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Apple created the perfect phone design

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Narrator: All of these phones were released in 2018. They were made by 14 different companies. Why do they all look the same? The modern smartphone can be described in three ways, a large screen, a notch, and no headphone jack. It’s no surprise that smartphones didn’t always look like this. But, how did we end up with this glass slab design? In 1994, IBM released what is considered to be the first smartphone. The Simon Personal Communicator had a monochrome LCD and stylus. It included some smart capabilities, like sending emails and faxes. Compared to other phones at the time, the Simon put more focus on the screen. The body of the phone was just a shell. This balance might remind you of another popular smartphone.

In 2007, the release of the iPhone started a design trend that has lasted more than a decade. Instead of having a full keyboard or complicated design, the iPhone stripped away most of the hardware, and instead focused on the touchscreen. Buttons can be limiting. They’re defined when a phone is created and can’t be changed, but software and apps can be changed, and updated with new features. Over time, hardware gimmicks and accessories didn’t catch on. But, thousands of new apps are released every single day. Apps can change and evolve, and they’ve become the reason we use our phones. A few years after the iPhone, companies like Samsung and Motorola followed Apple’s lead, and created phones with big screens and buttons on the sides and bottom. As technology has improved, phones have gotten thinner, larger screens, and more powerful processors. Phones continue to have fewer buttons, but the design remains very similar to the original iPhone. So, what’s so special about this glass rectangle?

Neil Mansfield: I think all smartphones look the same, because of two key reasons. One of them is the humans that are using them, are pretty much all the same. So, therefore, there’s not a lot of variation that a manufacturer can do from the human perspective.

Narrator: Neil Mansfield is a professor at Nottingham Trent University. He pointed out that what people want more than anything is a phone that they can comfortably hold and easily put in their pocket.

Neil Mansfield: The other aspect of it is being driven by the technology that’s available. If you can only make batteries of a certain form factor, that’s gonna drive how big the phone can be and the shape of the phone. If you can only make a screen of a certain form factor, it’s exactly the same. And that’s why we see phones that are flat, why we see phones follow that rectangular shape.

Narrator: New phones are released every year, but manufacturers are limited by the currently available technology. Take the notch, for example. It looks odd, and can be kind of distracting, but it houses useful features like front-facing cameras, sensors, and speakers. Several companies have tried to use hardware tricks to get rid of the notch, but until technology advances, we’re stuck with it on mainstream phones. Besides technological challenges, trends play a big role in phone design. Looking at the history of smartphones, it’s clear that Apple has been the trendsetter. Apple isn’t always first, but when they add or take away features, other manufacturers tend to follow. Samsung, for example, began pushing their screen to the edge before Apple, and so far, they have even avoided including a notch on their phones. But, competitors haven’t followed Samsung’s design, they’ve picked Apple’s. But, there actually are some benefits to phones looking similar. It’s easier for consumers to switch from one phone to another when the learning curve isn’t as steep. But, the trouble with these similar designs is a serious lack of innovation. Critics have called out Android manufacturers for missing an opportunity to avoid the notch and adopt a new design, separate from Apple’s. If companies aren’t willing to innovate, new phone models will always seem the same, giving consumers less reason to upgrade. In a time when over a dozen flagship phones are released each year, it can be really hard for an average user to differentiate between two phones. How do you know if the latest LG phone is better than the latest Google phone, if they both look the same? But, maybe this is it? Have we reached the peak of our smartphone design? Judging by the exponential speed of technological improvements, probably not. Future advancements in technology could dramatically change the way our phones look.

Neil Mansfield: As we get new materials or batteries, as we get new technology rolling out for displays, that’s gonna allow the phone designers and the manufacturers to be more creative in what they do.

Narrator: But, for now, companies are trying to evolve as much as they can inside the box they are given.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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