Beyond reality: the future of human interface

Virtual Reality, the once thought of next-in-line booming technology appears to be at a standstill. Even with the support of heavy-hitting corporations the technology has yet to explode like many experts predicted it would. It’s still early, but the experiment stage is over with. Billions of dollars have been poured into this industry and if the results continue to be underwhelming it will soon be looked at a quirky trend that never lived up to its potential.

Gaming Industry Plaguing VR

Thanks to sci-fi novels and blockbuster hits the average consumer typically associates VR with the gaming industry. Because of this, tech leaders have invested billions of dollars into the most coveted VR companies like the Oculus Rift, but even with the influence and money behind these major companies the VR gaming industry has yet to experience significant growth.

One obvious reason behind this lack of growth is the limited amount of games offered by these VR companies. None of the world’s highest grossing video games can be played through virtual reality. Users cannot throw a pass in the newest Madden, nor can they shoot down an enemy tanker in the latest Call of Duty. What they can do is play games like Job Simulator, or Farm Harvester.

Eight out of ten homes own a next-gen console. The numbers for how many virtual reality headsets have been sold have yet to be discovered, but it doesn’t reach beyond hundreds of thousands. One serious disadvantage VR gaming has is that it cannot compete with the graphics offered by consoles like the Xbox One or PS4. Players who are used to playing games like FIFA or Halo are used to the selling point of better graphics equals better gameplay. How do you reverse an entire generations thinking? The gaming industry has only itself to blame as they are the ones who developed this ideology in the first place.

Lack of Modernization

For how futuristic it’s supposed to be virtual reality severely lacks the sleek modernized look that should come with a new and exciting advancement of technology. As of now, popular headsets like the HTC Vive are extremely bulky. Users have to place chunky devices over their eyes and use controllers that look eerily similar to the first versions of the Nintendo Wii. There has yet to be a virtual reality device that doesn’t look like giant head-goggles attached to a phone. Oh, don’t forget, if you want to play online with other users you’ll have to connect to a computer and sit right next to your processor.

Not Enough Benefits

When you first put on a virtual reality headset you’ll likely be impressed. It’s exciting, how can’t it be? You just entered a new world! But give it ten, maybe fifteen minutes, and that rush will soon wear off. Not to mention the possible motion-sickness and discomfort that many users have reported of feeling after just 30 minutes of activity.

The fact of the matter is that virtual reality isn’t a new world, and users can easily tell that after a few experiences with any given VR device. Our eyes have been trained to stare at one flat screen, but now we’re being asked to turn 180 degrees within every minute of the game? That’s a hard sell for many consumers. Our days are already long, and most people will choose to get in their exercise the old-fashioned way. When you come from a long day do you want to strap on your 5 pound headset and move around your living room, or do you want to sit down and become a couch potato like the rest of us decent Americans.

As VR Stalls AR Thrives

While virtual reality has yet to reach the average consumer augmented reality is taking over the streets and your pocket cell-phone. You know those silly snapchat filters that you love to use? Or that beloved app known as Pokemon Go? That’s augmented reality, and it’s expected to have over 1 billion users by 2020, with revenue projected to be four times greater than VR. What’s the reason for this? It’s simple: augmented reality is much more user-friendly. Unlike VR, a user does not have to strap on any device over their head or eyes as they can simply use their current smartphone. It’s much more social and can be used in almost any setting, not limiting users to their computers or consoles. Graphics across both platforms are generally the same, but AR has more facial recognition capabilities. AR is not only user-friendly, it’s corporate friendly too. Advertising within virtual reality is dead, but AR advertising is just getting started. From virtual tours in brick and mortar shops to a primary medium for storytelling, AR advertising will soon be submerged within every major city. Don’t worry about finding the cheapest sweatshirt in NYC as it will soon find you through augmented reality!

VR Potential Beyond Gaming

The VR gaming industry is never going to take off like experts thought it would, but that doesn’t mean virtual reality is useless. In fact, where VR makes its biggest impact is far beyond the computer screen and mind of a 16 year old. It’s already being used in hospitals across the country as it acts a key resource to train young surgeons. But it doesn’t stop in the training field, VR can also be used to perform major surgeries: by using VR doctors across the globe can communicate and operate as if they are all standing in the same room, giving patients the ability to have insight and feedback from more than one doctor. It’s also being used to treat soldiers suffering from severe cases of PTSD, and so far, the results are nothing but positive. Virtual reality will soon be widely used across our educational and healthcare sectors, and for good reason as collaboration is almost always a good thing and something that this country could use more of.

Conclusion

Both virtual and augmented reality will continue to receive billions of dollars from investors hoping to become the next Apple or Microsoft. Many of these startups will fail, but the few that succeed will become global influencers. The race is on, whose going to make it to the finish line?

Vertical farming: the future or a fad?

