Searching for sense and trends in oceans of data and information.

Ads that are touchy-feely?

Published 2.23.2017
For 2017 and possibly beyond, Thursdays at LWRAS are when we consider the haptics market and haptic technologies. Below are recent items on note in haptics.

Haptic ads: What are they and who wants them? Immersion's Josh Stivers is interviewed about the company's haptic ad technology. The podcast is aimed at marketing professionals. The first thing to note is that the technology is only for Android devices not iOS— and until the Immersion v Apple patent court case is decided, the technology is not going to happen in iOS.

To use the technology, engineers need Immersion's software development kit (SDK) for apps, however there is also a version that works with html5, which can be downloaded for use for mobile web designs. How are the ads made? Immersion's design team creates a haptic track for a piece of video. They use an audio track to put in those effects, then their cloud engine turns it into instructions for the actuators. An actuator is in every smart phone, but not all tablets.
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Renewable round up

Published 2.22.2017
A round up of recent items regarding renewable energy and related technologies.

The more LWRAS analyzes the renewable energy market, the more the question of storage emerges as the key limiting factor. The intermittency of renewables is most often thought to the limiting factor, but if the energy generated could be adequately stored, the intermittent issue is largely mitigated.

As it stands, renewable energy is usually sent to the grid for use immediately, then alternative fuels must be used at night or when the wind dies. Solar, and to a lesser extent wind, power gets generated primarily during the day (obviously when the sun is up) when demand tends to be low. However, power companies already store excess conventionally generated power as a reserve against demand surges. The question is why doesn't excess renewable energy get stored the same way?
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Optics Briefs: Laser markets forecast and more

Published 2.21.2017
Brief takes on recent news items of note in optics.

Laser Focus World makes it’s annual laser market review and projection. Lasers are becoming less of a pure play in terms of gauging the market. Lasers are part of overall systems, which makes them harder to count and value. Plus, laser companies are being swallowed by other conglomerates, and then the laser numbers don’t get reported.

For all that they do, lasers will continue to be instrumental in existing and emerging markets worldwide that will, by our estimates, grow laser sales to nearly $11.1 billion in 2017—a roughly 6.6% increase from the revised $10.4 billion in sales for 2016. The secret is out: laser-enabled technologies are big business, and some companies are ripe for picking.

Miniature spectrometers may some day detect microscopic amounts of chemicals.

The technique, which was developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, uses photothermal modulation of Mie scattering (PMMS) to enable concurrent spatial and spectral discrimination of individual μm-sized particles, and uses an imaging configuration to detect multiple species of particles.

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India digitizes while western nationalism rises

Published 2.20.2017
Mondays are when LWRAS takes a look at recent news in world politics and economics.

India’s great digital experiment continues. It is doubtful that such a system could be implemented in the US— at least by the government.

The Indian government has gathered digital-identification records, including fingerprint impressions and eye scans, of nearly all of its 1.2 billion citizens. Now a government-backed initiative known as “India Stack” aims to standardize ways to exchange the data digitally to facilitate the transfer of signatures and official documents that citizens need to get jobs, make financial transactions or access government services.

Instead of cash or documents, Indians will use a cell phone to transact business— in private or with the state. Silicon Valley has to be green with envy. Of course, cheating on taxes is more difficult in a fully digitized, cashless society— another reason some will hate the idea.

Some in India are concerned with privacy and government overreach— but India’s bureaucracy is so clumsy and slow, that the populace seems to be going along with it.

Many Indians back the effort, hoping it will reduce petty corruption and the frustration of dealing with public agencies and state-run companies. Some fear, however, that the government’s ambition will lead to overreach.

India’s efforts are truly groundbreaking.
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Haptic Briefs

Published 2.16.2017
For 2017, Thursdays at LWRAS are when we considered the haptics market and haptic technologies. Below are recent items on note in haptics.

  • Immersion comes to an agreement with Viex Capital Advisors. Viex Captial Advisors owns over 2 million IMMR shares, and claims it is looking to unlock shareholder value. Viex will now have its director on the Immersion board and Viex will vote of Immersion’s slate of directors. Directors will now have single year terms before being voted on again. This is not the first time Immersion has had to bow to the wishes of a large investor.
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Turmoil in Trump Land, but markets remain calm

Published 2.14.2017
Mondays are typically the day where LWRAS considers political or economic developments likely to affect market projections, but the editor traveled over the weekend and wound up being weather delayed on the return flight. Thus the week's schedule wound up being shredded and this day will see recent news items of note listed.

