Science Fiction before and today, and what will it turn into?

Science Fiction on the big screen, I love it! And especially in this age! Let me explain.

In the past, Science Fiction movies have mainly been about the gadgets; lasers, teleporters, flying cars, space travel, you name it. 40 years ago we envisioned a future where gadgets helped humankind do incredible things, like video-calling, even with holograms, machines being able to make anything, devices that monitor your health, computers on your wrist, glasses and helmets that can analyze your surrounding and serve different purposes. All these things, have to this date, actually been invented. Isn’t that amazing?

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In their time, it was simple, it was just there, only tools for the plot and to people’s amazement. Futuristic design being casually used.

Today we have these things available to the majority of the western world, and we’re trying to bring them to the rest of the world. And as such, we are only beginning to see their true purpose and their true nature. How do we use the Internet? Mostly to watch cat videos, apparently. We have powerful computers in our pockets, which we use to watch cat videos, and go on Facebook, tweet random stuff on Twitter, post a cat gif on Google+. We even take selfies all the time. That’s vastly different than what we might have thought some 40 years ago.

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Of course, we don’t all just do that, smartphones are used intellectually with anything from solving Rubik cubes (with Lego) to calculate life changing algorithms for scientists around the world. So 99% may use smartphones casually, but the 1% is defining what is actually possible, and what is being defined are advancements that have impact in our daily lives.
So as that as a segway, let’s turn our attention to modern Science Fiction.

Lately, I’ve noticed how sci-fi movies often revolves around consequences of our new technology, or at least show them in a light that is very relevant today. We question our privacy online, government wants our data, big firms like Google collects a huge amount of data, simply to get to know you, and sell ads to your liking. However, as important is what companies are doing with that data, they analyze and track you so they can deliver a service to you, that you can use. Almost like an assistant of your own. There’s tons of options, but I won’t dive into that now.

Technology is changing fast these days, and they are inching closer and closer to our personal data. There’s a lot of distrust and a lot of politics that needs sorted out, and on top of that, it’s all so new, so we also need to socially accept these changes and our new behaviors. Science fiction is beginning to tackle these issues on the big screen. A recent example is the movie “Her”, the movie is about an Artificial Intelligence as an Operating System. And in the near future, it’s everywhere, always a part of you and what you do. This AI has a personality, and the movie doesn’t tackle the privacy concerns, but rather the social interaction with this AI, and how a human can fall for an AI. After all, humans can be attracted to personalities, and an AI like Her is quite advanced, and as such, the main character falls in love it. That’s a really interesting angle, especially in this day and age. We don’t need to procreate as much (far from it), the physical attraction to humans are less relevant today, as you don’t need a prime specimen anymore to survive and thrive. Of course there’s still physical needs and wants, but the movie tackles these as well. It’s interesting and it’s not even debated much today – but it’s clearly somewhere along those lines we are headed, if ever possible to create a truly Artificial Intelligence. RoboCop (the latest installment) presses on bionics and when a human no longer is human, but more a machine. Artificial human parts are no longer impossible, and are quite functional today, so when we start replacing parts in our body to live longer, or to improve our lives, when are we no longer human? This, however, I think returns to the old sci-fi from before. We actually don’t really know. If we can replace almost any human part, how will people be when they are 100 years old and are physically as a 25 year old? How about 150? How will the brain work? Will we need to refresh the brain as well with computers? How does this affect our human and personal selves?

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The list obviously goes on, but notice that we have moved on from the gadgets, to ourselves. To give ourselves perspectives and wonder how we will live our technological advanced lives. How will politics be? What will society be like when certain stuff are the norm, what makes logical sense, but isn’t exactly accepted as a social norm?
The age of context is upon us right now. Computers are getting to know us on a personal level, scientist and programmers are working on using this data to assist us and guide us, and we question these possibilities more and more, and I absolutely love it. You can do something entirely different today, than what you could just 10 years ago. Imagine what is possible in 10 years, and how we will change for technology. It’s a brave new world, and a very exciting one.

It’s one of the reasons I’d like to help people understand their smartphone more, because the smartphone is so far like a little window into the future, where exciting things connect, and understanding that will be beneficial when technology can do even more for you. And it will probably help understand the next wave of devices more; wearables and the data they collect.