The Problem

200 years ago there were less than 1 billion humans living on earth. Fast forward to 2018 and the human population is above 7 billion with no indication of slowing down anytime soon as experts expect it to be over 12 billion by 2050. This rapid growth can be attributed towards a number of positive developments and improvements within the technology space and medical fields, but with all that growth comes plenty of problems. One of the most critical problems that a rapid growth in population brings is food. Because of the growing demand for food humans are currently overfishing oceans and without drastic measures to prevent this we could see every seafood species fall below commercially viable levels as soon as 2048. You don’t need to be a math wiz to understand that more people means more food, begging the question: how will we continue to address our rising populations as we have less space to work with and more people to feed?

The Solution

Vertical farming. It’s as simple as it sounds: grow crops vertically instead of using great plains and open fields. Sky scrappers, schools, apartment buildings, the potential hosts of vertical farms are nearly limitless. It’s a solution that is already being implemented within major cities across the globe with a wide variety of leading experts believing it to be the most effective way to combat the growing food crisis. A major bonus that comes with vertical farming is how environmentally safe it is. Indoor farming reduces the waste of fertilizers and water and because of the controlled climate it also requires ef pesticides and harmful toxins that can often be found in expansive outdoor crops. One of the world’s largest vertical farms currently produces heads of lettuce using 40% less power, 80% less food waste and 99% less water usage than their outdoor competitors, clearly indicating the eco-friendly benefits that come with vertical farming.

The Promise

What type of food can be grown and how much of it greatly depends on the availability of space and resources surrounding the vertical varm. However, almost every vertical farm will aim to work around developing a plan that includes greater water preservation, an increase in yield, more efficient use of urban space, and renewable production on top of being environmentally friendly. Vertical farms are also weatherproof and can feature year round crop production, something that many outdoor fields fail to accomplish through blistering winters or scorching hot summers.

How It’s Done

When it comes to vertical farming there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But there a few practices and commonalities found within every vertical farm, including:

  • Stacking crops

    • Instead of laying out crops in an open row farmers instead stack them on top of each other

  • LED lighting

    • Used as a energy and light source, replacing the need of a Sun.

  • Using technology to aid the growing process

    • Humidity and temperature control

    • Control monitoring of nutrients and fertilizer

    • Timed treatment of crops

  • They feature some type of “ponics”

    • Every vertical farm will include some variation of a nutrient and water delivery system intended to feed the crops (Aeroponics, Hydroponics, Aquaponics, etc.)

While these features can be found in almost every vertical farm a number of newer developments are including plans that collect their own rain water and produce their own energy for the entire building through wind turbines and solar cells. As vertical farms continue to develop, a greater sense of community involvement continues to arise; these farms aren’t just looking to maximize their profits, they’re looking to give back to their communities and help pave the way for future generations.

The Benefits

The U.S. manages to waste $165 billion in food each year. 40% of the food in the U.S. today goes uneaten, much of which finds itself in local landfills contributing towards a large portion of our current methane emissions. Vertical farming combats this growing crisis by providing food for only one city rather than shipping it off to people across the globe. A large portion of food is wasted through transportation and quality standards that overemphasize appearance, which results in less profits for the farmers and higher prices for the consumer. Vertical farms eliminates all of these problems by eradicating the need for shipping and transportation: all of the food that is grown will go towards feeding the city, so there is no need for large shipping containers that often compromise the integrity of the produce. As previously mentioned vertical farms are also extremely environmentally friendly as they greatly reduce water usage and wastage. The efficiency behind these farms also save farmers quite a bit of money on their energy bills, not to mention the 24/7 capability that shields crops from extreme weather.

The Negatives

It’s not cheap. Yes, you will save a great amount of money overtime, but that cannot be achieved overnight. Urban land is going to generally be more expensive to purchase than rural farmland. Creating a controlled weather environment is going to cost much more than gathering natural rainfall and sunlight from an open field. Unlike a rural farm you cannot employ just a farmer or two as you will need a team of engineers and scientists behind any project that is meant to serve an entire city. Another serious disadvantage is that you can only grow a limited amount of crops as not everything can be perfected under controlled climates. Plenty of produce can be grown in these farms: such as strawberries, kale, lettuce, basil, and other herbs. But some of the most widely eaten food cannot be grown under these conditions, including wheat, and rice.

Conclusion  

The world has a serious food epidemic taking place. We’re overfishing our oceans, wasting produce at an alarming rate, and not giving enough support or help to farmers who continue to lose profits on their crops. Vertical farming is a creative solution to these serious problems, and it’s a great idea and should continue to develop in cities across the globe, but is it enough? People are starving, farmers are losing money, and wasted food continues to build mountains of trash in our landfills. We need more than one creative solution to combat these serious world crises.

