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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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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  26 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Today in Things-We-Take-for-Granted history: Barcodes turn 40! The now ubiquitous barcode has a slightly convoluted origin story—automated checkout was first proposed way back in 1932 by Wallace Flint, then in 1949 a symbol reader for that use was patented by Norman Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver, but not developed further. However, it's agreed that George Laurer is the inventor of the modern bar code.

Despite recognizing that manual check-out is a point of inefficiency and human error in retail operations, it took until 1970 for technology and design to catch up to the need for a better system. In that year a corporation made up of the American grocery industry's leading trade associations (called the UGPCC, for the Uniform Grocery Product Code Council) established a standard numeric system for identifying products—the basis for the Universal Product Code, or UPC. A good first step, but hand0keying 11-number serials wouldn't have been much of an improvement, so they reached out to every tech company they could for ideas. While many had previously developed optical and scanning equipment, IBM hadn't made a splash in that department, despite having early pioneer Woodland on staff! With blessings from Woodland, the IBM project was spearheaded by George Laurer, whose contributions are beautifully explained in a recent 99% Invisible episode.

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Up until that point, the closest approximation of a feasible barcode was a target-shaped graphic with concentric circles of varying thicknesses carrying the requisite information. The round shape was elegant in its way, but presented serious issues for visibility and printing. Laurer flattened this design out into a neat rectangle, and built both the code and the physical reader needed to implement it.

So it came to pass that early the morning of June 26, 1974, in scenic Troy, Ohio, the first UPC was scanned in a grocery store (probably without that satisfying bleep). The first item to earn use by this complex and powerful new system? Juicy Fruit chewing gum. That pack is in a museum, and the barcode was unanimously approved for use by the UGPCC.

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Posted by erika rae  |  26 Jun 2014  |  Comments (1)

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Flowers are great—until they wilt after a couple of days and find a new home in the trash can. Harvard research fellow and chemio-"botanist" Wim Noorduin has found away to capture the same beauty of a fresh bouquet in an entirely new way. His microbial art—what he calls crystal nano flowers—may be invisible to the naked eye, but take a look at them under a microscope and, lo and behold, an entire arrangement has blossomed in front of your eyes.

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Much like nurturing a bonsai tree, Noorduin engineers the crystals as they bloom into floral bouquets. The process itself is surprisingly simple: Noorduin combines a mixture of inexpensive chemicals in a beaker, which crystallize over the course of two hours. He manipulates the crystals as they grow to give them them shape, color and dimension. Each structure measures in at around the diameter of a single hair.

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Check out the video from Creator's Project for more insight into the work:

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Posted by Christie Nicholson  |  25 Jun 2014  |  Comments (1)

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There's a good reason we are experiencing the rise of the so-called "visual web." Our minds were destined to be attracted to visuals over text—since most of our brain real estate is devoted to sight. The visual cortex makes up one third of our brain. And the emerging trend of curved screens for smartphones and TVs feeds right into our desire for awesome images.

There are a few concave screens already on the market and some say the iPhone 6 will show up with a curved bend in the screen. It may be the case that market research found that the user feels it makes for a more immersive experience, but there are scientific studies that show we have desire for curved things.

Such reports are coming from a relatively new field in science: Neuroaesthetics. This is where neuroscience (the study of the brain) meets our appreciation for art or beauty.

A group from the University of Toronto recently studied how our brains react to rooms in a house. They had subjects look at photos of rooms while their brains were scanned in an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) machine.

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And the scans revealed that the pleasure centers of their brains "lit up" when they looked at rooms that had curved features as opposed to having the more typical sharp edges. The latter type of rooms actually lit up areas of the brain normally associated with detecting threats.

The curved screens for digital hardware have been constrained by manufacturing—but no longer.

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  19 Jun 2014  |  Comments (5)

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Back in 2010 we showed you designer Jinsun Park's nifty Color Picker concept. The idea was that a magic marker would be loaded up with both a sensor and RGB ink cartridges, allowing you to instantly scan a color—and draw with it on paper. Here's one of her original renderings:

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Jinsun Park

Now a new company called Scribble may be bringing us what Park originally envisioned (though it's unclear if she's involved). Their soon-to-be-posted-on-Kickstarter Scribble Pen operates exactly like Park's concept proposal, though they've opted for CMYK rather than RGB. "This innovative pen can hold over 100,000 unique colors in its internal memory," the company writes, "and can reproduce over 16 million unique colors."

If Park is not involved, Scribble's choice of promotional imagery seems pretty coincidental. Below is Park's rendering from 2010, side by side with Scribble's rendering from their press release:

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Or maybe I'm just comparing apples to oranges.

In any case, the company plans to release two models: The Scribble Ink, described above, which can be used to draw on paper. They'll also have the Scribble Stylus, which has the scanner but no ink cartridges; the idea with the Stylus is that you scan colors to beam over to your smartphone or tablet via their mobile app. "Your colors become more useful when they are organized, tagged, searchable and converted to various color models," their thinking goes.

