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Thursday, July 31, 2014 10:44 PM


"Nancy's VoiceBox", Lou Gehrig's Disease, Google Glass


Occasionally I receive a touching email that also offers a practical solution to extreme challenges. This is one of those times. Please consider this email from reader "Zentangle".

Hi Mish,

I have been following your blog for years now. Time is precious and not many writers "stick" . . . but you have. Thank you for your insights and passion throughout the years.

Your stories of your wife's and your struggle with ALS had a powerful impact because during that time a dear friend and employee, Nancy, was in the same struggle.

My wife and I worked out a novel way for Nancy to communicate. We just posted a blog about it and I wanted you to be the first person I told.

With our belated sympathies, gratitude and heartfelt best wishes,

Rick Roberts & Maria Thomas
Zentangle

Let's hop over to Zentangle's most recent blog entry, simply labeled "ALS".

The article notes how Maria Thomas came up with an idea to get around the ALS communication problem.

I went through the same things.

My wife Joanne could not talk but she could write. Then she lost that ability but could manage to push a button say select phrases. Then everything went.

With that personal background, here is the idea that Maria Thomas came up with after several months of unsuccessfully trying to use a very expensive, speech-generating device (basically a computer with technology that tracked eye movements).

From Zentangle ...
She [Maria] lettered the alphabet, numbers and some key phrases on a large 3 x 4 foot piece of 1/2 inch foam board. I ordered a bunch of laser pointers. We got a pair of Nancy's sunglasses and removed the lenses. We used electrical tape to attached two small laser pointers with switches (so they would stay on without keeping them pressed in) to Nancy's eyeglass frames. We used two laser pointers so the frames were balanced, and if a battery ran out in one laser, the other could be immediately turned on.

Because the board was placed across the room from her, all Nancy had to do was move her head ever so slightly to point out the letters. The large board enabled Nancy to speak to the whole room or to one person. It worked perfectly from the very first minute she used it.

We remember fondly when we first set it up, that in spite of her circumstances, one of her first "spellings" was to tell a joke to her husband.

Suddenly, the Nancy we all knew was back . . . chatting, teasing and cracking jokes. She could "talk" again with her beloved husband, her family and her friends.

Nancy used her board to communicate with her family for months until just hours before she left.

The laser pointers were about $9 each. We had the foam board in our studio (a 40 x 60 inch half-inch thick foam board costs about $25). We used an old pair of Nancy's glasses. Total cost: about $45.

Her care givers had not seen anything like this before. As far as we know, this idea was not in use in this circumstance.

In Nancy Sampson's memory, please share this idea with anyone you know who can use it. This idea is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

In her memory, we call it "Nancy's VoiceBox."

We love you, Nancy!
"Nancy's VoiceBox"



Google Glass

Nancy's Voicebox is a fantastic idea. But I think we can easily improve on it.

The problem I see is that "Nancy" (anyone with ALS), might not have the ability to turn their head and point a laser at a word or phrase.

The obvious solution is Google Glass. As long as someone can move their eye just a slight bit (something they probably can do) Google Glass will work.

I believe Steve Hawking, renown theoretical physicist could greatly benefit from such a device.

I am going to pass this on to my contacts at Google, and also to the Les Turner ALS foundation.

Mish Experiences

Those interested in my experiences with Lou Gherig's disease can read about them here ...

April 2, 2012: My Wife Joanne Has ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease
May 16, 2012: My Wife Joanne Has Passed Away; Stop and Smell the Lilacs
May 14, 2013: Wine Country Conference Speaker Presentations All Posted (Hussman, Chanos, Martenson, Pettis, Mauldin, Mish)

In honor of Joanne and Nancy, please consider making a Donation to the Les Turner ALS foundation.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

3:04 PM


Driverless Cars on UK Public Streets Starting January; Transforming Personal Mobility; Taxi and Truck-Drivers Targeted


The march for fully autonomous driverless cars marches on. In May, Google announced the Next Phase in Driverless Cars: No Steering Wheel or Brake Pedals.

Google’s prototype for its new cars will limit them to a top speed of 25 miles per hour. The cars are intended for driving in urban and suburban settings, not on highways. The low speed will probably keep the cars out of more restrictive regulatory categories for vehicles, giving them more design flexibility.

Google is having 100 cars built by a manufacturer in the Detroit area, which it declined to name. Nor would it say how much the prototype vehicles cost. They will have a range of about 100 miles, powered by an electric motor that is roughly equivalent to the one used by Fiat’s 500e, Dr. Urmson said. They should be road-ready by early next year, Google said.

Google hopes to persuade regulators that the cars can operate safely without driver, steering wheel, brake or accelerator pedal. Those cars would rely entirely on Google sensors and software to control them.
Taxis Targeted

Google's cars come equipped with elaborate sensors that can see 600 feet in every direction, are fully electric, and have a range of about 100 miles, perfect for city use, especially driverless taxi cabs. Google plans for 2017 operation.
Last year, Lawrence D. Burns, former vice president for research and development at General Motors and now a Google consultant, led a study at the Earth Institute at Columbia University on transforming personal mobility.

The researchers found that Manhattan’s 13,000 taxis made 470,000 trips a day. Their average speed was 10 to 11 m.p.h., carrying an average of 1.4 passengers per trip with an average wait time of five minutes.

