s life. CellScope – ISO2 is a smartphone that helps a patient to control their treatment and enables communication with their doctor. The phone has a small lens which functions as a microscope to analyse blood samples. With the camera phone, the patient can send high-resolution images of these samples to detect diseases. As a result, doctors can work without being physically with the patient as they can now monitor their own health. It’s better for the patient because they don’t have to be with the doctor and they can become more informed about their health. This in turn can help the doctor because he can focus on looking for the best care instead of collecting data. Another form of health tracking is the Tinké, a device based on cardiorespiratory health and stress. All you have to do is connect it to your smartphone and while holding the device, Tinké can provide measurements like heart rate and blood oxygen levels. It also can keep track of treatment. LG Smart ThinQ is a new line of appliances for the kitchen to cook, clean and keep the food fresh. Through your phone you can control your appliances anywhere with the phone application and smart phone commands. Thus, you can change the start time of wash cycles, the temperature of your oven, check the food in your refrigerator and even more. The app also helps to keep a smart diagnosis of your devices or solutions when you have any problem.
Something similar to Google Glass are the smart watches, which are comparable to a personal digital assistant (PDA) device. Early models could only do basic tasks such as calculations, translations and game-playing but modern smart watches have become wearable computers. They have the same function as a normal watch but include phone features such as a camera, calculator, GPS navigation, touch screen and scheduler.
also programme them to fit a specific schedule.
Little Printer is another new smart gadget. It is a product for your desk that prints news, puzzles and updates from your friends that you can control via a smartphone app. A good way to create paper waste and also reduce the time you could spend on the computer.
Smart Air Conditioners would be a solution for the hot days in summer. Some brands are currently exploiting this area and creating apps to connect to their devices. It helps you to maintain the right temperature for your home. With the app in your phone you can program and control it from anywhere and also turn it off from you smartphoneâ€™s GPS settings.
Another type of smart technology in the works is the idea of smart houses. It connects devices and electronic domestics of the home in order to control them in any way that you want. With it, controlling the devices in your home will be easy because you can modify this how you want. The smartphone, the computer or even simple e-mails can control some of them. An advantage of it is that everyone can have smart home devices because the products are connected in your home through a wireless connection. A downside of this though is that hackers could potentially control the databases and information, but smart houses have already developed systems to protect privacy. Philips Hue is the latest LG Smart Bulb that can be categorized as a smart home device as it solves the problem of lighting. Through a wireless system of connected multi-colour LED bulbs, people can control the lights by their iPhone or iPad and can
Something already popular in the market is the smart TV. It is a convergence between computers and televisions with a mixture of Internet and Web 2.0 features along with normal television settings. This allows viewers to search videos, movies and content from the Internet while watching a traditional broadcast TV channel as well.
Motion-Activated Webcams have the capacity to keep your home secure, as they will notify your smartphone if something suspicious happens in or outside your home. Cameras are connected to a memory storage device that can keep record of what is happening when they are triggered. This way the service helps to track criminals and keep your home safe from intruders and thieves. The future of the smart technology is certainly guaranteed to be interesting. You only need to have a smartphone and wireless connection at your home to be able to control your devices from anywhere.
