How Machine Learning is Influencing Wearable Technology

How Machine Learning is Influencing Wearable Technology

Thanks to the Internet of Things, we’re awash in more data than we know what to do with. Data from our cars, our watches, our toothbrushes — collecting information is the easy part, but handling it can be complicated. Machine learning can make sense of data, and the implications could help IoT — and wearables specifically — really take off.

When machines are designed to recognize patterns and update their algorithms accordingly, they can make wearable technology more useful for consumers. An article on Warable.com explains some of the opportunities machine learning already presents for technology companies and their wearable products.

Take Google as one example. Android Wear’s “Google Now” app is getting a new feature called “Now On Tap” that uses machine learning to provide contextual suggestions without any prompting. Between search, email, text, location, calendar, and apps, the amount of data that can be mined is huge, and the software can learn a lot about you and what you need at any given moment. It might suggest movie times and trailers when a friend texts you about seeing a film, or quick lunch spots based on your physical location and schedule.

Apple is working on similar technology through which the Apple Watch will recommend more and more relevant apps based on user data. Machine learning could also empower Siri to make informed, proactive suggestions.

Since fitness is the most popular form of wearable, machine learning is influencing the efficacy of health software as well. The Microsoft Band will use the company’s Intelligence Engine to learn how your daily activities influences your exercise routine. The system could, for example, determine whether a high amount of meetings correlates with a slower run, or less sleep.

On the healthcare end, wearables with sensors can inform medical professionals of patient data such as air quality, humidity, steps, times opening the fridge, or using the bathroom. This provides a more comprehensive picture of a patient’s wellness.

Wearables can also track and learn about wearer’s emotions, body movements, fertility, and medication compliance.

All of this together may seem amazing and terrifying at the same time. I see it as an inevitability of technology; we have the data, so it follows that we’ll program the technology to take advantage of it. As long as it’s being used with consent of the user to the user’s advantage, it has the possibility to benefit all of mankind.

Tech Companies And The Global Rise Of E-Sports

Tech Companies And The Global Rise Of E-Sports

This post was originally featured on TechCrunch.com

The latest sports phenomenon sweeping the globe wasn’t represented at the Olympic Games in Rio; it doesn’t require an intense physical training regimen or even traditional sports equipment. We’re talking about e-sports — competitive video gaming — and the opportunities for huge windfalls for players and advertisers are immense. Corporations plan to spend $325 million on sponsorships and marketing of e-sports this year, hoping to reach gaming’s huge millennial demographic as the sport goes viral.

The idea of publicizing video game competitions is nothing new. In 1972, Stanford University invited students to an “Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics” for the game Spacewar. The prize? A year’s subscription to Rolling Stone magazine. These days, prize pools for major competitions, like Call of Duty, are at least in the six-figure range, and crowdfunded prize pools boost those paychecks into the millions.

Beyond advertisers and gamers, the real money up for grabs here is for the tech companiesthat can successfully bring these competitions to a worldwide audience in a mainstream media format. With the industry projected to generate more than $1.9 billion in revenue by 2018, there are various rising tech players to watch as this fierce competition heats up.

Recently emerged from stealth mode, startup Genvid Technologies has the lofty goal of creating “revolutionary eSports broadcasts.” By bringing interactive elements and multiple camera angles into live-streamed games, co-founder Jacob Navok hopes to hook a whole new audience with more compelling broadcasts and greater opportunities to monetize competitions.

The challenge is that video games are built with players, rather than spectators, in mind. Genvid hopes to solve this problem by enabling developers to control camera angles during live-streamed games as if they were in the editing booth at major sporting events. This would create a more compelling narrative with built-in storytelling and emotion — something that would be appealing to sponsors, advertisers and viewers.

Genvid hopes to challenge Twitch, the leading streaming platform for e-sports, which has a staggering 45 million monthly viewers. Twitch’s single-camera perspective, Novak says, is like “watching a Major League Baseball game from the viewpoint of a GoPro camera strapped to a player’s back.” It’s pretty easy to see the huge potential for profit if Genvid is successful with its current free demo phase and upcoming beta tests withe-sports companies.

ESPN performed some unexpectedly successful beta testing of its own last June when it became the first sports magazine to dedicate an entire issue to e-sports. One of the issue’s featured stories on a top gamer received more than 1.1 million page views on ESPN.com. Realizing professional coverage of this burgeoning arena would have a huge instant audience, ESPN launched a dedicated e-sports vertical this year. ESPN2 even televised an entire live competition called Heroes of the Dorm last year. We can expect to see the sports juggernaut roll out even more coverage of e-sports in coming months.

