A brief visit with a Silverback and his family

by Jeff Daum, Photojournalist, PPA

For many, the concept of a Gorilla conjures up King Kong.  While they can be quite intimidating based on their typical size- 200 pounds for the females, and 400 pounds for the males, this short video shares their more ‘domestic’ side.

It was shot in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.  Somewhat aptly named, because to catch a glimpse of the Mountain Gorilla, you need a permit, a guide and the willingness to slog up the mountain which is at times akin to a rainforest.   There are no paths.  The Impenetrable Forest floor is typically slippery, often thorn laden, with lots of roots to trip you up. Everyone falls at least a few times- the trick is to not get hurt when you do.  Your guide leads you up to where the Gorilla family was last seen.  Along the way, lower branches and nettles are cut away with a machete.  The trek can be anywhere from a couple to four hours up the mountain before you hear, then come across the Gorillas.

In this video, you will initially see the adult male Mountain Gorilla, called a Silverback because of the silver/white hair down part of his back, relaxing in the grass near his family.  Next is the mother cuddling one of the young gorillas.  A sibling is seen foraging nearby.  Mom then goes off for a snack.

Two of the young brothers (?) take this as an opportunity to get into a brief scrap and then appear to be conspiring.  The Silverback then rejoins the family, where the mother is laying down with the young gorillas playing around and on her.

Finally, all pack off with one of the young gorillas hitching a ride on the mother’s back, while everyone follows the Silverback off.

Hope you enjoy the excursion.

For more images of Mountain Gorillas, please visit https://www.daumphotography.com/Nature-Images/Gorillas

Nature at your doorstep

This morning a feathered friend came to keep an eye on things.

His presence seemed to upset the other birds. I watched him in awe and when I realized he wasn’t going anywhere I went and grabbed one of my cameras.

Though perched about twenty feet above me in one of our Date Palms, with the aid of my camera lens, I realized what may have been upsetting the other birds that frequent our trees.

Clearly, one doesn’t always have to travel far to see some magnificent examples of nature’s beauty.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did, and look forward to your comments.

Cheers!

A Visual Taste of Italy: Lombardy & Tuscany Regions

Perspectives of a globe trotting photojournalist part 2

As with part 1, Highlights of St Petersburg, https://insight.daumphotography.com/2016/11/17/highlights-of-st-petersburg-russia/ this is another response to the challenge of providing a mini-tour of one of my trips.

This is an al dente tour (that is, hopefully not too short nor too long to adequately provide a ‘just-right’ taste) of the Italian regions of Tuscany (central Italy) and Lombardy (northern Italy).  It begins at the Ligurian Sea west of Pisa, continues up to the magnificent mansion on Isola Bella, north of Milan.  Then onto Milan and the Duomo. Next some countryside and wine tasting. Followed by Pisa.  Back to the coast for Cinque Terre, some more wine tasting and the countryside around Peccioli.

I hope you enjoy!  Looking forward to your comments.  Ciao!

Aipower wearbuds™ review

Aipower wearbuds™ review

This review focuses on an innovative product from Aipower called wearbuds™.  I was provided a pair for an independent review by Aipower.

Background

Several features of the wearbuds™ create a niche market over the plethora of wireless earphones available to the consumer, including that the earbuds are transported and charged in an Apple-like watch (on steroids).  Originally introduced through Kickstarter, they are also now available through Amazon.

The wearbuds™ come well packaged.  Here is what comes in the box:

I

Included is the multi-function fitness watch, right and left Bluetooth earbuds, a USB charging cable and the Quick Start Guide.  It is fairly easy to set up following the Quick Start Guide.

Here are the specifications as provided by Aipower:

Earbuds

  • Qualcomm QCC3026 Bluetooth chipset
  • Speaker 10Hz-40KHz, 100dB at 1KHz
  • Microphone 100Hz-10kHz; 38dB
  • Water resistance IPX6 (can survive strong water jets projected by a 12.5mm nozzle at any angle)
  • Operating range 50ft/15m

Watch

  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Processor ARM Cortex M4
  • Touch display 80×160; 0.96 inch; 65k colors; TFT
  • Sensors: 7 axis accelerometer (including barometer); heart rate sensor; vibration motor
  • Water resistance IPX5

There is a free Aipower wearbuds™ app that you’ll want to download to your phone (Android or IOS).  You need the app to initially set up the time for the watch, and the app will allow you limited customizing of the display in several color output options, as well as time in 12 or 24 hours format, along with the day, month and date format.   Actually, you don’t set the time, once you pair it with your phone, it synchs with the phone time.  You can also set the display to ‘wake’ on movement.  Here are the primary watch screens:

You’ll find that the earbuds are very lightweight, approximately 3.6 grams, and comfortable in your ears.

