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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  12 Sep 2014  |  Comments (1)

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If you've ever passed a park in Chinatown and seen the older folks playing Mahjong, you've undoubtedly seen them manually "shuffle" the tiles between games before rearranging them into fresh rows. This is how they've done it for thousands of years, but in the past few decades, Mahjong tile shuffling and dealing has received a rather awesome upgrade:

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Posted by Sam Dunne  |   9 Sep 2014  |  Comments (2)

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Earlier today, connected device guru Matt Webb announced the closure of cloud service developer Berg Cloud in a blogpost, citing difficulties in finding a sustainable business model for the innovative venture since moving away from the agency model back in 2013. Conceived after experiencing the difficulties of making connected products first hand, the vision of the ambitious Berg Cloud had been to create cloud services that would make life easier for hardware innovators—effectively serving as the missing link between the wireless chip in a new connected device and a user-facing website or smartphone app.

The Little Printer—perhaps the most iconic of Berg's creations—also looks to be implicated in the sad news. Closure of the service behind the product, the release reports, could come as soon as March 2015 unless a suitable buyer can be found. Fortunately for fans and owners of the diminutive device and the wider technologist community, the announcement also suggests that the code for the Little Printer could be opened up—no doubt to the delight of legions of hackers and tinkerers.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   4 Sep 2014  |  Comments (7)

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With a press release this morning, Dyson tidily answered some questions that have been in the back of our minds. Questions like:

1. What are they going to use those tiny, powerful digital motors they developed for?
2. What weren't they showing us in that Dyson Proving Grounds video from last year?
3. What does a company that spends £3 million on research every week put that money towards?
4. Why on earth does a company with just three product categories employ 2,000 engineers?
5. Why hasn't Dyson, with its expertise in vacuums, yet moved into the robot vacuum space?

With this morning's announcement of the Dyson 360 Eye, all of the answers have fallen into place. Their forthcoming robot vacuum has been in development for a staggering 16 years, and a close look at the thing explains what all of those R&D eggheads have been working on.

First off, the "most powerful suction of any robot vacuum" claim is what you'd expect with Dyson, particularly if you've used any of their products. (Look for our upcoming "Living With..." product review on the Dyson DC59.) As you'll see in the demo video below, the 360 Eye with that digital motor was designed to suck up way more dust than the competing robot vacs, including from the crevices between floorboards, in a single pass. This comes as no surprise.

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What is surprising is the wayfinding technology they've come up with. Existing robot vacuums have sensors and algorithms that they use to bounce around rooms seemingly randomly, relying on multiple passes and path redundancy to get a room clean. Dismissing this method as primitive and inadequate, Dyson opted to go with vision.

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They developed a 360-degree camera that shoots 30 frames per second and actually sees the room, and selects high-contrast points—the edge of a picture frame, the corner of a bookshelf, for instance—to triangulate its location in space.

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Posted by Ray  |   3 Sep 2014  |  Comments (8)

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Cupertino seems to have sprung a few leaks lately, from the iCloud celeb photo hack to a drone-eye view of the spaceship construction site Of course, insofar as Apple is known for its secrecy as much as its industry leadership, the company has long been a target for another reason: speculation about new products.

Hot on the heels of Feld & Volk's hands-on teaser, above, Russian tech reviewer Rozetked brings us a fully assembled iPhone 6 a week prior to its official unveiling next week. Reportedly sourced from various factories that are supplying parts for the sixth generation iPhone, the product walkthrough imparts a strong sense of the larger, thinner smartphone's features, most notably its rounded edges and protruding camera. Other notable details include unibody construction with the signature plastic bands for the antenna, while the 4.7” screen is reportedly not made of solid sapphire (which we'd previously seen and was introduced for the home button of the iPhone 5S).

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Check out the video:

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Posted by Ray  |  28 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)

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"I hear you're buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real."

–LCD Soundsystem, 'Losing My Edge'

Well this is weird and fun: The data wizards at IBM have partnered with the U.S. Open and James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem / DFA Records fame to create real-time musical interpretations of tennis matches throughout the tournament. The premise of the U.S. Open Sessions is simple: IBM processes millions of data points via cloud-based algorithms to generate synth tones that represent the gameplay, complemented by Platonic shapes in the browser window. Developer Patrick Gunderson of digital production companyTool does the heavy lifting while Murphy transposes the progress of the match from groundstrokes to keystrokes; from playing the baseline to, um, playing the bassline.

