Ahoy there! This is my personal blog which I use as my memory extension and a medium to share stuff that could be useful to others.

Tangible User Interfaces

How about manipulating digital information with your hands in a more natural, instinctive way like we do with other tangible things? Devices called Siftables make this possible. As per the creators David Merrill (MIT Media Lab) and Jeevan Kalanithi (Taco Lab), “Siftables are compact electronic devices with motion sensing, graphical display, and wireless communication. One or more Siftables may be physically manipulated to interact with digital information and media.” So, while gestural user interfaces allow you to manipulate digital information on surfaces by using gestures (like SixthSense and g-speak), tangible user interfaces (like Siftables) allow you to manipulate information in your hands with gestures. Watch a demo video of Siftables below:



Visit siftables.com for more details.

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Most jobs involving digital information are computer-centric. My job (IT) and that of millions out there predominantly involve exchange and manipulation of digital information and this ties us to our laptops/PCs/Macs, etc. and I/O interfaces like keyboards, mice, touch screens, etc.  How about doing the same stuff by working with digital information spatially? To do this, we would require a new type of I/O interface and what could be simpler and more intuitive to use than hand gestures! – so, we have it – gestural i/o. The SixthSense uses gestural I/O. A lot of research in the field of gestural I/O and Human-Computer Interaction has been performed by Oblong Industries together with MIT’s Tangible Media Lab. Oblong Industries is the developer of the g-speak spatial operating environment. View the video below for an overview of g-speak:



By the way, gestural I/O was not inspired by Minority Report, but rather the work done by Oblong industries/MIT inspired Minority Report. The movie’s Production Designer visited MIT Labs to determine how to depict a plausible future in the movie as required by Steven Spielberg. So, Spielberg wanted to depict 2054 AD as something which could be made real one day and I guess he was rather pessimistic when choosing the year 2054 as it seems we’re only a few years or a decade away from doing that stuff depicted in Minority Report.

Read this interesting account on the development of gestural I/O and spatial operating environments at Oblong and MIT.

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At times during my ritual household grocery shopping, I stand in front of a supermarket shelf containing several brands of a specific product (probably a new addition to the shelf), trying to digest all the information on the product labels and decide which brand to pick up. This task has been made somewhat easier after getting my BlackBerry Bold with unlimited internet usage, as I can now at least check product reviews on the www, thereby facilitating my decision-making process. But how nice it would be for me to have very quick access to the information I want with minimum fuss! – the SixthSense  may be just the perfect device to make this possible. Pranav Mistry, a Ph.D student in the Fluid Interfaces Group at the MIT Media Lab is the genius behind the SixthSense. Watch the demo of SixthSense below:



Visit SixthSense for more details. When this device becomes generally available, it will revolutionize the way we humans interact with the world around us and will bridge the gap between science fiction and reality.

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Yesterday, I placed an order for a new Dell laptop after spending a weekend on research and playing around with different custom configurations on a few vendors’ websites. My main requirements for a laptop were powerful performance (for mini development environments, virtual machines), wireless connectivity and a variety of interface ports. I wasn’t  keen on extreme graphics or the latest display LCD, as the laptop won’t be used for gaming or entertainment. And last, but not the least, I wanted to choose a laptop which will still hold its own against the latest out there and meet my requirements for at least a couple of years (future proofing). So, with my requirements defined, I narrowed down my choice to two vendors – Dell and Lenovo (I’m in love with the build quality of ThinkPads). Finally, given my requirements and budget, I selected the Dell Studio XPS 16 and here’s some of the custom configuration which I selected:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 (2.4 GHz, 3 MB L2, 1067 MHz) 64-bit processor
  • 4 GB DDR3 RAM (upgradeable to a maximum of 8GB)
  • 500 GB 7200 rpm HDD with free-fall sensor
  • Intel WiFi Link 5100  and Dell Wireless 370 Bluetooth PCIe Mini Cards

Visit the Dell Studio XPS 16 Gallery for images and more details (ports, etc.).

Having placed the order, I was satisfied that I had pretty much future proofed my laptop by opting for DDR3 (upgradeable to 8 GB), 7200 rpm HDD, eSATA, HDMI, Display Port, etc. As a matter of fact,  I placed an order for the same laptop on the previous day and later cancelled it. My cancelled order included an SSD instead of a HDD. I decided to replace the 128 GB SSD with a 500 GB 7200 rpm HDD after I read reviews and test results on reputed websites indicating that SSD is still a developing technology and only Intel’s SLC SSDs are good performers. Dell provides a Samsung MLC SSD along with the Studio XPS 16 (I’m annoyed that Dell do not mention this fact on their product configuration webpage). Being an early adopter of a technology can sometimes give you a kick in the teeth and I cannot afford to take such costly risks (SSDs are around 10 times the cost of HDDs for a given capacity).

Regarding connectivity for peripheral devices, the XPS 16 has USB 2.0 (480 Mb/s), IEEE 1394a (400 Mb/s) and eSATA (3 Gb/s). With eSATA, I will have the fastest external peripheral interface out there today on computers, but that won’t last long, as a couple of days ago, USB 3.0 or SuperSpeed USB (5 Gb/s) came closer to getting onto computers, with NEC’s development of the world’s first USB 3.0 controller chip.