In this image you can see the earbuds extending out (red arrows) of the watch body after you push in on each one to release

And the wearbuds™ now outside of the watch body.

When you press to release the earbud, it automatically goes into pairing mode with your phone (after the original pairing) or any other Bluetooth device (again, after the original pairing with the respective device) such as a laptop.  You can use either or both wearbuds™ (operates in monaural if you only use one at a time).

Review

While the watch with the wearbuds™ still in the watch body, is very light and reasonably comfortable to wear all day, it takes some getting use to its bulkiness.  It sits up about ¾ of an inch off of your wrist.

I like the auto-awakening of the clock face with movement of your wrist/arm.  I would prefer an option to have it auto-rotate between information screens, rather than your having to swipe the face to change to another screen.

It is extremely convenient to have the ear buds right there on your wrist for when you want to use them, as well as the fact that the watch serves as the charger for each of the ear buds when they are reinserted.

I found that the overall fit and finish was very good.  Once in a while, the left earbud would not easily come out of the watch after you had pushed to release it. Tolerance on release mechanism not quite right.  I also found the watch band (very similar to Apple’s) was a bit too long for my smaller wrist, however, it was extremely comfortable once you got it hooked on.

The Bluetooth link up was OK until linked separately with a laptop and the Android phone.  Then it became buggy, in essence not connecting at times.  The phone App would say the Wearbuds™ were disconnected when in fact they were playing music from the phone.  Even though I had set Wearbuds™ to allow push notifications for messages or emails, that never seemed to work.  However, incoming call notifications worked well along with answering incoming calls.

The call quality was very good and individuals on the other end of the call, said they could hear me clearly and with little to no background noise.

The audio quality of the Wearbuds™ for music listening was very good, with clean definition of highs and lows.  They seem to have moderate passive ambient sound muting.  They were quite comfortable for extended use.  For example, listening/watching two movies in a row on my laptop.  The Wearbuds™ battery life easily handled that, and then could be recharged by inserting back into the watch.

You control the Wearbuds™ by ‘swiping’ across the smooth ear bud surface to increase, decrease volume, pause, answer and hang-up calls.  The action is not exacting and sometimes you get it wrong.

The very high gloss of the watch face quickly showed smudges from touching the face to change the display, take a heart rate reading, etc.

There were some problems in addition to the bugginess of the Bluetooth connection (when previously paired with multiple devices) and the failure of push notifications.  The heart rate monitor and the sleep monitor (only in conjunction with the phone app), seemed very erratic and inaccurate.

A bigger software issue was the way the Wearbuds™ app interacted with two of my cars via Bluetooth.  While driving, without the Wearbuds™ watch and also with out the ear buds in, if a call came through or I made a call, my car would connect the call but then it would immediately hang-up.  After having this happen multiple times, in two different OEM (GM and BMW) cars, I found that it was the Wearbuds™ app on my phone that was causing the disconnect.  After deleting the app from my phone, the calls could be made or came through properly (as they did prior to loading the app).

Interim Conclusion

Aipower wearbuds™ are a clever way to transport, charge and have available very comfortable ear buds, which function well for both music and receiving/talking on phone calls.

However, software issues reduce the value of the watch as a fitness tool at this time.

I plan on doing a comparison between Bluetooth enabled ear buds in the near future- stay tuned.

Thoughts on Automobility LA

Day one of the 2019 Automobility LA show might be best summed up in one word “Karma.”  The first media day is basically a series of thirty minutes (or more) technology update panels.  I find it interesting on a number of levels, including what really is new and what is status of the field.

For the most part, especially if you have attended a number of these over the years, you take what is said with a grain of salt and consider it a lot of marketing hype designed to stimulate discussion, create awareness, and in more cases than not, investor interest.

My ‘take-aways’ from today include:

  • The new CEO of Faraday (he was the CEO of Byton last year) sees the real financial profitability coming from the interconnected digital experience, rather than through the sales of their FF91 (September 2021) at $150-200k, or of their FF81 after that at $60-80k.
  • The “living space” experience of future semi-autonomous and ultimately, fully autonomous (levels 4 and 5) vehicles is the ‘hot’ topic focus of many presenters here.
  • Critical is figuring out how to integrate all of the vehicle voice assistants, such as OEM versions and Alexa, along with the artificial intelligence (AI) dynamic data base so that it is a seamless experience for the end user.
  • Figuring out how to gain the trust in the general public of autonomous vehicles (AVs)

One split in thinking and focus that I feel isn’t being given enough effort is that there really are two very different AV ‘roads’ that need to be integrated for this future disruption to succeed.  That is, one faction sees AVs as ultimately the replacement for the personal car as simple a means to primarily get from A to B, while the other is attempting to create a whole new means of experience that people will just want to do because of the experience.  The later are focused on integrating lots of monitors (screens), high end audio, augmented reality, etc.  An overriding issue for both factions is what the respective impact will be on reducing congestion in urban environments.

