The Apple Watch Display

Raymond Soneira:

Apple has implemented a rather aggressive display Brightness and display power management strategy using a mandatory Automatic Brightness Ambient Light Sensor that significantly restrains the display’s Brightness. While satisfactory for low indoor ambient lighting it significantly reduces the Contrast Ratio and Color Gamut as the ambient light level increases and there is no way for the user to make any adjustments other than just shading the watch somehow. Another form of aggressive display power management is turning off the display after 6 to 17 seconds, which is rather inflexible and can be very annoying, and it interferes with some uses of the watch.

Everyone’s eyes are different. For someone like me who has sensitive eyes, a certain level of brightness might be too bright. For others who are less sensitive, that same level might be too dim. How about a brightness calibration process? When Apple Watch first starts up it can ask you, “Is this text bright enough?”

Here’s another thought: what if Apple Watch sensed color temperature and automatically compensated? For instance, you’re in an office building with blueish CFL bulbs checking your Instagram feed. Apple Watch would warm the color temperature of the OLED display transforming your friends’ faces from lifeless zombies to healthy humans.

The premium Apple Watch models have a sapphire crystal rather than using a cover glass like on the iPhone 6 and most smartphones. That is the same approach used on premium traditional watches, but there is one very significant difference between them. The much higher Reflectance of sapphire compared to glass almost doubles the reflected ambient light, which is fine for traditional watches that work by reflecting ambient light, but significantly washes out the image contrast and color on emissive smart watch displays. It’s an interesting compromise between the luxury and scratch resistance of sapphire versus optical performance.

From what I can tell, the display on the Apple Watch already has quite a bit of contrast; the user interface background is mostly black, a deep space kind of black, and that helps a great deal with contrast. What if Apple developed a new type of sapphire that retained its hardness without all that reflectance?

Happily waiting to see what Apple Watch 2 will be like.

Kodachrome Film Was Racist

Rosie Cima, Priceonomics:

As mentioned earlier, in film photography, color balance has a lot to do with the chemical composition of the film. For many decades, color film in the United States was calibrated to highlight Caucasian skin tones. This was the most fundamental problem. With an unusual degree of skill and attention, a photographer could compensate for the biases in most stages of production. But there was nothing they could do about the film’s color balance. When the famous New Wave filmmaker Jean Luc Godard was commissioned to make a film about Mozambique, he reportedly refused to use Kodachrome film — the most popular color film at the time. He complained the film, developed for a predominantly white market, was “racist.”

Two of Kodak’s largest professional accounts — chocolate confectioners — complained about the film’s inability to render different chocolate colors; it was then and only then — parents have been complaining about graduation photos — Kodak improved the chemical composition and developed Kodacolor VR-G, later rebranded Kodacolor Gold.

If Kodak’s raison d’être was “develop the best tools to capture visual memories,” the company’s future might have turned out differently.


Craig Trudell, Yuki Hagiwara, and Ma Jie, The Japan Times:

“We need to become more solid and get back to basics, to sharpen our manual skills and further develop them,” said Kawai, a half century-long company veteran tapped by President Akio Toyoda to promote craftsmanship at Toyota’s plants.

An eminently logical move: monozukuri (the art of making things) leads to kaizen (continuous improvement).

“We cannot simply depend on the machines that only repeat the same task over and over again,” Kawai said. “To be the master of the machine, you have to have the knowledge and the skills to teach the machine.”

In addition to high quality automobiles I hope Toyota exports its monozukuri culture.

Celluon PicoPro

Celluon: Simply put, the PicoPro is a 250-inch screen in your pocket. Here are some specs:

Reviews are good; check out Engadget’s. Price starts at US$349.

Why Men Fail

David Brooks, The New York Times:

To succeed today, you have to be able to sit still and focus attention in school at an early age. You have to be emotionally sensitive and aware of context. You have to communicate smoothly. For genetic and cultural reasons, many men stink at these tasks.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of watching The Imitation Game. There are many historical inaccuracies in the movie, as do most movies “based on a true story”, but this is true: Alan Turing was instrumental in breaking the Enigma code, an encrypted communications method the Germans used during the Second World War. He and Gordon Welchman designed a rotor-based mechanical computer to rapidly test likely letter combinations. Turing et al. saved millions of lives.

Did Turing succeed? From a secular point of view, he did, brilliantly. Could he succeed today? If I were a betting man Turing probably did not sit still and focus attention in school at an early age. Math and science teachers must have suffocated his mind. Was he emotionally sensitive and aware of context? Probably not, not more than the average man, and most likely less. And finally, did Turing communicate smoothly? From what I have read, not likely. By these standards Turing would be a failure in today’s world. But imagine if today our world needed brilliant computer scientists to break an unbreakable encryption code used by a ruthlessly destructive enemy.

