Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hands-Free Connectivity with Project Glass

We can already compute on the run, due to our tablet computers and smartphones. Nonetheless, Google isn't content. The online search giant is in the middle of testing its Project Glass project, what you probably think of as Google glasses. Maybe you've seen coverage of Project Glass in the New York Times. You might even have seen the many photos of smiling folks sporting what looks like futuristic wrap-around Star Trek glasses.


A Computer Above Your Eyes


These augmented reality glasses are hands off and permit users to share images, make phone calls, and do anything that they can do with their smartphones. The sole distinction is that their field of vision is the “screen”.


A Stream of Useful Information


Google glasses are triggered using voice commands. You can just request a bus schedule and it'll be displayed for you. Or you can request directions to a theatre, and a map will be displayed much like how it would be on a smartphone.


This video, produced by Google, gives you a glimpse of what wearing these augmented reality glasses may be like. The video shows a man making plans throughout his day, without having to bother with a hand held device. As he heads to meet a friend the glasses alert him that the subway is suspended then maps out walking directions for him to follow. The video demonstrates that these glasses can act as a personal assistant who stays one step ahead and makes your life run more easily.


An Unobtrusive Technology?


There has been some debate as to weather the information shown will be so vast that it may hinder a person’s sight. Google claims that the only data that'll be projected into a user’s field of vision is information they have requested and they say that this will help more then hinder. For example, if a person wishes to text a friend they only have to speak it, rather then find their device and type.


There have been those who believe that these glasses will be used for advertisements. A few spoof videos have already been made and posted on YouTube that demonstrate this idea. While it's not clear what will be projected into your field of vision with Project Glass, what is clear is that Google's latest initiative holds unlimited potential.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tricks to get More out of Gmail

Many people use Gmail nowadays, and that is not surprising. It’s simple to use, free, and Google knows how to make a good product. If you use Gmail you might not be using it to its full potential. It has some incredible tools built into it that make it simple for you to organize your email. Below is a description of some of those tools and links to pages that show you how to utilize them.


Label your messages: Applying labels to your messages visually organizes your inbox so you know what emails you need to address first. For instance, if there are a few emails that you need to deal with before the others you can mark them with a red “Important” label. Or, if you are organizing a vacation, you can apply a green “Vacation” label to any verification emails that come in.


Free up space with archiving: Is the number of emails in your inbox fast approaching the 5,000 mark? Then it might be time to archive your messages. This effective feature from Google allows you to place messages that you don't need right now but don't want to delete to the "All Mail" folder. Unlike messages that you place in "Trash," emails archived in "All Mail" don't vanish forever after 30 days.


Add a signature: Tired of typing your name, phone number, and email address at the end of each of your Gmail messages? Why not create an email signature? Gmail allows you to save signatures that you can then simply drop into the base of your messages. This is a wonderful time saver for anyone who writes dozens of email messages during an average day.


Filter your incoming messages: Gmail also lets you create filters that can automatically label, archive, delete, or forward specific incoming messages. By choosing the "Filter messages like this" option from Gmail's "More" drop-down menu, you are able to tell Gmail to automatically apply the "Job Search" label to any messages which include the words resume, apply, career or job. You can tell Gmail to automatically send all messages with the words "hotel," "car rental," or "reservation" to your Gmail "Vacation" folder.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Future of VoIP

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a technology that enables people to make phone calls over the Internet. It can be very beneficial for businesses of any size since it is very cost-effective. Businesses that use VoIP can frequently save between 30 and 50 percent on their phone bills.


Many businesses, large and small, are still struggling and are looking to save money anyway they can. So, the question is; are businesses adopting VoIP as an obvious way to save money or are they reluctant to get rid of their trusty old landline?


A Move Toward VoIP?


Recently a study was done by Heavy Reading that showed that fewer businesses then you would think have made the transition to VoIP. But, based on the Heavy Reading study, that may be changing. The number of businesses using VoIP is on the rise. In 2011 about 31% of companies in North America were using VoIP but Heavy Reading predicts that by 2015 that number will rise to 66.6%.


Businesses are Switching to VoIP


That means that the amount of businesses that employ VoIP to make calls will double in the next 3 years. But will there actually be such a significant change? And will the shift happen this quickly? More and more companies are becoming educated about the benefits of VoIP and whilst they have previously been slow to transition, the move to VoIP is snowballing so rapidly that we are likely to see the percentage grow significantly.


A Bright Future for VoIP and Business


VoIP technology provides voice communication that is as clear and dependable as traditional landlines. Let's also not forget that it can be considerably cheaper. Upper management may be slow to make the move but the great thing about VoIP, is that employees will not have to get used to anything new. Phones work just like they do with a landline. So you if think VoIP is a passing fad, think again.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

The Best Online Music-Streaming Services

The Internet has changed the way we get our news, watch movies, and pay our bills. It's not surprising, then, that it has also changed the way we listen to music. Today, the web is home to several top music-streaming services - online services that allow users to listen to their favorite music on their laptops, desktops, and mobile devices.