Zap Happy Presenting the Zapcoder App
There is a deep-seated perception in society that computer programming isn’t perhaps the most exciting of activities. In fact many seem to believe quite the opposite and view programming as being an activity exclusive to the ‘geekiest’ 1% of us! Roger Dunbar, creator of Zapcoder, hopes that this perception is about to become a thing of the past as the launch of his revolutionary app aims to make programming accessible and engaging for the masses. The basic concept behind Zapcoder (which will be known as Zap) is a platform allowing users to create games and other content using basic computer programming on their Smartphone or tablet. Once the user has created a game (or something similar) he/she is encouraged to share it using Facebook, Twitter and many other sites on the World Wide Web. Dunbar (who is based in Glasgow) left behind a fruitful career as a media and technology lawyer in order to pursue his dream of making programming fun and universal. Zap's founder has been an avid programmer since the tender age of twelve and has plied his trade with the help of a number of different languages and formats. Roger explained that the overriding principal of Zap is simplicity, “keeping it as simple as possible will engage our market, I want people to appreciate the art that is programming”. One of the key concepts of Zap is the fact that it will be used primarily on Smartphones, as this is clearly the best way to interact with the mass market as ap-
proximately two out of three Brits now own one. Roger conceded that the Smartphone has limitations as far as programming is concerned. “The size of the screen does put up certain barriers but I think we've managed an interesting balance between simplicity and complexity. If you're interested in programming you can do some quite incredible things, if not you can still knock out a game and have a bit of fun”. Zap's business model takes inspiration from the success of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Roger confessed to being particularly impressed with the ethos and general set-up of Instagram as well. In a previous interview he praised the fact that any user can upload a picture to the site and “have it not look terrible”. He draws parallels between this and Zap in that his app will allow anyone with an idea to create something original using the tools he provides. Like these giants of the social media game, Zap will be free to download and will generate its revenue from advertising and the option for the user to purchase additional content and add-ons. As mentioned earlier on, once a Zap user creates a game they then have the opportunity to share it with the online community. This aspect of the app is one that is particularly interesting and somewhat unique. Once a game has been shared, other users are able to tweak it in order to make it fit their own specifications (a 'remix' of sorts). Much of the app's emphasis is on creation and development of the programs, this is why a game's history can be traced back. This ensures accreditation to everyone who has had an input on its development. You may be getting the impression that this app will materialise as something of a gimmick or that (like many other apps) it will be forgotten about within 12 months of its launch. This is a fate of which Roger is very wary of, he highlighted that the key to avoiding this was mobility. He made it clear that although the initial launch would be geared towards smart phones, Zap has been created in such a way that its concept can be easily transferred to new developments such
as Google Glass, Smartwatches and the Oculus Rift. At the rate technology is currently advancing, this could prove an invaluable trait. “This is not an app that we're releasing and then going to forget about, we're hoping this will stand the test of time”. Roger was keen to get across that he is by no means a one-man band. The Zapcoder team encompasses a number of full-time workers including graphics designers, researchers and various producing roles. Roger has built himself a team of fresh-faced, motivated youngsters who seem to be passionate about Zap's future. The app has been developed in conjunction with Plany's Cloud Ltd, a Dunfermline based company who help with the creation and launch of projects such as this. Roger also asks that credit be afforded to institutions such as Strathclyde University (where he attained his law degree) and in particular University of the West of Scotland. He insisted that UWS had been the first body he had approached with his idea. “I knew Daniel Livingstone (a Computing Lecturer) from way back. They helped me build up a proof of concept... they helped get the idea off the ground and for that I'm very grateful”. Zap is due for release in the summer of 2014 and is becoming the focus of increasing interest from investors and technology focussed minds the length and breadth of the country (and increasingly from overseas in recent weeks). Roger's main concern is creating an app which is simple and enjoyable to use. “We are totally focussed on our users' experiences and requirements, the key is to give them something simple, if we manage that I think we could be onto something special” Zapcoder Ltd are continually looking to expand their team and are particularly interested in employing women and older people who they feel are underrepresented in the industry.
Creating a DIY Studio
What will you need to start recording from home?
There are many aspiring artists out there who are thinking about recording their own music. The first step is to stop thinking and do.
