Posts about gadgets

Samsung Transparent OLED Display

The webcast shows another cool TV display. This transparent OLED display could for example be used for displaying directions and GPS information to someone driving a car.

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Eliminate Your Phone Bill

I have written about Innovation Thinking with Clayton Christensen on the Curious Cat Management Blog previously. Here is an example of such innovation. All you need is a broadband internet connection and you can Kiss your phone bill good-bye:

The Ooma service uses so-called Voice over Internet Protocol (or VOIP) technology to deliver calls to your existing phone using a broadband connection. Consumers need only to buy a $249 Ooma Hub (it was a hefty $399 when the service launched last year); all domestic calls are free. (Ooma charges a few pennies a minute for international calls to landlines and 20 to 30 cents a minute for overseas calls to mobile phones. Calls from Ooma box to Ooma box are free.)

Replacing your phone service is, of course, just the start for Ooma. In some ways, calling is the Trojan horse to get the box in your house and then figure out other services to sell, like enhanced network security or kid-safe Web surfing.

I ordered mine from Amazon for $203 and have been using it for a little over a month; it has been great. Relatively easy to setup (they had a pretty good customer survey and I recommended they use colored cables – they color cables in the drawings in the users guide but give you 3 white cable to use – they are different types of cables so it isn’t tough to figure out but that would make it a bit easier).

I have been using Vonage for awhile and it is ok, but I don’t see any reason to pay each month when Ooma doesn’t charge a monthly fee (even on the lowest option on Vonage the bill is over $22/month).

I think gadgets are cool, but I will admit most of the time I don’t really want to be bothered to actually use them. But this is easy to you and saves me $20/month, that I like.

Related: Freeware Wi-Fi app turns iPod into a PhoneHome Engineering: Physical Gmail NotifierSix Keys to Building New Markets by Unleashing Disruptive InnovationThe Innovators Solution by Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor –

Freeware Wi-Fi app turns iPod into a Phone

image of iPod Touch

Wireless turns iPod into a phone

A freeware application for the iPod Touch can turn the music player into a virtual mobile phone. Truphone uses wi-fi technology in an iPod Touch to allow users to make calls to other iPod Touch owners and Google Talk’s messaging service users.

The software is a spin-off from technology Truphone developed for smartphones and iPhones. The developers plan to have the ability to make calls to and from landlines in place very soon.

Geraldine Wilson – Truphone’s CEO – said the firm had ambitions to become a global internet player. “There are a slew of new features we’re rolling out for the iPod Touch that will let users call landlines, Skype users or send instant messages. We’re talking weeks, not months, before these go live.” Although Truphone technology can, in theory, work on any mobile device, the firm is concentrating on devices that have an application store.
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The company said Google’s Android operating system would be the next platform for which it will develop the Truphone applications.

From the Truphone site:

Nokia and iPhone users can make Truphone calls from any Wi-Fi zone, anywhere in the world. We’ll use your Wi-Fi connection to route the call over the internet at our amazing flat worldwide rates (see rate checker), saving you loads of money on international calls from your home country and saving you even more on calls when you’re abroad.

Wi-Fi calls to other connected Truphone users are completely free of charge. From wherever, to wherever.

Very cool. See our gadgets and gifts store.

Related: Mobile Phone-based Vehicle Anti-theft SystemVideo GogglesAwesome Cat CamOpen Source for LEGO MindstormsLinks to great freeware

Friday Fun: Chimpanzee and Segway

Chimpanzee learning to ride a Segway on Japanese game show.

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Qubits Construction Toy

Buy Qubits – The Construction Toy via Amazon). Post suggestion provided through our suggest a post link. Children are naturally curious. We need to provide opportunities for them to do what they would do naturally. This is one nice way to let kids explore the physical world.

Qubits® for Kids by Mark Burginger, architect / inventor

Many of us recognize the name, Frank Lloyd Wright. He was America’s most famous architect. However, did you know that he was closely connected with the construction toy industry? It just happens that his son, John Lloyd Wright invented Lincoln Logs®. John traveled to Japan with his father Frank Lloyd Wright and while he was there John looked at the wooden log foundation his father designed for the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo. It caused him to think of a simple system of notched logs that could be used as a toy. After returning to the United States he created the toy sensation – Lincoln Logs®.

You don’t need to be an architect of any stature approaching Frank Lloyd Wright to feel this sense of influence. The inspiration for me came from the same Lincoln Logs that John Lloyd Wright invented. I used to play with them for hours and hours on end as a child. Now as a parent and an architect I feel I should do my part to provide a unique construction toy for children to play with and draw inspiration. The toy that I have spent the last five years developing is coined with the name, Qubits®. This dynamic new entry into the toy industry is gaining popularity with teachers, professors and of course – children all over Central Oregon. A simple plastic toy that can be built-up using a unique patented modular geometry. It quickly captures the imagination of children who might have visions of becoming architects, engineers, scientist or even nanotech designers.
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Friday Robot Fun

Buy your own Tomy i-SOBOT Robot ($180)

Related: Open Source for LEGO MindstormsMaking Robots from TrashAsimo Robot: Running and Climbing StairsScience and Engineering Gadgets and Gifts

Holographic Television on the Way

Ok, there really isn’t much new since I posted that holographic TV is getting closer. But won’t it be cool when I can have one in my house? And you might need to plan for it in your new house addition 🙂 Also, with the economic news lately a good distraction might be useful – Holographic television to become reality

The reason for renewed optimism in three-dimensional technology is a breakthrough in rewritable and erasable holographic systems made earlier this year by researchers at the University of Arizona.

Dr Nasser Peyghambarian, chair of photonics and lasers at the university’s Optical Sciences department, told CNN that scientists have broken a barrier by making the first updatable three-dimensional displays with memory.

“This is a prerequisite for any type of moving holographic technology. The way it works presently is not suitable for 3-D images,” he said. The researchers produced displays that can be erased and rewritten in a matter of minutes.

According to Peyghambarian, they could be constructed as a screen on the wall (like flat panel displays) that shows 3-D images, with all the image writing lasers behind the wall; or it could be like a horizontal panel on a table with holographic writing apparatus underneath.

Peyghambarian is also optimistic that the technology could reach the market within five to ten years. He said progress towards a final product should be made much more quickly now that a rewriting method had been found.

However, it is fair to say not everyone is as positive about this prospect as Peyghambarian. Justin Lawrence, a lecturer in Electronic Engineering at Bangor University in Wales, told CNN that small steps are being made on technology like 3-D holograms, but, he can’t see it being ready for the market in the next ten years.

I would have to say I am with those that think this might take a bit longer to be in place. But I would be glad to be wrong.

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An Illustrated Guide to Every Stupid Cable You Need

An Illustrated Guide to Every Stupid Cable You Need

There are at least four different kinds of USB plugs, two kinds of FireWire and like a million different ways to connect something to TV or monitor. Modern gadget life can be kind of retarded in this way. Why not one kind of cable, or just a couple? I don’t know. But until everyone gets on the same appendage-to-hole scheme, in the meantime, you can use this: an illustrated guide to pretty much every kind of cable you will see in current gadgets and what it’s used for

USB Type A Universal Serial Bus, the gold standard. The whole idea behind it is that this one interface will connect everything (except the stuff it doesn’t), killing off the old guard, like parallel and serial ports. It moves data, and in the case of USB 2.0—which is pretty much the standard now—it does it faster, and with some extra specs for power.

USB Type B The USB Type B plug is basically a USB connector for peripherals—you’ve probably seen it jacked into a printer or scanner.

Related: Save Money on AV CablesHome Engineering: Physical Gmail Notifierposts on technology gadgets

Phun Physics

Coolest science toy ever

Phun is without question the greatest computer toy in the history of the universe, if this had been around when I was a kid I would be a frickin genius by now. You don’t need things any more. It’s extremely easy to use. As a starter tip, turn gravity off when you’re attaching stuff to the background (right click after selecting “affix” tool).

Very cool. Get your Phun (2D physics software) for free. Phun is a Master of Science Theises by Computing Science student Emil Ernerfeldt.

Some other very cool stuff: Cool Mechanical Simulation SystemScratch from MITWhat Kids can LearnLego Autopilot First FlightAwesome Cat Cam

Home Engineering: Physical Gmail Notifier

photo of Gmail Cube

How to make a Physical Gmail Notifier

Every so often, the computer checks for new emails in your Gmail account, and then tells the electronics board whether any have arrived. If they have, the board turns on the output device (the cube). Simple.

The hardware itself is the popular Arduino board, the tinkerer’s dream device. I’m actually using a Boarduino, but any variant should work (subject to a small but important detail, see below). This might be particularly interesting with a Bluetooth Arduino..

The Arduino talks with your computer over a serial connection, which runs over the normal USB cable you use to communicate with your Arduino.

What is Arduino?: Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. Arduino can sense the environment by receiving input from a variety of sensors and can affect its surroundings by controlling lights, motors, and other actuators.

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Car Powered Using Compressed Air

car powered using compressed air

Jules Verne predicted cars would run on air. The Air Car (link broken, so it was removed) is making that a reality. The car is powered by compressed air which certainly seems like an interesting idea. Air car ready for production (link broken, so it was removed, sigh, when will site stop failing the web so badly?):

Refueling is simple and will only take a few minutes. That is, if you live nearby a gas station with custom air compressor units. The cost of a fill up is approximately $2.00. If a driver doesn’t have access to a compressor station, they will be able to plug into the electrical grid and use the car’s built-in compressor to refill the tank in about 4 hours.

The car is said to have a driving range of 125 miles so by my calculation it would cost about 1.6 cents per mile. A car that gets 31 mpg would use 4 gallons to go 124 miles. At $3 a gallon for gas, the cost is $12 for fuel or about 9.7 cents per mile. I didn’t notice anything about maintenance costs. I don’t see any reason why the Air Car would cost more to maintain than a normal car.

The air car was named one of Time magazine’s best inventions of the 2007.

Five-seat concept car runs on air

An engineer has promised that within a year he will start selling a car that runs on compressed air, producing no emissions at all in town. The OneCAT will be a five-seater with a fibre-glass body, weighing just 350kg and could cost just over £2,500.

Tata is the only big firm he’ll license to sell the car – and they are limited to India. For the rest of the world he hopes to persuade hundreds of investors to set up their own factories, making the car from 80% locally-sourced materials.

“Imagine we will be able to save all those components traveling the world and all those transporters.” He wants each local factory to sell its own cars to cut out the middle man and he aims for 1% of global sales – about 680,000 per year. Terry Spall from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers says: “I really hope he succeeds. It is a really brave experiment in producing a sustainable car.”

Related: The History of Compressed Air VehiclesCar Elevator (for parking)Electric AutomobilesVW Phaeton manufacturing plant