As developers for tablets and smartphones we like to keep abreast of the latest mobile technology developments . This is a daily digest of mobile development and related technology news gathered from the BBC, the New York Times, New Scientist and the Globe and Mail to name a few. We scour the web for articles concerning, iPhone, iPad and android development, iOS and android operating systems as well as general articles on advances in mobile technology. We hope you find this useful and that it helps to keep you up to date with the latest technology developments.
Drone Captures Jaw-Dropping Footage Inside Hang Son Doong, The World's Largest Cave
Hang Son Doong in Vietnam is the largest cave in the world. It’s more than 5.5 miles long, comes complete with its own jungle and river and is so gargantuan that it could apparently hold an entire block of 40-story skyscrapers within its walls.
In this video, created by photographer Ryan Deboodt, embark on an aerial and ground tour of this stunning cave. Drone-captured footage gives a glimpse into the world within — from otherworldly rock formations to the cave’s lush fauna.
The video has been viewed more than 570,000 times since being uploaded last week. Watch the clip above.
7 Ways You Can Use Technology Like Creatives Do
Many of us approach this digital age with passive acceptance or even begrudging rebellion. However, due to their unique character traits, creative people treat it differently.
Where we see screens and numbers and maybe intimidation, they see opportunity and sources of inspiration. While we often feel like slaves to our devices, creatives use theirs as new tools for artistry.
But that doesn’t mean that these unique, intriguing uses can’t be applied across the board. Collaboration is the key to creativity, and those who learn to rely on their experiences and relationships can tap into their most artistic qualities.
So even if you don’t consider yourself to be the next Matisse, these tips can help you approach technology with a new perspective, and use it to enhance your daily routine. In partnership with Skype, we’ve outlined revealing ways that creative people utilize technology. Their example can inspire the rest of us to do the same.
Lean on the internet community for collaboration and inspiration
No one ever accuses artists of being indifferent; emotion is central to the creative process. In fact, creative people often seek out stimuli that will affect them on an emotional level, which in turn helps form and inspire their art. Often times, that stimulus comes from observing and respecting the work of others.
This is not a new development among, or observation about, creative people. In fact, a Forbes article discusses the importance of “searching the domain,” meaning artists need to learn and internalize all influences of their craft. The author points to African art as a major influence on Picasso, inspiring him to bring cubism to the forefront of the art world.
However, creatives now “search the domain” beyond the real world. Blogs, Tumblr pages and other websites dedicated to personal curation lead artists through the cybersphere, allowing them to become involved, moved and inspired by what they find. To use the Internet like a creative, seek out inspiring social media websites like Instagram and Pinterest to guide your craft.
Feel free to get distracted, but don’t forget to home in on the good stuff
Ambition is pretty integral to a creative person’s development. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t get distracted by the same stuff as us. Instead, they utilize that “mental downtime” as a path toward development; plus, they are able to separate the wheat from the chaff.
In a 2010 Wired article, Jonah Lehrer discusses how being distracted often leads to more creativity: “[Creative people] are literally unable to close their mind, to keep the spotlight of attention from drifting off to the far corners of the stage. The end result is that they can’t help but consider the unexpected.”
Despite Lehrer’s own creative missteps, this sage observation is still pertinent. Creative people use the things that pique their interest, however inane, to inspire them and further their ambition — they find ways to connect with their technological muses. Lehrer continues:
Think of the internet like an epic cocktail party, filled with chattering 24/7 conversations. Our goal shouldn’t be to ignore everything beyond earshot – that would inhibit our creativity, and keep us trapped in a very narrow world. Instead, we should keep on searching for those smart voices, so that we can remix the right data inside our head.
So if you enjoy cute cat videos and listicles, feel free to let your mind settle by checking them out.
Roll with the newest technological developments
According to Nancy C. Andreasen, a leading neuroscientist:
[C]reative people are polymaths … [they] are adventuresome and exploratory. They take risks. Particularly in science, the best work tends to occur in new frontiers. (As a popular saying among scientists goes: “When you work at the cutting edge, you are likely to bleed.”) They have to confront doubt and rejection. And yet they have to persist in spite of that, because they believe strongly in the value of what they do. This means that they have a broad spectrum of interests, and can find lots of value in different paths and ideas.
Many of us joke about being “technophobes,” and feel unease for days after Facebook rolls out its updated news feed. However, creative people don’t feel discomfort with change the way that more conventional thinkers do. Next time you are faced with an unknown technology, embrace the speed of change and see where these new directions take you.
Keep it casual
Throughout history, people who were focused on their artistic needs often cast aside societal rules, allowing themselves to bask in who they “really” are. In modern times, this trait has evolved into a kind of informality that creatives in the technological sphere wholly embrace.
The Silicon Valley uniform of a hoodie and jeans is an outward expression of this meshing of originality and informality, a general approach that technologically minded creatives take to their art.
In an MIT Technology Review article, Isaac Asimov explains that “A meeting in someone’s home or over a dinner table at some restaurant is perhaps more useful than one in a conference room. … The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren’t paid to have great ideas, but were paid to be teachers or patent clerks or petty officials, or were not paid at all. The great ideas came as side issues.”