Digital Multitrack Recorder
While getting into a studio and paying to get a song recorded is fine, it doesn’t have that personal touch that you’re looking for. Let’s be honest, to get a single song recorded costs an arm and a leg. But what if you want to record an album or even two? Your best option is to go ahead and make a studio in the comfort of your own home and on a budget. If you want to create a recording studio in your own home there are a few steps you should take. First you should choose a room for your home studio, if you have a spare room or even a closet with a plug socket then you are ready to rumble but it is impor-
tant make sure that your equipment can fit in your studio. Covering your walls with egg cartons and heavy blankets is a time-honored trick used by many studios to reduce sound reflection and deaden the sound. Now you’re looking for a quick and easy way to jump right into recording. The home studio solution of choice is the stand-alone digital multitrack recorder (MTR). A MTR is used to isolate different sounds in a single recording so there is no need to worry if your studio isn’t too quiet. Almost every digital multitrack recorder also includes onboard FX, which allows you to add effects to your recordings so you can start your rough mix even as you record. If you plan to
record outside of your home studio then it is very useful to have some handheld digital recorders, these could very useful to some of your projects but you can get along without them. The next step is to equip your studio. There are different dos and don’ts when it comes to sound technology so let’s take you through the dos. There are quite a number of brands but how do you know which to choose? It depends on what exactly you want to do, take recording music for example. In order to record a song you need several pieces of equipment - you will need amplifiers, microphones, mixers, electric instruments and cables for connecting it all together. A modern computer built or purchased within the past three years should be sufficient. You should try and acquire a working highquality soundcard, such as an M-Audio Fast Track Pro or DigiDesign Mbox 2 Mini. Creative Labs does have a Pro Music line called EMU, the better the
Lee recommends “the M-Audio Studiophile BX8a's, KRK RP-8 Rokit, and if you've got money to burn, the Mackie HR824 Studio monitors”. If you're into hip hop, techno, or dance music, a set of turntables will be needed to record your sets or scratches on the fly. A midi keyboard will be useful if you want to use midi software (which you can use to write bass lines, piano parts and drum beats) nothing fancy is needed, but each person will have their own preference. Last but not least you will need some editing software. If you are investing in an Mbox then the best idea would be to also invest a little bit more money into pro tools which in our humble opinion are one of the best editing software programs around but if getting pro tools is too tight on the wallet then Lee suggests “the best software would be Pro Tools and the Focurite Scarlett 2i2 as an interface. As for speakers and headphones to complete your system, that's a personal choice but Tannoy and Genelec are highly recommended in the industry.” Of course there is always some software you should stay away from and this is always something people struggle with, although according to Lee it is difficult to determine which ones to avoid. “Where one person loves Pro Tools for being such a complete system like me, another might hate it for being so complicated. Many in the audio business have said that Cakewalk's Sonar systems have been really buggy and have poor support. That can all change with the new X3 the brought out last year”
1212M PCI system soundcard the better the sound. We asked independent sound technician Lee Adams for his expert opinion on the subject. “If you were going to go that route then I suggest a 1212M PCI system (digital audio system). Monitor speakers are helpful if you are looking to stick with this for more than a hobby.” Of course you are going to need an audio interface, after all no one wants to record in old quality. No of course not! We want high quality so what do we use?
Now your room is almost ready to rock and roll, you should pick up some mic stands and spare cables, you never know when you’re going to need them and you do not want to be stuck if you run out. Now that you have your studio locked and loaded, you are more than ready to start recording. Once you have your recordings the next step is to get your clips ready for others to hear. You now have a functioning studio that is capable of creating high quality recordings on a budget in your own home.
The Internets’ Currency An Overview of Bitcoin
With almost three quarters of us accessing the internet every day, you would think that a currency that calls cyberspace its home would be a fairly well known institution, but that is rather on the contrary. Hidden just under the surface of the internet there is a wealth that could put some small countries to shame. However, for many, Bitcoin means absolutely nothing - so why should you be interested in it? Proxy explains how Bitcoin’s rise and fall makes for a fascinating read, even if it does sound like something from a
video game. So what is Bitcoin? In short, Bitcoin is a currency that you can use just like conventional money to buy things. However, you won’t be asking for your pay at the end of the month in bitcoins just yet, as there is a bit more to it than that. Bitcoins are almost entirely digital – you won’t be handing over a 20 bitcoin note to a shopkeeper just yet – and every single transaction is immediately logged, much like a ledger, but