Continuing issues include lack of standardized intra and inter vehicle communication (software), privacy of the ever-expanding data base on each end user (incrementally increasing under the 5G capabilities), and lack of interstate DMV regulation for AVs.

It still appears that the near future of AVs will be restricted to proprietary lanes on highways and in urban environments, where human driven vehicles are not allowed to drive.  Under this set-up, I believe we will see a significant reduction in accidents and deaths.

Oh, and why this first day is best summed up as Karma? The simple answer is that Karma had their FF91 there, as well as functioning protypes of their future vision cars the SC1 and SC2 (convertible and hardtop respectively, each with ‘scissor’ doors), and their Revero GTS model.  Alternatively, as a bit of tongue-in-cheek, perhaps the future of AVs is just karma personified…

More to come.  In the interim, what are your thoughts?

New York City through my eyes

My travels have provided me the opportunity to experience more than 60 amazing countries and cultures.  A friend challenged me to try and provide a visual summary of one of my trips in a five minute or less ‘tour.’  [I am not sure but think the motivation was so they did not have to sit through one of my Blu-ray shows, that often run about an hour or so production…]

At any rate, I thought it an interesting challenge, and my first response: Highlights of St. Petersburg, Russia https://insight.daumphotography.com/2016/11/17/highlights-of-st-petersburg-russia/ was nicely received. So, this is my second response.

Having been born in NYC, and lived there for a number of years before moving to warmer climes, I enjoy returning and experiencing the ever changing cityscape. The following is from my most recent visit. I hope you enjoy and look forward to your comments in the reply section below.

If you would like to view these images full size, please visit https://www.daumphotography.com/Scapes/New-York-Cityscape/

Rolling art versus fixed art.

One of the shoots I enjoy doing is finding things that are ‘right before our eyes’ but we don’t always take the time to notice.  Wall art, murals, sculptures and street art seem to fall into that category.

I set out looking for wall art and murals in what is considered Old Las Vegas.  Included in the following unique creative images, is the iconic American Sports Car, the Stingray for a juxtaposition- rolling art vs fixed art.

Hope you enjoy.

True only in the ‘winter’ here, during the summer, the process is much faster.
Summarizes both the mural and the car.
Do you think they want a Stingray?
Indeed.
Shapely

double entendre 
Fast and fierce.

Technology Designed To Get You To Say Good-bye To Privately Owned Cars.

[Hold on there fellow gearheads, there may be some validity in this statement 😃 ]

By Jeff Daum, Ph.D., PPA Photojournalist, Technology & Product Analyst

Interview with Justin Rees (JR), Founder & CEO Ride Systems, Kelly Rees (KR), President Ride Systems, and Ilya Rekhter (IR), CEO DoubleMap.

Backstory: Ride Systems and DoubleMap had just merged at the time of this interview, bringing together two companies with a proven track record of providing safe, fact-based real-time information on transportation alternatives for getting from point A to point B.  This includes public transit and on-demand (Uber, Lyft etc.) transit.  The combined data bases comprise public transit riders, corporations (employee vans), airports, universities and hotels.  While now operating under one holding company, both will maintain their respective brick and mortar headquarters.  Both companies have a free app (Ride Systems and DoubleMap GPS) allowing the user to see alternatives available to get from A to B either entirely on one service or in combination, along with real-time indication of when the option will be at a specific location.

(left to right) Ilya Rekhter, Kelley Rees, Justin Rees

JD Let’s start with a statement by you Justin: “Our services offer a quantum leap forward enabling everybody to say good-bye to privately owned cars soon.” Would you please put that in perspective?

JR Timing is everything, millennials are delaying the purchases of large items, cars and houses for example.  They also want to live in big urban areas.  So, they are already forgoing owning multiple cars or even any car, for more liberating options.  The other side of that is that you are seeing even the automakers get into the services business.  They want to be mobility companies.  As you saw at CES, big companies are investing heavily in autonomous cars, sensors, and smart cities. Those companies are trying to shift from being a commodity producing company into service and mobility sector. 

