The Pro Display XDR Wasn’t Made for You (or Me)

Yesterday Apple unveiled the Pro Display XDR. The new 32-inch LCD panel delivers a 6016 x 3384 Retina 6K resolution with more than 20 million pixels – that is nearly 40 percent more pixels than a Retina 5k display. It is a true 10-bit monitor with over 1 billion colors and high dynamic range. The Pro Display XDR uses a large array of LEDs for the direct backlighting system producing 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness and 1,600 nits of peak brightness. That is way brighter than the average display on your desktop, and it also has a pretty amazing 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio to boot.

When I first saw this beast I thought to myself “there is my new monitor / cheese grater”… until they unveiled the price. In addition to some amazing specs this monitor packs and amazing price tag – $4,999 for the base model. Add another $1,000 for the higher quality screen and $1,000 for the base stand (I find this the most offensive). After I picked my jaw off the floor I had to step back and rewind to an earlier part of the WWDC presentation. This monitor, much like the new Mac Pro isn’t made for users like me. While I would love to have an $11,000 rig sitting on my desk the reality is that I personally don’t need that much horsepower for my day to day, nor do I need a precision tuned monitor that has been calibrated to act as reference monitor. I am not throwing around multiple 4k video streams or doing work that is super compute intensive in general. Sometimes it chokes a bit, but for the most part my laptop can keep up with me.

With this new computer and display Apple is squarely targeting the high end media professionals that can put it to work and easily justify the investment with their time savings. While I am bummed that I just can’t justify buying one myself it doesn’t mean that this monitor isn’t going to be awesome for the people they are targeting.

A 25″ 4K SONY reference display for filmmakers is $23,400 at B&H. If you compare that to the new Apple monitor that is 28% larger and has 50% more pixel density – at 25% of the cost – it is actually one hell of a good deal. While the market may be smaller for those that need this type of hardware I think Apple is going to hit a home run with high end professional videographers and photographers alike.

Google’s Camera Embeded Contact Lenses

A Fix For Glassholes

The concept behind Google Glass is cool… just like the concept behind a bluetooth headset is cool. Unfortunately, both of these technologies make you look, well… uncool (sorry my Google Glass wearing friends – I love ya!). Do I want the utility of these devices? Hell yes. I would also like the utility of a fanny pack. However, you will never catch me wearing a fanny pack, bluetooth headset or Google Glass (unless I am wearing all 3 for a costume party).

In order for Google Glass to catch on the form factor needs to dramatically change and it appears that Google is working on the initial stages of just that. Google made a patent application for a new invention it is developing that enables a pair of contact lenses to be embedded with a camera component, control circuit and sensor. When paired with another device such as a smart phone, or a streamlined version of Google Glass, the implications of smart contacts could be huge. Not only could the device be something the general public would wear, but it could be the first step towards a borg-like future.

terminator_vision-550x235A Huge Step Forward

Smart contacts could enable the user to be able to see the detail in objects located at a distance without the use of binoculars or other ocular devices. It is also possible that the lenses’ sensor capabilities could be expanded to include other measurements, such as temperature or pressure. The lenses could also enhance our visible spectrum and display streaming information in realtime.

It is likely that at some point in the not too distant future smart contacts will  become standard medical devices designed to enhance a person’s quality of life, such as cochlear implants and hearing aids. Google has previously revealed a functional prototype of the smart contacts designed to monitor glucose levels for diabetes patients. In the future people with eye health issues and deteriorating vision could use these contacts to help augment vision that is currently failing or restricted.

Yes, there are all sorts of privacy and ethical concerns. But like it or not man and machine are starting to merge.

Phase one is wearable tech.
Phase two is implantable tech.
Phase three is voluntary, proactive functional replacement of perfectly good organs and limbs.

Intel Edison : The SD Card-Sized Computer

CES 2014 was interesting as always…. but apparently it was too interesting because I forgot to actually post this way back.