Few expected the transition to the Trump era to be smooth, but the first few weeks have proved record setting, and not in the way Trump backers had hope. On Monday, Trump's National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, resigned. Initially, the reporting was that Flynn resigned voluntarily, but at the daily news briefing today, Sean Spicer claimed that Trump asked for the resignation due to loss of trust.
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Optical Briefs: Strong Markets for optics

Published 2.10.2017
A collection of links to recent optical news items:

  • Industrial laser sales were strong in 2016. Fastest growth was seen and is predicted in micromaterial machining Micro-processing means excimer, and to a lesser extent fiber lasers. Fiber lasers are replacing carbon dioxide and long pulse solid-state lasers.
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Recent renewable news

Published 2.9.2017
Recent items of interest from the world of renewable energy. The election of Trump has increased the level of uncertainty in the market in many respects, but at least at this point, most participants appear to be acting as though it will be business as usual.

A carbon tax Republicans can love?

The plan, proposed by a group dubbed the Climate Leadership Council on Wednesday, calls for a carbon tax that increases over time and distributes the proceeds back to Americans in the form of a dividend. The plan would be accompanied by regulatory rollback, including elimination of Obama's clean Power Plan (, and a border adjustment that imposes a fee on products made in countries without their own carbon pricing mechanisms.

Trump doesn’t believe in climate change and has dissed the Paris Agreement, so this effort is likely going nowhere.
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Monday Briefs

Published 2.6.2017
This is being published late, but life is like that sometimes.

  • Trump won’t speak to Parliament. Obama was given the opportunity (most presidents have not), which means it will probably irk Trump.

    Citing “racism” and “sexism,” the speaker of the House of Commons told lawmakers Monday that he was “strongly opposed” to the president addressing both houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall. President Barack Obama delivered a speech in the medieval hall in 2011, the first American president to do so.

    It was popular on both sides of the aisle, which is also unusual.

    The announcement was greeted with cheers and -- a rare event in the House of Commons -- applause from the opposition benches. A motion arguing that Trump shouldn’t be invited to speak has been signed by 163 out of Parliament’s 650 members.

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Haptic news

Published 2.2.2017
Beginning in 2017. the focus on Thursdays is haptics and haptic technology.

  • The possibility of a haptic key board is one of the reasons haptics was added as a topic of coverage at LWRAS. The idealized concept was a touch screen, but there are other ways to eliminate keys. In this case, the keyboard looks like a standard key board, but rather than keys that are depressed, the finger gets haptic feedback that the letter has been sensed.

  • Virtual reality, nascent as it is as a market, is a prime driver in haptics development.

    EXOS is a new haptic enabled VR glove which uses force feedback to deliver the sensation of physicality when inside immersive applications.

    The Japanese company Exii is developing the glove using reactive force to allow users to feel virtual objects.
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A different view of wind in China

Published 2.1.2017
The Chinese are building huge winds farms, but can’t use the power generated due to the economic slow down— or the fact that the wind blows in the wrong place? This is why the US wind energy industry can boast of the the largest production, though it can't match the Chinese build out.

Most of China’s power is still generated with coal, which accounts for most of its pollution problem. Vehicle emissions contribute hugely, as do domestic wood fires, but nothing tops coal for creating pollution in China.
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New materials offer optical advance

Published 1.31.2017
Brief takes on recent items in optics.

  • Research done at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) showed that sunlight activates current in a magnetite. The material may be useful in driving the decomposition of water into oxygen and hydrogen, allowing water to be a fuel source.

    By taking advantage of the compositional precision, purity, and low defect densities found in oxide films prepared by molecular beam epitaxy, the team showed that an unusual semiconducting phase, which is ferrimagnetic well above room temperature and absorbs light in the visible portion of the solar electromagnetic spectrum, can be stabilized on magnesium oxide (MgO(001)) substrates.

