Sunday, October 30, 2011

Beyond accessibility in Google+ hangouts

A recent post on Google+ got me thinking about how to improve the accessibility of Google+

I work for Monash University as part of the team integrating Google Apps with university systems. As an educational establishment in Australia we are subject to strict rules regarding the accessibility of the services we provide to students. That being said, I am not an expert, nor do I act in an advisory role to Monash for accessibility, there are far more knowledgeable people providing that role, as such, this post is my own, possibly uninformed thoughts on a subject which I find interesting.

Google have a massive opportunity with Google+ to get accessibility right. While Google wave was a fantastic experiment they didn't give enough thought to accessibility, and putting it in as an afterthought was never going to end well.

Hangouts are one of the killer features of Google+. They do however bring their own set of accessibility challenges, and some huge opportunities.

Google already have speech to text technology as demonstrated in Android. This could be integrated with hangouts to build a system of automatic captioning, such that deaf users could read what was being said.

This technology could then be integrated with Google translate. Again, this has already been demonstrated in Android. If coupled with hangouts we could have a system whereby users could communicate face to face across language barriers.

I like the idea that hangouts can be conducted in sign language, and that those users can grab the active view easily, but why stop there? Taking this much further, could Google develop a system to interpret sign language and give a text equivalent to those unable to understand it themselves.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New tech, shiny tech.

A number of things which have caught my eye recently...

Electric DeLorean Car.

  
An all electric version of the Iconic 80's DeLorean car, supposedly coming in 2013.
Touted to go faster than 88mph, great scott.


Galaxy Nexus.

For those people living in a bubble, Google and Samsung announced the next generation of Android cell phone today in Hong Kong.



The Galaxy Nexus is the first phone to feature Android 4.0, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich.  A redesigned user interface and features such as Face recognition to unlock the phone, Near field communications allowing things like Google Wallet and transfer of data by touching another enabled smart phone, vastly improved camera and awesome screen.
Really can't wait for this to be released in Australia.  Hopefully it will be on a decent network and the timing will be right for me to move away from Vodafone, whom I have been less than impressed with, without too much of a penalty.


Deblurring technology coming to a future version of Photoshop.

Impressive algorithm for removing camera shake blur from images, see the demo at this link...

The Canon EOS-1D X is the successor to both the 1D and 1Ds lines.  Featuring a full frame sensor, vastly improved high ISO performance.  3 digic processors with 1 dedicated to metering and autofocus, and pro video functions.
Very nice camera, but well out of my price range at the moment.

Read the preview at DPReview



Thursday, September 29, 2011

Exciting technology

A couple of pieces of technology that are currently being developed, which you may not have heard about, and why I think they are exciting.

NatAmi

A re-implementation of the Amiga architecture using modern components.

Not an emulator on top of a standard PC, not a complete redesign claiming to be the next big thing, but based on chips which are already obsolete and end of line.  This development is a reconstruction of an ideal, for no reason other than it is a fun thing to do.

Dave Haynie, former chief engineer at Commodore, had this to say about the project.
Actually, of all the recent hardware things I've seen in the post-Amiga world, this is the only one I see as being of much value. Or, in my usual terms, "It's cool". 
For one, you can claim real Amiga cred there -- doing things the Amiga way. You're not just a PC with a PowerPC CPU and some VGA chip trying to make the claim of being an Amiga. I was a little skeptical when I first heard about it, but I'm totally convinced at this point: if you want a new Amiga, this is the true way. 
It's also sustainable... you can make as many of these as there's demand for. If this X1000 thing was the second coming of the A1000 (it's not, and honestly, not that interesting), it has a built-in limit, since the CPU is already discontinued. 
And add to that the FPGA basis... there's some serious hacking potential there, I think. Particularly if they're not full yet :-) This isn't going to replace everyone's need for a fast PC, but then again, running original AmigaOS, you don't really need to be. As long as the cost stays in reach of the hobbyist, this could do well.
Raspberry Pi

An Arm based linux box at an expected price point of between $25 and $35.

Powerful enough to run Quake 3, Cheap and Open enough to bring programming within the reach of the next generation.

Why is this exciting?  It could  be the modern equivalent of the old 8 bit computers that spawned a generation of bedroom programmers.  Many of todays legendary programmers began by hacking away on 8 bit systems, because they could, they were accessible, and they were simple to get started with.  Modern PCs have layers of abstraction in the way making it difficult, costly, risky (nobody wants their kids to break their $1000 PC) to get started.

As they say on their about us page.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a UK registered charity (Registration Number 1129409) which exists to promote the study of computer science and related topics, especially at school level, and to put the fun back into learning computing.
We plan to develop, manufacture and distribute an ultra-low-cost computer, for use in teaching computer programming to children. We expect this computer to have many other applications both in the developed and the developing world.
Our first product is about the size of a credit card, and is designed to plug into a TV or be combined with a touch screen for a low cost tablet. The expected price is $25 for a fully-configured system.

Integrating Google+

I am currently investigating how Google+ can be integrated with my photography site.  Seemed like a good opportunity to revive this long dormant blog of mine.

Issues.

My current setup is rather complicated and involves having content in various different places, some unique, some duplicated.

'Blog posts' are either on Tumblr, MySpace, Twitter or RedBubble, and are all imported into my website via feeds.  This makes updates problematic, there is no automatic way to blog about new images, it had to be done manually, and in the right order.

As the site is build as a package and installed on multiple servers it can take up to half an hour to upload a new image or make a small code/text change.  The system is very sophisticated, but content is coupled with the code.

Images are held locally, for the site, but also uploaded to Flickr (for comments) and RedBubble (for comments and sales).  The website includes links off to the other copies of the images, but the other sites do not contain a direct link back to the image on the website.  This feels messy and disjointed.

Image sales are via RedBubble, and the front end to that is not integrating well with the rest of the site.

Links are held on delicious, and imported to the site via a feed.

The Idea.

To move all content into Google+ or related services such as Blogger and Picasa Web.

The positive.

Google+ has a fantastic community of photographers, the engagement and interaction is better than both flickr and redbubble, and far ahead of my own portfolio website.

Social features come built in.  If using Blogger as the blogging platform then it is very likely that integration with Google+ will only get better over time.

Image hosting could be via Picasa Web, this has commenting features and integrates very nicely with Google+

Ease of maintenance, and a modern look without having to put my design hat on.

Extend the scope, due to circles and being able to target things I can put everything in one place, photography, programming, life in general, all on one platform.

The negative.

My current workflow relies heavily on Perl to take pictures from Lightroom and translate them into a version for the web, it uploads to Flick, generates my website and ties everything together.  The Perl modules for Picasa web are unfortunately not very mature, they do not appear to support uploading or editing of images on Picaca, only querying images already there.  There would be some work on bringing that up to speed.

Google+ (Via Picasa web) does not allow for the sale of images.  I would still need to use another site for that, and incidentally, RedBubble do not provide an API, making integration difficult so I have been looking around for an alternative for a while.

Loses 'brand identity', it would look and feel like the services it runs on.

Throwing away the site, not altogether, but there has been significant development effort in making it, so changing the way it all works is a big step.

Thoughts?
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