Facts amongst Star Wars fiction  

There is a temptation to view the most popular science fiction movie franchise of all time as ‘hokum' – escapist nonsense that introduces the viewer to fabulous worlds and wacky characters. But, believe it or not, a lot of the fiction portrayed in the Star Wars films (all six of them, with more in the pipeline) is actually grounded in fact. So what aspects of these blockbusters can be termed ‘science fact'?
One of the most exhilarating sequences in the Star Wars movies was the speeder bike scene in Return of the Jedi, the third film in the series. This involved what looked like a cross between motorcycles and hovercraft racing across a deeply-forested landscape, zig-zagging between trees. For a lot of adolescent fans, the closest they came to emulating the action was to furiously pedal their bikes along woodland trails, making the appropriate sound effects with their excitable mouths. However, a New York-based development company called Aerofex are currently involved in research into what they call ‘low altitude tandem duct vehicles'. The best way to think of these is scaled-down Hawker Harrier jump jets – the world-renowned Royal Air Force fighter jets that can take-off and land vertically. These craft would be ideal for navigating across inaccessible regions, such as the Australian Outback, or East Africa, and would be suited to flying doctors. At a present price tag of up to $100,000, the casual movie fan might have to wait awhile before purchasing one to keep in the garage.
The staple of the battle scenes in every Star Wars feature has been laser guns. Emitting piercing bolts or light, they mow down the dreaded Imperial storm troopers at a fearsome raye. The US Navy has been testing laser cannons mounted on warships, known as the ‘Laser Weapon System (LWS)'. One advantage of this potentially-destructive future artillery is cost. Laser beams cost a fraction of the price of missiles, the latter costing several hundred thousand dollars per weapon, putting the soldiers aiming said devices under considerable pressure!
Unlike the movie versions of laser firefights, where bolts of light streak across the screen accompanied by striking sound effects, the reality is somewhat more staid. Because lasers travels at the speed of light, the beams fired from these LWS arsenals are invisible to the naked eye. They are also silent.
As for the potential for a weapon with the capability of destroying an entire planet – hopefully that doomsday scenario remains in the realm of science fiction for some considerable time!

 

Evolutions in phone design  

The mobile phone in your pocket is already a museum piece. Well, seriously, it may well be perfectly snazzy-looking and contemporary for the time being. But as we speak there are design engineers all over the world who are actively involved in ensuring your model will be superseded within the next six months or so! So what are the current design trends currently being drafted?
Where most users of smart phones such as iPhones or samsung s8 or LG g6 these days are offered the straightforward choice of black or white for their shells, there is every likelihood that you might have a transparent option in the not-too-distant future. See-through or 'window' phones will give the user the appearance of clutching a small rectangle of frosted glass. As well as looking fantastic, current weather conditions will be reflected on the screen. You can use your finger as a stylus, or blow at the screen to switch between various modes.
3D
Just as three-dimensional technology has already infiltrated cinema and television screens, this is another way forward for mobile phones. Using hologram-creation technology, three-dimensional images will be projected from the phone screen. This will give the like of Google Maps a whole new range of user-friendly possibilities.
Dexterity
Currently your mobile phone is most probably a small, neat rectangle that fits squarely into a pocket. Increasingly innovative designs will be employed, with some phones becoming 'leaf-shaped', with built-in plastic stems. This will allow the phone to be wrapped around a wrist, arm or neck for safekeeping.
Solar panels
Not only will you be able to power-up you phone for free, you'll be able to keep an eye on your phone to a far greater extent than if it was battling to get noticed amongst the papers, coffee cups and post-it reminders on your cluttered desk!

 

Football and goal line technology  

With the recent diplomatic crisis news, hopefully there will be no disruptions to the FIFA World Cup 2022 taking place in Qatar with total of 64 games will be played to decide the winner.

The use of so-called goal line technology has been sparking furious debate in footballing circles for a number of years. There have been a number of high profile incidents and international matches where the use of technology could have eradicated refereeing decisions since proved to be erroneous.