Informality and casualness allow these “side issues” to blossom, homing in on a creative’s need for originality. To really integrate this mindset into your life, be authentic and straightforward when it comes to new ideas, and don’t let the formality of ritual stop you from being who you are.
Use technology to combine life and art
Creatives are playful and brimming with imagination. With this trait they are able to look at mediums and utilize them in ways that other people might never consider. Unlike those who, when using the Internet, fall into the “work” or “play” categories, creative people are able to do both.
According to The Guardian, many schools fail to help children whose interests fall across the spectrum of science and the arts. As these students grow, the education system buckets them into one or the other, generally ignoring the need of the artistic to utilize the scientific space.
Creative people don’t just use that scientific, technological space, but thrive in it. They find ways of manipulating technology for art, such as music, visuals and virtual reality. They find creative spaces to share their art on the Internet, like photography websites and apps. And they take a multifaceted approach to technology, using it as a workspace but never forgetting that it’s fun, too.
Take this mindset to heart by blurring the line between work and play; allow yourself to use computers, phones and other devices in fun and meaningful ways.
Focus on privacy, not publicity
Creative people can be kind and thoughtful, but oftentimes they are not the most outgoing of the bunch. Asimov explains:
My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it. … The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.
While many of us use technology to share ourselves with the world, creative people might use it as a means to be alone. They can work in their own quarters, and can be more selective about what they choose to share with others. Thanks to telecommunications, chat rooms and virtual reality, artists are now able to be physically alone, yet still find the connections they need. Take a page out of the creatives’ book and find your private space within this public sphere.
Try to create devices that inspire conversation
Not only are creatives some of the most inspired individuals, but they are also apt to develop the very tools they need to achieve their goals. They figure out how to do things themselves. In terms of “gadgets designed to elicit creativity,” Asimov says that “being by nature unconventional, the participants themselves will create devices to stimulate discussion.”
This is to say that one of the reasons the new tech world is so inspiring is because creative individuals are fueling it. They are the ones who are inspired to make the devices and the applications, and aim to understand the quantitative information that help them further their art. Consider how you can contribute to the future of technology, and use your strengths to further innovation.
Collaboration and technology are at the core of creativity. With Skype, you can call, see, message and share with those who inspire you. Skype can be used for so much more than the occasional long-distance call. Click here to learn more about the amazing things people can do with Skype, every single day.
An Explorer's Lessons On Happiness, Photography, And Greeting Whales
“People joke that I went straight from the ocean into the air and skipped land,” Eric Cheng says. But the joke isn’t totally accurate.
Land is where Cheng obtained his two computer science degrees at Stanford, and where he trained as a concert cellist. It’s where he developed a passion for pursuits that are creative and also highly technical.
After that, it’s true, Cheng did start spending a lot of time with sharks and whales. He left an unfulfilling startup job, taught himself the complex workings of underwater photography, and improvised a career around his expertise. He led expeditions to a drool-worthy list of tropical locales, his photos won awards, and he built one of the web’s largest underwater photography communities.
Nowadays, however, Cheng is flying high (and dry). He oversees the Silicon Valley presence of the world’s largest maker of civilian drones, a company called DJI. If drones have a face in the United States, it is arguably Eric’s.
Good afternoon, from inside a shark’s mouth! #BahamasDiving
A photo posted by Eric Cheng (@echeng) on May 25, 2014 at 2:19pm PDT
DJI was the first in a crowded field to bring sleek, high-quality, and simple-to-use quadcopters to market for under $1000. It also bested competitors by focusing on drone-enabled aerial photography.
As a result, DJI’s growth has been meteoric. It now sells the most popular drones in the world, making it possibly the first Chinese company in history to be the global market leader in a consumer industry. Sales in 2015 are on track to hit a billion dollars, The Verge reported this week.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Cheng shared lessons on happiness, productivity, and parenting, his favorite travel destinations, keeping a diary, and the future of drones.
* * *
Have you had any recent realizations about living a more fulfilling life?
I had a big turning point after being in the software industry for a while and being at a company that went public. It was at the end of the big tech boom in the ’90s, when there were hints of decline, hints of a crash coming. I saw that a lot of my friends who were making pretty good money, becoming successful financially, were actually less happy.
I also realized that I didn’t care about what I was doing at the time. The company I worked for did enterprise software so… [Laughter] What fulfilled me were the little things: surrounding myself with smart people and small interesting problem-solving tasks on a daily basis.
And then I had other friends — the ones in the arts or people who were pursuing their real passions, whether they knew it or not — and I thought that would be a better path.
It’s very easy to see all of these things in hindsight, but at the time, I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Everything became clear as soon as I found that passion which, for me, was creative imaging and technical imaging, that space between technology and art.
A lot of parents would love their children to be technically skilled and also passionate about the arts. Is there anything your parents did for you that many parents don’t do that you think had a lasting impact?