So, you are seeing transportation sharing options greatly increasing and providing short, medium and long-range alternatives, from scooters to ride share, to on demand to public transit.

IR To piggy back on what Justin is saying, it starts with that family that has one car and thinking about buying a second car, the easier we can make it for them to ride public transit and not need to buy the second car, the more it will continue trending that way.  Then you take it and make it more personalized with more options including public transit, and combine in one place, and easy to use app, those options to get from point A to point B and more and more people will use it.

JR So why do people hesitate to use the other modes of transportation? It’s the lack of confidence in public transit, for example, where is it? Will it ever get here?  How long do I have to wait?  All those questions prevent people from feeling comfortable in using public transit.  You have to have confidence in it to want to use it.  Same thing is true for other alternatives, such as scooters or bikes, on demand cars- you gain confidence if you know where it is and how long you have to wait for it.

Having the information available to them is where we come in.  We own the data in that middle market, we are in seven hundred plus locations.   We provide real time information for public transit and other modes of transportation.  Big cities, small cities, corporations, medical centers, universities.  As a result, we have scooter companies, car sharing companies and automotive companies come to us and say since you are already in all of these places if we team up, instead of launching in just a few select places, we can deploy on a large scale using your existing network and contracts with the cities.

JD: Is your audience the same for the public transit as it is for on demand rides?

IR For us it started with the transit riders, but now they can see in the same app, a mesh network to get from point A to point B, an alternative means to cover the distance from where they live to the bus, or from the bus to their ultimate destination, or even not to take the bus at all but one of the other options.

JD But will the individual who uses an Uber or Lyft, now decide because of your app, to use public transit? What is the incentive?

IR Perhaps seeing there are clear options that can save money, particularly if time isn’t critical.  The ride share companies are interested in being part of our app to get more ‘eyeballs’ to see their services.  Also, it depends on what a particular city has in terms of arrangements with different ride share companies.  If they have agreements with for example, both Uber and Lyft, then both would be part of our app for that city.

JD Are taxis favorable to your app?

IR Using Dallas as an example, the city has brokered a deal with Uber and Lyft, as well as the taxis.  That is a differentiation for our service, we don’t take a position pro one service or another.  The taxis in Dallas have our software in their cars, so they can serve more as an on-demand option.

JR The option comes down to the confidence, do I take a scooter to get to the bus, take an Uber to get to the bus, or walk to the bus.  Do I even want to take a bus, is there another option to get downtown?  They will find all those options through our app.  We have the platform where all those options can be made available.  It is all about options, giving the people options to choose from, the freedom to choose how they want to do it.  Of course, with your own car, you can hop in it and go where and when you want, but you have the cost of the car, getting there, garaging or parking it, etc.  If you don’t have a car, the perception has been that you don’t have freedom.  We provide that freedom.

Of course, it will take some time, but people are already doing it- the millennial crowd is already doing it.   We think people are anxious to find a better way to get around.  Traffic is as bad as it has ever been, parking and the cost of owning a car is going up, as is the related stress.  These technologies of making people comfortable to use alternative modes of transportation will help alleviate a lot of that stress.

JD You had mentioned the OEMs are interested in it.  Of course, they are focused on the shift in buying habits and have started offering their own alternatives.  You have Volvo, Lincoln and Cadillac offering new types of quick leases, no obligation, easy swap from one model to another and totally inclusive monthly payments covering the car, the insurance, maintenance and swap potential.  For example, Volvo I think is $500 per month to virtually any qualified individual where they offer the option.  Is this in competition to your service?

IR That is actually music to our ears, we don’t own any of our vehicles except for our pending start of our Tesla X car share service fleet.  The reasons the OEMs are starting these new types of leases is because they want their cars on the road. We have the advantage of offering the use of any of those vehicles as well.  It will be a natural complement.

JD But if you own a fleet, won’t you be seen as pushing your cars vs other options?

IR I don’t think it is a question of one or the other, it is a question of providing as many options as possible.

KR Let’s back up a do a little bit of background on the company.  That might help paint a picture why it won’t be a big deal.  For example, some of our biggest clients are big corporations, closed campuses, etc.  They are the perfect place to start the car share aspect of our business, a specific program for a specific client.

IR For example, where a client may have a fleet of several hundred vehicles and thousands of employees, they can use our app to create on demand vs scheduled rides.