LoRaWAN and what it means for the IoT's and the future of technology

The Internet of Things continues to expand through modern technology, but with all that data and wireless communication comes quite a bit of power consumption. A major problem within the Internet of Things is that the network is so large that the outreach, and efficiency behind the vast database and communication system is costly and time consuming, that is until the recent development of LoRaWAN.

LoRaWAN acts within the LPWAN space, which is a Low Power Wide Area Network integrated within the Internet of Things, serving as a wireless data communication protocol. In simpler words, companies or users can integrate and develop the advanced communication protocol within any product or device, which will rapidly increase the product or devices efficiency because the technology can provide real-time data while simultaneously using less power than before. If you’re in the technology space and you hear someone say ‘“low power, but long-range’” you’re immediately going to be intrigued, and that’s the main selling point behind LoRaWAN.

The technology under the hood of the communication protocol is fairly new, but market disruptors and corporations are already beginning to profit from the recent advancements, and in some cases offer life saving products thanks to the constant real time data behind LoRaWAN. For example, Lineable, which started as a device for parents to monitor their children has now developed a product for people who suffer from alzheimer's by integrating LoRa technology within wearable bands that can give real time data to family members. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that over 60% of those who suffer from the disease will wander, half of which will experience severe injury or death if not found within 24 hours.

LoRAWAN can play a meaningful role within almost every major industry, and soon might provide agriculture users with a license-free community sensors network, providing real time data surrounding pipe leaks, temperature, and soil control. What this means, is that farmers would no longer have to pay private companies to set up tracking devices that monitor their crops, and instead could use a free, shared access community network that is powered through LoRAWAN and the Internet of Things, saving them a whole lot of money while also providing them with a secure, reliable network.

To ensure the IoT’s does not become monopolized, Semtech, the architects behind LoRa technology created the Lora Alliance in early 2015, a nonprofit organization compiled of over 500 companies who are dedicated to expanding and improving the Internet of Things through LPWAN technologies. The organizations mission is to “guarantee interoperability and standardization of Low Power Wide Area Networks internationally, by consolidating the fragmented wireless space and significantly improving ROI, which will drive large scale volumes for IoT.” Simply put, the nonprofit hopes to reach developing countries by offering a simpler, and cheaper option of widespread internet access to all of their inhabiting citizens.

LoRAWAN has it's limitations, and continues to slowly works it way into the consumer and corporation world, but the possibilities it has within the Internet of Things is almost endless. It could quite possibly be the technology that brings the world a more open and robust communication network that is accessible anywhere, at any given time. 

Pulling Back the Curtains: UL Certification

Underwriters Laboratory. It sounds like something out of a Cartoon Network show, or a secret creative writing workshop tucked away in an alley of New York City. Unfortunately for you, there is no secret society you’re missing out on, as the term simply stands for a long process involving product testing. However, albeit as boring as it may be, receiving a UL for your developed product can be the key component in the success of your company.

It can be difficult to market yourself and convince potential buyers that your solution is worth investing in if you have a new product within a well-established field. Perhaps the best way to combat this issue is by applying for, and receiving UL certification. A UL stamp of certification will show your potential consumers and the general public that your product meets the highest standard safety measures.

The reason that a UL is so well received, is simply due to the fact that they set the original standard for NRTLs. An NRTL is a nationally recognized testing laboratory program, and is what ensures the safety behind newer products to major industries. Currently, there stands less than 20 certified testing laboratories, offering a range of testing that involves major sectors such as the farming, mechanical, industrial, entertainment, and oil industry.

The cost and time frame of applying for a UL can be tricky, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Multiple variables play a part of the process, such as what market your product is intended for, as well as the unique design behind your potential moneymaker. One thing to keep in mind when applying for a UL is to thrive for transparency; a key mistake that young companies make is not providing enough valuable information surrounding their company and line of products, slowing down the entire process and potentially leading to more overhead costs.

A major complaint stemming from business owners who filed for a UL is that the process is long, demanding, and often requires multiple attempts. The best way to avoid this headache is by participating in a formal preliminary investigation with Underwriters Laboratory, which allows a team of engineers to oversee your entire design process long before it’s submitted to their official laboratory. The investigation will grant you communication to engineers working for UL, who can bring up potential problems with your product, saving you time, and money.

Lastly, it’s important to understand that filing for a UL is not always necessary, and should be avoided if possible as the costs and time frame behind the process can be quite extensive. However, if you’re competing in a market with multiple UL listed products, it might not only be encouraged, but downright necessary when it comes to the success of your new product. For example, if it plugs into a wall for a power source then it must be UL certified to be sold within the US market. From a business perspective, many owners will not touch a product that isn’t UL certified because it will come with little to no insurance.

If you have any questions surrounding a UL, or are interested in applying for a certification, follow this link or e-mail us with any specific questions.