Happy Friday, it’s my birthday today, and I turn 25. Quite the age I think 🙂

Be sure to follow me on Google+ “The Bear Blogs Android”, or just my personal account; Cebastian Rosing, you can also catch me on twitter @C_Roxing. Have a great weekend, and consider watching a modern sci-fi. Try to notice the social aspects and the underlying question of technology. If you know of any good Sci-fi movie, be sure to comment below, as I’d like to know, and if you aren’t sure you know what to watch, I can make a quick list in the comments I recommend – just let me know 🙂

The Future foretold in Science Fiction

Technology is like magic.

Let me ask you this question; how does the internet work? How can this Blog show up in Japan in a matter of seconds? If you don’t know, it might as well be magic, but the truth is we have an incredible network of computers and servers that work 24/7 365 days a year.

As it is with magic, it is only an illusion because you have no idea what’s going on. You just see the bunny jump out of the magician’s hat.
So I dare say that technology is magic that we understand, and something we control. So when we predict the future, we are imagining things we don’t yet understand and control.

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The future, as predicted in the early 20th century.

50 years ago people imagined we’d all have flying cars by now, which we don’t have, but back then what else where there to imagine? It’s all in their past; people are acustomed to their past, so what they need or desire is based on that past. That desire or need is always simplified. No innovation or discovery stands alone, so if the people 50 years ago wanted flying cars, people would experiment. In those experiments people would find out an awful lot about stuff surrounding flying cars, from chemicals to engeneering parts, from security to comfort. In the end, we don’t have them, because it isn’t feesable, and I’m pretty sure it’s also because it’s a lot harder to control a flying car.
But along those years, people learned that flying cars just isn’t happening. 50 years later, here we are. What do we need? What do we desire? What is our prediction of the future?

If we look at science fiction movies, like Iron Man and the Marvel universe, a lot of stuff is operable by voice, everything is touchscreen, or holograms that responds to gestures. Next time you see those scenes, notice how the interface knows exactly what to do. Like if they have a small display and want to throw it to the big screen, they just flick it. Flick it.
How do you scroll on a page? You flick it. This is a simple gesture that makes zero sense considering current devices. Unless the computer can read minds. Which, actually, isn’t far off even today. You can check out a TED talk where a guy controls basic movements on a virtual box. The point I’m trying to make is; that today, we have voice input via Google Now, Siri and Cortana (and many more), but they are still pretty limited in functionality, and some work better than others. But it’s beeing achieved because as it is right now, we want to talk to our computers, and we want our computers to understand us. As we go down this path, we also consider alternative inputs. Smartwatches or fitnessbands can give valuable data all the time, feeding a computer with intel about you and what you’re doing. Your keyboard can learn the way you type and what phrases you use.
Ultimately, we don’t want to physically use computers, we just want to command them. The computer should know what I mean. Context of location, tone, situation, social surroundings, everything. Everything it can gather, so that when you flick that screen, it goes on to the big screen, and doesn’t scroll the page.
We are in an age of information, and as it stands, we are trying to gain control of that information. When we do have that information, what then? How will life be like – what will my needs be?

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The Illusive Man, from Mass Effect

It’s hard to tell; on one hand we have a lot of people against all the technology invading our daily life, on another hand we’re getting closer every day, to a world where that is more or less completely digital. Facebook bought Oculus Rift, a company making a Virtual Reality headset. Google is augmenting the world with Google Glass. Are we going to end up in a chair where everything is brought to us? Or will we take advantage of that technology we develop and do things we’ve never done before?

I hope it’s the second option, and to do that, we need to understand that technology is here to accompany us, helping us in our daily lives to achieve more. Not become mindless drones that sits around all day – every day – being lazy. As the people before us, we should imagine a future where technology enables more than it disables.
So science fiction tells us, that with the future technology, the computers will understand us, and what we can use that for, is entirely up to us. Be mindful of the technology in your hand, it can do awesome things already!

Thanks for reading! I’ve made a brand new page on Google+, you can find it here!
https://plus.google.com/b/117799393833331677897/117799393833331677897

Of course, my personal Google+ account is still available, but I’d rather share through a page. Be sure to follow me and throw a message my way, so I can keep track 😉
I’m also making a Twitter account, so hang tight!

As a personal sidenote, I’m begining a scheduled program for the Blog, I will post every (Tutorial) Tuesday, (Future) Friday, and (Select) Sunday. And next week will be a bit special, be sure to hang around for that 🙂

Please feel free to leave a comment below of your predictions, the future is more awesome if we build it together! 😉

Trains

You know what I love? Trains.

