Andy Wendt – Fun Technology

It's Not About Paris Hilton

Technology Is Like The Seasons

As I walked the trails at Hueston Woods State Park this wonderful fall weekend it occurred to me: Technology, like the seasons, was only meant to be enjoyed for a finite period of time.

To my pleasant surprise, the park located roughly ten minutes from Oxford, Ohio (the home of Miami University), was in the peak of its fall beauty with both its forest floor and canopy covered with bright fall colors.

If you have not been to the park you may be surprised at its size. At a listed 2,936 acres the park has an activity for almost any nature lover lucky enough to spend the day there. For more information on the park follow this link to the official state Hueston Woods website.

If you want to see some old “fun technology” whose days are numbers then take a look at the short low resolution video below shot on my 6 year old Cannon PowerShot S50 5 mega pixel digital camera. Oooo…After seeing that video I wish I would have replaced the camera long ago. But on the brights side; now the fun of looking for a new toy!

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Outdoor Life | , , , , | 1 Comment

The NFL & Social Media

The NFL & Social Media

If you’re hoping to get Eli Manning’s thoughts in 140 characters or less this fall, you’ll have to wait until until he has given them to the media first.  The NFL has made some decisions about social media, who can use it, how, when and where. 

Players, coaches, and operations personnel can use Twitter, Facebook, etc., but no closer to kick-off than 90 minutes and only once they’ve given their traditional media interviews after the games.  Updates during the games by any individual or any representative of the individual are strictly prohibited.  

Game officials and officiating department personnel are banned from using the applications at all times.   The ban is considered an extension of the league’s rule that prohibits play-by-play descriptions of games in progress.  

The decision comes after San Diego Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie tweeted negatively about food service at the Chargers’ training camp.  He was fined $2,500.  Several teams, including the Broncos, Patriots, Bills, Colts, Saints, and Lions, have already set up team restrictions on the practice field, this summer.  The Miami Dolphins went all out, restricting players, reporters, and even fans attending training camp. 

On the other hand, the NFL has taken great advantage of sites such as Twitter, using it to connect with fans and make announcements; the NFL security department even assists in removing fake website set up in the names of various players.   Saints cornerback Malcolm Jenkins used Twitter to announce that he had signed with the team.  The Cincinnati Bengals used Twitter to announce the signing of Andre Smith.   NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell even tweeted live from the draft in April.

In a statement, the NFL acknowledged the positive impact social media has had on the league but also insisted they were trying to keep it in its appropriate form, “The growth of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook has created important new ways for the NFL and clubs to communicate and connect with fans.  The NFL has been at the forefront of the use of new media and will continue to emphasize innovative and appropriate use of these new forms of communication.”

October 19, 2009 Posted by | Social Media | , , , , | Leave a comment

Smart Phones: Not Just For Grown-ups

In the continuing effort to entertain babies and children, parents are now turning to their cell phones.  But not in the way you might think.  Parents have always handed their phones to their children when the need for a quick distraction arises and a number of cell phone toys have been made, as well.  But new applications being made for smart phones are taking children’s interest in the phone beyond the shiny screen and buttons. 

Whether you’re looking to calm a crying baby, play an educational game, or just keep your children entertained for a few minutes, there are apps available to cover it all.   Need to get your baby to sleep in a noisy (or silent) place? Try Apple’s White Noise Lite.  The app makes just enough noise to drown out everything else, allowing your baby (and maybe even you) to sleep in even the least opportune of places.  If you are driving down the road and your baby is screaming because she dropped her rattle, there is no need to worry – just hand her your iPhone.  The Baby Rattle Bab Bab app’s sound and appearance are pleasing to your baby and function just as a rattle does.

Your smart phone can come in handy when you’re dealing with an older child, as
well.  Jenny Reeves of San Antonio tells Fox News that she allows her sons to flip through pictures of themselves and their dogs when she needs a quick way to pass the time and her older son – age 3 1/2 – is learning how to email his grandparents.  And it’s not all fun and games.  Parents are using apps as everything from baby monitors to health trackers.

There are numerous other types of apps for children of all ages including trivia questions, movie clips, and number and letter games.  These are great for long plane and car trips, or sitting in a restaurant, awaiting an order. Alex Bloom, the president and CEO of Handango.com (a website that sells over 140,000 apps for various phones) claims that several hundred of those apps are directed at parents with young children.  