with more detail such as the exact time of the transaction and who owns how many bitcoins. This ‘ledger’ is called the ‘blockchain’ and it can keep track of every single bitcoin in circulation and what transactions are taking place with them. What’s more, there are people who constantly monitor and log these transactions – called miners – ensuring they are processed correctly and above all, safely. In return for their work, they are given a fee (paid in bitcoins) by the merchants and vendors and as an added bonus get physical minted bitcoins to keep. You would be forgiven for thinking that this is some sort of joke or a huge marketing ploy, as even some top economists were sceptical when it first emerged, such as St Louis Fed economist David Andolfatto, who voiced his concerns in an interview with Business Insider magazine: “Early on, I thought, 'This was kind of silly,' and I kind of questioned the role of the miners, these miners who are mining bitcoin... and it struck me that that analogy was incorrect — that in fact what these miners were, was mislabelled. Mining was a red herring; it's just one way to reward record keepers for their service. I do think its existence as a threat [to central banks] is very good: It will discipline the Fed and other central banks to continue to run responsible policies — if they don’t, people could switch to something else.” Even with this, business professionals such as Mr. Andolfatto are still wary about investing money into Bitcoin: “It’s highly speculative — I don't think the average person wants to get in there. If you want to put $10 in to experiment ... but I would not want to put in my life savings. It's usually volatile. You could get lucky, but you'd have to be careful. Let’s see how it evolves.” In fact, Bitcoin is so immense and so complex that it is treated much like the stock market. Many people buy and sell bitcoins in order to try and profit from them, and with an estimated value not far short of £4tn (yes, that’s 4 trillion pounds) of bitcoins in circulation, you can understand why. They have no set value and fluctuate with supply and demand much like other currencies. There is no centralised bank for them, and often retailers just price their goods to what they estimate is fair. This seems to work because the buyer and seller can agree on a price, and there are no hidden charges such as bank charges from chip and pin machines for the retailers, so the price they’ve agreed on is often exactly what they will get. However, Bitcoin does not come without risk. Because of no centralised banks, prices can fluctuate
wildly and without very much warning, meaning you could end up with less fortune than you paid in. Coupled with this is the threat of hacking, because even though it is thought by some to be more secure than paying by credit/debit card, you are unable to retrieve the cash stolen from you if it ever happens. So, if you’ve considered the above and it hasn’t put you off, how would you get started? It’s simpler than you think. Firstly, you need a ‘Bitcoin Wallet’ – a simple piece of software and an associated app that you use exactly as you would a conventional wallet. Once you have this, you can start spending. The most common way of getting bitcoins are through bitcoin exchanges online, where you can exchange local currency into bitcoin, all you need to do is register with an account and your bank details. Once you have your bitcoins and your wallet up and running, the process to actually spend is surprisingly easy. You enter the recipient’s address (their ID to which you send your payment), enter the amount you have to pay, and press send. It really is that simple. The recipient then receives a request for bitcoins in exchange of whatever they’re selling, and that’s the transaction completed, without major fuss or hassle. Recently, however, things have been difficult for Bitcoin. Mt Gox, who were one of the biggest Bitcoin dealers, has filed for bankruptcy and have lost around $500m worth of the currency. What’s more, the trading price has tumbled from almost $1200 to $500 in a year, as more people become aware of its existence and start using it. In addition, countries such as China and Singapore are now beginning to challenge it and are taxing transactions, while Russia have banned it altogether. Japan has not recognised Bitcoin as a currency at all. Whilst you might need to pinch yourself or question the validity of it all given how it has still to hit peak levels of popularity akin to those when the price exploded last year, it has reached a new level in China, where the world’s first Bitcoin ATM has been built and is operational, despite recent crackdowns on trading the virtual currency. For some, it’s still hard to believe that this is a real, fully functioning economy that exists almost exclusively online and that it deals in real, considerably large sums of money which have made some individuals very, very wealthy, but whether or not you would like to take real money out of your pocket and invest in cyberspace, one thing is for sure: you will be hearing much more of bitcoin in the future.
Are we too Dependent on Technology? Has modern living stopped our ability to survive without the gadgets and apps we have become accustomed to?
We seem to have an ever growing obsession with making life faster, easier and more efficient but does this mission of greatness mean we have sacrificed our ability to complete some of the simplest tasks in daily life without the use of technology? It seems that we are using different technology more and more in everyday life. But how much do we actually use technology? Most of us take our technology for granted, from the little things like turning on a light to the bigger and more complicated things like voice activated and touch screen technology. Tech assistant Rebecca Anderson sees this everyday “People are becoming ‘technology zombies’ and some people cannot function without their cars or phones or iPods” Technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes and the fact I that most of us could not go about our days without it. This can mean a huge range of things. Even as I sit here writing, I use the lights, a laptop, I listen to some music on my phone and look up every now and then to see the latest headline of news running along the television. Of course we would all be lost without our mobile phones and laptops, I even sometimes have nightmares about broken Wi-Fi. But it goes further than that what if we could not use the lights? So you just couldn’t read the last chapter of that amazing book you’re on, or what if the elevator was out? So you had to walk what seems like a million steps that it takes to get home.