We can’t have a conversation about e-sports without discussing its mobile applications. An app that improves the players, not the game? Germany’s got that. Technology is making it even easier for aspiring players looking to cash in on the huge prizes available to top gamers with Dojo Madness, a Berlin-based startup with plans to turn gamers’ smartphones into an e-sports coach. Through advances that combine machine learning with in-play data, Dojo Madness has created a coaching app that raised $4.5 million in its first round of funding. Initially targeting League of Legends, the app offers strategy before and during the game, and analyzes performance in a post-game recap.

This second-screen technology will be huge in the age of big data. League of Legends, among other games, offers open APIs, enabling e-sports companies to pull in gameplay data, which in turn makes in-game coaching possible. The company’s League of Legends app, called LOLSumo, is already the top app for this game, with more than half a million downloads.

Another big player capitalizing in the e-sports area isActivision, a company hoping to “activize” more cash in their cache. Earlier this year, in a $46 million deal, Activision Blizzard acquired Major League Gaming, an early organizer of e-sports competitions. Valued at $27 billion, Activision is already a leader in the industry as the publisher of leading franchises, such as Call of Duty, but this move signals that they want more than the game — Activision wants to dominate the entire arena of e-sports.

According to chief executive Robert Kotick, Activision hopes to create “the ESPN of eSports” by bringing mainstream viewing away from the internet and onto traditional cable TV channels. This could be tough competition, as ESPN still intends to be the ESPN of e-sports — may the best company win!

Kotick hopes to tap into an even bigger audience than the online community by bolstering televised broadcasts with the same kind of coverage that traditional sports receive. In the spirit of the Games, Activision and Genvid Technologies should play on the same team instead of as opponents.

The budding startups, big tech companies and TV channels planning to capitalize on e-sports are just the beginning of the sport’s global rise. TheInternational e-Sports Federation(IeSF) even took steps to be recognized by the Olympic Committee in February, and was provided the necessary route to become an official sport in April. Indeed, e-sports could be on the Olympic stage before we know it — but until then, there will be no shortage of players getting their heads and wallets in the game.

Check Out The New High-Tech Mercedes Benz Stadium

Check Out The New High-Tech Mercedes Benz Stadium

The progression of getting the Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium constructed was an effort that began in December of 2012. With it slated to open next year, the architectural marvel will be soon realized, and the Atlanta Falcons will finally have their state-of-the-art stadium. In collaboration with some tech and entertainment leaders, the arena is touted to ensure the best user experience.

The Falcons along with Daktronics, a company that creates large display systems, are working together to produce a venue that will offer a 63,000 square foot HD Halo video board, giving every fan a 360-degree view of the action. And if that isn’t enough, 2,000 video displays will be available for fans to watch the games — each of them connected through a stadium-controlled IPTV (Internet Protocol Television).

Along with Miller, the Atlanta Falcons Scott Jenkins, general manager of the then named “Atlanta stadium”, will work alongside Jared Miller, CTO of AMB Sport & Entertainment Group, to oversee the operations of the arena. Miller, who has been responsible for bringing tech-to-field, takes great pride in the project, “I’m very proud of what we’re deploying and I’m also very excited to see it all come to life.”

Another collaboration will include working with IBM, who will make sure the stadium’s tech will function without any incidents, creating — according to them — a “smarter stadium”. This intelligent playground will feature state-of-the-art sustainability technology, as well as IT prowess. Passive Optical Network (PON), a fiber optic network to ensure super-connectivity,  which will actually consume less energy. With its 1,800 wireless access and over 4,000 miles of fiber will serve 75,000 occupants, while increasing efficiency and overall energy costs. This is expected to be a huge accomplishment as PON will have its maiden voyage within an NFL stadium.

PON is just one of the conservation initiatives the stadium will bestow. According to Mercedes-Benz Stadium website, the stadium will be “[…] the latest sustainable advancements related to design, construction and operations, becoming a model of healthy environment for healthy bodies.”

Mercedes-Benz Stadium solar design renderings

Here are some more ways they will accomplish that per their site:

  1. WATER
    LEED (U.S. Water efficiency credits): which will include rainwater acquisition and reuse
  2. RENEWABLE
    Solar PV panels and electric vehicle charging stations in parking areas.
  3. ENERGY USAGE REDUCTION
    Natural energies and LED lighting that will reduce usage up to 50 percent.

The ultimate goal for the venue is to create the best possible fan experience while maintaining a conscientious design using ingenious concepts, tech, and architecture. No doubt, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, will be a stunning display of next-level sustainable technologies that Atlanta, the Falcons, and fans are anxious to see revealed.

But if you’re a fan who can’t wait, you won’t have to. The newest iteration of the video game “Madden” combines renderings of the stadium, where players can experience it ‘first-hand’. This is a fitting tech response to an upcoming tech wonder.

If you don’t intend on buying the video game and want a tour, click HERE or below for a virtual tour.

