My Auckland Commute to Work

Do you ever think back to how things used to be? Auckland motorways used to be known as the car park. My commute on the North Shore is so easy these days, thanks to the awesome travel information we have at our fingertips and some awesome transport planning by Auckland Transport and the NZ Transport Agency.

Britomart Station“You have no scheduled appointments today”, the display on my mobile says. “Are you going to work?”

I speak to it: “Yes. Audio on.”

“Travel time via the motorway is 67 minutes. Travel time via Public Transport is 23 minutes if you leave now.”

“Travel time in 30 minutes?”

“Estimated travel time in 30 minutes via motorway is 82 minutes or 27 minutes via Public Transport. Would you like me to book a car park at the Long Bay satellite Park & Ride?”

“Yes, please.”

“Your car park at Long Bay Beach Park & Ride is number 118.”

As I get into my car, it says “Mobile connected, confirm navigate to Park 118 at Long Bay Beach.”

“Yes, confirmed.”

“Turn right in 200 meters car park is on the right……You have arrived. Buses to the Albany train station are available every 5 minutes.”

“The next train is full, another train is arriving in 5 minutes, seat 15A reserved, use your Hop Card for a free coffee while you wait. Confirm flat white no sugar.”

“You have 3 VIP emails. Read?”

“Yes, audio off.”

I smile as the train races past the cars on the motorway, still a little impressed that it is flowing as well as it is given that Auckland’s population has increased by 250,000 in the last 4 years.

US Motorists Road User Charge Taxes Create Windfall for Kiwi GPS Developers

The solution to a massive nose dive in US domestic tourism has come from an unlikely source, specialists in GPS vehicle tracking, Road User Charge rebate and electronic in-vehicle tax payments by Fleet Management companies in a place that many Americans couldn’t even place on a map, close to the bottom of the globe, New Zealand.

When the USA introduced national Pay As You Drive road user tax for all other than electric vehicles a few years ago, no one appreciated the impact this would have on a variety of industry segments. The intention was to encourage commuters and urban business travelers to make more use of public transport. Having a blanket rule resulted in a significant negative impact on the cost of living for rural Americans who typically have to travel much greater distances even for basic needs such as food, health, shopping an getting to work. It also decimated the domestic tourism industry.

Whilst rental vehicles were exempted which ensured international tourist numbers weren’t impacted, the tourism industry still  went into free-fall as domestic tourists couldn’t afford the increased cost to their trips. In the last few years US residents ‘for leisure’ person trips have dropped by a staggering 350,0000,000 from the 1.6 billion person trips recorded back in 2012.

Enter new rules designed to encourage people back onto the  freeways and into small town USA, which allowed rebates for motorists who met certain conditions. These included a ratio of distance traveled on non urban roads, or on private roads and proof that the vehicle was more than 100 miles away from home for one or more nights.

In Car RUC System

In Car RUC System

New Zealand Fleet Management solution companies, having had many years developing Road User Charge tax rebate solutions with GPS tracking for commercial diesel fleets, were able to offer a ready made answer. Not only did they have low cost solutions ready to plug in to most vehicles manufactured since 2007, they also had the ability for people to pay those taxes direct from the vehicle and included an in-vehicle display which both Police and the public could use to ensure that taxes had in fact been paid. Several Kiwi companies have now partnered with US organizations including domestic Fleet Management companies and major vehicle brands.

The AAA and insurance companies also welcomed the move as the Fleet Management systems monitor car driving behavior, encouraging green driving and enabling PAYD (Pay As You Drive) insurance, where premiums are reduced for people who don’t use harsh breaking, over-acceleration and other behaviors which reduce risk. Several car and motor-home manufacturers are now considering putting this technology into their vehicles as standard features.

According to US Travel Association research in 2012, 1 out of 8 US jobs depended on travel and tourism (representing 14.6 million jobs supported by travel expenditures), which was in the top 10 income earners for 48 states.

It is hoped that domestic tourism will make a big swing back in the coming year, with the costs of the initial investment for motorists being offset by a variety of discounts, special tourism industry offers and off course road user tax rebates for those who meet the criteria.

Poor GPS Map Data on Aftermarket HUD Car Nav Devices Turns Heads

New aftermarket GPS car nav units have been blamed for a spate of car accidents due to inaccurate map data. The wave of new aftermarket HUD (Heads Up Display) aftermarket car navigation devices over the last few years were ,et with much enthusiasm. Being able to purchase devices like the Garmin HUD (How did they manage to get that as a brand name?) that launched in 2013 for under $200 bundled with a nav unit or $150 on its own, made it the next car enthusiasts must have device (toy). 

With in car options (admittedly including in-car entertainment, climate control, car computer etc) adding an easy $2,000 to the bill for people who could afford a new car, a solution that cost that can go into virtually any car was a great starter for 10%.

Touted as being much safer than in dash systems because you don’t have to take your eyes off the road, it appears to have unwittingly revealed a much more critical situation that has caused stress and confusion and has allegedly resulted in accidents and assertions of liability being placed on the manufacturers of the nav systems.

The reason is that in many cases the map data is either out of date or inaccurate. This means that the driver is seeing both the road in front of them through the windscreen as well as a laser image representation of the road from the HUD. When these do not match and the driver is in a relaxed frame of mind (partly due to confidence in the GPS car nav data) confusion may arise. For example driving late at night or on a foggy morning on a country road with poor visibility and the nav displays a sharp turn (but the road has been realigned) could result in a nasty accident. Urban roads (such as Wellington in New Zealand) where one-way streets were changed to run in the opposite direction are another classic example.

Psychologist John Doe from Lost Highway University said “When drivers used traditional in-dash car nav devices, they relied mostly on auditory instructions, glancing at the nav unit from time to time to confirm the details, but then interpreted the information and commands based on what they were seeing. This meant that if there was a discrepancy in the directions, common sense usually prevailed and they would act on what they actually saw through the windscreen. Since large numbers of people started using HUD systems, they mentally merged the heads up data with what they saw through the windscreen and when they contradicted each other, this caused confusion and stress. It only takes momentary confusion at 50 miles per hour to find themselves in an accident situation,” he explained.

The more sophisticated units such as the Pioneer system released 2013 in the video below, do have some advantages over the cheaper units because they also include character recognition of outside objects such as speed signs. This means that if the car navigation database says the speed is 50 mph but the sign on the road says 30 mph, the navigation instructions will give higher credence to the physical roadside sign.

John Doe went on say that many car nav companies have managed to get their prices very low by purchasing cheap car navigation data and not updating them as often. People accepted that for a low price, they weren’t going to get high detail map updates and because the map wasn’t in their face, they were able to deal with the discrepancies.

Portable HUD car GPS manufacturers are now adding modular components to their systems including WiFi cameras and adding software to their Smartphones and Portable Car GPS devices including character recognition, distance and speed of the car in front and connection to in car entertainment such as streaming audio. Legislators are now looking at enforcement of restrictions, ensuring that drivers can only see car control related information on the HUD, ensuring they can’t be distracted by videos. email messages etc which can also technically be displayed on the screen whilst driving.

The End Of Out Of Tune Guitars

I have perfect pitch (well I used to when I was younger) and it used to make me cringe when I heard someone play an out of tune instrument. I’m so glad those days are gone.

photo (9)When you live in a country where the temperature changes a lot, an instrument made of wood goes out of tune frequently. This resulted in three scenarios:

1. People playing that boring old Chinese song on stage called Chiu Ning. Old joke too, sorry.

2. People playing out of tune.

3. A great industry selling a variety of devices to clip onto your guitar, to plug your guitar into or in some cases a tuner built in, which worked really well when you used it.

Today those days are over and even a guitar like a humble Squier Stratocaster has built in robot tuning. You don’t have to do anything, it automatically tunes itself.

It got really cool with the 2011 Gibson Firebird X, checkout the video below, sorry its old, so not 3D, but check out history man. This was huge when it came out, not only did it tune itself, but you cold pre-set 55 different tunings! When I used to want to play a bit of slide and then some lead, drop bass or whatever, it would so often end up with the guitar gong out of tune. Not any more, watch the machine heads turn themselves!