What if all technology was out of order? We would be lost, having to walk to work or writing a letter to explain to about your cheeky sick day from work when you were working of the tequila from the night before. In fact, not being able to interact in social network sites ironically would make us more sociable. If we weren’t able to send a message to your friends or your auntie Brenda who likes to hear from you every now and then we would be forced to visit them instead of sitting in front of our computers. But there’s more than that, we are all obsessed with the new crazes in technology. Rebecca tells us how tech dependant she is “I use tech every single day most of the time. I use my phone on the way to work. I work with computers all day then go home and watch TV or sit on my phone talking to different people. Thinking about it I use tech nearly every minute of the day. Sleep is the only break I get from technology” Everyday thousands of phones, laptops and gaming consoles are sold. We always want the latest in technology, no matter how good your games console is, as soon as the new model comes out we have a secret urge to spend far too much money on something that isn’t too much different from what we already have.
In some cases this makes for some competition. For example in schools, teenagers badger their parents for the latest mobile phones and tablets and most of the time it isn’t because they want them, it is because it is the ‘cool’ thing to have. Rebecca also sees this a lot “So it is a little unfair for a child or person to demand to have a phone or say they cannot live without a phone because in reality some people do have to live this way. This is putting a bad image on society, we are becoming selfish with our technology and the consumers are expecting bigger and better things.” There is some idea that having the best or most expensive technology makes you a more appealing person or that if you don’t have that new game then it would be social suicide. Although, we didn’t always have all this technology and life was so much simpler. Some people may remember when the best way to get hold of your friends was not to send a quick text but to open your door and shout across the street. Of course this didn’t work long distance but people were happy. Then we have social networking, nowadays people air their dirty laundry on sites such as Facebook and Twitter whereas back when we people didn’t know how to use a keyboard,
people were blissfully ignorant about others problem or thoughts. Even though there are some negative points, technology does make the world run smoothly. People can keep up to date on world news by downloading an app on your phone or turning on your television. We always have a way to communicate with long distance friends and family and what would we do without ATM machines? I know a few people who would be lost without the ability to shop online. Technology helps give us a way to expand our minds and knowledge, with easy access to thousands of sites, articles and journals. And of course with our obsession with new technology, there are thousands of jobs available so that people can design them and create them so that we are able to buy so many of them. So are we too dependent on technology? The answer is probably yes, but that does not necessarily mean it is a bad thing.
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Will this new vision equipment change sport as we know it?
This English Premier League season has been an interesting one in many respects and promises to deliver entertainment for it's millions of fans in it's closing weeks. However, perhaps the primary interest for us technology buffs have been this year's introduction of goal-line technology to aid referees in their decision making. It was announced in April last year that this technology would be introduced to all 380 English top-flight games after discussions and debates on the matter spanning more than a decade. The contract was awarded to Hawk-Eye, a Hampshire based company claiming to be the â€œleading provider of vision processing equipment to sportâ€?. Hawk-Eye is generally used to judge whether a ball has crossed over a line on a filed or court. The contract with the Premier League is not the first for Hawk Eye (although it is believed to be the most lucrative); the company is now represented in several sports including cricket, tennis and Gaelic hurling. The technology was developed and nurtured by Dr Paul Hawkins and was first introduced in 2001 as a broadcast tool for analysis of cricket matches. So, how does this system work I hear you ask! Well, Hawk-Eye works with the help of a number of highresolution cameras (often 6), which are positioned at various angles around the playing area. The cameras work together to predict the statistically most likely path and trajectory of the ball. You may have noticed the use of the words 'predict' and 'most likely' in my last sentence, as you've probably guessed this does mean that Hawk-Eye can be wrong. It is claimed though that the possible margin of error is fairly minuscule at less than 5 millimeters, leading many sporting bodies to accept Hawk-Eye's judgement unconditionally. Hawk-Eye produces a graphic image of the ball's predicted flight, which can then be viewed
by any relevant bodies e.g. line judges, referees or coaches. This process is almost instantaneous which avoids tedious long pauses in play whilst the system is consulted. Despite the small possible margin of error and widespread support, the system has come under some criticism (perhaps understandable in the results driven, cut-throat world of elite sport). The most notable criticism came in the 2008 Wimbledon Tennis Final. Hawk-Eye judged a crucial ball to have left the court by a distance of 1mm. This triggered calls from fans and pundits within the sport that the system was not accurate enough to be used in a sport as precise as tennis. Decision-making and broadcast are not the only uses of this revolutionary system. Increasingly sports coaches are making use of the technology in order to gain an upper hand in improving player performance. Hawk-Eye is used by coaches as an advanced performance analysis tool, which allows them (and their players) to view a performance and identify strengths and weaknesses within this, making it an invaluable coaching tool. The technology is also now becoming increasingly affordable, meaning it is being used more often at grass-roots level for harnessing young talent. In the future Hawk-Eye will continue to refine its system and presumably cut down its already impressively small margin for error. It is likely that the company will continue to gain new contracts and branch-out into further areas of sport. However, they have unfortunately been overlooked for this summer's FIFA World Cup, whose technological goal-line assistance will be provided by GoalControlâ„˘ .