JR Another example, for a client in a big city, we are able to merge all different types of transportation modes (short, medium and long range) and make them available to their employees in one app.  Instead of the client having to go to each of the services and try and negotiate and integrate, we do that for them. Cities are hard to get into on large scale because of the bid process and because cities have little incentive to share information with the specific companies in their area. Because of this we are already involved with a lot of these cities, we offer our clients and strategic partners that connection. That ranges from tracking buses and shuttles for commuters to launching new offerings to the communities members in the area like scooters and car share programs.

JD Let’s segue into details on your app.

KR It is more than an app, it also includes hardware.

JR I look at it as three pillars- the first one is what we are known for, our mobile application.  It is free.  The second pillar is in the vehicle.  In buses, most are a step back in time, with clickers for counting passengers, manually changing the route sign, etc. We install hardware inside the bus that takes over all these functions and frees up the driver to focus on safety and driving.  The third pillar is that the hardware we install integrates these functions on the bus and sends real time updates to our servers where we do business intelligence. That is then reflected for example, in our app, showing current position, time to next stop, etc., as well as real time passenger load, a more efficient routing and use of buses.

IR It is really the analysis and use of that data for both the bus (or car company) and user that is key.  For example, a user can look at passenger load and decide to take a different bus, or if the next bus has a bike rack installed, or can pick up a person in a wheelchair.  While on the bus, they can use the app to order a car to pick them up when they arrive.

We also have numerous capabilities we can build into the onboard equipment, such as badge readers, WiFi capabilities, etc.

JD Where are the buses that you have this technology currently running?

JR For example, Reno, University of Nevada, here in Las Vegas, Arrow Stage Lines, a charter bus service, Houston, Tulsa, really in all 50 states., Guam, Mexico and Australia. We haven’t done a lot of press so it isn’t well known, but we are the single largest provider of this type of technology across the world.  Our service sounds like an app, but it is like the tip of an iceberg in terms of the full range of services we provide.

JD Would you talk a bit about your new roles now as a merged organization of your two companies?

JR Merging makes a lot of sense from a business perspective.  We have been fairly selfless in figuring out what will be best for our employees in both companies, our clients, and how to not disrupt everything.  I will be the CEO, Ilya has the same abilities but he also is one of the best guys when it comes to strategies, and numbers and sales and will be President, so that will be his focus, Peter (SerVass) is always about 10 steps ahead of us in looking into the future, he worked very hard on this merger, and will be the strategist.  Kelly, her focus will be in marketing and press.

IR We are fortunate in that both companies have very capable and strong individuals. Culture has been very important to us.  We have both been self-funded and profitable.  This year we are projecting to be an 18 to 19 million dollars revenue company.  Basically, blending what DoubleMap and Ride Systems has done really well and making one big win.

JD Do you think you will stay self-funded?

JR We are doing great the way that we are, but if the right opportunity comes along, we won’t turn it down, but we are confident in our ability to do this.  This merger enables us to take a risk and really grow the businesses to the next level.

IR The key is that both companies came in with clean balance sheets and profitable.  We have the funding to grow organically.

JR So we are open to the option, we don’t want to restrict our growth if the issue is capital.

JD In summary, what would you like to emphasize?

JR Well, we are the largest real time transit information company in the world, no one has as many and as much variety of clients in as many locations as we do.

IR To our existing clients, it is important to know, there is no turnover.  We are taking the best from both companies and combining it.

JD You handle a lot of data obviously, what type of security and back up do you have?

JR That’s a really great question. A big and important topic for people.  We have secure data centers, AWS with Amazon Web Services, IBM secure data centers, all sorts of redundancy and backups.  We take security around personal information very seriously. 

JD Anything else you would like to add?

JR We are just thrilled to make this merger finally happen and excited for what it means for the people of our two companies, and for our clients and future clients.  The sky is the limit.

IR We are both proverbial garage startups.  To grow it to this, we couldn’t be happier.  We are going to keep the two (apps) brands independent, but integrate across them as appropriate.

KR Looping back to where you opened this, needing to own a car versus wanting to own a car are two different things.  The automotive enthusiast, the hobbyist, the love of driving is different from having to commute from A to B.  As the information (transit options) is out there, we believe more and more people will be giving up their cars.

JD It has been fascinating learning the details, and meeting all of you. Thank you for taking the time and sharing your enthusiasm.  Continued success!

Copyright 2019 © Jeff Daum

A Fish Story

Here is a pictorial of a young lady celebrating her birthday with friends, when they came upon the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle.  With some cajoling of her friends, she was encouraged to try and catch one of the flying salmons.  This is her first attempt labelled The one that got away

Taking it all in good nature, she tried again and this time held on: