Posts about gadgets

Footballs Providing Light to Those Without Electricity at Home

This is an update on our previous post: sOccket: Power Through Play. This year, Soccket, 3,000 balls are scheduled to be put into use around the world. The college students (all women, by the way) that came up with this idea (harnessing the kenetic energy created while kicking a football [soccer ball] around to power a batter to use for lighting) are continuing to test and develop the product.

That ball has to be able to survive dusty, wet and harsh conditions and continue to provide power. The new, production version of the football powers a water sterilizer, fan, and provides up to 24 hours of LED light. It also can’t be deflated (a side affect of a design that is able to survive the rough environments, I believe).

I love to see engineers focusing on providing solutions for the billions of people that need simple solutions. Creating the next iPhone innovations is also cool, but the impact of meeting the needs of those largely ignored today, is often even greater.

The sOccket inventors also have a talent for publicity, which is always useful for entrepreneurs.

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Amazing New Light Field Camera: Adjust Focus After You Take the Picture

The cool Lytro light field camera lets you adjust the focus after the picture is taken. Wow what a surprise the company is located in Mountain View, California. Oh wait, no that isn’t a surprise. Those of us in the USA should thank our lucky stars for having Silicon Valley in our country.

The Lytro will be available in early 2012 starting at $399 (a 8 GB model able to hold up to 350 images) and $499 for a $499 16 GB model able to hold 750 images.

The camera does take 3d images. That feature will be enabled via a software update after the initial release.

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Get Your Own Siftable Modular Computers

I posted about Siftable Modular Computers early last year. Recently I have seen ads for them on my management blog, so I decided to see what progress had been made.

The price is a steep but they do seem cool. A Sifteo pack of 3 cubes, plus software, 2 games… is $149. They also require Mac or Windows software. no straight Linux 🙁 Each extra cube costs $45. They started shipping (at least in the USA) on September 30th.

Even though it doesn’t say it is available for Android or Linux here is a video from the recent Android open conference by David Merrill

I do agree that the idea of using these cubes that are in our physical space that we manipulate is very cool. And the idea of intelligent play I very much support. But they need to reduce the price and make them available on the best operating system (Linux/Ubuntu) – which is also open and free. They have also released a software development kit for those interested in creating games for the device. I wish them well.

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Sphero – the Robotic Ball You Control with Your Smart Phone

A nice, fun gadget for your friday. Sphero is the first ever robotic ball which can be controlled just by using your smart phone.

Developed by the Orbotix Team, you can use sphero in various applications. It is controlled using your smartphone (SDK exist for iOS and Android to let you have some fun hacking new ideas. The size is approximately that of a baseball. It has a customizable LED that allows you to change the glow according to your mood. You can check out more of Sphero features.

Use sphero like an remote controlled car but with a twist of boost mode for a more exciting chase with your pet cat. Yes, Sphero has an application specially designed for cats called the Sphero KittyCam app. Let the cat chase the robot and catch all the cat’s movements in video. You can upload it share the wild reactions of your cat.

Invite a friend over to play with sphero using the mixed reality pong. We all know pong and the developers of sphero found a way to incorporate technology with the classic game. Use your smartphones as your virtual paddle and control the sphero, which acts as your pong ball, to win the game.

Sphero is a fun gadget to have and you do activities like golf, racing and many more. If you want to order you can check out this link and fill up the order form.

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Real Time Hologram Projection Getting Closer

A team led by the University of Arizona professor of Materials Science and Engineering Nasser Peyghambarian has developed a new type of holographic telepresence that allows the projection of a three-dimensional moving image without the need for special eyewear such as 3D glasses or other auxiliary devices.

“Holographic telepresence means we can record a three-dimensional image in one location and show it in another location, in real-time, anywhere in the world,” said Peyghambarian, who led the research effort.

“Holographic stereography has been capable of providing excellent resolution and depth reproduction on large-scale 3D static images,” the authors wrote, “but has been missing dynamic updating capability until now.”

The prototype device uses a 10-inch screen, but Peyghambarian’s group is already successfully testing a much larger version with a 17-inch screen. The image is recorded using an array of regular cameras, each of which views the object from a different perspective. The more cameras that are used, the more refined the final holographic presentation will appear.

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Droid Incredible

image of Droid Incredible cell phone

The Droid Incredible really is a great gadget. I am too cheap to get it but if I were to use a cell phone much I think this is the one I would get. I personally prefer more open software like Android (which the Droid Incredible uses) to Apple (though Apple’s user experience is great, I admit).

The Droid Incredible by HTC features a body design that measures 4.63 x 2.3 x 0.47 inches (HxWxD), making it easy to slip into your pocket. A large, 3.7-inch HD screen with 480×800 resolution graces the front of the device. The responsive OLED touch screen features rich colors and is easy to use.

With a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, 512 MB of RAM, and 8 GB of internal flash memory, the Droid Incredible delivers incredible performance, letting you run multiple applications. It includes an 8-megapixel camera with auto focus and 2x power LED flash, and also Google Maps Navigation, which provides GPS-based turn-by-turn voice guidance to get you where you need to go.

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Sub $100 Tablet in 2011

I must admit I am skeptical. If it happens this looks very cool.