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  26 Aug 2014  |  Comments (1)

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This is the second half of a two-part conversation with Geoff Baldwin, head of the new-ish Industrial Design department at Code and Theory. Read the first part here.

Core77: Outernet is technically involved, it's mechanically involved, and it's got a big dream behind it. How did C+T come to the project?

Geoff Baldwin: This whole industry, everywhere I've been, it's all about good people. Sayed [Karim], the founder of Outernet, I used to work with him at IDEO, where he was our tech guy, which is the best story ever: The IT guy at IDEO is trying to win a Nobel Peace prize! He was the best IT guy, he'd fix your computer super fast and was so responsive, because he just wanted to get done being an IT guy so he could go back to the shop and build shit.

I kept in touch with him, he went from IDEO to NPR to an investment firm that invested in news and information startups in developing countries. He was living all over the world and saw this problem: Yes, people need the Internet, but maybe they just need information. Back in March or February, I got an email asking if I knew anyone who could help him out with hardware. What he needed was a concept car and a vision. He was starting to get funding, but needed something tangible that people could hold onto and believe in. That's where it started.

Did C+T do the entire physical development of the Outernet?

Yes, and I think it should be understood that the project is still at a very gestational stage. [Sayed] is trying to do something incredibly ambitious that requires tons of capital and people being interested, so what we were doing here was creating that concept car and vision—if people can't get it in two minutes, they're not going to get it. But in order to create that concept car, we had to do some intense nuts and bolts engineering. We did this incredibly rapidly, as a six week project. Instead of staging it as the product, then the story and then... it was all at the same time. We brought Sayed in for a week, he was basically living with us. Sometimes we'd kick him out and he'd sit in the hallway and do... whatever he did.

He had collected so much knowledge about satellites and how they work, a ton of work on that back end, so we got him in and got his input on the technical basics and problems to solve and constraints. But in addition to getting a lot of hard information we also got the basis for the story. In a way the story, the fluffy-message fun part started to drive the really hard, critical engineering.

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  25 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)

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If you care about the power of free information, you may have heard of Outernet, an ambitious new project aimed at ending information inequality, eliminating censorship, and bringing data to distant places. The world may be well into the Information Age, but less than 40% of the global population has Internet access! That's bad for democracy, bad for innovation, and bad for business worldwide. What Outernet proposes is to take the heart of the Internet—free information—offline, and deliver it to anyone with a satellite dish using small cheap satellites, the existing geostationary satellite network, and simple hardware. It's a lot like a radio-transmitted library. As they put it, they offer "information for all from outer space. Unrestricted, globally accessible, broadcast data. Quality content from all over the Internet. Available to all of humanity. For free." For more details, check out LA Times' excellent infographics.

To get out of technical start-up talk and into people's hands, Outernet reached out to Code and Theory to help them level up. Why would an international humanitarian tech project work with a digital agency on prototyping? It's a good question, with an I.D. twist. To learn about building the Outernet satellite receiver and how Code and Theory helped, I spoke with Geoff Baldwin who heads their new but busy Industrial Design group.

Core77: Tell me about what you do at Code and Theory

Geoff Baldwin: I'm the director of Industrial Design. Code and Theory is known for its long history of doing digital design and interactive experiences. In the last 5 or 6 years we've become more known for digital agency of record for major brands, for doing social campaigns, and different digital advertising-ish things, so the idea was to build an Industrial Design team inside of this existing digital creative culture to do everything at once. To be able to design the thing, the interactions around it, and the story about it all from the same point of inspiration.

outernet-ctteam.jpgAll smiles

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Posted by Moa Dickmark  |  25 Aug 2014  |  Comments (1)

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A few months ago, I was contacted by an organization called Women Engineers Pakistan, which introduces girls to the field of engineering and technology. Just reading the name made me curious. For those of you who don't know, I'm an architect, and I come from a family full of engineers and tech-heads. In other words, my choice of becoming an architect has never, at any point of my life, ever been questioned. I went to a technical high school in Uppsala, Sweden, always with the support of mom and dad, brothers and sister, my grandmother, aunts, uncle and most of all my wonderful grandfather. With 26 boys and 5 girls in my class, the male-to-female ratio was rather high, but my knowledge and competence was never questioned by anyone of the male gender. Not by teachers, nor by fellow students.