But which music-streaming services are the best? Here are some recommendations:


Pandora: Pandora is very widely used because of its simple user interface. After navigating to the website, you are able to input a song or artist you want to hear and Pandora will create a “radio” station based upon that information. This is an excellent way to learn about new artists with similar sounds. The stations that Pandora creates are easily personalized as well. If Pandora chooses an artist that you don’t like, you can click the thumbs down symbol on the song. Pandora allows for further customization by allowing you to “seed” your station with different artists. While you can enjoy Pandora without creating an account, it is crucial if you want to save your personalized stations.


Grooveshark: Grooveshark is similar to Pandora. But you can also make your own playlists manually, all without creating an account. However, those that want to save their play lists will have to sign up for a free account. Like Pandora, Grooveshark also provides suggestions for songs that you might like determined by your past musical selections. Grooveshark also has an intriguing feature: You can help build the service's database of music by adding your own favorite songs and artists if you don't find them in Grooveshark's existing collection.


Rhapsody: Rhapsody has stayed fairly popular due to its huge database of music. It has more then 14 million songs. Unfortunately, while many of the services we have discussed offer a free version, Rhapsody does not. It is $10 a month for unlimited music.


Spotify: Spotify is a Swedish music-streaming service that was launched in 2008. It has quickly grown to one of the most well-known and widely used services out there. People like the flexibility of Spotify. When you search for an artist, you can listen to a complete album or decide to use the radio function and Spotify will find similar artists for you to enjoy. Another advantage of Spotify is that you may create your own playlists and share them with other users if you so choose.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Kinect: Inspiring Innovation

It’s been some time since Windows was regarded as cool but the Kinect may change all that. The Kinect is a voice and motion-sensing device that was initially designed as a feature for the Xbox gaming system.


A version of the device also works with Windows-operated PCs, and almost immediately after its launch in February, people started coming up with innovative ways to use it.


Innovative Uses for the Kinect


At the Chicago Auto Show the Chief Marketing Manager for Nissan North America used the Kinect in an interesting way, by creating a virtual tour of the enhanced interior of the Pathfinder. This worked out well as they only had the outer shell of the Pathfinder to physically display. Using the Kinect, participants could actually “see” what the interior looked liked.


Microsoft is encouraging companies to find different uses for the Kinect and even cooperating with them to develop applications for it. This is a great move on their part, as it not only promotes ingenuity but it also puts a Microsoft product at the center of the creative development. One company that has worked with Microsoft in this way is Boeing. They have used the Kinect to build virtual tours of their jets. Another unique use of the Kinect was discovered by a medical facility in Canada. They are using the Kinect’s gesture-recognition to swipe through CT scans. This greatly reduces, if not eradicates, the possibility of spreading germs since you don’t have to touch the computer.


Kinect: A Solid Hit


The Kinect is a hit for Microsoft. Last year the device helped turn the Xbox 360 into the year's best-selling gaming console. In fact, Microsoft has sold over 18 million Kinect devices since November of 2010. It makes sense then, that a version developed specifically for Windows would be a hit, too.


The Kinect has many uses outside of what it was initially developed for. Microsoft actually developed something which is not only useful, but thought to be cool. This transformation in attitude toward Microsoft could help the company in lots of ways.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Hire the Best Employees by Changing your Interview Strategy

There are lots of people looking for jobs today. However, as an employer, you are not looking for just anyone. You want to hire the best, most imaginative employees to work at your business. You recognize that your company is only as strong as your workers. How do you hire the best people? It all starts with the interview.


Make sure that your interview questions solicit the information that will help you find the individual with the characteristics you want. If you use a cookie cutter approach to the interview, you are likely to get uninspired, cookie cutter answers.


Ask the Right Questions


Start by asking the right questions. Don't ask applicants what their job titles were at past positions. Don't ask them what their duties were. Rather, ask them to list any innovative ideas that they came up with for their previous employers. Ask them if these ideas helped their employers earn more money, run more efficiently, or cut back on expenses.


Another prevalent interview question is to ask about the individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Most people have a canned response to this, as they know it might be asked in an interview. Instead have them tell you what they add to the culture of a company, what do they do in nerve-racking situations, or what are some ways they keep themselves satisfied at their jobs. These answers will clue you in to the personality of the person you are interviewing, and if they will fit in with your company and the position.


If you truly want to see which of your candidates are the most innovative, give them a simple task to perform. It doesn't have to be complex; you can ask them to write an essay explaining how they would approach their job if hired. You could ask them to write down their ideas on what their ideal workspace would look like. Ask them to come up with new names for company services or products. Basically, ask them anything that will get their creative juices flowing.