Trains are simple. Consider your various transportation options. Walk, run, bike, drive, sail, or fly. Now, assuming you aren’t a millionaire, flying is tedious. You have to arrive early, check in, deliver luggage, wait around in the airport, and sit in a comparatibly small seat. The views are great, if not amazing… Through that small window. Oh, and don’t mind the noise.
Now consider traveling by train again. You can arrive at the station right on time, no check-in, you have a nice seat and a table. I often travel across the (rather small, if not puny) country, and it takes 5-6 hours. I sit down on my seat, of course you get the window seat, I start my music, and I can just stare out the window. The music and countryside seams to mesh the more I listen to the music. It’s a funny thing too; there’s so much going on outside. Trees right outside fly by, almost too fast to notice them at all, but out there in the horizon, things are moving slow, you can even see the crawling landscape. Let’s not forget everything in between the window and the horizon. And you just sit there, going fast and with only one way to go. Things just go by.

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Enjoy the time you get on the train, it’s all automatic, comfortable, and relaxing. A perfect time to sit down and write your feelings about traveling by train.

I love trains. I love things that work seamlessly. You get on board and it works.

Now compare this to your smartphone. Does it just work? Well, that’s a tough question. On one hand, if all you do is to use the Web browser, call people and text, it works easy. But the more you want to use your phone, the more complicated it becomes. But in turn, the more useful it can become. Some things are easier to manage on a regular computer, and some things are easier on the phone.

I want to make that process easier for you. I’m inviting you to take the train with me, get to your destination with less effort and get there faster. Do you see where I’m getting at? I’ll bring fresh content tomorrow, and on a weekly basis. I just wanted to paint a picture here, so I hope you enjoyed it! Remember, you can find me on Google+, where you can contact me any time, and if you add me, make sure you send me a message, saying you are coming from this blog. I can manage followers more easily that way. And it gives you a chance to say hello 🙂

Android 4.0 and the Arrival of Holo UI

The most important UI change came to Android in version 4.0, what key aspects changed can be boiled down to these 3 points:

  1. Unified design language in phone and tablet.

  2. All-touch navigation.

  3. Flat and modern design language.

But before we dive into these key changes, I’d like to explain a few things; what is UI? And what was the reasoning behind the changes?

UI stands for User Interface, it is the interface you are met by when you use your phone, or tablet, or even your computer. Anything you can interact with, basically has an interface. The radiator even has that knob that controls the heat. UI is how it looks, and how it works for you. It is a key player, in terms of  user’s experience. Now let’s move on.

Android was growing rapidly in the phone market, it had already surpassed the iPhone and iOS by the time Android 4.0 came out, but iOS was still considered the leader of smartphones, namely because the design of the UI and the still larger numbers of quality apps.

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Google set out to change that with Android 3.0+ Honeycomb, which they carried over to Android 4.0. Android 3.0 was an experiment to Google, it was primarily used for tablets then, and it was never released as an AOSP, it was a closed experiment for Google to use, and only a few devices shipped with that version of Android.
Google used this experiment to build the blocks of a modern Android, which is Android 4.0. With Android 4.0 Google set out a design guideline for anyone developing for Android devices. They called it the Holo UI.

Hardware buttons was no more, the UI changed to a dark, clean, and robotic look, which translated well with bright colors as well. Google set out to make Android pretty, it was well aware of Apple’s dominance and superiority in design, and addressed them accordingly. What it meant was Android became more streamlined; the home button, the back button, the menu and settings, everything was going to be found at the same place, and even look much the same. Apps would work more like each other, and users would more easily find themselves at home with any app.

The process has been a rather long journey. It has taken a year or two to become the norm with almost any app, especially among the new and serious apps. Over the past 2 years, Google have only updated the Holo UI slightly, and at the latest with Android 4.4 KitKat, made Android a flat, clean and bright design powerhouse. Savvy users of smartphones now (in large numbers) prefer the all touch navigation due to it’s flexibility and others (like me) simply enjoy to use it because it feels very modern and just right, to navigate everything by light touches.

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All this came from Android 4.0, and furthermore, Android 4.0 applied to both phones and tablets. The design language enables phone apps to more easily transform into tablet apps, optimizing your Android experience for larger devices, be it a small 3,5” phone to the huge 5,9” phablet (a crossover of phone and tablet, phablet), as well as into the small 7” tablets and larger 10” sizes too. All Holo UI apps that are true to that nature will find itself nicely in almost any Android device. That isn’t to say a phone app will translate well into a 10” tablet, but the app will be optimized more easily by the developer, and the user will find it easier to use the app too.
This is a huge deal for Android. It shows how much the system has matured as an OS over the last 8 years, because to this day, the Holo UI is still among the best looks to find on phones.

