Category: This and That

Recognition Technology Up In Lights

A large digital billboard in Piccadilly Circus now uses Recognition Technology to deliver targeted adverts based on the make of passing vehicles, the gender and age of passers-by and even the weather. The digital billboard is a very large curved LED display with a more than 4K resolution that wraps around the windowless facade of the building. Secreted away within this display are built-in cameras and sensors that deliver targeted and responsive ads. Brands pre-program triggers so that specific adverts are played and are large enough so they won’t be missed. Named Piccadilly Lights by the company that owns it, Landsec. Some piece of mind is that no personal data is collected or stored by Landsec, which is the new brand for Land Securites. Are cities destined to be perpetually surrounded by these super-sized targeted advertisements? Who knows.

World Without a Computer


utside of work I have thought about putting my computer and phone into semi-retirement. Or only use them when I am connected to Wi-Fi, either at home or if I am somewhere with a connection. It’s not going very well so far and if I choose to use my computer less, then I am probably more likely to edge an addiction towards my phone. At work, screen time without your computer is almost unavoidable, as you most likely need it to carry out your job. It seems like it would be impossible to put my computer into full retirement or imagine a world without one. Therefore there seems to be no break from my computer or my phone. It’s almost like they are an extension of our lives, phones even more so. We even want to express our emotions through Emojis using our phones. They are like communication shortcuts in our daily lives. When I look around outside, on the street, a crowded bus or train, it’s seems like everyone’s life is taking place on their phone. I just have to remind myself that I am one of those people and that I need to look up from my phone screen and realize that there is life beyond my phone.

The world around us appears to evolving faster than we are. Will we ever be able to keep up with technology, or will technology render more than just our jobs obsolete? Instead of asking the question “What’s the meaning of Life?” perhaps the question should be “What’s the meaning of Life with technology?”. As for right now, a world without a computer and a phone is unimaginable.

Driverless Miss Daisy

Without Hoke there would never have been Driving Miss Daisy. Daisy might have had some trepidation about being chauffeured around by a driverless car and I am sure she would have demanded that Hoke stay in the driver’s seat.

Autonomous vehicles might be more of a novelty right now or the realm of fantasy but they are already steering their way into our lives thanks to Google, Telsa, Nvidia et al. I think in the future, human drivers will suffer the same fate as silent movie piano players – just as talkies replaced them, future progress could replace the need for a human driver. That might not be for awhile and even then cars may not be fully automated – so you could still be a controlling passenger. Fully autonomous vehicles could be restricted to dedicated lanes – painted with the words “AUTOS ONLY”.

It’s impossible to know if the roads will become safer for everyone when human drivers become a thing of the past. Most car crashes are due to human error – drunk driving, phone calls at the wheel, carelessness an so on. If human error is taken out of the equation then perhaps the roads will be safer. There could be some benefits such as a solution to Gridlock – autonomous vehicles (AVs) would be able to travel safely closer together without running into problems like cars with drivers. Traffic would flow more smoothly and there might be less traffic congestion and less emissions. However, there would be problems with unforeseen events or behavioral patterns of pedestrians and cyclists – the human psyche is the stuff of algorithmic nightmares.

AVs could become a target for hackers – from controlling the direction of a car to stopping it or crashing it. The privacy and data of a driver could also be at risk as well as issues with how this data would be regulated and stored. Blockchain technology is currently being explored for the development of driverless cars – from securing data to setting up insurance rates.

Who will win out in the end: Car or Tech giants? It’s too early to say who will win out – but driverless cars are going to be very softwarecentric, with software being at the very center of the technology – which would favor the Tech giants. The future of the internal combustion engine is uncertain, which is more the domain of the Car industry.

Driverless cars are going to exist in the future but they are not going to be an everyday reality anytime soon. There are many reasons to be optimistic about them as lots of progress has been made. Don’t rush out and buy your copy of Driverless Cars for Dummies just yet.

*Featured photo: Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy in Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

The Lure of an Open House

The upcoming Open House Dublin event running from 13 – 15 October 2017 offers a citywide adventure. Structures and buildings that are normally off-limits, open their doors to stunning interiors and not to be outdone,  artists will also be exhibiting and opening their galleries and studios this weekend.

There is also the ever-popular Halloween festival which will shortly be celebrated by the macabre as a series of horror films and events hits selected venues in Dublin. Some of the venues to watch out for are the Horror Expo Ireland taking place Sunday 29th October at Freemasons Hall and the annual IFI Horrorthon both are sure to be a veritable feast of blood and terror for folks to indulge themselves in!

Photo of the Interior of the Freemasons Hall in Dublin.
Interior of the Freemasons Hall in Dublin.

However, preceding the ghoulish, a gentler phenomenon takes over the city. One no less intense but which has gained a huge following in other countries among curious and interested parties. Now the streets of the capital, instead of being occupied by a fancy dress parade of ghosts and witches, will ring with the footsteps of people intent on seeking out an open door. An invitation, that asks one to enter an Open House, which is impossible to refuse. No matter where or what the venue crowds are guaranteed and booking in many instances necessary, otherwise disappointment follows. Curiosity must be satisfied either in New York, London or Dublin and its suburbs.

Photo of Cathedral Church of St John the Devine in New York.
Cathedral Church of St John the Devine in New York.

The buildings that throw open their doors yearly are varied and range from the grandeur of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Devine, New York built in the Architectural style of Romanesque and Gothic.

Photo of the Bank of England in London.
Queuing for the Bank of England in London.

The popularity of the Bank of England in the City of London, fondly referenced as the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, may be noted by the long queue patiently awaiting entry.

Photo of The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.
The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

In Dublin architectural diversity reigns, with the buildings under scrutiny ranging from the Chester Beatty Library, home to the collections of the mining magnate Sir Alfred Chester Beatty. There is Busáras, designed in the International Modern style by Michael Scott and his team of young architects and designers, now acting as the central bus station for Dublin.

Photo of Busáras in Dublin
Busáras the central bus station in Dublin.

Finally in County Dublin, looming over the suburbs of Killiney, is the Obelisk, a favorite haunt for walkers. The Obelisk bears the inscription: “Last year being hard with the poor, walks about these hills and this were erected by John Mapas, June 1742.”

Photo of The Obelisk on Killiney Hill in Dublin.
The Obelisk on Killiney Hill in Dublin.

In the City centre alone ninety-six buildings are open to the public. Several of these by a lottery system including what should be a fascinating and interesting event in the Edmund Burke Theatre, Trinity College, in the form of ‘A Conversation with Paul Koralek’ known for the Berkeley Library he designed in the Brutalist style for this University. Whatever the choice of building, open over the three-day event, be it large to the small, it calls for expertise in planning to avail of all locations.


Feature Image: Google Gordon House (David Dixens).