As with anything, there is a debate as to whether or not allowing your child to play with or depend on a cell phone is a good idea.  Some argue that $300 is a lot to pay for rattle while others insist that the idea of allowing your child to play with the phone advances their technological know-how and improves and enhances abilities such as spelling and grammar.

May 29, 2009 Posted by | Reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

The Deka Arm – The Real Bionic Limb

By: Zack Duncan

Ever since movies like “Star Wars” and “The Terminator”, people have wondered about having body parts like the ones seen in these films. And thanks to the efforts of Dean Kamen, we are closer than ever to that reality.

For as long as anyone can remember there have been wars. Some are fought nobly and some for other reasons. Since the beginning of the most recent war in Iraq, Americans have been coming back home bearing the scars and wounds they gave in defense of our great nation. The army has spared no expense to save the lives of these brave soldiers when overseas. If they suffer a serious injury that causes loss of a limb, more than likely they will have to wear a prosthetic when they come home that hasn’t been updated much since World War II. Even though the technology of our world is growing by the day, constructing a robotic arm with a fully functional hand has been no where near possible, until now. The DEKA arm is the latest breakthrough in a $100 million Pentagon program known as “Revolutionizing Prosthetics.”

Fred Downs is the head of prosthetics for the Veteran’s Health Administration and has been wearing a prosthetic arm after he stepped on a landmine in Vietnam in 1968. According to Downs, the arm he wears is “a basic hook. I can rotate the hook and lock it. In those days [1968] they didn’t have a lot of sophistication about it. They fit you and say ‘This is your arm, this is your leg.’ And it was the best technology in those days. You just had to make yourself learn how to use it, and I did.”

Leading the “Revolutionizing Prosthetics” project is Dr. Geoffrey Ling, a neurologist and U.S. Army Colonel. “There is a hook, like something out of Peter Pan, and that is just unacceptable.” When touring around the Walter Reed Medical Army Center and meeting the troops he is working for, Ling states, “We have a saying in the military, ‘Leave no one behind.’ We are very serious about that. And that doesn’t mean just on the battlefield but back home as well.” And because this is such a big project, Dr. Ling has enlisted the help of Dean Kamen, who is widely considered a “rock star” in the world of inventors.

This new prosthetic, comically named “the Luke arm”, after the neat prosthetic worn by Luke Skywalker in the movie Star Wars, is funded by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency. Kamen’s New Hampshire-based medical products company known as The Deka Research and Development Corp. is the head of the project of the Deka arm.

A 650 square-meter space on the second floor of Kamen’s building is solely dedicated to the advancement of the Deka arm. In the entrance is a life size Terminator statue that is missing it’s left arm, which has been replaced by the harness of the Deka arm. Volunteers, like Chuck Hindreth, come to Deka to help engineers prepare for clinical trials. Hindreth lost both of his arms after suffering electrocution while painting a power substation over 26 years ago. Since then, Hindreth has had two prosthetic arms since that accident, although he never wears them. After the initial shock of having a limb amputated wears off, patients generally discontinue wearing their prosthetic. This is because the discomfort of wearing the artificial limbs are not worht the small amount of assistance provided by them. Most get hot, sweaty, slippery, and generally uncomfortable.

When approached by Ling and DARPA director Tony Tether in 2005, Kamen thought they were crazy, but in the “good kind of way” according to Kamen. The creation of a next-generation prosthetic arm had absolutely no financial incentive. Due to the enormous development and research costs, no private company would take the risk in the decently small market, unless DARPA funded it. Only about 6,000 Americans require arm prosthetics each year. After going around the country and viewing different prosthetics, Kamen was swayed to take on the project when he noticed the large technological differences in prosthetic arms compared to prosthetic legs. According to Kamen, “Prosthetic legs are in the 21st Century and prostetic arms are in the Flinstones.” Until the Deka arm, the “state-of-the-art” prosthetic arm has consisted of three powered joints but doesn’t provide much functionality. For this reason, most users still use the old fashioned hook-and-cable device. Despite which one they use, the user will experience three degrees of freedom: movement of the elbow, movement of the wrist, and the open and close ability of some type of hook.