So what are the pros and cons of introducing goal line technology? Those in favour point to the way that tennis has adopted this technology, vastly improving the flow of matches during top tournaments. Those archive clips of Wimbledon players (most noticeably the likes of Americans John McEnroe or Jimmy Connors) furiously arguing with umpires or line judges about where or not a ball delivered at over 100 kilometers-per-hour had actually skiffed the line, now seem so quaint and amusing. The fact is, knowing that the Hawkeye system will bleep the moment a ball has gone out of play enables the players, and the spectators, to simply relax and get on with enjoying the sport. Slow motion replays allow referees to guarantee pin-point accuracy in decision-making. The level of trust between officials and audience is greatly enhanced.
Hawkeye was introduced by the International Tennis Federation in 2003. However, when the same technology was tabled before FIFA, the world football administration authority, five years later, it was dismissed out of hand. Apparently football's top officials were unimpressed following tests of video replay and the Hawkeye motion analysis system, when applied to their own sport. The main sticking point was the degree of accuracy that technology could offer. FIFA remained to be convinced that neither video replays nor Hawkeye analysis would lead to accurate decisions in 100% of instances. Another bugbear for footballs officials was the fact that technology, while having the potential to eliminate a lot of refereeing shortcomings, would also greatly slow down games.
Those in favour of introducing technology point to the fact that bad referee decisions undermine the sport completely. Not only do the officials look foolish in the eyes of thousands of spectators (or millions where the games are being televised), players tend to react badly too, swamping the match officials, so that the game tends to grind to a halt in any case.
Football's rule books were cobbled together in a different era. So the task for its ruling bodies is maintaining a precision balancing act between what tradition demands, and the need to move with the times. As in any other walk in life, when deliberate brake are imposed on natural evolution, then the outcome is always negative. By embracing new technology football will continue to prosper as the world's most popular spectator sport. Television audiences are saturated with video replay. Managers now have access to it in their dugouts. Fans in the stadium can access it in their hand-held devices. Why should the referee alone be denied it?
Improve your laptop for gaming  
As more and more of us switch from computers to laptops, one of the key questions asked by customers is ‘how can I improve my laptop for gaming?'
One of the first points to note is that advances in technology mean you don't need to have a dedicated gaming laptop to enjoy playing computer games. Serious gamers will still benefit from taking on-board all the appropriate technology that is available, especially if their taste is at the more cutting-edge side of the market. However, nowadays even notebooks are perfectly capable of providing excellent gaming platforms.
As far as technological advancements go, there have been many factors which have led to this improvable in the gaming potential of even the cheapest laptops. Foremost amongst these are the improvements that have been made to processors, such as the Core 2 Duo. This is now available in budget machines, while the Atom processor is now available in dual-core spins. All these innovations help to propel gamers through multi-threaded games at an excellent pace.
As well as advances in processors, memory capabilities have come forward in leaps and bounds. A capacity that would previously have been unheard of for laptops, such as 1GB, is now available as standard. Not only that, it is also easy to upgrade any laptop's memory to 2GB or even more yourself.
The most noticeable area where there have been advances in the technology affecting gaming PCs has been through improvements to graphics. Intel's Graphics Media Accelerator was once the frequent target of complaints by gamers – but this has come on immensely. It can now be utilized for playing games that once would have required computers causing many thousands of dollars.
In order to get computer games performing at reasonable speeds, you really need to select lower quality settings. The one point to note is that there are the occasional games out there that demand DX10 hardware. Even this isn't necessarily as limiting as it first appears. Intel offers support for the DX10 API with the GMA X3100, 4500 and HD ranges. For compatibility reasons, most games offer a DX9 codepath in any case. In addition, all the Intel chips support the revision of Microsoft's API. And while DX11 hardware has been available for a while, there are no DX11-only titles on the shelves, and few under development.
Your machine's desktop display is the biggest barrier to a favorable gaming experience. Best to drop this as low as it will go, until your reach the ideal minimum of 30fps. Experimenting with settings will eventually produce the optimum combination.

