Apple introduces 3D Touch – Thanks to Microsoft !

The grandiloquent product launch of Apple today, sounded something like this, “Today we’re presenting to you a revolutionary technology of Multi-Touch which is called 3 D Touch, which will make your smartphones respond to Force Touch, achieving an impeccable Pressure-Sensitive Touch.” Voila, in a mere 5 seconds, Apple gave birth to 4 synonymous words. That’s how laconic as it gets with Apple. However, with due respect to the engineering involved, a 3D touch essentially commensurates to converting your mobile screen into a mouse trackpad.

As an electronics engineer, I was highly intrigued by this development and I dug deep into the world wide web to explore the working. Extrapolating on the hint provided during the Launch presentation, it is based on the sensors which have been embedded on the display that sense the pressure with which the fingers are pressing the screen. Just like a mouse pad!

While grousing and browsing through the unfiltered search results for this technology, I landed upon the gold mine – The Patent issued to apple for this technology. According to the patent issued, this technology is able to detect both force and touch using FTIR and capacitive location. Here is a snippet from the patent application abstract:

Capacitive sensing can determine (A) where the finger actually touches, so the touch device more accurately infers applied force; (B) whether finger touches shadow each other; (C) as a baseline for applied force; or (D) whether attenuated reflection is due to a current optical coupling, or is due to an earlier optical coupling, such as a smudge on the cover glass.

Source: US Patent and Trademark Office

For the lesser enlightened, FTIR stands for Frustrated Total Internal Reflection. On doing more search, I found out that Microsoft has been extensively working on this technology for almost a decade now. A research published by Microsoft defines a FTIR setup as follows:

The most common FTIR set-up has a transparent acrylic pane, with a frame of LEDs around its edges, into which infrared light is injected (see Figure (left)). When the user touches the acrylic, the light escapes and is reflected at the finger’s point of contact due to its higher refractive index; an infrared-sensitive camera can then clearly see these reflections. A basic set of computer-vision algorithms is applied to the camera image to determine the location of the contact point.

According to this research paper, in 2007, Microsoft announced the Surface multi-touch table which uses the embedded multi-touch interactive screen and called it the Microsoft PixelSense experience. Not sardonically speaking, Apple has lived up to the reputation of wrapping around an existing, but dormant, latent or lesser known technology, with a premium user experience and stitching it to a broad based application, before presenting it in a flamboyant manner to the world.

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Dr Kalam’s vision for 2020: The onus is on us

Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam has touched our lives in a way that the impact will last for eternity.

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In his honour, the least that we can do is to work to the best of our potential and bring Dr Kalam’s vision of 2020 for India into a reality. We are still far from it, but working tirelessly towards the goal is the least we can do for him, for ourselves.

To recapitulate the 5 major areas of development as Dr Kalam points out in the Vision 2020:

  1. Agriculture and Food Processing: With all four seasons and fertile land conditions, India is very well suited to be a dominating agrarian country. Let’s get back to it!
  1. Infrastructural growth with reliable electric power: Growth doesn’t commensurate to fulfilling the needs of the hour. It rather suggests a sustainable scaling of infrastructure that can meet the needs of today as well as tomorrow.
  1. Education and Healthcare: These are the two main aspects that ensure the social security of an individual. Lets strive towards educating ourselves rather than being just literate.
  1. Information and Communication Technology: We are showing good trends in this department, especially in the fields of telecommunication and remote education services. However, there is still a lot of scope of improvement in e-governance and telemedicine.
  1. Critical Technologies and Strategic Industries: It is a matter of great pride for all of us that ISRO has put us on the space map, time and again, with the gigantic projects successfully implemented. fortunately, Dr Kalam witnessed the upsurge. We need to establish ourselves as world leaders and attract industries to our motherland. Better land laws and labour reforms will only help!

We need to work together as a unit, a nation. Do what you are doing in the best way that you can. As long as we are sincere and honest to our trait, Dr. Kalam’s vision will come into a reality.

I would like to quote Dr. Kalam

You cannot change your future, but you can change your habits and surely your habits will change your future.

Dr. Kalam – may your soul rest in peace.

Book Review: The Martian, by Andy Weir

Unknown

In true words “The Martian” is an engineer’s delight. Love for mathematics is a pre-requisite for this book. The struggle of an astronaut, to survive at mars – is what everyone would assume this book to be about. However, I think that the book is more about how life can throw tantrums at the wrong times and there is no option you have but to deal with it. The author, in his personal life, is a programmer and it is very evident from the way he sorts down and tackles the problems he is facing at the martian land, one at a time. Humour, is a very strong element of Andy’s style of writing. It comes out at the times where it was least expected and that’s what makes it so much more funny. Here’s my favorite quote from the book:

“They say no plan survives first contact with implementation. I’d have to agree.”
Andy Weir, The Martian

I believe that one of the biggest challenges with a single character based novel is fighting monotony [from the reader’s perspective]. However, this book does a good job by adding adventure, thrill and lot’s of suspense, which keeps the boredom at bay. Strangely enough, the astronaut happens to be a botanist at heart and grows a potato farm at Mars. At this note, I leave it on you to figure out what happens next.

Advise:
1. This book deserves a binge reading. I read it in one go in 8 hours.
2. Andy Weir has written a summary and analysis of this book and it is much recommended.

10 Adorable Facts About Moms

1. Every time my friends call me fat, all I have to do is reach out to my mom. Suddenly, I am thin again!

2. In panic mode, she calls me by my brother’s name and my brother by my name. Given the fact, that she kept our names, how difficult can it be to remember? But, it’s adorable!