Proxy Reviews... week Proxy tried and tested the This Samsung Galaxy S5, the Google
Nexus 5, Hatsune Miku:Project DIVA F 2nd, ASUS Transformer Book T100 and the new football tech ‘Seven’. All for our readers to get the best of the technology currently available.
Review: Samsung Galaxy S5
Samsung has always been competing in the smartphone market, breaking the norms of what we consider to be contemporary design. With the arrival of the latest Samsung smartphone, the Galaxy S5, the camera and the software is more refined than other phones. The S5 boasts a 16 mega pixel camera which is one of the highest possible on a smartphone like this. It makes the new device one of the best one of all the brands. One of the most notable advances to the Galaxy S5 is that it is water-resistant, which means that you can dunk it for a short time. Why you would be attempting to dunk your new phone in water is another question entirely though. The phone’s new fingerprint scanner is also something interesting but not much different from the iPhone scanner, as it is also slightly finicky to work out. The battery life has also been improved in the new model and the screen is simply stunning to behold. Although the design is very similar to the Samsung S4, the company could perhaps offer the new phone in a lot of different colours in 2015-2016. It would make the phone more personal, but for the moment buyers can only choose from four shades: black (which looks more like a dark grey), blue, gold and white. The gold shade is the least appealing though as the shade of gold appears to be closer to copper than the precious metal. This is among some of the flaws of the new smartphone though as it is not entirely perfect. An-
other one is the internal speaker as although you can handle the top volume the sound is pretty tinny and bass-free. Samsung uses the outer casing as a speaker enclosure and it makes the sound not exactly the best of quality and even a bit annoying on occasion. Even knowing that this is a high-end smartphone, one of the problems with Samsung is that they are still using plastic material instead of premium material. This is due to cut the costs of production and to mass produce the item. It makes Samsung’s phones look lack-lustre, unlike its competitors such as Apple and HTC who are offering their customers more sleek designs. If Samsung want to keep up to speed on design, they will need to invest in a metal chassis in future models as this is the direction smartphones are taking now. Finally, the Galaxy S5 has a heart rate sensor that monitors the changes caused by the circulation of the blood. It takes only eight seconds to do it but actually it is not a new idea since you can already get very similar results with other apps like Runtastic Heart Rate on Android and iPhones. The conclusion here is that once again, Samsung has opted for evolution instead of revolution. How long this will work in Samsung’s favour will only be made relevant by sales.
Review: Google Nexus 5 14MP camera. Also, it protrudes slightly, making it a worry for taking the brunt of a fall from waist height or above. Another criticism is the battery life, which can be short at the best of times and with heavy use (especially games/films where the processor works hard) can make it run from full to flat in two hours, which is disappointing as there’s the constant niggle to be economical with the battery, which can hamper the use of all the great features installed.