Hearing about an organization like this and its origins was inspiring, and it takes more then a bit of willpower and skin on the nose (Swedish expression) to start something as groundbreaking and controversial in a country where female students are told that they should reconsider their choice to study engineering and start studying something more suitable for women...

In this interview, I've had the great pleasure of talking directly with Ramla Quershi, the co-founder of Women Engineers Pakistan. She recently moved to the U.S. to study engineering on a full Fullbright scholarship. So even though she's busy with the big move and getting her bearings, she set aside some time for this interview. I hope you get as inspired by reading this as I did from writing it.

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Core77: Tell us a bit about the organization and the thoughts behind it.

Ramla Quershi: The organization is a budding startup, which looks to increase participation from Pakistani women in Pakistan in engineering. Women have always been by and large in domestic and agricultural jobs in Pakistan, and their participation in science and technology has been minimal. We realize that women make over half the Pakistani population and we're working to prevent that potential talent for technical prowess from going to waste. We're working with young girls at high schools to encourage them towards science and math

When did you start working on getting Women Engineers Pakistan up and running?

It started with a Facebook page last August. But it's wasn't until six months ago that we started working as an organization.

Why did you decide on starting WEP?

Throughout my engineering degree, I felt a nagging lack of women in this field. We were often discouraged by our professors that engineering is a 'big boy' area. It was disheartening to realize that there weren't many role models set out for us. So I created this organization to give women engineers a platform to represent themselves.

When the professors talked about it being a "big boy" profession, how did your fellow male students react to those sort of comments?

My fellow males knew that I was good at my studies, so they would often turn up for a group study option and ask me to explain things to them. So they had found out that the women in their class were just as good (some even better) engineers. Barring a few, many were courteous and encouraging. However, there were some 'go make a sandwich' sort of comments—but not many.

There must have been many ideas/incentives to make it go from an concept into reality, what were they?

Oh yes, there were. Initially it was just a Facebook page, but then it started getting attention, and I realized that I had hit a niche. We were contacted by the U.S. Embassy through the Facebook page for meeting with a NASA engineer coming to Pakistan. And i thought, 'Oh wow, not much representation for the women in engineering crowd.'

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  21 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)

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So your kid draws all over your expensive carpet with a handful of Sharpies. You're so infuriated that after giving him a time-out, you need to go outside to carve some sand patterns in your Zen garden just to cool off. Well, if only you had access to the designs of Yuta Sugiura, a professor at Keio University's Graduate School of Media Design, you could cleanly ameliorate both situations.

Sugiura headed up the research team that produced "Graffiti Fur: Turning Your Carpet Into a Computer Display." Three clever devices can put images that you've either drawn or captured onto a plain ol' carpet, Sharpie-free and completely reversible:

Sugiura's team—which was comprised of researchers not only from Keio, but from the Nagoya Institute of Technology and The University of Tokyo—presented "Graffiti Fur" at this month's SIGGRAPH in the Emerging Technologies & Studio Collaboration category.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  19 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Carlos Tomas dropped his Mazda 6 off for a detailing appointment at a shop in Toronto. When he returned to pick it up, he noticed some cosmetic damage to the front of the car that he swore wasn't there before. But the body shop denied responsibility. A suspicious Tomas brought another car to the shop the following week, a sportier RX-8, and this time he secretly photographed the odometer before handing over the keys.

When Tomas picked the RX-8 up five days later, he noticed an extra 449 kilometers had been racked up on it. And amazingly, he received a CAD $45.60 bill in the mail from the local automatic toll collection agency.

We're guessing the designers and engineers over at Chevy have heard stories like this once too often, as they've actually cooked up a feature to solve this with their 2015 Corvette:

What's interesting is that the technology already existed as part of the Corvette's Performance Data Recorder package, which uses a small camera to shoot HD footage from the driver's POV, while a mic records the in-cabin audio and a computer records the vehicle data and telemetric info. The PDR was originally designed for track-heads who wanted to improve their lap times, but "We soon realized the system could have many more applications," Corvette product manager Harlan Charles said in a press release issued yesterday, "such as recording a scenic drive up Highway 101, or recording when the Valet Mode is activated."

The info and video can be viewed in-car immediately after recording, and it's also downloaded onto an SD card if you want to take the proof to the cops or just upload it onto YouTube. "Think of it," says Charles, "as a baby monitor for your car."

