Author: Steve Outing

Driverless cars are here now, in Phoenix

We know that driverless cars are coming. The question is when will they arrive for the public to use. Well, the day could be coming sooner than you think for residents of some of the world’s major cities. In Phoenix, Arizona, the day already has arrived. Sort of. As noted in this report (and demonstrated in the video below), the autonomous-driving company Waymo earlier this month deployed a test fleet of autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans in Phoenix and is allowing people there to try them out for free to get rides around the desert city. Riders only have to...

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Will new design trends lessen the stigma of hearing aids?

Next Avenue has published a new article by me on design trends and “hearables,” and how these are likely to help alleviate the stigma that many users of hearing aids experience. As it continues to become more common for people to wear devices in or on their ears – and as the functionalities and features of hearable devices grow increasingly attractive to everyone, not just those with impaired hearing – perhaps this enduring stigma will finally diminish. Check out my article by clicking below. Will New Design Trends Lessen the Stigma of Hearing Aids?   Top photo credit: Olive...

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Uber air shuttles: Really closer than you think?

Flying taxi shuttles may be closer to becoming reality than you think. Ride-hailing service Uber is targeting having its Uber Elevate on-demand air service in operation in some select urban areas by 2020. Check out the new video below to see the company’s vision. Like so much of the future of urban transportation, electrification and mobile technology will be key. Uber’s vision is a fleet of electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (EVTOL), which will be (supposedly) quiet enough not to drive us all crazy. Riding in them will be safe (supposedly) thanks to artificial-intelligence based collision avoidance and...

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What’s likely to be in your stomach in the year ahead

It’s only a short-range forecast, but here’s a look at likely food trends for 2018, as compiled by the Sterling-Rice Group, a marketing-research and brand-building firm based in Boulder, Colorado. I’m not sure what to think of all these, but flavored coffee seems likely to take off. Ditto for pizza crusts that are easier to digest – especially important for the many of us who avoid gluten, since sensitivity is something more common as we age. (Celiac sufferers would be wise to avoid even these “kinder” pizza crusts.) Coffee + Spice is Everything Nice: Say goodbye to café lattes...

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Will you own a car in the future? Will it earn you money?

Despite that owning a car or cars long has been the norm in most developed countries, the belief among many transportation planners and futurists is that this will not continue. One likely scenario for urban areas is that eventually a new norm will be that people will rely on fleets of (electric, autonomous) vehicles operated by ride-hailing services. I wrote about this recently here on Future After 50, suggesting that such a not-far-off future would save significant money over private car ownership. Many people would be able to get by without an automobile that they owned or leased. Families...

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This is not The Jetsons world that you remember

If you’re over 50, you probably recall watching the cartoon show The Jetsons when you were young. (The original show ran in 1962 and 1963; a remake was broadcast in 1985 and 1987.) You’ll remember it as a campy, uplifting look at the future. Well, The Jetsons – father George, mother Jane, daughter Judy, son Elroy, robot Rosie, and dog Astro – are back. But they’re different. Where Hanna-Barbera’s Jetsons lived in a sci-fi utopia set in 2062, today’s Jetsons world is downright dystopian. Perhaps the darkness of this Jetsons reflects our own dark times. You won’t find the...

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Pay with your face in the future

Money and how we spend it are certain to change in the future. Here’s an experimental form of payment that could be incredibly convenient – though it’s possible that significant privacy concerns could prevent it from gaining widespread usage. As the video above shows, an experiment at a fast-food restaurant in China allows customers to pay sans cash or credit card. A kiosk takes an order and scans the customer’s face to figure out who to bill it to. (The customer previously would have pre-registered using Alipay. The technology is from the Chinese company Face++.) The benefits of such a system are significant: safe payments of goods or services without need for your wallet or mobile phone. But if this strikes you as “big brother”-ish, you’re not alone. What with security cameras pretty much ubiquitous today and still growing in numbers, you can’t help but be concerned about governments and corporations more easily tracking most every move that you make. The MIT Technology Review article cited below notes how local governments in China are using the Face++ software “to identify suspected criminals in video from surveillance cameras, which are omnipresent in the country. This is especially impressive – albeit somewhat dystopian – because the footage analyzed is far from perfect, and because mug shots or other images on file may be several years old.” As for corporations, the day...

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Soon, you may not need or want to own a car

Automobile ownership, especially in the USA, is sacrosanct. We don’t want to give up the freedom provided by owning our own car(s). Right? Maybe not, as I came to realize when I attended a panel event about the future of transportation put on by the City of Boulder (Colorado) recently. The speakers opened my eyes to a not-distant future when I wouldn’t need or want to own a car, because I would be able to save a lot of money and reduce hassle by utilizing convenient alternatives – and at the same time be part of reducing traffic and...

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Elder helpers and ‘friends’ of the future may be robots

Here’s a new article I’ve written for NextAvenue (a public-television website for people over 50) about the coming proliferation of robot helpers for the elderly. One of the most interesting areas of this trend, beyond the wonder of the advancing technology, is the field of human-robot interaction, as I write. It may seem crazy to think that we might interact with robots as “friends,” but human psychology suggests that we’ll probably do just that. Further reading: Is There a Robot ‘Friend’ in Your Future? NextAvenue.org October 4, 2017 Top photo credit: Fraunhofer IPA, Care-O-bot...

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Ready for a pilotless air taxi in your future?

Science fiction of old promised us flying cars by now. (See The Jetsons.) Well, we’re getting a bit closer. In Dubai, Volocopter of Germany just demonstrated its drone air taxi for the first time, showing that for those of us over 50 the “flying car” might be something we experience in our lifetimes. The Volocopter air taxi probably won’t be available for hire for several more years, and the test flight was executed with no living humans on board. For those of you looking forward to flying cars in your lifetimes, consider this test run as an indicator of what’s probably ahead: You probably won’t be “driving” or piloting a flying car. It’s more likely that it will operate autonomously. Human pilots would be more prone to mishaps (likely fatal in midair) than an artificial intelligence operator. Pilotless air taxis or shuttles are more likely to become available than flying cars for individuals (unless you’re very wealthy). You can imagine the chaos of many private flying cars zooming around a city, but a limited number of highly regulated air-taxis or -shuttles is more workable, and more acceptable to regulators. But you have to wonder: Would many people be willing to put their lives under the care of a robotic pilot? Take the survey below and tell us how you feel about drone taxis. Further reading: Watch world’s firest flight...

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