Sunday, May 30, 2010
Retinal scanners have tended to be rather clumsy devices, conditions need to be ideal to get a good read. The person being scanned needs to stand still in front of the scanner – then hopefully an eyelash doesn’t get in the way. It is for this reason that the latest retinal scanning developments from DARPA and Southern Methodist University are big news – if their claims are to be believed, not only do subjects not have to be standing in front of the camera, they don’t even need to be standing still.
Theoretically, the new scanner would be able to scan multiple subjects from a crowd, and because the scanner does not have to capture the whole eye to get a reading – a partial scan is all that is needed.
Something to think about the next time you go to a demonstration.
[Uber-Review via DViCE]
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
OLEDs, which are said to lead the next wave of innovation in the TV space (after back-lit LCDs and 3D displays), come with plenty of advantages: they produce gorgeous images, they are self-luminous, light, and they’re flexible – very flexible. Case in point: a super-thin, Sony-made 4.1-inch OLED that actually wraps around a pencil, shown today in Japan.
The display is just 80μm thick, offers 432 x 240 resolution (121 ppi), a contrast ratio of around 1,000:1, and produces 100 cd/m2 brightness. Sony says the OLED can be wrapped around a pencil with just a 4mm radius. And the OLED can actually continue to display images and video while being rolled up, which is (according to Sony) a world’s first.
Unfortunately, the OLED is just a prototype, but those of you who attend the SID event in Seattle this week will be able to see the screen in action. All the others can drool over the display in the short (but pretty cool) video embedded below.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
The bebionic fully articulating myo-electric prosthetic hand from RSLSteeper (Kent, UK) has been officially launched at the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics World Congress Meeting and Orthopädie + Reha-Technik Trade Show in Leipzig, Germany. The hand can be used with a wrist unit that provides powered rotation and flexion/extension, and when ordering you'll be able to select the tone of the silicone skin wrapped around the mechanical part and even the shape of the nails.
Featuring individual motors for each digit the hand moves and grips in a natural and coordinated way, providing compliant and conformable grips around complex shapes. On board microprocessors constantly monitor the positions of the fingers so that grip sequences are accurate every time. The hand electronics sense if a gripped item is slipping and automatically tightens the grip to maintain a secure and safe hold.The hand has two user selectable thumb positions; opposed or non-opposed, with an in-built sensor detecting the position. The non-opposed position controls key grip and finger point whilst the opposed position controls tripod and power grip.
Designed with robust assembly providing impact resistance, the fingers also feature spring returns so that the fingers move naturally when passively flexed such as brushing past someone on the street.
Press release: bebionic Launches at Leipzig May 2010 ...
Flashbacks: A Preview of BeBionic Artificial Hand
In a world of incredibly light 10-ounce soccer shoes, one of these weighs 5.8 ounces. The Adidas F50 Adizero is the latest in a string of sports innovations to debut at the World Cup soccer championship, this one on the feet of Argentine player Lionel Messi.
A lot of that weight was shed by removing the insole and strengthening the outer part of the shoe. That's complimented by the ultra-light carbon fiber upper, and plastic tech borrowed from another sport where lightness can make a big difference: cycle racing.
If it weren't for that mild-mannered Carolina blue color, I wouldn't mind wearing a pair of these babies. Look for the tech inside these tricky kicks to be available to the rest of us before too long, but don't expect it to be cheap.
[DVICE via Fast Company]
We picked our jaws off the floor when we heard about tiny particles being teleported just a foot or two away, but now scientists have topped that by 10 miles. This tech won't be transporting Kirk and his Away Team to the surface of some distant planet anytime soon, but it has seriously practical applications to communications.
Quantum physics says photons can, in some ways, occupy two places at once. When one photon gets entangled with another, whatever happens to one of those particles also happens to another, even if it's TEN frickin' miles away! Now THAT's a fast connection.
The good news: The researchers were able to send this info with 89% fidelity. The bad? Information transmitted in this way will be hard to encrypt. But they're working on that. There's good reason to work on it; if they can get this right, the communication would be completely secure. Since there's no physical medium for the transmission to travel through — not even spacetime itself ૼ it would be physically impossible to jam or intercept.
[DVICE via Ars Technica via Gizmodo]
Friday, May 21, 2010
You think 3D TV is impressive? Japan wants to broadcast 3D holograms to stadiums all over the world for the 2022 World Cup. Yes, 3D holograms.
They claim they'd be able to pull this off by capturing the action via 200 3D HD cameras at each game while microphones under the field would record all the sound. They then just assume the technology would be available for projecting 3D holograms onto the field itself, making it seem like you were watching the game in person.