My parents gave me a structure around daily discipline, which I think was great. The initial desire to play music came from me — but I was forced to do it, I was forced to play music.
I initially asked to play music in part because we were surrounded by other kids who were playing music, and this has a lot to do with being a first-generation Asian immigrant family.
Every single Asian-American I know who grew up around the same time plays at least one instrument. The goals from our parents were usually to have us play well enough to do it professionally — but not to do it professionally.
This is a pretty hard goal to achieve. It requires thousands of hours of forced interaction with an instrument. No one sits there and makes you practice; you’re motivated to practice because you have to.
Some percentage of those people then convert to loving it. And many don’t. I’ve seen a lot of people who don’t play anymore. They haven’t touched an instrument or pursued anything creative in a long time. But most of them seem to be pretty appreciative that they had that structure when they were growing up.
I remember one day I was sitting in a room with no clock. I asked my mom what time it was, and she actually got really mad at me. She said, “You can just get up and figure out what time it is yourself. There’s a clock in the next room. So why are you asking me?”
I think about that all the time because a great percentage of my day is filled with people asking me through social media how to do different things. The boundaries for interaction are almost non-existent now. You can reach out to anybody you want and ask them a question; but in fact, it probably takes less time just to go figure it out yourself. We have so much information at our fingertips.
And that says a lot about somebody. Usually if someone is doing research on their own and learning, I feel like they internalize it. Those are the people who become experts. And a lot of the people who are looking for quick solutions find a solution, but they don’t actually learn anything from it. This is an old story, about teaching a man to fish. It’s exactly the same thing in the Internet Age.
You’re a new dad and you created a little parenting site (with the amazing URL NewDad.wtf). I noticed you asked your Facebook followers to stop sending you advice. I’ve never seen that before.
It’s funny because a lot of my friends were applauding me for asking people not to give me advice.
As soon as we became pregnant, we started being asked the same questions over and over again — which I think is normal. People are excited about it. I think probably the collective excitement around me having a kid is more than my excitement of having a kid.
#baby / Stare into the light…
A photo posted by Eric Cheng (@echeng) on Feb 28, 2015 at 9:42am PST
Some of it has to do with just being fairly public online. I think it’s a social-interaction-in-the-Internet-Age issue. It’s very easy to reach through the Internet and interact with somebody in a way that makes sense if you just analyze that one interaction; but if you compound hundreds or thousands of interactions, it has an effect on that person on the other end.
When I interact with somebody online, I’m always thinking about what other kinds of interactions they might have had that day because you have no idea what their day was like. Maybe 50 people just said the same thing. Every newsworthy event that happens in the drone industry, for example, gets sent to me a hundred times. And I already know about it, guaranteed. So it’s sort of similar to that in that the advice seems innocuous.
I actually appreciate advice when I talk to somebody in person, or let’s say I meet you and you have a 5-month-old and we have a conversation about babies. That’s great. I love that kind of interaction. What I don’t want is a stranger giving me advice because they just feel like they have the advice to give. Maybe we have totally different value systems. Maybe they don’t immunize their kids and I don’t want anything to do with them.
Curiosity won: I stole milk from a baby today.
A photo posted by Eric Cheng (@echeng) on Mar 5, 2015 at 1:01pm PST
Looking back, would have handled your education any differently than you did?
I am very, very grateful and glad that I got a computer science degree — two of them — because computer science is sort of the ultimate — well, it gives you a framework about how to problem-solve, especially at a school like Stanford, where the computer science department and the standard curriculum actually don’t have anything that is immediately useful when you get out and are looking for a job. It’s all learning about the theoretical and learning how to solve problems.
I remember going in for exams and having nothing on the exam be anything that we had learned in the class because they had figured that they had taught you how to think and you could figure it out. So I loved studying computer science, and think the applications of computer science can be wide ranging — pretty much any field now.
I think what was missing for me was a sense of design in the curriculum. Now computer science can be merged with other disciplines, like product design or any other technical disciplines. At Stanford, computer science has become so big that they offer it with any other major, and the other major gets the statistic for that major. So you could be a biology and computer science major, and you’re a biology major statistically because otherwise it would be skewed way too much towards computer science.
I think we’re seeing computer science developing as a general education area, which makes a lot of sense given where we are now. But when I was going through it, I couldn’t really find a way to have design be a very big part of the curriculum because I feel like human interaction and design are — they’re very compatible with computer science. And at the time, it was really rough.
You’ve spent a very substantial amount of time under water. Can you convey that experience to people who have never dived? What is something that took you years to learn about diving?
I think an analogy is the right way to start. Let’s say you move to a new environment, a new country. Absolutely everything about it seems foreign when you arrive. But over time things normalize. You stop noticing what’s foreign. The way you maneuver in the environment starts to move back in your mind, it just becomes a part of you.
It’s very similar in the ocean. People who don’t spend a lot of time in the ocean feel like they’re drowning or it’s claustrophobic or they’re scared because they don’t know what’s under there. It’s a much more extreme environment. It pushes you around. The way you move is different.