Let us not narrow our minds to think only those with a particular set of characteristics will succeed in our world.

Staying Focused In A Distracting World

The Atlantic‘s James Fallows interviews Linda Stone:

The generation that has been tethered to devices serves as a cautionary example to the next generation, which may decide this is not a satisfying way to live. A couple years ago, after a fire in my house, I had a couple students coming to help me. One of them was Gen X and one was a Millennial. If the Gen Xer’s phone rang or if she got a text, she would say “I’m going to take this, I’ll be back in a minute.” With the Millennial, she would just text back “L8r.” When I talked to the Millennial about it, she said, “When I’m with someone, I want to be with that person.” I am reminded of this new thing they’re doing in Silicon Valley where everyone sticks their phone in the middle of the table, and whoever grabs their phone first has to treat to the meal.

Watches, too.

How To Become A Billionaire

Justine Musk, Quora:

Shift your focus away from what you want (a billion dollars) and get deeply, intensely curious about what the world wants and needs. Ask yourself what you have the potential to offer that is so unique and compelling and helpful that no computer could replace you, no one could outsource you, no one could steal your product and make it better and then club you into oblivion (not literally). Then develop that potential. Choose one thing and become a master of it. Choose a second thing and become a master of that. When you become a master of two worlds (say, engineering and business), you can bring them together in a way that will a) introduce hot ideas to each other, so they can have idea sex and make idea babies that no one has seen before and b) create a competitive advantage because you can move between worlds, speak both languages, connect the tribes, mash the elements to spark fresh creative insight until you wake up with the epiphany that changes your life.

Good recommendation. I wouldn’t have thought, but these two words get along really well together: idea and sex.

Now, let’s do some math. According to Forbes, there are 1826 billionaires. The total population of the world according to the United States Census Bureau is 7.2 billion. The number of billionaires as a percentage of total population is 0.000025%. That’s very small. Becoming a billionaire is not a game of chance, but if it were, the chance of becoming one is about the same as zero.

Teachers + Technology

Peg Tyre shares four observations about blended learning:

Great teaching is not easy:

Master teachers are something like NBA stars; they have a seemingly endless supply of tiny, almost gestural moves that can have a big impact on a kid’s cognition. They make split-second choices about how to introduce new ideas, speak in a way that resonates, order concepts for maximum comprehension, and reinforce ideas and skills. Those choices depend on the teacher’s reading of the subtleties of a specific situation.

Just like NBA stars, few are master teachers; we need more.

Paper Versus Pixel

Nicholas Carr, Nautilus:

The physical presence of the printed pages, and the ability to flip back and forth through them, turns out to be important to the mind’s ability to navigate written works, particularly lengthy and complicated ones. We quickly develop a mental map of the contents of a printed text, as if its argument or story were a voyage unfolding through space. […]

The spatial memories seem to translate into more immersive reading and stronger comprehension. A recent experiment conducted with young readers in Norway found that, with both expository and narrative works, people who read from a printed page understand a text better than those who read the same material on a screen. The findings are consistent with a series of other studies on the process of reading.

Want to better comprehend a book? Read the printed version. Sounds like solid advice. But this isn’t going to be easy.

I read most of my books on my Samsung Galaxy Note 4. I ‘carry’ around about a dozen books and I read a bit here and a bit there. I highlight, jot down notes, and can search them, instantly. I wouldn’t be able to do this with printed books.

But if I take a moment to think about why I read, I realize I read to comprehend, and if I can comprehend better by reading a printed book well, then I should read printed books.

Now where can I find hard bound books at dirt cheap prices? I can’t borrow them because I need to underline and jot down notes while I read. I find I comprehend better this way. I also want hardcover books because they are bigger and have more room for notes, feel better in my hands because of their generally better quality paper and binding, and because they last longer; I’d like to keep them around for a while.

Anybody know if there’s a service that automatically prints and binds hardcover books from RSS feeds? Say, 100 starred articles for US$20?


Nicole LaPorte, Fast Company:

Called HBO Now, it is a stand-alone version of HBO Go, an app that gives access to just about every episode of every HBO series, as well as tons of movies, documentaries, and sports. Rather than merely being a bonus for people who subscribe to HBO through an existing cable provider, HBO Now will not require a cable subscription. It will be available at launch to anyone with an Apple device.

US$14.99 per month. This might be the most affordable way to watch Game of Thrones. One interesting tidbit in the article was HBO’s decision to play catchup with Netflix by outsourcing the development of Now’s back-end technology to MLB Advanced Media.

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