What’s changed? Now you don’t need to own a guitar that costs nearly $6,000 to enjoy those features. Now people like me don’t have to cringe when you play and it doesn’t matter if you go from the warm house to the cold car and play in the bar by the fireplace. Of course there are people who will still go retro old school, but I’ve never enjoyed tuning. I just want to play!

 

Boy Racers Make Sport With Driverless Cars

Driverless Car photo by Steve Jurvetson

Driverless Car photo by Steve Jurvetson

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A dangerous new sport has started with boy racers trying to run driverless cars off the road. Car manufacturers fight back by capturing video and emailing to police services.

Whilst the concept of driverless cars has been well accepted and offered mobility and new levels of freedom to many users including blind and disabled people, a new challenge has arisen. Boy racers growing bored with illegal street racing have found new antics to amuse themselves and endanger others.

Driverless cars have been designed to deal with a wide range of conditions, able to monitor the speed of vehicles around them and deal with weather and other hazardous conditions. One thing that was never anticipated was dealing with deliberate erratic driving behaviour from other motorists.

Several incidents have occurred where drivers have deliberately swerved into the path of these vehicles which in several cases have resulted in hit and run accidents.

Following meetings between car manufacturers and law enforcement agencies, an emergency feature has now been installed into the car computers. These cars already have several external facing cameras mounted on them and are connected to the cloud anywhere that cellular mobile services are available. The camera software has been enhanced and is currently being tested with a number of new software features including car make and model, color and number plate recognition.

A 911 feature is also being tested,  so that if an incident occurs, the occupant can transmit video combined with the data collected to the nearest emergency call centre, complete with their GPS coordinates and the direction they are driving in. The boy racers may very soon find themselves racing to find themselves behind bars and not the kind that serve alcohol.

You have been driving for 2 hours

“Would you like to order your favorite coffee from Starbucks? You have been driving for a little over 2 hours and there is one just a mile ahead.”

StarbucksFord Sync is looking after my well being. It also asked if I had any passengers that I would like to order for and I was able to order for all of us without lifting my fingers from the wheel. I then told Spotify to play some more old school Bruno Mars as headed for the cafe.

I was also able to reserve an EV carpark right by the front door, so that the car could get a lift at the same time as we had our coffee break.

You won’t ever see me in a self driving car if I can help it, but I do like the new technology:)

 

Facebook Goggle Phone Is Better Than I Thought

Facebook has joined the fray with not just AR Goggles, but the Goggles are the phone and its quite cool.

When Vodafone  gave me the glasses to review, my first reaction was, to be honest, pretty much, whatever. It reminded me of way back, maybe 2010 when I was presenting at a conference at Auckland University and Telecom announced the Bebo phone. I don’t know how many they actually sold, but I doubt there were more than a hundred. Bebo Phone

Then in Barcelona 2014 Facebook launched a mobile of their own. It wasn’t spectacular and I thought they would give up at that point, realizing that whilst most people used Facebook, that didn’t mean that it was the number one communication tool in their lives or that they wanted FB getting too much private information about them, not that they hadn’t already been doing that with Google for most of their lives.

Through Facebook Goggles

Through Facebook Goggles

Anyway, I took them to a SMCAKL event to try them out. Social Media Club Auckland now provides a live list of who is attending via their Facebook page.

Using the Goggles plugin I identified the people I want to meet up with from the list. I was also able to send them a notification that I was going to be there and was keen to have a chat.

Sure enough, just like the AR in Daniel Suarez‘s prophetic books  Daemon and Freedom, I was able to see the names of the people I wanted to see, above them in the crowd, which was very cool. I was also able to see the names and profiles of virtually every person in the room.

Everyone wanted to try them on and it was a couple of hours after the event closed that Vodafone pushed me and a last few Facebook Goggle fans out of the door.

As to the smartphone functionality, it is pretty well featured. I am now one of those people who are constantly looking up into the corners of my eyes as though I have a nervous twitch and am waving  my hands in the air like a New York Italian singing the praises of the veal at my favorite deli. Of course it won’t be long before you are doing that too.

