Tech Update (May 2017)

Andy Cormack gives us the heads up on what’s on the horizon in hardware and technology, giving you the lowdown on the next big thing.  

This month,  flying suits, issues with Windows 10 and fonts that may take your fancy.


Inventor creates flying suit

Richard Browning, a Royal Marine Reserve, has created a device to enable humans to fly, not dissimilar to that of Iron Man from the popular Marvel franchise. The technology behind it, at its core is simple enough; attaching kerosene micro gas turbines to both his arms and, initially both legs, but then switching from legs to two turbines on his back with angled positioning to improve stability.

Initially when this project was announced to the public, everyone thought it was a practical joke, as the timing of the announcement was directly before the 1st of April.  Many news organisations even contacted Browning, asking if it was just an “incredibly convincing hoax”. Regarding this, Browning had this to say to The Independent.  “The timing’s not been great, between April Fool’s and Brexit, but I can absolutely tell you it’s real.”

Dubbed by its creator, the “Daedalus”, named after the Greek inventor who in mythology escaped from peril with his son Icarus wearing a pair of wings, is apparently capable of vertical take-off and flight under the control of the human body.   Positioning of the turbines is key to affecting how the flight system behaves. In fact it seems like the team that did their research for the Iron Man films did a really amazing job, Browning says.

“The way you have to balance is pretty much the same stance Tony Stark has in the film. When he first builds this thing in his lab, he goes crashing around bashing into his cars. The animators who did all that in CGI obviously did some pretty big thinking. It was kind of a funny moment when we realised we should have just watched the film and done that homework.”

Browning is constantly striving to improve the suit, more recently implementing a heads-up display that Sony had supplied him and then working together with a company that makes augmented reality swimming goggles to engineer a display “genuinely like a heads-up display fighter system” which currently helps him monitor his fuel levels, stating that without this tech he had to ask his wife or father-in-law to check for him.

The future holds many more planned additions such as automated balancing, 3D printed titanium arm mounts, and more. Speaking of what the future holds, Browning has been posting videos on his company’s Facebook page ( demonstrating the suit during testing, hovering around his farmyard in Wiltshire. An example of these test videos can be seen here:

WARNING: Very loud engine sounds!

On the 28th April, Browning has demonstrated the suit at TED Vancouver in front of a crowd of people after a talk he had there.

Browning told The Independent, “We stand at the very beginning of what human propulsion systems will do. It’s at the same point as the mobile phone was in the early to mid 80’s or the internet of the early 90’s.”

Where this technology goes from here, we can only imagine, but it’s going to be an interesting journey both for Browning and his team, and the rest of the world as they eagerly look on in anticipation of what the future may hold for human flight.


Windows 10 Creators update – epic fail

After being first announced as the next major revision to the Windows 10 operating system a while back, Microsoft had begun rolling out the new update, only to then decide it was going to cancel this idea and offer people a way to roll back the update after finding numerous issues.

John Cable, Microsoft’s Director of Program Management, Windows Servicing and Delivery, published a blog post on the 25th April addressing the update and the effect it’s had so far, along with their plans for rectifying the current situation and their plans for future rollouts following this.

Among the multitude of issues the update has, one that many are experiencing are computers using certain Bluetooth low energy devices are no longer connecting properly, if at all.

Cable addresses this issue, since it seems to have affected enough users to warrant a direct response, stating “For example, our feedback process identified a Bluetooth accessory connectivity issue with PCs that use a specific series of Broadcom radios, ultimately resulting in devices not re-connecting as expected.

Once identified, we posted this issue to our Windows community forum, provided user guidance on troubleshooting, and blocked additional devices with these specific Bluetooth radios from updating. Once a solution is available, we will update our forum post and remove the block.”

All of this at least shows that Microsoft seems to take these issues seriously and tries to limit the amount of their userbase that are affected by problems as much as possible once they are identified. However this does call into question the amount of quality control that Microsoft has on their updates before rolling them out, but this situation may cause them to expand their testing environment for more broader reaching hardware and software differences in the future.



Samsung seemingly recovering from battery failure disaster

Since the Note 7 release in September of last year, Samsung has seen almost no end to the negative impact the battery issues that lead to them scrapping the entire product line had caused. After having swiftly issued replacements once the problems arose in the devices, which then also failed in spectacularly public fashion, the company decided its best option was to cancel the entire phone and start over.

After issuing a public apology on their site, promising that the company would take steps to ensure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again, they then proceeding to pull back the curtain, going behind the scenes on their technology testing facilities, as seen in this CNET report.  It seems they have managed to sway public opinion of the company back into a positive light.

By far the lowest point in the entirety of the events, YouGov BrandIndex’s survey results found that Samsung’s ‘Buzz Score’ was so predominantly negative that it was at the lowest in the last 10 years. The score, ranging from -100 (completely negative) to 100 (completely positive), had begun the year above Apple, hovering around 21 to 23, with Apple somewhere between 15 and 21. After the Note 7 issues, however, that score plummeted over the following months, dropping to an alarming -27 by the middle of October.

Since then, the company has clawed its way back up those ratings over the following months, recently managing to reach parity with Apple in the middle of April with a score of 19. This score is still short of that held by the electronics giant’s standing before these events and may take a good deal longer for them to get back to where they were by regaining the public’s trust in perpetuity.


Interactive font map made with machine learning

IDEO, a design company based in numerous locations around the world has created an interactive map, simply titled “Font Map”. Not dissimilar to the way Google maps works, you can browse the fonts by dragging around and zooming with the scroll wheel, or, of course, ‘pinching’ on your mobile. The real beauty to this map is that it’s generated using machine learning to represent sidesteps in fonts to visually similar alternatives or variations.

Apart from being an impressive visual overview of the diversity of web fonts, it’s a seemingly indispensible tool for designers looking to find a specific look for a project to explore a sea of potential font choices that is far more approachable than a mere font list.

Font selection is by far one of the most important tasks that any designer or graphics artist has to undertake. Generally, they tend to fall back on tried and tested typescripts, or stick to a given category of font within a selection of similar ones. By using neural networks for pattern recognition, the site helps graphic artists see greater patterns and relationships over a range of more than 750 web fonts.  What are some of your favourite fonts? Maybe they’re also in this list and you’re looking for something similar, or maybe you’ll find some new favourites that you never knew you liked, or perhaps even existed, before now.


Tech Update – Amazon Echo

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