Perhaps, a year from now, SSDs and USB 3.0 will be the hot technologies gracing computers and then my XPS 16 will have been left behind (I guess I can still use SSDs on Express cards as the XPS 16 has an Express card slot). Anyway, irrespective of your budget, you cannot future proof the purchase of a laptop/PC (or any gadget) for long due to the rapid advancement in technology – something which is both fascinating and a bit frustrating (unless you win the lottery). Well, I am eagerly awaiting the delivery of my new laptop!

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Another weekend, another exciting boxing match – Ricky Hatton Vs Manny Pacquiao. I thought I would be watching the fight right now instead of blogging, but Manny blew away the “Hitman” in just 2 rounds and here I am. I stayed awake all night to watch this fight LIVE and although I predicted a Manny victory prior to the fight, I am surprised at the clinical and emphatic manner in which Manny finished off Hatton.


Hatton (L) Vs Manny (R)

As with the Hatton-Mayweather Jr., fight, a lot of hype was built up around the “new” Hatton for his fight with Manny. And as usual, Hatton spoke a lot prior to the fight – about how Manny will be facing a fiery Hatton, how Manny will be fighting his biggest opponent, how Manny will be punished by body blows, blah, blah…. On the other hand, Manny didn’t talk much and was just focussed on the fight. 

If at all this indicated anything, looking at the kin of the 2 fighters as they made their ring entrances, you could see such a stark contrast. Hatton’s fiancée looked very nervous, whereas Manny’s wife seemed relaxed. Manny himself resembled a smiling assassin when he entered the ring. When the first round began, it seemed to me that Manny was backing off a bit and I thought he was trying to avoid “heavy” punches from the Hitman. However, Manny soon showed us that his quick feet and hands (southpaw) were going to pose Hatton a problem and soon there was a swing and a miss from Hatton which allowed Manny to land a clean punch, thereby knocking down Hatton for the first time in the match. Hatton was then knocked down a second time in round 1 and the bell ensured that the fight would stretch to two rounds. In the second round, Manny was able to easily jab Hatton. Then, came the big one from Manny – a brutal left hook to Hatton’s chin. Hatton fell to the floor as if he were poleaxed and he was unconscious. Hatton was sprawled across the canvas for a while, causing some concern. Fortunately, he was back on his feet later and fully conscious. So, the fight was over within 2 rounds and Manny left no doubt in anybody’s mind as to who is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

In my opinion, I never considered Hatton to be even among the top 5 candidates for the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. My opinion is bashatton-manny2ed on the fact that Hatton has one and only one way of fighting – walk right into the opponent punching with brute force, no quick feet and poor defence. This boxing style actually bears closer resemblance to pub brawls and will easily be outclassed by technically superior boxing styles. Hatton himself said “The Mayweather fight changed my career. I had too many fights where there was no real thought in the way I was fighting”. Unfortunately, there’s still no thought and no improvement as seen in his fight with Manny. The brilliant Freddie Roach (Manny’s coach) found flaws in Hatton’s style, worked with Manny in the gym on exploiting those flaws and predicted a 3rd round knockout. Manny made Freddie’s prediction turn out wrong by knocking out Hatton in the 2nd round, but Freddie will gladly accept that.

Ever since Ricky Hatton won the IBF Junior Welterweight World Championship belt by defeating a 35-year old Kostya Tszyu, he was hailed as a boxing legend in Britain and the marketing and money-spinning machines worked overtime to build a fairy-tale bubble around Hatton. What actually seemed annoying to me was that Hatton simply did not respect his profession enough. He did not follow a boxer’s regime and keep in shape. Instead, it was fast foods and sort of a pub lifestyle. It seemed to me that Hatton thought he was the best light-welterweight fighter in the world without even being tested by world class fighters who were in their prime. And this bloated ego was very evident in all the bragging crap he dished out in the pre-match build-ups for his fights against Floyd and Manny – both truly great champions. Well, if there’s anything I can give Hatton credit for, it’s his ability to put bums in seats. He simply never failed to attract huge crowds even when fighting away from home. He’s got a huge fan base who’ve travelled with him for his fights. To me, Hatton is a people’s champ, but not a boxing legend.

What next for Hatton?: He should hang up his gloves and enjoy his time with his family. He’s fought hard, held the light-welterweight championship belts for around 4 years and made a lot of money. Now, it seems he’s hit a brick wall with regards to where his boxing ability can take him. He’s had a shot at 2 great champs and has been knocked out by both. Unless, he can radically transform himself into a new Hatton bearing all the qualities of a great fighter (new style, strict training regime, etc.), will it be worth him trying another shot to get back his title, but there is a very, very small possibility, if not zero, that this can happen.

What next for Manny?: Floyd Mayweather Jr. fights Juan Manuel Marquez in July 2009. Manny has already had 2 gruelling fights with Juan (1 draw and 1 controversial win for Manny) and all boxing fans would love to see Manny take on Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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