  • Self-assembling perovskite particles might produce higher efficiency light emitting diodes (LEDs).

    Rand and his team made some changes to the process using an additional type of organic ammonium halide, and in particular a long-chain ammonium halide, adding it to the perovskite solution during production. This dramatically constrained the formation of crystals in the film. The resulting crystallites were much smaller (around 5-10 nanometers across) than those generated with previous methods, and the halide perovskite films were far thinner and smoother.

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Political pot pourri

Published 1.30.2017
With little of his cabinet yet in place— presumably this will change this week— US President Trump and his cabal of close advisors continue to issue executive orders to "fulfill" campaign promises. Reaction to those orders and other Trump actions are the focus of todays links of interest.

  • Most of the orders will have little effect without Congressional action, however, the Muslim ban (to quote Rudy Giuliani) had immediate effects. Germany's Chancellor Merkel and Britain's Prime Minister (PM) May criticize Trump’s refugee ban.

    Ms. Merkel’s spokesman said the German chancellor had told Mr. Trump in the call that the United Nations Refugee Convention requires the international community take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds. The U.S. is a signatory to the convention’s 1967 protocol.

    Both women, their countries and indeed the rest of Europe, are in a tight spot, as both need the US to remain a part of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO).
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May comes to Washington

Published 1.27.2017
The English Prime Minister Theres May is in Washington visiting the White House to meet with the US president. At the post meeting press conference, both touted the "special relationship" between Britain and the US. May was tougher on the Russians than Trump. No mention of Iran. The White House meeting caps a momentous week for May.

  • May’s government loses its appeal, and Parliament gets a vote on the invocation of Article 50. Her government claims the vote won’t slow things down, that remains to be seen. Certainly, she and her government will be required to be a bit more transparent about what they are doing and what they plan to do.

    Delivering the court’s 8-3 decision upholding a High Court ruling, Lord David Neuberger said leaving the EU, a course approved by 52% of voters in a June referendum, also requires an act of Parliament. “To proceed otherwise would be a breach of settled constitutional principles stretching back many centuries,” the court’s president said.

    May had already said that Parliament gets a vote on the agreement negotiated with the EU, so perhaps the vote to invoke will be a merely a noisy formality at this point.
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Immersion wins more than it loses

Published 1.26.2017
Thursdays are when LWRAS turns its attention to haptics and the haptic market.

Immersion [ticker:IMMR] was the topic a mere two week ago, however, in the past week the judge's ruling on the Apple patent case was issued and the company's new license agreement with Nintendo was announced. Both events are materially important to Immersion. The agreement with Nintendo is multi-year, and Nintendo can adapt Immersion’s haptic technology to its new Switch™ system.

Once its adapted, then developers will use the adapted system. It is not clear if developers will also have to pay Immersion. This could be a big deal for Immersion. The question is, what’s the fee per device sold? Nintendo, per this analysis, has its own strong portfolio of intellectual property (IP) in haptics. Immersion never went after Nintendo for infringment for that reason.
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Americans still choose solar and wind, even if Trump does not

Published 1.25.2017
Alternative energy, including solar and wind energy are abiding interests at LWRAS. Below are recent news about alternative energy

Donald Trump is aggressively pro-fossil fuels, but the majority of Americans seem to think renewables are the better long term option. Sixty-five percent of people polled told Pew Research that alternative forms of energy should be the focus. Only 27% said expanding oil, gas, and coal should be the focus. Trump does not believe that climate change is real, therefore he sees no reason to limit fossil fuel use. From the report:

About eight-in-ten (81%) Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party favor developing alternative sources instead of expanding production from fossil fuel sources. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are closely divided: 45% say the more important priority should be developing alternative sources, while 44% say expanding production of oil, coal and natural gas should be given more priority.

There is an ideological divide in these views within the GOP. Among moderate and liberal Republicans and Republican leaners — who account for 36% of all Republicans and Republican leaners sampled – 65% prioritize developing alternative energy sources, compared with fewer (28%) who prioritize expanding production from fossil fuel sources. By contrast, conservative Republicans back the expansion of fossil fuels over developing alternative energy sources by a margin of 54% to 33%. Large majorities of both liberal Democrats (88%) and conservative and moderate Democrats (77%) prioritize alternative sources.