The Google Nexus 5, the Android platform’s flag-bearing smart phone, is one of the best on the market today. Boasting a low price tag (£300/16GB, £340/32GB) the Nexus 5 may seem comparable to lower end budget smart phones or older generations of the current front runners, but it is no slouch. The 2.3GHz Snapdragon processor is snappy and with 2GB of RAM it is very, very fast and responsive. In addition to this, the 1080p 5-inch display is bright and vibrant, with a resolution of 445ppi (pixels per inch) which storms ahead of Apple’s iPhone 5S’ retina display, as it has only a disappointing 326ppi display. You may be forgiven for thinking that the price is indicative of a lower quality smart phone, but LG (who manufacture the phone on behalf of Google) and their sturdy build standards combined with Android’s cutting edge 4.4 Kit Kat operating system is crammed full of excellent features that make it feel solid and very well put together: in short, it doesn’t feel cheap in any way. It is a good looking phone too, with simple and clean lines (and no wacky glittery plastic back like its predecessor) meaning it looks a little more grown up and refined. The front is fully covered by a slab of glass, only broken by the circular earpiece and an LED notification light, only noticeable when it pulses on and off, as well as the touch sensitive home, back and multitask buttons, again only noticeable when lit. The back is covered in a grippy rubbery plastic, the Nexus logo and a circular camera which looks the part, but it a little lacklustre in performance at only 8MP compared to the LG G2’s
The stock phone is full of handy features such as Google Now – Android’s version of Siri – allowing you to open apps, play music and use other features via voice command, and it seems to work well, even with more challenging accents such as Glaswegian. It comes as standard with Quickoffice, a great app which allows you to create Excel, Word and PowerPoint documents in the palm of your hand, anywhere you go. What’s more, it’s fully compatible with Microsoft Office and saves in .Docx format as standard. Another standard feature is Google Drive, a cloud-based app which means that, for example, you can save the documents you created on Quickoffice and access them from Drive on any computer, using your Gmail account. Another is Chrome, Google’s browser. On this phone, it is extremely fast and if you use Chrome on a laptop or PC and sign in with your Gmail account, you can access your bookmarks and web history from your phone, which is a handy feature and is well thought out. A typical payment plan for the phone (from Three) is 2000 mins, 5000 Three to Three mins, 5000 texts and unlimited data at £35/month for 18 months with an upfront cost of £49. Other networks are similarly priced. Overall, the Nexus 5 is a budget smart phone on price and price only. If you are looking for an alternative to the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy S4, the Nexus is a great place to look, as for a few sacrifices such as the camera and battery life, you can get a top end phone for an absolute bargain, with many accessories and options available. It also helps you break from the crowd too, as they are still relatively uncommon if you want something a little different.
Review: Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd
Rhythm based games are an odd niche within the video game market, requiring the utmost concentration and sense of groove. This genre has become increasingly popular in the west, thanks to such series such as Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero, which have spawned several titles. A more unique spin-off of this genre is the newly released Ps Vita title Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd . This rather obscure game can be best described as a niche within a niche – a rhythm game based around Japanese music created through a voice singing synthesizer. This singing synthesizer is known as Vocaloid, and is a phenomenon that is highly popular within Japan. The software is intended for professional musicians as well as light computer music users and has spawned hundreds of songs using this technology. Project Diva centrals around the songs produced by the Vocaloid ‘characters’ – fictional avatars that sing the songs during full CGI music videos. Each character has their distinct voice and personality, right down to their appearance. For example, the twins Rin and Len will often sing duets with each other while the titular character Hatsune Miku is the lead female singer. The player inputs the directional buttons during the music video as the symbols appear on screen. If the action is spot on then the player will receive a higher score and the song continues without a hitch. Failure to press the direction in time though will cause the music to distort, or halt the
singer’s performance until another correct command has been made. A slight turn off to new comers of this series may be that all the songs are sung in Japanese, meaning that all they have to go on is the actual music of the song. Despite this, the music covers several different genres with over forty songs to unlock. The difficulty is chosen by the player, as they can start off easy and work their way up the difficulty ladder or can dive straight into the harder settings. This way, the player can decide on how they wish to play the game. Better scores during your performances will allow you to unlock different costumes for your Vocaloid performers, as well as items to decorate the room in which the characters relax in. This gives an incentive for playing the harder difficulties as it allows you to unlock the rarer items in the game. The highlight of this game is certainly its vast soundtrack and stunning visuals though people unfamiliar with the concept of Vocaloid may find it harder to ease them into this format. It certainly will appease to fans of the sub-genre of music as it is good as a simply pick up and play title. It is now available through the Playstation Network for PS Vita, at the reasonable price of £23.99.