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The Kickstarter is slated for July, with the Ink going for $149.95 and the Stylus for $79.95. But they're offering a 20% off deal for those willing to sign up for pre-orders here.

Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  18 Jun 2014  |  Comments (1)

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"If you turn the tablet away from me one more time, Susan, I'm going to throw this margarita in your face!"

Here's what would be perfect: If you would take just two bites of that expensive dessert I upsold you on, one quick sip from the cappucino I talked you into, then pay the check and get the hell out of the restaurant. Because there's people waiting and I need to flip this table so I can make more money.

I learned a few things as a waiter in the '80s and '90s. One was that spiked hair and a fanny pack was not a good look. The other was that a server's job isn't just to take the orders and sling the chow—our job was to sell. Bigger checks meant bigger tips, and the manager was constantly coaching us on which high-margin specials to push, which desserts we needed to move, what the exciting new beer we had on tap was.

Well, now the Chili's Grill & Bar chain has found that, surprise surprise, tablets are better than humans at selling. "When your server is a screen, you spend more money," as The Atlantic puts it. Since installing over 55,000 tablets at tables, the restaurant has found that diners order more appetizers and desserts and even leave bigger tips by going along with the default tip setting, which is of course jacked up. They also tie the kids up with unlimited on-screen games that run $0.99.

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The tablets are manufactured by a company called Ziosk, the self-styled "industry leader for tabletop menu, ordering, entertainment and payment" for restaurants. (But they are not without competition, see below.) Ziosk reckons the tablets, which flash attractive-looking food photos to entice diners to click, boost appetizer sales by 20% and desserts by 30%. They also shave about 5 minutes off of each meal, presumably because one never needs to flag a waiter down. Add it all up and these babies essentially pay for themselves, as the company claims: "The Ziosk platform is a revenue center, not a cost center for the restaurant and our offering is 'less than free.'"

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  16 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)

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No matter what your sport is, no one likes referees, least of all the fans. To the fans, when a player makes an error it's bad enough—but when the ref makes an error, it's unforgivable. Which is why sports organizations will continue turning to technology in the quest to provide irrefutable judgments. One day referees will be able to cross dark parking lots and make it to their cars without fear.

During the recent Australia vs. Chile World Cup match, I watched his play happen in real-time, with Australian defender Alex Wilkinson attempting to clear the ball as it rolls towards their goal:

Without the benefit of instant replay, a better camera angle or the freeze-frame techniques used above, it would be easy to assume that the ball crossed the line. But FIFA's newly-incorporated Goal Line Technology meant it wasn't an issue. The ball did not cross the line, and this was confirmed because an array of seven cameras monitoring the goal and hooked up to a computer were able to accurately track the ball's precise position.

Yes, it's old-fashioned 2D-recording cameras, and not sensors embedded within the ball, that have become the emerging goal-sensing technology. It's pretty cool how it works, check it out:

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  12 Jun 2014  |  Comments (3)

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When you think of drones, you probably think of military ones, and viewers of the current season of 24 have watched Army drones targeting innocent civilians in London. But if the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada has its way, drones may soon have more to do with Al Roker than Jack Bauer.

That's because Nevada's DRI hopes to control the weather using drones. Their Weather Modification Activities division, in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration, will begin using drones to seed clouds and create rain.

While it sounds like science fiction to most Americans, cloud seeding is real (if hard to accurately control). Officials in China fired over 1,000 rockets into the sky during the Olympics, gaming a storm into dumping its water before it got to Beijing.

The way cloud seeding works is, silver iodide or dry ice is fired into clouds using ground-based anti-aircraft guns or rockets. It can also be dropped into clouds via airplanes. These compounds then cause a chemical reaction in the clouds that create water or snow to form. The Sacramento Bee reports that "California has been seeding clouds for at least six decades," and points out that "Once viewed by some as a fringe science, cloud seeding has entered the mainstream as a tool to pad the state's crucial mountain snowpack."

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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   9 Jun 2014  |  Comments (4)

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I played crease attack on my high school's lacrosse team, and I sucked. The first two years I got laid out so many times while trying to set picks that by junior year, I'd accepted my complete lack of athletic ability and hung up the stick for good. (Frankly speaking the coach probably would have cut me anyway.)

Back then, it was rare to see the coach bench a player for safety reasons after he'd gotten his bell rung; it was the age of "Walk it off," where there simply wasn't concern for the concussed. But nowadays we're all well aware of the deleterious effects of a concussion, and until full-contact sports change in nature, there's room for design to try to make a difference. Designing stronger helmets sounds like a good move—but actually makes it worse. Players are emboldened by improved shielding and thus hit harder, causing more damage.

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