But what I’ve found is that people who spend a lot of time in the ocean just start to move around in the ocean as they would in their normal lives. You don’t really notice that you have to do something to get from one place to another.
Liz freedived “The Lost” blue hole today. The water was milky, but it was fun to explore.
A photo posted by Eric Cheng (@echeng) on May 25, 2014 at 3:19pm PDT
It’s a feeling of freedom in the third dimension. In the ocean you move in three dimensions, and it’s a very organic kind of movement. You move by breathing. If you breathe in a shallow way, you descend. If you breathe with full lungs, you ascend because of buoyancy.
And so that feeling of initial claustrophobia very quickly turns into the opposite: a feeling of being in a completely open space with the freedom to move in three dimensions.
Then you layer on top of that the beauty of the environment and the marine ecology — which I’m really interested in — all the weird animals that are there that have very complex relationships with other critters and the reef around them, especially. We have that all around us here, but it’s kind of hidden, especially in urban environments. If you squat down on some corner, you’d probably see some life trying to survive there. But it’s just more accessible in the ocean. And we know much less about it, so there’s also a sense of discovery. You find something new, and no one’s photographed it. Maybe a researcher has written about it but never documented it.
You can still go out and find completely new perspectives and behavior to document in the ocean.
You’ve traveled to and photographed some incredible locations. What are you favorites? What’s the most beautiful place you’ve visited?
I think the most beautiful places for me are maybe a little different than they might be for other people because while I appreciate a beautiful beach or a beautiful tropical coastal environment, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s interesting underwater.
The places that I tend to remember the most are places where I’ve had really spectacular marine encounters.
One area that perhaps has it all is southern and eastern Indonesia. I keep going back there, and it’s because the marine life there is the most diverse, certainly by metrics. If you go and count species, you’ll count more there in a given amount of time in the same area than anywhere else. But the reef is very healthy there, in part because it hasn’t really been developed as aggressively as other areas because the islands are very remote and there’s still a lot of subsistence living there.
The coral reefs there are beautiful, and that’s probably the one place that I enjoy the most. But there are a lot of places with unusual species to be found, I guess, or a regulatory environment that allows you to do something there that you can’t do somewhere else. So if you want to see sperm whales, you might go to Dominica in the eastern Caribbean — which is a beautiful island in itself; but when I go there, we pretty much go straight into the water to interact with animals there.
What are some tips you give to amateur photographers trying to improve?
I guess it depends what your goals are. People who would like to become more serious in photography I think should slow down in general and limit themselves in terms of equipment to something that they can get to know really well. So it’s kind of the classic 35-millimeter lens, a prime lens that requires manual or physical interaction between you and the device because there’s a lot of that feeling of getting to know a physical object that plays into inspiration behind shots.
It’s like the smell of a book, the things that are kind of going away now that help you to remember things and remember moments and how you reacted in those moments. If you take your phone out and tap it and it takes 10 pictures, and you never look at those pictures again, you probably didn’t learn a lot from that interaction or that photographic workflow.
But if you have to think about focus and exposure and framing, and you have to move to achieve the right kinds of framing, and you have to anticipate how your subject might react — this is a lot of what we do with wildlife. You have to first understand the behavior before you’re going to get any kind of meaningful capture.
[Ed. note: you can read Eric's guide on buying a quadcopter and getting into aerial imaging here.]
So in general I think just being more thoughtful about how you take pictures, and not being so obsessed with the gear but just using the gear that you have until you feel like the gear is a serious limiting factor. Usually the gear is not the limiting factor in somebody’s photography.
And then the last piece now is sharing with a community, if you’re that kind of person. I always have encouraged people to post their favorite picture every day or every week and to also write about it. At the least, you’ll go back after a year and see this incredible progression of your skills as you’ve developed as a photographer. And you’ll have gained a following if you’ve actually progressed as a photographer, or have something to offer to the general public.
It’s not everyone’s goal, of course, but…
On one of your personal sites, you’ve documented memories from your childhood and your time in school. Do you keep a journal or a diary? Are you systematic about memory-keeping in the way that you are with some other aspects of your life?
I have the desire to be systematic about writing a journal or keeping a journal, but all of my attempts have failed. I have periods of time during which I’ve written a lot, usually by hand in an actual paper journal; but for the most part, I think my pictures are now kind of a running journal for me. I’ll often use it as a tool to help remember certain moments, which is strange because when you use a camera, it can remove you from the moment, as well.
I frequently look up from the camera — maybe not so much in daily life, if I’m just taking pictures of what’s around me; but certainly when I’m having an incredible moment in the field, I’ve always taken the time to put the camera down and look up and soak it in, take it all in.
Do you ever travel without taking photographs?
I think not having a camera for long periods of time might be difficult. In fact, I’ve had technical problems in the field and been diving, for example, without a camera. And I really hate it. It’s hard for me to do.
Taking pictures is kind of the main reason I’m there, and I just happen to have to go underwater to capture the things I want to capture. The diving part is fun but maybe not fun enough for me to do it without a camera.