What this means for you is, that by using an Android phone for a week or two, you should be able to find your way around Android with no problems. It’s true that Android has a bit of a learning curve to it, compared to the iPhone and the iPad, but once you get into that, it’s very likely you’ll feel comfortable and empowered by the possibilities.

Lately there’s been some rumours, that Google is working on a major update to the UI of their own apps, perhaps giving new guidelines. From what we’ve seen, this is true, and the design seems to be aiming at more vibrant and vivid colors, and an even simpler look. It’s hard to judge these changes, but I’ll be sure to form an opinion and it’s implication once it is official and there’s been enough time to actually use this. Be sure to come back soon!

You can tell me what you think of the Holo UI in the comments below, and how you experience Android. Have you noticed the design of your apps? And have you been an Android user before Android 4.0, how have you experienced the change?

 

A brief look into what Android is

My first Blog entry will focus on the the basic blocks of Android. It will be short, but I will bring some technical terms along the way. This is solely on a nice-to-know basis, so you have an idea of what Android, at least on the surface, represents and enables.

Android is an operating system based on the Linux kernel and is an open-source project. What this means is that the Android OS is openly available to anyone who wants to utilize the OS. The OS can be used on virtually any electrical device, but is most commonly seen on phones and tablets. What this means, is that anyone wanting to build any device can get the Android OS, and incorporate it into their own device, completely free.

There is an important distinction I would like to make though; The Android Open Source Project (or AOSP) isn’t equal to the Android you probably know from your phone. Manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, HTC, and LG (among many, many more) have an agreement with Google (the owner of Android), which gives them access to a bunch of Google services, named Google Play Services. This is a way of branding Android phones with Google software; things like Google Search, Google Maps, and Gmail. This essentially means that the Android OS can freely be downloaded and used as pleased, but without Google’s approval, it won’t have access to the services provided by Google.

Google Android

As you can tell, Google actually has a certain amount of control of Android. It gives Google an edge to promote their own services, and with it, a golden standard of apps and services. These services are however completely avoidable and replaceable, and furthermore, on Android it is possible to make certain apps and services a standard operation, which means your Android experience isn’t connected to Google’s services. As a user, this means if you prefer the Firefox Browser, you can download Firefox for Android, and set that browser as a default, which means that any time you open a link in any app, Firefox will open the link. This procedure can also be done on the Play Store (where you get apps), if you don’t want to get involved with Google, you can get apps from a lot of alternatives, from the web itself, from Amazon, from Samsung, or from any 3rd party essentially.

I will dive into customization later on, with blogs and videos, to demonstrate how Android is a extremely flexible OS. For now, just know that Google owns Android, and does what it can to deliver certain services.

Android is a special mobile OS. What makes it special is the way it works; Android supports true multitasking, like you know from Windows or Mac. Apps can work in the background and even side by side. What it enables is to work more effectively; apps can work silently in the background monitoring your device, and be aware of any known changes, apps can also run invisibly all the time (as an example, you can drag your finger from the edge of the screen to pull out a task switcher), apps can pop-up on the screen too if anything happens, while you don’t leave what you’re currently doing. It’s true multitasking, and you see tons of optimized apps only for Android.

One of my absolute favorite apps is called Tasker. Tasker is quite complicated, but what it does is work in the background and monitors everything my phones does, and by doing so, I can make my phone to things, completely automatically. A great example is to recognize I’m at a cinema, and it will automatically turn completely silent, and as soon as I leave, turn on the sound again.

I couldn’t possibly write everything about Android, but I believe I’ve mentioned the basics into understanding what is possible on Android. What I will strive to do from this day, is to make you understand more of the OS, and make it a truly personal phone. A phone that will work for you, and a phone you can take advantage of.

Every time I see a person with a smartphone, and that person only uses it to the most basic tasks, like facebook and texting, I think a phone is being wasted. I encourage you to be aware of what is possible, it can ultimately make your life a little easier and more fun!

So I hope you’ll join me in doing this, I love helping people out, and I think I can do this in a simple and effective way. Feel free to comment down below, or contact me on Google+. Maybe you just got an Android smartphone, or maybe you’ve had one for a while, but feel like you could learn more. I will cover the basics and I will move onto intermediate stuff, having everything you need in one place; my blog, my YouTube channel, and you catch me on Google+!