Welcome to the future of technology!

Letter from New Delhi

 Tomorrow’s gizmos nothing earth shattering but interesting

The future of technology as seen through the eyes of MIT Media Lab scientist David Rose is about making gadgets personal. Smart phones will bend, forks will talk and tell you to stop eating more, and umbrellas will predict the weather and trash cans that order groceries.

If you not want to elbow through 160,000 visitors on the first day of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, just surf on the net. Following it on the web gives me an impression that this year has no big bang product like Google Glass or Apple Watch. Yes, there are some attractive devices but not earth shattering ones that you must buy at any cost.

Basically, the smart watches are better designed and more fashionable. After all, you want to wear a good looking watch that your role models or celebrities wear and so after developing the smart watch, many companies are making them look better and turn them into a fashion statement. Of course, they add new features too but you still have to wait for the Apple Watch coming in March this year.

Parrot has launched a flowerpot that will look after your plant for many days when you go on a holiday. Parrot Pot, a plant pot that contains sensors to measure soil moisture, temperature, sunlight and fertilizer and keep it well when you return. A new Parrot Zik 2.0 headphone has been a hit at the CES.

To monitor your baby with your smart phone, a cute iBaby has been launched. This round device monitors your baby as you get on with your house or office work and should be a boon for parents with newborn babies.

A new and improved smart Ring enables you to assign tasks on your phone and smart home gadgets using up to 23 different hand gestures, such as turning off the lights with a waggle of your finger. But if that’s not enough for wearable technology innovations, BMW is showing off its smart watch-controlled car. The sensor-filled i3 can essentially self-park when the driver uses a smart watch to activate the “Remote Valet Parking Assistant” function.

A company called Holi introduced its Smart Lamp and Sleep Companion, a smart phone-controlled coloured light that relaxes you into sleep with warm red and pink light and wakes you up gently with the help of a blue hue.

The reds and pinks direct the body to release sleep hormone melatonin, the company claims, and the blue light wakes the body up before the alarm wakes the mind.

If you do wake up in the night, you can activate a seven-minute “meditation programme” of light sequences to lull you back to sleep again. It doesn’t work on babies though, which is annoying for the parents of infants with sleep issues, who probably need it most.

The lamp also monitors your bedroom environment using, among other sensors, your smart phone’s microphone to track noise levels. It also plays romantic music for getting real close.

New skates called Travelor double your walking speed. How? Try them on!

I should stop as the Consumer Electronics Show has endless goodies!

The future of technology as seen through the eyes of MIT Media Lab scientist David Rose is about making gadgets personal. Smart phones will bend, forks will talk and tell you to stop eating more, and umbrellas will predict the weather and trash cans that order groceries.

These are some of the devices that may come in the market this year but how many of these will be super-hits is unknown. Most awaited is the Apple watch expected around March but other similar watches are already launched.

We may also get iPhone7 and probably iPhone8. How much better these new models will be remains to be seen but the bets are that they will be more elegant and more practical especially in recharging them. Tablet versatility taken to a whole new level. Already a new tablet offers a flexible display that allows you to bend or fold it to fit your needs. It also features two cameras and offers inductive charging.

The weather umbrella has a handle that glows with blue light that indicate if the forecast calls for rain. Trashcan has a tiny camera and a bar code scanner that records everything you throw away and sends the information to Amazon.com, where it is immediately reordered and shipped to you. However, you will have to safeguard the trashcan or it will be stolen!

Now a new smart eating fork alerts you with a gentle vibration when you are eating too quickly. It also measures, using the tines of the fork, how long it took to eat your meal, the amount of “fork servings” taken per minute, and the time between servings. All this information is uploaded — more self-monitoring data — for your own enjoyment or horror, depending on how you eat.

Then there is coffee table that becomes an “instant photo album,” uses real-time speech analysis to pick up keywords from your conversation to pull up relevant Facebook feed photos.

Welcome to the future of technology!