The goal of Kamen and “Revolutionizing Prosthetics” was to create a device that represents a real arm as accurately as possible. They are able to do this because of the advancement in recent technology. Power consumption had become efficient enough and microprocessors had gotten small enough to make it possible to stuff motors, lithium batteries, control electronics, an wiring into a realistic arm-sized device. The process was still difficult according to Ling.”You are asking an engineer to build an arm that can everything your arm can do and confine it to a package the size of – an arm. In addition to that, it has to look and feel like an actual arm!” What was wrong with the previous arms was a lack of agility. The old arms had three degrees of freedom where the actual human arm has 22 degrees of freedom. The fine motor control imparted by the huge amount of circuitry inside the arm gives the Deka arm amazing agility with an incredible 18 degrees of freedom. Engineers fought for space in the arm. The created workarounds when they ran out of space. For example, they used rigid-to-flex circuit boards which were then folded into the spaces condensed by a dense array of wires.

The movement of the Deka arm is incredible. The motor control is so precise taht it allows users to do things like pluck grapes off the vine, unlock a door, pick up a power tool, or even shake someone’s hand. This is possible because of the six different preconfigured grips. These grips include the Chuck Grip, Key Grip, and Power Grip. These different grips are simply shortcuts for the main daily operations of every human. A big thing with the Deka arm was that it be usable to anyone, despite their level of amputation. Every part of the arm has a set of electronics. The hand contains separate electronics and so does the forearm. The elbow is also powered with the electronics contained in the upper arm and the shoulder is also powered. The shoulder’s power can accomplish a feat currently unperformable by the prosthetics of today. The shoulder has the ability to reach up as if to pick something off of a tree.

In order for the arm to work, it must weigh less than the actual weight of a human arm. This is because an amputee’s skeleton can no longer be used as a means of attachment. For an amputation above the elbow, a harness is attached to the user. Engineers at DEKA modeled the arm after the statistically average weight of the female arm which is only about 3.6 kilograms. This weight includes all of the electronics and the lithium batteries! Surprisingly enough, the arm is not made out of titanium, which is the popular light metal. Titanium is too heavy for the requirements and can not be made thin enough without breaking. So, the Deka arm is made mostly of aluminum.

But the main problem with prosthetic arms is discomfort. Like I mentioned before, prostetics can become very uncomfortable, which is why people tend not to use them. Previous arms are designed to connect with the greatest surface area from the prosthetic to the limb. The amputee’s residuum, or stump, is crammed into the prosthetic. The strain of normal use causes discomfort and even pain to the user. The design of Deka’s new socket can be used with the Deka arm or even be applied to traditional arms for improved use. But how does a person move the Deka arm? There are two ways, in fact. The first is through an optional surgical procedure. Todd Kuiken, a neuroscientist with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, has had recent success with rerouting the residual nerves of amputees. The nerves connect the some 70,000 nerves in the arm to the upper spinal cord. In a normal body, the nerves travel from the upper spinal cord, across the shoulders, down into the armpit and finally down into the arm. Kuiken took these nerves out of the armpit and moved them under the clavicle and then connected them to the pectoral muscles. When the user thinks about moving their arm, the signals travel down the nerves now connected to the chest. The chest muscles then contract. The contractions are sensed by electrodes on the chest which then sends signals to the prosthetic arm, moving the arm. This procedure enables the user to use the arm with his/her own muscles making the arm like a part of the users flesh and blood.

The second way of controlling the arm is by way of tractors. A tractor is a small motor that vibrates which is secured against the user’s skin. A sensor on the hand is connected to a microprocessor that sends a signal to the tractor which changes the grip strength of the hand. This allows a user to know how tightly they are gripping something. The softer the vibration, the lighter the grip and vice versa. When Hindreth tried out the arm, he said “I can do things I haven’t one in 26 years. I can peel a banana without squishing it.” The arm is maneuvered by joystick-like controllers placed within the soles of Hinreth’s shoes. When Hindreth pushes down with his left big toe, the arm moves out and when he pushes own with his right big toe, the arm moves back in. These foot switches, which are completely customizable, are connected by long, flat wires, however, like everything else in the world, there is a wireless version already in the making.

When the Deka arm came out to the press, Dr. Ling was very sanguine in regards to it’s future. According to Ling, “We are trying to get a transition partner so it can go into clinical use as well as a commercial partner to get the arm out to patients. This is no longer a science fair project. Since the research and development of the Deka arm has been costly, any company can now take over the Deka arm and look for cost-efficient ways to manufacture it. A state-of-the-art prosthetic arm these days, depending on the degree of amputation, can cost in upwards of $100,000. Rick Needham, project managaer on the Deka arm, says the goal is to keep the price of the product as close to this price as possible. However, before the arm can even be commercialized, it needs to get approval from the FDA. The only way the FDA will approve the Deka arm is through clinical trials. However, it is thus far unclear who will pay for these clinical trials needed for approval. Funding from DARPA usually ends as soon as a project is picked up by another organization willing to fund the project. However, Deka currently does not have any transition partner like this yet.

