New Uses of Technology

Today, I’m going to talk about a couple of interesting uses of technology. If you find the first discussion uninteresting, please skip ahead to the second; that said, I’ll keep them both short, so you shouldn’t be running too much risk of falling asleep at your computer.


Take a bow, Lior. You ought to get some sort of award for provoking the most blog posts.

This time, Lior’s spotted the Jewish Google Glass App, originally known as “JewGlass”.

It’s an interesting idea. I suspect Lior thought I was going to get snarky about it, but if so, I’m afraid he’ll be disappointed. If one accepts that Google Glass is a reasonable idea (my jury is still out on that), this seems like a perfectly logical app.

To save you the trouble of browsing the site (though you should take a look if you have any interest in the details), this is an app to provide time- and location-sensitive information via pop-up screens in your sight. The page talks specifically about “prayer time deadlines, where to find kosher eateries, what or what not to say while praying in synagogue and Shabbat start or end times”, but notes that there is plenty of room to expand.

The first example it gives is a reminder that it is almost time for a prayer and help you find a synagogue or display the correct text of the prayer. If you choose to go to a synagogue, it can provide directions via Google’s mapping functionality, so they can be appropriate for walking, driving, or biking, and include relevant traffic updates. Pretty slick, especially in the ability to mix Hebrew and English text in the same display.

There are some unanswered questions on the page. For example, it’s not clear if the app can be customized to the user’s specific beliefs. An Orthodox-only app, for example, is unlikely to be acceptable to members of more liberal movements. On the other hand, if the app can be customized, it might be necessary to allow for very detailed prayer-by-prayer tweaking to allow for local variations in prayer text and language. On a similar note, the question of whether the use of such an app on the the sabbath is somewhat in question, not so much for the app itself, but for whether the use of a computer or similar device is permissible. Still, questions can be answered.

All in all, I find the app an interesting use of technology, and intend to keep an eye on it (no pun intended) to see where it goes.


From one interesting bit of tech to another.

I’ve used this space to complain about harmful Kickstarter projects, so it’s a pleasure to be able to point to a project that’s strictly for fun, with no harmful side effects I can point to.

Full disclosure here: I’m already a backer of the project, and I’m hoping it will meet all of its stretch goals, so it’s to my benefit if you read this piece and then run out and back it yourself.

The project in question is PowerUp 3.0, the latest incarnation of an ongoing quest to create a cellphone-controlled, battery-powered paper airplane.

Yes, you read that right. The plane can be any of a number of standard or not-so-standard designs folded from any handy piece of paper. The guts consist of a pusher-propellor, rudder, and rechargeable battery, and the brains of the operation come from your iOS (and hopefully soon) Android device, controlling the guts via Bluetooth.

The charge lasts long enough for several minutes of flight; the plane can be steered by tilting the phone. That allows for formation flying, and–inevitably–dogfights. In fact, the Kickstarter just crossed the $1,000,000 level, triggering a dogfight stretch goal: if two planes get close enough together, a proximity sensor will trigger and allow the pilots to try to “shoot” each other down. No actual bullets are involved, much to the disappointment of some; the losing pilot’s engine just turns off, causing the plane to crash.

Unfortunately, with a bit over a week left, the project is well short of the final stretch goal: at $2,000,000, the design will be modified to include a tiny camera, allowing for the capture of “pilot’s eye” video and still images. Personally, I think that’s a much cooler thing than the dogfight mode.

The whole idea is an impressive indicator of just how powerful microelectronics are getting, and at a minimum investment of $30, it’s a much cheaper way to get into remote flight than a conventional radio-controlled airplane.

Go for it. Sign up as a backer and help reach that $2 million target. If you do, I promise a least one tandem flight (offer subject to some limitations, not available in all geographic regions).

Side note to my former cow-orkers: imagine flying one of these off the balcony on 7A and dive-bombing the folks in the cubes on 7…

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