Monthly Archives: April 2008

Wacky invention or future of transport?

Through Gizmodo amd Motorcycle Mojo found this unicycle/motorcycle hybrid, the Uno, recently shown at the Toronto Bike show. The inventor is a bright 18year old Canadian guy called Ben J. Poss Gulak who put the bike together without any big company R&D funds. It is two wheeled, with both wheels side by side, steered totally by moving your body weight around and gyro sensors, with electric battery power. Underneath the bodywork is extensively rebuilt Yamaha RI frame.

As a toy and a stunt show special fine but wouldn’t the perceived instability would put off both existing bikers and car drivers – maybe Segway owners would see it as a next step up from their machines? So its niche, but still glad someone has done it (and I would certainly have a go on one if it enters full production).

So whats the big idea?

In the NESTA Connect blog there was some thought given to the recent Business Week top innovators list – all the usual suspects with Apple & Google leading the pack. I think the blog is right:

As always the list is more telling for who it leaves out rather than who it includes – what about companies from sectors such as architecture/construction, financial services, media, brand and PR, financial services and tourism and hospitality?

Agreed – surely the real innovation is found in the archetypical garage or at least small business and with the exception of Google, with its “20% Time” for all employees, innovation usually gets shuffled into an “R&D department”.

With the publication of Innovation Nation by the DIUS (yes, I had to remind myself it stands for the Department of Innovation, Universities & Skills) the topic is back in the news. 

Key to the debate is whether a recession is the best or worst time to develop new products and bring them to market – as an eternal optimist I would say do it now, research resources are inexpensive and necessity, as always, is the mother of invention.

Getting Lost

Cheap SatNav

I have had decent sat nav for 6 months now and today instead used a road atlas to enjoy a retro moment – finding my way around several bike dealers within 100 miles of my house. So what did we learn?

  • there are some interesting back roads in Buckinghamshire, some muddy and infested with tractors
  • with road atlas scales size does matter – no more than 3 miles to one inch
  • as does being up to date – if you buy a 2008 titled atlas it was issued in August 2007 and based only on the roads known to man (and the O/S) some months earlier – although with the lack of investment in new roads you shouldn’t get caught out too often…

As a geographer and a map anorak but also a gadget fan this fundamental dichotomy causes me sleepless nights 🙂 

And the holy grail was found north of Aylesbury:

Aprilia Tuono 2008

How am I going to get from here to there?

“Google maps – your public transportation options mock me”

The well meaning world of internet journey planners – as Ernie Hsiung says Google doesn’t always get it right either. The comments Ernies post generated reflect a US perspective (even with SF having better than average PT options), but I can imagine the same comments here.

In the UK (and I will go out on a limb here) we have TfL Journey planner which I find pretty good and reliable, the National Rail Planner which is much improved and which I consult almost daily, Traveline varies by region and Transport Direct – sorry, still not good enough.  Google Maps UK only offers you the driving route, so can’t offer a comparison between UK and US versions.

Now I recognise how hard it is to get complex journey combinations right in the fragmented UK public transport system, but getting credible and sustained mode shift needs information about the product. Other consumer goods seeking greater market share wouldn’t be sold in such  away that potential customers give up before they even get to the bus stop. 

Discuss…

So where is my rocket car,then?

I remember reading my uncle’s popular science magazines in the 1960s when I lived in North Dakota and every year there would be a long look forward to the future, always optimistic and full of technology breakthroughs just around the corner. A look back at the November 1968 issue of Mechanix Illustrated, courtesy of the Modern Mechanix blog, gave me a mix of “well, that happened” and “we’re still waiting” moments.

IT’S 8 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008, and you are headed for a business appointment 300 mi. away. You slide into your sleek, two-passenger air-cushion car, press a sequence of buttons and the national traffic computer notes your destination, figures out the current traffic situation and signals your car to slide out of the garage. Hands free, you sit back and begin to read the morning paper—which is flashed on a flat TV screen over the car’s dashboard. Tapping a button changes the page.

Well, the predictions about sat nav & computers in the article have been met, with the internet predicted and the wide use of electronic money, for example. A good read, as is the Paleo Future blog, now we need someone to write an article about 40 years from now, I bet it won’t be so optimistic.

The future is bright, the future is…public?

I always enjoy Cameron Reilly’s podcasts and his TPN blog, especially his interest in society and futurists – so just need to recommend the last GDay World podcast, #320.

@Future Systems

The interview with Jamais Cascio covers a lot of ground, but its a timely consideration of living life publicly on the net, through ubiquitous social networks. The Chorus is cool, but to encourage interaction I am not writing anymore, you have to listen to it.

Is it April already?

New Gehry mansion unveiled in LA.

I believed it for about three seconds.

Thanks to Jason Calacanis for the link – I knew Twitter would give me some material eventually…