Oh, and did I mention how they'll power it? With electricity generated by spectators cheers and foot-stomping, of course. That and the power generated by good vibrations from all the fun those fans will be having, I'm sure.
Of course, if that doesn't work out they can just project the 3D images on giant screens, but once you promise holograms, normal 3D is just gonna be a disappointment.
[Gizmodo via AFP via Engadget]
Thursday, May 20, 2010
The J. Craig Venter Institute just concluded a press conference where they announced the results of a 15 year project to make what could be called the ultimate medical gadget, a living, replicating cell.
From the announcement:
Now, this scientific team headed by Drs. Craig Venter, Hamilton Smith and Clyde Hutchison have achieved the final step in their quest to create the first synthetic bacterial cell. In a publication in Science magazine, Daniel Gibson, Ph.D. and a team of 23 additional researchers outline the steps to synthesize a 1.08 million base pair Mycoplasma mycoides genome, constructed from four bottles of chemicals that make up DNA. This synthetic genome has been 'booted up' in a cell to create the first cell controlled completely by a synthetic genome.
Here's Venter's talk from TEDMED 2009 where he discussed some of his work from the research just announced:
Venter Institute: FIRST SELF-REPLICATING SYNTHETIC BACTERIAL CELL...
Abstract in Science : Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome...
A rounded, plasticky take on the iPad. That's how Nvidia's latest Android tablet prototype struck me. It's pretty nice. But not as nice as the inside.
Inside this 8.9-inch tablet, you see, is Nvidia's Tegra 2, the heart of which is a dual core ARM Cortex A9—a chip that's a generation ahead of the silicon the iPad's A4 is based on—meaning this thing will zooooom. It's also got a gig of RAM (the iPad's biggest technical limitation now is its puny amount of RAM), two USB ports, and a front-facing camera.
Given that both of the units we handled were running just one app each—pretty snazzy looking games—it's hard to tell what it'll be like to use generally, like with the front-facing camera and how the widescreen aspect ratio feels outside of a game, but the games did feel and look great, as you'd expect from the kind of horsepower inside. I wish the screen, which is capacitive for multitouchness, wasn't quite as glossy as the iPad though. Oh well.
None of the devs who had one at their disposal knew when the tablet would actually be coming out, only that it would, one day. It's no Adam, but it's like actually here, almost.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Inventor Roger Linn is famous for creating the drum machine as we know it today, so there’s good reason to be excited about his latest creation; it has just been revealed. It’s a multi-touch surface not all that dissimilar to an iPad. Take a look at the video here to see for yourself.
The instrument — which Linn calls the “LinnStrument” — can take input from all of your fingers, so you can form chords in addition to sounding individual notes. Each space is pressure sensitive to allow for maximum range of expression. Sliding your finger vertically adjusts the timbre while horizontal motions change the pitch.
The final product would take the best elements from the layouts of the piano (chromatic increments) and the guitar (“parallel rows of semitones offset by fourths”). It will look a little different from the prototype, and it’ll be wearable vertically over your torso. You could also just leave it on the table like this prototype, though. We’ve included the render of what Linn imagines below.
The LinnStrument looks like an improvement over those fun-but-limited iPhone instrument apps, and you can be sure that you’ll be able to play Poker Face on the LinnStrument too… if you really want to.
Finished Product Design
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Silicon chips are on the way out. According to Duke University engineer Chris Dwyer, a student using the properties of DNA could produce more logic circuits in one day than the entire global silicon chip industry could in one month.
Indeed, DNA is perfectly suited to such pre-programming and self-assembly. Dwyer's recent research has shown that by creating and mixing customized snippets of DNA and other molecules, he can create billions of identical, waffle-like structures that can be turned into logic circuits using light rather than electricity as a signaling medium.
The process works by adding light-sensitive molecules called chromophores to the structures. These chromophores absorb light, exciting the electrons within. That energy is passed to a different nearby chromophore, which uses the energy to emit light of a different wavelength. The difference in wavelength is easily differentiated from the original light; in computing terms, it's the difference between a one or a zero. Presto: a logic gate.
Rather than running computers and electrical circuits on electricity, light-sensitive DNA switches could be used to move signals through a device at much higher speeds. Furthermore, the waffle structures are cheap and can be made quickly in virtually limitless quantities, driving down the cost of computing power. Once you figure out how you wish to code the DNA snippets, you can synthesize them easily and repeatedly; from there you can create everything from a single logic gate to larger, more complex circuits.
A shift from silicon-based semiconductor chips would be a sea-change for sure, but semiconductors are reaching a technological ceiling and if the economics of DNA-based chips are really as attractive as they seem, change might be inevitable. DNA is already smart enough to be the foundation of life on Earth: why not the foundation of computing as well?