Gamers, Rejoice: eSports Scholarships Are Here And Growing

Gamers, Rejoice: eSports Scholarships Are Here And Growing

Athletic scholarships are par for the course at many universities, and have been for ages. Gaming scholarships, though? That’s a whole new world.

With eSports beginning to blur the line between sports and videogames, already attracting crowds and monetizing, it’s become impossible to deny that gaming is less a nerdy hobby than it is a budding industry. This isn’t exactly a surprise, given the rise of video games this era. Advanced technology has created hyper-realistic video games much less likely to cause head trauma than its on-field counterparts.

Physical athletics may not decline; this isn’t a zero-sum game. But while football and its ilk are well-established, we’re just scraping the surface of what videogames have to offer. For young video game enthusiasts, that could be a big deal.

So, what can a young gamer expect in way of scholarships and careers?

Today, students can earn various scholarships just for gaming. One prominent example is the Twitch & Alienware scholarship program, which provides $10,000 scholarships to five students every year, provided they show mastery in their favorite game and in the classroom.

They can also get scholarships for the design, development, and business side of video games. The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences awards two types of scholarships, one for the development of interactive entertainment and the other for the business side, including executive leadership and law.

As eSports transitions into a recognized varsity sport, schools may begin recruiting and awarding scholarships to skilled gamers, too. Robert Morris University in Chicago became the first school to make competitive gaming a varsity sport, offering $19,000 scholarships to talented students. What’s more, unlike other college sports, eSports students can continue playing tournaments (and earning money) outside of academia.

Of course, some students may decide that college is not worth their while, considering they can monetize gaming without a formal education. Gamers can be recruited to the military as drone operators, or become lucrative online gaming personalities. I may not be incredibly likely, but it’s possible, especially as the public’s appetite for gaming grows.

Long story short, like everything else, videogames have huge potential for the talented and ambitious. Casual gamers should probably stake their bets elsewhere, but at least they no longer have to defend their hobby from naysayers.

Gold Medal Tech We Saw in Rio 2016

Gold Medal Tech We Saw in Rio 2016

Since the modern Olympic games were first held in 1896, each iteration of the events has brought with it significant breakthroughs in both sport and broadcast technology. As fans and athletes around the world wrap up the 2016 Olympics this summer in Rio de Janeiro, we will long be reflecting on the captivating competitions, stunning victories, and amazing feats of athletic ability.

What often goes unnoticed, though, is the innovative technology put into play on the Olympic stage. Here are a few sports and broadcast innovations you might have missed in the Rio 2016 Olympics this August:

Smarter Tracks

Italian company Mondo created the striking royal blue Olympic track we saw at the Olympic Stadium in Rio this year. Mondo used nanotechnology to optimize the track for Rio’s extreme climate, which is sure to bring soaring temperatures and high humidity come August. By tweaking the molecular composition of the track, Mondo hoped athletes will reach record-breaking speeds on its surface, and lo and behold, Usain Bolt came through.

Meanwhile the Olympic Rio Velodrome brought fast times for cyclists, despite construction delays that left many wondering if it would be completed in time. Not only was it finished; its use by international athletes earned its 250m oval-shaped smooth wooden surface high praise.

Biometric Tracking

Quantifying human performance is one of today’s leading trends and research reveals that certain biomarkers, such as blood sugar levels, can be used to customize pro athletes’ training programs to ensure optimal performance. Professional athletes who track their glucose levels, hormone levels, and energy believe this helps them fine tune their workouts and nutrition plans to ensure peak performance come game day.

Back in 2012, the U.S. women’s cycling team faced steep odds, but brought home the silver medal through applying this approach to their training. Four years later, the use of biometric tracking is much more common, though we can’t expect the pros to reveal their secrets—that is, until after they take home a medal.

Innovative Olympic Torch

One of the most-watched events of the Olympics is the passing of the torch. Over the years, the torch has evolved from a real torch, first ignited in the 1928 games, to an apparatus that emits smoke and the appearance of fire. Today, the torches are designed to very technical standards with a gas chamber that creates a yellow or red flame of different intensities.  

The torch underwent a major makeover for the 2016 Olympic Games. The torch was completely redesigned with horizontal segments that opened up to reveal scenes of the sky, mountains, sea and earth, representing Brazil’s natural beauty. It is made out of recycled aluminum and resin, weighing between 1 to 1.5 kilograms and stands 69 centimeters tall when fully expanded.

Hydrodynamic Swimsuits

Back in 2008, Michael Phelps famously won eight Olympic gold medals while wearing a Speedo full body polyurethane and neoprene suit in Beijing. In 2010 FINA, the world governing body of swimming, banned racers from wearing these high tech suits after an unprecedented number of record-setting performances led many to suspect the suits were giving swimmers superpowers. Essentially, these rubber tubes compressed the swimmer’s body and trapped air, which reduced buoyancy and drag to unnatural levels.