One Laptop Per Child Revamps Tablet Plans

On Thursday the foundation announced a partnership with chip maker Marvell to collaborate on a sleek and cheap touch-screen tablet for developing-world school children, a device it now plans to launch at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2011 for less than $100. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) says that’s close to two years ahead of its scheduled release for the so-called XO-3, the long-awaited upgrade to the non-profit’s XO, the so-called “hundred-dollar laptop” launched in 2007.

The first XO, for instance, never reached its price target of $100; it now sells for $172. About 2 million of the devices have been sold–a significant achievement for a small nonprofit, but far less than its initial projections. And a flashy double touch-screen model known as the XO-2 was quietly scrapped last year when OLPC decided it couldn’t be made cheaply enough.

As for Marvell, the partnership with OLPC could lend more credibility to its Moby tablet, which is designed for educational uses like electronic textbooks. OLPC is also building Marvell’s chips into an upgraded form of its XO, known as the XO 1.75, later this year. “When we first met Nicholas, we were very moved by his leadership,” says Dai Weili, Marvell’s chief operating office. “We’ve got the cost structure, feature capability and scalability to support his vision for many years to come.”

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Apple’s iPad

Steve Jobs introduces the Apple iPad. A touch screen tablet with wireless internet connectivity and a touch screen keyboard (when desired).

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Bionic Vision

Micro Machines and Opto-Electronics on a Contact Lense

Fiction now meets reality with prototype contact lenses developed by Babak Parviz at the University of Washington, in Seattle. Dr. Parviz’s prototype lenses can be used as biosensors to display body chemistry or as a heads up display (HUD). Powered by radio waves and 330 microwatts of power from a loop antenna that picks up power beamed from nearby radio sources, future versions will also be able to harvest power from a cell phone.

In his early 2008 lab tests, rabbits safely wore contact lenses with metal connectors for electronic circuits. The prototype lenses contained an electric circuit as well as red light-emitting diodes for a display. The lenses were tested on rabbits for up to 20 minutes and the animals showed no adverse effects.

Contact lenses as replacements for smart phone displays — even to monitor blood glucose levels — might best be done while not operating heavy equipment. “The true promise of this research is not just the actual system we end up making, whether it’s a display, a biosensor, or both,” comments Dr. Parviz. “We already see a future in which the humble contact lens becomes a real platform, like the iPhone is today, with lots of developers contributing their ideas and inventions. As far as we’re concerned, the possibilities extend as far as the eye can see, and beyond.”

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Build Your Own Tabletop Interactive Multi-touch Computer

This is a fantastic Do-It_Yourself (DIY) engineering story. Very interesting, definitely go read the whole article: Build Your Own Multitouch Surface Computer

First, some acknowledgments are in order. Virtually all the techniques used to create this table were discovered at the Natural User Interface Group website, which serves as a sort of repository for information in the multitouch hobbyist community.

In order for our setup to work, we needed a camera that senses infrared light, but not visible light. It sounds expensive, but you’d be surprised. In this section, we’ll show you how we created an IR camera with excellent resolution and frame-rate for only $35—the price of one PlayStation 3 Eye camera. “But that’s not an IR camera,” you say? We’ll show you how to fix that.

As it turns out, most cameras are able to sense infrared light. If you want to see first-hand proof that this is the case, try this simple experiment: First, find a cheap digital camera. Most cell phone cameras are perfect for this. Next, point it at the front of your TV’s remote control. Then, while watching the camera’s display, press the buttons on the remote. You’ll see a bluish-white light that is invisible to the naked eye. That’s the infrared light used by the remote to control the TV.

Like the computer, the projector we used for the build was something we scavenged up. The major concern for a projector to use in this kind of system is throw distance—the ratio between projection distance and image size. Short-throw projectors, which are sold by all the major projector brands, work the best for this kind of project, because they can be set up at the bottom of the cabinet and aimed directly at the surface. Unfortunately, they also tend to be more expensive.

Ever thrifty, we went with a projector we could use for free: an older home-theater projector borrowed from a friend. Because of the longer throw distance on this model, we had to mount the projector near the top of the cabinet, facing down, and use a mirror to reflect the image up onto the screen. For this we ordered a front-side mirror (a mirror with the reflective surface on the front of the glass, rather than behind it) to eliminate any potential “ghosting” problems, caused by dual reflections from the front and back of the glass in an ordinary mirror.

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Very Cool Wearable Computing Gadget from MIT

Pattie Maes presentation at TED shows a very cool prototype for wearable, useful computing spearheaded by Pranav Mistry (who received a standing ovation at TED). It’s a wearable device with a projector that paves the way for profound interaction with our environment.

The prototype of the system cost only $350. The software, created by them, obviously is the key, but how amazing is that, $350 for the hardware used in the prototype! There is a useful web site on the Sixth Sense project.

The SixthSense prototype is comprised of a pocket projector, a mirror and a camera. The hardware components are coupled in a pendant like mobile wearable device. Both the projector and the camera are connected to the mobile computing device in the user’s pocket. The projector projects visual information enabling surfaces, walls and physical objects around us to be used as interfaces; while the camera recognizes and tracks user’s hand gestures and physical objects using computer-vision based techniques.

The software program processes the video stream data captured by the camera and tracks the locations of the colored markers (visual tracking fiducials) at the tip of the user’s fingers using simple computer-vision techniques. The movements and arrangements of these fiducials are interpreted into gestures that act as interaction instructions for the projected application interfaces. The maximum number of tracked fingers is only constrained by the number of unique fiducials, thus SixthSense also supports multi-touch and multi-user interaction.

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