 

Innovations in Asia  

As well as being at the forefront of expanding economies, Asia has long been respected as a hub for innovative business ideas. A lot of this is down to Asian customers being more receptive to ideas that are more innovative, and perhaps ‘quirkier' than those their conservative western counterparts would willingly take on-board.
Take the concept of the vending machine. Sure, in the UK they are fairly ubiquitous. You'll find one at your local gymnasium dispensing cool drinks. There'll be one at the railway station offering a range of chocolate bars or crisps. But they are not exactly the type of invention to inspire their customers with any sense of reverence. This is not the case in the Far East. In Singapore, vending machines can dispense a whole lot more than packets of crisps or fairly insipid coffee. You'll be able to order a carton of mashed potato smothered in piping hot, delicious gravy.
Korea is another burgeoning Asian economic power that treats its retailers with due respect. The Emart supermarket here has built-in three-dimensional QR (machine-readable) codes that will only work when the sun has arrived at a certain point overhead. The idea behind this simple but devilishly effective marketing ploy has been to ensure that sales are inspired at certain times of the day – previously it had been noted that sales tended to slump over lunch time.
These QR codes are one noticeable aspect of how innovation is being harnessed in Far Eastern markets. Mobile phones are another important tool. The technology is also filtering over to the west, with the Canadian grocery firm Sobey's using QR codes to provide information on products, such as point of origin. This helps customers in many ways – by hovering over items with their phones they can be taken to web pages with further data. This can also allow interactivity, or transactions to take place.
There are other incentives being offered to customers that make their shopping experience as pleasant as possible. In Sweden, the retailer ICA are allow about field communication. Shoppers buying their lunch at ICA can adopt contactless payment systems. Anyone taking regular advantage of this is rewarded with a free lunch.
Technology is increasingly being used in-store for the benefit of both retailers and customers. In Thailand, Tesco are growing lettuces in water, making for fresher food, and eye-catching displays. This is so much more appealing than the sight of rows of uninteresting green vegetables lined up on a supermarket shelf, slowly wilting beneath the bright lights.
Another revolutionary idea likely to pave the way for future Asian shopping experiences is ‘smart trolleys'. These will scan products the moment they are placed inside, allowing customers to keep a close eye on their goods and budget accordingly, as well as flagging up the fact they are still within the amount they originally wished to spend – so it is too early to stop!

 

How robots are set to evolve  

Seeing as we just saw a whole ton of different Robots at CES 2017 including Laundroid, Aristotle by Nabi, Emotech Olly, Ewaybot MoRo, Black & Decker Smartech Robot Vac, Ubtech's Lynx robot and many more. SkyLabs team and been talking robot ideas ever since. When most of us hear the word ‘robots', what probably immediately springs to mind are image from hundreds of science fiction movies, from Star Wars to Blade Runner. The fact is, far from being the stuff of futuristic fantasy, robots are all around us today. And their presence is only set to continue expanding.
Of course, the conventional notion is of a synthetic human or android, an artificially-engineered person who will walk around just like the flesh and blood variety. But robots come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, depending on the tasks they have been designed to accomplish.
At their most basic level, robots are already installed in offices throughout the World. Think of the vast plants churning out cars. Practically every part of the production process is now in the hands of robotic components – machines that have been specifically pre-programmed to handle feats of precision engineering. Although the figures are difficult to collate with 100% accuracy, there may be upwards of one million fully functional industrial robots that are an integral part of plants across the globe.
At the lower end of the scale, there are some half a million cleaning robots working in offices in various sectors in many countries. While these won't exactly resemble C3PO with a duster and cloth, they will come in a diverse range of designs. Each of these will be designed to cope with everything from desk areas and rest rooms to robots that will deal with areas containing sensitive equipment, such as telecommunications or server stores.
You only have to consider the boom in sales figures of toy robots in the previous decade. This is one area where robots are predicted to truly explode in functionality and popularity over the next 20 years or so. Entertainment robots will enter more and more households, allowing robotics will make the leap from a mainly service tool - for cleaning or working on factory production lines - and into domestic environments.
The nature of robot design will be greatly influenced, allowing the look of robots to become more streamlined, tending towards the classical image of synthetic humans rather than simple machines. Robotics will begin looking into dealing with practical considerations, such as facial features, color schemes, and dimensions, as well as fluidity of movement, robustness, and how the units are powered. One of our current favs is Asimo from Honda.
How to speed up your Mac  