Posted by Kat Bauman  |  14 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)

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If you're anything like me, you've hit midsummer without noticing, your thighs are sweat-glued to your chair, and you aren't taking a tropical vacation within the next decade. If the heat and business as usual are getting you down, join me on a virtual tour of a cool and exotic locale on the cusp of hitting it big: Mars. And what better to inspire your fantasy travel than a cool map of the region and its history?

After centuries of squinting at that tiny red blip on our starry radar, we've gathered some increasingly good intel on the terrain and climate of Mars. The high tech ex-pats living there have been sightseeing for over ten years and the planet has a host of new snooping satellites. However, we haven't had new maps made since the late '80s! While everyone loves a good old map, old maps won't do you much good on the ground. Thankfully the United States Geological Survey has finally crammed nearly 30 years of new data and imaging into a beautiful new map [PDF].

While the last large Martian mapping effort predated digital techniques and required hand-plotting, the new one has a lot of high-tech heft behind it. This geological map was compiled using satellite photos, topological and soil information from rovers, and super detailed laser altimeter data. The result is a map that clearly breaks down the surface composition, topography, and (maybe most importantly) age of the red planet's diverse regions. As the map abstract puts it, the work is "based on unprecedented variety, quality, and quantity of remotely sensed data acquired since the Viking Orbiters." As I'd put it: It leaves previous maps in the dust.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   6 Aug 2014  |  Comments (1)

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First thing I had to check was that this wasn't released on April 1st. But no, in a research paper titled "The Visual Microphone: Passive Recovery of Sound from Video" submitted for the upcoming SIGGRAPH 2014, a team of researchers have allegedly discovered how to extract sound from video images.

I'm still waiting for Snopes to debunk this, but this research collaboration from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Microsoft Research and Adobe Research makes the following claim:

When sound hits an object, it causes small vibrations of the object's surface. We show how, using only high-speed video of the object, we can extract those minute vibrations and partially recover the sound that produced them, allowing us to turn everyday objects--a glass of water, a potted plant, a box of tissues, or a bag of chips--into visual microphones.

Sounds crazy, no? Watch this and see (er, hear):

As you can see, the technology is predicated on using high-speed, high-resolution video. But just imagine if it was possible to apply this to old, audio-free archival footage.

Posted by Kat Bauman  |   5 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Further developments from the eerie future we're inhabiting: Roambotics wants a wheeling robot to patrol your home. Their first concept robot "Jr." is the winner of the Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award, and is a pretty good-looking object. Designed as an autonomous, self-leveling, wheel-shaped robot with video and audio monitoring abilities, it will identify intruders or changes within the home. Data is wirelessly streamed to the cloud and the Roambotics network, and will update the homeowner via an app or email. The software uses machine learning to better understand the environment over time, and they hope to integrate 3D mapping of spaces. According to their description on Crunchbase, "Jr. features a base station with inductive charging, multi-surface slip and cliff detection, self-stabilization, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 A-N, and a NVIDIA tegra 4 microcontroller." That's right, we're one (wheeled) step closer to Robocop.

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Posted by erika rae  |  25 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)

Hitchbot-Lead.jpgAn artist's rendition of Hitchbot on the road

Seeing as self-driving cars won't be a reality any time soon, robots need to find an alternate means of travel for the time being. Case in point, the HitchBOT, a tiny, rainboot-wearing robot who is looking to travel across Canada by (you guessed it) the time-honored tradition of hitchhiking. Even so, he's probably less eccentric than your average itinerant: With bright yellow Wellies strapped to his feet and a cake-saver helmet, HitchBOT has a bucket for a body and pool noodles for limbs and looks something like a child's storybook or TV show... which is kind of the point.

The brainchild of Dr. Frauke Zeller of Ryerson University and Dr. David Harris Smith of McMaster University, the HitchBOT was designed to travel some 6,000+ km from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design to Victoria, British Columbia, by means of friendly strangers. He comes fully equipped with 3G, GPS, WiFi and solar panels, so the hitchBOT team can track and receive texts/photos highlighting the droid's progress and deliver the updates to his quickly growing circle of fans. The robot will depend on the goodwill of travelers when he runs out of juice—once the energy from the solar panels is used up, all it takes is a simple connection to a car's cigarette lighter to reboot.

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The droid is pretty limited when it comes to mobility—his only moving part is his arm—but can sit thanks to a retractable tripod. A car seat is attached to his torso for easy buckling. HitchBOT can also speak English (along with a few sentences of French) and has access to Wikipedia for small talk topics. You could do worse when it comes to a road-trip buddy.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  25 Jul 2014  |  Comments (5)

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Sure, smartphones allow us to communicate with anyone in the world at any time and provide access to a global network of knowledge and entertainment, but it's not like we can just pull the things out of our pockets and start using them. No. Instead we are forced to type in a four-digit security code!