Your work involving photography and quadcopters started off with you tinkering around at home. You mentioned you spent hours playing around with a $90 dollar drone. What are you tinkering with these days?
First of all, there are some running themes that have lasted many years. Right now I’m still very drone- and aerial imaging-focused because it changes so quickly. I’m constantly tinkering with the things that DJI makes but also what other people are doing.
It’s still really easy to do something that no one has done. You can do it in a day. When has that been the case, ever? We have very brief moments during which you can really do something no one’s seen before, and this is one of them — in this space, in robotics in general.
But the themes that are running are often around efficiency and archiving. So there are tools, either physical or software tools, that I use to help me be really productive. And storage in general. Data is one of the biggest problems that I have. Photographers and videographers, anyone who captures a lot of data — we are beyond the normal consumer limits. And so it creates a lot of problems. And if you’re non-technical, it’s very difficult to get around. The cloud is not it. It’s just not. Our bandwidth is insufficient to deal with real data.
It’s fragile, and if you don’t think about it, you can pay the price. People I know have lost a lot of their pictures, which is very sad. So I’m constantly like a local IT admin in the house.
You didn’t have a boss for much of your career. You needed to be self-motivated. Any productivity tips you’d recommend?
The biggest one is to do what you want to do. I think if you’re doing something that you don’t enjoy, it’s very hard to be motivated to do it all the time. The people I know who are doing what they probably would be doing anyway tend to not have problems with productivity issues.
One of the biggest things I did was get rid of a TV signal. I cut the cord more than 10 years ago, maybe 12 years ago — before on-demand content was really convenient. And I haven’t missed it at all. Actually, when I go to friends’ houses and they have the TV on all the time, it’s like an alien environment. I just can’t imagine how that signal on all the time could not be a negative influence in their lives and their kids’ lives. But of course, I’m not going to give kid advice. [Laughter]
You put a lot of your life online. How do you manage all of the incoming communication?
I have a really hard time managing inbound communication because it comes from so many different sources now. And some of the most viscerally stressful moments in my life were not big events that would stress me out, but the moments during which a phone call, a text, a Facebook message, a Twitter direct message, my Pebble goes off — everything kind of rings at once.
Apple now makes it by default so that all your devices ring when anything happens. And we all have multiple devices. So I just turn as much of it off as possible and try to cope, really. It’s really not a good answer, but I have a really hard time with managing inbound communication.
The other thing I do is I nest my posts in concentric circles of closeness to me. So I post a lot only to friends; but of course, on Facebook I have 2,000 friends or something. They’re not all personal friends. They can’t be. But I have inner circles that I interact with. So I think managing the feeds on all the different networks is really important, and luckily most of them seem to have tools that let you kind of massage it into a way that can work.
I don’t think I have a good answer for it. I think it’s broken, actually — the whole system. It’s very easy to have most of your interaction come from a social network, and it’s not a very fulfilling way to live.
Let’s talk about DJI and newer products like the Phantom 2. What do you tell someone who is starting to think about buying their first drone?
The original Phantom was released about two years ago, and really was the first aerial-imaging platform or quadcopter — or “drone,” as the media has decided it will be — to be accessible to most people, because you could fly it out of the box.
The Phantom 2 polished what we did with the original Phantom and really made it out-of-the-box accessible. No tools needed; auto-tightening props; some safety features to allow it to come home automatically, avoid airports. A lot of building blocks that are still being developed but kind of all came together at the right time to produce a product that was really accessible. That’s why you see the vast majority of videos being shot with something like a Phantom 2.
A #djiphantom exploring #Norway from the sky! Photo by @granvlog
A photo posted by DJI (@djiglobal) on Sep 26, 2014 at 12:30am PDT
That product has been by far the most successful from DJI. It’s the single product that propelled very, very rapid growth — although the growth of the company started years before the Phantom came out. It’s been really great to see how transformative it’s been. Most of the other products we see in the market are clones or look very similar to the Phantom 2. And it’s enabled a lot of people to do things that they had almost literally only dreamed about in the past. We get contacted all the time by people who had the dream of flight and, for the first time, they’ve realized that by wearing goggles while they fly a Phantom around.
The possibilities in the industry are tremendous — even from something like a Phantom 2, which is small enough to fit in a backpack and inexpensive enough for many people to own. So we’ve been very focused on both consumer and are increasingly pushing into commercial. Essentially, it is freeing up the third dimension for the placement of cameras and other devices.
Most people are using commercial drones for photography, but there are plenty of other creative uses of the Phantom 2.
The vast majority of use is photographic. Basically, people want to put a camera somewhere that they couldn’t have before. It could be really modest — it could literally be a picture of their house from 20 feet up — or it could be much more extreme, as we’ve seen in many examples.
But we do get a lot of requests for stranger payloads. One of my friends in a scientific expedition with NASA, an education outreach expedition, just did a sample collection in some kind of boiling lake in New Zealand. He took Phantom and put a winch on it with a little test tube and flew it out over this lake, which you can’t get to — it’s boiling bubbling mud — and lowered the test tube in and took a sample from the middle of it.