In comparison, the report said, it is possible for a futuristic robot fleet of 9,000 shared automated vehicles hailed by smartphone to match that capacity with a wait time of less than one minute. Assuming a 15 percent profit, the current cost of taxi service would be about $4 per trip mile, while in contrast, it was estimated, a Manhattan-based driverless vehicle fleet would cost about 50 cents per mile.

Driverless Cars on UK Public Streets Starting January

The BBC reports UK to Allow Driverless Cars on Public Roads in January.
The UK government has announced that driverless cars will be allowed on public roads from January next year. It also invited cities to compete to host one of three trials of the tech, which would start at the same time.

Business Secretary Vince Cable revealed the details of the new plan at a research facility belonging to Mira, an automotive engineering firm based in the Midlands.

"Today's announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society," he said.

The US States of California, Nevada and Florida have all approved tests of the vehicles. In California alone, Google's driverless car has done more than 300,000 miles on the open road.

In 2013, Nissan carried out Japan's first public road test of an autonomous vehicle on a highway.

And in Europe, the Swedish city of Gothenburg has given Volvo permission to test 100 driverless cars - although that trial is not scheduled to occur until 2017.

Competition cash

UK cities wanting to host one of the trials have until the start of October to declare their interest. The tests are then intended to run for between 18 to 36 months. A £10m fund has been created to cover their costs, with the sum to be divided between the three winners. Meanwhile, civil servants have been given until the end of this year to publish a review of road regulations.
Taxi, Truck Drivers First To Go

Taxi drivers, truck drivers, and mining operators will be the first to go.  I have written about this many times, and was largely dissed.

But the future advances relentlessly. My target of 2020 no longer looks optimistic; it looks pessimistic.

Further Discussion


All of the above will be in widespread usage by 2020. Personal cars will likely be the last affected. Taxis and commercial trucks will be first because eliminating the driver eliminates a huge expense.

Millions of drivers will lose their jobs. Inflationary? Hardly.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com 

1:27 PM


Sanctions Starting to Bite the Hands That Promoted Them


As I have said on numerous occasions, sanctions are a lose-lose game. So it is not surprising in the least to discover Russian Crisis Already Taking Toll on Western Businesses.

  • Shares in Adidas, the world’s second-largest sportswear group, dropped 15 per cent after the company issued a profit warning and said it would accelerate the closure of stores in Russia because of increasing risks to consumer spending in the region.
  • Volkswagen, Europe’s biggest carmaker by sales, reported an 8 per cent decline in sales in Russia in the first half of the year, compared to the same period a year earlier.
  • Joe Kaeser, chief executive of Siemens, warned geopolitical tensions including those in Ukraine posed “serious risks” for Europe’s growth this year and next.
  • Metro, the eurozone’s second-largest retailer, said events in Russia were creating risks for the group as it revealed sales had declined sharply in Ukraine.
  • Royal Dutch Shell’s chief executive Ben van Beurden said that along with other western oil majors he was assessing the impact of tightening sanctions on Russia’s energy sector imposed by the US and EU.
  • Erste Group, the third-largest lender in emerging Europe, warned the turmoil could impact banks in eastern Europe. “I can’t exclude any nasty surprises in the region due to political decisions or developments,” said Erste chief executive Andreas Treichl. “If the crisis accelerates of course we will have to revise our forecast for all over Europe in 2015 and 2016.”
  • The German machinery association, VDMA, lowered its forecast for growth in the industry this year as it said the Russian situation was starting to affect bilateral trade and weigh on demand in important sales markets.
  • Last week, Visa cut its fourth-quarter sales guidance, partially because of lower than expected cross-border transactions in Russia and Ukraine.
  • Bank of America has almost halved its exposure to Russia this year to $3.9bn.
  • ExxonMobil, which is developing a large liquefied natural gas export facility at Sakhalin in Russia’s far east, said it was awaiting further details to understand the effect of sanctions designed in part to prevent the transfer of new technology to Russia’s oil and gas industry.
  • In the City of London, bankers warned it was not feasible for Russian companies to list on the London Stock Exchange until a de-escalation of the crisis.

Russian Response

Bloomberg reports Russia Eyes Banning U.S. Chicken And Some European Fruit.
Facing tougher sanctions over Ukraine, Russia said yesterday it may ban imports of chicken from the U.S. and fruit from Europe and is investigating McDonald’s Corp. (MCD) cheese for safety.

Meanwhile, a Russian lawmaker has drafted legislation that might result in U.S. accounting firms such as Deloitte LLP and KPMG LLP being barred from doing business in his country.

While Russia and the U.S. have long sparred over agricultural trade, the actions fueled speculation they could be retaliatory. The 28-nation European Union and the U.S. plan to impose stiffer sanctions to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government.

“It’s a troubling continuation/expansion of trade as a geopolitical tool,” Gary Blumenthal, president of World Perspectives Inc., a Washington-based agricultural consulting firm, said in a phone interview.
Geopolitical Madness

Sanctions are a form of Chicken Coupled With M.A.D.

So far, the damage is minimal, but if Putin angrily cuts off natural gas flows to Europe, or raises prices in response, all hell will break lose.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

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