Kul Bhushan worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades and now lives in New Delhi

 * * *

Letter from New Delhi

Discovering Polo and the Polo Crowd

With its unique jargon and format, Polo remains elusive for the common mortals as the royalty, the army officers and new millionaires make up its swish crowd

Visiting a tailor a couple of months ago, I was shown photos of Jodhpur breeches and informed that it had become very trendy. The tight fitting trousers from the knee down, Jodhpurs reminds you of maharajas riding horses on hunting trips or playing polo. Yes, let’s connect to that era, and so I had a couple made to measure. Little did I know that my chance to wear one would come so soon, in fact, last Sunday when I was invited to a polo match.

Suitably dressed in my Trachten Austrian jacket and shirt with big stag-head buttons, a matching hat, and, of course, the Jodhpurs, I arrived at the Jaipur Polo Ground on a sunny afternoon in New Delhi. Entering the pavilion, it was a different world: ‘pucca’ army officers, young millionaire studs, elegant women in hats and flowing saris, young damsels dressed to kill, cameramen clicking for the social pages, and a baritone announcer interrupting his polo commentary to proclaim the arrival of so-and-so princess, a maharani, an ambassador or an army general.

They all knew each other quite well. Hugs and air kisses were the usual greetings. Tea and cold drinks were served on your seats by liveried waiters. After taking it all in, I tried to make sense of the game in progress. Each team had just four players on horses, two mounted umpires in striped polo shirts near the goals, a referee watching from the stand, and a scoreboard that read 2 goals by one team and 2 and a half by the other. Half a goal? The half goal is the deficit between the two handicaps of the two teams – all worked out by a formula which most of the players are quite happy to leave to the umpires.

Soon the chukka was over. Chukka? Each of the six periods of play lasting for seven minutes. Chukka comes from the Indian word ‘chakkar’ or a circle or round. The players return with a fresh pony after each chukka. Pony? No, actually these are thoroughbred horses.

Galloping full speed, the players swung mallets of bamboo cane four to five feet long to hit and score a goal with a white plastic ball less than four inches in diameter. They dashed from one goal to another at full speed, stopped and turned while chasing the ball. Accelerating to full speed in just a few strides and turning around rapidly is very strenuous for the rider and the pony. No wonder the chukka is over with a hooter in seven minutes when they change their pony.

Everyone claps gently when a goal is scored. At the end of the game, the players pass in front of the main guests raising their hard and padded helmets with face guards. Looking closely, I saw them wearing special brown boots with raised heels to keep feet in stirrups topped by leather Knee Guards to protect their legs from injury. Their Jodhpurs were in white, by rules. On scoring a goal, the player gets all the praise. But no one mentions the pony as 80 per cent of the credit is due to its agility and speed.

A military band played during the interval between the two games. For the prize giving, a tractor pulled up a stage in front of the pavilion with the chief guests. The VIPs went on the playground, climbed the stage and handed over the prizes with polite applause from the present.

Now it was time for high tea and everyone moved to the tented area where the tables groaned with a banquet of different snacks. This was the time to network and chat up pretty ladies and tough men. Here was a close society of army officers, maharajahs, diplomats and a few new rich. The army needed polo for training cavalry, the maharajas for exciting sport, the diplomats for top-level contacts and the new rich to prove their arrival. The royalty always says, “Let others play at other things. The king of games is still the game of kings.”

Earlier on, during a lull in the game, an old lady sitting behind me was heard telling her friend, “I’ve done it all; got it all; achieved it all I wanted …nothing is left. Now I am turning to spirituality!”

Kul Bhushan worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades and now lives in New Delhi

Captions

Galloping: With mallets in air, players chase the ball for a goal with the scoreboard on the right

Hot Pursuit: Last chance to score a goal before the chukka ends

Prize: Hard earned prizes are given away at the prize giving ceremony clicked by cameramen.

Ambassador – Remembering Kenya with a former Indian envoy to Nairobi, Surindra Kumar, with editor Kul Bhushan

 

* Published in print edition on 20 February  2015

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