That’s one very basic example. We’ve also seen scientists collect whale breath. They fly through breath of a whale with a petri dish attached, and suddenly they have a sample.
And we’ve seen a lot of very interesting uses with sensor deployment and data collection in the conservation realm. You can imagine dropping a bunch of sensors in some very, very dense forest or something — inaccessible — and then flying back over periodically to pick up data which gets beamed back to the drone.
It’s very early. I think we’re seeing people experiment a lot with the technology. As I mentioned, I think pretty much anyone could do something no one’s done virtually on their first day of ownership, which is pretty exciting.
DJI also recently released a software development kit (SDK). What are developers creating that’s notable to you?
So first of all, the SDK is a mobile SDK, it’s for iOS and Android. It allows users to either read data from or control the Phantom 2 Vision series. So any of our devices that are phone- or tablet-connected. We’ll have an SDK for the Inspire 1 pretty soon.
The first apps that were written were focused on 3D mapping. 3D mapping is one of the most obvious applications that has huge gains any way you look at it. It’s incredible cost savings, time savings, safety improvements and no risk of life. So that’s a very obvious use. We saw someone — Pix4D — created a mapping app, and it’s almost literally one click. You either manually fly it, or you can autonomously fly and generate a 3D map of whatever you fly over. So that was one of the most interesting uses initially.
A National Geographic video shows the 3D mapping of an active volcano using Pix4D mapping technology.
DJI is among the first major consumer-facing Chinese brands to dominate its global market. What are your thoughts about that?
DJI being a Chinese company is not what led me personally to pursue working with them. It happens to be a Chinese company, and it happens to be a really interesting one because it’s one of the first of a new breed that is pulling incredible engineering and R&D talent out of the pool in China, which is very big, and then combining that with incredible work ethic, competitive drive, and very sophisticated and fast global manufacturing.
The area around Shenzhen is perfect for a hardware company to grow up in because everything is accessible. You don’t have to ship anything to make a product. All of us here in the U.S. — you can prototype locally, but as soon as you want to manufacture at scale, you pretty much have to go across the ocean.
So that’s been really fascinating, and I’ve enjoyed learning about the culture. I have a Taiwanese background, but essentially I’m mostly American. It does help to speak some Chinese. I speak some Mandarin, which helps to navigate around the area when I go visit.
One of the challenges has been that the company very much has become a global brand in that we sell Phantoms and other products virtually in every country around the world, yet it’s very strongly a Chinese company internally.
But you don’t see that very much from the outside. From the outside here let’s say you showed someone a Phantom. They might not assume it was a Chinese company, not because DJI is hiding anything but because it’s just this new breed of company that just doesn’t consider distance to be a barrier in product availability.
When you say it’s a strongly Chinese company internally, what does that mean?
First of all, there’s a very strong sense of pride in being a Chinese company.
Second, I think there are massive differences culturally between any Chinese company and any American company. I think historically a lot of the Chinese companies have looked towards companies here, especially the tech companies in Silicon Valley, with a lot of admiration. And we see that from the DJI side, too. We look at all of the big Silicon Valley giants and think, “We could be a brand like that,” certainly at our current growth rate.
And I think it’s probably a good idea for a lot of the tech companies here to be looking east. Most of the employees in Chinese tech companies are very young. If you walk through the office, everybody is either very young or looks really young, and it’s hard to tell between the two. There are a lot of very young, very smart people working.
One of the things that I’ve been most impressed with is the speed at which R&D is accomplished at DJI. We’re very engineering-oriented as a company. A very large percentage of our team is engineering. We have 500 engineers working. And I think we see some companies here in the U.S. that are perhaps similar, that are very R&D-oriented. That all comes from the roots of the company, which are all around R&D and engineering and technical excellence.
But I think getting in a situation in which you can prototype very quickly and react very quickly to necessary changes during development is important. I’ve only been in one hardware-related company here, and it took forever to prototype. We had to wait long periods of time for an integrator overseas to do something, and then manufacture a prototype and then get it back. And we sent people there, of course, to work very closely.
But seeing how fast we can do things compared to companies that have an ocean between them and their factories makes it seem almost unfair.
I’ll circle back to our earlier discussion. You talked about friends who had pursued financial success but who weren’t necessarily fulfilled — how are they doing now? I ask in part because your own life has shifted away somewhat from adventure photography to a slightly more ‘traditional’ career.
Yeah, absolutely. I think a lot of my friends who were searching for motivation during that time have really found peace in family life. They started families much earlier than I did. And then having financial success really helped them to maybe be less stressed when they had their kids and had to raise them.
I sometimes look back and imagine what it would have been like to stay in that industry for longer because I definitely made financial tradeoffs that were not smart from a financial perspective but really great from a life perspective. But I don’t really have any regrets about it.
The biggest thing that I’ve been thinking about more recently is that opportunity cost is real. It’s maybe not obvious if you’re 25; but now that I’m older, I realize I have only a certain number of years to be productive, and I should be using those in the smartest way possible.