A fully functioning computer

One of the most intriguing pieces of new tech I saw at CES this year was the Intel Edison. It is a tiny, SD card sized processor aimed at wearable computing. The Intel Edison runs on a dual-core Quark SoC with a Pentium instruction set, operates on the Linux operating system and includes built in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. It is essentially the smallest fully-functioning computer I have ever seen. There is an app store for the Edison and a version of Wolfram Alpha’s Mathematica built in that is specifically for the device.

The Intel Edison will be made available sometime during the middle of 2014.  The business of wearable technology is still in its development phase, but with more and more people buying smart watches and glasses, I believe that components like the Edison will propel more companies to enter the space. It lowers the bar for hardware developers and lets them build off of an existing framework.

Will it take off? Only time will tell.

Update : It looks like this product has been discontinued. It turns out that technology is hard, even for the big boys.

What to Expect at CES 2014

ted_murphy_cesEvery year technology and marketing professionals from around the world meet in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). CES was originally a trade show exclusively for consumer electronics professionals, but has since grown to a much larger event that encompasses all things social, internet, marketing, electronics and everything in between. While the show technically isn’t open to the public, the reality is that it isn’t too difficult to get a pass if you really want to go.

I have been attending for the past four years and providing television commentary for FOX. I have the pleasure of roaming the show floor to find the next big thing and I will be out there again this week. Here is what I am looking forward to seeing so far, but I am sure there will be more product announcements as the week goes on.

Audi Goes Android

Google and Audi have leaked plans to announce a new car entertainment system at the show. It is speculated that this new system will use Google’s Android OS and will be available in the new Audi’s in 2014. The Audi/Google system is still in development stages, and details are expected to emerge this week. This is exciting news for app developers and will create an entire new economy around in-vehicle infotainment. Now…. when will we see iOS running in vehicles?


4K Displays

Sony is focusing on 4K technology, hinting that they will announce Ultra HD enhancements in smart phones, laptops and camcorders. Samsung’s will be showcasing their 105” curved 4K televisions with an 11,000,000 pixel resolution. Other oversized televisions will also be on display from LG and Samsung. 4K streaming technology will be presented for both Netflix and YouTube. Netflix has plans to include 4K capability into smart TVs. YouTube plans to have Ultra HD videos on display at several television booths to demonstrate what can be done with a home system.

Technology You Can Wear

Wearable gadgets hit the scene big at the 2013 CES, and the 2014 show is expected to expand this technology into sunglasses, glasses and ski goggles. Will someone create a Google Glass killer before the technology really gets off the ground? We will have to see. Sweaters, handbags and smart clothing are also expected to be a big focus of the show. Smart watches and smart phone apps intended to encourage a healthier lifestyle will be displayed in their most recent incarnation.

Like all other CES shows you never really know what you are going to see until you get there. Let’s hope for some awesome.

Apple Rumor Roundup

Apple’s October 22 event is almost upon us, and rumors are swirling as to what products will be revealed.

Held at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Apple’s October product reveals have become an annual event in recent years. Previous October events have seen the announcement of the iPad Mini, The iPhone 4S, and the Macbook Air.

apple_oct_inviteThe teaser tagline for Apple’s 2013 event is “We still have a lot to cover.” While this may be a direct reference to a smart cover for a new slim iPad 5, it may also simply refer to the breadth of product announcements that are expected at this year’s event.

Whatever the case may be, the iPad 5 will almost certainly be the centerpiece of the show. Analysts feel the iPad’s camera is overdue for an upgrade, and an improvement from 5MP to 8MP on the rear camera is almost certain. A larger aperture is also expected, with lens ASP to increase 10 to 20%. This would bring the camera comparably in line with the one on the new iPhone 5s.

Apple also has strong impetus to add a retina display to the mini due to competition from the Nexus 7 and similar entry-level tablets, though analysts are conflicted on whether this move is yet possible from a supply standpoint. Both the iPad Mini and iPad 5 should see a boost in processing power, with Apple expected to add an A7 chip to the iPad 5 and a an A6X to the iPad Mini. Both models are also expected to go slimmer as well, though the addition of a retina display could actually force the Mini to become slightly larger and heavier. The iPad 5 is also in line for an infusion of color similar to the range available with the iPhone 5s. Space grey has all but been confirmed thanks to leaked pictures, but silver and gold are still speculative at this point. There is a possibility that the iPad 5 will see a Touch ID fingerprint sensor for one-touch unlocking of the device, but there is an equally strong possibility that Apple will want this to remain an exclusive feature of the iPhone 5s.

