Zapping asteroids with my eyes

CeBIT exhibition in Hannover Germany, March 14 2014

I received a free ticket to attend the CeBIT exhibition in Hannover which is in northern Germany, about a six hour Drive from where I live. Thankful for the opportunity to get plugged in to the modern technology scene, I hopped a train and traveled overnight to get there for the last day of the event. The grounds where the event was held were enormous, and I wouldn't be surprised if I walked 20 km, since I was on my feet and going booth to booth from 9 AM to 5 PM. What follows is a list of significant technologies that can have an impact on Wycliffe's field teams around the world.

  1. Cell phone repeaters and antennas.
    Often, field teams suffer with poor cell phone coverage, and I'm not sure how many of them are aware that things can be done to improve the situation. I spent some time talking with a vendor of 3G and 4G repeaters and antennas for cellular data connection. Although the main product they were pushing was a kit with an indoor and outdoor antenna, I explained that often just leaving the house and going outside wouldn't resolve the problem. Sometimes one needed to climb the nearest hill in order to get a signal. In this case I was advised to purchase a directional antenna to go with the signal amplifier box. The directional antenna would need to be mounted outside on a pole or on the roof of the house and aimed at the cell tower. The box inside the house runs on 5 V. And then a small antenna rebroadcasts the signal to devices inside the house. The normal set would be between $200 and $300, and I don't know how much a directional antenna would add to that cost.
  2. New pointing devices
    1. Wireless 3-D finger mouse
      The mouse is small like a thumb drive and can clip to your index finger. You calibrate it and then point at the screen. To click you press your thumb and forefinger together to push the button on the mouse. There aren't enough customer reviews out there yet to know how this fares in the real world, but I'm interested in anything that could reduce repetitive motion stress.
    2. Your eyes
      Tobii Technology has developed an eye tracking system called Eyex that allow you to use your eyes as a pointing device. I tried it out and it was insane! The configuration starts out by having your eyes follow a dot as it moves around the screen and stops in various positions. It took all of 30 seconds and then it was ready for me to start using my new built-in appliance. In the Windows interface, the pointer would jump to whatever tile I was looking at on the Windows desktop. Hitting the spacebar would select it. I was fairly impressed, but then I noticed the asteroids game icon on the desktop. I tried playing asteroids as a kid but never got my two quarters' worth. But this was something else. All I had to do was look at any asteroid approaching my ship and a beam would shoot out from the ship and explode it. The faster and the more plentiful the asteroids would appear, I would still blast them all away. I have the reflexes of a sloth with a hangover and yet here I was masterfully defeating my assailants at the speed of light – literally.
      In the office, I am ambidextrous because when one hand it starts hurting I put it behind my back and use the other. I'd be happy to put both behind my back and work if my computer was fitted with this eye tracking pointing device.
  3. Low powered Android or Linux server
    This was one thing that I came looking for, but I'm afraid I struck out. The wiki tablet that I've been working on has a limitation of 10 concurrent connections. I can extend that by adding a wireless router but that just complicates things. I'd like to have it all in one portable box. There were a number of android boxes meant to serve up HDMI video for television, but I didn't see anything that could serve as a mini server for a translation office. I've got my hopes set on the light stream server which I will get to see at a conference in Thailand in two weeks
  4. Multi-plug adapter
    I tracked down the maker of my favorite plug adapter for world travel. These are the ones that sell for $40 or so at most stores. They sold me two for a song as they were closing down the booth. Maybe I'll try to order direct and bring extras with me to conferences to make available to colleagues.
  5. Mobile app development
    Building a mobile app is getting pretty easy. One site that helps you do this is called, and claims to help you buld an app in as little as 5 minutes! However easy it may be, I'm still skeptical that any of these apps will become favorites. I think these are the kind of apps that tend to mimic static websites. Nevertheless there may be some language applications we can try to build to explore the possibilities.
  6. Android tablets
    Tablets are still very popular, but my experiences have left me a bit jaded about cheap tablets. Even my mid-to-high range Archos tablet has all kinds of issues with sluggishness, something I've not seen on a namebrand tablet like the Nexus 7. This is one case where I'm starting to advise people to go for the Nexus if they want an android tablet and not to mess around with cheap ones--that is, until one proves itself in real work conditions.
  7. Battery operated LED projectors
    The brightness levels on these were extremely weak when they first came out. However, the brightness is increasing and I was looking at one with a rating of 400 lumens. It had a Wi-Fi connection system built-in so that no cables were necessary, and could run for two hours on a battery charge.