According to DARPA spokesperson Jan Walker, “Clinical trials certainly have a price. If no one funds the cost, then trials obviously can’t happen.” But according to Walker, the DARPA procedures for funding is not set in stone. Sometimes DARPA continues a low-level of funding until the organization is able to increase its own fundings and other times DARPA’s funding just ends completely. Although specific plans on funding for the Deka arm are unknown. Should funding from DARPA continue with the Deka arm, Kamen and his group of engineers and scientists would like to begin take-home clinical trials sometime this year. Certainly within the next two years we would like to submit to the FDA for approval to sell the arm.” states Needham. Kamen may be talking to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center based in Washington, D.C. as well as various other Veterans Affairs hospitals. According to Hindreth, he absolutely can not wait to take home his very own Deak arm. “My wife can’t either. She says ‘Oh yeah, I got lots of stuff for you to do around the house.’”

The advancement in technology truly is amazing. It is absolutely a wonderful site to see people, some, like Hindreth and Downs, who have spent a vast majority of their lives without the use of their arms, being able to once again hold things, touch things, and use what basically is functional arm. It gives a brand new hope to U.S. soldiers who are overseas risking everything to keep us safe. They can now, at least, have a little bit of humanity restored to them after making such an honorable sacrifice.

April 17, 2009 Posted by | Technology News | 3 Comments

Original Mercedes Benz Lyrics Discovered

As many of you know Janis Joplin died of a drug overdose in October of 1970. Mercedes Benz and a Happy Birthday song for John Lennon, made just days earlier,were the the last songs she would ever record.

However thanks to a recent discovery we see Joplin’s original text of Mercedes Benz did not include the phrase “O Lord” but rather the heroin induced rambling of “Obama”. These original, and never recorded lyrics, were obviously a drug induced vision of the future scribbled down by the singer shortly before her death. With the election of our 44th president, and the discovery of these original lyrics, it is obvious that her disdain for the materialistic world of which she was writing was in fact a prophetic glimpse of an even more troubled time yet to come.

For reasons still unknown the lyrics were changed shortly after Joplin regained her senses and recorded later that night;giving us one of the most profound social commentaries of all time. The original lyrics are printed below followed by the famous recorded version:

Mercedes Benz – Janis Joplin

Obama, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
Obama, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?

Obama, won’t you buy me a color TV ?
Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.
I wait for delivery each day until three,
So Obama, won’t you buy me a color TV ?

Obama, won’t you buy me a night on the town ?
I’m counting on you, Obama, please don’t let me down.
Prove that you love me and buy the next round,
Obama, won’t you buy me a night on the town ?

Everybody!
Obama, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends,
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Obama, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?

That’s it!

February 15, 2009 Posted by | History | Leave a comment

Verizon Hates IP Phones – Cancels VoiceWing

Verizon VOIP No MoreI am going to guess that most of you did not even know Verizon offered a VOIP solution called VoiceWing for residential customers. I for one have never seen that guy on TV, you know the guy with glasses and like 1,000 other people standing behind him, mention anything about VOIP. In hindsight, I would have to guess those 1,000 people had nothing to do with it, because much like every other VOIP service I have ever tried, the Verizon line quality was rather poor. Perhaps it’s my internet connection, just my luck, or just the way it is. I don’t know and I don’t care.

What I do care about is that Verizon has discontinued the entire service and I know this will end up costing me more money and that’s not my idea of Fun Technology. On January 22, 2009 we received a “Dear John” letter from Verizon with the bad news. They are breaking up with me. That’s right, no more VoiceWing, no more inexpensive low quality VOIP phone and not even the common courtesy to give me a reach around, I mean suggest an alternative solution.

Click here for a copy of the Verizon VoiceWing Cancellation Letter.

From what little I can find out about the situation it appears that the problems may be related to the struggling firm with whom the service was sub-contracted. That, coupled with the obvious lack of commitment to VOIP by that guy with the glasses and his 1,000 buddies, was apparently enough to kill the program.

So my little cheap Verizon VOIP service will be no more as of March 31, 2009; but, as a parting gift, I can keep the phone number and that little box that the phone plugs into. Yeah!

P.S. Verizon guy with the glasses:
I will be dropping my Verizon cell service as soon as my contract expires and switching to AT&T. Yep that iPhone rocks!