The New Mac Pro

Though attention will largely be fixed on the iPad, the Mac will not go without an appearance… something I am personally more excited about than the incremental iPad updates. I have been waiting for the new mac pro to ship since it was previewed earlier this year. There are multiple Mac Pros in our office (including my own) that are in desperate need of an update. I will be purchasing at least three new Mac Pros as soon as they are available.

Improvements to the Macbook Pro are also anticipated – a better Facetime camera, 802.11ac WiFi, and increased battery life.

On the software front, the official release of OS X 10.9 (Maverick) is expected to be announced. It is also possible that a new version of iWork will be revealed. There is an outside possibility that some revamp of Apple TV will also be announced.

3 Cool IoT Devices

A famous New Yorker cartoon said that “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” Soon, however, most Internet users may not even be alive. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about the Zombie Apocalypse. I’m talking about the Internet of Things (IoT), which will make it possible for physical objects to communicate directly with one another–no humans required.

Right now our computers are clueless when it comes to the physical world. But thanks to cheap embedded sensors and ubiquitous low-power Internet connections, machines will soon be able to do much more – from warning patients of an impending heart attack to automatically reordering office supplies when they start to run low.

While these ideas may sound like science fiction, some innovative companies are already helping to build the Internet of Things. Here are three interesting examples:

meet_tod_339tod Smart Beacon
Pronounced “toad,” the tod is a tiny Bluetooth device that notifies you when it enters or leaves a specified area. You could have it send you a text message when your child comes home from school, or trigger an alert if your dog get out of the back yard. Check it out here.

Nest Thermostat
When you think of sexy hardware, your thermostat is probably the last thing that comes to mind. Nest hopes to change that and I have two of them installed at my house. The company is headed by Tony Fadell, who played a lead role in developing the iPod, and the Apple DNA shows in the Nest’s minimalist design. But the Nest is smart as well as beautiful. It saves energy by learning your schedule, and connects to your Wi-Fi network so you can adjust the temperature even when you’re away from home. Nest recently released a smoke and carbon monoxide detector as well.

Scout Alarm
Scout is using technology to shake up the stodgy home security market. The base station connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi, and it also has a 3G cellular modem for back-up protection. Instead of relying on an old-fashioned keypad to disarm your security system, Scout lets you use your smartphone. Naturally, you can also control the system remotely from your smartphone, tablet or computer.

As motion sensors, Bluetooth transceivers and other relevant technologies become continuously smaller and cheaper, the market for Internet-connected devices is set to explode.

DARPA Atlas : The Robots are Coming

For more than fifty years the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been quietly developing new technologies for military defense. As an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, DARPA has remained (mostly) under the radar for those interested in robotics, but that recently changed when DARPA announced the creation of Atlas, a six-foot humanoid robot.

Atlas is very mobile, designed to navigate through rough outdoor terrain. The bipedal robot can walk, leaving the “arms” free to manipulate its environment. Reminiscent of “The Terminator” without his skin, Atlas has hands that are articulated and sensitive enough to use human tools with sufficient strength and coordination to climb. Currently Atlas requires access to a power supply to remain functional. A flexible tether is used to keep the robot plugged in to run the components which include a laser range finder and stereo cameras for “eyes”.


Despite its alarming appearance, the primary purpose of Atlas is to test situations that would be considered too dangerous for humans to navigate (at least for now). Several copies of the robot have been provided to finalists in the DARPA Robotics Challenge which is designed to help create and evolve machines that can cope with disasters and conditions that are hazardous such as nuclear plant accidents. The seven teams that have made it to this point have been given the task of programming Atlas to be able to accomplish activities such as drive a vehicle, break through a flat surface or open and close a valve.