Today’s job market is such that it’s probable that many competent people will apply to your open position. So, in order to sift through these applicants and find the most creative and inventive individuals, change your interview tactics to hone in on these traits.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Will Videoconferencing Replace Business Travel

There aren’t many people who look forward to going on business trips. They're a hassle and expensive for the organization. Business travelers often feel rushed, which leads to lack of sleep and poor dietary habits, which exacerbates stress. Not to mention dealing with Airports and long-term parking. As a result, many businesses choose to use videoconferencing as much as possible. But do you think that business travel is on its way out? Will Videoconferencing replace it altogether?


The End of Business Travel?


Do we want to strive for the extinction of business travel? Perhaps not, think about the differences between in-person meeting and videoconferencing.


Fluid conversation is usually less frequent when videoconferencing. It’s hard to pin point precisely why. It could be due, partly, to office distractions, as well as any lag that the videoconference has. These issues could be solved with technological advancements. But in general, when people are videoconferencing they have a tendency to stick to the primary task of the meeting instead of allow discussion to flow naturally, which can be a catalyst for creative ideas.


The Benefits of Face-to-Face Time


Conversation evolves much more easily with in-person interactions. This is healthy, and as far as business is concerned, can be quite beneficial. Having an impromptu brainstorming session can result in ideas that can lead the organization down a path that wasn’t previously anticipated. This isn't to say that every face-to-face meeting becomes a game-changing brainstorming session. But if a meeting degenerates into story telling, this is an opportunity for co-workers to bolster their interpersonal relationships and increase moral.


Business Travel is Here to Stay


While many companies turn toward videoconferencing because of the cost and ease of it, it is doubtful that business travel will disappear totally. When we develop business relationships, just like any relationships, we want to meet face-to-face because we're a social species. The benefits of face-to-face meetingsare enough that savvy business owners will not get rid of business travel altogether.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

The Factors that are Limiting Technology

Remember watching sci-fi movies as a kid and thinking we would have jetpacks in the future? Or teleporters? We don’t have these technologies yet but we do have many impressive technologies that seem straight out of a sci-fi movie. Our cars can guide us around a city, via GPS. We can carry tablet computers around with us that hold all of our data. And we can speak with associates around the globe at the push of a button.

So, with all of this technology, why don’t we have jet packs yet? What factors are keeping us from making these technological leaps?

Building a Better Battery

Batteries power nearly all of our technology, particularly as we move into a more mobile world. As a result, the more limited our batteries are, the more limitations we have technologically. They are an integral part of our technology, so we need to concentrate on enhancing them before we can really make leaps in technology. Luckily, researchers at Chicago's Northwestern University are creating a more powerful lithium-ion battery, which we discussed in a blog post last week. This could solve this issue in the coming years.

Improving Internet Access

It may seem like everybody is linked to the Internet, but this is a fallacy. Most of the world doesn’t have access to the Internet. While this may not seem like it could hold back technological advancements, it does. The reasoning is that by limiting the amount of people who can contribute to the interconnectedness the Internet provides, we are limiting the amount of people who can collaborate. Until the vast majority of people are connected, technological developments are not going to happen as fast as they could.

The Business of New Tech

This might not come as a shock, but business matters impede technological advancements as well. For instance, patent laws, and government regulations. If these things are not clear, pioneer technology can sit in red tape limbo for a long time. To avoid this last step bottleneck of the creation process, laws must be clear and easy to grasp.

The good news is that none of these limitations can truly stop technology from developing. Just think ahead to the holiday season of 2020. Who knows what innovations will be awaiting us.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Alternatives to Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is an incredible tool. It lets organizations edit the images they need to produce professional-looking brochures, pamphlets, and marketing materials. The problem is that Photoshop is far from inexpensive. A quick online scan will show that newer versions of this image-editing program can run higher then $600. For small business owners on a budget, this program isn't feasible. This doesn't mean, however, that these small business owners don't have photo-editing options. In fact, businesses can choose from a number of alternatives that are not only cheaper but are actually free.


These alternatives are not quite as dynamic as Photoshop but they provide enough of the elements to be useful to the small business owner. Here is a list of three that make photo-manipulation easy, without straining the wallet.


GIMP


GIMP, which stands for GNU image manipulation program, is the choice of many a cost-conscious designer. That is because this free program contains many of the most important features of Photoshop. The GIMP website even offers a version of the program—cleverly named GIMPShop—that features a screen layout that is a virtual twin of Photoshop's.

Paint.NET


Remember that old MSPaint program that came with your Windows program? Paint.NET is the successor to this, and it's a unexpectedly powerful—and free—photo editor. Paint.NET comes with its own special effects, an unlimited undo (a nice feature for those designers who are far from perfect), and an online forum full of users who aren't shy about sharing their favorite tips and strategies for using this program. The only negative of Paint.NET? It only works with Windows-based systems.

Picnik


Picnik is a free program that works on Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems. This program has some really fun effects such as blurring, darkening, and lightening images. It’s one of the most popular free editing programs, as you don’t have to download files to use it.


There is no need to purchase the expensive Photoshop program to produce professional looking pamphlets. For the small business owner on a budget, any of these programs will do the trick while keeping standards high.