This provides a unique set of physical challenges. For example, let's say that your security code is 1-9-8-2. This means you have to send your thumb up to the "1" at the top left of the screen, then move it all the way down to the bottom right to press the "9!" Then you have a little break moving it over to the "8," but that's temporary, because guess what, then you have to move your thumb all the way up to the top again to hit "2!" What are we, slaves?

Thankfully, for those of us who weren't born with Arnold Schwarzenegger's thumbs, help is here in the form of Digital Tattoos. These NFC-based skin stickers come in packs of ten. You stick one onto your body and tap your phone against it to "accept" it, which should be easier than getting your parents to accept that tribal/Celtic/Chinese character tattoo. From then on, you just tap your smartphone (it can be any smartphone in the world, as long as it's a Moto X) against the sticker and boom, the phone is unlocked, no Gatorade breaks required.

The adhesive "lasts for five days, and is made to stay on through showering, swimming, and vigorous activities like jogging," making this ideal for those who like to shower, swim, and/or jog vigorously.

Digital Tattoos aren't free, of course, they're $10 per pack. But that's no problem, because when you run out, you just pay them another ten dollars and then they give you another pack. In other words, you can just keep buying them!

Posted by Kat Bauman  |  23 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Regardless of whether you're in the Invasion of Mypace camp, or the Well That's How Business Works camp, Facebook has been playing games with your heart. As we all now ought to know, Facebook has admitted to experimentally filtering feed results to test emotional response and behavior in users. While it's hard to consider experimentation without informed consent to be anything less than blatantly shady, it's also well within their legal rights. Ethical it ain't, but then again deskchair epidemiology has never had the luxury of such self-selecting scale.

But the biggest bummer—other than seeing an upswing in pictures of your exes and their stupid beautiful lives—is that we didn't get to see the results! Not so any longer. Artist Lauren McCarthy created the Mood Manipulator, a browser extension that allows you the gratification of choosing your own digitally devised mood swings.

Now you can choose your own emotional filtering rather than passively interacting with a pre-adjusted feed filtered by unseen researchers without enough scruple to feel weird studying emotional effects in people who have not been notified. These tasteful opt-in controls give you four tonal "channels" with three positions each: Positive, Emotional, Aggressive and Open (in other news four-metric psych news, the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless). Just download the extension and toggle your way to psycho-social harmony.

MoodManip2.jpgAlways with the babies

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Posted by Teshia Treuhaft  |  15 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)

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It should come as no surprise that the marriage of art and technology has had some difficulty finding a place in the institutional white cube exhibition spaces of most contemporary galleries and museums—after all, many practitioners reject the traditional art-object format on principle. Indeed, the incorporation of technology in art has vastly expanded the realm of creative possibilities, both aesthetically and with respect to distribution—auction house Phillips recently held the second edition of its forward-looking "Paddles On!" digital art auction—yet the modes by which it is bought, sold or displayed continue to shift and evolve.

The recent Kickstarter campaign for Electric Objects marks a noteworthy attempt to streamline the presentation of Internet and digital art into more conventional means. Electric Object's first major product run, the EO1, is essentially a wall-mountable, high-definition screen with Wifi connection for control from their handy mobile app. The EO1, framed in your choice of white, black or wood, displays your collection of Internet art without drawing away your attention from daily activities. The EO1 supports static images, animated GIFs and javascript-based visualizations.

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  11 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Open-source soft robot bodies! The Glaucus is an adorable ambling robotic quadruped with no rigid guts or internal framework. Like most soft robots, it is moved by alternating pressure within different chambers in the robot's body, flexing the soft material in specific areas and causing it to move in desired patterns. This little guy was named and loosely modeled after the Blue Sea Slug (Glaucus atlanticus), with a walking pattern much like a salamander. He's the product of several years of development by the Super-Releaser team, which has been investigating ways to create a seamless soft body with the desired interior chambers.