Atlas was developed by Boston Dynamics, an engineering company specializing in robotics and software that emulates human activity. The company has released several fascinating robots included one that climbs vertical surfaces and a chemical robot that changes shape, allowing it to move through tight spaces. Other products simulate human movement and are used to train law enforcement or evaluate equipment such as body armor.

Robots are just one small part of what DARPA is developing. One of their projects is to create a “fighting network” to improve the effectiveness and adaptability of the military. The Strategic Technology Office is also actively pursuing communications networks, electronic warfare, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies.

Skynet, anyone?

1.5 Billion Photos Taken Every Day

The Growth of Digital Photography

Over the past two decades, owning a digital camera has shifted from being a rare luxury to an essential commodity for most Americans. Whether you are using a point and shoot, SLR or simply a camera phone chances are you take at least one photo per day on average.

cameraAn engineer for Kodak, Steven Sasson, actually invented the first digital camera back in 1975. Despite being far more basic than the digital cameras today, it was much too expensive to be made available on the commercial market. The first Kodak digital cameras did not reach the market until 1990, and they still held a price tag of about $13,000.

Within a few years, other companies released their digital cameras, often boasting that they could hold 5-10 photos at one time. At this point, they were still much too expensive for most Americans. Digital cameras that were considered “cheap” were still priced upwards of $600 and produced very low quality images. During the last half of the 1990s, digital photography gained technological momentum, and competing companies gradually lowered their prices.

My First Digital Camera

I purchased my first digital camera in 1999. It was a Nikon Coolpix E950, it had a retail price of $899 and took 1.9 megapixel photos. I had a 8 megabyte compact flash card, which allowed me to store about 21 photos in JPEG mode (less than a roll of film) or one (yes, 1) photo as a TIFF. Below is one of the first photos I took with my E950, compared to a photo I took with my Canon Rebel T3i a few months ago.

1999_photo 2013_photo

The Death of Film

As a child I remember developing film in a dark room with my father. He always had a fascination with all things related to photography and motion pictures. At the same time, he was also an early adopter and bread that same spirit into me. Once I took my first digital photo I knew there was no going back.

As digital camera technology advanced and prices dropped, people like me bought fewer traditional film cameras. Photo enthusiasts were drawn to the ease and convenience of snapping several photographs without needing to buy and develop additional rolls of film. Early in the new millenium, digital camera sales finally overtook film camera sales for the first time. Nowadays, digital photography is the standard and photography classes are teaching technology that focuses on enhancing digital photos.

While the United States is still a top consumer of digital cameras, Western Europe and Japan are also large consumers gaining momentum. Warren Struhl, founder of Polaroid Fotobar, claims that roughly 1.5 billion digital photographs are taken every day. Over 300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook everyday alone.

Most Popular Cameras in the Flickr Community


Camera Brands used in the Flickr Community


A Missed Opportunity

While Kodak was an early pioneer in digital photography technology their dependence on the sale of film and film cameras caused them to lose the arms race in the digital era. Kodak is no longer the dominant camera company and had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early 2012. During the new millennium, Canon cameras experienced a rapid increase in popularity, producing several of the world’s best-selling digital cameras (including the one I carry every day). Nikon, Sony, and Panasonic are also producing excellent SLRs. Even the little camera in your iPhone is capable of producing some pretty amazing shots.

Thinking back on the amazing advances over the past 20 years, one can only imagine what digital photography will be like in the next 20 years. My hope is that 3D photography advances at the same rate as digital photography has.


The Best Little Portable Speaker

This past January at CES I scoured the show floor for electronics that truly impressed me. I stopped by Jabra’s booth and instantly feel in love with the Jabra Solemate. The Jabra team very kindly gave me one for free and  7 months later I have decided I love it enough to write about it.

If you follow me you know I am constantly on the go and travel non-stop. I love to listen to music while I work, and will often play music out of my iPhone’s speakers while in my hotel room. While the iPhone is surprising loud, it is not very clear and lacks any hint of bass whatsoever.

Little Package. BIG Sound.