The people who get stuck and they end up somewhere for five or 10 years or longer, or a whole lifetime, only because they didn’t have the courage to leave; they’re not happy about it, but perhaps they actually do have other opportunities that are obvious to the people around them. That’s been the hardest to see. You see that someone has the ability to do something that they really want to do, or something that would at least make them a lot happier, but it’s hard to get that person to see it. So I remind myself all the time that there are plenty of opportunities out there.
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U.S. Jury Clears Apple Of Infringing Wireless Tech Patents
NEW YORK, March 16 (Reuters) – A federal jury in Texas on Monday said Apple Inc did not infringe five wireless technology patents owned by Canadian patent licensing firm Conversant Intellectual Property Management Inc.
Core Wireless Licensing Sarl, a subsidiary of Ottawa-based Conversant, sued Apple in 2012 in a federal court in Tyler, Texas alleging the iPhone maker used its patents on wireless data transmission in its iPhones and iPads without permission.
The company was seeking $100 million in damages, or about 78 cents per Apple device sold. (Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Miral Fahmy)
Invasion of the Pod People
By Don Willlmott
Don Willmott is a New York-based journalist who writes about technology, travel, and the environment for a wide variety of publications and websites.
What do we know about the future? It will be sleek and streamlined; the Internet will be faster; Elon Musk will be king; and we’ll all travel in pods.
Pods? For some inexplicable reason, almost every vision of the future has us shuttling around our cities in one kind of pod or another, tapping into the efficiency of mass transit while providing us the privacy, flexibility, and nonstop service we demand. If it was good enough for “Logan’s Run,” then it should be good enough for us.
A handful of entrepreneurs–Mr. Musk included–are already heading down the pod, or “Personal Rapid Transit” (PRT), path, with plans, schemes, and even some working prototypes that posit sensible transportation for tomorrow–even if it means reinstalling the kinds of elevated tracks that cities like New York tore down 60 years ago.
Shweeb’s pedal-powered pods have attracted the attention of Google. (Source: shweeb.com)
Take, for example, Shweeb, a Canadian company whose pedal-powered pods will get us around town and provide a cardio workout at the same time. Its proposed Skysmart System would suspend solar or pedal-powered pods on tracks high above the street to take two, five, or 12 people directly to their destination without platforms, fixed routes, or timetables.
Schweeb says Skysmart would be at least 30 percent less expensive to build than alternatives, it could move 10,000 people–plus cargo–per hour, and that its pylons and tracks could do double duty as infrastructure conduits. For now, you can see a version in action at a New Zealand amusement park, and Schweeb hopes not only to build a serious demonstration installation in Niagara Falls, but also to find a home at Google’s main campus.
JPods is buidling solar-powered rail network in New Jersey. (Source: JPods.com)
Secaucus, New Jersey of all places may be the demonstration site of another intriguing PRT system called JPods. With $120 million of investor money in the bank, CEO Bill James, a military logistics veteran, shares the overhead personal pod vision and plans to power it with solar collectors mounted on top of the elevated tracks. Like other PRT systems, JPods, which would carry from one to four riders, could be programmed for nonstop point-to-point trips using one-tenth the energy of cars, trains, or buses as they travel. The solar collectors above the tracks would collect 25,000 vehicle-miles of power per mile of rail per day.
JPods is actually starting out with a portable 328-foot installation, a proof-of-concept “rescue rail system” that could be deployed temporarily in a disaster zone with solar power providing all the necessary juice. From there, the company wants to build almost 1,000 feet of rail to do further testing and take paying passengers for the first time. As for Secaucus, a congested rail and car transit hub just west of New York City, town planners have granted rights of way to safe technologies that can exceed a benchmark of 120 passenger miles per gallon of fuel. The true test of JPods would be a three-mile stretch there with a dreamy vision that one day it would extend across the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan.
Sketches of Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, a vacuum tube transportation system that would move passengers in pods at speeds approaching 800 mph. (Source: SpaceX)
And as for Elon Musk, talk of his tubular 800-mph Hyperloop, in which passengers would be literally shot cross-country, has futurists dazzled, and now a new company called Hyperloop Transportation Technologies is taking up the challenge, planning to build a five-mile, $100 million test track in central California. Musk himself tweeted in January that he would build his own Hyperloop test track, likely in Texas, to let student engineers test–and race–pod prototypes. Now that sounds like fun.
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Taking the emotion out of investment
The technology helping investors ignore their feelings
Going Against the Flow: Mikkel Svane, CEO and Cofounder of Zendesk
Mikkel Svane is the Cofounder and CEO of cloud-based customer service software company Zendesk and recently published author of Startupland, a book on the company’s founding story. In 2007, Mikkel and two friends started the company with the goal of making customer service software beautiful and easy to use after they saw firsthand the downside of clunky enterprise software and knew they wanted more for themselves than dreary consultant jobs. In Startupland, Mikkel chronicles the challenges of starting a company and moving across continents, and yet through all the trials and tribulations, how the three founders brought the company through a successful IPO last May. Today Zendesk has 52,000 paid customer accounts at companies using the platform to build better relationships with their customers.