Police Look Into Fake Google Glasses

Police are struggling to enforce the new law banning wearing Google Glasses whilst driving a motor vehicle according to spokesperson AR Seymour. “From a distance many of today’s Augmented Reality glasses are indistinguishable from normal eye-wear. This has been compounded”, he said “by the many cheap knock-off’s that young people are wearing today that look like AR glasses with a HUD (Heads Up Display, but are in fact just plain plastic imitations.” 

There have been suggestions that a driver mode be enforced, which only allows certain functionality, such as GPS car navigation, however there appears to be no way to police this. Google has suggested adding functionality that allows the glasses to check whether there is a steering wheel in front of the driver or not and if there is, automatically put it into driver mode. Hackers are already saying that if this is done, they will develop jailbreaks for this functionality.

Meanwhile there have been more and more motor accidents occurring due to distraction by drivers, including many involving pedestrians, often the fault is in fact the pedestrian not paying attention as they cross busy roads. This technology is very exciting and unstoppable and authorities are holding meetings with Google and others to explore possible solutions.

Hundreds more bars, Government Departments and workplaces have followed the example of The 5 Point in Seattle in banning Google Glasses, as an invasion of privacy.

Google Glasses Separation Syndrome

Google Glasses and dozens of other brands of Augmented Reality goggles hit the road running for Christmas 2013 and over the next couple of years AR applications went from Wow to business as usual. Today people look at you sideways in many cities if you aren’t wearing glasses. But there has been a downside.  People can’t bear to be without them.

 Not that long ago people had separation anxiety when they didn’t have their mobile with them, then their smartphone. Now its their AR glasses. Hospitals and A&R clinics are reporting many people are presenting with a feeling of vertigo with some patients reporting in an almost psychotic state, saying they feel they have been detached from the real world.

Others are describing the real world without AR glasses as flat, 2 dimensional, when they don’t have access to features they take for granted such as information about locations, deals, games and access to their friends via social media, the ability to take pictures or view them. Many find it difficult to function because they now rely on their glasses to tell them everything from the names of people they ‘know’ through facial recognition (including information on their last point of contact, meeting, email) to public transport timetables or driving directions. They no  longer seem to have the ability to cope without this information beaming onto their eyeballs. The are unable to make decisions and are so used to large volumes of information at their fingertips that they are suffering from sensory deprivation with their eye-wear.

Insurance companies who have benefited from knowing much more about their clients, have been caught by surprise and won’t pay out on claims until the Syndrome has been recognised as an official condition and because they AR glasses are now a way of life, no one really has answers on what to do next.

Health Problems Caused by Augmented Reality Glasses Over Usage

ARGOS (Augmented Reality Glasses Overuse Syndrome) has recently been identified by the Mental health Research Centre  in the USA. People are being bombarded with constant data being displayed on their glasses and the subsequent dopamine overload is having serious consequences on the health of many users of this technology.

Dr Louis Hatmaker, a social scientist with the New Zealand founded Imersia AR, a sister company to the well known Imersia Tourism Limited said from their Auckland AR Lab that this was not unexpected given the huge volume of big data available and was in fact one of the reasons that Imersia developed its Calm Tech, to ensure that people’s eyes and brains were not bombarded with information overload.

Hatmaker said “What we didn’t anticipate in the early 2010’s was the Dopamine factor. Effectively people found the use of AR glasses extremely enjoyable.  The ability to control the glasses just by looking at them and getting a wealth of information, everything from facial recognition and identifying information about every building, business you could see was overwhelming. In a similar way to playing computer games (which of course hundreds of thousands of people now do using AR glasses sic) every time a result was presented on the lens, the user got a squirt of dopamine from their brains as a reward. Dopamine is like a natural opiate and makes you feel good. The user feels excited and becomes addicted to the use of the glasses. When they are not wearing them, they become bored and listless, affecting their relationships with other people and their ability to concentrate. We are particularly concerned with children and teenagers whose brains are still developing.”

Imersia has developed technologies to reduce the amount of information delivered through AR Glasses by making information contextually relevant and personalised. Effectively you get the information you want, when you want it, but you don’t get all the spurious information that has no relevance to you, even if it might be interesting.

Who will the future leaders be? perhaps Sight?