The Soulmate changes all of that for me. From the moment you pickup the Solemate you will be impressed by the quality of construction and the weight of the device. Turn it on and a deep bass “bonnnnngg” demonstrates just how loud this portable speaker is. Connect it via bluetooth to your iPhone (or other inferior mobile device) and you will simply be amazed by what comes out of this little black (or white) box. This thing destroys the Jambox by Jawbone.


I recently took the Solemate to a beach party and it was an instant hit. It was loud enough to overcome all the people talking and the ambient noise of the ocean – so much so that people started dancing (ok, ok, ok – there may have been some alcohol involved). The long battery life (it is rated for 10 hours of music streaming) gave us enough charge to last our entire time at the beach, and to top it off the Solemate comes with a handy sand-proof bag.

I love the fact that I can keep my iPhone in my pocket and walk away from the Solemate. I’ve noticed that it gets about 20-30 feet of distance before it disconnects, but this is more than enough for most applications. You don’t have to wire into your speakers and leave your phone exposed for would-be thieves…or worse…would-be DJs messing up your playlist.

The Solemate features a unique rubber bottom that looks like the sole of a chunky shoe. It makes it so the speaker does not slide around when it is on smooth surfaces. Jabra also boasts that this design will limit vibrations from the speaker, which I can attest that to be true as well.

I have used the Solemate in my truck as a bluetooth speakerphone for conference calls. It has a built in omni-directional noise canceling microphone that works better than the one built into my wife’s SUV. Soulmate uses digital signal processing to optimize your voice and music and suppresses echoes.

All in all I give this device 5/5 tongues. I highly recommend it.

You can buy it through Amazon for about $150.00 (yes, I am an Amazon affiliate).

iPad GPS

Motion X GPSI do a good amount of traveling for my job, often to cities that require me to rent a car. In the past I have packed a Garmin portable GPS in my bag to avoid the daily fee charged by the rental companies. While the GPS itself wasn’t all that big or heavy it was another thing I had to pack, and made my computer bag even bulkier to lug around the airport.

When I purchased my iPad (aff link) I decided to see if there was an alternative. I did a search through the iTunes store and found a wide variety of GPS apps, some with expensive one time fees, others with monthly or yearly fees.

After some consideration I went with Motion X GPS Drive (yes, I am an iTunes affiliate as well) and I think made the right decision.

How I Use it

I place the iPad somewhere in the center console area. At first I was taping it to the dash to simulate the positioning of a built-in GPS unit, but found the GPS works just fine when positioned lower. It also looks less ghetto when you don’t use tape : ) The screen is big enough that you can see it when placed at a lower angle, and the voice navigation keeps you on track when you aren’t looking at the screen.

What I Like

The app itself is cheap, only $2.99 for purchase (the iPhone version is on sale right now for $.99). If you want to activate voice navigated turn-by-turn it is only $24.99 for the whole year. Compare that to a $49.99 one time purchase for the TomTom App or $69.99 each year for the AT&T app.

I like that I can get the same app for my iPhone and the iPad and that the interface is consistent. The UI is clean, easy to use and reasonably cool. I have found the directions to be spot on and the software is always able to find the location I am searching for (Internet permitting).

What I Don’t Like

ipad_gps2Apparently there is no built in map data. Every time you want to put in a location you need to have Internet access, which means it won’t work so well on the road for wifi-only iPad owners. Even though I have the iPad 3G I find this to be an issue at times because ATT cell service is so unreliable in big cities. Note that once you put in your destination you don’t seem to need Internet connectivity again while you are in route.

I wish that the software told you the name of the street you need to turn on, instead of a generic “turn in 500 feet”. It would also be nice if the recent and saved locations synced between my iPhone app and iPad app, since they are both authorized by the same account.

You Should Know

If you purchase the iPad app and iPhone app along with voice navigation you can only use voice navigation on one device at a time. This isn’t really a problem for me, but I could see it being an issue if you are sharing these devices.


I give Motion X GPS Drive 4/5 tongues. It is cheap to try (they give you a 30 day demo of the voice navigation for free) and provides 90% of the features I really need and care about. I just wish AT&T coverage was better.