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Technology News, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Ronald Reagan October 27, 1964 Speech

Recently I have become a Twitter addict. If by chance you are into Twitter you can find me with the username: @AndyWendt. I am sure I’ll have a post soon on just on how much fun twitter is, but right now I would like to talk about a link I noticed today in a twit from @BrianWollet. The link in his twit was to a Ronald Reagan speech. This particular speech was given by Reagan in 1964 on behalf of Barry Goldwater during the 1964 presidential campaign. After watching the speech I was so moved that I felt compelled to do what I could to help other people find it. So here you go, and I sincerely hope that you are as moved by the speech as I.

January 15, 2009 Posted by | History | , , , , , | Leave a comment

iPod Touch – Not Just For Kids

iPod Touch - Not Just For KidsIf you know me, or even just occasionally read some of my web content, you may have noticed that I have been a lifelong Apple hater, however as of this Christmas that’s about to change.

You see my wife and I decided that we would like a second generation iPod Touch for Christmas. We opted for the 32GB model as we both love music and have a very large MP3 collection. It was our only gift to each other and we bought it a week or more ago, so I have had plenty of hands on time with the product and plenty of time to re-think my old prejudices.

In the past I have thought that iPods and most Apple products were just for kids. Their cool factor was only ammunition for my theory that they were all bling with nothing much any serious user could take advantage of. (The publishing and graphics industries excluded.)

But after the last SMX (Search Marketing Expo) we here at the office (Xponex Media Services) have been devoting a lot more time, a lot more enjoyable time, in the online social world. And it’s in the social world that I have fallen in love with the iPod touch. With its built in Wi-Fi connection and free apps for Twitter and Facebook it’s easy to pick up the iPod and make a quick post at any time of the day or night.

It’s also easy to use the built in Safari browser and check your favorite blogs, and websites. For example: You just put a cup of coffee in the microwave for 30 seconds and you think to yourself, “Whose on Monday Night Football tonight?”. Well in that case you just grab your iPod Touch and with two clicks, given that you have bookmarked NFL.com, you have your answer before your coffee is warm. And its keyboard, unlike many other portable devices I have used, is actually easy to type on.

Of course the iPod has several other built in features that us older people like, such as instant stock updates, weather, and Google Maps.

Not being a total stick in the mud we of course bought a cassette adapter so we can play our MP3 collection through the car stereo, and my wife has already downloaded and watched several new movies on the iPod. It’s easy and not too expensive to buy or rent movies from the Apple store. My wife has family about 1500 miles away and the movies were a great way for her to pass the time at the airport. Speaking of air travel, another advantage of an MP3 player is that unlike a cell phone that may store some of your music you don’t have to keep your iPod off during any part of the flight.

Now, a day after Christmas, my only regret is that we bought only one iPod Touch.

December 26, 2008 Posted by | Technology News | , , , | Leave a comment

Passion – The Missing Business Ingredient

Being involved in many aspects of our SMB operation I spend a good deal of time reading articles that would bore most people. Well actually I think many of the articles should bore most people. These articles may range from the slightly boring, such as ways to take advantage of social networking, to the extremely boring such as Health Savings Accounts VS. Traditional Health Insurance.

Very rarely in that SMB community do I come across anyone attempting to explain the importance of passion to the success of a business. Never have I come across anyone attempting to illustrate passion with a Warhammer Online Video.

But it you can for a brief moment imagine with me how much more successful any company could be if lead by someone this passionate. Imagine how much more your employees would believe in their company if exposed to this level of excitement. Imagine how much more willing the staff would be to execute the plans and visions of management if asked to do so from someone who was this devoted to the product.

And No I Do Not Own A Copy of Warhammer.

* Note – This video is really not about a video game, it’s about passion.

December 12, 2008 Posted by | SMB Editorials | , , , | 1 Comment

Technology Plus Hobby = Fun

I came across this great silly WW2 post the other day on Digg.com.

It was actually a post on Photobucket. However after that photobucket link got all the traffic from Digg it pretty much went down. Something about bandwidth exceeded. Actually that’s just one possible option, the other being all my friends are noobs.

So I just did a little save as, moved the file to my http://www.andywendt.me domain and here you go, a funny little animated gif on World War Two.

FYI: The original source is as follows: “http://i134.photobucket.com/albums/q83/BVIChester/hitlernoobs.gif”

December 3, 2008 Posted by | History | , , , | 6 Comments

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