3. On the day of Karvachauth, our family gets our meals right on time and full of variety. Complaining attitude is not the characteristic of a mother.

4. She keeps her kid’s dreams ahead of her own wishes and teaches her kids to keep their own dreams on the top.

5. A mere smile on mother’s day means more to her than what an X-box means to us on our birthday.

6. Whenever we ask her if she loves me or my brother more, she says she can’t compare but she loves us both more than her life. I think it’s an actual example of infinite love, and two infinite values can’t be compared. It’s adorable.

7. There is the district court, then high court, then supreme court and then a mother’s judgement. I cannot afford to be wrong in her eyes.

8. A mother is the only factory in the world which has more than 100% efficiency. With minimum raw materials she can produce abundant selfless love.

9. You get a hug, whether you top the class or you fail it. Conditions not applied.

10. To every son his mom is the prettiest and to every mom her daughter/son is the prettiest. There is mutual admiration. 😛 🙂

Make A Wise Donation To Nepal

042915-ap-nepal-quake-apartment-rubble-imgThe consequences of the unfortunate calamity at Nepal are beyond our control, well after a certain extent. The least we can do is come together as one strong unit and support each other. All the hard work we do and the riches we accrue, get wiped off in a second of one such calamity. This moment is all we have and if our hard-earned money can earn a moment for someone in need, let us donate. A lot of noble organizations are setting up donations for difference causes and most of us, who want to donate, are confused where to donate. Let us first understand how donations work.

Expense-breakup of Donations

For every dollar that you donate to a charity, how much do you think is actually spent for the cause? In the best-case scenario, 85-90 cents and in most cases 60 cents. While in the need of the hour, every penny counts, still it does hurt to confront the reality of financial manipulation even in catastrophic situations. Given the reality, here is a guide for you to choose where to make a donation.

Whenever you choose an NGO, organziation or charity to donate for a cause, do the research on the following measures:

  • Program Expenses: It reflects the percentage of the total budget that is being spent on the actual services that the program stands for. The more the program expenses the better it is. You would ideally like the number to be around 85-90%.
  • Administrative Expenses: It reflects the percentage of the total budget that is being spent on the organization’s administrative staff, group meetings, people management, overhead expenses, etc. You would want to minimize this number. If the number is more than 33%, think multiple times before donating.
  • Fundraising Expenses: It reflects the percentage of the total budget that is being spent on the efforts made by the organizaiton to raise money. It includes public relations, campaigns, events, marketing costs, memberships, etc. Again, this number should be minimized as a part of it will be recovered from every dollar that you spend. Ideally, you would like this number to be under 10%.
  • Crowdfunding Expense: Crowdfunding websites allow people to donate directly to the victim and thus, you can bypass the overhead administrative expenses. But, they charge transaction fees of 5-6% on an average.

Examples

  1. Red Cross
  • Program expenses: 90.5%
  • Administrative Expenses: 3.5%
  • Fundraising Expenses: 6%
  1. Children’s Charity Fund
  • Program expenses: 6.2%
  • Administrative Expenses: 9.8%
  • Fundraising Expenses: 84%

Source of Information

Now the key question is where you get this information. It is the responsibility of the charities or donation websites to declare the expense breakup on their websites. If only they were all responsible. Thus, we have certain websites that dig this information for the donors and provide a pie chart distribution of these expenses. Some are free and some not. But here is a list of the best ones:

Word of advice: 

Social media is definitely a huge source of motivation for us, but do not get lured instantly with the campaign videos. Do your homework and yes, please do support the work being done to resurrect Nepal. This post is a mere effort to inform you about the cost break up of donations. I encourage you to make donations, but wisely.

Life of a Blog : From Nebula to a Blackhole

After reading the book “The Theory of Everything” by Stephen Hawking, I believe that if he were a blogger rather than a physicist, here’s how he would define the life cycle of a Blog. If you maintain a blog, tell me which stage of the life-cycle, your blog is at.

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1. Nebula:

Star: A nebula is a cloud of gas (hydrogen) and dust in space. Nebulae are the birthplaces of stars

Blog: A nebula blog is a cloud of bright ideas and thoughts, freely wandering in space. Nebulae are the birthplace of blogs.

2. Protostar:

Star: A protostar continues to grow by accretion of gas and dust from the molecular cloud, becoming a pre-main-sequence star as it reaches its final mass.

Blog: A protostar blog continues to grow by accretion of posts and ideas from the hazy cloud of thoughts, becoming a full-fledged blog as it reaches its final readers following.

3. Red Giant:

Star: Red giants have diameters between 10 and 100 times that of the Sun. They are very bright because they are so large, although their surface temperature is lower than that of the Sun.

Blog: Red Giants have followers between 10 to 100 times that of a Protostar. They are very popular as they are so well-planned, although their frequency of posts is lower than that of a Protostar.

4. Supernova:

Star: This is the explosive death of a star, and often results in the star obtaining the brightness of 100 million suns for a short time.

Blog: This is the explosive death of a blog, and often results in a sudden spike of 1000 visits on the farewell post for a short time.

5. Blackhole:

Star: Black holes are believed to form from massive stars at the end of their life times. The gravitational pull in a black hole is so great that nothing can escape from it, not even light. Black holes distort the space around them, and can often suck neighbouring matter into them including stars.

Blog: Black holes are believed to form from massive bloggers at the end of their life times. The reader-pull in a black hole is so great that no one can escape from it, not even Justin Bieber. Black holes distort the competition around them, and can often suck other blogs into them including Red Giants.