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Posted by erika rae  |   3 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)

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One of the best parts about skipping town for an exotic vacation is the anticipation of spending time in warmer (or cooler) weather. But what if experiencing that part of the getaway was simply a matter of pointing to a spot on a small, tech-enabled globe (a semi-sphere, if you will)? Just imagine: You could enjoy that ocean breeze without the rigmarole of Airbnb. Well, look no further than the Air Globe, a conceptual design by National Taipei University of Technology Master Degree Student Pei-Chih Deng, currently a contender in the Electrolux Design Lab competition. The premise is that the user can choose a geographical location on the globe and experience its climate within the comfort and convenience of his or her humble abode.

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The device simulates the ambiance of one's destination by collecting real-time data on the temperature, humidity levels, smells and even the sounds of the area. The region's geographical information, weather and name show up on the display for easy reference. Hence the tagline: "Bringing sunny Miami to your rainy Monday"—because no matter where you live, we all know how snowy/blustery/humid/monsoon-y Mondays go.

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Posted by Christie Nicholson  |   2 Jul 2014  |  Comments (3)

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Phones are continually getting smaller—the paper-clip sized phone that Derek uses in Zoolander was more than a joke, it was prescient.

But phone size and design are finally hitting a wall—the technology required simply can't get much smaller. (Well, at least until the quantum computer becomes a common reality.) However, Apple is forging a way to make the "hearing" part of a phone nearly invisible. How? By linking up with hearing aids.

Apple developed the Bluetooth protocol for hearing aids last year and this allows streaming audio and data delivered to the hearing aid. Here is the initial benefit for those already using hearing aids: ReSound and Starkey—makers of hearing aids—are using the iPhone as a platform that allows users to have some kind of an interface for the protheses.

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Posted by Ray  |   2 Jul 2014  |  Comments (1)

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By now, it seems like the conceit of a 'home of the future' has existed for as long as we've taken residence in permanent structures—while subsistence cultures certainly didn't fret over replacing HVAC filters, our domestic life perpetually bears the promise of being easier or more comfortable. But even as sci-fi films offer tantalizing glimpses into a swipeable, location-aware near-future, the app-enabled abode has proven to be an elusive dream as we once again crank up our noisy old air conditioners, much as we did with barely adequate space heaters just four months ago.

Well that's the case here in New York City, but for those of you who live outside the endemic constraints of shady landlords and co-op boards—and,to some extent, even for those of us who do—the fabled smart home may be appreciably closer to becoming a reality with the launch of a new collection of products on Monday, July 7, thanks to a new free app called Wink and your local Home Depot.

It's not a retail partnership in the traditional sense: Wink is a software ecosystem for other networked devices and appliances. It relies on a single piece of hardware, a pointedly nondescript white box that will likely gather dust alongside your modem and router—plugged in, of course, but scarcely touched after initial setup—since the entire interface is accessed via smartphone. Several Wink-enabled products will work without the hub, which facilitates networked communications for less deeply integrated products; compatibility is clearly indicated by labels on the packaging.

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Nor is it a 'collection' so much as the launch of the app and 60 compatible products from 15 well-known brands, including literal household names such as GE—who have partnered with Wink's parent company Quirky to produce a series of networked products—and first mover Phillips to smart sprinkler startup Rachio and tech darlings Dropcam. So too does the selection run the gamut from entry-level light bulbs (GE & Quirky have developed one for $15) to more advanced products such as motorized curtains, deadbolts and garage doors. (Both the Wink Hub and the products will also be available via Amazon, though the displays at Home Depot will drive awareness and in-store sales.)

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  30 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

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While TrackingPoint released their self-aiming PGF rifle just last year, a slightly similar, if less deadly, consumer-level technology has been available for quite some time. For years, paintball enthusiasts have been hacking together self-targeting paintball sentry guns, which not only track targets, but light them up without you needing to bother to pull the trigger. In this video from several years ago, a nice, frosty bottle of beer is placed on a table. Joe is across the yard and he's thirsty. The only thing standing between Joe and the beer is a paintball gun in Auto Sentry mode:

Of course, the real question on everyone's mind is if this system can stop an intruder using multiple trampolines in your backyard:

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  30 Jun 2014  |  Comments (3)

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We all know the movie trope of the hired assassin up on a rooftop, calmly removing his sniper rifle from a foam-padded case and assembling it with practiced ease. The man is an experienced professional with years of marksmanship training and thus, an important asset to whatever organization hired him.