Yes most of this weeks press is around the new MacBook Pro built on groundbreaking ideas. It's faster and more powerful than before, yet remarkably thinner and lighter. It has the brightest, most colorful Mac notebook display ever. And it introduces the Touch Bar — a Multi-Touch enabled strip of glass built into the keyboard for instant access to the tools you want, right when you want them. However if you have an older Mac this article could help you get some more speed out of it.
Undoubtedly, when you took your brand new Mac out of its packaging and got ready to work with your sleek new Apple apparatus, it felt as it you were clutching a piece of the future? But how do you feel now? After downloading all those apps and storing countless photographs, not to mention having filled your iTunes library to overflowing, your machine has probably transformed from a speeding falcon to a dodo.
The good news is that there are various ways in which you can boost your Mac, so that its position in your affections is faithfully restored!
Start Up
The longer it takes for your equipment to boot up, then the slower its performance will be once it does get up and running. How many times have you stared at the desktop waiting for the likes of Firefox or Chrome to stop all that irritating hourglass spinning so you can start opening applications, or browsing the internet?
What you want to do is to go to your System Preferences and then select Users & Groups. Here you click on your username, and then click on Login Items. Check the box of each program you don't immediately require at the moment your Mac starts up. By applying these simple amendments you should notice a considerable difference at start up time.
Understandably, a lot of users get cold feet when it comes to looking at ways of improving Mac performance by considering your operating system. But Macs are perfectly able to take care of themselves. The latest Apple software makes it very easy to speed up your machine. You can go online to check the latest version of the Mac OS (navigate to http://www.apple.com/osx/). Now compare what you see with what is currently installed on your machine – by clicking the Apple icon on your screen, top-left, then clicking About This Mac. The main reason Apple provides these free upgrades is to improve speed and efficiency. There are many other benefits from installing the latest OS, so ensure you follow these simple steps.
Hardware upgrades are more time-consuming and costly than simply downloading the latest version of the OS. Certain machines won't allow this task to be performed anyway. However, a hardware upgrade is often the best option available. The best advice is to go online and stick the hardware upgrade question into your favourite search engine, and read up on the advice. If you don't want to tackle this yourself, seek counsel from your local computer repair shop.

 

Innovations in the retail sector  
The race to get men into space was once the principal driving factor behind the science and technology of the east and the west. Thankfully, the moon has been conquered, the USA and Russia collaborate on space station missions, and since the late 1980s the Cold War has been experiencing – for the most part – a prolonged thaw. If there is any part of the human experience that is still undergoing a race, it is in technical innovation, particularly in the retail sector.
Where Silicon Valley in California was once considered the most likely place on the globe for new business ideas to emanate, the fact is that it is now open season. New suggestions for technological excellent are coming from places as far apart as China and the Philippines.
One aspect that caused retailers to have a serious think about how they addressed their customer base was the great worldwide recession that kicked-off in 2008. The constraints that this placed on consumer spending power meant that management teams had to start thinking outside the box. Traditional retailing methods were out the window, and the ongoing search for innovative ideas became all the rage.
Most retailers embraced the need to think ahead and challenge the status quo. A simple example would be the Tesco Clubcard, awarding shoppers for continually returning to one particular store. Of course, there are now 1,001 outlets offering similar scenarios. But the key matter here is that the retailer and shopper relationship has entered a new phases. There is far more interactivity between the two. Gone are the days when you walked into a shop, paid your money over the till, then walked away with the product, completely switching off thereafter. Today's transactions are all about stoking and then rewarding customer loyalty. A raft of other innovations have been introduced by modern outlets, such as home deliveries, mobile scan-and-shop services and self-service tills.
As for innovations lurking on the horizon? There is no doubt that gadgetry is going to feature strongly. The mobile phone may well be most self-respecting inventor's target of choice these days. But there will be others. Research is currently being undertaken into smart fridges that will possess the capability to order items when they run low. Shopping trolleys will follow shoppers up and down the supermarket aisles, scanning items as they are placed inside them.
Retailers also appreciate a simple enough truth. All the gimmicks in the world are no substitute for simply grabbing customer attention, either through careful marketing strategies or gaining trust through branding. The retail landscape is growing more populated and ‘noisier' all the time. But a combination of originality, innovation and inspiration will still reap rewards.
Phone design innovations  