Caitlin S Garden
Review: ASUS Transformer Book T100
The ASUS Transformer book T100 is seen as a lower-end product as it isn’t easy to forget ASUS’ habit of making flimsy, cheap products. The T100 is however, surprisingly good. Although the quality is lower than recent transformer books and ultra-books, this does not mean it is a bad machine. The T100 looks like a netbook, and offers the same typing experience as one. With the tablet docked so that it's in clamshell mode, the whole item weighs 2.4 pounds (the tablet itself comes in at 1.2 pounds). It's just about as heavy as a netbook, and just as easy to carry in one hand, though it will still feel little heavy compared some netbooks and ultra-books. The T100 is a 10-inch windows tablet that come with a keyboard dock. The keyboard is generously sized although seems a bit flimsy. Around the back of the tablet you will find speakers on either side that are push out shockingly good sound, although the sound quality is a bit off despite having ASUS’ SonicMaster technology. You will find only one camera on this, the T100 has a front webcam at a measly 1.2-megapixel, and this is strange since ASUS usually put pretty good cameras on their products. Although ASUS skimped on the webcam for this product, they did add a varied selection of ports. On the keyboard they added a USB 3.0 socket on the left side of the dock. On the tablet you will find micro-USB and micro-HDMI
ports, along with a headphone jack and microSD slot, these could all be very useful for a number of activities. It also comes with a pretty decent battery life, you should be able to get around 10 hours 40 minutes which is a little more than the prestigious Apple iPad 2. The T100 also came with Intel's new Bay Trail-series Atom chips, or more specifically a quad-core Z3740 processor, clocked at 1.33GHz. With the help of 2GB of RAM, the tablet handles the overhead of Windows 8.1 just fine. Performance almost always felt smooth, whether we were cycling through open programs, returning to the Start screen or flipping pages in the Kindle app. As for apps, the T100 handles lightweight apps like iTunes and Spotify very well; they run smoothly with no hiccups. Although there may be a slight pause before some apps open, it makes up for this by only taking approximately 11 seconds to start up. It does have some flaws such as the cheaply made keyboard, poor sound quality, and we do want a better camera. As for the pros of the T100 - it holds a solid performance, long battery life, runs traditional desktop apps, screen offers good viewing angles, inexpensive, and includes keyboard dock and almost no bloat ware. We are not saying that the T100 is perfect or even a great machine, far from it but for solid performance and for an extraordinarily low price you will not regret it.
In modern day society we are constantly being bombarded by advice about how to keep fit and healthy and possibly even more often by scare stories about the dangers of obesity. For many of us the main barrier from achieving our goals as far as exercise is concerned is simply lack of time (and possibly the distraction caused by our beloved electronic gadgets!) Recently updated on the app store is a product marketed as a workout for people who donâ€™t have the time to workout. The app is free to download on Apple devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod touch) and is known as Seven (7). I downloaded the app to see what all the fuss was about and hopefully tone up a little in the process. First impressions of the program were positive, as it features a bright userfriendly interface and the instructions and explanations are clear. The workout itself consists of twelve simple exercises, which appear with a diagram on the screen, each activity is performed for 30 seconds. None of the exercises require apparatus, which handily means the workout, can be done anywhere. The activities are varied and include gym class favourites such as press-ups, star jumps and squats. The range of exercises is fairly extensive and delivers a comprehensive full-body routine. It is down to the user to de-
cide the intensity of their workout, although it goes without saying that the faster you work and the more reps you complete the more benefit you stand to gain. The program tracks your progress as you workout over a period of days of your own choice. The user can also unlock achievements designed to motivate. An example of this is the 'Hat-Trick', awarded after three training days in a row. Overall this app is worthwhile for anyone looking to improve their general fitness and especially for those of us with busy working lives. Similar to many apps on the current market it features optional add-ons, which can be purchased to enhance the user experience. This app won't change the face of the way we exercise, however it is a useful program for anyone looking to streamline in time for a foreign holiday or shed a few pounds for a summer wedding.
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