In real life that assassin's work would be drying up. Because a Texas-based company called TrackingPoint is selling "the world's first Precision-Guided Firearm (PGF)," a de facto sniper rifle that aims itself, removing even the need for the joystick action we saw in the last sniper rifle we looked at, and is reportedly good for accuracy at a range of 1,200 yards. The PGF's built-in aiming system essentially means there's no expertise required, and you can throw any yokel up onto that rooftop without needing to wire $2 mil into The Jackal's Swiss bank account.

As you saw in the video, the company is targeting (no pun intended) hunters rather than hired killers. "As a sport hunter and professional marksman, I see the TrackingPoint technology as an excellent way to ensure more ethical harvesting of game," one customer said in a press release, with the "more ethical" referring to the ability to execute single-shot kills as opposed to dragging the affair out.

Posted by Kat Bauman  |  30 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

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I've never been a fan of the Zombie Apocalypse narrative. Who needs the fictitious afflicted undead in order to feel insecure in their relationship to resources and humanity? Not this guy. Instead, I get my social-framework-challenging kicks by thinking about real societal failings and foibles. Modern ruins, abandoned buildings and the aftermath of economic or political hubris are great stand-ins if you need your neck hairs lifted by something a little more believable than actors done up with gray facepaint and bloodshot eyes. The most recent addition to my real world 'creep canon': zombie satellites.

Zombie satellites are closer to what they sound like than you might think (and not too far off from the recurring theories about MH370 either, but let's not go there). These satellites are inactive but still mobile, abandoned by their creators to wander the galaxy. Sometimes their abandonment is due to mysterious "illness"—a glitch or immobilizing malfunction. Sometimes they are simply casualties of their own technical limitations, their aging hardware no longer able to communicate with the indifferent world advancing below.

Here are a few of my favorite examples of space-bound technological zombies and our ongoing relationships with them.

zombies2.jpgFitting that SkyCorp HQ is an abandoned Macdonald's? I vote yes.

ISEE-3, the International Sun-Earth Explorer-3, has spent 36 years in space and 17 years abandoned. Originally used to view solar activity between the sun and earth, the little craft was later redirected to visit the tail of Comet Giacobini-Zinner. Charted by the satellite's flight director, the redirection enraged solar scientists who accused him of stealing their satellite, to which he responded that he was "just borrowing it" and would return it eventually. Seems legit. Since the Giacobini-Zinner visit, ISEE-3 has been looping through the solar system on a 30 year course that would bring it (yes, eventually) back in striking distance of our moon. It's still on track and still transmitting, but, in the meantime, the old transmitters for communicating with the little guy were literally thrown out.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  27 Jun 2014  |  Comments (2)

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As we saw in an earlier post, part of what made the Mongols so militarily successful is that they had an unstoppable weapon that they learned to fire from horseback, providing both mobility and firepower. This is remarkable becase a galloping horse is not the most stable platform to aim and fire from. A modern-day sniper, for example, would ideally be laid up in a stable perch.

But modern-day situations do not always allow for stable firing positions. Think of the Captain Philips incident, for instance, where the Captain's captors were dispatched by Navy SEAL snipers operating from the deck of a rolling ship.

Now a company called Paradigm SRP is seeking to reconcile the deadliness of sniper fire with the jouncing that comes with riding around in a helicopter, Humvee or boat. And interestingly, whereas civilian technologies often borrow from military technologies, this time it's the other way 'round: To design their product, Paradigm looked to the film industry's expertise in gyro-stabilized cameras.

Their resultant Talon Gyro-Stabilized Marksman Platform/Universal Weapons Mount is like a Steadicam loaded with death. Gyro stabilizers keep the weapon steady, while onboard cameras feed live footage back to the operator, who's holding a monitor--and has access to the remote trigger.

Cityboy that I am, I find guns terrifying, and watching this thing operate kind of scares the crap out of me:

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  27 Jun 2014  |  Comments (1)

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Since the Mongol bow we've seen a lengthy list of advances in long-range killing. Guns, machineguns, artillery, bombs dropped from planes, and Germany's famous V-2 "flying bomb," which is featured in many a World War II documentary.

But here we look at a lesser-known Wehrmacht design, which was not a bomb that flew, but that could be driven. It started seeing battlefield action in 1942. Roughly two feet tall, three feet wide and five feet long, the Goliath resembled a miniature tank, but one that had a long cable trailing behind it. This cable was over 2,000 feet long and had a real, live Nazi at the other end of it, driving the Goliath with a joystick like some deadly Atari game. When the "pilot" got the thing to its desired position, he pushed a button, and the 130 pounds of explosives inside the Goliath went KABOOM.

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