[Gizmodo via PhysOrg]
Popular Science is your wormhole to the future. Reporting on what's new and what's next in science and technology, we deliver the future now.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Sony's gone and made both the NEX-3 and NEX-5 official, with the NEX-5 carrying the large boast of being the world's smallest and lightest camera with interchangeable lenses.
The leaked specs of the NEX-3 have panned out according to Sony's news release, but it's the NEX-5 I'm most interested in. Both have 14.2MPs, Exmor APS HD SMOS sensors, an ISO range of 200 - 12800 and are compatible with all E-mount lenses.
Video is where they differ however. The NEX-5 (above) can shoot 1080i, but the NEX-3 stops at 720p. Both have HDMI outputs and USB 2.0 for connecting to PCs, and they thankfully take SD, SDHC, SDXC cars as well as Memory Stick Pro Duo and Pro-HG Duo.
They'll be available in June, with rumored pricing tipping the NEX-3 (below) at $900. If you've been looking for something in the style of a micro four thirds camera and happen to be a Sony fan, then these two sound like they could be worth checking out in person. It all hinges on the price though—as we all know Sony's got its head in the cloud when it comes to pricing. [Sony]
Sunday, May 9, 2010
There's no official confirmation yet, but it looks almost certain that Toshiba is gearing up to launch the lightest 13-inch notebook ever. We're talking just over two pounds with an SSD. But how on earth did they do it?
It's not the processor. The info unearthed at vozExpress indicates that the mystery laptop will coming in standard voltage Core i3, i5, and i7 varieties pretty standard these days.
Instead, look to the battery: this new Toshiba's going to employ a second Super Charged ion Battery (SCiB) that we'd previously seen achieving 90% charge in ten minutes. That was back in 2008, so we could see improvements even over that. The laptop's honeycomb rib structure, another first, will presumably also save some weight.
Other presumed specs: up to 4GB memory, 500GB hard disk or a 512GB SSD, 16:9 aspect ratio, and USB 3.0. Not to mention the 'Blaze Mountain' cooling system, which at the very least sounds impressive. But that kind of power with that little weight, and a sleek design to boot? Yes, please.
[Gizmodo via vozExpress via Engadget]
Some people are masters of this item, while others are—willingly or unwillingly—its slaves. With a little bit of dust, we can see its inner workings laid bare. What oh what could it be?
Try a credit card covered with magnetized rust particles.
As you can see, the stored data on the card's magnetic strip has been revealed by way of a science experiment. Using nothing more than fine iron powder or iron oxide, a magnet and the aforementioned credit card, 'Anaglyph' was able to reveal the nitty gritty details on a friend's frequent flyer card:
First of all, you will notice that Gilbert's card has three horizontal magnetic bands. This is the standard for all swipe cards. In most cases, information is recorded on one, or sometimes two of these bands. The two outside bands are called high density tracks and contain data at 210 bits per inch. If you know anything about computers, you will realise that the term 'high density' here is relative: 210 bits per inch, by modern data standards, is pretty damn lousy. To give you some idea, one of these tracks can carry about 79 x 6bit alphanumeric characters. Your credit card would typically have, on track 1, your name, your card number and an expiry dateKind of primitive. No wonder the Japanese have been swiping their phones at vending machines all these years.
[Gizmodo via Tethered Cow via Boing Boing]
The race is on for faster, more capable processors in your smart phone. Intel's new Atom (Moorestown) processors are out and they're pushing the envelope forward. The new chips can run in speeds up to 1.5GHz for smartphones and up to 1.9GHz for tablets. Compatible with Android, these processors will offer support for WiMAX, 3G/HSPA and WiFi. It might be a few quarters before we see this actually arrive on phones, giving companies like Qualcomm time to prep their 1.5Ghz chips, too. Get ready for more phones full of win!
[AndroidGuys via Engadget]
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Denver is the first city to be hope to B-cycle, a Trek-developed bike sharing system equipped with awesome goodies like GPS route tracking.
How does it work? Well, there are B-cycle stations all around Denver. Once you have an account, you can grab a bike from any of them. When you're done, you can then drop it off at any other station. The GPS unit inside the bike (there's no nav screen, it's hidden inside the bike itself) tracks your route and lets you check it out online when you're signed in.
It's a pretty awesome idea, with custom bikes made just for the system by Trek. It's pretty reasonably priced, too, with a single day costing and a year costing plus daily hourly usage fees.
They're currently finishing the details on the next batch of cities, although they're mum on what those cities will be. You can vote for your city on their site if you want to try to get it near you.
[Gizmodo via B-cycle]