Here are some of the ideas currently being mooted for future phone design. Whether or not they ever become reality, they are still well worth taking a look at. If they ever do become available on the shelf, remember where you first read about them!
Earphones
Mobile phones are getting more compact all the time. This means they are getting thinner, smaller and lighter. Designers are actually working on an ultra-thin phone with a centre-panel that pops out, so that it juts out from the main body. This is designed to fit snugly over your ear, enabling your phone to instantly becoming an earphone – without those annoying cables that are forever getting themselves twisted around each other in knots!
These phone are also being designed to march skin tones that will render them practically invisible when they are in use.
Foldable phones
With advanced design technology there is not need for any phone to be a rigid piece of kit. Instead, far more flexibility is offered by 'packet' phones. Their default state is as a 5cm square shape. But these will be able to fold outwards, as required, enabling the tiny phone to be utilised for a variety of different functions. This solves so many issues with phone size. As more and more of us get used to ever-smaller designs, this will allow us access to multiple functions within a tiny area of storage. The fact that the phone can be conveniently folded away between tasks will allow you to 'switch off' from the demands of carrying the phone around in your pockets.
Shape-shifting
Phones have traditionally been rectangular-shaped, for the most part, for a number of years. This is still the case with modern mobile phones. However, the phones of the future are being created in a host of different shapes and sizes, with aesthetic considerations equal to technological concepts. In this way, phones will become so much more than objects for conversations, or for interacting with software. They will become three-dimensional ornaments or jewels, which can take pride of place on your shelving when they are not actually in use.

Robot technology – advances on the inside  
While robots continue to be developed in terms of their appearance, growing ever more compact, the real advances are being made ‘under the bonnet'. The major technological breakthroughs in recent years have been down to innovations in telecommunication, electronic devices, computing and, of course, software.
The ability of designers to come up with ever more inventive solutions to reduce processor size had made mobile computing possible. This has also increased what we might consider the ‘brain capability' of robots. Other advances that are having a considerable impact on robotics include the transformation of robots to ‘wireless devices'. In other words, wireless communication protocol can make robots susceptible to receiving information from the internet.
While this has had a revolutionary impact on the web in general, it has really advanced the possibilities for what future robots will be able to do. Internet technologies will create intelligent devices. A whole new generation of embedded systems will be made available for use in complex applications. Robots will start using internet-plugged devices, greatly increasing their scope for activities.
A century from now, the area of science where there is the greatest potential for ‘intelligent', web-programmable robots to be used to their full advantage will be in hazardous environments. We can see very rudimentary version of these machine at the moment, trundling across the desert landscapes on Mars to send geological analyses back to base. Tele-operated robots will be increasingly deployed in outer space – and when the time comes to explore other planets and their satellites in our solar system, they will be indispensible.
As systems have evolved, the decision-making and reasoning that is possible has increased considerably. Artificial intelligence is no longer the stuff of science fiction plots, but is being built into state-of-the-art technologies. The word robot itself is often being superseded by terms such as ‘intelligent decision making units', or at the very least ‘intelligent robots'. This reflects the fundamental evolution of robots, from pure machines – albeit pre-programmable and with a degree of built-in tailoring – to advanced computer-driven units capable of reacting to situations and altering their behavior accordingly. These advances are particularly noticeable in areas such as voice recognition, or image processing. All this enables robots (to keep with the more simplistic terms for convenience) much more ‘human-like' in their communication interface with humans.
Robots will continue to explore the world outside the laboratory. Rather than being purely research tools, they will be used as museum guides, or information desk staff.
  
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