Since then, Speedo and other apparel companies have had to think of creative ways to gain a competitive advantage while remaining within the new regulations that limited the length of suits and dictated that materials must be air-permeable and zipper free. Speedo enlisted the help of experts in hydrodynamics, aircraft engineering, and nano textiles in their redesign, which resulted in the Fastskin system, whose latest iteration was designed specifically for Rio. Essentially, the lycra suit is made with alternating levels of compression to reduce drag on specific body parts. The Fastskin compresses the body at least 3x the amount the polyurethane suits that were banned back in 2010, so it will be interesting to see if officials react to the degree that swimsuit tech aided the new records set in Rio.

Futuristic Cycling Upgrades

When  training for the Olympic Games, cyclists made use of Kickstarter funded Solos smart cycling glasses, which keep track of the athlete’s speed, heart rate, and other self-tracking metrics. While many cyclists already use computers to rack their pedal stroke or wear a heart rate monitor to keep track of their performance, Solos take tracking to the virtual reality level with a display like that of a car dashboard. While cyclists won’t be able to wear these glasses during competition events, they can make use of the metrics during training sessions — a new step for many.

Another breakthrough cycling innovation this year was witnessed in the U.S. women’s team sleek new bikes, dubbed Project 2016. The Felt bikes featured a first in cycling design: a left side crankset. Moving the crankset from the traditional right side mount showed a remarkable 3.5 second speed gain over 4,000 meter distances in testing. Taking inspiration from NASCAR, researchers moved the crankset to the left to offset wind force, or yaw, coming from the left as racers compete in counterclockwise ovals. In other words, the bikes, like racing cars, should be asymmetrical in design, since they’re only racing in one direction. Putting this into practice in the design of Felt—rather than solely focusing on reducing frontal aerodynamic drag, as most bike research does—gave the U.S. women’s team a competitive advantage on the Cycling Track. The women won silver, losing to Britain’s powerful (and more fully outfitted) team.

New Broadcast Experiences

Before television news, the first Games were broadcast in the cinema; live broadcasts didn’t take place until the 1920s via radio. The Olympic Games were first beamed into homes on television in 1936. In the decades since, clarity has gone from grainy to high definition, and Rio’s Ultra HD resolution broadcasts will be the sharpest yet. Fans go a better audio experience in this year’s games thanks to Super HI Vision cameras, from Japan’s state broadcaster NHK. These high def audio cameras have been described by the Olympic Broadcast Services as “3D 22.2 channel audio surround sound.”

Another new broadcast medium this year came in the form of virtual reality (VR) headsets. Fans with compatible headsets had the ability to access live and on-demand VR coverage of certain events. Experts have described this as a defining moment for VR technology and the implementation of VR at the Rio Olympics will allow for a truly immersive 360 degree experience that will set a new precedent for Olympic broadcasts.

Ryan Lochte’s Brazilian escapade may make for better news fodder, but the triumph of technology should not be overlooked. From asymmetrical bikes to hydrodynamic swimsuits, the Rio Olympics debuted innovative tech in practically every sporting event. Meanwhile new broadcast technology and virtual reality continues to evolve the way we watch these historic games—making the 2016 Summer Olympics equal parts athletic and technological tour de force. 

Google Collaborates with Levi’s on First Smart Commuting Jacket

Google Collaborates with Levi’s on First Smart Commuting Jacket

I’ve been excited about Google’s secretive Project Jacquard since it announced a collaboration with Levi’s last year. Now the collaboration has come to fruition in an innovative jacket featuring technology woven in, and specifically designed for urban bikers. This is just the start for Project Jacquard, which promises the ability to weave touch and gesture interactivity into a wide array of textiles, from clothing to furniture.

Scheduled to start shipping in spring 2017, the Levi’s Commuting Trucker Jacket will allow cyclists to play music, listen to directions, accept phone calls and more with the simple swipe on the sleeve of the jacket. This is a much safer alternative than trying to maneuver a bike and smartphone at the same time. Check out the jacket in action here.

So how does it work? It all starts with innovative jacquard yarn, which combines metallic alloys with natural and synthetic yarns like cotton and silk. When combined with traditional thread materials, the alloys are then strong enough to be woven on industrial looms. For the commuter jacket, gesture sensitive areas were woven directly into the fabric near the wrist, for easy access while biking. With a rechargeable tag on the cuff, the jacket then connects via Bluetooth to the user’s smartphone. The tag, inspired by classic trench coat designs, can be removed and the jacket can be washed like regular clothing.

This is a great example of wearable tech moving in a new direction, where form and function truly align without one being sacrificed by the other. In the future we can expect to see more exciting Jacquard partnerships that reimagine what can be done with technology woven directly into textiles. The commuter jacket is just the tip of the iceberg.