Q: What does entrepreneurship mean to you, and what underlying characteristics do you see in successful entrepreneurs?
MS: Entrepreneurship means embarking on a journey that you believe in and are willing to devote yourself to. It means working hard to find that “luck” everyone thinks is out there, and looking in unexpected places for your opportunity. We took an industry that was overlooked, mundane, and neglected – no one cared or thought about customer service or the software behind it. But that was what allowed us to flip it on its head, start from scratch, and make it sexy. Taking something boring and making it beautifully simple has allowed us to create a product that people enjoy using. Entrepreneurship is a challenging journey, but successful entrepreneurs embrace the challenges because they genuinely believe in what they’re working on; they know that there’s a long road ahead, and they make it their life.
Q: What are you most proud of in your professional career? If you could do something over in your life, what would it be?
MS: I am really proud that our little Danish company, what began in a Copenhagen loft on a table made out of a door, has grown into a worldwide company touching hundreds of millions of people. My co-founders, Morten and Alexander, and I have often called the company our baby – we may disagree, but in the end, we all have its best interests in mind, and I’m happy we’ve stuck together to watch this company of ours grow and shift the entire industry of customer service and enterprise software. Standing in the NYSE the day Zendesk went public was one of the happiest moments of my life, knowing that our “baby” had just reached such an amazing, humbling milestone. I’m not one for regrets, so I wouldn’t change a thing.
Q: Tell us about an instance where you had to go against the flow to realize your goal.
MS: There was one investor, early on and at a time that we were in a very difficult place financially, that seemed too good to be true – and I soon found out it was. I began to doubt myself and felt that I was letting the team down, unable to manage the investment situation when we were in dire need of cash. I had to let my co-founders know that we couldn’t agree to a deal with an investor that I didn’t trust – they understood and agreed, but it was hard to back out of a deal short after so much time and effort went into it. Who turns down money when you have a growing company and a growing family? It was a tough decision, but it carried the same relief as breaking off a bad relationship – we were poor, but we chose what was better for us and the company in the long run.
Q: What are some of the best customer support industry secrets you have learned along the way?
MS: As a company that helps almost 50,000 organizations provide great service to their own customers, we see a lot of customer service interactions. We’ve found that perfectly crafted emails don’t necessarily get responses. Simpler emails with a handcrafted sentence or two and maybe a spelling error – those are the emails people respond to, because they know there’s a real person on the other end. We also know that women often get more responses. Way back, an early employee created a new persona for himself, calling himself Josephine, and was amazed at the significant increase in responses. The alter ego is now named Jennifer Hansen, and almost all of our customers “meet” her at one point during their trial. We also know that it doesn’t always matter what you interact on with potential customers – as long as there is a conversation going on, you’ll see conversions to customers.
Q: LinkedIn style – If you were to give advice to your 22 year old self, what would it be?
MS: My story and the book are a testament to the fact that there are second chances. Failure is terribly rough, and I don’t think people should brag about how many failures they have under their belt, but you can always recover. And don’t worry so much about age. While the popular myth is that you have to be a 20-something to start a company, you can be a successful founder in your 30′s and 40′s and often have more motivation and wisdom at that point in your life.
Follow Mikkel Svane at @mikkelsvane, and check out the other interviews in Going Against the Flow series at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charu-sharma/ or thestartupsutra.com.
Facebook Clarifies Policies on Nudity, Hate Speech and Other Community Standards
Facebook has always had community standards that govern what can and can’t be posted and how it will deal with users that fail to follow its terms of service. Periodically the company updates these standards but, this week, Facebook decided to simply make them easier to understand.
In a blog post, Facebook’s head of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert and Deputy General Counsel Chris Sonderby wrote that the company is providing “more detail and clarity on what is and is not allowed” in such areas nudity and hate speech. They stressed that the “policies and standards themselves are not changing.”
The new standards page is broken into four sections helping to keep you safe; encouraging respectful behavior and protecting your intellectual property; and each section has a set of links on the side with explanations for each major issue.
Facebook has long gotten flack over its nudity and hate speech policies. Some people think they’re too strict while others think they’re too lax. As a member of Facebook’s Safety Advisory Board, I can assure you that policy decisions in these two areas is not easy, but the company — with our help — has done its best to create nuanced policies that allow for artistic and political freedom while at the same time trying to maintain an environment that is respectful and inoffensive. Clearly, not everyone will be happy with where Facebook arrived on these issues but — with more than 1.3 billion people — they need to create policies that their support staff and enforce and they need to find a way to explain them to people so that users understand what the company does and doesn’t allow.
The icon for Facebook’s encouraging respectful behavior rules.
On nudity, for example, Facebook explains that it removes photographs of “people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks” and that, though they “restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple,” they “always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring,” and artistic images that show nudity.
Facebook also bans hate speech including content that attacks people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, sex or gender identity or serious disabilities and diseases, and the company will sometimes allow people to share someone else’s hate speech “for the purpose of raising awareness or educating others about that hate speech.”
Disclosure: Larry Magi