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May outlines 'hard' Brexit

Published 1.23.2017
Last week, Theresa May finally outlined her vision of Brexit, although not in any real detail. She committed to be votes in both houses of Parliament, though not on whether to invoke Article 50. That's a done deal. She also warned Europe that a punitive deal would hurt them too. Tough talk, but time will tell. There will be no membership in the single market after leaving the European Union (EU)— that wasn’t a realistic option anyway.

May emphasized that Britain will control its own borders, which runs afoul of the EU's border crossing policy. Britain will no longer be part of the European Court of Justice because it will have not left if the country doesn’t control their own laws. This assertion actually makes negotiating trade deals difficult, because typically, a third party is designated to resolve any disputes under the trade agreement.
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Solar trains

Published 1.19.2017
Offline life impeded this week's publication schedule, but here are some recent items of internet in optics and solar energy.

Trains in the United Kingdom (UK) may soon be powered with solar power. Track side solar panels to be used to power trains.

Currently Network Rail is investing billions in electrifying the UK's train lines, this combined with increased renewable energy generation means train travel could be significantly decarbonised by 2050. However in many rural areas the electricity grid has reached its limit in both integrating distributed energy generation and supplying power to the train companies.

The plan is to connect the panel directly to the train line, bypassing the grid. These trains apparently run during the day, so power is provided when it is needed. This would be the first attempt on the globe to make this work.
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Guessing Trump's Direction

Published 1.16.2017
On Friday of this week, the course of US politics and policies is going to change dramatically, for good or for ill. No one knows what a Trump administration will do, and this seems to be by design. Neither the man nor those on his team are very forthcoming regarding plans. However, that hasn't stopped analysts from making their own guesses as to what Trump will do. There is no way to make a comprehensive list of all the predictions made in the past month, but the following are a few deemed noteworthy.

Casey Research (CR) is negative on almost all things related to government, but they supported Trump over Clinton, so it’s interesting to see how fast they turned on Trump, or at least his trade policies. It may be interesting, but this is no surprise, the boys of CR (and they are all male) fancy themselves as “world citizens” landing wherever the best tax policies are currently in play. They are nihilists who care only about themselves and how much they have in their wallets.

Why read them? Not sure there is a coherent argument at this point, they have been wrong on so much for for so long, eventually (like a blind squirrel finding a nut— the first metaphor was a stopped clock, but that gives those guys too much credit) they will wind up being right. Still, they put their predictions out there for good or for ill. Clearly they are not Wilbur Ross fans. Not going to lie, Trumps trade “plans” such as they are, and they are nebulous at best, don’t engender much confidence around these parts either. Time will tell.
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Feeling the virtual future at CES

Published 1.12.2017
For 2017, haptics and haptic technology will be a focus for LWRAS. Haptic technology was on display at CES last week, though this editor did not attend. Below are a few noted technologies.

  • Ultrahaptics demonstrated a system that allows the user to fell without touching anything. Ultrahaptics is working Bosch to develop a virtual dash that can be adjusted without touching any knobs or buttons. The goal is to keep the driver's eyes on the road. The system uses ultrasound. The system can be used in VR and gaming, and now they are extending the concept (and that’s all it is) to autos. Bosch is adding the system to infotainment systems. So you can change the volume without touching the knob. The switch on the steering wheel does that pretty well already.
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The Storage Bottleneck in Renewables

Published 1.11.2017
Solar power generation is intermittent, there is not way around the fact. Each day the sun irradiates the earth with enough energy to power everything humans use, if only humans could collect that energy and store it. Cloudy days happen as does nightfall.

Current power generation schemes that incorporate renewable energy tend to force utilities to take the renewable energy when it's generated, whether there's demand for the energy or not. In addition, power companies need to meet the power needs of customers when they happen— and demand for power is not constant through out a 24 hour period. Demand surges happen, and those must be accounted for as well.

If renewable power could be effectively stored— and effective storage is by definition low cost and low loss— then renewable power advocates would have a stronger argument to make to communities. With adequate storage technology, renewable power sources would provide power as fossil fuel source do now: on demand and without interruption, and at lower cost.
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